Aug 22, 2010

Decker's Delight Links (22.Aug.10)

It's only two weeks since the latest Decker's Delight Links post appeared on Gnome's Lair, but I thought that another collection of some of the most interesting sights and reads around would keep you quality company while Gnome's Lair takes a proper vacation. A 10-days long one. On an island. With nothing that can go online around. See you September!

The Artful Gamer, that lovable bundle of wisdom, has managed to interview Christy Marx, who, besides sporting a fantastic name, also designed Conquests of Camelot and Conquests of the Longbow.
Mersey Remakes, on the other hand, decided to focus on things that go boom, and now sports a fantastic and quite educational piece on the videogame explosion.
Further education in game creation is provided by the wise Steve Ince in his Rules for Game Writing post, about, well, game writing. I suggest you listen to him. He really knows what he's talking about.
Richard Cobbett takes on 3D graphics instead in How 3D Graphics Became Real. It's a short history lesson on gaming's visuals, it is.
Taking all this advice into consideration you are now ready to come up with your very own indie game. Kieron Gillen tells you how to market it via his now classic How To Use And Abuse The Gaming Press And How The Gaming Press Wants To Use and Abuse You article.
Slightly Deranged, the excellent blog that simultaneously loves gory old movies and retro games, has more than a few treats available: Cadaver, The Immortal and Rex Nebular should get you into the mood.
If, on the other hand, notoriously bad old games are what you are into, this amazing Cassette 50 interview by Pixelatron will make you happy.
Oh, and I did do a guest-blog for Captain D you know. It's all about 10 excellent adventure games you should probably play.
Quick Links obviously:

Aug 19, 2010

Gaming shows: la crème de la crème

Watching videos online has always (well, relatively speaking) been a pleasant and deeply unproductive way to spend ones time, but, let's face it, not all of them are worthy of our delicate attention and keen eyesight, whereas only a few of them come with the consistency of a show, that will guarantee regular breaks from work. This, dear friends and comrades, is why I can't help but suggest you follow, watch and enjoy these, uhm, following gaming shows. They are the ones I'm currently into, and the ones that will make sure you a) appreciate gaming a bit more, b) smile a bit, c) work less, d) play more.

Matt Chat

When a smart, passionate and academically trained in the ways of gaming person approaches gaming history, this is what you get. An excellent retro-focused show showcasing classic games and interviewing legendary game creators.

Zero Punctuation

Our dear Yahtzee remains brilliant and hilarious as ever. You know him and you know what his deranged ZP reviews are all about. Still thought I'd remind you.

Spoony Experiment

The fact that bad movies and games deserve to be ridiculed (and, as a consequence, remembered) has apparently urged Spoony to, well, ridicule them, while also coming up with videos of a most varied nature. The humour is tops.

Adventure Game Reviews

Not a regular channel of video goodness, but the episodes and features that are there are some of the best the web has ever spawned. Provided you are into adventures and oldish PC games, that is.

DOS Nostalgia

Another top quality MS-DOS, retro gaming video thingy, with great presentation, attention to detail, a taste for quirky game selections and pretty self explanatory title. Also, very entertaining.


Another pretty popular choice, as Bytejacker is the best known indie game show around; and it's been around for more than 100 episodes, which frankly is impressive. Sports some truly odd and generally funny sketches too.

Classic Game Room

Classic show, new format. Covers both retro and new games and is professionally produced. Uhm, watch it!

Related @ Gnome's Lair:

Aug 17, 2010

Not a review: Starcraft II

Starcraft II Wings of Liberty

With Starcraft II: The Wings of Liberty being the popular behemoth all semi-popular behemoths would aspire to become and with this humblest of blogs being rather lackluster in its coverage of mainstream gaming, I really wouldn't suggest expecting this particular post to tell you whether you have to buy Starcraft II or not. I am, after all, far from the greatest admirer of real-time-strategy games you'll find online. And I'm not particularly good at them either.

Anyway. Thing is, I managed to rather easily finish the single-player campaign of the game, what with having opted for the medium difficulty setting, played a bit with the tutorials and custom maps, and can say that, yes, this is quite an impressive game indeed. But, really, you can read elsewhere about just how gorgeous, polished, perfectly balanced, well-designed, deep and enjoyable the thing is, as the internet seems to be filled with reviews praising the game and screaming about the subtlety with which it teaches you to be competent in multiplayer or the impressive variety of its mission. I wont argue with them. In fact I quite agree.

Starcraft II Jim Raynor

I really can't identify with this guy. Yes, despite the slightly similar beard. He's never heard of the Alabama Song.

I even agree with the more than a handful of people that find its storytelling -no matter how impressively presented- and characters deeply lacking. I simply don't feel I need to discuss such matters. They've been done to death. What I wanted to touch upon instead, is that, despite it being brilliant in so many ways and mightily addictive, Starcraft II failed to impress on quite a few levels, beside the storytelling one.

For starters the core gameplay feels incredibly archaic. I mean, I am quite aware of the fact that the original Starcraft was considered a masterpiece, but that was over a decade ago and certain game do, in fact, age. I do expect a modern RTS to at least allow my units to take cover and flank the enemy. I also want to actually think while playing and not keep trying to develop extra fingers, which seems to be SC II's main objective.

Starcraft 2

Click them, click them to DEATH!

Added to that and quite frankly shockingly the A.I. of the units is, at times, and bluntly put atrocious. Marines tend to get lost, SCVs stand and get murdered or simply do the wrong thing at the wrong time, making the amount of required micromanagement border on the unacceptable. Really, SC II does sometimes feel like a mouse-precision exercise, disguised as an action game, disguised as a strategy game featuring a banal yet captivating plot. Not particularly satisfying that.

As for the promised strategic element, well, it's quite laughable and not even close to the standards Medieval Total War set ages ago, which -once again- came as a disappointment. All strategic options, actually all two of them, barely matter and are there only to provide you with an incentive to spend some more quality time between missions and gawk at the exquisite and impressively detailed environments. Maybe even click a thing or two.

Oh, and I would have thought that rush techniques were so passé...

Related @ Gnome's Lair:

Aug 16, 2010

A session of Chill

Chill RPG

I hadn't played a proper roleplaying game for so long, I had almost forgotten what it feels like, which is kind of a shame as it feels pretty much brilliant; a fact of life I was reminded of a couple of days ago when I, the lady of the lair and my best friend went over to another friend's place for a few hours of Chill. A few hours that turned out to be, well, quite a bit more than a few and were even enjoyed by said lady who had -interestingly- never experienced an RPG before.

After all, we did get back home both slightly tipsy and at 4 o' clock in the morning, which made this feel like a most proper and mainstream of Saturday nights. Of course it wasn't. It was a night when we got recruited by SAVE (the Societas Argenti Viae Eternitata) to combat the Unknown somewhere in the snowy parts of northwestern USA, got to think, scheme, strategize, solve puzzles and combat a most disturbing entity with a taste for cannibals, while rolling dice, listening to atmospheric music, chatting (or, well, strongly disagreeing) about art and drinking a truly fine single malt whiskey. Yes, it was a fun, rewarding and most invigorating night, that reminded me that making time for the odd RPG session should become a priority. I was even reminded of what a great system and game world Chill has to offer.

Chill, you see, is a rather obscure, d100 based, tabletop RPG system that was published by Pacesetter and then Mayfair Games and has been out of print for over a decade. The game sports simple to learn core mechanics and focuses on what it does best: horror and intricate monsters, that each need to be killed in a particular nasty way, the discovery of which is always half the fun. A zombie for example has to be shot in the head, whereas a rakshasa can only be destroyed by any wound inflicted with an iron blowgun dart, that is fired from a blowgun made of bamboo that is at least 15 years old.

Intrigued? Good. You can (and frankly should) find out more about Chill via this RPGnet review, its Wikipedia page and this handy Chill FAQ. Better yet, why not grab the Chill books themselves? Mayfair Games is still selling a vastly discounted bundle of books and you can find everything you'll ever need to enjoy the game on either Amazon or eBay.

Related @ Gnome's Lair:

Aug 11, 2010

10 minutes with the Mafia II demo

Mafia II

I can't for the life of me remember whether I finished the original Mafia or not, but I can still be sure I absolutely loved this game. It oozed atmosphere, looked brilliant and sported a plot that was on a par with a decent mob film. Mafia may not have been the Godfather of video games, but it was both interesting and great fun to play through. Also, it was way better than any GTA you'd care to mention, and now it's about to get a sequel; the aptly named Mafia II, the demo of which I just finished. Not that it was a particularly hefty one mind, but I did get to play through one mission and get to ride around the game's city for 10 minutes or so.

Truth be said, you too can grab said demo via Steam, though I guess I could let you know what I thought of it. Well, it was good. And looked spectacular, easily recapturing the mood of the original as far as visuals are concerned. The texture of the world felt alright -it really is too early to properly judge- and the story quite promising. Importantly, the demo seemed to be quite demanding from the player too, following the notorious spirit of the original's difficulty levels. As for them new bits, the only thing that really stuck out was the shiny new cover system ,which deeply impressed me. I have, after all, never played Gears of War etc you know and still live in the Dark Ages of the shooting stuff genre.

Related @ Gnome's Lair:

Aug 9, 2010

XII Games: Infinity Bit

Vince Twelve of xii games has always been fond (also, capable) of weird, innovative and simultaneously excellent games like Anna and the impeccably named What Linus Bruckman Sees When His Eyes Are Closed. He's also developed a taste for what can roughly be described as point-and-click adventures, just like his upcoming, extremely promising and simply beautiful Resonance, and that is the reason why his latest creation, Infinity Bit, came as quite a surprise. It most obviously is not an adventure. Not by far.

What Infinity Bit actually is, can only loosely be described as a psychedelic, freeware, retro-esque platformer with flying, puzzle and exploration bits in it, that has been oddly crafted in AGS. In a blasphemous mood I'd even liken it to Manic Miner, though truth be said Infinity Bit could use better controls for the flying segments. Anyway. You can grab this fantastic little game here and then be smart and preorder a copy of Resonance.

Related @ Gnome's Lair:

Aug 6, 2010

Decker's Delight Links (6.Aug.10)

Ever since I've discovered the joys of Twitter and Facebook in spreading quality links them Decker's Delight Links have been mostly dormant. Well, not anymore dear readers, as here's a fine selection of some excellent and not necessarily new gaming related links to click on like maniacs. As for me, I'll be off to the lovely island of Hydra for a couple days.
So, what should I start with? Well, this Gamasutra article on horror game design should be of interest to gaming's intellectuals. People who actually create games will also find it most intriguing I suppose.
The Artful Gamer appeals to them old grey cells via his thought-provoking and I'd say insightful Games we Can Dwell Within - What is Interactive Space?
Retro-heads should instead follow this magnificent link to a ton of scanned Amiga magazines. Everything is obviously provided for free. Yes, even the rare CD32 magazines.
Speaking of free stuff, let us strike a pose of wisdom and wonder: Can piracy save the PC? Thankfully WoS has all the answers.
Braid, the poster child of mainstream indie gaming (huh?) definitely doesn't have all the answers as Game & Write explains in It Waits for You and Me, Boy., the indie adventure gaming hub on the other hand, explains that the latest fanmade King's Quest sequel could have been a little bit better by appropriately using the time-tested Silver Lining review method.
from the gutter may not emerge as often as it (?) used to, but this piece on gaming spaces (not virtual ones, mind) is quite brilliant.
Richard Cobbett, that wise journalist-person, has written something truly wise about the Comedy of Monkey Island, which prompted Spectre Collie, that wise gamecrafting-person, to pen the equally excellent À la recherche de LeChuck perdu.
As for the journalist-person collective that is RPS, they came up with something special too: an interview with Mr. Flight Simulation Genre himself in Stale Air and Stolen Thunder.
Pacian's Space Cat Rocket Ship is less about sims and more about the Wii in the best Shattered Memories review you'll ever read.
Anyway, back to the retro stuff, as the relatively young and obviously great Game & Write blog has some quality vintage home-computer posts on the Atari ST, the Amstrad CPC and the Acorn Electron.

As for Matty, well, he'd rather try and stay as objective as possible: Attack of the Zombie Monsters and why we all need to be more critical.

Twitts? Nope, just some Quick Links:

Aug 5, 2010

Zombie Cow Studios' Privates

Venereal diseases are definitely not funny, though -admittedly- Privates, despite being a game about said nasty diseases, is absolutely hilarious. And educational too in a really interesting and possibly successful way, that should appeal to the young (and older) people who its audience. Anyway, I wont tire you anymore. Just grab it now for it is free and created by the brilliant team of the Zombie Cow Studios.

And no, in case you were wondering, Privates is actually not a point-and-click adventure. It's a run and gun shooter-platformer with excellent graphics, interesting mechanics, great voice acting and almost fanatical devotion to good humour. It even sports marines with condom-hats. Brilliant!

Related @ Gnome's Lair:

Aug 4, 2010

Eye^Game^Candy: Dracula the Undead

Dracula Atari LynxDracula the UndeadDracula - The Undead (1992, Handmade Software) for the Atari Lynx was a truly unique game, as it was both the only proper graphic adventure released for the handheld and a game that wasn't afraid to use stylish monochromatic graphics. Shockingly, it remains unique to this day.

Retroaction 4 - The End?

It's neither easy nor cheap putting an emag together, but apparently Nreive did it again, and we can all now, in our perpetual state of blissful ignorance, download the excellent fourth issue of retro gaming mag Retroaction. It comes in zip, pdf and issuu formats, looks stunning, is free as always and covers everything the retro scene has to offer with its interviews, news-bits, features, regular columns, and reviews of both classic games and new productions for retro machines. It even sports a review of Zaku for the Atari Lynx and a huge Super Fighter Team interview by yours truly. Oh, and the definitive look at the commercial PC remake of the classic C64 Armalyte shmup.

On a less happy note though, this will be the last issue of Retroaction. At least for a while that is, as actually producing it has apparently been an uphill struggle. Still, you can expect the spirit of the magazine to live on through the brilliant Retroaction site itself and maybe -just maybe- return in some other (magazine) form when the stars are right.

Related @ Gnome's Lair:

Aug 3, 2010

How to drive traffic to your (quality, of course) gaming blog, site or even game


Admittedly Gnome's Lair isn't the biggest blog around as most of you may have noticed, but it does get some decent amounts of traffic, provided of course we all understand the importance of twelve individuals in their glorious and beautiful uniqueness. Anyway, thing is, I thought I might share a few of the ways I use to promote this very blog in order to help friends, fellow bloggers, game creators, dark collaborators and all sorts of lovely creative people drive more traffic to their gaming blogs, projects and/or games. Here goes:

First of all and besides google, I can't help but use twitter and facebook, which -to my shocked disgust- are actually fun little things in themselves. They also both make sure every time I post something someone will have a look and are also places where incredibly silly discussions can take place.

Then there's Stumble Upon. A handy link sharing web application that's incredibly easy to use and can at times herd the gaming masses to this humblest of lairs. And now for a tip: never just promote your stuff. Use Stumble Upon to share the links that you generally like and neither become nor behave like a spamer.

Same thing applies to Digg, which will either drive thousands of visitors to your site/blog/whatever or, well, two. Oh, and do ignore its obnoxious, mostly retarded community of adolescents.

As for N4G, this is a site that really demands you to invest time and actually contribute to it, but should one of your submitted stories get approved, you can expect a few hundred people clicking on your link. Besides, it's a great -if mostly mainstream- source of gaming news too.

Submitting stuff to delicious can also be helpful, as can be the more traditional techniques of guest-blogging and link exchanging, but those you know. Uhm, that's all really... Good luck everyone!

(Not) related @ Gnome's Lair:

Tidalis Review


There really isn't much to say here. Give the Tidalis demo a go and you'll immediately know whether this little indie puzzler is for you. Simple as that, really. I simply don't feel I have to actually provide you with a review of the thing. Wait! Here's the link you'll be needing.

After all, were I to review Tidalis, I'd just let you know that it's a puzzle game with obvious arcade elements that requires both a quick mind and quick reflexes. I'd also probably mention that it plays like an inspired cross between Tetris, Columns and those laser reflection games of yore, while sporting some decent chip-tunes, a slick, polished but not spectacular presentation (despite them beautiful backgrounds), excellent controls, and a ton of available options. Oh, and I'd probably mention Tidalis features a frantic multiplayer mode, a weird co-op thingy and an impressive amount of single-player options that actually -drastically too- change its very nature.

As for the fact that it comes with a built-in editor (editors to be precise, as Tidalis does indeed let you create anything you'd think will improve or change it enough for your, err, creation to be properly interesting), well, I guess I might mention it, provided I weren't too tired of mentioning all the little features the thing comes packed with.

What matters and would have mattered most would be one thing though; my verdict. Here it is then: Tidalis is an excellent and very polished action-puzzler, that impressively lets you decide how to play it, and you really should play it! You'll probably be too addicted to do anything else -or review it- for quite some time.

Better yet, let me rephrase this: TIDALIS IS AMAZING. BRILLIANT TOO. Oh, and it's available for Windows and OS X via a lot of online outlets including Steam, D2D and its very own and pretty official website.

Related @ Gnome's Lair:

Aug 2, 2010

Last chance to win Mr. Smoozles' love

After the disappointing results of the first -admittedly demanding- Gnome's Lair competition, I've decided to make things easier for you, and let you win one copy of the excellent indie arcade-adventure Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso without getting exhausted. All you have to do this time is leave a comment on this very post till Thursday (it will be the 5th of August). Simple as that. And you can still find out more about the great game on offer here and of course here, where you can also grab yourselves a free demo. The winner will be contacted via email.