Demo Time: Silicon Void On Kickstarter

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Silicon Void first got my attention due to its unusual premise. It presents a future where no biological life has existed in the galaxy for at least 20 billion years. Many artificial intelligences doubt that it ever existed, suggesting instead that biological organisms are nothing more than a creation myth. The constructs that populate the galaxy have more pressing concerns, regardless; after billions of years of existence, transferring themselves across galaxy-spanning networks, corruption is starting to appear. It’s a thermodynamic inevitability known as Senescence, the slow degradation of a construct’s personality and sanity. Constructs are dying out, trying to stave off the madness as long as they can, with no hope of reversing the process. The player controls an artificial intelligence diagnosed with the early stages of Senescence and accordingly exiled to the galactic rim. Once there, they uncover a mysterious message, claiming that organic life has finally been found. This discovery may hold the key to stopping Senescence and preventing extinction.

I love imaginative science fiction ideas like this. It’s a plausible crisis for a universe populated solely by computerized intelligences, and it begs questions related to other science fiction ideas. Could biological organisms have actually transformed themselves into artificial intelligence long ago? Are there some who now perceive biology as a threat, and are working to prevent its resurgence?

So, Silicon Void appealed from a narrative standpoint. In terms of game design, developer Chris Doucette — who is seeking funding on Kickstarter for the project — cites inspirations I am less familiar with: Japanese-style role-playing games (JRPGs) from the late Playstation 1 and early Playstation 2 era. He drops names like Chrono Cross, Etrian Odyssey, and Xenosaga, none of which I’ve played. My knowledge of JRPGs is mostly of earlier titles from the ’90s, and the more recent examples I’ve played, such as Ara Fell or Master of the Wind, take inspiration from those early games as well. Doucette laments that the comparatively unusual design and battle mechanics of his inspirations were never elaborated upon in more recent games, and hopes to explore these design possibilities with Silicon Void.

With those touchstones meaning little to me, I was left unsure if I would enjoy actually playing Silicon Void, despite the great premise. Fortunately, Doucette has provided a substantial playable demo along with his Kickstarter campaign, so I was able to try it out for myself.

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History Lessons: Outlaws

Other History Lessons posts can be found here. I’ve jumped straight in to talking about the game this time, but I’ve included notes about getting the game to run smoothly on modern machines at the end. Lastly, as always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

Outlaws was released in 1997. Back then, I only ever played the demo, bundled on a CD with a copy of PC Gamer magazine. I’m not certain, but I think I played the demo before the game was released, possibly a good while before. By 1997, Outlaws looked behind the times, using the aging Jedi Engine that had powered developers Lucasarts‘ 1995 Star Wars shooter Dark Forces. This engine simply couldn’t compete with the likes of Quake, which arrived in 1996 and sported impressive fully 3D environments and enemies. Outlaws fell into a category known today as “2.5D”, including games like Doom and Duke Nukem 3D, which featured 2D “sprite” enemies and all had various limitations on their third dimension.

But I don’t remember being bothered by that at all, which is why I think I may have played the demo early. Instead, I thought that a first-person shooter was a bad fit for a Western game. First-person shooter design had not yet reached the point where a game like Call of Juarez was possible. Games of the time, like Dark Forces and Duke Nukem 3D, were about running around, exchanging gunfire with enemies, collecting ammo and health pickups, all in environments that bore little resemblance to real locations (Duke Nukem made some effort there, but I hadn’t played it back then). Playing the Outlaws demo, I found myself running around a Western town, shooting at bandits and collecting ammo and health pickups, and it just felt wrong. Westerns should be slower, more considered, shots should be deadlier.

So, when Outlaws was re-released on GOG, I was surprised to hear so much excitement. The game has some ardent fans, enough to make me think I judged its demo too quickly. But the real reason I decided to play it now was all the praise for its soundtrack. I’ve been on a cowboy music kick recently — it involves a lot of Calexico — so a soundtrack inspired by Ennio Morricone’s classic Western film scores appealed. Plus I’d get to check out the game itself again and see what all the praise is about. It was a win-win.

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The Complete Hell Or High Water

Hell Or High Water is an account of a single game of Solium Infernum. The game lasted two months, and the account took twice as long to write, coming in at more than 25,000 words in total. I was inspired by the Gameboys From Hell writeup over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun that originally convinced me to buy Solium Infernum, but while that condenses things a little to focus on the most important events, I wanted to capture the scheming and tension that comes with each and every turn in the game. The result is an enormous and detail-filled account, but one that I hope is both informative and entertaining.

If you are unfamiliar with Solium Infernum, I recommend reading my earlier post that gives an overview of the game first. Otherwise, read on below. And if you are interested, you can buy Solium Infernum directly from developers Cryptic Comet. Feel free to drop me a line, as I’m always happy to host a game.

The Complete Hell Or High Water:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

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Hell Or High Water: A Solium Infernum Diary (part 7)

If you are unfamiliar with Solium Infernum, you may wish to read my earlier post about the game. And you should definitely read part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5 and part 6 first. Lastly, as always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

Last time, my archfiend pair Rufus and Big beak were getting desperate. Far behind in Prestige, they were just about to try framing other archfiends for excommunication — making them fair game for open war — when Xaklyth beat them to it. His framing failed, however, and he was excommunicated himself. But with a big army, Xaklyth may be able to win by force of arms anyway. Rufus and Big Beak are hoping that Xaklyth will take out some of the opposition, so they can sneak into the top position with a few last-minute praetor duels against the champions of Pandemonium. It’s a long shot, but maybe they can turn this to their advantage after all.

Here is what happened.

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Hell Or High Water: A Solium Infernum Diary (part 6)

If you are unfamiliar with Solium Infernum, you may wish to read my earlier post about the game. And you should definitely read part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5 first. Lastly, as always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

Last time, my archfiend pair Rufus and Big Beak completely bungled their first attempt at a praetor duel, which is especially unfortunate since praetor duels were to be their primary strategy. They then spent eleven turns trying to boost their infernal attributes and managed to get up to four order slots, and enough Deceit ability to steal another archfiend’s praetor. They put in an order to steal Beowulf’s praetor Decarabia, and hope to use him and some Destruction rituals to claw back some Prestige. If it’s not already too late.

Here is what happened.

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Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons Is A Family Affair

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I’ve been meaning to play Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons for a while. Made by Starbreeze Studios, who are better known as the developers behind Payday 2, Brothers is based around a reimagining of the traditional dual stick gamepad controller for games. The titular brothers are guided separately, the elder brother with the left thumbstick and bumper, and the younger brother with the right thumbstick and bumper. Players must learn to control the pair simultaneously, so they may cooperate to navigate a beautiful fairy tale world.

I was intrigued as soon as I heard this idea, as I think there’s a lot of space for imaginative designs in how games are controlled (another recent example is Snake Pass). The fact that Brothers was getting rave reviews only cemented my desire to play it.

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Hell Or High Water: A Solium Infernum Diary (part 5)

If you are unfamiliar with Solium Infernum, you may wish to read my earlier post about the game. And you should definitely read part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4 first. Lastly, as always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

Last time, my archfiend pair Rufus and Big Beak had finally managed to arrange a duel in the Grand Arena of Pandemonium for their praetor champion, Morax, against the champion of Beowulf. Rufus and Big Beak’s Arena Gambler perk gives them double Prestige rewards for single combat victories, so I’m hoping this will be the start of a long string of victories. Here is what happened.

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