FTL: Be A Project Manager In Space!

I’ve been playing a lot of this little game called FTL. It’s a spaceship simulation game, but not of the gratuitous space battle variety.  Instead, players control one ship, its upgrades, and can delegate crew members to do stuff.  It’s almost like being a project manager on a space ship.  This may sound boring, but I’ve spent more than 50 hours on the game since it came out.

A typical session of gaming in FTL goes like this:

Jump to this unknown planet.  Face a battle with a rebel/pirate/alien ship.  Wait for my weapons to charge up.  Direct the shield-penetrating weapon to hit the shield generator of the enemy ship. Direct my other weapons to hit their weapons bay so I can disable their weapons as quickly as possible. Hope that my ship dodges or my shield blocks the enemy’s volley of fire.  Direct my weapons to take down their shield generator if the weapons go down.  Keep hitting the weapons bay to make sure it goes down. Enemy ship finally explodes. Look at the scrap, missiles, fuel, or other items I scavenged from the enemy ship.  See what I could upgrade my ship with now that I have extra scrap.  Jump to another planet or a store where I can buy more upgrades. Rinse, repeat.

There’s a boss ship at the end, but I’ve only gotten to it twice and beaten it once. After getting clobbered by this boss ship the first time, I was extra prepared the second time, but it still surprised me when I beat it. On easy mode.

The game’s been called a rogue-like, which I sort of agree with and sort of don’t.  It’s a rogue-like in that it’s easy to die suddenly even if I think I’m doing well. It’s a rogue-like in that death is a perma-death and I have to start all over from the beginning (protip: don’t get too attached to crew members because they’ll probably die in a roaring fire or slowly asphyxiate because you forgot to close a door to space). It’s a rogue-like in that sometimes you get really awesome weapons at random and sometimes you’ll get totally useless ones.  But it’s not a rogue-like in that it’s turn based, or that you have to explore a multi-floor dungeon.

What I really like about the game is that it only takes an hour or two to play. That means I can start a game and in less than two hours, either die and have to start over, or get to the final boss. Most of the time, I die. But because I didn’t invest too many hours into that ship, it doesn’t feel as bad.  For people who have a job and other hobbies, this is an awesome thing.  I don’t feel like I have to spend too many long hours to “get into the zone” of playing the game.  And because the game has a handy pause feature, it’s easy to just pause, save, and hop out if something comes up.

In this age of HD, hyper-real graphics and gazillion frames per second, it’s nice to see a game like FTL with its top-down, minimalist sprites and restrained soundtrack getting popular.

Mass Effect 2

Hey, remember when I used to write about video games? Yeah, me too.

I completely skipped over the first game in the Mass Effect universe because 1.) I don’t usually like western RPGs, and 2.) I’d heard bad, bad, things about the in-game menu and inventory.  When Mass Effect 2 came on sale, I was in the mood for something sci-fi, so I gave it a go.

Like most games with highly-customizable character appearances, I spent a great deal of time on perfecting my character. In the end, it didn’t matter since my character was in a helmet most of the time, but I guess it was nice to see her face during in-game cut-scenes.

I’ve heard people describe Mass Effect 2 as rpg-lite, and I can see that, but to me, this was a good thing. I completed the game in less than 20 hours, which is about as long as my game attention span is these days.  I liked that once the game got started, it was straight forward to choose a main or side mission, find the appropriate planet to explore, and shoot bad guys.  For those who like tons of side-missions, they were easy to find by talking to the tons of NPCs around each space hub or city.

Because my squad was customizable, I ended up playing favorites and picking the same characters to accompany me, unless a mission needed one particular character.  I usually went with Thane as my sniper and Jack as my bio-user and shot gunner.  For myself, I’d usually hang back and snipe if I were in an open area, or just run through with the assault rifle.

Although there were a handful of guns and upgrades to be had, I didn’t think they were that customizable.  There seemed to be only one good setup or weapon configuration so once I got to that, I didn’t change it up as much.  I also only used powers sparingly. Maybe because of the way I set up my character in the beginning. It just seemed easier to shoot things than pushing the buttons for different powers.

The only bad thing I have to say about Mass Effect 2 is that space exploration part was pretty lame.  Having to buy fuel and probes from the fuel station in order to explore was so trivial that I thought it was a waste of time they put it in. I never really ran out of money, so I could always buy more, but it was just a hassle.  I didn’t have any problems with finding resources on planets and thought that was pretty streamlined and fun whenever I did it, but just getting to that planet — boring!

Wait, I have another bad thing to say. Even though I tried to develop my character’s relationship with Thane, and I successfully completed his loyalty mission, they never sexed it up and he ended up dying in the last mission anyway! What a disappointment.  It was the only part of the story I cared about.

I’ll probably play the third game when it comes out, but I’ll probably wait till a price drop too.

The Stick

The BF got me the Street Fighter VI Tournament edition stick for my birthday a month or so ago.  The original artwork was mediocre, so we worked together to mod it.

The original stick looks like this:

sfiv_og_stickI fuddled with a template based on the Sega Astro City arcade cabinet and sent the finished artwork to Art’s Hobbies to be printed and also ordered plexiglass from them.  In the meantime, the BF ordered some different colored Sanwa buttons online.

After a few weeks, our orders got shipped to us and we took apart the stick.

Switching Out Parts

Unscrewing the top plate and peeling the original artwork off was no problem.  Disconnecting the ‘quick’ release wiring from the individual buttons were a pain until I MacGuyvered a lever system with a small flat edged screwdriver and a hex key.

I then spray-painted the bevel, originally red, to a matte black color.

The finished product looks pretty damn good IMO:

SFVI TE Stick Mod

It’s easier on the eyes (I think at least!) than the original look of the stick and I’d like to think that psychologically, it improves my game.

We had also bought smaller buttons to replace the start & select buttons at the top (not seen) of the box, but couldn’t figure out how to pop those buttons off at all because the spacing in that area of the box is so tight.  Other than that, I’m extremely pleased with the results.