Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Programming language fan-boys (and girls)

Wow! I’ve been programming in one form or another all my working life (20+ years) and had no idea that such a thing as the programming-language fan-boy existed until I recently started looking into which language would be best used to program an independent computer game.

I was using C#.Net at work lately and I've just discovered the XNA tool-kit, which can be used to develop games for MS Windows, Windows phones, and the Xbox 360... And I have access to all of those.
After a quick play; it isn't busy at work lately, we’re waiting for a systems upgrade before starting the next project; I can definitely say I've developed a bad case of 'shiny object syndrome.'

I don't have any ideas as yet, but I probably will be writing something using this system, if just to see what I can come up with, so I’ve decided to give writing my own Indi game a decent go. I’ll probably write it to work on windows to begin with and maybe try to get it on to xbox-live or something. Although unlike a lot of the comments I’ve read on various message boards, I’m going into this with my eyes open, and with realistic expectations.
 I do currently program commercial programs for a living, just not games ones. I have learnt a lot of languages over the years, as and when I needed them, but haven’t really given any one system much more credence than the others. I do have a personal preference for older (lower level) non-object-orientated stuff. I mostly use VB.net just now, and sometimes find myself fighting it more than using it. C# seems to be a bit better, because I think it gives you a bit more freedom in your code, but I still find these object-based very high level languages restrictive. Then again, I program a 30+ year old video games console in assembly language (machine code) for fun, so I freely admit that my view may be slightly scued in this.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

100% Machine Code Games!

   I remember, back in the 8Bit home-computer days, when this was the marketing cry for ‘quality’ games, or supposed quality at least.

When home systems like the ZX 81, VIC 20; and to a lesser extent the later ZX Spectrum, and commodore 64; ruled the home-computer markets, and first generation consoles like the ATARI 2600 were just becoming seen as ‘old hat,’ written in machine code was seen as a majour selling point. There had originally been an initial glut of games written in some form of BASIC, as the language was generally included on the ROM of most home computers, and was designed to be easy to understand and quick to pick up. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not dismissing Basic in any way, shape, or form at all here. This was undoubtedly the introduction for many people, of a certain age-range, into a career in the IT industry. And the current IT workforce has a lot to thanks these systems for.  But back then it was all about programming games, something most people with a home-computer had attempted to varying degrees of success.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

A Review of NeverEnd. (PC)

I’ve decided to have a look at those quirkier or somewhat left-of-centre games that got panned in the general press and internet review sites. 

First of all I intentionally picked a few games that I had never heard off, which consistently got low reviews from the main media sources, and then I did some internet research, before playing them with an open mind whilst remembering the on-line and in-print comments.
I intended to see if I thought all these games are genuinely awful, or if there is possibly something more to the general review trends? After all there’s truth to the old axiom ‘know your audience.’

Me, well I’ve absolutely no idea who reads this stuff: So this one’s for you Anon...

Panned Games - Review 2: NeverEnd.

The second game on my ‘Panned Games’ list is NeverEnd, an old-style fantasy based RPG game for the PC.

This one got a Metacritic score of a whole two stars, then came the usual, band-waggon jumping, derogation on YouTube and various other 'games fan' blogs.
It subsequently gained a bit of an anti-fan following in certain gamming-circles.

But was this deserved?

 The lead character is female, but not necessarily in a ‘Cor look at them pixles,’ Lara-Croft type of way...

Following thw fall of the evil Enakhaan, the  powerfull wizard Sarthaan - banished all non-human magical beings to another realm, amongst those that were driven from their land were noble warriors and mages from the race known as Auren. Now, only a few remain, lost in a world that hates them.
Agavaen is a young Auren, living as an outcast and travelling with a band of thieves.
Her magical powers are starting to grow and now, aged 20, she is beginning to wonder what her future might hold.
And so says the blurb, but what does this mean for game-play? 

The game is played over a series of fixed viewpoint backgrounds, some of which scroll as you move the character through them. Camera angles, and distances, vary from scene to scene, in much the same way as the original Resident Evil games did, although the overall feeling here is much more spacious, although some internal locations do give a good claustrophobic feeling.
This is basically a pseudo 3D third-person RPG adventure game, set in a fantasy world populated by the usual characters, but the plot does have a decent story-arc and progresses at a steady pace. None of the plot puzzles are too obscure, and although the story progression is fairly linear you do need to put some thought into it in order to advance. You also need to continually level-up during the adventure, but again this is fairly even paced and experience should accrue steadily as you progress through your quest. I only had to stop and ‘train’ in order to proceed on a couple of occasions, and then not for very long. The story is fairly involved and relies on puzzles just as much as levelling-up to proceed, with enough side quests and interactive characters to keep it interesting. You can also gather a party of fellow adventurers to help you out with the fights, this 'party' aspect is handled well enough, with some characters being integral to the plot and some not.
I’ve heard this referred to as a ‘Girls Game,’ apparently in a derogatory manner, although I’m not sure why. The lead character is female, but not necessarily in a ‘Cor look at them pixles,’ Lara-Croft type of way… Although some of the characters aren’t exactly dressed for winter.