Inktober 2020 Join me!

So that time of year has rolled around again. The time when a lot of people draw a lot… with ink!

A bunch of years ago Inktober was started by This Guy. Then some stuff happened and he’s a little controversial these days (though I really like his art.)

Feel free to do your research and see how you feel about any of that. I personally I’m going to buy a copy of This Guy‘s Book for reasons.

Anyway, as an event and an excuse to draw more it is quite valuable to me, and it’s always more fun to do these things with friends!

The idea is to post a picture a day (more or less) somewhere with the hashtags #inktober and #inktober2020 so other people can see your cool stuff. I’ll be posting here in batches and Instagram as I go.

If you care about rules, the link above will take you to some. My personal version is somewhat simpler:

Draw what you want as long as it’s fun. Ink should be involved?

I made a prompt list if you want to use it. Some of my loved ones aren’t too keen on using the official one for reasons, so I did my own. Feel free to use it or ignore it or whatever… I’m not an ink cop!

Join me if you want! Post your images wherever, use the hashtags, be safe and sane and thrive.

A Topical Update

All Of It.

Bundle Reviews part 7: MidBoss and Arcade Spirits

Two more from  the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. A short one to get my momentum going again. It’s been a hell of a week! but everything is marvelous once again!

MidBoss: A posession based roguelike*.

*A Roguelike is a lot like proceduraly generated… it means it’s a different game every time you play, based on a game from the dawn of UNIX called Rogue.

This game is very roguelike… with all the complexity that entails. It has a couple really cool tricks, such as the fact that you mainly fight by possessing defeated foes, but is a bit more depth than I want to wade into right now combined with the slight lack of satisfaction I get from all roguelikes, where I feel like my triumphs are more due to a lucky roll of the dice where the level layout is concerned.

These are for me right now downsides, but they are also selling points, so I am not counting this game out, it has a lot to offer!

Arcade Spirits: A nostalgia driven romantic visual novel.

This is half game half interactive story that takes place in the year 20XX (all years are intentionally unspecified) in an alternate history where E.T. for the Atari 2600 wasn’t rushed and was a huge hit. Arcades still rule the video game industry and you have gotten a job at one.

The story is touching, engaging, and is an obvious love letter to the days of hanging out in dingy arcades, and the societies of misfits that made them their homes.

Strong points include your custom character, pronouns and all, the engaging characters you interact with, and the wonderful 19XX turned 20XX ambiance.

The main weak point is that I wish I could play the actual video games in the arcade…

Arcade spirits is a story about acceptance, finding your place in life, and finding joy in embracing the passion in the people around you as much as your own.

I am going to play this one all the way through.

1718 games left! I really need some of these to be less interesting!

Until next time Comrades!

Bundle Reviews part 6: Hex Kit and Airships: Conquer the Skies

Two from  the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality because I feel like doing some but I’m FREAKING exhausted!

Hex Kit: Hex Mapping tool for table top RPGs

This is a quick and dirty tool for bashing out hex maps for gaming. It comes with a black and white brush set, and several extra sets are available.

I actually bought this tool a few weeks before I got this bundle, along with several add-on packs. This bundle also includes at least one add-on that I didn’t have which I’ll get to in a few hundred reviews… yeesh…

Here is a map that took me a few minutes to create.

We have some woods, we have some water, and we have an old ruined tower. This is all I need to bash together a 3 hour game. This is a neat tool for either creating maps of various sizes for your campaign, or just noodling around and drawing inspiration from the result. The existing sets can be used for your own game, and if you have minimal graphics skills it wouldn’t be hard to put together a set you could use for games you plan to sell.

A neat piece of software I plan to play with a lot.

Airships: Conquer the Skies: Design & fight with steampunk airships

They had me at airships…

This game is really good fun!

It feels like a game that would have been really ambitious on the Commodore 64, but far smoother than it could have been back then. I jumped into the 9 tutorials and then played out the test battle to qualify for the regular game. Here is the ship I designed for that final battle… The HMS Phalanx.

She boasts an impressive amount of cannons, but despite two lift chambers she was limited to relatively low altitude. I probably added far more armor than was called for. Her cannons also ate through the quite limited ammunition stores very quickly, so I was not prepared for a long battle. But against the airship Scoundrel I was able to prevail, losing only a couple crew and my bottom fin.

I will be revisiting this game, I can see losing a long weekend or two designing airships and battling it out in the skies.

OK! only 1720 games to go!

Bundle Reviews part 5: Odd Realm through EXTREME MEATPUNKS FOREVER

So I’m doing four from the from  the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality 

Mostly because I am really excited to play something called EXTREME MEATPUNKS FOREVER!

But before that we have Odd Realm, Night of the Consumers, and Mu Cartographer.

Odd Realm: Guide a group of settlements as they attempt to survive then thrive.

This game clearly has a lot of depth and is very much a game that needs to be learned. It gives you a brief tutorial then leaves you to your own devices, which left me trying desperately trying to command five settlers to harvest a carrot.

I’ll come back to this one later, it reminds me of Civilization but on a more intimate level, and the kind of Edu-RPG game we played in third grade where we settled america. I have remembered that game with fondness despite it clearly being a great example of US colonial based education… but I am in danger of digressing longer than I actually played this game at this time so…

NIGHT OF THE CONSUMERS: Retail is Hell!

Basically you have to stock the shelves in a grocery/department store. Customers interrupt you with unreasonable demands, and if you don’t cater to them you are fired. You then start over. There seems to be no way to actually quit the game… so it’s basically a pretty accurate simulation. If the controls weren’t so funky the game could be fun.

Mu Cartographer: Experimental Colourful Exploration Machine

This sounds pretty interesting.

Um…I can’t actually tell if this is a game or if it is sort of the digital equivalent of those boards with lots of nobs and buttons you give toddlers.

There is a sort of topographical… map? And some knobs, sliders, and things that alter it so that it looks like a slightly different topographical map.

A couple buttons bring up what seem like a few pages of a journal, but they seem like maybe they are for a game where you actually go some place and do something.

After fiddling with every control, then trying a few again, I accomplished nothing. Apparently if I allow it to it will send something to twitter to tell the world what I have accomplished, but I don’t really feel like I have accomplished a thing I need to broadcast. It is possible I am missing something.

So one possible win, one eh, and one what the hell… which brings us to…

EXTREME MEATPUNKS FOREVER

I am promised “A serial visual novel/mech brawler about four gay disasters beating up neonazis in giant robots made of meat. Get ready for the worst road trip of all time.”

My hopes are high, so in I go!

In some ways this is all I hoped, in a few its a bit disappointing. This is very much about the story and characters, and those make me want to fight through to the end. The actual game part is functional, but uninspiring, a bit repetitive, and goes on too long before you get back to the story. It also feels a bit like the narrative choices you make don’t really alter the narrative either. Really I want a comic book or animated movie of this, but not having those, I’ll play through the game to get the story.

Bundle Reviews part 4: Oikospiel and Beacon

A quick 2 from  the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality 

I’m a bit exhausted, so I’m just going to take a look at Oikospiel and Beacon.

Oikospiel: A dog opera in five acts

Um…

I mean…

Huh…

This is sort of a game, sort of an electronic acid nightmare opera. It is unspeakably weird and for a moment or two I thought it was either causing my computer permanent damage or had triggered a stroke.

I kind of love it.

This is experimental on a scale that is barely recognizable as a game. It reminds me of the weirder end of the CD-Rom book/game/experiences of the late 1980s or early 1990s. But turned up to 11 and spiked directly into your spinal column.

Yeah.

Beacon: Sci-fi Action Roguelite. Collect DNA from enemies and mutate yourself to victory!

A isometric view shooty exploration game with a healthy dose of body horror as you attempt to augment yourself and mutate wildly.

I don’t love the feel and complexity of the controls. It feels a little like the game is fighting me and it’s not pleasant.

The graphics and audio are great, but I’m probably not spending a lot of time on this one.

More soon!

Bundle Reviews part 3: Walden through Lenna’s Inception

A quick 3 more items from from  the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality 

Walden, a game, A Mortician’s Tale, and Lenna’s Inception.

Walden, a game: Experience Henry David Thoreau’s life in Walden Woods.

This seemed like a neat idea. Wander around the woods near Walden pond and learn about the story and the time period and what living there must be like…

Not well executed. Terrible movement, nasty low frame rate when it had no excuse to be that low, and uncertain controls made everything a chore. Good idea, but very rough in execution.

A Mortician’s Tale: A story-driven death positive video game where you play as a mortician tasked with running a funeral home.

This is a VERY short game. It takes about an hour. It’s also not much of a game really.

With a very intriguing topic, this one starts off strong, but then immediately becomes extremely repetitive, with what would be game play basically just being a series of tasks you are prompted to do. There is one moment in the entire thing that asks you to make a choice, and the end result is pretty moot.

This is a story with some interactive elements that could have been a very interesting game if developed further. All the elements intrigue, but none is explored much and then suddenly it’s over. It did make me tear up a couple times, but on the whole the rote performance of tasks with no chance to effect the story or fail makes this not a great game to explore some really deep experiences.

Lenna’s Inception: Procedurally generated Gameboy-style action-adventure game

This is a pretty intriguing Zelda-like game of exploration, monster fighting, and saving the world… but with a lot of twists that reward you and tease you for knowing the games it draws inspiration from.

This is a game where I wish the whole procedurally generated thing had been left out and someone had designed interesting levels… but it’s fun, engaging, and a really neat twist on a classic. I’ll be playing a bit more of this one.

So two misses, but a hit in these three.

This whole project is becoming daunting. I looked ahead, intending to just review the interesting looking ones… But they all look so interesting! This might take a while, but I’ll get as deep as my attention span allows!

Bundle Reviews part 2: A Short Hike through Art Sqool

A few more items from from  the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality 

I’m still just going down the list so today I’m looking at:

A Short Hike, Gladiabots, Lancer Core Book, MewnBase, and Art Sqool.

A Short Hike: A game about climbing a mountain to get better cell reception.

This game is pure joy. It was very hard to stop playing and I have a couple things to do, but it’s cute, fun, and movement is really nice. I never feel like I am fighting this game to do something, and as simple as the story is, it did make me tear up at one point. This is a game for people who want to hike, climb, and soar through the air. It’s not going to have much for people who want hard challenges.

Gladiabots: A robot strategy programming game.

Low poly robots, lots of exciting lines and overlays and lovely glowing blues, it looks exciting!

It’s not really exciting.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun and very interesting. You pick your robot types then program them with a series of connected customized command and decision modules then they fight all on their own with no further input from you.

This is not a game of piloting a robot and going pew pew at other robots, it’s a game of strategic setup and programming where the actual battle is against other players programmed robots. The battle itself is sort of an afterthought, the winner and loser are decided before you really see anything, then the battle is downloaded so you can watch it play out. You get no say once the match starts.

This is a game for someone who is totally fine with 12 to 18 tutorials before you know enough to start playing. I got through them, had one match I lost really badly, and put this one back on the imaginary shelf. It’s neat, and I wouldn’t mind exploring it more, but with 1731 more things to look at, this one is not grabbing me and demanding my attention.

Lancer Core Book: This is a tabletop RPG of spaceship, big robots, and swashbuckly action.

I backed this game on Kickstarter and am still waiting for the printed book, but for now the 1st edition PDF has been released. I have been avoiding reading too deeply into it until the bok comes and I can give it proper attention, but I’ll skim in a little now.

Giant Robot RPGs are in a bit of a slow spot right now. With the painful failure of the Mekton reboot, and everything Battletech related being in a sort of wait-and-see mode until the full rulebook actually hits shelves it’s been a while since we could properly stomp our way through city-scapes throwing multiple block long punches and raining missiles like hailstones. Yes there have been a few games that touch on it, but nothing really big has captured this once fertile market in a while.

A lot of people are hoping Lancer is the next big thing.

In overall look Lancer is very pretty. The art and layout give me a very late 1990s to 2000s feel, but turned up a bit. There is a slight lack of cohesion in that the multiple artists styles don’t really mesh into each others as much as some modern games try to do, but it is better than many of the most beloved games managed back when this sort of game was king, and the quality is overall much higher.

There is a LOT of system in this book.

Mecha based games kind of beg for detailed tactical systems that specifically address as much as possible. Exact ranges and ratings and math matters in a very technical game, and this is no exeption. In the 432 pages of this core book, we don’t get to the world, plot, or story until page 334. Flavor text and images sell you on what kind of game this is going to be throughout, but in a world with FATE, Mothership, and Savage Worlds, and where even Dungeons & Dragons has their core system down to about 180 pages this is a bit of a beast!

Now, the very heart of the system behind Lancer is pretty sleek. The four or five pages explaining the basic concepts gives me a pretty good idea what this is going to look like in use… And I’m not sure I am in love.

I would put the complexity of Lancer at about the same as Pathfinder or slightly higher. This is a little beyond what I tend to like these days, a little more thinking and math behind every die roll than I would prefer. I’ll have to dive deeper to see how it all comes together.

Lancer feels like a bit of a throwback to the way we made games about 20 years ago… but a throwback made by people who really understood what was great about those games and wanted to bring some of it back. I will have to take some time with this to see where my sensibilities fit in these days. I am very excited for the printed book. It was due much earlier in the year, but as such things can go, and with the added excitement of the apocalypse happening, it should exist… soon.

Mewnbase: A survival/resource management/base building/etc game of keeping a moonbase from dying… with cats.

So this game lets you customize your cat a little…. I named mine Mr Piddles and gave his spacesuit a green visor. Then after a very brief tutorial you are left to your own devices.

It’s a little bit like a 2d minecraft in space but with less robust building… I have played a few games along these lines, one or two really fun ones on the ipad, and I don’t mind them at all. I’m setting this one aside for now, perhaps some day we will find out what became of Mr Piddles though.

Art Sqool: A game about art and making art and art school.

This game looks deeply weird… I’m into that.

It seems to be a musical?

Okay… so you are Froshmin, an art student being taught by an AI neural net. You are given assignments then set loose in the world to find pigments, brushes, tools, and to draw something which the AI then judges before sending you back out…

The graphics are state of the art Amiga demo disk 3d, the controls are hot garbage… moving around is actively unpleasant, and the music is… really neat!. Game play is confusing and little or no guidance is given on why you are graded high or low.

I think with the proper pharmaceuticals or perhaps a well placed head wound this game could be very interesting. I am shoving it back in the sack possibly never to be seen again. I wish I had the soundtrack though.

10 down, 1731+ to go. Have a Nice Day Everybody!

Bundle Reviews part 1: Overland through Celeste

This first couple items from  the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality 

Hokay then!

First up are…
Overland: A squad-based survival strategy game with procedurally generated levels.
Night in the Woods: At the end of everything, hold onto anything.
Kenney Game Assets 1: 20,000+ game assets for use in your games.
Sky Rogue: A fwooshy, intense, procedurally generated fly-em-up

And because I wasn’t bored yet I added Celeste.

Already this is over $75 worth of content I got for $10 and I have not scratched the surface even a little!

For friends and family that are less embedded in techno-videogame-newspeak, procedurally generated means that the software generates the levels of the game rather than a game designer. This means every single time you play the game it will be different.

Overland: From the description this is a game where you gather together a band of survivors, steal a car, and try to travel across a country ravaged by disaster, monsters, maybe zombies. You have to keep the car running, your friends healthy, and avoid being eaten.

This is a somewhat well tread concept for a game, but fortunately it’s one I like a lot.

So in a quick play I stole a car, met a friend, found some gas, traveled a bit, ran away from scary crystal worm-bug-things, and then made a terrible mistake when trading some tools for a backpack and was murdered, I think somewhere outside of Boston, by some very easily offended individuals. They shot us with a flare gun.

The graphics are charming and sharp, the sound is spot-on, and there feels like there is a story here. I suspect this is going to be a tough game to do well at, but I will be returning to this one. My short taste was sweet enough to make me want to explore this game more.

Night in the Woods: So I already own this game. It was bought for me by a friend when I was living in Indiana and I played a bit before getting distracted by various shiny explosions. Apparently it was also made by one or more people that one or more people I know… know.

This is a game about a woman (cat) returning home to a mining town somewhere in the midwest after her school career flops. It is a game about what happens after failure and about reconnecting with a past that has changed and moved on. It is also about something creepy out in the woods.

What I played of this game I absolutely loved. I really need to give it a long weekend to play through the rest of this story.

Kenney Game Assets 1: This is a huge stash of graphics, fonts, audio files, 3d models, and whatnot for making games. Everything in it is technically free, but the $10 asking price is probably worth not having to download 20,000 separate items. I don’t make video games (well not no far anyway) but I do make games. I’m betting something in here is going to be useful.

I am not super clear who Kenney is. But he is prolific! If you want, you can donate a dollar to Kenney here. I did just because it amused me to donate a dollar to someone named Kenney.

Sky Rogue: A 3d fly-and-shoot game where you fly and shoot.

This really isn’t my genre of game, but It’s early in this whole project, so I thought I would give it a try.

Oh… yeah… OK… This game is a blast from the past from when this WAS my kind of game. I am talking Atari 1040/Amiga 500 days… but slicker, shinier, and just… a little bit more… more.

This is a game I had to break out a controller for, it was not meant for keyboard. It made me wish I had a joystick, a roll of quarters, and an extra 75 cents for a hot dog and a soda.

I probably won’t be sinking a whole lot of time into this game. These days I want my video games to have a whole lot of story and if at all possible to scare the hell out of me. But I might keep this one around for when I just need to launch a lot of missiles at something.

Should I do another? Do I have time for one more?

Well OK…

Celeste: A narrative side-scroller with a bucket of plot and things to fall off of.

Some of my favorite games have been side-scrolling adventure games, but most of them have fallen short of the glory that was Wonder Boy in Monster World on the Sega Genesis. We shall see if this reminds me of those glorious days… Celeste does promise a lot of challenges, a soundtrack I might want to buy and listen to, and pie. Yes it promises pie.

A half an hour of downloading, this is clearly a beast… I’ll play a little more Sky Rogue while I wait. What a world we live in. Then a little more as the version I downloaded seems to not actually run so I had to get the opengl version.

Right off the bat… I am a bit thrown by what they have chosen to name the main character of a game called Celeste… It’s Madeline. Apparently the mountain is named Celeste.

Oof! This is a platform jumper with the difficulty of an old Psygnosis* game to match it’s retro feel! The graphics are very low-res mixed with really charming portraits and background. Controls are tricky as by the third or fourth screen (a screen upon which I died over twenty times) you are already having to perform feats of parkour requiring four buttons at once in a particular rapid sequence while in mid-air. This is a game that is not going to coddle you and is going to reward hard work and dedication… of which I am in short supply having 1736 more items to check out.

I may not be revisiting this game any time soon, but it’s definitely got some things going for it in the hands of someone with more time and patience.

*Psygnosis was a british game company in the Commodore/Amiga/Atari days famous for incredibly beautiful and mercilessly brutal games. At some point they were bought by Sony or someone and mellowed out a whole lot.

That’s it for now!

Stay safe, stay sane, and as Uncle Mikey says… goodbye, and be good!