Blog 730: The Art of Frobbing

The player Neutral Passive in Warcraft III is a special bonus player. As the name suggests, units owned by Neutral Passive are neither allies nor enemies to any other player; they offer their services equally to whomever happens to be nearby. As befits my tendancy to reimplement Warcraft III (to eventually allow for similarly structured RPG scenarios), I am now working on adding my own Neutral Passive characters.

Needless to say, due to many holes I’ve dug myself over the last three years of developing this game, this is not so easy. The key stumper at the moment is that clicking a neutral unit should not trigger the player to attack them. Instead, it should trigger a friendly reaction. When is an attack not an attack? When it’s a frob.

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Blog 729: Drakensang

Drakensang is a lost gem. Back when the world was lamenting the lack of Baldur’s Gate-a-likes, Drakensang slipped out without much fanfare; I picked it up on a whim seeing it on the shelf in Game (remember when Game had PC shelves? Good times). Based on The Dark Eye system rather than Dungeons & Dragons, it nevertheless promotes the same ideals: a player-created character leads a tight-knit strike team as they vanquish evil in real-time-with-pause combat based on a tabletop system.

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Blog 728: If I Wrote… C&C4: Tiberian Twilight

I was interested in C&C4: Tiberian Twilight, despite all the rumours of its horror. The core concept — trading standard base building and assault for a mobile super-vehicle — seemed quite interesting to me. For a man that favours the ultra-versatile solo operatives of RPGs and FPSes, the conceit had legs.

The game did not deliver anything of what I imagined; it is exactly as bad as everyone says. So instead of delving into that den of iniquity, let’s indulge instead in what it could have been, had somebody with dreams more like mine been at the helm…

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Blog 727: It’s a Trap!

Oh, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? I set myself 36 features to build in 3 weeks at the end of last year/start of this one and I have completely failed. Ah well, no plan of battle survives contact with the enemy after all. What’s important is that there has been progress at all… right?

Recently, I’ve been focusing on non-unit level hazards: laser tripwires, spike pits…

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Blog 726: Tiberian Renegade

It seems to me that everything Westwood touched turned to gold. They were most famous for their real-time strategies — the pinnacle being Tiberian Sun itself — but they seemed to diverge from that mould more than history would have you believe and come up roses all the same. Foremost of course was their stab at the hack ‘n’ slash RPG, which produced one of the greatest games of all time, Nox.

Over here, though, we have their first-person shooter. Set in the Command & Conqueriverse, occurring some time during the original C&C, this answers the age-old question that haunts every strategy franchise — what would it be like to be in one of those battles?

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Blog 724: Close, But No Biscuit — Alien vs. Predator

From the name, you’re all thinking that Alien vs. Predator is a dodgy franchise cash-in. Cheap cross-over, exploit two fanbases, job done?

In one sense, yes, it’s a bit hammy and less refined than some of its predecessors. In another sense, though, no — as an Alien prequel it holds up really really well. All the fun of Ancient Astronauts but done properly and plausibly, with coherent links to the other films but nothing too forced, continued themes of an uncaring universe rather than putting humanity at the centre of it… If you genuinely like Alien and Aliens, then Alien vs. Predator is actually a very good extrapolation. And it’s fun!

Blog 723: Close, But No Biscuit — Star Wars — Part 12

The Force Hits Snooze. This should have been a rollicking finale to Close, But No Star Wars, but we’ve said pretty much all that we need to about The Force Awakens throughout our rambling examination of the Star Wars films, usually as a counterpoint to what the other ones got right. So here we put a few final nails in the coffin and… move on with our lives?

Bah. I only get angry because I care. My answer, of course, is to bear in mind all of this as I work on my own fiction. I will have giant death lasers, yes — but mine will have the narrative framework to support them, and give them due weight when they arrive. I will not be afraid to extrapolate my universe, I will not endlessly recycle the same set-pieces, and I will not let old characters completely smush new ones… I hope. (But rebellions are built on hope, right?)

Since I don’t really want us to end on a downer, remembering only the pain of bad Star Wars rather than the heights of good Star Wars, I’m going to part with this fantastic 15-minute disco medley of the Star Wars theme(s) by Meco. May the force be with us!