Friday, February 29, 2008

AGS Opera Redux

While browsing through the woefully underused AGS Wiki, to research my exciting forthcoming rant about said AGS resource, I saw that m0ds had been updating the AGS Opera page, and with vaguely fond memories, I went back and listened to them again. The AGS Operas are some very old songs written by AGSers about all kinds of silly topics. My favourites are the AGS Overture (by m0ds) and AGS Questions (by Grundislav). I'm pretty sure there were some more recent ones, but they don't seem to be on the page. Oh well, maybe they'll turn up. Go, have a listen and a giggle (beware: some strong language!) Its funny that although many of these operatic opuses pre-date my appearance in the AGS community (and I joined over 5 years ago), the same things still crop up many years later!

UPDATE: Thanks to AGA for having archived and pointing me at more AGS Operas here and here.

How I made my blogger tag cloud

Tag clouds are what all the cool kids are doing, so I was devastated to find that blogger don't have one in their default widgets, but google came to the rescue and I found another blogger blogger that had worked out how to do it. I followed his instructions and hey presto! a tag cloud as you can observer on the sidebar. However, some of my tags are quite long and I found that they were getting word-wrapped which looked pretty naff, so I tried to find out how to fix that.

First, I tried a bit of javascript string replacing to change the spaces to non-breaking spaces, but couldn't get that to work: it either removed the spaces or replaced them with the text &nbsp; neither of which I wanted. So I wondered if there was a CSS property I could use, and after flirting briefly with the IE-only <nobr> tag I found my answer: white-space:nowrap which I applied to #labelCloud a and my long tags no longer wrapped. Joy and happiness were mine!

Dave Gilbert told me yesterday that I need to ration myself, as I'm doing too many blog posts too quickly. Fortunately, I've now worked out how to change that datestamps on drafts, so I can store up my nuggets of wisdom and release them slowly to my avid readers, so as not to make them too clever too quickly and their brains explode. I'd hate to be responsible for someone having to clean up icky exploded brain off the upholstery.

Oh, and thanks to gnome for the Digg!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

More upcoming releases

OK, OK, so I missed your game out from my forthcoming games blog post! Look, its because it wasn't high enough up on the GiP forum, that's all... no offence meant!

Here's some I missed:

Blackwell Convergence: Dave Gilbert's 3rd game in the series has already had a great demo out (with fantastic rain effect, I must say) and although its release is a bit delayed because of Dave signing his soul away to a non-AGS SDK for future games, it should be out soon (and Dave still needs to pay the bills!). And it won't be the last in the series, either.

: Erin 'Ivy' Robinson's game, coded by Vince Twelve, looks like being another hit for the Spooks team. It's not the sequel (Skyward, which has been put on hold for now), but rather a game with lots of little robots running around. Lemmings meets Futurama? We'll have to wait and see!

Les Miserables
: Check out the teaser video for this fascinating game. It looks good, with minimalist art for characters on top of nice backgrounds and millions of NPCs milling around in the background. Anna meets A Tale of Two Kingdoms perhaps?

Quest For Glory 2 VGA
: Based on what's going on in the AGDI forums, it looks like this has entered beta testing. The beta testing forum members are saying it's great, but they would... lets hope, though, that this is finally the year that this one makes it out.

OK, now all the other people are going to email me to preview their games, too...

Upcoming releases

What looks interesting in the Games in Production forum? Here's what I found springing out from the active threads there...

Diamonds In the Rough: a new game from alkis, who wrote the epic Other Worlds a couple of years back. This is going to be a commercial game and is nearly finished. It will only be available to buy on CD/DVD, not as a download.

Forgotten Element: with AGS's answer to Lara Croft, still bursting out of her skimpy nurse uniform. Work is still ongoing and MashPotato (A Cure for the Common Cold) has signed up to do some art work.

Troopers: dkh, the guy who coded up the Indiana Jones and the Fountain of Youth demo and made the excellent Revelation (which unfairly missed out on a non-adventure nomination in the awards) had returned to his Command-and-Conquer-alike RTS game made in AGS. Something similar was done before with Missing in Action but this has a lot more going on, like a Radar GUI.

House of Whispers: As I mentioned in my recent newbies post, this game features pre-rendered 3D graphics and looks great so far. There's a demo, too.

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy: Dualnames is doing an idea I once vaguely pondered doing myself: a point-and-click version of the classic Infocom game of Douglas Adams's novel. The graphics have the visual style of the recent movie, but the plot is much closer to the book and Infocom game.

Isaac Asimov's Robots of Dawn: GIRL ALERT! OK, I won't keep doing those, but young mum Nightfable is putting together a gorgeous-looking game based on... well, I think you can work it out from the game name. LUniqueDan, Pixelblink and Ben304 have recently signed up to the team, and its looking like things are progressing well.

Doctor Who: Time Snare is another Sci-Fi franchise fan game, featuring Tom Baker's doctor fighting Nazis in occupied France! There are two demos out for this, and the game is expected to be released at the end of March.

Well, no doubt some of these games will take longer than we'd hope to materialize, or maybe never at all, but

AGS Games in Wikipedia

If you head over to Wikipedia, you'll find there's a few articles on various games made with AGS, and quite a long article about AGS itself (which was mainly written by DragonRose, I believe). Now, before you go and add your own game into Wikipedia, please beware... there used to be more articles about AGS games, but they were deleted. If you've not contributed to Wikipedia much, then you probably don't realise that they have quite strict policies about Vanity pages, Evidence for factual statements and most of all, Notability. Now, all of these are quite subjective and there are probably many pages in Wikipedia that would fall foul of these guidelines if anyone got around to noticing.

So, my request to anyone who reads this blog is to try the following, if they feel like delving into Wikipedia, follow these tips:
  1. Read up on Wikipedia policies before you start.
  2. Firstly, have a go at improving the existing pages on AGS games before you create any new ones. Get used to WikiMedia markup, make sure references are done properly, add more sources of notability, etc.
  3. Don't bother adding your own game. People writing about their own stuff is frowned on as a conflict of interest.
  4. Don't bother adding a game if it hasn't been reviewed in at least 3 non-blog websites, or 2 if one of them is a "proper" printed magazine. Any awards won might also help towards notability, but I don't think Wikipeida recognises many online-only awards as being valid.
  5. Take a look at some of the deletion discussions that have concerned AGS games and topics. Don't get angry at those who wanted to delete the pages, but rather see their concerns and make sure that no other AGS-related articles can fall foul of them.
But, please, do go and enrich Wikipedia and promote AGS games. Just make sure that what you do doesn't get deleted within a day or two!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

2008's AGS Games so far

Well, there's been some great and some not-so-great so far this year. The following ones really stood out for me:

Once Upon A Time
Well, when a new female game developers crops up at AGS, all the nerds go nuts over their game. However, since Ola, Ivy, Kinoko and now elentgirl seem to actually make some excellent games, it may be justified! You
guide our hero Jack through the imaginary Hidden Kingdom on his quest to rescue the princess from the dastardly Dragon King.

Sydney Treads the Catwalk

The sequel to last year's excellent Sydney Finds Employment sees our intrepid homeless hero dive into the world of fashion. So far, people seem to think its even better than the first game, so kudos to Ivan Dixon, Sydney's creator.

Once Upon A Crime

Way, way back there was an excellent MAGS called called Astranded. This game was written by an entirely different Ghost, despite what the games database may tell you. A new AGS author, also called Ghost, has produced a high-quality full-length anime-styled game featuring Little Red Riding Hood as a Private Eye. I already selected this as January's Pick of the Month, and the comments it has been receiving have been very good.

Other games to have been released this year include:

Indiana Jones - Coming of Age

A one room Indy fan game that is a fun little diversion.

Lone Case 4 - Epitaph

Another game in the Lone Case series, this one is not so much an adventure game.

Lost in the Nightmare: 'Save Our Souls'

A somewhat-deluxeified version of Lost in the Nightmare 1 it has reworked the graphics, added new areas and scenes, fixed bugs and had its text proofread, but still has some issues.

Dick LaRenzo: Secret Agent!

Quite a long demo, with strong language

James in Neverland

In French with an English translation, this game has an unusual graphical style and seems to be going down well with those who have played it.

With 3 great and many other worthwhile games out already before we've even finished February, it looks like another good year for AGS games.

Noo noobs

Well, as usual, a handful of people are signing up for the AGS forums each day, although shockingly there were two days in January when not a single person signed up! But I looked over those who have joined in 2008 to see which of these newbies are posting a lot, this is who popped up:

Emerald is an Irish guy who has managed to average nearly 8 posts a day since he joined in early February. His post rate does match some of the notorious n00bs of the past, and he seems to have had some argument in the Competition and Activities forum. However, he does seem pretty well-read and his humour although hit-and-miss does at least hit sometimes. In fact, somewhat like me... and many great forumites posted 200 times in their first month, too, before they calmed down.

thebaddie is an Italian guy who has had a big argument with Radiant about what swap space means, but seems to be able to draw pretty well, although there is a somewhat phallic theme to some of his elephants and pumpkins.

egamer has popped up and dived into beta-testing Flux World.

Leon, a fellow-Brit, seems to have single-handedly taken on creating a walkthrough for every AGS game ever on his website, and is also helping out a lot in the Hints and Tips forum. Lots of respect to him for this.

hieronymous has released a demo version of House of Whispers, a pre-rendered 3D adventure that looks pretty good. So far has kept it to the Games in Production forum and not added it to the games DB, though. He apparently has made some "adult" games with AGS before but has not released them in case people were offended, but he says that he runs an adult art site, so no doubt half the AGSers will be running off there to get their cheapies.

So, thanks for your contributions to the forums so far, new folks, and I hope they continue to increase in quality! If I missed anyone, its only becuase you haven't posted that much yet: please don't be offended!

Writing for Adventure Gamers

Well, I've mentioned Adventure Gamers a few times now, so I suppose I better dedicate a whole entry to them. Back in 2006, Berian 'AGA' Williams asked me if I'd send in a sample bit of writing to AG's editor Jack Allin. Well, it seems it must have been passable, and despite the fact that Jack always points out a pile of glaringly obvious shortcomings in my articles which I have to fix before he lets them anywhere near the site, I've now managed to squeeze seven of the blighters past his beady eye. But don't read my stuff, look at all the other cool things!

It's things like Jack's conscientiousness, though, that make me certain of the fact that Adventure Gamers is the best adventure game website out there. As well as its high quality journalism and reviews, it also has a vibrant and eclectic forum community.

Although stuff I have written has got on the site, I think the easiest and most interesting stuff with my byline has been the two interviews I have done: most recently with Vince Twelve and before that with Dave Gilbert. These guys are both eloquent and fascinating and so did most of my work for me, especially as both interviews were conducted by instant messenger and I didn't even have to transcribe!

Well, I am bigging up the site quite a lot, and it seems a bit like an advert. Ho hum. Let's just hope that Marek (AG site founder, web designer and business guy) sends me a cheque. In the meantime, I'm playing through a game for another underground review and hopefully I can manage to get more than 2 articles out this year.

Pick of the Month

The pick of the month on the AGS Games page is another thing that I look after. Sometimes I have run a bit late in putting it up, but I'm pleased to be able to say that since I've been doing it, there's been a new game up every month.

At this time of year, it's usually quite easy to choose games, as those that have just missed out on AGS Awards or nominations are good candidates. Once I've worked my way through those, I have to look at the new games that have been coming out and go over old games to see if any interesting or deserving candidates have been missed. Now, with so many games, and me being a lazy, errrr I mean busy guy I can't play them all, so I look at the comments in the games page, at the feedback in the Completed Games Announcements forum and have a quick go at the game myself.

Now, this wouldn't do for a proper review, especially at AdventureGamers, where I contribute the occasional article and which has high journalistic standards. But Pick of the Month is aiming for games which are quirky, or have been missed, or which have something good about them, even if they are lacking in other areas. So sometimes a game which is not "good" in the classic sense, like Richard Longhurst and the Box that ate time or Emerald Eyes is chosen as they have something special about them, still. On the other hand, Pleurgburgh, Nelly Cootalot, and Murder in a Wheel have been chosen and their greatness is acknowledged by the awards they have received.

So, which game will be chosen next month? You'll just have to wait and see (or, in other words, do you really think I know yet?)...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

AGS Awards 2007

Well, possibly the highlight of this month has been the AGS Awards, organised by yours truly, with some essential help from CJ, who did the voting scripts. The results are available on the AGS Wiki, or you can also check out the Gnome's Lair or Adventuress coverage of the results.

So, as the organiser, I can give you a bit of "thrilling" in-depth background info on the Awards, like there having been 48 people who did write-in nominations and 98 people voting in the final voting round. Wow! That was exciting, eh?

I found this year's awards a bit disappointing, to be honest. Excellent voiceover work in went unrewarded in the Best Use of Sound category, for example, which makes me think that next year we should perhaps give voice its own category, even though it is still an uncommon feature in AGS games. I often play games with the sound off, but I know that Earl Bobby is looking for his balls also had voice work in 2007, so there would at least have been some competition. Perhaps an award for the best individual actor, as well as the voice pack as a whole, too?

One thing I think is important is the use of the Awards to encourage good practice in the AGS game creating community, which is why the seemingly unimportant Documentation category will remain as long as I run the awards. Although, the Blackwell series in-game tutorials has also been overlooked here. Oh well.

Another dilemma that is faced in drawing up the rules is which categories should some games be allowed to compete in: for example, should Demos be allowed to compete in other categories? Should non-adventures also be allowed? This year I let a non-adventure into the Best Programming category, even though it was a bit of a rehash (this was sneaked in to the Awards Ceremony download, heh heh) and it walked away with the category by a mile. But A Tale of Two Kingdoms had all sorts of excellent programming going on in a far more subtle way, that added a lot to the atmosphere of that game and it would have won if Art of Theft hadn't been eligible. Did I make the right choice?

Then there was also the committee-chosen awards and this was quite painful this year. I need to make it clear to people that they are choosing two awards, as many didn't realise that they were supposed to comment on the Best Innovation award, too. Also, many required a lot of prompting to get their choices out of them. Not to mention that it was then decided that the original Lifetime achievement winner wasn't eligible, and so we had to choose again. And two committee members were nominated, which somewhat reduced the people on the committee, as they had to bow out... ho hum. I think two awards by committee is more than enough even if anyone else suggests a different procedure.

Also, people have been complaining about the removal of the "Worst game" award. I think it made the awards look tacky and silly and diminished them, and it also greatly upset last year's winners, Himalaya Studios. However, if anyone wants to start up a separate set of more silly awards for the AGS community, they are welcome to.

And then there are also the old chestnuts that people bring up like suggesting that lots of people come and vote indiscriminately for one game across every category. I can assure everyone categorically that this has never happened en masse. Sure, one or two people do it, but if a game isn't good enough in a category to win by a large margin, I don't think it is too unfair for fanboys to tip the balance. Of course, if there ever was such a concerted effort, I'd look at the IP addresses and http referrers to track down the culprits and disqualify them.

So, anyway, next year I hope to have the time and plan far enough in advance to improve the voting pages. CJ has sent me the PHP source, so perhaps I won't have to spend so long fixing people's typos in the write-in nominations in 2009!

The real reason

Well, what really inspired me to start this blog was this thread in the AGS forums. Now, I've done the odd blog post on the AdventureGamers blog but I can't really go off on one there as our esteemed editor, Jack, has very high editorial standards, even for the less-formal blog part of the site.

So anyway, I'll use this blog to try and keep "people" (like anyone will read this) up-to-date on what's going on with AGS and also I'll add in the odd adventure-game-related stuff that has piqued my interest.

What the world needs now is blog, sweet blog

It has always been apparent to me that one of the things the world is missing is a bunch of irregular ramblings typed with mine own sweet fingers. At last that gaping chasm in the literary pantheon has been plugged. No doubt, as with 99% of blogs, it will peter out sooner or later and reflect badly when any future employers come to google me before an interview.