Thursday, May 31, 2007

Shoot Me Up Shoot Em Ups

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Somehow I'm missed yesterday... shit happens!



My favourite RPG project Scourge now comes with outdoor areas which look rather promising. The progress on this project has been relentless which I really enjoy seeing. All it needs is some modellers to start producing some nice character models and some better decorations and it will look beautiful. I think the somewhat light-hearted premise for the storyline might be putting off potential players though so it would also be nice to see somebody product a mod for this game with a more serious storyline. Scourge is designed to be moddable.



Zaxxon Remake is a remake of the Sega game [surprisingly called] Zaxxon. The remake runs on both Linux and Windows but does not seem to be open source. I have contacted the author to encourage him otherwise. Anyway it's an isometric shoot-em-up, something not too well represented in the Free gaming world. I can think of a handful but they are all quite shallow games, perhaps Chromium BSU and KRaptor being the main protagonists, RTTS and Rafkill are two others. Outside of those you are looking at the abstract shooters like Gunroar, Parsec47, and rRootage.



Short and sweet today. That's all. :-)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Some Might Say

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Want to simulate running your own college or university? You can. And it's open source. I post this purely out of amazement that somebody would program such a "game".



Perhaps a more relevant simulation game is, er, running your own game design company. GameBiz: The Magical Years and GameBiz 2 (download) provide such an experience, but only freeware and on Windows. Again, posted purely out of intrigue.



Back on to more, er, better-er things... version 0.3 of SuperTuxKart is imminent. :-)



There has been a spike in activity of late as the developers try to push out the next version, which now uses SDL instead of PLIB. There is an RC available for download (released quietly earlier in May) if you want to help test things. The main weakness of the game is now the quality of the tracks. Hopefully a new release will attract a few people interested in creating some good new tracks for the game. They also need help creating a Windows build for the next release.



CuteGod mockup


LostGarden, where the author is creating some lovely free graphics to encourage game programmers to create some free games, is issuing some challenges and outlines a basic game he wants to see somebody prototype, called CuteGod. The game design is an interesting read, drawing inspiration from Populus but having a character of it's own.



LostGarden ran a previous challenge called SpaceCute for which a few prototypes were already created. It's interesting to see an artist challenging programmers by proving both art and a game design. It's quite different to the usual approaches taken by designing open source games where usually the art is created for the game and not the other way around - here the game is created for the art. The advantages of this are clear goals and something that is tangible and looks good with only the basic code in place.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Damnation of Gods Damnation of Gods is

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Haha, forgot to give the post a title so Blogger gave it this interesting one instead!



Damnation of the Gods


Damnation of the Gods is a project to make a game similar to Dungeon Master and the Eye of the Beholder series. For those not familiar with them, they are pseudo 3D RPGs - that is you have a first person view but you can only move on a grid (i.e. north, south, east, west) and the graphics are generally 2D sprites for both the environment and game characters. Unlike roguelikes the game is realtime so waiting around is not advisable. There's only a couple of screenshots but they show a fair amount of progress. You can play the latest version (0.17) on Linux or (via MingW) Windows. The author slightly confuses the term freeware with open source on the homepage but DotG is definitely open source.



Eye of the Beholder II was one of my favourite games when I was growing up. It was challenging, immersive, and had excellent graphics for it's time. It was a tough game, and I don't think me or my brother ever completed it despite buying guides with full maps and solutions to each level.



There's an update to Thunder & Lightening, the 3D air combat game. This release provides only a Linux binary although if you are desparate to play on Windows, the author may cave into a few requests. With major gameplay enhancements, a tutorial mission, a new scripting language, and bugfixes, it looks worth checking out.



Another game I want to check out is Lengendary Legions. Although it looks similar to Wesnoth (fantasy hex-based strategy) I'm sure it has a character all of it's own but without playing it and with little explicit information on the website, I really need to download it and have a crack. There is a gameplay video but there's only so much you can discern from that especially with the, er, interesting music.

At the moment there is no AI so it's player vs player only (local or networked).



Finally, you can get an unoffficial Linux binary of StarShip Troopers: Last Defense from here. YMMV.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

A Bit About Me

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How wonderfully ironic that on the 1st anniversary of the inception of Free Gamer, I forgot to actually post. Lack of time and focus on work robbed me of the time required to bring you the usual high quality rambling.



Another thing that seems forgotten is the Free Gamer Awards I so enthusiastically thought up a few weeks back. Fear not, as soon as I am done procrastinating planning them properly, it will all come together. Fortunately they are entitled the Free Gamer Awards 2007 which gives me another 6 months to execute them. *grin*



As you may have noticed, I called this post, "A bit about me." I won't be talking about myself - sorry to disappoint you - just a bit about this blog. (Yes, a blog can have a sense of self, y'know.) I feel that one of the reasons FG has people reading it daily is because I stay fairly on-topic. I don't talk about much else other than Free Software games (ok, throw in a few freeware titles) and the aspects surrounding the development of said games.



One of the principle reasons I created FG was because there was a lack of a similar resource at the time - the Linux Game Tome was probably the closest thing but that's dedicated to Linux games meaning some open source titles never get exposure and many commercial ones do. The thing is, commercial game publishers can afford to market themselves. And open source is open source, regardless of platform. I wanted to put to use all the otherwise-useless open source game knowledge I was accumulating each day. The end goal was to highlight the best Free games out there and give exposure to upcoming projects.



In that regard I think FG has somewhat succeeded. Up to 1000 hits daily (~950) is a decent platform for giving an open source game or two a bit of extra traffic.



On top of that, this blogging thing can become an obsession. Seeing the hit rate rise, seeing where traffic comes from, seeing how much in paltry adsense revenue you can acquire (I'm almost at $80 from something like 100,000 hits), it becomes an addiction. Now the addiction has passed, the challenge is to keep it going with interesting content without having to spend upwards of 4-5 hours a day doing research.



In that regard I have failed slightly. To get FG where I want it to be in terms of content (the lists, articles, etc) I need to spend more time on it than I can. So, sadly, it becomes a slow process of getting it there and I just hope some or most of you keep checking in whilst I grind it out. It'll be there eventually, it's just in life certain things must come first.



Anyway, time to put an end to this narcisissm.



The FIFE team are running a contest to lure in some graphics contributions. Win the contest and get a feature of your choice coded into FIFE. Please, somebody, create an awesome graphic, win the contest, then make them add in support for mighty morphing power rangers. Or take it seriously, whichever you prefer. :-)



Until next time (which will be Monday - I'm away all weekend), enjoy creating and playing those Free games.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

By the Kilo

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Over on the Ubuntu forums, I came across a post looking for whelp with a new game - Project Kilo is an ambitious new project to create a commercial grade RPG.



Arkhart


Now, often I see people talk about how they want to create the next Oblivion and give up when they find out that just using just a paperclip and some bluetack only gets you a bluetacky paperclip and really creating something like an RPG take significant dedication, talent, and desire. As such, it is easy to poor water on these little fires by replying to such threads with a dose of reality - that commercial grade RPGs take a team of paid developers and artists years to create. And that previous efforts have just stagnated to the point of no hope (think Arkhart).



However I remember when Hero of Allacrost was just the dream of their lead developer Roots and he was canvasing for support and plugging away regardless of negative responses. Now look where they are - Allacrost is really shaping up nicely and turning into an excellent game. If progress keeps up, it will be one of the best FOSS games out there.



Back to Project Kilo, it could fill a fairly significant hole in the Free game scene. There are few ambitious RPGs out there - maybe Open Outcast although that's not a traditional orcs and arrows RPG. MMORPGs are not the same thing so do not count as RPGs which contain a strong single player element and do not require learning the l33t rulez and befriending level 14223 sorcerers.



The fella behind Kilo seems determined so it'll be interesting to monitor any follow up. It looks like the project may use Crystal Space. The beauty of making an open source game is that there is no deadline or nervey investors so developers can dream - the trick is finding enough people whom share that dream to the point that they will help realise it.



Speaking of MMORPGs, Iris2 - the 3D Ultima Online client - is officially out. So UO players should be celebrating in their online havens. >:-)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Irrlamb

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Woah a nice new Free game!



Irrlamb is described by it's developer(s) as "a 3D game that probably involves a lot of physics and frustrating gameplay." It looks really awesome. Check out the gameplay video. Think Marble Madness and add lots of fun extra ways to interact with objects using your spherical token. I especially liked the scene depicting the player sphere on top of a larger sphere and using cog-like mechanics to make it roll. Irrlamb looks fun and when I next get a free moment you can be sure I'll be trying it - it's available for Linux and Windows.



Irrlamb just goes to show that with a bit of thought, you can take an old concept and put an original spin on it. Pun intended. ;-)



I saw that one over on happypenguin.org and there's a few other game updates on the 'tome. I won't duplicate them here.



One not there yet is the latest Stendhal release, version 0.60 of this console-style MMORPG. Language is a funny thing, console meaning two quite different things depending on the context. Anyway, in the unlikely event that you are confused, here it means an old school Zelda-like game.



These days Stendhal, which should run on anything that supports Java, incorporates a fairly large world to meander around, since it has been in development for several years. I'm not sure how immersive a console-style MMORPG could ever be but the beauty of free will is that different people like different things and evidently people like these types of game as there is a few around.



On a more development oriented note, I came across this rather cool page with lots of resources on various engines over on devmaster.net.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Darsana

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There's a new Ultimate Stunts release, 0.7.1, which adds a few nifty features and fixes a few commonly reported bugs. This open ended driving game continues it's history of steady development, something I like to see in open source games.



Our newly incepted project Fortress continues to attract interest and we now have a wiki collecting together information on the both Castles (the game that inspires Fortress) and how we want to see Fortress evolve. Hopefully in the next few weeks a bit of prototyping will occur, but a bit of planning in the meantime should scope out the project nicely.



Fortress will also provide me an opportunity to write some articles on the issues that affect open source game development. (I was tempted to write "successfully developing an open source game" but then that's just setting myself up.)



Darsana


Somebody brings up Darsana in the Ubuntu forums. They call it beautiful, well, that's perhaps a little strong. It does look interesting though, an FPS with a medieval setting. However there seems to be some furore over the licensing of it. Whilst it uses the Dark Places engine (a highly modified version of the Q1 engine released by iD) which is licensed under the GPL, the author of Darsana believes that he is under no obligation [2] to release the source to the game. Now that's something I would need to look into deeper before I could comment properly on it (there are various nuances to the virality of the GPL so I'm not sure how it would affect mods) but it is intriguing.



To add to the Darsana soap opera, it appears that the source to version 1.0 has been lost, although work continues on version 2.0 of the game.



I came across the online gaming magazine Escapist. It's layout is beautiful, although totally image based. Whilst not open source specific, I found it quite interesting. Plus there's an article about girls in gaming. Seriously, I could barely believe it either, girls can play computer games. Next thing you'll be telling me is that they can play sports too! ;-)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Night of the Living Unofficial Builds

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Unofficial builds are much like zombies, who rise out of the dirt to seek out human flesh and consume it. Only unofficial builds usually come from the community and don't always kill the black dude and the crazy but not-so-cute lady. Instead they give people access to [the latest version of] games. And don't walk with some form of broken-bone induced limp. Although they may have bugs! And zombies tend to have bugs! Maggots infested in their now-defunct brains and flies swarming around their rotten carcasses. The similarities are uncanny.



It could be worse. Anyway... now that I feel relatively normal, the point was...



SoulFu


There's a Linux build of SoulFu posted on the SoulFu forum. Some complaints about low resolutions and issues with widescreen monitors but otherwise it looks good. The main reason Aaron Bishop released SoulFu as kind of open source (i.e. not Free but free with source, we must be pedantic about such matters lest we fall afoul of the various pitfalls of not adhering to high standards) was to get SoulFu ported to Linux. To be honest I'd rather he adjusted the license to a simple attribution based license and concentrated on making money from merchandise and advertising (he could make enough to get by) instead of the rather daft limitations in place at the moment. Shareware never made anybody famous or rich. Except iD. But they rule.



It's worth noting that soulfu.com points to an older release (1.3) than aaronbishopgames.com does (1.4_devtool) although - other than source availability - I'm not sure if there's any difference. Also there is now a public SVN server (go to the forum for info, I think).



CSP


Onto other matters, specifically the [fight] Combat Simulation Project where there's an unofficial Windows binary on the CSP forums. The latest official version is a little dated so demonic slaves Windows users can check out the latest features.



I like where CSP is going. It's detailed, and development has been ongoing and steady for 5+ years. Hopefully they will make another official release soon for both Windows and Linux. :-)



Speaking of accuracy (well, detail implies accuracy) it seems the Danger from the Deep project is doing OK in that regard, getting the thumbs up from a retired (sub)mariner. Danger from the Deep is a submarine combat simulation game set in World War II for Linux & Windows. And FreeBSD, although *BSD is dying.



The second part of the Rubygame tutorial is up on the newish development blog libertygaming. Wannabe developers should check it out.



And on a similar note, I just came across the Games and Simulation wiki where somebody is attempting to gather together common algorithms to aid game developers. It's a bit sparse but you gotta start somewhere!



Y'know, my girlfriend [yes, I know, amazingly I have one] just pointed out that if I took my work as seriously as this blog I'd be a rich man already. ;-)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Announcing Fortress

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Well it seems this blog and the Free Gamer forums combination have had their first interesting side effect!



By wittering about Castles, I inspired forum member gilead to call for volunteers to forge a Castles inspired game! Currently it's in the brainstorming process - everything is up for debate - but a working title 'Fortress' has been agreed and a sourceforge project is undergoing the registration process. Anyway, join in the discussion if you are interested in contributing anything, be it ideas, graphics, code or kittens.



Currently we are looking at writing it in Java (gilead's strongest language and one I'm comfortable with) combined with intergrating Vexi for the UI (Vexi is a rich user interface platform for web apps but could easily be applied to other contexts). Watch this space! (Or join in!)



One of the Wormux devs is putting out some amusing spam. I've seen it in a few places, including the FG forums. Basically they are using a witty parody on spam emails to interest contributors to the project. Wormux is a cool game and just needs the finishing touches applying to SVN to make it really surpass the original Worms games (1 & 2). If you love Worms, help them. :-)



Thanks to SFZ developer ghoulsblade for clarifying that SFZ stands for Stress Free Zone and outlining the goals of the project in a comment on yesterdays FG post.



For me the highlight is the idea of modular ships - that is taking basic components and the player can combine them to make unique ships. In fact, I even suggested this idea to the Vega strike guys a few years back. Yeah, I'm ace. But seriously, I hope to see SFZ make progress because they are combining some really nice concepts that should create a really original game. :-D

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Spacetastic

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There's an interview with Ryan Gordon - more well known as icculus - over at Linux Games. I spotted the link over on Linux Gaming World. Whilst he is more associated with commercial "open source" titles [quoted because they usually are not free games, more free engines] it still makes for an interesting read although I'm not too sure I agree with all his assessments on how relevant (or irrelevant) some technologies are to the future of Linux gaming.



Continuing on my spate of reporting on the progress of FreeTrain SE (well, I did campaign for nearly a year to get it ported to English) there's now a tools package up for download to assist in the creation of plugins - almost all the game's features are implemented as plugins.



I heard from a rather good source that the next release of Privateer Gemini Gold is pretty close. They may do one more beta before the final release. Still, with better graphics, refined gameplay, and lots of play testing, this version will really shine and be a standout game for the open source world. :-)



Speaking of space games, I just came across a new one! SFZ (I have no idea what that stands for) looks to be ambitious but, aside from the screenshots/devblog, there's not that much information on the key goals of the game. It will run on Linux and Windows and seems to contain a lot of Privateer-ish gameplay elements, but I get the impression it's designed to be multiplayer i.e. online. Anyway, the game is downloadable but I'm not sure how playable it is.



The SFZ link came from a post in the Free Gamer forums, where one of the SFZ developers [ghoulsblade] is starting a discussion on the concept of applying casual games to open source game developers. Anyway, I thought I'd give others a chance to voice an opinion before weighing in with my rather weighty weighed weighable, er, onion. I mean opinion. :-D



Looking for cutesy spacey graphics for a game? Well, over at lostgarden.com (another game development blog) there's efforts to produce a set of free reusable flexible cute spacish [random adjective] graphics called SpaceCute! Kudos to Ben for pointing it out.



These days I blog so much I sometimes struggle to remember if I have already mentioned something or not. So apologies for any repeats... I got hit in the head a few times today.

Friday, May 18, 2007

SoulFu now open source

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The author of SoulFu now provides the source with the installer. Download the latest version (Windows only) and install it and there is the source code contained in the installation. That gives me hope of a future version of the game for Linux. :-)



The license is a little funny though - it is not a standard open source license and basically forbids a few things that you should read about if you are interested in modifying the source.



There's an interesting article on "What makes a good Civ game" (pages 1 2 3 4). Most of it is just common sense but it would be interesting to analyse what parts of it are applicable to FreeCiv. The article is nothing new (circa 2003) but I enjoyed reading it anyway.



I've been searching for more information on a 3D version of Exult. It exists, but in terms of the source and/or a relevant project page (with something more than a description). The only decent information I can find is in a 2 year old locked forum thread, which is a shame because it looks like a really interesting addition to the Exult scene and could attract a whole new generation of players. Sadly now it seems inactive.



There are many game ideas that never get realised, but given the hobbyist nature of open source [i.e. not bottom line driven] we are blessed with a blank canvas from which to start with and you can paint it however you like.



I would love to see a game inspired by Castles. In this old classic you got to build up a castle, selecting the height of the walls, and periodically you would get attacked by invading forces so you would place your defenders and watch the battle unfold. The end goal, of course, was to prevent your castle being conquered. For those with a good memory, this is the second time I've mentioned it.



So, what other games are missing from the scene? What ideas - new or old - are realistic enough to be tackled yet original enough to stand out? Comment here or in the forums with any ideas. :-)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

More Mojo!

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I feel my Free Gamer mojo returning. Awesome! :-)



These days some Free games are really, really impressive. For any disbelievers were have youtube to help showcase some of the best the Free Software gaming community has to offer.



TA:Spring is increasingly impressive these days. Some of the scenes in this video are amazing. And another. There's a large number of TA:Spring mods these days too, which I've been meaning to do a post about when I have the time to finish researching (or even play) them.



Or how about this video which was made using the The Babylon Project - a total conversion of Freespace 2 set in the Babylon 5 universe. That looks like it could have been taken straight out the series.



UFO:AI is snowballing - picking up more artists and contributors. Some of the contributed work is incredibly high quality. This game is going to really challenge the commercial competition in the coming years to actually innovate a little.



The translation efforts on the FreeTrain SE project continue. The contributed plugins have now undergone translation for all but the [rather length] train descriptions, and can now be downloaded. This introduces all kinds of fun features including a soccer management game - showing just how flexible FreeTrain is.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Warsow 0.3

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Just when I feared I was losing my blogging Mojo, a few tips from readers has put me back on the path to righteousness.



First tip - Warsow 0.3 is now ready! The team behind this acrobatic FPS deathmatch game had a few problems getting it out of the door with some difficult-to-nail crashes but those problems have been addressed.



There's new maps and models, a new gametype, gameplay tweaks, it would seem there's plenty for both new and current players. One of the issues veteran players have identified with Warsow is that it's a bit of an experts game. You have to be quite skillful to pull off some of the maneuvers. There was a detailed article on this matter but I can't seem to track it down right now.



Also StarShip Troopers: Last Defense saw it's first beta release. It's Windows only, but since Glest is cross-platform I am optimistic this is a short term thing.



Anyway, back to musing over the awards setup for moi...

Monday, May 14, 2007

Normal Service Resumed

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Oh dear... lack of sleep, sobriety, and no Internet at a foreign location stole away my plans for Free Gamer blogging over the weekend. Anyway, normal service is now being resumed. :-)



The Outer Space client got an update. I always knew about this free-to-play online space strategy game but only recently found out that [at least] the client is open source.



There's a new FOSS game development blog going - Libery Gaming. The author seems to be focusing more on programming and development content.



Not much else to talk about today, however I'm going to address the awards tonight.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Naked, Male, and Loving It

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I sit here with a smile on my face, not because I'm really really good looking [although I am] and not because I have to leave for a 5 day trip in 30 minutes and have yet to pack [although I do] but because I reckon this is the most amusing bug I've heard in a while: "Naked, female, and hating it in Second Life."

Runesword II


Speaking of role playing games, I remember back in the old days when my brother and I used to create our own RPGs using a few models and pen and paper. Well, there's an open source modern equivalent - Runesword II is designed to help people create their own role playing games. It looks pretty, is mature, and was recently open sourced, but I have kinda grown out of writing my own RPGs so I probably won't ever try it. But you could. :-)



The latest version of Snowballz was causing would-be players a few headaches. The author has fixed most of the issues and re-uploaded version 0.9 - tsk tsk, naughty. New release should mean new version number (0.9.1?) but at least he's trying. ;-)



Some people on the Free Gamer forum are trying to talk me into starting a player-centric wiki. Even if I don't do it, that thread is worth a look as they note some good resources [that I'm too lazy to repeat here].



Now I have 15 minutes to pack. And just spilt tea down my was-fresh-now-stained-with-tea t-shirt. Did you really think I was posting naked?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Post With No Name

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The other day I came across Battleship 88. Assuming it was freeware, being Windows only, I didn't mention it but did download it. Given the lack of a source code download on the website, I was a bit surprised at being forced to agree to the GPL before installing it. Despite what the word Battleship imbues - some form of strategy - the game is much more arcade in it's nature. You steer your battleship around blowing the <expletive> out of anything that gets near you. The game is complete - the graphics and sound are polished and it even contains an introduction to the gameplay (which is topical).



Anyway, those who followed the link might have noticed it's to an organisation called www.gamecreation.org and they have completed a few games. I wonder if they all are available under the GPL and, if so, where the sources are?



One game they list, which I've been looking for since forgetting it's name, is Shotgun Debugger. It's a top down shoot 'em up, cross platform, the sources definitely are available, and the gameplay looks crisp and fun.



The Gunbound inspired game that is being "brainstormed at the moment now has a website and a name - i-team.



FreeTrain


And an interesting little debate cropped up on the tt-forums when somebody labelled FreeTrain's graphics as "awful". Some people can be very judgemental without ever actually investigating things. The reality is that FreeTrain's graphics are good but a different style to (Open)TTD's, and as such appeal to a different audience. I personally prefer the really varied cityscapes that you can generate in FreeTrain vs the somewhat repetitive towns that litter an OpenTTD landscape.



Other than all that I have not yet gotten around to working on the previously talked about award categories, but I will try and work on that for tomorrow's blog entry.



The Free Gamer forums really should be more stable now after the freeforums.org guys eventually resolved all the problems afflicting their service. Pffft, free services, eh? ;-)

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Lies, Damned Lies, and Artificial Intelligence

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I was tempted, out of laziness, to say I had nothing to talk about... but that's just not true. :-D



Daimonin


The guys over at the Daimonin project have been making noises with another pre-release. Daimonin is an open source isometric 2D MMORPG. I got quite addicted to it at one point before my addiction to this blog kicked in, it can be quite an absorbing little game despite the lack of amazing 3D superficial sexy graphics. I'm not sure that the next version brings any graphical improvements but it's obvious they have been working hard on tweaking the gameplay.



Meanwhile the Battle for Antargis lead developer has been investigating probably one of the bigger challenges to face open source game developers - artificial intelligence. (Cue joke about lack of intelligence of the decision to create open source games.) It is very hard to create an AI that is not simple, let alone ultimately predictable. I remember so many games of yester-year that ended up being played in a way that took advantage of glaring AI weaknesses. Or even games that let the AI cheat to make it seem better (Civilization anyone!?) which I always felt was a major cop out by the developers. It's great to see the BoA guys taking it seriously.



Simutrans 0.99.11 is available for download. These days lots of little pedestrians and cars frequent the towns in Simutrans which looks cool IMO. If you transport lots of passengers with trains, fewer cars are on the roads. You can do the artificial environment a favour! ;-)



In the next few days I might do a piece on TA Spring mods or on open source development tips, or do both...

Monday, May 07, 2007

Tutorials

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It is commonly known that one of the major problems with volunteer game projects is lack of man power, which usually means that a few aspects that you come to expect in commercial titles tend to be neglected in Free games.



One such aspect is tutorials. Many Free games are clones inspired by older commercial games, and as such assume familiararity with those games. This makes them incredibly difficult for a new player to get into without having to ask lots of seemingly obvious questions and that turns people off.



Examples...



I saw FreeLords 0.3.8 had a Windows binary so I thought I'd check it out. I know, I know, there's a manual [which incidently took about 7 clicks to get to from the frontpage - scandalous web design!] but reading that isn't fun. Playing is fun. Tutorials are teaching-whilst-playing. No tutorial, unsure of what to do, my interest quickly waned and I was back surfing brain sewage the Internet.



Another example - FreeCol. Just what the hell are hammers? I can't assign them, they're not a resource, and I was unable to build anything. The game looks great but if I can't play it I'm not having fun, so I quit and move on.



The message? No, I'm not griping about the games, the message is a constructive one; tutorials mean much higher player retention rates. People, generally, play games for fun. That means if they are not having fun from the outset, interest is quickly lost and there are many other games to play. Don't expect too much too soon from your players if you want to keep their interest in the game. Tutorials are probably one of the better investments of your limited resources and I believe should be part of any open source game development process.



I love monitoring forums like Vega Strike's. Why? Because every now and again somebody posts a model like this. Georgeous. I've seen that guy, Oblivion, start as somebody producing very amateur images and through motivation and desire become somebody who produces jaw dropping models and renders. He also contributes to the Angels Fall First project.



After an extended outage the forums are back up. They should be more reliable from now onwards.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Day of the 0.9x

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Blob Wars: Blob and Conquer 0.90 is out! A 3D follow up to the 2D platformer Blob Wars: Metal Blob Solid, Blob and Conquer looks like it is shaping up nicely from the gameplay videos on the website.



It makes me happy to see Snowballz 0.9 released. This RTS now has an OpenGL backend so should run a bit better on faster systems. What I like about Snowballz is it's not just another RTS clone, with the generic C&C style gameplay traits. It has lots of character and original gameplay ideas and I can't wait to play it. I would now but I just finished watching De La Hoya lose to Mayweather and it's 5am or something silly.



FreeTrain will see another release soon as work continues at a frantic pace. The translation to English has gotten quite a bit of interest in the game and there are now 3 developers working on it with hopefully more joining in over the next few weeks, there should be regular improvements and subsequent updates.



With that in mind, it is time for Free Gamer to push for another community effort. So far a revival of Emilia Pinball is the leading contender. If anybody can think of another game they would like to see development rekindled, please comment here or on the Free Gamer forums.

Another option might be to push for a new game idea. I'd love to see an open source game inspired by the DOS game Castles. I loved that game and the gameplay concept is nice and simple meaning it shouldn't be too hard to implement and improve - you design and build a castle and then defend it from invaders! It's really cool to design the perfect castle and watch it build and there is a lot of scope for gameplay extensions.



Hmm... Pinball or Castles... or do you have a better idea? :-)

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Fallout 3 Tech Demo released to Public Domain

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Well I guess the big scoop is that the Van Buren aka Fallout 3 tech demo has been released to the public domain so is now Free Software. I wonder if the community will pick it up and make it work properly - apparently it is quite far away from being a playable game but my laptop is low on disk space so I can't find out right now.



I'll leave blurb to other sites.



Remember I mentioned a Gunbound clone effort that started in the Ubuntu Forums? Well, it is now called i-team, has a set of characters - how cool do they look!!? - and the guy has finished coding pixel perfect collision detection. It is moving ahead nicely and perhaps we'll see a game sooner rather than later emerging from this effort. :-)



I lamented yesterday that the game Bloboats wasn't available for download for Ubuntu. Well, d'oh, that's because it is in the Ubuntu repos but to be fair it did not say that on the Bloboats downloads page. Well I got an email from the author (thanks :-) and hopefully he'll correct that omitted detail.



I will stop by mentioning Soldat. 2D Quake-like war game worms style. Not open source. Only runs on Linux with WINE. But is cool. 'Nuff said.



This post was a bit disjoint and unelaborate. Perhaps my standards are slipping!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Allacrost and Free Allegiance

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Hero of Allacrost


There's some new screenshots over at the Hero of Allacrost project. It is looking really nice these days and they have come a long way. They are looking for people to help test out their next release so head on over to their forums if you are interested. :-)



Speaking of forums, have you registered for the Free Gamer Forum yet? Why not? ;-)



Bloboats - a side-scrolling race against the clock whilst dodging obstacles by using the way the boat interacts with the water. Think X-Moto meets the sea. It is cross platform but only Windows binaries are officially provided :-( so you either have to compile from source or try the unofficial Mandriva 2007 rpms or hope the guys at getdeb get on it. (I'm an Ubuntu user, can't you tell!?)



Free Allegiance is the open source community effort spawned from Microsoft releasing the source code to their [now abandoned] game Allegiance. (See, MS are not all evil, just mostly.) Damn, I forgot to mention this a while back when I did an article on open source 3D space games.



Free Allegiance


Free Allegiance is a multiplayer teamplay-oriented 3D space combat game. I like the fact that it focuses on teamplay. It can be difficult for new players (don't make me say n00bs) to get into online games with more experienced players mopping them up repeatedly. However if it is a team game, the experienced players can take on leadership roles, and by virtue of that, mentoring those of lesser ability experience.



Oh, and the game looks pretty too. Always a plus. :-D



Super Retro Mega Wars... at the moment, just a blog on the development of a retro mega game - a multiplayer environment where each player gets to choose the type of game they play (all game types based on retro classics) and somehow the game types get mixed together. Anyway, it's an intriguing concept so I'm gonna keep an eye on it.



I should probably give Second Life a mention at some point... it is open source after all. Just they don't really need the marketing help. And I think games should be fun and immersive but not a second life. Right?



The title of today's blog post is so unimaginative. I'm not feeling very creative today.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

FreeTrain and Lots of Games

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I absolutely have to start with FreeTrain. The first release of the translated game is now available. It is currently Windows only (tied to DirectX) and needs .NET but the medium term goal is to port FreeTrain to SDL and Mono so it can become cross platform.



The download has been available for a few days but some documentation was needed so I held off mentioning it until now. Some tutorials have been put up so it is now possible to play the game without some seriously lucky guess work.



Hedgewars (screenshots), like Worms / Wormux but with Hedgehogs! The number of Worms clones seems to be on the up. Perhaps it's going to need it's own award category - "Best Worms Clone!" ;-)



I can't remember whether I mentioned it before, but Those Funny Funguloids (TFF) is now available for Linux. Also, Ubuntu packages have been created for I Have No Tomatoes which is written by the same guys as TFF.



That was some major linkage for one paragraph. ;-)



TFF is a top-down "mushroom collecting" arcade game with lovely 3D graphics. Check out the gameplay video for a better idea of what it's like. I like TFF because it's a simple concept executed with panache.



Blocktality is a top down shooter. It's Windows only :-( but there is a cross platform open source game that it looks very similar to (and not Loose Cannon), only the name of that game eludes me for the moment. I must be getting old or something, losing my marbles.



Jump'n'Bump


Super Mario Wars is like a contemporary version of Jump'n'Bump except it is not gorily cute rather than just cute.



Y'know what game is cool? Oolite. This Elite-inspired game takes the classic to a whole new level. Anyway, I mention it only because there's a gameplay video showing off exactly what it's about for those who are curious - not everybody is old enough (or geeky enough?) to remember Elite. :-)



People think Liquid War development is dead. It isn't, it just moved to become part of the GNU project under the project title Liquid War 6. Initially, it will only be a Linux-only game, which makes a refreshing change from the plethora of Windows-only titles I keep talking about.



Speaking of talking, I've talked enough. s/talked/written/. s/written/blogged/. s/blogged/rambled/. s/enough/of/this/now/.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Free Gamer Forums and Awards 2007

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As you probably don't know, May 25th is the 1st birthday of Free Gamer. :-D



To signify this momentus occasion, and because I've always wanted to do this, I'm going to run the first official Free Gamer awards!



The purpose of the awards is to not only recognise the best the open source game scene has to offer, but also inspire those striving to bring us new and original free games, so I'm looking for ideas and feedback on how to organise the award categories. I especially don't want a predictable set of categories (Wesnoth and Frozen Bubble shouldn't win everything they go in for) and I definitely want to acknowledge upcoming games as much as the popular ones. I'm thinking that the categories could be based more on game aspect rather than genres i.e. most original, best storyline, best artwork, etc. I also don't want too many awards so they stay fairly meaningful - but not too few so they are not predictable and recognise more than a couple of games. Of course, all this needs planning...



So, with great pleasure, I am happy to announce the unveiling of the official Free Gamer Forums, kindly hosted by freeforums.org who provide an awesome service for, it seems, no gain whatsoever.



Discussion on the format of the awards is welcome both here [in the comments] and in the forums where I have started a thread for discussion on the award categories.



My hope is that the FG forums can become a little hive of activity around open source gaming and provide a great resource where developers and players alike can share and help eachother to consolidate the vibrant (if a little disorganised :-) open source and free gaming scene.



My plan of world domination for the awards is to have 2 weeks for votes to be cast, which should be enough time to effectively canvas the open source game playing community. That gives us 10 days to come up with and finalise the voting categories.



Also if anybody wants to create some cool graphics to hand out to the award winners, please volunteer because I am (you might be surprised to know) quite a busy person. :-)



I did have some game news but I'm saving it until tomorrow. ;-)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Scourge and SoulFu

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Scourge 0.18 (download) has been released. :-)



If you don't know, Scourge is a 3D RPG game inspired by top-down old school isometric-ish games e.g. Exult. Scourge tries to blend classic gameplay with modern graphics. It has a light hearted plot but is designed to be easily moddable. As the game progresses, in the future I hope to see a few cool mods crop up. I personally really like Scourge because I've watched the development for several years and helped a little here and there.



Scourge 0.18 brings a revamped UI, localization and translations, and a slew of bug fixes. It is starting to shape into a nice game and really the only major task they have to really tackle to make this a very distinctive and brilliant Free game is to sort out some proper character models. The current set are just bits and pieces Gabor Torok (Scourge author) managed to find online.



It's ironic that many projects seem to have either only programmers or only artists, and struggle to find the ideal balance for development. I have contemplated setting up a site where open source games can make calls for help with programming, artwork, or modelling, since at the moment it's just a case of hoping somebody with the right skill and interest eventually finds your game project - there is no centralized resource for organizing open source game development and I think one is increasingly needed as the number of people creating free software games keeps rising.



SoulFu


Aaron Bishop, the original author of Egoboo (see Egoboo Resurrection for current versions) has finally finished his latest game after 4 years of development. SoulFu is currently only available for Windows but he is planning Linux and Mac versions of the game. The game is freeware but maybe after some time he'll open source it like he did with Egoboo.



You can see the graphical similarities between SoulFu and Egoboo, the chunky cutesy character models, but the graphics look a little more refined in SoulFu. It looks fun but my Windows machine is too pap to play it so perhaps a few readers could comment on what the gameplay is like. There are a couple of gameplay videos [1, 2] from earlier on in development just to give an idea of what how SoulFu plays.



Edit - hey, you have to pay money for the full SoulFu experience :-( that really sucks (no mention on the webpage) and I'm frustrated that I mentioned it now!



There's been some interest on the Ubuntu forums about making a Gunbound-like game. For those who don't know, Gunbound (gameplay video) is kinda like Worms only with fancier graphics and weapons. If this project goes ahead, I hope they look at working with the Wormux crew who have an engine capable of 90% of the needs of this project-in-planning.