*Before I turn this over to DGM — who is talking about stuff my kids talk about but I don’t get at all (it’s not even age. I’m not a visual person. I feel the same bewilderment when husband goes on about movie actors. Mostly I read and write. Blame it on early training. — let me explain he wrote this not only before Greebo died, but when I had no idea he’d leave us this soon. The emails have just made it impossible for me to get this post till now. I told him to leave the references in, I figure the fuzzy buzzy would have enjoyed it. Turns out his editorial enforcer is Havelock who, if you don’t write, licks your fingers with his sand paper tongue while shedding enough to make you die of asthma, so…. it’s not what we expected, but it’s not wrong. – SAH*
Let’s Play Promo – by DGM
Being somewhat overwhelmed by life recently, our beloved hostess has sent out the call for guest posts. And so I find myself writing one for reasons that have nothing to do with Greebo the Editor and his hired leg-breakers (as said leg-breakers have instructed me to assure you). So I’ve decided to do a variant on the Sunday book recommendation threads, but with let’s plays instead of books.
For those who don’t know, a let’s play is an art form in which you record or write about your experience playing a game for an audience. They can range from dramatic to comedic to purely analytical. Some even involve audience participation. As with all art forms Sturgeon’s Law applies, but there are some good ones and – as someone who’s read a fair number of LPs – I can point you to some of them.
I’ll start with someone whose work I think will be of particular interest to this crowd. He goes by Nweismuller and is a long-running LPer over at the Something Awful forums. There are two reasons I think you’ll like him.
First, he’s what people here would consider a Human Wave writer. He specializes in a genre of games known as 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate) in which you control one of several factions and gradually build up an empire. While the SA crowd often goes for chaos, silliness and outright evil for the lulz, Nweismuller runs his empires with an eye towards achieving peace, prosperity and individual liberty for his people.
Second, he has a very strong focus on lore and world-building. He’ll take whatever elements the game provides and build on them, turning what might normally be a dry play-through into an epic, detailed story of a civilization’s rise. He’s also very heavy into audience participation; not only do the readers get to make major policy decisions for him as he plays, but they’ll often spontaneously create and role-play characters whose actions sometimes even get incorporated into the LP.
The links for his LPs go to a database for completed SA lets plays, which are free to read. These entries also include links to the original threads in which the LP took place, but you’ll need an SA forums account with the archives access upgrade to read those. As of this writing it’s $9.95 for a basic account and the same again for the archives upgrade, so it’s not cheap. But it’s a lifetime membership and there’s plenty to read there in just the gaming sub-forums alone. And the Nweismuller threads might be of interest as there’s a lot of roleplaying and humor from the readers that doesn’t always make it into the LP proper.
But enough of that. On to the games!
SID MEIER’S ALPHA CENTAURI
BACKSTORY: In the year 2060, the Unity – mankind’s first starship – leaves Earth bound for the Alpha Centauri system. It’s mission: to deliver sleeping colonists to the planet Chiron. But as the ship nears its destination 40 years later a malfunction forces the premature revival of the crew, leaving them trapped on a ship that was never meant to hold them all while awake.
Overcrowding is rampant and supplies are dwindling. The captain is assassinated by an unknown party and the crew fractures into 7 opposing factions, divided along ideological lines. There is no signal from Earth, suggesting not only disaster back home but that the colonists might even be the last humans left alive. Worst of all, the damaged ship is locked on a collision course with Chiron and is doomed to break up in atmosphere.
Desperate to avoid extinction, the leaders come together and strike an uneasy truce. Each faction will take one of the Unity’s landing vehicles and a share of the remaining supplies and make their own way down to the surface, to govern themselves as they see fit. The colonists survive Planetfall but find that their troubles are only just beginning; Chiron is nothing like what they expected and there’s far more to its hostile, alien ecosystem than meets the eye…
LP NOTES: Nweismuller plays as Morgan Industries, a faction dedicated to free market economics and prosperity. If you only read one of his LPs, I recommend this one. Same goes if you decide to only read one of the original threads.
Here’s a video with the intro cutscene followed by a short piece of character-establishing dialogue for each of the seven faction leaders (plus a guy reciting a poem for some reason): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ZxKDaOBMKc
And here’s the LP itself, with a link to the original thread near the top of the page: https://lparchive.org/Sid-Meiers-Alpha-Centauri-(by-nweismuller)/
MASTER OF ORION 2
BACKSTORY: Long ago, two races – the Orions and the Antarans – dominated the galaxy and made war on each other. So advanced was their technology that it is said they hurled entire star systems as weapons. In the end the Orions won and banished the surviving Antarans to a pocket dimension, where perhaps they live still and scheme to return. But sometime afterwards the Orions themselves disappeared for reasons unknown. They left behind nothing but their homeworld and a mighty, unmanned warship known only as the Guardian to protect its riches.
Aeons later, a new set of younger races have begun to reach the stars. One of them is yours…
LP NOTES: Nweismuller plays as the humans, who have the Charismatic advantage and a representative democracy. This makes them good at science, wealth production, diplomacy and assimilation of conquered populations (yeah, I know), although it does mean they’re weak against espionage and can’t just annihilate the people they conquer.
They also have Sean Connery as their chief scientist for some reason. Don’t ask, I don’t know either. It’s just there.
The LP is here: https://lparchive.org/Master-of-Orion-2-(by-nweismuller)/
He has a second MOO 2 LP in the database if you want to look it up, but this is the better one in my opinion.
MASTER OF MAGIC
BACKSTORY: Welcome to the parallel worlds of Arcanus and Myrror, where you are a fledgling wizard-king with the potential to become the greatest wielder of magic of all time. Of course, you’re not the only one. Others are competing with you to not only expand their own kingdoms but to discover the Spell of Mastery, which will give its caster total control over magic itself and render all others helpless before them. With nothing less than living godhood at stake, don’t expect your rivals to play fair…
LP NOTES: Nweismuller plays as Queen Dagmaer Flodmarsdottir (a character he made up himself), a specialist in life/holy magic and ruler of the industrious dwarven race.
The LP is here: https://lparchive.org/Master-of-Magic/
Moving on, let’s turn to comedy for a bit and look at another LPer: Tom Francis. Tom is a former game journalist who eventually turned game designer. If you’ve ever heard of Gunpoint or Heat Signature, he’s the guy behind those. He’s currently making a game called Tactical Breach Wizards.
Many years back he did two LPs for a game called Galactic Civilizations 2. It’s a bit like MOO 2 in that it’s a space-based 4X game, but not having played it I can’t say much more about it. But his LPs for it both become somewhat famous, and deservedly so. In the first he plays a race of vicious, warmongering bunny rabbits who utterly fail at conquest and have to research their way out like good little nerds. In the second he plays a race of pacifist rabbits who end up slaughtering half the galaxy.
Yeah, it’s as weird as it is entertaining. But then, so is Tom. I can’t help but think he’d fit right in here.
The first LP is easy to provide, as it’s all right here: https://www.pcgamer.com/tag/galactic-civilizations-2-diary/
The second is a bit trickier. The original copy of the LP is gone but I’ve found a text-only copy on a site called Pastebin. The images seem to be lost permanently, but you don’t really need them. Interestingly, it seems there was also a book version that went out free with an old issue of PC Gamer. It’s listed on Goodreads, but none of the online stores they link to seems to have it. I’ve no idea where you could find a copy now.
Here’s the online, text-only version: https://pastebin.com/VAmetaDf
And here’s the Goodreads page, in case anyone wants to take a stab at finding a hard copy: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18067822-galactic-civilizations-ii
Anyway, that should be enough to keep you entertai- hang on, Greebo is insisting that I pad this out a bit more. I want to tell him no but I just don’t have it in me; I never could resist a cat, especially when he’s menacing me with a switchblade. I think it’s the eyes that just melt my heart.
Fine. I’ll give an honorable mention to Chokes Mcgee and his let’s play of the original Wizardry. Chokes is another Something Awful regular who focuses on CRPGs (computer role-playing games) and extremely oddball adventuring parties. Wizardry 1 is an old game that helped father the CRPG genre, and it’s not a game you’d expect Lincoln Sternn and company to wander through.
Yes, THAT Sternn: the comedically corrupt space captain from Heavy Metal. Wizardry is one of those games that lets you create your own adventuring party and Wizardry + Sternn is not a combination I would ever have expected to see. This LP gets the honorable mention for the sheer weirdness of the concept. You can find it here here: https://lparchive.org/Wizardry-Proving-Grounds-of-the-Mad-Overlord/
While I’m at it – and by that I mean “while Greebo is still glaring at me impatiently” – here’s a quick rundown of other notable CRPG LPs by Chokes in case you want more:
He has one for the first Final Fantasy Legend game for the original Gameboy. It’s a heartwarming tale of a ragtag bunch of misfits banding together, climbing a strange tower that connects multiple dimensions and murdering God with a chainsaw. It’s here: https://lparchive.org/Final-Fantasy-Legend-(by-Chokes-McGee)/
He also did the second Final Fantasy Legend game (also for the Gameboy). It involves another group of misfits climbing a tower-like thing that connects dimensions, because apparently the multiverse is just lousy with those. There’s less power tool-assisted deicide in this one, but there’s a robot and a murder-happy valley girl if you’re into that sort of thing. And if you are into that, I probably don’t want to know why. Here’s the link: https://lparchive.org/Final-Fantasy-Legend-II/
He also LPed Paper Sorcerer, which is actually a more modern game that’s sort of a love letter to old-school CRPGs (Wizardry 4 in particular). You play an evil sorcerer who got captured and imprisoned inside a magic book and is trying to escape with the help of summoned minions. One of said minions is even a minotaur, although his personality is nothing like our Orvan’s. Sadly, Chokes didn’t actually finish this one, which is a shame as I think it was his best one so far. But it went on long enough that it’s still worth reading. Since it wasn’t finished it wasn’t put in the database, so you can only get it by reading the original thread (which requires an SA account with the archive upgrade). But if you have access you can find it here: https://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=3763641
Finally, he’s got a currently-ongoing LP of several of SSI’s Gold Box games for the Advanced Dungeons and Dragon system. The twist is that instead of making yet another weird party he’s shanghaied characters from his previous LPs (though you don’t need to have read them all to appreciate it). Since this one’s still ongoing (as of this writing, at least) it’s not in the free database yet, but you’ll only need a basic SA account if you want to read it (or even participate in it). The thread for it is here: https://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=3899403
…Okay, is THAT enough?
Good. They’re finally letting me go so that will be all for now. That turned out way longer than I expected, but I guess that’s what happens when you’ve got Greebo’s Editorial Mafia breathing down your neck and demanding content. Please be sure to let Greebo know how much you hated this whole idea and never want to hear from me again so I don’t get another visit from him.