Category Archives: Gaming

Planescape: Torment – A Game I’d Like To Remake

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The other day, I decided to play Planescape: Torment (hereby just referred to as PS:T). I was ill (still partially am actually) and couldn’t do much of anything else. Besides, I’ve heard so much about this RPG (Role-Playing Game). Did you know that the script for this game has about 800,000 words? (Compare that to the Mahabharata, the Indian epic, which has 1.8 million words). There is a lot of story exposition fleshing out the game world and the story behind the protagonist in the form of character dialogue, banter, and in-game books. I can’t say for sure but some have commented that there are very few mandatory combat sequences and that one could play through the *entire* game just by talking your way out.

The cover art for the game

The Nameless One

I installed the version from gog.com and installed the recommended mods that are supposed to enhance my experience. Next, I played until I reached The Hive, the city outside the Mortuary (where the game begins). I took my time and made sure to explore every nook and cranny in the Mortuary. My goal was to learn as much as possible about the story. I stopped playing once I reached the Hive because I had enough.  My verdict? I was trying to like the game more than I was actually liking the game.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate story telling and I liked what I got so far from my playthrough of PS:T. The problem is, there are technical issues with the game that I just could not overlook. It would be one thing if I played and enjoyed this game back in 1999 (the year it came out). That way, I would have some memory of it to draw on and enjoy the game while ignoring the issues. However, I have no such memories and I have been spoilt by years of innovation in the RPG scene. Before I elaborate on my what issues are, I’d just like to note that back in 1999, most of these would not have been problems. But it’s not 1999 any longer and I think that PS: T has not aged well.

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Blast from the Past: Cheat ‘O Matic

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Cha-Ching!Here’s a really neat tool that was released over 10 years ago: Cheat ‘O Matic. It was created by Nick Shaffner (who worked in 3DRealms). It’s useful for gamers who want to modify any numerical value in their games (e.g., amount of gold or health) and it’s extremely easy to use. Just select the game and search for the value you want to modify. Next, you have to modify the value within  game (by spending your gold or some similar action), enter the new value in Cheat ‘O Matic and click on search again. After a few such searches, Cheat ‘O Matic would have figured out which value you’re interested in. Now just set it to whatever you want and enjoy the game. Here’s a post from 1998 about it.

I’ve used it a couple of times to escape the drudgery in some games that were otherwise fun. For example, Freelancer was an especially good game; the controls were good, the action was fast paced, and I remember the story being particularly interesting (although I don’t actually remember what the story was). My only issue was that between bouts of sequences where I was engaged in unfolding the story, the game went into free-roam mode where I can explore any place I want and earn some goal by taking on bounty hunting missions. The gold was required so that I could upgrade my ship  and continue the story.

Essentially, in an effort to make the game longer, players were required to upgrade their ships to advance the story line and to upgrade their ships, they were required to grind by doing boring stuff. I just used Cheat-O-Matic, got the grinding out of the way and enjoyed the game.

The best part of Cheat ‘O Matic is that it still works  on Windows 7 and on the latest games. At least, that has been the experience in my case. I think it speaks volumes about the team in Microsoft that pays attention to backward compatibility (See Raymond Chen’s post). I’ve archived Cheat O’ Matic so you can download it by clicking here. Note that this program works great only on single-player games. Don’t expect it to work just as well on multiplayer-games.

Someone should re-create this with updated graphics

I have lots of ammo now. Notice the counter on the top-left.

(For the game developers amongst you, tools like these should demonstrate why you never trust values from the client in a multiplayer game. They can and will modify the memory to cheat!)

Download Cheat ‘O Matic : Link

Unigine

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I just read something interesting on Slashdot. The Unigine company is giving away a free license to their game engine to an experienced team willing to develop a top-notch native Linux game.

Ever since I became a Linux user, I have always wanted to make it a good gaming platform. There is no real reason that it can’t be one. People would like to say that there’s no market and all that but I disagree. I just think there isn’t enough effort in the direction yet. Some company just needs to take a bit of risk, release a really good linux game and watch as they rake all the cash in. Then, the other companies will take notice and there would be a greater number of developers treating Linux as a first class citizen.

I have discussed the idea with a couple of friends. One of my goals is to fund the development of a good Linux game engine and associated tools (such as the level designing tools), put together a good team and make one of those triple-A games. I would also ask my team to focus solely on the Linux version of the game. I wouldn’t make a Windows or a Mac port.

Then, I would want to sell the game at a reasonable price, perhaps 30 to 40USD. The best part is, I would also release the tools and the engine to those who purchase the game under the GPL license and also give out the artwork under some equally liberal license. I fully understand here that one could just buy my game and then release it for free on the Internet in a legal manner (since the GPL permits sharing) and I don’t mind that. Those who can afford it would most likely purchase it separately and those who can’t, can still enjoy the game. I also understand that others would port my game to Windows or Mac (since I won’t port them myself) and I don’t mind that either. Why should I mind about what my customers do with my game?

Some people have told me that this idea does not make financial sense but financial sense be damned! I know that this will work. People spend millions of dollars on random rubbish; why can’t I spend million of dollars on such an endeavour? I know lots of Linux fans would buy the game gladly. I am pretty sure I would make a profit after recouping all my investment costs. I would then use this profit to fund further development on Linux. Some might argue I’m being idealistic but hey, I’m still young. It is my duty to be idealistic.

The entire idea is so obvious to me, I really don’t know why no one has done it yet. It’s going to take me a while to enter the millionaire stage. In the meantime, I am going to email this Unigine guys and see if I can convince them to drop this competition thing and to just give a free license to all Linux game developers.

Divinity II – Flames of Vengeance!

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I don’t play a lot of games these days. It’s not that I hate games but I am now very occupied with school and some other interests that I have to forsake games. Well, I forsake most games, including Starcraft 2, Halo (Wars, ODST and now Reach), Left 4 Dead, Borderlands, Crackdown 2, and well, you get the picture. However, I do make exceptions for certain games. Namely, Gears of War and Divinity II.

For some odd reason, I have this strange attachment to all things Gears of War and Divinity II. I am eagerly anticipating Gears of War 3 and I know it arrives April, 2011 so I decided to find out what’s happening with the Divinity series. It turns out, Larian Studios IS making a sequel, titled Divinity II: Flames of Vengeance and it is arriving coming November!

Last December, my friends Rollen, Narmeet and Sarwanjit bought me a copy of Divinity II: Ego Draconis for my birthday (Thanks guys!). The game was buggy, had some puzzling gameplay elements and wasn’t very advanced graphically. However, it was extremely fun to play, had an enjoyable story and allowed you to morph into a Dragon and burn down your enemies. It had a certain charm to it. The art style, the brilliant sound track and the irritating cliffhanger ending made me want more.

I think it’s interesting to see a small company doing relatively well by creating a new world and expanding on that world. If you like RPG games, you may want to play Divine Divinity, Beyond Divinity and then follow up with Divinity II: Ego Draconis. It’s an interesting world with a lot of scope for story telling.

PlayDeb

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I have been busy for a while now developing a game, TankVille, as part of a research project. Although we are not a real game company, we spent a lot of time developing and polishing the game, so that it’s easier to attract people and convince them to play our game. Part of the development process of making a game, especially a multiplayer game where we have to continually keep the player satisfied, is thinking about how the game will evolve in the future.

I was looking for some inspirations to help me develop more ideas for TankVille when I came across PlayDeb. PlayDeb is an online portal which lists open-source games that one can easily install on Linux. Some of these games are really awesome! For instance, I discovered OpenTyrian, a classic shoot-em-up game that is extremely fun to play.

I love what PlayDeb brings to the table. It makes gaming on Linux more accessible, more mainstream and it helps Linux fans like myself enjoy PC gaming without sending a dime to Microsoft. The best part is, the source is available for a lot of these games, so I can study how they work and make them even better.

Linux world domination is close. I can’t wait!