Bioshock (the Demo)

August 20th, 2007

Everyone is foaming at the mouth for Bioshock. There’s more hype surrounding it since the reviews came out than any game I’ve ever seen, and we’re talking about a single-player game in a multiplayer world here. Like any self-respecting gamer I jumped on it the minute I saw the chance, and I was even fortunate enough to find a section of the Internet where it was available and at high speeds too. Thank god my “rig” is powerful enough to play the game.

It’s good. If the rest of the game is like this, and it surely is, then it’s game of the year. Done. It’s over. If anyone wasn’t sure this game could live up to the hype they should be now. The real question is why are you reading this and not downloading the demo? Right now I’m thinking more about how this game will affect the future.

One good thing sure to come from Bioshock is in the video-games-as-art debate. While I think the routinely vilified Roger Ebert is wrong about video games incapable of being art, he’s also sorta right in the sense that video games are not “high art”. Gamers can complain all they want but there is no Mona Lisa game out there, games are just too new and it’s audience just too young to reach something like that. My problem with Ebert is that any young form of media needs only time to mature and then it will reach “high art”, and movies aren’t that far ahead of video games so don’t get cocky. In the end Ebert is just under-informed, not stupid. Despite the fact I disagree with many of his reviews, he’s still the only reviewer I read, at least before his struggle with cancer anyway.

What makes Bioshock relevant is that it reaches new heights in several areas, in graphics, story, atmosphere, style, attention to detail, and just about anything else I can think of. If there was ever anything to win over a guy like Ebert since Ico, this’d be it. More importantly, Bioshock is already setting a new standard. I’m hoping this will lead to more story-driven games and environments that are less about the player and more about the environment itself, like it could work just fine without the player there to interact with it.

The only problem with Bioshock is that it may be too good, in the same way its predecessors (like System Shock) failed, it may also fail. People like multiplayer games these days, how many will be convinced that Bioshock is worth buying before the next big game arrives? I wonder if this game will be famous more for its influence than how many copies were sold. Regardless, I’m in the mood to play the demo some more…


August 4th, 2007

I noticed that games I lavish my attention on tend to be remade or re-released. Or both. I think it’s quite unlikely that everyone in the game industry is secretly scanning my website as a way of knowing what to do next. Instead I think it’s far more likely that I have some sort of magic power to influence the video game industry.

For one thing, the original Doom is going where it has never gone before – Steam – so it’s being re-released for modern operation systems. COINCIDENCE? Yeah probably, since it was just remade for the Xbox Live Arcade. But wait, I have more.

While plenty of people have tried making in-browser FPS games, none have really pulled it off and become popular. id Software (creators of Doom) just announced a remake of Quake 3 that works in your browser mere weeks after I show off my demo. I think it is obvious that once again my magical abilities have warped the minds another game company’s direction.

It’s also worth noting the chances of this remake being made in Flash are nil. It’s unlikely to be made in Shockwave either. The only real choices are Java or a custom plugin, both of which seem somewhat unlikely. Their main problem is figuring out how to use a mouse/keyboard setup in a browser. I’m looking forward to seeing how they pull this one off.

Flash still plays Doom

July 28th, 2007

Update: Visit the home of Doomed Online here.

I’m pretty pleased with my Doom port so far. I’ve read some comments from people who think the lack of collision detection and sprites mean the final speed will much slower. These people don’t know what they’re talking about. I just finished some basic sprite support and there was no negligible speed impact. Since the sprite drawing routine is faster than the wall drawing routine, this offsets the extra time it takes to process sprites. Pretty cool, huh?

As for collision detection, that’s mostly insignificant. Every update will slow things down, but a wide majority of processing will always be spent drawing the walls, ceilings, and floors, because that’s where most of the work is.

On a side note, to test sprites, I added “dummy” enemies. They just stand there, staring at the player. I cannot begin to describe how inexplicably creepy this is. Here’s a screenshot.


NES Mashups are my Forte

July 26th, 2007

This video is hilarious, and holds a special place in my heart being a mashup and all. Embedded video below.

Flash Plays Doom

July 20th, 2007

Update 3: Visit the home of Doomed Online here.

Update 2: There’s a bigger, badder, version up now.

Yes, that’s THE Doom. This uses the original Doom shareware wad file and gets all content from it at runtime. There’s no preloader, so be patient, it’s 1.7 MB. Use the arrow keys to move.

You’ll need to view this in a browser with Javascript and Flash 9 in order to see it.

There’s no sprites yet (enemies, barrels, that sort of thing) and you can walk through walls too. There’s also a mysterious bug that erects unnecessary walls in the outer areas of the map, but altogether it’s still pretty fast and stable right now. There’s some rudimentary sound support too, although for some reason it sounds scratchy at the end of a sound right now. Press the spacebar to hear.

It took some trial and error to get this far, since making a fast rendering system is so important. I tried using the same method for drawing bitmaps as Papervision at first, and while it was very fast, it also looked terrible. Papervision’s technique doesn’t seem to work well in an FPS environment because the wall textures skewed as you walk along them. I tried again with another method that used Flash’s draw method heavily, but it was far too slow and hard to work with. I was about to trash the whole thing, but I tried a more basic system, roughly resembling how environments were drawn in the original Doom where each pixel is drawn one-by-one. It seemed like it was still too slow, but after a few key optimizations to the drawing routine it ended up being very fast. I honestly wasn’t expecting that, but it’s actually playable now on a decent computer.

I don’t know exactly where I’m going with this, but I’m pretty sure it’s worth it. The only thing I can’t do is the music, the format is roughly the same as midi, and as far as I can’t tell it can’t be preloaded. Everything else Doom is capable of is possible. This whole thing was developed entirely using Flex 2 and the Flex 3 beta with Eclipse on Ubuntu Linux. In other words, with only free tools, right down to the OS.

Update: Apparently nobody knows my name. I think that’s kinda cool, but it’s actually Max.

I’ve been playing the Halo 3 Beta for a few hours. It’s pretty slick. All the comments about it being ugly are silly. For one thing there’s a lot more stuff going on than in say, Gears of War, so it’s expected that things aren’t quite as loaded full of polygons, plus the areas are huge. It still looks very good in HD, and besides, the gameplay is what it’s about, right? Any whining about the delay is just that. Whining. Like everybody who wants to get ahold of the beta isn’t going to play it and eventually buy Halo 3 anyway.

There’s tons of new weapons, and most of the standard ones have been changed. The so called “noob combo” has been taken away from the hoards of people who like cheap shots, since the plasma gun doesn’t track like it used to. The Spartan Laser is going to be big. The sheer amount of strategy embedded in weapons and other items is astonishing. For example, the plasma gun will temporarily disable a vehicle when a charged shot is fired at one. Imagine dropping a grav lift before an obstacle, then an ally in a Mongoose drives over it, sending them over it and into enemy territory. Halo 2 had incredible balance between weapons and vehicles, and Halo 3 seems to take it further.

One level I played, Valhalla, a level reminicent of the very first campaign chapter in Halo 1, is wonderfully designed. For such a large area there’s tons of places to hide and paths to take. High Ground was very good too, while Snowbound was mostly boring.

I don’t have much to say that hasn’t already been said, but I will say this, it’s perfectly fine. No apparent screwups, just a sequel to a game. An incremental improvement on a working formula. There’s enough new weapons and ideas to keep everybody on their toes, but plenty of skills transfer over, what else do you need?

Dampe Lives

April 1st, 2007

I’ve been following the life and times of a fellow amatuer video game creator who calls himself Dampe. He was developing a 2D version of Ocarina of Time for several years, one that resembled the earlier Link to the Past. It seemed close to completion when suddenly, he supposedly died. Now information is coming out that it may have been a lie. Although it’s April Fool’s day I find it unlikely to be a cruel joke, since it makes sense.

I don’t think it was a very bright idea, but can understand why he did it. When other people become fans of your work any delays or cancelations feel like you’re betraying them. He should’ve been completely public about how the project was doing or very private. If it’s a personal project then there are no release dates, no expectations, so why did he build a community around a perpetually incomplete project? All they could ever do is wait for it, wait for a game that isn’t coming. There’s also the other way to do it, to develop the game publicly, allowing fans to interact with it’s ongoing development. Instead he kept development private, but released enough videos and screenshots to allow fans to lavish attention on him. Once making the game became a chore and he couldn’t live up to his promises, he was left with no easy way out. I believe he lied about his own death to escape any backlash.

I guess I believe there’s something inherently wrong about trying to keep up to other people’s expectations when you’re doing something for fun. It’s also wrong to give them a reason to be disappointed. This goes for just about any personal project. Dampe seems young, he’s apparently 15, so it’s probably a lot easier to make that mistake but faking his death? It’s just silly, especially since he did a poor enough job of it that people found out without too much difficulty.

He should fess up to his mistakes, produce his incomplete project for others to continue, and apologize for lying. People will forgive him in the end. Right now he’s just a pariah.

Javascript is Very Fast?

January 10th, 2007

Apparently my previous post was premature. My world has shattered and I have discovered the single most impressive example of Javascript. Ever. Considering that just this morning the very same event took place (but with Flash) this is one hell of a day.

It’s an emulator. In Javascript. Take a deep breath and let that sink in.

I really wish this guy would switch to Flash. I programmed in Javascript in the old days and it’s really no good for certain things. What those “things” are is vauge, but basically, writing emulators is one of those things. In any case, Flash got there first and FC64 is cooler.

Bad Wii Design

December 30th, 2006

Update: I wasn’t really able to test this until now, but it looks like both media=”tv” and media=”handheld” (for when you press the “2” button) aren’t implemented. Like most beta software, there’s flaws. Hopefully this will be implemented in the future.

I’ve seen some WordPress plugins lately that change how WordPress looks if the user is accessing it with a Nintendo DS or the Wii’s Internet Channel.

Stop it. Stop it right now.

While I can’t really speak for the DS browser, if you wanted your site to be easily viewable on the Wii then use the features that are out there specifically for that purpose. CSS stylesheets can be loaded based on what’s displaying the website, and wouldn’t you know it? There’s a type specifically for televisions. It’s crazy enough to work.

<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="/css/special-tv-stylesheet.css" media="tv" />

Besides the fact that it’s the easier way, it also doesn’t use user agents improperly. By changing the site when the user agent has a “Wii” in it you’re assuming that people actually want it to be changed. I sure don’t. The Internet was never meant to be customized for Wii users, it’s already prepared for that. It’s not even a real way to detect Wii users either, it’s just a hack. I already went over this a few weeks ago, but relying on user agents is almost always poor web design. You’re also completely forgetting other lower-resolution devices that could use the attention as well.

Yes! Score one for the good guys. The buttons on the wiimote apparently gives out key events in Javascript, so it likely does the same for Flash. Read more on it here.

Update: Apparently Flash doesn’t get the key events, although Javascript does. Still, this is the beta version of the Internet Channel, it’s likely an oversight.

Update 2: There’s a clever solution out now from Mario to send key events to flash in a rather interesting way.