Thursday, April 29, 2004

Wicked Sick!

I've been spending a lot of time this week with my recently procured copy of Unreal Tournament 2004 so there's nothing free to talk about this week... Unless you count the UT2004 Demo, or those bogus Windows XP-only levels that have got everyone so pissed off. By the way, I'm too lazy to search for a link for you right now, but those levels are available for ALL platforms. You just have to do a little searching around.

Now, I know that the Linux version of UT2004 is not officially supported by Atari, but the question still enters my mind: Why would a company that ships a game with a Linux installer crap out a few levels exclusively for one branch of one operating system? The only answer I can think of: unrelenting pressure from Microsoft on game companies to pull this kind of shit. I, for one, won't stand for it. Embarrassingly enough, I'm currently forced to run the game on Windows XP due to the fact that I don't have enough hard drive space on the Linux side of my box. But, you know what? I still downloaded the re-packaged versions of the levels... just 'cause. Well, that and the fact that I would eventually like to run the game in Linux.

Lame business practices aside, this game is simply awesome. Every game mode is great, every level I've played has been a blast, and the graphics are total eye-candy. Probably one of the prettiest games I've seen, in fact. That is, until I picked up Farcry. That game is just beautiful. I just picked it up late last night so I haven't had much time with it yet. I'll get back to you next week on that one. I'm sure the game will suck, that's why I bought it.....

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Linux Free RPG Roundup: Part Four

If you thought things were getting old school last week, check this out. I present to you: Nethack and Xenocide.

If you run Linux and don't know about Nethack by now, you're a minority to say the least. This game is damn popular, so damn popular that if I were to write a Linux RPG roundup and not include it, I'd be killed. The greatest thing about writing about Nethack is that even I have enough artistic skill to reproduce the game's characters almost exactly. For example, your main character: "@", or your little dog: "d" or a big, scary dragon: "D". Yeah, it's all ASCII text, bitches. As you'd imagine, with nothing to fall back on graphically this title has to make it's mark with pure gameplay, and it does it pretty well. If I were to sit here and describe everything this game has in it's bag of tricks, you'd be bored to death. I would as well, so I'll leave it at this: I don't play "rogue-likes" (which is the category Nethack would fall into), but I do play Nethack. Give it a go, it runs on almost anything and it fits on a floppy.

Xenocide is also a rogue-like, although unlike Nethack's fantasy vibe, Xenocide has more of a sci-fi feel. Maybe that's just because Xenocide explicitly tells you the first level is supposed to be a space shuttle, I can't really tell the difference between a "#" and a "# in space". Xenocide is also a lot tougher right off the bat then Nethack is; I can't count how many times I was killed by a Rabid Prankster in the first couple minutes of playing. Now the downside: there is no story to speak of(yet) so it's pretty much fighting all manors of "r", "w", and "m" monsters until you get bored and stop. Like I just did here, except with writing.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Linux Free RPG Roundup: Part Three

Things are getting old-school this week, both in terms of graphics and gameplay. I present to you this week's two games: Adonthell: Waste's Edge and Crystals Of Holy.

Adonthell itself is not a game, but an engine for RPG/adventure games to be built on. Waste's Edge is basically a demo game to showcase the engine. Not that this engine really needs showcasing; most GBA games blow this out of the water graphically, and I'm pretty sure I've seen NES games that looked better than this. That being said, there is a lot to like about this game. Even though the graphics are fairly primitive, there are a few nice effects like steamy air in a kitchen and "wipe" effects while moving between rooms. With a game like this though, the graphics aren't going to be what keeps you playing. Luckily, even though there's no combat to be found so far, there is a fairly engrossing story with some pretty solid writing. Sure, it's not a storyline of epic proportions, but I really enjoyed the fact that I never once heard a dwarf say something along the lines of: "And I was all like... no way!". You'd be surprised at how fast something like that can make you remember that you're not in a mystical land after all, maybe even quicker than shoddy home made voice acting can. Waste's Edge has none of that bullshit as far as I can tell, and it's much appreciated. By the way: if you want to try this game out you'll need both the Adonthell and Waste's Edge packages, which are available for Windows, Mac OSX, Solaris, and BeOS as well. For us Linux users the source, as well as .deb and .rpm packages are provided. By the way, Adonthell is fully open source.

Crystals of Holy is not open source. It's not even freeware actually, so I guess including it in a free RPG roundup is sort of bogus. Crystals of Holy describes itself as shareware, even though at this point in time there is absolutely nothing to pay for. Right now, this is only a demo, which seems totally free (as in beer) but at some point in time that could change. Anyway, besides moving way to fast (even with the "-timer" command line option that's supposed to slow it down) this game is pretty enjoyable, even though it is plagued by the "Dude, my stuffs(sic) gone and now I'm pissed" problem I mentioned above. It's very clear that this game is very much inspired by the older entries in the Final Fantasy series. Hell, the artwork being used right now is straight out of Final Fantasy IV (something the developer says is only a placeholder). So, if you've played any Final Fantasy game ever, you should have a pretty good idea what to expect. If you haven't ever played a Final Fantasy, stop reading right now and go play one. Anyway, besides a pretty non-intuitive control layout, this game seems pretty feature complete and even has a little bit of a graphical advantage on Waste's Edge (although it's not that much).

Both games are nice ways to kill a little time. Crystals of Holy has combat (which Adonthell will have in the future), Waste's Edge has better writing, and it's open source. By the way: when the Adonthell 0.4 demo comes out, check it out. It'll be cool.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Linux Free RPG Roundup: Part Two

This week I've been doing that whole massively multiplayer thing with not one, but two games: Eternal Lands and PlaneShift.

The beta for Eternal Lands is definitely the more playable of the two. The game is in 3D, but it's got an old-school isometric feel to it so it's not exactly eye candy. What this game lacks in graphical prowess, it makes up for in gameplay. With large areas to explore, lots of leveling up to be done, harvesting, manufacturing, alchemy, and magic casting to be done. You'll also get your ass kicked by a beaver if you're not too careful. It kinda sucks, but hey, that's to be expected in a game of this type. Here's the downer: While at least the basics of the game are expected to remain free, a paid "extra-features" version will be available for those who want to pay 5 or 6 bucks. I'm not a big fan of paying for things in general anyway, but this game just feels like a free game in it's current state. There's also a slightly sinister tone that goes along with downloading the game, thanks to a lot of hoopla on the message boards over at the Linux Game Tome about the author(s) of this game being assholes and some issues with the game's license. It sort of seems like bullshit to me, whatever, I'm still playing the fucking game. So there.

The more promising of the two games is PlaneShift: Molecular Blue (the "blue" thing is sort of a weird versioning system, the next release will be Crystal Blue). Now, it's just a tech demo so there's not an awful lot to do right now. Basically, when the lag isn't too bad, you're able to walk around talking to people, and search for rubies. It's not a huge area you get to explore, but it's not going to take you 10 minutes to see everything this tech demo has to offer either. This game seems a lot deeper than Eternal Lands when it comes to creating and customizing your character in general, but that's nothing but a theory right now as I can't really test that out in the current tech demo. I suppose I'll see when the Crystal Blue release comes out, which is supposed to (at the very least) add combat and try to fix some lag issues. I'm looking forward to it. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention: this one is and (hopefully) always will be free. And part of it (the code) is GPL'd,
the artwork is all under the PlaneShift license.

Here's how I'd put it: If you're looking for a game to play right now, go get Eternal Lands right now. It's fun, there's a lot of stuff to do, and most of the people playing the game are very, very nice people who'll be happy to help you out if you're in need. If you're looking ahead a little bit, PlaneShift looks very promising. One note about PlaneShift though, the binaries they provide for linux (there's a Windows version too by the way) didn't work for me, and they probably won't work for a lot of people. There is a guide to downloading/installing PlaneShift from CVS, and there's even a handy script available which will do everything for you.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Run Away!.... Again!!

With my computer up and running this week, I decided to celebrate by doing two things: 1. I've been playing the UT2004 demo like hell. 2. I picked up a game I've been meaning to get my hands on for a while: Call of Duty.

Now usually I don't buy PC games, especially if they're only for Windows, but I had to make an exception here. Call of Duty is simply one of the most intense games I've ever played. I can't think of any other game that has made me actually yell out "Ahhhhh!!" when something I wasn't expecting happened. You get scared, you don't want to go where they want you to go, then you remember since it's a videogame you don't have much of a choice. Another nice touch is that you're part of a squad, and a whole squad moving through a town blowing shit up just seems a lot more feasible than one superhero type character taking on an entire army himself. It's a damn fun time this game is, and I haven't even mentioned the multiplayer yet, so I will: It's good.

There are way too many World War II themed games out there right now, but this one just gets it right. Now quit it with the fucking WWII games, move along.

Linux Free RPG Roundup: Part One

I'm going to start this week with two games: Alteria and Freedroid RPG. Now, neither of these games are technically RPGs. The RPG-ness of Alteria is basically that you can talk to people (sort of), while Freedroid RPG is more or less a Diablo clone starring a penguin. Guess what his name is, I'll wait. You guessed it, it's Tux, how original! Get over the fucking penguin already, it's getting really old. Anyway...

Now, while I really tried to like Alteria, it's just not going to happen. In fact, I've already deleted it before writing this. Maybe it was the clunky, janky animations or the pretty-freaking-bad looking models. Maybe it was the quarter-assed attempt at a plot, or the way-too-dark levels, or the fact that you have to read the online manual to have any clue as to what you're supposed to do. I'm pretty sure it was all that, combined with one laughable trait that both Alteria and Freedroid RPG possess: ridiculous, muffled, barely understandable, home-brewed voice acting.

Now, I'm glad to see this sort of noble attempt at bringing some of the snazz of big budget video games to free ones, but getting a few of your buddies (and what sounds like someone's mother with a cold) to read the cheesy script you wrote up the day earlier is not the right way to do it. Instead of immersing you in the game environment, like I'm fairly sure the developers of both these games intended it to, the muffled, mumbling voices pull you right the fuck out of it almost instantaneously.

In the case of Freedroid RPG, this is even worse because, unlike Alteria, it's not a terrible game. If you're into Diablo, than this is probably your bag. If you really hate Microsoft, this game is definitely for you. Not only does it star that predictable penguin Tux, but when it's comes to the plot of the game, there's more Microsoft bashing than you can fit in one large cookie jar. Oh, sorry, I forgot: It's, ahem... MS, not Microsoft. My bad. Anyway, there's plenty of robots wandering around to try out your weapons on, plenty of GNU/Linux propaganda to be heard when you wander around towns, and plenty of new weapons and equipment to acquire.

So even though both games describe themselves as RPGs, and neither are, both are worth downloading for a laugh (thanks to that crazy voice acting), and Freedroid RPG even has a smidgen of gameplay to make up for it's fairly large download size. One word of caution though: Alteria sucks, you won't like playing it. I sure know I didn't.