Pokémon League Badges

In celebration of the new Pokémon games, I have set about recreating all 40 of the Pokémon League badges, from Kanto to Unova.

There are a few which are not as good as the rest, and for me, the Sinnoh row stands out as the best. I am releasing them under a non-commercial share-alike license, so if you want  a T-shirt of them, feel free to buy yourself one from Vistaprint or similar. The first one is free. I’m not publishing the SVGs yet, but they will follow. Here, have a look at the quality of the PNG coal badge. Here is the zephyr badge, and the original artwork.

My sister and I are really enjoying Pokémon Black and White! A blog post about that will follow soon.

Have a nice day. :)

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Settlers of Catan

Settlers of Catan is a popular German breed of board game. It has a few simple and attractive concepts which somehow make it into an incredibly fun game. Incredible, as I can literally not quite credit just how it is so much fun.

The game has you collecting resources from the land you own, correspondent to the throw of the die. By spending these resources, you can essentially choose to claim more land, add value to the land you own, or progress your overall operation. Similarly to other games I’ve played (such as the Age of Mythology board game), you collect Victory Points by achieving things. Accumulating 10 of these, openly or secretly, results in a win for you.

Catan board

Much like in Monopoly, trading is very open and player-defined, except for a few rules which streamline proceedings by making it impossible to tribute another player in an imbalanced fashion.

The roll of the die tends to benefit all players the same as long as they’ve spent their very first turn wisely. As a result, the game relies more on skill than on chance, and there is an overflow of things to be found within its mysterious depths; far too many strategies to comprehend on the first or second play. Players of Catan gain a web of understanding, and must gradually soak it in the game’s very ichor.

As there is only one moving board piece, the game can be played effectively on paper. This is something I am currently documenting, but a thorough reference to the Catan box contents has been posted on boardgamegeek by one droberts441.

Since this game has been called the board game of our time, you would do well to check it out if you’re not already a fan, it really is very good.

New Programming Regime

I’m currently in the frame of mind where I want to program games. Often, I flit in and out of this mindset, but this time there’s a genuine plan.

Inspired by Petri Purho, other Indie developers like Cactus and Increpare, and – strangely – Intel, I have decided:

  • Games will be produced on a tick-tock basis.
  • On a tick, a new game will be made.
  • On a tock, an old game will be improved.
  • The cycle will take some regulated length of time.

Currently, I’m working on Slimetanks, which has recently suffered a few huge setbacks which are making me sad. I had to move the number of Slimes you have from a simple counter into an inventory entity, which means re-writing a lot of subs.

The next game will be me bringing up to grade something I started a long time ago. Teaser to the right.

In blog news, I had over 40 views per day just after my post on BASS. This is strange, and I’m trying to scope out why that happened. My most popular post is the Pokémon cards one.

See you soon, tubes.

craftscii

OK, so I’m working quite hard with the newly named ‘slimetanks’, getting it polished and making it fun in some way. In the interim, like I promised, here is the full version of WorldGen, now called:

 

Craftscii

A game where colourful ascii blocks lie between you and some zombies.

  • Tutorial
  • Never-ending game mode
  • Sandbox mode

For pictures, see the linked trackback.

For download: craftscii version 0.11

Slimes soon!

1 hour game

At 9pm I decided to make a game in an hour. I already had a design, but spent 5 minutes smoothing it out on paper first.

It’s a console-based game called Slime Ranch, and is inspired by Victorian fish farming methods. I didn’t finish it, but I did get one piece of core gameplay done. The game flows as follows:

  • You are a “slime rancher”.
  • Slimes must be caught in jars as they fall from the roof of a nearby cave.
  • Slimes are then put in tanks, with algae food to make them multiply faster.
  • Slimes can be sold for money.
  • Money is used to buy dyes, which add value to a slime tank and their offspring, etc.

The piece I got done was the slime cave. You are shown a number on the screen, and must press “C” to catch the slime after that number of seconds. If you’re right to within rounding thresholds, you catch the slime. You get 5 tries before leaving the cave with your “winnings”.

There isn’t much to see, but I’ll probably finish the game by tomorrow. Exciting!

Empire Earth is bad

In honour of my friend Leon starting his blog, Gripes On Games, I have decided to gripe about a game today. First, some setting:

Recently, some friends and I have started playing Age Of Kings very competitively, over LAN. This has led to intense training against computer enemies leading up to heated matches against each other. As part of a “balanced training program”, I thought I’d take another look at Empire Earth, a game which I used to play very regularly.

…I was bitterly disappointed.

Here is a game with no finesse, and all the balance of a two-legged rhinoceros. Allow me to expand on that:

  • Morale system. Makes it easier to defend a tiny piece of territory at the core of your homeland as long as you have some soldiers there.
  • No population dynamic. You can instantly house as many units as the population cap of 2000 allows. Houses are put, instead, towards the morale system.

Firstly, these two points are important in blowing to pieces one of the most critical RTS game aspects: Builds. In competitive Starcraft, there are more fixed opening strategies than in chess. You can predict what unit or building your foe will be producing at any time, and arrange your forces so as to cut their game short as quickly as possible.

If you don’t need to build houses, and you can’t build a dock or a mill in the opening age, what are you supposed to do?

  • The military use a primitive and annoying rock-paper-scissors dynamic. After considering their raging tempers, and unintuitive behavioural controls, this oft results in mass troop suicide, as ‘paper’ units surrender themselves willingly into deep-blood conflict with ‘scissor’ types.
  • To build a balanced military in the opening stages, you need to gather all four resource types. I think that that speaks for itself in balance failure.
  • Gathering takes too long, and gathering patches last too long. This leads to complacency and no drive to control resources in other parts of the map.

Cosmetically, the 3D is just dandy, but the textures are too dark, and the fog too imposing. I prefer the pixel-based diffusion and sunny tiling of Age of Kings. I don’t like getting Seasonal Affective Disorder while playing games.

In AOK, I can have an unfaltering economy in 10 minutes, and an army in the next 5. It takes half an hour of grinding until EE yields the slightest satisfaction.

This post is a little bit out of the spirit of Gripes On Games. Leon takes games he loves, and talks about the parts that let them down. I think you should go and read that.

As for myself, I will be sticking to Age Of Kings. It has its problems compared to competition-standard games like Blizzard’s masterpieces, but at least it works as a game.

A little toy

After that angsty interlude, I now return you to scheduled programming. heh. “That’s the joke”.

The following is a 2D, text mode crossover of a ‘little’ game called Minecraft and a littler game called Paradise Fort, by Hempuli. It started off only as a map generator, which I hacked together with revolting code in about an hour, based on the wisdom of Petri Purho to “build the toy first” and make it into a game later.

Flush with success at having a working build, I set about rewriting it in beautified object-oriented code, so that I could add a moving player and enemies. Enough words; here are some pictures of what I have so far:

World Generator generatingThis one isn’t very exciting. The generator makes worlds until it has one with the desired amount of water, wood, and stone blocks. This is very fast. This more colourful picture is the world into which you’re propelled. It has land, some of which is below the water table. It has trees of various shapes and sizes, a cave, and a lake. You are the @ sign, as is convention in ASCII games, and can walk around this world with the ‘m’ and ‘n’ keys. I’ll take me to the other side of the lake:

A World Generator World

World Generator zoomed in

We can then dig and change the landscape with the wasd keys.

Not yet implemented is building with Shift+wasd. Digging in World GeneratorEventually, the game will be pretty much Minecraft, but more “stay in base” and a little faster-paced. Each level will have an objective, such as escaping the screen via the left, right, top or bottom, gathering x number of a certain block, fending off x enemies, etc.

This necessitates enemies, which will likely take one step to every couple of yours.

Materials will be valued as they are in MC: Wood will be required in order to gather stone, which will be necessary to gather the as-yet-unadded iron. This progression also represents sequentially better weapons. Also like Minecraft, I plan an infinitely long sandbox level.

I’m writing it in VB out of ease. It will be releasable quite soon, and if I never work on it again, I’ll put it out in its current form, for the laughs.

Godspeed netizens!

Pokémon Synchronisation Server

Recently, I have gotten my sister all mixed up in that darkly addictive universe that the kids call “Pokeemans”, coincidentally a topic which I blog about alarmingly frequently. She is 29.

Now, we are playing Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen version at the same time and (hopefully) speed, allowing us to battle and trade at regular intervals. To co-ordinate this effort, I took it upon myself to put my fingers to keys and write some PHP.

Pokémon Synchronisation Server represents the sum of my efforts at this. It is specialised to us, but is still a landmark as the most complex thing I have achieved with PHP. Since the game will be over in the far future, and the page gone or transformed, here are some pictures of how it stands as I look at it today. Click an image to enlarge it.

The publicly viewable index page:

The edit page, after having entered the password:

It’s quite limited in some ways, and the interface is sloppy; I’ll admit to that. I would have liked to have an [Evolve] button and such, but this way was reasonably simple, does the job, and took me the shorter half of an evening. As such, I’m very happy with it.

Ste

Stupid Suggestions

I think Pokémon is great, for the most part. I just finished the league in HeartGold, with a play time of 30:49 over 3 weeks, but already, there is talk of the next installments in Japan: Black and White.

At first I deluded myself with how fresh they looked, and listened to the insidious talk that they would revolutionise the game. That will not happen, on reflection: Game Freak will stubbornly hold onto their precious metagame like their firstborn son… their onlyborn son, in fact.

“Digimon is a Pokémon rip-off” is the popular opinion. I always thought it was OK, because it was like Pokémon, but wasn’t Pokémon. That’s important; why can’t that holy grail of kids’ RPGs — the first and best monster game — be a little bit more Digimon, or a bit more… *sigh*…. Telefang? Digimon changed its whole plot every season, and sure, it’s rubbish now, but it really peaked around Season 3!

I guess they’re content with just swimming in their yen-filled, diamond-lined pool while women dressed as Lopunny dance on pedestals made of remastered precious materials.

Half Term and Pokémon HeartGold

Half term has arrived, which I find annoying. I have more work to do than during term time, more games to play, extra expectations that are not school or game related, and no professionally allocated time slots in which to make sure I do these things.

I am really impressed with HeartGold. I have long held that “Hearl” and “Diamong” were the worst Pokémon RPGs to date; soleless graphics, naff music, bad character design, unimaginative world map, too many bad features, and worst of all, no fun. The new Gold really corrects this, for the story is as immersing as ever it was, with the added dynamic of walking alongside a Pokémon both in-game and in real life, thanks to the free Pokéwalker pack-in.

Which brings me to the free Pokéwalker pack-in. It is a pedometer with a ludicrously high-resolution 3-tone screen. On it, you accumulate ‘watts’ by walking (or drumming, if you are cunning enough to attach it to your bass foot. [I accumulated “4000 steps” on a set of 8 songs]) which you can then spend on catching rare Pokémon on the device itself. There is no tamagotchi element, thank goodness. When you uplink it back to the DS after your epic 12000 step day, your Pokémon is awarded a level or two, you get to keep the items you found, and the Pokémon you caught. Your DS also tells you a story of what your walk was like, only with full colour and nice animations which is… cute (in the “don’t try anything cute” way).

Also, I’ve started playing Transcendence 1.0 which is amazing, really. These things do not help with what I probably should be doing. Ah well.