Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Where are they now? - Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers

In 2014, the 20th Anniversary Edition of Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers was released which was originally designed and written by Jane Jensen

For today's Where are they now? let's take a look at a few of the key developers behind the classic Sierra point 'n' click adventure, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers. I played Gabriel Knight a long time after my first few years of playing Sierra point 'n' click adventures such as Quest for Glory, Space Quest II and Police Quest - which is probably just as well since some of the graphics were much better than these early Sierra games and the themes were darker, more adult. Anyway, the game was fantastic; I loved the music, I loved the fact you got to explore a real city (New Orleans), I loved the voice acting (Tim Curry as Gabriel Knight!) and it was just a great game overall. So it's probably no surprise that I ended up in possession of the 20th Anniversary Edition of the game (thanks to being gifted it for Father's Day).

But who were the people behind the development of this game? Well there are far too many to mention but I'll at least mention some of the key people (to me) and that would be its designers, writers and composers. In the case of Gabriel Knight, that would be Jane Jensen, Bridget McKenna and Robert Holmes.

Jane Jensen probably needs little introduction; I've already mentioned her in a previous "Where are they now?" post and it doesn't seem too much has changed since then, at least on the games development front. Jensen was responsible for designing and writing the original Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers but she was also responsible for designing and writing for the 2014 games Moebius: Empire Rising and Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers 20th Anniversary Edition. Since 2014, she doesn't appear to have worked on any other games but that's probably because she's been busy writing novels. Earlier this month, she showcased the cover of her new book called "In the Land of Milk and Honey" which is due for release in August.

Robert Holmes, Jensen's husband, composed the music for Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers and has composed music for just about every game his wife has designed since, such as the Gabriel Knight sequels, Gray Matter and Cognition. More recently, he composed the music for Moebius: Empire Rising and remastered his original work for the 20th Anniversary Edition of Sins of the Fathers.

Bridget McKenna is credited as one of the writers for the original Sins of the Fathers, although it seems that she performed a lot of editing and documentation work for Sierra during the late 80s and early 90s. McKenna continued to lend her writing talents for a few games after Sierra, mainly MMORPGs like 1999's Asheron's Call, 2009's Aion and 2011's TERA. Nowadays she continues to write stories and publishes them as e-books. Her most recent e-book "Evenings, Mornings, Afternoons: Thirteen Stories", was released just last year. She also provides creative writing advice on her blog.

I unfortunately don't have the time to cover what happened to the entire development team but if you happened to be part of the original Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers development team, then let us know! We'd love to hear your stories and anecdotes! :)

[ MobyGames: Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers ]
[ Wikipedia: Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers ]
[ MobyGames: Robert Holmes ]
[ MobyGames: Jane Jensen ]
[ Wikipedia: Jane Jensen ]
[ Facebook: Jane Jensen ]
[ Official Bridget McKenna website ]
[ MobyGames: Bridget McKenna ]

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Hate Plus Review

Apparently, in the far future, it only takes three days to travel over 25,000ly!

  • Developer: Love Conquers All Games (Christine Love)
  • Publisher: Love Conquers All Games (Christine Love)
  • Release Date: 20 August 2013
  • Time played: 7 hours

Hate Plus is another of those games I managed to grab as part of a Valentine's Day Humble Bundle almost a year ago called "For Lovers (of games)" and despite finishing it quite a while ago, I've finally got around to reviewing it!

I've been slowly going through the games I purchased in this bundle and reviewing them and to date, I have reviews for WORLD END ECONOMiCA episode.01, Go! Go! Nippon! ~My First Trip to Japan~, Roommates and this game's predecessor, Analogue: A Hate Story.

As you can see, I've reviewed a majority of the 7 games that came in the bundle, which is good, but don't expect to see a review of the critically acclaimed (and puntastic) Hatoful Boyfriend any time soon since I just couldn't roleplay a high school girl trying to get it on with male pigeons – it's a bridge too far for me (but kudos to those that can)! Long Live the Queen is probably the only game in the bundle (besides Hatoful Boyfriend) that I've left to review and it's actually not a bad game at all (albeit extremely difficult). So I might get onto it since it'd be nice to have a sense of closure by completing all games in the bundle (minus one).

So, as mentioned, Hate Plus is the sequel to Christine Love's Analogue: A Hate Story. The reason for the weird title is because Analogue: A Hate Story is a play on words on the title of an earlier game by Love called Digital: A Love Story. It continues assuming you didn't prematurely end the first game (like I did) and even gives you a chance to determine what your relationship with the ship AI is, a la Knights of the Old Republic II style.

So is Hate Plus a visual novel worth sinking your teeth into? And is it any better than its predecessor?

Plot (4/5)

Just like the previous game, Analogue: A Hate Story, you continue your role as an investigator in the distant future aboard a Korean generation ship (i.e. a ship where generations of people used to live on), poring through various logs with the help of the ship's AI, trying to determine what happened to the ship. The previous game focused on the events that occurred while the current AIs (Hyun-ae and Mute*) were active, but this game focuses on the ship's history, prior to the development of these AIs. Reading the logs will reveal what happened to society on the generation ship Mugunghwa and how it devolved into a patriarchal Neo-Confucian culture based on the extremely restrictive Joseon Dynasty in Korea.

I quite enjoyed most of the plot, especially the political intrigue and learning about Korean culture in general, but I switched off during the romantic escapades that cropped up every so often. In retrospect though, that's probably one reason why this game was included in the Valentine's Day Humble Bundle…

Gameplay (3/5)

Reading emails is what this game is all about (okay, technically they're ship logs). You occasionally get an opportunity to "converse" with the ship AI but this usually involves answering questions with one of three answers. The choices you make will affect your relationship with the AI.

And that's the bulk of the game. Thankfully, I actually managed to finish the game this time so it's not as easy to "die" in this one compared to Analogue: A Hate Story.

Oh, I also think it's worth mentioning that there is a Steam achievement that's only awarded when you actually bake a cake and submit the photo to the developer; this is an example of how the game takes roleplaying to the next level. It's an interesting social experiment but can also be annoying for those that do not want to participate since even if you want to "cheat" and pretend you baked a cake, you still have to wait for the several minutes it would take to actually bake the cake in real-time! It's very much a case of go hard with the roleplay or go home!

Oh, I also think it's worth mentioning that there is a Steam achievement that's only awarded when you actually bake a cake and submit the photo to the developer

Sound (5/5)

No problems with the minimal audio that is used.

Music (5/5)

As you may already know, I reviewed the soundtrack for Hate Plus quite a while ago and wasn't convinced that it worked well as an album on its own. However, the soundtrack works as a perfect accompaniment to the game as most of the music that plays are minimalist, ambient pieces which are appropriate while you're trying to read long passages of text.

Graphics (3/5)

Graphics are quite similar to the previous game, which means it's very minimalist, but what do you expect when you're viewing what is essentially a glorified email client? Sure, the ship AI/avatars are drawn well enough in their manga style but they're not exactly anything new since the same kind of artwork featured in the previous game. The only difference I've noticed between this game and its predecessor are the photograph-style portraits for each of the characters in the story, which is a nice touch; I've always found that I remember faces better than names, so for anyone like me, this is a welcome feature.

Replay (3/5)

Just like the previous game, Analogue: A Hate Story, Hate Plus contains multiple endings and Steam achievements. The problem with visual novels in general (and especially wordy ones like Hate Plus) is that the motivation is somewhat hard to muster when you want to replay the game since despite the possibility of a different outcome, 90% of the game is going to be exactly the same and involve a lot of reading. Not a problem if you love the story or have forgotten the details but it's a bit of an uphill battle otherwise.

Polish (5/5)

I didn't encounter any serious bugs and while the GUI can feel clunky or busy sometimes, it's done intentionally to give yourself that sense of immersion as you navigate through the ship's computer (it's one of Christine Love's strengths I believe).

Score – 8/10

While the plot isn't always my cup of tea, Christine Love has to be given credit for actually improving on Hate Plus's predecessor in terms of the graphics and audio. Not only that, it's probably one of the few games out there where it takes roleplaying to the next level, requiring you to patiently wait in real life in order to access a new batch of emails or while you bake a cake. For those without patience, having to wait before continuing with the game will seem like an infuriating gimmick; to the rest though, it's a brilliant way to further immerse the player into the world of Hate Plus.

Hate Plus is available from these retailers:
  • Steam - $9.99 USD (currently on sale for $4.99 USD)

Is the game worth $9.99 USD?: Not at the current exchange rate. It's a bit on the pricey side and I think it's worth $10 AUD. So it's definitely worth it if you can get it on sale (like it is now for $4.99 USD).

If you like this game, you might like…

[ LINK: Official Hate Plus Website ]

Monday, February 8, 2016

Choicest VGM - VGM #216 - SimCity 2000 - Track 2 (SimCity 2000 Theme)

Soundtrack composed by: Sue Kasper

The more astute readers of my blog would've probably noticed that I missed out on posting a new Choicest VGM video last Monday. Yes, that actually happened and I apologise but due to technical difficulties (namely a power outage) I was unable to keep to my original schedule. No matter though, as today we get to hear some music from the classic city builder SimCity 2000.

SimCity 2000 isn't probably a game that is synonymous with a great soundtrack, especially when you compare those primitive MIDIs to the game music of today, but they definitely ended up being memorable, perhaps through a combination of the sheer hours spent playing the game as well as the fact that many of them had a catchy beat.

This first track, simply called "Track 2" is one that usually plays at the beginning or while viewing the game credits and hence why it gets the de facto title of "SimCity 2000 theme".

Thanks to Simtropolis community member Biff for hunting down the SimCity 2000 soundtrack.

[ VIDEO: Choicest VGM - VGM #216 - SimCity 2000 - Track 2 (SimCity 2000 Theme) ]