[SWTOR] New world event rumours, LFD, and other patch related chatter

First up, there are rumours flying around the fleets of a new world event. I believe the source of the rumours was from someone datamining the new patch but since the website is down for maintenance at the moment I can’t provide a link for that. What I do know is that people on guild chat last night were guessing it might start today. So not long to wait to find that out, at least.

If true, t would be a welcome addition to a patch that is otherwise strong on functionality but weak on content.

What I’ve been up to

I have been quietly levelling my consular this week, and have rather enjoyed Act 3 of her story. Also the romance is quite sweet; it comes late in the game for female consulars, with Lieutenant Iresso. He actually has a first name, unlike Lieutenant Piece (Sith Warrior companion) which you could take as a sign that he was always going to be more fleshed out, so to speak.

The consular story is curiously impersonal compared to the agent or sith warrior, it’s cool but I never felt a personal link between my character and most of the NPCs. I think that sense of emotional distance, together with a slow Act 1, go a long way towards why it’s considered not to be one of the better stories. I have enjoyed it though, and it does come together neatly at the end. You also get to be quite heroic and have a nice “everyone loves ME!” scene at the end where Satele Shan tells you and your companions that you saved the Republic. It is a cognitive dissonance that no one else seems aware of this; the jump between single player storyline and endgame on this class is very weird for that reason. (The warrior came out top from some secretive Sith infighting and carries on serving the emperor, the agent makes some career choices but basically is still doing his/her thing, but where do you go after saving the Republic exactly?)

I will also miss having the squabbling diplomats on my ship. My other comment on the consular storyline is that there are a lot of tough fights. I don’t remember finding so many of the bosses this tough on alts. They aren’t unfair, the fights are doable if you’re careful and use all your crowd control abilities, but just something to note. There was at least one occasion where I wanted to try using a different companion but of course they weren’t very geared up.

My new guild continue to be a friendly bunch, and are also usually quite busy with flashpoints, warzones, and operations. I am not used to being in this size of a guild (it’s not HUGE but bigger than I’m used to) so trying not to find it intimidating. Since hitting 50, I’ve already been joined by a guildie to do dailies together and invited by someone else to come for a guild hard mode run. I did say that I doubted my gear but they said “don’t worry about it” and we headed off to whomp Taral-V, which I’m assured is the easiest hard mode on Republic side. So they’re all quite keen to help newbies, and I’m hoping to gear up a bit, get to know people and be less carried in future. I’m also toying with signing up for a story mode EV run, as soon as I decide if I want to play as dps or a healer.

I have successfully tried out the new LFD tool. Finding groups for levelling characters can be slow, although I’m told it’s fast for tanks (as you might expect) and the tool can be a bit restrictive as to which flashpoints it allows you to queue for based on level. Still, I healed through a Fallen Emperor run at level 48 that went well. Since hitting 50, I have upgraded some mods in my gear via daily commendations and queued for one hard mode via LFD. It threw us into Maelstrom Prison (one of the other republic-only flashpoints) and the group managed it fine. The tank left in the middle but we were able to requeue for a new tank and someone came in and neatly finished the run.

The other bonus is that I’ve now seen all the flashpoints and have the Republic half of Revan’s story. It is at this point clear that Taral-V/Maelstorm happen before Boarding Party/Foundry. Also Republic don’t get to fight HK-47 before the Fallen Emperor instance (he features in The Foundry), but they do get to kick the shit out of Grand Moff Kilran, which makes up for a lot.

So that’s 2/2 random groups which have been perfectly fine for me. I do find it strange that you can pick multiple roles to queue for, given that there is no dual spec in the game. For levelling flashpoints this is fine, and I’ve tanked plenty of instances in SWTOR on my warrior in dps spec, but I can’t see that working too well for a healer. And while I suppose you could run off and respec between finding a group and porting to the flashpoint, that could be a long delay depending on where you are.

I am also told that LFD may not work well if you have the breadcrumb quest for a flashpoint in your quest log. Daily or weekly quests are fine. I haven’t experienced that personally though.

The other thing of note in the LFD is that after the instance is complete, it doesn’t port you back to where you came from. You will end up outside the instance.

Free credits/ PvP gear for level 50s, and upgraded tutorials

I am not sure if this is new in patch 1.3 or if I had just not noticed it before, but when you hit level 50, you can pick up a quest from the PvP quest terminal on the fleet which will give you a free set of starter PvP gear, some of which is probably also better for PvE than your levelling outfit. If you don’t want this gear, or have some PvP gear already, you can opt for an alternative quest reward which is a token that you can sell to a vendor for the equivalent cost: 320k credits.

swtorcredits

This is a screenie of the quest, and of the quest rewards. You can also pick this quest up on an old level 50 if you haven’t taken it yet, so there’s free credits out there for the taking!

The in-game tutorials have also had a reworking, and are now much more graphically appealing. They show screenshots as examples of how to do things, and are context sensitive (eg. the first time a new alt ran through a fire, I got the tutorial about hazardous environments) which they also were before. As a newbie I think I would have liked these. MMOs are so deep that it probably wouldn’t be possible to provide up to date tutorials for everything, but I appreciate the attempt.

groupfinder

This is the tutorial on how to use the group finder, for example.

The first three minutes

I remember very clearly the first time I ever logged into a multi player game online.

It was a MUD that was running on one of the university computers. I’d seen single player text based adventures before, so I played it like one of those, but with other people chatting on text channels in the background. It was novel to see other characters wandering around, but they didn’t really impact on my game. (I know NOW that there was quite a lot of grouping and guilds and socialising also.)

I also remember very clearly the first time I ever logged into a multi player game online where someone else spoke to me.

This was also a text based game, and one of the other players whispered a greetings to me when I had just logged in for the first time. (I think a message went out to all players when a newbie logged in to encourage them to be friendly.) I was so freaked out and unsure how to react that I considered logging out and never coming back. Fortunately I didn’t do this and I’m still friends with that player to this day – we even went to each other’s weddings.

It’s very unlikely that new players these days would be so unnerved by online chat. But some might be unnerved by a game that immediately pulls you out of the single player mindset. If you’re used to as much time and space as you like to figure a game out, having to race other players for the newbie mobs is a layer of competition that just doesn’t exist in most single player games. Being asked to be social in an online game can be just as unnerving. You don’t expect to socialise in a single player game, so even having someone say ‘hello’ as they walk by can be anxiety inducing.

I mention this by way of pondering why so many WoW players don’t make it past the first five levels/ 30 minutes of play. (It’s under ‘Other Notes’.)

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that anyone who can’t figure out moving, questing, and fighting isn’t going to get past level 2, never mind level 5, and probably won’t last 5 minutes let alone 30.

I had two main trains of thought on reading that Blizzard plan to go for a more basic tutorial at the very early levels.

1/ Good. I don’t see any problems with trying to make the tutorial more intuitive. Anyone who complains about levels 1-5 being dumbed down is being silly. What were you expecting, HARD MODE level 1-5? Sure, the early adopters (like me, after I got over my great fear of other people) enjoyed jumping in blind with a manual to hand and figuring these things out, but it wouldn’t have hampered the whole jumping in blind thing if a popup with ASWD on it had been put up.

Text MUDs actually had really extensive help files and staffers were always trying to figure out better tutorials because we wanted newbies to stay and not be put off by the complexity. I remember one game where we even had two or three separate tutorials based on the player’s previous level of experience with that type of game.

Having said that, jumping in blind to a complex game does encourage people to ask for help, which encourages interaction. I don’t think this is a good reason to skip the tutorial but it’s one of the reasons communities used to be much tighter.

2/ Are we sure people are leaving before 30 mins because they couldn’t figure out the basics? Maybe they just didn’t like the game enough to play longer. I will not count the number of games in my Steam collection that have been played for less than 30 mins, but trust me it’s several. I don’t stress over this, most of them were bought very cheaply in sales and I knew there was a risk I either might not like the game or might not have a long attention span for it.

Still, if you claim they can’t figure the game out then it’s easy enough to work on a better tutorial. If they left because they either freaked out at encountering other people or just didn’t fancy it, then it’s more difficult to think of a quick fix. (OK, I lie, the other people thing can probably be fixed. I know the EVE tutorial used to suggest players say something on the newbie channel and WoW could certainly benefit from a brief channel using tutorial.)

Tutorial zones, and experienced players

One of the major challenges for computer game designers is simply that of how to teach the player to play the game, whilst keeping them interested enough to keep playing. Tobold commented last week, for example, that he didn’t want to play a game through hours of boredom to get to the interesting part, which is fair enough … at least in a single player game. But what about in an MMO?

The days of RTFM in which it was assumed that players would stop and read the manual (probably while the game was busy loading from tape) are long gone. Everyone now expects to be able to jump into a game, start playing, and pick it up as they go along … or maybe that’s just me.  For my money, some of the best tutorials I have seen in games were in Portal (where the puzzles slowly get more complex) and Plants v Zombies (again, complexity is added slowly).

But what happens when you get a genre where you know you will get a mixture of novice and experienced players? Who do you tune the tutorial for?  And if you decide to tune for the novice (the only sane answer, really), are you sure you have answered all of their newbie gameplay questions? I tripped over this one in Sims Medieval where I completed the tutorial, was all ready to get going, and yet couldn’t figure out how to get my toon to go upstairs in a house. A Sims vet would have known that, but the tutorial didn’t mention it. Thank goodness for twitter-friends, otherwise I might actually have had to RTFM!!!

Back in MU* days, I saw several games which asked the new player whether they were new to MUD/MUSH or an experienced player who was just new to this particular game. You’d then be sent off to an appropriate tutorial. But this worked mostly because all the games used similar commands.

Why does tuning the tutorials matter?

The problem of tutorials in MMOs is slightly different. They are complex games in any case so there is a LOT to teach a newbie. At the same time, an experienced player is going to get bored of kill 10 rats quests and will pick up the basics of combat very quickly anyway (OK, here’s my main nuke, here’s my DoT, here’s my crowd control – done).

So teaching the newbie what they need to know without boring the experienced player is a difficult task. Not only this but the game also needs to give all players some kind of an introduction to the setting and genre, so just offering experienced players the chance to skip the tutorial isn’t ideal either. Kleps commented on a post that Nils wrote on this topic that different tutorials for different types of players would solve this. I’m not sure if any game has tried it.

More recent games have leaned on storytelling to distract experienced players from this side of the mechanics. I think DA2 had a neat storytelling idea in having the first couple of scenes be with an overpowered main character which made the fights unusually forgiving. And yet there is still a risk that this is too full on for players who are real newbies to the genre.

The other issue with MMOs is that traditionally (albeit possibly not intentionally) they’ve relied on player chat and guides to teach newbies both how to play the game and also introducing them to the community. Traditionally, players were able to ask questions of their guildies or on in game chat, or check guides, blogs, or web pages. If all of the information was available in a neat in-game tutorial, there’s no motivation to ask those questions. It may not be good game design, but it might just be great sociology – those players who were most willing to interact and ask questions (and then act on the answers) would be most easily accepted.

So when people complain about the first few hours of an MMO not grabbing them and other people say “It gets better,” the answer might not be “Well, all games should be like Portal and great from the start all the way through.” It might be that the game genuinely would become more fun for an experienced player once the tutorial zone/s are over. And perhaps an experienced player should make allowances for this.

Food for thought. And as for Tobold’s initial post, my challenge is this: Open a new trial account in WoW, pick a character based on looks/ class description, and play it up to level 10. Then see how fun you found the gameplay. (I got to level 7 with a night elf before I gave up — trial accounts can’t use mail or auction house, they can’t whisper or join guilds, can’t use heirlooms or any other form of fast levelling, can’t access any of the newer races/classes/ starting zones. It’s DULL.)

Let’s Play Dwarf Fortress

dwarffort

Are you ready for a grand adventure in architecture, engineering, dwarven culture, and 101 exciting ways to kill off a dwarven civilisation?

Dwarf Fortress is a free, notoriously complex simulation game in which a handful of dwarves set off from the Mountainhome to construct a new dwarven paradise. The dwarves themselves are somewhat autonomous – they have names and personalities, can enter into romances with each other, and you can give each one instructions; but don’t be surprised if they interpret them in unexpected ways. Imagine a cross between The Sims, a roguelike, and Sim City, but rather more complex than any of them. What could possibly go wrong?

Here’s an inspirational(?) story about one of the most infamous dwarven fortresses of all time – Boatmurdered. This particular game was played as a succession game, with different players taking charge of the fortress for each year of game time.

Because it is such a fully featured simulation, DF also seems to generate the best stories of any game I know. Every game is different, and some of them are a bit mad.This is another reason I’m determined to try to make some headway with it.

A new version of the game was released this year. And although it is likely to still be a bit buggy, this is the version I plan to use.

Strike the Earth!

World is made of cheese, for you to carve.

It is clear from very early on that I’m going to need a good tutorial to hold my hand with this one. If you are interested in playing along, here’s one I found for DF2010. It’s by capnduck and comes with a half-built dwarf fortress to practice on, and a bunch of awesome youtube tutorial videos.

Captain Duck’s video tutorial play along page

My goal for this week is to get this thing set up, and play alongside the first tutorial which mostly involves loading the pre-packaged fortress and exploring the part built section.

I notice immediately that this game involves some control keys which don’t seem to be listed on the help page. So to assist with figuring this dratted thing out, I enlisted another (text based) tutorial by Abalieno which is for the old version of the game, but they seem to have kept the same key binds. There is also a very fully featured DF wiki.

Useful control things I have learned so far:

  • To go down a level, use SHIFT + >
  • To go up a level, use SHIFT + <
  • To return to origin, use F1
  • when the game asks for + or –, it often means to use the ones on the numpad
  • it’s also space bar to pause or unpause the game. Depending on which menu you have up, the screen will not always tell you whether the game is paused.

Good luck!

Restricting player choices to make a better tutorial

I’m still working through the first few hours of tutorial in Final Fantasy 13, but I know already that it’s one of the most astounding feats of game design of anything that I have ever played.

At some point in the future, the game will open up. There will be airships. I will be able to decide which of the spiky-haired moppets will be in my team. I will even be able to decide where to go next. I know this because I read spoilers and game reviews.

As of now, I’m still in Chapter 4 (which is several hours into the game) and although I’m looking forwards to having more freedom later on, I no longer mind the railroading. Because, you see, I’m learning to play the (complex) game properly and the game is satisfied with nothing less.

To anyone who is used to MMO levelling, or even the typical CRPG, this comes like a bolt from the blue. But when you limit player options, that means encounters can be very very finely tuned to the characters, abilities, and gear which are available to the player.

How often do you fail an encounter in an MMO and think ‘Oh, I’ll go level up some more,’ or ‘I’ll buy some better gear,’ or ‘I’ll get some friends, guildies, or random people in to help’? What if none of those were options, but you knew for a fact that the encounter was designed so that you could do it with whatever resources you had right now? What if helpful tutorial tips introduced new concepts, walked you through using them, and then you had lots of opportunities to practice before hitting the really hard boss fight where you have to use what you just learned … or fail?

What if the penalty for failing was quite soft? In FF13 you can always go ahead and retry the fight again straight away if your main character dies.

What it means is that FF13 is very very determined to teach YOU how to play. It is very patient, it won’t give up, and it won’t offer easy modes that allow you to sidestep any key strategy. So if you are the type of player who often ignores buffs and debuffs in RPGs because you can usually just load up the highest possible dps and blast straight through everything – that tactic won’t work here. There’s a place for spikes of dps, and also a place for buffs/ debuffs/ heals/ tanks.

This is quite probably the gamiest RPG I have ever played. It is the game that will turn every player into a gamer, will teach them to understand the strategies and tactics, and will encourage them to switch paradigms on the fly like a pro. And I’m loving it. It doesn’t hurt that the battle system itself is a thing of genius. You have a lot of control over your group without needing to handhold each one of them personally, and it’s still fast paced and exciting.

Right now, I feel that  Square-Enix have achieved one of the nirvanas of single player gaming. A game that is tuned perfectly to the player, and continues to be tuned perfectly even as it adds in extra complexity. A game that teaches you how to play as you play, rather than leaving it to the game guides and blogs to fill in the missing content.  Where balance has ceased to be an issue.

Still counting the minutes until the next session!

LOTRO: Introduction to Skirmishing

dinkydino666 has written a fantastic introduction to skirmishes on the EU LOTRO forums, complete with extensive screenshots. I’m glad I found it before it got pushed so far down the boards that it was lost forever to posterity.

Brief Summary of my Day 1 of Mirkwood

Downloaded patch data previously using link given by codemasters on twitter (did I mention that I love twitter?), they also posted about it on the official forums. Patched game up smoothly, logged in, and as usual spent 2 mins thinking, “Where am I? Why did I log out here? And where are my pants?”

Worked out that I was in Moria. Being surrounded by dwarves and in stone caves helped with this. Moria is stunningly beautiful when I’m not getting lost there or eaten by the monster-du-jour. It also contains relatively few spiders compared to the rest of Middle Earth, a deficiency that I imagine Mirkwood will more than make up for. If I was a dwarf, I would totally give respect to my ancestors to building all of that, and would also wonder how much it cost and whether they could have spent it on something more productive like curing cancer.

Hoofed it via goat to the 21st Hall, centre nexus of Moria. Located the skirmish camp off to the side and picked up the introductory quest which required me to go kill some orcs. Trauma, I am in Moria, wherever will I find an orc? Oh wait … that would be everywhere.

I head off in a random direction to locate orcs and kill a couple, enough to realise that the drop rate for the quest item is less than 50%. I then get annoyed by a loremaster stealing my kills — any stealther will be familiar with the frustration of having some ranged nuker throw a fireball at the mob you were just about to backstab — and explore further afield to find some orcs of my own.

Hm, not been here before. I see a questgiver! Shiny! Apparently I have located a crafting instance and I had actually been there before but had forgotten and hadn’t actually been into the instance anyway. I think .. well, maybe I can kill two birds with one stone here and pick up the instance quests. I have an hour to clear the place. I zone in and … it’s full of orcs. Bliss. Just me and them, all on our own, and not a loremaster in sight.

I complete the crafting instance neatly, with much stealthing, waiting for patrols, careful pulling and crowd control. And I complete my skirmish quest as well as picking up a load of wood to sell later. Result. A couple of my legendary items also level up, so I head back to the 21st hall to hand everything in and reforge my tools. I notice that all my weapon damage has increased. I still think I kill things slowly but that’s because anything is slower than the way I two shot same level mobs in WoW.

Off to the skirmishes and I’m now able to port into the tutorial — it’s snowing in Bree. Everyone on chat channels seems way more excited about the snow than the skirmish. I have a minion as well. We liberate Bree but I suspect I was doing most of the work — the quest NPC agrees and gives some pointers on how I can improve my minion’s usefulness.

I debate on what class I’d like him (or her) to be and decide on a tank so that I can focus on crowd control, debuffs, and generally killing stuff while he gets his face beaten in. I notice that my tank minion is now a dwarf, this is a good thing. I feel safer with a dwarf tanking for me, and have no idea why that might be.

I try a skirmish and do not die instantly. We’ll call that a success. The skirmishes all seem to involve waves of mobs which you have to kill. The next wave does not generally arrive until the last one has fallen — this may not be true for the Barrow Downs skirmish which is timed. Some mobs are accompanied by lieutenants, mini-bosses with different abilities. There are also random events that may occur in each skirmish which you can get more marks for dealing with.

After every few waves, you get a short break to catch your breath. It is continual action other than that, and even on the easiest mode it will feel as though you are constantly fighting. They last about 30 minutes, depending on how quickly you kill mobs and whether or not you die. My quickest time through was 21 minutes, but it does depend on the specific skirmish.

The skirmishes do involve other NPCs who fight with you. They break crowd control like pros. My minion on the other hand was well behaved and did not. On the other hand, the minion does do his or her own thing. The only control you have is directing which mob they should attack, and via which skills you decide to buy for them.

I was also able to try a group skirmish which was similar, but involved more mobs, tougher mini bosses and additional objectives other than just defending the NPCs. It was terrifically fun in a vaguely chaotic way. Everyone was able to summon their skirmish minions so there were a lot of bodies on screen.

I bought archer traits for my guy to use in the group skirmish (figuring that since we had an actual player tank, my minion was only going to get in the way). I suspect that people will tend to respec their minions as needed, but for now it’s easier to focus on improving one set of skills for them.

Being as how this is LOTRO, there are also traits for just about everything skirmish related. Traits for how many times you have completed a skirmish, traits for how many times you have killed a specific miniboss, and so on. The traits  reward more skirmish marks, which can be spent on customising your minion or on gear or consumables (a nice nod to the raiders, I think, I’d much rather do a skirmish or two to get my alchemy elixirs and potions than have to grind daily quests.) And of course you can also buy more cosmetic gear and items for your house. Whilst I like my current cosmetic appearance, I guess a psychedelic bathrobe doesn’t really scream ‘burglar’ and I might try for something more in character.

My first impressions are definitely positive, and I’ll write about this in more depth next week after I have had more time with the game.

It was fun running the solo crafting instance, then switching to skirmishes as a change of pace. Mixing in quests and monster play as desired means that LOTRO offers a very solid mix of single player gameplay these days. (I am mostly soloing because I’m behind the curve and I’m expecting that my friends will be keen to try out the Mirkwood content — I expect to catch up soon enough and it’s easy enough to sort out group skirmishes if people have 30 mins to spare.)  The skirmishes are fast and furious and not something to do for pure relaxation – they are also excellent xp for levellers.

Brief encounters: Free Realms, Metaplace, Galactrix

a href=My journey in Free Realms continues to be one of discovery. This week I finally figured out how to take screenshots whilst simultaneously failing to take any good ones. Funny how that goes.

To take a screenshot: F12

To remove the UI (so you can get a clean screenshot): F10

If using Windows XP, screenshots will be stored in C:\Program Files\Sony Online Entertainment\Installed Games\Free Realms\ImageCaptureOutput

(NB. If the program actually asked you before it installed where you’d like it to go, this might have been more obvious — this is one of the minor side effects from it being such a seamless install.)

I’m approaching FR from an exploring point of view, so if I find myself getting bored or distracted from one activity, I just go and do something else. So it’s quite interesting for me to check what levels I have in different careers because it shows which minigames I most enjoyed:

Higher than 15: Card Duellist, Miner, Blacksmith

Higher than 5: Wizard, Ninja, Pet Trainer, Adventurer

Higher than 1: Brawler, Archer, Warrior, Chef, Postman

So this week I did try out a few of the combat careers, but was put off by the grind. I think this would be much more fun with someone else to play with. But given FR’s total lack of a working friends list, continuing awkwardness of befriending people you actually know, and my lack of being able to persuade my other half/ sisters to play, that will going to have to go on the back burner (for me at least).

I have liked the little mini combat encounters and dungeons that I have seen. But the 2* difficulty ones that you get after level 5 are harsh to solo on my little wizard, who doesn’t get any crowd control until level 10.

Miner and Blacksmith are both more solo friendly. I’m impressed that Tobold has hit level 20 in both, I was finding Blacksmith fun in small spurts but rather grindy overall. It doesn’t help that I still don’t much care for smelting. However, fun in small spurts is what this game is all about for me. I don’t need long sessions and I think it works best if you approach it like a bag of licorice allsorts (ie. just grab a handful of different flavours and see what you get).

I also tried out the Pet Trainer this week, although have still resisted the urge to buy a Pookie of my own (next week I’ll try to get a picture of her side by side with my cat to show the similarity). If you don’t own a pet — which costs real money — you can ‘borrow’ one for 20 mins at a time to train with. I was able to get to level 7 in the first 20 minute session;  the pet animations and sounds are absolutely enchanting, even to a tomboy like me.

I particularly love the way that the pet really gives the impression of slowly learning its new trick. And the trainer (ie. you) is so obviously trying to encourage it.

I’ve decided to limit myself to a similar monthly spend to a regular MMO with Free Realms to see how it goes. I may well buy the pet next month. I noticed that some cost more than others and note in the flavour text that they help you with treasure hunting. I’m guessing that this means they’ll help you sniff out collections when you are out in the world with them, but have not been able to test this yet.

In the spirit of getting more value from my paid month, I also exercised my option to make an alt. Two things I noticed here:

  1. With the alt, I was given the option to skip the tutorial. Hurrah.
  2. Male characters get the option to have cool tribal type face markings and female ones get make-up or sparkly hearts/flowers/butterflies? I’m not making any specially feminist snark here but I know that as a kid I wasn’t into girly stuff and I don’t see the point in limiting options. Plus who is to say that some boys might not want the face sparklies?

In any case, congratulations are due to the Free Realms team for having achieved a million signups in a very short period of time. They’ve made a great little game and thoroughly deserve it. (They also celebrated this with a new loading screen which no longer shows the character with the guitar ;) ). Now, about that friends list …

Metaplace is now in open beta

If you like building stuff, check out Metaplace. I haven’t had a lot of time yet to experiment but the little starting tutorial will give you a flavour for the power behind the tools. As is often the case with tutorials, there seems to be a huge gap between where the tutorial stops and what  you really want to know to do the things you want to do. But I’ll be amazed if a prolific fan community doesn’t spring up to fill in the gaps.

So… Galactrix

I’ve had a couple of train journeys worth of Puzzlequest Galactrix which is not enough for a proper review (even by my lax standards). But I am really liking the ideas behind it, and it does have the freedom of movement I want to see in a Space-type game — that sense of ‘I can fly anywhere in the galaxy!!’.

But crikey it does spend a lot of time saving and loading data. Does the DS have no RAM or is the DS port just  too ambitious/  unoptimised for that platform’s requirements? (One of my jobs in my last place of work was porting code/ drivers from specialist hardware to PCs or vice versa but you don’t need to be an expert to see when the job is … a bit lacking.)

Still, I’m having fun and that’s all I really ask from a game. First impressions from Galactrix — money well spent!