Come crawling back: DCSS version 0.15 released

DCSS

“This raw flesh tastes terrible. You continue eating. (2x)” Some games strike at the heart of the human condition.

“Cheeses, sausages, and ambrosia are no more.” That reads like the lead-in to a tale of life after the apocalypse. Yet it’s a minor footnote in the sweeping changes brought about in DCSS v.0.15.

Famed for its tactical challenge, bottomless depth and uneating, Okawaru-worshipping mummies, Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup has for many years been one of the premier hardcore roguelikes. A new update code-named “Storm Over Zot”  just ushered in some comprehensive changes, with an emphasis on streamlining some of the more menial management tasks. To wit:

  • Inventory weight limits have been removed.
  • Item destruction is no more, and corrosion has a more severe but temporary effect.

You don’t need to have played Crawl before to know what a tremendous difference those changes imply. With two simple bullet points, millions of man-hours have just been restored to the collective labor pool of humanity.

Instead of weight limits, each character now gets a 52-item max carrying capacity. Why 52? That’s one for each letter of the alphabet, counting capitals. So even as some in the community gripe that the game’s being dumbed down, Crawl still takes its keyboard-only playability seriously.

It’s a game much like Dwarf Fortress in that even if you never play it, you can get a vicarious thrill just by browsing the changelog. Read on for some of the more amusing excerpts. (And speaking of living vicariously, you’re encouraged to spectate as brave heroes meet their ends.)

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Quake Live “modernizes” game rules, undergoes sudden 15-year time warp

Quake Live, by id Software

Marine 1: “I won’t wear an overshield. I’m not gonna end up like those others. You’ll take care of it, won’t you?” Marine 2: “If it comes to that, I’ll do us both.”

id Software’s best shooter since Quake 3 is without question (but with more than a little irony) Quake Live, the free-to-play online implementation of Quake 3. Released in 2010, what at first seemed a browser-based novelty has since matured into a standalone game. Real Soon Now it’s going to head to Steam, where the id bigwigs hope it’ll finally find the audience it deserves.

Which is to say, a mass audience. With everything that implies.

A new patch just hit in advance of the Steam port, and it’s designed to make the game more approachable to novices. Here are the rules changes (and if you were gaming in ’99, make sure you’re sitting for this):

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Don’t shoot food (just yet): Gauntlet delayed till end of September

Gauntlet, by Arrowhead Studios

Barrels are no substitute for meaningful choices. Unless they’re full of beer, which would obviate the need.

Hey Greensleeves! Put down the bow and arrow. It’s really important that you not shoot food–not even to spite your hungry friends. We’re all going to need to stretch those calories just a few weeks longer.

There’s been a slight hitch in the multiplayer component of Arrowhead’s new Gauntlet game, so you can expect it now on September 23 (instead of the 3rd). The extra time gives us an opportunity to pause and consider how it’s shaping up–a task made easier by the new gameplay trailer below.

And by its brick simple, dumbed down, totally un-Gauntlet-like level design.

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What’s missing from Civilization: Beyond Earth?

Civilization: Beyond Earth, by Firaxis

“No new horror can be more terrible than the daily torture of the commonplace.” –H.P. Lovecraft

Ever since April when Firaxis announced Civilization: Beyond Earth, I’ve been scanning the heavens for some sign that it’s going to amount to more than a Civ V total conversion. Now that I’ve watched the two developer livestreams that Firaxis posted last week, I feel like packing up my telescope and heading indoors.

The sign that I’ve been hoping for? Nowhere to be seen. And after four months of waiting, I’ve developed the most awful crick.

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Hold… Hold… As one! After seven years, Europa Barbarorum 2 is released

Europa Barbarorum 2, for Medieval 2: Total War

Would you, Quintus? Yeah you would, you old dog!

If you’re still grieving over Total War: Rome II, this ought to provide some much-needed closure. Europa Barbarorum 2, a free total conversion for Medieval II: Total War, was released today after seven years of development. It’s a thorough, exacting treatment of Rome from 214BC-14AD, encompassing the mid/late Republic, the civil wars and the beginning stages of empire.

The first Europa Barbarorum was one of the most popular mods for the original Rome: Total War. Why then is the follow-up designed for Medieval II instead of Rome II? According to the developers, “because MTW2 is the only reasonably moddable engine after RTW.” That inherent moddability provides for hundreds of historical units across dozens of factions, plus a new interface, custom art and sound assets.

The official site has been going up and down like P. Clodius Pulcher in a darkened alley, but you can find download links and instructions at the TotalWar.org forums. After the jump, see what mountains they can move when a bunch of Classics majors join forces.

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What’s in the Box: Heretic shareware

Heretic shareware, by Raven Software and id Software

The mage could take no more of MJ’s choreography.

Shareware: historically speaking, it’s not just for WinZip. In the early ’90s, interest in PC games surged behind blockbusters like SimCity, Doom, and Myst. In a climate of renewed competition, developers could no longer depend on postage-stamp screenshots to bring in the moola. So they took a hint from their close associates out on the street corner:  they decided to let customers sample their games.

But this was before magazines had started packing demo CDs, and before widespread Internet access. How then to start kids down the path of degeneracy? The solution was shareware: instead of full games, excerpts packaged simply and sold on the cheap.

Apogee Software was the first to sell entire episodes as shareware. An episode consisted of multiple levels strung together, often comprising a third or more of the full game. The model soon caught on, including with fellow FPS maker id Software.

Which brings us to today’s curio. Developed by Raven Software and published by id, Heretic marked the beginning of a long and productive friendship between them. It ran on an upgraded Doom engine and followed id’s design ethos closely. Notable additions included an emphasis on inventory items, plus the ability to crane your neck up and down somewhat–which in 1994, as the back of the box makes clear, was a killer feature.

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Ancient Space and Hard West: CreativeForge announces two games in as many weeks

Ancient Space, by CreativeForge Games

I’ll beat you at your part…

When a new developer announces its first game, it’s cause for celebration. When a new developer announces two impossibly good-looking games back-to-back, one begins to suspect some form of demonic assistance. Yes, it seems CreativeForge Games met the devil at the crossroads and sold its soul for the ability to turn out two games at once. Only this time around, the devil got shortchanged.

The first, a Homeworld-inspired RTS called Ancient Space (seen above), was just announced today. Good old Paradox, apparently not content with having dominated Gamescom last week, has signed on as publisher. It’s got a full single-player campaign, a swanky voice cast (I’m always pleased to see Dwight Schultz’ name), and is due out sometime this fall.

It’s ostensibly a game of exploration as well as combat: your fleet is engaged in a scientific mission To Explore Strange New Worlds and etc. It’s hard to tell whether the exploration stuff is for real or mere pretense, but it all looks splendid in motion (for which, keep on reading).

Hard West concept art, by CreativeForge Games

…I’ll take you both together!

Second is Hard West, an X-COM-style tactics game set exactly where the title suggests. It features an overworld map with exploration elements and travel between towns, plus a “sinister” tone influenced by the works of Stephen King, David Lynch, and Cormac McCarthy–all patron saints of unflinching violence.

Whereas Ancient Space is all but finished, Hard West is early in production; the image above is concept art. At this very moment it’s closing in on its $70,000 CAD Kickstarter goal–and you can hang your hat on that one, partner.

After the jump, see the trailer for Ancient Space and the Kickstarter pitch for Hard West. And when you’re done, pencil CreativeForge in your list of developers to stalk. On second thought: use ink.

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Out Now: Heroes of a Broken Land, King’s Bounty: Dark Side, Five Nights at Freddy’s and more

Heroes of a Broken Land, by Winged Pixel Inc.

Hero of a lonely land / Much better than a / Hero of a broken land.

At the risk of angering the gods of epistemology (the extent of whose wrath cannot be known), I’m sure Heroes of a Broken Land is the coolest game I’ve never heard of before. It’s an old-school grid-based dungeon crawler like Dungeon Master or Legend of Grimrock, except it’s also got a Civ-style strategic layer slapped on top. You can play a demo right in your browser, or drop $14.99 on Steam, Desura, or the Winged Pixel store.

Now let’s see, where did I put that trailer? Ah yes! I put it below.

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