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Old 12-25-2005, 02:32 PM   #1
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Default AG Community Game Playthrough #1: Beneath a Steel Sky

OK, folks, here we go... time to commence the first ever AG Community Game Playthrough! We'll be starting off with Revolution's quirky cyberpunk adventure, Beneath a Steel Sky.

The steps for participating are as follows:

Step 1: Install the game.

I recommend going to this fan's page and downloading the installer they've cooked up... it includes the latest version of SCUMMVM as well as the BaSS files themselves.

You can also go to the SCUMMVM downloads page and get the game and SCUMMVM that way.

Or if you're like me and happen to own a commercial copy of the game, feel free to be crazy and try getting it working in DOS.

Just get some copy of the game running somehow. Try to install the CD version of the game if your Net download bandwidth can handle it.

Don't forget to read the manual if you haven't played the game before! The fan installer download includes a copy of the manual, or you can download one from Replacement Docs. The interface is a little different from your average Sierra or LucasArts game.

Step 2: Watch the Intro.

Just like it says. Even if you've played the game before, watch it again to refresh your memory.

Step 3: Play and post!

Play the game up to our current playthrough point, which is:

As soon as you access the underground level.


(Stopping points so far have been:
1) Just after exiting the furnace room
2) As soon as you get the elevator down to the second level.
3) As soon as you enter LINC space)

Feel free to post in between sessions of playing the game, or wait until you've reached the stop point and then post, your choice. We'll experiment and see what works best.

You can post about anything you want... the quirky voice acting, the random CAPITAL LETTERS, the puzzles, graphics, music, plot points, characters, etc.

The current playthrough period will go until the end of Sunday, January 22nd.

Rules for this thread:

1. While nobody's going to police you to make sure you're actually playing the game instead of commenting from memory, joining in actually playing is encouraged whenever possible.

2. Explore everything! Be sure to poke through all the click events and dialogue you can. (In fact, I found something funny myself I hadn't noticed before while checking for a good stopping point.) Have fun!

3. Try to confine your comments to whatever has occured in the game up until the current stopping point. If you've played the game before, pretend you're a newbie experiencing the game just for the first time.

If you do want to post about something that's later in the game, use spoiler tags.

Of course, that only goes for *this* thread... since most of the reason for this whole experiment anyway is to generate retro game discussion, feel free to start any new threads about the game you like in the main Adventure forum.

Well, what are you waiting for? Go get playing!

Peace & Luv, Liz
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Old 12-25-2005, 04:37 PM   #2
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Ooh, what a neat idea. I've never actually finished the game, so maybe this'll be incentive enough to play through it all.

Installing..
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Old 12-25-2005, 05:12 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigjko
Ooh, what a neat idea. I've never actually finished the game, so maybe this'll be incentive enough to play through it all.

Same here. The last time I stopped playing when I reached one of the lower levels.. somehow the game failed to really, really, really (really, really etc.etc.etc.) grab me. But.... I'm in!
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Old 12-25-2005, 05:44 PM   #4
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Ok, for tonight I'm game. Note: I've already played, and completed it, once or twice.

Intro: The concept is good, but I can't help but finding the actual thing tedious. For one thing, my game box had the cartoon included, so it made the intro redunant in the first place, and for another, more serious thing, I thing it's cheesy. Of course, the entire point is to be a bit cheesy, but I thinks it's overdone. What I especially don't like is the inclusion of dialog. Still images go well with a narrator's voice (and Foster's voice is fine), but not with dialogs. At least in my book.
The story it tells is classic, but good, and the story telling is efficient, and to the point.
Still, overall I'm not a fan of the intro.

Beginning of the game.
Well, first of all, I'm playing with ScummVM, using the SuperEagle filter. That's the one I like best, and it suppresses the pixel problem.
Second; I'm using voices + subtitles. Not that I couldn't understand it without the subtitles (although it wouldn't be easy), but I found the voices a tad irritating without the text, for some reason, and in any case, the CAPITALIZED words and different colors add to the atmosphere.

The first puzzles are pretty straightforward, and easy but not too easy, and would be perfect if it weren't for the waiting that can occur while waiting for the robot.
The graphics are great, exuding atmosphere, pretty and gloomy at the same time. The characters and background animations are, as in most of this time's games, excellent, helping make this world alive.
The voice are good, if not great.
The dialogs are a bit cheesy, but that only adds to the game, and they're overall pretty funny, in a dark tongue-in-cheek way. Joey in particular is one savory sidekick.
The story is the good old amnesic thing, but it's impemented well. It's not the game's main asset, though (that would be the atmosphere, followed by the characters, and the humor).

In this part, the furnace scene is one I vividly remembered from my first playing. Its violence is very unexpected, and as such pretty remarkable.
Another screen I found striking is the second one, the "fire exit", where you get a measure of this place height.

So. The intro is "just" ok, but the beginning sets the mood for what follows really well, introducing the settings and characters in a clever way, while not overheating our puzzle solving neurones.

I will be in holidays next week, but you'll probably hear from me again in this or similar threads.
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Old 12-25-2005, 05:58 PM   #5
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Done playing the first section. It was fresher in my memory than I'd thought.

I decided to go with the floppy version, since I had some difficulties downloading the CD version, and really wanted to just finish the first section today.

Does nobody else feel irritated that you can leave this section without the items in his cabinet? I always feel like I'm just taking some red herrings, but that if I don't I'll be missing some vital items.

And what's the deal with his laser machinery? Why am I allowed to turn it on/off, but then it serves no purpose at all to me as a player. It's weird.

But overall, I love the beginning. Sets the mood. The violent furnace scene comes so abrubtly. Can't wait to have the CD version so I can hear the voices again. Bliss.

Waiting for more comments on the first section. Get to playing everyone.
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Old 12-25-2005, 06:05 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigjko
Does nobody else feel irritated that you can leave this section without the items in his cabinet? I always feel like I'm just taking some red herrings, but that if I don't I'll be missing some vital items.
Hm. No, didn't cross my mind.

I don't think you can get stuck in this game anyway.

And (very very small spoiler)
Spoiler:
you can come back later anyway
.
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Old 12-25-2005, 06:17 PM   #7
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I have been meaning to place this game ALL the way through at somepoint. I always start and play through the first seven screens and then quit. Is it really that classic? What makes it so good?? Must be because a lot of people seem to love this title...
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Old 12-25-2005, 06:41 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigjko
I decided to go with the floppy version, since I had some difficulties downloading the CD.
Lucky you! Of the three networked PCs, only on has a floppy drive. And that one is in the kitchen so I can conduct business while waiting for the pasta water to boil. It isn't a convenient place for playing games though.

It's unfortunate because there are several classic games I have on floppy disks, Freddy Pharkus Frontier Pharmacist being one, that I think would be great to play in this environment.

Many games, including FPFP were subsequently released on CD, but finding them would be an adventure in and of itself.
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Old 12-25-2005, 06:42 PM   #9
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Bigjko: I have to admit that I didn't really mind the cabinet stuff or the lathe machine. I don't mind red herrings... it's a bit more realistic to have manipulatable stuff that does nothing but add to the atmosphere (er, if that made any sense).

Anyhoo, some of my own thoughts...

Intro:

I agree that the intro worked better as the comic (which I also have), but I thought the dialogue part was all right.

I also agree that the story bit was a nice setup. When I first saw the intro I thought, "Oh, gee, the chopper crashed again, and he survived again, how cheesy and convenient!" Little did I realize I should have trusted the creators a bit more... (grin)

Sad note: Would you believe it never once occurred to me the first time I played the game that the story was set in future Australia? I didn't realize it until I read the Wikipedia article on the game fairly recently. A-doi!

Joey:

I love Joey... what a sarcastic, snippy little snot. Of course, Foster himself is pretty sarcastic, so they make a great team.

Death scenes tally:

So far I've found one, probably the most obvious one.

Spoiler:
Right at the beginning of the game, if you USE the steps while the guard is there. Zap, zap, you're dead!


Funny things to do:

Step on the elevator a bajillion times. Hee.

After the furnace scene, talk to Joey, then after you've exhausted all the conversation options, keeping re-initiating conversation with him and saying the remaning line over and over again. I totally missed that the first time I played the game.

The furnace scene:

Spoiler:
That scene definitely blew me away (pun intended) the first time I played the game. After all, you spend the very first part of the game thinking Reich is at least one of the big bad guys you'll have to worry about later, and then suddenly he gets blown away by someone spying on you... ca-reepy!


I'm gonna go replay this section again later, but these are my thoughts for the moment.

Incidentally, this is the first time I've gotten to hear the music and voices while playing the game. I bought the actual CD version a while ago before the SCUMMVM team did their magic, and when I first played the game I had to run it in pure DOS and just could not get the sound to work. I haven't gotten a chance to play the SCUMMVM version until now.

Finally... for those of you who haven't played the game all the way through, I hope this thread will encourage you to... the end of the game is very intriguing!

Peace & Luv, Liz
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Old 12-25-2005, 08:15 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eriq
I have been meaning to place this game ALL the way through at somepoint. I always start and play through the first seven screens and then quit. Is it really that classic? What makes it so good?? Must be because a lot of people seem to love this title...
This game has got a unique tone. It looks Balde Runner-ish, but the humor is very peculiar, almost closer to Monkey Island 1 than to anything else.
Plus it's really lively, thanks to a wacked cast of ordinary looking, yet deeply disturbed characters, who "live their own life" (read: they go from location to location independantly of your actions), and intertact with you in a slightly surreal way.
Frankly, seeing as it's freeware, I'd say it's a must play.

The only thing that prevents this game from being a true gem in my eyes is his short length and its related feeling of unsatisfaction. But then, the fact that I would feel frustrated not to be able to explore it more in depth is also a testimony to the game's magic.
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Old 12-26-2005, 12:25 AM   #11
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First impressions

likes-

- loved the quirky description of certain objects, most notably if you click to look on the press in the first room of that factory, the guy says "it's grunting and wheezing... like an asthmatic dinosaur in mating season"

- It managed to do something really unexpected in the first ten minutes of the game. Namely killing the character you would assume is going to be chasing the main character for the game only to die at the heros hand in the end (I've played way to many adventure games and read far to much bad science fiction)

- The robot sidekick is just funny

- Exteremly user friendly controls

- the background music is highly effective

Dislikes

- the voice acting seems to be pretty poor quality to the point that it detracts from the game

- the introduction to the story, IE everything up to the first stopping point, seems to rushed and poorly exectued.... although it is only about ten minutes into the game, so that could become more complete (i certianly hope so)
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Old 12-26-2005, 12:45 AM   #12
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I haven't started playing, so no comments on the game itself yet, but just some random ScummVM trivia:

1) If you don't like the CD intro (with the comic), you can get the shorter floppy intro by adding alt_intro=true in the [sky] section of your C:\Windows\scummvm.ini file.

2) The ScummVM team are working on providing better voice files (re-encoded with a higher quality from the original recording provided by Revolution), but some recordings seem to be missing. See there.

3) This has created interest for an enhanced digital version of the score, which could be used in the game instead of the original MIDI files. See there.

OK, I'll start playing now.
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Old 12-26-2005, 01:25 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Duckman
- Exteremly user friendly controls
Ah yes, I forgot to comment about those. They're friendly, for the most part, that's true, but I'm not fond of the inventory, and it's right click to use. It feels... unnatural.
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Old 12-26-2005, 02:22 AM   #14
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OK, done.

First, I'd like to thank Jeysie for this great idea. I hadn't played BASS in a couple of years, so I'm glad to play it again; and this thread makes me really try every possible thing, which is great.

A few random comments:

1) The CD intro (with the comic) is awful. And it lacks the cool intro music from the shorter version.

2) The acting is not great, but better than I remembered.

3) The game itself is great. The story's gripping, and yet it manages to be fun all the time. I guess that's the Revolution touch.

4) Exposition is hard, and BASS completely fails. I mean, Foster is supposed to be a security inspector, and then he starts asking Hobbins questions that anybody living in the city would know the answer to. Doesn't prevent me from enjoying the game, though.

5) The sound effects are *so* annoying.

6) Joey is great. One of the best sidekicks ever. The part after the furnace scene (which Jeysie mentioned) is just so fun: 'Hi, I'm Barbie and I love you!'

7) Of course, I love the gameplay, the fact that the gameworld slowly expands, and that you have to come back almost to the first screen much later on in the game, to solve puzzles you couldn't solve at first. That's really the way I like games to work.

More next week, I guess.
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Old 12-26-2005, 04:08 AM   #15
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The creators of this game were apparently trying to emulate comicbooks. It's a complete failure in that regard, mimicking the superficial aspects of comics while completely missing all the opportunities the Form presents.

Let's start with the CAPITALIZED stuff. The emphases on particular words in comics helps give the dialogue a more natural feel. Those emphases are subtle and effective. Simply capitalizing a word is neither- all it does is distract from what is being said. If the developers had been serious about this, they would have brought in a professional letterer to modify the font system. Without the nuances of proper lettering, it doesn't work. If a comic added emphasis not by bolding or italicizing or enlarging but by capitalizing, it would look silly too.

It is interesting to learn that there was an actual comicbook released with the game- doubtless that would have made sense. This opening does not. When the reader is dragged along between frames, it's not a comicbook- it's a slideshow. In this format, it loses the good pacing, immediacy, etc. that make comicbooks worth reading.

I'm surprised to hear that the scene where Reich is killed is held in such high regard- I couldn't help but feel indifferent about it. A short freeze of the moment in which Reich is shot could have gone a long way. Or maybe a machine's-eye view on the side, or maybe a slow-motion series of frames. There are many good ways of approaching this, you see. As for the content, it didn't surprise me to see him shot because frankly, I was more surprised that the PC (What's his name, anyway? I didn't catch that.) wasn't. Learning that you're being watched even though no action is being carried out tips you off that something like that will happen.

The hybrid comic-adventure is worth pursuing, so it's a shame this game doesn't. Imagine the game used a text parser, with new comicbook panels popping up to indicate the outcome of actions. Now that could be a great game.

But since BoSS so completely ignores the possibilities, I won't hold it to my comicbook standards any longer. So as an adventure, how is it? Eh.

First of all, a word about the voice acting. It's not "quirky"- it's just bad. I could point out that it completely ignores the emphases in the text, but why bother when it manages to be so silly in its own right? After starting the game with it, I switched to all-text to preserve my ears. Okay, so they're not that bad, but they're bad.

The art style is uninspired- the sort of designs you forget about as soon as your eyes pass them by.

The game has yet to introduce a character I can care about, so the story so far feels tedious. The first thought I had at the end of the section was "He must be this Undermann guy's clone.", but then, "Nah- he's just as likely Undermann himself.". It says a lot about the story so far that I don't particularly care how it turns out. I have so little attachment to the PC that if the game were to now reveal that he is an evil zombie cyborg from Mars, I wouldn't care too much. Honestly, what kind of story gives the character a mysterious background before it even bothers to develop him as a character? (Answer: A bad one.)

Oh, and this Joey fellow is just an R2D2 rip-off. Maybe he'll develop a more interesting relationship with the PC later on, but right now I don't see it.

Then there's the pacing. Just ridiculous. The intro goes so fast that it squeezes in a flashback! The intro goes so fast that it inserts the death of everyone he knows as "just another slide"! The intro goes so fast that the player isn't given any time at all to care, or to even form an opinion other than "This is so clichéd."!

And then, suddenly, it stops. It doesn't screech to a halt so much as just suddenly stops right in the middle of the highway. No deceleration, no nothing. Straight from chaos to- a pixel hunt. Riiiight....
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Old 12-26-2005, 05:20 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurufinwe
2) The ScummVM team are working on providing better voice files (re-encoded with a higher quality from the original recording provided by Revolution), but some recordings seem to be missing. See there.

3) This has created interest for an enhanced digital version of the score, which could be used in the game instead of the original MIDI files. See there.
That music restoration project is pretty neat. Check this rendition of the factory theme.

Anyway, downloading CD version now. I need to see that intro.
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Old 12-26-2005, 05:34 AM   #17
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Moriarty:

The only part of the game that's comic-book-y is the Intro itself, which is essentially a video of the comic book's panels with voice over. You can download a PDF copy of the actual comic.

(The alternate floppy intro is... interesting. It gives the very start of the game a different feeling, but I'm not sure it works that well for me.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by MoriartyL
I'm surprised to hear that the scene where Reich is killed is held in such high regard- I couldn't help but feel indifferent about it. A short freeze of the moment in which Reich is shot could have gone a long way. Or maybe a machine's-eye view on the side, or maybe a slow-motion series of frames. There are many good ways of approaching this, you see.
I dunno... while I enjoy most games' full-bore fancy cutscenes, I find the fact that, IIRC, all of BaSS's cutscenes happen scripted in-game to be kind of neat. But you obviously have to deal with the limits of the playing engine that way.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MoriartyL
As for the content, it didn't surprise me to see him shot because frankly, I was more surprised that the PC (What's his name, anyway? I didn't catch that.) wasn't. Learning that you're being watched even though no action is being carried out tips you off that something like that will happen.
That's exactly what made it work, at least for me. As Duckman said, Reich is the guy you expect to have to chase (or be chased by) through the game... and then you enter the furnace room and see the camera and you're so sure that Reich's watching you. And sure enough, when you open the door there he is. And you're so certain that you screwed up and it's time to die... except that *Reich* gets shot instead?

It's obvious that whoever's behind the camera isn't on Reich's side after all. Does that mean they're on *your* side? Why did they save your life?

(The PC's name is Robert Foster, BTW.)

The art style:

Don't worry, it gets more interesting later. We're just stuck in the middle of a pipe factory right now.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MoriartyL
Honestly, what kind of story gives the character a mysterious background before it even bothers to develop him as a character? (Answer: A bad one.)
Both Sanitarium (an adventure) and Planescape: Torment (an RPG) did this, and they're two of the best game stories I've played.

I'm not entirely sure why it's a bad thing... a game character's personality is generally developed while actually playing the game (by listening to the way he talks to people and comments on things).

So, if the point of a story like this one is that the character doesn't remember his past and now he's stuck in a situation where that past seems to be coming back to haunt him, well... you kind of have to give the character a mysterious background before you can show his character.

Joey:

I don't personally see Joey as an R2D2 clone... (after all, I don't remember R2D2 as being that snarky, for one...)

The pacing:

Hmm. Well, don't forget that BaSS doesn't really have built-in chapters/sections... I just picked the first likeliest-looking stopping point for our discussion. Perhaps I didn't choose very well. (sheepish look)

Peace & Luv, Liz
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"If it is, would that mean Oompa Loompas are Candy Elementals?"
"Actually, I'm thinking more like the Candyland board game. But, I like this idea better."
"I like the idea of Oompa Loompa Elementals."
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Old 12-26-2005, 05:50 AM   #18
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Does Lure of the Temptress have anything to do with this game? Apart from having the same developers, of course.
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Old 12-26-2005, 05:54 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigjko
Does Lure of the Temptress have anything to do with this game? Apart from having the same developers, of course.
No. LotT is set in a fantasy world, BaSS is SciFi, so there's little chance of the latter being a sequel to the former, or anything like that.
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Old 12-26-2005, 06:11 AM   #20
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The only real similarity between the games that I can see is the Virtual Theatre engine. And that was scaled down quite a lot for BASS (probably because it didn't work as might have been hoped when the idea was first thought of).

LoT is also a worse game than BASS, but that's reasonably excusable. It was Revolution's first game, after all .
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