Game-related ramblings.

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Demo Time: Silicon Void On Kickstarter

As always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

Silicon Void first got my attention due to its unusual premise. It presents a future where no biological life has existed in the galaxy for at least 20 billion years. Many artificial intelligences doubt that it ever existed, suggesting instead that biological organisms are nothing more than a creation myth. The constructs that populate the galaxy have more pressing concerns, regardless; after billions of years of existence, transferring themselves across galaxy-spanning networks, corruption is starting to appear. It’s a thermodynamic inevitability known as Senescence, the slow degradation of a construct’s personality and sanity. Constructs are dying out, trying to stave off the madness as long as they can, with no hope of reversing the process. The player controls an artificial intelligence diagnosed with the early stages of Senescence and accordingly exiled to the galactic rim. Once there, they uncover a mysterious message, claiming that organic life has finally been found. This discovery may hold the key to stopping Senescence and preventing extinction.

I love imaginative science fiction ideas like this. It’s a plausible crisis for a universe populated solely by computerized intelligences, and it begs questions related to other science fiction ideas. Could biological organisms have actually transformed themselves into artificial intelligence long ago? Are there some who now perceive biology as a threat, and are working to prevent its resurgence?

So, Silicon Void appealed from a narrative standpoint. In terms of game design, developer Chris Doucette — who is seeking funding on Kickstarter for the project — cites inspirations I am less familiar with: Japanese-style role-playing games (JRPGs) from the late Playstation 1 and early Playstation 2 era. He drops names like Chrono Cross, Etrian Odyssey, and Xenosaga, none of which I’ve played. My knowledge of JRPGs is mostly of earlier titles from the ’90s, and the more recent examples I’ve played, such as Ara Fell or Master of the Wind, take inspiration from those early games as well. Doucette laments that the comparatively unusual design and battle mechanics of his inspirations were never elaborated upon in more recent games, and hopes to explore these design possibilities with Silicon Void.

With those touchstones meaning little to me, I was left unsure if I would enjoy actually playing Silicon Void, despite the great premise. Fortunately, Doucette has provided a substantial playable demo along with his Kickstarter campaign, so I was able to try it out for myself.

Full Circle: System Shock Remake On Kickstarter (With Demo)

As always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

Longtime readers may remember that one of the first posts I ever wrote for this blog was a History Lesson post about System Shock (back before I even had screenshots in my posts!). I played the 1994 game for the first time in 2010 or thereabouts, and it was a revelation. I was amazed that such an old game with such a clunky control scheme could be so immersive, eclipsing most games released before or since, and was shocked (har har) that it was not better known.

Well, it turns out I’m not the only one with such a high opinion of the game. Night Dive Studios recently acquired the rights to the franchise and made the original game available for purchase again — along with some (optional) modern improvements like the now-standard mouselook controls — in the form of System Shock Enhanced Edition. Now, they’ve decided to try their hands at a full-blown remake, with modernized graphics and all sorts of other tweaks and changes. They’ve taken to Kickstarter and are already funded with fifteen days to go at the time of writing, largely due to the strength of the pre-alpha demo.

Excited, I took said demo for a spin.

Broken Age Is Finished And I Like It A Lot

I wrote about Act 1 of Broken Age nearly a year and a half ago. The full game was released back in April, and I went back and played through the whole thing, ready to provide my final thoughts. Initially I thought I would write about the entire, complete game, ignoring the fact that it had been split into two acts (a decision the design team made out of necessity rather than desire) and judging it on its own merits. But, after a few aborted attempts to do so, I realized that I couldn’t do it. I can no longer view Broken Age merely as a game, a fate I now believe was inevitable the moment Tim Schafer decided to make its development public, both by funding it through Kickstarter and by chronicling the process in documentary form. So I decided to write about all of that too.

Hold Fast To Your: Labyrinthine Dreams

In my last post I was lamenting how far behind I am when it comes to posting about games. But now I’m posting about a game a mere week and a half after its release. That’s nearly instantaneous, by the standards of this blog. What’s going on?

What’s going on is that the game in question is the latest (and first commercial) offering from Solest. Longtime readers will remember that I’m a big fan of their first game, Master of the Wind, and may also have read my thoughts on the still-incomplete X-Noir. So I definitely wanted to give Labyrinthine Dreams a spin.

More Name Game: Elite: Dangerous

Despite having played a few games I want to write about, I’ve been extra busy and haven’t had time to write a post. Instead I’ve just been watching the disappointing progress of the Outcast HD Kickstarter campaign. It’s got 12 days left and ~$370,000 left to raise, so it needs a serious boost. Seriously, go donate to this. Outcast is awesome. It’s only $20 to get a copy of the game when it’s released, and if they don’t meet their goal you won’t be charged anything.

Anyway, to fix my not-posting problem I’m resorting to a tactic I’ve used before: making fun of a game’s name.

Now, I’m actually very excited about all the upcoming space-based games in development right now (and I may even post about some of them soon, if by “soon” I mean “in a few months”). TIE Fighter was a very important game in my youth, and both it and Freespace 2 are deserving of History Lesson treatment in the future. So I’m looking forward to the recent crop of Kickstarter-funded space sim games, including the two giants, Star Citizen and Elite: Dangerous. The latter promises to be a fully modern entry in the series that started the whole open-universe, free-flying space sim genre, and it’s looking really good. But oh, that name. It’s as if the developers just picked a subtitle at random. Well, two can play at that game. Here we go:

Elite: Scary
Elite: Intriguing
Elite: Dastardly
Elite: Afterburner
Elite: Shiny
Elite: Capitalism
Elite: Slightly Worrying
Elite: Make It So
Elite: Spaceman
Elite: Serious Business

More after the jump.

Original Outcast Developers Pitching An HD Remake On Kickstarter

Long-time readers of this blog may remember that one of the earliest History Lessons posts I wrote was about Outcast. Originally released in 1999, I didn’t play Outcast until shortly before I started this blog (2011, I think), but it was still one of the best games I played that year. In fact, it is one of the best I’ve ever played. It’s a beautiful, wonderful game.

It is, however, getting old. Processor speed issues made it difficult for me to run it, although these have been fixed in the version for sale on GOG. But it also runs in a very low resolution which some graphics cards and monitors no longer support, and the controls feel clunky in comparison to modern games. Fortunately, many of the original developers managed to buy back the IP (that’s “intellectual property“, for those who may not know) for Outcast, and they’re now pitching a full high-definition remake of the game on Kickstarter. They’ve made about a quarter of their goal of $600,000 with 26 days left at the time of writing.

They even quote me in their pitch video! Not from here, but from my user review of Outcast over at GOG. Still, it’s pretty cool. But I’m not just posting this because they quoted me, I’m posting this because I’d quite like this Kickstarter to succeed. The hope is that it will be the first step towards a full-fledged sequel to Outcast. Which is something we all want, even if you don’t know it yet.

Split, But Not Broken: Broken Age Act 1

This is as timely as my posts are ever likely to get. Act 1 of Double Fine’s point and click adventure game Broken Age was released a mere week ago; usually, months or years elapse between a game’s release and my posts about it. But the release of Broken Age is especially notable. Long before Act 1 went on sale, Broken Age was already famous for the circumstances of its creation. Tim Schafer, the industry veteran and fan-favorite developer who heads Double Fine, pitched the game (or, more accurately, proposed making an adventure game in general) on Kickstarter roughly two years ago, and the overwhelming response opened the doors for countless other game projects seeking crowdfunding. From other industry veterans to untested indie teams, the influx of games on Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites can be more or less pinned on Tim Schafer, and everyone wants to see how Broken Age, as the poster child for the movement, is going to turn out.

It’s undeniably exciting, and certainly worth discussing, but I think Broken Age deserves to be judged on its own merits. So, much like Broken Age itself, I’ve split this post into two parts: the first covers the history behind the genre and the development of Broken Age, and the second discusses the actual game. Read on.

lim x→∞: Approaching Infinity Will Be A Space Exploration Roguelike

Readers unfamiliar with roguelikes may wish to read my introduction to the genre here, or my other posts about roguelikes here. Also, as always, you can click on screenshots for larger versions.

Regular readers will know that I’m quite fond of roguelikes. Given the genre’s roots of fantasy-themed dungeon crawling, however, it’s unusual to find roguelikes with science fiction settings. This may be why I’m drawn to examples like Xenocide and Caves of Qud, but even these still follow a single character exploring locations on foot. Approaching Infinity takes the roguelike to the stars, casting the player as a ship captain who both explores space in their ship and explores planets and shipwrecks with an away team. The game is on Kickstarter and has met its funding goal already, but there are three days left (at the time of writing) to raise more money for some stretch goals. If you’re interested, the Kickstarter page links to an alpha demo to try, and backers get an updated demo to play with. I’ve taken the public demo for a spin, and even in its unfinished alpha state I liked what I found.

Skyjacker Returns To Kickstarter

Over a year ago, I wrote several posts about Skyjacker, a new space sim game which was seeking funding through Kickstarter. It didn’t make it, but developers Digitilus didn’t give up. Instead, they kept crowdfunding open on their own website, and returned to Kickstarter with the Starship Constructor, a tool used to build ships for the game. Backers of the successful campaign got to play with the constructor and funds went towards continuing development on the main game. Now, Digitilus is back to Kickstarter with a final campaign to finish Skyjacker.

Unfortunately, the timing isn’t so great, with high-profile space sim games like Star Citizen and Elite: Dangerous hogging the crowdfunding headlines. But I’m more excited about Skyjacker than I am about those games, and it’s not just because of my predilection for Russian things. Read on for some reasons why you might want to fund Skyjacker too.

You May Wish To Fund Dungeonmans

For those readers who are interested in roguelikes, I felt I should call attention to the Kickstarter campaign for Dungeonmans, a new graphical roguelike in development by games industry veteran Jim Shepard. There’s just about two days left on the campaign, and Dungeonmans still has to raise another $3000 or so to reach its $35,000 goal. The game has a silly vibe similar to Dungeons of Dredmor but takes place on a huge continent with a world map and many dungeons. But the real draw is that the various adventurers you will control (the titular Dungeonmans, and yes there are female Dungeonmans too) are all students at the newly founded Dungeonmans Academy, and their successful adventures can go towards improving the Academy and bestowing advantages upon future Dungeonmans. This type of persistent progress in a game with permadeath proved very popular in the recent roguelike-like Rogue Legacy (yet another game I haven’t had time to play yet) and it looks to be used to great effect here as well.

If you’re not convinced, there’s a pre-alpha build available to play right now. I spent a short time with it (actually, with the previous version) and liked what I played. It’s certainly on the simpler side as roguelikes go but it’s also still in pre-alpha and I’m sure it will be fleshed out tremendously if funded. If you’d rather just take a look without having to download anything, Craig Stern over at posted a 1-hour gameplay video with commentary. Check out the pre-alpha and/or videos and see if you want to pitch in for this one.

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