Magnificent And Important Advent Calendar: Day One

By RPS on December 1st, 2012 at 12:01 pm.


And so it begins. This is the first installment in our yearly countdown to the “celebration” of Christmas, a commemoration of our pagan belief in the Endless Bear, and the time he defeated Santa Claus by reducing his hit points to zero and then holding down E on his bright red nose.

But what could possibly be behind the first door? Let’s find out. It’s…

FTL!


Alec: It’s not a game about spaceships. (It is a game about spaceships.) It’s a game about surviving a night alone in the woods. (It’s also a game about spaceships). It’s a game about hitching a lift home from the other side of the world (but with spaceships, yeah?). It’s a game about gambling and losing everything but saying ‘hey, at least I was looking good for a while there.’ Also it’s got spaceships in it, and spaceships are cool.

In any other year I’d probably have been arguing for FTL as the game of the year. But this is 2012, and 2012 has been a hell of a year. This is not to undermine how strong my memories are of those tense moments of exploring, fighting and escaping in a game with only the loosest possible narrative but the strongest possible story. That story, which I told a couple of dozen times with different stars, was mine and mine alone – a story of only having three fuel units, finding a better gun or accidentally leaving a friendly insect-man to burn to death. Each micro-drama more potent than the last, each utterly meaningless to anyone else.

My fuel units mean more to me than my own mother does.

I love the Engi crewing my weapons more than I’ve ever loved any woman.

My ship is me. If my ship dies, I die.

Then it all just vanishes. It’s over, usually in flames rather than victory, and it doesn’t matter anymore. It all seemed so important. But what was that Engi’s name? What did my ship look like?
And it was only bloody fuel, right? Until next time. Then it all matters more than anything in the world ever, all over again.

I probably couldn’t say anything very interesting about how FTL looks or sounds or how its interface works or whether it’s well-balanced. All I can say is that I existed in a sort of blissful state of extreme tension whenever I played it and I treasure it for that. Also, it has spaceships in it.

Adam: People are happy to die in the yawning gaps between distant planets, their lungs screaming inside them, shrivelled like deflated balloons, the fruits of technology burning like kindling as the troubling and random nature of existence is laid bare. Laid bare by lasers, attack drones and aggressive insectoid boarding parties.

They’re also happy to pay for the privilege. FTL, which is sort of like a roguelike-like in space, was a crowd-funded success story, delivered promptly and in sterling condition. It also managed to delight without mollycoddling. The entire game begins with death at the player’s heels, pursuing relentlessly, and the path ahead is populated with shops, danger and quite a lot more death. Death is the bread that makes up this particular space sandwich.

One of FTL’s most fascinating qualities is its ability to cater for the serious attempt at victory but also for the ramshackle plunge into chaotic destruction. The joy of watching a dwindling crew dashing around their burning vessel while an enemy unleashes a volley of missiles toward them is thrilling, but the thoughtful trek from node to node, carefully accumulating the correct equipment for a boss-shattering build is almost as pleasurable.

FTL is different to many of the roguelike tale-generation tools that I spend my evenings with. The alluring possibility of victory that dangles carrot-like on almost every run marks it as a more obviously tactical experience – a short-form ballad of sci-fi panic in which heroism is not only a possibility but almost a guarantee.

Subset recognise that some of the greatest heroics are performed while on fire and asphyxiated and for that I salute them.

Jim: I only picked up FTL because I was looking for something to test Steam out on my poncy Mac laptop. I played it night and day for a week, with it on my laptop and desktop at all times. It speaks to my love of peril like few other games. And this was a year of peril.

Perhaps what I loved most about it was seeing the roguelike model applied in an ingenious way. It proves, once again, that so much of great game design is implementing old or simple ideas in a new way. The success and popularity of FTL proves that what people want from a game is as diverse as what they look for in food or music. The old is new again, the new is strange yet familiar, the true reward of our hobby is evolution, not revolution.

Also: spaaaaaaaaaace.

.

87 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge

    Cardinal says:

    Built an ace gaming rig, played this more than Dishonored and XCOM.

    • Premium User Badge

      Carra says:

      Hah, the same here. Got a monster PC and then I go and spend dozens of hours on games like this and Crusader Kings 2.

      • Natti says:

        …and Mark of the Ninja and Terraria and… and…

        • Premium User Badge

          mjrmua says:

          Hotline Miami and…

          • Synesthesia says:

            lone survivor and…

          • Premium User Badge

            melnificent says:

            ….to the moon. and…..

          • Orija says:

            Medal of Honor. That’s it.

          • Tacroy says:

            Wait a week and Stealth Bastard Deluxe will be on the list.

            I never could get the free version to be more than frustrating but they’ve managed to polish this one up to the point where if you look closely, you can see infinity.

          • x3m157 says:

            …Spelunky and…

          • Premium User Badge

            jrodman says:

            I spent 2k and change on a new gaming thingy. Then my internet failed (stupid telco). Steam offline worked for one day, then insisted it needed to go online.

            I found myself playing Ultima 4 from GOG.com. I haven’t stopped even though everything is working again now.

    • Mrice says:

      I dont have the money for games left after buying my pc…

      I just use it to listen to music on youtube.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Carra says:

    It’s definitely one of the best games of the year. My steam counter is at 24 hours in which time I have completed the game one single time. More then any game, it’s the road that matters and not the victory. There was that time when my crew got stuck in the medbay with no oxygen. They could either run to the oxygen room and die or stay in the medbay and die, that was one sad but fun day.

    Also: pew pew laserbeams!

  3. Turk Anjaydee says:

    I still don’t get how this game is a “roguelike”. Just because a game doesn’t let you save and it’s harder than most doesn’t make it anything like Rogue. That’d make the old X-COM games roguelikes, at least in every tactical combat map. Just because a game has demons and monsters doesn’t make it a Doom clone. I hate semantics… But I do agree that FTL’s a unique and great little game.

    • Premium User Badge

      frymaster says:

      The devs actually call it a “rougelike-like” which I think is fair :D

      I think it’s the randomness of the “dungeon” (in space) that prompts the comparisons

    • Unaco says:

      The Key features of a ‘Roguelike’ are random or procedurally created levels, and permadeath. It features these, ergo it is a ‘Roguelike’.

      • Carbonated Dan says:

        by that definition DF is a roguelike

        • caddyB says:

          DF has a built in roguelike.

        • Unaco says:

          Yes. Dwarf Fortress is considered, in part at least, an open ended Roguelike. It even received the Roguelike of the Year award, 2007, from ASCII Dreams (a Roguelike-centric blog).

        • dE says:

          Well if you are looking for definitions, here’s a decent one:
          http://www.roguetemple.com/roguelike-definition/

          By that definition, DF hits all the high value marks for a roguelike, most of the middle and low value marks too. Now FTL on the other hand lands far less marks. Which doesn’t make it a bad game at all of course.

        • Dorako says:

          Also, DF’s full name is Slaves to Armok: God of Blood Chapter II: Dwarf Fortress, with Slaves to Armok: God of Blood Chapter I being a more standard roguelike.

    • spectone says:

      Each sector is like a dungeon level and each star system a dungeon room. You delve deeper in each level to reach your ultimate goal and defeat the dragon (Federation).

      It has stores with equipment on each level. Your ship is like the player character in a rogue like. The ships crew and equipment is your characters equipment which you can collect from random events and battles.this is similar to killing a kobold getting a 1d6 dagger or finding broken arrows in a room.

      If you die (that is your ship dies) then you must start from scratch.

      The only real differences I see are that you can’t go back a level, there is no town to return to, and the game can be lost in the final battle even if you survive.

    • Dorako says:

      Also, Doom clone is the outdated term for an FPS, not a game with demons and monsters.

    • Felixader says:

      Well i feel the most important thing here is that FTL is a i-like. X-P

  4. Premium User Badge

    daphne says:

    “But this is 2012, and 2012 has been a hell of a year.”

    You speak true words, Mr. Meer. Let’s hope for an even better 2013/14 (bundled together, because, you know, Kickstarter)!

    • cptgone says:

      it seems we’re living in a Renaissance-like era of game design, in which the advantages of improved tech and indie gameplay design are finally combined.

      FTL, to me, is a glorious new game concept, perfectly implemented.
      it reminds us how simple, yet deep gameplay is the bestest – and still inventable today, despite of the stagnation of the last decade, when suits took over the industry.

      i hope there will be a sequel one day. the game could be expanded upon in so many ways…
      (a sand box style open world mode, anyone?)

      it’s easy to think of many exciting variations that would really transform the gameplay. therefore i’m glad there’s at least one similar looking game under development.

  5. Sander Bos says:

    FTL is an important game for me this Christmas.
    Because it is the only game I am still waiting for to get a significant discount in a sale.
    Come on FTL makers, sell your hard labor for cheap to cheapskates like me, all other game makers are doing it!

    • P7uen says:

      Just buy it and give them the extra couple of quid, they earned it and you will not regret it: it’s magnificent and important!

    • President Weasel says:

      It’s £6.99 you dobber, 50p an hour for what you’ll probably get out of it, if it’s the sort of game that intrigues you at all. It’s already cheap!

    • ThinkAndGrowWitcher says:

      A great little game indeed (and well worth the asking price).

      However, it also just prompted me to re-install one of its inspiring (and almost equally wonderful in different ways) forerunners…

      Turns out that the Weird Worlds mini-gem is being re-released via IndieGameStand.com on Monday 3rd December. So an early cheap-as-chips Xmas pressie for those who haven’t yet got installed alongside FTL (or for cheapskates waiting for an FTL sale ;) ).

      • cptgone says:

        a new version of Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space?
        hurray!
        EDIT: has not made it to Desura yet, it seems.

        • ThinkAndGrowWitcher says:

          It’s in there somewhere as I have it installed on there from IndieRoyale in May. Maybe they’re revamping things for the Monday re-release? (Would be surprised if Indiegamestand.com don’t supply Desura keys for it.)

      • malkav11 says:

        I would argue that Weird Worlds and FTL have little in common other than randomness and space. FTL is brilliant, tense, panicky, and every encounter can mean the difference between death in cold hard vacuum and surviving to run away another day. Weird Worlds is about collecting random crap and failing to find anything resembling gameplay aside from an essentially arbitrary combat minigame.

        • Shadowcat says:

          I agree that “randomness and space” are the main things the two games have in common, but personally I found that FTL provided me with relatively little additional gameplay satisfaction than I’d get from a 15 minute game of Weird Worlds, but then hugely diluted that satisfaction by dragging it out over 1-2 hours.

          That’s really my main complaint with FTL: each game (which will probably end in failure) just takes too long, and without seeming to differentiate itself sufficiently from the previous games (despite the randomness) to make that time feel worthwhile. So while I don’t hate FTL, I just don’t have much desire to play it, and consequently I do rather regret buying it.

          Weird Worlds, on the other hand (along with its predecessor) have eaten up countless hours of my life over the years, and will undoubtedly continue to do so, because while the games are also much of a muchness after a while, they take a dramatically shorter time to play, and so even when a game ends in disaster I don’t feel like I’ve wasted that time.

          I also had a previous conversation along these lines regarding the two games, so I would just say that for some people one of the two is clearly going to scratch the space rogue-like itch significantly better than the other. However, with the upcoming sale of ridiculous cheapness, there’s really almost no reason for anyone not to pick up Weird Worlds and see for themselves what they think of it (regardless of your thoughts on FTL — I’m sure that plenty of people would enjoy both games).

        • cptgone says:

          no gameplay in Weird Worlds? i have to disagree.

          Weird Worlds is a casual game that requires very little time to play.
          Each game is a little adventure, in which one has to make choices all the time. one has to pick a route, hire NPCs or not, decide on a diplomatic stance, decide what ship modules (and other stuff) to buy/use/trade, decide whether to fight or flee… The game has a clear goal: successfully complete your mission… and top your high score. Along the way, encounters and loot are a source of humorous fun.

          In short, it tickles some of our fundamental urges: explore, collect stuff, grow stronger, achieve some measure of control over our surroundings.

          most people will enjoy playing it. and that includes people who aren’t typical gamers.

    • TomxJ says:

      Or even a demo. Did they ever release a demo?

    • Sander Bos says:

      Woohoo, Christmas came early, 40% off, pretty smart move on their part to do it now, they get some attention now between all the other sales.

  6. salejemaster says:

    GOTY

  7. Meat Circus says:

    First (and so far only) game I have Kickstarted that has so far gone on to exist. And yea, it is good. So there’s lovely.

  8. CMaster says:

    It’s a fantastic game, I’m really pleased with it and want to see more people streching what can be done with rougelike ideas.

    As with similar stuff like The Wager however, I find myself desperate for more variety – you’ve seen almost all the events in a couple of playthroughs. I also desperatley want an “away team” expansion, that lets you actually play a big chunk of the non-space-combat events.

  9. ShootyFace says:

    Definitely worthy of all the praise it’s received, but for as maddeningly addictive as the gameplay might be, the sound design in the game is flawless. I absolutely love the effects and music in FTL, they really nailed it.

  10. Prime says:

    This, large publishers, is what we want to see more of!

    FTL is small, simple to play, but just such good fun. My girlfriend and I both loved playing this. Trying to beat each other’s scores, yes, but also having a bloody good time generating all those stories of triumph over non-stop adversity. Oh, and thanks for letting us name our characters (another top tip, game designers!) Many’s the time I’ve watched my girlfriend and best friends die tragically from asphixyation or rogue alien attack, while I weep helplessly from my position on the bridge. That personal touch is all it needed to place the game forever in our hearts.

    Thank you, Kickstarter, for bringing us something so very special that we may never have seen otherwise. And I hope every big publisher reading this feels the appropriate amount of shame for their feckless abandonment of what makes gaming truly great, and their shocking waste of resources in playing it safe with Yet Another Horrendously Expensive Generic Shooter XXXXIV.

    • Rindan says:

      Eh, speak for yourself. I don’t want large publisher wasting their time on FTL like games. We live in a magical era where the power you can dump into one talented programmers hands has gone through the roof. As simple as FTL is, it couldn’t have existed 10 years ago. It would have been much harder to build and impossible to sell. I want smart and creative individuals working on games like FTL, and I worship at the alter of Steam for giving them a place to sell. Programming firepower and Steam (and Kickstarter, to a lesser extent) has made this possible. Big publishers are not needed and, frankly, not all that welcome.

      That isn’t to trash on big publishers. I love big publishers. I just want them to play to their strengths. I want them making big budget multi-million dollar games that a couple of dudes in their basement can’t make. I like those games too. It is a fantastic world where there is so much big name and indie stuff out that is awesome that I simply don’t have even a fraction of the time available to play it all. My Steam game list is increasingly filled with games I just haven’t gotten to yet, and that is fantastic. I want more of what the industry, both large and small, have been pumping out.

      Personally, I dread the day when large publishers decide to hire an army of programmer and try and shit out 10,000 FTL sized games a year instead of making a couple of big budget games.

  11. ThinkAndGrowWitcher says:

    [oops]

  12. Premium User Badge

    golem09 says:

    Fine, FINE, I’ll buy it.
    Would be nice if this calender would come with a one day only discount on the game.
    Next year maybe?

  13. Inglourious Badger says:

    Come on then, people, predictions for the 24th December game? I’m calling XCOM

    Thought FTL was a contender. Not sure about all this talk of it being winnable though, I’ve reached the final boss and there’s no way in hell I’m ever beating that

    • Unaco says:

      Spacechem.

      • Premium User Badge

        beekay says:

        Spacechem was definitely 2011. I remember this because I’ve now been playing it for almost two years. I’m at the final level and I can’t bring myself to start working on it. It took me a year to do the second-last world. Hrrng.

        (I’m thinking, since it’s not Dishonored, it must be XCOM – which I’d be disappointed by, given its many shortcomings.)

      • Inglourious Badger says:

        Yeah, Spacechem was not only last year but beginning of January last year. Keep up!

        • Unaco says:

          The Hivemind don’t know that though. I’ll go for Frozen Synapse then.

          • Premium User Badge

            stahlwerk says:

            /me looks up Frozen Synapse on his Steam account:

            “Last played December 24th, 2011″

          • Unaco says:

            Netbook, Steam Offline mode, doesn’t register in my Steam play time. Also… how do you know ALL of my Steam Accounts? Oh, that’s right. You don’t.

            This is besides the point… I was trying to make a joke… SpaceChem and FroNapse were games that, in years gone by, elicited some debate when it came to these ‘Games of the Year’ features… either because they were forgotten about (due to confusion as to when they were released) or due to argument over when they were released. Try to keep up.

    • Premium User Badge

      PikaBot says:

      If you have a cloaking device, crew transporter (with a couple burly Mantises) and preferably some fire bombs, it’s actually pretty easy.

      The trouble, of course, is finding enough scrap to afford all that.

      • Premium User Badge

        Lambchops says:

        Or a cloaking device, a couple of top tier ion cannons and a full set of offensive drones.

        • JohnnyThinMint says:

          Or a cloaking device, full shields, a couple burst lasers and a pegasus missile with FAR too many missiles saved up.

        • Inglourious Badger says:

          So basically I need a cloaking device? I never bothered with one before, probably where I’m going wrong! Excellent excuse to have a late night game of FTL methinks

    • gschmidl says:

      Dark Souls.

    • NathanH says:

      I predict it’ll be an action game.

    • Premium User Badge

      stahlwerk says:

      My guess is either Hotline Miami, Dishonoured or DayZ.

    • Revolving Ocelot says:

      Hotline Miami.

    • Premium User Badge

      James G says:

      My money is on Hotline Miami. Not played it, and its not really my kind of game, but it certainly seems to have the ‘sleeper hit’ vibe that tends to kick a game into the top spot. Dishonoured and Xcom will both be listed in the last week (because while 1-23 aren’t ordered, RPS still likes to tease us about who will take top spot)

    • The Pink Ninja says:

      Don’t they go tot he 25th?

      But yeah, it’ll be Day-Z.

    • Supahewok says:

      I’ll take the long shot and say: Kickstarter. Because this is the year that Kickstarter for games has really taken off, and has showcased so many new/forgotten/innovative ideas that wouldn’t have seen the light of day otherwise. Sure, Kickstarter is not a game, but it’s the sort of out-of-the-box-unexpected thing that I like to see at the top of lists like this.

  14. Premium User Badge

    Lambchops says:

    The first game that has been a Kickstarter success story and I’m really glad it did. I’ve never played a game during beta stages before so don’t know whether this is par for the course, but the developers were great at listening to feedback and choosing when to run with it (the eventual addition of save and quit) or when it would have just over complicated what was a simple and well oiled set of mechanics. Was fascinating seeing it expand from the fairly solid OnLive alpha version demo to the eventual released version.

    As an advert for what can be achieved through Kickstarter it was great as an enjoyable, tense gaming experience it was even better and thoroughly deserves to be highlighted as one of the games of the year. Along with Crusader Kings 2 the game I’m most likely to be evangelical about and tell everyone else to play, so it’s probably just as well it cropped up first and means we’ll have no repeat of last year with me shouting “where’s Spacechem?” with increasing frequency as the the end of the advent calendar drew closer!

  15. fauxC says:

    Whaaaaaaaa? Advent calendar already?

    How did this happen?

    edit: Also, blatantly DayZ will be behind window 25 (not that I think it should, mind).

  16. cptgone says:

    thank you very much, RPS, for the wonderful FTL stories written in magical ink, that forced my hand to grab my wallet.

  17. Bhazor says:

    You know I’d probably like the game if the random events didn’t repeat to the point that on my third go I’d basically seen all of them. As it is it just feels dull and unfairly random in that I know its not my choices during the situations its just a dice roll of which choices I get.

    • Baboonanza says:

      Agreed. It’s a good game and deserves to be on this list but a lot of the praise heaped on it is wildly excessive. There is too little variety and too many unavoidable random deaths for it to be interesting for more than a couple of completions.

  18. B1A4 says:

    FTL is a good game and great idea.

    But i think it was too (unfairly) random and my bad luck is notoriously known so i never beat the boss and kill only 7 +/- 2 hours with it.

    It’s a little bummer for me. I just terribly suck at rogue-like-likes (FTL and tBoI are too hard for me) :)

    It’s like Dumb ways to die (song) with spaceships and lasers. And meteors. And sun flares, that fucking sun flares.

  19. Premium User Badge

    Hodge says:

    Damn fine list so far, chaps.

  20. Zankmam says:

    Hope that this features “Thomas was alone”.

  21. The Tupper says:

    For me, appropriate timing of this article: I unlocked the final ship (the impossibly random Crystal Cruiser) only this morning, after many, many enjoyable hours.

  22. The Pink Ninja says:

    Great game but unlocking the Crystalline Cruiser is too much of a headache : /

  23. Battjmo says:

    I’m glad I bought this game straight from the dev and never put it in Steam. This way I’m not reminded of just how absurdly many hours I’ve put into it before I fire it up.

    • The Tupper says:

      I’ll just check my own Steam stat…HOLY SHIT! THREE HUNDRED AND TWELVE HOURS!

      That’s more than Skyrim – and that felt like over 300. FTL doesn’t.

  24. Premium User Badge

    LTK says:

    Why is that stealth cruiser fighting a Federation-coloured ship that I’ve never seen before in that second screenshot?

  25. Premium User Badge

    Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    I have never had so much fun while on fire.

    Aha! I can leave Engineering on fire because it will burn the enemy intruder to death, and I’ll vent the rest of the ship to space so the next time the star flares the flames will be smothered quickly, and then I can send Bob the Engi on a suicide mission to patch the gaping chasm in the hull in the main corridor before I send a team to repair Life Support. There’s definitely a very small chance one crewmember might survive! I love this plan!

  26. antoniodamala says:

    I still think FTL is severely broken.
    It is a classic? Yes, indeed, but a broken one. The game does bring new concepts to the table, but the dice rolling is such an awful throwback to it. And as there is no game on the market it’s kind of hard to realise that.

  27. Premium User Badge

    Llewyn says:

    Valve are obviously paying attention to the Magnificent and Important Advent Calendar: FTL is 40% off this weekend.

    Also 50% off Hotline Miami.