Monday, July 30, 2012

Sit Rep 7

Didn't have any opportunity to work on this during the weekend so I need to keep things short this time.

The DayZ Update

Continuing the video content this week with my first group gameplay video. Things definitely could have gone better but I think we learned a lot from the experience and I'm hopeful that the video will be useful or at least entertaining for everyone.

If possible, I will try to get the rest of the useful footage from this session posted before the next Sit Rep but no promises.

Shout Out: The 2012 Summer Olympics

No, not the video game based on them but the actual 2012 Summer Olympics taking place in London as I write this. Take a break from button mashing and embrace the spectacle of real flesh-and-blood human beings pushing themselves to the limits of their physical and mental ability.

If you have any appreciation for the human body and the amazing feats it can be trained to perform, you should be watching the olympics. If not, fix that. :)

When I say short, I mean short. :) Until next time, have a good week folks!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sit Rep 6

This is gonna be a big one...

The DayZ Update

I've been doing these for several weeks now and I've come to the conclusion that something has been missing from them. As much as I enjoy writing about "DayZ" and my experiences with it, I feel that words alone don't always capture what makes it such a compelling gaming experience.

So, I've decided to add some video to these posts whenever possible to (hopefully) make them more interesting and engaging for you and better convey just what this whole "DayZ" thing is all about from my perspective.

To kick things off, I have not one but two videos with commentary depicting trips through Balota, which is one of the scariest areas for new players to spawn into in the game.

The first takes place at dusk and has been tweaked with YouTube's automatic lighting adjustment tool to make everything a little easier to see. The down side to this is that scenes that were extremely dark look very blurry when adjusted in this manner but I figured it was better for things to be visible and blurry than completely dark.

I know a lot of people, myself included, don't generally enjoy video of this game in the dark; however, something happens at the end that made it worth keeping and posting for me, so I highly recommend skipping to about 45 minutes in if the nighttime setting isn't doing it for you– just so you can see the end.

The second video is much more along the lines of what I intend to do on a regular basis and should (again, hopefully) be entertaining and useful for anyone interested in "DayZ" videos.

And for those of you who just can't get enough of me playing and talking about "DayZ," here is the Test video I did earlier in the week that has a few minor A/V problems but was still worth posting in my opinion.

Beyond all that, I managed to make a pretty strong recovery from the horrifying incident that led to me losing my precious M14 AIM when I immediately got attacked by a random player with a hatchet as I was logging in while in the middle of the woods. I managed to shoot and kill him as I went down, but was unable to find the bodies having been quite literally in the middle of nowhere when it happened. :(

Fortunately, I was able to use that incident as an opportunity to make the above videos and in a matter of hours was able to build up a new character that has already gotten into all sorts of adventures that I'll talk about next time.

Shout Out: QnOmniKai

I know this is starting to feel like a "DayZ" blog and I promise to come up with a "non-DayZ-related" shout out for next week, but I do want to give it up for one of the best "DayZ" streamers on (QnOmniKai). If you like watching people play "DayZ" live, this stream is hard to beat with its quirky, good-time feel, giveaways, viewer participation and generally positive tone. Chat is well moderated for the most part and Kai generally comes across as a good guy trying to have a good time with a good game and good friends. Definitely worth a look if you ask me.

QnOmniKai (via

Development Update

Wrapping up a lot of the game logic and game data manipulation code this week. It's all still fairly brutal but I'm starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel now. Should have it pretty well in hand by the end of the month.

Unfortunately, I'm still very much behind with regard to my self-imposed development schedule as a result of several of these recent programming tasks taking significantly longer than I'd originally predicted. Everything will get done eventually but it's looking doubtful that I'll be able to finish the game before the holiday game release season starts.

This has me thinking that it may be a better idea to wait to announce and release the new game until after the holidays so that I can spend more time polishing it and avoid the situation I found myself in with "Powergrids–" struggling to get media coverage amid a sea of triple-A game releases.

In any case, I'm going to need to start dividing my time between developing the new game and some paying work in the not-too-distant future to keep myself afloat financially but I still have a few weeks left to focus and get as much done as I can before circumstances change.

In the meantime, I'll try to make these development updates interesting, but I may need to stop doing them every week if I can't think of anything more compelling to say than "I'm doing a ton of really boring and difficult work that's essential to making a great game." :)

Powergrids - (My current iOS game.)

Whew... That was a lot of stuff! Until next time, have a good week folks!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sit Rep 5

Yup... Definitely Mondays. :)

The DayZ Update

In good alpha software fashion, last week's "DayZ" update to 1.7.2 was quite the event. For a good chunk of the week, there were some pretty scary problems such as players losing all their gear when changing outfits and enough server instability to make a Windows admin blush but things fortunately got sorted out by the weekend and we were treated to a pretty stable build that has brought the infected behavior one important step closer to where it needs to be.

It's now much easier to dump aggro by breaking the zombie's line of sight and going quiet and their new tendency to not attack what they can't see goes a long way toward dealing with the classic "I'm being attacked through a wall" issue, but God help you if there's a window in that wall. :)

Still, the improvements and tweaks are quite welcome and the game once again feels like it's progressing toward true greatness.

In terms of my personal adventures with it, took a trip up to "Devil's Castle" with a buddy, which was very cool to see in person and yielded a few nice items like a pair of binoculars and an ALICE pack. Also managed to hit up a barracks for an AKM and a PDW, which I'm starting to appreciate as an alternative to the Makarov. Sure, it has terrible stopping power, but you can still kill zombies with a single head shot and the fact that you can use various high-capacity 9mm magazines in it makes it feel more useful than I'd originally given it credit for being the first time I found one.

Even got to do some hunting having finally acquired all the necessities for killing, gutting and cooking animals in the wild. It's funny how excited this game can make you about finding a book of matches.

But the real coup was looting an M14 AIM with 3 DMR mags in a deer stand. I'm still kind of in shock at my good fortune with that one and now live in a constant state of fear knowing that I will eventually lose it.

All things considered, a very productive weekend and a great time for those of you interested in getting into the game with the various sales on "ARMA II" in effect. Don't know about those sales? You would if you were following me on Twitter. :)

Shout Out: Lord of the Rings: War in the North

As promised, I have a special video shout out this week for one of the best, most overlooked co-op games of 2011.

Not sure if this will be a recurring thing or if I'll use more video here in the future. I was immediately reminded working on this how much harder and more time consuming it is to produce video content, but I certainly won't rule it out if only to keep those skills from going away completely.

I should also mention, if you're new to the blog and looking for more co-op possibilities, you may want to check out my "11 Best Co-Op Games of 2011" post as well.

Development Update

Not a lot to talk about this week. Been slogging my way through a lot of boring work with data structures, establishing how relevant game data is tracked, manipulated and stored. It's one of many totally un-glamorous yet absolutely critical aspects of game development that doesn't make for good blog posts but will absolutely make a better game, so wade through it I must. :)

Powergrids (My current iOS game)

That's it for now. Nothing to tease for next time but I have a few ideas. Have a good week folks!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Sit Rep 4

heh - Looks like Monday is going to be the day for these. Can't seem to get them done during the weekend. Oh well– moving on...

The DayZ Update

It must be time for a new patch because I'm starting to feel too comfortable with Sure, there are about a million problems with it but being on the same build for a couple weeks has made it a lot easier to work around them. Spent some quality time in Stary Sobor and Novy Sobor this weekend and came away from it re-thinking my approach to the game.

For me, the best, most interesting part of "DayZ" is the survival element. Scavenging, exploring the environment, keeping the infected under control– that sort of thing.

That's not to say that I'm against PvP. I totally get it. It's an exhilarating part of the experience when there's some point to it but a lot of what passes for PvP in "DayZ" is just lame. People shooting unarmed players or shooting each other just because they can.

I understand. Shooting people in the face is fun. I do it all the time myself in other games but I can't help feeling like a lot of the people who are playing "DayZ" are kinda missing the point of it. Where it's at its best; where it really shines is when it shows how much more people can do when they work together and help each other thrive.

Of course, often times this leads to groups of players banding together simply to take advantage of smaller groups and solo players but at least they're experiencing the co-operative aspect of the game. And to be sure, there are such groups that engage other players with an impressive degree of skill and style. See this week's shout out for more on that.

My point is that it would be nice if folks put a little more care into the way they play "DayZ" and put themselves into the mindset of actually being in that situation and thought about what they would really do if they couldn't just re-spawn. But of course, they can re-spawn, so there's nothing for them to lose beyond their gear, which an experienced player can effectively replace in a few hours.

It makes me think. Perhaps you should only be able to have one death per-server, per-month or something like that? Something that gives death a real sting, and perhaps the game should actively mess with people who kill players; spawning more and more-potent zombies around them or de-spawning attractive loot as they approach it. I know Rocket has been experimenting with the humanity system so sub-systems like this might already be in the works but it seems to me like something the game really needs to evolve.

Shout Out: Sacriel

As I mentioned in "The DayZ Update," this week's shout out focuses on a YouTuber who highlights high-level "DayZ" gameplay. There's not a lot more to say about his channel but if you really like PvP in "DayZ" and are looking for some well-done videos on the subject that show just how effective a group of players can be, this guy's stuff is definitely worth a look.

He also has a nice (if slightly outdated) "DayZ Beginner's Guide" video that's a solid starting point for new players and some cool videos for "Battlefield 3" and some other games as well.

Development Update

Unsurprisingly, not a lot of feedback on last week's questions. This re-enforces my long-standing theory that the surest way to not get any feedback on your content is to ask for it. :)

Some of you may be wondering about my own thoughts on those questions, so I'll address them:

I believe in Universal Apps. If I buy an app for the iPhone, I want to be able to use it on my iPad and I want it to make effective use of the characteristics of that device– namely, the larger screen. As a developer, I am acutely aware of the extra work this adds to a project but I've always believed that it's time well spent and something that consumers appriciate even if they're not able to take advantage of it at the time of purchase.

I'm a fan of the "Apple TV." I think there's a tremendous potential for that device to be used in conjunction with other iOS devices beyond the basic connectivity already established via "Home Sharing" and "AirPlay." Will my game support the "Apple TV?" Perhaps. It's one of the features that's currently on the bubble that I may need to cut to get the project wrapped up in a reasonable amount of time but I'm definitely interested in doing more with "Apple TV" and there's always the possibility of a post-launch update for it.

Multiplayer is something I wrestle with when it comes to iOS development. On one hand, I like the idea of providing a wide array of real-time multiplayer modes that involve multiple devices on the same network or communicating with each other via "Game Center," but I hesitate to invest a lot of time in features that might not see a lot of use from the average player. With things like leaderboards and achievements to stimulate competition and provide goals to players, how important is full-blown multiplayer in a mobile, turn-based strategy game? For example, I love co-op gameplay as a general rule but is this the right project for it? I believe it might be but again, can I get it implemented in time and what might I have to sacrifice to do so?

These are the sorts of questions and dilemmas developers face all the time and inevitably we all have to come to our own conclusions about them but I thought you might enjoy getting some insight into that process and having the opportunity to voice your own opinions about it.

Powergrids - (My current iOS game.)

That's it for this week. I've got something (hopefully) interesting and cool lined up for next week's shout out, so look forward to that! :) Have a good week folks!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Ground Branch Kickstarter

I tweeted about this the other day but with just 24 hours left to go for their Kickstarter, I wanted to give a quick shout out to BlackFoot Studios and their tactical FPS "Ground Branch."

I know, I know. "Another military-themed shooter?" but before you "meh" this one you should really check it out:

It may seem like a minor point to some, but I've definitely lamented the slow and steady demise of realism from the FPS genre over the past ten years. "Battlefield," "Call of Duty," "Ghost Recon," "Rainbow Six" and many others have lost their edge to varying degrees and we're fast approaching a state where "ARMA" will be the only game in town where tactical FPS gameplay is concerned.

Don't get me wrong. "ARMA" is a very cool sim and I'm absolutely looking forward to "ARMA III" but the FPS genre has more than enough room for multiple games with an emphasis on realism and I am very much in favor of a game that fills the gap between pure action and pure simulation.

 If you agree, check out the "Ground Branch" Kickstarter and tell your friends about it. They still have a lot of money to raise in the next day, but stranger things have happened.

And yes, there will be a "Sit Rep" this weekend. :) And yes, I would still like to read your comments on my most-recent Development Update. :)

Monday, July 2, 2012

Sit Rep 3

Didn't quite get this done over the weekend. I blame "Game of Thrones: Season 1." :)

Anyway, you know the drill by now:

The DayZ Update

Not a lot to report this week. 1.7.2 was originally scheduled for Monday, then Wednesday. Now it looks like today will be the day. In which case, I should have some time to check it out before my next post.

I do have to say that the bugs in the "ARMA II" engine are starting to take their toll on my enjoyment of the mod. Whether it's getting hung up on scenery when trying to turn around in tight spaces, or not being able to close doors behind me while being chased by zombies because the interface for doing that is too slow and clunky, or just having zombies warp around while I'm trying to shoot them if the connection to the server isn't pristine– there's just an awful lot of jank in "DayZ" that's easy to overlook when you first start playing because the overall experience is so unique, but that rears its head with a vengeance once the honeymoon ends.

I'm still very enthusiastic about "DayZ" and will definitely continue to play it and submit feedback to the development team to help improve it as time allows but I need to limit my time with it so I can play some more polished games as well– lest the issues with it drive me mad. :)

Civilization V: Gods & Kings

Got a chance to play a few hours of this over the weekend with a buddy. As much as I liked "Civilization V" (Civ) and appreciated many of the changes Firaxis made to the Civ formula with it, I was definitely disappointed in certain aspects. The utter removal of religion being one of the biggest offenders.

As you might expect, the "Gods & Kings" expansion does a lot to remedy that but the jury is still out as to whether it goes far enough or not.

Things start off really well with the game allowing for the founding of pantheons in the early stages and full-blown, fully-customizable and upgradable religions in the mid-game. This gives you a staggering number and combination of perks that you can use to complement your play style, civilization's natural tendencies or resources to really open up the game in new and interesting ways.

Unfortunately, like many of the systems in Civ, religion seems to be front loaded to give you all the best and most interesting choices and opportunities for interaction early in the process, with the results of those early choices playing out automatically and without intervention later in the game.

Having not completed a game and having barely scratched the surface of the espionage system, the other big inclusion, I'm reserving judgement on the product as a whole, but if nothing else, it has caused me to go back and play more Civ and enjoy it more than I have in the past thus far, so in that regard it's already a winner.

Shout Out: Super Monday Night Combat

I've talked about this free-to-play, 3rd-person MOBA game before but I wanted to bring it up again because I've seen the community for it dwindling over the past few weeks and want to do my part to try to reverse that trend.

SMNC is a great game. It deserves to be way more successful than it is. If you only played the beta or only played at launch, you should give it another look. There have been a steady stream of patches and content updates that have addressed nearly every possible technical complaint with the game and it is without a doubt one of the best, most polished free-to-play games out there right now.

I completely understand why some people might not like SMNC due to personal preferences regarding its esthetics or some of the design decisions that are critical to its unique gameplay, so I'm not going to suggest that everyone should love it like I do, but it absolutely deserves a chance to win you over if only due to the sheer amount of effort and care its developers have clearly put into it.

Development Update

Plugging away at the monster that is my "to do" list. With only a month to go of hardcore development time before I need to start dividing my time between the project and looking for new work, I find myself pondering some decisions that you folks might be able to help me with.

To begin, I will reveal a clue about the nature of the game. It is a turn-based strategy game for iOS. I mention this because I have a few dilemmas about it. As such, I'm going to ask some questions that I'd like any of you who might consider buying such a thing to comment on if you're so inclined.

How important are Universal Apps to you? Would you rather pay $1.99 for an app that runs on both the iPad and iPhone/iPod or $0.99 for an iPad-only or iPhone-only version? Of course, the easy answer is that you want to pay $0.99 or $0.00 for the universal app but to be blunt, I need to eat so that's not going to happen. :)

How important is a feature like Apple TV integration to you? Would you be more likely to purchase a game that gave you the option to use your device like a controller while displaying the primary game screens on a television via Apple TV?

How important is multiplayer to you in a turn-based strategy game? Local Play? Network Play? Play-By-Mail? Co-Op? what if any of these multiplayer modes do you look for most when making a purchasing decision?

Obviously, I have my own ideas about all of this, which I'll share next week, but I am genuinely interested to know what you think.

Powergrids (My current iOS game.)

That's it for now. Back to the grind and such. Have a good week folks! :)