Friday, December 22, 2006

SuperTux 0.3.0 released

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SuperTux 0.3.0 was released is now out in the wild. This is a preview of milestone 2, so expect something a little rough on the edges. Still, it should be fun to play and hopefully attract a bit more community help to the project. Go grab it whilst it is hot.

My favourite game Fish Fillets got a minor update to version 0.7.4, including the final level.

SuperTuxKart development has not slowed. Recently there was the contribution of an island level. With improved physics - and wheelies! - I think the next SuperTuxKart release is shaping up to be an awesome little game.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Battle Just Started 0.1.0

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Battle Just Started is a fun multiplayer 3D tank game. It has slightly cartoonish graphics and a basic AI (so you can play single player) and is in the early stages of development, but there have been several releases this month already - "release early, release often!"

Also Stendhal 0.56 was released, adding a new city among other things.

Interesting FLOSS game news is a little slow on the ground at the moment.

*Charlie crouches down and puts his ear on the floor*

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Free Ryzom

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The Free Ryzom Campaign is an effort to make the code and the artwork of MMORPG Ryzom available under copyleft licenses. Just today the Free Software Foundation officially backed the campaign with a hefty $60,000 pledge.

Robert Schuster brought it to my attention. He also notes that the Ryzom team also produced the rather cool "levitating, meditating, flute-playing Gnu".

Needless to say, the gameplay video on ryzom.org is pretty impressive. Then again, most things are impressive to me these days since I haven't really indulged in commercial gaming since the turn of the millenium - so look for yourself!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Wizardy

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Ok, technically not a Free game nor really a game, but the damn thing is almost always right. Almost freaky. Try this little flash game, Wizardy:

http://www.milaadesign.com/wizardy.html

Monday, December 04, 2006

It's A Graveyard Out There

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Jono Bacon, a Gnome developer, gives an insight into just why Flightgear is so damn cool.



The SuperTuxKart team is looking at another release in the near future with an improved UI and lots of bug fixes.



The 3rd release candidate for Wesnoth 1.2 has been released (changelog). It has "important bugfixes" but is otherwise basically Wesnoth 1.2 and is a solid and impressive game.



And finally a new game! Stephen Carlyle-Smith wrote to me to introduce Nuclear Graveyard:



I'd just like to tell you about a new free game that I've written which hopefully you will mention on your Freegamer blog. It's a fork of the old Laser Squad 3D code, and it's called Nuclear Graveyard. It's a persistent 3D squad-based realtime strategy game. Basically, players can connect and control the units, and either play against each other or against the CPU. The homepage is at http://ngrave.pbwiki.com/. At the moment the graphics are a bit basic, as I'm no 3D artist, but the game is completely finished and playable. As it's new, its community is very small, but I'm hoping it will get bigger as people discover it.


I could not find a link for Laser Squad 3D.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Railroad Tycoon now Freeware

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The original Railroad Tycoon has been released as freeware. Download it from 2kgames.com who seem to be the official handlers of the freeware RT.



JFreeRails


Still, freeware is not open source. There are GPL clones of RT. The two most notable ones are Railz and JFreeRails. Indeed JFreeRails got updated as recently as September this year. Railz seems to have stalled with it's development.



Then there is of course the other rail game implementations, notably OpenTTD. There are lots of promising noises coming out of the OpenTTD camp and the hires graphics seem to be coming out of the community at a steady pace. I'm very hopeful that we will see a hires release in 2007 that should be a superb game and herald a new era for OpenTTD.



A game that already has hires graphics and is free, albeit only freeware, is Simutrans. The development is relentless and the latest release looks very nice. For some reason I have never found Simutrans as much fun as OpenTTD but then I grew up with the original Transport Tycoon.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

VDrift gets AI, Ecksdee update

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VDrift continues to improve at a rapid rate, with somebody contributing rudimentary AI drivers. The next release should, therefore, be a little bit more fun to play as you get to race the computer as well as yourself!



Ecksdee 0.0.9 was released. This includes a large city track. For those people who doubt that open source games don't often look very good, take a look at this video. Impressive graphics, I think. I look forward to more major releases. A few more tracks and some tweaked gameplay and Ecksdee should be a very good game.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

UFO:AI 2.0rc6

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UFO:AI 2.0rc6 is out (changelog). "This release candidate should really be the final one for the 2.0 series." With working reaction-fire, an isometric view, and a host of fixes, UFO:AI has emerged as a polished open source game. "We are already working hard on the next major release - the 2.1 tree - which will include a full storyline." Awesome!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Angels Fall First

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If you thought yesterday's news was big, Free Gamer comes with an equally impressive post for today!



Angels Fall First


The prolific artist Strangelet has not been inactive, and has made a special request of the Vega Strike community. Angels Fall First started out life as a Homeworld 2 mod. There is a plan for a UT2007 release in the future but the AFF team are looking for an official game engine to embrace.



The models are spectacular and, with work on an impressive VS 0.5 release progressing at a steady pace this, this could be type mod to really compliment VS and really make waves in gaming circles. The artwork is nothing short of A-grade commercial quality.



Anyway, people have volunteered to assist the VS:AFF mod, so it is a case of watch that space (pun intended).

Monday, October 23, 2006

TA:Spring Rewrite

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There's a storm of comotion in the TA:Spring community after the lead developers announced intentions to rewrite the entire Spring engine stating unclean code and a desire to utilise external libraries like OGRE to both reduce the codebase size and introduce new features already expertly handled by said libraries.



The two major debating points were the critical "what about the modders" and the ever-so-important "what name should we give the not-started barely-planned mod". In all seriousness, the modders are the essence of the playing community and really make TA:Spring the eye catching open source project as it is - without them it would just be an engine for commercial content. They give the project the massive momentum it currently enjoys and the developers really need to listen to their concerns, which fortunately it appears they are doing.



Some of the highlights of the proposed rewrite are dynamic lighting, inbuilt C# scripting, and the engine being a generic RTS engine (as opposed to a TA-oriented one).



Ground-up rewrites are normally a really, really bad idea. However, this may be one of the exceptions. Not only are there several motivated developers and an enthusiastic community pushing them, but it does seem that there are several trends in the current codebase that make iteratively rejuvenating the codebase an unrealistic prospect - or at least more work than a rewrite. Still I hope they make rapid progress towards basic features rather than creating some grandiose vision that will not be attainable.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

VDrifting Away

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Free Gamer has been on hiatus. Sorry! Sometimes these things happen...

VDrift made a new release yesterday.

Hero of Allocrost released their first tech demo. Thanks to Roots for notifying me and apologies to him for taking a week to say something.

Sauerbraten got forked, the new game is called Extended Death Match (or just EDM). I don't know if it is a cooperative fork. All I know is you can leave sticky notes around the maps.

There's tons of other things I could mention from the last 2 weeks but for now I'll just push you in the direction of the Linux Game Tome which covers most of the them in one way or another.

*Goes back to his corner to work slowly on updating the Free Gamer games list*

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A Bit Artifical

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Today I'd like to highlight two Artifical Intelligence based games - The breve Simulation Environment and NERO: Neuro-Evolving Robotic Operatives.




NERO (1)

NERO (2)


NERO describes itself as,



"A unique computer game that lets you play with adapting intelligent agents hands-on. Evolve your own robot army by tuning their artificial brains for challenging tasks, then pit them against your friends' teams in online competitions!"


It's not as scary as it sounds. In a training mode you place and play with your robots, teaching them combat tactics. The gameplay is essentially training your team to beat somebody else's, trying to evolve your squad into an undefeatable automated army.



Version 1.01 was released in 2005, and version 2.0 is currently under development. I originally thought NERO was open source, but there is no evidence of this on the website although it seems to be the plan. However, with decent 3D graphics and innovative gameplay, this is probably a bit of an understated freeware title.



The only problem with NERO is, well, your robots don't know very much at all to start with. Imagine teaching kids basic maths - think 1+1 - and how long it takes to get them started on it. You'll have similar problems training your robots, it's a game of patience and dedication. However it is satisfying once they start executing attack patterns that you have worked on and winning battles but the actual training is more of a preverbial battle than the game itself!



The breve Simulation Environment takes a different approach. Using an easy language called "steve", you define the behaviour of "agents" in a 3D world. The world is a complete sandbox and your agents can be, well, anything. It's very open ended and as such pretty abstract. It's less of a game and more an education tool, but for AI enthusiasts it is probably a perfect tonic.



Simutrans 0.99.01 was released. With full climate support and many bug fixes, it is a decent update to this long-running freeware title. I believe they are waiting on an update to the hires 128bit graphics set [currently 0.99.01 only works with 64bit graphics] before declaring this the official stable release. It's been a long time since the last stable release and the difference between 0.99.01 and 0.88.10.5 is substantial.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Slow News, XMoto, SuperTuxKart

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It's been slow news on Free Gamer, partly influenced by alcoholic intake and partly by the fact not too much happened in the last several days.



XMoto 0.2.1 was released as was SuperTuxKart 0.2rc2. Of course, anybody following happypenguin.org will be aware of this. XMoto development continues to be strong although the game is still pretty tough. This SuperTuxKart release addresses a few big bugs that made 0.2rc1 difficult to play so please playtest it if you had problems so the final SuperTuxKart 0.2 release can be as solid as possible.



Here's a small but interesting thread on the Linux Game Tome forums where a few people highlight their favourite Linux games. They're all mentioned here but still it's nice to get the opinion of more than one person [since this site is basically all my opinion].



There's an ongoing request to make Machine Ball the LGT "Game of the Month". I think the current "Game of the Month" idea seems to be languishing since only a few people ever participated and their motivation has died out, but it would be nice to see it rekindled.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Unidentified Flying Objects

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UFO: Enemy Unknown was released by Microprose over a decade ago. For those not familiar with it and it's predecessors, or for nostalgia, here's a thorough review of one of the all time great games. It is abandonware these days and as such can be downloaded for free although you'll need DOS emulation at the least to be able to play it.



The UFO series of games has a massive fan base and has such there is a number of fan-made games.



Probably the highest profile project is UFO:AI , a 3D remake of the original UFO: Enemy Unknown. Now it's come out of the shadows of closed development, the project is thriving and it is evolving into a showcase open source game. There's still a little way to go - you're going to struggle if you are not familiar with standard UFO gameplay - and there are frustrated players but their issues are being addressed and, with great graphics and great music, once playability is polished the final 2.0 release should be one to savour.



The road to the 2.0 release has been a fairly long one, and the developers relatively quietly released version 2.0-RC4 at the end of last month. (I don't remember seeing the announcement anywhere.) Call me old fashioned but I really think they need to just say, "Hey this is version 2.0 and the next release will be 2.01 or 2.0.1 or something." RC stands for Release Candidate, not for Remarkable Changelog. Anyway, I am digressing.



There is an even more ambitious open source UFO project - Project Xenocide. Again a 3D variant of the original game, this is a long term project with a steady history of planning and, lately, steady development. They recently added SVN tracking to their forum so activity is more obvious. Currently the only aspect of the game I'm aware that works is a gorgeous GoogleMaps-esque 3D Geoscape.



Some of the renders in the image gallery for Xenocide are of a very high calibre. I'm looking forward to seeing such high quality art incorporated in an open source game and I expect this game to emerge later next year in spectacular fashion.



The final part of the open source UFO puzzle is UFO2000. This is an old school project, taking the original game and it's graphics and turning it into a multiplayer deathmatch-style tactical UFO-fest. These days there is enough art that you do not need the original game to play UFO2000. However, whilst in its day UFO looked good, it looks very dated now. Despite supporting the use of scale2x to enhance the graphics a little, UFO2000 really shows the age of the original and will probably only appeal to hardcore fans - or those with older PCs like mine.



Like all great jigsaws, we complete it to find a leftover piece, X-Force. That's because the last open source UFO offering is Windows only. X-Force is a remake of the original and it's sequel, UFO: Terror From The Deep, modernising them whilst staying true to the 2D isometric tactical gameplay.



The website is mostly in German making it hard to really learn that much about it. From the screenshots, the game looks to be at a similar stage to Project Xenocide - more of a tech demo than a playable game. There is a download though so any Windows users or WINE experimenters might want to give it a go and leave a comment.



I'll be updating this article with screenshots later - I'm too busy falling asleep right now.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Sauerbraten, Site Upgrade

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Sauerbraten



There's a new Sauerbraten download and this one is looking beautiful. Just check out the screenshot... wow! This update introduces reflective water, performance improvements, bug fixes, and lots of other little features.



Well the time has come to upgrade the Free Gamer site. Things to expect:



  • Tags
    Blogger beta introduces tags so now I can tag all my posts. What will this mean? Automatic listing of article types plus game name tags - so you can get a list of e.g. all reviews or e.g. all posts referencing game X. I'll be going back through my posts and tagging them all appropriately to adhere to this.

  • Sortable Games List
    I'm not quite sure how I'm going to do it yet, but using an AJAX table I'll have the games in a proper list sorted by genre, type, etc etc. I'll still maintain my own little top-ten but a full list where you can order by what you are looking for will make browsing the list much easier. Plus it'll be on a separate page so the information should be more direct.

  • Smaller Front Page
    The front page at the moment is somewhat massive. Only the latest article will be in full on the front page, with other recent articles summarized with links.

  • Free Gamer Logo
    I'm going to come up with one. Or if somebody else submits one, I'll take that too. ;-)
The idea is to make the site:
  1. Easier to navigate
  2. Easier to read
  3. And by virtue of the above, more useful as a resource

If anybody has any concerns or ideas, please speak up!



That downside to all this is that, due to the nature of the blogger.com templating system, during the implementation period things might break or go weird or not work. This isn't because I'm erasing the site and removing the list or trying to kill newborn puppies. It is simply a consequence of trying to get the best out of blogger.com which frustratingly involves doing a lot of update development directly on a live site.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Nexuiz 2.1, Savage

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Nexuiz 2.1 is out (changelog). Not much to say other than this builds upon the success of Nexuiz 2.0 and continues to establish Nexuiz as a first class open source game.



I forgot to mention (sorry!) that Savage: The Battle for Newerth is now officially freeware. I read this a while ago but at the time I couldn't find links to where to actually download it. These days it's listed as a free download on the official website - at the time I came across this it seemed more conjecture than reality that it was freeware.



Savage is one of these hybrid RTS/FPS games that seem to be cropping up more regularly these days e.g. Tremulous. It's got great graphics and is free (I would attach a screenshot but I broke Firefox!) so, well, why not!? Still, I wish they would make games open source rather than just abandoning them as freeware so at least the community can fix any problems. I guess S2Games are probably a little scared of competition for the upcoming Savage 2.



Speaking of formerly commercial games being open sourced, Battle Chess is apparently now open source freeware! It would be an interest project to port it to modern operating systems. Thanks go to benjamin for pointing this out in a comment on a previous post. However I'm wondering whether sadly it is a mistake though because although the page says it is GPL there is no link to any source - there's none in the linked zip file.



Edit - thanks nelipa for point out Battle Chess is only freeware; liberated games is telling a fib.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Oh So Evil

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I don't know how this game isn't more well known, but I only just found out about XEvil. This game is a cross between Commander Keen and Quake and it's very fun, if a little dated. Action packed and chaotic, it's all about extreme violence platform-style. Be warned, this game contains lots of violence and lots of adult language so really is not one for your kids should you have any.



I'm keeping an eye out for the next release of Privateer Remake or Privateer Gemini Gold. In the latter they are busy taking the rather garish low-res base and npc graphics and overhauling them, so the next release should be much more pleasing on the eye. When I downloaded PGG, I found the low-res bases too much of a clash with the gorgeous 3D space flight and it put me off considerably.



There's also a new release of Battle for Wesnoth around the corner. The amount of people contributing to this game is phenomenal and as such version 1.2 will look absolutely gorgeous. There's a massive amount of graphical polish going into the 1.2 release - lush new terrain graphics, superb portaits, and many unit updates - and a lot of new features in the game that will make it an even more pleasurable experience.



Also scheduled for a newer release is Boson. Whilst the release plan seems to have slipped a little, this is one of those open source games which has just chugged steadily away, incrementally improving without really setting alight the open source gaming community. It'd be nice to see them focus on the single player element a bit more because I think people are generally fed up of having to find opponents and engage in constant deathmatch style competition.



My opinion is that single player games are probably more valued by players, but the industry MMORPG / deathmatch polarisation has tilted development goals needlessly in favour of multiplayer gaming. I like to play a game casually to unwind, not get whooped by some ultra competitive online obsessive!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Brutal Chess, Warzone, Balder2D

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Does anybody remember Battle Chess? I loved that game. I think it was one of the games that really got me hooked on using a PC after years of dedication to a spectrum. Well, great news Battle Chess lovers, there's an open source modern equivalent: Brutal Chess. It obviously needs better models and there's plenty to do (current release is 0.3 alpha) but it's an exciting find nonetheless!



There's a new Warzone 2100 release - 2.0.5rc1 (changelog) - which addresses a number of problems people had with 2.0.4, especially single player games. If you downloaded Warzone and found it buggy, it may be worth trying this update.



The author of Balder2D is looking for help testing packages for Debian/Ubuntu. The game is an overhead 2D shooter. I can't really comment on the gameplay because I don't have time to try it right now.



I just came across FreeAllegiance. If I ever hand out awards, this game will win an award for the most uninformative web page - no screenshots or information about the game? Thank the Lord for Wikipedia. It was originally developed by Microsoft Research around 2000. After failing commercially and being abandoned by Microsoft, they eventually released the source code in 2004 to the dedicated fan base. A 3D space game, it is a mixture of space combat and RTS with deathmatch based gameplay. Sounds interesting!



Thats enough for today.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

New Releases on the Horizon

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There are imminent releases for OpenCity and Pingus.



OpenCity 0.0.4beta is looking a lot more playable than it's version number suggests with the TODO looking like 0.0.5 will contain most elements you'd expect in a city simulation game.



Pingus will probably be a 0.7 alpha release because the project is struggling for developers and Pingus 0.6 is getting withdrawn from distros as it needs the deprecated Clanlib 0.6 to run. It'd be nice to see a new Pingus release since the game is pretty much there, it just needs a few more levels and a tiny bit of polishing and it'll be better than the original Lemmings titles.



SuperTuxKart 0.2rc1 is available for download. There's been a lot of code activity so I'm waiting on the next rc to try it out although I think you need a good PC to play it - I've heard a few murmours that the graphics engine really needs optimising.



Enough of games that are gearing up to releases, there was a new game announced on the Linux Game Tome: Max Fighter, a 2D shooter with a strong asteroids influence. It's got nice graphics and is quite fun but the gameplay quickly becomes very repetitive and it's nowhere near as addictive as SolarWolf nor has the depth of Chromium BSU. It was also very choppy / low fps on my 1ghz laptop. In times of CPU/GPU affluence it seems that increasingly developers are caring less about optimising their games.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Hero of Allacrost

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Hero of Allacrost





Hero of Allacrost is a Free single player 2D RPG game that's been in development for some time without any real release. Posted in the Wesnoth forums (rather than their own) is an update on the status of the game which is looking like it could see at least a playable demo release in the near future.



I must admit that after the initial flurry of activity that followed the initial talk about this game in late 2004 and early 2005, it seemed to have suffered the usual "my dream game" death that afflicts a lot of early start-up Free games. However it looks like the main developer(s) was patiently plugging away and congratulations on what looks like shaping up to be a fine game.



A while ago I mentioned Stunt Playground, a free stunt car racer game that was released under the GPL. Well, the same guy Walaber has released another freeware (not GPL) game - a rather cool looking 3D trampolining simulator called, er, Trampoline. Check out the website for screenshots and video links. Sadly it is Windows only.



Slightly off-topic, I was thinking about ways to make my Google ads campaign pay out a little better. I get ~250 (to ~300) views a day and make about $4 a month from this. I've been trying to redesign the site a little for a while. Breaking down the pages (i.e. have the games list on a separate page) might help as might presenting the posts as a summary linked to a separate article page. However my primary concern is not making money but presenting good information - i.e. I don't want people annoyed by ads or having to click too many times. Have we got any readers with good tips or advice? Site improvement ideas not releated to Google ads are welcome!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Review: Fish Fillets NG

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Fish Fillets NG is the fan-project result of the open sourcing of the original commercial title Fish Fillets from Altar Interactive. It is a fiendishly challenging and addictive puzzle game and is refreshingly original in a genre epitomised by evolutions of popular classics.



You take on the role of two fish who are caught up in a fairly silly plot to, I think, save the ocean. The gameplay is oriented around using the two fish - one is small, the other strong - to escape a series of fiendishly difficult levels.



Clever Level Design

Lovely Graphics


You can only use your fish to move obstacles in certain ways. They can lift objects - although only the shark can lift metal objects - and push them over ground or other objects. They can't carry objects on their own though and moving an object directly over the back of a fish or dropping an object on a fish will kill it.



The level design is very clever. On many levels, not only must you perform a sequence of manoevoures to overcome obstacles but you also have to be forward thinking to make it possible to escape once the initial challenges are beaten.



The graphics are very nicely drawn, as you might expect from a formerly commercial title. The characters and levels are well animated and the fish often engage in witty banter between themselves or with other characters in a level. There are voices to accompany the subtitled text but sadly they are currently only available in Czech (the roots of the original developers). The music is palettable although repetitive after a while - and playing this game takes a good long while.



Oh so small yet so hard!

Multiple Branches


Then there is the main attraction of this game. It is hard. It is really hard. So many games are just so easy, using the same wash/rinse/repeat cycle of throwing enemies or similar puzzles at you. Not Fish Fillets. The levels vary greatly and get tougher and tougher as the game goes on. Some will take you days or even weeks to complete. It is also addictive, highly addictive. A challenging game draws you back for more and this will have you pondering over potential solutions for hours and hours. There are 70 levels to tackle and that is plenty if you consider how long some levels take to figure out. This is a game that the vast majority of players will never complete, which probably makes completing the game even more satisfying - I haven't completed it yet!



A clever thought by the original designers was to use branches for accessing new levels instead of a linear progression. Given how challenging some levels are, if there weren't other options you could easily just give up and stop playing, but fortunately there's always several levels to play at any one time.



Just in case the allure of beating the puzzles wasn't enough, there's also a global hall of fame to see who has come up with the best solutions for each level in the game. Equalling the best score for a level can often be harder than beating the level itself.



This game is released as version 0.7 at the time of writing. It is fully playable from start to finish and I haven't come across any significant bugs in probably close to a hundred hours of playing time. For immediate future development I'd like to see consolidation of existing features into the options - such as fullscreen or toggling speech. Currently you have to specify fullscreen or speech as a parameter when starting the game which is a little daunting for a novice computer user.



In the long term it would be nice to see perhaps a level editor for fanmade contributions, a transition to vector based graphics so they scale better, and voicesets for other languages - especially English. Currently the development list is a little quiet but one can always hope.



I recommend this game to anybody who fancies a challenge. It's a refreshing break from the usual 3D-fest games that you can't escape from these days. Who knows, maybe you can escape from some of the Fish Fillets levels instead!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Mars, TCE, Wesnoth, Pong2

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Ah, the recent spate of Free game / Free Gamer activity continues. I will be away for the weekend so there will be respite. However, not today!

True Combat: Elite

Battle for Wesnoth
A new release of True Combat: Elite is imminent. They are finalising RC3 of the new version and then shortly after testing that going gold. On the site you can find more details on the HDR lighting used in the game. This release looks really good - really, really good. I used to be a Counter Strike addict so will probably avoid this for the sake of my health.

Also a new Battle for Wesnoth release gets ever nearer. The second beta for 1.2 is available, and contains many improved graphics - the graphics are really amazing for a volunter developed 2D game. Some of the character portraits are stunning. The gameplay ain't half bad either!

Davide Coppola (aka M3xican) notified me that the Mars: Land of No Mercy team have released version 0.1.2 of their isometric turn based strategy mech game. (That was a mouthful!) The game is still in its early stages and 0.1.2 is little more than a tech demo but if you like the look of the game then check it out - like any open source project they'll love a bit of help even if it's only testing releases.

I came across Pong2 the other day. This 3D take on an original classic looks interesting.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

SuperTuxKart Lives, MTP Target!

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SuperTuxKart has finally emerged as a game in it's own right, with a release planned for September 10th. I'm looking forward to playing it. If anybody thinks they can help out with the release, chip in!

SuperTuxKart is the result of the Happypenguin Game of the Month efforts from eons ago to update TuxKart. As a side note, I inspired GotM (although grumbel implemented it) and I also put forward TuxKart for GotM development. Sadly, at the time, the usage of SDL [TuxKart is PLIB-based] by the GotM team meant the original developer refused to help out unless all SDL stuff was removed - only PLIB didn't properly support fullscreen rendering at the time. I reckon it was a case of NIH syndrome since the TuxKart author is a PLIB developer. This caused the SuperTuxKart fork but all the politics detrimentally affected the development.

I think the GotM guys were right to introduce SDL. It was pragmatic as it supported the features they needed, and it was practical as PLIB simply isn't as widely used or frequently updated (and by virtue of that, not as well supported).

Version 1.2.2 of MTP Target was released. MTP Target is a fun Monkey Target clone. Strangely, though, I think you have to have access to the Internet to play it in order to register your scores - a little strange for what really is a single player game.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Niwki Deluxe

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These days my conscience starts playing up when I don't update FG. Here I am, sat at work, fretting over not having posting an update for a few days. I may have to change format to just blog about things as and when I encounter them rather than building up entries... still, I'm digressing.



Nikwi Deluxe


Nikwi Deluxe, by Slashstone, is now available under the GPL. This cute 2D platformer is very old school but still well done. It's also a bit silly [you collect sweets, birds poo on you, etc] and therefore suitable for kids, but still isn't easy to don't let the "kids" tag prevent those mega tough macho men amongst you from checking it out. I even made my own screenshot of it, coincidentally of the level where I gave up because it was too hard.



Sadly it is a Windows only game but should work on WINE. Perhaps now it is GPL somebody will port it? Edit - there appears to be a Linux binary. Thanks Mr Anonymous for the tip.



The latest VDrift release seems to have been the critical mass one. Now the community is building and creating content for the game. There's a cool 69 Dodge Charcher which should be in the next release, as well as a parking lot for practicing drifting. It's really nice to see VDrift flourishing after the open source racing scene suffered a serious setback a few years back when Racer became closed source.



Warzone 2.0.4 is now ready. I hope this fixes any problems people may have exprerienced with it. The guys working on Warzone are fans-turned-developers so are learning all the time - things should get smoother with each release.



Finally, the commercial Freelancer has spawned an ambitious fan project, Openlancer. It will no doubt take years to complete and be freeware, but for fans of Freelancer it's worth following. (I only mentioned this because I got Freelancer and Freespace2 confused so thought it may be a fork before I realised my mistake.)

Friday, August 25, 2006

Yet More Free Game Updates...

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Ultimate Stunts 0.6.2 is out. I always loved the original Stunts 4D game that inspired this. Ultimate Stunts looks a little more free form than ManiaDrive and reminds me of an old game Car & Driver whose graphics haven't aged a bit *cough* *splutter*. That game was ace. I was did a 49 rotation somersault off a cliff, bounced of the bridge, did several flips, and landed on the road. Tell me another game where you could be so Mick Jagger.

There's a new Free FPS on the go. I say new, I mean "re-released with better graphics". It's Marathon Rubicon X which takes the original and drags it kicking and screaming into the modern PC world. I believe it is sprite based instead of 3D enemies, so is a modern throwback to the days of Duke Nukem 3D. I couldn't find any screenshots of Rubicon X.

On the Game Tome I also found The Black Legacy Darkness 0.9.9. This 3D Fantasy Sci-Fi MMORPG project looks something like a cross between Quake 3 and Anarchy Online, only it's Free. The homepage looks like it's been run through the Google translator so the English is broken, but I'm sure that's not an indication of the state of the game.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Snippets and Tidbits

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Due to personal reasons Free Gaming has been a bit slow lately. Here's a few snippets...

I'm off to suffer having lost my gal to her desire to be free! If only the female mind were open source...

Friday, August 18, 2006

Freeciv Beta + Mania Drive Update

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There's been an update to Mania Drive. This one introduces a beginners storyline, which is a welcome addition to any non-expert drivers given the difficulty of the previous release! Lots of bug fixes, lots of new levels, and this game is definitely now one of the leading Free Software driving games available.



Also of note is the 2.1-beta2 release of Freeciv. I checked out the SDL version and it is really looking nice. However, the term "beta" means beta. The release is laden with bugs. Loading it up, the "Start New Game" option is disabled. After manually starting and connecting to a localhost server, the "Server Settings" button was impotent. Still, I remembered "set aifill=6" to give me some opposition although I couldn't work out how to make them tougher (and was too lazy to google) so played on easy AI.



I'll start by saying that they really need to review most of the UI - it is a usability nightmare. Everything is iconized making most actions guesswork until you gain any familiarity. The icons are very small, making them awkward to hit with the mouse. It's little things like the options icon being in the top left corner but not being at the edge making it far harder to spot and hit than it should be. It's like the Windows 98 start button all over again.



A simple tip for the devs - the tooltips are too slow, making them more frustrating than helpful. In fact, I'd forget tooltips for the little buttons and instead have a region above the buttons where it immediately displays the name of the button under the cursor:





The city dialogs are dreadful. They need rethinking from the ground up. I only got anywhere by guesswork - the unit queuing mechanism is completely unintuitive. Make it drag and drop, please. Also it would be really nice to have preset queues since I often make the same 4-5 entries in the build queue for each new city.



Also, why the devil are the science, revolution, and tax buttons located on the unit display in the bottom right? Group things together sensibly! Don't stick things somewhere for symmetry even though they do not belong there.



Also I think it's time to realise that moving the entire view for automatically moving units is 1) disorientating 2) annoying and 3) distracting. Either reset the view back to where it was before the automatic unit movement [since that's where I wanted to be] or making a sub-window (transport tycoon style) showing the currently active unit. Here's a mockup, with a few other peeves highlighted:





One of the most annoying problems was the UI moving the mouse cursor - often it was impossible to select units or cities because moving the mouse over them made it jump somewhere else.



Another glaring problem is the one highlighted in a previous blog on Freeciv - the lack of notifications to speed up multiplayer games really impacts single player games. I built two wonders but was never told about it - I only found out by spotting one city building city walls (I never do) and another on coinage.



I could go on [this all came from only 30 minutes of play] but, like I originally pointed out, this is a beta. If you want something reliable then stick with Freeciv 2.0.x for now. However, this is shaping up as a very nice game with good graphics that make Freeciv 2.0.x/1.x look incredibly dated. I look forward to the final 2.1 release although I don't expect it in 2006 on the evidence of this beta.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Silver Lining Demo

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There is a demo of The Silver Lining (formely known as King's Quest IX) available for download!



For those who don't know, King's Quest is a long running series from Sierra. Back in the good old days of 16 colours, this game combined the best possible graphics, fantastic landscapes, puzzles, and great stories. In fact, I don't think I enjoyed many adventure games more than King's Quest V. (Then again I stopped buying games after that.)



There's a good overview of the King's Quest series on everybody's favourite resource. There's a quick overview & screenshots of each of the KQ titles on vintage-sierra.com. There's also freeware VGA remakes of KQ1 and KQ2 availabe from ADG Interactive.



Enough background information... onto the game in question.




The Silver Lining


The Silver Lining is a 3D adventure game with breathtaking scenery and superbly animated characters. It is a fan-made game so it should combine, refine, and outshine the qualities of the original King's Quest titles. The visuals are stunning and if the gameplay is half as good, this will be an unmissable piece of freeware.



There's a trailer on Google Video, as well as a making-of.



The bad news, it's Windows only. And my laptop is too crap to run it.



I did try to talk them into open sourcing the engine a while back, but it fell on deaf ears. That is, "We don't want people to steal or ruin our game!" deaf ears. Ignorance is bliss.



I would be interested to know how well it works with WINE or Cedega.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

ORTS - A Free Software RTS Game Engine

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OTRS
Well, look what we have here. Joining the likes of Boson, Glest, and TA:Spring/TA3D is another Free 3D RTS game: ORTS.

The interesting thing about ORTS is the motivation - the AI.

ORTS is a programming environment for studying real-time AI problems such as pathfinding, dealing with imperfect information, scheduling, and planning in the domain of RTS games.

<snip> ...the current state of RTS game AI is bleak which is mainly caused by the lack of planning and learning - areas in which humans are currently much better than machines.

<snip> ... the ORTS project [is] a free software system that lets people and machines play fair RTS games.

<snip> Users can connect whatever client software they like. This is made possible by a server/client architecture in which only the currently visible parts of the game state are sent to the players. This openness leads to new and interesting possibilities ranging from on-line tournaments of autonomous AI players to gauge their playing strength to hybrid systems in which human players use sophisticated GUIs which allow them to delegate tasks to AI helper modules of increasing performance.


The game is not yet released as a download although you can grab a daily snapshot and build it yourself. Is it going to be released any time soon?

We have a working platform-independent server/client RTS [3D] game engine... We are working on a standard ORTS game... By autumn 2006 we hope to have a working system which is interesting for both RTS players and AI researchers.


This is definitely one worth watching out for. AI agents are already publicly available. It could be a game that's tougher and less predictable than usual. Most games challenge me but I'm, er, challenged.

What I do like about it is that the AI won't cheat. There's nothing that pisses me off more about a game than lazy developers giving the AI daft advantages because they were too inept [or short on time] to come up a decent AI. I like to be beaten because something has been clever, not because it can unfairly see all my units or build things for half the cost!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Gusanos on Linux

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Thanks to Nicklas Marcusson who took the time to email me his findings on running Gusanos on Linux.

Without further ado:

I saw in your previous blog entry that you mentioned gusanos and I have been looking for a good liero like game for linux, and man I have to say this game is the cat's pyjamas :D

It is a shame that they have not made it easy to find the documentation on how to compile it for linux and what mods there is etc.

I thought I'd share my findings:

Build gusanos under linux:
http://gusanos.sourceforge.net
/docs/doku.php?id=main:installation_docs:linux


How to fix a compile error with the latest cvs source code:
http://comser.liero.org.pl
/forum/index.php?topic=250.msg2549#msg2549


Mods for gusanos:
http://powerhuhn.net/depot/gusanos/mods/

Fanzine covering the latest and greatest news regarding Gusanos:
http://powerhuhn.net/depot/gusanos/lieromag/

Video of the upcoming Quake mod for gusanos:
http://powerhuhn.net/depot/gusanos/videos/trailerg3a1.avi

Friday, August 11, 2006

Clanlib update, Pingus to follow?

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Recently the ClanLib team released version 0.8.0 upon the indie game development world. This "game SDK" boasts an impressive number of games built using it, and one of the more notable ones is Pingus.

Pingus Level

Pingus Tutorial Island

Peng2illa
Pingus, many may recall, is a Lemmings clone, except we watch lots of penguins die instead of lemmings. The last release, 0.6, shows so much promise - it's stable and playable and comes with a tutorial set of levels (tutorials == good) presented nicely on an island. Sadly, it seems that development has somewhat ceased. From memory and list archive perusal, issues with ClanLib changes [from ClanLib 0.6 to the then-unstable 0.7] was hindering progress. I'm very hopeful that, now ClanLib 0.8 is out, development might resume and a release with more levels and depth can rekindle the project.

Another cool ClanLib-based game is Peng2illa. This circular pong-on-rails game is very good looking and about as fun as pong can be.

Sadly many of the games in the ClanLib list are either obselete or their development has stalled. Feuerkraft is one such example of any exciting game whose author, the prolific grumbel, has not had time for in the last few years which is a shame because it looks like it could be so cool if it was developed a bit more.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

New Mistlands Download

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What is Mistlands? It's a graphically impressive 3d open source rpg! At the end of July they released Milestone 5, just over a year since their last release. It's online-only, I think, which is a shame. Single player games just aren't the flavour these days.

I feel obliged to mention Gusanos. Thanks to Amos ML for the link and apologies for taking more than a month to post it. Gusanos is a Liero clone for modern operating systems. (Liero requires DOS or DOS emulation.) Whilst the Windows download was easy to get to, I couldn't see an obvious download for non-Windows platforms despite the homepage promise of portability. For those not familiar with the classic Liero, here's some gameplay videos of Gusanos. Think Worms vs Quake.

There was an update to Trackballs, making it more fun for younger kids which is good news for me and my 6 year old.

For the adventurous, there's a 0.2 pre-release of Battles of Antargis which is coming along nicely.

There's two new interesting 2d platformers, both of which are at a very alpha stage of development so don't expect too much: Zelda2D (er, Zelda in 2D), Wasteland (kinda Jazz Jack Rabbit crossed with Mario)

In my enforced abscense there's been a number of updates to a lot of good open source games. Here's a few notable ones: Globulation (notably new AI!), Blob and Conquer (lots of new levels), Sturmbahnfahrer

Intermission!

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Sorry for the lack of posts... damn laptop died and it's taken several days to sort it out. Between that and an unusually time-sapping week last week, it took the wind out of my free gaming sails.

Service will be resumed shortly.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Freecol, VDrift, Sauer... heaven!

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I'll start by noting I messed up my last post. Despite making the post on the 23rd, it was dated the 18th so any frequent readers may have easily missed it. So, for those who haven't yet read it, check out Freeciv3 Part I.



Freecol


Now, onto the real meat. In the last week, Freecol 0.5 was - at long last - released. The original colonization had a cult following and Freecol is only going to enhance that community. It's got a lot of potential. It's got some very nice visuals for a Free game and they're improving with every release.



I've been lazy here and used a screenshot from 0.4 since I'm at work and can't load it up to take a new one, although to me it looks the same in 0.5 for that part of the game.



The game is now very playable with plenty of depth but there's still a few negatives for me:



  • The ugliness of Java does sneak through in places despite heavy UI customization. (God damn the default Java UIs are ugly - are Sun developers blind?)
  • Sadly I'd forgotten how to play Colonization and there's no tutorial so I didn't get too far. Hopefully a tutorial will be added in a future version.
  • The GUI tended to redraw quite slowly every time I closed a dialog.
  • Usability needs reviewing e.g. when moving a unit, if it finishes it's move, the game switches to the next unit automatically. That makes it really easy to accidentally move units in the wrong direction by pressing a direction too many times with the previous unit.


Anyway, since 0.5 != 1.0, I look forward to improvements in upcoming releases.



VDrift scenery


Following up the VDrift release earlier this month, the VDrift team have provided an autopackage to help people get drifting. I tried the Windows install on my laptop with it's integrated not-really-3D card and VDrift looked like a toddlers colouring book - bright and messy. Can't blame them for that though, and it's not worth fixing so I can play at 3fps.



There are some screenshots from the latest VDrift. It is beginning to look absolutely beautiful.



In what could be a Free Gamer exclusive, I spotted an update to Sauerbraten. Entitled, "normalmap version", this release presumably focuses on the introduction of normal maps to Sauer's rendering capabilities.



There's an amusing exchange in that thread between Passa (a Sauer developer, I think) and Aardappel (the main Sauer developer), where Passa notes community confusion over to Sauerbraten's identity.



Passa:



On the community promotion Aardappel, I have been trying to convince my ISP to host a server for Sauerbraten.. unfortunately the general community say its just a Quake 3 clone..


Aardappel:



well, so we are improving.



- I started Cube as an advanced Wolfenstein 3D clone :P

- It was then perceived as a Doom clone

- Once we got the really HQ maps like metl3 it was perceived as Quake 1, sometimes even Quake 2 Clone

- Sauer started life as looking like a Quake 2 clone

- Then with the better maps people thought it looked more like Quake 3

- and now with the bump maps I have heard comparisons with Quake 4!!!



So hey, even though people can't get it in to their thick skull that there are other things besides quake out there, and that this is not some kind of lame based on quake source project, we are certainly moving forward!


Sauerbraten isn't half bad for a Quake 3 clone.



What!??! ;-)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Freeciv3? Part I

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There was an interesting discussion over on the Freeciv mailing lists on the goals of the project.



Freeciv developer Per started the conversation by stating what he believes is the main obstacle to Freeciv development at the moment, the clash between single player and multiplayer goals:



We can make a very good single player game... Or we can create a game that is fun in multiplayer... Because once we need to take into account the needs of higher amounts of players and a competitive and possibly hostile environment, the needs of single player must suffer...



...we must decide which is more important, single player or multiplayer.



I have no problem saying single player is more important... [since] multiplayer is inherently broken and unfixable without a redesign making multiplayer the priority.


He goes on to give more justification in the email for his beliefs, which I completely agree with. I do not, however, agree with the conclusion that only one of single player or multiplayer aspects can be effectively achieved.



To start with, there are reasons like this that I think are flawed:



The ban on modal dialogs has improved multiplayer significantly, but along with timeout and the undeclared ban on pausing the game to display information, it rules out many ways of displaying information to the player that can be highly beneficial for single player.


To me, that is a broken implementation. Messaging should be abstracted, thereby giving the option of both modal and non-modal implementations (or varieties on both). It should be a preference that is dependent on the context (in this case, whether the game is single player or multiplayer). It is both simple to design and implement if the codebase is sufficiently organised - that is, if the UI is independent of the game logic. Like this pseudo code:



private void some_game_logic = function() {

  Message.UserDialog("some_action", SIMPLE_MESSAGE);

}



public abstract class Message {

  public abstract Message GetMessage();

  public void UserDialog(string msg, int type) {

    switch (type) {

      case SIMPLE_MESSAGE:

        // set single close button

        Display();

        break;

      // other cases

    }

  }

}


Then implement a modal version that blocks until the dialog is closed, and a non-modal version that returns instantly and displays the dialog using a different thread.



The more important obstacles to Freeciv as a game are better identified by 'saywhat':

AIUI "good game design" involves boiling down a lot of game
elements until you're left with only the essentials. Elements which
dilute the fun are thrown out; elements which give the player "fun"
(in the form of interesting choices) are kept in.


He basically goes on to state that Freeciv attempts to handle too much by scaling the gameplay. Lost a city? Build a city. Got space? Build more cities. Bigger is better and once you have Democracy, there's nothing but positives to having an expansive empire. Roads and railroads are, once built, cost free, so build them everywhere.



I think the problem with the Civilisation genre of games as a whole is that they do not take how empires rise and fall as they have done in history. All empires that have tried to grow too much have imploded, then often risen again as smaller but more solid cultures. The Romans? Now the Italians. Persia? Now Iran. The British Empire? Now the UK and Commonwealth (which is losing it's relevance). The USSR? Now a flagging smaller Russia.



Freeciv would be better at looking at ways to make growing too big problematic. It needs to turn what is a race-to-grow game into a more tactical use-others-best game. Focus less on building and more on cooperating. Make growth painful. Quite simply, large cities should be nigh impossible to support without certain technologies. Look at how corrupt Rome was, for instance.



There are suggestions in that discussion at limiting growth by making it more difficult to found cities by making settlers more difficult to come by. I don't like this approach as it is introducing a limitation when the team should be looking at ways to address the flaws that make large civilisations too powerful and too easy to manage.



I think they need to start looking at more radical ways to change Freeciv. In fact, I think they should consider distinctively non-Civ changes to the gameplay, giving Freeciv it's own identity as a game. I say they should draft Freeciv3 as a total departure from standard Civilization and leave Freeciv2 as the Civ-like implementation.



I shall introduce my ideas for Freeciv3 in a follow up article. Please post any ideas you have!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Some Cool Game Updates

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UFO:AI


Hot off the press is the 2.0 rc3 release from the UFO:AI team, which is shaping up as a flagship open source game after it briefly floundered due to developer desertion last year. This is another example of why indie games being open source is a Good Idea (tm). Had this been closed source, the promising initial release (tech demo 1) would have the end of the line. Fortunately it was the beginning of an era.



Another important Free strategy game was updated today - Warzone Resurrection. If you haven't played this yet, I don't know what you are waiting for. It's about as polished as you will come across for an open source game, mainly due to it's commercial roots.



When it rains, it pours. TA:Spring, the advanced Total Annihilation engine, was updated on the 17th to version 0.72b1. The changelog is impressive, with the main new features being a new shield system and custom explosions, both mainly for modders. I'm hopeful that TA:Spring will turn into a respectable standalone game in it's own right based on some of the budding mods. I know you can play it without the original TA but I hope they really back and bundle some officially.



There was also another major update to TA3D, a friendly competitor to TA:Spring. I haven't researched the difference between the two but I get the impression the latter is at a more advanced stage of development.



Automanic


In a departure from the tactical flavour of this post, the promising Carmageddon-alike Automanic saw it's second official release, achieving version 0.2 earlier in the week. I'm really enjoying the progress of Automanic, especially after seeing promising games like Slickworm and DIE stagnate and, er, die. I hope that a community builds around it and keeps development alive and kicking.



The original Carmaggedon was awesome and it would be great to top it and improve on the genre with a Free game. I hope the Automanic developers avoid the dreaded rewrite bug that tends to kill off a lot of open source games. If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Essential Open Source Tools for Windows

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Windows is not a platform oft associated with open source software, but we can not escape from the fact that the majority of computers world-wide run it as the primary operating system. Free game developers mostly seem to run a Linux variant, but there is an increasing number of developers on Windows who are coming around to the open source mentality without subscribing to the need to run Linux.



Some of the tools a developer will use are dictated by the chosen programming language. Outside of that, here is a run-down of my favourite tools for developing on Windows, most of which I use on a daily basis as part of my day job.



All of these programs are Free Software.



Planning



Got ideas? Freemind helps you "mind map" them into a tangible format. I find Freemind incredibly useful for both existing and new projects. It helps you intuitively organise your thoughts and I use it for developing feature plans as well as iterating new ideas into a coherent state.



When I have more definite plans and I want to create diagrams to visualise or document processes, I use Dia. It can be especially useful for helping others understand what your code is supposed to do by providing a process diagram.



Development (Editors)



I find Notepad++ to be indispensible. This multi-purpose editor has an impressive set of features yet a very small footprint and loads nearly instantly. I use it for quickly viewing and editing most source code, and use it exclusively for any kind of web design work. I even find myself missing this editor when I use my Linux machines!



WinMerge, a visual diff and merge tool, is great for comparing edited code. I often duplicate code bases to work on a specific feature in each and WinMerge is the simple solution for reviewing what I have done.



While the combination of Notepad++ and WinMerge cover all my basic development needs. If I really need a heavyweight IDE, I can rely on Eclipse. For something inbetween Notepad++ and Eclipse, you could try JEdit.



Development Tools



Some people find SCM tools a little intimidating. Those people have not yet used TortoiseSVN which makes working with SVN about as simple as SCM gets. It integrates directly into Windows explorer and is another tool that I really miss when I work on Linux.



Unimpressed by the compressed folders Windows offers as a way to represent zip files, I found 7-zip which takes care of all my file [de]compression and archiving needs. It handles pretty much any format going (including .rar and .tar.gz) which can be handy in this multi-archive-format world we live in.



And of course there is PuTTY. This ssh utility is simple but, "does what it says on the tin."



I used to use Cygwin a lot but began to find it more frustrating than productive and often using it when I would have been better researching Windows-oriented replacements.



Graphics



A lot of Free games use pixel art. For this, there is no better tool than JDraw, which totally focuses on the manipulation of pixels. If you want simple art or just want to refine your smaller images, this is the tool for you.



For more complex art there is Inkscape and GIMP. Inkscape is emerging as one of the leading vector graphics editors, surpassing it's commercial counterparts in many areas. [The curiously named] GIMP (Gnu Image Manipulation Program) is the open source equivalent to the popular Photoshop. Whilst the debate on which UI approach is better will never end, recent versions of GIMP have greatly enhanced it's usability and it is a very advanced, capable, and reliable image editor.



Communicating



I use HydraIRC for logging onto FreeNode. HydraIRC is the best open source IRC client for Windows that I could find. It is decent although a little rough in some ways. FreeNode is the first place to go if you want to get involved in the open source scene. Most notable Free Software projects have a channel there and you can often talk to the developers directly.



GAIM is good for instant messaging and can also be used for IRC.



Missing!



I have not yet found a decent open source task tracker for Windows. Anything I have encountered has either been web-based (I'm not looking to share) or not open source.



Please leave comments with any other tools you think I've missed out.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

More Upcoming Releases

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There is a release imminent for Mars: Land of No Mercy, which got it's own .org domain name recently. This isometric strategy mech game is developing at a steady pace and sees version 0.1.2 released next week.



New Ecksdee Level


The next version of Ecksdee is shaping up nicely. There's some preview screenshots of a new level for the next version (0.0.9) one of which can be seen here. There's another level in development which is more ambitious and targeted for the 0.1 release of Ecksdee. The Ecksdee developers will be at the Crystal Space conference this weekend in Aachen, Germany. An Ecksdee talk should take place on Sunday at 1pm local time.



There's another stunt-like Free game on the horizon: Sturmbahnfahrer. The game describes itself as, "Simulated obstacle course for automobiles." As such, the gameplay is oriented around using physics to complete the levels rather than racing.



There's a curious new freeware game based on OGRE. The Blob sees the player taking on the role of a blob of paint who must, it seems, paint the city of Utrecht. There are screenshots galore in the OGRE featured projects section. Sadly it seems to be Windows-only and you'll need a 2ghz PC.



Finally I'll round by with the Planeshift release. This iteration on the 0.3 "Crystal Blue" version squashes many bugs, adds optimizations, and introduces features such as improved item crafting, item decay, new spells, and improved character handling. Read the 0.3.015 changelog for more details.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

VDrift - More Cars & Tracks

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There's a significant update to VDrift, the open source drift racing game. Now it has a decent selection of cars and tracks, 19 and 12 respectively, to play on and development seems to be picking up pace. This is an excellent game and I urge any people interested in racing games to get involved. With a bit of community dedication this could be turned into a really polished commercial quality racing game.



At the moment they are looking for people to post screenshots. There is only a binary for Linux of the latest release but I'm sure other platforms will follow sooner rather than later.



Loose Cannon is a 3d Gauntlet-style post modern shoot-em-up. The previous release (0.4) was promising but shaky. I'll have to see what this update is like.



I see Eternal Lands has had an update too. I've known about this update for a couple of weeks, just forgot to post about it. Still, I'm not an EL fan. I don't really understand what motivates people to play a game where the main focus is on harvesting - that is, your character sat down with numbers occasionally popping up over their heads representing improvements or gained goods. Still, I have a friend addicted to EL so it can't be that bad, it's just not for me.



I was quite interested to see Dune Legacy make an appearance on the Linux Game Tome. I remember playing Dune II back in 1992 and really enjoying it's gameplay. I then remember playing Command and Conquer and noticing how they'd improved the graphics but the gameplay was always essentially the same.



Then, eight years later, out came Dune 2000. It still had identical gameplay to Dune II, right down to some of the real playability bugs (units not always defending themselves, especially if you accidentally set them shooting the floor - they'll craterise the landscape whilst being picked off by weaker enemies) just it had pretty 3D graphics. I was disgusted. Now I see references to it being a remake of Dune II, but at the time I remember otherwise and recall an interview with the lead developer describing how innovative they were being.



It's always great to see game innovation and Dune II was amazing for it's time. It's always dismaying to see a company like Westwood then become so unoriginal. It's like they sacked all the people with decent ideas. One of the great things about Free games is you don't see people sinking into a wash-rinse-repeat development schedule pumping out meaningless titles that stick to the same formula after a decade. Unconstrained by commercial handcuffs where the priority is the money and not the game, people work on what they believe makes a good game.



Are recent C&C releases still as pathetic? Still based on gameplay that hasn't really changed since 1992?

Monday, July 10, 2006

Freecol vs Swecol

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The 0.5 release of Freecol is imminent! I've been looking forward to this. Freecol is one of the best looking open source games with a very artistic interface. This will be the first really playable version of Freecol, and as such I expect it to take off as a project after this point. Good open source games always have a critical mass point where they blossom from one or two man efforts into community driven projects. This, I feel, is that point for Freecol.



However, there is a twist! Well, I'm just being dramatic, but another Colonization project has cropped up. Proclaiming to be Colonization II, copyright violations withstanding, Swecol2 profresses to be an open source sequel to the 1994 classic. There is even a teaser trailer.



On the face of things, Swecol2 looks promising despite being graphically (and seemingly gameplay-wise) inferior to Freecol. However, there is some cynism about and the fact that this is not yet open source makes is cause for suspicion:



...this is an open source project (the code will be released later on, right now it's [too] embarrassing to show anyone our code).


Still, I'm not trying to discourage a prospective Free game. I just feel developers should be open if they are going to be open source... it keeps people's expectations on a level with the reality of the game. Teasing players with trailers and promises of classic game sequels should be backed up by downloadable code so people can see what is going on.



In a slight departure from games, I'm going to mention Notepad++. If you use Windows, especially if you develop anything on Windows, this is an indispensable replacement for classic Notepad/Wordpad as well as an excellent lighter substitute for heavier IDEs. Notepad++ combines a small footprint with tons of features such as tabs and syntax highlighting. Really, I don't think I could stand using Windows without it. Wusers, check it out right now! I'll go as far as saying it's the best multi-purpose editor I've ever used on any platform.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Dedication's What You Need

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...if you wanna be a record breaker! Oooo ooo... </singing>

One of the great things about Free software games is that people are free to dedicate themselves to whatever makes them happy. Check out this ship, the Atlantia, created for a Vega Strike mod [not yet published].

Speaking of Vega Strike, the musings over the last couple of weeks suggest a new 0.4.x release [the current engine] later on in the year. I don't think the real juice [the 0.5 OGRE-based engine] will come until 2007, but when it does it will be good. Check out the screenshot to the right, a sample of planet shaders that VS developer klauss is working on. More images here.

That's simply beautiful.

There's a new dungeon game in town. Sadly it is a Doom 3 mod so it's not really free, but we know what happens with iD engines so there is hope! The game is Dungeon Doom and hopefully it will evolve into a stellar Free game in the future.

Another interesting mod [UT2004 this time] is Air Buccaneers. It looks innovative but again is based on a non-free engine. I wish people would create mods for free engines like Sauerbraten. Can you imagine the syndicated power of mod developers being focused on Free Software engines? If only I could control people's minds, the world would be a better place.

I tried a few games today.

Secret Maryo Chronicles is a high resolution remake of old-school Super Mario. It's fun for a bit but I don't have the patience to learn levels like I used to when I was younger. The game has no music and the way Maryo responds to controls doesn't quite feel right. Some parts of the game look great while others look distinctly amateur, but it has a lot of potential.

Ri-Li is a cross between a wooden train set and Snake. It's probably more aimed at kids, but the gameplay seems to get very hectic very quickly. Also I could swear that the train does not always go the direction you tell it to go. I tried pressing before junctions, pressing at junctions, pressing both before and at junctions, or just holding down the direction, and it felt hit-and-miss.

Then I tried Pang Zero and Don Ceferino Hazaña. The gameplay of both games revolves around throwing up a dagger or spear to pop balloons (?) that bounce around the screen and kill you on-touch. It's like a simpler version of asteroids. Don Ceferino is the more entertaining and polished of the two, even if the gameplay is essentially the same, with a nicely presented story despite the awful spilleng mistakes.

The Don Ceferino website is all in Spanish. I hate to say it, but the language of the Net is English. If you want maximum recognition and traffic, you had better translate your musings. Otherwise obscurity and International exile loom for your project.