On my quest to make everyone on the Internet utterly hate me, I write about stupid issues I have with some of my favorite games, including some from media giants like Blizzard, Valve and whoever made that Pokemon game. Hold your applause, you’ll only make it worse.
Utes the Whisper is a beast forgotten to time, and the only one of its kind. A massive crocodile with a set of external ribs, it shoots web to immobilize its prey. Beware what dwells below the surface.
Sounds like a novel? Nah. This is a randomly generated beasty in one of my favorite games of all time: Dwarf Fortress. Let’s back up a bit.
What is Dwarf Fortress?
Dwarf Fortress is a game that has been in development for over ten years, and isn’t even halfway done. It’s a game set in a tolkien-esque fantasy world, where the world has a whole different history each time, down to each bloodline, piece of art, and mythological figure, no joke. Oh, and did I mention it’s all done in ASCII?
Once it’s done generating a world from scratch, it’s you job to influence it, and you can do so in two ways. You can control a small portion of a civilization of dwarves (called a, you guessed it, fortress), or control a lone hero who explores the world looking for treasure and adventure. I usually choose the former because I find it easier to handle and more entertaining.
The most pertinent issue with Dwarf Fortress is learning to play: it’s one of the most user-unfriendly, completely nonsensically hard to understand games of all time. In the case of Fortress mode, you get dropped off in a place of your choosing in early spring with seven Dwarves. Survive until fall and a caravan will come to give you whatever supplies you desperately need. Be quick about making a home for yourself, lest the dragons, giant animals, and beasts long forgotten get a fine, dwarfy meal.
Dwarves, if you weren’t aware, are the most moody little buggers around. If they don’t have alcohol, they’ll get so upset that they won’t leave their rooms. If they get the idea for a masterpiece, but don’t have enough gems to encrust it with, they go irreparably crazy, often causing harm to their friends and family. And they don’t stop coming. Every month, ten more of the little dudes show up ready to work, like little psychotic and alcoholic ants. But don’t you see, losing is fun.
With Dwarf Fortress essentially boiling down to a fantastic story generator, some of the most fun is seeing a 300 population Dwarven super-city succumb to it’s own inner workings. Sometimes, however, you get everything going so perfectly that you think your city can stand the test of time.
That’s where Utes comes in.
Utes, the aforementioned Alligator, was dubbed the Whisper when he all of a sudden broke out of a tunnel 100 years in the making into a tavern full of dwarves and visitors alike. People tried to flee, but soon the webs had overtaken all. The remaining dwarves and the militia blocked off the tavern, letting it became a lair for this unholy spider/alligator combo. Then, a lone goblin known only as “Puncho” appeared. I later learned he was a veteran of 4 wars, and had a long, deep scar across his left eye. He was missing three fingers on his right hand. He was estimated by our historians to be over 300 years old. Puncho walked into Utes’s lair and slew the beast, before promptly becoming mayor.
Two days ago, the popular game Overwatch received an update, adding a new character, Sombra, and new game modes. Fans rejoiced, and the number of players slowly increased. I’m not going to lie, I’m having a lot of fun with it too, but I’m beginning to get worried about the well-being of the development cycle in the future.
Overwatch is a MOBA
MOBA, of course, standing for Multiplayer Online Battle Arena. Essentially, the game lives through the player base, if there is no player base, there is no game. This is because to play the game, you need a team of other players and a team to play against. As of right now, Overwatch is far away from the issue of not having enough players. As of October 13th, Overwatch has garnered over 20 Million registered players.
The thing is, if a development team released a MOBA and then retired, the game would fail. MOBAs get their money from purchasable in-game cosmetics and other in-game transactions. Because the format of the game has no form of power progression, (imagine how unfair it would be if players who played for longer got better items and were therefore at an advantage compared to new entrants!), the way MOBAs continue to attract players is through adding more content.
And here is where I start to worry
After release, Overwatch developers got into the groove, releasing a major content patch in the form of Ana, and things were looking up. But then…. nothing.
The excuse they had scribbled on their hand was that they were waiting to reveal the next update at Blizzcon, which means they actually wanted to wait for six months. What a time we live in, where a game that is on the brink of death has caring and smart developers, while the new IP made by the same company has developers which, honestly, seem like they want to do something else. Lets hope the movie will save them.
In light of the new Overwatch ARG, I decided to look at two ARGs from the past, and talk about why I don’t like them as a whole.
What is an ARG, you ask?
An ARG is an Alternate Reality Game, and is usually supplemental material to a popular game where players discover a puzzle in a mixture of real life and in-game secrets. The two examples I will be using today are from the games Oxenfree and the Binding of Isaac. ARGs can be a fun experience, but if you use them wrong, like Binding of Isaac did, you might as well slather yourself in honey and jump into the nearby company bear pit. Continue reading
Just kidding. These are blogs I really like!
Indie Games, The Weblog is a great blog for discovering things you didn’t even know you wanted. It’s exactly what it says on the tin: a blog about indie games. REAL indie games, not just ones in the main stream. I really liked the look of Sky Break and Jotun. If you want to make your wallet lighter, Indie Games The Weblog can give you some good ideas on ways to spend those hard-earned sheckles.
It’s easy to read, and easy to digest, with short but understandable articles created practically every day. The red-and-black dominated design is pretty nice too, and it’s easy to find their top articles with a click of your mouse. Definitely worth your time.
Looking for something more technical? Check out Jeff on Games. Written by Jeff Ward, a veteran of Bethesda Studios, it can get you your game design fix in a jiffy. The graphics may be less flashy than Indie Games, The Weblog, but the content is fantastic. You’ve got your programming, your game jams, even things like open vs. closed offices. The phrase that comes to mind: Neato Burrito.
What kinda game blog would this be if I didn’t talk about a single game? Stardew Valley is the dev blog for the game of the same name: Stardew Valley. And let me just say, if there was an award for nicest game developer in the world, it would go to Eric Barone, AKA Concerned Ape, the SOLO developer, designer, and composer for the whole game.
This blog is a great way to look through the entire four years of this games development, what has changed, what has stayed the same, what was removed… Even though the game was released, it’s still being updated, too. And if you like what you see, consider checking out Stardew Valley on steam!