Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Flightgear 1.0.0 Released

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After more than 11 years of development, Flightgear 1.0 has arrived.



Flightgear can be played on Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, as well as other *nix platforms including FreeBSD, Solaris, and IRIX. Distributed under the GPL, Flightgear is one of the first major Free Software games and has become a flight simulator that rivals it's commercial counterparts. It is a stellar example of enthusiasts coming together to create something for the community.



The scope of the Flightgear project is, as you might expect for a game 11 years in the making, nothing short of impressive. Whilst it does fall short in a few departments when compared to commercial flight sims, in others it is unequalled. Having no full time developers and being of such high quality is a testament to the dedication and organisation of it's development team.



Flightgear has a pluggable flight dynamics model with 3 primary options, giving the enthusiast an opportunity to find a flight model that they feel is most accurate and/or fun. The integrated flight dynamics model is optimized for implementing plausibly behaving aircraft without requiring heaps of hard-to-acquire aerodynamic test data. Another is based on an FDM originally written by people at NASA. Quite impressive detail that most players probably won't appreciate.



Flightgear comes with an extensive and accurate database of world scenery. Over 20,000 real world airports are included in the full scenery set. Runways come with markings, lighting, taxiways, some sloped with variable elevation, the latter a feature missing from most commercial titles. The world scenery fits on 3 DVD's - pretty detailed coverage of the entire world with accurate terrain based on the most recently released SRTM terrain data. Scenery includes lakes, rivers, roads, railroads, cities, towns, land cover, and nice scenery night lighting with ground lighting concentrated in urban areas (based on real maps) and even headlights visible on major highways.



You can fly seamlessly around the world, as scenery tiles are paged (loaded/unloaded) in a separate thread - minimize the frame rate hit when you need to load new areas and keeping memory requirements realistic.



FlightGear implements extremely accurate time of day modeling with correctly placed sun, moon, stars, and planets for the specified time and date. Taking the 'term' simulator to another level, the sun, moon, stars, and planets all follow their correct courses through the sky and the [correctly placed] moon is illuminated by the [correctly placed] sun to get the correct phase of the moon for the current time/date, just like in real life.



Getting onto the aircraft, and you can fly a variety of aircraft, from the 1903 Wright Flyer, strange flapping wing "ornithopters", a 747 and A320, various military jets including the A10 tank buster, and several light singles.



Flightgear even can do fully animated, fully operational, fully interactive 3d cockpits which even update and display correctly from external chase plane views - although only a few aircraft have had this implemented thus far. Impressive nonetheless.



Despite the unbelievable attention to detail, Flightgear can be played on a rather modest PC. However the better the PC, the better it looks and runs so those with the latest, greatest 3D cards can still enjoy the extra beauty and a smoother experience.



I grabbed a few of the nicer screenshots from the Flightgear 1.0.0 gallery.



Well, what are you waiting for? Go and download Flightgear 1.0.0 (extras / source available here) and get flying - and enjoy knowing that this is Free Software gaming at it's glorious best.



Spread the word and digg this story on FSDaily and Digg.



The Flightgear feature list contains more in-depth analysis of the Flightgear features and is where I grabbed most of the above info - I'm in the business of Free Softare game information rather than Free Software game reviews. ;-)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Simu-this

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OpenCity


OpenCity 0.0.5 has been unleashed upon the wider public. The game is, well, not yet much of a game but it is progressing steadily. I would like to see the author approach maybe the Open Transport Tycoon project to see if there's any room for utilizing some of their many wonderous building models. I'm a big believer in project synergy, of which there isn't nearly enough occurence in the Free Software game world. People seem to fear a lack of identity to a game, but a game identity is foremost created by experience - of which graphics are only a part of the bigger picture. Also, just becasue two projects share graphical resources, doesn't mean they have to completely overlap.



Getting back to OpenTTD, version 0.6 is around the corner and 0.6-beta2 was released a few days ago. 0.6 final, "will give you loads of new features, like newhouses, newindustries, signals and diagonal tracks under bridges, trams, autoslope, oneway roads, half tile slopes and much more. It furthermore contains quite a few performance improvements under certain conditions as well as a very long list of bugreports."



OpenTTD is pretty addictive and this sounds like another good upgrade. I'd better stay away, if this blog is to regain momentum. ;-)



There's a lot of people hacking away on OpenTTD for one reason or another. I thought this 3D hack-up (as opposed to a mock-up, a hack-up is a barely functioning codebase to showcase an idea) was pretty interesting, as was the suggestion that 3D could work in different ways - I quite like the idea of an abstract 3D transport simulation.




Free Games on SkyOS


Keeping with the city/transport simulation theme, Simutrans 0.99.16 got released a few days ago. Simutrans and OpenTTD are both incredibly portable. Both have been ported to BeOS [a classic-but-defunct operating system]. I'm not sure how current the OpenTTD build is, but Simutrans could probably run on Haiku [an open source successor to BeOS].



I do think that a good niche for Free Software games is alternative operating systems. Not only does it allow OS enthusiasts to port games to their favourite platform (e.g. the SkyOS author has ported a number of open source games) but it allows the games to be played on a platform that commercial games are not available on, even if it is a tiny minority.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Allo Allo with Allacrost

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Ok, I've been slacking. I could make excuses (please somebody tell me a cheat so I can complete level 50 of Kobo Deluxe) but I won't.



Another Hero of Allacrost release is up for grabs on their website. This version does bring a few new features to the current tech demo status of the project, but it's a major rewrite of several parts so versions will hopefully be coming thicker and faster in the next few months.



I tried it out and it's impressive, although not very expansive yet. If they can keep up the production quality and go on to make a full game, it's going to be an amazing game indeed.




Fortress WIP


There has been plenty of work on the project that was started here earlier this year - Fortress. Check out the castle components courteousy of our very own povray magician, Rushhour. There'll be a playable tech demo soon so I'll post news of that when it arrives!



Sun Dog Resurrection is a project to make a Free Software successor to the classic game Sun Dog for the Apple II (now that's going back a ways). What makes this project interesting is that it's the original Sun Dog game author who instigated it. They had been a bit stagnant but there's activity on the sf.net project page.



Project Apricot got it's blog going. It's syndicated on the FreeGameDev planet, as are many other Free Software game project / developer blogs, so if you enjoy this blog then the planet is a good place for you to go as well.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Dreaming of a Sensi Xmas

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Yoda Soccer


Yoda Soccer 0.73 came out at the start of November - looks like that one slipped past most of the open source community. However it looks like 0.73 will be the last release for this Sensible Soccer clone. Whilst they have gone most of the way to recreating the classic game, the limitations of the platform used to create it (the proprietary BlitzMax) means the authors have created a new project, Open World Soccer, which will be a Sensi clone in C++. There is already an alpha release (very alpha) which shows off higher res graphics although not much more. For those people pining for a bit of Sensi nostalgia, try out Yoda Soccer which is relatively complete.



The Castle 0.8 is available for download. It's still a bit of a tech demo, but the initial level looks promising. It's nice to see somebody making progress with a single player FPS game, although there is still a long way to go with this one.




Dream Chess


Dream Chess 0.2 is pretty amazing as far as chess games go. I can't wait for them to add FICS [Free Internet Chess Server] support although that could spell doom for this blog as I'm short on time as it is! ;-)



I tried out Secret Maryo Chronicles the other day, checking it out as a potential game for my son. I couldn't believe how good it has become. Just 6 months ago gameplay was dodgy, sprites and sounds were ripped. It was a mess. Now, it makes Super Tux look like ordinary Tux. It takes a classic and gives it high res graphics and a cute facelift and everything just seems to be better done than Super Tux. At least SMC doesn't pretend to not be a Mario clone and just indulges in it's heritage. I hope the Super Tux developers see it and use it as a cue to make Super Tux not so Super Mario.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Breaking News: Glest Updates

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Glest has carried the accolade of being a leading open source game due to the relatively polished nature of it's graphics at the time of release a few years ago. Since then, sadly, the development pace has not matched the original hype surrounding the game.



For the first time in quite a while, there's a major development push. This time, the emphasis is on making it multiplayer.



There's a windows binary patch, and the code is in SVN for other OS users, although is largely untested on anything other than Windows.



Also released today was Star Ship Troopers: Last Defense 2, a mod for Glest. Updated models can be seen in this thread. The download is a whopping 130mb so there's plenty of new content to chew over in there.



That's a lot of Glest goodness. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A Day With Charlie Junior

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I had an opportunity the other day to do some game playing with my son - so I had the constraint that the games had to be playable by a 7 year old, meaning favourites of mine like Fish Fillets were generally ruled out.



First up was the ever-popular Super Tux. The young lad was an experienced campaigner at this so it didn't hold his attention for too long. However, whilst we were playing, I did notice a number of things that I think need addressing in the game:



  • Complete lack of originality

    They have copied Mario down to the core. It's a clone with different graphics. Every Mario aspect (gameplay, enemies, etc) has a "skinned" equivalent in Super Tux. Really, it's one thing to be inspired by another game, but to clone it down to the last detail? I don't know, maybe I'm being harsh (after all, I'm a Freeciv fan) but I feel there's a big room for improvement in this regard. I especially don't like the fire flower; can't we come up with some good alternative upgrades?

  • Very unbalanced levels

    The first level is really easy - as it should be. However that quickly changes. After 3 or 4 levels I'm starting to struggle to complete them. After 7 or 8, I find myself quitting the game in frustration at missing another long-jump-to-narrow-platform. The game is completely unbalanced and way harder than it should be at an early stage. One of the reasons the Mario games worked so well is because they were very well balanced. The game never really got hard until about half-way through (and that's a lot of levels). There is far too much acrobatic jumping required in Super Tux. They need more levels where the acrobatics required are compensated for by having a floor to catch you so you don't die repeatedly. The level designs are just too unforgiving.


Moving on, we went with Super Tux Kart. This went down quite well with the young'un initially but interest quickly waned. Again, the culprit is the design of the levels/tracks, which are generally atrocious. One of the keys to the addictiveness of Mariokart was the simplicity of the majority of the tracks. They had straights and few tight corners, meaning you zipped around them, the nuance being in how to get around them with minimum slowdown. Super Tux Kart levels have no straights (none of them) and are all mazes. Just staying on the track can be a challenge. The AI itself is not challenging at all. The physics is diabolical (but this has been fixed in STK SVN which now uses the bullet physics engine). Still, a lot of work needs doing.




Funguloids


Going for something simpler but more complete, I installed Barrage and Those Funny Funguloids. I was having a great time but then I got a jab in the ribs and a stern look, so we moved on.



Bomb Attack (happypenguin entry) was the first game we played that he really got into. It is a well executed bomberman clone with cute graphics, although it is still a bit incomplete.



NJAM also was popular. It manages to give Pacman depth, an accomplishment in itself. Whilst he played those two games I had enough time for a nap!



Next up was Freedroid RPG. This game has some really lovely graphics - although the main character graphics look awful. It was a good game but there's a lot of reading required, a lot of talking. Also it's not exactly obvious what you need to do - places are mentioned but are not easy to find. The level of gaming knowledge required was just a level too high to retain the attention of a 7 year old.



The final and most popular game of the lot was Blob Wars: Metal Blob Solid. This 2D platform game looks nice, is fun to play, and is not so difficult that you find yourself repeating the same few seconds of gameplay over and over again - yet isn't so easy that it is boring to play.



All being said, I was a bit disappointed that I couldn't come up with more good Free gaming options. Other than stuff like GCompris and Tux Paint which he is starting to grow out of, it was difficult to find him a good Free Software game that held his attention yet didn't require a degree of experience beyond the reaches of a typical 7 year old. In the end, he spent most of his time on the Play Station 2 with Lego Star Wars (which was actually a lot better than I expected it to be).



Are there any obvious open source games I missed out? Suggestions welcome. :-)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Glorious Days of Yonder

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Like a time machine, I go back to the days when Free Gamer brought you new games and exciting updates, bound together with poetic abandon that would make a scholar proud.




Open Football


The coveted Free Three Dee football game, Open Football, continues to grow. Like Wembley, a spectacular scene that so many doubted would ever come to full fruition, the developers battle on in their audacious endeavour and, against all odds, the project plods forward at a steady pace. Cast your eyes upon the first screenshot to show more than one player on a pitch! Not much, say ye? Nay, but more than those before it, and so continues the goal of creating a football game that isn't rubbish to play. Oh and they show off Mac/Win versions in addition to the existing Linux screenshots.



What ho? A foe? Or could it be an ambitious open source single player RPG project that looks like it will go somewhere? Radakan, brought to my attention via a wandering adventurer in the local tavern, but artwork seems entirely conceptual at this stage.



Imperium: Sticks, a Real Time Strategy game from the dawn of history to the far future. The idea is a bit RTS meets civilization (the project name rtciv gives it away) and it's early days yet. This was another one posted in the forums which are becoming a really good place for Free Software game chatter and treasure.



I've saved the best for last. Iris2, the Ultima Online 3D client, gains tileless movement support. Anybody who had a look at previous videos (like this) may have noted the rather restricted movement - characters obviously constrained to a grid - similar to the way this post moved unceremoniously from slightly-cuckoo-ye-olde-english to normal, but that's the effect a time machine has on you. It plays with the mind, y'see. Er, back to Iris2 and it's starting to look really, really good. Check out the video!





More info and general open source taking over UO info in the Iris2 dev blog.



Hey, I know, I could... wait, that'd be spoiling you guys. You'll just have to wait until next time. It's a gem! ;-)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Read All About It

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Mars: Land of No Mercy, it was looking dead, but it's back! The website is back online and hopefully so is development. I would point out that it was always available on Sourceforge but an offline website can be a death knell for an open source game, so it's good to see things running again.




Ad Infinitum


Ad Infinitum, a 2D space strategy game that looks very promising although is very early on in development and, other than the Sourceforge project page, doesn't have a website yet. It is also currently Windows only (Linux support done using WINE) but it is licensed under the GPL so there's always a hope that will change.



Whilst there's a few online space strategy games, there's not too many singleplayer Free Software space strategy games out there (FreeOrion and ?) so I hope to see this one establish itself. There's alpha releases available for download.




A3DX


There's a new 3D artillery battle game about, called A3DX. The website, like the game, is in it's early stages of development. It looks very similar to Scorched 3D -- so much so that omebody suggested it was a fork but it's not. However, looking at the screenshots I'd say it's definitely not as Scorched 3D looks much more advanced (as is to be expected).



Hrm, what else...



The FreeCol team updated their website design - the previous design was over 5 years old.



No, that wasn't it. Erm...



Ah! ASC 2.0(.1) [Advanced Strategic Command] was released a couple of weeks ago. I think I missed it. This release is the culmination of years of work since the last stable series was introduced, and the community looks to be as strong as it has ever been. There's a multiplayer universe where you can pit your military wits against other players, and the AI isn't too bad either. There's a reasonable singleplayer element, although it's a bit short of being able to qualify itself as a singleplayer game. If the classic hex strategy games are your cup of tea, then definitely look at ASC as not only does it draw on the classic Battle Isle series, but it also has several years of steady development. It's available for Linux and Windows.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

To do - do the to do

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I have a few things to do - notably:



  • Integerate the planet feed

  • Integrate the announcements feed

  • Integrate the forum feed

  • Organise another interview or two

  • Finish my half finished articles that are steadily building as a backlog of drafts


We have all this shiney new infrastructure after some brilliant work by notably Ghoulsblade and Hagish, and I'm dragging my toes including it. Sorry guys!



The planet and the announcements really could get included in any site which would really help to push Free Game development to another level in terms of being accessible and reaching it's audience with minimum effort.



On the Free game side of things, my multiple commitments (notably work and Fortress which I'm trying to get the codebase moving properly) mean I'm not really following the open source game scene as closely as I used to.




Silver Tree


The open source RPG scene is looking quite healthy at the moment. Silver Tree is shaping up well and seems to be shifting away from it's graphical ties with Wesnoth.



There's an update on the Hero of Allacrost website. There's good progress so it looks like they'll have another release before Christmas of this Final Fantasy style game. They also want to make a change to the current battle system because the current one is too demanding on the artists.



Also the Galaxy Mage Redux project is gaining a bit of momentum.



Damn, got to go, will try and be more elaborate tomorrow!

Monday, October 29, 2007

650 Days Later

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No, it's not another diabolical sequel... it's the number of days since the last major Freeciv release until yesterday when Freeciv 2.1 went gold.



People round on Freeciv for being unoriginal, but for me it fixes most of the problems with one of the greatest game franchises ever and is, well, Free Software. So for me Freeciv is everything that's great about Free gaming too! :-)



Hi-res graphics (well, relative to Civ2/Freeciv2.0) and a new SDL interface that got last minute save/load support *cheer*, better AI, and a lot of gameplay balancing - just some of the many features that went into this release. It's been worth waiting for and my brother has promised me a game once we acheive some work milestones! Multiplayer Civ is a lot of fun and very involving (who needs FPS games?) but importantly the Freeciv team place high value on the single player edition so it caters to the casual gamer as well as the intense one.



I came across another open source 3D flight simulator (some one commented on the open source flight combat article) - Palomino is an open-source flight simulator and 3D engine for Linux, FreeBSD, and Mac. No idea if it is new or what not, but the screenshots are intriguing albeit a bit simple.



I had some more stuff to post...



Ah, that's it, preliminary Linux port of Egoboo has been posted and it's got a subversion repository so development should be more organised [read: faster?] from now on. I've enjoyed seeing developer Zefz pushing Egoboo forward despite SoulFu attracting all the attention and Egoboo has seen a lot of new features recently and is subsequently a much richer game than SoulFu yet obviously has the style similarity. I would love to see some of the graphical Panache of SoulFu merged into the more evolved Egoboo world but until the SoulFu license situation is cleaned up I guess that is out of the question!



I should post screenshots for Freeciv 2.1 and Egoboo, but there are none on the websites and the FG hounds are hounding me into a midnight walk. So, er, annoying dogs win vs readership. You guys just don't whine enough!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Yeah, yeah, been quiet, will change, etc

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Some people can organise themselves really well and accomplish everything they want to each day. Sadly that's not me!



However now my girlfriend is away for 2 months which means I have a lot of extra time. ;-)




OpenCity


Anyhow, OpenCity 0.0.5beta is available for download. It's not much of a game yet but is a promising start. Underwater schools aside, the user interface is quite nice, it seems solid enough, and the codebase looks like it is engineered with lots of original features. "Starting earthquake subsystem" is one of the impressive phrases to read when starting the game.



I also had a go at the latest Ghouls and Ghosts Remix release. Nostalgic! It's very good fun except for two things 1) it's insanely hard [or is that part of the fun?] and 2) the keys are not Linux friendly. Using alt/ctrl for jump/shoot and arrow keys for movement isn't a good idea when ctrl+alt combined with arrow keys tends to interact with your window manager (as with most modern distros). Oops.



I have more important things to talk about though. FreeArtSearch is a project by Ghoulsblade/Hagish (SFZ developers, FG forum hosts, among other things) to create a place where artwork for games is indexed all in a single place. It has automated tag clouds and lots of other features engineered towards making it easy to track down art relevant to your needs.



They also set up Planet FreeGameDev, a place where people's Free game development blogs are getting syndicated. Want your blog there? Post here or in the forums. Where those two get the time to set up all these things, make games (interesting SFZ information/videos in that link), and attend university, who knows!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Galaxy Mage Redux

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Just as I was about to start lamenting the loss of a promising game, somebody steps up with a call to arms to resurrect development efforts.



Galaxy Mage Redux (placeholder site) will continue where the original Galaxy Mage team left off. They need pythoners and pixel artists so if that's you then make Santa's life cheaper by restoring a good Free game. There is already a forum and the game code is still available here.



His request for help has cropped up in a few places -- happypenguin.org and the FG forums are just two of them.



Another project in the doldrums is Mars: Land of no Mercy (website down). It is still available from the Sourceforge project and there's a post (from August) explaining the website downtime. SVN activity indicates that whilst the site has been down, so has development.



And... what's this... 0AD, the uber-looking freeware RTS game, may actually be released under an open source license? Too good to be true? It is, really, they won't release the whole thing, "for security reasons." (I'm not a fan of security through obscurity.)



I'm being lazy, no screenshots. There are some cool shots on the 0ad website though.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Freeciv 2.1rc1

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Freeciv 2.1rc1 is now available for download. I haven't yet played it but at first glance there's no 'save/load dialog implemented' in the SDL client part of the news announcements - which means, well, the SDL version is still incomplete. Also, at the moment, only source packages are available for download but expect binaries to follow soon.



Ultimate Stunts 0.7.3 is also out. More iterative improvements to a game with a long development history.



I'm looking for award suggestions, as I want to push the Free Gamer 2007 awards in November/December. (Won't that be a change, a set of awards whose year represents the actual year they apply to?) You can suggest in the forum or feel free to suggest in a comment here.



Anything else I can fit in with 30s left on the clock? The LibreGameWiki seems to be doing well in terms of collecting information on all the Free Software games out there so check it out if you have a minute. There's still quite some way to go (still a lot of missing / uncategorized games) but it's good to see Kiba & co sticking at the task in hand. Too many people start something then give up before it's even off the ground when it's not an overnight success.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

SilverTree and FIFEngine

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Two big releases in the last 48 hours - SilverTree 0.2, the RPG by Wesnoth developers, and FIFEngine that comes with a CC-by-SA licensed techdemo.



Starting with SilverTree, the main gameplay aspects have all now been implemented: you can explore, talk to NPCs, fight, learn skills, gather equipment, and so forth. There is a simple adventure included which can be played through to completion.



Version 0.2, which should run on the 3 major platforms and be portable to others, is still an unpolished game but the development momentum is there and since it is now playable you can get a very good idea of the direction the game is going in. I wouldn't be surprised to see a much nicer 0.3 release before Christmas.




FIFEngine Tech Demo


Turning our attention to FIFEngine, version 2007.2 comes with a very nice looking techdemo which has a syndicate-ish feel to it. There are major changes to the engine which brings with it a host of cool new features:



  • SWIG binding so more scripting languages are supported.

  • New 3d geometry system. Camera supports now tilt, rotation and zoom.

  • New event channel module. Scripts have full access to mouse, keyboard & widget input.

  • Improved action-based animation system.

  • A techdemo to give game creators a starting point. This is a common undertaking of the Zero-Projekt team and FIFE.


Author mvBarracuda posted more details in the FG forum.



I'm hoping that this rather awesome looking techdemo, licensed under the CC-by-SA after some lobbying by FG forum members, will be the starting point of a good game. Sometimes such a seed being sown can grow even if you didn't initially intend it to.



There's a new Snowballz release (0.9.5) that comes with some user requested features (grouping) as well as music and terrain elevation now affects gameplay, plus all the fixes that usually accompany a Free / Open Source Software game release.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

UFO:AI pre2.2 Review

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Want to know what's worse than a dog breaking wind? 2 dogs doing so... the Free Gamer hounds are gassing the place and making it very difficult to... oh god... no... not again! ARGH!



I will try my best not to faint but I can't promise I will survive the nauseating stench that keeps filling the room whilst the two hounds sit quietly satisfied under my desk.



I gave UFO:AI a try, the SVN version. It's really rather good - spiffy graphics, lovely sound, and very well presented. The music especially is excellent. Support for my laptop resolution of 1440x900 made me happy and is only the second Free/freeware game I know to do that - the other being Astro Menace. Whilst some people reported the beta as a bit unstable, the SVN verson has been as steady as a rock for me although I have only played it perhaps an hour in total so YMMV.



Overall it is shaping up nicely and is definitely one of the best Free games around. However, there were a few things that bothered me.




There's No Underwear!


The micro-management is too excessive and is pervasive throughout the game. I really don't think it's necessary to have the level of detail in terms of managing ammunition for individual soldiers that there is. It's difficult enough when you only have 1 set of ammunition to cater for (think any FPS game e.g. Half-Life) let alone having to be aware of 8 people's ammunition. Making sure stocks are there is one thing but having to give your guys and your space ships spare ammo and mess around rearming inbetween missions is not fun. If I wanted to manage stock, I'd go sign up at my local supermarket and count baked bean cans.



Your scientists have stats. Your workers have stats. Everything seems to have stats. And that means you spend far too long trying to understand and/or balance them. You assign production queues which take a certain number of hours, and you assign priorities to items in the production queue. This aspect of UFO:AI is less game and more factory management. They have a system probably not far off commercial CRM and ERP in terms of the depth of detail.



In my opinion, unless something is really meaningful, it should be automatically handled. Chalk it down to sensible management i.e. assume you hire the best scientists and workers, assume you're not being ripped off by buying stock - you are the "first and last" line of defense, I'm sure the world wouldn't be too picky about making a profit on selling you stuff! This is a game, not HR. Soldiers will rearm themselves if stocks are there, they shouldn't need to be rearmed by the player, etc etc. I would make basic weapons and ammo (i.e. everything available at the start of the game) naturally limitless (assume the world's military provide it) and leave the production / weapons management to only the alien stuff you research yourself.



I know this all was in the original UFO games but just because a game franchise is really good doesn't mean the gameplay is perfect. I think the amount of fiddling required with these things and the consequences if you forget them (e.g. going into missions without ammo) are a negative for the game.



Also I couldn't seem to intercept UFOs. Having to arm the ships at the start of the game seemed like needless administrative overhead (surely they should be armed by default). After arming them, no matter what order I clicked on the UFOs and my own ships as presented by the UI, I couldn't get my interceptor to go more than about 1 pixel away from the base before it turned back, which effectively killed the game for me. Hopefuly they'll have this sorted for the 2.2 release.




Argh! Aliens!

The FG Hounds Are Near


I think the isometric view (toggled in graphic options) is both true to the original franchise and also more usable as it's easier to visually understand the scene in front of you. I'd like to see that enabled by default.



I would also like to see the soldier buttons also carry some information about the soldiers. Perhaps partially fill them with a lighter blue to represent how many movement points a soldier has. Make the blue go red if they are injured, stuff like that.



There was only one thing that trully bothered me, and that's how the UFO:AI team have their SVN laid out.



You check out the ufoai module from SVN. This module contains both the game source (ok) and the map source. To play the SVN version of the game, you must run 'make maps' which takes 6 hours on a fast machine, probably more on mine (I left it overnight). These 'compiled' maps are in a platform independent format. Why include them as source in the main module? Surely you have a different 'maps' module for the map source and commit the 'compiled' maps to the main module or even another module. That way only 1 person ever has to compile a particular map (i.e. the person working on it) and everybody else gets up-to-date maps without messing around (svn up, and hey presto). I'm pushing them to do just that.



It's important to organise your SVN properly. Why? SVN is the 'starting point' for your most useful members of the community - addicted players and contributors. If your source layout causes problems for them, it means you'll have less people playtesting or trying to contribute because they'll get frustrated trying to get the latest and greatest version.



It's also important to ensure your dogs have a good diet because otherwise they'll kill you with biological warfare. Incidentally, talking of good diet, we did upgrade their dog food due to this problem. Unfortunately upgrading dog food also upgraded power and intensity, so I think I might find the cheapest stuff I can next time out in a desparate measure to reduce their emissions.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Game Announcements Now Onine

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There is now a Game Announcements section on the forum. Anonymous posting is allowed (but moderated) and any form of FOSS game news is welcome. The idea being is that if you want to publicize a game in any way, post the update there. New versions, new demos, new tournaments, new news, whatever. It is also fully RSSed so, well, if you have a website, include it. Let's get lots of Free Software gaming updates to the world so everybody can know about it.



You may notice a 'Chat' irc link above - #freegamer on irc.freenode.net - another community experiment. IRC has always been a popular medium for collaboration so we'll see if that works for Free Gamer too. ;-)



Good news for *nix users (Linux, BSD etc) who have wanted, but been unable, to play SoulFu - somebody has posted a modified download of SoulFu (~1.5.1) which should compile and run. YMMV. It didn't work for me.



Vega Strike 0.5 finally hits beta. Anybody who has read this blog before should know all about VS and how awesome this version is looking. Love space games? Go help test it.



Qudobup aka Uber-Q has been collecting links of new open source games he has come across in the FG forums. It's in the News Flash bit on Game Announcements (linked above). More tomorrow... hopefully! :-)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Scourge-erific

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Time flies when you're forgetting to do things, like update this blog. Damn, I make a post, have a nap, get distracted, and 6 days later I remember I was supposed to be posting again. I have umpteen drafts of half-finished opinions; games get released and I don't know about it. I need to invent an army of workers that will mine the web and report for me.



The Free Gamer forums got a facelift thanks to Qudobup, the guy also behind the look for Free Gamer. It looks really cool and since the forum supports RSS you'll see a few forum-related things going into this site in the nearish future.



Scourge 0.19 got released! Yay! No changelog on the site? Boo. Seems like binaries will eventually be available for all major platforms and will appear on Sourceforge. Despite the lack of information about this release on the site, having monitored Scourge development for a while, I can say 0.19 contains some really cool new features - outdoor environments and more storyline - and some important improvements - much better AI for route finding. It's on the cusp of being a really good game. All it needs is some slightly better artwork.




UFO2000


UFO2000 have had a major new release. Also their website got a facelift and it's probably one of the best looking FOSS game project pages you'll see. Beautiful. Somebody (fan? developer?) commented on a previous post that the community is struggling for players. UFO was (is?) a great series but it's primarily a single player game. I don't see how the multiplayer version can be quite as fun as a big part of the game was building up your team and researching new technology as you waged the war against the alien onslaught.



If the UFO2000 team could focus on a single player version I think they would see their community grow significantly, but they've got a lot of catching up to do with UFO:AI which has focused on SP from the beginning. Still, I do have a soft spot for UFO2000, having observed steady progress for many years on the project. Seeing the gameplay video on the UFO2000 site made me yearn for a single player edition. I want a game I can tackle at my own pace, y'know, multiplayer games tend to favour those who play a lot.



Battle Tanks is another multiplayer-focused game that looks great, and version 0.6 was released the other day. I'm tempted to try it, but again that multiplayer angle just doesn't appeal to me. Even if they offered a simple single player edition where you fought bots, that'd be fine. Please, let me play with myself. I mean, er, um...



I want to say more but no more time. I'll try to be more regular, perhaps doing shorter posts if I'm in a rush rather than no posting at all.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Ultra Fickle Overtones

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UFO:AI


There's beta installers for Linux and Windows for the popular open source game UFO:AI. The changelog for version 2.2 is impressive. The download link is a bit hard to get to - a ploy to stop too many players mistakenly downloading the beta when they didn't realise it might have bugs. Anyway, grab it here, and help them make UFO:AI 2.2 a great release. :-)



There was an interesting comment on the observation I made regarding the version number of LordsAWar:



0.0.3 for the lordsawar version doesn't mean 3% done. The game has most aspects of Warlords 2 implemented, where as freelords only has a few.


Well why version 0.0.3 then? Ok, I admit, version numbers are probably one of the least important aspects of game design. But, come on, really, if your game has lots of features and close to what you consider "1.0" for your game, then label is as such. People who are casually looking for a game to play will see 0.0.3 and think, "not even alpha." They won't play it. Players are fickle like that.



Version numbers imply the amount of progress towards the author's vision of the game. To me, 1.0 is the original vision and past that are evolutions of that vision.




JCRPG


Speaking of vision, I'll also give a quick mention to JCRPG whose author seems to be relentless in his efforts to bring a quality classic RPG framework with all the modern trimmings. Some of his trees are not to far off being life-like in quality. If somebody had the drive to start making a game based on his work so far, thereby pushing things even further, we could see some amazingly atmospheric games.



My brother alluded to an interesting point when commenting on the state of modern gaming. FPS games are monotonous, they are rarely atmospheric. It's just the same sprint shoot sprint cycle except with different weapons and backdrops. The gaming genre has become boring as the limitations of games have eroded away. Complete freedom to move often has the undesired consequence of making the world less interesting as there is no longer a challenge to navigating it - just find the next gap and run through it, all guns blazing. CRPGs used to be mazey, claustrophoic ordeals where you constantly had to plan to avoid getting into too many consecutive battles as monsters were quite fatal. The game worlds were not massive, but they were hard. The gaming industry seems to have forgotten that an enclosed but well defined world is more intriguing than a a massive open one which just looks pretty and has no substance.



Maybe I'm wrong, I haven't played many commercial games in the last 5 or 6 years, but when I have it reinfoces the above feeling. Just a thought.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Return of the Jedi Gamer

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WWWWhaaaat?! 3 days since I last posted? Disgraceful.



Oh well, trying and make this one interesting I guess! ;-)




Blood Frontier


Blood Frontier, a single player FPS using the Sauerbraten engine, has seen it's first alpha release become available for download. As it's a Sauer mod, it works on all major platforms. It aims to provide an atmospheric single player experience with depth, one of the major missing open source genres. The game development will be open source but I don't think there's anything in SVN yet as the main author doesn't know how to use SVN - but that'll change.



I think games will start emerging from the Sauer stables now the engine has matured a bit. There are thousands of game modders out there producing content for free for commercial titles, and I think Sauer could attract a lot of those if the community makes a lot of noise about it. Of course, it's not perfect, but community projects can be improved and cater to the community, so it's a powerful platform for creating Free games.




Vega Wars


Let's start with the first screenshots of Vega Wars - a marriage between Vega Strike and Vega Wars. Whilst these are simply Star Wars models in-game, creating a decent amount of game content is one of the most time consuming aspects of mod-creation (and Vega Wars is a mod) so it's good to see that part being made significantly quicker by gaining access to the vast majority of required models, all of which are of considerable quality in both detail and accuracy.



Speaking of Vega Strike, development is very active at the moment and there's only a few minor things left to do before the next major release. There are still a lot of improvements to be made to the game but the combination of active development and an active community will see to that. Hopefully from no onwards releases will be more frequent and less signficant.



There's another Egoboo Resurrection release. Version 2.4.3 is another impressive update and if it keeps going Egoboo may actually be better than it's predecessor. Saying that, it looks like SoulFu is becoming fully open source with talk of a Sourceforge project appearing in the near future to manage development. Egoboo is still only distributed as source and a Windows binary, but the source version should (I'm told) compile on Linux although a few graphical glitches still remain.



Time to take the two Free Gamer hounds for a walk, lest they start eating my feet in nervous desparation.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Extreme Tux Racer

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Extreme Tux Racer


The team over at Extreme Tux Racer - the latest fork to take on the Tux Racer continuation mantle - have made their inaugral release. It's still a bedding-in period with no real major updates other than a new campaign (cup?) but hopefully it will signal the start of a new lease of life for development of a popular open source franchise.



FreeLords, the project cloning Warlords, have made their first release since changing to Java as their programming language of choice. No more dependencies (except Java, of course), automatic portability, and the promise of network play, all bode well for the future but this snapshot release isn't playable yet. However it seems their time machine works well since these announcements are from 2008 - if they have a time machine then this game is sure to succeed.



LordsAWar, a fork of discontinued FreeLords C++ codebase, has hit version 0.0.3. Whilst that sounds very small I think it's not really a reflection on the completeness (implying 3%) as the C++ FreeLords was in development for years and I think this project is just trying to gain some early momentum.



The Secret Maryo project is keeping up it's good progress with another release. Version 1.1 sees the game make more steps to being a platform game worthy of the Mario moniker that it emulates.



The OpenTyrian project came up on the freegamedev.net forums. Tyrian is an old DOS game, a vertical scrolling shooter. Those games used to be so much fun - most games did in those days. Anyway, before I digress, this is just a port of the game to C/SDL. You need the original game to play it :-( but, since it's available on most abandonware sites, that shouldn't be hard to find.



Also I note Free Gamer made its debut on Slashdot, more about that tomorrow. No, it's not so significant that it gets its own post, it just caused me to think about something I wanted to express i.e. when the first iteration of this paragraph was longer than the rest of the post put together, it became obvious it needed its own space. ;-)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

FreeCol update

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FreeCol


A game update of interest (not been many lately) - FreeCol 0.7.2. Not too much else of interest going on. A few months ago I would have spent some time digging up unusual games or extra development information. Or write some interview questions or something. My time however is very limited at the moment.



I have a few Free game commitments and I really want to focus on creating Fortress. It's been a long time coming but I'm now at a stage where I want to contribute to a game as well as making copious amounts of net noise.



As such perhaps it is time to make this a more public blog - have some people contribute to it. Make it more community-based.



I'm thinking about it...



The other thing I need to do is organise things a little for the www.freegamedev.net (forums current here) community. A few simple tasks and things would be able to run without me but I've been too busy to sort that stuff out.



Anybody got some free spare time? I couldn't find any low cost spare time on ebay.



Hrmm... there's a thought... auctioning off your spare time on ebay... :-)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Not Dead

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Nope, I'm not dead, just caught up in doing real work so time has been at a premium lately.




Eat the Whistle


Also not dead is arcade football game Eat the Whistle. They have migrated to SVN as they build up to a new release. 'They' could mean just 'he' or just 'her' as I'm not quite sure how many people are working on EtW but the good news is it is being worked on. It's a fun game to play but suffered from being very buggy so hopefully this release will bring it a new lease of stable life.



What has been dead has been my Freshmeat inbox - no notable game releases for a while apart from Widelands, Bub Brothers, ja2-stracciatella, Wormux, and Xarvh. And those are just the ones on the Game Tome. Still, like I say, Freshmeat has been quiet. ;-)



Xarvh is not linked because it has been renamed to Everborn. It's a turn-based multiplayer fantasy strategy game, with real-time battles, born as a clone of Simtex's Master of Magic. In case you didn't know.




Star Wars Warlords


The other news centres around Vega Strike being close to release with massive SVN updates making it much faster to load/play. Also the Star Wars mod for VS, imaginatively named Vega Wars, had some very good news in that it has access to a slew of Star Wars models from the Star Wars Warlords project (a mod for Homeworld 2) that simply need converting to a format VS supports - which means a playable release of that project before the end of the year is quite realistic possibility. A Free Software game featuring some of these models is an exciting prospect!



I will probably come to an agreement with some other FreeGameDev forum members on posting here so that, should I forget or lose a limb, somebody else can step in and take on the mantle of bringing you all the fascinating Free Software game news. :-)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Briskly Brief

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I'm really quite strapped for time right now so again this is brief.



Stargus, the Stratagus-based project to get native Starcraft on Linux, is close to release. If the screenshots are anything to go by then Stargus will be pretty playable with this release.



The latest Freedroid RPG release looks nice. The project seemed to have stalled earlier in the year but there's lots of contributors these days which is nice to see.



Want to make games but not a programmer? Maybe Mokoi Gaming is for you. The project is in it's infancy but it's already usable although the documentation is a little sparse. Still, it all seems well done so a bit of user feedback I'm sure will be warmly received.



Tennix now has SVG graphics. A very concise concept is turning into a nice little game to while away the occasional onset of boredom.



Also another simple game shaping up nicely is Qonk, with 5-minute galactic conquest gameplay.



No screenshots. No time to find any. :-(



Edit: also the FIFE developers are celebrating their project's 2nd birthday. Always a good milestone to have had 2 years ongoing development.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Nuxified and Cluenet FOSS Game Tournament

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The forums are NOT down, they are still up here:
http://freegamer.schattenkind.net/



I'm moving admin of the freegamedev.net domain over to tuxfamily.org so it can be more useful than a simple redirect. [watch this space!]



On top of that, if your Free Software game project includes non-Free art then you need to be careful. Why? Because this could happen to you. Sure it's a setback that the Warsow team will recover from, but by using an appopriate license or agreeing terms this situation could be avoided.



For instance I'm accepting some non-Free contributions to a project of mine but I made sure the author agreed the graphics had irrevocable usage rights for the project. So he can't rip his graphics out if he has a change of heart.



Anyway, the whole purpose of creating games is to play them, right? Well, Nuxified and Cluesoft have come together to put together a tournament using solely Free Software games. They haven't yet chosen the exact games for the tournament so contribute your opinion if you want to be playing your favourite game if you want to take part.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Fill This Space

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Hrm... *eyes shift left then right* ...something's wrong - I don't know what to write about.



I could start with that ATI/AMD releasing ATI GPU specs and committing to helping out the open source drivers, but everybody else is doing that and to be honest - whilst game related and good news for ATI (who were close to being written off as a half-decent provider of hardware for anybody intending to run Linux which is actually quite a lot of people) it's not overly relevant to open source games which tend to be, wel, not so demanding on our GPUs.



Oh, if you read that first here, either you are a really dedicated Free Gamer reader and checked FG first thing after sleeping for 16 hours having slept so long because you spent the entire day ready the FG archives, or you have your head in the sand when it comes to technical news... ;-)



I tried out Interstate Outlaws, the Carmageddon-ish game that is the successor to [the now defunct project] Automanic. It comes with an auto-update feature, which is kinda refreshing. Normally one must do this things manually or wait for your distro to do it. Given how out of date most games in Ubuntu are (and Ubuntu is pretty cutting edge by most distro standards) this is a welcome feature. Only it doesn't really work - but the game is 0.1.x still so bumps are to be expected. Still, the cars looked really cool before the game prevented me driving them. :-D



What's more interesting is that they have created an intro movie for Interstate Outlaws. You can see it on YouTube or wait for them to include a full quality version in the game.



You can now play Wormux online! More instructions here.



Hrm... what else... nothing not mentioned recently in other posts so I'll keep it short and sweet today.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

How Original

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I really shouldn't be posting right now because I have a million more important things to do but I love you guys so...



There's a preview version of Vega Strike 0.5.0 up for download for Intel Mac users. The VS devs need some feedback on most notably sound due to porting issues. Users of other platforms will have to use subversion for the time being but Windows users don't need to compile as there's a .exe in subversion.



Want to know what OpenTTD will look like when the new graphics are ready? Well there's some interesting screenshots in the Ubuntu forums. I know this guy has riled the OpenTTD community by posting work there that they don't approve of. Issues to do with language barriers and badly put-together mockups / inserted graphics. Still, it seemed a bit harsh to me but for some reason he doesn't understand English. Anyway, this babble is digressing too much.



Globulation2 and Bos Wars got updates. Hopefully C&C being released as freeware won't dent the efforts of the developers of those games by taking players away from their communities.



I hate Westwood and the C&C series. Why? It's the most unoriginal piece of crap. Ever played Dune II? Awesome game for it's time, truly awesome. So awesome that the entire C&C series was just a rehash of it. I was so disgusted when I played Dune III, over 10 years after Dune II, the gameplay was pretty much identical and even the same gameplay / stupid AI bugs still existed. You could still select units, click on the floor, and watch whilst a few enemy units systematically wiped them out and your units continued to attack nothing. I vowed never to play a C&C game again after that - it's just the same but with shinier graphics. This probably isn't the first, and probably won't be the last time I mention this. I still remember watching a video of one of the game designers talking about how "original" Dune III was and feeling sick to my stomach that I helped line their pockets with gold. Dune II was original. Dune III had nothing original about it - it's not like 3D graphics were even a new phenomena. The evolution between Dune II, through the C&C series, to Dune III, was purely superficial, which for a multi-million-dollar franchise was pretty poor going if you ask me.



Never fear, open source is here! FOSS games are often original, contrary to what many people think. Originality goes beyond the conceptual. Originality is about project direction, about improving gameplay. Free games may often be reimplementations but they usually take a proactive approach to addressing gameplay and game balancing issues. You can be sure that the same AI bugs that afflicted the initial versions of Freeciv 10+ years ago have been addressed in the upcoming Freeciv 2.1 - which already has patches for the issues I mentioned the other day.



Hey, how topical is this. Whilst searching for a Dune III link (unable to find one easily - obviously a completely unremarkable game unlike it's predecessor) I came across two active Dune II remakes; Dune II: The Sleeper Has Awakened, which was only updated on the 3rd of September, and Dune II: The Maker, updated in August with gallery additions even yesterday. Intriguing.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

I'm baaaaaaaaack!

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Whenever I have an extended FG absence (nearly 4 days this time!) it always makes me feel like shouting "I'm back" in the style of that guy from Independence Day. Maybe in a past life I had my dignity taken away from me by rectally-fascinated aliens? Who knows, but now it's out of my system I doubt I'll think it again.



So... since it's "tomorrow" now, I'll point people in the direction of a comment by FIFE developer mvbaracuda who corrects my "commercial quality techdemo" description of the upcoming joint venture between FIFE and Zero Projekt. So if you are interested in making adventure games then investigate further.




Paintown


Paintown is an old school beat-em-up like Double Dragon. It's been in development all year and has an installer for Windows and source download for other platforms (Linux only, I think, but not checked it thoroughly) and looks like a fun game.



I tried out Vega Strike which looks nice although I think these kind of space exploration games need a storyline to get people involved. Since it doesn't have one, there's no initial purpose to the game (other than make money I guess) so I didn't spend too long playing. The latest VS is only available from subversion but it's shaping up nicely so a release should come soon - before the end of the month, I reckon. The big news is the addition of shader support so it's going to look very pretty, in addition to tons of gameplay balancing and bug fixes.



I also tried out JCRPG which is turning into a very nice little game engine. The graphics are great and if the same determination and attention to detail is paid to the rest of the JCRPG goals then we will have something really special on our hands. There is a download available if you want to check it out - it's Java so you can, er, run it anywhere. That's what they say. ;-)



Fortress may be a long way away from anything releasable but, well, castles are cool. So check out the development blog for pictures of two contributed castles. I'm personally involved in the project so it's exciting for me and if those artistic efforts are a measure of what the game will look like, it's going to look absolutely awesome.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Common Media Project and loads more

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The first major community effort is coming out of the FreeGameDev community. It has been identified that the major weakness in creating quality looking Free games is the lack of Free art - either hard to find or just non-existent. So, we will be creating the first Common Media Project. As yet untitled and unorganised, it will be an effort to create a set of quality artwork for a specific genre - the fantasy genre is looking like the choice of the involved artists - that will be hosted in an easy to find / use place so that Free game developers can easily use this common media to create the basis of their own game before branching off in their own artistic direction once they attract contributors. Games like Scourge, JCRPG, Xarvh, 8 Kingdoms, and the many other open source fantasy/medieval games out there.



Speaking of new projects, FIFEngine and Zero Projekt have announced that they will collaborate to create a commercial quality techdemo (i.e. mini-game) that will showcase FIFEngine as a platform. More on this tomorrow.



The guys attempting to revive the Tux Racer / Planet Penguin Racer project under the new moniker Extreme Tux Racer are, despite not meeting their own scheduled expectations, keeping at it. They have a spiffy new logo!





Well, well, what have we here... the inaugral release of Silver Tree, brainchild of Battle for Wesnoth creator Dave White. Given the "resources" he has at his disposal - some of the core Wesnoth developers and artists are also set to contribute to Silver Tree - this really has to be a project to watch. Still, it's early days for this 3D RPG and it's hybrid real-time and turn-based gameplay. I couldn't get it to compile (admittedly not trying to hard) so I'll wait a bit.



I wonder if Silver Tree signals the "end" of Wesnoth development - in that it has gotten as far as it can really get as a game, besides bugfixes, new campaigns etc - as the core team are essentially moving on.



I see Auteria on the game tome. Not Free but freeware, YA3DMMORPG. (Yet Another...) 'Nuff said. (The name makes me think 'autism'... nothing to do with the quality of the game, just the the name.)



An up-to-date Linux port of Egoboo Resurrection is almost a reality. It is buildable although there's a few reported issues. It looks like a public SVN is going to be made available, good news for the project, so helping out with development should be easier. The lead developer Zefz has been working hard on it in an unintentionally private manner.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Oh no more updates

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The latest Sauerbraten release is now available from getdeb, and since I have a new spiffy laptop I thought I'd give it a try. The RPG levels are pretty awesome to look at - now maybe I'm not quite up to date on the latest commercial offerings but compared to recent popular commercial games like Enemy Territory and Half Life 2, a well designed Sauerbraten level looks very nice indeed. The grass and water shaders look lucious.




Freeciv 2.1beta6 SDL


I wanted to take screenshots of Sauer but it seems to have a few problems - occasional hangs, dumping me back into low-res X - and I'm too busy to resolve them. So somebody asked for a few Freeciv SDL screenshots, which I oblige.



Irrlamb 0.0.5 is out, introducing springs and other new features. The Linux binary won't work out-of-the-box on Ubuntu Gutsy :-( so I haven't tried it, but it seems to be shaping up nicely. Window and Ubuntu Feisty binaries are provided.



There's also a new Thunder 'n' Lightning release. This action / flight combat project is becoming a much more playable game; performance enhancements, more graphical effects, and more deadly enemies. It is available as an autopackage - so should be easy to install for Linux users, and there's a Windows binary too. I'm a big advocate of using autopackage for games because it makes it easier for people to play your FOSS game.



I'm not posting videos on Free Gamer at the moment because, well, they don't work with Gnash and I'm not too fussed about setting up the proprietry Flash package. Gnash does claim to be compatable enough to play YouTube videos but sadly not on my machine.



There's also more talk going on relating to a consolidated Free game art effort in the comments of previous posts - at some point I'll be less lazy and summarize it all. One of the guys is designing a website for it and it will be the first official www.freegamedev.net project.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Freeciv 2.1beta6 Grips

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Since I'm a bit tight on time today I'm just going to post a few gripes I have with Freeciv 2.1beta6. Don't get me wrong, I think this is shaping up to be a really, really nice game, but the SDL interface has some very annoying usability issues to address.



  • If you run it in windowed mode, you can't resize the game by resizing the window. The game display logic should be independent of the resolution, an absraction that many games fail to make.

  • Auto-scrolling is annoying. It is especially annoying when playing in windowed mode when you are often moving the mouse cursor in and out of the game window. It would be better to scroll when pressing the right-mouse-button since the RMB is already used for manual movement.

  • There is no UI to save/load games in the SDL client. A work around is to open a chat dialog and use the /save and /load commands.

  • Freeciv dialogs have a red X with the tooltip "Cancel" to close them. Not only is 'cancel' a horrible word - implies losing any changes but it simply leaves the dialog - it is also innaccurate. "Close Dialog" is better. A better icon may be the circular arrow commonly used to represent returning to a previous screen.

  • There's no option to undo changes in a city dialog. Combine this with the "Cancel" situation and you have a very confusing UI.

  • If you click on a group of units, a unit selection dialog pops up. If you the do an action with already-selected unit and the dialog does not close itself.

  • I could see no obvious way to end the turn with the mouse - annoying for a mouse-driven game. After being told there is, I looked a bit harder. It's an icon on the minimap panel, alongside various information icons. Hardly obvious - in a heavilty iconified UI like Freeciv SDL is aspiring to be, placing is important. They need to think a bit harder about this one. I would have placed it somewhere at the top near where the year is displayed since the turn and the game year are strongly associated and importantly you won't be clicking on it by accident if it is up there (something easy to do currently as a small icon placed amongst a bunch of other small icons).


There are many positives to this Freeciv update, too many to mention. Lovely graphics, much more stable, classic-yet-balanced Civ gameplay. Freeciv 2.1 is going to be a showcase Free Software game.



I also downloaded the 0.7.0 release of Pingus. It's shaping up nicely although some of the sounds fail to capture the cuteness of Lemmings. It was solid though.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Revival of the fittest - sourcing art

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Pingus 0.7.0 is available for download. With revival work complete, Pingus now uses SDL and comes with lovel anti-aliased fonts. There's no new levels yet but with development seemingly back on track hopefully the level editor will return and some good levelsets will get contributed. It has a lot of potential as a game because the Lemmings series kinda, well, was more fun when it was 2D. If enough level makers could get together, I'd love to see a release inspired by "Oh no! More Lemmings" which was my favourite of the series and also incredibly challenging.



Another game with a major update is Egoboo Resurrection. There is a new fully working music system and major graphic enchancements - antialasing, shading, dithering and prespective correction all supported. (A long list of buzz words there.) Most importantly the lead developer Zefz is trying to get the game in SVN so others can contribute more easily and, speaking of contributions, somebody is already having a crack at porting it to Linux. At the moment it's only available as a Linux download but "watch this space". Well, not that precise space as that'll only ever say "watch this space". But in a more abstract sense I will hopefully be able to report a Linux port in the near future. ;-)



My post the other day, "Free this free that O_o" (catchy title eh?) sparked a lot of debate about the need for consolidation of Free Software game development efforts. You can read it there so I won't repeat it all, but one comment did make me think and it is something I had thought about in the past as well - there is a tremendous amount of artistic and game design talent poured into making mods for commercial games. Whilst this comes good if the engine subsequently becomes open source (think Tremulous, World of Padman, and other iD game mods) there are many more examples where the game engine remains closed source. Take Air Buccaneers for example. It's a jaw dropping mod for UT2004. What a shame it will only ever be a mod for a commercial game. Could these mods be a source of art if we proactively approach projects asking them to make their efforts Freely available? Maybe it could just work...



One of the productive conversations spawned by the above debate was the notion of a common media project. Take a target genre - Ben (the thread poster) suggested fantasy - and develop a set of decent media for it that games can use as a base before branching out in their own artistic direction. I think it's a great idea.



Also there was a desire for a good quality Free art portal - there are already several efforts but they seem to just fail to capture the niche, to become that place that people say, "Hey, this is a great resource for good Free art!" Is a new one needed? A new idea, a new design? Or maybe just identify the best efforts and back them unequivocably to get the word out there? This is also something Ben touched on... it'll be interesting to see where it goes. There's already a lot of information collecting in the Game Media Creation section of the Free Game Dev forums.



One thing is for sure - the forums at www.freegamedev.net have proved there is a need for a consolidated Free game development community that was not previously being filled and there is a desire to provide a nexus where Free game developers can work together instead of in their disjoint and often isolated worlds that currently populate the open source game universe.