The Voyage of the Kansasian

October 1st, 2012 11:09 AM
Filed under Game trail, Software showcase;
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A little game that's been making the rounds this month is FTL: Faster Than Light, released on September 14 for Windows, Linux, and Mac. It is first game to have sought Kickstarter funding and be released after Double Fine Adventure broke the dam on indie game funding. Like Tim Schafer, FTL developers Subset Games got much more than they asked for: their goal was $10,000, and they got $200,000.

Some of the media is describing FTL as a roguelike — that is, a game like Rogue, a fantasy role-playing game that was ported to the Apple IIGS. (Don Worth's Beneath Apple Manor for the Apple II has also been described as a roguelike, even though its release predates Rogue by two years.) A roguelike is "characterized by level randomization, permanent death, and turn-based movement", though the outer space setting and spaceship interface of FTL has prompted its developers to call it a "roguelike-like".

Gamer and KansasFest alumnus Wayne Arthurton decided to plot a retro course for his FTL spaceship by christening it after the premier Apple II convention and manning it with fellow geeks. The virgin flight of the Kansasian was last week, with more adventures to follow:

Like Wayne, I too have named characters after Apple II users. Andy, Wayne, and I are all gamers on the Xbox 360, where we sometimes play Worms 2: Armageddon. Annelids named Sheppy and Antoine have taken a few bazooka missiles to the face in their day.

Another opportunity to connect KFesters with gaming may come at KansasFest 2013, where it's been proposed we play Artemis, a starship simulator modeled after Star Trek. Artemis networks several Windows terminals as bridge stations such as helm, communications, and weapons. Here's a sample of a game with a six-person bridge crew:

Who knows in what other actual or virtual gaming environments we KFesters may encounter each other?

UPDATE: Artemis is coming to iOS and will be cross-platform compatible with the PC original. That should make a KansasFest session much easier to arrange. Thanks for the heads-up, Sean Fahey!

A Rogue kestrel

July 29th, 2010 3:45 PM
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Retro Gamer magazine is so densely packed with fascinating content that, despite issue #79 having just hit store shelves, I'm still reading issue #76. It's there that I found a four-page article on Rogue, one of my favorite computer RPGs. Rogue was first published for Unix in 1980 and was eventually ported to practically every platform, including the Apple IIGS, made possible by its graphically simple interface. The top-down display is drawn entirely in ASCII, leaving a vast space in which players could imagine themselves and the dungeon.

The game is mercilessly difficult, with the the Rog-O-Matic, a program that plays Rogue, is reported to have played 10,000 games in four hours and have won only six times. The challenge arises despite the presence of food, magic, weapons, and armor, as the monsters (all represented by letters, remember!) stalk and assault you well before you make it to the dungeon's last level.

Although I cannot at this time remember what ASCII character represents the kestrel — it wasn't 'K', those were kobolds — I do remember them being common foes, especially early in the game, where most adventurers meet an early demise. So imagine my shock to find myself being threatened by such a creature on a recent trip to the Omaha Zoo:

A kestrel is a bird. Nothing else. Not a fantastical monster or a ravaging beast. Just a plain old bird. I guess your imagination supplies the rest.

Besides Retro Gamer, the book Vintage Games by Bill Loguidice and Matt Barton (the latter whose book Dungeons and Desktops Andy Molloy reviewed for Juiced.GS) also delves into the history of Rogue. That particular chapter is available for free online at Gamasutra.

To play the game for yourself, download the Apple IIGS version as a GZIPped BINSCIIed file.