Speciality Dice: Miss Jessica Goldsmith's Braille dice store and 64 Ounce Games Kickstarter for Braille dice and game pieces.

Posted by: Jason Silverain / Category: , , , , ,

Back in June 2014 I did a small post on a Kickstarter for Braille Dice, it seems Miss Jessica Goldsmith's finally has finalised the design for her dice and created a Shapeways store to sell dice to the public.

This was one of the first draft dice made with the 3D printer gained in Jessica Goldsmiths Kickstarter.

Now while I support the development of braille dice I can't help at frown at the high prices for the dice which vary between £4.50 to nearly £8 PER dice when considering that a set of regular role playing dice can be purchased from most stores for that amount. I must consider though that each dice can be customised and that this is a speciality item which always causes a hike in prices.

So I find myself now noticing that another kickstarter for Braille dice has been created not by a single individual like Miss Jessica Goldsmithbut by a small husband and wife company named 64 Ounce Games that focus on creating accessibility kits for games.

A Picture of Mr and Mrs Gibbs from their website.

Richard Gibbs is the founder and lead designer at 64 Oz. and his wife Emily Gibbs is a teacher of Blind students and handles the web side of the business, quoting their own words
'Both Richard and Emily are dedicated to making great games everyone, including the blind and visually impaired, can play.'

Initially sceptical of the Kickstarter worried that it might be a simple cash grab by a company I found myself presently surprised at the range and scope of their ideas and planning beyond just the dice and after a little digging I discovered that they had created a kickstarter in 2014 to purchase their first 3D printer and open their store.

 The difference in quality is noticeable.

Unfortunately the 3D printer they purchased while fine for most projects was prone to breaking down and not suitable for the finer print details for items such a dice so this Kickstarter hopes to raise money to purchase a new one.

Beyond the kickstarter 64 Ounce Games have their own website which is quite interesting it itself hosting a podcast and provides some free accessibility kits for certain games, personally I think the piece that is most worth your time is the colour blind accessibility advice for game designers which will have you considering all sorts of issues and solutions you may have never realised existed.
Another reason I rather like this article is that it is pre-emptively seeking to address the issue of accessibility and may even help a designer fix an potential issue before a game is released.     

64 Ounce Games also have an online store which covers a staggering amount of games and ranges from replacement game pieces to braille card sleeves, predictably it is mostly print to demand and the costs do vary from reasonable to quite expensive between products but again these are speciality items and many of these games require a lot of items all of which are included in the packs.

If you'd like to learn more about 64 Ounce Games Geek and Sundry did a excellent post about them or alternatively they have several videos on their Youtube Channel.

Finally to end on a amusing note while some people are trying to make dice easier to read others are doing the opposite, Andrew NGAI over in Canada has created a successful Kickstarter to make dice printed in Minimalist design Binary Code of all things.

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Guest Post: Exploring what he considers the last good game in the series Hax Monster reminises about Far Cry 2

Posted by: Jason Silverain / Category: , ,

Like with your pride the first time you manage to make a fire in the woods without matches, the amazement about a good video game series simmers down when it all starts burning itself to the ground. Series like Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed or Thief are masters of their genre and pioneers in gaming technology until suddenly they look back, realize that they’re so popular they’ll never have to do a damn until the end of days and spend the rest of their runtime extensively testing that feeling. And usually you can point out one game that was the turning point; a game that perhaps wasn’t bad itself but which ushered in the era of minimum-effort player-milking games. With Call of Duty it was the first Modern Warfare and with Thief it was Thief (god, that sounds stupid). 
With the Far Cry series, that game was Far Cry 3. While immensely popular and actually quite good in it’s own right, it forebode a time where Ubisoft would not know what to do with the franchise; for Far Cry 4 they simply did Far Cry 3 again with some snow added and Far Cry Primal isn’t really a sequel at all as it has as much to do with the other Far Cry instalments as it has to do with the newest instalment of Jaffa Cakes. Therefore I want to reminisce about the last undoubtedly good Far Cry that I remember: Far Cry 2.

In Far Cry 2 you take the role of a mercenary sent out to an African country where two factions are fighting a long civil war. Your job there is to take out an arms dealer named ‘The Jackal’ and to do this you do jobs for the warring factions and a truckload of side missions for all kinds of nutters that are all in their own way trying to get a slice of the African pie that is the country’s vanishing wealth. Inbetween the mission you get an open game world with cars and enemies smeared out evenly like butter on toast, with the freedom to go pretty much everywhere. So far, so generic. Then what is it that makes this title the hidden jewel that it is? I’ll show you!

Pub quiz time! Name as many games as possible that are set in Africa!

Well, how did you do? I myself can only think of Serious Sam 3, although calling Egypt an African country is like calling Origin serious competition for Steam; strictly true but practically not quite. The only other African game that comes up for me is Far Cry 2. So on the originality scoreboard Far Cry already marks highly on ‘setting’ for me. The setting is perhaps the biggest and most important ingredient of Far Cry 2’s recipe that I devour with so much gusto. As soon as you start the game up you are presented with an overwhelming feeling of being in that dry, war-torn hostile place and you are immediately immersed eyehole-deep. The colour palate delivers the dryness of sub-Saharan African steppes in dry season, the vegetation moves naturally and is very real, the light is beautiful and intense. 
You get to soak up all of the setting during the game’s very well-executed intro cinematic that for me is only really bested by Bioshock’s bathysphere ride. During this first moment of the game you are driven around a large part of the map where your cheerful cabdriver acquaints you with fires, oppressive troops, panicking civilians and misery. Normally this kind of exposition is all setup and no payoff, but when you do actually roam freely around the world you get the same feeling as when you were in the taxi. With the game’s superbly subtle soundtrack and beautiful lighting the game world always has this characteristic looming feeling of threat over it. Everything feels even more real when you take a moment to spy on a few enemy camps from a distance. All those soldiers chat with each other in really well-voice-acted dialogues and are constantly doing things normal people do as well, like pissing up trees and try to get mobile reception for hours. A lot of little details like this make the world feel ever so vibrant. And although this is nothing as intense like, say, Spec Ops: The Line, Far Cry 2 managed to do quite well when it comes to setting up a miserable country with scared people, traumatized by war.

For those curious here is a video of the intro - Silverain

This is, of course, all framework. What is the actual painting part of the painting like? Very briefly described, the core gameplay of Far Cry 2 is that of it’s sequel, only more slowly paced and less forgiving. The slower pace has to do the higher difficulty of stealthing and the lower movement speed. This is a lot closer to Arma 2 than it is to, say, Call of Duty. As far as the unforgiving is concerned, Far Cry 2 is like a cheap hotel bed: full of sand, blood and, most importantly: obnoxiously hard. On higher difficulty settings especially you will never win a fight unless you got in a perfect position beforehand and mapped every enemy out for yourself. 

 An example of perfect positioning.

Combat from a car is a pain in the arse in particular because the AI always drives faster than you do and can have a gunner in the car while someone else is driving. Your chances are therefore very slim in chases. Then there is the tricky health system. There is practically no regenerating health and once you are at low health, pressing the heal button makes your character arduously extract the bullets from his arm or put a bandage on it which takes about as much time as getting three hundred involuntary metal piercings all over your body. You also don’t have a minimap that is always visible and weapons degrade quickly, which can be very frustrating unless you neurotically switch your gun for a new one every single time you pass by a gunstore. So the game is harsh, but that too builds atmosphere. Where in Far Cry 3 you felt like some kind of demi-god that could survive a breezeblock to the face, you actually feel very human while playing Far Cry 2. You are still a squishy walking pile of meat, stuck together with flimsy bone. That feeling is quite rare in shooters these days.

Then there is another fine bit of original immersing game design: the buddy system. In Far Cry 2 you, over the course of the game, meet a bunch of NPC’s who become your friends and give you side missions. One particular buddy also gives you optional objectives for main story missions and, most remarkably, another buddy will appear into the game and revive you whenever you die. Then he fights alongside you. That and their wide variety in looks and, albeit shallow, personalities makes you care about them. It’s only a shame that they are just like you: walking piles of brittle meat. They die the moment an enemy so much as looks their way and sometimes when they are downed, if the gods of random number generators are not on your side, they die no matter how hard you try to revive them. For me, whenever that happened, it was actually a sad moment. All of them can die. This frailness also makes them feel like actual people that you care about, not refrigerators with miniguns strapped to their pecs that kill all threats for you. 

Then there are a bunch of other details that make the game as great as it is. Sometimes, when you shoot an enemy, he is downed but not dead. Of course you can just shoot him again to kill him but if you don’t do that, the enemies think you have left and the stars have aligned then a teammate of his will come up to revive him. When he is being treated the panic in the injured soldier’s voice is also really well-acted and believable. In general this game has really good voice acting. It is odd, however, that things like enemy taunts are really well-acted while a lot of the story cutscenes have really dull, uninterested voice actors. Luckily, considering that there are not that many scenes of that kind, it’s no dealbreaker. Then there’s stealthing. Far Cry 3 gave you an enormous arrow indication that lit up when an enemy so much as smelled your farts but here, there’s nothing like that. You actually have to listen to what enemies are saying to know if they spotted you or not, which will happen very quickly because this is not Skyrim, where you can stay invisible in plain sight when you are at a high level. Here enemies actually have realistic cones of vision so staying hidden is really hard because you can’t allow yourself to see the enemies either, or they’ll see you. 
If all this is great, then why was this game forgotten so much that you need me to tell you about it again? Beyond the high difficulty that can be attributed to a few factors. Firstly, missions are quite repetitive. Missions from the same sources always have the same layout and objective and only differ in location. Then there’s the really annoying feature that this game is a sandbox in the same way as Borderlands 2 for instance: not really an open world, but a bunch of linear paths that cross each other a lot. There are so many mountains that you can’t cross that the game world is an enormous Swiss cheese. The kind of gaming audience that spends hours in Skyrim walking over mountains just for the sake of taking the direct route isn’t going to like that. Then there was the money system that I didn’t really like. Money was very limited and could only come from the finite number of missions or from exploration. Because of this you could never really get a lot of weapons and that is a shame because there aren’t really many in the first place. 

On console ports aiming your gun felt as clunky and slow as redirecting a nuclear submarine and the multiplayer was practically unplayable because of that it required ALL twenty-or-so people in the game to ready up for the next round. On the PC version I couldn’t even get it to work in the first place. The console version also has a ported level editor that is more annoying to work with than an autistic baboon. I can’t imagine why that was designed in the first place. Furthermore I think it was a shame that we don’t actually notice the war itself going on beyond one or two scripted events where the two factions actually fight each other. The war’s feeling of threat is there alright but we never see it actually happening. If I’d lure enemies from one side to a camp of the other faction they would just all fight me like they are one team. They are supposed to be actively fighting each other if you’d believe the story, but you barely see that happen beyond fixed moments of exposition.

Beyond that there are a few technical imperfections. Clipping issues are very common, especially when you shoot someone sitting in a car and enemies have this curious tendency to end up in a shoulder-shrugging position when they are dead. Explosions can make large things like cars spaz out and one other glitch once caused the enemies I was fighting to suddenly stat shooting the corpse of one former comrade of theirs that I just killed. Then there’s the slight issue that the AI can’t drive DLC-added vehicles. 

So, undoubtedly this game requires your attention if you’re up for a shooter that’s a little more organic than a nuclear power plant. I can’t guarantee that it will work on newer computers because I can’t run my old disc copy on my Windows 10 machine, but that might also be because of that the disc is seven years old. Avoid the console ports and just get it for PC. Get it and enjoy yourself, just try not to run over too many zebras on the way!

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Chapter Master Update: A New Hope, Journier rising.

Posted by: Jason Silverain / Category: , , , ,

You may remember in my last Chapter Master post that there has been some discussion amongst fans about hiring a programmer to debug Dukes released source code. It has been confirmed that one such member Journier as of the 2nd of October has done just that and here is the progress they have had so far:

Update 1
We cleared up more code today found something called "thatone" random number given to this variable and its checked in a 100 different places... left it where it was for fear for the chaos gods.

Bug fixes

  • Fixed a crash related to space hulks.
  • Fixed an issue where to find a event, the game generated objects in every system to find the system the event took place in, Made it NOT generate those temporary objects oddly so many of them...
  • Fixed an issue with ancient ruins on planets I believe the ones you explore, so that they will work all the time now, apparently there was a chance it wouldn't do anything

Found a lot on the Necron tombs related stuff, this will be a day of work by itself.
Other stuff

Rewrote descriptions for relic rooms. Spiced them up for fun to break the monotony. added some DF reference.
Got a massive headache from cleaning code up and ended the day.
Update #2

Today we went through the Massive Random Event file, and restructured it massively for readability. cut its size down from over 1000 lines to below 300 lines. Separated the random events to their own respective files to easily find and modify their effects instead of inside of a single giant random event file.

Also, never take the shitty luck attribute in game because that effects every random event you could imagine badly. probably the only game I can remember where the bad luck attribute actually probably did something noticeable.

Found the Fucko string... giant dense code thing of death. IDK what it is, left it alone.

Cleaned up the chaos invasion random event, cleaned up the necron event to avoid any crashes in relation to their awakening maybe.

If only you guys knew how many memes are in the code.

Literally we added a single DF meme into the trophy room. Theres memes in this game from the code on up. Literally everywhere...

They were already there.

Update #3

Fixed star generation to give you a range of star numbers to have 65-75, before it was trying 120x to create 70 stars, and if it failed the fewer stars youd have. fixed that.
changed the vehicle system to a more reasonable version, faster, easier to work with and change for future revisions. It doesnt sound like much until you understand that the code base isnt properly spaced out, 1000 lines in some of these files can equal 2000 lines properly spaced a majority of the time...

found something called this in the code
then old_dudes+=1;
no clue, whats being referenced save it for later.

Update 3.1

Made armors a Moddable file so anyone can change the values once game is installed.

In spite of this don't get your hopes up too soon, Journier is refusing to post updated code at this point and is focusing on bug fixes rather than updates. Rather reasonably he has requested for the community to wait up to 2 months before he does release the code and to keep posting crash logs from Dukes source code.

Any way I can help out with this Journier? Admittedly I don't know very much about programming but I'm working on Chapter Master as a way to learn my own way. But since the code appears to be a big mess of what-the-%&$# I'm having trouble understanding much of it. I have fixed a couple of bugs on my own though (Tried working on the renegade crash bug but at this point I'm stumped). Basically I want to assist with bug fixing.

Since you're working on cleaning up the code I'm hoping that it'll make fixing bugs much less painful for me.

honestly just wait, there's gonna be a massive release coming up in a month or months that will get all the code into a proper debuggable state that is readable If you guys want start posting bug reports on a regular basis, where you were ( what screen) what you were clicking  etc. as detailed as possible.

That way when we get to a section we can refer back to your bug reports to see if there's any silly code. Which we have run through a chunk of it.

There will be a gitlab repository created in the next 2 months. thats the timeline we are aiming for , for you guys.

TLDR : Please give crash logs and where you were in the crash and what you were exactly doing. We need bug reports. good bug reports. please and thanks.

And possibly if you guys really want to help find or put your little butts out there to find decent pixel artists for the game to get away from the IP. Dark warlike images of Interstellar Army Simulator 2015.

Now some in community who have offered to help with the code and have been turned down for now are starting to believe that Journier is keeping it to himself to possibly to monetize the development in a similar way to Duke. Thankfully the more sensible members of the community are realising that too many people working on the project without decent communication and understanding of what is a tangled mess of code is a recipe for disaster so the drama has been halted for now.

To play my own part I'm still hosting backups of Dukes links and files which you can obtain below:

Interstellar Army Simulator 2015: Source Code: Link
Chapter Master 0.6555: Source Code: Link
Original Design Document (former project): Link
Features That Were Planned: Link

Don't know What Chapter Master is? The original review is here.
Just want to play the game? Then Interstellar Army Simulator and the mod and be downloaded here.

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