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

RPG Codex Review: Tyranny - Kyros Demands Better

Review - posted by Infinitron on Wed 30 November 2016, 16:46:21

Tags: Obsidian Entertainment; Tyranny

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It's been twenty days since the release of Obsidian Entertainment's latest RPG, Tyranny. The rough consensus that has emerged on our forums during that time seems to be that Tyranny is an often interesting game with a commendable focus on choice & consequence, but let down by lackluster combat design and cut corners. A return to form for Obsidian, some might say! Our review, courtesy of Prime Junta, reflects this public opinion fairly closely - which makes the drama surrounding its publication over the past two days seem a bit silly, if you ask me. But now you can make up your own minds about it. It's got the good:

These choices matter. Play the game three times making different choices along the way, and the experience will be dramatically different each time. Story-gated locations and quests will open up or be closed off. You will find yourself shoulder to shoulder with characters you condemned to death by torture or slew by your own hand in a previous game. You will learn more of the world of Terratus and its inhabitants every time. You will also fail to achieve your goals, for want of sufficient cunning, force, reputation, or your previous choices, many of them all the way from the starting sequence.

If you play Tyranny like you’re used to playing cRPGs, or if you’re expecting the type of freedom you get in an exploration-based, sandbox game in the vein of a Fallout or Arcanum, you might miss out on a lot of this branching. Simply running errands for your chosen faction leader will get you to the endgame, and the smaller choices you have made along the way will affect it. If you only play through the game once, the experience won’t feel much different from a typical, linear game, however.

Things get more interesting if you inject a bit of role-play into the role-playing game, set yourself an agenda, and attempt to push against what the waiter presses on you. If you want to be a secret rebel sympathiser and stick to that from the start, you can do that and see the consequences play out. If you’re a true believer in Kyros’ mission but consider the warring factions’ loyalties suspect, you can ally with one of them out of expediency, undermine the alliance every opportunity you get, and ultimately bring the perfidious Archon to face his just deserts before the impassive face of Tunon the Archon of Law. And if you just want to carve yourself a realm to rule on your own, you can do that too. Some of these paths aren’t exactly easy, and many will be blocked off entirely due to choices you made very early in the game. Have the rebel leaders executed, and you won’t be able to join the rebellion later on even if you’re having second thoughts about your current loyalties.​

It's got the bad:

What’s more, each of the three spellcaster companions has a talent tree with spells which eclipse the sigil-based magic, especially during the first two-thirds of the game. Lantry’s “Preservation” tree, for example, has by far the best healing spells in the game. The player character does not have access to similarly powerful specialised magic: although one of your talent trees is called “Magic,” it is actually mostly about enhancing weapon attacks with a magic staff, which a caster PC won’t be doing much anyway since he’ll be chain-casting those cooldown-based spells. The non-Magic trees have some spell-like talents which put the actual spells to shame too: your most impressive fireball isn’t actually a spell or in the magic tree at all, it’s a talent in the Ranged tree that makes your javelin go kaboom. Overall, the system feels incoherent, shallow, and restrictive. The classless system fails to deliver the flexibility you would expect in one, and leaves you just as locked into your chosen role – damager, tank, archer, caster – as you would be in a class-based system.

The skill system is based on learn-by-doing which you can complement by buying training from trainers. Level advancement is also contingent on exercising your skills. Support skills like Subterfuge (lockpicking and sneaking) and Athletics will quickly become trivial as they will overshoot all the thresholds in the game: past Act 1, I didn’t encounter a single skill-thresholded check I couldn’t pass. The only skill to which I did pay attention was Lore, and that only when intentionally focusing on the spell system. The best that can be said of it is that it does function as a leveling-up mechanism, and there aren’t that many obvious ways to abuse it. It does not do much to promote creative character-building, reward specialisation, or encourage looking for alternative solutions to challenges.

Tyranny’s gameplay problems are something of an own goal for Obsidian. Pillars of Eternity has an excellent character mechanics system. They could easily have leveraged its classes, abilities, talents, and skills in addition to the basic engine features, with a light re-skinning to fit the Bronze Age setting, and given some of its massive bestiary the same treatment. If D&D can do anything from Oriental Adventures to Dark Sun and the Infinity Engine could accommodate both Icewind Dale and Planescape: Torment, the Eternity Engine could surely have accommodated Tyranny. The systems the team built to replace Pillars’ are shallow, incoherent, and unenjoyable. They make the gameplay as formulaic, rote, and uninspired as the world-building and campaign are exciting, confident, and original.​

And here's the final verdict:

Tyranny has the makings of a cult classic. The depth and originality of the setting, the integration of the most unique features of the setting into the gameplay, the presentation, and the dizzying variety of adventures to choose give it replayability and lasting appeal that few games can manage. The game ends on a cliffhanger, so it is clear that Obsidian wants to produce a sequel. If and when they do, I hope they will give serious thought to making the game as fun to play as it is engrossing to explore.

While cooldown-based gameplay is inherently problematic – it is really hard not to have it devolve into rote pushing of awesome-buttons as timers wind down – it doesn’t have to be a total chore: Dragon Age: Origins demonstrated that much. More imaginative dungeons and encounters, a bigger and more varied bestiary, a better and more clearly-differentiated magic and ability system, and overall balance tilted to favour attack over defence would help bring its combat up to DA:O standards at least, if ditching the cooldowns altogether is not on the cards.

I would dearly love to see more games give the kind of attention to world-building, story branching, choice, and consequence that has gone into Tyranny. Other than Age of Decadence, coincidentally also set in a grim pre-Medieval world, this hasn’t been done in this scale in recent years. Tyranny feels like a great tabletop campaign by a gamemaster who digs worldbuilding and intrigue but isn’t into dungeon crawling or the fighty bits in general. That is a shame, as games are made to be played rather than read or watched. As it stands, Tyranny is worth a spin despite the gameplay rather than because of it. Kyros demands better.​

Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: Tyranny - Kyros Demands Better

There are 253 comments on RPG Codex Review: Tyranny - Kyros Demands Better

D:OS 2 Fundraiser: Design the Codex NPC!

Competition - posted by Bubbles on Thu 24 November 2016, 21:53:06

Tags: Codex Original Sin 2 Fundraiser; Divinity: Original Sin 2

After months of grueling back-and-forth with Larian's shrewdest negotiators, we have finally pinned them down on a character outline for our Original Sin 2 NPC. The Codex community raised over 10,000 bucks for this NPC, so we knew we had to make it a good one. Behold:

A unique red troll you meet in the game as a minor villain/ally, who recurs a few times [see: trollish regeneration] and has a certain "annoyance factor".​

Isn't that fantastic? You'd better like it, because I poured all of my creativity into that concept. In any case, Larian have accepted our outline and are now requesting details. Will the Troll be male or female? Crimson or burgundy? Moustached or neckbearded? Kindly or aggressive? Does he have a name? Is he more of a villain or more of an ally? Will he have special interactions with certain party members? How often will he appear? Will he give us a quest? Will we give him a quest?

All of these questions are YOURS to answer! [subject to staff approval [subject to Larian's approval]] Please post your cool ideas in the comments below! You can either offer a whole character concept or just a particularly clever and Codex-appropriate element, which we will hopefully be able to shoehorn into another concept later on.

Please keep in mind that D:OS2 will be a more mature, grittier kind of game than its predecessor, so more "realistic" submissions will be preferred. Maybe your troll is suffering from a terminal disease, or an old trauma that surfaces in a moment of supreme tragedy? Perhaps he's a desperate drug addict, or he's searching for a long lost love who destroyed his life? You get the idea. Silly stuff is also welcome, but it has a much slimmer chance of getting past Larian's censors. And then we'll end up with an NPC designed by Infinitron.

The deadline for this contest is the 6th of December, around the time when the Europeans go to bed; our secret panel of judges will crown the winner a few days afterwards. The best submission will receive a very special prize!

There are 110 comments on D:OS 2 Fundraiser: Design the Codex NPC!

Fri 2 December 2016
BattleTech Kickstarter Update #33: Introducing the Main Characters, Beta in Q1 2017

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 2 December 2016, 01:46:39

Tags: BattleTech; Harebrained Schemes; Mitch Gitelman

Although Harebrained Schemes have constantly repeated that BattleTech is a strategy game, not an RPG, it looks like some of that Shadowrun spirit still lives. Originally there was only going to be one more Kickstarter update this year, but apparently they've found the time to do another one before it, which focuses on the story of the game's campaign and its diverse cast of characters. Plus, some new details about the upcoming beta. I quote:


For the purpose of making introductions, we're taking you three years beyond the point where our June Campaign Setting Details update left off, into the thick of a conflict that threatens to tear the Aurigan Reach apart. The bios and descriptions below could all be considered MILD SPOILERS - they occur after the inciting events of the game's Prologue chapter - so if you'd like to remain completely spoiler-free, you may want to skip reading this section. For everyone else: let's meet the main cast of BATTLETECH!

The Restoration

In late 3022, control of the Aurigan Coalition was forcefully seized by the old regime's longtime ally, House Espinosa. The rightful High Lady, Kamea Arano, managed to escape the coup and disappear into the Rimward Frontier. Working in secret, she began sowing the seeds for her own return to power: the Arano Restoration, a liberating army with the clandestine support of the Magistracy of Canopus.

The Directorate

When House Espinosa seized control of the Aurigan Coalition, they subjugated the Founding Houses and conscripted their House militias into a standing army. Under Espinosa leadership, the realm has been reformed into the Directorate, an authoritarian power with strong ties to the Taurian Concordat.


The flight and command crew of your own mercenary outfit, these hardened veterans work behind the scenes to keep your MechWarriors fighting and the C-Bills rolling in.

In our story, you’ll interact with your mercenary crew on the Argo, along with various major personages from the Aurigan Reach. Over the course of the single-player campaign, you'll get to know these characters via personal conversations, crew briefings, and story cinematics. And of course, they'll also be communicating with you in-mission while your lance is deployed as seen in our Super-Pre-Alpha gameplay video.


Whether it’s at GenCon, PAX, or on, the biggest questions we get these days is, “When’s the Backer Beta start?” The answer we’ve been giving is “Winter”. Well, Winter starts December 21st so it’s time to spill some (limited) info.

Now in case you didn’t know, HBS has never done an external beta before, so we’re entering new ground here. Obviously, we’ll do our best but as you well know, “No plan survives contact...” and all that. Therefore, in order to prepare for the Backer Beta, we’re currently working towards a dry-run of the beta experience for our family members to “blow out the pipes”, test our process, and make sure everything’s ready for you.

Until we complete our dry-run and make any necessary adjustments to our plans, we won’t be able to give you a firmer date for the Backer Beta, but we can tell you that it’s targeted to begin sometime in the late January - early March timeframe and will run for at least a month. Once that beta is up and running, we’ll start things off with SKIRMISH MODE and then add PVP MULTIPLAYER after a period of time. The goal of the beta is to test our core combat system and will only be a slice of the shipping game’s total content, so it won’t include ALL the ‘Mechs, MechWarriors, maps, and environments that will come in the finished game. (Also remember, the open-ended mercenary campaign and single-player story will NOT be part of our Backer Beta.)

As noted in our Kickstarter rewards, only Backers at the $50 MECHWARRIOR reward level and above will have access to the Backer Beta, but there will be no restrictions on participants sharing their impressions, screenshots, etc. so that everyone can stay in the loop.

More Beta logistics and details will be forthcoming closer to the Beta launch announcement.
Yeah, you can see what they're going for with the characters. Not sure how plausible it is to have people of those specific ancestries on the edge of the galaxy in the year 3025, but maybe it's just a visual design thing.

There are 10 comments on BattleTech Kickstarter Update #33: Introducing the Main Characters, Beta in Q1 2017

Thu 1 December 2016
Divinity: Original Sin 2 Kickstarter Update #32: New Patch, New Systems

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 1 December 2016, 23:14:44

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

Larian released the second major patch for the Divinity: Original Sin 2 Early Access build today, and as before, there's a new Kickstarter update to tell us what's new. In the video, Swen takes us on another tour in the Larian Palace (still under construction), offering a glimpse at various work-in-progress creatures and areas. One animator explains the system he's developed for more realistic-looking melee attacks, while David Walgrave reveals the welcome news that Larian have decided to populate the game with more hand-placed loot.

But the main new feature of the patch is a comprehensive overhaul of the game's character systems. Attribute points have been made more significant, the Memory mechanic has been tweaked, and numerous abilities have been added and changed. Enemy encounter design has also been improved to take advantage of these changes. The update text mainly discusses the change to the attribute system, but there really is a lot more than that, so I recommend watching the video too:

As Swen discussed in the video, this patch has seen some major changes to how attribute points work. We wanted a system where you felt every point that you put into an attribute like strength, intelligence, or wits, so we tore down what was there before, tried a bunch of different prototypes, and rebuilt the whole thing from scratch. Now your attributes will be a much stronger influence on how you build your character, and how you play the game.

Every time you put a point into an attribute, we want you to be able to able to feel your character getting stronger/tougher/faster/smarter, so we’ve tied the attributes more closely to the gameplay. You’ll have to consider how your stats will affect the damage you do, how well you dodge, what armour bonuses you’ll get, how much vitality you have, how it’ll affect your memory slots, and how you’ll perform in combat.

Your primary attributes now form the foundation upon which your character will grow and develop throughout the game, rather than something you spend 2 minutes on and then forget about. We think the system is a big improvement on what was there before and we can’t wait to hear what you think in our forums.

Of course that’s just the start of what we’ve been doing! We’ve also refined the arena lobbies to streamline your experience, we’ve improved combat visuals, we’ve balanced the fights better, we’re changed weapons, changed talents, changed combat abilities, and so, so much more.

If you’d like to see the complete list of all 150-something improvements, additions and fixes, just click here.
It's nice to see that Larian haven't given up their tradition of making drastic changes to their systems through development, though it seems that QA is becoming more of a factor now that they've grown so large. Apparently, Original Sin 2 will be at all three PAX events in the United States next year, so there's a lot more development still left to go.

There are 3 comments on Divinity: Original Sin 2 Kickstarter Update #32: New Patch, New Systems

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Thu 24 November 2016
inXile reveal Wasteland 3's party system

Game News - posted by Bubbles on Thu 24 November 2016, 20:10:45

Tags: Brian Fargo; Brother None; Chris Keenan; Eric Schwarz; InXile Entertainment; Wasteland 3

After obstinately dodging the question for the entire duration of his Figstarter, Brian Fargo has finally strung together a semi-coherent explanation for his latest act of design vandalism:

“I like the concept of you starting off alone and trying to survive with all the elements against you, so you don’t get the luxury of having your squad around helping to save your ass,” starts Fargo. “The thing with role-playing games is that at the start, we’re already asking you to spec out a guy before you really understand what’s best. And it compounds the problem when we’re asking you to spec out four people before you know what’s best. So, for all those reasons, we really liked that, from both a psychological perspective and also from a gameplay perspective.”

Keenan agrees, and the team have been watching Twitch streams to see how the players actually enjoyed the game. “It seemed like there was a group of people who were used to that old-school character creation right off the bat, with lots of stats and numbers, who you could tell just immediately loved,” he says, but there were other people who were more apprehensive to that creation system, and Keenan offers a solution. “What if we give the player a little bit of a sense of the world so they can start to feel it out and then building that stuff up afterwards so they can really make it count?”

It’s an interesting idea, but the concern must surely be that this strays from what fans of Wasteland are used to. Keenan is aware of that worry and is quick to calm fears. “You’ll still create your party,” he explains. “You’ll have your initial character, and then you will certainly come across a wide range of NPCs throughout the world. But you will be able to adjust the stats of other party members.”​

So they've ripped out one of the most distinctive features of the Wasteland franchise because "other people" on Twitch found it overwhelming. But no worries, you'll still "create your party" by recruiting NPCs with respeccable stats. Best of both worlds!

They couldn't have told us about this while the Figstarter was still going on? No, of course not.

Update 1: inXile developer Eric Schwarz has issued a statement on the Wasteland 3 forums:

In Wasteland 3, we're still building on Wasteland 2's party-based system and giving you the ability to create and customize Rangers. The main difference is we're planning for you to start out as a single character, before forming a full party out of created characters and companions.​

We have reached out to inXile with a request for further clarification.

Update 2: inXile developer Thomas Beekers has also made a statement in response to a fan question:

And if that single character dies but one or more of the party created later do not, does the game end?​

You can still continue playing if that character dies.​

There are 291 comments on inXile reveal Wasteland 3's party system

Torment Kickstarter Update #60: Nano & Glaive Trailers, Last Two Tide Novellas Released

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 24 November 2016, 00:13:27

Tags: InXile Entertainment; Mur Lafferty; Techland; Tony Evans; Torment: Tides of Numenera

inXile have published their monthly Torment: Tides of Numenera Kickstarter update, reminding us that the game still exists and is coming soon. Once again, the update is accompanied by a promotional trailer from Techland - in this case, two of them, introducing Torment's Nano and Glaive classes. The update itself contains a short report from producer Eric Daily describing the final stretch of the game's development. I quote:

Phew! It's been a busy month. The Torment team has been hustling hard to get the game polished for release. The game is nearly ready, which means we're now doing all that "boring" stuff that gets Torment ready for you to play.

What does that include? Well, Jeremy, Evan and other members of the design team have been working away on balancing to make sure our Crisis encounters are as entertaining as can be, and that things like loot distribution, economy and character progression are playing well. A lot of number tweaking! Those on the writing and area design side have been playing through the game and fixing any remaining quest, story and content issues. Our engineers Steve, Jesse, Dan and more have been hammering hard on performance optimization and pesky bugs to make sure everything runs better, faster, stronger, better. Meanwhile, we've got our artists, scripters and more devoted to further polish and cleaning up animations, character rigs, and textures.

Fortunately, things are looking really good, so we’ve been able to divert more folk’s time toward playing the game, finding bugs, identifying balance and progression issues, and tying up any loose ends in quests. It might sound like a strange thing to say, but sometimes for developers, simply finding the time to sit back and enjoy our own games is a luxury, so we’ve been doing that too.

We also wouldn't be complete rounding up our recent progress without giving another shout-out to the QA teams at Testronic and Techland, plus our external localization partners. Those teams have all been putting in huge amounts of hours and Torment is very much improved thanks to them.

All of this work is bringing us closer and closer to a release-to-manufacturing build of the game. We've been directing our efforts towards that milestone, and when that happens, it will mean Torment is effectively a finished, complete game we can all be proud of. You can rest assured we'll be hammering away as long as we can to give you the best possible experience upon release early next year.

Last, in the previous update we hinted that we'll have a new beta update for Torment coming, and that's still the plan. This will have many of the refinements we've mentioned above, plus new features like the ability to switch between mouse/keyboard and controller versions of the interface. We'll keep you all posted!
The update also announces that the final two novellas in the From The Depths pentalogy, by Tony Evans and Mur Lafferty (I was wondering if we were ever going to hear those names again!), are now available. You might remember that during the Kickstarter campaign, inXile promised two additional unrelated novellas by Colin McComb and Monte Cook. According to the update, those will come later.

There are 17 comments on Torment Kickstarter Update #60: Nano & Glaive Trailers, Last Two Tide Novellas Released

Wed 23 November 2016
RPG Codex Report: Gamescom 2016 - Vampyr, ELEX, The Guild 3, and Battle Chasers

Editorial - posted by Bubbles on Wed 23 November 2016, 19:17:25

Tags: Airship Syndicate; Battle Chasers: Nightwar; Dontnod Entertainment; ELEX; Gamescom 2016; GolemLabs; Piranha Bytes; The Guild 3; Vampyr

Our award winning Gamescom coverage continues apace with four of our most popular reports to date.

First we take a look at Vampyr, the next masterpiece from the creators of Life is Strange:

As I see it, Vampyr's biggest selling point is not about butchering hundreds of vampire hunters, or suffering through self-serious barely interactive dialogues; it's about meeting the NPCs of London, learning about their lives, and then choosing who among them should live and who should die. The designers have made the intriguing decision that sucking the life out of friendly NPCs should be the primary source of experience points in the game. Can't beat a difficult battle? Want to unlock a cool skill? Well, then you gotta find somebody you don't like, and get rid of them in a permanent fashion.​

Then we cast a glance towards ELEX, the next masterpiece from the creators of Risen 2:

Jarl: Well, from what you've shown us so far, it really looks like you're saying “Okay, we're now gonna serve you a big fresh helping of Gothic 2!”

Bubbles: [rolls his eyes in a shameful betrayal of his partner]

Jenny: No, this is no Gothic.

Jarl: ...different, but in terms of the principles, of the level design….. ….? …??

Jenny: Well, it's… it's... One is one thing, and one is another. We have deliberately not made a new Gothic. And we think that it would have been a bad idea to make a new Gothic 4 or 5. At the current time, at least. Why? You ask three Germans: “What should the new Gothic have?” And you get at least five different answers. The expectations are there: [raises her arm real high]. And we cannot meet them. Even if we wanted to – if we hired 25 new people – it would not be possible to release a Gothic – right now! – where people would say “whoa, that's great!” Not possible. “Basically, we want exactly what's been done before, but not what's been done before!” And that doesn't work.

And so we thought: let's rather do something that we've had in our heads for a long time anyway, something that we would enjoy making, something where we can use old gameplay mechanics that worked well, which we really liked, where people are saying “that was great!” – we take those on board, and we make a new setting with fresh ideas, a new story that nobody is familiar with, and then we make a great game. And that's ELEX.​

And let's not forget about The Guild 3, which brought some pleasant complexity into the console-dominated Gamescom landscape:

Bubbles: We had a discussion on our forums about the fact that the Guild games are still PC-exclusive, even in this modern age. Why is that – is the UI too complex for consoles?

Heinrich: ...we once tested a version [of an earlier Guild game] on the Xbox; it worked, but the controls were terrible. And it's the same way now; you can make a port to the newest Xbox relatively quickly – so we could get a version for the Xbox One or Xbox 360 pretty quickly – but we see absolutely no way of implementing a proper control scheme with a gamepad. It's just impossible. The game is too complex.

[At this point he notices that Jarl is making inefficient deals at the marketplace, and spends a minute showing him how to do it properly] You should buy a cart to transport your goods… slow down the game speed! No, click there… now, click this first, and then here…

Bubbles: It's nice that these kinds of games are still being made.

Indeed. Finally, Battle Chasers: Nightwar provides us with a valuable insight of its own:

And really, if the guy who made flippin' Darksiders is making a turn based RPG, then what the hell is stopping today's Obsidian from doing the same thing? Get with the times already! The future is turn based!​

We only speak the truth.

Read the full article: RPG Codex Report: Gamescom 2016 - Vampyr, ELEX, The Guild 3, and Battle Chasers: Nightwar

There are 85 comments on RPG Codex Report: Gamescom 2016 - Vampyr, ELEX, The Guild 3, and Battle Chasers

Mon 21 November 2016
Chris Avellone Sugarbombed Interview, Part Two

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Mon 21 November 2016, 17:08:22

Tags: Bethesda Softworks; Chris Avellone; Fallout 2; Fallout: New Vegas; Obsidian Entertainment; South Park: The Stick of Truth

The proprietors of Fallout-centric forum community Sugarbombed have posted the second part of their epic interview with Chris Avellone. This part is less obviously trying to bait Chris into saying something bad about Bethesda, but that doesn't stop him from raining a bit more fire on Obsidian for good measure. I quote:

SB: Now onto New Vegas. Since you designed New Reno in Fallout 2, how did you and the other developers go about differentiating New Vegas from it? And what influence did you take from it (New Reno)?

CA: I don't know if there were any conversations on differentiating New Vegas from New Reno, the level designers for the city might know (I don't know if they played Fallout 2). BTW, New Reno wasn't solely mine, I inherited the design from the Troika guys before they left Black Isle, so I had that template to build on (the crime families, the Enclave, jet production, etc.) The worst parts of New Reno you can blame me for, don't blame the Troika guys. ;)

Looking back the only thing I regret in New Reno is that I should have cut out one of the crime families (four was too many with everything else that was going on) and made Myron more systemically valuable to the party (his combat build and crafting abilities weren't helpful). Cassidy ended up being a better companion for systemic considerations, even with his heart condition. I did a post about companion design based on this learning experience a while back on the Obsidian forums, but I don't know if it's still up there (Obsidian locked me out of my profile after my departure, and they've refused to delete my account). The companion system design principles are not being used in recent Obsidian titles, so it may have been removed.

SB: Something that most people can agree on is that Bethesda and Godfather Pete Hines are experts at marketing. By using the hype of Fallout 4 and announcing it 6 months before release, they were able to make it one of the most profitable games in history. What were your personal experiences with Bethesda's PR/marketing department like, and how does this compare to other companies you’ve worked with in the past?

CA: Ah, a Bethesda question, I was waiting for it (Part 1 was filled with them, Monte, almost as if they were LEADING QUESTIONS HMMMM Editor's Note: Lol). I've been wrapped up with Prey for a while now, and I didn't have much interaction with marketing, but I doubt it's changed much - overall, I think Bethesda is one of the few companies that do marketing right. I've said this before, and I'll say it again - I have a lot of respect for Pete Hines - if you see him on the trenches at E3, he takes his job seriously and isn't fucking away on his mobile phone while journalists ask the developers shitty questions that PR should be listening to and monitoring (sorry for the tirade, am channeling past experiences).

In addition (and I've said this before, too), but he knows how to demo games he's working on, and he was always willing to take over showcasing the game and gameplay for one of the other demo folks if a developer or demo-er needed to be pulled away for an interview, and he did it without a hitch, something a lot of other PR folks I've worked with in the past wouldn't dare do or want to (and most may not even like the games, and feel that demoing is what "the developers are for").

Another thing which may be hard for non-developers to understand the full importance of, but Bethesda plans their marketing. This is rare in my experience. Bethesda is clear about messaging, they time and focus information releases, schedule demo dates properly (ask any developer, but demo deliveries should never be sprung as a surprise to any development team because demos can derail development by months), and more. Also, if there's any doubts as to how well marketing does their jobs, I'll just say this - you can buy Fallout T-shirts in Target. Target. I still can't believe it. That never would have happened at Black Isle, but Bethesda made Fallout visible to the public, which is no small feat. Even my parents recognize the Fallout logo (and the Vault Boy) when they see it - hell, I wasn't able to do that and I'm their son, and this is my livelihood.

So, yeah, I think they do a good job with marketing. Other folks I've worked with in the past have the exact opposite opinion, however, but that's up to them to outline their grievances. I don't agree with their opinion, and their opinions were so vague/hyperbolic it was hard to argue them - and I hate hyperbole in any event, it's the equivalent of lying to make your ill-founded point.

(Oh, and to say it, LucasArts was pretty good to work with, too, they also had their shit together.)
Beyond the bridge-burning, this part of the interview also has some pretty interesting responses from Chris about his quest design methodology, so be sure to read the whole thing. According to the interviewer, there are still two parts left to go, which will focus primarily on Chris' current work on Prey and the System Shock remake, but will also include a follow-up to his comments about Obsidian in the first part. Looks like the fun isn't over yet.

There are 170 comments on Chris Avellone Sugarbombed Interview, Part Two

Fri 18 November 2016
Underrail: Expedition Update: Temporal Manipulation

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 18 November 2016, 18:38:27

Tags: Stygian Software; Underrail; Underrail: Expedition

Styg has published a new development update for the upcoming Underrail: Expedition expansion. This one introduces a new psionic school that the expansion will add to the game called Temporal Manipulation. As you might imagine, its abilities revolve around the manipulation of time and speed. Here are the details:

Hi guys,

In the expansion, we'll be adding a new psionic school called “Temporal Manipulation”, which will primarily feature delayed damage and buffing/debuffing abilities.

This psi discipline will, probably more than any other, will function well as a support skill that can be incorporated into other builds, rather than a primary skill around which a build is made, though I have no doubt that some of you will find a way to prove me wrong.

Here are the abilities:
  • Temporal Distortion - Places a debuff on the target that lasts 1 turn and deals mechanical and energy damage when it expires. In the case the target is already affected by temporal distortion, its duration will be increased by 1 turn and damage by 25% and the newly applied temporal distortion will have the same duration and damage bonus. Damage dealt by this ability ignores shield and 50% of damage resistance and threshold. This ability cannot critically hit.
  • Psycho-temporal Dilation – Reduces target's action points by 15 and movement points by 50. Lasts 2 turns.
  • Limited Temporal Increment – Reduces all remaining cooldowns by 1 turn.
  • Entropic Recurrence – Repeats the percentage of the last unit of damage taken by the target over 3 turns. This damage ignores shields and resistances. In cases when the original damage was very slight, the recurrence may actually empower it.
  • Psycho-temporal Contraction – Increases target's action points by 15 and movement points by 30. Lasts 2 turns.
  • Temporary Rewind – Reverses the last damage done to the target, up to certain amount depending on the skill level. After two turns this health is lost and this may cause the target to die.
  • Precognition – While this ability is active, your chance to dodge and evade attacks is increased by certain percentage depending on skill level (additively). Drains 25 psi points every turn.
  • Stasis – Places the target in stasis for 2 turns, making it immune to all damage and most disabling effects, but also preventing it from acting. While in stasis, the target's status effects will not progress (except the stasis one), but the cooldowns will.
That's about it. Let me know how you guys like the new psi school.​

Pretty loopy stuff. I think this update might satisfy some of the people who were upset about the last one.

There are 33 comments on Underrail: Expedition Update: Temporal Manipulation

Thu 17 November 2016
Expeditions: Viking November Newsletter: Beta starting on December 15th

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 17 November 2016, 17:23:03

Tags: Daniel Eskildsen; Expeditions: Viking; Logic Artists

Last month's Expeditions: Viking newsletter not so subtly hinted that news about the game's beta was coming soon. This month's newsletter confirms that the beta is coming on December 15th. Everybody who's signed up for the newsletters will receive a key. The new edition also includes a short developer diary video focused on the topic of player choice, the reveal that the Logic Artists have added a full party creation mechanic to the game, a glimpse at a never-before-shown dungeon area in the game's Britain campaign, and more. Here's an excerpt:

If you're reading this then guess what? You've made it! Welcome to the elite group of people with access to the upcoming Expeditions: Viking Beta in December. The Beta will be running for the majority of the month starting around the 15th of December and ending in the new year. We've got loads of new stuff for all of you to test and we're eager to get your feedback.

"So where's my Beta info!?" You ask? Well for very secret reasons, they're not in this mail, but Beta Access codes for Steam and additional information and instructions will be sent to you in an email closer to the launch of the Beta. That's not all though! With the launch of Expeditions: Viking coming in Q1 of next year, we're going to be giving Newsletter subscribers unique pre-launch and launch bonuses as a big thanks from all of us over here, so stay tuned to the Newsletter friends!

Gather Your Party Before Venturing Forth

Raiding villages and hamlets is hard work if you're just one Viking. Loot and thralls are heavy, not to mention the trouble with trying to row a long boat on your own. That's why you get to bring friends!

Looting a village is good wholesome fun for the whole clan!

But... And there's always a but, isn't there? A number of you keen eyed folks have noticed that when it comes to party management and combat, we've been showing a lot of the same characters. This has led some to believe that your motley hird (that's a joke, right there) wont be as... Motley, as it could.

Well, fear not! We haven't showed you other crew members yet, because YOU haven't made them yet!


"Wait... What did they just say?" We imagine you saying. Well you heard us! Once you start recruiting mercenaries for your pillaging adventures, you get to create them yourselves!

The story characters will still be there for all the lovely chattiness and banter, but by allowing you to make your own crew members, we're hoping to allow you to create exactly the party that's right for your pillaging needs!

The tool should be good to go for the Beta, and we can't wait to hear what you think of it.
I hope you all followed my advice last month and signed up for the newsletter! Next month's edition will offer an in-depth look at the game's skills, which should come in handy for the beta.

There are 11 comments on Expeditions: Viking November Newsletter: Beta starting on December 15th

Jupiter Hell now on Kickstarter [turn based, roguelike, top-down, pew-pew]

Game News - posted by Bubbles on Thu 17 November 2016, 08:29:12

Tags: Chaosforge; Doom - The Roguelike; Jupiter Hell

ChaosForge, the developers of DoomRL, have brought their next game to Kickstarter. The project page for their turn based roguelike Jupiter Hell is full of words like "streamlined", "accessible", and "new audiences", and the game's setting is basically Doom without the copyrighted bits:

Jupiter Hell is a tactical roguelike game in a 90's flavored sci-fi universe. Set on the moons of Jupiter, the game pits a lone space marine against overwhelming demonic forces. Rip and tear undead, demons and unmentionable monstrosities, using classic weaponry including shotguns, chainguns, railguns and the trusty chainsaw. All to the shine of CRT monitors and the tune of heavy metal!​

Rip and tear! If that doesn't have you hyped yet, the developers are also promising "resource management and decision-based character progression" and "tactical and strategic depth", as well as permadeath mechanics and a bunch of other stuff:
  • Classic roguelike! - Turn-based, grid based, procedurally generated environments and permadeath.
  • Several difficulty levels and dozens of challenge modes - no matter what skill level, there will be always something more to achieve, something nastier to master
  • Dynamic animation system - despite being turn-based, you never wait for the player to move, play as fast as you like and see the animation adapt to it
  • Streamlined UI and gameplay - no need for manuals, just jump in. Whether you want the easy way of playing by mouse, or the fast way by keyboard, the game offers both.
  • G(l)orious visuals - explosions, blood, dynamic shadows, effects galore.
  • Randomness! - from the big to the small, Jupiter Hell will never feel samey - the plot and missions will vary each game, the procedural levels will provide new tactical challenges, and even small finishing touches like background furniture will have variety to give a handmade feel.
  • Loot - Raid corpses and plunder secret corporate storehouses for kick-ass new weapons and armour.
For further details, feel free to peruse the pitch video:

There are 35 comments on Jupiter Hell now on Kickstarter [turn based, roguelike, top-down, pew-pew]

Wed 16 November 2016
Colony Ship RPG Update #9: Locations Overview

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 16 November 2016, 14:29:08

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

With Dungeon Rats out of the way, it looks like Iron Tower have returned to their monthly schedule for Colony Ship RPG updates. This month's update is a brief overview of the game's locations:

Now that DR is out, we return to our regularly scheduled program. So locations...

- 16 locations. Thematically, we can split them into 5 groups: engine (more than one area), "wasteland" (completely destroyed decks, including areas with zero gravity), cargo holds, residential, bridge.

- Most locations will be 'revisitable', i.e. you will have reasons (new objectives) to go back, which will boost reactivity when you get shot in the face.

- Each location is designed to support 3 main paths through the game: brute force, diplomacy, infiltration. Most locations are populated by various small groups and factions, so killing everyone will limit your endgame options, which is fitting.

- Many locations will have multiple levels and the "vertical element". We played with it in DR a bit. For those who didn't play the game, you're looking at the previously visited areas from a higher point you couldn't reach directly.

In the CSG, for example, you would be able to take a safe way through a certain area via the walkways (a toll road) and see the area below (and go down if you see something shiny) or if you're too cheap to pay make your way through the debris below and brave the dangers undoubtedly awaiting the unprepared.

- Most locations are interconnected in logical ways (i.e. not isolated areas), which will create many interesting opportunities for the explorers as well as occasional quest solutions for the gadgeteers.

In the past updates I've briefly introduced the Pit (the Freemen's Camp), the Hydroponics, the Armory, and the Shuttle Bay. The final "cargo hold" location is the Factory - a large industrial complex that was designed to teach the new generation various engineering skills and provide simulated environments to practice them. Today it's an abandoned and thus somewhat dangerous area connecting the Pit with the City. It's been stripped clean from the 'big ticket' items but there's plenty of junk left for the scavengers willing to risk their lives for a few coins.

The full update has two additional concept images of the Pit, which use a style similar to this one. Apparently, Iron Tower have chosen a new art direction for the game, as they're quite different from the Pit concept we saw back in April.

There are 36 comments on Colony Ship RPG Update #9: Locations Overview

Sat 12 November 2016
RPG Codex Report: Tokyo Game Show 2016

Editorial - posted by felipepepe on Sat 12 November 2016, 12:50:58

Tags: Japan; TGS; Tokyo Game Show

It was a dark and stormy night when I saw the Tokyo Game Show 2016 poster and thought - "Hey, I live in Tokyo now, I could go there! Ugh, but I hate waiting in lines and paying for stuff..."

A few weeks later, on September 16, I was disembarking at the Kaihin-Makuhari Station, ready to face TGS' Business Day as a reporter for the prestigious RPG Codex.


This is the (kinda extremely late) report of that fateful day...

Read the full article: RPG Codex Report: Tokyo Game Show 2016

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Thu 10 November 2016
Tyranny Released

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 10 November 2016, 20:16:31

Tags: Obsidian Entertainment; Paradox Interactive; Tyranny

Today is the release day of Tyranny, Obsidian's new choice & consequence-focused isometric RPG set in a fantasy world where evil won. Ever since it was announced back in March, Tyranny has received a great deal of scrutiny on our forums - for its premise (which some doubted today's Obsidian was capable of handling with sufficient depth), for the writing in some of its development updates, for its artistic style, and for its openly streamlined combat system. Even I think there was something tone-deaf about the way Obsidian and Paradox handled the game's marketing.

In recent weeks, however, opinions of Tyranny seem to have softened somewhat, as videos and livestreams featuring actual gameplay became available, revealing it to be pretty much a Pillars of Eternity total conversion with some interesting features, and not some completely horrible abomination. Now it's out, so we can find out for sure whether Obsidian's Pillars-meets-Dragon Age-meets Elder Scrolls-meets-Age of Decadence experiment has succeeded. Here's its launch trailer:

There are a bunch of release day reviews:

PC Gamer 75/100
PCGamesN 8/10
PCWorld 3.5/5
IGN 8.3/10 9/10
GameWatcher 9/10
Hardcore Gamer 4/5
Fextralife 8.5/10
Game Rant 4.5/5
WCCFtech 9/10
Expansive 9/10
As you can see, they're generally positive, but a few dip down into "mixed" territory, citing issues with the game's story and combat. Are these issues for real, or are they just a case of game journalists allowing themselves to be dumb/lazy/edgy with a somewhat obscure title? Our review, which will hopefully be out in the not-too-distant future, will surely answer those questions. Or you can answer them yourself. Tyranny is available now on Steam and GOG for the price of $45. It'll be interesting to see how well it does.

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Fri 4 November 2016
Tyranny Dev Diary Video #3: Gameplay and Mechanics

Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Fri 4 November 2016, 21:02:25

Tags: Brian Heins; Feargus Urquhart; Matt MacLean; Matthew Singh; Obsidian Entertainment; Paradox Interactive; Tyranny

Tyranny may have had its last dev diary blog update earlier this week, but Paradox still had one last dev diary video to go, which they published today. This episode is about game mechanics - the companions and companion combos, the spellcrafting system, character progression and reputation. I'm sure the Codex will love all the extreme animations:

Watch out for that last step, it's a doozy.

There are 98 comments on Tyranny Dev Diary Video #3: Gameplay and Mechanics

Dungeon Rats Released

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 4 November 2016, 17:08:28

Tags: Dungeon Rats; Iron Tower Studios

Iron Tower have released Dungeon Rats, their party-based dungeon crawler set in the world of The Age of Decadence. You've read the FAQ, you've seen the trailer, so there's nothing left to do but quote the game's store page description:

Dungeon Rats is a turn-based, party-based RPG set in the Age of Decadence world and focused on squad level tactical combat. If fighting your way out of a prison mine - and frequently dying in the attempt - is your idea of a good time, you've come to the right place.

Starting out as a new prisoner at the bottom of the gangs-ruled prison hierarchy, and of the prison itself, you must fight to survive and develop your combat skills, acquiring better weapons and equipment as you go. Recruit allies to your struggle or carry on as a lone wolf, and kill anyone foolish enough to stand in your way.

Features include:

  • Tactical combat system, including standard attacks, aimed attacks targeting specific body parts, and per-weapon special attacks such as Whirlwind and Impale.
  • Detailed crafting and alchemy systems: forge your own weapons, brew potions and poisons, experiment with Liquid Fire and Black Powder.
  • 8 weapon types: Daggers, Swords, Axes, Hammers, Spears, Bows, Crossbows, and Throwing Weapons, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
  • Fully customizable main character, as well as 10 possible companions, not all of them human (maximum party size is 4).
  • 50 challenging fights and 4 different endings
Notable changes from The Age of Decadence:
  • Party-based - the most frequently requested feature.
  • Flanking and other strategic bonuses. Positioning matters a lot.
  • Manual placement of your characters before a fight.
  • Charisma determines the number and quality of your party members.
  • Skill points are split between the party members: more people means fewer skills points per person and slower level ups.
  • New weapons, armor, and creatures.
  • 3 difficulty levels: Nice Guy, Tough Bastard, Murderous Psychopath
Dungeon Rats is available for the low price of $9 on Steam and GOG, with a 10% launch discount until next week. Buy it now and give it a good review.

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Wasteland 3 Fig Update #14: Final Hours

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 4 November 2016, 02:16:01

Tags: Brian Fargo; InXile Entertainment; Wasteland 3

The Wasteland 3 Fig campaign is in its final hours. inXile have raised over $3.1M, unlocking the Customizable Ranger Squad Insignia stretch goal, but it doesn't look like they're going to make the last one. There's no fancy livestreamed wrap party this time, just a brief message from Brian Fargo, plus a little something extra:

The final hours are ticking down on our campaign and we once again are honored by your support. I assure you that these crowdfunding campaigns are critical to our ability to make the kind of RPG that we like to play and create. This was true in 2012 with our Wasteland 2 campaign and it's true again with Wasteland 3.

The biggest difference between now and 2012 is that we have assembled far greater talent to make this next game. The depth of writing, visual effects, balancing and polish will be on a new level for inXile. I could not be more confident in the team. We will make you proud again.

And finally, I leave you with a message from a new character from Wasteland 3... until next time.
I'm not sure if inXile are going to release another update after the campaign is over, so it's time for some retrospect. With rare exceptions, this was an extraordinarily dull campaign. Despite their claim that they spend ever more time preparing for each one, it's clear that after four visits to the crowdfunding trough, inXile's hearts just aren't in this anymore. And that's okay, really. They're an established RPG studio now. They should be more interested in making games than in running what amounts to manipulative marketing campaigns for them. In which case, my advice to them would be to let the games speak for themselves. Change your routine, and for your next crowdfunded title, have something playable ready before you ask for money. In 2016, I really don't think that's too much to ask.

There are 48 comments on Wasteland 3 Fig Update #14: Final Hours

Wed 2 November 2016
Wasteland 3 Fig Update #13: The Dunes of Thought

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 2 November 2016, 20:41:25

Tags: Brother None; George Ziets; InXile Entertainment; Shadowrun: Dragonfall; Wasteland 3

With 30 hours left on the clock, inXile have put together a new Wasteland 3 Fig update with some random stuff. Last week's update featured a character called "Mister Funtimes", who I was hoping he would appear in a video. Instead, they've made his model available for viewing on a site called SketchFab, which is uh, interesting, I guess. The meat of the update, however, is a new piece of lore from George Ziets. It concerns an Old Worlds Blues-ish location known as the Dunes of Thought, which we've already seen in one of the concept renders. Here's its story:

[From the letters of Doctor Ellen Buchanan, dated 2022 - twenty-five years after the bombs fell. Housed in the Patriarch’s personal archive, Colorado Springs.]

I’m writing this from the passenger seat of an old, prewar pickup, not far from the ruins of Fort Garland. It’s April, I think… almost two years since we embarked upon this project to survey what’s become of our world.

My driver is a silent, pale-skinned man, his bald head mottled with scars and radiation burns. His coveralls have been mended so many times that I’ve taken to calling him Patch. He never speaks, so I don’t know if he minds the name, but I hope he doesn’t. Ever since the death of Dr. Herrera, he’s been my sole companion and friend.

A few days ago, Patch and I reached the edge of a barren expanse. Sand piled in vast, sweeping dunes at the edge of the mountains. This was once a national park that had been turned over to a group of scientists – not university professors like I once was, but a private foundation. They’d fenced off the whole area, and no one was allowed inside.

Of course, my curiosity immediately got the better of me. I told Patch to stay with the truck, and I set off alone.

At the edge of the dunes, I found toppled fences and guard towers, probably abandoned when the bombs fell. As I climbed over the ruins, I saw flickers of blue light from the sands beyond.

Sitting amongst the dunes were dozens of massive globes, like giant crystal balls strewn around a beach. Each of them was about twenty feet in diameter, though some were larger than others. They were filled with intricate networks of transparent fibers, so complex that the human eye couldn’t follow all their connections. Tiny blue-white sparks moved along the fibers at an incredible speed. Every so often, an arc of electricity jumped from one of the globes to another, setting off a chain reaction that sliced through the air and unleashed a burst of thunder.

I watched, mesmerized, for who knows how long, trying to understand what I was seeing.

“The Storm-in-Chains,” said a voice beside me. “Preserved minds from before the war.”

I leaped in surprise. A hairy little man stood close by, nearly naked, with metal rods strapped to his back. Startled by his sudden appearance, I asked who he was.

“Sparksinger,” he said. “First of my name. The Storm called me hence.”

Instinctively I edged away from him, but he grabbed my arm, pulling me toward the lightning globes with a wiry strength. He put his mouth close to my ear. “Hear me, Dr. Buchanan - you are an echo, nothing more. All those you studied are dead. All those you taught are dead.”

How he knew me, I cannot guess. I was so shocked by his words that I didn’t resist, and he dragged me closer to the orbs. Before it even occurred to me to shout for help, Patch was running toward us, mouth set in an angry line. The little man looked at him with horror.“

I know what’s under your skin, dissembler. Get you back!”

For a moment, the Sparksinger let go of my arm. Patch and I broke away and raced for our truck…

[Beyond this point, the letter is torn, and no further record of the story has been found.]
inXile kindly conclude the update with a promotion for Stygian Software's Underrail: Expedition expansion and for The Brotherhood's upcoming adventure games. In addition to those two studios, they've also made a deal with Harebrained Schemes. If you pledge $40 or more for Wasteland 3, you'll get a copy of Shadowrun: Dragonfall when the campaign is over.

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Chris Avellone is still pretty mad about Obsidian

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Wed 2 November 2016, 15:32:39

Tags: Bethesda Softworks; Chris Avellone; Fallout; Fallout 2; Fallout 3; Fallout 4; Fallout: New Vegas; Obsidian Entertainment

Chris Avellone recently gave an interview to a Fallout-centric forum community called SugarBombed. The interviewer is clearly one of the many Fallout fans who are disappointed with Fallout 4 and the direction Bethesda have taken the franchise, and he spends the entire interview trying to get Chris to say something bad about them. However, Chris has no interest in indulging such narratives, preferring to talk about his former employers instead. The result is one of the most amazing interviews I've ever read. Have a look:

SB: Hypothetically, if Obsidian were to make a hypothetical new Fallout spinoff, would you hypothetically want to go back to obsidian and have some involvement with it being that Fallout is so close to your heart?

CA: No. While I like the developers and wish them all the very best, there's too many other problems at the higher managerial level to ever consider stepping back, especially when you could make a step in a direction that mattered for the franchise. Even leads at Obsidian have said as much (most after departing), and they told me they felt helpless in their roles to do what they felt was the right decision.

SB: How would you compare and contrast the RPG’s you’ve worked on with the RPG’s that Bethesda Game Studios has made? What do you think Fallout 2/New Vegas do better than Fallout 3-4 and vice versa?

CA: That's difficult to say from the internal perspective of then and now - and it depends on what design element you're talking about. Story-wise, I can definitely say Fallout 2 did a worse job on many fronts than Fallout 1, for example, and New Vegas did a lot of things even worse than Fallout 2, but did better on the world exploration front than F2 could hope to do based on tech alone (but which F3 and F4 did better, imo). Bethesda definitely has a better design-exploration-aesthetic than any game I've worked on.

SB: Tim Cain, one of the other fathers of Fallout that you have worked with in the past, once famously said that “My idea is to explore more of the world and more of the ethics of a post-nuclear world, not to make a better plasma gun” Todd Howard and Bethesda on the other hand, seemed to dedicate a lot more of their time and resources into allowing the player to create a better plasma gun (among other Minecraft-esque features) than they do exploring the ethics of a post nuclear world. Does this bother you at all? And how fine do you think the line between focusing too much on things like combat and customization, rather than not enough on them, is?

I don't know, I wasn't there during the development of Fallout 1 and Fallout 3/4 and can't speak to the internal design choices made. That said, previous games both Tim and I have worked on have definitely focused on combat to the extent of damaging the storyline, especially enforced/mandatory violent path options, and ones that had obsessive weapon design schemes that had a priority over narrative aspects.

SB: Another thing that hardcore fans of the series have been quick to point out is how little Bethesda seems to acknowledge New Vegas both in public and in Fallout 4 itself. There are very few references to anything that occurred in New Vegas or things that New Vegas established as lore such as Mr. House being a graduate of MIT, you’d think there’d be a reference to him somewhere at MIT (CIT in Fallout 4) right? Does it bother you that Bethesda seems almost unwilling to acknowledge New Vegas’ existence, and do you think the fact that many prefer it to their version(s) of the series has something to do with that?

CA: It's their license, and the two coasts are pretty far apart. Bethesda did reference San Francisco in Kellog's memory dungeon in F4, though, and it was clearly a Fallout 2 reference. I still think it was weird to do a Vegas when we already had a New Reno, it felt like the record was skipping. Still, it's likely because Vegas is more a key (and recognizable) signature city than Reno was, but I don't know why the decision was made.

SB: You’ve said that you don’t think Fallout will leave Bethesda’s hands again, and likely not go back to Obsidian. Do you think this would have anything to do with the quarrels Bethesda and Obsidian had during and after development (specifically the metacritic thing) and like I said before, they’re worried about being showed up so to speak? Because with Bethesda’s patterns, the next Fallout game by them likely won’t come out for a long time, so they probably want to fill that gap with something, no?

CA: I doubt Bethesda worries much about what Obsidian is doing (Bethesda's likely way too busy on multiple fronts), but only they could speak to that, I have no idea. From an outside perspective, however, it appears when Bethesda likes working with a studio or see their potential, they seem to buy them (Arkane). They didn't buy Obsidian, though, even though Obsidian is eager to be bought based on recent interviews. It might be for the best - I don't know what would happen to the devs if Obsidian was bought, but the upper management would likely come out okay with that exit strategy.

SB: Let’s say Bethesda goes and tries to fill the wait for Fallout 5 with a Fallout MMO by The Elder Scrolls Online developer Zenimax Online Studios. Do you see any potential in this idea?

CA: I think a Fallout MMO would do well. Yes, RPG Codex, light your torches, I'll send you a map to my house.
Holy crap, Avellone.

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Tue 1 November 2016
Tyranny Dev Diary #13: Companion Overview - Sirin

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 1 November 2016, 19:31:42

Tags: Nick Carver; Obsidian Entertainment; Robert Land; Tyranny

Breaking free from their biweekly schedule, today Obsidian have published what will be Tyranny's final dev diary update. It's an overview of the game's last known companion - Sirin, the young Archon of Song, who has already appeared in a dev diary video and a recent short story by her writer, Robert Land. In the update, he explains why she isn't as powerful in the game as she is in that story. Mechanically, she's basically a Pillars of Eternity Chanter. Here's an excerpt from the update:

Sirin caused the death of more people before she was seven than most soldiers do in their entire careers. One of the few mages on Terratus who was born with magic, Sirin first displayed her abilities the first time she cried. The midwife assisting with her birth burst out crying and asked what that bright light was and why everything was so cold. Her parents quickly learned anyone who heard Sirin’s voice was compelled by the emotion behind it. Fortunately for them, she was a genial and easy-going child, so it wasn’t much of a problem. Occasionally they would have to remind her not to use her powers on local children – especially after an episode with a local bully – but there were never any major incidents until she was seven years old.

Once word spread that Sirin had powers, people from all over requested her help. Crops weren’t growing? Send for Sirin. Your son broke his leg? Send for Sirin. People spoke of her miraculous voice and its heavenly sound. It wasn’t long before she gained the nickname Songbird, and everyone wanted to hear the Songbird sing. Eventually, tales of Sirin’s voice reached Kyros, who knew that if this child truly was as powerful as everyone said, she could be a power tool for conquest. Using the Voices of Nerat, Kyros kidnapped Sirin from her family and delivered her to the royal court for training. During her schooling, she was deemed too dangerous to be allowed to use the full extent of her powers, so Kyros and the Voices of Nerat created a special helmet, placing it permanently on her head. If Sirin tried to go beyond the limits the helmet placed on her, the gem placed in it would shatter, killing her.

Once she was deemed ready (and properly under control), she was given back to the Voices of Nerat to help the Scarlet Chorus in their recruiting efforts. From that point on, her voice was used to convince any and all to join the Scarlet Chorus and fight for Kyros. But Sirin knew that she – and her voice – were simply a means to an end and that the moment she stopped being useful, her life was forfeit, so she did her best to recruit as many bodies as she could for the Chorus while planning a means of escape if the opportunity ever presented itself.

Combat Role

Sirin was designed to control and manipulate the flow of battle by afflicting her foes with terrible sicknesses of the mind and body. Sirin’s power as an Archon grants her the unique ability to influence others with song (Those who played Pillars of Eternity’s Chanter class will be familiar with her mechanics). In combat, she will passively sing, causing minor blights and hindrances to foes that hear her voice, as well as subtle benefits to her allies.

As Sirin sings, she builds up a resource called ‘Breath’ that is later used to perform an ‘Aria’. Arias unleash powerful concentrated magical effects from Sirin’s voice on those she directs it towards. These effects can be devastating for enemies, or invigorating for her allies, depending on the Aria performed. A unique progression tree is used for Sirin’s songs that is automatically advanced as she gains levels, unlocking new songs, while Arias must be purchased exclusively from her two talent trees. Overall, the focus from each tree is directed towards either making Sirin a peaceful songstress who aids her allies with powerful beneficial effects, or an aggressive weaver of vengeful arias who aims to break her enemies where they stand.

Since Sirin’s songs are passive in combat. When designing them we thought it reasonable to assume that many users will want to pick one that has an enjoyable effect and leave it active in most cases. This is absolutely OK, and many songs serve to support this strategy. However, we wanted each song to also exist as a tactical counter to occasional problems posed against the party. For instance, I may enjoy using the song ‘Glory in Battle’ to grant my party several direct stat boosts, but if I’m currently facing against the Bane, I might be inclined to temporarily switch to the song ‘Bane of Night’, which is incredibly effective against Bane units. Every song is intended to have a specific theme to its effects and is also designed to have a larger payoff at the end of the song if the last stanza is reached.

When building Sirin’s talent trees, we wanted to allow players to decide if Sirin fits better in their group as a supporter of party offense or defense. Sirin’s ‘Peace’ tree provides several defensive talents, utilities, and a number of Arias that help to bolster ally defenses, free them from hostile effects, and even revive unconscious party members. Sirin’s ‘War’ tree has talents built to use Arias more quickly as well as a variety of offensive Arias that affect enemy minds, push them around the battlefield, or even shock them into submission.

Sirin is a literal font of power. With enough time, Sirin’s songs and arias can bring ruin to armies. While not exceptionally powerful in the early moments of combat, when Sirin builds enough Breath to perform an Aria, she can completely lock down small groups of enemies, or grant a surge that sends allies to victory. However, choosing the right Aria for the moment is important, since her Breath takes time to rebuild. Sirin is also rather frail defensively, so while it’s important to make sure she’s close to the battle for her songs, she should not wander close enough to draw attention. If she finds herself in trouble, abilities like Guise of Innocence can help her to escape, but ultimately she will need another ally to step in and take the enemies’ focus.

The longer a battle rages on, the more Sirin’s power seals the enemy’s fate.
Read the full update for a list of some of Sirin's songs and other abilities.

There are 75 comments on Tyranny Dev Diary #13: Companion Overview - Sirin
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