Category Archives: Non-RPG

Game Maker Studio

Again I am breaking one of the rules that I wrote down when I started this blog. Today I want to write about a topic unrelated to pen & paper RPGs. While pen & paper RPGs are my primary hobby, there are other things I enjoy doing very much. Writing software is one of these.

Of course I am no professional programmer. Back in the 1980s I wrote simple programs in BASIC on my Amstrad CPC 464. Those were exciting times. With a few lines of code you could achieve pretty cool things (at least I thought it was cool back then). Later I switched to Turbo Pascal on the PC. I wrote a couple of pretty crappy games, a simple engine for text adventure games and a database application for my dad.

In more recent years I mostly dabbled in some web-based programming (mostly PHP, some JavaScript). I still enjoy writing code very much, but it has become much harder to be motivated to do so. Generally it has become much harder to come up with worthwhile projects that are also easy enough so I don’t get frustrated too quickly. I always wanted to dabble in game development, but it’s definitely one of the more advanced subjects when it comes to programming.

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Recently I stumbled upon a YouTube playlist by Tom Francis who developed the awesome indie game Gunpoint. He used YoYoGames GameMaker software, which is basically an engine for 2D games with it’s own development enviroment and it’s own programming language called GML. The huge advantage of Game Maker Studio over similar products is that you can get things done very quickly and easily. Of course something like Unity is vastly superior in most aspects, but it also has a much steeper learning curve.

In the free version of GameMaker Studio I was able to write a simple Asteroids clone in about two to three hours. Of course the game is far from being polished. Heck, it doesn’t even has a score counter, no highscore list, BUT you can fly around in a little spaceship, shoot at asteroids and it’s actually fun doing so. So far I think GameMaker is a perfect tool if you want to get results quickly, especially if you prefer the “quick & dirty” approach. The code I wrote definitely doesn’t look pretty and some of the solutions I came up with a at least quirky, but I had a blast adding new features and coercing the PC to do my bidding. Smiley mit geöffnetem Mund

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By the way, if you want to have a look at the latest version of my game (please note that I disabled background music, because it got annoying pretty quickly), feel free to download the Windows executable here (Some antivirus solutions like Avira’s may report the file as potentially malicious, but that’s a false positive – you can trust me). Please let me know what you think.

I’m Back–Let’s talk about gaming!

The last two weeks were pretty relaxing. I managed to recharge my batteries, spend some quality time with my girlfriend, and played a  couple of exciting new games. So without further ado, let’s talk about gaming…

For some reason exciting computer and video games always seem to be released in batches. There are months without anything cool coming out and then suddenly dozens of exciting titles hit the store. In the last weeks I picked up the following video games: Ryse – Son of Rome, Shadow of Mordor, Civilization: Beyond Earth, and last but not least Destiny. I usually don’t talk that much about video games here, but from time to time I make exceptions. Either the games I talk about can be used as inspiration for pen & paper RPGs or they are of a special importance to me. Such is the case with all the games listed above.

imagesLet’s start with Destiny. The multiplayer shooter/action RPG by Bungie has a great art direction and a wonderful setting – even though a lot of the background is just hinted at. For some reason it has a certain Numenera-ish vibe to it, but perhaps that’s just me. If you haven’t done so, you should definitely check out the concept art Bungie has shown off before release – it’s just beautiful! And I am sure there’s more than enough RPG inspiration to be found in the game.

DownloadRyse: Son of Rome is a graphically impressive game, and a pretty impressive combat system which reminds me of the Batman series (Arkham Asylum, Arkham City, etc.). The main reason I’ve picked up the game is the setting. There are not that many third-person action games set in ancient Rome and it’s a lot of fun running around as a Roman soldier slaughtering barbarians. Smiley mit geöffnetem Mund
I am still pretty early in the story, but I like it very much so far. Hmm, perhaps I should eventually run a pen & paper RPG set in Rome one day.

civbeCivilization: Beyond Earth is something I’ve been waiting for a very long time. It’s pretty much a spiritual successor of Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri built on top of the Civilization V engine. A lot of gamers seem not to be particularly happy with the latest installment of the series, but I totally love it. And if you are a science fiction fan like I am, you’ll surely enjoy the vision of the future Firaxis has come up with. And if you are looking for inspiration for a SF campaign, look no further.

Alas I haven’t been able to play Shadow of Mordor for more than a couple of minutes, so I won’t go into much detail here. From what I’ve seen so far, the game is fast-paced and fun, the so-called Nemesis system is a nice touch, and the graphics are not bad on the eyes either.

pic1687157_tAside from computer games I’ve played a couple of boardgames notably 1969 and Battletech. I’ve played Battletech irregularily for the last twenty-two years or so. Recently I picked up the new Introductory Box, which contains a set of high quality plastic miniatures. Even though we haven’t played the game for quite some while, we got back into it pretty quickly and had a blast. One of the scenarios we played was three Inner Sphere ‘mechs (3025 era technology) against one Mad Cat aka Timberwolf. Even though the Inner Sphere ‘mechs had two times the tonnage of the Clan ‘mech, the Inner Sphere guys had no chance. It was still a lot of fun for everyone involved.

pic1364640_tLast but not least let me talk about 1969. According to Boardgamegeek it’s a “push-your-luck style game” in which players are in charge of their nations’ space program. Even though there was some skepticism first, at the end everyone enjoyed the game very much. The rules are pretty easy and a game lasts about an hour. It’s definitely something we could play again on one of our regular pub meetings.

What have you been up to while I was away? Please share your comments below!

Off-Topic: Elite Dangerous

It’s not often that I write about my other, non-RPG hobbies. But there’s one computer game on my mind right now, that I just have to talk about: Elite Dangerous by Frontier Developments.

BBC_Micro_Elite_screenshotElite Dangerous is the latest game in a series that started with the 1984’s Elite for the BBC Micro written by David Braben and Ian Bell. Elite was the first computer game that had an open-world, real 3D graphics and could be played for months. Its successors Frontier: Elite II and Frontier: First Encounters came out in the mid-90s and had much better graphics, a more realistic universe including a realistic flight model. Frontier: Elite II is one of the games I enjoyed very much, even though it had a lot of technical issues.

Hmm, perhaps I should write a few sentences about what Elite is about. In the original game you started with a Cobra Mk III space ship in the Lave system and some credits you could spend on trade commodities. You could then try your luck as a trader, pirate, or bounty hunter. The overall goal was to reach Elite status, but how you reached that goal was up to you. In Elite there were 6 galaxies with 256 stars each you could explore. In the upcoming Elite Dangerous you’ll have the whole Milky Way to explore. In a way it will be THE open-world game!

For some reason I missed the Elite Dangerous Kickstarter but during the last months I almost watched every piece of Alpha footage I could find on Youtube. The graphics definitely look great and the gameplay I’ve seen so far is pretty awesome even considering that the game was still in Alpha.  The sound design is just awesome and the UI really helps to immerse yourself in the universe. Elite Dangerous will also be a multiplayer game (single player is still an option though) which allows you to play with other people.

At the moment I am really tempted to buy the Premium Beta package. It’s quite expensive (120€) but it includes access to the beta plus the full game when it comes out including all future expansions. At least two expansions are already planned: one that will allow to fly around in planets’ atmospheres and land on planets, moons, etc. and a second one which allows you to leave your space ship to run around in cities or even go game hunting on alien planets. Wow!

What are your thoughts on Elite Dangerous? Have you backed the Kickstarter back in the day? Do you still remember the original game or one of its sequels? Please share your thoughts below!