Sunday, August 20, 2006

Bad Day LA Demo

I was very excited about this game, it looked very funny and interesting to play. The concept was more or less interesting.

But the demo changed by positive view on this game. And unless major changes are planned I don't see this going to change anything for the final game.

The execution of the concept is rather poor. There are a couple of damn annoying design errors in the game.

1. Invisible walls

These things suck big time. If you want want people to go into a certain direction block their way in a visible way. Don't cut the gameplay to let the main character tell you that he doesn't want to go there. This essentially puts a temporary halt on the game.

2. Lack of direction

Players need to go in what general direction they have to move or what in general their task is. And only show the task when it's relevant. There is no point telling the poeple to kill 5 terrorist when they first have to walk a mile and a half before even encountering the first terrorist in the game.

You don't want people roaming around for minutes before they finally find the "hidden" passage to continue to the next part.

Bad Day LA (BDLA) doesn't have a radar or pointer in the HUD to tell you where your task is. It does have pointers at the point of interest. But they are no good when a house is in front of it.

3. Nagging character

I know where I'm going, but not completely sure how I get to it. So stop complaining about asking for directions. It's not like I can ask anyone for directions.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Prey - the game

The Prey demo has been released. Ever since I first heard of the game (back in 1997) I was interested in it. Ofcourse 3D Realms became too busy with other things to continue the game, so that was a bit of a downside. When I heard Prey was back in development I got excited. So Prey was going to use the Doom3 demo. I wasn't very excited about doom. the game itself wasn't very special. So what would Human Head do with it for Prey.

The first movie of the new Prey looked awesome. It looked like they were going to perform weird shit with stuff walking on walls and a interesting looking spirit mode.

Anyway, today I installed the Prey demo. And O.M.F.G. this rocked. You start out in the toiled of a crappy bar, nothing great about that. But instead of the usual static environment (almost) everything worked. You can flush toilets, you can dry hour hands, flip light switches. In the rest of the bar you could play slot machines and a pacman clone. There was also a jukebox with various songs you could select and a black and white TV showing real world clips. Very very nice. Much better than what iD pulled of in the bar in Doom 3. Ok so far the human world is interactive (like it should). So, nothing much happens, you talk about with the bar lady and then some guests start to become annoying. You smash their head in and all is safe. But then hell breaks lose and the emergency channel is activated broadcasting info about weird sightings. Suddenly "Reaper" by the Blue Öyster Cult starts playing. It's a great song and it immediately remembered me how this same song was used in the mini-series "The Stand" based on a book by Stephen King. How they used it in that series was simply awesome. Then it struck me, I didn't put that song on in the jukebox. The the roof of the bar got ... uhm... well... it disappeared. Strange lights were shining through, apperently tractor beams since stuff from the bar was picked up. And eventuelly they also got me (well, the player). After that came a sequence where you were moved through the space ship or something, much like in Half Life 2 (but much much better). You get sprung from your prison, but your friend and father don't. And here starts the actual game.

So Prey already had a kick as intro. The game itself is a first person shooter set in a alien space station. Nothing new here. However these aliens apperently have weird portal and gravity technology. The portal technology allows them to put doors in places where you enter a completely different room. Some portals are even two way (and yes you can and sometimes must use the portals). Prey makes a lot of use of the six degrees of freedom. Sometimes you can walk on walls and the ceiling when walking over a magnetic floor or something (if you jump you'll fall off). Walking on this floor is really funky. There are also gravity switches, shooting at a gravity switch will change the gravity in the room in that direction. You sometimes have to use this to solve a puzzle. These gravity things and portals really make the game more unique. In Serious Sam you also had some gravity and portal things, but there were not always functional and more like a engine demo show-off than something contributing to the game. And other thing in Prey is the spirit mode. This means you can leave your body and go past certain obstacles (like force fields). You usually need this to solve a puzzle you can continue.

That's all for my short review of the demo. You should really try it out (if your system can handle it). If you thought Doom 3 or Half Life 2 was great you'll be amazed by this game. I can't wait to play the full version.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The price of games

PC Games are getting more expensive (again). When I started playing and buying PC games (1995) the prices were between €45 (100 guilders) and €70 (150 guilders). At the time of 1997 the prices dropped to €35 and €45. The last couple of years the prices converged to about €40 a game. But recently the prices started increasing to €50. It somewhat started with Half Life 2 and Doom 3. These games were the first games to use €40+ prices for their normal package. And now pretty much all games that are released have this price tag.

It's not like games are getting better or contain more hours of enjoyment. I think €40 is quite a lot for a game. Specially if the replay value is low. Sure, watching a movie in the theatre is even more expensive (but that's just a bad comparission). The whole problem is that I can only spend money once. And when I have to fork over a large amouth I will think longer about it (and eventually not buy it). I often pick up games from bargin bins, and not even play them. Or I do play them for a while and then stop because I didn't like it afterall. But for an full price game I will think much longer, if there isn't even a demo of the game I can't even try it out. So why should I fork over a large amouth of money just to buy a game that eventually was crap. It's not like I could get my money back if I was disappointed. If the game was less expensive it wouldn't matter that much.

If a game would cost about €30 I would buy it much faster than a €50 game. In fact, I would buy two €30 games more easily than a single €50 game. With high prices game creators will have to compete with eachother more than they would have to compete with lower prices. If more consumers feel like this popular games might see less revenue, but less popular games would see more. But the less popular games would become more popular. So in the end the publisher will earn more. (2*30 > 50; yes it really is).

Recently there has been a new development, episodic content. Instead of paying € 50 for a game you pay 3 times € 20 (which equals € 60) for the game. Or something like that. I thought Half Life 2 Episode 2 wasn't great, in fact it was quite boring, it didn't add much to what Half Life 2 already gave. It was more of a poor expansion pack. A lot of others think it was great or something, and even tho the game had only 4 hours of gameplay with a low replay value people thought "Hey! It was only € 20 so screw it". I'm not saying episodic content is the way of the future, I rather play a complete story, and not have to wait over a year before I can continue it. It's more that apperently people don't care much about the € 20. If you are going episodic make sure your episodes can stand on their own, it's pretty much like the old sharware days.

Monday, June 05, 2006 sucks

A user (Otis) of posted the following comment (in Dutch; and copy posted below) concerning banners on websites and why visitors are allowed to block certain content from sites. Part of's bullshit AUP is a entry about users not being permitted to block ads on their site (and as Otis explain is a bullshit reason). Besides that he also said he blocked the banners on the site of

As a result of that comment Otis was banned from, just a little more proof of the ever degrading quality of The site is more about the money than it is to provide a "quality" service to a community. does not allow negative feedback to some of their policies. Being the hypocrytical assholes they are they even post news about net nutrality and censorship. Apperently they are against censorship and for net nutrality unless it's something negative towards their site.

Copy of the comment by Otis:

Tja, maar is niet de eigenaar van de connectie naar hun site, dat is de bezoeker. De bezoeker mag dus bytes weren op zn eigen computer. Daar heeft niets over te zeggen. mag zenden wat ze willen, de gebruiker is baas over welke bytes er wel en niet inkomen. Dan mag een lijst met algemene voorwaarden opstellen, maar een bepaling dat kan bepalen wat jij wel en niet toe moet staan qua bytes in je eigen computer is in strijd met de wet, wat zoiets inhoudt als dat die bepaling dus niet rechtsgeldig is. Niet dat dat wat boeit natuurlijk, maar toch.

Daarnaast is het niet in's belang dat bezoekers worden gebanned omdat ze adblock gebruiken. Ik blokkeer ook alle ads op deze pages en op got via adblock in firefox. Dat daar wellicht het niet mee eens is, is jammer voor ze, maar daar heb ik geen boodschap aan, simpelweg omdat adblock gewoon requests weghaalt en html weghaalt uit de page. Het web is nl. nog altijd een pull medium, geen push medium. Dus als ik vanuit MIJN browser geen request opstart naar een webads server, dan is dat mijn verantwoordelijkheid en niet die van en ook mijn goed recht. Het moet toch niet gekker worden zeg, dat ik niet mag bepalen met welke sites ik verbinding maak.

Want, vergeet nooit, als er, in het hypothetische geval, kinderporno in een ad staat, en ik ben verplicht die binnen te halen ivm algemene voorwaarden van een site, wie is er dan verantwoordelijk volgens de wet? Denk het niet, zij pushen nl. niets, de browser van de gebruiker pullt de content.

Verder komt dit neer op "Jij kijkt nu verplicht naar onze reclame tussen de programma's in! het is verboden weg te zappen naar een ander net, anders mag je niet meer naar ons programma kijken!"... tja.

Maar goed, deze discussie is niet nieuw, en weet ook wel dat mensen hier ads blocken. Als ze werkelijk tot bannen overgaan van mensen, moeten ze dat maar doen, het zal ze niet veel 'goodwill' opleveren

Sunday, June 04, 2006

What is theft?

According to WordNet 2.0:

       n : the act of taking something from someone unlawfully; "the
           thieving is awful at Kennedy International"

So, you take something from someone without their concent and therefor they no longer have access to the thing that was taken away (they no longer possess it). Right?

Well, assume it is right. If I tell you a joke and you tell that joke to another person. Is that theft? Did you steal the joke from me? Apperently not because I still know the joke and I can still tell it to other people. (note: if you claim you made up the joke it's plagarism, not theft).

If we extrapolate it to computer data. If I copy a file I have two identical copies, you can not distinguish them from eachother. If I move them around I'm 100% sure you can not tell them apart. Except one of the files is on my system and the other isn't. Did I steal the file? To answer that, let's go back to the beginning. You took something (a copy of a file) from someone (me). If it was with or without my concent doesn't matter (yet). The question is, do I still have access to the thing that was taken away? Yes, I still have the "original" file. So it wasn't taken from me, I still have it. Therefor it can't be theft. Because of this "they" invented something called copyright. Copyright fills the gap between theft and creating a copy without concent of the owner.

So creating a copy of a file isn't theft but a possible violation of the copyright. Ofcourse a lot of people don't agree and claim that downloading a MP3 is theft (and copyright violtation). Ofcourse the person violating the copyright is the person that made the MP3 available. You (the downloader) would be labeled the thief (by organisations like RIAA/MPAA/Brein (Dutch "version" of MPAA)). And this thing has been an somewhat redundant debat over and over again for the past years.

And today I read something more interesting. Jamie Kellner, [...], called skipping commercials "theft" .... Uhm... okay. Then what did I take away?. As far as I can tell those commercials take something from me: time. If I skip commercials with some piece of technology it's theft. What if I leave the room or close my eyes and ears. Is that theft too? If you said yes then you deserve to get shot in the face for the simple reason that you are stealing the right to live from others simply by existing. Ofcourse I could interpret what Kellner said more figuratively. But if you are going about mangling the meaning of words then what's the purpose of give meaning to words in the first place. You should "call the beast by it's name".

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


TubeTwist is an interesting game. I've only played the demo so far, but I really like it. It's one of those games where you have to deliver a ball from X to Y using various forms of tubes. It's like TIM except that you only have balls and tubes.

The game even has a story, not a very useful story but it kinda makes sense.

The demo only has 6 levels, the full game has 80. It took me some while to complete those 6. It's a great game to simply play when you have some spare time. The demo has one annoying bug and that is that it doesn't work very well with a multi monitor setup. If it's fixed in the full version I'm going to buy it.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Freedom Fighters

Recently I've played and completed Freedom Fighters. It's an interesting game, it's one of the many 3rd person semi-open-world action games.

For some "missions" there are multiple locations where you need to complete things, actually there are just multiple missions you can complete in any order. If you complete them in the right order it's much easier. For example, first complete the mission where you can stock up on C4, then do the mission with the helipad, then the electricity mission. And finally the other mission. Doing it in an other order might make it quite difficult.

While completing the missions you can earn points that allow you to recruit others to keep up with you. You can give those recruits commands to attack or something. I rarely used that feature, except for parts where I figured enemies would respawn.

The game is quite short, there are only 9 missions in total, including the first short tutorial mission. You can complete those missions in just a bit over 30 minutes. The in-game time that passes is 8 months, that was something that I didn't notice until the end sequence. It doesn't feel like 8 months have passed.

Also the save system is quite annoying, you can quick save at certain point, but you lose the quick saves when you exit the game. Real saves are only done when you move to a different location. When you return to a location everything is back to normal except for the completed tasks. You will also lose your recruits when you move to an other location. Because of this you could get into a very difficult position where you can only recruit a small number an have to face an enormous number of enemies.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

vbDrupal: Drupal + vBulletin

vbDrupal is a fork of the CMS Drupal. It uses the forum software vBulletin as it's base for user accounts and a couple of other things.

The first version of vbDrupal was based on Drupal 4.6, a lot of changes were made to the original code making it actually quite difficult to keep it up to date with newer Drupal versions.

At the end of 2005 I found out about vbDrupal and it was exactly what I needed as front page for my little big adventure community: Magicball Network (MBN). At that point vbDrupal was already a couple of months old. After installing vbDrupal on the MBN I developed a couple of modules to implement certain features I wanted. After a while I got a bit more involved with vbDrupal, a special website was made for vbDrupal and it was put on sourceforge. As soon as the sourceforge project was online I came aboard as a developer for vbDrupal. I added a couple of new vBulletin related modules and also did some maintenance. After a while I released a new version of vbDrupal, it was a dumpy release, images were corrupt, some development code wasn't properly inlined as vBulletin plugins. Not one of my better software releases.

Almost a month ago Drupal 4.7 was finally released, quite some things have changed between Drupal 4.6 and 4.7 so I decided we started vbDrupal 4.7 from scratch. Taking into account some mistakes that were made in the previous version of vbDrupal. One of the major goals in vbDrupal Next Generation (NG) was to keep the modifications to the original Drupal code as small as possible and try to keep it as much as possible compatible with all Drupal modules. In the previous vbDrupal version the user table was completely removed, this caused quite some issues with modules that relied on this table. With NG we decided to keep the user table and simply mirror the database between both user tables.

So far the modifications to Drupal's core are quite limited. However a couple of things needed to be replaced. First of all the bootstrapping of Drupal needed to be modified to initialize the vBulletin environment so that Drupal can reuse parts of it. As of Drupal 4.7 the bootstrapping is much cleaner allowing easier modifications. Pretty much all bootstrapping code has been moved to functions. In vBulletin this is not the case, therefor creating a global variable hell. The vBulletin initialization can't be started from within a function. Besides some little modifications here and there we also need to replace a few things. For example we completely replace the session code from Drupal to make use of the existing vBulletin session. And the user module needs to be modified a lot. Also the comment module needs some modifications here and there. It should be split into two parts, the default Drupal behavior or the functionality to use vBulletin for comments.

Another thing I'm keeping in mind while working on NG is to make sure it's possible to seperate Drupal and vBulletin in the future. I haven't tested it yet, but a bit of effort it should be fairly easy to replace vbDrupal with a stock Drupal. This wasn't possible with the current stable release. I'm also going to look into a Drupal -> vbDrupal conversion script.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Games with balls

What is it with games with balls?

Games with balls simply marble^Wrock.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

LBA3 Campaign

One of my all time favorite games is Little Big Adventure. The first game in the series was released in 1994, a sequel was released in 1997. The team behind it also planned for a 3rd release, but things didn't went as they hoped to. A lot of things happened, the team moved to various companies, split up, etc. The posibilities for an LBA3 were quite slim, even tho the whole team wanted to make the game.

But recent developements gave new light to the posibility of LBA3. This got the fans from the Magicball Network excited. They have started a campaign to put LBA in the spotlight to give LBA3 a higher chance to be picked up by a developer.

On a side node: Sebastien Vianny showed some activity on the LBAwin project again, version 0.8.1 might be close. I hope this will be a steady walk to a final release.