Category Archives: Games

GregerQuest

gqTitle
Before there was World of Warcraft, there was Everquest. I never played it but I had a buddy in college who did: he talked about how amazing the MMO genre was, with all its social aspects, technical quirks, and just plain cool experiences.

Naturally it inspired me to make my own clone. In Visual Basic. With 2d graphics and piping everything through the Winsock .ocx control. Full of programmer art made with a pirated copy of Bryce 3d.

gqChars

Ah, the wide-eyed days of a young programmer in a rapidly expanding genre. It’s like I was playing out every cliche of the Gamedev.net newbie at once. The one thing I had going for me, though, was a thorough understanding of the impossibility of such a project – and a sense of humor about it all. For example, I often joked that the only enemies were going to be Gelatinous Cubes, because that would be easy to render. I once wrapped a photo of my roommate’s face on a sphere to use for a hideous player character head. And so on. Eventually I got about as far as a character select screen, with a couple songs, before giving up and moving on to something else.

Unlike SlugFest, this is one that isn’t ever going to get off the ground. If anyone is interested in the art and music resources, you can have them: hereby released into the Public Domain.

shore

This isn’t my only brush with the MMO genre. Later on some friends and I tried another take on it (“Draconis”) as the U of A Game Dev club project – with a result somewhat similar to The Mana World, and it once held up to five players online simultaneously. The real killer for these kind of games is the sheer amount of content required. Though Draconis worked technically, all the content in the world was viewable at first login. Hardly a compelling MMO experience.

Download GregerQuest Resources: .ZIP file, 1.9mb.

iNES Header Fixer

Auditing ROM collections has been made much simpler over the years thanks to concerted efforts of many cartridge purchasers, dumpers, cataloguers, and coders.  Using a combination of RomCenter (or ClrMamePro) and a No-Intro .Dat file, one can quickly fix an entire collection in one go: repairing names, verifying regions, checking for problem ROMs, producing have-lists, etc etc.

NES roms throw a particular curveball because they carry a 16-byte header with a little info about the board within the cart.  Emulators need this info, but it isn’t verified by No-Intro since it’s not part of any real dump.  As a result iNES headers remain missing, incorrect, or filled with crap data.  A new repair tool is needed.

ines-fix.py is a Python script which can repair defunct iNES headers using an external cart database.  It does this by extracting the data portion from the file, calculating a crc32, looking for the crc the xml file, and then rebuilding a header based on that info.  If the old and new headers differ, the file is overwritten with a fixed version.

Be careful with this tool: it’s sort of a blunt object, and may trash your rom collection if not used carefully.  Make backups.  In particular it writes only iNES v1 headers, expecting emulators to cope with the shortcomings of this format.

Output samples:
-> No change to existing header

CRC check: 4318A2F8
Found CRC match: Barker Bill's Trick Shooting
*** Header unchanged: not writing replacement file.
----------------------------------------------------

-> Adding a battery

CRC check: 1F6EA423
Found CRC match: Baseball Simulator 1.000
*** HEADER UPDATED ***
oldHeader: 4e45531a081010000000000000000000
newHeader: 4e45531a081012000000000000000000
All done.  Wrote new file roms/Baseball Simulator 1.000 (USA).nes

-> Correcting a mapper, vertical mirroring, and removing “DiskDude!”

CRC check: 9BDE3267
Found CRC match: Adventures of Dino Riki
*** HEADER UPDATED ***
oldHeader: 4e45531a0204004469736b4475646521
newHeader: 4e45531a020431000000000000000000
All done.  Wrote new file roms/Adventures of Dino Riki (USA).nes
----------------------------------------------------

-> Standardizing on “horizontal mirroring”

CRC check: 3ECA3DDA
Found CRC match: Bases Loaded 3, Ryne Sandberg Plays
*** HEADER UPDATED ***
oldHeader: 4e45531a101041000000000000000000
newHeader: 4e45531a101040000000000000000000
All done.  Wrote new file roms/Bases Loaded 3 (USA).nes
----------------------------------------------------

-> Adding a missing header

CRC check: 50CCC8ED
Found CRC match: Battleship
*** HEADER UPDATED ***
oldHeader:
newHeader: 4e45531a020430000000000000000000
All done.  Wrote new file roms/Battleship (USA).nes
----------------------------------------------------

Here’s the script:

#!/usr/local/bin/python
"""
Converts NES ROMs to iNES format, applying correct iNES header.
Usage: ines-fix 
Supported infile formats are .nes, .pas (headerless .nes)

ROM data is recognized by CRC32 using BootGod's master XML database
  so make sure you have a local copy
"""

import sys
import struct
from binascii import crc32
from xml.etree import ElementTree

##### String holding location of cart db
cart_xml = "NesCarts (2011-09-10).xml"
# uncomment next line to use Nestopia's DB instead
# cart_xml = "NstDatabase.xml"

# Other required vars
i_fmt = 'p'
blob = None
found = 0
oldHeader = ""


# Parse command-line

if (len(sys.argv) != 2):
    print "Usage: " + sys.argv[0] + " "
    sys.exit(0)

# Open rom database
#print "Attempting to open cart db " + cart_xml
tree = ElementTree.parse(cart_xml)
#print "DB opened!"

# Attempt to open supplied rom file

try:
    with open(sys.argv[1], "rb") as f:
        tag = f.read(4)
        f.seek(0)
        if (tag == "NES\x1A"):
            i_fmt = 'i'
            oldHeader = f.read(16)

#        print "Detected " + i_fmt + " format for input file"


        blob = f.read()

except IOError as (errno, strerror):
    print "Error opening " + sys.argv[1] + ": "
    print "I/O error({0}): {1}".format(errno, strerror)
    sys.exit(2)

if (len(blob) > 0):
    format_crc32 = format(crc32(blob) & 0xFFFFFFFF, '08X')
    print "CRC check: " + format_crc32

    # go look up crc32 in db
    game_list = tree.findall("game")
    for game in game_list:
        cart_list = game.findall("cartridge")
        for cart in cart_list:
            if (cart.attrib.get('crc') == format_crc32):
                found=1
                break
        if (found):
            break


    if (found == 0):
        print sys.argv[1]
        print "*** CART NOT FOUND IN DB"
        print "----------------------------------------------------"
        sys.exit(2)

print "Found CRC match: " + game.attrib.get("name").encode('ascii', 'ignore')
#ElementTree.tostring(game)

# retrieve data from game
board = cart.find("board")
mapper = int(board.attrib.get("mapper"))

prg_size = 0
prg_list = board.findall("prg")
for prg in prg_list:
    prg_size = prg_size + int(prg.attrib.get("size") [:-1])

chr_size = 0
chr_list = board.findall("chr")
for chr in chr_list:
    chr_size = chr_size + int(chr.attrib.get("size") [:-1])


battery = 0
wram_list = board.findall("wram")
for wram in wram_list:
    if (wram.attrib.get("battery") is not None):
        battery = int(wram.attrib.get("battery"))

chip_list = board.findall("chip")
for chip in chip_list:
    if (chip.attrib.get("battery") is not None):
        battery = int(chip.attrib.get("battery"))


mirror_4 = 0
mirror_v = 0
pad = board.find("pad")
if (format_crc32 == "CD50A092" or \
    format_crc32 == "EC968C51" or \
    format_crc32 == "404B2E8B"):
    mirror_4 = 1
elif (pad is not None):
# the "h" pad means "v" mirror
    mirror_v = int(pad.attrib.get("h"))


mapper_lo = mapper & 0x0F
mapper_hi = mapper & 0xF0

newHeader = "NES\x1a" + \
              struct.pack("BBBB", \
                ( prg_size / 16 ), \
                ( chr_size / 8 ), \
                (mapper_lo << 4) + (mirror_4 << 3) + (battery << 1) + (mirror_v)
, \
                (mapper_hi) ) + ( '\0' * 8 )

if (newHeader != oldHeader):
    print "*** HEADER UPDATED ***\noldHeader: " + oldHeader.encode('hex')
    print "newHeader: " + newHeader.encode('hex')

    # write new file
    try:
        with open(sys.argv[1], "wb") as f:
            f.write( newHeader )
            f.write( blob )


    except IOError as (errno, strerror):
        print "Error opening " + sys.argv[1]
        print "I/O error({0}): {1}".format(errno, strerror)
        sys.exit(2)

    print "All done.  Wrote new file " + sys.argv[1]
else:
    print "*** Header unchanged: not writing replacement file."
print "----------------------------------------------------"

For those having problems with copy-paste, you can download a .zip containing the script here:
ines-fix

Timewave v1.2

Introduction
Timewave is a 2-d space shooter written in C++ using some of the freely available SDL libraries. It runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac OSX (10.4 or later). The object of this game is to fight through the mass of enemies in each level, defeat the level boss, and finally destroy the (well-armed) enemy space station far from Earth.

It has an interesting “twist” in which you can alter the flow of time. Build up your time meter by playing the game in fast-forward. Playing in slow motion affords you some extra maneuvering room but depletes the meter. If you achieve a high score, you can choose a color flag to represent your ship and have yourself recorded on the high score table.

This game is ‘freeware’ – you can download it and copy it around to anyone you like, you can even alter the graphics to better suit your tastes if you wish, but don’t pull my name off it and try to pass it off as your own work. You can’t get the source code though because it’s a total wreck. I may go and try cleaning it up later for a release, but until then, the binaries in the download should work just fine.

Screenshots
Last updated Aug. 7, 2007 – click for full-size

Recent Changelog

  • Reduction in resource file sizes: some items converted to 256-color, optipng and audio editing shaved further bytes.
  • Renamed hiscore.dat to config.ini, and added more options.
  • New command line options: -f (switch to Fullscreen mode), -c (Create Config: just write config.ini and exit), -w (switch to Windowed mode)
  • Added a “Change Keys” button which allows users to alter the inputs.
  • Added “Arcade Mode” switch to the config.ini file. This causes the game to simulate an arcade machine on Free Play: the title screen rotates with the high score table.
  • The arrow keys now drive the cursor on the high score color picker table.
  • Mac OSX port (PPC / Intel Universal Binary, 10.4 or greater).

Downloads
Last updated May 3, 2012

SlugFest ’97 DX

Kids have big dreams.  Some of them want to grow up to be scientists or astronauts or football stars or President.  When I was in school I wanted to make video games.  So I took programming classes and worked hard on my craft.  I churned out lines of QBasic spaghetti code and, later, migrated to Visual Basic on Windows to do the same thing.  Surrounding much of what I produced was a feeling that I was destined to do something big with whatever I was working on: I was going to make a million dollars off some shareware game, or I would code up a groundbreakingly massive and openended world (and it would all fit on a 1.44MB floppy), or whatever.

Over a summer break in 1997 my cousin Rusty came to spend a week at my family’s house.  I don’t recall exactly how it happened – something to do with playing a lot of Myst, I think – but I managed to convince Rusty and my sister Erin to work on a video game.  We were going to make an awesome fighting game on PC.  It was going to be released on CD – ostensibly because we could put music in the empty space, but most likely because CD-ROM was the hot item of the day.

Our game was called SlugFest ’97.

And so we set to work, with the enthusiasm that only kids have.  For that whole week we invested our time and effort on producing this game.  We each painstakingly drew out MSPaint sprites for our assigned characters.  We coded and built and playtested.  When we weren’t working on it, we were talking about it: how to improve it, how to produce it, how to market it.  We even took time out to make a “The Making Of” video.  And as time grew short we did, in fact, wrap up a version that we were quite happy with.

Then reality set in: we called a local CD mastering shop (this was in the days before CD-R became widespread) and were told that we would be charged $100 to produce our CD.  In hindsight I think the clerk may have been confused about what we were asking and thought we wanted to book studio time.  In any case, we all realized that the dream was simply beyond our financial resources.  Enthusiasm drifted away.  Though we later made an attempt at a sequel (“SlugFest 2000”), it never made it past initial character design before we all lost interest and started playing BattleMasters on the landing at the top of the stairs.

Well.  I cleared out an old folder on my HD recently and ran across both the compiled version of the game, plus the source code.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t run on the most modern Windows version, and is hit-or-miss functional on the rest.  A quick calculation: Fourteen years of coding experience in the intervening time, including running a college game development club for two years… plus a stash of resources including a 2d game framework… a remake should take very little time indeed.  The actual “game logic” is absurdly simple.  The technology to realize the dream is here too – everyone has a CD burner these days.  Yes, I can do this.  I can release SlugFest.  (Since misquoting Steve Jobs is all the rage these days, I’ll throw in an old favorite: “Real Artists Ship”.)

On to the remake.  It actually was very easy.  The entire thing was rewritten from the ground up in C, using SDL as the backend library (plus SDL_Mixer and SDL_Image to provide sound and graphics loading).  I managed to squeeze in a few “DX Mode” features to inject a bit of modernity into the game.  I even cut some sound samples from ancient recordings of us to make fight sound effects.  The result is faster, better, and smaller than the original… though I included that in the installer too, for completeness’ sake.

In fact the most challenging part of all was the music.  When we wrote the game we had no music sources of our own and couldn’t burn anything to test with, but we wrote the game with CD support expecting to just substitute our own tracks in production.  Most playtesting happened to the tune of either No Doubt’s “Tragic Kingdom” CD, or some electronic “Phantom of the Opera” remix CD.  Inspiring, but copyrighted, and not really fitting for the remake.  Instead, I loaded the game up with MIDI files that I or my sisters had written in our school years and used them for background music.  Some of these hadn’t been heard in many years, because they were in a proprietary format that I first had to write a decoder for.  In the end I found 43 tracks worthy of inclusion, mostly without any musicality or rhythm.  Hey, if it worked for Marvel vs. Capcom 2…

And so we come to the release.  There is a web-downloadable installer here, if you want to try it out:

Download SlugFest ’97 DX – Installer – Windows, version 1.01.  1.6 MB
Download SlugFest ’97 DX – ZIP – Mac OSX (Intel 10.5+), version 1.01. 1.8MB

The finishing touch is here, though: run the MIDIs through a MIDI -> WAV conversion tool (I used WinGroove), create a cue sheet, redo the installer to work from CD, and burn a copy.

Well, there you have it.  Childhood dream: accomplished.  Now if I could just figure out a way to market it… : )

Euro1943 v1.1b

Introduction

Join the Axis or the Allies in this multiplayer team-based action game. Pick up weapons to help you fight enemies and take over strategic capture points on the map. Climb into a tank, gunboat, or fighter plane and support the infantry on the ground. Or hop into the HQ and spend your team’s funds on weapons and vehicles for the players to use.

Euro1943 is a combination RTS/action game where players take on the role of both soldiers and generals. It was designed as an entry to the 4 Elements V contest at www.gamedev.net, where it took 7th place (out of 24 entrants). The README file contains gameplay information.

Please see LICENSE.TXT for more information about who can use this software, what you can do with it, etc. The long and short of it is that this is freeware, source code is not available (sorry, it’s a wreck), and I’m not responsible for what happens to your computer when using this software.

Screenshots

Downloads

Last updated Oct. 5, 2009