Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Murry family: Ancient Art of War & Manhunter

Ancient Art of War was a really excellent game!  And in my opinion, perhaps the first "real time strategy" game, despite others being sited as the first.  This was 1984!  It was created by Dave Murry and Barry Murry.

AAoW was also one of the games most responsible for drawing me into game development because it shipped with an excellent level editor! I spent hours constructing my own maps using the provided tileset, and you could write your own intro story, and set some of the game rules as well.

I played the old CGA version...

The gameplay itself involved selecting units and giving movement orders around the map...

It wasn't until years later (around 2005) that I realised the same Murry family (now also joined by Dee Dee Murry) was behind another of my favorite, and most influential games, Manhunter: New York (1988) and Manhunter: San Francisco (1989) for Sierra!

The Manhunter games were these fantastic sci-fi adventure games, with a really brooding mood and dark story, depicting a dystopian future where Earth had been overrun by Orbs from outer space!

There were some cool sections of gameplay where you would track suspects in a Google Maps like device called the MAD!

The beauty of the game comes from everything being depicted in quite an everyday way where the domination of the Orbs has become mundane and accepted.

You play as a Manhunter, a worker for the Orbs, tracking down those who seek to overthrow the Orbs.  

The game featured great ghoulish art depicting the brown robed Manhunters, and a variety of scenes of gruesomely murdered victims and cadavers.  

Thanks to the Murrys for this unique and evocative chapter in the history of adventure games!

I'm still waiting for the final title in the series, Manhunter: London.  :)

Here's a nice little promo video for Manhunter: New York...

And another for Manhunter: San Francisco...

And a bit more of Manhunter: New York in action...

Doug Church: Object Systems, Immersive Sims

Here's a presentation by Doug Church (Looking Glass, Valve) from about 2003, about designing Object Systems for games.  

I've reformatted it a bit to make it easier to read, and included it here because I love the Thief games, and thought others might be interested in it too.

It is written (I assume) with an eye towards immersive sims, and other games where you want rich interactions and emergent gameplay possibilities.

Here's the Powerpoint, and here's the PDF.

I wish I had an audio recording of the presentation, but I don't think any such thing exists.


PS: Here's a little preview of a few of the slides from the presentation...

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Murray Lorden's Quake & Quake 2 Levels (1996 - 1998)

Quake Levels

I just dug up my old Quake maps from 1996.  Here they are!

The first map I made for Quake was "Bones".

At the time I was more focussed on playing music in a band than playing computer games. But one day, we turned up for our usual band rehearsal at our drummer's house, and he had Quake set up, networked across two computers!

It blew my mind.  Full 3D, realtime, incredible sound and lighting.  We started playing deathmatch with 2 or 3 computers at a time, and I loved the single player just as much! Quake drew me  straight back into the world of computer games.

Later, I found Virtus Deathmatch Maker at a local computer store in Eastland, Ringwood. I think it was a Dick Smith. I was thrilled to see this program would let me make my own maps!  I'd made my own maps for simple things as a kid, like Ancient Art of War...  but never anything in 3D!  It was a a lot to learn, but it pulled me straight in.

My second map was called "Myltek".

I still wasn't super good at making a visually rich or coherent world, but I enjoyed making the gameplay spaces, implementing game logic and challenging situations, and testing them over and over, tweaking things.  

Quake 2 Levels

Later I got Virtus Deathmatch Maker 2 so I could make Quake 2 levels.

I got a bit more carried away with these levels, bringing in some custom ambient sounds, and making environments that were a bit more themed (although still a bit rampant as well).

This is two missions, that joined together.  There isn't really an ending to it all!  But it's a fun journey.  

I call it "Drunken Goons & the Underground Operation".

Thief 2

It wasn't until a few years later, around 2000, that I built a more coherent, fully realised environment and mission for Thief 2, called "Lady Lomat's Flute".  

I first released that mission in 2001, and then revisited it again about 10 years later, adding a lot more polish, and a complete intro movie voiced and illustrated by Brendan Barnett.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Adventures in GW Basic: The Podigan

When I was a kid, our family got an IBM Compatible PC.  

We got it in about 1983, I think, and man-oh-man it changed my life!

It introduced me to Digger, Alley Cat and King's Quest...  
...but importantly, we also got GW Basic!

The video below shows my GW Basic exploits, including a bit of graphics drawing, a maths program, and the biggest thing I ever wrote...  PODIGAN!

Podigan was an infamously unfinished sci-fi space-fantasy text adventure, inspired by the likes of Space Quest, King's Quest and Transylvania...

Check it out in this video!

Here's a screenshot of PODIGAN in action!

I think I was about 11 or 12 years old when I wrote it.  
It was about 1990.  

I remember sitting up in our old pine walled computer room, on the PC.

The whole thing was just made up of a few simple variables and tons of GOTO commands. ie:
10 IF input "Get dagger", GOTO 1050

I craved to be able to do more advanced programming, to make games like the ones I was playing...  King's Quest and Digger.  

I had no proper idea of what GW Basic was fully capable of, or how to do anything with functions or classes, or anything that might have the appearance of object oriented programming!

I knew I really needed to write SYSTEMS that could repeat themselves, and iterate over data.  But all I could figure out was to write IF THIS, THEN GOTO sort of statements.  :)

I would have to say that writing this was a pretty clear sign that I really wanted to make computer games.  It was very time consuming, and required lots of testing and iterating. And I enjoyed those things!

I tried to imbue the story with humour, even in the way the silly PC Speaker soundtrack was composed.

The game was never finished (surprise!).  You can play through the first section of the game, and then it suddenly ends.  You know the deal.

You can download my GWBasic folio here.  The ZIP includes DosBox, GWBasic, and a handful of my GWBasic projects, including a Menu that lets you load up each one.  

But frankly, it's much easier to just watch the video above!  Enjoy.  

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Steam VR - HTC Vive - Prototype Development - Video #010

I've taken what I've learnt from my earlier prototype scene, and consolidated it into a new scene, which will hopefully be a simple game that I put out on Steam!

I really want to get a simple game out there, that works, as it's been years since I put a game out, and it seems ripe to get something simple and fun out early, before the whole VR market gets swamped! :)

To begin with I've just created a companion AI. I've always wanted to be able to make cool, believable, intelligent characters. And with the help of NavMesh and Mecanim, it actually doesn't seem to be too hard!

I'm planning to put in 1 or 2 simple enemies, and then set a goal of making it through the level, clearing out all the enemies with the help of your companion. Or something!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Steam VR - HTC Vive - Prototype Development - Video #007

My VR game is starting to take shape as more of a proper level.  Or at least the basis of one.

I have toiled away on "book-ending" the level, giving it (something of) a start and an end, - a frame - so that I know the shape that I will paint within.

...It is night, you arrive by boat across an ocean, and you make your way to a structure atop a hill.

...You have a gun, and a torch.  

...You come across some creatures inhabiting the space.

And from here, we go forwards!

Now it's time to explore the ideas that will go inside!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Steam VR - HTC Vive - Prototype Development - Video #004

These are the results from the end of my 2nd weekend of development on my HTC Vive VR prototype / experiment...

Note: This is a dark level, so if you're on mobile or laptop, turn your brightness up full to see it as intended.  If it's just too dark for you, there's a more lightened version here... 

I've been learning a bunch more about the finer details of Unity, and good work flows.

Character AI and Animation System
I made an animation system that will allow a character to NavMesh around, to use line of sight perception, and to play animations, including NavMeshAgent.Stop() and NavMeshAgent.Resume() when they play their Hurt animation.  

Still more work to be done on these systems!  But I'm really happy with it as a start, and it supports the ability to plug in new characters/animations easily!  So I'll add some more enemy types in soon to experiment with different sizes, speeds, perception settings, etc.

Gun System
I've also got a decent gun system working that allows the player to shoot bullets, and it produces a muzzle flash, and plays a sound randomly from an array of assigned sounds.

I still need to... 

  • Support animations for the gun
  • Support the idea of a clip size, ammo, reloading

I will add a few more guns soon, as the system will now let me plug more in quite quickly.

Lots of ideas are percolating away while working on these basic sort of features.  So, I'm not sure how far I'll go with this experiment / prototype.  But I'm having fun with it for now!

I think I'd like to finish this off as a short experience, and put it out in some way, on Steam or, whether ti's a free download, or a few dollars, or something (depending on how far I take it).