Like many PC gamers, I have a problem. I have too many games, on too many platforms. I have bought so many discounted, bundled games that my games library has ballooned to truly silly proportions and I know I am not alone in this as around Christmas time this tweet was doing the rounds:
There’s a huge video game sale full of good games for free right now!
It’s your steam library. The stuff you bought like three years ago. You own those. Go play them. You’ll like them.
This got me thinking, at this point I have a couple of thousand games I have been meaning to play someday, and obviously I will never have the time or inclination to get to all of them. But surely I could try a representative sample. So this year, since January the 3rd, I have been trying an average of one new title a day. A game I have never played, but either own or have access to via a subscription service.
The goal is simple. Play a game for generally around half an hour, long enough to form some kind of opinion on it. Ideally have sampled enough that I can have a short conversation about the game if someone were to ask me about it. Finally, decide if I would like to come back to it sometime, and then move on.
Oh, and to ensure I don’t get stuck on a series, each time I move on, I should move at least one letter down the alphabet. I wonder how many times I will get through before I have to skip a letter.
So far I have found this very rewarding. It turns out that, even bloated as it is, my library consists mostly of games that I at least like. This series provides the constant novelty that I crave. It feeds the same part of my brain that keeps me on Twitter and Reddit longer than is healthy.
I plan to give weekly highlights (and the occasional lowlights) on the blog here, but as always you can catch the videos on YouTube.
It has been a while, sorry about that. I’ll try to do better in the future.
The last time I posted, it was a short update on the results of my channel’s format change, the results were inconclusive, overall not the pick up in audience I was after, but ceasing trying to put up videos every day reduced pressure and stress. To this day I haven’t received any comments asking for the let’s plays to return.
That said, roughly two weeks after that fateful post in September, I went back to daily or near daily uploads. Why? Because the Suspicious Developments released the Space Birthday update for Heat Signature. I love that game, I already had been planning to do tip videos for the update (and I did, Heat Signature Hot Tips received 15 new installments), but more importantly they added a Daily Challenge mode. Suddenly a game I enjoy and am quite good at had a daily competitive element and inspired by Tom Francis putting his challenge runs up online I followed suit.
I have been releasing Heat Signature Daily Challenge videos nearly every day with only the occasional break due to minor things like travel, getting married, honeymoon, guests, technical difficulties and laziness. It turns out I am an above average Heat Signature player. I am perhaps quite good at this game. Over the course of the last 5 months I have obtained what I believe are two world records in Heat Signature daily challenges.
Before I show these off I want to delve into exactly how the Heat Signature Daily Challenge works, because unlike Spelunky or Crypt of the Necrodancer this isn’t just a set daily seed for the regular game mode. Heat Signature was not initially designed to have a Daily Challenge so they had to figure out what the challenge would mean and how to implement it.
The Daily Challenge can only be started in galaxies where no faction has been eliminated, each challenge consists of the following:
3 linked missions of escalating difficulty and point value
A random character with up to 4 traits, negative or positive
A load out consisting of 1 melee weapon or gun, 1 self-charging item, 1 disposable item, 1 random pod
A clause, you lose points each time you break it
Each mission is an increasing number of points, 100, 150 and 250. So completing all three with no penalty earns you 500 points. However for those players are then graded on style. The theoretical maximum style bonus is 100, but for every 16 seconds they spend near mission ships, or aboard any ship they lose 1 point. It generally takes 5-6 seconds to dock to a ship and 5-6 seconds to pick a character from the cold void of space after they crash through a window, so needless to say it is very difficult to get those highest scores.
Which is why first I want to present my world record for the highest number of points earned in any Heat Signature Daily Challenge
This was the perfect storm of gear. We have a character with a concussion hammer, which lets us dash up to guards but does not kill them which would violate our clause, we have a Glitch Tick which means that docking is instant as we just teleport to their airlock and we have a self-charging slipstream, meaning that we move 5 times faster than normal and finally we just have to steal an item, so we don’t need to work out how to deal with armour, shields or having to pick up an extra body from space. With this loadout we can literally teleport on the target ships, run through them stealing from guards on the way, grab our item and tail it. The biggest risks were having a guard shoot another or having a guard sitting in a window room on our way out. We are blamed for any deaths no matter who actually causes them.
The aggregate mission time for this run was 35 seconds, leaving me with the first (and to my knowledge only) 599 score on any Heat Signature Daily Challenge leaderboard, the game’s lead developer actually commented on Discord that he did not expect that score to be possible.
The second world record is somewhat more niche. The Speed clause daily challenge is somewhat unique in that it is nearly impossible to avoid a penalty, as you get a 5 point penalty for every 10 seconds you spend aboard a ship. The record setting run can be found below:
The score for this run has been equalled, back on the 28th of October, a player by the name of Terin got a 490 score in a Speed daily, but they took 40 seconds, where I took a total of 38. Ultimately this run is very similar to the other world record run. We have a glitch tick cutting roughly 5 seconds off of every dock time and we have the amazing early game loot of a rechargable slipstream and once again we just have to steal things. In some ways this is easier than the other run in this post because I simply do not care what happens to the guards I interact with. If it is more convenient to just shoot someone from across the room I can with no score impact at all.
I am particularly proud of the third ship on this run, I manage to get through the larget ship in the least time through good use of slipstreams and swappers, for many of these guards I was merely a very loud breeze and then I was gone.
That’s all I have time to post about today, next time I will give an update on the other videos I have been doing. Hopefully I will get it out much faster than this post.
I apologize for the sudden lack of writing here, even longer than initially expected. Without wishing to go into details, a large part of my life has been thrown into some upheaval recently. And I just… don’t know when I’ll have the time to get back to games writing. I haven’t even played any games the last week or so.
I don’t know when things will go back to normal; early January, maybe, but I can’t promise anything. Sorry again. I want to thank all of you for your patience and understanding, and I hope to see you back here when my life gets settled a little more.
My love of the under-sea is well-documented on this website (and some other ones). I can’t help it, I’m at Atlantean at heart. I’d live under water if I could. I have lived under water for most of my life, for an extremely generous and disappointing interpretation of the idea. Every game that opens up by telling me most of the action will take place sub-H2O has an automatic head start; I’m a simple man to please.
And if a game tells me it intends to fill that setting with tactical turn-based combat, persistent customizable soldiers, and randomly-generated worlds full of uncertainty and mystery and danger? If other sites bill it as ‘XCOM meets FTL, but under water’? It would be hard to laser-target a design document more directly to my interests.
Hey readers! Greeting from scenic Washington DC., home of bad politics and good musea. Fun bit of trivia: I entered the United States through Boston at the start of this year, and my two most major expeditions took me to Las Vegas and Washington DC. This means I’ve exclusively visited the sites of three consecutive first-person Fallout games… if you ignore my trip to upstate New York. Listen, don’t overthink things.
A full review is in the cards for next week, but this week I wanted to use this space to an interesting-looking Kickstarter project: Lore Finder, by Kitsune Games, previously known for MidBoss and Ultra Hat Dimension. I normally shy away from highlighting Kickstarter projects, but this one has three big pluses: I know about Kitsune Games and like their body of work (I intend to review MidBoss one of these days, one of those ‘better late than never’ things), Lore Finder has a cool elevator pitch and a gripping art style to boot, and most importantly of all, the Lore Finder Kickstarter page has a publicly-available demo, meaning I can actually tell you something about the game as it exists instead of just parroting marketing material.
Radical Fish Games‘ CrossCode first hit Steam Early Access in June 2015. I downloaded and played its demo version somewhere around that time (late 2015/early 2016, I think) and found it to be an interesting take on real-time top-down action RPGs, with a charming RPG Maker art style and a narrative setup that promised some interesting reading. It was also in very early access at the time, so I decided to keep the demo installed, and occasionally check up on its progress.
Then I moved house and changed computers, and immediately forgot its name. Yeah, I know, that’s probably the most me way things could go. I’d forgotten to ‘follow’ it on Steam, too, and since demos don’t leave a trace in your own games list… not that that would matter, unless I was willing to manually scroll through a thousand entries to find the one game I wanted. All hope seemed lost.
You might have noticed that my schedule’s been a little on-again-off-again the last few weeks, with a shorter Indie Wonderland what felt like every other week — and then nothing at all yesterday, for which I apologize. My life has just been busy for the last few weeks: Between increasing workloads, running appointments, and social obligations, it’s been difficult for me to find the time to play (new) games long enough to be able to review them. I’ve been using shorter games and game musings as a substitute for weeks where I don’t have anything, while carrying longer games over multiple weeks, to give myself time to write something good — rather one good article every two weeks than one rushed, incomplete-feeling one every one week, that’s my motto.
This post mostly serves to make the unofficial official, as Indie Wonderland is going to stay on this uncertain schedule for the foreseeable future. I’ll try to swing full reviews as often as I can, probably once every two weeks, and I’ll do my best to fill the gap weeks with shorter reviews or other pieces of writing you might find interesting. Might not always happen, but sometimes all you can do is your best.
Thank you for your patience and continued reading.
And hey, look at this! I didn’t miss it! A good third of my timeline was all Wandersong all the time in the week after it launched, last month, and that was enough impetus for me to buy it, install it, and occasionally look at the desktop icon, hoping to find some time to actually play.
And hey, look at this! Again! I did find some time to actually play it!
(Spoiler levels: Narrative, medium, high-ish if you read the secret comment. Mechanical, medium-high.)
Seriously though: I do have a review lined up next week, but I want to give that game a little more time before I start singing its praises. In the meantime, I’ll use this space to write out some thoughts about that most topical game that’s surely still on everyone’s minds: Pokémon GO. I recently got back into it after a lengthy (2-year-or-so) absence, and there have been some changes. Some good, some bad, and some that have been percolating in my brain after the first time I encountered them. I’m not actually going to reviewPokémon GO here, so if you’re not familiar with it, you probably won’t get much out of this article — that’s fair, I hope to see you next week! But if you are familiar with Pokémon GO / play it yourself, there’s a nonzero chance you might enjoy the following piece:
In lieu of hearing about it through professional channels, most of my info on Phantom Doctrine (developed by CreativeForge Games and published by Good Shepherd Entertainment) came from hearing about it from a friend who played — and by ‘hearing about it’, I mean ‘extended chat and tweet sessions about how this game casually encourages you to commit heinous human rights violations’. And I still got it for myself, in case you were ever wondering about the power of word-of-mouth marketing. But then, it’s not like ‘nu-XCOM, except set in the Cold War era’ was ever going to be a particularly difficult sell for me.
And those human rights violations? That’s easy, I just won’t do ’em.