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 --- Gamers mailing list __ Gamers@audyssey.org If you want to leave the list, send E-mail to gamers-unsubscr...@audyssey.org. You can make changes or update your subscription via the web, at http://audyssey.org/mailman/listinfo/gamers_audyssey.org. All messages are archived and can be searched and read at http://email@example.com. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the management of the list, please send E-mail to gamers-ow...@audyssey.org.