Tag Archives: Video Games

10 Forward: DS9 – The Fallen (Video Game)

As a life-long Star Trek fan, there’s a lot to celebrate this year: a new movie, a new TV series, and the franchise’s 50th anniversary. For my own small contribution to the festivities I’ve decided to do a series of posts (one every week or two), detailing little-known corners of the franchise’s licensed (and fan-made) works. This week I’ll be covering the Deep Space Nine PC video game – The Fallen:

FallenTitle

Plot: In the last days of the Cardassian occupation of Bajor, a scientist named Terrel attempted to unlock the secrets of an orb of the Pah-wraiths, only to be forced to abandon the project when the orb became unstable. Six years later her secret lab is discovered aboard DS9 and forces within the Dominion, Cardassia, and the Cult of the Pah-Wraiths all seek to gather the three orbs of the Pah-Wraiths for use as a weapon, or to create a new wormhole. Playing as Sisko, Worf, and Kira, the player must find the missing orbs, and stop the forces trying to control the Pah-Wraiths before it’s too late.

Pros:

  • Well-versed in DS9 lore. The game itself takes place toward the end of the 6th season, but contains many references to episodes throughout the series including the mining operation on Jerrado (“Progress”), Kira assuming a Cardassian appearance (“Second Skin”), secret areas and defenses from the Cardassian control of the station (“Civil Defense”), the telekenetic abilities of the Vorta (“The Jem’Hadar”), and Dominion prison camps (“By Inferno’s Light”). The game also foreshadows the later events of the series including the final confrontation with the Pah-Wraiths, Dukat being possessed, and the Pah-Wraith cult.
  • The game is re-playable through each of the three main characters: Sisko, Worf and Kira. The storylines run in parallel but feature different levels and gameplay for each.
  • One mission involves exploring a crashed Miranda class starship. The level design for this sequence is excellent, climbing through a hostile jungle to see your first glimpse of the ship, fighting Jem’Hadar on the outer hull, then diving inside and having to work your way through submerged sections to a hidden lab.

FallenUlysses

  • Your default weapon is useful throughout the game and is good for almost all light combat encounters. This is good since the heavier weapons may not always have plentiful ammo.
  • Terry Farrell reprises her role as Jadzia Dax for the only time after her character’s death at the end of the 6th season.
  • The game uses a beta build of the Unreal Tournament engine, one of the first game engines to feature truly expansive environments. Both the Ulysses mission and the reveal of a buried Pah-Wraith temple move from tight confined spaces to expansive open levels. This engine was in a sweet spot for games of the era. Next generation engines would feature better graphics, but the level design was much smaller and featured more loading (see Deus Ex vs. Deus Ex: Invisible War). Even with its old and outdated graphics, the level design is on par with the best games of today. You can look out the window of Sisko’s office or the Promenade and see the rest of the station.
  • A mod for the game (titled Convergence) was created by one of the level designers for the original game, and includes another twenty or so levels of gameplay (on top of the 24 base levels). A lot of enjoyment for a shooter.
  • The music is atmospheric and chilling, and in MP3 format easily accessible in the game’s install directory. More than 90 minutes of DS9 game music.

Cons:

  • Avery Brooks and Colm Meaney were unavailable to provide the voices of Sisko and O’Brien. The Sisko performance is okay, but O’Brien is pretty terrible.
  • An early mission features an enemy that you need to scan with your tricorder before being able to shoot them. This can be a bit of a barrier to entry for someone just getting used to the game’s controls.

FallenCombat

  • The default auto-targeting doesn’t always work well. It removes options for destroying explosive containers to kill enemies by always targeting the combatants.
  • The story can feel disjointed and incomplete until you play through all three characters. Some missions, like the Ulysses aren’t explained well initially until you read through tactical briefings, and watch later cut-scenes.
  • Some people criticized the lack of multi-player, which would have been cool in a few places. For me the game doesn’t suffer without it.
  • The game isn’t easy to run on a modern system, though I was able to get it running pretty quickly by installing a program called nGlide. I’m re-playing on my ASUS Windows 8.1 machine with no problems so far.

Bottom-line: The game would be a reasonably good third-person shooter without the Star Trek trappings. Weapon balancing is pretty good, and requires a more considered and tactical approach. The level design is epic in feel, and there are lots of things for the DS9 fan to enjoy, including walking into Quark’s bar, talking conspiracy with Garak, and walking on the hull of a crashed ship (seriously, that is still cool 15 years after the first time I played it). The plot would have fit well as two-part episode of the show (and is partially based on the Millennium series of DS9 novels). Definitely the best DS9 game made for the PC and still fun today.

FallenOps

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AGFV: Starfleet Academy – Chekov’s Lost Missions (GOG)

If you’re an avid Star Trek gamer like me, you were thrilled to learn last Thursday that GOG (Good Old Games) has started releasing classic titles from Interplay’s line of Star Trek games including 25th Anniversary, Judgment Rites and Starfleet Academy. Hopefully this is just the start of many great titles to come.

Fans of Starfleet Academy will notice that the expansion pack, Chekov’s Lost Missions, was not included in the initial GOG release. Hopefully GOG will update this some time in the future, but in the meantime I’ve got a procedure for those of you with a retail copy of the XP to add it to your GOG installation.

Step One: Install Starfleet Academy using the GOG installer (I haven’t tried this with Galaxy, but you may be better off with the stand-alone).

chekov001

Step Two: Rename the game folder. By default the game will install to C:\GOG Games\Star Trek – Starfleet Academy. Rename this to something else like C:\GOG Games\Star Trek – Starfleet Academy GOG. Do this after you’ve installed the game, don’t change the install directory.

chekov002

Step Three: Insert the Chekov CD. Don’t run the installer yet, we’ve got some files to copy.

Step Four: Copy the the “m” video folders from the movies sub-folder on the Chekov disk to the movies sub-folder in your GOG installation.

chekov003

These should be m03, m04, m10, m11, m24, m25 and m27. Don’t copy g00.

Step Five: In your GOG installation rename cdlist.lst to cdlist.lst.old. Rename movies.lst to movie.lst.old. Copy cdlist.lst and movies.lst from the setup folder on the Chekov disk to the movies folder in your GOG installation. You can overwrite these files, but it’s a good idea to back them up by renaming them in case something goes wrong.

chekov003a

Step Six: Copy the contents of the sounds sub-folder on the Chekov disk to your GOG installation’s sounds sub-folder. Again this will be m03, m04, m10, m11, m24, m25 and m27.

chekov004

Step Seven: Right-click on the Chekov install executable (probably setup.exe). Click Properties, then the Compatibility tab. Run in Windows 98 / Windows Me mode, and Run as Administrator.

chekov005

Step Eight: Run the Chekov install. It should detect the original installation folder, and copy the files to that location, not your renamed folder. The big thing we need is the data file.

Step Nine: Rename the Chekov folder (maybe append Chekov to the folder name), and rename the GOG installation back to the original folder name.

Step Ten: Rename data.dat in your GOG installation to data.dat.old. Copy the data.dat from the Chekov install folder into your GOG install folder. No other files should be necessary. Do not overwrite the EXE files.

chekov006

Run Starfleet Academy and you should see the Chekov missions in your missions tab. These don’t intersperse with the narrative as far as I know but you should be able to play them independently. Let me know if this works for you and feel free to send any questions.

UPDATE: Some of you are reporting getting an “Insert CD 1” message when you try to start the main campaign. The reason for this is that the sfa.cfg file has been modified to look for the movies on the CD instead of on your hard drive. For the GOG installation to look for the files on your hard drive your sfa.cfg file needs to look like this:

moviePath=.
voicePath=.

If your file is different, restore these paths, save the .cfg file, and your game should work. (Those are periods if it’s a little hard to tell).

UPDATE 2: GOG Galaxy replaces the data.dat and movie and sound lists back to the original if auto-updates are turned on. To keep Chekov’s missions, disable auto-update in GOG Galaxy by clicking More–>Configure and Disable.

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Peripheral Writing Tasks

We all have evenings where we don’t feel like working on our main WIP. Sometimes we don’t even feel like stringing two sentences together. But being the neurotic people we are, we can’t always just take that as a day to watch television and recharge. Sometimes we have to convince ourselves that what we’re doing is still somehow contributing to the the whole writing project. Here are just a few of my favorite writing obfuscations:

Reading NetGalley Books – “Hey, I’ve got to review two of these things every week. If I want to spend the evening reading about the coffee drinking habits of bumblebees then that’s just research. Perfectly legit.”

Reorganizing my office – “A writer needs a clean workspace in order to be able to produce the best work. That, and I have no place to put my laptop.”

Talking about my book – “If I’m talking, I’m thinking, and if I’m thinking then I’m obviously talking about some plot point I needed to figure out and not just being neurotic about whether the book is any good and why hasn’t anybody bought it in two days.”

Reading Comic Books from the Library – “Glen Weldon of NPR said these are really good and therefore they can only benefit me as a writer. Plus we have to support our local libraries if we want to keep reader communities alive. And I support mine my checking out a comic no one else wants and renewing it for five months.”

Looking at Facebook – “I need to keep in touch with any of my writer friends by knowing what is going on in their lives. And they know I’ve done it, even if I never write anything or even press the like button. I’m not just looking for something funny to distract me.”

Creating a writing mix – “Music can have a profound effect on the brain and mood and I have to figure out just the right selection of tracks for this chapter.”

Watching YouTube – “I totally mention Big Chuck and Lil John for maybe a third of a page in Chapter 4. I obviously need to watch several hours of their videos to get a real sense for what they are.”

Playing a new video game – “Hey, I’ll probably review this if I ever finish it. Research again.”

Playing around on the internet while watching ‘The Bachelor’ out of the corner of my eye – “Research a third time. Need to understand the frailties of human nature and the things people will do for love. And watching the GOG insomnia sale helps build my patience for watching copies of a game slowly get sold. Obviously a discipline thing.”

Charging and updating my eReaders – “I need just the right assortment of reading material for when I go out in the world. And I need to make sure every device has an up-to-date draft of anything I’ve ever worked on, so I don’t even have to think about which one I should grab.”

Freeing up space on my hard drive – “I obviously need at least 30GB free to write, even though the largest any book has ever been is a couple of megabytes. But I might need space for thousands of fractal images again, copied three times on different devices.”

Watching TV – “If I don’t keep up on today’s pop culture, how can I be in tune with the now when I write?”

What are some of the writer-ish things you do? Why can’t we all just relax?

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Star Wars Games Giveaway (FINISHED)

UPDATE 2/8: Thanks to everyone for their interest. I gave away keys to Penelope and Punci. Thanks for writing in! I may do another of these in a couple of weeks so watch this space.

———————————–

Original Post Follows

Good afternoon everyone, hope you are having a pleasant day of unusual warmth. I’m sitting by a window in my local Panera, sipping on hazelnut coffee and working on Chapter 3 of The Sky Below, and hoping to be able to bang out 1250 more words in the next two hours.

In the meantime I’ve got something of a random treat for you guys. As you might have guessed, I’m a bit of a gamer, and with all these Humble Bundles, Steam Sales, GOG sales, and dollar acquisitions at Half Price Books, sometimes I get duplicates.

Rather than let these languish unused in my Humble Bundle account, I thought it’d be nice to give some of them away to someone who might actually play them. So from time to time I might do a special bonus post with a couple of keys for a game you all might like.

So here’s the deal. I’ve got one Steam key for Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic and one for  it’s sequel. If you want one or both of these keys send me an e-mail to bentrubewriter@gmail.com (you can use the contact form on this blog). I’ll give these out on a first come, first served basis. I’m using Humble Bundle’s gifting process so I know which keys I’ve given away, so you may need to create a Humble Bundle account (and if you haven’t you really should since that’s where I’ve been getting all these cool games, books, comic books and the like).

May the force be with you all.

PS. I’ll update this post when I’ve given away any keys.

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Immersive Journalism and Newsgames

I’m going to be honest with you, I haven’t been paying that much attention to what’s been going on in Syria. I know it’s bad and I’ve tried to bring myself up to date from time to time on the latest part of the ongoing conflict. But truthfully, I have no day to day awareness of the conflict, it’s potential solutions, and it’s ongoing human toll in anything more than an abstract way.

I suspect I’m not alone in this.

That’s why programs like Project Syria intrigue me. It’s a four and a half minute sequence you view through virtual reality goggles and headphones. It takes you onto the streets of Aleppo during a mortar attack. The scene is accurately mapped, down to real recorded audio, and the patterns of people through the crowded streets. Producer Nonny de la Pena terms this Immersive Journalism. Instead of crafting an article or shooting a documentary, de la Pena has created an experience. While not everyone has a pair of virtual goggles and headphones, de la Pena sees immersive journalism taking the form of apps you can send to smart phones to allow you to witness scenes shortly after they happen.

Consuming the news is a passive experience, while gaming is an active experience, and programs like Project Syria are not the first attempt at Newsgames: games that simulate current events through a variety of means.

One of the notable early examples of this genre is Darfur is Dying. Centered around the refugee crisis in Darfur you play as a member of a village going out to get water. You must travel a very long distance and dodge patrols all while having very little cover and being on foot while you are being chased from vehicles. Once you get back to the village (which is not easy to do), you must distribute the water to grow crops, help the thirsty and construct homes while still under the threat of attack.

A more recent example uses an old form of computer gaming, Interactive Fiction (though the game itself seems closer to Choose Your Own Adventure). 1000 days in Syria lets you choose to see through the eyes of the family, the fighter or the foreigner through a 1000 day narrative, beginning in 2011. While the gameplay elements are simple and involve a lot of reading, your choices matter and steer the destinies of these people, in so much as you can given what is going on around you.

Both of these games have links to places you can make a real difference. They try to tell a true story through a fictionalized account. And while these might be journalism of a kind, they are also activism. The activism is less about taking a particular stand in a conflict, and more about getting you to care, and in a more concrete way than the abstract way so many of us care.

As Americans not directly involved in the conflict, we have the luxury of consuming the news we want to consume. If we go to the news to hear about politics, we can. If we go to the news to find out about what’s going on in our community, we can. And we can go to the news to be amused or uplifted. Sure we can also find out about what’s going on in the world, but we don’t have to. In a way it’s a shame these games have to exist, that traditional media isn’t enough to get the message to us.

I know bad news can be fatiguing. And I think even the best of us only have the ability to really emotionally commit to a few things we care about. And I’m not saying that Syria or Darfur or ISIS or Boko Haram are the things or the threats you need to care about. But maybe at least a little of our play can be spent seeing the world as other’s see it.

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Just a quick reminder, you can get Fractals: A Programmer’s Approach for $2.99 until 11am tomorrow. That’s 40% off for hundreds of fractal images and guides for a variety of fractalizing techniques. Also Fractals You Can Draw is FREE today only!

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Why you should spend more time on the Internet’s library

Internet_Archive_logo_and_wordmarkI’ve used the Internet Archive for years. It’s where I discovered Over The Rhine, John Holowach and Tryad, Two Zombies Later and a ridiculous amount of concerts and community artists.

It’s a great resource for old books too, be it public domain works from Project Gutenberg or LibriVox recordings of The Lost World.

It’s also where I discovered a lot of great machinima including an old Star Wars classic “A Great and Majestic Empire”. Do yourself a favor and at least watch episodes 14 and 15 (though sadly this series doesn’t have much of a proper end, but it’s still amusing to have British, Irish and Scottish accents in storm troopers).

And if you’ve never played, or even seen, LucasArt’s classic Grim Fandango, there’s a full playthrough here.

The point is there’s a lot of cool stuff*, for geeks of all sorts.

And it just got even better.

If you’ve been a long time reader of the blog, you probably know one of my hobbies is getting old games to work on modern systems with the help of tools like DosBox and ScummVM. Till now if you heard about a cool old game you’d like to try you either had to download a copy of a game from an abandonware site, or buy a copy from GOG or a used store. But the Internet Archive has struck again, releasing several thousand old DOS games that you can play right in your browser. Remember Doom or Commander Keen? Well now you can indulge your nostalgia. For the moment you can’t save your game, but you can at least get a feel for how we gamed in the 80’s and 90’s (and how some of us still do). You can browse the whole library here, but here are a couple of titles you should check out now.

Note: What’s in the collection may fluctuate. I saw Sierra’s Quest games in the collection earlier this week, but they now appear to have been removed. Probably some of this is going to be subject to copyright.

Lost Interplay Titles, particularly Wasteland (the predecessor to Fallout) and Star Trek 25th Anniversary. Also a video game version of William Gibson’s Neuromancer.

screenshot_00

The aforementioned Commander Keen, particularly episode 5.

A whole treasure trove of Carmen Sandiego games (got you singing the theme right?). I played the deluxe Where in the World on my first computer.

Some old Lucasarts favorites Zac McKracken and Maniac Mansion.

And thousands more.

As it turns out the Internet Archive has been awesome in this department for a while. In my searching for games in the Archive I stumbled upon another collection of IBM PC CD-ROM’s from the 90’s. Not a particularly huge collection but it does include my favorite Star Trek Adventure Game, the third chapter of the Monkey Island series and something that may Shock you.

Note: All of these materials are provided for academic and scholarly purposes, so if you’re going to play System Shock, write a paper (or a book) about it 🙂 I don’t have to write one since I have an original sitting in my personal archive but I might for some of this other stuff 😉

Oh and there’s one other thing you can find on the Internet Archive, me. Turns out they’re a great place to host eBook content that I want to give away for free, but retain some Creative Commons licensing and have the site not cost me anything. Starting this time next week, new chapters of the serial novella will appear on the archive. In the meantime, I put up an old story from the first year of this blog in eBook formats for your enjoyment.

If you haven’t checked out the archive at all, just spend a half an hour browsing. I’m sure you’ll find something you’ll like and would never have heard of otherwise.

*Oooh ooh and I almost forgot to mention old Computer Chronicles videos. Want to know what the 80’s and 90’s thought the future of computing was going to be? Check it out here.

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Trube on Tech: WordPress eBooks and Star Trek Games

This week I got a couple of questions on some older posts asking for a little tech assistance. Rather than reply in the comments, I thought a special post would best serve to answer their questions, or those of anyone else in the future:

ennoundinga asks on Converting Your WordPress Blog to an eBook (Part 2)  : In my Blog export I would like to grab the comments also. Do you think there is a chance to extend the XSL transformation to evaluate the comments?

For my solution I wanted to do two things:

  • Add a “Comments” header if comments existed, and hide it if there are none
  • Format comments with the comment author and comment content

Testing for the existence of comment elements can be accomplished with an xsl:if test:

<xsl:if test="./wp:comment[1]">
  <h2><b>Comments:</b></h2>
</xsl:if>

The xpath statement “./wp:comment[1]” looks for the first comment element that is a child of the current post. If one is found the “Comments” header is printed. If not the parser moves on to the next post.

If comments are present the following code will format them into our working HTML:

<xsl:for-each select="wp:comment">
  <b>
  <xsl:for-each select="wp:comment_author">
    <xsl:call-template name="print-paras"/>
  </xsl:for-each>
  </b>
  <em>
  <xsl:for-each select="wp:comment_content">
    <xsl:call-template name="print-paras"/>
  </xsl:for-each>
  </em>
</xsl:for-each>

Both the comment content and author name are stored in CDATA statements and need to be processed by our print-paras template. This code will format the comment like this:

Name of Commenter

What the commenter said in all its glorious detail.

I’ve uploaded an update to the XSL template here (again note since WordPress has filename restrictions the extension has been renamed .xls).

Next question, I’m on a rampage!

WZ writes on AGFV: 20 years of Star Trek 25th AnniversaryBen: Followed your instructions carefully for Star Trek 25th using DBGL, but I only have the CD not floppies version. DBGL is fine. This game appears to not run because (per dos window) the game is looking for a CD to be in the CD drive. But need this to run from the hard disk instead because of physical disability makes it hard to always be putting cd’s in and out of the drive bay. Is the CD game version hardcoded to only run from CD bay? Please reply to my email… Thanks for your gaming blog, it’s great, I enjoyed all your gaming entries.

As it happens, I was reorganizing some of my DBGL files this week (no joke) and managed to create a solution to this very problem.

The 25th Anniversary Enhanced Edition CD-ROM is a little unusual. It’s an Enhanced CD, meaning it has both CD Audio content and CD data content. This means it can’t be fully ripped to an ISO image, since ISO’s only deal with CD data. But there are programs available that allow you to rip an enhanced CD, one such being CloneCD.

To rip an enhanced CD using CloneCD:

1) Open CloneCD and click Read to Image File:

CloneCD_001

2) CloneCD will analyze the disc in the drive, and ask you to select the type of CD. Many selections will work for our purposes, but for now select Game CD:

CloneCD_002

3) Browse to a folder and choose a name for your file (the program will actually create four different files so maybe store in a blank folder). Check the box next to Create “Cue-Sheet”:

CloneCD_003

4) Click OK to begin ripping the CD:

CloneCD_004

5) When you’re finished your folder will contain four files that will look something like this:

CloneCD_005

6) Create a folder in dbgl\dosroot called TREKCD (full path dbgl\dosroot\TREKCD). Copy the folder containing your ripped CD to this folder.

7) You’ll need to install the game from the CD first, then set DBGL to run it. Add a mount for the C drive to the TREKCD sub-folder. Add another mount for the D drive and select the Mount Image(s) radio button. Click Browse, browse to your CUE file and select it as the mount point.

DBGL_Mount

8) With the imgmount selected, click the Grab button next to the main then Browse to add files from the CD image to run at startup. Select INSTALL.EXE. Your run window should look like this:

DBGL_ReadyToInstall

9) Click OK, and run the file to run the install program. When the installation is finished copy the files it installed into your TREKCD folder. Your final directory should look something like this (you may not have the CFG or savegame files):

DBGL_Folder

10) Edit the Profile again and change the Main to STARTREK.EXE in the TREKCD folder, and Setup to SETUP.EXE (in the same folder). Your final setup should look like this:

DBL_PlaySetup

Note: You probably want to set your machine to 7500 cycles for optimum performance.

GameRunning

And you should be good to go. Let me know if you have any further questions.

 

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