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Sunday, 24 March 2019 07:47
lea_hazel: I am surrounded by tiny red hearts (Feel: Love)
I had a bad week last week and then the 7KPP alpha update showed up like a miracle to save me, so I've been obsessing about that nonstop since *checks clock* Wednesday morning? First thing in the morning, too. I got a push notification on Twitter of all places, heh.

*yawn*

Tuesday, 16 October 2018 20:51
lea_hazel: Kermit: OMG YAY *flail* (Feel: OMGYAY)
Due to my "in bed by nine, asleep by ten" policy (which is failing, but nm) I have not yet mustered the time or energy to sign up for Yuletide. Boo.

But today/yesterday Aly (of Azalyne Studios) broke her silence and published a couple of crunchy posts on her Tumblr. I've queued a bunch of responses and I'm having Thoughts.

God, I want week seven so bad. But it's legit much better for me in general if it dawdles for at least another month, to give me time to adjust to my work schedule and stuff.

And maybe, heaven forbid, get my sleep schedule under control.
lea_hazel: I am surrounded by tiny red hearts (Feel: Love)
Once again I slide in my Yuletide noms just under the deadline. I did nom 7KPP again of course, but it all depends on whether anyone requests or offers it. If there's a fair number of requests, I may decide to offer only characters I haven't written very much of (so no princesses or widows, for once). I just... feel the need for variety, and I can only flourish creatively under external pressure.
lea_hazel: Don't make me look up from my book (Basic: Reading)
Choice of Rebels: Uprising is an interactive text game from Choice of Games. I previously reviewed their game The Daring Mermaid Expedition, and have also played several of their other games, notably the Affairs of the Court trilogy. As implied by the name, the game's plot involves an uprising against a corrupt empire in which you, the player character, play the role of both instigator and leader. As in all Choice of Games offerings, this game is rich and divergent, with hundreds of choices large and small that can affect the outcome of the plot.

One of the game's main strengths is in its worldbuilding. The world of the Karagond Hegemony is richly drawn and thoroughly outlined in the attached codex, which is accessible from the game's stats screen. The centuries-old empire has swallowed up the nations that preceded it and morphed their religion into a doctrine in support of their brutal hierarchies. This world order is held in check by theurgy, a vastly powerful kind of blood magic restricted to elite practitioners, and requiring the yearly sacrifice of thousands of serfs to power it. The game does an elegant job of intertwining the cultural and historical elements of worldbuilding with this deeper, more metaphysical aspect of the plot. While at times confusing, it also provides a richness that long-time readers of epic fantasy can appreciate.

Read more... )

I would heartily recommend COR:U to any fan of epic fantasy and interactive fiction who feels ready to stomach its themes of slavery, human sacrifice and dehumanization.

Crossposted to hazelgold.net. 
lea_hazel: I am surrounded by tiny red hearts (Feel: Love)
There's a lot I could squee about, but I think by now it's obvious which part of the story I'm most invested in.

So, Breden. Right.

In my mind Breden is a little fixed as a she because I had them as a female character in my first two playthroughs (including Reynard's game, where I both romanced Breden and replayed every chapter but the first three times). As such I'll be referring to Breden as "she" throughout.

spoilers and speculation )
lea_hazel: Angry General Elodie (Genre: Games)
I'm in the process of writing a long, complicated review of Choice of Rebels: Uprising, but as I was working on it, I realized that it's not perfectly spoiler-free. For the benefit of people who prefer to go in as blank-slate as possible, or just aren't interested in slogging through my lengthy reviews, I thought I could post a brief, non-spoilery bottom line review.

Choice of Rebels: Uprising is an epic fantasy text adventure from Choice of Games, one of my very favorite game studios. It has all the hallmarks of the first novel in an epic fantasy trilogy, except that it's interactive. You play the protagonist and control their choices. The breadth of choice is huge. As in most COG games, the player can customize the PC's gender and orientation. Unusually, this game allows you to play the PC as asexual and/or aromantic. I played my first rebel as an ace lesbian, for example.

The premise of the story is that the PC will initiate and eventually lead a provincial rebellion against a ruthless conquering empire called the Karagond Hegemony. The Hegemony maintains and suppresses a vast underclass of slaves for human sacrifice, which they claim is necessary to power the blood magic that protects civilization. Their entire religion revolves around justifying imperial brutality. I found the game dark and violent but not gratuitous, though opinions might vary.

The quality of the prose is high and the worldbuilding is meticulous (and meticulously documented in a codex that's accessible throughout the game). The non-player characters are compelling, although Breden is by far my favorite. The level of customization of the player character is more than acceptable, and places an emphasis on varying responses to the Hegemony's imperialist policies. You can play as a skeptic or as a defender of the purity of the faith. You can play as an impoverished aristocrat or as a helot (slave). You can win the day by your wits or by the sword, and often even talk yourself out of trouble, which is my favorite approach.

It's a good game and I recommend it strongly to anyone who thinks any of the above themes might interest them. Though the game's plot has a satisfying conclusion, I'm extremely looking forward to the inevitable sequel.
lea_hazel: Neuron cell (Science: Brains)
This which went wrong:

1. It rained today, I was slightly apprehensive about going out to pick up a heavy computer on my own in the rain. It turned out okay and didn't start storming until after I was safely ensconced at home.

2. I was carrying a computer so I needed a cab. The cab driver gave me the turn-around and I was too tired to argue with him, ended up paying a completely exorbitant price, plus he insisted on regarding the computer as "luggage". I didn't fight him on it.

3. My old screen had a cable that wasn't right for the opening in the back of the computer. Luckily I had a backup cable that does work.

4. I neglected to mention that I definitely want my OS in English and they installed my Windows 10 in Hebrew by default. These days this is much easier to fix, which I am in the process of doing.

5. Plugging in my router in the living room didn't work -- I switched the living room and bedroom earlier this year. I had to get an electrician to fix the socket in the new living room before I could connect the computer to the router. And I had to call the phone company first to figure out what was wrong.

6. Man, digging up the passwords to all my accounts is a pain and a half.

7. I might end up spending the rest of today installing and configuring shit.

8. Almost accidentally skipped lunch.

9. But at the end of this whole long process, I'm gonna have a gaming computer again.
lea_hazel: Angry General Elodie (Genre: Games)
Today I put in an order for a new desktop computer. I suspect either Thursday or Friday will be downgraded from a normal day to an "install absolutely everything and fix all the configs and settings" marathon.

And then I will play All The Games.
lea_hazel: Angry General Elodie (Genre: Games)
I came upon a link to Reigns 2 quite by accident over Twitter, on the very day it was released. I’d never heard of it before, not the game to which it’s a sequel. It was a fortuitous discovery for me, because Reigns: Her Majesty is exactly the sort of game I liked. I downloaded it the same day and was enthralled for hours. Though the game has a learning curve I was determined to get ahead of it, especially since it comes with many, many unlockable achievements.

Read more... )

Reigns 2 provided me many hours of amusement, trying to unlock as many as possible of its tiny, hiding secrets from their dusty little corners. As I was playing the game when it was brand new, my early experiences were a little damaged by some persistent bugs, but not enough to cause me to give up on the game. Given a sufficient interval and some bug fixes, it’s become a very playable game. I still find that some of the elements of the gameplay are poorly balanced, but that generally becomes apparent only if you make for the distant, post-main quest goals. After a thousand years or so, the game can become more tedious than rewarding, even if there are goals yet remaining to be achieved. I do thinks some small tweaks would improve it, in this respect, but on the whole it seems a small enough complaint for a game that provides hours of fun for a very reasonable price.

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.
lea_hazel: Typewriter (Basic: Writing)
So there I was, reading a (really excellent) article analyzing Hanako Games' Magical Diary. This game is a blatant and unapologetic piece of interactive Harry Potter fiction, where the player character goes to a school of magic despite coming from a totally human family. I played it a number of times a few years ago and haven't really touched it since.

Anyway, there I was. It got me thinking about game ideas that I had and discarded, whether at the idea phase or after starting work on them. It also got me thinking about ~problematic romances (a word which has itself, somewhat ironically, become problematic). On the whole I prefer romances that are structured from the get-go to be egalitarian, eye-level and on equal footing. Sometimes, though, something sneaks into my writing that I suspect lurks in the back of my mind, wallowing in the residue of every book, movie and game I've ever consumed.

Cut because way too long and ultra-specific )
lea_hazel: Angry General Elodie (Genre: Games)
In preparation for my very first Yuri Game Jam, I found myself browsing some of the best-loved entries from jams of years past. The one that stuck with me most is undoubtedly Syrup and the Ultimate Sweet. This is a cute and quirky adventure with a mildly romantic tone. You play as Syrup, a self-proclaimed candy alchemist and the owner of the only mundane candy shop in a village occupied entirely by witches and magical creatures.

Syrup is an endearingly grumpy character, devoted to her discipline but a little lacking in social skills, and surrounded by an equally endearing supporting cast. Her best friend Pastille is her only employee, in charge of dealing with customers and all the aspects of managing a shop that Syrup herself just isn't very good at, while she works in the laboratory, creating fanciful candies. She carries on a friendly rivalry with the witch Butterscotch and her familiar Toffee, who are also her best customers.

Read more... )

You can download Syrup and the Ultimate Sweet through itch.io or play it online through your browser. The browser-playable version has a slightly different interface, but I found both versions very playable. For a better look at the game's art, check out Nami-Tsuki's Deviant Art account, or find the game's music on Bandcamp.

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.
lea_hazel: Angry General Elodie (Genre: Games)
It’s Yuri Game Jam season! A season to be especially queer in.

I know I mentioned before that I adore game jams. Deadlines tend to bring out my best work and I love the opportunity to potentially work with new people, not to mention I will jump at any opportunity to stretch my creative muscles. Yuri Jam is dedicated to stories centering queer female characters, which is familiar territory for me. The project I elected to develop, though, is something of a romantic comedy, which dips just slightly into camp territory.

Our protagonist is a self-styled mad scientist, a brilliant scientist who abandoned the world of academic research to recklessly pursue her own projects with no oversight. While she makes her living from the patents she takes out on her gadgeteering, she now faces her most ambitious invention yet. After years of romantic strikeouts, a phone-call from a concerned ex-girlfriend prompts her to take an entirely new approach to matters romantic, and she decides to build herself a robot girlfriend.

Yuri Game Jam is a two-month jam which takes place over the course of September-October 2017. I hope to complete the game, with three full romance routes, by the end of the jam. Accounting for last-minute complications, the estimated date of release is early-to-mid November. I will be posting progress updates on the Zinc Alloy Tumblr blog, and updating more regularly on the ZA Discord channel.

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.
lea_hazel: Angry General Elodie (Genre: Games)
It feels odd to get started on a game, at least two years after it was first published. Still, it’s not as though Little Alchemy is ancient enough to feel outdated or irrelevant, and I can gladly report that it’s every bit as enjoyable and engaging in 2017 as it probably was when it was first released. The only downside is knowing that it’s unlikely to receive any more updates. Once you’ve exhausted the 500+ existing alchemical elements and their combinations, that’s it. And given the habitual nature of the game, you might find yourself marathon playing it for hours at a time, and end up running out of game within a day or two.

Little Alchemy is a lightweight and fun alchemy simulator. Beginning with the four classical elements, it allows you to combine two elements to create a third, sometimes with additional byproducts. Simple as that. To my great delight, it can be played out of any browser through either the official site or indie game outfit itch.io, and also has a mobile version. After messing around with the browser game for entirely too long, I downloaded the Android app and lost several hours of potential sleep to it.

Read more... )

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.

Purity

Wednesday, 9 August 2017 20:21
lea_hazel: Typewriter (Basic: Writing)
The more I write (and I've been writing for more than fifteen years, half my life or longer), the harder it is to ignore the murkiness of the writing endeavor. I write original fiction and fanfiction, and I also write reviews. The things I look at when I write reviews are sometimes the same as what I examine when I'm writing, but just as often totally different. That can create an absurd type scenario where I criticize a series of books or games for repeating variations on a certain trope, but still be writing that trope into my own original fiction. Not even (necessarily) to subvert it, and on the whole as a media consumer I prefer aversions to self-conscious subversions.

The most obvious case that comes to mind for me right now is a multi-chapter fanfic from years ago that I never finished. This included both a love triangle and an antagonistic, hate-to-love type romance, all wrapped up together. And this was at a time when I had an even stronger aversion to both than I do now. And these were the central threads of the plot, not some supporting B-plot. More recently -- I even wrote a DW post about it -- I was writing a nation of inhuman people as analogues of a real cultural group (my own, but still), which is a thing I've strenuously objected to in the past.

And now there's my Yuri Jam game, if it gets off its feet. When I was coming up with the concept, I was mainly thinking about a cutesy idea of "mad scientists", a kind of character trope that has lost all credibility to the point where it's automatically camp and humorous, in a self-aware way. At least in theory. It's impossible, however, for me to ignore the underlying creepiness of the story, even if I'm trying to tell it from a point of view that places value judgments on the protagonist's choices, and even f the game is built in such a way that it locks the player out of making any truly outrageous character choices. I have to find a way to write around and through it, and address it head-on while still allowing the game to be a little funny.

And I find myself wondering how it is that I keep finding so many corners to paint myself into.
lea_hazel: The outlook is somewhat dismal (Feel: Crash and Burn)
This week so far has been a chain of irritants that have put me disproportionately out of shape, more so with each one that came at me. I don't even wanna get into it because I don't want to enshrine that petty shit, which is one major way that I have changed for the better in the last decade. So, go me, I guess.

In better news: if you're at all interested in my game-writing effort check out my idea thread for a Yuri Game Jam entry I am hoping to gear up to this summer/fall.
lea_hazel: Angry General Elodie (Genre: Games)
I've written before about the Dark Parables series of hidden object games. They're great games and I revisit them pretty regularly, especially since I started them out by buying the standard editions and was quickly converted to the more expensive collector's editions, which contain an impressive amount of additional content. I still haven't completed my collection, which means I haven't played all of the bonus games. Since my PC crashed and burned in March and I'm operating on a new laptop, I decided it was time to get back to the games again. New installments of Dark Parables come out reliably once or twice a year, and there had been two new games released since I'd last checked.

Read more... )

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.

Links of interest

Work.

Friday, 7 July 2017 13:39
lea_hazel: Typewriter (Basic: Writing)
My work agenda is getting complicated. For one thing, I want to finish my editing, proofing, changes and additions to my route on BookSLEEPer so I can pass it on to the rest of the team, finalized. I have some story drafts laying around gathering dust, which I need to decide what to do with and/or where to submit. I've started putting together an outline for another game, in Twine form, and it's looking good but still needs a lot of work before I can treat it as proof of concept. I still need to get Wreath of Roses to an editor, too, and I have a short story critique I need to make a decision on.

Then there's all the books and games that need reviewing.

All in all, though, having a lot of work to do is actually a good sign. I just need to keep reminding myself of this.
lea_hazel: Angry General Elodie (Genre: Games)
I tried out the prologue for the new Voltage game. It’s technically a period piece, which is mildly interesting, and it’s prohibition-era, which under different circumstances would probably intrigue me more. Except that there’s already The Blind Griffin, and while it’s very short and has no female love interests, I enjoyed it tremendously the three or so times I played it through. Plus, the heroine of TBG is just fantastic.

Anyway, the new game. Only the first few routes have made their appearance, but the prologue handily introduces all the many, many (many!) love interests. A little clumsily, but at least it’s super clear on what’s going on. There are about seven or eight male love interests, and one woman.

This is the story of a brash and outgoing girl of indeterminate age (if I had to guess I’d say no older than twenty) whose overprotective mother was worried about her hard-partying ways. So she sent her to live with her stern uncle. In Chicago. Which is clearly the best place in which to protect a young girl from the seedier aspects of life, such a good place that they even named a musical after it.

The MC is full of vim, and is meant to be quite clever and qualified. She doesn’t super sell it, though. It takes her the entire prologue to figure out what was immediately obvious to me as a reader, which is that her temperance campaigner uncle is secretly running a speakeasy under his shop. But anyway, she’s a lively and strong-willed girl, and that has its appeal. Runs a little close to “feisty” for my tastes but it’s hard to tell from such a short sample.

Verdict: I don’t know if I’ll get into it. Then again, it’s definitely better than L&L and I read almost a dozen episodes of that before I gave up. The background art is beautiful. The sprites are nice also, a style much more favorable I think than L&L’s had. It also remains to be seen whether there’s an overarching story to the different routes. Bottom line is, Astoria is still the best. If you can’t get more of that, fanfic is the only way to go.

Crossposted to Tumblr.

FFS Jam

Tuesday, 14 February 2017 10:57
lea_hazel: Kermit: OMG YAY *flail* (Feel: OMGYAY)
So, rumor has it that some people other than me entered their games into FFS Jam on itch.io. so here are some carefully curated links to that for your entertainment.

1. Penguin Quest, a cute and silly game about a penguin looking for friends on their birthday so they don't have to celebrate alone. It's definitely in the style of something, but don't ask me what. Browser playable.

2. Corgi Snow Day is exactly what it sounds like, a fluffy cuddle game to brighten your day and warm your heart. It's ultra-short, so I would recommend playing it every morning before getting out of bed.

3. Mao's Adventure, an exceptionally weird game that has to be experienced first-hand.

4. Nature of Colors and Shapes is a strange little puzzle game that involves dragging colorful blobs in certain trajectories. I found it soothing to play.
lea_hazel: Angry General Elodie (Genre: Games)
After having been playing it pretty regularly for about a month and a half, I believe I might finally be ready to make my review of Kisses and Curses. There are 5-6 routes (depending on how you count) and I played two of them to the end, then quit halfway through another. Now I'm dipping my toes into a fourth with hopes of clarifying something about the reasons why I DNFed the last one. I've been trying to review this game for ages so getting this out of my system will be real nice.

In other game news, I made a thread for Wreath of Roses on the Lemma Soft forums, the mythological birthplace of so many OEL visual novels and dating sims. My concerns about text games and game writing and etc. are more or less validated, but it's okay.

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