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Showing posts from 2009

Future of Adventure Game Interaction

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Introduction
Interactions in adventure games has gone from written input (aka "text adventures") to todays mouse controlled (and often single-button-driven) games. There still exist text adventures though, although now called "Interactive Fiction", and here the complexity of interaction has increased instead of becoming simpler. It seems like the way of interacting has on one end gotten more and more complex over the years, while on the other end it has gotten more and more simplified. What I want to explore in this post is if this great polarization has made us miss out on other ways to interact in adventure games and in what other ways interaction might be possible.


History
Before moving on to the core of this post I need to very briefly discuss the history of interaction. It is always important to know the past in order to figure a way to progress in the future.

The first adventure game created was Colossal Cave Adventure, aka "Adventure", which was built …

Wishing you and yours a happy holiday season

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On Versioning (or how the simplest thing can save you from the hardest pain)

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Been there, know the feeling...

Long titles aside, this is no flashy post. Some will even find it a bit boring, but if at least one can learn anything from it, I will be happy. The motivation for it comes from an often overlooked issue. I now must tell how a work day can eventually turn out:

A freelance artist we are working with found this really strange and annoying crash bug in the LevelEditor. One point listed in the Luis's standard procedure manual when working with bugs says "first, check the logs, see if anything looks strange there", next one states: "try to reproduce, and work your way on from there". Happened that the logs looked alright, and no one in the team could reproduce the bug in their machines, me included. So neither of these points threw any light into the issue.

It started to look like I was staring at one of those errors that no one wants to deal with, caused by hardware incompatibilities or similar ├╝bernice stuff (oh boy).

A new log seemed t…

New Link

I added a new link, I was sadly remiss in not adding it earlier; the Yahoo group Sci-Fi Concepts And Designs. Hosted by the talented JBR; John Bear Ross

Description: This group is a forum for discussion, feedback, and showing off futuristic designs and prototypes made by professional and amateur artists, digital and otherwise. "Hands-on" Artists, 3D Artists, and vendors of prototyping services, CAD/CAM/CNC, and other aspects of production are welcome to post.

Also invited are those of you out there who are interested in turning visions of the future not just into pretty pictures, but models you can hold in your hot little hands.

This is where I and many talented digital artists and sculptors discuss sci-fi and computer aided design for the gaming industry.

Drop in and say hello.

Some work for MERCS

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John Bear Ross was stacked with work and very graciously referred his client to me to have some work done.

I recently had the opportunity to work with Tom, Keith and Brian over at MERCS http://www.mercsminis.com/ They make stellar miniatures for you 28mm sci-fi fans.
The art they supplied made my job a breeze, as I could see from the highlighting what the curve and angle of each component was meant to be in the design process.

Level Editor Video - The Inside Scoop

Continuing the topic of my last post, here comes a post about the creation of our latest video...

What we wanted to do in this video was to show how quickly you can create something playable using our Level Editor. So we decided to take 30 minutes to build something, use another 10 minutes at most to do some gameplay scripting and then finally show it all in game.

To make it all viewable without spending more than 40 minutes watching a video we time lapsed it all down to about 8 minutes. While working on the video we also wanted to add a voice, describing what was going on, but it did not work very well. To make this properly, you should write down what you want to say first, then record and edit the material after the spoken text. So it got difficult to make a voice that would have enough time to properly say what was going on during the very fast level editing (due to the time lapse). As I was battling with this problem I had a chat with Thomas, who joked that I could "write it …

Horror Tip: Beacon

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Name: Beacon
Type: Game (Windows exe)
Link:Download and short info
The core of the game is simple: You are trapped in a cave and need to escape. To do so one must go through gloomy caves avoiding darkness at all cost. Helping the player accomplish this are crystals that spread light and a mysterious beacon that moves around, illuminating the surroundings where it goes. The game starts out slow and then progressively get more challenging.

This is not really a horror game, but the way darkness is handled makes it quite interesting. First of all since darkness is deadly it serves as a sort of unseen foe and it is up to the player's imagination to decide what hides in the shadows. The brief and sometimes obscure text messages at death also add to this and leaves what happens to the player open for interpretation.

Even though the game is really simple in its graphics, the darkness makes one feel like there are more details than what there really is. Many times one gets a quick look at som…

Video Editing Hell - Linux to the Rescue!

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I'm the proud owner of the oldest and crappiest computers here at Frictional Games. This is very unfortunate, to say the least, considering I'm the one usually recording videos of our work, editing and then publishing it. For the Penumbra games it worked pretty OK, for Amnesia it works surprisingly well to record videos, probably thanks to a much more polished and optimized game engine. But as online videos increase in quality it puts more strain on my poor computers and I bet that "Security Update" is a synonym for "Force User To Upgrade Computer", which really does not help at all.

I record videos on my PC using Fraps and CamStudio, the former for doing full screen capture of in-game scenes and the latter for partial screen recordings of the editors. These programs save in specific formats that I have to convert into other formats in order to import the videos into the editing software. I have not been really happy with the software that I have used for th…

Leviathan Crusader and Mortis update

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I'm currently working on a project with a NDA so I cannot discuss it until he does a reveal... To fill the lack of posts I thought I would put up some updated pics of my Leviathan Crusader and Leviathan Mortis. You can see the upper leg and engine details that were not rendered in the last pics I posted.

When I get the chance I will model some extra armor for the Crusader as this mech will be heavily armored and slower than its brother Mortis. The weapon load out for each is different but these pics only have the Crusaders weapons as I need to get right back to my clients project.

Some weapons for Comfy Chair Mechs....

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Bob wanted to up size some weapons for his Wolf and Spider Mechs, he sent me some sketches and what I had hoped would be a quick project turned out to take a bit of time. Bob has always been very patient and gracious and even with the unexpected delay he did not break stride. These went off to the printer tonight and I cant wait to see these mounted and ready for combat. You can see the wonderfull mechs these fit on over at John Bear Ross's blog page.

Why Horror Games Suck!

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Inspired by Ron Gilbert's article "Why adventure games suck" I decided to do my own list. To be fair I do not think that all horror games suck (in fact some are really good!), but there are some common problems that pretty much all the games have. These issues hold horror games back from using the medium's full potential and I am convinced that games can be a lot more scary and engaging than what we have seen so far.

I also want to point out that the Penumbra games all have their share of flaws from the stuff below and are by no means exceptions from the rule. However, it is always a start to notice what kind of flaws that exist, so that one can work upon fixing them. It is our goal that our upcoming game Amnesia will minimize on these sucky aspects! Now that I have lined up the mistakes, it would be quite stupid to step into them.


Control is taken away when things get scary
"The protagonist enters a seemingly empty room, starts looking around when suddenly a stra…

Flymech back from the printer and metal master form the caster

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I love seeing the completed prints!

Horror Tip: Korsakovia

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Name: Korsakovia
Type: Game (Half Life 2 Mod)
Link:Mod DB page (info + download)
Masterminded by the same guy that made Dear Esther is a highly experimental horror game about a man with Korsakov's syndrome. Its tag line goes:
"The paramedics report that they were unable to find his eyes. We think he may have eaten them."

If you like me find that awfully intriguing then go on and play the game now and read the rest of the post later!

I have put up posting a horror tip for Korsakovia for quite a while because of the simple reason that I have not been able to complete it! I have still not managed to do so, but thought it was time to make a post about it anyway. My inability to complete it highlights the strength and weakness of the game quite well: First, the game is quite demanding on your eyes and ears with a dark environments and extremely unnverving sounds at times. Secondly, the game is frustrating as hell as it is hard to orient oneself in the similarly looking environments…

Mandelbulb comes to Mac!

Finally, to end our fractal-odyssey, the MathFuncRenderer has come to Mac!

Get it here:
http://frictionalgames.blogspot.com/2009/11/fractional-fun.html

As with the Linux version, Edward Rudd is that man behind the port.

If you like it, please spread the word!

Important note:
Because of some strangeness with Nvidia osx drivers, the program is unusable on some Nvidia cards. 7300 GT under Leopard under leopard is know to have this problem, and there might be more.

Mandelbulb explorable in Linux

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A Linux version of the MathFuncRenderer has now been built and uploaded!
All this has been possible because of our Edward Rudd who makes all porting for Frictional Games.

Download link and stuff in this post (scroll to end):
http://frictionalgames.blogspot.com/2009/11/fractional-fun.html

If you like it, please spread the word :)

Mac version is also in the works and will come very soon!

For those wondering where all development and horror related post are, then I promise there will be some of that very soon! Got plenty of horror tips to share and more :)

Back at it...

I got side tracked by a few things but I'm back at my customers orders and hope to be back in full swing shortly.

Fractional Fun

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(Programs and Mandelbulb screensshots available at the end of the post!)

This blog post will not be totally game related, but more about the engine and a recent obsession of mine. Do not fear though! It should hopefully still be interested and I will also provide some nice images! Hopefully it will also be able to evoke a sense of wonder too. Read on to find out!

Ten years or so ago I wrote a paper for school about Fractals. These constitute a large variety of objects but what they all have in common is that they have several levels of self similarity. Nature consists of tons of fractals, for example trees and mountains. In games the term fractal landscape was quite common at time and was a way of generating terrain. Although not heard of as much today it is still a part of game making. Below are some examples of fractals, note how the same type of shape appears over and over again:
Now, while doing the paper for school I came across a weird thing called the Mandelbrot Set. This is a ce…

The struggle between Light and Dark

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When making a horror game an important ingredient is the darkness. When in a dark place people tend to be more easily spooked and have a more vivid imagination, a genetic heritage passed on from our ancestors who were hunted by predators at night. Taking advantage of this is important and just changing the light level of an environment can make a huge difference in the scare factor.

Of course one cannot just turn off the lights and hope to make a scary game. The player still need to be able to see something, as watching a pitch black image is not all that exciting. The appropriate amount of light also depends on the type of environment and the type of events that will take place. If the environment is very large, then it might need to be brighter, whereas smaller rooms, where it is easier to navigate, can be darker.

Added to this the player is usually equipped with some kind of lantern or flashlight to help illuminate. In Amnesia (and the penumbra tech demo) the player has a vague ligh…

The dull side of it - Part 1.

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"Jens, I really need to read an email, but the email queue is taking forever to download! It's some guy named Brian that has sent a huge file as an attachment, probably 1MB. If not more!"
The other day I came to think of the above situation, when my dear father was in the need to read some email on the family computer back in 1997/1998. A few days earlier I had come in contact with a fellow named Brian Greenstone who was working on a freeware game and had asked on a game news site if anyone was interested in helping him. I volunteered to try and make some music. I was 18 and studying music during my final year of high school, with a life-long interest in games I thought this was a good opportunity to combine the two interest of mine. We discussed over email and he sent me the test builds of the game as simple attachments and I in turn sent my attempts at writing music back. My family had a 14.4 Kbps or maybe a 28.8 Kbps modem and sending and downloading those attachments …

The Haunter Of The IGF

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After lots of work and little sleep Frictional Games have entered into the IGF, an international competition for indie games, with our upcoming horror! The game is still a while from being completed, but the build we sent in to the competition is a very important milestone and the first version that gives of a taste of what the full game will be like. When creating a horror game gameplay needs to be tested over longer periods of time (because atomsphere, etc requires long build up) and testing the IGF version of the game tells us that we are on the right track!

At the start of the next year we will see if we managed to get nominated! In case you are wondering, Penumbra Overture entered the 2008 competetion (no nomination) and Black Plague did not enter in 2009 because we had financial backup from a publisher (i.e. not indie). Now that we are back as full indie we can enter again!

Now its back to work again!
Brain slugs sure are great motivators!
*Must... serve... hive*