Posts Tagged ‘Windows

14
Apr
14

Artsoft games on NetBSD

R'n'D Menu Screen

R’n’D Menu Screen

Today I am looking at two games for Unix systems called Rocks’n’Diamonds (R’n’D for short) and Mirror Magic. Both were developed by Artsoft which seems to consist of one person, Holger Schemel. Both games are sort of clones of older games for much older platforms. Rock’n’Diamonds is a Boulder Dash like game that was first released in 1995 and last updated at the end of 2013. Mirror magic is very much like Deflektor, originally released in 1995 and updated until 2003. Whilst both games are based on older games they both add features to the old formula. Today I’ve built and played these under NetBSD on my SparcStation 20.

Text Box

Text Box

Being made by the same person, both games share some similarities, particularly in the art style. The menus and sprites are very colourful, they almost look like they belong at a carnival. Everything is well drawn, animated and items look like they should. Items brought over from the older games have been updated graphically, they don’t look identical to the originals but are also easily identifiable for players of the old games.

Green Goo

Green Goo

They run of the same graphics engine originally developed for R’n’D which supports X11 and SDL mainly. The X11 versions work quite well, even on exceptionally old hardware like my old SparcStation 20 which is quite impressive. They work moderately well over longer distances via SSH, but the latency and bandwidth can be a problem on slower links whilst LAN speeds works flawlessly. There is a SDL version, but the version I installed (from Macports on my macbook) seems to be significantly slower than even X over SSH. This is hopefully just something peculiar to the Macports version on Mac OSX.

Playing Via SSH

Playing Via SSH

Both also have the same sort of sound engine and from what I can experience on the Macports version they are good for what they are. I only got to test sound in R’n’D and unfortunately during game play you can get swamped with the same sounds playing repetitively. So you might enjoy your playing experience more with the sound off. Playing on NetBSD on the old Sparc machine this wasn’t an issue as sound doesn’t work there.

Mirror Magic Menu Screen

Mirror Magic Menu Screen

The game play for R’n’D is interesting in that it combines elements from games such as Boulder Dash and Sokoban, and includes most of the elements added by Supaplex and Emerald Mines to Boulder Dash. The game has three game engines that any level can use. Rocks’n’Diamonds, Supaplex and Emerald Mines. The later allowing levels from those games to be played and solved as they are in the original. I haven’t played enough of the levels to give a good impression of what they are like as a whole, but those that I have played have been fun. I did try levels from the older games and they seemed to work quite well.

Holy balls of steel!

Holy balls of steel!

Mirror Magic similarly has its roots in older games, specifically Deflektor and Mindbender. Basically there is a Laser, a bunch of mirrors, obstacles, and stuff to destroy in the levels. You need to direct the laser with the mirrors to destroy objects in the way and get the beam to the target. Usually this requires destroying all of the metal spheres in the level. You have a limited amount of fuel, and the laser can over heat if the beam hits the wrong type of object. It’s important to keep an eye on both the fuel and heat gauges as running out of fuel or over heating can sneak up on you. What I’ve played so far has been quite fun, although I was disappointed that only levels from the old games were included.

Balls busted

Balls busted

Both games have a level editor which is easy to use. The editor in R’n’Ds is quite flexible and allows users to create their own custom objects that behave differently to the stock ones. This allows people to make all sorts of different creations, one even claiming to have recreated Zelda! There are lots of different level packs available on the Artsoft website for R’n’Ds, but not really any for Mirror Magic. In either case, if you do happen to beat all the levels there is still lots of gameplay in the user created levels and building some of your own.

What Mc Duffin?

What Mc Duffin?

Despite being based on older games that are well known, I think both of these games bring something new to the table. R’n’Ds brings many more levels including user created ones and variety in game play that the original games didn’t have. Mirror Magic is a decent remake of the originals with the addition of a level editor. Both run on Windows, Mac OSX, Linux, and BSD. There is even a DOS port of both although the port of R’n’Ds is a little out of date. If you like any of the old games on which these are based you might wanna give them a try.

15
Feb
14

Sim Tower for windows

Cathedral

Cathedral

This week I’ve been distracted by Sim Tower quite a bit, my older brother found a copy of it on one of his Simcity 2000 discs and I had to have a go. It was released by Maxis in 1994, but wasn’t developed by them. Yoot Saito then working for a company called OpenBook in Japan was the original developer. The sequel Yoot Tower was named after him.

Metro and Recycling

Metro and Recycling

It’s a simulation game in the same vain as Simcity, except on a much smaller scale. You manage and build a tower block from scratch, then watch the daily lives of sims as they come and go from your building. There isn’t really a goal to the game, although you can “win” the game by achieving “Tower” status, which basically means getting 5 stars, lots of people, and a 100 story building with a catherdral.

Offices

Offices

The main meat of the game is in how you design your tower to get around some of the common problems. One of the big problems I’ve faced is getting enough transport in the form of elevators, I frequently end up overloading many of them. This annoys the sims living in or visiting your tower causing some areas to get lower ratings or even become abandoned if the situation is bad enough. Noise can be a factor for hotel rooms and condos, so building them separate to your offices and commercial spaces is good. Commercial spaces such as shops and food outlets need customers, so need to be placed near high traffic areas.

Hotel

Hotel

This is the first windows 3.x game I’ve looked at, and the graphics and sound are pretty typical of windows software of the time. It uses 8-bit colour and looks pretty nice, and is easy to use graphically. The sound is digitised so sounds ok, but really just consists of noises happening in the tower. You may find it annoying, but personally it was kind of soothing for me.

New Tower

New Tower

If you’ve enjoyed playing other Maxis sim games such as Simcity, you’ll likely like Sim Tower. It’s fun to build the towers and watch the sims run around, often getting stressed with elevators. It could use a bit more content however in the form of more types of buildings/tenants, but there is still enough to do to keep someone like me distracted/entertained for most of a week and then some.

26
Aug
13

VegaStrike

Controls

Controls

Vega Strike is an open world space exploration, trading and combat simulator much like the classic games Elite and Elite Frontier. I originally played the 0.43 release many years ago and I thoroughly enjoyed playing it, although that version had some annoying properties such as other vessels appearing out of no where! Fortunately since then the development community has been very active and the recent releases have fixed many bugs and added new content to the game.

The Basic Cockpit

The Basic Cockpit

The game is rendered in 3d using OpenGL acceleration. It supports many different levels of detail and shaders as well as an older rendering engine for those of us with older hardware. Most modern systems shouldn’t have any trouble getting a decent frame-rate, but on older machines it could be slow if not configured properly. Fortunately even some on board graphics and Atom based systems have been tested and have been able to run the game.

Approaching a Fighter Barracks

Approaching a Fighter Barracks

The artwork in the game is of decent quality and has been gradually replacing the older graphics from earlier releases. Additionally many new ships and other features have been added to the engine that have improved the visuals. There are however some visual aspects that could use work such as the vessel cockpits.

The sound and music in game are also quite nice, especially the music. A good professional job has been done for the most part, it just requires a bit of polish to bring everything up to the same standard.

Relay Station

Relay Station

The game is as I said inspired by the classic games Elite and it’s sequels which is reflected in the game play. You start out with a basic trading ship and some money which you can buy some cargo. So you have to start out as a trader in order to make enough money to buy a more capable ship. You can buy upgrades to make your starting ship a bit better in combat, but it’s really only sufficient to fend off pirates.

Asteroid Mining Station

Asteroid Mining Station

Eventually you’ll be able to buy a larger ship or fighter for combat duties. You’ll be able to buy a larger freighter if you want to move more or larger goods, but the downside is that the ship often is slow to maneuver and takes some time to accelerate. In buying a combat vessel you’ll be significantly faster, but won’t be able to carry much in the way of cargo. There are capital ships that are much larger, but they are extremely expensive and difficult to find.

Unfortunately there are many ships that can’t be purchased, and there are many weapons what seem unbalanced or difficult to use effectively. I’ve found the best kind of weapons to use currently are the beam weapons with auto-tracking in the mount. The development team seems to be aware of this, and it seems to be a result of many changes to the engine since 0.43 and the many new ships/weapons that have been added since.

Planets

Planets

Vega Strike being as unfinished and under development as it is, needs to be polished and balanced before reaching its full potential. Even so I’ve been playing it for some time and still found it to be quite fun. I’ve managed to accumulate a nice small fleet of ships including freighters and combat vessels, but have quite some way to go before I can take on a bigger combat job. Once you find a few lucrative trading runs, and get a basic combat ship flying you can take on any role you like within the limitations of your ships.

I’d recommend people use the latest release of the game that they can, or if you have the capability use the development version (available from subversion). This is so you can keep up with the latest data set updates and engine updates as there are constant improvements. It’s available on both Windows and Linux, I’m unsure as to whether it will work on other systems such as BSD or Mac OS.

29
Jul
13

The Battle for Wesnoth

Main Menu

Main Menu

The Battle for Wesnoth is an open source game project that had its first release back in 2003. It is a strategy game based in a fantasy world with many RPG like elements. Today I’m playing it on my Macbook running Mac OS X (Lion), but the game also works on many other platforms including Linux, Windows, and most BSD systems. I have been able to get it running on my sun UltraSPARC sunfire v440 which I have Gentoo Linux on currently.

Campaign Selection

Campaign Selection

Upon starting up the game and being greeted with the menu system, I was struck with how professional the game looks. The menus, backgrounds and graphics all appear of professional quality as soon as you see them. The menu system is easy to use, and gives you help when faced with something more complex. The music is equally epic as soon as you first hear it, bringing to mind epic battles before you’ve had a chance to fight any.

Starting area

Starting area

The game offers a tutorial mode which I highly recommend, not so much because playing is difficult, but it is a much more gentle way to get used to the way the game works. The tutorial teaches you all the basics of movement, combat, and recruiting new soldiers. I found within no time I had managed to get the hang of it, and had managed victory in the tutorial and the earlier part of a introductory campaign.

Combat

Combat

The game has many campaigns of different difficulty and length, meaning there is always a campaign to suite your skill level and amount of time available. Many members of the community have created extra content including campaigns, new resources and units all for you to enjoy in single player or multi-player. Of course if you have played through all the created content there is also the option of playing random maps, or creating new ones of your own.

Recruiting

Recruiting

In addition to the single player, hot seat, network and internet multiplayer games are all supported. Connecting and playing any of these modes is simple and easy to do. Although you need to be well prepared to play online.

Playing the game I’ve found the controls fairly easy to use and have had no trouble getting my armies to do what I want. There is however an incredible amount of depth in the stories for the campaigns and the number of stats the units can have along with their effect in battle.

Killing Mordak

Killing Mordak

Combat in particular is interesting. There are two main types, Melee and Ranged combat. Different types of units can perform one or both of these different types of combat. Interestingly if you attack someone with a ranged attack and they have no ranged capability then their unit cannot retaliate and you unit will emerge unharmed whilst theirs does not. This can also happen with Melee combat if the other unit has no melee capability.

Whilst all the attacks units have are either ranged or melee, they also can have other properties such as being magical attacks. These modifiers can change the effect of the damage, the chance to hit, and inflict poison or drain health from an opponent.

Victory!

Victory!

Units are much like characters in a role playing game, they have attack capabilities in various forms, traits that affect their stats, and they have health points and experience points. Units can level up and get upgraded down one of a few paths in an upgrade tree. There are only a few levels to upgrade to depending on the unit, I think most get to level 3 or 4. Upgrades can significantly improve a unit so this is understandable. Players need to try and hold onto their strong and experienced units longer as they are much more effective than the base units you can recruit. If you are in the middle of a campaign you can recall units from the last scenario you played to benefit from them having more experience and perhaps being higher level.

Your main avatar can recruit new units when in the main castle. This requires gold that you acquire by occupying villages. Villages will support one unit for free and earn you some gold, which can be spent on support for more units, or on recruiting more units. Villages will also provide a defense bonus and heal units stationed there. This makes villages an important asset in the game, as you need them for income and to heal your experienced and important soldiers.

Campaign story

Campaign story

The Battle for Wesnoth is very polished, it is pretty much the same or better than commercial games quality wise. I’ve not run into any bugs in the limited time I’ve been playing. Installing add-ons and getting online for internet play is seamlessly handled in the game UI itself, removing any need for manually extracting files or arranging servers. It works on a wide variety of platforms so getting a version for your system should be no problem. If you like strategy games I highly recommend it.

23
Jun
13

The Day the Earth got Mooned

The Day the Earth got Mooned is a game recently made by a youtuber that I frequently watch called JimPlaysGames, a British guy called Jim Baker. Jim has previously also made a game called Shitty Quest which was an interesting and funny adventure game with themes of what it is like to be a software developer fighting his own laziness. I played Shitty Quest and quite enjoyed the humour.

Attack!

Attack!

Jim clearly won his battle with laziness, as his new game is quite impressive. You play as the sole alien invader coming to attack Earth for no reason. Earths military forces have gathered to defend themselves, and you goal is to get to the moon, destroy the Earth forces, and deploy a “SECRET WEAPON”. The story is masterfully narrated by Jim himself, who adds some subtle humour to how the story is presented.

People who helped...

People who helped…

The graphics and art style are very simple and elegant. The sprites are nicely detailed and easy to identify, which can be important as the different enemies have very different behaviours. There is a nice particle engine which adds lovely bits of smoke and explosions to destruction to missiles and weapons. The sound is again well crafted, in particular the music has a nice pseudo retro feel that complements the graphic style and type of game.

Menu Screen

Menu Screen

There is a variety of different weapons which each have their own use, and may be upgraded during play. You can upgrade or build new weapons at any time throughout the game by going to the build screen by pressing space. You can also recharge your shields and build a spare ship which can make the game a bit easier than it would otherwise be, but given how hard it can get this is a good thing. I found the anti-matter spray could cause some slow down of the game when fully upgraded, but this usually only happens when the screen is really busy.

Weapons

Weapons

The gameplay is like an older retro shooter but different in many important aspects. You can aim your weapons so you can make better use of them without putting your ship in danger. The AI for the enemies actually aims at you with intent to destroy as opposed to the blizzard of bullets used by many of the older games. The control scheme has you use both the mouse and keyboard, and I found it was accurate when shooting and allows you to dodge the enemy effectively.

The Day the Earth got Mooned is a solid shooter with plenty of challenge. The only criticism I really have of it (and Shitty Quest as well) is that it is too short. You can complete the game in as little as half an hour to an hour. I understand that being a sole developer, Jim may not have had the time to really make the game longer and may have  spent time polishing the game as opposed to lengthening it. The game is multi-platform as it is written in Java (using LidGDX) so it will run on pretty much anything including Linux, Windows and Mac OSX. The game is free, so there’s little reason not to give it a go, you can find it on his website www.jimmakesgames.com.

11
Jun
13

Mechwarrior 2: Mercenaries for DOS

Mercenaries main menu

Mercenaries main menu

Mechwarrior 2 is one of my all time favourite games, I got it in my early years of university some time after it was released. I enjoyed pretty much every aspect of the game and found it very immersive. The game was originally released back in 1995 by Activision. Even though there is a DOS version I have the Pentium Edition which runs only on Windows 95.

In a Timber Wolf

In a Timber Wolf

Todays game is actually a stand-alone expansion to the original called Mercenaries released the following year in 1996. The version I have is both for Windows 95 and DOS, the latter being the better of the two as I will explain later. Mercenaries is also the first game I played on the internet (at the time via dialup). I was never a serious player like many other people were, but I managed to hold my own in many battles.

The Starport on Outreach

The Starport on Outreach

You play the game as either a member of a mercenary company or the owner. If you are just a member of a bigger company all your costs are taken care off, such as ammunition and repair costs. Also it seems that for some missions at least the DOS version selects the missions you will be fighting in. If you are the owner of the company you must manage repairing, salvaging and re-equiping mechs, pilots and aerotech support as needed. It is much more complicated but you have a choice of missions (also called contracts).

Going Commando!

Going Commando!

Which ever way you go you start off in a small 25 ton mech called a commando which is quite ironic considering how underpowered it is. It is adequate for early missions however and a skilled mechwarrior can tweak it and use it to the best effect. You’ll quickly get other light mechs that are better and faster, and eventually move up to the assault class behemoths.

On a Training Mission

On a Training Mission

The graphics in game are 3d and based on polygons, they can be texture mapped or accelerated by a graphics card depending on what you have. There are a nice variety of environments and mechs are easy to identify. New features include coloured lighting and denser particles. There are texture mapping options for pretty much everything, where many objects didn’t have this option in MW2. The extra features tend to chew up processing power so you need to either have a good system or pick and choose what you want. I usually try to mimic the look of MW2 because whilst some graphical features are a nice addition, I actually prefer the style of graphics from the original MW2 game.

Mission Briefing

Mission Briefing

The quality of the sound in game is the same as before with another epic set of music that is played during missions. The weapon effects have been reworked and again I think I prefer the originals. This is really just personal taste as there is nothing bad about the new sounds. There are plenty of nice audio cues to let you know what is happening in the simulation. I can’t remember how many times I’ve heard “Critical Hit!” and “Enemy power up detected!”.

Fighting at Night

Fighting at Night

Game play is very similar to the original game as far as the simulator is concerned, although you have to fight in inner sphere mechs instead of clan ones. The controls are much the same with the addition of some extra weapons groups which is great. The biggest difference is when the economy is added when you own your mercenary company. Bringing back a badly damaged mech can be as bad as failing a mission after you’ve paid for repairs and ammunition. Salvage is also a new concern as you now want to acquire new mechs via combat as this is usually worth many more credits than what most contracts are worth.

The Mechlab

The Mechlab

The mechlab is very similar to the original game, but is different in the aspect of economy. You can only use parts which you have in stock (or are available if you are an employee of a larger company). So this means buying and maintaining a stockpile of weapons for use on mechs. Because of the games time line many weapons do not become available until technical information is released by comstar and the weapon manufacturers finish their research. All of this is meant to fit the Battletech universe and timeline. Whilst I like the MW2 style mechlab I think the one in Mechwarrior 4 (and it’s expansions) is more in the spirit of the universe and board games.

Thermal Imaging

Thermal Imaging

Now here is where there is a difference between the DOS and win95 versions. I’m not sure why, but the win95 version seems to be bugged when considering weapons with splash damage and PPCs in particular. The PPC weapons seem to regularly misfire either exploding in your face for no reason or in mid flight. Splash damage from missiles and sometimes even laser shots don’t seem to make contact with your front armour, instead damaging the rear armour. These are critical problems with the win95 version that I haven’t figured out the cause of. Fortunately the DOS version suffers none of these flaws so I suggest using that instead. Set up correctly there are no audio or graphical differences.

Instant Action

Instant Action

To run this game under DOSbox requires a CUE/BIN image which was a story of its own to create. The short version is I couldn’t get any machine apart from the old Sparcstation 20 to create the image for me. Gentoo didn’t work and FreeBSD didn’t either with cdrdao, but NetBSD worked a treat. Once you have the image you need to mount it in dosbox and make sure your cycle count is high, I recommend 100,000 or higher.

I very much like this game. It is great for many reasons, but somehow I still seem to like the original just that little bit more. It’s partly because I like the original graphics and sound better. Mercenaries has some great and exciting features that make the Battletech universe seem more alive. There are news feeds, battle summaries, and situation reports to read, and a feeling of involvement in the events unfolding as you get more entwined in the events of the day. Many of these things are also in MW2, it is mainly the story and experience of running your own mercenary company that make Mercenaries unique. Is it any wonder that they are both some of my favourite games?

26
Nov
12

Freeciv on FreeBSD

Main Menu

Main Menu

Quite some time ago I worked at a radio telescope for 3 months as part of my work experience for my engineering degree. During that time I had an incredibly old machine as my work station, it was an original Pentium running at 77 Mhz. Because it was so old and because of the job I was doing I installed Linux on it. I used my favourite old school window manager (FVWM) and had it set up pretty sweet.

One of my duties for a short period of time was looking after the telescope after hours. This was called being the duty astronomer and was something everyone did at sometime during the year. Basically you were on call for if something happened to the equipment that the remote astronomer couldn’t handle. Most of the people using the telescope were often some distance away and did observations remotely thanks to the power of the net.

The main view

The main view

So I was spending many hours at my workstation after work hours, not working, and watching the telescope and waiting for something to happen. This is when I installed freeciv and started playing. Surprisingly even on that hideously old machine the game played quite well and was quite enjoyable.

The city screen

The city screen

Recently I compiled and installed it on my sun fire R280 machine which is running FreeBSD. The machine is headless so I was accessing the machine via XDMCP in order to play. There are too many graphics to play the game via a VPN connection, but it works very well over a LAN connection, mine is 100Mbps so it would be significantly better on gigabit.

City production

City production

I was playing on the standard GTK based client, but there are other clients with support for the Xaw, Xaw3d and SDL toolkits so you can get it to work on systems without GTK installed. Most of the clients look pretty much the same with the exception of the SDL client which imitates the interface of the newer civilization games.

Research tree

Research tree

The graphics for units and the terrain are consistent across all the clients so you won’t be confused trying to identify units or terrain. There are several tile-sets to choose from as well so you can customise the way the game looks. Unfortunately the newer versions of freeciv don’t have as many tile-sets available as the older ones. Some times I have found some of the text is difficult to read because it is so small.

Other civilisations

Other civilisations

If your platform supports sound there are some sound effects for events such as combat. On the sun machine I didn’t have sound, however I do have it working on my macbook running the SDL client for freeciv. The sound is reasonably good, but not essential to game play. There isn’t any music in the game, but this leaves you room to play some of your own.

The SDL client

The SDL client

The game play is of course very much like civilization. The default rules most resemble the rules of civilization II with some differences. There are different rule sets that you can use, for instance there is a rule set for the first civilization game. There are unfortunately many subtle differences in game play that may annoy some players. The main draw card here is that multiplayer games are supported. This is reflected in the way diplomacy works differently to the commercial games.

Personally I actually prefer the original civ II game play, graphics and sound, but freeciv has some merit of its own. There are some features that are nice such as extremely large maps, and many more players in one game. The rules are subtly different which can change some of the strategies for play, but for the most part the same strategies will work. It still is fun to play for me, but it really will be a matter of personal preference as to whether you enjoy it or not.

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