Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Yesterday's Toys, Tomorrow

Growing up, I had a lot of the hot toys of the 80s and 90s; G.I. Joes, Transformers and tons of Legos.  One particular toy line that I owned never really earned popular fame, but still to this days holds a special place in my heart - Robotix.  Basically they were a collection of plastic pieces that could be interconnected via simple hexagonal male/female hard points.  That might sound like nothing more than some oddly shaped building blocks, but what made them interesting was the little battery powered electric motors.  I had six of them, four from one set and two from another.  With these parts it was possible to construct all sorts of contraptions from wheeled vehicles to grabber claws, and even the robot dinosaurs (which were the default design).  I had a lot of fun with Robotix, but like most of my childhood toys, they have been lost to time.  Enter the video game equivalent of my former hobby - Besiege.

Essentially, this game is Robotix with unlimited parts and motors.  A select list of challenges exist for would-be players.  Although, from what I can gather most people don't play the game so much as use it like a tutorial after which they let their imaginations run wild.  Some of the creations players have come up with for something as basic as left/right steering are incredibly creative. This game could definitely be a powerful educational tool (at least as an introduction to engineering).  Granted, Besiege isn't trying to be completely realistic in that players don't have to worry about what's supplying the power to their creation's wheels and cogs.  I think that's fine though since it helps strike a nice balance between respecting physics while still allowing ease of enjoyment.

True to its namesake, Besiege is primary about assaulting fortified locations.  However, it does mix thing up from time to time with zones that have unusual objectives.  The most clear-cut example that comes to mind it a giant valve that has to be rotated clockwise several times in order to advance to the next area.  Personally, I look forward to seeing what the developer throws at the players next.

You can still buy Robotix online.  They're a lot more colorful than they used to be, but the parts and motors remain functionally the same.  I imagine Besiege too will have largely the same components in the future even if the content changes  as the game continues to progress through early access.  It has been slow going for the game due to the upgrade to the latest version of the Unity rendering engine.  But since that is now finished we might finally get to see some more unlocked continents on the starting selection globe.  Until then keep on building you crazy diamonds.

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