February 2016 News

2016-02-012021-01-04 finished certainty: log importance: 0

This is the Feb­ru­ary 2016 edi­tion of the Gw­ern.net newslet­ter; pre­vi­ous, . This is a sum­mary of the re­vi­sion-his­tory RSS feed, over­lap­ping with & ; brought to you by my donors on Pa­treon.





  • Thors­by’s Trans­di­men­sional Brain Chip (An­other Thorsby we­b­comic has fin­ished. You know what you’re get­ting: clever high­-con­cept plot which keeps slowly build­ing with oc­ca­sional com­edy of er­rors, semi­-awk­ward writ­ing, and MS Paint art that never im­proves. If you liked Ac­ci­den­tal Space Spy, you’ll like this. If not, not.)
  • Chan­son de Geste (Nar­nia fan­fic­tion: re­alpoli­tik-Chthu­lian ro­mance. Game me­chanic re­minds me of The Player of Games.)
  • Lem’s (re­view)






  • is a 2D pix­el-art scrolling 1-hit-death run-and-gun ac­tion-shooter in the vein of with a War on Terror/‘Murica’/1980s-action-movie the­me; it adds an al­most-fully de­struc­tible en­vi­ron­ment and em­pha­sizes ver­ti­cal move­ment, so it’s the campy off­spring of Metal Slug & Minecraft. The homages to MS are par­tic­u­larly no­tice­able in the ve­hi­cles you can use to fight in and how the ter­ror­ist en­e­mies give way to alien en­e­mies with oc­ca­sional three­-way bat­tles. I loved MS as a kid for its beau­ti­ful sprites, touches of hu­mor (like sneak­ing up on Nazis while they chat­ted), and per­fect­ly-bal­anced ac­tion game­play, so when I saw BF come up on Steam dur­ing the 2016 Lu­nar sale for $7.49, I bought it. I fig­ured even as a sin­gle-player game, it looked fun.

    Over­all, I en­joyed it a lot. The con­trols are slick & re­ac­tive, with the de­fault map­ping of the up d-key to ‘jump’ quickly com­ing to feel nat­u­ral; the ac­tion is al­most in­stantly ad­dic­tive, es­pe­cially as you start to fig­ure out how to work around the limit that you can usu­ally only shoot hor­i­zon­tally and you are often out­ranged so if you ap­proach en­e­mies the straight­for­ward way, you will typ­i­cally die im­me­di­ate­ly. There’s a lot of fun in fig­ur­ing out how to best dig be­neath en­e­mies and at­tack them from be­hind, panic or shoot the sui­cide bombers into ex­plod­ing amid a group of en­e­mies, shoot out the ground un­der­neath a tricky op­po­nent, or set up chain re­ac­tions of ex­plo­sions; since you do not choose which char­ac­ter & weapons you use, you also must learn how to work with in­di­vid­ual char­ac­ters in differ­ent sit­u­a­tions (the Man in Black has a pow­er­ful shot, but the re­coil means it can be tricky to use with­out knock­ing your­self into a pit or drop­ping a boul­der onto your head; the Ter­mi­na­tor’s mini­gun is fan­tas­tic for tun­nel­ing but also has steady re­coil and takes a frac­tion of a sec­ond to spin up; Mac­Gyver’s bomb throw­ing is more use­ful than it ini­tially seems be­cause you can de­stroy parts of the en­vi­ron­ment far from you and cre­ate im­promptu sui­cide bomber­s). It bor­ders on a physics puz­zle game at times. While some­what rep­e­ti­tious, there’s enough va­ri­ety in level de­sign to keep one in­ter­est­ed: many lev­els are straight­for­ward run-and-gun, but when en­coun­ter­ing a mecha, it may be best to tun­nel un­der­neath it to kill it in­stead of hi­jack­ing it, and in a level with con­stant bom­bard­ment, tun­nel­ing is a ne­ces­si­ty. The de­struc­tible en­vi­ron­ment may sound like a recipe for cheap deaths and the pos­si­bil­ity of mak­ing a level im­pos­si­ble to com­plete when you’ve de­stroyed too much ground to pro­gress, but while I had to make some tricky jumps and ex­ca­va­tions after some par­tic­u­larly heated fire­fights, I don’t think I ever to­tally cut my­self off from the end of the lev­el.

    All of which made it even more frus­trat­ing when I ran into parts of BF which aren’t quite pol­ished yet: ei­ther not yet bal­anced ap­pro­pri­ate­ly, or an ed­i­tor needs to tell the BF de­vel­op­ers to kill their dar­lings. BF is proud of its large as­sort­ment of char­ac­ters, but some of them plain suck and the game pun­ishes you every time you res­cue a pris­oner and a ran­dom char­ac­ter swap is forced onto you and you get one of the sucky char­ac­ters (ran­dom char­ac­ter swaps can be fun when it forces you out of your com­fort zone, but not in those cas­es); I never fig­ured out how to use melee char­ac­ters like Neo or Blade suc­cess­ful­ly, and one char­ac­ter with a ma­chine-gun leg (which only fires down­wards) is so ut­terly use­less that by the end of the game I was se­ri­ously con­sid­er­ing just jump­ing into a pit any­time I got them and spar­ing my­self the frus­tra­tion of such a gimped char­ac­ter. BF would be much bet­ter if the worst 5 or 10 char­ac­ters were sim­ply delet­ed. (It would also be good if spe­cial at­tacks trans­ferred. Noth­ing like sav­ing up for a mecha only to lose it all when you free a pris­on­er… Fun like a kick in the teeth.) An­other in­tense source of frus­tra­tion was the lack of even the most vi­tal hints. In the sec­ond covert mis­sion, the start has a huge pit which must be jumped across and can only be jumped across if you are ‘sprint­ing’ by hav­ing dou­ble-tapped-and-held the di­rec­tional key; nowhere are you told that ‘sprint­ing’ even ex­ists and there is no rea­son you would have tried this dou­ble-tap or no­ticed the sprint­ing since, as men­tioned be­fore, flatout run­ning is a guar­an­teed way to die. I died 20 or 30 times be­fore I fi­nally gave up and googled “Bro­force im­pos­si­ble level”; there were sev­eral differ­ent lev­els which were the topic of dis­cus­sion, and I fi­nally learned about sprint­ing and beat the level a few deaths lat­er. An­other covert mis­sion is still worse: the level be­gins with an enor­mous ex­plo­sion, which you have been trained by dozens of pre­vi­ous enor­mous ex­plo­sions to wait out; when you do so, the mis­sion is un­beat­able be­cause half the level is gone. It turns out that un­known and un­know­able to you, there was an long cat­walk at the top of the lev­el, and the so­lu­tion to the level is to im­me­di­ately be­gin run­ning, get a powerup while run­ning, in­voke the time-s­low­ing while run­ning, climb a sev­er­al-screen-high lad­der at top speed while the rest of the level is slowed, and then run across the cat­walk which is al­ready ex­plod­ing to the point where you are jump­ing from falling crate to crate. So just to know that that cat­walk ex­ists, much less what you have to do to fin­ish the level you have to have started the level run­ning and time-s­low im­me­di­ately to climb the lad­der and get to see that there was a cat­walk there! There is no hint what­so­ever of any of this by BF. So if any­one was able to fig­ure this level out on their own with­out check­ing the In­ter­net & watch­ing YouTube, I doff my cha­peau to them. All it would have taken in these two lev­els is a short hint: ‘dou­ble-tap the d-key to sprint’; ‘reach the cat­walk be­fore the ex­plo­sion!’ I am not ask­ing for those lev­els to be made eas­ier, just that the player has some idea what they’re sup­posed to do! This lack of hints ex­tends to the char­ac­ters them­selves and their spe­cial at­tacks; what did Neo’s spe­cial do? I had no idea—it made a lit­tle glowy cir­cle which did­n’t seem to do any­thing. What did Robo­cop’s spe­cial do? I had no idea—it cre­ated a green grid on the screen with a tar­get­ing retic­ule you could move, but press­ing fire/special did noth­ing, and mov­ing the retic­ule over en­e­mies did noth­ing. How did Brave­heart, the Pro­fes­sional etc? To­wards the end I looked them up on the Bro­force wikia, but I should not have had to; would it have killed BF to in­clude a one-line sum­mary of the spe­cial like “re­flects most bul­lets” or “se­lect each en­emy to au­to­mat­i­cally at­tack”? A few of the lev­els trade too heav­ily on tri­al-and-er­ror: one alien’s level is un­beat­able un­less you sim­ply mem­o­rize each lo­ca­tion it at­tacks through­out the whole lev­el, be­cause it is in­vul­ner­a­ble, and moves too fast to re­act to. The cave lev­els fea­ture way too many boul­ders and rocks so you will con­stantly die of falling rocks no mat­ter how care­ful you are. Two lev­els are so dark that you can­not see where your char­ac­ter is and will die many times from jump­ing into a wall to avoid an at­tack. On the gi­ant-he­li­copter lev­el, you can die and lose even after you’ve won dur­ing the an­i­ma­tion of the he­li­copter ex­plod­ing, which hap­pened to me 3 times in a row be­cause the end of the level is so full of ex­plo­sives. ‘Fun’. The alien lev­els are sub­stan­tially less en­joy­able be­cause the var­i­ous acid ex­plo­sions ex­tend in­sta-death across the screen and the fast-mov­ing ag­gres­sive melee aliens make cer­tain char­ac­ters al­most use­less (good luck us­ing ei­ther bom­b-thrower when you’re busy be­ing swarmed!). Per­haps partly due to the ran­dom­ized char­ac­ter se­lec­tion and to­tal ab­sence of doc­u­men­ta­tion, there seems to be ex­treme vari­a­tion in diffi­cul­ty: I might die 5 times clear­ing a lev­el, then 30 the next lev­el, then 1 the fol­low­ing lev­el! Cer­tainly some vari­a­tion in diffi­culty from level to level is nor­mal and de­sir­able, but that much vari­a­tion sug­gests that some lev­els need some tweak­ing… Per­haps the de­vel­op­ers will fix some of these is­sues in the fu­ture, and mean­while, to those who play BF, I ad­vise be­ing less proud than my­self and to look on­line for hints.