Games

REVIEW: Zero Ballistics – Tank warfare for Linux!

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FPS Tank battles are here! - Thanks to Zero Ballistics!

An observation was made recently that Linux was experiencing a wealth of new (and established titles) being made availabe or updated.  This to me is a testament of the rising popularity of the Linux desktop (and subsequent demand for gaming).

That debate though can wait until another day, as I have downloaded a copy of the latest version of Zero Ballistics, a generic Linux binary which is available now!

Zero Ballistics is a tank based FPS now released in version 2.0 and what a great game it is.  Taking control of your tank using the traditional keyboard/mouse control system you battle it out with other “tankers” whilst zipping around a woody themed landscape.  Its simple and adictive fun and certainly worth a download with the added benefit that theres no compiling of sources or hunting your repo’s.

All the expected features of an FPS are here, multiple views, multiple weapons, the list goes on with it probably being quicker just to jump on in and give it a go.  The download is a respectable 80mb which will have you battling in minutes.

At time of writing, there appears to be only a few games servers active.  That being said, I managed to get on a server with 6 others and had a good blast of mayhem before writing this review.

Spec wise you are not going to need a powerful machine to enjoy it at full settings (certainly in the case of the Linux version) with an AMD Athlon II Quad Core, 750gb HD, 3gb of DDR3 ram, Nvidia Gforce 9200, running Sabayon 5.4 I experienced all gfx settings on full with a flawless high fps.

I strongly recommend this title and look forward to seeing it develop in the future. You can visit the homepage here: http://www.zeroballistics.com From the site:

Zero Ballistics is a unique blend of multiplayer first person shooter and tank combat game. Easy to learn, difficult to master was our mantra during the development of the game. Set in lush alpine environments covering all seasons, playing Zero Ballistics is as thrilling as it is relaxing…..Explore 81 different tank setups to be ready for any given combat situation. If you want to be sneaky, use mines and the heal skill to wreak havoc among your unsuspecting enemys. You are more the frontal assault type? Combine the ram bucket and the flamethrower to eliminate your enemies up close and personal.

Opening up my cannons on an unsuspecting player!
If you wish, you can watch a battle take place. Here we see an overview of the battle field.

Goblin – bytes4free@googlemail.com / TwitterIdenti.ca

You can also contact me on Skype: tim.openbytes

If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the OpenBytes statement, here.

Puppy Arcade 10 released! – The emulation distro!

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The amount of software Puppy Arcade opens up to you is as staggering as the amount of systems it covers! Well done Scott!

Hot off the press for Saturday 4th December is Puppy Arcade 10, which was kindly announced to me by Scott Jarvis its creator.  Openbytes and Puppy Arcade have a history.  It’s a distro that I have been following and reporting on for a long while and during that time I have watched it mature into a solid, stable, unique distro which still manages to improve and build upon every release.

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of interviewing Scott and its hoped that sometime in the future he will be appearing on the TechBytes audiocast as a guest.

So on to Puppy Arcade 10.  For those that are interested in looking at the progression this distro has made, you should check back on the previous reviews/features.

For version 10, emulation includes (from the site):

Plays Amiga (500, 1000, 2000), Apple (68k, 128k, 512k, SE, MacOS, Plus), Atari (ST, 800, 800XL, 130XE, 5200), Amstrad (CPC, Plus, VEB), Arcades, Colecovision, Commodore (64, 128, VIC20, PET), Doom, GameBoys (GB, GBC, GBA), GameGear, Genesis/MegaDrive, MasterSystem, MS DOS, MSX, N64, NDS, NeoGeo, NeoGeo CD, NES/Famicom, PC Engine/TurboGrafix, PSX, ScummVM, SNES and ZX Spectrum (16k, 48k, 128k, +2, +2A, +3) and more!

And if that isn’t enough, theres new features added to version 10.  Probably the one that I think most notable is support for joystick/pad support for the ROM loader.  The potential of this could be exploited by those who are considering making their own cabinet to hold this emulating distro.  Its a welcome new feature.

PSX emulation on Puppy Arcade. (Screen shot from Puppy Arcade homepage)

From looking at the improvements/updates from version 9 (which can be seen here) it appears Scott has been very busy, as I’ve said countless times before Puppy Arcade appears to be a labour of love for Scott and that shows in the results.

The wealth of software that Puppy Arcade opens up to you is staggering.  There are thousands of titles that you will be able to run on the multiple platforms, many of which will not only bring back fond memories but are damn fine titles in their own right.  For many younger users, the idea of an 8bit CPU running on 48k will seem as alien as the tape recorder required to load the software and in this respect Puppy Arcade acts like a history lesson with the included software emulating the systems/software that were the pioneers for today’s software/hardware.  Credit also needs to be given to the hundreds of developers who created the emulators that are packaged with this distro.

Puppy Arcade is derived from Puppy Linux, which deservedly has a strong following due to it being a great solid distro.  Although designed to run quite happily as a LiveCD, Puppy Arcade can also be installed to your harddisk or USB stick and coming in at just over 100mb download, it’s not going to take you long to be emulating systems of yesteryear!

Whether you are after bringing life/purpose to an old rig, or merely just keen on emulation, Puppy Arcade 10 comes highly recommended! and you should also keep in mind (since its derived from Puppy) that Puppy Arcade can quite happily sit as a distro in its own right (not just as an emulation platform).   I hope people will support Scott and his project.

Visit: http://scottjarvis.com/page105.htm and download your copy.

Goblin – bytes4free@googlemail.com / TwitterIdenti.ca

You can also contact me on Skype: tim.openbytes

If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the OpenBytes statement, here.

REVIEW: ZAZ – An addictive puzzle game for Linux

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Match those balls! An addictive and challenging puzzle game that will sit happily on any desktop!

Even in todays world of FPS and eye candy, there has always been a demand for simple, addictive puzzle games.  Maybe the title that first stands out as being the definitive one would be Tetris or possibly even Solitaire, which became a staple part of most desktops for so long.  Now things have moved on and whilst many of you will have installed distro’s that have pre-packaged Minesweeper et al, there are so many more options out there for a quick blast of puzzling fun whilst your waiting for that one Dent/Tweet to pop up or the completion of a download.

For those that haven’t played it, let me introduce Zaz and in the developers words “Because hackers too need to play with balls“.

The game involves balls rolling out of one hole and along a slide, the aim is to rid the level of all the balls before they enter their destination (the opposing hole).  The player removes balls by matching the colours and lining up three or more, this is achieved by sucking the ball from the “slide” and then shooting it back in the relevant place.   Theres power ups which can slow down the speed and other effects with the whole game running to a thumping dance type beat.

The game is played with mouse and there are plenty of levels, each getting fiendishly more difficult and frantic as you progress.

The game is available for Linux as a .deb or as src and whats unique about Zaz is it also offers an Amiga version (which automatically gets it +1 in my book)  The latest version (1.0.0) was released in September and is the creation of Remigiusz Dybka,  Kinga Dybka and Leonard Ritter, released under the GPLv3.

You can visit the homepage of Zaz here.  This game comes highly recommended for a blast of quick puzzle action and deserves a place on everyone’s desktop top.  Question is, will distro’s pick it up in favor of the ageing titles we have come so accustomed to?

Goblin – bytes4free@googlemail.com / TwitterIdenti.ca

You can also contact me on Skype: tim.openbytes

If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the OpenBytes statement, here.

REVIEW: RYZOM – A Science Fantasy Linux MMORPG!

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Another Linux RPG to get involved with! Linux certainly has a great choice of MMORPG software!

I’ve covered many Linux titles over the years and given particular attention to the MMORPG genre since it’s probably the only genre which I return to out of preference.   Whilst I find myself with ever-decreasing time to dedicate to arguably the most time-consuming gaming genre,  I do take every opportunity to review new discoveries when I can.

Ryzom is not a new game, it was first launched in September 2004 as a Windows binary, however now the code is open source, it finds itself on a Linux platform.  Before anyone worries about having to compile source, there is a generic Linux binary which can be downloaded.  Coming in at around 1.3gb its not a large file and merely requires being unpacked to the location of your choice.

Before you continue with this review, I must point out that Ryzom, whilst free to download (and currently with a 21 day free trial) it is a subscription based game which for UK players costs around £7 per month.  With that in mind this review is based on the free trial, so lets continue on and discover what Ryzom has to offer.

Gameplay

Ive included a few screen shots to show you level of polish that Ryzom offers.  The graphics put me in mind of Morrowind & Avatar rolled into one and full fx settings were achieved on relatively low specs and low consumption of system resources.  Ryzom happily ran on my “desktop cube” whilst I was able to enjoy surfing/irc client without any disturbance with my experience.  A testament to Linux or Ryzom or both? – I’ll let you decide.

Creating your character is simple enough, there four races where you can play either male or female.   Each has its own strengths and weaknesses.  In addition you can choose which skill set your character favours although that is not set in stone.  The four races you can choice from I would best describe as 2 human types, 1 dwarfish type and something that has a passing similarity to the Eldar from Warhammer 40k.

There are four main “disciplines” as such and unlike some other MMORPG’s you are not limited to your initial choice of profession – mix and match, if you want.  Ryzom uses a points system which you can spend on training, to give yourself new skills.  For the magicians amongst you there are plenty of spells to inflict on your enemies! and theres a plethora of looting, harvesting and crafting in-between!

Conclusions

Graphically this this probably the most attractive Linux RPG I’ve seen to date.   The game is very easy to get into and its a very polished product.  Do I think that its worth the subscription fee? Yes, although  I would say that I would have preferred the game to be more “traditional” in its RPG design, ie Dwarfs, Elves, Humans, castles, dungeons et al, however the storyline and world offers something a little different from your average RPG game.  Ryzom is best described as being “science fantasy”.

It would be nice if Ryzom was completely free (after all, who doesn’t like free?) but the cost of the game is minimal considering the amount of fun you will get from the title.  The slightly “alienesque” twist and imaginative game world give it a different slant to other RPG’s available.  Give the 21 day trial a go!

So the question is, will I be registering an account?  – I will be soon due to the investment of time a game like this requires (and the fact that I’m still playing Auteria).  Once I have Auteria out of my system I would fully expect to subscribe and heartily recommend you give the 21 day free trial a go and see for yourself.

The test machine for Ryzom was an AMD Athlon II Quad Core, 750gb HD, 3gb of DDR3 ram, Nvidia Gforce 9200, running Sabayon 5.4

You can download the Linux client here and can visit the homepage here.

Goblin – bytes4free@googlemail.com / TwitterIdenti.ca

You can also contact me on Skype: tim.openbytes

If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the OpenBytes statement, here.

REVIEW: Chromium BSU – A top down shooter for Linux!

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A very "Amigaish" title with the menu even putting me in mind of a cracktro from yesteryear!

Not to be confused with the browser, this top down shoot-em-up is the latest discovery I’ve given time to playing.  When you look at the “traditional” games included almost as standard with many distro’s, you have to wonder why the likes of Minesweeper et al are not replaced with titles like Chromium BSU.

Chromium BSU is not a new title and as far as I can tell the final version was released in 2002. Don’t let this put you off though, it’s a polished title which is as difficult as it is addictive.  I originally mentioned this in episode 9 of the TechBytes audiocast which can be found here.

Chromium BSU makes no excuses for what it is, a quick blast of top down shooting.  I was put in mind of Xenon 2 – Megablast and the thumping retro style intro screen even put me in mind of an Amiga cracktro.

The aim is simple, shoot everything, collect power ups and stay alive for as long as you can.

As is usual with me, I tend to jump straight into a title (be it utility or game), without digesting any manuals or read me’s.  Usually this has no bearing on my experience of the title, but in the case of Chromium BSU I found that I had missed some rather unique features (for a top down shooter) which had me scratching my head originally.

Firstly you have limited ammo.  This is no bad thing, but the rapid fire “spray and pray” is not a tactic you can use effectively in the game.  Secondly I couldn’t work out why I kept losing a life for no apparent reason, that was until I found out that if any enemies reach the bottom of the screen you die.   Uniquely Chromium BSU does require an occasional self-sacrifice (with a self destruct) which makes the game slightly different from your average “run of the mill” shoot em up.  You may find yourself tactically self destructing in order to progress in the game!

The games difficulty increases very quickly, you'll be hooked from the first game!

Action is controlled by default with the mouse, although you need not worry, you will have to be conservative with you ammo so your mouse button will not be taking that much of a hammering!

Graphically Chromium BSU is very “pretty” and as you progress though the levels, the action (and explosions) get more frantic, but at the end of the day this is meant as a quick shooter not a tech demo for the latest gfx card, with nice particle effects and well drawn sprites, there is  nothing that will challenge even older machines.

The music is a thumping dance type track which fits this genre very well.

Chromium BSU does exactly what it was designed to do, offer a quick blast of arcade fun.  You may be waiting for an email, you may be waiting for a download to finish, but whatever you are waiting for, Chromium BSU will fill in the time nicely – Highly recommended!

The Homepage of Chromium BSU can be found here and its well worth downloading.

Goblin – bytes4free@googlemail.com / TwitterIdenti.ca

You can also contact me on Skype: tim.openbytes

If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the OpenBytes statement, here.


REVIEW: Auteria – A Linux MMORPG you may have missed!

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Great GFX and freedom to develop your character any way you choose make Auteria a great MMORPG.

The world of Auteria is the setting for this MMORPG with its diverse range of landscapes,  from Jungles to deserts, mountains to caves, villages to cities.  Whilst you will probably agree that this is a rather common setting for a MMORPG even on Linux which has a more limited choice than other platforms, theres something that makes Auteria stand out from alternatives and this review will explore that further.

The Auteria storyline recounts how a boy fell through a magical portal into its world where you now find yourself (and the main quest is to answer the question of where this first unwilling pioneer ended up)

Auteria is available as a pre-compiled binary for you to merely unpack and execute immediately – its certainly not a large download either.

Character creation is the first port of call for any new adventurer with you getting to choose your sex, hair style etc.  There is no modification of stats at the creation screen and everyone starts with the same skill levels, leaving it up to the player as to how they develop their character.  This could be Mage or Fighter, Healer or Enchanter (or even a mixture of all – or something totally different)

Your adventure starts in a place called Hometown, which is a collection of wooden huts set on a beach.  Up level 20 you will be able to return instantly to this location by typing “.beam” in the console, which you will also use to chat with other (human) characters.

The Auteria client is very simple to understand, its clear and intuitive interface allows you to get to grips with the game rather quickly.  Help is at hand on any item merely by hovering your mouse cursor over it.

Auteria deals with character progress in a very similar way to Eternal Lands, with you having skill levels for things such as attack, magic, harvesting, cooking etc all which contribute XP to your overall rank.  Currently I am rank 13 after a week or so of playing and looking at some of the players on the website, it appears that I have a long way to go with a few pro’s being at rank 300!

Even in the small area Ive explored, armor and weaponry seems vast and can be purchased from local shops/dealers or dropped randomly by creatures during your battles.

Conclusions

Auteria has all the ingredients of a great MMORPG.  Theres some amazing vista’s, atmospheric caverns and truly picturesque towns.  Whilst in places these look quite stunning and require a surprisingly low system spec to achieve full gfx, there are also some large areas of open space which look a little sparse.   I think this highlights the main issue of Auteria – lack of players.  One of the most important elements of an online RPG is the community which plays it.  This is where Auteria falls down a little and whilst there is no reason why you can’t enjoy Auteria as a solo experience, it’s the MMORPG element which attracts users.  This is a great shame, whilst people rave about Planeshift, Eternal Lands & Regnum et al, this title has as far as I can tell been overlooked.  Fundamentally this is a solid title and think it could be truly great as more people discover it.

An appealing look over Hometown, certainly for the early parts of the game you will spend much of your time visiting here

Graphically you can’t fault Auteria.  The music scores change to fit the environment you are in and whilst very pleasant and well constucted, they are rather short in duration meaning you may tire of their repetition quickly.

The number of quests appears impressive.  I have not properly left the “newb” areas and there is already a massive amount of tasks which will show you how the game mechanics work and teach you new skills (whilst giving you funds for your character)  You can only play a human race and I would suggest that maybe other races are offered in the future, which could still fit with the storyline in that they have entered Auteria from their respective home worlds.

The game is very easy to get into and the gui is very intuitive, however I think far too much time is required to get your character out of the beginner areas and equip you with some tastier gear.  This may put many people off progressing further, but for those that do will find the game revealing its size and variety of gameplay a very rewarding experience.  There’s some great touches early in the game which give the player a tempting glimpse into what lies ahead, most notably you are taken on a dragon ride in one of the earlier quests, here you can see the huge landscape of the some of the game world.

On a lighter note a few other points which I hope would be looked at before the program comes out of Beta –   Lisa, one of the first characters you meet looks like she’s just walked off the streets of Grand Theft Auto and into the world of Auteria.  Arguably this could fit the game storyline in that she has also come from the “normal world” into Auteria, its just I prefer to have my RPG’s with more medieval characters.  Secondly I would like characters rank to be displayed for everyone, I think one of the important features of a MMORPG is the ability to “show off” your greatness to others and maybe even a channel announce when a character gains a level.  These things to me give incentive to players and create a little competition which will have them returning time after time.

The community that exists in Auteria whilst small, seems experienced and helpful with players who appear to have been at home here for a for some time.  They were more than happy to meet up and give advice/help, an important aspect of any MMORPG if it wants to foster a solid community.

All in all this is a great game that desperately needs your support.  If you haven’t tried it or are looking for a change from Eternal Lands et al, then I would strongly urge you to give this title a go.  I will certainly be playing this for some time to come and hope to see you soon in Auteria! (Character name Daroo)

You can visit the Auteria homepage here.

For those of you who wish to take a peak at Auteria in action:

Goblin – bytes4free@googlemail.com / Twitter / Identi.ca

You can also contact me on Skype: tim.openbytes

If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the OpenBytes statement, here.

REVIEW: OpenAstroMenace 1.2.0

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A blast from the past and a Linux title that deserves a look!

 

A title from 2008 that deserves a mention and a bringing to the fore.

OpenAstroMenace (OAM) is a fork of the title AstroMenace and the work of Viewizard software.  The game, distributed under the GPLv3 has not been updated since 2008 however that doesn’t stop it from being a great, complete game that seems to mostly slipped the net when it comes to online coverage.  Thats a shame, I’ll explain why.

My gaming experience is rather limited, since the days of the Commodore Amiga it takes something rather special to get me interested enough to devote hours of time to.  One thing I miss from the days of the Amiga is the quick arcade blaster (of which most titles were) since these days most games seem like cinematic masterpieces which require quite a large investment of your time.  I’m pleased to report that OAM is the former, rather than the latter.

A 3d(ish) top down shooter on rails is the best way to describe OAM, enemies waves following set paths harking back to shooter-em-ups of yesteryear.  The GFX are good, putting me in mind of the game Awesome on the A500 so many years ago.  You control the action with your mouse, with your ship being responsive and smooth (auto-fire by holding down your left mouse button is offered in the game and will save your mouse button!)

Earning money from completing missions will allow upgrades to be bought for your ship, you have 5 payload slots which you can upgrade.  There are many levels in the game (and I’ve only got as far as 5) so there’s plenty to keep this title on your system for some time.  It’s good that the game unlocks levels which prevents you from having to play the game from the beginning every time.

Conclusions

OAM is a great game and it certainly should be considered for default packaging with a distro as those play once titles that you normally see are old and worn.  OAM doesn’t require an investment of time to get into and is great for a quick blast maybe whilst your waiting for a download or waiting for someone to respond in IRC.  Whilst the last update appears to have been in 2008, this is a polished title which stands very nicely on its own.

If you cannot find this title in your distro’s repro’s, you can visit the SourceForge page here and if you are interested in other Linux games I’ve covered, you can see them here.

Goblin – bytes4free@googlemail.com

If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the OpenBytes statement, here.