A long long time ago, I was a DAT modder for FFXI. At one point I was actually spending more time making DAT mods than playing the game. And I know there was a brief time where I had unsubscribed from the game but kept making mods. It was a lot of fun and quite rewarding, is what I’m saying.

If you don’t know, all the resources for FFXI were stored in .dat files. Someone had created a program that let you take those files and extract the textures, alpha maps, and meshes from them, edit those files, and put everything back together. Replacing one DAT file with another allowed you to change what that model looked like in-game. Being a huge fan of playing dress-up in games, I was totally charmed by being able to make armor sets that looked cool to me without having a level restriction. These mods were technically against the TOS, but since they were just armor swaps they didn’t actually let you cheat or anything.

I originally uploaded my DATs to some kind of file sharing site, from which they have since been removed, and submitted them to FFXIDATs.com, a site that sadly no longer exists. But I had such a great time and I loved the community there. I learned a lot about 3D modeling and game assets. I recently found an old USB stick on which I had backed up all my DAT mods, so I thought it would be fun to share them with the world.

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NaGaDeMo 2012: HAX

A screenshot from HAX.

I’ve finished my first-ever game, just in time for the end of NaGaDeMo 2012. It’s called HAX, and it’s a text adventure where the only way to win is to cheat. You can download it from the NaGaDeMo site here. The zip contains standalone distributions for Windows and Mac OS X, as well as the .love file if you’d rather install LOVE 0.8.0 instead (this is the only way to play it on Linux right now).

I had a lot of fun making this game. I’d never programmed in lua before, so that was exciting. I’m pretty happy that I managed to finish this tiny thing in a month, with how hectic my life is right now.

Please play it, and let me know what you think! And also feel free to post here if you have any trouble running it or run into any bugs.

ETA: Seems like there are some issues with the NaGaDeMo games submission right now. For the time being, you can download HAX from Dropbox.

ETA2: It’s available on the NaGaDemo site now!

ETA3: I made a Hint System for the game using Twine, since one puzzle in particular didn’t have enough roadsigns for the solution. So if you get stuck, feel free to get a hint!

Transparent excuse to talk about Dragon Age 3

Wired has an article up today headlined “BioWare: Next Dragon Age Will Draw From Skyrim.” I have… mixed feelings! I love Skyrim. It’s fun as shit and exploring is genuinely fun; it’s always exciting when that chord plays and “MARKARTH DISCOVERED” or whatever pops up on the screen. But ultimately I don’t find it very interesting; I’m not going to write five (or even one?) posts about it when I’m finished playing it. It’s just a good time burning undead and looting dungeons and killing dragons.

I expect more from Dragon Age, especially after DA2. I expect deep characters and actual politics and not a little bit of tragedy. I expect playing a Dragon Age game to be like reading a good medieval fantasy novel, not a Lord of the Rings knockoff or someone’s D&D novelization.

This part intrigues me:

The story of Dragon Age II took place across a decade-long span in the city of Kirkwall, allowing players to see how the city and characters evolved over the years. Muzyka hinted that the next Dragon Age game could take that narrative structure and apply it to a variety of areas, rather than a single city.

I ~LOVE~ the idea of a game taking place over the course of a decade. I was excited when Assassin’s Creed 2 did it, but that game didn’t do much with it. In DA2, it suffered from poor/rushed implementation. No, the guy saying “I’ve been waiting here all day!” for six years is not clever commentary on bureaucracy. But the idea itself is brilliant. If we could concretely see how the world changes based on the events the protagonist is involved in, that would be just fantastic. I just worry that by making a huge world map, larger than DA:O and DA2 combined, it will be impossible to implement the kind of detail that this would require.

Not to mention, I hope characterization doesn’t suffer–it’s what I play DA for. Overall, I just think that sacrificing depth for breadth (face it, it’s impossible to do both; there has to be a balance) is a bad way to go, or at least the way that most other games go. Seeing a game go the Majora’s Mask route and make a small but deep world is something I would love to see more games try, even if it doesn’t completely succeed on the first try.

Also on my wishlist: a canon female protagonist. Both games and all three books have canon male protagonists and it would be really nice if there were some important female heroes in Thedas. (And a rainbow unicorn I can ride to work, while we’re making outrageous requests of Santa Claus.)

What do you want to see in DA3? Where do you want to go?

Running GOG.com Games on a Mac

I have one home computer: a white plastic 13″ MacBook from 2007. My hard drive died a couple weeks ago, and with it, my Windows partition and my ability to play any of my Steam or GOG.com games. Fortunately, there’s a Mac Steam client now, and a bunch of GOG.com games will run on DOSBox, for which there is a Mac version, so it’s not a complete loss.

The trouble with GOG.com games is that you don’t download the game files directly. Instead, you download an .exe that then extracts the game files. And of course, Macs can’t run Windows executables. This is what hung me up for several hours the other night as I tried to get Gabriel Knight running on my old MacBook. Having come across a lot of outdated or too complicated guides for getting GOG.com games running on my MacBook, I thought I would compile my research findings here for less technical people who may be in the same boat as me. Which is probably no one, let’s face it, but at least I will have this for future reference.

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A fate that we deserve: Choice, Triumph, and All That Remains

“When he read to me–stupid things, dragons and heroes–he wouldn’t turn a page until I reached over and took his hand. That big man made every step of the story my choice. I loved that.” — Aveline, regarding her father

(Dragon Age 2 spoilers)

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And I'm through believing

Fantasy religions in games aren’t typically very nuanced. Whether they are stereotyped as righteous and pure crusaders of good or corrupt and evil cults, they are often depicted as being literally true–gods speak directly their followers, if not make actual appearances. Praying at an altar or shrine often confers some sort of real bonus or blessing, suggesting an actual source of power. At the very least, there generally isn’t much that outright contradicts what a given fantasy religion has to say about a world, sometimes because the fantasy religion is being used as a conduit to info-dump at the player. In the Dragon Age series, the Chantry starts out as a way to explain parts of the world of Thedas to the player, but the player is quickly and increasingly encouraged to challenge the Chantry’s teachings.

(Spoilers for DA:O, Awakening, DA2, and the Legacy DLC to follow.)

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