Episode #4 - Tile Games

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[info]prog and [info]mrmorse look at three tile-placement games.

  • Carcassonne, a game of communal map-building and sneaky claim-jumping. We look at the basic set, which was published in the United States in 2000 and remains widely available.

  • The Very Clever Pipe Game, a Cheapass "Hip Pocket" entry that delivers on its title for under five bucks. The two- and four- player variants play quite differently, and we examine both.

  • Pipe Dream (et al), a classic computer game about laying pipe on a grid against a liquid timer. It was a commercial title in the 1980s, but due to its simple concept it's seen many shareware and freeware clones since then. The ones featured on the show include Federico Filipponi's MacPipes and Adam Doppelt's untitled Java applet (which you can find all over the place, in case that link ever goes bad).

The players inlcude [info]cthulhia, [info]ruthling, [info]rikchik, [info]grr_plus1, [info]radiotelescope, marymary, and [info]prog.

This episode features even more music ripped off from Star Control II / The Ur-Quan Masters (a game we reviewed two episodes ago). Our opening song is once again the goofy Orz Theme, and the clangy-bangy number that plays while Matt introduces The Very Clever Pipe Game is the Zot-Foq-Pik Theme. Frungy frungy frungy etc.

The airy music underscoring the opening skit is a composition by the great video game soundtrack composer Yuzo Koshiro for a version of Zork that was released only in Japan for the Sega Saturn. You can find the game's entire soundtrack here.

So, you may have noticed a nine-month gap between this episode and the previous one. The short explanation is that I launched a startup company based around the Volity Network last year, and in December got so deeply involved with it that work on it pretty much precluded every other activity, including any Gameshelf work. All the live footage from this episode was shot at the beginning of December, right before things became crazy.

I would have at least completed editing this episode that month, but at the time I was quite discouraged by the quality of the footage, especially the host segments. Matt and I were mediocre at best in our attempts at scripted skits or game introductions - if we want to keep doing this, we need to either practice more or have a better cueing system. Also, I was dressed terribly; that T-shirt managed to accentuate my programmer's gut, while the clip-mic's drag delicately exposes an off-center hint of pasty white throat-flesh.

While the content of the gameplay segments was great, they also made me sad due to technical problems. The sound levels were way off and at some points barely audible, and sometimes the light was off as well, giving a weird grainy appearance to the Carcassone footage. I fixed what I could in editing but I am not an expert in either, so it's still not very good. You can also hear the players' voices "skipping" during some scenes. At least some of these problems were probably due to the fact that the camcorder I use to export footage onto my computer had been accidentally dropped during one of the shoots, rendering it still working but a bit cockeyed and possibly wonky. So, yes, many small sadnesses.

What's next for The Gameshelf? I'm not sure. I'm still running the company, but have a better handle on my time than I did at the start of the year. On the other hand, I'm going to be taking a day job of some sort soon because the startup ain't paying the bills. I will therefore say nothing now, except that I very much want to continue the show, and am full of ideas about how to make it better. I'll figure something out. Stay tuned. Better yet, stay subscribed through iTunes or something, and you'll get a pleasant surprise sometime in the future. (Which, indeed, may have been the case with this very episode for you.)

If you'd like to watch a video blog about games in the meantime, there is Board Games With Scott. It is different from my show in many ways - it concentrates solely on board games, for one thing, and also focuses more on explaining gameplay than actually showing it in action. But he does a much better job at explanations than we've done so far. Look for future Gameshelfs to gleefully rip off techniques from him.

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