Friday, October 30, 2015

Nightmare House 2 (2015 version) has been released!

Over the past couple months, I've been working on rerecording most of my lines for this excellent mod.

Today, it's not a mod anymore, it's stand-alone game.  It's been updated to a newer version of the engine, with tons of improvements and fixes.  It's still available for free for anyone who has a Steam account.

Get it here.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Steam Controller: First Impressions

Well, I preordered the Steam Controller and got it in the mail a little bit ago.

I was pretty eager to try this out.  Both as a gamer and as a developer.  A while back I more or less decided that every game I developed for PC/Mac would have this controller in mind, assuming that it will become the new standard for PC/Mac game controls (for console-style games, anyway.  Many game types will still benefit from a keyboard/mouse control scheme).

So, I got it in the mail, installed the batteries, downloaded the pre-day-one firmware patch (that's a good sign, right?) and got started using it.

And... nothing.  Well, not exactly nothing.  It did launch Steam "Big Picture" mode.  It allowed me to navigate my menus, set up profiles, all that stuff.  However, it didn't work with a single game I tried it on.

Broforce was the worst, it seemed like having the controller installed stopped the game from starting entirely.  I wouldn't blame that on the controller, though.  I had the same issue trying to play with my Playstation4 controller before.  Yes it was a little worse with the Steam Controller (disconnecting the PS4 controller, starting the game then reconnecting fixes that issue but not with the Steam Controller), but I still chalked that up to an issue that the game developer needs to iron out.

So I tried Volgarr the Viking.  Cave Story+. Nothing.

I searched online and found that pretty much every Mac user, and lots of PC users, were having the same issue.  A couple hours later I get an email from Valve that revealed they goofed up the Mac version and would be giving me the Valve Complete Pack to make up for it.  Not bad (except I already owned nearly everything in that pack), at least they acknowledged their mistake and tried to make up for it.

They said it would take a couple weeks to fix the issue. Last night I found that it was partially fixed and was able to play the first two levels of Volgarr with it.

So first, the design...

The shape of the controller is a little weird.  Holding it in my hand, I'm immediately reminded of the original xBox controller (and I'm talking about the original original controller), it's not quite as bad but still pretty close.

The controller uses two AA batteries (included).  I think that built-in rechargeables would have been very doable, and convent.

It comes with a USB dongle for wireless play, or you can plug it in with USB for wired play (I tried this once just to see if it would work differently that wireless, no different).  The dongle is your normal tiny, easy-to-lose style.  I would have liked a compartment on the controller to storage, like my Logitech bluetooth headset.

Speaking of bluetooth, it's pretty much become the wireless controller standard nowadays.  My iMac (like all) has built-in bluetooth, as does my laptop, and many other computers.  I assume that Steam will release a bluetooth version eventually, but I'm really wondering why they just didn't start out with one.  A bluetooth USB dongle would have been fine for those without built-in bluetooth.

The position of the shoulder buttons are standard.  I personally don't like the standard.  You pull a gun trigger with your index fingers, I would prefer the trigger buttons be on your index finger and the buttons be for your middle.  The Steam controller does it the other way around, but I guess most gamers have gotten use to this weird design choice as the console makers have made it the standard.

Were the standard is deviated from is the two touchpads.  There is no d-pad, but the right touchpad is advertised to work as one.  Spoiler alert: it doesn't.  I haven't had a chance to play and FPSs with this yet, which is apparently what the dual-touchpad are intended for, but from the feel of it so far I'll probably be sticking with keyboard/mouse for those.

So, about the actual functionality...

Well, as of this writing the controller still doesn't work entirely, at least not for Mac.  The joystick finally works, but gamepad buttons do not.  So, while playing Volgarr, I had the joystick mapped to joystick movement and the gamepad buttons mapped to their corresponding keyboard buttons.

The left trackpad d-pad, well, it worked but was so finicky I had to give up on it after about ten minutes and switch to the joystick.  It just wasn't nearly precise enough, sometimes not registering my movements, or sending me in an entirely different direction.

The joystick was better by leaps and bounds, but using a joystick on a game design for d-pad or keypad input does come with little quirks.  Still, I got used to it relatively quickly.  Occasionally it would register a down movement out of nowhere, so I'd roll instead of jump or smash through the spears I was trying to stand on, but this only happened a few times.

The right-side trackpad was mapped to the action buttons, and it just didn't work.  It was awkward to use to begin with, but even pushing the buttons correctly sometimes didn't register anything at all, or sometimes the wrong button.  So, I wound up using the joystick/buttons and ignoring the trackpads entirely, at least for this game.

I have a feeling that's what I'll have to to with about 90% of the games I use this on, and I play a lot of retro-styled games that would best benefit from a gamepad.  Seeing that these inputs are crammed into the bottom of the controller over the much-more prevalent dual trackpads, it might get a little uncomfortable.

So, I beat the first level of Volgarr last night and the second level today.  I already played through these parts of the game, though it has been a very long time (over a year ago I think?).  Still, it was barely more difficult to play with the Steam Controller than it was to play with my X-Arcade Solo.

So is it worth getting?  Well, time will tell.  I'll give Steam a little more time to iron out their bugs and game developers a little more time to make software that complements the design.  In the meantime, I'd say that if you're into the same games as me then you're better off with the X-Arcade or Playstation/Xbox controllers, depending on what your computer/games support. Hopefully a standard controller with Steam will at least influence developers into giving all their games native gamepad support.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

République Remastered

While researching my new game engine of choice, Unity 5, I found a game that was very similar in gameplay design as one of my old Klik n' Play experimental projects.  That's what drew me in to check it out, but the game itself goes way beyond what I thought of at the time, or even since then.

République Remastered by Camoflaj.  You play the part of, well, yourself.  You receive a random phone call from a girl named "390H", or "Hope" as she calls herself (look at "390H" backwards). She's a citizen/prisoner of a totalitarian state.  Accused of poisoning her mind with outside propaganda, she's under treat to have her personality replaced.  Using a stolen cell phone, she makes a random call and contacts you.  From there, you can use the software in the phone to take control of nearby cameras, door, and other objects in her environment.  Using the camera, you can scout ahead of her and guide her to good hiding spots and let her know when certain sections are safe to pass.

So far I've played the first episode, over the past day or so.  I'll probably finish up the other two currently-available episodes within the next week or two.

The game has few flaws.  If Hope is captured, she is "locked" up by the guards.  I say "locked" in quotes, because as the player you can effortlessly unlock the holding cell and simply allow her to walk out.  The only consequence is that sometimes Hope is captured far away from the nearest cell, and it's a long tedious walk back and forth.

Aside from that, and one glitch I encountered that turned out to be hilarious, I can't really find much to complain about.  The overall theme is good, Hope is a likable character that you can't help getting attached to.  The gameplay is mostly linear but it doesn't hinder enjoyment.  The optional collectables are actually interesting, consisting of real-world books that are banned from the fictional society, and one character's collection of indie games on floppy disks (an interesting in-game way to promote other indie titles).

At the time of this writing, République Remastered is $25 on Steam ($35 for the deluxe version).  I highly suggest it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

AVGN movie - a very late review

Well, I finally got around to watching the Angry Video Game Nerd movie recently.  Now, I realize it's been out a little while.  Anyone interested in it has probably already seen it.  Anyone who's interested in a review has probably already read a more timely review from an actual reviewer.  Still, if you're reading this and have not seen the movie, be warned that there will be spoilers.  Only continue reading if you've already seen it or just really don't care.

I approached the movie with high hopes, but low expectations.

The plot revolves around the nerd putting off reviewing the notorious E.T. video game from the Atari 2600 console.  Despite it being such a bane in his life, and his fans constant requests, he feels it's a game that simply needs to fade into obscurity.  He attempts to "save" his fans by disproving the urban legend that the E.T. cartridges were crushed and buried in a desert in Nevada.  In doing so, he and his friends get mixed up in the Roswell conspiracy.

That setup actually isn't all that bad.  Also, the presentation of the movie wasn't bad either.  Most of the special effects are rather campy and cheesy-looking, but that actually works in the movie's favor.

My issues come with the script.  Many of the characters have very annoying and underdeveloped traits.  The nerd himself, displaying very questionable logic, wants nothing to do with any women whatsoever.  This is loosely explained as him not wanting romance to interfere with his nerdy lifestyle, but isn't very plausible and just comes off as awkward.

In one part of the movie, the characters find themselves in a real-world video game reminiscent of Super Mario Bros., and later his friend Cooper can see the Nerd in his E.T. game as the Nerd walks through the real-world Area 51. Shortly after that, the same character controls the Roswell alien and breaks him out of captivity using his E.T. game, but immediately the alien is no longer controlled by Cooper.  None of these events have any logic or explanation of how they occur, they just short of happen.

A plot point about our entire universe just being a video game created by the alien character, in danger of being "turned off" by a second antagonist (more on that later) is mentioned so quickly and nonchalantly that I almost didn't even notice it.  "You're entire universe is fake" is the kind of revelation that should really carry more weight to it.

And about the antagonists, in addition to the military and government covering up the Roswell incident, a deity with the ability to destroy the universe is pretty much shoehorned into the story, and defeated with complete randomness.  Seriously, Darth Vader turning into a scorpion has nothing on Death Mwauthzyx putting on groucho glasses and flying away.

Finally, the acting.  The female lead, played by Sara Glendening was really good.  The Roswell scientist character, played by Time Winters, was also very well played.  Aside from that, the performances fell flat.  This includes the nerd himself.

Overall, I'd give the movie a C-.

I can see the appeal of it to those who like the "so bad it's good" kind of movies, but it just wasn't my cup of tea. Like I said, the setup was good, and the direction was good.  I wish that the script was written by a better writer, and gone through many more drafts.  I have a feeling this was made up as they went along and drafts were critiqued by a bunch of yes-men.