Posts by: Owen Faraday

“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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Thomas Was Alone appears on different rectangles

It's hip to be square.

It’s hip to be square.

The surprisingly heartfelt side-scrolling platformer Thomas Was Alone has made the jump to Android and iPhones after materialising a few weeks ago on iPad. On iOS this comes as a Universal update, so there’s no need to buy again if you purchased it earlier for the larger form factor.

Touchscreen devices are definitely not the best way to play this occasionally tetchy platformer, but I found the minor control issues well worth putting up with for the narrative, which (like a good reality TV show) has a power to make you feel genuine emotional attachment to a bunch of lifeless two-dimensional objects.

Read my review from May if you want to learn more, and you can find the newer, smaller Thomas on the App Store and the Android Market. Trailer below.

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Out Tonight: Not 80 Days, but there’s Revolution 60, Poptile, MESA, and more

No, this isn't an 80 Days airship.

Any tile.

Tonight was meant to be the night for Inkle’s around-the-world interactive fiction opus 80 Days to drop — but alas, it is not to be. Inkle’s Jon Ingold emailed me a couple of days back. “We’ve been asked by Apple to move the release day back to next Thursday, the 31st,” he said. “So we are of course doing it.”

This could only mean one of two things. The first possibility: upon reviewing the app for release, Apple has discovered Inkle’s dastardly plot to use the game to Manchurian Candidate the world’s population, preparing the ground for a reptilian takeover of Earth. Or second, Apple want to feature the game next week in a prominent slot on the App Store’s front page.

It’s almost certainly the former (alert David Icke, please) but either way the result is the same: 80 Days will be here next Wednesday night. You can read my hands-on 80 Days preview if you want to see what we’re in for next week.

There are other releases tonight, of course. Let’s have a look after the jump.

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Light a candle for Rise of Vigil: New Ascension expansion drops on iOS

Busy as Sabee.

Busy as Sabee.

Champagne is being uncorked high atop Mount Hexmap in the Pocket Tactics Prognostication Center and Quick-Pick Lotto Research Institute. The Rise of Vigil expansion for Ascension is going to be out any minute now for iOS, just we predicted last week. This is the first new expansion to everyone’s favourite digital card game in over a year, and marks the renewal of vows between app developers Playdek and game designers Stone Blade, who agreed to put aside their differences and make beautiful Ascension together again.

I asked Stone Blade designer Brian Kibler to tell me what we should be expecting from the new expansion. “Rise of Vigil is my favorite set we’ve released since the original game,” Kibler told me. “The new Energize mechanic leads to big exciting turns, and Treasure cards really make players evaluate cards differently as the game goes on. This combination makes the set great for Ascension beginners and veterans alike.”

Well. We’ll see for ourselves very soon. The Rise of Vigil rules are available as a PDF if you want to get familiar with what’s new while you wait for the App Store update to turn over. From what I’ve read, this expansion mixes things up tremendously: the treasure cards incent you to make non-optimal buys from the center row, and the new energy shards boost your ability to draw cards from your deck, which might make bigger decks more viable and tight decks even punchier.

Android adherents need not be too envious: if all goes to plan, Playdek’s iOS app will be making its way to Google-powered devices sometime later this summer, then PC in the autumn.

After the jump, two more cards from the Rise of Vigil expansion. Never played Ascension? Neither had I a couple of years ago. Read something I wrote about the first expansion back in 2012 to see why it’s so popular.

UPDATE (10:15pm BST): It’s out.

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We’re off to see the lizard(men): Majestic Nights is an RPG set in a conspiracy-filled 1980s

Finkle is Einhorn.

Finkle is Einhorn.

I am not a believer in conspiracy theories. In my time, I’ve worked for and with enough big companies and government agencies to know that they generally hang together with duct tape and bubble gum and can barely sort themselves out, much less manipulate a new world order on behalf of a shadowy Illuminati.

But not believing conspiracy theories is no barrier to loving them. And I love them. I used to listen to the Art Bell show on a battery-powered AM radio in my room every night I could get away with it when I was a kid. And my favourite thing about Deus Ex was that it was essentially an Art Bell show given video game form, with an enthusiastically uncritical embrace of every crackpot notion from Majestic 12 to Area 51.

Australian devs Epiphany Games might have had my same late night radio listening habits. Their new game Majestic Nights is an isometric RPG set “in an alternate 1980s where all conspiracy theories, past and present, are true”. The game casts you as former intelligence agent Cardholder and private investigator Cal who are seeking The Truth across the six episodes of Majestic Nights. The first prologue episode (“Sunset After Dark”) will be free when it arrives in late 2014 on desktops and tablets. Epiphany previously produced fantasy action game Runic Rumble.

Watch the skies for chemtrails and black helicopters until then. For the moment, there’s a trailer and screenshots after the jump, and you can monitor the movements of Epiphany Games on Facebook.

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My chemical romance: Science puzzler Sokobond coming to iOS & Android

Shell game.

Shell game.

Sokobond is a puzzle game about making chemical compounds that requires “no chemistry knowledge” to play. I think that’s downright cowardly, but I suppose I understand the commercial impulse behind not shutting out 98% of the world’s population from buying your game.

It’s lovely, minimalist thing from indie developers Alan Hazelden and Harry Lee, puzzle specialists who were responsible for These Robotic Hearts of Mine and Stickets, respectively. Sokobond released for desktops yesterday on Steam, but its creators say that iOS & Android versions are forthcoming.

The last time we experimented with a chemistry-centric game, it turned out to be a bit of a dud. I figure we’re due for a win. Watch the trailer below.

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