REALPLAY - Space Engineers - Planets, we gots 'em. Plus special versions for those with short attention spans.

It appears that Keen Software House has finally stopped saying "soon" and gotten around to actually updating Space Engineers with planetary environments. I had the great pleasure of watching the entire livestream earlier today, during which they actually released the patch onto Steam.

It just wouldn't have done if I did not immediately turn around and do my own livestream of SE, with a particular focus on – me bubbling around like an incompetent.

This probably comes as no surprise.

However, I'm well aware that not everyone has the patience to watch 30 minutes of a brand-new, exciting, possibly psychically damaging video. Luckily, Microsoft has come to your rescue. Yes, Microsoft! Because the hyperlapse has become "a thing," and I've never been one to pass up on the opportunity to explore the strange outer reaches of video technology, it seemed obvious that I should put together my own work with that of Microsoft in automatically creating and presenting the hyperlapse.

30 minutes too long? For some of you it is. For those people, I present – everything above, except eight times faster!

Was that fast enough? No? Are you having trouble making it all the way through this post because there are simply too many words that take too long to read? Was nearly 5 minutes simply more time than you had?

I've got your back. Here's everything from above, no commentary, no game sound effects, just some good old-fashioned rock 'n roll and epilepsy-triggering visual stimulation at 16 times normal speed. That's 1 minute 37 seconds of pure, eye gouging, space engineering, hyperkinetic goodness.

There you go. That's as good as it gets.


Graviteam Tactics and FortressCraft, Big Sales and New Soul Devouring -- and Planets Are Coming

Somehow, after weeks of relative quiet, the bloody bottom exploded beneath video games and there's actually a few things to talk about. Rather than make a bunch of smaller socnet posts, I thought it seemed far more sane to simply make one longer, more coherent, link-ladened blog post, as if people actually wanted to read things and digest content more than just glancing at a line or two and making a snap-judgement.

I know, I know. That's crazy talk.

Heavy Metal, Big Savings

Named in PC Gamer's top 20 best wargames of all time in 2015, step into the role of a commander at the very heart of the Eastern Front defence. With chaotic night skirmishes and unpredictable enemies, save 95% on Graviteam Tactics and all DLC!
Which is all true.

What they're not telling you is that you're looking at one of the hardest of the hard-core Eastern Front simulations. That means freakin' ice, it means freakin' snow, and it means shivering in the command seat of your T-38 with your breath puffing out in front of you and your fingers numb as you scan the horizon for any sign of a Tiger coming through the trees to ruin your day in seconds. More than that, it means marshalling your entire battalion or more of forces along the front lines, keeping them in supply, coordinating the stop-points and synchronization of multiple moving pieces so your forces crash down on the enemy like a naked iron fist of Stalin at a Christian Fisting party. Also, it means doing so simultaneously on occasion, and a campaign that doesn't just drop you into scenarios with refreshing forces but an ongoing, limited-resources nightmare of dealing with the enemy both in pieces and altogether, pushing them back out of your territory and into Nazi Hell where they belong.

Or Commie Hell, depending on your preferences and allegiances.

Or Afghani Hell; there are a lot of pieces of DLC included in this bundle.

Cuban or Angoli Hell, even.

Chinese Hell?

Look, here's the deal: there are really only two truly hardcore WWII tactical wargame series worth talking about if you're really looking for the whole experience. One of them is the Combat Mission series, the latest branch of which is dealing with Russia versus NATO in the Ukraine with Black Sea. (Yeah, I wondered if they picked lottery numbers, too.) The other is Graviteam Tactics, which has a DLC covering an alternate-universe USSR invasion of Afghanistan in '79. With the Iranians getting involved supporting the Mujahideen against the Russians. (I'm looking to see if they pick lottery numbers, too.)

This thing has a learning curve like a sheer cliff. Imagine learning a game while being Sylvester Stallone at the beginning of Cliffhanger.

Pretty much exactly like that, but in Russian with more tanks.

Oh, you don't believe me? OK, fine, Mister Man, here's an operations and deployment phase video.

Yeah, that just happened.

Why am I talking about this, you may rightly ask?

Steam has the Graviteam Tactics core and all the DLC cranking out for the gentle sum of about $160. That's -- not inconsiderable. In fact, that's a fat wad of monies.

BundleStars? $7.50. This is the kind of sale that makes people who think to themselves, "that's not really my bag, but it might be cool" decide to just jump in and say, "why the Hell not?" And sometimes it converts them into life-long aficionados of the most rabid kind. This is, not to put too fine a point on it, "a good thing."

Windows only, sadly, but by Hell, it's the kind of sale that should make you rethink your devotion to the wretched damnation that Apple provides to the long-suffering.


Build a Fortress, Save a Cowboy

I've been craving a bit of the old buildy-buildy, which is a real problem of late.

Minecraft is just not satisfying to me anymore without mods, the mods are still a right pain to install and maintain, it's a bigger pain now to set up a standalone server than it used to be -- extra so with said mods, and frankly I've seen them all, for the most part. I want to construct more than architecture and vanilla just doesn't have automation.

Medieval Engineers has an annoying issue in Survival (my preferred play-mode) where you require food to not die, scavenging food nodes is hard and tedious, and the more you do so, the less they spawn -- which has the truly annoying side-effect of making it impossible to survive in one area in a game devoted to building architecture. Maybe they'll add some kind of lightweight farm block and bot farmers to make it tenable. For now, not even a little.

Space Engineers has been teasing their planetary building mode for over a month, finally declared it'll be released come Thursday, and in the last update completely broke mining by giving the mining drill the strange power to launch mined rocks straight against the wall you're digging from at Mach 3, causing them to recoil and kill you dead. Dead, dead, dead. Given that hand-mining is kind of a deeply required activity in SE in Survival, that keeps me from playing until we see if the new stuff later this week actually introduces more bugs than it fixes.

Factorio is a damn fine game, playable, and still in active development.  But sort of like SE, sans the bugs, we're kind of in an in-between state in the world of updates. The next major one promises some serious art overhauls, new bits and bobs, and is promised soon enough that I don't really want to get into it with an intent to more long-term commitment to a current save. If you don't already have F, I'd say go pick it up -- or at least the free demo to see if you'd enjoy it. All about the automation architecture, it is, and building things in it gives a great feeling of satisfaction, but it's 2D only.

So I've been mildly moping.

Today, I got a notification that a game actually left Early Access for release. Madness!

Have I had the chance to put in the time to get nasty with this thing yet? Nope. Is it clearly and obviously still in development even though it's out of EA? Yup. Am I likely to get totally consumed by this thing for at least a month and then intermittently as more stuff comes out for it? Oh, absolutely. It has conveyor belts that can go straight up walls! How could I not get off on that?

So, right, $10.40 on Steam, FortressCraft Evolved is. Runs on Macs, for the Apple-besotten! And it looks like this:

That's pretty, but what's it really like, I hear you asking. More like this, if you were a surfer and playing a subterranean building game.

So, right, grappling mining factory-building. Expect updates.

If You Can't Do It, Planet

No, there's no sound. You're not tripping.

Space Engineers is announcing the planetary expansion, as I said, and that will probably eat part of my soul, too -- if I get to do mining again.

After this long, I'm not sure that there is any kind of software delivery that Space Engineers could actually do that would match the salty tears of a quite loud part of the fandom. There are people who have acted as if Keen Software had raped and butchered their mother rather than teased a game update for a piece of software still very clearly marked as Alpha.

Those people we mock.

That said, Keen have been particularly cock-like when it comes to this update. So much teasing, so many releases which outright stated "soon," with the full knowledge that people were getting antsy. Frankly, I don't hold with that as a developer and creator myself – but I understand the motivation. Believe me.

So – Thursday… The day we find out. If it's like any of the other major gameplay expansions for SE, we'll have at least three weeks of borderline-unplayable game experience, followed by some serious patching, followed by a surprisingly stable Alpha experience, with people making an absolute ridiculous amount of Survival videos, showing off the things you can do in a large planetary gravity field, and bragging about how quickly they managed to assemble a hydrogen-rocket to leave the gravity field and go back to space. Where they can play the the same game we've been playing for two years now.

I didn't say they were sane.



Descent vs Sub-Level Zero: Trailer Fight!

The ships of Descent 3. Hint:
They are very maneuverable.
Look folks, the truth is that videogame trailers are very delicate art, and not every company has the chops to do a good job of it. Do you want a fine example of some of the best videogame trailer action ever put to VHS?

Let's talk about Descent.

Listen to those buttery vocals. Revel in the sheer, unadulterated action being presented to your poor eye-holes. Gasp in shock at the revelation that Descent 3 is "modem compatible!"

No, seriously – this is an awesome trailer. It's got high-energy, it shows you the game, it sounds like the creators are excited about the project, there's no question about what kind of experience that it provides. It is almost impossible to beat this experience, even when you are trying to replicate this experience.


Kickstarter Heads-Up: Void Destroyer 2

Void Destroyer 2 follows in the footsteps of the original Void Destroyer while adding a larger, more sandbox environment around what is essentially a hybrid first-person/third-person arcade-like space combat simulator with Newtonian physics and some of the crunchier aspects of space sandbox simulations.

Which is a pretty complex idea to get across, frankly. As a reviewer and a curator, games like this are a solid pain in the ass to communicate about because they just don't conform to easy packaging. The first Void Destroyer provided me the same sort of difficulty, because in actual play it was sort of a hybrid of your traditional third person space exploration/combat sim and Homeworld, with its ability to pull the camera back and control entire fleets in a real-time strategy style. If you see it being played, you get it. If you're just told about it, things are complicated.