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Games Entertainment

ASCII Portal In the Works 82

Posted by Soulskill
from the we-do-what-we-must-because-we-can dept.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun points out a video showing Portal, redone with ASCII graphics. It's still in development, but appears to be quite far along. Its creator, Cymon, says on his website, "I have Windows XP, so all binaries will by default be for Windows. But I will also be including the source code with the distribution and am doing my best to write it cross-platform compatible, so it should compile in Linux and Mac. I've had successful builds done in Linux." He also talks in detail about his design plans and ideas.
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ASCII Portal In the Works

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  • Innovative (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @03:25AM (#28700849) Journal

    I must admit that my first thought was why and that its gonna lost all the interest in ascii mode where it would just teleport from one place to other. However after seeing the video, it seems to be a lot more than that and has very neat portal like effects. I loved how it creates the landscape on the "empty" space instead of just teleporting, which makes it seem continuous.

    In an indirect way this also showed me that current games aren't just about graphics and innovative gameplay would had been forgotten. Portal could had been done years ago the same way its done here. However it was new kind of game and had good and fitting graphics, so the usual thought that new games aren't innovative doesn't really cut.

    I hope this gets converted to linux aswell so I can play it over ssh :)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by corsec67 (627446)

      The graphics of the text Portal seem to be similar to games I played on my TI-83, I think the name was "Ultima", so if a 6MHz Z80 can do almost the same graphics, it is definitely something that could have been done a long time ago.
      (The TI-83 was released in 1996, but I bet that something like text Portal could have been made for a 286 with power to spare)

      Honestly, I like 2D games, since the emphasis is more on gameplay and less on pretty graphics.

      I played enough text based MUDs back in the day that I like

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by TheRaven64 (641858)
        There's 2D, and there's poor graphics. I found the flash game based on portal [wecreatestuff.com] to be a lot of fun. It had simple graphics, but they were good enough to make the game fun without having to memorise a list of symbol to thing mappings. In some ways, I found this more fun than the original. A lot of the puzzles in portal seemed to be 'jump through this portal and then, while you're rotating, hit this small bit of wall,' while the puzzles I enjoy most are the ones where you have to figure out which bit of wal
    • Re:Innovative (Score:5, Informative)

      by RenHoek (101570) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @03:58AM (#28700947) Homepage

      There are some modern games still being produced in ASCII, like Dwarf Fortress [wikipedia.org].

      What people tend to forget is that using ASCII as game graphics, you can do a lot more in-depth gaming without having your game look like crap.

      It's kinda like the difference between a book and a movie. Books tend to draw you in more because you get to use your imagination to fill in the scenery. This gives the power to a mediocre book to still be quite good. However, the current state of special effects in movies and CG means that if your movie uses technology from even a few years back, the movie looks like crap and will probably not be received well. And as with movies, the latest technology requires a lot of money and man-power.

      And of course, ASCII gives you a lot more CPU power for AI and other neat things. And it doesn't have to exclude the use of the mouse, sound effects, music, mulitplayer and other niceties that we get in full 3D games.

      • Re:Innovative (Score:5, Insightful)

        by X0563511 (793323) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @04:30AM (#28701041) Homepage Journal

        "What people tend to forget is that using ASCII as game graphics, you can do a lot more in-depth gaming without having your game look like crap."

        The problem is that some people consider ASCII graphics to look like crap, just by their virtue of being ASCII.

        That said, it gives you the power to work on the gameplay etc, and you can later on put actual graphical tiles in, if you wanted. So long as you make the logic "portable" enough, you could even go so far as to put the game into a 3D graphics engine, and it would play the same, but (obviously) be presented in 3D.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by zwei2stein (782480)

          But that actually kills gameplay.

          There are more reason for ascii 2d than just being easy to create.

          Ascii is also easy to recognize and player can easily "read" situation. It is sort of high-contrast graphics that is very hard to pull with graphical tiles. I tried tilesets for DF and stayed away from it ... it just made game look messy.

          And, once you get from 2d, you loose overview. I have seens roguelikes turned to classic dungeons (you can not really do much more thanks to underlying blocky nature of those

          • Re:Innovative (Score:4, Interesting)

            by cgomezr (1074699) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @05:21AM (#28701247)

            The thing is that, as opposed to graphics, text characters are symbols that have been explicitly designed (and evolved) to be easily distinguishable.

            There are several roguelikes that give you the option of using ASCII or tiles (Nethack, Dwarf Fortress if you count that as a roguelike, Crawl, etc.) but tiles are mostly a choice for newbies who are scared of ASCII. An experienced player will always choose ASCII because it will give him a broader view of the situation. With ASCII, it is easy to have an 80x50 dungeon in full view, with every object perfectly distinguishable. To do that with tiles in most current screens, you would need 16x16 tiles and those tiles are just too small to look decent and distinguishable (see this one [nocookie.net], for example) while an ASCII char is perfectly distinguishable at even smaller sizes than that.

            So roguelikes using tiles typically just let you see a smaller part of the dungeon, which is a disadvantage, and thus any experienced player who wants to play in the best way possible will choose ASCII.

            So no, it's not just a matter of being easier to code or saving CPU time. For some kinds of games, ASCII is just better.

            • You forgot to say get off my lawn. I play NetHack just fine with tile sets. I'd say that you're actually at the disadvantage with just ASCII as I have a better view of my inventory, recent messages, and dealing with a shopkeeper isn't an absolute pain in the butt. ASCII is fine for a quick game on NAO but most of the time I just want to play the game instead of being forced to deal with the limitations of ASCII. And I even use the simple built in tileset.

            • by Fweeky (41046)

              An 80x50 window with 16x16 tiles takes up a quarter of my display. I normally run much bigger than that, and the tiles look pretty distinguishable to me - certainly more so than just using colours to distinguish goat from goblin and peasant from hammerdwarf.

              If I need a bigger overview, d12 supports zooming; it's still usable at 8x8, but I rarely find myself wishing the standard display was that small.

            • by mataamad (1381529)
              with a 1280 pixel wide or larger screen a 16*16 tileset will fit on nicely for most rougelikes, I like tiles /because/ they make it easier to distinguish between objects, using a character set when you walk into a weapons shop you see a lot of ///// all coloured gray or brown, not very easy to distinguish at all...
          • by ikono (1180291)
            I personally have trouble differentiating ASCII graphics. I have no clue where things end and begin in games like ToME and Dwarf Fortress. 'Simpler' games like Nethack or even ASCIIsec do a much better job with that
          • by X0563511 (793323)

            3D doesn't imply a first person perspective... at all.

        • by tomhudson (43916)

          "What people tend to forget is that using ASCII as game graphics, you can do a lot more in-depth gaming without having your game look like crap."

          The problem is that some people consider ASCII graphics to look like crap, just by their virtue of being ASCII.

          So use unicode ...

          Or dynamically remap the fonts (like in PCTools 7x "graphics" text mode, or the CA-Clipper Toolkit).

          • by X0563511 (793323)

            That wasn't my point. My point was that most people consider text representation to be:

            1. Old & Busted
            2. Ugly

            • by tomhudson (43916)
              By doing remapping of the character fonts to other glyphs (which ca be done in real time on a cell-by-cell basis) you're not limited to text. You also can remap the alternate set (all video cards support at least 2 complete character maps of 256 characters each, so you have 512 glyphs or sprites to play with. Users never need to know that it's "really" text.
              • by X0563511 (793323)

                But if you do that, than it's no longer an "ASCII" game, it's something completely different.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        DF has a terrible interface, though. These days, there is no excuse for that, text or no.

        At least dopewars was apprehensible.

      • by elrous0 (869638) *
        Like many people, I've become spoiled by modern graphics. I can't even go back and play Xbox 1 games and not be annoyed. I know there is a niche market for retro gsmes and all, but no matter how much I tell myself "It's about the gameplay, not the graphics" I just can't get into them. I'm afraid my grue slaying days are long gone.
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          And that's why you're a console gamer now. You can go ahead and stare at the pretty shineys while killing hookers or whatever.

          • by elrous0 (869638) *
            Oh yes, because console gamers are all idiots, as opposed to the brilliant minds who sit around grinding for 20 hours a day on WoW.
      • There are some modern games still being produced in ASCII, like Dwarf Fortress [wikipedia.org].

        What people tend to forget is that using ASCII as game graphics, you can do a lot more in-depth gaming without having your game look like crap.

        The beauty of one graphic tileset in relationship to another is, of course, in the eye of the beholder, but I don't like having to cross-reference a game's objects with an out-of game table. For instance, how is it obvious that a D refers to a dragon, while a d refers to a dwarf? (or vice-versa, or maybe D is a dwarf while d is a baby dwarf, while a red D is an evil dragon, or whatever...).

        Graphics aside, nothing turns me off more than a hideous interface. In Dwarf Fortress, at least, you have to memorize a

        • by Fweeky (41046)

          In Dwarf Fortress, at least, you have to memorize an arcane system of key commands to navigate through a literal fortress of menus

          The standard display lists those key commands in the side of the window. You likely will memorize at least some of them during use, but you certainly don't have to.

          • The standard display lists those key commands in the side of the window. You likely will memorize at least some of them during use, but you certainly don't have to.

            Right, but for some reason, I have to press the button associated with each menu (like B for Build, D for Designate, etc.), instead of using the arrow keys or a mouse cursor to navigate my way through them. When slapping down plots of farmland, I have to use C and Z (or some keys on the left side of the keyboard) to resize those plots, while a different set of keys (PgUp and PgDown, I think) are used for resizing fences and walls. Or maybe I have them reversed. The point is that I don't remember them becaus

            • by Fweeky (41046)

              Toady would be the first to admit the interface sucks. Future developments are listed on the main site [bay12games.com]; note the sizable Interface Arc [bay12games.com]. e.g. Core52 is "INTERFACE OVERHAUL, (Future): A coherent interface, additional options and mouse support". It'll happen when it happens, probably once more of the underlying behaviour stabilizes.

      • by skeeto (1138903)
        Dwarf Fortress isn't really an ASCII or text-based interface. It's a graphical tile interface that runs on SDL, and happens to use tiles that look like text.
      • by drsquare (530038)

        What people tend to forget is that using ASCII as game graphics, you can do a lot more in-depth gaming without having your game look like crap.

        I dunno, a pixel is much smaller than a character, and with even normal 2D graphics you can show much more than 256 different things within the space of a block.

    • Just be careful - remember what happened to Bambi.
    • Re:Innovative (Score:4, Insightful)

      by johannesg (664142) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @04:38AM (#28701081)

      In an indirect way this also showed me that current games aren't just about graphics and innovative gameplay would had been forgotten. Portal could had been done years ago the same way its done here. However it was new kind of game and had good and fitting graphics, so the usual thought that new games aren't innovative doesn't really cut.

      I'd argue that there are still innovative games around, but most are derivate crap. In that sense nothing has changed from the good ol' days of 8- and 16-bit. What has changed, however, is that games are now more locked into specific presentation formats: everything has to be 3D, and abstract graphics have just about died out. In some ways, this limits what can be done (some gameplay mechanics depend on 2D or fake-3D presentation). We've lost some of the richness of the early game landscape because of that, I think.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by sopssa (1498795) *

        I think this is just usual bullshit. Yes, in my young age there were *great* games. Settlers 2, Civ2, Megarace 2, Populous, Operation Flashpoint. They were great, but they wouldn't be on today's scale. Age goldens things and so on. However I do still enjoy playing them, because they were so large part of my younghood. If they were new titles and something I wouldn't know, I wouldn't really be impressed by them.

        And there are great games that dont rape it for 3D graphics now a days too. Just recent games incl

        • by johannesg (664142)

          Just because we're used to greater graphics now doesn't mean the gameplay is shit and only great gameplay is in 2D ASCII games we're you have to have good imagination to go with things.

          Yeah, I *totally* said that... (rolls eyes)

          To avoid troll-mods, next time try responding to what I actually said.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Rogerborg (306625)

      Uh... what's so innovative about swiping someone else's gameplay and name?

      Oh, it's in 2D? It might be cross platform? Yeah, been done [wecreatestuff.com].

      • by sopssa (1498795) *

        If you've read it correctly, I actually meant that the original Portal was innovative. Its nice however that someone has transferred it to ascii.

    • Most games that work with Sprite images work for ascii. As it is in essence a bunch of sprites that are pre-made. You may not see the guy running but that doesn't effect game play.

      • by drsquare (530038)

        The problem is, sprites can move around on a pixel basis, and even overlap. Characters can't do that, they can only move around in blocks, and when one's in front of another, how do you see the one behind?

        • Well umm it depends on your output hardware.
          If you are using ASCII Line Printers then you can. Behold the Arch Or with other printers you can change the spacing so the characters be moved a few pixels in different direction.

  • I was just playing ADoM on an online server [ancardia.ath.cx] for it.
  • Not ASCII (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Archaemic (1546639) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @03:44AM (#28700905)
    I hate to be the pedantic one to point this out, but this isn't ASCII. It might even be pushing it to call it ANSI, but it's certainly a closer classification. Looks more like CP 437 than anything else.

    ...anyone else remember ZZT? I do.
    • by Nimey (114278)

      I remember it, and got a copy of it and Super ZZT when they were being distributed for free.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Liar. You love being the pedantic one.

    • Re:Not ASCII (Score:4, Interesting)

      by fm6 (162816) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @01:01PM (#28705035) Homepage Journal

      I can double nitpick your nitpick!

      First, you're not being pedantic at all. The confusion about what "ASCII" means has caused no end of grief. Look at all the web pages that are full of "?" glyphs because people are confused about what characters they can safely use. And that's actually an improvement over they way things used to be. For a long time most web pages didn't even specify character set, and browsers were supposed to guess. One resulting glitch: Internet Explorer tended to assume that any page containing a right-curly-quote was in Japanese!

      One reason I parted ways with Project Gutenberg and Distributed Proofreaders was their stubborn insistence that anything you can type on a U.S. PC keyboard is "ASCII" and therefore universally readable. They've since discovered their mistake, but are still sort of in denial about the consequences.

      Other nitpick: strictly speaking, there's no such thing as an ANSI character set. It's not even sloppy usage, because when somebody says "ANSI character" it's less than obvious what they're talking about. Probably CP 1252 [wikipedia.org], or maybe CP 437 [wikipedia.org]. The Wikipedia article on CP 1242 claims that it's called "ANSI" because of confusion with Latin 1 [wikipedia.org], which supposedly started out as an ANSI spec. (CP 1242 and Latin 1 are the same except that the former uses some codes that the latter doesn't; and yes, that does cause problems.) That rates a big {Citation Needed} from me.

      Ooh! One more nitpick! CP 437 is often referred to as "extended ASCII". Now, this game looks like it's running on a PC using CP 437 displayed on MS-DOS's "ANSI" terminal emulator. (So called because it implements ANSI X3.64.) So EVERYBODY'S RIGHT!!!!

  • by Rooked_One (591287) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @03:58AM (#28700949) Journal
    That is one of those coolest things i've seen in a while. I used to love programming stuff with basic graphics on the apple 2's, so this really takes me back. I'm not sure if the apple II's would have the horsepower to pull of the "spins" though ;)
    • I can easily see playing this game in 1983. The game logic is simple enough, it makes you wonder why nobody thought of it back then.

      I'm not sure if the apple II's would have the horsepower to pull of the "spins" though ;)

      No problem! Written in 6502 assembler, I don't think it would have been that hard. You'd probably have to come up with a delay to make the spins slow enough.

      It's just a question of coming up with a clever trick - I had a friend in high school who would have looked at the spin as a neat challenge and probably he would have had it coded and running over a weekend...

      It would hav

  • outro (Score:3, Funny)

    by rarel (697734) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @04:24AM (#28701013) Homepage
    And as a bonus, the ending video will be entirely redone with mocap CGI ;)
  • by naz404 (1282810) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @04:31AM (#28701047) Homepage
    Check out Left 4k Dead [mojang.com] -> Left 4 Dead in 4kb! It's pretty fun and the sourcecode's available too.
  • The best games never are.
    • by geekoid (135745)

      The graphics of looking through the portal and seeing yourself was a huge plus to keeping people 'in' the game.

  • by m50d (797211) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @05:55AM (#28701357) Homepage Journal

    Just set your SDL_VIDEODRIVER to aalib (or better, caca, for colour). Ascii frozen bubble can be quite fun.

    • by Saija (1114681)

      or better, caca, for colour

      As someone who's spanish native speaker let me tell you that "caca" in spanish means "shit", so i wonder what color gives to my graphics using that "caca" which you speak of...

  • I must say that many friends stopped gaming because simply it became too much obstacles and effort. Where are the days of good old doom, where installation had all it needed to run it and was full of fun. Now games like crysis still pushing video but gameplay is so boring and MP dead from start. In SP it looks almost same. Last good SP game was supreme commander. This looks awesome and i cannot care less about graphics
  • by Twinky (32219) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @08:13AM (#28701931)

    Cool.

    Until this project is finished, may I recommend Portal: The Flash Game [wecreatestuff.com] ?

  • by FlyByPC (841016) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @08:53AM (#28702247) Homepage
    ...the cake is a li--ne drawing?
  • by marciot (598356) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @09:37AM (#28702719)

    To get the portal effect, this guy must have used some sort of ray-casting techniques in 2D. Plus the landscape rotation likely requires a matrix operation or two and some fancy rasterization algorithms. That's so odd, that he's using such advanced graphics techniques for "just" ASCII text. Next thing you'll know he'll find a way to offload the work onto the GPU, making the first ASCII game that requires a GPU!

  • Very fun project and I look forward to playing it. But I watched this yesterday morning via Stumble. Seems Slashdot is now falling behind on getting me stories. I think this might be the 3rd or 4th in a lil over a week where I saw the article while using Stumble. Maybe I better start just submitting stories after I Stumble them and take credit for good reporting.

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