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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?

Shadowrun: Hong Kong Codex Fundraiser is Officially Live

Community - posted by Angthoron on Wed 28 January 2015, 00:45:16

Tags: Harebrained Schemes; Shadowrun: Hong Kong

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After some unfortunate but necessary delays, it is finally time to officially announce the Codexian Fundraiser for Harebrained Schemes' Studios Shadowrun: Hong Kong! Thanks to HBS, Codex can become a proud supporter of the latest Shadowrun cRPG as well as get the following awesome stuff:

1. A key for Shadowrun: Hong Kong campaign, once available, for anyone that contributes $15 or higher to the fundraiser.
2. 5 Codex-specific Shadowlands BBS entries in-game, with Codex being able to design said entries ourselves (within reason/setting boundaries, of course).
3. A nod to the Codex in the BBS in the upcoming Shadowrun novel.
4. Collectible figurines
(for a Codexian raffle or some such)
5. An official Synth-leather Messenger Bag (again, for a raffle or something similar)
6. Consultation with Jordan Weisman: Our staff (or some lucky, non-demented person) will have a chance to have a 2-hour conversation with Jordan Weisman, either in person in Seattle, or by Skype, on any number of relevant topics like game design, systems like Battletech, Shadowrun and Golem Arcana and so on.
7. Obvious credits entry, if there's a KS backer credit crawl.
8. A sense of smug superiority over other RPG websites that couldn't be arsed arranging fundraisers. Unless we can't collect the money, in which case it's like losing in a pissing contest where the competition never showed up. And ruining those pants.

This is a pretty awesome offer, and all we need is collect $3000+ for the team. For an affluent and active community like the Codex, this should be a pretty easy goal to reach (and top).

Cool Codexian Dollars are accepted HERE.

There are 99 comments on Shadowrun: Hong Kong Codex Fundraiser is Officially Live

Fri 30 January 2015
Shadowrun: Hong Kong Kickstarter Update #15: Twitch and Rock Paper Shotgun Interviews

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Fri 30 January 2015, 18:43:39

Tags: Andrew McIntosh; Harebrained Schemes; Jordan Weisman; Mitch Gitelman; Shadowrun: Hong Kong

So, that Twitch interview with Mitch Gitelman and Andrew McIntosh took place last night, as recounted in the latest Shadowrun: Hong Kong Kickstarter update. The streamer was a gentleman who calls himself Arvan Eleron, and he did a pretty damn good job of an interview. It was about two hours long, with one hour of questions from Arvan and another hour of questions from viewers. Rather than summarize it myself, I'll just point you at our Shadowrun: Hong Kong thread, where user GarfunkeL helpfully transcribed many of their most interesting responses. But you can also watch it yourself:

(begins at around 17:30)
In other news, Rock Paper Shotgun posted the second part of their two-part interview with Mitch and Jordan Weisman yesterday, in which they too passed on various questions from their readers. Here are a couple of the more pertinent questions and answers:

RPS: Darkheart says “Haven’t had the chance to play Dragonfall, yet, so I don’t know if it changed by now, but what greatly irked me was the lack of a loot system. That’s kinda half of RPG fun missing for me at least. Will this be rethunk in the Hong Kong iteration?”

Mitch: So we’re not just revamping a loot system or something like that, because it’s really not part of the Shadowrun setting. First of all, you don’t get experience points for killing people, you get what we call Karma for completing objectives or doing things cleverly. For example, in Dragonfall, there are more things to find, more things that drop during the game, but one of the things we’re adding in Hong Kong is the ability to when you pick up something that’s been dropped, you can assign it to any one of your team members. The ability to swap inventory items between your team mates, we’re giving you much more control of that as well.

Jordan: In Shadowrun, we don’t think picking random stuff up off the floor is a lot of fun. So everything that drops on the floor is actually useful in some more significant way.

Mitch: There’s stuff to find though in the game. By searching you can find things, which is more of a Shadowrun thing.

RPS: VexingVision says “Please ask them about branching plotlines. Will the new plot be as rail-roady as the other SR Modules?”

Jordan: One of the things we’re extremely focused on is more content. One of the reasons we’re careful about responding to requests for more feature sets is we want more content, and more content means less linearity. With Dragonfall we took that next to step to less linear, and with this one we’ll take that step even further to less linear. It’s not an open world game, it’s never going to be GTA, but in terms of more branches and choices for a player to move down, we are incrementally getting better and better.​

Also, props to Mitch for smacking down that guy who asked for the game to be made easier.

There are 6 comments on Shadowrun: Hong Kong Kickstarter Update #15: Twitch and Rock Paper Shotgun Interviews

Thu 29 January 2015
Shadowrun: Hong Kong Kickstarter Update #14: Twitch chat, and a first look at the environment art

Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Thu 29 January 2015, 00:52:12

Tags: Andrew McIntosh; Harebrained Schemes; Mitch Gitelman; Shadowrun: Hong Kong

While there aren't going to be any exciting new stretch goal announcements for Shadowrun: Hong Kong in the near future, Harebrained Schemes still have a few tricks up their sleeve to liven up the mid-Kickstarter lull. The latest Kickstarter update informs us of a Twitch interview Mitch Gitelman and writer Andrew McIntosh are going to do tomorrow:

Andrew, our Lead Writer, and Mitch, our Fearless Leader are going to be LIVE on Twitch tomorrow - January 29 at 8pm EST - with Arvan Eleron talking about Shadowrun: Hong Kong! Andrew and Mitch had a great time the last time they were on his show and we hope you’ll stop by!

There's also a behind-the-scenes look at the work of two of the game's young environment artists, Cassidy and Spencer. What makes this one more interesting than the campaign's previous behind-the-scenes updates is that it comes with some actual content - a first look at one of the game's environments. I quote:

The first environment we tackled on this project was the Hong Kong Night Market, which was denser than anything done for our previous games. The painted mood piece below was created by Tristin, our lead Environment Artist, to give us an idea of the look and feel of this environment. It’s our job to interpret Tristin's concepts into our isometric game perspective.

Starting with props from our previous games and sketching on top of them helps us quickly block out a general idea of the space. This concept began with a more traditional style that represented the typical architecture of a traditional "Chinatown" - like peaked roofs and wood panel walls.

Our initial feedback from Mitch and our Art Director, Chris, was that it looked "too touristy" so changes were made to make it feel more down and dirty Shadowrun. This kind of iteration is what makes our work better so we try to squeeze in as many iterations as possible to explore each concept. Just this one concept went through four different iterations before we got to a place where we wanted to move forward!

Once the overall environment is determined and the isometric concept sketch is approved, it’s time to start working on individual props - which really brings a scene to life.

Starting with a list of props and tons of references, we use Photoshop to sketch and paint new environment assets that are specific to Hong Kong. Painting one prop at a time, often we end up with a single Photoshop document filled to the brim with layers of different props which are saved and then placed in a composition like this one. This part is a blast, because we can finally start seeing our world come together one neon sign at a time.

In the GIF below, you can see the process of how we build an environment starting with the sketch, then building a base layer of road, buildings and awnings and then street carts, lights, neon signs, and street trash getting more and more detailed as we go.

Nice. Give us more stuff like this, HBS (but save the best for the last days of the Kickstarter, of course).

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Torment Kickstarter Update #38: Environment art, and an introduction to the Obsidian Dialogue Editor

Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Thu 29 January 2015, 00:04:02

Tags: Brother None; InXile Entertainment; Kevin Saunders; Torment: Tides of Numenera

There's a new Torment: Tides of Numenera Kickstarter update today, the first one of 2015. The update begins with a short description by Kevin Saunders of inXile's environment art production pipeline and an introduction to some of their new hires. It includes this concept art of an area in the Oasis of M'ra Jolios (which some of you may have already seen, ahem):

But the meat of the update is an extensive crash course from Brother None on the use of Obsidian's dialogue tool. I'll quote the most interesting parts of it:

For a dialogue-heavy game like Torment, a good conversation editor tool is one of the most important things we have. Figuring out our conversation standards and improving upon Obsidian's already great conversation editor was one of our first priorities in preproduction. I’d like to take you through some of the basics so you'll know what we're talking about when it comes up in the future.

The two most important concepts are nodes and links. Nodes contain the text you see in the game, and they form a structure by way of one node being linked to (usually multiple) child nodes.

[...] The writer can lock or unlock conversation nodes based on whether the PC meets certain requirements. This is done with Conditionals that can check for a variety of values such as whether the party is carrying a certain item, whether someone is in the party, whether the PC has spoken to this NPC before, etc. Using global flags, we can create conditionals for virtually any circumstance we want. For example a conditional might check if the PC has read a note that provided a piece of information that he can then confront an NPC with, or a conditional can check whether the PC was nice to the NPC's father way back in the beginning of the game, or (to give an example from this conversation a conditional Colin created here) tracks how much the PC knows about different aspects of the Bloom. It can also track the PC's motivations when we provide two responses with the same text, but with one a “(Lie)” and the other “(Truth).”

Because conversation reactivity is such a high priority in TTON, conditionals are one of the most important functions in the Obsidian conversation editor. They can check for an absolutely massive amount of pre-set scripts which can be found with a very simple search function; from checking for gender to attribute scores to skill scores to – of course – Tide values, added for Torment.

[...] The last feature I want to talk about for now is skill checks — known as Tasks in the Numenera tabletop game, and Difficult Tasks (DTs) in Torment. DTs were explained in-depth in Update 27, and you'll recall that, unlike in some game systems, anyone can attempt a DT — having relevant skills (or items or other situational factors) increases the likelihood of success, but is not required to try. The difficulty can be mitigated (or exacerbated) by many factors, including: previous choices, equipment, fettles, party members' skill values, or investing Effort from the relevant stat pool.

The writer simply assigns the “Perform Task” script to the node, selects a difficulty (using an abstracted value to aid in balancing later), the attribute from which Effort can be spent, and any skills that will make the task easier. The tool then marks the subsequent nodes as success, failure, critical success, and critical failure:

The writer adds text for each node and defines their results: advancing to another quest state (including completing a quest), setting a global variable, giving the PC unique rewards for critical rolls, or even causing self-inflicted injuries for critical failures (as currently laid out this conversation has only cosmetic reactivity for critical rolls; this may change in later revisions, hence the designer note in the Critical Fail node). But failures and critical failures aren't always bad, sometimes they are just unexpected outcomes that change the way the situation plays out.

What's to stop the player from just spamming the Task until she succeeds? A writer defines a node's "Persistence" in its properties. Many nodes – including some tasks – are “once ever,” meaning they only show up once and are never again an option. Another possibility for Tasks is "none" persistence, which means they will always exist, so the player can try again if they failed. However, if you try a Task you’ve already failed, you have to pay a Retry Cost (in Effort). This gives the player decisions about when to spend their valuable Effort pool.
But you should definitely check out the full update, if only to see the full size and scope of the dialogue trees we're going to get in this game. That's a Torment game all right.

There are 13 comments on Torment Kickstarter Update #38: Environment art, and an introduction to the Obsidian Dialogue Editor

Tue 27 January 2015
Interview with Paul Neurath at GameWatcher

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Tue 27 January 2015, 20:15:46

Tags: OtherSide Entertainment; Paul Neurath; Underworld Ascendant

As the date of the Kickstarter for Underworld Ascendant draws nearer, more and more details about it are coming forth. A new interview with Paul Neurath at a site called GameWatcher has the most gameplay information I've seen yet. Here's an excerpt:

GameWatcher: How closely do you intend to stick to the gameplay of the original? Do you want this to be a straight up revival of the formula, or will you be updating things for a modern audience?

Paul Neurath: Well, bit of both actually, which is tricky. Our take is that there was a lot of good stuff in the originals. Partly by luck, partly by some of the talent that worked on them, they ended up being pretty special games that have really stood the test of time. Lead game designers still talk about the original Underworld as a very modern game in terms of some of the ideas. The graphics are dated, but with Ascendant we’ll be able to upgrade those with all the technology afforded by modern PCs. That’s actually the easy part. The original came out in 1992, and was one of the first games to use a mouse interface in an immersive 3D game. We hadn’t figured out the scheme really, our system worked but it was a little clunky. Since then we’ve had waves of FPS games, all of which have mastered the first-person interface with mouse and keyboard. So that will be changed and updated, the visuals improved, but a lot of the core gameplay still holds up.

When I play recent games, triple A games, there’s a tendency to make them as accessible as possible. You kind of have to when you’re spending millions of pounds on the project. But that also constrains you in a lot of ways, because you can’t always be so innovative and experiential with the gameplay. One of the things about Underworld was that we had a very player-authored experience, very sandbox kind of gameplay. You were dropped in this dark, dangerous place, and there was a lot of mystery, you didn’t really know where to go. We didn’t show players a quest arrow, they had to find out themselves. We gave the player a lot of choice, and it was up to them how they wanted to play. There were no right or wrong choices. The idea that two players experiencing the same game can see and do things completely differently, we love that stuff. But it is a little more difficult to develop, and more challenging for players without the hand-holding. To answer your question the new game will feel very familiar to fans of the originals, but we’re also going to push forward and try some things we never had the opportunity to do before.

GameWatcher: One of the things you’ve told us about Ascendant is that there are three main factions in the game. How do those come into play?

Paul Neurath: That’s one of our areas of innovations, pushing forward from what we were doing in the original game. The original had several factions spread across the dungeon who you could do missions for, the dwarves the goblins, the ghouls and so on. It was fairly restrained though, more along the lines of doing one quest for one faction at the expense of pissing off the others. It was pretty limited. With Ascendant we’re going a lot further with that, we want the sense that all the factions are intelligent races with their own back stories and motivations, and there’s a dynamic where they aren’t at all-out war but there is a kind of rivalry between them all, they do skirmish with each other. There’s also a dependency though, because they need other for certain things. It’s a complicated dynamic.

We’re retaining the concept that the player will be a human from our world who falls through a magic portal into the underworld, which is an interesting and fun concept that we think works in a lot of ways for a role-playing game. So when the player lands in this dungeon they’re a stranger in a strange land, and ultimately they’ll be in a position to choose which faction to align with. The choice is up to the player, and that choice will have ramifications throughout the rest of the game. And all that ties into a larger narrative arc.

GameWatcher: How about character development? The original game had a class system of sorts, will you be retaining that for Ascendant? Or will you switch to a kind of classless skills system?

Paul Neurath: Good question. This is very much a role-playing game, and for me we’re going pretty much back to the roots here. I played Dungeons & Dragons a lot during the 70s and I loved that kind of gameplay. At a high level what we want to do is offer the player a wide range of character types to play, allowing them to put together a character from a wide range of talents and skills for a very unique experience. For players who aren’t quite as into role-playing and character development, we’re going to have a handful of archetypes – warrior types, wizards and so on - and you can choose those archetypes and pretty much play out the rest of the game like that. That’s fine! You don’t have to explore other things. But other players might start as a fighter, then later on start picking out thief skills of mage skills, so we want to give you lots of choice. We want the player to have a bit of structure early on, so they’re not making big choices without even knowing the system. A lot of role-playing games have that thing where you choose one ability for your character, then thirty hours later think “oh man, wish I hadn’t done that!” So there has to be some subtlety to it.
Read the full interview for details on Underworld Ascendant's ties to the Ultima series, its survival mechanics, and more.

There are 1 comments on Interview with Paul Neurath at GameWatcher

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Shadowrun: Hong Kong Kickstarter Update #13: The Matrix Unlocked

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 27 January 2015, 00:19:29

Tags: Harebrained Schemes; Shadowrun: Hong Kong

With the help of a shoutout from the insanely popular Exploding Kittens Kickstarter, the Shadowrun: Hong Kong Kickstarter campaign has shot up to 700,000 dollars of funding faster than anybody expected, thereby unlocking the Revamped Matrix, the last of the originally planned stretch goals. All that with three weeks of fundraising still left to go! The latest Kickstarter update has more details on what Harebrained Schemes are planning for the revamp:

Now that we’ve hit our funding goal for the Revamped Matrix, we thought you’d like to hear a bit more about what we’re planning. As we said, our goal is to evolve the gameplay along with the look & feel of the Matrix in Shadowrun: Hong Kong. Overall, we want the decker’s gameplay to feel like dangerous legwork, investigation, and hacking. One of the ways we hope to achieve this is with increased opportunities for risk & reward. The more chances you take outside the scope of achieving your core objectives, the more potential benefit to you… and the greater chance of being discovered. Combat will still be a factor, but it won’t be your entire Matrix experience.

To that end, we’ve created a list of new Intrusion Countermeasures (IC) that we plan to add to the game. The new IC is intended to expand Matrix gameplay beyond simple combat mechanics by adding new types of interactions. All have been designed on paper and reviewed by our engineers and artists. Once they’ve been proven out through prototyping and we’re confident in our ability to execute on them, we’ll share them in a future Backer Update.

As with DMS and DF, you’ll still break into a corporation's secure local systems during a run to gain access to a variety of tactical objectives but there will also be places in the story where you’ll travel through distinct areas of cyberspace to “sculpted systems” - distinct digital representations of their owners.

By revising the basic look and sound of the Matrix and creating small “set pieces” of sculpted systems, we hope to give you a better feeling of traveling through cyberspace (for illicit purposes, of course). Concept art for our updated Matrix environment, including an image of a sculpted system will appear in a future Backer Update.
"Sculpted systems", eh? Brings to mind the sensory stones from PS:T. This could be very cool.

There are 70 comments on Shadowrun: Hong Kong Kickstarter Update #13: The Matrix Unlocked

Mon 26 January 2015
Witcher 3 Twitch Livestream + Media Blitz

Preview - posted by Infinitron on Mon 26 January 2015, 19:54:27

Tags: CD Projekt; Marcin Iwinski; The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

A few days ago, CD Projekt announced that they would be broadcasting a special Witcher 3: Wild Hunt presentation on the GOG Twitch channel, including 15 minutes of "never-before-seen" gameplay highlights and a Q&A session with two of the game's developers. The date of the broadcast was today, right on the heels of PAX South, and it's about to begin:

This coming Monday, and CD PROJEKT RED invite you to a special live streamed event at the Twitch channel!

We'll be showcasing 15 minutes of completely fresh The Witcher: Wild Hunt gameplay highlights, while Damien Monnier - Senior Gameplay Designer, and Miles Tost - Level Designer, will be coming in live from the studio to provide developer commentary for the new footage. They'll be offering their insight, and an exclusive peek at the development process behind closed curtains at CD PROJEKT RED.

Once the gameplay commentary is finished, we will hold a live Q&A session on the air. Damien Monnier and Miles Tost will take the time to respond to live comments coming in via Twitch chat, as well as to select questions from the community forums! It's a rare opportunity to ask about all the saucy details of The Witcher: Wild Hunt development.

If you have any questions for the folks at CD PROJEKT RED, you can submit them right here in this thread. You have until Sunday, Jan 25 at 7:00 PM GMT to submit your questions, when we'll be selecting the most interesting ones to throw at the devs during the live chat.

The live stream will begin on Monday Jan 26 7:00 PM GMT / 2:00 PM EST / 11:00 AM PST (you will find a countdown clock below) at Follow our channel for an e-mail alert when we go live. We'll see you there!
While you're waiting for the presentation to begin, you might want to check out one of the many Witcher 3 previews which appeared across the Internet today, in a well-coordinated media blitz: Rock Paper Shotgun, Eurogamer, Polygon, GameSpot, IGN, and probably a bunch more. I particularly recommend the Polygon preview for an honest admission from CD Projekt joint CEO Marcin Iwinski about the company's new priorities. Ahem.

Update: Well, it's over. The gameplay segment was pretty disappointing, since the two devs kept talking over it and pausing, even though it was already disjointed and heavily edited. The Q&A session had a few interesting tidbits, though.

Update 2: The gameplay segment of the stream, sans developer commentary, has been uploaded to the official Witcher YouTube channel.

There are 29 comments on Witcher 3 Twitch Livestream + Media Blitz

RPG Codex Retrospective Interview: Richard Seaborne on Escape from Hell, Myraglen, and Prophecy

Codex Interview - posted by Crooked Bee on Mon 26 January 2015, 19:40:04

Tags: Activision; Electronic Arts; Escape from Hell; Prophecy: The Fall of Trinadon; Retrospective Interview; Richard Seaborne; Tower of Myraglen

This month, January 2015, marks the 25th anniversary of one of the most unique titles in CRPG history, Electronic Arts' 1990 Escape from Hell, designed by Richard L. Seaborne. Imagine something like Wasteland -- a party-, skill-based top-down RPG -- that has you band together with famous historical and literary figures, from Genghis Khan to Hamlet, and explore, literally, the circles of Hell. Along the way, you fight the likes of Al Capone and Satan, learn new skills from Thucydides and Wyatt Earp, among many others, and solve your own and the denizens' problems, which Hell has in spades, with one overarching goal: escaping back to the real world.

As far as CRPG settings go, there has hardly been a more unorthodox one. And the character portraits were fantastic, too.

To celebrate the game's anniversary, we've interviewed Richard Seaborne, who currently works at Microsoft, about Escape from Hell along with two other RPGs he worked on, Tower of Myraglen (1987) for the Apple ][GS and Prophecy: The Fall of Trinadon (1989) for the PC. Here's an excerpt:

Prophecy’s spell system was especially interesting. You could memorize up to 10 spells, and also increase their effects, etc. (including making the area of effect larger), by adding the proper prefix to the spell name. What made you go for a system like that?

Prophecy’s spell system was fun to make. I think people really enjoy controlling things where their decisions and actions materially change things in the games they play. And they delight in seeing their creations come to life or even blow up in surprising failure. The magic is that their actions had consequence, and they can get better. I wanted the player to feel like an alchemist that could craft their own magic spells according to consistent rules for any situation, seeing magic as a science they could control once learned.

I imagined players would really like having the ability to “program” their own spells through a spell language that included a prefix power amplifier, effect inverter, and foundational spell function. Spells included implicit properties (fire, ice, poison, harm, heal, etc.) and targeting (individual, missile, area of effect/AOE, etc.). A heal spell could be reversed with an inverter to make the spell harm, and a harm spell could be reversed to heal. Spells had a sense of physics too, so if you cast an AOE spell in too small of a space the blast would ricochet off walls and keep expanding through corridors until its “volume” filled its effect area. Adding the most powerful modifiers to an AOE spell could fill most of the screen with a powerful blast, which might be bad for the player if they were in the path of destruction.

How did Electronic Arts end up publishing Escape from Hell? Were they involved in the process of development, and did they influence the final product in any way?

I had always admired Electronic Arts (EA) for their game quality and innovation, and so pitched the concept of Escape from Hell to them not long after Prophecy had shipped. I learned quite a bit about formal planning and ideation while working with EA. I spent nearly six months of the total 12-month development cycle in pre-production, developing engine technology and tools that would ultimately be the foundation of the game and refining the concept with some of EA’s leaders including Trip Hawkins, Bing Gordon, and Dave Albert. It was during this process that Escape changed from a serious traditional RPG to the contemporary grim comedy RPG.

Perhaps the biggest influence that EA had on Escape from Hell was the business pragmatism of Cost of Goods (COGs) and Return on Investment (ROI). They made the decision to reduce the number of discs the game shipped on in half because retailers demanded the game be available on both 5¼” and 3½” discs. It was an unfortunate time in the industry where many computers had just one disc drive size, and so EA had to ship on both disc sizes. To keep costs down, they required Escape to get a lot smaller so the same COGs would cover both disc types.

You can imagine how that went down in terms of the game’s vision and scope – a lot less character and monster art, 9 circles of Hell collapsed to 3 planes of Hell, time & dimensional shift opportunity reduction, and a lot of loose end tying up with these changes. EA offered a Technical Director to help with compression algorithms to fit as much as possible on the discs and a professional writer to brainstorm and help the narrative be as cohesive as possible within the revised scope.

Escape from Hell was released in January 1990, so that January 2015 marks its 25th anniversary. I'm very interested in the way you feel about the game now. Let me put it this way: what is your first thought whenever the game's name comes up? Retrospectively, are you fully satisfied with what kind of game Escape from Hell turned out to be?

Disappointed. Disheartened. Proud. It’s a bit mixed as you can tell.

Escape shipped and had its place in history. I firmly believe it would have been better if it hadn’t had its media budget cut in half, forcing it to miss out on all Nine Circles of Hell, signature art for key characters, more demons, monsters, & gear, and more map & script variances according to player actions, party members, and Trident time control. On the other hand, I am proud to have contributed to the early era of CRPG’s, influencing a lot of features, design tenants, and concepts in many games over these twenty-five years.​

Read the full interview for many more details about Richard's games, as well as things like team sizes, D&D modules, nudity warning labels, IBM PC vs Apple ][GS, and Trip Hawkins' and other senior EA people's involvement with Escape.

There are 23 comments on RPG Codex Retrospective Interview: Richard Seaborne on Escape from Hell, Myraglen, and Prophecy

Josh Sawyer and Chris Avellone Interview Roundup

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Mon 26 January 2015, 17:33:26

Tags: Chris Avellone; J.E. Sawyer; Jonas Wæver; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity

Yesterday, on the last day of PAX South, Josh Sawyer was interviewed about Pillars of Eternity by a representative of a site called The Know. The interview is around ten minutes long and doesn't really contain any new information, but the interviewer is knowledgeable enough about the game to zero in on some of the more controversial topics surrounding its development, which makes it a useful recap. Here's the video:

More interesting perhaps is this interview at XP4T with Chris Avellone. Not least because the interviewer is none other than Jonas Waever from Logic Artists, of Nameless Mod and Expeditions: Conquistador fame. Hot developer on developer action! It's a very fanboyish interview, but also very informative, with Chris describing his work regimen at a level of detail I haven't seen before. It's a must-read for aspiring games writers, but I'll just quote this bit where he talks about Pillars of Eternity, repeating what he told us last week in further detail:

JONAS: Any particular design ideas or concepts that you’re obsessed with right now? Anything you’re particularly excited about in one of your current projects, or particularly determined to find a way to use in a future project? (I promise I won’t steal it, we probably don’t have the budget for it anyway.)

CHRIS: A few, I suppose. At a high level, this may be shooting myself in the foot, but I’ve become increasingly interested in narratives without words, especially after New Vegas (where prop placement told better stories, imo).

At a specific level, in Eternity, the original premise of the companions I wrote (Durance and the Grieving Mother) was unpeeling the layers and discovering what they were at the core – unpeeling these layers involved slipping stealthily into their unconscious, a dungeon made out of their memories. There, the player could go through an adventure game-like series of interactions, exploring their memories using psychological items important to both your character and to them as emotional keys to thread your way through the memories – but carefully, without revealing your presence. The memory dungeon was to uncover their shared history, how it impacted you, and the core of who they were as people.

And their core was pretty unpleasant. Both of them were very bad, very weak people, committing not only violations on each other, but on the player as well. When faced with the discovery that your allies, even if they fiercely support you and fight for a larger cause, have some pretty horrid faults, what do you do? Do you pass sentence? Do you forgive? Do you assist them to reach an understanding? And what I found more interesting with the spiritual physics in the Eternity world is that a death sentence isn’t a sentence – killing someone actually sets a soul free to move on to the next generation. So if you intend to punish someone in a world like that, either out of revenge or to correct their behavior, how do you do it when execution is not an answer?

The elements above got stripped out of the companions in the end, so I’m happy to share it here (and I may re-examine it in the future). Overall, I thought they raised interesting questions for the player to chew on, and it was interesting to explore those themes, as most game narratives and franchises wouldn’t allow for such examinations – still, Eternity was intended to be a more personal project for Obsidian where we can stretch our narrative legs more, both in structure and themes.​

Their core was pretty unpleasant? I wonder if that means their personalities have been changed too.

There are 9 comments on Josh Sawyer and Chris Avellone Interview Roundup

Sat 24 January 2015
Pillars of Eternity presentation at PAX South

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sat 24 January 2015, 19:24:16

Tags: Adam Brennecke; Brandon Adler; Chris Avellone; J.E. Sawyer; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity; Tim Cain

Brian Fargo isn't the only one visiting PAX South this weekend. A whole bunch of folks from Obsidian are also attending to promote Pillars of Eternity. Unlike the Bard's Tale IV announcement, this panel is being streamed, and it's about to start:

(begins at around 2:23:25)

Pillars of Eternity with Obsidian Entertainment
Did you miss games like Baldur's Gate, Planescape Torment, and Icewind Dale? We sure did and decided to do something about it! Join the design team at Obsidian Entertainment for a special preview and Q&A discussion of the wildly successful Kickstarter CRPG, Pillars of Eternity. Obsidian's RPG veterans: Chris Avellone, Josh Sawyer, Tim Cain, Adam Brennecke, Brandon Adler, and Shane DeFreest will be on hand for a unique opportunity to celebrate this return to classic RPG game making.

Shane DeFreest [Marketing Director, Obsidian Entertainment], Chris Avellone [Creative Director, Obsidian Entertainment], Brandon Adler [Producer, Obsidian Entertainment], Josh Sawyer [Project Director, Obsidian Entertainment], Adam Brennecke [Senior Programmer, Obsidian Entertainment], Tim Cain [Senior Programmer, Obsidian Entertainment]
What a weekend!

Update: And it's over! The gameplay demonstration was pretty short - a well-choreographed, action-packed dungeon crawl. The real meat of the panel was the Q&A session, which was surprisingly entertaining and information. I recommend watching the whole thing.

There are 107 comments on Pillars of Eternity presentation at PAX South

Brian Fargo announces Bard's Tale IV at PAX South

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sat 24 January 2015, 18:12:59

Tags: Bard's Tale IV; Brian Fargo; InXile Entertainment

Dear Leader Brian Fargo spoke at a panel about post-apocalyptic gaming at the PAX South convention today. Shortly before it began, he teased on Twitter that he "might" be making a big announcement there. The panel doesn't appear to have been streamed live, but somebody from Game Informer was there, and they just reported that inXile's next game is none other than, you guessed, Bard's Tale IV.

Brian Fargo and InXile Entertainment announced a new chapter to the classic RPG dungeon-crawler series at PAX South today. This single player PC-centric installment won't be a complete throwback-style game like Wasteland 2, and instead The Bard's Tale 4 will attempt to modernize and revitalize the genre - sort of like how Hearthstone approached the card game.

"This is a special game for me," says Fargo. "It was the first game that really put Interplay on the map, and it just happens that this will fall on the 30th anniversary."

The game will feature modern day approaches to graphics, sound, and design while revisiting all the locales and classes that players love from the early installments in the series like the town of Skara Brae. The game will be a dungeon crawler through and through, but don't expect to have to bust out the old-school tools. HUD elements will be kept to a minimum, there will be plenty of puzzles, and immersion will be the focus.

"I don't think in this day and age we can make you break out the graph paper," says Fargo. "We might have a hardcore mode for that."

There will be a crowdfunding push for The Bard's Tale 4, as well as funding coming from InXile.
IGN has more information:

"This project has always been really personal to me," Fargo told IGN. "It was a game that put both me and Interplay on the map, back in the day. And it's also the franchise that launched inXile."

InXile Entertainment is planning a Kickstarter for The Bard's Tale IV. Details about the game are still light, but Fargo did say the team will be pulling from the original as far as overarching ideas go. From a story perspective, players will be returning to Skara Brae, where it all began. But on the gameplay side of things, Fargo is planning a deviation.

"Traditional turn-based combat," as Fargo calls it, bases turns on varying factors, creating battles in which different characters attacked at different times, often alternating between opposing sides. But in The Bard's Tale IV, teams attack all at once. This increases the pace of the combat, and allows for a different set of tactics than the traditional system might allow.

"There will be plenty of combat diversity and depth," Fargo said. "You look at something like Hearthstone, for example. It's sort of that going back-and-forth process, and you see the complexity and detail and strategy and nuance that can happen. It's really an amazing system. I love those modern influences. I took a lot away from that, and see things we need to do with our combat system."

As for taking another project to Kickstarter, Fargo said crowdsourcing will allow him to make the games he wants to make, for an audience that wants them, without worrying about pleasing a mass market. Although it didn't release under the traditional publishing system, Wasteland 2 sold extremely well right out of the gate.

Fargo used broadcast TV stations to illustrate his point. "I prefer to be on Showtime rather than NBC," he said. "That's the kind of entertainment I like to watch, and it's the same thing with these kind of games. I'm able to make something that caters to a crowd that really loves that experience."

Work continues on Torment: Tides of Numenera, and in IGN's Wasteland 2 review, we praised its excellent story and plethora of party design options. But after announcing the team's return to the franchise that put them on the map, Fargo is excited for yet another revival.

"It's the first property we worked with," he said. "The fact that it's the 30th anniversary of the original makes it all just seem perfect."
Yes, yes, this is going to be interesting.

There are 245 comments on Brian Fargo announces Bard's Tale IV at PAX South

Shadowrun: Hong Kong Kickstarter Update #11: Sequel "mini-campaign" announced as stretch goal

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sat 24 January 2015, 01:56:32

Tags: Harebrained Schemes; Jordan Weisman; Mitch Gitelman; Shadowrun: Hong Kong

For a while now, people have wondered what stretch goals the Shadowrun: Hong Kong Kickstarter campaign would have after the revamped Matrix at 700,000 dollars. The guys at Harebrained Schemes seemed reluctant to commit to anything, but now they've come up with something quite unexpected - another campaign! To be specific, a high-level "mini-campaign" that will take place after the main one, using an imported character. But we only get that if the campaign reaches one million dollars. The latest Kickstarter update has the details:

So.... what happens after $700,000???

We get this question a lot (like, a LOT!) and today is the day we're gonna answer it!

We have our plans set for the story we want to tell in Shadowrun: Hong Kong, but if we’re lucky enough to reach the enormous sum of $1,000,000, we’re gonna create an additional 4-5 hourShadows of Hong Kong Mini-Campaign that takes place after the SR:HK story ends. Not only that, the Shadows of Hong Kong Mini-Campaign will allow you to IMPORT your high-karma Hong Kong character for a challenge only a prime runner could accept.

The Shadows of Hong Kong Mini-Campaign will come out sometime before the end of 2015 and will be free to Backers at the $15 pledge level and up. And you’ll receive as many copies of the Mini-Campaign as you are eligible for at your reward level. For example, if you get 3 copies ofShadowrun: Hong Kong at the $150 level, you’ll also get 3 copies of the Mini-Campaign.

Make sense? Good!

But no matter what funding level we reach, it's BONUS TIME!

Everyone who backs the project at the $35 Reward Level and above will get access to an AUDIO COMMENTARY TRACK from the Shadowrun Development Team. Hear the writers, designers, artists, engineers, and composer discuss how the game was made, the challenges they faced, and the fun they had while making the game. The audio commentary will arrive in an update after the game is released.

AND everyone who backs at the $35 Reward Level and above will also get TWO HIGH-RES DIGITAL POSTERS that, when placed together, combine into combine into a beautiful Shadowrun Panorama. The first poster contains a Timeline of Shadowrun History. The second contains a Glossary of Shadowrun Slang. Tell your friends!

Again, we can't thank you enough for the outpouring of support for a project we're delighted to be working on. Look for another peek behind the scenes soon, and please let us know if there's some element of game development at Harebrained Schemes you're interested in hearing about.
Really trying to shake off the mid-campaign lull, aren't they? In other news, the Rock Paper Shotgun guys have posted the first part of a new two-part interview they did with Jordan and Mitch. It's not particularly interesting, except for the admission that the original Dead Man's Switch campaign had 75 percent(!) of its originally planned content thrown out. That explains some things, now doesn't it?

There are 55 comments on Shadowrun: Hong Kong Kickstarter Update #11: Sequel "mini-campaign" announced as stretch goal

Fri 23 January 2015
Paul Neurath talks about Underworld Ascendant at PCGamesN

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Fri 23 January 2015, 18:29:38

Tags: OtherSide Entertainment; Paul Neurath; Underworld Ascendant

There's a new interview with Paul Neurath over at the increasingly excellent PCGamesN, about his soon to be Kickstarted Ultima Underworld spiritual successor, Underworld Ascendant. This one goes into much more detail about the intended spirit of the game than anything we've seen until now, and I dare say it might help some of our more pessimistic readers sleep a little easier. Here's an excerpt:

Back in the early ‘90s, after Looking Glass had shipped Ultima Underworld II: Labyrinth of Worlds, the series “fell between the cracks”. Its publisher, Origin, had been acquired by EA and was entering its final form: swapping out managers and rearranging itself around the nascent Ultima Online. Talks around an Underworld 3 went back and forth, and eventually sideways. Looking Glass made System Shock instead.

The studio went on to greater recognition and financial success by further streamlining their sandbox simulation to yield Thief. But their founder couldn’t help but feel they’d left something behind: a “true role-playing game”.

“The difference between that and a Thief or even a Deus Ex is that you’re handing over to the player to make the character they want,” said Neurath. “There’s hundreds and thousands of different varieties of skills and equipment, how your character looks, all the magic you can learn and wield. So you’ve got this plethora of opportunity to craft your own hero.”

From Ultima, Underworld had taken the Avatar and the idea that the player had literally escaped, through a portal, from real-world mundanity into a fantasy realm. It was an allusion to classic literature that Neurath had always liked. When EA agreed last year to license Underworld and its fiction but keep hold of the Ultima name, he seized the chance.

“I’ve gone back to Electronic Arts a number of times over the last two decades,” said Neurath. “There were too many hurdles, but the stars kinda aligned and we were able to find a way to bring it back.

“We can basically take anything from the original games, like monsters and locations and items and some of the NPCs. But we can’t use the Ultima brand. In a lot of ways that’s okay because the Underworlds weren’t really designed to be Ultima - it was more of an incidental connection back in the old days.”

[...] Neurath draws a line between the possibilities of playstyle offered by a game like Dishonored and the moment-to-moment decisions players will make in Underworld Ascendant.

“At any given time, you can try different things out. The world doesn’t turn into a stealth game or a fighter game - the world is the world,” he said. “The NPCs might know that you did a bunch a stealth and they might respond, but when you come to a new encounter, you use whatever tools you want to use. It’s much more open-ended, much more sandbox.”

Player choice in Ascendant won’t look like two paths branching off into the darkness - it’ll concern how they go about solving a challenge. Rather than scripting the weapons a player might use or the levers they might pull, Otherside are building encounters to support five or ten different solutions - reliant on stealth, combat, magic, or simply outwitting the opponent.

“To us, success in this model is if players discover solutions that we as designers never even imagined,” said Neurath. “We had this happen from time to time in the original Underworlds and we’re going to try and have that happen more often.

“If a player can come up with a solution and feel really clever, like, ‘Boy, I’m the first person to think of this way to solve this challenge,’ I think that’s pretty wonderful.”​

It sounds like he gets it! Read the full interview for more information about Otherside and for Paul's thoughts on Looking Glass' legacy.

There are 47 comments on Paul Neurath talks about Underworld Ascendant at PCGamesN

Thu 22 January 2015
Shadowrun: Hong Kong Kickstarter Update #10: $600k collected, three more stretch goals unlocked

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 22 January 2015, 13:59:39

Tags: Harebrained Schemes; Jordan Weisman; Mitch Gitelman; Shadowrun: Hong Kong

It's been almost a week since our last newspost about Shadowrun: Hong Kong. In that time, the Kickstarter has slowly edged its way up to 600,000 dollars of funding, unlocking three more stretch goals, including the final two companion side missions and an expanded magic system. In the latest Kickstarter update, HBS explain why two of the companions don't have dedicated side missions:

Our favorite (former) Red Samurai/Ghoul's personal side mission = UNLOCKED! Thanks so much for the opportunity to make it.


In case you were wondering about Wu and Racter's personal side missions, we assure you that there's a plan. At the basic level, their stories will be part of shadowruns we've already planned (similar to how Dietrich's background was tied into the Humanis run in DF). But, of course, there's more to it than that... aaaaand that's all we're gonna tell you. :D

Just rest assured, we're not going to create two cool characters like these and not give you the chance to find out what makes them tick! We're confident that when you experience the story, they'll feel fully fleshed out like the rest of your crew.

And now that you've succeeded in unlocking Gaichu's personal mission, it's on to THE MATRIX!

The Shadowrun Returns team nearly killed themselves to get our original Matrix art and gameplay in the game and we're still extremely proud of that effort. But just like Thorin and Company, we ache to return again and make things right.


Other recent news includes a Kickstarter update from yesterday introducing designer Kevin Maloney, who confirms that, like Dragonfall, Shadowrun: Hong Kong will have a hub area that serves as a home base for your party. There's also an hour-long interview podcast with Jordan Weisman and Mitch Gitelman at a business-oriented site called Binpress, in which they tell the story of their careers from a business development perspective. Pretty interesting stuff, actually. Anyway, on to the Matrix. It's gonna take a while.

There are 17 comments on Shadowrun: Hong Kong Kickstarter Update #10: $600k collected, three more stretch goals unlocked

Wed 21 January 2015
Underworld Ascension renamed to Underworld Ascendant, to be Kickstarted on February 4th

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 21 January 2015, 16:41:35

Tags: OtherSide Entertainment; Paul Neurath; Underworld Ascendant; Warren Spector

Remember Underworld Ascension, the Ultima Underworld spiritual successor from Paul Neurath's Otherside Entertainment that was first announced all the way back in July 2014? Well, after half a year of silence, there's finally some news about that. Big news. First of all, the game is now called Underworld Ascendant. Traumatized Ultima fans can breathe a sigh of relief. Second, there's going to be a Kickstarter, on February 4th, two weeks from now. The game's new website has a message from Paul:

When we completed Ultima Underworld II in 1993, I never imagined that this classic fantasy RPG franchise would go dark for the two decades.

The Underworld’s were arguably the first immersive 1stperson games. Not only were they the first to create a real-time 3D texture-mapped world, they also pioneered player-driven sandbox gameplay. They influenced a whole generation of games: Doom, Thief, Deus Ex, Skyrim, BioShock and more. Today, leading game designers view the Underworlds as still astonishingly modern in design.

But when released, the games were years ahead of their time and didn't fit into the established genres of that era. This contributed to the franchise falling between the cracks and becoming lost in the publisher’s labyrinth depths. Over the years I’ve tried without success to raise the Underworld series back up. Just now have the stars aligned so this can happen.

I started OtherSide Entertainment an indie studio to rekindle this classic. Joining me is an incredible team of developers, who will be introducing themselves over the coming weeks. Some worked with me on the original Underworlds, along with Looking Glass favorites like System Shock and Thief. Others contributed to more recent classics including Deus Ex and BioShock Infinite. We have deep understanding of the genre, and share a passion for bringing Underworld back.

The newest incarnation of the franchise, Underworld Ascendant, will retain the distinctive fantasy RPG gameplay of the originals. We already have an early prototype running on the PC. At that same time we will be pushing forward with new innovations --- I can’t wait to tell you more about what we have planned!

But this can only happen with your help. As an indie studio, we are looking to our fans to fund a significant portion of the development through our upcoming Kickstarter campaign, which begins on February 4th. We aren't shy about our ambitions to make a great game, but that takes serious resources and effort.

Beyond funding, we are inviting you in on the making of Underworld Ascendant. Rarely have fans been able to participate in the often unpredictable, sometimes messy creative process that gives birth to innovative games. We hope you’ll join us on this adventure!​

Want more information? Otherside's PR guys managed to arrange for a little publicity blitz for the game, with articles at GameSpot, IGN and The first two articles mention that the Kickstarter will be seeking a million dollars in funding, but it's the latter that has the most details about the actual gameplay:

One of the goals for the team is to make sure that Underworld truly gives players something different. As with the original game, players could often solve obstacles in a dungeon using multiple ways. Sometimes you can fight, or use a spell, there are even times that stealth will get you through the objective. It was this freedom that fans really enjoyed. For players who like to take on a single style of class in the game, that dynamic is still there. However, you can really create a character that fits any situation. Paul wants to recapture the deep immersion of the original making sure all the monsters and traps have the feel of a true dungeon crawl. They want to bring the player right in and cut out any outside distractions.

Something new with this title is that there will be three factions working for control in the game. Depending on the choices you make, you can side with one of these factions. This will change the outcome of the game as you journey through the adventure. Paul did not go into too much detail but wants to keep options open. Underworld is still going to be a classic RPG in a fantasy setting. He said that fantasy is a proven genre among fans. Even though there are a lot of these types of game out there, Paul said, “It really is about how you author it.” The player story in the game changes from each RPG even though you have familiar elements. With Underworld, combining classic fantasy with new ways to approach traps and monsters gives the player that minute to minute experience.

In working on the game now, Paul said that the graphics are just amazing. Things have come a long way since 1993. Paul still says that the major pillar really is game play. Graphics can only get you so far until people really want more. Players will start with a very lose version of a created character but build over time depending on their choices.

Underworld Ascendant already has a version running. The game is about four months into development. The Kickstarter for Otherside is coming up in about two weeks from now. Paul and his team will continue to work on the game straight through the Kickstarter and beyond. Fans of this classic RPG have a lot to look forward to as development continues to bring the old Underworld IP into the modern era. The website for the title should be live as of this article, so head over and check it out.
In addition, the IGN article has a few quotes from none other than Warren Spector, who is apparently being employed by Otherside as a "part-time creative advisor":

Otherside comprises 12 people. Some of them worked on the aforementioned titles at Looking Glass, the development studio that closed in May of 2000, so there's a lot of veteran talent working on the RPG. One name in particular will draw recognition from fans of Epic Mickey, Deus Ex and Thief: Warren Spector.

He worked as a producer on the original Ultima Underworld, and championed the game from its inception. Now, he's serving as a "part-time creative advisor," Neurath says, and Spector sees potential in the project, despite its long absence from the spotlight.

"Working on the original Underworld project was important to me, career-wise, as well as to me as a gamer," Spector told IGN. "Today, the world of gaming is different and, I'd argue, Underworld played a big, if under-appreciated role in that. There was a story and a level of player empowerment that most games –– even today –– can't match."

Spector said the team at Otherside has other plans than just trying to resurrect a past success. And the fact that some of the Otherside developers worked on the original Underworld is a comforting thought.

"We're still a young medium and there's still plenty left to do if we're going to move away from 'roll-playing' and move toward true 'role-playing,'" Spector said.​

Ah, Spector. Just like old times, huh?

UPDATE: The plot thickens! There are now indications that Underworld Ascendant might share its setting with Richard Garriot's Shroud of the Avatar. Kenneth Kully has posted a summary of the evidence over at the Ultima Codex.

UPDATE 2: Otherside have clarified on Twitter that Underworld Ascendant's minimum funding goal will not be one million dollars, but that it is what they "hope to reach" along with the initial stretch goals. Uh, okay.

There are 44 comments on Underworld Ascension renamed to Underworld Ascendant, to be Kickstarted on February 4th

Brent Knowles Interview: An Insider's Look at BioWare, 2000-2009

Codex Interview - posted by Infinitron on Wed 21 January 2015, 00:31:22

Tags: Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn; BioWare; Brent Knowles; Dragon Age; Neverwinter Nights; Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark; Neverwinter Nights: Shadows of Undrentide

In the year 2000, BioWare released Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn, one of the most acclaimed computer RPGs of all time. In 2009, they released Dragon Age: Origins, a game that was purportedly similar, but very much a product of its time. It was the product of a company which over the course of that decade, had gone from being a small developer of PC-exclusive D&D RPGs to a cinematic console RPG powerhouse, with titles such as Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire and Mass Effect. And between them was Neverwinter Nights, controversial and misunderstood black sheep of the family, along with its expansion packs, Shadows of Undrentide and Hordes of the Underdark.

The truth is that you could probably write a book about what happened to BioWare during the first decade of the new millenium. Since DarkUnderlord doesn't pay us enough to write books, we'll have to make due with interviews, which can give us a glimpse at what was going at the company during that time. And what better individual to interview than Brent Knowles, the man whose career at BioWare spanned that exact duration? Starting off as a junior designer on Baldur's Gate 2 in late 1999, Brent eventually rose to become one of the lead designers on NWN, sole lead on its expansion packs, and most famously, lead designer on the Dragon Age franchise, until he was replaced by one Mike Laidlaw after leaving the company in 2009.

You might remember that Brent was briefly famous during the Dragon Age II brouhaha, when his personal blog posts describing the end of his tenure at BioWare, which confirmed fans' worst fears about the direction the franchise was heading, were brought to public knowledge. With the recent release of Dragon Age: Inquisition, we felt it was a particularly appropriate time to revisit Brent and ask him a few questions about his time at BioWare. To be honest, it was actually way more than "a few", but Brent graciously replied to them all anyway. Read on, then, for...

An interview with Brent Knowles

Read the full article: Brent Knowles Interview: An Insider's Look at BioWare, 2000-2009

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Tue 20 January 2015
Blackguards 2 Released

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 20 January 2015, 19:04:57

Tags: Blackguards 2; Daedalic Entertainment

Blackguards 2 has been released, and is now available for the price of $35 on Steam and GOG, with a 10% launch discount until next week. Here's the press release we got yesterday:

Blackguards 2, the sequel to Daedalic Entertainment’s successful S-RPG Blackguards, is available worldwide for 29.99 US$/ 22.99£/ 29.99€/ 499RUR/ 2,980Yen on Steam, GOG and other major online stores tomorrow. Featuring full English and German localization as well as subtitles in Spanish, French, Russian, Polish, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, Japanese and Korean.

You can find the brand new release trailer right here:

Not much time has passed, but a lot has happened in the time between the events of the turn-based RPG-hit Blackguards and its sequel Blackguards 2. Set only few years after the story of the first game, Blackguards 2 will bring along many changes – for the well-known characters as well as for the players.

Blackguards 2 will stay an SRPG focussing on turn-based, strategic battles with a group of scoundrels as anti-heroes. Some of the best-known Blackguards from the first game will be part of the team again – unfortunately, their lives didn’t go very well since then. Dwarf Naurim, for example, has rest on his fame as a successful gladiator and defeater of the Nine Hordes. He used his popularity for shady businesses and excessive parties and got quite potbellied – not a very good condition for battles, and so he hung up his axe and ditched his old gang, as long as they wouldn't yield any profit.

Wizard Zurbaran was even less lucky: His mistress could track down the former slave, who was able to escape his servitude. She shackled, mortified and sold him for one symbolic copper piece at the slave market.

Takate, on the other hand, is back among the forest people and arranges his own gladiatorial games, letting humans fight for their destiny, just as he was forced to. He believes that there are no challenges left, after he has defeated the Nine Hordes, and gets bored with sending others to their death.

Nevertheless, the fame of the defeater of the Nine Hordes seems to be everlasting – at least for the three survivors, as all others have found their end. Cassia, main protagonist of Blackguards 2, is looking for them: Cassia’s only goal is to rule from the Shark Throne at all costs, even if it’s only for one day. In the Blackguards she sees the fighters and the power she needs for her plans, even if they are a shadow of their former glory: Naurim became fat and lazy, but also more cunning; Zurbaran lost his self-confidence and Takate seems to have lost his killer instinct.

Together with Cassia the three remaining Blackguards will be the main characters of Blackguards 2. In many quests the group will travel through South Aventuria to fulfill Cassia’s dream.

Blackguards 2 will again be based on the RPG rulebook of The Dark Eye, but it will come along with some revisions, optimisations and simplifications. The gameplay will focus on turn-based battles once more – this time the players have to conquer Cassia’s lands and defend them against intruders when the need arises. As in a fraction-based game the enemies can recapture the territories from the Blackguards.

If not in a battle, players take care of a lot of quests and the development of their characters. As common in RPGs, the quests will offer optional and alternative plotlines.

Furthermore, Blackguards 2 will have new weapons, armor, enemies and stamina as additional battle resource.

On top of that, Blackguards 2 will involve mechanics that have been requested by players of the first game, like improved line of sight, cover and formation.
Is Blackguards 2 an ill-considered attempt at a slam dunk, or does it have redeeming value? If somebody bothers to play it, we might find out!

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Knights of the Old Republic series released on GOG

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 20 January 2015, 17:16:48

Tags: BioWare; LucasArts; Obsidian Entertainment; Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic; Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords

Back in October, the folks at GOG announced that they had finally managed to secure a deal with Disney to release LucasArts' classic titles on their platform. One of the first six titles released was BioWare's Knights of the Old Republic. However, I felt it would be remiss to make a news post about it until its sequel, Obsidian's Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, was released in the same way.

Well, that took longer than expected. For some reason, there was a hiatus in further LucasArts releases (related to end of year sales, perhaps?), but starting from today, they have resumed. A further six titles have been released, with KOTOR2 among them. Both of the KOTORs are priced at $10, plus a 20% launch discount. Go get 'em if you can't abide by Steam. Personally, I'm still waiting for Day of the Tentacle...

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Sat 17 January 2015
Chris Avellone tells the Codex about his current work on Pillars of Eternity

People News - posted by Crooked Bee on Sat 17 January 2015, 17:56:18

Tags: Chris Avellone; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity

As some may recall, in a recent interview Chris Avellone told PCGamesN that he wrote two companions for Obsidian's upcoming fantasy RPG Pillars of Eternity, but that his original design went too far and had to be scaled down from how he originally imagined these characters:

Sitting down to write two characters for Eternity, Avellone felt as if the chains were off.

“I’m not writing for a publisher right now,” he thought. “So I can write about subjects we’re normally not allowed to. What’s interesting about the world of Eternity that I think these two companions could have something to say about?”

In the end, Avellone went too far even for his colleagues at Obsidian - those characters won’t appear in the game as he originally intended.​

We were in email correspondence with Chris regarding Codex backer rewards at around the same time the interview was posted, so we decided to ask him about his original companion design and how it changed - to which MCA gave an answer that may be of interest to those who follow Pillars of Eternity's progress:

Chris Avellone: "To be clear, and to give credit where credit is due on content contributions (I don’t want to steal anyone’s thunder), I wrote the first iterations of two companions (Durance and the Grieving Mother, who have been scaled down to about ¼ of what they were originally, and the Grieving Mother’s mental dungeon was excised as well, which was essentially a stealth adventure game inside her memories).

The final versions that are in the game are the province of other narrative designers, and I would be uncomfortable taking credit for the final implementation of the two characters. "​

The Grieving Mother's mental dungeon sounds intriguing, and also Wasteland-ey (remember Finster's brain?), but given Josh Sawyer's recent comment on another forum about "listing as a b-priority" anything that isn't "core gameplay" (requires registration to see, but quoted in full by our dear Roguey here), no wonder it was cut. Could be it didn't fit the game's tone either.

To follow up on that, we asked Chris if the Grieving Monther's dungeon's design was Wasteland-inspired, but turns out that no, it was not:

Chris Avellone: Interesting thought! Not at all, actually. I was thinking about how a dialogue could be explored like a dungeon and reversing a Cipher’s powers so it’s actually the player who has telepathy - the scripted interactions in Eternity seemed like a perfect fit.​

Sounds like it was firmly rooted in the game's lore, after all.

Aside from that, in response to the question about whether he would describe his involvement with Pillars as "minimal", MCA also elaborated on what his current role on the game is in general:

Chris Avellone: "I’ve been doing narrative fixes for the game now that it’s nearing the end of production along with reviewing other written support materials (the manual, for example, since I’ve written quite a few in the past). Feargus requested my assistance for two reasons – one, the narrative team did not have the time and two, because of my familiarity with the title. It has taken time – still, because this work involves bug-fixing and improving the core content of the game (as opposed to an Arcanum LP, which would not improve Eternity’s quality), it’s worthwhile, and it’s rare that we have an opportunity like this. Also, it has allowed us to look for things to add to the standards document for future projects (including further Eternity projects). I have still a good chunk more to do. I wouldn’t describe my role as minimal, but it’s been different than other RPGs at the studio. It usually is, from project to project.

I also did multiple critiques of the lore and the storyline(s) (including suggesting one framework for the story, along with other designers), but the storyline does not have many of my suggestions or contributions, it is largely the Creative Lead’s voice and direction guiding it, as it should be.

I had no involvement with the systems of the game beyond pushing that we create classes unique/native to the physics of the world (the Cipher), since a number of the classes that had been created up to that point were largely archetypes that could be found in other fantasy games. I felt strongly that if we could make a tie between the systems and lore, the game would be stronger for it.

That’s it. Still plenty to do. More to come when I have a breather. :)"​

In conclusion - for those still waiting with bated breath for the continuation of his exciting adventures in Arcanum - MCA noted that the above "isn’t meant to imply the Arcanum LP won’t be finished, it will just likely be postponed until I’ve done all I can with improving Eternity’s core content." Phew, and here I was getting worried already.

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Seven Dragon Saga Update: The Goal System

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sat 17 January 2015, 17:04:31

Tags: Seven Dragon Saga; Tactical Simulations Interactive

It's been several months since we got a substantial update from Tactical Simulations Interactive's Seven Dragon Saga, leading some to fear that it had become vaporware. I don't think the publication of a two-part Dragon Age: Inquisition review by Paul Murray did much to allay those fears, but today's update might. It's a post about the game's Goal system, an interesting mechanic that systematizes choice & consequence in a game with multiple player characters. I quote:

As Paul touched on in his recent review, Seven Dragon Saga allows players to create their entire six man party. We chose this to give the player far more control over how they balance their party, and creatively build their team without the pressure to drag an NPC specialist with them that they are not fond of. However, we also intend to take some steps to give personality to the individual characters, preventing them from becoming simply “Thief toolbox” and “High damage dealer”.

Our first effort to make the characters feel unique is the Race, Class, Specialty selection system, which provides distinctive weapon and ability optimizations. These choices create different looks and different feels in combat. At this stage of development, we are taking rough cuts at keeping the choices both distinct and balanced. Each ability has its own point cost, and we have to watch for combinations which might provide too much synergy.

As the player creates each character, the game prompts them to choose a Goal for that character. Goals then provide the natural inclination and motivating force for that character. During play, various quests will allow multiple methods for successful completion. However, if the player chooses a solution which matches the Goal of one or more characters, those characters gain rewards such as bonus build points – used to improve and customize that character.

For instance, if a bandit chief offered a payment to leave the area, rather than surrender. The player could accept or decline and subsequently force a surrender, or find another way to resolve things. Getting a payment appeals to the Greed Goal, and characters with that Goal would benefit from accepting it (along with the payment). Taking the chief in for trial could fulfill the Honor Goal, and benefit different characters.

The player would have to decide whether to align all the characters to the same Goal, so a positive choice benefits all evenly. Or choose a variety of Goals, allowing benefits to accrue to some characters in a wider variety of quests. Each quest will NOT have solutions which benefit every Goal. Of course, the player should choose Goals compatible with his play style as there is no “right” way to play.

To choose a Goal for a character, the player makes four choices. First, the game asks a question about the character’s youth, based on the Race chosen, with two possible results. Then comes a question about the character’s upbringing, based on their Class, and one about their early adventuring days, based off of Specialty. Finally, the player choose which of those three possible Goals now dominates this character.

All of this should provide a shorthand for the background and personality of each character which shouldn’t handcuff player style. We’ll be going over other topics as time goes along. If there’s something you particularly want to hear about, let us know.
Nifty. More stuff like this, less console game reviews, eh guys?

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