Humble bundle is on its way out (part 2)Feb 10, 2020
A year and a half ago, I posted my concerns about humble bundle. I described how it was as I got in, and how it had slowly evolved. The writing was, not coincidentally, not very long after its acquiring by IGN...but still long enough afterward so that all the first-hour doom&gloom critics had their say and left for other stuff (it's easy to predict doom when a large corporation takes over, especially if you can pretend you never said it, should it not happen). Unfortunately, I had to agree with the critics. Not so much because IGN is IGN, but because of how the platform had evolved since then.
So what happened since then? Well...first you should know that the original founders of humble bundle (Jeffrey Rosen and John Graham) didn't so much leave as became advisors until the end of 2019 (source).
...and while they're technically still on that job, a major change happened (humble choice). I'll get to that, but since you probably already know, I better list the smaller things...
THE SMALLER THINGS
Last time I smirked at the addition of (comic) books and software as bundles. Those certainly haven't gone anywhere. Rather the contrary: I now have more ebooks than real books, and I've got a lot of books in my house (last count was little over a hundred...my current humble library is over 300 books now ). But the least I can say is that things have become bloated in that aspect. A year and a half ago, 3 or 4 bundles going on at the same time was the average (with perhaps 5 or 6 as a maximum). To say that it increased a bit is an understatement: the average is now at 9 or 10. Most with the known 3 tier model (1 dollar, beat the average and the top tier of somewhere between 10 and 20). However, this increase is in all but PC gaming. As I'm writing this, of the ten bundles, six are about books (of which one comic book and two tabletop-related), two are about software and two are about games.
Still: at first glance it shouldn't matter. I wouldn't be worried if the remaining two bundles were worth it. However, there's more going on. Because what seemed like an oddity is gaining ground: one game bundles. A few weeks ago, there was a Europa Universalis 4 bundle. The base game was in the first tier, with a whole slew of DLC in all tiers. Hard to say if it was worth it. From what I gather, EU4 has a strong and dedicated fanbase...I'm just not one of 'em. If I were a fan, I guess I'd get it...but then again, I would have already gotten it much earlier. So I'm wondering just how much this actually sells.
The current one game bundle is trainz. A game that gets many downvotes because of bugs, slow gameplay, an outdated engine and - especially - an insane amount of DLC. I haven't played it, but it's as best a niche game aimed at a very specific audience (train lovers), but probably more a cash grab than a real attempt of a good game. Unfortunate enough...
The other game bundle is humble choice. Formerly known as humble monthly. And the center of the controversy I was talking about earlier.
Let's start with one advantage, and one fair assessment. I like that you can see in advance what games you'll get. I honestly do. I've had it perhaps once or twice that I seriously would have subscribed for a month if I know what else I'd get, but it happened. The uncertainty was good for trying games (I'll be honest: I'd never given zachtronics games a chance after spacechem, but infinifactory was AWESOME!), but it was trial and error.
The fair assessment: nobody plays all the games. And I should know, because I've given away quite some of those games to others. And while I hope they find a good player, the people at humble bundle (and even more so: the developers) realise that most people just scour up these games and perhaps never play them. So the time in the spotlight has a diminishing return, and it's IMHO only fair that developers are less inclined to provide game keys. So that the price needed to go up...I can't blame them. I've seen many people throw all sorts of insults at humble bundle, but I'm not one of them. At most that the way they're going about it is shady. That is, provided that you can call something shady if it's so out in the open.
What I'm talking about? The humble monthly used to give you a net worth of 9 or 10 games (including one original), no matter if you wanted them or not. Now things are also broken up in tiers:
* lite (5$/month): the lowest tier only gives access to the humble originals (formerly known as humble trove). This is a weird move, as literally any subscriber can download and keep these games legally for ever after. But on the other hand: while it contains older games, these tend to be fairly good ones. And the amount has grown to nearly a hundred. So it's not as bad a move for a beginner gamer. More so: it's hard NOT to recommend it ("for five bucks you can get about a hundred games or for fifteen bucks you can get a hundred and three. Then...what do you mean, the first one is better???"). Only one month, yes, but still...I'm not against this.
* basic (15$/month): this tier gets the same, and a pick of 3 games from the offered selection (10 or 12 games so far). From my perspective, this is the strangest option, if not for no other reason than for the upcoming two tiers.
* premium (20$/month): this gets 9 games of the offering. The strangest part of this is that even this plan doesn't get all the games. So you're basically paying more for getting less. I'd point to the earlier assessment if it wasn't for the "hidden" last option:
* classic (12$/month): this gets 10 games of the offering. Yyyyeah....it's basically them attempting not to lose customers by giving them an "early access" bonus.
IMHO, the interesting part of this is that it's purposely skewed. As an early subscriber I get benefits that those who don't use it won't get but I have to remain subscribed (okay, I can get a temporary break, but that's not the same as subscribing and unsubscribing). Even if nobody ever buys the premium bundle, it ties guys like me to their model because it looms over our head. The prospect of having to pay more later if we want to pay less now is...well...not fun.
Perhaps the weirdest complaint: the quality of these games is, IMHO of course, pretty decent. I mean...Humble bundle wasn't really a bad curator on the games they picked for their game bundles, but certainly not the best one (see also: that trainz bundle). It's almost strange that these last three bundles had actually fairly good games all around in them. I'm not really sure if that's because they want to quiet criticism ("save some of the best games for when we're going to push that price increase through!"), that they limit other potential bundles for humble choice ("we could be doing a game bundle now...or have these games be part of a humble choice bundle") or that I'm just seeing things because of the format(1). But still...
Granted: I signed up because the november bundle was awesome (spyro trilogy and bandicoot trilogy were already six great games, and that was just the reveal), and told myself I would quit the first time humble choice wasn't worth it (so what if it costs more in the long run? I only want to pay for games I want to play, damnit!). Well...so far, it's worth it. December had Desert child, blasphemous and (especially) horizon chase turbo that made it worth my while, on january I had a really tough time just picking ONE game to dismiss (I already had bad north) and february there are only two games I otherwise would've given away(2). So yeah...there's THAT...
Even assuming that humble choice is a purchase that keeps on 'giving' each month...that doesn't mean HB isn't on its way out. The original (partial) intent to bring gaming to linux is completely dead. Sure, it matters far less than it used to (hint: valve's proton is still gradually improving to the point where I can't even tell if a game runs natively anymore), but it's dead nonetheless. It branched out in directions that are all but gaming, and the few exceptions are just that: exceptions (though admitted: 100% of income going to the the australian fire relief was as awesome as the games it held).
I started this year with a large giveaway. Due to moving, I didn't have a proper gaming PC from April to January. I still browsed and gamed on a laptop, and bought bundles that excited me (I just didn't redeem anything because I'd get to it later). I won't deny: it was a very decent loot I had to redeem. About as much as the games I ended up giving away, really. But as someone (@ThoD) remarked: there used to be more giveaways. And that someone was right: I used to give away excess games much faster, and that wasn't because I bought larger bundles or kept fewer. I just bought less because there was less to buy. I can't really complain about that (I'm well over 1000 steam games at this point, so I'll easily last for the rest of my lifetime ). But I can state it how it is...
(1): this might sound weird, but it's psychology at play: involvement has a positive influence on one's attitude. On face value, it's not hard to understand that when presented with a bundle of ten games vs a bundle of twelve games minus two games you actively dismiss, is the better choice. The interesting psychological aspect is that even when the outcome would consist of the same ten games, then the latter still feels like the best option. Reason: as gamers, we don't slightly dismiss games we could be playing. We tend to compare and check versus our likes and dislikes. But by that process, our appreciation for the games we pick grows more than if we were just passively glancing what was in the bundle.
(2): not entirely true: Ive been given frostpunk (by gbatemp staff, no less), so it's only natural that I pick that game to give it away as well.
As it turns out...it's the republicans who are the drones...Jan 27, 2020
It's a tactic that has become so used in the politics sector I'm sort of fed up with it: facts aren't so much disputed as the ones bringing these facts are discredited. "oh, you say X, don't you? Well that's just because you're a libertarian leftist". Things get pitted as republicans versus democrats, totally ignoring the fact that I'm neither(1). I know why they're doing this, and I hate it. I know that by very definition, a party that represents just 1% of the population will never win a fair majority election, even if this 1% happens to be the richest percent. So it fascinates me how a developed country like the USA can have exactly that. The current government has failed spectacularly in so many aspects it can only be drowned by a never ending flood of scandals. Which, well...happens to be the Trump's trademark. Put him in a room with 7 other people, a pie, a knife and the assignment to divide the pie however everyone sees fit, it won't take long until you see Trump walk out with the entire pie, and inside seven people bickering on who should get the bigger part.
...but I digress. My interest in this situation is partially how it's possible to have a party representing a minority of voters to come out on top, and mostly on how it maintains being in control.
The first part is relatively easy: divide and conquer. As far as I know, republicans and democrats are condemned to each other because history has taught that if you don't give people at least the illusion of choice, they'll revolt at some point. Up to (and including) the Clinton area, this divide was mostly superfluous. You could vote democrat or republican but end up with the same government choices (Michael Moore even called Bill Clinton "the best republican president the democrats had" at one point). But the game has changed. Rather than have a president who seeks to align all the people under one nation (that feeds the rich), we have one that purposefully sets up groups against each other. And doesn't even pretend otherwise. "We want a wall and have Mexico pay for it" doesn't require much brainpower to see the logical flaw (Mexicans have neither the motivation nor the resources to participate). The thing is: it was never meant to convince anyone not already convinced. I'll get to that, so bear with me...
First: this second part: "how does the presidency stay in power?". If you skim away all the scandals, stupid mistakes and controversies...what has the Trump administration really done thus far?
* start an economic dispute with China (on which e.g. Noble prize winner Joseph Stiglitz said that the best we could hope for was the starting position)
* tax breaks that mostly, if not exclusively, benefit the rich
* a very protectionist economic approach (read: most countries have to pay income taxes)
* blow up the nuclear agreement with Iran for...erm...why exactly? What does the USA gain with pissing off a potential nuclear threat?
...and you can probably dismiss the last point because it's more controversy than policy. My point is: Trump's only goal is to facilitate the already wealthy.
Yeah: I know: not exactly a new statement either. But this only works if the fan base is loyal and numerous enough to keep following him. And the super rich can only pump so much in propaganda. Someone will expose him, and then it'll be game over.
Except that it already happened long ago, and it wasn't game over. Not for a long shot. Because if it was, then Hillary Clinton would be president now, and US politics would just be the boring 'same old, same old' at this point (okay, not quite, as republicans would be gearing towards election, but you know what I mean). What happened?
Up until now, my answer would be a derogative "USA just houses a lot of morons", by lack of a real answer. Unfortunately...that just happens to be the real answer.
Yes, I know. I just insulted a massive amount of American citizens. Watch my face closely. Do I look like I care? No? Well spotted, then. It's because I no longer care, motherfuckers. A kindergarden can outvote the teacher on what'd be the best served meals, but that doesn't mean the toddlers are right.
Except in this case, you're not toddlers. You're worse: you're drones. Remember that "oooh...you're just following corporate media" line? You throw that out at unsuspecting, well-willing conversationalists because it hides the fact that YOU are the one blindly following a cult. A large cult. It's called "fox news". Early on in his nomination, Trump proudly claimed he could shoot someone in the street without losing support for his base. Democrats and the media admittedly wrongfully framed this as a threat. It was satirism. But that's actually much more dangerous, as that implies that he's right about that observation!
Here...check out this source. It explains things like these words simply fail to convey.
America has a lot of news stations. Obviously, as it's a big and developed country. But when asked which news outlets they trust, the US inhabitants couldn't be more diversified. Democrats show a healthy diversification, meaning that they'll get a more open view of the political environment (as this is a poll about political / election news). On the republican side, it's all but nothing. Most believe only fox news, with a minority watching ABC.
I can't say I have much knowledge on ABC (none, really). But fox news has completely lost all credibility since I watched the documentary "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's war on journalism"...and that's a documentary from 16 years ago! Basically, fox isn't a news station but a propaganda machine for conservatism. Whether it's in their choice of words, the kinds of messages they bring or the hosts they show, they've continuously worked to defend the "traditional values". It has also attacked and misreported an amazing amount of times, and I haven't even kept track during the Obama years.
...and then Trump came along. When he talked about "fake news", you'd think that this would mean it would give people reasons to doubt their trusted news platform and check alternatives to make sure that they didn't end up biased. But this is a misconception. When looking at this chart, I should obviously have known (it's not really a secret that he retweets Fox all the time, Fox gets all the exclusive perks of the white house and it shows that Donald Trump and Sean Hannity are friends): he means this as a warning about anything NOT on fox.
And that's how he maintains his base. He first repeats so much that the world is filled with fake news that his base believes it. Then he commits acts of crime, and as he is called out upon it, it's seen by his base as a proof about fake news. Why? Because Fox news rarely if ever reports it as such.
As everyone not living under a rock knows, the presidential trial is held these days. He's already impeached by the house, but this senate trial is about whether or not Trump should be removed from office. It's hardly ever happened in the history of the USA...and Fox decides not to air it. It's not a surprise. But to me, it was a surprise just how much influence this one stupid news station really has. To be frank: at this point, they're the only thing that keep the president in power.
I mean...it sort of surprised me that the percentage wanting Trump removed from office hardly rose about 55% of the population (meaning: roughly everyone who didn't vote for him), but with his close buddy Hannity spinning lies about the actions ("it's not Trump: it's Schiff who's a bad sport! And Pelosi!") and even facts ("there are no witnesses nor evidence"...while there are plenty of witnesses and the evidence is held illegally by the white house) it sort of makes sense.
I'm still left with the question on how sustainable this really is. I mean...Trump continuously creates scopes for Fox, and Fox supports Trump for that. But that means that even the republican party is expandable. In order to make the trial a sham, McConnell has prevented witnesses and wants to get one of the most important trials in this decade done fast...but when asked, a whopping 79% of Americans actually DO want witnesses on this trial (and why not? Mulvany and Bolton are Trump picked officials, right? If they can clear things up and if Trump is really as innocent as Fox says...why not let them have their say?).
If I didn't hate him so much, I'd feel sorry for McConnell. Trump demands all sorts of loyalty from his servants where he repays it with none, but he's in the position where he has to make these actions to prevent the truth from getting to the drones (yes, that's you, drone. Or "republican" if you still think it's less demeaning). He won't get thanked for it. Indoors, I'm sure that Trump is all too happy that he isn't pushed to let Bolton elaborate on that "hand grenade" remark or release the FULL transcript of his phone call, but in public he acts as if he has nothing to hide.
Which means that he'll blame McConnell for defending him sooner or later. When this happens, drone...remember that I predicted this. When this happens, I want you to think for yourself, and not blindly accept whatever spin some Fox news "opinionist" gives to this. McConnell doesn't do this because he's evil, confused or misguided...he does it because he's loyal to his boss. Because that's what the republican party has become: a bunch of drones parroting whatever Trump wants them to parrot.
You can quote me on this...
(1): not entirely true: I'm a socialist. However, as much as I would hope otherwise, Bernie Sanders is at best a "viable alternative" if mainstream democratsIncredulousP likes this.
I'm a father now...Jan 17, 2020
Okay : title speaks for itself. Today (and most of the day) my girlfriend and me went into the hospital. She went into labor, and after a whole ordeal, she gave birth to our daughter.
Interesting times are ahead...
Time pressure...Jan 15, 2020
Two things I blogged about earlier are starting to merge. Unfortunately...
It's...about a year and a half ago that my girlfriend and me started looking to buy a house. We found that in summer 2018, and due to circumstances only moved since April last year. Since then, we've been renovating. I've blogged about it here, and it contains a link to earlier. Since then, things have accellerated, but not really as much as we hoped.
The good news: the ground floor's done. We've got a very nice (and expensive) kitchen and adjacent dinning room, and my girlfriend's currently chilling in the television room (or chillout room, so you will). And the plumbing is done as well. I will NEVER advice anyone to put floor heating in a house he's living in himself, let alone with a pregnant girlfriend. But we've survived, and it's currently okay.
Well...'currently' is just since today. Y'see, normally that would have been done on the 31st of december. At first, it seemed okay...but we had a leak last week. Worse: it was one directly underneath the kitchen, and as such unreachable. Discovering our (little) cellar filling up with water was one of the worst experiences of our lives, and it was mostly because we knew how hard it'd be. Luckily, my girlfriend figured out an alternative path. Wasn't easy, but with the help of my father-in-law, we managed to craft out another line for that particular plumbing. It's...best not to ask details.
Unfortunately: the house isn't done yet. We still need a bathroom and two bedrooms by the time the baby comes. So we stepped up the tempo: both our parents come by to help very often (my parents-in-law even daily), and other relatives roughly every week. Our master bedroom is finished with the exception of electricity details (bedroom lights, mostly) and putting a few cupboards together. The bathroom has the toilet and bathroom table done, and the bath should be one or two days away as well. Last but not least: the small bedroom (our child-to-be, though she'll sleep with us for at least a couple months). We were on schedule to finish it within a few weeks...
...but yesterday morning, our gynaecologist said that my girlfriend was quite far on the pregnancy. More specifically: if she hasn't given birth by friday, she has to come to the hospital to have it started by them.
*sigh* As you can imagine, it was pretty hard for us: OUR FREAKING CENTRAL HEATING HAD JUST BROKEN DOWN!!! Yesterday and today were particularly stressful, because I've experienced that "having a plan" is different from practice. Things tend to go wrong on that last one. That I'm typing this is proof that we managed to fix it (heck...browsing the internet was the last thing on my mind the last couple of days...even when I was on gbatemp).
I'm not proud of it, but I had to use my colleagues' goodwill: I had to call in vacation time early. Yesterday and today to get that heating fixed, tomorrow to fix most (probably not all) of the bath and bedroom...and friday...you guessed it: I'm not going to leave my girlfriend's side until our child's born.
Will the house be done by then? The answer is "it depends". Those plans of renovating the attic or put laminate on the floor in the back rooms is obviously future stuff. But we've got a very livable area. And while my parents-in-law, relatives and me were building everything, my girlfriend has taken proper care of the baby in the sense that all the room we've created is immediately filled with stuff for the baby.
I take it this is all but the dreamt way to spend the nine months pregnancy period. But ey...we've renovated A LOT in that period. So how hard can raising a baby really be?
I'll blog some more about this in the future. Not sure if anyone aside @alexander1970 really wants to know, but ey...I like writing and it'll be an interesting period in our lives, so why not? You can always skip reading these things.
Taleweaver's top games of 2019Dec 27, 2019
Taleweaver's top games of 2019
Well...the end of the year is upon us once again, so in somewhat of a tradition I'll nag you with what games I like playing this year.
Previous entries: 2018, 2017, 2016,2015,2014
This year, I gotta mention that I moved and renovated since about April. Meaning: I hardly sat down at a computer that wasn't meant for office. I managed with a laptop...somewhat, but nothing too fancy (e.g.: hardly any linux adventures this year ).
EDIT: added in game tags. While not on every game, I'm amazed at how many obscure games can still be found. thanks for that, gbatemp admins!
That said: the runners-up (in random order):
The Darkside Detective
Grids of thermometers
Part Time UFO
Elder Sign: Omens
MechCom 2 and MechCom 3
Cultist Simulator (android)
Tile realm (android...basically kingdomino the app)
Wolf and moon sudoku
While true: learn
up left out
Through the ages
Do not feed the monkeys
My top games for 2019
30. Trigono (android)
basically super hexagon 2. Balls hard and trippy, but at the very least an interesting two-button reflex game (note: it's somewhat tied with one finger death punch 2 in that regard)
29. Bridge constructor portal (windows) Bridge Constructor Portal
Best bridge constructor game, and it's not just because it has gladOS and protals. But even so...after an initial great start, the interest waned a bit for me.
28. Inbento (android) inbento
Nice follow-up to nr. <??>. You basically have to stack, swap or otherwise manipulate tiles so the lunchbox match the example. It may not look like much, but it ticks all the boxes a mobile game should tick for me.
27. Evergarden (windows) Evergarden
Triple town by the makers of race the sun? Move over, rest of the monthly bundle: I'm playing THIS! In evergarden, you grow a honeybee rate of flower that you'll stack on top of one another. It's relaxing, interesting and yet stressful somehow. On top of the main game is an intricate way of using the gained pieces in puzzles that eventually feed back into the main game.
26. Pixelo / Nonograms katana (android)
I'm a sucker for nonograms, so when I saw pixelo "temporary free" I jumped right into it. It was great at first, with many unlocks into it...but it hit bottom like a brick once 15x15 grids were unlocked: misclicking is easy to do, and with that being punished it wasn't funny. So I tried a few alternatives and settled on nonograms katana. It's less a race against time but more the relaxing puzzle solving it's meant to be (plus: it also has colored nanograms).
25. Evo explores (android)
Yes, a 'monument valley' clone. But so what? It's great at being that.
24. Where shadows slumber (android)
One that's hard to place. It's an isometric puzzle game that is perhaps best described as "monument valley gone dark". You play a cutesy ghost that finds a lantern with the ability to change what its shadows touch. And perhaps those first levels you might think this is the sort of kiddy theme android users have to fathom.
...but it's not. During the (for this price point surprisingly many) cutscenes a grim and dark tale unfolds. Many want the lantern, but while you can eventually overcome them, it's done in a NSFW kind of way, which is rather disturbing considering the otherwise rather cartoony theme.
The puzzles themselves are okay, but man...I just kept playing for the story. As far as surprises go, this one surprised me most (in a good way) based on what I found on it.
23. Ganz Shon Clever (android) Ganz schön clever
As a board game affiniado, this was a hype this year. I tried the app, and quickly found out why: you roll dice, choose one color on your pinball-like sheet, then roll the remains. But after a while, crossing off one box might trigger another box (which might even trigger YET ANOTHER ONE). That combo-potential is awesome, and the game itself is short enough for a play session. The app, however, isn't much up to snuff. It does what it's supposed to, but there's not even an opponent here. So in a way, this is just something to draw in people buying the game. Still...for the couple bucks, you can't complain on the fun you'll get with it...
22. Hexologic (android)
I played through this one twice now, but must've forgotten to rate it last year. In any case: this is yet another great numbers puzzle game. Despite it having 100+ levels, I want more levels.
21. Mark of the ninja (windows) Mark of the Ninja
Tried this before, but I finally beat the story completely. It was fun, but...to be honest I had higher expectations after the introduction levels.
20. Cat lady (android)
A pink card game about collecting cats and attributes? Yeah...I'm probably the only straight male this side of the hemisphere enjoying this, but intuitive controls, depth, actual strategy and lots of polish go a long way.
(note: tides of time tick many same boxes and has better graphics to boot...but the actual gameplay felt more like luck to me).
19. Mushroom 11 (android) Mushroom 11
a weird platformer. You are basically a huge blob in a radioactive environment. By removing one part of the blob, it regrows to its volume in all other parts. So you're basically MS paint erars brush. I played this a couple years ago on windows, but the experience is obviously different on android. Equally good, though.
18. Stories untold (windows) Stories Untold
I made a rant recently about this one (it's here). The gist of it: the first episode is incredible as far as horror games go, the rest...let's say it goes downhill after that.
17. The quarry & bleentoro (pro) (android) The Quarry
For months, I had bleentoro pegged as "the closest to factorio on android", despite it being puzzle-oriented rather than a sandbox where you basically make your own objectives. And okay, the style was abstract at best, but other than that it had that same "get your input here, combine things there and put the output over there". It was pretty decent up until the more advanced levels, where it became more a game of 'guess what the developer was thinking'.
...and then the quarry arrived on my radar. This hits the factorio vibe much harder: it had comparable visuals and a sandbox mode that lets you explore. It's environmental-neutral and doesn't have a protagonist running around in it, but still: it's factorio. Up to the point where I don't dare start the game for the uncertainty if I'll ever leave ("okay...so I'm finally building steel ingots. Now how do I increase production so I can hit that 95 faster for the next objective?").
16. Oxxo (android) OXXO
I've played many 'hamster on coke' games. They're short, wordless puzzles. Their atmosphere is always soothing, rules of the game change every so many levels slightly, and there's not really an end goal. Perhaps not the meatiest game on the list, but certainly worth playing.
15. Istanbul (android)
A virtual board game...and based on a very popular board game, no less. Istanbul is...perhaps the best description is "a race in all directions". You and your opponents run around the 4x4 grid occupying spaces, taking actions, grabbing resources and - at some point - ending up with enough rubies to win the game. Simple to learn but surprisingly deep. And runs well on a (large) phone, no less!
14. Gorogoa (android) Gorogoa
my best description would be "a child's fantasy". It's a puzzle game with 2-4 panels that show some sort of scenrey. You usually interact with these in some way to change them. At times, this locks in place with one or both of the other panels, which progresses the (wordless) story. Hard to describe, but the gaming experience is like a fine dream on a summer's day...
13. Santorini (android)
I actually bought the board game a few years ago. When playing with my girlfriend, she quickly accused me of cheating because "I had more experience" (this was the first time we both played it). Unfortunately, I have somewhat the same experience with the app: the AI has seven levels and anything above the second is either a struggle or impossible for me. and that's painfull, because this is a simple tactics game in the vein of chess. The basic game is that you've got 2 pawns on a 5x5 grid. On your turn, you move one pawn (even diagonally, but not more than one floor up), then build a floor adjacent to this new location. This goes on until someone can climb to a third floor.
While challenging enough as this game can be, it gets much deeper. On top of this, each player can pick a special power that gives him/her an unique advantage. This ranges from better moves, potential swapping the turn order, restricting the opponent to alternative win conditions. This makes each game radically different...but a hard AI just wipes the floor with me as if I were playing against alphago on steroids.
The game looks and plays beautiful, though...
12. Zelda: minish cap (android) The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
Obviously would've been higher if this was my first time playing it, but even a third playthrough kept the magical charm intact (except for those freaking kinstones, that is...).
11. Guacamelee 2 (windows) Guacamelee! 2
it may be more of the same, but it's more guacamelee! So...more silly Mexican wrestling/brawling with a chicken theme!
10. Minesweeper genius (android) Minesweeper Genius
The lovechild of nonograms and mine sweeper...with a protagonist, no less! The idea is that you're a gardener (Aristotle, for some reason) that has to sweep up a path between bombs. Honestly: if you love either of these games this is a must buy. Not only are the levels fun and varying, but it got a whole lot of it as well!
9. The messenger (windows) The Messenger
Another great indie platformer. You're a ninja carrying something to somewhere, and you've got to fight baddies doing so. I haven't played much ninja gaiden, but I feel the messenger is a hommage to this game. Still: the levels are decently designed, the bosses are colorful and I just plain love that shopkeeper ("why yes I DO want to hear a story ").
8. Despotism 3k (android) Despotism 3k
Some background information first: it's the end of the summer. Our initial plan to finish renovating in early July has proven drastically wrong, and our budget is rising as well (note: we ended up borrowing from my parents). The days shorten, it gets colder and the work seems never-ending. I'm in a grim mood in this.
...and then google of all platforms, suggests me this game. It's a dystopy-em up wherein you play as a robot mashup of a Big Brother, Mustapha Mond, the matrix's architect and (of course) gladOS. In a game that's both simple to control yet has a surprisingly amount of management to do, considering that you only get a single screen.
And man, are you playing as the villain in this game. You thought GTA, postal or hatred set a bad example? Try this game: you'll force people into producing power for you (hamster wheel), increase your population in the mating dome, have them produce food for you or become food themselve as you maul them into soylent green and extra power. MuhahahahaHAAAAA!!!
What? Yes, I said 'mating dome'. As said: this game puts dungeon keeper in the "for pantsies" category.
7. Burgle bros (android) Burgle Bros
Here's the thing: while you are playing payday with an unavoidable 'casa de papel' skin, I'm playing a PROPER heist game. This one is based on a board game, but I like the video game better. Basically: it's a turn-based co-op game wherein a team of nine different characters break into a bank, crack the safe and get out unseen...hopefully. The style is in old James Bond or Ocean's eleven style, with lasers, fingerprint sensors and so on. Guards move after you move, but even though you can see where they are heading, avoiding them isn't always easy. Like many co-ops this take time to learn. And admittedly, it's a bit too hard on normal difficulty for me. Luckily, there is plenty of fun customizability in this game. Oh, and not only does each character have an unique power, they also have two variants. So there's lots of ways to get the upper hand.
6. Steamworld dig 2 (windows) SteamWorld Dig 2
Another sequel! This rates higher than Guacamelee for me because this one improves more over the original. I think it's also longer, but that might just be my impression. In any case: a fun little digging down platformer.
5. Golf peaks (android) Golf Peaks
I got this one on a discount, but it blew me away instantly (I bought bleentoro just as a "thank you" sign). Card based golf...would that really work? The answer is simple: yes. It's a puzzle game in which direction to end up exactly IN the hole. Correction: a very decent puzzle game.
Now excuse me while I lob this ball up that ramp, then 2 squares over ther and, uhm...no, I'll lob it two spaces in THAT direction, and...
4. Mystic vale (android) Mystic Vale
okay, okay, I bought cat lady to see whether nomad games know how to make video games. Y'know...just so I didn't end up with this weird deck carting virtual board game and it being crap. And it certainly is a lot of things, but not THAT. Mystic vale is an atypical deck builder (more on those just ahead). You buy cards, but you actually place them ON your cards instead of among. This mechanic, an important "push your luck" factor and a lot of different currencies make this a more complex game than most. It shouldn't be your first deck builder, but damn, does this game look GORGEOUS! Perhaps the theme isn't for everyone (rescue nature by...nature magic?), but if you like experimental games this is a very good one.
3. Hardback (android) Hardback
After playing burgle bro I wanted to buy the board game. Problem with that was that it had to be shipped from the US and there was a discount for 2 games onward. So I checked a few other virtual ones from this designer (Tim Fowers...you might wanna remember that name). Paperbag immediately drew my interest as a deck builder with letters. While the board game of this is more popular than hardback, and admittedly simpler to get into, hardback is the one that stole my heart.
But lemme start with explaining 'deck builder': in this genre, each player starts out with a fairly weak deck of cards (usually ten). During your turn you draw five cards, and use them in any way. Especially at the start, you want to buy extra, more powerful cards. These cards, along with your played ones, go in your graveyard. If you can't draw a card anymore, you simply shuffle your graveyard into a new deck, thus putting new bought cards to use.
Like paperbag, hardback has you use your cards to create words. But here you have four types of cards (not including the basic deck); if you create a word that uses two or more cards of a single type, it'll give massive bonusses. As such, it properly ties a dry scrabble-like game onto some sort of abstract RPG-building.
Admitted: this game earns its place on originality alone. It's abstract, and therefore not much in terms of visualss. But damn...I don't know a single game similar to this one, and with the exception of paperbag: nothing even REMOTELY similar.
2. Shards of infinity (android) Shards of Infinity
Shortly after hardback, I wanted to play more deckbuilders. Their concept intrigues me, and until dominion gets an actual app (not likely), I had to look elsewhere. Ascension was okay, but IMHO felt slow. Star realms had the right idea, but I disliked the theme (it's just space ships). Oh, and they're free to play, which I'm wary toward...
...and then, just at that time, temple gates releases Shards of infinity. So the creators of the well polished race for the galaxy (my best game of last year) creates a game in the genre of my choice? Yes, please!
Granted: I had almost no idea what I was getting into, but as it turns out it was another winner. It's similar to star realms, but adds single use cards and a leveling system. And as I found out, that creates a fine balance in strategy (do you spend your mana on attempting to buy cards that deal damage? Do you hold back and level up? is there a way to do both? And how do you keep your deck consistent enough to hit where you want it?).
It's an absolute blast to play, and for nearly half a year I was sure I was going to award temple gates with my 'best game of the year' trophy (meaning: ALL their video games thus far ). But alas...while I still play it often and have a great time with it, I have to admit that it could use some expansions (heck...I even bought the card game and the first expansion, even though my girlfriend wouldn't be seen dead playing a game like this). And more importantly...something just bumped higher on the list.
1. Celeste (windows) Celeste
I can't thank epic enough for this giveaway (twice, no less!). I heard of the hype of this game but couldn't see why. I mean...pixelated platformers are a dime a dozen. What makes this so special? But with this position I'm part of the hype and to be honest it's hard to tell why. The best I can say is "celeste doesn't do anything wrong". There is literally nothing that is annoying or bad. There's a climbing and a "fart jump" ability to make it upward, the levels are decently designed, the story has great characters in it, the game strikes a good pose between too easy and too hard by making the screens the checkpoints...all in all it's good stuff. The story gets special mentioning because though simple in premisse ("you must climb this mountain"), it deepens into a believable tale of personal interest without it being overly cliché or forced in any way.
Platformers are a saturated genre, so it takes effort to rise to the top. Celeste isn't revolutionary, but has clearly evolved from pointers raised in other games. The result shows: it clearly stands toe to toe with the best platformers this world has to offer.
Rant/review of 'Stories Untold'Dec 18, 2019
Okay...normally I'd post a steam review of this, but the problem is that I got it for free on epic's game store and they don't do user reviews. So I'm plumbing it down here just for giggles. Read at your discretion...this is just me ordering my thoughts on it more than me caring about an audience. Oh...and I'm not blocked by some arbitrary max review size. yeeeeey!
The hardest part about Stories Untold is, believe it or not, how to rate it. I got it for free. The initial price is ten bucks. I've played through it. Would I recommend? Eeeeeerrrrrmmmmmmmm....
(note: this is also the reason I don't turn it into a gbatemp review: it won't let me publish anything without a score.
Let's go the hard way. Suppose you're a brilliant science student. At one point you're assigned on a group project with the only girl in the class as well as the town idiot. Your task is to measure how much ice expands when it freezes from being water. For this task, you were given a starting amount of lukewarm water, two ice cubes and some measuring equipment.
...and then the local idiot decides to throw the ice cubes in the water before you can get around to actually MEASURING THE SIZE OF THE THING. You being proactive, you search around for other cubes and water (nope), search through notes on hints (some) and feeling annoyed at village idiot who sits around saying the three of you are going to fail. But you don't give up: instead of working forwards, you deduce from the resulting volume, the expanse as it should have been and the starting volume what the missing factor (the size of the ice cubes) should have been. You throw in a bit of variation to make it seem genuine, and voila. You've cheated but impressed the girl in your class and passed. Along with the village idiot. The three of you get an equal grade (except, of course, the invaluable impressing score on the girl (1) ).
I tell this story because I feel that this game underwent a similar situation. It's a horror game in four episodes, but they are not equal in quality. And that's putting it mildly. So what's the situation here...
First and foremost: the overall feel of the game. While new, stories untold is a throwback to how things where in the eighties. Think landline phones, old monitors, tape recorders and such. It clearly has an "old materials" theme and vibe that steals the atmosphere from 'Stranger things' a bit TOO well. But ey...it's better to steal from the best than to remain in mediocrity, right?
Ahem...let's get down to the individual parts:
1) 'the house abandon': lemme get right down to it: the first chapter isn't just good or even great. It's downright BRILLIANT! Granted...it's a variation on a text adventure game, so of course many people are going to be turned off. If you want gore or even monsters in your horror game, then you aren't going to find it here. Stories untold is the sort of horror game that aims to get under your skin and question your sanity.
And how does it do that? Well...it presents you with a wall with some decorations (phone, alarm clock and the such) and an old CRT computer screen that starts to play an eighties "the house abandon" video game. Aside from Leisure suit larry and kings quest 2, I've never played such a text adventure game (and these examples are a generation after that). This is all a slow start: you arrive at a house. You've got to type things like "get out of car", "open the door", "get the keys" and similar things. About 3/4th of your screen is in normal quality (HD, I even dare say) but the gaming monitor you play on is, of course, filled with lines and slow text. This is a drag, but take it from a horror movie afficionado: horror games have to invoke a bit of boredom first to get you into a groove of what to expect of the world. So where nineties video games had you point 'n clicking your way through something like this in a few minutes, you spend a relatively long time on actually getting into the house. Where you got a present: a brand new video gaming machine. With a game called "the house abandon".
You see? This already gets intriguing (not only are you playing a video game in a game, but it is about to go deeper...). It's at that point that the second part of psychological horror comes into effect: things are starting to become 'off'. You seemingly restart playing on the CRT monitor, but it's as if the game has somehow invaded the reality.
Spoiling more would be a shame, but as you can imagine: this is creeping because the medium in which the horror presents itself is a video game itself. Okay, it helps that I played it on a dark rainy night when I was alone at my to-be-renovated-house, but it would've scared me otherwise as well.
2) the lab construct: this short story has you as an assistant (or test subject?) in an almost typical eighties laboratory. Where the previous chapter a clear text adventure, then this is the point & click variant. What you are doing would already be a spoiler. The episode itself was mostly okay, yet hindered by me because I had thought they'd all be text adventures. I was playing this on a trackpad of a laptop (again: renovations...my gaming desk isn't ready), so things weren't smoothly either.
...but just near the end the devs had made a grave technical error. As (I assume) most gamers' minds work, once they are on to something, they want to follow it through. The story was leading up to something, and I was there experiencing it when it failed. And...it's a technical error but not a typical game crash. What happened was that certain images that I needed to translate simply flashed by too fast. No...wait: it was worse. It was fast, but not too fast that I couldn't make it out. It was like a platformer that ended a level in a jump that was literally impossible. As a result and my investment, I spent waaay too long on attempting to figure out what I was missing before (on hindsight: rightfully) assuming it was something with the game. I felt like cheating when I looked it up on youtube, but the only worse feeling of feeling stupid because it was something you SHOULD have known is the feeling that the puzzle had no real answer. In this case because the puzzle wasn't solvable by itself. It was also the last thing to do, so what was obviously meant as a big reveal/climax at the end was simply ruined for me in the same sense as someone telling a joke you already knew. I simply was out of the mood for this one. Worse is that this is a known bug (google 'stories untold glyph'
3) The station proces: this...is the proverbial village idiot of the project. Oh, don't get me wrong: it's not like the devs intentionally made this one bad. But this one has you playing a lone scientist somewhere in a snowed in abandoned station, working the radio. Armed with a tuner and microfilm, you have to search the airwaves for the correct frequency.
I get the horror in this. There are voices and weird sounds, and it's easy to mistake the white noise for having actual meaning. The unfolding of the story itself is also fairly decent and if it wasn't for 2 incredibly glaring issues (one of them could be attributed to me but the other one is certainly an oversight of the devs) it might even have scared me. But it felt flat.
Why? Because after a few test runs, the frequencies to search for aren't given to you anymore but sent in code. Code that's on a microfilm. A microfilm that is, genuinely, near unreadable to me. I get the appeal. I get the puzzles. I get that this is aimed at ham radio enthusiasts boldly building a radio to intercept information. But damnit: MAKE THE (encrypted) INSTRUCTIONS READABLE!!!!
That in itself is already pretty en nerving. I searched for a pdf about this in the game folder in the vain hope that I would find the microfilm content, print it out and work out the puzzles that way (honestly: I would have). But that doesn't exist. And for some reason these are 20+ pages that you MIGHT need.
And as if that wasn't bad enough: the idea of these puzzles is similar to - I'm not making this up - getting around old DRM. You see, old games assumed that nobody would dare copy the manual as well, so they got around the ease of copying floppy disks by, at random intervals, ask you questions like "what word is printed on page 7, column 37 word 4 of the manual?" to make sure that if you were a software pirate, you at least pirated the manual as well (which pirates of course did, so it basically screwed everyone alike).
Now...strange as it might be, it would actually be interesting a concept for a bit. Using the microfilm to find the right page, zoom in and out and rotate to where it's readable...IF IT WAS READABLE! But it had a blur on it that there were letters I had to guess by their shape for the first assignment. And as it always goes: the next one was on a different page and required some basic programming.
...to which I said "screw this". I just went and found a spoiler that put the letters in a more clear fashion so I could work things out from there. It was very much breaking immersion, but I had no other choice.
And I was lucky at finding that, because remember where I said "a bit"? It's this episode's main gameplay loop. You've got to perform this at least half a dozen times. So not only is the main gameplay loop unreadable, it would've outstayed its welcome far more than it was worth.
So there I was, pretty annoyed of the incredible lack of testing this episode had. This had its effect on the story, which I started to deem dull and predictable. But keep in mind: it's impossible for me to say whether it was or wasn't. If you tried watching a movie like the matrix, big lebowski or whatever exceptionally great movie you would fancy while having an incredible itch or having to go to the toilet the whole time...you wouldn't be able to properly give an opinion on the movie. It's not a fair comparison because in this case the aggravating is in the gameplay, but surely you get my drift.
But alas: there is one more thing. At the end of this short episode, there is a part where you venture out. And...on paper this absolutely could have worked. But this suddenly puts you in a 3D FPS perspective where thus far you were operating on a flat plane. And at this point I have to admit to you that I picked this game to play on the premisse that I wouldn't have to use a mouse (which was only true for the first episode) nor need a heavy graphics card (I was basically playing this on a throwaway laptop). And on top of that: as a Belgian, the first thing I do in all PC games is check the settings. We have AZERTY keyboards, so WASD is in a pretty weird location (W is where your Z is and Q is swapped with A). This game had no rebindable keys. The arrow keys luckily worked as well, but could only comfortably be used by my right hand (while my left hand operated the track pad). Result: what was meant to be an eary walk through the snow with you being anxious about what might lurk there while you went for an errant...accidentally had me playing something almost akin to QLOP or 'getting over it with Ted Foddy'. While the actual level wasn't much more than a themed winding corridor, I managed to lose track of my orientation twice because the controls were so terrible.
Also...you know how quite some FPS and TPS games take the camera away from you on certain sections to pan over a specific part of the level where something cinematic is going down? That's done because devs know players: there is always some yahoo moonwalking through rapture admiring the leaking pipes of the underwater city rather than looking at the animations of little sisters devs spent hours on to prepare for the gamer.
A yahoo...or a stupid Belgian fumbling with his inability to properly move in a 3D environment while attempting to look all over the place (honestly: if you thought the blair witch project had bad camera movement you haven't seen me stumbling through this stupid section. I hate track pads).
And as such, this section ended in minority. if the devs had taken the camera and panned it properly, it would've ended in the proper cliffhanger...
the room you started in had somehow changed into the room of the first episode
4. The last session: this story is the hardest to judge. On a technical aspect, it's better than the previous chapter (none of those antics here aside from a small reoccurrence of the third one)...but it does this thing I absolutely hate in any story: it attempts to wrap things all together. You see, the game is like those horror anthologies that thus far only movies do: like the movies VHS and VHS2,or the tales from the crypt series. Or like those books containing bundles of short horror novels. Video games don't really do that (in horror, that is: minigames are usually something for party games). This would have been a fourth...if this fourth episode didn't pull the rug from underneath. The idea is that you're a psychiatric patient who watches horror episodes ('stories untold') in order not to having to deal with the trauma you carry with you.
This section uses a lot of walking in first person as well, but because there's no Z-axis (it's all on one floor) or confusing snow to throw off your sense of direction (or sends your framerates in the single digits), it's not as irritating.
However, the story is what does that here. If this were a better written game, it would have been a major plot twist that made all sorts of 'clicks' with the player. It would make sense out of all the mysterious things you saw and offer a different narrative on the horrors than what you originally thought you'd experience in the earlier games (erm...the ingame horrors, I mean: not my antics with the controls).
Alas...could have...should have...would have. Unfortunately, this isn't like that science project from my intro where we submitted one paper in the end. These are three completely different games with basically no overlap aside from a "use eighties electric equipment" (this one uses betamax and tape recorders, by the way) note. You can't just say "yup...let's write all that together in one final episode" and call it a day. Because then you're not writing for a video game but some sort of fanfic at best. The narrative in this game is, simply put, a mess. You hop between the mechanics of the different earlier games, and I get the idea that the devs wanted their audience to have a "aaaaah...so THIS is what this is all about!" feeling that went into crescendo as the final climax came closer.
...except that it doesn't. The cuts between the gameplay sections are lame and the only decent part of the finale was that they at least realised that their first episode was where the genuine horror came from. It has somewhat of a scary mood going if you forget even the remaining 2/3rds of this episode, but even then the final twist that came out of nowhere.
honestly: only open the spoiler if you've already played it or are sure you never want to play it...you can't unwatch it.
the protagonist from the 'house abandon' got drunk and then got into an accident that killed his sister...and he feels remorse because he planted - and this is the player having to do this, despite there'd be no indication whatsoever - a bottle of whiskey in the car seat of the other car, thus putting the blame on the other driver
In one of my earlier gbatemp years I gave "the static speaks my name" a high spot on my 'best games of the year' list, despite it being free and only 10-15 minutes long. And for good reason: while you mindlessly slaughter zombies and don't bat an eye, the sensation of having played the static speaks my name sends chills to my bone even thinking of it now (it's basically ten minutes seen through the eyes of an extremely depressed person).
The first episode of this game is a strong contender in that category of actual horror games that I played. It scared me to my core, which isn't a mere achievement (quite often when I hear people talking about how scary a movie was I have to suppress rollying my eyes and saying "you think that is scary? Try watching Srpski movie or A l'interiéur"). The rest - and especially the latter two episodes - are like those village idiots hoping that they'll be graded on the average. But why? Again: I got stories untold for free (thank you, @Epic games ), and that first episode was longer than 'the static'. Why should it deserve a lower spot because it has a lower average?
But likewise: I won't argue that if you look at the package as a whole, the average is much lower than it could have been. Hence this review. I hope you liked reading it...
(1): note: this story truly happened...except that I don't really describe myself as 'brilliant' but rather 'adequate enough to pass'. And I was just too shy to talk to the girl/woman in that full teenage period that we were in
The art of renovatingNov 14, 2019
This is a bit of a sequel to a rant I made here. It's okay to skip this blog: this is personal stuff I've got to rant.
It's been a year since my girlfriend and me officially bought a house. However, the then-owners needed our money to buy a house on their own, so they rented their (former) house from us until April this year. In addition to the pre-purchase situation, we had about 7 to 8 months to fully prepare for things. Not just packing our stuff, obviously. Because the house we bought would need some renovating. Some THOROUGH renovating, even.
The problem with this is that when you look at programs like house flipper or house rules, it doesn't portray reality. Not only are those experienced couples (who generally don't live in the specific house), but there's also camera work involved so the "boring parts" are either cut or sped up. To top it all off: my girlfriend has never truly seen a renovation. I have, but my past experiences were either when I was a child (meaning: just following along) or had it (mostly) made for me. For this house, my girlfriend wanted the following:
* remove the wall between kitchen and living room
* remove two obsolete remnants of chimneys (it's an old house)
* remove all the plumb works and (on the ground floor) add floor heating
* a brand new kitchen
* redo 'some of the windows' (this later got changed to 'all the windows+front door)
* a total do-over of the bathroom
* make a staircase to the attic
* total do-over of the attic to create some actually habitable rooms
* (added later) remove a second wall between two rooms in the back of the house
* (added later) new floor in the entire back of the house (2 or 3 rooms+toilet)
THE DEVIL'S IN THE DETAILS
Does that list sounds like a lot? Then I've got bad news for you (and more so to my past self): you've seen nothing yet. What I saw coming but underestimated nonetheless is that these kinds of renovating works tend to either surface or to cause other tasks. For instance: you all (hopefully) know that you can't just remove a wall in your house and call it a day. To make this work, we had to plan to put a 'poutrel' in place (translation is lintel or crossbeam, but I honestly don't know the English word). This would be the most dangerous task, as this is a 3 meter long, steel rod weighing over 200 kilograms...that has to be placed against the ceiling and into specifically made holes in the wall. This was a pretty hefty project involving lifts, lots of manpower (and thus: co-ordination) and quite some tense moments. But it got done. And we were even lucky, as the wall turned out not to be a "carrying" wall (meaning: we probably could have removed it and called it a day anyway, as the wall on the floor above turned out to be NOT directly above this one. But as this is to be our home, it's not something worth risking).
The project to put it in place took a whole day (with 6 people) of balancing it onto two lifts that raised it to the ceiling. This part was calculated. But obviously: the holes in the wall have to be a little bit bigger than the crossbeam to make it fit in (you can't just bend the steel a bit to make it fit the holes). But that means that the crossbeam sits at the BOTTOM of those holes, a little bit (less than a centimeter in most parts) below the ceiling. And that is where the extra work comes in. A crossbeam carrying the ceiling isn't very useful if it isn't, y'know, TOUCHING the actual ceiling. So my girlfriend and me spend an entire (uncalculated) weekend standing on ladders with a bucket of dough-like concrete in our hands, patiently pushing that in a just-smaller-than-finger sized line between the ceiling and the beam (basically extending the ceiling on that part).
This was one example (one of the harder ones, as standing on a ladder and working above your head is a hateful job. We both had headaches after half an hour...and it took at least 3 hours to get it done). I've got numerous others. Breaking the tiles and the concrete below was calculated as 'a weekend'. It took three (with a special drill we had to rent as our own drill lacked the oomph that was needed), mainly because breaking your floor doesn't exactly get rid of it. And then there was sand: floor heating meant redoing the floor work by first digging 40 centimeters deep. On our surface, that amounted to three containers full of garbage. A container we couldn't obtain until later, which means we had to first create a mountain in the front lawn and then moving that into the container next to it (read: about two weeks extra work on a daily basis that wasn't calculated).
THE PLUMBING NIGHTMARE
It was an old house, which were represented in chimneys. Previous owners had put central heating in place, but with (admittedly: A LOT of) pipes all over the place. We have equipment to cut it (a "slijpschijf"...I guess 'power saw' is the best translation). On the surface, that thing works fine. What you don't see on television, however, is how incredibly LOUD it is. And you're cutting metal, so expect sparkles and dust to fly everywhere, making the job exhausting and tense in a bad way (even with all the safety gear, it feels like ascending in hell). The old central heating was quite heavy, which means that it was seriously bolted into the wall at numerous locations. Bolts that had to be removed by a drill AND the power saw in strategic locations. This also tends to leave clear holes in the wall that have to be filled up (and later painted, but that's months later).
And there's the idea of having a second toilet upstairs. Oh, God...I already hate that thing and it's not even unpacked yet! I mean...sure, it's going to be very convenient in the future, especially if the attic becomes inhabitable (without it, you'd need to descend two floors and cross three rooms in the main room just to get a toilet break). But while the waterworks isn't that much of a problem, it also requires a sewage pipe leading to the cesspit in the back of the house. The problem with that is that it has to go down continuously. It's not really a problem in the kitchen (it can be hidden behind the wall and into the open floor)...but the current toilet is all the way in the back of the house. Meaning: we had to break open even more floor: a ditch of about 15 meters long and 10 centimeters wide, straight through the quarters we use for living. Granted: it's not "just" for sewage: we also have a bunch of water pipes for the back of the house (previous owners never had a washing machine, sink or outside crane in their house) and rewired electricity.
Of course, not all the plumbing works was out in the open. But that's actually a major disadvantage. Some just go in the floor to unknown locations. We had to make educated guesses and checks to see where each needed pipe came out. Those pipes are about five thousand years old, meaning that the drain not only smelled (at least that was a temporary worry: it was gone after a day) but made of lead. We pretty much immediately decided that ALL the existing plumbing had to go. Not only the waterworks, but everything concerning heating as well. I don't know how many pipes I've removed from the walls, but I feel it's got to be measured in kilometers. And why? To basically replace it with other pipes. Ones we made ditches for in the wall and the aforementioned floor. We're now past that stage, but everything that had to be opened had to be filled with pipe (which flexes somewhat but not much), secured to the wall and then closed up using more concrete-like substance (no, don't know the English term...I can barely tell the difference between "beton", "knauf", "polyfilla", "finisher" and the like in Dutch).
THE MENTAL ASPECT
I could just go on and on about details that are pretty hard to vision without pictures, and even then you'd be hard to visualise the setting, let alone the work that went into it all. I can talk about just about every room in our house where we've spent countless hours tearing things down or removing the wallpaper. Where I'm going with this is the following: it really started to weigh down on me and my girlfriend mentally. The way your home is layed out says a lot of your personality, and that goes in both directions. From april until september, we've spent each weekend either tearing something down or laying the groundwork for later jobs, and it's only since september that there is any progress in the DIRECTION of a livable habitat.
In a weird way, I think this reverse of the house degrading is what causes a rising stress level. Tearing down is easy in the sense that you can hardly screw it up. But the rebuilding holds the risk of having to tear things down again. And there's friction in that. As an example: one large sleeve in the wall was made by my dad and myself from the attic all the way to the ground floor, for purposes of gas. the gas comes in at the attic, and my girlfriend was hellbent on cooking (on the to-be-placed cooking island) with gas. That pipe is relatively large, so it needed a relatively deep sleeve in the wall. However, we did not have that pipe yet until later, so we had to measure and guesstimate when we were deep enough in the wall. And then add some more when we obtained said pipe. So far so good...but shortly after we placed and anchored that pipe, my girlfriend suddenly piped up with a "by the way...that sleeve also has to house two electrical wires (and safety coating). That's okay, right?". That was NOT a good way to break this information after my dad and me had spent multiple hours working from floor to bottom, covered in brick dust and pieces of wall (and the bathroom not containing a bath). Those two electrical wires were only about the thickness of a finger, but even so: getting it all to fit simply became harder.
...which became obvious in the next step: closing up. This is done by mixing knauf (I honestly don't know the English translation here) with water so you'll get something slightly more solid than mud that hardens over time. It has to be placed perfectly vertically in the wall. Which...takes some liberty when actually doing it (meaning: it's only by doing this that it really starts to show that the pipe isn't fitting in the wall properly.
This is obviously done in two steps: first the applying and broadly making it flat, and afterwards abrading (polishing?) it with sandpaper. Since I did the former and my girlfriend the latter, we both ended up blaming the other one for the situation (I spent way too much time desperately trying to push the pipes/wires back where there wasn't enough place to begin with...but all she sees is that the end result seems a bit sloppy and polishing means that you'll make the front of the pipe visible again). So...not our best family moment.
...and then my girlfriend had me and my father-in-law drive to the store because she couldn't connect the end point of the gas pipe. Seemed like a simple request, but as we relayed this to the store clerk, she told us flat out that we were doing it wrong (hint: if you want to split a gas pipe, do so at the START of the gas meter...not somewhere halfway(1). I made the world's cringiest cringe when I had a store clerk tell me to just make a hole in the wall next to the entrance and go under the floor to the cooking island. This was cringy because this was my initial plan...but it got rejected by my girlfriend who considered a hole in an outside wall (even one that went below the floor level) a no-go. So basically...my father-in-law and me layed in about two hours the pipe line that took my father and me at least five hours of wall-butchering.
On the positive side: this was our rock bottom. We had initially planned to have all of it done by the end of June. Then that meant 'the not attic stuff'. Then it was 'perhaps it'll be in september'. And so on. It's not fun to realise your planning sucks (note: I've been told by many that it's very normal to overestimate your abilities, just as we've been told by many that we're actually making tremendous progress). And it's excruciating mostly because we had never anticipated having to work in the cold. But we do...my girlfriend and me warm ourselves by an electrical heater in the one room we currently leave as it is (okay: there are three such rooms. but the other two are connected to the front of the house, which means you'll need more than a simple shower heater to warm it up).
Since I'm writing this in november, you probably wonder about the next steps. Well...for that I've got to point one last time at those pipes. Our main room (where the kitchen will be) is one huge-ass collection of wires, pipes and cables, all thoroughly secured to the floor. Why? Because this is going to be UNDER the floor. All of this resides on a 20 cm layer of concrete we had layed after hitting that 40 cm depth in our floor. The next layer was pur isolation. This is a somewhat polystyrene-like layer of 10 centimeter. It resembles snow a bit. It was also one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen because it effectively hid the largest part of those abominable pipes.
By incident, this is also the point in time where our windows were done. This took about the largest cut out of our budget aside from the house itself. And that they're pretty windows is, alas, the only good part. The firm that delivers it had it delayed for months (and we'd probably still be waiting if I hadn't called everyone up until their dog until they responded), and when it came there was a problem with the window. Granted, one outside their scope, but the end result was more delay and 1000 euro extra cost.
And then it turned out that they were missing some glass and one of the blinds was incorrectly communicated somewhere. So more delays. The windows look nice, but they're not finished yet. That's yet to continue.
Meanwhile, that pur isolation is needed for our next layer: floor heating. Floor heating works by having some pipes containing hot water running on a circuit underneath your floor. And I've got to say: this was actually nice to do. Perhaps in a few years I can say whether it was actually nice, but it's at least very nice compared to earlier work. The reason: on top of the styrofoam you place essentially a plastic bag with a chessboard-ish pattern on top. We've been given five circuits and some clusters of plastic pipe (100+ meters). It wasn't exactly easy to put everything in a 'double spiral' shape, but it was absolutely doable. It was work that required some co-ordination but not too much that it got frustrating. And our preparation was good, so in one weekend we had everything done. If for nothing else, it was good to have a job that took as long as anticipated.
It also means that the next layer could be placed much sooner than I had come to expect. This is 'chappe'. Looks like concrete, feels like concrete and probably tastes the same as well, but it's not as hard. And more importantly: this is an actual FLOOR. As such, we had it placed for us. Not cheap, but it was as anticipated. And needed: we'd be the ones laying tiles on top of it shortly after, so the difference between "almost horizontal" and "horizontal" is a huge one.
...and that's where we're currently at: as I'm writing this, we have layed about a quarter of all the needed tiles. This is a slow job as well (I estimate it's going to take at least four more days to lay them all), but the warnings we've heard against doing it ourselves have thus far proven to be wrong. Sure, just laying them (and securing them to their neighbor(s) ) isn't all the work, but the place really starts to resemble a house now.
THE NEAR FUTURE
Once the tiles and plinths are laid, we can put up wallpaper and paint it (yeah...it's women's logic as to this order, but I don't argue with my girlfriend over these things). And after that, we can FINALLY move a lot of our furniture out of the garage. It's currently stacked up so high that we can't even reach a few things that would be nice (our shoes are currently everywhere...the shoe cabinet is somewhere in the back). We can move out of the veranda, place the huge-ass couch we bought nearly a year ago in our living room and lie on that.
This all syncs up quite nicely with the dates our heating is going to be installed (the end of november). Our electrician estimates to have the final touches done in that time period as well. And that, in turn, syncs nice with the installation date of the kitchen, which is early december.
In the same time, our bathroom is...well...it's currently not much of a bathroom, but at least the walls are shaping up. It'll probably not be finished by the time the heating is installed, but it won't be much longer afterwards (mid december, perhaps?).
The current goal is to have all this done by the end of 2019. The attic and the back of the house are projects for the near future, but the large advantage we'll have is that we'll have a livable area (thus far it's like camping out).
Last but not least...those who follow my blogs might remember that my girlfriend got pregnant around the same time we moved in the new house (congratulations here, please ). This had the effect that she couldn't help as much as she'd like, but I'm managing reasonably fine. In any case, our fathers are a major help in the works. I've also had friends come over on quite some occasions, which is nice as well.
The finance is probably the hardest part. With all the hidden costs, we're well over our planned budget. It's in part because our savings, in part because of my parents and in part because I'm renting out my former appartment that we don't have to quit halfway (which would be a total disaster). On the flipside, there's of course the expenses my girlfriend occupies herself with: the baby. We're lucky that there's plenty of help coming our way in this regard, but we won't be able to spoil her as we otherwise would. Then on the other hand: the money we put into the house isn't exactly lost either. It's not like we're going to move soon, but we've had the house estimated on its current and projected value. A good chunk of our loaned money for renovating makes the house worth more.
Last but not least: our to-be-daughter. It's a comforting thought that we're rebuilding the house much better than it ever was, just so she can come live with us (girlfriend, me and our dog).
(1): okay, and for good measure: MAKE SURE THE DAMN GAS IS TURNED OFF, MORON!!!
AAAARRRRRGGGGGG!!!!!!!Oct 2, 2019
We really need a punching bag here at work. A literal one: one you can just hit to lay off some steam or vent some aggression. So in absence of that, I'm going to use my secret power of...IMAGINATION!!!!
Imagine an open field. Imagine it full of nice grass, waving in the wind. Underneath the clear blue sky and warm sunlight, there, in the center of the field, stands a punching bag. It's tall, heavy, held up floating in the air by large chains. It looks somewhat (or heck: precisely) like this:
It hangs there in the air. Inviting to those under stress, those torn under the sheer stupidity of the human race or the inept inadequacies of bureaucracy (assuming inadequacies means what I think it means, of course. I'm using poetic liberty here).
And there I stand. Before it. Boiling. Raging. I'm not in this stupid mundy world. I'm temporarily transported there, for convenience sake dressed in my trusty karate gi. There will be no formal greeting. No mosuko to empty the mind, no acceptance of the 'do' of karate and no greeting of Satoshi Miyazaki sensei (I'd say "Gomen'nasai", but damnit...this is MY BLOG! Did I say I was an emperor over my own blog? Scrap that...I.AM.A.FREAKING.GOD!!!!
*throws some lightning bolts, rocks some thunder and a purple blizzard for "because I can" measure*
...damn. Where was I? I lost my train of thought here. Oh...right: Rage! Boiling hatred. Smoke emits from my poison green eyes and flaring nostrils. I ground myself in front of the punching bag, positioned in the most kokutsu dachi'd kokutsu dachi you have ever seen being a kokutsu dachi. My arm arms itself in a smoldering ball of octarine energy as I charge up my hikite(1). I envision the ball being the antimatter. The nemesis. Antagonist ultimatum. And in this case...the situation.
I let out a primal "AAAIIIIJJJJJJ!!!!!!!!!!!11111!!!!"(2) and dash forward in the only theoretically achievable mathematic perfect oi-zuki (with a hadouken in its shadow, obviously. I wanna rage in style ). Not a complex move at all, but what it lacks in finesse, it makes up for in EXCEEDING part in force. The punching bag immediately explodes into ash, raining down candy, butterflies, rainbows and Donald Trump's impeachment. The shock wave from the blast ripples through the field, trembling the walls between this reality and the neighboring seven dimensions.
...but it is done. I have poured all my rage and have now become calm again. Much better.
So...at this time, I sort of envision my readers leaning back in their most comfy chairs, popcorn in hand and (for those with actual QUALITY computers) wearing cool 3D glasses(3), with a face lit up like a christmass tree. Because nothing emits interest in other humans like seeing them just having had an emotional breakdown of sorts. So I guess I can't leave this writing without informing you.
It's me job. As an ICT guy, one of my tasks is to follow up on situations that go belly-up by phone. More specific: cash registers. Nowadays, cash registers outside flea markets aren't simple devices anymore but actual genuine computers. And as computers go, they can fail. And as modern computers go, they can fail on their network.
Which is what happened yesterday. Lightning hit in the area, causing a panel to be destroyed/fried/otherwise out of operation. Result: somewhat of an entire block lost internet. I know: you also hate it when that happens at home (perhaps you even have roommates or someone in the middle who finds themselves unable to process this reality called 'reality without internet'). This is worse. One of our stores is in that area. It's a popular outlet that sees a lot of customers. Customers that absolutely love to pay 21st century style: by using their pin card. Who rely on the internet to verify the actual purchase.
That, in itself, is merely a statement of the situation: one of our most popular stores loses internet. This not only pisses off clients (what do you mean, 'the wifi won't work'? 'Wait...what do you mean, I can only pay by cash???'? ), but loses customers by the hour. So this is a situation that needs to get unfucked as soon as possible.
They called me, I called it in on our provider. I have the necessary phone numbers, account details, address, yaddi yadda. It's just like a regular procedure, only with a higher priority. I calm nerves, correspond with the internet provider and (luckily) have decent people in the store who can relay the whole situation rather than merely providing a "it dun't work" as detail.
Unfortunately, the provider isn't exactly prepared for a lightning strike. Meh...it's unfortunate (in my company, we're always expecting the expected(4) ), but it's okay. They're working on it. It'll be done soon. Okay...later than expected, but still: soon.
Meanwhile, my boss wants me to repeatedly call them for any status updates about every hour. I can't say I can't see his position (the store had about 2000 euro's less in revenue that day, compared to a normal one) but it's not like I'm calling the technician (in fact: that's the LAST person I want to disturb, because for every call he has to answer, he is not fixing the actual problem). But because probably more people thought like my boss, I have spent about an entire hour listening to the waiting music. When I get home yesterday evening, I was somewhat stressed, but I had relief in that at least the situation was under control.
...except it wasn't really. this morning I was told that their line was very unstable, which I could quickly verify myself. The phone line was dead, and also: we weren't the only ones. Neighboring stores also had the problem.
So I called it in again. Explained the situation. Urged them to look into it further. They'd send someone.
I told them that it was urgent. Explained our situation. I know this sounds selfish, but really: I wasn't "just" asking to fix it for our store but for the entire block over there.
At this time, the manager often called me with the question on what I was going to do. That's the part I hate about my job: you intervene on something and either you're a hero for applying a fix someone else made or you're a villain if things are wrecked. Okay, I can stave it off, but I could only do what I described as "it's inneffective...but it's the only thing I CAN do". That is: I called them about every hour to ask about the technician.
"Don't worry...he's just with another client. He'll be with you after that. Around midday."
"Okay, it seems like it takes a bit longer with the other client. But he'll get there."
Different people on the phone, but the same lack of urgency. Meanwhile, the manager spoke to me as if her store was on fire (which is most likely just a reaction on clients acting like neanderthals when someone else can't fix an internet connection with just a pair of tweezers and a rubber band).
The next call was from the manager herself. The technician was in the store, but couldn't find anything wrong there.
My reaction can be summed up by this smiley here:
Why? Because I already had a feeling what was coming next. I spoke to the technician directly. For some reason, he was never told that the entire block was out of network. He was just dispatched here to check on the store. As such, his first reaction was to check the street (perhaps even before someone told him about the situation). There he found a colleague of him, who was also sent out to dispatch the situation.
You know that sinking feeling? That feeling of "wwwwwwhhhhhyyyyyyyy????" ? It came over me. Telling myself that the technician wasn't to blame for what he wasn't told, I asked him what to do next.
He was going to tell his colleagues about the situation.
I answered, with grinding teeth, that I had already TOLD them that (this morning. When the missed revenue for today was still below 600 euro's).
He said they responded by sending him out. After all, the situation needed to be properly checked, rather than sending out a repair team for what might not have been the cause of the problem.
I answered by saying nothing. I really wanted to shout down the line that I HAD ALREADY ASSESSED THE SITUATION THAT MORNING! More so: that our people in the field have assessed that. And had a freaking sense of URGENCY because our stores are graded based on FREAKING SALES!!! ...but I didn't say any of that, on the premisse that he wasn't responsible for what his crew members had withheld from him. And granted: I've been in their position many times (honestly: a healthy dose of paranoia is needed when troubleshooting. Half the time, the user only has a vague clue what he's talking about. It's just that I AM IN THAT OTHER HALF, DAMNIT!!!)
I thanked him for his work and expressed my hope we could have the proper persons for the proper job in time.
Then I called our ISP again and got yet another person on the line. He started by saying the technician was en route. I replied that he was already there. I wanted to know why he wasn't informed about the things I've told this morning. He replied that it was standard procedure that the situation needed to be verified first.
I wanted to shout to him that THERE HAD BEEN A LIGHTNING BOLT the day before. There had BEEN a crew the day before, who managed to fix it from "not working" to "flaky connection". It's...it's less bad, of course. But why the hell couldn't I just continue the earlier ticket I had made (nobody responded on that one)?
I didn't say any of that. I lied that I understood and expressed my hope that the situation would be resolved soon.
Not that much later, I was called by the manager. Through the technician, she had gotten a hold of another number where the ACTUAL repairmen (okay: second line, or whomever you want to call it) were held. They would come...in about six to ten hours. She also told me that the technician never said he was with an earlier client. Before noon, he was in training.
I sighed and said something in the lines of "Oh. Okay."
Then I punched a chair for being a chair (damn furniture acting so darn POSH!!! ). Then I started writing this stuff.
To those who haven't been bored to death by now: thanks for reading. You've been a great audience. Your listening skills are awesome.
(1): small note to aspiring karatekas: don't do this shit at home. This ain't no karate movie. In this reality, you just ball your strength at the apex of your tsuki/geri/whatever. Everything else is just a waste of energy. Again: this is fiction.
(2): this is, of course, only a small representation of the brute force emitting from the kijai. If I'd attempt to describe it in full, the mere description would turn your hair gray (by 'your', I mean you, reader) your mind would literally blow up in front of your PC monitor/tablet/phone, the economy would collapse, women globally would have miscarriages, the internet would explode and the gbatemp moderators would have to intervene in this blog post. As such, I'm toning it down
(3): yeah, I know they don't exist. But my projection of you in this fantasy world is in itself layered in fantasy. And if that concept doesn't ring a bell, you should watch Inception (again) to know what I'm talking about.
(4): what do you mean, "expecting the unexpected?" If we did that, it wouldn't be unexpected, now would it smart ass?
Screw monopoly, part 2Sep 11, 2019
Hmm...I wasn't planning on writing a sequel to this earlier blog, but today I've read something that baffles me. There's a new version of monopoly coming out that manages to get EVEN WORSE than it's predecessor. And not a slight bit worse...it's as if the makers deliberately intended it to be a game that would infuse more hatred than, say, a game of Diplomacy(1)
I'm talking about Ms Monopoly. From news reports, it has three main differences:
1. instead of the iconic monopoly man, it features his niece as the game's mascot
2. as with many themed versions, this one has you competing for inventions made by women, like the bulletproof vest, wifi and the dishwasher
3. women start out with more money and earn more whenever they pass 'go' (in fact, the subtitle for this monopoly is "the first game where women make more than men")
*sigh* This is just...bad. It's almost beyond words bad. Let's tackle this one by one.
The first piece is, of course, okay. Plenty of monopoly versions feature different people showcasing the board.
The second part would have been fine if it were true. But unfortunately, it isn't. A quick google easily shows that the first bulletproof vest was made by a Polish engineer. Yes, Stephanie Kwolek invented Kevlar, but while popular, it's not the only kind of vest. Same for wifi: as with most technological advancements it's hard to pinpoint one single inventor. It doesn't really cater to women that I can't even find a credited women in the bunch of men generally credited for the technology, but even if so: this stuff will cause more controversy than it's worth. Heck...I'd even say it's an incredible detriment to women that a game catering to them can't even find enough inventions that are obviously invented by women (like the dishwasher).
...but even so: it's the third part that isn't just bad game design: it's TERRIBLE game design. I dare you to find one even semi-successful board game where players are given an advantage purely based on their appearance. Can you imagine a game where white people start out with, and earn more than, black people? Of course not. Not only is it terribly racist (which is a huge-ass reason), but it goes against the principle of a game as well. Black people wouldn't want to play it, and white people wouldn't feel very challenged either.
This is exactly the same thing. I've heard women complain and complain about them earning less than men, but as soon as you take a good look at the statistics ("hey...women do far more parttime jobs in much safer sectors"), human resource departments (women outnumber men hugely...so exactly WHO is discriminating women here?) or even spending behavior (despite "earning less", women spend much more than men) those numbers sink into (near) oblivion. So I'm a critic of those claims(2). But even o, feminists always claim that they want "equal pay for equal work". Nobody ever said that women should earn more than men.
"but wait," I hear some hasbro spokespeople poke in. "this is just to put men in the situation of women. How does it feel to earn less than women?"
Yeah...this is where the discussion gets a bit more grim (or where a fistfight would've started if this wasn't a hypothetical virtual writing). I've got my opponents on my earlier stated opinions, but at the very least they understand that my position is up for debate and arguing. In a board game, this simply isn't there. There is no "...but men earn more paternity leave" in this version. There is no "marry a healthy women and then divorce her for half her fortune" equivalent or a "claim the invention because you brought up the invention's idea in the form of complaining toward a woman" in the game. And it's for the best. Because these sorts of balancing mechanics would only fuel the fires.
Which fires? Why, the war of the sexes, of course. Monopoly's a game for children. I was already against it because games teaches things to them, and the lessons that monopoly taught was more in the line of "if you're there first, you can get an advantage that snowballs into benefits later", "just roll something lucky" and "if you go to jail, it's just because of bad luck". From what I read, these unintentional(3) lessons are still there. But I goddamn GUARANTEE you that you'll have a fight on your hand if you give this game to two or more children when both sexes are present. heck...it's very possible that the whole "war of the sexes" thing is something that doesn't concern them. That they just see other people in terms of their age, and that same-age people are just fun to play with. That'll change as soon as you give one person more starting money than the other: you'll have exactly the same fight on your hands as when you decide to give your favorite child more candy than your "other" child. Heck...chances are high boys will give up before they even start. Girls with good parents won't understand why they get more money, and challenge the people stupid enough to try to explain it to them.
Probably the worst part in this whole thing is that there'll be virtually no opposition to this game hitting the market. Feminists control the narrative on emancipation, so any form of critique can just be dismissed as "coming from a man". We'll be at the mercy of women smart enough to realise that equality doesn't mean "trampling the other into submission", and that correcting wrongs from the past isn't an excuse to delve into the exact same thing.
And just to be clear, I have to make an observation that might seem contradictory at first: games shouldn't be politically correct. I'd say "on the contrary", but it really depends on the game. There are good games where there is inequality (the great dalmuti comes to mind) or where you play as politically incorrect figures (secret Hitler is the obvious choice here). The thing is that they have to be fair. And that's where this monopoly version is going overboard: it's unfair to give one group an advantage both from the start as within the game without them being counterbalanced in any way, especially if those groups are based on characteristics. There's a word for that, and that's discrimination. And that's REALLY something I don't want to see in a game marketed for children.
(1): if there's one board game I'll ever hard pass on, it's diplomacy. I don't mind games where you can backstab people, I don't mind hard, thought provoking games and I don't really mind very long games. Diplomacy apparently combines those three. As a result, I can see it happen very well that I make deals, make sure everyone's got a winning bargain out whatever it is that's at stake in the game...and then be backstabbed for lulz. It's apparently a thing in that game (in one vid, a known board gamer said he'd seen a grown man cry over this game. A second pitched in that it's something that happens with this game. More so: that "I've seen a grown man cry over this" should be Diplomacy's subtitle or main reference.
(2): even more so: the income inequality is IMHO best described as "a mother tax", as women's carreers often nosedive as soon as they get children. But if you compare single moms' and single dads' paychecks, then it's actually the LATTER group who earns the least (which probably explains why that group is, in numbers, smaller than the single moms).
(3): erm...okay: perhaps not unintentional. I've already mentioned last blog that monopoly was built as a critique of actual monopolies. I can't say for sure on what's the deal with that.
Emperor over my own blog...Sep 6, 2019
Right...time for a writing on something I would think to be self-evident. It apparently isn't. Rather than making it a reply to someone, I write it down so I can refer to it in case someone makes the same mistake. Here goes...
This blog is mine
WHOA!!!!! Is your mind blown, yet? It's true. Here's a random definition on the word blog:
a regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style.
Since this host is on gbatemp, I obviously keep within its house rules, meaning I won't be sharing warez links, pornographic material and stuff like that. Those constraints aside, this blog is mine. I often write about games but I've written about other stuff as well (buying a house and becoming a father, to name a few). Basically: I write whatever the f*** I feel like.
I guess that part isn't the controversial part. But to me, there is a huge difference between a blog and a forum thread. Not in the last part this ownership thingy. Whenever I create a thread, I basically open the floor (or floodgates, depending on the topic ) for anyone to discuss things. As the OP I do my best to keep things somewhat neutral, give sources whenever I can and do my best to convey why my own opinion is my own opinion. But even so: after a thread is made, the discussion is out of my hands(1).
My blog is basically to blow off steam. In discussions it's a matter of politeness that you listen to others, weigh their opinions, check their sources and (the hardest part) admit it when you're wrong. Blogs are pretty much the opposite: I can just throw things at the wall and make it stick if I want to. Writing's a hobby of mine. A way to order my thoughts. So whenever I make a political thread, it is not an invite for opponents to come in and say how wrong I am. Oh, they can, for all I care. Where I'm drawing the line is guys (I'm looking at you, @mrdude ) blindly ignoring whatever I wrote about to create their own blog in my blog. I'd say "with all due respect, but"...but that wouldn't be true. I consider it disrespectful to do that, and I'll gladly respond in kind: I'll just throw the comment out. If I wanted to create a thread, I would create a thread. This isn't a thread. It's a blog.
Result: a complaint that my blog is biased, that I delete posts I don't like and that I've got dictatorial tendencies. I can't disagree with it. I mean...blogs are per definition biased, so hopefully nobody else thinks that can be held against anyone. Yes, I delete posts I don't like, just like you can delete posts you don't like on your blog. I don't give a toss on how strict or liberal you handle your blog replies: that's up to you. And as for me being a dictator...naah. Let's skip the false pretense here: a dictator reigns supreme but he still has a population to be accountable toward. I don't have that: it's not up to me to give myself likes, positive comments or whatever status might mean. and if I wanted more reputation to this account, I'd write reviews rather than blog posts. So no...sorry if some of you are misinfrmed, but you're reading this purely on a voluntary basis. I'm not your leader in any way. I am, however, the sole leader of this blog. And to prove that, I hereby crown myself to "emperor of Taleweaver's blog"...just because I can(2).
So yeah...I delete comments that I don't like. It's my prerogative as Taleweaver I of the Taleweaver dynasty within this blogosphere realm. Feel free to disagree. But you wanna make a backup of your post, because you're warned: I might - and probably will, depending on my mood - delete it for no reason whatsoever.
(1): not ENTIRELY true. I've locked my giveaway threads at the end of each round to prevent people asking for games at the same time I was handing them out. But this was to eliminate potential awkward situations ("I voted for the game too! Why wasn't I mentioned in that tie breaker!!!").
(2): to keep in the analogy: I obviously gracefully bow to the Gods that are the gbatemp moderators
Brexit and the ship of TheseusSep 4, 2019
Those not living under a rock probably heard of this thing called "brexit". It's short for "the United Kingdom wants to leave the European Union". It's hard to believe, but this whole thing started over three years ago. As...something of a joke, if I read things right. The then prime minister (Cameron) wanted to get something done, and because he needed support, he promised his adversaries he'd write out a referendum, asking the population whether they want to leave the EU.
He clearly didn't anticipate the referendum to actually make it to a majority. A small majority (52%), but a majority nonetheless. So that was a blunder, but...it's really nothing compared to the other side. You see, the political side pushing for a leave of the EU (or "brexit", because it's Britain going for the exit) had no plan. It's not really clear what got into them because at least partially there is a side that doesn't WANT things to be clear. Nigel Farage, who was the main proponent for leaving, was handed large sums of money for it by Arron Banks, but it's unclear where that money comes from. What is clear, however, is that more money was pumped into the leave campaign than was legal, but again: this was afterwards. Fact is that the brexit campaign made all sorts of promises to people. The EU was painted as either a bureaucratic moloch that did nothing but produce hindering taxes for the sake of hindering taxes, or as a downright evil force that wants to clip the UK's wings for some reason.
I can take a few educated stabs at the direction and the reasoning so much money was poured into this (my personal opinion: a wealthy subclass doesn't like the idea of continentally enforced finance regulations, so they have a good motivation to spend some of that money to ensure that the local laws protect their wealth), but truth be told: I don't know. Could as well be the Russians. Or the USA. Or heck: even the EU themselves(1). But there they were: blessed with 52% of the voters, obtained through half-truths, whole lies...and absolutely no idea on the feasability or EU's position in any of this.
This became immediately clear when Nigel Farage proudly announced himself retiring from UKIP, mere days after the referendum. This should've been the first indication for the ones filling in the brexit vote that something was amiss. If these negotiations with the EU were going to be as easy as was promised, shouldn't they be lead by...y'know...the guy who was the poster child of the movement?
Next up was this blonde guy: Boris Johnson was also set for becoming prime minister...but he lost his support because Michael Gove wanted to be prime minister himself. Result: neither got it, and there was to be an elimination process to see who would be prime minister. The result was a certain Theresa May. A bremainder. The brexit process was to be lead by someone who mere weeks before advocated to remain in the EU!
Okay...time for a little break into different territory. It's...you could call it a thought experiment. Or even a philosophical pondering, though that's not really what it is. It's called "the ship of Theseus". It is named after Greek mythology: the sailor Theseus who got lost after the Trojan wars, and sailed for years before finally making it home (meaning: he sucked at his job). During that time, he and his crew had to do repairs of the ship. Say a sail at first. Then a mast. Then the deck. And so on, and so on. By the time he finally made it home, there was no part of the ship left with which it started back in Troy. The thought experiment is as follows: is this ship still the same ship as the one Theseus started his journey with? When just looking at the start and the end, you'd be inclined to say "no" (it's completely different parts!). But at what point do you say "okay...we're now on a different ship"? At 51%? When the most important part of the ship is replaced? Or even...never?
Yeah, I know: it doesn't have a real answer. But you can probably guess where I'm going with this. The idea of brexit is simple enough: talk to the EU, cancel membership, set up some local laws, set up some nice agreements with the EU neighbors, ride into the sunset, profit. But the promisses along the way were made in a vacuum. It's one thing to say that the EU takes 350 million pounds a week and that this money would better be used in the UK, but that was never true to begin with. The sum was far lower, and it wasn't the total sum either (in truth, nearly as much money flowed back into the UK as out).
The 'kipper' incident is also a nice, tragic piece of comedy. With much panache, Johnson proclaimed that EU regulation had decreed that all fish (kippers) needed to have a plastic ice pillow, which drove up the cost for poor UK fishermen. Very believable, and accompanied by an actual kipper. Damn bureaucrats! Tell US how to handle our fish! Where do I file for a divorce???!!!
Well...I feel for these fishermen. Especially now. Because in a way, there was only one "small" error in the story. The regulation isn't from the EU...it's a UK one.
There are more of such stories. Reasonable EU citizens like myself often scratch themselves on the head and wonder why the UK is trying to do what they're doing. And as far as I can see, there are now two UK's (or a "divided kingdom" if you want things more dramatic). Those 48% bremainders haven't changed(2) but see themselves at odds with the rest. And those brexiteers have jumped the wagon of leave and are now prone to the sunk cost fallacy that's all too common for those who've ever owned a wiiu(3): it's something you've identified with, and as such you attempt to bend the world around your perception, against all odds if you have to. The brexiteers got on board the brexit ship when it was a proud galleon. It hadn't left the harbor when captain Farage took the life boat to nowhere, but that's okay. The promised "brexit" country would be sailed to by first mate May. She rather stayed on shore, but that's okay: at least things got going. Oops...that mast containing that "350£ pounds per week for Britain!!!" banner on the sails broke off. A pity...but that's okay. Then the backup sail (the one containing a kipper) fell off. Okay...so it wasn't going to be as smooth of a voyage as was promised, but that was okay.
Things got rowdy when the parliament rowing crew was informed by May about the set course. They refused to go in the set direction. May attempted three detours, but the crew refused to budge. So May gave up her position. I'm not sure what the position of the passengers were, but in this analogy it would probably be in the area of "why aren't we getting to brexit?" "Are we there yet?"...and of course the ever informed "Just get on with it!".
Meanwhile, first mate May had left her position in favor of crow's nest lookout boy Johnson. Some argue that Johnson had left his position as lookout earlier, and thus was unfit for a serious function. Others pointed out that the ones saying this would have rather stayed ashore, so he got the position because in the end he could convince everyone that he could get them to where they were going. With or without ship!
Of course this only lasted until his first encounter with the parliament rowing crew. But that was okay.
"Parliament? We don't need parliament!", he said, and attempted to toss their oars overboard.
...and that's somewhat where the UK is now. Since Johnson no longer holds a majority in his government anymore, someone new will have to be appointed (meaning: parliament still has the power to actually DO something). Someone who will plot a new course to brexit. It's much, MUCH later than was initially said, let alone originally promised, but the crew is still hellbent to get there.
I'm not so sure what the passengers are thinking, though. Of course there are protests on the whole expedition. There is plenty of things to complain about, and that's not even taking brexit itself in account: nobody has ever seen it. There are these voyagers called "economists" who claim that brexit is all but the promised land, but what do they know? Those could be short term pains to endure for a long term gain.
I honestly couldn't tell...
(1): not as stupid of an idea as you might think. Those thinking that the UK was a model student of the EU before this referendum came along are sadly living in a dream world. The UK was, and apparently always was, a bit of a rebel. "European standards? Good idea, but we'll keep our own". "An European reply to a crisis? That's nice...but we'll reply in our own way". That sort of thing. So it's not like the EU shed bitter tears for them leaving (apart from the precedent and figuring out a proper way to do it, of course).
(2): okay, that's a conservative guess. Youth was mostly prone to remaining while it was mostly old people wanting to leave. That factor alone means that in three years time the balance could have shifted some crucial percentages
(3): best console ever! I swear!!!! *owns a wiiu*Th3Monk likes this.
I'm going to be a father... :-)Jul 22, 2019
So...no long winding post this time. Just this message: my girlfriend's pregnant with our first child. She is due in January next year. (EDIT: her gender is no longer a secret at this point)
Can't really add much aside from "I'll probably be a lot less on the forums after that". I'm sure y'all understand.
(edit: renamed from 'about to be a father' to 'I'm going to be a father'...perhaps this doesn't give this as much a sense of "urgent stuff happening" )
So what are some good board games?Jul 19, 2019
This is sort of a follow-up of a previous rant. In there, I stabbed a bit at some popular board games of my youth. And really: there are some BAD board games out there. Games that are just being popular because people don't know alternatives. And because learning games can mean actually LEARNING, there is less incentive to do so. So many people just stick to what they know rather than broaden their horizons. It's not that different with video games, where the PC has a feud with consoles, both are stigmatizing mobile games, MMORPG-players don't really mix with FPS players and you CERTAINLY don't want to put run&gun first person shooter fans in the same category to the wallhugging "one shot will kill you so you better duck and cover" kind of FPS.
Similarly: board games differ as well. Some paint stories with new species and/or entire universes for players to explore where others are as abstract as chess. Dices and other elements of luck are frowned upon by some whereas others find games that are all about deduction 'too puzzle-y'. Some games are dished because they are too simple, others because they are too complex. And let me be clear on that: that is all okay! I'm pointing out these differences in games because they differ on aspects that do not inherently make the game good or bad.
So why is monopoly bad? No, it is not because "it entices players to become soulless capitalist tycoons" or the randomness of some items (why are the pawns as nonsensical as they are?). It is because
1) the randomness is so large that there is hardly a meaningful choice to be made, let alone a difficult one. Face it: you have no impact on where you'll land, and most of the cards don't give you a choice either. Your only real choices are in whether or not you want to buy a street when there's an opportunity for it (and this comes down to "do this unless you're SERIOUSLY starving on cash), and when you want to trade streets with your opponent. For anything else in the game, you could just be watching a cutscene.
2) it drags on way too long after winners and losers have emerged. You all know this situation: after 2 or 3 rounds, most of the streets are sold. The ones with the least amount will lose the game (unless in the unlikely event that they happen to have a set)...but because the game plays until you go bankrupt, these players just have to "be there" because it can lead to arguments if they quit.
See where this is going? This isn't a "this game is bad because I don't like its looks" or "it's bad because I suck at it" situation, but it is bad by metrics; by doing an analysis and coming up with the why and how of this. It's not that gut emotion in games isn't important, but that the chances of games touching you emotionally are simply more likely with games that follow rules about game design.
Oh, and...the above somewhat goes for video games as well, but board games differ mostly because they are inherently about social interaction. Play a game with a dry accounting department and the experience will be very different than playing the very same game with your buddies after a few beers. So in that regard, the question of "is this game good?" is more to be read in the vein of "is this game good when compared to other games when played with the same people and mood?". And even that is subjective, as e.g. horror games work better when there is nobody musing about how a sexual encounter between Cthulhu and Medusa would turn out.
Game design (not to be confused with game theory, which is...something different) has become an entire industry, so just me yapping about things that make games GOOD is at best scratching a surface of what someone else studying game design already told. Instead, I'll provide some recent classics and what they might bring to the table.
Some of my games...
One thing I've found is that many people consider games they don't know to be "more complex" than what they already know (at least my girlfriend is like that). This isn't impossible, obviously, but unless you've got a sadistic friend hellbent on torture, the first modern board games you'll play should be so-called gateway games.
More than anything, gateway games should be simple enough to pick up on what you should be doing quickly. Carcassonne? Play a tile and optionally put a meeple on it somewhere. Catan? Harvest and trade. King of Tokyo? Roll dice to kill all other players. Splendor? Either collect jewels or use jewels to buy cards. Santorini? Climb until the third story.
Mind you: this premisse - also called 'the hook' - isn't the same as the rules, but the rules should be built around that core idea. Exceptions should be little or non-existing, and they should feel intuitive. There is also another feature that separates "gateway games" from "simple games", but I'll better start with explaining the given examples a bit more.
In carcassonne, you and your opponents have a bunch of pawns (known in the hobby as 'meeples'). Each turn, you draw a square tile from the stack and place it somewhere next to the ever growing landscape (that starts with one single tile). These tiles depict (parts of) cities, grassland, roads or monestaries. By choosing where to place your tile you not only make a choice for the rest of the game but potentially enlargen your own influence, as larger cities or grasslands touching completed cities are worth more. You make two simple choices each turn (where do I place this particular tile, and do I place one of my meeples on it?), but these have far reaching consequences.
Catan is a known game revolving around trade. You each pick a starting position next to some resources. Then each turn starts by a random harvest of these resources, slowly granting (hopefully) each player more or less an equal share of some of the available goods - wood, stone, wool, wheat and ore. Specific combinations of these resources mean you can expand and/or upgrade your settlements, but unless you're SERIOUSLY lucky with the dice rolls, you'll never have enough of what you'll need by yourself. The interesting part is that the other players want to expand as well (it is what'll win the game, after all) but might need completely different resources. So while it contains some luck, the best part of this game is to figure out on HOW to progress, and what to trade with whom.
Catan's a modern classic, but IMHO no longer the best choice to start the hobby with. The problem is mostly in a long setup time, and especially: your initial location on the random map can make or break you for the rest of the game. So teaching this game is relatively hard, especially if your other players barely can calculate chance (the harvest is determined by 2 dice. But that means that resources with a value 6 and 8 are far more likely to show up than those with 2 or 12).
King of Tokyo is either playing Godzilla or a dice game, depending on your perspective. You and your enemies each have a monster and want to do battle it out in Tokyo (why? "Because", that's why!). the general idea is that one of you will be in the center (Tokyo), fighting everyone else at the same time. Everyone else can either damage you, heal themselves, load up on improvements or rise in skill level. And you do this...by rolling dice. Each turn, you roll the included dice "yahtzee style", meaning that you can pick and reroll some of your dice, and then once again pick and reroll some other (or the same ones). It's the end result of that third throw that will decide what'll happen. The goal of the game is to either be the last monster standing (meaning: reducing everyone else's lives to zero), or level up to your maximum level.
In this game, the fun isn't so much in the dice rolling (though that aspect is certainly fun) but in the social interaction. With miniatures depicting Godzilla, king Kong, a robot, a dragon and Cthulhu, OF COURSE you're going to root for your own monster. It's the typical game where you'll mimic fallen skyscrapers, literally kick other player's avatar out of Tokyo and (if the mood or the booze is decent ) howling noises fill the room. And the dice rolling becomes something concrete really fast ("no, you don't want to do that much damage to me. Reroll that die as well. You want to heal. Come on! Reroll that die! Nooooo!!!! ")
Meanwhile, Splendor is a simple engine building game. There are five colors of gems on the table (six if you count gold, which is a wild). Each turn, you either do
1) pick three different colored gems
2) pick two colored gems of the same color (if possible)
3) reserve a card from either the open stack or one of the 3 draw piles AND receive a gold gems
4) buy a card with your gems and/or your previously bought cards
There are three sorts of cards, but while they are separated from each other, they differ only in cost and in points worth (the cheapest color of cards has at best one point, but don't cost that much). The interesting thing, however, is that each card also counts as a self-replenishing gemstone of a certain color. So a card that costs 2 red gems and 3 black ones can either be payed with 2 red gems and 3 black gems; 1 red gem, a red gem card, a black gem card and two black gems, and any other combination. You always pay for cards with gems, but never with cards. So in the beginning of the game you'll spend turns pondering which colors of gems to pick whereas in the later stage you want to pick up high point cards simply by re-using other cards. The game is really a race in that regard. Reserving a card that your opponent is about to buy might set them back (which advances you), hoarding all gems of a certain color might help prevent your enemy from picking the gems you really want, and so on. The game is until fifteen points, but while it takes a while until players get, say, 4 points, it then quickly ramps up as the players become richer and can afford more expensive (but point-rich) cards.
In Santorini, you've got a five-by-five square grid; each players (usually two) have two pawns they place anywhere on the board. Then each player takes a turn, moving one of their pawns to an adjacent position (including diagonal). This position should be at most one position higher than the current one, and not occupied by another player. After the move, the player builds one cube adjacent to that same character. The goal is to be the first to move one of your pawns on top of a third floor.
...and that's the entirety of the rules for you. Sure, the game comes with "God cards" as well, granting you specific variations on this basic rule set, but the game is as tactical as go, even without using these. This is really a game of moves and counter-moves. The moment someone's on the second floor and is adjacent to a third floor, you should move in and build one additional floor on it (making the position unavailable for either player). Matches can be surprisingly franctic and deep. The game also has a cutesy Greek theme, but that doesn't hide the fact that this is at its core a game as abstract as chess.
Pandemic is another modern classic. Here, all players combine their efforts as a worldwide medical team while four diseases roam the world. Each of you have a special power, but each of you only have four actions to perform on a turn. So which actions should you take to make sure that the cures for these diseases are found before the world is overflooding with them?
While technically not the first co-op game, it is the one that made the genre a staple, and still the main 'go to' game. And for good reason: this game has a theme everyone can get behind and has a rising tension with each and every game. That is because your special powers by themselves aren't enough: you really NEED to work together as a team to overcome what's going on (diseases are added literally every turn!). The game is a bit more complex than the others, but simple enough to wrap your head around yet complex enough that you likely won't be able to find the optimal turn order every time.
So...six short reviews for modern board games. I admit I picked them because I have these and like them, but that's not the only reason. These games are all gateway games. That is to say: if you like them, there are plenty more that somehow expand on the concept. Isle of Skye is carcassonne with a bidding mechanic. Gizmos shares similarities with splendor. Pandemic has a whole slew of co-op games where you fight diseases together. I won't guarantee that you'll like them all. But I'm sure that you would like some, given the chance.
...and I hope you'll get a chance at some point. Because gaming shouldn't be limited to electronic devices.alexander1970 likes this.
Screw monopoly...Jun 19, 2019
I moved to another province a couple months ago. One of the perks was that it'd be closer to my best friend. And since contact is better - we've been going to bars a few times, both with and without our girlfriends - I came to ask him about this relatively new hobby I got: board gaming.
Incidentally he avoided it, but told me yesterday: he and his girlfriend weren't really into that kind of thing. I understand him. And not only that: since they're about to become parents, time is rather scarce for them (meaning: they're in full preparation of "teh baby"). That our house isn't really up to snuff certainly doesn't help either (we've still got a good few months of renovations before it'll be more than a "slightly above camping" standard). But there's more going on: the games we've played as kids weren't all that good. And since I'm a bit bored, I'll rant a bit about that here...
First, let's look at the evolution of a few other media. Books are the oldest medium. they evolved from scrolls to books to ebooks. Movies changed from black and white to talkies, full color, high definition and now often assisted by CGI when needed. Video games changed from pixelated endeavors into the full blown powerhouses that we have today. And graphic novels...I'm not too familiar with their evolution, but there has clearly been changes as well.
In each of these cases, these leaps in technology changed the way the medium worked as well. Certain parts of 'em became classics which also set the standards for the works that came after them. You can clearly notice this when watching an old movie or playing an old video game. Even if it's a classic, there is a certain clunkiness to it. Blood is unnaturally red in movies...books use outdated words in them...video games have a limited amount of continues and no savegames...those kinds of things.
Board games are no different. Sure, they are an old medium. And arguably(1) the ancestor to video games. So shouldn't they be more evolved during the years and centuries?
The answer is both yes and no. There has been an evolution in games if you take a look at games of a certain age rather than just the classics (first, there was go. And then some centuries later chess and checkers), but it didn't evolve much because games only matter if you have free time to spare. It's only thanks to automatisation that there is a market for the mass entertainment media.
The second argument is the internet. While not a revolution as in video games, there as well, game designers found out a mass library of board games they didn't know existed. And because the markets grew, it became possible to publish a game without being limited to a handful of large corporations (kickstarter is pretty familiar on that front).
These two arguments have brought forth a current board game paradise that is, in terms of quality, head and shoulders over what it used to be...except in perception. And at least to people my age (mid thirties), this isn't something one simply adapts to. Heck...I remember when on a weekend out with friends and they had 'hotel' and 'pandemic' with them, my first reaction was to play the former, as I had played it before.
Since then, I've seen just how utterly wrong I was. But board gaming is still a pretty niche product. Even regular toy stores have about as much playmobile and barbie dolls (each) as the entire board game segment. And these three departments are usually smaller than the video games section. And I'm sad to say that they only occasionally carry an interesting board game. Modern(2) board games are mostly found in specialized stores. There's an easy separation: if you ask a cleric "do you guys carry catan?", and he answers "yes" then it's a toy store. If he answers "yes...but which of the gazillion expansions are you talking about?"...then you're in an actual game store.
Toy stores obviously have their place in the world. They're aimed at children, or better put: they exist for children (the main audience for the store is probably parents). That alone puts me at unease when I browse them, as it gives the impression that games are for kids. Which, incidentally, was what I've been told about video games as well ("grown-ups do not play video games"...this was obviously before gamers grew up to the age where they were old enough to prove those claims wrong ).
The real answer is, of course: games (both video and board) are aimed at their intended audiences. The toy stores just focus on the small segment. Sure, they'll stock up on whatever wins the spiel des jahres, which is basically the equivalent of the oscars for gaming. And that analogy lays out the situation: would you go to a movie theater if all they ever showed were disney movies and - once per year - the occasional oscar winner?
More so: the spiel award is mostly about family games (meaning: easy enough for kids to play as well). They're not bad in any way, but it's only since 2011 that they added in a 'kennerspiel' category, which are a bit more complex(3). So it's not as if those games don't exist...but you can cruise through entire shopping malls and hardly find a handful (unless it happens to have an actual game store...but I haven't seen that in Belgium yet). And this, in turn, results in them staying rather off the beaten path. After all: even if a parent wants to fulfill a child's Christmas wish ("a board game"), they'll mostly pick one of the monopoly clones ("oooh, I know this one. and this one has a Mario theme ") rather than the proverbial Oscar winners who are tucked somewhere at the back ("Splendor? Istanbul? Are these really games?").
...and my introduction ran away with me. I'd say "sorry", but this is a blog post so I'm not bound by ANYONE as to what I'm rambling about (MUHAHAHAHAHAAAA!!!!! ).
What I initially wanted to talk about were the games from my youth. On hindsight, they must have sucked, but we played them nonetheless because of the company and - okay, admitted - there was a chance that we could win from grown-ups. That was what made them fun. But on hindsight, they weren't. And if I ever have children, I'll refrain from pitching these to them. So without further ado...
Scrabble: ah, the classic word forming game. Is this really a bad game? It isn't, but it's not that good of a family game. The reason: the drawing of the tiles is random in a bad way. Randomization is okay in a game (each game involving cards and dice has it), but good games offer a way to mitigate luck a bit through skill. If one person draws an X and a Q, he pretty much has to either trade in his letters at some point or form the only small word they have the letters for ("I'll go with 'mix'"). Meanwhile, the person with the blanco has way more options to either make a long word or a word that passes over the bonus tiles.
Compared to a game of, say, hardback, where you can use each letter as blanco if you agree to forfeit the score on the letter, then the latter has a much better way of skill outranking a bad draw.
Unfortunately, neither are the best family games: someone who reads a lot has an advantage over less literate players, and scrabble itself doesn't alleviate the difference (meaning: the latter group can hardly improve by playing, so they'll quickly quit playing it all together).
Risk: I've heard that the rules of this one have changed, so I should probably retry this one. But in all, I remember this really DRAGGING ON BEYOND RELIEF!!! With three or more players, this really was a back and forth of gaining and losing territory. you gained some, you lost some. I often wondered why the objectives were even included, as you only got occasionally close to your to conquered regions (or you had the "gain 18 territories with 2 armies on each" card, which was about the only possible one to win).
I don't know the modern rules (or the modern risk variants...there's far more than the regular flavor now), but what that game lacked was a clear end goal. Lack of variety probably as well, but that's harder to pinpoint. In any case: most modern games have a clear sense of progression or achievable objective to work toward. If there's a score goal and no way to lose points, then the game will end in a timely fashion you can somewhat predict.
Hero quest: this was my favorite game as a kid, and it sort of saddens me to put it up, but I have to. hero quest is basically babies first dungeons & dragons. That in itself isn't bad. You get to play as cool characters, there are mini's, treasures, traps, an ever changing dungeon, monsters, a way to fight...it has all the ingredients a dungeon crawler needs. I guess it also has quite some clunkiness and repetitiveness to it, but that didn't bother me much (I always played as "the evil overlord" ). The main problem was something you won't find in modern games anymore: rolling to move. Properly moving around is crucial for tactics, and it being dependent on randomisation is also a sad choice ("hang on...I'm coming to rescue you from that orc. Oh...I apparently cannot reach him because I only rolled a 2").
The game of life: yup: another roll-to-move game. We've replayed it with my brother's family a couple years ago. I thought it was so bad it was hilarious. "oh, I rolled a three, so now I'm stuck with a child. If I had rolled less, I would've had a carreer. Oh, well... "). perhaps more than the next game, this game proved to me that what I had learned about board games wasn't a hunch or something (I'll get to that).
Monopoly: *sigh* why is this game so damn popular? Why are the few characters picked up by pop culture? Why is it that new versions are still being made and sold? I...I honestly do not get it!
Look...I can point at the blandness of the design (if it wasn't for the localisation in each different languages, it never would've gained traction), but that's not too bad. I can point at the premisse of wanting to become a magnate tycoon in times of economical crisis and Donald Trump (interesting trivia: monopoly was initially designed as a CRITIQUE of monopolies!) but that's okay as well. The terrible part of monopoly is threefold:
1) way too much randomness in the wrong places
2) too little actual meaning decisions
3) no proper way to recover
The first one is, yet again, the roll move. It's pure luck to land on a not-yet-sold street, and it's even more luck if you manage to get in a position where you can collect a set.
Then there is the part that I even learned as a kid: that the game of monopoly is decided over which trades you can make (if any). You see, after some rounds, most people will have parts of the set but rarely an entire set already (in fact: if someone has it, the chances of trading are almost nil). Whether you land on someone's hotel or in jail is completely luck dependent, so this is the part where you actually have some influence. If you were lucky enough to get the good cards, that is. Okay, technically speaking, the decision on whether or not you should buy a street if it's available is a choice too. It's just not a meaningful one (OF COURSE you should buy the street).
Lastly: you cannot recover once behind. Modern games often have some way to limit players from straying too far from the average by subtle means (a limited amount of space in a backpack, for example. while technically applying to all the players, it only hinders the player who has more than enough materials). Monopoly is a 'the winner takes all'. This wouldn't be so bad if the game was short, but it isn't. So this results in what you've undoubtedly had happen in games: people forfeit their games in annoyance rather than play out the game (and perhaps try again).
Those three points aren't limited to monopoly. But the sad part is: it isn't until relatively recent that these characteristics were even discussed, let alone would cause a game design to, y'know...not get published. More than anything else, it is the school of thought that has entered board game design. It has changed board games in the same way as the beatles and the rolling stones have changed music. But because games take longer to digest (certainly compared to a song), there is a delay in the general conscience. Games like monopoly would never made it to the press if it was designed today. It just gets a free pass because it's so popular.
(1): that is even assuming this is controversial to begin with. I personally don't think anyone would doubt that video games branched off the original idea of "games", but it would be presumptuous to just assume it
(2): I'd say 'adult board games', but that term is unfortunately coined by (without exception dull and -ironically- childish) erotic games. What I mean is "a board game that is aimed at an audience with fully grown brains"
...and yeah, I admit that doesn't sound much less condescending.
(3): still not TOO complex, mind you. This is the sort of game that's right up my alley, but I know quite some great games that really require more methodical thinking or have RPG like freedom of play to just "sit down and play" them. Perhaps it's blasphemy to more hardcore gamers, but I really don't know if the original Dungeons & Dragons would win the kennerspiel if the latter was around at that time.chartube12 likes this.
Taleweaver's top games of 2018Dec 31, 2018
So it's that time of year again: lists of the past year throughout. I'm no exception: this is the fifth time I'm posting a ranked lists of the best video games I've played in 2018.
Previous entries: 2017,2016,2015,2014
Before I get to my best games, I should mention a few things that I've already mentioned in previous blogs and posts. Sort of a summary:
1) android games. I've mentioned this last year, and that trend hasn't died down. Rather the contrary: I'm discovering so much great mobile games that it's not even funny anymore. Last year I got a gdp win, this year I got a gpd xd+ (basically the same thing, but without keyboard and with android rather than windows). I was hesitant at first, but it turned out the best gaming handheld I've ever had. Granted: about half of it is emulation, but android games that can't be made to work with buttons are the exception rather than the rule.
2) linux. I've been on and off the fence on trying linux distros. Then valve released proton, and I've made the plunge. I simply cannot overstate how great proton is; it just about doubles the total amount of steam games, and that number is even higher if you don't count only having to make small tweaks to get a game working. On top of that: playonlinux also got pretty user-friendly. While the main exception is in the AAA-segment (meaning: it's not something I advice often), it more than suits my needs.
The result of this: I've pretty much lost track of how many games I've played. This also has to do with proton and android: I tried many games of my backlog, just to file a report on it on protondb.com. Does that count? I also pirated a few games for the sole purpose of attempting to getting it to run on linux. And on android, I've installed appsales. Result: temporary free games and seriously discounted prices for more than I knew existed. And I got to point out that only a small minority were ones I'd label as 'pay to win'.
I also have to point out that I've really started to grow fond of virtual board games and programming games. As such, there are more mentions of this on my list, for the simple reason that this is a list of the games that I have played. It is NOT a "best games of this year" list (heck...it's only accidental if the games are released this game in the first place).
Final point: my steam library surpassed 1000 games, and my GoG and android library are gaining traction as well. So even the worst game on this list is one I would thumb up. The ones I don't mention are either terrible, I couldn't get to run or are just not my taste. I know I went from a top 20 in my first years to 40 in this year, but that's because I just played a shitton of games.
That said...the runners-up (in random order):
bonanza the duel
craft the world
marvelous; another treasure island
geometry wars 3
frederic resurrection of music
12 is better than 6
SW Galactic battlegrounds
lords of waterdeep
tigris & euphrates
seasons after fall
hotline miami 2: wrong number
four sided fantasy
Upward, lonely robot
My top games:
40. Tabletop simulator (windows)
This is one I can not NOT mention, but at the same time don't want to praise too much. This is basically all board games ever created. However: a game that does everything excels at nothing. I didn't expect the community to just hack in AI or do anything but scan images of their board games, but even so...this game is butt-ugly in so many ways and has such a terrible UI it's not even funny (why is even a game manual so hard to come by?). And because it basically throws you all the pieces of a board game at you and says "here...now have fun" I don't even like it to simply try out a board game. But truth be told: I'm very, very happy it exists. There should be a sequel or - even better - some competition in this field, but having tabletop simulator beats the tool not existing at all.
39. Rollers of the realm (linux)
One of my first "let's check out proton"-games. The premisse is pretty wacky: a combination of RPG and pinball. It's certainly fun, and it's head and shoulders over pinball games "with an RPG element". It's fluid, fun and entertaining.
38. zelda: link's awakening (android/GBC)
This one obviously would've been much higher if this was the first time I've played it. But even so: using my gpd xd+ and an emulator, this is the best version of the game I've played (yay savestates. And yay, going from "opening console" to "gaming" in less than 10 seconds)
37. grandpa's table (android)
One of the many games I picked up on android on discount.I thought it'd entertain me for, say, half an hour, but spent much more time on it. It's a puzzle game in the style of quell: you move some diamonds around on a preset mazelike board, attempting to put them all together. With bonus points if you can do that on specific spots. Now...this game is ugly as hell, but where most of these games go all "now try this with less moves!" on you, this bonus system is much more relaxing. It's also much deeper than I'd give the graphics credit for.
36. battle chef brigade deluxe (windows/linux)
If there were awards for "weirdest video genre blends", I'd nominate this game: it mixes (2D) monster hunter combat with match-3 gem puzzles. And yes, this makes it work! It's sort of hilarious in that aspect.
35. le havre inland port (android/linux)
Digidiced quickly became my favorite porters for digital board games. They keep the (decent) interface between games, making things easier. On top of that, they always have full compatibility between the windows, linux, android and iOS versions of games. On Le havre inland port, I looked back on this game as "okay-ish". But more recently I tried the PC version that was part of a humble bundle, and remembered how original yet fitting this resource management game really is. It's still "okay-ish", but that's not a bad thing when compared to great other games.
34. terra mystica (android)
...and we directly get to the next digidiced one. This is, by far, the most complex board game (and perhaps game in general) that I know. Different resources, a strange handling of power, different roles, board manipulation...it makes sense, and I WANT to learn how to properly play this game because it looks so good on all aspects...but it's just so darn complex that I can't get my head around it...yet.
33.pocket city (android)
When saying "sim city alternative", most people say "cities: skylines", and rightfully so. But when I heard about a sim city 2000 hommage on android, I had to try it. And I admit I initially feared the leveling/experience system was a means for pay to win or stupid waiting lines. Neither of those are true. From what I can tell, this is the real sequel to sim city 2000. And on android, no less.
32. planetary annihilation: titans (windows)
Are there still modern RTS'es being made? Why, yes. Planetary annihilation is one of them. I hear that one of the other games in the franchise is terrible for some reason, but titans is pretty solid. It's also a bit easy, but that might be me.
31. juanito arcade mayhem (windows)
This game had me at "super pang clone", which...let's be honest: what this game really is. There is some theming from other video games, but to be honest I found the storyline mostly rather...childish. The gameplay is pretty decent, though, which is all that really matters.
30. hey, that's my fish (android)
Whenever gamers tout that android doesn't have decent games, I always assume that they either haven't tried out any non-free games, or that they aren't the target audience. This fits the latter group: it's a family game. Yes, you can play it solo against computers and yes, it's still fun. But this game is bonkers when you play it with 3 or 4 others on android. You each control 2 to 4 pinguins on a hexagonal board. Some of these hexes have fish on them, which you'll collect one you move there. The thing is: on every move, the starting position sinks. So this nice filled board quickly falls away into nothing. So the rules are extremely simple (I play this with my 8-year old cousin), but it has some very deep tactics. A very good investment for a couple bucks when you've got a tablet.
29. Minite (linux)
Okay, I admit: I had higher hopes for this game than it turned out to be. Would this be the next Braid? The next undertale? Well...perhaps to some. The premisse is that you die every sixty seconds, but you respawn with what you collected. It's good, fun to play and has some very funny characters and evocative situations. It is, however, also very short and I don't know what the black&white was supposed to add. So...a bit middle of the road.
28. The sequence(android)
This little program game shouldn't be on the list. It's small, it's abstract, and the UI could some use. But despite being a mobile game through and true, this one certainly has depth. Maybe not as much as some other programming games, but much more than I'd give it credit for. Honestly: if you want to know what "programming games" really are, you could do a whole lot worse than the sequence.
27. Tsuro (android)
Okay...I could fill up a list of "best board games" by now. This is a by the number conversion, but it so happens to be by one of the best filler/gateway board games out there. Basically: all participants get three square cards containing two paths on each side. Your action: rotate one tile as you fit and put it on the board next to your pawn, then all pawns adjacent to it must travel the paths (so at least you). The board quickly fills up with spaghetti. Your goal is to stay on the board longer than others. If it sounds complex, then that's my fault: it's simple enough to have everyone playing as soon as they see one or two turns played.
26. Reigns: game of thrones(android)
Earlier this year I played reigns: majesty. The idea was that you get a whole bunch of decisions, and you can either swipe left or right, basically answering yes or no. There are four meters that are influenced by your answer. If either's too high or too low (say...your stance with the population), you lose. It was an interesting idea (tindr for royalties, basically) that, unfortunately, wore off rather quickly.
...and then devolver digital made a game of thrones version of the game. The premisse is the same, but with all the characters from the books/television. Result: it was as close as a "must have" gets to me.
25. Furi (linux)
This was one of the dozens of games I tried to get working on linux (proton). Was it because I had to learn how to use parameters to get it working properly (it initially had weird artifacts, which didn't really stood out as this game has a VERY WEIRD theme) that I gave this more credit? In any case: this is...erm...it's somewhat between a 3D fighting game and a bullet hell shooter. You are a prisoner that has to fight a number of bosses to earn your freedom. On paper, I would've said that you can't have a meal that's just sause (even if it's awesomesause). Furi proves that games that have just great boss battles can very well consist of "just great boss battles". It's extremely hard, though.
24. Onitama (android)
I was looking forward to this game being released...and then it turns out to have a cost of 0 bucks. This board game is best described as "a concise version of chess". You and your opponent each have 5 pawns on a 5x5 board. You also each have 2 movement tiles and a fifth that you'll get after using one. You see: these cards determine how you can move your pawns. And if you use it, you'll pass that movement card to your opponent's reserve. The goal: either kill the fat pawn of your opponent OR move one of your pawns to the middle of the back row of your opponent.
So...all relatively simple in theory, but oh boy does this game have deep mechanics. You can play this on your phone against an opponent as well as against computer. So if you're an avid chess player: check out this game!
23. Rusted warfare (android)
Let's see...this RTS game strands 9 places higher than planetary annihilation (which, in turn, pushes 8-bit armies off the list ). The reason: THIS is the game that captures the original C&C feeling. Honestly: forget about what EA tried to pull. If you liked the original command and conquer, you'll love this game. It has somewhat different mechanics, but in a way it is BECAUSE the game looks so basic that it works.
And while this game is also on steam (and most likely handles better there), it is absolutely a blast to play on a touchscreen. RTS developers: steal ideas from this game!
22. hidden folks (android)
It's a stroke of genius: just program the "Where's Waldo?" books (okay...a lookalike) on android. As you can understand, a tablet is the perfect medium for this: you can scroll, pinch zoom and basically click whenever you find anything from the list below. The pictures are somewhat crude, but have some genuinely funny stuff happening in 'em. The main reason for this inclusion is, strangely enough, the sounds. Everything (or almost everything) is human made. Cars beeping, electricity wirring, the grunts of the peeps...it's so clearly amateuristic, yet so hilariously funny.
21. Dandara (android)
This one took me by surprise. I can't honestly say metroidvania, because it is much better than the genre would suggest. The visuals, the sound, the storyline...it takes all the best of the genre, adds some dark souls difficulty on it and - last but not least - its own feature. Dandara is the result. But before you rush out to the store, I've got to mention that feature: there is no gravity. And unfortunately, it doesn't play nice with external controllers on android (my only real beef with it, aside that it drains my battery fast). But the game is designed to be played with touchscreen. So...I won't blame gamers who condemn the game for that, as it certainly has a tough learning curve. But even so: this game is an absolute gem.
20. Doki doki literature club (windows)
Okay, I started playing this because it was free and was gathering a hype. It was good. For a free game even very great, but that's not a huge factor in this list. DDLC is a virtual novel that has you "dating" the all-female literature club members. It reminded me quite a bit of the anime series chobits: it's sweet and romantic, but the male protagonist (that's you) has no clue on how to read women.
The game is adults only, but not in the way that you probably think (if you fit the audience: go play it already!). I admit that that is the main reason it's on this list: it's like there are two short games stringed together, and both help you to keep reading/playing. If you want to know more, you can check my gbatemp review of the game.
19. Rayman jungle run & fiesta run (android)
Remember super mario run? Well...screw that game. I got this on sale, but even full price these games are cheaper, better, longer and don't require you to be online all the time. And what this is? A perfect continuation of the console rayman games. While one could classify this as an endless runner, the fact that Rayman can float and punch makes it at best something between platformer and a runner. That probably means that it won't work (or not well) on low-end phones, but on my nvidia shield and gpd xd+ everything was flawless. To those saying that mobile only has crippled ports...these two games (which I count as one, as they're so similar) prove those sayers wrong.
18. Starcraft 2: legacy of the void (windows)
When I started playing this early 2018, I assumed it'd make for game of the year. Protoss is my favorite SC2 race and for some reason I had always postponed that last episode. Unfortunately, I only like PLAYING protoss. The missions were great (I'd say "blizzard quality", but that term has eroded somewhat since), but why is everyone in that race so fucking arrogant/heroic/serious? These clowns can't even go to the toilet without booming how they are fulfilling their destiny. The result was...certainly not bad (again: I really like playing them), but I honestly had better playing experiences.
17. Isle of skye (android)
So...a virtual board game from asmodee, created by digidiced, that plays out like carcassonne? To you that most likely doesn't say much, but to me that's a triple whammy of goodness. And it certainly didn't disappoint. Every game has 4 different goals that score you points during six rounds. In those rounds, you bid for tiles that you place to your tableau in a way that they (hopefully) fulfill those goals and/or score you money for future bids. What surprised me most is not just that this is mainly a bidding game, but that estimating how to price your tiles is more fun than I would've given it credit. I haven't played the physical board game, but I really like it. And perhaps the virtual board game is better, because there's quite some bookkeeping the game does for you.
16. Sproggiwood (android)
You liked playing as the bard in Crypt of the necrodancer? Then this game is for you: it's a turn-based roguelite game where you play as a random character that's being abducted by this Sproggi character that has you going through procedurally-generated dungeons. Aside the fun 'quick' turn base play (think nova-101 or the mentioned Crypt of the necrodancer) and characters that play out very differently but all interesting, this game oozes charm at every corner. In terms of casual roguelites, this might just be my top game of all time (not that I know that many that fit those two genres ).
15. Offworld trading company (windows)
I very nearly dismissed this because I think I played it mostly last year. But this is a great game, and that is just because it really is "an RTS without vehicles". You see...whenever I attempt to play something like civilization I just want to build to crush my enemies (whaddaya mean, civilized? I wanna WIN, damnit!). This game hears me and provides something that at best looks like a futuristic city builder. What it really is, is a cutthroat attempt to overthrow your enemies through economical means. Build fast on the correct routes, earn what you need to build stuff that gains even more resources, and thwart your enemies in every way EXCEPT sending out military. I'm very willing to admit I totally suck at this game except against novice enemies. But playing it is so very damn satisfying!
14. Jaipur (android)
A card trading game. You and your opponents take turns either picking up exactly one good (of five open ones) in hand, trading more than one good with the table, or selling all goods from hand. This is a board game that is very simple to teach, but it's amazing how deep this concept goes. The prices, you see, shift per good, AND you get an increasing bonus if you sell more than 3 of the same kind. This puts you in all sorts of dilemmas: do you pick up one extra good to what you already have? Do you trade two other cards for that card AND that high value one? Would it be better to sell this good before your opponent does (and thus gets a better price)?
On top of nice visuals and good AI, the game offers a campaign modus that lets you capture different regions, build up an Indian castle/temple and even unlock different mods for the game (meaning: different prices, less or more starting goods, starting hands, ...). So for hardly a couple bucks, you can have more than a few hours worth of game, and that's not even taking a head-to-head into account.
13. Lost vikings 1&2 (android/SNES)
Why, yes, I have used my gpd xd for emulation purposes. Among others, I've played through the gameboy versions of donkey kong classic, super mario land 1&2, Wario land and Link's awakening. Maybe it's the short nature of the lost viking games (these levels can be tough and long). Maybe it's the fact that rewinding and restarting is easier than ever. Maybe it's been so long that I've forgotten these puzzles completely and therefore play it as if they're new games. Fact is: I've so thoroughly enjoyed playing through these games that they rightfully deserve this spot. Blizzard sure isn't what it was back then.
12. Ticket to earth (android)
Last year I nominated freecell quest as the follow-up to puzzle quest in terms of a game that mixes storyline and a puzzle-kind of combat. Well...ticket to earth blows freecell quest out of the water at the very least on the story element. The turn based battles play out on boards filled with 4 randomized symbols. During your turn, you have two actions to either run over the same kinds of symbols, attack or use a special power. You charge up both your attacks and special power meters by going over as many symbols as possible, and since opponents follow the same rules you can do tactical things like retreat out of range. Perhaps on paper it looks a bit nonsense (it's literally better if you can run around half the board than to directly attack), but it plays out so incredibly well. It has RPG elements that allow you to change your power or boost your health or attack status with certain symbols, so it quickly starts making sense. And as if that wasn't enough, you get a great story to boot: you play as a few colonists on a terraformed planet that face a prison outbreak and have to stop the chaos from spreading. So really: THIS is the sort of game that truly combines story and puzzle elements.
I do have to note that this is a hard one to judge as I discovered it only very recently. As such, it's much closer to memory (which might affect it in a more than positive way).
11. Onirim (android)
This game got on my radar as the solitaire cardgame that it really is. Then asmodee made an app out of it. For the price of zero dollars. And that immediately puts it on a solid "best free games ever" nominee. Or at least head and shoulders above what passes for free on android. The goal of the game is to unlock all doors by laying down cards by color. Aside one of four colors, cards have also 3 symbols (sun, moon or key), and you can never play two of the same symbol directly after each other. So there's a slight dilemma in how you play your cards, as your hand is limited and you lose if the deck is empty. On top of that, there are nightmare cards in the deck that'll also work against you. The key cards help against these, which furthers the dilemma on whether you play keys or keep them. All in all: a very simple but very engaging game, enhanced more by the beautiful theming.
There are three expansions to it that make it somewhat less light but not less fun.
10. Age of rivals (android)
If for no other reason, you should try this game as a reminder that a bunch of - on paper - terrible ideas can still make a good game if they're executed well enough. If I hadn't given this game a fair chance, it would have never passed my red flags. Collectible card games? Sorry, but magic: the gathering was too much of a money sink to go down that rabbit hole. Oh, wait...it doesn't even HAVE DLC. A game where all you do is pick one out of four games, and then exchange the remains with your opponent who'll do the same? Sounds boring. Oh, wait...there's an entire intricacy of reasons why cards can be good or bad. A civilizations game where you have to balance your civilization with military? Meh...no thanks. Oh, wait...this one does it RIGHT. Honestly...this game is almost ridiculously weird in how it turns my concepts of gaming on its head. I mean...it's a drafting game with only minimal graphics and totally different reasons, and yet I'd say that it encapsulates what I like so much about magic: the gathering (the deckbuilding where you attempt to combo out to the best of your abilities). I mostly wrote this review on it to collect my own thoughts on it, but as you can read I'm still curious. How does one MAKE a game like this? How come it is as good as it is? I honestly don't know. But I do know that once you get through the complex learning curve, it's one hell of a strategy & tactical game out there.
9. Cardinal chains (android)
Like Lyne, this is the sort of game someone just HAD to make on android: a connect-the-dots game. Your goal is to fill all the squares on the board by starting at the starting position(s) and either connecting horizontally or vertically to a square with either the same or a higher number. It's simple, easy to learn, starts and plays fast, it can be played with one hand...and it has a ****load of levels. 500, to be precise, and no, they're not churned out by a computer. I know this list is pretty weird (I mean...how can you compare this to today's AAA-line-up?), but in terms of fun-per-buck, I honestly think this scores higher. Heck...I even managed to get my nephew addicted to it just by showing it to him.
8. Monument valley 1&2 (android)
Yes, I know: the hype train is long gone for these journey-like Escher-perspective games. I just played them this year. And while much shorter than I had hoped for, they didn't leave me untouched. Great games, the both of 'em.
7. Cosmic express (android)
since I've got 'appsales' on my tablet and phone, some games just get up on my radar that I would otherwise never have heard about. This one's almost painful: after skimming over some ravingly good reviews I almost incidentally learned that this was by the same author (Benjamin - Draknek - Davis) as "A good snowman is hard to build". Which also happens to be the same author as Sokobond. These games are extremely simple in concept (sokobond and Snowman only have four direction buttons), yet are downright brilliant in design. I bought cosmic express, and this is no exception. What you have to do is lay train tracks on a grid in such a way that it can pick up aliens, drop them at their respective houses and end at the exit part of the level. The trick is that you cannot overlap. I repeat: you cannot overlap the tracks. It's almost ridiculous how often I'd just start saying "yeah, this is easy"...and then end up getting stuck somewhere. I admit that this can be a very frustrating experience, but at the same time it's on your phone and there is no time pressure. I've played this in 2-minute intervals and in some instances for about half an hour. But combined? About ten hours, maybe. Great hours.
6. Frostpunk (windows)
This one's courtesy by gbatemp, of all places. I had placed a few reviews of games of my own, and then Chary asked whether I wanted to review this. I certainly did. I have to admit I'm glad that I liked the game, as it's more fun to write about good games than mediocre ones. And this one certainly is a curious one: a roguelike city-building game set in a frozen steampunk world. And it pulls it off amazingly well. Admitted: having to start over isn't fun, especially not if everyone was freezing to the point where you were thrown out before. But I always restarted with a "this time I'll do it better!" approach.
Granted: it doesn't play that well on proton, but that's just the burden of being on linux, I guess.
5. Patchwork (android)
One of my discoveries this year is of digidiced games. These guys produce digital board games that all share a similar interface and that has cross-platform play across all platforms they're rolling their games on (which is a lot, btw). While I've purchased the majority of their line-up (see also: isle of skye), Patchwork is IMHO their flagship. This also has to do with the fact that the board game it's based on is one of the highest rated family games in the world, but it goes well beyond that. The game - which is sort of an abstract economic race game - plays smooth, has aesthetics that can stack up to nintendo's epic yarn series and an AI that's more than a match for any human you'll play. Oh, right: I've made a full gbatemp review on it.
PS: indian summer and cottage garden are also good and fun games. They're just too similar to warrant a spot on this list. Besides: Patchwork is the best of these three.
4. Unreal, UT, UT2004 (linux)
What would it take for me to switch to linux? Why, my favorite games needed to be playable, of course. Even though it's been at least five years since I've played 'em, this was what would make or break linux. It made it: Unreal and UT (or UT99) work flawlessly through proton, and are as great - or better - than ever. UT2004 (my al time favorite game)...not so much. Oh, it starts and plays, allright. But as a multi-year veteran, those hitches were inexcusable. Luckily, the game is...somewhat native-ish to linux. That is, if you jump through some hoops for the serial key and provide some extra files provided in a patch, then you can get it to work more properly. And what was meant as a "just see how it works" just went on, and on, and on.
I honestly can say that these three are among my favorite games of all time, so they would easily pick the top spots. But because other games should get a fighting chance, I added some "better" games that just wowed me much more than I anticipated.
3. Mr shifty (windows)
I played hotline Miami 2 and was a bit underwhelmed. So I went and played 12 is better than 6, which is the same thing in the wild west. Fun game, but not spectacular (bow and arrows are so overpowered it's hilarious). And then I played Mr. Shifty. Almost from the start, this pushed all the right buttons for me. For starters: it is NOT a simple hotline miami wannabe. At best, it's a combination of such a game with a classic 'double dragon' style beat 'em up. Combine that with a shift/teleportation ability and you've got a recipe for awesome. One steam reviewer correctly pointed out that you're basically roleplaying as Nightcrawler in the beginning of the 2nd X-men movie. But on top of the gameplay, it is very clear that the developers had a lot of fun creating the game. Your enemies usually have guns, but you can pick up objects like bricks, flower pots and even wads of money to throw and stun or insta-kill your enemies. The plot has all these hilarious subplots and the awesome kind of villain. Things get all the more hectic and hilarious as things go on (think teleporting walls and explosive barrels), but it never comes at the cost of repetition. All in all...I think I flew through this game in one or two sittings, and I just want to play it more right now.
2. Opus magnum (linux)
Zachtronics makes two sorts of games. These weird kind of programming games and a sort of "build your own machine" games. Opus magnum (link to extended review) is the latter part, though it technically is also the former. You see, the goal is to create a combination of machines that picks up atoms (okay: marbles), fuses, splits and/or transforms them according to the requirements of the level. And if that sounds abstract, simply google "opus magnum gifs": these sell the game more than anything else. This game is pretty much what spacechem should have been: not limited by a finite amount of space or materials, although it does rate the end result on that. It's a puzzle game, but rather than having one hidden answer, this game is like lego in that you are tasked to build something that works. It's most likely not for everyone, but for those that it is: this game will suck you in and accelerate time to the point that hours will just fly by unnoticed.
1. Race for the galaxy (android)
I rated this game 9.3 in my gbatemp review of it, and if I'm honest: that might still be too low. Not only did I bought all three expansions for it, but I printed out the cards in the vain hope to teach it to my girlfriend in the hopes of playing it together (RftG is originally a card game). That didn't happen, but my love for this game isn't diminished. And that's pretty remarkable, as there is no real progression in it, and each game takes about 10-15 minutes (the app...the card game obviously takes longer) and has little enemy interaction. So what is it that makes this game so great? The synergy. The cards you play are investments to generate more cards and points in the upcoming future. Each decision you make in this game matters, and it's almost indescribable to play a card and see how it'll affect the rest of your empire.
On the technical aspect, it is also perfect: the icons take some getting used to but are extremely convenient once learned, the game is smooth, fast and the AI is top notch. All that is missing is it's sequel (roll for the galaxy), which...really should be getting an app, as my girlfriend also doesn't want to play the board game with me. [/B]