Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Killing Dinos in ARK

Greetings friends!

So how you been? Today for the first time in a while I'm going to talk something other than #Override.

Yup; today I'm talking about a game I've been playing called ARK: Survival Evolved.

Don't treat this as a review (which is why those regular readers may have noticed this post isn't a Second Opinion post. Instead this is just an initial findings, how I'm experiencing the game, what I'm liking, what I'm not liking, etc.


What is it?
ARK: Survival Evolved is a survival game on Steam. What that means is that it's a game where you the player needs to survive. Survival being the acquisition of goods and materials to build tools and shelter as well as weapons and similar.

Other similar games you may (or may not) be familiar with are The Forrest and Rust.

What makes ARK different?
Yup Dinosaurs! Small nippy ones that bite at your ankles, big scary ones who bite your head off and everything in between.

Dinosaurs are the primary AI antagonist. They are the bastards who sniff you out at night, smash in your straw hut and eat you.
I should point out at this time that I am playing on a PvE server. I have no interest in spending ages building an awesome weapon or whatever to have a player N levels above me to 1-Shot me and steal my hard work

But Dinos are also a tool in the game. You can game them and use them as guard dogs, attack-on-command pets and of course: mounts!
- Yup! You can tame a T-Rex and ride around on it like a boss!

What have I enjoyed so far?
To date I've had a great time. The first time I killed a Dinosaur (Dilophosaurus) I felt like a total bad ass! Yes it's pretty much the easiest Dino in the game, but who cares? I killed a Dino with a weapon I had crafted myself!

I'm also loving how the world feels. You're on an island inhabited by Dinosaurs and other players, but it really feels tribal. The first time I picked on something stronger than me (a Giant Tortoise) it killed me in next to no time. This taught me not to pick fights with Giant Torti. In fact that is largely how the game plays out for me. Every game session is a learning experience.

So to begin with a built a straw hut, I was super proud of myself as it had a cooking fire, four walls, foundations, a door and roof. I had gathered the materials and made it with cunning (hiding from scary dinosaurs) and patience. Then nice and happy I logged off in the house.

- Now in ARK your character is persistent. When you log off your character remains only in a 'sleeping' state but can be attacked.

Next day I log in to find out I had been killed by a Raptor, so I respawn and spend ages trying to find my hut again, this time it's missing a wall where the raptor broke through to attack me.

So I rebuild and build a bed. This requires a good amount of animal hides to build, so I go Dino hunting! Only herbivores, but after a while I return back with the hides and build a bed. The bed allows me to respawn back at the bed! So I know that if I die that night I can respawn there and not worry about finding my hut again.

Next day: log on and yup, I'm dead by Raptor attack again, so I respawn on my bed and see that 3 walls have been destroyed. Ouch!

The problem now is I'm starting to run out the natural resources in the area. In the distance I see a large Forrest, lots of trees! But it's a long way away, so I kill some Dinos, cook their meat, salvage some berries, fill up my water flask and set off on a trek to the Forrest.

After a long hike I reach it intact, but it's infested with Raptors, no doubt the same ones who've been attacking me while I sleep. Of course by now I've crafted a stone tipped spear and am able to kill the Raptors myself, I feel like an even bigger bad-ass!

So I gather the wood and materials before planning to head back. Then it hits me! You can fast travel between any bed you have built!

So I build a small hut, put in it only a bed. I can't use it to fast travel back to my primary hut as doing so will make me drop all my items. What it does mean however, next time I want to gather wood I can fast travel to my new satellite hut, harvest wood and the walk home. In other words only making the journey once, not twice!

Then I have to log. I know what's going to happen; Raptors! So I don't log out in my hut, instead I head down to the starting area beach and log out there. With hope nothing will eat me there.

And that's where I am now. No idea if I'll still be alive tonight, but I'm excited to see!

What don't I like?
Well for starters we have a very very long load screen. Seriously, it takes so long that you start to wonder if the game has crashed.

Next is the persistent presence in the world. Having to craft everything from scratch every day because a Dino attacked me during the 24hrs I was away from my computer is very annoying.

Then there's the spec itself. The game is super resource heavy! However it is in 'beta' status so with hope this will improve as time goes by.

Next, and possibly the biggest hate of mine: punching!

To begin with when you have no tools, you're left with your fists alone. You want some wood to build a pick-axe? You had better get punching trees! Yup... Punching... Trees...

I know, it's ridiculous.

Want to capture a dinosaur to tame? Punch it! Punch it in the head! Over and over until it gets knocked out.

Seriously, you begin the taming process by punching a dinosaur.

What we are looking at is a game mechanic that is used because it fits within the confines of the game rules, but by itself is a very silly mechanic.
- I mean c'mon... Punching trees?!?

Anyway, that's it from me for now! I'm loving the game and hope you will join me on the island!

Until next time; stay safe and be excellent to each other.

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Friday, 12 June 2015


Greetings friends!

Well it's finally here! The release I've been teasing for about a month, Version is finally ready and available for download and consumption HERE!

No doubt you are all probably wondering just what is new in this build?

Well I won't spoil the big twists but we have quite a major change to how armour is dealt with; gone is the Df stat on unit profiles. Yup, we got rid of a whole stat!!

Melee has been redesigned. Now if you attack from behind or the side it is treated the same as it was before, but if you attack from the front, there is a chance that the opponent will be able to attack you instead!
- There were many reasons behind this change. From a logic point of view it reflects how better armed or trained people will get the drop on those without the gear or training. From a game point of view it eliminates throw-away punch moves. Before if a unit was engaged in melee and unable to throw off a pursuit it would not be uncommon for a throw-away punch move to be made on the grounds that it might get lucky and hurt the opponent. Now such moves would actually open the attacker up to being attacked themselves!

Yup, for starters you will notice that gangs have been renamed as Troops. It's a more generic term and covers groups of the Accord who are more organised and militant than the Reavers. It's not perfect, but it's better.

So we have the introduction of the Hydan race. These are our version of the Space Elves. 40k has the Eldar, Star Trek has the Vulcans, Babylon 5 had the Mimbari, we have the Hydan!

First up are the Wraiths!
These guys are technologically advanced, Xenophobic a-holes who will shoot you with their laser rifles while hidden by stealth cloaking tech. How do you defeat them? Well that's the secret! But bringing down their defences sure sounds like a good idea to me!

Next we have the Trydan or 'True Hydan' as they call themselves. These are slightly less tech based than the Wraiths, even more xenophobic and 100 times more a-hole!

These are the ultimate sadistic bastards of Override. They junk themselves up on their home brewed street drugs, before sneaking in the shadows to insta KO you with their sleep collars. When they are not being sneaky bastards they are wading down the centre of the board with twin Yakuzi Pistols with a massive "Come At Me Bo!" sign strapped to their chests.

Plus there are little tweaks here and there, new equipment added. Some of it you will notice you can't use yet, this is down to no one having a Tm stat high enough to equip the items. That's intended! Remember that Override is a campaign led Sci-Fi game, so to get the most out of it you need to play the campaign rules, which are coming I promise!

Next up: Flavour titles for Troop Profiles. Like how the UEF Hacker is called a Comms-Tech, expect that for most if not all the other Troops.

Revised scenarios to remove fluffiness and make them a lot cleaner!

Hope you enjoy. Until next time, stay safe and be excellent to each other.

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Thursday, 11 June 2015

#OVERRIDE: The Convict - A Short Story Part I

The Kratel warrior watched as he saw big fist after big fist collide with human flesh, as skin rippled in shock and blood spurt from injury. The Kratel warrior watched as the smaller human lay on the floor, his fingers grasping to cover his beaten and bloody face, and he did not care. This was just another day in the Pig Pen, and just like every other day this fight along with tens of others would mean and resolve nothing.

This Kratel warrior went by the name Bal’Tek, famous for being the only Kratel held within Human custody, and this custody was the Northern Honos Penitentiary also known as the NHP, the Northern Pen’ or by their own inmates; the Pig Pen and in many cases just the Pig. Bal’Tek didn't understand the Human need to abbreviate everything. Within his own language Kratese the longer a title was the better it was and for each additional click, tut or growl that was added to the word or phrase, the more pronounced your own title was. It was just under twenty years before that he himself had had a long articulated title, in the form of Nug’ru Bal’Tek nK’Orm, a name that brought him much pride and one he wore as a badge of honour elevating him far above his peers. Sadly however those days were over.

Beside Bal’Tek sat a burly Human, his shoulders bulging at the slightest movement as if vying for an opportunity to escape from their fleshy bonds. The Human was a man who called himself Bull. When Bull had first arrived at the Pig he had seen the seven foot tall Kratel and instantly latched onto him. It was as if Bull thought that Bal’Tek would offer him protection against those who liked to break in new comers. Bal’Tek had said not two words to Bull, nor had provided him with any protection itself, however the other inmates new not to cause trouble with the Kratel, and as such by proxy, those around him which for now Bull counted himself fortunate to be included in.

“They’re really going at it” Bull mentioned to Bal’Tek. It was been a total of four Honos months since Bull had arrived at the Pig and in that time the Human had attempted on an almost daily basis to engage Bal’Tek in conversation. The Kratel however always responded in the same way each time; a small grunt that showed neither approval or disagreement. Bull however always assumed this meant that Bal’Tek was agreeing with him.

“You know Bal” continued Bull as Bal’Tek’s jaw clenched at hearing his name itself being abbreviated like spittle “I haven't seen The Man in a while; you?” The Man was another inmate at the Pig, called so for his actual name from East Asian Earth which while no one could pronounce correctly sounded a lot like the female name Sue.

Bal’Tek simply grunted in response as he flipped a thick long braid of hair away from his face as the Human continued with his daily droll about whatever he thought was relevant at the time.
“Yeah; come to think of it” Bull droned on as Bal’Tek closed his blood red eyes and covered his blue-grey face with large palms “there’s a lot of people I haven' seen in a while!” The Human continued in what Bal’Tek assumed was a list of inmates who had not be seen by others for a day, a week, a month or even more. Bal’Tek had stopped listening by the fourth name and began to stare towards the sky.

High above them the crystal blue sky of the Frozen North shone with the clearest and cleanest air on all of Honos. The temperature of the Frozen North was at a constant temperature lower than 40 degrees Celsius. It was for this reason Bal’Tek had assumed that the Humans had decided to build the Penitentiary where they did, as anyone who made it outside of it’s walls would die in a very short amount of time. The Pig itself was always held at a comfortable temperature constantly modulated by it’s invisible thermal bubble that surrounded the facility at all times. The bubble itself was something that fascinated Bal’Tek, for hours he would stare at where he knew the bubble was and wait for a storm to brew above it and rain down the basketball sized hail that the Frozen North was pretty infamous for. As each hailstone would hit the thermal bubble, it would fizzle in an instant sending a shock wave of light across the honeycombed matrix that the bubble consisted of. Most of the other inmates cared little for these light shows, but for Bal’Tek such sights were what kept him sane while incarcerated in the Pig surrounded by the weak, pathetically pink Humans who regularly scuffled among themselves for dominance.

There was something about the honeycombed light shows that made Bal’Tek feel normal again, like he was back on Krata Prime standing on his Baroness’ balcony and watching the bi-annual meteor shower that he adored so much. It was a similar patterning he watched at this time as series of hexagons spiralled across the vibrant cloudless sky. The Kratel had only seen this happen without a storm once before over six years before when the thermal bubble failed and had resulted in the death of eight inmates unable to reach the safety of the facility interior in time.

The patterns continued and grew in both vibrancy and pattern until soon the entire bubble was illuminated by it’s pattern. As if on queue the Kratel stood and walked calmly and with great determination towards the nearest inmate housing unit. Behind Bal’Tek his human follower; Bull raced to keep up as best he could.

“Bal!” Bull called as his feet struggled to keep pace “what’s up?”

Bal’Tek said nothing as he approached the facility guard positioned outside the inmate housing facility who raised his plasma rifle as the towering Kratel forged his way towards the guard.
“STOP RIGHT THERE!” Called the guard. Bal’Tek had known this guard since the human had arrived twelve years prior. He was a good human, always fair and valued the lives of the inmates before his own pay-cheque, a quality that was not shared by most of the other guards at the Pig. Bal’Tek stopped just inches before the barrel of the rifle and with a single clawed hand pointed skywards. The guard took his eyes away from the Kratel and Bull and looked skywards towards the series of now violently-glowing hexagons revealing the location of the thermal bubble-shield.

“Holy fu…” came the words from the guard’s mouth as he lowered the rifle and stepped aside allowing the pair inside the facility. Bal'Tek watched through insulted plasti-glass as the guard radioed to the other guards patrolling the recreational area and in a matter of moments the air was filled with shouting as inmate and guard alike sprinted for the nearest indoor complex. Moments turned to seconds as tens of humans pored through doors before an unmistakable sound like ten thousand nails on one thousand blackboards ripped through the air and the brightly lit hexagons above began to go out. An uncountable number of eyes were figuratively glued to windows and view screens as the ground was instantly covered in a fine frost that quickly grew over every pane of plasti-glass and one by one shorted out the view-cams that monitored the Rec-area.

With a knowing posture Bal’Tek rested against a wall, he had seen exactly how these events had unfolded, how one of the inmates had only a matter of hours before had been thrown in a scuffle into the base of the thermal bubble and had been instantly vaporised by it’s intense laser-based heat, but in doing so had caused a ripple effect across the bubble-shield. How shortly after the initial impact of inmate on laser the facility had begun it’s fortnightly power cycle causing it’s own disruption in the field, and how both effects met at exactly the same time within the highest peak of the bubble. It was a less than a one in a million chance but had resulted in the total breakdown of the Penitentiary’s primary defence and surveillance system.

Bal’Tek knew that this would mean they would be confined within their currently occupied facilities for at least two days for assistance from Nova Casa to arrive with adequate equipment repairs, how there was no way the Pig Guards would issue them the required thermal suits to allow them outside with a malfunctioning thermal bubble, and how after the bubble was repaired along with a new vid-camera network installed the power cycling pattern of the bubble would be adjusted to ensure it didn’t’s coincide with any recreational time in future, but that didn’t phase the Kratel as he stared at the frozen window. For the first time since his arrival at the Pig, Bal’Tek smiled.

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Monday, 8 June 2015

#OVERRIDE: An Update & 50k View Contest

Greetings friends!

So this morning I had the pleasure of checking out my blog stats (something I've been doing a lot of recently since announcing the #OVERRIDE Bounty Hunter contest) and was pleased to see my total page views had passed the 50,000 mark!

This in itself is a nice milestone for me, but more importantly it drew to a close my #OVERRIDE contest aimed at promoting the game and my blog.

We had a good number of people take part and helped to swell the volume of people interested but there could only be one winner...

...that winner was friend of the blog And Wiseman who via an exhaustive use of Facebook has helped promote these posts to audiences I could only have dreamed of reaching.

And has been contacted via email and I look forward to seeing just what he comes up with.

- For those tuning in late, the prize is being able to create a character in the game First Law: Override. The character will be a faction-less Bounty Hunter, able to be recruited by any gang of any Faction. Exactly what form this character will take I do not know, but I look forward to trying out.

It is my hope that while we are testing the Campaign rules, this Bounty Hunter will be the first named character to be 'released' allowing you the players to get a nice insight into the variety of skills and units available through our soon to be introduced system: Mercs!


Seems like a good place to drop this; so what are Mercs?

Mercs (the more I write that word, the less it looks like a real word) are our version of Special Characters.

Unlike normal units, a Merc has a unique stat profile and loadout that can never be adjusted. That's right, you can't hire a Sharpshooter Merc and decide you want to give them a shogun instead.

They also come with a set of skills which are also unchangeable and possibly unique to them in some cases. Likewise they are fully immune to the campaign progression rules. They can't suffer injuries or learn new stats/skills, they are also never actually members of your gang, they are only treated as gang members for the length of an individual game.

Almost all Mercs belong to a Faction; either the Accord or Reavers and should work with almost any Gang within that Faction providing it doesn't clash with any Animosity they may possess.

- Animosity is a skill held by Mercs that is set to a certain type (eg - Animosity: Humans) what this means is that the unit in question gains a set bonus when fighting that type, but they can not be recruited into a gang that is currently fielding any of that type. So a Reaver Merc with Animosity: Humans could work with Red Claw or Trydan but not Raiders.

The exception to these rules are the Bounty Hunter from this competition (subject to change).

I should point out however that Mercs come at a cost. They can not clash with existing rules (The Leader skill for example states that you can only field a single unit with the skill at a time. This means you can not hire a Leader Merc as well as your normal Leader Unit). Plus they cost more Notoriety than a normal unit of that type. So if you want to hire a sharp shooting Trydan sniper for your Red Claw gang, not a problem (Animosity aside) but it will eat up a chunk of your Available Nt Balance.

What this means is that it is possible (currently) to field an entire gang of Mercs, but you will be very low on models, and in those cases that gamble may pay off, or may blow up in your face.


In other news; I have begun my next short story, however am finding a few problems with it.

I need to do some revisions here and there but will probably not get part 1 out until after the end of the week. I'll try and get it out before then, but can't promise anything.


That's all for now! Expect the next build of Override to be hitting your devices soon!

Until then; stay safe and be excellent to each other!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

#OVERRIDE: Fluff Writing

Greetings friends!

A bit of a short one from me today as I try and explain to the best of my abilities how I go about writing fluff for the game First Law: Override.

Many of you may have noticed that for this game every single race including the Humans, Hydan & Kratel all have quite literally centuries of fluff behind them telling their stories that led them to be where they are now.

As my friend Tom so eloquently put it in a recent discussion with me, I look at things from a top down perspective; we look to introduce a new gang or race and in the space of 1-2 emails I provide him and you my readership with timelines and events that span generations while also writing short stories showcasing individuals living within the modern setting of the game.

How do I do this? What techniques and tricks do I employ to bring to you an entire culture of information that is (hopefully) both engaging but also plausible?

Honestly; I couldn't tell you.

My style of writing is to let a story tell itself.

Now I know how this may sound, after all every story that comes from my head must have originated from me, but I would be lying if I said I felt that I had an active hand in the telling of these stories. Instead I start off the story and allow it to play out.

There are virtually no revisions in fluff, instead I just open my brain and free associate onto paper. Because of this we have some stories and events which are probably nothing shy of total pants, other times (I would hope) absolute gems!

So I can not explain how these translate from my unconscious thought into written word. What I can do however is try to put down points that you may find in a 3rd parties' interpretation of my writing.


For starters; I'm an avid history buff. One of my favourite studies at school was history - covering the rise and fall of the Nazi party, Communist Russia, the British Empire and Mussolini's Fascist Party.

I am also an over-analyser. I love to look at past and present events and try and see how they came to be.

The closest thing I have to a religion is what can only be described as Pseudo Chaos Theory and how every action that takes place in our world and beyond has both minor and major effects.

I also have an educational background in Psychology and one of my favourite parts of that is looking at the behaviour of people and how easy it is for normal people to turn to extremes due to differing environmental factors.

Then there is my Sci Fi background. When other people my age were being raised on Star Wars & Buck Rodgers, I was introduced to Aliens & Predator which created an almost obsession based love for the franchise.

All of this put together creates what I can only assume is a background influence that drives me to tell stories merging each and every factor together until we have the (still in development) story of First Law: Override.

I'm sure you will already have seen certain similarities between my writings and that of other franchises as well as classic Sci-fi tropes:

The Honos Mining Corporation (HMC) being heavily influenced by Weyland Yutani from Aliens.

The UEF being the USCM and other similar military based groups.

The Hydan with both 'space elf' tropes combined with aspects of the Babylon 5 Mimbari.

The Kratel who have traits from the Predator Yautja and Native Human Tribes.

The Pha'Nur being a combination of Alien, Zerg and Locust (the bug).

The AI Network being Skynet crossed with Shodan & GLaDOS.

But these are all unconscious inspirations where somewhere in the reptile part of my brain they were merged together in an almost primal soup to create the product you read about today.


For events I largely look to Human history. How did we act in certain circumstances, and if those circumstances were different how might we act instead?

They say that if you do not learn from History then you are destined to repeat it. Certain things are just part of Human nature, but how much of Human nature is truly Human? If you had an alien race that was subject to a rise of technological bursts like we had with the industrial revolution of the 1800s or even now with the continuous stream of new tech being pumped out of Silicon Valley and Asian countries, would they react the same way? Is the combined embracing of new advantageous technology all the while holding a deep seated, almost Jungian fear of it and the subliminal threat it poses to the status quo, is this something distinctly Human or just a 'natural' reaction shared by all advanced beings?

Who is good and who is bad? Are the Accord good and the Reavers bad?

If you spoke to the Accord they would tell you that they are good; that they play as peacekeepers on a primitive world where crime syndicates and terrorists try to create upheaval and chaos to put themselves on top.

Speak to the Reavers and they will tell you of the crimes committed by the Accord on it's own people, of their use of political correctness to establish civilisations devoid of homeless and unemployed by simply sending them away to ghettos where they will be out of sight and mind.

Compare this to our own history; of civil rights movements, of conquerors and invaders, of one country demanding that others did what it said because it inherently believed that it was right, and when there was any doubt relying on 'might makes right'.

As a people we are driven by conflict and competition and it stands to reason that in a setting with multiple advanced races, they would all be driven in one way or another by those same motivations. Yes their worlds would be different, but history has proven without a doubt that those who thrive on competition prosper. What happens when a race tries to prosper and advance when surrounded by stronger, smarter and faster races? They die out. Humanity was able to evolve due to our ability to craft and use weapons, this gave us an advantage in conflict environments that other life on Earth could not compete with, and we dominated where we could. It stands to reason that the same would happen on other worlds as well.

These are all topics that not only intrigue me, but I want to explore. My exploration is creating 'what if' environments, which is what has lead to the story of First Law: Override, and it is with great anticipation that I hope the journey so far has been enjoyable.

- Ok so maybe it's not such a short post after all...

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley