Sunday, June 20, 2010

Let the games begin

Yer all watching the game? Football I mean? I'm not a big football fan (or from any other sport), but I like the vibe a festivity like this brings. Good excuse to visit the bar on a normal working day, eating "bitterballen" with mustard, watching grown up men acting like idiots, and of course criticizing our football players while most of us are already tired after a 10 meter sprint. Luckily Holland is still in the game for the next rounds, so we don't have to miss the orange flags and silly collectors garbage from the supermarkets yet.

Kinda funny an event like this shakes up the whole planet. After all, it's just a game right? Oh well, guess we all like games. Why else would I try to program one? I used to play videogames quite a lot in the past, but lately I only start the console or PC sporadically. Probably because 75% of my free time goes into this project, but there is also something else going on. I bought Mario Galaxy 2 one week ago, which is a great game. But still, the magic is a little bit gone. I don't blame Nintendo, it's just my mindset. I'm getting old and boring, my fantasy is getting rusty, and I just can't get that fanatic anymore (which is why I wonder about grown up men fighting each other for a game of football).

Games just don't suck me in that much anymore. I really wish I could switch over to my younger years when playing Mario, GTA, Zelda or anything else. But hey, you can't stop that process. Let's water the flowers and knit a nice warm trouser for my grandson.

Proudly represented, or something

When I DO play games, it's typical that I prefer the older ones. Red Alert, Doom2, Farcry, or even Crusader no Remorse. For some reason, they have a higher "fun factor" if you ask me. Nostalgia plays a big role of course, because it’s reminding me to times where I really enjoyed that game. But maybe old games were actually more fun as well…? I don't know. But I must say there are some "shortcomings" when it comes to gameplay nowadays.

While old games were often difficult (and frustrating, tortured my SNES controllers many times), games these days are often short and simple.. -accessible-. In games like Metroid for the SNES you had to figure out everything yourself. But now you have a GPS navigator and a personal assistant that leads you through as if you were retarded. Clues to puzzles are more obvious, and especially the “quick-save & load” takes away lots of the suspense in my opinion. In Mario 1, you had to restart the entire f#cking game if you got hit by Bowsers fireball in level 8. No wonder these final boss battles were bloody tense and joysticks would fly around after failing (it was always the controllers fault, it didn’t jump). In Call of Duty, -supposed to be a tense and somewhat realistic game-, you can get killed 16 times per minute. Press a key to jump in the action again. It doesn’t matter if you snipe, throw grenades or kill that Taliban with your helmet. Just keep loading and you’ll pass sooner or later anyway.

Thanks to cheating cpu in Mario Kart, impossible jumps in Mario 3 and terrible games like Adventure Island I was patient enough to finally get that !@#$@# curtain working. Sort of...Normals aren't 100% correct.

I know why that is. Kids these days are being said to have a shorter attention span. Or do simple games like these actually make them impatient?? I'm a very patient person, almost never stressed... Maybe because I had to manage my anger and kept trying after Donkey Kong fell in the ravine 30 times in a row. Anyhow, not only the difficulty, but also other aspects of games seem a little bit too polished for me nowadays. Like Hollywood movies, everything is based on proven commercial ingredients. Make a juicy engine with good graphics, 10 hours gameplay, gas-masked opponents that chatter lots of bullshit instructions that makes them sound intelligent, bullet-time action. And as for the hero; a silent stubbled man that drinks black coffee while reloading his shotgun. By the way, his family got killed in an “accident”…

Not all games are like that, but still I think developers experimented more in the past. Resulting in a range from terrible products to unique jewels. I have a feeling that the average quality is better these days, but I'm missing the outliers. Almost as if they are ashamed to put in some new/unique/risky elements. Even the music in games is kind of bland(except GTA maybe). While we were rocking and bouncing in Castlevania, Carmageddon, Crusader, or Command & Conquor, games play it safe these days with classical ambient, mediate rock or jungle drums when the bullets start flying, or just plain silence to keep it serious.

This picture has nothing to do with this story, but I had to post something. Keep reading.

There is a reason for everything. Games have become a million dollar business. Selling rates have become more important than creating an unique product. A good example might be Resident Evil. Although I really like the last two releases, I'm missing the original style. RE1 was a scary and tactical game. 4 and 5 are just shooters that feel very comfortable. The reason why they switched over is obvious: 95% of the positional buyers probably doesn't like the difficult controls, fixed camera's, slow paced action, back-tracing, and difficult puzzles. Resident Evil 4 & 5 are excellent products, but how about the fans of the original? There is not really a substitute  a died out genre, because it didn’t sell.

I might be restricted by money, skills and time, but at least there are no deadlines or persons telling me what to do for this game. Rather than for the money, it’s the passion that drives to make this game. If it would ever see daylight, I doubt if it will be swallowed by the “mainstream” as well, as it’s going to be a pretty different game. Then again, movies like “Reservoir Dogs” or “No country for old man” were pretty different as well… Well, I should be already happy if I could even get near finishing this whole thing. Sorry I didn't produce much visual results this week, but there is definitely work in progress.

Clean sheets son? As for the technical portion this week, I chose to import the clothobjects from a Lightwave file, rather than building grids and defining attachment points in the editor. I can just make any shape in Lightwave, and call it “cloth”. Attachment points are defined with weightMaps.

Since arbitrary shapes are allowed now, I had to change a few things. The constraints with neighbor particles can vary for each vertex. So I pass the lookup coordinates and distances from the neighbor particles inside the vertex data.

Next step; attaching to dynamic bodies. If you wonder why I’m wasting so much time on those damn sheets… One of the characters in the movie doesn’t want to appear naked..

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