Friday, September 23, 2005

Anarchy Online: Now With More Green!

Sorry about this one being a day late, my bad. I suppose it's alright, though, seeing as it gave me some time to try out the Anarchy Online 16.0 patch.

This patch has been pretty highly anticipated within the AO community, as it contains quite a few major updates. The one you'll notice right off the bat is that the ground textures have been updated, which gives quite a different look to areas otherwise unchanged. As a side note, this had absolutely no impact performance-wise on my system. If you do find that game running slower than normal, it's possible to set a lower texture quality through the in-game options.

There have been other major changes, most notably the look of the city of Old Athen, which now bears little resemblance to itself a few days ago. The layout of the city has remained the same, for the most part, so it's pretty unlikely that you're going to get lost due to the city's face-lift. If you're the sort of person who constantly gets lost in Old Athen (and they do exist), you're probably not going to notice a difference.

I, as someone who spends a lot of time in Old Athen, think the city's new look is awesome. The buildings are unchanged - still the same drab old Omni architecture - but the remainder of the city now looks like a park. No other city (on Rubi-Ka, anyway, I don't know about the Shadowlands) has as many trees, bushes, and other various forms of foliage. Old Athen has become a much different, much more welcoming sort of place.

Not everywhere has fared so well, even though the changes were merely texture related. Avalon just looks wrong somehow - too green. The texture update had the unintended side effect of making certain places look plain, uninteresting, or both, sort of like an early alpha for an engine where all that's working is the terrain rendering. Luckily, this has only effected a few of the places I've had a chance to look at. Everywhere else looks much improved, especially forested areas.

As for balance changes and life without reclaim terminals, I haven't had any time to see the effects of the new changes. Maybe I'll have more on that next week, maybe it will be something else. It certainly will, however, be back on the regular schedule.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Open Sores: Part 2

So it's that time once again and, true to my word, what was started last week will come to its conclusion one week hence. If you're looking for an introduction, read last week's post (linked above in case you're not reading this on the main page), because I'm just going to get right into it. Proceed.

Grandeur, And The Delusions Thereof

Okay, so this was sort of touched on last week, but in the context of feature creep, not features planned right off the bat. What I'm talking about, if you're curious, is the over-ambition that sends so many new projects swirling down the crapper before the game is even playable. You want proof? Hop on over to the Linux Game Tome and see how many unfinished, never playable MMORPGs you can find before your eyes start to bleed. Sure, it's one of the most often attempted, hardest to create game genres out there - just because it's the best example of feature overloading doesn't mean it's the only one.

Even if you're using a solid pre-built, pre-tested engine and a solid toolset you don't have to develop yourself, building a game is a demanding task. Deciding you're going to build your own engine and spending three weeks working on the particle systems that still don't work isn't going to make this task any easier. Deciding early on that the open source MMORPG you haven't written any code for yet is going to have features that titles with multimillion dollar budgets haven't properly implemented yet isn't going to help either.

Isn't Everybody As Hardcore As Me?

Now this one isn't strictly limited to open source games, as it effects all games out there, but certain open source games certainly should be looking at their shoes and twiddling their thumbs in shame over this one. Game designers often seem to be at war with the people playing the games they create. People don't play games to be punished (at least not most people), they play them to have fun. There's a reason its called a game.

I think the reason that this seems to crop up in open source gaming so much is plain and simple: A.I. code is hard to write. There's a reason so many of the games coming out on the open source scene are strictly multiplayer focused. The problem is that boosting the hit and attack points of every monster and plopping down forty more of them doesn't boost the fun factor by the same amount. Just because you can plow through them all without a scratch doesn't mean that everyone will, or even want to.


So that's it for my bitching, for now anyway. Before I wrap this up I'd like to say that for everything that's been said in the last two posts, I have nothing but love for the open source gaming scene. It's grown by leaps and bounds over the years in terms of quality, quantity and creativity and I'm sure it will continue. Thank you for the great games, folks.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Open Sores

This week's post is going to be sort of a full on rant-mode type of thing, so just be aware of what you're in for.

A large portion of Avert Your Eyes is dedicated to open-source gaming and gaming on open-source platforms, so it's obvious that I'm a fan. There are, however, a few things that drive me nuts about the whole open-source gaming scene, and that's the focus of this week's post. Proceed to number one:

If You Don't Like It, Fix It

Anybody who's followed open source gaming for a while has surely run into this one at one time or another. Someone submits a bug report, mentions something they don't like a game, or offers any other form of what could be considered constructive criticism, and is met with the response: It's open source, fix it. Because, you know, everybody in the entire fucking universe is a programmer. Nobody who enjoys gaming could possibly do so without a deep knowledge of how the engine rendering these beautiful scenes works, down to the machine code itself... You know, like how you can't enjoy a cheeseburger without being a butcher. Chop it yourself.

Honestly, I do know how to program - beyond that, I'm a roll-your-own type of guy. The type who runs a backup system he wrote himself, instead of one of the countless backup packages out there, more or less just for the hell of it. That being said, I have little ambition to slop through somebody else's shitty C code to add a feature I'd like to a game I don't care about that much in the first place. Non-programmers are going to hate you for this more than I do. If you want your game to be played by more than a few people, don't ever do this.

You Can't Please All The People All The Time...

...but a lot of open source projects try to. Ambition is a great thing, as long as it's actually within the scope of what you can and can't accomplish. Far too many games have died out when the handful of developers behind them start to become stretched too thin - not only having to accomodate their own feature-creep ideas, but those of the community surrounding the game as well.

It's an easy thing to do, especially if it seems that it's going to bring a more solid user base to a project that's lacking one. One of the problems (among many in this particular case) is that, often, users don't have any idea what kind of effort it would take to implement their ideas, as good as they may be. This, of course, is deliberatly leaving out the shitty, "d00d, w0t dis game n33dz is m0r3 r0ck3ts!! l0lz0rs!" suggestions.

This is starting to run a bit long, it's pushing midnight, and I'd like to get this up while it's still Thursday - so this bit may turn in to a two part kind of thing. I haven't covered all that I'd like to, so unless the Anarchy Online 16.0 patch comes out between then and now and I get sucked up in that, you can expect more. Out.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Zero To Pissed Off In 32 Levels

Well, it would appear that R.O.S.E Online is out of the open beta period. There will be a closed beta during the month of September (which would be the month that today is the first day of) available exclusively (I think) to Fileplanet (doesn't deserve a link) subscribers (ie. not me), which may (or may not) be followed by another open beta. A much more concise way to put it would be that I am not going to play R.O.S.E online any more. Not just because I can't anymore, either.

My feelings towards the game have changed dramatically between last week's post and now. Once you hit somewhere around level 25, leveling up stops being so quick and painless - quite the opposite, in fact. If you're not constantly having your kills stolen (this assumes that you have found something available to kill), you're being gang-raped by 20 of the same cute thing you couldn't find one of 30 seconds ago. I don't think I've died as much in any other MMORPG than I have in R.O.S.E. Hell, I don't think I've died as much in any game than I have in R.O.S.E, ever.

I think I made it to somewhere around level 32 before I decided to stop playing. It was only as was logging into the game yesterday, knowing it would be the subject of today's post, that I found something was wrong. Like I said above, I really found it hard to care. My entire time playing R.O.S.E felt more like I was trying to enjoy the game, rather than actually enjoying it. The whole process was tiring enough that when I started to play Anarchy Online again, it felt simple, familiar, and welcoming. Not that I haven't enjoyed my time with Anarchy Online, nor will I stop playing it any time soon, but when playing AO solo doesn't feel like a grind anymore, you know you've just come out of a bad relationship.

In other news, Cube had another release this week - I'm sticking this in here because there really isn't enough material to deserve it's own post - which, sadly, may be it's last. After this, the team (or just Aardappel, I'm not very familiar with their development practices) will be moving on to Sauerbraten, which could basically be considered the "sequel" to Cube. Anyway, Cube's maybe-last release is a doozie, throwing in new models for items, weapons, and teleporters as well as a bunch of new maps, both singleplayer and multiplayer. One word of caution - if you like (as most people do) to play Cube online, be wary of the new version. Even though it's been out for a few days, every server in my server browser has the nice little message: [different cube protocol]. Oh, one more thing I haven't mentioned - lots of Cube stuff over at Quadropolis.