Clutching my Pizza Thrower (which actually spits out flying sawblades, not an oven-baked flat bread), I shoot at the door, opening it, because Video Game Logic. I survey the large hall, a neo-gothic foundry with..
Fans of string quartets and game soundtracks will find just what they are looking for with The String Arcade which, thanks to a successfully funded Kickstarter Campaign, will release an album on February 11th. Featuring..
Everyone knows that learning a new language can be difficult without immersing yourself in it, and what better way to become immersed in a new world than by playing a videogame. Sure, you could buy..
Project Temporality is an ambitious debut game which has players manipulating time in order to solve a sci-fi puzzle adventure. While taking queues from Braid, Portal, and The Swapper, Project Temporality is its own innovative entity. The core concept..
The sixth annual 48 hour Global Game Jam began yesterday afternoon in over 450 locations, up from 319 the previous year. Vancouver celebrated the title of largest jam this year so far with 368 participants;..
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No sign of a download quite yet, but this long-awaited update should be up for both Steam and DRM-free (via GOG et al) versions of the game within the next few hours. We gave retro dungeon crawler Legend of Grimrock a glowing review earlier this year, and later took a peek at the beta version of the upcoming dungeon creation suite. All signs are pointing to this game having a very long life ahead of it. The toolset contains everything used to create the original dungeon, and supports importing fan-made content such as new graphical tilesets, sounds, items, monsters and more.
In the few weeks since our editor preview, Almost Human have polished up, refined and tuned the editor further, and produced a concise but helpful series of official tutorials teaching newcomers everything from the basic UI to the scripting system. In addition, they’ve bundled together every resource they had legal access to redistribute (the sound effects are excluded, sadly) as a starting point for modders to use in producing new content for the game. You can find all of these on the official Modding page for the game here, and a series of video tutorials on Youtube in this playlist here.
While a powerful editing suite is great news in itself, the real news here is that there’s already an integrated framework for distributing mods created in it. On the Steam side of things, the game has full Workshop integration, letting you upload content straight from the editor, and download directly into the game. For those with the DRM-free version (bought direct or via GOG), the Nexus network have set up a mod hosting page for the game, alongside their hugely popular Elder Scrolls and Fallout modding sites. You can find out more and see an official change-log since the editor beta here, and the editor should be released in full later today.
Cortex Command is a divisive game. Some consider it proof that alphafunding cannot work, and that the development of it highlights all the worst elements of the indie scene. I consider it to be a fine and positive example of passionate indie development. One day, over a decade ago, Daniel Tabar decided to make a game that he, personally, wanted to play. A strange blend of elements that has condensed into (in his own words) a blend of Liero, X-Com and Metal Slug. That game is Cortex Command, and it’s finally going to be released later this month.
While the game is likely going to be available in classic DRM-free format via the Humble Store, it has already been confirmed that if you bought the game previously – either via the Humble Bundle it was featured in, or direct from the developer – that you’ll be getting a Steam activation key, too. One feature that won’t quite make launch, but is due shortly afterwards is Steam Workshop support, providing a built-in infrastructure for distributing and downloading the hundreds (if not thousands) of mods the game has already spawned.
No matter your feelings on the game, it’s been a long time coming, and there’s undeniably a strong and dedicated fanbase behind it, already producing everything from small weapons mods to full total conversions, complete with their own campaign structures and stories. You can read more about the game on the official site here, and see the developer himself explaining the ins and outs of the dynamic campaign mode in the extensive gameplay video above. We’ll be picking apart the finished product when it releases sometime in the next week or two.
It’s not often that I’ll so hastily point to the sheer tonnage of a mod in order to bring attention to it, but the ever-expanding Floris Mod Pack (currently at Version 2.54 and still growing) is a rightful exception. Even after a full suite of patches and updates, Mount & Blade: Warband weighs in at just shy of 900mb. Despite billing itself as just a suite of enhancements to the ‘vanilla’ campaign mode of the game, the Floris Mod Pack adds almost 2.5gb of new content, features, graphics and effects. In short, it’s big. It’s also deep, involved and complex.
That’s not to say that M&B: Warband was a small or lightweight game to begin with. While it was only slightly expanded over the original release of Mount & Blade, it was still a time-devouring titan of a game. An action-RPG/sim blend leading you through the life of a medieval mercenary, from poorly equipped no-hoper to perhaps lord of your own lands and leader of massive armies. The Floris Mod Pack is not the work of one man, but rather a curated all-in-one upgrade pack drawing from the best and brightest in the (impressively active) M&B modding community that aims to improve and flesh out every single aspect of the game.
Didn’t think that the castles and towns were unique and well-defined enough? Now everything has its own look. Wanted more character interaction with NPCs? It’s there. Perhaps you’re a history buff, and didn’t see your favourite swords and shields represented? Just about everything ever seen in medieval Europe, Asia, Egypt and beyond is covered here, and it all slots into place naturally, filling out each nation and giving them a more distinct flavour of their own. The graphics have also gotten a universal overhaul, and the game is far more detailed. There’s a lot of nice, subtle particle effects to see, such as massed cavalry kicking up a storm of dust in desert battles, and the overworld map has gotten a major lick of paint as well.
The past few major updates to the mod pack have also addressed some issues I had with earlier builds. While interesting, the overhauls done to the unit evolution tech-trees were a little mystifying at first. Your first band of Sarranid peasants are ready to be promoted to regular troops, but the choices of ‘Sarranid Ajam’ or ‘Sarranid Oglan’ won’t make much sense unless you’ve studied medieval history. Fortunately, everything now has simple designations attached. Ajam units are now labelled with a handy ‘I2′, signifying that they’re Tier 2 Infantry, and Oglan troops would be A2 – Tier 2 Archers – a simple and intuitive change. You can also view all unit promotion trees via an in-game reference screen, so there’s no excuse for confusion anymore.
This is all highly configurable, too. There’s an in-game options menu added to let you enable and disable a huge range of features, from bugfixes applied to the original game content, to new enemy AI that uses proper formations and more. The later stages of the game are highly fleshed out, too, letting you settle into a more leaderly role and assign troops to autonomous divisions. It really is one of those packs where they’ve thought of just about everything. In a nod towards medieval accuracy, it’s even harder to climb the ladder to success if you choose to play a female character, but you can still earn respect through great deeds. Or just skip that and take the head of anyone that disparages you for your gender – that works, too.
All of these upgrades do have a cost. The system requirements for the game go up sharply when running this mod, and a quad-core CPU with 4GB of RAM or more is highly recommended. There are smaller, less memory-intensive installation options if you wish to sacrifice some of the graphical upgrades, but that would be missing out on half the point of the mod pack. The other tradeoff is that the learning curve – already fairly steep – is steeper still. My advice for any player that isn’t a veteran is to stick to Easy difficulty, which multiplies the health of both you and your followers. While I can’t recommend this as a starting point for Mount & Blade beginners – a few hours of the regular vanilla game will help you find your feet – this is really a must-have if you want something meatier and richer than the default campaign.
Minecraft Multiplayer servers are a great way for amateur designers to practice their hobby. Thanks to the mod platform Bukkit, server operators are able to add all kinds of interesting features to Minecraft gameplay, like MMORPG levels, character classes, magic, shops, political factions, worldwide money, among many, many other things. The potential combinations and configurations of various mods are countless, and so the player experience from one server to another can be very different. Beneath it all, however, there’s a common theme that supports all these different servers: emergent gameplay. Professional game designers work hard at their craft, spending thousands of hours on a single game. Amateurs on Minecraft servers can’t hope to compete with that when creating a unique experience, but a lot of the time they don’t have to. Built into the way Minecraft works are design features that have a kind of chain reaction effect. The server operator chooses some mods, configures them, and then the players take over. The players react to the dynamic Minecraft environment in creative ways, and their reactions cause other reactions, and so forth. The result is called emergent gameplay because it emerged from general game design conditions rather than being specifically planned out by the designer. What’s interesting about Minecraft servers in particular is that the emergent gameplay very often develops into various game versions of real-world economies.
Most servers have a set of mods (usually referred to as “plugins”) that, rather than being fun, are there to help the server run smoothly. There are many reasons why a server might lag, but two common problems are that either the map is too big, and the server takes forever to load it, or that the players are occupying space in a way that taxes the server especially hard. Minecraft’s engine only generates interactive blocks within a certain radius of each player, and “hides” the blocks that nobody is looking at, to save computing power. If two players are sharing the same space, the server running Minecraft has to do fewer calculations, because players are “looking” at the same thing.
If every player is occupying a separate space, then the server has to do more calculations, and it has to remember. No matter how powerful the server, the game can become quite laggy in huge maps where players are able to roam too far. To address this, one common solution server operators use limit the size of their worlds, to encourage people to occupy many of the same spaces. This also has the peripheral benefit of making multiplayer more interesting, as players will more often have to interact with each other.
The interesting thing about the world size limits is the impact they have on the emergent economy of multiplayer Minecraft. Without an infinite world to explore, the mines of a server can run dry pretty quickly. There’s not much a player can do without these mined resources in Minecraft. Server operators know this, and they’ve implemented many different strategies to make sure that players don’t get bored and/or they don’t have to create new worlds too frequently. Amazingly, three of the most popular plugin setups result in three different economic philosophies from the real world.
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