My Tribe Review

December 26th, 2008

My Tribe by Grubby Games is an island simulator in which a tribe of people are stranded on an island and have to learn how to survive. This includes gathering food, building shelter, chopping down trees and harvesting rocks (um…) among other things. I’ve debated with myself whether or not to call it a blatant clone of Virtual Villagers, but there really is no getting around it – My Tribe is a blatant clone. But it’s also a very good game.

The graphics are adorable. The intro was very cute and I like the look in general – a slightly more painted look than the standard CG colored or pixel art look often present in casual games. The animation also receives some bonus points as it’s fluid and pleasant, and the game screen is full of life. Butterflies and stuff fluttering around everywhere. Very nice. At times it’s hard to differentiate between objects one can interact with and a colorful bird that’s just decoration, but that’s a small price to pay for a lively background. The audio is also quite pleasant, and I was impressed by the speech in the tutorials. Nice touch.

The gameplay quite simply is fun. There’s a lot to do, a lot to explore, and you always have the urge to solve the next mystery or see what the next technology level will bring. While My Tribe is a ripoff of Virtual Villagers, it does bring some new things such as random islands instead of just a static one. Also, the island is a bit bigger and more dynamic – chopping down trees cause them to disappear and you have the option to plant new ones as well. In general there are more ways to affect the environment than in Virtual Villagers.

After a while I started feeling that the island was limited, though. I think that there needs to be more stuff to do – a bigger set of things to interact with. I may not be the ideal person for these kinds of simulators but I feel that there ought to be more to do all the time. Sure, I need to let my little islanders work in order to improve their skills, but I’d like to have minigames to play at the same time. Something to occupy my restless mind with. The game is still fun, but I can’t concentrate on it since there’s often nothing to do. Which brings me to another aspect of the game…

The game is progressing even when it’s not running, so while you’re away your islanders are still chopping up wood and fishing and researching. This is a neat idea, but also a very frustrating one: you need to remember to play now and then in order to not wipe out your entire tribe. I left the game a couple of days and feared that white skeletons would greet me upon my return, but I was pleasantly surprised. They had managed to take care of themselves and had given me an excrement-load of science points to boot! Great! I assumed that the game wasn’t all that keen on that death thing, so I got cocky and left the game a couple of more days.

Disaster! Tombstones littered the island. My once proud tribe was reduced to its bare minimum. I did find two survivors though: Jeremy and Hannah were starving but mysteriously still alive. Also, a young girl was alive as well. I wonder if this is a contingency plan by the developers? “That lame dude left all his islanders to die! Well, we’d better make sure that he has enough to breed more people at least.” If so, it’s a brilliant idea. However, it doesn’t work in practice.

This is where the game enters a downward spiral. With so few people left it’s no fun to play the game, which means that you won’t be arsed to start up the game very often. Which of course means that the tribe won’t expand very quickly – or at all. In the end I had a tribe consisting of 54 year old Xavier, an aged woman and a young girl. It’s impossible to breed more people once they are too old, so these few are the remnants of a once proud budding civilization now destined for extinction.

By the way, when you click on an islander you can see his or her thoughts. I kept seeing “Xavier is very happy to live on the island” and “Xavier thinks this island has no equal.” No shit. Here’s a guy who’s lived a nice and cozy life alone with two women on a deserted island. You old goat, you.

Finally I have to mention that despite the game’s flaws it’s strangely addictive. My current tribe is doomed but I have the urge to start a new one – see if I can get things right this time. The game is still a bit limited, but fun nonetheless.

Graphics

Quite nice! Good animations and lovely painted look in the intro.

4/5

Sound

Nice music, and good sound effects. Extra credit for the voice acting even though the girl sounds smug. You biatch! Don’t smirk at me while you tell me how to play!

3/5

Gameplay

My Tribes is fun, there’s no getting around that. A bit lacking in variety and things to do on the island.

3/5

Addictiveness

I want to make my tribe great! I want to solve the mysteries! I want to explore lots of islands! I guess that means that the game is pretty addictive?

4/5

Technical notes

The game started up in fullscreen and did awful things to my two-screen setup. Everything was restored fine when I put it in windowed mode, though, so no harm done aside from messing up my desktop brightness. I like the loading screen – “sailing to your island” and a boat moving to the right to indicate the progress instead of a simple loading bar.

Edit: As was mentioned by Olivia in the comments below, the game can be set in slow mode if one intends to leave it for a while. The problem for me is that I never know in advance if I’ll be gone for a few days – I play games when I feel like it and have the time to spare, so it’s not always easy to predict these things.



Color-Blind Johnny’s Rubik’s Cube

December 23rd, 2008

I went through my X: drive today in search of old screenshots of Might and Magic games (don’t ask), and I found these hilarious newspaper clippings. Thoughtful as I am I thought I’d share them with you:

Ironically, if line six is to be disregarded then the instructions for how to read the notice should be disregarded too. I smell a paradox.

Sooty is a legend. He’s become part of my standard repertoire of drunken anecdotes. “He slept for two days” is just the icing on the cake. But no matter how funny Sooty is, I found something even better:

Sweet mother of the f-word, I can’t stop laughing at that. It has to be a fake…but if it isn’t, it’s the best captioned picture ever.



Merry Loot-Day 2008

December 20th, 2008

It’s December 20 and this could be the least Christmassy Christmas ever. No Christmas songs playing, no snow, no candy or xmas foods, no Christmas beer at home, no presents planned (except for one) – this place isn’t exactly bursting with holiday cheer. So, what better way to make things brighter than to create a little Christmas card from KarjaSoft to you all.

Merry Christmas and a happy new year well in advance! Just in case I forget to mention it later.

Now I’d better get back to my cactus tea and a that stupid movie I was watching.



Quest Guidance, Wildhollow and Rise of the Argonauts

December 17th, 2008

My recent non-public release of Wildhollow (v0.2) has received some very interesting feedback. First of all, many seem to enjoy the art and the writing. Yayness! That’s actually pretty damn cool – I’ve been freetting over whether or not I’m a moron for putting so much emphasis on dialogue in the game. My reasoning is sound: Spandex Force received praise for its humorous writing, so this time I’m concentrating on much more of that. But it is a bit of a gamble. The audio received some mixed comments, but the only thing I really have to change is the typewriter sound in the dialogues. I agree that it’s a tad anachronistic in a fantasy game…but on the other hand I’ve added heavy metal songs for the dramatic scenes as well. What can I say, I like contrasts!

Other than that there are three worrying tendencies in the feedback: the minigames suck (I’m fixing that), the animal management needs to be improved (I’m fixing that)…and I have a sneaky suspicion that some people feel that there’s not enough guidance in the quests.

I’m all for easy-to-play games that one can pick up instantly. But Wildhollow requires you to read a lot of dialogue and deduce what to do based on that. I’ve done my best to have “quest hints” for each stage of the quests and have characters repeat important bits of information if they’re relevant to a quest, but there still might be a lot of exploration required to solve some of the puzzles.

I’m still on the fence whether or not this is a good thing. My initial response is “It’s a good thing, dammit! It encourages immersion and makes the quests flow naturally rather than appear forced.” But yesterday I played Rise of the Argonauts and now I’m not so sure anymore…

I consider myself a casual gamer, and Rise of the Argonauts is a pretty casual action RPG. I click some buttons, and the dude runs around like a scorched ferret, cutting and clubbing people all over the place. I love it! Epic violence, beautifully performed, that requires almost no skill at all. I don’t have to spend hours to learn how to do weird combos – they simply appear out of nowhere!

But all is not well in ancient Greece… The game gives almost no indication as to what I need to do next. I can’t be arsed to read all the text in an action game – I’m playing the game to spear people on my enormous barbeque stick! But if I skip too much I end up with my hero standing around looking dumb, and me sitting there feeling even more dumb. “So… Uh… What? What do I have to do now? Do I have to talk to someone? Is there a list of active quests? I don’t know what to do!”

Now, Wildhollow and Rise of the Argonauts aren’t comparable at all. Not in the very least, and not only because RotA is a frigging multi-million production. My choice to rely on text in Wildhollow is a major part of the design – it’s an integral part of the game. RotA’s focus is on action, with text added on. In Wildhollow you can quickly click around to try out things or talk to people; in RotA you have to physically move your character between the scenic vistas to see if this was where you needed to go…and retrace your steps if not. But at its core, Wildhollow relies on the player to explore to proceed – just like RotA.

I’ve been toying with the idea of adding graphic indicators for whom to talk to next, but… That feels cheap. It breaks the immersion. And it just might make the puzzles too easy. Another approach might be to make conversations pop up more often – make some NPCs initiate conversations on their own. That’s probably a better approach, but I’m still not sure if that would work. What I want is to make a game that’s easy to play and follow, but still not ridiculously simple or lacking in immersion.

Any suggestions for good games I ought to play to get inspiration for how to solve my dilemma?

No one?

Not a single suggestion?

Man, you suck.



The Great Indie Bake Off 2008

December 16th, 2008

I saw this thread on Indiegamer.com about Antair Games’ most prestigious Indie Bake Off 2008 competition, and I simply had to post a picture of my delicious Pac-Man saffron buns I baked a couple of weeks ago. I wasn’t planning on entering the competition per se, but Gavin from Antair Games just told me that the pic was added anyway…despite its blatant disregard for competition rules! (He didn’t say the last part explicitly, but I can tell!)

It’s been a semi-annual tradition for me to make these every year around December 13. It’s my own particular way of celebrating Saint Lucy’s Day. Normally the traditional saffron buns look like this, but I prefer my geeky buns:

As you can see, my Pac-Men are a little darker and maybe not quite as yellow. I blame that on two things: my covering the buns just a tad excessively in eggs…and the fact that I used some strange unlabeled saffron that I bought in Tunisia. I think it was saffron at least…

Now go check out the other entries!