Nov 29, 2011

Zenobi presents Behind Closed Doors 5

Zenobi has been a truly independent text adventure developer and publisher that has miraculously survived for over 20 years know, as any ZX Spectrum -and, indeed, Atari ST- adventurer will most probably tell you. Though it hasn't published a game in over 10 years, it is still offering its dozens of classic games on a DVD packed with interactive fiction, graphic adventures, one action game, scans of reviews and every emulator you could ask for. Quite a departure from tapes and disks apparently, and, what's more, its brave founder and creator of brilliantly surreal fantasy adventures, the Balrog (who was interviewed on Gnome's Lair some time ago), is still at the company's helm, and, incredibly, back to designing games too!

Yes, it's very much true, there's a new Zenobi text adventure available and it has been coded by the Balrog himself: Behind Closed Doors 5. You can download it for free over at the Balrog's Bits section of or follow this rather handy direct link. The game was created with Twine and is thus a point-and-click, choose-your-own-adventure type of affair, that brilliantly continues the proud tradition of the Behind Closed Doors series that began back in 1988. It is thus an elaborate, humorous, fantasy, toilet-centered affair and a tribute to Zenobi Software; to play it, you'll have to open the downloaded file with your browser. Oh, and there are some actual puzzles in there too.

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Nov 28, 2011

Melonade on a Couch: the Gnome's Lair interview

Ah, the dialectical motion of the world. It does lead to such intriguing and slightly ironic situations, doesn't it? I mean, it feels like only yesterday when I was interviewing the multi-talented game designer/visual artist Ben Chandler and then, suddenly, there I was being interviewed myself by the very same man. Why? Well, why not I suppose. You can read the whole interview over at the Hardy Developer's Journal.

I do go on about such profoundly deep and meaningful stuff as my deep inability to finish a game, the glories of indie creativity, a certain iOS project of mine, Gabriel Knight, favourite games, future projects, blogging and such astoundingly tedious stuff as my fascination with cities. I also say the following (consider this a teaser):

And that is why I’m currently working on some smaller and hopefully interesting projects (including one Wikileaks Stories text adventure sort of thing), but mainly focusing on a pretty big iOS game with a group of artists and programmers. 
I simply feel that games -a truly wide medium- can and should engage political themes. The mainstream is after all already bombarding the masses with the deeply political themes of imperialist war, militarism and crypto-fascism.  
Truth be said my obsession with cities has led me to playing such offerings as GTA IV and the SimCity series, only to be mildly disappointed by the fact that the vast majority of game designers seem unable to understand urban planning, let alone cities themselves.

Nov 25, 2011

Free Vintage Gaming Magazines

Something I've been preparing on and off for quite some time now is finally ready. Hooray, eh? Anyway. Just follow the link to the brand new Retro Gaming Magazines page on Gnome's Lair and once again enjoy those lovable vintage gaming mags. For free. Mind you, the page already features a rich selection and will also get constant updates whenever something intersting is discovered or pointed my way. Hope you enjoy it!

Nov 24, 2011

The Humble Introversion Bundle

Seeing as indie games bundles are showing up every other day and taking into consideration the fact that I'm not some sort of mega-blogging enterprise, I've decided to only mention the important ones. The ones I really care about, to be absolutely frank, and the latest Humble Bundle, the Humble Introversion Bundle, is indeed one such bundle. It's actually so great an offer and such a lovely chance to support one of the best and most ambitious indie developers around, I simply bought it despite owning each and every game on offer (in a shiny big box too).

Introversion, you see, is the first indie developer I was actually impressed by when ten years ago it released Uplink; the best and most atmospheric hacking game I've ever played. An amazingly intuitive affair that felt like proper hacking and one of the offerings bundled together in this pay-what-you-want offer.

You'll also be getting Darwinia, an innovative and brilliantly looking RTS set in the sentient pixel-world inside the computer of Sir Clive look-alike Dr. Sepulveda (that's two whole references for the price of one, mind), as well as its multiplayer sequel Multiwinia. Oh, yes, and Defcon too, and that's another excellent offering and a deceptively simple, yet incredibly deep, anti-war nuclear wargame.

Importantly, two prototypes are also thrown in for no extra charge. And though the Voxel Tech Demo is interesting but nothing ground-breaking, the Subversion City Generator is simply stunning. It's a procedural city generator that -on the fly- generates some truly realistic urban environments, that may be mostly random and very simple but do actually make geographic sense. It's such a shame that Subversion was put on hold...

What's more, should you chose to spend more than the average buyer you'll also be getting indie exploration classic Aquaria and that over-rated physics puzzler that is Crayon Physics Deluxe. As is customary, all the games are DRM-free, available for Windows, Mac and Linux, and even downloadable via Steam. So, uhm, here is the link again and here is the trailer:

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Nov 23, 2011

Dreadfleet: Not a Review

I was actually thinking of writing a review of Dreadfleet, the latest limited edition (was that really necessary?) board game by Games Workshop, but, thing is, I really can't. It's not a board game; it's a miniature wargame that comes in a box, and miniature wargames cannot be judged after one game. Nor after two for that matter. They really should be deeply explored and played to exhaustion till a concrete conclusion can be reached, and that, dear reader, is why I will not review Dreadfleet. I'm out of time and by the time I've fully made up my mind, chances are, the game will already have sold out. That's why I'll simply write down my impressions on the thing instead.

So, let's get the basic and pretty obvious stuff out of the way first. Dreadfleet is a fantasy, naval wargame set in the world of Warhammer that has been designed for two players, but can apparently be played by up to ten. It pits the Dreadfleet, five monstrous ships crewed by a variety undead captains and their minions, against the Grand Alliance, a five pirate ships fleet of men, elves and dwarfs. Everything comes in a lavish box, that you can grab over at the Games Workshop site for the not so modest price of £70.

Then again said box is indeed filled to the brim with 10 extremely detailed and downright stunning miniature ships, a selection of smaller vessels and sea monsters, dice, some beautiful islands and shipwrecks, a full-colour 98-pages long manual, rulers, quite a few extras and a truly stunning seascape - the board of sorts on which the two fleets get to battle it out.
Besides the obvious quality of the miniatures and seascape and the fact that the box contains everything you need to play -it really is a wargame in a box, and that does suit us time- and money-poor, former  Warhammer gamers- the setting is also very well written and thoroughly presented. It's a battle between all sorts of undead characters (and, yes, that does include both Skaven and an almost chaotic, but not Chaos, dwarf) under the command of a powerful Tomb King against a vengeful pirate and his unstable alliance, taking place on the waters of a turbulent, extra-dimensional, aquatic graveyard where everything that dies in the ocean ends up in. Each ship and captain are thoroughly detailed, and even the twelve available scenarios and the rules are compatible with the overall plot.

This does of course lead to some problems; the chaotic nature of the graveyard's winds for example makes for an overtly randomized wind direction, that definitely doesn't help with strategic planning. Then again the rules are incredibly easy to grasp and almost intuitive, especially for those that have already had some experience with either naval or miniature wargames. Also, and not unlike Warhammer, it's a game that's based on movement and -despite its strong random elements- ultimately relies on each player's tactical and strategic decisions.

Oh, and assembling the ships and islands is a pretty straightforward and relatively fast procedure. Properly painting and gluing them together is -as is customary- another matter entirely. 

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Nov 21, 2011

From the Mouth of the Indie Dev

50 excellent interviews with independent developers by the ever-inquisitive Steve Cook who has (most kindly) interrogated such creative masterminds as Locomalito, Ben Chandler, Adam Atomic, cactus, Gregory Weir and Loren Schmidt. Read them and be wiser.

Nov 18, 2011

Game Machines 1972-2012

The original Game.Machines: The encyclopedia of Consoles, handhelds & home computers 1972-2005 by Winnie Foster is one of the gaming books I've enjoyed the most. It is a richly illustrated, full-colour, excellently organized, well-written, well-researched and highly informative examination of gaming hardware covering everything from the 1972 Magnavox Odyssey and the Apple II to the Sega Dreamcast and the Sony PSP.

What's more, and besides classics such as the ZX Spectrum, the NES, the Sega MegaDrive or the Amiga 500 and contemporary offering like the Xbox and the Nintendo DS, a huge variety of obscure and rare machines are also getting detailed and visually lush entries that cover their history, games, accessories, various models and evolution. The Interton VC 4000, the Sharp MZ, the Entex Adventurevision, the Commodore C116, the Amstrad GX4000, the Sharp X68000, the IBM PC Jr, the iQue, the Pippin, the Nuon and the NEC PC-FX all get their pages and we (you and me reader, it's always you and me) get a glimpse at the wonderful history of gaming.

Enough with the name-dropping though. What actually matters is that for quite some time now the book has been out-of-print and thus selling for exorbitant prices over at eBay and Amazon and that GamePlan, the book's publisher, has prepared a brand new and updated edition of the book that will launch on the 5th of this very December. It will apparently be a bigger, better, 248-pages long version that will also cover our contemporary HD and iPhone-infested gaming era. You can preorder Game Machines 1972-2012 and find out more over at GamePlan Books

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Nov 16, 2011

The Cryptozookeeper Interview

Robb Sherwin, the man behind the excellent and lavishly illustrated Cryptozookeeper interactive fiction offering talks about designing text adventures, his latest creation, horribly mutated beasties and gaming. He also talks about his previous games and, well, you should really read on. And play this.

After more than ten years of creating quality interactive fiction, care to introduce yourself to the Gnome's Lair audience?

I'm Robb -- I live in Denver, Colorado with three cats and an Asteroids machine. I've been making text games for over ten years, and have won a couple awards here and there for them.

And how did you get into this most text-based form of digital entertainment?

Graham Nelson, who gave us Inform and the ability to make games for Infocom's Z-machine, wrote an introduction to programming Inform 6 that was the clearest and most approachable book on creating software that I had ever experienced. It all just clicked for me thanks to that book. I always had a fondness for text games, although I suppose if Graham had written a book on COBOL I'd be a ten-year veteran of payroll systems that have lots of dialogue.

Any favourites? Also, any favourite games that aren't text adventures / interactive fiction?

My favorite text games are Zork, Interstate Zero and something called Knight Orc, which modeled the awful, despicable behavior of players of an MMORPG long before there was such a thing. The non-text game I most wish I made is Mr. Do!, the arcade game from 1982 by Kazutoshi Ueda. I mean, I own a beach ball, night cap and problematic garden, but never thought to solve the latter with the first two.

So, why design interactive fiction?

To be honest, I don't have the math chops to be a very good solo programmer at other kinds of games. You know how in Asteroids, there is a 'mathematical' way to determine if the player's shot hits the jagged edge of an asteroid, instead of the programmer just putting an invisible rectangle around the rock and counting a hit when it's "close enough?" Me either, which is why I have been failing at making the simplest game possible with graphics for like a decade.

But one thing I can do is try to leverage the interactive stories I want to tell in front of a literate, tough audience, all within a genre I have nostalgia for. I can also do all the coding and art myself (which at times has its drawbacks) but still gives me the chance to present a world for players to experience. I love working in interactive fiction, and haven't felt I've approached all that I can do with it.

You have had more than a few successful and (very) well reviewed games such as Necrotic Drift and Fallacy of Dawn; care to briefly let us know what their unique features are? Besides great writing, that is.

I've tried to put at least one unique graphic in place for every single character and room that those games have. When I was playing early Infocom games, they were on a floppy disk with a single red light. And in some ways, just getting to new areas and seeing the disk light up was a reward in itself. Nobody uses floppy disks any more, but by giving each newly-discovered area a visual component, I've tried to mirror that feeling of exploration.

I've also tried to put some jokes in each game, which other text adventures definitely do, but my hope is that someone would want to play one of my games so they can also experience whatever comedic bits I've been working on the last few years, if that makes any sense.

Is there a game you've created and feel it's your best? Your proudest achievement perhaps?

I was flattered to win a couple XYZZY Awards for Fallacy of Dawn. I am still very much into the cyberpunk genre, and I think that cyberpunk has an amazing ability to still be relevant if the technology advances we see every few weeks are incorporated.

There was one thing that happened a couple years ago that made me proud, and it's not because I'm so great or anything; I only mention it because it meant a lot. I was at a vendor table with GET LAMP's Jason Scott at the Boston Penny Arcade Expo, and a guy, this stranger, bought a copy of Fallacy of Dawn. He told me that he really enjoyed the game. There was something about it happening in real life that really made it stick with me. It was like, I was able to get something *lasting* at PAX instead of avian flu.

On to your latest release then: Cryptozookeeper. How would you describe it?

I tried to put together a dialogue-rich, character-driven comedy that included every major beastie in the pseudo-science of cryptozoology. If the potential player really enjoys any of the jokes or lines in the first few moves, my intent is that the game will speak to them throughout on that wavelength. It also has graphics featuring these various crytpids that -- while looking completely made up -- tend to look more genuine than what's normally used as actual proof for them.

What would you say makes it special?

While there's standard adventure game things to do, like DNA to gather and people to talk to, there's also a mini-game in the middle that lets you fight and train the cryptids that you created. You can eventually venture forth with your own army of fantastic creatures. But really, the one thing I tried to do with Cryptozookeeper is design it with the intent that every small decision the player makes is defensible for the particular situation, while leaving it quite clear from a bird's eye view that the player character is going to a really dark place after those decisions add up.

It also has a number of extremely cute girls.

Any particular influences -gaming or otherwise- you'd care to mention?

There is a time in Colorado, from about the middle of October until the first week or so of November, where all the leaves start to fall and the temperatures start to drop. I usually put off getting any real exercise in the summer, so I try to make up for it in autumn. The air at this time gets very still, and the good people of the state are inside, for the most part. I'm a transplant -- I moved from New York in 1998 -- and this stillness, combined with the long stretches of flat land (to the east) and mountains (to the west) just fascinated me. What would it be like if, within this silence, there was all this terrible stuff going on? The game takes place in the dark, over three days, and I was really influenced by walking around this gorgeous state I live in at a time of year where the earth starts to go silent.

Why did you go for those lovably b-movie-ish graphics?

Well, cryptids are all mostly fake-looking when they hit the news, so I felt it was "in bounds" for the theme. But most of the actors in the game lived in far-away places. Gerrit Hamilton (who plays the player character) lives in Georgia. Alex Gray lives in Scotland, Jon Blask lives in Wisconsin... these are quality, but far-away places. The actors are therefore in front of a "green screen" or (more realistically) a "living room wall." I have to then put the actors in backdrops I shot in New Mexico and Colorado. I thought the best way to approach this was to embrace this with heavy outlines and custom Photoshop filters, as it let me work around competing light sources and such. But yeah, it was done out of necessity. Kevin Smith has said that "Clerks" was in black and white only because he couldn't afford to shoot it in color. I have to admit that if I could afford to fly the actors out to my city I would do so, heh.

Did you expect its popularity in the wider indie scene? Where would you attribute it?

Well, I think there has been a certain number of indie-only game blogs that I have yet to interest or get the attention of. I'm trying to get better about promoting my own stuff, but I am sure the e-mails I sent out came out as awkward or unprofessional. I'm all for demonizing marketing on forums like anyone else, but then, every few years, I finish a game and find I'm lacking the know-how to properly promote it. So that Crypto has received the attention it has -- I really am thankful. People have been kind to talk about it and review it. 

How did the boxed version do? I would love to see more interactive fiction commercially available in deluxe versions, mind. How come you decided to go for it?

Well, I had done boxes for Fallacy of Dawn and Necrotic Drift, and I personally wanted the third game in the series to exist as a physical item. I also really loved the music of Clint Hoagland (the guy behind Bachelor Machines) and I thought that teaming up, with one disc being Crypto and the other disc being selected tracks that he's created would make for a fun package. But really, I just needed something tangible to act as a proxy for all the time I spent making Cryptozookeeper. I had hopes that it would connect on the same level with people who like having a game they enjoyed in their hands. It's a shrinking set of people who like that sort of thing, and I don't know if I could justify doing a similar run for a game in the future.

Would you say that text adventures need to update their visuals and/or interfaces in order to approach a wider audience?

I think the biggest advance text games can make is in delaying the moment the player starts typing in swear words out of frustration, and getting games onto the web. I did neither of those things, so I naturally feel particularly qualified to speak as to how valuable they'd be.

For whatever reason, a modern game player will accept that his rocket launcher will not destroy the wooden door in front of him, but not accept that a text game hasn't implemented a Turning test-passing, natural language processor for talking to minor characters. That's OK - what text game developers might be able to do in the future to decrease frustation is to look at as many experiences as possible. Juhana Leinonen placed his latest game (Starborn) on the web and automatically recorded what people did as people played it. He ended up with hundreds of transcripts. It was brilliant. He then revised his game so that it was as smooth as possible for a new player who maybe isn't that into IF to play. I think if we can all learn how a game player's interest starts to fade from the illusion of a text adventure, it would really advance the genre more than better graphics or UIs would.

(Though I would love to make a game at some point that required those old red and blue 3D style glasses.)

Finally, is it text adventure or interactive fiction?

I like both terms, although I'm really more partial to just calling them "warez" because that makes us all sound like we belong at the cool kid's table. =)

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2011 Interactive Fiction Competition: The Results

All good things have to come to an end, though not necessarily to a vote proceeding said end as was the case with the 2011 Interactive Fiction Competition. Still, end it did, and you can now have a look at the results as voted by the stalwart text adventurers that selected the very best entries for our gaming pleasure. Apparently Taco Fiction, Six, The Play, Escape from Santaland and PataNoir were the five games that were rated the highest and probably the first you should play. You can download them all here.

Nov 15, 2011

Show me the (Royal) Indie Bundles (Sale)

The Indie Gaming Renaissance has already begun reader and we are apparently heading straight to the phase of the Indie Gaming Revolution, but let's not overexcite ourselves just yet. Better grab a cup of tea, take a deep breath, ponder on the desperate stagnation of mainstream gaming, count our pennies and go grab some of the best indie offerings for very cheap indeed. Apparently, it also is the Age of the Bundle! How very nice and crisis-sensitive.

The first bundle you should care about is none other than the second indie bundle by IndieRoyale -the brand new bundling site- that will be offering its aptly named the Difficult 2nd Bundle for the rest of this very day. Yes, I do suppose you should hurry over to IndieRoyale and spend the ridiculously humble amount of money asked in order to grab seven (!) glorious games for a few cents each. I also guess I should have blogged this a bit earlier. 

Among said seven offerings, you will find the excellent political strategy game Fate of the World (complete with DLC packs and soundtrack) I only recently reviewed, the amazing shooter that is Scoregasm, both Ben & Dan adventure games and indie darling NightSky. Sounds brilliant, doesn't it? Well, that's because it quite frankly is. 

Failing that (yes, I know, hours can fly by so fast and missing stuff online is ridiculously easy), you can always head over to the pretty excellent Show me the Games Sale and grab vastly discounted games safe in the knowledge that all the money will go to the developers themselves, thus furthering the indie cause. Or, well, aesthetic. What's more, you have thirteen whole days to make up your mind and choose the games of your liking.

Now, if you'd allow me, which -let's face it- you have no chance but to, I will suggest a few of the more interesting games on sale. So, there's excellent VVVVVV platformer which I loved and reviewed here, brilliant space strategy game AI War, action-puzzler Tidalis (review), Ultimate Play the Game homage Mr. Robot and the best tower defense variant I've ever played: Revenge of the Titans. Apparently you can also grab Frozen Synapse, which, despite being quite popular, I've yet to try.

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Nov 14, 2011

The Oneiropolis Compendium and Kohlrabian Dialecticus

The beautiful and most whimsical picture you see above will very soon be adorning the physical walls of this very lair. What's more, it's already accompanied by a most intriguing and excellently written bit of text, detailing Kohlrabian Dialecticus; a pretty amazing academic from the Lands of Dream, the fantasy setting where Jonas and Verena Kyratzes have already placed two of their excellent games (The Book of Living Magic and The Strange and Somewhat Sinister Tale of the House at Desert Bridge) and the setting of their most ambitious (upcoming) project yet. Rumours have it that a Lands of Dream book isn't too far off either...

Anyway. You can find out more about said game and the Lands of Dream themselves right here. While you are at it though, why not help uncover more of them magical Lands of Dream by supporting this truly unique indie developer? You might even get your very own, hand-painted, framed, fantasy picture mailed to you too.

Nov 12, 2011

Egress - The Test of STS-417

I really do love freeware (and not-so-freeware), indie, AGS-crafted adventures. I enjoy their imaginative takes on the genre, their unexpected themes, their wild puzzles, their sheer variety and their pixel art visuals that so nostalgically remind me of my gaming youth. It's only rarely though that I'm blown-away by their (relatively, to be precise) high-res graphics and lavish animated intros, and the newly released Egress has a pretty stunning opening cinematic. It sports some lovely, hand drawn, frame-by-frame 2D animation, and though short, it's even more impressively accompanied by a few ending sequences, to go along with the game's multiple endings. 

Eye candy aside, and there's quite a bit of it as Egress is very good looking first-person adventure indeed, this short sci-fi offering is a also a good and atmospheric game. Set in the outer reaches of space, it follows you, the commander of a two man recon team attacked by a weird black blob, as you explore a mysterious planet, search for you partner (his screaming is rather annoying apparently), try to figure out what's going on and, quite obviously, save yourself. All this with the help of a pretty standard interface and against some mostly easy but definitely enjoyable puzzles.

You can download Egress either from its very own, lovingly crafted site over at Krams Design (where you can also show your appreciation by donating and getting some excellent wallpapers as a reward) or via the AGS forums. The game is of course happily freeware.

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Nov 9, 2011

Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller

What do you mean you have no idea who Erica Reed is? Haven't you been following the lives of fictional FBI agents? Haven't you, at the very least, been developing any sort of extra-sensory abilities? No? Well, Erica has, but I guess we should start from the beginning. It will after all be the most sensible choice indeed.

So, Erica Reed then. She's one of them imaginary FBI agents and the star of forthcoming, episodic point-and-click adventure game Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller, that's currently being developed by Phoenix Online Studios; the same team that has brought us the excellent King's Quest fangame The Silver Lining. The game will apparently be a detective drama sporting serial killers and supernatural powers, impressive production values, excellent retro-esque graphics, hopefully interesting and evolving characters (Erica will have to solve both personal and professional problems) and intriguing mechanics.

Erica has been gifted with the power of post-cognition, you see, a power that allows her to touch an object and see its past, events that happened on, to, or around it, and I'm pretty sure that Jane Jensen would be more than able to weave some impressive puzzles and plot-threads around this. And, yes, by Jane Jensen I do mean the Jane Jensen of Gabriel Knight fame who is also working on the game. I'm thoroughly, impressed I am and that's why I'll be doing my best to support this game and, frankly, so should you.

You can help with the development of Cognition by supporting its Kickstarter campaign and consequently by pre-ordering the game and an excellent selection of most collectible goodies. Here's the trailer:

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Nov 8, 2011

Fate of the World: Tipping Point Review

Fate of the World: Tipping Point is a unique, deeply political, scientific and thus truly rare beast. It also is an indie game that plays a lot like a card game and is tasking you, the player, with saving the world. Well, humanity to be precise, as I'm pretty sure that the world will do just fine without us. Shockingly though, saving humanity does not involve fighting aliens with ridiculously sized guns or destroying hordes of zombies while exposing nefarious conspiracies. No. This time around it involves tackling real societal problems and their environmental and political consequences in a frighteningly realistic manner.

Fate of the World is after all based on the scientific and political theories of Prof. Myles Allen, and does an incredible job in transforming an apparently complex set of ideas into a game; not that I'm aware of the good professor's theory mind, but I've apparently been exposed to quite a few similar ones. The EU's official environmental policies do, for example, spring to mind: environmentalism mixed with moderate free market doctrines and capitalist developmental ideas... 

Problem is that such a profoundly political game cannot simply be judged as a mere piece of entertainment software. It should and will have to face political and scientific criticism and -happily- what with me being a geographer, there are a ton of things I disagree with. Now, I could tire both you and myself by providing an extensive critique, but I will simply stick to my key problems: a) the game seems to ignore the political importance of the masses, b) it considers capitalism as a natural and unchangeable socioeconomic reality, c) it fails to see such facts as the strong relationship of services and production and d) it is incredibly deterministic.

The typical gameplay screen is most atypical.
Now, this doesn't mean that the game isn't good or that it doesn't base itself on a sound scientific base. It's just that I couldn't help but notice a few things I strongly disagree with and mainly that generally irritating bourgeois, supposedly technocratic school of thought. It does make quite a few decent and generally accepted points though and I can't help but admit that some of the game's ideological problems might be attributed to the fact that turning a theory into something enjoyable, let alone playable, is very difficult indeed. But I really don't want to sound negative. Really. Fate of the World: Tipping Point is a great, deviously educational, rich and incredibly thought-provoking game.

I am, after all, most impressed with what Fate of the World actually achieves. It's an astoundingly simple to play strategy game that manages to be both deep and educational. Let me give you an example of play: you have to make sure that the living standards of Africa rise, while its carbon emissions fall; you thus buy agents for northern and southern Africa (each agent allows one card to be played in the region he/she is stationed); you buy and play an equal number of cards to your agents (cards are usually certain policies); you click the end turn button and hope for the best. Sadly Africa gets destroyed. Well, the first few times you tackle its problems at least.

Playing, you see, is easy and the mechanics straightforward. Understanding the consequences of your choices is another matter entirely and this is what makes the game such a brilliant offering. You could help industry, but damage the environment and them wages. You could go for supposedly eco-friendly fuel and somehow kill off the panda. You could educate people only to have them revolt (which does make a lot of sense) and so on and so forth. What's more you have a ton of scenarios and cards to play around with and a multitude of connections to discover. 

Oh, and if you already own the original Fate of the World, you should really upgrade it to Tipping Point. It features some apparently important updates and fixes, and two whole DLC packs. You can get the game and the upgrade pack right here.

Want to feel my wrath? Play these cards and wait.
Verdict: Despite some political shortcoming only a few will notice, this is an excellent strategy game, that can indeed educate on certain environmental truths. Definitely worth your time.

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Nov 7, 2011

King's Quest: The Silver Lining Episode 4

See what I did here? I said King's Quest, where clearly I weren't supposed to. Hah! Take that intellectual property. You didn't expect such a nasty blow, did you? Well, that's gnomes for you I suppose.

Anyway. All I actually wanted to do, was let my precious reader know that the fourth episode of indie, King's Quest inspired, polished, fully voice-acted and gloriously 3D adventure The Silver Lining has been released. It's the penultimate installment to the series in which king Graham finds himself in a race against time to collect the mystic ingredients for the spell that will save his children, while Valanice is struggling with her dark destiny. It's all dark and whimsical and you can download this episode or the complete series so far (if you, like me, haven't found the time to properly play through the series) over at The Silver Lining.

Before watching the trailer embedded below, let me just inform you that this episode will excitingly let you explore the Green Isles from the air, engage with a second playable character, enjoy new action sequences, solve more puzzles and even uncover some of Graham's secrets. Oh, and there's an interesting contest too. The game is of course 100% freeware.  

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Nov 2, 2011

Dead Hotel (on a lonely highway)

As I am semi-randomly and very slowly going through the 2011 Interactive Competition entries, I couldn't help but notice that Dead Hotel is the only game that has been specifically programmed to run as a proper executable for Windows using its very own engine. Out of respect for the extra and, for all I know, difficult effort I decide to give it a look. Didn't regret it, mind.

The game itself is a menu-driven affair, not dissimilar to Snatcher (sans graphics of course), that puts gamers (or should I say interactive readers?) in the shoes of a former policeman trapped in a hotel and facing a zombie apocalypse. Rather banal, I know, but it is pretty well written, though admittedly very short and obviously not quite complete. It's more of a demo really. A demo with some interesting and i-f compatible combat mechanics.

More importantly, it's like a demo of something really promising. The engine, you see, sports a lovely, retro-esque, chunky font, looks fine, can support such things as hit-points, combat and inventories, is fast and already features sound. With a few modifications and additions such as maps and graphics, it could end up being able to produce something really amazing, and I'm definitely looking forward to this. Not that I didn't enjoy the 15 minutes I spent with Dead Hotel...

You can download Dead Hotel, as well as the other IF Competition games, for free over here. Actually, you really should. There are more than a few gems waiting for your attention.

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Nov 1, 2011

The Dream Machine Chapter 3

Having already confessed my passionate and unconditionall love of The Dream Machine and despite the fact that it doesn't even know I exist, it's only fair that I happily let everyone know that the third chapter of this excellent adventure has just been released! Yes, it is indeed time to celebrate and find out what's going on on that surreal and rather oneiric cruise ship. Well, provided you've already played through the first two chapters, which, as I've already explained, is something you should do. Anyway. Simply visit the Dream Machine site and join the fun.