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?

Monday, 15 September 2014

Lets Play: Hack 'n' Slash - Episode 2

Continuing where I left of last time, been captured and left in a cell with no doors, being the hero of the story of course we promptly escaped and got a magic hat and get a new area to explore and a bunch of new mechanics.

The most interesting one is probably the hardest to explore. The key puzzle to the dungeon is to change your name, and this is done through breaking the in-game cypher and gathering a couple of treasure. One will find memory locations for you, the other will let you change the value at that address. The problem is that other than your own name, it is pretty difficult to actually find a use for these items. I am sure that some people have really put them to interesting uses, but not really sure how they started playing with it in the first place.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Lets Play: Hack 'n' Slash - Episode 1

I have been experimenting a bit with recording my gaming sessions so that I can share them with friends and I think I have most of the major obstacles dealt with now, and I thought it would be interesting to try sharing them a bit further.

So here is the first episode of Let's Play: Hack 'n' Slash.

Hack 'n' Slash is a fantasy action adventure themed puzzle game that was pitched during Doublefine's Amnesia fortnight 2012. The key concept is that it is a game that looks and feels like the old Zelda titles, but the items and puzzles you are gain allow you to tinker with the back end engine of the game. The first item you get is a USB ended sword, which when used on appropriate objects and enemies lets you alter their variables, you can not longer reduce their health, but you can change their faction, attack pattern and damage.

I was pretty keen on it, despite not actually getting very far through the prototype and picked it up during its early access debut, where most of the game was available save for the final act. But now it is out of early access and is currently available on Steam at a promotional $13.37 price.

I have to admit I am pretty nervous about showing this, but I would really like feedback on what people like and what I could do better.