2014 : A year of Gaming 1/3

I don’t know how many people will ultimately read this post. It has been a long time since I’ve written anything down here, and I know my audience, which was already dwindling, has virtually evaporated over the past 8 months. A lot of things have happened, both in my personal life and within the gaming community which made blogging, especially about games, seem both not that important and more than a little dangerous this year. After seeing the things that happened to a lot of the people I follow on Twitter, people I consider friends, peers and mentors, and a number of people I look up to, getting pushed out of their jobs, their industry and yes in some cases, their homes, I’m very much on the opposition side of a particular hashtag. The fact that I don’t even want to mention it by name, and yet I’m still afraid random people might show up here to try to “debate” the merits of said hashtag. I’m saying that knowing that I would financially benefit if they did though.

But that all shouldn’t prevent me from doing my recap post for 2014. If I had been smarter, I would have written this throughout the year, but I wasn’t so I’m going through my recent game list on Steam to get the order of everything right, and for the most part, it should be accurate.

Last year, I played 24 games across 12 months and this year I played 30, but I played one game for 4 months, so it is more like I played 29 games in 8 months plus one more for the rest of the year. With those kinds of stats, you know that this is going to be another LONG post.

Don’t Starve: Traditionally, the first game I start in the new year is a rogue-like/procedurally generated game, since they fit with the theme of restarting and putting a new spin on things with every new iteration. Don’t Starve was much in keeping with that same theme. The premise is you wake up in the wilderness and you have to gather resources to craft things and feed/protect/shelter yourself. I found the experience of playing it largely enjoyable, but in the end, I was terrible at surviving. But it was fun trying, and that’s all that I can ask of the experience really. And I love the art style so much. It has a wonderful art style, and to me, that is its most memorable feature. This was also the first of two games released by Klei Entertainment that I played this year.

Planescape: Torment: I tried… I really did. But I just didn’t click with this game. I can understand why it is such a beloved game even now from my relatively short playtime, but I just couldn’t get into it. The world had just started to open up for me, but by that point I had felt overwhelmed for quite some time trying to figure out how to make progress in the world, and knowing that every decision might have consequences made me really, really have to think about every thing that I said to every NPC I met. I know someone on Twitter who seemed to have the same experience I did, which makes me feel a little better. I have a sense that if I played this game back in the early part of the 2000s, I would have loved it, but I think that time has passed. It also made me a little fearful about trying to play some of the other older isometric RPGs I have, both of the Dungeons and Dragons variety and the old Fallout games which I think is a shame.

Euro Truck Simulator 2: This is very much one of those games that people think of as a joke until they play it… and a lot of people have played it now. This year, I had two separate experiences with this game this year. I played it in January and found the experience largely enjoyable, and much of my pleasure was derived from just seeing how Europe was recreated in the game since I’ve never been there, so it was something that appealed to my love of exploring spaces and seeing new things in games. When I had seen most of the map, I started to lose interest in the game. But I have to say, the driving was oddly satisfying, and building up my little company was sort of fulfilling. I then revisited the game again in November, partially as a transitional game after a long, long experience with another game, and partially because since I had played it in January, the developer had added Steam Achievements and additional content to the game, and I wanted to see how things had turned out since I had played it previously. Strangely enough, I have a bunch of memories attached to the music that was playing on the radio as I was driving. Like every time I hear Kajagoogoo’s Too Shy, I think about driving into Paris from the east at sunset and having to go through toll booths, and Lily Allen’s The Fear makes me think of driving north from Plymouth to Glasgow at night through construction zones and dodging speeding tickets, and U2’s New Year Day reminds me of driving outside of Metz on route to Rotterdam in mid-afternoon… and I have so many memories/associations like this in my mind. I discovered a lot of great music, and for that alone, it was worth my money.

Super Hexagon: This is a hard game. It has 6 achievements, one for each of the levels, awarded for staying alive in the game for 60 seconds. I did not get one of them. And it is frustrating because it looks so deceptively simple. I wish I was better at it, I really do.Then again, Terry Cavanaugh is known for making hard games.

Wargame: European Escalation: I really liked the presentation of this game. It is a tactical war game which presents a series of scenarios/campaigns based on hypothetical ways that the Cold War in Europe during the 1970’s and 80’s could have erupted into a full-fledged hot war, and each campaign is prefaced by a short cut scene explaining the situation that led to war… and as someone who studied a lot of these events in the past, most of the setup is stuff that actually happened and it is just the very end, the final flashpoint that ends up different. Like the setup for Able Archer… every thing that they mention except the actual outbreak of war happened. The game itself is also very nice to look at, and extremely detailed. Like you can pull all the way back to see the whole map of the engagement, and then zoom in level by level until you are looking at a specific unit, with a model moving around in real time in a detailed environment that is deforming under the conditions of battle. From the technical side alone on this, I was pretty impressed. I know the later games in the series have more dynamic campaigns and such, but I think I like the idea of these tightly designed scenarios put together as campaigns better.

Beat Hazard Ultra: This was the second time I played this game for a sustained time period. The first time I really played it, it was a time in my life when I was amongst the best players in the world at this game… a couple of my scores were in the top 20-30 in the world (and my old scores are still pretty highly ranked even years later). So, when Cold Beam Games announced that there was going to be new DLC coming and they needed late beta testers, I felt like I was someone who was very qualified to test that content out. While I didn’t get the old feelings back for the game (since it was DLC that allowed people to play/build their own ships, so it felt like a different game), it was an enjoyable process. I don’t generally like to see how the sausage is made when it comes to games testing, but this was a rare exception, and a couple of my suggestions made it into the final product to make the experience better for everyone, and I think that is a good thing.I created some popular ships for the workshop too, and while I had a lot of fun playing it, I can also tell that I will never be as good as I once was at it.
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