The Linux Game Box #3: Secret Maryo Chronicles

17 11 2008

thelinuxgamebox1The game I’m about to present you for this instalment of The Linux Game Box, it’s just one of those title so polished, smooth and fluid that lets you think that yes, there is hope for Linux to be just a little more of a gaming platform. I say this despite the simplicity that marks every aspect of this particular game.

I don’t wanna waste more time so let me introduce you Secret Maryo Chronicles.

Title:        Secret Maryo Chronicle
Genre:     Platform
License:  GNU Public License v3
Website:  http://www.secretmaryo.org/

Secret Maryo Chronicles is platform game heavily inspired (someone could find it a clone) by Nintendo’s Super Mario series. The game is coded in C++ with SDL and OpenGL libraries and it’s really pretty fluid on my 4yo laptop. On January 2008 SMC has been awarded #1 in the 5 best (free) open source games chart by the Australian computer magazing APC.

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INSTALLATION REQUIREMENTS 7

To install Secret Maryo Chronicles on (K)Ubuntu is sufficient to add the repository to your repository list with Synaptic or Adept.

The repository for (K)Ubuntu Intrepid Ibex is this:

deb http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ intrepid universe

The packages to be installed are called:

smc
smc-data
smc-music

The Ubuntu Package page can be found here. The download page on the official site is here

GAMEPLAY FUN 9

Of course Secret Maryo Chronicles is pure fun. Just like the old 2D Super Mario games you have basically to explore and travel through various levels running and jumping to crush enemies or discover goodies hidden behind bricks. There’s no more to say about it as this is a well tested formula of simple and mindless game fun. The sensation of running a Nintendo classic on your Linux machine is strong and, as far as I’m concerned, this is also a strong plus for this well done game.

GRAPHICS APPEAL 8

The graphics is simple but just perfect for the game. I would say it’s flawless either in concept or in design. The sprites and the world components are well refined with a great appeal. Again, main character apart all the graphics in the game strongly resemble that of Super Mario 2D games. This is not a drawback in my opinion but I must be honest and say that even if the guys in the wiki faq say they don’t want to clone Super Mario (that’s why they redrew the Maryo sprite) the sensation of playing a clone is pretty strong.

As already said the 2D engine runs perfectly fast in all the conditions I have been able to test.

SOUND DELIGHT 6

The sound is generally nice and does is job well.  The music is well suited for the game and again it reminds the Nintendo block buster. The sound effects are nothing special but they work sufficiently well.

STORY ENCHANTMENT → 3

You couldn’t expect the story to be a high score aspect in a game such as this one. The game ratio is all focused on the gameplay that, as I mentioned above, scrapes perfection. However even the Mario game’s attempted to sketch a story, at least as a sort of frame to give a “structured sense” to the action. Super Maryo lacks in this aspect. When you start the game you are presented with no introduction and no hints are shown during the games (at least during the few levels I played). At the beginning there’s just a map showing your progress in the world and that’s all.

A manual for the built-in editor can be found in the game wiki here.

BONUS POINTS 10

The game comes along with a built-in editor which is so simple and intuitive to be a valuable tool for enthusiast level creators. As a matter of fact by installing smc-data you are supplied with lots and lots of user created levels. To enter the editor you just press F8 when playing a level and you are allowed to modified everything with a drag and drop fashion by means of a side bar presenting all the game components. Creating a level with the SMC editor it’s really simple and fun. To prove this you can see a screenshot of my messing around and creating a dummy Wiz & Chips level.

editor

OVERALL SCORE 8.6

Here below you can see a video footage showing the game in action.

If you want browse more videos you can check the Secret Maryo Chronicles YouTube channel here


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The Linux Game Box #2: UFO: Alien Invasion

12 11 2008

thelinuxgamebox

In this installment of The Linux Game Box I will discuss about UFO: Alien Invasion (U:AI), a turn based strategy game in which humans must fight back aliens attempting to invade Earth.
You play both the head of PHALANX, an agency whose aim is to fight and study the alien invaders, and the several soldiers members of the tactical teams.
The game is heavily influenced by the well known and appreciated X-COM and especially by the X-COM: UFO Defense episode.
U:AI is licensed under the GNU General Public License.

The project is alive and very active. The team is well coordinated and always looking for help in various aspect of the game production. Help is needed in many fields ranging from coding to 3D modelling and animating, translating, etc…
This is indeed one of the most interesting aspect of open source games which give the chance to common people to be part of an amazing project in the area where their skill can be more of help. As a matter of fact, giving my chronic lack of spare time, I found an ideal way of helping this project by translating part of the game text (which is quite massive in this case) to Italian.
If you want to get involved in the project you may refer to the wiki for the full list of areas you can contribute to develop. The easiest way to meet up with the community however is perhaps joining them at this IRC channel (irc://irc.freenode.org/ufo:ai).

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INSTALLATION REQUIREMENTS 10

U:AI is already present in the repositories and can thus been easily installed via Synaptic or Adept. If you run (K)Ubuntu you will also find the game inside the list of the add/remove tool.
Apart from Linux, the game runs also on Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X.

However instructions can be found here and the download trunk can be found here.

GAMEPLAY FUN 9

There are two main gameplays sections that compose the game: a strategy/management part and a tactical/action part.
In the strategy/management part you take the role of the head of PHALANX and must take high level decision like arranging the base facility, hire personnel, start researches, schedule equipment and vehicle production and send squads to intercept alien fighters and engage alien troops on the ground. The time management system for this phase is based on the calendar in the way of other famous games like Sim City or The Sims. You can adjust the time speed in order to increase or decrease the chance of an alien ambush to take place during this phase (thus pushing you to the tactical phase).
In the tactical part you command the privateers and specialists of the tactical team to perform the mission objective. The action is split in turns and every character has a defined amount of Time Units (TU) to perform each desired action (i.e. walk, recharge the weapon, throw a frag grenade, etc..).
If you like strategy games you will find the gameplay mechanism of U:AI well calibrated thus providing a large amount of fun.
There’s also the possibility for multiplayer game either via LAN or Internet connection.

GRAPHICS APPEAL 8

U:AI’s game engine is based on a heavily modified version of ID Software’s Quake2 engine. The graphics quality is thus quite high and there’s clearly the evidence of an effort to give the game a touch of professionalism. As the matter of fact the open source team has the target of producing a game which increases and surpasses, in all aspects, the game experience and overall quality of the original 1992 title. The updated OpenGL graphics shows well polished 3D models, several detailed environments, special effects, high resolution textures and nice characters animations.

SOUND DELIGHT 9

A big attention is given to the music and sound effects (more to the first to be honest) in order to create the right atmosphere for the game. This is another aspect which tells you how much care the team puts into this project.

STORY ENCHANTMENT 10

This is the game’s strongest plus.
U:AI takes place in 2084 in a planet Earth with a geopolitical configuration pretty different to the present real one. The various countries around the world did solidify and unify in huge blocks, with The Greater European Union and The Asian Republic being the most powerful and rich ones. Humanity is on the verge of welfare and peace at a level never experienced in its whole history. In this idyllic scenario aliens come out of the blue and attack the Indian city of Mumbai causing thousands of casualties among civilians and
troops of The Commonwealth . The new UN meet and Earth declares war to the unknown aliens. Standard army approaches show poor results thus leading to the creation of PHALANX: an secret agency, established under UN banner, which summons the best of the best of Earth resources to eliminate the alien menace.
Every aspect of the game is rich of detail. The story literally rises from the player’s progress in the game. For this reason every mission performed contains a cliffhanger, in the shape of an upcoming research on alien specimen or equipments, or story developments resulting from the mission accomplishment.

OVERALL SCORE 9.2

here below you can see a video trailer of the game






The Linux Game Box #1: Astromenace

5 11 2008

thelinuxgamebox

Astromenace is a vertical scrolling shooter of the likes of the classic shot ‘em up like Xenon2 Megablaster.

The concept behind the game is fairly simple and all focused on piloting a space ship and fighting swarms of alien invaders.

The game is made by the Ukrainian software house Viewizard and is released as freeware for the Linux platform. A demo version is also available for Windows.

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INSTALLATION REQUIREMENTS 10

After downloading a 34 or so tar.bz2 file from this page it’s just enough to unzip it and double click on the bin in order to start the game.

For those who prefer to add the game to the apt repository a simple procedure is explained.

Minimum requirements:
Linux OS
Pentium 1+ GHz
128 MB RAM
3D video accelerator with 32+ MB on board
Runtime dependencies:
libSDL (ver 1.2.6+), libopenal (ver 1.0+), libalut (ver 1.0+), libogg (ver 1.1+), libvorbis (ver 1.1+), libvorbisfile (ver 1.1+), libjpeg (ver 6b+).

GAMEPLAY FUN 8

Astromenace is a great fun. The alien ships are huge in number and relentless in their effort to attack the human homeland (bosses included). The alien swarms remember well those of the arcade games of the 80’ as they seem much more like automated and stupid drones than manoeuvred by an intelligent form of life. However on the human side of the war the game offers interesting features. There are something like 20 different ships that can be purchased and upgraded with a whole stock of equipments and weaponry.

GRAPHICS APPEAL 9

The overall graphic design is neat. The ships, equipments, aliens and environment are all carefully designed and will make you remember of several sci-fi movies and video games. Astromenace is all 3D accelerated graphics which provides a whole range of special effects that make the game one of the most graphically polished of the Linux games landscape.

SOUND DELIGHT 7

The sound and music are just fine and provide the right atmosphere for the game

STORY ENCHANTMENT 6

There’s no much to say here. As I told before Astromenace aim is not that of charming the gamer with its refined and complicated story. For this reason I give it a 6.

BONUS POINTS 8

It’s possible to modify the game quite easily by editing an xml file. Viewizard provides a guide to help the user handling with the scripts.

OVERALL SCORE 8

In the video below you can have a look at the game play and graphics






The Linux Game Box

30 10 2008


Linux is well known as a poor platform for the hardcore video game user. If you look for the video game market hits you won’t find them running under Linux. For that you’d better choose a PC or mostly a last generation game console such as Xbox360, PS3 or the more niche oriented one Nintendo Wii.

The Linux game panorama is not completely bare though. Just for this I want to start this new column to periodically present one Linux game I installed and played with my laptop. The use of a laptop takes a specific role here. Having said that Linux is -at the moment- completely alien to the massively marketed and leading technology games, then to play games on Linux which are playable and enjoyable on a honest average laptop it’s something lots of people can be interested in. We’re not speaking of a game oriented machine but something that you more likely already use for work or in school.

The machine I will play the games to review is the following:

Packard Bell EasyNote (2005)
Graphic card: Ati Mobility Radeon X1600
CPU: Centrino Duo T2300
RAM: 1Gb
OS: Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron

So, I will periodically look for one game (I already have a bunch of them noted down in tomboy) install it and play it. Then I will write something like a draft review (nothing like an IGN behemot) in this column. I will give my opinion on the basis of the following aspects:

– Installation pain
– Gameplay fun
– Graphical appeal
– Sound delight
– Story enchantment

The choice of the games is completely biased. At first I will start from games do have an appeal to me and then move on from those. Of course you can let me know your suggestions.

I do hope with this work to help sharing the know how of the Linux free and open source (and commercial maybe) scenario as well as paying tribute to those teams of enthusiasts who do such a great job and supply us Linux lovers with wonderful games.

The first review is about AstroMenace so stay tuned folks!





Bioshock 2 teaser

18 10 2008

Two days ago thewho posted on N4G news section he’s discovered a teaser for the next installment of the 2K award winning videogame Bioshock. He played the PS3 version of the game and found the teaser as an unlocked content. Here below the youtube video showing the teaser.

When I first read an interview to Ken Levine (which claimed he wouldn’t get involved in BS2) some months ago it mentioned that apparently the sequel of the game had to take place in the very moment of the Rapture civil war. In the light of this information the teaser is a bit cryptic. It’s hardly 1.3 minutes long and it shows a young woman (little sister?) standing on beach somewhere on the Atlantic coast. It’s sunset and she faces the ocean as for longing for something lost in the (or below the) horizon. She has what it looks like a plushie of a big daddy in her hand. Suddenly the camera moves backwards from her and piles of sand rise forming structures which remember the buildings of Rapture. Then the logo of Bioshock 2 appears and below it the name Sea of Dreams.  

Other interesting elements are the barnacle encrusted logo, which could indicate that the rusty city of wonders is back, and a flashy blue butterfly which could just be the key to unlock all the concept behind the upcoming installment.

I found the teaser cryptic mainly because the elements it show are a bit in contradiction with the idea of a sequel set during the beginning of the civil war. Maybe it just pictures an introductory scene where a little sister remembers of what her life used to be. Or maybe the rumors of the Bioshock two setting were just a way to throw people off the track. Actually it seems a little bit risky to use the same setting, even if spectacular, for a sequel. I mean, Rapture was just wonderful, but we visited the main areas extensively during the first installment, wouldn’t be a little bit bore-risky to visit again the same places?

My hypothesis is that the game will be set some times after the first installment ended. I would bet that old Rapture will play an important part to it, as the concept behind the city was the very reason behind all the Bioshock world and concept, so it’s just unbelievable they’d dump it.

What’s your opinion?





Blender 2.48 released!

17 10 2008

On October 15th 2008 Blender foundation released the 2.48 version of this heavenly fantastic software called Blender.

Blender is a free open source 3D software licensed under the GNU General Public License.

The aim of Blender is to supply the community with a state of the art software for 3D modelling, animation and game design. Blender is strongly developed and can count a vast community supporting it and the huge number of artist around the world who are devoted to it. Blender can moreover compete with hi level, hi quality and hi priced software like 3DS Max, Maya, Cinema 4D, LightWave 3D and so on. I have used it for some time and, even if the GUI it’s not that fashionable and ergonomic as it should perhaps better be, I must admit that the amount of things you can do and the quality you can obtain from it are astonishing. Compared to the other 3D solutions Blender also offers a fully integrated Game Engine.

One the many things which are simply lovable is the integration with Python which is my favourite programming language.

The new features every release offer are simply brilliant.

See below the list of the improvements in the current version.

– Real-time GLSL Materials
You can get many of Blender’s Materials also drawing in real-time in the 3D window and the game engine, including shadow buffers! It requires a more recent 3D card with good hardware shader support.

– Game Logic
Game logic and game level editing has been improved in many ways. Most notable are the Logic States, which allow to group logic bricks in simple”state engines” and activatate, deactivate, or smoothly make transitions between them.

– Bullet SoftBody
Blender’s GE uses the Bullet physics library. The library has been updated to the latest version, supporting soft body dynamics. Support has been added for flat cloth or volumetric soft bodies. Bullet allows interactions beween soft bodies as well as rigid bodies and static collision bounds of all types.

– Game Engine notes
The Game Engine is back, and better than ever! In this section you can read some of the backgrounds, and a collection of other GE release notes.

– Colored shadows
You can assign an RGB color to any lamp’s shadow now. Although this isn’t a feature supported “in the real world”, it’s a cool trick to allow artists to present a more realistic shading and lighting in their work (without need for GI).

– Shrinkwrap Modifier
As one of the Google summer projects, you can now allow an object to be “shrinked” to match/touch another object’s shape. The modifier works based on vertex groups allowing a part of a model to shrink or be projected

– Grease Pencil
The Grease Pencil allows to sketch annotations, notes and even animated motion suggestions in Blender. Great for collaborated work, remarks from directors or to draw key frame poses for characters.

– Animation tools
A lot of work has been done on better management for inserting keys. Further you can read notes here about rigging, bone locking and aligning. And there’s a Mancandy reference rig update!

– Sun, Sky, Atmosphere
This new “sun/sky” feature allows to use Sun lamps to simulate sky color and atmosphere scattering. A lot of options are available to achieve interesting artistic results, including blend modes and color space.

– Sculpt mode improvements
A couple of new Sculpting options were added. Now brushes allow a custom falloff curve, and there are more options available for textured brushes.

– Python Editor
One of the included Google summer projects was to improve our texteditor with Python IDE features, allowing much more advanced editing and integrated API lookup support for scripters.

– Fluid Control
Fluid simulation can be controlled using particles which define local force fields and are generated automatically from either a physical simulation or a sequence of target shapes. At the same time, as much as possible of the natural fluid motion is preserved.

– Wind & Deflectors
The Wind forcefield now has “noise” option. Force Deflectors now can also occlude or absorb forces.





Lord British goes zero G!

16 10 2008

Who’s never played one of the several Ultima installments?

Speaking of me, I have wonderful memories of those isometric beauties with those huge world, vast quests and funny cheats. Have you ever met Lord British in Ultima Online? Well, me no, but I know that someone’s even managed to kill him.. ah ah ah

Lord British, ehm, Richard Garriot is one of those figures I am attached to, mainly because they remind me to those days of my youth when role playing games and video games were all my life.

I am happy to hear that he managed, even after a pouring of something of 30M$, to fly to the International Space Station for a fortnight trip out of our world.

Garriot left earth on October 12th 2008, which it happens to be also my 32nd birthday ;), aboard a Soyuz spacecraft and will stay on the ISS until October 23rd.
Lord British is a strong space enthusiast and believer which is strongly committed to the space for human being (or maybe the richest ones..) stuff by investing into private space travel as he’s also vice president of Space Adventures.