Lode Runner

Quite a few years ago I got my hands on the game “Lode Runner Online: The mad monk’s revenge”. It’s pretty old and actually an update to an even older game. There’re quite a few iterations of Lode Runner but I only played that one version and back then it was a pretty good game.

The game’s mechanics are simple: You have to complete levels by collecting all the gold. Levels don’t span over multiple screens and are allways the same size. You can collect items to help you get through the level and to fight off enemies (the monks, duh). Since it’s actually a puzzle game as the game progresses you’ll end up spending more time to find a suitable solution to levels.

Since this version was only an update because the original game only ran on DOS and windows 3.1 it doesn’t feature many new things, most noteably the online multiplayer. “online” and “multiplayer being very generous terms since you can only play through a local network or dial up modem and only with one extra player. Obviously a game like lode runner wouldn’t make much sense with 20 players.

Anyways the game is pretty cool and can keep you occupied for quite some time especially since there’s a level editor where you can create new and modify existing levels. That’s where I put the most time into since the game itself gets pretty difficult. Nowadays the game doesn’t run on anything beyond Windows XP anymore which is a little sad since you can get the game for free on the developer’s website. So since I was already working on making a small 2D engine with SDL2 I thought “Why not try and remake that game”. Pretty far fetched goal and someone actually already did exactly that. But When I found that out I already spent too much time on it so I’ll just continue to work on it.

So far I’ve gotten dynamic menu screens and scaling done which for me is pretty big achievement since I’m writing all of it in C++. I also got SDL2 to play nice on both Windows and Linux which is also a first for me. Currently I’m trying to figure out how the game saved it’s levels so the game can load the old file format into my engine.

The game running under Windows

You probably can’t tell much from that screenshot but the menu screen is loaded more or less dynamically with tooltips and button textures and it all scales nicely from 1x to 2x. Technically it should scale up to any round number but I can’t test anything beyond 1080p. Sadly other than the menu structure I don’t have much to show off but I hope that I can get this to a useable state. Also unlike quarkrobot’s remake mine is opensource, so if you want to take a look (even though there’s not that much there right now) feel free to do so.

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Mirror’s Edge Catalyst

When the game came out last year I really looked forward to it, since the original Mirror’s Edge was a pretty good game and it had been about six years since that one came out. Unfortunately it was a AAA title which means it costs around 40+ Euro so there was no chance that I’d buy it at launch. But now that some time has passed I finally got my hands on it and man does it look gorgeous.

The first game was already known for its great art style and the amazing visuals. Now six years after the original release they managed to make it even more beautiful. The game comes with a multitude of new technologies which make it look even better than the last one. For example they added real time reflections, which reflect your surroundings and yourself.

But next to the insane graphical improvements it also has some new gamelay mechanics, like open world. You can now freely move around and choose whether or not you want to continue with the story, do a side quest or try to beat someone’s time at a parkour course. You can even make your own races across the city and share it with others. While there’s all these things that allow for online interaction you can still play it offline, which sadly in todays times is something you have to mention. Since you can now freely move around you also get a map and visual representation of how you get to waypoints like the next quest or locations you marked on the map. You can also configure how much visual aid you get. The game also tells you that the GPS will only show you a possible route and not the fastest one incouraging you to try out your own paths to find more efficient routes.

After I played the game for a while I wanted to capture some of the amazing architecure in the game with screenshots. Which eventually lead me to nvidia Ansel, which is a tool specifically for taking screenshots in games. It’s actually been out for quite a while but it seems like noone paid attention to it. It features a bunch of useful features to capture ingame footage like 360°, stereo and 360° stereo images (Stereo as two images next to each other for VR) at configurable resolution aswell as a freely movable camera, some integrated filters, and super resolution to capure images at higher resolution than your actual screen size. Sadly Ansel has to be supported by the game to be available. It also requires a recent nvidia gpu (starting at gtx 650 up to the latest 1080). The saddest thing for me was that Mirror’s Edge catalyst doesn’t support the super resolution feature, meaning that I can only capture the game in 1080p.

So I ended up just getting high res screenshots from other people and made some wallpapers out of them. But I might go back through the game when I finished it and capture some screenshots, but the game really tests your system even on medium settings.

From my current experience the game is decent in terms of it’s story. It is a little odd that you have to read a comic to understand the beginning but other than that it’s pretty good. It might not shine story wise but its visual immersion makes up for that. It features a couple of new mechanics like a leveling system with upgrades which is not something I’d consider an amazing addition but it’s there so you can slowly unlock all the new mechanics. The combat is something that I really dislike because you can’t use any guns like in the last game and you’re mostly restriced to melee and although they offer multiple ways to combine and alternate your attacks it just feels like random button mashing.

TL;DR:

Game is visually amazing (Graphics are top notch, map and architecture design is incredible), story is good (so far and I don’t expect it to change), gameplay is great (except for the combat).

After about a year the price has gone down quite a bit so I’d say you get a really good game for your money (~15€ from what I saw). If you think about getting it I’d recommend you take a look at the website, since it offers a lot of information like an interactive map tinteractive mapo look at the cityinteractive map and some other things.

Anyway here’s two 360° images of the game (Viewable in browser):

360° image of city overview
360° of city ground level

Overwatch on linux

Overwatch on linux
Overwatch 1.11 running on arch linux through wine-overwatch-2.8
Full image

Yeah you read that right. Overwatch uses a directx 11 based engine and therefore the chances of ever getting a native linux port are close to zero. So the only way to ever play that game on anything else than windows is wine. But even wine can’t help you with dx11 games. Or can it? A while back I searched around about whether or not the game was playable through wine and only found that since it was using directx 11 it won’t be possible anytime soon.

Wine is pretty good at running windows software and even games on linux and MacOS. It even is so good that supposedly the mac version of sims 3 is just the windows version running through wine. Older games using directx 9 run almost perfectly with it, but once again Overwatch uses one of the latest iterations of directx, which is a collection of APIs used for creating games.

A few days back I once again searched to find out whether or not Overwatch was playable through wine and to my surprise there actually was. I stumbled upon some videos by djazz which show him playing the game on linux. From there on out I found out about lutris, which is somehting like playonlinux but in my opinion better. I followed the rather simple installation process and there we go: Overwatch running on linux through a custom version of wine which contains patches for Overwatch.

Sadly it seems that with my current setup it performs very poorly but if you have a decent PC you might be able to play it without needing windows. So if you want to give it a try first get lutris from here. Then head over to this page and click install. This will open up lutris which will guide you through the installation. If you already have Overwatch on another hdd (Maybe because you play it on windows) you can save some time by either copying it or using a symlink.

If you encounter problems installing it you can also join the discord and ask your questions in the #lutris channel. Also if this works for you, then you should go ahead and thank strider, djazz and (I think) gamax92 on the discord because they’re the ones who made that possible. You can also give the lutris devs some money on patreon, because they did an awesome job creating an open source gaming platform.

Overwatch

Even though they take up a considerable amount of my time, I haven’t written about games on this blog. At least not directly and as the title obviously says I’m about to change that.

I heard about Overwatch pretty early on when it was announced through a youtuber and livestreamer who goes by names star_, ster or niichts. He gained most of his viewer base through his TeamFortress 2 videos. Since Overwatch has been compared to TF2 ever since the day it was announced it was obvious that many TF2 players would be interested in Overwatch because it would give them something new. I played the open beta and like many other players I had the wrong assumption that Overwatch would be free so it could compete with TF2. I was prepared to pay for the game but sadly most big titles nowadays start at 50 bucks which was too much for a game which I’d barely played. So I didn’t touch the game until November at which point they reduced the price to 35 Euros. Still more than what I’d usually pay for a game but after the first free weekend a few weeks back I finally had to get the game.

At the beginning I already noticed a few flaws which are obviously connected with the fact that I was new to the game: The game had been out for over five months so as a newbie you only get to play with people who have played the game for well over a hundred hours. The matchmaking is supposed to look for players in your skill level, but it made it look like there was not a single other person in Europe which was my skill level since I almost always matched up with people over level hundred. This kinda ruined the initial experience since I basically lost every single game and the ones I won I could’ve probably idled afk in spawn because my team was doing all the work.

Now that I’m around level 80 (which is actually pretty low considering the fact that I have the game for about five months) this has more or less stopped. But there’s still a general pattern of continuous loosing or winning streaks. It just seems like either you get steam rolled by the other team or you are the one steam rolling. There’s very few games that I’d rate as “just right” in terms of skill distribution among the teams. My biggest complaint at this point is the queue times. Launching the game on a Friday evening you still have to queue around two minutes and up.

This certainly isn’t always the case but it happens more often than I’d like to admit. It just seems like the player base of the game isn’t that big when looking at something like CounterStrike where the competitive queue times are usually around 15 seconds.

Summing it up the game is certainly a lot of fun but there’s still room for improvement in some cases like the fact that they just *NEED* to use their own distribution software called Blizzard App (formerly battle.net). I just hate that I have to start up a second program just to play this game. I never played any other Blizzard titles and I don’t plan on doing so in the future. Why can’t we just all agree on one service which in this case would be steam. It has all needed features in one place and even offers a better overlay in my opinion. But Blizzard is not the only one desperatly trying to force their own launcher on the user (eg. EA and Ubisoft

Would I recommend Overwatch? If you liked Team Fortress chances are you’d enjoy it, but you probably try it on a free weekend or watch a few videos to see if you like it. Also the price is still pretty high.