Clippings: Interstellar Edition

Over the weekend I’ve spent a bit of time with Small World 2, the newly released Steam port of the board game, and I quite like it – it’s simple but well-designed, worth the money I shelled out on Kickstarter. If you enjoy board games and light strategy games, such as last year’s Ticket to Ride, this is one to check out.

Here are the interesting links I’ve found:

  1. Speaking of Kickstarters, remember one earlier this year for Maia, a sort of Dungeon Keeper-on-an-alien-world? Eurogamer’s impressions of the alpha are fascinating, and make the game sound almost like science fiction Dwarf Fortress.
  2. Seminal space game Elite was before my time, but RPS has a good preview of upcoming sequel Elite Dangerous  (hat tip to reader Peter Davies).
  3. While many space games appear similar, upcoming first-person action/strategy game Flagship sounds as though it’ll be unique. Here is Space Game Junkie’s interview with the developers.
  4. In terrestrial news, I hear good things about 3DS JRPG Bravely Default and its battle system. Anyone tried it out?
  5. I am a huge fan of PS2 classics Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, and here is an interview with creator Fumito Ueda. No update on The Last Guardian, sadly, other than a somewhat ominous comment by Ueda that his “creative work was mostly finished a long time ago.”
  6. And finally, here is an interesting piece about the state of the Japanese games industry, which (amongst other things) argues that “2013 was the year in which Japan discovered independent gaming and crowdfunding”. If you were a fan of PSP RPG Trails in the Sky, this article is almost worth reading just for the concept art from the upcoming sequel.
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I want YOUR soundtrack suggestions! (December 2013)

Several folks have been kind enough to recommend various songs to me, ranging from period music in Assassin’s Creed IV to the surprisingly heroic main theme of Evil Genius. Over the next few weeks I’d like to round up a “reader’s choice” edition of Musical Monday, so if you’ve come across a particularly memorable, effective, or plain enjoyable piece of game music that you’d like to highlight, please let me know in the comments!

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Musical Tuesday: “Guile’s Theme” (Street Fighter II), composed by Yoko Shimomura

“For you, the day Bison graced your village was the most important day of your life. But for me, it was Tuesday.” — M Bison, Street Fighter


I hadn’t planned to choose Guile’s Theme as this week’s song. I’d originally picked out another song… and then, on Monday, I couldn’t log into the site. Now it’s Tuesday, and I couldn’t resist the urge to combine one of video gaming’s classic, catchy, iconic themes with the above meme. As an added bonus, this even ties into previous Musical Mondays — Yoko Shimomura, who composed most of the character themes for the arcade version of Street Fighter II, eventually went on to compose much of the (excellent) soundtrack of Xenoblade Chronicles. Below the cut, I’ve posted a video that rounds up 55 minutes’ (!!!) worth of Guile themes from various Street Fighter games — if you ask me, the original is still the best. Enjoy!

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Wreck-it Ralph lives up to the hype

Over the weekend I finally caught Disney’s Wreck-it Ralph on TV, and wow, I’m glad I did. In many ways it’s typical family movie fare, but of course it’s more than that; packed with  in-jokes, homages, and a fair few cameos, it’s a delightful love letter to 30 years of video games. If you’re part of its target market (and if you’re reading this blog, you probably are), then I heartily recommend it. Go in blind — don’t read synopses, don’t watch trailers — and I hope you have fun!

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Clippings: Android Battles at Antares Edition

MOO2 Android

To this day, Master of Orion II is still the best ‘traditional’ (i.e. not Distant Worlds) space 4X game I’ve encountered, and now I can play it on the go! Above is a screenshot of MOO2 running on an Android tablet; with an 8″ screen (Samsung Galaxy Note 8) everything is large enough for comfort, although I do recommend a stylus for tapping the little plus and minus signs on the ship design screen. There is a little lag, and trying to “right-click” can be a hassle, but these are minor blemishes on an experience that is not just playable, but very enjoyable. Here are the steps that I followed; you will need DOSbox and a copy of MOO2 (the game version from GoG works fine; and I’m using DOSBox Turbo, the paid DOSbox port recommended by that link). Now, if I can just work out how to take down that Klackon starbase…


In other news:


  1. I was not a fan of Total War: Rome II, whose campaign was deeply flawed both in its execution and in its sprawling design. Now, Creative Assembly has announced a new expansion pack covering Caesar’s conquest of Gaul, which will “[offer] a tighter scope in terms of time and geography than Rome II“. We’ve seen this before in CA’s progression from the vast Empire to the more compact Napoleon, so this really represents CA (re-)learning its lessons; time will tell how well Caesar in Gaul succeeds.
  2. The Psychology of Video Games is one of the most interesting and unique industry-related sites, and two recent pieces (on avatars and game nostalgia) are worth a read.
  3. Here are two pieces of XCOM-related humour.
  4. And here are some cool manga-style illustrations that graced a Japanese edition of D&D (hat tip to reader LeSquide).
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Clippings: PERSONA!!! Edition

The timing of my post yesterday was impeccable — right after I expressed my delight with Persona 4: Golden on the Vita, Atlus announced the holy of holies, Persona 5 (for PS3), plus three spin-offs. Persona 5 is due out in Japan in (northern) winter 2014; there is no detail beyond that, nor any English-language release date. Personally I wish it were for Vita, but this is still good news!


In other news, the first volume of Norse-themed historical manga Vinland Saga is now officially available in English, and it’s a cracking good yarn. Despite the name, it has little to do with the actual Vinland sagas, which I discussed over at my other site; this Vinland Saga is a larger-than-life action-adventure, filled with gory battles, epic feats, and magnificent sneering villains. Well worth checking out.


Remember the glory of ’90s point-and-click adventure games? LPer “Farnsworth” is chronicling some fun-sounding modern homages — here’s his writeup of cyberpunk thriller Gemini Rue (spoilers, obviously). Enjoy!

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Musical Monday: “Main Theme” (X: Rebirth), composed by Andrei Zakharov

I’ve never played X: Rebirth, the space simulation from which this week’s piece hails, and judging by the reviews (and the series’ reputation for density), I doubt I ever will. But that doesn’t detract from the haunting beauty of its main theme, a song that conjures up loss, and melancholy, and the frozen grandeur of space. I’ve embedded it below the cut — enjoy!


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The Vita-stic Persona: 4 Golden

Persona 4 Vita Shopping District N edited


Above is my new PlayStation Vita, running Persona 4: Golden! After a bit over a week, I think the hardware and the software were made for each other: the Vita is a fine machine, sleek and sharp-screened, while P4:G is one of the best RPGs I’ve ever played. P4:G is also long and deep (I clocked in at >90 hours on its predecessor, Persona 3: Portable), the kind of game I’d normally find difficult to finish — I frequently stall out on RPGs at the ~30 hour mark, such as Fallout: New Vegas, Xenoblade Chronicles, Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, and even the PS2 version of Persona 4. But the Vita’s portability is a blessing: I can carry it around the house, play when I have a few minutes to spare, put it to sleep at the push of a button, and awaken it in seconds. That makes it perhaps the most convenient way to play long, intricate games such as P4:G — definitely more convenient than being chained to a PC/console. Vita, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship…


As an aside, so far, the Vita’s library isn’t huge, but I have several more games to chew through once I (eventually) finish P4:G: action RPG Soul Sacrifice came bundled with the Vita, and over several PSN sales, I built up a decent backlog of PSP RPGs (Gungnir, Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time). As for future releases, Final Fantasy X and X-2 are due out for Vita eventually, and who knows what other RPGs might come after that? After all, the PSP eventually bloomed into an RPG powerhouse, with the likes of FFTTactics Ogre, and Persona 3.

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Pandora’s Toy Box: Observations on Dominions 4

Spring, Year 4 of the Ascension Wars. The rival empires of Jomon, T’ien Ch’i, and Pythium have soaked their borderlands in blood; the prize, the Thrones of Ascension that will allow a pretender god to rule the world. For years, they have battled to little avail; but now a breakthrough seems imminent. After months of siege, a T’ien Ch’i army stands ready to storm Jomon’s fortress in the province of Carnag — and once it falls, the way will be clear to march on Jomon itself.


Morale is high in the besiegers’ camp. T’ien Ch’i soldiers, backed by the steppe horsemen who recently made themselves overlords of the empire, have repeatedly shown themselves equal to the samurai of Jomon. Numbers are on the attackers’ side. Yes, Jomonese shugenja and onmyo-ji mystics have been seen inside the fortress. Yes, rumours suggest the great celestial dragon the Jomonese worship has been raising an army beneath the waves. But so far, neither the mystics nor the dragon have amounted to much. What could possibly go wrong?

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IMMELMANN TURN: Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol quick impressions

Ace Patrol Running for Home


At first, I didn’t like Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol very much, its designer notwithstanding. On paper, this turn-based, TRPG take on World War I air combat had it all: a clean, simple interface; pilots who levelled up and learned new manoeuvres; and those manoeuvres! Half-loops followed by rolls when I wanted to get away in a hurry, or full loops when I wanted to turn the tables on a pursuer. Climbs into the cloudbanks, then dives into the midst of German patrols. But everything was so boringly easy. Where was the challenge? Where was the incentive to learn how to use those manoeuvres?


Then I cranked up the difficulty.


And minutes later, as my pilots fought for my lives, the realisation hit me: this game is Diet XCOM.


I mean that in several ways. This was originally a mobile game, and it shows: Ace Patrol is very short by strategy game standards – you can finish the campaign in a few hours, less time than a single match of Civilization V. Its production values are modest; there isn’t even any music (1). It’s cheap (although Australians, beware regional pricing). And its mood is far lighter than XCOM: the planes are painted in bright, cheery colours, and the pilots can’t permanently die. They even seem to realise this – look at how they’re grinning in the screenshot!


But the resemblance is there. Like XCOM, Ace Patrol really must be played on an appropriate difficulty setting; once I dialled up the difficulty I found myself thinking about the interplay between tactics and equipment. My French SPADs were faster but slower-turning than the German planes; that encouraged me to run for home once I completed objectives, instead of sticking around to dogfight. Like XCOM, it’s necessary to develop a well-rounded roster: wounded pilots won’t be available for several missions, so it’s not wise to place every egg in a single ace’s basket, lest you be stuck sending a hapless rookie against the Red Baron. And like XCOM, this game generates emergent stories. The absence of permadeath means the stakes are nowhere near as high; but after just a couple of hours with Ace Patrol, I remember the time my rookie fought 3 Germans by herself and almost won; the table-turning mission that saw my bombers shred incoming Germans without much help from their escort; and the pilot in the screenshot, who shot down his target and made it home against the odds.


How does Ace Patrol stack up against other “light” strategy games? Perhaps the most comparable recent game is Skulls of the Shogun, and so far I think Skulls edges out Ace Patrol. Skulls is better at presenting information – for instance, in Ace Patrol, to find out why a manoeuvre isn’t available, I have to open a separate screen; whereas in Skulls everything is clearly laid out – and Skulls also benefits from higher production values and a superior aesthetic. Lastly, while Ace Patrol’s campaign is dynamic, I don’t think this adds enough depth to compensate for the genuinely good, funny writing that went into Skulls’ scripted campaign.


But there is no shame in not measuring up to Skulls, the benchmark for short-form strategy. I quite like Ace Patrol in its own right, and as I write this, I’ve just downloaded its newly released sequel, Ace Patrol: Pacific Skies, on Steam. I look forward to continuing my aerial adventures!


(1) Though I did learn that Guile’s Theme from Street Fighter truly does go with everything: it makes a great accompaniment to a rookie pilot’s bid for glory.

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Clippings – 6 November 2013

Some notable strategy game news over the last few days!

  • Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol: Pacific Skies, the WW2-themed sequel to Ace Patrol, has just launched on Steam (and is about to launch on iOS). I still haven’t played much of the original, which I snagged on a Steam sale a while back, but any game from Sid is worth watching. Anyone tried it yet? Incidentally, here is a quick Polygon interview about the game.
  • Paradox has announced Conquest of Paradise, an Americas-focused expansion for Europa Universalis IV. The press release is here and the first developer diary is here; perhaps the most interesting promised feature is that players will be able to randomise the New World, a la Imperialism II. CoP is due out in just over a month (11th December).
  • Soren Johnson, of Civ 4 fame, has announced a new studio: Mohawk Games, backed by an investment from Stardock. Game Informer has some detail on Mohawk’s first game (codenamed Mars), apparently a cross between an RTS and a tycoon game.
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Musical Monday: “Hometown” (Xenoblade Chronicles), composed by Yoko Shimomura and ACE+

I’ve previously highlighted the gorgeous soundtrack of Xenoblade Chronicles, and this week, I’ve returned for a second helping. “Hometown” is the epitome of RPG town music – peaceful, happy, and pleasant. Like most of the game’s ambient songs, it comes in two versions — a more energetic one that plays during the in-game daytime; and a gentler one that plays at night. I’ve linked both below the cut. Enjoy!


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Quick impressions: Transport Tycoon (Android version)

This is the mobile version of the PC strategy classic, a title I loved as a kid – I still own the official game guide. There are plenty of minor differences (most notably, the random map generator is gone, replaced with a long list of scenarios); but on the whole, this is a faithful adaptation (1). Each map presents the player with scattered towns and industries, which supply and demand various types of cargo; for example, towns both generate and require passengers, while a steel mill requires iron and coal from their respective mines, and produces steel that can then be shipped to factories. Scenario objectives can be open-ended ( “make X dollars”) or more prescriptive (“move Y units of a given cargo”). To meet these objectives, players buy vehicles (buses, planes, trains, ships, and more); lay track and build stations;; and reinvest the profits into new routes and better vehicles, a cycle as pleasant as it was 20 years ago. The largest scenario I’ve played so far, a medium-difficulty freeform map, did drag once I was past the initial difficulty hump (2), but it ended at about the right point to avert boredom – and besides, this is probably why the game offers multiple scenarios.


The key issue, as with any mobile port of an established game, is how well the controls/interface work with a touchscreen. Here, I think the answer is “not badly”. Everything – font, buttons, tiles – is nice and big, even on a 7” screen, and the developers have been quite clever about adapting the controls. However, it’s not perfect. For instance, in the PC version, railways are built by clicking on the desired tile, easy with a mouse but probably too fiddly for touchscreens. In the Android version, you tap the start tile, then select the direction you’d like to build in, and finally extend the line just by tapping a button. This works well for shorter and less complex routes, but the need to lay segments of track one at a time means that lengthy, curvy rail routes can still be a hassle – I could really have used a mouse when building my longest (and most profitable) line (3). Similarly, the simple act of telling a vehicle to go from station A to station B requires that I tap through several screens and often fumble with scrolling the map; over the course of a game, that adds up. And while I don’t remember if this was present in the PC version, I would really like some way to sort vehicles by profitability – it’s easy to mock “spreadsheet” games, but spreadsheets were invented for a reason! Still, I should stress that on the whole, the interface works reasonably well, well enough for the underlying game to shine through.


Overall, I quite like Transport Tycoon so far. There are other strategy games on Android, and other PC ports; but this is one of the few to combine PC-grade scale with a mobile-friendly interface. Definitely worth a look if you enjoyed the original, or if this sounds like your cup of tea.


Technical note: The Android version apparently suffered from nasty lag when it was launched; however, the game ran smoothly by the time I bought my copy.


(1) Perhaps it’s a little too faithful in its aesthetic – the low-res sprites have not aged well.


(2) Effectively, I was making enough money that I could snowball.


(3) Ideally, I’d like to see the game calculate optimal track layouts based on the start and end points, but oh well.

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Musical Monday: “Paper Dolls” (Digital: A Love Story), composed by 4mat

This week’s song is a chiptune piece that features on the soundtrack of Christine Love’s interactive fiction/adventure game Digital: A Love Story, a game I’ve previously praised to the skies. Upbeat and energetic, “Paper Dolls” plays at a moment of great hope in the narrative — Digital veterans will probably remember the moment in question — and like the rest of the game’s music, it is a wonderful fit for tone and theme. I’ve embedded the song below the cut — enjoy!

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Clippings – Tickets to Ride in the Rain

This week’s highlight is the debut of the latest Humble Bundle, #7 with Android. I haven’t tried the Android versions of any of the included games, but the PC version of Ticket to Ride is an excellent game, easily worth $1 for a Steam key — you can read my review here. Well worth checking out the bundle. In other news:


* Below the cut I’ve embedded a trailer for an fresh-looking new game – Sony’s Rain, clearly influenced by Ico. Unfortunately, actual reviews are rather mixed. Anyone tried it?

* Speaking of fresh-looking new games, remember Will Wright’s Spore? Before it came out I was enthralled by its promise, and before launch I created an utterly adorable creature using the pre-released editor. Then the final game came out to a lukewarm reception, and I gave it a pass. Five years later, Soren Johnson has an interesting retrospective on what went wrong – and I also recommend reading the comments, where other Spore veterans chime in.

* Here is a hands-on preview of Dark Souls II. That said, I am very skeptical about one design decision not covered in that article – you can now be invaded by PVPers at any time if you’re online (previously, there was a risk/reward dynamic whereby trying to summon other players would expose you to invasion). Time will tell how well this works.

* A sequel to Sleeping Dogs has been confirmed, though no details as of yet.

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I played, I thought, I wrote: a design analysis of Rome II, the Total War series, and what makes a good 4X game

This is not a review of Creative Assembly’s Total War: Rome II, but if it were, my opinion would be, “Worth a look… but wait for the <$10 Steam sale.” I’m around 30 hours into Rome II, spread across two campaigns and multiple stand-alone battles. I’ve had enjoyable times, and some spectacular moments. I’ve thundered elephants through the flank of a distracted foe, raised last-ditch armies, and marched from the Tiber to the English Channel, but the whole of my experience has been less than the sum of its parts. And the really interesting question is why.

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Dominions 4 Q&A, with Johan Karlsson and Kristoffer Osterman

Dom4 Virtue
Dominions depicts clashes between pretender gods, such as the Virtue seen above.

Johan Karlsson and Kristoffer Osterman of Illwinter Game Design are the creators of indie masterpiece Dominions 3, a strategy game of near-unrivalled imagination, depth, and player choice. With Dominions 4 about to launch (and following my July preview), I am very pleased to present my email interview with Johan and Kristoffer, in which we talk about Illwinter’s history, its inspirations, the future of Dominions, and more. Did you know that Illwinter even considered adding real-time battles and a 3D map? Read on:


Peter Sahui: Hello, and welcome to the site!


I’d like you to start by telling us about Illwinter Game Design. How did you get started developing games?


Johan: My first game was a long time ago just before I moved out to go and study computer science. My favorite old game was Chaos, a game for Spectrum 48 where up to 8 wizards battled it out in a very simple fashion. I got my Atari ST computer after that and felt that you could make a much better Chaos game on that computer. So my first attempt at a game was to create a Chaos clone for the Atari ST, written completely in basic. It got to a playable state and was better than the original in many ways, monsters had hit points and there were more of them as well. But it was not good enough to be sold, so it never got played by other than me and my friends.


When I started my Computer Science education I began to create a more sophisticated game that was called Conquest of Elysium. That’s also when I met Kristoffer who joined in and took over the graphics part. Being 2 people helped a lot I think and we managed to finish the game and sell it as shareware. Shareware was the thing back then and I remember that it was really bothersome and crappy compared to how it works today with Desura etc.


Illwinter Game Design had started to exist now and we continued to create a new game every few years until we had 3 CoE and now 4 Dominions as well.

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Musical Tuesday: “Mado Kara Mieru” (Calling All Dawns), composed by Christopher Tin

Over the weekend I wrote about an excellent game themed around the four seasons of Japan, so how better to follow it up than with an excellent song themed around the four seasons of Japan? “Mado Kara Mieru” is part of the Calling All Dawns album, composed by Christopher Tin of “Baba Yetu”/Civilization IV fame. It’s slow, contemplative, and quietly beautiful, and the story behind the lyrics is equally interesting. From the composer’s blog:


It’s sung in Japanese, and is based around a series of five Haiku, each corresponding to the changing seasons: spring, summer, autumn, winter and ending on spring. Each verse is sung by a singer in a different stage of their life; so a young girl sings the first spring verse, an adolescent girl sings about summer, an older woman sings about autumn, etc. The song ends with a return of the young girl singing about spring, therefore completing the cycle of the seasons. So in essence, it’s a song about the cycle of life.


I’ve embedded the actual song below the cut below. Enjoy!

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Skulls of the Shogun: The Verdict

Skulls of the Shogun Autumn


“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to take away.” Take that logic, apply to a strategy game, blend in a striking aesthetic, and sprinkle with humour: developer 17-BIT’s Skulls of the Shogun is the result.

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Clippings – 4 October 2013

Paradox Interactive (that’s the publishing arm of the Paradox empire) has announced a sequel to last year’s Warlock: Master of the Arcane. Rachel aka frogbeastegg quite liked the original Warlock last year, so this should be one to watch. Not many details so far, but the trailer made me chuckle.

In other news,  Gamesindustry has posted a very good two-part interview with Shuhei Yoshida, president of Sony Worldwide Studios. The link I’ve posted is to part one, entitled “Vita, Vita TV, and Sony’s future”, but it’s well worth reading both parts. He even addresses The Last Guardian!

Lastly, [a]listdaily has an interesting interview with Jenova Chen of Journey fame, in which he talks about a topic near and dear to me – the ability of games to evoke emotion.

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The World That May Have Been, a Europa Universalis IV Let’s Play – Part 5 (FINAL): Bend with the Wind

If you walk around London today, you will still find monuments to the war heroes of the 18th century, and cross streets named after the ministers who led Britain to victory over France and Portugal and the Dutch. But from a modern perspective, what stands out is how much blood was shed for so little effect. When the century opened, Britain, France, Portugal and Spain were the foremost powers of western Europe; and a hundred years later that had not changed. The true change of the period occurred inside borders, not between them.



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Clippings – 21 September 2013


Very big news this week! One of my favourite game creators, Yasumi Matsuno, is collaborating with mobile games studio Playdek to create a tactical RPG named Unsung Story: Tale of the Guardians. Matsuno is the man behind two of my favourite games, Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre, and it sounds as though Unsung Story will be along the same lines: Matsuno is promising a “deep and detailed” world, with nine warring kingdoms and multiple stories. Here is a good interview with US Gamer. A spin-off card game designed by Chris Boelinger will come out first, in 2014; so far no release date has been set for the TRPG itself.


In other news, Kotaku has posted a five-minute gameplay video of Ubisoft JRPG Child of Light, and The Escapist has interviewed XCOM: Enemy Within designer Ananda Gupta (I’ve linked to page 2, which has the more interesting gameplay details).


Lastly, if you have a minute to spare, a site named Hardcore Gaming 101 has some interesting retrospectives on old games. Did you know that in 1996, there was a Super Famicom game that let you create your own spells by mixing and matching incantations?


Unsung Story image taken from Playdek website.

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Musical Tuesday: “Dune Variation” (Dune), composed by Stephane Picq

For this week’s theme, I present another blast from the past — a piece from the 1992 Dune adventure game that preceded Westwood’s far-better known Dune 2. Specifically, I’ve presented two versions. The first is the in-game version; the second is the version from the “Spice Opera” CD. The first couple of minutes of the CD version are a rather dull lead-in, so I’d advise you skip to 1:55, but the rest of the song more than makes up for it. It’s a lovely, otherworldly piece that always makes me think of Arrakis, and wind howling in the desert, and the wonders that Frank Herbert conjured up almost 50 years ago. Enjoy!


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Total War: Rome II – Prologue Impressions

My design analysis of Rome II, the Total War series, and what makes a good 4X game is now up! You can find it here.


Total War: Rome II has been this year’s highest-profile strategy release, but its initial launch was dogged by reports of bugs, technical glitches, and AI failings. Since then it’s received several significant patches, and last night I finished its prologue chapter (which begins as a scripted tutorial, but eventually broadens into freeform strategy). Here are my initial observations:




* I’ve encountered only one significant glitch, but it is both frequent and irksome: large black panels appearing instead of terrain, on both the campaign and battle (see below) maps. As I write this I’m downloading a driver update; hopefully that’ll fix the problem. (UPDATE: well, that didn’t work — my computer did not like the ATI beta drivers I installed. Hopefully either CA or AMD will address this issue soon.)






* It took me a fair bit of fiddling, but I think I’ve found an acceptable compromise between performance and appearance. (For context, my machine is 3 years old, but still meets Rome 2’s recommended specs.) A picture is worth 1,000 words, so here are two of my nicest screenshots so far:





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The World That May Have Been, a Europa Universalis IV Let’s Play – Part 4: The Death and Rebirth of the British Empire



In 1665, Great Britain lay in ruins, her navy and trade fleets sunk, her cities occupied by French soldiers. It was the culmination of a series of unsuccessful wars waged throughout the 17th century, and as His Britannic Majesty’s hangdog envoys filed into the negotiating room, it was in doubt whether Britain would even survive. Previous wars had seen Wales, Cornwall, Northumberland lost, albeit temporarily. Could her victorious enemies even force her to give up Scotland?


The troubles had begun in the year 1600, when Great Britain had barely found its feet after the last century’s Wars of Religion. Decades earlier, Catholic rebels had not just wrested Ireland from the British crown; they had pledged their fealty to France. For Britain’s king, Octavius I, this was intolerable. His plan seemed foolproof: the British fleet would keep the French bottled up in harbour, Britain’s Austrian and Spanish allies would keep the French army busy on the European mainland, and Britain’s own modest army could seize an undefended Ireland. What could go wrong?


As it turned out, plenty. Distracted by rivals closer to home, the Austrians soon signed peace with France. The French demolished the Spanish army, and occupied Spain. Britain in turn occupied Ireland, but compared to the victories the French had racked up on the continent, that mattered little. The war settled into stalemate – the French fleet unable to match the British, the British army unable to match the French – and it could have dragged on forever.


(If this were a normal war Spain would have separately capitulated, but Spain and I were in a coalition war, in which individual coalition members can’t sign separate peace treaties. This rule seems a little odd – after all, if Napoleon could pick off coalition members, why can’t we?)


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Clippings – 4 September 2013

  1. Total War: Rome 2 is now out; here is a roundup of the early reviews. The reports of bugs and AI flaws are disheartening, especially after the polished Shogun 2, but I haven’t picked up the game yet and hence, haven’t been able to judge for myself. If you’ve played it, what do you think?
  2. The role of dopamine in how we react to games.
  3. An interesting review of Wii U game Pikmin 3, which characterises it as an anti-war exercise.
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