Diary

Diary of a Droid Jedi - Star Wars Conquest, part 6

Evan Lahti at

This is the final part of our canon-destroying playthrough of Star Wars Conquest, a mod for sandbox RPG Mount & Blade.

Last week’s series of successful battles against the Empire was met by the realization that Star Wars Conquest seemingly has no end. In 20-some hours of play, I’ve learned that almost no amount of slaughtered Stormtroopers will significantly impact the universe. Named characters can’t die, captured planets rarely stay captured, prisoners always eventually escape, and climbing the political ranks of the Rebel Alliance mainly involves playing tax collector for Mon Mothma and Obi-Wan.

Diary of a Droid Jedi - Star Wars Conquest, part 5

Evan Lahti at

This is a chronicle of our absurd, canon-destroying playthrough of Star Wars Conquest, a mod for sandbox RPG Mount & Blade. Our campaign to ruin Star Wars appears each Tuesday.

Twenty hours into my Star Wars Conquest campaign, I realize that I have no idea what the game’s win state is. Is there one? Am I meant to crawl the galaxy until the end of time, endlessly gutting Stormtroopers, endlessly pillaging space farms, endlessly watching planets trade hands like used Toyotas between the immortal commanders of the Star Wars universe? By now, I’m positive that it’s impossible to actually kill off any of the game’s main figures—defeating a commander in combat results in either them escaping or being captured and eventually escaping. Hmmph.

Diary of a Droid Jedi - Star Wars Conquest, part 3

Evan Lahti at

This is a chronicle of our absurd, canon-destroying playthrough of Star Wars Conquest, a mod for sandbox RPG Mount & Blade. Our campaign to ruin Star Wars appears each Tuesday.

Last week I received a missive from Mon Mothma, Rebel Commandress. Her invitation was exciting: an invitation to join the Rebel Alliance. I’d receive my own planet (okay, okay—technically just a moon) in exchange for swearing some trivial loyalty oath.

I push my crude transport ship all the way to Dantooine, avoiding major trouble along the way.

Diary of a Droid Jedi - Star Wars Conquest, part 2

Evan Lahti at

This is a chronicle of our absurd, canon-destroying playthrough of Star Wars Conquest, a mod for sandbox RPG Mount & Blade. Our campaign to ruin Star Wars appears each Tuesday.

My pride and HP wounded by intergalactic jerkbag Grand Moff Tarkin, I slink back to the comfort of the cantina, hoping to find refuge in drink. Perhaps companionship will await me here, fellow warriors disillusioned by the haphazard scripting that’s native to this strange, anything-goes Star Wars negaverse. I walk up to the bar.

Diary of a Droid Jedi - Star Wars Conquest, part 1

Evan Lahti at

Uninstall KOTOR. Forget TIE Fighter and Star Wars Battlefront. There is only one Star Wars video game, and it’s an unfinished mod for a six-year-old medieval RPG built by an indie studio from Turkey.


Banished photo essay: 25 years of farming and surviving harsh winters

Ian Birnbaum at

The town of Dolothia was established when five families were unceremoniously banished from a nearby nation. The exact circumstances of this banishment were never explained to me, and I didn’t press the issue.

After The PCG Herald heard about the town’s struggle to survive in the wilderness, I was dispatched as a field reporter to document its early years. What I found was a harsh reality where 10-year-olds work fields in driving rain and snow, a bad harvest kills families, and a single misstep leaves the town frozen during winter. In the end I was embedded in Dolothia for 25 years, chronicling its struggles and triumphs in photos and timelapse gifographs. This is the life of a Banished town.


DayZ Diaries: the one where Andy decides never to trust anyone ever again

Andy Kelly at

Every Tuesday, DayZ Diaries recounts Andy's adventures in post-apocalyptic survival sim DayZ, where beans and friends are frequently in short supply.

In last week's diary I spoke with some relish about my first foray into the thrilling world of cold-hearted banditry. But then the update happened and my character was reset. So here I am, back on the beach in a t-shirt, thirsty, unarmed, and helpless. But I don't mind, because some of the best stories in DayZ emerge when you're at the bottom of the food chain.

Diary: one hour in DayZ's Christmas ceasefire

Tom Senior at

Last week DayZ players on Reddit proposed a Christmas ceasefire to promote harmony and good will in this cheerful season of giving and eating until you explode. How's that going, then? I dipped into DayZ for an hour to see if the festive spirit has softened the relentlessly brutal survivalist nightmare of DayZ. Will I have a super happy rainbow fun time with a mob of new friends, or get horribly axe murdered by a stranger? I think we all probably already know the answer to that one.


Prison Architect diary: building a holiday camp for crims. Welcome to Stabshank

Andy Kelly at

Welcome to Stabshank, a maximum security penitentiary that I’m about to flood with murderers, thieves, videogame pirates and other ruthless criminal scum. The best way to play Prison Architect is to start with calmer, less stabby minimum security prisoners, then bring in the psychopaths when your security is more solid, but I won’t be doing that. I’m going to fill my basic lowcapacity prison with some really, really bad people and a skeleton crew of guards.

As each truck of convicts rolls in, I’m going to pick one and follow them. I want to see how deep the simulation goes, and whether their crimes dictate their behaviour. I’ll track their lives until they die, escape or are otherwise incapacitated.

I won’t be installing metal detectors at the front gate or in the canteen, so any contraband – shivs, drugs, forks, etc – will be freely circulating. I don’t want Stabshank to be too efficient or secure. I want these guys to get angry, because the angrier they get, the more likely they are to do something interesting. By which I mean stabbing.


Dwarf Fortress story The Queen is now available and you should listen to it

Phil Savage at

Thanks to its scope, Dwarf Fortress diaries trend towards being huge and epic undertakings. The Queen, by writer and game designer Ste Curran, is different, and it shows how dramatically the game's simulated stories can scale. It's touching and bittersweet. In fifteen minutes, it deftly encapsulates the drama, difficulty and abstraction at the heart of this frighteningly complex collection of ASCII. You should give it a listen.


Game of Thrones diary part five: staying alive in Crusader Kings 2′s Westeros

Rich McCormick at

Welcome to the Game of Thrones diary, in which Rich plays as Ned Stark and tries to stay alive in the excellent Game of Thrones mod for Crusader Kings 2. The diary may contain spoilers for Game of Thrones book one and season one of the TV show. Missed the story so far? Here's part one, part two, part three and part four.

My wife tried to kill me, but that’s OK. I’ve decided Mya Stone – King Robert Baratheon’s bastard daughter, and my new bride who professes to love me – slipped and put the poison in the wrong cup. She must’ve been trying to kill someone else in the castle. An innocent mistake. A totally innocent mistake with absolutely no troubling connotations whatsoever for my rule of the largest bit of Westeros.

Game of Thrones diary part four: staying alive in Crusader Kings 2′s Westeros

Rich McCormick at

Welcome to the Game of Thrones diary, in which Rich plays as Ned Stark and tries to stay alive in the excellent Game of Thrones mod for Crusader Kings 2. The diary may contain spoilers for Game of Thrones book one and season one of the TV show. Missed the start? Here's part one, part two and part three.

My wife is dead and I am sad. Catelyn Stark died last month, and Ned Stark – still ruler of the North of Westeros, and still alive at my hands – is in some serious mourning. Crusader Kings II codifies that mourning in the form of negative character traits: my Ned is now ‘depressed’, ‘chaste’, and a ‘widower’ – traits that conspire to make him about as fertile as a socially awkward panda. That’s a problem when Crusader Kings II’s explicit aim is to create as strong a dynasty as possible, and my eldest son Robb is useless in a fight, diplomatic or otherwise.

Ned’s sad right now but I’m confident, thanks to some Wiki reading, that his malaise will lift. I’ll get over Catelyn, shake off my temporary chasteness and get back to the business of making strong little babies to continue the Stark name. But to do that, I need a new wife.

Game of Thrones diary part three: staying alive in Crusader Kings 2's Westeros

Rich McCormick at

For the Old Gods’ sake Robert, can you please let someone else have some fun? No sooner have I re-rallied my northern forces (for the second time in as many months) with the express intention of crushing Mace Tyrell’s bid for kingship (also the second in as many months), than Robert beats him up in battle and puts him in his castle. The last time Robert did this, he let Mace go after a stern telling off, patting him on the Tyrell posterior and asking him nicely not to rebel again. Mace, being head of one of Westeros’s most powerful families and ‘Ambitious’ by nature – by character sheet anyway – immediately made another bid for the kingship.

Robert isn’t going to make the same mistake again. Out comes old headlopper, and Mace is no more, executed on Baratheon turf for his repeated treasons. My armies, raised from local peasantry and armed with northern steel – and some sticks and pitchforks – have to once again lay down arms and go back to their respective villages, their swords and pointy objects boringly blood-free. I feel bad. I promised these guys a war – several, really – but my remoteness in comparison to the rest of Westeros means I’m always the warmaid, never the warbastard.


Game of Thrones diary part two: staying alive in Crusader Kings 2's Westeros

Rich McCormick at

Welcome to the Game of Thrones diary, in which Rich plays as Ned Stark and tries to stay alive in the excellent Game of Thrones mod for Crusader Kings 2. Missed the start? Here's part one.

Ned Stark has killed hundreds of people – including, last week, one of his best mates for a minor transgression. But Ned always stared in their faces as he lopped their heads off, never breaking eye contact as their heads bounced around on the floor like bony footballs. I’m about to make him take a life by nefarious, sneaky means, and I feel bad.

Ned is boss of Westeros’s North, and looks after a vast swathe of land. But I wasn’t happy with the size of his territory. I wanted more for Ned. Last week, I decided he would do whatever it took to increase his holdings – even if that meant taking a life to get at that land.

Game of Thrones diary part one: staying alive in Crusader Kings 2's Westeros

Rich McCormick at

Welcome to the Game of Thrones diary, in which Rich plays as Ned Stark and tries to stay alive in the excellent Game of Thrones mod for Crusader Kings 2. The diary may contain spoilers for Game of Thrones book one and season one of the TV show. This is part one. Once you're ready, use these links to make your way to part two, part threepart four, part five and part six.

Crusader Kings II is a game about scheming, plotting and advanced nefariousness in a medieval setting. It has a cast of hundreds of characters with observable traits, from tactical geniuses to lackwit blunderers, via lustful philanderers and chaste holy men.

George R R Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire books are about scheming, plotting and advanced nefariousness in a medieval setting. You can probably work out the rest. The two sync up so well, it only was a matter of time before Martin’s low-fantasy setting was ported into Paradox’s strategy game. Pleasingly, that time wasn’t very long: the Game of Thrones mod was released in beta by a group of industrious CKII fans just eight months after the main game. It’s now stable, comprehensive and easy to install. It’s what I’ll be using in this diary, and I heartily recommend you pop over to www.ck2agot.wordpress.com if you’re interested.

A quick note: this series will contain spoilers for the Game of Thrones’ TV series and books. I’ll keep major revelations from the first book onwards under my helm, but if you’ve somehow managed to avoid the novels (first released in 1996, you layabout), and also the HBO series, then pick them up and gobble them down like a juicy capon leg before reading on.

An Illusionist in Skyrim, final entry: Solitude

Tom Francis at

This is the diary of me attempting to play Skyrim using only Illusion magic: I'm not allowed any weapons, armour, or magical items, and I can't attack anyone directly. The first entry is here, or you can see all entries to date here.

My attempts to play Skyrim using only Illusion magic have driven me to intentionally contract vampirism, for the sweet illusion powers it will provide. The disease takes three days to take hold, and I've spent them messing with the Stormcloak rebels for the Imperial Legion. My mission is to deliver some forged orders to a Stormcloak commander in Dawnstar, and on my first morning in town, it happens.

An Illusionist in Skyrim, part 15: the battle of Whiterun

Tom Francis at

This is the diary of me attempting to play Skyrim using only Illusion magic: I'm not allowed any weapons, armour, or magical items, and I can't attack anyone directly. The first entry is here, or you can see all entries to date here.

The whole concept for my character is that I never directly attack any living thing, so it's rather awkward that I now find myself getting all the credit for slaying a dragon. I didn't. I didn't even help. I was going to lead some angry giants over to beat it up for me, but the guards killed the dragon before I got there, so I just ended up setting some angry giants on the real heroes and then stealing all the glory.

So as the Jarl of Whiterun is singing my praises, naming me his Thane, giving me a personal servant, and entrusting me with his own battleaxe, I'm wishing he'd shut up.

Dishonored: No Trace, episode 5: The Whaler's Revenge

Chris Thursten at

It's time to bring the Lord Regent's reign to an end as No Trace reaches its man-possessing, pipe-hopping, accident-staging conclusion. This time, it only takes a few tweaks to the day to day running of Dunwall Tower to turn one guard's innocent clumsiness into, well, one guard's deadly, explosive clumsiness.


Dishonored: No Trace, episode 4: Somebody Ring the Alarm

Chris Thursten at

In this week's episode of No Trace, I ruin Lady Boyle's masquerade ball with a bit of planning, a lot of luck, and a relatively small amount of unplanned crisis. By my standards - and if you've watched the previous episodes in the series, you can make up your own mind about how low that particular bar is set - this is probably the purest execution of the No Trace concept so far. At least in so far as I don't have to deal with rubber aristocrats or murder innocent people to cover my inept backside. As ever, spoilers within.


An Illusionist in Skyrim, part 14: the giant

Tom Francis at

This is the diary of me attempting to play Skyrim using only Illusion magic: I'm not allowed any weapons, armour, or magical items, and I can't attack anyone directly. The first entry is here, or you can see all entries to date here.

A hail of arrows shoots past me, and I scramble up some rubble to get away from the Giant. I look back to see if he's following, just in time to see him crumple a guard like a tin can. Oh Lord. Sorry guard!

The Giant stomps towards me. I still don't have any stamina to sprint with, and I haven't really got anywhere else to run to, so I just run to the other side of the tower. More arrows pelt him as he trudges round after me, into full view of the rest of the guards. At first this seems like a good thing, but then he stomps off into their ranks and starts crushing them one by one.