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Metal King Slime
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2012 In Review 024 - Ortega Colonies 
 PostMon Sep 16, 2013 10:23 am
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It's that kind of game.
That's good advice.
That hero graphic is old school legit.
This is a review of Ortega Colonies.

I've felt bad for not trying this game more when it came out. It was TMC and SDHawk's random collab, so naturally they went for some crazy programmer kind of thing. It was vaguely roguelike, about an astronaut trying to survive his way through something to get to someplace. Very nice game, but it was hard and tough to get into. Hoping I can give it a little more attention this time around and I understand TMC updated it recently so that oughta be fun.

During Thoughts:

Okay, not a good idea to "just run it". Gonna have to think about this. Game Over/Restart could be way smoother.

Who the fuck cares about naming the hero, get on with it

Hard to tell what walls you can walk through

Really hard to tell what kills you and frustrating that every time you have to go through the same thing. "OH NO THE PLACE IS ABANDONED!" "OH NO, THE LIGHTS ARE GOIN OUT!"


I have a lot of respect for this game because it is old school as hell. You could put it on one of those 90's shareware compilations and it'd fit right in. The graphics, sound design and emphasis on survival all remind me of things I saw as a kid, goofin around on the weekend with some weird old DOS shit. The map and each section of colony is randomly generated for each game, so no two playthroughs are alike. That lends further to a nostalgic feeling that games had for me back then, the feeling of "What the hell am I supposed to do"?

Basically, I'm still unable to beat this game. Until very recently, I wasn't even sure if I'd been making progress or just avoiding death. I had assumed the goal was to go into each colony along the way, find enough air to get to the next colony, while finding food, water and heat sources inside each place to let you live long enough to find the air. Every now and then I find notebooks, detailing what happened and I assume they must be important, but I can't be sure and so far they seem to be flavor text.

The graphics also make it somewhat difficult to tell whether or not you can go to certain places, especially the West/East facing doors. Lots of times I'll sidle up to one, assuming I can go through only to find out it's a wall, or that I'm a tile or two too far north or south, and then eventually I discovered that these doors can also be stuck and require you to talk to them first. Some arrows or something might make it more obvious where you can go. A little bit more tile variety might also help, or some color coding or something to make one room stick out from another would help.

Also going to say that I think the randomization was a bad idea, at least to this extent. It makes it feel rather frivolous, choosing to go into one outpost or the other. I'd be okay with randomizing the interiors, but perhaps some basic succession of checkpoints from say, the southernmost being a boring security checkpoint, then a mess hall, then a barracks, then the greenhouse and so forth, areas which could each have their own general theme and risks and rewards, while maintaining a sense of progress that you could compare throughout playthroughs.

Combat uses the default engine for the fighting, but there are no random battles. You can see the monsters roaming around and tread lightly to get past them. Personally, I woulda ditched the combat and just let the atmosphere of exploration through these abandoned places carry the game. You've got so much to worry about, body temperature, oxygen level, flashlight batteries, food, thirst, sleep deprivation, there's plenty to do without throwing in battles for the hell of it. I do kind of like the degrading weapons system they use, but I would've preferred them to be equippable. Using them as items makes me more confused, especially with stuff like crowbars floating around that serve as exploration tools instead.

It takes a lot of guts to make a game like this, something totally different from what you usually see. I like what they were trying for, but I can't find enough breadcrumbs to lead me to the end of their trail. If you've got patience, or you like old school survival type stuff I think you'll enjoy it, if you're looking for something kind of brainless you're not gonna find it here. Very well put together and all, I just have no idea what the hell I'm doing. Should I explore more? Less?

On my final run, I've made it to the northernmost colony, there's a door different than the others, but I can't explore the place to fnd out how to open it. I either freeze to death, or starve to death, or monster to death, or water to death or sleep deprivation to death. Just too non-linear for its own good, I guess. I wonder if anyone has the opposite problem, and the RNG just favors the hell out of them and the cruise to an easy victory.
Metal King Slime
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 PostSat Sep 21, 2013 8:40 am
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Thanks for the detailed review Giz. By far the most helpful feedback we've had. I might still do a proper update eventually and incorporate your suggestions. The recent update was nearly purely bugfixes. And most of the problems are my fault, not Hawk's.

On my final run, I've made it to the northernmost colony, there's a door different than the others, but I can't explore the place to fnd out how to open it.

There's a switch somewhere on the map to open it. And there's nothing you have to do in any of the other colonies to beat the game. The journals are just story, leading up to the ending. Did you find them all? There are roughly 13 and 3 per map generate. If you find the last one it repeats thereafter.

You can just use the Ctrl+F1 debug key to teleport around to find the texts and reach the ending

Also trivia, aside from the 3 different sizes of colonies there are different types, but the only difference is in the items that generate. Wasn't enough time to draw more graphics for variety.

And yeah I did an awful job of the doors. One thing I changed in the recent update was to make the sideways doors always start open unless they're locked, but I should have removed locked sideways doors too. And indicate where you have to stand to walk through them. And give some feedback if the player tried to walk through a closed door. Something Hawk told me to fix but I didn't.

I'm surprised that you didn't complain or mention that there's no music. I would have added a whole lot if I had had appropriate music. But I wouldn't want to drown out the sounds. Playing a bit just now I noticed that there's more sound than I thought. IIRC Hawk was in favour of not having any music. Maybe instead I'll play it really sparsely.
Metal King Slime
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 PostSat Sep 21, 2013 10:34 am
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Actually, this is maybe the only game I played this year where the lack of music didn't bother me. The atmosphere in the colonies had so many drips and noises and things that music would've just covered it up. It reminded me of something I played when I was a kid, but I still can't figure out what.

I like that you're willing to take responsibility for so much of this on yourself, but there's something else to blame: The time factor. It's so easy to look at the graphics, listen to the sounds, see this complicated engine churning in front of you, that you forget you guys only had a week to deal with it. It's kind of a compliment to your game design that idiots, like me, think there's so much more going on there actually is that we have to start blaming people for it.

Oh! And no, the highest journal I got I think was... maybe 8 or 9.
Metal King Slime
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 PostSat Sep 21, 2013 12:37 pm
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Hmm. Maybe I should generate more journals per colony then. If they weren't written in a linear order it might make more sense to go back to random generation (like in the first version).

Actually I'm to blame for running out of time too. I spent something like 2-3 days mucking around with the viewpoint-dependent metal panel graphics (which you don't even notice anymore once the lights go out) and the crazy script preprocessor we used. Resulting in holding up Hawk because the mapgen wasn't functional. But Hawk pretty much designed the whole game, so you can at least blame him for the balance!

I think having (ambient) music just on the overworld, and adding more sounds indoors (eg footsteps) would work well.
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