Stay Awhile and Listen – The Book About Blizzard Entertainment

I was searching for something new and fresh to read. I don’t remember exactly on what website was it that I found a book about Blizzard Entertainment that was recommended as a good read for a gaming fan. The words I used for this search might have been something like “good gaming books to read”. I used this phrase and made a search through Google and I immediately found a website that recommended about five books. Some of these were already familiar for me and some of them I had already read. But a book about Blizzard? That sure sounded interesting to me.

As I started to read this book, it was titled “Stay Awhile and Listen”, I first noticed that text was written with a large and somewhat loose font. I didn’t let it bother me and kept reading. This book managed to capture my attention very efficiently. It introduces the people that were actually behind games like WarCraft and Diablo. It describes how they got inspiration from games like Dune II and UFO – Enemy Unknown and from earlier role-playing-games, not so graphical rogue-likes, and also from Dungeons and Dragons.

Diablo was very different than those other role-playing-games that were released on PC in the 90s. It defined a whole new genre of games combining action and traditional role-playing elements. It focused also in gathering different kinds of items that could be weapons, armor, rings or amulets that had special attributes. There could be, for example, an axe that gave, once equipped, more strength and maybe more resistance to enemies spells to its user. At first Diablo was designed to be turn-based but eventually it was made to be real-time. It featured an ability to play with multiple players through internet. Back in 1996 that was something revolutionary.

There have been two sequels made for Diablo and there was a whole genre of these new kinds of role-playing-games that many of us gamers have had the joy to play. I wasn’t so excited about traditional role playing or Dungeons and Dragons. To me Diablo was about the first RPG that I played, ever. I remember it being released for PC and PlayStation. The game that brought me closer to enjoying RPGs was definitely Diablo II. I liked Diablo 3 also very much. WarCraft then made something out of the genre that was initiated by Dune II. This genre was called real-time-strategy. WarCraft made some improvements to Dune II.

Before releasing these legendary games the guys of Blizzard were involved in computer technology as programmers and visual artists. They were working in this field already. They had some other interests also. It is told in this book that they really much enjoyed playing games like Sega Mega Drives NHL 94. Back in the 90s they were very young and very talented. So the book describes also their other activities and tells something about how this team worked and who was responsible for visual look, animation and programming. This was an effort of the whole team so you couldn’t tell so much about which member was actually responsible of the whole game. It was more like about they working as a team and every ones effort was needed.

I can recommend this book for any fan of 90s video games and especially for a fan of WarCraft, Diablo or them both. It was actually for me a fast read and I read it in about two weeks. At least that’s a fast read for me. It wasn’t a pricey book. It cost me about 20 euros and I bought it from a Finnish web store. So you should definitely read this book.

Do You Necessarily Need A Television?

So the world championships for ice hockey this year begun last Friday. I have so far got to see two of Finland’s games. In the first game Finland took a victory against U.S.A. but at the moment we have lost to Kazakstan in a very tight game. Both of these games were real thrillers. Kazakstan had many players in their roster that are playing in KHL which consists of many teams from many countries including Russia and Finland.

This yearly tournament receives very much attention here. I am not so in to ice hockey but it’s hard to miss world championships because it’s such a big deal in here where I live. Although NHL is more popular in northern America. How this is relating to what I have as a subject in this blog post is that yesterday I was at my friends apartment and we decided to watch the game – Finland against U.S.A. My friend doesn’t have a television at all so we thought that we could watch it, you know, online somehow. That would have been possible but we encountered an issue about having to register for a certain account that required all of my friends contact details and also his bank account number. That was stupid in my opinion and we decided to head back to my place to watch the game from television that is connected to regular cable television.

This made it clear that in some cases you do need a television. Since we are still dealing with the corona virus it isn’t, I think, a very good idea to gather to some bar to watch ice hockey games. I don’t know if it’s already legal for this kind of gathering to take place but at least I personally think this is not possible. Last year the whole tournament was cancelled. And Finland won the championship two years ago.

I also know one person that I had a discussion with about not having a television at all. He only had a computer and he also had Nintendo Switch Lite. I have connected all of my retro and also my newer gaming consoles to a television. I also have a computer for playing games and I also have a Nintendo Switch Lite.

A television can be the center of the whole home of yours. There can be limitations. You might not just have room for such a device. Some people might even have reasons, maybe religious or in some other way ideal, for not to watch television at all. And why should everyone have a TV? As internet keeps getting faster and even more common it is nowadays possible to keep track of the most important events reading news online. Do we need a television in every home? Some people manage to survive without it.

 

Some Nice Pick-ups from Clearance

I found an interesting offer from Scandinavian Web Store. The store was Discshop. They ship to Finland. I don’t actually know if they ship to other countries. There was an e-mail in my Outlooks inbox. It got me interested. There was a text written in large font, in Finnish, but it actually promised that behind it I would find many discounts of games and movies. The prices were promised to start from as low as one euro.

So, I followed the link. I found some very good games. I also ordered the TV series Silicon Valley and it was its third season. If you don”t know this series I can tell you that it is describing a situation in a big tech company and it describes the life of the firms CEO. Mike Judge is one person that is behind the series. And he was also responsible for the well-known animation series, Beavis and Butthead. So I paid 1 euro for this whole season. Imagine that, like Nas said in the song “If I ruled the world”.

I also purchased some other items. These were physical copies. That didn’t bother me at all. I bought Resident Evil VII for 2 euros. It isn’t such an old game. When it shipped I ahd a long period of time as I had to install this game. It came with three DVD discs. So the installation as a process was time consuming. I didn’t have to download the content but my DVD drive got a bit warm during this installation operation (that rhymes 🙂 ).

The shipping was three euros so I decided to buy some other items also that were in sale. So I ordered Devil May Cry 5 for PC, again, and it cost 2 euros. I also bought Crysis 2 for Xbox 360 and Street Fighter V and also Street Fighter – 30th Anniversary Collection. Finally they weren’t able to deliver that last mentioned game and I am going to get a refund from it. My orders total price was 19 euros. So I got four games and one season of television series.

This is my latest purchase. DVD is a bit old format. I don’t know if I continue to watch DVDs for long time. I just got a 4K 55 inch television. It might be a good idea to buy a 4K Blu-ray device that could bring me a better looking and sharper screen. It costs about 200 euros. Luckily it just might fit in my budget and also physically under my new tv.

The Ultimate Incompatibility (of Old Windows Games)

I have games. I mean, I have lots of games. Old games, new games, interesting games, rare games, big box games, err…PC games? Yes.  I have lots of PC games. How can you play old PC games? With a PC? Yes. But what is your operating system? What is your graphics card? Processor? Do you actually have today a SSD instead of HDD and does it really matter?

The point here is that you were, earlier, playing these games with a computer that had maybe Windows 98, Windows XP or MS-DOS. Now it is 2021. The standard in Windows is Windows 10. It was only while ago when Windows 7 lost its support from Microsoft. Hardware does evolve. Operating systems keep developing. There are many changes. PC is a strong standard but its weakness is that old games that you were able to play earlier don’t necessarily work anymore.

You can have an old PlayStation or NES. You can then play these games with this device. And the strength of consoles compared to PC is just that. They can deliver games and playing them is reliable. This might have something to do with the traditional mentality of computer gamers. It used to be a good thing that your PC was fast. So basically we are having games as physical copies lying around in corners. I have made tens or maybe even hundreds of purchases from flee markets. Many times the game finally ended up not working on my Windows 10.

One solution for this is setting up an old computer that is running some old operating system. I haven’t tried this trick. Some games are so popular that there are fan-made patches that enable you to play the game. If your game is compatible with DOS you can always download DOSBox. You can also try to run your games on some virtual machine that has the right operating system. Steam is full of old games that are available for purchase. They work. That’s what you pay for.

So operating systems change. So does the hardware. So drivers play a big role in this game of games. We are forced to update our devices. You have to buy a new phone in say two to three years. Computers might last a bit longer but you can’t play latest games with a pc that is five years old. At least if you don’t update it anyhow. This problem is also visible on PlayStation and even Xbox. Basically the problem is that some old games are just so good that some gamers still want to play them.

Why aren’t there better emulators for old PC games? And this applies most to Windows 98 and XP era. There would even be some commercially interesting ideas about this subject. Would you pay for a retro console or software that you could play your old retro style games?

Different Platforms For Releasing Games

You might have thought about releasing your own game or you might just be curious about what platforms can be used for playing games. This is interesting for me as a programmer so in this blog post I am going to open up a bit these different ways you can today play and even design games.

I have been making websites as a hobby for very long time. I started back in the 90s. To be precise it was the end of 90s. Back then we didn’t have any mobile devices at all. Bluetooth wasn’t where it is today. I think there even wasn’t this thing we call USB standard. So if you had a PC you had to plug in your gaming pad some other way. I don’t recall what that way was. Basically if you wanted to play with game controller you would be preferring PlayStation over PC.

But what I was saying is that one platform that you can make games on is the web browser. You can develop your game with only HTML, CSS and JavaScript. If you make a game this way it is very easy to release it. You just have to upload your game to a web host. There are places on internet that actually sell these games also. So this is one way to make a game.

You might want to go mobile. This means you have to learn Java and after you have mastered it you must learn software development in Android (or iOS and ´the programming language that is used with it). I have tried my hand at Android development. I found it to be very hard. So I gave up on this idea. But this isn’t what you should do. If you have an interest there’s nothing that can stop you from downloading the appropriate IDE (Integrated Development Environment) and start working on it.

One way to release a game is on some gaming console. This is a bit harder since manufacturers of gaming consoles tend to have a sense of control over what kinds of games are being released on their systems. Sometimes you even need a specific development kit for the desired console. So this is a hard way for an independent software developer. It can also cost a lot of money. This way includes also handheld consoles like Nintendo Switch Lite. You might notice that Nintendo is going in it’s own direction as it doesn’t really care so much about mobile gaming.

You can also release a game for an old gaming console. You probably don’t have an appropriate development kit but I can assure you that there are lots of software tools for accomplishing this. So you actually can make a game that is playable through emulator. You can use emulators to play old games on a wide variety of devices that include smart phones, computers like Raspberry Pi and personal computers. There are emulators for playing games of for example Commodore 64, NES, SNES, Master System, Mega Drive, MS-DOS, PlayStation 1 & 2, Dreamcast, GameCube, Wii and many others.

There are also many operating systems that games for PC can be released on. There is Windows, right now it is Windows 10, and many versions of Linux (like Ubuntu). There are also Linux distributions that are dedicated to retro and emulator gaming. I can name some of them. There is Lakka OS, RetroPie and Recalbox just to name some of them.

If you don’t want to release your game for free there are many online software stores that can be used to sell your game. There is Steam and GOG which are big names that have numerous amounts of games available. There are also lots of other options that you can find using your favorite search engine.

I didn’t go to what tools you can use for developing your own game. This might be a good time to have a break. I will come back with another post for you very soon. It would be a good idea to present for you some tools that can be used for developing a game for Android, Windows, Linux or for web browsers. This would be interesting wouldn’t it?

Studying Physics in Colin Mc Rae Rally 2.0

Colin Mc Rae Rally 2.0 is a very interesting game in many ways. I wrote recently about different strategies you can have in this game. Now I would like to return to the physics and how this part of the game is handled. I think this game was the first rally game and also among some first racing games that I really liked (Gran Turismo was also great) and got into. It was released for PC and PS1. I played both of them.

There is no doubt that the way CMR 2.0 handles the part of physical modeling was in its time revolutionary. I know lots about games but I also have studied a bit of physics. I have learned physics mainly through school and by studying it in a school of applied sciences. However I am not a physicist. I am more of a software designer. So I know about some coding stuff also. This might open this fact a bit of how I find thinking about these subjects extremely interesting.

I haven’t seen any source code from this game. This is a commercial game and its code isn’t open source. I think for many of the fans of this game this doesn’t come as a surprise. The game was hugely popular. Releasing it as a freeware would be, well, stupid, you might say. However there are some very interesting details that open up for me as I play this rally game.

Let’s think about friction. It deals with surfaces. In a car you can have different tires that behave differently on different surfaces of road. So this is one thing. While driving on icy or snowy road you might want to use chains with tires. While driving on tarmac you want to use soft tires. And on wet surface you use special tires that perform nice on for example wet tarmac. Same goes for muddy surfaces or roads that are of gravel. You have to have a good grip on the road you are driving and friction can give you this.

There is a force that is effective on any road that you can drive on the whole planet Earth. It is called gravity. You have to have good and sufficient suspension in your car. On roads that are bumpy you have to have more suspension for overcoming the differences of altitude. Too much suspension is not good either if you drive on flat road.

You can also break and accelerate. You turn the wheel in right direction at a right time. The key is to try to steer correctly or at least keep the car moving as fast as possible. If you don’t break at a correct time you get to grass or some other surface that slows you down. Crashing also slows you down. This has everything to do with a thing called momentum. If an object doesn’t receive any push to any direction it keeps moving with the speed it has to the direction it is moving. At different time there is different amount of push to the vehicle. If nothing gets pushed the car keeps moving. Bigger objects take more power to get moving and are slower to stop moving. So the more mass you have the slower you are.

I think this is enough physics. I repeat what I said earlier. This is not so precise of a study. I haven’t seen any source code and I didn’t describe my theory so thoroughly. I hope this motivates you to learn more about physics. You can find more information using your favorite search engine. I definitely feel that you will get more excited about this particular rally game.

One Great DOS Game

In UFO – Enemy Unknown you face a serious situation. All the worlds countries have to set aside their disagreements because aliens are attacking the Earth. You first get to decide where are you going to set up your base. You get to build the base. You have money that you can use for research, training and otherwise imnprove your base. When you get to attack against UFOs you get also to missions that happen when an UFO gets shot down. For that you have to have soldiers, guns and you can evenuse tanks.

This game has many different areas. It combines very nicely strategy and action. I am trying not to spoil the game so much in this text since it has some moments in it that can be a bit suprising. I am not going to reveal any more about the plot of this game.

This game was first released for PC in 1994. When I first encountered it it was end of the 90s. This game was for me like candy for a child. That’s about how attractive it was. UFO – Enemy Unknown had many innovations that set it apart from some other strategy games. It also told a story that was full of Science Fiction influences.

I definitely recommend you to get into this game and give it a chance. It is an old game, but it also is a gold game or an oldie goldie if you want to use that term. If you are into DOS games already I can do nothing more than recommend this game. Also if you’re into alien stuff or have even a slight interest in Science Fiction.

Redream – A Dreamcast Emulator

Segas last gaming console, Dreamcast, was released in 1999, at least in Europe. It was actually released in November 1998 in Japan. It wasn’t a bad console. Many say it was the best gaming console that was ever released. To some it was even better than the first PlayStation. It sure was more powerful. It had many great games but it only stayed available for consumers to buy for a short period of time. Dreamcast was drawn from manufacture at the end of 2001. So there might have been more games released for this system if it would have been longer in the markets.

Some good Dreamcast games that I’ve played are Skies of Arcadia, NBA 2K2 and Crazy Taxi. I have heard that games like Sonic Adventure, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, Quake III Arena and Jet Set Radio are good games also. If you have a game for Dreamcast I haven’t mentioned here feel free to comment this post. Skies of Arcadia is a nice role playing game. It reminds a lot of Final Fantasy games. Crazy Taxi is a kind of a driving game where you pick up customers and drive them where they want to go. NBA2K2 is pretty much what the title says – a basketball game.

Let’s talk about Redream. It is a Dreamcast emulator. It is available for Linux, Windows and Mac. There is also an option for a download for Raspberry Pi. The setup is made easy for a user of a computer. You select the download that corresponds to your operating system. Then you unpack and just run the application. You might want to add shortcut to desktop also. The user interface is also easy to learn. You can see all the games you have currently. You can select the location of your rom files inside your computer. You can also adjust some settings concerning your saved games, input devices, video (for example the resolution of the screen you are using) and some other options related to localization.

Redream is a good looking Dreamcast emulator. It’s clearly the easiest one to use when I think about its competitors such as DEmul and NullDC. They required more fiddling with the settings. Dreamcast emulators, all in all, are far more easier to setup than a well known PS2 emulator PCSX2 is. Don’t get me wrong. PCSX2 is a great emulator. It just is a bit hard for a non technical user to setup. Redream also works very nicely. I haven’t had any problems. It hasn’t crashed at all as I have used it for some time now. You can download stable release or development release. This means that the stable version has been tested and development version is the most recent versio´n that has the most recent new features.

You can download Redream here

Some Nostalgia from The Dawn of 3D Modeling

Sometimes I find myself going back to where it all began. It was my beginning inside gaming. Somebody else might feel different about this. For me the 90s was an inspiring period of time. We saw the rise of 3D modeling and textures. The development of technology enabled players to enjoy more and more realistic graphics. First came Doom. It brought a realistic environment that you could move in. Soon games like Tomb Raider and Quake were released.

One of my favorite games of this time was, and still is, Kingpin – Life of Crime. This articles featured image is from that game. There are some reasons for me to like this game. A rap, or hiphop, posse Cypress Hill was very deeply involved in this games development. They appeared as voice actors and also produced the music that was in this game. What is the game about? It takes place in some ghetto somewhere. The player takes a role of a gangster. Basically this game is a first person shooter.

3D modeling has come a long way from these days. It was 1999 when Kingpin was released. I think about this as I just a while ago have played a really nice rally game – WRC 9 that was released recently. I think about how much the job of a 3D artist has changed. Back in the days you could see the models edges. Now you don’t see such edgy graphics. I also think about how much it affected gaming that there suddenly were graphics processing units that could reliably convert 3D graphics for players to enjoy.

3D acceleration in home computers brought computers that had more performance. Earlier it was thought that processor in computer was the component that made it faster and stronger. There was more to it. Some time ago we saw also some other components that can bring your PCs performance stronger. I’m talking about solid state drives or SSDs.

I strongly believe in the development of technology. We are going to see many advancements that are also somewhat related to gaming. Be it virtual reality or the development of sharper screens this is bringing us as human beings more advanced games. Technology has many qualities. Bringing games for players to play is just one side of it.

If you are interested in Kingpin – Life of Crime go check this website : https://www.kingpin.info/

Introducing Cash Invaders (MS-DOS) (2002)

When the file sizes were smaller and graphics simpler there was a time when small games (I don’t know if there’s a good, English, term for these) had a place in a players hearth. Maybe they even had their place inside the computers operating system and more precisely the file system. That depended on how well the user of the computer had organized his or her hard drive space. You had to remove games sometimes to free some space. So you just couldn’t launch all of them. You had to make a choice.

Nowadays you rarely need to go through your hard drive trying to figure out what software to keep installed. You sometimes have to. I think it is stupid and slow. Did you nag about PS4s small hard drive? Do you think PS5 has too small amount of space included? Well, think about me trying to expand my hard drive, by updating my hardware, to be about 16 GB in the beginning of the 2000s. Do you get the picture..? We are super retro right here, you know.

If you have never played Space Invaders you might not get why I am writing about this clone of a classic. I actually didn’t play the original game but I did play a cloned game that was called Space Commander. The idea is to try to shoot some sort of “space bugs” that are moving slowly towards the player. Bugs are moving row after row. There are some good strategies for trying to beat this game but I think we are not going to go inside them so deeply. If these bugs reach the player the game is over. As a some sort of plot the game describes that these things you are shooting are aliens and you are a space soldier trying to block their way from destroying the whole planet Earth.

Cash Invaders saw the daylight in 2002. For me there is no nostalgia. I didn’t play it back then. It caught my attention as I was going through a library of DOS games found from the internet. It takes about 420 kilo Bytes of space. As I am crawling through internet to find more information about the game I arrive at a website that is dedicated solely to Cash Invaders. I feel happy. I didn’t find this through Google. I found it the way I have always found interesting homepages – through web pages that are linked to each other. On this website you can find the download of some versions of the game and there’s also a list of high scores. You can also find some pictures. The website is funny and I feel some nostalgic vibes when I read the contents and see the graphics.

This is the website

So there’s 100 levels. I reached level 16 on my first attempt. I read that the developers used some sampled sounds (from a movie “Independence Day”). Some sounds were taken from other smaller games. The graphics of the game are nice. A bit of 3D modelling also included. The game is nicely designed. I have only played a bit of this game so I didn’t get to the “cash system” but I think there is a way to upgrade your space ship as you collect coins from destroyed bugs. In overall it is a very nice and small DOS game that I can warmly recommend to any player that likes DOS content. See you on the next post. Have a nice day.

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