Posts by: Owen Faraday

A place of (not so) quiet reflection: MZR hits iOS soon

Ugh lay off it's Monday

Ugh lay off it’s Monday

Okay, imagine a game about solving mazes quickly. Now imagine that your goal in the game isn’t to solve the maze, precisely, but to bet on which possible solutions to the maze are the fastest. Also imagine that the mazes take place in one of those hallucinogenic flashbacks that Rust Cohle was always having in True Detective.

That’s what’s going on in MZR, which British dev Yordan Gyurchev (working as Funky Circuit) submitted for Apple certification over the weekend. The frantic pacing and throbbing visuals are quite a departure for Gyurchev, whose previous work includes the comparatively sedate alien invasion-themed geography quiz Inquisition Earth.

Gird yourself to watch the trailer after the jump.

UPDATE: Down in the comments, the eagled-eyed Blackfire1929 spotted that MZR is on the App Store already for free. I told you it was soon!

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Racing slick: Our warm-up lap with Motorsport Manager (which is in App Store approvals right now)

Right on the Button.

Right on the Button.

I was floored back in June by the trailer for Motorsport Manager, an iOS open-wheel racing sim that former Hello Games dev Christian West has been building by himself for the past year. It was just beautiful to look at, which isn’t something a rational person ever expects from a game of this variety.

Sports management games are such rarities that those of us who enjoy them are more than happy to accept them as cantilevered spreadsheets with a bare minimum of video game tinsel. I still remember when the big feature in a new Out of the Park Baseball game was sound effects. This was in like 2007, by the way, not during the Reagan administration.

I’ve been playing a preview build of Motorsport Manager over the weekend, and I can tell you first-hand that, yup, there’s sound effects. Generally speaking, the high-gloss presentation completely lives up to the expectations set by the trailer. But let’s see what else is in there.

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Field Marshal Owen’s Guide to Commander: The Great War (for Noobs)

Home by Christmas, they said.

Home by Christmas, they said.

So you’ve decided that you’re not waiting for my review, and now you’re embedded into the couch, a cold drink within arm’s reach, and the recently released iPad edition Commander: The Great War loaded up. Good choice. I’m terribly fond of this game, and non-wargamers need not be intimidated by it.

Commander is a turn-based, grand strategy-level wargame based on the First World War. It is an admirable attempt to do justice to an enormously complex, globe-spanning war — so while not a terribly complex game, it still has a number of different levers one must learn to operate to get the most from it. Your experience might also suffer from the fact that World War I has been completely eclipsed as a topic of popular understanding (and as a subject of wargames!) by its successor. Going into Commander without a working knowledge of the historical context is a handicap you don’t need to suffer. Owen’s got your back, baby.

So with this guide, I’m going to attempt to give you a quick grounding in how to get started with Commander. I’ll also try to color in enough of the history so that you feel the weight of what you’re trying to do.

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Missing in action: Where are Blood Bowl and Star Realms?

It's a punt.

It’s a punt.

It’s come to my attention that some of you are performing a dark cabalistic ritual to summon the mysteriously delayed mobile edition of Blood Bowl. STOP. You are performing the wrong dark cabalistic ritual. I know you meant well, but you appear to have summoned this Kim Kardashian game into existence instead. Also the Jonas Brothers have been crashing on my couch for the last three days. You’re not allowed to watch E! while invoking the occult anymore.

Instead of beseeching the dark powers for aid, I sent around inquiries to see what the holdup is on high-fantasy football game Blood Bowl (announced for “early July” a few weeks ago) and on the iOS version of sci-fi deck-building card game Star Realms (which was meant to be here around July 4th).

Details of what I uncovered after the jump. But fair warning: none of it is particularly good news.

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Joffre good show: Commander the Great War is here for iPad

Don't Foch around.

Don’t Foch around.

After a couple of years in the making, Slitherine’s Commander: The Great War launched for iPad in the wee hours of the morning — it’s on the App Store right now for $20. We talked a couple of weeks ago why I’m excited about this release: it’s the first true grand strategy game on mobile, simulating the economic, diplomatic, and military aspects of World War I.

In many respects this is the biggest strategy game yet for the iPad, a game that’s going to swallow whole evenings on the couch and devour entire trans-continental plane journeys. I wanted to get my own hands on it today before I talked about it, and I can report that my first impressions are good.

The graphics aren’t retina-quality, I’m afraid, but that’s my biggest complaint so far. Maybe that was too much to expect from a port of a PC game that’s a few years old already, anyway. But the controls are good and the game is stable. I played this game to death on PC a couple of years ago and so barring any catastrophic technical hitch that shows up later, I’m ready to give this Commander the PT seal of approval right now.

You can fight the war as the Entente or as the Central Powers, controlling each nation’s research and production individually, and commanding their armies and navies on an operational level. You can jump in at any year — right at the start in 1914, or later when the front lines have calcified and the Americans have finally decided to show up.

Commander is super large-scale: you’re controlling forces in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, the North American east coast, and western Asia. In terms of scope, this game makes Panzer Corps look like an Angry Birds level pack. But this is still a pretty accessible war game. You can expect a full review from us next week. Now if you’ll excuse me, my Serbs are about to march into Zagreb.

Commander: The Great War is on the App Store right now, and there’s a trailer below.

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“Ownership is becoming obsolete”: LEX goes free for a day, open sources code forever

"Ownership is dying, as it should since it's a dinosaur."

“Ownership is dying, as it should since it’s a dinosaur.”

Mere days after Asher Vollmer and Greg Wohlwend’s compulsively playable puzzler Threes came out earlier this year, clones of the game started to appear. Games like 2048 were unabashedly riding the coattails of Threes’ rush of popularity, and themselves spawned a secondary wave of clone clones. Here at PT we made a conscious decision at the time not to cover 2048 and the imitators that joined it in mimicking Threes’ design.

Wohlwend and Vollmer (who had had their games cloned before), bemused by 2048, reacted by posting an open letter that showed the year of work that had gone into Threes and decried the ease with which the clones earned a profit off of their sweat. Reactions online ranged from full-throated support for Wohlwend and Vollmer to dismissive “that’s capitalism” defences of the clones.

Kurt Bieg of Simple Machine has decided to wade into this debate. Actually, he’s not wading — he’s diving in head-first, and throwing his co-workers in, too. Bieg is open-sourcing all of his studio’s games, starting with word game LEX. “We believe ownership is becoming obsolete,” Bieg told me. And if you’re surprised by that sentiment, he was just getting warmed up.

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Top Marx: Heroes of the Revolution comes to iOS very soon

El que le gane al Almendares se muere.

The bit of Godfather Part II you never saw.

Little known fact: Clan Faraday is of Cuban extraction. No joke — it’s the reason for my swarthy Caribbean good lucks and my natural talent for playing Twilight Struggle, of course.

So you can imagine my delight when John Ellenberger from GamerNationX pinged me yesterday with news of Heroes of the Revolution, a turn-based board game-style strategy game set during the Cuban Revolution. You play as the rebels in a campaign to overthrow tyrant Fulgencio Batista, building up your ragtag band of guerrillas into a fully-fledged army with hero units like t-shirt star Che Guevara and Fidel himself. Early on in the game you’ll be outclassed by the Cuban government forces and will have to rely on hit and run tactics, but as your troops gain experience they’ll grow more capable of going mano-a-mano with the regulars.

Around here we often lament the lack of wargames set in little-explored epochs of history: this pays that off in spades. Ellenberger tells me that Heroes of the Revolution is currently in submission with Apple and should be out in the next week or so.

If GamerNationX rings a bell (it’s not an offshore seastead for WoW players) you might be remembering them from February when they released classical Roman siege RTS 137 BC. Watch the Heroes trailer after the jump.

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Planning of the apes: Coding Monkeys schedule Rules! for an August 7th launch

The unicorn from Dream Quest has had some work done.

The unicorn from Dream Quest has had some work done.

[gavel banging]

As the duly elected President of the Mount Hexmap Chapter of The Coding Monkeys Fan Club, it is my duty to inform you that Rules!, the fast-paced puzzle game that they announced last month, will be with us August 7th. The Monkeys call it “one part Simon Says and one part Super Hexagon”. From what I’ve seen I think it’s more like a reflex-focussed Papers, Please.

Rules is a game where the rules evolve as you play, and you have to remember what the previously established rules are when things suddenly switch up. Everything’s constantly changing and you’re never right, basically. I had a girlfriend like that once.

Now I know that when we joined this club, it was on the back of the Coding Monkeys most extraordinary digital board game conversions like Lost Cities and Carcassonne. Some members of our esteemed organisation have pointed out that Rules is not a board game at all, and having consulted the appropriate committees I have no choice but to agree. But to that I say: who cares? It’s a new Coding Monkeys game. The Coding Monkeys have never released anything that wasn’t utterly brilliant, therefore Rules shall almost certainly be brilliant, QED.

Kelsey will be reviewing Rules for us and we’ll have his verdict when the game launches. Meeting adjourned.

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