Tag Archives: android

Masters of Puppets

Let’s play a mobile game, shall we? One of the top rated ones, preferably, one that promises light-hearted entertainment for the weary traveler, all for the price of watching an advertisement now and again. That seems like a fair deal. A no-brainer, right?

How about that zombie shooter with all the exalted reviews. Best zombie shooter ever made, they say. Best graphics. Looks like a console game. This could be on PlayStation 4, they say. All the cool kids are playing this, they say.

OK, that sounds slightly unrealistic for a mobile game, to the point where your mum would notice it, but let’s not be a party pooper. Maybe the game developers are just really good, right. Right? Don’t look at me like that.

The hook

First off, you get hit over the head with some jizztastic graphic shenanigans powered by Latest Fashionable Game Engine, Improved Shininess. Fire! Smoke! Exploding helicopters! What a show. Looks awesome, almost to good to be true for a mobile game, you think.

Until the first level is over, which happens suspiciously quickly, and you’re dropped in the real game. The hook has been deployed. The façade is ditched quickly. The scripted explosions and bombastic particle effects have faded.

The world turns into the blocky, repetitive sequence of boxes that it actually is. The shine dims into a tasteless, worldwide fake cubemap reflection. The pretense falls by the wayside until you can’t help but notice that fan made Quake levels look better than this pseudo-shiny console-quality wannabe contender.

The vicious circle

The basic gameplay seems surprisingly adequate for a mobile shooter, which these days is good enough to serve as part of the lure, until you realize that it isn’t terribly challenging.

Challenge is merely simulated by turning the basic zombies into bullet sponges over time in order to force you to upgrade your guns, which is otherwise completely pointless because the upgrades don’t actually do anything new. You see, the challenge is a lie.

The game just creates an endless grinding cycle of weapon upgrades that not only cost ingame money (read: your time) but also require you to upgrade the gunsmith first, which requires you to upgrade the tech level first, which requires both extra money and extra time, UNTIL you may then finally upgrade your pea shooter, which makes you wait for another 24 hours.

Bitch.

As if that wasn’t enough, the game will force video ads down your throat while you grind through the merciless slog that will make your gun’s damage output keep up with the ballooning hitpoint count of the common lead pipe zombie. Congratulations, mindless victim, you have been turned into a drooling button pusher while the game developers are laughing all the way to the bank.

But rejoice, there is a way to avoid all that: Paying real money.

The special offer

For just a couple quid, you can have enough gold to buy that upgrade now! Hey, what’s a couple quid, asks the hapless victim as he pulls out his parents’ credit card, tapping blindly down the downward spiral carefully prepared for him.

Hey, says the game, while you have your credit card out, why not buy a premium-only GOLDEN AK 47 for just 50 quid? Your friends will be impressed!

But here’s the thing.

The alternative

Once upon a time, games used to hand you all the cool stuff. You’d get a better, more impressive gun after simply playing for a while. No grinding, no paying for extra premium currency packs. The game would simply give you the rocket launcher, or the grenade launcher, or the crossbow, or the magic wand that freezes enemies so you can shatter them into a thousand pieces with one shot of your immense fertility dispenser.

Just like that.

And enemies would actually behave in more interesting ways the longer you played instead of simply having a variable increased whenever the developers felt they needed to wring some more dollars out of an audience of mindless MasterCard equipped teenage puppets.

And you’d only have to pay once. Up front.

And the best part: These miracle games are still around.

You see, when you can get classic games such as Quake, Half-Life 2, Crysis, or Left4Dead for under ten bucks, and play forever, spending fifty quid on a golden AK-47 in some ripoff mobile shooter looks about as attractive as a can of cold jizz.

And when you can play Team Fortress for free online, or download STALKER : Shadow of Chernobyl as a free, completely playable alpha version from the developer’s website, then spending real money on a premium currency pack for Zombie Money Laundry 2.5 seems to be something only a demented weasel would ever seriously consider.

Don’t fall for it

Here, says the game, with a desperate toothpaste smile, have a free slot machine to win some premium currency! Don’t have enough gold? No problem, ten gold just 3,99! Special offer!

Aw shuddup.

 

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October Debriefing

Well, this month wasn’t quite as netless as I envisioned, but still interesting.

My random internet use has declined, so that’s a sucess. And productivity did go up.

Android

After I bought a Nexus 7, I found out that tablet computers aren’t really more “healthy” than PCs. There is a tendency to overuse them as any “smartphone kid” exemplifies. Plus they definitely aren’t any more ergonomic. Holding that device up and typing/touching with the other arm is perhaps even more grossly unnatural than a PC workplace, which at least can be configured to your needs and doesn’t require you to hold your arms up all the time.

However, some good did come from it:

  • I learned how to build and test applications for Android;
  • I helped the GemRB project with fixing about two dozen bugs and getting their engine running on Android again

DSAhack

Afterwards I went back to working on the PC and on a whim, started to program a roguelike game from scratch which is now at 2500 lines of code and playable. I just got the urge to do some programming again.

Going back from years of QuakeC to actual C holds several traps and pitfalls, because some things that became second nature just are a no-go in C. But I got past that and I enjoyed working on that code tremendously. I may even be able to recycle some of the old Scout’s Journey QC code into this new game, namely the randomized loot system and the weighted random selection.

dsahack

I’ve discussed with others before to create a roguelike based on the pen & paper roleplaying system Das Schwarze Auge (The Dark Eye), a German creation that has been outselling AD&D here since 1984. It’s somewhere between AD&D 3rd ed. (lots of skills and special abilities) and GURPS (combat system, maybe.) It should be cool.

DSAhack can currently load maps as needed (it has a nonrandom overworld consisting of at least 9 map screens but will have semi-randomized dungeons), the player can pass between them and the state is saved, it does collision detection, dynamic level features such as doors and altars, fog of war and shadow casting, although the latter is a hard nut to crack (I’m trying to use my own algorithm) and my code isn’t complete there. The game does not write savefiles yet, although it’s on the list. There aren’t currently any monsters, but they will use the same fundamental creature struct the player uses (Quake’s entities come to mind.)  I’m currently filling that with all the stats from the DSA system, of which there are a lot and it’s somewhat complex. The game is round based of course.

I decided to go with handmade, nonrandom levels because I’m to a large part a level designer guy and I enjoy making those. A random map generator may be included somewhere down the line.

Translation to English is an issue, some of the spell names for instance are really hard to translate and existing DSA video games use translations that are sometimes way off the actual meaning (translating “Armatrutz” as “Fastness of Body” is pretty weird, since trotzen means defy and “arma” means something related to arms or armour, so I went and did my own translation as “Defiance of Arms.”) I also went with a shorter, more to the point translation of many other names because I reckon international players will be thankful not having to read something like “Ice Cold Warrior Heart”, which I render as “Warrior’s Heart” or “Corpofrigo Shock of Cold” which I have as simply “Corpofrigo.” It is important that these names are easy to remember and the spells have descriptions anyway, so why put superfluous information into the title?!

A lot of the pen-and-paper DSA spells are also just crappy or unsuited to a video game. Previous DSA games did a pretty good job of selecting only the working ones, although I reckon I can salvage a bunch more and adapt them into videogame mechanics.

The cool thing about DSA is clearly the special abilities. These are one-off attacks or parries that you may use during combat, comparable to spells but with weapons. They may do extra damage or allow extra parries, knock down opponents, do a roundhouse attack, rain arrows onto the opponent or do a master shot. Special abilities only work with certain weapons, so they can make unusual weapons a lot more attractive to use.

DSAhack is currently a fan project and as of now there is no plan to make money from it. The license holder does encourage noncommercial “fanware” as I’ve read. So this is not going to be a threat to Drakensang Online or whatever else DSA games may exist. I might at some point ask the license holder if they want to collaborate and make this available on Android or whatever. But for now this is just a personal playground.

This is not going to replace Scout’s Journey, it’s just something I started on a whim. I just wanted to see if I could write a game from scratch, and apparently that is the case.

I might do a similar thing again, another month dedicated to art practice or modelling or something, and maybe I’ll eventually manage to go almost netless (I practically only used the net for reading a C manual and Stack Overflow for a week now.)

So yeah, that wasn’t 100% as I imagined it but some cool things came from it.