Thursday, March 24, 2005

By The Way...

The Linux version of the Darwinia demo, as well as the full version, are now available. OK.

Ann and me. Terri, Tory?: Part 2

This week it's all about True Combat: Elite, a total conversion for Enemy Territory. It's also a sequel of sorts to the original Quake 3 engine-based True Combat. I'd already downloaded TC: E before last week's post, and I'd like to say I've been enjoying it straight from then until now. I would - I've enjoyed what I've played so far - but, as is too frequent an occurrence, I hit a snag.

What snag, you ask? Well, if you already play Enemy Territory, you already know. The 2.60 patch was released on Monday, as well as the Mac client. I, the type who upgrades as soon as one is available, had the patch downloaded and installed minutes after I'd heard the news. The problem? I guess nobody else did. When I loaded up Enemy Territory, there were four servers running. Two were empty, the others had about eight players combined. While the amount of available ET servers quickly started to grow, the servers for True Combat took a while longer to catch up.

Anyway, I've only had the chance to play about five games of True Combat: Elite but, what I've seen, I've liked. The gameplay can best be described as a mix of Counter Strike, the SOCOM games, and vanilla Enemy Territory. There are two gameplay modes: Objective and Bodycount. Bodycount is more or less a slowed-down, objective-less version of the ET gameplay. You get killed - no big deal, you respawn in a few seconds. While this mode is pretty damn fun, Objective is where the real meat of TC: E lies.

In Objective mode, you're limited to one life a round, just like the other two games mentioned above. There are also, yes, objectives to be accomplished. While that sounds pretty ET like, especially with the addition of classes, right now it's basically what most other games would call Demolition mode. It's almost right in the middle of the Counter Strike and SOCOM Demolition modes. There's one bomb, which needs to be picked up, only accessible by the Terrorist team. The other team defends one of two points where the bomb can be placed. Slow-paced fun ensues.

The people behind True Combat: Elite have done an excellent job on this game so far. The maps I've played so far are great looking, as well as truly well balanced. Of course, these guys have probably had some time to get used to the Quake 3 engine, since some of the team members worked on the original True Combat - but they've really gotten it to shine. I do have one major gripe though. The server list keeps disappearing after connecting and playing one game, seemingly only fixable by a complete reinstall. I can't even use XQF to find a server, as the 2.60 ET patch uses a different master server than the 2.56 version. Luckily, tcetest games show up in the normal ET server browser, but it's a less than optimal solution to an annoying problem.

Still though, True Combat: Elite kicks at least as much ass as the game it's based on.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Ann and me. Terri, Tori?: Part 1

How I could have let something like this slip by me while it was fully in the scope of my radar for so long remains a mystery to me. Maybe in the days before I had broadband it could be considered acceptable - the download is pretty big, after all - but it's simply inexcusable that it's taken me so long to finally try out Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory.

The list of commercial games available on the Linux platform is growing, but it's still fairly minute. The list of commercial games available for free on said platform is considerably smaller. As you may already know, since the game has been out for more than a year, Enemy Territory was originally developed as an expansion pack for Return To Castle Wolfenstein. The project was canned and, thanks to some kind soul, released for free shortly thereafter.

In retrospect, it was probably Call Of Duty's multiplayer aspect that kept me from downloading Enemy Territory as soon as I was broadband-enabled. Anybody who's played COD multiplayer knows exactly what I'm talking about - it's as addictive as... well, something really addictive. I don't know if it's longevity will match that of COD but, at least for now, Enemy Territory has me pretty well hooked.

It's really nothing new. An objective-based multiplayer shooter with different player classes set in WWII... I can think of quite a few games that might describe. The execution of Enemy Territory is where it really shines. All the stock levels, while small enough to keep it fun with small groups of players, create an impression of being massive - even though, in actuality, they're quite confined. Where the genius is, when it comes to level design, is the inclusion of very well-placed chokepoints that ensure that most of the action is happening in no more than one or two particular areas at any given time. Of all the online shooters I've played, the only one that used chokepoints almost as effectively as Enemy Territory was, yes, Call Of Duty.

You may wonder why this post's title has a "Part 1" at the end of it. You see, the world of Enemy Territory includes more than just the one game. There are a few mods out there - from small server side mods that add a few nifty features, to full blown total conversions. In the next couple of weeks I'll be taking a look at those mods, so stay tuned.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Apparently Forever Was Eight Years Ago

There's been a whole lot of videogame-related news this week, although most of it's been crap. That which was not crap I deemed largely unworthy of my attention. The Game Developers Choice Awards were given out, basically all to Half Life 2. We all know how I feel about that whole thing already, so I won't get into it - but the only game this year that actually did anything ground breaking in terms of gameplay to deserve the awards it received was Katamari Damacy. Kudos to them.

The Independent Games Festival portion of the GDC was a bit more interesting. The titles that got the awards(Alien Hominid, Gish) definitely deserved them and, at least in the case of Gish - they were probably more interesting and original than the games that got the "Big Boy" awards, Katamari Damacy excluded. Aside from that, the most interesting part I found in reading the coverage of the GDC was Emily Dickenson - The Game, a competition of sorts between masters of the art Will Wright and Peter Molyneux, as well as some guy I've never heard of named Chris Hocking. It would take me entirely too long to explain so I'll just link to the Slashdot article and let them sort it out for you.

But wait! There's More! Sony and Microsoft both continued to hype their new consoles, Shigeru Miyamoto and Nolan Bushnell both got "walk of fame"-style stars and, there was some possible news on the supposedly most realistic physics engine yet. What game is it to be used in? Halo 3? Half Life 3? Unreal 3? Not by a long shot. The honor goes to, wait for it.... Duke Nukem Forever? That's right. The game that's taken so long to come out that even jokes about how long it's taken are way too old has finally resurfaced... again.

Am I excited? Crap no, it's Duke Nukem for fuck's sakes. What's wrong with you?

Thursday, March 03, 2005

This Week: GL-Pong... Really.

So, Darwinia is supposed to be out tomorrow, and there is still no Linux demo available. That's certainly no way to make me happy, but the game is so good I'll let them slide on that one. Sure, you can play the Windows version of the demo via Cedega, but there are quite a few people out there who either can't or won't install Cedega, myself included. Let's just hope that the Linux versions of both the demo and the full game are out sometime soon enough. Anyway...

My post two weeks ago was titled "Next Week: GL-Pong". Honestly, I sort of intended it as a joke. Little did I know that there are actually quite a few 3D Pong variants out there, the most interesting of which is Pong2. See, most 3D Pong clones are just the original Pong with 3D graphics, nothing more. While it's not the first to try this, Pong2 moves the whole operation into actual 3D space.

There's just one problem. Actually, there are a few problems. The first is that Pong2 is just not fun. Playing by yourself, this game is literally impossible to win. No, it's not hard - it's impossible to win. You're not playing against an A.I. or even another player, it's you versus, well, a wall. Yep - one big, infallible wall. Network play is supposed to be the heart of Pong2, and here's where another problem comes into light. If you want to play Pong2 against one of your buddies, you need to know their IP addresses. I'm sorry, but in this day and age, this is simply unacceptable. Server Browsers aren't the way of the future, they're the way of now. Hell, with the right utility we didn't even have to worry about this shit in Doom.

Another problem: Pong2 just doesn't feel right. There are a couple different camera modes you can try out, but none of them really feel like you can see what you're doing as much as you'd like to. Your paddle is green and transparent, so there's no missing shots because you couldn't see the paddle or because you couldn't see through the paddle - but there are quite a few occasions where you miss a shot simply because you were sure you had the paddle in the right place but, thanks to the camera, misjudged your paddle placement a little bit.

OK, you do have to keep in mind that Pong2 is only at the 0.1.0 stage, so this is a release where bugs should be expected, and I got them. Actually, I've had to re-type this entire post because while trying to switch Pong2 to fullscreen mode it, for some reason, saw fit to crash the X server, thereby erasing the entire post. Keep that in mind, and maybe Pong2 will keep you entertained for, oh let's say, 5 minutes? Maybe.