If you played video games back in the 80’s then you might remember the classic point and click game Maniac Mansion. The game was created by Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick and was LucasArts first adventure game and pretty much introduced PC gamers to the world of what would be called “2D Point and Click” adventures. Maniac Mansion was released on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1990.
“It’s like opening a dusty old desk drawer and finding an undiscovered LucasArts adventure game you’ve never played before”.
Maniac Mansion was a huge success taking the computer world by storm and was praised for it’s use of complex puzzles, humor, engaging game-play and compelling story. It gave birth to numerous 2D Point and Click titles like “Monkey Island, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Zak McKracken and others”.
Now Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick are at it again with a new game called “ThimbleWeed Park” which is supposed to be the spiritual succesor to Manic Mansion. They have started a KickStarter campaign with a pledged goal of $375,000 and only 29 more days to accomplish it. So far their total “as of this writing” is at $109,201. KickStarter rewards include boxed editions, game soundtracks to even having your name placed in Thimbleweed Park’s phone book and actually having it used for puzzle solving!
So why make a retro 2d Point and Click game?
“Because we miss classic adventures and all their innocence and charm”.
“They were fun and would put a smile on your face. We want to make one of those again and we want to do it right. We don’t want to make a game “inspired by,” or “paying homage to” classic point & click adventures, we want to make a real classic point & click adventure”.
“Thimbleweed Park is a game for true lovers of adventure games. This is a Kickstarter for fans who loved Maniac Mansion, Monkey Island, and everything else that made that era great. It strips away all the cruft built up over the years and is distilled down to what we loved about the genre”.
“Thimbleweed Park” is the curious story of two washed up detectives called in to investigate a dead body found in the river just outside of town. It’s a game where you switch between five playable characters while uncovering the dark, satirical and bizarre world of Thimbleweed Park.
For more game details check out the kickstarter page here.
Thimbleweed Park will be available for digital download on Windows, Mac and Linux and is expected to be released by January 2015.
In free JRPG-looking politic-em-up Postmortem you play Death, and you are on your way to a dinner party to kill someone. Your orders are to kill only one person, it doesn’t matter who; The Secretary has told you so. Perhaps the world has been encased in some sort of Malthusian Deadlock. But as you begin to develop an uncharacteristic curiosity about the guests, engage them in discussion, and investigate the documents and trinkets of the venue, you enact an oddly human bias. You realise that who you kill might have a greater impact than just having a waiter drop his hors d’oeuvres. But is your curiosity shifting history down another track? Is your very interest sending a cosmic ripple down the trouserleg of time? Right from the menu screen’s orchestral, foreboding, almost overbearing adaptation of Pop Goes The Weasel from Kevin MacLeod, you feel like whatever you do in this game, something awful is going to happen.
It’s October 18th, 1897, and local businessowner Bill Seldon is holding a Gala for a vandalised school. You enter the fundraiser to find various attendees with vocal political views: those with very firm ‘OldAger’ views of tradition and socialism, and ‘NewAger’ opinions of progress and capitalist ravagement. There have already been factories and small businesses blown up in protest by a militant arm of OldAgers who want fair wages and workers’ rights, and this Gala is not without tensions between patrons. They say never talk politics, religion or money at a party, but two of those three dominate affairs as you move from room to room, talking with guests and quietly judging them.
Postmortem is the brainchild of lead developer Jakub Kasztalski, whose interest in politics has strongly shaped Postmortem’s narrative and outcomes. Very text-heavy, Jakub’s background in Comparative Ethnic Conflict, which he studied in Northern Ireland, really shows through in the scraps of paper, leaflets and books you will read and the dialogue you will take part in throughout. “I’ve always loved videogame development. I used to work at a games studio for two years. And so a lot of what I learned [in my Masters in Ethnic Conflict] was inspirational to me personally,” Kasztalski says.
The transplanting of pronouns for fictional places and people like “Antrim”, “Thatcher”, and others might seem a tad hamfisted as signposts initially, but by the end of the game it becomes apparent that the narrative structure has been much more nuanced than you might have initially assumed, and point towards a deep awareness of real-world conflict and the paths nations can take. “It’s not so much whom you choose,” Kasztalski explains. “but how you choose, in the sense that… is it fair for me to decide? Who gives me the right? How much of an educated guess without education?” Interesting too, that in Kasztalski’s experience, games have done very little in the way of exploring how to resolve conflict without violence, or placed too much importance on a win/lose state. “A lot of my testers were looking at – how do we win? How do we fix the conflict, you know? That doesn’t surprise me,” Kasztalski muses. He goes on to cite The Walking Dead as a big inspiration, and talks of his ideas on implementing statistics at the end of the game so you can compare your choices with fellow players.
The complexity of Postmortem’s characters is especially noteworthy. Games have a real tendency to portray characters as being either palpably virtuous or sinister, but in Postmortem it is difficult to be put off by even the most extreme political views – not only are the characters written polite and conversational, but also they have a realistic mix of conservative and liberal thought processes, making concessions to some ideas, ruling others out, and sometimes even being particularly hypocritical. Of note is Ophelia Thatcher, whose views on women having better representation in politics and broadcast media is certainly laudable, and I felt myself nodding along, the first stirrings of Feminism and Votes For Women brewing in her and all that – and then later she makes remarks about how awful immigrants are. And I was suddenly reminded: people can be hypocritical and exist in power hierarchies – why is it so strange that this videogame character might hold hypocritical views, when they would in reality? The greatest triumph here is that the conversations you have are not leading in any manner and flow naturally, which happens little elsewhere in videogameland.
The structure of the game is interesting: when you eventually pick your murder, a series of newspaper stories then inform you of the fallout from the Gala event. When at last you are aware of how your presence as Death was interpreted by the guests (even the dead one), you come to understand how nuanced the conversation branches were, and how they were not exactly what you expected. There is a huge emphasis on freedom of choice. “A lot of people were like ‘Well what’s stopping people from picking a person and ending the game in two minutes?’” Kasztalski says. “And I was looking at them thinking, ‘Why should they be stopped’?” And it is a very replayable game, in terms of looking at the subtle outcomes that are interpreted by your choices.
Though the JRPG art and classical music is fairly rudimentary – Kasztalski tells me is constantly evolving as it is developed – the writing (though there is a lot of it, and it is quite dry) is good, laid on thick like political jam. It was refreshing to not be completely patronised by a game, to be treated like a critical reader. The only disappointment for me was that there weren’t more interesting artifacts to examine, more shocking mysteries to uncover, and that there weren’t more characters in the world to explore. It’s very short game, and though it must have taken a long time to construct, it only takes about an hour and a bit to play. I’m looking forward to this being polished up, and being held up as an example of how to write nuanced characters with a reach into complex late-game branching narratives. An excellent little slice of intrigue that is worth a look. It’s coming out later this month, entirely for free, perhaps with small bonus extras for a little donation.
Revenue, profits and players all down in Q1 as online firm concentrates on pipeline
A lack of new games and content saw Perfect World’s business slow down on all fronts in the first quarter.
In the three-month period ended March 31, 2013, Perfect World’s revenue was RMB624.5 million ($102m/£68m), slightly down from RMB718.5 million in the prior year quarter. Net profit was RMB131 million ($21.4m/£14.1m), a more precipitous year-on-year decline from RMB209.8 million.
The steep drop in profits was due in no small part to higher levels of expenditure on R&D as the company attempts to address a similarly sharp decline in player numbers: Perfect World’s aggregate concurrent users have fallen from 804,000 in Q1 last year to around 554,000.
“During the quarter, we continued to primarily focus on developing new content for our portfolio and pipeline and slow down promotional activities,” said Perfect World CEO Robert Xiao in a statement. “As we expected, the overall performance of our existing games in the first quarter was softer, but we are pleased with the recent progress we have made in our portfolio and pipeline development.”
Perfect World has several major launches planned for this year: Cryptic Studios’ Neverwinter in North America and Europe, and Swordsman Online and Dota 2 in mainland China.
I just love old RPG classics, especially Dungeons & Dragons! There was a time when the only way to get the “real” experience with a video game besides the original Pen & Paper way was to play games like the Baldurs Gate or Icewind Dale series. Of course there were those TSR games for Commodore 64,PC etc..and an occasional NES version also. So you can imagine my joy when I read about this version coming out. For those of you who have never experienced these types of games because of either your age or operating system not supporting it, I highly recommend it and believe me you will be sucked in by the great characters, storyline and gameplay. sure it is not a Skyrim, but it doesn’t have to be. All those new “graphically superior” games all came because of games like Baldur’s Gate and that is the reason you will love it. I actually still have my original “BIG” box PC editions..(Smiles)… RPG players will appreciate this game and finally have a chance to see what all the fuss was about back in the day.
The shiny release of Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition will indeed arrive on PC next week, developer Overhaul Games has confirmed, so come celebrate by watching a trailer showing off retro RPG action. What does it look like? Well, you know, like Baldur’s Gate but a bit enhanced.
Overhaul has revamped BioWare’s classic with co-op, support for modern operating systems, high-res cutscenes, new party members and quests, and other jazz.
It’ll be sold exclusively through Overhaul’s parent company Beamdog, where you can pre-order now. If you use Beamdog’s client, you can preload the game now to start playing as soon as it’s out on November 28. Beamdog will also offer a standalone installer too, mind.
With BG:EE out, Overhaul will start work on revamping Baldur’s Gate 2. After that, Beamdog president Trent Oster told us in an interview, it’ll look at DLC.
Crusader Kings 2‘s latest Aztec-inspired DLC offering, Sunset Invasion, is now available for $4.99 from the game’s official website, Paradox Interactive announced.
The new downloadable content combines fantasy and history by pitting European dynasties against an invading Aztec civilization that arrives at a random point mid-to-late in the game. The invading army brings with it new diseases from across the ocean, Aztec religion and human sacrifice.
Crusader Kings 2: Sunset Invasion requires the core Crusader Kings 2game prior to installation. The Crusader Kings sequel was first released to PC in early 2012, with a version for Mac brought out in May. The complex strategy game is set during the high to late middle ages and allows players to control an entire medieval dynasty from heir to heir.
Do you really want to find out what is on the Stranger's Bookshelf? It could cause shock and awe, or amaze you and cast wonderment. What secrets does it behold? Come and browse on The Stranger’s Bookshelf.