My First Prison

17 08 2016

Handcuffs

Let me just start off by letting you know that I have never actually been to Prison. I have had a few tours around Lancaster Castle and once designed a prison map in Unreal Tournament 2004, but no, I have never actually been locked up in some prison somewhere. What the above title is actually phrasing is this:

Prison Architect

Since about September 2014, one game on Steam I have always found myself returning to play one way or another is Prison Architect; a game where you; the player receives the opportunity to build and run your own prison. Why you would actually want to is really up to you to decipher, but as a game goes, this actually rather fun and one I have played on and off for 200+ hours now; it’s the one game I have spent more time playing than anything else in my Steam Library. Anyway, to cut a long story short, about this time last year I began (voluntarily) writing for a Video Games website, and though was rather fun and really enjoyable; my time there on the whole was actually quite short, and one thing I really wanted to write for the website was a guide from an experienced player on how to build, or at least start your first prison in Prison Architect. So, a few weeks ago I re-installed Prison Architect (again), and set to work capturing some images, and coming up with a plan as how best to explain/demonstrate how to go about getting your foot on the ladder in the prison construction world (I should just note that while the game does have some scenarios to help you get started, most the in-game scenarios are only rather for learning about specific situations).

PA2

When you launch a brand new prison, you will discover that all there is, is a large plot of land dominated mostly by trees. As the game begins a couple of lorry’s will come down the nearby road ferrying workmen and materials free of charge to go into building your new prison from scratch. To begin with you have a few free things but not much, and in total have no more than $30,035, a strange amount yes, but that’s what you have to work with. My first tip is to pause the game speed, as you will need some time to think about how you want to approach the construction. You may also want to turn your prisoner intake to closed (click on the box below the clock and a menu will open with several options including Staff, Grants, Prisoners and Intake to name but a few you can click on, choose intake and set to closed), just so you don’t receive any convicts out of the blue when your prison is not ready yet. Now, to business:

PA12

The first thing I want you to consider is that the game title says Prison Architect, obviously. While the game may be about construction and then later administration of a Prison, to begin with I would only take notice of the word Architect. Before any building’s construction is started, an Architect has to plan out the building. Probably the game’s most useful tool is the Planning tool on the lower toolbar. This button will give you access to some drawing tools, use these to design your prison. Using the drawing/planning tool is a great way to start off any prison. Use this tool to decide where the walls are going to be, where the walls to your rooms are going to be, how it’s all going to fit together. You can decide to design your entire Prison right here right now if you want to, but right now let’s focus on the basics.

PA4

Like any great plan, there needs to be direction and an outcome. With an empty plot of land, you can pretty much do anything you want; but to get your prison going, you are going to need some basics and a checklist. In your first few games, the one thing that is more your friend than anything else, is the Grants page, on here there is a list of objectives which provide and reward you with money for starting and completing them. In this instance, what you want is the option to build a basic detention centre. So firstly open the page (click on the money sign at the top of the page for quick opening) and choose that grant, to which you will be awarded some more money. Now that you have a little bit more cash and a plan, it’s now time to draw then build your prison.

PA11

What I would start with more than anything else is to draw a square around the perimeter of your land so that you can at least have a scope of where the outer perimeter wall is to be. Now for some reason, the game won’t allow you to build a wall on the very outer edge of the current plot of land, so if you design it to be one square in, around, you shouldn’t have too much of a problem. As with most of the games planning and construction tools, choose a location to where to start from, then quite simply click, hold and drag out as far as you want, then let go. Then, if you go to the top of the map next to the road, and on the left hand side of the map, attached to the wall, plan out where you are going to build your storage room and power plants. Now as ever with this tutorial, you can build where ever you want to, it’s just that from my experience, if you allow your prisoners to be delivered on the very edge of the map, they have more chance to escape once delivered. The more middle the delivery point is, the more you may be able to prevent escapes. When designing the store-room, a good thin-ish rectangle I find is a good way to do it, and then next to that, build a similar sized, but not as long rectangle to be the power room. The storage room as suggested is where you store your materials, and the power room is where power for the prison, (plus water too if you do it like me) is supplied from.

PA13Once you have planned those out, it may be a good idea, to build a new delivery spot next to the road, but outside the storage room just for easy delivery and storage. Just like any building designation in the game, all you do is click and hold on a part of land or a building where you want it to be then dragging it to its optimum size and space. From that point forward, that area is designated a delivery zone, and will remain so unless changed. Any other delivery areas should wisely be removed by the same process but right clicking and holding instead of left clicking and holding. On this map, I have also done the same for Garbage and Exports at the bottom of the map, this is just so Garbage and Exports can be dealt with and removed quicker. Once you have those designs in place, you can then get your workers to earn their pay checks, by choosing the Foundations icon, then selecting the brick wall option, then holding and dragging over the spaces you have designed, then letting go when it has reached its optimum space. Then (remembering to un-pause the game to allow it of course) all you do is let your workers get to work building that section of your Prison.

PA5

While that is happening, it may be time to let you know how to put Objects in your Prison. On the lower toolbar, there is an objects button, opening this will allow you to see the range of objects you can put in your prison. To do this, all you do is select the one you want, and click on wherever you want it installed to install it. I say this now, as while your rooms get built, you will need to put some doors in to allow construction to be completed; so as your workmen get to work, choose some doors to put in, for this I would suggest using Staff Doors, then rotate them using the ‘R key’ if you need to, then place them directly over a wall, and click them into position. It’s the same with all objects, (although, only doors need to be placed on walls), and, once those buildings are completed, you will need to fill in any gaps where walls should be; and then using your new object adding skills, install your power generator, some capacitors directly next to the generator, and nearby a water pumping machine, plus some cables to power the room lights, and the pumping machine.

PA6

Now that you have the basics, things get a bit quicker from here (he says confidently). Nearby to your new delivery site, start planning where your inmates will be living, eating, exercising and showering when the first batch turn up. For this you will need to plan and build where you are going to build your Holding Cell, Shower, Yard, Canteen and Kitchen.

PA7

My advice would be, to build the holding cell practically right next to your delivery spot, as this way prisoners can be admitted quickly into your prison system without too much of a hitch. The Holding Cell needs to be pretty big as it needs to accommodate plenty of prisoners at least just until some proper cells are ready for them. Next to that, or at least nearby, build a small shower block, and a small canteen. Remember the Yard needs to be outdoors, but also still needs to be entirely surrounded to prevent escapes. Some things these new rooms and yard will require include Benches, Tables, Serving Tables, Shower Heads and of course Toilets. Installing all of these objects is the same as before, but for a toilet to work it needs Water. To do this you will need to connect pipes from the Pumping Station to your Toilets. It works the same way as laying electrical cables and most objects though, so it’s pretty easy. Then just as before, let the builders do their job and designate room space just as before.

PA8

Doing a kitchen is pretty similar; however, I would locate it near the storage room, one for Staff safety, and two, for ease of cooking. From here on, building rooms and installing objects gets pretty samey really. Just build it and plug them all in. From there, all you need to do is hire some guards to handle with the cons, and some cooks to handle the food. To do this, choose the staff tool on the tool page, pick the required person, and then click them into life. Once you have met all the requirements of the grant, you will receive some more cash plus have all the basics to start your prison and receive prisoners, so, set your prison to the required level of prisoner intake and then get ready to punish some cons.

PA9

From here on it pretty much comes down to whatever you want to do with your prison. If you run short on cash or need some direction, pick a grant and get to work. If you want you can personalise your prison with some floor materials or add some fun things for both staff and prisoners, but from here, it’s all really up to you. So, I hope this was both understandable and helpful, as you go out into the big wide world of Prison Construction, Management and Architecture.

PA1

GENEPOOL





The Lost Reviews – Turmoil

3 08 2016

Turmoil (Gamious - 2016)

What is one way to get an insight into other forms of work while also enriching your television viewing experience? Why none other than the Discovery Channel. For many years now the channel has been a showcase for many varieties of TV shows which depict ordinary people exploring other avenues of work that you or I probably would not consider, other than possibly to get rich and famous as quickly as possible. Shows in this line include of course Deadliest Catch, to more recent programming like Gold Rush and Gold Divers. Now while it may not be the case that you or I would consider going down these routes of work, I have recently been playing a game on Steam that I find is very similar. There is no war, no guns, no racing; just lots and lots of Oil.

Turmoil 3

Turmoil (by Gamious) is a cross between a tycoon simulator and a puzzle game, where you play one of four characters who are trying to get rich quickly in the Wild West by drilling for oil. To begin with, you are given some cash and a free plot of land to drill for oil. Initially you can only work for a few months before the level ends. As time goes past however you may work many more months in the game to a whole year. As the game progresses further you will experience different areas of land such as snow and desert, and realise that there are other resources than simply oil to dig for.

Turmoil 5

The game is relatively simple to play; it uses a nice combination of mouse and hotkeys (if you prefer) for controls, while each level is a flat, 2D image of a plot of land. To begin with you only have a few resources, and have to rely on Dowsers to find Oil, when they have found a spot, they jump for joy and tell you where you can roughly find the spot. From here it is up to you. Initially you will need at least one horse-drawn Wagon of which to transport your oil to prospective purchasers, and will also need to construct a Rig to get the oil out of the ground (one or two Silos probably wouldn’t go amiss either). From there it is up to the machines to pump it out, and the wagons to collect the oil. On each side of the map there is a factory, to whom you can sell your oil too. But be careful, for if you send the oil to them when the price is low, you are not going to get much for it. As the level progresses, prices go up and down, more oil can be revealed, and more money can be made, but once the level is up, that’s it! Any remaining patches, or oil you did not sell is just wasted, and fines can be charged if you spill any. Once a level is up, you are provided a summary of how much money you made, to which you can use in the local town to bid for more land, buy improvements, bribe local dignitaries, and much later on, buy out some of the town.

Turmoil 4

Turmoil is a nice simple little game to play and is nicely presented in an aesthetically pleasing, yet simple 2D interface. It takes away the need for a full 3D game where you will exhaust hand power having to move around some mining camp. Instead, it’s just a simple case of point and click and manipulate what you want to achieve as thus. The real joy to this game is that at heart, it is a game about drilling for oil and making as much money as possible. You don’t need to worry about building anything else other than the resources needed to pump and store oil. The upgrades you can purchase are easy to implement once purchased, and come in real handy really quickly. The levels themselves are rather interesting to look at, particularly the depiction of the pockets of oil, and it can be fun to see oil be pumped out of the ground. The reality of the game gets no finer than the experience of sheer joy when you find a large pocket of oil, one you believe in whole honestly that, that is where your fortune lies. It’s a shame then that the game does have some short comings.

Turmoil 6

At heart, Turmoil is a game about drilling for oil and making money. If it was just left to that it would be a nice little game with plenty of energy to keep it going. Halfway through however, the game introduces a second dynamic, which then just takes over, and becomes entirely about taking over the whole town by purchasing stocks/shares. It just gets irritating, that while you plan out what upgrades you want, and what area of land you are going to purchase next; that before you can get to drilling, you need to take part in a stock auction you don’t really care about. That is until you discover that is how you win the game at all. By that time it’s too late, and then you need to take an interest the next time you play in order to win. It’s just annoying, as I would rather have the game be about something else, and only include that in some form of multiplayer, which the neither has nor needs, as it’s perfectly pleasurable by itself.

Turmoil 2

Any other issues I have with the game come down to minor bugs that more come down to PC performance issues and miss clicking. Most of these though come down to human error as the game finds ways to trick and deceive you into a false sense of positivity, making you think that you are making money, where as you could be making more if you kept a more careful gaze. Quite a lot of the time you will find yourself clicking on the speed up button, but as a level starts, this is only natural as you want money fast to get more later.

Turmoil 7

Altogether, Turmoil is a nice fun little game that can be either played briefly or for longer periods. It boasts a pleasant graphical view while also providing you with simple yet easy to use controls that can be used in more than one way. More than that though, it provides an enjoyable insight into a resource rags to riches tale that’s really immersive and makes you feel like you are there, and enjoy your success while also regretting your failures. It’s just a little 2D game, but it has a lot of Heart.

Turmoil 8

GENEPOOL





ME3

13 07 2016

E3 Logo

“On my business card, I’m a Corporate President. In my mind, I’m a Game Developer. But in my heart, I am a Gamer”

Satoru Iwata.

It’s one of the biggest events of the year on the video gaming calendar. Many people travel many hundreds if not thousands of miles to be a part of it, and witness the colossal event that is simply known as E3. Every year the Los Angeles Convention Center becomes a hot bed for video game companies, developers, websites, magazines, fans and corporate personal all traveling in from all corners of the earth to discover and show off what they see and believe to be the next step and future of Video Gaming. Since the first Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in 1995, E3 has grown to become the major event that it is today, and is synonymous with all the above. Say the name E3 to any video game fan, and they will instantly know what you are talking about. It has become the location and event where some of the biggest moments and announcements in the history of Video Games have come to pass, from the reveals of new consoles, to the launch sites of new games and content. If you want to know what the next big thing in gaming is, there is a good shot that the ideal time and place of where to at least find a hint, is none other than E3.

E3 Expo

Over 10 years ago, I got my first taster and understanding of E3 from the magazines I read at the time. The main magazine I had access to was CUBE Magazine. CUBE, was entirely dedicated to Nintendo Games, and every year like all other major video game magazines, they would include a spread on what happened at E3. As the years went by and as magazines such as CUBE disappeared, my knowledge and desire to keep up to date with the events of E3 continued, and eventually I would look into topics and details on my own. Being a kid with little pocket money it was never really going to be the case that I would get to go to E3 but the dream was there, that must count for something. I was a dedicated follower of E3, and loved to watch the Press Conferences, in fact, that became a staple viewing of mine every May-July (whenever it was on). But slowly over time, I just sort of stopped looking into E3. I had no more magazines to look at, and as my interest in most current video gaming sort of side-lined, I just completely forgot about E3. Recently of course E3 returned, and all the news pouring in brought it all running back to me. I did not watch any of the press conferences, but I did feel a run of nostalgia, and thought I would write a post on me and E3 (or rather corny: ME3).

GameCube

Back at the dawn of the Millennium, I did not really have much in the way as a gamer other than a Game Boy Pocket (which was actually a replacement as the much bigger Yellow Game Boy was stolen). A few months later though that changed with my first real home games console (rather than a hand-held), that in the form of a Nintendo 64. I had a lot of fun playing on that machine, playing on games like Goldeneye 007, F-Zero X and Pokémon Stadium. A few years later I received a Nintendo GameCube for Christmas, and I still have it. It still works brilliantly and I still have many of the games I used to play on it originally such as Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, James Bond 007: Nightfire, and my all time (GC) favourite; F-Zero GX. It was at this time I started getting CUBE magazine and first heard about E3. Originally I thought nothing of it; that was until about 2005. CUBE used to supply little GC sized discs with their magazines. These had two format’s, one they could be used for game cheat codes for the Game Cube, while the other disc was a DVD’s showing off trailers for upcoming games as well as sales ads for Action Replay. Anyway, in 2005 on of the DVD’s I got included video footage of Nintendo’s E3 conference for that year. It was not the best quality I have to admit, but it certainly was entertaining. It was my first real taste of E3, and would develop into me wanting more. I can remember it quite fondly, it had appearances from future regular Reggie Fils-Aime, it talked about games such as Nintendogs and Electroplankton, it revealed details of the Game Boy Micro and even featured appearances from both Shigeru Miyamoto and Satoru Iwata. Mr Iwata’s appearance though gave me one of the most memorable moments of E3 to date. Mr. Iwata stood up on stage and took out of his pocket a small black box; a small black box that would become a main feature of a great many homes worldwide in just a few years.

At the time it was called the Nintendo Revolution; but in just a year’s time at the next E3, it would become known as the Nintendo Wii. The reaction from the audience, plus the way it was revealed remains for me one of the truly great moments in E3’s history. It would not be until E3 2006 that things would really take off. For the most part, E3 and I was all Nintendo. I had a Nintendo console and read the appropriate magazines. For me and gaming at the time, it was either Nintendo or PC. So for the first few years, me and E3 was all about Nintendo. As I was not able to physically attend, most of the news and E3 experience I got came down to watching the press conferences, but I didn’t mind, the Press conferences for me then and since have always been the highlight, and even when I would look at other companies Press conferences, for me Nintendo’s was always the highlight. My E3 experience took off a little more in 2006 at, well; Guess Who’s Press conference. I received a sort of cut and trimmed DVD presentation copy off Official Nintendo Magazine (no more CUBE, they just stopped producing, no farewell, no nothing). The show was no more than about 10 minutes long but still opened with Reggie, and featured appearances from Miyamoto and Iwata as well as a few others. It would not be until the personal discovery of YouTube and still a few years before I would get a good watch of it. For me, the 2006 conference remains (possibly) my favourite. It’s been a while since I watched it fully, but the things I do remember I do fondly. The stage, the opening doors, choices of music, the reveals of games and hardware as well as the important discussion notes regarding the main star: The Wii. For me though, the major thing I remember most is the opening. Miyamoto dressed like a conductor, brandishing a Wii controller and directing a digital orchestra. This was followed by some more music and on stage demos by a couple of guys (probably display models from The Price is Right), presenting live play footage of two of the consoles early and premium titles: Red Steel and Excite Truck; such an awesome sight.

As you can probably tell, by now I was a committed fan of E3 for several years, especially for Nintendo. The following year in 2007, I was able to watch the conference properly on a laptop, not a live stream of Nintendo’s conference, but a pre-recorded one. It was still a big one, with the main topic being the Wii’s success and the show talked in detail about new exciting games such as Mario Kart Wii and Wii Fit. From 2007 onwards, I became a fan of a TV show on the now deceased UK channel Bravo called Gamer.TV. Gamer.TV, or simply Gamer TV to me, gave me a route into the rest of E3.

Reggie Fils-Aimé

In 2008, what should have been yet another great year for Nintendo at E3 was sort of ruined. It was not a good presentation, it was very low-key and was blotted by a new presenter, that of Cammie Dunaway. Reggie had always been the main presenter for Nintendo at E3, but in 2008 for some reason he was sort of replaced by Dunaway. Now no offence intended to somebody who is supposedly a corporate whizz, but in Gaming terms, and especially E3 terms, Dunaway was not a good presenter. She presented herself as something of a Mum like character, spent a lot of time bending over backwards and her suit was just flying all over the place. She was very distracting. There are many people on a corporate level who have presented at E3 in the past, many of whom could be considered not just good but naturally gifted presenters. Some on a corporate professional level such as Reggie, Iwata, Jack Tretton, Peter Moore, Phil Harrison and Kazuo Hirai are able to present in a very methodical, understandable yet also very entertaining way. After that you also have characters like Kevin Butler and Tim Schafer, maybe not a corporate presenter, but generally as good as the above if not better. In comparison Dunaway was just annoying. If it was not in a video game context I bet she is pretty good as a presenter, but in this instance, she was just really bad. It put a sour note on the year. Thanks to Gamer TV though, I got my first proper taste of the Competitions presentations. Don’t remember much about Microsoft at E3 in 2008, but, Sony put on an incredible show and revealed exciting new games presenting them in trailers. Games of memorable note include both God of War 3 and of course, MAG.

From 2009 onwards it was a big change for E3 and me. From this point forward, I decided to watch the other press conferences too not just Nintendo. Well, what I actually mean is that I also watched Sony ad Microsoft as well as Nintendo, as for anyone else I just gave those a miss. 2009 saw some improvements from Nintendo, yes Dunaway was till presenting, but her presentation style was updated and improved. The stage was very small and surrounded by Televisions, but it was still a major improvement. The first one I watched though was Microsoft. Big announcements and some games but overall (and setting the mood quite well for themselves for the next several years) it was like some kind of ‘coffee klatch’ presentation with a 5 minute break in between each section. It did however present a memorable moment when a producer from Harmonix danced away on Dance Central. I think Sony’s was generally alright, I just don’t remember all that much about it.

Then the years went on from there really. Nintendo improved gradually from their 2008 shambles; revealing details about new big games, and of course details and presentations of the Nintendo 3DS, Microsoft did not improve at all, except to allow Tim Schafer to have a spot for one of his games; and continue to prove my theory that the X-Box is nothing more than a glorified set-top box, While Sony began to show off how much of a powerhouse they truly were. Sony really began to shine for me, and their presentation style really began to glow, especially in 2010, with a much longer press conference than the other 2 and the introduction and constant inclusion of Kevin Butler, as well as an awesome trailer for Twisted Metal. And from there, E3 for me just kept on keeping on. I did take an occasional look at other press conferences, Ubisoft once stood out for me with their reveal of Far Cry 3.

So what happened, how did an annual event that was just as important to me as it was for others suddenly not have a place in me anymore? I don’t actually know is the short answer, but I bet I got a pretty good clue. The year was 2012, and after waiting a considerable length of time, the 2 games I bought in 2012 that were actually brand new were finally released, Twisted Metal and Far Cry 3. In 2013, I bought another game I had been looking forward too, a bit too long for actually; Beyond: Two Souls, which was released at the very end of the year. I don’t think I actually watched anything of the 2013 press conferences, I think the last time I took any attention to E3 was with the announcement of the Wii U. What happened? I just lost a little interest in games, as the times were moving on, and some of the stuff at the time did not apply to me. In 2012 I got back into books and started playing Board Games more frequently. I guess it was just the case that as my long time love of Video Games waned and began to be replaced by other things more strongly, I just forgot about E3. To be honest, since 2012, I don’t think I have really thought about E3 other than when announcements are made on the trending part of Facebook. It’s kind of sad when I think about it really; I used to have so much excitement, and used to experience so much fun just watching a few press conferences, now for it to be almost nothing but a memory for me. Will I ever get back into it, I don’t know. I could try to watch this year’s conferences on YouTube sometime if I get round to it, or I could try double hard for next year, but I really don’t know. Sorry if it seems so anti-climactic but I don’t really have an answer of why or even why not?

Wii U

The thing is though, that even if I do get back into it, there is something vitally important missing from the conferences now. About this time last year, the industry lost one of its truly great and unique people; a man who was certainly still in his prime and still had many more years to give to the industry. He was a corporate president, and the CEO of the world’s largest video game company. He passed away just as the company was beginning to take its next step into a bright new future. For me, this man has been the main highlight for not just E3 but many other conferences I have been fortunate enough to see him present at. At E3 he made the press conferences fun and enjoyable no matter how terrible or mediocre the outcome. Someone whose presentation style was a wonder to behold and who spoke with a personal passion on the things he adored; whether it be games, technology or even chopping onions; he gave me some of the most interesting, intriguing and informative moments of my Video Game life and made E3 a magical moment. Sadly he is gone now, but his name; like E3 will remain synonymous with not just gamers, but with the entire video game industry, and the memories he has produced over the years will remain with us forever. I never met him, never saw him live, but I wish I had. He was a great inspiration to me, he was someone whose presentation style but also career was something to aspire too when I wanted to be a video games designer many years ago. He influenced me greatly when I was studying in that field, and even when I stopped viewing E3 regularly, every now and then I would go online and look up one of his press conferences, just for my own entertainment. More than anyone else, for me; E3 was a moment not just to hear about games and consoles, but a moment to hear from the great man that was: Satoru Iwata (miss you).

Satoru Iwata

GENEPOOL





The Lost Reviews – oO

15 06 2016

oO4

I don’t know if you have ever seen The Cube on ITV; well if you haven’t, The Cube is a game show presented by Philip Schofield where contestants enter a small plastic/glass cube and have to complete skills based challenges in the hope of winning some cash. The only problem is that all the tasks are really hard (except to this strange faceless woman who is somehow able to complete all the tasks no problem). Most of us probably would never think or consider (or get round to) appearing on a show like that; but I think I have found a video game that works just as well.

oO3

oO is a game about travelling through circles, what this has to do with large Perspex boxes is about to be explained. Basically, you have been put in a large box and have been given the duty of ensuring that a small white dot safely makes it through several circles of different shapes and sizes without getting hurt by either nasty looking spikes or getting crushed between the circles. There’s no real story to this game, it’s a simple puzzle game involving circles, spikes and dots all situated inside a large box with no windows.

oO2

oO is as it comes really. Controls are pretty simple; you can press either the space key or left mouse clicker to cause the transition of the small white dot from inside the circle to outside the circle, and when directly next to a circle into that circle. It’s pretty simple to begin with. All you need to do is get the dot through the circles to the end of the level. There are safe points in the system of circles as you transition from one to another, if your little dot gets destroyed, it goes back to the last safe circle, once you make it to the next safe circle, you don’t need to worry about going back. As the circles continue, it gets harder to transition through them. Some of the circles are smaller than the others and so transitioning between them can create near misses and fatalities. But that’s not all; many of the circles contain spikes. Some of these are static and don’t move, while others can move, disappear, come back, can cause difficult patterns, the lot (well as far as the lot as they possibly can go). Some levels even change and disorientate you as the circles are now jelly like objects. These though are more bonus levels than anything else.

oO1

The game has a nice simple interface as all you are really doing is clicking or tapping. The graphics are nice and simple, a 2D interface of white circles with the occasional vanishing and reappearing red spikes. The background of the big cube is nice and presents a different colour per level. This though I find a little bit wasteful as you are concentrating more on the circles, not just the weird cube in the background sometimes with other floating cubes inside it. I feel like this game could be improved in its look by being on a completely flat background colour. That though is fairly minor an issue as compared to a couple of other things. The levels feel overly too long. It feels and plays like there is no end in sight and you begin to wonder what on earth you are doing. It gets boring in this aspect very quickly. Also the lack of a life system means that your little dot just constantly keeps on dying and dying with no end in-sight. If there was a cut-off point, at least then there may be some replay value for those situations as well as a sense of achievement. Also, the controls are rather fidgety and unresponsive. Imagine the scene; when you have finally figured out your timings, and are ready to get the circle from this one solitary sphere to the next; you click the button, and…..nothing. So you wait for it to come round again, but still nothing. This can continue a lot, and when it finally goes in, your timings have gone completely awry and it quickly dies due to a miss click.

oO is overly long, can quickly get boring and some of its graphics just seem like a waste. On the plus side however; it’s easy to pick up, play and looks nice. While it is a hard game, it is still relatively simple for most people to simply give it a go. It’s the kind of game that you need to really try out to see what you think, but generally it’s alright.

oO5

GENEPOOL





The Lost Reviews – Etherium

15 06 2016

Etherium

When Cavedog Entertainment first released Total Annihilation in 1997, they couldn’t have imagined what kind of impact it was going to make. To this day Total Annihilation is still one of the most beloved and talked about PC games out there, and has since become the lead inspiration for several, ‘spiritual successors’; including games like Supreme Commander, Planetary Annihilation, Meridian: New World; and now…there is another one.

Planetary Annihilation

Etherium is a real-time strategy game heavily inspired by games like Total Annihilation, but also contains the D.N.A. and accessories of other well-known games including Halo Wars. In Etherium, you are one of 3 different factions, racing for control of a super powerful form of fuel known as Etherium. Your job is simple, you need to colonise planets to gain Etherium. There is a major problem however in the form of other empires plus several tribal like factions who want claim of Etherium and eventual control of the universe. To this end, you need to build and grow colonies, create military units to defend yourself with and purge all these power-hungry maniacs unlike you from anywhere where you stake claim to.

Etherium 3

For the most part; Etherium is a ground based real-time strategy game. When you start a match, you begin with one big base. If this one base is destroyed, your game ends and you lose. As the level gets going you will need to claim and defend territories as fast as you can so you can then gather as much Etherium as possible to build your forces and destroy your enemies. Etherium does things differently to a lot of similar RTS games in how you play it. Most games like these include several different forms of resources which need to be independently collected at the same time. In Etherium, there is only one main resource: Etherium. This makes the game rather easy to pick up and play for both experienced and inexperienced gamers of the genre. Another thing Etherium has is no need for Radar. The map is split up into territories; in each of these is something of a node: if you take it, you have full view and control of that territory. This removes the need for Radar which can be quite annoying when you are nearing the end of the level and are still looking for one random tank or builder. As for resource gathering, Etherium appears in only a few territories with in the map. If you have somewhere where you can collect it, it’s collected automatically as soon as a building is built on the resource location. You can increase the speed of collection and gathering by building extensions onto your colonies and any nodes you take over. These extra buildings do specific things once built ranging from Etherium refineries to spaceports. Each one does a different thing but greatly helps you in the need of battle.

Military construction is a lot different too as units are not really built but rather delivered. You basically choose from a side menu what unit you want (ranging from infantry, tanks, planes and titans) and then the unit is delivered to your base. You need to select where you want them delivered to and they can only be delivered to locations with a spaceport next to them. Sending them into battle can then be done the usual way of left clicking on a unit, then right clicking where you want that unit to go. Alternatively you can call in an air drop which will deliver the units directly to where you want them to go. But while your main goal is to rid yourself of the main villain on the map, you will also need to pay attention to one if not several local alien races. They are automatically hostile if you go anywhere near them. There is a way around this however, as you can make peace with them and then call them to your aide. If you don’t do this however, the enemy might and then you will have more than one alien race on your hands. One thing Etherium has though over other RTS games though is the option of a second way of achieving victory. The first way is the above stated way of destroying the enemies’ main base. No need to worry about all other units on the map, destroy that and you win. The other way though is an ingenious way of winning, even if on the ground you are losing. That is to build guns that attack the enemy fleets. These fire automatically once you have enough resources to build them and then it’s a simple matter of waiting until the enemy fleet is destroyed, in which case you win no matter how badly you are losing on the ground. In Etherium’s conquest mode you build fleets then send them to enemy planets, upgrade your forces and unlock new weapons to send into battle. There is no clogging down with huge amounts of story neither, there is some detailed background into the races which is revealed before conquest mode, but as soon as you complete the tutorial, you are just left to your own devices.

Etherium 1

Etherium is a nicely put together game. It features methods of gameplay as yet inexistence in the RTS genre and its ways of controlling the battlefield and winning the map are nice additions too. The game is superbly animated and it’s a lot of fun just watching colonies get built and units delivered. The colonies themselves are nicely detailed too. However the game does have some rather large issues to contend with. While its colonies and structures plus units are nicely animated and built, its units are rather static. What I mean by this is that there is a lack of movement in the heat of battle, they just sort of take on a formation and stay in that formation quite well, but it just doesn’t feel alive or realistic. There is no evasion or moving around to get a much clearer shot. While there is some evidence and advantage of cover, it just seems like the hits from weapons land a bit randomly. While units are nicely thought about and cleverly include units which are better at some things than other units, the lack of life and movement in the heat of battle just doesn’t look aesthetically pleasing. The camera is a bit dodgy too as there just doesn’t appear to be any sort of Zoom functionality, which when everything else comes up 2D in the face means that doing stuff like dropping off units can be rather clumsy. The controls themselves are nicely tuned and the way of building colonies plus the need of building certain units are nice additional features but overall are let down by some of the game’s imperfections.

Galactic Colossus

There is another thing too which gripes me about this game which is a primary unit in games of this kind. That is in the use of large/giant units. In Etherium they are known as titans, extremely big units that could lay waste to the entire map providing no-one else has one. Units like this have been a main stay of the genre since the addition of the Krogoth in Total Annihilation: The Core Contingency and have appeared in other games like Supreme Commander in the form of ‘Experimental Units’. The problem I have with them in Etherium is the need of them. Battles can take long amounts of time depending on how well defended an opponent is. The bigger and stronger plus the advantage of a unit can turn the tide of the battle within a split second, so why should armies feel the need to build something like a Titan if smaller units in theory can do it just as well? Why should Titans even be in this game unless they serve a certain purpose? Why can’t it be that a game like Etherium with its idea of specialized units just be a game with them and only them? No need for a unit that can destroy everything, it’s more about learning the strengths and weaknesses of each unit and find a way to counteract them. Because really the only way to counteract a titan in Etherium…..is to build your own titan.

Etherium 2

Etherium on the whole is a nice little game, one that can easily consider itself equal alongside other ‘so-called’ spiritual successors to Total Annihilation. As for the game itself, it introduces new forms of gameplay as yet unseen, has some nicely crafted in game pieces, animates them really well and doesn’t bog down players in lengthy uninteresting story plots in its conquest mode. On the downside however its graphics and units feel lifeless and static and I think over-does it with the titan units just by including them. There is a lot to like about this game and it is reasonably enjoyable, it’s just held back by clumsy bits and bobs which don’t help it in any way shape or form.

Etherium 4

GENEPOOL








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