Gameboys From Hell: Solium Infernum Finale

By Kieron Gillen on January 22nd, 2010 at 1:27 pm.


Who will rule hell? Good question.

The answer follows.

We’re in the endgame now. Things are… somewhat tense. If you’re new, I’d suggest you go and catch up with previous parts before going here. At the least, the last couple of turns makes the following more dramatic. There is tension here.

Kieron/Quinns: [1-10] [11-20] [21-30] [31-40] [41-50] [51-60] [61-66]
Scrofula: [1-10] [11-20] [21-30] [31-40] [41-50] [51-60] [61-66]
Poisoned Sponge: [1-10] [11-20] [21-30] [31-40] [41-50] [51-60] [61-66]

Sponge and Scrofula’s 61-66 reports will be new to you if you’re mainly following it here.

And cliffhangers… unhung:

Turn 68 – Quinns:
Oh my word I’m still here. Oh praise be. Oh, sweet merciful fuck.

My judo block praetor-swap worked. Scrofula flung the Burning Legion at my stronghold as fast as he could, and they shattered against my battlements when the melee round happened first. Barbatos, I’d kiss you if I only knew how to do it without cutting my face open.

What happened? Well, the Burning Legion might have been tooled up with an artifact and a praetor, but that didn’t help their limited combat experience; their low level. When the battle began and the game rolled for combat advantage it naturally went to my stronghold. Where luck came in was that it boosted my melee, of all things, from 11 to 13, enough to eradicate the Burning Legion before they got their apocalyptic ranged volley off.

And– oh, my God. It looks like I wasn’t Scrofula’s only target. He tried exactly the same play against Zah’Hak’s stronghold, except it worked! Zah’hak’s presence and all his legions have vanished overnight. Look at this stuff!

And then there were five. Looking at this picture is honestly very creepy. The insane part is, this turn also saw Zah’hak making his very first attack of the game as his legions rebounded off my Tree of Woe. He spends 70 turns cowering, then dies the moment he flings a weak legion against a weak Place of Power.

And that’s not all. Kieron made a genuine attempt to conquer Pandemonium! Fuck me. He’s excommunicated too. What on Earth is going on?

Wait, I know what’s going on. I no longer need conclave permission to touch either Kieron or Scrofula, both of whom have just suffered brutal military defeats. What’s going on is I’m going to make those salty jerks rue the day they tried anything as clever as this. I have two strong legions and two enemies. This will be neat and tidy.

Turn 68 – Kieron:
Quinns is being more than a little blase with that “naturally” above, of course. Combat Advantage is worked out with the level difference plus a random number from 1-6. He had +3, which works out roughly to a 3/4 chance of winning advantage. And then there was only a 1 in 3 chance of the combat advantage going to the stat which he actually needed it to – that is, Melee. So all in all – what? – a 1 in 4 chance of stopping Scrofula from having skinned Quinns and using him as a posing pouch. That was, to steal my comrade in arms’ line, tight.

I dwell on the odds, because dwelling on the odds is pretty much all I’ve been doing in these turns. I basically had a 1 in 6 chance to take Pandemonium, roughly. I needed my combat card to turn up on 6. It didn’t. Pandemonium is not mine. Sad emoticon.

Worse, when I sent the Gorgons forth, I thought that if they didn’t take it, they’d survive the combat… just. Remember that wine-glass I mentioned earlier? It conspired with my noggin, and I’d somehow forgot that ground battles have two rounds. Pandemonium gets a second Melee-round on the Gorgons, with inevitable results. My Girls are torn asunder and Descarbi goes back to the pit for the third time. It’s like he’s got a holiday home in eternal agony.

Thing is, while it’s sad to lose the Gorgons, even if I hadn’t fell prey to total amateur play, I’d have moved on Pandemonium. Around a 1-in-6 chance? It’s all I have. It’ll do.

There is a bright side though.

Since the Gorgons are dead, it means I don’t have to pay ‘em. That’s a couple of resources I can use for…

Well, not much. Scrofula and I regroup and talk about what to do next. I had no idea he was also going for Zah’hak, and I’m impressed he’s got at least one scalp for his belt. We talk about other ways to take out Quinns and Speedo Demon – Speedo is easy, but Quinns is going to take some thinking. I know Quinns is on my border, and now, with everything free, he’s inevitably going to sweep in and crush me. Still – a couple of turns to play with still. Scrofula is going to suffer similar things with Poisoned sponge, but his mastery of Combat cards is going to make that harder for him. So we plan and scheme and work out what best to do.

But I know, in my black heart, I’m no longer playing to win. I’m playing, at best, for second place.

Turn 69 – Kieron
In short, bollocks.

I lost track of the turn sequence of ordering. Despite going through the report a couple of times, I couldn’t find any record who was head of the the conclave. I presumed it was a glitch because of the fact two of us were excommunicated – and excomms can’t be head, so can never have first action. Except now, going through the turns, I can find it. I was presumably looking at the wrong tab. Last turn it was Speedo. Which means that this turn, Quinns goes first.

Quinns goes first with his best unit within marching distance of my capital. I have no actions. There’s nothing I can do inside the game to stop him.

Maybe there’s something I can do outside it. Despite the fact Quinns has been our main initial target, he’s not actually leading. Speedo Demon has 344 prestige. Quinns has 276. While there’s lots of bonuses at the end, that’s a big chunk of prestige to catch up. Why risk not being able to do that? There’s only one player in the game who can actually remove Speedo from the table. I hate Speedo more than anyone. I’m the one who’s gone out of my way to attack him most, the Praetor-only tactic offensive to me on some kind of primeval level. Remember: I went to war with someone else just so I could get to Speedo, so I could got to war with him.

So I write a mail to Quinns, explaining this. Don’t crush me. I’m the only one who can kill Speedo. You’re risking a win on revenge, man. Yeah, I almost engineered your destruction with a few well-chosen e-mails. Yes, I’m your mortal enemy. But I’m the only person who can help you win. I send it off and sigh. Scrofula and I sit discussing it. Will he accept? He’s got to. I mean, I would. When you actually have a good shot at winning throwing it away to get rid of the person at the bottom of the ladder is stupid, surely?

We, of course, also discuss how we’re going to fuck up Quinns given an extra turn. Abstractly, we could stab this turn. He has a unit within marching distance of Quinns capital. If I deceit-stun his defensive unit, Quinns won’t be able to move him in the way and… yeah, it’s a bit of a long shot. We decide to assume that Quinns is going to let me keep my scalp. I concentrate on getting the resources I need and setting it up to decapitate Speedo, who I’m pretty sure I can annihilate via a mixture of stealing his units, moving them away and whatever.

Notice something about that previous paragraph? Yes, I’m talking about deceit rituals again. Because the event which blocked rituals is over, ending as early as it possibly could.

So, yes, I had time to wait before attacking Pandemonium.

Hindsight is 20:20. Also, a right fucker.

Turn 69 – Quinns:
The Legion of the Maw just punted Scrofula back out of the Pillars of Malebolge. Today, I discover that justice is delicious. Justice is all you need. Meanwhile, a little to the West the Chosen of Quinns, that legion Kieron so brutally tore apart with the Orb of Oblivion about 30 turns back, are advancing on Kieron’s Stronghold and his pathetic cluster of legions.

Want to see what that looks like?

Ahh.

Not sure what Bad Slave Sponge is doing at this point, but he should be getting involved in this. It’s a very good time.

I decide to begin picking off Kieron’s legions one by one. The more fights my Chosen participate in, the more they’re going to level up and become even more powerful.

My turn complete, I send it off to Kieron. Fifteen minutes later comes an email from him:

“I’m not processing this turn until you’ve read the email I’ve just sent. THINK ABOUT IT MAN.”

I check my inbox for the email he’s talking about. I’m reproducing it here in full:

“You can clearly crush me this turn – annoyingly, the last turn didn’t show me who was head-of-conclave on my results, so I had no idea who went first this time. I’d have done things differently if I knew you were first, next*.

I strongly advise you don’t. At the moment, you’re losing. You only hope of winning is decapitating Speedo Demon in the next turn or so**. I’m the only person who has the faintest chance of doing so.

(In fact, I’m pretty sure I can. It helps that he’s about to get a unit stomped by the heavenly host)

In fact, I’d argue smartest thing to do may actually be to join in with me. We’re both level 5-6 decieters. Two Level 5-6 decieters can cause a whole fucking mess against someone in this position. If you use your first action to – for example – use the order which makes the units freeze and be unable to move, or march them elsewhere or similar, it sets it up for a decapitation next turn. Clearly, I’ll be cursing his city within an inch of its life.

KG

*Admitedly, it probably wouldn’t make a difference. And I should have moved it anyway. Serves me right for rushing this turn. And marching on Pandemonium.
**Or, alternatively, hoping your secret objectives are enough to make up the difference. Which is a gamble, as you don’t know what secret objectives he’s got.”

Huh. Let Kieron go running into the sunset after Speedo Demon? Seems reasonable. Besides, I had no intention to crush him. I was just thinking I’d use his Legions as target practice. I reply that I’ll send him a new turn after breakfast, a meal I’m henceforth referring to as The Murder Breakfast.

During The Murder Breakfast a thought occurred to me. It came spiralling out of my subconscious like a worm. It started as I remembered that Kieron had been manipulating all of the other archfiends for the last 30 turns, and ever since Sponge had become my blood vassal he’d been rallying them against me. How short was my memory? Not two days ago he’d told me, to my horror-stricken face, that it was him who’d put Scrofula up to assassinating me.

From there, my mind folded in on itself. He not only tries to knock me out of the game, but then when his dirty machinations fail he tries to weasel his way out of the consequences? He does this without offering so much as an APOLOGY? How dare he?! If he had his way I’d be DEAD, if he had a chance this very second he’d STILL kill me, and he expects MERCY?

Worse than ALL OF THIS, he’s used his position as the one out of us which processes the turns to his advantage! He refused to process the turn until I’d listened to his lies.

Oh, I’ll send you your turn again, Kieron.

I go back upstairs to find he’s sent me another email. It’s a short one. It reads:

“I like that this is a game where you can convicingly beg for your life.”

Oh, you can, Kieron. BUT IT WON’T DO YOU ANY FUCKING GOOD.

Turn 70 – Quinns:
THERE SHE IS! SHE’S MINE! SHE’S ALL MINE!

(Incidentally, I really like that you have this epic picture accompanied by crashing orchestral music and then you click on the “OK” in the bottom right.

“YOU ARE THE SUPREME RULER OF HELL! ALL OTHERS ARE NAUGHT BUT SHADES OF YOUR LIGHT!” “ok.”)

The game’s over! With Kieron’s legions clawing at the gates of Pandemonium the Infernal Conclave have finally made their horrible minds up and cast the 15th token! Presented here in descending order is the prestige breakdown for each one of us:

You may notice that Kieron’s absent from the ceremony. I think I’ll let him explain that one.

Turn 70 – Kieron
There isn’t much to explain. I open the turn and have a series of gasps.

Firstly, I gasp that the game’s over. Fucking hell. Scrofula and I shouldn’t have waited a turn. We knew we were risking it. Why did we do it. Too late now, eh? Speedo has won.

Secondly, wait… Speedo hasn’t won. Quinns has won, with 423 Prestige. Where did they come from? Oh – I note that Sponge has zero. At the end of the game, the blood-slave’s prestige gets added to its master. I didn’t know that. Scrofula didn’t know that. We thought the bonus you got when you take on the Blood slave was all you got from it. Wait… that means that Quinns was never in any real danger from Speedo. That means he never needed me to take him out. That means…

Thirdly, oh… I’m dead, ground beneath Quinns’ heel as his unit marches all over my capital. While I’d done the actions which would have made me safe next turn for a stab, it’s somewhat too late when I’m getting used to my new existence as part of Quinns’ fetching bone-crown. Or bowel-cleaner. Or both.

I facepalm, followed by a grin and rising my cup of tea in salute at the screen.

It’s a worryingly appropriate end for the game. I spend my whole time manipulating people with e-mails, and the one time I send one with relatively pure intentions, I get killed for it. I’m every single trickster who always – irony of ironies – ends up being caught by his own web of deceit. I wish we’d knew, of course, as we’d have played the end differently – we’d have stabbed this turn, knowing that Quinns would have probably have killed me. I certainly wouldn’t have sent the mail… or maybe I would. If I could enrage Quinns into attacking my castle, it would have made him less able to defend himself, and so possibly lead to us both going out in the same turn. That’d have been worryingly perfect. In fact, in the afterglow of the game, I find myself playing with a particularly apocalyptic scenario, which could have happened with only a few changed orders delaying final moves. Quinns destroys me. Scrofula destroys Quinns. I destroy Speedo. Sponge destroys Scrofula. Which leaves the only person standing at the end of the game, Sponge. The dog having his day…

Yeah, I’m glad that didn’t happen. Quinns deserves his kingship. Sponge deserves his footstooldom.

And looking back over the last seventy turns, I certainly deserve my annihilation. If I’m being Loki in our particular narrative, I do really need to end up in a deep dark pit with a snake dripping venom in my eyes.

Quinns:

Couple of funny things. First of all, as they got dumped to a random canton after the battle with Kieron’s stronghold, my Chosen finally used their mountainwalk.

Second, there’s a combat card in Kieron’s stronghold. There wasn’t last turn. Combat cards get used the moment the unit they’re attached to is exposed to combat, which means it must have been built… after I attacked. So Kieron must have created it in an order slot after the order slot in which I attacked and erased him from existence. He’s defending himself from beyond the grave.

The reason this is doubly amazing is it means Kieron didn’t trust me, even after I sent him an email saying I’d let him live, even after I sent him my turn again, he didn’t trust me, and was filling his order slots with Not Trusting Me instead of using them to go after Speedo like he’d promised.

Haha. That fucker. You’ve got to laugh.

You know, when I first found out I’d won I thought I’d really earned it. I saw myself dodging and weaving my way to first place before knocking the upstart Scrofula back with a smiling uppercut.

If I’ve learned one thing from revisiting our game in two dozen different places for the purposes of this diary, it’s that I was ludicrously lucky. Lucky with my starting position, lucky with my event cards and lucky when Scrofula’s dagger bounced off my throat in the final turns.

That said, Solium Infernum isn’t really a game about luck. If a bad player gets lucky, there are innumerable ways for the other players to chew him back down to size. What I do feel proud about is that I turned my lucky start into a lead which I kept, and even when Scrofula made his move on my Stronghold I saw his move and twisted the numbers to within an inch of saving myself, and I sent my turn off full of hope.

And I guess what I’m really grateful for is that despite my good fortune, my opponents never gave up or started whinging. It’s one of the greatest aspects of Solium from a design perspective- with his mighty brain, Vic Davis has created a game where every single turn is important for every single one of you. I’m just so glad Kieron and Scrofula figured that out.

Vic’s meant to be working on a multiplayer-friendly sales package right now where he sells a bunch of keys for a reduced price. You there, the guy sitting on the fence! Yeah you, with the shoes and the funny nose. If he releases that package or cuts the price at all, I implore you, buy this game. There wasn’t another release in all of 2009 with as many clever design ideas as this, and that makes it the kind of project we need to be supporting.

IN CLOSING:

The game and the demo are available here. There’s a busy forum at Cryptic Comet for arranging games or an RPS Steam Group – Rock Paper Satan – if you fancy playing RPS’ community. Oh – and an associated thread on our forum.

It was quite the game. It couldn’t be the game without the players. Thanks to the ever mysterious Speedo, whose silence only added mystery to the thing. To Sponge, who cannily manouvered into the second position from a weak hand – and for his account of the final turns, head here. To Zah’hak, who was an irritant par excellence, managing to gain the enmity of everyone in the whole game. And to Scrofula, who proved himself a Punisher-style revenge machine with a taste for the jugular – and for a pitbull’s eye view of his final turns, go here.

And, to end on a song, while at times it really was Pantera…

More often, it was more Sleater Kinney.

Some things you lose, some things you give away, etc.

And as in, Indie Rock. And Solium Infernum? This Indie rocks.

Thanks for reading.

, .

209 Comments »

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  1. Premium User Badge

    James G says:

    I waited until all these were out before reading, and… well there goes the evening. I’m also a bit worried that there goes more of my money, and possibly the thesis as well.

    Fantastic series of posts, for what sounds like a fantastic game. Actually dropped my Dad an E-mail on this, as it sounds right down his street. (Although the detail may be a touch overwhelming.)

  2. Premium User Badge

    mechtroid says:

    @CloakRaider I know your pain. The war reports and war diaries totally spoiled me. I wish there was a multiplayer aspect, so KG, Quinns and the gang could play a game of GalCiv. Oh god, that would be so much win.

  3. Premium User Badge

    mechtroid says:

    This is why I hate stardock for not having multiplayer in GalCiv 2. I loved the war diaries and war reports, I’m actually getting really into the game (I’ve finally started playing the game as it’s meant to be played: as ruthless, planet grabbing bastards, either by invasion or early and frequent colonizations), but GODDAMNIT MR. WARDELL, YOU NEED TO LET KG AND QUINNS PLAY THIS TOGETHER.

    (Also, I enjoy the fact that my last name is Wardell as well. :D )

    • Bonedwarf says:

      There IS a way to do hotseat in Gal Civ. I’ve seen it written up. That COULD make it usable as PBEM maybe. Not sure. Never had cause to try. But if you want too, give me a shout. Happy to give it a try. (I am assuming you mean Gal Civ II of course and not the original).

  4. DrazharLn says:

    I just finished reading all of these, I bought Solium Infernum based on the weight of Quinns initial review on … Game something or other

    Anyway, I’ve loved playing it and I’ve loved reading this AAR. I just wish I’d been playing.

    Thanks for making my week.

    P.S. As a direct result of these posts, at least one of my friends is going to buy SI, even more if a group pack or encheapening occurs. You should be getting some kind of cut for that.

  5. Wahngrok says:

    Thanks for the great write-up. I thoroghly enjoyed the ride.

  6. Bonedwarf says:

    Epic ride guys. Quinns deserved it, but to see it come SO CLOSE at the end. Epic.

    With the discount code, despite my demo issues etc… Since there DOES seem to be a lot of games going on, I’m seriously thinking of saying “Fuck it” and buying it.

    And it’s ENTIRELY down to this. I had seen the game and been interested, but it took this (and the other two companions blogs) to truly sell me.

  7. Spoon says:

    Thank you for this write up! This game is so far up my alley it is insane, and without this series of posts I would not have given it a second look. Recently purchased and am in love with it now.

  8. Tim Ward says:

    *applause*

    I brought Solium Infernum on the strength of these articles, and I’m pretty damn pleased with it.

    To those on the fence because of the multi-player thing, I’d say go for it. My experience so far is that the game in single player will be a walk over *if you take a martial demon*. If, on the other hand, you play a more subtle character you’re in for a much more interesting and challenging experience against the AI. My first game with a STOMP KILL SMASH strategy, was some kind of stupid 400-40-30-10 walk over, but two further games with deceit based characters I lost by the narrowest of margins and had my shouting at the screen.

    No doubt once you master the mechanics of the game it will be possible to produce similar 400 point margin victories over the AI with deceit characters, but I reckon the process of getting to that stage is easily worth £20.

    Plus, it’d work on a netbook and you can get through a game in an hour or so. So, if you’re in the habit of doing a lot of traveling by public transport….

  9. Bonedwarf says:

    Anonymous Coward said:
    *applause*

    I brought Solium Infernum on the strength of these articles, and I’m pretty damn pleased with it.

    To those on the fence because of the multi-player thing, I’d say go for it. My experience so far is that the game in single player will be a walk over *if you take a martial demon*. If, on the other hand, you play a more subtle character you’re in for a much more interesting and challenging experience against the AI. My first game with a STOMP KILL SMASH strategy, was some kind of stupid 400-40-30-10 walk over, but two further games with deceit based characters I lost by the narrowest of margins and had my shouting at the screen.

    No doubt once you master the mechanics of the game it will be possible to produce similar 400 point margin victories over the AI with deceit characters, but I reckon the process of getting to that stage is easily worth £20.

    Plus, it’d work on a netbook and you can get through a game in an hour or so. So, if you’re in the habit of doing a lot of traveling by public transport….

    Only Netbook issue may be the forced resolution. Seen people complaining about the fact their netbook doesn’t do 1024×768.

  10. cowthief skank says:

    This, and the accompanying blogs, are literally the best games material I have ever read. Truly brilliant. Thanks to all.

  11. Hobbes says:

    @cowthief skank: Ditto!

    As good writing as I’ve ever seen; reminded me of a super-charged, backstabbing, multi-perspectival version of Tom Francis’s Galactic Civilizations Diary from way back in the day. Congrats to all involved.

  12. PixelCody says:

    An incredible read. More multiplayer write-ups like this please!

    How about an ongoing series, Tom vs Bruce RPS-style?

  13. Serenegoose says:

    That was fantastic. Bravo, RPS. Bravo Scrofula and Poisoned Sponge. Unfortunately, I’ve only got the budget for one cheap game this week, and those honours have went to the Men of War bundle. I’m sure the RPS overmind shan’t begrudge me such a purchase.

    Whilst, of course, I’d love moresuch writeups, I imagine they take an ungodly amount of effort. Is this the case?

  14. Muzman says:

    That was great. I have to admit I was baracking for Kieron. It seemed so right that a slimy fop (cue: ‘And in the game!’ jokes from familiars) would steal the game out from under everyone’s noses.

    Did it just happen that Speedo never said a word and didn’t keep a log? It contributed very nicely to the suspense in any case.

  15. Serenegoose says:

    I thought it was odd. Both annoying and useful that the games true villain was such a distant character. And I was rooting for Quinns, just because it seemed right from the off that despite the legion of DOOM, nothing was going his way.

  16. Glove says:

    RPS is just getting better and better. I love you all.

  17. Bamft says:

    I bought SI based purely on the blogs. <3 RPS for your insight into games.

  18. Army of None says:

    Very awesome writeup, one of the most exciting things I’ve read in a while. It kept me entertained since the first, and always looked forward to it. Thanks so much for the great read, RPS! Well played to everyone!

  19. Bonedwarf says:

    Bought the game. Curse you all.

    Thanks for the discount code Vic!

  20. Vesperan says:

    Long time reader, first time poster – just joined to say thanks for the posts, highly entertaining!

    Considering purchasing, but I would like to play it on my Mac due to the PBEM.

  21. Bonedwarf says:

    Bootcamp too much of a hassle? (Serious, not trying to be snarky.)

    • Vesperan says:

      Fair enough point, but I have a desktop gaming PC (which I’ve put the demo on). I don’t really want to dual boot just for 1 game – I got over dual booting several years ago when toying with Linux.

      Wine/crossover I’m willing to try.. might do so today. I see that someone has had success with it.

  22. Deadeyes says:

    I’m just adding my words here that WE NEED MORE STUFF LIKE THIS. I’ve really enjoyed the AAR’s about Bloodbowl and I think I enjoyed this even more. The start felt a bit weak, but that was soon dispelled as the infernal politics started. Holy shit, you guys are complete bastards. Love it.

  23. Jakkar says:

    Congratulations, Lord.

  24. pimorte says:

    @Bonedwarf:

    It’s ~$33AU, and that’s without the discount.

  25. Anthony Damiani says:

    It’s interesting that Cryptic Comet’s games don’t seem to depreciate, pricewise. Armageddon Empires is still going for $29.95. AAA games from when it was released cost less.

    I dunno, I kinda expect indy games to be less expensive than this– especially when they have such a tiny art budget.

    I was tempted, but I grabbed Torchlight instead.

  26. Martin Edelius says:

    Well done all of you but especially Quinns. Great read – sad to see it end, etc, etc.

    Please do try and do it again.

  27. G Morgan says:

    I can’t understand people’s equivocation over the pricepoint here. It’s 25 bucks. Games like this just don’t come along very often – auteur projects from relative unknown programmers that fill a very particular, and peculiar, niche. The programmer himself came onto RPS and cut the price by 1/6th for those on the fence.

    It’s a great game. You will get 25 dollars worth of fun out of this. As gamers, we need to support projects like this. What in the bleeding hell are you waiting for?

    • jalf says:

      Can you guarantee that I’ll get 25 dollars worth of fun out of it? No? Thought not. Call me back when you can. Perhaps you’re willing to give me a refund if I buy it and I don’t get my 25 dollars worth of fun out of it? Until then, you’ll excuse me if I don’t “need to support” anything other than what *I* want to pay for.

      The problem is that 25 dollars is not what I consider “indie” price. It’s in the range where I expect a professional game, through and through.
      That doesn’t mean it has to have the most advanced graphics in the world, but it *does* mean that the visuals should not be decidedly off-putting. it means that the interface should be well-designed enough that 1) the text is readable, and 2) I, and those I want to play against, can make sense of it and learn the game without reading an entire bloody manual.

      I’m willing to cut indie games a lot of slack, if they adjust the price accordingly. But selling at near the price I pay for AAA games means I’m going to hold your game to some higher standards. Not in terms of gameplay, but in terms of presentation and accessibility. It took me several episodes of this series before I learned to make sense of the screenshots, and each unit is *still* just a big smear that’s impossible to tell apart from the others unless you look *really* closely.

      I’d pay 25 bucks for it if the interface was brought up to a semi-professional standard. If it was possible to understand what I’m seeing just by looking at it.

      And this is without even touching on the obvious group problem: If I buy this game it’s not to play singleplayer. It’s to play with my friends. Which means that they need to buy it as well. Which means that it’s not 25 dollars, it’s 100-150.

      And just for reference, World of Goo was 20 dollars *at its peak*. It has been frequently discounted to 15, 10, 5 dollars, not including the “pay what you like” thing.
      Now, I’m not saying the two games are directly comparable, but World of Goo is/was one of the most highly praised indie games ever. And yet they could afford art and sound and making the game approachable to newcomers, and they could afford to do it at a 33% lower price than is normally charged for SI.

  28. Serenegoose says:

    Anonymous Coward said:
    I can’t understand people’s equivocation over the pricepoint here. It’s 25 bucks. Games like this just don’t come along very often – auteur projects from relative unknown programmers that fill a very particular, and peculiar, niche. The programmer himself came onto RPS and cut the price by 1/6th for those on the fence.

    It’s a great game. You will get 25 dollars worth of fun out of this. As gamers, we need to support projects like this. What in the bleeding hell are you waiting for?

    you know what? I’m scared of multiplayer games. I don’t like the responsibility of having to commit my time to other peoples enjoyment. And I’m scared of being bad at the game too! Nobody wants to join up to a thinkgame only to be totally smashed apart. it’s disheartening. There! I said it! I bet other people think it too.

    Also, he did?

    • G Morgan says:

      He did – the discount code is back in the thread.

      And yes, I think not being interested in multiplayer games is certainly a legitimate reason not to purchase SI. I was specifically taking issue with the many people who somehow thought the price was unreasonable, as if the programmer were tooling around town in the Mercedes all of that mad mad turn-based strategy game money he was rolling in. The price is reasonable. The game is very much worth it, if this is your thing.

    • jalf says:

      No, I don’t think anyone’s saying “he’s getting rich, he can afford to halve the price for us”.
      What I said earlier in the thread was “you’ll make more money if you bring the game down to a price you can justify to others than your most hardcore fans”.

      That, and the price is *not* reasonable. It’s one of the most expensive indie games I’ve seen, despite being one of the shoddiest in every way *except gameplay*. And when I buy games, I don’t *just* consider the gameplay. Other important factors are interface and accessibility and, yes, graphics as well. I can live with sucky graphics, but if you make your game look too cryptic and hard to figure out, that subtracts value.

      Being “indie” is no excuse for ignoring basic business practices: Make a product that people want to buy, and price it so people are willing to buy it. At the moment, we have half a product, at a price few people are willing to pay.

    • cliffski says:

      As an indie, the world is full of people who apparently know more about YOUR business and YOUR marketing and YOUR customers than you do.
      This is just not true.
      Nobody here knows the best price for Vics game except Vic. He has all the figures. For example, try and tell me that I’d make more money if I changed the price of my games, and I’d splutter into my drink. *I* am the only person on earth who has all of the data regarding the sales, conversion rates and revenue at each price point for my customers.

      People *always* complain that it’s *obvious* that successful indie game developer X knows nothing about business, and clearly has picked the wrong price. You don’t actually even *get* to be a full time indie developer without knowing a shedload about pricing, business and the games industry.

      The price of this game is most likely exactly what it should be. Some people will get a bargain, some people will think it’s too expensive. That’s life.

    • Vinraith says:

      @jalf

      “It’s one of the most expensive indie games I’ve seen”

      Then you haven’t been looking very hard. By the standards of indie strategy games this is a bargain basement price, anything outside the $50-$70 range that niche titles of this sort normally occupy would be. I’m terribly amused by the horde of RPSers who’ve never bought (or apparently looked at) an indie strategy game in their lives and seem to think that “indie” means “should be priced like a 3 hour long 2d platformer.”

      A good strategy title of this sort is good for hundreds if not thousands of hours of play, it’s vastly deeper, more intricate, and more substantial than the kind of light, short, clever action and puzzle games you apparently associate with the word “indie.” It was also correspondingly a lot more effort to produce. There’s no reason it should be as cheap as you’re suggesting, and if graphics and accessibility are so hugely important to you as to suggest it should be, then clearly your priorities and those of SI’s developer are at odds.

  29. Serenegoose says:

    Jalf: I think you’re being completely harsh. I was intimidated by the demo on first glance, but reading the manual, and having it there as a reference meant I was able to grasp it without any real effort. Compare that to some ‘triple A’ games that charge more -and- then have abysmal UIs… Also, more than that. I hate this distinction between ‘Indie’ games and big budget games. So what, if a game isn’t published by EA or Activision it has to be dirt cheap because it’s ‘Indie’ and we demand it? From everything I’ve seen and read, Solium Infernum is an incredibly detailed, nuanced game by any definition. Galciv 2 wasn’t pretty, and it took me a -long- time to understand that. I paid £30 for it.

    G Morgan: Unfortunately the internet eats subtlety of speech, especially when it comes to my mannerisms. Whilst multiplayer is genuinely intimidating to me, I am drawn to it inexorably like a moth to a flame. A more pertinent point I could make though is that a lot of people have a lot of games they want to buy. $25 (can’t be bothered to translate it to my native currency) might not be much in and of itself, but it would have stopped me buying men of war as I did just yesterday. I have a small budget, and a lot of the time, games that aren’t basically so cheap as to be almost free fall between the cracks of more expensive games, and their cheapness can’t really do anything about that. Once the budget is spent, it’s spent.

    • Funky Badger says:

      There’s a difference, that some seem unwilling to grasp, between price and value.

    • jalf says:

      @cliffski: No, you don’t know exaxctly what’d happen if you changed the price of your game. Neither do I. We both have to guess. You’re right, you have more data than me to base that guess on, but you still can’t predict sales for sure. My point is simply that going by the people commenting here, sales would go up pretty dramatically if the game was priced lower.

      In Vic’s case, he has very limited data to work off. As far as I know, his game has not previously been discounted. How exactly does he then know that lowering the price wouldn’t attract enough sales to offset the lower price? How do *you* know that? How do you know that he knows that?’

      I’m terribly amused by the horde of RPSers who’ve never bought (or apparently looked at) an indie strategy game in their lives and seem to think that “indie” means “should be priced like a 3 hour long 2d platformer.”

      And I’m terribly amused by people like you who seem to think the value of game is a function of how long you’re able to play it. By that logic, I should pay more for walking to the shops than taking a taxi, because it takes longer. I don’t care about the time spent on an activity, or a game. I care about how rewarding it is. SI has the potential to provide me with a lot of entertainment, but that’s only potential. I’m not certain it will do that, because there are some major stumbling blocks. One is the technology and the presentation, another is the price.

      Oh, and one more thing that is terribly amusing? Your desperate attempt at justifying this price with petty insults and by pretending you’re “more of a gamer” than I am. I’ve never “looked at or bought” an indie game before? Perhaps you should just grow up before you try to participate in a discussion again. First, your insult isn’t very insulting, second, it’s not true, and third, insults are hardly called for, no matter how childish or pointless they are. Grow up. Then we’ll talk.

      Jalf: I think you’re being completely harsh. I was intimidated by the demo on first glance, but reading the manual, and having it there as a reference meant I was able to grasp it without any real effort. Compare that to some ‘triple A’ games that charge more -and- then have abysmal UIs… Also, more than that. I hate this distinction between ‘Indie’ games and big budget games. So what, if a game isn’t published by EA or Activision it has to be dirt cheap because it’s ‘Indie’ and we demand it? From everything I’ve seen and read, Solium Infernum is an incredibly detailed, nuanced game by any definition. Galciv 2 wasn’t pretty, and it took me a -long- time to understand that. I paid £30 for it.

      First, since when did “reading the manual and using it as a reference” count as “no real effort”? ;)

      Anyway, no, I’m not being harsh, I’m being honest. Yes, the game looks intimidating, and yes, I can get over that. I don’t mind reading the manual, but it makes it that much harder for people to get into the game, and the value of my purchase relies on getting a good number of friends into the game.

      As for the distinction between “indie” and “big budget”? I made that distinction for the sake of indie games, actually. The point is not the budget for the game, or the name of the publisher. The point is that I am willing to look past a certain amount of problems. I’d never accept SI’s graphics from a big budget EA game, for example, but from an indie developer, I can accept it. On the other hand, when an indie developer *relies* on this tolerance for lower production values, then it also lowers the price I’m willing to pay for the game.

      Once again, my problem with the price is not “I refuse to pay for a good game unless it’s published by EA”. It is simply “I refuse to pay $25 for something that I’m never going to play because the relatively steep price, bad interface and intimidating learning curve turned my friends off.
      That’s not harsh, it’s honest. Some of you may not care about that, preferring to play the game singleplayer or against other RPS’ers. And I wouldn’t rule out that I’d do that too some time. But if I were to buy it, it would be to play with my friends. And that relies on them getting past these obstacles. And until I’m sure they’ll do that, I’m not throwing down 30 or 25 dollars. It’s too high to be a risky impulse purchase. It’s up in the territory where I want to be *sure* I’m getting something for my money. I got something for my money with galciv because it could be played singleplayer, so it didn’t depend on my friends getting it. I got something for my money with L4D because I already knew my friends were getting it.

      With SI? I know that it’s a waste of money if my friends don’t get it, and at this price I know it’s uncertain at best whether they’re going to get it. And I know that it’s too big an investment for something I’m not sure about.

      The depth or detail of the game doesn’t really enter into that equation.

      Like I said before, if anyone is willing to guarantee that I’m getting my money’s worth, and are willing to give me a refund if I don’t, then I’ll gladly buy it. Until then, please don’t tell me that it’s a bargain in my situation.

    • Vinraith says:

      @jalf

      I’ve never “looked at or bought” an indie game before?

      Reread my statement, that’s not at all what I said. I said you (and many others here) behaved as though you’ve never bought or looked at an independent strategy game before, and that modifier is important. Indie strategy games are commonly priced between $50 and $70, and can be upwards of $100. If you’re shocked by a $30 strategy title, you’re clearly not very familiar with this particular niche of gaming. There’s nothing wrong with that, there’s nothing surprising about that, and despite your supremely defensive reaction I don’t believe it makes me “more of a gamer than you,” whatever that means.

      First, your insult isn’t very insulting,

      That’s because it isn’t an insult, it’s an observation based on the available information. Why would you interpret an assumption of lack of familiarity with a very niche element of PC gaming as an insult?

  30. Chandrose says:

    Best line in the whole thing: Fuck Keiron with an icicle.

    Loved it guys, and I’ll be throwing Vic my money when the game comes into my price range (i.e. 10-15 bucks).

  31. Warren says:

    Wonderful!

  32. Bonedwarf says:

    Vinraith said:
    @jalf

    “It’s one of the most expensive indie games I’ve seen”

    Then you haven’t been looking very hard. By the standards of indie strategy games this is a bargain basement price, anything outside the $50-$70 range that niche titles of this sort normally occupy would be.

    Yep. I bitched about the price, but you’re right. Go check Matrix Games. I have a lot of their stuff. I paid over $100 for War in the Pacific. (I bought the disk based version as I wanted the manual.) Even when on sale a lot of games don’t get down to $30. Even the rather old now “Operational Art of War III”, which is a PBEM turn based strategy game… Is sitting around $50 currently.

    Worse than that is Battlefront games. You want to see overpriced strategy games? GO THERE!

    $25 is a bloody bargain really.

    Now, Vin, have you bought it? If so, why aren’t we gaming together yet?:)

    • Vinraith says:

      @Bonedwarf

      Sorry, I only bought Armageddon Empires (about 45 minutes before Vic posted that discount, annoyingly enough). I don’t buy MP-only games at any price point, I’m afraid.

  33. MarkN says:

    @Jalf:

    I think Vic understands that he’s got a very niche product here, and that his best bet is to satisfy his core fans, and rely on their generosity to pay what he’s asking, with them knowing that he’ll have made a cracking product. Pricing it low enough to try to lure in more people risks making less money overall (it may perhaps grow his market long term, but that’s a risk that may not be worth taking).

    As an example look at Space Giraffe on the 360. Minter released that at the lowest price point possible thinking that it would sell bucketloads, and suffered badly when it didn’t. The majority of people who bought it were already Minter fans and would have paid 3 times the price for it. All he did by selling it cheap was lose the best part of two thirds of the cash he could have earned. Hence when it came out on PC it came out at a premium price, and his next game Gridrunner Revolution did likewise. That’s a lesson learned the hard way.

    It may be disappointing that the game is priced above what you’re willing to pay for it (and I understand the argument of needing to get friends to splash out for it too), but with someone’s livelihood at stake you’ve got to allow them the benefit of the doubt about their decisions. He’s asking you to risk $25 on a game, whereas you could be asking him to risk losing a whole lot more than that by selling it cheaper.

  34. Nimic says:

    So I played my first single player game, and the AI was more active than I was led to believe. I still won, whereas I’d have been destroyed in multiplayer, but it almost attempted to take advantage of stuff.

    Regardless, I think I’ll do the Multiplayer thing as soon as possible.

  35. Bonedwarf says:

    Vinraith said:
    @Bonedwarf

    Sorry, I only bought Armageddon Empires (about 45 minutes before Vic posted that discount, annoyingly enough). I don’t buy MP-only games at any price point, I’m afraid.

    That’s a shame. Gotta say the single player game I had tonight was fun (even if I did finish second to last. Largely because I made so many screwups at the start.)

  36. malkav11 says:

    A couple of things about the price: indie games this meaty do tend to be priced around this point or higher. Sometimes -much- higher. You’re probably used to a $20 or less price point because most indie games are action games and puzzlers and such that are fairly slight. I mean, I adored World of Goo but it’s done in a few hours and that’s pretty much the end of it unless you’re actually OCD. Your RPGs (Spiderweb Software, say) are usually around this much, perhaps a bit more, and your strategy games? Double, easily.

    Secondly: halve the price point and you need to double the number of people purchasing the game just to break even. Like Jeff Vogel has said, this just isn’t likely enough to be worth it. These are niche titles. There is a limited set of people to whom this sort of thing appeals, and most of them aren’t going to kvetch about a few extra bucks.

    Thirdly: indie developers tend to work on the long tail: you’re not getting huge hits of upfront money, you’re probably not even sold at retail, so you need your steady trickle of people buying to make it worthwhile and that means the price stays up.

    Finally: for people who are wishing this was a boardgame – it supports hotseat play. If you can get people to your house for a boardgame, you can get them in front of your computer for hotseat.

    • manveruppd says:

      Not quite the same, a lot of people who would scoff at computer games would happily play boardgames. Also, a board and a big map is a lot more fun for 6 people to sit around and look at than a laptop is.

  37. FRIENDLYUNIT says:

    Hats off to you gentlemen. Truly an outstanding piece of work.
    We most definitely need more of this kind of thing!

    MOOOOAAAARRR!!!!

  38. K. says:

    Great narration altogether.
    Had to have the game afterwards, no matter the price (though being able to pay via wire transfer was the clincher).
    I did some practice games on a laptop during long train trips… And, yes, playing against AI is not the way to go, but at the moment I really enjoy exploring the depths of the systems.

  39. Cooper says:

    Price aside, I would have bought this game wree it not for the lack of netbook resolution. I know I’ve moaned about this before, and I understand why it can’t go below its lowest resolution; but it’s still a pain, as this is just exactly the kind of thing I find perfect for netbook gaming.

  40. Tomski says:

    Late reply, but have finally finished reading it all. This whole series was excellent and i’d love to see more of this sort of write up. Congrats Quinns!

  41. Nate says:

    Sorry for dredging up this old junk, but there’s so much in here about the price of SI that, I think, misses the point. Had to register and post.

    Mr. Davis doesn’t sound like a guy in dire financial straits. I don’t believe he cares that he would sell more copies by reducing the price. I think that what he wants is for most of the people who play SI to love it– and a high price point is actually a way to achieve that. If he were to sell SI for, say, US$5, yeah, everybody who read this excellent narrative from RPS (thanks so much folks, I’m one of the ones who discovered this gem of a game through your words) would buy it– but that includes a lot of people for whom this game wouldn’t be enjoyable. Mr. Davis knows his game is not for everyone, and I believe that he would prefer it be bought and played only by those who will get a great deal of enjoyment from it. And, yeah, we pretty much know who we are :) See, if you have doubts about how much you’ll enjoy this game, they’re likely valid doubts, and nobody minds that you choose not to purchase it.

    And this is exactly the spirit of artistry that makes independent games so wonderful and unique and diverse. When one’s goal is to make a game that makes a lot of money, that sells a lot of copies, one ends up making certain kinds of games, and those are fun games, sometimes. When one’s goal is to make the game that one wants to make, the way one wants to make it, and, hopefully, recoup costs along the way, one makes completely different kinds of games, with their distinct flaws, and with their distinct, occasionally magnificent, merits.

  42. Hybrid says:

    Just finished all of the Gameboys From Hell articles. What an excellent read! Downloading the SI demo now.