Project Zomboid Review – Dying Is Fun

Written 21/11/2011. First posted here.

The word of the day, boys and girls, is ‘bleak’. Synonyms include: desolate, dismal, disheartening, and dear god let it end.

Today’s colour will be purple; as in prose. Not quite ‘limitless abysses of inexplicably coloured twilight and bafflingly disordered sound’ but with more than a touch of the ultraviolet nonetheless. This is purely because it fits the feel of the game, and isn’t the slightest bit really fun to write.

Project Zomboid is a post-apocalyptic survival game from Indie Stone. It’s in open development, so this review should be absolutely useless by Christmas, but as I type this we’re on version 0.1.5d, it’ll cost you £4.99, and the developers were robbed just over a month ago and could really use the cash.

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How Not To Screw Up Writing a Gender-Neutral Society

Written 08/11/2011. First posted here.

When creating a world for the player to romp joyfully in, many writers start with the intention of making it a completely post-patriarchal society. Speciesism runs amok, class warfare may be rampant but whether you need a little extra in your breastplate isn’t an issue. It’s especially common in RPGs, where the designers are understandably disinclined to fuck over anyone who doesn’t want to play a dude. The problem is that they’re often not very good at it.

Oh, they try. Your badass barbarian babe won’t face a single gender-based criticism for solving every problem with her axe, but they’re not quite so on the ball when it comes to anything else. Visual differences are common: the tunic skirt cuts a little higher, the neckline a little lower. (‘A little’ is generous. Armour that covers Conan throat-to-knee loses two square foot of fabric when Sonja pulls it over her head.) This isn’t standard by any means – Morrowind clothing is the same badly-displayed monstrosity on everyone – but it is frustratingly ubiquitous.

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Indie Games Can’t Move Forward If They’re Always Looking Back

Written 08/11/2011. First posted here.

Some would say that opening your career by taking a pot-shot at gaming’s darling is unwise, and those people would be right. That said; if something’s worth doing, it’s worth screwing up and there are issues with the indie market that need to be talked about.

Before we can start, ‘indie’ needs to be defined as a genre. Do we count titles that came out as indie but were later picked up by publishers (Mount and Blade, The Ball), or are they disqualified and stripped of their Indie Status? More controversially, where do we put the multitude of wildly popular games which started as mods, only to be picked up and nurtured by Valve: the Patron Saint of Modders? For the purposes of this article, ‘indie’ will be used to refer to games produced entirely by independent developers, and those that were bought up after completion. This is purely for the sake of clear communication and there are indie games which fall outside these rough parameters.

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Playing Without Playfulness

Written 08/11/2011. First posted here.

If you’ve played tabletop for any length of time you should be familiar with this scene: A few tables are set up around the room, players sit with bowed heads and considering expressions; contemplating their next move – or whether they have enough change for another beer – when a voice cuts through the camaraderie.

“No, I’m sure you moved them six-point-two inches!”

Heads turn. Eyes roll. Some poor bastard is about to lose her game to a twenty-minute argument over six millimetres. (Or, as the aspiring rules lawyer will be happy to lecture you, 5.08mm.)

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