Monthly Archives: March 2016

Torment Thursday – An Unexpected Scene Change

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Way back in the very first part of the Alpha I figured we would end up back in the starting area at some point. It is a fairly easy conclusion to draw because there are areas and features that look like you should be able to explore past and that you couldn’t access. What I didn’t anticipate was the way we re-entered that area, I think I might have stumbled across something that is part of a quest I haven’t properly initiated yet, especially given we didn’t actually unlock any new activities to do there when we visited.

I suspect the most common reason for turning up there again will be violence because the conversation I had there really seemed to imply that I had died again, even though nothing like that had happened, the scene change was totally unexpected.

Ranneko Plays MouseCraft – Section Four (Part One)

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As we move into the final section of the game the designers are almost obligated to use as many block and obstacles as they can in each of the puzzles we come across, we are in the home stretch and they need to demonstrate that we can use all of the tools they have provided us and on the whole I think they are doing a pretty good job. Unfortunately looking back on this I often seem to forget a very simple concept, everything in the level is intended to be used, even temporary obstacles. I keep killing the very Ratoids I should be using to help solve these  puzzles. You can see me do it almost reflexively as the puzzle solving process takes place, just being processed as an obstacle element to be removed rather than a potential tool to solve the overall problem. I need to spend more time seeing the entire puzzle at once rather than a series of smaller objectives.

Surprise! I thought of a better mouse-over joke at the last second. These bits are guidelines, not hard-and-fast rules.

Jarenth Plays XCOM 2 — Episode 12: Xeno Choo Choo

In the last episode of Jarenth Plays XCOM 2, a routine information retrieval mission turned into an unexpected hacking windfall. Not only did we stop an ADVENT scheme involving shape-shifting murder-monsters, but they just happened to have detailed notes on Plated Armor research! Right on the vault server we were hacking! As a result, what was once a distant dream has overnight become a possibility well within our grasp. In fact, I think the research project is finishing up as I’m writing this…

After the break: we know how to make fancy armor, yay! So, what’s stopping us from actually *doing* that? Well…

Indie Wonderland: Nelly Cootalot: The Fowl Fleet

Even a small-scale, no*-talent hack writer like myself can get lucky and strike valuable connections in the cut-throat world of indie game reviewing. For instance, have you heard of German production and development house Application Systems Heidelberg? You might, if you play German games yourself; I think they do a lot of AAA German distribution and localization. But they’re also into game development proper: if you’ve heard of them from me, it’s probably on account of one of their previous big titles, the XCOM-style Ghostbusters simulator Ghostcontrol Inc. Application Systems Heidelberg certainly appreciated me writing about their game at the time — and it wasn’t even a very positive review, fancy that — and so they’ve kept me up-to-date on some of their later work through the medium of Occasional Email.

Case in point: Nelly Cootalot: The Fowl Fleet, a point-and-click adventure game recently developed by ASH and by one ‘award-winning British comedian and filmmaker Alasdair Beckett-King‘. Email hype started back in the summer of 2014, and after only a slightly-longer-than-expected development path, I received a review key not two weeks ago. One with a gentle request that I keep to a short embargo, and I was sort of going mad with anime farming at the time. But all the same, here we eventually are! And let’s be honest: only one week after official launch is a really on-time review, for my standards.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, medium-high-ish. Mechanical, high, but that probably doesn’t matter as much.)

(Game source: Developer review key.)

After the break: Nelly Cootalot. I considered suggesting that maybe the name ‘Cootalot’ would make some British people snicker, early on, but then figured that the British comedian writing this game probably knows that already.

Ranonauts – The Forbidden Technique

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I seem to have discovered an approach for tackling these two level ships that no one else seems to talk about. You can shoot through the floor. No more having to run someone around a corner into reaction fire, or slowly try to toss grenades to cover that one stupid corner, instead I can keep a force above and a few soldiers below and shoot those potentially ambushes. This makes these ships much much safer to attack, I am so pleased that works because aliens are so damn good with their reaction fire. I’m not entirely sure that this behaviour is intended, especially since it seems to be much more reliable if you aren’t directly targeting the occupied square, but instead target one well past it. I did look into this a little bit and I know that they used to have problems with the alien forces shooting through walls and floors, so maybe this is something that is still part of the game to a limited degree.

We were also able to determine that destroying the ship being escorted in the case of terror and bombing missions are all that really matter in an air combat. If you destroy it the fighters vanish as soon as the combat ends, we don’t get the resources from them unless we shoot them down but it lets us stop them even with our relatively weak air forces. That is definitely one of the biggest problems I have had in Xenonauts, if you can’t shoot down the alien craft then your funding and support can drop pretty rapidly, after all the Ranonauts project is mostly running on armour sales, using government funding to cover most of its maintenance costs.

The Ranonauts Project offers its condolences to the friends and family of:

  • Ivan Smirnov

The Ranonauts Project would like to congratulate:

  • RebelliousUno racking up another 3 kills
  • Maria Lazos for taking down 5 aliens, more than a third of the alien forces in that mission, including one through the floor
  • Narmio for coming to the rescue and taking the last alien on the ship down before it had a chance to take out our over exposed soldiers.

To date Ranonauts has:

  • defended the earth for 5 months and 4 days
  • lost 44 soldiers
  • killed 327 aliens in 37 ground battles
  • captured 48 aliens
  • shot down 47 alien spacecraft
  • had 4 aircraft shot down
  • received $12,588,599 in funding

Ranonauts is in need of new recruits after recent… incidents, if you or a friend would like to become a soldier in this Xenonauts Let’s Play please leave a comment or fill in your information here, the next set of new soldiers will arrive in the distant future.

Surprise! I thought of a better mouse-over joke at the last second. These bits are guidelines, not hard-and-fast rules.

Jarenth Plays XCOM 2 — Episode 11: Focus And Fortune

In the last episode of Jarenth Plays XCOM 2, a potentially disastrous mission was turned into a moment of unexpected triumph. Thanks to gut, planning, and a good Skulljack to-hit roll, we rolled out of ADVENT’s second retaliation strike with a full team of soldiers, the gratitude of the Western United States region, and a brand-new lead on the aliens’ plans. It was a victory that we all needed, but it was particularly a victory that I needed. I’d been a little worried about my ability to lead XCOM to timely victory, but nothing boosts your confidence like doing exactly that in a great way.

So, what’ll I do with this newfound courage and resolve? For the answer to that, we now turn to my early-morning office…

After the break: planning and tactics are good and all, but something you need just need a big dose of luck as well. And hey, wouldn’t you know it? I’m overdue.

Ranonauts – Farming Scouts

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I am really glad that Xenonauts continues to have scouts appear even in the later stages of the game, it gives you a low(er) risk option to continue to train rookies and soldiers stationed in newer bases. The North American Base, heck even the Indochina crew are not really well equipped to handle the forces in some of the larger ships. They aren’t completely risk free however, as poor Laura discovered, she should have been more accurate I guess.

We also finally got our first Marauder up and running as well as a little intelligence on the alien leadership. Hopefully we will be able to catch up to UFOs more often to shoot them down as, that has been the most frustrating thing of late, we can generally take them down if they stand and fight but most of the time they instead opt for the better part of valour, preferring to continue to reign terror from the skies while our planes run their fuel reserves dry.

Sorry about the poor video quality this episode, unfortunately the encoder in OBS appears to have been overloaded so while we got the sound it is a tad slideshowy at points because it just couldn’t keep up with the fast paced action of this turn based game.

To date Ranonauts has:

  • defended the earth for 4 months and 22 days
  • lost 43 soldiers
  • killed 300 aliens in 35 ground battles
  • captured 47 aliens
  • shot down 43 alien spacecraft
  • had 3 aircraft shot down
  • received $10,069,567 in funding

Ranonauts is in need of new recruits after recent… incidents, if you or a friend would like to become a soldier in this Xenonauts Let’s Play please leave a comment or fill in your information here, the next set of new soldiers will arrive in the distant future.

Torment Thursday – Hanging on the Cliff Edge

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I find it really frustrating to have to replay sections of games, especially given that I am trying to maintain a steady state with this series and there are skill tests and dice rolls involved. So not only did I have to replay the game, I had to carefully replay the game and attempt to get roughly the same results as last time. It gets pretty annoying to have been lucky the first time around and then repeatedly fail the same checks on the second, third and fourth attempts. I really wish that roleplaying games in general had better autosaves system, far too many of them rely on a really basic save on map load approach which has always struck me as pretty naive, it only really works if maps are small and not very dense with activity and as computers have gotten better the tendency has been bigger zones and more to do in them so effectively the frequency of autosaves has gone down.

This means that when a bug means you have to load an earlier save you tend to have lost a lot of time unless the player is in the habit of making frequent manual saves, which has its own cost in immersion and unreliability. In an ideal world I would like RPGs to have 3 different triggers for autosaves, each with their own slots. These triggers are:

  1. Map load: Autosaving on map change isn’t inherently bad, even my complaints above are just that it is insufficient, we should definitely keep the old approach as well
  2. Combat finish: If I have just won a fight something of some significance has occurred. Save so that I don’t need to repeat the fight over if something else goes wrong.
  3. Quest Progress: Save every time I finish a link in a quest. This can be some of the most tedious and difficult to repeat because quests often involve skill tests which you might pass one time and fail the next.

I understand that I am playing a beta right now and of course beta software is more likely to crash or otherwise have problems but even released games are not free from bugs, a system like this would make it much easier for me to know I can always return to a good point to keep playing without having to remember to use the save game button every time something of any importance happens. I can focus on the game unless problems arise.

Ranneko Plays MouseCraft – Section Three (Part Two)

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It can be kind of embarrassing watching yourself solve a puzzle and miss the solution repeatedly, especially when you know it stems from a broken assumption so you can see yourself struggle and ignore the actual solution for far far too long. Fortunately it isn’t embarrassing enough to stop me from releasing these episodes. It is also kind of interesting to see me find some solutions that are slightly harder to execute than what seems to be the obvious solution, this is especially true in level 55, where I choose to use a block vertically when it really would be better used horizontally.

I quite like the block destruction aspect of the new acid obstacle this section introduces, I just kind of wish it led to more timed puzzles, where a stack slowly drops down due to a thin pool of acid. That said I am not sure that the game will really cope well with a proper timing based puzzle, especially given that time starts as soon as the level loads, it would have to be triggered by a bomb.

Surprise! I thought of a better mouse-over joke at the last second. These bits are guidelines, not hard-and-fast rules.

Jarenth Plays XCOM 2 — Episode 10: Argent Dawn

In the last episode of Jarenth Plays XCOM 2, you can say what you want about the aliens — they sure know how to break an uncertainty spell! I wanted a clear and unambiguously ‘good’ mission, and for my sins, ADVENT gave me one. Another retaliation strike, to be precise. And it is on the threat of innocent, under-equipped resistance fighters getting mowed down by alien monsters that the Avenger is currently flying around at the speed of Not Fast Enough, trying to reach an important destination before it’s too late…

After the break: no, that other important destination.