Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Pen and paper online dice roller

Hope some of you out there playing pen and paper RPG's might find this useful which I knocked up a few days ago - its a program that rolls dice for you. All dice are included, can be rolled in multiples and are even totalled up at the right hand side.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Some thoughts on Tomb Raider Anniversary

I picked up Tomb Raider Anniversary the other week after getting the adventure game itch. What I really wanted was a good old fashioned dungeon crawl game to sink my teeth into and was looking to pick something up to scratch that itch on the Xbox 360, but alas, did not find anything. However, what I picked up instead was Tomb Raider Anniversary as I have very fond memories of being blown away by the original Tomb Raider on the Playstation. Shame about the sequals though, either I never really 'got' them, or they never really 'got' what Lara Croft is really about. I'm not sure which way around it was.

Tomb Raider Anniversary is the original game but brought up to date with next gen graphics, essentially its in the new Tomb Raider (Legend) engine. Although this is a review of an older game as there is a new Tomb Raider game coming out imminently with even better graphics, but at the time of release, this was as good as it could get for Lara and her polygons. She also has an increased repertoire of moves available to her, such as swinging from a magnetic grappling hook, which was never in the original. So some of the puzzles have been redesigned to accommodate the increased moves at her disposal and it gives the game a very fresh appeal.

Although, that said, I'm really not happy with what they did with the Tyrannosaurus Rex. To bring it down you must master an adrenalin dodge a number of times but the game in no way communicates to you that this is the key to success. Mindlessly blasting away with the pistols does so little damage that you're left wondering what to do and scanning the arena where you fight in reveals no environmental hazards to take advantage of. OK I get its supposed to be hard but not hard by withholding information. Every creature to that point I had brought down the old fashioned way, I had no idea that there was even an advantage to using this new combat mechanic let alone that it would be the only way to bring a boss creature down.

That said, combat wasn't ever really what Tomb Raider was about and I'm glad about that. Kind of like the Silent Hill games, this is about something else - there is combat there, it is kind of awkward. If Lara Croft were a D&D character, she'd be the thief. She can climb walls, she steals from tombs, shes extremely acrobatic. Thieves are generally not very good toe to toe fighters.

I think the D&D comparison is apt and brings me full circle. I think the original Tomb Raider - and this remake - work *because* they are essentially dungeon crawls with an acrobatic thief character. The same air of mystery is there that you get from venturing further and further into a dungeon in an RPG as you figure out how to get Lara deeper and deeper into the tombs. I believe this is the key ingredient that was missing from the sequels that I played, the bit they lacked that you could never quite put your finger on. Tomb Raider is, and always should be, a dungeon crawl!

The Anniversary addition is tons of fun. I'm not sure if its better or worse than the original really; it feels more like the original has been expanded upon. This is no bad thing. I would definitely recommend it for anyone looking to revisit fond memories or who wants to play a modern adventure game. Its really nice and refreshing to load a game up and spend forty five minutes gradually working your way through an elaborate environmental puzzle and having nothing shooting at you or trying to kill you while you do it. Here's hoping that Core have learned something from bringing their masterpiece back for the masses and that the next Tomb Raider game will have this at its heart.

You know what, Lara's still got it ;-)

Thursday, 23 October 2008

The illusion of security

Security is - and always has been - really just an illusion. The most secure vaults can be broken in five minutes, the most secure countries have been the victims of terrorist attacks and the most secure computer systems have been hacked. In fact security is generally not supposed to be impenetrable - that is impossible - instead its measured in how long it would take to beat the security system in question. That's why most of are happy to put a lock on the doors to our houses, even though locks can be circumvented with ease by a locksmith or a thief with the right tools and similar know-how, and why we dont padlock, chain and dead bolt our doors at night. A lock is good *enough* for most situations. That same level of thinking goes right the way through security decision making.

So security is just an illusion and it always has been. Here is yet more evidence of this - Keystrokes can be recovered remotely. That's right folks, your keyboard gives off electromagnetic waves when you type that can be measured up to twenty metres away and decoded back to what was typed. So kiss your passwords goodbye if you type them and someone is 'listening in' to those waves.

Presumably, it is better to send those same keystrokes over an encrypted wifi connection as the wifi network itself must be cracked before they can be read. Or maybe Bluetooth. But I seem to recall Bluetooth being hackable too. He he

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Thursday, 16 October 2008

A recommended play list for coding

If anybody is wondering what is currently on my iTunes when I'm knee deep in code, here is one of my play lists and it comes highly recommended ;-)

Avenged Sevenfold - Almost easy
Disturbed - Indestructable
Nightwish - Wish I had an Angel
Echoes of Eternity - Lost beneath a silent sky
Firewind - Breaking the silence
Papa Roach - Between Angels and insects
Paramore - Misery Business
Trivium - Anthem (we are the fire)
Metallica - The Judas Kiss
White Zombie - More human than human

Monday, 6 October 2008

Truly astonishing - revisiting the birth of RPG's

I came across this online recently and it truly is astonishing - the magic of the original roleplay game... D&D0. A must read for any RPG fan.

Items, items, items

When I started on the items for Dungeon Creep I went down the usual route, that is, coming up with weapons of different types, armours that protect various hit locations, and so on. I came up with over two hundred items to be exact and all was going well.

Then I scrapped them. All of them.

You're probably wondering why. In the Pit of Penance, there is really no reason for weapons and armour to be down there. The Pit a horrible place where the Law Lords throw criminals to die; society does not care what happens to them so long as they are out of the way. These criminals would not be armed when being banished into the Pit, after all, there are no spectators - it's not a form of entertainment like a gladiatorial arena. There is no baying mob. No crowd favourites. Those sentenced to the Pit never return.

So I began thinking about weapons and armour from a very different perspective. What could be found, scavenged and used for the purpose of survival? Could weapons and armour be assembled together out of bits of other things, almost like primitive societies did? Suddenly, designing this became a lot more interesting than thinking up another suit of platemail armour. What sort of everyday items would be down there? What could they be assembled into?

This led me into thinking about the other side of creation too: destruction. Breaking items apart to get other items out of them. Fun stuff to think about. Perhaps taking a chair and busting it apart to get the legs, then adding nails to make a spiked club. That sort of thing.

This is how Dungeon Creep will work, the hero will be combining and breaking items to make improvised weapons and even armour. This concept totally suits the brutal and gory nature of the combat. It was worth redoing my item system to get this in there, even if it did set me back a few days of development time.