Salvage Trader 1.0 has Launched

Salvage Trader, station interface
After a year and a half, a Kickstarter and a team of helpers, Salvage Trader finally saw the light of day. My little baby has been released into the world, and I could not be happier.

Granted, there were bumps and bruises along the way, from a fraudulent backer, to three of us burning the midnight oil on the eve before launch, to get as many details added as possible. There are still many such details left, but we are saving those for a future update. For now, we celebrate.

The game itself is a casual strategy thing, made to be played through in a sitting or two. For now, it’s Mac only, but a Windows 8 version is 80% done.

If you’d like to learn more, and possibly get your hands on a copy, head over to and check it out.

Grim Games: Prison Architect

Prison Architect
In the Grim Games series, I recommend titles that are fun and a little darker than your average video game. These somewhat sinister games add another dimension to playing, exposing you to moral conundrums, even straight up evil. This second post focuses on…

Prison Architect is, as the title implies, about building correctional facilities. You take on the role of a builder and administrator of wonderful, for-profit prisons! You can more or less set your own challenge level when playing this game, depending on the number and type of prisoners you decide to take on. Of course, more prisoners means more money, with which you can build an even bigger, more advanced prisons. Meanwhile, you have to ensure that the inmates behave, don’t kill each other or the staff (too often), keep them from escaping, and avoid rioting. But you should probably prepare for them doing all of the above.

The game rewards the strategic player. For maximum efficiency, plan ahead and avoid making life more difficult than it needs to be. This applies to everything from the location of various buildings, laying down water pipes and mapping out patrol routes, to longer term plans spanning more than a single prison.

I like to start by making a fairly small, low security facility, where only about a dozen or so inmates have plenty of space and things to do. Once this friendly place is running smoothly, it will generate a small profit, at which point I sell it off. By doing so, I get a bigger pile of starting cash, and can start building a new, bigger, meaner prison.

Prison Architect

Mostly, this game is about resource management and planning ahead, but you do feel like an Evil Overlord, as you callously make decisions affecting the prisoners in your care. Soon enough, you’ll find yourself not bothering with windows in every cell (or any), and putting off frivolous things, like a place for prisoners to receive visitors, until you’re on the brink of a riot. You might even find yourself gambling with over crowding your prison just before selling it, just to pump up the profit margin. As long as you can do it without causing any incidents, that might negatively impact the sale. Good times in the slammer!

Grim Games: Papers, Please

Papers, Please
Grim Games is a new series, in which I recommend titles that are fun and a little darker than your average video game. These somewhat twisted games add another dimension to playing, exposing you to morally interesting questions, even straight up evil. Let’s kick off the series with…

Papers, Please is one of my favorite games, even though I suck at it. You take on the role of a poor sap, working the newly opened Grestin border crossing in the dystopian, cold-war era, totalitarian regime that is Arstotzka. Your job is to check that everyone’s papers are in order, before either letting them in, sending them away, or detaining them for questioning. It’s an ungrateful job, and you will be exposed to everything from murderers on the run and terrorists to prostitution rings and families torn apart.

As you progress, the paperwork gets more and more complicated, and you will likely be able to process fewer people per day. This means less pay, which in turn makes you short on the bills. Soon enough, your family will get sick from having no heat and not enough food, but if you’re lucky, you will scrape in cash enough to at least avoid eviction.

Papers, Please

In some ways, Papers, Please is quite depressing, and this feeling is amplified by the gritty, desaturated graphics and a soundtrack that would make any Soviet General stand at attention. And I am completely in love with this gem of a game! Whenever I have had a really good day, I like to fire it up and get a dose of humiliation. Glory to Arstotzka!