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Kerkerkruip release 7

In these final days of 2012, we are happy to announce the release of Kerkerkruip 7! It brings you new enemies, new and improved items, a better unlocking system, and bug fixes. Among the highlights are:

* All uninteresting or useless items have been redesigned (or, in a few cases, removed). Your enemies will no longer leave behind identical swords; flash grenades will no longer permanently blind you; and much more! Veteran players will want to examine every item anew to see whether it has changed.
* Several new cursed items have been added, including the singing sword and the fearful axe. And there are rumours that the demon lord's diadem isn't as harmless as it seems either.
* New items have been added, including the gauntlets of grip, the psychedelic cloak, and the epic periapt of prophecy.
* Level 1 and 2 monsters now have more health. This rebalances the early game, which had become a bit too easy over the last few releases.
* Three new enemies will appear: the undead mummified…

Vote for Roguelike of the Year

ASCII Dreams is once again organising the Roguelike of the Year competition, in which you too can vote (for as many games as you want)! And yes, Kerkerkruip is eligible, so don't forget to consider it.

Lapis Philosophorum #1: Tools and Toys

This is first instalment in what I hope will be a new regular (or semi-regular) feature on The Gaming Philosopher. In Lapis Philosophorum ("the philosopher's stone", something you'll undoubtedly find only on the bottom of a dungeon) I will discuss topics in the design of roleplaying games and roguelikes. The focus will be on strategic and tactical systems rather than on narrative, coding or thematic content. I expect my own game Kerkerkruip to come up regularly, but the discussions will draw from a much wider range of games. I would also like to use this feature as an excuse to read more of what other people have written about game design -- something that I am far too ignorant of!

Introduction

In this first post, I want to talk about tools and toys, two of the basic elements of RPG design. Understanding tools and toys allows us to understand the strengths and weaknesses of many games. I will be assuming that we are talking about games in which the player has a clear…

A new look

I had plans for writing a series -- perhaps a long-running series -- of posts on RPG and roguelike design. But the thought of having to make these shiny new posts on my ugly old Gaming Philosopher blog was just too unappealing.

"Maybe I should migrate to Wordpress," I thought. "Emily Short's blog looks much better than mine. And you can post comments in the messages themselves, rather than having to go to some ugly and irritating new page. Blogger sucks!"

And then I thought that maybe, just maybe, I wasn't making use of all the best and latest features of blogger. In fact, it was years ago that I really looked into the platform. So I opened the Tools menu, and I found a big button that told me to upgrade to the new set of themes... which I did, and suddenly everything I wanted was possible.

The current theme might not be my final choice, but it is definitely better than what I had. And there now is a reply field in the messages themselves. And the replies n…

A dagger for Kerkerkruip

Erik Temple has been drawing -- or I guess I should say collaging -- some amazingart for Kerkerkruip. And he is asking for your participation! You don't need to be able to draw, as long as you can scale and rotate about ten or fifteen letters and other typographical signs so that they together form a dagger, you are good to go. It sounds like something even I could do. Check it out here, and thanks if you decide to contribute!

Project Eternity

Did you know that the long-awaited sequels to Planescape: Torment and Baldur's Gate 2 are in production right now?

OK, they're not. But something very much like it is, namely, Project Eternity, a game that Obsidian Entertainment is funding through Kickstarter right now. Who are on the team? Well, the guys who made the original Planescape: Torment, as well as people responsible for Fallout, Icewind Dale, and a number of other classics of the genre. So when they say that they want to make a spiritual successor to the great 2D PC RPGs of yore, it's more than an empty boast.

This game is going to be 2D. (Yes!) It will be party-based, with you actually controlling the party instead of mainly controlling one member of it. (Eat that, all too many recent games that I will not deign to mention!) There will be copious opportunities to pause. (It's a tactical RPG, my friends, not a shooter!) It will be PC-only. (No compromises with console interfaces and audiences!) There will be…

[IF Comp 2012] J'dal

The second game: J'dal by Ryan Kinsman.

A dangerous quest through a fantastic world in search of a piece of treasure: that isn't just the summary of many Dungeons & Dragons scenarios and CRPGs, but also of a substantive amount of interactive fiction. And it is not hard to see why. IF is good at exploring a world and IF is good at puzzles that can introduce challenge into such a scenario. When done well, a quest game can be extremely satisfying.

Of course, an author has to do something to make the game interesting, fresh and memorable. Puzzles of the "you can only pass the door/goblin/chasm once you've found the key/sword/rope" type are as unlikely to impress as a bunch of tunnels or cellars set in some bland fantasyland. That has all been done to death, if it was ever alive to begin with. We want something more unique. Something special.

For J'dal, that special something is the party. You won't be entering the mine alone, but with three other people:…

[IF Comp 2012] Eurydice

Here we are, back for some IF Comp reviews. Topping my randomly generated list of games was Eurydice by... well, Anonymous. O, and by the way, all of my reviews will be full of spoilers. You are warned.

Interactive Fiction has a tendency for remoteness and impersonality. Not only are interactive NPCs hard to program, which has led to many uninhabited worlds, or worlds inhabited only by cyphers; but a focus on puzzles has also tended to put mechanical means-ends relations at the centre of attention, while the human meaning of things recedes to the background.

Remoteness can, of course, be avoided -- we've become pretty good at that. Or it can be turned into an aesthetic strength, as in much of the work of Andrew Plotkin (Hoist Sail for the Heliopause and Home is a good example). But you must do either the one or the other.

This brings us to the surprisingly popular genre of "serious mythological afterlife IF". Here the protagonist dies, or one of the protagonist's lov…

The further adventures of Stiffy Makane

Herman Schudspeer has released a new game: Nemesis Macana. (Who is Herman Schudspeer? Well, let's just say that careful textual analysis of his works might reveal him to be me, although it admittedly might also reveal him to be William Shakespeare or Herman Melville.) With this game, Herman adds to the growing body of Stiffy Makane games, a genre of interactive fiction that is famous for its high-brow literary analysis and cheap pornographic jokes.

What are the critics saying?
"If Mentula Macanus was our V, and Cavity of Time our, er, Cave of Time, then surely Nemesis Macana is our Pale Fire." -- Adam Thornton "a quick porno-loop riff" -- HanonO "Mister Schudspeer: A+." -- Ryan Veeder "I'm with Ryan, on the rating: Giant Red (like the tip of Stiffy's --- you know what.)" -- Jamespking "a parable about the fundamentally neurotic nature of totalising theories" -- Sam Kabo Ashwell Check out the IFDB page for more info.

Developing Kerkerkruip 2

I have been asked to say a little about the current development of Kerkerkruip, so I will. Once it is released, the new version will be called Kerkerkruip 2, following the version numbering conventions that have been popularised by Chrome and Firefox: it's not a new game, it's just the next version of the current game.

What has changed? My two biggest priorities have been to (a) make the code more robust by rewriting specific interactions as general interactions, and (b) to make the existing content more interesting.

The former is mostly behind-the-scenes, though it allowed me to fix some bugs. For instance, I made a specific interaction between the "striking a blow" routine and the Power of the Bomb: if someone hit you for so much damage that you died, and you had the Power of the Bomb, you would explode. But because of this, the power did not get triggered if someone killed you in another way: the tentacle squeezing you to death, for instance. There is now a genera…

Full results of the IF Top 50

Remember when I published the results of the IF Top 50, and said that I would soon post the full results? And then forgot about it? Well, I remembered! You can find the ODS spreadsheet here. The names of those who sent me a list by email or private message have been anonymised.

The spreadsheet should be self-explanatory: people are in columns, games in rows, and a "1" is a vote by that person for that game. Sheet 3 contains a list of all games and the number of votes they got.