Thursday, 22 December 2011

super high-school level thread posting

This game is pretty awesome. It vaguely tempts me to work on a slightly vicious VN where the party is getting picked off one at a time (although for different reasons and in a much LESS nasty way than happens here.)

The game is Japanese-only, so most of us can only sit here reading the Let's Play. Which is still awesome!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Worlds In Time

I generally ignore browser games.

I have no interest in being sucked into 'free' worlds that want me to part with my sanity and eventually upgrade my experience with nickels and dimes.

But I have to say, the little preview animation for the new Doctor Who game is rather adorable.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Long Live the Queen

At last, we have a few clothing items finished so I can show you a picture of the princess for our ruling sim Long Live The Queen!

She's not always that sad, of course, her mood changes based on events and the activities the player chooses. But she does start off sad, since after all, a tragedy in the family has just happened in order for her to be put on the throne at such a young age.

Elodie's mood affects how she learns skills - she's eager to learn Conversation skills when she's Lonely, but terrible at handling Weapons when she's Afraid. You'll have to manage her emotions in order to maximise skill gain.

This is not a huge sprawling epic with heavy character interaction or an RPG; it's a number-crunching sim where things will probably go terribly wrong on your first few playthroughs, so just keep trying until you manage something resembling happily ever after :)

For the latest news on when this game will be released, sign up for the newsletter at my main website.

Monday, 12 December 2011

long live the queen

Still working on the princess simulator (she's absolutely adorable, but none of her clothing sets are finished yet and I really shouldn't post her naked)

here you can see my ongoing war with GUI:

Long Live The Queen webpage

Saturday, 10 December 2011

No, the Red Cross is not trying to arrest you

Sometimes people really make me angry. Like the people intentionally spreading the lie that the Red Cross intends to prosecute everyone who's ever played a video game for "virtual war crimes".

If you people would read the whole bloody article instead of the headlines written by lazy lying journalist scum you would see that there was never any suggestion that the Red Cross was going to go after gamers. The headliners made that up.

What the Red Cross did want to investigate was whether actions taken in games normalise activities that would be war crimes in real life, and whether game developers have a moral responsibility to accurately depict and enforce the real-life rules of conduct.

This is hardly a new issue - there are always debates about whether games that allow players to behave in a blatantly illegal fashion without repercussions are a detriment to society. And really, it's probably even *more* the case in war games. Most people playing Grand Theft Auto are aware that stealing cars is illegal in real life - but your average player probably doesn't actually know what is and isn't considered legal in a warzone. Would we have fewer problems with our troops if these rules were told them as kids playing games?

Naturally, there are many many ways to represent a legal structure in games, and they do NOT all require censorship or arresting players or anything ridiculous like that.

The saddest thing is seeing lots of followup comments on these idiotic lying articles about how people claim they are going to cancel their donations to the Red Cross because of "gamer persecution". Sigh.

Friday, 9 December 2011

gay cooties!

After having finished my playthrough of the first Baldur's Gate, I have had the vague intention of trying another run on BG2 with some things I hadn't done before - trying to alter class (I don't think i've ever played a cleric as my main) and attempting the infamous Imoen Romance Mod.

I was surprised and perturbed by discovering this thread (SPOILERS!!! As is this post!!!) in which a number of male players protested that they were shocked and confused when Imoen confessed to them that she had always thought she was a lesbian until she fell for $MalePC. That this was so jarring and upsetting that it should be excised entirely from the male path.

So, right. You're a part-demon who is attempting to sleep with your half-sister... and the thing that ruins it all for you is that she is so attracted to you that it overwhelms her love for boobs?

(Interestingly, no one dared suggest that the lesbian option shouldn't exist for players who wanted it. Just that the Imoen THEY wanted to sleep with should not be in any way gay.)

And here I thought "turning a lesbian straight" was supposed to be a popular dumb fantasy... (But then, people are far from homogenous, obviously.)

On the other hand, it seems that someone has finally finished a Haer'Dalis mod, which might tempt me in a different direction... (Although that also sort of makes me want to resurrect the evil female mage I played who I *did* ship with HD way back when...)

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Dear Esther

So, here's an entirely different sort of "visual novel" - it's an experience that consists entirely of wandering around incredibly gorgeous detailed settings while hearing fragments of a story.

Is it a game? Well, there's been a lot of debate about that recently.

The story changes on repeated playthroughs, but as I understand it, which bits you get are random rather than the result of player choice. If you enjoy mood pieces and kinetic novels (and aren't wedded to anime style) you might find this interesting.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

not dead

Despite posting very little lately, I have actually been playing an awful lot of games in the past couple of weeks.

It's just that many of them aren't things I can really talk about yet. :)

What can I talk about? Um...

Well, there's To The Moon, which is more or less a kinetic novel in RPG format. (There are some minor puzzles and you have to poke around a little to keep the story progressing, but it is ALL about reading the story.)

Sentimental drama with humor interspersed (after all, you need the contrast to feel the sad bits). If you are cool with reading a story in videogame format, you should like this. Also, it has a well-designed original soundtrack. Lots more information and trailer videos available at the official website.

Also played through a little lovecraft fangame - it's too short to really recommend it unless you're a massive fan of the style, since like many such stories it mostly boils down to "Some weird stuff happened once but was it real???", which isn't really a plot that will live in your mind forever. :) Still, it has some nice touches for atmosphere at times. More resources would obviously help, but is there anyone that isn't true for?

Lacked the time to actually play it, but became aware of Alarys Complex, an RPG in development that is *not* RPGMaker, but is trying very hard to look like it is. Has some interesting ideas about conversational choice/presentation and working with "ambient" text. Game has been under development for a long time apparently and has a big pile of words in it; it's not out, but there is a public demo.

Can't really update you on my own development either, due to the ever-present problem of other people being busy. *taps email impatiently*

Monday, 28 November 2011

Ghost Trick

I *finally* took the time to get to the end of the story.

Definitely a great game with a good balance of difficulty puzzlewise. The plot gets a bit... silly at times, and I'm not sure yet whether I'm totally happy with the ending revelation or not (Although I did start suspecting eventually that two characters having rhyming names was significant.) but it was fun.

... really, ten years? Isn't that a bit harsh?

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

if wishes were courses

Today's google logo is a little ink-doodle playable adventure game in honor of science fiction author Stanislaw Lem.... Unless you're in the US in which case it's probably overridden by Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

holiday madness

So, along with the 50% off on Magical Diary you can get this week, there are a number of crazy deals on Amazon in honor of thanksgiving/black friday.

(These links are US-only! Sorry. I'm not there *either* at the moment, although I did bring some gingerbread mix back to the UK with me to make later this week.)

For example, you can get Fatal Hearts for only $2 this week!

And if you're feeling particularly daring, you might click on the link by my name and find out that my *other* games on Amazon are *also* available for ridiculously low prices this week only. (Minor caveat, however - these tend to be *older* versions of games, and I can't upgrade Amazon purchases the way I can purchases from my own site. If you buy these super discounted copies, you will miss out on all the bonus content added later. On the other hand, cheeeeeeep.)

Matches and Matrimony, the Jane Austen dating sim, is also only $2 this week.

You can alsoget the downloadable version of Mass Effect 2 for only $5... if you haven't played it, actually care and/or don't hate shooters, can download 10GB (or more if your download repeatedly fails) without crying, and don't despise the evil soul-sucking origin technology needed to play the download. I got it as a free bonus and I was still resentful.

.... and argh, I need to worry about buying holiday presents for people, now, don't I? Sigh.

Monday, 21 November 2011

oh sony

UK gamers can no longer play the same copy of a new PlayStation Store game on more than two devices.

On 18 November Sony cut the number of consoles and handheld devices that users can tie to their PlayStation Network (PSN) account from five to two.

The change only applies to games and other content bought via the PlayStation Store after 18 November.

The limits are believed to have been imposed to stop people sharing games with friends.

Well, at least it only applies to newly-bought content, but really... Is clamping down on legal sharing which only a small number of people were fully taking advantage of (and probably quite enjoying) the best way to go about drumming up business rather than negative feelings?

Wednesday, 16 November 2011


Very busy, very tired, still haven't finished ghost trick due to a million other things going on. (I think I'm around chapter 11 though) Running a Star Trek LARP this week.

Monday, 14 November 2011

not that you really need reminding but

EA? Still evil.

Origin? Still useless evil shit.

Games you paid for? Still not playable.

Please research companies before buying from them and buy from people who don't suck (Like me!)

Thursday, 10 November 2011

noble soap opera generator

So in the current batch, I have one fellow who married his first cousin, had a bunch of kids with her, divorced her, and then married another first cousin... Then there's the Countess's gold-digging third husband who had a torrid gay affair with his stepson, then died under mysterious circumstances, and then the stepson slept with his sister...

At some point I have to start trying to turn this mess into a coherent plot but right now it's just funny!

noble soap opera generator

So, working on a tool to create relationships for the past few generations in order to create backstory for a medieval intrigue setting. Still fine-tuning, but while looking at the results of one of the last runs, I found a duchess who disinherited the elder of her two sons, then had an affair with him, after which she put him back into the succession ahead of his brother, then died and passed him the titles. He died only a year after without an heir, so it still passed to the second brother.

This is how people develop issues.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Hyper Princess Pitch

It's about a bratty princess (clearly slightly punning Super Princess Peach from name and design) who was always a naughty girl and never got presents from Santa.


(Not quite out yet. Is due to release next month for Christmas.)

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

department of silly ideas

Why can I not find a nobility generator? Surely other people have at some point needed to instantly generate the past several generations of the entire power structure of a fantasy kingdom?

(Working on an intricate web of deceit. It is necessary to know who inherits what as all the players get bumped off.)

Saturday, 29 October 2011

IGF, take four

The Depths To Which I Sink - A game that requires 3d glasses. Points for weird, but I won't be playing it.

The Dustjacket - It's supposed to be about books. Is there any point to it other than waving around a bunch of 3d objects of printed material?

The Floor Is Jelly - The trailer here makes me giggle. BOUNCY! Everything's bouncy and wobbly.

The Iconoclasts - Really cool-looking pixel adventure platformer. Comes from a respectable pedigree too (although my fingers hurt too much to finish some ofhis previous work!)

The Snowfield - An entry in the 'art movie' style of gaming, it seems.

The Swapper - Atmospheric space platformer about leaving piles of dead clones?

Tiny Heroes - A dungeon defense sort of thing. Stop those adventurers!

Toren - Well, it's slightly more accessible than an art movie... I think... but trying to figure out what this is other than "trying to be pretty and poetic" is difficult.

Towerclimb - I have some fondness for procedurally generated gameplay as a concept (although I tend to find it lacking in Meaning as a player)

Ultimate Newcomer - A very unusual-looking RPG.

Vision - Some sort of arty visual novel/platformer?

Warco - Notable for subject matter - it's about being a war correspondent, and the role of an observer in a conflict. The demo video is gripping, although our protagonist seems more resistant to bullets than a real one...

Way - Closing on a more cheerful note, a game about establishing communication with strangers via gesture? Sadly I fear too many random online gamers are derp, but I like the idea.

And that about wraps it up! Note: I'm avoiding mention of lots of games that I've heard of before (or talked about before) because they don't need the signal boost...

Friday, 28 October 2011

IGF take three

Prom Week - A complicated social simulation of the sort that interests me (Reminds me vaguely of something P and I took notes on designing long ago but gave up on.) Would like to play when it's done.

Red Rogue - A roguelike platformer. I don't entirely understand how it works but the general idea has interest.

Relics and Raiders - The idea of a different sort of co-op multiplayer dungeon raiding is potentially of interest, however the listing is VERY light on detail and I am perturbed that it shows a selection of different avatars, yet they are ALL white and male?

Rigonauts - Build wacky devices. Pit them against enemies. Looks fun.

Sr Mitsu - Draw a path to guide a man around obstacles to pick up olives. I hate olives! It's vaguely cute, I guess. If I had an iphone. Which I don't.

Story Universe - I don't understand what this is, but I'm curious.

IGF take two

So, continuing to wander through the list! I should note that I'm skipping over some things that look cool if there's limited information, no videos/playable, and/or the gameplay itself doesn't sound that interesting. This shouldn't be just a pretty pictures contest!

Gunpoint is a sort of spy/stealth/puzzle/heist thingy. I've always thought this sort of idea was fun, although I'm not sure I've actually played one. I remember first reading about a Spy vs Spy game sooooo many years ago back in my ancient gaming magazines...

Hidden in Plain Sight - While this sounds too thin to really be a full game yet, I like the concept it's playing with, of different sorts of multiplayer and (sort of) blending larp with computer games. Playing at being a computer-controlled character and trying to look like something you're not, while interacting with lots of other real people who have their own goals, interests me.

Ittle Dew
- Very clearly inspired by old 2d Zelda "adventure-rpg" games, but looks absolutely adorable and fun. Slight worry in that they plan to release the game in episodes, and that tends to go badly...

Kale in Dinoland - This is interesting partly because it appears to be a protest entry afaik, protesting against the fact that the iphone market doesn't stop people from releasing complete blatant clones of other games. Also, the game they're "porting" looks fairly cute. Not sure what to think of this but it's worth noticing at least. It is full of delicious troll.

Lone Survivor - Pixel survival horror. Sort of cool but I worry it could be too dark (visually) to play enjoyably.

Macguffin's Curse - Oops, the magic amulet is cursed and now you're a werewolf! The art style is really sort of messed up, but it's selling itself on its writing, which is nice to see. Don't know if it actually lives up to its pedigree there, but could be worth checking out.

Match Match Battle - Not really my sort of thing but I haven't seen anyone try to combine Memory and battles before.

Nightmare Cove - A Facebook CYOA? If I weren't afraid to play Facebook games....

Parallax - This is the kind of experimental platforming that is bound to get a lot pfople talking about it, so I don't have to.

Pattern - It's a game about crocheting. Sounds strange enough that I'd try it if I could (but no xbox so)

PewPewPewPewPewPewPewPewPew - A game controlled by making noises! I am amused.

Dear Customers: PLEASE do research first!

According to a news story, the game 'Darkspore' has been offline for players for over a week due to problems with the DRM, and the company's response is pretty much just 'The EULA says it won't always be available.'

PLEASE don't buy games with insane DRM systems. PLEASE don't assume that all games are like this - they are not!


Of course, on the flip side, I have thousands upon thousands of pirates playing my games, and whining that I'm a horrible evil person for not letting them update their stolen copies to have the latest patches, and that this makes me SO MEAN that they don't want to buy things from me. News flash: You already weren't buying stuff from me. Buy the game and the updater works just fine!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011


... there are waaaaaaaay too many IGF entries, that's why I didn't. (Also, they don't like girly things, or text-based things, or VN-things.)

Just poking through the first third of the entries list, some titles that jump out at me as somewhat interesting...

Ancient Astronut - A stealth game about being an alien. I am amused by the concept.

Beat Buddy - Nice screenshot, but apparently written by people who are either liars or willfully blind. I despise marketing bullshit, especially really obviously false marketing bullshit. "First" music action game? For goodness sake, there are like ten or more in the IGF every single year! (Of course, they're German, and maybe they're doing something different than usual and are just incapable of explaining what they meant. Still, bad first impression.)

Dark Scavenger - This still looks very rough around the edges, but it appears to be trying to create a gamebook feeling in a CRPG... that is, lots and lots of CHOICES and FLAVOR TEXT instead of just clicking your sword icon on the bad guy... at least until halfway through the video where it gives up and goes back into a rather dull-looking combat sequence. Needs a lot of work to be really smooth and fun but there's a nice concept here.

Don't Run With A Plasma Sword - It's one of those endless-rush platformers, but this one has aliens and tentacles, and I'm easy that way.

Drip Drip - I like the sound of this. It's something a little bit Different but still a straightforward concept, casually accessible, about trying to catch and stop drips in big leaky houses. Only a screenshot and an idea are publicly available but I can see this being fun someday.

Eyez - This will likely pick up some attention, as it's a platformer with a weird new mechanic, exactly the sort of thing some people think indie games are all about. The twist in this one is that while you move around a huge level, you can at any point change the way the edges of the screen behave. You can make them solid, so that you can walljump off the sides of your current screen, or form an invisible floor inside a hole. You can also turn them into wraparound mode, so that walking off one side of whatever current screen you framed yourself in will send you walking in from the opposite side. This means you can easily get into areas that are totally sealed off by blocks, by lining the screen up right so that the sealed area leaves an opening against an edge that you can exploit.

Gamestar Mechanic - Apparently, this is only partly a game; it's also a simple drag-and-drop game maker plus online "community" for sharing your levels, intended as an educational tool. So, it's like GameMaker if the tutorial were a GAME instead of a document to read and work your way through. I find myself slightly disappointed by this, though... for something actively aiming at a wide range of kids and showing diverse players in their video footage, it would have been kinda nice if you weren't stuck with Default White Guy Protagonist for your learning game. Yes, it would take a lot more art to be able to choose a protagonist, I KNOW THAT. But if you're wanting to give this to lots of kids to spark their joy of game-making, this is not the time to reinforce the message of 'game making is for non-minority men' which is already too widespread.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Sparkle Princess Destiny

Something I've wanted to do for a while is a Princess Maker game in which the main character is *already* a princess... the game is about polishing her until her coronation, at which point the fate of the kingdom depends on what sort of ruler you have created.

It may worry you to know that I'm looking at a Madoka page while musing about this.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

when battle becomes comedy

So I was in a plot-relevant battle and things were going... badly. Every time I stepped anywhere NEAR the main badguy, I instantly took large amounts of damage. Enough that if I stood there for more than a moment I would die. Yet nothing I did seemed to scratch him in the slightest.

Finally I backed off... and realised he was now hemmed in by NPCs who were technically on my side (that is, they were blue and attacking him) but not COMPLETELY on my side (not green, not controllable). And he was apparently not scripted to attack them. He couldn't move to follow me, so I could back off and get a breather.

And time passed. And time passed. Round after round of endless whiffing on the part of all the NPCs, and zero response on the part of the baddie. It became clear that nothing could harm the baddie except a critical hit. Every now and then, one of the NPCs would roll a 20 and therefore actually be able to do a point or two of damage. This... wasn't really going to achieve much any time soon.

I was slightly curious if something weird would happen if they actually managed to kill him, but it was FAIRLY obvious that the game had gone wrong somewhere and I didn't really have the patience to sit for an hour while a supposed-to-be-unkillable boss was popped by pins, so I reloaded until I could get his teleport-away trigger to fire properly.

Monday, 17 October 2011

tales from the depths

So in Baldur's Gate, there's a (very optional) tough demon fight with multiple nasty surprises in it which I won't spoil at the moment. Getting through it at all took a LOT of tries and a lot of buffs (but hey, that's what all those potions and scrolls and the like I've been toting around are for!) and when I finally achieved something resembling a 'success' I had ended up with half my party dead - all the fighter-types, actually. It was the wimpy little mages who lived (Well, I *had* been trying to keep them out of harm's way.)


To resurrect a character I need to take several days journey to reach a temple.

Dead characters drop all their equipment on the floor where they died.

If you walk off for several days journey and come back, all loot left on the floor disappears forever.

This can be worked around by hauling all the loot to the nearest container (in this case, a bookshelf) and stashing it there. Don't ask me why loot on the floor is eaten by rats but loot shoved into a bookshelf is not. Maybe rats can't climb. Also don't ask me how you fit several suits of armor onto a bookshelf.

Oh yeah. Armor. Did I mention it was the big strong fighters with their heavy full-plate-armor who were dead, and my helpful little strength-9 mages who were still alive?

(Not as bad as it sounds, since as a total packrat, one of the deaders had gauntlets of ogre power equipped, and that easily let me haul all the stuff. I also had one or two potions of strength floating around, although I mostly throw those out as I usually don't consider them sufficiently useful...)

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Ghost Trick

Something I picked up recently for the DS. It's an adventure game, although its particular gimmick avoids the need to pixel-hunt... it's more that you know exactly what items you can use, the issue is when and in what order. It's also especially notable for the lovely fluid character animations that add a strong sense of personality and fun (helpful when you're dealing with a murder mystery, which could otherwise get depressing!)

As I blogged earlier, it has a free flash demo online.

Most memorable character of those I've encountered so far? Probably the dog. It's a fluffy, yippy little Pomeranian who appears to have a set of kitsune tails and really wants to help, but isn't terribly bright... well, what do you expect? *pets fluffball*

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Never 7

As part of a promotion for the release of the newest game in the "Infinity" series, Never 7 is available for free download until October 10th.

There is a translation project involved with this game and they've made good progress, so while an English version of this game isn't *currently* available, it seems safe to say that if you grab the download and hang onto it, you'll get a patch for it next year.

Monday, 3 October 2011


We did actually come by a copy of Infinite Space - because they are much easier to find in England, and since the REAL DS doesn't have this region-locking crap, I can buy my completely legal game and play it without worrying about which system is which.

Yes, I am still pissy about the 3DS being crap and still have no practical way of making my point to the idiot suits.

Saturday, 1 October 2011


Thinking about ways to replace the 'alignment' types from old D&D with something more sensible but still clear and workable for mechanical roleplay... that is, something that makes sense in a computer game, and allows you to see the personality 'stats' of your character and adjust them through choices. If your choices have meaning within a CRPG it is often useful to the player to have stats for them. Sure, it's not completely realistic, but neither is knowing that you have 17 of 21 hit points remaining.

I was reminded of the old nature-and-demeanor system from White Wolf, mostly becuase the phrase 'Bon Vivant' kept popping into my head while thinking about my current BG character and her romance with Coran, and also of the dragon age voice system. So... how about a personality wheel, then? Something with far more options than the three from DA, enough options to cover NPCs, maybe 9 to go along with the alignment feel, maybe not.

You choose a personality type when designing your character. As you play, in dialog, you get response options which correspond with your personality type and the neighboring types. If you consistently choose options other than 'your' option, your personality type slides over to a new setting. You can also have occasional special options available only for your current type, and other characters will react to you based on your current type.

This also means you can have your personality adjusted by magic and have all your dialog options automatically shift to reflect that you're now a Gloomy Gus instead of a Valiant Hero.

Problem: This means every player-respondable line of dialog requires A ZILLION OPTIONS.

ai abuse

I tend to feel pleasedly smug when I push the limits of the game rules a bit. Like avoiding a hard fight by lining up three magic users with wands of fireball JUST out of the vision of the monsters and repeatedly burning the entire room (It takes multiple shots. But they can't see us, so they can't fight back) or invading a stronghold by paralysing the character walking towards me before he can initiate dialog and then call for the guards (Twice. Once on the way in, once on the way out.) therefore allowing me to reach the upstairs captive and drag his semi-conscious body out without having to fight more than the doppleganger in his room.


Yes, it's just a miniature golf game and there are plenty of those, but the graphics and hole design of this one is really darling.

Try and see

Monday, 26 September 2011

A Valley Without Wind

Not entirely sure what to make of this... it's... civilisation RPG platforming? It's a sidescrolling adventure game with crafting? It's about exploring the world and enhancing it? Whatever it is, it's new and different, so worth a look:

Currently in open beta at 50% off, plus a demo already available.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

cross channel

Okay, done.

Didn't love it nearly as much as some people do, I did a loooooooot of skipping even over text that was technically new. Yeah, I'm impatient. And I hate having to click constantly to advance over small amounts of text.

The protagonist got a lot less unbearable as it became clear that he was supposed to be very, very screwed-up. Although I look askance at some forum comments from people who liked him in the early game when it wasn't clear yet that he was anything other than a random pervert...

Friday, 23 September 2011

cross channel

Got totally stuck in what the walkthrough calls "week 3" - despite getting what should be the ending for that week, the game completely refused to continue to the next week's options. Had to start over from the beginning following a walkthrough slavishly with skip buttons to make any progress.

And some people think *Date Warp* is too hard / too much replay? Hrmph. :)

cross channel

The problem with a lot of H-games is that the protagonist is such a jerk that I really don't want him to get together with any of the girls.

I expect this guy has his reasons, but as it is, I'm inclined to dodge sex as much as the game will let me... Can't I just get Kiri and Miki together instead? (Note - I'm obviously fairly early in the game still, spoilers not wanted.)

Thursday, 22 September 2011


Good old Games is doing a D&D sale at the moment, which means mostly a lot of games I've already played, but I never did own the Icewind Dales.

Not sure I'm desperate to do so right now either.

Interestingly, though, this sale takes account of games you've ALREADY bought when calculating your discount.

Also, I'm feeling a vague restlessness which is tempting me towards purchasing DLC for DA2, and an icewind dale game might be a better idea than that...

Friday, 16 September 2011

suckers welcome

So, you know that Sony and the PSN have had a lot of problems in the past year.

Fewer players means fewer problems! So now you have to sign away your rights or you can't use the PSN anymore. That'll shut you up.

this will get boring to read fast

Today's exciting adventures:

creating a decorative non-centered NVL mode
smoothly dissolving in and out of it while dealing with windows that, when not in NVL, are meant to stay visible during transitions
completely rewriting all the buttons and putting them into overlay layers so that they will stay up during transitions (Two different button menus, depending on whether we're NVL or ADV at the time. This game has long narrative passages.)
squeeing over artist sketches
... not writing an awful lot of script

Trying to find answers in the documentation is rather like divination so far, but at least it's quick to reload.

(also, feebly trying to design a banner so we have something to hang on our pipe structure come yaoicon)

Thursday, 15 September 2011

baby steps

I figured it was about time I bothered to actually read the RenPy code myself instead of dumping everything on Spiky all the time, especially since I'm trying to do a small project which will be a pure VN and thus not require someone who can hack the internals to do ridiculous minigames :)

So far, I have managed to build my complicated dialog display structure which looks sufficiently different, put together images with long lists of composites, scales, and cropping in order to generate both sprite and side-image, gotten the blasted window to stay up during dissolves, and run into a problem that is probably an unnoticed bug in the version of RenPy I'm using. (Yes, classic newbie arrogance to think you've found a bug, but nobody who's looked at it can see any reason it shouldn't work, and others have verified code that "works" isn't working, so it looks to me like the on-hover text is broken and it's just that nobody uses it so nobody cared.)

All that for this:

(Note - this is not actual in-game dialog, this is me testing stuff.)

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

subconscious confusion

So, I dreamed I had a job at an office while working on games, and I had apparently signed away merchandising rights for cash, and this Mysterious Old Man was delivering product samples to me, so I was displaying them on my cubicletop.

One of the boxes was labeled "Petime" - which confused me because even in my sleep I was pretty sure that wasn't MY character.

It turns out it was some sort of bizarre hybrid of Petime from Lucky Rabbit Reflex and (so far unseen to players) Barbara from Magical Diary. Her hair was in multiple colors (including blonde, brown, and purple) and her face was painted black to represent her ninja nature. She came with tiny little weapons and a maniacal grin.

Of course given the art design of Magical Diary I would *love* to have mix-and-match Pinky Street figures for it, but, um, not gonna happen in the waking world. :)

Tuesday, 13 September 2011


It's Nethack Meets Pac-Man.

An idea I just have to find amusing, even though I haven't actually taken the time to play it yet.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Take Control

So apparently someone is now selling modern CYOA romance novels, featuring Vampires and Fairies and Science Fiction and so on.

They can be found on Kindle at Amazon, and also on iTunes.

I have personally zero experience with the author in either these or her "normal" romance novels, but there's a review here.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

behind the times

So it seems that someone finally read the EULA for ea's "Origins" software and realised that it basically said they could take your computer, play football with it, and sell it back to you.

Okay, I'm exaggerating to the level of just plain making things up. :P Read the article yourself.

But considering what a massive arsepain dealing with that 'Origins' thing was and how eager it is to cram stuff down my throat while trying to play a FREE game, I had already mentioned that it pretty much turned me off buying any future product using it. I'm not at all surprised to find sinister undertones, whether or not they have any intention of misusing them. If they don't, it's just another sign of the system being badly thought-out and generally crap.

And when the best you can say is that their system is generally crap...

Sunday, 28 August 2011

well that's new

Apparently GameStop is breaking into new copies of games and removing any free-gift items that they disapprove of, then selling them full-price as new, unmarked.

Of course, while they feel that the included gift certificate served as an advertisement for their competitor, I think *ripping off your customers* is an even better way to lose your customers to the competition....

Friday, 26 August 2011

Visions of the past

On a trip to see relatives I got my hands on a pile of my old computer game stuff. Boxes, in a rare few cases, but mostly MANUALS. And copy protection. And maps. ALl the stuff that used to be jammed into these things. Not my entire collection ever, but a good bunch of stuff. So what have I got here?

The "manual" for FACEMAKER, which includes how-to-load-game for all the various computer systems it was available on (LOAD"SPIN",8) and how to 'play'. It's not exactly much of a game. Why did I even have this? (I was obviously VERY young.)

The rather thick manual for Wonderland most of which is taken up by "how to use windows", and a similarly thick but weirder shaped one for the Magnetic Scrolls Collection.

The insert map and how-to-load for that blasted Hobbit text adventure that I remember frustrating me as a kid and I've always been confused about it because when I tried to look it up I found things that didn't quite match. However, this proves it was indeed the Hobbit Software Adventure - either I just have NO memory of the graphics or I played in text-only mode because I liked words.

The foldout 'Getting Started' for Super BoulderDash.

An almost-complete box for a game called Rings of Medusa that I obviously owned but have zero memory of. It's got the box, a manual, and the loading instructions sheet, but the original disk is gone, replaced by a 3.5" backup disk.

A probably-complete box for Joan Of Arc: Siege & The Sword which I also have zero memory of. Amusing because 85% of the big box is taken up with nothing but a cardboard spacer.

... I probably bought both of those just because they had women on the covers, and then didn't play them because I don't actually like strategy games.

Sierra stuff (there's lots!):
The big map and twisty city streets guide from Quest For Glory 2. And the official hint book. And the technical manual. And the BOX. Or at least, that's the sleeve that I put on the one original Sierra box I still have. They all looked alike! And ONE original disk, probably dead, and no idea where the others are.
The fingerprint sheet AND the red-plastic-spyglass used for reading it from the Colonel's Bequest. WHich I know I lost at least once while I still had the game. Stupid annoying copy protection. :)
Hint book for Space Quest IV.
A manual from Hoyle Solitaire which I don't think i actually played, it's my mom who liked Solitaire.
The 'manual' (background story, slight tech info, and crucial copy-protection spellbook) from King's Quest III.
A fold-out "hint map" from King's Quest 1, decorated with my confused attempt to solve the Rumplestiltskin puzzle, and the official hint book. Which was one of the ones that you had to use yellow markers to make the invisible ink appear (now rather faded). The later books used the red plastic window approach. Also the game backstory-manual.
Box sleeve for King's Quest V.
The original box sleeve for King's Quest VI (5.25" version) and the included fluff/copy-protection guidebook to the isles. Also the hint book, when they gave up all this 'reveal the hidden text' rigamarole and just printed the answers.
Hero's Quest reference card and Famous Adventurer's Correspondence Manual.
A Sierra tenth anniversary product catalog.
New products catalog listing for 1988.
'A Letter From The President' explaining why gamers should buy sound cards to improve their Sierra experience.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

chicks in chainmail (as it were)

Only tangential to games, but I was passed a link to a tumblr blog of Women Fighters In Reasonable Armor

(That is, wearing something more than a chainmail bikini)

Not that hotness should be the most important part of a female character, but I think you'll agree that they can still be very attractive WHILE wearing something that covers important regions!

Monday, 22 August 2011

marketing fail

So I spotted a potentially interesting new game on DLsite (not H).

The description says it's a physics-based puzzle sim. Sounds fun! But... what is it? There's no demo version. Of the three posted screenshots, one is just a title screen image, nothing to do with the gameplay. One is a picture of the back of the BOX (many doujin games sell at least a handful of box copies) with screenshots too small to make out gameplay details. Only the third lets you see anything about what the game looks like to play... and with so little information it would be a huge gamble to assume that it even RUNS on English windows, much less is comprehensible to people who can't read Japanese.

And for all that, it's got a highish price for a doujin title. Certainly not unreasonable, there are plenty of games on DLsite for $20, but it's not the STANDARD price. Most things are cheaper.

Unsurprisingly it's not selling any copies on the English side. (Okay, the majority of stuff doesn't sell on the English side, because, well, it's not in English. But still.)

... Of course, the next thing I click on is a downloadable set of speech bubbles. For $50. Good luck, you'll need it.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

ship it

(When I saw that title on the tweet that linked me to this post, I thought it was going to be about shipping. Like, romance. No.)

Basically, they discover a catastrophic-but-rare bug in a game shortly before ship date, and rather than delay the game to put in a fix, ship it anyway.

I've never worked in a big game company, I don't know much about console games. Trying to extrapolate from a business perspective, I can kind of see their point in not addressing it. The majority of customers never finish games, so a bug that only happens sixteen hours in is already of lower importance (no surprise, anyone who plays games has seen how much buggier the endgames get.) On top of that, it requires the player doing something unusual at a precise moment. (At least, I'm guessing that the autosave is somehow visible, in order for the tester to have been able to find and replicate this behavior.) So the odds of a normal player hitting it seem low, and therefore IF it really would take ages to fix, you can see why they wouldn't.

On the other hand, bricking your console is a much bigger deal than just not fixing a crash bug. (Of course, that also sounds like a bug in the console, no?) I have no idea what game this was, but if they didn't report the problem to the console manufacturers and take responsibility in case the bug did hit someone... lawsuit?

Anyway. I can see why you might not fix the bug. But I can't see why you'd fire the poor tester trying to tell you what you'd done. :)

Saturday, 20 August 2011

back to dust

Well, if you were foolish enough to buy a PC game from Ubisoft, at least you can request a refund.


Friday, 12 August 2011

own goals

(Spoilers for Dragon Age 1 and 2)

I've seen some people firing back at the DA2 haters, claiming that they felt more personally involved in Hawke's story than the Warden's, mostly because of voice acting but also because of the fixed origin.

I have to differ.

As best as I can tell, the problem I have with Hawke's story is the lack of ability to set and pursue my own goals - or even a default goal! While Origins piled a dramatic (to varying degrees) backstory on each possible origin character, they still gave you some leeway about what you really wanted. You had to take care of the Big Bad issue, sure, but beyond that, were you out for revenge, or justice, or personal power? You could believably have some ideas of your own that you wanted to carry out, and get some chances to advance those personal causes. You could pick different rewards at the end and feel like you'd accomplished something.

Hawke's story seems largely to be about a person swept up in larger forces - someone who absolutely did not cause any of the disaster that unfolds, but just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time with enough power to move things along. That's not a bad story, but the problem is that it leaves you somewhat adrift otherwise. What are YOU trying to do while all this unfolds around you? In one act, you're trying to raise funds to eventually buy a home (not that you get any choice about that home either). Past that, you're just... sort of going along with things and taking quests because they're quests and someone asked you to do them. You can claim that you intend to start a business or intend to return to Ferelden but you can't do either of those things or work towards them in any way afaik.

You may care deeply about the cause of mage freedom. If so, tough - you still can't choose to do anything about it. Again, on my first playthrough, when Bethie was taken off to the Circle I absolutely expected that I'd be organising a raid on the circle to break her free in the next chapter, and was baffled to discover that apparently I'd been sitting around for years doing nothing. Even more, when she's later kidnapped from the circle and I can actually see her and talk to her again... I *still* can't talk to her about getting away? Apparently no matter what Hawke has actually said on the subject, Hawke really doesn't care. The only slight difference it makes to side with the mages or not is which set of quests you do in the final runup to disaster - which will still involve shutting DOWN rebellious people. You can't promote rebellion at all. You can only help runaways if someone else asks you to.

Maybe you want to be viscount? Too bad, you can't actively pursue it. You might get it, but if you do, it may come as a complete surprise because you weren't interested in the slightest - and you don't even get the chance to say no, it's just thrown in at the ending that "Oh by the way also you're Viscount now. Or were. Except also you left."

So no, I don't feel really involved in Hawke's story because I don't feel like Hawke had a story. Hawke's just someone that things happened to. That doesn't mean it wasn't entertaining watching things happen, but it does mean I look confused at people who claimed that they did feel more attachment. :)

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Contest And Pondering

We're running a back-to-school giveaway for Magical Diary. If you want to win a free copy, check out the rules on the forum here. It's a simple fanfic contest where you can imagine strange magical things happening on your character's thirteenth birthday.

On the production front I'm still largely coasting right now, waiting for the artist to come up with some extra things so that I can write the bonus path/scenes for the sort-of-hidden-character. (Okay, he's not that hidden, but figuring out how to befriend him is the trickiest set of interactions in the game. And it will get even trickier once the ability to dance with him is available.)

I've also been prototyping a yaoi card game. On the bright side I think I invented something simple and fun to play. On the downside a physical card game is not something I have a lot of audience to sell to, and it would require quite a lot of art. We might try putting this on kickstarter or something... if we can get some solid preorders then we can go for it.

Monday, 8 August 2011


From the BBC:

A novel class of security problems have been found lurking in many mobile games by a ten-year old hacker.

Going by the handle CyFi, the hacker presented her findings at the DefCon hacker conference held in Las Vegas.

She found that advancing the clock on a tablet or phone can, in many games, open a loophole that can be exploited.

CyFi discovered the bug after getting bored with the pace of farming games and seeking ways to speed them up.

I admit to finding the idea of a little girl bored with her farming games and starting to vigorously poke at them absolutely adorable.

... Now let's hope she uses her powers for good. And then comes and joins me in the world of game-making! :)

Friday, 5 August 2011

humble ARGH!

So I picked up the latest Humble Bundle, with the bit extra to get bundle 2 as well. There's nothing here I was really amazingly excited for - I can't remember if I actually bought Crayon Physics Deluxe when it first came out or just played the demo until I got bored, a slider puzzle is still a slider puzzle even if it's got a lot of bells and whistles, pseudo-retro-platformers are fun but I wasn't desperate for one, and I still don't know what hammerfight IS yet.

I have, however, become quite fond of And Yet It Moves. I feel free to play around and explore the game a little... there's not only one exact way to do things, and the save points are very frequent so I never have to worry about losing too much progress. I did have to consult the internet to figure out what to do about the beehive, though, and the windmill bat-tree was suprisingly scary in some weird way (That's as far as I've gone so far). In classic tricky platformer tradition, of course, I sometimes JUST BARELY miss something and end up yelling at my computer... and then trying again. :)

I guess the difference is that VVVVVV is too tightly focused on its puzzles. It feels very driven - get past this, get to the next point, keep moving, keep moving! It doesn't feel like there's any entertainment to be had from just fooling around, and that makes the whole experience less relaxing.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Diablo Online

As someone pointed out, if they just called it Diablo Online there'd be absolutely nothing to whine about. From looking at the details, it appears they *do* want a more MMORPG-like experience from the game.

Which is fine for them I guess, but not what I played it for.

I tried Diablo 2 multiplayer once or twice. It was a disaster. Lag and rubber-banding were miserable. It wasn't fun. I quickly reached a 'never again' decision and went back to enjoying my game. My other half, who had nothing better to do at the time, contemplated spending years on the online games trying to obtain rare weapons to sell on ebay. I looked baffled at the idea.

It's been a long long time since Diablo2 and I'd pretty much given up on them ever releasing 3 and/or doing anything interesting with it. So I lose nothing by the realisation that their eventual release is the opposite of what I want. In the time between, I've played FATE and Titan Quest and really *should* get around to Torchlight and gosh did I never actually buy Din's Curse? I should do that!

So yeah. No real loss. :)

oh the irony

While trying to respond to someone's ludicrous assertion that in the modern age there are NEVER internet connection problems, I ended up getting connection reset errors and being unable to post.

Ha bloody ha.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

latest - ubisoft still assholes

Not like I was ever going to buy a Driver game, but their ridiculous "paying customers shouldn't be allowed to play the game" stance really should have more consequences than it has been...

Wednesday, 27 July 2011


Also, they're having a 'contest' for people to pick their favorite design for default FemShep for ME3. Except they're ALL way too young and wearing too much makeup for their position. Sure, I strongly doubt anyone looking like my Shepard would win out over looks-like-a-final-fantasy-blondie but...

I don't get it. FemHawke was a striking design, I was tempted to play as her.

Why does Mass Effect feel like it's made by totally different people... and skeevy ones? Stop bombarding me with female-only strippers and drugged women kept as sex slaves and NPCs suggesting my character is a whore! Stop dressing all my female team members in skimpy/tight clothes and all my male ones in bulky armor! Stop feeding me a universe where most of the alien species keep their women locked in cages on the homeworld!

I'm a boob-loving sci-fi fan and *I* feel repeatedly creeped out by this game.

Naturally looking for anyone else's opinions leads me to bioware forum threads full of 'fans' whose response to any criticism is "THIS IS WHY NO ONE TAKES FEMINISTS SERIOUSLY" and "LOL U SHOULD BE GLAD YOU CAN PLAY A FEMALE AT ALL NOW MAKE ME A SANDWICH". Siiiiiiigh.

marketing is first up against the wall

So after the massive disappointment of witch hunt Iam extremely unlikely to buy DLC. That said I at least try to look to see what the DLC is about. There's this RockPaperShotgun article talking about how they're trying to respond to some of the unhappy customer feedback from the game. And then we get THIS.

“For sure there are certain people who probably wanted Origins 2 with Dragon Age 2; we did not go in that direction,” Melo adds. “This DLC is not going to solve that for them.”

I don't object to every change in direction. But to smugly brush off claims that it wasn't what people expected by claiming it wasn't called FirstGame2? It WAS called FirstGame2!! Are you listening to yourselves???

mass effect

What is with the ridiculous outfit on Samara?

Look, I don't object to skimpy outfits on people who have reason to wear them. But unless she's secretly got machine-gun nipples that she needs to be able to whip out at a minute's notice, that outfit seems totally nonsensical.

Sunday, 24 July 2011


No, not the one with the magical school (popular name eh?) This is a free flash scifi adventure game. I'm still playing it myself but it seems worth checking out.

taking aim at your foot

'Preventing' misogyny... by banning women! Good job, gamers!

rapid prototyping

So I woke up with a silly idea in my head and have spent the day frantically hacking it together. While it plays - and at least for us, is already sort of weirdly addictive - it's nowhere near done. There's no win/lose yet. But my finger is getting tired from steering so I thought I should take a break.

No, this is NOT a serious project.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

origin, still trying to annoy me

"An update is available. Would you like to install it now?"

  1. Install
  2. Quit the program, thus being unable to play any games connected with this stupid tool

... Not exactly giving you a choice, are they?

Yes, I'm sure some people are used to auto-update. Especially for online games. Except I'm not PLAYING an online game, and I don't want any of their online features at all, I find them creepy.

Also, THEIR updater doesn't work EITHER - had to ctrl-alt-del and manually kill bits of it in order for it to proceed, and who knows if even that worked?

Would I buy any future game from the Origin Store? NO.

... Speaking of the stupid game, along with the tutorial bug, now that I've turned on godmode to keep playing in spite of my shit skills, I quickly managed the popular "stuck in air" bug and had to restart another mission.

Is the downloadable version of the game not bugpatched at all? Or is this just how bad it is even with years of fixes?

modern times

I would grouse about not being able to play my new game while the net was down for a few hours (making me unproductive) except, well, it was free.

I don't know who these people are who think everyone has a flawless 24/7 net connection! I'm in the Bay and paying extra for special features and I STILL don't have perfect net access.

Friday, 22 July 2011

me2 doesn't love me

Reloaded my save from last night. Promptly ran into a tutorial bug where the door to the next area refused to open (because a group of monsters refused to spawn). Luckily autosave was at the point before entering that area so I could run it again.

Also I hate shooters and really just want everything to automatically die so I can play the story. :(

Thursday, 21 July 2011

mass effect 2, the unboxing

or rather, the "finally being able to install and run"

My first impressions are rather cranky. For all that people were calling DA2 "Dragon Effect"? They were totally wrong, thank goodness. DA2 still felt like a computer game. ME2 is constantly feeling like it's designed for something else. (This could be partly because I never play shooters, so perhaps the way you have to use WASD for interface navigation at times rather than the obvious mouse is not that unusual?)

Also, I have no idea what I'm doing. I never played the first game and I don't have a manual. The tutorial is generally pretty helpful at shepherding (lol) me along, but getting to the tutorial was less straightforward than I expected. Where's the minimap? IS there one? Where am I going? Argh!

Irritations - Unskippable movies. Lots of them. Unskippable movies leading up to the character creator, which you are not allowed to save before using. A character creator which is profoundly unhelpful, especially since the obvious click-and-drag to view from different angles DOES NOT WORK. (You can, once you know how, click and drag a much longer distance to get the head to shift to once of its preset poses. You cannot rotate freely, and if you were expecting free rotation, it will look like it doesn't work at all.) My first attempt at character creation, I ended up with someone whose face looked fine straight-on, but actually had a deformed alien face with cheekbones exploding out her ears. After several failed attempts at hacking the save file I had to start over and watch half an hour of cutscene again in order to be able to create someone who wasn't a complete mutant.

Trying to design someone a bit older than their perky pretty default Jane, someone who I could believe had command experience.

The tutorial gameplay, with the exception of the hackable pad I tripped over, has been pretty good about giving helpful commands for a total newbie and getting me onto my feet. We'll see how it goes.

Also, the game will only RUN if I have the download manager running as well. If you try to launch it separately, it says "Game misconfigured. Please try REINSTALLING." Luckily, I guessed what the problem really was, and therefore did not take a crowbar to my computer and the entire Origin management team.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

siiiiigh (warning, swearing)

So now for the second time, my completely legal download of Mass Effect 2 via the official Origins game downloader has self-destructed and deleted itself, requiring that I attempt to start over, AGAIN. I have downloaded 20 GB over the past week and still not gotten an actual game installer.

If I were downloading a pirated copy I would have the damned thing working by now.

To be fair, this isn't exactly a DRM issue. This is them trying to be helpful. And failing. They really need to reprogram this nonsense.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

da2 (slight spoilers)

Things that did not work for me in the writing: The passage of time.

I do not feel it believable that it was supposed to take place over the course of so many years. People didn't change enough. People who should have their own goals to pursue appear to have sat still spinning their wheels for long periods of time only to pick up again during the time that the player is actually in control. As it is, practically the ONLY change we see after a time-jump is Hawke moving into the mansion. Other than that, all you get is the codex telling you "Character X is becoming more and more (whatever Character X was already)."

Nobody makes any other friends when you're not looking. No new organisations form and become established in those timeframes - they'll only just try to start up when you get to a new time period. The world doesn't alter.

(Okay, correction. The very first timejump, where you've spent a year in the city working for someone? That one does try to give the suggestion that you've met people and things have happened. Which is a lot more than any other timejump does.)

How long is Isabela supposed to sit at the bar staring into the same mug of terrible beer and apparently doing *absolutely nothing* to solve her problem other than possibly ask the underground to keep an eye out? As I mentioned in another post, if she wanted a ship surely she could have found someone to sail for who would hire an experienced captain. It would take time, but she supposedly had YEARS. She could have come up with a mad scheme to hijack a vessel. If she really cared that much about Castillon and had no idea where his particular relic was, she could have set off on a venture to find some OTHER valuable relic to buy him off with (and for that reason should likely have DEMANDED to be in the deep roads party!) Years on her ass? It doesn't add up. Seven years is a pretty big chunk out of a medieval human's active adventuring lifespan. How many years was she sailing before the shipwreck? Can she in any way still call herself a sailor if she's been retired so long? What exactly is she doing to earn a living?

Merril is fixated on her little project. Or so they tell us, since we don't actually see signs of her doing anything about it. Finding wizards to consult with, or rare tomes of knowledge? That would be logical, but no, apparently she just stares at it blankly for years on end. And it's not like she's busy socialising with the neighbors, either, because if you suggest she help the alienage folk at the end of her plot she's amazed that she never thought of it. Oh, and she occasionally makes vague jokes about how she's lived in her slum house for years but never bothered to clean or repair it. Seven years staring at a blank screen and never growing out of her Innocently Clueless Demeanor. If you think about it, it becomes rather creepy.

Meh, I could go on, but you get my point I think...

Saturday, 16 July 2011

da2 spoilers

So, yeah. Isabela.

I don't hate her, but the idea of a romance with her makes me uncomfortable. It's not exactly because of her complete carelessness during Act 2 which leads to so many deaths without her suffering any real consequence or even feeling regret for it (unlike anders. I can't say that Anders is 'sorry', other than maybe on the full rival path, but he's at least 'slightly sad'.) It's because of the way the whole set of shenanigans reveals how little she trusts 'me', and especially because of what happens if you 'betray' her.

Huge spoiler time - Isabela is supposedly searching for an artifact that she promised to give some dude as recompense for having freed his 'slaves' (captives), because otherwise he'll kill her. This is a really stupid plot to begin with - is he actually going to forgive and forget when you hand over a valuable thingie? Surely she should realise that if she caves to threats and demands he'll make MORE threats and demands. Also, he's one guy. She could easily put a dagger in his ribs. She could more easily have US put a dagger in his ribs. (Which *is* one of the eventual options at the end of this plotline *anyway*.) It is baffling to a player to understand why she's even bothering to try and find this thing for this dude.

We understand HonorBeforeReason characters pursuing stupid things. We understand why the people who this item belongs to (getting to that) will not change their minds ever. But why is Isabela so intent on this? It makes no sense. Maybe we were supposed to get more explanation of her relationship with Castillon somewhere, and why it mattered to her to keep his approval? Even if she wanted him to get her a new ship, SURELY there are other people she could hire on with. Sigh. Anyway. So, her plotline doesn't make sense to me from the start.

The item she's supposedly looking for - which she had briefly and then lost - is a sacred relic of the Qunari. Who *are* HonorBeforeReason types and are not leaving this city without it, no matter how many years it takes. Their presence ramps up tensions. Many of them get killed. Many citizens get killed. The Qunari eventually get fed up with the whole thing and attack the city, killing a whole lot of people including the city's ruler... Only after that, maybe, IF you've built a relationship with her, will Isabela show up and go 'Oops. Here, have that relic of yours back.'

Now, to be fair, during most of those years she didn't know where it was either. However, she certainly knew what was going on with the Qunari and opted not to tell us. Okay, fine, she doesn't trust us much. But then if you try to hand her over to the Qunari - the only way to make them leave without any more bloodshed - she gets all upset about it. Even though they're not going to kill her, and you could quite reasonably expect her to escape (as it's rumored that she does). In fact, in a later quest, handing her over to someone who wants her and then rescuing her is EXACTLY THE PLAN. That could have been done here. Or, if she'd trusted Hawke at all, they could have worked something out ahead of time, faked Isabela's death or something.

Even the way it was done here, with Isabela being hauled off and then (probably) escaping, she could have come back to have it out with Hawke. Instead she leaves forever. Well, fine, then. I can treat her as a casual acquaintance, someone fun to hang out with. But she certainly doesn't love me and I'm not going to pretend to love her.

Friday, 15 July 2011

da2 spoilers

Hopefully that title was enough warning. I'm mostly going to talk about romances, but that requires discussing some major plot events. Also swearing. It's memetic.

So, I've done Anders (friend), Fenris (rival), Merrill (first half friends, complete rival). I'm skipping Isabela completely. Sure, I've slept with her, but I can't bring myself to pursue a solo relationship with her.

Playing multiple paths means by necessity seeing characters from multiple angles, and that can really change how you feel about them. I'm glad I did Anders' romance first, because after what went down, I can barely bring myself to speak to him on further playthroughs, much less flirt with the guy.

First playthrough, I was totally on Anders' side. The Circle is an injustice! I let Bethany go to the circle, fulling expecting that we were going to stage a breakout and rescue her later. I fell hard and fast for the man who seemed to want me so desperately and was happily planning a revolution with him. I thought giving him the key to the underground passages seemed like a good idea. I would have been willing to start a war my way. I still don't see why that wasn't an option.

I got worried when he started being secretive. I suspected that he intended to blow himself up publicly - probably in front of the grand cleric, after asking for her help and not getting it - to bring attention to the plight of the mages, and was angry that he wouldn't tell me, but if that was his plan I could kinda understand why he wouldn't, and I couldn't entirely deny him the right to do it, even if it was obviously going to suck for me.

... So I was pretty pissed when it turned that instead he decided to murder innocent people, and had made me an unknowing accomplice. Goddammit Anders! I was willing to give you everything and this is how you treat me? But... it couldn't be fixed, and I'd come this far on a romance path, so shock and cognitive dissonance made my poor Hawke agree that everything was a-okay, she'd forgive him, they'd go on together.

I don't think she meant it.

Combined with defending Orsino only to find out what he'd done, and have him turn into a Harvester on her? I suspect my first Hawke completely snapped after the end of the game and strangled Anders in his sleep. At LEAST.

And it turns out that at least to me, when you're playing through and not romancing Anders? He's incredibly annoying. He whines constantly. That's all he is, just a scruffy shaggy pile of WHAT ABOUT THE MAGES? Yes, there are reasons, and he's aware that he's turning into nothing but the cause, but it's still pretty obnoxious to have around. (Also, I'm annoyed that if he kills someone in Act 2 and you throw him out of the party, the text gives the impression that he left town, but he's apparently still hanging around being buddy-buddy with Varric. I really think that cutscene should be altered if you've told him to get lost.)

Every subsequent ending, I've stabbed Anders, and felt like that fate was too good for him. I find it crazily unebelievable that other NPCs simply walk away and leave him to me, too.

Compare this to Fenris. I took a hands-off approach with him the first time, earning rivalry points, obviously, but being respectful enough to him that I never hit full rivalry. He killed his sister (on later plays I stopped him but the first time I left him to it), and turned on me in the final battle, and I had to kill him. But that didn't make me lose respect for him, especially considering how guilty I felt about the side I'd ended up on. Also, he was always polite about Bethany, and while he did have a bone to pick with Merrill and Anders, he was right. The rivalmance is hot, and very squee at the end (he has the best pre-final-battle romance dialog of anyone afaik).

And on subsequent playthroughs, spending time with him without Anders around to piss him off, he turns out to actually have a sense of humor and to be quite willing to accept a mage Hawke, even though his reasons for being paranoid are better than Anders'. He gets more lovable as I spend more time with him, not less.

Merrill... sigh. I got the impression she had the hots for Hawke even when I wasn't romancing her, but I can't see that relationship ever working out. I don't think she plans ahead well (no surprise!) She jumps in because she's got a crush, then declares love and forces you to either say you'll do anything for her or dump her completely. But what would she do then? Especially on a rivalmance path? I can buy her friendship romance, sort of. Rivalmance M looks like she'd be utterly miserable with Hawke and I can't imagine they'd stay together. It's not just her people she's giving up, since a rival Hawke would logically try to stop her doing more magic. Little Merrill with nothing to do but sit uncomfortably in a rich house with hard floors? Especially if Hawke's ruling the city and everyone's staring at the freaky elf? Eventually she'd run, or do something crazy.

This is getting super-long so I should probably split Isabela into the next post.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Sandy Hawke

My mage build.

After the super-butch look forced by the equipment at the start of the game:

I then eventually had to go to the trouble of hacking my save file to create equipment for her later, because this character does not want the slinky dress-robes that make up 90% of the mage equipment! (Not to mention it's crazy for roleplaying purposes to be running around in magerobes with a huge staff, considering the plot.)

So here I am in all my androgynous glory.

... yes, I do intend to do the f/f romances with this character but that's a coincidence honest!

Disappointed that being blond did not alter my starting family... that feature doesn't seem to be nearly as well-implemented as they'd suggested. Oh well.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Treasures of a Slaver's Kingdom

I have no idea what this is.

In the cruel kingdoms north of the Viraxian Empire, a barbarian seeks treasure - and vengeance! Having escaped the clutches of the Slaver King, he has vowed to pillage the wealth of the kingdom ... then bring it to its knees. YOU are this barbarian.

I have no idea what this Encounter Critical thing is about.

... this is Encounter Critical, which means it's designed to be a very good game while providing a thrill-ride simulation of a very, very bad one. If that sounds like a stupid idea, well, yes. Yes it is. And if that sounds great: welcome, friend, to the world of EC.

... But it sounds like it could be fun, doesn't it?

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

so how much do indies earn? part 2

According to this ars technica article, average earnings on Xbox Live Indie Games is less than $4000. Total.

Now, average can mean a lot of things... if a few people are doing hugely well and most people do terribly, the average number is largely meaningless. Also, as usual, how good or bad that money is depends on what time and money you put into writing the game in the first place. Some people are absolutely thrilled to earn a few hundred dollars.

Now that I have to pay rent and feed people, though, a few hundred wouldn't really do me much good. Luckily my projects do generally pull in rather more than $4000 each. :)

Monday, 4 July 2011

Hoodoo Blues

Was in a gaming shop in Berkeley yesterday and spotted this Dark Southern Folk Magic setting book, was curious but didn't really need another book to tote around right now... but it turns out the PDF version is a measly five bucks.

Haven't read it yet though, so I don't have anything much to say yet.

My own Southernness is tenuous. I'm from there, but my parents weren't - and we lived in a big city, too. I think there's more there that I can and should draw from for stories, but it's largely mysterious to me at the moment.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

it will only end in ruin

Despite still feeling that the game isn't handling the romances nearly well enough, I have transferred my allegiances to Fenris.

Even though I had to put him down in my first playthrough.

G@#$mmit Anders.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

loot and leveling

So, some more spoiler-free grumbling about DA2.

Other people have already talked at length about the problems with auto-scaling challenges which prevent you from ever reaching the feeling of being amazingly powerful. In DA2 you will *never* recapture the fun you had in the first five minutes of the game where they let you play yourself as a 'legendary' version and kill everything easily with your super powers.

But there's also this thing nowadays of expecting players to constantly cycle their equipment, and that's built into the level advancement systems as well. (4e does this and I whine about it there too.) What that means is that if you're bored with the game and cheat to give your characters extra levels? They become weaker, not stronger! Your equipment doesn't level up with you, but the monsters do, and suddenly your dagger is a butter spoon.

Which you will have to replace with another, equally nondescript dagger. For no reason.

Obviously they are trying to give you a money sink and loot is traditionally one in an rpg, if they hadn't sucked every possible bit of enjoyment out of looting. But the autoscaling and the fact that you are mostly facing the SAME ENEMIES that you were all along makes this feel extra artificial. Why could I cut this human with a knife five minutes ago but now it bounces off? What sense does this make?

Despite that people generally hate weapon damage, I would have been a lot happier if I could pay to repair/upgrade my existing equipment as a money sink rather than having to constantly swap out identical drab kit. Varric gets to keep his beloved crossbow and scale it up with him, why can't *we* have the option of developing attachments to our equipment?

Being able to patch up my own equipment would also have allowed me to pick things for style. They're so fixated on keeping the companions looking right that they won't let you change THEIR armor at all, but YOU still have to change what you're wearing all the time. Argh.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

about combat

As for the combat stuff... enh. I set the difficulty to casual and completely ignored it most of the time. The game is absolutely not set up for me to enjoy thoughtful turn-based combat - attempting to play in a thoughtful way, the game would fight me every step of the way, and it would be a disaster. But I can also enjoy stuff just blowing up with little input from me. So I generally took control of a mage and boomed stuff. Number of fights where I actually had to pay attention, using this method, is probably five or less.

Similarly, the reused dungeons honestly didn't bother me. This isn't a dungeon crawler. That, in some ways, is a good thing... it meant there were fewer levels of ENDLESS TEDIUM. Things tended to move along at a good pace, there were no huge fortresses you had to pick through room after room after room of enemies standing still waiting for you to show up. (At least, I don't remember any.)

summing up

So, I have finished my first runthrough of DA2. Not going to talk about plot in this post, just some gameplay stuff.

There were things they did well, there were things they did mediocrely, there were things they did very badly. The thing that annoyed me most was not necessarily what you'd expect - it wasn't the combat, or the reused dungeons, the things that got the most whining in blogs at launch.

It was the LOOTING.

Bioware has never been the best at loot. I've complained before about the proliferation of barrels with stupid crap in them and the lack of putting actually cool things in rewarding places. Somehow they took everything they've ever done wrong and made it vastly worse. Loot was not a fun minigame, it was a painful chore.

Why? Well, for starts, all your party members except Hawke have fixed armor throughout the game. That means, from the very beginning, two-thirds of all armor you can find is completely worthless. No one can wear it. It's not right for your class, and no one else can wear armor at all.

On top of that, it appears that each act features a special named suit of armor designed for your class, with good stats and special abilities and a bonus for completing the whole set. Which means that, after act 1 where you had to scrounge your way up, you're likely to spend the game wearing special armor, and every other piece of armor in the game is useless. The special ones aren't even hard to find!

But the worst offender is the accessory category - belts, amulets, and rings. 90% of which are simply labeled "Belt" or "Ring", no matter what their powers are. They have no names. They have no graphics. They have no description. If you mouse over them, you'll get a quick popup of the stats they alter, and that's it. They have a range of effects, but they all look absolutely identical so you can't possibly remember what you've got in your inventory, and you certainly can't care when you find yet another 'Ring' somewhere.

Weapons are slightly better, since the majority of them do get names. They still don't get descriptions or icons, though.

Then there's the vendor trash category, which again gets no icons or descriptions, just a name. You have no way to tell what any of it is worth (well, you can guess that 'Torn Pants' is probably not very valuable, but is a pair of pants worth more or less than a chip of beryl? That's NOT obvious) until you actually sell it to someone. Sure, maybe my character is supposed to be stupid, but at the least after selling things a few times you'd think she'd get some idea and be able to provide information on what to throw out.

Naturally, inventory space is limited. And there doesn't seem to be a convenient way to pick and choose objects when you're looting either. So you pick up all this crap, almost all of which is JUNK, some of which might be usable but it's pretty hard to tell with the generic names, and... It just sucks, okay?

Once I look up cheat codes I am probably going to attempt to loot NOTHING for my next playthrough. Looting is THAT anti-fun.

I would far rather be equipping 'Pustulent Greaves Of The Whale' than 'Ring'. What were they thinking?

Yes, it's extra work putting in all that fluff and no one pays much attention to it. But the lack of that fluff kills the atmosphere and lays bare the sheer drudgery of item upgrading.

Monday, 27 June 2011

so how much do indies earn?

An update on the ongoing story of The Oil Blue, a game which got a bit of coverage but not a lot of sales.

playing with hearts

Despite the adorable elf, it was Anders I ended up going for.

Partly because he gets emotional at you very quickly while Merrill seems rather flustered by the concept and makes me not want to push her.

When this character is finished I expect I will do a male/male run with Fenris. He makes me nervous.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

my hawke

Close enough to default settings that she keeps a default Bethany, who you can see lurking in back. Yes, I have finally begun playing the game. And like everyone, I can't help but be charmed by Merrill. So far, though, my rp choices tend to please and piss off people in equal measure... well, except Bethie who is my BFF and Fenris who kinda gives me the creeps.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Friday, 24 June 2011

We've got to go back!

Back to the future!

I hadn't really heard this was going on (or tuned it out worrying it was going to be some moronic license beating) but it actually sounds pretty cool.

Episodic gaming isn't all that new, but it's usually disastrous... it's only recently that a few people seem to be making it work.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

world-bending mary sue powers GET

Oh yes, if I hadn't mentioned it here: Magical Diary is now available. :)

The free demo will let you check out the school, learn a few spells, and upload your character designs to the online yearbook. (And yes, there's a discount for blogging about it.)

I'm really pleased by the reactions we've gotten so far from the playtest crowd. It has been a huge amount of work (this is, like, the size of two of my earlier games put together!) but a lot of fun, and I'm still overflowing with ideas for the later entries in the series. However, I really really need to take a break now!

Realm of the Mad God

I stumbled into this by accident and know nothing about it, but without having to take any time to sign up for anything and a tutorial of, like, a minute, you can be wandering around the world blasting things.

I don't know if there's a point, but it was fun for a few minutes at least!

Alternate Reality

I played these when I was a kid! Well, the first one at least. I don't remember much except potions and learning the word 'greaves'. And getting attacked by wraiths.

Don't know if they'll hold as much fascination now, but it's worth a look...

Saturday, 18 June 2011

cute adorable evil

Spotted on DLsite - an entry in the "#@*$&!" genre of platformers (I'm sure there's a better name, but you know what I mean... The ones where everything is a trap and you die constantly.)

It has cute adorable graphics. You have infinite (negative) lives. You die a lot.

There's a free trial, and once you manage to launch it (.net required) you can probably manage even without any Japanese knowledge. Arrow keys and Z/X/C will get you through most Japanese platformers... You won't be able to read the instructions, but they're probably lies anyway!