Interactive Fiction: Escape Part 1

It’s been quite a while since I last wrote a serious post for Gamesters. At this point, it’s been over two months since I last put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard realistically). Whether a good excuse or not, there has been a reason behind this absence. Instead of simply writing about games, I decided to undertake the challenge of creating my own game.

I have no programming experience. I’ve never created a game in the past, but I obviously find the industry fascinating and wanted to begin participating from more than just a spectator role. By putting aside the reviews for a while, it gave me the time and mental bandwidth to pick up a simple game development process. I came up with a plot, wrote out a storyboard, considered the programming challenges, and set off.

Knowing I didn’t yet have the time or programming prowess to take on a real achievement in the realm of game development, I decided a simple text adventure would be the best way to start. The Inform 7 programming language was the perfect language for a beginner programmer and novice game designer. It uses natural speaking language for its commands and uses a debugging system designed to help figure out syntax problems quickly by offering suggestions. Code such as:

The Desolate Cavern is south of the Empty Cave. The giant chest is in the Desolate Cavern. The giant chest is closed and openable. The giant chest is fixed in place.

Made the process of putting thoughts to code easy and less intimidating. The manual for learning the language was also very intuitive and made the process of learning the ropes a lot easier and quicker than one might think.

After a solid month of learning the language alongside creating my own work of interactive fiction, I’ve finally finished the first of four parts to the game I’ve entitled Escape. My hope for the game is two fold. First, I want it to be a learning experience for myself as I join the ranks of game developers. So in the comments here, please leave feedback on any bugs or issues you find. Anything that can help improve my understanding about what people really want to see in a text adventure would be awesome.

Second, I want people to enjoy it. I understand my limitations as an amateur writer and beginner game designer, but I do hope people have fun playing it. So feel free to jump in and give Escape a shot!

 

 

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Lan Day Spring 2013

So it’s been seven months since we’ve had a good Lan Day and toda

y seems like no better a day to do one. We’ve got a few different games than the last lined up. So should be a great Saturday and an awesome game day.

11:00 am – Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombie Army

Picked this up a few months ago, and haven’t had the chance to share it with some compatriots. Looking forward to some intense Zombie brain exploding action.

Waiting for the Zombie onslaught with Bones on point.

Waiting for the Zombie onslaught with Bones on point.

11:45 am – Flatout 2

After a long time of unsuccessfully dominating Zombies on the hardest setting, we turn our attention to some racing. Time for some individual demo derby, stunt domination.

Demo Derby in the Batmobile

Demo Derby in the Batmobile

 

1:15 pm – Counterstrike: Global Offensive

Short stint of some multiplayer Arms Race (aka gun game). Wasn’t great against bots, but still some great shooting moments.

 

I got booted from one of the games and was relegated to basic training.

I got booted from one of the games and was relegated to basic training.

2:00 pm – Unreal Tournament 2004

Nice throwback to what is now a really old game. Didn’t get our FPS fix on Counterstrike, but hopefully we’ll see it here.

Never a bad thing to see!

Never a bad thing to see!

3:00 pm – Trackmania Nations

Super addicting game. We could have played this one for hours. It’s all about who can lock the best lap time and sometimes it by just a hair.

Terrible split this time around

Terrible split this time around

4:30 pm – Realm of the Mad God

Super simple, free to play MMO that is another addicting game.

5:00 pm – Trackmania Nations.

Really addicting.

5:40 pm – Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombie Army

 

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Fallen Enchantress

Just one more turn, just one more battle, just this one more upgrade. Those are the true signs of any good turn-based strategy and were the signs that the magic riddled strategy game Fallen Enchantress was a great and entertaining game. Unfortunately, it is difficult to play any strategy game without comparing it to the Civilization franchise and Civilization this game was not. It was difficult to get hooked at first and the pace of the game was not optimal. However, there were a bunch of areas Fallen Enchantress did really well. The addition of magic to the game really worked, as well as the individual combat adding another layer to the strategy portion. As long as you come into the game understanding it’s slight imperfections, Fallen Enchantress can offer hours of great entertainment.

City upgrades using magic

City upgrades using magic

On the good side, Fallen Enchantress added a few great features not seen often in strategy games. One of the best additions was the use of magic both in combat and in the world. Combat magic was the sort we are all used to when used in fighting, fire bolts, confusion, lighting strikes. Nothing of note on the combat side. It was in the building phase of the game where magic really took on a different role. You could cast magic on territories to improve production of certain resources or give trained units special powers such as fire weapons or faster movement. Magic spells could be cast on enemy armies, hindering their progress and abilities without having to engage in open conflict. All of these spells, both in and out of combat, were controlled by a collective mana pool that all units and spells drew from. Like any other resource in the game, mana was produced at a certain rate each turn based on territories and upgrades. The execution of the magic system was fantastic in Fallen Enchantress, and any strategy looking to add magic to its repertoire should take note of what was done here.

Another great layer to the Fallen Enchantress strategy was the individual combat. Rather than battles being resolved purely by stats and virtual dice rolls, each battle was decided by a turn based fight between your units and your opponents. Instead of always losing to a superior force according to the numbers, you could give your tactical prowess some flexing and try to out maneuver the force. Depending on the compliments of your force, you could easily use a spell or powerful skill to change the tide of the fight.

Turn based combat added that extra layer of strategy

Turn based combat added that extra layer of strategy

The biggest complaint I had with Fallen Enchantress was the pace. The beginning of the game was slow and hard to get in to. Your territories could only build a few upgrades and train weak units such as the Pikemen. Even placing a huge army of weak units together wasn’t enough to take on the early game enemy armies. The pace did pick up. My cities were cranking out important buildings, my research was uncovering the secrets of special magic and important civil interactions. Even my armies were strong enough to take on difficult fights and even take over key territories on the map. However, before I could even reach some of the highest leveled units and research, one of the enemies made a jump at winning a magical victory. Luckily, I was already poised to win on that same condition, but was waiting to enjoy more of the game. So unfortunately, the AI rushed me to a quick end I was not ready for. In the future, I will definitely specify which victory condition I want the game to end on.

Each city could have its own specialization

Each city could have its own specialization

Although it was a slow start, Fallen Enchantress is a fun strategy game and interesting in its innovative use of magic. It does not have the polish of the typical Civilization caliber strategy, but once your a few dozen turns in, those minute blemishes are easy to forget. Although, the game comes at a hefty price tag for a lesser known title, you’ll get more bang for your buck in terms of playing time than most AAA titles out there. If you’re looking for a fresh, magical take on the strategy genre, Fallen Enchantress is a good place to look.

 

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Bastion

Every once in a while, a game comes along and gives me exactly what I’m looking for in a game at that time. Sometimes I am just really ready to play a certain game, I just don’t know what I’m looking for until I’ve found it. Luckily that happened to me a few weeks ago with the action RPG Bastion.

Bastion and I clicked on so many levels from the very beginning. First, the story. Before the events of the game begin, a terrible disaster, called the Calamity, struck the land of Caelondia, tearing the land to pieces and turning all but a few people to ash. Before the Calamity took place, a safe haven was built and named the Bastion. However, the Bastion couldn’t be completed in time and wasn’t able to save the citizens of Caelondia. There is where your quest begins, to restore the power of the Bastion in hopes of fixing what the Calamity started. In the levels and missions that follow, you travel the land looking for magical shards and crystals that help finish the Bastion. You battle beasts and monsters, deal with the agony of loss and betrayal and uncover a world destroyed by the Calamity.  The Bastion’s story is deep, rich and told in such a way as to keep the pace of the game always moving forward.

Slowly finishing the Bastion

Slowly finishing the Bastion

There are many ways for a game to stand out against the rest, and the way that Bastion does that is through its narration. Rather than filling you in on back story through long lines of text that stop you from playing, instead the game is narrated by one of the characters in the game. And when I say the game is narrated, the entire story of Bastion is narrated. It is not to the point of distraction, but rather really connects you to the story. The narrator will make comments about the choices you make or the monsters that you have to battle. He will also fill you in on the land you are traveling through or regale you with a tale about how the Caelondia was before the Calamity hit. This was one of the best and unique parts about playing Bastion. It really helped the story move along quickly, but kept you really invested in the story and all the characters that surrounded it.

Shot that one to oblivion

Shot that one into oblivion

So great story, awesome narration, but was Bastion actually fun to play. The answer is most definitely a yes. This was exactly the the game play I was in the mood for. You had a main weapon, a secondary weapon, a special move and a shield. You could roll away from attacks and that was about it. No combos to memorize or funky controls to deal with, the game play was simple and minimal. It really allowed for you to enjoy the battles with the numerous beasts in Caelondia rather than the controls getting in the way of game play.

Combat was simple and exciting

Combat was simple and exciting

Bastion was exactly the kind of game I was looking for in both an engaging story and simple, fun game play. Add the narration piece on top and Bastion became an easy triple threat. Beyond the main story, Bastion comes with a number of different modes and several achievements to go after in order to extend the enjoyment of the game past the 5 hours it takes to complete. I hate to overly gush about any game, but Bastion is a must play.

 

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Dishonored – Wrap up

Political assassinations, rat possessions, a dystopian world powered by whale oil, all just little pieces of the world created by Dishonored. Framed for the murder of the queen you swore to protect, you take on the role of Corvo, a now dishonored master assassin facing execution for a murder he didn’t commit. While awaiting your impending doom, Corvo is visited in a dream by a mysterious man named the Outsider. He bestows mysterious powers on Corvo that can be used to escape his imprisonment and begin a quest to properly restore the missing princess, Emily, to the proper throne once occupied by the assassinated queen. This all sets in motion what becomes an exciting and thrilling story of betrayal, revenge and supernatural powers.

Option 1 for getting around: possessing rats

Option 1 for getting around: possessing rats

Things I would change

  • Speed of progression – When it comes to acquiring and upgrading skills in a game, there is a fine line that needs to be ridden in order to ensure the  pace of progression isn’t too slow to become monotonous, but not too fast to make the rest of the game boring. Unfortunately, Dishonored suffered from allowing you to upgrade the best skills too quickly. The teleportation and possession skills were the two best skills to use throughout the game and they were fully upgraded before reaching the halfway mark. It was nice because the enemies didn’t stand a chance, but you become less interested in searching out opportunities to increase your skills and more interested in finishing the story.

 

Lots of cool powers to choose from, too bad they level up pretty quickly

Lots of cool powers to choose from, too bad they level up pretty quickly

  • Story predictability – Minor gripe here, but the story line was way too predictable. There were some twists and turns thrown in that were supposed to add to the level of betrayal experience by Corvo. Unfortunately, the way it happened has been so played out in video games these days that you could see the twists from a mile away. If someone attempts a Dishonored 2, hopefully the story has a bit more depth to it.

Things I would keep

  • Stealth – The best way to play through Dishonored is by taking a stealthy approach. Choosing your own path to complete tasks and missions is one of the highlights of the game. However, Corvo’s fighting abilities aren’t designed well enough for head to head conflict. Your powers and abilities are best saved for the sneaky approach, using blink to close the gap with an enemy before you slit their throat or possessing a rat to gain entrance to a building through a ventilation duct. Much easier and more enjoyable than lighting the place up Master Chief style.

 

Sneaky, sneaky. Best way to get around

Sneaky, sneaky. Best way to get around

  • Powers – The best way to describe Dishonored is a mix up between Bioshock and Assassin’s Creed where you’re given magical powers instead of plasmids (Bioshock powers). Although you do get to them pretty quickly, the powers are pretty cool and unique. Blink allows you to transport from one location to the next, making stealthy navigation easy. Possession allows you to take control of animals and humans, transporting your body through tough situations without alerting nearby guards. There are about half a dozen powers that allow you to do everything from slow down time to unleash a swarm of rats to devour your target. It was this element that really helped create a unique playing experience in Dishonored.

 

Dishonored is a quick, easy game to play that will keep you interested in the story throughout, even if it can become a bit predictable at points. The idea of being an assassin with supernatural powers was fun, even if the progression of your skills made you unstoppable after only a few hours of game

Use Blink to get around pretty easily

Use Blink to get around pretty easily

play. On the whole, if you aren’t looking for a ground breaking game, but need a short, fun title to keep you entertained, Dishonored is a good place to start.

Rating

Attention grab

3: Story was entertaining, if not a bit predictable. The quick progression of skills kept you invested only for the first half of the game.

Bang for your buck

2.5:  Short game with no multiplayer, not worth the full price for this one.

How hard is it to get good

3: The powers took some time to figure out the best way to deploy, however, the game played like many other first person shooters.

Graphics

2.5: Weak, weak here on the PC. Looks like the graphics were intended for console, not PC.

Quality

3: I didn’t notice any glitches throughout the game, but Dishonored measured on average in terms of quality. The levels and landscapes had some depth to them, but it certainly wasn’t like walking around a bustling town with a lot of interactions that were possible.

Total: 2.8/5

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