A game for the criminally imaginative, that’s the tagline. Whilst board games have enjoyed a massive resurgence in the 2000’s and beyond, so too have games where there are less typical boards involved. This month, we investigate a game that’s been on my “to play” list for quite some time – Rogues to Riches. This was a game I backed on Kickstarter quite some time ago and I received it late last year. We finally got around to playing it as a small group at this past GeekOut Bristol Meet and I will say it’s one of the most funny games I’ve picked up in quite some time. Read on for our full review!
Last year I managed to attend the Play Expo up in Manchester, got to meet one of my heroes, played some fun games, spoke to some lovely people and in general had a really nice time. We asked you last year if there are any more Expo’s that you think GeekOut should try to attend and report on. I have already asked my niece to see if they would want me to take them to one of the many Anime Expo’s scattered around the country but this week whilst browsing one of my regular sites I saw a link that I found sparked my interest.
2016 has come to an end now and we’re hopeful for a bright future in 2017. Ah, so let’s look out of the window… Dear God, it’s all gone to hell out there.
It has been a couple of years since the release of the core set – Players Handbook, Monster Manual and Dungeon Master’s Guide – and in between we’ve mostly seen the release of campaign books that have added their own flavour that a half-awake DM can implement to great effect in his/her own games.
Across the last two editions we’ve seen something of a template in terms of extra material, and the same with independent adaption Pathfinder; more monster manuals, more player options, flavour books that add new worlds or mixed materials that play to a theme, accompanied by campaign modules which are primarily focused on a playable adventure, rather than adding usable material for anyone to use. (more…)
With a few noteworthy exceptions, most games tend to have a fairly homogeneous progression, usually going from lush green grasslands and becoming progressively more wild, desert, jungle, and usually ending with freezing cold, winter perhaps, snowy tundra, or soaring mountain range. Some examples:
Diablo 2 progresses from the temperate plains around the rogue encampment, straight into the desert of Lut Gholein, forests of Kurast, and finally hell itself. The expansion then takes the hero to the barbarous wastes of Harrogath, a land filled with massive, destructive beasts and hellspawn.
Borderlands is almost exclusively deserts and salt flats, being the more common terrain on Pandora. The finale however takes our Vault Hunter to a snow-capped mountain in the Eridium Highlands.
Bastions journey leads the Kid from the ruins of his old town through the drifting chunks of Jawson’s Bog, forests and jungles, ending in the ice blocks of Urzendra Gate, Zulten’s Hollow and the Tazal Terminals, dripping with icicles.
Castle Crashers, Titan Quest, the masterpiece edition of Myst, Grim Fandango when you think about it, Skyrim’s fairly snowy all over but the difference from Helgen to the Throat is a marked difference, Pokemon Gold/Silver ends on Mt. Silver, and I’m sure if you think on it you’ve already conjured a few examples yourself. Why do so many game designers take their story along this path?
There’s a literary device known as Pathetic Fallacy, you may be familiar with it. The sun shines on happy days, it rains when everything’s sad, it’s tragic, but some people still do it, and if it’s done well enough you’d never even notice it was happening. The same thing can also apply to the seasons, they follow a fairly natural progression with all the metaphors to go with them, spring is a time of rebirth and new beginnings; summer is filled with life, growth and joy; autumn is a period of decay, when everything is undone and falls into decline; finally winter is the season of darkness, and death.
The progression of a game follows a like-for-like path, and often the terrain and weather reflect it. A game usually begins with the birth of a hero, the call to action that takes the normal person into a story. The action builds, intrigue rises, suspense and activity grows, driving the hero to develop and achieve things he/she never thought themselves capable of. Finally the real conflict is ahead, seemingly insurmountable, friends fall behind, the world crumbles, the hero is faced with an impossible decision or heartbreaking revelation. They overcome at last to stand before the end, victory or defeat, life or death, pivoting on a single moment.
A less heroic analogy, a decline in weather follows the decline of Prince Arthas in Warcraft 3, from the young hero of springtime, and the madness he pursues takes him into winters death, which then follows him everywhere he goes.
Keep your eyes peeled for this particular quirk of media, and how weather can influence emotions as part of narrative, and particularly look at how it can change your perspective on an area. It may not be the very last segments of the game, occasionally they are the very beginning (Metal Gear Solid, Borderlands 2, Rise of the Tomb Raider), but they’re frequently pivotal, memorable, tough, or some mixture of all three. If you’ve ever felt daunted at the sight of snow then you’ve already fallen victim to pathetic fallacy.
So here we are again catching up with PlayExpo. This time we are talking Sumo Digital who are mostly a UK based development team with an office in Nottingham and Sheffield. I managed to get some time to chat to Seb Liese the designer of their new game who originally was a biology teacher in Holland. He was first noticed by Sumo Digital because he was one of the top rated level designers for Little Big Planet, he has now been working there for four years. At the end of 2015 Seb won a 24 hour internal Game Jam with his ‘snake physics’ based tech demo and was given a team to work with to translate this into a fully fledged game. The game itself is physics based action puzzle platformer called Snake Pass and is due for release around the first quarter of 2017. So let’s go through my chat with the designer.
Chris recently attended PlayExpo in Manchester – and when he was there, was able to get a hold of many developers and get plenty of pictures. Join us as we look through Chris’ gallery of PlayExpo. More articles on PLAY Expo Manchester to come later in the week.
So I was lucky enough to bag myself a press pass for the PlayExpo that happened this weekend (8-9 October) up in Manchester. Travelling up on Friday night I got myself into an AirB&B hopefully ready for whatever the Expo had in store for me. My goal was to go and talk to some developers, retailers and otherwise, get a few contacts that we can hopefully talk to in the near future and run an article on. The Expo took place in EventCity which is just outside the main city and easy to get to by Bus.
Now I am not always the most confident person in the world and I having to go up and talk to the developers and displayers at the show was certainly going to test my introversion. Still, it’s only for a day and I had to start somewhere. You may remember a while ago I did a piece on SHMUPS and this featured the game that I bought a PS Vita for and that was TxK. I knew that Jeff Minter was going to be at the Expo showing off his latest creation which I have been following the creation of via his Twitter account. Polybius is due to be finished in the next few months and is a VR-based shooter that is being released for PS4 and PC. Now I have never played any sort of VR and considering I am a huge fan of what Llamasoft do I was very excited to get a go on the latest build. Trying to describe this game in word is going to be pretty impossible, but it’s the kind of visual noise and beauty that you can expect coming out of Llamasoft. The soundtrack, if you are into electronic dance music is also a thing of beauty which has been again supplied to Llamasoft by his own community.
It runs at a solid 90 fps on the Occulus Rift and an eye-blistering speed of 120 fps on PS4 VR, I hate to say it but it might just be a reason for me to invest in a PS4 with VR. I know that you might be thinking that it’s crazy to invest in a console with VR for just one single game, well no I would use the console for other games but it was so beautiful to play that I want to once again be back into the world that I was transported to. I managed to get five minutes or so to chat with Jeff Minter and congratulate him on creating a visual masterpiece but I was far too nervous to record our interview being a bit star struck that I was talking to a hero of mine.
After that heady high I didn’t really know what else to do but wandered around the show to find something else hitting the Indie Zone, there I found a game that was proving to be quite popular with the children attending the show called Unbox. This game has recently been released on Steam with an Xbox and PS4 version due to be released soon. It’s essentially a 3D puzzle platform game where you take control of a cardboard box. As dull as that may sound it looks like a cool game and we should be getting hold of a copy to review. I briefly spoke to Andrew there who told me that game has so far been very well received and doing well on Steam, he also mentioned that originally the game was supposed to look also like cardboard with it being a dull beige and brown colour palette with splashes of colour. During play testing, this was changed and I don’t believe that was a bad decision as now it is beautifully vibrant, which makes it very appealing to children and casual gamers. Look out for a full review as soon as we can get a hold of the review copy.
Next, I find a puzzle game that at a glance looks like a very average match 3 style game. I took the opportunity to play it a little but jumped at the chance to talk with the creators Duncan and Becca from Akies Games. Aenigma Os (latin for Puzzle seed) is a Wii-U only title priced at a very reasonable £4.99. It’s aimed at people that may want to play a game on the touch screen while the TV is in use. From what I played of it trust me when I say that it’s no average match 3 style game and the price point for what you get which includes Single player, Puzzle and Battle mode is well worth the money. Duncan and Becca are wonderful people and our interview with them along with a review of the game will be posted as soon as we can. All we need now is access to a Wii-U.
Next up was a quick chat with to Sumo Digital about their new game Snake Pass which is in the final stages of development and due out first quarter of 2017. I got a chance to speak to the designer Seb Liese who originally from Holland got to become a game designer by making levels for Little Big Planet when Sumo Digital offered him a place he jumped at the chance, first of all, making levels for Little Big Planet 3 before being moved onto Crackdown 3. Crackdown 3 was being made using Unreal Engine and so Seb got some time to learn the system but during that time he found something very intriguing about the physics and the way that it handled rope. This was the spark that Seb needed to create a prototype of Snake Pass within 48 hours of a game jam that was happening inside of Sumo Digital. Snake Pass looks beautiful being colourful and vibrant, coming out on PC, Xbox and PC with its predicted price point being somewhere between £10 & £20. I am looking forward to trying the final product.
I did get to play WWE 2K17 which was nowhere near as big a queue as BattleZone which I did not bother queuing for. I have not played any of the other WWE games and I am sure they are fun, the latest edition looks like more of the same to me. It already feels to me like they are following the FIFA football model where the EA churn out the same game with a new roster with a few new features. I can’t say I hated it, I can say I played it and it bored me. Maybe it’s just not the game for me, maybe it’s better as a multiplayer. I am bored of EA churning out annual updates, it feels lazy, a cash cow and actually dare I say damaging to the world of games. But of course this is just my opinon.
I want to give a shout out to Matt from Geek-Pride who I managed to have a chat with about what his thoughts were on Geek culture today and what they as a group are trying to achieve. It seems as though they and GeekOut sing from the same hymnbook and I hope that we can find a way to collaborate on a project together sooner or later. Also a shout out to the guy from Press Start To Join, a company who sets up parties, social and corporate events aiming to bring people together to play old school consoles. With over 60 consoles and 1500 games, there is a lot to choose from. They are based in Brighton and again we hope to have more contact with them soon, maybe even attend or collaborate with them on events.
Then there was awesome clothing company Numskull who makes amazing Christmas nerd themed jumpers. They are all of a really high quality and if you know someone who is into Christmas jumpers (I’m not) then it’s a great present. Again we are going to get in contact with them to find out how the company came about and there was mention of some merchandise that we can give away. There were also educational bodies there that were promoting their games based degree courses, again full details will be released about these soon, I have a few e-mails to send to get in touch with people.
If that was not enough there were quite a few traders selling anything from drinking horns, replica weapons, plushies, food, and some amazing jewellery, yes there was lots to send your hard earned cash on. I’m surprised I only came away with a few things. Then right at the back of the event, there was a very well stocked pinball and video game arcade if you are sensitive to noise then this part of the show you might have wanted to avoid but it was music to my ears and a great feeling of nostalgia. I could of, spent hours just in those two places alone but I had way too many other things to do.
Of course, there was cosplay, it was specifically wonderful seeing whole families Cosplay together. I found a whole family dressed like Lara Croft and a family taking on Mario, Luigi and Princess Peach. There were quite a few characters there I didn’t recognise but I did bump into Mystique who did say that they know Timlah so that was random. There were two very large big build costumes that were from the Warhammer 40k era, Sephiroth and Cloud were there too along with lots more. I’d like to thank all the cosplayers who took the time to pose and chat with me, we at GeekOut salute you in your quest to look awesome.
Did you go to the PlayExpo this weekend? If so tell us what you thought of it, what you played or what you spent all your money on. If you know of any good expo that we should be trying to get press passes for then please forward those details onto us, our schedules may not always be able to cope but we will certainly try. As always use the comments section, Twitter, Reddit or Facebook to get in touch with us.
“The Dream” for me is to write flavour text.
How many of us actually take the time to sit and read a book in Skyrim or Dishonered, or follow the exchange of emails between colleagues in Shadowgrounds or Alien vs. Predator. Do you take the time to read the info about the new item set you just picked up, the nation you just occupied, or the wondrous monument you just built? If so, thank you, and you can stop reading this and go read this instead, it’s a lovely bit of narrative starring the major Planeswalkers in Magic: the Gathering and really shows you how their respective mana-colour forms their personality. (more…)