Easter Smörgåsbord

Posted by ahoodedfigure (4240 posts) -

Below I'll write about a bunch of random crap rather than talking about one thing. I almost did write an essay a few times, but I think I'll save those ideas for later. They'll probably be better written than this stuff, but they'll probably be a bit more ponderous, too.

Grimrock

 
I've bought Legend of Grimrock on cheaper pre-order directly from the guys who made it. I would have gone with GOG.com, but I figured this way they'd get a bit more money out of it. If you hadn't heard of it before, it's a dungeon crawler with real-time combat that still operates on a sort of timed system that allows you some leeway for combat and casting spells. You actually have to punch in the runes needed for a spell, which simulates casting time, and hit buttons to make characters attack. Characters, yes, as in a party of four that you can build yourself (or use the defaults if you like).  Since the game is on a grid, this means that while you can't bump lovingly into corners like you can in a full-movement game, you can still mouselook around to find secrets, and navigate the dungeon quickly just using WASD or whatever you prefer. 
 
It's THIS particular feature, being able to hit keys in rapid succession to navigate a dungeon, that's frigging delicious to me. I'm wary about sorta-real-time combat, although there are keys assigned to the characters, but I always loved knowing just where you were going during navigation. It allows dungeons to be bigger, be easier to program (even in Skyrim you can still get caught in the walls sometimes... such is the price you pay for a bit more simulation), and quick to navigate once you've explored it.
 
If you want a taste of this kind of game, it's fairly well-known among people aware of Grimrock that it's heavily based upon Dungeon Master, which someone took the time to actually rebuild from the ground up, as mentioned here:
 
http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/03/29/you-could-be-playing-dungeon-master-right-now/

  
It's... it's weird to say this, but I really, really enjoy Dungeon Master. I don't understand it. Still a bit overwhelmed by the combat mechanic, as I mentioned above in my trepidation about Grimrock, but I imagine I may eventually get the hang of it, and the graphics are old, and the controls require a bit too many clicks sometimes, but damn it, in some ways it feels really, really accessible in ways that more current games haven't quite managed.  I feel less palsied picking stuff up in DM than I do in Skyrim, for crying out loud.
 
Like in music, there are plenty of good ideas in games that got left behind. I don't think it's just nostalgia-- sure, there will be people that don't feel the need to look back and see what ideas might still be relevant, but there's just too many good concepts out there to leave them behind just because they're attached to old properties. Speaking of which:

That One Service. You Know, That One


Looks like any semblance of patience to see how these projects and the crowds behind them actually perform is out the window; Kickstarter's starting to burst with cool ideas that are getting buried in funds (or sadly, for lesser-known studios and projects, buried). Shadowrun's one of them by the look of it, as is a space combat gamein the vein of Wing Commander, a project backed by the gal who wrote Gabriel Knight, and a remake (not a new game...hmm) of Leisure Suit Larry. I guess the rush is understandable; while it might be smarter to wait a bit since the relationship between consumer and producer is potentially very weird in a newer medium like this, it's not a bad idea to try to ride the wave. I'm kinda happy to see that the will is there, with the usual caveats that I and commenters made below (and elsewhere, of course). A large part of the boost seems to come from who gets attention from news orgs, as well as fan communities who've been dying for these sorts of projects. Not all of these will be windfalls, though, so this is as much a testing of consumer willingness as it is for producers to stick their neck out. I imagine a few disappointments await as we all get exhausted (if we're not already).
 

GOG.COM's changes...


...as far as I'm concerned, they're not really huge. Even with my snappy computer it still takes forever to download bigger games, so the smaller ones are more likely to be the ones I get from them, even if some of them will be new. Fallout's free for a little while, and I'm tempted to play it... like right now, even though I have the disc somewhere, just because of their promotion.
 
The one game that tempted me during their press conference, other than the Witcher 2 (won't get it until I play the first game, even though I know the sequel's different) is Botanicula, by the folks that made Machinarium and Samarost. I think the key to these games' charm is their use of texture and animation to make these characters feel alive. A LOT probably goes into those little touches, so they get huge respect from me.
 
They also gave a free copy of the Witcher 2 to everyone who already owns it. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around that one, but I guess the registration with that particular game was a bit different than normal.
 

Stuff I've Been Playing

 
A good chunk of what I was playing early on was that one science fiction game where you try to stop a world-destroying menace while exploring the galaxy... what was it called? Oh, right, Starflight. Ha-ha. I love Starflight, damn it. I love it. I just reached a point, though, where I'm forced to grind for money so I've set it aside until I work up the will. That, and the idea of permadeath in a game with that level of investment is a bit scary to me, even though I could probably back up my saves.
 
Dungeon Master. Nuff Said.
 
Been playing a ton of Borderlands. Just when I think I'm sick of it, I notice I'm actually playing it. I even endured the hell of Moxxi's arena until I finally cleared a full set of rounds, which was much more grueling and unrewarding than it had any right to be.  Have tons of cool guns, don't want to bore you with their specs but... It's rather fun. Although I'm getting a bit burnt out on mass-murder games. Registering for Gamespy was a real pain in the ass, too. Just saying.
 
Skyrim's mass-murder has taken an extended holiday after I reached a point where I'd left behind all my gear to go infiltrate a place, doing a little bit of roleplaying see, and I got ambushed by a dragon with little more than a few spells. That save will involve me running back home to get my stuff, then running back out to kill the dragon. Bleah. 
 
Played quite a bit of Dragon Age Origins, but I finally broke through to the Deep Roads in search of that Golem NPC (don't tell me if I'm doing it wrong, I'll look it up if I can't stand it anymore), adjusting the difficulty such so that I wasn't totally pummeled (Hard is a bit too heavy duty to me, and that's agonizing for me to admit), but now it's just wave after wave of bad guys.  The combat is satisfying when it has context, but I find it hard to imagine slogging through that much death.
 
Also played quite a bit of the first Gobliiins after a hiatus that saw the birth of some of you. Really neat game, if a bit random with its puzzles. The endurance system is smart, if brutal at times. Password beeps are strangely piercing to the ears, and it's not fun to have to use passwords all the time. I love it, though. It's like Shadowgate in a weird way, without so much instadeath.
 
Some ASCII Sector, some Dig-N-Rig. And finally, mysteriously, this.  I really like the free-flowing design for finding stuff out. And tidbits of story are the reward (though you can get strange loot, too).

And now, the rest of the story:


Will I finally play Last Express, now that I've downloaded it? I think I might.  Choo choo murder! (Or possibly Fallout, first.)

You going to play any games over Easter?
#1 Posted by ahoodedfigure (4240 posts) -

Below I'll write about a bunch of random crap rather than talking about one thing. I almost did write an essay a few times, but I think I'll save those ideas for later. They'll probably be better written than this stuff, but they'll probably be a bit more ponderous, too.

Grimrock

 
I've bought Legend of Grimrock on cheaper pre-order directly from the guys who made it. I would have gone with GOG.com, but I figured this way they'd get a bit more money out of it. If you hadn't heard of it before, it's a dungeon crawler with real-time combat that still operates on a sort of timed system that allows you some leeway for combat and casting spells. You actually have to punch in the runes needed for a spell, which simulates casting time, and hit buttons to make characters attack. Characters, yes, as in a party of four that you can build yourself (or use the defaults if you like).  Since the game is on a grid, this means that while you can't bump lovingly into corners like you can in a full-movement game, you can still mouselook around to find secrets, and navigate the dungeon quickly just using WASD or whatever you prefer. 
 
It's THIS particular feature, being able to hit keys in rapid succession to navigate a dungeon, that's frigging delicious to me. I'm wary about sorta-real-time combat, although there are keys assigned to the characters, but I always loved knowing just where you were going during navigation. It allows dungeons to be bigger, be easier to program (even in Skyrim you can still get caught in the walls sometimes... such is the price you pay for a bit more simulation), and quick to navigate once you've explored it.
 
If you want a taste of this kind of game, it's fairly well-known among people aware of Grimrock that it's heavily based upon Dungeon Master, which someone took the time to actually rebuild from the ground up, as mentioned here:
 
http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/03/29/you-could-be-playing-dungeon-master-right-now/

  
It's... it's weird to say this, but I really, really enjoy Dungeon Master. I don't understand it. Still a bit overwhelmed by the combat mechanic, as I mentioned above in my trepidation about Grimrock, but I imagine I may eventually get the hang of it, and the graphics are old, and the controls require a bit too many clicks sometimes, but damn it, in some ways it feels really, really accessible in ways that more current games haven't quite managed.  I feel less palsied picking stuff up in DM than I do in Skyrim, for crying out loud.
 
Like in music, there are plenty of good ideas in games that got left behind. I don't think it's just nostalgia-- sure, there will be people that don't feel the need to look back and see what ideas might still be relevant, but there's just too many good concepts out there to leave them behind just because they're attached to old properties. Speaking of which:

That One Service. You Know, That One


Looks like any semblance of patience to see how these projects and the crowds behind them actually perform is out the window; Kickstarter's starting to burst with cool ideas that are getting buried in funds (or sadly, for lesser-known studios and projects, buried). Shadowrun's one of them by the look of it, as is a space combat gamein the vein of Wing Commander, a project backed by the gal who wrote Gabriel Knight, and a remake (not a new game...hmm) of Leisure Suit Larry. I guess the rush is understandable; while it might be smarter to wait a bit since the relationship between consumer and producer is potentially very weird in a newer medium like this, it's not a bad idea to try to ride the wave. I'm kinda happy to see that the will is there, with the usual caveats that I and commenters made below (and elsewhere, of course). A large part of the boost seems to come from who gets attention from news orgs, as well as fan communities who've been dying for these sorts of projects. Not all of these will be windfalls, though, so this is as much a testing of consumer willingness as it is for producers to stick their neck out. I imagine a few disappointments await as we all get exhausted (if we're not already).
 

GOG.COM's changes...


...as far as I'm concerned, they're not really huge. Even with my snappy computer it still takes forever to download bigger games, so the smaller ones are more likely to be the ones I get from them, even if some of them will be new. Fallout's free for a little while, and I'm tempted to play it... like right now, even though I have the disc somewhere, just because of their promotion.
 
The one game that tempted me during their press conference, other than the Witcher 2 (won't get it until I play the first game, even though I know the sequel's different) is Botanicula, by the folks that made Machinarium and Samarost. I think the key to these games' charm is their use of texture and animation to make these characters feel alive. A LOT probably goes into those little touches, so they get huge respect from me.
 
They also gave a free copy of the Witcher 2 to everyone who already owns it. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around that one, but I guess the registration with that particular game was a bit different than normal.
 

Stuff I've Been Playing

 
A good chunk of what I was playing early on was that one science fiction game where you try to stop a world-destroying menace while exploring the galaxy... what was it called? Oh, right, Starflight. Ha-ha. I love Starflight, damn it. I love it. I just reached a point, though, where I'm forced to grind for money so I've set it aside until I work up the will. That, and the idea of permadeath in a game with that level of investment is a bit scary to me, even though I could probably back up my saves.
 
Dungeon Master. Nuff Said.
 
Been playing a ton of Borderlands. Just when I think I'm sick of it, I notice I'm actually playing it. I even endured the hell of Moxxi's arena until I finally cleared a full set of rounds, which was much more grueling and unrewarding than it had any right to be.  Have tons of cool guns, don't want to bore you with their specs but... It's rather fun. Although I'm getting a bit burnt out on mass-murder games. Registering for Gamespy was a real pain in the ass, too. Just saying.
 
Skyrim's mass-murder has taken an extended holiday after I reached a point where I'd left behind all my gear to go infiltrate a place, doing a little bit of roleplaying see, and I got ambushed by a dragon with little more than a few spells. That save will involve me running back home to get my stuff, then running back out to kill the dragon. Bleah. 
 
Played quite a bit of Dragon Age Origins, but I finally broke through to the Deep Roads in search of that Golem NPC (don't tell me if I'm doing it wrong, I'll look it up if I can't stand it anymore), adjusting the difficulty such so that I wasn't totally pummeled (Hard is a bit too heavy duty to me, and that's agonizing for me to admit), but now it's just wave after wave of bad guys.  The combat is satisfying when it has context, but I find it hard to imagine slogging through that much death.
 
Also played quite a bit of the first Gobliiins after a hiatus that saw the birth of some of you. Really neat game, if a bit random with its puzzles. The endurance system is smart, if brutal at times. Password beeps are strangely piercing to the ears, and it's not fun to have to use passwords all the time. I love it, though. It's like Shadowgate in a weird way, without so much instadeath.
 
Some ASCII Sector, some Dig-N-Rig. And finally, mysteriously, this.  I really like the free-flowing design for finding stuff out. And tidbits of story are the reward (though you can get strange loot, too).

And now, the rest of the story:


Will I finally play Last Express, now that I've downloaded it? I think I might.  Choo choo murder! (Or possibly Fallout, first.)

You going to play any games over Easter?
#2 Posted by Mento (2558 posts) -

I think it's just over 20 years ago since I first played Dungeon Master. There have been plenty of dungeon crawlers to use that system since, but I might be curious enough about how Grimlock is modernizing it to give it a shot. Then again, I haven't been that enamoured of the games that have recently revisited the format, like the Etrian Odysseys.

As for Kickstarter, I'm starting to see it as a natural extension to the Indie Bundles that have become so ubiquitous of late. A sort of low-cost incentive to buy games from smaller studios with fewer revenues of funding to draw from. I've noticed the Indie Royale site selling packs of games still in Alpha before now. Of course, no game is going to succeed on Kickstarter without some recognition for the brand or designers behind it, and even then only if people are clamouring for it. I doubt this trend will continue much longer, as I can't imagine there are an endless number of fondly remembered older PC franchises with their original creators looking to relaunch them.

Over Easter I'll be playing more Vesperia. Still a long way to go with it.

Moderator
#3 Posted by Jolt92 (1553 posts) -

You made me hungry with your topic/headline and I can't wait 'til tomorrow. Glad påsk!

#4 Posted by ahoodedfigure (4240 posts) -
@Jolt92: Du också! :)
 
@Mento: From what I've seen so far, the modernization may be minimal. Won't know until I play it how it feels to me, but people with more DM experience than me (most people with any DM experience) are better qualified to judge that. It does seem like the rune system is more friendly, if less seemingly robust.
 
I think the Indie Bundles are basically upper tier-smaller companies, while some of these better-known explody fundsplosions are more lower-tier larger/famous ones, as vulgar as that characterization feels to write. The system may very well exhaust itself out of sheer exuberance, but I'm curious how this will be regarded a few years down the road, barring less comfortable crises getting most of our attention.
 
I also wonder if Kickstarter's own fame in this may, if they're smart, allow them to differentiate the brand further so they can help smaller-but-promising projects get better recognition and support. The speculation that makes me the least nervous is how Kickstarter will change as a result of this bump in profile. They might try to enhance their interface a bit, in the very least.
#5 Posted by ArbitraryWater (11791 posts) -

I actually downloaded that freebie Dungeon Master... and immediately died from the first mummy. I have a feeling that, much like Eye of the Beholder, I would eventually get stuck or frustrated by the general structure of the puzzles. I'm still interested in Grimrock. It looks kind of fantastic, though I once again expect to miss a hidden switch or two and immediately descend into the depths of frustration. We'll see. Heroes V is on GOG as well now, and I think that game is great despite the bad rap it gets from certain segments of the community.

Are you playing Borderlands with other people? I think that game is awesome, but I can't force myself to play it single player the way my roommate did a few months ago. It's too MMO-ish in the way the quests are structured and the experience/loot is grinded out for my tastes.

#6 Posted by ahoodedfigure (4240 posts) -
@ArbitraryWater said:

I actually downloaded that freebie Dungeon Master... and immediately died from the first mummy.

A lot of people do. I think I did when I played it as a kid. This time I already knew the mummies were going to be trouble so I put my two warrior-ish people in front and swung at the monsters with fire brands and swords. I made it. One person died but resurrection in the game is pretty easy so that wasn't a big deal. I was a bit confused and put it down, but today I've managed to get fairly far.

 
 I have a feeling that, much like Eye of the Beholder, I would eventually get stuck or frustrated by the general structure of the puzzles. I'm still interested in Grimrock. It looks kind of fantastic, though I once again expect to miss a hidden switch or two and immediately descend into the depths of frustration. We'll see.

Yeah, the puzzles might have that potential, I don't know. I was stopped by some hidden keys until I went back and explored an area; it made me really grateful that exploration is fast with this segmented dungeon style. If I had to go combing around every little bit like I do in Skyrim, that to me would have been more frustrating (especially since I often use abilities in Skyrim that makes all the objects in a room scatter).
 
I'm sure there will be mild hints if anything's too messed up. There may be a bit of the older philosophy in Grimrock which may leave us behind, but I think playing games like this with the faith that they haven't fucked up the level design will make things a bit less frustrating. Maybe.
 

Heroes V is on GOG as well now, and I think that game is great despite the bad rap it gets from certain segments of the community.

I have the first on disc. I've bought so many games now that I'm afraid of getting it. I'm pretty sure if I was going to go for it it'd more be because of Assassin's Creed, even if people are happier with its sequels. Any Heroes game that isn't completely busted is bound to be some sort of fun, though I'm more revisiting I and II right now. All purchasing and no playing makes me dull...

Are you playing Borderlands with other people? I think that game is awesome, but I can't force myself to play it single player the way my roommate did a few months ago. It's too MMO-ish in the way the quests are structured and the experience/loot is grinded out for my tastes.

I was fortunate enough to play some multiplayer last week and enjoyed it quite a bit, although the difficulty scaling was a bit ridiculous in places.  Leveled REALLY fast in multi, though, and it was nice to have someone bail me out of dying. And we did a lot of that dying thing because we're a bit incautious. It is fun in that you don't worry so much about being the center of the world's attention, but also like just stopping for a moment and taking in the view. T-Bone Junction is especially fun for me to just sit and look at, although I'm usually imagining more going on there than actually does.
 
I've played a TON in single player, and I tackled General Knoxx and the other expansions way earlier than I should have. I know what you mean about the MMO feel, although I tend to just marvel at the different areas, and enjoy popping heads enough that the structure doesn't annoy me too much EXCEPT that I like to explore more than being told where to go, and there will be times when I see an object that I KNOW will be for a quest, but I won't be able to manipulate it until it activates for the quest...  absolutely not my style of game in that respect. I want things to just unfold, and not tell me to run off to a specific bounty board to make the world unlock an area for plots. Bleah.
 
The profusion of useless gear starts to get on my nerve after a while. I refuse to pick stuff up unless it's worth a lot or actually looks useful, and weapons comparison is a bit tougher than it should be sometimes, especially with the "phrase" weapons.
 
Played a bit of The Last Express, and I love it, although I would like to see something like this get the LA Noire style treatment. Ahead of its time in just about every respect, though I'd be afraid to recommend it to anyone without taking the time to explain its weirdness.
#7 Posted by Guided_By_Tigers (8061 posts) -

The Last Express has to be one of the most unique games ever made, I would love to see a sequel made.

#8 Posted by Ravenlight (8040 posts) -

Thanks for reminding me about Grimrock before the preorder period ended!

#9 Edited by Egge (446 posts) -

Glad påsk! Never played Dungeon Master 1 much, but I can highly recommend the somewhat underrated sequel Dungeon Master 2: Legend of Skulkeep. It's one of the most atmospheric RPGs I know, and very similar gameplay-wise (even when it comes to minor UI details etc.) to its suprisingly streamlined and accessible 1987 predecessor, except updated with nice mid-90s graphics and a charmingly somber soundtrack. If nothing else, the game inspired me to create this little video (which, it should be said, adds a layer of Shakespearian gloom not present in the actual game) a few years ago;

#10 Posted by ahoodedfigure (4240 posts) -
@Ravenlight: Happy to oblige :) Glad my reminder saved someone a few bucks :)
 
@Unknown_Pleasures: Just imagine what modern mocap could do for it. The navigation is a bit confusing, and it's sometimes unclear what you can interact with, but damn... I've never seen anything quite like it, so rich in detail and yet it actually encourages you to explore. I think a modern studio would be up to something similar, but it would probably need a solid property to justify the expense, otherwise the tech will have to get cheaper so a smaller, company can try it. It's sort of like being inside a living play.
#11 Posted by ahoodedfigure (4240 posts) -
@Egge: Nice video :) I guess I tend to respond to melancholy, quiet stuff. Makes me wonder about the potential for storytelling within a simple dungeon game engine, seeing that little video. Also picked up a bit of Daggerfall music at the beginning, which I found similarly somber, but in a cool, atmospheric way. 
 
I think the main reason I know next to nothing about this series of games was that I was partial to turn-based combat. Still am, I suppose, but I think my gaming tolerance has expanded as I've grown older. I guess I'll find out when I play Grimrock.
#12 Posted by Mento (2558 posts) -

Dungeon Master was an obtuse game, the sequel even more so. It's a bit weird you died at the mummy though, since you can kill those things just by trapping them in a door closing animation if you're not confident about fighting it for realsies. (Actually, given how much I played Space Crusade too, I probably spent a significant portion of my childhood killing things with doors.) It's the Purple Worms on the fourth floor that tend to utterly annihilate someone who doesn't know what they're doing. I'd imagine anyone jumping into that game without knowing how the runes work (since they don't give you too many formulae in-game) would be adrift, especially when the ethereal dudes that require a very specific spell to harm them show up.

It's a darn sight less complicated than early Wizardry, Gold Box or Ultima games, which was a major selling point for it at the time (ditto Dragon Quest/Final Fantasy for that matter), but still challenging for perhaps the wrong reasons.

Honestly, if you want an awesome Dungeon Master game, Lands of Lore was just recently added to GOG. I dunno if Grimlock compares, but I'd imagine LoL is a lot cheaper, if in less need of support right now.

Moderator
#13 Posted by ahoodedfigure (4240 posts) -
@Mento: Thankfully I wasn't a victim of the mummies, as I hear they're very cross with people bothering them in their little pen.
 
I only switch to meta-gaming mode when I feel the game is unfairly difficult, which I've done in Borderlands (trapping guys in walls and then blasting the shit out of them, though granted they were about 20 levels higher than they should have been), and Dragon Age Origins, where I turned the difficulty to easy in a fight that turned out to be endless due to some strange scripting issue, and using group event triggers to get past encounters.
 
And yes, the runes are essential, especially since artificial light sources are limited. I got a LOT of mileage out of chucking daggers though, which made me feel like I was cheating. 
 
With the keyboard plus mouse navigation I never felt it was as bad as you say, and I like that you aren't invited to treat the visuals as some sort of pretty distraction while you wait for activation sections, like you do in Bioware games now, but then again I never got very far in DM. The only Gold Box equivalent I ever played was Buck Rogers, which was quite fun if a bit unforgiving in places. Never did complete that...
 
I do have Lands of Lore in my obscene pile of GOG games... I can't foresee playing it any time soon, just because of the CD-Rom level of download size. Still have to see if The Last Express isn't trying to wear me down to a nub.
 
Oh, but... Dark Souls! Did you hear?

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