Thursday, September 13, 2012

Torque 3D goes open-source

GarageGames announced that Torque 3D is going to a free, open-source license.  Other engines will remain with their current licenses for the time being.
I have mixed feelings about it, mainly because I spent so much money on the engine that could've been used for other assets/developers.  Still, I try to keep an optimistic attitude and look to the future.
If you have any interest in developing 3D games, this is a good time to start.  A free, decent-quality engine to experiment with is a great thing to have.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Physical VS Downloadable Media

The other day my nephew and I went out trying to grab a copy of Diablo III, finding it sold out at several locations.  Eventually I talked him into just downloading it.  I asked him why he didn't just do that in the first place, and he told me that it was basically the same thing but he enjoyed the novelty of the physical copy.
While in this particular case I would have seen the download as the preferred method, I can see his point.  For most of my life physical media was the only way to get games.  As physical media is dying and downloadable content is becoming the norm, I find a part of me clinging to the past.
As I develop games I try not to get too far ahead of myself, thinking about distribution while I'm still programming, but my mind tends to wander and I can't help but dream of the day that my work is out there and (hopefully) being enjoyed.
I've looked into disc manufacturing.  I've imagined having my game on actual store shelves, if only on the shelves of mom-and-pop games stores that I frequent.  I've thought of a mail-order limited run of a "special edition" copy, and laughed at myself for thinking anyone would care if I made anything I considered to be a "special edition".
I've also considered the down sides of this.  I want my games to be enjoyed for a long time and physical media has a habit of getting lost or damaged.  While my work ethic will require me to make the game as bug-free as possible before distribution, updates might be required.  I like making games for Mac, but they've started a trend of not putting optical drives in their computers.  Finally, manufacturing is expensive, and I might make too many or too little copies.
On the download front, there's a few options on how to distribute.  The big ones are Steam and the Mac App Store.  I've also seen a few more sites like playgreenhouse.com.  There's some perks for the player, such as not having to keep track of a physical copy and the ability to redownload.  For the developer, it takes a lot of work out of DRM and marketing.  The downsides are that it's not as accessible to people with limited or no internet (something I had to deal with quite a few times in the military or when visiting remote areas), and developers tend to rely too much on the ability to update their game rather than make it right the first time.
I'm still a ways off from deciding exactly what route I'll take, or if I'll even pick one over the other.

EDIT: Just a couple days ago Apple released OS X Mountain Lion with Gatekeeper.  While all-in-all it's a good idea, it makes non-App Store games (and by extension, any type of physical media distribution of Mac games) a bit tedious.  It's just the industry evolving, I guess.  I'm starting to lean in favor of downloadable media.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Classic Arcade Games

Arcade games predate home consoles, and for the longest time they were superior to their home console ports.  During the early 90's, this ceased to be the case.  "TMNT: Turtles in Time" was considered by many to be better on the SNES than in the arcade, so what was the point of paying quarters to play?

Since the decline of arcades in America, I've noticed a change in the gaming community and development mindsets.  Arcades influenced nearly all games, as their ports to all platforms directly competed with games that weren't suited for arcades.  

I miss the old days.  New games can be fun, but they'll never match the charm and appeal of these quarter-eaters.


Over the past couple years, I've started a hobby of collecting and refurbishing old Arcade games.  It started with me buying a cheap, banged up "T2: Judgement Day" just so my brother and I could play the authentic arcade version all the way through at least one time without interruption (We almost beat it as kids, but someone unplugged it at the last moment.  The memory has haunted us).  While buying "T2", I also picked up a banged-up "Twin Cobra" and started experimenting with repairing it.

As my collection grew, my hobby turned into a small business idea, and then back into a hobby as I realized how small of a return on investment there would actually be.  It cost about a hundred bucks a month to store these machines where they can't be played.  I'd prefer to gain a hundred bucks every couple months where people can enjoy them, and I can donate that money to charities.

I wish developers would still make games with the arcade mindset.  Maybe they wouldn't depend on DLC so much? Maybe gameplay would take priority over everything else? Maybe games would have that perfectly balanced challenge?  Maybe they'd be playable with little or no instruction?

I want to make arcade versions of most or all of my games, even if only for the novelty of it, and to keep myself in that ideal development mindset.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Underhell

     After releasing Nightmare House 2, Hen found the trailer and some WIP videos for a similar HL2 mod called "Underhell".  Upon contacting the mod director, MXTHE, he found that the project had been cancelled.  He urged MXTHE to not give up and continue work.

     With newfound motivation and support, MXTHE began work again.  I learned of the project through Hen and volunteered my services as well.  I wound up doing a little voice-acting, but almost nothing else. Unlike NH2, I am only one of several voice actors, so it's nice that there's a bit of variety there.  Most of the voice actors are better than me as well, so that's awesome.

     I'm still acting in the second installment (chapter 1), and my involvement is still about the same.

    The prologue puts you in control of Jake, a S.W.A.T. operative who's wife recently died in an apparent suicide.  The game is split into three parts.  First, you have the house, where you seek for clues as to what was going through your wife's head before her death.  Second, is the fast-paced action sequences in which you and your team fight terrorist as you track them across the city.  Finally, there's Jakes nightmares, which add physics and pattern-based puzzles.

     I found myself playing the action sequence and thinking it was rather long for a mod, only to complete it and find out that it was only the prologue.  I wasn't even on the first chapter yet, and last I heard this thing was going to have 6-8 of them.  Not only that, I was only 1/3rd of the way through to prolouge because I hadn't explored the house or nightmares yet.

     Chapter 1 is currently in production.  Obviously I will post an update when it is released.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Nightmare House 2

     Well, production on my current games is going slowly.  Nothing is far enough along that I'm willing to share, so I thought I'd post about past games instead.

     Today, I'm sharing the trailer for "Nightmare House 2", an outstanding horror-themed mod for "Half-Life 2: Episode 2".  If you're a fan of "F.E.A.R.", you should definitely check this out.

     I stumbled upon the development blog for this mod over a year before completion, when the creator (Hen Mazolski) was searching for a voice actor for a support character.  I recorded a line and emailed it to him. Things snowballed from there, and I went from voicing a single character to five, as well as rewriting and fine-tuning the script and dialogue.

    I spent a lot of time on the voices for this game.  As the saying goes, "you're your own worse critic", and I never seemed to be completely happy with my work.  I'd record and rerecord the same lines for hours at a time trying to get them perfect.  While I don't believe I've ever succeeded, I was pleasantly surprised by the mostly positive reviews my acting received after release.

    Hen is not making a "Nightmare House 3", and that's probably a good thing.  The story is wrapped up and we should try to refrain from getting sequelitis.

    You can download the mod for free here (EDIT: 2015 stand-alone version here). HL2:E2 is required to play.  The mod is free, the game is cheap, and if our fan reactions are anything to go by then the mod is worth the price of the game.

     In my next post I'll plug another mod that I've lent my voice to, as it's upcoming sequels.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

To The Moon


"To The Moon" is quite a bit different that any game I've ever played before.  It's fairly linear, with the gameplay mechanics only serving to advance the story.  However, the story is so great that this is not a flaw at all.

You follow the story of two doctors, who use technology to transverse the memories of a elderly man on his deathbed.  Their goal is to change his memories so that he may live out his final wish, to go to the moon.

Speaking as someone who played this game in it's entirety the moment it was released, I can say that it was a pleasant surprise to find out exactly how deep and thoughtful the story is.  You can read the plot descriptions, watch the trailers, and try to guess what will happen.  You may think you figured it out, but your expectations will barely scratch the surface of what this game has in store.

Everyone owes it to themselves to play this game.  At very least, they should take advantage of the free demo.

Click here to see the official site