The Caffeinated Penguin

musings of a crackpot hacker

Impressions on stratagus

| January 7, 2007

I installed the latest stratagus, because the one in the Ubuntu apt repositories is old. Impressions on the games:

Freecraft: This appears to have largely gone away as the result of a Cease and Decist order for Blizzard. However, if you can find a copy of it, it works and works quite well.

Battle of Survival This is a futuristic RTS game (think starcraft). You need to get the newest one, and it seems to be pretty decent.

Astroseries This seems to have been moved to another engine in 2004. There is only a Windows release. In theory, the datafiles should work, but I had no luck getting it to work.

Battle for Mandicor The statically linked binary is unstable and crashes. Using the datafiles with the newer engine doesn't work (throws some configuration error).

World Domination This is a little rough right now. It works, and seems stable, but has a way to go. I think it's definitely worth looking up in another year.

The mega games post

| January 6, 2007

So, since I've started gaming again, I've been looking at different games for Linux. I've uncovered the following interesting bits.

Completely free This is free as in freedom. Things marked with a * are in one of my ubuntu edgy repositories. Warzone 2100 This is an RTS that was COMPLETELY open sourced (levels, artwork, etc.) so it works, and is less of a “work in progress” than most of the other ones. I played the tutorial, and this looks very good. Also, this is the first app I’ve used with the Autopackage installer. It’s slick. You run it as a shell script and it doensloads and installs the bits it needs. Afer that, you can just do “package install whatever” and it will check dependencies and install the app for you. Adonthell* I haven’t tried this, and there’s only a playable demo now. However, it definitely shows promise. Cube based games This is a free FPS engine, with a decent amount of content. I don’t know how good the single player stuff is available (they say that it is a single player game, but haven’t tried it), but there seems to be many multiplayer maps. I haven’t tried it, but I plan to. Cube 1 game and engine Haven’t tried it. Action Cube (like action quake): I REALLY liked action quake (google it) and so I look forward to trying this. Sauerbraten (Cube 2) This is the next-gen Cube engine. Haven’t tried it. Eisenstern This is a role playing game based off the Sauerbraten engine. It is sitll in development, but shows promise. Haven’t tried it. User mods: These are mods for the cube engined game. Haven’t tried them. Freedoom* Free doom levels and datafiles which aim to replace the proprietary content needed to play the doom games. Now that the engine is free, the engine coupled with Freedoom allows you to get your doom on for free. This requires a doom engine – look at PrBoom below. Orbital Eunuchs Sniper This looks like an interesting silly game, and perhaps will be up there with such classics as nethack and xbill. Haven’t tried it. Egoboo* This is a dungeon crawl in the spirit of nethack. Haven’t tried it. NetHack – Falcon’s Eye* This makes nethack pretty. Haven’t tried it. The Battle For Wesnoth* Turn-based strategy game with a fantasy theme. I’ve heard really good things about this and look forward to trying it. Tremulous* This is a multiplayer aliens vs. humans (not H.R. Geiger Aliens, just non-human enemies) game. Haven’t tried it, but it looks decent. Vegastrike* This is a 3D space flying game engine. Haven’t tried it. However, it and some of the mods for it look very cool. Trek mod using vegastrike engine Privateer Gemini Gold Privateer Remake/Wing commander universe Lots of vegastrike links FreeCiv* Free Civilization clone. It’s gotten a lot better in recent years, and the graphics have improved dramatically. However, the UI is still a little weak and CivCTP (which I own) is still better. Stratagus* This is an RTS like the varios “craft” games. You can use the Stratagus engine with one of many different game implementations (List). Some of these are in synaptic. I haven’t played with these a lot – some of them seem playable, the others are still in development. boson* This looked promising, but crashed when I tried to run it. Partially Free These are games which are either freely downloadable or have a free engine with some non-free content which must be pulled from a commercial release that presumably you already own from “back in the day” (The quake and doom games are a good example). Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory This is an excellent game and is based off Return To Castle Wolfenstein. It is proprietary, but is a free download. There are also lots of mods: Duke3d Installer for the atomic edition Like Doom, this requires data files from the commercial product, which may be hard to find. PrBoom* This is an implementation of the doom engine, using the SDL library. Of all the doom engines I’ve tried (lxdoom and doomlegacy), this is the one I like the best. If you want a completely free doom game, look up the Freedoom project above. Quake2* This requires data files from the quake 2 CD. I need to dig mine out and play some quake again. Rise of the Triad Installer This was one of my favorite games when it first came out. It had a lot of interesting weapons, and you could leave bullet holes in things! It was also one of the first games to feature destructible objects (aside from the obligatory barrels). Again, this one requires the original datafiles. Wolfenstein 3D Wolfenstein GL This is classic Wolfenstein 3D. The second one is an OpenGL Wolfenstein. D1X Descent 1 engine. Requires datafiles from the CD. Haven’t tried it. D2X Descent 2 engine. Requires datafiles from the CD. Supposed to run descent 1 code as well. Haven’t tried it. IOQuake 3 Improved Quake 3 engine. Requires datafiles from the CD. Haven’t tried it. Homeworld If you played Ascendancy, Homeworld is supposed to be a lot like it. I picked up a copy in the bargain bin of some store, but never really played it. Now that there is an SDL port based off a source code engine release, I’ll try playing it in Linux. Unfortunately, it seems like this is largely abandoned. Freespace Apparently, the freespace 2 project can run both freespace and freespace 2. I own freespace 1, so the installer will hopefully work for it. This game was great under windows – hopefully the Linux port is as good. FreeCNC Command and conquer replacement engine. Requires files from the CD. Seems dead. Haven’t tried it. Non-Free These are proprietary and cost money, but are native ports to linux. Terminus Buy from TuxGames I have a copy of this somewhere, though I can’t find it right now. I’ll probably find it when I move. Civilization: Call to Power Buy from TuxGames I bought a copy of this for Linux. Well worth the money. Great game

Happy new year!

| January 1, 2007

Liz and I spent the last two days cleaning the house from top to bottom, and aside from the pile of stuff which needs to go into the attic, it's nearly done (need to finish my office). It's vastly improved, and doesn't make me groan when I walk through it. We also tackled the bathroom closet – 4 grocery bags of old products later, we now have room for linens in the closet. Who knew?

So, I'm not one to make New Year's resolutions, but I think this year, I just might: (1) Relax. (2) Buy a house this year. (3) Set up a shooting course in the basement and/or backyard and practice using airsoft guns (quiet, cheap, doesn't bother the neighbors). (4) Play more video games* (5) Finish my microarmor rules (first revision done, the code for handling the units is almost done).

  • = This might seem strange, but it kind of goes with #1. To this end, I have: (A) Re-established the “Wintendo”, a PIII-550 running an actual licensed copy of Win 98SE suitable for playing such favorites as Baldur's Gate II, Starcraft, Diablo, Diablo II, Half-Life, etc. (B) Cleared out my laptop's install of WinXP of various bits of cruft which have accumulated. (C) Established the following rules: (I) If a game has a native port for Linux, I will run that as opposed to the Windows version (eventually, once I have bought a house, moved, and gotten another job, I will probably build myself a new Linux desktop machine.). (II) If it does not have a native port, I will attempt to run it on the Wintendo. (III) Failing that, it does on the laptop. (IV) I will not use Wine (too unreliable)

Of course, I'll be playing console games as well. Liz and I have decided we like the Marvel: Ultimate Alliance game. It's a lot like Gauntlet: Dark Legacy, except Lizzy gets to be Spider Man, and I get to be Wolverine! Sweet!

Anyway, back to cleaning my office.

Random bits

| December 26, 2006

(1) We're watching the pilot of “The Lone Gunmen” and a bunch of government agents are planning to get congress to appropriate them some money by flying a plane into the world trade center.

(2) I got the big DeWalt power tool kit and a vacuum packer thingamajigger.

(3) You don't need a Core 2 Duo CPU to get the nice Intel VT technology – some of the Pentium D 9xx series chips come with it. Have a look. The 920 is about half the price of a a low-end Core 2 Duo.

(4) I also got a copy of Call of Duty 3 (or maybe Call to Duty.. not sure). Anyway, it is smart and autosaves the game at checkpoints about every couple of minutes. When you exit the game, then load the level back up, you continue from that save point, not from the end of the level, like you do in Red Steel, which is stupid.

Catholics, weddings, and other random bits.

| December 17, 2006

My cousin got herself hitched yesterday. Very nice wedding. Small, simple, elegant. When the worst amount of drama is when my aunt's “Mother of the Bride” dress has a train and the Bride's dress doesn't, you know you're doing well.

Oh, and the best man was bringing the groom to the Church and his car broke down. Luckily, someone else was following them and they all piled in.

And my cousin didn't hear the priest say “You may kiss the bride” (the priest didn't use the microphone), so Chris (the groom) looked confused and then gave her a peck on the cheek because she was facing the wrong direction. It's okay – we had them make up for it at the reception.

Anyway, Catholics.. So, we're at this wedding and it comes time for holy communion. Now, my wedding was a Lutheran ceremony, and it was a fairly typical “We invite all of those who believe in Jesus Christ and his message to come forth and receive communion and those who don't are welcome to come up and receive a blessing” – as inclusionary as you're going to get from most mainline Christianity, right?

Not this guy. His was something akin to – “We realize at times like this people come from all over, including non-Christians and Christians of other denominations, and we ask that only the Catholics come forward to receive holy communion”.

In other words, if you're not Catholic, sucks to be you!

My father called out bullshit (literally, under his breath, but loud enough that folks 2 rows ahead of us could hear it). Needless to say, the church saved money on the host this mass, because all of a dozen people (out of perhaps 50) went up to receive communion.

The reception was nice, though we left about 5 songs into the dancing (Electric Slide, ChaCha Slide, YMCA, Stayin' Alive, Dancing Queen… you get the picture). Since there was nothing we could dance to (a nice waltz, maybe just something slow, requiring a modicum of learning, and NOT DISCO), Liz and I buggered off, and restored balance to the universe by listening to hair bands all the way home.

In other news, the Nintento Wii is fairly impressive. However, it tends to eat batteries. I bought a couple dozen AA 2600mAh NiMH batteries and have just been changing them when the battery meter reads about halfway charged (perhaps 8 hours of play). In general, the system seems to work well, and most of the Wii sports games are a decent workout. Other games, such as Red Steel, are less of a workout, but you're still using the new features of the controllers. Liz and I primarily have been playing lots of cooperative doubles tennis, which is fun.

I want to say there is something else, though it escapes me at the moment. Oh well. I'm off to make omelettes (mushroom, onion, tomato and cheese, done in the tri-fold style where you only cook it on one side and the center is just barely set…).

Update on Black/EA/GameCrazy

| March 14, 2006

(1) Black still sucks. (2) I still need to email EA/Criterion and complain (3) I did manage to get my money back from GameCrazy. They were quite nice about it. Process:

(A) Call their number at 1-8SPEAK-TO-US (1-877-325-8687) (B) Complain to customer service guy (C) Guy talks to supervisor (D) Guy says he can refer to district manager. (E) District manager calls me, we talk, and he says I can return it for a full refund.

So, those guys are cool in my book. Prices seem good. I'll shop there again.

In addition, there was a review on slashdot, where I complained about the game. The most interesting response was that Halo 2 works the same way. Of course, I don't have an XBox, so I've never played Halo 2. However, if this is the case, then that's crap.

Black Review PS2

| February 28, 2006

(The title is an attempt to get Google to index it)

I bought Black today for PS2. I paid full price. This is the day that it came out.

I am on the second mission. I have been playing this same mission for 2 hours. I'm hungry. I want to have dinner. I CAN'T SAVE MY GAME.

Apparently, you can't save your game in the middle of a mission without losing all your progress and starting the whole thing over (despite clearly defined checkpoints).

It has a mature rating, which means that it's only for people 17+.

What people, 17+, do you know who can sit there for that long and not have to stop to take care of something?

I'm currently fighting with the store to take it back. Unfortunately, the return policy doesn't work for opened games. If you have opened it, the best you can do is sell it back used.

Should have bought it with my Amex card (they'll refund your money if you are unsatisfied and the company won't take it back).

Just tossing this out there so as to hopefully save someone else the $40 I just lost.

I'm going to call their corporate customer service number and see what I can do.

For right now, don't buy Black. We'll see what satisfaction I can get from the Game Crazy people. If they won't give me my money back, then I'll say not to do business with them either.

Snapshots of my life right now

| July 6, 2005

  • Movers for an in-state move are like $600. A that price, they are so worth it.

  • Gran Turismo 4 looks awesome at 1080i widescreen. Plus, there is a used Mitsubishi Lancer Evo for 9,500Cr, so it's even easier to get started than GT2.

  • The PS3 is going to use standard-type memory cards including Sony Memory Stick, Compact Flash, and SD. It also plays PS2 and PS1 games. However, no mention is made of supporting the older memory formats. If I'm going to buy a new console and play my old games on it, I want to be able to load up my old saved games. Either that, or one needs to have 2 consoles, which is kind of a waste. Hopefully, it will come with a little adapter thing (or one can be purchased) to convert the old cards to something that can be plugged into the new console.

  • Plastic storage tubs are the best.

  • Business is all about who you know. Never underestimate the power of networking and having the balls to speak your mind (provided you have something impressive to say). At least, it's worked that way for me. Just a couple years in industry is opening lots of doors. You know people who know other people and they talk to the people you know and the people you know send you emails because the people they know are looking for help.

  • Ice cream good.

Annoyingly stupid video game design

| June 12, 2005

Okay, so I've gotten all the way to the end of Mercenaries. In general, it was quite a good game. It was well done, lots of fun, and aside from a few bugs in the physics engine (if you drive a tank over the seam where a road meets a bridge, something snags and tends to turn you about 45 degrees, which can send you into a wall, which the tank promptly climbs over, tumbling you into the river), very well implemented.

Then I got to the last level, where you go after the evil Military dictator.

First, you have to get to the prison and question a prisoner. Fine, did that.

Then, you have to get to the big fortress. Fine, did that.

Then you have to stop the end of the world nuclear missile launch. Fine, did that.

Then you have to go catch the guy and arrest him. Fine, did that.

Then you need to call in a helicopter to get him and you airlifted out. Oh, but I got killed before I could pop smoke and call in the UH60.

No problem, right? They have to let me restart at the point where I stopped the missile launch, right? Would make a great fallback point.

Nope. I start back at the beginning. It took me 45 minutes to fight my way up that far. I'm sorry, but I have a life, and playing the same level over and over again is just stupid.

It's annoying because one of the big features of this game was that I could save just about anywhere, unless I was in the middle of a mission (unlike GTA, where you have to go “home”). However, since this was a mission, I can't save, which means that I start from the beginning.

OR I cast the game aside in disgust, stick it back on the shelf, and make myself some breakfast and head out to the range to shoot some real guns.

The kicker is, despite all that, I'd probably buy the next version of the franchise.

Still here, folks!

| February 19, 2005

Sorry I've been away, been busy.

Did everyone have a nice Valentine’s Day? I did. Lizzy and I did. She got me some books (Alton Brown’s I’m Just Here For the Food, The cult of Mac and another book on customizing OSX (I don’t recall the name), as well as a KitchenAid coffee grinder. It’s quite good, I recommend it. I got her some flowers (of course), some of the special vodka she likes, and some chocolate (because it’s not the same without chocolate). Plus, I chipped in on her bar, which we ordered today (will be delivered on Tuesday). I’ve been playing Mercenaries. It’s quite good. Thing Grand Theft Auto in a warzone, and designed as a shooter. It plays a lot like Star Wars: Battlefront (third person, with a targeting reticle). You can jump in and use most vehicles. It’s far more up my alley than the GTA series. I hope they make a sequel. I’m also switching from Gentoo to Ubuntu. The long compile times were bugging me. Ubuntu is basically Debian, but with a pushed up release cycle and a more focused package list (Debian’s reach often overextends their grasp, in my opinion). So far, it’s decent. There’s a bunch of stuff that needed to be added to make it useful to me, but for most folks it should be fine out of the box. It goes in very smoothly (don’t know if it can resize Windows partitions; didn’t try, but the installer is very simple). The hardest part is the partitioning, which I think is fair. If you want to blow away your system, then the install is very easy. Dual booting is a little harder, but that is usually the case. Aside from that, they ask what the machine’s name is, has you make a username, whether to get packages from the internet, and that’s basically it. No package selection annoyances or anything like that. When it’s installed, the default GNOME setup is nice and Synaptic is a nice package management frontend for folks. Basically, if my mother didn’t already have a new iBook, I’d recommend she use this. Oh, and they do a PPC version, so I can run Mac On Linux on my Mini. Anyway, back to migrating systems to Ubuntu.