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You're in a desert, walking along in the sand, when all of a sudden you look down and see a tortoise. It's crawling toward you. You reach down and you flip the tortoise over on its back. The tortoise lays on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs trying to turn itself over, but it can't. Not without your help. But you're not helping. Why is that? Why are you not helping?

RPG Codex Review: ELEX!

Review - posted by Infinitron on Sat 9 December 2017, 23:55:39

Tags: ELEX; Piranha Bytes

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Nearly two months ago, Piranha Bytes released ELEX and proved that the RPG Codex Hivemind can make memes real. It's a good game, not perfect, but easily their best since the original Risen. Against all odds and after years of anguish, fans of Piranha Bytes' distinctive style of open world action-RPG once again have a future to look forward to. Darth Roxor has always been our point man on these games, and ELEX is certainly no exception. It is my greatest honor (no, not my other honor) to present his extensive review. Here's an excerpt:

The slice of Magalan where ELEX takes place is divided into five distinct regions – the lush forests of Edan, the highlands of Abessa, the desert of Tavar, the volcanic wasteland of Ignadon and the snowy mountains of Xacor. It might sound like a theme park on paper, but the terrain diversity in the game actually comes with a great degree of geographical plausibility that makes it feel like a real world. And what a huge world it is too! Barring Xacor, which is mostly an endgame kill fest level, all the others are extensive territories, each with its own city, old world ruins, local Alb invasion and lots upon lots of neat little things and secrets to run into. The openness of the world and the multiple connections between the respective regions are the primary thing that sets ELEX apart from the likes of Risen 2 and 3. The game takes place on a real map with real locations, and not a network of islands with conveniently placed ledges and corridors that all lead to the same spots.

That said, it must be mentioned that Piranha Bytes once again made the same mistake they did in Gothic 3. Namely, that the world is sometimes just too huge for its own good. The most glaring example of this is Ignadon – not only is it overall much lower in quality than the rest of the game, it also gives a feeling of having been rushed or subjected to big cuts. To be frank, when you think about the quests and content available in Ignadon, you can come to the conclusion that the entire region, except for its city, could have been removed from the game with no real repercussions, as long as a few of its better assets would be relocated to other parts of the map.

Nevertheless, there is still a chockful of things to do around every corner, all over the world. Exploration in ELEX is addictive as hell, and it seems like there’s not a patch of land that wouldn’t have something interesting to it. What the game does perfectly is recreate the feeling of curiosity as you travel through it – the sudden “ooh, I wonder what’s over there” that takes you on a detour spanning hours as you move from one point of interest to another. Combine that with the fact that the world is also fully open from the very beginning, with no invisible barriers whatsoever except for map boundaries, which are represented by convenient killer radiation fields, and the “Free as a Bird” main quest that you get at the start becomes more than just an empty slogan.

Mind you, this doesn’t mean that ELEX is a “hiking simulator” where you can go anywhere you want and observe pretty landscapes without running into any trouble. Hiking in ELEX is going to get you killed. The wildlife is vicious, mutants want to murder you at every step and bandits can’t wait to give you a lead injection. However, you have one significant advantage at your disposal that lets you get away from all harm. The jetpack.

PB were hyping the jetpack a lot before release, and I feared it would either end up as a tacked-on gimmick or something that would kill exploration. Turns out I was wrong, and the developers must have planned its inclusion with great care. Floating around from place to place, scaling mountains or old radio towers and flying away in panic from powerful enemies is much more fun and seamlessly connected to the exploration than you might think, and somehow it also never gets old. As I mentioned before, you also can’t use it to exploit enemy AI, because most foes have ranged attacks to shoot you down and some even sport jetpacks of their own. Its use in combat is also limited to quick repositioning or barraging gits from up high with ranged weapons, which makes it just another tool at your disposal, and not some kind of “I-Win” button.

[...] Yet in spite of the aforementioned issues, I’d say the world is still well-crafted and fun to uncover. Another point in its favour, which is also quite the surprise, is that despite looking really dumb and corny in screens or pre-release materials, Magalan actually turns out to be a very interesting and logical setting.

First, there are many small things that all act together to make it come to life, from environmental storytelling, through such details as city guard being divided into separate patrols of day and night watch, NPCs physically moving from place to place instead of teleporting around (even between cities), to the game having its own alphabet. Second, the factions in the game all have believable agenda, distinct themes and beliefs, and clear-cut axes of conflict between each other. The Berserkers (whose name doesn’t fit at all, but whatever) are a hippie gathering of viking-ish druids, who have a strict code of law, abhor all technology and want to purge the planet of Elex. This makes them a mortal enemy of the Clerics – psychic religious fundies with droids and lasers – who only tolerate the law set by their god and need the Elex to power their machines. Meanwhile, neither of the two factions is popular among the third, the Outlaws, who are Mad Max-type desert drifters that live among scrap and really love their personal freedoms and independence.

The conflicts between the factions are also portrayed nicely in the game itself. There is no open war just yet, but it’s clear that one might happen very soon. Every region and every city is infiltrated in some way by agents of all the factions, who try to further their agenda there. Not only does this contribute to the world feeling alive, it’s also a very welcome difference from Risen 3, where none of the factions interacted with each other whatsoever and where every region existed in some kind of hermetically sealed vacuum.

[...] Starting the game, I was dead sure that it would be horrible. Meanwhile I sunk into it for 85 long hours, which was only enough to complete one “full world lawnmowing” playthrough – save game counter tells me 70 hours, but I got an 80h playtime cheevo at 65, so I must have spent 15 idling and reloading (which sure is a lot of reloading). However, I also know that it took some folks just 20-something hours to breeze through it.

If I had to give you a short overall impression of ELEX, I would probably call it the same way one thread on our forums refers to Divine Divinity – it is probably the best shit game I’ve ever played. Sure, there are parts of it that are downright abysmal, broken or user-unfriendly. But at the same time, it is so incredibly addictive and fun that I don’t remember the last time a game sucked me in so completely for so long.

Perhaps a lot of it has to do with expectations and experience. I’ve witnessed the horrors of Risen 2 and 3 first-hand, so seeing the numerous improvements over these in ELEX was already a surprise for me, because ELEX is objectively an all-around better game than the both of those combined, which I suppose is at least one proven case of a developer being held back by an idiotic publisher. There is still a lot of room for improvement left to be sure, and I do hope Piranha Bytes do not waste the opportunity. If I had to give them at least one major piece of advice as to how ELEX 2 could be made better, it would definitely be to scale things down – reduce the world size, but improve its content. Gothic 3 was already an example of them overreaching, and ELEX in many ways repeats the same mistake.

Your very own expectations are also likely to influence how you will receive ELEX. If you are deluded enough to expect another Gothic, you might as well forget it. But if you still have that open world, no-nonsense PB game itch that needs scratching (and you know you do), ELEX might just be the thing you need. It looks dumb, it might be infuriating sometimes, but all I can say is: don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.​

Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: ELEX!

There are 88 comments on RPG Codex Review: ELEX!

Fri 8 December 2017
Underrail Dev Log #56: Version Beta

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 8 December 2017, 23:48:32

Tags: Stygian Software; Underrail

It's clear that the Expedition expansion for Underrail will not be coming out this year, but Styg does have something to tide us over for the holidays. His latest development update announces the release of an experimental beta for the game's next version. It looks to be a major update, with new content and significant mechanical changes in addition to the usual raft of tweaks and bugfixes. I'll post an excerpt from the extensive changelog, but first a look at a few of the game's new critters:

[​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

Hi guys, we are releasing a new major update of the base game on the experimental branch. If everything goes as planned, we'll be releasing it to the main branch as well soon.

To play experimental branch on Steam, you right click the game in your library and go to "Betas" tab. To do so on GOG, you select the game and choose More->Settings. Make sure you don't override all your live version saves just in case something goes horribly wrong.

We have new creatures, items and feats.

  • Increased Coil Spider psi points and psi regeneration
  • Coil Spiders now have darkvision
  • Added Greater Coil Spiders
  • Added a new machinegun turret to replace the regular auto-turret in certain places and on certain difficulties
  • Increased dodge and evasion of burrower spawns, but also increased their susceptibility to AoE attacks
  • Dogs will now attempt to bump you out of stealth when the detection gets into ALERTED state, just like human NPCs (on normal difficulty or higher)
  • Added a stronger version of psi beetle
  • Increased crawler attack damage a bit; they also regenerate health now (even in combat) and have dark vision
  • Added a stronger version of crawler
  • Added stronger version of mutants Hunchback mutants
  • Because of the global map, some areas had to be added and some had to be reorganized (especially around the starting cave areas) in order to achieve geographical consistency
  • Added a number of possible random events around the world
  • Reworked a lot of encounters to scale with game difficulty (from easy to dominating). Normal was mostly kept as it is, but some encounters (typically mid-late and late game ones) were made more difficult on that level.
  • Reworked the Free Drone's final mission debriefing dialog with Trenton in order to better handle a certain optional outcome
  • DC mindreading will now take into account the number of killed Faceless, which will have negative effects of varying degrees depending on that number; however, kills during certain story-related events where combat is unavoidable will not be counted
  • Expanded the Hanging Rat bar and added a base ability check
Have fun with the new stuff and please stay patient as we continue to work on the Expedition DLC.
It's a brave new Underrail. Read the full changelog for details on the changes to the game's user interface, items, feats and more.

There are 34 comments on Underrail Dev Log #56: Version Beta

Demons Age has apparently been released

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 8 December 2017, 02:11:06

Tags: Bigmoon Entertainment; Demons Age

The last time we posted about Demons Age, Bigmoon Entertainment's strange repurposing of the long-lost Chaos Chronicles, we had just learned that the game was scheduled to come out on June 30th. To the surprise of few, that date went by and no game materialized, with no explanation from Bigmoon even though one of their developers had been posting in our forums only days earlier. The game was delayed to July, and then to September, and then it completely fell off our radar. Until last week, when a Steam page for it suddenly appeared out of nowhere. The page announced that Demons Age was going to be released on December 8th - so naturally it was released today, a day earlier. Have I mentioned that they're still using the trailer that announced it going to be out in June? God this is so weird. Here's the game's description:

DEMONS AGE is a brand new title that brings together the characteristics of a classic turn-based roleplaying game with modern graphics and a gripping atmosphere.

Players will dive into the world of Moragon, which is being overrun by Demons after a period of relative quiet. It is up to them to travel the land and discover the relation between the Demon uprising and a mysterious sect that is trying to reawaken the mythical Lord of Darkness, Vazuhr.

Select one of 16 convicts from different races and classes, and experience a thrilling adventure in which you must hire like-minded adventurers to form a party, explore mysterious ruins and fight against ancient evil forces, in a classic turn-based combat style.
Discover or buy new and better equipment to prepare yourself and your party to battle the arduous combats that you will face in the dangerous land of Moragon.

But beware. Danger may be closer than you think since one wrong decision while choosing a fellow adventurer may turn allies into enemies.
There are already several gameplay videos of Demons Age available on YouTube. As the above description suggests, the game has not received the proper character creation that some of our users had asked for, despite the extra time afforded by its postponement. In fact, it's unclear whether it's changed at all over the past year. No doubt there's an amusing development story here that will probably never be told, much like with the already forgotten Empyre: Lords of the Sea Gates. Thus ends the bizarre saga of Chaos Chronicles, not with a bang but with a "WTF?".

There are 39 comments on Demons Age has apparently been released

Wed 6 December 2017
Bard's Tale IV Kickstarter Update #39: Puzzle Weapons

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 6 December 2017, 02:40:39

Tags: Bard's Tale IV; David Rogers; InXile Entertainment; Paul Marzagalli

The Bard's Tale IV is supposed to be coming out sometime next year, but as of now we've seen precious little of it, certainly compared to other games with the same release timeframe. Today inXile published a new Kickstarter update for the game, the first in over two months. It's still not the big gameplay reveal everybody was hoping for, but at least it's more interesting than the last one. The update is by systems designer David Rogers and its topic is puzzle weapons - weapons whose powers can be unlocked by manipulating their components, solving riddles and combining items in the correct way. I quote:

The Hidden Power of Puzzle Weapons

Puzzle weapons are our spin on magic weapons in the world of The Bard’s Tale, and part of the Enhanced Crafting System stretch goal that you helped achieve. We want the sense of discovery to begin anew when you loot a magic weapon, rather than end as soon as you look at the tooltip. If you think back to the Kickstarter, you might remember this concept video:

We used that mockup to explore several core concepts about puzzle weapons that really enchanted us. We loved the idea that a weapon could hold dormant power, and that you could be holding onto one of these weapons for hours or days without realizing exactly how powerful the weapon truly was. We loved the idea that not every part of the weapon was fully obvious, and that you might have to poke around to find how to unlock the next step. We also liked the idea that your weapon would transform in some way when its true power was finally unlocked. These are all core tenets we held onto when designing the full puzzle weapon system for The Bards Tale IV.

This is what a puzzle weapon looks like now. Puzzle weapons were crafted by the elves in ages past, and left in the realm of men. They’re infused with powerful magic that can only be unlocked by the worthy. When the player finds them, their true power lays dormant. To unleash that power and allow it to flow fully through the weapon, you must manipulate and examine the item in 3D. Components of the weapon may be missing, puzzles might be scrambled, and riddles are most definitely accounted for.

Behind the scenes, puzzle weapons are generated from a large set of components, and found as high-tier loot as you adventure through the world. For example, a puzzle mace is constructed from a pommel, grip, collar, and bludgeon head. Each part features its own type of puzzle, and each puzzle has multiple variations and difficulties. The higher quality the item, the more ways to unlock its power you might find. The difficulty of the puzzles are based on your progress in the game, and how many other puzzle weapons you've previously solved.
In addition to self-contained puzzles that see you manipulating components on the item, there are also puzzles that interact with other elements of gameplay. Some puzzle weapons have you scouring merchants for magic gems for your weapon; others having you seeking out ancient shrines; while others still have you seeking to defeat specific enemies to feed the weapon with their blood; all the while you’re looking for hidden buttons, secret compartments, and manipulating small elements.

An In-Depth Look at Puzzle Weapon Mechanics

Let's go through an example. You've just found an Elven Mace with an empty power gem slot, and a set of interlocking rings around it. Rotate those rings the right way, and you'll spell out a riddle written in Elven language. The verse might read something as obvious as “As pure as snow and bright as moon, thy shining light is evil's doom.” - but many may be more cryptic.

Using the riddle, you'll determine which of the five differently colored Elven Seed Gems need to be inserted. Of course, finding one might require you to explore the world, barter with a merchant, or defeat a powerful enemy guarding it.

With the correct Elven Seed Gem inserted into the pommel, the weapon now has its power source, and begins glowing with magic! So what happens next?

Each time you solve a component on a puzzle weapon, that weapon earns a boon. Boons are special effects that come in multiple strengths, and can evolve as you continue to unlock your weapon's powers. One boon category is the Elder boon, which has three strengths: Elder, Of Ancient Slumber, and Ancestral. Your elven mace may become an Elder Elven Mace, meaning that its ability gains damage every single turn. Solve another component, and it becomes an Elven Mace of Ancient Slumber, which means that the first time it’s used in combat, it’s awoken, and deals a massive amount of bonus damage. Fully unlocking the weapon's true power could turn your mace into an Ancestral Elven Mace, which would cause this weapon to accumulate a large amount of bonus damage each turn it goes unused. And just to drive the point home, when you achieve the final tier of boon, the weapon visibly transforms to indicate that its magic is fully realized.

But don’t get too eager buying up every Seed Gem you see and haphazardly jamming ithem into your puzzle weapons. The elves are strict folk and demand perfection. When answering riddles on your puzzle weapons, incorrect answers are punished with a curse. Curses are negative effects that apply to attacks made by that weapon. Similar to boons, they start out light, but as you answer question incorrectly time and time again, the curse grows in severity. One of our curse categories is Decaying, which has three tiers of severity: Dull, Chipped, and Rust-Pocked. The first time you fail a riddle, your Elven Mace may become a Dull Elven Mace and suffer from a slight reduction in damage. Not so bad, even with the damage reduction it may still be the best weapon you have available. If you fail a riddle a second time, it becomes a Chipped Elven Mace instead. Now, instead of being dull, it has a % chance to be unusable for the rest of the fight after a single attack. If you continue to insist on guessing at the solution to the riddle, it finally becomes a Rust-Pocked Elven Mace, which imparts a much harsher curse: you’re only ever able to activate this weapon’s ability once per combat. Curses aren’t designed to make you throw away the weapon outright, but we do want you to think twice about trying to brute-force your way to a solution. There may be a way to remove curses in game, but don't expect it to be cheap or readily available.

Both boons and curses influence how you use your weapon in combat, or how you might build a character. For example, a Rust-Pocked Ancestral Elven Dagger would lead to a boss-obliterating rogue build where you wait 5 or 6 turns to accrue an insane amount of bonus damage before using other strength-amplifying abilities to land a walloping final blow. Unlocking the true power of a puzzle weapon is a quest in its own right, and one well worth the effort if you ever hope to save the world of Caith.​

We might be seeing more of The Bard's Tale IV soon. The next Kickstarter updates will be outlining the game's class system, which sounds like it's pretty complex. inXile are actually running a survey to select which class archetype to show first - Fighter, Practitioner, Rogue, or Bard, each of which consists of 4-6 classes. We also noticed that Bard's Tale series creator Michael Cranford is giving a talk about the development of the original games at GDC next March. Apparently inXile's community manager helped him put that together, so it's reasonable to assume it will be timed to promote the new game in some fashion.

There are 6 comments on Bard's Tale IV Kickstarter Update #39: Puzzle Weapons

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Divinity: Original Sin 2 Kickstarter Update #45: Patches, Mods and an Upcoming Announcement

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 6 December 2017, 00:16:37

Tags: Divinity: Original Sin 2; Larian Studios; Swen Vincke

Divinity: Original Sin 2 has been out for nearly three months now, and it was recently announced that it's sold over a million copies. The game has received several patches during that time, but only this latest one was deemed important enough to get its own Kickstarter update. It's actually the first Kickstarter update since the game's release. The patch includes a few new convenience improvements and a ton of bugfixes, but nothing really game-changing, I think. The full patch notes are available here. The update also offers tribute to the Original Sin 2 modding community, profiling several notable mods. Here's the accompanying video, featuring a much less exhausted-looking than before Swen Vincke:

Larian will be at PAX South next month, January 12-14, where they apparently plan to announce their next project. Will it be an expansion for Original Sin 2, or an entirely new game? I guess we'll see.

There are 7 comments on Divinity: Original Sin 2 Kickstarter Update #45: Patches, Mods and an Upcoming Announcement

Sat 2 December 2017
Pillars of Eternity II Q&A Stream #8

Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Sat 2 December 2017, 23:06:17

Tags: Aarik Dorobiala; Brian Heins; J.E. Sawyer; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire

The Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire beta has been out for just over two weeks, but it hasn't taken long for the community to identify the things they don't like about it. Just two days after the beta's release, Josh Sawyer had already published a tweetstorm responding to the most common complaints, regarding the game's diminished spell selection for traditional casters, combat speed, the removal of general talents, and other issues. Most people would have been happy to get a new version with just those issues addressed, but Josh had further plans. This Tuesday he published another tweetstorm announcing his decision to experiment with abandoning the concept of the Might attribute (an iconic and oft grognard-lamented element of the first game), replacing it with a more traditional Strength attribute affecting only physical damage (including ranged) and moving spell damage to Resolve in order to make that attribute more attractive. This decision proved so controversial that Josh had to follow up with an extended blog post explaining his reasoning.

It may not be a coincidence that with all of this happening, Obsidian decided on rather short notice to run another Pillars of Eternity II Q&A stream this weekend. The special guest this time was Brian Heins, formerly the project director of Tyranny, now revealed to be a senior designer on Deadfire with the conclusion of that game's development. With the beta now in the wild, the questions asked in this stream were more on point than in previous Q&A sessions. In addition to clarifying some of the game's known issues and recently announced changes, Josh and Brian also revealed new plans to tweak the incentives for resting by removing or reducing the maximum health penalty imposed by injuries. One thing not mentioned in the stream is when this ambitious new beta update is coming out. You can watch the whole thing here:

For those of us who don't have time to watch, the great Fereed has once again come through with a transcript of the Q&A stream. I wonder if these are going to be more common now.

There are 26 comments on Pillars of Eternity II Q&A Stream #8

Tue 28 November 2017
ATOM RPG released on Steam Early Access

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 28 November 2017, 19:50:02


Back in April, we reported about the Kickstarter campaign for ATOM RPG, a Fallout-inspired RPG from Eastern Europe that seemed better than most games of that description. The campaign was a success, not surprising given the low funding goal, and it even reached a few stretch goals. I haven't followed the game's development closely, but it looks like things have been progressing well since then, with regular status updates every few weeks. ATOM isn't due till sometime next year, but it's now in good enough shape for a public release on Steam Early Access. Here's the game's launch trailer, which isn't shy about its influences, and its Early Access FAQ:

Why Early Access?

“There are several reasons.
We want to give to the players who were following the development a chance to experience all the new features.
We want to study the suggestions and complaints that the players may have.
And we want to finance the development of the game till its release in 2018.”

Approximately how long will this game be in Early Access?

“Approximately around five or six months.”

How is the full version planned to differ from the Early Access version?

“The final release will have a continuation (and conclusion) of the main story, several large side-quest lines, many smaller side-quests and a variety of random encounters. It will also have many more locations (including two large cities and two more global maps).
We also plan to better the battle system, add new recipes to the crafting, include Traits that the player could choose at the beginning of the game, make a tutorial and add a couple of new cut-scenes.
The UI, sounds, animations, graphics, game balance, etc. could also experience a lot of minor and not so minor tweaks depending on the player's reaction.”

What is the current state of the Early Access version?

“The early access version features 20+ quests, 75+ unique characters (every one with their own dialogue and portrait), 200+ items, 15+ music tracks, 7000+ lines of dialogues (about 100k words), 50+ locations, English and Russian translations, nonlinear world exploration, possibility to play as a male or as a female, more or less finished UI, crafting system, role-playing system, battle system (albeit some features are not yet implemented), minor survival mechanic, etc.”

Will the game be priced differently during and after Early Access?

“The price of the game during the early access stage will be the same as for the finished product.”

How are you planning on involving the Community in your development process?

“We want the community to express their opinions about the game features, as well as suggest some new ideas and share what's, in their opinion, works and what needs to be redone! Which will ultimately help us make the game better!”
All Kickstarter backers have received a key for ATOM RPG, and you can get one yourself for the same price they paid, a mere $15. According to today's Kickstarter update, the developers are looking to release the game on GOG as well.

There are 68 comments on ATOM RPG released on Steam Early Access

Wed 22 November 2017
Underworld Ascendant Update #40: Deep Slugs of Upper Erebus

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 22 November 2017, 00:35:44

Tags: Joe Fielder; OtherSide Entertainment; Underworld Ascendant

The latest Underworld Ascendant development update continues to chronicle the game's progress towards release sometime late next year. This update describes OtherSide's work on a new level called Upper Erebus, which is apparently adjacent to the previously mentioned settlement of Marcaul. Among its inhabitants are the peaceful creatures known as Deep Slugs, who have a variety of uses. I quote:


Joe Fielder, here. That question above was a message a friend and external tester sent me earlier this week. I was happy to relay that, for an incredibly dangerous environment on the borders of The Underworld, it’s quite well, in fact.

We’ve recently completed a Milestone where we allow the player to enter the settlement of Marcaul, make a choice of six, unique different quests in our Upper Erebus level, complete it, and return to town to collect their reward, grow their character, and choose another quest.

Since Upper Erebus is a level the player wouldn’t encounter for a few hours into the game, we provided a few choices of demo-only “hero kits” that represented growth and equipment choices they might’ve made by that point. Each mixed combat, stealth, and magic skills in a different, interesting ways.

While those kits won’t be in the final game, they let us hop in and quickly have fun and start experimenting in the simulation. One kit provided combat skills, the ability to heave heavy objects, a few movement options for tough-to-reach locations, and a Create Fire spell. Another focused on stealth skills, like soft step and a combat bonus for attacking enemies while undetected. The third was a combination of a little stealth and a lot of magic, with spells including those you’ve seen before (like Gravitate and Slow Time) and a few you haven’t…

The level is comprised of spaces that are interesting to explore and areas designed to provide a bevy of options for combat, stealth, magic, and interacting with the environment. One of the most fun things to interact with in the world so far is the Deep Slug, which we’ve mentioned a bit before, but haven’t previously shown you up close.

It’s an example of what we refer to as an “ambient” creature, which exist in the environment, don’t attack on sight, and have useful behaviors that the player can exploit. In short, a tool or toy.

In the Deep Slug’s case, it’s a peaceful creature that avoids conflict and has a few different useful trails. You can bait it with its favorite foods and its trails will change depending which one it devours.

For instance, if you feed it the fruit of a Ripper (a terrible tree monster), it’ll leave behind a flammable trail. Bait it into the patrol path of skeletons or near a wooden platform, apply fire, and enjoy!

If you feed it a Nether Caps? It leaves behind a trail of sight-blocking smoke. Beyond that, we’re not saying.

It’s not only fun to experiment with, it’s often vital when dealing with groups of foes to difficult to tackle one-on-one.

And, it’s kind of adorable. In a gross way.

Since hitting that milestone, we’ve been doing another round of external testing so we can get key feedback on how to further refine our core experience (combat, object interactions, spell interactions, and more). Ensuring that the logic underlying the game’s simulated systems (physics, physical properties) is clear – without overt handholding – is a key part of creating an immersive sim.

We’ve also been digging into VFX, expanding our bestiary with the Lich and Outcasts, adding new spells and skills, and design work on multiple levels, including the Necropolis and… well, a space that fans of Ultima Underworld will definitely appreciate. We’re holding back in-depth looks at those for a bit, both to refine and so it doesn’t get lost among news of holiday releases, but we’ve been making much progress and will have much new to share.

Last, but not least, we have some exciting news on the narrative front: the game’s script is approaching completion and we’re recording with Stephen (Thief, Fallout 4, Dishonored 2) Russell in a just few weeks.
Once again, things sound more fleshed out than ever before. It really feels like this game didn't enter full production until two years after its Kickstarter campaign, but better late than never I guess. OtherSide seem to be in good shape now, in general. Thanks to their new publisher 505 Games, they've finally got a decent-looking website for Ascendant. They've moved into new offices and have shut down crowdfunding too, so I guess money isn't a problem. Maybe the alpha and beta will be out sooner than we think.

There are 11 comments on Underworld Ascendant Update #40: Deep Slugs of Upper Erebus

Tue 21 November 2017
The New World Update #21: Grenades & Headgear

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 21 November 2017, 19:23:26

Tags: Colony Ship RPG; Iron Tower Studios; Vault Dweller

Vault Dweller's latest development update for The New World is titled "Grenades, Gadgets, and Headgear". If that sounds familiar, it's because there was an update called "Gadgets & Grenades" earlier this year which covered much of the same territory. But this one goes into further detail about the game's two types of grenades, adds descriptions of the its selection of protective headgear, and doesn't actually have any details on gadgets at all. It's also got lots of cool art, but there's no room for that here. I'll quote the part about the ship-made grenades, which seems to be the most fleshed out:

There are 3 main tactical elements:
  • Different attacks with pros and cons AoD-style
  • Cover (natural and energy shields) and gadgets
  • Grenades
The first two are self-explanatory, the third one is something new and hopefully exciting, so let's go over the design as we're about to start implementing it.

Ship-made Grenades (cheap and fairly common, many enemies will have several grenades on their belts).

1. Gas Grenade – creates a visible 7x7 poison cloud that hovers over the affected area for 2 turns and does X damage per turn for Y number of turns (once poisoned).

If poison gets through the respirator or mask (i.e. the mask doesn’t block the poison entirely), it causes low damage to physical stats (STR, DEX, CON), which is worse than 2-3 points of damage per turn.

So the gas grenades’ stats are:
- Damage per turn
- Number of turns once poisoned
- Stat damage (damage range is 1-3; 1 is common, 3 is rare).

- respirators (half masks), gas masks (full masks), full helmets to reduce poison DR
- implant (synthetic heart with blood purifier) to reduce poison stat damage

2. Flashbang Grenade – instant flash in the middle of a 7x7 area that sets all affected enemies’ PER to 1 (thus lowering THC), reduces their AP by 10 (disoriented), and sets Evasion to 0. All effects last 1 turn, Evasion penalty starts during the player’s turn and ends after the enemy’s turn.

Defense: Combat goggles, full helmets, or implant (bionic eye) to reduce PER and AP loss

3. Smoke Grenade – creates a dense 7x7 cloud that hovers over the affected area for 2 turns. The cloud greatly reduces visibility: if your target is in the cloud or behind the cloud (i.e. there is a smoke cloud between you and your target), your THC is set to 5%, representing zero visibility.

Basically, it affects both parties (if you’re in the cloud, you can’t see anything outside of it either), so it’s best suited for charging melee attackers to generate some cover while they are on the move.

Defense: Goggles, full helmets, or implants (bionic eye with different properties) to increase visibility (thermal vision).

We assume that your THC is THC under perfect conditions. If the visibility is reduced, your THC is reduced with it. So if combat goggles give you visibility of 80% and your THC is 60%, then your adjusted THC is 60*0.8 = 48%

The AI will target your weaknesses, so if your character has high-quality goggles but a cheap gas mask, the AI will use a poison grenade, etc. This way reloading and equipping a better gas mask won’t make a difference because the AI will target a different weakness. Your headgear will be useful not only in combat but also while exploring the ship, so non-combat characters will still have a reason to look for better gear.
Be sure to read the full update on the Iron Tower forums. And wait, there's more! Unlike most games that have just one reputation score or one reputation score per faction, The New World will track your reputation in a variety of activities, including combat, stealth and exploration. In another thread on the forums, Vault Dweller is looking for help with coming up with better descriptors for the game's combat reputation ranks. So help him out while you're there.

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Beamdog announce Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 21 November 2017, 16:40:46

Tags: Beamdog; Neverwinter Nights; Trent Oster

It may or may not be a coincidence that Beamdog chose to announce their next game just days after we gave them some press with our little Planescape scoop. Having given up on remaking Icewind Dale 2, they're finally leaving the Infinity Engine behind and moving on to the next D&D game on the list. Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition is both the most and least obvious game Beamdog could enhance. On one hand, the original Neverwinter Nights is a title that's very close to the heart of Trent Oster, who was its project director and lead designer. On the other hand, the scope for improving it is almost endless, making an Enhanced Edition a potentially daunting project for a small studio. And indeed, Beamdog's rerelease looks like it's going to be more of a version upgrade than the ground-up remake the Infinity Engine got, with full backward compatibility for mods. Here's the game's announcement trailer and press release:

Beamdog to release Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition

EDMONTON, ALBERTA - November 21, 2017. Video game developer Beamdog has announced the return of a classic. Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition is now available to pre-order on Beamdog for $19.99 USD and is available to wishlist on Steam.

As of November 21, 2017, Beamdog will begin selecting lucky fans from the pre-order pool on for the Head Start program. This program allows pre-order owners to play, import modules, and update persistent world servers early.

“Neverwinter Nights was a unique game that distilled the essence of Dungeons & Dragons and allowed players to build, share and act as Dungeon Master for amazing gaming experiences.” said Trent Oster, Beamdog CEO. “I think this unique combination makes Neverwinter Nights one of the most versatile role playing game experiences of all time.” Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition combines the familiarity of the Forgotten Realms with new features like advanced graphic shaders, 4k support, updated translations (French, German, Italian, Polish and Spanish) and the fan community’s most requested bug fixes.

The release is accompanied by a Digital Deluxe bundle which includes three of the original premium modules (Pirates of the Sword Coast, Infinite Dungeons, and Wyvern Crown of Cormyr), two soundtracks collecting all of the original music, and a new portrait pack. Each piece of DLC will be available to wishlist on Steam All content will be available on Windows, macOS, and Linux. “I invite everyone interested in the future of Neverwinter Nights to join the Beamdog forums,” said Oster. “We hope it will become a new home where you can speak directly with the development team. We need to know what YOU want to see Neverwinter Nights become, and we'll do our best to meet and exceed those expectations."

To join the Beamdog community, visit our forums at

More information on Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition can be found at
Over eight years after they were taken down from sale, it appears the Neverwinter Nights Premium Modules will be premium once more. Though according to the description on the press kit site, the Enhanced Edition will include the expansions and Kingmaker modules, same as the Diamond Edition currently available on GOG. The game will be formally announced on Beamdog's Twitch channel today at 12:00 PST, at which point we might learn more.

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Fri 17 November 2017
Beamdog aren't working on a new Planescape game

Company News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 17 November 2017, 00:07:05

Tags: Beamdog; Trent Oster

Our little scoop about a possible new Planescape RPG from Beamdog has made the rounds over the past few days, with articles at PC Gamer, Eurogamer and USgamer. Today it finally elicited an official response from the studio. Unfortunately or fortunately, they aren't working on a new Planescape game. The concept art in the video was merely an "exploration project" for brainstorming purposes. Here's the statement about it from Trent Oster:

A note from Trent on the Planescape concept art going around:

The Beamdog creative and art teams often explore concepts, pitches, and designs touching on different Dungeons & Dragons and unique settings. This was the case of the Planescape: Unraveled character concepts shown in the recently released STORYHIVE Next Level documentary.

At any given time, there are a few of these exploration projects happening in different parts of the studio. They’re typically not shared outside of the company as they can be interpreted as a new project.

We do these exploration projects as a way to find new ways to bring different ideas and creative styles to projects we’re working on. We’ve found it’s a great way to let the creative team stretch themselves and expand their skills. Occasionally, we return to these explorative projects and incorporate them into other things we’re working on.

Does this mean a new Planescape game is currently in the works at at Beamdog? Afraid not, the team is hard at work on other projects at this time. Planescape is an amazing setting that we enjoyed exploring as a part of developing Planescape: Torment: Enhanced Edition and we’d love to visit it again in the future. Only the Lady of Pain knows if that’ll happen, and she’s not sharing.​

Well, so much for that. It's nice that Beamdog can afford to spend time on stuff like this despite however modestly their most recent releases may have sold. I wouldn't mind learning more about what they came up with for "Planescape: Unraveled", though. Was it just concept art or was there anything more?

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Wed 15 November 2017
Pillars of Eternity II Fig Update #42: Backer Beta Released, Q&A Stream #7

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 15 November 2017, 22:58:02

Tags: Aarik Dorobiala; J.E. Sawyer; Katrina Garsten; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity; Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire; Pillars of Eternity: The White March

Josh Sawyer did his Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire Q&A stream last night, at the end of which he announced that the game's backer beta would be released tomorrow - that is, today. Obsidian issued keys to eligible backers a few hours ago and formally announced the release in a new Fig update shortly afterwards. Here's the update's accompanying video, featuring Josh Sawyer and Katrina Garsten, plus a special video Josh put together for today's simultaneous release of the Pillars of Eternity: Definitive Edition (now available on Steam and GOG, and don't forget to grab the free Deadfire Pack DLC).

Naturally, yesterday's Q&A session included many interesting questions about the beta. The following gameplay stream by Twitch personality Ellohime ended up lasting over eight hours (including two hours spent entirely in character creation). Once again, a transcript of the Q&A has been prepared by the indispensable Fereed from Reddit. Here are the archived videos of both streams:

Our users who are playing the Deadfire beta have mostly good things to report. It's in much better shape than the first game's beta was. Although Obsidian seem to be longer committing to a release in March, perhaps the final game isn't far off. More information about the beta is available here.

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BattleTech Kickstarter Update #45: First Look at the Campaign

Preview - posted by Infinitron on Wed 15 November 2017, 21:48:00

Tags: BattleTech; Harebrained Schemes; Jordan Weisman; Mike McCain; Mitch Gitelman

In the first major BattleTech Kickstarter update since August, Harebrained Schemes offer us a long-awaited first look at the game's single-player campaign. There's a screenshot collection and a 25 minute video of one of the campaign missions, which involves the player's mercenary team helping out a group of independent prospectors against a mining corporation. The game has come a long way since the simple skirmish videos we saw earlier this year. Watch the video until the end for a nasty little twist.

The update also includes a brief production report from Mitch Gitelman:

Things are rolling around here! We have the entire singleplayer campaign and mercenary simulation fully assembled and now we’re working through the game chapter-by-chapter, screen-by-screen, feature-by-feature to get everything to a shippable level.

Most mornings, Mike (Game Director) leads playtests/critiques of BATTLETECH in our break room. He holds them in our break room so everyone on the team feels comfortable wandering in and hearing what’s being said. He and Kiva (Lead Designer) determine what they’re going to look at ahead of time and invite the people responsible for that section of the game to play together and collaborate on a plan for improving things. This visibility is key to improvement. When you’re in the thick of making a game, it can be challenging to step back and play it from an audience member’s point of view.

The whole team is methodically working through every part of the game to “up-level” it - missions are getting second and third drafts, designer-created maps are going through full art passes, temporary voice-overs are being replaced with professional actors in missions and cinematics, quiet missions are suddenly filled with dramatic music, and programmer-created interfaces are getting the full art and audio treatment.

It’s a ton of intense work and the whole team meets briefly for announcements and general direction every day before breaking up into small groups for tight communication and progress updates. After that, it’s heads-down for the rest of the day. We try to keep meetings to a minimum and if we have to have one, we do our best to keep it tight and action-oriented.

In addition to all of this, a few members of the team have been diligently progressing on our multiplayer network infrastructure, analyzing data and updating the Double-Secret Multiplayer Beta with important changes. Expect a separate update on that soon.

There’s still a lot of work to do (including tons of balance work) but we can see the next milepost up ahead - the plan is to be feature and content complete by the end of the year, so we can go into full-on bug fixing and polish mode after a much needed break. As Jordan noted in our mid-August update, all indications are that Paradox & HBS will release BATTLETECH in early 2018.

Thanks for sticking with us as we develop our most challenging, complex, and aspirational game to-date. It’s a big one and we truly appreciate all your support.​

Harebrained embarked on a press tour last week, and several sites (PC Gamer, PCGamesN, Rock Paper Shotgun, IGN) have now published their own previews of the BattleTech campaign, including its strategic layer. There have been some misgivings about this game's mechanics during the past few months, but overall it looks to be shaping up into something pretty cool.

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Pillars of Eternity II Early Gameplay Trailer + New Screenshots

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 15 November 2017, 00:56:49

Tags: Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire

It looks like Obsidian have begun to rev up the marketing machine for Pillars of Eternity II. Yesterday store pages for the game were launched on Steam and GOG, and today Obsidian published a new gameplay trailer:

The Steam page also features several new screenshots:

[​IMG] [​IMG]
[​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
The trailer doesn't really contain anything we haven't seen before, but this is only the beginning. Obsidian will be broadcasting another Josh Sawyer Q&A stream on their Twitch channel tonight at 16:00 PST. That'll be followed by a gameplay session featuring Twitch personality Ellohime at 17:00 PST, which will be our first look at the game's Backer Beta. I imagine its release can't be far off now. But more on that tomorrow.

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Mon 13 November 2017
Beamdog might be working on a new Planescape game

Company News - posted by Infinitron on Mon 13 November 2017, 11:37:30

Tags: Beamdog; Phillip Daigle; Trent Oster

Last June, we reported that Beamdog were hiring people to develop a new Dungeons & Dragons RPG. It was unclear what this project was about or if it ever even got off the ground, but it was widely assumed that it would be a Forgotten Realms game. That assumption may have been mistaken. In recent months, bits and pieces of information have begun to leak out about what Beamdog might be working on. An concept art portfolio here, a local news report there. What little they showed didn't look like a typical fantasy RPG at all. Finally, yesterday Buck at GameBanshee spotted a twenty minute documentary video about Beamdog that was published on YouTube two weeks ago, part of a series about Alberta-based videogame developers produced by Avatar Media. It contains compelling evidence that Beamdog are working on a new Planescape RPG, possibly called "Planescape: Unraveled", an obvious reference to the character from Torment. See for yourself:

Here's a closer look at the relevant bit, at 2:37.

The Fated, AKA the Takers, are of course one of Planescape's famous factions, a society of Nietzschean Social Darwinists who serve as the tax collectors of Sigil. As LESS T_T pointed out, the portfolio linked above includes concept art of townsfolk known as Golden Lords, which is another hint that the game Beamdog are working on will take place in Sigil's posher districts. Could this be a Lady's Ward expansion for Planescape Torment: Enhanced Edition? Or is it an entirely new game, perhaps turn-based as the image from the news report suggests? In any case, I suppose this might be what David Gaider has been working on all this time. If it's real, it won't be a surprise if Chris Avellone is involved as well.

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Sat 11 November 2017
Ash of Gods delayed to March 2018

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sat 11 November 2017, 22:43:34

Tags: Ash of Gods: Redemption; AurumDust

Back in May we reported about the Kickstarter campaign for Ash of Gods: Redemption, an impressive-looking Banner Saga-like currently in development at Russian studio AurumDust. With such lavish production qualities, it's not surprising that the campaign was a success, and it even reached two stretch goals. But it didn't reach the highest stretch goal, which would have expanded the storyline for a character in the game named Lo Pheng. Apparently that's something the developers just couldn't let go of, and for that reason they've decided to delay the game's release from the end of this year to March 2018 in order to complete it. In the meantime, Ash of Gods has gotten its own Steam page for you to wishlist. There's no new trailer yet, so instead I'll post this hour and a half of gameplay footage that AurumDust streamed on their YouTube channel back in September:

What do you think, Codex?

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Fri 3 November 2017
Odd Gods, a 90s-themed adventure through spacetime with simultaneous turn-based combat

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 3 November 2017, 23:03:11

Tags: Inn Between Worlds; Odd Gods

Back in June, Codex news hunter LESS T_T spotted a reference to an upcoming RPG called Odd Gods whose development was being funded by the government of the Australian state of Victoria. It's a "tactical time travel role-playing game" by an indie studio called Inn Between Worlds and headed by one Gil Maclean, who was one of the writers on the excellent Ultima V: Lazarus mod back in the day. We pretty much forgot about it after that, right until today when I discovered that Gil Maclean was none other than the Codex's own Grumpy Grognard. Gil was at PAX Australia this past weekend with a pre-alpha demo build of Odd Gods - the first time the game has been properly revealed, it seems. It's wonderfully weird, so it's probably best if I just post the description from the official website here, along with a couple of screenshots:

[​IMG] [​IMG]

Odd Gods is a 90s-style RPG about the 1990s. An isometric tactical role playing game about subcultures, music, spacetime travel, and facing your pop culture demons.

Odd Gods is an indie cRPG in early development from Inn Between Worlds, a new studio formed by industry vets in Melbourne, Australia.


There is no chosen one. A grungy, low fantasy story set at the end of the 1990s.

Classic 'isometric' camera on 3D characters and scenes.

Colourful, 'low budget B-Movie' Art style

Subculture class system based on 1990s archetypes (Skateboarders, Goths, Ravers, Jocks, Nerds etc).

Music Genre 'alignment' system (Mainstream, Alternative, Underground).

Party-based turn-based combat system ('Same Phase' system with no RNG, no % to hit, just tactics).

Narrative features branching paths and multiple endings.

Hand-crafted exploration, narrative and combat content. No level-scaling, no procedural generation, no random encounters.

Original subculture soundtrack recorded with period instruments (where possible).

90s-era difficulty. Odd Gods is not a game for the faint of heart, but the system is 'fair'. Friendly fire is on by default. No bullet sponges. Permadeath, mostly.

Take modern weapons back to older eras (Ancient, Medieval, Early Modern) and vice-versa, but keep an eye on your ammo count and penicillin, for example.

.... No elves, no magic swords, orcs, or any of that guff.

Estimated length: 12hrs including side content:
(a) we're a small indie studio and don't have the capacity for more
(b) we actually want players to finish the game.

Coming soon to PC
As Ted "Theodore" Logan might say, whoa. There's no official gameplay video of Odd Gods yet, but somebody at PAX did upload a recording to Twitter. Additional screenshots are available on the website, and there's also an in-depth preview at Australian website Finder. Will this be the RPG that finally implements Frozen Synapse-style combat? We'll be keeping an eye on this one.

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Pillars of Eternity: Definitive Edition coming on November 15th, will include free Deadfire Pack DLC

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 3 November 2017, 01:54:04

Tags: Obsidian Entertainment; Paradox Interactive; Pillars of Eternity; Pillars of Eternity: The White March

After the release of Pillars of Eternity: Complete Edition on consoles two months ago, it might not be surprising that Obsidian's RPG is set to receive a similar package on its home platform, entitled Pillars of Eternity: Definitive Edition. What makes this release definitive and not merely complete is that in addition to the White March expansion, it will also include a new Gun Runners' Arsenal-style DLC called the Deadfire Pack. The DLC will add portraits from the upcoming sequel to the game as well as an assortment of new items, and will be free for existing owners of Pillars of Eternity. Here's the press release for the Definitive Edition, which is coming on November 15th.

STOCKHOLM, Sweden and IRVINE, Calif. — Paradox Interactive, a publisher of games for characters of all builds, and Obsidian Entertainment, veteran developers behind Fallout: New Vegas and South Park: The Stick of Truth, today announced a new edition of Pillars of Eternity which provides the definitive experience and tremendous value to RPG fans everywhere.

The award-winning title is now available as Pillars of Eternity: Definitive Edition, a comprehensive version of Obsidian’s crowdfunded masterpiece that includes both White March expansions, all premium extras, and an all-new bundle of content, called the “Deadfire Pack,” inspired by Obsidian’s upcoming Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire.

Definitive Edition will be available for PC, Mac, and Linux on November 15, 2017. The new Deadfire Pack DLC will also be made available for free to all existing (and future) owners of Pillars of Eternity on Windows, Mac, and Linux PCs to thank them for their ongoing support of what has become one of the world’s most beloved RPGs. With these additions, fans will have the complete set of all Pillars of Eternity content ever created inside and outside of the game in the final, all-encompassing release.

On November 15, the Definitive Edition will be made available via digital distributors everywhere for a suggested retail price of $39.99, and will include:
  • The original Pillars of Eternity, a modern RPG with classic inspiration, and winner of multiple awards for its rich story, art, and world design
  • The complete, expanded world, characters, and content from The White March: Parts I & II, which adds new places to travel and quests to complete
  • All premium content originally sold with Pillars of Eternity: Royal Edition, including the original soundtrack, a digital collector's book, an original novella set in the Pillars universe, and much, much more
  • The all-new Deadfire Pack DLC, which includes new in-game items to earn and discover, and new portraits from the forthcoming sequel, Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, releasing in 2018
Alongside the release of the Definitive Edition, the original Pillars of Eternity: Hero Edition game will receive a suggested retail price reduction to $29.99 on Windows, Mac, and Linux PCs.

Pillars of Eternity, originally the result of a crowdfunding campaign by over 75,000 backers, has led a resurgence in the classic RPG genre since its release in 2015. Winner of “Best RPG” from multiple critics, the game is now available for both PC and console platforms from retailers worldwide. A sequel, Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, is currently in development by Obsidian Entertainment.

For more information, visit​

Good excuse to replay the game and prepare a save import for Deadfire, eh? I wonder if Josh will put together one last balance patch for this release.

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Wed 1 November 2017
Brian Fargo Interview Roundup: On hustling around and rising development costs

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Wed 1 November 2017, 00:12:04

Tags: Brian Fargo; InXile Entertainment

inXile celebrated their 15th anniversary this weekend. To mark the occasion, their entire catalog has been available at a 50% discount on Steam this week, Torment had a free weekend, and they even released a new enhanced version of their 2004 Bard's Tale action-RPG. Today the folks at PCGamesN, who are always up for an RPG interview, published an interview with Brian Fargo about the history of his studio, with a focus on its hardscrabble pre-Kickstarter years. Here's an excerpt:

Game development teams are often thrown together hurriedly around a new contract, but inXile started slowly. Fargo picked staffers he knew and trusted. Findley was one. Another was Maxx Kauffman, who he had seen do great work on Redneck Rampage.

“I brought them together,” Fargo says. “But then it became, ‘OK, what are we going to do here?’. And this struggle to find a business model took nearly a decade.”

That jokey card title was proving prophetic. In 2002, the ground was shifting beneath the feet of RPG developers. There was very little publisher interest in PC games. With Steam still years off, the digital sales business did not exist. And those contracts that did exist were mostly reserved for studios that were already well-established.

Fargo kept the lights on by “hustling around.” He attempted, without success, to win the Baldur’s Gate 3 license from Infogrames. He sold the Wizardry franchise off to Japan, where it continues to this day. For a short while, Fargo and a friend co-owned half the rights to GTA for Game Boy.

“We both did very well by selling it back to Take-Two,” he says.

[...] Fargo was itching to get back to making games - the impetus that had caused him to leave Interplay in the first place - and found out that the trademark had expired on The Bard’s Tale, the very name that had made a success of his first company. It felt serendipitous. Fargo did not own the copyright to the classic RPG series, however, so could not work on a straight-up sequel. Instead, he decided to create a genre parody.

inXile’s The Bard’s Tale, released in 2004, is very much a snapshot of the market at that time: a console-focused action-RPG and broad comedy, a world away from Tides of Numenera. It was as if there was no space for an RPG that took itself seriously. inXile licensed the Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance engine from Snowblind, and made publishing deals with Vivendi in the US and Acclaim in Europe.

“It was kinda funny,” Fargo says, though he is not laughing. “Right as we were launching, Vivendi sells the company and Acclaim goes out of business.”

[...] Sometimes, inXile would get close to making the games they wanted to make. For a while they worked on a game for Codemasters called Hei$t, which Fargo describes as a single-player version of Payday.

“It was all Quentin Tarantino dialogue, and they really wouldn’t let us finish it,” he says. “Christian Slater and Clancy Brown were in it. We had a great cast. That was a product I wish we could have finished properly and come out with.”

Even Hunted, a fantasy take on Gears of War that inXile saw through to the end, came with a dramatic comedown. At the peak of development, the company swelled to 70 people, and afterwards shrank right down to 13.​

The PCGamesN article's description of inXile's current situation is rosy, to say the least. Yet just three weeks ago Brian was interviewed at about the rising costs of developing mid-tier "AA" games, where he sounded considerably less optimistic. It's not hard to figure out that he's concerned with how Larian and Obsidian have outstripped his studio in terms of budget and production quality.

Ambition is a wonderful thing, and most developers have ambitious visions for their games, but then they meet the reality of what ambition costs. The double-A space is now having to invest more than is reasonable for small or mid-sized studios.

"The industry continues to get more binary between the haves and have nots," Fargo continues. "When I see something like salaries going to as high as $20,000 per man-month in San Francisco, that really only affects the smaller to mid-size companies. The big companies - take Blizzard, for example - they can drop $70 million on a project, kill it and then start all over again. Rockstar can spend five years on a game.

"The extra salaries really don't affect them, in my opinion, as much as it does the smaller to the mid-size companies. So yeah, it definitely puts pressure on us.

"Also, what I'm seeing recently is that there was the single-A and double-A indie space that was sort of ripe for opportunity for a while - us included, and we've been doing well - but that's getting more competitive. And the budgets of the double-A products are starting to approach triple-A budgets of 10 years ago."

Citing Ninja Theory's Hellblade and Larian's Divinity: Original Sin 2 as recent examples, Fargo laments that expectations for games coming out of the double-A space are rising too rapidly.

"All of a sudden double-A developers are spending in excess of $10 million," he says. "And it's only a matter of time before this rises to $20 million. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if there were some at those values already. So now what you've got is the triple-A people who are unaffected by the salaries and they're going to be spending hundreds of millions of dollars between production and marketing, and then you've got the double-A companies now starting to spend significant money. What that's going to do is to create an expectation from a user's perspective of what the visuals should look like.

"It creates a harder dynamic for even the smaller companies, because some product is at $39 or $44.95 that doesn't have a multi-million dollar marketing budget. It's still going to have production values that are incredible, and so what will people expect out of a smaller developer? That's the cascading effect of all these different things, and of course you layer on top of that the discoverability issue we've all got with an un-curated platform and it makes it very tricky."

[...] Fargo offers, "It feels like the budgets for the double-A products have doubled to tripled just in the last five years. Back in 2012 when Broken Age and Pillars [of Eternity] came out, I know what our budgets were then [for Wasteland 2] and I know what the budgets are going to now. I have a sense of what Larian and Obsidian are spending, and I know these numbers have gone up significantly.

"Curation has always been a hot topic. One might argue there's a greater risk of a game being lost in a sea of products, than that of a great game not making it through the quality bar to be in the store. The stats of more and more and more games hitting Steam have not been favorable for any of us... You've got kind of a one, two, three-punch against the smaller publishers/developers."

[...] "It depends on the genre you're in, but the scope and scale of the thing is what you really need to keep an eye on," Fargo advises. "The visual and audio expectations are rising as the budgets for the double-A games has risen... I would tell developers to keep a really close eye on the scope of the product; better to have something that's very small and tight and polished than something that's overly large... and hits a lot of different things but don't quite visually hold up to the others."
Of course, this wouldn't have been a problem if Torment hadn't bombed! I guess hustling up a new budget to replace that loss so his studio can develop a decent Wasteland 3 will be Brian Fargo's final challenge before retirement.

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Fri 20 October 2017
Pathfinder: Kingmaker Kickstarter Update #44: Camping System in Action

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 20 October 2017, 23:35:42

Tags: Owlcat Games; Pathfinder: Kingmaker

The Pathfinder: Kingmaker backer alpha has been running for the past few weeks. It's been a small and apparently private affair, so unfortunately very little has come out about what the game is like. Today's Kickstarter update announces that the alpha test period is coming to an end, although there will be a new alpha build at the end of December. In the meantime, Owlcat do have something new to show us. They've implemented the game's Expeditions-like camping system, which was the Kickstarter campaign's first stretch goal. There's a video of the system in action:

How nice is it to get some rest after a long, hard day of adventuring, knowing that your companions will have a watchful eye on the camp? Why not catch up with them and have a bit of a chat before you turn in for the night? We feel that companion conversations while camping are something worth turning a simple “rest button" into a fully fleshed-out part of our game.

Initially, when we started discussing the resting process in our game, each of us wanted to transfer the tabletop experience into the virtual world of Pathfinder: Kingmaker. We didn’t want to reduce resting to a single mouse-click, because in the tabletop version it’s never as simple as saying, “We’re going to bed now” and the Game Master responding, “Okay, you’re fully rested now!”

Looking for a good spot to get some sleep can be tricky! For instance, your party may wind up in a swampy location, where it takes a lot of time to find a place dry enough to set a camp. Almost always, before consuming ration packs, players try and go hunting – just to put their luck to the test. But there is no guarantee for success. You may send your bard and cleric on a hunting trip, and instead of finding food they end up bumping into a couple of quite aggressive dire bears. This actually happened during one of our weekly tabletop gaming sessions! And while resting, we often roleplay our characters. Especially when many of the players on our development team happen to be writers for the computer game. They really know how to bring their characters to life!

Taking all this into account, our camping has already gone through two incarnations: one that existed before our Kickstarter campaign and one we created after. At first we had the resting timeline and related functions, and only after we reached the first stretch goal on Kickstarter, the development of full-scale camping became possible.

The resting timeline is, in fact, a forecaster, that tells you what is due to happen after certain periods of resting time: after two hours of resting, casters gets their spells restored (if they've got a Ring of Sustenance), after 8 hours all the companions become fully rested, and after 40 hours all negative effects wear off. We believe it’s important to provide you with all the information instead of making you take standard 8-hours rest breaks and then you wonder why some of your companions still don’t have full health bars and one or three of them still suffer from Bestow Curse.

And this became our basis for all future iterations of the camping system.

In the second camping incarnation, our goal was to preserve the gameplay flow while emphasizing the importance of the rest process. That’s how our camping management interface was born. This is where you assign your companions for various tasks: main hunter, main camoufleur, cook, or guardian. Also, every companion will have a special ability he or she can use only while resting. Be careful, though: if a companion is assigned more than one task, he or she will remain tired after the resting ends, and a caster who doesn't get a good 8 hours of sleep won’t have their spells restored. At the same time, if you manage your companions right, hunters will be of immense help in saving you money, you would otherwise have to spend on ration packs, and camp camouflage will safely hide your party from the wildlife or bandits. And if you assign a cook, you’ll be able to make an excellent fangberry pie, which will not only feed your characters, but also give them a Bless effect for the whole next day. Of course, to cook delicacies like that, you’ll need to find the recipe and ingredients first, but the result is worth it.

By the way – did we mention that cooking in the camp is a thing now? This feature was officially tied to a community achievement and while we haven't quite reached it yet, we are more than 90 percent there. At this stage, unlocking it is only a matter of days, so it made sense to implement it in-game while we were already working on the resting feature.

Since the resting process is such an important part of the game, we need to preserve the feeling of immersion into the game world for you. To achieve that we wanted to visualize each character's role on stage. We cannot overstate our gratitude to each of you, dear backers, for allowing us to add such an important and atmospheric feature to Pathfinder: Kingmaker!

As many of you have certainly noticed, almost all our interfaces are full-screen and use elaborate artwork to help sustain the atmosphere. The resting process is special, because it focuses on the party's actions. To preserve the flow of the game, we made our resting interface in the form of a panel. Functionally and practically, the timeline didn’t change much. The only thing we added was a watch order. As for current role adjustments, we decided to place them on the panel to the left, which is a mirror image of the main game log. On the same panel, you can see the results of hunting and other skill-checks, and at the same time dialogues between companions will take place on the main screen. Initially we intended to make this stage unskippable, but many of our alpha testers told us they’d like to make the resting process a bit shorter. So, for those among you, who are not interested in camp conversations, we give the possibility to skip this part and instantly turn to further adventure-seeking instead. Our camp interface allows you to focus on the main game screen and logically separates the camping log from the general log.
Pretty cool, huh? These guys sure do love their user interface design. See the full update for screenshots.

There are 61 comments on Pathfinder: Kingmaker Kickstarter Update #44: Camping System in Action

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