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Archive for the ‘Tech’ Category

No. 1 of #52Stories: Limbo

16 January 2017
Posted in: 52 stories, Gaming, Reviews | No Comments

52 Stories 2017You know that feeling of being in a dream, where the world feels a bit out of focus, where everything is just a little out of reach, and where you have a sense of knowing that you have to go on but no idea why? Well, Limbo is sort of like that. I would go so far as to say that it’s a work of art, one whose its strength lies in its simplicity.

The surreal world of Limbo

Limbo dates back to 2010, developed by the independent Danish studio Playdead (who have since brought out another, very similar game called INSIDE in 2016). It is a puzzle platformer, but nothing like you’ve ever seen before. In Limbo the player controls the protagonist, a little boy who wakes up on the floor of a forest. You don’t have any information about who he is or what he is supposed to do; you can’t even point and click at things. All you have are the arrow and alt keys to make him move, jump and interact with his environment, that is, push and pull.

The gameplay takes place in the aforementioned forest, a vile, menacing space. The forest is full of dark shadows and blurry shapes. As the boy goes deeper into this nebulous, murky world, he confronts untold dangers and seemingly insurmountable obstacles. But he must keep going—who knows where and why. This incongruity of a seemingly innocent little boy along among the concealed dangers of this surreal world is what gives Limbo its edge and you, the player, a chill down your spine.

The surreal world of Limbo

The artwork is hauntingly engaging—silhouettes in shades of grey, used beautifully to convey a sense of depth. The cute-creepy little protagonist is but a solid featureless figure with two bright spots as eyes. The foreground in which the action takes place is also in dark silhouette, and lighter greys are used to convey depth and layers, while light streams in to create soft shadows and highlight dust motes, and underline that sense of dreaminess. But the softness of the environment is skin deep, for you don’t need to go too far to find the menace in Limbo. You must steel yourself to watch the little boy fall, and by that I mean die, and die in gruesome ways. There’s no blood, no mourning. He just gets up and tries again.

Death is serious in Limbo. Timing and the environment are all you have to bridge unpassable terrain, to keep going, to defeat the vile creatures that bar your way, and to bypass the deadly traps that will sever your protagonist’s limbs. Yes, the deaths can be grisly—you watch the kid getting snapped in two, decapitated, skwered by the legs of a giant spider; you watch him go limp when he falls into water, you watch his body crumple when he falls from a height. You don’t need graphic imagery to recoil when steel traps squelchily snap the little body into pieces or when all sounds stop as water engulfs the boy and he stops moving.

Gameplay-wise, there’s a fair bit of trial and error to get past certain sections, made a little bit harder because you know that every failure means you have to watch the grim death scene again. And, of course, the puzzles do get harder as you go on. Thanks to the short chapters, there are frequent autosaves, meaning that you don’t always have to redo a really complex bit that you just about managed after many tries.

Since I have yet to get to the end of Limbo, I don’t yet know what the story will unfold. It’s already one of my favourite games of the year and it’s still the first half of January.

~PD

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Woes of a data-starved gamer

24 February 2016
Posted in: Gaming, Scratchpad, Tech | 1 Comment

Finally, I have a new gaming laptop, one from the Asus Republic of Gamers series (Dell’s Alienware was what I really wanted, but the bank balance had the last word). In the one month that this monster has come into my life, you’d imagine that I’ve been immersed in games. Unfortunately, that has not been the case.

Ever since I discovered my love for gaming—which was about a decade and a half ago—I’ve coveted a gaming computer. In the beginning, such a magical device was priced way out of my wherewithal. Later on, the priorities of work life kicked in and mobility became much more important. When I finally discovered that I could have a work computer and a gaming computer, I found myself with one foot in almost-middle-age. Nevertheless, if there’s one thing advancing years help you realize, it’s that if you don’t do the things you want to now, you’ll soon find yourself occupied with trying to remember where you left your glasses and teeth.

Thus, my gaming laptop entered my life and the first thing I did, after setting it up and removing the crapware, was install Thief to get on with my unfinished game, in high settings this time. Meanwhile, one of my friends pulled off a terrific mind-reading feat and sent across a game I’d been eyeing for a while, Wolfenstein: New Order, but would definitely have been wishful thinking for my four-year-old Mac (running Bootcamp). Plus, in the past few months, I’ve been thinking of wiping out my gaming backlog, which includes games from the Mass Effect, Dragon Age and BioShock series, plus stuff like Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Portal 2, which I’m very close to finishing. Oh, and I do have an eye on Sims 4.

However, because gaming aquisition has gone almost exclusively cloud-based, I was suddenly faced with massive amounts of downloads. Wolfenstein: New Order is a 40 GB download; Deus Ex: HR needs a 7 GB update (!) after installation, as will most other games. Which brings me up against the almost crippling data limits at our disposal. My (unlimited) internet connection has a fair-use limit of 50 GB after which it drops to 1 Mbps. That, admittedly, isn’t all that awful, but it still encourages the wrath of other people who share your home! Of course, the third world isn’t the priority of the gaming industry, which is annoying and not difficult to see why rampant piracy exists. (Another reason for this is, of course, the existence of silly DRM policies, about which I’ve ranted here.) I have been tempted to go down the bootleg route, but haven’t so far even though it’s hard to ignore its convenience.

However, in the interests of keeping things legal, here’s hoping that Wolfenstein will be ready to play by the time I return from my travels, in early March. After that, it might be time to get Sims 4 and set it to download for the next couple of months. But meanwhile, Thief draws to a close and I shall have to admit, it has been super playing with all the settings cranked up. You can even see the texture of skin on the back of Garrett’s hand…

That’s happiness, that is. 🙂

~PD

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Hello 2016, bye 2015

1 January 2016
Posted in: Gaming, Scratchpad, Writeside, Writing | 2 Comments

2016Oh well, time for the traditional end-of-year/beginning-of-another post. A somewhat sheepish one, for 2015 was a year wasted. In all fairness, some of it was out of my control, but some definitely of my own making.

Here’s what my plan for the year was and how I fared:

  1. Another 52 weeks of blogging. (Done!)
  2. Start on Satin 2. (I thought about it many times. Does that count?)
  3. Go swimming in the summer. (I went twice. :D)
  4. Learn a language. (Um… I already know four…)
  5. And, of course, try to finish Amazing Grace. (I didn’t finish it, but I made a decent amount of progress.)

And this wasn’t on the list, but there’s a new design ready for Writeside.net. Now I just have to code it…

The list for 2016 is:

  1. Implement the new design for Writeside.net.
  2. FINISH WRITING A BOOK! No, seriously, I’ve got four of them going right now.
  3. Stay healthier than I managed in 2015 (shouldn’t be too difficult!).
  4. Travel somewhere fun.
  5. Work on the workshops (details later, if relevant).
  6. Play more games.

Happy 2016 in case you’re reading this. May you read lots of wonderful books or write some yourself—and may other good things happen too.

~PD

(Graphics courtesy BSG Studio on all-free-download.com)

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