This-morning, I had climbed a rise to take bearings on some landmarks, to see if I could figure their precise locations. One distant spire (what is it? A lighthouse? One of the primitive statues, perhaps? I do not know) was obscured by some trees, and I took a few steps sideways to try to get a better view.
That was a mistake.
38 Studios (and its subsidiary Big Huge Games – Rise of Nations), developers of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (2012), has apparently effectively closed. Selling 1.2 million copies of the game across Steam, Origin, PS3 and Xbox 360 in 90 days just wasn’t enough to pay the bills (though it outperformed the expectations of publisher, Electronic Arts). The break-even point apparently was 3 million copies (or even more), according to Rhode Island Governor, Lincoln Chafee.
Everything seemed to be going well, with word that a bungled loan repayment had finally been made, it looked like 38 Studios would hang in there for another few months, and that the attention its woes brought to its game might spark enough sales to keep the lights on.
No such luck, apparently.
The idea of the DayZ mod is simple enough. Take Arma 2: Combined Operations (Bohemia Interactive Studio, 2009) with its open-world, ground-pounding, all-weather, military simulation chops and refit it as a persistent world multiplayer zombie survival game.
Set in the mythical Eastern European country of Chernarus (where the primary Arma 2 campaign takes place), each player begins with a water bottle, a pistol, a little ammo, a couple tins of beans, a few medical supplies, a handful of flares, no clue and an average life-expectancy of about 28 minutes.
Map? Compass? How about a wristwatch? You don’t start with them. Unless you’re already familiar with the 225 square kilometres of Chernarus, you’ll be learning as you go. Even if you are, you’ll wish you had a map and a compass. Anything and everything beyond your paltry starting equipment, you’ll have to find.
Arx Fatalis (Arkane Studios, 2002) is among my favourite games of the last decade. There are numerous favourable comparisons to make between it and Ultima Underworld (Blue Sky Productions, 1992), mostly because it was intended to be Ultima Underworld 3, but the developers could not obtain an appropriate license for the name.
The game takes place in (or rather under) a fantasy world whose Sun has failed. As the Sun dimmed and the world got colder, various species banded together to build vast, underground complexes, to be their new homes. The truce between races didn’t really last once everyone got settled in, however.
I’m a social gamer. This doesn’t mean that I play what are commonly called “social games”, because generally, they aren’t actually social, and while they might be compelling to some – particularly to those whose experience with electronic entertainment is a bit limited – they’re not generally a lot of actual fun.
No, I’m a social gamer. I like to communicate about games. I like to talk about them. I like to write about them. I like to have enjoyable cooperative gaming experiences with my friends and family – in the same room, if at all possible. I also like to just play them.
That’s the sort of social gamer I am.
Now, here’s the sort of social gamer that I am not…
The appeal of mercenary company simulators is somewhat more broadly-based than other gaming genres, as they tend to (more or less) successfully blend strategic, tactical and logistical tasks into an appealing framework. Choose your work, or your targets, select your personnel, make sure everyone’s equipped, fed and getting paid, fight your battles – and maybe get some looting and pillaging in on the side.
Here are my pet picks from the genre, in no specific order.
Once upon a time there was a girl and a fairy.
The girl, Recette Lemongrass, lived on her own because her father had gone adventuring and not returned.
The fairy, Tear, worked for the Terme Finance company, and Recette’s father’s debts were about to come due.
Reasoning that getting the money back was better than taking Recette’s house and auctioning it at a loss, Tear helped Recette set up a small item shop on the main street of the town. Just the sort of thing to cater to locals, and the hordes of hopeful adventurers and treasure-seekers needing supplies.
Working off your debt retailing doesn’t sound very exciting, but Recette and Tear’s adventure is only just beginning.