Guest Post: Can poor company policy ruin a good game concept? Hax Monster certainly thinks so as he reviews Overkills choices for Payday 2

Posted by: Jason Silverain / Category: , , ,

 In our brave new fast, technology-fuelled world, sometimes questions may arise on what should be considered normal. Should businesses be allowed to break explicit promise they made? Should an enterprise be allowed to openly ask for donations? The games industry in particular is an area where norms and values are quite unclear which also raises very poignant dilemmas. Should consumers be instructed to buy an X amount of content to be given trivial rewards? Should a business with 75 employees, a mother company and a publisher be allowed to call itself an ‘independent’ developer? Should you add the vast majority of your game’s content years after release and should you create downloadable content that is worth five times more than the base game?

 Don't forget that day 1 DLC

Perhaps I’m a simple man. Perhaps I’m old-fashioned and should have been born around the 1950’s when it was impossible to sell someone an oven and later on bring out a ‘chicken frying’ add-on for the oven which would only be available if I would have bought the oven again two times. I might just be so simple, but yet I firmly believe the answer to all of those questions above should be an absolute no. However, all of that seems to be happening today.

 4 men and bags of stolen money.

This time, my vague review introduction alludes to Payday 2, a game that is about bank robbing, but apparently the title also refers to the only thing the developer has in mind. I probably wouldn’t have deemed this possible ten years ago but this game has been made horrible retroactively. It was launched 2013 by Overkill software as a sequel to Payday: The Heist. The Heist was a simple, cheap four-player co-op shooter game about doing a bunch of linear, fairly cinematic missions to nick the arbitrary pile of valuables du jour. Shooting was all you did and missions barely changed inbetween playthroughs. It’s total runtime, without repetition, wouldn’t even outlast a long movie but the teamplay involved was enough to come back for if you had others to play with. 
Essentially, it’s baby boy Payday 2 is usually pretty open, giving you an entire area to freely use in the mission and only an objective. In most situations you can go in guns blazing and fight off the cops until you’ve got the loot and then transport the loot to your van while under fire. Alternatively you can try to stealth it up and sneak in, shoot every civilian because you’ve found out you can’t tie down ten people at once, then find out that one guard’s boss called him to see if that noise he heard was him devastating the bathroom with diarrhea again. Then boss man calls the cops and THEN you can go in guns blazing and fight off the cops until etcetera etcetera etcetera. 

I hope you are near the escape when these guys turn up.

Gunplay is pretty fun; it is smooth in the Call of Duty kind of way and there are enough special enemies to liven up the violence buffet, unless all special enemies are disabled because you’re playing on ‘normal’ difficulty, you coward! I’ve got to mention that I just hate it when a game names it’s easy difficulty setting ‘normal’, just to flatter the player. I can just picture the developer’s thoughts when they chose to do that: ‘Amazing job, player! Most ‘normal’ people would struggle through this but for you it’s a breeze, please feel so badass about yourself that you’re going to leave a positive review for us on Steam, mwah mwah mwah’ etcetera. But yeah, the gunplay’s solid. Actually it is even more solid than it seems, because it shares the problem with Call of Duty that enemy hitboxes are like half a meter bigger in every direction than the enemy themselves, making every enemy a big solid partially invisible fridge that you can hit from kilometres away. One little feature I did like was that the soundtrack’s bass drops when the enemies go and rush for your sorry arses, which legitimately makes you feel like a badarse. Afterwards you use the money you… ehrm… ‘earned’ to buy a bunch of useless gizmos for your gun and all that other standard upgrading nonsense and you just do all the same missions again. This really is a rinse and repeat kind of game where you do all the missions ten times, usually just on one difficulty too once you’ve found the one for you. 
Repetition is not what gets this game down though, I found the community to be relatively twelve-year-old free and most players are ok with making a little heisting scheme beforehand. The community is actually so good that I’ve met the vast majority of my Steam friends, including Silverain, in this game. A lot of the fun comes from the teamplay, but also from the hoarding sensation of shamelessly grabbing a big pile of bank money that probably belongs to some poor pensioner that needs it to feed her cat, you monster! There’s some weird fundamental joy to just grabbing a load of things to take for yourself, which shows that Payday 2 probably gives you the same rush as the rush that starts off a career in shoplifting.
Of course, robbing a bank is best done as sneakily as shoplifting and on that note I’d like to get into stealth a little more. Remember my shoot everyone-radio call-diarrhea-police scenario? Once you get to a slightly higher level and actually know your way around the game a bit (unlike yours truly, who didn’t know the button for grenades at level 90) there’s a possibility to turn this scenario around and when you manage that it’s a smoking gun barrel of fun. Of course there are your ‘standard’ stealth missions where you just wander through the big building avoiding guards and crouching all the time, but if the map is just one relatively small building filled with people you have to use proper coordination and teamwork to run into the building, throw electronic jammers on the floor that block cellphones, shoot all cameras in the vicinity, tie down the civilians and reassure the big boss man on the radio that it was indeed diarrhea and not homicide that just took place. All of that takes about 30 seconds so a proper division of tasks is imperative. The fun in that coordinated blitzkrieg robbery style really is the fun that seals the deal.

A shame it is then that some years after launch Overkill decided to tear the seal right off again to start padding their title like they’ve got ambitions to be a cushion producer. Mission after mission was released after launch to make people forget that Payday 2 had way less heists on launch than the devs promised. The new missions were either really stupid, like the Christmas heist, or were just record attempts at the most obnoxious product placement in gaming history, a record probably now held by the Alesso heist. What was even worse was that some of the useless padding, some Hotline Miami content to be precise, was not only product placement padding, but product placement padding with a sense of entitlement because you as a player weren’t good enough for it if you hadn’t bought Hotline Miami ‘What Was The Pizza Guy’s Number Again’ 2. That’s right, they are making you buy an entirely different game to get content in Payday. And then they repeated it recently with a straight face, demanding that you obtain an achievement in Payday: The Heist before you get certain Payday 2 content! 

 Before Alesso there was Wick..
Besides the neurotic level of padding, Payday 2 has head-butted quite a few promises to bits. Besides a lower number of heists on launch before the game’s launch, Overkill also recently broke the promise that Payday 2 would never have microtransactions. Then there was the ‘Completely Overkill Pack’, a purely cosmetic DLC that was sold for a ridiculously high price and which openly admitted to being not DLC but a possibility to ‘donate’ to Overkill and to ‘support’ them. I literally had to read that three times before I saw they were serious. Last time I checked the World Nature Fund did not change its name to ‘Overkill Software’ so what gives a company the cheek to ask for money for nothing? It’s just insane, I can’t put it any other way.

Then there is the cartoonishly silly idea of the so-called ‘hypetrain’. The idea is that players have to buy a certain amount of paid DLC and if the value of all bought DLC in a certain time period reaches a specific level, Overkill adds ‘free’ content to the game. You can’t really call it free if you ask people to pay money for it, even if you make them do it indirectly.
Now, because of my laziness and me preferring to play video games instead of writing ( what a surprise, right? ) this review took me ages to compose and in the meantime, for the first time in recorded history, the game’s community has embraced the same anger towards the game as I have. On the time of writing, the 15th of November 2015, Payday 2’s Metacritic user rating is 3.5 out of 10. For comparison, the critic reviews, which all came in around launch, are still at 79 out of 100. This low user rating is of course partly because of that anyone who slightly dislikes a game votes ‘0’ to influence the ratings as much as possible, but the fact that so many people decided to go nuts on it still says something. The Steam community page is no different and it is no longer a rare sight to see a player who spent over a thousand hours in-game write a negative review because of the game’s recent developments. Overkill’s reaction did little to improve things for me, especially when the company’s face, Almir, called Overkill an ‘independent developer’. According to Wikipedia, Overkill has a publisher, some 70 employees and a mother company. I think then you’ve gotten a bit too big to still try and be in the same category as bedroom programmers that really are indies and that genuinely try to do a good job.

Payday 2 had the right idea at the start. It’s predecessor let you do nothing but shooting down so many SWAT officers that you could probably earn more money by selling their radios than what your score was worth, but Payday 2 offers a bit more than that. This time around you are actually busy stealing things rather than just committing genocide. Like a pleasant park it was filled with openness, freshness, joy and dead bodies, but because Overkill decided to apply it’s namesake to their financial policies It is now like a park in Tsjernobyl: but a ghost of it’s former glory.
A ghost with loads of money, I hope that makes it up for them.

If you want to know more about recent developments between Payday 2 and the community, in the video below I and Silverain explain it to you

Jason Silverain here, I just want to expand on this since the video OverKill released the rewards for the Completely Overkill Pack which turned out to be a limited edition safe and drill with a random weapon skin out of a possible 25. These skins could not be traded, sold or gifted making it quite likely to get a skin you would never use and not be able to get rid of it or obtain one you want. You also got 7 free previously released DLC but if you had bought them already you didn't get an additional copy and in fact you didn't get anything other than the skin so they were punishing people for purchasing the DLC before this was announced. In addition this gets even worse as by doing this if people attempt to refund the Completely Overkill Pack would have the DLC removed from the game also even if they had bought them separately and these would not be refunded. Remember the Completely Overkill Pack was sold for £20 and the existing drills cost £2.60 so you can imagine people felt pretty left ripped off. 
The volunteer steam form moderators tired of taking the brunt of the community anger for Overkill while understanding and in some cases agreeing with the community went on strike. 
All of this has finally gotten through to Overkill and they have issued a public apology with some explanations to some concerns. However it should be considered that Overkill have proven themselves untrustworthy to a degree so the community are seeing if they will actually take actions to back up their words as to many this just seems like a hollow Public Relations statement since nothing will be done about the micro-transactions..if you want more information I recommend keeping up to date with TuffCookies post on the issue.
It should also be mentioned that Overkill has been attempting to improve relations through some of the free heists and the new free character and perk deck, it seems they are listening to some of the community feedback but it maybe some time until we can determine if they are actually genuine about trying to make amends or if they are trying to repair their reputation just enough that it won't damage the release of their next title.

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Christmas Stocking Fillers and Fun Gifts 2015

Posted by: Jason Silverain / Category: , , , , , , ,

Christmas is approaching fast as always, now thankfully I tend to plan ahead and have all the presents I need by November but I think in every family and gaming group there's always that one person who won't give you a hint and you have to get creative.
I made a post way back in 2013 giving ideas for those last minute Christmas presents and imagine my surprise when I received an email asking for more this year so here are some of my favourite Christmas stocking fillers of 2015.

My first choice is for groups with young children, now most groups prize their personal character figures especially those made by hand or services like Hero Forge but often the kids want to play with them but because they are delicate then tend to break.
A nice alternative for the younger kids to play with or use in their own games are these Packs of Plastic Knights, cheap, easy to replace, these are great to bulk up your battles or teach kids how to paint models. These packs also come in three different sizes 20 models in a basic pack, 45 in a giant pack, and a mixture of knights and siege weapons in the jumbo pack.   

Another present for those gaming parents is the I've had it with Elves baby suit by Crazy dog Tshirts, with is shirt you can get their child both a Christmas and Roleplay jumper in one.

Have trouble claiming certain table snacks? Then these Knight and Dragon Flags are for you.
My own group had a heap of fun with these and the cry of  "I claim this sausage roll in the name of Sir Geoffrey of Azure Court" could be heard for quite a few sessions.

For those players who Gm's pet keeps ending up on the gaming table, now they can join in and be a monster too before falling asleep on your character sheet.

Moving back to the more traditional gifts Cultzilla are offering a Dice and Mug combination coming in three variations: Potion of Healing, Dungeon Master and Choose your Weapon.
Each mug comes with a set of 7 Pearlescent dice and accompanying dice bag.   

The Pathfinder Players amongst you may be familiar with these already but the Game Mastery decks
 Critical Hit, Critical Fumble, Buff and Condition Cards are all time saving aids welcome by any DM.

Critical Hit and Critical Fumble spice up the traditional natural 1 and natural 20 rolls giving a deck that the players draw from and apply all kinds of new effects to these tides of fortune.  
The Buff Deck and Condition Deck act as player aids providing quick reference cards for bonuses from spells and various conditions such as grappling, pinning, sicked and blinded, useful for new players and veterans these save a lot of time otherwise spent searching through books for that one rule reference.    

5th Edition Players need not feel left out with Wizard Of The Coasts Release of Spell book Cards available for all the archetype casters Arcane (Wizard and Sorcerer), Bard, Cleric, Druid, Paladin, and Ranger.  
These cards are your spell book in a box with each spell in full detail on the card (and for those that don't quite fit a reference to the players handbook page), rules on scaling and made durable for long term use (though personally I would put these in card backers regardless). The price does vary wildly between decks with the Paladin and Ranger decks costing much less than the others and its worth shopping around between game stores. 
Here is a example of the the wizards traditional fall back through the ages Fireball:

Finally for that player that always loses his dice there are lots of deals on a Pound of Dice, now just a bit of warning with these as you should be aware quality can vary between these sets so checking reviews is well advised but for this post I've done some searching and Chessex Dice seem to have high reviews so far.


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Speciality Dice: Miss Jessica Goldsmith's Braille dice store and 64 Ounce Games Kickstarter for Braille dice and game pieces.

Posted by: Jason Silverain / Category: , , , , ,

Back in June 2014 I did a small post on a Kickstarter for Braille Dice, it seems Miss Jessica Goldsmith's finally has finalised the design for her dice and created a Shapeways store to sell dice to the public.

This was one of the first draft dice made with the 3D printer gained in Jessica Goldsmiths Kickstarter.

Now while I support the development of braille dice I can't help at frown at the high prices for the dice which vary between £4.50 to nearly £8 PER dice when considering that a set of regular role playing dice can be purchased from most stores for that amount. I must consider though that each dice can be customised and that this is a speciality item which always causes a hike in prices.

So I find myself now noticing that another kickstarter for Braille dice has been created not by a single individual like Miss Jessica Goldsmithbut by a small husband and wife company named 64 Ounce Games that focus on creating accessibility kits for games.

A Picture of Mr and Mrs Gibbs from their website.

Richard Gibbs is the founder and lead designer at 64 Oz. and his wife Emily Gibbs is a teacher of Blind students and handles the web side of the business, quoting their own words
'Both Richard and Emily are dedicated to making great games everyone, including the blind and visually impaired, can play.'

Initially sceptical of the Kickstarter worried that it might be a simple cash grab by a company I found myself presently surprised at the range and scope of their ideas and planning beyond just the dice and after a little digging I discovered that they had created a kickstarter in 2014 to purchase their first 3D printer and open their store.

 The difference in quality is noticeable.

Unfortunately the 3D printer they purchased while fine for most projects was prone to breaking down and not suitable for the finer print details for items such a dice so this Kickstarter hopes to raise money to purchase a new one.

Beyond the kickstarter 64 Ounce Games have their own website which is quite interesting it itself hosting a podcast and provides some free accessibility kits for certain games, personally I think the piece that is most worth your time is the colour blind accessibility advice for game designers which will have you considering all sorts of issues and solutions you may have never realised existed.
Another reason I rather like this article is that it is pre-emptively seeking to address the issue of accessibility and may even help a designer fix an potential issue before a game is released.     

64 Ounce Games also have an online store which covers a staggering amount of games and ranges from replacement game pieces to braille card sleeves, predictably it is mostly print to demand and the costs do vary from reasonable to quite expensive between products but again these are speciality items and many of these games require a lot of items all of which are included in the packs.

If you'd like to learn more about 64 Ounce Games Geek and Sundry did a excellent post about them or alternatively they have several videos on their Youtube Channel.

Finally to end on a amusing note while some people are trying to make dice easier to read others are doing the opposite, Andrew NGAI over in Canada has created a successful Kickstarter to make dice printed in Minimalist design Binary Code of all things.

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Guest Post: Exploring what he considers the last good game in the series Hax Monster reminises about Far Cry 2

Posted by: Jason Silverain / Category: , ,

Like with your pride the first time you manage to make a fire in the woods without matches, the amazement about a good video game series simmers down when it all starts burning itself to the ground. Series like Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed or Thief are masters of their genre and pioneers in gaming technology until suddenly they look back, realize that they’re so popular they’ll never have to do a damn until the end of days and spend the rest of their runtime extensively testing that feeling. And usually you can point out one game that was the turning point; a game that perhaps wasn’t bad itself but which ushered in the era of minimum-effort player-milking games. With Call of Duty it was the first Modern Warfare and with Thief it was Thief (god, that sounds stupid). 
With the Far Cry series, that game was Far Cry 3. While immensely popular and actually quite good in it’s own right, it forebode a time where Ubisoft would not know what to do with the franchise; for Far Cry 4 they simply did Far Cry 3 again with some snow added and Far Cry Primal isn’t really a sequel at all as it has as much to do with the other Far Cry instalments as it has to do with the newest instalment of Jaffa Cakes. Therefore I want to reminisce about the last undoubtedly good Far Cry that I remember: Far Cry 2.

In Far Cry 2 you take the role of a mercenary sent out to an African country where two factions are fighting a long civil war. Your job there is to take out an arms dealer named ‘The Jackal’ and to do this you do jobs for the warring factions and a truckload of side missions for all kinds of nutters that are all in their own way trying to get a slice of the African pie that is the country’s vanishing wealth. Inbetween the mission you get an open game world with cars and enemies smeared out evenly like butter on toast, with the freedom to go pretty much everywhere. So far, so generic. Then what is it that makes this title the hidden jewel that it is? I’ll show you!

Pub quiz time! Name as many games as possible that are set in Africa!

Well, how did you do? I myself can only think of Serious Sam 3, although calling Egypt an African country is like calling Origin serious competition for Steam; strictly true but practically not quite. The only other African game that comes up for me is Far Cry 2. So on the originality scoreboard Far Cry already marks highly on ‘setting’ for me. The setting is perhaps the biggest and most important ingredient of Far Cry 2’s recipe that I devour with so much gusto. As soon as you start the game up you are presented with an overwhelming feeling of being in that dry, war-torn hostile place and you are immediately immersed eyehole-deep. The colour palate delivers the dryness of sub-Saharan African steppes in dry season, the vegetation moves naturally and is very real, the light is beautiful and intense. 
You get to soak up all of the setting during the game’s very well-executed intro cinematic that for me is only really bested by Bioshock’s bathysphere ride. During this first moment of the game you are driven around a large part of the map where your cheerful cabdriver acquaints you with fires, oppressive troops, panicking civilians and misery. Normally this kind of exposition is all setup and no payoff, but when you do actually roam freely around the world you get the same feeling as when you were in the taxi. With the game’s superbly subtle soundtrack and beautiful lighting the game world always has this characteristic looming feeling of threat over it. Everything feels even more real when you take a moment to spy on a few enemy camps from a distance. All those soldiers chat with each other in really well-voice-acted dialogues and are constantly doing things normal people do as well, like pissing up trees and try to get mobile reception for hours. A lot of little details like this make the world feel ever so vibrant. And although this is nothing as intense like, say, Spec Ops: The Line, Far Cry 2 managed to do quite well when it comes to setting up a miserable country with scared people, traumatized by war.

For those curious here is a video of the intro - Silverain

This is, of course, all framework. What is the actual painting part of the painting like? Very briefly described, the core gameplay of Far Cry 2 is that of it’s sequel, only more slowly paced and less forgiving. The slower pace has to do the higher difficulty of stealthing and the lower movement speed. This is a lot closer to Arma 2 than it is to, say, Call of Duty. As far as the unforgiving is concerned, Far Cry 2 is like a cheap hotel bed: full of sand, blood and, most importantly: obnoxiously hard. On higher difficulty settings especially you will never win a fight unless you got in a perfect position beforehand and mapped every enemy out for yourself. 

 An example of perfect positioning.

Combat from a car is a pain in the arse in particular because the AI always drives faster than you do and can have a gunner in the car while someone else is driving. Your chances are therefore very slim in chases. Then there is the tricky health system. There is practically no regenerating health and once you are at low health, pressing the heal button makes your character arduously extract the bullets from his arm or put a bandage on it which takes about as much time as getting three hundred involuntary metal piercings all over your body. You also don’t have a minimap that is always visible and weapons degrade quickly, which can be very frustrating unless you neurotically switch your gun for a new one every single time you pass by a gunstore. So the game is harsh, but that too builds atmosphere. Where in Far Cry 3 you felt like some kind of demi-god that could survive a breezeblock to the face, you actually feel very human while playing Far Cry 2. You are still a squishy walking pile of meat, stuck together with flimsy bone. That feeling is quite rare in shooters these days.

Then there is another fine bit of original immersing game design: the buddy system. In Far Cry 2 you, over the course of the game, meet a bunch of NPC’s who become your friends and give you side missions. One particular buddy also gives you optional objectives for main story missions and, most remarkably, another buddy will appear into the game and revive you whenever you die. Then he fights alongside you. That and their wide variety in looks and, albeit shallow, personalities makes you care about them. It’s only a shame that they are just like you: walking piles of brittle meat. They die the moment an enemy so much as looks their way and sometimes when they are downed, if the gods of random number generators are not on your side, they die no matter how hard you try to revive them. For me, whenever that happened, it was actually a sad moment. All of them can die. This frailness also makes them feel like actual people that you care about, not refrigerators with miniguns strapped to their pecs that kill all threats for you. 

Then there are a bunch of other details that make the game as great as it is. Sometimes, when you shoot an enemy, he is downed but not dead. Of course you can just shoot him again to kill him but if you don’t do that, the enemies think you have left and the stars have aligned then a teammate of his will come up to revive him. When he is being treated the panic in the injured soldier’s voice is also really well-acted and believable. In general this game has really good voice acting. It is odd, however, that things like enemy taunts are really well-acted while a lot of the story cutscenes have really dull, uninterested voice actors. Luckily, considering that there are not that many scenes of that kind, it’s no dealbreaker. Then there’s stealthing. Far Cry 3 gave you an enormous arrow indication that lit up when an enemy so much as smelled your farts but here, there’s nothing like that. You actually have to listen to what enemies are saying to know if they spotted you or not, which will happen very quickly because this is not Skyrim, where you can stay invisible in plain sight when you are at a high level. Here enemies actually have realistic cones of vision so staying hidden is really hard because you can’t allow yourself to see the enemies either, or they’ll see you. 
If all this is great, then why was this game forgotten so much that you need me to tell you about it again? Beyond the high difficulty that can be attributed to a few factors. Firstly, missions are quite repetitive. Missions from the same sources always have the same layout and objective and only differ in location. Then there’s the really annoying feature that this game is a sandbox in the same way as Borderlands 2 for instance: not really an open world, but a bunch of linear paths that cross each other a lot. There are so many mountains that you can’t cross that the game world is an enormous Swiss cheese. The kind of gaming audience that spends hours in Skyrim walking over mountains just for the sake of taking the direct route isn’t going to like that. Then there was the money system that I didn’t really like. Money was very limited and could only come from the finite number of missions or from exploration. Because of this you could never really get a lot of weapons and that is a shame because there aren’t really many in the first place. 

On console ports aiming your gun felt as clunky and slow as redirecting a nuclear submarine and the multiplayer was practically unplayable because of that it required ALL twenty-or-so people in the game to ready up for the next round. On the PC version I couldn’t even get it to work in the first place. The console version also has a ported level editor that is more annoying to work with than an autistic baboon. I can’t imagine why that was designed in the first place. Furthermore I think it was a shame that we don’t actually notice the war itself going on beyond one or two scripted events where the two factions actually fight each other. The war’s feeling of threat is there alright but we never see it actually happening. If I’d lure enemies from one side to a camp of the other faction they would just all fight me like they are one team. They are supposed to be actively fighting each other if you’d believe the story, but you barely see that happen beyond fixed moments of exposition.

Beyond that there are a few technical imperfections. Clipping issues are very common, especially when you shoot someone sitting in a car and enemies have this curious tendency to end up in a shoulder-shrugging position when they are dead. Explosions can make large things like cars spaz out and one other glitch once caused the enemies I was fighting to suddenly stat shooting the corpse of one former comrade of theirs that I just killed. Then there’s the slight issue that the AI can’t drive DLC-added vehicles. 

So, undoubtedly this game requires your attention if you’re up for a shooter that’s a little more organic than a nuclear power plant. I can’t guarantee that it will work on newer computers because I can’t run my old disc copy on my Windows 10 machine, but that might also be because of that the disc is seven years old. Avoid the console ports and just get it for PC. Get it and enjoy yourself, just try not to run over too many zebras on the way!

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Chapter Master Update: A New Hope, Journier rising.

Posted by: Jason Silverain / Category: , , , ,

You may remember in my last Chapter Master post that there has been some discussion amongst fans about hiring a programmer to debug Dukes released source code. It has been confirmed that one such member Journier as of the 2nd of October has done just that and here is the progress they have had so far:

Update 1
We cleared up more code today found something called "thatone" random number given to this variable and its checked in a 100 different places... left it where it was for fear for the chaos gods.

Bug fixes

  • Fixed a crash related to space hulks.
  • Fixed an issue where to find a event, the game generated objects in every system to find the system the event took place in, Made it NOT generate those temporary objects oddly so many of them...
  • Fixed an issue with ancient ruins on planets I believe the ones you explore, so that they will work all the time now, apparently there was a chance it wouldn't do anything

Found a lot on the Necron tombs related stuff, this will be a day of work by itself.
Other stuff

Rewrote descriptions for relic rooms. Spiced them up for fun to break the monotony. added some DF reference.
Got a massive headache from cleaning code up and ended the day.
Update #2

Today we went through the Massive Random Event file, and restructured it massively for readability. cut its size down from over 1000 lines to below 300 lines. Separated the random events to their own respective files to easily find and modify their effects instead of inside of a single giant random event file.

Also, never take the shitty luck attribute in game because that effects every random event you could imagine badly. probably the only game I can remember where the bad luck attribute actually probably did something noticeable.

Found the Fucko string... giant dense code thing of death. IDK what it is, left it alone.

Cleaned up the chaos invasion random event, cleaned up the necron event to avoid any crashes in relation to their awakening maybe.

If only you guys knew how many memes are in the code.

Literally we added a single DF meme into the trophy room. Theres memes in this game from the code on up. Literally everywhere...

They were already there.

Update #3

Fixed star generation to give you a range of star numbers to have 65-75, before it was trying 120x to create 70 stars, and if it failed the fewer stars youd have. fixed that.
changed the vehicle system to a more reasonable version, faster, easier to work with and change for future revisions. It doesnt sound like much until you understand that the code base isnt properly spaced out, 1000 lines in some of these files can equal 2000 lines properly spaced a majority of the time...

found something called this in the code
then old_dudes+=1;
no clue, whats being referenced save it for later.

Update 3.1

Made armors a Moddable file so anyone can change the values once game is installed.

In spite of this don't get your hopes up too soon, Journier is refusing to post updated code at this point and is focusing on bug fixes rather than updates. Rather reasonably he has requested for the community to wait up to 2 months before he does release the code and to keep posting crash logs from Dukes source code.

Any way I can help out with this Journier? Admittedly I don't know very much about programming but I'm working on Chapter Master as a way to learn my own way. But since the code appears to be a big mess of what-the-%&$# I'm having trouble understanding much of it. I have fixed a couple of bugs on my own though (Tried working on the renegade crash bug but at this point I'm stumped). Basically I want to assist with bug fixing.

Since you're working on cleaning up the code I'm hoping that it'll make fixing bugs much less painful for me.

honestly just wait, there's gonna be a massive release coming up in a month or months that will get all the code into a proper debuggable state that is readable If you guys want start posting bug reports on a regular basis, where you were ( what screen) what you were clicking  etc. as detailed as possible.

That way when we get to a section we can refer back to your bug reports to see if there's any silly code. Which we have run through a chunk of it.

There will be a gitlab repository created in the next 2 months. thats the timeline we are aiming for , for you guys.

TLDR : Please give crash logs and where you were in the crash and what you were exactly doing. We need bug reports. good bug reports. please and thanks.

And possibly if you guys really want to help find or put your little butts out there to find decent pixel artists for the game to get away from the IP. Dark warlike images of Interstellar Army Simulator 2015.

Now some in community who have offered to help with the code and have been turned down for now are starting to believe that Journier is keeping it to himself to possibly to monetize the development in a similar way to Duke. Thankfully the more sensible members of the community are realising that too many people working on the project without decent communication and understanding of what is a tangled mess of code is a recipe for disaster so the drama has been halted for now.

To play my own part I'm still hosting backups of Dukes links and files which you can obtain below:

Interstellar Army Simulator 2015: Source Code: Link
Chapter Master 0.6555: Source Code: Link
Original Design Document (former project): Link
Features That Were Planned: Link

Don't know What Chapter Master is? The original review is here.
Just want to play the game? Then Interstellar Army Simulator and the mod and be downloaded here.

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Halloween Review Special: Videos Galore

Posted by: Jason Silverain / Category: , , , ,

Now you may have seen that in the past I've done video game videos alongside HaxMonster, in addition to help with his channel I've also done a number of video reviews but not all of them make it as blog posts here.
So today I'm gathering all the brain munching, apocalypse surviving videos I've made for a Halloween special.

To start here is my review of OMG Zombies by Laughing Jackal LTD, name aside its rather decent.  

 My somewhat abruptly ended Lets Play of Organ Trail and HaxMonsters own attempt:


Finally to end on a positive note we have the Halloween update for Bardbarian.

Fancy a more traditional post? Check out Pumpkin Carving here.

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Simbrix: A curious hybrid of Lego, Jigsaws and Hama Beads

Posted by: Jason Silverain / Category: , , , , ,

Having the fortune to head down to the Gamecity events in Nottingham with the lovely lady of Buzy Bobbins we found ourselves surprised by just how packed the lobby for the National Video Games Gallery was that day, one of the main culprits was this little stall run by Assim Ishaque the founder and inventor of Simbrix.

My first sight of Simbrix

Now I must confess that at first glance through the crowd of children I mistook them for Hama beads but over hearing some parents talking to who I now know to be Mr Ishaque caught my attention, these were not bored parents waiting at the stall they were joining in and having just as much fun often enquiring about the stall.
My interest peaked I squeeze through the crowd to examine the table to suddenly find myself offered a fist full of the Simbrix to keep by Mr Ishaque, respectfully declining (my pockets already rather full at the time) I did manage to have a rather improvised interview with Mr Ishaque while examining the Simbrix.

 You can tell that the chaps at the National Video Games Gallery got their hands on these right away.

It seems that Mr Ishaque got the initial idea for Simbrix when his daughter became very fond of Hama beads, the Hama beads often got lost or patterns scattered at a slight knock and often his children got bored of old projects which had been ironed and needed to purchase more beads for new ones. 
Wishing that the beads were reusable and easier to use in general Mr Ishaque began designing his own which after 400 prototype designs that experimented with different materials and shapes that could interlock over the last 2 years.

Earlier this year Mr Ishaque actually managed to get some local support for the project and appeared in Toy news, the Nottingham Post and BBC Radio Nottingham as well as attempting to fund the project on Kickstarter, unfortunately this drive failed but undeterred his team continued to improve the Simbrix and tried again.
 This new Kickstarter has not only succeeded but at the time of writing has hit 216% of its goal and still the Simbrix are been improved, the Kickstarter continues until the 11th of November 2015 so I recommend getting in and grabbing the Simbrix at a discount price early. I recommend reading the Kickstarter anyway as it contains a lot of history and background into this 2 year project and is quite interesting.

Now I've given you the background lets get into the juicy details of the bricks themselves.

The Simbrix are slightly larger that Hama beads, are considerably thicker and lock together in a similar way to a jigsaw but also they can be iron like Hama beads for a permanent connection.
These differences do mean that many completed projects will be larger in size than if they were made in Hama but they are far less brittle if ironed, this increase in size also means its easer for older people and those with large fingers to use them.

 Simbrix figures on the left while Professor Layton is in Hama

The locking design is a great measure of improvement over Hama Beads in the fact that tweezers and pegboards are not require, the structures are robust enough that ironing is optional so kids can be left to play with them unattended (though their small size means they are not suitable for very young children who may swallow them).  

The locking design has been improved since I last tried them, the Simbrixs I used seemed rather sturdy but they came apart easily if pressure was applied correctly, apparently some colours of that run has issues (I noticed the pink tended to slip and didn't hold well) but they have been solved and here is a glimpse of the improvements.

 Apparently this new batch is the first time the entire colour pallet has held together so well and  has been put through a series of tests including the connection and disconnection of parts, a drop test, been thrown, been used as a frisbee and bending. In addition there are now glow in the dark Simbrix as well.

The astute amongst you may notice that that there are only 18 colours in the picture above and that is where Simbrix is currently lagging, Hama Beads are available in over 50 different colours meaning that you can get greater degrees of accuracy and shading however as Simbrix Develop I imagine their available pallet will expand in time.

Also bead for brix Simbrix are a more expensive initial purchase at the beginning however their re-usability and the lack of tools/supervision needed to use them means that in the long run (if you are not ironing them) they actually are cheaper. The Simbrix are also neutral in design giving more creative freedom whilst Hama Beads are often bought in box sets around a theme.  

 Simbrix and Hama Bead creations line the Toast Bar of the Nation Video Games Gallery

In short I rather like them, they seem like a natural evolution of Hama Beads, while if I wanted to do fine artwork I'd go for Hama beads I would definitely consider Simbrix as a more fun and cheaper option.  

Want to know more?
Buzy Bobbins gives a crafter's perspective on Simbrix in their article.

Go to Simbrix directly through:
Never heard of the Nottingham National Video Games Gallery check it out here. 

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A day at Frequency 2015

Posted by: Jason Silverain / Category: , , ,

While not in the best of health I took a trip into Lincoln city centre with some friends on the 25th after hearing about the Frequency Festival, this is the third Frequency event and will be running until the 1st of November. 

If you are unfamiliar with the Frequency Festival it is a mixture of unusual art exhibitions, interactive performances, and workshops, each festival has a different theme and this year it is Liberation.

I've never had the chance to attend the past events due to other engagements so even in my ill state I was eager to explore what was on offer.
Now there are over 30 events occurring over the next week so I'm going to boil this list down to a few of my favourites.


co_LAB is the Collaboration Laboratory Research Network at the University of Lincoln and in their own words " bringing together people from different fields, disciplines and contexts to collaborate on innovative trans-media projects."
Now this is more of a series of activities than the traditional art that makes up the Frequency Festival
the first activity is called Blind Data and was one of most thought producing events to myself.

In Blind Date you are given a choice of several files each containing portfolio's of three individuals, these portfolios have within them the same sort of information that the NSA would be able to collect on each person. Examples include search terms, email keywords, illegal activity and recent purchases and from this information you have to decide who if any you would investigate further. 
It is an interesting thought study and the students running the stall in the Waterside Centre are eager to hear feedback from participants. I have also been advised that anyone who tries this should look up information about PRISM to learn more.   

Caught In The Web was unfortunately not available during my trip as someone accidentally deleted the program but the students pulled an all nighter and managed to remake the experience using the last build they had created so should be available for everyone. This Oculus Rift virtual experience aims to challenge public apathy towards the mass surveillance of our digital lives by creating a 3D web browser and exploring the history of the internet. You can watch the developments that changed the digital world and the restrictions which increasingly limit the online experience.

The third event by co_labs is WWW25 which is a serious piece that in effect is a simple concept: What is the internet you want?

Statements would come up on the display screen some serious..

Some not so serious and well thought out...

Each orb grew with its total number of votes and I believe there was some significance to their location but unfortunately I didn't get the chance to enquire.
These were the votes when I last checked:

James Brown

Another interactive experience is James Brown's Taphobos: An Immersive Coffin Experience.
This 2 person experience is a virtual reality scenario of been buried alive, running out of oxygen and the only hope of escape is to work together with a complete stranger. Using clues from their surroundings the person in the coffin needs to relay information to the other person who uses this information to figure out the location of the coffin.

Nick Driftwood

The Road was a surprisingly calming visual experience, this was long clips of travel across various roads of America and through it I could understand the appeal of various motorcycle groups and road trips and the feeling of freedom and wonder the open road could have. This may not have been exactly what the artist was trying to convey but it was my personal experience of it.

The Stan Project

Pynchon's Wall seems to give me mixed feelings personally, on casual observation it is slow, dull and unattractive but under the right circumstance it comes alive. The various panels of the wall react to certain keywords that when tweeted cause them to move.

Shun Ito

Cosmic Birds impresses on a number of levels, whilst a simple concept it is visually interesting not just from the light show produced by the controlled falling and movement of the various parts but also on a mechanical level as the full working of each machine are on display.


This was a small side piece but I found it both thought provoking and a statement on our usual laziness and just how easily people will sign rights away without realising it.
Presented as a "free" Iphone charge station it gives you instructions on how to use it and by doing so you agree to the terms and conditions.

Presented in its glass case it is immediately obvious to someone with a hint of computer awareness or those who are genre savvy about the reoccurring themes that this is no simple charger.

The terms and conditions written on the glass explain (without going into too much legal jargon) that by using the charger you are allowing the charger owners to download all pictures from your phone, have total rights to them and that they can distribute them at will. I suddenly realised the connection with the projection on the wall behind and that these were all photos taken from peoples phones who had used the chargers without reading first.


In spite of the strange name Squidsoup has produced a beautiful and memorable piece again simple but hugely effective. The piece called Enlightenment is a walk-through array of responsive LED lights these lights ripple and change colour each person entering a pebble in the pond so to speak.

Finally if you do go please take 5 minutes to fill in the feedback form at one of the events, this helps the festival grow and gain funding for the future.

To learn more see the Frequency Schedule and Venues.
If you would like to read more experiences the Lincolnshire Echo chosen their top things to see, reactions to the event and a gallery of photos.

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