Posts Tagged ‘alpha’

Premature Evaluation: The Flame In The Flood

Considering how large floods figure in the early myths of nearly every culture on the planet, they have been a surprisingly unpopular trope in Western apocalyptic fiction during the course of the last century. Despite terrible floods ravaging parts of the third world during my life-time - I particularly recall the news footage from Bangladesh in the 80s and 90s - it has really taken the advent of personal documentation with mobile phones and YouTube, as was proliferate in the flooding of New Orleans and the Japanese tsunami, to really bring home the incredible human horror of such events. So much so that even Hollywood was able to look piteously upon the reefs of corpses revealed by the receding floodwaters of Thailand’s 2004 tsunami, and ask, “Gosh, but what if it had happened to white people?” - as in The Impossible, starring Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts. Maybe such films do good, in a cynical, roundabout and kinda racist way; maybe that “what if” is really the only way to engage a complacent Western audience in sympathy with people of another skin colour. But I’m not convinced. I tend to think films like The Impossible permit a kind of callow self-pity, allowing a privileged audience to dip into the suffering of another people and come out unscathed, while at the same time reinforcing the notion that the outside world is a place full of chaos and death.

Each week Marsh Davies paddles through the polluted torrent which is Early Access and comes back with any stories he can find, or otherwise tumbles overboard and lets himself sink beneath the surging water. This week he’s been fighting against the tide in The Flame In The Flood [official site], a survival game set in a drowned world, in which a girl and her dog paddle between islands looking for resources – then eventually fail to find them and die.

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Premature Evaluation: Dead Realm

There are few areas in which I can claim to be a qualified authority, but, through the act of living in the rector’s lodge of an exceptionally picturesque but rather isolated graveyard for a number of years, I can probably cite a certain expertise in the non-existence of ghosts. As I was forced to tell the inquisitive, slightly perturbed taxi drivers who were occasionally required to drive me home up the long, rough, unlit track to the cemetery, I never experienced anything remotely supernatural while living there. And yes, the neighbours ARE quiet, ha ha. I felt I had to laugh each time, if only give some sense of assurance that I wasn’t going to axe-murder them and do something unnatural with their heavily-gnawed bones in the dark recesses of a crypt.

Each week Marsh Davies haunts the halls of Early Access, scaring up any stories he can find and/or enduring the eternal torment of the damned. This week he’s been playing Dead Realm, a spooky multiplayer game of hide-and-seek made under direction from YouTubers.

Pretty much every culture on the planet has a form of hide-and-seek and has done for thousands of years – even the ancient Greeks played it with the rules barely changing in the millennia since – so it’s a bit odd that games have largely relegated this kind of play to the modding scene. And it’s all the more surprising given what a massive entertainment spectacle it has subsequently become, largely thanks to Garry’s Mod and no small number of YouTubers, whose raucous antics wrack up cumulative viewing figures in the many, many millions. Combine this ruleset with that other video-friendly favourite, the viral horror game, throw in a few reaction cams, and you have surely created as potent an expression of YouTube gaming’s raw essence as has ever been divined. This must be at least partly the intent behind Dead Realm, a hide-and-spook hybrid, in which one ghost hunts the remaining players in a mansion, turning each of those it catches to its side, and, hopefully, noisily loosening some bowels in the process.

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Impressions: Satirical School Sim No Pineapple Left Behind

No Pineapple Left Behind [official site] is nominally about magical teachers managing a farcical school, but in reality it’s a grim indictment of an education system which prioritises funding and grades over personal development. This means that gags about casting spells to transform unruly pupils into obedient but homogeneous pineapples are about as far as the humour goes, at least in the very early alpha version I’ve been playing. In other words, if you’re here solely because of fruit-based gags, you either need to adjust your expectations or walk away now.
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Premature Evaluation: Interstellar Rift

Each week Marsh Davies battles the overwhelming urge to flee, struggles through an Early Access game, and comes back with any stories he can find inside. But this week he’s on holiday, and so in his stead Brendan Caldwell has played Interstellar Rift, a multiplayer starship construction sim.

I spawn on an impossibly advanced spacecraft. We are floating among asteroids and surrounded by a flotilla of other impossibly advanced spacecraft. The computer terminals flicker on and off as I walk past, chirruping for attention. The doors part with a welcoming breeze of pressurised air. The ship’s corridors shine with the glow of futuristic pride. Truly, this is a magnificent time to be alive. A time of scientific glory, a time in which anything and everything is possible.

Hey. This vending machine is broken.

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Premature Evaluation: Space Rogue

One of the most charming things about Space Rogue is its stylistic nod to 50s retrofuturism - a vision of the future that simultaneously remembers the past’s quaint anticipation for that future. This is a very new thing in human history - for two reasons: firstly, futuristic fiction itself hasn’t been around for long; secondly, technological progress has only in the last century achieved such a speed that we are able to scoff at or feel nostalgic for predictions made during our own life-times. Perhaps this is why retro-futurism currently operates in just three rapidly well-worn modes: steampunk born of Jules Verne’s fantastic voyages and assorted Victoriana; Space Age Americana of The Jetsons kind; and cyberpunk, replete with jacked matrices and augmented beards.

Each week Marsh Davies beams aboard the hostile vessel of Early Access and comes back with any stories he can find or otherwise lasers the life support system and surrenders himself to the cold grip of the vacuum. This week, he succumbs to randomised interplanetary peril in Space Rogue, a rogue-like game set in space and strong contender for RPS’s Most Literal Title Award 2015.

Space Rogue is a lot like FTL. Let’s get that out the way. Your ship travels from planet to planet, encountering and resolving brief randomised events. Many of these involve ship-to-ship combat, during which you micromanage your crew – fixing hull breaches, putting out fires, fighting off boarding parties – while ensuring your arsenal is trained upon your opponent’s most vulnerable systems. Here are the two main ways in which it isn’t like FTL: 1) you are free to explore without a fleet of ships chasing you onward and 2) it has 3D graphics.

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Premature Evaluation: Eastside Hockey Manager

As a citizen of Canada, it’s safe to say Paul Newman’s Slap Shot is the single greatest hockey movie of all time.

This is a film so mired in obscurity it’s not even possible to illegally torrent like its thematic cousin The Mighty Ducks, so allow me lay the scene for you instead. Slap Shot is perhaps Newman’s finest work: a comedy from the ’70s about a crappy mill-town hockey team who, after years of crumby results, decides to let their latest acquisitions, three brothers – depicted with glorious thug-moron precision – finally play. The brothers’ savage style of hockey reinvigorates their fanbase and the team is retooled using violence to draw in big crowds.

It’s a wonderful lesson for everyone: Embrace your talents, however impractical, illegal or violent they may be. This is the kind of meat-and-potatoes advice that helped turn Slap Shot into an honourary Canadian sports film and a favourite among the demographic of retirees who like anything vaguely nationalistic, all despite being filmed in Pennsylvania and havinng no Canadian actors.

But it’s a lesson you should follow to a T when playing Sports Interactive’s recently revived Eastside Hockey Manager.

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Premature Evaluation: 3d Bridges

As will no doubt be evident from this article, I really know approximately fuck all about bridge construction. This despite living close to several historic bridges: the Clifton Suspension bridge, for instance, or Bath’s Pulteney Bridge - one of only four in the world with shops running the full length down either side! Wow! But living in Bath, where the city traffic is perpetually stricken by the paucity of crossings over its multiple waterways, I do have an appreciation for one particular function of bridges: they make excellent chokepoints. There are not a shortage of examples of this throughout military history, but if I were to pick a favourite, then the Battle of Stamford Bridge certainly has a lot going for it: it’s not only one of the most pivotal moments in British history, and has phenomenal military feats on both sides, but it’s preceded by one of the all-time most awesome threats ever to have been uttered.

Each week Marsh Davies scuttles nervously over the creaking, makeshift architecture of Early Access and comes back with any stories he can find and/or plunges to his doom amid a shower of twisting metal. This week, he dons his hardhat and unfolds the blueprint for 3d Bridges, a physics-based construction puzzler in which you construct – yes! – bridges and then run a truck over them to test both their mettle and their metal. It also turns out to be standalone level pack otherwise included in the more sandboxy 3D Bridge Engineer toolkit – which is also on Early Access. They are not entirely as terrible as they might first look. Not entirely.

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Premature Evaluation: BloodLust Shadowhunter

I’m not quite sure why BloodLust capitalises its L, seeing as it has happily existed as a single word for a good long time. Its earliest (hyphenated) appearance is credited to Lord Edward Bulwer-Lytton, politician, poet and idiom-machine, known for coining phrases such as 'the great unwashed', 'the pen is mightier than the sword' and the opening line 'It was a dark and stormy night' - which has become so infamous as to inspire San Jose State University to hold an annual competition 'to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels'.

Each week Marsh Davies runs shrieking from the burning sun and into the dark embrace of Early Access, coming back with any stories he can find and/or an inexplicable desire to wear fishnets, a top-hat and tinted pince-nez while hanging around in abandoned Chinese restaurants. This week, let it not be said that BloodLust Shadowhunter’s name is too subtle an evocation of vampire fiction. It is, however, a surprisingly rich thirdperson RPG with a mix of dungeon crawling, urban squalor and janky make-do charm.

I never went through a Goth phase as a kid, but videogames make me wish I had. I can’t help but find their nighttime cityscapes entrancing – even the squalid backalleys of BloodLust Shadowhunter, with their grimy brickwork, sallow sodium lights, overfilled dumpsters and yesteryear polycounts. Perhaps it’s because, in games, such lonely streets are so often the player’s domain. Perhaps it’s because hours of squinting at Sam Fisher’s rubberised buns have trained me to see shadowy, deserted places as a source of empowerment, from which the populace world can be observed and navigated on my terms. Or perhaps it’s because “BloodLustShadowhunter” is my middle name. Yes, there is that, I suppose.

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Premature Evaluation: Medieval Engineers

The toothy, undulating stonework battlements is often called crenelation, crenels being the gaps (from which we get the word 'cranny') and the protrusions being called, variously, cops or merlons. It's not entirely clear where the word 'merlon' comes from - conflicting attributions give it a Latin origin meaning pitchfork and, oddly, blackbird. One suggestion is that the word for blackbird is used in this way because it suggests things perched along a wall. Bit of a stretch, I think.

Each week Marsh Davies punches a hole through the vertiginous walls of Early Access and comes back with any stories he can find and/or watches with grotesque, wet-lipped arousal as the entire structure disassembles in a shower of hot, hot physics. This week, he makes, then mounts, the battlements in Medieval Engineers, a castle construction sandbox. And then he unmakes them, too.

Once you’ve built a castle in Medieval Engineers, you can look at it, hit CTRL-C, then CTRL-V and paste a brick-for-brick duplicate of your entire complex anywhere else in the level. Including the sky – though they are not wont to stay there for very long. Castles, despite a plethora of idiomatic song titles suggesting otherwise, are very much a ground based medium, and when placed in the sky, they attempt to revert to form, with glorious physics-enabled results.

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Get Lost: Curious Expedition Free Weekend

Curious Expedition [official site] is a wonderful thing. Taking on the role of a famous explorer/thinker, you’ll lead a team of adventurers across randomised plots of land, packed with wonders to discover, dangers to overcome and volcanoes to tinker with. You will watch in horror as your allies resort to cannibalism and you’ll celebrate as you discover salvation when supplies and sanity are running low. You’ll also weep as you eat a donkey.

I’ve written about my own experiences and this weekend you can try the game yourself, for free. It runs in your browser so you won’t even have to download anything. Cancel your evening plans and settle down for adventure.