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Fri 20 October 2017

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?

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

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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 20 comments on Pathfinder: Kingmaker Kickstarter Update #44: Camping System in Action

Underrail Dev Log #55: Global Map

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 20 October 2017, 00:19:26

Tags: Stygian Software; Underrail

Styg published an Underrail development update today to make a surprising announcement. As part of a major upgrade planned for release before the Expedition expansion, the game will be receiving a world map feature. It's a feature that many players have asked for (and many others have mocked them for). It won't cover the entire game, but it will include the cavernous zones that have given people the most trouble. The update has screenshots and details, and also an explanation on why the map wasn't added sooner. I quote:

[​IMG]
[​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

While our development is mostly focused on the expansion there are a couple of issues that we wanted to address before its release as we think that they will greatly influence the experience of playing the DLC as well as the base game.

First of these is the global map. This was a contested issue since the alpha versions and is probably the most frequent complaint we get from the people that have a positive view of the game as a whole. Some people may be wondering if the global map was something that was originally planned for the game and, truth to be told, I don't really remember (original plans for the game were laid almost 10 years ago now), but knowing myself I would probably implement one if I had the (time) resources that I have now. Back when I was at it alone I had to cut corners in both content and feature departments, and map is a bit of both really. Later, when the game has grown monstrously in size, even though I then had the time to add new features, a good amount of geographical inconsistencies made sure that there was no quick and easy way to produce a quality map, but instead some major rearragements were going to have to be made.

But anyway, now that we got around to doing this, here's how the map implementation looks like (new players be careful, there are minor spoilers).

We're going to have separate maps for different depths and some maps for the bigger urban areas. We've only gotten around to SGS, Lower Caves and Lower Underrail so far, but here's how the full list will probably look like:
  • Lower Caves (includes Junkyard and Hathor)
  • Upper Caves
  • Lower Underrail (includes Rail Crossing)
  • Upper Underrail
  • Black Sea
  • Foundry
  • SGS
  • DC
Core City and Institute will not be included, at least not initially, because reasons. We are, also, not going to be making any maps for "dungeon" areas and such (like GMS) unless they are part of geography of existing maps (such as Depot A being part of Lower Caves by being an extension of Junkyard).

As you can see on the screenshots, maps will (usually, but not always) record and display what useful (or not so useful) creatures and plants you've encountered there as well as other points of interest (merchants, doctors, certain quest objects). These will not be updated after the initial encounter and do not always represent the actual state of the map, but are rather meant to be used as useful auto-notes for harvesting organs and plants and such. They will typically not record robotic and human enemies. You can also add your own notes to the map. A lot of static features of the map will also reveal themselves as you explore the map so that you won't automatically know, for example, if there's a power generator on that map immediately after entering.

The map will be available in the next updated which will be released sometime before the DLC which is going to be released when it's ready. But on a serious note, I do hope to release a new update on the experimental branch at least in the near future so you guys can play with all the new stuff that we've added over the months and we can finally get this huge pile of patch notes off of our shoulders (and replace them with bug reports).

Anyway, let us know what you think about the inclusion of the global map and about this particular implementation. In the next dev log I'll probably be talking about another important, but probably less impressive, change to the base game that we're working on.
Looks very cool, as always. Any guesses what that other feature might be?

There are 84 comments on Underrail Dev Log #55: Global Map

Wed 18 October 2017
Pillars of Eternity II Fig Update #41: Josh Sawyer Social Media Feature Compilation #4

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 18 October 2017, 00:52:00

Tags: J.E. Sawyer; Katrina Garsten; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire

Obsidian have published the fourth installment in their series of Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire Fig updates showcasing various features of the game that Josh Sawyer has posted about on his social media feeds. The highlight of this episode is the introduction of Deadfire's four "sidekick" companions - Konstanten, Ydwin, Rekke and Fessina. The first and last of these have apparently replaced Bonteru and Radora from the original sidekicks stretch goal. Another cool feature demonstrated in the video is the game's simulationist injury mechanic, where you suffer different injuries depending on the attack that knocked you out. Watch the whole thing here. As usual, Katrina Garsten narrates:


The text part of the update has some details about a couple of Deadfire's backer rewards, but I'll let you read that for yourself. One thing you should definitely check out is this DLC survey that Obsidian have been running for the past two weeks. I imagine it's going to help determine what sort of DLC the game is going to get. The next update will have details about the long-awaited backer beta, so stay tuned.

There are 32 comments on Pillars of Eternity II Fig Update #41: Josh Sawyer Social Media Feature Compilation #4

Tue 17 October 2017
ELEX RELEASED

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 17 October 2017, 19:55:14

Tags: ELEX; Nordic Games; Piranha Bytes

Gentlemen, after more than two years of breathless waiting, it's finally here:


From Gothic origins, it has Risen. ELEX!

Many Piranhas, it has Byten. ELEX!

Chop up robots with a sword, in ELEX!

Fire a laser rifle at an orc, in ELEX!

More Eclectic than Age of Decadence. More Lavish than Underrail. More Exhilarating than Divinity: Original Sin. More Xenial than Witcher 3. Join the cult of ELEX! today, for just $49.99 on Steam or GOG.

please don't be just a meme please don't be just a meme please don't be just a meme

There are 103 comments on ELEX RELEASED


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South Park: The Fractured But Whole Released

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 17 October 2017, 18:59:30

Tags: South Park: The Fractured But Whole; Ubisoft

It was quite a surprise back in 2015 when Ubisoft announced that they were going to develop the sequel to Obsidian's well-received South Park: The Stick of Truth, the superhero-themed South Park: The Fractured But Whole, at one of their in-house studios. It was an announcement that elicited a great deal of Obsidian mockery at the time, particularly since Ubisoft also decided to adopt a sophisticated-looking grid-based tactical combat system in place of the first game's JRPG-style combat. That mockery fell away as it became clear over time that The Fractured But Whole was almost as vaporwarey as its predecessor, with the release date pushed back several times. But today it's finally out. Here's the launch trailer:


The game seems to be reviewing about as well as The Stick of Truth did, perhaps a tad worse. The reviewers like the new combat system, but some disapprove of the Ubisoft-style item collection or are just tired of the whole South Park thing. If you're not tired of South Park and you're not too busy playing Divinity: Original Sin 2 ELEX, you can grab the game on Steam now for $60.

There are 12 comments on South Park: The Fractured But Whole Released

Sat 14 October 2017
Wasteland 3 Fig Update #23: Building the Everest - Level Design & Setting the Stage

Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Sat 14 October 2017, 00:49:17

Tags: InXile Entertainment; Paul Marzagalli; Wasteland 3

inXile's latest Wasteland 3 Fig update continues to chronicle the production of the game's vertical slice area, the murderous Everest Hotel. They're now at the level design stage, and the update describes in detail the various tweaks and iterations that have been applied to a particular area of the Suicide Forest, the hotel's exterior environment, to improve the flow of the area's associated questline. It's rather interesting, actually. The quest involves a missing group of hunters, who are now apparently themselves being hunted by an unnamed monstrosity from the forest. The encounter with the hunters is clearly the key event in the quest, so I'll quote that part of the update here:

Heading into the next area, the Rangers know (via some radio transmissions, and the clues encountered earlier) that the hunters are nearby and are seeking assistance.

What are our goals for this area?
  • Let players really go to town with one (or more!) interesting combat scenarios.
  • Pay off the mystery from before (which can lead to combat)
  • Deal with an unnamed twist that may put the players at odds with the hunters (see above).
Once you’ve found a few of the clues, it’s pretty easy to find the missing hunters. However, the story takes a dangerous turn, prompting a new question: what do you do with them?
  • Depending on how you decide to handle things – or, depending on your past choices, how things want to handle you – the Rangers may end up
    • (1) simply walking away from the situation
    • (2) engaging in combat with the hunters
    • (3) engaging in combat with something else.
(1) Leaving the situation has its own set of consequences that require quite a bit of thought and scripting to handle within the mission itself, but from a geometry perspective, the player simply needs to be able to turn around and leave. So: can the players turn around and leave? Looks like it. Great! Mark #1 done. From a level layout standpoint, at least.

(2) Okay, so what if they engage in combat with the hunters? This may sound a little odd, but there are developments in the mission that actually can make this a reasonable course of action.

To do this, the player will need to make their way through a trap-filled gauntlet (the kind of traps that the hunters are using work just as well on Rangers as they do on prey), then they'll need to take on three very well-equipped outdoorspeople. This is a variation on a typical “advance” scenario: braving a heavily fortified position. I’ll leave the details of combat design to a future developer diary by our combat designers, but for our purposes, we basically need an interesting approach that provides opportunities for clever tactical thinking that will offset your disadvantages.

Here’s what the Missing Hunters area looked like at first. This looked like it had potential, but as we playtested things, it felt a little small.

Also, as we ran it past more people, a story issue cropped up: it didn’t seem plausible that the hunters were really trapped. The ledge wasn't very steep, and if they were able to evade the something else long enough to set up their crazy trap gauntlet, surely they could have backtracked instead of digging in. We had several plausible explanations for why they ended up in the current situation, but that wasn’t the point of the mission: we needed players to look at the area and instantly think “oh yeah, you could end up in a bad situation here.”

I’m not going to show you the revised version yet, though, because it also ties into choice #3…

(3) Engaging in combat with the something else.

Internally, I’d been referring to this as the “ledge fight,” because it took place in the same area, but on the upper rim of the valley, wrapping around the trap gauntlet.

This concept was a lot of fun, but in practice, the limited width of the cliff edges, the large amounts of running around from edge to edge, and the lack of differentiation between each of the four sides led to unexciting playtests. So: big red flag, needs revision!

We made major changes to address the issues in both combat scenarios. A big part of this was adding more verticality to the fight itself by increasing the distance between the two sub-areas. We also decided to move the two combat areas alongside each other, rather than overlapping. Here’s the latest revision.

Section “A” (yellow circle) is where players can fight the hunters, which is spread out over a larger space to better leverage the hidden traps, and now shares only a single border with section B.

Section “B” (green circle) is where players can fight the unnamed adversary, which is now a limited to one side of the cliff, but has multiple variations in height and more potential cover.

The right-hand path connecting these areas contains the beginning of the ‘trap gauntlet’, as well as a special cave which can be accessed depending on the player's skills and equipment. We’ve also enlarged the upper middle area and added a one-way exit at the bottom. This eliminates the need to backtrack once you're ready to return to Suicide Forest. Also, the entire space has been flipped and rotated to better align with the rest of the level layout.
I imagine some people will frown at inXile's decision to "linearize" quests like these, although given that the update mentions excessive backtracking as a potential issue, maybe the entire area is large enough that it won't feel so linear.

There are 30 comments on Wasteland 3 Fig Update #23: Building the Everest - Level Design & Setting the Stage

Fri 13 October 2017
The New World Update #20: Crossing The Factory

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 13 October 2017, 20:40:42

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

Vault Dweller has published a great new development update for The New World. The update is ostensibly about "secondary location design", but it's really more an overview of one particular location - the Factory, a hazardous no man's land separating The Pit, the game's starting location, from the Habitat, where the major factions are headquartered. There will be many different ways to make your way across it, with different consequences for each. I quote:

A bit of history:


As you probably know by now, the Ship isn’t a state of the art colony vessel but a retrofitted interplanetary freighter (in the best traditions of Mayflower) with cargo holds big enough to fit entire districts. Cargo Hold #2 was split into two miles-long areas running in parallel: the Factory and the Hydroponics.

The Factory is an industrial area dedicated to the learning of skills the current generation of colonists would never use to pass them down to the descendants of their descendants who would one day claim the new world as their own.

Before the Mutiny, a rail system running high above the factories would deliver citizens to the dismal warehouses and facilities where they spent their working days. Unsurprisingly, the Factory was where the revolt had started, quickly spreading to the rest of the Ship. The war that followed gutted the Factory: the train overpass was blown up to prevent reinforcements from pouring in; the factories and warehouses were looted and stripped for parts, the local Environment Control system had to be shut down.

Within a few decades, the Factory had been mostly abandoned until growing trade between the Pit (Cargo Hold #3) and the Habitat (formerly known as Cargo Hold #1) breathed new life into it, turning it into a new Silk Road.

Until Jonas set up a camp in Cargo Hold #3 (which eventually grew into a container town known as the Pit), a few traders cautiously making their way through the ruins of the Factory attracted no attention, but as the camp grew into a town, trade grew into a steady stream of goods flowing in both directions.

With the train overpass lying in ruins, slow moving traders carrying valuable relics of the past looted in the Wasteland quickly became the target of gunmen eager to relieve the traders from their cargo and lives. The traders responded by hiring armed escorts, which forced the gunmen to form gangs and fight both the mercenaries and rival gangs until only two gangs remained: the Black Hand and the Detroit City gang.

One of the mercenary outfits, Thy Brother’s Keepers, that used to offer protection services in the Wasteland saw a great business opportunity and promptly moved their operations into the Factory. There, the Keepers established what became known as the Toll Road, offering a safe passage to the Habitat for an exorbitant fee. ​

Design:

You start the game in the Pit ('born and raised'). You can explore the nearby area but when you’re ready (or have a reason) to visit the Habitat, your options are:

1. Pay the fee and enjoy a scenic 'high above the ground' trip through the Factory, occasionally interrupted by different events to remind you that it's not a walk in the park. Those who played Dungeon Rats know how we handled the vertical aspect (as you climb up, you can see the area you explored earlier down below), so you’ll see the entire level from above.

2. Brave the dangers and climb down into the unknown, most likely to your untimely death:
  • Sneak through the level - infiltrator
  • Fight your way through the level - fighter
  • Exterminate the vermin; comes with two optional (meaning tough as nails) fights if you decide to clear both gang bases - combat specialist
  • Fight/Sneak past 'patrols', then inquire about employment opportunities (bonus points if you created a lot of vacancies) - fighter/talker or infiltrator/talker
3. You can also *try* to get into the Habitat via the Hydroponics but that’s a different story that puts an emphasis on an entirely different skillset (explorer) and gear.

Needless to say, the very fact that there is a toll road suggests that attempting to cross the Factory on your own is a bad idea. If most players would be able to do that regardless of their builds, it would damage the setting’s integrity so this option should be reserved for 25% of the players (1 in 4) and the difficulty will reflect that.

Wiping out both gangs is an epic feat reserved only for the natural born killers among you (1 in 10 players ). The first base is hard to enter but easy to leave. The second base is easy to enter (just take the elevator), but hard to leave so forget about attacking and falling back. You’ll have to be able to switch tactics on the fly and have good offensive and defensive gear and tactics.

The reward will be well worth it – the gangs have been preying on traders for a while and have accumulated quite a few relics.

If you decide to leave the gangs alone and come back later, be advised that both gangs will grow, both in number and firepower. It’s not level scaling as it won’t be tied to your level/skills but to the passage of time via ‘chapters’.

Using AoD’s mine as an example, assuming you could come back later after visiting Maadoran, you’d find the outpost reinforced by more soldiers and proper watchtowers, regardless of your skill level. Basically, a logical progression with proper consequences for both action* and inaction that doesn’t force you to watch the clock.

* the Keepers might not be too happy about you putting them out of business ; The Detroit City gang has ties to one of Habitat’s factions, so wiping out both gangs will be an action of an anarchist that doesn’t care about the established order, not of a hero vanquishing evil wherever he/she goes.

There will be a few side quests in the area, available to those who can explore the area (rescue & escort, retrieve a stash, breaking & entering, etc). Nothing random or generic. Retrieving a stash is an optional solution to another quest, rescue & escort will open up several quests later on (think Miltiades), breaking & entering will make you a legend and cause more trouble down the road than you can handle.
Awesome stuff. The full update also has a few pieces of Factory concept art, so check it out.

There are 42 comments on The New World Update #20: Crossing The Factory

Tue 10 October 2017
Divinity: Original Sin 2 Post-Release Interview at PC Gamer

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Tue 10 October 2017, 00:53:55

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

Over at PC Gamer, Swen Vincke has given what I believe is his first major interview after the release of Divinity: Original Sin 2. It's not very in-depth, about what you'd expect from a mainstream media interview less than a month after a game's release. There's the expected discussion of the game's stellar reception (now at over 700,000 copies sold), a few anecdotes from development, Swen's thoughts about speedrunning and the burgeoning mod scene, and a hint about Larian's future plans. Here's an excerpt:

PC Gamer: How are things at Larian Studios at the moment?

Swen Vincke: Quiet. Most people are on their holidays and [patch 3] is a big one. We're start working on patch four next and slowly people will start returning from their holidays and we're gearing up for our next things.

According to SteamSpy, you sold somewhere in the region of 700,000 sales in less than three weeks.

I think we're over 700,000 now.

Is there ever a point during the development and testing of such a big game where you realise: Hang on, this is really good, this might do better than we expect?

I think any developer will tell you that, first of all, you fall in love with your game. But then the relationship lasts so long that you start focussing on all the negatives. A very classic phenomena means that by the time you're ready to release, the only thing that you're aware of is everything that's still wrong with it.

Then somebody reminds you of how much good stuff is in there. We're busy focusing on: We need to fix this, we need to fix that, this is not good, man we need time to sort this, we need more resources to do that', and that basically dominated the conversation over the course of the last six months. But then there are moments where you're playing and you forget you're hunting for bugs and realise: Actually, this is a lot of fun.

With Divinity: Original Sin 2, this was particularly true. I don't know how many times we redid the beginning of this game. Every time we presented it it was different, and every single time I enjoyed myself. Luckily for us, this seems to have rubbed off on the general gaming audience.

But then there are moments where you're playing and you forget you're hunting for bugs and realise: Actually, this is a lot of fun.

Through your Kickstarter and Early Access phase you've had a pretty open development cycle—would be players got regular feedback throughout. With the first Divinity being received so well, did this make dealing with expectation easier or harder?

That's a really good question. Because it puts a lot of pressure on you, that's for sure. But you also can't make diamonds without pressure, right? I think that it's both. It is harder because the moment that the community figures out that they want it and you've said you're going to do it, it's very hard to change course—even if you later discover what you're doing won't work. We did actually change course a few times, but if you explain exactly why you're doing it, most people will listen. You're always going to have some people who don't, but that's just the way it is.

At the same time, things become easier because you instantly know what's wrong. You put it out there and you don't even have to wait a day, you know right away what's wrong. This type of feedback can be very hard to get, unless you have a large community playing. Another thing that's easier with a large community is that there's a large amount of them and can in turn let statistics speak for you.

You may have a very vocal minority screaming how badly something is done, but then you have 95 percent actually enjoy what you've done, so you say: Well, we can certainly say that that feature is okay because so many players are having fun with it. If you didn't do that, and that vocal minority were represented by, say, a couple of developers inside your company, you may wind up going in the completely wrong direction. That's where and why I really like the early access model.

You've mentioned the patch, however what does Larian have planned in the long run for Divinity: Original Sin 2?

We have a couple of things that are in the works but we'll only announce them when we're ready. There's stuff coming, for sure.

To that end: It's early days yet, but I assume the success of number two means we're in line for a Divinity: Original Sin 3, 4 and 5?


[Laughs] We have a couple of surprises planned. But we're going to work on the patch just now, then we're going to work in silence for a little bit so that we can get our shit together and then… yeah, I'm pretty sure there will be at least one big surprise in there.
A very vocal minority, huh? Why do I suspect that paragraph isn't purely hypothetical...

There are 42 comments on Divinity: Original Sin 2 Post-Release Interview at PC Gamer

Thu 5 October 2017
Vigilantes released on Steam Early Access

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 5 October 2017, 22:38:11

Tags: Timeslip Softworks; Vigilantes

Vigilantes, the spiffy-looking crime-themed tactical RPG from Irish indie studio Timeslip Softworks, was successfully Kickstarted a year ago. Since then, creator Daithi Mc Hugh has been sharing development updates with us on a regular basis and the game has gathered a small but dedicated fanbase. Development builds of Vigilantes have been available to backers since the very beginning, but now the game is mature enough for a public release on Steam Early Access. Check out its cool trailer (love the accent and music) and a snippet from the Early Access FAQ:



Approximately how long will this game be in Early Access?

“We expect to complete Vigilantes in Q2 2018. Our typical release schedule is one per month, and we create 1-2 development videos in this time frame, to keep you up to date. We're highly committed to making the best game possible, so given sufficient support in Early Access, we are open to the possibility of extending development, to increase the scope of Vigilantes.”

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

“In addition to improved game systems, polish, and balance, the final version of Vigilantes will include considerably more content, particularly in the following areas:
+ Many more perks
+ More weapons & items
+ More allied vigilantes
+ More dialogue based encounters
+ More crafting options
+ More combat areas
+ Trading cards & achievements”

What is the current state of the Early Access version?

“The Early Access version of Vigilantes offers fully featured tactical combat, surveillance, a deep character system, base building, interrogations, and some crafting options. Currently, around 50% of the content (combat areas, weapons, items, allies, dialogue encounters) is in place. To summarise, the Early Access version as is will provide a number of hours of play time and will give you a good idea of what to expect from the final release.It's important to note that the story line is not yet complete, so you can't finish the game just yet.

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

“The price for Vigilantes will increase, though not by a wallet shattering amount, later in early access.”
You can grab Vigilantes now for just $12, with a 10% discount until next week. That's a real bargain, only barely more expensive than the Kickstarter's Early Bird tier. As the FAQ says, a final release is expected in the second quarter of next year.

There are 37 comments on Vigilantes released on Steam Early Access

Wed 4 October 2017
Empyre: Lords of the Sea Gates Released

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 4 October 2017, 21:40:54

Tags: Coin Operated Games; Empyre: Lords of the Sea Gates

Empyre: Lords of the Sea Gates, the strange steampunk RPG from previously unknown New Hampshire-based studio Coin Operated Games, was released on Steam today with little fanfare, less than three months after its original announcement. Despite their ability to produce a fancy website, press releases and trailers, COG never did get around to properly publicizing Empyre as I kept thinking they would. A few obscure websites (Gaming Target, COGconnected, Hey Poor Player) did publish previews of the game in September, and to be honest it sounds like nothing more than shovelware. I guess appearances can be deceiving. But we've come this far, so here's the launch trailer and accompanying press release:


Auburn, New Hampshire – October 4, 2017 – Coin Operated Games announces today that its Neo-Victorian RPG Empyre: Lords of the Sea Gates, has launched on PC via Steam at a SRP of $29.99. Empyre: Lords of the Sea Gates is a top-down isometric RPG that takes place in an alternate industrial New York circa 1911, and features an original story penned by renowned writer/comic artist Paul Noth, a staff cartoonist for The New Yorker magazine where his work has appeared regularly since 2004. Created by a team of industry veterans, the game serves as the inaugural title of the indie development studio, and aims to recapture the feeling of classic RPGs with a fresh setting and immersive storyline.

… water is everywhere but none of it to drink…

Empyre: Lords of the Sea Gates depicts a troubled New York in which the entire city is flooded by rising oceans and the citizens now face a new threat: the fresh water pipes have stopped and there is no water to drink! Following the collapse of governments when the waters began to rise, New Yorkers found themselves in a temporary period of anarchy and chaos before more localized groups began to take control and form smaller city-states that they ruled with complete authority. Led by pirates, mafia families and a renegade Prussian naval commander to name a few, these warring city-states provide a violent and colorful cast of characters to meet and fight with/against as players seek to solve the water crisis facing the city.

Although set in a fictional, alternate history the game also authentically reflects scenes and locations from New York circa 1900, while tying the storyline to current day themes such as global warming and the rising of the oceans. Players will experience an early 20th century version of New York built upon the ruins of the submerged “old city” and plagued by warring city-states.

The game’s combat will feel familiar to veteran RPG players, however there is a new twist in that the game uses a hybrid Real Time/Turn-based combat system. Players can enter a “Planning Mode” where they choose actions for each character in their party to plan their strategies while combat is paused. When entering into the “Action Mode” all characters will perform simultaneously, giving players complete control over their party while presenting a streamlined combat system that allows players to be as strategic, or direct, as they choose.

“We are beyond thrilled to be sharing Empyre: Lords of the Sea Gates with gamers from around the world,” said John Randall, Creative Director of Empyre. “We strove to keep our games setting and themes recognizable but unique so that we could really let the story from our fantastic writer, Paul Noth, shine. We can’t wait for both old-school gamers looking to relive their 90’s RPG experiences and the next generation of gamers to get their hands on the game. We have so many more stories to tell in this alternate reality, this is just our first chapter!”
Hope springs eternal, my friend. As the press release says, Empyre: Lords of the Sea Gates is now available on Steam for $30. I hope somebody checks it out, we need to find out how weird it is.

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Tue 3 October 2017
Underworld Ascendant Update #39: The Mana Ecosystem

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 3 October 2017, 01:12:11

Tags: OtherSide Entertainment; Underworld Ascendant

OtherSide Entertainment have published the first new Underworld Ascendant development update since the pre-alpha release and publisher announcement back in August. This comes after the developer roundtable session of August 22, which was extremely nerdy but not hugely informative. It looks like they're pushing right on to alpha without stopping for breath. The topic of the new update is Ascendant's mana ecology, a concept that has been mentioned before - although it's now becoming more fleshed out in terms of implementation. I quote:

One of the elements we loved most about the original Ultima Underworld was how the world felt like a real place that existed without you.

Our forum-goer Setho10 put it well: “I think maybe the best way to sum it all up though would be to say that the world reacted as you would expect. AI reacted in a far more realistic way than in any game I had played before. I specifically recall wounded enemies fleeing from battle. It was the first time in a real time game I can think of where enemies did more than follow one simple basic pattern. These AI had different states and that was impressive and immersive in a way that is just indescribable. […] It felt like this was a real living world not a set of levels created by a designer, and more than anything that is what makes Underworld so impressive to this day.”

We knew that Underworld Ascendant needed to be designed as an interactive world, but also one that lived and breathed when the player wasn’t around. Everything from the lighting to the creatures’ animations are all being considered as integral to Ascendant’s world-building.

One element where this immersive ecology has been coming online is mana, which our lead designer Tim Stellmach describes as, “Not only is it the resource used to cast spells, it is actually concentrated in packets in the material world. Characters recover mana by touching and consuming these invisible free-floating bits of mana in the air.”

How does that affect the world? The entire in-game ecology is based around it. Wisps – benign, ethereal creatures who float throughout The Stygian Abyss – feeding on mana in the environment and excrete “sunlight” (infrared, ultraviolet, and visible light).

They fill the role of “the sun” for the flora and fauna in The Stygian Abyss, they are an essential part of the underground ecosystem.

Meanwhile, undead creatures, rather than being seen as capital “E” evil, have a parasitic relationship with mana, devouring it to ambulate in a sad parody of life and giving nothing in return.

Another recent aspect of this in-game? This “sunlight” leads to flora, which is eaten by various fauna, like our “ambient” creatures, who generally mind their own business in the world, but have interesting behaviors that the player can exploit to their advantage.

Our current favorite ambient creature is the Deep Slug, who can be baited with certain types of food and leaves useful effects in its wake, like a flammable slime trail. Toss its favorite food into the patrol path of a few enemies or by a wooden support of an archer tower, add fire, and enjoy. (Feed it something else interesting? And discover the results…)

We recently peppered The Umbral Mire area of the Underswamp with Deep Slugs, loaded the level up, and soon came across a scene where we witnessed a few careening by in distress, pursued by angry skeletons. We’ll have more visuals to share on the Deep Slugs soon!

We’ll definitely need to tune interactions between different creatures, but it’s nice to see the ecology starting to take hold.
OtherSide plan to host another developer roundtable in November, and they're also going to be at Unity's Unite Austin event on Wednesday to show off some gameplay footage. Maybe we'll get to see something new that isn't in the pre-alpha, although I wouldn't bet on it.

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Sat 30 September 2017
Fallout 20th Anniversary: Available Free on Steam, Interview at PCGamesN

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sat 30 September 2017, 20:57:34

Tags: Chris Taylor; Fallout; Feargus Urquhart; Interplay; Leonard Boyarsky; Tim Cain

The original Fallout was released by Interplay twenty years ago today. If you're reading this, you probably know how important a game Fallout is. Along with Baldur's Gate, it would help kick off the late 90s revival of the computer roleplaying genre. The RPG Codex would almost certainly not exist without it. In honor of this anniversary, the franchise's overlords at Bethesda have kindly made the game available for free on Steam for today. Meanwhile, the gentlemen at PCGamesN have published an interview with some of its creators who now work at Obsidian Entertainment. Here's an excerpt:

For a short while, Interplay had planned to make several games in the GURPS system. But soon afterwards they had won the D&D license, a far bigger property that would go on to spawn Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale. As a consequence, Caine’s team were left largely to their own devices.

As for budget - Fallout’s was small enough to pass under the radar. Although Interplay are best remembered for the RPGs of Black Isle and oddball action games like Shiny’s Earthworm Jim, they had mainstream ambitions not so different to those of the bigger publishers today. During Fallout’s development they were primarily interested in sports, and an online game division called Engage.

“It was almost like a smokescreen,” Urquhart explains. “So much money was being pumped into these things that you could go play with your toys and no-one would know.”

Which is exactly what the Fallout team did, pulling out every idea they’d ever intended for a videogame.

“Being just so happy and fired up that we were making this thing basically from scratch and doing virtually whatever we wanted, we had this weird arrogance about the whole thing,” Boyarsky recalls. “‘People are gonna love it, and if they don’t love it they don’t get it.’

“Part of it was a punk rock ethos of, every time we came up with an idea and thought, ‘Wow, no-one would ever do that’, we always wanted to push it further. We chased that stuff and got all excited, like we were doing things we weren't supposed to be doing.”​

[...] “We were really, really fortunate,” Boyarsky says. “No-one gets the opportunity we had to go off in a corner with a budget and a team of great, talented people and make whatever we wanted. That kind of freedom just doesn't exist.

“We were almost 30, so we were old enough to realise what we had going on. A lot of people say, ‘I didn't realise how good it was until it was over’. Every day when I was making Fallout I was thinking, ‘I can't believe we're doing this’. And I even knew in the back of my head that it was never going to be that great again.”

Once Fallout came out, it was no longer the strange project worked on in the shadows with little to no oversight. It was a franchise with established lore that was getting a sequel. It wasn’t long before Boyarsky, Caine, and Anderson left to form their own RPG studio, Troika.

“We knew Fallout 1 was the pinnacle,” Boyarsky says. “We felt like to continue on with it under changed circumstances would possibly leave a bad taste in our mouths. We were so happy and so proud of what we'd done that we didn't want to go there.”

Fallout is larger than this clique now. Literally, in fact: the vault doors Boyarsky once drew in isometric intricacy are now rendered in imposing 3D in Bethesda’s sequels. And yet Boyarksy, Taylor, and Caine now work under the auspices of Obsidian, a studio that has its own, more recent, history with the Fallout series. Should the opportunity arise again, would they take it?

“I’m not sure, to be very honest,” Taylor says. “I loved working on Fallout. It was the best team of people I ever worked with. I think it’s grown so much bigger than myself that I would feel very hesitant to work on it nowadays. I would love to work on a Fallout property, like a board game, but working on another computer game might be too much.”

Boyarsky shares his reservations: that with the best intentions, these old friends could get started on something and tarnish their experience of Fallout.

“It would be very hard for us to swallow working on a Fallout game where somebody else was telling you what you could and couldn't do,” he expands. “I would have a really hard time with someone telling me what Fallout was supposed to be. I'm sure that it would never happen because of the fact that I would have that issue.”

Urquhart - now Obsidian’s CEO - is at pains to point out that Bethesda were nothing but supportive partners throughout the making of Fallout: New Vegas, requesting only a handful of tiny tweaks to Obsidian’s interpretation of its world. “I’ve got to be explicit in saying we are not working on a new Fallout,” he says. “But I absolutely would.”

Caine has mainly built his career by working on original games rather than sequels: Fallout, Arcanum, Wildstar, and Pillars of Eternity. But he would be lying if he said he hadn’t thought about working on another Fallout.

“I’ve had a Fallout game in my head since finishing Fallout 1 that I've never told anyone about,” he admits. “But it's completely designed, start to finish. I know the story, I know the setting, I know the time period, I know what kind of characters are in it. It just sits in the back of my head, and it's sat there for 20 years. I don't think I ever will make it, because by now anything I make would not possibly compare to what's in my head. But it's up there.”
If you don't own Fallout on Steam already, get it now. Play it, remember it. This is a nostalgic moment, but also a sad one, because right now it seems highly unlikely that the Fallout series will ever amount to much again. At least not until Chris Avellone achieves his secret goal of insinuating himself into Bethesda's favor and becoming its Michael Kirkbride-esque creative lead.

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Fri 29 September 2017
Divinity: Original Sin 2 likely to receive additional content, but not an Enhanced Edition

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Fri 29 September 2017, 20:06:06

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

Divinity: Original Sin 2 has continued to be a smashing success. Last weekend it reached a record of over 93,000 concurrent players (which is higher than The Witcher 3) and as of Monday it's confirmed to have sold over 600,000 copies. So things couldn't be better for Larian, but what do they plan to do with the game now? While the mainstream English language press scratches its balls, the French gaming website War Legend has asked Swen that question in a new interview. Here's the relevant part, courtesy of Google Translate:

"I see myself making good extra content" for Divinity: Original Sin 2

Original Sin, although part of the divinity universe initiated with Divine Divinity in 2002, is a new narrative arc. We asked the founder of Larian Studios whether he planned to stay on this one or to return to those of the old games. He dodges with a laugh: "that's a question about the next stuff so I can not answer! You will do what you want, on our side, it is done!

On the other hand, in terms of the future of Divinity: Original Sin 2, Larian Studios does not consider Enhanced Edition because they do not see - and rightly so - what they could bring to the game through it. It's already about patches and updates, obviously. On the other hand, it says: "I see myself making good extra content, but we'll see, now we see that the game is successful, so there is probably a market for. And reassure yourself, in good passionate developer, Swen Vincke does not pay your face:

When I say added content, it's not: "you can play with a yellow dress" or something like that. If we do something, it's going to be a new content in terms of adventure, it's not going to be a little trick. This way of throwing small pieces [to the public] and selling them, as a creator does not inspire me much, so I do not want to waste my time with. We only have one life and I prefer to do things that I can be proud of in terms of career and development.


Vincke can not be more specific about a possible additional content, for nothing has been decided at the moment, "we still have to see what we can do, everything is possible, but we have to decide. We obviously have something in mind, but we'll see ... "

As for the other plans for the future, Swen Vincke replied that he had for the moment the "brain more or less empty" after this long and intense period of work. He does not know if Kickstarter is now a mandatory box on the big development chart for Larian, but as far as Divinity: Original Sin 2 is concerned, he laughs when we tell him that the inventory is the only real negative point of our test and promises that there is already a list of improvements to be made pending.​

I'm not sure if everybody would agree about the lack of need for an Enhanced Edition, but maybe the game's mechanics could receive major updates alongside the release of expansions, like Pillars of Eternity did. Larian are a much bigger company now than they were after the release of the first game, so the development of new content for Original Sin 2 while they work on their next game makes more sense.

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Thu 28 September 2017
Steampunk Dungeon Crawler Vaporum Released

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 28 September 2017, 19:45:23

Tags: Fatbot Games; Vaporum

Vaporum is a steampunk-themed real-time dungeon crawler by Slovakian indie studio Fatbot Games. Although it has a different sort of setting, the game proudly wears its Legend of Grimrock influence on its sleeve, although unlike Grimrock it's not party-based. I usually ignore these clones, but this one seems polished enough to make an exception. We first learned about Vaporum back in March 2014 (long enough to start making jokes about its title!) but after a successful Steam Greenlight campaign earlier this year, today it's finally out. Here's its launch trailer and description:



Vaporum is a grid-based, single-player & single-character dungeon crawler RPG seen from the first person perspective in an original steampunk setting. Inspired by old-school games like Dungeon Master I and II, the Eye of the Beholder series, and the most recent Legend of Grimrock I and II. Stranded in the middle of an ocean, in front of a gigantic tower, the hero has to find out what the place is, what happened there, and most importantly, who he is.

Key Features
  • First person real-time combat
  • Puzzles and level-wide objectives
  • Gadget-based RPG system
  • Lots of exploration, loot, and character customization
  • Mysterious storyline filled with secrets
  • Fully voiced main characters
  • Immersive steampunk setting
Vaporum is available on Steam and GOG for $20, with a 10% launch discount until next week. Is it any good? GameBanshee of all sites have posted a launch day review. Their reviewer seems to think that the combat is better than Grimrock's but that the puzzles aren't as good, but I'm not sure how much I trust that. Maybe somebody here can give it a try?

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Whalenought Studios' Hannah Williams on Copper Dreams at Indiegraze

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Thu 28 September 2017, 00:50:52

Tags: Copper Dreams; Whalenought Studios

Hannah Williams of Whalenought Studios was interviewed a couple of days ago on Indiegraze, an interesting new indie-focused interview site that was launched a few months ago by one Erik Meyer. She was there to speak about Whalenought's upcoming Copper Dreams of course, a game which we haven't heard about for a while. It turns out that Hannah answers interview questions much like she writes Kickstarter updates - densely. There's a lot to unpack here, but here's an excerpt:

Erik Meyer: The release of games like Fallout, Diablo, and Ultima Online in the ’90s established isometric RPGs as a genre, but recent projects like No Truce With The Furies seek to expand standard conventions, such as dialogue. Your project uses a health system comprised of wounds in the place of a more abstract HP meter. Similarly, you have extensive sneak and weapons options systems. What other novel features and content do you see yourselves adding to Copper Dreams? What do you see yourselves implementing that you haven’t seen done elsewhere?

Hannah Williams: The heart and soul of Copper Dreams has always been creating a cozy, p&p roleplaying experience. A comfortable playground that allows you to approach the world as you would in a tabletop game, a ruleset that won’t hamstring your adventure by limiting your tools to those fed through specific dialogue options or one-note item uses. When an RPG does just that, rationing out your actions or even suddenly gifting you a narrative tool that allows you to do something that isn’t possible in game mechanics, it takes away the joy of actually roleplaying without being told what to do. Partially because the game designer spoon-fed you your actions like they did the narrative, but also because it also creates a sense of disorientation. Dice are rolled and actions are performed on the result, that’s a great start, but beyond that there’s a lot we wanted to rethink what a player has control of and what to do with it.

Here’s an example: I’m talking to a guard and I pick option A to palm him five gold coins so he’ll let me pass unmolested. Neat! Glad I didn’t have to stab him, he looked like he had a nice family at home waiting for him. But wait, can I do that with anyone? I never got that bribe option in dialogue before. Why did it pop up with him and not the now-dead guard downstairs? Was one less important on my narrative path? This one has a red vest, does that mean something? Did a writer get distracted and forget to add the dialogue option in before? Was there a secret charisma roll that I finally passed? Am I overthinking this? I’m scared, help! I wish I just had a button that let’s me try to bribe someone whenever I want to!

Most players, of course, are used to a bribe option popping up in dialogue and don’t need to dig out their smelling salts when it happens, but you get the idea. If you give a player all their tools to be used at will, it makes them feel like they can do anything they want, and also gives a sense of security, despite running around in an hostile environment, because you always know what your options are. If you want to try to bribe the final boss, by all means, give it a shot. If you want to bribe a chicken, do that too. Making the DM miserable is mostly what p&p is about, and the least we could do is give the player the freedom to do that to us.

The challenge of this is creating all these tools for players to use at will. Manually jumping over obstacles instead of clicking their hit box to disable them, climbing a roof for height advantage, dropping to a crouch to avoid a missile, dragging cigarettes out of your backpack to an NPC so they will spill their secrets, using your crossbow like a hammer when you’re out of bolts or just throwing it against the wall to make noise. These are the kind of things that we think create that cozy tabletop experience, and what will make our ruleset feel different.

EM: You incorporate a wait period into the turn-based combat system, meaning actions don’t execute immediately and can be interrupted. Can you speak a bit more to the genesis of this mechanic and how it translates to both small group (one-on-one fighting, for example) and large group (a bar brawl) encounters? How do you see players and NPCs anticipating enemy actions via this time element, and what added dimensions come with it, from a tactical point of view?

HW: This turn-time feature is really the crux of the game system and has been in flux since the Kickstarter. There’s been a lot of iterating. We wanted to do a turn-based system that is less abstract than the traditional model, where attacks take time and you can interrupt each other. It started with more of a combat timeline, represented in seconds, where character icons would travel across it while they performed their turn. They could get stopped on it, or when it finished they’d be prompted to do their next turn.

This was fun but had flaws. The time-based element was too arbitrary and became frustrating to try to compare between characters during combat. Eventually, we got rid of the actual representation of time in seconds and just had ‘ticks’ evolving into this now step-by-step turn based model. These ticks represent how long something takes, a certain attack might take 3 to prep, and 2 to recover from, where moving a certain distance might just take 4. If you get hit, you add more ‘hit’ ticks, which you have to wait through to get back to your action. Then there’s a tick to tile relationship as well, where you can see how many tiles you can cover while moving in the next tick, or how many tiles a bullet will pass through during one.

The beauty of the simulationist-based combat and ruleset is that things will play out largely how you’d expect them to. If there’s enough people on the screen, it turns into a bullet hell, but because it’s still turn-based, you have time to consider your tactics and adjust to the number of people you’re fighting and their abilities and strategies. Players (should) and NPCs will be seeking cover as much as they can to start with, as the life of characters can be quite limited. One-on-one combat gives you an easier opportunity to get the jump on an enemy or have a very dedicated shootout with each of you cat-and-mousing in and out of cover if you didn’t kill them stealthily or something. Since enemies can often be dispatched easily, other simulated aspects like the noise weapons make, calling for backup, or running for cover make engagements more interesting. There’s nothing stopping a player from sneaking around or instant killing anyone if they set up a roll nicely. There is no omnipresent AI for enemies, they individually read player location and actions based on your current position, stance and knowledge of what has passed. Different enemies could have different last known positions of where you might be, but alerting one in the presence of another would alert both to your location (or general direction). So gaming their senses is certainly part of the tactics, as you would in a stealth game.

To help show all this, players can anticipate enemy actions through the ticks that show up after an enemy chooses an action, and plan accordingly during their turns. If you see that they’re going to do something in 5 ticks, you can pick an action that takes less time, although potentially reducing your hit chance roll at the price of speed. We have a lot of indicators letting players know when bullets are coming and the direction someone is moving, so when that bullet-hell game happens, you can duck, crawl, and run to avoid what you can to get to more cover.
Cool stuff. Indiegraze also had a nice interview with the No Truce With The Furies team back in July. We'll be keeping an eye on this website.

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Tue 26 September 2017
Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones backer demo released, coming late 2018

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 26 September 2017, 17:50:39

Tags: Cultic Games; Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones

You might remember Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones, the impressive-looking Lovecraftian turn-based by Cultic Games that was successfully Kickstarted last June. We haven't reported about since then, but development of the game has progressed at a steady pace, with meaty bi-monthly Kickstarter updates. By last month, it'd apparently come far enough that the developers were able to commit to a release date at the end of 2018. That announcement has been followed up with the release of a backer demo yesterday. The demo is very much a private affair and there are no fancy trailers to show, so I thought I'd share a couple of videos from Stygian's past updates instead. Specifically, from last month's update about the game's character creation and January's update about its inventory system.


Our users who have played it report that the backer demo is surprisingly good, with impressive production values, a convincing Lovecraftian atmosphere and novel use of RPG mechanics, although it might have a bit too much combat. You can read their impressions here. Maybe we should start paying more attention to this game. If you didn't back Stygian when it was on Kickstarter, it's available for preorder on Cultic's website.

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Sun 24 September 2017
The New World Update #19: The Mutants

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sun 24 September 2017, 20:49:07

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

This month's development update for The New World is right on time. In this update, Vault Dweller tells us more about the colony ship's mutant population, which we'd already learned a little about in a previous update about the game's factions. Here's an excerpt:

[​IMG] [​IMG]

Let’s start with our design goals:

Mutants are a time-honored staple of the generation ship genre, plus it’s an opportunity to do something interesting and add a radically different faction to the three ‘grounded in reality’ factions (totalitarianism, revolutionary democracy, theocracy) controlling the Ship.

The mutants should be viewed as abominations by some (meaning they should look ‘different’), yet still considered humans by more open-minded folks, meaning the mutants aren’t the hulking brutes of Fallout or the over the top two-headed, three-armed mutants of The Orphans of the Sky.

Thus when it comes to design, we’ll use the human model (making the grateful animator’s life much easier), which means that all we have to work with are the portrait and ‘accessories’, which limits our options.

Overall, the mutants aren’t monsters to kill but a forced evolutionary branch, a not-so-glorious beginning of a new race, perhaps what our distant ancestors were to the Neanderthals. Naturally, the Sapiens are a notoriously violent race so any challenger will have a very hard time trying to knock them off the throne.

To survive and establish the foothold, the mutants must have a specific purpose (to explain why they weren’t exterminated before) and their own source of strength (to explain why they haven’t been enslaved yet). The best way is to tie all three (mutation, purpose, strength) together:

The mutation makes them uniquely suitable for the engine/reactor work, which no ‘normal’ human would be able to do, which is enough to ensure their survival. This same talent makes the mutants the best scavengers, able to explore areas that remain off-limit to most humans due to radiation, which means they have plenty of pre-Mutiny (i.e. Earth-made) tech.

Such tech isn’t exclusive to the mutants (they aren’t a twisted form of Fallout’s Brotherhood of Steel hoarding all the good stuff) but it makes them a well-equipped ‘faction’, capable of protecting themselves against random attacks.

Culture/Castes:

In the mutants’ earliest days labor was by necessity divided, the men tending to the engines while the women tended to the men as they inevitably sickened and died. Much was asked of these mothers and sisters, and from the beginning they adopted the Christian faith to augment their strength.

Many mutants credit their people's survival on this belief, that another world awaits them after death, a counter to the hellish reality of the reactor. Due to the inescapable radiation poisoning of engine work, only the females lived long enough to take on the role of elder, and to run those aspects of life beyond the perimeter of the engines.

Thus did necessity evolve into tradition, and tradition into law. The females sustain the priesthood and all the sacred duties of religion, while the engine work and protection of the enclave have fallen to the males. Those who aren’t happy with such an arrangement leave the enclave, becoming true outcasts, welcome in neither the Habitat nor the Covenant.

Party members:


You’ll be able to recruit either a priestess aka the Harbinger or an outcast aka the Wastelander (but not both at the same time as they won’t get along).

The Wastelander – a rather antisocial mutant who makes a living exploring the damaged areas of the ship and stripping them of anything valuable. Sort of the ‘mountain man’ of the ship. He had a falling out with the Covenant, so now he bears a special hatred for all religious folks, including the Church. Religion is the only topic that can get him all worked up, so don’t take him places where someone might ask if you have a moment to talk about our Lord and Savior. He will leave you if you join a faction, but if you’re a “burn it to the ground” kinda guy, the Wastelander is your man.

The Harbinger – a Covenant priestess tasked with spreading the true word of God in the Habitat and warning those who were unworthy to bear the Mark about the Judgement Day. A true believer, the Harbinger is convinced of the superiority of her kind for they alone will survive the Hellfire - the ultimate test that will separate the wheat from the chaff. She wouldn’t mind speeding things up a bit and will join you let you join her if you prove your worthiness (just because you're a member of a lesser race doesn't mean you're useless). She comes with unrestricted access to the Engine Room, so she's a good friend to have.
Read the full update to learn about the history of the mutants and see some concept art of their super cool Darth Vader outfits.

There are 19 comments on The New World Update #19: The Mutants

Fri 22 September 2017
Consortium: The Tower released on Steam Early Access

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 22 September 2017, 16:08:07

Tags: Consortium: The Tower; Interdimensional Games

Back in January 2016, we reported about a game called Consortium: The Tower that was seeking funding on Kickstarter. It's an RPGish/immersive sim sci-fi shooter where you play an agent tasked with resolving a hostage situation in a futuristic tower, and sequel to 2014's underrated Consortium. It made a decent impression, but that wasn't enough for it to reach its considerable funding goal of 450k Canadian dollars, and the campaign failed. But in April the developers tried again on Fig, and this time they succeeded, thanks to $250k of investment money. Since then the game has been in development, and following a private backer alpha two months ago, it's now been released to the public on Steam Early Access. Here's the release trailer and an excerpt from the Early Access FAQ:


Why Early Access?

“Early access gives you the chance to support the development of Consortium: The Tower. You will get access to roughly the first third of the game, representing enough content for 6-7 hours of gameplay, and will receive the full game upon release. What you see so far has been built over the course of the last year, and with a core team of only five highly dedicated people, each wearing a multitude of hats.

The Tower supports a wide variety of play styles. It is extremely non-linear and largely driven by gamer exploration and gameplay choices. This means there is a very large variety of custom paths through all of the content, and an unprecedented amount of replayability. You will encounter bugs and unfinished bits, and with your help over the course of our time on Early Access all bugs will be squashed, performance will be improved and new content will be made available.

In addition - the remainder of the game's narrative is highly scalable, so too are some of the simulation features. We have a core story we want to tell, and a host of characters to tell it with, but many of the details can and will be tweaked based on player feedback and support. This process has already been tested via our Fig backer community, and we’re very excited to open things up to a wider audience less familiar with our gameworld.”

Approximately how long will this game be in Early Access?

“8-15 months, depending on many factors, upon which the entire story will be released and the game will be brought out of Early Access.”

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

“Yes.

The current price will be raised over the course of the project as additional content and features are brought online.”

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

“We are extremely keen to involve the community and plan to prioritize any new content and features based directly on player feedback.

With each update, estimated to be once every two weeks, we will openly give credit for any features, fixes or changes that result from community feedback to us.”
Right now Consortium: The Tower costs $25. Immersive sims have not done so well recently, so I wonder how the game will fare. Anybody care to give it a try?

There are 7 comments on Consortium: The Tower released on Steam Early Access

Thu 21 September 2017
Pillars of Eternity II to be published by Versus Evil

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 21 September 2017, 20:02:30

Tags: Feargus Urquhart; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire; Versus Evil

Many Codexers have assumed that Pillars of Eternity II would be published by Paradox Interactive, who published the first game. I've never understood that, since Obsidian have been dropping hints since the Fig campaign that they would be going in a different direction for the sequel. At one point they even suggested that the game might be self-published. Well, as it turns out, they're not going that far. Instead, Deadfire will be published by Versus Evil, the indie publisher founded by former Bethesda marketing director Steve Escalante and best known for publishing the Banner Saga games. Here's their press release:

Baltimore, MD – September 20, 2017 - Independent games publisher Versus Evil today announced its partnership with Obsidian Entertainment to publish Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire. The sequel to the critically acclaimed, award-winning RPG Pillars of Eternity, will launch on Windows PC, Mac and Linux in early 2018.

Pillars of Eternity and Obsidian are practically synonymous with quality RPGs and we couldn’t be happier to work with their team and their community in supporting Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire”, said Steve Escalante, General Manager of Versus Evil. “The sequel builds on the massive critical success of the first game and will be one of the premier RPGs to launch in 2018. Fans of the franchise will be thrilled with everything that this sequel has to offer, and newcomers to the Pillars universe will get to experience a technically superior RPG adventure with a more meaningful companion system, deep progression mechanics and uniquely rich storyline for the first time.”

For its part, Obsidian Entertainment CEO Feargus Urquhart said: “We are thrilled to be working with the team at Versus Evil on Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, the first sequel we’ve ever made into one of our own IPs. Partnering with a team that is as passionate as we are about making Pillars of Eternity outstanding has already been such a gratifying and exciting experience. We know that Steve and his team will treat Deadfire right and help us make it the game that our incredible fans and generous backers expect and deserve.”

In Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, players embark on a dangerous voyage of discovery as they hunt down a god to save their own souls.

Building on the award-winning gameplay of the first Pillars of Eternity, every aspect of Deadfire has been improved and expanded. Vastly more detailed graphics, deeper game mechanics, increased player choice and reactivity, a new companion relationship system, streamlined combat, and an entirely new, hand-crafted adventure make Deadfire the ultimate cRPG experience.

Players travel the far-flung region of the titular Deadfire Archipelago by ship, where they will discover new races, visit exotic islands, defend their ships against pirates, and, most importantly, choose their allies carefully, as there are powerful factions to encounter at nearly every port.
Bye Paradox, and thanks for the free media campaign! In tandem with this news, Obsidian have unveiled their new website for Pillars 2. Let's hope Versus Evil have more luck with it than they had with Banner Saga 2.

There are 42 comments on Pillars of Eternity II to be published by Versus Evil

Chris Avellone and Josh Sawyer on Van Buren at Eurogamer

Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Thu 21 September 2017, 18:47:54

Tags: Black Isle Studios; Chris Avellone; Fallout 3 (Van Buren); Interplay; J.E. Sawyer

In what may be a leftover from the recent Obsidian media campaign, the folks at Eurogamer have made the cancelled Fallout 3 by Interplay, commonly known as Van Buren, the topic of the latest episode of their "Here's A Thing" weekly video series. They've brought on Chris Avellone and Josh Sawyer to talk about the game's development - mainly the former, who also gave them access to some of its design documents. The video is 13 minutes long, but you don't really have to watch it, since the accompanying article helpfully includes a full transcript. I'll post an excerpt from that along with the video:



Although Fallout doesn't rely on distinct classes like many RPGs, Avellone recognised that players still tended to approach situations in one of three ways: relying on either combat, stealth or the speech skill. It was that last approach he felt could use some work in particular.

"The one thing that's always kind of bothered me about Fallout," said Avellone. "Is that there's been a trend, and this is going to sound really specific, of using the speech skill as an instawin. I see the speech skill, so I'm not even going to think about it, I'm just going to choose it because that's going to allow me to get the optimum result from this conversation.

"What I prefer is the mechanics we were going to do for Van Buren. We were going to give you more information about the person you were talking to, the longer you talked about them. Then you'd get to choose dialogue options that manipulate them a certain way. So for example, it may not be a bad thing to make someone hostile because you know based on speaking with this person, getting a sense of their psychology, what they're going to do when they get mad. That might be to your advantage. So seeing the red hostile response may not be a bad thing and a Speech character may want to guide a character towards that and provoke a certain result."

There was other types of playstyle he wanted to accommodate for, on top of this. Inspired by a book called Lucifer's Hammer in which a character manages to take advantage of some advanced scientific knowledge that had been preserved from a time before the apocalypse, Avellone thought it might be fun to explore the idea of how a scientist with access to equipment and knowledge that pre-dated the nuclear war might be able to thrive in the wasteland.

He designed a number of locations and questlines that catered for this kind of character type, including the Boulder Science Dome, a huge research facility that was also home to a community of scientists that had put themselves into a cold sleep stasis before the nukes were dropped.

The first of these scientists to wake, a genius by the name of Presper would be the party leader antagonist we mentioned earlier. In Avellone's initial outline for the game's story, Presper monitored the player's actions throughout the game and then decided whether or not to cleanse the entire world of human life before waking his fellow scientists based on your decisions. No pressure.

The player themselves was known as The Prisoner, as you'd begin the game escaping what you believe to be a prison in the American Southwest. Interestingly, during the character creation stage, you can decide whether or not your character was rightly convicted. If you decided that you had, in fact, been a criminal you could then select which crime you'd committed: were you a brahmin rustler? A chem user? Or a cannibal? Depending on your selection this would then impact your starting stats.

Oh here's another thing you could select too: your character's race. The Fallout 3 we never played would have given us the option to play as either a human, a ghoul or a super mutant.

"Yeah and each of them had their own communities and specific quests over the course of the game," explained Avellone. "Their own special traits, perks, and limitations that they could choose. Yeah, the fact that you could play something beyond a human was definitely one of the goals of the game."

He also had plans to reinvent the Pip-Boy in Fallout 3, allowing players to monitor the Pip-Boys worn by the other prisoners that escaped alongside you, meaning you could then do things like reading their quest logs to see where they are and what they're up to.

And more than that, your Pip-Boy would become useful in different kinds of situations as you played through the game.

You'd start getting mods and add-ons and discovering new functionality if you're placed in dangerous situations," said Avellone. "Like, if you're trapped in a building and a fire broke out - this is a really small example - your Pip-Boy would suddenly wake up, let you know where all the fire exits were and where the sprinkler system was. And then suddenly you could use that functionality in any building you went into.

"So the more you explored and the more you got exposed to certain situations, the more your interface would grow and expand. We sort of wanted the interface to feel like another dungeon you were exploring over the course of the game."
The episode ends with the obligatory explanation of how various Van Buren elements were reimagined in Fallout: New Vegas. What has gone unmentioned in general is the possibility that the multiple party concept from the Van Buren tabletop roleplaying game might be an inspiration for the multiplayer in inXile's Wasteland 3 - a curious absence given that they even went to the trouble of trademarking "Van Buren". Chris Avellone is apparently helping out with the game in some capacity, but we've heard nothing official. Maybe it's a reveal they're saving for later.

There are 33 comments on Chris Avellone and Josh Sawyer on Van Buren at Eurogamer

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