Tag Archives: Early Access

Torment Thursdays 2-6 to 2-10 Catch Up Time

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Site outages are inconvenient especially since I find it difficult enough to keep up on my posts at the best of times. I should remind you, dear reader, that my YouTube channel was regularly updating even while Ninja Blues was down.

In the five episodes that have gone up since the last post an unsurprisingly large amount has happened.

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Torment Thursdays 2-5 – Matkina, have ya seen her?

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With the clock repaired we have pretty much caught up to my first run in terms of main story progress. In fact we are a little further through since I don’t think I had any idea last time where to start looking for her where as now we have a location and a name. We need to find out where Fulsome is and if they have seen Matkina. It does look like she has spent a fair amount of time interacting with people in the Underbelly though so I am sure we can get some more information from the other inhabitants. Time to go talk to the overseers again, mostly because I like them.

On a more technical note I would really prize feedback regarding the voicework I have been doing, this episode marks the first time I have tried to add an effect directly on the vocal track so I would love to know what people think of it and any kind of tweaking they would like done. Specifically I am talking about the effect I added for the Overseer voices, I hope it helps to make them more distinct and helps to remind the viewer of the artificial nature of the speaker, it takes a bit more work but the same approach could potentially be used to help further separate some of the characters I have been interacting with. It is surprisingly difficult to create new voices for each character and then to remember them week to week, I do not know how voice actors manage.

Torment Thursday 2-3 + 2-4 – Reeftown Throwdown and Clock Repair

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Time to leave the reef and get to Sagus Cliffs. We will return eventually but for now there is nothing left to do here but have a bit of a scrap. Broadly this fight is pretty much unchanged from the third alpha test, though here as a primarily fighting based character my attempts at intimidating or otherwise ending the combat early fell pretty flat. I almost wish that talking was a free action because it feels pretty lame to use an action and get nothing from it, but on the other hand the same thing applies to missing a regular attack.

Once I enter Sagus Cliffs I am going to try to restrain myself from engaging with every NPC, mostly because I did that in the previous iteration of the beta and this way I both avoid spending too much time on relatively redundant content and I don’t have to come up with as many new voices or intonations nor remember what on earth I came up with last time.

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Heading straight for the Cult of the Changing God in Circus Minor is pretty rewarding because we get to see what the more complete version of the clock quest looks like. I was actually pretty surprised that the conversation and choice of focus was so quick because this is the thing that flavours your character and powers most strongly, what really sets you apart from other characters of the same type. It explicitly mentions that your focus choice isn’t final and I suspect based on the layout of the rooms involved that we will slowly pick up more focus options as the story progresses. I guess this is to follow the theme of personal mutability that was present in Planescape: Torment

It does seem odd for my low intellect pool glaive to be spending so much time in mental spaces, dealing with psychic projections and attacks, a lot of this storyline feels more thematically appropriate with a nano or at least a jack with a relatively high esotery focus. I wonder if the initial storyline involving the castoff was created with a character type in mind and then widened to fit a more generic character or if this is meant to reflect more on the Changing God than the Last Castoff.

Torment Thursdays 2-2 – What Happened To The Lab?

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This is why it is interesting to play a semi-public beta; we get to see the content evolve over time. Last time the changes I encountered were kind of disappointing, today’s changes are pretty pleasing. They drastically shortened the time spent in the mental space, the area I think of as the initial character creation set up. As much as I loved the flavour of the initial tidal attunement, especially when you include the big long choose your own adventure section it did simply take too long. I hope that they can reuse some of that content a little later on after the player has more of a chance to get to grips with Numenera’s setting and mechanics.

It also simplifies our very first introduction to combat. The previous version had an odd fight we couldn’t win through direct combat, it makes for interesting variation but a poor introduction. This new scene is much faster and simpler and it still shows off the very basic combat system before the more complicated crisis we will encounter later.

It is interesting seeing this content sandwiched between the two parts that are almost entirely unchanged from the Alpha Systems Tests, I guess those parts have already had enough iteration for InXile to be confident with them. I still find it annoying that we pick up a numenera that is meant to drown out laughter that cannot be used when interacting with a smug laughing machine or the strange giggling numenera outside. It only really need a minor change in description, have it clear that it only impacts the holder and not the speaker for example. Its odd to have nothing acknowledge the stranger impacts of the items that you may be carrying.

On an unrelated note I have upgraded my computer! This hopefully will allow me to improve the quality of the videos I am making, certainly on a raw technological level that is already happening given this video is available in stunning 1440p at 60fps, you’ve never seen text so good.

Torment Thursdays 2-1 – Character Creation Take Two

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Torment Thursday is making its return. I stopped doing them primarily because the game ran pretty terribly on my system and the beta was also pretty unstable on it. It wore down my patience especially since it currently lacks a decent autosave system and I really didn’t like having to replay the same content over and over again.  Once I made my mind up, inXile Entertainment promptly decided to update the beta, revise the UI, tighten up some of the engine and mess around with the mechanics and story. So it is time to jump back in and replay all that content all over again.

The first couple of scenes are pretty much the same as it was even way back in the first Alpha Systems Test, we have the emphasis on a combination of text and a little voice and sound work, with elaborate scenes describing what your character is doing and remembering without having much if anything reflected in the visuals. It is obviously pretty limited and I still think it would be significantly improved by adding even a few static pieces of art, but I love the flavour of the memories, it is a soft introduction to the strangeness that is the world of Numenera and they have to work to draw you into the bizarre science fantasy blend.

The most significant change they have made in this version is the introduction of hitpoints, something I have to admit I am a little disappointed by. In the tabletop game of Numenera only NPCs have hitpoints, players just have their three stat pools, might, speed and intelligence. These pools are used when spending effort in checks and also when you take damage, if a pool runs dry you take penalties and if all three run out you die. This means that using your combat powers always comes at the price of making you more vulnerable. It also means that you cannot completely ignore a stat pool, even if none of your powers directly uses it as you may always be attacked. This is baked into the system at a fairly low level, for example most attacks hit might, so might is used by fewer skills and abilities. By adding hitpoints and removing this feature, might becomes less valuable unless they do further tweaking.

Colin McComb has stated on the inXile forums that this change was made with the approval of Monte Cook Games and they do have a about half a year to iterate on and balance this change, but I can’t help but feel that they are sacrificing some of the uniqueness of the system to make it easier to quickly understand for newcomers and to make overall combat balance easier. It is a trade off that it easy to understand but also a little sad.

Indie Early Access Land: Seraph

I generally don’t review Early Access games. Not because of any strong principled stance or moral obligation: I’m a firm believer of the idea that if the developers ask money for participation, you’re free to criticize the product as much as you like, no matter how many ‘technically unfinished’ labels they slap on it. It just feels a little strange to me, I guess, to write reviews of products that are nominally supposed to still be in heavy flux. What good is my current-state review going to do if the next build two weeks from now changes the whole thing up? Particularly since there are also hundreds of gold-release indie games out there I could be reviewing instead, I tend to not go out of my way to find the ones with the disclaimer.

Never let it be said I’m not open to suggestions, though. Developer Dreadbit — they of Ironcast, the Victorian/steampunk-themed match-3 puzzler that I was somewhat positive about — sent me a review key for their latest in-development, Seraph. I gave it a shot, to see if it was at all in a state I’d be willing to write about, and — well, here we are! Seraph seems very near completion, to be honest, both in the audiovisual and mechanical departments. I don’t think I’d have picked up it was Early Access if it wasn’t for the few areas that spell out THIS PART OF THE GAME IS NOT COMPLETED YET.

I’m still not comfortable writing a ‘full’ Indie Wonderland review on Early Access games; what you’re about to read is going to be a little shorter than usual, as I sometimes do. I’ll also mark this review with an explicit ‘time of writing’ disclaimer — so to anyone coming in a significant amount of time after this, be wary of how much what I say here might be utter nonsense.

And I’ll thank you to keep the obvious quip here to yourself.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, low. Mechanical, high-ish.)

(Game source: Developer press key.)

(Time of writing: 2016-05-09, ‘May 9th, 2016’.)

After the break: Seraph. Will it be… angelic? Probably not, but a man can dream.

Torment Thursday 13 – Failing to Find

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My plan to aggressively pursue the main plot and try to reach the end of the beta hasn’t worked out too well. It turns out the next step is to find a particular cast off, and the people that I know can help me with that will not do so unless I first find information about a cast off they haven’t heard of before. So I have to find a cast off before I can find a cast off. It is enough to drive you to drink.

With that in mind it is time to explore and try to finish off various minor loose ends as we encounter them. There was that strange building near the cliff’s edge I didn’t enter before. Turns out it is a pub, how convenient…

Torment Thursday – Faster than Anticipated

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I’m kind of burning out on Torment Thursdays, there is just so much reading and so many characters, why did I try to give each a different voice? As a result I have decided it is time to try and finish up the section of the game found in the beta rather than my normal approach of doing every single sidequest and chatting to every single character I can find. Therefore it is time to return… to the reef! We have a ship to explore.

The epic quest continues after the break

Torment Thursday – Chatting With the Genocide

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The conversation with The Genocide that we spend most of this episode on is probably my favourite piece of Torment: Tides of Numenera so far. The Tabaht have shown up in a number of places as we went through character creation and found out further details about the history of Sagus Cliffs but here we have a piece of the past, literally one of their leaders installed into a machine and effectively turned into a permanent mouthpiece, denied the ability to attack and forced to answer any questions asked of it. It clearly is not happy with its fate but it is also not shown as resigned to it. It is a fascinating perspective and I am not sure what it says about me that I couldn’t help but attack its one solace, that it has outlived its enemies, by revealing that the Changing God who thwarted it still exists as a force within the world. It is hard to outlive ones enemies when they appear to be immortal.

Torment Thursday – Like Clockwork

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Houston we have a complete character. I am amazed that it could take this long, I had just assumed that The Last Castoff’s focus was going to be set by the plot. i.e. They would be a Blank Blank who Is a Castoff of the Changing God but it turns out I had to take a detour into trans-dimensional clock repair before I could really get an opportunity to focus. It is an interesting choice and I wonder the long character creation process is intended to reflect the changeable nature of The Nameless One from Planescape Torment, there you started as a warrior, but could completely change track to become a thief or wizard depending on the completion of certain quests, partly to ease you into the mechanics and setting, partly to show just how unusual The Nameless One is.

The entire clock sequence was pretty cool, forcing you to get a sense of a few significant moments in the past of Sagus Cliffs and to give you an idea of the kinds of actions the Changing God has been capable of, it really drives home why this being has had a cult build up around him and his offspring, other interactions have given me the sense the the Changing God is fairly self-centred so I can’t help but feel that their motivations in saving the city were unlikely to be entirely selfless but clearly the cult does not need to follow my interpretations. They treat castoffs kind of oddly, they seem fairly happy to simply deny my character unless he is willing to pay them in actions or in money. It seems like an oddly cavalier way to treat your god’s children, but then I guess they have been around long enough to know that their God doesn’t seem to care all that much about their kids either.