Thursday, April 25, 2013

Shut up and Take My Money: Knights of Pen and Paper + 1 Edition

Yeah, I have been waiting on this one for a while. Let's just say I was very happy to hear a while back when Paradox got involved as the publisher. A good match IMNSHO, but I am not here to talk about business dealing... no I am here to talk about a game (that I have not played, yet have watched videos of) as it reminds me of why people play games: to have fun.

KoP&P+1 (seriously, a better acronym is needed) looks to be a very fun game. Sure it has a plot, and cute mechanics and all that; but the entertainment value of this game is what draws me in... well that and the nostalgia force from many years of being a Pencil & Paper RPG nut. The game is already out now (for iPhones and other portable electronics) but I have been penitently waiting for the souped-up PC version that was forthcoming.

What appeals to me about this game, is how well it seems to capture some of the silly and weird things that can occur at a gaming table. Sure there are groups that like to be ultra serious; but this game better represents the lay gaming table. Just a group of friends and assorted hoodlums (and random little brothers) sitting around, talking, throwing down dice (never touch another man's dice!) and having fun.

As a longtime game-master (I prefer Game Operations Director myself), I definitely can relate to the allure of running games with homages to other source materials. Sure I personally never included TMNT variants in any of my campaigns, but I was inspired by outside sources on many occasions. To each their own.

What was the point of this blog post? No point really than simply to toss some nostalgic mumblings into the digital wind while I wait to sink my greedy teeth into this fine morsel.

Old yet Fun Games: Stronghold (1993)

Yes, Stronghold, the one from Strategic Simulations, Inc. No relation to the other game series with the same name. Stronghold is a kingdom building simulation set in a randomly generated D&D-style world. As this was from back in ye olde day when D&D and AD&D were separate things, the choices of 'class' were very fun: Mages, Clerics, Thieves, Fighters, Elves, Dwarves, and Halflings. That's right, Elves, Dwarves and Halflings were racial character classes in D&D for those who do not know.

Stronghold was a 2.5D game. When viewing each tile you would see a 2D bit of art for each building, and whatever units were milling abound on the screen. You had a limited amount of space thus in each individual map segment to work with, and resource management was very very important. Of course one could just play Elves and grow a forest to put Lothlórien to shame, but that is a story for another day.

The game was difficult to manage, as you had to go visit each and every segment of the map to upgrade and meddle with the buildings. However the game also had its good points. There were multiple paths to victory against the AI opponent, either through force of arms or just building till the map could not hold in the awesomeness of your empire anymore.

The 3D triangular graphics for the landscape were good enough for its time, but I am still fond of the other aspects of the art; specifically the buildings themselves.

Alas the game has not aged well, I am not certain how many people would be willing to spend the time to meddle with the clunky interface. However others may find a hidden gem in this title, if they can muster up the courage to give it a whirl.

Why is this game important? While it never got a sequel, in my opinion it did have an influence on games of this type that were to follow. It was one of the first games that I recall where a player chould shift the focus of their resource management between three different options (Building, Training and Recruiting). It was damn addictive back in the day and I have many fond memories of playing it into the wee hours of the night.

Take of this what you will.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Banished: Markets and Education

Amusingly enough, just as I was submitting my previous blog entry, a new video for Banished was released on YouTube. Watch it below.

Personally I find the education system being employed in Banished to be very interesting. A more well-educated workforce being more productive (and presumably less wasteful) to allow for larger settlements. Very sensible way to handle it as well, as a form of education over time. Like everything else in the game, educating your populace to a desirable level will take time and, possibly, many generations to get to an ideal level perhaps. Very fun.

The functioning of the marketplace is also quite interesting. Taking the discrete resources from different parts of the settlement and making a wider selection more commonly available? This is an attention to detail that I wish more games had at times.

Very fond of the ability to pause construction as well. Should come in handy.

Oh yeah, the links (again)

Banished: Still in Alpha, looks better than many games at Launch

Greetings all, today I am going to talk a bit about an upcoming game from Shining Rock Software called Banished. This is a game that I believe I stumbled upon thanks to the wonders of YouTube, in the recommended video links I saw the lovely trailer that will be embedded below. As you watch, please take into account that this is Alpha footage from May 20th 2013.


As you can see, Banished is a city-building game that is already looking rather impressive. Thus far in terms of total sum information, a lot is already known. The developer has been making regular blog posts on their site for the last couple of years, chronicling the stages of development up until this point. While I drum up a list of some of the awesome features the game is boasting, check out this recent (again Alpha footage) gameplay/building demo.

Features of Banished: Even though the game is in Alpha, it is nearly feature complete, as the developer behind the game has a good grasp of what Alpha and Beta stages of software are really supposed to mean. Here is a short but sweet list of some of the features I find most impressive.
  • Disease: Yeah, an odd one to start with, neh? But you have to worry about your civilians getting sick and dying. Interacting with traders from off-map is a worry thus, as they can import more than just their goods when they come a-visiting. Same problem (presumably) when new migrants arrive.
  • People are a Resource: It looks like each and every entity in your settlement has a name. They seem to develop family units and live in houses and, unlike in a certain recent city building game, you can follow an individual around, see their profession, etc. It really sucks when one of your people dies in Banished, because it takes time to replace them. That's right, natural population growth via the old-fashioned method of breeding.
  • Real Consequences for Actions: Want more firewood? Cut down some trees. However the deer that used to live there (that you could hunt for venison) no longer have a home. Want to mine out an area for more stone? Say goodbye to ever using that plot of land for something else again. Farm the same bit of land too often with the same crop? Leech the nutrients out of the soil and ruin the soil. Overfishing? Check.
  • Eighteen (18!) Different Professions: Laborer, Hunter, Vendor, Builder, Woodcutter, Trader, Farmer, Forester, Miner, Herdsman, Stonecutter, Blacksmith, Gatherer, Herbalist, Teacher, Fisherman, Tailor and Physician. Yup, a good list.
Banished, a survival sim crossed with a medieval-tech era city builder. If you are still reading this, go check out the information on the official site and swing by the community forum at: