AdventureX 2015: Part 1 - The Games
Reporting from E3, GDC, AdventureX, Gamescom and other gaming events around the world
Jun 1, 2020
May 29, 2020
An unseasonably warm December weekend saw AdventureX once again return to London. Moving to the South East of the city this year, the convention took over a floor of the Professor Stuart Hall building of Goldsmiths University. With direction arrows stuck literally all over the campus, even the most maze-averse gamer had no excuse for not finding the venue. Once there, another two days of meeting fellow adventure enthusiasts, playing games and enjoying talks from various genre luminaries awaited. I’ll cover the presentations in my next article, but for now, here’s a brief round-up of the actual games being shown off and discussed at AdventureX 2015.
Twenty years ago, the bombs fell and the world as we know it came to an end. Whole cities now lie in ruins, covered by a constant layer of pollution. The streets are lit by the eerie green glow of the ubiquitous shards, broken pieces of a material which fluoresces under the faint UV rays that manage to penetrate the foul clouds. For all but the privileged few, life is hard with a constant search for food, water and medicine. The latter is most precious, as a pernicious disease called Green Lung has claimed many victims since the war. Whilst showing early symptoms, Amy Wellard is determined not to become another such victim. Instead she has taken on a lottery job, a dangerous task that could earn the chance to win the precious vaccine that would save her life.
Such is the tale of Shardlight from Wadjet Eye Games, and Francisco Gonzalez demonstrated the prologue at the convention. This showed Amy venturing into the tunnels beneath the city to fix a reactor. The hazards of this work were clearly demonstrated when a tunnel collapsed early on, narrowly missing her. As she soon discovers, her predecessor had not been so lucky, though he is still alive to provide verbal assistance. Unsurprisingly for the setting, the opening puzzles required a lot of improvisation from the materials on hand. The demonstration also showed off the fine pixel art graphics, including expressive portraits lit by the lurid green of the shards. The voice work was also up to the high standard we expect from this publisher. The demo also served as a good introduction to this post-apocalyptic world, providing many intriguing hints of the backstory that led to such disastrous current conditions.
The projected release target for Shardlight is early 2016 and more information can be found on the game’s webpage.
Order of the Thorne: The King’s Challenge
The queen has gone missing, and the King of the Fairy Realm has sent out a challenge to all adventurers to find her. One hero taking up this challenge is Finn the bard. With his magical lute and cunning wit, he feels sure that he will be the one to uncover the missing lady’s whereabouts. Unfortunately, his book of spells has been stolen, so he will need to recover his lost tunes if he is going to succeed. But with the prize for victory being the granted wish of the hero’s choosing, the stakes are worth the risks involved.
The King’s Challenge, which was exhibited at the convention, is the first in what is to be a series of four linked Order of the Thorne adventures. This episode is almost ready for publication, with work on the second installment, Fortress of Fire, already well underway. The graphics are reminiscent of the Quest for Glory games that have continually inspired developers Infamous Quests, with fine pixel art backgrounds. Players will visit magical woodlands with vast toadstools and crystals, as well as a library with straining shelves. The graphics and animation have been nicely handled, and the medieval-style music is also well done, as it should be given the main character’s profession. According to Infamous Quests’ James Broom, the plan is that the first three episodes each introduce a new player character, with all four coming together in the final game.
To keep up with developments on this new series and the release of its debut episode, head on over to the official website.
Order of the Thorne
In a cyberpunk future, a young hacker named Kass is seeking to improve her reputation. A little breaking and entering and use of an illegal card reader should be enough to attract the attention she wants. But the original plan to swipe card information in the lobby has gone awry, and she has ended up breaking in through a locked store cupboard instead. But Kass isn’t going to let a little setback like that hold her back, and her partner Repro can’t stop her from the other end of a radio.
Rebecca McCarthy (writer) and Hayley Griffiths (artist)
Scheduled for the end of 2016, this game from Sanctuary Interactive presents a dark future for London. The graphics in the playable demo I tried out displayed darkened pixel art interiors. The starting storeroom is lined with shelves full of discarded items, while the corridor beyond is home to a well-armoured guard, though fortunately one looking the other way. This obstacle provides opportunity for multiple solutions, as you can try to deal with the guard directly or work out a sneaky way past. With the lead character having cybernetic implants, item descriptions are more than just a single line of commentary. Instead, mini-encyclopedia descriptions are provided, presented as if the protagonist has accessed the information while observing. In an additional nice touch, the real business cards for the game were created in the style of an in-game company donor card. If you wish to posthumously donate parts of your nervous system for use in cybernetic implants, you should carry one at all times.
You can follow the further development of this project on the game’s website.
The Last Time
Daniel Black of Big Cow Studios
Many years ago you were a policeman. Back then a routine call to a burglary went bad when your partner was ambushed and killed. Now well into your retirement, you expected to sit out the rest of your days in a rest home. But then a mysterious call asked for a meeting to discuss these past events. It seems that the criminal from that night has been released from prison, and he may be out for revenge against the man who brought him in. Looks like you might need to head out to investigate one last time.
The graphics of this production from Big Cow Studios feature a blocky retro pixel art style. The look is still reasonably clear, with facial hair and clothing distinguishing characters from one another. The demo on show at the convention was the prologue, which is mostly an interactive version of the terrible night your partner died. This serves to introduce the protagonist and introduce players to the mechanics. These use a single-click interface with a simple verb coin to choose between examining and manipulating hotspots. This demo was originally released to coincide with the successful Kickstarter for the game, and has received positive feedback to date. The final version of the game is expected to be released early next year.
To learn more about this title or play the demo for yourself, head on over to the developer’s website.
Jean-Baptiste de Clerfayt
Myth and legend are full of tales of knights sent out on holy quests. It is fair to say that the new quest bestowed on Lancelot by God himself is a little out of the ordinary. He is on a quest for that most sacred of items, the Holy Booze. Clad only in a chain-mail coif and a pair of red underpants, Lancelot sets out on his most politically incorrect quest. Starting at a gay bar in France (where the game alleges all men are gay and all women have hairy armpits) there is no doubt that this quest is going to be a most unusual one.
It would be fair to say that Belgian developer Jean-Baptiste de Clerfayt is not aiming for the family market with his first game. Lancelot’s Hangover is a solo project, with the exception of some help with the music, and has a planned release date of summer 2016. The overall graphic presentation is done in the style of medieval illustrated manuscripts. The characters do feel like pictures from those manuscripts come to life, though some of them would surely have been out of place in a religious text. The intention is that no text will be used in the final version of the game, the story being conveyed by graphics alone. A Kickstarter is planned for February 2016, though other sources of finance are also being investigated.
Those wishing to find if this most irreverent game is their cup of booze can download the free beta demo at the game’s official website.
Gamers have dealt with many disasters over the years. Everything from alien invasions to zombie apocalypses has been conquered by brave adventurers. In Paul Pixel, your objective is to thwart the aliens whose invasion has triggered a zombie apocalypse. Starting off in his flat in the city, our blocky hero must initially flee the carnage taking place there. Fixing his psychedelic VW van is just the first of his problems as he starts out on his cross-country quest. With giant saucers overhead and the highly infectious zombie plague sweeping the nation, can this ordinary man even survive?
Paul Pixel's Xoron, bearing a striking resemblance to his protagonist
Despite being one of the most pixellated games on show, the exhibitor of this game, Xoron, chose the largest television possible to demonstrate it on. (In future years I must remember not to turn up early and offer to assist bringing exhibitor gear in.) Bright contrasting colours have been used, so the limited art detail does not prevent players from recognising what they are looking at. The game has a decidedly surreal tone to it, such that both a hotdog vendor and a man running a costume shop seemed surprisingly relaxed about the burning car and rampaging zombies nearby. The repair of the van in the opening scene requires typically lateral thinking. Having played through several subsequent scenes as well, it would appear that the game has been split into relatively small chunks. Each scene, such as a gas station and a stretch of open road where the van broke down, consists of less than half a dozen locations. With the game touted as being a “retro adventure for the Apple generation” this may be a move to appeal to gamers that only have short play sessions available on the move.
Release of the game is fairly imminent, and more information can be found at the Paul Pixel website.
Unfortunately no demo for Meeting was available at the convention, but lead developer Rosa Carbo-Mascarell discussed the concept behind Meeting, and it’s an intriguing one: Two people are trapped and separated from one another. The intention is that two players sit in the same room, using different computers to control one protagonist each. These are linked together, but should be set up so that neither can see the other screen. Each player manipulates their own room, with actions taken affecting the environment of the other player. Communication of these changes is therefore key to success for both players. The first level of the game was released as part of the Global Game Jam earlier this year, and has received positive feedback. For those wishing to have a go themselves, the necessary files can be downloaded from the Global Game Jam website.
The King is dead, long live the king!
Unfortunately, as the new king you might not actually live that long. As people bring you various problems, your decisions for and against constantly change the balance of power within the kingdom. Provide a group with too many resources, and they may become powerful enough to overthrow you. Treat them too badly and they may rise up in revolt instead. To maintain your rule you must walk a fine line, but just how long can you keep it up?
Described by French developer Nerial as “a cross between Tinder and Game of Thrones”, Reigns has simple gameplay which proved surprisingly difficult to master. The game presents you with a succession of cards showing minimalist portraits of individuals, such as a military leader. Each of these also bears a statement requesting approval, such as suggesting a pre-emptive strike against a neighbouring kingdom preparing for war. Playing on a tablet, you swipe left or right in a manner akin to the Tinder app, depending on whether you agree or disagree with the request. Moving the picture partially to either side will show you how that choice affects four main statistics: Religion, Population, Military and Cash. If any of these reaches either 0 or 100 your reign ends. Most decisions affect at least two of these, so careful balancing is required. Playing the current edition at the exhibitor table, I had several religious cards early on. Subsequently focussing on bringing my religion stat back down, I inadvertently made the military powerful enough to execute a coup.
In a demonstration talk, we got a behind-the scenes look as François Alliot showed how the random selection of cards is achieved. We also found out about hidden effects beyond the bare statistics. Each card has a weighting to determine how likely it is to come up, and a turnlock, ensuring a minimum gap before its reappearance. Many responses to your decisions also create new hidden factors, such as a secret conspiracy plotting against you. These unseen elements make additional cards available and can lead to endings not based on the visible statistics if you are not careful. When the current king is removed, he gains an epithet related to your actions (e.g. Brian the Greedy if you concentrated on cash) and a new king ascends to the throne to start the game again.