Michael Zucchi

 B.E. (Comp. Sys. Eng.)

  also known as zed
  & handle of notzed


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Saturday, 26 July 2014, 00:57

Destiny is no Mercenary.

'cause i had a spare arvo and not much to do I downloaded the "Destiny" beta since it was 'opened' for the weekend. Its probably not a game I was going to get anyway but I thought i'd have a look. I find the way they've implemented the multiplayer interesting; even if it isn't something I want to do myself.

While it was downloading I got my other parallella working - which took a good chunk of the afternoon because it took me a while to discover that the sd-card wasn't actually in a ready-state. I didn't check it to start with because the only machine i have with a sdhc card slot has a dying fan so i've put it away. So i had to dig it out, download the images, copy them across, write them a few times because they weren't working, ... whilst trying to stop the laptop overheating (although the fan righted itself enough in the end). Well it booted and a usb keyboard worked but I didn't want to get out a hub so I logged on via ssh, fixed the shell (tcsh, tcsh, no no!) and shut it down to await another day.

Back to Destiny. As one would expect from a game with so much money spent on it, it's pretty polished in the game part - apart from the super-chunky shadow maps on the PS3 and the lack of the ability to properly invert the controls (who the fuck would want to only invert y and not x too??). Well the game bits are polished, the story seems a bit corny and just just badly acted - but it is just the beta so one shouldn't expect much. The hub seems too much like a "mall" in Playstation Home though; they just need some chess tables and a bowling alley.

I didn't get far before basically not being able to progress due to being shit at the game (with no help from the fucking camera controls) and so kinda gave up. Actually i'd been doing ok by being cautious and methodical but was overwhelmed by a specific situation which seems designed to force you to team up with other players. But i'm just not in a sociable mood so I just went back outside and wandered around jumping off cliffs to misadventurous[sic] deaths and taking pot shots of baddies and drones until other players started showing up in number. Since I didn't really want to socialise I quit back to tv.

Actually apart from the camera controls the most annoying thing was the menu's - they're all operated with a joystick-driven mouse pointer 'big dot', which sucks as much as it sounds. Just use the bloody direction buttons, it's a lot easier/faster. The music did nothing for me either; a bit too nicey softly-epic. Too Spielberg.

Playing it got me thinking about Mercenary: Escape from Targ. Or at least, wishing there was a game more like that instead.

Crash land on a planet, half way between two separate races/groups who are at war, you play them off each other and earn enough money to buy a ship to leave (or trade your way to find one, iirc there were multiple ways to escape). I think there was one gun, a few ground-cars, a couple of planes (which you could crash and destroy; basically ending the game unless you wanted to walk for hours) and a couple of space-capable ships. Teleports, lifts, an underground multi-room complex or two, and i think a space station (this is really stretching my memory so i could be out). One item which most ties in with Destiny specifically is the "9th generation (pocket?) pc" you have which constantly talks you through the game; acting as a guide, translator, atm, companion.

All whilst walking (and/or flying) around in 1st person perspective "3d".

Released in 1985. You know, back when 1st person 3d games just didn't exist.

Obviously graphically crude by today's standards and probably not something I would have the patience to play in its original form of 160x200-odd pixel playfield in 4-colours-at-once glory at 3-4 frames per second (if that), and even then the 'objects' were so far apart you could only see one at a time (one building, or a couple of trees). But I finished it at least once (maybe twice) and the story made a hell of a lot more sense than some of the stuff coming out these days even if i didn't realise it even had one at the time.

The story in Titanfall for example: completely barmey, you have giant space-based factories generating 'super-robots' with papier-mâché-like fragility which are delivered from space to a tiny battle arena so that drugged-up flying super-soldiers can shoot them to bits with pop guns. Why not just blow up the space-factory? Why not just drop big fucking bombs instead? The whole economics of the story as a war doesn't make any sense whatsoever. (I haven't played it, not likely to ever). As a multiplayer game at least, it just seems to be Brockian Ultra Cricket with mechs, but with a nonsense backstory that makes even less sense than if that's what it was really called.

Destiny at least has some basic coherence to the story on the surface (and sci-fi enough to be given some lee-way). But what the fuck are all the people in that giant city doing? Playing houses and looking at the sunset whilst these alien invaders come to wipe them out from existence? Cities are literally giant factories for making shit: they'd be pumping out war machines for their defense, not relying on a rag-tag group of ?resurrected? Boba Fett's roaming the wild-lands and salvaging incrementally-better shit from a planet full of wasted junk.

I guess the problem is these types of games are designed to never end so they need some artificial hook to keep people coming back. And the story has to be bent to breaking point around these mechanics. Traditional RPGs get away with it because you are meant to be a neophyte random traveller wandering around killing shit and learning your trade, not one of 'many' man's 'only' hope against utter annihilation .

Maybe No Man's Sky will capture the essence of games like Mercenary. It certainly sounds like it might so far although some of the details are a bit thin on the ground. Actually i'm sure nothing probably ever will be because nothing will ever be the same as when I played it; mostly me.

I didn't really know much about it until watching that excellent video and endearing presentation on Sony's stage at E3. I think Gamespot did a series of very good background stories on it as well. I've dabbled in some extremely simple procedural world ideas but never got anywhere - the thought you could create a whole galaxy of realistic if 30s sci-fi inspired solar systems and planets complete with atmospheres, fauna and flora, and motion thereof - all from a deterministic seeded algorithm, ... and in real-time. Mind-blowing.

The scale is really what is amazing here. As the good books says, space is big, really big ... there would be no way to create a game of this size and detail any other way; it would never fit on a disk and couldn't be downloaded. It could only ever be created dynamically/procedurally, and it could never be done in such fidelity without the memory and processing power of modern computers. The easiest way I can think of visualising how they've done it is by looking at the set of julia sets: very simple rules create it, a given location always looks the same, but there is also infinite detail and an infinite number of sets. A similar multi-dimensional number surface must be driving the physical rules which are then used to create the worlds. It's not random - otherwise you'd end up with blended pea soup colour palettes and flying ratchet screwdrivers. In fact nothing can be random otherwise it couldn't possibly work. Bummer about the ratchet screwdrivers ... although there's always the possibility of easter eggs.

I really hope they can pull it off; even if i don't get into it as a game or the rest of the game doesn't reach the same bar; the technology shown so far is phenomenal and has incredible possibilities for the future. I guess I might have to get PS4 for it if driveclub hasn't done that already by then - that looks an absolute corker and I loved their WRC games (motorstorms were good too but the WRC games had a certain feel that was missing).

Actually this also reminds me of another C64 game. The Sentinel. It had 10 000 levels in a single tape load. And must have been procedurally generated, in '86. There's another game ripe for a remake. I never played it much or got very far when I did but when that scanner went static it was scary as hell - it took so long to rotate you didn't have room for mistakes.

Tagged games.
rasterise | ext4 ... data loss, what? why?
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