Sunday, November 5, 2017

IfComp 2017 - 8 reviews

The Interactive Fiction Competition has many entries this year. Here are short reviews of those I've been able to play so far. You still have until November 15th to play and vote on games if you are interested.

*** A CASTLE OF THREAD ***
By Marshal Tenner Winter

 A lot of games that involve “ships” whether they be in the sea or outer space have always confused me a bit as far as map layout versus the area I’m picturing in my head. This was kind of the case for me in this game too, but not as bad as others. I’m not sure how difficult of a time I would have solving some of these puzzles without a walkthrough because some of them seem kind of abstract. The 2nd part of the game you are off the ship and in a city called “Badushizd” where you’ll find a humorously-named inn. It went by pretty fast for me in contrast with the 1st part. Pretty cool game overall. Some technical issues and a few nags here and there. The pacing of the last part and ending of the game seemed appropriate.


*** GRUE ***
BY CHARLES MANGIN

 Short game. Cool concept of being able to play from the perspective of a grue from the Zork series, but there just isn’t much to it. I was not able to finish the game; I think perhaps I didn’t get a timing puzzle right or something. Glancing at the walkthrough, there’s not much to the ending either.


*** INEVITABLE ***
By Matthew Pfeiffer

 I start in a crappy apartment. Apparently I’m a mad scientist. The game calls itself a 1-room escape game. There is no walkthrough and I couldn’t figure out how to escape the apartment.


*** MOON BASE ***
By Andrew Brown

 A short, creepy web game. I don’t think I reached the best ending, but seeing the consequences of apparently bad choices as a result was satisfying. Web games that seem to just go around in circles to reach only 1 or at the most 2 endings always seem to fail to keep me engaged or care to replay the game again. I would give this game another play if I wasn’t in the middle of all of these entries at the moment.


*** QUEER IN PUBLIC: A BRIEF ESSAY ***
By Naomi Norbez

 This is more of an “interactive essay” than “interactive fiction”. It's not a game at all. I don’t identify myself as Christian or queer, (the 2 main elements being compared in this entry) so this really didn’t hit any nerve with me one way or the other. The conclusion is basically a “The Jesus I know is a cool dude that isn’t mean to people.” theme.


*** The Richard Mines ***
By Evan Wright

 A parser game in which you need to search through some old tunnels and make your escape. Short room descriptions. Short game for that matter. Fairly easy puzzles. Not a lot of story here, but not a lot to complain about either.


*** A Walk In The Park ***
By Extra Mayonaise

 In this parser game you play a punk wandering around a city. It had a couple of lines that made me chuckle, and the setting was nicely put together. However, I got stuck trying to follow the tutorial at the step where I should “say uhh”. Uhh…


*** Will Not Let Me Go ***
By Stephen Granade

 Another web game. Here you are an old man dealing with alzheimer’s. This is another one where I don’t feel like I have any real choice here but to just keep clicking links to keep the story chugging along. What makes up for it though was it actually was a good story. I think it could have been a bit shorter though and still got the same effect across.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

These Dreams

  Getting time to work on the DPRK game again lately has been nice. I've had to bug Roody yet again for assistance lately, but he's always happy to help with Hugo related issues.

 I've been focusing on the 2nd PC of the DPRK game over the past few months.. random stabs at the story and code. Taken many steps back when starting to code and realizing I don't even have a proper flow for the event written yet, but that's part of what makes creating games like this so fun; play-testing and adding things that are not implemented yet, testing them, and repeating the process. The third PC won't take too much longer finish up, but tying all three PCs together with decisions made by each, inventory changes, etc will take a while to clean up. The "alpha" test was released some time ago, and I plan on releasing the "beta" around November of the year..

 Not getting my old interactive dreaming Inform7 project properly updated with all the graphics window and other fancy screen effects extension stuff basically shit me out of IntroComp this year. I was a bit disappointed but will shoot for next year. This is worth revisiting..

 It's really neat that my friend Irfon told me about the "modern IF scene" around 2008-2009.  I'm still really thankful to be introduced a new world of "text games" I figured only existed in my own head and a very select few of others back then and before then. I've met some really cool people along the way both on the internet and off.

 I've also got ideas about creating some sort of dream share API or website lately..

Yukihiro Takahashi ("It's Gonna Work"): "I had a dream. You gave me a sign.. and put me on a new track."

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Spring 2017

 Today I relaunched retrolab.servebeer.com to clean up old hacks I had used to get my Ultima Online server emulator chugging along. I'll be leaving that and my Quake II server down for a few months to come. If anything, for the purpose of just having 2 less things online that I have to worry about that I've barely had any time for lately. I'm trying to focus on working on the DPRK themed game, as well getting back to actually playing a few games such as Resident Evil 7 and my arcade games. Some good progress has already been made on the last third of Days in DPRK, but I slowed down considerably with the second third. I don't want the player to feel like any of the 3 slices of the game feel "rushed".

 The Guerilla War cabinet I previously talked about is now completely gone with exception to the marquee and bezel. The PCB and control panel were sold for enough money to break even for buying that cabinet and the Double Dragon cabinet. After cleaning up the Double Dragon cabinet with a lot of Lysol cleaner, magic erasers, and other means, it looks and smells a lot better than when I first picked it up. The monitor was removed from Guerilla War and installed it into the Double Dragon cabinet after swapping the wood panel connected to the frame and replacing the molex connector to the wires that were originally just grounded to the monitor frame to the isolated transformer inside the cabinet. The monitor that was originally in Double Dragon had severe burn of the game logo burned into it and had to go. I hope to do a tube-swap on it in the future. This setup is working well for playing Robotron 2084 and other games on a 19-in1 multi PCB. The Double Dragon PCB is still on the shelf for audio repairs.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Gutting Guerrilla War

 Last week a friend of mine who knows me as an "arcade guy" gave me a tip on a couple of cabinets that some people wanted to get rid of. The owner of the house the machines were in used to run his own business out of his house but had since had serious health issues. The state of the house had become pretty run-down and family members were in the process of clearing stuff out. The basement where the machines sat apparently had a leak or had been flooded at one point.

 Initially, I replied that I wasn't really interested in them because Guerrilla War looked like it was about to fall apart right there (despite the fact it magically still turned on and played!) and the other cabinet, a Double Dragon, wasn't of much interest to me as I'd probably not play it much.

 The next day it dawned on me.. if they only want 100-200$ for these, I could probably get that out of parts from the Guerrilla War alone. I also didn't realize that Double Dragon is a JAMMA-standard game with an 8-way joystick. That makes Double Dragon a great candidate to throw other game PCBs or even a multi-board into. Plus, it sounded like these people really wanted these machines out of there but didn't want to just give them away via a Craig's List ad or whatever. It's rare you see even a total piece of non-working junk sell at an arcade auction for less than 200$ anyway.

Picture texted to me of the game running in the basement of doom.


 So, the next day I rented an appliance dolly for 11$ and headed over to the residence with another friend willing to help for beer & pizza. Luckily, it was only 8 miles away. I preferred to take them one at a time so I could lay them down in the bed of my small truck. Moving them was not easy by any means. I've moved machines before, sometimes without even using a dolly.. but these were fragile and Guerrilla War was very heavy. Maybe because it had soaked up so much water (heh-heh)? The path from the leaky basement out to the yard where my truck was parked was covered in old wood, carpet padding, and other sorts of fun obstacles. After a lot of straining and a bruised arm, I got Guerrilla War home and onto the carport without it exploding into a hundred pieces.

The paintball splats on it give a bit of character!

 I don't consider this salvageable. The bottom of it had been so wet it was starting to separate.. as well as the top of it. Thankfully, things in the center and sides look like they stayed dry.

Front panel all busted up but control panel looks OK.

 At this point I have already taken out the marquee, but it was in good shape. The graphical bezel around the monitor was also in good shape.

With the plexiglass and bezels removed.

 This is the first time I have messed with a vertical-mounted monitor like this, so at first I tried to take the 4 screws out of the frame and pull the frame out. Nope. Stuck on something. Then realized "Oh duh, those are handles" in the wood around it. I put the frame screws back in, removed the 4 screws from the corner of the wood, and it came out very easy; a lot less scary and heavy than handling the 25 inch monitor in the Neo-Geo MVS2. I had already removed the wires to it from the PCB. I couldn't get into the back yet because it was locked and I didn't want to mess with drilling it out if I didn't have to.

Now I've just about got full access to everything.

 The monitor looked bright and colorful with the game playing before it was moved, just a bit of burn-in in the tube from the credits and score text. With that out of the way, I was able to open the back door lock easily from the inside and peer in. It was just as horrible as you would think, but honestly I'm surprised it wasn't worse.

Haha Oh, man.. yeah, I'll pass on even touching this.

 Good thing the main plastic circuit board is mounted half-way up the wall of the machine.

 
Nice and shiny PCB!








































 The monitor has a Wells Gardner chassis (score!) and mild burn-in on the tube from the score and credits text. This will make a good backup replacement 19 inch monitor.

Backside of monitor sitting on t-shirts to prevent scratches.

 After removing the control panel, few more wires, and the JAMMA connector, I'm done rescuing all the good stuff with this. Tomorrow the cabinet will be busted up into smaller pieces for disposal. Next up: a bit of Double Dragon cabinet restoration!



Wednesday, December 14, 2016

DPRK Due in 2017

I gave up producing for IF competitions over the past few years. While they were fun to enter, eventually work became way too time-consuming aside from wanting to spend more time playing games than writing them. However, in the meantime I've slowly been creating a new game in the Hugo engine I've mentioned a few times before titled Days in DPRK.

 

The making of Days in DPRK was motivated by both my fascination of  North Korean history  and the country itself, as well as wanting to move away from the Inform7 system and work more in Hugo. Hugo is not a "plain English" language like I7 is; it's more like "real programming" languages I've worked with before. After playing games like Cryptozookeeper by Robb Sherwin, I was really inspired to make my own creations in Hugo. This not to say I'm ruling out ever making anything in Inform again; I enjoyed creating games in it and enjoyed messing with the Canvas extensions to create the UI for the Interactive Dreaming prototype I was working on a few years back. Who knows, perhaps that will be re-visited one day.

DPRK is a bit like Lunar Base 1 in the respect that it tries to be a life simulation of sorts with commands thrown in to do things such as get out of a chair before moving. RoodyLib has helped to implement many things I wanted done in the game. Making things seem realistic in a room can be time-consuming, let alone in a game with many more rooms than LB1 and the concept of 3 playing characters that divide the game into thirds and connect to one another. This year, I hope and plan to finally tie it all together. Even after it is, there will be a quite a bit of  "polishing" to do on things such as setting/editing mood music/ambient sound for the remainder of the non-demo scenes, and editing Creative Commons images to suit my needs for the game.

Speaking of which, I look forward to people cooking here..



..until next time!



Wednesday, October 26, 2016

IFCOMP 2016 Reviews

I've been playing a few games from the 2016 Interactive Fiction Competition at random that have interesting cover art or concepts to me, and have written a few short reviews for 7 games out of the bunch. If I have time to play and review more, there will be a part 2 to this blog.. but I wanted to go ahead and get a few out.


*** SPOILERS BELOW! **

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*** Color the Truth by mathbrush ***

 This is a mystery game that looks like it will have a lot of conversation in it. After reading the ABOUT text, it looks like the gameplay system will be more complex than the old Infocom mystery games.

 Actually, at the very start the game throws out a handful of conversation topics and the system of choosing topics and "linking" them feels pretty smooth. Changing characters when an NPC gives a statement feels a little weird. I started to think perhaps just a wall-of-text would suffice for these events, but that would eliminate the possibility of throwing in a couple of puzzles here and there during the flashback.

 Repeating actions in the flashbacks can seem a bit annoying, but is nessasary for revealing new bits of the investigation. Pretty cool game.


*** Snake's Game by Nahian Nasir ***

 First "web" game of the bunch I tried. I'm partial to parser games, but I do really like a CYOA once in a while if the story is good. The story is definitely weird, but actually wasn't as weird or creepy as I was expecting. The choices seemed pretty linear. This one really isn't bad, but I didn't enjoy it all that much.


*** Ariadne in Aeaea by Victor Qjuel **

 This is a parser-driven game written in Inform7. It's a pretty amusing story, but none of the humor made me laugh out loud. I was hoping the topless ceremonial lady in the cover art was somehow depicted in the game, and she was! Old auntie. Nice.

 The environment of the game itself seems well-rounded. NPCs react different when you walk by in in different attire than you did previously and other features. I did end up glancing at the walkthrough probably a bit too more than I should have early on, so I can't really speak to the difficulty of the puzzles.. but for the most part they seemed fairly easy and not too obscure with exception to probably would have had a bit of back-tracking to do had I not skimmed the walkthrough early on. There perhaps could have been less rooms and more time spent on more parser understandings.. such as "herder" when referring to a "goatherder".


*** Riot  by Taylor Johnson ***

 Another CYOA game. This one got me interested in the beginning, but then I end up with the same complaints I have with many of these types of games. My choices seem either too linear, and at times I'm asked to make choices that I wonder if any sane being would do, like correcting a random strangers broken nose. I straightened a friends dislocated finger in RealLife when I was about 12 after making an impulse decision, but I was young and he was no stranger. I don't think it ever healed correctly either..

 I felt like this story was ok, but not great. I did get into it more than Snake's Game.


*** Toilet World - by Chet Rocketfrak ***

 This sounds promising. Though on closer examination, it's just a "joke" game. Whatever, let's give it a shot. I'm told I'm in this glorious world of toilets, surrounded by toilets. Cool. I think I got this.

> X TOILET
You can’t see any such thing.

 Oh hell nah. So, in short what we seem to have here is a "joke" game that's basically a few room descriptions filled with typos, no implementation of objects, nothing to really do. Or maybe I'm missing some grand game behind the scenes that I couldn't figure out how to throw the right parser commands at to unlock. Probably not however, considering there is no walkthrough included.


** Ventilator - by Peregrine Wade **

 Ha! Now this one has some humor to it, at least in the death messages. There's no walkthrough included either with this parser game, so I didn't expect it to be too long. The few puzzles are pretty abstract, but it didn't take me long to figure them out. The ending was kind of a head-scratcher, but I found this more fun than the web-based games so far.


*** Cactus Blue Motel - by Astrid Dalmady ***

 A web game with some cool-looking text upon starting up. You play a girl on a road-trip with two of your friends traveling across the desert until you come to a stop at a desolate hotel. The game has nice visuals, but oh man these choices. The actual path to the finish line seems like it's fairly linear, but I'm forced to re-ask various NPCs questions over and over again until new options pop up. The author perhaps should have made previously asked questions that you've already read responses for disappear. The story seemed kind of interesting but the gameplay system made it very difficult to enjoy.









Sunday, May 1, 2016

Getting RunUO to work in Amazon Linux

I had run an Ultima Online server for quite some time on an old PC running Ubuntu Linux. Once I backed up all of the data from the shard and turned off that old box, I never got around to relaunching the server until this weekend.

Since I am already running an Amazon Linux instance for my website and a Quake II server that is very rarely used, I copied up my entire RunUO 2.0 folder backup to the server and got started. The first step is installing Mono.

sudo yum install mono

I tried then starting the server and ran into errors regarding missing DLL files. This was fixed by using:

sudo yum install mono-*

In the Scripts/Misc folder I had to update the address line in ServerList.cs to my new DNS as well as update any data paths (there are only a couple so long as you aren't using a lot of custom scripts with hard coded data paths) that it whined about when trying to start the server again.

At that point, it looked as if all was well. That as until I tried to walk into a moongate to transfer to another area. The server instantly crashed. In the terminal running the server, I see that it can't find a specific zlib version. I was able to find the version it was complaining about not seeing (zlib.so.1.2.3.4) here at http://zlib.net/fossils/ and compiling the file was simply a matter of "./configure" and "make". I then copied the compiled file to the /lib folder. At that point, everything was running smoothly!


The old RetroShard website is back online at: retrolab.servebeer.com/lab/rs Leave a comment if you have any questions about the setup I've described. It's not very detailed but hopefully points out the main problems you may run into.