Aside 60: Ludicrous Mech Games

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I was recently reminded of the classic third-person shooter Lost Planet and its hilariously overblown mech sections. I replayed it but had no new thoughts to add to my original review; it’s beautifully optimised, hilariously explosive fun, but suffers from low manoeuvrability. Maybe one thought — I do really love its vehicle art style, which is a perfect blend of rule-of-cool design features and plausible industrial sci-fi (i.e. what I’m aiming for).

Then that put me in mind of Shogo: Mobile Armor Division (spelling aside), another game with overblown giant mech action mixed with on-foot meanderings. I didn’t have any new thoughts about that either, but I had a total blast replaying it — the mech levels are pretty much the best thing since sliced bread.

Basically, I want more of this — so does anybody have any recommendations for other “ludicrous mech games” that I might enjoy? Not simulation-heavy MechWarrior-likes, but silly, large-scale, over-the-top first/third-person shooters. Mmmm.

Aside 59: The Shape and the Power of the Voice

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So I finally bought myself a proper microphone, a half-decent mid-range one with a good balance of affordability, versatility, n00b-friendliness and recording quality. This is most likely an investment in being able to do high-quality announcer voices for my game, but according to the manual it’s good for pretty much anything — voices, musical instruments, sound effects and more — so who knows where it’ll end up?

I gave it a test run with a bit of a demo reel, where I said many silly things in silly voices:

I reckon, however, for my upcoming exposé about Nox, I’m going to give it a real stress run. Rather than doing a straight blog, I’m thinking I’ll do me talking over videos of me playing the game, so you can get a better feel for it than you can from silly captioned pictures. You can tell me this is a terrible idea right now and I’ll fall back to the written version, or we can see how it goes…

Aside 58: Procedural Drama

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I am starting to feel like procedural generation is a very selfish way to build a game.

Think about it. The algorithms are devilishly fun and satisfying to implement, for the creator, and the resulting game can surprise that creator with unanticipated combinations.

But a procedurally generated level cannot deliver the same level of depth as a hand-crafted one, or at least, not with humanity’s current level of technology and algorithmic understanding.

Plus, adding permadeath to that means you don’t need a saving system at all — no death and reload, but death and set the generator going again. Easier for the developer, because state saving and loading is Hard.

Which is fine until you start asking people to give you money for your game, which is when you probably need to focus more on their experiences as players than your own as a developer.

Having said that, my level design skills and technological capabilities are extremely rusty, so my first forays into singleplayer dungeon crawling are almost certainly going to be procedural — since I have already done a heap of procedural work for other shits and giggles and I love building interlocking modular props. But rest assured, no matter how much effort I pour into making the computer generate endless time-sinking but ultimately hollow missinos, my heart lies in my hands.

Aside 56: The Battle Rages On

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It’s been more than five years since This Wreckage version Gamma was released, let alone since the first version came out.

Since then, the scoreboard has kept the dream alive. It’s not busy, but ticks over regularly enough — mostly thanks to the on-going battle for Champion status between sleepyskipi and SubZero. I never designed the scoring system in a particularly robust way, so it shouldn’t have surprised me when SubZero managed to post a score of over a million points. It should also not surprise me that sleepyskipi has now busted that score.

The battle also continues over speed-running the map, but SubZero still holds onto that title… for now. Can you do it in less than 1 hour and 3 minutes?

You’re crazy but I love you. My stand-alone game(s) will definitely have a scoring system.

Aside 55: New Vegas

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I’ve been replaying Fallout: New Vegas over the past couple of weeks, and it strikes me that this is the logical end to what I want to create for myself. A sprawling world in which an action RPG takes place, replete with characters, factions, towns, quests and exotic landmarks.

I don’t know how I’ll get there yet. I don’t know how big I’ll be able to make my levels before the computer dies, I don’t know how many characters I will be able to put in them before my tottering algorithms collapse, I don’t even know how to load and transition to new levels.

But long-term, super-super-long-term, I’m pretty sure this is the end state: exploration, discovery, bartering, crafting, conversation, factions, reputation and, of course above all else, action. The only thing I’ll do differently is make my world(s) less brown. Damn, but FO:NV is brown.

Aside 54: Out of My League

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The main problem with my game development right now is that I’m just not clever enough to do the things that I’m trying to do. Bot obstacle avoidance is a very complex problem and, while parts of my approach are fine, the whole thing starts to wobble as I layer on more and more features.

Maybe it’ll all be fine in reality; my scratchpad level is, after all, festooned with obstacles deliberately placed to stress and confuse the system. Maybe once I build real patrol routes on real levels things will be much smoother.

I am beginning to wonder if I’m punching too far above my weight, though — and what will happen when I finally get knocked out.

Aside 53: Internets

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I was going to play Wolfenstein: The New Order during January, but it requires a 10GB patch. Coincidentally, that is my entire month’s internet allowance. I discovered this after having used the internet at all this month.

So I decided to try Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor instead, which only (“only”) required a 3.9GB patch. This exhausted half my limit and put me down to emergency rations, sure, but I can cope… Except then I tried it and it was unplayable due to a cripplingly narrow field of view, so I’m down to emergency usage with nothing new to play…

(I’ll find a FoV hack sooner or later, there were other reasons that I bounced right off it too.)

Hence I needed to take a break with something completely and utterly offline, which is luckily a good chunk of my collection. Pretty much everything newer than about 5 years old is Steam-infested and so unplayable without enforced updates, so it’s a good thing I’ve got plenty of older games with patch executables neatly stacked away on an external hard drive…