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The Independent Gaming Source regularly blogs come interesting 'indie' material, but this Japanese Flash game based around aristocratic feminine face slapping is one of the finest referrals so far.
Translation honours go to Selectbutton who report that:
The plot, according to the text below the game, is that the player girl is a commoner who marries into a noble family. One day after the marriage, her new husband breathes his last—but the pampered harpies running the House refuse to give this low-blood the honor that is her due. There is only one way to resolve the matter!
Spent last week reviewing UFO: Extraterrestrials for Eurogamer. Ended up being very mildly warm towards it, which was more than I was expecting. Because it's taking from such a well-conceived source - UFO: Enemy Unknown or X-COM: UFO Defence, depending on whether you're in Europe or the US*, it ends up often being highly entertaining because it's such a determined plagiarist. And God knows, everyone would like a decent successor to the Gollops' masterpiece.
I suppose that's one of the most interesting things about it. While true, it's not really fair to paint them as just plagarists. They're more akin to a covers band for a group who've long split. While other people have taken some stuff from X-COM - the UFO: Afterlight/Aftershock/Aftermath series - this is something that's deliberately much more faithful. Even then, it's not good enough. There's a determined mod community around the game who are increasingly altering closer and closer and closer to what they're actually looking for. In most mod communities, there's a clear division between the developers and people who like the game enough to want to mod it... but here, perversely, the fanbase for the game aren't actually the fanbase for the game. They're actually the fanbase of an entirely different game... exactly the same as the developers. They're like the Rabbis in Pi, searching for the name of God by re-arranging the alphabet of whatever.
Of course, it's interesting to wonder whether "A New X-Com" is even achievable. For both sides of the argument, see this debate between a load of journos and Devs over at Quarter to Three.
It seems that Valve are winning at electronic distribution, thanks to PC-pleasing publishers THQ signing up to stick their games on Steam. Having already dragged Eidos on board with Tomb Raiders and Hitmen aplenty, Valve will now be able to provide the lazy with some more of the PC's finest, like Company Of Heroes and, er, Titan Quest. Stalker and Supreme Commander will be arriving shortly too. (Blimey, Company Of Heroes is just $25, which is a bargain.)
So is anyone having problems with Steam these days? Or are we finally agreed that it was a good idea after all?
The sheer unhindered joy that is Homestar Runner is on a short hiatus at the moment, since one of the Bros. Chaps has gone and had a baby, and apparently that's somehow more important than drawing a Flash cartoon on the internet.
However, during the gap - and thankfully making writing about it relevant to this site - there's been an update to their excellent Videlectrix site. Should you be unitiated, a part of the H*R nonsense is Strong Bad's archaic computer, and the games that play on it. Celebrating the pixellated joy of the earliest PC games, and indeed their Acorn, Spectrum, etc counterparts, these spoof minis do a surprising job of being almost as good as the real thing.
None are so great as the Thy Dungeonman series, capturing the inane nature of text adventures better than the text adventures ever did.
One of the most interesting games to come out of E3 last week was Echochrome.
Announced for PSP and PS3, it's disappointing to learn that such an esoteric and unusal puzzler isn't planned to make home on the PC. However, it's slightly less disappointing to discover that it's already here. Sort of.
I've just noticed that my PC Gamer piece on Blacksite has gone up on their C&VG site. This kind of preview is bread and butter for us, but actually this was one of the more interesting game demo events I've been to recently, and not because it situated in the skin-draped depths of Soho.
Having played Midway's Area 51 and being distinctly unimpressed, I was going into the demo of this sequel with some scepticism. Despite the credentials (Harvey Smith and friends, of Deus Ex) attached to the Blacksite project, I thought a multi-format shooter based on last year's nonsense was a doomed enterprise. However the event itself demonstrated that the team do seem to have a pretty strong idea about what makes linear shooters interesting. The main fighting sequences are going to be fairly open "arena" areas, with players encouraged to use the space and operate alongside the AI (or indeed drop-in co-op like in Gears of War) in taking out a varied selection of baddies. These arenas are filled with scripted sequences (Star Ship Trooper-alike bug aliens leaping up onto buildings and so on) and your team react to their environment with some nice touches, such as kicking open some doors, while smashing glass to reaching round and open others by hand. It's all very linear, Half-Life 2 style, but it looks like there's scope for experimentation. That said, the smalltown America stuff was far more interesting that the by-the-numbers dusty Iraq sections.
Those Yankee environments, being all small desert towns and semi-derelict trailer parks, look awesome in the Unreal 3 engine, and I suspect even if the game ends up being a bit thin we'll still be impressed by some of what the design team manage to come up with. The giant worm alien on a bridge set-piece was pretty spectacular, and only really marred by inexplicably crappy fireballs being emitted from the giant critter.
Gamasutra have a mention of Blizzard's team structure, which gives away that there's an unannounced game:
"Our global headcount is 2,700," said Pearce, "And most of that is customer service for World of Warcraft! In terms of development staff it’s probably around 350. World of Warcraft is about 135 people, 40 for Starcraft II, 40 for team 3, our cinematics team is about 85 guys. Then there’s sound and Q/A and that sort of thing."
When pressed for details regarding the new project, Pearce was cagey. "Team 3 is working on something really awesome. I can’t give you any hints, but it’s totally awesome."
Well, they can, but since it's got an European release, it's at least worth printing a screenshot to go "Aw! Bless!" at.
The game in question is Maple Story. It's a side-on MMO with the aforementioned 67 million registered users across the aforementioned North America and the aforementioned Asia. And it's free to play with its funding through micropurchases, which probably explains a lot about the aforementioned 67 million. Note that they don't actually mention the aforementioned number of people who actually put down cold hard cash on a pair of magic spadangley trousers.
Ooh, it's beautiful. And out in... Fall 2008.
Also the music in the Fallout world is the same music I listen when staring out of the window, smoking my pipe and plotting domination. (Only the trad "War..." dialogue spoils it. Sorry! Please don't hurt me.)
I'm just glad I can finally talk about this without breaking an NDA or eight.
Massive have launched their open beta of their Cold War RTS, World in Conflict. I was playing in the closed beta, and biting my tongue to avoid just lobbing an enormous essay up on my blog about why I think it's perhaps potentially the most interesting RTS of the year. I suspect I'll end up riffing on the game for the rest of the year, assuming it holds together. Which is always a big "assuming" to make, but let's try being optimistic for once.
With any luck, this will be to Massive's previous Ground Control games, what Battlefield 1942 was to Codename: Eagle. That is, a game that takes relatively obscure source material and manages to bring it to an enormous audience. I can't see why not. The WW3 setting is criminally under-used (And, as an aside, when it has been used it's lead to some fascinating games - cross reference the definitive Soldier Sim, Flashpoint: Cold War Conflict). Massive have always believed in RTS which are inspired as much by team deathmatch games as the traditional lineage - so we have short games, no-real economics and close-teamwork. It's different enough to be interesting but based on mechanics so simple that I suspect I'll even be able to get Walker to play a game or two.
I've been playing the PC version of Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2 (a game nowhere near as fun as one with an ancroynm that sounds like a cartoon monster should be. The campaign for the word 'graw' to be re-adopted by something sillier starts here). In one of the mid-game missions, a Mexican chap who's helping my US commando squad rid his country of thinly-sketched renengades laments the horrific damage done to his hometown, at least some of which was the airstrike and mortar bombings I called in on the last level. "Theeeeeees ceeeeety, what have we done to her?" he cries, in textbook comedy Mexicanspeak.
There's a pause. Then Scott Mitchell, the lead Ghost - and the player character - smarmily replies, "It's called the price of peace." This was delivered in exactly the same tone as, say, "shut up and be thankful, you dumb gringo" would have been.
I snarled at the screen in disgust, manouvered Mitchell into the nearest firefight I could find and left him to die. Then I played Peggle instead. Hint to games designers: make your heroes also likeable by people who aren't raging patriot gun-nuts.
I finally got around to playing the Dutch freeware game, De Blob. In it you take control of the titular blob, who is a crashlanded alien charged with absorbing the rainbow-coloured denizens of grey Dutch cities and transforming the city into large blocks of primary colour. It's a purely mouse-controlled game and feels similar the single-button 16-bit era games. In fact it almost feels weird to only use a single button in a game these days - I'm so used to keyboards and gem-encrusted twenty-thumb gamepads.
It also made me motion sick for the first time in my life. I'm 29 and motion sick at last. I assumed that years of videogame abuse had immunised me from such effects, but perhaps the mad camera twirling of De Blob has finally got to me. Does this mean I'm getting old? I need to lie down.
Despite nausea I can earnestly recommend De Blob. It's weird and cute, and really nothing like Katamari. You can download De Blob's English version right here. Please post reports of motion-related illness in the comments. Eugh.
Welcome to Rock, Paper, Shotgun. We'll be writing about games, you'll be reading about games. PC games, mostly, with a hint of retro.
Being a big ol' list of the big neat things on RPS you may want to read if you're a newcomer. Or a particularly inattentive oldie. ULTROMEGAFEATURES: Features so big we give them a silly name. The Go Team! Team Fortress 2, class by class. The RPS 2007 Game-O-Calendar: Looking back at the best games of 2007. Games For 2008: The year preview in full.
INTERVIEWS: Developers with high talkosity verbospeaking. Raph "Theory Of Fun" Koster talks MMOs and Metaplace. Ron "Monkey Island 2" Gilbert talks Deathspank. Soren "Civ4" Johnson talks about PC gaming. Eric Wolpaw on writing for Valve, and writing Portal .David Speyrer on making Half-Life 2: Episode Two. Kim Swift and Jeep Barrett on making Portal. Ken Levine on the Making of Bioshock. The Splash Damage story: Paul Wedgwood on how they got to make Quake Wars: Enemy Territory. Robin Walker and Charlie Brown on Team Fortress 2. Part 1. Part 2. Professor Henry Jenkins on games and academia. Nathan ‘Oveur’ Richardsson on Eve Online. Adam 'Cargo Cult' Foster on Half-Life 2 super-mod MINERVA: Metastasis.
MAKING OF: Interviews with Developers on the origins of classic games Collect them all by clicking the Making Of tag. Hostile Waters Freedom Force Harvey Smith Rise of Nations Laser Squad Nemesis Arx Fatalis City Of Heroes The Longest Journey Settlers II Operation: Flashpoint Cannon Fodder 2 Thief: Deadly Shadows A Tale In The Desert Dungeon Siege Sacrifice Shogun Total War Outcast
YOU SHOULD NOT BE HERE
As you reach out to open the door, the Calendar throbs and quivers, its surface rippling in an uncanny, fleshy manner. A low growl comes from somewhere within and as the tip of your finger reaches the door, you feel something very much like a vein, pulsing beneath your touch. Recoiling in horror, you stumble and would fall to the ground if there were nothing to support you. But there is. Somebody is in the Calendar's chamber with you, though you entered alone. He folds you into his arms, his robe softer than fog. His beard bristles gently.
"The time is not yet right." His voice is like the cracking of thin ice on a lake and the breath that carries it smells of spun sugar and mulled wine. "You must obey the rules for the Calendar has been known to punish those who do not respect the passage of time. That is, after all, its purpose. To chronicle the end of things. The last person who pried open a portal before its time is still lost somewhere within the calendar, behind a door with no number. When no creatures are stirring in this house, I sometimes hear the scratches as he tries to find a way out, lost in the dark. Ho ho ho."
You turn to see this nocturnal visitor but there is a clattering of hooves, a cold shudder of frosty air, and you are alone in the chamber once more.
We rather puzzlingly haven't written anything else about that game yet. Sorry! But we will, one day. Probably.