Game Engine Black Book

I found Fabien Sanglard’s site awhile ago while searching for information on Doom’s engine. While not extremely exhaustive, each short article on his site gives a nice informative look into several of id’s and other games to see what makes it tick. Well, apparently there was enough demand for him to dive in deeper, because now Fabien has released the Game Engine Black Book for Wolfenstein 3D. Unlike Game Programming Patterns, which I’ve previously posted about, don’t expect to follow along with much or most of this book unless you have some serious graphics and/or assembly language programming under your belt. Wolfenstein 3D was created at a time when there were severe restrictions on what a game could do, especially a 3D game. Through his previous experience and uncanny ability to grasp, learn, and create brilliant new things, John Carmack came up with a fast-performing engine that allowed id to create the most popular shooter of its time, at least until Doom came long.

In the book Fabien first takes a look at the hardware id had to work with at the time, including the Intel i286 and i386 processors, RAM limitations and 2 ways of trying to expand beyond it, video modes, and sound processing. Then a small section covers the asset creation for the game, and the personnel at id who worked on each. Finally Fabien dives into the Wolfenstein 3D source code, and this is definitely the meat of the book. He goes over the general architecture, the 2D and 3D renderers, audio and sound effects, and user input.

This was a fun read, but I’ll say at least 95% of it went over my head. The code in C I could roughly follow, as that’s the language I primarily learned. But there’s a LOT of assembly mixed in, and these days I don’t think even Rasberry Pi programmers deal with it; it’s that low-end (I think BIOS/UEFI and device drivers are the only things that use assembly). I would love to see further books from Fabien. Doom is an obvious choice, but I think something even further along would be great, whether that’s Quake or even Doom 3. I’d just like his analysis on code that I could roughly follow better, whether it’s C or C++.

Game Programming Patterns

I first learned of this book from author Robert Nystrom’s entry on the Uses This website (also featuring the greatest profile photo on that site, maybe ever!). The book can be found on its dedicated website, in a variety of electronic and print versions, as well as being able to read online for free. I must applaud Robert for that latter option, as it’s a great way to know for sure the book covers what you want to learn before buying a paper copy (which for me is still superior for longer reading sessions as well as reference).

Since it’s available to look through online I won’t go through all the chapters or such. I will just say that as a still-novice programmer much of the details went over my head, but I did understand the general concepts Robert was talking about. His hand-drawn diagrams are also perfect and wish all programming books utilized that style!

While you will still need other books to start to learn programming, both in general and for games, I think this book is worth picking up at least at the intermediate level to begin learning about some general concepts as well as learned lessons from others to incorporate into your own work.

BBC’s And Then There Were None

I’ve already written about the fact that And Then There Were None is my favorite mystery, and probably novel, of all time. It’s a perfect mystery without the added ending, and the amount of suspense and terror coming up to the end is almost too much. Recently I was browsing on Amazon and was surprised to discover that the BBC had adapted the novel to a 3-episode miniseries. While my expectations were sky-high, I went ahead and ordered it since the reviews all seemed to be pretty good (I didn’t read them, as I didn’t want to be spoilered by what changes may have been made in the adaptation).

The first impression when I started to watch this is the incredible music by Stuart Earl; the cello and other instruments engulf the viewer and like the mansion on the island seem to be an inescapable trap, in turns caressed and pummeled like the the waves of water as the weather worsens. Unlike the book, in the miniseries the backgrounds of the characters are brought up throughout the show in a more prominent manner. It’s an interesting change and I don’t mind it, but it does cause the beginning of the miniseries to be a bit confusing as to what’s actually happening at the present time.

Mr. and Mrs. Rogers, the caretakers, also share some screen-time, and unlike the book their relationship is shown to be much more precarious, culminating in Mr. Jones even striking his wife. The rest of the characters follow their book counterpoints for the most part. Some of the characters, notably Dr. Armstrong, are a bit over-dramatic and amped up for the screen, but I guess that’s not really surprising these days. I also pictured Justice Wargrave as being shorter and heavier. The house itself is a wonderful feature, and pretty close to what I had always pictured. I did always envision a full wrap-around balcony both on the ground and second floor.

While I mention that I pictured Justice Wargrave differently, I must say the casting of Charles Dance was perfect (if you’ve never watched Game of Thrones, he’s fantastic as Tywin Lannister!), especially in the last scene of the third episode here. His reasoning and underlying sinister behavior just makes everything that much more unsettling. The other actors are also excellent, and I was pleasantly surprised to see Sam Neill as General MacArthur.

Overall while I was happy to see a miniseries from the BBC, I do wish it was a little bit longer. I have no doubt this 3-episode miniseries handled the source material better than a movie could, but there’s no doubt the book spends more time between each murder; that helps the suspense and unease grow, as well as prolonging the mystery of what’s going on inside the house and on the island. I do remember reading the book that more time was also spent with several pairs or groups searching the island, as well as taking time to talk at either the dining table or in the lounge room; almost all of that is skipped in the miniseries. I think going to 5 or 6 episodes could have easily been done, even if more time was also used for the characters’ backstories and such.

Her Story

Her Story is a rather unique adventure/narrative game. Created by Sam Barlow, it is truly a game of mystery, detection, and observation. The player must sift through a database of police interviews with Hannah Smith, regarding the death of her husband. The videos aren’t in any order and can’t be directly accessed. Instead, the player must enter a search term, which will return up to five videos that contain that keyword. Depending on which (and how many) words the player puts in will determine whether the actual truth is discovered. In other words, there’s no definite end to the game. After a certain number of discovered videos the player receives a chat prompt asking if he or she is finished, but I would recommend to keep going. I would also recommend keeping track of search terms already used, as well as potential terms to try out discovered from each video.

Portrayed by Viva Seifert, Hannah is a very intriguing interviewee, and through the dozens of videos will display the full gamut of emotions. Unless the player spends the time unearthing at least most of the videos, it can be really hard to tell what is true and what isn’t. Besides the clues of what she’s wearing, be sure to also pay attention to the date and time for each video.

Bandcamp find: Dead When I Found Her

Do you like Front 242, Skinny Puppy, Front Line Assembly? Well then you need to get on over to Bandcamp and check out Dead When I Found Her! I haven’t listened to this kind of music in quite awhile, but I’m getting a good vibe. It’s gonna take me a bit to listen to all the releases and get it all to sink in, but so far I’m digging it!