I certainly like where this is going. And MOTA is exactly the sort of game I 
think we need to see more of.
Vell look, Zaphod's just this guy, you know?
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Thomas Ward" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
To: "Gamers Discussion list" <gamers@audyssey.org>
Sent: Wednesday, August 20, 2008 11:52 AM
Subject: [Audyssey] USA Games News 8/20/2008


>
> USA Games News
>
> Aug. 20, 2008
>
> Introduction
>
> Greetings gamers,
> Welcome to another friendly USA Games news letter. This one really is a
> lot more up beat and positive then the passed two or three news letters.
> Also we have some good news to release this time so stay tuned.
> Before I actually get into the topic of our games I'd like to let
> everyone know that my wife and I are now moved back into our apartment
> and are finally setup again. I have all of my computers back up and
> running, and as a result I have a Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Ubuntu
> Linux 8.04 computer to do development and testing on our products with.
> This is very good as our new game engine we are working on is now being
> designed to be multi-platform supporting Mac, Linux, and Windows. It
> also may eventually be possible to port our games to cell phones and
> other mobile devices with a compatible Java 6 runtime environment.
> Yeah, you heard that right. We have finally decided to adopt Java 6 as
> our new programming language and API for all of our new games. The
> reason is that we converted one of our games to use SDL.net for C-sharp,
> and decided it wasn't good enough for our needs. While SDL.net was a
> fairly decent programming API we wanted all the power of DirectX. We
> discovered Java's J3D graphics and audio API fit our needs perfectly. It
> is multi-platform, renders equal 3D audio support on all platforms, and
> I already know Java fairly well so the switch isn't all that big an
> issue for me.
> Obviously, with the change in language and API we will go back to using
> pre-recorded speech for the majority of our games. While there is a Java
> sdk for Sapi 5 it is pretty expensive, and of course is not
> multi-platform. Besides that, while we were supporting Sapi in
> Montezuma's Revenge we got a lot of technical support issues with Sapi.
> In many cases the end users Sapi broke for whatever reason, and it had
> to be fixed to play our games. We feel just dropping Sapi will add
> greater stability and replayability to our games long term as well as
> not tie the game to a proprietary Windows technology.
> With all that said let us get on with the news we have for you today.
>
> Tomb Hunter
> Mysteries of the Ancients
>
> We are happy to announce despite the disruptions to our programming
> schedule our replacement game for Montezuma's Revenge, Mysteries of the
> Ancients, is back in active development. Over the passed two weeks we
> have been working hard on translating our C-code from C-Sharp to Java,
> and that process is going very well. Actually, it is going  better than
> expected. One reason we can account for this very fast translation
> process is that Java and C-Sharp are very similar in a lot of ways. They
> both use the same lexical and syntactical structure, use the same
> variable declarations, and sometimes similar functions and class names.
> As a result some parts of the game code just need a few changes here and
> there while others more language specific need to be rewritten. In any
> case it is going faster than I had first anticipated.
> The programming language isn't the only thing we have upgraded in this
> new version. We also have done a massive sound upgrade to the game, and
> it sounds, well, a lot more realistic than ever. We have updated the
> background ambiance, character effects, footstep sounds, and several
> other sound effects. Some sounds we have digitally remastered to sound
> better. All and all we have done an excellent job on giving the game all
> new audio effects.
> In addition we have redesigned the game somewhat, and given it a more
> Tomb Raider style make over while preserving its original side-scroller
> format. In addition to swords Angela Carter will be able to pick up
> various firearms such as a Browning 9MM pistol, 357 Magnum, 12 gage
> shotgun, and an Uzi. As well as weapons Angela will be able to collect
> various items such as: diamonds, emeralds, rubies, sapphires, gold coins,
> ancient scrolls, healing potions, and torches to light her way.
> The enemies in this new side-scroller have also undergone an upgrade as
> well. The skulls are now undead skeleton warriors armed with bow and
> arrows. Some of the skeletons are, however,  undead priests that are
> able to throw fire balls. In addition to the skeletons there will be
> plenty of rattle snakes and gray wolves inside the ancient ruins to
> avoid or kill.
> New and deadlier enemies aren't your only obstacle to face. There are
> several new traps to avoid such as: poison darts, chasms to jump over,
> fire pits, spikes, and rolling boulders to name a few deadly traps you
> will have to avoid a long the way.
> As far as a schedule we are hoping to have a beta out by Christmas, but
> we can't promise a December 25 dead line. Obviously this year has proven
> difficult enough to keep a schedule for our games do to people and
> events out of our control. Not only that, much of that time was spent on
> researching and testing alternatives to Microsoft DirectX and the .NET
> Framework. While both technologies are fairly good for Windows only
> users I am not, strictly speaking, a Windows only user.
> Over the passed year I have really began exploring the possibility of
> using Apple Mac OS or Linux as my primary operating system, and there
> are elements of both that make them good alternatives to the Windows
> platform. Not the least is the screen reading technologies for both are
> cost effective on a small budget, and I don't have to worry about the
> Vista style product activation that I despised from the beginning.
> I personally feel it is slightly unfair to tie a product specifically to
> Windows for those power users, like myself, who are decidedly unhappy
> with the way Microsoft and other companies  are going with all the
> anti-piracy and security measures to force the average legal Windows
> user into paying for the same software media multiple times if they have
> more than one computer in there home or office. In my case I do feel
> there does need to be a line drawn somewhere that states how far I am
> personally willing to spend in support of all the digital rights
> management that is being heavily promoted by the recording industry
> Association of America, Microsoft, and the film industry that have
> pushed for tighter control over our personal use of digital media we
> have legally purchased. I could probably rant for hours on the evils of
> DRM technology, and why as users we need to be more vocal in trying to
> protect our fair use rights to the media we have purchased. However, DRM
> technology is a controversial subject, and one I will not go into at
> length here.
>
> Finally, more and more people are getting into mobile devices such as
> cell phones, PDAs, and other hand held devices with microcomputers built
> into them. As a result of the boom in mobile technologies more and more
> game junkies are becoming interested in taking there favorite games on
> the road with them on their cell phone, PDA, or laptop.
> As a result game companies, especially adaptive game companies such as
> USA Games, has to take such trends somewhat seriously and begin creating
> games that may eventually be able to be ported to these devices. Even
> mainstream game companies like Edos Interactive have began seeing this
> fact and have released Tomb Raider Legend Mobile for mobile devices. A
> language like Java can do this with only miner changes in some cases.
> Which is a good reason to walk away from more proprietary Windows only
> APIs and languages.
>
> USA Raceway
>
> Another game that has seen much more active development of late is USA
> Raceway. Like Mysteries of the Ancients it is now being converted over
> to pure Java. Besides those reasons mentioned earlier in this news
> letter there are some other good reasons to do this for Raceway.
> One of the things I have noticed between the time James North originally
> announced his plans for Raceway, and the time I actually began creating
> this game two very decent racing games have been released for the
> accessible games community. Both Topspeed II and Rail Racer are fairly
> good racing games, and both offers online network play between gamers. I
> can't count how many times I have personally received requests to add
> network game play and one on one racing between Raceway players. Well,
> now it seams you may get your wish.
> A few years ago when Raceway was initially scheduled for release
> Microsoft's DirectPlay technology would have certainly been the way to
> go for online networked games. It was a programmer friendly, fairly
> straight forward, API for writing networked games that helped make
> DirectX the defacto game developers API of choice. Then, in 2007
> Microsoft officially announced their intention to drop DirectPlay from
> DirectX leaving developers like myself without a clear API to use for
> online game play that has the simplicity and functionality of
> DirectPlay. With a language like Java such concerns is not a problem.
> When the programming language was first released by Sun Micro Systems
> they had intended that Java come packaged with a fully functional, well
> documented, networking API that will work on virtually any operating
> system. Over the years Sun has continued to design and update the core
> networking API, and today it really is the leading API for software
> developers trying to network applications across different operating
> systems and computer platforms. What this means for you and I is that it
> shouldn't be all that difficult to use Java's native networking API to
> build a cross platform independent
> racing game where two or more gamers can race together online.
> Obviously, this functionality needs more work, but it is definitely a
> thought for a future addition to Raceway.
> With a programming language like Java 6 it is not all that far fetched
> to imagine a instance where you might be able to fire up your Windows
> Mobile phone, PDA, etc connect to a wi-fi connection and play against an
> online player while you are waiting between classes, on your coffee
> break at work, waiting for a doctors appointment, etc. This is truly the
> power of walk away content, multi-platform software, and why so many
> mainstream users are spending so much time on their cell phones, PDAs,
> and other mobile devices. The power of multi-platform software combined
> with a universally excepted networking API really is the only way to go
> if you want to reach the widest number of users, and give them virtually
> endless  choices how to use their software media. It is this kind of
> freedom that digital rights management attempts to control by
> restricting software media you buy to one platform, one computer's
> unique hardware, and forcing you to pay multiple times for the same
> product for every computer or device you plan to use it on.
> If you haven't already noticed I am a typical computer geek, and I love
> to think of stuff like this all the time. As a result it isn't that hard
> for me to think of a game like Rail Racer, and take that idea to the
> next level. It already has a great online racing system in place. Why
> not take that idea and make it so Raceway will work on mobile devices,
> PCs, Macs, or whatever device will support it? It isn't that difficult
> an idea to play a game on your mobile  device, save the game, copy the
> save game file to your Windows PC at home, and continue in the race
> exactly where you left off.
> Since Raceway is primarily season based, where you play in an actual
> Nascar-like season, you will want to be able to back up and save your
> seasons. You may even wish to be able to transfer them between various
> devices you own such as your mobile phone and your PC. Now, days with
> the way technology is progressing it is getting easier to do that sort
> of thing, and it will make Raceway far better than James North's
> original design by light years.
> With that said, there are going to be some drawbacks. If I want to do
> maximum portability over devices it would be better to depend on core
> Java input methods rather than using OS specific input devices such as
> joysticks. I'm probably not going to introduce joysticks, steering
> wheels, initially until the core game is complete and stable. At that
> point we can explore the option of hooking Raceway up to an API such as
> JInput for obtaining force feedback racing wheels, joysticks, game pads,
> and other devices not natively supported by Java. So what I am talking
> about is a lot of work, and time consuming. On the other hand I think it
> will be worth it, because there is a lot of power to be had in walk away
> content you can just drop on a memory card and take it with you on your
> mobile device, or play it on your desktop PC at home.
>
> Summary
>
> USA Games has always strived for perfection and software innovations
> that are rarely seen in the blind gaming community so far. I will admit
> we have not always been timely in getting our products out, and many of
> you have been waiting long enough to see our products come to light.
> However, now that we have selected the technology we plan to use, and
> once Genesis 3D is ported to Java you should begin seeing faster turn
> around times on our games. While Genesis 3D will be more difficult to
> use do to the necessity to self-voice the games without the aid of Sapi
> it will however offer the ability to create games for virtually any
> operating system or device that supports Java 6.
> At the time of this news letter the majority of Mac OS users are
> currently running Java 5. It is my hope that Apple will be offering a
> Java 6 upgrade by the time our new Java based games become available. If
> not it may become necessary on my part to recompile the games for the
> Mac platform using a compatible JDK for Mac users. I'm hoping this won't
> be necessary, but time will tell.
> As for the games running on Linux we are currently tracking down an
> unusual error where the Linux Java runtime for Ubuntu 8.04 isn't working
> properly. When we test the MOTA Alpha on Windows everything seams to be
> working fine. When i install the Alpha on my Linux system half the time
> the menu keys fail to work. I'm totally clueless as to what is causing
> this error as the code refering to those keyboard commands is straight
> out of the core Java API, and is standard on every Java runtime
> environment out there. I'm currently putting out a report of this
> problem to some mainstream Java developer forums, and hope they can give
> me some ideas to why this might be working incorrectly. It may be the
> version of the JRE I have installed on that system has some bugs in it,
> and I need to update to a newer Java version such as Java 6 update 7.
> Also i can try testing it on other Linux distributions such as Fedora
> and Open Suse for comparison though the Java runtimes should be identical.
> In any case there are problems getting everything working as it should
> on Mac, Linux, and Windows, but that is to be expected at this point.
> The new Java based engine I am working on has only been in active
> development for about three weeks, and is obviously still buggy anyway.
> A good portion of the original engine code has been converted to Java,
> but even as close as C-Sharp and Java are to each other in similarity
> there are still things that were easy to miss or overlook when doing the
> conversion process.
> For example, when declaring a boolean flag in C-Sharp you would declare
> it like
> private bool isKilled = false;
> while in Java it would be declared like
> private boolean isKilled = false;
> which are pretty similar but not exactly the same. As a result it is
> sometimes easy to forget which is which and use a C-Sharp declaration in
> the Java version of the game resulting in a massive compilation error
> that has to be edited and repared by hand.
> Other diferences between the languages can be just as easy to overlook.
> So I have had to rethink the way a certain block of code was written, or
> find a better, cleaner, solution to a particular issue. For example, the
> weird bug where you could walk through walls I had in the C-Sharp
> version of the game. Well, that bug reappeared in the Java version of
> MOTA so I took that colision detection code, rewrote that section of
> code from scratch, redesigned how it worked, and now it appears that bug
> is well and truly gone. In the end it turned out I just used a poor
> design to begin with, and I had to tototally rethink the process through
> before I saw the error in my original design. Programming is like that
> sometimes.
> A lot of non-programmers think that programming is all about math, or
> knowing how to use this or that programming language. That is the easy
> part. The hard part is actually training yourself to think logically,
> cover every possible condition a certain state the game can be in at
> that time, and then programming your game to deal with those different
> conditions at that current point in time. Often it is the small things
> we take for granted that get overlooked, and then need to be corrected
> when our game behaves in a way that is less than satisfactory or does
> something that is unrealistic.
> For example, let us assume you found an old sword, and then are forced
> to climb up a rope to get up to a ledge. Logically speaking, a person is
> going to want to climb up that rope two handed and isn't going to be
> hanging on to a huge and heavy sword as he/she does it. In more modern
> games they offer the ability to ddraw and holster weapons so the main
> character is free to use his or her hands for other tasks such as
> climbing, swimming, hand to hand combat, or moving certain items such as
> a heavy stone door. It is these kinds of logical concidderations a game
> developer has to seriously think about if we want our games to be at all
> somewhat realistic.
> So in the end we are working on an all new engine, improved game play,
> and rethinking how our games are logically designed. Improving the games
> internal logic will eventually make a funner and much smoother gaming
> experience for all involved.
>
>
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