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The HeliOS Project is now.....
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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Indie Gamers See The Linux Market

It hasn't been that long ago that we brought you news of 2d boy World of Goo and the Frictional Games trilogy Penumbra.  Since then, things have been pretty quiet on the Linux Game least to my ear, but then again, I'm not much of a gamer.

Sure, I've played all the repository shooters...bloody chunks flying and monsters galore.  I have a short attention span...mostly because I suck at shooter games.  I just don't play them often.

But every now and then, one game catches my eye.

For this post, that game is Caster. 

Mike Smith is the Author of Caster and he has done a great job in bringing us a third person shooter that takes as much thinking as it does shooting.  There is a comprehensive interview with Mike here so I can't add much to what he's already said, however I can tell you that Mike is offering this great game at 5 bucks a pop and get this...

Buy the game and get the updates free.

I'm having trouble finding the downside to that.

Our resident gamer, Mark Montgomery has given an entire weekend to Caster and offers his review below.

Help support the Indie guys that are writing for Linux...five bucks...I think we can do that.  And As always, the first 5 people to post the news of Caster on a high-traffic Linux site will get a copy of the game.

OK Mark, what did you find?

I played the full game on my laptop – a ZaReason UltraLapSR running Gentoo 32 bit.
I tested the demo quickly on my desktop – a self built Phenom II Quad Core running Funtoo 64 bit.
It ran fine on both.

When you start a new game, you are asked to enter a name. The game then uses this name to address you in the mission texts. I found this minor touch quite nice.

The graphics are quite good in the game.
The scenery and objects are well shaped and textured. While some things are not as detailed as they are in some current modern games, the level of detail is perfectly acceptable for this type of game.

The music fits the game well and varies by the current events in the game. I quite enjoyed it.
-Sound Effects
The sound effects are enjoyable and did not overwhelm me when I was playing.
There are enough to know what is going on but not so many effects that I was overwhelmed with chaotic audio.
The sound effects fit the actions well.

The controls are fairly standard for this type of game and are easy to use.
The game uses the typical WASD + space bar combined with mouse use for character movement.
The game uses minimal extra keys for game play.
There are keys to quickly switch weapons if you prefer to use the keyboard to switch rather than the mouse.
The game also allows holding the shift key and a direction to dash in a direction rather than double tapping and holding the movement key – I personally liked using the shift key better.

The interface is simple and easy to use.
Just click on a mission and go.

The storyline is minimal. You are a caster performing missions to reclaim areas from the bug-like Flanx and to collect energy orbs.

Game play
Game play is simple yet complex. While the movement is fairly simple, the missions do require a fair bit of strategy to complete. You cannot simply run around shooting aimlessly.
Some missions require a specific weapon to be acquired before the level can be complete completely, or at all.

Character items
Your character starts with certain skills and a single weapon. The other weapons are found in other missions.

As you complete missions you gain credits which can be used to upgrade your skills and weapons. The amount of credits you earn is based on your score in the level.
If you replay a mission and get a higher score than a previous attempt, you will gain the appropriate amount of credits for the increase in your score.

There is quite a bit of strategy involved in the game. Some levels require different strategies than others. In some levels, you must use a particular weapon in order to kill the Flanx in that level. Some levels are best handled with one or more different weapons. You must analyze the map and use the appropriate skills and weapons to achieve your goal.

The camera is your standard 3rd person shooter view. Most of the time this works very well. There are a few instances where you can get "stuck" against a wall in zoomed-in mode and have to figure out which way to move to return to a normal view. However this seems to be a common problem with this view style.
The camera has a fairly decent range of angles, which makes game play easier.

Movement is well done and responsive. I did not have much trouble getting used to the character movement.

Each mission has a unique map. These maps vary greatly - from an industrial compound to a swamp to a desert mountain.
This makes the game quite interesting visually and strategically.
The missions are not overly long, or at least, don't generally have to be.
This makes for an enjoyable playing experience, since you can do a mission or two and then take a break to do something else if you like.
Missions are not auto-loaded. You selected an available mission from the mission screen to play it. When you complete a mission, the indicator for that mission changes from Red to Green (except for the final mission - I don't know if this is intended or was simply a glitch for me – the mission does show the score though, so obviously it recorded).
After you complete a mission, other missions may be unlocked and show up on the mission screen.
You can also abort a mission at any time if you realize you cannot complete it (or are not ready to).
This simply leaves the mission marked as non-completed.

Since each mission map is different, each has a different unique terrain. The terrain is a vital part of the strategy in some missions. Two of the available weapons specifically modify the terrain - one lowers the terrain and one raises it.
In some levels these are required, and in others they can be very useful.

The character never dies in the game.
When your shield runs out, an animation plays and then you are revived to full shield power where you were.
This means that you can simply continue to play.
However, each time you are revived, your score for the level is reduced back to 0.

The menu system is a simple mouse navigated set of screens.
Everything is laid out well and easy to navigate.

The configuration options are well done and appropriate for the game.

Crash recovery
If you manage to crash the game (by killing the process, setting an option that broke it, etc.), the game goes into crash recovery mode.
When you start the game it will go into 640x480 windowed mode with all graphics options set to the lowest.
This is quite nice as it allows you to configure the options again in case you had tried a setting that didn't work.


Zoom glitch - I mentioned the zoomed-in-when-against wall glitch already. As I said, that is quite common with games of this type, and would probably be difficult to fix without adding a manual camera zoom in/out feature.
Spike glitch - There was a time or two when I grew the ground under me up into a spike and was unable to get off of it. I'm not sure exactly what causes it, but it was slightly annoying the couple times I managed to do it.

Dual monitor glitch - I installed the demo on my desktop system (Funtoo 64 bit running dual 20" 1680x1050 LCDs in Twinview mode) to see how it would handle it. The game started full screen across both monitors nicely.
However, the game did not have an option to use only one display. Also, the resolution list generated with the minimum window size for windowed mode being the full resolution of one monitor.
I assume the window-mode resolution could be fixed somehow (maybe have some pre-defined resolutions?), but I don't know if the select-a-screen option could be implemented to handle twinview non-xinerama setups easily.
This is a fairly common issue I've seen with running games full screen on my setup.

What I would like to see:
I would like to see fuller stats for the completed missions, rather than just the best score for it.
I would like to see it show the best score and the associated stats: Number of Flanx killed, number of energy orbs collected, number of times you revived.

Caster has a very nice look and feel to it. It is simple to play yet complex enough to keep you interested. The storyline isn't exactly deep, but that doesn't really matter. It is enough to give you an idea of your purpose in the game. I was disappointed when I completed the final mission and realized I had done all of the levels. I was left wanting more, which is a mark of a great game.
The game is simple, complex, and addictive.

All-Righty Then


Toby Haynes said...

There are more Indie companies out there with Linux Shooters at reasonable prices too.

There are vertical shooters like Irukandji and Area shooters like Bullet Candy Perfect. And you name your price - all offers of $1 or more are accepted.

comdotlinux said...

A game that runs on Linux & recommended by Ken? -- On top of that, only 5 bucks! -- Actually I was already convinced in the first line.
Done -- Got the game :-)

Sam said...

Nice. Game seems good. Won't mind paying for it.

Audio Mastering Services said...

While some things are not as detailed as they are in some current modern games, the level of detail is perfectly acceptable for this type of game.

ley atraccion said...

Wow,what a game I want to take my hand on friends in windows are laying to every shoting game...and by now I heven't find some decent game for Linux, and this game seems really good!