Immediately, that title might seem odd because I really did play the game. I really did get the 64 cube ending. I pushed all the buttons and shifted all the perspectives. What I mean by the title is that most of what I did in the game was informed by the viewers in chat while I was playing on Twitch, telling me what to do. Someone in chat explained to me how to read the tetronimo code throughout the game. Someone in chat googled all of my questions. Together, chat and I googled how to solve the damn waterfall puzzle. It was the most collaboration I think I’ve ever experienced with a video game, and I used to play the MOBA Smite daily. With friends. In person.
After awhile I figured out how to decipher the code on my own and wasn’t so dependent on chat to help me solve the puzzles. At one point, someone asked if I felt like the game was so easy now, since I was able to just breeze through puzzles that I used to have to literally just sit and stare at chat, waiting for the buffer delay so the smarter-than-me viewers could help me. I realized that I didn’t think it felt easier, I just felt like more of a badass. That in turn, surprised me. I usually feel a dose of guilt when I extensively google how to get through a game (I’M SORRY, BRAID. OKAY!? I’M SORRY) and I did the smallest percentage of original work yet puzzling through FEZ. But I felt more satisfied completing that game than I have felt completing any other game in the recent past.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that for the first time in a long time, I felt like this game wasn’t just me being lazy and googling, or not wanting to sit and think to figure something – this game was legitimately hard. In hindsight, I haven’t talked to anyone who has played FEZ who hasn’t googled at least one solution, usually more (that could probably expand to every player because no one figured out the Black Monolith room – the community solved it through collaborative brute force). For the first time, googling solutions was the norm, even for hard cores and fan bois. I was in the norm! There were multiple instances I scoffed at solutions to rooms and said “Right – like anyone could have figured that out . . . yeesh” but I suppose someone did first. But no one else did after that, heh. For whatever anyone thinks or says about Phil Fish and/or Polytron, FEZ is an amazing puzzle game. And even in it’s pixel art, it’s beautiful. A game that requires that kind of depth of thought is something to be admired regardless of your preferences or politics.
And I suppose to wrap up the sap, it really hit me at the end of this game that Twitch is all about community. Streamers are nothing without their chat and I had read that before but after this experience it became even more abundantly clear to me. And the people in chat don’t want to one up you or be annoying – they want to help. They want to work together with someone to play a game, together. The more I stream the more I learn. The more I stream, the more I want to learn. FEZ was a blast, but I doubt it wouldn’t’ve been quite as fun without the crowd.
Yesterday I was torn between streaming Monaco or Mark of the Ninja. In the end, technical reasons forced me to roll with Mark of the Ninja and I thought “hey, you know what? This is great. I saw this game in person at PAX 2012 in the Indie 10, and I thought it looked rad, and now I am finally allowing myself to play it. This is gonna be great; let’s do this!” Can you read all the fake pep? Can you decipher my lies better than I can myself? Here’s the thing – I know I hate stealth. I have always hated stealth. And I knew Mark of the Ninja has gotten oodles of praise for it’s comprehensive and impressive implementation of a great stealth system. So how was this really going to go, huh? COME ON, LAURIE. BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF.
Sure enough, I lacked all patience. I would spawn and run blindly at obstacles and difficult enemies over and over and over until I would throw my hands up and say “I must be doing it wrong! I must need to Google it!” then I would try to speed-Google a solution, on-stream, on my phone, realize I can’t because there are no level names visible when I pause the game and I have no idea where I am, then go back and due to the very brief rest I gave my mind and muscle memory, I would be able to get through to the next checkpoint without dying. Sure the assassinations were so deeply, profoundly satisfying (top notch animations and sound effects, fo’ sho’) but all the in between of trying to sneak up to someone to kill them, etc – no thanks.
I knew this when I played The Last of Us only until Joel and Ellie got to the town with the crazy guy and I had to stealth through the graveyard and the houses to the bus yard at the school and I died so many times I stopped playing until I got the game again, remastered, with my new PS4 at the end of last year. I don’t have the patience for stealth, which is indicative of the very little patience I have for most things in my life. And yet. Here I was. Again. And the “why” finally dawned on me after I slogged through a (to be honest) mediocre stream of the entirety of Mark of the Ninja.
I am deeply impressed by stealth game mechanics and systems. There is honestly so much technical precision that goes in to very well made stealth games, it’s remarkable. The genre itself hones so closely down on level design and character/NPC interactions, I think I subconciously want to observe it all but subsequently hate it all the way through. Even when I was at the peak of frustration with Mark of the Ninja I said out loud “But I mean . . . I still want to finish it.” And despite my lack of skill or interest in games like Bloodborne or Dark Souls, I believe the entire genre of stealth is at it’s best when it’s most punishing. Unlike the pandering flip-flopping of Assassin’s Creed, Mark of the Ninja does not allow multiple play types. Sure there are multiple paths and different strategies to implement your stealth throughout rooms during a level but at the end of every experience, you had to be the ninja. You never really have to be an assassin with Ubisoft.
I’m ecstatic to never play Mark of the Ninja ever again. I’m also ecstatic to recommend it to every stealth game lover I know. I’m also ecstatic that I got to experience a quintessential stealth experience in a polished, satisfying, beautiful indie game. Now please, critically acclaimed stealth games – never sneak your way into my life again.
When I was planning what to play on my 3rd day of full-time Twitch streaming, I was at a loss. I had decided to start two days earlier with Middle-earth: Shadows of Mordor but after lackluster intro content (including tutorials) and visuals that disappoint for just having come out in 2015, I wasn’t engaged and excited to play the game, and therefore put out fairly poor stream.
The next day, I decided to finally give The Banner Saga a shot and while the visuals and music and emotion of the game were portrayed excellently, it just didn’t seem like the type of game that would give a good stream experience and I wasn’t particularly excited to continue playing it. Did I mention that I am also just abhorrently bad at tactics games and brought my usual talent to The Banner Saga? Yeah.
So there I was, needing something to really pep up the “Past Broadcasts” on my channel. And then I stumbled over Dust: An Elysian Tail in my Steam library. It was in my wheelhouse – platformer, button masher, indie, great art, jammin’ tunes. This was my time to shine.
And bless Dust‘s heart, it totally worked! I had a blast playing the game during the past 3 streams and finishing it up last night. I might stream it a 4th time to wrap up the 117%. Which is actually a perfect segue to the nostalgia-laced trip it was in this final stream. SPOILERS ABOUT THE SECRET FRIEND COLLECTIBLES AHEAD (no main story line spoilers) (oh and 117% was the full completion percentage of Spyro so . . . nostalgia).
A kind Twitch passerby stopped to watch the stream and while we were chatting back and forth about the game, which he loves to death, we were talking about all of the extra “secret friends” you can get by unlocking special chests throughout the different regions. I had already collected Super Meat Boy, Howard the Duck*, and the main male character of Spelunky. He was super in to helping me find the rest of the secret friends before I called it quits on the game (I’m not generally in to collecting achievements or completion percentages for Steam games and I was playing on Steam) so I beat the story mode and then together (via chat) we started going through the game to unlock all the secret friends.
The first secret friend the Twitch chat lead me to was Bandage Girl, also from Super Meat Boy. When I unlocked Super Meat Boy himself, I was tickled pink. It was an obviously frivolous addition to the game, but at the same time, it was the perfect level of non-committal to making the game different in anyway. And it wasn’t a super dose of nostalgia. If anything, I read the secret friends in the game as nods to great indie games of our generation.
I got some others, including the female Spelunky character which made me smile wide, but I also kept thinking about the beginning of the game. The first time you hack down a wall a “Mysterious Wall Chicken” pops out, which when eaten grants back 80 health. The first time that happened I also laughed out loud because come on – Castlevania! Why the hell was cooked poultry popping out of the walls in that game? No one knows, and Dust made me laugh about it.
Later in the night I got to a secret room and I couldn’t quit tell for the first few jumps what this room was hailing to until I realized that the music and particle effects were only moving when I moved. I was about to unlock Tim from Braid. Perfect. What a masterful game to quote in a game that might not be on par with Braid but one that perhaps acknowledges it and doesn’t feel bad for falling short. Later there was an area that populated isometric-view blocks as you ran forward. Bastion. And the final secret friend I unlocked was in a pixel area with three brain-busting puzzles to get through. Fez. The whole time my smile was growing as I was shaking my head. This is the way homage is intended to be. A slight tip of the hat, a comfortable acknowledgement of past greatness, and a shrug at the naysayers who don’t like what they’re playing as much as what they played before. This was perhaps the first game I had played that didn’t feel like it was pandering but was instead honoring. And that is 100% the nostalgia I can get behind.
While the story had some facepalm moments and the voice acting was a bit try-hard at times, the gameplay, the art, the BluePrint system, and the music all made this some of the most enjoyable 14 hours I’ve dumped into an indie arcade in my life. If I play a game that has some Dust easter eggs in the future, I’ll tip my hat, smile, and remember fondly what came before.
*I googled this to make sure I was saying the right thing because I don’t know my Marvel lore and don’t know anything about Howard the Duck, but lo and behold this was actually someone named Hyperduck? Which makes more sense when they both become Daft Punk. . . But anyway, I’m going to keep calling him Howard the Duck because I don’t know who Hyperduck is either. Sorry.
I thought before I typed this up, I should check out the Wikipedia page, see if anything about the developer stood out to me that could be a better talking point than just writing up how much I did or didn’t like the game (because I know this game is ages old and me talking about it now is poor form). This is a quote from the Wikipedia entry for this game: “He [the developer] did not expect it to be a success, and that he was ‘half-expecting it to fail for being too stupid of a game.'”
Despite his concerns, this game is dirt cheap and a good time so you should definitely pick it up. Aside from that, I’m going to touch on, once again, how much I love indie games. You’re welcome.
You know why indie developers are great? Because they just wake up one morning (might have been years ago, before all of their incredibly dedicated, hard work, but all the same! it started one random morning) and decided, “This idea is awesome. I’m going to make it myself because it will be awesome. If no one else thinks it’s awesome, that’s too bad, but at least it was awesome to me.” I think I love this mindset (or that I’m particularly a sucker for it) because I’m so the opposite. I get defeated so easily (see: my track record on this blog . . . ) and never have confidence in my own creativity. Actually scratch that. I have a lot of confidence that some of my ideas are pure gold – I also just recognize the amount of effort they’d take to execute and I give up before I begin. So when one dude decides he’s going to make a game out in Microsoft XNA and assumes it’s going to be too stupid to even make him any money so he sells it for $1, and then it becomes an underground favorite – yeah. I love that guy, and all of his aspirations. Having said that, I never played his other game The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai, but all the same! He’s a boss. Cheers to you, Mr. James Silva. Live your dreams, and long live the dreams of all indie developers everywhere.
Speaking of indie developers! My friend made this game called Cyber Heist for his senior thesis/project in a video games development-centric Master’s program and that is awesome that he is in it, and it exists. The game is getting crazy hype and he is getting crazy hype and I couldn’t be more over the moon for him and his cohorts working on the game. Although the premise is tongue in cheek (hackers trying to get into the system to erase all of their student debt), the idea of the second player and first player having complete different gameplay experiences is . . . fairly novel. I can’t think of another game that does that besides Wii U games (people with the Wii U controller in New Super Mario Bros Wii U for example, place jumping blocks anywhere on the screen, and don’t control a character). Comment! Correct me with examples, because I’m sure I’m wrong.
Speaking more about indie games! Tripleslash, the team that made Magnetic By Nature (which I am in love with), is releasing a full version of the game in the next few months. Details seem a little sparse on any official outlet, but it looks like the fully-funded Kickstarter plans on delivering a newly polished, full version in Q3 of 2014 on PC, Linux, and Mac OS. I’m also pretty sure the “Ultimate” version on the official website is for the new, upcoming release, even though the demo video still shows the gameplay of the $1 title on the Xbox Live Indie Aracde (still great, by the way).
Anyway. You know me and indie devs. I’m just a regular fangirl, droolin’ all over people makin’ moves and fulfillin’ dreams without corporate backing. I love you indie devs. Get it, girls.
Most trollicious posts title I could come up with.
Nah, let’s get down to it for real: I feel like I have missed something by not playing the Halo series up to this point. It’s a massive, massive, huge, massive part of gaming culture, and reading the Wikipedia page is still really confusing to me, so bummer, I missed the story and the excitement. I finally bought 4 because I played it at work in the break room and the FOV didn’t make me nauseated, so I took the plunge on a RadioShack deal and bought it a few months after the release date. I like playing local multiplayer games with my co-workers but as we read last week, playing multiplayer online really terrifies me, so with my own fear in my way, I started playing the campaign.
I’ll skip ahead and say after I finished the solo campaign, I started playing the campaign with my brother. We just finished, and even after my second play through, I STILL DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT’S GOING ON. In both play throughs, I never skipped any cutscenes. I even tried to peruse the Wikipedia page, and I’m still mostly lost. So we can derive that I’m either a total idiot (this, truly, is a possibility. I’m not just being self-deprecating) or this game is really poorly written. Also, we could deduce that the previously dozen Halo games (4? actually? There are only like 4 or 5 other ones? Today’s post is brought to you by not googling) were REALLY integral to the plot of 4. I don’t think this is totally true, but hey, what do I know, I never played them.
Aside from plot holes I didn’t really understand, the convenience of the entire Halo system made me facepalm. “We need to get to the other side of the planet. But how?!” “Chief, I’ve found a portal that will take us where we need to go!” “Good one, Cortana!” lookofdisapproval.jpg. That’s some lazy-a writing, if I’ve ever seen any. And I have, because I’m a lazy writer.
The bottom line is that Halo is a cash cow, though, and 343 and Microsoft aren’t really worried about new players picking up the campaign; they’re more concerned with the multiplayer experience being so addicting, people die in front of their TVs trying to get the next level, unlock the next ordnance, create the next grifball-type game, etc. And I really can’t blame them for that. It’s a good model, and it worked on me. I bought the game because I had so much fun playing multiplayer at work.
So good on you, 343. You’ve made a successful model that pays off in a (for me) non-traditional way: through multiplayer, rather than storyline. To each their own, just please don’t assassinate me over and over again in SWAT. It makes me feel bad about myself.
Whoa! I’m alive! For what it’s worth, sometimes I write personal thoughts on gettribal.blogspot.com. So more recently, I’ve taken to that transmission vector. Mainly because I’ve gamed so little in the past few months. So. little. It’s depressing. But about a month ago, my brother took the initiative to set up a weekly gaming date for us so we can get our game on and spend some time “together.” Good times! We’ve moved on to playing Halo 4 (fun, horrendous storyline, post forthcoming about that) but we started playing Iron Brigade, by Double Fine and so I thought I’d pass along a little ditty about that since weeds have started to grow over this blog . . .
This is confusing to buy on Xbox Live Arcade because when the game was originally released in 2011, it was called Trenched. A month later, due to copyright issues, the title was changed to Iron Brigade. It’s a third-person tower defense game, set in the mid-1900s but to an alternate history. Frank Woodruff (good guy) creates a new military tool, mechs (called trenches) that soldiers can equip and upgrade to fight in the field, as well as set emplacements to defend military points. Vladimir Farnsworth (bad guy) tried to push his technology, Monovision, to let everyone see whatever they want, but from the comfort of their homes (hur hur hur, social commentary . . .). He disseminates his vision via “devices” called Tubes, who you are trying to kill because you don’t believe in Monovision. That’s . . . a really, really rough synopsis, but that’s essentially what’s happening. Killing Tubes, stopping the forward progress of Monovision, stopping your once ally/friend, Vladimir.
You saw my rave review of Orcs Must Die! so you know how I thoroughly enjoy third-person tower defense games. I like the strategy, and the army you create for yourself with emplacements, on top of getting to get your hands dirty and jump in the action yourself. Iron Brigade has some great mechanics to force you to compromise strength for speed and emplacements. It made a lot more sense to play this with other people than trying to tackle it solo. Some trench chassis allow you to use “heavy” emplacements that do tons of damage, but cost more scrap (the currency essentially of the game) to place, whereas chassis that tend to have more armor and can equip more weapons have less emplacements slots, and out of those slots, no heavy emplacement slots.
It goes without saying that the dialogue and artwork were superb. We’re talking about Double Fine! Very funny narration, good voice acting, funny animation, and great art between action. Without a doubt, this was worth the $5-$10 I paid for it. Short, not incredibly difficult, but fun achievements to keep you coming out, and a great experience to play with more than one person.
So everyone is talking about Torchlight 2, but being the really up-to-date gamer that I am (/sarcasm), I just finished Torchlight 1. I repeat, you’re about to read about Torchlight 1. If you’re not interested, I understand completely. Here are some thoughts:
A) I’m a sucker for cartoon-y artwork. So even though it might make the game “less hardcore” (what does that even mean?) it is fun and I enjoy it. I will also say, all of the armor looked good! How often does that happen? I hate having to pick between form and functionality in games like Mass Effect, where great armor looks disgusting. Thanks, Torchlight artists. You done good.
B) If you haven’t played this game yet, be sure to carefully read and believe the descriptors for the difficulty settings. Not only did I not read them carefully but when I selected a difficulty, I kind of did see the descriptors telling me that “Normal” was for new adventure game players, and I didn’t believe it. Subsequently I died about a handful of times throughout the whole game. I’m not sure how many hours it took me, I didn’t do much side-questing, and I do love to dominate in wicked sweet equipment, but come on . . . I gotta die a little! That makes it more interesting! Anyway, bottom line: not really a Runic Games problem, more of a reading comprehension and dumb person problem. Don’t play on normal unless you’re a child.
C) The game play and the story were . . . straight forward and uninspiring. But tried and true, I suppose, and therefore had some base appeal. Don’t get me wrong, I had a good time, but it felt tedious at times, simply clicking and walloping baddies and doing nothing else. There was no real “world” exploration, just dungeon exploration, which doesn’t hack it for me. I don’t love open worlds like the Elder Scrolls series because I get overwhelmed, but I want a bit more than just going through dungeon level after dungeon level, which is all you do in Torchlight. To the game’s credit, the dungeons do not have the same layout every time, but . . . same feel; got bored.
At the end of the day, I had a good time playing it, for sure. I bought it awhile back as a bundle: pre-order Torchlight 2, get Torchlight 1, so I’ll be playing 2 . . . soon. I think I need a break from this point-and-click adventure genre after pushing through Torchlight 1 this week, but the series overall does good things, even if the things they do are unoriginal.
HA. I made a deliberate effort to not mention Diablo even once in this post. Mission accomplished! That sentence doesn’t count. Why does it matter at all? I guess it doesn’t, but I think it’d be nice if a game could just stand on its own for once, instead of always being second chair to a predecessor.
I should’ve posted this yesterday but I realized if I get into the habit of daily posts, I’ll be beating myself up to maintain that and I don’t want to sink into gaming as a chore again. So I paced myself, played another one of the PAX10 (ten of the best indie games shown at PAX, chosen by a panel of industry experts) called Containment, and had a fairly good time doing it. Good, not great.
I happened to wander by the Bootsnake Games booth in between waiting in line for panels. It was on the sixth floor and not in the hubbub of the AAA title company booths on the fourth floor, which I preferred. I set out at the beginning of the weekend to make sure I played all the PAX10 games (which didn’t happen), but I saw this booth fairly early in the weekend and confidently stood behind someone else playing a demo to listen to an explanation of the game (I did in fact play the game a few days ago, have no fear).
Containment is a zombie puzzler, where you manipulate people in four classes (primarily designated by four different colors) to surround a zombie in the four cardinal directions. Once a zombie is surrounded on all four sides by one color (e.g. all pink, all green, all blue, or all orange) the colored characters kill the zombie and more characters slide down from the top of the screen to fill in the spaces that were just occupied by the zombies and the attacking characters. You can swap characters from any spot on the grid to strategically place a character. Don’t be fooled though, it’s not a turn-based game. As I sat for the first few seconds pondering what I wanted to do first, a zombie ate the character next to it and turned it into a zombie as well (the primary zombie movement mechanism – infecting others). You can surround groups of zombies with one color of character to defeat them as well, and edges of the count as the color of character you’re using, automatically. Defeating all the zombies in a grid before another zombie can crawl it’s way in advances you to the next grid and through the game.
Different classes drop different items. Surrounding zombies with all pink doctors will sometimes mean these pink ladies drop a hazmat suit item that protects three horizontally adjacent characters of your choice to be protected and to act as character color wildcards, still swappable anywhere on the grid. Surrounding zombies with all green soldiers will occasionally net you a grenade to blow up a cluster of people, whether zombies or friendlies. Blue groups killing zombies will sometimes drop a sniper shot to take out one zombie outright (there are varying classes of zombies that are harder to kill as the game progresses), and orange characters that kill a zombie or group of zombies sometimes drop a Molotov cocktail that will burn a cluster of zombies and allies without discretion.
As I said, one of the first game play features I noticed was that it’s not turn-based. Zombies don’t want for you to strategize before munching on your citizens. Initially I thought this was clever because it forces players to think and act quickly, which isn’t always the case for the puzzle genre. Later in the game though, I realized more and more that I was approaching levels with a brute force approach because I felt time was more important than finesse. It’s a fine line to be sure, and one that might be praised by some and criticized by others. I vacillated between the two, as I said.
Another strength to the game were the characters. While the animation was clean and neat, but nothing special, the characters you move on the grid to surround and kill zombies had some really clever short lines of dialogue, and the voice actors did a good job in their brief appearances.
Now to reference the title, and my easily contained excitement for the game. I was impressed that the team at Bootsnake Games bothered to put in a story at all, and the exposition that rolled onto the screen in between zombie grids had some funny one liners every so often. However, overall it was your standard zombie tale, without novelty. Also, I couldn’t imagine a more boring font. I’m no typographer so I don’t want to purger myself but the font of the story was something like Helvetica or Arial. Seriously? I would’ve preferred the cliche zombie font over reading three acts with five levels a piece entirely in the plainest sans serif font available. A small detail, you’d think, but from the time the first bit of plot was scrolling off of the screen and to the next grid, I was already bored of reading it the exposition in such a boring font.
Overall, the game was a little easy. I didn’t die once until sometime in the middle of the second act. In Bootsnake’s defense, I only played through the campaign mode. There is also a survival mode that I would bet gets pretty difficult. Additionally, there is no penalty for incurring collateral damage. In fact, killing more of your allies unlocks Steam achievements. I think an easy way to up the difficulty would be to penalize players for avoidable friendly fire. Without that penalty, I was dropping grenades, warheads, and Molotov cocktails willy nilly, just to get a few zombies.
Update: I just jumped into Survival mode for a few rounds to double check, and not be a lazy/crappy reviewer, and you do get ranked on how many civilians you kill per round. Having said that, I wasn’t too careful about it, and I got an “A” in the first three rounds so . . . maybe it’s still not that hard.
And again in the game’s defense, there is the company itself, Bootsnake Games. I said it once and I’ll say it again – the nicest people go to PAX. I listened to one of the people working the booth explain the game and gently guide the PAX attendee playing the game to make better choices. Another booth worker came up to me to answer the rest of my questions, invite me to try it out on the iPad, and convince me to buy it for $3 there at the booth. Supporting the indie devs! My favorite pastime.
The game is available on Steam for the PC (which is how I played my copy when I got home from PAX) and it’s in the Apple App store. For $2, I would recommend giving it a shot on the iPad, just because it is generally fun and I bet you can get more traction out of the survival mode than I got in the few hours it took me to complete the campaign. For $5 on the PC right now . . . sure, I recommend it too, so long as $5 is chump change to you (right now, $5 is a day of food for me so Containment wouldn’t be a priority. Catch-22 would be, just for reference). Like I said, I just love giving independent developers all of my money.
Any zombie games you guys have totally loved? I usually try to avoid the genre, but this was a pleasant introduction. Leave suggestions for me in the comments!
Quick post before my next review, I just wanted to celebrate the great advice I got at PAX about posting to other outlets – I got published! http://venturebeat.com/2012/09/10/more-fun-playing-catch-22-than-reading-catch-22/
Bitmob.com was a suggestion from Chris Kohler actually (that wasn’t even a joke, I swear I will stop saying his name) that I had never heard of before. Community writers populate the website with content and editors of the site go through and pick their favorites of the day to put on the front page. They’re also partnered with VentureBeat which has a sub-community/page called GamesBeat that gets the same features. SO! I’m on two sites! I’ll save you the time of reading it by saying the content is nothing new, but they did edit the beginning a bit for clarity, which is a really good point for me to take away (i.e. always making descriptions and set ups as clear as possible). Anyway, again, just wanted to share for a minute. It’s probably a lot less important than I’m making it, but at the same time, it feels pretty gratifying, since I’ve applied to about a dozen jobs and haven’t even heard back from any of them, that’s how far away from achieving my goal I feel. So this is a small victory, in the small bout of failure I’ve been in. Woot!
Bottom line: if you want to get published about games stuff, try bitmob.com! I’m in such a good mood, I won’t even pretend to keep this to myself.
Update: Hi to all the new readers! If I’ve convinced you stick around, consider liking the Little Sister Gaming Facebook page or following me at @littlesisgaming on Twitter to keep up on new posts. Thanks for visiting!
I don’t think I should talk about Chris Kohler from Wired any more (Chris Kohler), but while I was waiting to talk to Chris Kohler, another aspiring games journalist/writer/designer like myself, named Ted, came up to me and took the panelists’ advice to network to heart much more directly than I did (and he is awesome for doing so). As we discussed our backgrounds (both English majors, from Washington, etc.), his friend came up and Ted introduced me to Arian, a newly-minted tabletop game designer and indie developer himself. Even though Arian and his game Pocket-Tactics had just gotten picked up by Wired for investing in a 3D printer and taking care of all the manufacturing of the game himself, with the rest of his team at Ill Gotten Games (one of the best company names I’ve heard in awhile, I must say), he graciously agreed to meet up with me the next day, let me play through his game, and review it. I’m telling you, the nicest people go to PAX.
On a Tuesday night some months ago, Arian had an idea for a dice-oriented tabletop game, inspired by the game play of Final Fantasy Tactics and its strategy game predecessors. By the end of the night, the idea was finalized and by Friday of that week, the first copy of the game was printed, painted, and fully playable. Not too shabby, by any standard. Its first iteration features two factions, the Legion of the High King and the Tribe of the Dark Forest. Each faction has strengths and weaknesses, so picking a side is a part of the strategy, not an arbitrary color or figurine preference. Arian said that there are more factions in the works to be released so players can have a wider variety to choose from. There are six classes per faction, ranging from strong melee characters to necromancers to archers. Each faction also has an accompany stats sheet so you can see each class’s defense and attack points for melee, ranged, and magic attacks. The stats sheets also show terrain advantages and abilities for each class.
The most exciting part of the game to me was the map. Players take turn picking one hexagonal piece out of a small bag at a time and placing it around one player’s base. There are some placement rules that force players to build at least slightly outward. Each piece is painted and designed slightly differently to differentiate terrain types. Different factions will have benefits depending if they’re on a forest tile, a hill tile, etc. A different game play experience every time for a map-based tabletop game is a cool innovation, and I can only imagine how experienced players can use it to their advantage, or their opponent’s disadvantage. As a super noob, I didn’t really implement it myself, and I think Arian was too nice to just wipe the floor with me with that particular strategy.
Each player only starts out with three figures on the board, which they get to choose, and more pieces can be added on subsequent turns but only to specific tiles near each players’ home base. The object of the game is to defeat the other player’s base, which in turn usually requires you to destroy all of their individual fighters. The base itself has 3 defense points, which means every attack against the base, the defending player can roll three blue dice. The attacking player uses 1 to 3 red dice (depending on how many attack points for that specific action that player’s figure has) and whichever player has a net total of higher dice either successfully defends or is defeated off the board entirely. The same process applies to attacking other figures as well (which have 1 to 3 defense points and can use 1 to 3 blue dice), not just bases. Each turn, a player can only move, spawn, or attack with one figure.
There are more intricacies than that; I’m doing the game an injustice, just as I did the day I reviewed it when I had to do a rushed play through to get into a panel that was starting. The strengths of the game lie in the fact that I found it to be a pretty simple implementation of an advanced strategy. Figures get defense bonuses depending terrain and if allies are nearby, move bonuses for nearby allies, and disadvantages for standing on water map tiles. And yet in the quick thirty minutes I had with Arian to review this, I remembered all of that and I thought I was doing all right strategically during the short time we played.
And maybe that’s the biggest point – Arian would probably be too nice to tell you if I was really blowing it anyway. I’m not trying to say that people should lie in favor of my skills (but it’s nice when they do) but I’m saying it’s really awesome to see good people like the team at Ill Gotten Games getting some coverage from Wired and some success for following their passions. I love small companies and small projects to get big time coverage and success, so I’m happy to spread the word about a game that I will definitely buy, Pocket-Tactics.
That opportunity to buy the game will be coming sooner than we think, Arian said that in the very near future a Kickstarter campaign is launching to raise funds to print Pocket-Tactics on a massive scale. I’ll be sure to post when that goes live so you can all get in on the fun earlier than the rest. And that might be the only downside to the game at the moment: while Ill Gotten Games may be printing the pieces, it remains to be seen who will be painting them, players or the manufacturers. It seems like it will depend on the success of the fundraiser; if it does well enough, we might be able to fund Arian painting board games pieces for fourteen hours a day until ship date, heh. Time, and the details of the campaign, will tell us.
Ill Gotten Games’ other project is an RPG game, similar to the style of GURPS, but unfortunately we didn’t have time to delve into that too much. I hope the group has more games slated to release in the near future, if they can keep churning out fun and simple yet strategic games like Pocket-Tactics.