Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Quick Take: Proton Pulse

Posted by Rampant Coyote on April 9, 2019

I’ve loved Breakout style games since I was a kid. The more advanced versions are more commonly referred to as Arkanoid-style games, and that’s not too unfair. Arkanoid added an awful lot of interesting ideas to the mix.

There have been several attempts at a 3D version of the game, and I’ve universally disliked them, but I keep trying. It just never worked for me.  At least, not until VR, and Proton Pulse.

Proton Pulse is not a very elaborate game. It’s simple, and it’s fundamentally an Arkanoid-style game, but imagine playing it in a racquetball court. There are tons of variations… even boss levels and the end of each world. You can play either by moving a paddle with your head tracking, or with your controllers (but beware your play area boundaries!). It’s probably not a game to play if you are subject to epileptic seizures.  It’s pulsing, neon colored, and bombards you with light and movement. However, all that being said, it’s fairly polished (unlike too many indie VR games you can find out there these days). It was released on PSVR, so maybe that added some polish requirements.

I don’t think it’s a game you want to play for hours at a time (I try to avoid playing any VR game for hours at a time. But sometimes Skyrim gets away from me). While it scratches the Arkanoid-style itch and leaves me feeling like I left a 1980s arcade, it’s definitely a different experience. Lots of fun, IMO. At about $10, it’s a reasonably cheap but enjoyable addition to a VR library.

 


Filed Under: Impressions, Virtual Reality - Comments: 2 Comments to Read



Pimax 5K+ Impressions – The First of the Second Generation of VR

Posted by Rampant Coyote on April 2, 2019

In case you haven’t figured it out, I am a Virtual Reality enthusiast. I’ve been looking forward to the coming of consumer-level Virtual Reality since the early 90s. I expected it a lot sooner than it got here, to be honest, but I’m glad it’s here now. I love that I get to work with it as part of my day job. Anyway, I have been willing to sink a bit of cash into it this hobby… to the extent that I pre-ordered a Pimax 5K+. Offering about the highest resolution out there and 170+ degrees of field-of-view, it seemed like a game-changer for PC-based VR.

My headset arrived a few weeks ago. Due to crazy work hours, I haven’t had as much time to play with it as I’d like, but I thought I’d share my impressions so far. The company and the PiTool software are still kind of young, so there’s plenty of room for both to grow. In fact, that’s probably the first alarm bell you should be hearing: There’s always a chance that one big disruption could cause the company and all its support of this product to disappear tomorrow. It’s no longer a “boutique” product, IMO, and has been growing to meet demand. My pre-order took months to arrive, but I understand that lately people have been getting their orders within 3-4 weeks. So… it’s improving.

Since it arrived, there have been a ton of announcements of new and impressive VR headsets for 2019. I’m going to state for the record that I’m calling this the second generation of VR hardware. Yes, annoyed pundits have their own list of demands for second-generation hardware, a bunch of revolutionary changes, but I call tough toenails. It is what it is, and the latest stuff coming out is definitely pretty exciting. I count the new Pimax headsets to be the first of this new generation. For the next couple of years, you’ll be able to treat yourself to much higher resolution, bigger field of view, inside-out tracking without the need of external sensors, untethered (or standalone) use, lighter weights, foveated rendering with eye-tracking, and improved frame rates for cleaner tracking. The problem is… I don’t know of any system coming out that will give you all of the above (or even a significant subset of the above), at least not at a consumer price-point.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to describe a VR experience. You can’t even show videos, really, that capture the experience properly. All I can do is offer comparisons and hope that it works.

Construction / Appearance: Construction feels a little more rugged than the Oculus Rift, but not as solid as the Vive / Vive Pro. It’s lightweight, though, in spite of its wide size and beefy lenses – less than the original Vive, I think. Anyway, I dig the LED Cylon-looking thing across the front. Maybe it makes me look less dorky or less like a hammerhead shark when I’m wearing it, but honestly, I don’t care. While it looks weird, it works. All is good.

Fit / Comfort: The strap that comes with the Pimax 5K+ is… well, functional. Kinda like the strap that shipped with the original Vive. I ordered some 3D-printed adapters for less than $10 that allowed me to hook up my Vive Deluxe Audio Strap to my Pimax, and it worked GREAT. I mean, really…. it feels like it belongs there. Pimax is coming out with their own version of the DAS for the Pimax, but I have a tough time imagining that it’ll be any better than this. I keep saying the Deluxe Audio Strap is a “must buy” for the original Vive, and it holds true here, too. With the strap, the Pimax is plenty comfy.

Some caveats, however: If you wear glasses in VR, you’ll need some thicker padding and adjustments to make it work right. Also, it seems to me that you really need to dial in your inter-pupillary distance (IPD) pretty closely… it’s not as tolerant as most headsets to being off by a couple of millimeters. If you don’t do this, you’ll probably see double and feel some eye strain after a while.

I’ve played for up to 90 minutes at a time with no significant feeling of eye strain or discomfort.

Setup: Getting things working with my computer is always a little bit of a chore, requiring software installation, reboots, etc. However, once it was set up, everything worked and kept working. Sometimes VR is finicky. The Pimax (currently) requires Lighthouse base stations (for position tracking) and controllers only available from HTC, which is great for an upgrade from the Vive, but not so great for new owners. However, Pimax is supposed to have both available really soon now, if they aren’t already.

Image Quality: Okay, here’s the biggest part – how are the visuals? In a word, fantastic. But you probably want more. Compared to the early 1st generation headsets, they are amazing. Compared to, say, the Vive Pro (which I have available for comparison), I think they aren’t quite as good. The LED display isn’t quite as bright and vivid, and the vertical resolution is about 10% smaller (1440 instead of the Vive Pro’s 1600). The horizontal resolution for the nearest 110 degrees (the standard FOV of headsets today, including the Vive Pro) is as good or better. The images do seem a little bit sharper than on the Vive Pro, and the screen door effect is hardly noticeable for me.

Of course, the selling point of the Pimax 5K+ is the wide field-of-view (FOV). It does not disappoint. The software allows three display modes: Small, Normal, and Large. Small FOV is about the usual 110 degrees that other headsets offer. If your game is having a really tough time running at higher resolutions at a decent frame rate, try this. “Normal” offers about 150 degrees of horizontal FOV, and it’s fantastic. “Large” opens up an extra 10 degrees on either side, giving you 170 degrees of horizontal FOV (they advertise 200 degrees “diagonal” FOV, which is a bizarre way to measure it that only marketing schmucks could come up with). Honestly, the difference between “Normal” and “Large” is hardly noticeable, and that last sliver is a little distorted by the lenses anyway. It’s really just good for catching stuff in the extremes of your peripheral vision. However, I didn’t notice a big difference in frame-rate for the large FOV, either, running on an RTX 2080Ti. So… YMMV. I may switch to “Large” mode in the future, but right now I’m extremely happy with Normal mode.

Normal Mode captures most of what your eyes see. You no longer feel like you are wearing blinders.  It’s more like ski goggles than scuba goggles. This makes it much easier to “check six” in a flight simulator, or to catch a glimpse of bad guys attacking you from the sides in a shooter. Some people say they can’t go back after experiencing the wider FOV for a while. I don’t have that problem, but it really is nice.  The higher resolution and sharp image quality make it easier to read the instrument panel in a flight sim, or to spot the details in Skyrim VR. And again, the peripheral vision or the ability to glance behind without having to turn almost all the way around is a really big deal in some games.

Looking at hard numbers: The original Vive and Oculus Rift offer 1080 x 1200 resolution per eye. The Vive Pro offers 1440 x 1600 resolution per eye… about a 75% improvement in resolution. The Pimax 5K+ has up to 2560 x 1440 resolution per eye – 184% better resolution than the original Rift and Vive, and about 60% larger than the Vive Pro… but it’s also spread out over a 55% wider field of view.

Software / Tuning: The Pimax 5K+ is compatible with SteamVR. I haven’t found anything that doesn’t work yet. However, you do need to run support software called “PiTool”. There are a lot of things to tweak here, in addition to the options inside SteamVR, in order to get the performance optimal for your tastes. Tweaking stuff in PiTool requires a restart of SteamVR for many of the changes to take effect. One of the most annoying issues is that a lot of older VR programs require the “Compatible with Parallel Projection” option to be activated.  This forces a slower rendering system to avoid seeing double, and it’s a significant hit to performance. Unity games and the newest Unreal games don’t require this option (and, happily, neither does DCS). Sadly, IL-2 Sturmovik requires this option, and I can’t get a solid 90 fps anymore in this game. Still, I’m generally ranging near 80, so it’s not terrible.

Other options include changing the field of view, modifying the brightness of the display, enabling their own version of Motion Smoothing (“Smart Smoothing,” which I don’t like as much as the one for the Vive), allowing “hidden areas” to be left unrendered (which can sometimes be noticed in the periphery of your version, but increases performance), changing the frame rate target (to sacrifice max FPS for a smoother frame rate… very important) and a bit more.  One size might not fit all games — particularly with Smart Smoothing and parallel projection compatibility. However, I like that they enable so many options to try and get the optimum performance / quality balance.

Overall: The VR landscape is about to get a bit more complicated, but as of right now, I’d say the Pimax is an excellent upgrade to the original Vive, if you have a machine beefy enough to keep up. You can keep your Lighthouse sensors and your controllers, and even keep your Deluxe Audio Strap if you have one. Put the original Vive in a box to remember it fondly, and rock on to the new, higher-resolution, wide-FOV new world. I consider it an upgrade over the Vive Pro, but not nearly as significant. The positives and negatives in the differences in visual quality probably balance each other out. The Pro has a wireless adapter allowing untethered gaming, but the wide FOV of the Pimax is a huge improvement.

If you do not already own the Vive “Lighthouse” base stations and controllers, it is a far more expensive system (even before you consider the costs of the PC). Pretty much the cost of a Vive Pro.

Is  the high resolution and wide FOV a game-changer? Not exactly, but for some games it really makes a tremendous difference (especially flight sims). I think foveated rendering doesn’t make much sense until you go outside the 110 degree FOV window. It’s a big enough deal that my next VR upgrade a few years down the road will have to offer a similarly wide FOV. Nothing announced so far is giving me any semblance of buyer’s remorse. If I didn’t already own the Pimax, I might be looking very closely at the upcoming HP Reverb or the Vive Cosmos. Then, I still might choose the Pimax. 🙂  I think it probably represents the hardware limits of graphics cards for the next few years, and unless you really MUST have an untethered experience or the absolute bare minimum of Screen Door Effect, I think this headset looks like something that will grow with me for several years.

 


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No Man’s Sky Goes VR This Summer

Posted by Rampant Coyote on March 26, 2019

I played over 70 hours of No Man’s Sky when it was originally released.  Unlike others, I wasn’t disappointed. Yeah, it got repetitive and lonely at times. There was a starkness to it that no amount of lush procedural visuals could overcome. It’s changed a lot since then, graphically, in gameplay, and it has true multiplayer. Sadly, I haven’t had the time to devote to it. Yet.

But now… it’s getting a VR update this summer. So… I may have to see if I can possibly find some extra time. And with a major multiplayer update, maybe I’ll have to see if anyone else I know is playing… 🙂

Hello Games emphasizes that they are treating this as a native VR game and not a port. I hope this means they’re adopting comfort-level control options. Because I really wanted to play this game in VR even before it launched… then I discovered how susceptible I was to VR sickness. Bleah. While I have my VR legs now, the problem hasn’t completely gone away. I want a game I can play for a couple of hours at a time with no problems. (Something I can do easily in something like Skyrim VR, or even in a flight simulator if I’m not going too crazy…)

Anyway, I can’t wait. I’m also looking forward to the announcement of the third major feature of the free No Man’s Sky: Beyond update, and more details of what their big “online” update really means.


Filed Under: Space Sims, Virtual Reality - Comments: 5 Comments to Read



The original Diablo is available at GOG.com

Posted by Rampant Coyote on

Diablo 1 is now on GOG.com. It’s $10, so it’s not exactly super-cheap, but compared to the trouble I went through getting Diablo to install and run on my last computer (requiring some downloaded mods just to get it *mostly* working), it could be worth it to you.

Diablo 1 at GOG.com

Why bother? Blizzard hasn’t supported it in ages. There have been many, many, maaaany games that have built upon this formula since its release over 20 years ago, and have improved upon it significantly. Frankly, I played a LOT more Diablo II than the original game over the years, which was pretty objectively a better game, and that one is also extremely long in the tooth. So why should anyone be interested in Diablo, apart from historical curiosity?

For me, the answer is in the mood and theme of the game. Diablo II didn’t have it, in the name of providing a greater variety of content. The Gothic horror of Diablo 1 was present in its sounds, music, graphics, and even the font. The artwork would grow more cartoony in subsequent releases, lacking the stark, CGI-rendered, and admittedly overly dark images of the first offering. Since then, of the “Diablo-style” games out there, the only one that comes close to really capturing that flavor for me has been Grim Dawn. There may be others I have missed, but that one is the one that felt closest to the original Diablo, at least in style and feel.

However, another aspect of Diablo that I think most of its spiritual and literal descendants have tried to avoid is the good old-fashioned dungeon crawl. At some point in Diablo’s development, it was envisioned as a turn-based game. Yeah, much closer to a traditional Roguelike. While the style of “Diablo-like” games have kind of evolved from there, it’s interesting from a game design perspective seeing what they did when they didn’t have a tried-and-true blueprint to work with.

And that’s another reason for my own interest in playing the game. I like seeing how these games evolved. What got lost, what was kept. If you are interested in this, I recommend the book, “Stay A While, And Listen” by David Craddock. It tells a lot of the story behind Blizzard North and their creation of the legendary game.

But on the most bottom of bottom lines… as much as spiritual successors like Grim Dawn or Torchlight 2 might provide a superior overall experience, the original Diablo is still a great deal of fun.


Filed Under: Computer RPGs, Retro - Comments: Be the First to Comment



Blood Creek Beast is OUT!

Posted by Rampant Coyote on March 12, 2019

It is Launch Day! My second full-length novel, Blood Creek Beast, is now out in the wild. I hope you enjoy it.

This is the follow-up to last year’s Whitney award finalist, the contemporary fantasy Blood Creek Witch. Blood Creek Beast follows up a few weeks later. I won’t go into details to avoid spoilers for BCW, but the book focuses on the adventures of Jack and Jessabelle, and suffice to say the adventures don’t start in the same place. The Coven has plans for Jessabelle, and she soon finds there is much more to them than just a few witches serving the “man in the white suit.” Meanwhile, Jack goes into a town for supplies, and ends up … well, let’s just say giants, intrigue, murder, and a all-out war may be involved.

You can grab it today in eBook or paperback from Amazon:

Blood Creek Beast (Blood Creek #2)

If you haven’t read Blood Creek Witch yet, GREAT NEWS! It’s on sale! You can check it out here:

Blood Creek Witch (Blood Creek #1), now on sale

 

 

 


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Blood Creek Beast Launches on Tuesday! First Review In!

Posted by Rampant Coyote on March 7, 2019

Hey everyone! Just got back from a surprise business trip overseas, so I’m way behind in just about everything. Which sucks, because there is a major event coming up just next week:

Blood Creek Beast launches on Tuesday, March 12.

You can preorder the paperback HERE, or the kindle version HERE.

In other news, Guildmaster Gaming has reviewed the new book, and liked it even more than the first book! 5/5! You can check out the review here:

Blood Creek Beast Review at Guildmaster Gaming

(In case you are interested, you can read their review of Blood Creek Witch HERE)

I’m excited for you to read it!

 

 

 


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Blood Creek Witch is a Whitney Finalist!

Posted by Rampant Coyote on February 12, 2019

My novel, Blood Creek Witch, is a finalist for the Whitney Awards. I was not expecting that. I’m kinda floored. My category is “YA Speculative Fiction” (Fantasy is kind of its own thing with these awards, based on entries… so contemporary or urban fantasy gets put into speculative). Since it’s also my first novel, I’m eligible for the Best Novel by a Debut Author award as well. I’m thrilled, honored, and … well, reeling.

The awards are in May, and it’s a nice formal event. I’m looking forward to going. I have a friend who is a finalist in the same category (Ali Cross, and her urban fantasy, “First Kisses Suck.”) so we can cheer each other on.

Speaking of Blood Creek Witch, the sequel–Blood Creek Beast–will be releasing one month from today, on March 12. I’m really excited. Yeah, it’s impossible to top the excitement of launching my first novel, but this is another really big deal for me. I’ve got the nervous experience worrying that it’s an adequate follow-up for the first book. Watch this space for more info!

Also… this week I’ll be at LTUE in Provo. You can see my schedule here. They’ve tapped me mainly for my game development experience this year… which, granted, significantly exceeds my writing experience. I’ll be on a panel about how to “write” a video game (focus on narrative and story), launching an indie game, developing for consoles vs. PC, and on magic systems in games.

So… yeah. It’s an exciting week for me. (That’s not including the frantic deadline we’re trying to meet at the day job…) But hey, at least I am not bored, right? 🙂

 


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Magical Diary: Wolf Hall Crowdfunding Campaign

Posted by Rampant Coyote on January 28, 2019

Man, I kinda miss the days when game devs would make a game, and THEN people would buy it. Of course, that requires people, you know, BUYING games. We’re getting to the point where crowdfunding is often as much of a marketing and sales tool as a funding tool. But hey, that’s indie… you gotta stay agile and go with what works.

Anyway, to that end… Hanako Games is crowdfunding Magical Diary: Wolf Hall via Kickstarter. I really enjoyed Magical Diary: Horse Hall many winters ago, and I’m glad Hanako is finally coming out with a sequel. Hanako is a very established company, and has been doing these games for years (including some outstanding hits like Cute Knight and Long Live the Queen), so from a crowdfunding perspective, this is pretty low risk.

Magical Diary: Wolf Hall, assuming it continues in a similar line as the first one, is a hybrid RPG. One part RPG (complete with dungeon crawling… of a sort), one part dating sim, and one part visual novel, you play as a student in a magical academy in Vermont (*cough*NotHogwarts*cough*). Flunking out of the school is a possibility. Dying is a possibility (at least in the first one). As you gain powers and magical abilities, you not only use these powers to navigate tests and puzzles down in the dungeon (with multiple approaches and no single “best” way to overcome the challenges!), but sometimes to navigate the storyline as well.

I’m looking forward to playing this one.


Filed Under: Computer RPGs, Crowdfunding, Game Announcements - Comments: 2 Comments to Read



Ghostbusters and Sequel Suckage

Posted by Rampant Coyote on January 22, 2019

Last week, Sony released a teaser of a Jason Reitman-helmed Ghostbusters. Not a reboot like the lame 2016 film, but a direct sequel.

Like the lame 1989 sequel.

For the record, I had high hopes but only moderate expectations for the Ghostbusters 2016 film. I was only somewhat disappointed. The stellar cast was wasted in a poor film with clumsy writing, a weak plot, and jokes that I can only assume were watered down to the lowest common denominator in order to make it easy to translate to scores of international markets. Then they depended on a divisive, political marketing campaign that insulted fans. And then they followed up on its less-than-stellar release by alienating fans even more in a shaming campaign.

So now, they are trying it again. I hope it’s awesome, but I also think the timing is bad for this new film. They really have to nail it. I don’t know if they can, regardless of cast. The lesson learned from Ghostbusters 2 was that even the original cast and original creative team had trouble catching lightning in a bottle again. Yeah, it did pretty well at the box office (the 2016 movie also did “okay” at the box office… it made money), but it was nowhere near the original. Of course, there’s a certain point (like in Star Wars) where the nostalgia and hype means any attempt at a follow-up is doomed to some level of disappointment.

Here’s the key that Hollywood and pretty much the entire media industry seems to have forgotten about creating follow-ups and adaptations to popular properties: You have to respect and honor the source material. This is why the Marvel Cinematic Universe films have been doing so well, and just about everything else has been tanking. Films like Batman v. Superman, the 2016 Ghostbusters, and yes, Star Wars: The Last Jedi have, to me, felt like ego projects where the people in charge were more focused about “leaving their mark” on the franchise. Or, just as bad (with many adaptations) — they don’t seem to have done any research on the source material to understand what makes it tick, but simply apply the ol’ formula and swap the names from their chosen IP.

It’s not just Hollywood. I’ve seen efforts made by writers taking on material now in the public-domain with attitudes that actually seem hateful and spiteful towards the original material. Maybe in their egocentric worldview, they think their writing will supplant and replace the original? I don’t know.

Anyway… hopefully a suitably repentant team of filmmakers with an ounce of humility (in Hollywood? Tall order, I’m sure) will produce a film that is finally worthy of the original. In the meantime, may I offer a plea to all artists tasked with working with someone else’s IP: Your job is not to “make it your own” (even if we all hope to hear that this is what we accomplished in the end), but rather to make something that feels like it seamlessly belongs there, side-by-side with everything by the original creator(s). Find out what makes it “tick” and why audiences love it. Use that as your guiding star. Then, at least if you fail, it was only because you were overly ambitious… not because you were a jerk.


Filed Under: Movies - Comments: 3 Comments to Read



Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries Releases September 10

Posted by Rampant Coyote on January 9, 2019

Yeah, I know what I’ll be doing…

Pre-orders are up with lots of bonuses to existing players of Mechwarrior Online here. It also includes access to the closed beta, which is nice if you really like your big fighting robots.

That’s definitely me. I was a fan since the EGA Mechwarrior I days (and Crescent Hawk’s Inception). I played Mechwarrior II over the Internet using Kali to pretend the Internet was one big LAN. I’ve probably played more of the new Battletech PC game than is strictly healthy. And yeah, I’ve spent enough hours in Mechwarrior Online to hold my own and max out a couple of skill trees. I’m really looking forward to a new single-player Mechwarrior simulator-style game.

It’s been a while since they announced it, and maybe it won’t happen, but at some point they promised VR support.  Of course, this was back when investors and the tech media were hyping themselves up to believe the VR was going to be the next iPhone, forgetting that there were several generations of cell phones of varying degrees of smartness prior to the iPhone’s appearance. Since VR failed to meet their unwarranted lofty predictions, they’ve declared the technology dead repeatedly, yet it stubbornly continues to grow despite the industry’s sour-grapes backlash. So… I’m really hoping it’s there. I’ll be okay if it’s not, but VR is a big deal for me these days (if you haven’t noticed…)

To be completely honest, the new gameplay trailer isn’t overwhelming me, although the highly destructable environments are nice. But … I’m confident it’ll be a good time.

 


Filed Under: Game Announcements - Comments: 5 Comments to Read



Pimax Offers Apology for Delays on New VR Headsets

Posted by Rampant Coyote on January 7, 2019

Pimax has been running into (yet more) delays delivering their new VR headsets, the 5K+ and 8K. This is frustrating for a lot of backers and pre-orderers (like myself), as we’ve been looking to Pimax as either the culmination of the first generation of consumer Virtual Reality, or the beginning of the second generation. They are clearly an evolutionary product, offering higher resolution and much higher field-of-view than what’s currently available.

Unfortunately, with each month they delay in fulfilling all their pre-orders, they give the competition time to catch up. Well, unfortunate for THEM. For consumers, the competition is exciting. I think this week, the Oculus Rift is marked down to $350, and the Samsung Odyssey Plus is offering real competition to the Vive Pro at less than half the price for a complete package. And we can expect new announcements literally any day now.

I’ll give Pimax credit for owning up to their problems *AND* taking a real effort to solve them, as they issued not only an apology but an explanation of their efforts to improve things. Clearly, they want to play with the big boys this time around, rather than remaining a boutique VR headset manufacturer. In particularly, they are citing problems with quality, and a change in suppliers and an improved QA process (and staffing).

https://forum.pimaxvr.com/t/apology-for-the-delays-with-kickstarter-campaign/12420

 


Filed Under: Virtual Reality - Comments: Comments are off for this article



GOG.com’s Winter Sale Starts

Posted by Rampant Coyote on December 14, 2018

I haven’t even installed everything I got from … whatever the last Steam & GOG sales were. And here’s another one. Hold onto your wallets! On the plus side, they are offering free games as incentives for participating.

The sale lasts from now until the third of January.  Amusingly, I have a lot of the classics they are offering as bonus / free games. Some, but probably not all. You probably don’t either.

https://www.gog.com/news/the_winter_sale_2018_starts_now

 


Filed Under: Deals, Free Games - Comments: Comments are off for this article



Doom turns 25. I celebrate in virtual reality.

Posted by Rampant Coyote on December 12, 2018

Doom turned 25 this week. I feel kinda… old. Just saying.

I tried desperately to download it via FTP (I think) over a modem the first day it was available (or was it the following day?), without much success. Fortunately, a friend of mine the next day had been more successful, so I copied his downloads. Unfortunately, I had very little time to play it, because we had to leave the next day to visit my wife’s parents for Christmas. But I did manage to get it running on my father-in-law’s computer. I could only play it in a little tiny window, but it worked.

Doom took the gaming world by storm, and not just on the PC. It was a significant technological leap over its predecessor, Wolfenstein 3D, and pretty much left everyone else in the dust for a good couple of years.

A big dream for me was to play Doom in Virtual Reality. The two always coincided in my mind, because about the same time as Doom‘s release, I was studying the latest developments in virtual reality technology and coming to grips with “VRML” and a couple of VR-ready libraries intended for use as soon as the technology was ready, which would be… any day now.

Any. Day.

Okay, yes, honestly, there were some VR systems released around the same time or not long after, but they weren’t really there yet.  Sega had just announced a VR headset. There were virtual reality arcades. A couple of years later I played with something called the “iGlasses” or something (before Apple took over the ‘i’ prefix?) which I think were shutter-based glasses that displayed 320 x 200 per eye. And of course, there was the “Virtual Boy” about to be released, which was certain to be as big of a hit as the GameBoy, right? So I imagined that soon, I’d be able to play Doom in full-on Virtual Reality, rushing down hallways and chainsawing demons in a full 3D world.

Well… decent, consumer-ready VR took a little longer to get here. But my big dream is finally reality. I didn’t realize it was the eve of the game’s birthday when I felt the sudden urge to play it in VR. Not the new Doom, but the original classic, the one that blew everyone away in December of 1993. Fortunately, there are many ways to play Doom in VR today.

First… and simplest… is to simply play Doom while you are “in” VR, via one of several packages that will project your screen into a 3D virtual environment, like BigScreen or Virtual Desktop. You are still playing the flat-screen version of the game, but you get to be in virtual reality while you are doing it. Silly, but fun.

Perhaps the coolest way, but one which I haven’t tried, is inside Doom VFR. This is the optimized-for-VR version of the reboot, and it features a couple of bonus levels from the original game. The monsters and gameplay are from the new game, but the visuals and some of the sound effects seem to come right out of 1993. Of course, Doom VFR works pretty well on its own.

The one I tried Sunday night was through the use of a beta, fan-made mod to GZDoom informally called “ViveDoom“. There are a couple of them out there, actually. The one I tried was a gzdoom vive mod. It was driven with mouse + keyboard, and I couldn’t aim worth crap, but it was really cool going through E1M1. That’s about as far as I got before I started feeling a little queasy and had to stop, but it was cool.

There’s an even better one from Fishbiter called “GZDoomOpenVR” which works with the motion controllers in OpenVR. This one uses the controllers to create a boxy version of the weapons that you can aim independently from your movement. It’s pretty dang cool and requires less effort to get running than the older gzdoom vive experiment. It automatically recognized and worked with the Doom versions I own via Steam. I haven’t had much time to play with it, but … it works. I didn’t have time to really figure how well it plays, but from what little I tried (enough to get some screenshots), it’s pretty cool.

Sadly, the screenshots do not do the game justice. But that’s true of all VR games. Even videos do not convey what it really feels like.

Maybe it’s just me, and I’m getting old (how the freak is Doom 25 years old anyway?!?!?). While it’s clearly dated, and a couple of the mechanics are super-clunky today (mainly the 2D shooting scheme, with elevation determined by potential target), the game otherwise holds up reasonably well today. Yeah, graphically, it shows its age, but the gameplay isn’t too far removed from the latest first-person shooters. The experience in VR is…. something else. Maybe it is not the most comfortable experience available in VR for those of us prone to VR sickness, but it’s a cool and different way to enjoy the classic all over again.


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New Release: All Made of Hinges – A Mormon Steampunk Anthology

Posted by Rampant Coyote on November 27, 2018

I’ve got another short story out, today! All Made of Hinges – An Anthology of Mormon Steampunk has launched, the first of three volumes. The ebook is out now, with a paperback edition to follow shortly. I haven’t focused on short stories very much this last year, but I still love them and was very pleased to be included in this anthology.

Okay, so what is “Mormon Steampunk?” We’ll start with the “Steampunk” side. If you’ve been following me for a while, you know. My first published stories were steampunk. In the broadest sense, it’s Victorian-era speculative fiction, or spec fic taking place in a setting much like that of the mid-late 1800s. BUT… in general Steampunk has a bit more of a feel / flair to it that separates it from something like Weird West or Victorian-Era supernatural horror. It is generally a fictionalized era–alternate history–where the wild failed inventions of the time actually worked, and the wild imagination of authors like Jules Verne, Edgar Allen Poe, and H. G. Wells are reality. In many cases, the world is a bit more idealized. And if it’s over-the-top and gonzo in its wild liberties taken with history, all the better.

Okay, so what is “Mormon Steampunk?” This series was spearheaded by Dave Butler, best known lately as the author of the excellent Witchy Eye series. He also wrote City of the Saints, a wild ride around the “Kingdom of Deseret” (Utah) which included over-the-top fictionalized versions of several historical characters and some wild technology like flesh-eating clockwork scarab beetles. Since the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the “Mormon” church) was founded in the 1800s and had set up their own provisional in the Utah Territory to escape persecution and conflict. The church sent missionaries all over the world, and of course there were the controversies surrounding polygamy, doctrine, and leader Joseph Smith’s run for President, and … lots more. The history is interesting, but the folklore and rumors of the era even more so. (And if you read Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days… yes, there are Mormons & Missionaries in that, too).

So the idea here was to have Steampunk involving Mormons – the church and its members. The trick was, as very explicitly noted in the submission guidelines, that this is a work of fiction and that the stories were not intended to be either “anti-Mormon” or to strongly suggest that the theology is true. These were to be fictional works about fictional Mormons (even if they had real-life counterparts) and is intended for a wide audience. They had no interest in the religion of the authors. If you’d be offended about a story of cultists trying to reanimate the corpse of Brigham Young, however, this might not be the book for you.

Otherwise, hey… game on! Get ready for some wild tales. My story, “The Pipes of Columbia,” takes place during the Columbia Exposition in Chicago–the 1893 World’s Fair.  This was the Epcot of the late 19th century, and where the world’s first Ferris Wheel was built (which could carry 60 people per car and over 2000 people at a time…). It was also where the Mormon Tabernacle Choir made their big touring debut. Interestingly enough, this story is coming out just a few weeks after the choir changed its name after 125 years. The story involves a stolen shipment of bizarre organ-pipes and a dangerous mesmerist.

Anyway – if this piques your interest, check it out! The ebook is only $2.99.  Other authors include D J Butler (the man himself!), John M. Olsen, Elizabeth Mueller, Scott E. Tarbet, Stephen L. Peck, and six others.  Get ready for some wild steampunk rides!


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Steam Autumn Sale

Posted by Rampant Coyote on November 21, 2018

Hold onto your wallets! The Steam Autumn Sale is here. Now, I’d really appreciate it if people took advantage of Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon being 60% off… less than $5… to help offset the amount of money I’m likely to spend this weekend on Steam games that I might eventually get around to playing.

For those unfamiliar (!!!), Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon is an old-school style RPG with a tongue-in-cheek attitude. Yes, it’s comedy. No, it’s not easy. But I have it on good authority that it’s a lot of fun. 🙂

Anyway, I hope you all have a fabulous weekend. Here in the U.S., we’re celebrating Thanksgiving, and I have a TON to be thankful for. And you folks are part of that. So, thank you!

 


Filed Under: Computer RPGs, Deals, Rampant Games - Comments: Read the First Comment



Author Spotlight: Jodi L. Milner, Author of Stonebearer’s Betrayal

Posted by Rampant Coyote on November 2, 2018

Unsurprisingly, I have a lot of writer friends these days, to go along with all my game developer friends. (Side note: It’s also interesting how often those two groups intersect). I met Jodi when we were both writing stories for anthologies from Xchyler Publishing. Xchyler’s authors were scattered all over the globe, but somehow we had a concentration of authors from Utah. That’s also unsurprising, considering the concentration of speculative fiction writers in the state. It’s something of a running joke here.

Anyhow, Jodi and I share the same publisher once again – Immortal Works. (Yeah, we writers talk about publishers and give recommendations / warnings about publishers all the time, too.) Her new book, Stonebearer’s Betrayal, is coming out in less than two weeks, and I wanted to talk to her about it and what she’s doing. She’s a big fan of the Witcher novels, which I haven’t read, so as a fan of the game series I wanted to ask her about those, too. So… here. I hope you find it interesting / entertaining:

RC- Who are you? Tell us a little about yourself.

Jodi: I’m a bit of a patchwork quilt. There’s a chaotic piecework of motherhood, writing, volunteering, and music stitched together with sheer determination. Growing up, I wanted to be a doctor of all things. I made it all the way to college thinking it was my path. After taking a few premed classes I realized the parts I loved about medicine were only 2% of the job, and the rest was stuff I couldn’t stand. So, I took up veterinary nursing instead. No regrets there, and puppies! My other hobbies include martial arts, travel, and violin, although I don’t get much time these days to do any of them.

I didn’t start writing seriously until my second child was born and I desperately needed an outlet. I’d always dabbled, but never allowed myself to pursue the dream of publishing a book of my own until then. It’s been quite the journey ever since!

RC – What else have you written and had published?

Jodi: My first short story “Breath” was published in 2015 in Xchyler Publishing’s fantasy anthology The Toll of Another Bell. “The Skull Collector” was shortlisted in SQ Magazine’s 2016 international short story contest and published in edition 31. My one and only published poem “The Clicker Clack Man” can be found in The Hunger, a Collection of Utah Horror. Two of my random flash fiction pieces are in writing conference anthologies. I’ve also had two stories featured in Immortal Works Flash Fiction Friday.

RC – Okay, tell us all about your new book!

Jodi: Stonebearer’s Betrayal is an emotional coming-of-age story filled with magic and danger. In it, Katira is dragged into a reality that she once believed to be only legend – the existence of immortal Stonebearers and the power they hold. Their ancient society is being threatened by a demon bent on revenge and Katira must be brave enough do what’s necessary to protect her family.

Appropriate for kids 13 and up, interesting enough for adults to enjoy.

RC – Bonus Question! You are a fan of the Witcher book series. What got you into those?

Jodi: It all started while I was researching a scene. I found a picture of Geralt carrying a grown-up Ciri on his back. The combination of the scars, the armor, the twin swords, and those viper eyes captured my imagination. I hunted down more information and started to watch the gorgeously rendered cut scene videos on YouTube of Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. It seems like attracts like, the story of Geralt of Rivia is a close mirror to the story of one of my main characters. All the emotional notes that I’d been working to reach were played out in Geralt’s story so I was riveted. After obsessing over the videos, I wanted to read the books and see if they lived up to my expectations, because if they did, they’d easily become new favorites. So far, I’m not disappointed (although I could do with a touch less politics, and a little more Geralt fighting monsters).

Growing up, Jodi L. Milner wanted to be a superhero and a doctor. When she discovered she couldn’t fly, she did what any reasonable introvert would do and escaped into the wonderful hero-filled world of fiction and the occasional medical journal. She’s lived there ever since.

These days, when she’s not folding the children or feeding the laundry, she creates her own noble heroes on the page. Her speculative short stories explore the fabric of dreams and have appeared in anthologies and magazines, while her novels weave magic into what it means to be human.

She still dreams of flying.

Jodi can be found online at http://jodilmilnerauthor.wordpress.com, on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JodiLMilner, and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JodilMilnerAuthor/

Stonebearer’s Betrayal will be released on November 13th at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

 

 


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