Posts Tagged ‘Early Access’

Premature Evaluation: Universe Sandbox 2

Universe Sandbox 2 has some perfectly reasonable restrictions on what it is willing to simulate, but isn’t always clear about why it’s stopping you from doing something. I wanted to recreate the 0.1 fm wide black hole from Larry Niven’s 1973 story The Hole Man, for instance - and found the scale doesn’t descend that low. It’s not especially surprising that the game doesn’t model subatomic sizes, but getting the diameter below a couple of kilometres is also impossible and attempting to do so has this strange effect of deleting what you just typed and replacing it with the lowest number that the program will accept, and yet nonetheless changing a bunch of other stats that would be affected by a further reduction in diameter.

Each week Marsh Davies orbits the supermassive blackhole that is Early Access and comes back with any stories he can find or gets shredded to subatomic spaghetti as he tumbles towards a point of infinite mass. This week he has become death, destroyer of worlds, and really quite a lot of moons as well, in Universe Sandbox 2. Otherwise known as Universe Sandbox², if you’re the kind of terrible prick who insists on using Character Map to enforce your brand. Anyway, the game’s great.

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God Game Crest Wants To Make Monthly Content

The developers at Eat Create Sleep managed to tame that wild horse crowdfunding a little over a year ago. In 2014, using Indiegogo they raised just over $21,000 to create an interactive god game called Crest [official site] – where players take on the role of an unseen force who can express commandments to its island denizens, which can be interpreted and misinterpreted by followers to dire consequence. The game is in Early Access until sometime this December, say its makers, and they’ve already have some ideas on how to fund some regular content before and after release.

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Bounty Train Is Steam-Powered FTL And I’ve Been Rogueing On Its Railroad

“Best elevator pitch ever” was my response to a colleague’s description of Bounty Train as ‘Elite with steam trains’ when we first heard about it. There’s a game I want to play. Now, Daedelic’s train management/trading/roleplaying/ gunfighting game has pulled up at the Early Access station. Keen to know if dreams can come true, I hitched a ride to hands-on impressions town.

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Premature Evaluation: Duskers

Duskers’ premise has the player investigating the disappearance of human life from the known universe. Hulks float through the emptiness of space with only the garbled fragments of old log entries as evidence for the existence of their crew. The game puts forward a few different possibilities for you to look into and eliminate, and these suggest an action that humankind takes which inadvertently precipitates its destruction: a nanotechnological experiment gone wrong, creating a grey goo that atomically disassembles human matter, or simply the use of a super weapon so devastating that the resultant chaos causes the rapid decline and extinction of the entire species. But, assuming that humanity survives to become a space-faring people at all, perhaps the larger existential threat is inaction.

Each week Marsh Davies pulls apart the fritzing hulks he discovers drifting through the lifeless void of Early Access and comes back with any stories he can find and/or accidentally flushes himself out of an airlock. This week he’s been tentatively probing Duskers, a space-set roguelike in which you remotely operate a crew of drones as they strip derelicts of resources and attempt to uncover the reason for the dramatic depopulation of the galaxy.

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Premature Evaluation: Crest

Crest seeks to explore the way religions evolve, say the devs - although “devolve” might be more accurate here, your various edicts warping with the strange whims of your followers. There is certainly precedent for that, in the long and bloody history of religious misinterpretation. One of the most famous instances of such semiotic slippage in Christianity occurs when St Jerome - the patron saint of translators, no less - attempts to produce a new Latin translation of the bible from the original Hebrew, rather than from the Greek which had been the basis for the Latin translation hitherto. And in so doing, he unwittingly creates a pervading racist slur that plagues an entire people to this day.

Each week Marsh Davies brings a rain of fire upon the Sodom ‘n’ Gomorrah that is Early Access and comes back with any stories he can find and/or succumbs to the sordid pleasures therein. This week he fixes a puritanical eye upon the hapless hedonists of Crest, a god game in which your only interaction is to set a list of commandments and hope the humans heed your Word.

The god of Godus was less Jupiter than janitor, a god whose entire divine being was dedicated not to righteousness but to relentless menial labour. Crest’s god, by contrast, has a bit more responsibility, being required to describe an entire moral framework with a few judicious instructions. Though, that’s not to say your chosen people won’t find your religious writs open to some degree of interpretation. 180 degrees, in fact. Tell them to seek food and look after the elderly and, a few generations later, the tribe is waging a xenocide on gazelles and dancing until they drop dead.

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ARK: Survival Evolved Launches $25k Modding Contest

The ARK: Survival Evolved [official site] folks have been busy. Today they’re launching their Survival of the Fittest Hunger-Royale-style mode onto the Steam workshop. Coming with it are free mod tools, accessed via the Epic Games Launcher, that are a “streamlined” version of the Unreal Engine 4 editor. These will be used in a just-announced modding competition in partnership with Alienware where anyone can submit maps or mods for a shot at three big prizes. Phew, that’s a lot of links. Read on for all the details.

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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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Early Alpha Impressions: Empyrion – Galactic Survival

Oh my, Empyrion – Galactic Survival [official site] might be the The Martian simulator I’ve been craving since I read Andy Weir’s book.

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Savage Lands: Skyrim Meets Minecraft, Dragons’n’All

Forgive the prosaic X+Y headline but, y’know, it is. Savage Lands (released on Steam Early Access back in March, but suddenly doing rather well for itself in the charts) is built entirely from other game’s ideas, but in a such a way that I can’t help but think, “Yeah, of course that would be popular, and why didn’t anyone do it sooner?”
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Premature Evaluation: Zombie Playground

With each new year I think zombies must be about to suffer some sort of cultural burnout - but as relentless and implacable as death itself, they just keep on coming. I suppose their cultural indelibility makes sense given the momentousness of death and the widespread inability to truly believe in its finality. Also the fact that, historically, we have been fucking terrible at actually determining whether someone was dead or not, even as we stuck them in the ground. And we still are.

Each week Marsh Davies tears into the unholy children of Early Access with a wiffle bat and comes back with any stories he can find and/or ends up as a brain-pan buffet. This week he’s played Zombie Playground, a thirdperson brawler set in a school.

Back in 2012, at least 3787 people looked at Jason Chan’s painting – a helter skelter, valiantly defended against hordes of undead tots by four equally pre-pubescent warriors wielding mops and bin-lids – and thought, “Wow! What if this was a game?” Of course, the question they should have been asking is, “Wow! What if this was an extremely rudimentary fulfilment of the Kickstarter promises?” But nonetheless, ask they did, and stump up cash they did, and for three years, these wide-eyed would-be zombie-botherers have continued to ask the same question, albeit with a decreasingly civil tone. Following long periods of silence, and tumult behind the scenes, development duties have shifted to a partnership of three other companies and now, finally, the backers have some sort of answer.

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Is Early Access A Good Thing For Players Or Developers?

Early Access games are here to stay, but is that cause for concern or celebration? We gathered to discuss whether early access benefits developers or players in its current state, and how we’d make it better. Along the way, we discussed the best alpha examples, paying for unfinished games, our love of regularly updated mods, Minecraft and the untapped potential of digital stores.

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Premature Evaluation: Super Dungeon Run

In these times of austerity and inequality, in which the moneyed elites find reasons to parcel off more of public property into their own private hands under the guise of economic recovery, there is something rather enticing about the prospect of commanding a large mob of fighty peasants. But while Super Dungeon Run’s serfs are suicidally avaricious plunderers of goblin property, traditionally the reason for a people’s uprising has been to take back what was perceived to be already theirs, rather than simply to steal from others. After all, we have bankers for that.

Each week Marsh Davies picks up his cudgel and pelts into the dank depths of Early Access, thrashing wildly, returning with any stories he can find, if he returns at all. This week he’s been playing Super Dungeon Run, a chirpy top-down brawler that combines Diablo’s procedurally organised goblin grinding with Pikmin-ish mob control.

Peasants just love gold. They are willing to throw their lives away for it, bundling into dungeons full of whirring sawblades and spiketraps, diving headlong into ogres and goat-headed necromancers as though they were skittles. I empathise to some extent. I too like gold. But I like gold because of all the other nice things gold can buy me. In Super Dungeon Run, gold buys you the means to acquire more gold, and it’s a feedback loop I fundamentally don’t really get, which is why I will never be asked to work for Goldman Sachs. In games, just as in high finance it seems, we sometimes allow the numbers themselves to become our masters. What surely started out as a way of abstractly representing actual progress – making numbers go up – is now seen as progress in itself. However, unlike in some of the other more naked number traps, like Clicker Heroes, Super Dungeon Run appends a game to the grind, and it’s a rather jolly one – albeit, at this stage of development, a lot slighter on tactical participation than a lot of other dungeon crawlers.

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An Anthropological Jaunt Through Ark: Survival Evolved

A tree fell in the distance, lumberjack style, and I knew I would have to investigate. A second tree fell as I approached, then a third. By the time the man in red armour turned and saw me, I had already resolved to die in whatever mundane or horrible fashion he deemed appropriate. Hours of DayZ and Rust had instilled in me an understanding of survival gaming’s harsh realities. Yet, for some reason, all that time spent respawning had never eroded my essential curiousity for the human beings who inhabit these deadly environments. I said hello to the man in red. He held his axe aloft for a moment and stood eerily still. “Hello,” he said. Then he did something entirely unexpected. He took me into his home.

Ark: Survival Evolved [official site] has been straddling the Steam bestsellers list for months since its release. Like the many survival games before it, the dinosaur infested island of Ark has been attracting PC gamers non-stop, as if they really were arriving to its pristine beaches by the boatload. And yet the response of the games media, outside of the YouTube dimension, has been kind of muted. You can understand why. It is another survival game.

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