Game-related ramblings.

Month: May 2012

Indie Time: Chain of Retribution (part 1)

I first read about Chain of Retribution over at IndieRPGs, and at first it looked like a fairly standard Japanese-style role-playing game made using RPGMaker. But what caught my attention is that it is apparently a “chain game”, meaning that one developer worked on it and then passed it on to another, who continued working on it, before passing it on again, and so forth. Apparently a total of seven people worked on the game in succession to create the final product.

This intrigued me. How would it work? Did the developers plan everything out beforehand? Or did each one write the next part of the story themselves? Would the game veer off in a completely different direction than the first developer intended? Was there any collaboration on gameplay systems and graphics, or was that all set up by the first person in line? The web page for the game doesn’t answer any of these questions, so I decided to try the game and see for myself.

New Skyjacker Kickstarter Is Up

First I wrote about the Skyjacker demo, which reveals a rather slick space sim that’s already quite a ways along in development. Then I noted that the Kickstarter for the project was being rebooted. Well, now the new Kickstarter campaign is online, and the reward tiers make a lot more sense. If you are interested in flying some spaceships around and blowing things up, you should take a look. The demo is also still available so you can try it out before you decide about making a pledge. The developers warn that the demo is a work in progress, and that they will be adding better voiceovers, improved HUD and menus, additional flight models, and a lot of bugfixes for the final version.

Celebrating Super-Hard Platformers

A couple of weeks ago I posted about Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw’s latest game, Poacher. After taking a break to revisit The Desolate Room, I went back to Poacher and found the secret ending. As expected, it involved an incredibly difficult multi-stage boss fight, followed by a hilarious special ending. It’s no secret that I have a soft spot for these kinds of challenges. I think the reason is that they reward my inherent stubbornness. Encountering a seemingly impossible hurdle, I keep trying, getting a tiny bit closer each time, until my persistence is vindicated. It’s the same satisfaction of solving a tough problem in real life, but miniaturized and accelerated, something that can be solved in hours or days rather than months or years.

Of course, my love of roguelikes has similar roots, but in that case it often actually is a matter of years before victory is achieved. And the challenge of roguelikes is fully cerebral, a matter of strategies and the weighing of options in harsh situations. The extra-tough platformer is a different kind of challenge, one of pattern recognition, timing, and motor skills. It’s faster and more active, requiring one to learn and adapt quickly, and it provides a different kind of satisfaction.

The problem, of course, is that once such a platformer is mastered, there’s little reason to revisit it. This means I’m always looking for new games that fit the bill. Fortunately, there’s a lot of them out there, and I’ve got quite a few favorites to recommend.

Skyjacker Kickstarter To Be Rebooted

With regards to my last post about Skyjacker, it looks like the developers have decided to scrap their current Kickstarter project so they can start a new, better one. The news comes in the project’s latest update, although the current Kickstarter project still appears to be active. No word yet on when the new Kickstarter project will start, but I’ll keep an eye out for it. In the meantime, anyone’s who’s interested in some space sim action can still check out the playable demo.

Demo Time: Skyjacker

Ah, demos. They were these things we used to have that let you try out part of a game before you decided to buy it. Now, there are so many inexpensive games available digitally that most developers don’t bother making demos. But there’s a good reason that the Russian developers of Skyjacker made a demo: they’re not quite done with the game yet, and they’re looking to crowdsource some funding through Kickstarter. That’s been quite successful for some other game ventures, as you may have heard.

Of course, after Tim Schafer’s success there’s been an explosion of Kickstarter proposals for new games. So what makes Skyjacker stand out? Well, for one, it’s a space sim, which is a classic genre that essentially hasn’t seen any new games since 1999’s Freespace 2, considered by many to be one of the best games ever made. Skyjacker’s developers are also talking up some cool features like fully destructible spaceships that can be blown apart one piece at a time, freeform gameplay that lets the player pick and choose missions and develop their own relations with various factions, and a bunch more. And, unlike most Kickstarter projects, there’s already a fully playable demo. I downloaded it, dusted off my flight stick (literally; it was dusty) and took it for a test flight.

One That Got Away: The Desolate Room

Several weeks ago I saw a post on the blog about The Desolate Hope, a new freeware game from ScottGames. My first thought was, “is this a sequel to The Desolate Room?” And indeed it is.

The Desolate Room is a very odd freeware role-playing game that I heard about several years ago. With a cool art style and a coffeepot robot protagonist who delves into the memory chips of the other wrecked robots on his tiny island, it certainly seemed intriguing. But I didn’t get far before giving up in frustration. Lots of little aspects of the design combined to stifle my enjoyment, and the game simply never clicked with me.

I did, however, remain intrigued by it. It was one of those games that I wanted to like, just because it’s so different and peculiar, so it stuck in my memory despite the problems I had with it. With the sequel garnering no small praise from a few critics, I decided perhaps it was time to revisit The Desolate Room, to see if I was right to put it down or if there’s a gem somewhere in there after all. So I gave it another go, and this time I managed to stick it out.

Indie Time: Poacher

Most people know Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw for his fast-talking, foulmouthed and often hilarious Zero Punctuation video reviews of various games, but he’s also made a few games of his own. Long before starting Zero Punctuation he made several point and click adventure games with Adventure Game Studio, the most famous of which comprise the four-game John DeFoe series (aka the Chzo Mythos series), beginning with 5 Days a Stranger. He even managed to create a few platformers with Adventure Game Studio, including Trilby: The Art of Theft, a stealth platformer with a different style to Stealth Bastard that’s well worth checking out. Like the rest of his games, it’s available for free.

Lately, Yahtzee’s efforts have been focused on Zero Punctuation and writing a novel, but he did find time to make Poacher, an exploration platformer starring “unflappable Yorkshireman” Derek Badger. Indeed, Yahtzee was apparently inspired by a google image search result for “Yorkshireman” (a result I was sadly unable to reproduce, but then I am in a different country). Being a fan of exploration platformers and of Yahtzee’s earlier work, I decided to check it out.

Roguelike-like: Decker

There are some who consider Decker to be a true roguelike, but I found it played so differently to traditional roguelikes that I hesitate to call it one, exactly. But it certainly draws inspiration from roguelikes, and the end result is quite interesting.

You see, Decker is a game about hacking. Not hacking and slashing, as most roguelikes are, but hacking as in breaking into computer systems and stealing files. Drawing heavy inspiration from William Gibson’s Neuromancer, it casts the player as the titular Decker, a 22nd century hacker who is contracted to cruise through the virtual reality of the Matrix and steal valuable data. It lets you lead a dangerous but alluring life of corporate espionage and high-tech gadgetry. Well, eventually. In the beginning you are living in poverty, have a bare-bones cyberdeck (read: futuristic computer used for hacking purposes), and can only get a job breaking into the local Radioshack computer system to reset someone’s sick days, or something. A smart Decker doesn’t ask for the details. As you gain cash and a reputation, however, more meaty jobs start to appear, and you can upgrade your hardware and software to tackle some higher-security systems. This is the first and most obvious way that Decker differs from traditional roguelikes: rather than exploring a single dungeon or world, the player will tackle many different procedurally-generated computer systems, connected by an overarching time management game that lets one divide time between writing new programs, resting to recover from injury (yes, you can be physically injured when you’re jacked into cyberspace), or completing contracts in order to make rent at the end of the month.

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