Category: Game Pile

My Game Pile is my stack of videogames that I’ve been working my way through over the course of the years, and writing about them. The plan is pretty simple: I talk about the game and I talk about the things that that game inspire. Sometimes it’s short, sometimes it’s long – and always, I try to give you an idea of who the game might be fore, or why they might want to buy it.

Let’s use Games to talk about Everything!

Game Pile: Draftosaurus

There’s a couple of other dinosaur park themed games that hit the market recently, which ranged from the positively bombastic Dinosaur World by Pandasaurus to the more multiplayer-friendly Dinosaur Island: Rawr and Write by Pandasaurus to the sprawling euro of Dinosaur Island by Pandasaurus to — you know, maybe it’s just Pandasaurus games.

Nonetheless, you might be the kind of person to whom the theme of a dinosaur theme park, as inspired by classic 90s piece of pulp media, Dinopark Tycoon, just makes your heart sing, but you don’t want to have to reconstruct an actual academic model of a human heart out of cardboard and math. To you, I wish to show you the dlightful Draftosaurus, a game that sells itself almost immediately when I show you the meeples.

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Game Pile: Magic Trick

This is a cute little game about playing a skateboarding kid in a town of animal people. It has pickups and tricks and magical powers that give you fast travel. It’s not a long game and I imagine if you’re better at skateboarding games than me, it’d probably only take a few hours to finish. It’s charming, it’s sweet, there’s a trans flag in the banner art.

If you want to check the game out, you can go get it here, and also, if you bought the Bundle For Racial Justice back in 2020, you already own a copy. But it’s also really cheap, so maybe buy it again?

I’m thinking more and more when it comes to itch games, just showing them off on my platform and talking about what I like about them is more interesting than trying to apply some deeper analysis to them. Not that I won’t for games that inspire it, but especially when it comes to games like this, I want to make sure I’m taking the opportunity to just share games.

Be kind with energy,
Be cruel with purpose.

Game Pile: Kyrandia 3: Malcolm’s Revenge

The medium is the message. If you look at the way things are made, rather than the content that is presented, you can see patterns of behaviour, see deformations of the way that things got made. The point-and-click adventure, for example, tends to get framed as a sort of game creature that evolved on the PC platform, existed for a while, then classically died out out of incompetence.

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Game Pile: Among Us

Among Us is a 2018 social deduction videogame, developed and released by Innersloth games. It is a borderline omnipresent media thing right now and you may have seen it on like, kid’s t-shirts and stuff if you are lucky enough to be able to walk around outside right now. There’s a non-zero chance that you don’t know what this game is or how it plays, so I’m going to fly through that real quick.

In Among Us, players are dropped into a play environment (known as the map) with nothing but their little blobby toes and a team affiliation to their name. Then they’re required to do a number of tasks to ‘fix’ the map — like, getting a spaceship going, for example — and that’s it.

Oh, wait, that’s what you have to do if your team is ‘crew.’

See, in any given map, there is one, and maybe two non-crew members, that look like crew members but aren’t — they’re a fangly shapeshifting alien (or aliens) — and they want to sabotage the tasks and kill off all the other members of the crew. This is obviously bad, so, whenever a player discovers a body, they can call for a meeting, where the crew can vote on who they think is the murderer (or not vote, if they so want), and if someone gets a majority of the votes, they’re spaced.

This creates the basic systems of the game. The alien wants to isolate people and kill them in places that are likely to go undiscovered, build a cover identity and defray suspicion. Non-aliens want to get their tasks done without being killed, and without being perceived as suspicious, for fear of being flushed out into space mistakenly. Alien wins when they’re equal or majority of the crew, crew win when all their tasks are done or the imposters are disposed of.

There are, I think, maybe two forty year olds who read this blog who may be going: Oh, is that it?

And yeah, that is it.

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Game Pile: Familiar Alchemy

Two things before we start. One, I backed this game on kickstarter, because a friend of mine, Calvin Wong Tze Loon, talked about doing work for it on his twitter. I followed that, thought it looked good, and backed it. I have, therefore, a clear connection, socially, to the making of this game. As it happens, Calvin’s main job was editing the rulebook, and the rulebook is pretty stellar, but I would say that, wouldn’t I.

The other thing, before I talk about this game, I need to get one thing out of the way, up front. The kickstarter for this game, the reason I own this game, the access point for this game, describes it as:

A wondrous world of plants, potions and familiars await in Familiar Alchemy, a semi-cooperative game rooted in Scottish folklore.

See that? See them bolded words?

What I need you to know is that’s a fucking lie.

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Game Pile: Shadowcaster

There are two stories about Raven Software.

For those of you not familiar, Raven Software were-slash-are a Wisconsin-based videogame development company founded in 1990. They were responsible, most famously to nerds like me, for the games Heretic, Hexen, and Hexen 2, a set of first-person fantasy shooters that used id game engines to tell you the story of multiple fantasy realms being assaulted by dreadful Serpent Riders.

The first story, the story I know I’m part of telling, is as an understudy company that stands next to id software and waits for them to be done with an engine before they make a game. This is a history that tends to happen when you work backwards; id software made Quake, which Raven turned into Hexen 2. id made Doom 2, which Raven used to make Hexen. id made Doom, which Raven used to make Heretic. When I spoke about Heretic earlier this year, I said this, even!

This is not a wrong story.

It is an incomplete story.

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Game Pile: Hard Wired Island

Disclosure: I backed this book on kickstarter, and contributed art to it. I designed the flag of Grand Cross. I was not paid for this work, and asked for my payment to instead be given to charity. I’m friends with the developers – like, we know what kind of anime one another likes.

You can go get Hard Wired Island on itch.io and DrivethruRPG.

 

Game Pile: Usurper

I went on a bit of a rollercoaster with Usurper.

First, I backed the game on kickstarter because it had some very modest targets, and a nice aesthetic, and stated it was using Gamecrafter. I thought it looked like a very good early effort for a game designer, backed it, and forgot about it for a few months.

Then it arrived.

What arrived was, as a game, a really robust little draft-position-play kind of game, with a thematic space I can only describe as ‘excellently obtuse.’ I had a look, I considered how I was going to approach talking about this game, and I put together a little list of thoughts that I laid out in the template for this article. As part of doing that, then, I went to get my due diligance and the links to people’s works, and places where you can buy the game, and found, to my surprise…

You can’t.

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Game Pile: Syndicate Wars

The rain rattles down against endless shimmering towers of silver and glass, black sludgy water, stinging on the way down, even the treatments making it ‘safe’ leaving it bitter, acrid, and faintly radioactive. No-one who knows better would be about in weather like this.

But nobody knows better.

The people mill around you, chips on their necks keeping them docile. What are they seeing? Do they even see the rain and the lines it leaves on the glass around them? Probably not. Every city runs its own sim, its own explanation for the world around them as the citizens move about, processing information and doing jobs and not noticing the world as it really is.

Imagine keeping a labor force like this in pods.

A world sized prison for humans, plugged into a vast wireless network of perception manipulators? Unnecessary. After all, if there’s ever a serious problem, they solve it with agents. Heavy, boot-and-coat wearing walking battle platforms, with no personality and big scary fuckin’ guns.

Agents from one corp, agents from another corp, they clash, and everyone else is left dead. More now we got the cult weirdoes, and the gangers who fell out of the network trying to stage an uprising.

This is the world now.

You fell out of the system, after that virus hit. And you get to see the world, as it is – as it tears itself apart.

This is Syndicate Wars.

Content Warning: Drugs.

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Game Pile: Ai The Somnium Files (Again!)

Last year, I did a video about Ai: The Somnium Files. That video was mostly about the game as a top-down experience, and what you can learn from making that kind of game, and how it was deliberately unsubtle. I didn’t spend much time just talking about how much I love it and the things in it. Because I like it so much, I wanted to spend some time talking about it again and also platforming a beloved friend, Nixie!

In the video, Nixie mentions this video by Dr Cullen PhD, so there’s that link. Nixie has her own Twitter, and her own Patreon you can check out.

If you want a full size version of the thumbnail, here!

Game Pile: Final Fantasy VI

Oh hey, it’s Talen a PC gamer who didn’t have a console through the 90s talking about a classic of the form in a genre he’s normally pretty condescending towards and it’s an iconic masterwork of the genre so there’s a checklist of things you kind of have to talk about on the way through before you get to talk about whatever it is you want to talk about well guess that means we gotta blaze through the outline.

  • Brilliant classic
  • Inventive mechanics
  • Iconic music
  • Lively cast of interesting characters
  • Innovative MODE SEVENING
  • What’s the DEAL with how the first half of the game was a JRPG and the back half, a WESTERN RPG?
  • Did U Kno The American Release Was III?
  • Girl Hot
  • Other Girl Hot
  • Other Other Girl Hot
  • Boy…? Hot? Maybe?
  • Playstation port bad!
  • Steam port bad!
  • GBA port okay, really!
  • Suplexing A Train

With that list of the key and important details that are necessary to cover I have hopefully cut down a chunk of the mandatory word count for this article. After all, where will we be if I treat Final Fantasy 6 as something that you may already know about, or as some subject that you already probably can find other sources to explain?

I intend to spoil things about this game but I don’t imagine I actually will? Like, you may view it as a spoiler to mention ‘there’s a character named Effuzio in the story’ and that’s fine, but I don’t particularly plan on talking about the main thrust of the plot. Besides, if it helps you at all, the story of Final Fantasy 6 isn’t really that important, or even that interesting. Not the single, big, core narrative that runs from instigating incident to attention arrival to conclusion to denoument, no, that isn’t important. What’s important to me is the sequences of smaller stories that make up the whole of experience of this multi-hour JRPG mammoth of a story, the characters that are Final Fantasy VI.

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Game Pile: Gene Wars

Genewars is a 1996 videogame release from games industry innovator and technology boundary pusher Bullfrog, at the height of their heady, genre-establishing, world-shaking PC gaming juggernaut status, overseen by the pandimensional fish-hoarding gamer genius explorer boy and repeated game revolutionary Peter Molyneux. After inventing the God Game genre with Populous, the RTS genre with Powermonger, perfecting the spatial management game with Theme Park, redefining flight simulator games with Magic Carpet and creating the fantastically engaging real-time squad based strategy dystopian cyberpunk offend-em-up Syndicate, but just before all-purpose warm-fuzzy-feelings inspiring Dungeon Keeper, Bullfrog announced a new RTS game called Genewars.

The premise of Genewars up front was that you weren’t going to buy units from a list, like some kind of plebian, Commanding and Crafting. You were going to create your own units, based on stitching together the DNA of species on the planet, and the possibilities were endless.

And from this perfected and extremely shiny forehead of Peter Molyneux, what could spring, but excellence?

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Game Pile: Root

In 2018, the board game Root was released by Leder games, to a sort of confused, but very enthusiastic ‘hooray!’ Based on earlier successes by the same developers (and some weird, contentious ‘hey, you copied my notes’ complaints), Root is an asymmetrical war game, where in the base box, you have four factions competing with one another to try and take control of a nonspecific woodland glade. Each faction, the game promised – and delivered – are different; not the same rules with a few different units, but entirely, meaningfully, complicatedly different in how they relate to one another.

Lauded for its emergent complexity and its charming aesthetic, Root is one of those games that quickly became institutional; multiple expansions, fan merchandise, an RPG in the setting, all that stuff that signalled people are into your game, the base board game Root is probably one of those recent classics.

I never wanted to buy Root, though.

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Game Pile: Leather Goddesses of Phobos

Leather Goddesses of Phobos is a 1986 text adventure videogame, produced by Infocom, written by Steven Meretzky, and it exists entirely because of a whiteboard joke that nobody in the room said ‘hey, maybe let’s just not?’ to enough times. In this 1930s schlock sci-fi inspired ‘sex farce’ game, you get to explore locations like Mars, Venus, and Cleveland.

It was, ostensibly, one of a small number of sexy text adventure games from that period of time, produced by Infocom. It boasted a scratch-and-sniff feely, and a setting for its content ranging from ‘tame’ to ‘lewd.’

It’s also a sex comedy written by a couple of dudes that dates back to 1986.

Soooooo.

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