Wednesday, 13 November 2013

EVE: Get Offa My Land!!

Well it finally happened, after much waiting and debating our corp finally hauled it’s collective asses down to nullsec! This area of space is often referred to by many EVE players as ‘where the money is’ and so as something of an exploration fan I have been seriously looking forward to getting my hands on some decent ruins to explore and databases to raid.

This friends is an intergalatic piggy bank. Pass me my space hammer!

With every packed up and ready to be shipped the first challenge that presented itself was exactly how to get down there in the 1st place, to which our CEO simply responded ‘Oh that’s easy just kill yourself’. Lo and behold I was able to move my clone over to a station in null and then simply self-destruct. So that was my first hurdle overcome, the second one was a tad harder, all my stuff was in high and would not be able to be freighted down until things had settled. Again, through another stroke of luck (and admittedly some very fast flying) I was able to fit a basic exploration heron. So my Adventures began…………

Within 5 minutes I had already tracked down an untouched relic site, despite a few mistakes (of the making ruins explode variety) 5 minutes later I had finished that site and was heading to the next. On route to another system I thought I would check my estimated cargo value 50 million, I did a double take, 50 mil from a single site, this was 3 times my highest ever take in high sec! Truly it appeared Null-sec was truly the land of milk, honey and power circuits!

However it was not to last, merrily scanning away as I was I noticed I was being hailed by some friendlies, who (once I had responded) promptly told me to ‘Get of their land!’. Not wanting to cause a scene, I profusely apologised and explained I did not know this was their turf (while admittedly finishing the hack I was midway through). Chalking it up to my newbieness I went on my way and lo and behold a few systems on another group told me to sling my hook.

Like that when I got here
Juuuuuuuuussst leaving system, give me a few secs!

‘Right’ thinks I, ‘I will just stick to systems with no-one in’. So again off I go finding empty systems and appropriating whatever I could find. All told I managed to make about 490million over the course of a couple of days and so at least, despite my run-ins with grumpy landowners in tengus, this looked profitable.

Just leaving system
Not only are these sites valuable, they are pretty too!

However this was also not to last, merrily scanning down in an empty system someone pops in and politely asks me to leave. This person seeming the more affable type I asked them to explain why. ‘Oh don’t you know, the alliances around here stick to scanning in their own systems.’ At least I now had a sort of answer rather than the old rocking-chair, shotgun, tengu approach. Although this now leaves me with a bigger problem, our alliance is a small old thing and I can scan down our 5/6 systems in about an hour or so, so what do I do with the rest of the time?

I stayed with EVE because I got hooked on exploration, just for the shear freedom it offered. Rock up, fire your probes and race to the sites. Someone beats you there, tough, they got lucky, but you’ll get there next time. This whole parochial approach to scanning, while understandable (people need the isk to pay their system rent) does seem to go against the pioneering spirit.

I am still waiting for my covert ops skill to finish, but once that’s done I think its wormholes for me. At least it truly it no-mans land there and the worst they can do is blow you up, as opposed to politely asking you to leave! In the meantime I think I will sit around and play with planetary interaction. Wonder if I can name a planet……………………………….

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Tropico 4: Help Help, I'm (not) being repressed!

 Talking to the people

Life as the dictator of a banana republic is never as easy as it appears from afar, or that is the impression of my girlfriend and I each time we sit down to play Tropico 4. It has become, for us, a game that we sit down and play together a couple of times a week as we chat, unwind and debate whether we really need to assassinate the Mafia Dons currently infesting our Island.

On the whole we have never really gotten the hang of the oppression of the people thing, in fact debates often rage over whether we should build more housing, hospitals or stabilise the economy with some factories. We have never established an inquisition, ordered a book banning or arrested more than 4 people without evidence. 

Humble start
That's not a housing crisis.........

In fact between the two of us we try to create an island paradise for our people and only when things have become stable do we start to skim a little something of off the top. I would guess our style of play has a lot to do with our motivations for playing, we are both keen city-builders and are looking for something to fill the void left behind by games such as Zeus and the old-style Sim City Games.

Tropico has an affable light heartedness which we find very endearing, but this is supported by a series of mechanics that force us to make tougher choices with each subsequent mission. At present our big debates tend to be around housing and whether my cram-as-many-as-you-can approach can really be considered inhuman, when there is limited space available or exactly how much we can afford to spend on cleaning up the oil spill off our coast.

The biggest threats to our regime tend to come from Tsunamis, hurricanes and volcanos, rather than uprisings of the masses. However as the missions have progressed it has become harder and harder to stick on the dictatorial straight and narrow. The increase in natural disasters and external political pressures has begun to force us to make really hard choices about what to rebuild after the latest catastrophe, sure our people do need houses, but surely they can last a few years in shacks while we replace that factory. Continual complaining from various faction leaders (I am looking at you Sunny Flowers) is starting to make the ‘arrange an accident’ seem mighty tempting, after all an ‘accident’ means no repercussions so why not?

Mighty empire
I think the church has had a new idea............. sure prohibition sounds great!

It will be interesting to see how the rest of the game pans out for us, will there come a point where we actually ban elections in order to save our regime or can we continue with our utopia approach? We have already begun to manufacture weapons (purely for home and recreational purposes) in order to support our island’s economy, while we get our tourism up and running (the main source of our income within the game). Is this going to lead to us oppressing our people (in the short term obviously) in order to create our perfect little Island in the long run?

One thing is for sure, it’s going to be fun finding out!

You can pick up Tropico 4 for a modest price on steam.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Card Hunter: A game about a game.

In between stripping wallpaper, painting and trying to move all my goods in eve halfway across the galaxy for our deployment to null, I accidently stumbled upon this little gem.
Card Hunter is a browser-based RPG card-game unlike anything I have played previously. The premise is that you and your friend Gary decide to play a game of his brother’s (the titular Card Hunter), do not worry, you are not magically sucked in to the game as it becomes reality. In fact the game sticks with the concept of playing a game at a mate’s house and runs with it.

The game may have a few tongue-in-cheek steriotypes.

You start by creating a single adventurer (and for once I did not call mine Brian) and go through some basic adventures. Each adventure is composed of a number of battles taking place on a board, complete with cardboard heroes and monsters to move about. Each turn you play a card for your hero which indicates the action you will take, for example a run card will allow you to move 3 spaces. Turns alternate card by card until both players pass in succession, at this point new cards are drawn and play continues.

The sheer range of cards and the abilities that they confer keeps play fresh and exciting as you never know when you may find that powerful card in your deck or have to think on your feet as you draw a hand of movement cards. The cards available are tied directly in to the equipment you are wearing and it is here that another level of strategy comes in to play. Your characters have a number of equipment slots (weapons, armour, items etc,) that increase in number as the heroes gain levels. You need to think seriously about the equipment in each slot, if you are up against a large number of weak monsters then you will want to think about weapons which add chop cards (which attack multiple enemies) or staves which add spells with blast radiuses to your deck.

Larry the Lizardman was in for a bad day at the gaming table!

Even going through the low level quests I have had to change my equipment (and thus my deck) several times as I needed more healing spells, different types of weapon damage and alternate support spells to succeed. This need for strategy ties in nicely with the loot system within the game, chests with random items drop at the end of the battle and better quality chests drop at the end of an adventure (series of battles). There is always a chance for that rare find even in the lowliest of chests and this helps to make every battle feel both important and rewarding. Excess loot can be sold at shops in order to purchase alternative equipment, although the conversion rate makes adventuring your prime source of new gear, with the shop supplying specialist pieces.

On the theme of shops, the game itself is free to play, but there is the option of paying to obtain the games secondary currency, pizza slices! These can be used to unlock adventures, different character models or to purchase club membership. There is the option to purchase a starter kit, which provides you with 11 treasure hunt adventures (each guaranteeing an epic item), a range of character models, some pizza slices and a month’s club-membership for the price of a mid-range game (about £20). Club membership provides extra loot drops on each adventure for the duration of your membership, similar to a subscription system.

That being said the in-game purchase options do not seem particularly intrusive or excessive; it is quite possible to play this game without paying any money and have a great time. The only real limitation is the lack of co-operative play, you control 3 heroes on an adventure and the setup seems perfect to all people to join your adventure and fight against the GM together. However this option is not within the game….. yet. There is a multiplayer competitive element to the game, but at this point in time I admit I am too absorbed on my latest adventure to attempt to fight real people. Apparently this village needs saving from some walking corpses………… How hard can it be? Cue repeated dying, time for a deck reshuffle!