Psychiatric Evaluation‘s probably a bit better as an idea than an actual game, but wow, what a neat idea. It begins as a text adventure – because obviously, crazy people see only in eloquent prose – but as your sanity improves, the game evolves. So talking to a doctor once transforms your mad world into an ASCII symbol jambalaya, twice yields a top-down Atari-style adventure, and three times bumps the graphical fidelity up to something you might have seen (and heard) on a Super Nintendo. What’s even more impressive, though, is how that clever representation of your sanity gets weaved into this psycho-not’s central puzzle.
I recently ventured to the definitely-not-cold, completely-un-northern reaches of sunny Austin, Texas, where Stoic welcomed me into its Kickstarter-funded Viking castle with open arms. OK, it was more of a paper-walled one-room office, but still. More importantly, the four-man squad of former BioWarians spent hours showing and telling me every last detail about their upcoming hand-drawn turn-based epic, The Banner Saga. So, in an attempt to make this digestible, I’ve broken it up into parts. First up, The Banner Saga: Factions, a free-to-play multiplayer spin-off set to launch in November. Inside, you’ll find my hands-on impressions. Next week, we’ll be posting interviews that cover everything else: how Stoic plans to handle microtransactions, the developer’s philosophy toward class balance, how matchmaking will work, gobs of details on the single-player campaign, and tons more. For now, though, here’s what it’s like to actually play the game. >
My relationship with Hitman and his latest subtitle is one of love at fifth sight. It hasn’t been a whirlwind romance, instead starting with something more like a few gentle but malodorous gusts of disappointment, but now I think we’re just about ready to snuggle again. The Contracts mode, with its freeform hits, could have been designed to twang at my heartstrings and with David Bateson’s back on vocal duties whispering sinister somethings into my ear, I’m ready to be impressed. I wrote about Contracts in a hotel room, eschewing offers of German beer in favour of typing excitedly about simulated murders. Here’s an eighteen minute video very similar to what was shown at Gamescom.
Phys are reporting that a University Of Texas team won a $7000 in a competition to create game bots that would pass as human. “The winning bots both achieved a humanness rating of 52 percent. Human players received an average humanness rating of only 40 percent. The two winning teams will split the $7,000 first prize,” says the Phys report. “When this ‘Turing test for game bots’ competition was started, the goal was 50 percent humanness,” the bot’s creator, Risto Miikkulainen, is quoted as saying. “It took us five years to get there, but that level was finally reached last week, and it’s not a fluke.” The bot mimicked humans by pursuing grudges, having poor aim at long range, and by using neural networks to “evolve” the bot’s behaviour towards something that would be optimal in the game’s environment.
Does anyone know of any games that use bots for language responses? I can’t think of any offhand, but it must be going on, and there must be an intriguing state of the art for the “real” Turing Test in games.
Project Giana, the 25th anniversary homage to/evolution of The Great Giana Sisters, has a proper, actual name now. If I have a child, I’ll insist that the wailing bundle be referred to as Project Baby for the first six months of its life, and only then will I name it after a popular chart musician of the times. Project Giana has become Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams, the post-colon words referring to the platformer’s dual realities, which can be flipped at any time. From fluff and nonsense to tentacles and spikes. The video below shows it all in action and the game is actually out on October 23rd.
Oh look, some brief descriptions of games. The Mass Effect trilogy is a space opera RPG about a crew of aliens attempting to stop a great evil and occasionally having sex. The Secret of Monkey Island is a comedic point and click adventure with insult swordfighting and a piratical theme. Ho hum. Aha, this one is new. “Middens is an exploration game using collage and original pixel art in tandem that takes the perspective of a drifter traversing a veritable x-zone. Roving its interminable wastes the nomad chances upon a sentient revolver beside an ominous pile of remains.” And it’s free! My interest isn’t the only thing that’s piqued.
I Am Weapon is a tower defence game set in the world of bad dreams. Developers Sigma Team, previously of the Alien Shooter and Zombie Shooter games, explain: “The world of nightmares is mysterious and amazing, it scares and fascinates at the same time. The laws of real world are not valid in here.” Fortunately the rules of tower defence remain much the same, although in this you seem to play a dude with a minigun. You can sample that particular dreamworld via a demo which can be downloaded here. The game features – and I have to quote this verbatim – “all types of infuriated clowns you could ever imagine! Their laugh makes you go crazy!”
I haven’t played it, but I watched the trailer, which is below. That’s a lot of blood on that chessboard. (more…)
The Swindle was the much-anticipated next game from Time Gentlemen, Please and Privates dev Size Five Games. Then things went quiet. Very, very quiet. But why? Wha’happened? Will we ever get to play this cyberpunk crime caper? Here, Size Five’s Dan Marshall reveals for the first time why the game went dark – a sad tale of Windows 8-based potential doom, leading to a Summer of fear and the difficult decision to start the game over from scratch. But, thank heavens, it’s a sad tale with a happy ending. Also, you can get your first glimpse at the game’s totes snazzy new look in its brand new engine in the top three (pre-alpha) screenshots in this post.> (more…)
FP has never been afraid of asking difficult questions. What’s the capital of Belize? At what temperature does fluid helium I transition to superfluid helium II? How long is a piece of string?> If a question needs asking, rest assured we’ll ask it. We’ve spent most of this week doggedly doorstepping wargame developers in an attempt to find out why, in 30-odd years of endeavour none of them have had the wit or wisdom to produce an FTL-style B-17 or Lancaster game. (more…)
I’m feeling pretty good, which is exactly the sort of thing one should never say in FTL. Doom, disaster and dismay inevitably looms, but having pulled my ship and my crew back from the brink of disaster at least I’ve got a war story out of it. Now, let’s see what’s out there in Sector 6 – this needs to go well, as I’m now just two sectors away from the final f(l)ight – presuming I survive that long.> (more…)