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January 20, 2017

Free Game News

Red Eclipse - 1.5.8

The great, fast-paced parcour-FPS Red Eclipse got a new release! 1.5.8 is not a big version number change, but nevertheless contains a lot of new things. Among them can be mentioned new maps, map models and vanity items (that you can dress up your character with!), grenades now transitions from green to red based on the fuse timer so you can know when to throw them, team balancing has been improved, there are improvements for HUD and text rendering, and more. There are also several improvements for mappers, such as the ability to make bots perform certain actions, like dancing. And if you happen to have a pair of 3D glasses connected to your computer, this game can use them and this release have a few fixes for stereoscopic view modes.

An epic firefight in Red Eclipse!

by Imerion (noreply@blogger.com) at January 20, 2017 04:25 PM

FlightGear

The Saab ‘Viggen’

Swedish Air Power

Background

The Saab JA-37 ‘Viggen’ (the name goes back to an old Swedish word and means ‘thunderbolt’) is a Swedish single seat all-weather interceptor aircraft variant. With it’s delta wings and the canard surfaces, it is a most iconic sight, and when the first prototype of teh design was rolled out in 1967, it was considered one of the most advanced aircraft at the time.

The main design requirements were based on the notion that the aircraft would have to be operated from improvised airstrips, thus both the ability to utilize short (and, given Sweden’s climate, possibly frozen or snowy) runways and easy maintenance were considered very important. In fact, the ‘Viggen’ was constructed to cope with just 500 m of runway, yet to reach Mach 1 at sea level and Mach 2 at high altitude.

This is made possible by a powerful Volvo RM8 turbofan engine augmented with both an afterburner and a thrust reverser – the latter being fairly unique among fighter aircraft (only the Panavia Tornado is similarly equipped).

The aircraft simulated in Flightgear includes the JA-37 as well as the AJ-37 and the AJS-37 variants.

First impressions

While the 3d cockpit is not the kind of photorealistic work to create an immediate ‘Wow!’, there’s also nothing jarring or severely amiss. Faithful to the original, all gauges on the main panel show metric units and many labels are in Swedish, but if Flightgear’s tooltip function is activated, just hovering with the mouse over a gauge explains in English what it is and provides the value in imperial units. The HUD can likewise be switched from metric to imperial units.

Away from the front panel, switches and warning lights are typically labeled in English to help the international user, and also the various audi-warnings produced by the aircraft are in English.

From the outside, the 3d model is rather compelling, and the plane comes with nice effects implemented – such as Mach shockwave and afterburner flame light illuminating the fuselage – in addition to lots of livery options.

The aircraft starts up with engines off, but if you want to get into the air quickly, there’s a quickstart function provided.

The ‘Viggen’ in flight

Once in the air, you can enjoy highly detailed flight dynamics. There’s tons of windtunnel and engine performance data worked into the FDM, including the behavior at very high alpha, so there’s realistic departure from controlled flight, including stalls and spins modeled.

The attention to detail shows, it’s one of the planes which just feel real. For instance, when approaching the transonic region or a high alpha regime, the plane starts to shake slightly.

Generally the ‘Viggen’ is easy to handle and one can quickly get the hang of flying the approach and landing. Faithful to the original, the plane can be brought onto the runway at fairly low alpha without a pronounced flare, and using the thrust reverser after touchdown is great fun.

Beware though – damage is modeled, and pulling too high g or smashing onto the runway will break the plane!

Avionics

Most interaction of the pilot with the avionics is probably through the HUD. Generally, the plane tries to be helpful and allows the pilot to focus on flying. There are four main HUD modes (takeoff, flight, tactical and landing) and with the exception of the last, they switch automatically as needed.

The plane also automatically tries to tune into nearby ILS frequencies, so when you approach a runway equipped with ILS, not only the airport designation but also ILS symbology will magically appear.

There’s lots of other small details to discover in the way the HUD works and interfaces with other systems aboard.

Procedures

With close to a hundred working switches in the cockpit, the pilot can go through fairly realistic startup and shutdown procedures. The ‘Viggen’ makes good use of the Flightgear checklist functionality, with the option to highlight the control that should be operated next, or to automatically complete an item.

As an added surprise, the state the airplane is in when starting up us somewhat randomized in that sometimes a switch may already be flicked, sometimes not – a good way to keep the user’s attention on the checklist!

Systems

You probably won’t find too many planes on the Flightgear repository which have the systems modeled down to a working air-condition unit – but there it is. If you allow the cabin air to get too cold or too warm, not only will you see on-screen messages that you’re getting uncomfortable, but also the canopy will frost or fog, impairing your view.

There’s lots of other things modeled, among them a well-tuned autopilot, automatic control of flaps, an electrical system in which you can drain the battery and will see lights dim in response and last but not least a full range of working weapons systems, ranging from the cannon to un-guided air-ground missiles.

Summary

If your definition of ‘realism’ in a flight simulator goes beyond photo-realistic 3d modeling and you can get excited about very detailed flight dynamics and systems modeling, the ‘Viggen’ is a plane for you, and you can well spend a few hours exploring all the little details that are lovingly worked into the simulation, from a large range of sounds via the simulation of different damage modes to the way the radar interacts with MP or AI planes and can get blocked by the terrain.

Well-implemented checklists and tooltips as well as the quickstart and shutdown functions make it easy to get used to operating the plane – give it a try!

by Thorsten R. at January 20, 2017 03:45 PM

January 17, 2017

Widelands

tournament 2016: second phase

With four people at equal score, the tournament will have a second phase for tie-breaking purposes (not really; it is mostly an excuse to play some more face-smile.png ). The second phase will consist of three games played in teams of 2v2, with teams changing every game, so that everyone will be teamed with everyone else once and against everyone else twice. Individual victories then will decide the winner. In case of tie, the tournament will have many ex-aequo winners.

All the games will be played on the archipelago sea map, and every player will have a different starting position every time. The three games are planned as such

king of nowhere (blue) WorldSavior (green) vs notabilis (yellow) Sirver (red)
WorldSavior (blue) notabilis (green) vs Sirver (yellow) king of nowhere (red)
notabilis (blue) king of nowhere (yellow) vs Sirver (green) WorldSavior (red)

The first game has been agreed for wednesday 18 january at 18:30 UTC.. As always, spectators are welcome. hopefully, putting the strongest players together in one of the most difficult maps will result in some very interesting games.

---- EDIT: the game must be rescheduled-----

(if some admin knows how to make writings in actual colors, he can change the names to display the color they will be playing or something like that and then remove this parhentesis)

January 17, 2017 11:50 PM

Xonotic

2016 By The Numbers

With 2016 in the bag, I thought it would be fun to explore all the data that was recorded in the Xonotic world during the calendar year. For this I turned to XonStat’s underlying database XonStatDB. Armed with the Pandas and Matplotlib libraries for Python, some interesting visuals appeared!

First up, let’s look at the number of games throughout the year:

It’s interesting to see that the winter months hold the most amount of games! I wonder if this is because of the large amount of time off that folks get over the holidays. With new gifts of computers all around the world, what better way to test it out than with a few adrenaline-boosting games of Xon! Also worth noting is the solid representation of the three biggest game modes: capture the flag (CTF), deathmatch (DM), and duel. Although I didn’t break this chart down by the mods in play (e.g. insta), it is still good to know that we have reasonable variety.

Next, a question that I’ve always wanted to answer: what time of day and what day of the week is best for getting a game? A heatmap of the games played will help us answer that. Behold:

It comes as no surprise, but the evening hours are the best times to play games. That’s when just about everyone is off work or out of school. Your best chance is on Fridays at 8PM UTC. Note that these times are in UTC, so adjust to your time zone accordingly. I’d recommend World Time Buddy for keeping track.

Looking at the number of games is one thing, but what about the players who create those numbers? This next chart looks at the number of distinct players per month.

I’m not sure what to extrapolate from this one, but it comforts me to know that we don’t have any dramatic spikes in either direction. Instead we have a steady stream of players, with slight surges in the spring and winter months.

Next up we deal with weapons. Having all that weapon data sitting around in the database, I had to see what it looked like when plotted out! Were there any trends? Was any weapon predominant? Let’s have a look at the weapons data by damage dealt first.

I am rather surprised to see representation from all the various weapons in here (including some non-standard ones too, from modified servers). I was expecting larger blocks for the “core duel” weapons that we talk about in IRC often: mortar, devastator, and vortex. It’s good to know that people are getting usage out of all of them. Aside from the large block of blaster activity in May, things look - dare I say - balanced! Oops, that’s a trigger word. I’ll shut up with that one right now.

The number of frags dealt by all that damage is another lens through which we can look at weapon data. Here’s what that looks like:

Similar to the per-damage one above, this one also has a somewhat-even distribution. It’s slightly weighted towards some of the duel weapons I mentioned above with the exception of the crylink. Also, from this visualization it seems like people aren’t quite as comfortable finishing their victims with the electro or the hagar.

This concludes my data-tour of 2016. As it turns out, formulating these visualizations using new libraries takes a lot of time. While I could have opted to use something more familiar (like NVD3, which is used in stats), I enjoyed learning something new. I hope you’ve enjoyed the tour and all of the wonderful numbers and metrics it provided. I’ve placed the code that generated these charts on Github if you’re the coding type. If you’re not, I’ll see you out on the servers instead - we have 2017’s numbers to take care of!

by Ant Zucaro at January 17, 2017 09:55 PM

Free Game News

FreeOrion - 0.4.6

It seems I have missed that FreeOrion got a big release in september! FreeOrion is a turn-based space empire and galactic conquest game, inspired by, but not a remake of, the Master of Orion games. Since the last release was a whole year before this one, the changelog is humongous. Among the more important features can be mentioned: reworked supply mechanics, reworked weapon part refinements, reworked ship repair, loads of UI improvements, turn processing time improvements, AI improvements and new specials, hulls, ship parts, etc. Again, despite the version number this is a completely playable and highly polished game. If you like 4X strategy games and/or space-themed strategy, FreeOrion is a must try! A Quick Play Guide can be found here.

FreeOrion takes a while to get into, but is very fun once you get the hang of it.

by Imerion (noreply@blogger.com) at January 17, 2017 03:16 PM

Endless Sky

Unstable release 0.9.5

A new release is now available on GitHub, stable version 0.9.5. This version focuses on adding new content and experimental features. Downloads are available for Mac OS X, 64-bit Windows, and 32-bit Windows. Ubuntu Linux packages are available in a PPA, and a Debian Linux package is also available. For more details, see the changelog.

January 17, 2017 12:00 AM

January 16, 2017

Unknown Horizons

Release of Version 2017.1

Today we'd like to annouce the release of the new version of Unknown Horizons! Much time went by since the last version and we are sorry for that. The new version 2017.1 offers many new things like:...

January 16, 2017 04:22 PM

GearHead RPG

Random Story Generation Part 1: Nothing More Practical Than A Good Theory

A visual depiction of how a Markov Chain story generator works.

I’ve decided to document my experiments in random story generation, in the hope that these notes will be helpful to other developers and hobbyists. This first post will define some of the terms I’ll be using and introduce some of the theory.

My first idea for a random story generator came during a literary criticism class I took during university. We were learning about reader response criticism, which is a model that focuses on the interaction between reader and text. In RRC it doesn’t make sense to say that a text has an inherent meaning; instead, meaning is something that is actively constructed by the reader through the process of reading. The author of the text, and whatever they intended the text to mean, doesn’t enter into it. If we don’t need to worry about authorial intent, why bother with an author at all?

The next piece of the puzzle came from Scott McCloud’s explanation of closure in Understanding Comics. A comic consists of a sequence of separate images; the reader uses closure to combine these images into a coherent story. I realized that the same would apply to a series of short narrative arcs in a computer game. Even without intentional connections between the arcs, the player’s sense of closure would interpret them as a meaningful story.

Finally, Vladimir Propp’s narrative functions provided a way to arrange these arcs so that the reader/player would be likely to interpret them as a coherent story. Propp analyzed Russian folk tales and discovered that all of their plots could be constructed from a finite list of story events which always appear in the same order.

From all this I got the idea to create a big list of story fragments, then use some kind of algorithm to arrange them into reasonably intelligible sequences. Turns out that’s pretty much how all procedural story generators work, even today.

I named the smallest narrative chunk a Plot, which I will capitalize to differentiate from the regular use of the word. A Plot modifies the game world for as long as it is active; it might alter an NPC’s dialogue options, or add an encounter to the world map. In GearHead-1 the Plots are quite coarse, defining an entire mission or a chapter of the core story. In GearHead-2 the Plots are much smaller; a single combat mission might consist of four linked Plots- one for the NPC offering the mission, a separate Plot defining the mission’s combat encounter, a Plot that is activated if the PC wins the mission, and another that is activated if the PC loses. The Plots in Dungeon Monkey Eternal are even more finely grained.

Using lots of small Plots is much better than using few large Plots. First off, if a quest is composed of multiple Plots, it means that the player won’t know how it ends just because they’ve seen this beginning before. Second, it allows reuse of code, which is a huge advantage for both bug control and refactoring. Instead of every mission having to define its own combat encounter, they can just call for a standard combat encounter Plot. Third, it greatly increases the number of combinations your system can generate, and in general you want your random plot generator to be able to generate a really really big number of combinations.

There are numerous ways to arrange Plots, including Markov Chains and context free grammars. The important bit is to have some way to describe the context of a Plot, so that Plots which belong together get placed together. Next time I’ll describe how the GearHead-1 core story context system works. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions.

by Joseph Hewitt at January 16, 2017 03:05 PM

Free Game News

Unknown Horizons - 2017.1

I was just browsing around for something new to write about, when I stumbled upon some very good news: The fantastic city building RTS project Unknown Horizons is not only alive, but has just got a shiny new release! The last release was from 2015, but now 2017.1 is out! The changelog is really long: there are new gameplay features, loads of new and updated graphics, new sounds, interface improvements, text improvements and loads of other things! The only caveat is that multiplayer might not work. If that is the case, it will most likely be fixed in coming releases, since it has worked nicely before. A must-try for strategy-sim interested!

This is a very old screen from Unknown Horizons, but I couldn't find a newer one right now.

by Imerion (noreply@blogger.com) at January 16, 2017 11:10 AM

January 14, 2017

Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup

Trunk updates, 14 January 2017

Hi, crawlers! Welcome – to the first changelog of 2017!

  • Evocations:
    • Rods of scattershot & rods of clouds have both been turned into rare, high-power wand types. Wands of Clouds, unlike their rod predecessors, always create harmful clouds.
    • Discs of storms have been replaced with lightning rods, a new xp-charged misc evocable with a remarkable resemblance to the old ‘lightning’ type of rod.
    • Wand power scales significantly better with Evocations skill.
    • Some wands have sub-LOS range.
    • Wands cannot be evoked while confused.
    • Wands of disintegration no longer destroy terrain; wands of digging can now destroy statues.
    • Wands of slowing have, belatedly, followed their hasting friends into oblivion; they’re gone.
    • Rods have been removed.
  • New race: Barachians, a species of frog-men with a great hatred of the letter t. They have a powerful innate Hop ability, a partially-controllable Blink effect that requires several turns of motionlessness to recover before re-use. To balance this, they also have slow movement 1 (1.2 turns/move; nagas move at 1.4) and ghoul-tier attributes.
  • New spell: Poisonous Vapours, L2 Poison/Air. Smite-targeted; creates an extremely short-lived poison cloud on a targeted creature. Appears in the VM starting book.
  • Removed: Poisonous Cloud.
  • Apportation scales more significantly with spellpower. Its targeter is also hopefully a little better.
  • Your current regeneration rate is shown in %.
  • Deep dwarves can now benefit from the special effects of Kryia’s armour.
  • The displayed resistance chance for Siren/Avatar song is shown correctly in monster descriptions; it formerly miscalculated (underestimated) their power.
  • Clearing multiple ziggurats will make the figurines you find within glow in new and exciting colours. Note that clearing multiple ziggurats is, quote, “silly and should not be encouraged”.
  • In addition to summoning golden dragons (see trunk update post #219, true believers!), fortunate TSO worshippers can also use poison stingers.
  • Iron giants can no longer throw your orbs of destruction back at you. (It didn’t work properly anyway.)
  • It’s no longer possible to ?acquire an item directly into lava or deep water. Sploosh no more…
  • Cerebov scumming has been removed.
  • Wizards can now rest inside walls.
  • Sandblast blasts sand.

Happy crawling, and happy new year, and if you haven’t yet taken the survey, hey! What better time for a fresh start (on taking the survey) than now?)

by PleasingFungus at January 14, 2017 08:16 PM

SuperTux

Level Editor User Experience Survey

The SuperTux Team wishes you a happy and successful new year.

Since the release of SuperTux 0.5, we have received a lot of feedback on the editor, much of which has been very positive. Some of this feedback comes in the form of levels, some as feedback on IRC or in the forums. The team would like to thank you for voicing some of your thoughts and ideas, and encourage you to keep telling us what you think so that we can continue improving the game.

However, we also noticed several usability problems in the user interface. We want to ensure the level editor is easy to use for our players, so we wish to collect more detailed feedback in the form of a survey.

It would help the team out a lot if you could fill in the form here.

January 14, 2017 07:15 PM

SuperTuxKart

Happy new year and some news

Hi everyone!

A few months ago we released the lastest version of SuperTuxKart and while we haven't been active on the blog, we are working hard behind the scenes.

Networked multiplayer is our top priority and we split the team into two groups. Joerg Henrichs is currently working on the networking code while Marianne Gagnon, Jean-Manuel Clémençon and Benau are in charge of the other tasks related to the upcoming release.

Better performance

We have significantly improved the VRAM and RAM usage of the game engine. Previously, the game loaded all shared textures in the VRAM, even if they weren't displayed. Back in the day, when only a few tracks used shared textures, this wasn't really an issue, but now almost all tracks use them so a more clever system had to be designed. Now, the engine will load them only when needed, which reduces wasted VRAM. This means the game should be able to run more easily on low-end hardware.

There is also a new option that allows you to aggressively cut down non-essential high-poly details, like grass, which reduces both the VRAM usage and the general polycount.

Benau created a system to randomize colors for similar objects to create more interesting tracks with color variations. Previously, artists had to create different versions for each object which was not only time consuming but also bad for performance.

Only one texture and one model of car was used
Animations now use hardware skinning, which allows the same object to have different animations. This also means they will be computed by the GPU instead of the CPU, which should be faster.

Elderme, a new developer who joined the team last year, started to refactor the engine, which should make things easier for newcomers to understand the inner working of the game.

If you have experience in OpenGL/Vulkan and PBR (Physically Based Rendering) and want to be part of SuperTuxKart Team, please contact us.

Two new maps for SuperTuxKart

Those two tracks were, for a few years, in development hell, but finally we are ready to show you some screenshots.

Cornfield Crossing

First, Cornfield Crossing (codenamed Harvest during the development). The main inspiration behind the track was this amazing concept art done by Ozone.



The map is set in the fictional country of United Counties of Amerigo, during harvest season. Like all new tracks made since Cocoa Temple, the track is dedicated to one of our beloved characters:
Xue, The harvest mouse will be driving a giant combine, and her friends will be around the map encouraging the player.


You will be able to explore a region inspired by the great plains of the United States and Canada, with grain elevators, ranches, barns and much more.


Ravenbridge Mansion

The other track is called Ravenbridge Mansion. This Halloween-themed map will replace the old Blackhill Mansion.


The map is set in a spooky and dark swamp, home to the BSD beastie deamon, with his friend Gaveoche.


The future of SuperTuxKart


The upcoming release will feature two new new tracks "Ravenbridge Mansion" and "Cornfield Crossing". These new tracks are the latest two tracks of the current generation, a generation started two years ago with the release of Cocoa Temple, the first map that took advantage of Antarctica, our rendering engine.

The next generation will bring exciting things like Network Multiplayer, improved tracks and all cut scenes will be redone. Here is a sneak peak into the future

  • New modelling techniques will be introduced into the track modelling process : they now will be done by sculpting them. It allows artists a more creative and organic process.
  • The fabulous world of SuperTuxKart will be more detailed, but no worries for older platforms, since it's now possible to disable details.
  • Depending of changes in the engine, we might merge PBR rendering.
  • Smoother transition between textures and improved materials.

One of the next gen arena made with sculpting


We are also preparing two surprises with epic proportions. We will be revealing more information in the upcoming months ;).

The SuperTuxKart Team

by noreply@blogger.com (samuncle) at January 14, 2017 01:29 AM