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Kev’s Slog #7

The game Ether One is finally coming out on March 25 and it looks very brilliant.  The original trailer made it look very action oriented, but there’s no shooting or running in this first game.  It’s an Unreal engine game, it’s a standard adventure game that’s a little different.  If you want, you can just wander around if you want with no enemies or time constraints, and you’ll experience the story at your leisure.  However, there’s puzzles in the game that when solved, add to the storyline and enhance the experience.  The puzzles are incredibly difficult.  One key feature is that you can only hold one item at a time, so this goes against adventure gaming where you randomly collect inventory items and then throw all of them at a puzzle to somehow solve a puzzle by accident.  Still, the puzzles are reportedly logical and they avoid most of the pitfalls that show up in most point-and-click adventure games.

The story is that you’re a Restorer, a person that is trying to fix the memories of people that have damaged minds (in this case, dementia).  But as always, there’s more to it than you’d expect.

There is one caveat that I should point out for this game.  This is called Ether One on purpose, as it’s the first game in a series.  The game will not have a definite ending yet as there’s plans for Ether Two (and who knows, maybe even Ether Three).  Of course, this is all pending as sales, press, and fan reaction will determine if more games get made.  This is a problem with many episodic games as you never really know when you’ll see the rest of it, and even my beloved Kentucky Route Zero has been criticized by some for its slow release schedule.  But even KRZ is not the most notorious episodic game with no conclusion.  Valve fans will know what game that I’m talking about.

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Super Game Jam will be a new documentary about indie game development.  While there’s been many films about indie games lately, there’s three interesting things about this one.

One, the documentary is being produced by the indie publisher Devolver Digital (located right in my city of Austin).  Devolver Digital’s most recently published game is Luftrausers, but Hotline Miami has to be their biggest success story so far.

Two, the film will go straight to Steam, indicating that Valve is pre-approving this documentary without Greenlight or anything else.  I sometimes wonder if this is part of Valve’s new initiative of releasing films on Steam.  The Dota 2 documentary “Free To Play” is on the verge of being released to everyone.  Also, in a recent Reddit AMA, Gabe Newell has stated that Valve is still working with J.J. Abrams on whatever secret film/game project(s) that they have planned.

And finally, the film will be broken into five chapters which will release one a month starting in April rather than one long film.  Each chapter will be under an hour, and each will be a self-contained story.  The idea behind Super Game Jam is that two individuals from different indie developers must sit down and create a brand-new game in a 48-hour game jam.  In short, ten total people must create five unique games.  The developers have been carefully picked to have very different styles of games to make sure that they won’t create another game of the same genre.  Some of the developers are quite famous indie developers and I think this could be an interesting experiment if done properly.

See the trailer here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyJf0k2s59g

Kev’s Slog #6

First topic is: The Steam Greenlight

50 more games were Greenlit today. Now games are being Greenlit so fast that it barely matters anymore, and I wonder why the system is still there other than to get early fan feedback. I don’t recognize a majority of the games as there’s just too many indies for me to review. But some of them are mildly important, and I suggest that you look at these:
* Aperture Tag: The Paint Gun Testing Initiative – most Portal mods are being approved almost instantly
* BeamNG.drive – the alternative to Bugbear Entertainment’s Next Car Game
* Galactic Princess – in danger of not making its Kickstarter, but a clever idea
* GhostControl Inc. – blatantly obvious homage to Ghostbusters, but it could be better than any Ghostbusters game
* Ultionus: A Tale of Petty Revenge – I can’t believe this game got in, but it makes me smile

I need to talk about Ultionus for a second. If you look at it, it is extremely sexist. The heroine wears a “space bikini” which barely fits her. The game is essentially a remake/reboot of Phantis, a game from 1987 that iconifies “casual sexism”. The game is intentionally trying to get people mad at how inappropriate it is, and it’s also amusing to see teenage males defend the art style. In effect, it’s one of the most trolling games out there, and now it’ll be on Steam.

Also, I’m keeping my eye out for the game Cinders, which also got Greenlit. I really love the beautiful art if nothing else.

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Second topic is: The Closing of Irrational Games
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Kev’s Slog #5

Steam is very careful about protecting certain parts of their system, such as their database and such.  Steam updates are frequently picked apart by gamers and sometimes Valve intentionally trolls gamers that keep trying to dig through it looking for “scoops”.

There’s other areas that nobody wants to look at, and this information is hilariously out in plain sight.  Steam often releases information there and nobody ever looks at it.  Seeing games there doesn’t confirm a release date, but it does mean it’ll come out in six months or less, with less being more true.

Last week, for example, I knew that Girls Like Robots was coming out along with some others, but by the time I could write about it, these games were released.  If you’re wondering, Girls Like Robots is a puzzle game and I’m ashamed to say it, but I’m awful at the game.  I can’t get a perfect score on the demo, and I feel like I should take a remedial class in puzzle-solving.
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Journey to the West: My Trip to Valve

It’s now years after the Portal 2 ARG and nobody really thinks about it anymore.  But I wanted a permanent place for my story, and so I’m posting it here.  It’s still an important time of my life, and I think this would be the biggest thing that I’ve won in my lifetime.  It’s strange thinking about it like that; my greatest achievement may be playing video games.

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Originally, I picked my screen name as “Ariel Faith Plate” only a few weeks prior to the Portal 2 launch since I thought it would be relevant and a seemingly-clever pun. Because instead of “Aerial”, it’s “Ariel” and so it almost sounds like a real name? In retrospect, it was an incredibly lame joke, and later Robin Walker told me the same thing. However, my nickname started showing up in the ARG notes and such. If I changed it, then people wouldn’t be able to identify me anymore. I was stuck with it for the duration of the event, even though it was like intentionally calling yourself “Marion” or some other tacky name.

When Anna Sweet contacted me for the first time, I assumed that it was a bad troll. She asked me to call a phone number as she was from Valve. I told her that if she was really from Valve then she could e-mail me as my e-mail address was almost completely private. When the e-mail arrived only a minute later, I said, “I’m so very sorry.”
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Kev’s Slog #4

I examine dozens of video games every day and sometimes I get excited for them.  The one game that has me the most excited is Banished and it’ll be here in a few weeks on Steam.

Banished is a real-time strategy/city building game about a group of exiled travelers that have come to settle in a new and potentially dangerous land.  The goal is to just survive and make the colony flourish.  The game uses randomly generated maps so the challenge is different each time you start.  You’ll need careful resource management and a smart planning if you want the colonists to get everything.  It sounds easy, but the game could be called a very calm roguelike.

The most amazing thing is that this is being developed by just one person.  Shining Rock Software is essentially just Luke Hodorowicz.  There are a few excellent games that have been done by essentially one person, these include Gunpoint and Dust: An Elysian Tale.  Also, any game made by Blendo Games (Atom Zombie Smasher, Flotilla, Gravity Bone/30 Flights of Loving) are created with just Brandon Chung, although the upcoming Quadrilateral Cowboy is being done by two people.  In each of these games, the music is typically done by another person but the single developer has obviously creative control.

The second thing is that this game doesn’t use money and it has no requirements for its tech tree.  It’s absolutely possible to build end-game structures immediately as long as you have the resources.  In many games, the intent is to just maximize population but this game is very different.  People aren’t treated as a simple number or an abstract concept.  Each person in the game gets a name and they are all animated, and they all age and eventually die.  People are literally your most valuable resource and you can’t just build houses and suddenly get more.

I’m doing a poor job selling the game, because it’s hard to describe without seeing it for yourself.  I strongly suggest that you look up videos or the Steam store page and see the demo video.  All I can say is that Banished is one of those games that makes me mesmerized when I watch it.  There was a Let’s Play video of the beta build and it lasted an hour.  I watched the entire video without stopping, completely amazed, and the video ended at the hour mark without being completed.  I was almost upset because I wanted to see what happened next.

Walking Dead Season 2, Episode 1 spoilers

A couple spoilery discussions for Walking Dead Season 2, Episode 1.

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What I’m Playing #1

I find myself wanting to come to CootB, but just having random things to write about seems unlikely to produce the relevant mental discipline.

So! A series! Weekly (where Weekly exists in the universe that the Podcasts come out monthly)! Fun!

This is going to cover a range of things, with a single theme: What I’m Playing (hence the title). Whether that be board game, PC game, console game, MMO, iOS app, whatever, it’s going in here. Which makes sense for me, because I veer wildly between what I’m doing, often in a single night. It’s part reviews, part discussion, part musings on whatever I want. Which is what really drives readers!

So!

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Frozen: The Alternative Ending

Warning #1: Tons of Frozen spoilers, if that’s a problem.

Warning #2: This is, I’ll admit, basically Frozen fanfic.

I really really liked Frozen.  And to me, at its heart, Frozen was an origin story for an Ice Queen.  That’s why “Let It Go” is a fantastic song.  It’s why I loved Elsa creating the giant snow golem – she didn’t *want* to, but she *had* to – that’s the hallmark of a great villain’s back story.  They didn’t *set out* to be evil and vicious.  Events just progressed in such a way that, while in retrospect things might have gone differently, each step at the time seemed like the reasonable, necessary thing to do.

And Elsa is perfect.  She has a strange gift through no fault of her own.  She tries to control it, and can’t, so tries more desperate measures.  And then the goddamn world interferes, and now, this is happening.

So here’s what I wanted to happen: The final scene.  Elsa has accidentally cursed the one person she ever cared about to death.  Anna is DYING.  She’s frozen.  People are trying to save her, and Elsa herself is trying to stop them, willingly or no.

And then, in the movie, good wins, Anna is saved, Elsa loves her sister, yay!

But I want a version where Anna stays frozen.  I want Elsa to watch her sister freeze, watch everyone try to stop it, and watch it fail.  And then know that the only person she’s loved, and who loves her, has just died because of her actions.

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Kev’s Slog #3

Rymdkapsel is coming out tomorrow on Steam.  Rymdkapsel means “space capsule” in Swedish, if you’re curious.  It’s a mobile game where you try to manage a space station.

Now if you think that all mobile games are just cheesy and dumb, then wait until you see this game.  I need to emphasize this:  Guess how many walkthoughs exist for this game on Youtube.  The answer is zero.  Nobody has any video proof that they’ve ever beaten this game and it’s been out for a year on the Playstation Vita and Android phones.

The game’s difficulty is really a struggle between gathering resources, building rooms, researching monoliths, and (most importantly) surviving the alien invasion.  The simplistic graphics and seemingly “casual” feel give the illusion that this is an easy game made for small kids.  But in my opinion, this game is effectively a 4X game stripped down to its bare essentials.  The win condition is quite simple:  You live at the end.

I’m strongly tempted to buy it, because I keep having this feeling that I could beat it.  It’s a strange feeling–this sensation of wanting to win at a game despite all the people are nothing but simple rectangles.

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Kev’s Slog #2 (title not finalized)

I was going to call this my Steam Condenser as I take Steam-related stories and condense them into an easy-to-read blog.  Then I found out that Steam Condenser is a real product used by Source developers.  I’m still looking for ideas.

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The gaming company King–who makes the mobile game Candy Crush Saga–managed to trademark the words “candy” and “saga.”  For the most part, the targets have been other mobile games.  However, the latest news story has the Internet on fire.  King has sent a denial of trademark request for The Banner Saga because they use the word “saga” in it.  King admits that The Banner Saga, a turn based strategy game, has nothing to do with their match-3 game, but they want to defend their trademark.  As an aside, the first chapter of The Banner Saga is available now on Steam.
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