Friday, October 30, 2009

Some AGS news!

JD's Adventure reviews: Awakener. A nice, long review (that's maybe longer than the game!)

Ben also gives us a sneak preview of new game Featherweight.


Dave Gilbert's been posting up some videos of Puzzlebots and Blackwell recording sessions...

Nothing happened

Sorry for the recent lack of posts, folks. I blame Dual. Or Leon. Or maybe me. Anyway... MAGS had a whopping 9 entries this month. And the current poll has finished, definately the most voted poll I've ever had. 45 people though that there were or might be too many commerical AGS games, but a resounding 80 thought everything was peachy as it is. Apparently contoversy brings in votes, so I'll rack my brains for something contentious for the next poll!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Interview Part 6: Nikolas

1)How did you find AGS? I mean as a musician it's not the first place you'd visit on the internet.

Back in 2003/4 I was in the army (it's compulsory in Greece, as you very well know) and I had tons of time to spare. So I started trying to find older games to play on a very old computer in the camp. I found underdogs, then abandonia and finally I spotted "Cirque du Zale" by Kinoko. I fell in love with this game, based on an pretty much abandoned genre, thus I decided to visit AGS forums and attempt to contact Kinoko, in order to work on her next game (Gift of Aldora, never to be completed I think).

My very first post was greeted by Don the barbarian, who welcomed me in such a nice manner, that I decided to stick around and make the AGS forums my homepage (until today).

2)You have any favorite AGS games or any AGS games in production, you can't wait for ?(apart from Resonance :D

Resonance... DITR, ATOTK, etc... No kidding.

I think that 'The Forgotten Element' could be great, but all 3 of us have been working on different projects for a long time, so I can't tell what the future will hold for the completion of that game.

Legend of the lost lagoon, although probably not to be completed either...

Picaroon and anything by Ben, ProgZmax, Vince and others who I trust blindly!

3) From the very first moment I do recall seeing your name in these forums, it's highly weird how you've managed to work on games, that eventually ended up a huge success (Tales of Two Kingdoms, Linus Bruckman). How do you manage to select games that have success written all over them?

Why on earth is that weird? As it appears I'm capable of making the 'right' choices!

In all honesty I try to get as much information as I can before I say yes to any project, so I try to pick where I work for. I, no longer have the time to work on freeware games, sadly, but still on commercial games I've had to say no, only because there were things I would do hugely different, or the inexperience of the dev team was a problem. With a publisher these things tend to dissappear, but also the freedom in composing.

4) I'm not really into music ways the way you are, but where do you compose all that music into? A personal studio?

In the music world it's called a 'project studio'. It's exactly a studio for personal use. Recently I've managed to get a grand to build a normal studio, so now I have my own acousticaly treated space, where my monitors, amps, microphohes, computers, etc are.

But my music is 95% computer based. I use samples, since it would be impossible for indie budgets to fund a normal orchestral recording, and the computer is the heart of my studio. Only very recently I got some high quality preamps and mics, in which case I can start recording live instruments, voice, and do custom sfx. Resonance has a huge bump upwards in the quality of audio (especially the sfx).

5) We all know that you've now been hired by VinceXII to compose for Resonance, care to tell us more on what style of music should we expect or at least what you're aiming for?

It's a rather weird mix of aesthetics. The story is based on 4 different characters, so I tried to give each character their own aesthetics and motifs. It's worked so far and I have to admit that it doesn't sound disjoined!

There are orchestral tracks, dissonant tracks, electronic ones, more pop/rock oriented and even some solo piano in there...

6) From all your collaborations (even non-AGS games) is there one (if any) you could separate from the others?

Apart from Vince, with whom our love is a public secret :P ?

There is Alkis; We're good friends now and see each other as frequent as we can and our other obligations permit! I value him greatly as a person, as a writer, and as a collaborator.

Actually now that I think about it, pretty much all the people I've worked with, I've become friends. Vince, Alkis, Peeter (ATOTK), Rebecca (Kinoko), etc...

I'd also seperate a non AGS game, from a negative point of view however. The specs and whole concept seemed to be going very well, and the team even got requests from publishers, but they decided to pretty much abandon it and abandon all hope for further fame and fortune! This was one experience I try to stay away from, from thereon.

7) What's with that signature of yours (quoting a reply from Emerald to you) ? Meaning what's the story behind it.

I actually don't remember exactly what happened, but it does appear that I was being a little 'smart' to Emerald and he decided to tell me off. Instead of being frustrated and flame back, as I would normally do, I took it the light way and put the quote in my signature, so it would never go away.

8 ) How hard is to have a family and have AGS developers on your back as well, apart from your other projects...?

It used to be hard, since there was no money coming in and it was quite frustrating to try and explain to a wife and two kids, why you have to work late, talk through MSN/Skype and other details.

Recently it got a lot easier, since it became apparent that even playtesting is a part of working in games and this has been accepted, thankfully.

Now, it just feels normal. After all, since I'm no longer doing freeware games, it's a part of my daily job (my income is 90% based on composing) and there's no need for even an excuse to work... on your daily job! ;)

Definitely a very interesting interview with Nikolas..(mind the love affair with VinceXII!!)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

David and the Devil

Title: Fad Of Devil's Hash
Release date: 15 July 2001
Playtime(*): 216
Size: 620Kb

I'm a collector. I can't rest until a collection is complete. So I'm looking for all MAGS games and won't stop until I have them all. Since last weekend, after quite some digging in old forums and websites through, I found a name of a still very active AGS member. He hosted this game for a very short amount of time so I took the chance and wrote him, expecting the reply that after 8 years the many crashes and PC replacements, it wasn't possible to salvage any of the bits.

But to my surprise I received the positive message that after his digging and dusting of a huge pile of disks, he managed to find the file I was looking for. Thanks Dirk!

It's an entry of Monkeyspank, called the Fad of Devil's Hash. It's about the Devil in David Hasselhof (hence the title). It's from the second MAGS competition (July 2001) and the rules were simple (as is the game):

- One room (CRM file)
- Any number of characters or objects
- A photographic image of a famous celebrity!

A very short game but fun to play. You can find it (again) here.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Release... but don't let go! - 2

A few days ago I wrote a bit about Saw, the video game. It was about the update or 'deluxe' version as Pedro calls it. I was surprised how such thing can make your game popular all of a sudden. I monitor that by the number of hits the game gets in walkthrough visits.

The original version has been on my site from February and was visited once or twice a day. But since the update has been released, it has been around 80 average. The moral: keep working on your game and keep improving. One day you'll be famous!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Trouble in fast food land.

Title: Cold Meat
Helme (Helme Burch)
Release date: 4 October 2009
Playtime(*): 3360
Size: 10.8Mb

Like horror, graveyards, dark places, death and zombies? If a thriller is something that comes to mind you're in for a surprise because this game features the most friendliest zombies you can think of. And there are no dark places (if you ignore the cooling cell) because it take place in and around a fast food restaurant.

You are playing Pete and just as you think you have the all-you-can-eat deal of your life, the place is taken over by the zombies the restaurant is built on. So it's your job to get some hamburgers on the tray. And boy what a job that is. Not only do you have to find out who is who, you must also find the place they were buried, the object they took as burial object and if that's not enough, you also must help them regain their memory.

When that's all done you finally need to get them to help you get the burgers ready and customers satisfied. Along the way, you also need to keep Mr. Klang happy and hide the fact that there are zombies around. But fear not, you get help from expected and unexpected directions.

The game has good puzzles, not really easy. Most of it is in the details. You have to look at a lot of objects and listen to a lot of conversations very carefully otherwise you might miss a clue or solution. Of course there are a number of less obvious inventory combinations which result in the use all on everything and everywhere. Less satisfying but in the end it gets the job done.

The soundtrack is of a techno-synth style and when not played too loud, it can be a nice background filler. But when you're stuck in situations, it can become annoyingly repeating.

Another minor negative point is the names Helme gave the zombies. Names like Raktin, Foltnir, Nektom and Limfor aren't everyday names and it takes a lot longer to get familiar and 'attached' to the zombies. Because you can say what you want, they are drawn in a strange, simple but cute way. You could have seen the style before in Helme's MAGS entry of August: Celtic Chaos: Cold Mead. Despite the names, you get to love these guys with their bizarre sense of humor.

Overall a nice game, available in German and English. And hurry, the food is getting cold.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Trap your own Gilbert

Dave G's interviewed over at The Trappings

The fool returns

Title: Duzz Quest 2
Duzz (David Lloyd)
Release date: 8 October 2009
Playtime(*): 1578
Size: 37.6Mb

I'll be honest. I don't like adventure games made with photoshopped pictures, rough cutouts with non-transparent pixels on the edge and thrown together as if it was only a test to see if you can use the AGS engine. Well, so it started with DuzzQuest five years ago. Not much of a story, not much of graphics. Fun to look at and to see that Duzz can walk around in his garden. Like the author says: most images and jokes are probably lost for the public and only understandable for the insiders.

So now there's DuzzQuest 2. Again with a lot of inside information and jokes. But more story, better puzzles and way better graphics. I have to admit, I like the interface and the way the graphics were put together. I still don't appreciate the way things are animated but the images are more consistent and that helps a lot.

Again the story is about defeating Dark Fool, or actually his evil twin because the other one was killed by Duzz (actually it was Tim, I'm not sure why Duzz gets all the credits but I guess that's why you are the main character...). So on your quest to find Dark Fool's evil twin you need the help again of your friends.

There are some nice effects in this episode. There's a real shoot out with wits, not just the all you can hit one although you can try. And there's a scratch card puzzle. Not really a game but the effect is very well done. And there's a side-quest thing with Tim again with humor.

The soundtrack is good. Not boring, not overwhelming but suits the game. In hindsight, I liked the game. If you look beyond the animations, it's a good hour of fun. With some good laughs and that's what it's all about.

This rose is a hardy perennial

Hardydev blog reviews classic AGS game The Winter Rose

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Release... but don't let go!

Title: Saw Deluxe (Remake)
Pedro & Joe Carl
Release date: 13 October 2009
Playtime(*): 1292
Size: 17.9Mb

The game was originally released in 2006. But now, three years later, there's a new version. New? Well... yeah. It's not a re-release, it's not an update, it's a complete remake.

The graphics have been completely redrawn to a much higher standard than the original. And there are a lot more animations than before, although the speed could be a bit faster, or at least selected by the player. For comparison, here's the original:

The gameplay has changed a bit...a lot. And not bad at all. There's now more interaction between Allan and Carl. The main players that is.

You play with Allan and Carl, locked in a public bathroom and you need find a way out by finding clues and solving riddles. This leads to items you can use to escape. There's a line in the middle and neither of you can cross the line. In the original you could play almost half of the game with one player. Then, when you only had the choice left: either kill or cooperate, you needed some interaction between the two. Now you need to join forces straight away.

The music is similar to the original. Great for lonely nights in the dark, more horror and suspense. It certainly adds to the atmosphere. But there are also some issues that could have been changed to make it a real 'deluxe' version.

The dialogs are quite confusing. They were in the original and nothing has changed there. New lines that become available after you've learned something from your co-star are mixed with the lines you've already used. And you can't see that you've used them. So it's not clear whether you've learned something or can learn more. Normally these lines are added at the bottom of the conversation thread and that adds to the readability.

All in all, if you've played the original you should play this one. Don't worry if you still know the solution.... it's useless. Because the items, locations and interactions also have changed. So actually it's a whole new game.
Don't worry if you (still) haven't seen the movies that these games got their inspiration from, they follow their own story. And if you haven't done already, you can also play the sequel.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

AGSBox360..Almost there

Clarvalon, the guy behind XAGE, is now a step closer to the impossible. The port of AGS Runtime (Yeah AGS games), to the Xbox. He even created a PLUGIN to export your games! So, give it a check here at the topic on the forums,or directly here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Interview Part 5: Ponch

1) So, as per usual, no wait, what kind of nickname is Ponch, and what's with that obsession with cows?

Ponch was the nickname of a character played by Erik Estrada on the late 70s / early 80s TV show “ChiPs.” It was my favorite show as a little kid. Every week it showcased car chases, horrible freeway accidents, and women in tight shirts and tiny shorts. Come to think of it, it would be a good show for adults too. No wonder dad always watched it with me. “Get in here, boy! Chips is on!” Ah, so many father and son bonding moments in front of that giant, fake wood grain covered Magnavox. (We bonded over AirWolf too. That explains the flight suits Prick and Harry wear in the included screenshot).

Cows are awesome. They give us milk and leather and delicious steak. I couldn’t get through a day without a cow.

2) You have any favorite AGS game, or an AGS game you're anxious about?

I discovered AGS thanks to Larry Vales 1 and 2. They were great adventure games in the traditional style. But what I like most about CJ’s engine and the AGS community as a whole are the incredibly diverse things people can do with the program. Regular adventure games like Ben Jordan, old school arcade games like Limey Lizard, mind bending experimental stuff like Shifter’s Box, and games made to win the heart of that special someone like the Princess Marian series. Then there are the games that are made because the creator desperately craves the riches and adulation that being a freeware gaming mogul brings, such as Barn Runner. The sexy groupies and piles of money haven’t shown up yet, but I’m not one to give up hope easily.

3) About Barn Runner, apparently it has been influenced by Blade Runner, but I recall people telling you, or something, that the game has now taken a story and life of its own. Comment on that and why did you choose Barn Runner.

Yeah, Barn Runner originally grew out of a friend’s student film made back in the early 90s. He needed an idea for a five-minute film. Luckily, I had a pencil and placemat from a taco hut. I wrote the entire script on the back, next to the maze and word scramble.

Years later, I wanted to make an action-adventure game hybrid (like Cinemaware’s Rocket Ranger). So I dug out the old VHS tape, made a bunch of notes, and eventually it became the Barn Runner story bible. It’s worth noting that it the story is now so big and convoluted that it bears no resemblance to that original short film. But that’s where it all started. So now the truth is out: Much like George Lucas, I’m living off ideas I had when I was a much younger man. I even revised and re-released Barn Runner 2 a couple of years ago. Now if I could just find some way to put some ewoks in my games…

4) People that start playing the Barn Runner games, seem to get a little confused on the chronological order of games, care to explain it, and tell us a bit about the story so far, and where is it going with the new part?

If there were one thing I could do, I would go back and correct the numbering system the series uses. (See? There’s that George Lucas influence showing itself again.) For some idiotic reason, early on I decided to place the holiday games into their own numbered list, even though they’re still part of the regular series.

If you want to play the series start to finish, then skip Barn Runner 0 (it’s based on the short film, but not part of the game’s continuity). Start with Barn Runner 1 and play straight through to Barn Runner 4, then play Cyclone Alley and Wreck the Halls, then pick up the story again with Barn Runner 5. Plus, just to complicate things, there’s a Halloween game in between the two Christmas games, but it was never released because it was lost in the hard drive crash of 2005 the forced me to start all over again on The Forever Friday. But the Halloween game is still part of continuity and, one of these days, I plan to rebuild it and release it.

Also, after you’ve played Barn Runner 5, be sure to play the soon to be released Barn Runner Anniversary Game before playing Barn Runner 6.

Like I said, it’s a confusing system and I feel terrible about it.

5) There has been a chosen date for Barn Runner Part 3: The Wild Brunch, which was February if I seem to recall, but you haven't managed to deliver it, want to explain us why? I assume personal life.

The entire Forever Friday effort has been a boondoggle from day one. I started working on it back in 2004, but lost a year’s worth of work when my brand new hard drive crashed, taking the entire game with it. I finally got back on track a couple of years ago with a much larger version of the story, but then 2009 hit and it’s been one setback after another. Too much work, not enough free time – Life in general, you know?

Keep in mind, that the original version of the Forever Friday was a two-part game like The Armageddon Eclair, and it was due in 2005. So a setback of few more months is nothing to me at this point.

Perseverance. I’m all about perseverance, baby.

6) On the site, some time ago, you said someone gave you a lot of money. Comment on that. And how much money are we talking about…?

A fan of Barn Runner contacted me out of the blue and asked if he could PayPal some money to me because he liked the games so much. I was really surprised at such a nice gesture and so I wrote about it on my site. That kicked off more donations from other fans. It was such a nice thing that it really warmed the cockles of my heart (yes, I’m so ancient that I have cockles – quite an advanced case of them, actually). After that, since I didn’t want it to seem as though Barn Runner was becoming a cash grab, I’ve tried to make a point of not mentioning it again on the site. I make enough money to keep a roof over my head, food on the table, and beer in the fridge. I don’t want people to think I’ve got my hand out, you know? Pay games are fine, and there are some good ones out there, but I’m want to keep Barn Runner a freeware series.

7) Is there any end planned for the series, if any? And would you like to tell us when is that going to happen.

The series definitely has an end. The ending of the story was one of the first things I wrote. I didn’t want to get to the end of my story and realize that I had to come up with something off the top of my head (remake of Battlestar Galactica, I’m looking at you).

As far as when it’s going to happen, it was originally scheduled for 2013 or so. But remember that according to that same schedule, the Forever Friday was supposed to be done in late 2005. By the end of 2009, I was already supposed to be prepping Barn Runner 7: Recycle My Heart for release. So who the hell knows when the story will finally be done, as told in Barn Runner 10: This Shameless Tomorrow. Like I said earlier, I’m all about the perseverance.

And what’s going to happen at the end? Even if I were to tell you, there’s still too much story left to unfold for the ending to make any sense yet. But I’ll give you some clues. Somebody comes back unexpectedly. Somebody gets thawed out. Someone has a secret admirer. Someone takes a psychedelic trip. Somebody gets a haircut. Cheese is stolen. Christmas is saved. Noriko takes a shower. The Mayor takes a bath. Debbie and Noriko both use parachutes, but not together. Prick gets a new car. And the Chief makes a terrible decision and regrets it.

Also, everyone gets naked by the end.

And not everyone will survive to see the end of the series.

8)When will the next part (3) be ready?

God only knows. Maybe January? I’m still working minimum sixty-hour workweeks. Hell, I’m writing this on my lunch break. Speaking of which, my Hot Pocket is gone and it’s time to get back to work. Thanks for giving me the chance to ramble on about my games.

Some AGS web snippets

Time for a google trawl for AGS stuff:

Shall we make a (AGS) game?

Eckyman starts making an AGS game

Asian girl gamer review Nelly Cootalot

Asian girl gamer also look at QFG2VGA

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Going Postal

What with a postal strike looming in the UK it time to go postal and read up JD's nice long review of The Postman Only Dies Once, which not only is a Reality-on-the-Norm game but was also written by none other than Dave Gilbert who some of you may have heard of.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Interview Part 4: Ben304

Nevermind the badly drawn screenshots!!

The man behind quite a few cool games this year (and we ain't done yet believe me, is now the fourth horseman of the Apocalypse(s). Yes, indeed its THE BEN 30FUR. Also known as Ben304. The guy is definitely wanting the award for short game, for he'll probably have all nominations as well.

1)Do you have a favorite AGS game?Or a non AGS game?

I have a lot of favorite AGS games. Favorite overall would probably be Reactor 09, favorite recent game would have to be Death Wore Endless Feathers. As for non AGS games, I have a ton of games I'd like to talk about, but instead of doing that and being boring I will only mention Planescape: Torment, which I only got around to finishing last year. Torment was a game that repeatedly surprised and impressed me, and really showed me that games have the potential to be a lot more interesting than they often are.

2)What's with the short games? ManBoy Vs Doctor Shock, Shoot!, Annie Android, Shifter's Box, Heed, Awakener, and probably another coming up while I ask this..

As I tell everyone when they ask this, I like short games. I consider myself very much a learner when it comes to making games, and I discover new things all the time! I consider all these games that I have made to be sketches - rough concepts or drafts of games, if you will. In order to make longer length games that I am actually satisfied with, I want to try out all these crazy ideas that I have in my head. Shorter length games allow me to test the waters, and see what works and what doesn't. It's also the reason that I don't make sequels.
3)When you first started posting artwork from a game you were working, we were all captured and excited about it. Yeah, its the "Where is Lode?" question. So where is it Ben?

Lode is on my hard drive, and hasn't been touched for ages. I do plan to release it eventually, however it had gotten to the point where I didn't enjoy working on it anymore - and when you're not enjoying your hobby, it isn't much of a hobby. Working on Lode was a fantastic learning experience for me, and I really benefited from working on it, however as a game I didn't think it was very fun, so I decided to leave it for a while and come back to it when I had a better grasp of gameplay design. And it isn't like I haven't given you other games to play while you wait!
4)You seem to have a standard team for most of your games(mostly Kaputtnik and his brother), does that affect the quality of them? And how flexible is that team?

I enjoy working with Sebastian. He has a passion for games and always tries experimenting with new ideas with each project we tackle - something which I feel is quite important. And his tunes capture the moods I try to fit into my games! He also is always suggesting things with regards to game design that I should focus on, and when I'm not being stubborn and try them out I realize he has some darn good ideas. David is someone I've only worked with a little bit, but he has that crazy Pfaller flair I've come to look for in sounds and music, and he's a swell guy as well. As for flexibility - I've never had a reason to look for anyone else to help me out, as they've been more than willing to tackle whatever I've thrown at them.

5)Long time ago, you complained on your blog, that you couldn't complete any games, now you're all into short game-making. What changed?

We all have ups and downs(edit: shhh!!!). I was disappointed at how little I got done last year, and going into this year I tried to approach it with a positive outlook and encourage myself to be productive and motivated. Game making has become my number one hobby, and I really enjoy doing it, even though I have slumps where I'm not interested in it at all. I've also been fortunate enough to have a lot of people say very nice things about my games, and if that doesn't encourage one to try harder and make even more and even better games, nothing will.
6)Are you planning on going on a ..medium length game?

I am in the process of building a longer game as we speak - and have been for a couple of months now. However, I very much consider this a long term project and I do not want to rush it and release a flawed game, so I am taking my time with it, and trying to get everything just right. This also means I will continue to work on other short projects while I am building it.
7)Which one (if any) of your games, you consider as your pride?
That's an extremely hard question to answer... and I guess I'd have to say all of them and yet none of them. Every game I make is built for a different reason, and try new things, so in a sense I love them all for the new things I learnt creating them. On the other hand, I always look back at a game and think "I could have done this so much better", so I guess you can say that I feel I have yet to reach my potential. If I have to pick one, I'd probably have to say Shifter's Box - Outside In, even though in a sense I wish I could go back in time and do it with the graphics that I produce now.
8)You don't quite attract any attention with topics on the games you're making, so I have to ask, any game you're currently working on? And care to tell us (or even show us)?

I am currently working on three projects (as well as ShattenReyze) - the long term one I mentioned earlier and two shorter ones that are more experiments than anything else, so whether I pursue them to completion remains an uncertainty. All three are science fiction stories, and the two shorter ones are a lot less lighthearted than my science fiction stories in the past, so they're really something new for me as a storyteller. As for showing you, you may have a screenshot of each (whether you choose to show all or one is up to you) - but bear in mind that all of the graphics here are still unfinished and will be polished further before any of the projects sees the light of day.

Ich bin ein Release Candidate

The curiously titled Hitler's Brain edition of AGS is out: 3.2 RC 1.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Friday, October 2, 2009

Go west, young alien bug

October's pick of the month is Fasmo 2 which you'll either love or hate but which completely escaped my notice on its release!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Steam-powered MAGS

This month's new MAGS theme is Steampunk, so if that's your cup of tea then point your difference engine's browser at the forum thread, read all about it and submit and awesome game and win!