Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Atari on XBOX - ET Game Documentary

I'm an Atari guy, there I said it... This doesn't mean I've not been around the block, my first computer was a Commodore, but my first LOVE was an Atari.

An Atari 520 ST FM to be precise, and here I am 36 years old, married, with two houses, two cars and a busy life, but I still love that Atari.

So, seeing news of an Atari centric documentary I took a look:

Good stuff, except, its on XBOX?... I have no interest in XBOX, and I had read recently how Microsoft was winding down original programming on XBOX... GG Microsoft, GG...

Original article:

Monday, 28 July 2014

Imperial Conquest - Atari ST - My Version Pt 1

Some of you out there will know of my background as a war-gamer, yes I started out playing online games - and games with other people - as grand table top strategy games...

I've played many, from way back on the Atari ST with my favourite, and first, strategy games (like Carrier Command and then Imperial Conquest).

I particularly likes Imperial Conquest, it was written in STOS (a dialect of basic) and featured on the cover disk of STFormat.  And I wrote off with £5 of my pocket money to buy a real copy - which came back as a diskette - no box, it was a proper indy game!

The idea of Imperial Conquest was you had a world view, well a Europe high view, which showed the cities and armies and fleets as just dots... You could then click and see a smaller snap shot of the land... If you got it clicked on the wrong spot, you just had to go back up a level and go back down; there was no scrolling...

You held cities, and from them each turn you got income, a turn being a month, and then you paid from your income for armies/units you controlled, and you moved these army counters around to take other cities.

Very basic, but very addictive...

So, my next personal project is going to be an Imperial Conquest clone, this is to a) get me back into coding and playing war games, and b) to teach me some more platform portable 2D OpenGl Code.

 The first thing I did was trace an outline of Europe, using Red for Land, Blue for sea and orange for rivers.  These will be my terrain types for now... And I wrote a C# program to parse this image into a raw map, the map can be any size, I've tried everything from 640x480 to 4096x3096.

This is the top level, as per the original game, and you click on it and it'll zoom the view in...

This is where I've been adding configuration, I'm not sure what size to make this tactical level view, so it renders the terrain square as just a solid colour type for the moment... I've already plans for texturing this and adding coast lines, but I'm working on pure mechanics for now... Too many games rush to add visuals before making it work solidly....

So, I added an XML configuration:

Which lets me set the number of squares to render on this tactical view, and how big these squares are... I then played about

Before settling on quite a large view, to match what was given in the original game:

Now, this level of XML control is also extended into most all parts of the system, so this is more a war game visual representer engine than a game at present... But it works how I want it to.

The next Item I needed were some counters I could throw into the screen... So I went with an icon for Infantry, one for cavalry, and an engineer to help bridge those rivers:

I'm going to be keeping this very simple, and perhaps even may publish the code as a tutorial into using SDL and OpenGL.  Its also aiming to be cross platform, so you will see this on Linux soon.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

British Gas - Aggravating, Annoying, Obtuse Asses

I'm going to lay this out straight, British Gas are utterly shite.  We constantly get hassled to pay bills, which are already paid, we get letters in the post days even up to a week after we've actioned changes, payments or readings and basically get constantly nagged by them.  It is really starting to grate with us... Not least little things like this:
You go to send them those readings:

Fear not however, because with this cock up already showing they then SMS text you more requests for the readings, and when you log on and get told the system us down, they repeat send the e-mail... And no doubt they'll be calling me tomorrow during office hours to interrupt my day and nag me some more.

But, today the last laugh is on my side, because today we've taken over a new solar grill oven.  No more gas hob for us.  So our gas usage is going to plummet significantly... Lets see how their system works that out, because the last time I cut gas use - by turning the gas boiler off for a fortnight - they complained that we were not using enough!

Yes, a company supposedly dedicated to reducing carbon fuel use, to serving its customers... "Hey you, you've spent too little", makes me want to puke.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Michael Bay - Turtles

I'm a little bit tired of seeing Michael Bay films... And his next turn has been floated into the sewer of existence, this chap says it all better than me... Not east with the creepy fucking Turtle faces... WHAT THE FUCK... 

or this

This ain't fun looking, this ain't good... I'm not even going to watch the film based on this.. Well, crap....

This is how they should look:

Friday, 18 July 2014

Dog Poop Pinching

I just ran across this...

But, this was no prank, this happened to me last night... The wife and I were out with all four dogs, the three little (young ones) and the wife, whilst I walked quietly with our 12 year old Labrador... So Dude and I are just down a grass bank, and we're going to come back that way, so when Dude does his thing I bag it and leave it against the side of this slope, so I can head back up and out once with him...

We walk along a little way, not far, and as we stop to turn around and meet the wife with the other three dogs this old fellow passes by me and he's got my poop in his hand.

At first I thought, he's going to tell me I left it, and I'm going to have to show him the five other bags from the other dogs and point out how old Dude is and that he comes out once and back so as not to knacker his joints...


But the guy just goes straight past me and the wife, without saying a word... Not a word, not a "I'm just taking it to the bin, no sweat"... not a "I think you left this"... Nothing, he just drilled right on by us... Like he's won a prize or something.

Bit weird.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Gaming Update - WarThunder, World of Tanks, CivV and MechWarrior

I slept like a log last night, I think finally having picked to support a Team in Germany and their winning a match satisfied me... I did actually shout out when they scored... Though I didn't like the propensity of the commentators on both BBC and ITV to support Argentina because they apparently like Messi... But, each to their own I suppose, I don't think he was worthy of "player of the tournament", I actually think his performance looked somewhat lacklustre over all.  I don't doubt there were bursts of brilliance, but the radiant glow out of his backside didn't shine so bright as to eclipse others.

Anyway, football aside, I played games... I played World of Tanks, I played WarThunder, I played Civilization V and I played MechWarriorOnline...

I spent the most of my time in WarThunder, initially I got my Track IR4 and my Seitek X45 out and set about setting up the simulator standard controls.  I've got to be honest, I still find setting up the controls in WarThunder to feel very soppy, its not a clean interface... There are ways to slide and slip "yes" to "no", but to my eye the indicators point backwards, and the axis auto-detect was okay, but I kept second guessing what I was doing... "Put your axis...bla"... And you're looking and wondering is that "bla" or "bla"... but Bla was BLA!... Just doesn't sit right, I'd have to say perhaps a native English speaker should have a trawl through the process there and give Gaijin a flow chart to improve it for English speakers... As I have spoken to a native Russian speaker and they informed me that it made perfect sense to them... One can only say it's a culture thing perhaps?

One thing I am certain of however, and its something SideStrafe mentioned in his latest Strafing Run that Gaijin don't like to be told there are problems with their product... I'd love to know what SideStrafe found issue with and reported to them, but I have a fair few items sent their way - both privately and openly on the moderated bug forums - and the more I see such issues, and the more evidence of them I seem to have sent, the less feedback I get.

It is rather strange to have a group so eager to talk to you, but the moment you find fault they sent you into Coventry.  I'd call it rude, but then I'm English and what we consider rude seems to engulf half of modern day fashion & life styles.  But having spoken to a few peeps it seems to perhaps be an Eastern European thing... Folks working on the Witcher didn't like criticism... WarGaming don't like it... and it seems Gaijin don't either.

So, what of the games I've played, well first of all, the latest patch to WarThunder, allowing queuing on specific servers has cured one problem.  I used to play the game set to "Any Available" server, now I can set it to use five different servers and I'm getting a whole lot more games a whole lot faster.

For a long time queues in the client looked like this:

As you can see the American bent on the nations being queues was obvious.  Now however numbers are much higher in all tiers and nations, and one can pick and choose to play however one wants, which is very much a welcome sight.

I've also spent a lot of time playing Arcade Ground Forces, to unlock and skill up my Russians.  I've pushed right up the T34 line and really enjoyed playing!

I have to say there's a huge difference in the fire power of Russian to German Tanks, the Russians are much more fun to play in the low tiers, and it was not until I got hold of the 50mm L11 gun on the Panzer III did I have as much fun with the Germans.  Though I do love to jump out in a Panzer II with its 20mm and kill Stugs which other players are battering over and over to no avail... Just shoot the optics folks!

Another issue has been the number of players who are just seemingly inert to the positions around them, above you see me in one of my T34's taking the conquest point... We actually won this game... because I stopped and took the point and then held it... The chap there in the other T34, he had been sat by the side of the cap - even with enemy tanks in the cap circle - and was just sniping over at any enemy approaching... GET IN THE CAP CIRCLE PEOPLE!

Another activity I partook of was in test flight mode, trying to land various aircraft on carriers:

Like a Spitfire IX... bring them in low and slow, almost at the stall, and then drop them onto the deck, it worked most of the time, and proves you could reload some of the most unexpected aircraft on a carrier (at least in realistic mode, I doubt its possible in Simulator)...

Sometimes it went a bit wrong, but a repair is a repair, and off you go again... (Note: You don't have to take off from the deck, it puts you about 5km behind the ship going at full speed around 1000ft).

Another WarThunder item was the magic bullet, yet there's more ricochets sometimes than in an episode of the A-Team, here we see my T70... The indicator says I'm getting shot from my right... I'm already burning... So why am I not looking right?...

Well, firstly, I find the feedback system for tank damage in WarThunder to be wholly inadequate, it gives too little feel for where the damage it coming from, and though the sound effects are good they're not very directional - I've sat in a tank being hit with a 12lb lump hammer - you can tell which direction the hammer blows are coming from, it is not; as modelled in the game; like being in a bell chamber with reverberation all around.

But, here the red indicator is enough I know where the enemy is, so why is my camera looking the other way?...

Well, first of all, I was trying to see HOW the guy to my right was shooting me... well he was shooting me through a rock and a piece of ground... But worse still the animation for the shot was not coming from the right of my tank, it was coming out of that black pock marked rock to my left!...

I checked my replay, and it did not show this, it must have been a quirk at the time of playing in the actual engine... But it damned annoyed me.

World Of Tanks
Enough of WarThunder, I also played some World Of Tanks... I played two games... You know what, I don't think I'm going to play that game much more... Compared to ground forces its not very good, there's too elitist an undertow, you have to know the maps, you have to grind like crazy... and it doesn't leverage the full power of my machine to play, plus to have any hope of getting along decently you have to have memorised maps of the terrain in your minds eye, and a bunch of mods added which should be there by default... All in All, I think WarGaming need to improve dramatically as I'm swinging wildly towards playing WarThunder almost exclusively for my Air and Ground battles...

Civilization V
When I bought Civ5 (digitial pre-release) I was so excited, but I didn't get along with it... I think Civ2 remains the best in the series... and I liked Civ3 a lot too... But Civ5, I simply do not like, the hex's are okay I lived with that... The graphics are good, but the whole experience seems .. I dunno... Spongy to me... Don't like it, and I think the controls are a step too far away from the older series - I know a lot of them are common - but city controls are different.

However, I came back to play again try the game on maximum graphics settings and DirectX11 mode on my new Graphics card... Meah, still not impressed... So parked that one.

MechWarrior Online
The next title I dropped my eyes across, and which I've left installed, is MechWarrior Online. 

I came across this game from SideStrafe's coverage on YouTube, and I was always a big fan of MWO - played them years ago on my 486!  But this update was online, multiplayer and free to play!

I signed up and soon found myself in battle - more about that later.

My initial impressions are promising, I like the game, I like the look... And the battles are fairly easy to get into...I have a bone to pick with the interface again, in the hangar it is really complex, I've yet to find out how to customise a mech, and the myriad (literally hundreds) of mechs listed I'm not entirely sure what's going on.

I've roughly figured how to pick a mech and get playing, but I've no idea really what's going on... I need to investigate further.

My other problem with the game is that someone else has the name "Xelous"... I am Xelous, who the hell are they?!?!?!?!?!  So I had to sign up as "LordXelous" in that game.  I hate when my username is taken like that.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Germany v Argentina - Who does an Englishman Support?

Its agony, total agony, who to support for the World Cup Final?!??!

I'd of course started off the cup supporting England, I knew the fall was coming so was not surprised when they lazed their way out of contention, at least we weren't drubbed like Spain or Brazil.

I set my sights on supporting our near neighbours then, so I supported Belgium, the Netherlands and even France against Germany... All to fall at their respective hurdles.

I thought the Netherlands loosing on penalties was very stinging, I'm convinced they played the better game, and I really don't like the Argentine attitude, either on the pitch or off.

But both Argentina and Germany have history with us here in Britain, Wars mainly, and both are still pains in our political backside, most recently Germany with the PM loosing his case against J C Junkers getting into office, and their interminable economic dominance of the continent they tried to take by force in the 40's.

But then the scars of that conflict are old, and played as computer games, and if not forgotten they've been forgiven.

Its the centenary of the first world war too, so we're not forgetting that great conflict at German hands either, but still I'm more riled by the Argentines.

Their attitude over the Falkland islands has not gone unmentioned on this blog before, their politicians use of that topic to distract from home affairs problems they have, and their general blinkered approach to the islanders themselves voting to be part of the UK protectorate... It just beggars belief that the rest of the world doesn't look at them a bit more lob sided when they start sounding "Viva las Malvidas" or what ever they call them... Because if you've ever met a Falkland Islander (and I have) they have a slight Norfolk style twang to their very English/British accents!

They have red letter boxes, and red telephone boxes, even the Argentine soldiers who landed in 1981 said "we landed and took a look around, and realised this was nothing like back home", "we'd been taught the island was part of Argentina, taken from us, but there was no sign of home here, it looked like London on the postcards", "we knew we were a long way from home when we saw the people, for some reason we expected them to speak Spanish, then there was the car crashes as they drove on the left".

It all said it all really, but those accounts get ignored, and I think quite strangely when the British forces had cleared up they offered to return the Argentine dead to their homes, but they refused, they refused those grieving families the chance to bury their Sons, Brothers, Fathers and Uncles.  Instead making the political statement that the dead should be buried on the Falklands, as it was "part of Argentina", this from an illegal government who "disappeared" millions of innocent civilians and orchestrated and illegal war, nice moral high ground there lads.

I can tell you now folks, we British have buries so very many of our forefathers, Ruper Brooke said it best:

IF I should die, think only this of me;  
  That there's some corner of a foreign field  
That is for ever England. There shall be  
In his poem "The Soldier", he spoke of the first world war, but it fits so aptly with our British experience in the middle east, the far east, India, Malasia, across the battlefields of the ages the British Empire stuck its ugly nose.

So we know when you're not wanted, and not liked, and the Falklands are an area where Argentina bark up the very wrong tree...

So, with all that said, I'll just have to support Germany for the Final...