Category Archives: @ Games [Frying-Pan of Massive Beatdown]

Banished


It’s been awhile, obviously. There have been many good games in the past year – and many more that I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of. What I had to say about them fit neatly into review-fields, or a G+ post. Sometimes several. It really has been awhile since I felt the need for more space to accommodate my thoughts.

The other day I picked up Banished, on steam. 

I was in the mood to build a city.

I’ve built many cities, in many games. Simcity, Tropico, Civ-, Reus, and they all generally have their own flavor and feel to how you’re playing. You’re god, you’re mayor, your dictator, you are the general of the armies that go whomp someone else so you can expand. Some are a lot of micro-managing and I wasn’t in the mood for that.

Neither was I in the mood to continue beating my head against android games. My brief foray into that arena has left me with a bitter taste, “you are out of gems/energy!” oh… “this will take 5hr to complete” wtf? “get your friends to help!” and spam fb? grack! “buy more gems/energy!” what, so I can play another 20 min before you spam me again? Psssssh.

Then I noticed Banished on steam. It was an indie developed “city builder” that visually looked quite impressive. I scanned the rest of the text and figured it looked and sounded like it would perfectly fit my mood.

More than I bargained for.

I launched into a game straight out the gate, and found… nothing. No objectives, no hints, no clues about what I should be doing. It wasn’t holding my hand coddling me through a tutorial – did I need one?

I plopped a few houses, and a hunting cabin that I found in the menu. It took me a while to realize why my folk were still wandering aimlessly, I had to assign builders. Then, winter smacked me in the face. I struggled, and by spring, had lost half my population to starvation. I went back and did the tutorials that were in the main menu, and wondered why they weren’t in the game itself. As objectives, goals, little pointing arrows I am so used to seeing.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. Now, I’m glad it is done this way. It gave you all the things you needed to navigate the game, without actually impacting your play – or making it easy for you to survive. That is what this is about, survival. No armies, no taxes, no citizens or advisers hollering at you.

There is an organic, all-natural pressure that drives the game. Winter.

Do you have enough food, fire wood, homes? It was… refreshing, exhilarating, and intense. Once I achieved that balance however I thought. “This is it, I have a population of 20, and what else is there?” If you can survive your winters, it’s left up to you to determine your goals – expand! GROW!

GROW!!! Why isn’t my population growing? Go forth and procreate! Oh, I need more homes for you to move into? Is that it. I honestly expected it was something trivial like a housing cap, and when I plopped a new home more people would just magically appear to populate it… That’s about when I noticed something so mind-blowing it took my breath away.

 

“The townspeople of Banished are your primary resource. They are born, grow older, work, have children of their own, and eventually die. Keeping them healthy, happy, and well-fed are essential to making your town grow. Building new homes is not enough—there must be enough people to move in and have families of their own.”
– from the game’s description. 

I apologize to the one-person army that developed Banished for not believing.

It’s something bigger games, bigger companies (yes I’m looking at you with glaring eyeballs SimCity & EA) have promised this in the past. That their population was significant, that it would matter, that it was intelligent. I should have expected one person could accomplish more – without someone sitting over their shoulder.

The fact of the matter is, yes. Yes, YES, and OH YES! My Fisherman goes about his job, he goes home, he gets food, he goes to his job, and… lo and behold he goes back to his home time and again. He’s a male, and the herbalist living in the same home is female, children appeared. His age increased, their ages increased. If I switched his job, he moved on to it.

Maybe it’s the scale of the game. Banished deals in much smaller population numbers. I haven’t hit a population cap yet, I’m not even sure that there is one – But, that’s the “excuse” EA used on SimCity for why their hyped up intelligent AI with citizens that “mattered” actually didn’t. They followed lame paths, lost their identity the moment they hit a building. You couldn’t follow a sim to home, or work, or shopping because it was all just a number game.

In banished you can, not only that but they do follow logical paths to get from one point to another.

My population grew, and as it did – the pressure cooker turned back on. I need more food, more resources, my homes are cold! A tornado just destroyed the only nearby forest I had – along with several key workers. I need to shuffle my workers around because it’s fall and winters coming. I starved.

It’s the most relaxing, but yet intense city-building game I’ve played. It doesn’t need objectives. It doesn’t need micro-managing with blaring horns and unhappy protesters wanting more parks. It doesn’t need armies banging on your door. Yes, you can find a nice balance and grow slowly, carefully, but are you ever really prepared enough? That, my friends, is a question Banished keeps asking.

What has already been accomplished in Banished, allows me to dream. To think, of what elements might be added in the future I’m certainly interested in seeing. Family tree’s – Ack, that would be troublesome if you only had a few families that genetically couldn’t mix anymore without cousins marrying. Maybe it’s highly impractical to imagine a population of 300 and all those family tree’s somehow linking back to four founding families.

“Seasonal” jobs. Things like farms only operate in-season, mid-winter you find your farmers acting as general laborers, not always the most useful things – not when you’d rather have the extra help in your mines, or on your fishing docks. So you do end up trying to manage that, or just leave it be. It is something that makes me dream that the Dev could find a way to assign jobs by season.

Maybe your woodcutter will only begin his work in the summer. Maybe your tailor and blacksmith will only work in the winter – after other resources have stockpiled. Maybe those people also work in your quarry – when they aren’t making you warm clothing.

Banished is not without its quirks, flaws, and bugs. That being said –

I’m happy.

Get this if you:

  • Enjoy City-Building Games.
  • Are self-motivated to set you’re own goals for your city beyond survival.
  • Want a game that is both relaxing, and intense.
  • Enjoy strategy & planning.
  • Want to play an average country/forest medieval settlement that could plausibly exist.
  • Don’t want to dedicate most of your time to defending your settlement.
  • Can survive tornado’s.

Banished by Shining Rock Software { http://www.shiningrocksoftware.com/ }

A Hoard of Thoughts: #1


I faced off against ideas recently. A lot of them, and it is no easy feat.

I started off with one thought about what to write about. Clean, simple, and direct. As I sat down and started to think about how I’d put things I realized I was suddenly facing a hoard of unruly ideas. Without the proper set up they would only end up confusing not only readers but myself as well.

I started thinking about all these individual things as enemies in a video game.

Some people don’t believe games can teach you anything. PVP violence might be viewed as just players killing other players for the fun of it. Running a PVE dungeon may look like a waste of time overcoming programmed obstacles and killing bosses.

I disagree. When you really get into it there is a lot of tactics, and teamwork that come into play. I’ve seen and been part of tiny groups facing incredible odds. It happens.

Game mechanics, player strengths, character abilities, player mentality, and good leadership all play a role.

It may not even be apparent to someone who’s never experienced it. Being effective, efficient, and using your time wisely ‘in-game’ helps. After all no one wants to sit around waiting for thirty minutes just because one player forgot to set their skill-bar’s up right. They just go on without you.

So I know some things I’ve learned by being a gamer actually translate very well to the real world. I could go on for hours about similarities I’ve seen. How groups of players organize themselves, make decisions, and play the game. Could be similar to a business operates. An office functions. More importantly it translates to how the work-place employee function as a team. Their understanding of the role they have in-game is like understanding their role as an employee.

They take their game seriously, so why not the job?

Ok ok, the real world is not as fun as killing a hoard of zombies.

I get that. You’re a gamer you’d rather be gaming. Ok. You can walk out the door now. Seriously. Don’t make me find a few computers and make you play the zombie while I hunt you down with a frying pan. Gaming, or being a gamer is no excuse for being lazy on the job or not caring enough to do the job you were hired to do. All it shows me is you lack motivation, and I don’t think I’d want you on my team in a game either.

So if I ever own a business and someone puts down on an application their in-game accomplishments I’d take them very seriously. Depending on the game that is. In the interview I’d want to know what their role was in the guild/clan/team. How the group functioned, was there a lot of drama? Did they participate in it, or help solve it. What are their personal accomplishments, did they understand their character-class. Did they find some innovative way to play it. On and on it could go.

(Are they as motivated to work as they are to play?)

I’ve been employed numerous places where the manager or owner holds boring meetings and presents these same idea’s. They may even cite some of those very dry self-help, how to run a business book. They want better employee’s and a better team. The goal is the same. They just word things differently.

“Divide and Conquer” = “One thing at a time.”

How long has that concept been around? The dawn of humanity, or just the dawn of civilization?

As a hoard of ugly monsters rushes at me, I think somewhere in the back of my mind.

Oh shit! I’m gonna die.
(Run like crazy.)

Mwahaha that’s right bastards, do half my work for me.
(Separate one or two from the group and then take them on.)

Hell yeah bring it!
(I have uber skills to take you all on kamikaze style!)

Ok I admit it. I’m actually phrasing that ‘nicely’ on here. Because in a game I’m having fun. I relax. Let loose. I play equipped with a mouth grandma would stick a bar of soap in. Merciless evil included at no extra charge. So maybe that does not sound like a good reason to view games favorably. Let me just say as a disclaimer that not all player-groups are the same.

Some are very clean, squeaky. Fully equipped with a rubber duck and some care-bear happiness.

Mine, not so much.

All those phrases have one thing in common. Critical thinking and decision making. Quickly. Or you’re character is going to find itself a nearby resurrection point… No consequences for ‘dying’ in your game? Just pop back up and keep trucking? How about you being down for a few moments could have just cost you’re team the match. What then? Yes making decisions, thinking them through, knowing the consequences – are all part of the game.

They just also happen to be part of the real world too.

Not doing your job because you’d rather be playing a game has a consequence.

Eventually.

I hope.

 

Hoard of thoughts #1: Officially dead. Sorry I can’t prove that to you, because the body with the loot on it has already vanished.

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