Archive for April, 2006

April Round Up-Up

Wednesday, April 26th, 2006

Yup, I’m a few days behind mentioning this, but this month’s round up is up. A personal favorite of mine, Titan Attacks reigned supreme, followed by the slick steam powered airship game, Steam Brigade, and the un-noted but equally as surprisingly quality Inlay clone, Mosaic: Tomb of Mystery. Fun stuff.

As expected, I’m going to say things are going well with the game, despite the updates. Actually, better than well. Much Biz oriented stuff, which I’m going to have to sit on for a while. Very exciting.

Happy, Orange, Singing, Hooray!And something that made my day today, the Loco Roco demo. Playing it is certainly a treat. The controls are a little tricky, since these things have a mind of their own. Some high speed glitches I’ve been fighting with physics wise, I’m surprised to see, actually show up in this game. I’m starting to suspect I’m just too anal for my own good. I think the art style is awesome, but I’m weird like that. Oh, and did I mention, they sing?

How to annoy the Internet

Tuesday, April 11th, 2006

A condensed version of my previous post seemed to be making the rounds. It’s resulted in several interesting comments and additions from developers and gamers alike. I’ve decided to do your homework, and compile this list. Text in bold are the originals, with my comments in normal type.

Here we go.

GameProducer.net additions:

10. Resize and move all the previously opened windows to the upper-left corner of the screen after returning from full-screen mode.
Oh man… I wish I knew who to blame for this. In a multi-monitor setup, switching screen modes to go full-screen causes your app window positions to get screwed up. Some apps seem to cleanly restore window positions after shutdown, but others leave my maximized windows maximized halfway below the monitor. I suspect though, this is some combination of NVidia/ATI, and Microsoft’s fault. It would be nice if Vista corrected this.

On the same note, full-screen games that don’t restrict the mouse cursor to the full-screen window size… Oh yeah, super annoying! It’s incredibly easy with these games to click outside the window and give another application focus, minimizing your app. Boo!

The solution, all developers should have multi-monitor setups. :D

11: Open Game in FULLSCREEN mode without giving me any choice to Open in window, or even CLOSE/EXIT instead.
I’m not 100% on this one, but I do think certain games don’t need to start full-screen.

Games that take advantage of edge scrolling (RTS’s), ones that disregard the mouse as a pointer and use it as a modifier (SHMUPS, 3D shooters), or any game that needs the atmosphere of a full screen should use it. Casual or toy games that work strictly in a region of your window, and don’t require any constraints should really think about starting in a window.

There’s so many exceptions to this. If your game’s resolution is more than the resolution of the desktop, then it’d be a really good idea to go full-screen. If you can predict the performance of your game will be incredibly slow, due to unaccelerated overlay related operations, yeah, full-screen it.

I wouldn’t “rule” this one, but as a developer, you should really think about it.

GameStudio Forums Additions:

12. Don’t ask whether a start menu should be created or not.
This one doesn’t bother me so much, as long as the uninstaller works. Still, it’s a pretty normal feature.

13. Always install videos on HDD without further asking. Making intro videos extra big and long because there is so plenty of disk space……………….ARGH
That “ARGH” really adds a whole new level of emphasis to this one. With hard drives as large and cheap as they are (200 GB for less than $100 US with a rebate), this one doesn’t bother me at all. I’d rather not have to pull out the CD to play on my PC. But any game with CD based validation should be able to do this for an intro movie.

However, including a freaking huge video with your downloadable… hoo boy! I could have had the dang thing downloaded 300 megs ago! Now that’s worth complaining about.

14. Install extra tools like media players.
In the era post the whole rootkit scare, I agree you’ll lose less friends this way. Bink ain’t cheap though, so working in a free codec like XVID or simply using an ancient version of Windows Media Player could be tricky. Tricky enough to simply, as the developer, decide not to use a video in the first place. Requiring Quick-time on Windows though, those days are long over.

15. Disable CD burning software to avoid warez.
Yeah, use on-line validation instead. :D

I don’t think there are many copy protection schemes that actually stop you from burning, just your copy is useless as a validation disk. These validation disks can be a pain in the arse though. I have a piece of audio software that expires after 30 days of not having the disk in the drive. While this is “better”, it still sucks.

16: Require you to turn off ALL security so all viruses, worms can walk on in from anywhere on the planet.
Yes, installer’s that do this, or tell you to kill other apps, while not commonly games, do suck.

17: The software manual, including install instructions, is compressed in the CAB file on the CD.
Ouch.

18. Ask if you want to create a folder that doesn’t exist (just create it automatically).
I don’t mind this, just in case you accidentally typed in the wrong folder name. One last chance to correct a mistake.

19: Violate other Programs to make them not working.
If someone actually does this explicitly, they’d be my hero.

20: Require a program not on the install disc (like a special direct x version).
More common with download-ables. Even with beta’s or public tests, I have to say, think “self contained” people. Dll’s can sit comfortably in the same directory as the executable, and don’t require to be relocated to Windows/System32.

21: Use three or more disc’s. one to install and two to change during any game (instead one DVD).
This one is fixing itself. Give it a few years, and any high profile game you’d care to play will have a DVD version.

22: Do not allow button configuration.
No, wait… Do allow. But if you can detect the funny key layout, and provide something acceptable, we’d all love you for it.

23: Do not remove all files with uninstall
Been there, done that. ;)

24: Do not run in fullscreen mode.
Contrary to #11, you should run your game in full-screen mode. Don’t listen to this guy, read #11.

25. Always mess around with registry.
Yes. I recommend changing application icons, file associations, and adding your game to the start-up.

26. Use Star-Force copy protection.
Everybody’s favorite protection scheme. I shouldn’t have to say anything about this. Visit digg for the latest dirt.

27. Just convert your console title without adjusting the menu size, the controls etc.
Sure, but with Microsoft’s PC friendly 360 game-pad however, there might be some interest in keeping parts of “360″ mode available. If you have a PC “that good” to run such an app at least.

28. Release bug-fixes only for registered members.
This just isn’t useful way to help sell your product. How the heck will a user evaluating your product know if it actually runs correctly now on their PC?

29. Include many unknown logos and animations while start running the game.
Licensed sport games are great for this. Doesn’t happen in this neck of the woods though.

30. Get half way through a game only to find out the save feature crashes the game.
Or “features” in the game that corrupt your save files… Mmmm… my favorite.

Some further comment’s were rather design oriented, so I decided to separate them.

31. Killer game clock – if it runs out, you die. It prevents users from exploring the levels.
This is a delicate design issue. A game for casual gamers probably isn’t the best one to put any time pressure on. Par times, making it a reward by finishing it within a certain time limit could be a better idea. On the other hand, Katamari without time limits would become “Roll a Ball Around Until You Get Bored” Damacy.

32. Deadly blue water – jump in and you die instantly.
Adding some rational to this, like the tentacle monster in Psyconauts, can add so much to your game.

33. Tricky platforms over a bottomless pit. Miss the platforms, it’s back to the last checkpoint!
Time and place. Super Mario Bros without pit challenges wouldn’t be terrible, but it does add something to the game. Also it’s a matter of balancing your checkpoints. 5 minutes might be too far away from the last one.

34. Use EA as your publisher.
OK, not design as per my previous note. Someone obviously likes the EA jokes. Seriously, if you get EA as your publisher, you’re laughing ’cause you obviously have a product that they think will sell well. Good for you. Go buy yourself an expensive car. Oh I’m sorry, you’re a programmer, artist, or musician. My mistake. Go pay your rent instead.

And there you have it. The Internet has spoken.

8 ways to annoy the panel

Thursday, April 6th, 2006

Now that I’ve succeeded in world domination (also known as syndication), I present to you a short list of complaints to fellow developers. 8 ways to make the monthly round-up panel hate you. Unofficial in every way, as it’s just my observations, but toned a tad sarcastic and sharp to get the point across. It’s not for everyone, as we do get a good number of games that work great. But there’s just enough of them to compel me to write this.

Here we go.

1. Make sure your uninstaller is incomplete and broken.
Obviously I don\'t.Yeah, I love it when my registry is full of crap entries, game folder don’t disappear, or when file associations still exist for applications that are no longer installed. Come on people! It isn’t hard to look in your “Program Files” folder for your game, or do a search with reg-edit to verify your keys are gone. And just ’cause your game doesn’t use keys, it doesn’t mean your installer didn’t. You can backup existing file associations in a dummy registry entry, so an uninstall returns them to their previous state. The goal of a good uninstaller is no trace of your application is left behind (short of backup save files IF the user wants them). With all the problems with spy-ware these days, some developers need honor. May as well be us.

2. Violate my quick-launch bar.
OMG! So much fun!I love this one. The world’s newest and greatest match 3 has decided it’s as important as the rest of my applications I use for daily operations, like surfing the web, checking e-mail, editing files, and doing complex calculations (2+2=PI?).

Please, don’t.

Anyone that knows how to use a quick-launch bar will drag icons from the Start menu, or the desktop. Anyone that doesn’t know how to use it, wont be using it.

3. Use program groups/folders named after your company.
Where\'s Waldo? I hate that guy.Seriously, put things in to perspective. Dirty Fish Chunks Multimedia/ isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Paddle Champion, the Breakout game. Truth be told, we’re not EA. We’re microscopic. We’re nobody’s. It’s the games that has the identity. Don’t let your players get lost in the Start menu, where they can’t even find your game. I personally hate having to run the installer a 2nd time to see where the heck it put a game.

4. Release buggy un-tested games.
Sometimes we’re tolerable of bugs, but other times… hoo boy! I know it’s not always easy to test in a broad number of configurations, but I have to strongly suggest hitting up forums for a pre-release run of your game before you send out press releases and press copies of games.

Do basic usability tests too! Have friends or family who haven’t touched the game sit down and try it, and take note of anything they stumble over.

5. Force installations to the C: drive.
The “C” drive was a pretty reliable place in the DOS days, but some flexibility is always better than none. But in an age of partitions, boot-loaders, low cost removable media, things happen. Prefer wherever “Program Files” can be found, as it’s where most people will gladly put applications. I bring this up as I have a pretty high end PC, but due to a funky combination of a hard drive RAID array, and a USB memory card reader, I don’t have a C: drive… at least not one without a compact flash card inserted.

6. Self extracting archives make great installers.
WinZIP/WinRAR isn’t an installer! NVidia and other hardware manufacturers might think they’re totally awesome giving me a self extracting archive that dumps their driver to a folder, where I need to find the secret “setup.exe” file. This sucks. Your installer should all be self contained. Installation, and uninstallation.

Deuce7. Sh*t on my desktop.
Alawar! Seriously! Stop it! Do whatever you want in your program group on my start menu, but the desktop is off limits. You can give me an icon for the game, sure, but your website links weren’t invited.

8. Don’t test with non-standard or international keyboard layouts.
That\'s not QWERTY!?!Since the internet is clearly limited to the US, there’s no such thing as non US keyboards. Oh wait! There’s actually a 2nd standard US style keyboard, and it’s called DVORAK. It’s nowhere nearly as popular, except in geek circles. As a fellow geek, at least respect your peers. Then respect your customers who live abroad. Install a French, Spanish, or German keyboard layout and play your game for 5 minutes. This can be done from the Control Panel/Regional and Language Options. It adds a nifty little 2 character group to your bar, that drops down so you can select the language mode for the currently running application. Try it.

*** Bonus ***

9. Laptops don’t exist.
There’s this thing on many laptops called a condensed keyboard layout. It takes the numeric keypad part of the keyboard, and puts it in an awkward place, often only accessible via a magic key that lets you toggle them instead of normal keys. Let me explain… it’s hard to play a game that requires these keys on a laptop!

And there we have it. Rant ovah.

And there goes the 1st

Sunday, April 2nd, 2006

Action Heart! Go Heart! Go Heart!So, that’s what happens on the 91’st day of the year shows up, your name is Mike, and you want to poke fun at casual gaming. You end up with a human body themed match 3, and an outrageous story that I don’t even want to rationalize. And yes, all Mike’s were thinking the exact same thing.

Yeah, this post is a rather plain one. Just a confirmation that yes, that was a joke, and an excuse to do an image dump. I especially like how the action pose heart turned out. So much, I’ve been thrusting my arms in to the air all day. The funny looks from people are obviously looks of jealousy.

And here comes the team.

Body Team Go! Fight for good and something.

And together they form.

Cap-tain Jean Luc Pic-card of the star ship en-ter-prise

I couldn’t find a Captain Planet picture I liked, and besides, Jean Luc Picard is a way better Captain, and he totally destroys Captain Planet.

Over the course of the day, these “body parts” have also turned in to test objects for the game, as we’re short on interesting things… at least one’s we’re not embarrassed to show.

Oh, and I did receive a request for the art assets, which I shared, so there might actually be a playable game on the way. Pretty crazy for an April fools joke. ;)

Have a good one.

I ‘Heart’ Anatomatch

Saturday, April 1st, 2006

April 1st, 2006 – Dr.Soft Inc, a leading developer of medical imaging solutions has partnered with Sykhronics Entertainment to bring you Anatomatch: Inside the Human Body. Anatomatch brings the wonderful world of anatomy and addictive matching game-play together in a synergy of edutainment awesomeness. Anatomatch represents an innovative gaming experience targeting medical professionals, and students.

Featuring the patent pending “Full Body Match“, where 5 organs are matched by their connectivity in the body. For extensive educational value, the game features insightful medical trivia between levels. As well, the game includes our double patented trademark advanced Higher Score™ system, suitable to the needs of educational institutes and drunken late night skirmishes with your friends.

Anatomatch is under review by the National Medical Institute as “fast track” alternative to a 4 year college undergraduate degree in medicine.

“We’re pleased to be working with Dr.Soft towards enhancing medical education.” says Dr.Daniel Watson, NMI, “I’ve been in medicine for 16 years, and I earned an impressive high score of 2,123,200 points! We’re considering the half million point mark being the target of an education, and replacing the legacy ‘years experience‘ system with a sophisticated measurement of every 100,000 point above half million. I believe this system is without flaw, and don’t see how anyone without 5 years of medical experience could break the 1 million mark.”

Visit www.anatomatch.com to learn more, and enter the wonderful world of medicine today.

About Dr.Soft Inc.
The leading manufacturer of professional imaging solutions, Dr.Soft Inc. has been delivering high-quality, innovative graphics, display and video solutions for more than a quarter pounder century. Dr.Soft has been long recognized as the undisputed leader in neato technology, image quality, image acquisition and management, support, reliability and overall quality, with a comprehensive set of solutions addressing a variety of professional market segments. Dr.Soft brings its experience and renowned technology to the medical imaging market with its line of display controllers, designed to meet the crucial needs of medical imaging professionals, and for playing Halo. A privately held company headquartered in Montreal, Canada, Dr.Soft has international offices in the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Your Mom, Germany, Italy and King Kong. Information on Dr.Soft solutions and more can be found at: http://www.doooom.com/

About Sykhronics Entertainment
A leading developer of artificial products artificially targeting artificial Internet and world wide holidays… Artificially. A grey and purple Internet website with 3 images and an e-mail link can be found at: http://www.sykhronics.com

Developed with Kasual Kit.

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