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Thursday, October 14, 2010

How TransGaming Brings EVE Online To Mac Users
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | 6 comments

CCP Games has posted a new guest dev blog from TransGaming founder and chief technology officer, Gavriel State. The developer described the process of bringing an MMO like CCP's EVE Online to Mac users through the use of the Cider Portability Engine, as well as the ongoing efforts to keep the Mac version running smoothly.

When an issue is found by one of the QA teams it is then tested to determine whether it is a general game problem, or something that is somehow specific to the Mac version. This is critical, because bugs that are on both platforms can only be solved by the game developer themselves. It's also a difficult job, especially with bugs that only happen sometimes. As you might imagine, having a series of concrete steps that can reliably reproduce a bug makes it much easier to solve.

When an issue has been identified that is specific to the Mac, TransGaming's R&D team becomes responsible for tracking things down and fixing the problem. This is no easy task, and requires developers who have broad knowledge of Windows and MacOS, DirectX and OpenGL, and who really really enjoy debugging complex problems - if you think that describes you, please let us know! 8-). Every change that the R&D team does to the core code for Cider is rigorously examined with a two-level code review process, one review by peers on the team, and another by a lead developer who is intimately familiar with the code in question.

In some cases, the problem turns out to be not within Cider, but with code at the Operating System or driver layer. At that point, we file bug reports with Apple's 'Radar' system, and try to provide as much information as possible to them so that they can reproduce a bug. To help with this process, we often use an internal tool which we call 'Snap', which records all D3D graphics commands used within a frame of a game into a file that can be played back later, separately from the game itself. This is especially useful for us when complicated steps are required to get to a point in the game where the problem occurs, so that the driver developers don't have to actually play things through to reproduce a bug!
Visit the page below to read more.

A Closer Look Inside The EVE Online Mac Client
CCP Games
EVE Online

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Valve Announces Dota 2
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | 2 comments

Valve Software recently announced work on Dota 2, a new action game which incorporates elements of real time strategy and role playing games. Described as "a massive sequel" to the Defense of the Ancients mod for Blizzard's Warcraft III, Dota 2 will feature a roster of over 100 heroes, integrated voice chat, and AI bots to step in when human players are disconnected.

From GameInformer.com:

Valve's approach to Dota 2 is unusual in that the gameplay itself is remaining almost entirely untouched. "Our first reaction is to assume that [design elements are] there for a reason," project lead Erik Johnson explains. "IceFrog is one of the smartest designers we've ever met. He's made so many good decisions over the years in building the product. He virtually never makes a decision that doesn't have some reasoning behind it and a way to pick apart the logic behind it." This approach means that Dota 2 basically is DotA-Allstars with new technology.

DotA-Allstars' roster of 100+ heroes is being brought over in its entirety. The single map games take place on is functionally identical to the one that you can download for free today in the Warcraft III mod. Items, skills, and upgrade paths are unchanged. Some hero skills work slightly better due to being freed from the now-ancient Warcraft III engine, but Dota 2 will be instantly familiar to any DotA player.

A few things will make significant differences to players making the transition. Dota 2 uses Valve's Source engine, so the game is much prettier. Source itself is getting a few upgrades, including improved global lighting and true cloth simulation. Dota 2's integrated voice chat is a huge step up from having to set up your own Ventrilo server, and the speed of voice communication is very nearly a requirement for a game as team-focused as DotA.

AI bots will take over for disconnected players, and will be available to play against in unranked training matches as well. However, don't get your hopes up for a full-fledged single-player game, though. Johnson says, "Our goal with the AI is just that their experience isn't destroyed just because one person couldn't finish the game."
Head over to the links below to learn more about the game.

GameInformer.com: Dota 2 Preview
Valve Software

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Frictional Reveals New Feature From Upcoming Game Engine
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | 10 comments

Frictional Games has added a new blog post featuring information about HPI3, the engine powering an unnamed upcoming project. The article examines the inclusion of global sunlight and its associated shadows, a feature which will be important in Frictional's next game.

To get nice ambient lighting what you need to do is to somehow simulate global illumination. Light does not just hit an object and then stop, but bounces around and scatters color from nearby on each other. There is a lot of research into this and most of it require one to pre-calculate the result in one way or another.

I settled with something really simple called hemispherical lighting, which basically means to have separate up and down (sky and ground) colors and then blend them depending on the normal of the surface. My first idea was to use cubemaps to do something similar, but since the cubemap needs to be very blurred, using hemispherical lighting gave pretty much the same result and is a lot faster.

Next up was the direct lighting from the sun and this was quite simple. I could just add some tweak to the existing shaders and make it work. Basically sunlight is just like normal light but without any position or attenuation. This means every pixel is lit from the same direction and strength is independent of distance to the source (as it does not have a position.
Click over to the link below which includes a variety of screenshots.

Frictional Blog: Sunlight With Shadows
Frictional Games
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Buy Amnesia: The Dark Descent

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WoW: Cataclysm Starting Zone Content Previewed
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

Skewed & Reviewed has posted a new preview of Blizzard Entertainment's Cataclysm, the upcoming next expansion for the company's popular MMO, World of Warcraft. The article focuses on the starting zone content available for the game's various races, grading it from Best to Not Acceptable.

The expansion will allow players to adventure as two new playable races, bring their characters to level 85, take on challenging quests and dungeons in all-new zones, and experience dramatic changes to familiar aspects of the game in the wake of a world-shattering disaster.

Blizzard has clearly put forth a good deal of effort in Cataclysm to make the experience for new players a more friendly and positive undertaking. A new player who enjoys the first hour or so of gameplay is going to be thirsting for more. A new player who is frustrated or bored may let their trial account expire without a second thought. Having personally seen new players try the game, not finding it to their liking, and give it up rather quickly, I wanted to take a closer look at the newbie quests and zones in Cataclysm and see how Blizzard’s efforts in creating an engaging and enjoyable starting experience have developed. For the purposes of this article, the starting zone is limited to the area for characters levels 1 through 5, just as they are taking their first steps into the world of Azeroth. For these rankings, I took the following three major aspects into account:
  • Does the starting zone give a good idea of what it means to be a member of the race?
  • Are your actions important? Do the stakes presented give you a feeling of accomplishment?
  • Are you enjoying it? Is it exciting? Is it fun?
All reviews based on content available in World of Warcraft Cataclysm Beta Patch

Warning! Spoilers ahead!
Check out the full article and screenshots at the link below.

Skewed & Reviewed: WoW Cataclysm Preview
Blizzard Entertainment
World Of Warcraft: Cataclysm

Mac Games News for Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Building Battle.net 2.06:00 AM
City Of Heroes Issue 19 Trailer Available6:00 AM
EVE Online: Commissioned Officer Edition Coming This Fall6:00 AM
New Din's Curse Demo Available6:00 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Wednesday, October 13, 2010 on one page

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