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Fri 28 April 2017

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

Wasteland 3 Fig Update #19: The Stanley Hotel

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 28 April 2017, 20:09:53

Tags: Brother None; Colin McComb; InXile Entertainment; Wasteland 3

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Wasteland 3's Fig updates have settled into a familiar pattern. A production status report, followed by a look at one of the game's locations. This month's update introduces the Stanley Hotel, which is actually a real life Colorado hotel that inspired the Overlook Hotel from Stephen King's The Shining. It serves a similarly grisly purpose in the post-apocalypse:

As we go deeper into pre-production and the Colorado wasteland continues to take shape, we want to keep showing you some of the unique areas our writers and level designers are developing. Below, we have a few (spoiler-free!) details on the Stanley Hotel, a Colorado locale that inspired Stephen King's The Shining as well as our own writer, Colin McComb. He's been working with the rest of the team on the design of the zone, and we're ready to share how it fits into Wasteland 3. Additionally, we have a new concept render from the Bischoff brothers. We continue to use these pieces to flesh out our art direction, so we're excited to share them with you.

Speaking of art, let me briefly touch on some of the progress our team has been making in that department. We've mentioned in the previous updates that a huge focus for us during preproduction is prototyping our systems and engineering needs. Art has similarly been hard at work on figuring out Wasteland 3's aesthetics and pipelines, and our technical artist, Joey Betz, has also been developing tools and algorithms for snow.

For example, Joey has been working on slope based algorithms, which basically tells the engine to take our snow materials and only "paint" them on the top of objects (like cars, roofs, etc.), thin out based on the steepness of the slope they're on, and not appear at all on the bottom. He has also implemented a nice wetness algorithm, which works out melting snow on different surfaces. These subtle tech solutions are huge strides for us, as they allow our artists and level designers do a great deal more with the many snow-heavy areas we are creating.

Stanley Hotel

Hey, Rangers - Colin here to talk about the Stanley Hotel.

In the mountains northwest of Denver stands a grand but somewhat weathered hotel, a remnant from simpler, more peaceful times.

When the bombs fell in 1998, the hotel guests watched mushroom clouds rise over the mountains and listened to the world end over the radio. They talked long into the night about what the future held. Then, over the next few days, they had final, sumptuous meals before wandering into the surrounding forest to hang themselves. Only the caretakers remained - employees, at first, and then people seduced by the idea that they could bring back a certain elegance to the world.

As the world devolved into savagery, stories of this relatively peaceful end spread through Colorado. The Stanley became a popular destination for suicidal pilgrims who came to the hotel for a joyful final repast before joining the frozen corpses hanging in the forest.

Those corpses instill superstitious fear in the wild, inbred clans in the surrounding mountains, as well as a certain unease in neighboring settlements. Rumor has it that the Stanley is haunted - those who spend too much time here swear that they hear the whispering voices of the unquiet dead. The caretakers of the Stanley don’t mind. They are people of quiet faith and firm belief in doing the right thing by their guests, and they welcome anyone who comes to their doors.

The Suicide Forest beyond their walls is not as peaceful. Predatory cats of unusual size and intelligence roam the hills, as more than one corpse-robber has found to his chagrin. Caves twist into the hard rock of the mountain - a perfect place to den for the long winter, or for a thoughtful, morality-light “entrepreneur” to set up shop far from the prying eyes of what remains of Colorado’s law.

Above it all, the Stanley looms, promising an end to the misery of life in this world. Stop on by! Reservations are appreciated, but even if the hotel is full, hang around.

A room should be vacant soon...​

As Brian Fargo admits, Wasteland 3 is looking to be a bit darker than the previous two. Torment: Ruins of Colorado?

There are 23 comments on Wasteland 3 Fig Update #19: The Stanley Hotel

Thu 27 April 2017
Expeditions: Viking Released

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 27 April 2017, 20:04:30

Tags: Expeditions: Viking; Logic Artists

Expeditions: Viking, the historical Norse RPG from Danish studio Logic Artists and successor to 2013's well-received Expeditions: Conquistador, has been released and is available on Steam now, with a GOG release to come tomorrow. The game hasn't gotten a great deal of hype and most Codexers seem to have avoided the beta, so I have no idea how it will be received. A rare thing in this age of open development and preconceptions. All I know is that the trailer looks great:



Get ready for an adventure in history! Logic Artists, the makers of Expeditions: Conquistador, are pleased to bring you Expeditions: Viking.

Prepare for a grand adventure

As the newly appointed chieftain of a modest Viking clan, you’ll have a village of your very own. But to carve your name into the runestones of history you’ll need great strength, and great wealth to grow your village’s prosperity and renown. There is little left to be gained from the Norse lands and so you must set your sights on the the seas to the West, where tales speak of a great island filled with treasure ready for the taking.

Seek your fortune

Your trusted huscarls will follow you to Valhalla if that be the order of the day, but you’ll need more than loyalty to leave a legacy that will be remembered for a thousand years. Now assemble a worthy band of warriors, build a ship, and seek your wealth and glory across the sea. Britannia awaits in Logic Artists’ Expeditions: Viking.

Main features:
  • Create your very own Viking chieftain! Carve out your character from our unique character system, where stats, skills, and abilities define your character’s role.
  • Raiding or Trading? Vikings were known not only as violent warriors, but savvy tradesfolk. How will you find wealth, with the carrot or the stick?
  • War and Politics: Side with various factions be they Norsemen, Picts, or Angles.
  • Reputation: Be mindful of your choices, the stories of your actions may bring others to fear you, but will they trust you?
  • Step into the pages of history: In a beautiful and visceral telling of the Nordic history.
As stated in last week's press release, Expeditions: Viking's price is $30, with a 10% launch discount until next week. The Blood-Ice DLC mentioned in the press release is an item DLC that appears to be free for everybody, so that's nice. The game has gotten a few reviews, at HookedGamers, GameSpew, God Is A Geek and COGconnected, but seems to be receiving little attention from the larger sites. Let's hope it does alright.

There are 87 comments on Expeditions: Viking Released

Wed 26 April 2017
Pillars of Eternity II Fig Update #31: State of the Project #2

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 26 April 2017, 21:08:29

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

This week's Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire Fig update is a new "State of the Project" development status report. It looks like we might be getting one of these every month.

What Are We Up To?

In development related news, the team is hard at work on another production milestone. Our milestones last for four weeks, and we aim to deliver certain features, areas, dialogue, and system functionality within that time frame. You can see our previous state of the project update in Update #24. Here are some snippets from our internal blog - taken straight from the development team.

Character Art and Animation

All of our godlike races have been completed by the character artists! More importantly, all of our races and genders are now implemented into Pillars II. Our most recent completed race is the Moon Godlike.

Environment Art

Our Lead Artist, Kaz Aruga, is experimenting with color correction passes in Maya to make our scenes feel more vibrant. See the difference below:

Before Maya color correction (Unity screenshot).

After Maya color correction (Unity screenshot).

Programming, and New Cloth Physics!

In Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire we've upgraded to a new cloth solution for capes, robes and other garments using the cloth physics in Unity 5. The improved pipeline lets us add more cloth items to the game, as well as have good cloth simulation across all platforms - including Mac and Linux. Great! Well... it wasn't all great... Game development is never easy, and there's always a problem or an unforeseen issue. And with our new cloth, we soon ran into a problem with it, as we couldn't get it to work on our full-screen paper-doll characters that are shown in our Inventory, Character Creation, and Level-up UI. As we implemented capes, we found that Unity only has one physics "world", and our paper-doll characters exist in a separate scene from the rest of the game - but they share the same world as the rest of the game. When the game world is paused, the cloth sim in paper-doll would be paused as well, completely still and non-animate. We couldn't find a way around it. This was unacceptable of course, and we needed to find a solution. Our solution sounds crazy, but the only choice we had was to write our own cloth simulation for paper-doll. Thankfully, it didn't have to be as efficient or fancy as Unity cloth, as we only show a single character in paper-doll. Our solution uses a simple verlet-physics sim to get a stable physics simulation that was is fast and was easy to implement. The results are shown on a Vithrack character - hopefully you can agree that the simulation looks close-enough. In addition, we are exploring leveraging this system for flails and other dynamic simulations too!

VFX


The VFX team continues their work on abilities and areas for this milestone. Because we have so many unique abilities, the VFX team is spending the majority of this milestone implementing ability effects and getting them to look awesome.

The ability shown below is called Minoletta's Missile Salvo. With this ability, the wizard braces to launch a series of missiles at the target over 4 seconds. The missiles do force damage and cause reflex shockwaves.

Overall

We're continuing forward at a fast pace and getting a lot done, but we still have a lot of functionality to implement over the next few months. The overall structure of Pillars II is starting to take shape. Areas and quests are beginning to flow more smoothly, more quests are implemented every week, and the text from our narrative designers has already immersed us in our journey back to Eora.
Deadfire's Slacker Backer funding period was supposed to end yesterday, but has been extended until Friday. The game has reached $4.69M of funding. A higher funding rate compared to previous weeks, but it's still hard to see it reaching $4.75M in just three days. Maybe it's handier for them to finish at the end of the work week? Whatever the case, if you'd like to contribute to the last ditch effort, head over to the game's Backer Portal.

There are 5 comments on Pillars of Eternity II Fig Update #31: State of the Project #2

Underworld Ascendant Update #35: One More Month

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 26 April 2017, 01:04:26

Tags: Joe Fielder; OtherSide Entertainment; Underworld Ascendant

These no-show Underworld Ascendant monthly updates are getting frustrating, but this latest one is kind of interesting in my opinion. In addition to promising a release date for the vertical slice next month (for reals this time guys), the update goes into some detail about what the team has been up to for the past several weeks. It's clear that they want this to be a polished product.

The last few months have been very productive and it’s clear we’re onto something. There’s much left to do, but we’re making steady progress, and tapping into player-authored gameplay in exciting new ways.

That all feels particularly salient right now, since last month marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of Ultima Underworld’s release — an event which, by some accounts, is regarded as the birth of the “immersive sim.”

Our goal is to create a logical, deeply interactive world where the player is inspired to tap into their creativity and enjoy the magic of experimentation.

Last month, we started out testing the latest build of The Challenge of Ishtass with our System Shock 3 and VR teams. As often happens with initial rounds of testing, it was immediately clear that while we knew how you could have fun in the game, it wasn’t readily apparent to the uninitiated player. Since our goal has been for the player to be able to dive right in and quickly start experimenting and have fun, that was vital for us to nail. That meant readability and player feedback for picking up objects, the nuances of melee and ranged combat, and more.

From there, we did five more rounds of testing (from casual players to the Boston Indie Games Group, from devs at The Molasses Flood to Warren Spector), each time getting a little closer. The team was super focused and made solid progress each day, so we’d iterate, test, review, and repeat.

Over time, it became apparent that spells were where people were having the most fun, but they still weren’t clear exactly on how they worked so they couldn’t get to the more improvisational possibilities using combinations.

We put solving that problem squarely on lead designer Tim (Thief, System Shock) Stellmach’s plate. It was a tough challenge, but within a few days he had the featured spells working clearly and reliably, so players could really start tapping into their creativity.

It was a pretty intense few weeks, but, whew!, it was fun. It’s great working with a team of folks who have such a wealth of experience and can sort difficult issues in short order. There are still many hurdles left for us with Underworld Ascendant, but we came out of our recent milestone with a lot of confidence that the team can tackle any problem that comes our way.

When do you get to play? Next month we’ll be announcing plans for rolling out the build to backers, after we complete another round adding more interactable objects and improvisational elements to the world.

We can’t wait to hear what you think and see what unique, creative solutions you come up with. In the meantime, expect new shots and video soon…​

The update also includes what I think is our first real description of Ascendant's moment-to-moment gameplay, which features Thief-style elemental arrows among other things.

We don’t want to spoil the fun of discovery in The Challenge of Ishtass, but we can tell you that you’ll be presented with a bevy of options for combat, stealth, and magic.

Here are a few:
  • The player can use a LONG SWORD to perform a light quick chop, a slow heavy swing that can damage multiple opponents, and parry to deflect oncoming attacks. All are useful, because while the LIZARD MEN have clear tells for their attacks, they’re tough and engage in group combat.
  • Using a LONG BOW, the player can launch FLINT ARROWS to attack or distract enemies or WATER ARROWS to put out torches. The Lizard Men use STUN ARROWS to momentarily stop the player in his or her tracks, which can be particularly troubling while you’re attempting to engage in swordplay or escape… the MIND CRIPPLER
  • Some of the available skills include HEAVE to pick up and throw heavy objects (which can provide cover for projectiles, interrupt attacks, and damage foes), STEALTH STEP when crouched, STEALTH SIGHT to gauge visibility based off light levels, or MAGIC SIGHT to view magic-recharging streams of mana.
  • One of the more fun featured spells is GRAVITATE, which allows the player to raise objects and assemble them into useful shapes, like a bridge to cross a chasm. (We’ve also seen players manage to weaponize it in a number of interesting ways…)
The Challenge of Ishtass is where we first introduce player choice in the game, where you learn there’s not a “right” selection of skills, ability, and equipment, only “yours.” And that you must then use your wits to apply those selections with opportunities on the battlefield, in order to stack the deck against difficult opponents.​

In addition to the vertical slice announcement, OtherSide are also promising to release the developer blog and developer roundtable backer rewards next month. Maybe things really are finally coming together now.

There are 8 comments on Underworld Ascendant Update #35: One More Month


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Mon 24 April 2017
Underrail Dev Log #52: Jet Skis!

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Mon 24 April 2017, 21:42:01

Tags: Stygian Software; Underrail; Underrail: Expedition

The latest Underrail development update reveals an unexpected new feature added in the upcoming Expedition expansion - rideable, customizable jet skis:

[​IMG]

Hi guys. We're all but done with the biggest feature of the expansion and that's the player's ability to ride jet skis.​

Since the expansion takes place on Black Sea, naturally you will need a way to travel between all the small islands, bays and between far shores. You will be able to do this on a dozen of different jet skis, ranging from super light racing jet skis to mini-destroyers, which you can further customize under the hood by installing better engines, batteries and suspension systems. The models themselves differ way by the combat cover, durability, stability, speed, damage resistances, as well number of and maximum size of a parts you can install into them; some vehicles can have multiple engines and/or batteries. Also, some jet skis will have special attacks or abilities.

Once you get to the Black Sea it won't take long for you to get a hold of the most basic "junk jet", but to get the quality stuff, both in terms of the jet ski model and the parts, you'll have to spend a fair amount of charons at a specialized shop in Core City. You'll also have to decide what are the most important characteristics of jet ski for you, as no one model will be best at everything.

While riding a jet ski you'll be able to use most of your weapons, abilites and utilities. The most notable exceptions are sledgehammers and sniper rifles, which are not available while driving. Also, short range melee weapons (fist weapons and knives) and unarmed attacks, though still performable, will suffer significant penalties. When an attack is aimed at you, it has a chance of hitting the jet ski instead (or in case of AoE attacks, a percentage of the damage hits the vehicle), depending on the cover it provides, in which case the damage is tested against its resistences and the amount that penetrates those is deducted from the vehicle's durability. If the durability reaches zero, the vehicle is destroyed and you die (you never learned to swim).

That's it for now, guys. Let us know how all this sounds and I hope you're looking forward to some naval battles with pirates and worse things.
So cool. I can't remember the last time I got to ride any sort of vehicle or mount in an isometric RPG outside the world map. Let's hope it catches on.

There are 64 comments on Underrail Dev Log #52: Jet Skis!

Copper Dreams Kickstarter Update #14: Dialogue System, New UI

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Mon 24 April 2017, 21:08:23

Tags: Copper Dreams; Whalenought Studios

Joe and Hannah have come through and published a new Copper Dreams Kickstarter update less than two weeks after the previous one. As promised, the topic of the update is the game's dialogue, which will feature an extensive NPC disposition system that determines what they're willing to tell you. Tim Cain would approve! Here's an excerpt:

Disposition

NPCs react to you in 1 of 3 ways, or what we call Disposition levels (DL), ranging from giving you no tags to ask about (Closed), some (Wary), or all they have (Open). DL table is pretty simple:

Closed: no tags to ask about
  • DL 1 - 8
Wary: a select amount of tags from their total
  • DL 9 - 16
Open: all available tags and situational check tags
  • DL 17 - 24
DL is a combination of NPC and PC personality modifiers, so both player characters and NPCs can dislike or like each other automatically. Which is to say if you make or find an unsavory character, they will be the ones lowering DL when talking to NPCs. Adversely if an NPC has poor social modifiers or background advantages/disadvantages they’ll be influencing the poor DL. So in this way the player is always trying to mitigate a low DL regardless of the one causing it, as they’re the ones trying to get information.

Modifiers for Disposition Level:
  • +/- Advantages
  • +/- Disadvantages
  • Character Sex
  • Character Ethnicity Group (in our alternative world just East-Asian or Mix)
  • Logic similarities
Creating the DL is sort of Superficial: the game! Importantly, it allows us to have pre set ‘randomized’ NPCs in the game that the player can always understand how to react to with the rules in place.

Disposition Example

So for a simple conversation example the player tries talking to a non-hostile thug stationed near a dilapidated building.

A Closed DL would have the thug tell the player to shove off.

A Wary DL would present a piece of dialogue with limited tags, like [building] and [gang] to then be able to ask about.

An Open DL would give the player full access to the NPC tags, like [building], [gang], [trouble] and [missing], maybe allowing him to give the player warning that there is another gang nearby who is planning another raid on the area, and a few of the other guards went missing after patrolling through the building nearby. An easy cue for the player to venture into the dilapidated building with a little bit more caution.

In this situation, to give the player a voice, you could explore the building and head back to the thug, showing him a CiWar dog-tag of a gang member found in it to initiate the idea that you checked it out.

From outside combat you can use the same ‘SHOW’ action for an item to anyone to initiate dialogue about the item if they know anything about it or will react to it. For instance inconspicuously navigating a hostile base under cover and showing fake identification to every guard you see for good measure. You can also initiate a conversation with any of the other rolls we talk bout below, or new ones you can train for.
Also in the update is a look at the game's new main UI, which now allows you to control all characters without having to switch between tabbed interfaces. It was supposed to include some combat as well, but that's been postponed until the next update. Hopefully it'll come out as quickly as this one did.

There are 22 comments on Copper Dreams Kickstarter Update #14: Dialogue System, New UI

JRPG-inspired tactical RPG Bevontule now on Steam Greenlight

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Mon 24 April 2017, 19:16:13

Tags: Bevontule; Multithreaded Games

Last year we posted about Bevontule, an indie turn-based roleplaying game inspired by Japanese tactical RPGs, although it didn't look particularly Japanese other than the user interface. Since then, development has continued and now the developers, who have renamed themselves from Liminal LLC to Multithreaded Games, are looking to make it through Steam Greenlight. Here's the trailer they put together for their very detailed Greenlight page:



Bevontule is a modern take on the role-playing genre, inspired heavily by Japanese, open-world and tactical RPGs. While we draw from and are happy to list our many 'golden age'-era influences, Bevontule maintains a strong identity, presenting an array of unique gameplay elements that expand upon and innovate beyond many of the systems we ourselves loved as children.

KEY FEATURES:
  • Mature and highly-detailed plot spanning thousands of years, inspired by games like Xenogears and Shadow Hearts.
  • Unique and challenging tactical, turn-based combat system where proper positioning and timing are critical.
  • Beautiful 3D environments to discover, explore and conquer, including a massive, JRPG-style overworld.
  • Free-roaming enemies with a wide variety of movement patterns, behaviors and habitats; avoid or engage at your own discretion!
  • Unrelenting and highly-intelligent enemy AI that can be scaled to various difficulty levels.
  • A large cast of interesting characters with defined roles, yet deeply customizable skillsets, with multiple builds for each combatant.
  • Enemies learn and level up as you do, accessing new skills, tactics and other ‘enhancements.’
  • Unlock, learn and equip from hundreds of combat skills, attribute bonuses, and world-based buffs.
  • Scavenge, create and upgrade items with our original skill-based crafting system.
  • Integrated bestiary system that rewards discovery, experimentation and exploitation of enemies for rewards.
  • Loads of side-quests, optional bosses/areas, and minigames!
Bevontule was supposed to come out this year at one point, but now the Greenlight page says the release date is Q4 2018, while the official website speaks of an episodic release with the first part due for release sometime in 2018. I guess Multithreaded found out like so many others that developing in Unity wasn't quite as simple as they thought. Anyway, you can give them a hand by giving them your vote.

There are 17 comments on JRPG-inspired tactical RPG Bevontule now on Steam Greenlight

Sat 22 April 2017
Tim Cain at Reboot Develop 2017 - Building a Better RPG: Seven Mistakes to Avoid

Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Sat 22 April 2017, 14:11:32

Tags: Arcanum: of Steamworks and Magick Obscura; Fallout; Obsidian Entertainment; Temple of Elemental Evil; Tim Cain

Chris Avellone and Tim Cain are in Croatia this weekend for the annual Reboot Develop conference, which has apparently become a popular game developer getaway. Unlike last year's conference, this year some of the events are being streamed live on Twitch. The two panels that Chris and Tim participated on Thursday and yesterday, which were about Fallout and worldbuilding respectively, were not livestreamed. But Tim's talk today, which was titled "Building a Better RPG: Seven Mistakes to Avoid", was.


Tim begins the talk with a short overview of his career, leading up to his current mystery project at Obsidian, which he says is a new IP which Fallout fans will enjoy, and which has a lot of "Fallout and Arcanum style and humor". And that sets the tone for the rest of the talk, which in my opinion isn't so much about particular RPG development mistakes as it is a treatise about various aspects of RPG design. It's likely that many of these design philosophies will find their way into Tim's game, so I'll go over them in detail:
  • Mistake #1 - Steep Learning Curves: Tim thinks character creation in Fallout, Arcanum and other RPGs was too complex. He's experimenting with creating a completely numberless character system that uses geometric shapes to visualize attributes.
  • Mistake #2 - Letting Math Trump Psychology: Revealing the influence of the years he spent developing Wildstar, Tim wants to develop mechanics that are psychologically satisfying and addictive, even at the expense of mathematical elegance. For example, he says the player's first attack against an enemy should always hit even if his overall hit percentage is the same regardless, and that rather than allow players to increase their critical hit chance, they should only be allowed to increase their critical hit damage.
  • Mistake #3 - Conflating Player Skill With Character Skill: This one will be familiar if you've watched some of Josh Sawyer's talks. Aiming and hitting in an action-RPG should not be determined by character stats. On the other hand, things like the impact of recoil can be affected by stats, as well as the aforementioned critical hit damage.
  • Mistake #4 - Misunderstanding Randomness: Here Tim lays out his frustration with the sorts of people who can't believe they could miss a 95% chance-to-hit attack three times in a row. His conclusion is that when people talk about "randomness", they often mean selecting a token rather than rolling a dice (ie, events can't repeat themselves).
  • Mistake #5 - Forcing Linearity: This one is pretty self-explanatory. Tim says games are not movies, using Fallout's Tandi rescue scenario with its multiple solutions as an example of the sort of non-linearity he prizes.
  • Mistake #6 - Being Non-Reactive: Tim seems particularly interested in the sort of reactivity where characters in the world have different dispositions based on your character's background, clothing and attributes, as seen in Arcanum. He also loves having different end slides based on the player's choices in the game, using Temple of Elemental Evil's evil ending as an example.
  • Mistake #7 - Telling Horrible Stories: Tim uses this to emphasize again that games are not movies. Not every character in a game has to be important or advance the plot. Tropes likes the Chosen One protagonist and amnesiac protagonist are tiresome and should be discarded.
The talk concludes with a Q&A session, where Tim reveals a bit about how publisher meddling caused a large portion of Temple of Elemental Evil (and in particular its second town, Nulb) to be cut. He also expresses his approval of not granting experience points for combat to make alternate playstyles more attractive, as seen in Pillars of Eternity. In summary, I think it's clear that Tim and Leonard's game will very much be a streamlined, "newschool" sort of RPG. Those who want a more classical experience from Obsidian will have to look towards Pillars of Eternity II.

There are 784 comments on Tim Cain at Reboot Develop 2017 - Building a Better RPG: Seven Mistakes to Avoid

Soviet Fallout homage ATOM RPG now on Kickstarter

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sat 22 April 2017, 02:02:55

Tags: ATOM RPG; ATOM Team

ATOM RPG is a Fallout-inspired RPG from Eastern Europe, the latest in the genre often derisively termed "Russian shovelware Fallout clones". This one seems more high quality than most, though. The developers, who call themselves the ATOM Team, are apparently all experienced game development professionals, and their friendly representative on our forum, Atomboy, has made a good impression. The game was actually greenlit on Steam last year and it already has a Steam page. It's even got an exact release date - February 16, 2018 - and there's a free demo, too. So this is a game that's probably coming out no matter what. Nevertheless, the Atom Team have decided to seek out additional funding on Kickstarter. Here's their pitch video and overview:



The deterioration in relations between Eastern and Western blocs in the 1979 has led to a full-blown Armageddon between nuclear powers in the year 1986. The War was swift, devastating and brutal… The fact that humanity persevered was miraculous.

Nineteen years have passed and it’s 2005. Both once great Empires and their allies now lie in ruins, but on top of those ruins new civilizations are slowly emerging...

This story takes place on a small patch of land in the south part of the USSR where you take the role of an undercover operative from a secret bunker society called ATOM... Your mission is to find any traces of an expedition that recently stopped contacting the main base...

Game features
  • Nonlinearity: ATOM is an open world role-playing game! You are not going through a corridor, you are investigating a mystery. And this could be achieved in numerous ways. There are no artificial boundaries in the world of ATOM. Oh, and there are no "essential characters" in the game. So everybody is a "fair game" ;)
  • Characters: There will be more than 300 characters in the game. ALL of them with their unique personalities, portraits and dialogues!
  • Encounters and Quests: There are numerous side missions, hidden adventure-like puzzles and secrets scattered around the Wastes. Even the smallest tasks can lead to a big and intricate side story, open some details about the world or somehow interconnect with the main quest! And of course, like in every self-respecting RPG there's always more than one way of dealing with them.
  • Combat: A turn-based combat system isn't just a nod to the legendary generation of CRPGs. For us, it's also an aesthetic choice. What's the point of combat, when you can't enjoy your every thought-through move, your every step, shot or punch? What's the point of victory, when it wasn't precisely planned in a cunning strategic move?
  • Weapons and Items: There will be more than 30 available weapons in the full version of the game. Soviet weaponry, makeshift shivs and guns as well as some secret weapons from the Western bloc the existence of which in the game world will be neatly tied to the lore!
  • Soundtrack: The soundtrack is heavily inspired by Eduard Artemyev and other Soviet era electronic composers, ranging from ambient to synth-wave!
Looks a lot like Wasteland 2, doesn't it? If you'd like to chip in, a copy of ATOM RPG will cost you just $15. It's got 42 more days to reach its humble funding goal of $15,000. That seems doable.

There are 36 comments on Soviet Fallout homage ATOM RPG now on Kickstarter

Fri 21 April 2017
Expeditions: Viking goes gold, gets price tag and teaser trailer

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 21 April 2017, 01:42:05

Tags: Ali Emek; Expeditions: Conquistador; Expeditions: Viking; Jonas Wæver; Logic Artists

Hey, what do you know. Time has flown by, and suddenly Expeditions: Viking is coming out next week. The Logic Artists have published a press release announcing that the game has gone gold (whatever that means these days) and that its price on release will be $30, with a $35 Deluxe Edition. The announcement also includes a (very) short teaser trailer. Since I love all trailers, I'll post the entire thing here:



COPENHAGEN, Denmark (April 20, 2017) — Logic Artists is pleased to confirm that its much-anticipated release of Expeditions: Viking is on schedule for April 27, 2017. The studio announced this morning that the Gold Version milestone has been reached.

To celebrate, Logic Artists is running a Free Weekend on Steam for its first title in the Expeditions Series – Expeditions: Conquistador. April 21st, 10am PDT.

With the game now out in the hands of the media for review access, the path is set and Expeditions: Viking will be available for purchase in stores and online next week.

Logic Artists Producer Ali Emek says, “After two years of development, we are on track toward our studio’s best release so far. Expeditions: Viking is now feature complete and we’ll be spending the last month of development tightening the screws and polishing the release build, improving on our performance capabilities, and (with the assistance of a large community of closed beta testers) squashing the remaining bugs.”

Creative Director Jonas Waever adds, “It’s been a real journey, and with the positive feedback from our recent trip to PAX East and from our closed beta, we’re excited to get Expeditions: Viking into our players’ hands. And to celebrate the coming release of our second game in the Expeditions Series we’re giving players a free weekend with Expeditions: Conquistador to get ready for Viking.”

Expeditions: Viking releases April 27, 2017 and will cost 29.99 USD/29.99 EUR/24.99 GBP/499 RUB

The Deluxe Edition includes a digital artbook, the original soundtrack by award-winning composer Knut Avenstroup Haugen (Age of Conan, Lords of the Fallen), and the Blood-Ice DLC. The Deluxe Edition will cost 34.99 USD/34.99 EUR/28.99 GBP/650 RUB​

Blood-Ice DLC, eh? I wonder what that's about.

There are 97 comments on Expeditions: Viking goes gold, gets price tag and teaser trailer

Thu 20 April 2017
Pillars of Eternity II Fig Update #30: Creating Environments

Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Thu 20 April 2017, 01:24:03

Tags: Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire

This week's Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire Fig update offers a behind-the-scenes look at Obsidian's environment creation pipeline, using the map of the Vailian Trading Company headquarters as an example. It's the kind of update we've seen many times before in previous crowdfunding campaigns, but it has been a slow news day and there's a part of it that's kind of amusing. Carpets are the new cobblestones (click to zoom in):

The first pass render of scenes is sent to our Art Director and Lead Designer for review. They look over the master beauty render and make notes for both VFX and the environment artist to address in the second art pass.

[​IMG]

When notes are finished, the environment artist begins work on a second pass of the scene.

[​IMG]
Deadfire is now in the final week of its extended crowdfunding period, with $4.66M of funding. Still nearly $90,000 from the next stretch goal. Maybe they could add it anyway?

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Sat 15 April 2017
Grimrock devs reform as Ctrl Alt Ninja to create Druidstone, a procedurally generated turn-based RPG

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sat 15 April 2017, 01:33:21

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

It's been two and a half years since the release of the excellent Legend of Grimrock 2 by Finnish indie studio Almost Human. It's widely assumed that Grimrock 2 sold poorly compared to its predecessor, but we've known for a while now that it was at least successful enough to allow Almost Human to spend some time creating a new engine for their next project. Of course, that suggested that said project would not be Legend of Grimrock 3, and indeed it turns out that their new game is as far from Grimrock as you can get. In fact, it's not even being developed by the same studio. For unknown reasons, key developers from Almost Human have reformed under the banner of Ctrl Alt Ninja to develop Druidstone: The Secret of the Menhir Forest, a top-down, turn-based, single-character, story-driven and procedurally generated fantasy RPG. I'll quote the introduction post from the game's official website:

Introducing Druidstone

Welcome to the Druidstone dev blog! This blog is about the development of a fantasy roleplaying game called “Druidstone: The Secret of the Menhir Forest” which we have been working on since fall 2016.

In the world of Druidstone, the druids of the Menhir Forest possess a great power: the power of reincarnation. When a druid passes on, through some mysterious process his spirit is able to return from the great void back into the world of living and to his former self.

But with every reincarnation the world itself seems to change: where there was only a thicket of bushes in the forest before, there may be a trail or a shrine of stones now. The ancient ruins in the forest change place and the tunnels and their inhabitants beneath the ground are all different. Even stranger, the denizens of the forest do not seem to notice this at all.

Druidstone is set in a vast procedurally generated forest filled with exciting locations to explore and of course encounters, the meat of every RPG. You will meet interesting non-player characters such as the insane Red Priests who worship a being called Oghmu and the mysterious Traveller. You fight deadly bosses and explore ruins and dungeons in an open-world single-player game. Some of the encounters are friendly but many can lead into conflicts which are resolved using a tactical, turn-based battle system on a two-dimensional grid. The game features roguelike elements, so that when you die the game begins anew with different levels and encounters. Some of the encounters even react to you being reincarnated, so even by dying you can gain deeper understanding to the mysteries of the Menhir Forest.

Even though there are random elements in the game, at the heart of Druidstone is an overarching storyline and key encounters which give structure to the game and avoid it being just a gauntlet with random monsters to kill. In fact, we can’t wait to tell you the epic story we have in our mind! In addition, there are the stories you create as you explore the almost infinite space of procedurally generated content.

In the beginning there is an idea

Who were the druids? Did they build the Stonehenge, and why? These were the questions we asked ourselves when we started the design process for this game. After researching the subject we realized that even today relatively little is known about the druids. Apparently they were (are?) a group of mysterious men and women who had a special relationship with the nature and performed rituals at the sites of standing stones. Who knows, maybe they even possessed some magical powers?

This idea really stuck in our minds and began to evolve. We started seeing glimpses of the imaginary world of Druidstone, a world of ancient forests, massive standing stones, mist-clad shrines, and of a darkness that was coming. And of course of the druids, caretakers of the ancient stone spirits of the forest. The world began feeling more than imaginary to us… And thus the world of Druidstone and also the idea for this game was born.

In Druidstone you are one of the druids and you have just been reincarnated in front of the stone pillar with its pulsating runes. Who are you? How did you die? Your mind is foggy. The rustling of the leaves and the wind carries ominous whispers. The darkness is coming…

The game will be released on Windows but the release date has not been set yet. But that is getting ahead of ourselves. The road is long and there is so much to do and so many ideas to explore. Better get hammering that keyboard!

P.S. You can also follow the development of the game on Facebook and Twitter.
I imagine many people will be disappointed by this, but let's see how it turns out. Although there's no release date, the game is at an advanced enough stage of development that there are already several screenshots.

There are 73 comments on Grimrock devs reform as Ctrl Alt Ninja to create Druidstone, a procedurally generated turn-based RPG

Thu 13 April 2017
RPG Codex Report: A Codexian Visit to inXile Entertainment

Editorial - posted by Infinitron on Thu 13 April 2017, 00:18:30

Tags: Bard's Tale IV; Brian Fargo; Colin McComb; David Rogers; George Ziets; InXile Entertainment; Torment: Tides of Numenera; Wasteland 3

It's been a month and a half since the release of Torment: Tides of Numenera, and it's quite clear by now that the game has not been a success. It may not be a coincidence that shortly after its release, we received an entreaty from inXile PR representative Jim Redner. In what seemed like a direct response to my rueful Torment release newspost, Jim told us he was seeking to make peace with the Codex, and that he was willing to hear our demands. Our initial proposal was a humble one - a reveal-all AMA with George Ziets, probably the only person at inXile who still has our community's trust. To that Jim responded with a counter-proposal - an in-person visit to inXile, to be followed by an AMA with several of Torment's developers. That was an opportunity we couldn't pass up, and so a couple of weeks ago we dispatched our secret agent in Southern California to inXile's headquarters in Newport Beach. Today, I'm happy to present the report of his visit to Brian Fargo's court. Here are a few tidbits from his hard-hitting interview:

Kevin Saunders left before the end of production. Can you talk about why he left and how his departure affected production?

Brian: I can’t talk about an employee’s specific performance, but what I can do is to provide you with a factual history of things. Kevin left the project in late 2015, right? At that point, we were roughly two years into production. At that point, we’ve gotten the first pass of combat. The story was not yet at first pass. No abilities or weapons were in outside of the alpha systems. And so, at that time, if we had gone along that route, the game would not be done until the year 2018. I could not afford to stay on that path. I had to change what we were doing.

And, to talk about scope, the product was wildly over scoped. Even today, after we made the “cuts,” the original specification for the game was 600,000 words. You know how many we are at now? It’s 1.6 million words, probably a world record for a single player game. I think the only games that have more word count is MMOs done over a long period of time.

George: When recording, the guys who were doing the recording were saying, this is like one of those big MMOs, and they were shocked that it was a single player game.

Brian: After cuts, it ends up being several times what we wanted it to be. Planescape: Torment, the number that was thrown around a lot was 750,000 words. But when you talk to Avellone, he would say we actually double counted some sentences, so it might not even be that high. I think the Bible is like 700,000 words so that seems plenty of words to do a narrative piece, something that is as big as the Bible.

So basically, after two years in, I had to change plans. So those are the facts. I’m not trying to disparage Kevin, I don’t want to talk negatively about him in any way, but I can at least speak to the facts behind what was going on at that point.

We should talk about the writing, since this is a big focus for the game. Why was the game so wordy to begin with? This seems to have become a trend with Kickstarter CRPGs. Is it really necessary to force the player to read a novel? For example, why were the Meres designed as choose your own adventure stories, as opposed to isometric scenarios?

Colin: As I recall, I was sitting in a meeting with Adam and a couple of other people, and we thought, wouldn't it be cool to quickly throw out a choose your own adventure story as one particular Mere? I mentioned that to Kevin, and Kevin said "what if we did that for all of them?" That would free up our artists for other stuff as well, so we thought it was a cool idea.

Brian: I wouldn't say we decided to be so wordy but that it became so wordy because they were trying to express all the subtlety and so on.

George: Part of it was due to the excitement of reproducing the Planescape: Torment experience, where there is a lot of wordiness. I remember early on, even on the Codex, I remember there being a lot of excitement: "walls of text! walls of text! we want walls of text!"

Turns out the Codex didn't want walls of text.


Brian: There appears to be a lesson here.

George: We felt there was excitement about that, and we did want to pay off on a strong, dialogue writing and text based experience, and making really imaginative characters, and having characters with a lot of different things to say that you could explore. But also making sure that all this was optional, and for the most part it is.

We should talk about sales. Everyone can look them up for Steam. It's currently sitting around 120,000. Can you tell us how many copies were sold from other distribution sources?

Brian:
Negligible.

Were these sales expected?

Brian:
No, I'm disappointed.​

Read the full article: RPG Codex Report: A Codexian Visit to inXile Entertainment

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Wed 12 April 2017
Pillars of Eternity II Fig Update #29: Factions of the Deadfire, Part II

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 12 April 2017, 17:07:13

Tags: Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire

For this week's Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire Fig update, Obsidian have published the second part of their primer on the game's four factions. This part introduces Rauatai's Royal Deadfire Company and the mercantile Vailian Trading Company, the two colonial forces vying for power and influence in the Deadfire Archipelago. As one of our users pointed out, it's a setup that seems broadly analogous to real life Chinese and Dutch expansion in Southeast Asia.

Royal Deadfire Company

(Abbreviated as RDC in some text locations)

The Royal Deadfire Company is based in the aumaua nation of Rauatai but have expanded their empire's reach to their ancestral homeland in the Deadfire Archipelago. While they are interested in the harvest of precious resources from the region, the RDC have a long-term goal of conquering the archipelago and making it an extension of their empire. The Rauataians believe that the native Huana culture is inferior to their own and treat the Huana people accordingly. In contrast to the Vailian Trading Company, the RDC is organized like a naval force. Their titles and behavior reflect that view of the world.

Philosophy and Goals - Rauataians as a cultural group have a long history of trade and conquest. The more hawkish personalities in their government have made steady progress towards a more aggressive "best defense is a good offense" stance in the world, and the leadership of the RDC comes from that mindset. They have flourished through a mixture of intrepid exploration, aggressive conquest, and relentless engineering of their hardscrabble homeland. They believe that through organization and engineering, they can bring civilization to Deadfire.

Relationship with Other Factions -
  • Vailians/VTC - They are deceitful, flamboyant, and frivolous, emphasizing form over function. Their pretty words cannot be trusted. Their preference for polymaths over specialists suggests impatience, which can never lead to true mastery.
  • Huana - They are super disorganized and (seemingly) passive - it's why they haven't flourished like the Rauataians. They were fractured by the disaster that drove the Rauataians away, and rather than establish a strong nation, most of them drift from island to island chasing seasonal resources. They don't solve problems, so they're beholden to them. What they need is some good ol' Rauataian civilization to set them straight.
  • What looks like adaptability to the Príncipi looks like haphazardness to the Rauataians. Like the Rauataians, the Príncipi had to leave their homeland. But rather than establishing a stable country (like their cousins in the Republics), they remained shiftless and aimless, living on ships and in driftwood towns that are one squall away from destruction. They are like children who refuse to grow up.
Resources - Rauatai is known worldwide for its cannons. Gunpowder likely originated there, and they still trade in it as well as raw saltpeter. Those latter two items are the primary staples of their trade economy.

Vailian Trading Company

(Abbreviated as VTC in some text locations)

The Vailian Trading Company is the largest with a ducal charter and the only trading company with a canc suolias (five suns) charter, meaning it has the full backing of all five Grand Ducs of the Vailian Republics. The VTC was first featured in Pillars of Eternity during the quest 'At All Costs' in Ondra's Gift.

Philosophy and Goals - The Vailian Trading Company exists, according to its charter, for the sole purpose of enriching its investors, and, by proxy, the Vailian Republics themselves. Beneath that, however, runs a strong undercurrent of cultural pride. The directors of the company are motivated by the belief that the Vailians are the best traders in the world, and must always continue to be. While the Vailian Trading Company is generally considered reputable among the major foreign powers it trades with, on the frontier, far from the prying eyes of overseers, those standards quickly degrade.

Relationship with Other Factions -
  • The VTC is at peace with the Huana, but see the Huana as little more than a means to get what they want from Deadfire. They do not think anything of the Huana's claims to the land there, and believe it is only a matter of time before they are able to wrest it away with their charms and wiles.
  • Hostilities with the Royal Deadfire Company are ongoing. A bargain struck with the Kahanga prohibits conflict between the two in Deadfire, and within the borders of Neketaka, there exists an uneasy truce. (Though the two make every effort at espionage, sabotage, spite, and one-upmanship.) Elsewhere in Deadfire, the agreement is all but impossible to regulate, and fighting occurs readily when the two companies have the opportunity.
  • The Príncipi are a perpetual thorn in the side of the Vailians. They have a personal grudge of sorts against the Republics, and relish targeting VTC ships, seeking not only personal enrichment, but to do great damage to VTC operations.
Resources - The Vailian Trading Company is known for its versatility, having made a name for itself by securing deals on a broad range of goods. The Vailians feel that if there is money to be made on anything, large or small, they want to be the ones to be making it. The Republics themselves are sources of iron, copper, silver, glassworks, ships, spices, clocks, and astronomical equipment.​

As for the weekly funding update, Deadfire currently has $4.65M with two weeks left until the extended crowdfunding period ends. That's only $10,000 more than last week. They're probably not going to make it.

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Copper Dreams Kickstarter Update #13: Simulationist Dreams

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 12 April 2017, 16:36:11

Tags: Copper Dreams; Whalenought Studios

Joe and Hannah of Whalenought have at long last published a new Copper Dreams Kickstarter update, the first in almost six months. Like the previous update, it's a massive development report summarizing those months of work, and it reveals a game that has changed a great deal from the fairly conventional pixel art RPG we Kickstarted last year. With features such as a background point pool with advantages and disadvantages, realistic line of sight and hearing range calculation, and a variety of wounds that inflict specific status effects, Copper Dreams has embraced a GURPS-inspired simulationist vision the likes of which I don't think we've ever seen in a game of this type. This change of approach is most clearly visualized in the game's combat system, which now allows you to aim and attack anywhere.



We finished off combat iterations the past few months by enhancing the way players target and roll-to-hit with it, which ultimately led to an overhaul of the ruleset. You can now aim anywhere and roll under your skill with the item to determine how successful you were to getting to your target. All item or skill usages use that model now. Allowing you to aim for things in the environment that we don't outright tell you can make for more interesting puzzles or interactivity. Lights for example can all be shot out now.

With a 3d world, thrown objects that bounce around, it seemed fitting to give the player some agency on where they are actually shooting. You no longer only attack targets, but can also attack anywhere you want, including where you expect targets to be as they are moving. If you do attack targets you can select which body part you’d like to try to shoot, and you’d track that body part until you fire or it’s no longer visible. Aiming for anything allows you to lead targets on the move or temporarily unseen (and thus unable to be targeted), or precise location to lay down cover fire for more than one target that might end up down the middle of a hallway or something.

Distance modifiers are no longer just static distance markers as with the original Challenge Target, but influenced by reference points around the projected line starting with nearest to the character attacking. This is all in-code in the game, but that sight-line checks for any nearby objects starting at the character and moves down to the actual target. So the idea for this is if you you have a reference for a target really far away, you can get visual bearings by aligning your shot with any nearby objects. For example aiming a burst fire into a clearing near the side of a building you hear an enemy running into would have that building act as the distance check, not the potentially infinite space behind it.

The crosshair for melee path for slash/thrust or your projectile line is your ideal hit location, and you roll to attempt to hit that location, regardless of or if you have a target in mind. Success means you hit that target precisely (in 3d space), and failure means you deviate it from a variable amount, so it’s considered a potential failure in most cases.
Whalenought now describe Copper Dreams as a "Cyberpunk Horror Roleplaying Campaign", but what exactly that means isn't clear from this update. It may be clarified soon however, as they've promised to publish weekly updates from now until the game's alpha is released, which is planned for next month. The next update will focus on dialogue and storytelling, and will also include another look at combat.

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Planescape: Torment: Enhanced Edition Released

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 12 April 2017, 00:26:15

Tags: Beamdog; Planescape: Torment: Enhanced Edition

With little fanfare since its announcement other than a couple of Twitch streams, Beamdog's Planescape: Torment: Enhanced Edition has been released. For the Codex, what began as an outrage soon turned into boredom as it became clear that the game was pretty much a straight rerelease. With no new content and all new features toggleable, there's nothing truly offensive about it, except perhaps its $20 price tag. It's up to every person to decide what they're willing to pay for a game they already have. For me, that'll be when it's 75% off. I don't have much else to add, so here's Beamdog's release announcement:

The day is finally here! The Beamdog team is proud to release Planescape: Torment: Enhanced Edition.

The journey from PS:T to PST:EE has been an interesting one. From acquiring the license, to deciphering the source code, and working through the unique solutions put in place by the original team, the journey has been filled with valuable lessons, some of which we may bring to our other Infinity Engine Enhanced Edition titles.

We’d like to thank the original Black Isle team for bringing Planescape: Torment into this world. We’re all fans of the original and having the chance to bring games like this to both a new generation of players and back to fans who were there at the beginning is why many of us are here at Beamdog. A special thanks goes out to original Black Isle team members Eric Campanella, Kenneth Lee, and Tim Donley for taking the time to answer questions and point us in the right direction.

Everyone at Wizards of the Coast have been amazing throughout the development and release of Planescape: Torment: Enhanced Edition. They're as excited as we are to see more Dungeons & Dragons fans experience Sigil and the phenomenal Planescape setting for the first time or revisit to the planes to relive one of the greatest stories ever told.

Chris Avellone, as always, has been a joy to work with. Chris, you’re a master of your craft and we cannot thank you enough for the opportunity to bring one of your best works from 1999 to 2017. We loved your work as Lead Designer on PS:T and to have you reprise that role on Planescape: Torment: Enhanced Edition has helped us stay true to the spirit of the original game.

To Qwinn for giving us permission to incorporate your work into Planescape: Torment: Enhanced Edition, you are a pathfinder. We’re excited to see what you and other modders do with PST:EE and all of our other Infinity Engine titles.

To the Beamdog community, we hope you love Planescape: Torment: Enhanced Edition as much as we do. Have fun! Oh, and if you see someone with a PST:EE Beta Tester badge on the forums, give them a high five! They’ve put an incredible amount of work in and their names in the credits are well-deserved.

We would also like to thank our family and friends, all of whom have supported us through this incredible experience. You help us stay grounded and push us to be better. Our success is yours.

Planescape: Torment: Enhanced Edition is available now on Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, and Android. Head over to www.planescape.com today to purchase your copy from Beamdog, Steam, GoG, Mac App Store, iOS App Store, and Google Play.

See you on the planes, cutters.
What next for Beamdog, I wonder? The original Planescape: Torment is no longer available for purchase on GOG (although it is included with the Enhanced Edition as an extra). That leaves Icewind Dale 2 as the last survivor of the original Infinity Engine releases. But enhancing IWD2 seems like it would be a lot of work for little payoff, so I suspect it may remain the odd man out for years to come.

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Fri 7 April 2017
The Digital Antiquarian on Ultima VI

Editorial - posted by Infinitron on Fri 7 April 2017, 19:41:31

Tags: Origin Systems; Richard Garriott; The Digital Antiquarian; Ultima VI: The False Prophet; Warren Spector

The Digital Antiquarian continues his foray into the RPGs of the early 1990s. The topic of this week's article is Origin's Ultima VI: The False Prophet. Ultima VI was a revolutionary game in many ways, abandoning the venerable Apple II in favor of the IBM PC as primary development platform and switching from the classic dual-scaled tile-based style of the earlier Ultimas to the seamless world that would go on to inspire titles such as the Elder Scrolls series. It was also the game that introduced Warren Spector to the computer gaming world. He would play an important role in shaping the game's story and go on to lead the development on several Ultima spinoff titles before becoming firmly associated with the first person immersive sim genre later in the decade. Ultima VI was an important game then, but like many revolutionary games, rough around the edges. The Antiquarian concludes that it was a "transitional work", a conclusion that I fully agree with:

Ultima VI shipped on time in March of 1990, two years almost to the day after Ultima V, and Richard Garriott’s fears (and stomach cramps) were soon put to rest; it became yet another 200,000-plus-selling hit. Reviews were uniformly favorable if not always ecstatic; it would take Ultima fans, traditionalists that so many of them were, a while to come to terms with the radically overhauled interface that made this Ultima look so different from the Ultimas of yore. Not helping things were the welter of bugs, some of them of the potentially showstopping variety, that the game shipped with (in years to come Origin would become almost as famous for their bugs as for their ambitious virtual world-building). In time, most if not all old-school Ultima fans were comforted as they settled in and realized that at bottom you tackled this one pretty much like all the others, trekking around Britannia talking to people and writing down the clues they revealed until you put together all the pieces of the puzzle. Meanwhile Origin gradually fixed the worst of the bugs through a series of patch disks which they shipped to retailers to pass on to their customers, or to said customers directly if they asked for them. Still, both processes did take some time, and the reaction to this latest Ultima was undeniably a bit muted — a bit conflicted, one might even say — in comparison to the last few games. It perhaps wasn’t quite clear yet where or if the Ultima series fit on these newer computers in this new decade.

Both the muted critical reaction and that sense of uncertainty surrounding the game have to some extent persisted to this day. Firmly ensconced though it apparently is in the middle of the classic run of Ultimas, from Ultima IV through Ultima VII, that form the bedrock of the series’s legacy, Ultima VI is the least cherished of that cherished group today, the least likely to be named as the favorite of any random fan. It lacks the pithy justification for its existence that all of the others can boast. Ultima IV was the great leap forward, the game that dared to posit that a CRPG could be about more than leveling up and collecting loot. Ultima V was the necessary response to its predecessor’s unfettered idealism; the two games together can be seen to form a dialog on ethics in the public and private spheres. And, later, Ultima VII would be the pinnacle of the series in terms not only of technology but also, and even more importantly, in terms of narrative and thematic sophistication. But where does Ultima VI stand in this group? Its plea for understanding rather than extermination is as important and well-taken today as it’s ever been, yet its theme doesn’t follow as naturally from Ultima V as that game’s had from Ultima IV, nor is it executed with the same sophistication we would see in Ultima VII. Where Ultima VI stands, then, would seem to be on a somewhat uncertain no man’s land.

Indeed, it’s hard not to see Ultima VI first and foremost as a transitional work. On the surface, that’s a distinction without a difference; every Ultima, being part of a series that was perhaps more than any other in the history of gaming always in the process of becoming, is a bridge between what had come before and what would come next. Yet in the case of Ultima VI the tautology feels somehow uniquely true. The graphical interface, huge leap though it is over the old alphabet soup, isn’t quite there yet in terms of usability. It still lacks a drag-and-drop capability, for instance, to make inventory management and many other tasks truly intuitive, while the cluttered onscreen display combines vestiges of the old, such as a scrolling textual “command console,” with this still imperfect implementation of the new. The prettier, more detailed window on the world is welcome, but winds up giving such a zoomed-in view in the half of a screen allocated to it that it’s hard to orient yourself. The highlighted keywords in the conversation engine are also welcome, but are constantly scrolling off the screen, forcing you to either lawnmower through the same conversations again and again to be sure not to miss any of them or to jot them down on paper as they appear. There’s vastly more text in Ultima VI than in any of its predecessors, but perhaps the kindest thing to be said about Dr. Cat as a writer is that he’s a pretty good programmer. All of these things would be fixed in Ultima VII, a game — or rather games; there were actually two of them, for reasons we’ll get to when the time comes — that succeeded in becoming everything Ultima VI had wanted to be. To use the old playground insult, everything Ultima VI can do Ultima VII can do better. One thing I can say, however, is that the place the series was going would prove so extraordinary that it feels more than acceptable to me to have used Ultima VI as a way station en route.
An interesting claim made by the article is that Ultima VI's user interface and inventory system were directly inspired by the classic dungeon crawler Dungeon Master. That's something I'd never considered before, but it makes sense in retrospect.

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Expeditions: Viking Raid On Dumfries Gameplay Video

Preview - posted by Infinitron on Fri 7 April 2017, 00:53:56

Tags: Expeditions: Viking; Jonas Wæver; Logic Artists; Teemo Ashton

A new Expeditions: Viking "Devs Play" gameplay video was uploaded to the Logic Artists YouTube channel today. Like the previous Devs Play episode back in October, the video has creative director Jonas Waever and community manager Teemo Ashton demonstrating one of the game's combat scenarios. In this case, a daring raid on the Scottish village of Dumfries (then known as Dun Phris). This is apparently a late game battle, so plenty of high level abilities see use, including several spectacular area of affect attacks. You won't believe it's not fantasy!


This game looks so cool. Watch for the flaming berserker decapitation attack at 13:40.

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Wed 5 April 2017
StarCrawlers launching on May 16th

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 5 April 2017, 20:10:33

Tags: Juggernaut Games; StarCrawlers

The procedurally generated cyberpunkish sci-fi blobber StarCrawlers from indie studio Juggernaut Games has been in Early Access for over two years now. Its fans on our forum tell of an addictive game that has only gotten better, especially with the addition of a challenging non-procedurally generated story campaign. Now the end of development is finally in sight. Yesterday StarCrawlers received its final Early Access update, and with it a release date - May 16th. Juggernaut put together a cool little trailer for the occasion:


StarCrawlers has also been available on GOG's "In Development" Early Access program since last year, so it'll be there too when it launches. It's unclear whether the game's price will increase.

There are 15 comments on StarCrawlers launching on May 16th

Colony Ship RPG Update #13: Welcome To The Pit

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 5 April 2017, 00:30:54

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

Now that he's done with Age of Decadence, Vault Dweller has returned to his monthly schedule of Colony Ship RPG development updates. The latest one is a hefty variety pack of an update introducing the Pit, the game's starter town which is designed to be more familiar to RPG players than some of the game's later areas. The update includes a bunch of snippets of text from the game's script with details about the Pit's characters and locations. It's also got some images of guns (because why not?) and more concept art. But I think the most welcome part will be the first look it offers at Colony Ship RPG's portraits, which are very much in the same style as Age of Decadence's. I can't possibly quote the entire thing here, so here's a very limited excerpt:

Introducing something new and different isn’t an easy task. A fantasy game like AoD offers many familiar concepts: a local lord in charge of a town, different guilds, rival Houses, traveling preachers, etc. None of it raises any questions or requires any lengthy explanations.

The Colony Ship Game is very different and there are a lot of questions that need to be answered and a lot of concepts that need to be explained without overwhelming the player with the new info. That’s one of the reasons you start the game in the Pit, the container town, instead of the much stranger Habitats. It offers some familiarity and gives you plenty of second-hand information from other people.

The Pit will give you two locations: the relatively safe "main street" and the not so safe “bad part of town”. Overall, it will give you more places of interest and things to do than Teron, including an arena that will allow you to test your character fairly early and figure out your limits.

Other notable locations include the Regulators, a local church, a whorehouse, a prison, a gambling den, various stores, and entire town "blocks" occupied by different crews of scavengers and other men of ill repute. They will provide you with some bits of common knowledge as well as quests properly introducing other locations.

So far we have 12 quests written and mapped out, including a 6-quest local conflict between the Regulators and the self-proclaimed mayor, aka Order that’s not all that great vs Chaos that’s not all that bad. The conflict fits perfectly well into the belief system I mentioned earlier and comes with long-term consequences you’ll be able to experience in-game (i.e. not in the slides).

[​IMG] [​IMG]

So in one corner we have the challenger:

Rumor has it that Captain Braxton once served a higher power, that in the days before his crisis of faith and the subsequent falling out with the Church of the Elect he was known as Faithful Gunner Jeremiah Braxton. Speculation about why he left is abundant, but as is often the case no story is more compelling than the others.

Backed up by a few like-minded men and picking up more willing recruits along the way, Braxton left the Church behind and ended up in the Pit, a place where reliable fighting men are always in demand. Around the time of his arrival, the Brotherhood had started showing a keen interest in the Pit, eager to establish a foothold there. Braxton and his newly christened Regulators offered the good people of the Pit their services and after much debate they were hired to drive the Brotherhood’s men out, which was accomplished with brutal efficiency.
In the other corner we have the incumbent "mayor":

Wasteland is the affectionate name used to describe the now uncharted miles of scorched corridors and decks that bore the brunt of the fighting during the Mutiny. It is even rumored that the hull has been breached in certain sections, leaving them open to the void of space. This unstable no-man's-land is the principal hunting ground for folks willing to gamble their lives against the chance of finding old and outlawed tech.

For a scavenger, Jonas was more successful and more ambitious than most. One of the key difficulties for a professional scav is to extract your finds as quickly as possible, since anyone else stumbling across your good fortune will quickly try to make it their own. In order to facilitate more efficient runs into the Wasteland, Jonas set up a base camp in Cargo Hold #3, right next to the action. Such a good idea couldn't remain secret for long, and his fellow scavengers soon began pitching their tents nearby. With its increasing popularity, the camp attracted a growing crowd of traders, whores, and other hangers-on, and people began to see it as a rugged alternative to the Habitats, which promised safety, but insisted on submission in exchange.

At some point Jonas realized that more money was waiting to be made right there in the Pit, as it had come to be called, than out in the Wasteland. Thus he opened The Promised Land, the finest and only whorehouse in town. The success of this venture, and his own popularity, led to his role today as the de facto mayor of this frontier town.
In case you're wondering the goggles and other gear will be available to your character as well and the inventory will have special slots for goggles and breathing masks. In the next update we'll introduce gadgets and explains how they work.
Be sure to check out the full update. It's good enough to post three times.

There are 13 comments on Colony Ship RPG Update #13: Welcome To The Pit

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