Block’hood.

What happens when a design studio decides they want to take a stab at making a computer game? You get Block’hood.

The Plethora Project (or perhaps it’s “Plethora-Project”, they can’t make up their mind, and that annoys me), is a “design studio with a mission to accelerate computational literacy in the frame of Architecture and Design.” In 2017, they released Block’hood, a city building simulator video game that focuses on ideas of ecology, interdependence and decay. From the screenshots, it might resemble a tower building game, but it’s not. In Block’hood, you don’t create towers, but entire create ecosystems, called hoods, with the goal of making them self-sufficient.

I really like the premise of the game. It reminds me a lot of The Settlers series, of which I played a few of the titles for hours on end. The ecosystems in The Settlers are pretty basic compared to those in Block’hood, though. In The Settlers, you would plant some wheat, harvest, make flour at the mill, then a baker would make bread from one part flour, and one part water. An equivalent ecosystem in Block’hood would be similar, but involve a lot more components, or “blocks” as they are called in the game, and be more complex. Blocks in a Block’hood ecosystem more often than need several inputs to function, and produce both products and bi-products.

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The Confederate Express Mess.

Over the years, I’ve backed over 40 Kickstarter projects. Most of the them have delivered as promised, but Confederate Express turned out to be a spectacular failure.

The Confederate Express campaign launched on Kickstarter way back in 2013. The game was touted as “a strategy-oriented tactical RPG”, and the campaign launched with an impressive tech demo showing off the pixel art graphics engine. Confederate Express got mentioned by high traffic gaming sites like PC Gamer, and Destructoid, which undoubtedly boosted the campaign’s popularity. When it ended, 2,386 backers had pledged nearly $40,000. Several of the stretch goals were met, some of which drastically expanded the scope of the game. A small venture capital investment firm also threw some money at the game. With the extra money, the developer decided to use to expand the scope even further.

While the extra money sounded like a good idea in theory, it didn’t work out very well in practice. Adding more features means adding more complexity, and the addition funding wouldn’t be available until after the developers helped the VC firm finish another project. After Confederate Express was successfully funded in November 2013, little was heard until July 2014. The developer, now using the company name Kilobite, announced Knuckle Club. With that announcement came also the news that the development of Confederate Express had been postponed, citing “recent restructuring of Kilobite” as the cause. Kilobite also tried to get Knuckle Club funded through another Kickstarter campaign, but the site suspended the campaign before it reached $1,000.

By now, most of the backers were screaming bloody murder, and they started to dig around in the dirt to try to figure out was really going on. The media also got involved, and what they discovered was quite fascinating.

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Not Tonight: A Post-Brexit Dystopia.

Will Britain turn into a dystopian hell-hole when it leaves the EU? PanicBarn’s upcoming RPG Not Tonight depicts such a scenario, and some people aren’t particularly happy about it.

In a referendum on 23 June 2016, 51.9% of the participating UK electorate voted to leave the EU. On 29 March 2017, the UK government invoked Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union. The UK is thus due to leave the EU at midnight on 30 March 2019 CET. Those against Britain leaving the EU, preach doom, gloom, and the eventual downfall of the UK as an international superpower. The Brexiteers – those in favor of Brexit – see it as the only way to save the UK from being overrun, and sucked dry by the EU and its members.

The consequences of leaving the EU might be many for the brave Britons. Economy, immigration, higher education, academic research, and a metric fuckton of international agreements, are but a few things that will be affected by Brexit. The EU will also cancel 300,000 UK-owned .eu domains in the process. Exactly in what ways things will actually change, however, remains to be seen.

London-based developer PanicBarn is tinkering with a less-than-jolly scenario where Brexit talks have collapsed, an extreme far-right government has taken power. The result is Not Tonight, a “post-Brexit music road trip thriller”.

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Project Highrise.

The sky is the limit in SomaSim Game’s Project Highrise.

If you’ve been around for a while, you might be familiar with the 1994 simulation title SimTower. The Japanese game, which was published by the once great Maxis outside of Japan, allowed the player to construct and manage a modern, multi-use skyscraper. Even though I never really got the hang of it1, I loved SimTower. When Chicago based developer SomaSim released Project Highrise back in 2016, I got properly excited. The game behaved like SimTower’s older brother, but with an even more detailed simulation than its spiritual predecessor offered.

But I didn’t put on my hardhat, and entered the construction business immediately when Project Highrise was released. I had too much else on my plate, and the game’s art style put me off a little, to be honest. But when Project Highrise, and all its DLC appeared on sale last week, I couldn’t resist the temptation anymore. It was time to see if this was a skyscraper construction and management sim I could actually master.

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Stellaris 2.0 With Apocalypse.

Your favorite grand strategy game in space, Stellaris, recently received both a massive overhaul, and a new expansion. But was it for better or for worse?

It’s been about a year since my first Stellaris review, in which I gave the game a rock solid 94 out of 100 score. When our heroes at Paradox released Stellaris 2.0, and the accompanying Apocalypse expansion, I’d put a massive 83 hours into the game. That put it on par with Tropico 4 in terms of gameplay hours. Other players have racked thousands of hours in Stellaris, so a measly 83 might not sound like much compared to that. But for me, that number of hours put in a game show just how entertaining it really is. That the 83 hours only covers three games, 2 won, 1 forfeited, also says a lot about Stellaris’ longevity.

Paradox is well know for keeping their games alive by frequently releasing free patches, and new DLC. Crusader Kings 2 is a good example. The game was released in 2013, but it’s still updated by Paradox. It looks like Stellaris is no exception to that rule. Two years after its release, the game has received multiple patches, two major expansions, and several story packs. Even without buying the DLC, you get a lot from just patching the game. Me, I’m throwing all my money at Paradox, one of the very few companies I buy games and DLC from on release day.

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