Wednesday, May 31, 2006

About Me & Vega Strike

Me being the list, not the person. The addiction to updating this blog has been so overwhelming as to consume my person. I no longer function as an individual, instead serving merely to emit superlatives about the endeavours of a select few; the Free game programmers.

For those returning viewers, there has been ever more updates to the list. At this early point, the changes are so many that I can't really bring myself to remember them so you'll just have to have another look. In the future I will be noting additions rather than silently inserting them.

I was going to add Deadly Rooms Of Death (a.k.a. DROD) to the freeware list but it's website seems to have dropped off the edge of the Internet. Other references to the game cite charges, so perhaps it shouldn't be there anyway. What a shame, I quite liked that game. Back to Freer matters and I did discover that two seemingly dead projects, Adonthell and Egoboo (community), appear to have life in them. However they both have a long way to go before they can be considered revived. Another reality of open source gaming is that CVS activity is nothing without playable releases.

The last few months has seen a lot going on in the community of one of favourite projects; Vega Strike. There has been so much activity in the VS forums that it's a shame they don't have more structured development. The official release is so outdated. Here's a tip for game creators out there: if a mind-blowing artist rapidly produces commercial-grade art for your project, put it into your game immediately. Issues about whether it fits perfectly or needs placing properly are MOOT. VS would be the envy of the Free gaming world right now if the developers had reacted quicker. I was vocal enough at the time (sadly I shout better than I contribute). I would have posted more VS-specifc examples of his work but found mostly broken links - timerotted postings - although his website is more reliable (here and here). Fortunately his efforts were not forgotten and somebody is finally making use of his models. Still, luckily for them the VS forums has always been teeming with new talent.

There's a follow-up release for the fledgling Warsow, which seems to be winning over a lot fans after recent updates. This release (0.11) also raises a common issue afflicting Free Software developers - version numbering. There are those who interpret version numbers as outright numbers - 0.1 < 0.11 < 0.2 - and to them this will make sense. There are others who believe each point is it's own independent number - 0.1 < 0.2 < 0.11 (nought point eleven) - who will scoff at a 0.1 to 0.11 version jump. The latter is the most adopted in my experience, hence the typical X.Y.Z versioning system. In this sense, the Warsow team would have been better expressing their releases as 0.10 and 0.11 respectively (or 0.1.0 and 0.1.1) but their numbering system is their perrogative. I just hope they realise how many puppies they killed.

I could write an entire article on that; how unproductive.

Finally, a note on the future direction for this blog - it involves interviews and reviews galore, commentary on important Free game updates, as well as articles on Free Software game development. I hope that whets a few appetites.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Ascendency of OpenTTD

OpenTTD is, at the moment, not a Free Software game. However, there are significant efforts underway to address this whilst greatly enhancing the game at the same time. All the graphics are being replaced (and then more created) by high resolution, high quality renders. Looking at the Enhanced GFX wiki page, it is going to be beautiful when ready. I'm optimistic that, given the size of the TTD community, this will be approaching readiness by the end of the year. It's an exciting prospect.

Meanwhile the community effort to create the ultimate transport game seems to have died. Exhaustive planning and a lengthy design document has not inspired people to contribute to it. I told them years ago that without a playable game they will not attract interest. I was derided and ignored, my posts deleted. The open source reality is that working code attracts willing contributors.

In other news, Ascendency has appeared on Abandonia, making it officially freeware - as opposed to legally ambiguous term abandonware. (I wish companies would just release their abandoned games under a Free Software license.) You probably need dosbox to play it. I remember buying the game when I was younger and it was a decent but not spectacular game.

That just makes me look forward to FreeOrion even more.

Empty Clip Still Full

A couple of days ago Warsow 0.1 was released. Being highly dependent on fast hardware, it's not a game to appeal to me and my ~5 year old workhorse. Still, it's got a very unique cel-shaded style among it's FPS fragfest contemporaries and appeals to the players who liked the physics-defying mechanics of older titles, bucking the recent trend in deathmatch gaming.

I saw Empty Clip 1.0.1 on the Game Tome and decided to check it out. Much to my consternation it required Fmod which is not directly available for Ubuntu. Search for help on the forums lead me straight to, typically, a request for testers for Empty Clips. So, other than manual installation of Fmod, I'm out of luck and out of time for today. This is the reason all game creators should investigate a proper installation tool other than simple pre-built binaries, such as Autopackage.

There was a new game announcement for an R-Type-like, called Level Shmup. The homepage link was broken and the download stalled for me. Not a good omen for a new game. Second time lucky with the download, it's a fairly basic affair and the gameplay is chaotic. I don't see much future for the game itself, although there's a few nice touches such as the parallax scrolling and adaptive difficulty. It is clear the author is talented and I hope he'll produce something of greater scope in the future.

I spotted X-Moto which was missing from the Free Gamer compendium - now rectified. I think X-Moto suffers from a common problem afflicting Free games; not enough level structure. Rather than a fairly easy tutorial and build up of difficulty, the levels quickly assume you have mastered the controls. There are many examples of this; ManiaDrive would be fantastic if it wasn't almost immediately impossible for all but the most experienced or skillful of players - even the first level requires a near-perfect lap to reach the goal time.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Up & Running

Well I've mostly finished tweaking the site. The next step is to work out a few organisational issues - probably using blogs to "store" articles that are linked on the front page and kept up-to-date.

I saw Formido 1.0.1 on Freshmeat and downloaded it. It had to be compiled. The compilation actually failed initially - you had to create a directory 'obj' first for it to perform the compilation.

$ cd formido-1.0.1
formido-1.0.1$ mkdir obj
formido-1.0.1$ make
formido-1.0.1$ ./formido

It's quickly apparent this game is a simpler version of Phobia III. Although not as polished, it's still fun for a few minutes.

Boson got another update. It is a good example of what it takes to create a successful open source game - long term dedication and steady contributions. Some people will do a lot in a short period of time; these projects usually fizzle out. The Free games that succeed are made over years, not weeks or months.

This game has a lot of potential and I wish I had a computer powerful enough to playtest the latest features. Instead I must make do with the screenshots on the web page. Check them out!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Taking Shape

The list of games is almost satisfactory (still more to come). Now I just need to sort out the layout so it's a little less tall and then start posting updates on major developments around some of the slower-to-release titles out there (you know who you are) who are lurking in the shadows and ready to strike out in the name of Free Software gaming!

Freeciv Preview
Freeciv Preview
Apparently good open source games don't exist. Obviously that person hasn't done much digging. I'm missing a lot of multiplayer games from the list (I don't tend to play them) such as BZFlag and Tremulus. They'll be added when it's more organised. Given I'm restricted to what can be done with a blogger template, I'm still working out how I can organise it better.

In the mean time, I'm just looking forward to Freeciv 2.1.0 since it has lovely new hi-res graphics.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Initial Games Added

I've added a bunch of games to the sidebar based on my bookmarks. There's a few missing, but it is a good start on some of the best Free Software games out there.

Welcome to Free Gamer

This blog will serve as a resource for collecting information on upcoming Free Software games. I have accrued a great deal of knowledge of the Free gaming landscape over the last few years and it's time to put it to use.

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