· by Steve · Read in about 5 min · (959 Words)

The blog has suffered a little since I’ve had a very hectic week, with multiple clients to keep happy, a couple of social events and since most of last weekend was taken up with organising Ogre SVN conversion and various chores I seem to have had very little downtime - my only gaming all week was a couple of hours on Crackdown. My energy seemed to finally run out last night when I found myself dragging my half-comatose body to bed by 11pm - completely unheard of in our house. A little recharging required this weekend I think. I might even allow myself at least some time off during the bank holidays next week for a change.

Of note, I finally got around to trying the newly update Trackmania Nations Forever today, and it’s a lot of fun just like the previous iteration. This time we have dirt track sections and water which were previously reserved for the commercial Trackmania United, but otherwise it’s pretty much the same, which is no bad thing. Easily the best free game you’ll play, and I also really like their take on online play modes - short tracks which are easy to iterate & restart quickly if you screw up, everyone being ‘ghosts’ to everyone else means you’re fully in control the whole time and the random elements are removed - IMO it just makes the whole experience less frustrating than other competitive online games I’ve played, where the high skill level of a minority of players can easily damage the experience of more occasional players. TMN is one online game you can dip an and out of now and then and rely on having fun each time, which is a rare thing in my experience. Definitely a recommended download.

Everyone and their dog is playing GTAIV right now of course - I’m not, mostly because I have way too many games to play already, I might pick it up later on when I have more time. The uber-hype has put me off to some degree, I understand how ‘cool’ it is to be able to run around New York Liberty City doing whatever you want in some ways, but I do also wonder whether the absolutely teutonic effort that went into creating that is such a good thing on a grander scale. I mean, it’s clever for sure, and the anecdotes it will no doubt create for players for some time to come will be entertaining, but given that it cost $100m to create it, I can’t help thinking that the money could have been halved, and the remainder spent on creating 10 other ‘fresher’ game ideas like N+ and the like. How much money did it cost to make the world open enough to allow you to get drunk in bars, beat up random people and have realistic individual responses, watch TV, and the FOX-baiting practices involving ‘women of negotiable affections’? It appears that lots and lots of people want to have the freedom to engage in those sorts of activities in a game, but to me it seems rather pointless. If you like watching TV, or getting drunk and falling over in the street, feel free to go do that for real, you don’t need a game to do it (unless you’re a minor, who no doubt revel in that virtual ability) - I wouldn’t consider that to be a gaming experience I would particularly pursue myself, and in a way I consider it to be something of a waste of game creation talent and funding. I’m sure it rounds out the virtual world wonderfully, but it still seems rather frivalous - really, I don’t want to live in a game world, if I did I’d be playing WoW 16 hours a day, and thus the simulation of minutae seems to me, well, wasteful. I remember thinking the same thing about Shenmue all those years ago - sure I can use a vending machine to get little figures, and go do a day job in a highly realistic fashion, but this is a game for christ sakes, how much of a waste of effort is that? I guess I can’t judge until I play it but still, it makes me shake my head to think of how much money was spent making unnecessary things like the hooker animations (unless you’re 13, in which case you probably think they’re entirely necessary). The weird thing is that I can see the point if it’s a fictitious world - fantasy, far-future, post-apocalyptic, whatever - because then that world is something you can’t experience any other way. But all that effort recreatign New York - anyone can go walk around that right now if they want, or any similar city near them. Sure, they won’t be able to do the stuff that Niko gets away with, but all those everyday things that have so painstakingly been recreated can be experienced right now, for real. Is there really any merit to recreating them all in a game? I dunno, maybe I think about these things too much.

Finally, I’m also open-sourcing (MIT license) my wxWidgets-based MVC framework for Ogre that I built last year, as the foundation of an app I currently have in cold storage due to changing priorities. I figured other people might as well get the benefit out of the framework in the meantime, since plenty are always asking for a good basis for tools. It supports all the good stuff you’d expect like proper MVC separation, switchable tool-based controllers, generic property and event systems, 4-pane ‘cross’ layout, maximisable viewports, dockable windows, rubber-band selection implementations etc. It’ll be joining the other 50-odd projects living in Ogreaddons right now, hope you enjoy it if that’s your cup of tea.