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ErikH2000
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DROD is a big fish in a small pond of... uh... games that are like DROD.

Hmm. What to call this genre I have in mind? "Logic puzzles" sorta works, but I want to be more specific, so I call DROD a "stepping game". The basic mechanics of stepping games are that you control a single character or token in the game world and issue commands for its movement. A command is given at your leisure, and once given, the entire world updates instantly in response. A natural design side effect of this control system is that the game would present a situation interesting enough to be worth that contemplative pause in the action.

Yes, please do immediately register "steppinggames.com" and launch a portal devoted to games in this recently-defined genre. It would be an excellent place to showcase the following titles:

* Robots (a.k.a. "Chase" or "Daleks")
* LaserTank by Jim Kindley
* Hero's Heart and the other MESH games by Everett Kaser
* Drainstorm by Dave Horner
* Wonderquest by Gustavo Duarte
* DROD by us
* a handful of others here and there

You could accuse me of gerrymandering an arbitrary definition to include DROD, and you'd be partially right. But if you think about it, my definition is just as general as (if not more than) "real-time strategy", "point-and-click adventure", or "match-three puzzle". Yet these other genres contain thousands of titles whereas stepping games contain tens. I think that some of the traits of steppers appear simple and anachronistic, like they belong back in the 1960's with games like Robots. Looking at them from a technical or marketing perspective, stepping games are old-school junk. But from a game design perspective, there's a huge amount of territory left to explore.

There could be many more stepping games occupying unique positions in that territory--games that look nothing like DROD necessarily but have that same stepping mechanic. Steppers could be about racing cars around a track or shooting aliens with rayguns. A stepper would be ideal for a game based on the Matrix, because like Neo, you'd have an extended amount of time to plan just exactly how to dodge nineteen bullets while jumping onto a moving semi-truck.

It requires a game to have a great deal of success (like Tetris or Dune 2 did) before a genre really gets noticed and exploited. DROD and stepping games may never make it down that path, but obscurity is my briar patch. Mike and I are happy enough making niche games without being surrounded by a bunch of clones to validate our design decisions. I do wish there were a lot more of these stepping games, if for no other reason, so I could play them. We will make some, of course, but I hope there will be more Gustavo Duarte's out there to keep us in good company.

Halph Stories

Yes, we were a bit late, but Halph Stories, the Winter 2005 Smitemaster's Selection, is now on CaravelNet. These are two new holds (level collections) made by expert authors that include wonderful puzzles and stories fully voiced by our actors. Beethro and the Secret Society by Jacob Grinfeld has Beethro and Halph chasing after a mysterious group of conspirators. The pair team up again to explore Eytan Zweig's Halph Has a Bad Day. Halph will probably not be used in any other Smitemaster's Selections this year (at least in his current form) because of continuity conflicts it creates with the story. In fact, because of continuity problems, the two holds are not considered extensions of official story canon. So Halph Stories is our temporary goodbye to Beethro's nephew.

Beethro sings a song in one of the holds. Well, not exactly "sings"--but close enough. We also had a song in Larry Murk's Perfection earlier, but I don't promise a tradition of every Smitemaster's Selection containing a song. Hopefully, you will enjoy this one.

There are two ways to get Halph Stories. You could be a CaravelNet member and download it from our server. Or you could have a Smitemaster's Selection subscription and have it delivered to you on a CD.

Halph Stories on a Shiny Disc

The Halph Stories CD is more than slightly nifty. As expected, it's got the two holds I just talked about. Not as expected, it's also got:

* The Shadowman - Part 1, a half-hour audio drama from the award-winning Dry Smoke and Whispers series. It's good stuff to listen to while you are playing DROD. We do plan to carry the rest of the Shadowman story on our upcoming discs.

* Two songs from Jon Sonnenberg of Travelogue. This is the extremely talented musician who gave us the soundtrack for DROD: The City Beneath.

* Some more Deadly Music of Death that was not included in the first volume.

* Demos of indie shareware titles including many new ones that we didn't have on previous CDs.

* Beautiful jewel case art. I collaborated with Jerrel McQuen of Transdimensional Media to create it, and this is so far, my favorite cover.

I am waiting a week before shipping the Smitemaster's Selection CDs to our subscribers. Why would I do that? You waited a long time already, right? Well, I'm afraid that there will be some left behind if I don't give them another chance. I really need to get the next point across...

This is probably your last chance to get the Halph Stories CD.

For reasons of economy and efficiency, there will be one manufacturing order and one ship date. I'll be ordering CDs this weekend, and my formula goes something like this: order quantity = free copies for contributors + copies for subscribers + 5 extra for press contacts + 5 extra for the Prize Pile + round up to the next quantity that gives a discount. If you want one, then please subscribe in the next two days before Sunday.

And one related piece of information. There are...

Eight Copies of Perfection Left

Edit: All copies of Perfection have been given away now, so the offer described below is unfortunately no longer available.

The next eight people that subscribe to Smitemaster's Selection, even if it is just for one measely issue, will get a free copy of Perfection which was our issue for Fall 2005. If you have DROD: King Dugan's Dungeon (doubled as our first issue), Perfection, and Halph Stories then you will have every issue we've released.

I will reply to this topic to give updates on the number of copies left.

More Smitemaster's Selection info

Ad-Surdium

Patrick Fisher has run some of the greatest contests on our forum, and his latest will no doubt live up to his reputation. In this month's contest, you have to write an advertisement for a hold (level collection). It can be a hold that you authored or just one that you really liked. Hey, it might actually be an interesting challenge to write an ad for a hold that you thought was terrible. So this is a contest for creative people that can write interesting things. You don't have to be a DROD genius or master puzzle-solver to win it.

Contest info

Topic Picks for March

Ooh, these are the hot topics on our forum. Each one has got little flames coming off it and is wearing pink sunglasses. So hot.

Paperclips are fun!
This fellow, Chalks, made a contest to create DROD things with paperclips. If you miss the 3/14 entry deadline, you can still check out the entries.
http://forum.caravelgames.com/viewtopic.php?TopicID=9354

Chased and Hunted, Beethros day off, Kung Dugan's dugedion 2, Tiger, The Evilish Place, Entrapment
These are all the new holds (level collections) that have been released since the last newsletter. I have not played the holds themselves, but "The Evilish Place" has an awesome title.
http://forum.caravelgames.com/viewboard.php?BoardID=11

A single moment without DROD...
...should never happen. Matt Cramp demands DROD to be on his mobile phone.
http://forum.caravelgames.com/viewtopic.php?TopicID=9356

Overexpose Yourself
You can be in Ezlo's next hold. He's got a digitizing beam like in the movie Tron.
http://forum.caravelgames.com/viewtopic.php?TopicID=9108

The Nameless Project
Answering my plea, Maurog develops a DROD-like game in Java.
http://forum.caravelgames.com/viewtopic.php?TopicID=5257

Who Wrote Robots?
It was not Mac Oglesby. It was probably the same guy that programmed the bad computer in War Games.
http://forum.caravelgames.com/viewtopic.php?TopicID=9376

Abstracted Art
These are puzzles that involve recognizing a famous image that has been abstracted into labelled boxes.
http://forum.caravelgames.com/viewtopic.php?TopicID=9239

We Look So Good
See what other people on the forum look like. In real life, I mean--not their avatars.
http://forum.caravelgames.com/viewtopic.php?TopicID=5694

-Erik

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[Last edited by ErikH2000 at 03-13-2006 12:57 AM]
03-11-2006 at 08:08 AM
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Doom
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I can see the holds on the holds board, but don't see them in-game. Am I doing something wrong or are they not available just yet? (edit: Forgot about the has-to-be-rated before showing up thing.)

I'm also having some nasty CaravelNet trouble. (edit: This started to work on it's own - No problems here anymore)
1: Start DROD. See the red X icon at the top.
2: Request a new key and insert it to the CaravelNet key field
3: See the green icon -> exit the game.
4: Go back to step 1. (Yes, this is perfectly repeatable and very annoying.)

[Last edited by Doom at 03-11-2006 08:49 AM]
03-11-2006 at 08:37 AM
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Oneiromancer
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The holds should be available now. It's the old "holds can't be seen in-game until someone votes on them" issue. So I voted on them and I can see them just fine in-game.

Game on,

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03-11-2006 at 08:49 AM
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John259
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Thinking about Erik's interesting genre comments, Andrea Gilbert's Clickmazes http://www.clickmazes.com and James Stephens' Puzzle Beast http://www.puzzlebeast.com are both more abstract than DROD, and implemented by means of Java applets instead of EXE programs, but there are some considerable similarities I think.

John


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03-11-2006 at 10:45 AM
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KevG
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There's also a game called Sokoban that would fit into this category. For those not familiar with the game your goal is to push boxes into place. Which brings up a great idea; maybe DROD could include something pushable. :D

Also, I don't know how widespread the term is, but I've heard these games described before as "maze games". The idea being that, much like solving a maze, your goal is to determine the correct sequence of keystrokes to enter to arrive at a solution. While DROD adds sword-turning to simple movement, the basic idea is still the same.
03-11-2006 at 01:49 PM
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Bombadil
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quote:
KevG wrote:
There's also a game called Sokoban that would fit into this category. For those not familiar with the game your goal is to push boxes into place. Which brings up a great idea; maybe DROD could include something pushable. :D



I think a lot of people here know about Sokoban. About pushable thingies, you can do a quick search and find that it has been suggested before (quite a few times...). And the answer is usually HELL NO!
03-11-2006 at 02:37 PM
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StuartK
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Start with a turn based wargame/tactical simulation

Give the player 1 unit under their direct control, and an arsenal limited to a single short range weapon, and any environmental features that can be taken advantage of (e.g. walls)

Change the AI to 'move towards target' using a variety of preset rules

Hey presto - DROD
03-11-2006 at 05:17 PM
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Ezlo
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Woohoo! I topic I started got mentioned! :D
03-11-2006 at 05:21 PM
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sidlon
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Out of curiosity... would you consider roguelike games (angband, nethack) to be stepping games? Despite the RPG aspect, there are definite similarities to DROD.

03-11-2006 at 05:22 PM
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ErikH2000
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Quick note before I head off to my morning Starbucks ritual: 3 copies of Perfection left.

-Erik

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03-11-2006 at 05:40 PM
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Chaco
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Aww...

*pets puddle*

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03-11-2006 at 06:21 PM
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ErikH2000
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quote:
KevG wrote:
There's also a game called Sokoban that would fit into this category. For those not familiar with the game your goal is to push boxes into place. Which brings up a great idea; maybe DROD could include something pushable. :D

Don't make me yell at you about how pushables shouldn't be in DROD. ;) Regarding Sokoban being in the stepping games category: I don't think it is a good example because the game would play the same whether it is in real-time or steps. In other words, there are no parts to the game that move independently of you, so it doesn't have a sense of paused activity. Technically, it fits the definition of a stepping game, but not in a way that takes real advantage of stepping features.
quote:

Also, I don't know how widespread the term is, but I've heard these games described before as "maze games". The idea being that, much like solving a maze, your goal is to determine the correct sequence of keystrokes to enter to arrive at a solution.

That would be another valid way to categorize DROD, but I am particularly interested in the stepping interface, which doesn't need to involve mazes, and likewise, mazes don't need to involve stepping. The grid aspect isn't even necessary. For example, in the stepping game genre, you could have a traffic accident simulator where you try to keep your car clear of damage by adjusting your vehicles angle of direction, gas, and braking on each step.

-Erik

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03-11-2006 at 07:10 PM
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ErikH2000
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quote:
sidlon wrote:
Out of curiosity... would you consider roguelike games (angband, nethack) to be stepping games? Despite the RPG aspect, there are definite similarities to DROD.


Yes, I would, but these games are less notable because examining the situation visually is less important to the gameplay than other factors such as knowledge of your stats, what is in your inventory, how powerful attacking monsters are, etc. You could almost remove the overhead map and just say "You are in a room with north and west exits. Three kobolds attack. You could flee back through the south exit." The spatial information is there, but it doesn't play that large of a role.

-Erik

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03-11-2006 at 07:18 PM
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ErikH2000
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quote:
John259 wrote:
Thinking about Erik's interesting genre comments, Andrea Gilbert's Clickmazes http://www.clickmazes.com and James Stephens' Puzzle Beast http://www.puzzlebeast.com are both more abstract than DROD, and implemented by means of Java applets instead of EXE programs, but there are some considerable similarities I think.


There are some good puzzles at these sites, but I didn't happen upon any where pieces move outside of your direct control. So my comments here are like Sokoban--yes, it's technically a stepper, but it doesn't give a sense of paused action. Maybe I should modify my definition.

That said, I'm not on a quest to show the absense of steppers. They are out there, for sure. Here's a nifty one that Eric Solomon made, for example.

-Erik

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03-11-2006 at 07:26 PM
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KevG
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quote:
ErikH2000 wrote:
Don't make me yell at you about how pushables shouldn't be in DROD. ;)

Just kidding. I was a charter member of the old Yahoo group so I'm well aware of your feelings on pushables. :)

I mainly feel Sokoban should be included in the genre because of it's influence. Of the games you mentioned, Laser Tank is pretty much just a souped up version of Sokoban.
03-11-2006 at 07:42 PM
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Once upon a time, Cosmi produced a game called "Robottack", (developed by an independant game company called "The Code Zone") as part of a somewhat forgotten conglomeration of games called "Top 50 Blazing Games." Cosmi did produce and work on it a little, but the game isn't listed on Cosmi's website, so I can only assume Cosmi let go of it as Webfoot did to DROD. Ironically, Webfoot also made 3D Frog Frenzy and 3D Pinball Express, which came on a CD with Top 50 Blazing Games. Top 50 had was one application that divided 50 games into 5 categories, which could be flipped through with tabs.

The games were high quality, consisting of a couple of originals and many, many remakes (a Sobokan remake called "Bulldozer" with a level editor, a Pac Man remake called "Suzy Sushi", a light cycle remake called "Laser Clash", a Tetris remake called "StackBlitz", a Backgammon remake called, guess what, "Backgammon"!). I still have it today and it's pretty fun to play. Actually, I got it for free with another product, so that's a sad commentary on how it's been judged. But Robottack, despite being timed, is a great example of a stepping game. However, it's really really obscure.

Note that I'm not asking you to buy Top 50, but I just thought I'd say something about a pretty good stepping game.

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03-11-2006 at 07:52 PM
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ErikH2000
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quote:
KevG wrote:
I mainly feel Sokoban should be included in the genre because of it's influence. Of the games you mentioned, Laser Tank is pretty much just a souped up version of Sokoban.

Yeah, I see your point. Although, I am thinking of kicking LaserTank out of the stepping games genre since the only elements it has that act independantly of your token are the lasers. When you invent your own genre, you get a lot of power to do things like that. People better keep me happy or they aren't getting in to my club. Gustavo, I hope you're listening.

-Erik

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03-11-2006 at 08:24 PM
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StuartK
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DROD isn't a puzzle game, except by dint of effort of the architect. It's quite possible to create a hold with no puzzles, beyond being able to efficiently control Beethro without getting killed. Or perhaps that's where the 'puzzles' lie for newer players, and those techniques become subconscious as you continue to play, at which point DROD becomes more of a tactical experience. Or perhaps that's just me.
03-11-2006 at 10:56 PM
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sorry to differ, but i see this genre as more of a sub genre of turn based, or as i discribe it, simplified turn based. but stepping games do sound better.

may i also point out that this definition would also include turn based rpg's, only the unit management is drastically complicated with rpg's.

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03-11-2006 at 11:05 PM
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StuartK
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And with turn based wargames the individual unit management is (usually, relatively) fairly simple, but you get more than one unit to manage. And ranged weapons.

[Last edited by StuartK at 03-11-2006 11:12 PM]
03-11-2006 at 11:11 PM
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ErikH2000
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One copy of Perfection left. The next Smitemaster's order gets it, and then I'll be out of stock.

-Erik

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03-12-2006 at 08:04 AM
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Abstract_strategy_games has links to a great collection of articles.

John

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03-12-2006 at 11:25 AM
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ErikH2000
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That's it. All copies of Perfection are spoken for.

-Erik

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03-12-2006 at 05:30 PM
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Listening loud and clear, Erik.

About three years ago, I heard about a game called DROD, on http://www.the-underdogs.org/ which changed the way I’ll make games for the rest of my life. I liked it so much, that I’ll never make a real-time game again.

Hey! That’s telepathy! I was also thinking about naming this genre.“Roach Squashing games”. Good for marketing, but a little limited (and pretentious from my part).

Imagine someone visiting Gamespot, and this fellow see a new section like “Roach squashing genre”. Nobody stays calm in front of a roach, this is the most terrible animal in this planet. You need to click it now!

I think you found a good definition, “stepping games”.

A quick brainstorm:
“Brain games” (too generic)
“Neuro-games” (Hey, sounds good, but still a bit generic)
“Wonderquest genre” (haha, just kidding)

I was also thinking about this new way to see games. Every single one of them. What about a stepping FPS? Doable? Yes.

My next project is a turn-based Age of empires, ops, I mean a stepping (or semi-stepping) Age of empires! :-)

What about a stepping Street Fighter? Mouth watering, huh?

Racing, fighting, sports, RPG’s none of them will escape.

It’s definitively a new way to see games, that’s your creature Erik!

[Last edited by googa at 03-13-2006 04:15 AM]
03-13-2006 at 12:19 AM
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NiroZ
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quote:
googa wrote:
I was also thinking about this new way to see games. Every single one of them. What about a stepping FPS? Doable? Yes.



if could make a working version of a turn based fps, which is actually fun and playable, you would be a bloody genius. (i am currently trying to imagine ut2004 turn based, with great difficulty)

quote:
googa wrote:
My next project is a turn-based Age of empires, ops, I mean a stepping (or semi-stepping) Age of empires! :-)



I think that turn based AoE has already been done(do a search for hand-held and console versions of AoE II)


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03-13-2006 at 06:34 AM
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I'm going to have to give the post-modern answer for this genre quandary:

Genres are arbitrary definitions and limiting to those who might otherwise have original ideas. Lucky for us, there are some who love to break the rules and provide us with great original products that are hard to pigeonhole.

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03-13-2006 at 07:32 AM
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Genre mashups are easy ways to come up with new ideas. That, and taking an existing genre and deciding what elements commonly associated with it are absolutely necessary and which aren't, then try and build a game around those differences.

Needless to say, my first-person-shooter without guns or ammunition of any kind will be in stores just as soon as I can find a publisher.

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03-13-2006 at 10:08 AM
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Bombadil
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icon Re: The Lonely Puddle (0)  
quote:
Mattcrampy wrote:
Needless to say, my first-person-shooter without guns or ammunition of any kind will be in stores just as soon as I can find a publisher.


Are you talking seriously here? Is this a project of yours? Where can I find more info about it?
03-13-2006 at 10:17 AM
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Alneyan
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icon Re: The Lonely Puddle (+1)  
quote:
googa wrote:
Racing, fighting, sports, RPG’s none of them will escape


Hmm, a stepping interactive fiction game? That could be difficult to pull out. Or perhaps not, actually. Let's see...

West of Basement:
You are inside a basement, near the bottom part of the upper left hand corner of the room. You can see a roach three squares to the north and one square to the west. The only exist is east, seventeen screens from here.

Your lantern seems to glow more faintly than it used to. Perhaps you should quit buying fifth-hand goods.

> STEP NORTH

You step north, and the roach steps south-east. You are now two squares south of the roach.

> TURN SWORD

You try to twist your sword around, but cannot achieve much. Swords aren't particularly malleable, you know.

> FACE NORTH

I got that right this time. So, your brand new shines-in-the-dark Elven-crafted sword is now pointing northwards. The roach is blocked by your sword (phew, just in time!)

> STEP NORTH

You make a dashing step north, and skillfully slay the roach (your mum will be so proud of you). Your sword is no longer glowing blue.

quote:
Needless to say, my first-person-shooter without guns or ammunition of any kind will be in stores just as soon as I can find a publisher.


You know, Thief has been out for, like, eight years, so you should come up with something else (if you are daring, you could always try for a RPG without *Elves*). Okay, so Thief does have *some* ammo (if you like to call arrows "ammo"), though it's not as if you actually shoot at people (not much, anyhow).

[Last edited by Alneyan at 03-13-2006 11:52 AM]
03-13-2006 at 11:43 AM
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Znirk
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icon Re: The Lonely Puddle (0)  
quote:
Alneyan wrote:
Hmm, a stepping interactive fiction game?


Icebreaker by Andrew Plotkin ;)
03-13-2006 at 12:35 PM
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