Backlog Blitz I

July 8th, 2014 by

I have a Trello board to list my unplayed games. It looks a little like this (ideally I’d thumbnail it in the post, but since WordPress doesn’t seem to want to help me with that, I won’t bother). I recommend Trello for all your agile-board needs, although hopefully those needs involve something a little more worthwhile than highlighting that you should stop buying new games.

I suppose it’s worth a note about that: quite a few games are there because I want to play them, I expect them to be good and I’m waiting for a decent chunk of time to allot to them. That time doesn’t come easily. A lot of the others are there because I want to try lots of games. As a game professional you can learn a lot from playing lots of games, whether they’re good or (perhaps especially) when they’re bad, so I frequently pick up a few of the things that are on Steam for a pound or two, or get cheap/pay-as-you-will bundles.

Often I’ve got what I want out of them in a few minutes, but as you can see the board also has sections for those I hope to spend more time on and those I might spend more time on (although it’s clear from the size of the lists that I probably won’t). The ‘Done’ column gets archived periodically, so it’s not as small as it looks. The aged-paper look indicates cards that haven’t moved in a while; I’m tempted to turn that effect off (because so little ever moves) but that would be like admitting defeat.

I ought to make better notes as I go (because there are so many games here that I don’t even remember which is which half the time) and I figure I may as well make them public. These are intended as notes for designers rather than player reviews, and while I hope they don’t seem unfair I’ll try not to sugar coat things.

You’re all more than welcome to be as blunt as you like about my work.

Without further ado, I’m on holiday today (winding down after a fantastic weekend mentoring at the Brains Eden gaming festival) so I’m going to try and get a few things off the To Do list.

Dino D-Day

  • 2011, WW2 team FPS except there are dinosaurs.
  • I’ve put it off for ages because it was dedicated multiplayer, but it was easy to get into a public game (which is probably a credit to the Source engine server handling).
  • Defaults to 640×480! Changes up easily.
  • Very similar to DoD:S, including rolling respawns (allowing for a less hardcore audience than being dead for the rest of the round).
  • Graphics probably weren’t great at the time; in general I think Source engine is showing its age.
  • Classes are interesting and class balance is surprisingly good: the danger of everyone wanting to be dinosaur the whole time seems mostly avoided.
  • Not convinced by the human classes being characterised as specific individuals; it’s a nice touch but it’s character that a FPS doesn’t need, it’s a bit odd that the same distinctive individual is on the field many times (given that this isn’t cartoony like TF2), and it slows down learning which class is which.
  • Nice concept, well delivered, might have been better (but probably lots more effort to make) in UE.
  • Moving the card to Done, 36 minutes played, 1 card, 2 achievements.

Empire: Total War

  • 2009. Total War game set in the 18th century.
  • Mostly like previous ones. I like the way facilities are now distributed throughout provinces, but I wonder whether it’s going to make it (even) harder to remember what’s going on.
  • A lot of time spent watching things move between turns. Nowhere near getting into a battle yet. Clearly for pretty serious strategy fans, which seems like a sensible pitch.
  • I want to see what happens, but I ought to stop now. Moving it to Maybe, 34 minutes played, 2 cards, no achievements.

Better find something smaller/quicker next.

Jack Lumber

  • 2013. Like Fruit Ninja, a bit more tactical than twitchy.
  • Not this game’s fault, but getting sick of waiting through installation of DirectX and the VC redist for every game.
  • Nice little game, probably fun on mobile (provided your screen is really reliable).
  • Moved to Done, 14 minutes, no cards, 1 achievement.

Paranautical Activity

  • 2013. Cubey FPS, procedurally generated levels,
  • Don’t actually have a card for this one (oops) but since I own it and have no idea what it is I assume it isn’t played.
  • Main menu doesn’t fit on the screen when run at 1024×768. Thanks for that. (Nor do other menus, but the game UI is OK.)
  • Feedback on taking damage is light, but I got some practice because you can damage yourself.
  • Pretty playable and fun with the shotgunner; nasty with a melee character. (Doesn’t help that I can only go right on the character select screen.)
  • Consistent graphical style, quite pleasing; a bit dark.
  • Moved to Done, 17 minutes, there aren’t achievements.

Strike Suit Zero

  • 2013. Space dogfight sim.
  • Missed the opening cutscene because I was still trying to get the window into the right place.
  • Nothing unusual, but playable and reasonably executed.
  • Looks like there’s a standard sci-fi story.
  • Moved to Done, 47 minues, 2 cards, 2 achievements.


  • 2013. Retro platformer with stereotypical action archaeologist.
  • Odd convention breaks: you can’t jump up through platforms, you can’t steer while jumping (but you can while falling).
  • I may have missed the tutorial, although it looks like the best tutorial information is in one of the store videos. The keybinds weren’t easy to find with trial and error.
  • Might be interesting to compare this to other platformers; I don’t know them well.
  • After one attempt (no lives, just instant game over), moving to Done. 5 minutes, no cards, no achievements.


  • 2010, TV Producer Sim.
  • UI takes up far too much space at 1024×768 (and guess what: I’m going to keep playing things windowed at 1024 until Alt-Tab behaves in a satisfactory way). Can barely see what’s going on.
  • Art is good enough, style is consistent. Gameplay interactions are standard for this kind of thing.
  • Tutorial UI is a bit clunky.
  • Gave up when I couldn’t find one of the rooms the tutorial to go to.
  • Moved to Done, 20 minutes played, there are no achievements.


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