Sunday, December 20, 2020

Cyberpunk 2077

I spent a whole day trying to type a coherent review but I seem not to be able to convey what I have in mind. I wanted to write a review that shows that the game is not bad after reading many negative reviews and people talking how much trash this game is. The game itself is not bad if you are fine with following a linear main story and several side quests. In terms of a rating I'd give it a 7 out of 10 even though I enjoy the game way more than I expected. I was hooked from the beginning and after I changed my perspective about the game and not expect an RPG game but instead a story-driven immersion I enjoyed it even more. After 60 hours or so though the negatives started surfacing. What I just ignored at first started to be a nuisance. On the other hand you don't really need to put up much with the bad things - that can be a bad thing too because it is an indicator that these could have been created or balanced better. When nearing 100 hours though I started to enjoy all the bugs and could laugh when the game saved in a middle of a jump that would kill me no matter what.

At first I ran the game on a computer with slightly higher specs than the recommended ones. I had troubles even running the game. I downloaded it on a computer I use for VR which showed similar problems. After tweaking my Nvidia settings (using help of some rtx 2060 users complaining about not being able to run the game too) I managed to run it on both computers but stuck to the VR one that can run the game with ultra settings on.

The story is about V, a mercenary who for some unknown reason wants to become a legend in Night City. V by a series of misfortunes ends up with a biochip implanted in their head. It cannot be taken out and contains a copy of Johnny Silverhand's psyche which slowly eats V's psyche away. Johnny is a rockerboy who decided to fight against a megacorporation and blast it away 50 years ago.

V may come from different backgrounds (you choose at the beginning) but will still turn into the same person and personality. All you can do is stick with it and there is no way to deviate unless you commit a suicide along the way. Johnny is a total prick but if you befriend him, he'll gain more wisdom.

I enjoyed all the endings to some extent even though I felt pretty bad when going through some. I missed something in those endings though. I didn't feel like it had some kind of a meaning. Many games question humanity and what the future might be. You get to see what makes someone or something a human being and what the society can turn into. Here you are someone with predefined view on things and you can either just stay that way or betray your principle and join the 'bad guys'. And even if you'd logically chose this option deliberately, you probably wouldn't have chosen everything that comes with this outcome. This was a huge let down for me and I spent quite a while contemplating if this could have been done in a better way. I always liked cyberpunk settings but what I also liked about the dystopian future is that it showed where our culture and society can end up. In this kind of future though there were always people present that had still valued human values and virtue and tried to fight the megacorporations. Here gangs fight among each other and we don't see much of politics among the corporations, in fact there is only one megacorporation that is the center of this story - Arasaka.

What I think the game does well though is asking you how you value life and what makes you want to live and how and what would make you want to end your life and why. This is something people should give a thought and some of the decisions and what comes after will make the players think about this and that I find is a good thing as that will help the players understand other people's thought that might be either terminally ill or suicidal.

The Night City is a breathtaking world and I can't describe it with words. The lights, lighting and reflections are beautiful. Walking around and taking pictures is something I truly enjoyed. Exploring the city is great. If you want to do more than that though, you'll be disappointed. I expected to be able to talk to some NPCs but soon found out that it's totally useless to even try. They are pretty dumb, they have preset movements so they either walk their path, cover their head on the ground or run away from the scene disappearing after few meters into nothingness. Their clothes are mostly the same you can get yourself and it is often painful to look at them. You can have sex with a joytoy but the cutscene that follows could be better. I don't even mean in showing more of the actual sex but could be done in a way that makes you want to enjoy watching it.

Illegal activity is nothing to worry about. I expected that if you become wanted you'd be wanted for the rest of the game. NCPD just shows up next to you out of thin air when you do an illegal activity. Just go inside a building and it ends. They will also shoot you if you stand nearby without a reason.

One would also expect stealing would be a crime but no, you just loot anywhere under any NPC's nose and don't get noticed for it.

The game features vehicles you can acquire. You are forced to drive them sometimes. Driving a car seems bad to me. It is very easy to miss a turn since you can't even see it on the mini map in the upper right corner. The traffic is weird at best. If you get close to another car it will just stop. Even hitting a hydrant will stop you dead in your track. I tried my best but failed the driving jobs (not really but it was rather frustrating). Since you get so many vehicles at your disposal you could possibly customize them? It would be a nice feature. The cars you can purchase behave differently so you can find a car that will suit you.

There are series of jobs that affect how the the game will end. Those are long and they allow you to start a romance depending on the person's sexuality. I enjoyed these a lot, maybe even more than the main story. They are about forming a relationship be it a friendship or romance.

The combat is something I shouldn't omit since it is a big part of the game. You can finish most of the game by sneaking past enemies and hacking but the easiest way is to blast your way through. There are many ways how to fight. You can use your own fists, mantis blades (cyberware), melee weapons or ranged weapons. You have quite a choice from different groups of weapons and I stuck to tech precision rifles. The animations and sounds of the weapons and combat are nice and satisfying. Shooting is ok even without aiming, I didn't really aim at all at first until I started using a sniper rifle which needs more precision when shooting someone very far away.

The leveling system is nice but is rather boring. You have 5 attributes - Body, Reflexes, Tech, Calm and Intelligence. Each attribute might be doing something and getting you better stats but I didn't see much difference. Under each of these attributes you have several perk trees. They are mostly combat related with the exception of crafting and hacking. Crafting can be used to create anything if you have a blueprint and components for it. Both can be bought or looted (or created by crafting and disassembling). Quickhacking can be used to distract enemies, unhostile them, or make them explode. Can also be used to turn off cameras or turrets.

I put most points into tech which led me to having a character with 1399 armor and 400 DPS weapon since level 17 or so. Even on hard my character felt invincible and I did not even spend all my points. I look forward to leveling in games because of new abilities that are impactful. In this game though I'd finish the whole game without spending a point. Only once in the game that I felt that I either totally missed something (it was this) or my damage input had to be insane - when fighting Matilda, one of the bosses in the game. I dealt roughly 12k damage unloading one whole magazine into her head and this did not bring her down.

Cyberware mostly gives you higher stats. But there is cyberware that allows to slow down time which can help in combat. Berserk cyberware can also make you stronger in fight but you won't be able to hack. If you take a hacking route getting a good cyberdeck is needed. Augmenting legs is probably the only thing I felt was 'special' since you can jump higher or double jump.

The game is full of bugs. I play VR games and I got used to clipping, other visual bugs and movement not working as intended. Falling through a floor is something that won't surprise me in a VR game but here it surprised me. These kind of things shouldn't be happening. Since everything is scripted in a way you shouldn't deviate from that and thus should avoid bugs. You just walk through the Night City to suddenly slip on a bag of trash flatlining. You headshot an enemy, their head exploding but the body still walks around and talks. NPCs t-posing. That's not all. While these are mostly 'visual' bugs and break the immersion there are also bugs that break the game in a way. I couldn't loot for quite some time and I couldn't see the location of the loots. When I finally could pick up items they were all above my level. My bought perks didn't work. There were jobs that I couldn't finish. I had to restart even the main story several times because either one of the NPCs got stuck or because the next step simply didn't trigger. Not only I lost some legendaries I got on my way, but I had to restart a relatively long job again.

Cyberpunk 2077 offers an immersive cyberpunk story and a great world - Night City - to explore. The story and characters are well written. They are well voiced and acted. The graphics is nice even though I wouldn't call it next gen, it would have been 8 years ago. Sound is great, both the music and sound effects. Many side missions that you can complete are really good, some are just fun and some are repetitive. The game play itself is good even though if you are more of a hardcore gamer you might find it lacking in many aspects since the game doesn't bring anything new and no matter what play style you will choose it will feel lacking. You might even question why there is the possibility to mod weapons when it practically does nothing? That goes to perks and leveling too. The game is buggy but many got fixed already. Still some bugs will make it impossible for you to proceed and you might need to replay, see if it lets you continue. The game seems to have performance issues. The recommended specs are more like minimum ones. It might be worth waiting till CDPR fixes all the issues and maybe even changes/adds some content. 7/10

S'Tsung (stsungjp @ Twitter)

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Pistol Whip

Pistol Whip is a game that caught my eye quite some time ago but 25 price tag was something I wasn't willing to pay for it. While browsing Oculus store though I noticed I could download the game for free and try it out. 5 minutes in I was sure I'd actually snap buy this game.

No description of the game can actually prepare you for how cool the game actually is. You might read reviews that state this is Beat Saber and Superhot combined. I couldn't imagine how these two games would actually create a different game but after putting some thought in it and actually experiencing the game I came to the same conclusion. (my view on Beat Saber and Superhot is different than what you'll probably read in reviews so I had to change my point of view quite a lot)

Pistol Whip is a first person shooter with a twist or two. It's an FPS game in terms of you actually shooting enemies but it's nothing like Counter Strike. You 'fly' through a level automatically and dodge enemy shots and shoot at enemies that fired those. The first (Beat Saber-ish) twist is that in order to get a good score you actually need to shoot on beat. For those that are used to shoot on sight this is something that may take a while getting used to. You need to shoot at a specific moment that you can hear unless you are rhythm deaf like me. The second (Superhot-ish) twist is avoiding bullets. In this game the bullets shot at you do not travel fast. They travel rather slowly and you have a lot of time to spot them and dodge them. This can result in very Matrix-like motion and actually it feels that great too. Your body might not be accustomed to these movements so it's pretty much guaranteed that you'll feel sore the next day wondering what muscles you used to play this game.

If you wonder why this game is named Pistol Whip, you can actual pistol whip your enemies when they are close which nets you the maximum points for the kill. This is rarely used though with the exception of one level/map.

There are several songs you can play each having 3 difficulties - easy, normal, hard. With each difficulty the number of enemies gets higher which means more shooting and more avoiding bullets. If playing on hard is too easy you can turn on some mods that will make the game more difficult and it will provide you harder or different challenge (there are mods that can make it easier as well).

Recently, a cinematic campaign was added for free and I have to say that this content is really great. It takes 25 minutes to go through, has a story and a nice boss fight in the last stage. It shows the true potential of the game and I hope more content like this whether free or paid will follow.

Verdict: Pistol Whip is a good combination of shooting and a rhythm-based game. The content was rather limited at launch but several songs and a cinematic campaign were added, all for free, which now makes it worth the 25 bucks I paid for it. The music genre I'd probably describe as EDM. All the songs sound very similar to me. If you like playing rhythm games to enjoy the music you should probably check out the music. first. Getting good at Pistol Whip means playing over and over the several limited number of tracks, not liking the music may make the experience not that great.

I'd say that this is a perfect game for parties and introducing people to VR because the game is easy to play (thanks to assisted aiming anyone can hit) and probably won't cause much motion sickness since there is no locomotion involved.

It's a fun game, nice workout and it takes a while to master if that's what you want.

S'Tsung (stsungjp @ Twitter)

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Westworld Awakening

I've read mixed reviews about this game and wasn't really sure if paying 30 for this game would be worth it because as it seems this game is hit or miss.

Nonetheless I was still too curious to not to try it. I love Westworld (even though I'm not really a fan of the last season). On the other hand I don't seek out horror games and especially don't look for stealth games. I'm really bad at those. I expected a game I wouldn't like. I was wrong though.

Westworld Awakening is a story-driven game and it is about the experience rather than game play mechanics. The game is divided into five chapters. The first chapter is more of an introduction and there is not that much of interaction. On the other hand it shows pretty much what to expect from the game. In the second chapter you can explore and 'interact' with the world. After that comes the first real stealth part which may be long if you are afraid or pretty short if you just go and do what needs to be done. Honestly I spent 20 minutes cowering in fear under the table (the next time I played it, I spent 5 minutes there).

Visually the game is atmospheric and was stunning to me. The sound effects, voice acting, animation/acting and facial expressions are really great. The way the story is told is also great. There are many references around and you can enjoy walking around in places you saw on the show. The game is a bit dark though and that is how I missed a corridor or collided with some objects while trying to run away from Hank.

The gameplay can get repetitive. You get exploration part and stealth part which practically means you need to hide behind or under something. It is not difficult though. Hank is pretty dense, same goes to the soldiers. Don't take me wrong I don't want to complain about the difficulty. I was glad about how easy it was because otherwise I'd become frustrated.

What you get is a simple story of Kate, a host that was playing a murder victim for years, who becomes aware and tries to escape into the human world. First you see through her eyes in the park, later you woke up aware in Delos. You are not the only one who woke up and among those people there is Hank, the host programmed to hunt your family and kill you all - you as Kate being the last one. You try to escape and you are helped by others that give you instructions what to do.

There are probably many things that people may not like. First of all, the game is not really realistic. It doesn't follow much logic.

The default locomotion is terrible from my point of view. Holding two buttons while swinging arms is pretty bad while you also want to use your tablet. Fortunately you can switch the locomotion type in the settings.

Hank apart from saying the same phrases over and over is rather dense. You can often just run in front of him and hide under a table and he suddenly stops seeing you. In general the places you can hide are in plain sight etc. You can hide in a corner of a room for example and not be spotted. Honestly I was glad it was this way otherwise I'm not sure if I could play the game.

You are being given instructions all the time. If you don't figure something out in time, someone will tell you what to do or the game will show it in blinding light. This was a bit annoying when I wanted to just look around.

You can only interact with key items and some other items. You can't interact with drawers for example or tables or anything. Most objects are simply static.

Westworld Awakening is a relatively short (several hours) well done story-driven game with simple and rather repetitive gameplay. It offers an atmospheric experience from the Westworld setting which can be fully appreciated only after watching the first 2 seasons of Westworld series.

The locomotion choices are good even though it does not offer teleportation. I think this would make the whole experience worse as this allows for being more immersed in a 'survival horror' story.

One of the reasons why people may not be interested in playing this game is the survival horror aspect. The game though is not difficult, no need to be an expert in stealth so I found it well-balanced.

I'd recommend this game for people who like Westworld and like story-driven games or experiences and don't mind being killed with an axe and hiding under the table for few minutes during each chapter.

S'Tsung (stsungjp @ Twitter)

I also recorded the game, so if you want to check it out here's Chapter 2 - the chapter I spent most time under the table because I was afraid.

Here is a bonus video (for those who can listen to someone not being able to play the piano). After hearing the main theme over and over I decided to see if I can play it on the piano. If I give it more time it might actually sound the way it should.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Kingdom of Titania

Kingdom of Titania is a new world made by FlowerRite. I've seen trailers for this world around the web and I liked it from what I've seen so I decided to visit it one day. I wasn't ready for how huge the world actually is and how many nice places there are to visit! You can literally spend hours in it by just exploring. If you haven't been there yet I can highly recommend it. I went there with Aurora and Infinite we spent quite some time exploring the world. We went to a farm nearby since that is the first stop by the train. We looked inside and on our way back we took a picture in a cauldron with Aurora because why not?

Then we proceeded to the city where we got lost enjoying the map wondering how each part of the city is connected. While walking around we discovered that we can use gondolas to travel around, not just the city. We discovered that not all water is solid so we can end up underwater which got a bit frustrating because it was not clear if we could get out of it (without the need to respawn). We found out that we can climb on rooftops and take some neat pictures and that even getting on top of a tower was possible. There's even a hidden theatre which is a cool place to hangout (location is shown in the video below). You can watch videos there with friends or perform.

Eventually we arrived to a lighthouse where we found a spirit. The spirit was happy to find people that can see it and it asked us for help with finding a core for a boat.

If you accept the quest the spirit will take you to a library in the city and there you should look for some books. After you check all the locations you will find a secret door that will reveal a zodiac sign spinning wheel. Since neither you nor the spirit don't know what to do with it you will be sent to the city to look for clues. We tried to look for clues running around like crazy for several hours but couldn't find anything. We were tooo focused on finding the clue somewhere ont he higher floors rather than on the ground floor and near the library. We eventually gave up.

The next day I decided to give it another go and instead of running around randomly I went from room to room until I found the clue. The spirit took the bottle with it to the library. It was sure that it would help me find solution for the zodiac signs. There it told me to drink some of it and I saw a spatial puzzle in front of me for a limited amount of time.

When I looked at it I figured that it would show some zodiac signs if I'd look at it from the correct angle. So I tried running around the library and looked at the signs but it still didn't make sense to me. Until I realized that the symbols I see are different kind of symbols that I didn't expect. I googled the signs and learned what four signs I was supposed to enter. I pressed them and another secret door opened showing a key and a map. It was time to find a place somewhere in the middle of the island depicted. Easy!

To my surprise I really found the place easily. There again I had to figure out what to do next without getting drunk. After staring at a beam of light for a bit I looked around more closely and did what was expected of me. That revealed the core itself. The spirit told me to bring it to its grandfather's farm where the boat should be located. So I took the train there and reached the boat. It was still there. I inserted the core and it turned transparent. The spirit left the boat to me as a reward for the help. I discovered that it's actually a flying gondola! I hopped in and tried to operate it while making myself seriously sick. So I just crashed into nearby trees and called it a day. It was a nice quest and the reward is cool if you don't get easily motion sick.

If you'd like you can watch a recording of me trying to walkthrough the quest. I wasn't really sure how to setup everything and how it would end up looking.

S'Tsung (stsungjp @ Twitter)

Shadowrun Returns

After a very long break I started playing computer games again and I didn't know where to start and what to play. One of the games I was recommended was Shadowrun Returns - Dead Man's Switch. It is an RPG game with turn-based squad tactical combat (see xcom) in a cyberpunk meets fantasy setting.

All I knew was that it is an isometric RPG in the Shadowrun setting which alone was enough for me to want to play the game. I love Shadowrun and I certainly had a lot of fun play the pen and paper RPG. I wondered how good the game would be and reminisced about games like Baldur's Gate and Planescape: Torment. Since I never heard of this game before I wondered how good the game would be.

The game starts with you receiving a message from Sam Watts, your fellow friend. Sam died and before he died he recorded this video so that you could track down his killer and get a reward if you find them and bring them to justice. A detective story unfolds as you are trying to find out who killed him and why. I was bit let down at this point because you don't actually need to solve anything and the game is very linear. You just follow the story. On the other hand the game will just immerse you in the story which is very well written and is also lots of fun (with lot of references to previous games and lore).

After you find the killer and find out why Sam was killed you will also uncover a horrific fact about a cult that wants to bring extraplanar creatures into the realm that would most probably just devastate it. The problem? These creatures are pretty much immortal unless you get your hands on a special prototype weapon that can kill these spirits. The final fight is probably the biggest downside of the game. You need too kill the creature with conventional weapons first (or Magic or spirits). Next round it will turn into a spirit that is immune to all this but the prototype weapon. You've got that one round to hit it 3 times in order to kill it and you've got max. 80% chance of actually hitting if you are standing close enough. You've got two shots before you need to reload and have 2 (max. 3) characters with this weapon. If you don't succeed it will turn into a physical creature again and you gotta try again.

As for the graphics. I like the hand painted graphics but the 3d models felt bit bland. In overall the graphics creates a good and fitting atmosphere for the game.

Music and sound effects is another story. This might be just me but I have to say that both were rather jarring. I wanted to play the game with sound on but I have to say that during the whole game I constantly thought about turning it off. While the sound effects are ok in terms of not sounding totally out of place they still didn't sound quite right for my ears. The music I didn't enjoy at all. There is no voice acting (I'm not sure how common this was around 2013 when the game came out).

There are two parts to gameplay. The game is story driven so mostly you will be reading dialogues and descriptions of scenes or characters. Depending on how your character is build (which skills it has) you might be able to choose different answer or actions. My character turned out to be charismatic Decker specialized in melee combat (totally not me, or my choice of a shadowrunner). The reason was that thanks to high Charisma I got to talk my way through dialogues, being a hacker allowed me to do some necessary running around Matrix safely. Being ok in combat is probably a necessity since you will go on runs that will sooner or later end up being pure tactical turn-based combat. You will have 1-4 characters to your disposal. Each character has action points that you can spend each turn to either move (and attack), move, attack, use magic, summon spirits, use items. You can hide behind object to make it harder for your enemies to shoot you. You also need a good line of sight and distance to actually hit. Flanking is also something to consider. If all your squad will end up in one place you are certainly going to get hit by a grenade.

The game on the default difficulty is very easy so you don't need to worry about spending karma (the points that are spent to level up your skills) in a wrong way. The HUD is very basic but shows well your equipment and skills. You have a limited number of slots for everything, if you have more items they will go to your stash. You can either get items from your stash by physically going there or enter it when buying/selling stuff. At the beginning of each part of the story you will be allowed to change the stuff in your inventory so you don't need to go back in between chapters.

Shadowrun Returns is well polished game for a kickstarted funded game and it did the original p&p Shadowrun justice. It has a nice and well written story that has a twist that some may not enjoy that much. It has certain but limited amount of RPG elements, you can choose your class, learn skills and develop them. You can buy equipment, spells etc. The combat is tactical and turn-based, a pretty much a copy of X-com combat system. One of the things I enjoyed is walking in the Matrix - uses the same combat system.

The not so good things about the game is that the story is very linear and the world is not really open. You can walk around a bit but you can't interact much outside of the main story. You also hire runners for each run and you can't change equipment or develop their skills.

In general, this game is a relatively short adventure game that introduces one to the world of Shadowrun, tactical combat and some RPG elements.

I'm not entirely sure to whom I'd recommend the game. I'd say that players like me who spent hours and hours playing Shadowrun in the past will enjoy this game. I'd also probably recommend this game to players that don't have much experience with gaming or are looking for an easy game to play.

S'Tsung (stsungjp @ Twitter)

Friday, November 6, 2020

The Devouring VR + walkthrough

Few days ago I was invited to play The Devouring. I heard about this horror world thanks to reddit but I didn't know why it was so popular. It was a mistake on my part not to visit because not only the world is breathtaking, it is a full fledged game. And a way better one than many free VR titles on Steam. It was created by LakuzaVR, LegendsVR, jendaviswilson, CyanLaser. These people created a world which allows you to experience a survival horror escape room. Or at least that is how I would describe it. 1 to 4 people can play the game at once. Scarlett told me that it could take 2 hours so I told her that I have all night for it if needed. At that time, I didn't know that it would indeed take me the WHOLE night playing this game.

What follows is my first experience from the world. I was rather lost because I had no idea what I ventured in and still couldn't believe it 5 hours in. I was in awe how well everything was done and at certain places I really wanted to cry because I knew that without help I simply wouldn't get through - at least not that night.

After entering the world I received a message and then I hopped into a car and watched the scenery while being in the back seat, since Scarlett was the one starting the ride. Then suddenly things got dark, got scary and some strange shade made the driver crash the car. A very nice beginning.

I woke up in a very nice guest room. I looked around and tried to go outside. Well, I was eaten by some black smoke with white eyes. I tried again and the same creature ate me again. I guess it was time to slow down and see what this was all about. I collected a journal note and then went to read the entry after Scarlett showed me where I can read them. She also showed me a book warning about the Lurker that killed me already few times. She told me that all I need is to wait for it to go lurking elsewhere and that I should notice it when it comes closer because it's going to be producing weird sounds. With more information about how this place worked I ventured into the mansion looking for clues and key items while Scarlett was giving me more information about the game.

While I was enjoying the mansion, taking some pictures and getting killed again Scarlett finished the first part of the game. I collected some journal entries and was asked if I want to play a piano. I got my hopes up for some tune playing but unfortunately it's not Half-Life: Alyx like piano which means I couldn't play a nice tune on it. Nevertheless I liked the task at hand so I tried to play the three notes. Thanks to my tracking not fully cooperating with me I played F, Cis, A instead of Fis, Cis, A and unsurprisingly I died hearing Scarlett's voice getting more distant while saying 'you died'.

I came back to the room and played the 3 notes again and then I saw Scarlett running right at me with a blue crystal gem in her hand. Later I found out that we'd need few more to open a door probably leading outside the mansion.

We ventured deeper into the mansion and while I was trying to figure out what we have to do Scarlett ran away. So I collected journal entries and tried to find more clues about opening doors upstairs, one that required 5 letter blocks and the second one that required a lighter. I already knew the word for the first door since Scarlett spoiled it but I didn't realized that we'd have to drag the letter blocks to the door at that point. I found some of them but was eaten leaving the blocks behind. For next time I knew I couldn't drop objects without remembering where they were. I had no idea how to get back to where I was so I was roaming the place again, searching for the letter blocks.

When I met Scarlett again she said she was trying to go through the basement. I went there as well and died pretty soon after entering the first water area. I died but I wasn't sure why.

When I saw Scarlett jumping around the wooden stuff in water I wondered how she could move so fast. I hardly could catch up on a normal floor. Nonetheless I followed and it took me a little while to figure out how to actually keep moving correctly. The blue targeting arrow showing up in water was a no go because my avatar would leave the path and it wouldn't want to jump back up. After I figured that I need to point at specific places and a certain pace I was finally able to move around more effectively. Nonetheless, this cost me several deaths and I finally realized what killed me. It wasn't a lurker but rather some creepy monster in the water. When I made it past the first door and closed it behind me I thought I was safe but that wasn't the case. It tore through the door and ate me while I was trying to take a picture of the basement. Note to self don't take photos in a horror game!

I got to move some levers and ran some generators in the basement and then I went back up. I looked for a lighter for the second door that was still locked and couldn't find it anywhere. I was running around the mansion like crazy, even though this time in more organized manner so I'd know where I searched and where not. Obviously I started searching at the wrong end because Scarlett came with the lighter in hand and I was like 'Where was it?'. I didn't learn the location but we could move on.

We grabbed the light and started discovering the area behind the door. Obviously we had to open all doors before moving the light from one place to another. At one point we got stuck and didn't know how to proceed because we obviously missed a green ward lever in the basement.

I knew where it was but was unable to get there again and then Scarlett had to go to sleep since there are also people that work during the day while I had a day off that day.

I went back to the basement and tried not to die that much reaching the green ward generator. At this point I knew I'd need help because I just couldn't get there even though I already knew how to move around. I asked Aurora to help me.

We almost got eaten while we were standing next to the generator clueless of what to do since the generator was already running. We went over the notes again and then later I finally spotted the green ward lever. I pulled it down (or up?) and it was time to commit a suicide because I was too stupid to go to the menu and hit Respawn.

Then it was time to figure out what to do with the light. For a while I was running around there like crazy and couldn't come up what to do. Until I noticed a pink light in one of the black clouds. After few more attempts of placing the light I found the correct stand for it to show the stand that was hidden in the black smoke. I stared at it and was like... 'they want me to grab the light, ran to the other stand and place it there before the darkness devours me?'. I was 100% certain I'd be devoured. I grabbed the light, ran, saw the darkness closing in and wishing for the light to get on the stand. It did and the darkness perished. Unfortunately while trying to do the same with the following stand I died. I respawned in the guest room and wondered if I'd have to do this again. I was like 'no way I'm going to do that again!'. Fortunately for me, I didn't need that and could directly reach the last stand. After few more frustrating runs with the light I reached the next emblem and eye.

I felt relieved for a bit and I felt that I finally managed to progress a bit in the game. Well, it was time for the blue door. My feeling of accomplishment vanished pretty much instantly. I followed some stick figure into a room with wardrobes and other cabinets and few more of these wooden creatures. I tried my best to avoid them but well died a painful death each time. I got desperate and called Aurora for help.

I watched Aurora gracefully pass by all those creatures to get into a room full of still wooden creatures. Aurora ventured one way and died. We tried few more times dying each time. Until we gave up and watched a speedrun walkthrough which didn't make me feel better because this was somewhere around the 40th minute and there was still like 30 minutes to go in the speed run. I might have been on hour number 6 at that point. But I really wanted to finish the game since Scarlett did a lot and I hardly did anything.

After even more frustration Aurora managed to get through and get another eye. It was time for yet another basement venture and I started pondering about what was actually worse - what was behind the blue door or the basement part leading to the pink door?

After many more deaths we got to the end. We opened the grand door with 4 pony heads and learned about what probably happened and what happened to the other guests in the mansion. I won't spoil the ending here but I'll say that I really liked the conclusion of everything. Endings of games can be often disappointing but that's not the case with The Devouring. I enjoyed it a lot.

Seeing the Congratulations screen was very comforting. It was dawn outside and I was glad I could go to sleep. I wondered if I'd dream about the lurker. After this the creators thought of everything and let us take a picture with some of the stats.

I have to thank Scarlett for showing me the world because I'd probably never ventured there on my own. I have to thank Aurora for saving my butt and helping me with the parts I was too clumsy to walk through. And then, I have to give really big thanks to the creators. They created an awesome VR game that I'd pay for if I could. They put tons of work into this world and I'm very glad I got to play it and actually survive. Even though without Scarlett and Aurora I'd probably still be roaming the mansion now.

Thank you for reading, I recommend The Devouring to anyone who doesn't mind little bit of horror and dying over and over again (don't mind my 106 deaths, you probably won't die that many times!). If you like puzzles and good atmospheric games like me, this is a game for you. Note that some parts may be a bit frustrating if you are as clumsy as I am in anything that requires running and jumping over blocks.

S'Tsung (stsungjp @ Twitter)

Monday, October 5, 2020

My BSMG Halloween Contest entries - Aurora Nocturna, Halloween Sword and Platform

Beat Saber Modding Group runs a Halloween contest where we can submit either maps or models. I decided to work on an avatar, a saber and a platform.

I didn't get a funny idea for neither models but I got an idea for possibly nice looking outfit and I had an idea for a sword.


The avatar is the first thing I started working on. It was decided that I would use an avatar I created for my flatmate since I promised I'd also make a succubus version later on. The idea of creating a functional wings scared me at the time. This time around though I got a good opportunity to try to keep my promise.

I started with creating the outfit. I wanted to create something like a lolita dress in black, red and white. The reason being that I needed a relatively short skirt so the avatar could freely move and the legs could be seen. I've tried different kinds of dresses previously and this is something that works for VR. After I finished my outfit I realized that what I painted wasn't probably Beat Saber friendly since it was too detailed and I wasn't really sure how gradients would look in the game either.

Nonetheless I decided to keep it that way and decided to figure out what to do with the wings. I spent quite a while trying to figure out how to create a wing. It should be easy, right? You'd just draw the outline with the finger parts and continue from that. I used to do that ages ago but in Blender I had no idea I'd go about that. It didn't come to my mind to check some tutorials so I created some wings and then I tried to rig them. Is spent ages trying to do that and in the end rigged them in a manner that wouldn't allow the movement I was looking for. At that point I realized that checking a tutorial would have been a great idea s I checked some tutorials. Anyway I had bones in the wings that were attached to Aurora's body and they were weight painted. Now she needed some horns and a tail. Tail was another problem, I just don't know how to create a nice looking and nicely moving tail...

When all the work in Blender was done I imported the avatar to Unity and started wondering what to do with it there. I realized that I wouldn't be able to use a toon shader I usually use (since I had VirtualMotionCapture in mind instead of customavatars which is what the contest uses) and would have to come up with some glowy lit shader that Beat Saber can understand. I found out that I did not need to bother with texturing the wings or tail since it would get lost in Beat Saber.

After playing with different shaders I started playing around dynamic bones and when I was more or less satisfied I thought I was done with the avatar.

I still had the urge to add something more to it. It should be a Halloween avatar with something special. That's when the idea of onibi came to mind and I tried playing with fire. I produced relatively fiery looking fire in Unity but when I put that avatar in Beat Saber it hardly resembled the particle systems I created. So I decided to get rid of the fire and just keep a particle system that would look cool in my eyes. Honestly I didn't think that setting that up would be difficult since I knew what I wanted and how I wanted it to look. Beat Saber though had a different idea of how to show my creations so it took many attempts to get it look the way it looks now.


As for the saber that was another story. Since I had a really 'great time' working with wings (they seriously almost drove me crazy) I decided that my sword would have hilt made of wings too and while at it why not create something that would resemble a bat? The sword is simple since it's for Beat Saber which doesn't really show that much detail. It still took me a while to figure out how to make it at least a bit pleasing to my eyes. After I had the model done in Blender it was time to see if I could make it look at least half as cool as it looked rendered in Blender. In the end I was surprised how well it came out in Beat Saber.

Let me tell you, the first five iterations looked awful and I wasn't sure if I'd make it look at least ok. 14 more versions came to existence until I could finally consider my saber complete. 18 version was needed in the end because I had to fix my trail. The custom saber uses custom color so the blades will keep their blue and red colors but the trail color will change accordingly. I spent a long time thinking about what kind of trail the sword should be leaving behind and in the end I decided to create a custom trail out of bats. It turned out to look way better than I expected so I decided to keep it. This is a screenshot of the final - 18th version.


I was told to be in a quarantine for two weeks and I was wondering what to do with all that time. I opened Blender and started creating some stuff and while at it I thought that I could try something Halloween themed. That is how I started creating some walls, fence and trees and then started creating a nice graveyard in Blender. Then I stopped, facepalmed myself and exported each object so I could use it in Unity. There I put the objects in place to create something that could work as a platform in Beat Saber. I didn't want to test it since I knew that usually my first tests were bad. So instead I continued on until I was happy with what I saw in Unity.

In Blender I just created a material but didn't really touch it since from the start I knew I'd want to play with this in Unity and from my last project I knew that how I set up my nodes in Blender wouldn't correspond to what I'd be doing in Unity. So I pondered about how to create a pumpkin which would be partly lit, would glow from inside etc. with the use of Beat Saber shaders. Because Emission in Beat Saber is something I can totally forget about. Anyway I recreated what I wanted more or less by putting the emission alpha texture to diffuse, the albedo texture that would normally be in diffuse to specular and then changed the values so both would 'glow' the way I want.

When I was happy with what I created it was time to see if it actually worked in Beat Saber. To my surprise it DID! I had to move some stuff around because of the text in-game. All I needed were three versions (I had to change the 'lighting' on some objects).

I don't think I could win anything in this contest but I participated and that counts. I certainly learned more about Unity and Blender and I even familirized with Blender more because before I was just using the mouse for everything since I had no idea about keyboard shortcuts or where I could find this or that. This changed after I finished Aurora avatar. I spent so much time on it that I was forced to learn some keyboard shortcuts and I'm very grateful for that.

I'm glad I could submit something to this contest and I'm looking forward to seeing all the entries. I'm curious about what people submitted. Next year, if my ability to model stuff, work with Unity and work with lights will improve I might create a Halloween world for the VRChat contest.

Thanks for reading and checking out my work^_~
S'Tsung (stsungjp @ Twitter)

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Keep Talking and Nobody Dies

Keep talking and nobody dies is a unique assymetric cooperative game that is best suited for casual fun. A cooperative multiplayer game that alone is very rare.

The game needs to be played with two people minimum. One player is locked in a room with a bomb and has to defuse it. They alone can't do it though because they do not know how. The other player or players are outside and have access to a manual how to defuse it but can't see it. Thus they have to give instructions to the player in the room with the bomb. Sounds easy, right? The players can be physically in the same room or anywhere around the world since the game can be played remotely via Steam. Only one player needs to own the game and it is the defuser that needs to control it. Others can talk via Steam voice chat or any other voice chat service. The experts will have to either print the manual out or search in it on the web (or pdf file).

I bought the game on Steam and tried running it because I wasn't really sure how this would all work. I knew that remote play existed since Steam sometimes asked me if I want to remotely play a game, stream it or just play it and it always confused me because I just simply wanted to play the game. Never tried remote play though so I didn't know if there would be two screens or the experts would simply have to print the manual. It was clear that one player would be able to see the bomb. I launched the game in VR and my friend was able to access the manual on the screen while I saw the 'game' in VR. So we just decided to play. Neither of us read the manual beforehand which made it way more interesting for both of us and we almost didn't make it the first time. It was close, we had 1.21 second remaining while my friend Vevvy finished the bomb almost before the timer started (you can actually start defusing before the timer starts).

You have (most of the time, can be 3 or 8) 5 minutes to defuse a bomb. A bomb has a certain number of modules that each contain a 'puzzle' that needs to be solved. The defuser has to describe what it is and based on that description the expert (the one with the manual) has to find the steps how to solve it. The manual itself is quite confusing so it's not easy to memorize. The experts will probably ask more questions because there are many conditions. Apart from the timer ticking down there are other outside effects that can make it harder to solve the puzzles (lights suddenly going out or some terrible nerve wrecking sounds). There can also be modules that need attention from time to time (intervals of 30 to 45 seconds). If those modules don't get it, you'll explode. Multitasking three such modules while still trying to solve other modules is no easy task because you still need to communicate and also use your memory.

The story mode has 7 chapters each having several bombs that have a certain time limit and number of strikes. When the players finish this mode they can still free play - get a random bomb. There are many iterations. There is 11 different modules not including the needy ones and maximum of 11 slots occupied.

Is the game worth trying?
My review might be boring but the game certainly is not. The game is obviously meant for parties. You don't necessarily neeed to play it an actual party, but the more people play the more fun it can be. Anyone can play the game if they can read a manual and aren't colorblind for example since colors matter in this game. I am rhythm deaf and I just found out that morse code is something I can't do (yes, you read that right, one of the modules involves morse code!) which also makes me a bad defuser when this module shows up.

If you have have friends or you are capable of bringing several people together I highly recommend this game. It will test your communication skills, attention to detail, memory and patience.

S'Tsung (stsungjp @ Twitter)

Friday, September 25, 2020

Sword of Fire and Ice (3d model)

I didn't know what to do today so I decided to fool around in Blender. I asked my flatmate what I could possibly do and they came up with an idea of Sword of Fire and Ice. I was like 'I could do something like that' and then I created a simple Sword of Fire and Ice from Modern Masters.

After I rendered this I was wondering what else to do with it. I decided to create a custom saber for Beat Saber. Out of Sword of Fire and Ice I created a Sword of Fire and Sword of Ice. I also added a nice fire and ice trails which I tried to capture in the screenshot below. Unfortunately the trails gets lost behind the menu panels :-/.

Even after this I wasn't finished and decided to see if I can create a more interesting render. So I spent some time posing my avatar's hand and the Sword and this is the final result of this little adventure.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Belko VR: An Escape Room Experiment

Escape room? Count me in.

You are locked in your office and told to solve a challenge in order to stay alive and not be replaced by someone more competent. You have 15 minutes to solve it and then you are told that there is a stage 2. The decision is yours to make and that also is probably the reason why you might want to replay this once or twice since there are different outcomes.

I couldn't start the game with the controllers showing up but then I decided to run the game right from the place I'd actually play it and then everything was fine. The game expects you to have 360 degrees tracking including tracking on the floor level which is not something I'd expect from a game. Honestly from ANY game.

Graphics could be better but considering the game being very short and actually being an ad for a movie I can understand it. While the quality of the graphics is not high the room is coherently done. It's nothing awesome but it's good enough not to feel distracting and it sets you well in the story.

The controls are something you'd expect so it's fine. The interactions with the environment are ok-ish. You've got plenty of time to toss the place and discover some things you'd probably not expect - an adult magazine, a hiding tarantula and a mouse/rat which are actually nice touches to the room.

The puzzles while not great are still more than just find an item and put it somewhere which is good. Nothing too difficult if your tracking works.

The game tries to put you under pressure with loud ticking that gets faster and you will also hear a coworker going crazy in another office somewhere. He will probably yell at you for being useless at some point. If you will be progressing fast enough you'll be saved of these though. I honestly had enough time to think what I needed to do before he started telling me what to do. (What I got stuck on, he didn't even comment). If you get stuck he'll probably tell you what to do.

In overall I liked the experience and found it better than some other free games I tried so far.

I can recommend this game if

  • you have 360 degrees tracking and tracking at floor level
  • you are capable of ignoring one serious jerk constantly yelling at you
  • you don't mind heads being blown of or have fear of virtual spiders

I'd rate this 5 out of 10 because I think the developers should have thought about what kind of tracking people usually have if they wanted to show this movie advertisement to as many people as possible. The annoying guy is well really annoying and no one wants to be berated like this. The animations of the objects fitting somewhere should have been fast and not slow like this. It gives an impression that something went wrong.

5 points for a good concept, not so great execution and the fun it provides.

Here's a playthrough that includes constant struggle with tracking. Played with Oculus Rift CV1.

S'Tsung (stsungjp @ Twitter)