Oolite – an Odyssey of Mod Confusion

It’s hard for me to tell what Oolite really is.

At first, it’s obvious. It’s a space trader/shooter, in the grand tradition of Elite. (Elite, a brilliant game that, much like Master of Orion, seems to inspire no end of remakes, none of which succeed in innovating on the same scale as their inspiration.) Continue reading

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Because Stars Matter: Starshatter (Sci-Fi Flight Sim) is Free!

Entering orbit in an F-34D, a slower multi-purpose fighter.

Update

The original host site, Starshattermods.com, succumbed to hacking and is down. Hard Light Productions, a fantastic community that grew around Freespace Open, has generously taken up hosting the Starshatter forums here. Starshatter files are hosted in this thread. I still have some of the files, please let me know in the comments if you have any trouble obtaining them.

The Short

Starshatter: The Gathering Storm is a moderately complex, moderately realistic, spaceborne military flight sim that takes place in a series of dynamic campaigns. It won’t change your life, but it ain’t bad.

The Good:

  • it’s not too punishing or difficult. It strives for a moderate amount of realism, but offers an optional video-gamey control scheme
  • takes place in four dynamically shifting war campaigns, rather than a static set of missions or a bland open world design
  • graphics and sounds are good for such a small studio, but won’t blow your entire head off
  • receive promotions! Start flying fighter craft, and move upward to capital ships, even become an admiral and direct the course of the war.
  • heck, it’s FREE and open source!
  • fairly open to modding
  • rewards come after overcoming the learning curve, about 4-6 hours, perhaps less if you’ve flown flight sims before

The Bad:

  • a bit repetitive, a bit spare, a bit bland. It’s a quasi-military flight sim, there’s not a lot of character here.
  • lack of variety in ships
  • reportedly difficult and tedious to create your own missions
  • no multiplayer campaign

Read on for the review, or skip to the “Getting It” section for info on how to get it!

Continue reading

Conelrad releases Five Automatic Landings (Free ambient music)

One of my favorite artists, Conelrad, has released a new EP, the first in a couple years.

Five Automatic Landings cover art

Five Automatic Landings is five tracks and about an hour of ambient drone. If you’re at all familiar Conelrad, you’ll get the quality you usually expect, and may even notice some familiar signatures latent within the tracks. If you like ambient music, and you’re new to the artist, well, you’re definitely in for a treat.

And is it free? It’s free as hell and death, friends, and so is the entire discography. Go get some.

I reviewed one of Conelrad’s tracks early on in this blog. Lots of post-apocalyptic ash drifting silently from the skies, and an unlikely tie-in with Half Life 2. Read about that here.

Back cover with track listing.

(link fodder)

WTF with Marc Maron (podcast, strong language)

Vaguely recognize this guy? Then you too may have watched too much Comedy Central in the early 90's.

“Two friends. Go ahead and chuckle to yourselves. Two friends, how many do you really need? I can’t stand people who say ‘I’ve got lots of friends.’ You don’t. You have a bunch of shallow relationships with people who talk behind your back, and you call that drama a ‘life.’ Because you’re bored at your jobs.

“All I need are two: I need the main guy, and the guy I go to when I drain the main guy. Yeah. Because I’m a needy, panicky man. I’m an angry man.”

Marc Maron is a stand up comic with a podcast. He mostly records it in his garage. There are several podcasts like this, but WTF is the only one I’ve bothered to listen to. It’s pretty good. Continue reading

Hero Core: Blow Up a Whole Asteroid Filled with Angry Robots

It's time to shoot some things in space.

I’ve been waiting for this one. You can’t browse for three feet on the internet without running into a retro game these days. These are the consequences, I’m afraid, for a generation of kids who grew up playing NES games that cost around $40-$50 a pop: you never got enough, and now with a multitude of free tools and talent, free retro platformers are everywhere. You can afford to be picky, to wait for the game with just the right mix of difficulty, nostalgia, and creativity to come around.

Hero Core has been worth waiting for. I won’t waste your time with too many words, you should probably start downloading it now.

Gameplay is focused on exploration of a large world, with locked-off bits opening after periodic equipment upgrades, much like in the Metroid series. Your character controls like a fighter from a shoot-em-up: no jumping, you simply float around in the vacuum of the enemy lair, propelled by jets built into your suit.

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Continue reading

In a Time of Roguelike Chimpanzees I was a Monkey

Ok, so a theme munged from an old Beck song has absolutely nothing to do with roguelikes. Really though, this month seems to be all about new releases of roguelikes, lots of ’em, and you’re a loser, baby, who should kill himself if you aren’t just a little bit excited about it. Yep, that’s my tie-in.

Hope you have some time to waste and are also nerdy enough to like this sort of thing. If not, go play some Mass Effect or something. Go on, git.

Yo, bring it on down.

Here’s a quick list of the big names updating this month:

  • Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup 0.6
  • DoomRL 0.9.9.1
  • Transcendence 1.0

Also recently, a rash of newcomers, mostly one-off concept games  made in the heat of friendly competition:

  • Tigsource’s Assemblee Competition
  • 7DRL (7 day roguelike competition)

Continue reading

(Indie Game) Flotilla – Turn Based Tactical Battles in Full 3D Space

On impulse (the human tendency, not the distro service), I bought Flotilla, by Blendo games (maker of the stylish freebie Gravity Bone). It’s a ten dollar turn-based tactical space battler, with shades of Strange Adventures in Infinite Space. It’s pretty. For a game based in full-3D space, it’s also fairly easy to learn. Surviving battles, though, is hard.

Fine-tuning my attack of a beam frigate in between turns. You must carefully position your ships to avoid exposing weak spots, while targeting the weaknesses of your opponent.

The game is roughly in two pieces. The first is an overworld-style map, with quick jaunts between planets, where you will experience plot points such as crocodiles with space madness and human scientists offering ship upgrades. The second piece, and the heart of the game, are full-3D space battles between your flotilla, and other ships. Like a three-dimensional game of chess, you’ll maneuver your pieces in an orangey space, attempting to lure your opponents into vulnerable positions. It’s complex enough to require some tactical thought, but simple enough to learn in about ten minutes.

Each game plays out a bit differently, but nearly every playthrough will have you engaging in mini-epic turn-based battles between your motley collection of ships, and other motley collections of ships. There’s quite a bit of motley going around. In my experience, each full game takes around a half hour to play out, though the game itself can be minimized to the taskbar if you need a break, as it won’t eat CPU time when minimized. There doesn’t currently seem to be a way to save games, but that could well change.

Flotilla also offers a 'skirmish' mode, in which you can choose small fleets of ships to face off against each other.

The style of the game will turn away those used to dark, dead serious games, as this is a galaxy populated with intelligent farm animals flying neon-bright ships, angrily sabre-rattling at each other. Battles play out to the tune of delicate étude-like piano pieces in bubbly orange space, like a terrible champagne. The visual style itself is solid and pleasing enough, but has the feel of something that is still awaiting a few more brushstrokes of varnish. The overall presentation is different enough that this can be forgiven in the short run.

As a game, Flotilla is complete and solid, but it could use a few extra features, such as a chase camera and a way to speed up the hands-off portion of battles. Don’t let this stop you, as the developer, like many independent game producers must, released the game while still tweaking the overall finish of the game. Think of yourself as a patron of the arts, and that ten bucks that could be three lattes could very easily help this guy put the finishing touches on what is a unique and fun game. It’s also notable that there is no DRM, not even a serial, required for the game. Once purchased, you download the game and install it anywhere. Updates are released in separate patches that can be downloaded and applied at any time, again, with no DRM or accounts required.

Though Flotilla has been released early on the PC, it’s developed using the XNA framework, and will soon be available on XBOX, which may well garner a larger audience. It’s saying a lot about the design that it will likely fit both the PC and console platforms quite well, and currently supports split-screen play on the same device for two players.

Download a free demo of Flotilla here.

The Black Heart – free, blood-soaked 2D fighter

Download The Black Heart here.

Schlick!

It’s a simple fighter game with over-the-top combos. I used to like fighter games, when they were this simple. There was a brief period in the nineties where there was something of a blood splatter arms race between fighting games. I miss those times, because I am old, and because they were good times.

"Winners Don't Use Drugs"

The fighters look like they were drawn in MSPaint, but they animate quite well. The style is a weird mix of Asian and American horror, heavy on the Asian, but not too derivative. Then again, what do I know?

It’s well past midnight, the heater’s been on too long, and this game is kind of making me feel weird. I have to say, though, I really like Animus. He just seems like he’s having such a good time.

Looks like someone found the LeMarchand configuration.

The game supports your typical fight-the-ladder Story Mode and VS., but also an intriguing co-op survival mode, in which you and a friend try to last as long as possible against constant fighting. I haven’t tried it yet, but it should keep my interest a bit longer.

Random blades shooting out of the floor is a fairly common occurrence.