Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Daily Challenge Challenge 2014 Death Specials

On the flight to Australia I had the bright idea to create a death compilation from my daily challenge series, ideally to be put out on New Years Eve.

I ran into a couple of problems doing this:

  1. I don't have a local video editor
  2. I don't have the footage on my tablet
Fortunately YouTube has its own editing tools I can vaguely work, but I knew my net connection for most of the trip pre-New Years would be pretty limited. So my time was limited and the tools I used were relatively crude but I did in fact get it done. Here are my two new years specials:



Because in games like these if you can't take some pleasure in your repeated deaths, then they really would quickly become difficult to enjoy at all. I have died literally hundreds of times in Spelunky and only seen the final boss once, there is a reason I keep coming back despite the repeated mistakes and frustration.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Massive Chalice - The Hiatusing

I am going to take a break from this Let's Play until probably mid January. The primary reason for this is that I am travelling back to Australia for Christmas and New Year and I won't have my desktop or headset in order to record, nor will I reliably have sufficient bandwidth or time to edit episodes together.

It was this or try to record the rest of the game and get the bulk of the editing done before travelling which definitely seems possible, but the other reason for not pushing ahead is the Hybrid Class patch that is coming early next year. It looks like it will have some pretty significant changes coming with it, not just the new classes and I really would like to have the full remaining 95ish years to play around with the new classes and balance changes that are coming down.

Not planning to put up a different let's play series in the meantime, because of the same time and editing commitments that would require, but if you want something a bit different, a friend of mine has been doing a text based Civilization Beyond Earth let's play over at Ninja Blues.

Hopefully I can write up a couple of posts over the break, but no guarantees, have a great holiday season and see you again next year.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Massive Chalice EP18 - The Best Timeline?

So I am just past year 200, I have only ever had 3 or 4 heroes die in battle, the rest all lived long and hopefully happy lives and these days my training program means that practically every child that makes it out of training is a warrior out of myth and legend. Right now I think things are going pretty well, but then I still have 94 years left for things to go wrong.

In fact, given that most of what I talk about in this video I mentioned in my previous blog post, instead why don't I talk about how this could go all wrong, here are the major threats I see on the horizon:

  • Random events: I have plenty of heroes, so I am not actually worried about these injuring or damaging heroes, but they can add corruption to regions. Tech and hero level doesn't appear to factor into these events either so they can and have imperilled regions.
  • 3 region attacks: Even when I win these, the net effect is that corruption goes up and regions end up closer to destruction.
  • 2 region attacks on my most corrupted regions: This forces me to pick which region I want to keep, both this and the previous point ultimately stem from the same larger threat
  • 4 of the 5 exposed regions are keeps: The loss of a keep is not only the loss of the heroes and trainees, but effectively eliminates a hero household from the future usage.
If I start losing regions and thus start also most of my keeps too early I may see my heroes dying of old age without any replacements arriving before year 300. Thanks to random events and 3 region attacks this can happen without ever actually losing a battle save the last one.

I should also note that as of version 0.86 all cadence attacks in years 250-300 are 3 region attacks. This is why I am still a bit nervous even with how well everything has gone. Those last 50 years promise to be pretty brutal.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Massive Chalice EP17 - AI Problems

I really love the newton's cradle thing at the start of the episode I suspect it would have been significantly more effective if I had just used a regular attack given the ramcap caber's built in knockback ability. I really don't know what could possibly get me to stop using that caber without it having a fairly significant damage nerf.

That same fight also shows that the AI really cannot handle the increased range of a Dead Eye hunter. It feels really goofy because they seem to react to being shot at from from outside their sight range. Instead it follows the standard no target in sight procedure, which is apparently move randomly and occasionally hit the scenery.

They would feel a lot less silly if they retreated, looked for cover or at least tried to head towards the source of the attack. But stand there being shot at is just very daft, I am sure there are many different ways to fix it, but I wonder if just in-engine giving enemies free sight of the character that attacked them would fix it. My expectation would be that melee enemies would head towards the attack/find what cover they can on the way, and ranged enemies would attempt to move to within range and then attack. It would make cradles significantly more dangerous since I assume they have the same kind of indirect fire alchemists do, but I can't help but feel that that also would be better.

I really have to keep in mind that I am definitely over levelled for this stage of the game, I think the expected year to start having level 10 heroes is probably more around the 250 to 275 mark, rather than the early 200s. High level heroes also means high level researchers so I am also ahead on the tech curve. This basically all stems from the timeline starting before the patch that increased building costs, I was built out and up much earlier than the game expects. If I were to start new game now, things would be pretty different.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Massive Chalice EP16 - Defend the Keep!

New fight type, Keep Defence, while the game did wait until the back half of the game to throw this at me, these can actually happen at any time to a keep on the outer ring, they can also attack Sagewrights and Standards.

Not sure that the cadence actually gets a special goal, I suspect my understanding shown in the video is simply wrong and they just have to kill all of my heroes to win. Mostly because I don't really get any information about that from the Chalice itself.

They certainly are a welcome change by now though. They include more enemies but also really different stakes, instead of gambling on realm status, you effectively are wagering the entire building and line, I am pretty sure you lose the building and everything in it. A weaker version of losing the entire domain to corruption. Finally I am pretty sure that the keep defenses all take place on different maps than the standard map pool. Overall it is a nice change once in a while.

The other thing these missions do is show that while the game is built around 5 hero squads, it does a fairly good job of adapting to larger squad sizes. It only really struggles in the Results screen where the UI expectations are most visible.

5 Heroes
7 heroes

You can see that the extra heroes pushes over the end of the page, meaning we suddenly require scrolling. I do appreciate that they have put some thought into this situation. It can't be an accident that the sixth hero is partially visible which tells the user that hey, there is more information available, you just have to scroll down to see it. I think it works well as a solution to a relatively infrequent but expected event in this game.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Massive Chalice EP15 - Why Won't You Have Kids?!

Those Vaughns, heck not just them but everyone who has occupied that keep has been mysteriously infertile. Not sure what is causing it but kids are exceedingly rare in that keep, even when the game tells me that the regent and their partner are both bountiful and their chances for children are super high.

I guess this is what adoption is for though, to try to get past this point and to hopefully push through into a more reproductive regent and family later on. I really want to keep those caberjacks around, and given that they are on the outer ring of regions, they are relatively easily lost to cadence attacks. Fortunately the game even handed me a second child for them to raise through the first fight in this episode.

We finally get to see the Ramcap caber in action, it is so freaking awesome. I love being able to hit enemies into one another and now I can, repeatedly and easily. Takes the main hook of the caberjack and amps it up to 11. Really looking forward to getting to use it in future fights.

Also these are difficult weeks for me due to my intent to have the videos mostly match up with the current state of the game when they are released. It means I can't play too far ahead of the posts (currently sticking with up to a week). So the cliffhanger at the end of this episode affects me too, I won't get to play the next fight until probably the day this post goes up, i.e. a week since I actually hit this point in the game. I was so very tempted to go for just one more fight this time.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Massive Chalice EP14 - New Trees and New Choices

We get to see the new alchemist skill tree this episode and I really like the choices it offers because now they are far from easy to make. I mean Dart of the Falcon is great for making alchemists more effective at longer ranges, but maybe I want to make them a more effective team medic with thrown ultralixors? Similarly I love acid and have used it a lot in these combats, but I am pretty sure sometimes I would rather the flexibility of the second item over the 6 extra points of damage on the enemy turn, even from glancing blows.

What I am even more excited by is the implementation, the skill tree reshuffle was only for future heroes, it did not affect existing heroes at all, which implies that hero skill trees, both the current skills selected and the overall structure is stored with the hero information. This opens the way for a mod or new game plus option along the lines of Training Roulette from XCOM Enemy Within which was a mode I really enjoyed.

So just randomising the skill trees and allowing non-class skills that still make some sense to show up would be pretty interesting, but combining it with parents and standards could make it even more complicated but also even interesting. Imagine becoming really attached to an alchemist household specifically because that family all are able to learn charge, or a hunter household that know how to apply acid to their bolts.

I am really hoping that modding is supported by the final version of this game.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Massive Chalice EP13 - Midpatch Ramifications

We have officially hit the mid-point of the game and thus hopefully this series as a whole, given my plan is to play this only until I win or die. The game should start throwing some new things at us to help ensure that life stays interesting.

Given that this game is in early access, and I actually started playing before it even hit that point I expect patches to hit while recording this series. It is one of the reasons why I only record a week at a time, ideally I want to keep the videos as representative as possible of the current game, without restarting each patch.

The patch that hit last week is pretty significant, though I avoid the full ramifications of it by being halfway through the game already. The key strategy changes are increasing building costs and reducing the effectiveness of the building region buff, a slight reduction in Standard XP rates and some more minor changes to Sagewrights and the intuition stat.

The building aspects are made completely irrelevant for this play through because I already built out the map, I literally cannot build anything else in this game, so that change has just come in too late to affect me. Likewise with the change to Standards, I have already benefited from about a century of better standards, my heroes are approaching the higher levels and I think the brakes have been applied too late to stop me there. All that is left is a slight research reduction, I might get one or two fewer items by the end of the game.

The skill tree changes though, they are more interesting. This episode they haven't really taken too much of an effect, but logjam feels like a much more directly useful skill to me with these changes, the area stun just never seemed useful enough over the alternative but it was so great to pop both ruptures near me with a single attack during that fight.

I will talk a little more about the implementation of the skill changes and what I hope it means on Wednesday.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Massive Chalice EP12 - Interfacing Incompetence

I enjoyed the fight a lot more in this video, but I did need to cut about 5 minutes near the end which consisted purely of me equipping my heroes to the next fight, including fully kitting out a hero and then completely forgetting to hit the replace button, or forgetting I had already adding them to the party.

Ultimately I am not sure if those issues are just mine, or possibly the games. Probably a mixture of both but I feel that I should take the majority of the blame there.

The random event this week is thematically interesting. One of the most terrible choices a real person can face, but significantly neutered by the knowledge that this is just a game and ultimately every "person" involved is a bunch of numbers inside RAM. Makes it very easy to say "Well, they can and hopefully will have many more, so we can sacrifice this child", not a choice I would want to have made for me either in real life.

Next week I will get to deal with a pretty significant set of changes from the most recent patch, but I will talk more on that next time.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Massive Chalice EP11 - The Silliest of Fights

The fight in this episode is pretty dumb. Even 34 seeds isn't actually a challenging or interesting fight at this stage of the game, despite sending in what is one of the worst match ups against that enemy. It pretty much felt like a mop up operation from the very start of the map. If I had paid a little bit more attention when I picked the battles I could have anticipated this and sent in only alchemists to make it even more of a cakewalk.

I suspect that this encounter is either meant to fire much earlier, when groups of 4 - 5 are a threat,  or to fire a little bit later with some advanced seeds that can actually create a cradle. Without that it was just kind of

In the strategy layer I am definitely having a slight problem with hero gender balance. It looks like one of my families has a pretty strong presence of Queenmaker as a pretty common trait which has resulted in too many ladies. It isn't too much of a problem yet, I haven't had a situation where I need a man and there are none around but it has certainly limited my choices and I will definitely need to keep an eye on it to ensure that I don't run out of men later down the track.

Finally I should note that one of the features I have been looking forward to the most, hybrid classes, is definitely at least still on the agenda, the team recently asked for class name suggestions on the forum. It is kind of hard to know how much impact the hybrid classes will have on the game.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Massive Chalice EP10 - She's Older Than She's Ever Been

The Wrinklers are proving to be a problem given my heavy reliance on hunters and their now lower damage output. Stephana is lucky to be alive if that second blow hadn't glanced she wouldn't merely be 10 years old, she would be dead. As it stands she is now going to get one to two fights fewer than she otherwise could have participated in.

On the other hand the hunter relics I have are starting to get better and better as I actually think to equip them on heroes I am sending into combat and now it is looking like I could get some relics for other classes which should help me use them to greater effect too.

It occurs to me now that perhaps some of the damage reduction I am dealing with is the loss of the region bonus from the area the Sagewrights guild was located in. I think that location gave me a dex bonus for all hunters. Something to check on next time I load up the game.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Massive Chalice EP9 - Great Twitch Skills

As far as I know the twitcher is the last of the enemies that the game will introduce. There are advanced forms of most of these, which are basically just higher level versions but I don't think there are any entirely new types.

That said, still not actually had neither of these new enemies hit any of my heroes so I haven't really had a chance to see how they actually work, nor have I seen my Alchemist's explosive armour do any damage because whenever it has gone off the nearby enemies have just died. Will try to keep things that way for as long as possible.

I also want to note that these nicknames are ridiculous, I mean "Cheese Arms", "Whats-her-name" and "Mr. Pancakes". These are definitely all nicknames sure, but not exactly nicknames forged in the heat of combat, they feel very jarring to me given that they are all bestowed just after one of the cadence is taken down.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Massive Chalice EP8 - A Wrinkly Issue

It really hurts to go into battle with too few heroes. Mostly it hurts my pride. I thought I was in such a good position and then quickly saw how wrong I was.

I really like the way that Wrinklers and Lapses remain a problem no matter how good your tech is because they do a form of damage that is permanent. Because battles are years apart healing times are pretty much irrelevant, but a hit from a wrinkler potentially will remove one fight from your heroes career and it will most likely drop their fertility too which is a pretty important consideration for their future positions.

The other thing that comes up in this episode is the disposition of relics. I keep giving them to people that I also then want to use for strategic roles. Definitely doing something wrong there. I need to try to maintain two mental lists. Good strategic and good tactical candidates. The problem is that both lists are pretty similar which is why relics keep ending up on people who aren't in combat.

The UI for these screens does leave much to be desired. Yes you can sort by marital status and by relic, but it would be much better if there was also an icon which indicated the current role of a hero Regent/Partner/Standard and one that indicated the number of relics a hero currently owned, perhaps including the relic level. It would reduce the need to search through their more detailed information and reduce some of the mental burden during these decisions.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Massive Chalice EP7 - Mistakes Were Made

Perhaps my pronouncement that I had enough people and children that my staffing problems are over was a little... premature.

That fight in the Cinderlands was a bit problematic, I was a bit too aggressive and took some risks I really didn't need to take and as a result Sapphire and Emma both lost their lives. Worst of all was just not thinking through the potion throw. Emma was not in much danger but it turns out that my heroes dish out a lot more damage than the enemies do, so friendly fire is really really dangerous.

It is an interesting contrast to XCOM. In XCOM you and many of the aliens use the exact same weaponry, meaning an assault with a plasma rifle will do about the same damage as a thin man with a plasma rifle. The compensation for greater enemy numbers in XCOM is in general greater HP and better stats on your soldiers. Both sides to similar amounts of damage but your troops can take more in any given encounter.

In Massive Chalice, the Cadence and the heroes don't at all operate in the same ways, they are mechanically much more distinct from each other than aliens and humans in XCOM. Whilst you can research weapons inspired by (and using parts from) the Cadence you never really pick up their moves. As a result, Cadence mostly have higher HP and lower damage output, and heroes lower HP and higher damage. This means Alchemist friendly fire is basically always going to be really dangerous. I  try will avoid making that mistake again.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Massive Chalice EP6 - More Than Enough Babies

With the work we did the last couple of episodes, I've now got more than enough heroes to fill all of my strategic roles. This is great, it gives me a bit of breathing room and time to push out my buildings and research to ensure that I continue to have a decent technological and training advantage over the Cadence.

The real question will be how long this will last, there are still a number of enemies types left to encounter. There are some entirely new ones, but also advanced versions of many of the initial types. I really won't be able to afford to send out undermanned squads in the future.

On an entirely meta level, I really appreciate the way the game keeps throwing me into fights around the half hour mark. It is kind of nice to have that natural cliffhanger built in to this series.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Massive Chalice EP5 - Baby Pipeline Functioning

I really like the kind of periodicity you get on a per keep basis. As the regent and the partner age off and become less fertile they mostly stop having children. So each keep has its own rhythm over the course of the game. Definitely important to strike the right balance between enough keeps and kids and enough other structures.

Kind of difficult to know what to talk about with each of these individual episodes. But I guess the key part is that I went into this episode worried that I would basically run out of children and upcoming heroes for this timeline to be viable. But during the episode my keeps really started working for me, feel much more positive about my chances now.

I should also mention that as of yesterday, Massive Chalice has hit early access, which means you can get it for yourself if you are interested.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Massive Chalice EP4 - Relics Passed Down Through Timetravel

Sigh, looks like the video took a few seconds to start recording, which cut off the opening to this episode. Something I should really start paying more attention to those details, it is always a bit painful to see stupid mistakes like that when I go back to write these posts and clean things up a bit for YouTube.

A few major milestones this episode, first relic weapon, and first combat casualties. And I don't actually have a particularly effective baby pipeline just yet, so I am kind of stuck with slightly too few heroes to both fill out my strategic roles and still have an effective combat squad. I really need to spend a bit of time ensuring that I have enough heroes doing their duty and having as many kids as possible or we are going to lose this war.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Massive Chalice EP3 - Aged Squadren Assemble

I should apologise for the framerate issues in this video, the game was having some problems at points, but it definitely feels worse watching the recording than we did here.

The AI really does seem to need some work, the enemies just don't seem to remember where you have been. They just seem to have a fairly simple set of rules they follow based on what is visible at the start of their turn. This is fine except that the melee troops are both too clever and too stupid. If they can't get close enough with their move they hide. Then they seem to promptly forget where my guys are and revert to random movement unless I have revealed myself to them again during my turn. Here is the Loading Ready Run episode I mentioned in the video by the way.

I also like the tension between wanting to use my "good" characters for strategic roles and needing to keep some back to fight.I have definitely been erring on the side of pushing them into strategic roles and I can see it coming back to bite me later on in the game as the enemy forces grow in power.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Heroine's Quest Episode 6 - I'm Out

Not an ideal way to finish up a series. The "One Mo" at the end of the video was an interruption caused by my partner getting home, but I am just not interested in going back to this game. The Thieves Lodge puzzle will remain as that one dang puzzle that I got stuck on.

For me it was encountering it out of order and the game not really giving me good feedback on why I failed. What am I supposed to do down there, I cannot fight, attempting to initiate a fight results in an instant death. I cannot talk, the talk icon doesn't seem to show up, I can't walk, I can't climb the ladder. All I appear to be able to do down there is die.

I thought maybe I could get help or some kind of clues by raising the subject with other people, but you can't talk about the lodge directly, you can only talk to NPCs about the thief in your room and they are all pretty unsympathetic or oblivious to that as a problem.

To be clear I am not completely stuck, there are other things I can do in the game, I can explore the map further, I can explore some of the towns a bit more, I can push on to doing some of the other puzzles, the problem here is that I just don't care. The last puzzle I dealt with was obtuse and unrewarding and I have literally hundreds of other games I could be playing. Not finishing Heroine's Quest isn't going to result in me feeling left out of any discussions with friends, it will just be a bit of a disappointing way to have spent my time.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Let's Play Massive Chalice: Not Enough Babies!

Today we continue with Massive Chalice, my last recording session with Heroine's Quest really drained a chunk of my enthusiasm for that game and I was still quite eager to get to grips with this one.

I am the kind of person who plays XCOM and really doesn't roll with the punches, I will reload to redo a mission because mostly I don't like to lose. It is a character flaw I am aware of and I try to avoid causing me problems but I definitely enjoy winning much more than losing and so I am happy to save, load and reload to get by tricky events by brute force if necessary.

This means that I have lost maybe 2 or 3 soldiers total in my XCOM runs, it is an avoidable portion of the game if you aren't on ironman. One of the really unique aspects of Massive Chalice to me is that hero loss is inevitable, your heroes are mortal, they age, they die and hopefully their children replace them. You have to roll with the punches, even if you are willing to save scum, because no amount of luck will let your first generation live to 300.

That combined with recording my play should make for a pretty different experience for me. I feel that save/load retries aren't that fun to watch so there is additional incentive for me to try out this play style that I haven't ever really done before. I hope you enjoy coming along for the ride.

As a reminder, you can find out more about Massive Chalice at

Monday, 3 November 2014

The Daily Challenge Challenge

I had planned to post the second episode of Ranneko Plays Massive Chalice today, after recording it of course. Unfortunately it looks like I didn't actually press the record shortcut or something. So of the two episodes I recorded I only have the second, which is missing a couple of decades worth of play. It is pretty frustrating and I am kind of hoping I can go back to my previous save and kind of redo most of the decisions and see if things can line up closely enough, but I may just have to redo the whole thing. Just glad I chose to use a new save rather than recycle the old one.

Here is one of my best Spelunky runs

I figure however that now is a good time to talk a bit about The Daily Challenge Challenge, which is a YouTube series I have been doing for about 5 weeks now. The basic concept is that I record my play of the daily challenge of various video games (currently Spelunky and Crypt of the Necrodancer) and put it up online every weekday.

It started as an excuse to practice these games and try to get better at them so that I could reliably score better than Jarenth at the game he gave me. It is also just a fun personal challenge, seeing how reliably I can keep it up, despite travel and other aspects of life just getting in the way. I was able to continue to play, record and upload while I was in New York last week, but I don't anticipate keeping the streak unbroken forever given I have a trip to Australia coming up in December.

One of my best Crypt of the Necrodancer runs

During these videos I of course talk about the game itself, but I it has also become a little bit of an audio diary, I will complain about being sick, or talk a bit about interesting things I have done or come across. I am not sure how relevant it is to my fairly small audience but it keeps me engaged and hopefully avoids there being too much dead air.

In general since it is a daily series I'm not going to be putting every episode, or even many episodes directly up at my blog. The easiest way to keep track of it would be to follow me on Google+, Twitter or subscribe directly to my YouTube channel

The worst, and thus shortest of my runs.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Heroine's Quest EP5 - Break, Enter and Die

This is a pretty short episode due to a combination of frustration and technical difficulties. It seems I am definitely trying to access the Thieves' Lodge too early, but this isn't signposted that well. That room is especially annoying since the game hints at the puzzle solution (pretty ineffectually in my case) even before you really have the information you need to work with.

The puzzle also relies heavily on the look function which frankly doesn't work very well in this game. For this kind of feature to work you need either better art direction, so interactable objects are more distinct from the set dressing or some kind of highlight system.

You also need to be pretty generous with the hit box for these objects, I missed the left antler and received the room look description instead. I then assumed that both antlers were the same object and missed a letter required to solve the puzzle.

Maybe some of these are system limitations, I believe the game is made in Adventure Game Studio and perhaps it is just difficult to have multiple look descriptions or to implement the kind of highlight system I mentioned before. It is probably important to keep in mind that this is a free game which also implies that they didn't have much of a time or financial budget to work with.

I guess part of the problem I had in this episode is that I was not really fully engaging with this game, I recorded the episode after having played Massive Chalice. In effect I was kind of pining after the new hotness rather than wanting to explore Heroine's Quest more fully.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Lets Play: Massive Chalice PBB

I backed this game a little over a year ago on Kickstarter because a turn based tactical fantasy game that takes place over an epic timeline complete with breeding your own heroes sounded awesome to me.

Then I got further into it late last year because a coworker of mine recommended I check out the Team Streams, They have been really transparent with the planning and development process for this game, not quite as a documentary like Broken Age, but every 2 weeks they have had a 2ish hour twitch stream about the game development. They have shown google docs, prototypes and art as well as amusing bugs and incidental weirdness. I have really enjoyed watching them and they have made me pretty keen to get my hands on the game to try it for myself.

Really enjoyed this hour with it, it feels a lot better to play it on my desktop than it did when I played it on my Surface during a flight where I was relying purely on the touch screen. I am keen to keep playing and yet also hesitant since I also don't want to get tired of it before it is finished. I guess I will leave it up to you, are you interested in seeing more of this?

It will be back to Heroine's Quest on Friday, but after that who knows?

Monday, 27 October 2014

Heroine's Quest - EP4 - The Only Hero In The Village

I was really worried that I would end up stuck making no progress in that forest for a couple of hours, would have made for a lot of fairly boring episodes with me getting increasingly frustrated. Turns out that the solution to the Sigurd problem was to find the village that was about 3 screens away. Wish I had done that the first time I found Sigurd, but then again I would probably still be struggling with the combat system.

Honestly I can respect the amount of geography this game has, the forest has a fairly good ratio of interesting to pathways for random encounters. I think they balanced that fairly well and the temperature/energy system stops you from just rushing through it. I also really like how we can go back to Hermie and ask about some of the places though I suspect that he is not the only one we could ask.

I am kind of curious as to how long this game will be, is it all going to take place in the forest or will we finish up here at some point and go to a new area with its own magical map. I am not really sure what to expect from this game.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Heroine's Quest - EP3 - Freezing in the Forest

This episode is mostly a mix of exploration and getting to grips with Heroine's Quests fighting and survival mechanics it contains a lot of dying. Right from the start in fact with a badly placed autosave.

This kind of situation is an edge case of two different mechanics not meshing with each other. Autosaves are nice in a game like this because they reduce the amount of content we have to repeatedly push through, but the system used here is a bit too simple. One autosave slot triggered on entering or leaving town.

In most cases that is fine, just resets us to where we left off, but here it left us seconds before death with no real recourse. This is the autosave not only being useless but sabotaging itself. If you have no manual saves you have to completely restart. From this point on I can no longer trust that there will be a useful autosave to fall back on.

There are a few ways to try to solve this:
1) Try to detect edge cases like these, don't trigger autosave below a health threshold for example
2) Don't autosave when entering towns only autosave when you leave towns.
3) Have several autosaves, automatically rotate through 3 or so. Letting players go back further to fix mistakes.

1 and 2 do have drawbacks though. For 1 if you don't make the edge cases clear then the autosave system feels a bit unpredictable and thus unsafe to rely upon. In the case of 2, narrowly but survivably entering town is kind of the best time to have saved your game.

But number 3 seems like the best way to avoid situations like these, I don't understand why some games are so keen to place low limits on saving. Replaying content is not fun, encountering Ratatosk is funny once, encountering him 3 times... not so much.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Heroine's Quest - EP2 - Boasting to the Gods

We get what I assume is the main plot, the way they reveal it feels pretty heavy handed though. First there is the meeting with the Jarl and his wizard where they outline what they understand is happening on a more grounded level and then once we leave the keep we are immediately forced into the meeting with the Norns, which tell us what is really going on.

I don't really understand why these reveals need to be so close together, why not let the player explore for a while then a chapter or two later raise the stakes and reveal that their opponent is a frost giant. I like the whole scene where you boast to the gods but feel it would be better if I had the opportunity to actually get something done first.

The woods are interesting to deal with but I think I will leave off talking about them until next time.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Heroine's Quest - EP1 - Trolling In The Mountains

This is the start of a new LP series and a trial of the system I would like to use in the future. The basic plan is:
- If I have a game I want to play, then I record that
- If I don't, I will pick a game and record at least one episode, if I like it continue as a series, if I don't then it should stand alone as a first impression kind of thing.

I certainly am happy to take suggestions as to games to play, it turns out I can be pretty bad at deciding exactly what to play next I kind of have a discoverability problem even within my own steam library, let alone anything else.

I found Heroine's Quest: The Herald of Ragnarok whilst playing around with Steam's new Discovery Queue feature, given it looked kind of interested and was free I figured it would be a good idea to add it to my library so I guess that system does seem to work. It seems to be a bit of a mix between a point and click adventure and an RPG. I am not entirely sure that this is the kind of thing I really want mixing, but we will see as for now I am intrigued so this won't be the only episode.

Friday, 17 October 2014

The Doctor Who Cloned Me - Episode 6 - Deposing the Empress

With the destruction of the Empress the Doctor Who Cloned Me comes to a close. Kind of disappointed that the moon itself was such a non-event it would have been interesting to have maybe reached the moon earlier and had more take place up there, but maybe they were worried about how to handle the low gravity in indoor environments.

I was a little embarrassed at how long it took me to work out what I needed to do to beat this boss and well it was a bit stupid that the fight involves attacking giant ovaries, seriously, given that the end goal isn't to spay the empress and it is immediately followed up by a killing blow seems like a really dumb way to fight something.

In the end it was more Duke Nukem Forever and while it is slightly better than the main campaign, it still isn't a particularly great game and there are just much better shooters out there to spend your time on.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

The Doctor Who Cloned Me - Episode 5 - BANG, ZOOM! Straight to the moon!

I was really glad to leave the Burning Bush. I found it much more uncomfortable than I was expecting because I was recording. It is a completely different context to be dealing with that kind of content. It is completely different wandering around a space like this in private and doing so in public. To me it is the different between watching a really pervy show in private and watching it with a group of friends. Sure some people enjoy doing it but I am not one of them.

It also really doesn't help that my parents know about this blog and while I don't link these particular posts on Facebook, friends and family are likely to be the ones reading these posts and it feels much less comfortable showing them this side of my hobby. Hey guys this is the kind of thing I like to do in my free time...

In any case, I certainly don't object to sex being depicted or alluded to in games, but I don't think that Duke Nukem Forever handles it in a particularly fun or entertaining way even in the best of contexts, let alone during this one. I did like the opportunity to wander around and explore a bit without combat looming over head but ultimately that section was much less cool than the Duke training facility.

Monday, 13 October 2014

The Doctor Who Cloned Me - Episode 4 - Military Bus Ride

Now that the guy the DLC is named for is dead we need to get to the Moon! First step find teleporter. This involves shooting waves of enemies and driving a school bus to a whorehouse in the desert. That makes sense right?

I don't really understand Duke Nukem Forever's obsession with the aliens, they just aren't actually a very interesting enemy they are pretty much all mechanical. Their motivations aren't ever made clear, there is never any attempt at communication from them they literally just seem to exist so you have someone to shoot.

The key great decision they made with this DLC was to reintroduce a villain with a face, one that talks to you and taunts you, someone that they could have Duke quip with and banter back to. But at some point they decide that the aliens have to have yet another giant enemy bad guy for you to kill in order to win the game.

I guess they have Dylan in there to serve as a kind of conversational foil, pity that he is just such a painful character really.

Friday, 10 October 2014

The Doctor Who Cloned Me - Episode 3 - Designed for Penetration

To be fair to Duke the lasers aren't explicitly called out as a security system in the game but I honestly have no idea what other purpose they would be intended to serve and the trope is pretty well established in gaming anyway.

In games, especially video games, security systems are designed completely differently from real systems. They are designed to be penetrated and often this isn't even handwaved. No effort is spent to justify why on earth you would keep a man sized gap in your laser array, your duct system to be human sized and navigable, all of your windows alarmed save for the roof entry, etc.

In real life security systems are built according to a mix of priorities, ease of implementation, price, convenience of use, expected risk of burglary etc. They aren't expected to be impenetrable, just to deter most attackers. I guess I would like to see at least some attempt to explain these gaps, perhaps the security system fails in an interesting way when you cut the power, the backup generators aren't quite up to spec hence why some of the lasers only work periodically. Or maybe there are just more of those convenient red barrels (which inexplicitly bother me less) allowing me to blow a gap through since I am not interested in stealth. Something with a clear and obvious cause rather than just pure coincidence.

The idea I mention in the video, having created the security system and monitoring from an operating budget is really only something that can work in a role playing game A place where the GM has the luxury of time and reactivity, I don't think most game designers and devs have the time to do that kind of thing given that level sections and mechanics can easily end up on the cutting room floor and if the players get stuck you can't just have them come up with something different to do that night. Video games are pretty much always going to be more limited in options and tools at players disposal.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Let's Play: Duke Nukem Forever: The Doctor Who Cloned Me - Episode 2 - Duke in Training

I was genuinely surprised at how good the Duke Training area is. It sells the concept really well by having each of those rooms have their own Ego Boost item, so even Duke benefits from practicing to be Duke and I actually found the reference to the Duke sound board at the beginning to be amusing.

It isn't all great of course, the confined combat arenas are just Duke Nukem Forever combat at its weakest except now with the added bonus of having to do it several times in a row. Still things are looking up with this DLC, the elements here for the most part are kind of fun and for the most part lacking the humour I find particularly grating.

As a kind of behind the scenes note, the fairly limited editing I do on these videos is done directly on YouTube. It lets me cut dead space at the beginning and end of the video as well as splice together video and audio and use transitions. I really would like to put together an intro and outro but haven't really decided how to do it right now.

With this video in particular I ran into a couple of strange issues, I simply wanted to remove 4 seconds of footage at the end but for some reason the editor wouldn't load, looks like the processing had broken somewhere in the video as the higher resolutions  also weren't available but it took Youtube a while to work it out.

 To fix this I tried reuploading the file, turns out youtube detects duplicate and rejects them, so after about 20 minutes I just got an unhelpful error message. To get things going I had to actually delete the old copy and then upload. The good news is this time the editor would load straight away, but it is possible if you watch this soon enough that you will only have a low res copy of the video available that still contains about 4 seconds of me fumbling for the stop recording button at the end.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Lets Play: Duke Nukem Forever: The Doctor Who Cloned Me - Episode 1

It took me a while to decide on what to record next after finishing up Hack 'n' Slash, but eventually I settled on this, The Doctor Who Cloned Me, the DLC for Duke Nukem Forever. I have heard that it is better than the main story but really have no idea how good it is.

Duke holds a lot of nostalgia for me, I remember playing the demos of the first two platformers growing up and then playing a lot of Duke Nukem 3D in high school. As a result I think I bear Duke Nukem Forever less animosity than many people but it really isn't a great game. I do think it is an interesting lesson in what happens if you give a developer with too much ambition too few limits and oversight. After all 3D Realms didn't even managed to publish the game it took a purchase by Gearbox to get the game released at all.

The biggest problem going into this is that I fundamentally don't trust the writers to product a good story or even particularly coherent story any more which means I am much more likely to notice stupid inconsistencies and really predictable events. The DLC doesn't seem to be too long so hopefully this won't just be endless griping for the duration.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Influent - Jag Behöver Studera Svenska

Influent calls itself a language learning game and I guess it is but I feel it is a bit misleading. It certainly doesn't teach grammar or even provide examples of words in sentences so you couldn't use this game to learn how to read or speak a language. I guess you could use it to brute force sentences that only uses the 420 words contained within it, though of course that list doesn't include anything other than nouns, adjectives and verbs, so they would still be a bit incoherent.

That said it does seem like a great addition to other studies in a language, which is how I am able to use it, my biggest frustration speaking Swedish is that my vocabulary is really limited and I basically run out of words. I reach for a concept that I know in English but can't really translate it over and sometimes those gaps can be surprisingly basic.

For example last night I wanted to say after learning that my daytime classes would start at 8:30, I sent a message to my partner about it basically complaining that "I need to way up so early", in order to get practice I try to send messages like these in Swedish but quickly realised I don't actually know how to say "so early", so the message was only half in Swedish "Jag behöver vakna so early".

So for me anything that helps me add more words to my vocabulary is pretty helpful, especially something that helps add geography to the list Influent it gives me a way of using spacial memory to help learn.

The flight sim minigame is still pretty strange though.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Lets Play: Hack 'n' Slash - Episode 8 - The End

With this episode we reach the end of the game. The Wizard is defeated and there were no reality destabilizing deletions that took place. Leaving us free to help the princess and go and explore the world.

There are a few more puzzles to solve, ones that were skipped during the journey through the game, I could certainly go back and do them, but I am pretty content to leave things here unless people would really like to see it.

As for my thoughts on the game, I have kind of been sharing them throughout this series but I guess the summary would be this:

Hack 'n' Slash is a fun hacking based puzzle game. It has a good sense of humour and rolls out new mechanics and abilities at a nice pace; unfortunately the puzzle difficulty can be pretty spiky and I am not sure it really provides enough support for someone unfamiliar with programming to have a great time.

As the game progresses the level of abstraction increases and so there is a growing disconnect between your actions and the puzzles themselves. The end result is a puzzle solving process that is both more complicated and confusing, which means you really need to enjoy the process of experimenting in those machine states to continue to have fun.

If you enjoy programming and puzzle games I definitely recommend it otherwise I suspect there are better uses for your money.

Anyway, something new on Friday and I think I have an idea for a daily thing for a while too.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Lets Play: Hack 'n' Slash - Episode 7 - Dueling Codeslingers

Now the epic final confrontation with Christo. Like many games Hack 'n' Slash has an obligatory boss fight. It is however a puzzle boss, you cannot beat him through force, he has infinite health and does infinite damage. Taking him down requires a little bit of hacking using the tools at your disposal.

This game never really explores the implications of what it is doing however, if the entire world is code and sprites, what does that mean? Is there really a world outside of what we see in this game? Who set everything up and why are there only two factions, good or evil?

The set up here reminds me a lot of Off to be the Wizard by Scott Meyer especially in that you could use the ability to manipulate the simulation to set yourself up as a wizard much as Christo evidently has done but Off to be the Wizard does spend a little time on what this really means, though not too much as I suspect that the main characters don't really want to think about it too hard.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Lets Play: Hack 'n' Slash - Episode 6 - Exploring the Library

After a fairly frustrating time with the bomb trigger room we make it into the library. This is the final tool the game gives us, our taste of real ultimate power as it were. From here we can access every game file and tinker with every lua script.

With sufficient foreknowledge you can break the rest of the game and while you could have gained access to it from Room 1 of the castle, you actually have to use it to get past room 2.

I do appreciate that we have evidence that Christo also has used the library, clearly he has better tools access than we do since he can add arbitrary code and we can only change around existing stuff. But it isn't perfect, you would think that he would have some books checked out but he doesn't, not even his own...

I am sure this will in no way be relevant down the track.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Lets Play: Hack 'n' Slash Episode 5

We are in the final area, on our way to take down the Wizard and restore things to some semblance of normalcy. For the most part it is really just about beating Christo for me, there just aren't really any other named characters that you spend much time interacting with. While Doublefine didn't really succeed in making me care about the world they did succeed in making me enjoy taunting Christo and I definitely think things will be better without him in power.

However, I should also mention this episode could be frustrating at points, I get through a grand total of one and a half rooms during it and some of the slowdown is caused by me just not seeing key information.

It also doesn't help that a form of the LoadBool function is pretty much uneditable for me, which I suspect is a bug, possible a self inflicted one from much earlier in the series given I cannot find anyone else online with this problem. It is hard to know what is genuinely a bug and what is a flow on effect from things I did earlier in the game.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Shadowrun Sydney - Modern Sydney

This series has been pending for a while, but I figure that it would be best to give a little blurb about where I am coming from. I kind of have my baseline Sydney the one I grew up with that I have to kind of layer the events of the timeline over before extrapolating a bit more for the final decade.

I am mostly going off my own general knowledge and a little research here, I will definitely make mistakes and have missed information here and there, I definitely am not an expert on Sydney, there are large swathes of it that I never have had any reason to visit and are completely outside of my direct or even second hand experience.

Sydney is the oldest, largest Australian city, with a population of about four and a half million. Meaning it holds about a fifth of the total population of Australia. Between it and Melbourne you have almost half of the overall population, this is why most Australians you meet are likely to be from one of these two cities.

It is also a Alpha+ Global City which means that it is a major player in the global economic system, this has significant impacts upon it and the region it occupies, it plays a large role in providing services across the world. It is why you see large offices for major multinationals situated in Sydney and helps ensure its social and economic prosperity.

Unfortunately for Sydney, Shadowrun's timeline either mitigates or outright destroys its capabilities in most of these areas. By the 2070s Sydney is a husk of its former selves with its geography, climate and character utterly changed. It isn't the sunny, multicultural, prosperous city I grew up in, it is an isolated backwater with its heyday over 60 years in its past and an environment that reminds its inhabitants of their temporary and tenuous grip upon safety.

In summary, Sydney is in for a pretty rough time, but this is Shadowrun no where in that setting is sunshine and lollipops.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Lets Play: Hack 'n' Slash - Episode 4

With the Bombs Hack 'n' Slash really opens up, you can make permanent lasting changes to the world in a way you really couldn't before.

There are limitations, mostly through it being really confusing and leaning heavily on out of game understanding of code. There is a disconnect between actions and effects which makes it much harder to know what you are doing. This is compounded by the lack of meaningful variable names variable names so sometimes I really have no idea why the change I made had the effect it did.

This also marks the first time I have used Youtube's editing tools, they are better than the nothing I would otherwise have, but they are pretty slow, took a few hours for it to save the removal of 13 seconds from the front of this video.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Lets Play: Hack 'n' Slash - Episode 3

This episode is double length because I kind of lost track of time. We finish the dungeon escape and start getting to get even deeper into the programming based systems.

This is where I can definitely see the game start to come undone for some players because I am not sure that it really teaches you quite enough about what is going on in the algorithm rooms and it is really easy to kind of miss that Bob and Alice are capable of discussing and explaining what some of the machines do. In fact I think that I don't actually use those prompts until next episode, well after the advice would have been useful.

That said, this is also where you start being able to do some more interesting things, especially with the tools we get at the very end, so I guess I will go into that in a little more detail next time.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

What is a Game?

Every so often the same discussion flares up what is a game exactly. Generally I see it in the video game space, triggered by statements like "Mountain isn't even a game!" or "I don't consider Dear Esther a game". Personally I think these discussions are both a complete waste of time and really interesting.

Ultimately I don't think we need a firm definition for game because basically any firm definition that I have seen cuts off titles that are generally recognised as games. Mostly this debate is seen as a way of dismissing titles that particular people don't enjoy. To me the titles that these conversations tend to be made about present themselves as games and use the same techniques and so it makes sense to treat them as game regardless.

That said I really enjoy reading the discussions when they are conducted in a calm, intelligent manner, I like seeing people put up ideas of definitions and categorizations and seeing other people poke holes in them.

So the rest of this post is series of thought experiments using Snakes and Ladders, adding and removing elements and asking at each point if what we have left is a game.

Why Snakes and Ladders? Because it is a really simple game (with a surprisingly interesting history), so that means I can assume readers are familiar with it and it is really easy to tinker with. I can also make a terrible but recognisable version using Excel and clip art!

Experiment 1: Standard

One of my best friends insists this is not a game, it is merely a goings on. There is a reason why you only really play Snakes and Ladders with small children. There are no choices or skills involved. Player turns consist purely of rolling a die and moving a piece, as a result the winning player didn't actually do anything better than anyone else, they were just the luckiest.

Experiment 2: The Game That Plays Itself!
Pick a colour and watch it go, the game rolls the dice and moves the tokens without you using fancy circuits and magnets. The game follows the rules perfectly just like you, all the advantages of playing Snakes and Ladders in just a fraction of the time!

Experiment 3: Player Choice!
Yes, this is the same picture as experiment 1
What if, before you roll your die, you pick the direction you move, positive or negative. Now there is decision making in play, you just mossed that awesome ladder that skips 40 spaces? What if you can gamble on turning back?

Experiment 4: Single Player
Lets take away competition, just a single player and the game. They cannot lose, bad luck can only stave off the end of the game.

Experiment 5: Single Player + Turn Limit
Now add a timer, you lose if you don't reach the end before turn 50. We can lose again, does this make it a game?

Experiment 6: Single Player + Really High Turn Limit
What if the timer is set such that you have a 99.99% chance of finishing? You have 150 turns to finish. The failure state is now only theoretical, does this matter.

So what do you think? Which of these experiments would you consider a game? How does your pet definition hold up?