Kickstarter curiosities

Posted by: Jason Silverain / Category: , ,

While I've already hit the quota for this months posts I spotted a few rather interesting kickstarters I'd like to share.

The first is Council of Blackthorn which feels like if someone made the Crusader Kings council into a board game.

Council of Blackthorn is a board game for 2-6 players that plays in 45-90 minutes.  Players assume the role of a member of the king's council. Each player must build influence with the kingdom's four political factions by utilizing ally and building cards.  However, grabs for power may seem like treasonous acts to a suspicious king. Players will gain hidden treason points as they gain power. The most treasonous council member is beheaded! The remaining player that is the most influential member of the council wins the game.

Seems simple enough but what really drew me to the game is two factors:

1. Players do not know who has scored the most influence points until the end of the game, this stops any one player been targeted or people wanting to give up mid game when it is obvious who is most likely to win.

2. One player gets beheaded for Treason at the end of the game and no one knows for sure who will get beheaded meaning the person who seemed most likely to win may just be a head short.

The gameboy geek has posted a short demo video of the game in action and the kickstarter is here.

While I'm not personally a fan of the artwork style chosen (I would have prefer traditional fantasy to the cartoony style) having an actual tarot deck of many things with the rules written on each card is a major time saver and a rather nice little gift. 
Gemhammer and Sons are also creating their own expansions and there are a lot of stretch goals that are well thought out (including up to 25 custom cards) and aimed at retailers however I do fear they will not be meeting their goal of £10,000 which does seem a bit high without much detail beyond paying artists and print costs.

Meanwhile Simian Circle Games have created World Architect Cards which is a deck of 53 double sided cards that is aimed at allowing GMs to quickly create and describe unique maps and locations.

Each card has an image of an overworld map location (like a forest, mountain, desert, etc.) on the front and back of the card. Cards are chosen at random to create map locations. Each location has a series of descriptors to describe the location. The location is then drawn on a piece of paper and described. 

The map maker continues to draw cards and create locations. Other cards in the deck can be used to describe specific locations within a map (like a mine, temple, bridge, etc.). These cards also feature a series of descriptors to inspire the map maker and easily describe the location. The goal of the World Architect Cards is to take the guesswork and time out of creating a map from scratch. 

Having already hit its target and now into stretch goals this is Simian Circle Games third kickstarter with the last kickstarter been their Dungeon Architect Cards series.

Read more »

Believing that a sequel isn't always necessary, Hax Monsters gives his view on why we could of done without Hotline Miami 2

Posted by: Jason Silverain / Category: , ,

I’ll cut to the chase right away: the Hotline Miami series has, for me, set the record for the quickest and most extreme drop in quality ever, a record which was previously held by the Payday series. Hotline Miami’s fall is even more jarring, considering that the first game was a work of art with tight design, near-perfect gameplay and an actual message, while its sequel to me is more like an incoherent mess that only seems to exist because of that a sequel had to be squeezed out one way or another. I should mention that I understand why the game has received such widespread positive reactions, but I just want to focus on less commonly heard part of the game, which are the things that are wrong with it.

In case Hotline Miami has slipped you by, which is only possible if you’ve closed your eyes to the entire indie circuit for years, let me give you a brief recap. The game was a top-down fighting game about committing massacres in 1980’s Miami, solely because of that you were told to do so over the phone. It’s strength was that it made you enjoy doing horrible things to your fellow man by forcing you to do the killing at such speed that you couldn’t think about the horribleness of your actions. Then, when you’d cleared out the building of all life, you had to walk back through the place past all the corpses, blood and smashed skulls. That way, the sheer brutality of it all hit you all the more, since you were not able to think about that while you were on your killing spree. In between the murder parades, you observe yourself lose grip on reality as the massacres and Miami as you knew it become inseparable. Few games ever could make me feel that bad about myself.

It is important to know what made the original great to see why the sequel should, in my mind, never have existed. The first reason would be the complete absence of a properly delivered message. Hotline 1’s message was perfectly caught in its most famous quote: ‘Do you like hurting people?’. 

 Well Do you?

A compelling question, as in that game we were just a normal person doing horrible things for no other reason than that a message on our answering machine told us to do so. ‘Fun’ was the only reason to kill because of that it was our reason to play the game. Hotline Miami 2 sometimes pretends to have the same message. For instance, you still walk past all the remnants of your targets after a level, but now this is no longer impressive, firstly because of that the game’s story now gives you an actual reason for the killing ( you were a soldier that had to capture a building, a criminal that had to assassinate a few people or, I kid you not, a writer that wants information for his book ). As we now had a reason to do what we did, it feels as if our hands are clean. We feel no guilt. 

The second reason for the absence of guilt is that Hotline Miami 2 is a way too flabby long game and the gruesome sight of a bloodbath loses something if you see it for thirty times. And although the sequel’s story does not fit with it, HM2 even on one occasion has to explicitly state the point of the story in dialog. In this dialog, one character says: ‘we do horrible things, and deep down we like it’. This came across as very misplaced, because of that the games message is no longer impressive, for the aforementioned reasons. What’s also worse than before is that they now wrap the message in a quote that is no longer a question worth contemplating, but a simple statement. Therefore, all introspective is lost.

You will be seeing this a lot.

As far as the story is concerned, I can be pretty brief. It’s biggest problem is the lack of ambiguity, because of that this makes it impossible to properly spread the game’s message: “we do horrible things and enjoy it’’. Where Hotline: Miami was mysterious, and compelling, providing next to no exposition, Wrong Number explains everything and gives every character a set of traits and motivations. This normally would be a good thing, but if your story is so disconnected from everyday reality as here, and if your message is that your murdering has no reason, then the last thing you want to do is make the characters people from everyday reality who actually have reasons to kill. This game has multiple characters, each with their own little story line that barely has anything to do with the other’s storylines. After every mission you switch to another character, which makes it impossible to actually get engaged with any of the stories. And then there is the ending, which is horrible because of that it comes out of nowhere and had no relationship with anything that happened during the game.

 The cover is even a spoiler if you can figure out what is happening.

Before launch I had already guessed that I’d dislike Hotline Miami 2’s story. I was right about that, but what I didn’t see coming was how horrible the gameplay turned out to be. To me it seems as if the developers forgot everything that Hotline Miami 1 was about gameplay-wise. The essence of the original was killing many enemies at insane speed without needing planning, but managing to survive by acting quickly based on your intuition. One mistake left you dead. This essence does not fit HM2’s levels, which are often filled with special enemies that take so long to kill that you might as plan in a thirty-minute appointment with them to end their lives. 

That's my 2 o'clock appointment, who is next?

On many occasions you will die because of ten assault rifle-wielding nutters that came at you while you were still slowly squishing another guy’s eyes out. Those assault rifles are another problem, by the way. Do you know what does not work in a game where you get killed by merely two bullets? Enormous rooms full of gun-equipped foes that accurately shoot you in a quarter of a second while they stay way out of melee range. 
 You can only get rid of these guys by standing at a corner and popping out briefly to shoot them one by one as they charge at you. This amounts to cover-based shooting and there are enough games that do that already. 

Also, like Hotline Miami 1, Wrong Number is a top-down game. This is extremely frustrating because of that there are so many big rooms that you can’t look all the way through and often these are filled with the aforementioned assault-rifle dudes. Here you can’t even do the peek-out-and-shoot thing because you can’t see the enemy. You also can’t go out and look for him because of that they’ll always see you first as your camera barely shows you anything and you can’t move your camera properly while moving. These situations where you can’t see your enemy come up all the time and can be resolved in two ways. 
 One: You find a gun and spray into the distance, hoping you’ll hit anything. Two: you stand out of cover just long enough for the enemy to see you to lure them into your cover so you can melee them. Not only does this feel like prostituting yourself, it also breaks all the game’s flow.

Silverain: I think you mean been bait here Hax unless you've have some strange encounters with those in the escort business. 

Furthermore, the title was still too broken to play right after launch. Often enemies would endlessly bounce back and forth between two doorposts and often they, even after many patches, won’t see through open doors. Sometimes it is even possible to leave the playable area of the map by going left or right before you entered the map. You can even lure enemies out with you and none of that is supposed to happen. And like in the previous game, the AI reacts very inconsistently. In Hotline Miami 1 this was a good thing because of that this uncertain factor made improvisations and quick reactions a necessity. In Hotline Miami 2 however, the levels are all built in such a way that you can only get through them with repetitive trial-and-error gameplay and exactly that does not fit with AI that acts differently when it is not in a good mood.

 Example of the door bug.

Another part of the original that for me was ruined was the soundtrack. Where Hotline Miami had a calm and subtle soundtrack that not only fit the setting but also underlined the intensity of the massacres by juxtaposing it, Wrong Number tried to improve the music following the same philosophy that dictates that you can improve a hamburger by only adding more meat. The clips are now so full of noises that it sounds as if your speakers are busted and the entire change feels like a useless effort to try and raise the stakes. It is as if a storyteller wants to make his story better by yelling it at the top of his voice.

Silverain: I think this one is down to taste I think that there are a few songs I'd mix and match between the two titles rather than call either of them superior judge for yourself below: 

One more personal niggle that I’d like to mention is not exactly a complaint but mostly an undesirable marketing tactic which Dennaton have most likely adopted because of that Grand Theft Auto V made a lot of money following the same tactic. Wrong Number supposedly comes with a level editor, but that is not released until many months after the release of the actual game. 

Silverain: Wait there's a level editor? That was released so late I didn't even hear about it.

Firstly, I find this unacceptable because of that the people who bought this game paid for the full thing and therefore should get the full thing on release. Secondly, this pre-emptively blocks any and all criticism towards the game runtime or level building, because of that now any fanboy of the game can thwart all complaints in this department by saying that the community will add a lot of good content soon. After all, a level editor theoretically means that you get an infinite supply of levels. However, I don’t expect things to work out this way. 

After all, because of that the level editor comes out so late, the vast majority of the people will already be done with Hotline Miami 2. They will have moved on to infinitely better games and won’t come back to the level editor. Not only does this mean that those people effectively paid for more content than they actually used, it also means that there will not be as much new content as one might expect because of that the fans of the first hour will have moved on. 

Silverain: Thankfully there is a collection of levels available over on Reddit sub hotlinemiamimaps for those of you looking. 

Should you ask me, then the main game’s launch should have been pushed back to the date at which the level editor is currently due. I would have been happy to wait a bit, because of that one proper launch is way better than two rushed-out ones. The extra waiting time would also have given the devs the needed time to take care of all those remaining bugs.

I know that it is unfair to completely rub a game’s head over a belt sander just because of that it was not classic material like it’s predecessor, but don’t get me wrong. Had I not known about Hotline Miami 1, then I would still dislike Wrong Number. Less so, but still. 
 Disregarding HM1 Wrong Number feels like a very schizophrenic game. It doesn’t seem to know what it wants. The entire game’s core mechanic, the combat, is built around high-speed melee-based combat, but many enemies take ages to kill or have guns. The game is top-down but demands that you see dangers that lie far beyond your vision. The killing is accompanied by more blood than a medieval battlefield, but suddenly, in the missions with the aforementioned writer character, you can only knock people out and guns fall apart the moment you grab them. 

 Been able to do this is awesome though.

In normal levels you constantly have to switch weapons out in accordance with the situation, and you can’t reload, but in some levels, with the soldier character, you suddenly can only use one set gun and a knife. You also suddenly have to reload your gun and find ammo for it. In every level you play alone, but in some levels you play as a ‘character’ that consists of two people. 

 The Swan twins arguably the toughest characters to play.

In these parts you directly control one guy that melees when you press the melee button, while another guy follows you closely and shoots when you press the ‘throw weapons’ button. This system often doesn’t work because of that the two are not in the exact same position. Therefore, on many occasions, you will shoot someone because of that he is in range of the melee character you directly control, only to see your gun character shoot into a wall, attracting every goon in the state of Florida to you exact position.

In summary, I think Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number should not have existed. It brings little good and seems to do everything in it’s power to retroactively ruin it’s predecessors. I am not exactly blaming the developers for making a sequel, because of that so many fans asked for it. If my guesses are correct, most fans were satisfied with this game. That’s great, of course, but I myself am left with a bit of an empty feeling, because of that sometimes sequels do more harm than good. Enough is enough and more is not always better.

Read more »

The creators of Cyanide & Happiness attempt to enter the adult card game market with their own creation Joking Hazard on Kickstarter.

Posted by: Jason Silverain / Category: , ,

Many of you might be familiar with the infamous adult card game Cards Against Humanity and its many, many, many add ons to the point they even have regional versions and numerous online clones (one even with a My Little Pony Theme).

The creators of Cyanide & Happiness known for their web comics often controversial nature and dark humour have decided to put a twist upon the general premise and create Joking Hazard a comic strip creating adult card game.

Its early days in the Kickstarter but its already blasted past its goal but if you want your chance to grab some of the backer bonus I suggest giving it a look.

Read more »

Upcoming events, Arcen Games troubles and conquest and slaughter in Little War Games.

Posted by: Jason Silverain / Category: , ,

Its been a while since I've covered upcoming events in the United Kingdom but when I saw these advertised I thought I should spread the word, after all it is only attending and supporting local events that the opportunity for further rises.

The first event I want to highlight is Retro Collects Video Games Market 3 On March 5th.

Now I admit collecting retro games is a personal vice of mine which I've cut back on over the years having donated a literal suitcase of items to the Videos Game Gallery in Nottingham  So I love these kinds of events.
The market will be held at the Doncaster Dome and entry will be £2 or free for under 16s between 10am and 5pm, parking is free and there is a shuttle bus which is also free.

There is also the upcoming MCM London Comic Con which I will be attending for the first time this year so keep an eye out for a chap dressed as a Payday character.
This between the 27th and 29th of May and tickets can range between £15-£50 depending on your attendance.
This video by The Might Jingles gives a hint of what you might see if you attend:

Moving back to video games, if you just want to try out retro game cabinets and pinball machines then you should check out North East Retro Gaming aka NERG on the 2nd and 3rd of July.
This is the 4th annual NERG event and there is only 900 tickets which are priced between £15 to £25. The event is been held at the Gatehead International Stadium between 10:30am and 7:30pm though closes early at 5pm on the Sunday.

For the role play enthusiasts amongst you I recommend as usual checking the UK RPG Convention Calendar for events near you and there are plenty already listed for this year.

In other news Arcen Games seem to be in some financial trouble after their latest release unfortunately didn't sell as well as they hope, their press release is an interesting read into indie game companies and personally I hope its something they can recover from.

If you've not heard of Arcen Games or its newest release Starward Rogue you can see it in my own video below:

Finally for you strategy game lovers there is a wonderful little browser game called  Little War Game which is completely free, doesn't require registration and allows you to take part in or observe fast games against other players or the CPU. I recommend giving it a quick look at least.

Read more »

Chapter Master Update: Interstellar Army Simulator 2015 progress and C++ remake.

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

Things have been quiet regarding Chapter Master/ Interstellar Army Simulator 2015 these last few weeks but there has been some good news.

First of all progress is going well on cleaning up Dukes GML code with Journier posting a message over at 12bay on January 15 about progress.
Getting mighty close to release version 0.1 that will have the fixed up code base for everyone to work on. hold tiiighhttttttt

In addition a new challenger has arrived Flow/Streamline has begun on creating a C++ remake to circumvent the limited game maker code:

I suppose as I posted this on /tg/ I should probably post this here too.

Been working on a C++ rebuild for a couple weeks and I've got the marine editing page done so far as a standalone, as well as the basic starmap (minus any content). Will be updating fairly regularly as I add more core features to the game and hoping for a viable V1 release within a month which should do most everything the current CM does, then I can build on it further.

Download link to the basic marine editor is

The Chapter Management button simply brings up a marine editor you can make guys in. Nothing fancy as of yet, but a lot of the core framework has been put in place for the game proper, so I should have more cool stuff coming fairly soon, free time depending.

To change chapter colours you currently have to eidt a text file - this will be a colour picker later on, but as part of the chapter creation screen so it was a bit awkward to inset it into the current build. The file at /Mods/CM/Settings.txt has RGB values for the chapter colours.

Hope you guys get something out of this, I realise it's a far cry from a game currently but hopefully it's proof enough that there's more to come very soon. I'm hanging out every day in #ChapterMaster on the suptg IRC if anyone wants to come and chat about it/offer help/etc. Could really use artists.


Unfortunately the link seems to be dead at this time but I will be looking for a copy of Flows work in the future.

There has been some concerns that Chapter Master access may be limited to a handful of people in the future but Journier certainly intends to keep the community involved as stated in his reply :

Literally the only reason flow or anyone is working on this is for the community and probably for some ability to see this game move forward.

Congrats flow on the partial rewrite. :)

We are just  "fixing up the code" in the GML to better make it modifiable for the community, and easier to comprehend for "people" so that others can take the reigns more easily to continue the project so it amounts to "something special".

Instead of dying as is or partially completed 3 years from now with 50 contributors to 100 lines of code. all having no clue as to what the previous person did.

That happens so god damn much it annoys me with games like this.

Destroy the heretics.
In the meantime TheGreatZobom has provide a version of Chapter Master with the sprites packs already applied (You can thank Guardsman111 for the sprites) which can be downloaded here.

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.

Read more »