Her Story

Her Story is one of the recent not-a-games, in this case “A Video Game About a Woman Talking to the Police.” And that is it: it is a series of interview videos, chopped into short clips, and you find those clips by searching the database for words she says in the clips. To seed your story, the game gives you a starter search of “murder.”

In a way, the game part of this will be familiar. You have done this as a mini-game in a bunch of games, the conversation or interrogation game where you ask the subject questions to get material to ask further questions. On that level, it works really well. You amass some keywords, search the database for them, and find the story in your own, non-linear path. (Avoiding spoilers: but the ending remains ambiguous, so you get to decide what you think the story really is.) It retrospectively creates that experience of conducting the interview yourself, with the oddity of getting bits of several interviews at once.

The story is pretty good. I don’t know whether or not it benefits from the format. If you just sat down and watched the videos from start to finish, would they be worth watching? It’s not bad, but neither is it “must see.” There is some appeal from the broken chronological order, that you know some of what is to come when you see the earliest clips, and some earlier clips explain what it is you heard from later.

The interface is imperfect. It mostly works, but there are some oddities in how the search works, such as treating no (no quotes) and “no” (with quotes) differently, which becomes relevant if you are trying to find all the clips. If you are going for 100% and cannot find everything, that is one of the tricks: you are missing some 3-second clips with only one word in them. That herring is very red. Do you want another trick that can remove the entire game from the game? “BLANK” is not a NULL string in the tags box, and the game sorts clips by chronological order; if you want to watch the clips in order and make sure you’ve seen them all, you can start over and keep searching for “BLANK” while removing that tag after watching each video. But if you are going to do that, you might as well just search for a posted video of the game’s content, because that circumvents the game.

Spoilers are fair game in the comments, if you want to talk about the game’s story.

: Zubon

Player Count

Are there any games that work well outside the recommended number of players? I am thinking of board games, but really any; did LOL Twisted Treeline ever become a thing? The particular thing that comes to mind is games with “variant rules” for more or fewer players, where the game is usually made for 3-4 players with a 2-player (or solitaire) variant and a 5-6 player expansion. That seems really common in board games, but I cannot think of many (any?) where I have seen it done well.

  • Dominion breaks down with 5+ players, particularly if there are attacks. There is not much fun to be had in a game with at least one Torturer per round. Without attacks, you can have a very short game with that many people emptying stacks unimpeded.
  • Starfarers of Catan gets extremely crowded in the early game, leading to a snowball effect where a bad first turn puts you several turns behind everyone else as you need to navigate/colonize around them. I have never tried Settlers of Catan with the 5-6 player expansion, out of a holy respect for the mathematical purity of the base game.
  • 7 Wonders does a great job scaling up or down for 3-7 players, and that is built into the cards to begin with. Well done. The two-player variant is messy and clunky. I am told that 7 Wonders Duel is excellent, intentionally re-designed for two players.
  • I am not sure if Smash Up is bad as a two-player game so much as very different, and the balance shifts massively. Any card that costs you something to hurt an opponent becomes vastly stronger if you have only one opponent, such as most Kittens cards, while factions like Ninjas and Pirates that jump into others’ fights are much weaker in a heads-up game.
  • I should just stop the two-player games, because they play differently and usually pretty badly. Recent examples I have tried include Coup and Havok and Hijinks.

Some games work for two players without rules variations, and they can mostly work. This works better for Eurogames with minimal interaction, such as Dominion. I have played Kingdom Builder mostly with two players, and it becomes a much more strategic game as you limit the number of players.

In my day-to-day life, scaling down is the usual issue, playing with my wife at home. When I go to a game day, scaling up becomes the issue as we try to get more people at the table rather than boxing 3 or 4 people away for a couple of hours. But that often leads to a suboptimal time for several hours.

Thoughts from KTR readers, games that do this well or badly and why?

: Zubon

Restaurant Almost Done

This week, I will probably reach the end of Cook, Serve, Delicious! It is incredibly engrossing and establishes flow wonderfully. I have now done just about everything you can do in the game, with a few more achievements to go to round it out. I 100%ed the main game and have moved on to Extreme Difficulty new game+.

“This mode is almost impossible. It will likely destroy you.” It really is as difficult as they advertise, what with the big boost in buzz (number of customers) and 0 patience. Getting the “table snacks” upgrade that gives them any patience was a huge boost in Extreme Difficulty. I wondered how one could sanely get the “serve 15,000 customers” achievement when you need fewer than 10,000 to complete the main game. I am, however, really good by now, so I have a buzz well north of 100% and am just about keeping up, which nets you more than 200 customers per day. Around the time I complete the two remaining Extreme Difficulty achievements, I should have that one too. The hard part will be getting a perfect day once I can have six items on my menu. I can almost keep up with 4, and those are probably the 4 easiest. I think I need to intentionally tank one day to get a big buzz penalty, then I should be able to ace it in a time or two.

Oddly, I am well past 10,000 customers and have yet to see a robbery. The security upgrade must really work. To get that last achievement, I will either need to keep pushing in Extreme Mode (ouch) or start a new game, not buying the security upgrade and hoping someone tries to rob me. “Too few robberies” is not a problem I expected to have. Hey, robbers, my restaurant in the main game has about $100,000 lying around because I kept playing long after having bought everything. Take my money, please.

Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!! is scheduled for next year and available for your Steam wishlist. I hope it lives up to the original; I fear that it will get unnecessary complexity that detracts from its elegance.

: Zubon

Cleaning Out

I have been gradually cleaning out my basement, where boxes and files can sit quietly for years. I keep looking at old things and papers and thinking, “This must have been precious once.” I spent a couple hours digging through an old hard drive for anything worth salvaging. Ah, memories. I am right now going through old CDs, boxes, and manuals. Some old friends never to be seen again:

  • Asheron’s Call: Dark Majesty
  • Asheron’s Call 2
  • City of Heroes
  • Dark Age of Camelot

I am still debating some old single player games. I have Bioware’s 2002 Neverwinter Nights, complete in the original box with the 200+ page manual and cloth map. Planescape Torment, I somehow have still never played that. My copy of WarCraft III came with guide books, those can go. (There are still game guides for sale in this internet era, my my. I don’t even buy physical disks for my games these days.)

I did keep the fold-out maps/keyboard controls for AC and DAoC. Some memories I need to keep.

: Zubon

Pantheon Wars: The Fall of Ra

Tesh, your friend and mine, is planning to launch the game he made next year. It is called Pantheon Wars: The Fall of Ra, and it is “an area placement game based on an alternate Earth history scarred by wars between different deities and demigods.” He has a print and play version online if anyone would like to be a late beta tester before it reaches its final version.

: Zubon

Greenland

I have been playing Plague Inc.: Evolved, which is pretty good, if a bit formulaic across the diseases in a way that makes differences seem like inconsistencies rather than variety.

Greenland, though. Man, Greenland. Greenland is the Madagascar of this game.

: Zubon

I can recommend the PC version. I do not recommend the mobile version, which is a bit heavily ad-ware, although maybe that goes away if you give them a dollar? There were too many screens asking me for money to skip things.

The Stanley Parable

I played The Stanley Parable, but “played” feels somehow both wrong and perfect. It is closer to an interactive story than a game as such, but unusually for that genre it has a branching story tree — a “choose your own adventure” walking simulator. It is also a deconstruction of games in ways that I will avoid spoiling, but the comments section is fair game for all spoilers.

I will note that even the achievements are deconstructions. Three of the achievements are meta-commentary on achievements, one of which is literally “unachievable.” One achievement is to leave the game running for all of a Tuesday, another to log off and not come back for five years. 7% of players have that one on a game that has been out for less than five years, and 4% have the literally unachievable achievement, so I am wondering if cheating on those is meta-meta-achievement commentary. But for some reason only 1% of players have “leave the game on for an entire Tuesday,” despite that being something you can do AFK.

: Zubon

Magic: The Gathering – Puzzle Quest

I have been playing a bit of M:tG-PQ (punctuation adventure). Puzzle Quest is basically good match-3 gameplay, even the version drowned in F2P2W, and this is another entertaining implementation. Matching gets you mana, mana summons monsters or casts spells, knock out your opponent to win. Pretty standard.

It is more Magic-themed than an implementation of magic. The five colors of mana exist, and they influence what spells go with your planeswalker and how much mana you get for matches. Any mana powers your cards, you just get more for certain colors. Planeswalker abilities exist, enchantments go on gems and last until they are matched X times, and some monsters block but most just attack your opponent. The elements that are borrowed from Magic seems fairly deft.

It is a F2P game. It is hard to fault something card game-based for selling cards. That seems almost entirely in the RMT currency, with the free currency being used to level up planeswalkers. I have no idea what level of P2W exists in the (standard asynchronous) PvP world there; I do not expect to play that far.

One of my main impressions is how random the game is, between cards and gems. I have several times lost a fight, restarted it, and won it without taking damage. Some games I cannot summon a monster, others I completely control the board, even when that “other” is against the same opponent. Maybe that goes down at higher levels, when higher hit points and better customization options mean it averages out, but then maybe you just get bigger, faster snowballs at higher levels. I do not expect to play that far.

Briefly entertaining, and a good commercial idea, but I cannot say that I can recommend it strongly.

: Zubon