Justice Playthrough #148: A Light Long Gone

That was … very … earnest.

Page 58, Game 1: A Light Long Gone by muddasheep

This is an emo/electronica album by Muddasheep, who’s apparently doing this for quite some time. The conceit here is that it’s an “interactive” album. What’s that mean?

The music is less encouraging that the title implies

For starters, it means you get this very snazzy player. It’s pretty, but it lacks some pretty basic functionality. While I was listening to this, my wife asked me to pause it so she could get an audio recording of the annoying idiot in our neighborhood who keeps revving his motorcycle. I couldn’t. There’s are no play-control buttons here.

The big selling point is that you can mute individual instrument tracks. I’m not sure why I want to, though. I mean, this guy’s a musician, I’m just some shmuck killing time with a blog. Is he not confident this is the best version of any given song? If the song sounds better without, say, the piano, isn’t that kind of an argument for not including the piano in the first place?

It’d be more interesting if he deliberately over-orchestrated the shit out of everything. I’d love to play with a version that was intentionally overdone to hell with full instrument participation on each and every track, and then it becomes my responsibility to trim the song down to the elements that I think serve it best. This sumbitch was clearly written for piano and drums, but let’s see how it sounds when it’s just xylophone, trumpet, and harmonica. Fuck it, let’s get wacky, let’s get some thrash-metal guitar, melodica, and Otamatone tracks in there while we’re at it. Bring the fuckin’ house, bro.

Tellingly, the one track that you’re NOT able to mute is the lead vocals. The lyrics feel so achingly earnest that my wife and I half convinced ourselves this was the work of a teenager, and were surprised to learn that the artist is older than she is. We did peg that he’s not a native English speaker, though; the lyrics tend to feel very simple. But what the hell, his English is better than our German.

The music, while often quite pretty, has a tendency to be monotonous. There’s not much energy here, not much to distinguish one song from the next.

It’s not horrible, and last I checked he’s only asking a dollar for it, so if you’re curious you can definitely check it out for yourself. Unfortunately, the concept is much more interesting than the actual music, and that’s a shame.

Will this next one feel less depressed teenager-ish?

Page 9, Game 26: Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!! by chubigans

“The highest selling and most intense restaurant sim ever made is back!”

I’m guessing that my business is going to be founded on the labor of depressed teenagers, so yeah. Bring it on.

Justice Playthrough #147: Solipstry

This game didn’t actively annoy me, so I’ll try not to tee-off on it too hard — particularly given that I haven’t actually, you know, played it. But just reading the rules gives me the impression it doesn’t actually achieve the goals it’s setting for itself. I seriously don’t know why I’d play this instead of D&D.

Page 58, Game 14: Solipstry by alrine

Solipstry ijs a TTRPG based on what the authors thought were the best bits of D&D 3.5 and D&D 4, but with the classes and levels stripped away. However, it aspires to more. From the very first paragraph of the introduction:

Solipstry is a set of tools used to create a world. Not just any world. You don’t need tools to create a world. That’s as easy as saying “What if the
Wild West had dinosaurs?” But to make a world that’s lively enough, colorful enough, and well-defined enough to tell a story? That’s where you need a tool set.

Okay, fair enough, a world-agnostic RPG sounds like a pretty worthwhile endeavor. But those already exist. GURPS and Hero System have been around since the 80’s; hell, “GURPS” is an acronym for “Generic Universal Roleplaying System.” Those old dogs are severely rules-heavy, though. In more recent years, “Apocalypse World” has proven to be a very versatile mid-weight ruleset that gets tweaked to new settings all the time. “Fate” is a thing that exists, too. If I’m in the mood for a light-ish ruleset that gives me immense worldbuilding flexibility, you’re honestly going to have a hell of a time convincing me NOT to use Fate.

True to its name, Solipstry does not seem to be aware those other rulesets exist. I’m sure the developers are aware of games that exist outside the D&D lineage, but they don’t seem interested in acknowledging any. And for all its talk about being setting-agnostic, the rules as presented are very clearly geared towards high fantasy.

But, whatever. The game considers D&D its peer, so what’s it doing that you couldn’t accomplish by a suitably ambitious DM tweaking D&D?

I’m sincerely coming up empty.

There’s something off-puttingly ignorant about the game’s stated goals. From later in the Introduction:

While many roleplaying systems require complex math and a careful examination of the rules before gameplay can begin, Solipstry was designed with simplicity in mind. And it isn’t just flexible when it comes to rules. Customizable settings are where Solipstry truly shines. While most games provide you with everything you need to know—rules, settings, vast histories of the land, tomes depicting all of the wars and conflicts over the years, along with descriptions of the important political figures, charts with magic items, diagrams explaining what creatures live where and how they behave in and out of combat—Solipstry leaves world creation to you.

This excerpt is wall-to-wall “Huh?”

First off: this is not a simple ruleset. It’s not the fiddliest I’ve ever seen; like I said, I’ve played GURPS and Hero System, and don’t get me started on Rolemaster. But it’s absolutely comparable to D&D. If anything, nuking classes and levels makes it MORE complex than D&D by making what constitutes a good choice less obvious.

I truly have no idea what the authors are referring to when they talk about other games being heavy on setting. They’re certainly not talking about D&D; if you want “vast histories of the land, tomes depicting all of the wars and conflicts over the years,” etc., etc., you can buy supplements that will happily provide all that stuff for you, but you’re not getting it in the core ruleset.

But when the authors say “Solipstry leaves the world creation to you,” that is actually very true. Solipstry leaves it ENTIRELY to you.

In a 95-page ruleset, Solipstry doesn’t get around to campaign settings — ostensibly its entire reason for existing — until page 75.

Everything before that is character creation and gameplay rules. Several sections are just D&D with the serial numbers filed off; “Feats” are now “Talents,” “Spells” are now “Abilities.” A truly “simple” game does not need 75 pages of character creation and rules. A game that claims to give you the tools you need to create unique settings needs to step the hell up and actually give you those tools.

The truly unique parts of Solipstry aren’t appealing. As one would expect from a game where levels have been done away with, the game goes into a lot more detail developing individual skills and how they’re used. But they way they’re implemented often makes a character’s base attributes (Strength, Intelligence, etc — just D&D but with Luck and Speed lobbed into the mix) largely irrelevant. From a mechanical standpoint, they’re frequently little more than fluff text.

In D&D, two characters with a Strength of 18 and 8 will have profoundly different feels and have very different capabilities. In Solipstry, two characters with a Strength of 30 and 10 are basically the same. The only real difference is that one is more vulnerable than the other to attacks that target Strength. Mechanically, when it comes to using strength-based skills, the stronger character has effectively two tenths of a +1 that they’ll be able to add to the relevant skill check.

This game sets some worthwhile goals, but I don’t feel like it actually achieves any of them. Solipstry isn’t any better suited to crafting interesting RPG settings than baseline D&D. Stripping class and levels from D&D is interesting in theory, but the way the game does it doesn’t make me interested in actually playing it.

Not recommended. I’ve been saying that I’d be willing to try most of these TTRPGs if the right players were enticing me, but getting me into a Solipstry campaign would be an uphill climb.

Will this next game achieve the goals it sets for itself?

Page 58, Game 1: A Light Long Gone by muddasheep

“Interactive music album release.”

Interactive music album? I have no idea what to expect. Color me intrigued.

Justice Playthrough #146: Wakamarina Valley, New Zealand

A dinky little walking simulator that somehow managed to impress the absolute shit out of me. This thing looks GREAT.

Page 3, Game 9: Wakamarina Valley, New Zealand by caves rd

Basically, this is a developer’s experiment in hyper-realistic environment creation. There isn’t really a “game” here, it’s just wandering around a little bit of simulated New Zealand nature.

So, how does it look?

It looks fantastic.




The screenshots do NOT do this fucker justice. It feels alive. Completely, totally alive.

I mean, check out what happens when I shove my face in some shrubbery!

Look at this shit! Leaves! Except I don’t have to leave my office and go outside and get bitten by bugs and maybe die of Covid-19!

There’s a VR version of this game, but the dev says that the desktop version is the better experience. To which I say … REALLY, bro? This looks like something I would use to show-off how bad-ass my VR rig is. I really want to see what this thing looks like from the inside of an Oculus.

Is this what Bethesda games are going to look like in the future? In fifteen years, when Skyrim’s bandits jump out at me and start stabbing me, are they going to leap out of caves that look like this?

Because I am fucking THERE for it.

Possibly most amazing of all was how damn SMOOTH the whole experience was. I’m rocking a four-year-old laptop, but I feel like I’m on a pimped-out gaming PC here. The next time one of the games on this list shits the bed performance-wise, this is the game I’m going to link to when I bitch about how inexcusable I found it.

It’s just a demo, but it’s one cool-ass demo. Definitely recommended.

Will the next game allow me to do something other than just wander around and gawk at how pretty it all is?

Page 58, Game 14: Solipstry by alrine

“A D20 roleplaying game system that allows you to create ANY world you can imagine.”

Ooh. Definitely calling that a yes.

Let’s imagine a world where … I … do a better job of getting to sleep at a reasonable hour?

I cannot seem to imagine things.

Perhaps I should get myself to bed.

Forbidden Lore Design Diary #11: Back To The Script

It turns out that having a relative die really kicks your side-project productivity squarely in the balls.

However, during my time off, the guy writing the tutorial I was using returned and finished it! Yay!

I’d been trying to do the start-up menu — and was getting bloody nowhere. I asked for some help on /r/roguelikedev, and it turns out that the developer had completely overhauled event handling in a way which would largely solve the problems I was having. He pointed me to the git repository showing the new code, but I was struggling to figure out all the places I’d have to change.

But then the tutorial got updated! Hooray! And it showed all the stuff I needed to refactor!

So I’m back on track, with a loading screen and everything.


I also got to check my savefile mechanism against the recommended version! The recommended version makes smaller files and seems a bit more efficient in general, but honestly, I prefer a lot of elements that I came up with.

Namely, my code for creating a backup of the autosave and restoring it if the save goes awry. I’m keeping that shit.

I also overhauled how monsters and treasure get generated so that it’s a bit easier to twiddle how often something does or doesn’t show up.

I’m back on this thing. I’m going back and forth about how deep I want to go into this once the tutorial is done. I’m a little put off by how difficult some “simple” things are, like creating basic menus or just communicating with the player in general. I’m wondering if I shouldn’t give the Unity engine a try for the product; the end result would wind up being more accessible, I’m sure.

Though I’m equally sure that has its own grab bag of headaches. Still. There are some assets for creating roguelikes in Unity that I could try out.

But for now, what the hell. The ASCII version of the project is moving forward again. May as well see it through to the end of the tutorial, at least.


Justice Playthrough #145: catharsis and shit (or, from which lilacs bloom)

… in which the basic bitchness of your humble reviewer once again comes to the fore.

Page 41, Game 25: catharsis and shit (or, from which lilacs bloom) by quinnntastic

It’s advertised as a TTRPG, but to me it feels more like a combination of guided meditation and group therapy. It’s about strangers, drawn together, just … talking. About dreams and fears and such.

I feel like if you get on this game’s wavelength, it could be quite moving.

I kinda have absolutely no idea how to do that.

If I had an opportunity to play a session guided by the author — or guided by someone who’s all “Oh, quinnntastic, we basically share the same brain!” — I’d gladly give it a try. But in the meanwhile, I’ll just accept that it’s not my jam and move on.

Is this next game gonna be more “me?”

Page 3, Game 9: Wakamarina Valley, New Zealand by caves rd

“Realistic exploration and photography sim set in countryside NZ.”

Fuck yeah! Let’s explore some hobbit holes!

Justice Playthrough #144: Social Justice Warriors

The good news: it is neither as snide nor as cynical as I initially thought it might be. It is earnestly about gamifying the experience of arguing via forum post, and does seem to be sincerely on the side of the angels.

The bad news: there’s really not much … there.

Page 2, Game 17: Social Justice Warriors by Nonadecimal

Someone on the internet is WRONG! Are you gonna stand for that? FUCK NO! TO YOUR KEYBOARD!

First thing to do: choose your adventurer!

I played a cleric of r/sex

Paladin! Cleric! Mage! Rogue!

Then, to the internets! FIGHT!

Prepare to be virtually destroyed, jerkass racist!

You have a finite amount of patience and reputation, and so do they. Choose the style of attack that will best strike their weakness while protecting your own!

My patience is exhausted, time to get dirty and shred a motherfucker’s rep

And … that’s it. That’s the game.

Do the most efficient job of making their color bars go down while trying to prevent your own color bars from going down.

There is no ongoing story, no larger quest. There’s a lot of flair, a lot of fun touches, social justice rangers and druids will pop by to give you support, the various arguments and counter-arguments are varied enough that they don’t repeat the same text….

And yet, they’re extremely repetitive. It’s all the shit you’ve dealt with if you’ve ever tried to engage malicious and/or stubborn dipshits online. Ultimately, it’s all in service of … nothing. Win the fight, move on to the next fight.

What do you accomplish? What cause do you advance? As far as I can tell, none — save for the glory of defeating your foes. Save for elevating your own pride.

Perhaps, when your patience is finally exhausted, you storm off and go toss $20 at Planned Parenthood or the ACLU. If so, you likely accomplish more in defeat than you ever do in victory.

Or you can return to the grind of the fight, where no matter how many idiots you vanquish in intellectual combat, there’s always another one behind them. Perhaps as individuals, their patience is finite … but as a group, it is infinite. Yours is not. Regardless of how many fights you win, your ultimate defeat is but a matter of time.

But why worry about it? Chase that fleeting glory. Chase that momentary dopamine rush of a cunning counterargument, a devastating retort, of an unexpected ally leaping to your aid.

None of it matters. You’re not making the world better, you’re just shouting. Don’t let that stop you. Keep shouting. Keep howling into the void. Try to ignore the void as it howls back.

Recommended only if you really, really like grinding for the sake of grind, or are jonesing for a meditation on futility.

Will the next game fill me with less existential despair?

Page 41, Game 25: catharsis and shit (or, from which lilacs bloom) by quinnntastic

“a collective feverdream”

Could honestly go either way.

Justice Playthrough #143: ISLANDS: Non-Places

When a basic bitch like me comes away recommending an artsy-fartsy anti-game, you know that you’ve got a really good artsy-fartsy anti-game thing.

This is a really good artsy-fartsy anti-game thing.

Page 1, Game 29: ISLANDS: Non-Places by Carlburton LLC

You are presented with a thing — something hazy, and familiar and monochromatic. Like, say, a bus stop.

Waiting on the 63-C line to Whimsyville

You may rotate around left or right, and you may click on things.

That’s it.

Click the right things, and stuff will happen.

I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that if you click the right things on this bus stop, a bus will roll up. Who’s getting out of the bus? What are they going to do?

Watch the scene play out in front of you, and find out.

Then, when it’s over, you’ll move on to the next scene. Like, say, a fountain.

Hmm, looks like it might be sputtering a bit

Islands is all about taking the familiar and turning it into something surreal and dreamlike. Even if the events sound mundane — Park a car! Fix a pipe! Repair an ATM! — the way they play out will be strange and beautiful.

This is another entry in the trawl where there’s not a lot of game to this game, so it’s going to live and die by the mood it sets and by how whatever happens holds your attention.

It established and maintained its mood of surreal whimsy, it held my attention.

There were frustrating moments. The only “game” element here is “okay, WTF do I click next?” Clicking around at random and hoping for the best doesn’t make for a compelling experience. But for the most part, the game does a solid job of dropping hints about what you need to do to make something happen next.

I’ve played other games with similar ambitions that completely sabotaged their sense of chill whimsy by making the question “What the hell does the game want me to do?” frustrating and opaque. There were moments like that in Islands. There were moments where I wasn’t sure if the game wanted me to do a thing, or if I’d successfully done the thing and the game was just slow-rolling whatever came next.

But those moments were honestly pretty unusual. I rarely felt stuck. Things proceeded, and I consistently wanted to see how they’d unfold.

It’s a strange and lovely way to spend an hour of your life. If that sounds the least bit appealing to you, I can definitely recommend it.

Will this next game attempt to disrupt my sense of reality?

Page 2, Game 17: Social Justice Warriors by Nonadecimal

“a satirical game about online interaction”

Game, if you’re using SJW as a pejorative, I am dialing the Jerkass ALL the way to eleven. Fair warning.

Justice Playthrough #142: Pet the Pup at the Party

It’s a trifle, but an adorable trifle I’m relating to super hard.

Page 23, Game 27: Pet the Pup at the Party by Will Herring

You are at a party. It is bullshit.

Do wanna know where bro got that pizza, though

You could try talking to people … but why? It’s just gonna be boring.

Such accuracy, very simulate

But! Somewhere at this party, there is a doggo! Go find that doggo before the time/your patience runs out and you say fuck this party and bail!

Puppersign … there’s a goodboi here somewhere….

Obviously, the game is very silly. The house you’re exploring is a procedurally generated nightmare. Why does this house have so many bathrooms? Why are there so many kitchens? Do any of the doors lead to the outside? I don’t think they do. There’s nothing but rooms you’ve already seen and people you don’t care about.

But somewhere is the pupper. He needs skritchies, and your skritchin hand is already deployed.

Gameplay basically just hide and seek. It is adorable, but it’s not particularly satisfying, unfortunately. There’s not much here beyond cuteness and novelty, and once I was acclimated to those, there wasn’t anything left.

But. If you look diligently and follow the borks, THERE IS A PUPPER!


If only all socially awkward moments provided such a satisfying alternative.

As of this writing, the game is priced as pay-what-you-want. So go on. Pet the pup. You know you wanna.

Will this next game make me wish I could have what it was offering?

Page 1, Game 29: ISLANDS: Non-Places by Carlburton LLC

“A surreal trip through the mundane”

Figuring out a safe way to experiment with hallucinogens is on my bucket list. So I’mma call this a “yes.”

Justice Playthrough #141: Roll+Heart

This isn’t for me and parts of it are a bit raw, but this is not terrible. If you’re a fan of romance-based visual novels, it might be worth a look.

And I definitely appreciate the take; it’s one I’ve never seen before. The game simulates both a role-playing game and the people playing it. As the game’s page puts it, it’s “the ultimate fantasy – a group who can consistently play tabletop every week!”

Page 15, Game 26: Roll+Heart by Owl Sanctuary Studios

So, you’re a player joining a new RPG group, one that uses a d20 but is NOT D&D. (I assume that’s for implementation purposes; D&D’s copyright holders are actually pretty generous in their licensing terms for using D&D mechanics in third-party products, just as long as you avoid certain things. Actually implementing a D&D game via code, however, seems like it’d be a real bitch.) Out of the game, cultivate relationships with your fellow players! In the game, go fuck up goblins and stuff!

The fantasy character is the one on the right

The game has two halves, neither of which I found super compelling after about an hour or so of gameplay. Though I am realizing that an interactive novel REALLY has to kick ass for me to enjoy it; it’s just not my genre. I feel capable of flagging the excellent stuff and calling-out the dreck, but Roll+Heart hits that middle ground where it’s not good enough to pull me in but could be quite appealing to someone who digs games like it.

The visual novel stuff lines up five other people who are all potential love interests, which honestly feels slightly yucky to me. The game seems to be trying to mitigate it by only offering player avatars that are at least somewhat femme-presenting, though I don’t recall the game ever using any gender-specific language in reference to me.

Hey, we both dropped our dice together

And, yeah, I suppose it’s less yucky if it’s a female or non-binary individual treating the game session as a hookup opportunity. But I myself very firmly and comfortably identify as a guy, and in real life, I emphatically don’t want to be THAT guy. You know, That Guy who treats RPG groups as an opportunity to potentially bang any fellow players he finds attractive? That Guy makes it uncomfortable and shitty for everyone. So even if the game is offering me an “out” — I’m not That Guy, instead I’m That Person Of Unspecified Gender Identity — the basic premise still winds up feeling a bit off-putting to me.

The game-within-the-game is fine, I suppose. You move, you do a thing. The tutorial claims the game shows you all the spaces you’ll be able to move to, but that’s not actually true. Then when you do the thing, you’re not really allowed to choose who you’re doing the thing to, and just have to trust the AI will select the correct ally to heal or the correct foe to smite.

… and in this one, I’m the one with the arrow at the bottom, ready to shoot some fools

The plot was kinda cute; I didn’t get far into it, but we recovered a locket for an old dwarf showing him and his late wife, young and in love. D’aw. Bonus points for staying on-theme, game.

However, I do note: the fantasy game-within-the-game is absolutely linked to the get-laid game-within-the-game; you can make progress in the latter by making sure you side with and support the correct characters in the former. Once again, you are That Guy Person Of Unspecified Gender Identity. “Hey, you’re just going along with their plan because you’re trying to get into their pants!” Yup.

In a sense, it’s weird that the game is eliciting this response. Last night, I stayed up late doing a little retro gaming, and even though I tend towards the White Hat choices, I still wind up doing some pretty horrifically violent shit. I guess the difference is that I’ve never once been tempted to use a ginormous axe to obliterate motherfuckers who my visions have identified as “bandits,” nor do I have the opportunity to turn into a giant wolf, tear apart people with my bare claws, and eat them. (Look, I don’t have access to my healing potions or spells in wolf form; it’s the only way I can heal.) But make women feel uncomfortable because they’re sharing a gaming table with me? That, I CAN do. I would much prefer not to — not even accidentally.

The more I type up this review, the less great I feel about this game. Not enough to tip me into fuck-this-game territory, but still, I’m pretty sure any game that asks me to pretend I’m using a TTRPG as an opportunity to mack on my fellow players is just gonna feel squicky to me no matter how well it’s done.

Still. If you’re a fan of the genre and don’t share my aversions, it might be worth your time.

Will the next game ask me to do stuff I find uncomfortable?

Page 23, Game 27: Pet the Pup at the Party by Will Herring

“you are at a house party. you do not know anybody. the clock is ticking… can you find the pup at the party??”


Justice Playthrough #140: Mnemonic™

Let’s be a flower and fuck things up!

Page 26, Game 12: The Valley of Super Flowers by AMAXANG GAMES

… wait, Norton recommends I NOT run this game. Norton doesn’t have enough data.

Man, what a shitty situation for indie devs to be in. Until enough people run the game without incident, Norton will regard it as suspicious. But until Norton stops regarding it as suspicious, I’m not gonna run it.

Sorry, mate. But I can at least take this one off the “Covered” list and the the randomizer come back around to it.

In it’s place, we’re gonna do….

Page 47, Game 7: Mnemonic™ by Pablo Lavín

“Shrink long texts to create shorter documents that are easier to memorize!”

Ah, it’s a summary tool! Dope. I tend to use more words than I ought to. Perhaps this will help me to trim my own excessive verbosity.

Let’s see what it has to say about a famous speech:

Four score&seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, new nation, conceived Liberty,&dedicated → proposition men created equal. Now we engaged great civil war, testing whether nation,/any nation so conceived&so dedicated, can long endure. We met on great battle-field war. We’ve come → dedicate portion field, final resting place for those who here gave their lives that nation might live. It’s altogether fitting&proper we should do this. But, larger sense, we cann’t dedicate — we cann’t consecrate — we cann’t hallow — this ground. Brave men, living&dead, who struggled here,’ve consecrated it, far above our poor power → add/detract. World’ll little note, nor long remember what we say here, but can never forget what they did here. It’s for us living, rather, → be dedicated here → unfinished work which they who fought here’ve thus far so nobly advanced. It’s rather for us → be here dedicated → great task remaining before us — from these honored dead we take increased devotion → cause for which they gave last full measure devotion — we here highly resolve these dead shall not’ve died vain — this nation, under God, shall’ve new birth freedom –&government people, people, for people, shalln’t perish from earth.

It DID reduce that text from 1475 characters to 1247, so that’s nice. But I’m not confident that represents an improvement.

But, let’s be fair; the original is a famously efficient piece of speechcraft by a legendary leader at the top of his game. Let’s see how it handles the random blatherings of some fool with a blog:

Wait, Norton recommends I NOT run this game. Norton doesn’t’ve enough data. Man, what shitty situation for indie devs → be in. Until enough people run game without incident, Norton’ll regard suspicious. But until Norton stops regarding suspicious, I’mn’t gonna run it. Sorry, mate. But I can at least take this one off “Covered” list&the randomizer come back around → it.

410 characters down to 372. That’s … not terribly impressive.

As a great man once said, people, people, for people, shalln’t perish from earth. But I’m kinda thinking perhaps this utility should.

With this next entry meet me on great battle-field war?

Page 15, Game 26: Roll+Heart by Owl Sanctuary Studios

“Slay Monsters and Conquer Romance in Roll+Heart from Owl Sanctuary Studios”

Aw yeah! Love is battle-field! I’mma conquer the FUCK outta some romance!