blainethepain

January 9, 2014

A New Perspective from Carnegie Mellon Student Developers

A tech demo was recently released for a puzzle game centered around the idea of forced perspective. While this idea is nothing new, a similar concept was put forth in the game A Tale of Scale a few years ago, this new tech demo is getting people fired up about what could be the next portal. The video below will give you a sense of what it can do.

 

Pillow Castle Games is keeping pretty tight lipped about further developments of the project, save for saying that a full game is coming. Keep an eye out for this one to warp your perspective soon, and you can learn more about the project

January 3, 2014

Reports from the Frontier – A Starbound Journal

starbound logo

Greetings, Universal Travelers.

I have journeyed long and hard in order to bring you this information. After many arduous hours of mining, murdering, and mayhem, I am finally ready to tell you all about Starbound, and just how awesome it is.

The player starts as someone lost and abandoned by the culture from which they come. In a derelict ship, with no fuel, they beam down onto an unfamiliar planet. Anything can be waiting for them at the end of your quantum journey. It could be a village of friendly robot merchants, or the tomb of an ancient bird-man warlord. It could even be nothing, a planet with only resources and wildlife.

The first good point here: The player wants to wander and get lost. After the initial introductory quests that show how to construct a crafting table, an anvil, and initial armor and weapons, the game lets the player loose. It helps that the quest one gets after building an anvil is to construct a resource heavy marker that summons a boss which will almost assuredly destroy you.

Once that happened to me, I realized that I needed to leave my starting planet to find more resources. That is when the scope of the game hit me.

star map

Each of those star blips are individual systems with 2-5 planets within them. The only thing that limits where one can travel is the fuel reserve (fun point, the interstellar spaceship that the player uses is fueled by wood and coal) and the progression made (achieved by killing that boss I mentioned earlier).

In terms of how the game actually plays, those players with experience with Terraria will feel right at home save for a few mechanics associated with specific weapons (the Starbound spear is worthless, while the Terraria spear is surprisingly useful). You run around, gather resources to craft things, explore to gather more resources, and then build.

One thing that sets Starbound apart from other exploration games is the sheer amount of things that you can find to decorate your buildings and ship. The art associated with all these things is great too, as long as you can appreciate pixel art. For a game in early beta, it sure is nice on the eyes.

starbound house

Chucklefish also does a good job of paying attention to the community, and what players are doing. The beta was released with modding tools and people have taken advantage of that, as have the developers. There are currently 765 mods in the official mod forum, and that number rises every day. They have already integrated a few different mods into the main game, with the permission of the creators of course. These include automatic turrets, a skyrail system a la Bioshock Infinite, among other balancing mods. They way that Chucklefish is working with the community is commendable, and how I think all early access games should do things in the future.

All that said, the game is still in early beta. Crashes happen semi-frequently, the launcher is finnicky and likes to lock up on some computers, and the multiplayer takes some thinking to figure out. Also, there have been two universe wipes since release with one more looming on the future. One thing that concerns me is the lack of incentive to stay on one planet. Once I got my more advanced gear, I started to wander the universe, stripping resources out of planets and killing everything to get gear, then moving on to the next planet and doing it all again.

I am very excited about the future of this game, and cannot wait to see what Chucklefish is planning for the future. They have announced ship progression and customizable ships as possibilities for the future, as well as the implementation of the questing system. That said, there will not be a shortage of things to do in the game for the foreseeable future.

Anticipate more updates from me on the progress of the game, and even more to say once the actual release date is announced.

January 3, 2014

Open World Survival — With an Eldritch Edge

SKS Games are bringing “The Forest” to PC and the Oculus Rift with an alpha to be released later this year. Check out the latest trailer below.

Looks pretty extreme, right? Adding that element of horror to the popular open survival/exploration model is a great idea, and the production values that SKS are bringing to the table only enhance that.

According to the devs, the gameplay will focus more on stealth than the trailers seem to show, and the creatures deep within the cave systems might not even be killable, so stealth will be the go to in order to survive. This even applies to crafting, as the player will be able to use leaves and mud to fashion camouflage for both the player and the traps they surround themselves with.

the forest lightning

Optimization will be a high priority for the team once the alpha drops (on the ambiguous date of 2014). It seems that the developers are going the early access route and will be releasing a paid in alpha on Steam. It went through the Greenlight process late last year.

December 4, 2013

Starbound Beta Launches With Awesome Trailer

I have been following the development of Starbound, the newest game from Chucklefish, for what seems like an eternity.Starbound has oft been called a “spiritual successor” to Terraria, but this is a misnomer. Terraria and Starbound share an artist and basic gameplay premise, and that is pretty much where the similarities end. Today marks the launch of the first stage of the open beta. You can buy the game on Steam for 15 dollars and get started as soon as the download completes. Check out the trailer below and stay tuned from updates from me as the beta progresses.

November 14, 2013

The Humble Store Opens!

humble

If you are anything like me, you have fallen in love with the indie gaming movement over the past few years. For me, it started with Minecraft. Before then I paid little to no attention to independent studios and their releases save for the occasional Behemoth project (Alien Hominid being a favorite of mine). But once Minecraft came out, I started paying attention. Now I can’t get enough. I buy up five dollar games like I want to be broke (contrary to popular belief, I don’t). Enter the Humble Indie Bundles.

A couple years back Humble Bundle started offering cheap deals for quality games while offering the option to send a percentage of the purchase price to a given charity.

“Lo!” I said, “I can pay a small amount of money for a bunch of games AND practice my armchair activism? What’s not to like?” *

And now, Humble Bundle has a new place to buy independent games. They have opened their own site to sell those games, and are offering awesome deals there (which are separate from steam).Check it out here and see what deals you can find.

Just on the first day alpha access for Prison Architect was only eight dollars, and Don’t Starve was ten. At this very moment one of my favorite games, Psychonauts, is on sale for just two bucks This website is going to be dangerous.

*I’m just kidding about the armchair activism, Humble Charity Bundle has done great things. Don’t be mad.

November 13, 2013

The Stanley Parable: A Game About Games

stanley parable

It is nearly impossible to explain what The Stanley Parable is about. It is a game about the nature of games, how a player interacts with the world, and what happens if the antagonist is the game itself.

At it’s core, The Stanley Parable is a first person exploration game. All of the interaction comes through choice. Choosing a door to walk through, choosing which button to press, or even choosing to do nothing at all. You play as Stanley, an office worker who may be asleep, crazy, bored, and everything in between.

To reveal anything about the gameplay experience is to ruin that experience for you. It is very much a narrative driven game, with the majority of the entertainment value coming from the narrator, given life by the incomparable Kevan Brighting, and his interactions with the player. If you are sensitive and can’t take constructive and not as constructive criticism, you may want to stay away. The narrator will hurt your feelings and make you feel worthless but, to be fair, you do the same to him multiple times.

In technical terms the game is fine, with serviceable graphics that never get in the way of the experience. The game is still based in Source, so the physics that come along with that engine work well (even with a dearth of interactive objects). The music is fantastic and hugely varied. It only shows up every so often but when it does the score will command your attention. The controls will be familiar to anyone who has played a first person game, save for the lack of one usual input variation that leads to a hilarious achievement.

I had issues starting up the game upon first install, but upon reinstallation the issues ceased. Besides that there were no bugs that I personally have noticed in my ten hours or so with the game.

Mind Control

What really stuck out to me was how The Stanley Parable reflects on the absurdity of game mechanics and storytelling. We do it all for a weird sense of self gratification, the accomplishment of the objective. Be it an actual scripted objective like every mission based game, or the “I’m going to steal a helicopter and try to jump out onto a bus” self generating objectives in an open world game, it’s all there to give the player a sense of accomplishment. The Stanley Parable deconstructs this to the point where one second the objective could be to press a button so that some booming voice will say “Eight!” over and over and the next the objective is to figure out what the game wants you to do. In the end, the game doesn’t want you to do anything. It’s a game. And The Stanley Parable knows that.

You can complete The Stanley Parable in about 15 minutes. Your first play through will probably take about half an hour. But there is so much to explore within the crazy world that Galactic Cafe thrusts you into that it could easily eat up much more. Not for twitch gamers or people who want to get to the top of the leaderboards, but if you value narrative then I implore you to check this one out. At least get the demo off of Steam. If anything, you’ll get a chuckle out of just how ridiculous it all is.

In its purest essence, The Stanley Parable is a commentary on routine, achievement, the government, video games, and life itself. I love getting lost in it’s world and losing myself within it. Everyone needs to play this.

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