Screenshot of Super Foul Egg remake

Years ago, I found the spritesheets + source code from the author of SFE, who was offering them up if anyone wanted to improve it, make it 4 player multiplayer again (like on RISC OS) etc (or something like that).

Last Sunday afternoon I was very bored, and found just the spritesheets lying around on an old disk, so I wrote the gamecode from scratch. Didn’t quite finish it that day, but I think one more boring Sunday and I’ll have over-the-internet multiplayer and highscores server working, which would rock.

Kevglass asked for a screenshot, so…

Continue reading “Screenshot of Super Foul Egg remake”

How to become an ARG designer (Design a game to cure cancer)

(ARG as in Alternate Reality Game, of course…)

http://www.letschangethegame.org/

A new ARG project from Adrian and Dan, in aid of Cancer Research UK. Great to hear they’ve got this off the ground, it looks like it’s going to be fantastic. But it could also become the biggest event in helping new ARG designers a chance to get their feet wet since the start of Unfiction and ARGN:

People always used to ask me
how they could become ARG designers, and I would always say that they
should try and gain experience – but with such a small field, the
only way to do that is through grassroots games. While people might
have plenty of time to volunteer, grassroots games still cost *some*
money which people often can’t spare. This is a way to give lots of
people experience in thinking about game design, and one team the
opportunity to make a really significant game. — Adrian Hon, Six to Start

8 things to avoid when building an MMOG server

A few years ago, I wrote an article for Develop magazine – “10 MMOs you don’t want to do”.

Here’s 8 things you really shouldn’t do but that might seem like a good idea if you’ve never made an MMOG before.

All these are examples of things that have been done on real MMO projects, usually MMORPGs.

  1. use off-the-shelf middleware from the enterprise industry. It’s designed for completely different usage-patterns and cannot cope with MMO style usage. Equally, initially distrust anything from traditional Big Iron companies.
  2. think that Grid Computing will somehow magically solve the problems. It won’t (c.f. previous point).
  3. aim to code the server in a scripting language. You *can* run some scripts embedded in the server, but not the server itself – but even that can screw you when you’re trying to run thousands of scripts at once
  4. assume that front-end load-balancing will solve any problems. It won’t, all it does is increase the efficiency of your cluster by a small amount. And it usually won’t provide you with failover, because most game designs will end up kicking you from your server if it dies, so the failover never gets used at that level.
  5. ignore performance testing until mid-way through the project. If performance tests at 10% of the way through production say it’s slow, that means you’re in deep trouble – it does NOT mean that “we’ll come back and optimize it later”. Optimizing netcode and server code is NOT like traditional single-threaded local-only optimization: many of the things you’re dealing with (like LANs, and TCP/IP stacks) run orders of magnitude too slowly, so your optimization comes from imaginative system-architecture, not from optimizing small chunks of code at a time.
  6. ignore billing concerns in your core game design. Non-free MMOG’s are entirely about billing, which means that you have to design it in, and build it in to the tech design from an early stage. Retrospectively adding billing hooks and billing information to existing server codebases is often about as easy and effective as retrospectively making your code secure. Just don’t go there.
  7. hire an academic who specializes in networking, especially a PhD student (this gets done quite often). All this means is that they’ve obsessed with a very narrow slice of the many many problems, and generally they won’t know WTF to do about the rest of the problems. That’s no better than just promoting a general programmer to become “the new Server specialist”
  8. innovate on both technology AND game design at the same time. Either do a traditional MMO so you can re-use all the existing common wisdom for design, and get to market (or at least a stable GDD) fast, and use the slack that buys you to focus on better tech, or use the most boring tech you can think of (instance lots; do lowest-hanging-fruit in your tech design) and innovate on the gameplay

I reserve the right to come back and edit this to make it ten once I’ve had more sleep and can remember two more :)…

RPG Vault – Online Worlds Roundtable #15

Inteviewed for RPG Vault’s latest Online Worlds Roundtable – http://rpgvault.ign.com/articles/817/817490p3.html

“Web 2.0 businesses compete directly with the games industry on multiple levels, and anyone who doesn’t spot that and act accordingly will suffer. If your game doesn’t embrace – or deliberately and carefully reject – Web 2.0, you’ll that your users have created the space you *didn’t*, and someone else is monetizing it. And they’re probably making more revenue than YOU are from providing the core service in the first place!” – Adam Martin

Entity Systems are the future of MMOG development – Part 1

A few years ago, entity systems (or component systems) were a hot topic. In particular, Scott Bilas gave a great GDC talk (http://scottbilas.com/files/2002/gdc_san_jose/game_objects_slides.pdf – updated link thanks to @junkdogAP) on using them in the development of Dungeon Siege. The main advantages to entity systems were:

  • No programmer required for designers to modify game logic
  • Circumvents the “impossible” problem of hard-coding all entity relationships at start of project
  • Allows for easy implementation of game-design ideas that cross-cut traditional OOP objects
  • Much faster compile/test/debug cycles
  • Much more agile way to develop code

Continue reading “Entity Systems are the future of MMOG development – Part 1”

AGDC 2007: Web 2.0 + Games meetup

I’m talking at Austin GDC on “Caching for Web 2.0”, and I’ll be having a small dig at the games industry and the obsession some people have with “game 1.0/2.0/3.0” on the side, but I’d really like to meet up with anyone interested in how best we can capitalize on the lessons from Web 2.0.

I think the vast majority of people in games still don’t “get it” when it comes to understanding web 2.0, and are going to make some really stupid egg-on-face mistakes and miss a few more big opportunities. But’s that just my opinion… :)

What’s yours?

UPDATE:
Venue: Halcyon
Time: 19:00
Day: Wednesday 5th

UPDATE 2: a couple of photos here