Thursday, August 31, 2006

Space Germans!

I've rebuilt my desktop machine and got Einfall compiling again. This machine is of course much much faster and that's picked up a slight timing issue in one of the menus.

The html cut and paste plugin is now working so I can put nicely formatted code in the blog again. It wasn't too hard to get Einfall building, which was suprising considering how scattered the source code is. I needed a fresh LuaInterface install, and nUnit and at some point I'd lowercased a full caps namespace so I needed to do a little search and replace but other than that up and running immediately.

Now I just need to dig through my notes and find out what I was up to last. I know I was rewriting how it does the rendering so I guess that's still needs finishing up. Then pushing into the current Einfall build, that I'm some what dreading as it will mean changing the map format.

Getting the new rendering project building and it's blazingly fast on this machine, FPS in the 1000s rather than 100-190 on my portable. Some how some graphical glitch seems to have crept in, but I think I know what it is so I'll fix that soon. I'm going to work through and document it properly. I remember that it was quite well written so I should back up to speed soon.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Irked: Serious Games

I'm quite interested in games for education. I think games are made to educate and there's nothing wrong with exploiting this to make learning more fun for kids and adults. Games like Civilization and Colonization have done this to some extent for me when I was learning history at school. I know of one Polish guy who learnt his English with the help of Monkey Island one. Great! An exciting future. The DS already has a "brain training game" that lets you brush up on your maths as well as inmrove less defined "brain skills" and in Japan there are several language games that help you learn English, Spanish or French (and also deal with the history and sites of countries using those languages.)

So that's good, but what's not good is a growing number of people labelling such games as serious games. This is a bad bad label, if the person who created this label was here now I'd very much like to bop him (or her) on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper and maybe waggle a warning finger at them. Here's the wikipedia definition of "serious games":

Serious games (SGs) are computer and video games that are intended to not only entertain users, but have additional purposes such as education and training. They can be similar to educational games, but are primarily focused on an audience outside of primary or secondary education.

Pah! Psst! Pah!

If you call one group of items serious you are suggesting all other items are some how less serious. Let's take people, if I said "serious people" you might form the following model in your mind.

Serious People: Buisness Men, World leaders, ...
Non-serious People: Comedians, Artists, Bums, Clowns, Mimes...

So imagine if this shadowy education group had targetted music instead of computer games, they would like us to form the following mental model.

Serious Music, music that educates:
Sing 2 School - Multiplication Hip Hop
Alphabet - Music for Clever Kids

Non-serious music, music that fails to educate:
Classical, Rock and Roll, Pop, Jazz, Rap, Indie ...

Non-serious music, is that worthless, for kids stuff, that has nothing to redeem it - it merely entertains - it doesn't convey FACTS! Therefore it's not "serious" - it's a waste of time and you should be feeling very guilty about listening to it at all! You grubby hippie frittering your life away by enjoying yourself, I hope this chastizes you sufficently.

The same labels could be applied to books, instead of fiction and non-fiction we could relabel them serious and non-serious (or waste of time, guilty pleasure, whatever label seems to fit best.)

As I hope you can see this way of naming things doesn't help anyone and is a little insulting to anyone not creating media that's not primarily educational. I'd intially distrust anyone "seriously" throwing the term around. Serious is quite subjective, let's keep that way.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Burnable Dust

I'm back in the UK, returning from my two year stay in Japan but I'm currently relaxing. Also I'm moving from an overloaded portable to a roomy desktop machine.

Life update: Teeside cancelled their game programming course, I'll now be going to Hull instead. I'm guessing it was due to lack of interest or they lost a lecturer - I wasn't told anyway :D

I intend to upate this blog with the contents of my lessons. The programming books I was reading are currently being shipped from Japan. I'm mainly catching up on games I missed. Oblivion is fun but buggy - a step down from how stable they got Morrowind. I've got the seasoned schemer and I'm waiting on the little schemer, as I want to learn scheme, all of sudden.

My main project defitently isn't forgotten but I'm doing no programming at the moment, as I build up my development system again.

The main reason I decided to write this post was to highlight a very curious game - Dwarf Fortress.

At the start of the game, a very large, very unique world is generated.
You may then choose from various mountains - here your dwarfs are to create a new settlement.
They can dig into the mountains and creates halls, bedrooms dining areas and the like. They'll need food to get through the winter. Each dwarf has a different skill set but they can ply their hands to anything. The caves might be attacked or flooded so it's important to build doors. You master mind the construction of this new settlement.

The big difference is it's all ASCII! It looks very much like a rogue like, in fact there's also a roguelike in the game, once you fortress is abandoned. It enters the game world as ruins and in the roguelike you can battle the ghosts of the dead dwarfs and loot their treasure.

The interface is daunting but workable once understood (It would benefit greatly from some streamlining). Defintely worth checking out and struggling through the interface problems - theres a massive amount of depth, it's alpha but still very impressive.

Check it out here.