Old and New Games: DethKarz

Dethkarz title page

As most of my readers know, I am a long-time videogamer.  I’m also a gamer with a (low) budget;  I have to make my gaming work within the same budget I use for my professional development equipment.  That means I have the same ten-year old yellowing case for my workstation, rather than a cool gamers’ case.  I do have a decent monitor and the X-Box controller I talked about before.  And I have Steam, GOG and a multitude of independent developers to keep me in games in exchange for relatively little cash.

PC gaming, left for dead by the console industry, has settled into a decent niche that is still very much alive.  Independent developers have created a lot of good, and successful games.  Steam, the online game store/environment/host/social network, has made box and disc purchases all but obsolete, just as GOG has done for the bargain oldies bin at CompUSA.

As I promised before, I’ve gone through my back collection of games and I’m going to write about some of them.   

Video games have been around long enough for us to see the same tropes and themes, in old games and in new.  I can’t help but compare my older games to my newer games and see how games have changed and how they haven’t.  What old games do I still love to play?  What new games haven’t I played once I took them out of the box (or the zip or the download)?  What themes do I see over and over?  What interesting tropes are there in old games that I have never seen in new games?

I’m going to cover one game at a time, one old, and one new.  I’ll provide compatibility information—all games I cover have been tested on Windows 7 (and soon Windows 8)—and availability, if the game is still on the market.  (Acquiring  “abandonware” is beyond the scope of my series.)

All games I write about are installed or downloaded “full” client software installations;  I won’t get into browser-hosted games.  I seldom play multiplayer, so my perspective is that of the single player environment.

(“Old games” and “new games” terms need clarification.  Most gamers define “old games” to be “last month’s releases.” Technologically, I consider the dividing line to be the mid-2000’s when most games stopped targeting Windows 9x, when Windows XP and its runtime environment predominated, and when GPU technology became inexpensive and mainstream, making PC gaming technology more homologized than it ever had been.  I’m going to be very fluid and arbitrary in my distinctions between new and old.)

Screenshots are generated by FRAPS unless stated otherwise. 

Today’s old game is Dethkarz, published in 1998 by Melbourne House.  Dethkarz is a futuristic cyberpunk racing game.  You choose a racing team, and compete on urban, coastal, futuristic and off-world tracks with a car that races on an elevated course.

And your car has lasers and missiles.  Dethkarz falls into the combat racing game genre.

Dethkarz 2012-02-05 22-38-29-64

I’ve fired on the guy in front.  As you may see, I’m about to gain a position!  Too bad about that DNF.

You get missiles and other abilities through convenient power-ups located on the track:

Collecting powerups

You get powerups for extra offense, shields and free energy to repair your car.  You recharge your car by driving through an energy field about where pit road would be on a conventional race track, on the left hand turn in this screenshot.


Dethkarz 2012-02-05 22-24-53-59

The signs and billboards are striking. They are right out of the cyberpunk culture we first saw in Blade Runner.   A few years ago, the Wachowski brothers dipped into this same well to make a movie version of a popular 1960’s Japanese animated series that was also about a futuristic race car and its driver.  Look familiar?

Loop track, Thunderhead Raceway

Thunderhead Raceway wide shot

If Speed Racer were made into a game (and it will be or already has been or will be again, that’s a certainty), it might look like the movie.  Melbourne House may have had Speed Racer in mind anyway, from this screenshot:

Driver X Sign

When I saw this sign, I could not help but think of Racer X, that enigmatic, mysterious, driver that figured so much into the career and life of Speed Racer in the series.

Dethkarz was a good game for its time.  The 3D models are “blocky”, which was common in 1998, as GPU hardware was expensive and texture mapping not as well developed as it is today.  The track and scene design is relatively simple and doesn’t exhibit the “pop-up” syndrome we see in many games (modern games, even) where textures just suddenly pop in as you’re racing through the environment changing your viewpoint.

(If you play old games, particularly old racing games, note how many environments seem to be foggy places, whether weather conditions are simulated or not.  You don’t have to render distant objects in a fogbank, Carmageddon being the best example.  No wonder you can’t see jaywalkers before you run into them!  There’s nothing like being pushed into a fog bank by another car only to realize you’re going off a cliff that has just been revealed beyond your control.)

The game works fine with my XBox controller with the default control bindings.  Steering is overly sensitive, so you need to be very light with control or else you’ll be dumped off the course over and over again;  this was a fault of the game even in its time when I used a traditional controller.

I ran the game at 1280×960 with no performance problems.  (I am not obsessed with FPS figures, unless the game is running at 0 FPS and it’s crashed.)   The game installed right from the CD with no compatibility shims applied. 

Dethkarz will run in Windows as a standard user with UAC enabled, though it will need to be elevated to install.

Dethkarz is not currently available for purchase or download.

Next up, a brand new “experimental” racing game inspired by the 1980’s.


New Network Pizza Model

Network VLAN Pizza 2012-02-05 004

Four years ago, the last time the Patriots were in the Superbowl, I invented a real-life example of the Network Pizza Model originally attributed to David Lawrence Nicol.  I wanted to update my pizza model to reflect new networking standards, many of which I have applied to our network at SATV, which has been much changed in the four years since the original pizza model.

The original Network Pizza model went like this, based on the well-worn OSI 7-layer model:

  • Level 7: Meal layer. Hungry humans get nourished and revitalized.
  • Level 6: Presentation layer. Do you use a plate? Forks? Napkins?
  • Level 5: Session layer. Was level 4 prompt? Do you tip two dollars or three?
  • Level 4: Transport layer. Some poor shmoe has to find your cul-de-sac.
  • Level 3: Network layer. You call your Pizza service provider on the phone and have a synchronous negotiation regarding aspects of levels 2 and 4.
  • Level 2: Sauce and toppings, as specified in Level 3.
  • Level 1: Physical crust layer. The bread on which the entire pizza is

My innovation this year is to add VLAN technology to the network pizza.  It is now possible for individual client diners to enjoy the advantages of segmented networks.   We have deployed a small VLAN at SATV to make our public WiFi network easier to manage by setting it apart from our primary network.  My network pizza will, by the same token (groan), also be easier to consume.  Here are the planning, preparation and deployment details:

Layer 1 Physical Crust Layer

My recipe is based on a bubble-bread pizza I found on the net.  The ingredients are based on the pizza recipe I usually use.

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar 
  • 1-1/4 cup water
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast

Layer 2 Sauce and toppings

  • Pizza sauce (I use the jar type; I’m not strong on sauces so make your own…)
  • Fancy blended shredded cheese (any pizza combo or make your own combo)
  • Pepperoni
  • Peppers

Layer 1 Construction

Mix oil, salt, half of the water (1 cup worth), cheese, and flour. Stir until combined, cover and let stand for 20 minutes. Continue mixing until the dough ball forms and is tacky (not too dry or wet.) Add water if dry. Mix in yeast. Once you have a good dough ball, cover the mixing bowl and let stand for 45 minutes to rise.

Bread machine instructions: Put machine in dough cycle and add all ingredients. If you’re using a machine, you probably know enough to check the dough wetness as the machine runs.


Layer 2-5 Construction

This is where I diverge from a standard pizza model.  Remove the dough and put it in a covered container and let rise for 45 minutes.

Get or find a 14” cake pan, preferably the springiform type that has a removable band to enclose the batter.  Coat it with olive oil.

Divide the dough into 6-8 pieces, and roll them each into a ball.  In this instance, I used half of the dough I made and saved the other half for later.  This is a good option for small networks;  large networks will require you to use all the dough.

Place the dough pieces in the pan like so:

Network VLAN Pizza 2012-02-05 002

Flatten the dough pieces so that they resemble small pizzas.  Coat the dough liberally with olive oil.

Add the layers:

Network VLAN Pizza 2012-02-05 003

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  Slide the pan into the oven and let it bake for 20-25 minutes.

As you can see in the opening picture, you now have a network pizza with VLAN, suitable for all home—and office—applications.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get to implement VLAN tagging or VLAN security;  I’d suggest that some (larger) clients at your site could implement Network Access Control with an outthrust arm or a well-aimed shoulder.

I have no clue how to implement VLAN tagging or filtering, unless you use these same Network Access Control clients to bar the door.

Otherwise, the VLAN Network Pizza is an excellent, tasty implementation.  Nom, nom, nom!