Thursday, August 31, 2006

Mars, TCE, Wesnoth, Pong2

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Ah, the recent spate of Free game / Free Gamer activity continues. I will be away for the weekend so there will be respite. However, not today!

True Combat: Elite

Battle for Wesnoth
A new release of True Combat: Elite is imminent. They are finalising RC3 of the new version and then shortly after testing that going gold. On the site you can find more details on the HDR lighting used in the game. This release looks really good - really, really good. I used to be a Counter Strike addict so will probably avoid this for the sake of my health.

Also a new Battle for Wesnoth release gets ever nearer. The second beta for 1.2 is available, and contains many improved graphics - the graphics are really amazing for a volunter developed 2D game. Some of the character portraits are stunning. The gameplay ain't half bad either!

Davide Coppola (aka M3xican) notified me that the Mars: Land of No Mercy team have released version 0.1.2 of their isometric turn based strategy mech game. (That was a mouthful!) The game is still in its early stages and 0.1.2 is little more than a tech demo but if you like the look of the game then check it out - like any open source project they'll love a bit of help even if it's only testing releases.

I came across Pong2 the other day. This 3D take on an original classic looks interesting.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

SuperTuxKart Lives, MTP Target!

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SuperTuxKart has finally emerged as a game in it's own right, with a release planned for September 10th. I'm looking forward to playing it. If anybody thinks they can help out with the release, chip in!

SuperTuxKart is the result of the Happypenguin Game of the Month efforts from eons ago to update TuxKart. As a side note, I inspired GotM (although grumbel implemented it) and I also put forward TuxKart for GotM development. Sadly, at the time, the usage of SDL [TuxKart is PLIB-based] by the GotM team meant the original developer refused to help out unless all SDL stuff was removed - only PLIB didn't properly support fullscreen rendering at the time. I reckon it was a case of NIH syndrome since the TuxKart author is a PLIB developer. This caused the SuperTuxKart fork but all the politics detrimentally affected the development.

I think the GotM guys were right to introduce SDL. It was pragmatic as it supported the features they needed, and it was practical as PLIB simply isn't as widely used or frequently updated (and by virtue of that, not as well supported).

Version 1.2.2 of MTP Target was released. MTP Target is a fun Monkey Target clone. Strangely, though, I think you have to have access to the Internet to play it in order to register your scores - a little strange for what really is a single player game.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Niwki Deluxe

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These days my conscience starts playing up when I don't update FG. Here I am, sat at work, fretting over not having posting an update for a few days. I may have to change format to just blog about things as and when I encounter them rather than building up entries... still, I'm digressing.



Nikwi Deluxe


Nikwi Deluxe, by Slashstone, is now available under the GPL. This cute 2D platformer is very old school but still well done. It's also a bit silly [you collect sweets, birds poo on you, etc] and therefore suitable for kids, but still isn't easy to don't let the "kids" tag prevent those mega tough macho men amongst you from checking it out. I even made my own screenshot of it, coincidentally of the level where I gave up because it was too hard.



Sadly it is a Windows only game but should work on WINE. Perhaps now it is GPL somebody will port it? Edit - there appears to be a Linux binary. Thanks Mr Anonymous for the tip.



The latest VDrift release seems to have been the critical mass one. Now the community is building and creating content for the game. There's a cool 69 Dodge Charcher which should be in the next release, as well as a parking lot for practicing drifting. It's really nice to see VDrift flourishing after the open source racing scene suffered a serious setback a few years back when Racer became closed source.



Warzone 2.0.4 is now ready. I hope this fixes any problems people may have exprerienced with it. The guys working on Warzone are fans-turned-developers so are learning all the time - things should get smoother with each release.



Finally, the commercial Freelancer has spawned an ambitious fan project, Openlancer. It will no doubt take years to complete and be freeware, but for fans of Freelancer it's worth following. (I only mentioned this because I got Freelancer and Freespace2 confused so thought it may be a fork before I realised my mistake.)

Friday, August 25, 2006

Yet More Free Game Updates...

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Ultimate Stunts 0.6.2 is out. I always loved the original Stunts 4D game that inspired this. Ultimate Stunts looks a little more free form than ManiaDrive and reminds me of an old game Car & Driver whose graphics haven't aged a bit *cough* *splutter*. That game was ace. I was did a 49 rotation somersault off a cliff, bounced of the bridge, did several flips, and landed on the road. Tell me another game where you could be so Mick Jagger.

There's a new Free FPS on the go. I say new, I mean "re-released with better graphics". It's Marathon Rubicon X which takes the original and drags it kicking and screaming into the modern PC world. I believe it is sprite based instead of 3D enemies, so is a modern throwback to the days of Duke Nukem 3D. I couldn't find any screenshots of Rubicon X.

On the Game Tome I also found The Black Legacy Darkness 0.9.9. This 3D Fantasy Sci-Fi MMORPG project looks something like a cross between Quake 3 and Anarchy Online, only it's Free. The homepage looks like it's been run through the Google translator so the English is broken, but I'm sure that's not an indication of the state of the game.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Snippets and Tidbits

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Due to personal reasons Free Gaming has been a bit slow lately. Here's a few snippets...

I'm off to suffer having lost my gal to her desire to be free! If only the female mind were open source...

Friday, August 18, 2006

Freeciv Beta + Mania Drive Update

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There's been an update to Mania Drive. This one introduces a beginners storyline, which is a welcome addition to any non-expert drivers given the difficulty of the previous release! Lots of bug fixes, lots of new levels, and this game is definitely now one of the leading Free Software driving games available.



Also of note is the 2.1-beta2 release of Freeciv. I checked out the SDL version and it is really looking nice. However, the term "beta" means beta. The release is laden with bugs. Loading it up, the "Start New Game" option is disabled. After manually starting and connecting to a localhost server, the "Server Settings" button was impotent. Still, I remembered "set aifill=6" to give me some opposition although I couldn't work out how to make them tougher (and was too lazy to google) so played on easy AI.



I'll start by saying that they really need to review most of the UI - it is a usability nightmare. Everything is iconized making most actions guesswork until you gain any familiarity. The icons are very small, making them awkward to hit with the mouse. It's little things like the options icon being in the top left corner but not being at the edge making it far harder to spot and hit than it should be. It's like the Windows 98 start button all over again.



A simple tip for the devs - the tooltips are too slow, making them more frustrating than helpful. In fact, I'd forget tooltips for the little buttons and instead have a region above the buttons where it immediately displays the name of the button under the cursor:





The city dialogs are dreadful. They need rethinking from the ground up. I only got anywhere by guesswork - the unit queuing mechanism is completely unintuitive. Make it drag and drop, please. Also it would be really nice to have preset queues since I often make the same 4-5 entries in the build queue for each new city.



Also, why the devil are the science, revolution, and tax buttons located on the unit display in the bottom right? Group things together sensibly! Don't stick things somewhere for symmetry even though they do not belong there.



Also I think it's time to realise that moving the entire view for automatically moving units is 1) disorientating 2) annoying and 3) distracting. Either reset the view back to where it was before the automatic unit movement [since that's where I wanted to be] or making a sub-window (transport tycoon style) showing the currently active unit. Here's a mockup, with a few other peeves highlighted:





One of the most annoying problems was the UI moving the mouse cursor - often it was impossible to select units or cities because moving the mouse over them made it jump somewhere else.



Another glaring problem is the one highlighted in a previous blog on Freeciv - the lack of notifications to speed up multiplayer games really impacts single player games. I built two wonders but was never told about it - I only found out by spotting one city building city walls (I never do) and another on coinage.



I could go on [this all came from only 30 minutes of play] but, like I originally pointed out, this is a beta. If you want something reliable then stick with Freeciv 2.0.x for now. However, this is shaping up as a very nice game with good graphics that make Freeciv 2.0.x/1.x look incredibly dated. I look forward to the final 2.1 release although I don't expect it in 2006 on the evidence of this beta.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Silver Lining Demo

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There is a demo of The Silver Lining (formely known as King's Quest IX) available for download!



For those who don't know, King's Quest is a long running series from Sierra. Back in the good old days of 16 colours, this game combined the best possible graphics, fantastic landscapes, puzzles, and great stories. In fact, I don't think I enjoyed many adventure games more than King's Quest V. (Then again I stopped buying games after that.)



There's a good overview of the King's Quest series on everybody's favourite resource. There's a quick overview & screenshots of each of the KQ titles on vintage-sierra.com. There's also freeware VGA remakes of KQ1 and KQ2 availabe from ADG Interactive.



Enough background information... onto the game in question.




The Silver Lining


The Silver Lining is a 3D adventure game with breathtaking scenery and superbly animated characters. It is a fan-made game so it should combine, refine, and outshine the qualities of the original King's Quest titles. The visuals are stunning and if the gameplay is half as good, this will be an unmissable piece of freeware.



There's a trailer on Google Video, as well as a making-of.



The bad news, it's Windows only. And my laptop is too crap to run it.



I did try to talk them into open sourcing the engine a while back, but it fell on deaf ears. That is, "We don't want people to steal or ruin our game!" deaf ears. Ignorance is bliss.



I would be interested to know how well it works with WINE or Cedega.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

ORTS - A Free Software RTS Game Engine

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OTRS
Well, look what we have here. Joining the likes of Boson, Glest, and TA:Spring/TA3D is another Free 3D RTS game: ORTS.

The interesting thing about ORTS is the motivation - the AI.

ORTS is a programming environment for studying real-time AI problems such as pathfinding, dealing with imperfect information, scheduling, and planning in the domain of RTS games.

<snip> ...the current state of RTS game AI is bleak which is mainly caused by the lack of planning and learning - areas in which humans are currently much better than machines.

<snip> ... the ORTS project [is] a free software system that lets people and machines play fair RTS games.

<snip> Users can connect whatever client software they like. This is made possible by a server/client architecture in which only the currently visible parts of the game state are sent to the players. This openness leads to new and interesting possibilities ranging from on-line tournaments of autonomous AI players to gauge their playing strength to hybrid systems in which human players use sophisticated GUIs which allow them to delegate tasks to AI helper modules of increasing performance.


The game is not yet released as a download although you can grab a daily snapshot and build it yourself. Is it going to be released any time soon?

We have a working platform-independent server/client RTS [3D] game engine... We are working on a standard ORTS game... By autumn 2006 we hope to have a working system which is interesting for both RTS players and AI researchers.


This is definitely one worth watching out for. AI agents are already publicly available. It could be a game that's tougher and less predictable than usual. Most games challenge me but I'm, er, challenged.

What I do like about it is that the AI won't cheat. There's nothing that pisses me off more about a game than lazy developers giving the AI daft advantages because they were too inept [or short on time] to come up a decent AI. I like to be beaten because something has been clever, not because it can unfairly see all my units or build things for half the cost!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Gusanos on Linux

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Thanks to Nicklas Marcusson who took the time to email me his findings on running Gusanos on Linux.

Without further ado:

I saw in your previous blog entry that you mentioned gusanos and I have been looking for a good liero like game for linux, and man I have to say this game is the cat's pyjamas :D

It is a shame that they have not made it easy to find the documentation on how to compile it for linux and what mods there is etc.

I thought I'd share my findings:

Build gusanos under linux:
http://gusanos.sourceforge.net
/docs/doku.php?id=main:installation_docs:linux


How to fix a compile error with the latest cvs source code:
http://comser.liero.org.pl
/forum/index.php?topic=250.msg2549#msg2549


Mods for gusanos:
http://powerhuhn.net/depot/gusanos/mods/

Fanzine covering the latest and greatest news regarding Gusanos:
http://powerhuhn.net/depot/gusanos/lieromag/

Video of the upcoming Quake mod for gusanos:
http://powerhuhn.net/depot/gusanos/videos/trailerg3a1.avi

Friday, August 11, 2006

Clanlib update, Pingus to follow?

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Recently the ClanLib team released version 0.8.0 upon the indie game development world. This "game SDK" boasts an impressive number of games built using it, and one of the more notable ones is Pingus.

Pingus Level

Pingus Tutorial Island

Peng2illa
Pingus, many may recall, is a Lemmings clone, except we watch lots of penguins die instead of lemmings. The last release, 0.6, shows so much promise - it's stable and playable and comes with a tutorial set of levels (tutorials == good) presented nicely on an island. Sadly, it seems that development has somewhat ceased. From memory and list archive perusal, issues with ClanLib changes [from ClanLib 0.6 to the then-unstable 0.7] was hindering progress. I'm very hopeful that, now ClanLib 0.8 is out, development might resume and a release with more levels and depth can rekindle the project.

Another cool ClanLib-based game is Peng2illa. This circular pong-on-rails game is very good looking and about as fun as pong can be.

Sadly many of the games in the ClanLib list are either obselete or their development has stalled. Feuerkraft is one such example of any exciting game whose author, the prolific grumbel, has not had time for in the last few years which is a shame because it looks like it could be so cool if it was developed a bit more.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

New Mistlands Download

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What is Mistlands? It's a graphically impressive 3d open source rpg! At the end of July they released Milestone 5, just over a year since their last release. It's online-only, I think, which is a shame. Single player games just aren't the flavour these days.

I feel obliged to mention Gusanos. Thanks to Amos ML for the link and apologies for taking more than a month to post it. Gusanos is a Liero clone for modern operating systems. (Liero requires DOS or DOS emulation.) Whilst the Windows download was easy to get to, I couldn't see an obvious download for non-Windows platforms despite the homepage promise of portability. For those not familiar with the classic Liero, here's some gameplay videos of Gusanos. Think Worms vs Quake.

There was an update to Trackballs, making it more fun for younger kids which is good news for me and my 6 year old.

For the adventurous, there's a 0.2 pre-release of Battles of Antargis which is coming along nicely.

There's two new interesting 2d platformers, both of which are at a very alpha stage of development so don't expect too much: Zelda2D (er, Zelda in 2D), Wasteland (kinda Jazz Jack Rabbit crossed with Mario)

In my enforced abscense there's been a number of updates to a lot of good open source games. Here's a few notable ones: Globulation (notably new AI!), Blob and Conquer (lots of new levels), Sturmbahnfahrer

Intermission!

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Sorry for the lack of posts... damn laptop died and it's taken several days to sort it out. Between that and an unusually time-sapping week last week, it took the wind out of my free gaming sails.

Service will be resumed shortly.