Ben X

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About Ben X

  • Rank
    Time Gentleman

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  • Interests
    film, lit, comics
  • Occupation
    Video game writer & designer
  • Favorite Games
    Day Of The Tentacle, Quake
  1. Our group watch on the Slack has just finished TOS and will be moving onto TAS in a few days. Come join! Here's a blog post where I've basically copy-pasted my TOS posts from the Slack, plus put together a skip list at the end:
  2. A little bit late, but for anyone interested, over on the Slack we're doing a group watch of every Star Trek episode and movie in broadcast order. We just reached Arena. Come join us!
  3. A Song Of Ice And Fire

    Still regretting that decision ^^ even though Winds Of Winter still hasn't come out (he's still writing it, not long now!). Anyway, found this great ASOIAF theory channel, am enjoying the Littlefinger videos at the moment:
  4. What is the Nadir of the Simpsons?

    That style guide posted only 7 short years ago by Synth shows up in this excellent video talking about some of the Simpsons style rules via those bus stop characters who got cut from the intro:
  5. Idle Thumbs Mastodon

    I don't think there's anything special required, no. Just join like you would any other instance. iirc joining is fairly simple, it's then figuring out how to use the actual site that's the tricky part!
  6. Life

    Hello! Congrats on moving to Devon - I moved to Dorset a few months ago! Bit rainy and cold down here now, innit? There's a lot of people on the Slack, barely any activity on the Discord, a few Thumbs on Nick's Discord, and a fair few people on the Mastodon.
  7. Shall we just keep this as the 'general discussion' thread? Kevin Smith just had trailer editor Andrew Hegele (recently did the Black Panther 2 trailer) on one of his podcasts as a guest. It's not a particularly deep discussion, but it's entertaining and there's some insightful stuff in there: Guest segment starts around 1h16m, goes on for about half an hour.
  8. The discussion is pretty enthusiastic over at the forums! (There are a couple of far right people in there too, but I guess that's something you have to put up with in most online communities now...)
  9. Right, I had a look at a walkthrough and apparently there really is nothing to the game, either puzzle- or story-wise, except 'wander about, click on absolutely everything, and try everything with everything else in the hope that something happens'. So bugger it, that's me done with the Space Quest games. They could occasionally be funny, but they played like shit, sounded like shit and mostly looked like shit. I played a tiny bit of Broken Sword, and wow it's a breath of fresh air after all that Space Quest (and even The Dig, Amazon Queen and Gabriel Knight 2 tbh). It starts off with a lovely opening cutscene full of kinetic, cohesive animation. Very Don Bluth, and clearly expensive even though it's quite low definition, of course, and a few of the shots could do with being a bit longer. And then quickly into the main game, where the art all looks great and there are a bunch of nice animations. The music and sound are very organic, and the acting is good. The story is intriguing and the writing is deft and gently witty - it feels like a Tintin cartoon or something. And a nice simple cursor-only interface, with context-sensitive verb on left button and examine on right button. Ahhh, so refreshing! Anyway, I'll leave it there for now. Something nice to come back to.
  10. Space Quest 6 arbitrarily gets rid of the Star Trek thing and makes you a janitor again. It looks okay, even though it doesn't stand up to the better-looking games of even four years earlier - it's got a Gobliiins type look and is generally more attractive and cohesive than the past couple of entries, even if the heavily dithered backgrounds clash a little and there's still the occasional ugly 3D model plonked on top. The narrator is back, and there are other bits and pieces of voice acting. The sound's a little nicer, and the music is still the same 20 second minimalist loops, but at least the synths are a little nicer. Unfortunately, the gameplay's still crap. It's the same engine, so all the UI issues are still there, and It starts off with a very irritating puzzle, and then chucking you into one of those galling, sprawling hubs but with zero direction - 'you're on shore-leave, have a wander', that's it.
  11. 19% was generous. The production values are relatively impressive - it got a full talkie CR-ROM in '92, and it puts the 256 colours to full use (although it's pretty ugly overall, nothing like the strong, cohesive art direction of MI2 or FoA) - but fucking hell I got stuck even finding the first puzzle and there's 'stealth' stuff AGAIN. You can't get further than picking an item up with out either a robot or a zombie showing up and killing you. The sound was really grating too. The only positives I can find are that having a Jay Ward type narrator for all the descriptions was a good choice, and some of the background art looks quite nice, albeit in that smeary digitised early 90s way. I got a bit further in SQ5, but I'm giving up with this one as well. They've now decided to be a Star Trek spoof (mostly TOS, though they clumsily throw in some TNG as well, plus some Alien and Predator - I'd say this is the Spaceballs of adventure games, but it's closer to Epic Movie), which might not be too bad an idea if it weren't all so fiddly and boring. You spend the first part of the game cleaning a floor, then collecting garbage pods - this wouldn't be so bad if it were a quick tutorial section like in SQ2, but here you have to laboriously clean every pixel of that floor, and then to collect the garbage pods you have to sit in your chair (it farts EVERY TIME) tell your pilot to set a course, get coordinates from the manual (copy protection that they decided to leave in for the CD edition to "preserve the Space Quest experience"), type them in, tell your pilot to go to "lite speed", wait for thirty seconds while you travel, then when you approach the planet tell the pilot to go to regular speed, then activate the garbage collection. Every single time you want to go somewhere, you have to do this. Then there are all the other usual issues - you don't have any way of knowing what's an interactive item so you have to click on every 10x10 group of pixels just in case, there's no feedback on why something won't work, you have to walk in and out of rooms to trigger random stuff, everything's incredibly slow and the hotspots are so small that even with a guide and a video playthrough I found it difficult to successfully solve puzzles. The sound is still crap and there's not even any voice acting this time. The graphics aren't awful but they're cheap and unpolished. Laughably, for such a cheap game, it's also plastered with product placement for Sprint. It's got shitty minigames (like a battleships clone where you play on three boards at once) and QTEs. The latter is what caused me to quit the game. In retrospect, I can't believe anyone has the temerity to throw accusations of 'inscrutable logic' and 'pixelhunting' at games like DOTT (or even the D&B games) when stuff like this is out there. I now suspect a lot of that is because people have heard these are common issues with adventure games and so feel obliged to apply them to every single one just to sound smart. Anyway, one more to go, then I'm onto Broken Sword, which I played before and didn't love but at least will be decently made.
  12. Space Quest 3 is essentially the same as the first two games. Some much nicer graphics in parts - often better-looking than Maniac Mansion, and occasionally equals Last Crusade but is mostly a lot uglier than that game. It's still running on a text parser though, while those games have already moved to the SCUMM verbset, and the puzzles are still very frustrating. The story has fully devolved into random pop culture references and post-modernism now - you get chased around by a Terminator pastiche, then rescue the Space Quest designers and drop them off at Sierra HQ. Onto Space Quest IV, which does indeed take a step up in graphical fidelity, and I think also moves to a cycling verb cursor. But also, Amiga Power gave it 19% so it may not be the series high I thought...
  13. Okay, so this game does also have lots of bullshit! It does bring in stealth (basically, if a message comes up saying you hear footsteps or a craft or whatever then you have a small amount of time to navigate around whatever trees are in the way and get to the next screen, and if you've got too far to go, bad luck, and also sometimes it's actually someone who you need to talk to but there's no way of knowing that), plus now it has dreadful pixel-perfect death mazes to negotiate. Along with not actually being able to tell what is screen exit and what is wall, and also having to figure out if the parser allows you to use "rub on self" at this particular moment, and some crappy puzzles, it's not worth me struggling through even with a guide. I've just started the third one. It has slightly nicer graphics and continuous background music, and it made me laugh by asking me not to refer to the TIE Fighter in the junkyard by that actual copyrighted term. I doubt I'll last very long in this one either, though. (I think that maybe 4 is the one where it all gets a little more modern, and is also the most well thought-of, so maybe I'll have more luck there...)
  14. Onto the second one. It's a little smoother than the first one. I'm a bit more au fait with the controls and how to save, thanks to watching that playthrough of the first one. I guess if I'd found a manual for the first game I might have given it more of a shot, but there was probably too much bullshit still for me to have got far. Anyway, there's also no stealth, they seem to have put more effort into room descriptions and such so that it's clearer what the possibility space is at any given time, and the presentation is nicer. More layers of depth, cutscene animations, and a fun moment where you realise you can walk up the walls and ceiling on the outside of the ship. It eases you in a little easier too, giving you a janitorial task and some easy navigation before you get swept up in the story. It's a little funnier, too. I've chuckled a few times already. The series villain, Sludge Vohaul, gets abruptly introduced as the person behind the events of the first game. (Confusingly, he's also related to someone else called Sludge mentioned in that game, too, though different manuals etc have given different explanations as to how. Back in the days before people worried about franchise continuity!) He bungs you off to a mining planet, you escape your guards and end up in a generic fantasy forest, and now I'm stuck.
  15. Finished it, mostly with a guide. It's a pretty terrible game. A bunch of different art styles slapped together, many of them ugly. Crappy dialogue and story. And awful puzzles - either alien tech that you have to brute force your way through, or bog-standard yet terribly signposted adventure game fare. Plus all the usual adventure design missteps like expecting the player to wander around the huge map just to spot the one thing that changed, or having the player-character (or even the UI) figure something out that the player hasn't. "Hmm, looks like a crypt", says Low as he enters a room just as random and unidentifiable as any of the others. You really can tell they were just trying to get this out of the door to save George the embarrassment of his friend's game getting cancelled. Next should be Spycraft: The Great Game - I've got it on disc, but there's some issue with running it (predictably, it being a Win '95 game) and I can't be bothered to try and get it going with DOSBOX. It's only £1.50 on GOG but that would still go against the point of this backlog-busting exercise, so I moved onto Space Quest. I don't know why I had this down as a 1996 game, but I should have played all six of these by now! I don't know if I've got it in me to go back to 1986 adventure games. Maybe I'll play each for as long as is fun, and jump to the next one at the first roadbump, do a whistlestop tour of the franchise... Space Quest 1 starts out as what is essentially a shit stealth game played via text parser. It was far too much of a pain to struggle against the parser, the save system, the control system and the instadeaths, so I gave up pretty quickly on that one. I skimmed through a playthrough and it seems like there was some nice presentation there (the Blues Brothers show up playing in a Mos Eisley type cantina at one point!) but also a lot of bullshit gameplay-wise. For example, to buy a spaceship, save-scumming your way through a fruit machine until you eventually scrape together enough money is the intended solution!