It's awesome. Also, this is a test.
It's awesome. Also, this is a test.
I’m paraphrasing slightly, but that comment by a friend on a recent Facebook post of mine basically summed up the events of last Saturday, and it was glorious.
Last week I was lucky enough to win a competition to challenge John Romero to a Doom II deathmatch at a tech event in London. Doom is an immensely important part of my life, and John Romero is of course an immensely important part of Doom. Doom planted the seed of interest in to what was to be my future career in game development, not only because it was an incredible game, but also due to its strong support and capability for modding. I've also written about Doom before on this site back in 2015, but more specifically about my concerns for the 2016 version (which fortunately were misplaced as the game turned out to be great).
I was around 12 or 13 years old when the original Doom was released and I remember being blown away by it. It was - and still is - fast and visceral, and it paved the way for a whole new genre. I played both Doom I and II to death and spent hours poking around its innards, discovering new ways to mod and play it. I once thought I was a genius for extracting the sound file from the Icon of Sin map, the final level in Doom II, reversing it to discover the immortal words "To Win the Game you must Kill Me, John Romero".
It's safe to say he absolutely annihilated me, as he did the rest of the competition; he took everyone apart with calm, surgical precision, and he plays with a seemingly frame-perfect accuracy. The very fact I got two frags on him, despite his twenty against me, means I can now die a happy man. It's also curious - as his wife Brenda was telling me later - that John is probably one of the few people who is a pro-gamer at his own game.
Both Romero and Brenda are very welcoming, lovely people, and it was pretty damn humbling to be in their presence. It was amazing just to meet him, let alone face off in the very game that made us both who we are.
I'll leave this with the moment I first fragged him. I should get this mounted or something.
Here's the gallery of pics below; I really do pull some weird faces when gaming.
Last update: 9th April 2017
I've been working on a Unity game for mobile. It's a small, simple game about pistol-duelling cowboys. This blog post will be part of an organic design document that will update and change as the game develops.
At its heart, it's a game about fast reaction times - whoever fires and hits the opponent first after 'Draw!' is announced, wins the round. If five rounds are won, the player wins the match and can move on to the next, more difficult opponent. But I wanted to go further than this and add some extra mechanics to make the game deeper and more interesting tactically. These ideas mostly revolve around a dodge mechanic and kicking sand in the opponent's face.
It takes its inspiration from a similar game, Ready, Steady, Bang! and games like Nidhogg, which are all about fast-paced duelling.
It's being written in C# and is currently in a prototype stage.
The three main actions I want performed by a player and AI opponent require (despite the simple concept) a fair degree of thought and balance. There are a few design considerations and permutations I can go through by prototyping in Unity, and through focused user testing.
Each ability, or action, needs to be useful, in order to not remain redundant, and they need to offer a tactical advantage in order to make them relevant, interesting, and to add more depth to the game mechanics.
I'll break them down here, partly for illustrative purposes and partly to help myself in the ongoing design process:
In fact we could condense these in to the classic and simple rock, paper, scissors format to make them relevant, easier to understand and to help in the design process.
Note: My current thoughts about firing involves not requiring aiming, i.e. a player does need to move to dodge to the same horizontal position of their opponent and then fire to be able to hit them, this may change though.
This is kind of bland in design terms though and we need to know exactly how each action wins or loses against the other.
As this is a game about reaction times maybe we could base each action on speed, e.g:
In terms of game mechanics, we could implement these actions as a delay from when the player presses the button to when the action is completed. But this doesn't really work, if we write this down we can see, for example:
Firing is quicker than dodging yes, and dodging is quicker than kicking sand and slower than firing yes, and kicking sand is slower than dodging yes. But the others don't work: firing is quicker than kicking sand and, conversely, kicking sand is slower than firing.
Additionally, the rock, paper, scissors format doesn't quite work well here as only one of these actions (firing) will win the round. There will always be a follow-up action until one of the players successfully fires on their opponent. Rock, paper, scissors is also mostly based on luck, and I'd rather have this game be based on some kind of strategy, in which the player will be able to feel like they outwitted their opponent by calculating their next move.
How about scrapping delay times and telegraphing to the player when each opponent's action is about to be performed? For example, an icon will appear showing the next action the opponent will perform, and the player will then have to quickly respond with the appropriate counter? The amount of time the icon will appear for will act like a reaction time; longer for easier opponents, shorter for more difficult ones.
We could still use the RPS format:
And we're still basing the system on reaction times which is good, thematically, for a game about cowboy duelling.
We do have one issue with this system. What is the downside to being too late to respond to your opponent? If the opponent is firing, and we fail to counter it, then obviously we lose the round. But what if we fail to counter a dodge or kick sand?
Well I suppose failing to counter a dodge (the counter to dodge is firing remember), simply means the opponent has another try to outwit you. But failing to counter sand kicking? Perhaps I can factor in the idea of a delay before we're able to counter the next move, simulating the idea of sand temporarily disorienting us and obscuring our vision. This can be thought of as similar to the 'silence' abilities in many RPGs that stop magic casters from casting for a certain amount of time; or stun grenades in first person shooters that temporarily disorient the enemy.
The best thing to do at this stage though, is to knock up a prototype to see how it could potentially work. I'll come back to this blog once a prototype is up and running.
Controls, I feel, are extremely important when designing on a mobile platform and especially for games that require fast reactions. Given the nature of touch screens and the possibility of buttons either not being hit, or not even registering a hit, it's important to make them as simple as possible.
Having complex controls or many options and buttons is something a turn-based game can get away with, but this game is about fast reactions which makes it all the more trickier. One-touch controls are ideal in fast paced games, but given my desire to have four separate actions available to the player this will prove difficult.
I’ve been attempting a text adventure, with multiple branching paths and permadeath. It’s essentially meant to be a text adventure version of Hitman, with multiple ways to assassinate the target, the use of disguises in order to progress in certain areas, and of course multiple ways of getting your brains blown out.Read More
An alpha version (if I could call it that) of my little game Planet Lander has now been put out and it’s generated some response among my friends. At present there are only five levels, with some others coming, as I update and figure out an efficient level design system. The most common response to the game seems to be its difficulty.
Most people are saying it’s bonkers hard.Read More
I’m enjoying some of the maths that goes in to scripting and thought I’d branch out a bit by trying my hand at mathematically formed curves. I made this in GameMaker and you can see a demo of it above.Read More
Is there anything better than a massive contingent of marauding Dwarfs charging headlong in to a cluster of Orcs? Not really, unless they’re backed up with custom Dwarfen artillery of course.Read More
I've been playing Star Wars Battlefront's beta release this weekend, surprise surprise. And along with the thousands of others, I decided to document some footage of my exploits. It mostly involves my fate at the hands of the merciless Empire though, as for me the Battle of Hoth was more like the Battle of the Somme.Read More
Anyone who remembers Frontier: Elite II will know that one of its big changes from the original Elite was the ability to land on (and take-off from) planets. And while the stations looked fairly pretty, as soon as you took off and got a fair way in to the atmosphere, you were treated to a big green blob where grass and fields should be. There was one or (if you’re lucky) two mountains (or should I say, triangles) which left the whole thing looking like, well looking like arse. But to be fair to Frontier, it was still pretty good for the time.Read More
Since GTA V’s PC release, its director mode has given players the potential to create videos from gameplay footage they’ve recorded using the in-game recording software. I, for one, am happy that this feature hasn’t just been used to make videos of pedestrians being mown down by a clown with a minigun (as fun as that may sound).Read More
I have a new PC and god damn is it good. I've always had a penchant for good hardware, but this time I've clearly taken it one step further. I've paired it with an Acer XB280HK 4K monitor so I'm now running everything at four times the resolution I used to. Which is, quite frankly, insane.Read More
When Doom was released in 1993 it was leaps and bounds ahead of anything else. It was nothing short of stunning. I remember opening the double page spread on Doom in PC Gamer - littered with its mind blowing visuals - and my head may as well have exploded.Read More
As I pull the head-mounted display towards my face I glimpse the new world in front of my eyes, just before I’m enveloped in darkness. Yeah, this is pretty fucking awesome. It’s like when Corvo puts on that mask in Dishonored, or like suiting up in a jetfighter. I’m like Master Chief riding a motherfucking motorcycle.Read More
You know that feeling, when you’re drawn in to a strategy game so much that you act like a maniacal despot. A madman who believes he is actually there. All of a sudden you’re babbling, spluttering at the screen and barking orders at essentially non-sentient entities made up of ones and zeroes. You start talking to yourself, the first sign of madness apparently, or maybe the only way to be sure of intelligent conversation. Ok, so maybe that's just me. But when it happens, that's when I know I’ve found a great game, one where I feel a sense of real presence and agency in the world. That moment of very personal madness when I first played Dune II in 1992 was when I knew it was great.Read More
After returning to the civilised systems from an exploration jaunt, I’d swapped my long-range Adder for a Cobra, taking the distant trip to Lave with the hope of trading rare goods. Other people had millions, yet comparatively I was some kind of intergalactic peasant. I knew Lave and its surrounding systems could be dangerous and so outfitted my ship with some appropriate protection; a half decent shield generator, though like a knock-off Durex bought from a pub toilet it would probably do me more harm than good.Read More
What's clear from the outset is that Pillars of Eternity appeals to a certain type of player. It's almost the stick-waving, not-in-my-day, thirty-somethings that I like to imagine as fans of it; and I at least, fit one of those criteria. Its look is distinctly late 90s, early 2000s, yet with a sheen to it that gives it a contemporary feel. Its world is sumptuously detailed, rich with inviting warm colours and yet it still manages to appear 'retro'. It has a look of Diablo II or its ilk about it, yet with a gentle contrast, a soft vignette on its borders where your line of sight ends, and an ambience that oozes an ominous atmosphere.Read More
Your ship, a Viper, is a small yet well-armed, powerful combat ship. You've recently made enough money - running courier missions and plying the goods market between systems - to trade it in from your Sidewinder, a small all-rounder ship. But it's now time to take off the shoes of an intergalactic Alan Sugar and put on the gloves of a space Maverick to go kick some pirate ass for lucrative bounties.Read More
Whenever I hear 'The Blue Danube', Johann Strauss's classic waltz, my mind is instantly transported to that mesmerising space ship docking sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey. That scene captures the wonder of the depth and breadth to which human progress has achieved by its enormous contrast between a scene of early man and its rapid cut to the display and majesty of technological and cultural achievements of spaceflight, music, and communication. And there's another place my mind goes to from there, and that's to memories of Elite.Read More
I've had mixed feelings about World of Warcraft over the years and I think it mainly has to do with what I get from it. You see, I'm a dreamer and a wanderer, I like being thrust in to an huge open world and given the freedom to explore. So, given the Bartle test I would almost certainly qualify as an 'Explorer'. And if I encounter flesh-eating lizards while journeying - well, it'll make for a more interesting trip I suppose. WoW's popularity can be attributed to a number of factors, and one of them is, precisely that; that it has a lot of attractive aspects to it. Some like to explore, some like to achieve and become more powerful, some like to challenge each other in PVP; hell, some even like just playing with WoW's economy through the Auction House. Or some like to play with one of these aspects when they get bored with another one, hence its lasting appeal. Its appeal can almost certainly be attributed though to its accessibility and expertly-crafted steady learning curve, encouraging players of many different backgrounds, and some who may have never even played games before.
I was always the ardent explorer, gazing in wonder at the scale of World of Warcraft's land of Azeroth, eager to explore strange new climes. The problem is that there comes a point where you've explored everything; there are no new strange lands to seek out (unless you count the expansions, which don't take too long to jaunt around) and the whole world seems so much smaller. It's a little like the state of the real world, our technological advances in both communication and transportation have made the world seem so much smaller, and in some ways we've lost some of the childhood wonder of the unknown fringes of Earth. There are exceptions for me of course, such as The Shrine of the Fallen Warrior, an incredibly touching memorial to a young Blizzard employee who died unexpectedly during the development of WoW. Apparently it's been there since the beta version of the game but I've only just discovered it.
I felt like I'd lost some purpose in playing once I'd hit the level cap and discovered everything. I realised that my time in this world was now relegated to simply 'achieving', taking endless flights between regions and re-running the same dungeons in the hope of getting better gear. It was like being a bored London cabbie who constantly ferries people back and forth through the same streets he knows so well, but every now and again he'll stumble across some fancy new headlights or a spoiler. For some, this is their hook; they relish the idea of becoming more powerful; constantly re-running dungeons and raids - or running them at higher difficulties - gaining better gear and a sense of achievement along the way. I take some satisfaction in this but it's not really my hook in WoW, or other MMOs for that matter.
What has brought me back in to WoW though - with the exception of the upcoming Warlords of Draenor expansion - is my education in the lore of the world. I, like many others, would skip a lot of text and back story when a quest is given, hitting the accept button before the quest giver had a chance to finish. It's the in-game equivalent of immediately turning your back on someone a second after they start speaking, running off in to the woods shouting "Okay! On it!". Fortunately the NPCs in WoW seem to be more than happy to accept this, as if they had all seemed a little bit bored with my presence anyway.
World of Warcraft actually has a fairly rich lore to it, obviously not as much as something like Tolkien's Middle Earth - to which Warcraft owes a lot of its inspiration through its connection to Games Workshop's Warhammer lore, itself inspired by Tolkien - but certainly enough to provide a deep background to the world. I'd been aware of it since the days of Warcraft II, but never fully appreciated it until recently when I actively searched for more information about it and came across the Dutch YouTuber, Nobbel87 who produces a lot of videos on the subject.
Nobbel87 produces videos that are designed to bring you up to speed with the history and lore of the Warcraft universe, and he does it very well. He has literally hundreds of videos uploaded to his YouTube channel, most them seemingly dedicated to exploring and explaining the characters and scenarios connected to Warcraft's land of Azeroth and its universe. The first (and possibly most useful) video I watched was 'The Story of Warcraft - Full Version [Lore]'. It's easy to find by searching on his channel, or just searching straight in to YouTube or Google to be honest. It's a thorough, yet easy to follow history of the events from the founding of the universe right up to the end of Mists of Pandaria and the start of Warlords of Draenor. It's full of cutscenes, art and in-game footage from Warcraft III, World of Warcraft and even some of the Warcraft comic book series. It's all the more impressive given that Nobbel87 - a native to the Netherlands - narrates it all in impeccable English, a language that is not of course, his mother tongue.
Nobbel takes us right from the creation of the universe to events leading up to Warlords of Draenor. We hear how Sargeras, supreme leader of the pantheon Titans - gods created to bring order to the world - fell from grace and spread chaos with the Burning Legion. It moves swiftly through the corruption of the orcs and the events of Warcraft I and II, until it reaches the transformation of Arthas and the formation of the Forsaken in Warcraft III before moving on to World of Warcraft's narrative. All of this story is pretty vast and deep. There are long videos based on some characters I'd never even heard of before and they all contribute to a rich tapestry of lore that has been ongoing since the early nineties.
It's this lore and back story that has since piqued my interest again in playing WoW. I've long held the belief that the relevance of story in games is dependent, in part, on its genre. Beat 'em ups and their ilk are at one end of the spectrum where story has little importance, and the other end are the traditional adventure games and RPGs. I've always placed more importance on play and game mechanics when trying to determine if a game is worth my time or not. However, there is a lot to be said for story, however inane or irrelevant it may be to the game or its mechanics in enhancing the experience. Story helps to immerse us by giving a sense of place. It also helps by giving us a sense of purpose, and it is this purpose that has been reignited in me since educating myself in Warcraft lore.
I now felt much more a part of this world and, interestingly, not as a major character myself, but more as a passive-aggressive observer, and that was absolutely fine. One of the pitfalls of an MMO is obviously the fact that with thousands of players playing at once not everyone can be the one hero that saves the world. Blizzard want to make you feel like that as much as possible by using systems such as 'Phasing' and isolating questlines with major characters for you or a group that make you feel like the centre of attention. However, it doesn't really bother me too much that I'm not the archetypal hero that saves the world - partly because, to be honest, that trope has become rather worn out. I'm happy to observe the story around me unfolding as I quest along. Previously this would have just involved me killing fifteen trolls or collecting ten mushroom cap spores which would have all seemed rather pointless and soul destroying, but now that I know a lot more about the lore of this world it makes the experience different. You stop focussing on the inane process of slaying twelve of these and collecting twenty of that and instead focus on the history of the world and how its events have lead to the reason for this moment and your actions.
When you understand the drama and history that give this world its identity you become more invested in it. While that may sound obvious, it really is pretty powerful. Prior to this I felt like I'd been, well, just clicking on stuff; now I was clicking on stuff with purpose...
Azeroth, is a beautiful place. Sure it's a subjective point of view, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder but honestly, it really is beautiful. I've been sat here taking screenshot after screenshot like an Orc on holiday in the Bahamas. This is fine for landscapes but I don't know whether you've ever tried to get a bunch of marauding demons who want nothing more than to eat your liver, to stop chasing you and pose for an 'action' shot.Read More