Wednesday, 6 March 2013

FTL FTW Chapter 1

Greetings Humans, allow me to introduce (or reintroduce) one of my favorite games from last year: FTL.

For those that don't know FTL is a space ship game where you command the inner workings of your vessel rather than steer/shoot/avoid manually. You take your ship through a number of sectors, in which there are a number of jumps and a vast number of encounter possibilities where you decide what to do and, quite often end up in a dogfight against another ship. In short - it's awesome.

Recently a Total Computer Crash led to me needing to re-install this gem of a game and I immediately fell back into my obsession with its unique permadeath and rogue-like charms. Unfortunately I can't just play FTL, I have to live it, take it personally and feel every action I take.

I know there are a few diaries of FTL games out there but I've only seen a couple that I thought were engaging and kept my interest up until the end, so I thought maybe I should have a go.

So here goes, I hope you'll join me on the maiden voyage of the Kewinator (named after my friend and fellow blogger +Simon Kewin ).

A couple of other things I've done are to choose the Osprey hull layout. If you've not played with this ship design then you should know its special features are that you get 4 crew rather than the standard 3 and that you only start with a standard burst laser. Oh, but you do get a rather massive hull laser inbuilt into the ship. Coolness.

The difficulty level is Normal rather than Easy. It was tempting to go Easy because it's more likely I'll get to the end of the game and have a chance to win, but Normal is (usually) more threatening and exciting overall.

Finally I've renamed the crew after people I know, but their personalities are (mostly) different from how they are in this story, so I'm sure they won't mind (heh).

Right, so lets get started.

The Beginning

The Kewinator sat in its dock as the final diagnostics on its experimental weapon systems began. Richard sat with me in the cockpit as I checked our flight-plan for what must have been the 30th time.

Richard coughed tactfully, and because he was of the Mantis race, this caused a great torrent of snot to land on the flight monitor. I sighed and wiped it clean with my sleeve, making a mental note to burn my clothes later.

"Yes?" I asked.

"Well Captain", he started "We've been ready to leave for the last 30 minutes or so. Why haven't we departed yet?"

It was a good question. Was it nerves? Was it to prolong the anticipation? Was it that some unforseen force was taking screengrabs for a blog entry? Who knew, but he was right. It was time to engage the engines.

I engaged the intercom "Simon?" I said through the mic.

After a few moments the mechanical tones of the Engi filtered through the speaker. "Yes sir. All Systems Are Ready. Engines at optimal, Weapons at optimal, Shields at optimal, Doors at-"

"Shush you!" I said quickly "I don't need to know about the doors right now. How does Clive feel about the shields?"

I could only just make out the rumbling voice of Clive as he droned on for a few seconds but managed to make out his last word: "crappy." Awesome.

"Okay I've got it." I said, "So we need to upgrade as we go. We'll lookout for some merchants...if they're still in business I guess."

"Right, well strap yourselves in chaps. Richard, get yourself down to Weapons, Clive you get to shields. Simon, stay where you are in the engine room. Time to go..."

And with that we left the relative safety of the station and into the vastness of Sector 1.

Jump 1

I'd decided to take us on a round journey of the sector in order to visit as many locations as possible early on. This way we might find some easy pickings before we got to the later, more dangerous theory at least.

When we arrived at our first location the alarms went off immediately.

"What the dickins..." I started "Simon, what is that? Another ship?"

"No. A signal from the planet. It appears to be a single life form in distress. Should we investigate?"

"Yeah! Lets do it!" Said another voice over the comms. I could tell Richard was jumping up and down in excitement already. This meant that the weapons station would need sterilizing later. I instinctively didn't want to do whatever the battle ready Mantis would do so I decided for us not to go down to the planet.

"Not this time, " I said. "We'll leave the poor bugger down there for the next ship that's passing."

And with that I kicked the FTL drive back into action and jumped to the next beacon.

Jump 2

This beacon had absolutely nothing of interest. Simon introduced us to the world of Engi singing which he personally demonstrated via the intercom. During the performance I could hear a regular "thump, thump, thump" from the shield room which meant that Clive was either dancing to the music or bashing his head against the shield relays in order to drown out the music. If my head were made of stone I would have done the same.

Afterwards we all lied to him about how lovely his singing was. It's hard to know if he appreciated it.

We pushed onto the next beacon.

Jump 3

The sensors screamed at me again after this jump, but it turned out to just be an abandoned mining station on the nearby moon that had some residual power. Clive volunteered to go take a look, probably to avoid more of the singing.

Simon spent a few minutes under the pilot's console trying to fix the sensors. I went for a short walk and found Richard in the camera room, apparently doing "nothing".

Clive came back from the moon with some scrap and the designs for an anti-personnel drone. We don't have a drone module yet so we'll probably sell that when we can.

Jump 4

When we finished this jump the sensors were silent and I was about to breath a sigh of relief until I looked at the monitor and spotted a great hulking rockman scout right in front of us.

They hailed us.

"...Hello?" I asked tentatively.

"Hello, I hope it's not a bother..." they started. "But I'm looking for an escort to a nearby system. This region is quite dangerous and our ship is not well-armed."

I was contemplating the merits of telling a potential enemy that you were not well-armed when Clive suddenly joined in on the discussion.

"Steve? Steve, is that you?!" He said excitedly.

"...Clive?'s IS! Hey Pete, get a load of this. You'll never guess who's on that ship..."

Eventually we agreed to give them an escort because Clive was best man at Steve's brothers wedding a few cycles ago and apparently that's a bond you can't ignore. It earned us 3 fuel at least...

Jump 5

We hit a shop on our next jump. They had plenty to sell, including a drone control module. Simon was especially keen on this but we just didn't have the cash. I promised to buy one next time just to shut him up.

Steve and his crew bought some supplies. I'm not quite sure what rockmen eat but I swear the crates they gave Clive was shaking. I've decided not to follow it up just in case it becomes one of those things you can never un-learn.

I returned to the cockpit and started the next jump.

Jump 6

By now the sensors were working ok and I was able to scan an asteroid field nearby. At least it was only a small one and we hadn't jumped straight into the middle of it.

But someone else had!

"Naff Piloting skills" I muttered before hailing them

"Need any help?" I asked politely.

"Our Shields are down and I don't know how much longer we can last!"

"Ok, ok, calm down. We'll try and help." I said, hoping that it wouldn't take long and there'd be a decent reward for doing so.

I moved the ship slightly into the field and got Clive to keep track of the shields. Richard tried a few pot shots at the asteroids, but only managed to turn them into more, smaller asteroids to avoid. Some of them hit us but we managed to get the other ship out.

It turned out they were mining the asteroid field to which I said

"Mining an asteroid field?" I said incredulously.

They shrugged. "We'll be going back in soon, but we'll be fine this time" I was about to disagree when they pushed 22 scrap into my hands and 4 fuel. I blinked a few times as I took all that in.

"Yes, I'm sure you will be." I lied and got us out of there before we got into any more trouble.

Jump 7

We finally got to where Steve and Co. wanted to get to. They were suitably grateful for the help.

"Thanks." Steve said to me before turning back to Clive and showering him with all the praise as if he'd single-handedly pulled their ship with his teeth to the beacon.

I let them get on with it and visited the nearby shop instead. We couldn't afford any upgrades or new crew or anything. It hurt to be so poor still, but I wasn't sad that we'd avoided trouble so far.

Later we went to the rock ship for a party to say goodbye, except for Simon who doesn't like parties.

Jump 8

Despite our hurting heads from the earlier party we pressed on to our next beacon jump.

There was another store here. I mused that perhaps the reason the galaxy was in recession right now was because there where too many stores and not enough jobs to earn any scrap.

Without even consulting the crew I started the next jump.

Jump 9

The sensors really did go nuts this time and for good reason. A Mantis scout ship! What on earth was it doing here?

"Richard, get up here now!" I barked into the intercom. He quickly arrived and I pointed a shaking finger at the monitor "friends of yours?" I asked

"Pah, no ways." He said trying to be cool, but I could tell he was scared because his many eyes were blinking rapidly "probably just some punks looking for a fun kill. Just ignore them." I think he was suggesting we make a run for it.

"We can't ignore them Richard, they have a ship with guns. GUNS, you know?"

"Okay, okay, let me get back to weapons control and we'll aim for those guns you're so concerned about." he said and rushed out of the room

I could see the burst laser charging and I was itching to get the first shot off. As it was we both let off shots at the same time, Richard did a great job of knocking out their shields. They had aimed for our sensors instead which, in a nebular was a bit of an odd thing to do. We put it down to overconfidence.

Our next shots disabled their missile launcher and we cheered as they missed us with most of their shots.

We weren't in any immediate danger, but I couldn't wait for our main weapon to activate, it seemed to be taking years to warm up. Simon offered to go and look at it but the last thing we needed right now was one of his "ideas" in the middle of a battle!

Suddenly Richard was on the intercom "I've got fire. A FIRE people! Help!"

Where had that come from? Then I realized that when the sensor room had been knocked out it may have caught fire but we couldn't see because the sensors had been knocked out! Also our doors were very basic and wouldn't stop fire from spreading between rooms so we'd need to sort that out ASAP. I sent Clive in there to stomp it all out. He was strangely cheerful about it, he always enjoys a good fire. I then started opening doors everywhere in an attempt to purge oxygen and extinguish the fire.

While we were panicking about all of this the Kewinator itself decided we were doing a rubbish job and fired its beam-like siege weapon at the enemy, ripping it apart with unsettling ease. The sections of the Mantis ship gently drifted apart from each other, the crew floating out from between the tears, their silent screams sounding only in our minds.

We watched in silent amazement, admiration and fear from our monitors. The fires burned around Clive as he cleared his throat.

"That was...ok." He said gulping.

We made our repairs in silence, except for the occasional whine from Richard. I think the beam weapon may have overexcited him.

Jump 10

We'd made it to the edge of the sector. The Kewinator had proved its worth, its battle hardedness, its ability to look rude but still allow us to make friends with other ships but above all its ability to visit 3 shops and make no purchases.

Clive made an unusual visit to the bridge.

"Ullo" he said, "I've just head from Steve. He says the alliance fleet is only one jump behind us."

"That's the only lead we need." I said "In fact, I think we have time for a cuppa."

After a lovely cup of tea (Clive had Mexican coffee, the usual preference for Rockmen) I made final checks and jumped us to the next sector

Tune in next week for part 2 of FTL FTW!

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Kicking it - Kickstarters to watch in March 2013

Oh Kickstarter, how you've suddenly become a thing while I've been away.

I'm still not entirely sure what to think of the whole crowd funding thing, it all seems very open to abuse and far too influenced by emotion rather than careful consideration of the projects being offered.

However I certainly had an obsessive stretch of backing nearly anything I thought looked remotely good. So far I've backed 25 projects in total but I know I'm nowhere near the biggest philanthropists on there.

I'll probably be posting far more on this subject in future but for now I wanted to share some of the projects I'm considering backing this week (mostly PC game related)

*** Disclaimer *** These are not backing recommendations, instead they are just a list of Kickstarter projects that have caught my attention.


Dreamfall Chapters

While I'm finding the updates a bit spammy (I'm sure it helps get more backers) this game, the continuation of the Dreamfall series, really has me intrigued.

It looks great already and I'm planning to have a good play of the earlier games soon (I own at least one of them on Steam). I hear great things about the story so I really hope they don't disappoint

There Came An Echo

"Wheeeaaaton!" That is to say, Wil Wheaton of Star Trek, Big Bang Theory and The Guild fame is the star of this voice-controlled strategy game by Iridium software. Iridium really surprised me with the quite excellent Sequence last year (or was it the year before?) So I'm thrilled to see them making something even more ambitious.

With regards to the music I hate to say that I'm not a fan of Ronald Jenkees (don't hurt me!) But I do have several of Jimmy Hinson's BandCamp album releases, so that kind of balances out for me. I think this is an awesome project and don't doubt for a second that they'll hit their $90k target.

Game Tank

This is one of those "Dude, have you seen this?" Kind of projects. It's basically a large box with a comfy chair in where you can play your games in peace. Not sure how relevant it is to us PC gamers but I can see how this might work for some kind of "capsule hotel" equivalent for gaming cafes. Anyway, take a look:

I doubt I'll be backing that one, but I like it because it's crazy!

Got a kickstarter you're running? Or know of one I should talk about? Drop me a line about it! :)

Thursday, 28 February 2013

2 years later...

Hello everyone - did you miss us?

I'm back after 2 years of concentrating on game creation, for which I'm finally going full time for, I can now get some time to work on game reviews again!

I haven't been brave enough to check my inbox yet (which I haven't even looked at for a year!) So I apologize in advance if anyone has tried to get in touch.

News, reviews and tips/tricks articles are planned to restart soon, but in the meantime please check out what I've been doing all this time over at

I promise I haven't just been doing this:

Likewise I want to know what YOU have been up to and any games you've played recently that I should talk about (especially if you've made them!)

Speak to you all soon!

QUICK EMAIL UPDATE Hello all - just to say that I had well over 3000 emails waiting for me and because they were mostly junk I've had to build delete a load of stuff. I definitely spotted some valid emails as I was deleting stuff...oops

So if you contacted me for a review or news item or any other question I'm not being rude I promise! Send me another email and I'll do my best to get back to you ASAP!

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Battlefield 3 - First Gameplay Footage!

Here it is!

Well, there it was...
Once again the trailer doesn't show any where near as much stuff as we'd like it to. However, it's looking in good shape, Beta testing should be starting in the next few months and some more info should be released in the coming weeks. Rumours of another trailer are swimming about out there too! Hopefully the next one will be a bit longer, more in depth and hold our interest for a bit longer than 30 seconds.

Set for release in Autumn 2011 - Can't wait!

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Dead Space Review!

That's right, here's a review of Dead Space...1!

Oh yes, we're with the times here, totally up to date...okay, okay I'm about 2 years late with this but since Dead Space 2 got released a few days ago I decided to crack open my copy of the original and actually play the thing.

And this was my initial reaction.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Battlefield 3 Teaser Trailer!

Yes - You read it right a Battlefield 3 Teaser Trailer!

For something that's been so hush-hush, a trailer!? Oh boy, this is going to be great!

So, here it is:

...wait. That was it?

That's not a trailer; at most a helicopter exploded!


Well anyway. Here's something better to have a read about. It's been announced that they're reintroducing prone into the game. YES! PRONE! You can lie on the floor and stare at the worms again! Just like you missed being able to do!

They're also making it 64 player multiplayer as well! Bringing back jets from Battlefield 2. Those notorious bomber noobs will be back above you, raining down death (Or their own aircraft for those pilots which lack depth perception) on top of you.

They're using Frostbite 2 as their engine now, souped up from Battlefield Bad Company 2. Sounds like they're building back in the factors that they lost in Battlefield 2 from the progression to the first Frostbite engine.

We shall see you in the Battlefield (3) in Autumn 2011 soldier!

Indie Games from Get Games (go?)

Yesterday let the world know about a new service they're calling "Indie Games" (which is more of a description) where they hope to help out independent developers by giving them a bit more attention than other portals.

Currently they've got a promotion on with some of the games getting up to 75% off! Not too bad, and it also runs for a whole week up til Feb the 11th 2011.

Here's what else they had to say:
“With developers such as Croteam, Trine, Firefly, Bit Barons, Bumpkin Brothers, Revolution and Anima Games already signed up to the service, we are looking to add many more over the coming weeks and months as we expand this service for independent developers,” said Graeme Struthers, CEO at Get Games. “If you are an indie developer and you are interested in joining the Get Games service then we would love to hear from you and to add your games to our service.”
I had a quick look and already I can see some pretty good bargains like Clover: A curious tale at £2.99 and Zombie Driver for £3.50 (and of course, The Machine at £3.75) but there's 20 games on sale overall so worth a check!

Anything that helps independents has to be good news! Visit GetGamesGo here...

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II: Retribution - Wot?

Wot indeed. Warning, Ranty post ahead!

I recently had a few people ask me what I thought about this upcoming game from Relic on the back of their Open Beta invitation to anyone who's pre-ordered the game.

Dawn of War 2: Retribution is the next in a line of Real Time Strategy titles that Relic have created featuring squad based control (as opposed to the traditional single unit control method used in most other RTS titles.)

Unfortunately I'll not be participating in the beta because I'm as likely to buy DOW2:Retribution as I am to call up Warren Spector and tell him "Hey, I'm really glad you put universal ammo into Deus Ex 2. That was great work."
Let's not beat around the bush, my reasons for not pre-ordering are threefold...

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Interstellar Marines want you to believe!

More importantly they want you to give money to their cause in exchange for a promise, the promise being that they will release a completely awesome game...sometime in the future.

Do you wish to know more?

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Back to the wasteland! Fallout New Vegas Tips and Tricks

After well over 30 hours of wandering around this fast area I feel I am able to bestow some essential (or at least helpful) advice upon those of you who have just aquired Fallour New Vegas.