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Recent Developments August 31, 2006

Posted by Jesse in : Game Development , add a comment

I added a few affiliate links in the games section. The plan is to put up games that I found to be worthy of immediate purchase, so if you see something there, I’m giving it my highest recommendation, even if I haven’t had time to write a review. I’m not really looking to turn TPN into a games portal or anything, so if I start making more money than it costs me to keep the site up I’ll see about lowering my commission percentages.

Microsoft released the beta version of XNA yesterday. Development on TPN games had pretty much stopped since the announcement, because I feel that the xbox 360 (and more specifically the xbox live arcade) would be the perfect platform for my games. Now this means I get to go back to work. I’m extremely excited.

Current TPN Projects:
The Annie Game.
An action puzzler similar to The Adventures of Lolo or Professor Fizzwizzle. I currently have a playable prototype (complete with programmer art). My first order of business will be to port it over to XNA. (I was originally referring to the protagonist as Annie, though I think that’s likely to change. Until I come up with a new concept I’ll just refer to the game as Annie.)

The Mummy Project.
This game will be more of an action game than a puzzler. You control a mummy and have to guard a tomb against treasure hunters looking to rob the tomb. Meanwhile, you need to find magical objects in the tomb to give to a wizard who has promised to restore you to life. It’s still just in the planning stages, though I think I should be able to use alot of code from Annie, since they’ll both be 2D games viewed from the same perspective.

Review: TalisMania August 14, 2006

Posted by Jesse in : Game Reviews , add a comment

Game: TalisMania
Developer: Popcap Games
Version: This is a review of the trial version of the game.
Recommendation: Try the demo

A week or so ago, I saw a message on the indiegamer forums that Popcap had just released a new game. That is always great news for me to hear, because I love a bunch of Popcap games. (Dynomite, Zuma, and Heavy Weapon being my favorites.) And since I had some time to kill while setting up my new development machine, I happily snagged the demo and got to playing. (I played in story mode.)

My first impression is that the graphics are great. I really love the way the characters look during the “cutscenes” between levels. But then, if there’s one thing Popcap is known for, it’s great looking, well polished games. Honestly, I wish their artists would do the graphics for my games.

In the story, King Midas has turned everything around him to gold, and he’s feeling remorseful. He’d now like to use his new power to benefit others. Luckily he has a staff of talented builders, and if you raise the necessary money, they’ll create buildings for the people.

Gameplay:
On the game board are two (or more) energy points, and you need to connect them by rotating them and the connector pieces that make up the rest of the game board. The connections can be made of bronze, silver, or gold. The more tiles you use in the chain to make a connection, the better your next round will be. And at the end of each level, if you’ve used enough silver and gold, you’ll get a bonus and your workers will create some especially nice buildings. As you progress to more difficult levels, you’ll have to worry about special tiles, with mythical creatures such as Medusa or minotaurs showing up. If you don’t use them as part of your chain, they’ll make life harder on you by wreaking havoc on your game board.

Between levels you’ll sometimes get to play a bonus round, where a Greek god or goddess will challenge you. If you win the challenge, you’ll win a special statue for the villagers.

What I liked:
As I said, the graphics are great. The sound is also perfect. I also enjoyed the gameplay mechanics, especially when the mythical creature tiles started coming into play.

What I disliked:
Since there’s no time limit, you can take as long as you like to try to find a perfect chain and always get a great score. This leads to a lack of difficulty since I can just win by trial and error. Guys in the indiegamer forum brought this up, and apparently that’s exactly what the Hero game mode is for. Unfortunately my time limit ran out before I thought to give that mode a try. Maybe that mode shouldn’t be locked away, or should be unlocked sooner.

Games it reminded me of:
The idea of connecting end points reminded me of games like Pipe Dream, although obviously the gameplay mechanic is quite a bit different. It also has similarities with another game I’ve played lately, called ConFuse Box.

Recommendations:
If you’re a fan of puzzle games, especially brain teasers that reward you for pouring over the board to come up with a perfect plan, this game could definitely be for you. Grab the demo and give it a go.

New development machine August 2, 2006

Posted by Jesse in : Uncategorized , add a comment

A couple of weeks ago, I ordered my new development computer. (And lets be honest, it’s my new gaming computer too.)

A few years back, when I built the computer I’ve been using, it was far cheaper to buy individual components and build it yourself. Now, I added everything up, and the price difference was minimal. So I ordered a new machine from I Buy Power.

Here’s the info, for anybody curious:
Coolermaster Ammo 533 case w/420W Power Supply
Athlon-64 3500+ CPU
eVGA SLI PCIE Motherboard (133-K8-NF41)
1024 MB DDR-400 PC3200 Crucial Value RAM
Nvidia Geforce 7300GS 256MB Video Card
250 GB Serial-ATA Hard Drive
Dual Format/Double Layer DVD±R/±RW

I’d like to say that everything was perfect when it arrived, but that’s not the case. Apparently the motherboard is finicky when it comes to the type of memory you use, and one of the 512 MB sticks was unhappy. Neither the bios memory test nor memtest showed any errors, but things would mysteriously fail. For example, when installing the updates for Windows XP, every fifteenth (or so) update would just report “failed.”

Eventually I found a reproducable test so that I could identify the problem. When running the Firefox installer, the first thing it does is unpacks compressed data. During that unpacking stage, sometimes I’d get an error “CRC failed.” When I took out the bad stick of RAM, the errors went away, and when put it back in, the problems returned. I bet that’s the first time Firefox has ever been used as a memory diagnostic tool. 🙂

To their credit, as soon as I told I Buy Power about the problem, they immediately said they’d exchange it for a new stick, no questions asked. However, when it came in yesterday, I ran into even more problems than before. Windows started doing some very wonky things, so I tested it, and both the bios memory test and memtest both give errors almost immediately. Thinking that it was another finicky motherboard problem, I brought the new stick to work with me, and put it into another computer with a known solid motherboard. I got the same errors.

There is an upside. In my research on the motherboard, I discovered a few settings I could play with, and managed to get the original “bad” RAM to work correctly. I ran my Firefox tests, and then played World of Warcraft for a half hour. I left the computer on overnight running tests, and everything is super stable.

Despite the trouble I’ve gone through, I’d still recommend I Buy Power. I can’t blame them for the finicky motherboard, and faulty hardware just happens sometimes. Their customer service has been awesome so far. I’m really happy with my machine.

Now if I could only get some work done.