Saturday 28 December 2013

Guest Game 1: Circuit's Edge - Another Night in the Budayeen

Trickster's Note: The below post (and indeed all posts for Circuit's Edge) was written by guest blogger Zenic Reverie.

Night 1: "Finally, safe back in my apartment. Well, as safe as one can be in the Budayeen (written as I hear someone test the lock on my door). The night started out like any other: a simple errand for a friend, and a quick stop and drop for the boss. I should have known something was amiss when I didn't recognize the voice, but Papa always had connections beyond my purview. I put my suspicions aside, and expected a quick stop by the Bougainvilleas. I stumbled head first into a murder scene... the murderer caught in the act. Before I could gather my wits I winced at the pain that developed at the back of my head and blacked out. When I came to everything was as before, minus the culprit. I had just enough time to scan the room for clues (a holo disk, an answering machine, letters scrawled in blood) before the police arrived. No time to explain, and they weren't having it either, I was lucky the lieutenant had connections to Papa (but doesn't everyone). As jovial as it made him to finally catch me in some nefarious act, he reluctantly obliged the request to release me into the care of my employer. At Papa's villa I learned the dead man was named Kenji, and the only wrong that could have got him killed was being a known employee of Papa. Someone was out destroy Papa's hold over the Budayeen by showing he was no longer able to provide protection to those that paid him tribute. My assignment now is to determine who, and exact vengeance. Just another night in the Budayeen."

Home sweet home

The intro to the game makes much of the information in the manual redundant.

I'm always a bit overwhelmed when starting a new game. Especially when I'm supposed to be playing a character well familiarized with his surroundings as Marid is to the Budayeen. To acclimate myself quickly, I did as the manual suggested and spent most of my first play session ignoring the story and wandering around the city marking each location on the map. The game seems large, but even though I marked off over 70 locations, many of the shops have an obvious rundown look that suggests they aren't used in this game. For all Marid's experience, he starts the game with a rather bare selection of chips. One is a display for his current stats: Life, Strength, Stamina, Agility, Rest, and Food. The other numbs him to immediate negative consequences of these falling too low. There's still a limit, but that extra edge may be useful.

My current map of the Budayeen, to be expanded and notes added as necessary.

What a dump? Who's place is th... oh, it's mine.

I suppose I don't own any other moddies or daddies, and instead they're loaned to me for specific tasks after which I return them. I tried to pick up some more at Laila's Modshop while I was out exploring, but her place was already closed. With no posted hours it's going to take a bit of trial and error to figure out when some of the places are open. Taking stock of my other possessions I have a watch that tells me the current time is 8:05 PM (and chips at the top of each hour)... the day doesn't matter much anyway; 277 kiam (the currency in this area); a banking disc, which allows me to withdraw, deposit, or check my banking balance (just so happens I have another 628 kiam tucked away); and a belt phone, which happens to ring.

The manual's handy glossary says: "Marhaba" is Arabic for "Hello" often used to inferiors. Yes, good friends.

Got it... actually, can you repeat all that? It's like I'm hearing these names and places for the first time.

Well, uh, good not talking to you.

Having mapped out the game pays off as I know exactly where to find the Cafe de la Fee Blanche. The manual is full of other bits of information as well including commcodes for all businesses in the Budayeen, addresses (generally unhelpful), the glossary, some background on each of the characters, and what I assume are some of Marid's own notes. His notes include things like his new bank code (a bit of copy protection possibly) and commcodes for individuals like Saied (182BWM52 -- now 131ARP69) and Papa (111BWS64). There are other names I don't know yet, but I'm sure will become more meaningful (Black Widows and Seipolt are two of the more interesting notes). Off to the cafe I walk through the streets, and hear the normal din of "public disturbances," gun shots in the distance, and shadowy figures ducking behind corners. Even so, I arrive without incident.

More names of people I supposedly know.

Maybe I should ask Gargotier about the Mars colony one of these days.

Inside the cafe, there's no sign of Fuad. Perhaps I'm early. I chat up Jacques, but he's not helpful at this point. Jacques is described as the token Christian, and rather smug about his strict heterosexuality. No one exactly likes him, but I have yet to meet anyone that's liked. Sexuality, transsexuals, homosexuals, and sexchange girls are brought up quite often in the game. So far, none of it has had an impact on my interactions or available conversation points. Gargotier is the cafe's proprietor, and much more helpful. The manual doesn't offer up much description, but he informs me Fuad was here; however, he was creeping out the girls and was kicked out.

"Almost never" means kicked out once, but only because he really deserved it?

The game interface allows for both keyboard input and full mouse control. I prefer to key in commands. The top menu is accessed by the first letter of each command, and the sub menu by the numbered list. When in a certain location the talk command will at first list each character available. While interacting a profile picture will replace Marid's to show their reactions to various questions. The options are to cancel, which closes the talk menu, but doesn't end the conversation; "talk about" allows Marid to enter keywords to ask about; the third option is so far a random insult or compliment that affects the other person's mood (complimenting some of the ladies resulted in them smiling more); and end the conversation, which brings Marid's face back up. Some characters have items for sale as well, which allows for the option to buy something. Food is an obvious purchase at the cafe, but I'm still full from my last meal.

That's not a greeter, just a random NPC named Arab Man

The city is laid out on a grid, and movement is as simple as going from one square to the next. There's no single door for an establishment. Take Chiri above, I can enter it from below or the right side just as easily. Once inside a location the look command will at first give a detailed description, but soon results in nothing more interesting to see. The view inside any location offers two or three additional views, but I've yet to find a use for actually looking around. The 'game' option offers the ability to save (only possible at Marid's apartment), load, or restart. Restarting the game allows a quick way to reload from the very beginning. It also has a "recall" ability that allows Marid to recall key events, up to 50 events can be reviewed one at a time starting with the most recent. That should prevent me from missing important bits of information.

Can't believe people would leave their drinks unattended in a place like this.

I have a feeling Marid isn't going to get lucky in this game.

I quickly arrived at Chiriga's as it was just around the corner. Inside was a long list of names that I no longer recall. Most of them are the regular girls that I could chat up for fun, but nothing I could think of led to any interesting prospects. It doesn't seem to be that kind of game, even though it thinks it is. Chiri is here of course. If there's anyone that could be described as my closest friend it's Chiri. For now I'm content to see Fuad and get this package delivered to Saied. Fuad is sitting alone ogling some of the girls. As I sit down he suggests I buy him a beer when I mention Saied's business. Begrudgingly I oblige, and listen to one of his rants about how life is against him. I have to cut him off and ask for the package to get out of there within anything resembling a timely manner.

Yeah... didn't really want to talk, just picking up the package.

Package in hand I ring up Saied to find out he's hanging out at Frenchy's, another dive just across the street. Curiosity gets the better of me, and I inspect the package. It isn't sealed or anything, and nothing special: only a bottle of cologne. The atmosphere at Frenchy's was a lot more laid back. I spot Saied easily. The game feels intent on notifying me he's strictly homosexual, although I don't know if that is important or not for the story. Trying to keep everyone's gender and sexual orientation in check would be quite the task. Also in the bar is Yasmin, an old flame that's recently cooled down yet not on bad terms. Yasmin is a post-op transsexual with what's described as the perfect body, but the only thing natural about her is her long black hair.

Some fan service from the introduction.

Saied greets me in a friendly tone, but obviously has his mind on a single thing: my package... I mean his package... I mean, the cologne. To show, give, or sell items to other characters Marid needs to have initiated a conversation with that person. The options are listed once the particular item is selected from the inventory, along with dropping it, showing it, looking, or using it. I considered trying to sell it to Saied, but thought better of it. Handing it over launched him into a deep topic of discussion on how rare it is. Maybe I should have sold it to him.

Gah, can't breath

Guess I don't walk away empty handed after all.

The new daddy is a chronometer, which displays the current time on my HUD. At least now I don't need to keep glancing at my watch to see how much time flies by just standing around. Time passes quickly in-game, about 1 minute every 5 seconds, even when in deep conversation. The constant ticking of the clock has me a bit worried, I normally don't enjoy games where time is a consideration. I try not to let it bother me as I head out the door unsure what my next steps are when my phone chirps up again. An unknown voice on the other end tells me to pick up a notebook from a man waiting for me at the Bougainvillea, apartment 2C. Well this should be simple enough.

Yep, easy peasy

Oh sh...

When I came to I noticed the dingy ransacked apartment had very little furnishings. At least there were some decorative touches, like that body bleeding out in the corner. It's too late to help the poor sap. I reached for the holo disk lying next to an answering machine beside his hand, but was interrupted with a "Freeze, mister!" Great, just what I need, the cops showing up. I also note "McDix" written in blood on the wall before cuffs are slapped on me. Of course they give me no time to explain myself, what's there to say that would dissuade them from their prejudice that they caught a killer red handed. Police Lieutenant Hajjar arrives to gloat that he's finally caught the great Marid.

What a silly hat.

The call that interrupted his jovial air was from Friedlander Bey, better known as Papa. Glad I have friends in high places. I stumbled back out into the street still nursing the bump on my head. The Budayeen consists of one long street. There are only two gates out of town. To the west is the cemetery, and the east leads to a highway. It just so happens that a taxi cab sits out front to take me to locations outside. Of note are Papa's mansion and the police station. Also of note is the sorry shape of the cabby.

I'll, uh, take the next one.

At Papa's villa I'm in awe at his extravagant life style compared to the rest of the Budayeen. I suppose a man of his stature can afford himself a life outside of the main city, but the back story made it seem was a living among and beloved by the people. Seems that isn't quite the case though as I learn from speaking to the man himself (after waiting the obligatory hour to see the busy man). After a brief exchange of pleasantries over a cup of coffee (as is customary), we get down to business. The newly fresh corpse was of a man named Kenji Carter. According to Papa he had no enemies, and the only wrong he could think Kenji committed was to be associated with Papa.

I get it, like the God Father, a vicious cycle of revenge.

Papa looks to me to exact revenge for this wrong, and assures the full cooperation of the police force. Seems I'll need to pay the dear lieutenant Hajjar a visit to question him. The morgue is also a good place to pick up Kenji's belongings. Those are my only leads. I ended the night back at my apartment to gather my wits and plan my next moves. At this point, I've got to say I understand why this may not have made the list (decided lack of puzzles), and sparse combat (which I haven't gotten to yet) along with no character development means Chet may skip this one as well. Considering all that, I'm happy to be blogging about it as it's a charming little game up to this point and compared to Neuromancer a bit more cohesive. Maybe I'm judging a little too soon though, I tend to do that.

Session Time: 2 hours 00 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 00 minutes

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: I've written a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of Zenic requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for him...unless he really obviously needs the help...or he specifically requests assistance. In this instance, he's not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!


  1. I feel like a "plop" is missing here...:)

    1. Ha! ;) I was thinking about it.

      Feel free to replace "What a dump? Who's place is th... oh, it's mine." with "Plop".

  2. I wonder what the game means by "Half-Hajj". Hajj is the pilgrimage to Mecca that every Muslim has to do at least once, but you're not called "Hajj" after you've done that. And even then what would the "half" refer to? That's he's done half the pilgrimage? I don't think that makes much sense.

    1. This is a quote I found: "We called him the Half-Hajj because he had once set out on the holy pilgrimage to Makkah, got a brilliant idea for making a ton of money in a short amount of time, quit the pilgrimage and headed back home, and forgot the brilliant idea before he got back here. He's so scatterbrained that I rarely saw him when he wasn't wearing a personality module with a better short-term memory built in."

    2. "He is called the Half-Hajj because he is often so scatterbrained that he can never start one project without getting distracted in the middle by two or three others. Saied had actually been on the holy pilgrimage of Hannan several years ago, and actually made it about five hundred miles, and then turned back because he'd had a magnificent money-making scheme, that he forgot before he reached home again."

    3. Ah, so my guess was right, I just should have done some googling. I forgot that the game is based on a book so I didn't think it would turn anything up. Thanks guys!

  3. Wow. The game's certainly not shy about throwing an overwhelming amount of names, places and information at you at the beginning.

  4. GoG sale wrap-up:
    Myst, Syberia 1+2, Amerzone, Journey to the Center of the Earth, 80% off.
    Complete Tex Murphy series, 75% off.

  5. Holiday Greetings from all your favorite Adventure Game developers!

    It even has Roberta toward the end

    1. A bit too long to watch in one go, but nice to see so many developers. And ending with Robert Holmes playing some of my favourite gaming music.

  6. In random computer gaming news, the old Mobygames is back! I wasn't a fan of the new site and apparently most people weren't so Mobygames was sold to a different company who immediately reversed the new layout!,2/dgb,4/dgm,182637/

    1. I'm very pleased about this. Really didn't like the new layout.

  7. Broken Sword 5 on special on Steam for the next 8 hours for $16.74

  8. Heroine's Quest, a free AGS game in the style of Quest for Glory, has been released:

  9. Wow, I'm loving the setting. Sadly I don't know enough about Muslim culture to tell if it is accurate, or at least ethnically sensitive. I also wonder if this was the first positive depiction of gay and trans people in a video game?

    1. Precisely! And Trix gave up playing this game for... Earthrise!?

      Anyway, to answer your questions, yes (except the part where all the non-straights are being tolerated part- guess the future is pretty liberating after all) and yes.

  10. By the way, Zenic, I think it'd be nice if you could provide some insight on the cyberpunk elements in the game so that the readers whom had never played the game/ read the book could relate to your writings.

    For instance, the moddies and daddies, holovids and new-age drugs.

    1. If I knew more about them then I'd probably discuss them more. As I run into them more I'll describe each one, and see if the manual has a good description. At this point though, I think moddies change a person's personality, daddies are tech enhancements (like the HUD and the ability to ignore some stat drain), and holovids and drugs I'll bring up as I come across them. I mean I didn't even get to touch the one disc I saw. ;)

      I'm back home now btw, so expect something from me soon.

  11. Looking at the map on the 3rd screen I would differentiate type of places with different colors, e.g. green - restaurants (food), blue - bars (drinks), violet - non-operational places, yellow - other shops with a stuff to buy (Laila's mods, Electronique, ...). It makes planning a trip a lot easier, especially if the time runs out.