Simulated Simulators!

Something has really gotten my Goat (1) recently. A genre very close to my heart being Milked (2) massively. I feel it is Haemorrhaging (3) the qualities and Mechanical (4) soundness that created such a wide reaching and interesting genre.

Right, enough with the puns! I am of course talking about the influx of current “simulator” games that Bear (5) no resemblance to the term Simulator (okay, NOW I am done with the puns!). The genre pretty much came into being back in 1989 with Will Wright and the seminal SimCity (one word Dammit!). Yes Utopia predates this by 7 or so years but it was SimCity that made the Genre explode. Since then you’ve had games like Flight Simulator, Train Sims and the old F1 Simulators that tried to replicate the experiences as closely as possible while still being possible to do for us mere untrained mortals. In the same way the FPS games have moved away from super-hard skill based tension to regenerating health and masses of ammo, and Platformers moved away from 3 lives to complete the whole game, so have simulators. They have become watered down and a casual like the rest of the market.

This saddens me greatly. I have no problems with them being made more fun, this is perfectly acceptable -I love Euro Truck Sim 2 because it is fun but still a simulation of trucking and business- but by the Gods what has happened with this last lot of “sims”. Don’t get me wrong I think Surgeon Simulator 2013 is one of the most hilarious games to play with other people since Wii Sports but it isn’t a Sim, and Goat Simulator is hilarious fun but it Isn’t A Sim! So what’s my beef (seriously, this isn’t an intentional pun!) with this influx of non-sim sims? Well it means that actual proper simulators get buried underneath these bombastic gimmicky games that just aren’t simulators. I have no problem with their existence, in fact, I applaud their focused scope and general levels of silliness but dammit why can’t they be called something else?

One bright thing on the horizon is the companies who are mixing the “silly” and the “simulation” and putting out something that is accessible but still hardcore. Naturally I am talking about Kerbal Space Program which mixes hard science and the “cute” little Kerbals. It’s a fantastic mix and –importantly- nowhere does it say Simulator in the title, it is its own thing that exists as part of the Simulator genre but doesn’t pretend that it is here to be serious.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to get back to simulating being a Robot Farmer in a 2d pixel universe (Starbound is still amazing folks!)

(1)    Goat Simulator
(2)    Farming Simulator 2013 Titanium Edition
(3)    Surgeon Simulator 2013
(4)    Car Mechanic Simulator 2014
(5)    Bear Simulator (currently on Kickstarter!)

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Game of the year 2013 and The Fruits of Kickstarter.

So this post isn’t one of those personal ones, this is a post about Gaming in two parts. Part one is about Kickstarter –specifically Planetary Annihilation and Broken Age- and part two is about my Game of the Year for 2013.

Let’s jump headfirst into Kickstarter, shall we? For those who don’t know (and frankly how can anyone who has any interest in the digital age not know?!) Kickstarter lets you give money to companies to create a product they wish to make. It is not tech-exclusive, however, many tech and gaming companies have certainly taken to it very strongly. The reason? Companies can’t take risks as publishers won’t fund games unless they know that they’ll make much more money back on their investment. Don’t get me wrong, I understand this stance, it is a business after all and the idea of a business is to make money. But some companies just want to make a certain kind of game because there is an audience who has gotten lost…

Enter Double Fine and Uber Entertainment. Let’s start with the latter. Uber Entertainment are made up of the core team of engineers and coders who created two of the greatest RTS (real time strategy) games of all time. The revolutionary Total Annihilation (which I still play 17 years since its release!) and the modern ‘sequel’ Supreme Commander. They were annoyed that no-one had created an Epic RTS since SupCom –especially after the travesty that was SupCom 2- and so went to Kickstarter with the desire to create Planetary Annihilation. They asked for a paltry $900,000 but 44,162 dedicated RTS fans screamed “IT’S THE GAME I’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO PLAY!! TAKE MY MONEEEEEEEEY!!!!”. I was one of these fans who threw my wallet at the screen until they blasted (puns!!) through 900k and went on to get $2,229,344 which means the game will be CONSIDERABLY more awesome!

They’ve so far very much delivered on their project as it is THE most Epic RTS ever. I’ll go into much more detail another time, but needless to say it is everything and more than I hoped. It is a masterpiece and only in beta! If you’ve ever thought that having the biggest weapon is the way to win this game laughs at your naivety and crashes a friggin’ ASTEROID into your base! Ka-BOOOOOOOOM!!!!

Moving away from Supreme Destruction on the other end of the spectrum we have Double Fine. For those who don’t know Double Fine is a studio based in San Francisco and is headed by non-other than the Legend that is Tim Schafer –that’s the Tim Schafer of classic Point ‘n Click LucasArts Adventure games!- and if that means nothing to you check out Grim Fandango and the bunny scene from Full Throttle to understand how awesome this guy is! They’ve done some much larger games like Psychonauts (a true classic) and Brutal Legend (best gaming soundtrack ever? Certainly on the shortlist!). However, they wanted to make an old-school point ‘n click adventure game like back in the early 90s. So Tim went to Kickstarter and said they wanted to make this little Adventure game… We heard his plea and we threw our money at him! He asked for $400,000 and we dedicated DF fans scrounged $3,336,371 between the 87,142 of us!

The first Act of Broken Age (the above game!) was recently released and –being a backer!- I got to play said act. It is the exact opposite of Planetary Annihilation in terms of pace. It is a cerebral challenge with a wonderful story and truly beautiful art and music. It is a modern artistic masterpiece of gaming and a pretty good game too. The puzzles aren’t exactly difficult but that means you don’t end up horrifically stuck and get frustrated. Well worth playing regardless of your age or gaming expectations. I would very happily play this game with kids if I had them!

A few more quick words on Kickstarter before I move on, it’s worth checking out War for the Overworld which is a Dungeon Keeper spiritual successor. It’s –like the above games- still in development but it is very enjoyable. I got to have a bit of a chat with the lead dev back at Rezzed when he noticed my City of Villain T-shirt, we spoke for a while –he’s a REALLY cool guy- and he invited to sit with him and his team and chat games… I shouldn’t have missed that opportunity (especially to pimp out my composition services!) but alas I had trains to catch. Regardless worth checking out, and on a City of Heroes/Villains theme The Phoenix Project is worth checking out. It’s being made by fans of City of Heroes which was killed dead by NCSoft because they are… Idiots.

It’s a community made game funded by the community and I cannot wait to see what they come up with (and I certainly plan on sending some composition stuff to them!). These are all games to watch coming this year and beyond. But what about last year?

Singling just one game out from the plethora of games released this year is tough. Especially in a year there anything XCOM related came out. Pretty much anything from Firaxis is an Automatic GOTY for me. However, I can confirm that it is not the XCOM expansion… However, I must admit it was a close run thing!

The game of the year for me is a game that isn’t even fully released…

Ladies and Gents I proudly name Starbound as my game of the year.

Why? ‘Cause it’s freakin’ Awesome!

There is currently no story to really speak of outside of a vague origin story (that is not yet even fully implemented) and a few tutorial missions. Like Terraria –they are similar games however you want to look at it- the beauty is in the sandbox. Unlike Terraria which gives you a single world to explore Starbound gives you a WHOLE DAMN UNIVERSE!! You can go to any star system, pick any planet or asteroid belt, fly there and explore. Build. Mine. There is a super huge crafting system and a procedurally generated weapon and monster system so you never know what you’ll see or meet.

Best of all: This is stage one of the beta. There’s a lot more to come but the game is –generally- solid. The building, crafting, farming, fighting, exploring and multiplayer is fantastic and so far I’ve spend more than 40 hours –half of what I’ve spent in Terraria!- in the game, playing both single and multiplayer.

I am mighty impressed and I look forward to what happens next. Right now we’re awaiting the final “wipe” which will wipe literally everything. Characters, worlds, the universe, everything! They shouldn’t need to do any more wipes once this one is done, I guess we’ll have to wait and see. Regardless this game is stunning and it’s my game of 2013. I’ll be writing about Starbound a lot throughout this year I am sure but I am going to leave you with a “mock-trailer” for a character I’ve created to play with in the game.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pN6j3CVXUo0

Take care all! \../

Publicity: The Super Dangerous Wad Wad Edition

Hey folks, it’s been a while. Busy preparing for PGCE but this is something that amused me and as I have Words to say on the issue figured now was the time to break the radio silence!

Saints Row IV –you all knew it would be about Saints Row now, didn’t you?!- has announced a new Special Edition of the game. Now I am a fan of special editions, especially on PC. I enjoy Stuff, so artbooks, soundtracks (OH the amount of games I’ve rebought just ‘cause it says Soundtrack Included!) and other physical goodies are awesome. I have  a map of Skyrim on the wall behind my computer and I really have used my Fallout 3 Lunchbox as a Lunchbox!

So what has Saints Row done? Well it has gone and been Saints Row. In an effort to be the most insane, intense and mind-blowing that it can here are the contents to ‘the SUPER DANGEROUS WAD WAD Edition AKA THE MILLION DOLLAR PACK’.

  • Saints Row IV: Commander in Chief Edition
  • A full sized replica Dubstep Gun
  • A full day of spy training
  • A trip to space with Virgin Galactic
  • One year’s membership of E25 Super Car Club and a Lamborghini Gallardo to make it worthwhile
  • Plastic Surgery of the purchaser’s choice
  • A shopping spree with a personal shopper to create the ultimate Planet Saints capsule wardrobe
  • 7 nights for two at The Jefferson Hotel in Washington
  • Hostage rescue experience
  • A brand new Toyota Prius and insurance to give something back to the environment
  • 7 nights stay in the Top Royal Suite at the Burj-al-arab with flights for two

Well I am glad the game is included! Looking at the screenshot of the pack it looks like it is the PC version of the game included (although at approx. £644,621 you’d imagine that you could have whichever version you wanted!) which is extra Awesome! But DAMN those are some insane extras! Trips to Abu Dhabi and Washington? Check. Fixing that face and new threads? Check. Weapons? Check. Supercar? Oh, Check! Going into Space?! CHEEEEECK!!!!

Incredible! Is this too far though? This is the thing that Deep Silver have got right with this. Saints Row is all about going too far, about pushing that boundary and keep pushing. Saints Row III was absolutely insane and I absolutely loved it! I was going to wait for Saints Row IV to come down in price before buying… Now though I am thinking of pre-ordering (a less insane version!) just simply because of the lengths they’ve gone to promote the game…

Final note; people who are interested in purchasing this Super Dangerous edition have been asked to email ‘makemeasaint@deepsilver.com’ how Awesome is that?!

Rezzed – A Real Gaming Show!

Greetings,

Welcome to a special Post-Rezzed Blog Post! What did I learn about PC gaming from today? That the indie scene is amazing, that the Oculus Rift is insane (even if the queues were too long for me to get a play), that Chris Avellone is one of the nicest men in the WORLD –and also has massively muscley arms!-, that The Chaos Engine is actually as hard as I remembered even 20 years on and that PC gaming is just the best and really is Absolutely Amazing!

More detail you say? Well, go on then! –

Project Zomboid – Pretty much the first place I went and spent anytime. The new build is looking amazing. Local Multiplayer is in, a whole three game modes are in, a new location which looks REALLY beautiful is in –the art team really have out done themselves- and the whole UI is just much smoother now. They’ve come a long way from the early alphas of last year! Impressive work. Plus they are all really lovely people to talk to.

Democracy 3/Redshirt – Both coming from Postitech games, even if Redshirt isn’t made by Cliff, and are both looking fantastic. Democracy 3 puts you in the position of Head of State and comprises of lots of spreadsheets and information and numbers! My kind of game! Redshirt is a cross between Kudos and FTL with Star Trek and Red Dwarf mixed in. Super interesting and awesome fun! Plus I got to chat to Cliff Harris (sole man behind games like the Democracy and Kudos games as well as Gratuitous Space Battles) which was really awesome. Super nice guy and a bit of a hero of mine 😀

Team 17 – It’s friggin’ Team 17!! Worms: Clan Wars is just beautiful. Seriously! It is a beautiful looking game and Superfrog HD is looking good… Alas Superfrog HD was the biggest let down for me as it didn’t look especially crisp, especially the animation *BUT* they are still working on the game so that is understandable and I will reserve proper judgement although I hoped for a stronger showing as it was the first showing of the game. (Didn’t stop me buying a Super Sheep plushy and a T-shirt though!)

Surgeon Simulator 2013 – So far the only game that I have bought after seeing it as Rezzed –downloading as we speak in fact!- because it was just ABSOLUTELY hilarious to watch other people playing it. I watched a Scouse chap play it for 20 minutes because he was Amazingly Bad at it but so damn funny with it. My sides genuinely hurt afterwards and frankly they deserve my money JUST for that! Plus it is just an interesting game and really one of the marvels of PC gaming is it can –and does!- exist!

The Chaos Engine – It’s THE CHAOS ENGINE!!

Frozen Endzone – It wasn’t there to play but a panel by Mode 7 talked about the game in detail and seems a really solid sports game mashed together with Frozen Synapse. Impressive stuff, well worth keeping an eye on this one folks!

Wildstar – Hmmm, not sure what to make on this one. It looked pretty good, with interesting combat mechanics, however it seemed a little too World of Warcraft for me. Also it is published by NC Soft who I still have a massive grudge against for them killing City of Heroes. Speaking of City of Heroes I wore my City of Villains shirt which got no-one else than the guy behind War of the Overworld to come over and talk to me… HE CAME TO ME!! Amazing!! Also asking if I wanted to join him and a few other peeps from the team for a drink. Alas time was against me but it shows the power of City of Heroes which is still very much missed.

Sir, You Are Being Hunted – Interesting idea, interesting world, interesting game. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how it turns out but it seems pretty good. Plus all the guys were dressed in period attire which was awesome!

The Rest – So Space Hulk, Total War: Rome II, Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Company of Heroes 2 and PlanetSide 2 were all there. Frankly Company of Heroes 2 annoys me *just* because of the massively intrusive advert over on PCgamer.com, Rome looked pretty good, more of the same alas, and the others seemed really Meh compared to the other games on show, especially against the incredible indies there! Although, I will say I am very interested in giving PlanetSide 2 a go, that looked a blast.

Finally the panels. Started with ‘How can new business models improve PC gaming?’ which was a round table discussion with Chris Delay, Mark Morris (both of Introversion Software –I haven’t mentioned Prison Architect as I can check it out anytime I like and I had other games to look at!), Paul Taylor (mode 7), Chris Avellone (if I need to say who he has worked at go and get an education in RPGs!) and Ragnar Tornquist (of Red Thread Games –he is famous for the Dreamfall saga) which was a very entertaining talk. You can check out the full thing on the internets –I believe it is now on YouTube)- and I highly recommend it, just a word of warning, there are a few naughty words!

Next I saw was A look back at Frozen Synapse and a look forward to Frozen Endzone which was Paul Taylor and Ian Hardingham from Mode 7. Very interesting and insightful look at what they learned from the process of Frozen Synapse and how it has applied to their current game.

The last panel I saw ended up starting 20 minutes late and was on Project Eternity. This one was Obsidian Entertainments very own Living Legend Chris Avellone and all I can say is this… Now I have tried not to swear on here and to be a bit more professional but… FUCK!! Why the CRAP didn’t I back this game on Kickstarter! Dammit! Absolutely beautiful game and the detail that he went into about the dev process was amazing. Very inspirational.

All in all, a wonderful day spent around PC gamers, developers and fans. Also, to finish with because it is true. Cara Ellison from RPS, PC Gamer, Unwinnable and the Guardian is Super Cute in the flesh!

On that note I am going to go and open a mans chest and replace his heart with a hammer, scalpel and wristwatch… Then I will play Surgeon Simulator 2013!

Fin!

E3 Aftermath – PeeCee The Cross Platforms Cross Platform!

Hola once more!

So here is my final E3 Aftermath post.

Today is all about crossplatform and PC.

The PC was rather under-represented this E3 but that was to be expected when there are two brand new Console machines stomping around!

Some very good news for PC though as Crossplatform is now a major thing. Ubisoft and EA both announced a myriad of awesome looking games all coming to the PC plus either a single console, both main consoles or in some cases current and next gen consoles!

For me The Crew is the most interesting title newly announced. I am a massive fan of the two Test Drive: Unlimited games as well as Euro Truck Sim 2. I enjoy driving around places and The Crew gives you the Northern United States to play with… Obviously not to scale but regardless it is impressive.

Then we have Watch_Dogs and Battlefield 4, the former being much more interesting as a fully fleshed out game, which are both pushing PC as their big target. Heck the Battlefield showings at E3 were all confirmed by DICE to be running on the PC. Even the one at the Xbox waffling… *Chuckles*

Dark Souls 2 is also coming to the PC –no internet petitioning required this time!- as well as lots of developers (such as Bungie) hoping to being their latest games to the PC. In fact over 75% of the games announced have been confirmed to be coming to PC with at least another 10% hoping to come along for the ride! Great news for PC gamers

To make matters even stronger for the PC several established PC games such as DCU: Online, PlanetSide 2, and Minecraft are making their way over to consoles.

Then to top it all off we have the indies, some small (Gunpoint for example, a whole one man team built in spare time) through to large companies (like CDProject Red and Double Fine) who are bringing whole new areas of amazing gameplay, fidelity and stories to the PC. Most of these are currently even PC Exclusives if such a term truly exists!

Great times to be a PC Gamer, and thus I will finish with an analogy of what PC Gaming is to me. Consoles are like the awesome toys you had as a kid, the ones that had things like real moveable limbs and could turn into 3 different things! But in reality you’d play with them for a while, which was awesome –usual things like attack the cat, get thrown out of a window to see if they float with a bag attached and having inappropriate relations with a random Barbie doll- but would kinda be forgotten. There is only so much you can do with a toy like that.

PCs on the other hand, they are like the box that said toy came in. A box can be ANYTHING you want it to be. You can store things inside of it, hide things in there, put other toys inside there, stand on it, wear it as a hat (please note we’re talking about a box, not a PC… Please, don’t wear your PC as a hat!), turn it into a boat, or a spaceship or ANYTHING YOU WANT!

That there is a PC… It’s whatever the hell you WANT it to be.

This is all super important because this weekend I am off to Rezzed in Birmingham to play lots of awesome PC games. A full report shall be up probably Sunday, or whenever I have managed to recover!

A final note, I thank you kind folks who have liked my posts, it means a lot that people are reading them and –I am hoping- enjoying. Do please feel free to comment, I’d love to chat about anything related to things I post! Cheers!

E3 Aftermath – The PS4

Hola!

On to the second of my Post-E3 wafflings!

Let’s look at the PS4, shall we?

–Hardware–

As I have already detailed the specs previously I’ll gloss over what we already knew. Still a pretty decent machine and it is very aggressively priced. I know I certainly could not build a capable PC for that price-range. £349 is a very smart price, especially with the XBones price being considerably higher.

I am intrigued by two new announcements, hardware-wise, with the Game Streaming to the Sony Vita being the one that is grabbing my attention.
This very much seems to be a Nintendo-move as the Wii U seems built around the idea of having game streaming built in as part of the whole system.

The second cool thing it the LED Light Bar, Centre Touchpad and speaker all built into the new Controller. It all seems rather fun and combines what I feel are some of the best parts of Nintendo put into a single control.

–Software–

So what is new? Well, no native back-compatibility. That’s quite a big blow, however, Sony have talked about emulation. Doesn’t mean it will happen though.

Now the big one. PlayStation Plus. XBone and PlayStation will both require paid internet for online play… Now if you are already paying for your internet from your ISP and then have to pay to play your games you *buy* online I find that a very bitter pill… Word is that may get free games by being part of PlayStation stuff which would at least make it less terrible.

However, plus point is that games can be shared and resold without restriction (at least none from Sony).

–Games–

Exclusives are also thin on the ground, a new Infamous and Killzone but that is about it although you can bet on a new Uncharted at some point.

Other games such as DCU:Online and PlanetSide 2 which are currently PC only games will be coming to the PS4 which is rather impressive as both are large scale MMOs… Impressive stuff!

–Conclusion–

Sony have made the right noises, have a strong game lineup (doesn’t seem it thus far but more shall become clear in the next installment!) and have managed to turn their dreadful PS3 launch into a very successful spearhead on the PS4 campaign. They’ve listened to not only the Sony and PlayStation fans about what they wanted in a new console but to the wider audience and even looked at what has -and hasn’t- worked in the competition.

All in all, bloody good work Sony… I won’t be buying your console but by the Gods I am rooting for it!

E3 Aftermath – The Xbox One

Greetings!

So E3 has come and it has gone.

I have quite a lot of thoughts about it all so here is part one of three. This one is focused on the XBone.

–Hardware–

So the Xbox is running an AMD Jaguar x86 8-core CPU with the GCN 768-SPU stuck in there for the graphical grunt. 8gb of DDR3 memory (running at 2133mhz), Blu-ray, and even a 500GB HDD.

Not bad going, although one immediate thing I note, however, is that this 8gb of RAM isn’t 8gb of memory that can be accessed by games. Only 6gb is actually usable the rest is for the OS. Likewise the HDD won’t have a 500GB capacity.

So all in all it is the weaker of the two big consoles hardware wise. Not by a massive amount but it *is* the weaker one.

Now -as previously blogged- my current PC is better than the PS4 and the XBone is not as powerful as the PS4.

Still it is a decent looking spec under the exterior even though it isn’t anything “special” coming from a PC home.

–Software–

So the XBone will have a Triple-OS. A combo of the Xbox OS with a Windows 8 Kernel and a Virtualisation OS. Pretty interesting as -potentially- any Windows 8 software could work
on the x86 CPU.

Once again the new Xbox offers no backwards compatibility. They’ve argued that no-one wants to play their old games *that they’ve paid for* on a new machine and if you want to play old games then just keep your 360… Sorry, but whut?! No-one wants to play their old games? I have over 250 games on Steam, a further 40-odd from GOG.com as well as actual BOXED games… Now I can grab the discs of Jedi Knight, whack ’em in my PC and then play Jedi Knight… I was playing Rollercoaster Tycoon only yesterday! So I guess it’s just me who wants backward compatibility in their systems?

I thought so Microsoft…

On the software side the Kinect… Now I am all for motion usage in games. The Wii became the largest selling console of the last generation because of it! However, something that analyses you while you watch Television… HELLS no! The Wii and the Playstation Move we’re things that watched you, they saw movement though the controller and converted that into in game movement. That is fine! “Spying” is not fine Microsoft. Not fine at all!

Let’s not even start on the game-sharing policy or the whole online thing!

–Games–

Right, so this is the point of the consoles, right? So what are these Exclusives that these boxes push for that makes them feel special, eh?

Turns out there isn’t many… Forza, Ryse and Dead Rising 3 are the only ones that actually looked interesting. However, Forza can be trumped by The Crew (which looks Amazing!) and Dead Rising 3 can be trumped by any number of upcoming zombie games. So Project Spark, Titanfall, all those sports games, Mirror’s Edge 2 and Battlefield 4 are all coming to the PC… In fact a suprisingly large amount of “next-gen” games are using the PC as the lead platform…

I love being part of the next-gen *right now* baby!

–Conclusion–

The Xbox One is a confusingly named, mess of a console with games which are mostly going to be available on PC and PS4.

The whole point of a system -regardless of console, laptop, tablet or desktop- is that it does what you want it to and that you feel the developers value your money…

On that final note I shall finish with a quote from Don Mattrick, the president of Interactuve Entertainment Business at Microsoft about people who do not have an internet connection or a very poor connection…

“Fortunately we have a product for people who aren’t able to get some form of connectivity, it’s called Xbox 360”

Thanks Microsoft, glad I am not just a number to you!