Fixing Text Problems in PlayStation Mobile Studio

I installed the PlayStation Mobile SDK 1.20.00 the other day, which comes with a customized and branded version of MonoDevelop called PlayStation Mobile Studio. I noticed though that there were severe text issues – missing text on pages, menus or in dialogs.

This seems to be an outdated or broken install of GTK#. I downloaded the latest version (2.12.21) from the Mono site:

http://download.xamarin.com/GTKforWindows/Windows/gtk-sharp-2.12.21.msi

It asked me if I wanted to remove or repair, so apparently it was already installed? (Presumably when I installed Xamarin Studio for something else)

I ended up removing and reinstalling this version and now Text renders perfectly fine.

Alien Breed

Like many other european gamers in the 90’s, I owned an Amiga. Several ones to be exact, including my beloved Amiga 2000 and the much more modern AGA-equipped Amiga 1200. One of the premier game developers of the time was Team 17, makers of Full Contact, Body Blows or Worms. They are also known for a game series named Alien Breed.

It’s basically a top down shooter where you control a single soldier who has to fight hordes of aliens. Imagine Gauntlet set in the Aliens universe with a difficulty that matches late 80’s video games.

Alien Breed was followed up by my favorite in the Series – Alien Breed II: The Horror Continues – and Alien Breed: Tower Assault. After that, they would make two 3D games which were revolutionary on the Amiga.

In 2010, a new trilogy was released on Steam, Playstation Network and XBox Live Arcade. The new game is good, but it just wasn’t the same Alien Breed feel for me.

To my delight, Team 17 has released the original 1991 Alien Breed on the Playstation Store, which includes PS Vita and PS3 Cross-Buy and Cross-Play. It contains Alien Breed, the ’92 Special Edition and a few new level packs. It’s playable with the original graphics or with enhanced visuals which look like Tower Assault AGA.

I like how they did controls, it’s basically a twin stick shooter scheme: The left stick moves the character while the right stick shoots in the given direction. That’s not that different than the Amiga version in that you usually shoot where you look, but it makes walking backwards while shooting more natural.

It’s $9.99 and as said, that includes both the PS Vita and PS3 version.

Confusingly, there is also a $3.99 version for Playstation Mobile. From what I’ve seen it’s the same game, but only runs on the PS Vita and some PSM-compatible Android phones. It also features a cash store and no trophies – it’s $6 cheaper though and feels the same, so if you just want a quick fix every one in a while, that’s an option.

For the sake of completeness, GOG sells the MS-DOS Version of Alien Breed and Tower Assault. Alien Breed II wasn’t ported to DOS, and generally these versions aren’t as good as the Amiga versions (which you could play on an emulator).

Simplexcel 1.0.3

A while ago I created my own, simple Excel .xlsx creation library for .net 4.0+. The reason I did this was because I was unhappy with the ones on the market – many of them tried to replicate every feature Excel has to offer but don’t test actually against the actual Excel application and thus miss things like sheet lengths/invalid characters (which are NOT part of the OpenXML Spreadsheet standard) or allow to otherwise create invalid Excel files, prompting Excel to give you a super useless “Invalid data found, do you want to recover?”.

Simplexcel is my attempt at a library that may not offer all the features Excel can do, but tries to make sure that every feature actually works with every applicable version of Excel (2007, 2008 for Mac, 2010, 2011 for Mac and 2013).

Today I updated it:

Version 1.0.3 (2013-08-20)

  • Added support for external hyperlinks
  • Made Workbooks serializable using the .net DataContractSerializer

Full Documentation: http://mstum.github.io/Simplexcel/
Nuget.org Package Page: http://www.nuget.org/packages/simplexcel/
GitHub Page: https://github.com/mstum/Simplexcel

Might & Magic X – Legacy

One of the first role playing series that really got me was the original Might & Magic series. The series started in 1986 with Book One: The Secret of the Inner Sanctum but my first game was Might and Magic V: Darkside of Xeen.

The voice acting may be a bit cringe-worthy, but just look at the intro in all its glory:

Might & Magic V: Darkside of XEEN Intro

The first five games were part of a story arc that involved Fantasy and Science Fiction (a very common mix in the 80s/90s – Ultima and Wizardry also combined these) and the battle of Corak and Sheltem which concluded in Darkside of Xeen.

If you owned both part IV: Clouds of Xeen and part V, you could combine these games to one big game called World of Xeen which allowed travel between these and opened secret areas (and a new ending) that was only possible with the two combined.

The games look amazing (for their time, but still hold up) and play well, but most importantly, they had great lore. Again, the Corak/Sheltem story was neat but even when you were trying to get Castle Kalindra back into the phase of the physical realm and rescue the queen.

With Part VI, the game shifted to a 3D free roam world. The Mandate of Heaven was praised at the time. It certainly was a great game, but to me, it was a big departure from Might and Magic. I guess it was because of the Art Style. The 3D graphics were certainly expected in the late 90’s, but they weren’t on par with other games and haven’t aged well. It also seemed to be too realistic whereas III/IV/V were comic-style. I can’t really complain about customization and skill systems though.

VII and VIII were more of the same – great games, but not up to par with technology (I guess most of VIII’s bad ratings were because it really looked 4 years too late) and for me they just didn’t have the same feeling. I liked how they got the heroes from Part 3 (Isles of Terra) incorporated into the storyline of Part VII For Blood and Honor. Part VII is possibly my favorite “new” Might and Magic.

Part IX… Well, let’s just pretend that never happened, m‘kay?

So, today I saw Might & Magic X – Legacy on Steam Early Access. I’m always a bit wary of early access, so I haven’t bought it yet. Instead, I saw that a guy named Gerugon made a Let’s play series. It’s in German, but if you just want to look at the video to get a feel, it does a good job. Part 4-7 are possibly the ones you want to watch then.

Let’s Play Might and Magic X Legacy 01 (Early Access)

So far I have to say it looks great. First of all, it’s turn and grid-based like Parts I to V. In fact, everything in the game really channels the first five games more than the next three.

This is what I love. There have been a few old-school RPGs recently – most applicable would be Legend of Grimrock – but these were more dungeon crawlers like Eye of the Beholder and very light on story. In fact, I got bored of Legend of Grimrock quickly because there was no real story. It’s a great game with a level editor made by awesome developers (so buy it right now on GOG.com or Steam), but it lacks the rich lore and overworld that made Might & Magic so awesome.

The Early Access version still lacks a lot of content. There are 4 races with 3 classes each, but only 1 class per race is playable right now, so your party is pretty much predefined. Also, you are limited to 4 characters which is in line with the later games, while the earlier ones allowed 6 characters. That meant a lot of Bow & Arrow spam, a fighter and barbarian, some rogues, a mighty caster and a cleric.

If your first Might & Magic was Part VI or VII, you may be disappointed. When it comes to retro it’s arguably a matter of taste and even though Part VII did so much great stuff, I personally prefer the way IV and V worked, so seeing X go back to these roots is amazing.

I’m not sure if the Early Access is worth it yet and it should be noted that it comes with UPlay which sucks giant half-orc balls. But I have to admit: I like what I saw so far, and I’m cautiously optimistic for the game. With a $30 price tag it’s also not a bad deal.

Ubisoft, I gave you a lot of crap over the past few years and to be honest, most of it was deserved. But with Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon and Might and Magic X, you’re giving me hope that you actually got interesting games in the pipeline that aren’t afraid to do stuff away from the mainstream.

Keep it up!

Buy Might & Magic I-VI on GOG.com
Buy Might & Magic VII on GOG.com
Buy Might & Magic VIII on GOG.com
Pretend Might & Magic IX never existed
Buy Might & Magic X – Legacy (Early Access Alpha) on Steam