Monday, November 19, 2007

Dreaming of a Sensi Xmas

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Yoda Soccer


Yoda Soccer 0.73 came out at the start of November - looks like that one slipped past most of the open source community. However it looks like 0.73 will be the last release for this Sensible Soccer clone. Whilst they have gone most of the way to recreating the classic game, the limitations of the platform used to create it (the proprietary BlitzMax) means the authors have created a new project, Open World Soccer, which will be a Sensi clone in C++. There is already an alpha release (very alpha) which shows off higher res graphics although not much more. For those people pining for a bit of Sensi nostalgia, try out Yoda Soccer which is relatively complete.



The Castle 0.8 is available for download. It's still a bit of a tech demo, but the initial level looks promising. It's nice to see somebody making progress with a single player FPS game, although there is still a long way to go with this one.




Dream Chess


Dream Chess 0.2 is pretty amazing as far as chess games go. I can't wait for them to add FICS [Free Internet Chess Server] support although that could spell doom for this blog as I'm short on time as it is! ;-)



I tried out Secret Maryo Chronicles the other day, checking it out as a potential game for my son. I couldn't believe how good it has become. Just 6 months ago gameplay was dodgy, sprites and sounds were ripped. It was a mess. Now, it makes Super Tux look like ordinary Tux. It takes a classic and gives it high res graphics and a cute facelift and everything just seems to be better done than Super Tux. At least SMC doesn't pretend to not be a Mario clone and just indulges in it's heritage. I hope the Super Tux developers see it and use it as a cue to make Super Tux not so Super Mario.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Breaking News: Glest Updates

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Glest has carried the accolade of being a leading open source game due to the relatively polished nature of it's graphics at the time of release a few years ago. Since then, sadly, the development pace has not matched the original hype surrounding the game.



For the first time in quite a while, there's a major development push. This time, the emphasis is on making it multiplayer.



There's a windows binary patch, and the code is in SVN for other OS users, although is largely untested on anything other than Windows.



Also released today was Star Ship Troopers: Last Defense 2, a mod for Glest. Updated models can be seen in this thread. The download is a whopping 130mb so there's plenty of new content to chew over in there.



That's a lot of Glest goodness. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A Day With Charlie Junior

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I had an opportunity the other day to do some game playing with my son - so I had the constraint that the games had to be playable by a 7 year old, meaning favourites of mine like Fish Fillets were generally ruled out.



First up was the ever-popular Super Tux. The young lad was an experienced campaigner at this so it didn't hold his attention for too long. However, whilst we were playing, I did notice a number of things that I think need addressing in the game:



  • Complete lack of originality

    They have copied Mario down to the core. It's a clone with different graphics. Every Mario aspect (gameplay, enemies, etc) has a "skinned" equivalent in Super Tux. Really, it's one thing to be inspired by another game, but to clone it down to the last detail? I don't know, maybe I'm being harsh (after all, I'm a Freeciv fan) but I feel there's a big room for improvement in this regard. I especially don't like the fire flower; can't we come up with some good alternative upgrades?

  • Very unbalanced levels

    The first level is really easy - as it should be. However that quickly changes. After 3 or 4 levels I'm starting to struggle to complete them. After 7 or 8, I find myself quitting the game in frustration at missing another long-jump-to-narrow-platform. The game is completely unbalanced and way harder than it should be at an early stage. One of the reasons the Mario games worked so well is because they were very well balanced. The game never really got hard until about half-way through (and that's a lot of levels). There is far too much acrobatic jumping required in Super Tux. They need more levels where the acrobatics required are compensated for by having a floor to catch you so you don't die repeatedly. The level designs are just too unforgiving.


Moving on, we went with Super Tux Kart. This went down quite well with the young'un initially but interest quickly waned. Again, the culprit is the design of the levels/tracks, which are generally atrocious. One of the keys to the addictiveness of Mariokart was the simplicity of the majority of the tracks. They had straights and few tight corners, meaning you zipped around them, the nuance being in how to get around them with minimum slowdown. Super Tux Kart levels have no straights (none of them) and are all mazes. Just staying on the track can be a challenge. The AI itself is not challenging at all. The physics is diabolical (but this has been fixed in STK SVN which now uses the bullet physics engine). Still, a lot of work needs doing.




Funguloids


Going for something simpler but more complete, I installed Barrage and Those Funny Funguloids. I was having a great time but then I got a jab in the ribs and a stern look, so we moved on.



Bomb Attack (happypenguin entry) was the first game we played that he really got into. It is a well executed bomberman clone with cute graphics, although it is still a bit incomplete.



NJAM also was popular. It manages to give Pacman depth, an accomplishment in itself. Whilst he played those two games I had enough time for a nap!



Next up was Freedroid RPG. This game has some really lovely graphics - although the main character graphics look awful. It was a good game but there's a lot of reading required, a lot of talking. Also it's not exactly obvious what you need to do - places are mentioned but are not easy to find. The level of gaming knowledge required was just a level too high to retain the attention of a 7 year old.



The final and most popular game of the lot was Blob Wars: Metal Blob Solid. This 2D platform game looks nice, is fun to play, and is not so difficult that you find yourself repeating the same few seconds of gameplay over and over again - yet isn't so easy that it is boring to play.



All being said, I was a bit disappointed that I couldn't come up with more good Free gaming options. Other than stuff like GCompris and Tux Paint which he is starting to grow out of, it was difficult to find him a good Free Software game that held his attention yet didn't require a degree of experience beyond the reaches of a typical 7 year old. In the end, he spent most of his time on the Play Station 2 with Lego Star Wars (which was actually a lot better than I expected it to be).



Are there any obvious open source games I missed out? Suggestions welcome. :-)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Glorious Days of Yonder

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Like a time machine, I go back to the days when Free Gamer brought you new games and exciting updates, bound together with poetic abandon that would make a scholar proud.




Open Football


The coveted Free Three Dee football game, Open Football, continues to grow. Like Wembley, a spectacular scene that so many doubted would ever come to full fruition, the developers battle on in their audacious endeavour and, against all odds, the project plods forward at a steady pace. Cast your eyes upon the first screenshot to show more than one player on a pitch! Not much, say ye? Nay, but more than those before it, and so continues the goal of creating a football game that isn't rubbish to play. Oh and they show off Mac/Win versions in addition to the existing Linux screenshots.



What ho? A foe? Or could it be an ambitious open source single player RPG project that looks like it will go somewhere? Radakan, brought to my attention via a wandering adventurer in the local tavern, but artwork seems entirely conceptual at this stage.



Imperium: Sticks, a Real Time Strategy game from the dawn of history to the far future. The idea is a bit RTS meets civilization (the project name rtciv gives it away) and it's early days yet. This was another one posted in the forums which are becoming a really good place for Free Software game chatter and treasure.



I've saved the best for last. Iris2, the Ultima Online 3D client, gains tileless movement support. Anybody who had a look at previous videos (like this) may have noted the rather restricted movement - characters obviously constrained to a grid - similar to the way this post moved unceremoniously from slightly-cuckoo-ye-olde-english to normal, but that's the effect a time machine has on you. It plays with the mind, y'see. Er, back to Iris2 and it's starting to look really, really good. Check out the video!





More info and general open source taking over UO info in the Iris2 dev blog.



Hey, I know, I could... wait, that'd be spoiling you guys. You'll just have to wait until next time. It's a gem! ;-)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Read All About It

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Mars: Land of No Mercy, it was looking dead, but it's back! The website is back online and hopefully so is development. I would point out that it was always available on Sourceforge but an offline website can be a death knell for an open source game, so it's good to see things running again.




Ad Infinitum


Ad Infinitum, a 2D space strategy game that looks very promising although is very early on in development and, other than the Sourceforge project page, doesn't have a website yet. It is also currently Windows only (Linux support done using WINE) but it is licensed under the GPL so there's always a hope that will change.



Whilst there's a few online space strategy games, there's not too many singleplayer Free Software space strategy games out there (FreeOrion and ?) so I hope to see this one establish itself. There's alpha releases available for download.




A3DX


There's a new 3D artillery battle game about, called A3DX. The website, like the game, is in it's early stages of development. It looks very similar to Scorched 3D -- so much so that omebody suggested it was a fork but it's not. However, looking at the screenshots I'd say it's definitely not as Scorched 3D looks much more advanced (as is to be expected).



Hrm, what else...



The FreeCol team updated their website design - the previous design was over 5 years old.



No, that wasn't it. Erm...



Ah! ASC 2.0(.1) [Advanced Strategic Command] was released a couple of weeks ago. I think I missed it. This release is the culmination of years of work since the last stable series was introduced, and the community looks to be as strong as it has ever been. There's a multiplayer universe where you can pit your military wits against other players, and the AI isn't too bad either. There's a reasonable singleplayer element, although it's a bit short of being able to qualify itself as a singleplayer game. If the classic hex strategy games are your cup of tea, then definitely look at ASC as not only does it draw on the classic Battle Isle series, but it also has several years of steady development. It's available for Linux and Windows.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

To do - do the to do

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I have a few things to do - notably:



  • Integerate the planet feed

  • Integrate the announcements feed

  • Integrate the forum feed

  • Organise another interview or two

  • Finish my half finished articles that are steadily building as a backlog of drafts


We have all this shiney new infrastructure after some brilliant work by notably Ghoulsblade and Hagish, and I'm dragging my toes including it. Sorry guys!



The planet and the announcements really could get included in any site which would really help to push Free Game development to another level in terms of being accessible and reaching it's audience with minimum effort.



On the Free game side of things, my multiple commitments (notably work and Fortress which I'm trying to get the codebase moving properly) mean I'm not really following the open source game scene as closely as I used to.




Silver Tree


The open source RPG scene is looking quite healthy at the moment. Silver Tree is shaping up well and seems to be shifting away from it's graphical ties with Wesnoth.



There's an update on the Hero of Allacrost website. There's good progress so it looks like they'll have another release before Christmas of this Final Fantasy style game. They also want to make a change to the current battle system because the current one is too demanding on the artists.



Also the Galaxy Mage Redux project is gaining a bit of momentum.



Damn, got to go, will try and be more elaborate tomorrow!