Ben X

Phaedrus' Street Crew
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Everything posted by Ben X

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. I am also doing a game in BigJKO's new Cwine engine. It will not be anywhere near as gorgeous as his. I started off doing an adaptation of my Twine game ("The Often Ending Story") to get used to Cwine, help JKO get it to a barebones yet sturdy state and get used to my new (and first ever) graphics tablet. JKO got Cwine to a good Jam state a day or so ago, and I've started to learn to what panel sizes/brushes etc work well, so I'm ready to start on my Jam comic. Thing is, I've done so much work on this test comic, that I think I'm going to stick it in somewhere as a comic on a shelf that the player can pick up and play if they want before returning to the main story at any point. It's a little bit cheaty, as I wrote the original Twine ages ago, but what the hell. So I'm trying to polish that off today, and then get working on the actual story. The only problem: I have no idea what it's going to be about. I was thinking I might make it about the Caillech Bheur, but perhaps contemporise her so I can riff a lot easier. I'm going to aim for a Fiona Staples style of art (though not as good, obviously) with black brushlines and simple shading so that I can bash out cartoony art very quickly and get a relatively big game written (the art for my test comic is semi-purposefully ugly).
  4. I've got a pretty big games backlog, and my Big FPS Playthrough really helped make a dent in it, so I'm going to do the same with adventure games and once more post my thoughts here. It'll likely take a long time - I don't have that much time for gaming at the moment - so this thread may not get updated very regularly. I'll give up on a game or resort to a walkthrough if I get too stuck or am not enjoying it. I'm going to try and stick to the original experience, so no mods unless it's needed to recreate that experience (say, if the audio is terrible played straight on modern computers). I'll allow some genre-mixing, but I'm not going to count interactive novels, puzzle games, narrative experiences - I'm mainly looking for the meat and potatoes inventory/dialogue/exploration Lucasartsian experience. Some I've played previously and will replay if I liked them, post what I can remember of my reasons if I didn't. I'm only playing games I own, so if anyone really wants me to play a particular game not on the list, they'll have to buy it for me! My list: (for my own easy future reference, I'll give a colour rating as I go, based on my final enjoyment level rather than a broad review of the game as a piece of art; some release dates are estimates)
  5. 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...)
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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...
  10. 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...)
  11. 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.
  12. 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!
  13. Okay, that didn't last for long. Brink died, which is pretty cool, but then Maggie leaves and you're left in a massive hub full of alien locks and alien control panels that you're supposed to just kind of fumble your way towards a solution for. I haven't actually played Myst, but I feel like this game wants to be Myst.
  14. Walking around the planet is more effective. The in-engine art is a lot more attractive, even if it's not as striking as a DOTT or a BASS, and the game effectively conveys the mix of excitement and trepidation as you wander round yanking at everything you can while rat creatures scurry past, holograms crackle to life and your team-mates rumble mutinously. On the other hand, it's (intentionally) aimless, with the only goal being 'get home' and nowhere to start, and my inventory is already filling up with unidentifiable alien doodads. Also, if you're going to have a two-verb system, at least make sure your examine dialogue is full-bodied, not just copied from the interact response or a generic "Hmmm."
  15. I started on The Dig. The opening is actually not as strong as I remembered it! The FMV cutscenes are high-budget but are aiming for realism which unfortunately means they're hidden behind a dense layer of artefacting, and the relatively clean character close-ups are blandly designed to the point of ugliness. Into the game, you start off placing nuclear explosives on a giant asteroid, which should be a tense, exciting start but is dragged down by player/character dissonance, where I'm having to work out stuff the character already knows, by examining and using everything in sight, and a lot of busywork. I think it's supposed to be grounded and deliberate, but instead it's just a bit frustrating. Anyway, after doing two bomb-placings, two radio calls, five diggings, three panel-pushings and a ridiculously easy alien jigsaw puzzle, we're off to the alien planet! A couple more notes: the dialogue is clunky DTV crap (co-written by Orson Scott Card, apparently, who helped with the Monkey Island insults, and also is a massive bigot); the interface is an early example of the stripped down examine/use two-verb approach.
  16. The next section was a mostly humourless temple section that gave me unpleasant flashbacks to FoA, though it wasn't half as irritating. I'm well-versed enough in Lucasarts games that I instantly figured out the pulley puzzle and the 'follow a guide three times to get through a maze' puzzle. It then chucked me back into the jungle section, and I couldn't be bothered to walk round the whole thing again just to check if anything had changed, so I used a guide. It's a good thing I did, as nothing had changed and all I needed to do was make an utterly random guess that there was a safe was hidden behind a cabinet. After that there were a couple of incredibly easy puzzles and the game abruptly ended. Overall it was fine. It had some charm, but the irritations (like multiple music tracks having a high-pitched chime every few seconds) and lack of polish (like every area having fullscreen graphics that only fully revealed themselves when the UI changed to make way for a transparent dialogue tree, and certain rooms having a bug where the talk animations went on for ages after the dialogue had stopped playing) really brought it down, and there was nothing about it that particularly stood out. It was pretty cool to hear Penelope Keith doing VO though. Next game is... oh. Oh no. It's The Dig! I might play this with liberal guide usage so I can enjoy the production values while bypassing all the 'it's alien tech, of course it doesn't make any sense!' puzzles.
  17. [RELEASE] Blue Hag Christmas

    I was digging through my hard drive and found the completed dev commentary video for this! I don't know why I didn't upload it, probably because the audio was awful and I was considering redoing it. Well nuts to that, I've uploaded it, put some proper subtitles on and even made an (intentionally) awful thumbnail. I genuinely do not recommend this, it's very boring and has shockingly low production values.
  18. I've got to the next section. It's all okay, it's just a little unimaginative - the story's bare pastiche and the puzzles are all very basic (the only places I've got stuck have been due to not realising that some dialogue option three levels deep had appeared, or that an item had regenerated in some far-off dead-end of the map). The humour continues to be of the 'these sexy amazon women have captured us to have sex with us, and we don't want to leave!' variety. There's a joke with a long muzak-backed elevator ride, and that elevator goes down a long shaft to a secret underground lair, so I guess we were making more clever adventure game references in BTDT and LOTCG than we realised! (Our versions are better, obvs.) Besides, there's also a grim reaper type ferryman, so if we get accused of ripping this game off, we're taking Curse Of Monkey Island down with us.
  19. So yeah, giving up on Gabriel Knight 2. Have now started Flight Of The Amazon Queen. I've been wanting to play this since it got released as freeware, I guess mainly because it got released as freeware, plus it looked like goofy fun and it had the SCUMMVM Seal Of Approvalᵀᴹ. I played through the opening 'escape a room' puzzle and into the main jungle hub. So far, the game most reminds me of Duke Nukem Forever - there's lots of energy and stuff going on, lots of custom animations etc, and the production values are fair, but also the art direction is a little disjointed, everything's a bit clunky, and it's a 90s game pastiching 50s B-movies so there's some slightly thoughtless stuff in there (nothing awful yet, but the lead character is the type to get himself in trouble by romancing mobsters' girlfriends, and two of the initial puzzles are waiting for a showgirl to take a shower so you can hand her a towel - at least you look away - and dressing up in drag to get past some goons). It feels like Beneath A Steel Sky but without the ambition. As for the humour - on the one hand, the lead character is called Joe King, most of the jokes are breast and penis related, and there's already been an anachronistic Terminator quote complete with Arnie impression, but on the other hand I did just get past a gorilla by pointing out to him that he shouldn't even be in an Amazonian jungle thereby making him disappear in a puff of logic. So I'll continue through the very Monkey Island-esque jungle for now...
  20. Bleck, this is dreadful. I doubt I'll continue with this. The challenge is mostly struggling with the UI, and pixel-hunts (which are worse than most thanks to the UI), but the other puzzle I got stuck on was an incredibly fiddly tape-splicing system where the recorded conversations, which in the previous game was purely a review mechanic to check for missed clues, can be taken apart word by word and rearranged. This is never tutorialised, requires you to assume a character is suddenly going to leave a room as soon as you've created the right fake voice recording of them, and is only used once in the entire game. The whole thing feels like an excuse for Jane Jensen to take a paid holiday, justifying it with a few photos of statues and some hastily copied encyclopedia entries. I am absolutely staggered that these games are so well thought of.
  21. Hooooly shit, this is awful. BASS may have been rough around the edges but this is clunky as fuck. It continues the weird menu set-up from the first one where you have to click on a separate menu button to get the opening cutscene, then start a new game to get the second opening cutscene. The FMV here, by the way, is painfully bad. Cheap and ugly as sin, with some rotten acting (they do have Kay E. Kuter in there, though); it feels like a Hammer Horror pastiche someone shot in their backyard. The UI is terrible, too - it's ugly, it takes up most of the screen, and every action requires at least double the clicks it would in any half-competent adventure game. Standout moment so far: a ten-second cutscene of a pixely man writing a letter then addressing the envelope then licking the envelope then sealing the envelope then putting the envelope on the table then getting up and walking back to the centre of the room.
  22. Well, the difference in production values here are a pretty notable step up from Sam & Max, as Lucasarts' first CD-only adventure game (no floppy version this time round), but coming straight after BASS is a strong reminder of how staggering this was back in the day. Proper full-length licensed songs on the soundtrack, really impressive cutscenes, action, loads of 3D modelling, big fluid 2D animations. I still vividly remember seeing a clip of it on Gamesmaster, where Ben picks a lock and then throws the padlock on the ground, and drooling over it. It's not really fair to compare the two on terms of budget alone, but even outside of the gorgeous art, music, and voice-acting, the levels of polish and presentation here are miles ahead. None of the rough edges in the writing or the UI. Okay, so it's a bit short and easy, but these days that's not so much of an issue. Next game on the list is Discworld, but I've played that fairly recently and also I'm only a few books into my first ever DW readthrough (I finished Mort a while back, just need to get clear my backlog of 8 or so individual novels then I'll get back into it), so it makes sense to leave this one at least until after I've got past the series entries it's loosely based on (mainly Colour Of Magic and Guards! Guards! apparently), then give it a replay. I remember thinking it was pretty good, it captured the feeling of the books well, and the graphics were cute. It could probably be re-released now with very little done to it, outside of getting the voice actors back in to record a few new bits of dialogue here and there to help signpost the more egregiously nonsensical puzzles... Which means that I'm onto... ulp... Gabriel Knight 2. I didn't get on with the first game at all, so I'm immediately disinclined to give this one much of a chance, but we'll see. If nothing else, it had really cool box art.
  23. Okay, I finally came back to this and finished it off. It really is a very rough diamond - it's full of character, with a strong British feel, loads of cool ideas, some lovely (if hampered) art, and an effective dystopian atmosphere full of death and body horror and small-mindedness, but it often fails to overcome its low production values, a fair few puzzles range from fiddly and confusing to straight-up unfair, and the story is very rushed. Onto Full Throttle! I've played this umpfty times before, but it's been a few years, I think, so I'll be happy to play it again. I'll be playing from the original CD-ROM via SCUMMVM.
  24. Alright, one last bump for this (hey, there are enough new accounts spamming up the place, why shouldn't I?!): orders close forever at midnight Sunday, ET (14 hours from the time of this post), so grab it while you can!