04 September 2012

Dwarf Fortress Chronicles: The first six years

I've been playing Dwarf Fortress for a while now, slowly getting into the game, reading online guides, the wiki etc., battling the interface more than anything. I started out simple, with small fortresses and simple chains of productions, the dwarves only getting one or two different kinds of food, not producing my own weaponry etc. I cannot claim to have gotten too much deeper into the game but I slowly learn more and more game mechanics. This is my third attempt at a large and long-term game. The world is set to be full of goblins because in my first two attempts I never got an invasion besides the horrific and unstoppable attack by undead hordes (those of you who don't play DF may not realize that even blood and hair left in your kitchen will reanimate and kill your populace. And killing a zombie involves smashing every one of its fingers to paste...). This fortress was going to be different. Here come the first six years.

I had chosen the site of my fortress wisely. There were trees and a river, so I would have wood and fresh water. There were hills and mountains to make an easily accessible first level, digging out the first rooms of the fortress horizontally, to expand into the deep at a later state. My seven dwarves were well trained for the initial tasks a fortress would hold. When they arrived and got to work on their new homestead, the mood was cheerful and filled with hope.

The first things that were dug out were a work-area, a small underground farm, storage rooms and quarters. Then a dining hall. Then, with the first migrants arriving, expanding of living quarters. I soon had a well going food economy going, the dwarves were planting tasty Plumphelmets underground and wild strawberries, the seeds of which had been purchased from an elven caravan, above ground. There were three things the fortress would need before it could hope to survive actual attacks: A cistern to hold large amounts of water, so that a siege could be stopped at an outer wall, and a working militia to actually do the defending part.

02 September 2012

Angry Birds rule the World

Yeah, I said it. A lot of gamers hate the game. I play it occasionally, whenever they update new maps and I'm sitting on the bus to work. Never really thought about it. But now that I'm travelling through Asia again (something I'm bound to do every once-in-a-while), I realize that I've been ignorant at the scale that this phenomenon of a game has around the planet. Let's talk about it.

When I first played Angry Birds, I was late to the party. That was summer last year, on the laptop of my in-laws in Mongolia. It was a PC version, localized and translated into Mongolian, something I found odd as most stuff with the exception of movies isn't translated into Mongolian, because it is a developing nation of only a few million, not really a large market to tap. Was that version fan-made? Possibly. It didn't matter all that much anyways, as I quickly found out: The game is designed to be playable by someone entirely illiterate, like young children or people who cannot even read Latin letters. The games cut-scenes and little cartoons explaining how different types of birds work like the comics that explained weapons in World War II to illiterate resistance fighters in the Pacific are simple and can be understood by at least 90% of human beings living on earth right now. It's brilliant in its simple elegance, really. Like gaming is a universal language or something poetic like that. That was what I thought last year.