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Short Cut to Remote Gaming Forum (29 Aug 2020)
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What VIDEO GAME(s) have you been playing?
More digestible text descriptions of how this thing functions
A lot of my own understanding of how the game works relies on the understanding that we can treat the time direction as just another spatial dimension. That is to say, travelling forwards or backwards through time is equivalent to travelling along a third spatial dimension we'll call z. With that understanding, we extend the rules of how pieces move into this third dimension.
Let's take the rook again for example. The rook, as we mentioned before, can travel along either the x or y dimension. Now, with the addition of time, the rook can also optionally travel along the z dimension, i.e. into the past the future, but not in addition to another dimension. This part is critical in understanding some nuance to the game.
What could be more clear?
- I'm really fascinated how the game deals with leveling. Instead of just giving you more hit points as you pass gradually increasing XP thresholds, it gives you 1 skill point every 100 XP. This can be used to add to your modifiers in any of the 24 skills, or to unlock "thoughts," which are weird abstract stat buffs. There are limits on how many SP can be added to each skill, based on their corresponding stat, so you will never get great at a lot of skills that are supported by a weak stat.
- The way this interacts with skill checks is pretty cool, I think. Most checks are white, which means they can be attempted multiple times until you pass. But each failure will lock a test until you put another skill point in its corresponding skill. By the end I was actually banking skill points to use on particularly difficult checks. The becomes a challenge when you reach the limit on a particular skill, but that's where drugs and alcohol come in. They raise the limit on certain skills, while damaging you mentally or physically. I had an almost totally clean run, but I hit a particularly difficult check late in the game that required the skill Physical Instrument, where I had already hit my limit. So I couple swigs of booze, and I could raise the limit, use an SP, and then I was able to pass. I like this because it forces the player to think less in terms of "builds," and more in terms of what is necessary to get things done. It makes character building a lot less abstract. And of course as skills become more pronounced you begin to have internal monologues with the skills themselves, meaning that really unusual dialogs start to unspool before you.
- I suspect it will be quite rewarding to replay the game later, because there's a wide range of types of characters you can play. My character was extremely fragile physically, but was really strong in terms of emotional and logical faculties. So I was easily broken and had a lot of trouble with basic motor skills, but I was able to make a lot of really big leaps in logic and empathy, which opened up all sorts of alternate avenues to accomplishing things. Oh, and I was a Communist. Like, a big one.
- There is so much reading in this game. If that's a deal-breaker for you, fair warning. At one point I was in a conversation that lasted for about 45 minutes. It's well-written an frequently a delight to read, but there sure was a lot of it.
- I will not go into too much detail about the ending, but after finishing I thought it felt quite neat for such a weird elliptical narrative. It turns out this was partially because I had actually been pretty thorough and discovered a lot of facts that would otherwise have gone unnoticed or unremarked upon. There were also some very surreal turns at the end that I thought were just the right amount of weird, but would have felt totally inexplicable if you hadn't done some particular side quests. In other words, the murder that drives the plot is pretty clearly meant to be a means to an end, and the more out there stuff seems to be where the game's heart lies. It wants you to go down rabbit trails and embrace digression, and it rewards you for doing so.
- It's been remarked upon a lot, but this game is playing with a lot of ideas kicking around. I'm still processing some of it, but its obsession with politics, racism, and mortality makes it a particularly poignant game for 2020. As I said before, this is a game filled with empathy. While the character is free to accept or reject whatever ideas come their way, it does not shy away from darkness, and just when it seems like someone's ideas are sympathetic or repugnant, that person will do something to make you think, "good point, but you're still a jerk" or vice versa.
I really liked this game. Like, a lot. As I dig into CRPGs more I realize I was really longing for a game like this. It's not particularly difficult, there's no combat to speak of, and it is not stingy with XP or solvable quests. For as weird and intellectual as this game is, in the end it wants you to play. It is much more accessible than I expected, since the writing is so enjoyable and the mechanics are much more transparent than is often the case. Definitely worth your time and money if you have the inclination, and even if you don't you might be surprised.
Find keys, open doors, find the exit. Kill stuff. Upgrade your character's spells or weapons, perks, etc.
Very straight-forward, turn off your brain and blast away. It's good.
Bloodlines is an rpg/fps set in the Los Angeles of White Wolf's World of Darkness. Mostly vampires, but also a bit of werewolves, ghosts, and other weirdness in the game. This game first came out in 2004, and is based on the same game engine as Half-Life 2. A sequel is finally due either this year or next. Due to the variations in powers between the seven available clans of vampires, the game often offers multiple ways to solve each quest. So there are moderately complex dialogue trees that can include special options involving social skills or certain powers. There is sneaking, lockpicking, computer hacking, and stealth kills. And there is combat, involving HTH, melee weapons, and guns. The overall tone of the game is dark and violent, but there is a surprising amount of (dark and cynical) humor to be found, and some occasional puzzles that fit naturally into the game instead of feeling like grafted-on mini games. The World of Darkness has generally been portrayed as similar to our world but more goth and punk. In this game, Los Angeles gets a lot more rain, and there are vending machines for Demon Seed Cola in numerous locations. At certain locations, you can tune in to either a local tv station or a local radio station, and the commercials are amusing.
The game offers you a straight-forward character generation process involving points to spend on attributes, skills, and powers. Or you can take a short personality quiz and let the game serve up a character that represents your personal style. When I have played in the past, the personality quiz usually IDs me as either Gangrel (bestial survivor) or Malkavian (crazy but insightful). The Gangrel character is more likely to lose control and go into frenzy, while the Malkavian character gets weird dialogue option and is sometimes distracted by crazy whispering. The Malkavian also gets some unusual dialogue options as easter eggs, like the opportunity to have a conversation with a random street sign or television set. I have only come close to finishing the game once, and didn't quite make it due to the overwhelming combination of two immediately consecutive final battles.
I got motivated to finally play again because I accidentally noticed that somebody created a really good mod (Clan Quest) with ten new side-quests. One for each clan, plus three more for any vampire. They also seem to have polished up the animation of the game somewhat, or maybe it just looks better on my modern computer. I am still early into my new game, so I haven't seen any of the new quests yet, though I did come across a possible clue for one of them, along with some other minor additions.
My first significant mission involved breaking into a house occupied by some drug dealers. I was wary about this quest because I still remember that my very first character died on a dirty bathroom floor in that house. This time, I proceeded with great caution. I crept around in the darkness, taking note of each potential opponent that I could see outside or through the windows. I saw five dudes. When I finally made my move, I initially got double-teamed, then gradually picked off the rest. Didn't let my guard down even after I killed the fifth one. I left the guard dog alone in the fenced-in side yard, because that was new addition to the game that worried me, and also because I don't want to kill even fictional animals.
At the end of my last session, I had a run-in with some hospital security guards who called the cops. I spent about ten minutes hiding in a dark corner of the hospital basement while distant cops kept shouting at me to "come out with your hands up." I finally mustered the courage to sneak upstairs and out a side exit, and then opened a manhole lid so I could hide in the sewers for a while until the cops left the hospital. Good times.
Sounds really cool. It's an hour long free game that had been described to me as Obra Dinn but about 80s indie music instead of nautical murders or whatever. It's got all original music made by the guy too. Will report back once I have played through it but hey it's free, so you can check it out too if you want.
Seems like the kind of game you could go real hard on for a few days until you finally kick the habit.