Saturday, 16 February 2013

X-COM: Open Your Mind!

On a few occasions, I'd had soldiers become panicked, go berserk and generally be affected by the punishing situations they have to deal with. However, there were also times when individuals were affected despite being in a relatively secure position. This indicated a new form of alien attack, and my fears were confirmed once we'd researched the Sectoid brains and their Mind Probes.

It seemed the elite Sectoid soldiers, the Leaders in particular, had an amazing psychic ability. They used this to undermine the mental state of my soldiers, and in some cases even control their minds. I had to respond in kind, discovering the means of this attack and finding a way to protect my troops. First I had to capture one of their Leaders, to gain more information.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

X-COM: Muton Mischief

Slow going at the moment, but I do have a few bits to talk about. I've been keeping busy with the UFO missions, up to number 60 in fact. While most of these had been fairly standard, the last couple introduced me to the best soldiers the aliens could throw at me: Mutons.

A Muton soldier, in a corn field

I'm sure you're supposed to feel abject terror when faced with genetically-modified super soldiers, but these luminous green brutes are no match for my power-armoured and heavy-plasma-toting troops. If they had appeared earlier in the game, I might have had more of a significant problem, but I think I can handle them right now.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

X-COM: Interface Investigations

I've decided to take a little break at this point, since I haven't got very much new to discuss about my playthrough. So I thought I'd spend a bit of time discussing the X-COM interface. It's often criticised, but perhaps it would be helpful to go through what it does well, and what it does badly. It's also important to remember that the game was released in 1994, and interface design has come a long way since then. In a future post, I'll be comparing and contrasting to the modern XCOM reboot.

The first part of a new game: Selecting your first base location
 So here's the first point, and it's a crucial one. This game has almost nothing in the way of in-game help, no tool-tips to tell you what a button does, no in-game tutorial, no in-game manual or wiki. These sorts of things are more commonplace now, but they just weren't a priority back in the 90s. Disk space was expensive, and it was far more common to put together all this information in a single helpful place: The manual.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Kickstarting: Elite Dangerous

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away... a space fighting and trading game was born. Created by David Braben and Ian Bell, Elite was a game like no other that I'd played at the time. It started you off with a basic spaceship, a handful of credits and a galaxy full of planets to explore. The entire galaxy was procedurally generated, so they could create a vast number of star systems very easily. Each star system had a different number of planets and space stations, which all had things they wanted to trade for. Your status was defined by your combat rating, from harmless to elite.

The first version of Elite was made for the BBC Micro in 1984, but my first experience was with Elite Plus on the PC in 1991. This version had 256 colour VGA graphics as well as new sound and music. Elite would later be followed by two sequels, Frontier: Elite II (1993) and Frontier: First Encounters (1995). Each sequel had a graphical upgrade, as well as adding several new features, including an attempt to make the space travel and combat more realistic. The Frontier games added factions and basic quests, to allow you to gain notoriety and money through other means other than combat and trade (although a combination of these was often the most useful course of action).