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Wed 18 July 2018

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?

Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Wed 18 July 2018, 23:25:12

Tags: Eric Schwarz; George Ziets; InXile Entertainment; Paul Marzagalli; Wasteland 3

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inXile have been busy with The Bard's Tale IV, but they've finally found the time to put out a new Wasteland 3 Fig update. The previous update three months ago promised a continuation of last year's "Building the Everest" series which chronicled the development of the game's vertical slice area, but it looks like that's been left behind. Instead the update introduces a new area called the Garden of the Gods, an agricultural site that's been occupied by a gang of raiders. Lead designer George Ziets gives us the overview of this area while systems designer Eric Schwarz describes his approach to designing its combat encounters, and there's a brief video of the place too. I'll quote the latter two here:

Eric here to do a dive into how I approached combat design in the Garden of the Gods - and more generally, throughout the rest of the game. Just a disclaimer that I'll be talking some specifics about combat encounters below, but keep in mind that these details may change before final release as we continue to tweak and tune the game.

When I begin with the design of combat in a location, I will use the story, characters, and other details of a scenario as a starting point. Who are these people? Why is the player fighting them? Are they an organized force of mercenaries, some killer machines gone rogue, or a bunch of punks? What kinds of weapons do they use? Do they have any special abilities? Do they rely on animals or robots to help them out? I try to factor it all in when it comes to conceptualizing the gameplay, as I've found it's often the best way to start building the encounter. It's always a collaborative process between the higher-level narrative and gameplay vision, the level designers working on each scene, and myself on the gameplay systems end.

In the case of the Garden of the Gods, the area is inhabited by the Dorseys that George discussed above. When you encounter them in the game, they've only been in the Garden a short time, so haven't had a chance to set up permanent fortifications. Although this is a relatively early-game location, I still wanted the Dorseys to be enough of a threat to deter a completely fresh team of Rangers. They dress in animal skins, and use mostly conventional weapons geared towards the outdoors - improvised bladed and blunt weapons, sniper rifles, assault rifles, handguns, and occasionally, larger machine guns and grenades. However, these early Dorseys aren't necessarily experienced soldiers either – they're bloodthirsty fanatics – so that means they don't have access to military-grade equipment, heavy armor, and they don't fight using lots of advanced techniques.

Once I've got a sense of what types of weapons the enemies will use, what their abilities are, and what their place in the game world is, and have spent some time building the NPCs in a sandbox test scene, I'll start working on the individual encounter design. The easiest way to start is to simply play through the level, getting a sense for the overall flow – where is the player likely to visit, and in what order? I generally try to scaffold the individual fights so that players get introduced to a specific enemy faction or type, and then we build up from there over the course of the scene. Having a good introduction not only makes the scene flow and play better for players, but it also lets us as designers ramp up the challenge and complexity.

That said, we always want to do what we can to give you more than "just some guys" to kill. In each location, I try to vary things up by using turrets, environmental objects like explosive barrels, elevation like watchtowers and cliff ledges, hostile robots, and more. In the case of Garden of the Gods, the Dorseys are not a brand-new enemy when the player encounters them, but as it's a few hours into the game, we want to start ramping up the complexity and difficulty of the encounters.

For instance, the first fight against the Dorseys is a mid-sized group with a mix of weapon types, and players are able to approach from a couple of different routes: they can either take the frontal assault, or look around to find a way up to the high ground overlooking them for a tactical advantage. The second, larger group the player finds later on has set up tripwires to keep out any pesky intruders, but observant players might be able to find a flanking route. They're also backed up by a mini-boss who makes use of pets – ones which the player might be able to turn back on their master, provided they have the right skill set.

Last, but not least, cover placement is a big part of combat design. Wasteland 3 uses a cover system just like Wasteland 2, and many design points inform how cover gets arranged, including the enemy weapon types, whether a location is indoors or outdoors, and the kinds of tactical opportunities we want to provide. The environment also contributes to how we design the layouts of our combat spaces. In an outdoor space like Garden of the Gods, you probably aren't going to find many heavy fortifications, but there's plenty of more spread out, natural cover, like rocks, snowbanks, and tree stumps that have you leapfrogging from point-to-point. Additionally, most cover in the game is destructible, so the type and relative strength of cover is also a factor for players to consider. All of these produce different combat dynamics.

That's just a taste at the kind of process we have when building combat in a scene. Of course, we continue to iterate from there many times over for just about every fight in the game, and we'll be balancing and polishing everything throughout development.
Also included in the update are a couple of photos of George and the team hard at work, and a short Q&A with details about multiplayer, dialogue, vehicles and more. There's nothing in it about what comes next, though. I'm guessing there probably won't be another one of these until Bard's Tale IV is released.

There are 5 comments on Wasteland 3 Fig Update #25: Garden of the Gods

Fri 13 July 2018

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 13 July 2018, 23:38:42

Tags: Fallen Gods; Mark Yohalem; Wormwood Studios

You might recall that there was supposed to be a combat-focused Fallen Gods development update last month. That update never came out, on account of the combat system not really existing yet. As a result, this month's update was kind of a surprise. It's all about the game's world map - its visual inspirations, design goals and the sorts of places we'll find in it. As the update explains, the world of Fallen Gods will be made up of four different location types - dwellings, dungeons, "locations" (basically the sites of special non-repeatable events) and encounters. I quote:


When the fallen god reaches a dwelling, the player is given a menu of options for how to interact with it, similar to Darklands. The god can rest, buy food, hire followers, gather lore, and, in some instances, resolve crises to his advantage. But each kind of dwelling has its own distinctive characteristics.

Steadings—“villages,” if the word weren’t impermissibly French—are the lowest tier of civilization in Fallen Gods. They can be found on the plains (most commonly), in woods, or up in the hills. They are a fine place to recruit the lowest tier of follower, churls, who—overawed by the presence of a god and eager to escape a life of drudgery—will follow for free. In woodsteads, you can also find woodsmen (who are good guides and hunters, and whose archery can give you an edge in pre-combat skirmishing), and in hillsteads, where raiding is commonplace, you can find the occasional fighter. The lore steadings offer is mostly local gossip (i.e., information about nearby points of interest) and the quests tend to revolve around local issues such as feuds, food shortages, wolf problems, and the like. Since all steadings are centered around food gathering (farming, hunting, and grazing), food is usually inexpensive. And since the local headman is a petty leader, the obligatory guest-gift to rest in his hall is relatively light.

Towns, always located on either coasts or riverbanks, are hubs of trade and commerce. Churls still make up most of the population, but there are also mercenary fighters to be hired. Food is more expensive than in steadings (given the greater demand and proportionally smaller supply), as is rest, befitting the greater stature of a town’s thane. The lore tends to be broader—reflecting the wide-roaming nature of the town’s long ships—and the quests are directed seaward, dealing with plagues or visitors from abroad, river monsters or beached whales. A unique aspect of towns is that you can hire a ship to take you to any other town on the map, a quick way to travel in a game where time is the one resource that can’t be regained.

Strongholds are the seats of power for jarls, the highest-ranking leaders in a world where Orm has insisted on keeping his kingship even after becoming a god. Fighters are plentiful, and the god can also hire a skald here. The jarl’s own skald provides a rich source of lore, including not merely about what is going on in the land but about where legendary treasures and foes may be found. Stronghold quests reflect the intriguing that goes on around the powerful, particularly regarding matters of succession.

Shrines are dedicated to the worship of Orm and the Ormfolk, and are thus a welcome haven for the fallen god. The priests who tend the shrine and its holy fire will, for a suitable offering to their principal god Orm, provide magnificent healing services to any who rest within their temple. And if the god has no priest following him, the shrine will gladly provide one, to advise him on the laws of gods and men and to provide healing on the road. As for information, shrines’ loremasters know more than anyone, and thus a god can learn much about lost relics and the like. Finally, quests in shrines tend to be about questions of doctrine, performance of rituals, resolution of schisms, and similar theological issues.


Unlike dwellings, which primarily offer comfort and support, dungeons are interesting as challenges. In essence, they are a stack of event “cards,” with the bottom-most card presenting a significant reward but also a significant challenge, and the upper cards presenting obstacles that wear down the god’s strength and resources. As with dwellings, however, there are distinctions among them.

Barrows—the characteristic above-ground burial mounds of the Norse—are the smallest dungeons, and indeed they are almost always only one “card” deep. There are many barrows on the map. A few contain nothing, a few contain minimal threats and rewards, and a few contain more significant adversaries. In general, barrows naturally feature the dead (draugar in Fallen Gods’ parlance), though one may also meet cavewights, outlaws, wizards, and wurms.

Caves can be of varying depth (from three to seven events down) and are full of subterranean foes: wolves making dens in the upper levels, trolls and trollshards seeking shelter from the sun, and cavewights and dwergs for whom these depths are home. Some dead from times long past may be interred in the depths, and wurms and other ancient evils can likewise be found at the bottom.

There is a single marsh dungeon on the map, and it is the largest dungeon, befitting the wending swamp paths. The waters are full of the unhallowed dead left behind in the Overthrow, as well as bogwights and worse. At the heart of a marsh a god may find a rotting Firstborn god, an encampment of dead men still fighting the old wars, a wise witch, or a wurm who thinks himself a king. Thematically, if caves are about the dark unknown and the preservation of the past, swamps are about filth and the decay of the present.


Locations, as the generic name should suggest, are much more common and much more varied than the points of interest described above. Locations are events that spawn when the world is created and persist until the player triggers them (i.e., by entering the hex containing the location). In almost all instances, once the event is triggered it no longer persists—the location may still be a visible map feature, but there will no longer be anything to do there.

While the player can see the entire map when the game begins, locations are shown in a way that makes their nature somewhat non-obvious. When the god draws near, the location resolves into a clearer state. For instance, what initially appeared to be large boulders may turn out to be dead trolls. A tall pole may turn out to be the binding place of an outlawed berserk or a scorn pole with a horse’s head atop it.

The map will include many features like boulders or cairns or farm houses that are not location events; as the player draws near, they will not resolve into anything more interesting, and entering the hex will not cause an event to trigger. Thus, while the player may have some guesses about where he can go, he won’t know for sure that a map feature is a location event until he either investigates it, gathers lore about it in a dwelling, or uses the Foresight skill (at the cost of a soul) to scry it out from a distance. Bird fetches (ravens or eagles) have the benefit of expanding the god’s range of investigation, such that he can discern location events from a greater distance than a god with a wolf or fox fetch.


Finally, encounters are transient events. They spawn as the god explores the world, appearing at the edge of his range of exploration. If he does not investigate quickly, the encounter disappears for good. An encounter might involve a churl bringing his harvest to market, a songspeaker hastening down the road on his unholy horse, or a pair of outlaws splitting the fruits of a murder. While other points of interest help make the world feel like more than empty space, encounters help bring it to life by suggesting that things happen on their own, and resolve on their own, rather than waiting in abeyance until the god deigns to intervene. Moreover, because they spawn near the god, encounters ensure that there is always something interesting to do, even when doubling back across ground you’ve already covered.
Although we already had a good idea of what Fallen Gods' gameplay mechanics are like, this is probably the first update that nails down how it'll actually feel like to play. Along with the obligatory soundtrack sample, the full update includes a whole bunch of screenshots and concept art, so be sure to check it out.

There are 14 comments on Fallen Gods Update #6: Mappa Mundi

Thu 12 July 2018

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 12 July 2018, 23:57:46

Tags: Aarik Dorobiala; Alex Scokel; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire; Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire - Beast of Winter

In a Pillars of Eternity II developer stream broadcast today, Obsidian finally revealed the game's first expansion DLC, Beast of Winter. In this new adventure, the Watcher is invited to a remote wintry island inhabited by a cult of fanatical Rymrgand worshippers who have come to appreciate his capacity for destruction. There's a new sidekick, the high priest Vatnir, and apparently things get more than a little crazy from there. We got to see about 21 minutes of new content during the stream. I'll post that here along with the expansion's brief teaser trailer.

The guys at PCGamesN appear to have gotten an exclusive look at Beast of Winter, and their interview with writer Alex Scokel reveals some additional details about it. It may be an epic level DLC where you face off against the god of entropy, but it's suffused with a heavy dose of dark humor. I quote:

Beast of Winter begins with a letter. You are cordially invited to an island at the very bottom of the map made home by the worshippers of Rymrgand. Rymrgand, the beast of the DLC’s title, is the god of collapse: famine, plague, and disaster. The locals call you Duskspeaker - they’ve seen the way death follows in your wake, and they’re really into it.

“The people there throw a feast in your honour,” Scokel says. “Because they respect the way that you go about messing things up.”

When asked whether Beast of Winter’s story is commentary on the player as a destructive force in the Archipelago, Scokel phrases it another way.

“There’s certainly a recognition of the destructive nature of a protagonist in an RPG,” he says. “The world spins around the player, and these cultists have recognised that and placed you within the context of their own myths.”

The cult says you’re the harbinger of the end. Frankly, they can’t wait for the cataclysm. Whether or not that’s who you want to be is a question you’re encouraged to start pondering in this DLC.

[...] Throughout the quests and writing of Beast of Winter, dark humour has emerged as a consistent feature. It’s something of a surprise: while there are dashes of dry comedy in the Pillars of Eternity series, it rarely feels as if it could indulge in a Fable-style slapstick aside.

For the DLC, though - a story about the ways people fight back against the inevitability of death in a world with magic, gods, and immortals - comedy became necessary.

“We obviously don’t want to make an incredibly depressing piece of DLC,” Frey says. “It’s definitely an opportunity for us to show how people feel about this sort of thing, but also show the humour of it.”

“One of the reasons we wanted to be funny,” Scokel adds, “was to lighten what could otherwise be a really [miserable] experience.”

The world design of Pillars of Eternity began with Obsidian designer Josh Sawyer flipping over a map of the Forgotten Realms’ Dalelands. But over the course of two games, his team have fleshed out Eoras with unique lore - some of which we only ever read about in books or told by NPCs. Realistically, we’ll never see all of the places referenced in its stories.

“Scale-wise, Pillars is similar to the Infinity Engine games,” Scokel explains. “It’s not really a globetrotting game, it’s more a region-trotting game. And so we look for opportunities to bring in these other areas of the world.”

One example of this in Deadfire is the Valian Trading Company - a colonising influence in the area that allows you to see the culture and architecture of a people from faraway lands. Beast of Winter goes further, taking you to The Beyond, a strange dimension stuffed with devious challenges and shared by ancient souls. There will be some revelations there.

“We’re trying to find opportunities to take the player places that have been mentioned before in lore but haven’t been pulled into fruition,” executive producer Alec Frey says. “It digs into the history of Eora in some ways we haven’t done so far.”
The Beast of Winter DLC is coming out on August 2nd, missing its original July release window by a bit. The Steam and GOG store pages aren't up yet, but we already know it will cost $10. Additional details about the DLC and its accompanying patch are available here. I imagine we'll learn more in the next Fig update.

There are 21 comments on Pillars of Eternity II Beast of Winter DLC revealed, releasing on August 2nd

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Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 12 July 2018, 19:59:20

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

As promised earlier this week, inXile released the Bard's Tale IV beta to eligible backers today. It consists of the game's first few areas, with about 5 hours of gameplay. They've made a much bigger production out of this than they did with the alpha release earlier this year, with a whole bunch of previews, interviews and gameplay videos teed up for launch. There are plenty of videos to choose from, but one of the first ones to be published by a German site called Gamesworld has the advantage of having no intrusive voiceovers. I'll post that here, plus an interview with creative director David Rogers by PCGamesN as an added bonus:

Here's a list of all of today's Bard's Tale IV previews and interviews:

Some of the previews find the game jankier and/or easier than others, but they're all pretty similar overall, citing its combat, atmosphere and puzzles as noteworthy elements. PC Gamer's preview is fairly representative. Here's an excerpt:

So far I love this combat system, which will probably be the most controversial element of The Bard's Tale 4's design. It's a far cry from the standard RPG menu of attack/defend/magic/item, with each character proceeding in turn. But even in just a few hours, there's a promising richness to this combat. I quickly found a strategy I liked: throwing down traps that stunned enemies when they were stepped on, then using my fighter's taunt to pull a unit forward onto that space.

The AI, unfortunately, hasn't been too devious: while I've had a few tough battles, I've also fought some that should've been tougher, but ended up a breeze thanks to enemies wasting opportunity points by walking back and forth. I hope the game is still just easing into the hard stuff.

The first few puzzles I encountered were pitifully easy, but were just introducing concepts that would quickly get much more complex and much more fun. These cog puzzles are frequently used to open locked doors, and within a couple hours you'll be swinging them on arms, trying to line up certain cogs to spin and others to stay clear of the mechanism. The harder they get, the more I like them.

The Bard's Tale 4's exploration really started to feel right once I got past the tutorial and started exploring with no waypoints to string me along. While it's cool and exciting to have a hub like Skara Brae filled with NPCs, the town isn't a great showcase for the powerful Unreal Engine 4. You can see where inXile had to stretch its budget: an opening cutscene told via illustrations feels like a placeholder animatic, the lighting's dull, and some character models are, well, not beautiful. Then again, they're peasants; maybe that's appropriate.

The tunnels under Skara Brae, where you quickly flee to escape the Fatherites, are more atmospheric but still largely barren. But I absolutely loved the next area, beneath Kylearan's Tower. There's gorgeous foliage and effervescent mushrooms, a chamber where a spell has sent huge chunk of the ceiling (and a few goblins) floating through the air, hidden passages and treasure chests aplenty. Magic Mouths in some rooms offer clues to the puzzles in amusing verse.

If the rest of The Bard's Tale 4 maintains this level of atmosphere, I'd play through it for the scenery alone. It really nails the vibe that, to me, makes the idea of the dungeon crawler compelling: the sense that a place is alive, yet empty. You're alone in an environment that feels mysterious, braving its traps to fill in the unknown.
Finally, although the Kickstarter update doesn't mention it for some reason, Bard's Tale IV has a release date now - September 18th. I was afraid that the game was going to slip into Q4, so that's welcome news.

There are 28 comments on Bard's Tale IV Backer Beta Released - Previews, Interviews, Final Release On September 18th

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Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 12 July 2018, 00:52:17

Tags: Element: Space; Inca Games; Sixth Vowel

For some reason, science fiction RPGs based in traditional far future space opera settings are a rare breed, so it's always worth reporting when a decent-looking one shows up. Today we learned about the existence of one such game. It's called Element: Space and it's the work of an Argentina-based studio by the name of Sixth Vowel. The game is isometric and turn-based, but otherwise sounds sort of Mass Effect-ish, with companions, a mission-based structure, and even a mystical force (quaintly also called "Sixth Vowel") which will presumably allow for space magic. Element: Space has actually been in development since at least late 2015 and is coming out this year. We're learning about it now because the developers have apparently formed their own publisher called Inca Games to help market it. The game's official website reveals a couple of trailers they put together back in March, a teaser trailer and a more gameplay-centric "feature reel". I'll post those along with the press release:

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA: Wednesday, July 11, 2018 – Argentina-based Sixth Vowel, the in-house development studio of Latin American publishing company Inca Games, today announced its first game, Element: Space. Players must forge alliances and uncover an interstellar conspiracy in this space-based tactical squad RPG; the biggest game solely developed in the Spanish-speaking Latin America region to date.

Element: Space is slated for release in Q4 of this year for PC on Steam, with the possibly of other platforms to follow.

“We love classic narrative-driven games and turn-based strategy. But we’re also mixing in the things we always wanted to see in the genre – refining turn-based tactical combat on hand-crafted levels while delivering a big story that changes and evolves with your actions,” said Entelman.

In Element: Space players take on the role of spacecraft Captain Christopher Pietham, leading his squadron of various companions into intergalactic conflict and dealing with the consequences of their choices throughout a deep story and combat which are altered by the player’s choices and actions.

The single-player game has core aspects of a classic squad-based tactical RPG but, rather than procedurally-generated missions, each is hand-crafted, non-linear, contains free-form combat, and is revealed based upon the player’s selection of factions, ideology, companions and more. The game must be replayed to experience the entire universe and story. Woven throughout the game is the power of the ‘Sixth Vowel’, which can best be described as humanity’s capacity for altering reality by manipulating sound, light and motion at will.

Element: Space features...
  • A story and gameplay where every choice matters. Players’ selection of ideology, faction alliance, squad mate companions and behavior affect the weapon availability, skills, loyalty and the direction the story will take. “We want players to feel the pressure of each decision they make to advance the story,” said Entelman.
  • 24 branching hand-crafted missions/submissions. Players experience 8 non-linear missions or submissions each time they play, determined by their choices, for an estimated 12-15+ hours per playthrough.
  • 8 faction worlds to explore (+3 non-playable). Each one represents a vastly different culture, agenda and architectural style, making the final game visually rich and diverse. Factions also provide unique bonuses depending upon how well you bond with them.
  • 8 potential companions to join you on your mission. Recruit your ‘party of five’ from eight unique squad-mates as you race against time. Each unlocks different stories, weapons and/or specialized combat skills. However, Entelman added, “you’ll have to play the game multiple times to see just how different each potential ally works for your team.”
  • A compelling battle system. Turn-based free-form combinations of movement, skills and attacks enables a unique team-based approach. A selection of 32 melee and ranged weapons, some unlocked based on faction relationships; Companions each have unique skills and develop 2 of 6 archetypes, with no two characters having the same combination; each set of enemies combine their abilities to challenge the player in a new way – all of this combines for complex combat and high replay-ability.
The scope of Element: Space makes the game and IP the first of its kind to be developed in a Spanish-speaking Latin America country, so the team realizes the opportunity to change perceptions about the emerging market and put the region on the map.

“It’s our goal to show a greater level of quality and talent from this largely untapped region, said Emiliano Giacobbe, studio CCO. “Raising this bar is key, as it is an industry growth investment for LatAm, and will change worldwide perception of what the region can develop independently.”

Sixth Vowel’s parent company and the game’s publisher, Inca Games, is currently seeking co-publishing partners to help bring the game to a global audience. Element: Space is scheduled for release in Q4 2018 for PC, with the possibility of console versions to follow. For additional information, please visit
A fancy-looking isometric RPG announced from out of nowhere, from a studio we've never heard of, and it's coming this year. Where have I seen that before? Sixth Vowel do seem like a more serious outfit than the usual indie though, so hopefully we're not looking at another Empyre here.

There are 36 comments on Element: Space is an upcoming sci-fi turn-based tactical RPG from Argentina

Wed 11 July 2018

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 11 July 2018, 01:21:07

Tags: David Rogers; InXile Entertainment; Krome Studios; Paul Marzagalli; The Bard's Tale; The Bard's Tale II: The Destiny Knight; The Bard's Tale III: Thief of Fate; The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep

Last year, backers of The Bard's Tale IV voted to learn details about the classes of two of the game's archetypes, the Bard and the Practitioner. We got to see a couple of the Bard classes back in February, but for some reason the promised Practitioner update kept on getting delayed. With the backer beta just days away, inXile have finally gotten around to releasing that update. It describes a single Practitioner class - the Wizard, which in the Bard's Tale series is really more of a summoner or necromancer. As with the Bard update, there a bunch of fun animated GIFs that I don't have room to quote here, but here's the text:

Hi everyone, David here with the promised look at the Wizard class. The Wizard is a subclass of the Practitioner that focuses on summoning and maintaining allied minions through a variety of spells, passives, and stat boosts. These minions have a lot of different uses – they can split up enemy focus, deal damage, tank hits, buff one another, or even be used to heal the caster. In a lot of ways, they’re full-fledged party members that show up exactly when and how you need them to.

Obtaining the Wizard: Novice skill will grant mastery in the Gate ability. Gate summons a Shadowy Wraith, an elemental who uses Spell Points to deal damage to enemies. It’s one of a few abilities that can be cast in several ways: the longer you channel this ability, the stronger the minion it’ll create by granting more Spell Points. A Wraith will vanish back to the ether it came from when its Spell Points run out, so starting with a high number can let your elemental throw out a couple extra spells before dissipating. With this style of casting, you can plan more effectively around how long you expect a fight to last and be ready for whatever situation you’re in.

Passing the Wizard: Journeyman skill, a Constitution boost that allows you stay in the fight and boss your new friends around a little longer, the Wizard: Master skill will grant mastery in the Prime Summoning ability. Prime Summoning raises two Skeletons to join the party, either as Warriors or Archers. Warriors have an armor-boosting ability, Deflect, and can be put to good use protecting the rest of your party. On the other hand, Archers go down a little more easily, but can put out devastating punishment with their bows if you protect them. Figuring out how best to utilize your bony friends presents some interesting choices.

Wizard: Master also teaches the Sacrifice Minion ability. Another Multi-Function ability, this spell is effectively three in one. Coalesce Essence kills one summoned minion to bolster another, transferring the original’s stats over. Release Bonds sets free the target minion, weaponizing their essence in a True Damage attack against a target enemy. Absorb Soulsacrifices the target, reabsorbing their magic to heal the caster. These abilities let you get the most out of your minions, letting them fight for you while they’re strong and die for you when they’ve lost their usefulness. You can even combo the spell with itself, using Coalesce Essence and then Absorb Soul to create one big minion and then drain them, gaining an even bigger heal. We here at inXile don’t recommend getting too attached to your minions – killing them is sometimes even more fun than creating them!

At the end of the skill tree, having demonstrated time and again your mastery of minions, players can pick up Grand Summoner and another hefty Constitution boost. The skill grants a passive by the same name that shows your minions who’s in charge, buffing all summoned combatants with Armor. After all, they should be protecting you, not the other way around. This passive is especially helpful with Skeleton Warriors: stacking Armor on them and letting them shield you can be a great way to keep your squishy Practitioner safe. Hey, 11 Armor here – not bad!
Also included in the update is a brief new FAQ that answers a few of the questions that people still had left after the previous one. I quote:

Q: Will there be different instruments to play, all with their own renderings of the songs?

A: Each bardic song plays a different track played on a different instrument when cast. We worked with Kurt Heiden, who was the composer for The Bards Tale III: Thief of Fate. Each version of the game had a different MIDI track for each of the Bards songs, and we picked our favorites to recreate. They were scored and then recorded in Scotland by Ged Grimes and his crew of talented Celtic folk musicians.

Q: In regards to the "Will it be possible to create your full party?" question, can you clarify a bit how that works? You start with one character but soon get more? Can you have all characters you made or do you have to have any written NPCs?

A: We get you straight into the game, absorbing the story and the world, as soon as you start a new game. We give you a default character, a bard obviously, but almost immediately let you make your own character if you prefer. The combat and character progression systems in The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep are deep, so we didn't want to ask you to make six characters right out of the gate before you even engaged in your first combat. The first section of the game is basically a quest to recruit your starting party, so we quickly ramp you up to four party members. You meet three narrative characters at the start that join your party: Dalgliesh the Dwarven fighter, Wringneck the Trow Rogue, and The Green Lady, an Elven Practitioner. Similar to the starting character, you can choose to continue adventuring with them, or spend Mercenary Tokens to create custom characters to replace them. No one character is required to be in your party.

Q: Does weather impact the gameplay in any way?

A: No. Any weather in our game is purely cosmetic and just helps to set the mood.

Q: Another question: how much depth will there be in intra-party interactions? Is it just occasional banter or will party members develop running feuds, flirtations, etc. over time (or based upon in-game events).

A: Different characters have different interactions and relationships. Narrative NPCs, like The Green Lady, have fully fleshed out scripts, but the custom characters you create will also have their own personalities and interactions based on the voices you pick for them, so making your own characters won't mean you're missing out. Party Chatter isn't a dynamic system in that you can't, say, make two characters fall in love, but different characters do have different relationships and will interact in special ways.

One fun anecdote to illustrate this is that I made a character and gave him the Volatile voice pack, making him super aggressive. When Dalgliesh the Dwarf joined my party all of a sudden my character kept trying to goad him into an arm wrestling match to prove he was stronger than a dwarf. This exchange probably went on for forty seconds and I was cracking up the whole time.
The update also includes a longer FAQ concerning the Bard's Tale trilogy remaster by Krome Studios. Among other things, it announces that the first game will be out on Steam Early Access this month on July 24th, with the second one coming not long after. These guys aren't messing around.

There are 20 comments on Bard's Tale IV Kickstarter Update #46: The Wizard Class, Remastered Trilogy Coming To Early Access

Tue 10 July 2018

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 10 July 2018, 15:07:17

Tags: Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption; Transolar Games

Back during the golden age of graphic adventure games in the early 1990s, Corey and Lori Cole created the Quest for Glory series, and it was indeed glorious. But then Sierra On-Line died, and all that talent was scattered to the winds, never to return. Many years later, a number of Sierra veterans tried to make a comeback, in a series of spectacularly ill-conceived Kickstarter campaigns that ran throughout 2012. The Coles' Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption was probably the most tragic of these. Pitched as a vaguely casual tile-based RPG rather than as a Quest for Glory-like adventure/RPG experience, it failed to attract much attention by the standards of the day. It was only after the campaign was over and done with that the Coles decided that actually they did want to make something more like Quest for Glory. Which they eventually did, though not before having to do a second Kickstarter in 2015 and also re-mortgage their house.

Now, almost six years after the original Kickstarter, Hero-U is finally done. And from what beta testers have told us, it might actually be decent. The Coles fumbled the release a bit, but the game seems to be properly out now. Here's its trailer and description:

After two successful Kickstarter campaigns and over five years of development, we are proud to present Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption. Created by the critically acclaimed game developers Lori Ann Cole and Corey Cole (Quest for Glory, Shannara, Castle of Dr. Brain, Mixed-Up Fairy Tales), the Hero-U series follows the role-playing adventures of top students at the Hero University.

In Rogue to Redemption, Shawn O'Conner strives to become Rogue of the Year while exploring a mysterious castle, making friends and enemies, fighting deadly foes, and uncovering the secrets of his own hidden past. Meanwhile players will enjoy the rich and humorous dialogue and descriptions as they guide Shawn through his adventures.

In the tradition we created in Quest for Glory and in Shannara, Hero-U is a hybrid adventure/role-playing game. During the day, Shawn attends classes at the University, practices his skills, and tries to make friends with other students. At night, it's time to pull out weapons, armor, and traps to explore the abandoned wine cellars, stunning sea caves, creepy catacombs, and deadly dungeon beneath Hero-U. Most combat is optional for those who prefer a pure adventure game, but there are ample rewards for those who choose to valorously fight the creatures that threaten the school and all of Sardonia.

Key Game Features:
  • Story and Character-Driven Adventure Game
  • Role-Playing Game Featuring Skills, Equipment, and Tactical Combat
  • Many Ways to Play for Maximum Replayability
  • Turn-Based, Non-Twitch, Avoidable Combat
  • Seamless Blend of Dramatic Story and Comedy
  • Created by Acclaimed Game Designers Lori and Corey Cole
  • Soundtrack by Award-Winning Composer Ryan Grogan
  • Immersive Mini-Games and Challenging Stealth Gameplay
  • First of a Series of Games Set at the Hero University
Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption is available now on Steam and GOG for $35, with a 10% discount until next week. Does it have a chance in hell of making up for all those years of development? Probably not, considering barely anybody even seems to be aware that the game is out. We'll try to do our part, though. Expect a Codex review in the hopefully not-too-distant future.

There are 24 comments on Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption Released

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 10 July 2018, 00:49:08

Tags: InXile Entertainment; The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep

In anticipation of the upcoming backer beta, inXile have been tweeting out all sorts of Bard's Tale IV teasers over the past few weeks. Now they've published what is apparently the first in a series of "spotlight" videos that will introduce various aspects of the game. This one offers a look at character creation. It's pretty standard stuff - archetype (ie, class), culture (ie, race), appearance and skills (ie, perks). Skills seem to be the most important aspect of your character in Bard's Tale IV, since they not only offer active and passive abilities but are also the means of increasing your stats.

On Twitter, Brian Fargo has revealed that the backer beta is releasing this Thursday. He also says that we should expect a "steady stream of detail over the next few months", which I guess can give us an idea of when the final game will be coming out.

There are 26 comments on Bard's Tale IV Spotlight #1: Character Creation

Sat 7 July 2018

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sat 7 July 2018, 21:30:12

Tags: Iron Tower Studio; The New World; Vince D. Weller

We've learned a lot about weapons and gadgets in The New World, but relatively little about armor. Today's monthly development update sheds some light on that topic. At its core, armor in The New World works much like in The Age of Decadence, with the addition of multiple damage types, each with its own damage resistance value. That much we've heard before. Like most science fiction RPGs, The New World also has power armor with abilities beyond that of mundane armors. Unlike most science fiction RPGs, said power armor isn't the ultimate armor that overshadows everything else, but instead provides alternate methods of damage absorption. There are two types, both of which appear to be inspired by D&D/PoE-style mechanics. I quote:

There isn't much to report at the moment (we're making good progress, the combat AI is now taking the first steps and attacking the player with extreme prejudice; the starting town is looking better and better; Joao is working non-stop on the assets which helps us tremendously, Mazin is working on randomizing portraits, Ivan is making armor models, etc), so let's talk about the power armor and armor in general.

I dislike linear progressions in all forms, which is why we went with damage resistance vs chance to dodge (the heavier the armor, the harder to dodge attacks) in AoD, instead of generic Armor Class, whatever that is. Still, two key stats would only take you so far, which is why we added different types of damage: melee, ballistic, energy. Now you can have great ballistic armor, for example, but if you let some berserkers get into your personal space, you'll find yourself at a major disadvantage.

Anyway, the problem with power armor is it has to be awesome, which isn't bad in itself, but this awesomeness tends to make all the other armor obsolete (not to mention that *traditional* power armor should be pretty good against all types of damage, which would make the different types of damage pointless the moment you get your hands on such armor).

So we decided to explore a different direction. The power armor isn't really 'armor'. It's a device that creates a defensive field around you. As such it doesn't have any damage resistance whatsoever.

There are 3 basic types: light, medium, heavy. You wear it like a vest. You can't wear other vests, so it's a trade off: damage resistance vs shield vs deflector. More on that in a moment. You can wear a jacket or a trenchcoat with it, so you will have some DR, just not as much as with a tactical vest.

At the moment the armor comes in two varieties:

- an energy shield that absorbs all damage until depleted (no DR). Essentially it grants you immunity for the first couple of turns, then you're on your own. If you can't use this immunity wisely and kill a couple of enemies fast, the armor isn't for you. The other energy shield (the gadget one) is weaker and doesn't absorb all damage (i.e. has DR), and can't be moved (i.e. you 'cast' it on a tile). Light, medium, heavy - 20, 40, 60 HP.

- a deflector that turns a critical into a regular strike, a regular into a graze, a graze into a miss. The deflector will lose power with every turn, so we'll need to count turns and reduce %. For example, a heavy model will start with 90% chance to deflect at turn 1, 80% at turn 2, 70% at turn 3, 60% at turn 4, and so on until the deflector is out of juice (0%). Medium will go with 90, 75, 60, 45, 30, 15, 0. Light - 90, 70, 50, 30, 10, 0

Since it's non-linear we can easily expand it and add more properties and different defensive abilities. While we're at it, here is the targeting mockup that gives you the full picture without listing all the different THC individually:

^ 5% chance to score a critical, 45% THC, extra 10% chance to graze, 40% chance to miss
Cool stuff. Check out the full update for a look at some of those new portraits Vault Dweller mentioned, and the story of the characters they belong to.

There are 15 comments on The New World Update #28: Power Armor

Codex Interview - posted by Infinitron on Sat 7 July 2018, 15:23:43

Tags: Julian Gollop; Phoenix Point; Snapshot Games

Last year, Julian Gollop's Snapshot Games successfully crowdfunded Phoenix Point as a spiritual successor to the original X-COM games. In practice, Julian has sought a treacherous middle path between X-COM and XCOM, something which has been a source of controversy on our forums, where the game has attracted significant attention. One of our most dedicated Phoenix Point watchers, PanteraNera, decided to send Julian a few questions last month, with a particular focus on the game's strategic Geoscape layer, about which few details were known at the time. It took him a while to respond, but the answers are now here, just in time for the release of the latest backer build. Here's an excerpt:

How will missions be generated on the Geoscape? We've been told that the strategic map will be composed of "points of interest", and that the beginning of the game will have an exploration element, like in a 4X. So the question is, if I've explored all the points of interest around my base, do they cease to exist? Will they be "empty space" from that point on or will new ones be generated?

The current implementation is fairly simple - Points of Interest within range of discovered havens will appear for you to investigate. They could turn out to be other havens, scavenging sites, alien structures or inactive Phoenix Bases. However, there will be additional types of locations that are revealed in different ways - usually connected to the events system. Spying missions can also reveal location much further away. New points of interest will arise based on alien construction, faction construction and special events. Mission types are unusual in that the player effectively decides what he wants out of them rather than having some kind of performance rating. Haven defence is a common mission type where havens will request assistance in defeating an intruder (alien or human). They will usually offer some kind of reward, but after arriving you may find something useful that you can just steal, such as an aircraft, and then abandon the haven to its fate. Naturally you won't get the reward and their will be diplomatic consequences - but you do manage to steal the aircraft. The player can actively deploy squads to various zones inside havens for doing whatever he likes, or he can respond to requests from havens or faction leaders.

There won't be any UFOs flying around in Phoenix Point. The closest thing to that would be the Behemoths that you have to intercept, otherwise it's bye bye haven. But will there be any other "troop movements" in the game, by the Pandoravirus creatures or by the other factions and minor havens? If so, can the player interact with these movements in some way?

The three human factions will construct vehicles and use them to transport goods and personnel between their havens. They will also launch attacks on other havens, or one of your bases. At the moment we are not planning any direct interaction with these vehicle movements, but they will be detectable by radar.

Not much is known about base building so far, other than that the bases are pre-existing locations that have to be found/reclaimed by the player. We've been told that base layouts will be displayed from an overhead perspective, just like the classics. What can the player do in these bases? Can you raze existing facilities (I'm assuming the bases arrive prebuilt)? Build new facilities? How large will the bases be, like a 6x6 grid?

One of the player's main objectives is to located and reactivate the worlds remaining Phoenix bases. They will be in various states of disrepair, but otherwise facilities can be built or razed in a similar manner to the original X-COM, although the space for building may be more or less limited, depending on the location.

We know that you can team up with the three major factions and that each one leads to a different solution for how to beat the Pandoravirus. But how will the player build these alliances? Is it just a matter of doing missions for the other factions, or do we also get to talk to them, with dialogue trees and stuff? Can we barter and trade with the other factions? And will these diplomacy mechanics be based on scripted events, or will the player be able to choose when to engage with them?

The primary way to build an alliance is to fulfil the requests of the different factions. These requests may take the form of haven defences, but could also be special requests relating to the nature of the faction and whims of its leader. For example, Synedrion may ask you to rescue refugees, New Jericho may request help with an internal revolt and Disciples of Anu may desire food supplies to feed their hungry masses. Once you have made contact with faction leaders you can approach directly and there will be a system to interact with them.

Another key aspect of the classic games is research. What do you plan to do with this in Phoenix Point? We know that players will be able to research the Pandoravirus, including its creatures, structures and agenda. But will there be anything else available for research? New technology? New equipment? Will we also get to "research" the other human factions?

There are actually five different research trees - one for Phoenix archives, one each for the three human factions and one for the alien biology. Based on these the player will be able to develop new symbiotic techs. He can also help other factions in their research efforts and gain benefits from it either by alliance, trade or theft. The Phoenix archives research depends on locating other Phoenix bases and uncovers the history of the Phoenix project and the pandoravirus.

I believe the last time you mentioned crafting was on the Phoenix Point Discord channel quite a while ago. If I recall correctly, you said it'd probably be more about maintaining existing equipment than manufacturing anything new. So how is crafting going to work? Will there will be workshops in the game? What will we be able to make?

There will be workshops to manufacture equipment, armour, weapons and vehicles. It's a slow and expensive process, and stealing or scavenging are often easier routes to getting stuff. There are three key resources in the game - materiel, tech, and food. Tech represents hi-tech substances and equipment needed to produce the more advanced items. There are also a number of other items required for production, for example AI units are used in vehicles, and advanced labs and workshops.​

Read the full article: RPG Codex Interview: Julian Gollop on Phoenix Point, One Year Later

There are 45 comments on RPG Codex Interview: Julian Gollop on Phoenix Point, One Year Later

Fri 6 July 2018

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 6 July 2018, 14:28:16

Tags: Adam Brennecke; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire

Obsidian released the second major patch for Pillars of Eternity II this week. This one seems focused mainly on user interface quality of life improvements. Notably, the game's quest log now recommends which companions you should take with you on quests to maximize reactivity. Modding capabilities have also been enhanced, with a new built-in mod manager interface to take advantage of them. With Josh Sawyer having moved on to other projects, Adam Brennecke took the helm in the new patch's accompanying Fig update:

  • Inventory and Store Features
    • Your stash is now searchable!
    • Holding shift while selling things from your stash will now add items without prompting the player about stack sizes.
  • Companions and Relationships
    • Reputation screen now displays the dialogue nodes that affected change with companion relationships.
    • Added UI to recommend which companions to bring on quests relevant to those companions.
  • Mod Manager UI
    • User interface added that lets you track which mods you've added or turned on or off.
  • Crew Injuries
    • An Injured Crew HUD is now available.
  • Balance Changes
    • All 2H melee weapons now receive +1 Penetration to put them in line with the other melee weapons.
    • Several under-performing Cipher spells have been buffed while Charm has been re-tuned to break if the character takes damage from the charming party.
    • Tricksters have gotten new spells, lower penalties, and cheaper high level abilities, while Wizards have lower out of school penalties, higher power levels with specialized schools, and spell buffs. Additionally, low-level Priest spells have been buffed.
    • We wanted consumables to be valuable tools to solve problems, not be a singular factor in combat or be a crutch that players could reach for too easily and without any need for decision-making. As they were, they were too-often the only deciding factor in combat. We've re-tuned consumables to scale exclusively from skill ranks and power level bonuses and figurines will no longer have unlimited uses.
  • Major Fixes
    • Fixed an issue where party members who were knocked out during a save state would be dead but still be in the party upon loading a save
    • Players no longer spiritshift (and lose equipment) when drinking from the pool at Outcast's Respite.
    • Player health in character sheet now displays properly.
    • Active animal companion abilities now properly display on the Ranger and animal companion ability bars.
    • Fixed problems with the ability bar detecting the active/queued state of modal abilities in no modal group.
The full patch notes are available here. Coming later this month, an update with details about the Beast of Winter expansion DLC and the accompanying Patch 2.0. According to the current update, a new "merchant-ship" free DLC is also on the way, while in the video Adam mentions a "Deck of Many Things" free DLC that will be released alongside the new patch. Those two descriptions don't sound like they're referring to the same thing, but we'll see.

There are 28 comments on Pillars of Eternity II Fig Update #51: Patch 1.2

Thu 5 July 2018

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 5 July 2018, 22:21:54

Tags: Kingdom Come: Deliverance; Kingdom Come: Deliverance - From the Ashes; Warhorse Studios

Warhorse revealed their DLC roadmap for Kingdom Come: Deliverance back in May. The first one on their list was From The Ashes, the obligatory stronghold DLC where Henry becomes the bailiff of a small village. We got an early look at it on Alienware's E3 stream, but the proper announcement was last week, revealing the release date of today. Warhorse put together a fun little trailer for From The Ashes, but I prefer this longer introductory video that explains its mechanics in detail.

The From The Ashes DLC is available now on Steam and GOG for $10. Alongside it, Warhorse also released the free Hardcore Mode update from their roadmap as part of last week's Patch 1.6. You can read about that here.

There are 2 comments on Kingdom Come: Deliverance - From The Ashes DLC Released

Fri 29 June 2018

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 29 June 2018, 20:09:22

Tags: Stygian Software; Underrail; Underrail: Expedition

We're about to enter the second half of 2018 and there's still no release date for the Underrail: Expedition expansion. Nevertheless, in the latest development update, Styg assures us that "development is going more or less according to plan". To prove it, he's put together a video showcasing some of the expansion's most interesting new environments.

Hi guys,

Just want to let you know that development is going more or less according to plan. After finishing the Rig and the stuff in the old world, we've moved back to the Black Sea and are now polishing up some of the areas and wrapping up quests and the like. You can see some of the interesting areas in the video below as you relax to the excellent atmospheric music of Josh Culler.

We've also started working on the savage natives and their areas, so expect to see some of that in the next dev log.

That's all - just a short update to let you guys know that the development is going more or less according to plan and that you guys should stay tuned for more dev logs in the coming months.

Let us know how you liked the areas showcased in the video.

I like the animated logo at the beginning. Hopefully this means the expansion is coming out this year, although the fact that they're starting work on a new area isn't reassuring.

There are 63 comments on Underrail Dev Log #58: Environments Preview

Review - posted by Infinitron on Fri 29 June 2018, 01:00:10

Tags: Portalarium; Shrouds of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues

The year was 2013 and Kickstarter hype was at its zenith. It seemed like every month some legendary creator from the olden days was coming out of retirement, and some beloved oldschool franchise was being brought back to life. By March of that year, Brian Fargo had already brought back Wasteland and was about to launch his second Kickstarter campaign for Torment, Obsidian had taken on the mantle of the Infinity Engine with Project Eternity, and Chris Roberts was raking in millions with Star Citizen. But one man seemed to have been caught flat-footed by the crowdfunding revolution. That man was Richard Garriott, aka Lord British, creator of the Ultima series, the premier computer roleplaying series of the 1980s and early 1990s. The aging Ultima fanbase could only watch in despair as one Kickstarter after the other brought back every oldschool franchise imaginable, while their liege traveled around the world proclaiming the supremacy of Facebook games. It was humiliating, and after the bottom fell out of the Zynga bubble in mid-2012, increasingly untenable.

But although Garriott was forced to retreat from the realm of casual Facebook gaming, that didn't mean he'd abandoned all of his pretensions. We first learned about Shroud of the Avatar on March 1st, 2013, and its Kickstarter campaign launched a week later. It quickly became clear that the game was first and foremost an online experience, the Ultima Online sequel that Garriott never got to make. At that point, the vast majority of us ceased to pay attention to it. But there were some who, due perhaps to an atavistic attachment to the Ultima fan community, just couldn't look away. One of those people was taxalot, a veteran of the community going all the way back to Usenet in the mid-1990s. When Shroud of the Avatar was finally released this March after five years of development, he dove right in. This month he returned to us, bringing harrowing tales of a broken and unfinished game, absurd monetization practices, and the delusional fanbase that sustains them. We don't usually post about MMOs here, but in this case I'm glad to make an exception. Here's a quick preview:

Shroud of the Avatar is not some little game. It's not just a couple of tiny towns, with a dozen dungeon levels and a main quest that you can complete in 15 hours that you might expect from a small indie team. No, Portalarium made a huge game and filled it with nothing. The game quite possibly has hundreds of towns if you include player-owned ones, but only five or so contain anything of interest. There is absolutely NO POINT to the player-owned towns if you're not into housing or crafting. Seriously, don't go into them, it's a waste of time. You will get lost. You will meet no interesting NPCs. You will find no incredible deals, because everyone is trying to sell their stuff for ludicrous prices. Meanwhile, sidequests are either uninteresting, broken or just not there, with an incredible number that refuse to flag as “completed”, which means they remain in your quest log until the end of time. And if you were hoping to find new and rare items in this game, prepare to be disappointed. They don't exist. Unless you're willing to engage in crafting (with custom design, which I admit is a nice touch) or buy them for ridiculous prices, you will never own any special equipment.

Had Portalarium gone for a smaller scope with the same budget and even the same technology, they might have been able to deliver a finished product. A competent RPG that probably wouldn't have made any Game of the Year lists, but would have been enough to satisfy Ultima fans.

But here's the thing. Portalarium's intention from the very beginning of the project was to emulate the living, breathing world of Ultima Online in its early days. The classic Ultima series was known for its focus on immersion. For some reason, their marketing department decided that the best way to immerse Ultima fans was to sell them houses.

And sold they did. The first consequence of this was that if you backed the game for the single player experience… well, you probably gave up hope the moment your bank account was debited. To someone who was looking for a great single player adventure, the monthly emails focused solely on player housing were utterly depressing, an obvious sign that Portalarium had taken your money and were doing whatever the hell they wanted with it. Month after month, the studio unveiled new kinds of houses that you could buy with real money. But why stop at a house? Why not buy a castle? Or a whole town? You could do that too, as a solo player or as a guild to have your own place to regroup. The emphasis on this aspect of the game was truly puzzling. Between that and the monthly dance parties thrown by “DJ Darkstarr” (executive producer Starr Long's alter ego), one might wonder whether the point was to have exciting adventures or just to create some sort of virtual renaissance fair for everyone to LARP in. In many ways, it felt like Portalarium were increasingly less interested in selling a game than a medieval Second Life service.

To give people their houses Portalarium had to offer land, which explains why town maps in SOTA are so huge. Typically about three quarters of each town is occupied by player-owned buildings and empty lots. I would also estimate that around 80% of the towns in the game are either player-owned towns or towns that exist solely in order to sell more land. It makes exploring the world a completely excruciating experience, because of the unnecessary loading, because of the difficulty navigating this anarchic urban development, and because these towns are phantom zones.

No one ever visits other players' houses.

The player-owned towns are always, always empty.

The player-owned shops sell items that are either ridiculously priced, useless, or most often both.​

Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: Shroud of the Avatar

There are 453 comments on RPG Codex Review: Shroud of the Avatar

Wed 27 June 2018

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Wed 27 June 2018, 19:30:20

Tags: Aliens: Crucible; Black Isle Studios; Fallout 3 (Van Buren); Fallout: New Vegas; Icewind Dale; Icewind Dale 2; Interplay; Josh Sawyer; Neverwinter Nights 2; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity; Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire

Obsidian's Josh Sawyer is this month's guest on IGN Unfiltered, the long-form interview show hosted by IGN's Ryan McCaffrey. Feargus Urquhart was interviewed on the show last year, so this episode takes a more personal approach, with a focus on Josh's roots as a history graduate and tabletop gamer, his work on Van Buren at Interplay and Fallout: New Vegas at Obsidian, and the Kickstarting of Pillars of Eternity. There's also an interesting aside on the cancelled Aliens: Crucible, which you can read about here. Here's the full video:

Near the end of the interview, Josh says that he'd like to create a smaller, different sort of game after six years of working on the Pillars of Eternity franchise, but that first he's going to take a year off from directing projects and spend some time focusing on his duties as Obsidian's design director. Note however that the interview actually took place shortly before the release of Pillars of Eternity II, so that information might be out of date.

There are 40 comments on Josh Sawyer Interview on IGN Unfiltered

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Wed 27 June 2018, 17:18:08

Tags: Annie VanderMeer Mitsoda; Brian Fargo; Chris Siegel; Colin McComb; Jan Van Dosselaer; Josh Sawyer

Among the prominent PC-centric RPGs released over the past couple of years, Divinity: Original Sin 2 has done very well, but all the others have kind of whiffed to one degree or another. There have been lots of online symposiums about the future of the RPG genre recently, but this latest one at Rock Paper Shotgun is the first to tackle that fact. It's kind of a strange piece, with a whole bunch of participants - Brian Fargo, Josh Sawyer, Colin McComb, Larian lead writer Jan Van Dosselaer, OtherSide Entertainment's Chris Siegel, and even Annie Mitsoda. Each one of them only gets in a few sentences, but the overall message is clear - the future of the mid-sized crowdfunded RPG is basically Divinity: Original Sin clones. Here's an excerpt:

In the mid-to-late 2000s, publishers abandoned the CRPG genre – an acronym describing the very specific genre of video games adapted from tabletop RPGs to be played on computers – which a decade earlier had been a cornerstone of PC gaming. They were more interested in accessible, console-friendly series like Mass Effect and The Elder Scrolls, and PC-centric RPGs all but died out.

Then, around 2012, RPGs made a comeback, largely thanks to the rise of crowdfunding and an endless well of nostalgia. Since then we’ve been treated to heaps of good ones – Divinity: Original Sin, Pillars of Eternity, Wasteland 2, Torment: Tides of Numenera – and there are plenty more in the works. But there’s no guarantee that CRPGs are back for good. Some, such as Torment, haven’t sold well. The future of crowdfunding remains uncertain. And asking fans to commit 50 hours to a single story is more difficult than ever, given the volume of great games that release every month. So how can developers ensure that the genre stays relevant?

Colin McComb, writer on the original Planescape: Torment as well as Tides of Numenera, says that the designers and studio heads he has spoken to want CRPGs to be “heavier on the action and lighter on the exposition” than they are now.

And if CRPGs of the future have fewer words, developers will want “more incisive, entertaining, and direct writing”, with fewer “winding monologues. In at least the immediate future, prose-heavy games are going to [be] much more niche,” he says.

One of the reasons that Tides of Numenera didn’t sell as well as expected was because it was too text-heavy, says Brian Fargo, head of developer inXile Entertainment. Wasteland 2, which came out before Torment, hit a better balance between story and action, and Wasteland 3 will focus on the “strategic aspect of combat in an XCOM kind of way”, he says.

Fargo is particularly keen to introduce “emergent gameplay” of the type that Divinity: Original Sin 2 used so effectively. Players could mess around with different elements to create fun interactions, like killing an enemy and electrifying their pooling blood so that it zaps anyone stood close, or throwing a poison flask at an undead ally to heal them while damaging any nearby enemies.

We’ll see more of that in CRPGs from now on, Fargo predicts, both because it makes for better games and because it’s inherently more attractive for streamers, who are gaining more and more influence over what the public play. “It’s more viral in nature, you’re more likely to get a friend to play,” he says.

Josh Sawyer, director of both Pillars of Eternity games, agrees that CRPGs will put more emphasis on “interactive environment-driven mechanics”. He also cites Divinity: Original Sin 2 as the best example, although developers could equally take cues from games like Hitman that “combine a lot of scripted stuff with a lot of dynamic, environment-driven mechanics”.

“If I were to make a game set in the Pillars of Eternity universe that were not part of the series, I would totally want more of that stuff,” he says. “By making more fundamentally dynamic gameplay that’s more driven by environmental interactions, you’re creating a game that’s richer for creating your own stories, your own gameplay by just fooling around.”

Fargo believes that CRPGs will increasingly feature multiplayer – something the Original Sin games again pioneered – and Wasteland 3 will be the first in the series with a co-op campaign. “Every metric [suggests it will get] more and more difficult to do a single player game. You’ll see more multiplayer [in CRPGs], but the trick is for us to not give up the depth.”

His desire for multiplayer action and more emergent gameplay will culminate in a “secret project” to be unveiled later this year, he tells me, which will combine inXile’s love for storytelling with the freedom of a multiplayer sandbox game such as DayZ or Rust. Those games often simulate the breakdown of a post-apocalyptic society perfectly, but have stories that are often just: “Here’s a rock, go,” he says.

“I’ve been completely fascinated by the emergent gameplay that comes from open-world systems, but yet we love storytelling, and so we want to explore how we might be able to merge those worlds,” he explains.
We've known about that inXile secret project for a while now. Earlier this year they trademarked "Wasteland: Frost Point", which seemed like a likely title. More recently though they appear to have switched to just "Frostpoint", so unfortunately we might not get to make "Wasteland 76" jokes.

There are 134 comments on Fargo, Sawyer, McComb and others weigh in on the future of RPGs at Rock Paper Shotgun

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 27 June 2018, 00:36:13

Tags: OtherSide Entertainment; Sam Luangkhot; Underworld Ascendant

The Underworld Ascendant backer alpha was originally supposed to come out during E3. While we did get to see the alpha build in action on Alienware's E3 stream, that release date turned out to be fabulously optimistic. It's finally out now though, after two weeks of much-needed additional polish. The build consists of two levels, the tutorial level we saw at PAX East earlier this year and the new open-ended cavern level from E3. OtherSide's release announcement has all the details. Here's an excerpt:

Welcome to the Underworld Ascendant Backer Alpha build!

We’re excited to share the build with you and get your thoughts, suggestions and feedback. There is still plenty of time to have an impact in a number of areas of the game, particularly around moment-to-moment game play, world interactions and system simulations. We will review all feedback that you share with us, whether via the survey (linked in game), bug reports or posts on these forums. Please make an effort to keep your feedback detailed and constructive as that will be much more useful and actionable for us.

Please keep in mind that this is an Alpha and the build is representative of an unfinished game. Is it unpolished, buggy, and you might encounter some instability (i.e., game crashes). That’s normal for a game like UA at this point. We’ve been spending a lot of time getting things into the game and now our focus is getting those things working well and working well together.

At OtherSide, we pride ourselves on the breadth of experience and talent at the studio. As a small team of 14, we are striving to deliver a quality game that fits our size and stature. As a result, this is not a AAA game in scope or scale. That said, our goal with UA is to push depth of gameplay variety and we hope it provides a unique array of playstyle options and deeper world interactions. We think you all are aware of that, but it seemed worth repeating.

For the last few months, we’ve been focusing on getting systems, abilities, items, etc in the game and now we’re focused on bug-fixing, tuning, polishing and getting all of the systems working well together. Please pardon our dust!

We are looking forward to your feedback. Keep in mind that it’s a lot easier for us to understand and parse well-thought out and articulated feedback. In particular, constructive criticism and respectful argumentation are greatly appreciated. All feedback will be read thoroughly.

Only EXPLORER backers and above ($50+) will have access to the Backer Alpha build.

To download, please redeem the Steam code provided on the Digital Downloads page on your BackerKit. Backers who had access to the Pre-Alpha Build will not need a new code as we will update the current app on Steam to the Backer Alpha Build.

Your feedback is critical to us at this stage, so once you have finished playing the Alpha, please fill out this survey.

This build includes:

PLUTO’S GATE – this is our post-intro “un-training level,” designed by Cabirus to ease your entrance to The Stygian Abyss. This is an updated and revised version of the area played at PAX East.

UPPER EREBUS – this is a level from later in the game with a variety of enemies and challenges. This is an updated version of the area that was playable at E3.
Ascendant has gotten more negative previews since E3, so hopefully the postponed alpha translates to a postponed final release date. The game is starting to look fun, but I still doubt three months are going to be enough to bring it to the finish line.

There are 34 comments on Underworld Ascendant Alpha Released

Tue 26 June 2018

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 26 June 2018, 23:12:39

Tags: Ctrl Alt Ninja; Druidstone: The Secret of the Menhir Forest

Ctrl Alt Ninja have kept their noses to the grindstone since they announced that Druidstone was entering production back in February. Four months later, they've checked in with a development update to inform us that the game is well on its way to alpha. The update also reveals details about Druidstone's ability system, which uses a simple but effective per-encounter scheme. And they'd also like to know if you'd be interested in an early access release. You can read the whole thing here, but first a new screenshot:


The last update is already from February and quite a lot has happened since, as you’d expect. For instance, the guys have been cranking out new enemies at stellar speed and the enemy gallery is now up to whopping 37 enemy types, not counting variations. That’s a lot considering our art team consist only of our dynamic duo, Juho and Jyri who are modeling and animating all the monsters!

On the gameplay side we’ve been concentrating on building the length of the game in the form of new levels. Our current goal is to hit alpha, which is perhaps the second most important milestone for us (the most important, of course, is shipping the game). Alpha in our terminology means getting the game to a state where it can be played from start to finish without nothing major missing. The sooner we can hit alpha the better, because then we have more time to polish everything and make the game really great. We are not quite in alpha yet, as we need more playable levels to get there. That said, the first half of the game is pretty much in playable condition and the very last segment of the game is also done. Now we just have to fill in the gaps and then we can start adding new playable characters, side missions, secrets, new abilities and items, etc.

On the coding side we have progressed on multiple fronts as well. For example, the game now has a proper main menu and savegame system. We have also added a world map mode, where the party travels between adventuring sites. All in all, with these additions it’s starting to feel like a real game!

Ability System

Among many other things the ability system has been worked on. We haven’t really explained how the ability system of Druidstone works, so here’s a quick intro. Characters can have two kind of abilities: passive and active. Every character starts with a basic selection of abilities and you buy new abilities and upgrade existing ones with XP. Instead of a more traditional mana/energy point system, every active ability can be used a certain number of times per battle. For instance, one of Leonhard’s starting abilities is Whirlwind and his level in that ability is initially 2, so he can use Whirlwind to attack all adjacent creatures up to 2 times per battle. Using XP he can upgrade the ability to next level to add 1 more use of the ability, or he could spend the XP to purchase an entirely different new ability. The characters themselves have no concept of level; the power level of heroes is entirely determined by the abilities and equipment they possess.

We like this system a lot because it’s very explicit and simple yet very flexible and powerful. You can see at a glance which abilities you can use and how many times. Choosing when to use abilities is pretty tricky and key to winning battles!

Parting Shot

Every now and then we receive questions about whether we have any crowd funding options or if there’s any other way to support the development of this game. It’s super, super awesome to hear that people are willing to support us in this way! Crowd funding is unfortunately rather tricky in Finland due to legislation and would anyway probably take too much time away from finishing the game. However, we have been talking internally about the possibility of having some sort of paid beta / early access for those who want to support us. We have never done one before, but we have had very successful closed betas for Grimrock. Naturally if we would have a beta program, the game would need to be near shipping quality (we being very allergic to showing unfinished stuff!). If successful, it would allow us to spend a bit more time polishing the game and perhaps have a bigger budget for outsourcing stuff like music and sound effects. It could potentially also help in increasing the awareness of this project before it ships. On the other hand the whole “paid beta” thing seem to have a negative connotation caused by some projects taking ages to get from beta to shipping.

Anyway, we haven’t decided anything yet, other than we are open to this option and we’d like to hear your opinion on this. So what do you think? If you are open to the idea and would be willing to pay for beta access, what would be a proper price range for a closed beta? Naturally those participating would get the shipping version at no extra cost. And if this sounds like a terrible idea, we’d like to know as well.
What do you think, Codex? A bigger budget for music and sound effects seems like a no-brainer, but these guys are so oldschool that early access feels wrong somehow. It's still a long way off, though.

There are 9 comments on Druidstone Summer 2018 Development Update

Sat 23 June 2018

Community - posted by Infinitron on Sat 23 June 2018, 15:06:25

Tags: Iron Tower Studio; The New World; Vince D. Weller

The Age of Decadence was criticized by some for its CYOA-like all-or-nothing dialogue skill checks. It turns out that this is another design element that Vault Dweller is considering changing in The New World. In the latest community poll on the Iron Tower forums, he proposes an alternative dialogue mechanic based on a numeric disposition value altered by cumulative positive and negative reactions. Here's the explanation:

When designing AoD dialogue system, our goal was simple: your character’s skills must determine conversations' outcomes (i.e. success or failure). The dialogue checks were equally simple: if your skill is high enough, you pass the check, otherwise you fail. It created 3 problems:

1. You never had to consider what the NPC would respond best to. Any tagged line would result in instant success if you have the skill, meaning that your dialogue option was not an attempt (as it should be) but guaranteed success, which made considering the options redundant.

2. Since all dialogues had multiple checks to simulate realistic conversations, it didn’t matter how many checks you passed and how well you were doing until that last check that resulted in failure (i.e. early success didn’t contribute to anything and thus didn’t matter).

3. The rigid nature of the system forced us to lower the checks to make the hybrids (i.e. jacks of all trades with lower skills) viable, which in turn made playing talkers an easy mode.

We did have a couple of interesting dialogues. When you talk to Lorenza, she asks you some questions to understand your motivations better (before she makes her decision), and your answers modify the checks later on, making them easier or harder.

In The New World we’d like to engage the player, make him/her consider the options instead of clicking on the line with the tag matching your highest skill, yet still keep the system skill-driven. It’s not an easy task as this problem doesn’t have a perfect solution, so I’m asking you to consider both systems (see below) and vote for the one where the pros outweigh the cons.

The biggest conceptual change is that the tagged lines would now represent an attempt without any guarantees of success. It’s up to the player to read people based on the available info and consider what would work best. You can have two different streetwise lines, for example, one would result in a positive reaction, the other in a negative.

That brings us to the second biggest change. Most lines would no longer lead to success or failures but result in positive and negative reactions, represented numerically. Your skill level would act as modifiers, magnifying positive reactions and reducing the effect of blunders. The final check would tally up the reactions, which will determine whether you’ve succeeded or failed.

Let’s say your Persuasion is 3. You’re offered 3 arguments. The NPC will respond very favorably (+2) to argument #1, favorably to argument #2 (+1) and very negatively to argument #3 (-2). Your skill will modify these reactions to 4, 2, and 0. Let’s say the final check’s value would be 10, so assuming the conversation has 3 nodes with tagged lines, you’ll need to score at least 2 very favorable reactions and 1 favorable (or 3 very favorable ones) to pass the check. In longer dialogues you’d be able to fail a few times and still recover.

This system will maintain the importance of skills and encourage further investment but it will shift the focus to figuring out which lines would work best. Obviously, it might increase meta-gaming but that’s your choice and thus not our concern. Every time the player is offered to make a choice with different outcomes, 8 out of 10 people would want to know the outcomes in advance and the exact way to get to the outcome they want.

Anyway, let us know what you think and if you have any concerns.
Which shall it be, the old or the new? As always, you can respond to the poll over there or in the corresponding thread in our Iron Tower subforum.

There are 69 comments on The New World Design Poll #3: Dialogue Checks

Fri 22 June 2018

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 22 June 2018, 22:33:41

Tags: Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire

The latest free DLC for Pillars of Eternity II was released yesterday, alongside a minor patch addressing some of the leftover issues from this month's big balance update. Obsidian took the opportunity to publish a new Fig update that also reveals a bit about what they have planned for next month. They seem to be putting out a lot more updates these days than they bothered to before the game was released!

We hope you've been enjoying the new features and challenges presented by Patch 1.1, released on June 7th. Thanks to our community's continued support and feedback, we've made some slight adjustments and fixes in our newest update, Patch 1.1.1, and have released our fourth free DLC - the "Scalawags Pack", both released today. Head to our forums for the full list of Patch 1.1.1 fixes.

The "Scalawags Pack" introduces new and additional crew members, including a rowdy Wood Elf cook named Haema, a rather professional Orlan navigator named Coreto, and a familiar Aumauan merchant named Ponamu Bird-Scorned. Haema, Coreto, and Ponamu Bird-Scorned can be found and recruited in Port Maje, Crookspur, and Tikawara, respectively. In addition to the new members you can add to your lovable gang of misfits, the pack also includes new ship upgrades in the form of a living steel anchor made by animancers, a lantern that illuminates your way through the lesser flame blight trapped inside, bright sails made of palm fronds, a monstrous steering wheel made from parts of a Vine Lurker, and a short-range flamethrower to spew Magran's fire at your enemies! And just in case your crew forgets who their captain is, make sure they know who runs their ship with the Savage personality setting that you can set for your Watcher at any time as of our last patch.

Coming in July

As always, the team welcomes your feedback and discussions about the game, and we haven't veered away from our continued commitment to support Deadfire with ongoing feature updates, fixes, and quality of life improvements to make your every adventure in the Deadfire Archipelago the absolute best it can be. July will bring with it a bevy of new features, including the oft-requested stash improvements and in-game mod support, through Patch 1.2. As a sneak peek into 1.2, we want to share with you our planned relationship tracking feature, which shows players a history of the choices they made that affected their relationships with particular companions or factions!


Additionally, our first expansive DLC, titled "The Beast of Winter", will be released in late July! We can't wait to share in the mysteries and stories that await you in this lore-filled adventure, so be sure to check back regularly to see what we and Rymrgand have in store for you in the weeks to come.
Adam Brennecke dropped a few additional hints about the Beast of Winter expansion in an interview with Shacknews at E3 last week, although nothing you couldn't guess by its title. In the meantime, you can grab the new free DLC on Steam or GOG. I wonder if this is the last one.

There are 22 comments on Pillars of Eternity II Fig Update #50: What's Coming In July

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