So from November of last year to May of this, I worked on the design of Trash Tycoon, which launched a couple of days ago.
It's a Facebook sim/tycoon game in which, rather than building a city, you start with one -- but one that's extremely run down and totally covered with garbage. The core grind involves collecting the garbage, and building machines that "upcycle" it into saleable products. While some features are gated by player level, others are gated by "greenness level," which increases as you clean up your city, but can also be increased by placing decorations like bike racks, wildflowers, and recycling bins in your city; unusually for social games, most such decorations may not be purchased (except for hard currency) and are instead created by your factory buildings, by upcycling the garbage you collected.
Submitted by sebastian sohn on Tue, 09/06/2011 - 23:34.
William Tierney, Director of USC's Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis (CHEPA), sees a need for better college application process awareness. The director is concerned that budget cuts in school districts are adversely affecting the ratio of students to counselors from 300:1 to 800:1. Consequently, many students are not fully aware of the college application process, such as: deadlines, financial aid and other requirements. In Tierney's work with the school districts, he is noticing that students are under applying their college potential.
I've been playing this game all week and it wrecked me like a dying hooker with a heart of gold and pregnant with the third child. But maybe I relate to Tower Defense games in a weird way.
There's so much polish here for a game made by three people, the illustrated graphics of course grab you, but this title does so much to flourish this genre's craft, it's like the oblong cousin of Immortal Defense, doing what you would expect, only much more so.
The Clonk series is fairly obscure, as such things go, but it has its own fanatical following -- and is notable for the huge variety and scope of its gameplay, as well as for its somewhat awkward controls.
Originally designed by Red Wolf Games, a German shareware developer, Clonk is a weird combination of aufbaustrategiespiel, arena combat in a destructible environment, and platformer. You control a clonk, a somewhat hobbit-like fellow, and run about a 2D, platformer-like environment, controlling with WASD keys; you have an inventory, and can, depending on scenario, obtain a huge variety of tools, including bows, swords, grappling hooks, magic spells, explosives, shovels, and so on. Almost everything in the environment is traversable or destructible with the right tools, and in platform levels, traversing is the goal.
Submitted by Tof Eklund on Thu, 03/10/2011 - 19:17.
“Be broken to be whole. / Twist to be straight. / Be empty to be full. / Wear out to be renewed. / Have little and gain much. / Have much and get confused.”
– Tao Te Ching, “Growing Downward” (Ursula K. LeGuin's version)
The Void is a game that I have been meaning to review for a long time, but have found it hard to know where to start. It isn't an easy game to categorize. It appears to be a survival horror game, and maybe it is, but the principle horror to survive is a kind of slow starvation (which is a lot more compelling than it sounds). It also appears to be a FPS, and it does involve combat, but it's not a “twitch” game at all. It appears at times to be a sex game, but the role of sexuality in the story is complex and ambivalent, not at all “sex for sex's sake.” More...
Submitted by sebastian sohn on Tue, 11/23/2010 - 04:45.
In the Year of the Dragon is brutal board game. You are a prince of a province in ancient China, leading your people through catastrophic times. You juggle advisors, hiring and firing to suit your plans to survive the onslaught of calamities. The prince with the province that suffers the least, is the winner.
Over a year ago Greg reviewed this game in its earlier form and criticized it for being aimless and gameless, now the aim has been given, and it's a bull's eye hit. I watched the crafting/build-a-house tutorial and I was compelled to go buy the thing for 10 EUR or $14 (if only I had waited for yesterday's brief dollar rally I could have saved a buck). If you click through on some of the other videos, such as a scale replica of the Starship Enterprise ("it's actually pretty fucking big") or the planet earth, and so on. But that was old Minecraft, the paidic Minecraft, a game has since been added, and what a game!
This is the most fun I've had playing a game all year, hands down. It rewards every creative impulse, and these impulses are now structured. A crafting system has been introduced, instead of just placing blocks as you will, there is a resource hierarchy with its attendant, diminishing fractals of probable availability. For example, wood and stone are plentiful, with the prior you can make a wood pick to harvest the latter, then you can start building all kinds of tools and a home. You'll need to the stone pick to harvest coal, fairly abundant if you dig 10-20 blocks down, and iron, which is harder to come by. A stone smelter with some coal will allow you to refine that iron into pure bars. With an iron pick you'll be able to harvest the occasional gold ore, which really is pretty useless other than as a monetary instrument (as of this version central banking has not yet been simulated) as well as slightly more common bloodstone that you can use for setting up wire-systems capable of rigging mine cart tracks or calculators, and diamonds which make for the best gear.
To give some constraint, you have health and every several minutes night will fall and unleash undead who plague the land, giving a bright engineering fantasy a nice compliment of survival horror ala LEGO. Somehow, ugly, blocky zombies scared me more than normal mapped ones in Resident Evil perhaps because using a door to make myself safe involved two cumbersome clicks with a move-and-turn in the middle, instead of a single button-press. There's a combination of chill and chill that you may experience as you look down from your lofty castle and see fields full of shambling undead, so distant, enveloped in the mists, safely away from you, insulated by some manifestation of your will and design. Then when day-breaks you'll begin again; what at first is a desperate venture toward survival becomes a triumphant cycle of mastery, after all, you've got access to your own private mine built into your house, and you may be tempted to build a tower to heaven as well. These vertical pursuits will keep you busy at night until you forgot about the whole evil-curse dynamic, save for the moaning sound effects you hear toward the surface.
The game has a tremendous amount of potential for new objects, more focused macro-objectives, social features, and most of all: whatnot. But as it is, it's a great value, especially for those who relish the petty joys of manipulating ambient systems and trying your luck for novelty, digging through aimless stone until you stumble onto an underground river-vein, all procedurally generated, and fight your way through it, digging a short-cut back to the surface, and maybe building some kind of landmark to offer reference on the return. The kid in you will learn engineering again, and if that doesn't make sense then you haven't been playing much.
In my first game I made a petty house and then decided to dig straight into the earth, stumbling onto a deep cave. The cave had a monster spawner, after many respawns I managed to destroy it, finding some diamond and gold. But woe, I dug some more and lost it all to the lava. My second game had a more hilly environment, I picked the biggest one and built a little fort on top, dug myself a garbage chute in the corner with an exit out the side of the mountain, and then built stairs around this chute that lead to a branching mine. Then I built a spiral stair to the highest level that you can build on, and started building a sky-path over the map, risking death with each edge-strafe to place another row of stone plates, before realizing that I was wasting my time (it took me that long). My third game was more of a land-o-lakes, where I built a multi-basement home into a steep cliff on some water-front property; I placed soil on the roof of my little workshop and then built a path out to a tree growing off the edge of the cliff, I then built a multi-story house on top of that tree with another roof-top path back to the newly grow trees off the roof of the original structure, upon which I built my master bedroom. Below my third basement, with another door leading out to a private marina where I kept my boat, I started mining, which is another enterprise in itself.
I'm telling you, this shit is the geeky male version of girls decorating their virtual pets on Facebook, it's the same kind of self-expressive vanity, but to the exponent of physics and engineering. It's grow-and-show to the power of power tools.
Not surprisingly, the sheer torque of possible agency in this game has translated into tremendous sales success. For having the audacity to charge 10 Euros, the game's creator has single-handedly amassed over 6 million dollars in revenues that he's reinvesting a bit of into a new game studio, which will support this game and a new one. Your purchase acts as a sort of investment in this company, as you'll get free updates on all future versions of the game. As far as I'm concerned, this is game of the year 2010.
Submitted by Tof Eklund on Wed, 08/04/2010 - 17:24.
Nieuwe Aarde was created in 48 hours for the "islands" Ludum Dare contest. The developer describes it as "inspired by Desktop Dungeons and Seafarers of Catan." The narrative premise is very simple: your world is dying, and you must expand and accumulate enough resources to fight off rampaging monsters while slowing accumulating enough surplus magical energy to escape to a "new Earth" (Nieuwe Aarde is Dutch for "new Earth" or "new soil" -- the same double meaning as earth in English).
Ian Bogost was on the Colbert Report, if you didn't see it, you can tell because his Facebook portrait says so. Bogost has long been using gameplay for dry satire, the variety best tasted with a spot of mustard on a cool day, but his latest work takes it to another level of meta-referentiality. It's a social game criticizing social games. To that effect, I'm going to meta-referentially explain my choice for a title for this review of this meta-referential social game about social games: it's a play on a typical phrase that adolescents use to summarize their eager capitulation with human sexuality which at once juxtaposes a very complex, nuanced and deeply social interaction with the most basic, one-dimension interaction of clicking; this summarizes how complex decisions have been reduced to context-senstive clicks, the whole becomes a mere unit, or perhaps, a unit operation. There's also this bestiality thing in there if you have enough neighbors to unlock it.
He's done it again, Paolo Pedercini has made a fun, polished, punk-positive satire, but this time instead of focusing on a particular industry or scandal, he's taking a broad-view of a world economy driven and chained by oil. In Oiligarchy you play the CEO of an international oil company, drilling your way to riches and dominance. I've been looking forward to this game since Paolo mentioned it to me at Games for Change in June, he told me "the better you are at the game, the worse you'll do."
Thorak & Steve: The Hunt Begins is a short (< 10 minutes) adventure, intended to be the start of an episodic series. Thorak is a caveman, and Steve his even more dim-witted companion. Chiefman Chief Man (the only character who talks in articulate English -- everyone else mumbles incomprehensibly, while their statements are rendered in visible text onscreen) won't let Thorak leave the village to hunt until he performs a number of tasks.
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