Archive for February, 2010

Where Are All the Good Strategy Games?

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

I would argue that the best RTS of all time is still Starcraft, with Age of Empires 2 coming in second. I was never too into Warcraft 3, and the fact that it’s now only used for DoTA goes to show it’s hardly in SC territory. I liked AoE 3 even less; the units didn’t have clear identities and I’m no fan of the colonial period.

In the turn-based camp Civ 3 is still the reigning champion, with Civ 4 feeling like a major dumbing down of the series regardless of the various Civ 3 issues it addressed. With CivRev continuing the slide into dimwitted cartoon territory, I’m not optimistic about the upcoming Civ 5.

And finally, the best RTS/TBS hybrid is Rome Total War, although to be fair there are virtually no games in this category outside of total war. Nonetheless, both Medieval 2 and Empire failed to match what RTW did. Both had terrible launches with AI issues that made them nearly unplayable, and to this day the combat engine in M2 and Empire is still a step back from their predecessor. Napoleon just looks like an x-pack for Empire, and since I have very little interest in the colonial era to begin with (don’t like the combat or the wigs) I can’t see myself picking that one up.

There really haven’t been all that many recent games in this genre. I didn’t care for Dawn of War 2, though the first one was alright. For me strategy has always been about building and resource management, so I’m understandably not fond of the dumbing down that’s happening in the genre. The new C&C game looks like a perfect example of this trend: everything is turning into a checkpoint-capturing action game, with less thinking and shorter sessions.

I actually bought the Risk-clone Lux Delux a couple weeks ago. Not bad for what it is, but does get old fast. Don’t much care for the ugliness, the generic factions, and especially for the retarded blitzing through enemy territory. Why can enemy armies run through my entire empire in one turn when I can’t move my armies more than a single space?

There have been a couple space strategy games, both in the RTS and TBS fields but they’ve all had flaws, and this has never been my favorite setting to begin with. I did get into a little game called Space Empires V a while back, but ultimately its ridiculous microing and annoying espionage system ruined it.

So what is there to do but make a strategy game myself? It’s either that or wait for Starcraft 2.

Posted in Game Critiques | 2 Comments »


New Theme

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

Picked a new theme for the blog. Not quite the same as actually integrating it into the rest of my site, but still not a bad way to go. It’s certainly better than default.

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Google Adsense is Dumb

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

The descriptions for my games happen to use the word ‘weapons,’ so what do I get? Ads for firearms, body armor and combat training of course! What could be more relevant? Of course it’s just a dumb web crawler, but I’ll never understand why there’s no option to simply choose what types of ads should get displayed. Oh well, I added a few section targeted keywords, so maybe that’ll do something. I’m hoping to get some real ads soon though, so I won’t have to deal with dumb adsense much longer.

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Why I Make Games

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

In one form or another I’ve been making games since the age of twelve, starting with Magic: the Gathering clones made from old business cards. Why is that? What is so special about games or making them? In fact I haven’t even played games all that much by average gamer standards. I like Starcraft but I barely played online at all and never even finished the Terran campaign. I like Final Fantasy but I’ve only finished 8 and 10. I like World of Warcraft but I never got past level 35. I like Civilization 3 but finished a game of it only once. Similar examples abound. It may be that I pick games apart too much and find it easy to give up on them once I find a flaw. That may be one reason why I’ve spent most of my game-playing time with games I’ve been able to modify. This has been most notable with games like Civ 3 and Rome Total War, where it’s easy to go change a unit you don’t particularly like.

This is certainly a part of the explanation: creating the ‘perfect’ game I would like to play myself. But there is more to it as well. One of these is is something I might call ‘systemic representation,’ the amazing ability to take some complex system from reality, and then turn it into a controllable representation. Controlling that representational system is satisfying on its own (aka playing the game) and it’s even more so to define the structure of that representation.

Creating games also gives me something to do with art. I’ve liked drawing and 3D for a long time, but I’ve never cared much for putting a drawing up on the wall. What would be the point? It might be pretty, but you still just glance at it and then walk away. In a game, however, that art serves a purpose, representing something within a system that has a specific function in a much larger context. A mere visual representation of a building suddenly becomes a systemic representation with properties, behavior and relationships to other buildings. This interest in representation also means that highly abstract games of blobs and blocks bore me to death. Regardless of how easy such games can be to make, I have no plans to make any.

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Unknown Sector Released

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Unknown Sector has been on the site for a few days now, but now it’s at last going into general distribution and should start showing up on portals in the next few days. Release is always a nerve-wracking time, with expectations cautiously set and mental preparations made for potential surprises. I’ve only really been through one other release, for Gun Nomads, which well exceeded my expectations in popularity. I doubt Unknown Sector will beat that 106,000 hits/day peak of Gun Nomads, but I’m still optimistic. While it may not have a story or highly textured environments, it is in many ways a better game than Gun Nomads. IMO Unknown Sector does have more gameplay variety, better difficulty scaling and arguably a better sense of progress.

This game has taken me about two and a half months to finish, and it never would have gotten made if I had known it would take that long. I initially thought since I already had so much reusable functionality from my first two games, that making a high caliber space shooter would be a one-month cake walk. I’ll consider this a lesson learned: reusing code only gets you so far. Just because two games lie roughly in the same genre does not mean you can tweak and nudge one game’s code to make the other.

Posted in Current Games | 9 Comments »


Spawning little warrior men is fun

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

I’ve been playing a bit of Warlords: Call to Arms, and I can kinda see why it’s so popular. It may be dead simple and ugly as sin, but spawning all those little dudes is strangely addictive. And I like the lane combat mechanic; it’s almost like chess with a few more corpses. It’s also computing friendly, with only a single dimension to use for collision checks. Battles with this mechanic could potentially be pretty massive without any lag.

But Warlords did grow tiresome quickly. Each battle seemed awfully similar, there was no AI doing anything on the strategic level, and I didn’t feel like buying new units was all that helpful. A powerful unit wasn’t much more effective because of the long cool down you had to sit through. Which was another thing I didn’t care for; just plain boring waiting out those long cool downs.

It seems like a lot more could be done with this concept.

Posted in Random Musings | 1 Comment »


Character Portraits

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

Some characters for an in-progress game involving sky pirates, just so I can say there is some information in this blog regarding upcoming games. Though I like the concept of this game, I may not get to it for a while as I have two other ideas I’d like to get done first. But I may end up using drawn character portraits in one of the other ideas as well. I definitely want to get some of my drawings into a game; it’s just not always easy finding things to do with static art.

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First!!

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

Yay I’ve got a blog!

Apologies for my lack of web skills and the default appearance of this blog. Someday I may try and match it to the rest of the site, but CSS scares me right now, and I’d rather go make some games anyway.

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