Monday, November 30, 2015

Choicest VGM - VGM #208 - Genghis Khan II: Clan of the Gray Wolf - Battle Command



Soundtrack composed by: Michiru Ōshima (大島ミチル)

Okay so this is one of those tracks that fall into the category of "memorable" due to it technically meeting the criteria: i.e. I definitely remember this track alright but probably not in a good way. Still, it's left an imprint on my mind and out of the many tracks that play in this game, this is one of two that I remember the most. I must say I'm impartial to the horn part of the track that occurs around 0:27 but that might be because it's the only time you don't hear the high pitched beeps and squeaks. I'm sure the track sounds better on other platforms though :). Anyway, here's to nostalgia!

The music was recorded through DOSBOX and consequently this is DOSBOX's emulation of OPL3 I believe, the FM synthesis sound chip used in a lot of old Soundblaster cards.

[ VIDEO: Choicest VGM - VGM #208 - Genghis Khan II: Clan of the Gray Wolf - Battle Command ]


Sunday, November 29, 2015

Spotlight Sunday - Week 49 - 2015


Spotlight Sunday is a way for Choicest Games to feature PC games that are scheduled for release on the following week - games that we consider worthwhile checking out.

This week (30th November to the 6th December 2015) there's a couple of games coming out that I think are worth checking out. One happens to be an indie strategy game and another a AAA FPS:

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege

  • Release Date: 1/12/2015
  • Availability: Steam - $60.95 USD, EB - $89.95, JB - $79
I've actually played a bit of this on beta but unfortunately only as a single player experience. It actually turned out to be quite fun so I'm hoping that it's the same with respect to the multiplayer experience. I like the fact you can select a whole bunch of different operators with different abilities and that the game is a bit more tactical than your average game of Counter-Strike (or so it seems). However, it's by no means a tactical shooter in the same vein as previous iterations of the series or games like SWAT 4.



Tenshu General

  • Release Date: 2/12/2015
  • Availability: Steam - Not available for pre-order but likely to be $8.49
Apparently this game has been out since August 2013 according to the presskit so it's taken quite a while for the game to be greenlit on Steam it seems! Anyway, what I like about the game is that it looks a bit like a more strategic version of Lux Delux yet just like the Risk-clone, the game comes with a map editor where you can create your own maps to fight on, neat!





So are you interested or excited about any PC games being released next week? Which games are you looking forward to?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Where are they now? - Michael Legg

Legg was a writer, designer and lead programmer on Westwood Studios point 'n' click adventure, The Legend of Kyrandia

Earlier this month, I was talking about how I love point 'n' click adventures and how the company Westwood Studios actually took a punt in this genre. This led me to talk about Jennifer Sward, who was the Producer and Voice Director for the classic The Legend of Kyrandia. Today I'm going to focus the spotlight on a colleague of hers called Michael Legg. Legg is a man that has been in the games development industry for almost three decades now but what is probably seen as pretty rare in the industry, has only worked for a couple of games development studios, namely Westwood Studios and Petroglyph Games (which is basically Westwood Studios Mk II). While at Westwood Studios, Legg worked on several classic games including all The Legend of Kyrandia games and 1997's Blade Runner. At Petroglyph Games, he's worked on games such as Star Wars: Empire at War and Universe at War: Earth Assault. He currently serves as co-founder, President and Lead Programmer at Petroglyph Games.

Here are some of the milestones and highlights of his career in timeline format!

1980 - Legg enrols at Bonanza High School. He starts attempting to develop computer games on an Apple ][ + using BASIC, Pascal and 6502 Assembler.

1984 - Legg completes school and enrols himself at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, studying computer science.

1986 - Legg manages to land a job at Westwood Studios.

1988 - Legg graduates from university.

1992 - The Legend of Kyrandia is released. Legg worked as a designer, writer and Lead Programmer on the game. He says he was very much inspired by the Lucasarts adventure games of the early 90s.

1993 - The Legend of Kyrandia: Hand of Fate is released. Legg was Lead Programmer on the project.

1994 - The Legend of Kyrandia: Book 3 - Malcolm's Revenge is released. Legg was a Programmer on the project.

1997 - Blade Runner is released. Legg was a Programmer on the project.

1998 - Westwood Studios acquired by EA.

2002 - Pirates: The Legend of Black Kat is released. Legg was a Programmer and Designer on this project.

2003 - Westwood Studios is liquidated.

Petroglyph Games is co-founded by Legg, Steve Tall and Joe Bostic in Las Vegas.

2006 - Star Wars: Empire at War is released. Legg worked as a Lead Programmer on the project.

2007 - Universe at War: Earth Assault is released. Legg worked as a Programmer on the project.

2009 - Panzer General: Allied Assault is released - Legg provided additional programming on the project.

LINKS:
[ Reddit: IAmA with Michael Legg dated 21 September 2012 ]
[ MobyGames: Michael Legg ]

Monday, November 23, 2015

Choicest VGM - VGM #207 - Genghis Khan II: Clan of the Gray Wolf - Mongolian Strategy



Soundtrack composed by: Michiru Ōshima (大島ミチル)

This track comes from a game that's relatively obscure in the West, no thanks to it being so old nowadays and the fact it's made by a Japanese company called KOEI. However, KOEI is one of the giants of Japan's gaming industry and the only company I personally recognise when it comes to PC game developers from that particular country (so it must be reasonably famous if I've even heard of them). Regardless of how well KOEI is know in the West, I somehow managed to play a copy of the game, many years ago on the boarding house computer. Along with games like Scorched Earth and Llamatron, it quickly became a favourite. This track plays in the background when you're viewing the strategic layer for the Mongolian steppes. I'm not quite sure if the track is called "Mongolian Strategy" but it's a name I spotted on a website and it seems to fit. I'm also not entirely sure if Michiru Ōshima is the composer of the DOS soundtrack but I do know she was apparently uncredited for the NES version of the soundtrack, plus she has a pretty distinguished career as a composer, so it's most likely she composed the DOS version of the soundtrack too.

The music was recorded through DOSBOX and consequently this is DOSBOX's emulation of OPL3 I believe, the FM synthesis sound chip used in a lot of old Soundblaster cards.

[ VIDEO: Choicest VGM - VGM #207 - Genghis Khan II: Clan of the Gray Wolf - Mongolian Strategy ]


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Spotlight Sunday - Week 48 - 2015


Spotlight Sunday is a way for Choicest Games to feature PC games that are scheduled for release on the following week - games that we consider worthwhile checking out.

This week (23rd November to the 29th November 2015) there's only one game that comes to mind when I think of games worth checking out and it happens to be a soppy visual novel. "Have you gone mad Mark?" you must be asking, well there's a bit more to it than that as you shall see. For this week, this is the game I think is worth checking out:

CLANNAD

  • Release Date: 24/11/2015
  • Availability: Steam - Not available for pre-order
As mentioned, this is a visual novel so if you don't like the genre at all, you can stop reading now. However, if you like games with a strong plot, I daresay CLANNAD is going to be a game that hits the mark. Firstly, the company behind the game called VisualArts/Key have already released an old visual novel game on Steam that originally came out in 2004 called planetarian ~the reverie of a little planet~ (what's with the Japanese and the use of tildes in their game titles? Oh never mind). planetarian is a highly rated game on Steam with an "Overwhelmingly Positive" score of 98% from 585 reviews. Apparently it's very emotional despite the fact people say no choices can be made in the game (so I'm guessing it's a kinetic novel). CLANNAD also originally came out in 2004 and this Steam version promises to have higher definition graphics, Steam achievements and a thing called a "Dangopedia" for all the Westerners out there that are perplexed by Japanese culture. The reason you should take notice of CLANNAD is because it's not just any visual novel game since it happened to spawn a huge franchise in Japan thanks to its success. The original game was the best-selling PC game in Japan and was ported to several other platforms such as Playstation 2, PSP, Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PS Vita. It also exists in other media such as manga, comic anthologies, light novels, art books, audio dramas, music and anime (the anime was also critically acclaimed). So even if you're not big into these kind of games but are even remotely curious as to what is considered a Japanese gaming masterpiece, CLANNAD is probably worth a look.



So are you interested or excited about any PC games being released next week? Which games are you looking forward to?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Where are they now? - Frank Klepacki

Screenshot of Command & Conquer: Red Alert
Hell March, the main theme for C&C: Red Alert, is one of Klepacki's most famous and critically acclaimed works

Frank Klepacki is probably a man who needs little introduction as he's no doubt one of the best PC game composers of all time. This guy has worked at many of the big name publishers such as Electronic Arts, Sega, Ubisoft, Disney, SSI, Hasbro and Virgin Interactive and if you ever played a game by Westwood Studios or Petroglyph, there's a very strong chance you've already heard his music before. I've actually played quite a few games by both of these developers, in fact I've probably played at least 12 of them which means I've also heard 12 soundtracks composed by this giant of video games music.

What some people might not know is that despite having a prolific career with game soundtracks, he's also done a lot of composing for other media too. Since the 2000s, Klepacki has licensed music for film and television, as well as releasing several independent albums over the years. He's also toured with the band The Family Stone (of Sly & The Family Stone fame) as a drummer between 2008 - 2011.

So he's done quite a bit with his life and he has a legion of fans but what is he up to nowadays? Well he's still composing music as Audio Director of Petroglyph Games (a developer that came into existence shortly after the demise of Westwood Studios) and his most recent work can be heard in a Free-to-Play strategy game called Battle Battalions.

1974 - Frank Klepacki is born on 25 May 1974.

1982 - Klepacki receives his first drum set at age 8.

1985 - Klepacki begins performing as a professional drummer at age 11.

1991 - After learning to program in BASIC on a Tandy 1000, Klepacki developed an interest in computer games. At the age of 17 he applied for the role of game tester at Westwood Studios but also submitted in a demo tape. The company liked what they heard and Klepacki was made responsible for scoring the NES port of Dungeons & Dragons: Dragonstrike as well as the PC game Eye of the Beholder II.

1992 - The Legend of Kyrandia is released. Klepacki was responsible for scoring its music. It was also this year that Dune II, arguably the first Real-Time Strategy (RTS) game in history, was released. Klepacki was responsible for composing Dune II's soundtrack too.

1993 - Lands of Lore is released. Klepacki was responsible for scoring its music.

1995 - Command & Conquer is released. Klepacki composed the soundtrack as well as acted as one of the soldiers in the cutscenes. He also provided his voice for the GDI Commando.

1996 - Command & Conquer: Red Alert is released. Klepacki composed the soundtrack and the game ended up winning a PC Gamer award for Best Game Soundtrack. Klepacki was originally developing Hell March to be a NOD track for the Command & Conquer expansion Covert Operations but after Westwood Studios director Brett Sperry heard it, he insisted Klepacki use it as the theme song for Red Alert. Klepacki initially wanted to give the Red Alert soundtrack a sci-fi camp feel to it but was instructed to make it grittier (it seems like he got his wish for Red Alert 2 though).



1997 - Blade Runner is released. Klepacki composed the soundtrack mimicking a lot of Vangelis's work on the film soundtrack. The reason for this is that Westwood Studios had the rights to use the music but unfortunately couldn't get access to the original master recordings.

1998 - Westwood Studios is acquired by EA. Dune 2000 is also released this year where Klepacki had the opportunity to update the soundtrack he composed for its predecessor, Dune II.

1999 - Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun is released. Klepacki was responsible for scoring the soundtrack.

2000 - Red Alert 2 is released. Klepacki was responsible for scoring the soundtrack.

2001 - Emperor: Battle for Dune is released. Klepacki focused on composing the cinematic and Atreides music.

2002 - Westwood Studios is liquidated. Klepacki offered to score Command & Conquer: Generals but didn't hear back from EA. Klepacki's last contribution to Westwood Studios was providing music and additional voices for the online sci-fi RPG Earth & Beyond. He also composed the soundtrack for Command & Conquer: Renegade which was also released in 2002.

2004 - Klepacki joined Petroglyph Games as its Audio Director.

2005 - Star Wars: Empire at War is released. Klepacki is a big fan of Star Wars and despite leaving most of John Williams's score intact, he claims that 20% of the score is original content.

2007 - Universe at War: Earth Assault is released. Klepacki is credited as the Audio Director.

2008 - Red Alert 3 is released. Despite Klepacki no longer working at EA he was invited back to compose three tracks for the game: Hell March 3, Grinder 2 and The Red Menace.

2012 - Hell March is ranked #7 on the Top 100 video game themes of all time by Computerandvideogames.com

2015 - Grey Goo and Battle Battalions are released. Klepacki composed the soundtracks to both of these games.

LINKS
[ Wikipedia: Frank Klepacki ]
[ Frank Klepacki's official website ]
[ MobyGames: Frank Klepacki ]

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Default Planetary Soundtracks in Civilization: Beyond Earth v2.0

Screenshot of a volcanic planet in Civilization: Beyond Earth
Welcome to Planet Hawaii

This is version 2.0 of a guide I did last year exploring the default planetary soundtracks in the game Civilization: Beyond Earth. My original reason for investigating the soundtrack and the game's XML files was because I was curious to see if certain tracks were composed specifically for different affinities. Originally, this was the case but with the release of the expansion Rising Tide, not any more. Here's how it's organised nowadays:

Introduction


For the expansion Rising Tide, there's been a few changes made in terms of the soundtrack.

Firstly, I had to look in a new location for the Rising Tide music. XML files were located here:

[drive letter:]\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\Sid Meier's Civilization Beyond Earth\assets\DLC\Expansion1\Sounds\XML

The files examined were:
  • DefaultPlanetMusicScripts_Expansion1.xml
  • DesertPlanetMusicScripts_Expansion1.xml
  • FrigidPlanetMusicScripts.xml
  • FungusPlanetMusicScripts_Expansion1.xml
  • VolcanicPlanetMusicScripts.xml

and the .OGG music files that the XML files referred to were located here:

[drive letter:]\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\Sid Meier's Civilization Beyond Earth\assets\DLC\Expansion1\Sounds\Streamed\Music

The second change I noticed is that the XML files rid themselves of music that was attributed to the three original affinities of Purity, Harmony and Supremacy - they probably did so because you have hybrid affinities now.

As was the case before, I manually went through playing the .OGG music files in these folders and tried to match them up with the events/triggers in the five XML files above. The result is this guide you're reading.

Note: Again, I didn't list the music files that play when you're at "Peace" but suffice to say, they're most likely the ambient pieces for particular planets along with repeats of tracks I have already matched.

Lush Planet Soundtrack (Default)

Planetfall Music = The Lush Planet and The Lush Planet - Ambient Early
Satellite Launched = Lux Perpetua
Colossal unit Spotted = Destroyer
Planetary Wonder Built = Beauty in the Eye of the Orbiter
Victory Imminent = Our New World
War 1 = Xenomancer
War 2 = O Muse
War 3 = Destroyer
War 4 = Earth's Ambassadors
War 5 = Tidehunter
War 6 = Solid State Citizen

Arid Planet Soundtrack

Planetfall Music = The Arid Planet and The Arid Planet - Ambient Early
Satellite Launched = Dogmatic Engineering
Colossal unit Spotted = Xeno Titan
Planetary Wonder Built = Solar Collector
Victory Imminent = Deep Memory
War 1 = Xenomancer
War 2 = O Muse
War 3 = Xeno Titan
War 4 = Earth's Ambassadors
War 5 = Tidehunter
War 6 = Solid State Citizen

Frigid Soundtrack (The Old World)

Planetfall Music = The Old World and The Old World (Ambient Early)
Satellite Launched = Terra Incognita
Colossal unit Spotted = Ice and Conquest
Planetary Wonder Built = The Dendrite Frontier
Victory Imminent = Fractal Aquilon
War 1 = Xenomancer
War 2 = O Muse
War 3 = Ice and Conquest
War 4 = Earth's Ambassadors
War 5 = Tidehunter
War 6 = Solid State Citizen

Fungal Planet Soundtrack

Planetfall Music = The Fungal Planet and The Fungal Planet - Ambient Early
Satellite Launched = Xenomalleum
Colossal unit Spotted = Promethean
Planetary Wonder Built = Acclimation
Victory Imminent = A New Beginning
War 1 = Xenomancer
War 2 = O Muse
War 3 = Promethean
War 4 = Earth's Ambassadors
War 5 = Tidehunter
War 6 = Solid State Citizen

Volcanic Planet Soundtrack (The Young World)

Planetfall Music = The Young World and The Young World (Ambient Early)
Satellite Launched = Immortal
Colossal unit Spotted = Lahar
Planetary Wonder Built = Mobius Horn
Victory Imminent = Hybrid Champion
War 1 = Xenomancer
War 2 = O Muse
War 3 = Lahar
War 4 = Earth's Ambassadors
War 5 = Tidehunter
War 6 = Solid State Citizen

To see the Steam version of this guide, visit the link below.

[ STEAM GUIDE: Default Planetary Soundtracks in Civ: Beyond Earth v2.0

Monday, November 16, 2015

Choicest VGM - VGM #206 - The Settlers - Main Theme

Screenshot of The Settlers


Soundtrack composed by: Haiko Ruttman and Markus Kludzuweit

Now for some music from a classic German city builder from the early 90s, The Settlers (or Die Siedler in German and Serf City in the U.S.). As a kid it was so much fun seeing the little people go about their business transporting goods, prospecting for gold, growing wheat, milling flour, baking bread and ultimately fighting off opposing forces (among other things). It was only several years later before I played another game with Settlers in its name, but this would be Klaus Teuber's famous board game Settlers of Catan. At first, I wondered if one was inspired by the other and it's something I'll never truly know, but they do share some similarities, such as the medieval setting, a hexagonal grid, the importance of roads and resources to the economy, as well as the fact they were both created in Germany.

The music that plays in this video is the music that plays throughout the whole game after you've watched the intro (which has its own track to accompany it). Considering it kept looping over and over the track has been forever imprinted in my memory. Just as well it's a catchy tune then! I'm not the only one who thinks so either as there have been several covers and remixes based on this wonderful track.

I managed to extract the music for this video directly through DOSBOX and it sounds pretty similar to how I remember (which is with a Sound Blaster sound card on DOS). Yes, it might not be as superior as Roland MT-32 or the Amiga version of the soundtrack, but this is the one I remember :).

[ VIDEO: Choicest VGM - VGM #206 - The Settlers - Main Theme ]


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Spotlight Sunday - Week 47 - 2015


Spotlight Sunday is a way for Choicest Games to feature PC games that are scheduled for release on the following week - games that we consider worthwhile checking out.

This week (16th November to the 22nd November 2015) again there are two games I think are worth checking out. This time however, both of these games aren't AAA titles. For this week, the two games I think are worth checking out are:

The Rivers of Alice - Extended Version

  • Release Date: 17/11/2015
  • Availability: Steam - Not available for pre-order but likely to be $7.99 USD
The Rivers of Alice started it's life as a mobile game in 2013 but we're now getting the "Extended Version" for PC. The game is a surreal, point 'n' click adventure where the player helps Alice confront the fears of everyday life such as sloth, envy and dishonesty that manifest themselves in the form of mysterious characters and puzzles. I'm still not quite sure what the difference is between the "extended version" and the normal one but it still looks interesting enough to warrant its inclusion on this list.

The Rivers of Alice screenshot


Last Horizon

  • Release Date: 19/11/2015
  • Availability: Steam - Not available for pre-order
I love games with space exploration, which is partly the reason why I supported the Elite: Dangerous Kickstarter project and it's also why No Man's Sky was featured as one of our most anticipated games of 2015 (but as we all know, it's not going to be coming out any time soon). Last Horizon isn't quite as big budget as the aforementioned games and the game seems to be a top-down affair similar to classic games like Solar Winds or Star Control II but all the key elements for an exploration game are there including a search for a new habitable world while juggling resources like fuel and oxygen. You also have to take care of your ship's hull integrity or else it's game over. Could be fun.

Screenshot of Last Horizon


So are you interested or excited about any PC games being released next week? Which games are you looking forward to?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers 20th Anniversary Edition Review


Screenshot from Gabriel Knight Sins of the Fathers 20th Anniversary Edition
Who needs a New Orleans tourist guide when you can just play Sins of the Fathers?

  • Developer: Phoenix Online Studios / Pinkerton Road Studio
  • Publisher: Pinkerton Road Studio
  • Release Date: 15 October 2014
  • Time played: 10 hours

I'm a big fan of Sierra point 'n' click adventure games and they're among some of the earliest games I ever played. I have fond memories of playing Space Quest II and Quest for Glory (or Hero's Quest). I also played the original Police Quest, King's Quest V and King's Quest VI. I even played Space Quest IV at a friend's place. Eventually, I would finally get around to playing many of the other adventure games by Sierra in due course, one of them being Jane Jensen's 1993 classic Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers.

Sins of the Fathers was different to other Sierra point 'n' click adventures I had played; the game was considerably darker and aimed towards a mature audience. The game's cinematic feel and the fact it was actually quite educational to a degree (I know a lot about the history of New Orleans now along with some of its landmarks) means it became one of my favourite adventure games and Jane Jensen, one of my favourite game designers.

I've played other games by Jane Jensen prior to playing the 20th Anniversary Edition of Sins of the Fathers including 2010's Gray Matter and last year's Moebius: Empire Rising - both are games I thoroughly enjoyed. Consequently, I was optimistic that the 20th Anniversary Edition of Sins of the Fathers would similarly be an enjoyable game, I mean if you're just doing a HD remake on an already classic game, how could you go wrong?


Plot (5/5)
Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers is set in the year 1993, when the original game first came out. You play the role of the eponymous Gabriel Knight, a small-time author and owner of a rare books store in New Orleans, U.S.A. Gabriel's best friend, Franklin Mosely, is a detective at the New Orleans Police Department (N.O.P.D.) who is investigating a case called the Voodoo Murders case and Gabriel wants to learn more about them, thinking the murders could make excellent material for his next book. As Gabriel gets closer to discovering the truth, not only does he come up against terrifying foes but he also learns more about his own heritage and destiny.

This is pretty much the same story as the original Sins of the Fathers (albeit with minor adjustments) and it's still just as great now as it was then. I also like how Jane Jensen always manages to make her games history lessons since you'll often see real-life landmarks in the game which you can learn more about; in the case of Sins of the Fathers you can visit Jackson Square, St. Louis Cathedral, Lake Pontchartrain and St. Louis Cemetery #1 where famous voodoo priestess, Marie Laveau is buried. The game also covers a lot of the cultural aspects and religious beliefs of Voodoo so you really get a good dose of history and culture when playing Jensen's games. I also love the camaraderie and banter between the three main characters, Gabriel Knight, Franklin Mosely and Grace Nakimura – it's hard to pull off well but Jensen manages to ace it.

I also love the camaraderie and banter between the three main characters, Gabriel Knight, Franklin Mosely and Grace Nakimura – it's hard to pull off well but Jensen manages to ace it.

Gameplay (4/5)
Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers is your typical point 'n' click adventure game, and besides some annoying quirks with the inventory system (which I'll talk about later) the rest of the interface is familiar and intuitive.

In terms of the game's puzzles, most of them are the same as puzzles from the previous games save for a few new additions and a welcome change to the infamous “snake scale puzzle" at the beginning of the game (which had you hunting for a pixel in a haystack). Most puzzles are rather logical and since I've already played the game before, I was able to solve almost all the puzzles with no help. However, there was one puzzle I had to resort to looking at the answer, which I really hate doing when playing point 'n' click adventure games since if you use the hints too many times, what's the point of playing it? This particular puzzle allows you to write a message, any message at all but there isn't any hint on what kind of message should be written or in what format. The number of possibilities is almost infinite yet you're supposed to know what to write! Ultimately, the answer I was supposed to write even used vocabulary I was not normally accustomed too, i.e. Voodoo terminology – so there would've been no way I would've guessed it. This reminds me of another Jane Jensen game called Gray Matter (which I mentioned earlier) where I was similarly stumped by one puzzle that again, I never would've got. So Jensen's managed to catch me out on two occasions now.

One choice feature of the 20th Anniversary Edition is that you're able to view Developer's Notes on each of the scenes in the game which includes audio clips, concept art, screenshots and commentary.

Sound (4/5)
Unfortunately none of the original voice actors could reprise their roles, but then again, many of them are pretty high profile actors such as Tim Curry, Mark Hamill, Michael Dorn, Leilani Jones, Leah Remini and Rocky Carroll. Voice acting in the game is generally pretty good, especially the performances by Telltale's The Walking Dead veterans Dave Fennoy and Cissy Jones. However, there are occasional slip-ups and some of the other voice actors managed to do a really good job of mangling the accents.

Music (5/5)
The game has essentially the same soundtrack as the original except now with live instruments and higher quality MIDI. I especially love the blues guitar heard in Dixieland Drug Store – it's so New Orleans.

Graphics (3/5)
The walking animations are still a bit shonky at times but it's definitely an improvement over Moebius: Empire Rising. There are also occasional graphical glitches in the game such as disappearing characters or scenes reverting to their low-res versions. Facial animations, on the other hand, are well done and are very convincing.

Replay (3/5)
The game is a decent length for a point 'n' click adventure as it took me about 10 hours to complete despite having played the original before. The game is also integrated with Steam so it has the usual Steam achievements and Steam trading cards to collect, meaning there's motivation to play the game a second time (in order to collect all the achievements).

Polish (4/5)
The game has a similar inventory system to Moebius: Empire Rising; that means I'm not a big fan. Basically instead of the traditional way of manipulating objects where you'd be able to drag and drop inventory items over objects in the room you need to first select an item in the inventory and then use the context menu in order to use the item. It's fiddly and totally unnecessary. However, considering that's my only real gripe in terms of the interface, the game is actually pretty well polished.

Score – 8/10

While I'm not a big fan of the interface that's the only real gripe I have with this game (besides the fact there's no Tim Curry). The music and graphics are now in higher definition yet you get to experience the same classic story and gameplay which originally came out more than 20 years ago. Recommended for fans of the original game and newcomers alike.

Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers 20th Anniversary Edition is available from these retailers:

Is the game worth $19.99 USD?: Yes. The game has something for old and new fans.

If you like this game, you might like...


[ LINK: Official Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers 20th Anniversary Edition Website ]




Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Where are they now? - Chris Braymen

Screenshot of King's Quest VI
Chris Braymen composed music for King's Quest VI as well as many other Sierra titles

One of the most memorable Sierra adventure games I've played has to be King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow (get it? oh, never mind). Besides having a magical world to explore the music suited the game well, even that soppy 90s ballad "Girl in the Tower". The man we have to thank for providing this beautiful soundtrack is Chris Braymen (aka Chris Brayman). He provided his composing skills to several games while at Sierra On-Line but after his short stint there he started to become more involved with the development of audio libraries instead of composing for games. Braymen is still in the games industry though and is currently working as a Senior Programmer (specialising in Audio of course) at Disney Interactive.

1977 - Started degree at the University of Rochester - Eastman School of Music
1981 - Graduated with a degree in Music Performance
1986 - Started studying Computer Programming at DeAnza College
1987 - Completed Computer Programming course

1990 - Started working at Sierra On-Line. Quest for Glory II is released. Braymen and Seibert collaborated on the audio and soundtrack.

1991 - Ecoquest, Leisure Suit Larry 5 and Leisure Suit Larry 1 (the VGA version) are released. Braymen collaborated with other musicians in composing the music for these games.

1992 - King's Quest VI and The Dagger of Amon Ra are released. Braymen composed the soundtracks to both of these games.

1993 - Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers and Leisure Suit Larry 6 are released. Braymen collaborated with other musicians on the soundtracks for these games. Braymen also leaves Sierra On-Line to start work at Sculptured Software as a Programmer/Musician. He develops music and audio for console games while working there.

1998 - Braymen leaves Sculptured Software and starts work at Kodiak Interactive as a Programmer/Audio Expert. While here, he developed audio libraries for console games.

2001 - Braymen leaves Kodiak Interactive.

2002 - Braymen joins Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA) as a Senior Sound Programmer developing audio tools for console games.

2013 - After over a decade at Sony, Braymen leaves to join Disney Interactive as a Senior Programmer (Audio). He still works here to this day. MobyGames lists him as having worked on the Disney Infinity: Toy Box 2.0 which was released earlier this year.

LINKS:
[ MobyGames: Chris Braymen ]

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

First Impressions - Valkyria Chronicles

Screenshot of Valkyria Chronicles
Tip: You can't capture flags with tanks. This is not Battlefield 4

As I work through my pile of shame, I've decided to work on my Father's Day gifts first. I've recently finished Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers 20th Anniversary Edition (expect a review on this soon) and once that was out of the way I started playing Valkyria Chronicles, the second gift I received on Father's Day :).

I don't usually go for JRPGs which Valkyria Chronicles bears some resemblance to but the gameplay is different to your average JRPG and I couldn't go past the setting since it looks like a game set in WWII. If you thought the same, then you'd be half-right. After about 7 hours playing the game, here are my initial thoughts.

What I like:

  • It's the WWII European theatre but not as we know it, not as we know it, not as we know it...: For all intents and purposes, you're basically fighting in Europe during WWII except the names have been changed to protect the innocent (or something). The Eastern Europan Empire are basically the Axis powers and the Federation, the Allies. Your nation of Gallia seems to be a cross between Switzerland and the Netherlands: a small, wealthy nation that has universal conscription in order to bolster its ranks.
  • Comic book style visuals: The game has adopted comic book style visuals with frequent use of onomatopoeia to emphasise sound effects such as the rumbling of a tank.
  • Turn-based tactics: Battles in the game are resolved using turn-based tactics, which I'm a big fan of considering I grew up on games like X-COM and Jagged Alliance. It's not all roses though...
  • Role-playing elements: Along with the turn-based tactics there are role-playing elements too. Gaining experience in battle is used to level up your troops and also purchase better weapons and equipment. A big thumbs up from me!
  • Squad management: A bit like Jagged Alliance each of the grunts under your command actually have their own personalities. Not only does that come across in their demeanour during battle but they also have different perks depending on the situation as well as liking different members of the team (which in turn confers a bonus).

What I don't like:

  • Graphics can sometimes be a bit grainy/low-res: The game feels like a port of a 2008 console game and it shows... oh wait, it is a port of a 2008 console game...
  • It's turn-based yet not: While I like the turn-based tactics element of the game overall there is one thing that really annoys me and that's the fact that if enemies are nearby they fire in real-time. i.e. if you take your turn too long you can find yourself dead after they've taken a few potshots at you. So make sure you decide what you're going to do on the map screen before you select a character.
  • Fiddly console controls: You'll be using the keyboard to navigate through menus which is annoying, especially when I manage to press the wrong keys by accident. It's also so frustrating when you can see tabs on a book to click or pages to turn using a mouse but you have to use the keyboard instead to do it (which usually takes longer).
  • The scriptwriting: To be honest, I'm not too surprised about the poor scriptwriting - at least that's been my experience with several Japanese games; the plot always seems to turn into a melodrama filled with caricatures and old-fashioned stereotypes.
  • Line of sight is hard to gauge: There's been a few times where I've frustratingly wasted command points because I seemed to have line of sight when in fact there was an invisible wall or something else blocking the path of the projectile, despite an information box showing you're actually targeting something. It also doesn't help that the information box doesn't actually tell you what that something is.
  • Lots of cutscenes: While I'm not one to usually complain about cutscenes, there are quite a few in Valkyria Chronicles, in fact probably half the game contains cutscenes.

Verdict:

I must admit that I'm hooked with Valkyria Chronicles but I don't know why. Maybe it's because this is quite possibly the first role-playing game I've played in a WWII setting, even if turn-based tactics makes up the core of the game. Or maybe the poorly written cutscenes is like watching a train wreck. Either way, I'll be giving this game my best shot and fingers crossed I'll finish it and be able to give you guys a review.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Choicest VGM - VGM #205 - Day of the Tentacle - Stars and Slime Forever & End Credits



Soundtrack composed by: Peter McConnell, Clint Bajakian and Michael Z. Land

And here we have the music that plays when the end credits roll, when everything is back to normal (sort of). It's basically a reprise of the main theme yet when it ends there's this menacing feel to the music maybe hinting towards a sequel? Maniac Mansion 3 anyone? One could only hope.

Thanks to Mirsoft for providing these memorable tracks.

[ VIDEO: Choicest VGM - VGM #205 - Day of the Tentacle - Stars and Slime Forever & End Credits ]


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Spotlight Sunday - Week 46 - 2015


Spotlight Sunday is a way for Choicest Games to feature PC games that are scheduled for release on the following week - games that we consider worthwhile checking out.

This week (9th November to the 15th November 2015) there's a dip in the number of games that interest me and there's only two that feature this week. However, both of these games are AAA titles with one of them probably being one of the most anticipated for 2015. For this week, the two games I think are worth checking out are:

Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void

Starcraft II doesn't seem to rate that much fanfare nowadays especially considering that many people have moved away from Real-Time Strategy games and onto MOBAs. Even Blizzard has got in on the action with Heroes of the Storm, which has probably cannibalised a lot of their playerbase. However, since I never really got into the multiplayer aspect of Starcraft II (which most players do), I'm actually looking forward to the conclusion of the Starcraft II story arc with Legacy of the Void. As it was with the original Starcraft, the Zerg campaign tends to be the weakest with the better stories coming from the Terran and Protoss campaigns (it's not that hard considering most Zerg don't have free will and hence no personality). So I'm hoping it's going to be more of the same with Legacy of the Void; let's end the story with a bang.



Fallout 4

  • Release Date: 10/11/2015
  • Availability: EB - $89.95, Steam - $79.95 USD
From what I've been hearing across the interwebs, this is one of the most anticipated games of this year if not the most anticipated, despite the game being just another Fallout game (but I guess that's what everybody wants). Set in Boston, Massachusetts this time, you get to do all the stuff you did in Fallout 3 but in a different locale! Explore an open world, visit multiple locations, meet multiple characters, do multiple quests, collect multiple items and craft multiple things! Yeah!



So are you interested or excited about any PC games being released next week? Which games are you looking forward to?

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Member Nations of Sponsor Factions in Civilization: Beyond Earth v2.01

World in Beyond Earth: Rising Tide

This guide is meant to be my best guess as to which Old Earth nations are most likely members of each of the 12 sponsor factions in Civilization: Beyond Earth ... so before I go any further

BE AWARE THAT THIS IS NOT CANON

Having said that though, even the designers themselves have mentioned in their video about "The Great Mistake" that what they say isn't canon, so it's basically up to ourselves to piece things together.



So I've partially ignored their advice and used what they talk about in this video as one of my sources. So here's a run-down of my sources:

1. Firaxicon Panel: The Great Mistake in Civilization: Beyond Earth Video dated 20 Oct 2014 by Will Miller and David McDonough
2. Civilization: Beyond Earth Civilopedia Entries
3. Civilization: Beyond Earth City Name Script
4. Civilization: Beyond Earth Official Website Leader Bios

Basically, I took everything that was said in the video, in the Civilopedia entries and the City Name Script (i.e. determining which languages the city names were based off) and then made a best guess as to which nations were likely to be part of each sponsor faction. Interestingly, there are some contradictory statements/evidence when examining these three sources together but where there are contradicitons I'll identify them and then tell you what I think they really meant.

Oh there's a fourth bit of information that is related to what they said on the Firaxicon Panel. They mentioned that there would be a sea level rise of 20 feet due to climate change, which is about 6 metres for those of us in metric land. I also used this to examine how flooding would affect certain nations and cities (which would in turn potentially alter who the member nations are).

American Reclamation Corporation (ARC)


The American Reclamation Corporation (ARC), as the name implies, is an American corporation. The "Reclamation" part of the name is reference to it starting off as an engineering company specialising in ecological risk mitigation. When the U.S. government was almost helpless to combat climate change, the ARC stepped in (for a fee of course) and fixed their problems. Now ARC is so powerful that it employs almost a quarter of the U.S. workforce and a majority of business in the United States (85%) is done with them. It truly is a megacorporation and for all intents and purposes, basically runs the United States due to its huge influence. This is despite the fact that unlike other sponsor factions, ARC isn't technically a government or political body.

Their influence doesn't just stop at the U.S.A.'s borders - they apparently have significant influence across the world and its likely they're the world's largest company - maybe even the largest economy. During the Firaxicon Panel, Miller and McDonough mentioned, when referring to a Reddit poster's map that Canada and Mexico were part of the ARC too. Being neighbours of the U.S.A., considering ARC CEO Suzanne Fielding's Mexican heritage and the fact that ARC is just so damn rich, this is probably likely and I've decided to go with it.

I'm going to list its member nations in inverted commas since its only through sheer influence and economic clout that these nations are considered ARC's constituency.

"Member nations":
Canada
Mexico
United States of America

Brasilia


Now I'm not sure why this nation/faction is called "Brasilia". I always thought Brasilia was the name for the capital of Brazil, unless that's the whole point I suppose - maybe there was a civil war in Brazil between loyalists and rebels and the loyalists (situated in the capital) won. Who knows?

Apparently, after the Great Mistake, Brasilia became a military superpower and was able to consistently send its veteran troops to Peacekeeping Forces around the globe. There is no mention however of Brazil or Brasilia taking over other nations or other nations forming a union with them. Also, Miller and McDonough, designers of Beyond Earth when shown a map posted on Reddit representing the factions said that having Brasilia encompass the whole of South America was a bit ambitious. Finally, all the city names for the Brasilian faction are in the language of Portuguese, the native language of Brazil, indicating its unlikely any of the Spanish speaking neighbours in South America are member nations.

Consequently, I'm pretty happy in saying that Brazil is the only member nation of Brasilia. That's not to say Brasilia doesn't have significant influence over Latin America though (which it does mention in the Civilopedia)...

Thanks to Bsharri (and Dennis) for bringing to my attention the inclusion of other South American nations besides Brazil

... that was until it was brought to my attention that Brasilia's leader actually speaks Spanish, has a Spanish name and that Brasilia's official name in the diplomacy screen is "Organization of South American States" - sounds a bit more than just Brazil doesn't it? Anyway I've decided that the closest thing to a pan-South American organisation at the moment is UNASUR (or Union of South American Nations in English) and basically all sovereign South American nations are part of this organisation.

Member Nations:
Argentina
Bolivia
Brazil
Chile
Colombia
Ecuador
Guyana
Paraguay
Peru
Suriname
Uruguay
Venezuela

North Sea Alliance


As mentioned by Miller and McDonough prior to Rising Tide being released, they instructed fans to leave the U.K., Scandinavia and Germany out of any of the original eight Beyond Earth factions. It just turns out that's because they became two of the new Rising Tide factions: the North Sea Alliance and INTEGR.

The British Isles and Scandinavia were apparently largely unaffected by Great Mistake except for sea level rises as a result of climate change. With respect to the 6m sea level rise mentioned before by Miller and McDonough, this would mean parts of eastern England and western Denmark being flooded.

Scandinavia and the U.K. cooperated with each other on aquatic city habitats and were the first to develop these floating cities called "ARKs". They eventually formed the North Sea Alliance (NSA) but they were behind when it came to the race for colonising other worlds since they were more interested in saving Earth's life instead of abandoning it. This meant they were among the last to launch a colony ship but they were prepared for a water landing.

As it's often mentioned that the British Isles and Scandinavia are part of the North Sea Alliance, that serves as the starting point for which countries to include. London and Copenhagen are mentioned in the Civilopedia meaning the U.K. and Denmark are definitely included. Oslo (the capital of Norway) apparently manufactures ARKs and the NSA leader, Duncan Hughes, hails from Scotland.

Finally in terms of city names we have Irish, Swedish, Danish, English, Scottish, Icelandic, Finnish and Norwegian names.

Due to quite a number of Irish city names being included with the NSA faction, and considering Ireland is technically part of the British Isles, I've decided to switch Ireland from the Franco-Iberian faction to the North Sea Alliance one.

Member Nations:
Denmark
Finland
Iceland
Ireland
Norway
Sweden
United Kingdom

Franco-Iberia


Franco-Iberia is a bit trickier to do than ARC and Brasilia - mainly because the geo-politics of Europe is that more complex. At the very least, you can add the nations of France (which make the "Franco" part of the name) and Spain as well as Portugal (which make up the "Iberia" part of the name).

When Miller and McDonough, designers of Beyond Earth were shown a Redditor's impression of Franco-Iberia, they said it seemed a bit small (the Redditor only really focused on France, Spain, Portugal and Italy). Miller and McDonough said they envisaged Franco-Iberia to be a version 2.0 of the European Union and consequently have most of Europe as its members. They did mention that the U.K., Germany and the Nordic/Scandinavian countries should be unaffiliated so I too have left them out.

So the next step for adding members were finding previous members of the European Union that weren't the U.K., Germany or Scandinavia. They also couldn't be Eastern European countries as they're apparently now part of the Slavic Federation as you will see later on.

I also left Switzerland out too since... well you know... they're Switzerland.

This resulted in a lot of Western European and Mediterranean nations being added. But I wasn't finished yet.

Apparently, according to the Civilopedia, North Africa eventually joined Franco-Iberia but in terms of nations I could only find two mentioned in the Civilopedia: Algeria and Tunisia. Digging up the City Name Script for Franco-Iberia I also discovered a colony name based off the name of a Moroccan queen.

Due to quite a number of Irish city names being included with the NSA faction, and considering Ireland is technically part of the British Isles, I've decided to switch Ireland from the Franco-Iberian faction to the North Sea Alliance one.

Member Nations:
Algeria
Austria
Belgium
Croatia
Czech Republic
Cyprus
Greece
Italy
Luxembourg
Malta
Morocco
France
Netherlands
Portugal
Slovenia
Spain
Tunisia

INTEGR


INTEGR arose when the original European Union disbanded and were an opposition movement to the Franco-Iberian majority. While Franco-Iberia focused on growth and shelved tackling environmental issues, INTEGR was the opposite and sought to cut costs through austerity measures and kept addressing environmental issues as a primary concern. INTEGR brought about "Green Austerity" measures, closing down big polluters and focused on advanced, clean and sustainable technology. Their focus on saving the Earth came at a cost in terms of the Seeding, resulting in them being late to the party.

Despite INTEGR being popular with many countries in Central Europe, Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean, there is no explicit mention of any of these nations being a part of the faction. Also all INTEGR city names are German ones leading me to think that INTEGR is just Germany.

Member Nations:
Germany

People's African Union


The People's African Union (PAU) is another tricky one as there isn't really that much information as to which of the many nations in Africa are part of it. Miller and McDonough have mentioned that not all of Africa are part of the PAU but that its members were mainly from Sub-Saharan Africa. That's still quite a lot of countries but thankfully the Civilopedia and the City Name Script reveals more.

I'm pretty certain Somalia is one of the nations because (a) Samatar Jama Barre is born in Somaliland, a more stable region of present-day Somalia and (b) many city names in the game are of Somali origin. The City Name Script also reveals many names based on languages found in South Africa and Kenya so I'm also going to say they're part of the PAU too.

The Civilopedia also mentions that members of the PAU are former African Union and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) members. Since most of Africa is part of the African Union I just focused on the COMESA members and have managed to grab quite a few more African nations from Southern and Eastern Africa. I excluded nations that left COMESA since they're probably unlikely to want to join v2.0 of it. I also excluded any Saharan African nations (since Miller and McDonough specifically mentioned sub-Saharan states only).

Thanks to Black Raven for bringing to my attention the inclusion of Libya and Nigeria

Despite Libya being a Saharan nation I've included them with the PAU because of Tripoli being mentioned in the leader bio/introduction on the official website (as a place Samatar Jama Barre meets with his brother). Nigeria is also mentioned in this same article.

Member Nations:
Burundi
Comoros
Democratic Republic of Congo
Djibouti
Eritrea
Ethiopia
Kenya
Libya
Madagascar
Malawi
Mauritius
Nigeria
Rwanda
Seychelles
South Africa
South Sudan
Swaziland
Uganda
Zambia
Zimbabwe

Al Falah


Most of the Middle Eastern population fled their devastated homeland (I'm guessing Iran since they were apparently nuked in the Great Mistake). Most integrated with the African Union, Kavithan Protectorate and the Slavic Federation.

Not everyone left though (implying that some may have stayed in Iran) and many remained in the Fertile Crescent. Many took refuge in Dubai, Jeddah and Amman and they became metropolises. When the rest of the world became isolationist after the Great Mistake, the nations of the Middle East united together to rebuild. They were the first faction to send colony ships into space but before cryogenic technology had been perfected. Consequently their colony ships were known as "waking ships" as generations of people lived their lives on the ships.

As Dubai, Jeddah and Amman are mentioned by name, this means the U.A.E., Saudi Arabia and Jordan at the very least are part of the faction. Since the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia are Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members I've also decided to add Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait to this faction. As the Civilopedia mentions the Fertile Crescent that implies many of the countries further north are part of Al Falah so I've also included Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt. I've left Palestine and Israel out of this since that's definitely in the "too hard" basket.

Also many of the city names are in Arabic although many are principally used in Egypt. There are some names that can be considered Iranian too.

Due to the new information suggesting Iran was not abandoned after the Great Mistake, I have now included Iran as part of Al Falah as well as the Kavithan Protectorate.

Member Nations:
Bahrain
Egypt
Iran
Iraq
Jordan
Kuwait
Lebanon
Oman
Qatar
Saudi Arabia
Syria
United Arab Emirates

Slavic Federation


As the name implies, the Slavic Federation is a federation of nations that share Slavic heritage and culture. The Civilopedia states that many Eastern European nations that would have initially sought European Union membership were persuaded to join the Federation - so I'm thinking like a Warsaw Pact v2.0. In particular, the Civilopedia mentions that the Slavic Federation's Expedition Leader, General Vadim Kozlov, gained a formal education across several Federation cities which happen to be situated in Poland, Belarus and the Ukraine.

Examining the City Name Script file reveals some more countries. Some Slavic Federation cities have Bulgarian, Kazakh, Slovakian, Serbian and Moldovan names. Consequently, I've also added these nations to the members list.

Since it turns out a lot of these nations are former Soviet Union or Warsaw Pact nations, I decided to fill the rest of the Slavic Federation with the countries below (despite current geo-politics suggesting otherwise).

Member Nations:
Albania
Armenia
Azerbaijan
Belarus
Bulgaria
Estonia
Georgia
Hungary
Kazakhstan
Kyrgyzstan
Latvia
Lithuania
Moldova
Poland
Romania
Russia
Serbia
Slovakia
Tajikistan
Turkmenistan
Ukraine
Uzbekistan

Kavithan Protectorate


The Kavithan Protectorate is basically described as a theocracy - a theocracy based off a new religion that incorporates ideas from three major religions on the sub-continent called Thakurism, founded by Kavitha Thakur's father, Raj Thakur.

Now according to Miller and McDonough, Pakistan and India actually unite at one point, despite their cold relations towards each others in the present day. This is because as part of the Great Mistake lore, a "dirty bomb" is detonated in one of China's cities, China blames Iran (who they have poor relations with thanks to competing interests in Afghanistan), China launches tactical nukes at Iran, Iran retaliates and so does Pakistan (an ally of Iran), and then China nukes Iran, Pakistan and North Korea ("for good measure") before a NATO fleet off China's coast dissuades them from any further nuclear attacks. Pakistan figures the enemy of their enemy is their friend and hence picks the lesser of two evils at that point in time and sides with India which eventually becomes the Kavithan Protectorate.

Since Iran was an ally of Pakistan's, I originally added them as a member of the Kavithan Protectorate despite much of their land (and Pakistan's) now being irradiated. I also decided to add them because one of the KP city names is Iranian in origin. However, due to the new information suggesting Iran was not abandoned after the Great Mistake, I have now included Iran as part of Al Falah as well as the Kavithan Protectorate.

I've also added the mountainous nations bordering China, Nepal and Bhutan, as part of the KP, mainly because they have more in common with India than China. I've also added Sri Lanka as part of the KP for the same reason - i.e. Sri Lanka having more in common with India than other nations.

With a 6m rise in sea level, most of Bangladesh is well and truly underwater including its capital Dhaka. I suspect many refugees flee to other countries but any remaining citizens would most likely see benefit in joining the KP.

Member Nations:
Bangladesh
Bhutan
India
Iran
Nepal
Pakistan
Sri Lanka

Pan-Asian Cooperative


The Pan-Asian Cooperative's primary member is China who along with Iran and Pakistan were involved in a short nuclear war. During this exchange, China apparently nuked North Korea, "for good measure". It's likely that China took opportunity of this attack to either occupy North Korea or at least negotiate from a position of power through gunboat diplomacy (or should that be "nuclear warhead" diplomacy). Consequently, North Korea is part of the PAC.

I originally included South Korea to the Cooperative which was a controversial choice, especially considering current geo-politics and the fact even the designers, Miller and McDonough, mentioned that South Korea wouldn't likely be in the PAC due to them sharing more in common with Japan than China. However, the Civilopedia states that PAC actually helped on a project called the "New City Seoul" project (which sounds like South Korea to me) and not only that but in the PAC City Name List there are a few Korean names in there. Consequently I decided to add South Korea in the PAC since I considered the game's Civilopedia and script files to more likely be canon. At least until Firaxis decided to retcon it.

With the release of Rising Tide, it seems more likely that South Korea is part of Chungsu considering how much influence the clandestine organisation has in the region. Consequently, South Korea is no longer part of the PAC.

Mongolia was added to the PAC due to Miller and McDonough mentioning during their Firaxicon video that it might as well be included.

While the Civilopedia does mention some involvement between China and Central Asia, I'm uncertain whether this is with respect to actual membership or whether it's just influence (e.g. Shanghai Cooperation Organisation which has Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as its Central Asian members).

I was also considering placing Cambodia as part of PAC (considering Daoming Sochua's heritage) but I decided to err on the side of caution instead only placing Vietnam as part of the PAC because of PAC's City Name List containing Vietnamese names.

Member Nations:
China
Mongolia
North Korea
Vietnam

Chungsu


Chungsu is a clandestine organisation based in South Korea. Some reports consider them as Anti-PAC terrorists, which implies that China may in fact control parts of Korea. Chungsu has replaced Korean military forces, foreign affairs and finance bureaus. Prior to the Great Mistake they apparently had considerable influence over China and Japan. The organisation is apparently based in subaquatic environments. Chungsu from very early on invested research into interstellar travel which seems to be their Plan B, considering all covert efforts to save the planet had failed.

As Chungsu is a bit like ARC in that it's not technically a nation, it still feels strange assigning it to a current world nation. However, it's most likely considering it's considerable influence that South Korea is part of Chungsu.

Japan did receive lots of economic support from Chungsu after a disastrous tsunami struck the island nation but there's no suggestion Japan is part of the faction.

All Chungsu city names are in Korean.

Member Nations:
South Korea

Polystralia


The name "Polystralia" evokes images of Australia and Polynesia which is exactly what Polystralia encompasses. However, it doesn't end there and apparently according to the Firaxicon panel with Miller and McDonough (as well as some subtle hints in the Civilopedia) Polystralia also includes South-East Asia.

I've tried to be as inclusive as possible with Polystralia, including most South-East Asian nations (except for Vietnam), Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific nations. In terms of countries that are specifically mentioned, Australia, Indonesia, Vanuatu and Samoa are mentioned in the Civilopedia and in the Polystralian City Name List, there are Maori (New Zealand), Tahitian, Malaysian and Filipino names. The interesting one in this list is Tahiti since it's technically a French territory although there's been some movement in the pro-independence camp in recent years - so who knows, maybe Tahiti will be independent hundreds of years in the future?

I haven't included the nations of Kiribati, Marshall Islands and Tuvalu since unfortunately with a 6m rise in sea level due to climate change, they are unlikely to exist. In fact, some low-lying island nations already have contingency plans where they're buying up land in other countries to relocate their citizens in case the worst transpires.

Member Nations:
Australia
Brunei
Cambodia
East Timor
Fiji
Indonesia
Laos
Malaysia
Micronesia
Myanmar
Nauru
New Zealand
Palau
Papua New Guinea
Philippines
Samoa
Singapore
Solomon Islands
Tahiti
Thailand
Tonga
Vanuatu

Special Thanks


Thanks to the following Steam users for their help/constructive criticism in developing the guide:

Black Raven
Bsharri
Chrisforbes
Dennis

Conclusion


So what do you think? Do the nations I've picked match closely to your expectations or are they far out? What do you think the designers had in mind when it came to the factions? Please post your thoughts below.

Also, if you want to see the Steam version of this guide, check it out at the below link.

[ LINK: Steam version of the guide ]

Thursday, November 5, 2015

You can now get a bundle of classic Doom, Quake and Wolfenstein 3D games, DRM-free for just under $36


Good Old Games is now entering its second day of sales so it's posted up two new deals. One of them is three HD remakes of D&D RPGs (i.e. Baldur's Gate, Baldur's Gate II and Icewind Dale) for $28.17. The other, as mentioned, is a whole bunch of classic id Software shooters for just under $36, namely:

Doom
Doom II
Quake
Quake II
Quake III
Wolfenstein 3D
Return to Castle Wolfenstein

Some of the crazier deals on offer though are, for example, 36 Interplay titles on GOG for $37.04! That's just over $1 per game, and there are some really good ones in there such as the Descent games, the MDK series and Giants: Citizen Kabuto.

Along with the daily bundles, GOG will also be running daily deals (and it looks like I just missed out on a bunch. Damn). Also, if you happen to spend enough on the sale you'll get free games. At $6.99 you get System Shock 2, at $21.09 Chronicles of Riddick and at $42.09 Banished. Neat :).

LINKS:
[ Good Old Games ]

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Where are they now? - Jennifer Sward

Jennifer Sward was Producer and Voice Director for the 1993 talkie version of Legend of Kyrandia

I'm a big fan of point 'n' click adventures, as you know, so I even managed to play some that weren't from the powerhouses of point 'n' click adventures at the time, namely Sierra On-Line and Lucasarts. In the early 1990s, Westwood Studios, a developer which would end up being remembered for its classic Real-Time Strategy series, Command & Conquer, actually started developing point 'n' click adventures (it's true!). The first of these that I remember is Legend of Kyrandia which was originally released in 1992 but I managed to play the 1993 "talkie" edition of it which included voice acting. Voice acting was a relatively new thing in computer games of the early 90s and for today's Where are they now? post we're going to cast a spotlight on the highlights of Jennifer Sward's career. You can find her nowadays teaching budding game developers at DigiPen Institute of Technology as she's an Associate Dean and lecturer there.

1978 - Started studying Electrical Engineering/Computer Science at the University of California, Davis.

1985 - Completes university education. Starts developing military software for the Navy

1989 - Gets her first job in the gaming industry at Lucasarts.

1992 - The "talkie" version of Loom is released which Sward worked on as Project Lead. It is the first example of a talkie video game to be released in the United States (i.e. a floppy-based game without voices that is converted into a CD-ROM game with voices)

Sward starts working for Realtime Associates as a producer on SNES, SEGA Genesis and PC CD-ROM games.

Sward also starts working at Westwood Studios, and produced and directed their first CD-ROM talkies.

1993 - Sward leaves Lucasarts.

The talkie version of The Legend of Kyrandia is released which Sward was a Producer and Voice Director for.

1994 - Sward leaves Realtime Associates and Westwood Studios

1995 - Sward starts work at Philips New Media Games as a Project Manager. She writes and approves game concepts and designs while working there.

1997 - Sward leaves Philips New Media Games and starts work at AIS Technology as a Marketing Manager.

1999 - Sward leaves AIS Technology and starts work at the educational toy company Leapfrog Enterprises as a Product Manager. She was responsible for developing website content and games.

2001 - Sward left Leapfrog Enterprises to start her career in teaching game development at DigiPen Institute of Technology. She is now an Associate Dean and Instructor for Game Software Design and Production and has been there for the past 14 years.

LINKS:
[ DigiPen: Jen Sward Bio ]
[ MobyGames: Jennifer Sward ]

Monday, November 2, 2015

Choicest VGM - VGM #204 - Day of the Tentacle - The Human Show



Soundtrack composed by: Peter McConnell, Clint Bajakian and Michael Z. Land

In the dark future where Purple Tentacle has taken over the world (*cue lightning strike*) there is a role reversal where humans are no longer the masters of the Earth and in fact some end up being pets for the tentacles!

This particular track plays when you come across a "Human Show" - it's a bit like a dog contest except for humans. It's definitely one of the more involved and hilarious parts in the game.

Thanks to Mirsoft for providing these memorable tracks.

[ VIDEO: Choicest VGM - VGM #204 - Day of the Tentacle - The Human Show ]


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Spotlight Sunday - Week 45 - 2015


Spotlight Sunday is a way for Choicest Games to feature PC games that are scheduled for release on the following week - games that we consider worthwhile checking out.

This week (2nd November to the 8th November 2015) we once again have a surge in new games being released, contrary to last week's solitary game, Sun Dogs. For this week, there's six games that I think are worth checking out:

Brilliant Shadows - Part One of the Book of Gray Magic

  • Release Date: 2/11/2015
  • Availability: Steam - Not available for pre-order
I like visual novels that are a bit different from the norm and that seems to be what Brilliant Shadows is all about; the art style isn't your typical manga style you normally see in visual novels and the plot sounds like something out of Dragon Age. Apparently you play the role of a Necromancer who has received a mark (indicating you are paired to a paladin) yet there is no fellow graduate to match it. It's now up to you to solve the great magical mystery.

Screenshot of the game Brilliant Shadows


The Living Dungeon

  • Release Date: 2/11/2015
  • Availability: Steam - Not available for pre-order
The Living Dungeon is apparently a multiplayer dungeon crawling game where up to 9 players can play! It apparently has drop-in/drop-out multiplayer too which is especially useful for those players (such as myself) which have a busy home life with many interruptions.

Screenshot of The Living Dungeon


Anno 2205

This is probably the most well known game to make the list - the next instalment in the City Building Anno series, Anno 2205. In Anno 2205 you're not only limited to building cities on Earth but you also have to travel to the Moon in order to harvest Helium-3. As usual, the graphics look gorgeous and I like the sci-fi spin on the series.

Screenshot of Anno 2205


Dawn of the Plow

  • Release Date: 3/11/2015
  • Availability: Steam - Not available for pre-order but likely to be $1.99 USD
Dawn of the Plow looks like a simple to pick up, yet challenging to master retro arcade game where you control a snow plow. Your job is to ensure the roads are safe for cars by ensuring they're clear of snow.

The splendid chiptune soundtrack is also available for free/pay-what-you-want off the official website.

Dawn of the Plow screenshot


Prominence

  • Release Date: 6/11/2015
  • Availability: Steam - Not available for pre-order but likely to be $19.99 USD, Direct - $15.99 USD (Pre-order discount)
Prominence is a science-fiction adventure game that appears to be played from the first person perspective, similar to classic adventure/puzzle games like Myst. It's up to you to unravel the mystery of what happened to refugees aboard a colony ship and determine if you're able to save them or whether it's already too late.

Screenshot of Prominence


Spakoyno: Back to the USSR 2.0

  • Release Date: 7/11/2015
  • Availability: Steam - Not available for pre-order
Another visual novel manages to make the list and again it's not your typical one; the game is set during the final years of the USSR, so I'm guessing during Gorbachev's period of "perestroika" and "glasnost" during the 1980s. The character in the game is wondering if he can survive in a world where crime rates are high, corruption is rampant and there is a shift in morals.

Screenshot of Spakoyno: Back to the USSR 2.0


So are you interested or excited about any PC games being released next week? Which games are you looking forward to?