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Fri 22 July 2016

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?

Bard's Tale IV Kickstarter Update #30: Character Progression

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 22 July 2016, 19:45:49

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

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Although most of the public's attention is currently focused on Torment, which is set to make an appearance at Gamescom next month, development on inXile's other game, The Bard's Tale IV, continues quietly. Today's Kickstarter update by the talented systems designer David Rogers is a reminder that it's still alive. It's about the game's character progression system, which we now learn will be based on a multi-tiered skill tree structure. Here are the basics of how it'll work:

The original Bard's Tale trilogy had a character progression system closely tied to your starting class, plus the fascinating idea of evolving into different types as you reached higher levels. A budding Conjurer could progress down that track, or change professions and learn to be a Magician, Wizard, Sorcerer, and ultimately an Archmage. We are retaining this strong class-based focus in The Bard's Tale IV. We’re also opening up this more in-depth character progression to all the classes, allowing each class to specialize into their own set of sub-classes. By merging the sub-class concept into a tree structure, we are better able to give each adventurer meaningful and impactful choices each time you level up.

Each class has access to its own unique skill tree. From here, your adventurer is able to learn how to wield new gear, gain attribute points, learn new abilities, and gain passive effects. Basically, your character can be fully described through their skill tree. At a glance, you can tell a Sorcerer from a Wizard, a Thief from an Assassin, and a Vanguard from a Commander, all just by looking at their skill tree. Each time one of your Adventurers levels up, they are granted a single point to spend on their skill tree, with each skill costing exactly one point.

While skill trees can have a lot of options, their complexity grows along with the adventurer. The very first view you might have of your skill tree as a Fighter might look a little something like this, showing only a smaller number of skills to unlock.

In the above image we see the player has a few choices to pick from for their fledgling Fighter: learning to wield more advanced one handed weapons, learning to wield great weapons, gaining access to battle standards, wearing more protective armor, gaining bundles of attribute points, learning a new passive, or learning to craft basic potions. You'll notice that many of those choices also carry along with them some increased attributes as an added bonus.

For those of you thinking that's all there is, don't worry. You'll be able to view your entire skill tree from the get go. For simplicity's sake we set the default view to show you only what you have available at a given level, and what's just beyond the horizon. However, you can always zoom out to see the full number of options available to your adventurers as they grow into heroes of legend.

As you unlock new skills, you'll begin to also unlock the next tier of options in your skill tree. That's displayed by the counter under each tier header, with each tier requiring a total number of skill points spent character-wide. The adventurer above, for example, has so far unlocked seven out of nine skills needed to progress to Tier 3. These tiers play a role in a character's growth in a few ways, some more obvious than others. First, it helps create big milestones in the career of your adventurer. Just as you've advanced your progression towards one or more sub-classes and your options have begun to taper down, you unlock a new tier and your available options explode out again. It also provides incentive to each adventurer to acquire skills they might not have otherwise, encouraging exploration within your build. Lastly, it allows us as designers to deliver a more balanced experience because we can better ensure that at least some minimum number of points were spent towards defensive and offensive skills in one form or another during the early stages of the game. What kind of armor and fighting style you adopt and eventually specialize in later on is entirely up to you.
The skill system isn't everything, however. Many of you will be glad to hear that itemization plays an important role as well:

For those of you looking closely at the skill tree descriptions, which I'm confident many of you are, you might be wondering where you get your combat abilities from. Many of them, in fact, do not feature in the skill tree directly – instead, the place you acquire abilities is actually from your equipment. As you progress down the skill tree you unlock the ability to wield new and more exotic weapons, off-hand items, and trinkets. You may unlock access to a single item, such as a battle standard, or an entire category of items, such as Tier 2 great weapons. These items each have a specific ability or abilities. By wielding a great club you'd be able to use Lumbering Strike during battle, while wielding a battle standard would allow you to rally your allies with the ability "To Me, Brothers." As a certain weapon is used, an adventurer will eventually master its abilities, allowing them to keep using those abilities even without needing the weapon equipped. This will let you naturally unlock a vast amount of tactical flexibility over the course of the game.

And lastly, equipment such as your helm, armor, and boots also play a major role in your character's growth and progression. Through the skill tree you're also able gain access to increasingly powerful and exotic armor, robes, costumes, garbs, habits, and accoutrement. Your gear accounts for a major chunk of your adventurer's attributes. How many blows your character can withstand, how able he or she is to focus the eldritch forces, and their mental fortitude is heavily influenced by what mystic equipment they've found and learned to use throughout their journeys. These items can also grant you unique passive abilities that can help you form powerful combos. Itemization is an important aspect of The Bard's Tale IV and we've only given you a cursory glance, so we'll be touching on it more later.​

Bard's Tale IV will retain the "Review Board" mechanic from the original trilogy, but it'll only be required in order to advance to the next skill tier, not for every single level-up. The skill tree system will also feature occasional "mutually exclusive branches", where picking one skill locks away access to others. See the full update for an example of such a progression scenario, including mockup screenshots.

There are 27 comments on Bard's Tale IV Kickstarter Update #30: Character Progression

Tue 19 July 2016
Colony Ship RPG Update #7: Iron Tower Studio Design Principles

Editorial - posted by Infinitron on Tue 19 July 2016, 13:33:19

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

The latest Colony Ship RPG update is an interesting one. It's not just about the game itself, but also about how it exemplifies what has become Iron Tower Studio's signature design "brand" - the core principles that all ITS games will share. There's a lot of stuff here that the Codex will like, but also some contemplation on the complaints people had about The Age of Decadence. It's very long, so I can only post a fraction of it:
  • Stats & Skills Matter not only in combat where they provide various bonuses but outside of combat as well, when exploring or dealing with people. It’s a deceptively simple aspect, so let’s examine it in details.

    What it means in practical terms is that your character would succeed in areas where his/her stats and skills are strong but fail where they are weak. For example, a perceptive person would notice something others won’t; a brute would be able to move a heavy object, etc.

    Obviously, the effect can be minor (i.e. you moved a boulder and found a couple of coins underneath it!), major (you moved a boulder and found a passageway to another area!), or anything in between (you moved a boulder and found a passageway to another area where you found … a couple of coins! T’was a good day for adventuring).

    Usually, stats and skills are checked in the following situations:
    • Multiple solutions (i.e. different ways to arrive to the same destination, everyone’s happy and nobody’s upset)
    • Optional content (limited ways to unlock optional content, aka. “gated” content)

    Multiple solutions are an important gameplay element, which allows you to go through a game in a manner fitting your character, but it is the optional content that truly differentiates one playthrough from another and boosts replayability (because solving the same problems in different ways isn’t enough).

    Naturally, optional content must differ in accessibility. Someone’s old shed should be easy to break into (let’s say everyone with a single point in lockpick, which is 80% of all players). An area that resisted all attempts to get into for decades or centuries like the Abyss should force most people to turn back to preserve the setting’s integrity (let’s say only 10% of players should explore it). The rest of the content would fall somewhere in between.

    This approach greatly upset some players who felt that they were punished “just because they chose the ‘wrong’ stats”. Some RPG players are notoriously obsessive-compulsive and won’t rest until they create a character that can get the maximum amount of content, which does require reading online guides and meta-gaming like there’s no tomorrow – the fastest way to kill all enjoyment and ruin the game. Of course, the counter-argument is that failing repeatedly (considering how easy it is to make a character ill-equipped for what you're trying to do) is an equally fast way to kill the enjoyment.

    I’m not sure there’s a way to “fix it” as those who want to get maximum content in a single playthrough will continue to metagame no matter what. The moment you tell the player "sorry, buddy, you need to be this tall to ride this", some players won't accept the failure and would want to know this kind of info in advance. Not many people see it as "you win some, you lose some" design. Anyway, I'd love to read your thoughts on this matter.
  • Non-Linear & Replayable

    First let’s define what it means. Linear design is easy to understand: you move from A to B to C, always in this order, which takes away the freedom of choice completely. Then we have the “Bioware design”: do 4 locations in any order, which as an illusion of choices, much like dialogues where you get to say the same thing in 4 different ways.

    True non-linearity requires two things:
    • Multiple ways leading toward the endgame location (i.e. branching questlines), so you never have to travel the same path if you replay the game
    • Very few “required” story-telling nodes (locations, conversation, events) the player simply must visit or trigger in order to progress.

    The positives are clear. Now let’s take a look at the negatives:
    • The game will be short because you’re taking all available content and splitting it between multiple paths and filter it down via mutually exclusive decisions. AoD has over 110 quests, which is a lot, but you get no more than 20-25 per playtrhough and that’s if you leave no stone unturned.
    • The game will be even shorter because it’s easy to miss locations and content. Throw in the gated content and non-combat gameplay and it will be even shorter.

    Not surprisingly, "the game is too short" was complaint #3, right after "the game is too hard" (#1) and "too much meta-gaming" (#2).
Also in the update is a bit of information about the Armory, an important location in the game that the player character will be the first person to access in a very long time. And there's the news that Iron Tower have hired a new 3D modeler to create the art for the game's upgradeable firearms. The update includes images of both of these things, but you'll have to read the full update to see them.

There are 99 comments on Colony Ship RPG Update #7: Iron Tower Studio Design Principles

Feargus Urquhart talks shop at GamesIndustry

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Tue 19 July 2016, 01:54:44

Tags: Feargus Urquhart; Obsidian Entertainment

Two months ago, Obsidian Entertainment CEO Feargus Urquhart was a speaker at the Digital Dragons convention in Krakow, where he was interviewed by the representatives of various websites, including our own, and revealed that Pillars of Eternity 2 was in development. For some reason, it took GamesIndustry until today to post their interview with him. It's a more professionally-oriented piece, discussing Obsidian's past relationships with publishers and the challenges the company faces today. There are no real revelations here, but it does offer a more detailed look at some familiar Feargus themes. Here's an excerpt:

Q: For me, you were doing really interesting work in that period, on Fallout: New Vegas and Alpha Protocol in particular. Nevertheless, and I'm sure you're aware of this, Obsidian ended up with a reputation for bugs and technical issues. Is that a necessary consequence of towing the line, and working to imposed budgets and time-scales? These aren't simple games you're making.

FU: So, with Alpha Protocol, the challenge was that we weren't even totally sure what we wanted to make until, like, way into the game - and that's bad. You can do that with your own money; when you're doing that with someone else's money they're just getting mad, they're getting mad at you more and more and more. The story's bigger than that, but I think I'd go back to what I was just saying: you've gotta cut it early. For that reason, as a developer, you have to take it on yourself to prove your ideas quickly. You need to show yourself that you can make the game, that you understand the game.

It's too easy to not be critical. To not say, 'Okay, that all sounds wonderful, but what's the plan? Like, really, what is the plan?' That's where we've made big mistakes in the past: not holding to our plans. That doesn't sound like sexy development, right? But if we haven't proven it, let's know that now. Let's look at it and go, 'Oh, it's like an ugly little child. That's not good. So what do we do with it?' And it's too easy at that point to add just a little bit more here, and it'll be good, and everything will be fine. No. 'Should we cut it?'

I think publishers should kill way more games way earlier, but if we do that ourselves it makes us more reasonable about what we can actually accomplish early on. We weren't doing that, and that put pressure on our publishers.

Q: Isn't that the publisher's call anyway? You say more games should be killed earlier, but surely Obsidian wouldn't decide that.

FU: No, it wouldn't be my call, but we always should look at the fact of, 'Wouldwe kill this game?' It's nice if the publisher keeps on paying us for another year, but if we would kill it then it really should be killed. So back up from that: what are we doing today to make sure we can do what we want and have the game not be killed? We're now doing that on day 2, and not day 430.

That's what we did too much of before. We just kept on going, sweeping this and that problem under the rug - sweep, sweep, sweep, it's all fine. And you get to a point and it's screwed.

Q: Obsidian has been around for thirteen years now, and it would have been impossible to predict the ways the industry has changed in the time since you started. How has the reality matched up to your expectations back in 2003?

FU: I thought we would have our own engine at this point - and we tried. I thought we would have been purchased by now. I thought we wouldn't be as big as we are.

Q: The last two seem almost at odds with each other.

FU: Yeah, exactly. And the big thing I've learned from all that is, it's so hard to plan this stuff. If you told me four or five years ago that we'd be working on a free-to-play tank game, and our own crowdfunded IP, and that we'd shipped a South Park game - there was nothing in our business plan five years ago that said any of that. There isn't a single thing we're doing today that was in that business plan.

Q: So what do you want from the next 13 years? Do you still want to be independent?

FU: I am fine being independent in 13 years. I would be okay if we got purchased, but I would be fine independent. Ultimately, we need to be good at what we do. It goes back to what we were saying about things that are beyond our control. Well, there are things that are in our control, so let's not screw those things up.

We can keep doing great stuff with Eternity. I'd love to turn Eternity into more like a Skyrim product. I'd love to do a science fiction game. I just want to keep making role-playing games - I do, and the team does. Whether that's independent or not, making RPGs we can be proud of is the goal. And that's what I can look back on. We've been very proud of a lot of what we've done as a team.

Whether the Metacritic was 75 or 95, we've been very proud of what we've done.
Episodic Skyrim - the dream lives on. According to Feargus, one problem that Obsidian faces right now is that some of the Armored Warfare developers want to switch to RPG development after three or more years of working on the same game, but they've got nothing to switch to. Perhaps that will change as Pillars of Eternity 2 and whatever Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky are doing progress.

There are 16 comments on Feargus Urquhart talks shop at GamesIndustry

Fri 15 July 2016
Fallout 1.5: Resurrection mod for Fallout 2 released in English

Mod News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 15 July 2016, 21:05:19

Tags: Fallout 1.5: Resurrection; Fallout 2

The Fallout series has always been very popular in Eastern Europe, and over the years numerous mods for the classic Fallout titles have been developed there, including full-scale standalone games such as Olympus 2207 and Fallout: Nevada. Most of these fan-made spin-offs have never been properly translated from their native languages and they remain obscure among the larger community. Today, one such game has defied that trend. The Czech-made Fallout 1.5: Resurrection has been released in English, over two and a half years after its original Czech release and after over a decade of development. It's a mod for Fallout 2 - a new adventure set in New Mexico that, as you've probably guessed, takes place in between Fallout 1 and Fallout 2. Here's its trailer and an overview:

Fallout 1.5: Resurrection is a new, old-school Fallout. It's a modification for Fallout 2 with a completely new story taking place in the Fallout universe. The plot is set in the time between Fallout 1 and 2, east of the future NCR in New Mexico. That means you won't visit the original places. Instead, you'll discover entirely new, creative locations that allowed us to have more freedom with the story.

The player’s character wakes up, heavily wounded, in a dark cave, not knowing how it got there, or who it is. Thus you start from a scratch, searching for your past, which is darker than it might seem on the first sight... We won’t give away any more details about the story, not to spoil your game experience. Though you can count on surprising twists in plot and unexpected finale.

As big fans of Fallout, we've tried to take the best from all of the classic Fallout games. Easter eggs and jokes, with which Fallout 2 was literally overfilled, have been folded into the background. Instead, the great atmosphere of decadence and hopelessness enjoyed by so many in the first Fallout game returns. The world is still chaotic, with only a few, small, independent communities connected by tenuous trade relations. The wasteland is an unfriendly place where law is on the side of whoever has the biggest gun.

The name "Resurrection" was chosen for two reasons. Firstly, resurrection is a theme tied closely to the main character who, at the beginning of the game, practically rises from the dead. Secondly, our modification represents the resurrection of good old Fallout. We didn't want to re-imagine the entire game system. Instead, our aim was to bring back this classic RPG in its original form. Many remember that feeling when they first played Fallout; until you completed the game, you journeyed through interesting locations filled with fascinating things. Even after several play-throughs, you continued to find new, exciting stuff. Players could really get into such a game, so that's exactly the kind of game we've endeavoured to create.
We received a "review copy" of Resurrection a couple of days ago. The writing is about what you'd expect from a fan-made Eastern European project translated by fans, but the game's quest design is apparently quite impressive. It's a new Fallout, a real Fallout - a nice summer surprise, and particularly welcome news coming directly after the recent Bethesda shenanigans. You can download it here now.

There are 59 comments on Fallout 1.5: Resurrection mod for Fallout 2 released in English

Thu 14 July 2016
Fallout 4 Far Harbor DLC contains quest stolen from Codexer-developed New Vegas mod

Mod News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 14 July 2016, 19:20:05

Tags: Bethesda Softworks; Fallout 4; Fallout: Autumn Leaves; Fallout: New Vegas

Autumn Leaves is a DLC-sized quest mod for Fallout: New Vegas developed by BaronVonChateau, who you may know on the Codex as Chateaubryan. By all accounts it's an excellent mod, taking inspiration from classics such as Planescape: Torment and proudly upholding Codexian design values such as choice & consequence and skill checks. Hell, it even has a Cleve Blakemore reference. Unfortunately, coming out only weeks before the release of Fallout 4, Autumn Leaves was overlooked by many players. Somebody at Bethesda must have noticed it, though...because it turns out they shamelessly plagiarized it for their recent Far Harbor DLC. And I don't just mean that they took inspiration. Take a look at Chateaubryan's comparison at Mod DB:


A few weeks before Fallout 4’s release, Autumn Leaves, a Fallout : New Vegas Mod was published on Moddb and the Nexus. It featured a colorful cast of excentric robots, in charge of a forgotten Vault where a strange murder happened. Sounds familiar ?

Maybe, to those who played Far Harbor’s “Brain Dead.”

First off, both quests begins with a discussion through an interphone with the caretaker of the Vault, a headwaiter robot with a rather distinguished persona. The big mandatory Vault Door opens, leaving the player up for the exploration of said vault.

The main quest itself, which consists in investigating the murder by checking the crime scene, and speaking to every robot in the Vault.

The mysterious death of the prime financier of the Vault, who - in both cases - worked alongside Vault-Tec to build the special place.

The importance of voice modulators in the plot, to distinguish the robots between themselves.

The sexytime moment.

And of course, the mandatory “Let’s discuss paintings with a robot.”

Then, there’s the Neural Interface Matrix in BD versus the Neuro Comp Matrix in AL, the presence (and relevance to the plot) of a robotic expert in the Vault, the feel of the central atrium, the quasi-exclusive robotic cast confronted to a murder, the misleading piece of evidence (Keith/Rolland), among others.​

The Codex has always talked about how Bethesda are creatively bankrupt, but this is a new low. So what can be done? Bethesda are probably legally within their rights doing this. I say they should be publicly shamed into extending credit to Chateaubryan...but that would take a louder megaphone than ours. Ultimately, all I can do is recommend that you download and play Autumn Leaves. And not Fallout 4.

There are 127 comments on Fallout 4 Far Harbor DLC contains quest stolen from Codexer-developed New Vegas mod

Wed 13 July 2016
Tyranny Dev Diary #6: Companion Overview - Barik

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 13 July 2016, 21:39:22

Tags: Brian Heins; Obsidian Entertainment; Tyranny

Today's Tyranny dev diary is the first in a new series of updates introducing the game's companions, starting off with Barik, warrior of the Disfavored. You might remember Barik as the heavily armored fellow from last month's gameplay preview. It turns out that's not a natural condition.

Barik is the quintessential Disfavored soldier. He embodies all of the rigid and uncompromising values that Graven Ashe’s iron legion holds dear. He’s polite, respectful of authority, and doggedly intolerant of anyone born outside of the Overlord’s long shadow.

He began his career with the Disfavored in the phalanx – his size and strength made him a perfect addition to the shield wall. His strong nerve and unwavering obedience quickly drew the eye of his superiors. Barik received several battlefield promotions before drawing the eye of Archon Graven Ashe, leader of the Disfavored. Once the Great General knew his name, Barik quickly ascended to the ranks of the Iron Guard – Ashe’s select group of advisors and lieutenants.

It was one desperate mission that led to Barik’s undoing. During the war against the Tiers, Barik did not retreat with the rest of the Disfavored when word came that the Overlord Kyros was about to proclaim an Edict upon the realm of Stalwart. Instead, he joined a select group that embarked on a daring rescue mission to the heart of Sentinel Stand Keep. When the Edict struck and ruined any chance of success, Barik faced a harsher punishment than disgrace. Unlike the rest of his squad, he survived to witness Kyros’ judgment on Stalwart.

As Kyros’ Edict of Storms swept across the land, Barik was caught in the magical winds – winds that bore the weapons and armor of Barik’s phalanx and the enemies they fought. When the initial onslaught of the Edict subsided, Barik was found still alive, but trapped in a prison of twisted blades. To this day, Barik wears his armor of fused iron and bronze – durable protection, yet an unyielding mark of his failure. No one has been able to free him from the armor he was sealed into by Kyros’ Edict.

Combat Role

We designed Barik to serve as a much-needed shield to protect the party from danger. Barik stands in the front line, engaging enemies, taunting them into attacking him, and being a damage sink to keep the rest of the party alive.

When designing his talent trees, we looked at a couple of different themes that players could use to specialize him. His ‘Sentinel’ tree focuses on allowing him to maintain control on the battlefield while increasing the amount of damage he can absorb. His ‘Punisher’ tree transforms him into a warrior of retribution, excelling at slaying foes that dare to stand against him.

A few of his notable abilities:

Striking Iron: A strong slashing attack that deals increased damage if the target is actively engaging Barik in combat.

Stance: Phalanx: Barik ‘hunkers down’ into a defensive stance, hiding his body behind his shield. While in this stance, Barik gains a bonus to Armor making him significantly more capable of weathering damage from enemy attacks.

Engagement Attack: A passive ability that grants Barik a free attack on any enemy who engages him.

Defender’s Charge: Barik leaps to an ally’s side, taunting nearby enemies into attacking him.

Blade’s Embrace: As Barik adventures with the Fatebinder, he gains control over the bronze and iron prison that confines him. With this ability, Barik is able to command the weapons in his armor to strike out at nearby targets, dealing increased damage to anyone who is activately engaging him.

We wanted players to see Barik as a protector in battle, but also as a tactical asset. Barik’s Defender’s Charge and Striking Iron abilities are powerful, but they excel the most when players find the right moment to take action. Striking Iron incentivizes standing toe-to-toe with enemy melee units, but isn’t as effective when targeting an enemy archer or spellcaster. Defender’s Charge can move Barik to any ally on the battlefield, effectively saving them, but his relocation may leave his previous position unprotected.

By making strong choices and careful tactical decisions, players can use Barik as a powerful commanding presence, emphasizing his strengths to shift the tide of battle.
The next dev diary will be about Verse, the female companion from the preview. I wonder if they're going to go through all of the game's companions now.

There are 14 comments on Tyranny Dev Diary #6: Companion Overview - Barik

Archmage Rises, a mage simulator sandbox RPG, now on Steam Greenlight

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 13 July 2016, 19:07:21

Tags: Archmage Rises; Defiance Game Studio

Archmage Rises is a slick-looking and unique RPG by Thomas Henshell of Defiance Game Studio that has been quietly in development since early 2014, but which only came to our full attention yesterday. Taking influence from titles such as Dwarf Fortress, Sid Meier's Pirates! and FTL, as well as the various editions of Dungeons & Dragons, the game takes place in an exhaustively detailed sandbox fantasy world in which you take the role of a renegade mage who must seek his fortune. In order to achieve that Dwarf Fortress level of complexity, Archmage Rising's gameplay is primarily menu-based, with 2D artwork and a blobber-like turn-based combat system. The official website promises an experience akin to being "Rastlin, Pug, Merlin, or Gandalf", but after watching the game's Steam Greenlight trailer, the first thing that came to my mind was "Rance". See for yourself:

Yes, yes, I think the Codex might end up enjoying this game. The website has lots of details about it, and if you'd like to see more, there are a whole bunch of gameplay videos on its YouTube channel. Archmage Rises will be available for preorder starting from August 4th, and is scheduled for release in Q1 2017. If you're interested, be sure to vote for it on Steam Greenlight.

There are 16 comments on Archmage Rises, a mage simulator sandbox RPG, now on Steam Greenlight

Tue 12 July 2016
Brian Fargo's Talk at Reboot Develop 2016

Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Tue 12 July 2016, 23:33:29

Tags: Brian Fargo; InXile Entertainment; Wasteland 2

You might remember that two and a half months ago, before E3, before Digital Dragons, there was a gaming conference in Croatia called Reboot Develop. Among the visitors were Chris Avellone, Brian Fargo and Swen Vincke, and the talks that they gave there sounded interesting indeed. But somehow, other than an interview with Chris on the day of his arrival, nothing that happened there ever reached the public, and the world moved on. Until last week, that is, when the Reboot Develop organizers quietly started uploading videos of the conference's talks to its official YouTube channel.

The first video of interest to the Codex is of the talk Brian Fargo gave on April 29th entitled "Embrace the Chaos". In the 40 minute speech, Brian described his development philosophy as an executive producer - setting the tone, the importance of iteration, etc - using Wasteland 2 as an example. It's familiar Fargo stuff, but hey, at least he's moved on from talking about Kickstarter. Note that the audio quality is rather bad, and between 17:00 and 18:40 it completely spazzes out. The video also doesn't show Brian's slides. You have much to learn, Croatians. Anyway, if you want to watch it yourself, here it is:

There was a hint in this talk that Torment was going to be delayed (apparently Brian had to issue a "gag order" on the writers for writing too much) but we already know that. He also off-handedly mentioned that inXile have a secret project. Wasteland 3, I assume?

There are 4 comments on Brian Fargo's Talk at Reboot Develop 2016

RPG Codex Review: Torment: The Explorer's Guide

Review - posted by Crooked Bee on Tue 12 July 2016, 01:01:50

Tags: Monte Cook; Numenera; Torment: The Explorer's Guide; Torment: Tides of Numenera

As a PC RPG focused website, it's been a while since we covered anything PnP. The last prominent instance of that, I believe, was our 2014 review of Monte Cook Games's Numenera, on which the upcoming Torment: Tides of Numenera by inXile is based. Well, recently, Monte Cook Games contacted us to see if we were interested in reviewing Torment: The Explorer's Guide, a PnP sourcebook accompanying the video game and exploring the same region of the Ninth World.

Given that Tides of Numenera is a game a lot of people here are looking forward to, it shouldn't come as a surprise that we agreed to review the new sourcebook. Thankfully, esteemed community member and everyone's favorite Pillars of Eternity reviewer Prime Junta agreed to help us with that, and was prompt enough to write up his impressions that we are publishing this on the day the review embargo has been lifted.

Too bad he didn't really like the book much, though, aside from the Bloom. Here are a couple of snippets from the review:

Torment: The Explorer’s Guide is a pen-and-paper sourcebook which describes the setting for inXile Entertainment’s upcoming Planescape: Torment successor. It’s about Greater Garravia, a region around an inland sea beyond the Beyond (a region described in the Numenera corebook). Monte Cook Games made it clear to us that it is not a strategy guide, hintbook, or supplement for the cRPG; rather, it is intended for game masters who want to run pen-and-paper campaigns in the Last Castoff’s footprints.

Sagus Cliffs, the location of the Torment: Tides of Numenera beta, is present in faithful detail in the state it is in before the Last Castoff’s arrival on the scene. The maps and many of the illustrations are plucked directly from the computer game or its concept art. Aligern, Callistege, Tybir, Fulsom, Imbitu, and many other major and minor characters from the game make their appearance. The Guide outlines their behaviour, background, and motivations, and even side quests pop up in “Hearsay” blurbs, although they are presented as adventure hooks only, rather than full-blown quest lines. There isn’t much in the Guide that’s not present, one way or another, in the game – and the game has a good deal of detail the Guide does not cover at all. [...]

With one notable exception, all these locations are standard Numenera fare, not all that different from Guran, Stirthal, or any of the others in the Corebook, although written out in greater detail. They are colourful and filled to the brim with random weirdness, but have little by way of internal logic or coherence, let alone a sense of history or place beyond a general “atmosphere” helpfully described in margin notes. [...] The one area where the Guide rises above its general level of all spice, no curry is the Bloom: a city-sized transdimensional predator inching its way along a ravine near Sagus Cliffs. Thought has gone into what the Bloom is, what it wants, what its capabilities and limitations are, and how it relates to the beings inhabiting and surrounding it. It has some of the internal logic so sorely lacking in the rest of the setting, and consequently the characters and factions in it are much more engaging and relatable than anywhere else. The Memovira is more than just a crimelord in fancy armour. The Bloom cultists and their lost prophet Chila are more than just another robe-wearing victim-sacrificing evil cult. The deranged, damaged, or changed human wrecks circulating in the Bloom’s bowels are more than just local colour. The Bloom shows that an imaginative world-builder can take the random bits and pieces of weird scattered around the Ninth World and make something genuinely exciting out of them. [...]

Other than the relatively unproblematic descriptors and foci, the translation of cRPG gameplay into pen-and-paper form has not been altogether successful. One of the most notable features of Castoffs is their extreme resilience and rapid healing. The Guide mentions this in the description, but provides no mechanical explanation of its gameplay effects, leaving that entirely to the GM to arbitrate. Instead, it introduces a Tidal Surge mechanic which triggers whenever the Castoff takes damage: the Surge passes some of that damage to someone else in some particular form, fixed on character creation. One castoff might cause a selected enemy to go blind, another might cause him to get stunned, or run away in fear, or take extra Intellect damage. This is shallow and repetitive, an automatically-applied awesome-button mechanic requiring no thought to use, and which will get boring fast – more so if playing with a full party of Castoffs.

Worse, however, is the Tides mechanic as described in the Guide. [...] The mechanic, in other words, requires the GM to be so intimately familiar with what each of the Tides is that he can award and track Tidal points on the fly, without interrupting the flow of the action or conversation, and the outcome is a vaguely-defined “reputation” plus something which allows attuned players to awesome-button every single tidally-conformant action with pyrotechnic critical successes every time. This, in a game explicitly intended to be as fluid, low-accounting, and low-arithmetic as possible, and one where most actions are already trivialised through the Effort and Recovery mechanics. Both the awarding/bookkeeping and eventual and occasional scripted results of tidal affinity can work perfectly well in a computer game, but defined this way for pen-and-paper… really, people, did you even playtest this?​

Ouch. I believe George Ziets was involved with the computer game version of the Bloom, so I wonder if his designs influenced how it's portrayed in the sourcebook too - and why it stands out compared to other locations.

Anyway, be sure to read the full review: RPG Codex Review: Torment: The Explorer's Guide

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Indie RPG Roundup: Bevontule and Bludgeons & Krakens

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 12 July 2016, 00:19:09

Tags: Bevontule; Bludgeons & Krakens; Cannibal Cat Software; Liminal LLC

Two indie RPGs came to our attention this weekend. The first of them is Liminal LLC's Bevontule, a turn-based fantasy RPG that has been quietly in development for over a year. According to the game's website, it's inspired by various Japanese tactical RPGs, but at least aesthetically it seems like a typical post-2000 western fantasy RPG. Bevontule is scheduled for release in Q2 2017, and there are several demos already available, including a "pre-alpha demo" released a few days ago. You can grab those here. The game doesn't have a proper trailer yet, but there are numerous WIP gameplay videos on Liminal's YouTube channel. Here's the most recent one:

The other indie RPG we learned about this weekend is Cannibal Cat Software's Bludgeons & Krakens. It's a very different sort of game - a retro-styled turn-based RPG that combines the aesthetics and design of classic Ultima with the simple loot-driven gameplay of Diablo. It doesn't have any videos, so here are a few screenshots instead:

[​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

Bludgeons & Krakens was released just a few days ago, and is available for free on Pretty cool!

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Sun 10 July 2016
Translation of a Japanese interview with Robert Woodhead

Interview - posted by Crooked Bee on Sun 10 July 2016, 18:03:40

Tags: Robert J. Woodhead; Wizardry; Wizardry IV: The Return of Werdna

Esteeemed community member Helly informs us that he stumbled across a Japanese interview with SirTech co-founder and Wizardry co-creator Robert "Trebor" Woodhead - and decided to translate it for the unwashed Codex masses. In the interview, Robert Woodhead discusses anime and his company AnimEigo, but also the Wizardry series.

Helly posted the full interview in a thread in General RPG Discussion, but here are some Wizardry-related snippets:

4Gamer: And what about Wizardry #4 - The Return of Werdna's ARABIC DIARY(TALES OF MADNESS)? It became Necronomicon in the console game version, was it what it was supposed to be?

Woodhead: Yes, it was supposed to be the Necronomicon. 95% of Wizardry's n°4's scenario was written by Roe Adams, the ARABIC DIARY was his idea too. I read H.P.Lovecraft's works too, so I knew it was the Necronomicon. [...]

4Gamer: In the late 80's, there was a plan to make player character data from the software production house BPS's RPGs※ and SIR-TECH's Wizardry series convertible. I remember reading about it at the time in a PC magazine. What happened to that project?

※"Black onyx" and "Fire crystal", amongst others.

Woodhead: It probably happened while I was working on the Macintosh version of Wizardry, but...I vaguely remember BPS's Henk Rogers' name. I think it's just that it never actually happened.

4Gamer: I see... Ah, I'm sorry, I keep asking questions that kept me intrigued for a while.

Woodhead: No problem. You know, as most games, Wizardry is nothing but a ring in the chain that bind all games together. Games are influenced by their predecessors and cultural events, and Wizardry was no exception. And now, it is Wizardry's turn to influence the work of others. It really does feel like being part of a big chain.

4Gamer: Oh yes indeed. The "ring" that Wizardry created in Japan is quite noticeable. I don't think I would be exaggerating saying that many games, anime and novels are directly influenced by the Wizardry series.

Woodhead: It's an honor. But I do think we were lucky more than anything else. And I do think most of the thanks are due to the localization For Tune and GameStudio as well as Asuki's staffs. I especially think that the Famicon release was our best version of Wizardry. At the very least it didn't contain my badly drawn pictures! (bitter laugh)

4Gamer: When I replay the Apple II version now, I see how Wizardry was born from a melting pot of various influencing works. The character's jobs and races, the monsters, the pictures and text messages. But what did you accomplish with Wizardry that you feel was entirely original?

Woodhead: Well...the presence of a scenario, I think. Older Computer RPGs didn't have a defined goal and were not made with an end goal in mind. We added a scenario with puzzle-like components to our game. That's the thing that make it different from the other titles, I think. The n°4 of the series was the more representative of what we aimed to do.

4Gamer: You added a scenario to the fusion of a net game, Oubliette, and a tabletop game, D&D, on the Apple II, is that it?

Woodhead: Yes, we were really thinking about how to better represent them in that little box. Also, our puzzle-ridden n°4 was made using a faster machine, the PC-9801, thanks to our Japanese staff. They installed a Pascal development environment/operating system and so we were able to work with a "Fast Apple II".​

It's interesting, and pretty cool, to hear that he considers Wizardry IV to be the most representative of what the series originally tried to achieve. As mentioned, you can read the full interview translation on our forums.

I'd also like to use this opportunity to remind you that we interviewed Robert Woodhead ourselves a few years ago, so check that interview out too if you missed it.

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Tue 5 July 2016
Expeditions: Viking delayed to February 2017

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 5 July 2016, 15:46:15

Tags: Expeditions: Viking; Jonas Wæver; Logic Artists

This year is turning out to be a sparse one for RPGs, as game after game is delayed to 2017. This weekend, we learned that yet another anticipated title has joined the ranks of the postponed - Logic Artists' Expeditions: Viking, which was originally scheduled to come out in Q4 2016. Here's the press release announcing the delay, courtesy of Gamasutra:

Logic Artists announces the release of its upcoming historical RPG — Expeditions: Viking will be postponed until Q1 of next year with a tentative launch window in February 2017. The news comes with additional development plans.

“There are so many things we’d like to get just right with Viking. We’re confident with the game’s narrative and high level of player choice, but want to spend additional time on some of the more exciting and challenging elements of the game’s development," said Logic Artists Producer Ali Emek.

One of the interesting elements of combat in the Expeditions Series is the ways in which players are challenged by the environment. The basic system for crafting and laying traps in Expeditions: Conquistador will be expanded upon, so players will find more ways to manipulate the environment to their advantage with the introduction of environmental hazards in Expeditions: Viking. These are objects that are either in the environment when the combat begins or are placed in the environment by the player or enemy units during combat. Hazards will add an extra layer of tactical consideration to the player’s positioning and movement in combat.

Fans from around the world have been asking for the game to be available in a variety of languages on release. Logic Artists are also committed to take enough time to ensure that Expeditions: Viking will be available in English, French, German, Spanish, Russian, and Polish when it hits the stores. With over 200,000 words of dialogue, it’s an extensive undertaking.

“We’re also populating the campaign maps with lots of random encounters and side quests to reward those players who love to explore with a variety of experiences they may not face if they exclusively follow the main story quests," said Logic Artists Creative Dirctor Jonas Wæver.
The Age of Decadence dungeon crawler, the Codex's last hope for a turn-based RPGOTY 2016? I'm not sure I'd bet on that! On the bright side, this does mean 2017 is going to be one hell of a year.

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Mon 4 July 2016
RPG Codex Review: The Technomancer

Review - posted by Crooked Bee on Mon 4 July 2016, 23:02:17

Tags: Spiders; The Technomancer

The Technomancer is the new sci-fi B-movie RPG from Spiders, developers of Mars: War Logs and Bound by Flame. If that doesn't exactly fill you with interest or enthusiasm, I don't blame you. Apparently, just like Mars: War Logs, Technomancer takes places on Mars, in a dystopian society controlled by large corporations, and has you play the eponymous technomancer with some kind of electro force powers.

Now, we've never reviewed any of Spiders' games before, and I never imagined we'd end up reviewing this one either. However, somehow, esteemed community member and Codex Gamescom reporter Bubbles has gotten hold of a review key for the game - and has a few things to say about it. So if you feel like playing a low-budget action RPG that's somewhat rough around the edges, or simply reading about one, here's what The Technomancer has in store for you.

As it turns out, The Technomancer is neither a great success nor an outright failure; it's simply a solid story RPG that is hamstrung by an omnipresent lack of polish and a few thoroughly stupid design decisions. Together, all of these flaws and little bits of weirdness infuse the game with a strong sense of character, a character which some people will find appealing and others repulsive.

[...] Overall, I would describe The Technomancer's writing and presentation as “not great, but entertaining.” Going into my playthrough, I was prepared for a low-budget experience with a unique atmosphere; the game not only met those criteria, but also provided a bit more depth than I expected. Still, the quality of the writing by no means comparable to the greats of the genre, and if you go into this story expecting another New Vegas or Alpha Protocol, you're going to be most severely disappointed. If I say that the writing is more interesting than the typical mainstream fare, I mean to say that I liked it more than Fallout 3, Fable, Drakensang, or Venetica – no more, no less. [...] Maybe I've been spoiled by the likes of Age of Decadence, Fallout New Vegas and The Witcher 2, but in this day and age, I simply can no longer see the merit of stuffing so much purely cosmetic c&c into your game. If Spiders could not offer a properly reactive main quest on the budget they had available, then they would have been better off cutting the game down to a more manageable size and providing proper branching. I'd much rather have a 15 hour RPG where my decisions have a real, noticeable impact on the story than a 30 hour game where even murdering a major character will ultimately only affect a side quest or two.

[...] The Technomancer is billed as an action RPG, and thankfully its combat system is fluid and fast paced enough to accommodate some fun, fast paced gameplay. Certain experienced hardcore RPG players have actually levelled harsh complaints against this system; they consider the combat to be far too difficult even on normal settings. Supposedly, the enemies deal far too much damage and have access to game breaking attacks that are not available to the player, which makes the main character feel “normal” and “weak”, and not like the superhuman badass he is supposed to be. Strictly speaking, these complaints are accurate; you have to play carefully and evasively, making constant use of dodge or block moves and carefully timing your strikes if you want to have any success against the many large groups of enemies and the decently dangerous bosses in the game. The controls are also slightly clunky, especially when it comes to locking onto enemies for ranged attacks; it's not enough to ruin the game, but it will force you to adapt to the system. At least one of your abilities even deals friendly fire (!!!), which is a truly bold and dangerous move in a time when even old-school devs like Obsidian are moving away from friendly fire mechanics.

[...] What does all of this amount to? In my appraisal, The Technomancer is a good low-budget game with a few significant flaws that might be alleviated by future patches. As far as the current version is concerned, prospective players should search their souls whether any of the game's positive sides can outweigh the tedium of clearing out endless respawns in the same area again, and again, and again. For me, the benefits still barely managed to outweigh the cons, though I would never consider replaying this game until the respawn rate is reduced.

Of course, I also received this review key for free, so I could afford to approach the game without worrying whether I was getting good value for my money. The Technomancer is currently being sold for 44,99€ on the Steam store, and that price may be hard to justify for a game that was very obviously made on a tight budget. Every player has their own idea of what a good purchase price looks like, but if you want my advice, I'd wait until the game is fully patched and at least 60% off. It is worth playing, but there's no need to rush.​

Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: The Technomancer

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Swords and Sorcery: Sovereign now on Steam Greenlight, coming Q1 2017

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Mon 4 July 2016, 19:25:04

Tags: OlderBytes; Swords and Sorcery: Sovereign

Swords and Sorcery: Sovereign, the sequel to the thrice-released Might & Magic homage Swords and Sorcery: Underworld by Charles Clerc of OlderBytes, was originally announced way back in 2012. It seems that much of the time since then was spent developing the game's new engine, which Underworld was ported to for its final iteration. With that out of the way, Charles has been able to move on to developing the actual content of Sovereign. As of today, the game has an entry on Steam Greenlight, which I encourage you all to vote for. Here's a teaser trailer that was put together for the Greenlight campaign back in May:

The Greenlight page has a lengthy description of Sovereign's new features, which include skills, crafting, factions, and an elaborate new magic system. It also announces a release date in the first quarter of 2017. Given how long it's taken to reach this stage, I wonder if that's not a bit optimistic, but I guess we'll see.

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Fri 1 July 2016
How to Survive Indiepocalypse in 5 Easy Steps

Editorial - posted by VentilatorOfDoom on Fri 1 July 2016, 09:16:57

Tags: Iron Tower Studios; Vault Dweller

Vault Dweller put up an article on the Irontower Studios forums to discuss how to survive the Indiepocalypse, offering examples of the valuable insight he's amassed in the last 11 years. Here's an excerpt:

Now that you’re working on your game, you have to build a community around it and spread the word. No matter how well-designed your game is it will fail all the same if nobody knows about it. Yes, that too is your job.

Many indie developers look at what the AAA developers do and take notes. They think that if they act like the AAA boys, you know, professional and shit, everyone will assume they are real developers too and take them seriously.

Don’t do semi-official press-releases where you quote yourself. Don’t ask volunteer testers to sign NDAs as if you have the time, money, or desire to enforce them. Don’t write you own EULA on Steam as if Steam’s EULA isn’t good enough for you. Worst of all, don’t guard your stories and design ideas because someone might steal them. Yeah, Bethesda will decide to postpone The Elder Scrolls 6 and steal your shitty totally awesome ideas instead.

You have to sell people on your vision and you can’t do it if all you give them is a brief summary and Todd Howard’s famous “Trust us, it will be cool” line.

We’ve posted everything we had from day one. If we didn’t show something, it’s because we didn’t have it. We’ve "spoiled" every aspect of the game and answered every question about the game on as many forums as we could, giving people reasons to follow the game.

Go out into the world and engage gaming communities. Don’t hide behind moderators or "community managers". People who give a fuck about your game don’t want to be "managed", they want to talk to the guys making the game.

I made over 10,000 posts on multiple forums talking to people who showed interest and had questions. Oscar made over 6,000 posts. That’s not counting posts on Steam since we launched on Early Access and even more posts later after the game was released. If you can’t be arsed to talk to people who’re interested in your game, don’t expect them to support you in the future. Find time or you won’t stay in this business for long.

A word of warning before we get to the next chapter: when mingling with people you might discover that not everyone thinks your game ideas are as great as you think they are. Some people might actually harbor suspicions that your game sucks and be willing and even eager to share these thoughts with everyone they run into. You’d better get used to it because it’s going to happen a lot. ‘tis the magic of the internet. ​

Now that you’re working on your game, you have to build a community around it and spread the word. No matter how well-designed your game is it will fail all the same if nobody knows about it. Yes, that too is your job.
I told that to Pierre Begue years ago.

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Wed 29 June 2016
Tyranny Dev Diary #5: Combat Mechanics

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 29 June 2016, 18:17:11

Tags: Brian Heins; Obsidian Entertainment; Tyranny

After two lore-centric updates, today's Tyranny dev diary from Brian Heins marks a return to glorious crunch. It's all about the nitty gritty of the game's combat mechanics. For the most part, it's what you'd expect from an adaption of the Pillars of Eternity combat model to a skill-based character system, but there are a few surprises. Here are the important bits:

Attack Resolution

When you perform an attack in Tyranny – whether it’s a basic weapon attack, casting a spell, or using an ability – your Accuracy is compared to the target’s Defense to determine how well the attack does. As with Pillars of Eternity, each attack can have one of four possible results: Miss, Graze (attacks deal less damage, status effects are applied for a shorter duration), Hit, or Crit (attacks deal greater damage, and status effects are applied for a longer duration).

Your Accuracy is determined by one or more character skills. A basic attack will use the skill associated with the weapon you’re attacking with. A spell will use the magic skill for that type of spell and the character’s Lore skill. If more than one skill is used, their values are averaged together to produce the final skill value. Accuracy bonuses from weapons or abilities are added to that base value to determine the final Accuracy for the attack. The skills used to determine Accuracy are also the skills you gain experience in for that attack.

Each attack targets one of five possible Defenses: Parry, Dodge, Endurance, Will, or Magic. Enemies and party members have different strengths and weaknesses in these defenses, making some attacks better options against one type of enemy than another.

Accuracy is compared to Defense, and the resulting difference is used to modify the combat result table. Higher Accuracy results in a greater chance to Crit or Hit, reducing the chance to Graze or Miss. A lower Accuracy has the opposite effect, making you Graze or Miss more often.

Taking Damage

Damage in Tyranny works similarly to Pillars. We have multiple damage types based on the armor a character wears: Slash, Pierce, Crush, Burn, Shock, Frost, Corrode, and Arcane. Different enemies have strengths and weaknesses against different types of damage. To maximize the pain you inflict, you’ll want to target your enemies with damage types they are weak against.

Armor is still important to mitigate damage, but we also wanted to give more options for different character builds. Heavier armors (bronze or iron) provide Armor, which reduces damage dealt down to a minimum of 1. We’ve also added a new stat to lighter armors called Deflection. Deflection provides a chance that an attack will be downgraded one level (IE: a Crit becomes a Hit, a Hit becomes a Graze, or a Graze becomes a Miss). Deflection can be increased by the Finesse stat, and by talents and other items you can find in the game.

Tyranny handles hit points differently than Pillars did. Instead of the combination of Health and Endurance, we have a single Health bar to focus on. As attacks deal damage, your character’s Health is reduced. When it reaches 0, a character falls unconscious (or dies, depending on game options). Characters can be revived using special abilities or consumables, or they will regain consciousness at the end of combat and begin regenerating Health.

We’ve also added the Wound system. When your character falls unconscious, they will gain a Wound – more than one on the hardest difficulty settings. On harder difficulties, you’ll also gain a Wound when a character reaches low health. When a character is Wounded, their max health is reduced and all of their skills suffer a small penalty. Wounds can stack and will remain on a character until they rest.

Other Combat Changes

We’ve made several other changes to combat, a few of which I want to highlight:

Interrupt: We still have interrupt in Tyranny, but we’ve simplified this a bit. Unlike Pillars, we don’t have a separate Interrupt roll. Only some abilities will interrupt the target. When those abilities Hit or Crit, they will interrupt (Grazes and Misses do not interrupt). An interrupted target has any queued actions cleared and enters recovery. The length of their recovery depends on how strong the ability’s interrupt was.

Consumables: We’ve changed how consumables work in Tyranny. They’re now an instant action, meaning the effects apply as soon as you use the consumable, even if the character is on recovery. Once a character uses a consumable, all consumables for that character are on cooldown for a short duration. This allows you to rescue a character at low health, but you can’t just spam healing potions to make your party members invincible.

Friendly Fire: We’ve removed friendly fire from abilities in Tyranny. I wanted players to be able to focus on maximizing their damage to enemies, without worrying about harming their own party members in the process.​

Some of these changes, such as the health regeneration, instant consumable use, and removal of friendly fire, are obviously straight-up streamlining meant to bring the game in line with the likes of Dragon Age. But other changes, such as the replacement of the all-purpose Deflection defense score with separate Parry and Dodge scores, the addition of a new Deflection mechanic for light armors, and the more restricted Interrupt mechanic, look like an attempt to tighten up some of Pillars of Eternity's systems. Perhaps we'll see similar changes in Pillars of Eternity 2.

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BattleTech Kickstarter Update #28: Campaign Setting Details

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 29 June 2016, 01:17:38

Tags: BattleTech; Harebrained Schemes; Kevin Maginn; Mike McCain

We haven't heard much about BattleTech over the last few months, possibly because Harebrained Schemes are focused on their other game, Necropolis, which is due for release next month. Today, a new sign of life - a Kickstarter update introducing Design Lead Kevin Maginn, who holds the Sawyer-esque dual role of systems designer and lead worldbuilder. The update is about the latter aspect in particular. It introduces the Aurigan Reach, a region of the Periphery region of the BattleTech universe that Harebrained have invented to serve as the game's setting. Here's a snippet from its history:

The rimward area of the Periphery (what looks like ‘south’ on a map) includes a lightly-settled region that’s known as the Aurigan Reach. While once divided between the Magistracy of Canopus, the Taurian Concordat, and the Capellan Confederation, all three withdrew from the region during the wars, preferring to hold more secure borders and less marginal systems. The distant, poorly-developed worlds of the Reach weren’t worth the danger of overextending one’s power, given the sudden brutality of the Succession Wars.

The Capellans, hard-pressed by their rivals in the Inner Sphere, were first to abandon the Aurigan Reach, and by 2798 they’d withdrawn to a new, more defensible line, from Repulse to Rollis, leaving over a dozen systems to their own devices. The Taurians, in the wake of the disastrous and humiliating Taurian-Canopian War in 2813, turned away from expansionism, and likewise abandoned their Reach holdings. The Magistracy was the last to hold on to any Reach systems, but their claim was always more of a line drawn in the sand against the Taurians than any real colonial ambition; by 2840, their military forces were withdrawn to their own borders, leaving a vast and lawless region behind.

Power cannot tolerate a vacuum, though, and many of the abandoned systems had significant populations, industry, and commerce. Four of those systems were particularly well-suited to continue on as though still part of an interstellar civilization: Coromodir, Itrom, Tyrlon and Guldra. Trade between them continued, and the network of JumpShips continued to serve them, and through them some of the nearby, more marginal systems.

Of the four, Coromodir was the wealthiest and retained the most infrastructure and technology from the Taurian colonization. Two major mercantile houses, the Arano family and the Espinosa family, dominated the remains of the Taurian-led economy, and were natural leaders for the newly independent world. In 2820, the Arano family displaced the figurehead governor the Taurians had left behind, and with the support of the Espinosa family, Wiremu Arano ascended to the governorship.

This independence and leadership was needed as the Taurians withdrew from the remainder of the Reach over the next 20 years. By the time the withdrawal was complete, the Aurigan Reach was a haven for pirates and renegades, warlords setting up their own petty kingdoms, and worse.

In 2860, the Arano and Espinosa families approached their counterparts on Itrom, Guldra and Tyrlon with a proposal: a mutual protection and trade agreement that would allow coordinated and unified responses to the plague of piracy. As the primary financier of the agreement, the Arano representative was given executive authority over the newly formed Aurigan Trade Partnership.

By 2910, there had been a half-century for the ties between the four systems to deepen into alliances. Uniting the eight most powerful noble families of the Aurigan Reach, Keona Arano formalized the Partnership into a government, with herself positioned as High Lady. The other Founding Lords and Ladies sat at her side as members of her advisory council. This new state declared itself the Aurigan Coalition.

Over the next fifty years, the Coalition grew and incorporated many other nearby systems, most of them former Capellan holdings. This included the industrial world of Mechdur, which was already successful and self-sufficient; when Mechdur joined, the Coalition gained access to a powerful industrial and manufacturing engine that allowed for a much higher standard of living than other systems of the Reach could sustain.

The Coalition’s inexorable growth was not simply ignored by its neighbors, though. The Taurian Concordat wasn’t threatened by a simple trade partnership, but now the Coalition was beginning to look like an expansionist state, and a possible rival. It didn’t help matters than some of the systems the Coalition was annexing were former Taurian holdings, many with industrial and technological resources left behind in the withdrawal.

By the second decade of the new millennium, tensions had risen to the point where the Taurians sent a dedicated envoy to their new neighbor state to discuss the legal status of several border worlds, most particularly Qalzi, which the Taurians insisted was still a viable colony and thus under their control. The matter was quickly tangled in treaty negotiations and diplomatic red tape, and the conflict continued to simmer right up to the present day.

Now the powerful and indomitable scion of the Arano family, High Lord Tamati Arano II, has been lost in a tragic space travel accident. His daughter and heir, Lady Kamea Arano, must prepare herself to navigate her state through the dangerous pathways of the Succession Wars. Conflict with the Taurians threatens on one border, and on the other looms the vast power of the Capellan state and its devious ruling family, House Liao; meanwhile internal dissension threatens the prosperity her family has nurtured for over two centuries.
The update also contains a detailed description of how Kevin and the rest of the team "found" and developed this new region. What do you think, BattleTech lore experts?

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Tue 28 June 2016
Nightdive Studios' System Shock Remake Kickstarter is live, Chris Avellone onboard

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 28 June 2016, 23:48:27

Tags: Chris Avellone; Jason Fader; Nightdive Studios; Stephen Kick; System Shock (Nightdive Studios)

You may be aware that Nightdive Studios (formerly known as Night Dive Studios), the outfit responsible for recovering the rights to the System Shock franchise back in 2013, have been developing a remake of the first game since last year. A couple of months ago, they announced that they were going to fund its development using Kickstarter. That Kickstarter was launched today, with a funding goal of $900,000. Here's the pitch video:

Although System Shock Is Not An RPG™, there are at least two good reasons for posting about it here on the Codex front page. First of all, it may not surprise you at this point to learn that yes, Chris Avellone is involved with this game as well. He'll be helping to "shape and direct" the narrative, along with former Obsidianite Jason Fader, who is the project director. Second, the $1.4M stretch goal is adding RPG features. Specifically, a "true RPG character leveling system" with perks and skills.

The Kickstarter seems likely to reach that goal. Nightdive have put a great deal of effort into marketing their campaign, even producing a playable demo of their pre-alpha build, which is available for download on Steam or GOG (here's the trailer). If you're convinced by it, you can secure your copy of the System Shock remake for a minimum price of $30, with beta access available at $75. The game is scheduled for release in December 2017.

There are 148 comments on Nightdive Studios' System Shock Remake Kickstarter is live, Chris Avellone onboard

Thu 23 June 2016
7 Mages Released

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 23 June 2016, 18:40:15

Tags: 7 Mages; Napoleon Games

It's been over three months since 7 Mages, the unique puzzle-centric blobber from Czech indie studio Napoleon Games where you play a party of (you guessed it) seven mages, was released on Steam Early Access. That version was a straight mobile port, which the developers intended to beef up with proper PC graphics and user interface. They did just that last month, and after a month of additional testing, the game was officially released earlier today. Here's the launch trailer:

According to local expert V_K, 7 Mages' rather awkward English translation has been improved, though it's still not perfect. There have also been some important balance tweaks. If you'd like to give it a try, the game is available on Steam now for $12.

There are 42 comments on 7 Mages Released

Wed 22 June 2016
Tyranny E3 2016 Previews, Gameplay Footage, Screenshots

Preview - posted by Infinitron on Wed 22 June 2016, 20:11:31

Tags: Brian Heins; Matthew Singh; Obsidian Entertainment; Tyranny

At last! A week after Tyranny's appearance at E3, a media embargo appears to have lapsed and numerous previews of the game have appeared across the web, including the first proper gameplay footage. The E3 demo was a siege scenario set in a fortress called Ascension Hall, in which the player can find himself allied with one of three factions - the Scarlet Chorus or the Disfavored, two rival armies who are besieging the fortress, or the Vendrien Guard, the rebel force defending it. PCGamesN have a 36 minute video which showcases the siege from all three sides:

Here's a list of all the previews I was able to track down:

The previews mention that the game allows you to betray your faction and switch sides in this scenario (although the PCGamesN video doesn't demonstrate that possibility). Depending on your attributes and reputation, this can have different results, ranging from you ending up fighting both sides to the betrayed faction retreating without a fight. There's some details about the combat, including UI changes and improvements. You can see that for yourself in the video, but it's worth mentioning that one preview also mentions the addition of in-dialogue lore tooltips - a feature that Pillars of Eternity lead writer Eric Fenstermaker said could have been helpful for reducing "exposition bloat" in our interview with him earlier this year. Finally, Obsidian have released seven new Tyranny screenshots to go with these previews, which you can view here.

There are 157 comments on Tyranny E3 2016 Previews, Gameplay Footage, Screenshots

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