USA Games News

March 31, 2011

Introduction

Hello, and welcome to another edition of the USA Games news letter.
This has been, so far, not a good start to the
new year for us at USA Games Interactive. My family and I have
undergone several health issues that have slowed and

in large part prevented us from making steady progress on our active
titles such as Mysteries of the Ancients and

USA Raceway. Although, we were planning on a quick release for MOTA
beta 18 health issues simply got in the way,

and everything had to be put on hold until we had recovered from the
various illnesses that struck the family.

It all began in mid to late February when my wife, Ester, discovered a
rash on her forehead. After she went to see
the doctor we discovered she had a bacterial infection called Impetigo
which is highly contagious. The doctor gave
her various antibiotics to get rid of the infection, but unfortunately
between the infection and antibiotics she
was sick for several days. She slept most of the time, and most of the
household chores like cooking, cleaning,

etcc fell to me while she rested.

Then, if things couldn't get any worse my son, Sean, came down with a
stomach flu in March. I'll spare you all the
gory details, but suddenly we had two ill people in the house, and one
really able bodied person up and about. So

that became something of a serious challenge for me.

Finally, in late March I myself came down sick with the flu and spent
several days in bed sleeping, throwing up, or

just reading books waiting for my body to recover. Fortunately, my
wife was pretty much over her infection so she

was able to tend to me giving me bowls of soup, medicine, etc while I
weathered the flu. As I write this I'm far

better than I was, but I still feel a bit drained and week from the
events of the past week.

So in the end do to health related issues we literally lost about a
month in development time as one or more
family members fell ill, and all of our active projects were put on
hold. All the same some work was completed, and

it is to these changes, updates, etc I'd like to report. Many of These
things were added before the family became
sick, and some I managed to work on in my free time throughout the
month of March as I found time to do them. So
fortunately it wasn't a complete loss. So here is to the good news.

New Default Voice

Over the past few months of game development I discovered it was
extremely time consuming to record, edit, and
produce prerecorded wav files for several different game titles at
once. We had Accapela Heather for Mysteries of
the Ancients, Real Speak Tom for USA Raceway, AT&T Crystal for Final
Conflict, etc. It is something of a hassle to
record hundreds, perhaps thousands, of speech clips for each and every
game especially when in a lot of the cases
the messages such as numbers, directions, standard menus, etc are the
exact same thing but using a different Sapi
voice. So I decided what we really needed to do is decide on a default
voice that we would use for every single
game. That is to create a large library of voice clips and samples we
could literally copy into a new USA Games
project and have all the basic work done such as numbers, default
menus, standard status messages, etc. All that
would need to be added is specialized speech clips for new weapons,
characters, extra status messages, whatever
which would greatly speed up the development process as well as save
me a lot of unnecessary work.

So I began looking at all the Sapi voices I own to find out which one
sounded the most professional, which one was
the most clear, and seamed to have the best pronunciation dictionary.
Accapela Heather, although she has a nice
voice, really has difficulty with pronunciation. The AT&T voices like
Crystal, Mike, etc also sound good but have
difficulty with words that often come up in sci-fi and fantasy books.
The Neospeech voices while they also sounded
good often tended to spell words they couldn't  pronounce which made
coming up with a correct pronunciation
difficulty. In the end the only voices that seamed to meet most of my
requirements were the Real Speak voices that
ship with Freedom Scientific products such as Jaws and Openbook. In my
personal opinion Real Speak Tom, seamed to
fit all of the requirements, as his voice always reminded me of an
American news caster or sports commentator.
So beginning with Mysteries of the Ancients beta 18, USA Raceway beta
1, and sTFC 2.0 beta 1 all of our projects
will ship with Real Speak Tom by default for all games and platforms.
While this may or may not be your favorite
voice I think that this voice will give us the semi-professional feel
we are looking for. Plus by building a large
library of speech clips using Real Speak Tom's voice it will shave
days perhaps weeks off of game development time
in the future as we will have one single library of voice clips to
draw from. We won't have to continue reinventing

the wheel over and over again so to speak.

Mysteries of the Ancients

Well, when it comes to our flagship title, Mysteries of the Ancients,
we know all of you are eagerly awaiting beta
18. It definitely has some updates that make it far superior to beta
17. It’s got a few new extra features that we
think you will be pretty impressed with.

As of build 0.18.0 we have introduced analog based jumping similar to
mainstream games. Now, the longer you hold
down the control key with the left, right, or up arrow key Angela will
jump higher and further the longer the keys
are held down. Pressing these keys for a short amount of time will
cause Angela to perform a short jump or small
hop in that direction. This allows for more dynamic jumping, and will
require some practice to get good at. You may

have to rely on your passed skill to jump a fiery pit, leap over a
chasm, or successfully jump a row of sharp

bronze spikes. So don't be surprised if you don't correctly jump a
trap the first time.

Another new jump feature introduced in 0.18.0 is the ability to
perform a running jump. You now can take a few
steps back from a trap, hold down the shift and control keys with an
arrow key, and Angela will run up to a trap
and jump it. As with standard jumping the longer the shift and control
keys are held down with the arrow key Angela

will jump higher and jump further the longer the keys are held down.
This style of jump is extremely helpful in
jumping larger chasms, fire pits, lava pits, etc where Angela couldn't
successfully jump it from a standing

position.

Another important update in the works is dynamic mood changes. In
prior betas one single music track played
throughout the entire level never changing in tempo, mood, or theme.
As of 0.18.0 we have changed this behavior to
meet current mainstream standards where the theme/mood of the music
dynamically changes as Angela progresses
throughout the levels and adventure. This makes the music playback not
only more interesting, but sets the mood for

an upcoming battle, or gives you a sense of mystery as you explore a
dark empty room for the first time.

Finally, there have been several minor changes to Angela's weapons
line up. For instance, in beta 17 and earlier
Angela carried a Uzi 9mm with a 40 round clip.  I've decided to
replace the Uzi with an H&K MP5 similar to the one
Lara Croft carried in the two Tomb Raider movies. It probably won't
make much of a difference to gamers, but I
happen to know it is a better and more reliable weapon in real life so
chose to use it here.

Other than that most of the changes are in the change log. They are
technical changes such as bug fixes, new
keyboard assignments, updated menus, updated speech clips, etc. Over
all, this is turning out to be a very nice
release.

Mysteries of the Ancients 3D

Over the last few months there has been a few inquiries regarding this
title. Truth is we are continuing to work on it alongside the 2d
side-scroller version of this title. What our basic thoughts are since
it it is also is nearly
ready for beta testing we will release the standard 2d version of MOTA
beta 18 in early April, spend a couple of
weeks finishing up things in the 3d version, and release Mysteries of
the Ancients 3D beta 18 about two weeks after the standard version.
Since most of the new features are basically similar to those in the
standard version I won't repeat them here. For those of you who don't
know what the difference between Mysteries of the Ancients and
Mysteries of the Ancients 3D is here is a quick over view of the
differences in general.

Mysteries of the Ancients 3D is simply the same game written from a
true first-person perspective with 3d movement
and audio. There are six directions of movement including: left,
right, up, down, forward, and backward. I.E. true
3d movement. You will be able to sidestep left/right, turn 360 degrees
in place, climb up/down, walk forward, step
backwards, run forward, as well as jump forward/back/left/right/up. As
you can tell movement is far more advanced
in a true 3d environment than in a simple 2d environment.

Fighting is also similarly more advanced where you must aim your
weapon in 360 degrees left/right plus raise and
lower the barrel to hit enemies above your below your position. In
hand to hand combat when kicking and boxing you
can use these fighting commands along with basic movement commands to
perform advanced hand to hand combat moves
such as flying kicks, spin kicks, and other advanced fighting moves.
It is in my opinion far more interesting than
what a 2d environment has to offer in terms of realistic fighting moves.

Another aspect to 3d first-person games is the size of the levels.
They are 3d so are much larger, and can offer
more areas to explore.  Since you aren't restricted to simply left,
right, up, down, movement a developer can add
more secret areas or design a better maze. For those of you looking
for a little more level content MOTA 3D will be able to offer larger
levels as well as the other advantages above.

Conclusion

While we have certainly got this year off to a bad start things should
start looking better soon. We have two very
good products in the works, and we are still hoping to have them ready
by midsummer. That is, of course,  assuming
health and other issues don't get in the way of game development.  So
take care, and happy gaming.

Sincerely,
Thomas Ward
USA Games Interactive
http://wwww.usagamesinteractive.com

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