Contemplating Cities Skyline

NOw, it’s a game that’s getting rave reviews at the moment for a lot of the right reasons although I would have to call it a little overrated as well. City builders are a very popular genre and after the dismal release and gameplay of the newest Simcity a lot of people seem to have been longing for a game that does the genre right and is a proper successor to the Simcity franchise. While Cities Skyline does seem to get the former right I would be hard pressed to call it a proper successor to Simcity, at least the games I fondly remember and played religiously.

It is done very well. The foundations of a great city builder are here and they have improved on the formulae in a few areas. As per usual you can set particular types of areas you want between residential, commercial, industrial and office space. These grow depending on the demand within your city with the interest growing over time depending on what your city offers. It is great to see your city grow with these too as each type of building has a certain growth factor depending on the area and services. Eventually you go from small humble buildings to large skyscrapers.

My house is on the corner

My house is on the corner

The policy and zoning mechanics are a new iteration on this as well, and a rather needed one that improves well on the formulae while adding new options and ways to play as well as a much-needed element of personalising your city. It doesn’t seem like much but being able to name these zones really helps you get involved with the game further. It’s more personal but I just wish there was more there. More ways to truly personalise these spaces beyond simplistic policy changes that really don’t change much. To allow only certain types of buildings and industries that could have even worked better with the different types of resources. Maybe even work in the benefits and consequences of these policies a bit better too, and the cost because once your city is properly running you have no problem enacting all the truly beneficial ones.

Cities

You have the same kinds of services to employ: education, police, Fire, disease, death and a couple of others that need to be provided for your city to foster with most having a certain area they work within. There is less of an input with these though, you can up the budget but it doesn’t really increase the radius they work from what I see. Then there is the elements of beautification and special interest buildings although I don’t think this part was done very well. There is an achievement style system of unlocks, population based ones as well as some requiring a particular set of fields being fulfilled and while I get that they were creating elements of progression to play I felt it was mostly unnecessary, and at worse frustrating. I don’t want to have to fulfill certain unnatural goals and checklists just to get certain buildings. These could have just been gained during regular play or have the buildings used certain requirements better, needed buildings.

bah thought i ammended here.. you can make bridges and transport lines along different planes… it’s awesome.

Then there is the planning and road building aspect of the game that is probably the weakest, but not for the reasons that have usually been stated. I think how they have planned the ai to move around the city is actually done pretty well. The have specific home points and destinations and these points need to be fulfilled so you get a lot of extra movement around the city, but it’s movement that is real not the kind of falsified Simcity way of presenting traffic. You see the cars moving the entire distance not just certain parts and filling out data points. Unfortunately the AI, or road traffic mechanics aren’t very smart, or grounded in real life traffic movement. You’ll see at intersections traffic doesn’t move as it should, pathing goes through itself at times creating bottlenecks and it also doesn’t take advantage of times where the traffic could keep going, like short left turns. It doesn’t seem to use the entirety of the road lanes either which makes traffic build up as well.

Cities 2015-03-15 17-30-55-438

The other part that I find is an issue is the lack of options for building my roads and transport routes. It’s all on a singular plane and you create a lot of intersections because of it. It would be far better to have in-game methods of creating raised components and bridges but this is mostly left up to the modding to get. I miss underground roads as well. And then there are the railroads, a needed function for transport of people and goods but you have little customisation over the way you plan these. There are no bridges for railroads, intersections to use and from what I’ve seen no modding support to enable this either, it’s all for roads.

The other element that is rather annoying me has been the placement of certain specialist buildings and how they always require a road present to complete. Most of the time this is easy enough but when it involves coordinating a road with a railroad or the shoreline it gets a lot harder. I couldn’t even get the ferry and cargo ship ports to work. Stop the nanny style of play and just let me put stuff down, it already has the tech for autocompleting pathways so it should be a non issue.

Cities

I also felt there was just a lack of connectivity. You build a large city and it’s great as the bigger it grows the more space around it becomes available for purchase but I kind of want the feeling of interconnected cities, working together to share and sell. I loved the way in the Simcity 4 how you were specialising cities and their tools of production, which were needed and used by others while you were also gaining things from them. It was that feeling of symbiosis good city builders have… even Simcity 5 was able to pull that off, although in a smaller more restricted fashion. You were growing a world and here, while a large interesting city with different areas is still just a city. I want more than that now.

Although, it is very purrty

Although, it is very purrty

I am enjoying it though, immensely. I love building the foundations of a city and then watching it grow and the way everything moves around is just fantastic. There is probably not enough differentiation in the building types, and zones end up feeling a little too similar (an issue solved through the modding to an extent) but the foundations of it, the elements and mechanics working behind that are done extremely well. From here though, I can only see it getting better as the modding community grows, the recent DLC they’ve unannounced plus the regular support they still plan on providing. Also, I’m rather glad that in the face of Maxis closing we have a company that’s picked up the city building mantle.

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Life is Strange: episode 1

I really don’t know what to say about Life is strange except that it represents what it aims to well enough for me to start imagining my own odd duck High school story. One involving a lot of finding oneself, struggling with self-image and dealing with the usual pressures and problems.

There are inconsistencies with this story if you look closely, the kind of inconsistencies that would never be part of the usual life. It is one overruled with a constant state of drama that, while is always a part of high school life has been sped up for the state of the story. It’s also the kind of characters and story where, I think they’ve more got their influence from the many tv series rather than having that lived experience to draw from. Now the team there at Dontnod Entertainment is mostly male, so that’s kind of expected but I still want to give them kudos there for even trying and still creating some interesting and endearing characters.

LifeIsStrange

The lived experience of the environment is a true strength of Life is strange as they really take the time to create a believable space for the game to take place in. The layout and design, the little details of posters and graffiti on wall. I just love many of the dormitory rooms, and living spaces as  they just exude so much character. Just seeing these spaces gives you a far better insight into the personality of the characters you engage with and represent. It is a far more natural way of portraying this information too rather than giving some heavy exposition, that never seems enough anyway.

LifeIsStrange

So far the mechanics are extremely well done and polished as well. The time travel mechanic for completing events and playing with the options of an event are rather simplistic but the way you actually explore the world for information and clues is both intuitive yet not intrusive enough to remove that sense of immersion. They are easy to see, to interact with and give information enough for you to know where and what to do to an extent. They way you move around and use these is so much more natural as well, the animations work and are fluid and far less restrictive than the Telltale games. You can just tell they understand adventure game design, the flaws and features and have worked around this to create a game that is a pleasure to actually play for once.

LifeIsStrange

I kind of like the visuals as well. They are incredibly stylised with relatively low poly models and washed out textures but with the colourful design and the way they often use this to direct the player and to focus on aspects of the environment work really well. There are moments as well where the design, the colours and the atmosphere of the space truly create some memorable moments.

LifeIsStrange

I have to say that I really enjoy this first episode. Now it doesn’t have the in-depth character analysis style play, and maybe not as strong with the wealth and interconnected nature of the smaller stories that you might expect from these indie game, coming of age stories but then this feels far more like a game. A game with a strong narrative, interesting mechanics and a very well designed world.

Darkest Dungeon Preview

Do you like to constantly explore the random nature of a deep, claustrophobic and disturbing underground dungeon?

Do you like watching your team die in horrible, soul crushing ways. To be lost in the depths of madness?

Do you enjoy the constant state of tension from living on the brink of despair. A single moment away from losing it all?

Well Darkest Dungeon might be the game for you.

If you don’t like those things well, you probably will after delving into the darkest dungeon and seeing the depth and strategy within.

Darkest dungeon reminds me of playing pen and paper games, but with a sadistic dungeon master that delights in throwing the absolute worse scenarios at you to watch you fail. At first you mind is awash with this failure and the scenario becomes a routine kind of death march. You welcome the death and an absolute ending. But after coming to terms with it you begin to grow. You learn the systems and how to gain them. Your mind starts working with purpose and strategy, constantly enacting best possible plans for success. You are also the ever removed leader in this position, you learn from your errors and accept your loses but make them count.

That is the core of the experience within Darkest Dungeon. Depressing but also Rewarding.

As for the actual Mechanics it involves the control of a team of adventurers  after glory and fame.. or whatever else really. It is this individuals you basically use as a tool to cleanse the depths below your family’s estate.

There are a number of adventurer classes you’ll get to choose from following the tank, damage, support archetype although each have a certain take on that. You end up balancing this too for maximum impact, enough heals and control skills to minimize harm and then the big damage skills to finish the job.

darkest dungeon

Of course that’s how it should work but remember, sadistic dungeon master who likes throwing the absolute worse things at you imaginable. You will fail… often. People will die… often. The entire dungeon exploration experience is just trying to minimize this damage and working with it when you can. Health will drop, traps will snare and those little items you can’t help touch will continue to add their psychological toll on your characters.

darkest dungoen

Their will be dungeons where everyone just cracks from the pressure and it becomes a hilarious account of constant abuse and paranoia. The damage from which often can’t even be healed before the next time they entire the next abusive encounter.

Through all this though is an element of growth. Your characters grow in experience and skills. Traits continue with them both bad and good and the estate grows as well giving further benefits to these adventurers. You continue to take down bosses and explore harder spaces that reward far more, but take their toll as well.It is a meagre existence even in that state but one you worked towards and be proud you accomplished it.

darkest dungeon

hmm… basically it’s the 2d party based version of Dark Souls.

Now it is in early access, like just about every other game I seem to be playing at the moment but it is remarkably polished in this state with a lot of the depth already developed and put in place. All that seems to be left is adding encounters, diversity to these and the two locked areas before I would call it complete.

Definitely worth a purchase in my mind.

Building in Terraria

I’ve shared my awesome Pirate ship previously and after that long effort I kind of got burnt out on building. But now I’m back again finally polishing up some of the pirate ships visuals and decoration. Porting over my costumes and weapon and building a bit more of the ocean town

OOO.. and this time I has video

NEW VIDJAS

Quick Look at Boid

a new early access title that seems quite polished for what it is with an intuitive ui and gameplay with a lot of map options. It’s a game revolving around territory control and capture points. Some points create new mobs while others turn these into a variety of different classes. The gameplay is then creating a strategy from the units you have available, controlling your space and capturing new points all the while battling your opponent.

There are a lot of different maps to choose from, each with their own strategies and difference in CLass types available. They all have varying difficulty too when facing an AI enemy. There is some Multi-player too and while the game sI have played did work well, there doesn’t seem to be many playing just yet.

Project Zomboid Preview

You already know how much I love this game.. just thought I’d make a youtube version professing my undying love as well.

The Issues of Early Access

A video from the Extra credits team that i hadn’t seen until recently and seems rather apt at the moment. It’s an episode that looks at the issues with early access games and in times like this I found myself nodding to a lot of the points, having experienced and being worried about them.

Positives

As they mention there are benefits. That early influx of money can be very helpful for developers as can getting in a number of people that have no prior knowledge to actually test the product. This can help after the close work of development as many issues can be often overlooked. It’s also nice when these companies really do take community ideas and thoughts into practice, and incorporate these within the games. Games like project zomboid that I’ve been following have actively done this, even incorporated mods within the game and it makes it feel like that much more of an involved and inclusive process.

Problems

The problems are rather numerous too, the main of course being that you may never receive a completed game which has happened a few times. From small and larger studios. It’s also a disease that has seemingly spread amongst the bigger publishers now who ask for, basically, an extremely early preorder with a constant side order of “but it’s in beta”. However for smaller, mostly single player titles I see it as a good thing. It’s just when you enter the multiplayer, and especially the MMO scene that I feel the issues far outweigh any supposed benefits.

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Project Zomboid and Surviving in Style

This is for all those recently getting Project Zomboid from me, And soon from I has Pc as well (who’s also running a give-away).

It’s a tough game at times and one that often runs counter to how we are used to playing zombie style games. It isn’t the type where you can just go out blind, throwing caution to the wind and aiming for the most zombie kills. It just doesn’t happen like that due to its more, real world, common sense style design.

It’s also a game that has a little depth to it and a lot of systems that interact. A lot of things that are hidden underneath too, like reasons for the mood and their affects on you, or illnesses and the effects of the environment. Overall there is just the overwhelming idea that you are supposed to be taking care of yourself rather than becoming the next Rambo, or saviour of the world.

You’re a survivor but as the splash screen says… this is how you die and that will often be rather quickly. To help that number maybe rise a little bit more I thought to give some handy hints for Surviving the Zombie apocalypse.

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Project Zomboid Winners

Congratulations to all that picked up a copy and sorry to those that missed out this time… dats the way it is I’m afraid.

First Prize for the story that made me laugh was AmAvocet and his plans for survival, and to make the best zombie chow out.. so evil but rather funny take on the Soylent green style Mystery… except icky.. er

I’d hole up in a meat-packing plant. With barriers set appropriately, any undead attempting to reach me will be funneled into the abattoir to be reduced to Purina Zombie Chow. Once packed in cans, they will be stored to use as trade goods when civilization’s new barter economy is in full swing. (There will be no ingredients listed on the cans.)

 

For the others I fed the names at random into a randomiser type program to get the next 3 winners and it came out like this

 

  • Aywren
  • Isey
  • Dahakha
  • praseek
  • Randark
  • Joseph
  • jeromai

so top three are our winners for the random Ballet.. CONGRATS. I’ll try getting in touch with codes soon. Although if I can’t well… you might need to contact my site email healingthemasses at hotmail … or contact me through twitter

..

I expect to hear some more cool survival stories in the weeks ahead, and have fun becoming zombie chow.

 

Darkwood Preview

Another Preview vid and written report that varies a lot haha. I just find it easier when talking about these games, and giving a report to mostly just make it up as I go. To discuss the interesting points that I’m thinking about rather than reading an already written report. Feels more natural too.

Ok continue ON

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Quick Look at Dungeon of the Endless

So I have a youtube style first look vid up now as well and just wanted to write down my feelings of the title as well. Now, I didn’t actually make a transcript for the video before making it so what you hear and what I write will probably be a bit different.

I love Dungeon of the Endless and am seriously addicted at the moment. I purchased it during the steam sales and from then on have played it quite a bit and barely succeeded at it but yet, that makes me even more addicted.

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