Thursday, 6 April 2017

Shard changes after 01/04/17

  • Energy Shield
    Passive and active now grant +2 TN against ranged (instead of +1 soak dice)

  • Wrist Blaster
    Now a reaction, can be activated on any coach's turn (ranged 1 dam 4)

  • Pulse Pistol
    Increased attack roll to AGI+1 (up from AGI)

  • Pulse SMG
    Increased attack roll to AGI+1 (up from AGI)

  • Pulse Cannon
    Increased attack roll to AGI+2 (up from AGI+1)

  • Launcher
    Increased attack roll to AGI+2 (up from AGI+1)

  • Moment of Truth
    Buffed built in actions (was just a [move]). Now reads:
    If you only have one player who is not KO'd or incapacitated then this card may be played on them (even if this is not their card). They may take any or all of the actions listed below (instead of choosing just one of them). // [[move] or [attack] or [use]]
  • Passing Play
  • Buffed ability text to:
    If this player passes the Shard this turn roll [dice:+1] for the pass. If the receiver catches the Shard and has not been activated this turn then when you activate them you may have them take a [move] instead of playing a card.
  • Coruin Hlest - Steal
    Fixed so he can steal from an adjacent player without having to move first.

  • Shadow Dancer - The Weaver
    Nerfed: removed riposte ability of parry.

  • From Dawning Minutiae
    Buffed their passive (before it only triggered if they were discarding to stand up):
    When a coach wants to play a card belonging to a player who is adjacent to From Dawning Minutiae they must first discard another matching card from their hand.
  • Gaffer Jones
    Changed his ability for attaching cards to Automata (added turn restriction, but allowed any Basic card):
    [react] : During Gaffer Jones' activation, once per turn, attach a card from your hand to an Automaton (discarding any card already there). The card must match Gaffer Jones or be Basic.
  • Gaffer Jones - Automaton
    Gave Automata an in-built Use ability:
    [use] : Move [mp] then [melee]
  • The King
    Removed his passive that made removing an injury not cost a star.  Instead gave him:
    When flipping a card for this player from the Critical Strike deck flip an extra card and choose which one they get.  Use this ability after any other abilities which deal with cards flipped from the Critical Strike deck.
  • Pickles - Deploy
    Gave Pickles' Emblem card (which was a standard Deploy: [use]+[move]) the Team trait.

  • Switchback - Energy Shackle
    Fixed wording, using written "attack" and "move" instead of icons.  Now reads:
    [use] : Make a [target:2] on an enemy player.  If you hit then they are held immobile, unable to move or attack, for as long as Switchback stays upright in the same square or until the start of your next turn, whichever is sooner.

Clarified the jargon on "teammate"  and "ally": an ally is another unit in your team, while a teammate is an ally who is also a player.  Used the correct one of these terms on these players:
  • Oubliette - Barricade
  • Webspinner
  • With Unfailing Anticipation - Recall

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Shard changes after 25/03/17


Removed the range restriction on her emblem card ability.  It now reads:
Choose an enemy player who Blister can see who is not in cover and has an empty adjacent square under the LOS. Warp Blister to that square then [melee] them. 


Changed his emblem card ability to:
Place the Suppression marker in any square.  Whenever an enemy enters a square within 2 squares of it Havok may make a [ranged] against them if able. Havok gains [dice:+1] when making a ranged attack against anyone within 2 squares of the Suppression marker.  Remove it from the board at the end of your next turn.  
Place the Suppression marker in any square; if Havok is Downed remove it. Whenever an enemy enters a square within 2 squares of it Havok makes a [ranged] against them if able.
If it is still on the board at the start of your next turn then Havok makes a [ranged] against one enemy within 2 squares of it, then remove it. 
Place the Suppression marker in any square; if Havok is Downed remove it.  The first time in a turn an enemy enters a square within 2 squares of it Havok makes a [ranged] against them if able.
If it is still on the board at the start of your next turn then Havok may make a [ranged] against one enemy within 2 squares of it, then remove it regardless.
A player may only take one [attack] action per turn. 


 Adding this rule:
Whenever you make any roll for a player carrying the Shard they will fumble it if you roll as many [crit] as their Agility; scatter it from their square.  When they attempt to pass the Shard the roll is first checked against the thrower then the receiver (scattering from the relevant square if applicable)
"Fumble TN" is no longer a thing: adjacent enemy players no longer affect this mechanic.

 Considering adding this rule:
Whenever the Shard carrier makes any roll (other than to contain the Shard), if they roll as many [crit] as their Agility then the Shard will surge.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Standout Games of 2016

The Witness

Finding a screenshot for The Witness was hard.  Well, I should say choosing one was hard, because the game is unendingly beautiful to look at; as you explore it every new horizon you walk over yields some new work of art.  You could take pretty much any screenshot that wasn't a close-up of a puzzle panel and it would look good on this page.

That's not why The Witness is on this list though (though it certainly helps); The Witness perfectly accomplishes what every good puzzle game tries to do: make the player feel like a genius.  Over and over you'll be stuck, and confused, and uncertain, and then your brain will click, will make the magical click noise in your head as the bulb flashes on and you get it.  There is lots and lots to get, extending even beyond the game you think you're playing.

I love Metroidvania games; a genre named after its two main antecedents, Metroid and Castlevania. In these games you explore a generally open environment, and as you progress you gain power-ups that affect your ability to traverse the terrain.  For example, a ledge you walked past on the first screen was too high to jump to, but once you get the double-jump power up you can go back and see what's up there.  This type of gameplay just pushes my brain's buttons, and so too does The Witness, because it's a Metroidvania game in disguise.  There are no power-ups to collect, not in the game: the power-ups are inside your head.  As your neurons evolve to overcome the puzzles in front of you they unlock locations you had previously deemed inaccessible.  Puzzles you had to ignore because they just didn't make any sense snap into focus, and you spend your time wandering over the island again and again, round and round, and it never gets dull because (a) it's beautiful and (b) you're a genius.


It was hard to find a screenshot for Audioshield too, but that's because there are barely any online. Worse, while its visuals are great when you're playing it, they hardly look great in 2D on a monitor. Audioshield is a VR game; VR for Virutal Reality.  Wearing a headset, like those giant face-lawnmowers you saw in the 90's, except these days they look more like something from The Matrix and are awesome instead of naff.

Audioshield is the game that pushed me over the edge into buying a Vive.  Space Pirate Trainer was the first VR game I played, and for Shock & Awe it's hard to beat; the visuals are amazing, the soundtrack makes you feel instantly badass, and then you pick up the pistols and double-down.  But Space Pirate Trainer isn't on this list and Audioshield is, because the former makes you feel like a badass for 10 minutes, while the latter fills you with joy for hours and hours.  Audioshield is the VR game I have the most time played in by a factor of ten (discounting Binary Trigger for obvious reasons).

Superficially Audioshield appears to be a rhythm game, like Guitar Hero or Osu.  Blue and orange orbs fly at you, and you punch them in time to the music.  However, this isn't quite accurate.  You can play it this way; in fact the developer patched in a more extreme difficulty just for the players who want this, but this is not what I like about it.  Audioshield is not a rhythm game; Audioshield is a dancing game.

Playing Audioshield is like the best bits of being a slightly drunk in a nightclub; dancing without inhibition to thumping tunes, working out your body, (your aggression if you want), like you're in the start of Blade, forever, but without all the crap bits of being in a nightclub: no smoke, no drunks, no shitty DJs, no trying to look cool so someone will have sex with you, no worrying about finding someone to have sex with you, no vampires ripping your throat open...  None of that shit.  It's just dancing and punching and the best music you can think of because you're the DJ and what you want to dance to is what gets played. is the spiritual successor to  You start off as a little tiny snake, which moves towards your mouse pointer.  You'll eat the little coloured blobs of light that are lying around (perhaps not realising they are being shat out by all the other snakes), and like in the ancient Nokia game, they'll make you grow longer.  Slowly, ever so slowly, but you'll grow longer and fatter.  Of course, the arena is full of other snakes all doing the same as you, all controlled by another player, all wanting to get bigger, to be the biggest.

The shining lance of game design that makes this game amazing is the very simple, very brutal rule at the core of its gameplay: no matter how big you are, no matter how many other snakes you've killed, if your snake runs face-first into any other snake, you die.  No hitpoints.  No extra lives. You die, and will be reborn the smallest little snake you can imagine.  Again.
You can loop around over your own body as much as you like, but touch any other snake with your nose and you're dead, and when you die you leave behind all the blobs of light you've eaten so far.  If you want to get big in, and get big quick, killing big snakes and eating their remains is the way to do it.

The beauty of this mechanic is in the interaction between your size and everyone else's.  Once you are a tidal behemoth, leviathan, roaming the edges of the arena like some vast oil tanker, you have the same problem the oil tanker does: you are no longer maneuverable. You take an age to turn.  You can speed boost for years (you speed boost by holding down the mouse button, but it uses up your girth so smaller snakes can't do it very long, while monsters can do it practically forever), but always you are afraid, because one little knock, one dunt on your nose and you're toast, and some little shit is going to eat your corpse.  Meanwhile the tiny little snakes can only speed boost in short spurts, but they are so very agile, turning on a dime.  They're also without fear: what does the newborn care of death?  If it tries to kill you and dies, it gets reborn the same size; no loss.  Baby snakes will happily kamikaze face-first into a giant, because it's 50/50 who dies, and they have everything to gain and nothing to lose, while the giant can win the equivalent of a grain of rice, but stands to lose everything.

The other striking thing about is the emergent behavior you start to notice once you've been playing for a while.  The threat behavior of two similarly sized snakes, using speed-boost like a cat making itself larger.  Players meet like animals in the wild; each trying to maneuver against the other for an advantage, but unwilling to engage an even or unfavorable fight.  Then there's the subtleties of snake combat, of coiling, the Qix-like mini game of trapping a smaller snake within your coil then shaving territory off in infinitesimal slices, while they try to out-bluff you with their speed boost and peg you as you turn in.  The risk/reward of killing your captured prey while other snakes draw near, hoping to catch you in your weakened state; if you are a long snake and are spread out you are hard to kill, but while coiled up you take up no space and can easily be enveloped by another.  Few things are as satisfying as killing a snake which is about to kill another smaller snake (and then killing the smaller snake too). Crucially, none of this is designed, or encoded; it comes about purely from the game's one simple rule.

I'm going to stop writing about now (I could go on), but I realize I've written more about this free web game (go play it yourself now!) than the commercial giants listed above it.


If there's a game on this list that you're going to have heard of, regardless of how little you pay attention to video games, regardless if you just got back from a year-long sabatical in Zaire, it's Overwatch.  Blizzard's class-based FPS emerged and then blew-up this year, in part due to its slick-yet-cool-yet-simple gameplay, and in part due to these amazing. shorts.  I mean blew. up. I saw a guy wearing an Overwatch jacket coming out of the train station this morning.

I think in the last couple of months my interest has waned (perhaps because I've been busy with the Vive), but for a few months in the middle of the year I played a shit-ton of Overwatch.  It's just so, so... FUN!  It's probably the most beginner friendly FPS there has ever been, thanks to a wide array of different-feeling characters, some of which you don't even need to be able to aim with (they might have a weapon that locks on to targets, or build turrets that shoot automatically), but while easy for noobs it also packs a ton of depth for the more ardent fans.

Get ready for a lot more Overwatch in 2017.


Flight is a simple little flash game I sat and played through when I had nothing better to do.  I think the word to use is: charming. It's just so nice, and sweet, and... charming.  You will be charmed.  I don't want to say much about it since discovering the game pretty much is the game, so just go play it yourself.  But whatever you do, don't throw the plane backwards, and when you do throw the plane backwards don't say I didn't warn you.


INSIDE is horrific.  Horrible.  Horrifying.  It tells a story, but the story is not concerned with narrative or character development. The story is about projecting emotions onto you, the player, and those emotions are oppression, ignorant cruelty, inescapable horror.  It depicts fascism, not as an artform to portray to the player why fascism is bad, or how fascism works, but instead to use fascism as a tool - fascism is the tool here, not the subject - a tool to push the player's face in.  It's a terror-realm, not of jump-scares, but of a reality fashioned from the building blocks of nightmares.  The nightmares of grown-ups, and the nightmares of their childhood.

I got INSIDE as a surprise Christmas present, having never heard of it (though having googled it since have discovered it was something of an Indie darling).  Made by the same team who created Limbo, it feels most like a modern take on Another World.  Modern in that it looks amazing, with its flat textures and faceless protagonist. Modern in that its control interface is seemless, responsive, slick. Modern in that it can be this polished mechanically while still having the ugliest, rawest soul you could dream of.

I don't know.  I've read a bit on what people think the game means, what it could mean, what the developers intended it to mean...  to me it still means what it meant as I was playing it: it puts you in the nightmare.  The nightmare you can't wake up from, where you're being chased, where you know that whatever is chasing you is going to catch you and there's nothing you can do about it.  The nightmare of when you're a kid and a dead animal is the most terrifying thing imaginable.  The nightmare of your body.  The nightmare of the ordered masses.  It's well worth your time, if you're so inclined*

*Not if you have a phobia about water as it has extended sections like that so don't do it you'll die.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Running out of space on your system SSD? Meet Junction.

My PC is getting on a bit these days; I got it back when SSDs had got to the point of being reliable, but only just, so it only has a 120GB SSD for a system drive, and a 1TB HDD for storage.  After a year or so I found out that 120GB is very barely enough to run Windows from.  In fact, the only stuff I have on it is Windows and Dota (because Dota had performance issues when run from the HDD). This wasn't always the case: I had previously installed a few applications on it.  To make space by moving them I could have uninstalled them then reinstalled them on the HDD; that's an annoying amount of work.  Worse however; some developers have taken to make their installers totally foolproof, by which I mean they remove any options for the user to make: they install to C: and don't give you another choice (Office 365 does this, as does Oculus).  When you don't have enough space on C: to install them this is problematic.  Happily, there's a Windows command that comes to the rescue: Junction.

Junction is used to make a "junction point" on a drive. A junction point is sort of like a Shortcut to a folder, except it is handled at a much lower level.  To Windows, it's as if the folder it points to is actually at the location it sits in.  With it you can make Windows think a program is installed in C: when it is actually held on D: (or any other drive).

Moving software to HDD

Let's say you have Photoshop installed on your SSD, but it takes up a ton of space that you want to reclaim (because the SSD is full and Windows is starting to choke on not having any free MB). Photoshop will typically be installed in c:\program files\adobe.  To free up the space you could uninstall photoshop entirely, then run the installer again and put it on D:, but that's a lot of time wasted (and potentially a lot of bandwidth if it has to re-download a bunch of stuff).  Instead you can move the adobe folder to D: and use a junction point to make Windows think it's still happily running from C:.  To do this you need to:

  1. Make sure the application in question is not running.  Close all open windows, and make sure it hasn't left any icon in the system tray.

  2. Move the folder from its location on C: (your SSD) to a location on D: (your HDD).  Make a D:\program files folder and then using the right mouse button drag the adobe folder over.  By using the right mouse button, when you release it a menu will pop up allowing you to select Move.

  3. Now you need to make the junction point.  Open the Start menu and type cmd but don't push enter.  When it displays the cmd icon, right-click it and Run As Administrator.  In the cmd window type:

  4. Windows 7

    cd "\program files"
    junction adobe "d:\program files\adobe"

    Windows 10 (Junction command was removed from Windows 10; use mklink instead)

    cd "\program files"
    mklink /j adobe "d:\program files\adobe"

  5. Close the cmd window.  You should now be able to run Photoshop as normal.

Installing to HDD

For a program that only lets you install on C: you either need to make enough room by moving other folders first, or set up the junction before running the installer. For example, Oculus installs in c:\program files\oculus so before installing you can make an oculus folder on D: and then make a junction to it as above; when you run the installer it should see that the oculus folder already exists and install into it.

  1. Make sure there is no folder at c:\program files\oculus.  If you have tried to install and failed it may have left one.
  2. Make folder d:\program files\oculus
  3. In a cmd window:

    Windows 7

    cd "\program files"
    junction oculus "d:\program files\oculus"

    Windows 10

    cd "\program files"
    mklink /j oculus "d:\program files\oculus"

Making Space

If you want to go on a space-saving spree a good program to use is treesize.  This will scan your SSD and display all the folders on it sorted by how much space they are taking up, allowing you to quickly see which ones are worth moving over to the HDD.  You can use this technique on most programs you find in c:\program files and c:\program files (x86), though you should avoid any Windows folders as they can be a bit temperamental.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Dota 2 - Common Support Laning Mistakes

Supporting in Dota is hard.  You need good game knowledge, good map awareness, a fundamentally team-play driven mindset and the ability to eek by with the bare minimum of items.  Learning to play support well takes a lot of time and effort, as you have to grow your capabilities in multiple directions: you need to learn how to support your teammate in lane, how to gank, how to counter-gank, how to ward, how to find whatever farm you can... it's easy to get caught going down one track (warding for instance) and neglecting others.

Which is to say; it's fairly easy to sink a ton of hours into learning support and still miss out on some things which are actually pretty fundamental.  This post will cover some of the basics supports should, or, more accurately, should not be doing in the laning stage; the kind of things that you see all the time in public matchmaking, and that can drive carry teammates up the wall.  An unhappy carry is a distracted carry, and no-one want them making mistakes late-game because they've had their morale upset early.  Carries are delicate creatures!

1. Ineffectual Leeching

This is the #1 thing a support does that incenses their lane-mate: standing behind the carry, possibly attempting to deny creeps.  It's hard to emphasize how terrible this actually is.  Hiding behind the carry, the support contributes nothing to the lane: they do not harass the enemy hero(es), and are not in a position to act if a potential kill situation occurs.  Crucially, they also take half the XP from the lane.  They are literally making the lane worse for the carry than if they weren't there at all.  A support who spends the first few minutes roaming around accomplishing nothing is actually better for the lane than one who sits in it, actively having a negative impact (by stealing experience from the core).  The normal outcome to a two-vs-one lane where the support does this is that the enemy hero gains a level advantage, then kills one or both of the dual lane.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Grand Theft Auto 5's bullying is a problem its creators must finally address

The doctrine of "if you don't like it, just don't buy it" is a useful defense for cynical purveyors of shoddy products. They would prefer that you move along and keep your opinions to yourself.

When used in video games, this cheap line usefully reduces the relationship between products and humans to a base financial transaction. The product has no meaning for those who do not consume it, or so we are supposed to believe.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Dota 2 - Quick'n'Dirty Support Primer

This is a rough outline of things I do most games as support.  If you are clueless about how to play support then following this will set you on the right path. After you do it a few times you'll start to work out what is going on, and should diverge off it as you see fit.  This is for hard support, i.e. farm position 5.

Farm priority is a system to designate who gets farm when more than one player is in the same place. Each player has a number: the lowest number gets the farm. So 1 is the hard carry in the safe lane, 2 is mid, 3 is the offlane or jungle, 4 and 5 are typically supports.  The 4 saves up and gets Mek, while the 5 buys wards.

Start items I buy for practically every support hero is: Courier, Wards, Tango, Salve, Clarity.