StarCraft Universe: The “MMO” That Blizzard Let Live

StarCraft Universe [official site], the free multiplayer RPG that has been built as a StarCraft II mod, is finally due to come out next month, after an eventful 5-year development. On top of that, the open beta is now live and can be played through the StarCraft II Arcade right now. You can even play with its free Starter Edition.

It’s been a strange ride for this not-quite-MMO, including legal scares, name changes and a Kickstarter. What’s all the fuss about? Come here and I’ll tell you.

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IF Only: What Will You, The Detective, Do Next?

Cropped box cover image for Deadline

The first piece of interactive fiction I ever played was Infocom’s locked-room murder mystery Deadline. With a plot that turned on embezzlement and unfaithfulness, not to mention a fiendishly unforgiving set of scheduling puzzles, this is not the game I myself would recommend for a six-year-old. But I suppose my parents figured it wouldn’t do me any harm, and it left me with a long-term affection for interactive mysteries.

The mystery is a natural fit for interactive fiction. The player has a clear goal. The focus of the story is usually firmly on past rather than present events. Locks, ciphers, and other standard puzzles feel at home in the genre. So many classic mysteries are essentially logic problems in fancy dress, so it’s not a great stretch to do the same thing in game form. (In fact, here’s Mattie Brice on why murder mystery writing can teach us about narrative game design in general.)

So if you have a taste for classic whodunnit genres rendered interactive, here are some highlights dating from 1995 to 2016.

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Watercolour Wandering: Sacramento Is Out Now

Sacramento [official site] is among the best-looking and most pleasant of the many walking simulators I’ve played. It takes a train across the water to a dreamy island painted with watercolours, home to weeping willows, grand glasshouses, and flying fish. I close my eyes and still see birds filling the sky at sundown. Sacramento is out now for free and I heartily recommend visiting for a few minutes to wander and unwind.

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Foot Hell: Ashi Wash Introduces Awful Japanese Spirit

Hell is other people’s toenails. The worst feeling in the world is being woken by someone else’s toenail scraping down your calf. Escaping that is 90% of why I married the sea. Perhaps Japan understands this awfulness better than any country, as evidenced by a folklore creature named the Ashiarai Yashiki. This awful filthy foot stomps into people’s homes and demands they clean it (it is a talking foot, naturally). Hell. You can experience a bit of that terror in Aki Wash [official site], a wee free game about cleaning an Ashiarai Yashiki threatening to smash you. It has the very worst toenails I’ve ever seen in a video game.

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Revenants (Whoa-oh!): BrainBread 2 Out Free For Source

If you’ve been slaying zombies for a few years, you may well have come across the Half-Life mod BrainBread, an FPS splashing in a touch of action-RPG as you and your pals cut down zombie hordes. I think I remember it as being fun for a bit? Hazy mod memories. Point is: now BrainBread 2 [official site] is out for free. The sequel shambles in the Source engine, naturally, and brings several co-op and competitive modes.

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Give ‘Em the Ol’ Razzle Dazzle in The Ben Wander Murder Collection

If you’ve ever bemoaned the fact that video games often neglect the roaring twenties, bemoan no more. The Ben Wander Murder Collection [official site] is a glitzy, glamorous, and oh-so-sinister murder mystery set in the age of The Great Gatsby.

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