I recently had to swap my refurbished computer for a hand-me-down, to get rid of an annoying hardware defect. Both have the same amount of RAM and storage: 2 gigs and 80 gigs, respectively. The difference is in the CPU and GPU, and that’s where the comparison becomes very interesting.
You see, the old one was an AMD Sempron 64 rated at 3000+ (real clock speed 1.8GHz), with an embedded nVidia 8800 for video. The new one is an Intel Atom 330 at 1.6GHz, dual-core and hyperthreaded, with an Intel GMA 950 accelerator. You’d think multiple cores would help a lot with performance, but each individual core is slow as molasses by modern standards (which is absurd and ridiculous, but there you have it), and most software isn’t multithreaded, so it can’t take advantage of the extra cores. The result? Overall, a more responsive system as one misbehaving process can’t hog the entire CPU anymore. But individual apps are now over 50% slower…
Good thing the next games I’m planning are all turn-based.
As for the GPU? Suffice to say, Super Tux Kart — a lightweight game by any standard — used to run at roughly 70FPS on the 8800 with default settings (and original nVidia drivers), while on the GMA 950 it crawls at under 10FPS, with quality turned most of the way down. In fact, turning down the settings didn’t seem to make much of a difference at all.
Somehow, the game is still perfectly playable anyway. (continue reading…)
All right folks, let’s kick off 2015. Surprisingly enough, there have been a couple of relevant news pieces over the otherwise dead New Year’s week, and as it happens both are related to game pricing. I’ll start with a Techdirt piece illustrating just how far micropayments can go. Short version: it’s UGLY. Not that saying so will change anything as long as people keep paying to be shat on, but it’s good to keep in mind that unless you’re as big as EA, you can’t really afford to treat your customers like that. This is not good business practice; it’s just something they can afford to do. You don’t.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, the fine folk at Failbetter Games took the time to explain why Fallen London is still free to play. Having played Fallen London since it was called Echo Bazaar, I can say it’s F2P done right. Or was — I gave up in the meantime, having grown tired of clicking cows.
Speaking of which.
Having recently worked on two projects that involve voxels, I couldn’t help but notice that for an obsolete rendering technology there seem to be quite a few game engines based on them. Most are quite different from the kind of thing I do (though many seem to rely on procedural generation… why am I not surprised). But a friend just pointed me at the current Humble Indie Bundle, and it includes one project that features remarkable similarities to my own work.
Note the pseudo-3D camera (with just two degrees of freedom!) and the very small scene size — 128x128x64, probably chosen because it’s near the psychological treshold of one million voxels. It also has physics — and I don’t understand why everyone sees “voxels” and thinks “destructible environments” — plus a manual editor of the sort I recently criticized, but which may work well enough if all you’re ever making with it is tiny “3D tiles”, as the case appears to be here.
Also, why is everyone so keen on releasing their engine and toolchain before they have a solid game made with them?
I remember watching a friend play the default intro to Dragon Age years ago. He was systematically choosing the rudest dialogue options, yet the NPCs barely reacted. Their attitudes didn’t change, the same amount of information was revealed… It made me wonder why they even bothered to call that roleplaying… or make it interactive at all for that matter.
More recently, I noticed a disturbing trend in Match-3 games, a niche I normally appreciate. Namely, if you stop and think for a few seconds, the game will “helpfully” indicate you a likely move. Apparently, the developers never realized that it just makes the game play itself…
Three years ago I wrote an article about Final Fantasy XIV, a game that should have changed the MMORPG scene. And it somehow did, but not in a way that anyone could have foreseen. The initial release of the game got some pretty bad reviews, both from the gamers and the critics, being considered a failure. It was rejected even by most of the Final Fantasy fans, which I guess it was a sign of a bigger problem here.
About the Final Fantasy franchise
The Final Fantasy franchise is an interesting case when it comes to MMORPGs, because fans of the single player games (FF I-X, FF XII-XIII) do not exactly overlap with the fans of the online ones (FF XI). Of course, back in 2003 most of the people who started to play FF XI were probably fans of the series, but I think in time that game attracted a more “MMO hardcore” audience, which kept growing and which usually would do some activities more specific to games of the genre (Everquest), like raiding. There is a large FF fanbase population who never even touched the MMO or they tried it and never liked it, or simply just moved out along after a few weeks/months. Some of them also probably never liked the idea of paying a monthly subscription anyway.
When I started working on Spectral Dungeons, there didn’t seem to be many roguelikes for the Spectrum. A search for “Rogue” on World of Spectrum yields only one title that might be a port of the eponymous game, and the screenshots don’t look especially promising.
It was only recently that I became aware of another. Ossuary is just the most recent release from UK developer Cyningstan, and it’s an incredibly colorful game that fits in only 16K of RAM and can be played with just a joystick. Otherwise, however, it’s interesting to see how many of the design decisions are similar to those I made.
The proper use of randomness in games is a serious problem. I’ve written about this before, so I was happy to see other game developers recently raising the same issues as I did, and mostly drawing the same conclusions. But while Craig Stern of Sinister Design writes about board games and what we can learn from them, Jay “Rampant Coyote” Barnson plays devil’s advocate a little — an important counterpoint, as it turns out.
What could I possibly add to this? As it turns out, one of my attempts at making a roguelike actually went far enough that I had to tackle this problem, and surprisingly enough I solved it pretty well. Except I never explained how, and this is a good time for it.
I’ve been playing (and reading) some while building up enthusiasm for my next project, whatever that will be. I happened to find a great tower defense game via Twitter, and when I started recommending it in turn people asked me, “are you planning to make one of these?”
My first reaction to that was, “neah, there are too many in the genre as it is”. Then, “you know, I haven’t played any in a long while”. So I set out to look for more, and promptly found another gem. Which wasn’t very hard, as apparently there are only two kinds of tower defense games: excellent and terrible, with nothing in-between.
Playing cards are popular both in the real world and on the computer. In the former case, because the components are cheap and compact (at least when stored), and the games themselves can often be played in confined spaces, such as on the train. In the latter case, because they require only static pictures for art, and little computing power.
I suspect everybody knows at least a few of the several hundred games you can play with a standard 52-card deck. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Magic: The Gathering — a single game — has thousands of cards and counting. It is also a considerable money investment. But what lays between these extremes, and how do tabletop card cames inform their computer counterparts?
Last time I announced taking a break from programming. And I have… for about a weekend. During which time I caused a pretty sweet raytraced scene reminiscent of a 1990-something adventure game. Reading a book about Myst the weekend before must have something to do with it.
Then, of course, my mood to program came back. Or maybe it was the vitamin supplement I’ve been taking. Fact is, less than a week later I can play Buzz Grid on my Nokia E51. And boy, that makes me happy.