Gaming for the Rest of Us: Making games

One of my long-time passions has been tabletop and role-playing games. I’ve played various games since at least high school, and continue to play to this day.

One of the exciting things I’ve been involved with is the development of the Purgatory game and No-Class gaming system by my friends over at Broomstick Fighters (Facebook Page). Purgatory is a weird-west style game with Cthulhuian overtones, and the No-Class system is a new take on the mechanics of role-playing.

It turns out that I also develop my own games, though they are in various states of disarray. If you’re interested in keeping track of my progress, you can watch here, on my gaming page (Facebook page), or head over to my Engima22 Productions Unlimited site (it’s woefully out of date, so be patient).

Game on.

DLH

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Gaming for the Rest of Us: Games I’ve been playing

My gaming has gone mostly mobile and casual these days. I don’t have the time to invest in sitting for hours playing PC games, and my attention span at the moment doesn’t support PC gaming anyway.

That said, I do have a bevy of mobile games I’m playing on my iPad. Of course, the ever-present issue with mobile games is that they always want your money, but I find that playing less frequently and less intensely covers over quite a bit of that.

Right now, my main go-to game is Start Trek Fleet Command. If you want to “win” you have to pay, but I enjoy the base-building aspects of the game without paying.

In the same vein is Star Wars Commander. The base-building aspect of this game is better than Star Trek Fleet Command, and it’s easier to advance without paying. That said, the campaign and PvP aspects of the game get tedious to me.

Speaking of tedium, there’s Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes. Don’t get me wrong, this game is easy to play without spending a dime, but the gameplay can get repetitive and dull very quickly.

The same can be said for Star Trek Timelines. This game has a lot of potential, but the gameplay is often inscrutable and repetitive.

Rounding out the five games I regularly visit is Pixel Starships. This is a kind of silly, straightforward game of building a starship and attacking other players. Still, it has limited playability as you spend enormous amounts of time gathering resources to upgrade your ships.

Of course, my reviews beg the question, if the games are tedious, why play? The short answer is that they only become tedious if you play for more than, say, five minutes at a time. Played casually, these games are a welcome distraction and are worth that much investment.

What games are you playing right now?

Happy gaming.

DLH

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Gaming for the Rest of Us: First Impression- Civilization VI: Rise and Fall

Before I can review the first expansion for Civilization VI, let’s get something out of the way. There have been a lot of complaints about Civ VI, and Civ V before it, and I think they all boil down to two basic problems.

First, starting with Civ V, the team at Firaxis tried to incorporate real time strategy elements into the Civilization franchise. I don’t think many people will seriously argue there is even a close competitor to Civilization in the 4X strategy genre, so I believe most of Civ’s competition comes from the RTS genre, of which there are many good titles. Unfortunately, that attempt on their part was a mixed bag, leading to some of the problems players complain about in specific.

Second, and perhaps far more important, Civ has always had an AI problem. Back in the halcyon days of Civ I or II, nobody expected sophisticated AIs, and the game took full advantage of that fact by plain cheating to make the game harder. Modern players with modern hardware expect a modern AI, but the expansive nature of Civilization makes designing a good AI for the game a challenge at best. I’m not saying the team at Firaxis couldn’t do better, but I understand the challenge they face in doing it.

Keeping those things in mind, most of the things I could say bad about the Rise and Fall expansion are things I’ve already said bad about Civ VI itself. The game play is somewhat convoluted, the AI just dumb sometimes, and the execution sometimes excruciatingly slow.

It’s always dangerous to lead with things I don’t like in a review because that’s what people tend to remember, but the fact is Firaxis has one of the greatest gaming franchises in history in its care, and it needs to do better if it doesn’t want to go the way of EA and lose the loyalty of once fantastic titles like SimCity or Ubisoft with the Anno series.

All of the new elements to Rise and Fall add value to the game, but they’re understated and seem to be designed to add that familiar RTS anxiety to a 4X game. It doesn’t always work because I think it faces the player in the wrong direction. When Civ VI introduced things like districts, it was an intriguing advance on Civ’s core ideas. Instead of building on that, Firaxis has doubled down on the 4X in RTS clothing gambit it seems to have committed to in Civ V, and it still doesn’t quite seem to be working all the way.

Overall, I’d say wait on this expansion a bit yet. It’s not really worth the $29.99 Firaxis is asking for it for what you get, but if they’re listening to the community, future patches and DLCs may yet fix some of what doesn’t work as well as it could yet. If they don’t, there’ll be room for a new king of 4X. Or we can all go back to playing Civ IV, probably still the best entry into the franchise so far.

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