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.