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.
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:
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).
...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?