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

RPG Codex Gamescom Report, Part 3: A Misanthrope's Delight

Editorial - posted by Crooked Bee on Tue 2 September 2014, 17:46:36

Tags: Gamescom; Kai Fiebig

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There are many ways in which one can attend a convention like this year's Gamescom in Cologne. One may get hyped and be a fan and spend most of the day in super long queues just to play a bit of the shown-off game(s). One may hate the entire thing and complain about the queues and say "never again." Or one may forgo all the queues, enter the convention through the business entrance, and talk to the devs about their game as well as about how the whole thing sucks. Combine the latter two, add some poignant pictorial commentary, and you get our very own agent Darth Roxor's report, now in Part 3, or, "How and Why I Enjoyed Gamescom 2014." Have a couple of tidbits:

After attending Daedalic's adventure game previews, I had a quick chat with their senior producer, Kai Fiebig. When he asked whether I was enjoying my stay at Gamescom, I replied that I had only just arrived. To which he smirked and said, “well, then you’re lucky”. At that point, I didn’t fully realise what he meant - the revelation would only hit me across the head with a club the next day. Before the Blackguards 2 presentation began, I talked with him a bit about the general feedback given by players of the original Blackguards. I already mentioned what Kai considered “good feedback” in Part 1 of my report, but it was also rather refreshing to hear him launch into a quasi-rant about casual gamers. Most developers just don’t bother commenting on people who hate their games for stupid reasons like “whoa, itz too hard!!”, but Kai seemed eager to tell me just how sour it made him to go through various internet forums and see people whining about mechanics that are clearly explained, not using all the tools they have at their disposal, etc. Before I left, he told me that while they are doing some streamlining for Blackguards 2, he still fully expects people to rise in uproar again about the absence of handholding and the tough difficulty. I really liked how his facial expression constantly shifted into that trademark Disgusted Clint Eastwood look when he talked about all this. [...]

I didn’t take part in any of those “hands-on” showcases, nor did I wait around for hours straight to watch the big presentations. Mostly because this is not an activity that I would consider:

a) Fun.
b) Conducive to proper information gathering.
c) An efficient use of my time, both free and “professional”.
d) Adhering to the basic principles of human dignity.

My only regret is that I didn’t actually get to play Pillars of Eternity. Maybe there was a communication error at some point, but I thought the presentation of it that I attended later was supposed to be hands-on, which was another reason why I didn’t bother standing around in those abysmal queues. But it wasn’t, so it wasn't, and so I was forced to nitpick its pseudo-paladins instead of taking apart its systems. [...]

At 3 pm I returned to Hall 4 to get ready for Hellraid, where I ran into Daedalic’s Kai Fiebig and Johannes Kiel, who had gone for a smoke. This time I had a longer conversation with them, about various topics but mostly about Gamescom itself. When I mentioned that I’d been to the Entertainment Area, they told me how glad they were that they didn’t have to set foot in that hive of scum and villainy. Kai explained that he was looking forward to the end of the convention, because the job of running the presentations is sheer hell. Imagine sitting in the same place for ten hours straight, repeating the same spiel again and again, and in a non-native language to boot. He said that he was glad that I'd found them, because he'd forgotten to mention one aspect of Blackguards 2 on the previous day. After hearing about that, I talked with them a bit about the gaming industry as a whole, and about some of the games that Kai had worked on in the past. When I brought up one of the games that I had seen at Gamescom, Kai told me how important it is to never trust anyone who claims he wants to deliver a game “made by the same developers as [classic]!”. He said that he hears that very often, but usually realizes after some checking around that these “same developers” who were the main driving force behind the [classic] are currently stationed in three different studios around the globe.​

Be sure to read the full report, and also take a look at the pictures. If anything, do have a look at the comic that Roxor took the effort to translate into English. ; )

There are 15 comments on RPG Codex Gamescom Report, Part 3: A Misanthrope's Delight

Sun 31 August 2014
Matt Chat 255: Feargus Urquhart on Black Isle, Baldur's Gate, and Fallout 2

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Sun 31 August 2014, 02:39:31

Tags: Baldur's Gate; BioWare; Black Isle Studios; Fallout 2; Feargus Urquhart; Interplay; Matt Barton; Shattered Steel

In the second episode of Matt Barton's interview with Feargus Urquhart, Feargus goes back to the beginning, and tells the story of his unlikely rise from humble QA tester at Interplay to head of Black Isle Studios, the company's roleplaying games division. He talks about his first collaboration with BioWare, helping to publish and produce their now-forgotten first title, the mech simulator Shattered Steel. But the real meat of this part of the interview is Feargus' take on the developments of Baldur's Gate and Fallout 2.

Did you know that Feargus had to go over his immediate boss's head and appeal to the marketing department and Brian Fargo* to get Baldur's Gate greenlit? He was even responsible for naming the game "Baldur's Gate" (which the Biodocs thought was a dumb name, by the way). Also, did you know that Fallout 2 was originally going to be developed by another team because Tim Cain and co. didn't want to do a sequel? Apparently, they suddenly changed their minds after the original was released, and took over the already existing Fallout 2 project, scrapping much of the initial work...before leaving again not long afterwards to found Troika. Feargus doesn't outright state it, but it's not hard to see where the bad blood surrounding that project may have come from.

*Speaking of Brian Fargo, in an uncharacteristically ballsy move, Matt asks Feargus whether what Brian said in his interview back in 2011 about Baldur's Gate not being profitable enough was true. Feargus is hesitant to contradict his old boss, but it's clear that he believes that Baldur's Gate was indeed quite profitable by most standards.

There are 40 comments on Matt Chat 255: Feargus Urquhart on Black Isle, Baldur's Gate, and Fallout 2

Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition announced, to be released within a month

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sun 31 August 2014, 01:04:50

Tags: Beamdog; Icewind Dale; Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition

It looks like the merry men of Beamdog haven't been idle over the past year. Today at PAX Prime they announced Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition, a spruced up version of Black Isle's classic isometric dungeon crawl from 2000. The release date is "likely within a month". Here's what the game's official site says, plus a trailer:

Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition Announced!
August 30th, 2014

Beamdog and Wizards of The Coast announced at PAX today that pre-orders have begun for Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition ahead of its upcoming release.

Originally released in 2000, Icewind Dale is hailed as a classic Dungeons & Dragons adventure based in Wizards of The Coast's legendary Forgotten Realms campaign setting. The Enhanced Edition will allow new and experienced gamers alike to enjoy this epic adventure as never before. Available on PC, Mac, iPad, and Android tablets and phones, the game will retail for $19.99 on desktop and is available for pre-order now.

Icewind Dale has been enhanced with new kits and character classes, dozens of new items and spells, and restored quest material cut from the original game. The redesigned user interface features Zoom capabilities and a Quickloot Bar, among numerous other improvements. Up to six players can simultaneously enjoy Icewind Dale with the new cross-platform multiplayer mode.

Q: When will Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition release?

A: Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition has entered beta and will release "when it's ready" to ensure the best experience for players, likely within a month.

Q: What specific enhancements does Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition offer over the original game?

A: Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition features the following enhancements:
  • Six expanded quests, featuring content cut from the original game
  • 60 new items
  • Heart of Winter and Trials of the Luremaster expansions
  • 31 new class and kit combinations from Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition, well as the half-orc playable race
  • 122 new spells carried over from Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition
  • Cross-platform multiplayer
  • A new "Story Mode" difficulty setting to allow players to experience all of the story with none of the Game Over screens
  • Available for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android
Cut content, eh? I'm guessing that's gonna be an adaptation of the G3 Unfinished Business mod. Doesn't look like they plan to enhance the graphics though, despite the known availability of the original Icewind Dale assets, which I'm sure the folks at Obsidian would be happy to provide.

There are 126 comments on Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition announced, to be released within a month

Sat 30 August 2014
Quest for Infamy Review at Gamebanshee

Review - posted by Crooked Bee on Sat 30 August 2014, 22:37:36

Tags: Infamous Quests; Quest for Infamy

Gamebanshee's Steven Carter has reviewed Blackthorne's Quest for Glory-inspired adventure RPG Quest for Infamy. A large part of the review is just explaing what the game is and how it plays, but here are some of the more evaluative tidbits:

Like a lot of RPGs, the combat in Quest for Infamy starts out difficult and then gets easy. The main culprit here is the block skill. As you use your combat skills, you increase their ratings, but once you reach 100 with block, it's guaranteed to be successful, which means you can use it to heal yourself whenever you want -- and thus defeat any enemy in the game, even the end boss, regardless of your other skills or equipment. This completely deflates the RPG aspect of the game, leaving Quest for Infamy as mostly an adventure. [...]

Sadly, though, Quest for Infamy has three major problems that prevented me from enjoying it very much. The first is that it's almost a carbon copy of Quest for Glory I, except with an anti-hero instead of a hero. That doesn't necessarily sound bad, but developer Infamous Quests even copied the interface, and while people often get nostalgic for old games, it's not because of the interfaces. I can still enjoy a game even if it has old VGA-style graphics, but I'd just as soon avoid not having tooltips and scrollbars and quicksaves and context-sensitive cursors and other modern amenities. Plus, the more a new game looks and plays like an old game, the less reason there is for me to recommend it over the old game. In this case, you can buy all five of the Quest for Glory games for about half the price of Quest for Infamy, and no doubt enjoy them more.​

I must admit I'll never understand the "can't recommend over old games" argument -- it just eludes me completely. What if I have already played those old games?

Anyway, we go on:

The second problem is the writing quality, which doesn't even come close to the level found in the Quest for Glory games. Worse, the tone of the game is dramatically different. I guess because you're playing an anti-hero, Infamous Quests didn't want to have "nice" jokes and instead made a beeline straight for the gutter. In the first hour I played, I saw references to masturbation, drug use, hookers, sex with dogs, and STDs; there's a beheading complete with splurting blood; your character is allowed to urinate on all sorts of things; and "shit" was used almost every other word for some characters. And you don't even want to know about the "bush" jokes.

Infamous Quests was also a little lazy in their writing. Adventures can often create a lot of humor from when players get stuck and start trying out random inventory objects in random places, but in Quest for Infamy you almost always get a generic "you can't do that" response -- or the game calls you an idiot, which is one of its favorite pastimes. I laughed a lot when I played the Quest for Glory games, but not so much with Quest for Infamy.

Finally, the voice acting in Quest for Infamy is sort of odd and annoying. For some reason almost all of the secondary characters use bizarre accents, and even the main character mumbles his lines. If it hadn't been for the subtitles, I wouldn't have known what he was saying about half of the time. Since Quest for Infamy is a budget title, I'm sort of guessing the voice actors weren't professionals, or maybe this was an attempt at humor that just didn't work for me. Luckily, you can turn off the voices if you want and not have to deal with them.​

The reviewer concludes by calling Quest for Infamy "a disappointing misfire". Ouch.

Hopefully we'll have our own Quest for Infamy review sometime in the future, on the condition that esteemed community member Aeschylus finds the time to write down his impressions. You know you can't trust any other site's reviews, right?

There are 14 comments on Quest for Infamy Review at Gamebanshee

US Gamer's Retrospective Reviews: Curse of the Azure Bonds, Drakkhen, The Black Onyx

Review - posted by Crooked Bee on Sat 30 August 2014, 22:16:16

Tags: Curse of the Azure Bonds; Drakkhen; The Black Onyx's Jeremy Parish did a few oldschool RPG retrospectives last week as part of the USGamer's "Daily Classics" series. Specifically, the games reminisced about were Curse of the Azure Bonds, The Black Onyx, and Drakkhen. I'd like to hope most people on the Codex are familiar with Curse of the Azure Bonds, at least (as part of SSI's famous "Gold Box" RPG series), whereas Drakkhen and The Black Onyx could be harder to place, I imagine. So here are two snippets on both of those. First, the unique "RPG missionary" Black Onyx:

By far one of the most effective efforts to bring Western concepts to Japan came from a Dutch game enthusiast by the name of Henk Rogers. [...] Japanese game developers were aware of RPGs and even dabbled in rudimentary forms of role-playing design as early as 1982. Those early efforts were fairly dismal by modern standards, with opaque mechanics and nothing even slightly resembling game balance. The spirit was willing, but the proverbial flesh was terribly weak. At least, that was true until Rogers came along to preach the gospel of role-playing games with The Black Onyx in 1984. Though hardly the most spectacular take on the RPG concept — it was essentially Wizardry with some modest mechanical tweaks — it was the work of a designer who had obsessed over the genre in his native language and understood the ins and outs of role-playing. In fact, Rogers' language problem mirrored that of his target audience: He understood the games, but not Japanese.

With the help of some native speakers, Rogers managed to cram a proper computer RPG experience into a format friendly to Japanese gamers. Released exclusively for the PC-8801 personal computer, The Black Onyx overcame a slow start (thanks in large part to an active PR campaign by Rogers) to become a bonafide hit, racking up impressive sales and a ton of awards by the end of 1984. In short order, the game made its way to a number of other systems, including Sega's SG-1000 console, where it received a visual facelift courtesy of future Phantasy Star designer Reiko Kodama. Just as certain Japanese properties have become far more successful in the West than in their native land — Metroid, Castlevania, and Sonic the Hedgehog come to mind — the reverse has occasionally been true as well. Lode Runner and Spelunker, for example, have seen far more sequels and far better sales in Japan than here in the States. The Black Onyx doesn't quite fit that definition, having been developed in Japan for the Japanese by a European designer, but it certainly serves as a sort of conceptual bridge. The franchise has long since faded to obsolescence even in Japan; due to rampant cloning by Japanese developers, only one of the two planned sequels saw the light of day as Rogers' Bullet-Proof Software was shut out of the market it helped create. Yet its legacy lives on.​

And here's something about Drakkhen:

Unlike Shadowgate, however, Drakkhen didn't give players a finite, contained world to explore. On the contrary, it offered an early take on 3D open-world design — one of the very first, in fact, predating Bethesda's The Terminator by a year. Given its pioneering status, perhaps it's no real surprise that it took its open-world description quite seriously; after rolling their party's stats and classes, players begin in a green field with sparse trees and details dotting the landscape. A castle appears in the distance, beckoning epxlorers to investigate, but beyond that Drakkhen offers very little guidance in terms of direction or mechanics, even if you partake of the optional tutorial Kemco added for the console release. As if its abstruse design weren't daunting enough for newcomers, Drakkhen seemingly reveled in surreality. Bizarre creatures would appear as you traveled across the landscape. At night, the stars themselves might begin to shift and twist, manifesting as a monster that would descend and attack. NPCs in fortresses and hideouts scattered across the land would share oblique snippets of information, but either by design or poor localization these tended to be confusing at best. The clues you would uncover along the way hinted at quests and puzzles that seemingly were never implemented within the game.

Drakkhen definitely feels like an RPG for experienced RPG fans, specifically those versed in the rules and expectations of computer RPGs. Unlike console role-playing experiences, Drakkhen offers no real guidance. It has no rails. It lacks convenient subdivisions of land to offer a hint that you're wandering into territory well beyond your party's means of survival, or even much in the way of pointers beyond a rudimentary in-game map. You're free to travel anywhere in the world from the outset, and you can easily encounter extremely high-level enemies with a novice party, a combination that practically guarantees a quick game over.

Most importantly, Drakkhen was mildly revolutionary for its time on a technological level. While many of its RPG predecessors had featured a similar free-roaming adventure, Drakkhen changed the camera angle from a top-down fixed perspective to a freely controlled point-of-view closer to the horizon, with scaling sprites for geographic features. [...] In its original PC incarnation, though, Drakkhen paved the way for countless games to come. Bethesda would follow up The Terminator with 1994's The Elder Scrolls: Arena, and Ultima would make a foray into free-roaming 3D exploration in 1992 with Ultima Underworld.​

I've got to say that Drakkhen has fascinated me for some time already, and it's definitely one of the more unique and "experimental" RPGs out there, so I'm glad to see it get some attention.

Parish also mentions TSI's upcoming crowdfunded Gold Box reboot in the Curse of the Azure Bonds article.

There are 15 comments on US Gamer's Retrospective Reviews: Curse of the Azure Bonds, Drakkhen, The Black Onyx

Pillars of Eternity live at PAX Prime

Preview - posted by Infinitron on Sat 30 August 2014, 14:46:28

Tags: Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity

One gaming convention ends, another begins. Yesterday, Obsidian's Pillars of Eternity was demonstrated at PAX Prime in Seattle. This time, the presenters were producer Rose Gomez, who played, and designer Jorge Salgado (he of "Obscuro's Oblivion Overhaul" modding fame), who narrated. The version they showed off is apparently a slightly newer build than the currently available backer beta. Warning: Jorge's voice may turn you gay.

The Pillars of Eternity stuff starts at around 2:43:25 and is about 16 minutes long. If you'd like to see more of the game, there was also a short preview video at Polygon a few days ago. This one didn't have any Obsidian devs attending, though - just some Polygon guys.

Warning: Polygon guys' voices may turn you back straight.

There are 1 comments on Pillars of Eternity live at PAX Prime

Fri 29 August 2014
Duck and Cover looking for editorial staff

Information - posted by Crooked Bee on Fri 29 August 2014, 16:38:47

Tags: Duck and Cover

Are you a bad enough dude to remember, or to have been a member of, the famous Duck and Cover? As Taluntain lets us know, the Fallout-dedicated website is now seeking new staff aka a "clean-up crew". Titanium bones required to apply.

As all of you have probably noticed by now, DAC has been falling apart, bit by bit, for a number of years now. As nobody is really in charge here and/or doesn't really want to do anything much with the site, it's been falling into disrepair more and more. I hate to see that happen to any site so consider this an open call for serious candidates to take over and for discussion where (if anywhere) we want DAC to go in the future.

DU and I have some plans for fixing the most pressing issues (like getting off this old, half-broken phpBB), but that's really just a small part of the changes needed around here if DAC is to have any real future. Fixing up DAC would take weeks/months of serious work and dedication so anyone counting on being given a shot at that should take that into account.

There have been a few half-assed attempts at a renewal here over the years but it's all basically died in the conceptual stages or soon after. DAC mostly needs at least one content guy willing to put some effort into sorting out that side of DAC (as a lot of old stuff is just sitting on FTP and hasn't been properly linked to the site in years because nobody bothered) and one code guy to take over and help with all the technical aspects of running a website, upgrading the forums, keeping various scripts up to date and so on.

Needless to say, a great amount of love for Fallout and DAC is a requirement for any candidate.

If you think you've got what DAC needs (and have references to back you up - please don't waste my time if you're not 100% committed), PM me and tell me why you should be put on the DAC team.​

If you think your bones are up to either of the tasks (i.e. either content or code), do PM Taluntain here or on DAC. Neanderthals and mutants are welcome.

There are 44 comments on Duck and Cover looking for editorial staff

Matt Chat 254: Feargus Urquhart on South Park, Pillars of Eternity, and More

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Fri 29 August 2014, 03:15:40

Tags: Feargus Urquhart; Matt Barton; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity; South Park: The Stick of Truth

The latest guest on Matt Barton's show is none other than the CEO of our hearts, Feargus Urquhart. In the first episode of what will be a multi-part interview, Feargus talks a bit about working with publishers, and about the developments of South Park: The Stick of Truth and Pillars of Eternity. In the episode's second half, Matt tries to ask some questions about Obsidian's next Kickstarter, which Feargus deflects rather confusingly by changing the subject back to Pillars of Eternity. At the end of the interview he also talks about some RPG concepts that he'd considered in the past, including a Deadlands-inspired horror/western RPG, and a kung fu RPG he'd considered doing with BioWare back in 2000. The latter sounds a bit like what eventually became Jade Empire, although it's unclear whether Feargus realizes the connection. Whether these concepts are in any way related to Obsidian's next Kickstarter is unknown.

Notable takeaways from the interview: Feargus says that Pillars of Eternity's release date will be announced in "a few weeks", and also that artists will be moving over to work on its expansion pack "next week". Keep in mind that this interview was probably recorded a while ago, so it may be that he was actually referring to the beta's release date. Also, I guess now we know why Kaz is the only 2D artist left to work on the main game? Another takeaway from the interview is that Feargus now considers a Pillars of Eternity 2 Kickstarter to be a possibility - but only after the game is released, so it won't be their next one.

There are 42 comments on Matt Chat 254: Feargus Urquhart on South Park, Pillars of Eternity, and More

Thu 28 August 2014
RPG Codex Gamescom Report, Part 2: Futuristics and the Popping of Moles

Editorial - posted by Crooked Bee on Thu 28 August 2014, 20:48:24

Tags: Clandestine; Hellraid; Little Green Men; Logic Artists; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity; Raven's Cry; Reality Pump; Techland

And so esteemed community member Darth Roxor continues to recount his impressions of all things he saw at this year's Gamescom. (Part 1 can be found here.) This time he talks about Little Green Men's Starpoint Gemini 2, Obsidian's Pillars of Eternity, Logic Artists' Clandestine (omitting any mention of their super secret project, which is so super secret that Roxor can't even tell us what it is, the bastard), Techland's Hellraid and Reality Pump's Raven's Cry. Going for the most controversial and sensationalist snippet as we are wont to, here are some of the negative things he has to say about Pillars of Eternity:

You are probably wondering what a preview of Pillars of Eternity is doing in this article, a game that doesn't have much in the way of futuristics. The answer lies in the second part of the title, as well as in the warning placed in the introduction. [...] For all the talk about how different this system is from D&D, and how each class has its own unique abilities instead of just “left click to autoattack”, when observing the game I sure as hell couldn’t see that. The fighter and paladin stood around bashing the beetles (that is, when Adam didn’t forget to tell them to do that), the rogue stood around shooting her bow, and the mage cast some magic missiles. I’ve seen this stuff before more than once, with the only difference perhaps being that damage in PoE came in increments (Sassy was hit for 0.3 damage!). Furthermore, I can’t really say that these encounters looked very exciting or even tactical – the smaller beetles would die outright, and then the fight would boil down to 5v1 bashing of the big beetle, which not only refused to die, but would also readily maul the poor fighter. The same thing happened again in a fight against overgrown spiders, and the demo finally ended with a total party wipe when the quest target ogre proceeded to two-hit-kill all of the party members.

The party wipe at the end was actually a direct consequence of how buggy the beta build was. I don’t know whether it was the influence of my RPG Codex Aura of Trolling +3, but Adam and Josh said it was probably the craziest presentation they gave during their entire stay at Gamescom. They even ran into bugs whose existence they had no idea about. For starters, they had to restart the game right after accepting the “main quest” because one of the characters lost the ability to cast magic. Later on, when the fighter got knocked out by beetles, he refused to wake up, and only using one of the limited rests in the wilderness brought him back. And in turn, the resting did not recharge the characters’ used-up memorised spells and abilities, which meant the party arrived at the ogre’s lair seriously gimped. And to make matters even worse, the mage decided to just run off uncontrollably instead of casting spells during the final showdown, and by the time Adam regained control over her, it was far too late.

After the wipe, the presentation proper was over, and it was time for questions. Unfortunately, time was short, and I only managed to ask one question that interested me personally. After learning about the dreaded Bîaŵac ([bi:au:ak]) in a recent Kickstarter update, I wanted to ask about Sawyer’s background, and to get some references for the languages in Eternity. It may be that my question was unclear, because instead he explained how the internal lingua eternia is based on various real languages, like Welsh or Italian, but stripped of real world cultural context, and with some added game world dialectal modifications based on each land's and realm's neighbours. I found this information satisfying enough, but unfortunately, I wasn't able follow it up with more questions. Someone else asked whether Obsidian is marketing the game mainly towards players who played the original Infinity Engine games, or if they are also focused on newcomers. Josh replied that their goal is to create something which is “essentially a classic IE game, but a new and different game in fact”. He also said that the final game’s early areas will be a “big tutorial” of sorts, so that newcomers can get used to the entire deal. That was the last question before the devs had to close up shop.

As you may have guessed, Pillars of Eternity didn’t impress me much. I identified three chief reasons behind this, but I’m not sure which contributed the most. First of all, the overall bugginess, which obviously skewed the game’s image rather significantly. Second, how generic and unexciting everything felt mechanically. Third, the area chosen for the presentation. I mean, if you're showing the game to the press, your motivation should be to sell it. How can you expect me to have positive impressions of your showcase, when all you did was show me a generic_fantasy_village, some adventurers bumrushing a bunch of overgrown beetles and spiders, and a stereotypical ogre with a huge club? Maybe the full game will have plenty of cool-looking areas filled to the brim with creative enemies, memorable encounters and wizard duels, but I simply didn’t see that during the Gamescom presentation.​

Read the full article: RPG Codex Gamescom Report, Part 2: Futuristics and the Popping of Moles

There are 45 comments on RPG Codex Gamescom Report, Part 2: Futuristics and the Popping of Moles

Massive Knights of the Chalice 2 Development Update

Development Info - posted by VentilatorOfDoom on Thu 28 August 2014, 13:59:02

Tags: Heroic Fantasy Games; Knights of the Chalice 2

Pierre Begue posted a large update on the development progress of Knights of the Chalice 2 on his forums. Here's a snippet:

You may notice the new ‘Respec’ tab. It is used to change the feat selection, spell selection and psionic power selection that the character received at his last level-up (or when he was created). That way, if you find that a certain feat is not helping your character, you can change the feat selection after levelling-up, without restoring a saved game. Currently, only the selection from the last level can be changed.

You may also notice that I switched the gear/equipment page from being a tab within the character sheet to being a separate window. The reason for this is that the equipment page is too big to be a tab in the character sheet. So, to open the equipment page from the character sheet, I’ve added an “inventory” button in the bottom-left corner.

In the inventory page (see below), you may notice in the bottom-right corner a box for “party items and store items”. When you trade with an NPC, items on sale will appear in that box and the price of each available item will be displayed when mousing over it. When you are not trading, the box will instead be filled with all of the items that the other party members have in their backpack.

This may answer the requests I have heard a couple of times for a “common” inventory page which would comprise all of the items from all of the party characters. So if you have two fighters and the 2nd fighter has a sword in his inventory that the 1st character needs to use, you can just click on the sword in the “party items” box and that sword will be moved automatically from the 2nd character’s backpack to the 1st character’s backpack.

The rest of the inventory screen should be straightforward for anyone who has played KotC 1 as the layout is the same. The space below “backpack items” is for bag items. It is displayed only when you click on a bag or any other container that the character can carry. You cannot move a container into a container.
Since not everybody can access his buyer forums I will shamelessly post the entire update in the comments thread for your convenience.

There are 58 comments on Massive Knights of the Chalice 2 Development Update

Dead State Kickstarter Update #47: Beta Released!

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 28 August 2014, 01:31:16

Tags: Dead State; DoubleBear Productions

If you have the Dead State Early Access installed, you may have noticed that it just received an update. That's the game's beta version, which has just been released. The game's latest Kickstarter update has the details. Oh, and there's also a spiffy new trailer:

The Dead State Beta is finally here! If you've activated your Steam key, your copy of Dead State should automatically update. If you never received your key or lost it, please message us on Kickstarter and we'll try to get back to you with your key as soon as we can.

Don’t skip off gleefully to launch the game just yet, though - read on to learn more about what you should expect when you fire up the Beta.

About the Beta

First, we want to remind everyone that the Beta is not the full game. While the Beta includes tons of new content and features, there are also content and features still missing, and most of those that are in the Beta still need balancing and optimization. There are also still going to be a host of bugs and technical issues that we’re still actively fixing behind the scenes. Similar to other prominent recent betas on Steam (Wasteland 2, Pillars of Eternity, Divinity), Dead State’s Beta doesn’t include all the final story, dialogues, or levels, but it’s sure got enough to keep you busy for quite some time! The idea behind the open beta is to expose as much content to you as we possibly can and get your feedback on both design and technical issues before we move on to the final release.

Speaking of your feedback - we need it! The community is full of passionate, motivated, and clever people and we humbly ask you to use your powers to help us improve Dead State. On the design side, we especially need feedback about combat, supplies, loot, and dialogue. On the technical side, we especially need to know about crashes, soft locks, exploits, and any progress-blocking bugs. Of course, all other game feedback is welcome too!

To provide bug reports and feedback, please use the subforum located here: Early Access Beta. Don’t mind the old posts - we had a very small number of people helping us do internal testing of the beta, and we’ve converted the forum we used to communicate with them into the full Beta bug-reporting/feedback forum. (And most of those reported issues from that time are fixed in the Beta you're playing!)

You can also use our "Bug Reporting and Feedback” board on Steam to report issues if you’d prefer.

Please make sure to read the “Known Issues” thread first and review other people’s posts before reporting your issue; that makes it easier for the devs and mods to keep track of everything!
Read the full update for a changelog and a sampling of the game's currently known issues, of which there are many. If you've decided you'd like to check out the Dead State beta for yourself, you can grab it on Steam, now for the price of $30.

There are 20 comments on Dead State Kickstarter Update #47: Beta Released!

Wed 27 August 2014
Book on the Making of Jagged Alliance 2 Published, Excerpt Available

Information - posted by Crooked Bee on Wed 27 August 2014, 23:04:48

Tags: Chris Camfield; Darius Kazemi; Ian Currie; Jagged Alliance 2; SirTech

SirTech's strategy-meets-RPG Jagged Alliance 2 gets a lot of love here on the Codex, so some of you may be interested to know that one Darius Kazemi has just published a short book about how the game came to be ($14.95 paperback, $4.95 ebook).

The turn-based tactical role playing series Jagged Alliance has been sequeled, expanded, modded, optioned, multiplayered, and kickstarted, but the series’ many fans usually point to Jagged Alliance 2 as the high water mark, and one of the finest turn-based video games of all time.

Jagged Alliance 2 brings to the table a wicked sense of humor, simulation-driven character design, a combination of strategic overworld and tactical battles reminiscent of the X-COM series, and a surprisingly deep open-world RPG experience reminiscent of the Ultima or Elder Scrolls games.

Focusing on JA2′s development history and basing his book largely on new personal interviews with the game’s developers, game designer and web technology developer Darius Kazemi delves deep into the legacy of a game that still has much to teach gamers and game-makers 14 years after its release.​

There's also a fairly lengthy excerpt available online, from which I'll only quote a short part here, having to do with Ian Currie's lack of RPG experience as contrasted with the game's programmer Chris Camfield's love for PnP RPGs and how that influenced JA2's gun design:

Ian Currie, Co-Designer: "For some reason, and I don’t know why, I sort of latched on to a more military type of situation. I didn’t think of the fantasy thing where you can have magic and the various classes. I think that was my lack of experience, to be honest. I hadn’t played that many RPGs. I’d only played Eye of the Beholder at this time. But I remember thinking, you’ll have grenades for your spells, and you’ll have ranged [attacks], and some melee stuff."

After JA1 was released, the team realized very quickly that the game they had built appealed to a core audience of gun enthusiasts and self-styled survivalists. In the development of JA2, they tried to appeal to this audience by populating the world with a massive roster of “realistically” modeled guns. Programmer Chris Camfield was in charge of implementing the tactical layer battle mechanics. A lifelong player of pencil-and-paper role-playing games as well as strategy board games, Camfield instinctively turned to RPG sourcebooks (tomes of information compiled to assist role players in creating more vibrant worlds) for more detail, taking advantage of the meticulous research published by other designers.

Chris Camfield. Programmer (JA2): "There was a difference between the fan culture and the developer culture. When Shaun and Ian and Alex made JA1, they didn't know a lot about guns. That said, neither did I—just some things I'd read in books. I remember looking at the JA1 code and the way that the gun damage was defined was your basic gun did 10 damage, the next gun did 12, then 14, 16, 18, 20 and so on. [...] Ian and Shaun were really approaching it more from the point of view of trying to translate the experience of an 80s action movie into computer game format.

I used a couple of pen-and-paper RPG books about different guns to make it more realistic: Palladium Books’ The Compendium of Contemporary Weapons [by Maryann Siembieda], and the other one was from R. Talsorian games, called Compendium of Modern Firearms [by Kevin Dockery]. Now that I think about it, there may have been numbers in there that listed rate of fire, cartridge type, and bullet grams. I think I tried initially to estimate the damage value of a gun based on the listed muzzle velocity of the gun and the weight of the bullet. [Compendium of Modern Firearms] also has all these different ranges of probabilities of hitting a target of a certain size or how wide the spread would be for bullets for a particular gun. That probably got factored into accuracy values. But those numbers still had to go through kind of a pass to make the progression better."​

The excerpt as a whole "focuses on the curious relationship between semi-fictional mercenary culture, 'macho adventure' magazine Soldier of Fortune, and gun-toting video games." Read it in full here.

There are 38 comments on Book on the Making of Jagged Alliance 2 Published, Excerpt Available

Tue 26 August 2014
Shadowrun: Dragonfall Director's Cut gets an official trailer

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 26 August 2014, 20:44:53

Tags: Harebrained Schemes; Shadowrun: Dragonfall

In a new Shadowrun Returns Kickstarter update, game director Mike McCain presents the official trailer for the Shadowrun: Dragonfall Director's Cut.

Hi guys! Mike here again. I’m excited to share with you our official trailer for Shadowrun: Dragonfall - Director’s Cut*. Check it out!

In addition to the new trailer, we’ve also released a full feature list for the game on our brand new “coming soon” page in the Steam store. If you have friends that haven’t experienced Dragonfall - or even Shadowrun - before, give them a heads up!

Shadowrun: Dragonfall - Director’s Cut at PAX Prime

And one more thing: Dragonfall will be at PAX Prime in Seattle this weekend! Harebrained Schemes will be on the 2nd floor of the Convention Center, Room 209. We’re sharing the space with Green Ronin Games, and we’ll have both Shadowrun: Dragonfall - Director’s Cut and Golem Arcana available to play. Myself and other members of the dev team will be there Friday through Sunday - come by to check out the games or just to say hi!

I hope you enjoyed last week’s dev diary with Andrew about all the new missions and content we’ve added to the Director’s Cut. Check back this Thursday to hear more about the new music with composer Jon Everist - who may even give you a sneak peek at one or two of the new tracks.
The update also comes with wallpapers of the Dragonfall companions, though poor Blitz is missing.

There are 36 comments on Shadowrun: Dragonfall Director's Cut gets an official trailer

Mon 25 August 2014
Dead State Interview with Brian Mitsoda at RPGWatch

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Mon 25 August 2014, 23:06:45

Tags: Brian Mitsoda; Dead State; DoubleBear Productions

There's a new interview with Brian Mitsoda over at RPGWatch. The interview starts off with a few questions about Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, but most of it is dedicated to asking a large number of questions about the game mechanics of Dead State, to which Brian answers in detail. It's a good interview! Here's a short excerpt:

RPGWatch: For me (and hopefully some of my readers!), deep RPG systems are the most important thing in an RPG, and the more complex the system, the better! What type of RPG stats, skills and perks can we expect to find in Dead State? Can you give us some examples of their design?

Brian: All of our stats and skills are fairly straightforward and have been cut down to be as useful as possible so that you don't feel like you put points in a useless option. Melee and Ranged are straightforward combat skills, while Mechanical, Medical, and Science have combat and Shelter applications, specifically building upgrades, healing allies faster, and building new armor or items. Survival is all about getting around the map quicker and more safely while also opening up potential wild sources of food. Leadership has dialogue applications, but can also be used to issue commands that can change your odds in combat. Negotiation helps you keep order at the shelter, but also allows you to more successfully deal with the demands of enemies and allies. Each skill has a choice of perks at levels 3 and 6, with a very useful perk unlocked at level 10. Pretty much whatever skill you pick is going to give you better odds of survival, but your specialties and perks will change your game experience quite a bit.

RPGWatch: What can you tell us about the companions in Dead State? Are there any hidden companions that require effort to get to join your crew, such as a character hidden in a hard-to-find location, or requiring some certain prerequisite to be met to get them to join?)? Will different characters have different classes, if classes are even in the game?

Brian: There aren't classes in the game, and allies use the same types of skills that the player does. Every ally has different stats, skill, and perks that make them useful in different ways. Some allies are better off utilized at the Shelter, while some are more suited to combat. A few allies will show up automatically, but many of them must be found out in the world. There are a few that will only join your Shelter if you take certain actions. And, of course, if you piss them off out in the world, there's always the chance they might just attack you rather than join you. Not all of them start out willing to join you immediately.

RPGWatch: Vampire - Bloodlines seemed like it had significant player choices around every corner, and it made for a very re-playable game. What type of choices will there to be made in Dead State, and how heavy will the consequences be? Can you fail some quests because you chose the "wrong" dialog? Will the game adapt to your choices and change based on them? Do quest outcomes differ based on your choices?

Brian: The consequences range from altering an ally's mood to losing supplies to provoking certain allies to take an action against you. Dealing with certain groups can lead to attacks on your Shelter's fence or the chance of encountering more enemies out in the world. There's also Crisis Events - major events or disasters that require a vote by the Shelter's leadership - that change the entire mood of the Shelter and can have far-ranging consequences when it comes to the respect of the sub-leaders there.

As far as failure, it's possible to result in less than optimal situations from your decisions, but you'll never instantly be killed or anything that severe. We always give you the chance to alter the situation inside your Shelter yourself - such as making an ally have a "convenient accident" that day. You'll never be able to please everyone at the Shelter with your decisions, so the best thing to do is to balance your actions toward the majority or try to tweak the allies in the Shelter to be more likely to side via bribes and negotiation.

There are several major factions you deal with in the game world, and the options you take with them can vary quite a bit. Some of them might even be willing to work with you or at least respect you enough to leave you alone. Most of the day to day in the game is going to be working with your own people and keeping up the morale of the Shelter. The endings of the game will be dependent on the number of allies you have and some other factors ranging from faction relationships to the skills of you and your fellow Shelter residents. Our hope is that every player writes their own story of survival within the actions that they take.​

Crisis events, eh? That sounds familiar.

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Sat 23 August 2014
RPG Codex Gamescom Report, Part 1: Tacticool Goodness and Adventures Galore

Preview - posted by Crooked Bee on Sat 23 August 2014, 22:51:19

Tags: Blackguards 2; Daedalic Entertainment; Fire; Gamescom; Paradox Interactive; Runemaster; The Devil's Men

It was a fine August day when, anticipating mountains of Doritos and rivers of Mountain Dew, esteemed community member Darth Roxor stepped into the nerd-filled halls of Gamescom 2014. Rest assured, he found what he was looking for, enough to write his report in 3 parts. In today's Part 1, Roxor recounts his 2-hour presentation with Daedalic Entertainment -- which included such games as the tactical RPG Blackguards 2 and the adventures Fire and The Devil's Men -- as well as his impressions of Paradox Interactive's Runemaster.

Since most people here are probably (hopefully) interested in Blackguards 2, I'll quote a snippet that has to do with that game:

Daedalic have introduced several changes to the The Dark Eye ruleset. Apparently, the spell failure and hit chance mechanics have been overhauled in some way, making it less likely to miss if a dude is just standing motionless next to you, although it beats me what the specifics of that are. Furthermore, Daedalic apparently got a bit sick of Aventuria's generic bestiary, so they introduced a bunch of their “own” creations – mostly demons, chimeras, shapeshifters, etc. Two of these were shown, one an insectoid creature with four arms (each one can hold a different weapon), and the other a “leaper” demon that loves to jump into mobs of characters and knock them down (careful around ledges!).

Big changes have also been made to the character system, though I must admit I’m not exactly sure of the specifics. Apparently, Blackguards' basic attributes were too confusing for the average player, so they've been streamlined into even more basic attributes like “offence” or “defence”, although Kai said the original stats are “still there” somewhere. Basically, they figured this was a better way of handling them because it was dumb how three different attributes could influence the same derived stat. This is something that I don’t quite like because, personally, I find abstract values like “offence” to be much more opaque than three different attributes that might (or might not) do the same thing, but are properly described. Maybe it’ll look better in motion. Nevertheless, you still get adventure points for battles, and you still assign them to talents and skills, just like in the original.

Taking into account these changes and the expanded bestiary, I asked how difficult it was to convince the Dark Eye license owner to incorporate them, considering how protective some of them can be (hello, Games Workshop), but apparently, it only took one long meeting of discussions and negotiations.

Now that we're done discussing the game's tactical layer, let’s say a few things about the geoscape. The original game’s chapter-based storyline is gone, replaced instead by what could be described as a “conquest mode”. The whole of southern Aventuria is now visible from the start of the game, and you must go on a blitzkrieg to conquer all of it and become its new ruler. Every location taken over will grant some bonus to your characters or mercenaries, and unlock further “nodes” that you can pillage. That doesn’t mean the “adventure” layer is gone, though, as each city you liberate™ can be entered and checked for quest opportunities, just like in the original Blackguards. Furthermore, you also get your own HQ in the form of a travelling base camp, where you can consult with your advisor, buy equipment, etc.

There are many significant things going on in the game's strategy view, as well. You are not the only force in the land, and just as you conquer lands, the enemy will try to reconquer them. If you fail at defending them, they will need to be re-reconquered, and these reconquest battles are meant to be very hard. I just hope this won’t devolve into GTA San Andreas taggin’ da hood – Blackguards edition.

The final part of the presentation was about the general changes to the narrative and reactivity. As I said, the game is no longer divided into chapters; instead, the storyline changes “dynamically” depending on the course of conquest you take. A playthrough where you first take the southern part of the map under your protection™ might be very different, both in terms of gameplay and narrative, from another where you first scorch the north. Moreover, over the course of the game, you’ll have to make many decisions that will impact the story and gameplay. Fiebig said that this time they are “real” choices, that may lead to all sorts of hilariously bad outcomes, and it’s “very easy to fuck up completely”. A few examples of these decisions include whether to torture prisoners during interrogations, and what to do with captured cities - raze them to the ground, intimidate their citizens through mass murder or leave them alone? Which is the best and why? Discuss!!!

That very much concluded the presentation. I was offered a hands-on of the demo, but it was cut short by the incoming unwashed masses with their scheduled presentations. I didn’t mind much, though - as I said, the game does pretty much look and play exactly like Blackguards, so I doubt I’d have derived any new information.​

For Darth Roxor's further impressions, be sure to read the full piece.

There are 30 comments on RPG Codex Gamescom Report, Part 1: Tacticool Goodness and Adventures Galore

Age of Decadence August Update

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sat 23 August 2014, 12:20:28

Tags: Age of Decadence; Iron Tower Studios; Vault Dweller

The Age of Decadence Early Access has received its eighth update. The accompanying monthly update has the details on the additions and improvements in the new version:

Welcome to update # 8. It’s a big update that adds all kinds of things but very little new content, unfortunately.

1. You can return to Teron now. There isn’t much to do there yet as the unfinished quests have been resolved without you (thanks for nothing) and new content will be triggered by the events in Ganezzar, which hasn’t been released yet.

So much like Caer-Tor, the new Teron maps (there are two actually, one where the Imperial Guards took over, the other where House Daratan reigns supreme and the town is swarmed with mercenaries) are nothing but a foundation on which new content will be build.

Still, you can walk around, chat with people, admire Antidas’ grave, stop in front of crucified Miltiades, meet a mercenary captain who will replace Mercato if you had him killed, and report any bugs and consistency issues (people who should be dead being alive and kicking, etc).

2. We split the Teron map into 3 to improve performance. The old map included the mine and the raiders’ camp, which wasn’t the best way to handle it. Now Teron, the mine, and the camp are truly separate locations, which - in theory - can cause all kinds of issues but hopefully won’t.

We tweaked the mine location a bit, replacing the old tower with something equally Roman but more combat-friendly, plus made it easier to explore it outside of text adventure. Overall, there is less ‘teleporting’ now.

3. We tweaked Alchemy as per very helpful players’ suggestions
  • Added more reagents to Maadoran and Teron alchemists' inventories
  • Increased poison damage by 1 point for all levels.
  • Bombs and liquid fire no longer miss.
  • Bombs critical chance (knockdown effect) is now 50 - (victim's constitution - 6) x 15.
  • Alchemy level 9: Black Powder Bomb (Frag) has vsDR 5.
  • Alchemy level 10: Berserk potion homeostasis gives 3 DR and takes 5 HP at the end of the effect.
  • Alchemy level 10: Neurostimulant (Eagle Eye) gives 25 THC bonus.
4. Difficulty

As many of you noticed the difficulty takes a nosedive in Maadoran. One of the reason for that is that the metal bonuses greatly increase your offensive and defensive capabilities. Each metal adds 2 points. Whereas in Teron adding 2 points is a good bonus (and iron weapons are harder to find), it's relatively easy to buy high quality gear in Maadoran and increase your damage output and/or DR by 5-7 points, which is too much.

So, the no-name crafted items are removed from trader inventories (if you want them, invest in Crafting). Some of them have been replaced by much more expensive unique items. Coincidentally, each metal now adds only 1 point, so getting your hands on some blue steel will increase your damage/DR by 3 instead of 6.

We also tweaked some stats of unique items to make sure they are consistent with the overall balance.

5. A number of bug fixes and minor improvements.

* * *

As always, thank you for your continuous support and patronage. This update is a stepping stone toward a much larger update which will include 3 new locations, so your feedback and suggestions will be much appreciated.
A return to Teron, eh? I hope that doesn't take too long to implement. See the full update for a few new portraits and inventory item icon images.

There are 20 comments on Age of Decadence August Update

Fri 22 August 2014
Josh Sawyer Explains: How to Balance an RPG

Editorial - posted by Infinitron on Fri 22 August 2014, 21:00:40

Tags: J.E. Sawyer; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity

In these days when his professional aptitude as a system designer is under attack from certain quarters, Josh Sawyer has made the interesting choice of publishing an extensive guest editorial over at Kotaku. The topic? How To Balance An RPG. It's actually a highly technical treatise, which should be of interest to all of you prospective RPG developers out there. I'll quote a fun snippet from the introduction:

"Trash" or "trap" options are a time-honored tradition in RPGs, both tabletop and computer. Trash options are choices that are intentionally designed to be bad, or that don't get enough attention during development and testing to actually be viable in the game.

It is now 2014 and, friends, I am here to tell you that trash options are bullshit.

In a computer RPG, any trash option that goes from designer's brain to the shipped product has probably gone through a few dozen cycles of implementation, testing, and revision. In the end, the trash option is the proverbial polished turd. Any seasoned RPG veteran that looks at it in detail realizes it's terrible and avoids it. Those who don't look closely or who aren't system masters may wind up picking it for their character under the mistaken impression that it's a viable choice. In any case, it's a bad option that the team spent a bunch of time implementing either for misguided schadenfreude or simple lack of attention.

While big RPGs always let a few of these trash options slip through unintentionally, the best way to avoid the problem on a large scale is simply to ask why well-informed players, acting with eyes wide open, would want to pick any given option over a different option in the first place. There should be a good conceptual/aesthetic reason as well as a good mechanical reason. If one of those falls short, keep hammering away until you feel you've justified their existence. Sometimes, it's not possible. In those cases, at least you've had the good fortune to realize you're stuck with trash early in development — whether it doesn't fit aesthetically or doesn't work mechanically — and can justly dump it before more effort goes into it.

As an example from Pillars of Eternity, we have maces and padded armor, two things that generally get short shrift in a lot of RPGs. In most RPGs, maces are slow and do poor damage with few elements in the "+" column. In Pillars of Eternity, they don't do any less damage than other one-handed weapons and they have the advantage of negating a portion of the armor on the target. Swords can do a variety of damage types, spears are inherently accurate, and battle axes do high Crit damage, but maces are a viable mechanical choice among their peers.

Padded armor suffers even worse in most RPGs: in many games, there are literally no worse options than padded. The suits are often aesthetically ugly and mechanically awful—the quintessence of a pure RPG trash option—and if players are forced to wear padded armor at the game's opening, they'll gladly ditch it as soon as anything else becomes available. In Pillars of Eternity, padded armor actually offers reasonably good protection. It can easily be argued that our padded armor is more protective than is realistic, but the first goal is not verisimilitude, but justifying the player's interest.

And, while heavier armor absorbs more damage, the heavier a suit of armor is in Pillars of Eternity, the longer it takes a character to recover from making an attack or casting a spell. A character in mail armor can absorb more damage than a character in padded, but the character in padded armor will perform more actions over a given period of time.

This fundamental tradeoff is both easy to grasp ("take less damage vs. do things faster") and has universal implications for all characters. All characters perform actions, and performing actions more quickly is always better. All characters also need to be protected from damage. A tradeoff like damage reduction vs. movement speed would have dramatically different implications for a melee-oriented barbarian than a long-range wizard.

We also intentionally avoided the classic RPG armor tradeoff of damage avoidance (i.e. dodging) vs. straight damage reduction. While it's easy to grasp conceptually, it's mechanically uninteresting and unengaging unless you get into spreadsheet-level minutiae of how the damage reduction curves play out over time. Spreadsheet gaming can be enjoyable on its own, but there should be a more obvious tradeoff that the player can directly observe in-game for the choice to feel meaningful.
Read the full article to learn how Sawyer does what he does. Now, excuse me while I go get my popcorn...

There are 278 comments on Josh Sawyer Explains: How to Balance an RPG

Frontiers Interview at RPGWatch

Interview - posted by Crooked Bee on Fri 22 August 2014, 15:59:00

Tags: Frontiers

Frontiers is the open-world, Daggerfall-inspired first person exploration RPG that got funded on Kickstarter in 2013 and that everyone's favorite Codexer villain of the story used to mass PM all of us about. The developers have been churning out updates at a reasonable pace, but the undertaking is massive so the end isn't quite in sight yet.

Meanwhile, our RPG Watch colleagues have done an extensive interview with Frontiers' Lars Simkins and Ryan Span. It focuses on many things, from their inspirations to Kickstarter to the development progress, so I'll just quote a short snippet here:

RPGWatch: Are you aware of the issues that open world games face that makes the story feel completely secondary and not immersive? Do you consider this a problem?

Lars: Yes, but I see those issues as strengths in this game, not problems. That sounds like a ‘my biggest weakness is my perfectionism’ answer. But most of the problems I’ve seen with open-world stories (at least in my experience) stem from the developers trying to tightly control the player’s experience. That ends up feeling flat - there’s no such thing as urgency in a sandbox game unless the player is supplying it. So in FRONTIERS we’ve tried to tell a story that lets the player drive the action. It expects you to travel large distances and to take pit stops along the way. It allows for you to talk to people out of order and to get lost between destinations. If you build a story around exploration and it starts being an either/or thing, where you’re either playing the game or playing the story, that’s when the story becomes secondary.

Ryan: It's only a problem if you make it one. When the goals of the story don't align with those of the player, of course it's going to feel secondary. We've deliberately made the goals in Frontiers stuff that the player will want: More areas to explore and cool new ways to get around where you've already been. We put as few barriers as possible between you and the lovely world you came to see, and give you even more reasons to go out into it.

RPGWatch: You've said you are inspired by Daggerfall. What features does Daggerfall have that are missed or under-represented in today’s games?

Lars: The main thing I loved about the game was the way it dropped you into a world and said absolutely nothing about your place or role in that world. You had to figure that out for yourself. If a dungeon was important it gave you no external sign. There was no beacon on your map - you had to roll up your sleeves and kick in some doors. That total indifference to the player’s actions made the world feel very real to me. I think some of it was accident rather than design, but I enjoyed it whatever the cause.

Most large game worlds tend to revolve around the player, who is usually some messiah - you get the sense that behind every closed door characters are just checking their watch waiting for you to show up and advance the plot. In Daggerfall I felt like they were going about business that had nothing to do with me. Planning murders or writing poetry or whatever. I loved that feeling.​

Daggerfall's world "that had nothing to do with me" may sound a bit at odds with telling "a story that lets the player drive the action", but I guess they mean the feeling of an independent living world in the first case and a kind of "emergent gameplay" in the second. In any case, I'm quite interested in the end result myself. Can two guys make a compelling open-world game? I hope we'll see some day.

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Thu 21 August 2014
Shadowrun: Dragonfall Director's Cut Dev Diary #1: New Missions & Content

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 21 August 2014, 23:03:27

Tags: Harebrained Schemes; Shadowrun: Dragonfall

As promised, the folks at Harebrained Schemes have published the first of four dev diaries describing the new additions and improvements in the Director's Cut of Shadowrun: Dragonfall, in today's Kickstarter update. The first dev diary, by writer Andrew McIntosh, goes straight to the good stuff - the Director's Cut's new missions.

Companion Story Missions - From the very beginning of our work on Dragonfall, we wanted to include missions that would tie directly into the back stories of the game’s major companion NPCs - Glory, Eiger, Dietrich, and Blitz. Unfortunately, during the development of the campaign, it became obvious that we weren’t going to have enough time to really do justice to the concept. Ultimately, we decided that if we couldn’t do these missions right, we shouldn’t do them at all.*

After Dragonfall was released, it became clear to us that our players wanted to experience these missions as much as we wanted to write and design them. This is why, when we decided to move forward with the Director’s Cut, companion story missions were at the top of our to-do list.

A location from Glory's mission.

In Shadowrun: Dragonfall - Director’s Cut, you will find three new full-length missions that tie directly into the personal stories of Glory, Eiger, and Blitz. These stories range from supernatural horror to techno-thriller to dark comedy, and each mission touches on a different aspect of the Shadowrun universe.

Your companion characters can also earn unique rewards for completing their story missions. Blitz, for example, can gain the ability to corrupt hostile IC in the Matrix, forcing it to fight with him rather than against him. There are two different rewards for each story mission, but you’ll only be able to obtain one of them on any given playthrough. These rewards are separate from those gained in the Crew Advancement system (see below).

*The only concession to this idea that made it into Dragonfall was Dietrich’s involvement in an early mission of the game. By the way, don’t worry - we’re adding a unique reward for him, too.

Crew Advancement - You wanted more control over how your companion NPCs progressed in Dragonfall, and in the Director’s Cut, we’re delivering! Because Eiger, Glory, Dietrich, and Blitz are their own people, we aren’t giving you complete control over their character sheets; Eiger will always be a deadly ranged combatant, and Dietrich will never decide to give up magic and embark on an exciting new career as a decker. Instead, we’re implementing a system that will allow you to choose one of two all-new, unique enhancements for each of your companion characters every time they advance in skill.

For example, on a skill-up you might choose to grant Eiger the ability to fire a Dragon’s Breath round from her shotgun, penetrating armor and setting opponents on fire. Or you could give her the ability to fire an Interdiction round from her sniper rifle: a discarding-sabot HTI shot that completely ignores armor. Under this system, you will have the flexibility to choose how you would like to specialize your characters within their existing roles.

We’re also giving you the ability to customize the weapon, spell, and consumable loadouts for your companion characters, but I’ll leave the details on that for a future Dev Diary.

Additional Missions - In addition to the Companion Story Missions detailed above, two other full-length missions have been added to the game.

In “Trial Run,” you will undertake a mission for the mysterious Lodge, one of the side factions in Shadowrun: Dragonfall. Over the course of the run, you’ll learn how the organization conducts its business… but the Lodge will learn even more about you.

In “Lockdown,” you’ll get the opportunity to delve into the checkered past of the Kreuzbasar’s resident cybersurgeon, Dr. Xabier Ezkibel. Successfully completing this mission will unlock a variety of bleeding-edge bioware upgrades in Ezkibel’s clinic. Ever taken serious damage while out of range of a healer? Those shiny new Platelet Factories are just what the Doctor ordered… assuming, of course, that you have a big enough wad of nuyen to afford them.

Additional Endings - Without delving into spoiler territory, I can say that we’ve always wanted to explore some “what if?” scenarios related to Shadowrun: Dragonfall’s ending. There are two additional endings in the Director’s Cut; these new endings have been designed to give players even more agency in deciding how the story should unfold.

More Character Development - Several side characters from Shadowrun: Dragonfallhave had their roles significantly enhanced, from the enigmatic Absinthe to the anarchistic Lucky Strike.

More Lore - There’s even more great Shadowrun lore in the Director’s Cut, including more easter eggs for long-time fans of the pen-and-paper game.
Sounds really good - it's like one of those Unfinished Business mods for Baldur's Gate. And that companion customization capability will be a welcome addition as well.

There are 49 comments on Shadowrun: Dragonfall Director's Cut Dev Diary #1: New Missions & Content

Legend of Grimrock 2 enters beta, gets a teaser trailer

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 21 August 2014, 17:06:44

Tags: Almost Human Games; Legend of Grimrock 2

The latest post on Almost Human's Legend of Grimrock 2 development blog announces that the game has finally entered beta, with a little teaser trailer to mark the occasion.

Big news indeed! Oh boy we’re super-excited to tell you that we are now officially in BETA! And it’s about time! We have been burning the midnight oil for so long that all our dreams are now filled with visions directly from the Isle of Nex. The game, a raw diamond which we have been carefully chiseling and polishing so long, is now finally coming together and it’s starting to feel really good. That doesn’t mean that the work ends here. Beta is actually a beginning, a beginning to make the game meet all your high expectations. It’s time to balance all the thousands of gameplay parameters and finetune the gui and optimize the game, and… You get the point! All the features we’ve planned are in and just waiting for some TLC

But before you mail us offering to kindly join the beta-test team… It’s going to be a closed beta again, sorry. Closed beta worked really well with LoG1 and we’re looking to repeat the process. By giving beta access to a carefully selected group of people, we can personally interact with the testers much better and thus get better and more accurate feedback.

The game has been playable from the beginning to the end for some time now and now that we have had one complete playthrough and several cheated speed-throughs we have some idea about the length of the game. It’s looking like Grimrock 2 is going to be around 25% longer than Grimrock 1 but more testing by us and our betatesters is still needed to confirm this.

Like mentioned, all the features of the game are in, but there’s still much work to do. Our Venerable List of Things To Do is constantly getting added with new entries even as we are hammering on the things at the other end of the list. But we are fighting hard to empty the list before the launch. Btw. on top of the list we have things like memory and performance optimizations and tutorial. Below that lots and lots of smaller tweaks and fixes and then of course testing, testing and more testing…

To celebrate all this, we have published a new teaser trailer for Legend of Grimrock 2. Here you go:

If I'm not mistaken, the game was in alpha for around two months, give or take, so the final release might not be far off. There's still no official release date, though.

There are 14 comments on Legend of Grimrock 2 enters beta, gets a teaser trailer

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