Monthly Archives: December 2015

Ranonauts – Don’t Fear The Reapers

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I guess medium ships also carry another tier of troopers. The Ceasan ship also had a cyberdisc thing and this one had reapers Xenonaut’s version of the Chrysalid and they are every bit as painful as the originals. They move fast and not only do they kill with a single hit, but they convert their victims into zombies that also house another reaper. I hate them, I hate them, I hate them.

The most frustrating thing about them is the zombies is that killing them immediately is a net loss. You have just spent a bunch of actions on killing an enemy only to have them be instantly replaced with a fresh undamaged enemy who is even more dangerous. If the reaper spawns in your turn it has a fresh full set of time units to spend killing your hapless soldiers. It would be better to back off and save your ammo until the reaper spawns.

The Ranonauts Project would like to offer it’s heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of the following soldiers:

  • Thanatos
  • Volatar

Congratulations to:

  • Red Nightmare for taking down the alien commander using his shock baton
  • Keab42 for staring down the reapers. He killed three of them this mission

To date Ranonauts has:

  • defended the earth for 1 month and 27 days
  • lost 13 soldiers
  • killed 49 aliens in 7 ground battles
  • captured 9 aliens
  • shot down 9 alien craft
  • had one aircraft shot down
  • received $4,117,368 in funding

Ranonauts is in desperate need for new recruits after recent… incidents, if you or a friend would like to become a soldier in the Ranonauts project please leave a comment or fill in your information here, the next set of new soldiers will arrive in episode eleven.

Ranonauts – A Medium Sized Problem

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I was feeling pretty comfortable where I was, coming up on the end of the second month and despite a few mishaps most of the combat missions were going pretty well and I can autoresolve my way past most of the aerial combat. I just needed to get my bases up and running and make sure my soldiers were getting the gear they needed to do their jobs. And then the medium ships attacked.

Shooting them down was risky but I had the aircraft to do so, what was much more concerning was that the first of the medium ships appeared only a very short distance from the Indochina base. Does Xenonauts have base attacks? I hope Xenonauts doesn’t have base attacks, but if it doesn’t why can I build missile batteries?

The first mission for Team Indochina was a tough one, and was not improved by Prviate Museli exploding a grenade in her own face. What kind of idiot sent out a group of barely trained privates to take on the biggest alien ship that we have ever shot down without even taking the time to adjust their equipment?

The Ranonauts Project would like to offer it’s heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of the following soldiers:

  • Lucky7 Ninefingers
  • Grouchoros
  • Museli
  • Navarran
  • Jarenth
  • 3 non-community recruits

Congratulations to:

  • The alien commander for taking himself out with Private Navarran

To date Ranonauts has:

  • defended the earth for 1 month and 27 days
  • lost 11 soldiers
  • killed 36 aliens in 7 ground battles
  • captured 8 aliens
  • shot down 9 alien craft
  • had one aircraft shot down
  • received $4,117,368 in funding

Ranonauts is in desperate need for new recruits after this… incident, if you or a friend would like to become a soldier in the Ranonauts project please leave a comment or fill in your information here, the next set of new soldiers will arrive in episode nine.

A Very Special Indie Wonderland Christmas

Happy seasonal holiday period, one and all! We here at Ninja Blues would like to wish everyone a good last few days of 2015. May you celebrate whatever traditions you hold dear with the people you love and care about.

Now, normally, I use the Christmas period as a prime excuse for taking one or two weeks off. I was close to doing that again this year! But then I figured, no: this year, I’ll put some extra effort into writing a special Christmas-themed review. A gift, from me to you. As a thank-you to all our loyal readers over the past two years, and especially to our Patreon supporters, whose generosity has made possible so much of our 2015 adventures.

And as luck would have it, I know just the game. T’is the season for it, for one. And what’s more: it’s a game so kind, so heartwarming, and so uplifting, that it’d be a shame not to share it with all of you as soon as possible. And no, I’m not telling you what game it is yet; what would the Christmas period be without a gift to unwrap?

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, medium. Mechanical, medium.)

(Game source: Gift from a friend. This review is in the spirit of both giving and receiving; the perfect Christmas review, perhaps?)

After the break: are you ready? Ready to open this previous gift? Go ahead, then. Start tearing at the wrapping paper. Aaaand…

Ninja Blues Holiday Special – To The Moon Minisode 1

 

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Ranneko sez: I realised that my normal Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule meant that this year, I would release something on Christmas Day. And I wanted to do something a little unusual, a little special if you will. I started trying to think of Christmas themed games that I own and reached out to Jarenth and Justin to see if they were interested in helping. During that process I remembered that To The Moon actually had a couple of mini-episodes relatively quietly added to the game and that the very first of them takes place at Christmas time, so we arranged to record this group lets play/discussion. Unfortunately Justin had his computer break a few days before we were due to record and was unable to make it, so this is just Jarenth and me.

The minisode itself is an interesting exercise in world exploration and building: where To The Moon shows Dr Watts and Dr Rosaline on a slightly unsual job, this game shows them in a kind of downtime. Interacting with the other doctors at SigCorp, enjoying a party and goofing off, all while a protest takes place outside. You get a lot more feel for the setting and how the society and company works than I expected for a game that takes place in a single building, reuses a bunch of assets from the main game and takes about half an hour to play.

Jarenth sez: Man, I didn’t even know about these mini-sodes until Ranneko started talking about them. It probably doesn’t help that I don’t actually own to The Moon on Steam; at least there, the mini-sodes were secretly added to the game’s executable folder. Go check it out, if you have it installed. They’re right there!

And I agree with Ranneko: this first episode does a good job of making the To The Moon world just a little bit larger. In the video, we talk about this in more depth: the game’s underlying technology, the social and ethical implications that ‘memory alteration’ would have, and how different people would react differently to something like this. Hell, Ranneko and I react quite differently. And all of that from a half-hour asset-reuse mini-game.

Not bad.

Ran is Away

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Emily is Away is a free game made by developer Kyle Seeley. Tt only takes about 30 minutes to play and part of it’s charm comes from the surprisingly genuine feel of its narrative. Personally I recommend you give it a spin before watching the video.

The entire game takes place in a low res simulation of AOL Instant Messanger, one of the venerable messenger clients of the late 90s and early 00s, it was never popular where I grew up but through this interface the game tells an astonishingly genuine story about a teen/early adult relationship. A relationship full of confusion, apprehension and uncertainty which is all conveyed in a very fitting manner, typing.

In Emily is Away you select lines of dialogue similar to a traditional visual novel, but then you have to then actually type. You have to press keys on your keyboard, and each time you do so your character enters or deletes a key from the line. Obviously this doesn’t make it a freeform simulation but it does allow you to feel out that space between what you want to say and what you are brave enough to say in a way that would be hard to replicate elsewhere.

It was a very impressive experience and it really creates a nostalgia for a situation I never really experienced (primarily for lack of female friends in high school/early uni), but in the video I hit on one of the key weaknesses in it. The story feels kind of off if you pick a feminine name. Emily just doesn’t seem like she interested in women, but she is interested in you. When other people and relationships are mentioned, they are always men, but even with an female name she will suddenly openly ask why the main character didn’t make a move. I am glad they included female names in the random generator but I just don’t think Emily is Away commits to it in the same way it commits to the rest of its themes and presentation.

Ranonauts – Capture and Release

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I really enjoy the ability to take down enemies with stun grenades, Ceasans seem to be especially weak to them which makes them ideal for cleaning out larger groups of them, unfortunately I don’t think my soldiers get the same credit for capture as they do for kills, despite one generally being harder than the other. I am therefore very much annoyed the excess aliens are simply outright killed, not only does this seem to be somewhat inhumane, but it seems especially arrogant as it implies that we can find out all we ever can from a category of aliens with a single capture. I am sure there are story justifications for this, but what happens if we capture an anomaly? What if the only corpse we dissect is an outlier? In general you want a large sample size to draw confident and accurate conclusions and Xenonauts doesn’t let you do that. At this stage all it wants the player to do is capture a single example of each category of alien, after that we can go right back to killing them outright.

Please welcome to the Ranonauts Project:

  • Lucky7 Ninefingers
  • Rebelliousuno
  • Museli
  • Grouchoros
  • Jarenth

Congratulations to:

  • Aulayan for surviving against the odds
  • Caldazar for demonstrating the effectiveness of Jackal Armour
  • McNutcase for turning his back to the enemy and living, as well as KOing 2 aliens with one grenade

To date Ranonauts has:

  • defended the earth for 1 month and 21 days
  • lost 3 soldiers
  • killed 29 aliens in 6 ground battles
  • captured 8 aliens
  • shot down 6 alien craft
  • had one aircraft shot down
  • received $4,117,368 in funding

If you would like to become a soldier in the Ranonauts project please leave a comment or fill in your information here, the next set of new soldiers will arrive in episode nine.

Indie Wonderland: Voidspire Tactics

Timing really is everything in this business. Here, you want an example? A few weeks ago, Rad Codex developer Sean Hayden sent me and Justin both a directed email about his (studio’s) newest game, Voidspire Tactics. It looked super interesting, a top-down pixel-style tactical RPG adventure. And Sean was adamant that he’d love to see either of us write about it, which is more or less the exact phrase you need to trick my ego into doing things.

And then I had to tell him that, sorry, I can’t quite get to your game yet. I have six weeks of Sakura to struggle through.

But hey! Never let it be said that I forget good flattery. The season of the Sakura is done and done, and I’m in desperate need of something meaningful to cleanse my palette. Tactics and void spires, away!

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, low to medium. Mechanical, somewhat high, but you’ll thank me for it.)

(Game source: Developer Steam key.)

After the break: Voidspire Tactics. Finally. Man, imagine being told that your game is less immediately pressing than six Sakuras. Something like that, I think it could break a man.

Ranonauts – Stunning Results

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I continue to be pretty nervous about my rate of expansion, I simply have no idea if I am building up too quickly or too slowly and I get the sense that both could be fatal for a run since bases are a major expenditure but allow me to cover areas and secure further funding, plus of course I lose if 5 countries completely stop funding me.

The entire Xenonauts starting sequence feels very familiar, build our base, fight off the first few alien attacks, secure funding by building more bases (or Satellites in XCOM) in the meantime capture and interrogate aliens to find out more about them. I am not sure how much this is because both games share a common source of inspiration and how much is simply a natural progression. I wonder how closely the overall story lines will match, when will the alien base assault mission occur?

What bothered me most about the end of this mission was the way we executed the excess alien. For some reason we know, even before we have interrogated one, that we will learn all we will ever need to know from a single live specimen. Even the autopsies work this way, it strikes me as a very artificial decision, is there no iteration of our knowledge? Especially given the aliens appear to use cloning, surely we could see if they are making minor adjustments by continuing to examine the corpses rather than just destroying them out of hand.

Congratulations to:

  • Red Nightmare for knocking out our first Alien
  • Aulayan for unnecessarily carrying an unconscious alien for reasons I find embarrassing to explain
  • Caldazar for demonstrating the effectiveness of Jackal Armour

To date Ranonauts has:

  • defended the earth for 1 month and 16 days
  • lost 3 soldiers
  • killed 27 aliens in 5 ground battles
  • captured 2 aliens
  • shot down 4 alien craft
  • had one aircraft shot down
  • received $4,117,368 in funding

If you would like to become a soldier in the Ranonauts project please leave a comment or fill in your information here, the next set of new soldiers will arrive in episode nine.

Ranwen Pre-Alpha – Ranneko Plays Shadwen Pre-Apha

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I got this as part of the December Humble Monthly Bundle, the pre-alpha to a game that was literally announced at about the same time as the bundle came out. A stealth game that gives you complete control over time, making it much less time consuming to find openings and never be seen.

Being in a pre-alpha stage it is very limited, it has enough features that you can play around with the core concept, time only moves when you are pressing a key, grappling hook lets you easily navigate, etc. I can definitely see the potential here but right now the very basic movement doesn’t feel good.

It is really jarring for the player character to go from full speed to frozen in an instant, absolutely nothing in the real world does that, it is why you tend to see other visual effects layered over the top of a time freeze in most other games. Shadwen needs something to covers the unnatural transition and world state, but it needs to not be too obnoxious, because a lot of play time will be spent in that state.

I think the moment I enjoyed most was swinging between the beams in the open great hall. It felt very spiderman, I wonder how many of those moments will be in the larger game.

Ranonauts – Community Edition

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This recording session was unfortunately marred by a couple of technical issues that I noticed far too late, as a result the in game audio is much louder than normal and the game camera more zoomed in. I hope you can bear with it and please actually let me know what you think about the sound levels, I find it pretty tricky to work out what the appropriate levels are as I am very tolerant of game noise being loud and I worry that I overcompensate for that sometimes.

I actually have no idea what the community edition of Xenonauts brings, my decision to move to it was predicated entirely by Volatar telling me that it was simply more up to date and simply a better experience and a quick search also informed me that it is compatible with saves from the main branch, so there was no need to restart the whole shebang. This means that during this Let’s Play I am not going to be able to distinguish whether any given design decision I comment on was made by the original developers or the community involved in the community edition.

This mission also marks the first arrival of soldiers from the commenters and friends, please let me know if I misspelt your name or if there are any changes you would like to make and I will be happy to see them reflected in the next recording session. I am going to start including some statistics so that it is easy to track just how well we are doing over the course of the game.

Please welcome the following volunteers to the Ranonauts project:

  • Volatar
  • McNutcase
  • Artur Caldazar
  • Thanatos
  • Krellen
  • Aulayan
  • Keab42
  • Red Nightmare7
  • Navarran

To date Ranonauts has:

  • defended the earth for 1 month and 1 day
  • lost 3 soldiers
  • killed 23 aliens in 4 ground battles
  • shot down 1 alien craft
  • had one aircraft shot down
  • received $4,117,368 in funding

If you would like to become a soldier in the Ranonauts project please leave a comment or fill in your information here, the next set of new soldiers will arrive after episode six.