How Little Choices Make Sorcery! Feel Epic

This is The Mechanic, where Alex Wiltshire invites developers to discuss the inner workings of their games. This time, Sorcery! [official site].

From Warlock of Firetop Mountain on I was pretty much obsessed with the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks. Of course I was: they presented richly drawn fantasies in which I could play a part, my imagination spinning on their words and illustrations. (My favourite illustrator? Obviously Russ Nicholson.) Inkle’s Sorcery! series, four text-based games adapted from Fighting Fantasy co-creator Steve Jackson’s original gamebooks, capture all that made Fighting Fantasy special and add a magical extra: the dynamism of videogames.

In fact, Sorcery! often feels more dynamic and alive than videogames. As you progress through the books, your adventure keeps getting richer, the world more responsive to your passage. It’s partly down to the increasing freedom you have to explore, but more, it’s because each book is filled with choices that feel like they have consequence; that the game is watching and remembers your every move. Sorcery! is fluid and feels player-directed, and yet it’s strongly authored. It’s like Steve Jackson is writing it for you as you play, reacting to your every action.

There’s no AI here, though. Sorcery!’s magic is down to a system that’s far simpler, but yet results in at least as much intricacy. This fantasy epic is actually just a lot of:

THE MECHANIC: Little choices

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League Of Legends World Championships 2016:
Looking Forward To The Weekend’s Semifinals

Summoner's Cup

Here’s a quick and dirty guide to this week’s League of Legends World Championships semifinals match-ups if you’ve not been following the story so far! The TL;DR if even a quick and dirty guide is too much reading is that there will be at least one Korean team in the finals no matter how the weekend matches play out and Europe’s path towards the Summoner’s cup is shooting up several difficulty levels. Here’s a little more:

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17 Day-One Observations About Civilization VI

Unlike Adam, I’ve not been lucky enough to spend the last month soaking in a deep Civilization VI [official site] bath, so I leave it to him to give you the complete picture. I’ve spent a big chunk of today with Firaxis’ latest historical turn-based strategy epic though, and already it’s filled me up with things to say about it. I’m genuinely surprised by how different it feels. There are reasons why I’m massively charmed by it, and there are reasons why it’s been frustrating me.

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Civilization 6 Diary, The Mighty Pip Empire: Part 1


Adam banging on about Civilization VI [official site] – even coming into work chat while ill to bang on about Civ VI (GO TO BED YOU FOOL!) – has persuaded me that this might be the time for the return of the Mighty Pip Empire.

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Have You Played… Tyrian 2000?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

You probably have. For years, Tyrian 2000 was as close as the PC got to a truly great vertical shooter, in a field of… well, basically three. Tyrian was great. Apogee’s Major Styker pretty much sucked. Raptor: Call Of The Shadows was initially pretty, but a bit of a bore. Was Tyrian great compared to the greatest shooters on other platformers? No. But compared to the competition in the 90s, it was an arcade revelation.

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Wot I Think: Sid Meier’s Civilization VI

The question I’ve been trying to answer, as I spent a final few hours with Civilization VI [official site] before writing this review, is simple: is it the best game in the series, or the best game in the series bar Civ IV? After more than a hundred hours of play, I still can’t say for sure. The fourth game has had ten years to work its way into my mind and it has endured, Civ VI is still young.

What I can say is that it’s a radical redesign, true to the spirit of the series but finding new ideas in its elevation of the map from backdrop and resource-container to new plane of strategic and tactical importance. Few 4X games emphasise the importance of geography to this degree. In Civ VI, the land makes a mark on you, just as you make your mark on the land.

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The Flare Path: In The Denmark Strait

The trick of using high prices to imply high quality goes back a very long way in digital wargame publishing. Computer Bismarck, the title that launched the genre in January 1980, was advertised as “the $2160 wargame” ($60 for the software, $2100 for the Apple II Plus necessary to run it). SSI proudly proclaimed their creation was “worth every cent” of this princely sum. Whether you ended up agreeing with them depended largely on how much you valued novelties like artificial opposition and effortless fog of war, and how ready you were to overlook design quirks like an onerous interface, an absence of alternative scenarios, and a monstrously magenta North Atlantic. Read the rest of this entry »