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Posted on October 22nd, 2010 at 7:03 PM by Shadowfox

Free online game makers are becoming more widely available as a way for anyone to start making games very easily.  Here is a list of all the free game creation programs you can start using immediately in your browser:

  1. Fyrebug [Update: this game maker no longer exists] – Choose one type of game you want to make such as platformer, side-scroller, and dog fight.  Then you get to choose the graphics for the enemies, the hero, bullets, etc.  After picking sounds and music, you get to name your game and upload it to their server to share your game with other users.  This online game maker, while free, is very limited as an actual game maker and does not give you control over the actual gameplay.
  2. Sploder – There are three game templates to choose from: platformer, 3D mission, and shooter.  Sploder gives you more freedom to actually build your own levels by placing where your character starts in the level, walls, power ups, and enemies.  Of course, you can upload your game to their server in order to share your creation with others on the website as well as play games made by others.  While Sploder is a neat free online game maker that is easily accessible to everyone, it is more of a level designer than a game maker as you don’t have control over the finer aspects of the game you are making.
  3. Atmosphir [Update: this game maker no longer exists] – This is one of the best free online game makers out there.  Atmosphir is fully 3D and gives much more control over the gameplay than Sploder.  Atmosphir levels are build like Lego blocks.  You have a wide array of colorful blocks to place in order to build the actual level where characters and enemies stand on.  You also get to place hazards like enemies and traps, as well as power ups such as extra lives or giving a boost to the height of your character’s jump.  Atmosphir allows to fine-tune the parameters for nearly anything you make want to change:  number of lives, speed of a moving platform, whether an enemy respawns or not, how many hit points enemies have…the options are nearly endless.  Almost forgot.  You can make multiplayer games as well!  And of course, uploading your levels to their servers for everyone to play is easily done in-game.
  4. ChallengeYou – Apparently they give you the ability to make 3D Shockwave games.  Actually, they all seem to be first person games where you have to find the finish point.  The graphics seem to be a bit dated, but at least it’s 3D.  Just like the other free online game makers, you can upload your levels and share them with other creators.
  5. Fupa Kingdoms Defense – As the name implies, you get to build your own tower defense game and upload it to share your TD game with everyone else.  You can also play the TD games others have made as well.  You can change the graphics of the background, creeps, and towers.  Changing the stats of the creeps and towers is also possible.  And yes, you can set the path of the creeps as well.
  6. World’s Biggest Pacman – an HTML5 game that lets players create their own pacman levels and upload them.  All levels are player-created and are all inter-connected to other mazes that players have uploaded in order to create one gigantic pacman game.
  7. Flowlab – A very easy to use game creator that let’s you quickly put together a 2D game via drag and drop controls.  The intuitive user interface let’s you connect blocks together so it looks like the game logic is flowing from one block to the next.  They have a quick tutorial showing how you can quickly get a platforming game running in a literally a few minutes.
  8. Game Gonzo – This gamemaker is very similar to Sploder.  You get to choose form various game templates such “floater”,  “racer 3D”, and “tennis”.  The creator walks you through several steps to choose what images and sounds will be used for the various objects in the game.  When you’re done, you can save your game and it will be available on their website.

These game makers are all free and easy enough to use for just about anyone since no programming is required.  But you may have noticed that you don’t really get to make your own unique game.  These game makers are more like level designers.  Atmosphir appears to be the only free online game creator that gives you more flexibility in designing your levels to actually create unique gameplay.  But if you get allergies just thinking about programming, then these game makers will let you realize those creative ideas to an extent.

If some programming doesn’t scare you then go on to my post about Game Making Programs that utilize scripting as opposed to full-on programming from scratch.  Programming gives so much more freedom to make that unique game you’ve been dreaming of.

Posted on October 21st, 2010 at 1:33 AM by Shadowfox

Review Score
Gameplaywww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Usual MMORPG fare with a sprinkling of friendliness and a ton of community.
Replay Valuewww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Kingdom Quests are fun and add more replay value than a standard MMO.
Graphicswww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Kid-friendly but not overly simplistic.
Audiowww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Background music and sound effects are passable.
Overallwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
A free to play MMORPG with a decent community that is a nice place to hang out and crush monsters under the collective might of a dozen players.

Fiesta Official Website

Introduction

Fiesta is a free to play MMORPG that is based on the usual formula expected of the genre, but with a few distinctive features.  Probably the best feature is the ability to participate in Kingdom Quests, which are scripted instances for up to 15 players.  This somewhat cutesy looking MMO also has plenty of community features and keeps the gameplay lighthearted.  The game’s friendly atmosphere makes it a cozy place to hang out, although there is definitely big monsters to fight as you can see from the trailer below.

Gameplay

Community

Fiesta is very newbie friendly as you get plenty of instructions in-game and there are community features abound so you don’t feel lost and alone.  There Guild Academies, which are created automatically with every new Guild.  Guild Academies are for new players levels 59 and below and can be joined at any time without invitation as long as the Guild Academy is not full.  Guild Academies give you free stuff as you level up and can give you a simple buff as well.  You can also chat or ask for help from your Guild Academy.  Above level 59 you’re welcome to join any real Guild.  The only real advantage of a Guild is that all Guild members can deposit any item into the Guild’s storage area, which makes it easy for Guild members to pool or share resources.

Kingdom Quests

One of the more fun parts of Fiesta is the ability to join Kingdom Quests (KQ).  KQs are timed instances that have a big boss at the end that needs to be defeated to win the KQ.  Up to 15 players can join a particular KQ, although there are several KQs that run everyday.  The first KQ you’ll encounter is for levels 5-16 and is called “Counterattack of King Slime”.  Guess who the final boss is for that KQ?

So when a KQ starts everyone starts partying up as being in a party lets you see your allies status bars.  This is helpful to see who is getting damaged a lot so your party’s cleric(s) can heal him.  You also get to see your party members in your mini-map.

As everyone goes forward, you’ll encounter rather tough monsters that take several hits to go down.  Several of these monsters are elite.  It’s really fun to work with 14 other players to bring down these tough beasties.  It’s even more fun when you go up the big final boss at the end as it can feel like an epic showdown.  The best part is that everyone that is still alive by the end of the KQ gets a nice item reward.  Not to mention all the experience you get.

PVE

You can go solo or party up when do regular quests or just grinding out mobs.  This part of the game is pretty standard fare.  The quests are the usual “go kill X number of mobs” or “fetch me X amount of item” type quests.  Granted, I haven’t played much past level 30, but I guess they made KQs to give players a welcome break from the usual repetitiveness inherent of MMOs.

Shops

The nice part about Fiesta’s economy is that anyone can setup shop anywhere, at anytime.  You can setup shop to buy or sell items.  People usually setup shop when they go AFK or go to sleep, which makes your character be productive even when you’re not at your computer.  The best part is that everything you pick up from defeating monsters is useful for making other stuff or to use yourself, which keeps the game’s economy alive.

Graphics

The graphics are 3D, but have a distinctive cartoony feel which works well for the game’s style.  Characters and monsters are well animated and appear like they’re alive.  Spells and special attacks have decent effects that are not overdone or underdone.  They’re decent and can get a bit more flashy with the higher level spells that higher level players like to show off.

Audio

Nothing to write home about in this category.  The music stays in the background and is generally soothing.  Frankly, I barely noticed the music as I was concentrating on taking down as many slimes as I could in the King Slime KQ.

The sound effects for spells and special attacks are passably ok.  The higher level spells I’ve seen don’t sound as epic as they should.

Conclusion

All in all, Fiesta is a relaxing, community-driven MMO that is fun to play once in a while.  Kingdom Quests are a nice addition that helps build more collaborative gameplay.  Some of the bigger monsters seem really interesting to behold, but you won’t see them until much later in the game.  While the audio and graphics won’t really impress any hardcore gamers, Fiesta is a nice place to hangout.

Go on and try Fiesta.  It’s free just like all the other games I’ve shown on this website :)

Posted on October 18th, 2010 at 5:10 PM by Shadowfox
Review Score
Gameplaywww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Fun, strategic card duels that are easy to pickup but hard to master.
Replay Valuewww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
The addictive quality of card games is refreshed by Alteil's fresh take on the genre
Graphicswww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
card art is made by Japan's greatest artists, but it still only has card game graphics.
Audiowww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Exciting background music coupled with simple sound effects make for fun but average experience
Overallwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Addictive card game with original gameplay aspects with the additional possibilities afforded by virtual gameplay makes for a fun experience.

Alteil Official Website

Introduction

Alteil is an online flash-based “online card dueling game” that you can play for free.  It is NOT a trading card game for the simple reason that you can’t actually trade cards with other players.  The card duels are semi fast-paced, flashy, and really fun.  According to the official website, Alteil is the “English version of Japan’s #1 Online Card Game.” It is made with flash so Alteil requires no long downloads.  Different screens take only seconds to load, which is great to play a quick match or two when you feel like it.  For a quick rundown of what Alteil is like go to the official Alteil website.

Alteil has an interesting background story behind it that they keep updating, which helps immerse players into the game’s world.  Japanese games are famous for having lots of story and this game is no exception.

Gameplay

Dueling

A card duel plays out like this:  during each phase of play, each player makes their decisions for that phase.  After both players have finished deciding what to do for that phase, their decisions are executed step by step.  There are set rules governing what happens first.  So this is different from other card games in that players don’t have “their” turn to act.  Also, players only put one card into play each round.

Each player does everything they can to try to reduce their opponent’s Life Points (LP) to zero.  Players can put unit cards into play that can attack your opponent’s unit cards.  You can damage your opponent’s LP by defeating their unit cards or by ordering your unit to attack your opponent directly with an Iczer attack (card duelists are called Iczers).  Iczer attacks can only be performed if your opponent has no unit cards in play.

Of course there is A LOT more to it that involves a lot of strategy.  Unit cards can have special abilities, where you place unit cards matters, you can cast instant spells, and you can resurrect unit cards if you have a copy in your deck.  Also, each unit card has stats:

  • Level – How much SP this card costs to play.
  • Hit Points – How much damage this card can sustain.
  • Attack – How much damage this card can deal to enemy unit cards.
  • Defense – How much damage is reduced from attacks of enemy unit cards.
  • Agility – Higher value allows your unit card to act before other unit cards with lower agility.
  • Range – How many occupied rows can this unit attack through.

Of course playing cards and using unit card skills cost SP, which you only get two of every round.

Deck Building

You are given a complete starter deck to begin with from one of the four Spheres of Influence.  These spheres are like the colors of Magic the Gathering.  You usually build your deck around one color, but you’re welcome to build one with more than color.

Your deck consists of a total of 30 cards:  25 cards you can play at anytime if you have enough spell points, and 5 Soul Cards.  Your Soul Cards automatically activate their Soul Skills when your avatar’s Life Points (LP) take damage.  You can pick any 5 cards to be your Soul Cards, but some cards do not have a Soul Skill.  Each card also has an LP value associated with it.  When that Soul Card’s LP is depleted, it unleashes its Soul Skill.  So say you put a card with 2 LP in your Soul Card slot when building your deck.  You get attacked directly during your opponent’s turn, so you lose 1 LP.  Your Soul Card now has 1 LP remaining.  When you get attacked directly again, you lose 1 more LP and your first Soul Card unleashes its Soul Skill.  In essence, Soul Skills are like traps.

More Cards

Now it is true that it costs Gran (the in-game currency that you can buy with real money) to buy buy cards.  However, there are several ways to get cards for free:

  1. Leveling up – The easiest way is to level up your avatar by playing matches.  You get one free card each level until you are level 20.  Another at level 25 and 30.  Then one more every ten levels.
  2. Treasure battles – Occasionally, a treasure battle will occur in a ranked match.  Treasure battles offer a prize card to the winner of the match.  Make sure you win!
  3. Buy with free Gran – You can get Gran without actually paying with real money.

Here are the ways to get Gran for free:

  1. Play Mirage Master – There is a mini game you can play that can give you up to 30 Gran per day.
  2. Recycle cards – You can exchange cards for Gran.
  3. Site contests – There are contests from time to time that offer Gran as a prize.
  4. Weekly rankings – Every week everyone is given Gran if their win/draw/lose record is good for the week.

Graphics

For card game it looks pretty nice.  The card art is varied, colorful, and full of personality.  Of course, it is only to be expected of some of the best artists that Japan has to offer.

Alteil’s effects are nice, but you don’t get to see actual fireballs exploding.  Instead, you see card flips and colorful numbers showing up from damaging a unit card.  Of course, it is a card game so fancy 3D graphics are not to be expected of this genre.  Also, Alteil was made to be easily picked up and played anytime, so unexpected fancy graphics would only hinder that objective with long downloads and higher computer hardware requirements.

However, with the current state of gaming technology, the oomph of the graphics is not as exciting compared to other games today.

Audio

Like the graphics, spells and card summons do not have their own unique sound.  But there sound effects like a thud sound when a unit card successful strikes another unit card.  Nothing special or unexpected  here.

The background music on the other hand successfully conveys a sense of action that gets you excited; the music is generally fast pace with quieter lulls that make you feel that like something epic is happening.

Conclusion

Alteil is a unique card game with a lot of strategy involved; it really captures the addictive qualities of card games:  collecting cards, building up your own deck, and unleashing your strategy against intelligent opponents.  Alteil sets itself apart from traditional card games, which has players taking turns being active, by letting both players be active in every phase of each round.  The ability to access your entire deck from the beginning also makes the game feel more strategic and less about the “luck of the draw” of other card games.

If you like card games and want to try something different, you might as well try out Alteil.

October 15

Folding@Home
Posted on October 15th, 2010 at 6:46 PM by Shadowfox

Shadowfox Games has joined Folding@Home!  What is it? Well, some smart guys at Stanford University made a neat program that uses distributed computing in order to simulate protein folding to help with research related to attempts at curing serious diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, and certain forms of cancer.

Essentially, the Folding@Home project lets any computer work with other computers in parallel through the internet to accomplish a certain goal, which in this case is to simulate folding proteins.  It is like a super computer with its CPU cores connected through the internet instead of a local network.

By downloading the Folding@Home client program, you can help simulate protein folding.  The client automatically downloads the required data to your computer and starts folding.  When the simulation is complete, the results are automatically uploaded to the Folding@Home servers.  It does not interfere with the use of your computer as the program only uses unused CPU cycles.

So go join Shadowfox Games’  Folding@Home team!  My stats are low as I am currently the only member of my team so help me out by using my team number, which is 195240, when you want to start folding.  Not sure how?  Then check out the instructions on how to join a team after you download and install the Folding@Home client.  Happy folding!

Posted on October 15th, 2010 at 1:45 AM by Shadowfox

If you read my last post on how to begin making computer games, you know that you have to understand the basics of programming in order to really be able to make your own games.  If you are absolutely adamant on using pure C++ to make games, go ahead and use DirectX.  I started trying to learn it and found out that while it can be fairly flexible and powerful since it lets you work with graphics hardware at a very low level, it requires a large time commitment and understanding at that low level.  It was difficult to do even the basics without having to memorize many functions with really long names.  Unless you really like low level code and don’t mind memorizing long function names, it can be a really great thing to know.  Knowing DirectX will surely be helpful if you’re looking to get a job in the video game industry.

For those of us who are hobbyists or just want to try out game development without having to spend all that time learning a complicated API, there are some very good game making programs out there.  I will mention the two game making programs that I have used for more than one or two hours.  I would highly recommend these programs for any aspiring game maker because they are

  1. FREE – They are absolutely FREE.  You can even sell the games you make.
  2. Easy to use – They have really good APIs with a lot of intuitive menus and controls.  You won’t be stuck looking at pure code the whole time as they have decent graphical user interfaces.

Game Maker

This nifty program has been around for several years.  Developed by Mark Overmars, Game Maker now has an entire community around at YoYo Games where people can make, play, and share games for free.  Game Maker has a drag-and-drop interface for making games.  If you want better control over your creations, Game Maker has a built-in scripting language called the Game Maker Language (GML).  Trust me, you WILL want to use GML to really be able to make larger, more complex games.  That’s why I highly recommended in my previous post that you learn programming.

While Game Maker was initially intended only to make 2D games, support for 3D graphics was added in later releases.  It’s a really nice program to introduce people to game making.

It is true that the free version of Game Maker has somewhat limited capabilities, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make some nice games with it.  The pro version only costs $25, so it is really cheap compared to most other programs out there that do not have extensive drag-and-drop support like Adobe Flash which costs $699.  I have not tried to make flash games myself due to the price of the software, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth the price.  There’s a lot of good flash games out there that show off its capabilities.

You can go download and try out Game Maker at YoYo Games.

Unity

This is my current personal favorite game making program.  Unity allows you to make 3D games easily on several platforms.  Build it once and publish your game on Windows, Linux, Mac, and Android all through one program.  Of course being 100% guaranteed to be cross-platform compatible is really difficult, so you should always test your game on your target platforms.  And if you played any of my games on this website, you’ll notice that Unity can make web browser builds too ;) .

Oh, and Unity has a FREE version.  Frankly, the free version is really powerful.  Unless you’re going to make commercial games with a real team of programmers and artists, the free version will more than satisfy you.  Not that you couldn’t make commercial quality games with the free version of Unity.  As much as I’d like to say that my games are mega awesome, they only scratched the surface of what Unity can do.  You can go see what Unity is capable of on my previous post, Browser Games are the Future.

But, you must write code via scripts in either JavaScript, C#, or Boo.  Do not be discouraged by this.  Unity is thousands of times easier to use than DirectX.  The API is really comprehensive and easy to use.  Also, Unity is asset-centric as opposed to code-centric, meaning that the game making process focuses on building game levels and placing all game objects in the level in an intuitive, 3D, visual editor as opposed to doing EVERYTHING in code.  Not to mention that Unity’s documentation is extremely thorough, there are several really well made tutorials available, and the Unity community is full of veteran game makers willing to give out advice and assistance.  Just don’t expect them to make the game for you unless you pay them :) .

What are you waiting for?  Go download Unity!

Or play some of my games!

Posted on October 13th, 2010 at 11:57 PM by Shadowfox

So You Want to Make a Computer Game?

You’ve played a lot of games and want to make your own now.  Perhaps you always found yourself thinking up ways to improve the games you play.  Maybe you have been making improved versions of games by modding existing games.  Or maybe you think it would just be really cool to build your own game.  How do you do it? What do you need to know?  And how much of it do you need to know?  I’ll tell you that you do not need a lot to get started.  A basic knowledge of procedural programming is required to start making “real” games.  Although there are many game making programs out there and some even have a drag-and-drop interface, I would highly recommend that you learn the basics of procedural programming for two reasons:

  1. Understand the logic behind games – Games are just programs.  Very fun and complex programs, but deep down they are just programs.  If you learn the logic behind programs you will be able to more easily understand how to make things in your game work.
  2. Make Better Games – Being able to write code will give you immense freedom in making everything in your game behave the way you want it to.  Without programming, you will be rather limited in the kinds of games you can make.

Notice I did not tell you to go learn a specific programming language.  If you know how to program in one language, you can learn any other one without too much effort.  So you should pick a good game making program first and learn whatever programming language that game making program uses.

If I were to suggest a specific language for you to start learning to program it would be C++.  Yes, it can be a little painful at times compare to other languages like Java.  But that is because you have a much greater control over the low level details and programs made in C++ can run faster since it doesn’t run a lot of checks to make sure you didn’t make a mistake.  Learning C++ will really teach you the nuts and bolts of what the heck is going on.  Not to mention that many AAA games have been programmed in C++.

In games there’s a lot of stuff that is similar to something else in the game.  Say you wrote code to have a red ball bouncing around the screen in your game.  Now you want to add a blue ball that also bounces around the screen.  It would be great if you could reuse the same code for the blue ball that you wrote for the red ball and just change the code that gives the ball a color.  You can do that by using object oriented programming (OOP).  In OOP, you can define a template for making a ball and reuse that template to make a red ball and a blue ball easily.  If you wanted to make a game with 100 bouncing balls with different colors, you can see that OOP is very valuable when making games. Combine procedural programming with OOP and you have some real power to make great games.  C++ and Java are examples of OOP languages.  Note that you don’t necessarily have to learn all the ins and outs of OOP, but mostly the concepts behind it to begin making games.  It would be necessary only if you are going to make commercial quality games.

The next step is crucial enough that I will need to elaborate on it on my next post:  choosing a good game making program.

Posted on October 12th, 2010 at 10:37 PM by Shadowfox
Review Score
Gameplaywww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Combination of action-RPG with RTS elements makes for a unique gaming experience.
Replay Valuewww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Unless you enjoy fast-paced action-RPG style gameplay, this game can get somewhat repetitive with all the grinding.
Graphicswww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
The graphics have a nice level of cartoony detail that gives some decent atmosphere. Flashy special effects are also decent.
Audiowww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Passable music with some solid sound effects to accompany the graphical effects makes for pleasant action.
Overallwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Unique blend of RPG with RTS makes this a must-try.

Soul Master Official North/South America Website

Introduction

NOTE:  I am conducting this review from playing the North and South American version available at Games Campus.

Soul Master is a free-to-play massively multiplayer online real-time strategy game, or MMORTS for short.  It blends RPG elements with real-time strategy.  You have a persistent hero character that levels up and can equip items you earn from completing missions, buy from a merchant or other player, or crafted yourself.  The heart of the gameplay is in the PVE missions and PVP matches.  Missions and matches play similar to DoTA, which has you controlling a single hero character while your armies fight by themselves without any interaction from you.  The difference in Soul Master is that it has an RTS component, albeit a light one.  You can gather resources and construct buildings in order to summon creatures called Souls to help you fight.  You can also give your Souls simple commands like staying at a particular spot or to attack a particular enemy.  Thus, Soul Master blends RPG and RTS elements together for a unique gameplay experience.

Gameplay

Cities

In between playing co-op missions or PVP matches you’ll be able to explore the not-so-large world of Soul Master.  You’ll essentially only explore the different cities and use a teleport to get from city to city.  Each city has a different minimum character level requirement before you can go there so players of different levels are essentially divided by city.  Not that more experienced players can’t visit the newbie city.  Now it is possible that the game world be expanded some more as Soul Master is currently in beta.  Each city has several NPCs that sell basic items, allow you to level your skills and Souls, and let you access solo and co-op missions. It’s in the cities that you chat, party, trade and otherwise interact with other players.  It’s also where you manage your inventory and gear up for your next mission.

Missions (PVE)

You will be introduced to the basics of the game through story-driven Training Missions.  Initially, these will acquaint you with the game’s mechanics.  Later on, you’ll undertake Field Missions, which are  co-op missions with varying objectives such as escorting an NPC, defend your base for a certain amount of time, defeat a boss monster, or defeat an AI opponent.  You can always take on missions solo, but its always more fun when you party up and play with allies.  You’ll also be able to fulfill quests you receive from NPCs in town such as defeating a certain number of monsters and other typical quests found in MMOs.  Missions can played at different difficulty levels as well, although you will have to complete the mission on an easier difficulty first to unlock the next difficulty setting.  Playing the same missions on harder difficulty levels yields better treasures when you successfully complete the scenario, so it is beneficial to players who party together as all party members will receive better goodies at the end.

PVP

PVP game sessions are available on the lobby list which is accessible via a button on the upper right corner when you’re in a city.  Once in the lobby, you will notice that game rooms are divided into three skill levels.   As I was a newbie, I chose the tab labeled “training”.  There usually aren’t many newbie rooms, and usually there are players with fairly powerful, glowing equipment for some reason.  At least that’s the way it is on the North and South America servers.  Anyway, you can have free-for-all or team based matches.  Frankly, most people opt for team games as its more fun since you get to play cooperatively and competitively at the same time.  So basically it is like any multiplayer match making system:  players make rooms, other players join, and the havoc begins.  Oh, I have also found that multiplayer is still somewhat unstable.  I have been disconnected from a game I was setting up and also crashed before a different game started.  Guess that’s why they’re still in beta.  However, I have not crashed or been disconnected during a match yet.

Fighting

So how does a PVP match play out?  You start with just your main building and there is always an unprotected resource crystal nearby.  You spend a few seconds claiming the crystal, and soon it becomes a resource generator that also behaves like a defense tower.  Then you run quickly out of your base area searching for more crystals.  You will soon discover that all other crystals outside player’s bases are protected by NPC monsters.  If you’re brave you’ll attempt to defeat the monsters and claim another crystal for yourself.  Soon, you’ll have enough resources to build new buildings and actually start summoning Souls.  The more advanced buildings allow you to build stronger types of souls, but building weaker buildings is a perquisite to building the more advanced structures.  Unfortunately, I did not have access to the more advanced buildings in my PVP matches, probably because they were newbie games.

I soon realized that I was completely underpowered when I encountered the massive armies of my opponents.  They quickly slew me and my few weak Souls, and replaced my resource gathering buildings with theirs.  Apparently PVP is really competitive in this game from the get-go.  It didn’t help that I was still learning all the keyboard shortcuts required to tell my souls what to do.  There aren’t many, but efficient use of shortcuts is a must as the fighting is fast-paced and managing soul summoning, strategic soul movement, and controlling your main character in a fight can get quite frantic.

Fighting with your hero character is mostly done with the mouse.  You left click to attack in the direction you are facing and left click several times in succession in order to pull off a several hit combo that finishes off by hitting your opponent into the air.  Depending on which character you are using, you’ll be able to use different combos and special attacks.  The Valiant Knight uses some rather high damage close range skills.  The Bearcat of the Harmony Tribe has some sneaky skills like going into stealth mode and planting mines on the ground that pursue enemies.  The Priest(ess) is able to buff Souls under her team’s control and focuses on long range attacks.  Thus, Soul Master plays more like an action RPG with some RTS mechanics during matches.

Graphics

If you watch the trailer above, you’ll see that the graphics are cartoony, but are pretty decent.  Characters, buildings, and the environment are detailed enough to make the world come alive.  Animations are smooth, varied and just look right.  The area of effect of attacks are mostly accurate and coincide well with attack animations.  Also, there’s plenty of special effects.

Audio

Everything sounds right.  Sword swings make a whooshing sound, explosions sound explosive, and ogres sound big and less than intelligent.  Soundtracks are nice but passable.  They don’t grate on your ears or overshadow the sound effects.  The audio meshes well with the Soul Master world.

Conclusion

The gameplay gets a bit repetitive since PVP matches generally play the same.  Also, the superior equipment of existing players clearly give them an edge against newbies, even if they’re skilled.  You will also grind the same missions several times in PVE in order to earn experience and in-game cash.  You could spend some real world money in order to expedite your character’s growth rate so you won’t have to grind as much.  The connectivity issues and crashes in PVP can be a bit annoying as well.  However, the game’s overall presentation is really well put together, and if you don’t mind some of the connectivity issues (which might be minor as I have not played PVP extensively), and find the action RPG style of play enticing and addictive, you’ll probably enjoy Soul Master for a long time.

Where to Download and Play

The open beta for North and South America is available at Games Campus and closed beta for Europe is available at Gamigo.

Posted on October 12th, 2010 at 10:34 PM by Shadowfox

Playing games online inside your browser has become one of the most popular forms of entertainment today.  Some may consider browser games to be “casual” games.  But today’s browser games are exceptionally more advanced than the simple flash games of yesteryear.  Today, stunning 3D graphics in browser games is becoming commonplace.  Powerful middleware like Unity are making it even easier to make advanced games with appealing graphics playable inside your browser and also raising the quality bar for online games.  Here is a video of a demo made with Unity:

And that’s just a demo.  But the new wave of the future is really integrating these games well into websites and offering an integrated, social experience.  An example is Atmosphir.  Atmosphir, built using the Unity platform, allows players to make their own levels using the easy-to-use built-in level editor and share them with the world.  While still in its beta stage, it works impressively well so far with over 55,000 players signed up already (including me).

Another example is Free Realms.  It feels almost like an mmo since there’s an immense world to explore in 3D.  But the game world is just a fancy lobby since Free Realms is actually a collection of mini-games.  Granted, a virtual world for players’ avatars to reside in fosters a great deal of community interaction that would less visually pleasing otherwise.

Browser games generally don’t require very large downloads in order to keep their casual pick-up-and-play style.  With the prominence of broadband internet connections, bigger and better games like Atmosphir and Free Realms are possible.  Although it does take several minutes to start playing Atmosphir the first time around, subsequent plays will take much less time to load since a large chunk of game data is cached on your computer.

Posted on October 12th, 2010 at 10:10 PM by Shadowfox

Today the Shadowfox Games website has been relaunched to be bigger and better!  Initially, it was only going to contain Unity browser games that I made, but now it will also be a blog about games.  I will mostly focus on free games online.  The site might still be a bit empty and disorganized as I continue to set everything up, but I promise to get this up and running ASAP!