When Is It Okay To Harass Over Framerate? (HINT: NEVER)

Games today are tricky business, and it’s no lie to say customers are dissatisfied with corners cut in the process. Shoddy launch releases, DLC of dubious value (or worse, good DLC that might as well have been part of the game itself, because it was pre-sliced into “Game” and “DLC” for pre-order cash), and… Framerate locking, the practice of making a PC game have the same frame rate (which can affect physics, control responsiveness, and fluidity of animations) as the consoles because… Well, the reasons vary, but not very many of them are good. But one Steam curator has tried to point these games out as they come, TotalBiscuit’s The Framerate Police

There’s just two problems with this. Firstly, he hadn’t considered all the possibilities… And secondly, he hadn’t considered that there is a segment of gamers out there willing to harass and aggro over things at the drop of a hat.

Framerate Police came to my attention when the creators of Guild of Dungeoneering (A game I should be reviewing soon.) posted a tweet basically saying “Alright, you can stop sending death threats, I’ve mentioned that the game runs at 30 FPS!”

The ridiculousness of the situation almost immediately hit me, because Guild of Dungeoneering is a turn based game with some animations. Y’know, the kind of thing that doesn’t need 60 FPS and 1080i visuals. In fact, it looks quite charming on its own.

And yet, some idiots decided it was perfectly okay to send threats, harassment, all kinds of aggro their way, because… REASONS. It becomes even more idiotic when you look at some of the other games curated, and how the reviews actually work. Here’s some examples of both at the same time.

FPSLock

Okay, so what’s wrong with this picture? Well, let’s start with Heroes III HD. Yes, okay, it’s a modern “remaster”… But again, turn based, so no physics, no reaction times, no actual need for 60 fps. Pandemonium is even worse, because it’s from the fucking 90s. So, in fact, is Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. These games originally ran at 30 FPS, folks. ORIGINALLY. They were PS2 games, and ran at 30. F. P. S. So, in fact, did many of our original greats. Secondly, do you see any “PLEASE HARASS THESE PEOPLE”? No? No. All it is is a list of which games are 30 FPS, completely disregarding whether they were originally 30 FPS (or less!), and nothing more.

So let me make one thing very clear: Seeing as, at no point that I’m aware of, TB has asked any of you to do this, you’ve done it of your own volition. You have harassed because you genuinely think that a game in the Year of Our Lord 2015 cannot, under any circumstancesnot need 60 FPS on PC. Yes, when a modern game does it out of laziness, it’s shitty. Guess what? Still not a reason to harass. You harass over a game, and you are Being A Shithead. Lemme spell this out for you in a way you’ll understand:

THERE IS NO GOOD REASON FOR SENDING SOMEONE DEATH THREATS. THERE IS ESPECIALLY NO GOOD REASON IF THE GAME, LIKE THE MAJORITY OF GAMES ON THIS LIST (WHICH ARE FROM THE 90s, OR TURN BASED, OR PUZZLE GAMES) DOES NOT NEED 60 FUCKING FRAMES PER SECOND.

“But 60 FPS is objectively better in ever-” No. It is not. There will always be situations where you do not need 60 FPS. I agree that frame locking a game can be a pain in the ass. I agree it’s an alright idea to tell people which modern games are frame locked. I do, however, think this was done without thinking it through solidly. “Framerate Police”? Kinda implies the people frame-locking are always bad folks of some description, TB, old chap. And no context beyond genre? This, if anything, shows the importance of context. Of knowing, not just “Guh, 60 FPS gud…” , but when it’s good… And when it’s just a pointless frippery.

Caves of Qud (Early Access Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £6.99
Where To Get It: Steam

The world of Caves of Qud (by Freehold Games, creators of Sproggiwood) is a harsh one. I’m too canny to starve, or go thirsty, but I’ve been killed by plants, by hyena-men, by mortars, and by bear-things that should not be. I’m having a whale of a time.

Genre wise, Caves of Qud is a roguelike set in a post-apocalyptic world. Three arcologies hold the last True Humans, who have all, in some fashion, been changed, and mutants are the “average” citizens. I’ve mainly been playing an Artifex, from the Ice Sheathed Arcology of Ibul, in the North, a caste not very good at fighting, but extremely good with the lost artefacts of the days where Things Weren’t Quite So Fucked. But that’s by no means the only option. There are four castes for each Arcology, and the variety of playing mutants, who start with much less money, but make up for it with powers like Light Manipulation (allowing them to not only light their surrounding area easily, but also create lasers by focussing light to a single, searing line). Of course, everyone has their flaws too, and no one build appears broken compared to the others. Perhaps because the world is so deadly.

The world is big, and even a trip to the nearest ruin or cave can lead to unexpected trouble.

The world is big, and even a trip to the nearest ruin or cave can lead to unexpected trouble.

If you’ve never played a Roguelike, you may be thinking “It’s turn based, and the graphics aren’t modern and shiny, where’s the tension, where’s the excitement?”

You would be surprised. A good example would be a monster found semi-regularly on later floors of the very first dungeon, the Slumberling. Basically a massive, speedy, nigh unkillable bear that, if woken up, can rip you to shreds without much effort at all. Imagine he’s in the middle of a cave, and you’re passing him, step, by step… And then a Snapjaw Hunter (A hyena-man with a bow) fires at you. He didn’t hit the Slumberling or you this turn… But there’s going to be a chance, even if he’s aiming for you, that he misses horribly, and wakes the organic death machine up. In the end, it’ll only be a small comfort that, after dealing with you, it’s probably going to kill the Snapjaw that killed you. What’s your move? Shoot him? Block the arrows as best you can with your body, and hope he doesn’t kill you before you close? Or worse, miss you and hit that Slumberling? Even with the game being turn based, tension is definitely there. It’s just you have all the time in the world to think how you’re going to react to the situation. Still doesn’t mean you’re definitely going to make the right choice.

Enemies can use items just like you can. Case in point: This acid cloud didn't come from me.

Enemies can use items just like you can. Case in point: This acid cloud didn’t come from me.

The interface for the game, as far as Roguelikes go, is actually quite good. Everything has a place, you can easily switch between inventory, or quests, or equipment, even if you went to one of the others without intending to, and everything is clear. The amount of artefacts isn’t huge, but it’s big enough that there’ll always be something you’ll find, providing you live that long, which makes you giggle and wiggle in your seat. And, if you want to stick with and master a single class, the option is there to replay your last character (Albeit with a different selection of equipment) There’s no single skill you have to have, and the skill tree gives you a fair bit of wiggle room. Do you go for Axes, tripping and headbutting enemies as you go? Long Swords, with a skill path that allows you to melee swathes of enemies at once? Or perhaps Persuasion, getting other people to do the dirty work for you, and taking the various traders to the cleaners instead of the other way around? There’s a lot of options, and I definitely enjoy that. Hell, some of the best fun I’ve had in this game is in getting lost, and encountering Gorilla cultists, hunting for water (Both the game’s currency and a necessity. Tip from one who found out the hard way: Don’t take traders for all their “money”, as they’ll die, and upset their friends. Some of whom are mutants with very big guns), and seeking strange new device plans, in equally strange locales (I really have to visit the ocean. I think I will, this run. Just for the hell of it.)

What I’ll admit I don’t enjoy so much is that some of the enemies are not entirely fair. I mentioned Slumberlings are nigh impossible to kill in the early game, but that won’t stop them spawning in the first caves you visit. Ruins are, in the early game, almost certainly deathtraps, with a much higher chance of encountering a still-active heavy weapon turret that ends your life than a much needed artefact. It’s not recommended for the easily frustrated, and it’s definitely not a beginner’s roguelike. But for the price they’re asking (£6.99), it’s definitely a good roguelike, with some interesting ideas. And there’s more on the way.

You may not understand if you've never played Roguelikes, but seeing this was both awesome and terrifying. I don't *like* it when the RNG likes me. And, sure enough, I died shortly thereafter.

You may not understand if you’ve never played Roguelikes, but seeing this was both awesome and terrifying. I don’t *like* it when the RNG likes me. And, sure enough, I died shortly thereafter.

The Mad Welshman wanders the jungles of Qud, forever dying, forever going back in time. Sometimes he’s a mutant, sometimes he’s a True Human. One day, he shall find the mythical “dying of old age.”

Yatagarasu: Attack on Cataclysm (Review)

Source: Kickstarter Backer
Price: £10.99
Where To Get ItSteam

Attack on Cataclysm looks like an old school fighter. It has the story mode of an old school fighter: Two characters, standing in nothingness and talking to each other before character relevant fights (Everyone gets the “Go home and be a family man” type victory/defeat screens), and with the difficulty increasing as you get further in. 11 characters to compare to the frankly silly rosters of some modern fighters, including Jet, who the game as much as stated was “White Dudley” in the beta, Crow the creepy Shota (He plays a bit like Ryu or Guile from SF, but sounds like the creepy villains who’re “Only doing what’s best for you, darling”), and… Look, suffice to say, nearly every style of fighting, from chargers to grapplers is represented here, so thought was put into the roster. So far, so normal fightin’ game, right?

Attacks are pretty meaty, and use the SNK style direction + Low/High button.

Attacks are pretty meaty, and use the SNK style direction + Low/High button.

Well… Not quite. The devs, you see, are ex-SNK, and they wanted to fiddle around with the formula, so there is no single block or parry. Sounds like a small thing, but in fighting games, little details like this matter. Specifically, it has a High-Low parry system. Two buttons for punching (Low and High), two buttons for kicking (Low and High), two button combos for throwing (Low and High), and two parries (Low and High). That last one is important, because if you get it right, you get to immediately counterattack, and will do more damage. Get it wrong, and not only will they get more attacks in, you’ll be completely open. Similarly, superjumps (down, then jump) are different, being lower when you jump forward, and they, also, have the risk of getting damaged more if somebody gets priority on you (IE – they hit first.) Don’t make the mistake of thinking that, because the controls are simple, and the special moves relatively limited, there’s no depth to this game.

So what does this mean? It means it’s a more thoughtful fighter, in a sense. Button mashing will mostly work against a normal CPU (Although bad matchups can obviously work against you), but against another player, you’re going to get wrecked harder than normal for attacking without consideration. It’s e-sports focused, and part of that can be seen in its social media plugin (Allowing you to tweet your victories/fights/losses), its tournament registry, and the commentators system. Yes, multiple commentators. Normally, in a fighting game, you just have one voice yelling things like WHAT A HIT or SPECTACULAR FAIL, but in Attack on Cataclysm, e-sports players and commentators like Kokujin (SFIII) or Kamichang (Soul Calibur 5) have recorded some lines of commentary, each with their own personalities, along with character commentary (so Chadha can tell you how bad your combos are), and you can pick between them (or, of course, have no commentator, for blessed silence while you beat the living snot out of your opponents without a sudden AIIEEEEEEE! Breaking your concentration.)

The game is alright, but the designs have a bad habit of boob-windows and spray-on clothes.

The game is alright, but the designs have a bad habit of boob-windows and spray-on clothes.

This isn’t to say I don’t have niggles. I have yet to find how to set my keyboard keys (It seems stuck in gamepad mode for key reassignment, and while I know a keyboard is “worse”, it still annoys), the game is always 4:3, so running in fullscreen is generally recommended (Leaving my windowed choices as Somewhat Small, or bigger vertically than my screen can handle at 2x, none of which are really optimal for me streaming my ass getting kicked), and the story mode seems a bit rough… Not in the sense of difficulty, I can generally beat Normal CPU in story mode, despite being relatively bad at fighting games, but in visual terms. Design wise, well… Hanzo in particular has a bad case of boob-window clothing design, and everybody has, to some extent or another, spray-on-clothing. Doesn’t make the game any worse in terms of gameplay, but I’m not a big fan of the ladies in this game, in terms of visual design.

For what the Yatagarasu team are asking for the main game, though (£10.99), it’s definitely worth a go if you like fighting games, although I personally think the pricing of the Custom Voice packs (£22.99) a bit much for something I’m not really going to use. Personal taste, I guess.

...Also, that. Le Sigh...

…Also, that. Le Sigh…

The Mad Welshman has a style known as Leap, Hit, and Pray He’s Not Parried. He proudly wears the bruises from sticking to this style.

Energy Balance (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £1.59
Where To Get ItSteam

Energy Balance is, at its core, a game for math puzzle fans, and that’s about it. If you don’t like rearranging numbers to fit arbitrary goals in the name of mathematics (Okay, there’s something about fixing an engine so an alien and their robo-cat can get home) without hints, and you don’t like the idea of not being able to save your progress, then this game is not for you. Because that is, in essence, the entirety of the game. 12 configurations of numbers to arrange into their “true” forms, 12 static cutscenes, for a quid and a bit. Which makes it somewhat hard to review, beyond the statement I gave at the beginning. So let’s talk about aliens and robot cats for a bit.

If memory serves, I had only two numbers the wrong way round. >:C

If memory serves, I had only two numbers the wrong way round. >:C

Aliens, it seems, are similar to us, in that we don’t like to RTFM (Read The Fucking Manual), and that they give responsibility of driving powerful, deadly machines to people, then promptly forget about refreshers unless they fuck up. They’re prone to navel gazing, and talking to their robot cats. Robot cats, in the meantime, are often anthropomorphised by aliens in much the same way we do our cats, while being… Well, cats. One thing I didn’t know beforehand about aliens, however, is that their engines, navigation systems, weapons, et al, are all run on the same idiot proof UI that requires them to solve a math puzzle, thus showing basic competency in some of the skills they need to pilot the bloody things safely. Also they apparently enjoy war for nebulous, fallacious reasons like “honour” and “glory”, like some of us do.

I can confirm, as a human being, that these systems can be muddled through without much critical thought and brute forced without catastrophic systems damage. I can also confirm that it is more enjoyable to do so with your own music, as the aliens’ system apparently doesn’t have volume control, only an on-off switch. We are, thankfully, superior to these aliens in some respects, it seems. Mathematically inclined human beings who play games may find this simple, as proven by my friend, who quite helpfully informed me after ten minutes of brute forcing that I could switch two numbers around to finish the calibrations I was engaged in… Which was correct. I can also confirm that these engines will only tell you when you have correctly mathed up a solution to individual rows or columns, as opposed to the whole thing, which will mislead and frustrate those who aren’t mathematically inclined.

Robot cat is pleased you can math. They'd be more pleased if we weren't drifting with broken systems.

Robot cat is pleased you can math. They’d be more pleased if we weren’t drifting with broken systems.

Completing the 12 main configs nets you 3 more, and another static cutscene. Yaaay. I would, however, reiterate that this game is for the mathematics puzzle inclined, and probably not for anyone who doesn’t like doing that sort of puzzle over and over, smug in the knowledge that they can math better than the rest of us. It also serves as a reminder that, despite popular perception, puzzle games are not “casual” games. Learning this lesson will only cost you £1.59 , although alternatives with hints exist out there for those of us who don’t feel hinting ruins a puzzle.

Meow (Cautious)