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PSP Touchscreen Mod

August 19, 2008 Leave a comment

I must admit I was a bit surprised to see this, but it appears the PSP now has some limited third party touch screen support. Although noble in aim, I have grave doubts about the viability of this project. Its welcoming to see that there is no soldering iron required, although for any serious game developer to take notice would require mass adoption, which lets face it, is not going to happen.

According to the developer, the original idea was to turn the PSP into a fully functional GSM mobile phone, although this was later scaled back to just a touch screen device. I think they made the right call on that one, N-Gage anyone?

Some youtube videos of this in action:

A calibration / test program:

So bottom line: its ugly and lacks any serious support. Still, it is a testament to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of members of the community. Speaking of the PSP homebrew community, I wrote a few months ago about a n64 emulation project for the handheld which was then showing a fair amount of promise. Unfortunately, to my great sadness, the developer Strmnnrmn seems to have dropped off the face of the earth not having updated his blog since last December. Its always sad to see projects just die like this.


The Simpsons meet CTF

June 25, 2008 Leave a comment

Randomly came across this great map for Quake 3. Its an excellent remake of the Simpson home for all your fragging needs. The level of detail is astonishing, from the excellent textural work to the scale that says 230 pounds when stepped on. Genius :)

The hidden world of Linux

April 5, 2008 7 comments

There are many great FOSS projects that utilise old PC hardware and give it a new lease of life. The best is desktop computing with various Linux distribution flavours like Mint, PCLinux, Ubuntu and countless others. In fact it is my considered belief that the best hardware to run Linux on is infact (almost) any machine that is at least 12 months old. It is possible, of course, to select components based on the degree (and maturity) of the specific support under Linux but this has two major drawbacks.

The first is the most frustrating; some categories of hardware have poor levels of Linux support. For example, most LAN cards are now supported natively but that is certainly not the case for wireless (wifi) equipment, particularly for some Broadcom and Atheros chipsets. Graphics cards are another great example of hardware that you have to be careful with. The best, bleeding edge graphics cards will likely not be fully supported under Linux due to the low frequency of binary driver updates from the manufacturers.

The second relates to notebooks / laptops. Whilst with PCs it is fairly easy to pick components which have good Linux support, laptops generally have proprietary or non F/OSS friendly chipsets which require tweaks or work arounds to get working. The issue is, the vast majority of the F/OSS / Linux userbase require the help of others in order to help them with the tweaks and work-arounds. Most people are not comfortable (or proficient) tweaking / compiling kernels as well as ACPI modules (or any one of the number of different patches required.)

Where Linux absolutely excels in my opinion is in embedded systems. By this I mean very low power devices or old computers which can be used headlessly for a variety of applications. Most people do not even realise they are running Linux at home in their router / modem, Freeview / Satellite settop boxes, Print / Media servers / MP3 players etc etc, the list goes on. Due to the GPL license requiring companies to release the source code of the software the produce, a few projects sprung up e.g. OpenWRT / WRT54G (followed by other organically grown projects) to modify such components. The philosophy behind these projects varied, but the common reason was normally to remove limitations and to improve / extend functionality.

Not only do such projects look to modify embedded Linux devices, but some great projects have sprung up to utilise old PCs every household seems to accumulate in order to fulfil a number of key uses. For example, comprehensive firewall distributions like IPCop or Smoothwall or NAS distributions like FreeNAS (although this is based on BSD.) These are not dirty hacked operating systems either but very mature, streamlined, low memory footprint distributions which run headlessly. Being totally administered through a web browser makes these distributions feel extremely professional and polished (even if the archaic hardware they are running on doesn’t) this being coupled by the extraordinary amount of options present really makes these projects an extraordinary example of the flexibility of Linux/BSD.

IPCop / Smoothwall / Monowall

I had played around with smoothwall before when I became interested in hardware firewalls, but after some tweaking I decided not to run it. Recently I was intrigued enough by IPCop (which started life as a fork of Smoothwall) to give it a go. I was immediately impressed by the degree of customisation and the number of configuration options which make a low powered computer suitable for use on a home network right the way upto a small/medium office network. The best way I can demonstrate IPCop is by reproducing an illustration from their Documentation describing a typical setup scenario.

Being able to completely separate the Green (protected local computers and servers) Orange (Promiscuous servers open to incoming connections from the internet) and Blue (Wifi / Wireless networks) allows for some incredible flexibility. There is a downside which I will discuss later.

FreeNAS

I have been hunting recently for an inexpensive, two disk Network Attached Storage (NAS) system. I have found that such a thing does not exist (at least in the UK Market) and whilst there are plenty one disk NAS systems, they have limited options and security but above all, being one disk systems would not be able to support RAID. There are a few types of RAID systems (which I won’t go into) but I will explain why I wanted a NAS with RAID. The RAID in question is referred to as RAID 1 (Mirroring) – what this means, is that any data one harddrive is automatically copied bit for bit to the second harddrive. Whilst this is not how the actually system works, it means that one harddrive can fail (unlikely) and the data will still be intact. When talking about pictures of friends and family as well as critical documents, I do not like to risk storing it on a single harddrive – I had one fail on me a little while back which cost me almost a year of pictures and data. The few solutions available on the market would cost around £220 for a dual SATA NAS enclosure and two good quality harddisk drives. (How I decided on these and what to look for in a Harddrive is beyond the scope of this post.)

On that basis, I considered the cost to me of setting up a software RAID using an old computer. Provided you have an old computer with at least 96Mb of RAM the only expense is the harddrives which scales based on the amount of protected storage you wish to have (e.g. 80Gb – 1Tb.) It is important to note however, that since two harddrives are being used to store the same data, you will only have the formatted capacity of one harddrive not two. Once installed and up and running, FreeNAS silently provides free and fast access to your data whilst allowing a huge amount of flexibility with regards to how that data is served. Not only does it natively support SAMBA (or SMB/CFS used by Windows), NFS (Unix implementation) as well as FTP and others. The FTP interface is so advanced you can explicitly specify which files / folders are shared and what permissions users have. This allows you to access, add / change and remove files remotely allowing you free access from wherever you are in the world. The cost of reusing and old system coupled with the cost of two IDE harddisks is a lot less than a NAS enclosure I taked about in the previous paragraph.

The Others

Home Automation (X10), media centers (Freevo/Geexbox and MythTV) and PBX telephone systems (Asterix) are great examples of other mature projects using linux. I will not discuss these in this post.

The Caveat : Power consumption

With more and more emphasis on global warming, I am getting more and more conscientious about my personal power consumption. Normally I would not be too concerned, but given the number of systems I run (sometimes for 12+ hours a day each) I am less than willing to introduce boxes which would be on for 24 hours. Whilst there are a variety of options in the distributions mentioned above to auto shutdown at prespecified times, it negates their usefulness if I have to remember to switch them on. What if, for example I am away for a few days and want to access my data or have my Media center (running MediaPortal) record something – since I shut all my equiptment down every night (I used to run it through the night running Folding at Home) I would physically have to switch it all on every morning. This obviously is not something I would be able to do remotely.

Whilst power consumption has dropped recently with the low power Core 2 Duo processors (originally based on a low power laptop processor design from Israel – Pentium M) and power saving built into hardware like AMD’s PowerNow!, do not forget that the majority of the hardware running will not have these power saving features. It will instead be based on very obsolete fabrication (fabrication scale decreases over time allowing for better power consumption and higher clock frequencies) scales which are extremely inefficient by todays standards.

Projects that modify firmware of existing low power systems (like the WRT54g router) are of course exempt from this as they draw only a few tens of Watts per hour compared to the few hundred normal PCs use even when idle. It is a shame that such systems (or equivalent running Via C7 or AMD Geode processors) are not cheap to build as they would provide all the computing horse-power required at a fraction of the power requirement.

So, I hope this has enlightened you to some of the amazing things one can do with an old system and Linux/BSD, just be aware that although there may not be high equipment costs, over a few months the running costs will start to add up. Unless you are running an archaic system (Circa 1995) you should consider building (or buying a antique on ebay) a low power system.

UPDATE: Due to the amount of attention this post has recieved, I am in the process of writing two follow up posts going into further detail on some of the points raised here. Bookmark me or subscribe and check back later :)

Clancy: The XCOM Story Interview

April 1, 2008 Leave a comment

Well the response to my post about XCOM: UFO Defense (or UFO: Enemy unknown) had a lot of positive feedback which was gratifying to see! It never ceases to surprise me just how many die hard fans of the game still exist and is the greatest tribute any of us could bestow at the grave of Microprose. But threatening notes to Infogrames and hopeful glances at Microprosesystems aside, I wanted to follow up on one of the work in progress games I mentioned, specifically, Clancy: The Xcom Story. I got in contact with the developer behind this promising project and he very kindly agreed to answer some of my questions.

First of all, let me say I love the idea behind your mod, have you
seen the UFO bit of Gary’s mod Worst Case Scenarios video and did
it influence you in how you want your mod to look / play? Will there be
making extensive use of physics for anything?

When I decided I wanted to make a HL2 mod based on X-Com, I knew that
I would have to limit the scope of the project. It would be
unreasonable for me to plan to recreate x-com in it’s entirety. I
decided that this game should specifically recreate the mood and
environment that I experience in the original game. One of the most
exciting elements from the original game was the destructibility of
the environments. If an alien ran behind a fence you could just shoot
the fence down! HL2 and Gary’s mod have an amazing physics engine, and
I would love to recreate the destructibility of X-com’s environments,
but I want to avoid using the physics engine as too much of a gameplay
element. Don’t get me wrong, I love the physics engine, and I’ve spent
many hours in gary’s mod building exploding rocket cars, but I want
this to feel like X-Com, not like Half-Life 2 with bits of X-Com in
it! The game will have physics, but I’ll have to tinker with
environmental destructibility to make sure it doesn’t take precedence
over the story.

I take it you played UFO: Enemy Unknown, what did you like best about
this game and did you play any of the sequels (e.g. Terror from the etc.) If so, did you like them?

The original X-Com is one of my favorite games of all time. I’ve
played the game many times over. I really love the combination of
combat and economy. That sort of gameplay combination affords an
enormous amount of control over the game you’re playing.

When I used to play the game, I would make a story up in my head to go
along with the characters. I would imagine what it’s like for them to
be shot while coming down the skyranger ramp, or to be lost on the
other side of a barn while your friends have entered an alien ship. I
always thought it would be an interesting way to write a story, to
sort of transcribe what happened in the game as you played it. Sort of
a writer who had to kill off characters when they died in the game,
irrelevant of what the writer wanted. I don’t really enjoy writing as
much as some people do, so I never did that, but I think the idea of
telling stories within the X-Com setting was always something I wanted
to do.

I never liked Terror from the Deep, I barely played it. Numerous times
I tried to, but after a few minutes of it I gave up. The colors,
sounds, item names, it’s all wrong. there’s nothing new. I never
really figured out Apocalypse either. I played some of the newer
variations on the genre, such as Ufo: aftermath, and aftershock. I
thought those were pretty good, though the base building and item
management is weird, and you don’t have as much control as you did in
the original x-com. The failing of so many of the clones is that they
left out the geoscape portion. Making it just a series of combat
missions with no story. Games need to have more then fun moment, the
moments need to count for something. In the original X-Com, a
successful mission was more than just words on a screen, it was more
funding, more soldiers and weapons, more research, etc…

A single player mod is a lot of work, you have models to design and
animate, textures to create as well as maps. I can see from your video
(which I love BTW) that you already have some of that completed, could
you tell me more about what you have done and what you are aiming to
implement? For example, will you implement HWPs ?

Right now I’ve only scratched the surface of what I want to do. Most
of the work that’s completed is the script. When the script is done it
will serve as an outline for the rest of the project. From that I can
form a list of assets that the finished project will need, such as
maps, characters, guns, etc. Then I will have to scale the project as
I’m working on it. If it takes too long I can scrap less essential
levels. Basically, I hope for the best, and plan for the worst. One
thing that’s definitely going to be in the game is the X-Com base,
which by the the way is not in the video. The base will have all sorts
of things as “decoration” Everything from fighter jets to alien
containment to HWPs!, how much of that is also a functional gameplay
element remains to be seen. Depending on how much coding is done, I
would love to have functional HWPs and some fairly advanced weaponry.
I can only do so much myself, and I’m looking for anyone with
programming skill who wants to be a part of this project!

A lot of people are doing some very unique things at the moment with
the HL2 engine. A great example of that would be the HL2: Real Time
Strategy project. Are you planning a linear single player mod (which
plays like RebelStar: Tactical Command or are you
planning on implementing non linear gameplay?

Non-linear gameplay is a strange thing in the game design world.
Everyone wants it but no one is willing to make it. The real problem
with non-linear games is the time it takes to design them. Giving a
player even only two separate paths can mean turning a 10 hour game
into a 5 hour game. While I happen to think nonlinear games are my
favorite method of storytelling, I don’t really have the time or
resources to make one right now. But hey, fallout 3 is coming out
soon! Making a linear story will give me the ability to concentrate
getting good gameplay and an exciting story into the time players will
spend playing the mod.

Will we get to go inside an Alien Battleship :D ? What other types of
UFO might we be able to explore?

Yes! I’m planning on including an alien ship in one of the levels. And
it should be an exciting level for me to model and texture. I’m
looking forward to working on that one. The battleship is the most
likely one to include, as it’s one of the largest and most likely to
have a formidable army in it! I don’t think there’s a need for more
then one alien ship right now. The levels should have as much variety
as possible.

Ethereals, are you looking to implement them and if so, will Psionics
feature in your mod?

I’m planning on including all the aliens, how many I can actually
include will depend on time and other factors. Again, any talented
character modellers who want to be a part of this should contact me!
That being said, the ethereals are near the top of my list. They have
a tendency to float around and shoot at the player from the sky, which
would be an amazing element to include. The psionics would be a little
trickier. I hated the psionics in X-Com, it was a terrible thing to do
to the player to have all your soldiers start shooting each other. I
can’t foresee a major inclusion of this in the mod. It would be silly
to take control away from the player as any sort of gameplay
mechanism. Though I’d imagine it could be an interesting story
element. It’s certainly a part of the etherial’s character.

Who is the protagonist (i.e. the playable character) – is he/she a
civilian running for cover who gets caught up in this (for example in a
terror mission) or are you a fully fledged XCOM member?

Clancy was a police officer. After being one of the first people to
encounter an alien he was recruited to join X-Com as a soldier. Much
like Half-Life 2’s title character, Clancy will be somewhat
tight-lipped. In the mod we’ll get to learn a bit of the psychology
behind his character. Including an explanation of why he’s so quiet.

Will you be working with AI scripted teammates or will you be a lone
soldier against the aliens?

I don’t like being alone in games, it’s… Lonely. I love the way
games like Call of Duty make you feel like part of an army, you get
friends to charge over the hill with you! On the other hand, there are
definite gameplay advantages to sending the player alone. Games go too
fast if all you do is follow the army around. I don’t want the player
to assume that if you don’t shoot an alien, someone next to you will.
Loneliness and fear also play an important part in creating tension
and suspense. I’m going to have to balance it out. It would make no
sense for X-Com to send a single soldier into battle. But Clancy will
find himself on his own when it counts.

Will the game finish at Cydonia :D ?

The mod is not going to follow the entire story of X-Com, but rather,
Clancy’s own story. The mod only covers a small portion in the middle
of X-Com’s history. The events at Cydonia take place after the mod. I
wanted to focus less on telling the story of X-com, and more on what
it’s like for the people involved. Perhaps if I ever make a sequel I
could include Cydonia!

Is there anything else you would like to add?

It’s easy to start a project, but it’s difficult to finish one. I love
working on this mod, and I will not allow the project to be
neglected. I’m still looking for coders and character modellers who
want to be a part of the mod. So good luck out there! Thank you for
your time, and keep watching the Clancy site for more updates!

Definately one to keep an eye on, if you can help out please do! Check out the site along with the great preview video.

The (fairly) Definitive List for all XCOM Fans!

March 17, 2008 6 comments

I blogged before about XCOM: Enemy Unknown, a game released in 1994 which is still today heralded as the first (and so far only) example of a real time strategy (RTS) game which combines turn based strategy seamlessly to make a very accessible, enjoyable game. Easy to play but at the same time, involves a great deal of thought to get right.

I will start off with the direct clones, games that, either as a result of an open source community or a big software house have tried to recreate the magic.

Isomer

IndieDB link , Project link

A new isometric style strategy game heavily influenced by XCOM currently in development by an indie team. It features world exploration and survival elements with the player controlling alien forces hell-bent on conquering human worlds for their vast resources. The worlds are large, teeming with catacombs and life, procedurally generated with gameplay inspired by classic XCOM and dwarf fortress style games.

This is a project I am involved in and as a result I have snuck it in at the top of this list ;)

XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Steam link

A reimaging recently released by Firaxis which started off as a modern remake of the classic original UFO:Enemy Unknown but then evolved into a unique direction. Having played it there is almost nothing I can say against it. XCOM:EU is a fun, almost nostalgic jaunt through the XCOM universe I so enjoy with some modern twists. In many aspects the original has been simplified which is my only mild criticism, however what is there is so refined as to almost bring giddy glee to me whenever I play. I highly recommend.

UFO2000

(Project link)

Perhaps the original, the one that started it all. The majority of the work was done by a Russian programmer who did a magnificent job of laying down the basic framework. With the 0.2.x builds, you could randomly generate a terrain and populate it with soldiers playing a very basic hot-seat style multiplayer game. Since then, a great deal of work has gone into this project to improve and expand on this framework. It has become a fairly stable multiplayer game with its own hosted server which is normally always populated and even has its own (rough) league table based on the completed games.

The only problem I have is that, in an attempt to shed all non F/OSS content, they have dropped the requirement for the UFO: Enemy Unknown graphics. What this means is that you can play with an entirely community made set of artwork / weapons. This is great in some ways and a lot of people have contributed both terrain, weapon sets and armour artwork but this is the project’s greatest problem at present. There are so many different weapon sets you can choose from (as well as armour and graphics) that the game feels as though it has abandoned its routes in the xcom universe. Personally I feel that the game should stick to what it is good at (being a multiplayer UFO:EU clone) and have these community driven skins/models on a completely different server.

This is definitely the most mature project (it supports both UFO: Enemy Unknown AND Terror from the deep graphic sets) infact, most telling is what is currently NOT supported:

  • Single player mode.

Having recently added flying units and deloyable aliens such as the Floater, Ethereal and Snakeman making this clone the most feature complete around at present and definitely one I would strongly recommend.

UFO: AI (Alien Invasion)

(Project Link)

Is another fairly recent project that has come forwards in leaps and bounds in the last few years. Based on the open source Quake 2 (known internally as the id Tech 2) engine, the team behind UFO:AI have spent considerable time making the maps modular and converting this first person engine into a RTS style one. While at the low level, the engine is still a FPS, the camera has been dramatically modified as to is the engine’s ability to handle dynamic map production through the stitching of smaller map units. I have played a few of the builds the team has released in the last few years and overall I am impressed.

Unfortunately the game suffers from a very jagged feel, unit movement and shooting phases do not feel fluidic and it is quite hard to beat the aliens who seem to have an unfair advantage coded in. Given the limitations of the engine they started with, they have made huge progress but I am unconvinced this project will mature much further.

X-Force: Fight for Destiny

(Project link)

This is one of the clones of Ufo: Enemy unknown that I really enjoyed playing, although very rough around the edges you can see the amount of planning that has gone into this game and it is fun to play. The moot point is that the native language of the development team is German, this would not be an issue if it was not for the very poor job someone did translating some of it (the rest of the clone is still in German.) There are several key things which make this game quite enjoyable, firstly the game is uniquely different, but easy for a XCOM veteran to pick up and play with minial adjustment, and secondly, the way in which destructible terrain has been implemented. In a way it feels a lot more like Apocalipse but in the UFO: EU universe which makes it quite entertaining. I have not tried the more recent builds but this is one I would definitely recommend you try.

Project Xenocide

(Project link)

This clone has wowed with spectacular renders and very grand plans, unfortunately this project started life as a kind of Geoscape (the real time strategy part of UFO: Enemy Unknown) tech demo and a few years on that shows. Whilst the Geoscape looks quite mature, the extent to which the tactical aspect has been developed can been seen in their 2007 tech demo video. This is not a serious clone at the moment because it is missing the most vital part of UFO:EU. It would be interesting if the team from Project Xenocide merged with the UFO 2000 team, although that is unlikely as it is clear they have their own plans for the Tactical element of the game. Sadly at the moment all they are is a fairly dull tech demo.

UFO Pocket PC

(Project link)

This is more of a port than a clone although technically the latter is the case. The Russian team (seeing a trend here? :D) have out of nowhere completed a very comprehensive clone for the Windows Mobile Pocket PC platform. I barely use my PDA but I tried it out and was pleasantly impressed. In my mobile was Pocket PC (its Symbian) then I would carry thisw around with me everywhere, the port is that good. The only minor niggle is the look system for the soldiers. Due to the touch screen only having a left click implementation, turning your soldiers is a bit cumbersome.

Whilst a lot of the GUI/ management screens are unique to this port, the game itself has been remade with astonishing accuracy. This is definately one to try if you have a Pocket PC.

UFO: Extraterrestrials

(Project Link)

Definately one of the most polished clones, this game is a commercial offering set in a similar universe (although not the same to avoid royalty costs to the present holder of the XCOM trademark) to the originals. The Geoscape and Tactical elements are almost identical but with a variety of subtle differences. I got bored about half way through this game as it seemed to lack any real innovation. Whilst graphically it is very good, the combat seems a little meek compared to the vicious bark of the original Heavy Plasma rifle. That being said, it has a variety of game modes and the aliens are not stupid requiring a cautious commander versed in tactical thinking.

I really like the way combat is depicted on the Geoscape, whilst in the original time ‘stopped’ during an interception whilst your interceptor battled the UFO in the popup screen, the battle takes place in all its glory right on your Geoscape which I was very impressed by. There is no doubt about it, this is a game to buy as it will provide hours of enjoyment.

The Altar Games : Aftermath, Aftershock, Afterlight

Of course, no list of XCOM universe remakes would be complete without a nod to Altar Entertainment and their trilogy of games. Aftermath came first and, whilst it was a clone of UFO:EU it has a completely different storyline which is actually quite good.

The game starts in a movie theater with a strange dust floating in the projected light, the camera tilts and you everyone is dead, suffocated by strange, alien spores. The game starts by telling you ‘yesterday’ and alien craft arrived in orbit, all communication failed and it began unleashing spores into the atmosphere. There spores blanketed the world and suffocated most of the human race. Only a select few remain. (Enter player)

The Geoscape is very different to classic UFO:EU/Xcom games in that, you start off with a small sector of the globe under your control. This is your base, you must expand your territory as you go along by completing missions and ridding nearby sectors of aliens, both mutants and the intelligent ‘grey’ like species which look suspiciously like stectoids. As you gain territory, you come across other humans who can join your ranks as soldiers. You also perform UFO intercepts and raiding missions (although you do not learn how to enter the UFOs till later.) Overall the game is extremely enjoyable and the best of the three games from Altar, however it is crippled later on by the aliens developing a second stage to their technology which is so powerful, even an experienced play could have difficulty getting more than a 1:1 kill ratio (aliens for your soldiers) which any die hard fan will agree is too hard, especially given the scarcity of volunteers.

I must mention the Geoscape interception of UFOs which is done in a unique and fun way. The battle is not controlled by the player but in the form of a brief (20 second) video of the dog fight your interceptors have with the UFO(s). This is both fun and exciting as there are a number of different outcomes which all have their own video sequence.

I only briefly played the second two games from Altar as I found them very boring and without any real redeeming features after a few hours. I do recommend Aftermath but not the other two.

I want to finish by mentioning the games that are set in the XCOM universe, but are either a completely different genre.

Clancy: The XCOM Story

(Project link)

This is a WIP first person shooter mod for Half Life 2 set in the XCOM universe. It appears to be a linear story driven campaign in the fairly early stages although the project has a great website and introductory video which I highly recommend. Ever since seeing the damage the UFO did in Half Life 2: Gary’s Mod I have been longing for a XCOM mod. This *could* be the answer, we shall have to see.

If nothing else, I highly encourage you to watch their preview movie on their website. :)

XCOM: A Last Hope

(Project link)

This is a multiplayer first person shooter, also utlising the Half Life 2 engine. It looks as though the mod creators are aiming at an XCOM themed Counter Strike style game and although very much a WIP, they have released several builds. This is not one that I have tried, but it does look interesting if in need of graphical polish.

Although in truth, I should really add Terror from the Deep and Xcom Apocalipse to this list, as well as the other games officially released by the XCOM franchise, but to be honest they do not really feature on my list. The reason for this is Terror from the deep, whilst it has a lot of interesting tweaks / additions is just UFO:EU with a fresh coat of paint for me. Xcom Apocalipse is a great game, but I treat it as a new game (like the Altar series.)

So that is it, for the moment! If I have missed any games out feel free to comment and berate me :)

UPDATE : 05/06/08 :

Corrected a few spelling mistakes. Also, UFO Pocket PC appears to have gone offline. The domain at which it was hosted is not longer available which is a shame. It was definitely something worth trying out if you owned a pocket PC.

UPDATE : 24/06/08 :

URL problem seems to have corrected itself. Pocket PC UFO is back. :)

UPDATE: 31/10/12 :

After quite some time and given the amount of traffic this post recieves, I’ve added some new recent projects that any self respecting XCOM fan will enjoy trying out. :)

Über DS

March 11, 2008 Leave a comment

This is a $600 dollar DS mod (price includes DS) which turns it into a behemoth of a portable touch screen gaming system! Whilst the modder’s motives are unclear, the pictures speak for themselves, a two 15″ touch screen mod running through a custom built FPGA hardware driver to translate and upscale each screen.

This mod is completely useless but it is the sheer scale that impresses me coupled with the work on the FPGA. :) Lots more pictures at the mod’s official site.

Categories: Console, Mod Tags: , , ,

Asus EEE Touchscreen Update

January 20, 2008 1 comment

Following the lead from the great Asus EEE PC touchscreen mod I wrote about back in December, rumours have been surfacing that ASUS is interested in taking this design improvement, possibly adding a bigger screen (fingers crossed after the “yes they are, .. no we are not” that occured in December) and updating their product line.

According to manufacturers, the extra bill of materials (BOM) would only be around $15 given the scale ASUS is requesting. Good news, as I want an EEE PC but have held off over concerns about the screen size, I certainly will be keeping a keen eye on this :)

‘New’ Levels and an XBox Port?

January 11, 2008 Leave a comment

On my old blog I did a fairly in-dept look at the legendary Goldeneye for the n64 and a newly released tool for editing levels and items (even allowing for construction of ‘new’ levels.) I came across two new levels that have recently been released. The first is by Dragonsbrethren who has used the tool to completely remake the Silo level into an interesting mix between Caverns style exploration to Frigate style hostage situations.

Details.

The second level will be familiar to anyone who played Perfect Dark, the spiritual successor to Goldeneye. It is a port of the Chicago multiplayer level into Goldeneye. Not had a moment to test it out (its been a busy few days recently) but it looks fun. Not sure what this will bring to Goldeneye that Perfect Dark multiplayer didn’t already, but its a great effort none the less. :)

Details.

This comes as details of a possible Official Remake of Rare’s Goldeneye have begun to surface. There are a lot of legal obstacles undoubtedly still present, not least of all is Nintendo’s declaration that they are actively pursuing bringing Goldeneye to their Virtual Console platform. Microsoft refused to comment on development of the ‘Reimaged’ Goldeneye for their Xbox Live Platform further adding to the speculation.

EEE PC Touchscreen Mod

December 23, 2007 3 comments

A couple of days ago, jkk posted a fascinating (if light on the details) post about his project to add a touchscreen to the EEE PC.

He tantalisingly promised to post a tutorial within a short duration. Thankfully he was as good as his word and his youtube walk-through can be found below.

Its a shame he is not a bit more concise, but the video really does show the simplicity of the mod. There are a few things that remain unclear, firstly whether or not the left speaker is replaced / disabled by this mod and whether this makes the whole thing a tighter fit when closed.

Paranoia – Half Life 1 Mod

December 20, 2007 9 comments

On the 3rd of December, a talented team of Russian modders released their single player Mod “Paranoia” on the unsuspecting Internet. Despite the fact that it has been in work for 3ish years and based on the Half Life 1 engine I was sufficiently intrigued to download the installer and give it a go.

From a technical standpoint it is, as expected, rather disappointing and it does take a while to readjust to the graphics of the original half life engine. Determined, however, to give the game a fair try I concentrated more on the other aspects of the mod.

You are a Russian Spetnaz soldier, and ‘wake up’ in your room (how cliché.) The level designers have done a good job in capturing post-soviet architecture and it provides an interesting insight into this world in much the same way as STALKER. This is where the similarities end, with uninspired texturing and poor initial map layouts and terrible lighting. The first level is always designed to familiarise the player with the environment he/she has just entered. Good games (and mods) give you a brief overview of how to control your character and a brief overview as to the environments you might face. Paranoia does do this, but in a horribly protracted way, leaving the player seemingly wandering in circles listening to subtitled Russian which gets boring fairly quickly.

The scripting is used fairly well but is let down by its complete lack of polish. Interactions with NPCs feel forced and judder-y which immediately starts to separate players from the game environment.

Combat is pretty painful. Its hard to go into a game without some expectations based on games that have “got it right first time.” The last FPS game I played prior to Paranoia was Call of Duty 4 and the difference could not be more stark, not just in terms of visual aspects (which of course cant be compared) but also in terms of fluidity and mechanics. With hit boxes which are laughably poor at times to terrible enemy model animation and AI this game started to annoy me at the first contact with the enemy (20-35 minutes in.) This is not simply due to the age of the engine, I still play Counter Strike (1.6) occasionally which is based on the same engine and there is no comparison, Counterstrike is silky smooth and actually has not aged badly graphically.

This is not to say, as the mod team has clearly put a lot of effort in, there are a number of interesting additions to the engine, like notes which can be read, a (very basic) mission manager and a point and click interface similar to the Doom 3/Quake 4 engine, however it is not enough.

I must admit I did not play too far past the first real ‘mission’ because all the annoyances were starting to mount up. The only thing that could save this mod would be a solid, immersing story line. Given the poor scripting, amateurish voiceclips and overall poor presentation I doubt it does and wont be playing it to find out.

Overall : 2/10

A lot of effort has clearly been put into some aspects of this mod and I am hesitant to put it down because of this, unfortunately a lot more is still needed and given the age of the engine, the team has likely run out of time.

UPDATE: I decided the give it another try and played through. It was not worth it, whilst the game did get better later on, the story line must have been conceived by a madman. (spoiler) After the initial encounter with the ‘terrorists’ you chase them into an underground base where you learn your Government had been conducting secret experiements in order to genetically engineer the perfect Spetznaz soldier. But it all turns nasty when you have to wade through a lab with zombies to another lab with genetic uber monsters, back to the first lab to find whats controlling the monsters…. you get the picture. Its disjointed and the story ‘borrows’ from games like They Hunger and the trigent parts of Far Cry, hanging together by a thread. All in all a revised rating would be 3/10 but only because the latter parts are slightly more polished than the start.

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