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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?

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AdventureDex Review: The Magic Circle, an RPG without the "RPG" - or, On Games and "Notgames"

Review - posted by Crooked Bee on Mon 27 July 2015, 14:47:14

Tags: Question Games; The Magic Circle

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Looking Glass Studios was a unique game development wonder that went out too quickly. Instead of pursuing Doug Church's and Randy Smith's ambition of giving the player enough freedom and tools to "co-author" the game, the industry has taken a turn towards severely controlled (and controlling) AAA design, on one hand, and in an important sense no less restricted "notgames" or "walking simulators," on the other.

Made by a trio of ex-Ion Storm, Irrational Games and Arkane developers, The Magic Circle is a meta-game about the the past, present, and future of this thing called video games, which makes fun of those and other industry trends while digging deeply, but also humorously, into the tensions of the game development process and calling for a return to Looking Glass design principles.

That is what makes The Magic Circle's commentary on the industry so interesting, but also ultimately so old-fashioned and so, dare I say, aligned in an important way with RPG Codex's sensibilities. It is coming from a very specific design perspective, best encapsulated by terms like "player freedom" and "emergent" (or tool-based) gameplay. Putting you inside a Looking Glass Style-style first-person RPG with unfinished "RP" and "G" parts, The Magic Circle has you play the video game development equivalent of Wizardry IV's Werdna, half-forgotten, half-reviled, stripped of his powers, having his revenge on the "do-gooder" developers themselves and constructing his army of minions with in-game tools he discovers along the way.

I think the issues that The Magic Circle raises are generally important, and so this review, too, is "meta" in that it doubles as an essay on games and "notgames." I want to explain not only what The Magic Circle is like as a game, what it is trying to tell and do, and where it succeeds or fails, but also what "notgames" are and why, pretending to be a deconstruction of what makes a video game, they must be deconstructed themselves in order to go from notgames back (or rather, forward) to games -- a sensibility that, I believe, The Magic Circle exemplifies.

Have a snippet:

Notgames like Tale of Tales’ titles, Dear Esther, Journey, Kentucky Route Zero or Gone Home, also known derisively as “walking simulators,” attempt to subvert the expectations of what a video game is. To that end, they usually focus on the narrative, the atmosphere, and the player’s feelings in contrast to (the traditionally conceived notion of) player agency, exposing the latter’s limits as they have been internalized by the industry. Notgames are literally de-constructive, as they disassemble gameplay down to its basic components like walking around and triggering narrative or evocative events. For the most part, they present themselves as empathic experiences that purposefully avoid challenging the player, except emotionally. No matter how hard Adrian Chmielarz, the developer behind The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, criticizes Tale of Tales’ latest output, Sunset, his game is itself prefaced by “This is a narrative experience” – and indeed, has no gameplay “obstacles” to speak of. As such, it is perfectly in spirit of Michaël Samyn’s manifesto.

Now, deconstruction can be important to lay bare what makes a game. However – and here you can see that The Magic Circle has followed these developments closely – what if we start from that zero point and have the player re-construct gameplay instead? Given that notgames eschew challenge, this zero point can also incorporate the flip side of the same industry, AAA player convenience (quest markers, linearity, conveniently placed collectibles). In fact, I believe the term “notgame” can easily be extended to include the AAA side, too, as well as something like Telltale’s “experiences”. However, now that the industry has gone from games to notgames, what if we go in the opposite direction? After all, even if some or even most players are content with being stripped of their free will, what if there is one player who is not?

In asking these questions, and following them through in its gameplay, The Magic Circle breaks with the notgame design – and calls for a return to Looking Glass sensibilities. At first glance, the two have a common goal: doing away with things getting in the way of the player’s immersion. However, they approach it in conflicting ways. Gone Home’s developers may have been influenced by LGS, but The Magic Circle is at its polemical best in showing that notgames and Looking Glass-style games proceed in opposite directions. “Environmental storytelling” is by itself not enough. Notgames choose to outright ignore gameplay instead of reassessing the ways player freedom can be brought about or enabling interactive tool-focused design. By emphasizing obstacle-based exploration and emergent gameplay, The Magic Circle sides with games against notgames, even as it starts from the latter as its point of reference.

The Magic Circle is, in other words, a de-construction of a notgame and a re-construction of a game. At the same time, it is also aware of game development’s limits. A game with infinite player freedom may be impossible due to technical, financial, and time constraints, while a non-game stripped of the more complex forms of active agency is unsatisfactory – not to the developer maybe, but certainly to you, the odd player. Not coincidentally, it is precisely from a notgame that Old Pro sets you free – and it is another notgame that you disrupt under the guise of the E4 demo.​

Read the full review: AdventureDex Review: The Magic Circle, an RPG without the "RPG" - or, On Games and "Notgames"

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Wed 29 July 2015
Albion Now Available on GOG

Game News - posted by Crooked Bee on Wed 29 July 2015, 16:58:50

Tags: Albion; Blue Byte; Ubisoft

The unique 1995 RPG Albion, particularly beloved by German RPG fans, is now finally available on GOG courtesy of Ubisoft.

It is the year 2227, and the gigantic interstellar factory ship, Toronto, cruises toward a lifeless planet endowed with a wealth of minerals. While studying the planet in his shuttlecraft, the pilot, Tom Driscoll, unavoidably crash lands. Against all expectations, he survives to discover his craft has landed in a world rich in flora and fauna, and inhabited by intelligent beings. How could the data on the planet of Albion have been so wrong?

Take on the role of Tom Driscoll and explore the extensive world of Albion and its endless surprises in this turn-based, tactical RPG. Experience its vast beauty and strange cultures… but beware of its many hidden dangers! You, and the companions you acquire on your journey, will experience countless adventures together and your resourcefulness, skills of negotiation and ability to deal with numerous inhabitants will be repeatedly put to the test. But most importantly, your resolve in battle will determine not only your own fate, but that of the entire world.
  • Role-playing adventure with an engaging storyline and interactive dialogue
  • Turn-based, tactical combat
  • User-friendly and intuitive interface and navigation
  • Expansive and captivating game-world
There is no official launch trailer or anything so I will just embed this episode of Matt Chat instead:


Grab the game here.

Aside from that, the post-apoc sim Archimedean Dynasty is now available on GOG as well.

There are 19 comments on Albion Now Available on GOG

Harebrained Schemes to Kickstart BattleTech this Fall

Game News - posted by Zed on Wed 29 July 2015, 15:42:14

Tags: BattleTech; Harebrained Schemes

Harebrained Schemes just revealed their plans to Kickstart yet another Jordan Weisman creation. This time it's BattleTech. It's what was hinted at earlier when they were discussing another classic IP reboot.

[​IMG]

TACTICAL ‘MECH COMBAT RETURNS TO THE PC.

Harebrained Schemes is pleased to announce their return to Kickstarter this Fall to partner with Backers in co-funding the creation of BATTLETECH. Jordan Weisman, the creator of BattleTech and MechWarrior, is back with the first turn-based BattleTech game for PC in over two decades. Steeped in the feudal political intrigue of the BattleTech universe, the game will feature an open-ended Mercenaries-style campaign that blends RPG ‘Mech and MechWarrior management with modern turn-based tactics.​

There's not much else than a tweet and a newsletter sign-up at this point in time.

There are 66 comments on Harebrained Schemes to Kickstart BattleTech this Fall

King of Dragon Pass Released on Steam

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 29 July 2015, 01:11:42

Tags: A Sharp; HeroCraft; King of Dragon Pass

The latest edition of King of Dragon Pass, the genre-blending CYOA classic originally released back in 1999, in which you lead a clan of Iron Age Nordic tribesman in the fantasy world of Glorantha, is now available on Steam. This particular release was developed by HeroCraft, who also ported the game to Android and Windows Phone last year based on the game's 2011 iOS version. It is not the same as the GOG release from 2012 which is based on the original PC version, and as such it carries a higher price tag - $12 rather than $6. Here's a trailer and some details from original KoDP developer A Sharp:



King of Dragon Pass will be coming to Steam on 28 July. But the game has been available for mobile (iOS, Android, and Windows Phone), as well as the original version (either on CD or as patched to be downloadable by GOG.com). So what exactly is coming to Steam?

The version on Steam is essentially the mobile version, but tuned for desktop and laptop screen sizes (I ran it on a 30 inch iMac, but it should run on a 1024 x 576 netbook). HeroCraft has been responsible for the Steam versions, since I’ve been busy with Six Ages, so I am not completely sure of the specifics. But I believe the Steam achievements are the same as those we added in 2.0. There are also Steam Cards (which may have some new art).

So if you played on Windows or Mac before, you’d be moving from 1.7 to 2.2. There are 48 new scenes and 4 new illustrations (plus a new Lore map). There are also new advisors, and a lot more advice in management screens. There are also more treasures. We made many bug fixes (such as unblocking two of the original scenes), and fixed typos. You no longer have to worry about sheep. The economics system should no longer be quite as harsh, with death spirals less likely. (Rest assured that the game is still difficult, especially on the Hard setting.)

The Tula screen was too difficult to rework, but it wasn’t part of game play. And HeroCraft originally started their porting before our scene contest, so those scenes are currently only in the iOS version.

We like to avoid spoilers, so it’s hard to talk about just what the four dozen new scenes are about. We did mention the Troll Hero before, however. And here’s the artwork for one of them.

So if you have played King of Dragon Pass on a laptop or desktop, but not a mobile device, there’s a lot of new stuff. And if you haven’t played at all, now’s your chance!​

No word on whether this version will make it to GOG, but based on previous experience with these kinds of Steam rereleases, I doubt it.

There are 8 comments on King of Dragon Pass Released on Steam

Tue 28 July 2015
ICY Released

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 28 July 2015, 02:31:15

Tags: Icy; Inner Void Interactive

ICY, the post-apocalyptic Ice Age survival RPG from indie developer Inner Void Interactive that was Indiegogo'd just over five months ago, was released today. It's now available on Steam for the price of $13 minus 25% launch discount. Here's the launch trailer:


An additional gameplay trailer is also available. Codexers who have played ICY's beta report a similarity to the excellent NEO Scavenger, so you might want to check it out.

There are 17 comments on ICY Released


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Mon 27 July 2015
Matt Chat 301: Chris Avellone on Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Mon 27 July 2015, 11:09:43

Tags: Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear; Chris Avellone; Matt Barton

In his infinite graciousness, Chris Avellone agreed to reshoot the first half of his Matt Chat interview that was lost due to a technical mishap. As expected, this part of the interview is entirely about the upcoming Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear, and as such, it repeats much of the same praise that was lavished upon the expansion in the recent Shane Plays interview. In addition to all that, Chris has good things to say about Siege of Dragonspear's hardcore optional encounters, about one of its new companions, the female goblin shaman M’Khiin Grubdoubler, and about its technical and user interface improvements.


Chris also reveals the name of the Shining Lady, Siege of Dragonspear's antagonist, which I'm not sure he was supposed to do. :M It's "Kaylar" or something like that.

There are 20 comments on Matt Chat 301: Chris Avellone on Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear

Sun 26 July 2015
Chris Avellone Interview on Shane Plays

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Sun 26 July 2015, 14:51:10

Tags: Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear; Chris Avellone

Chris Avellone was interviewed last night on Shane Plays, a radio show/podcast hosted by Codexer sstacks. In the 45 minute interview, Chris talks about the games that he's made, from his early work with Star Trek back at Interplay, all the way up to Torment: Tides of Numenera and in particular, Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear, which he has a lot of good things to say about.

Chris praises Beamdog's effort in making the transition from the original game to the expansion believable, with a prologue chapter focused around the political situation in Baldur's Gate following the protagonist's defeat of Sarevok. He's impressed by how their writers have given the original game's companion NPCs character development that explains how they arrived at where they are in the sequel, yet without the loss of stylistic consistency. He's also impressed by the expansion's antagonist, the Shining Lady, who he says is not really a villain, and even comes across as more heroic than the protagonist at times.


In addition to talking about games, Shane also asks Chris about his work as a writer (with a particular focus on his recently revealed Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter short story), doodle illustrator and graphic novel author. Chris admits that transitioning from games writing to regular fiction writing can be difficult, especially with longer works. It turns out that he had to get help from inXile's Nathan Long to finish his Wasteland 2 novel, which he says he made a lot of mistakes with.

At the end of the interview, Shane passes on a bunch of questions from the Codex and elsewhere. Embarrassing quotations abound! Chris says he'll come here and answer any questions that Shane didn't have time to convey. Let's hope that he does.

There are 11 comments on Chris Avellone Interview on Shane Plays

Fri 24 July 2015
Shadowrun: Hong Kong Kickstarter Update #35: Release on August 20th

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 24 July 2015, 15:48:43

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

As promised last week, today's Shadowrun: Hong Kong Kickstarter update announces the game's release date, which turns out to be August 20th. That makes Shadowrun: Hong Kong possibly the first Kickstarter-funded RPG ever to actually be released on the date originally declared during its campaign. The update also comes with a bunch of goodies including a celebratory video featuring Mitch Gitelman, Jordan Weisman and Mike McCain, wallpaper, screenshots and animated GIFs. Here's an excerpt:



Hey everyone!

Mitch here, with just enough bandwidth to pull my head out of polishing the game to let you know that Shadowrun: Hong Kong has an official release date! During the Kickstarter, we estimated that we would release the game in August… and that’s why we’re releasing the game in August!

August 20th, 2015 at 10am PST, to be specific. On Steam, GoG, & Humble.

Estimating, scheduling and delivering something as complex as SR:HK is tough and I’m extremely proud of the entire team for their focus, dedication, and hard work. I’d like to say a special thank you to our ace Producer, Chris Klimecky and my co-Director, Mike McCain for their work in getting the game to you on time. Mike joined me at the helm a ways back so I could dedicate more time to writing, and his work has been first rate - just like it was on Shadowrun: Dragonfall and Shadowrun: Dragonfall - Director’s Cut.

The game’s really coming together and it’s amazing to see the team’s hard work and creative collaboration on-screen. Making games is an incredible challenge but making games with these folks is an absolute pleasure.

We’ll be sending out another update in the next couple of weeks regarding how to get your keys from BackerKit and an update on all the remaining Kickstarter rewards.

In the meantime, here’s a few new screenshots & gifs we grabbed for you. Thanks for staying with us since January and we’ll see you August 20th!

[​IMG] [​IMG]
[​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
Hey, giant rats! Matt Barton will be pleased. Note that two of those screenshots aren't included in the update for some reason, including the one showing off the new Enhanced Matrix. Wonder why they did that.

There are 59 comments on Shadowrun: Hong Kong Kickstarter Update #35: Release on August 20th

Wasteland 2 & Pillars of Eternity: The White March E3 2015 Interview Videos

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Fri 24 July 2015, 01:15:23

Tags: Adam Brennecke; Brian Fargo; Chris Keenan; Divinity: Original Sin; InXile Entertainment; John Watson; Larian Studios; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity; Pillars of Eternity: The White March; Stoic Studio; Swen Vincke; The Banner Saga 2; Wasteland 2

Although people from both inXile and Obsidian were at E3 last month to talk about Wasteland 2 Director's Cut and Pillars of Eternity: The White March, respectively, it seems like few of the attending journalists were interested in interviewing them on camera. Well, it turns out that at least some of them were just taking forever to upload their videos. A few days ago, Gamereactor uploaded their interview with inXile's Chris Keenan, and today, a gaming channel called Press Start TV uploaded one with Brian Fargo. Here's the Gamereactor interview:


There's nothing much new in these interviews, although the latter one does manage to finally extract a release date for the Wasteland 2 Director's Cut - probably September, October at the latest. The same can be said for Gamereactor's interview with Obsidian's Adam Brennecke:


Gamereactor also uploaded their interview with Banner Saga 2 developer John Watson today, although that's less of a find - the Stoic guys compensated for their usual avoidance of self-promotion by being remarkably prolific E3 interviewees.

Update: Gamereactor have uploaded yet another E3 interview, this time with Larian's Swen Vincke. Once again, not much new here, but Swen does announce that the Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition is on schedule for a late October release.

There are 7 comments on Wasteland 2 & Pillars of Eternity: The White March E3 2015 Interview Videos

Thu 23 July 2015
Seven Dragon Saga Update: Progress Report

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 23 July 2015, 20:59:28

Tags: David Shelley; Seven Dragon Saga; Tactical Simulations Interactive

In suspiciously close proximity to a post on our forums questioning its status, the developers of Seven Dragon Saga have posted a new development update on the game's official website. It includes new art - namely, an image of a Slyth Warden, a member of the game's Dragonkin faction - and a report on what each member of the team is currently up to. I quote:

Meet the Slyth Warden, one of the many dragonkin who vie for dominance in the mountains of the Firewind Coast. Suspicious of the empire, they are likely enemies, but with the right inducements, they could be powerful allies. It’s all a matter of player choice, as they adventure deep into the Drakelands, in service to their emperor.

We are proceeding along developing different elements of the game. In Engineering, we’ve been running various elements of combat and movement through prototyping. Checking out how best to implement multiple targets, area of effect attacks, and persistent things like zones. On the movement side, Seven Dragon Saga has a number of methods to move, and we want them to feel different and work clearly. Mystic Leap allows characters to leap up onto areas others can’t, and gain height advantage. Special thanks to junior engineer Sebastian for taking point on the prototype process.

Up next is how best for the game to recognize cover, then determine if it is half or full, and convey this in an intelligent manner to the players. Then there are Attacks of Opportunity and the Retaliate ability to work out. Lots of little details where frequent prototype iterations works wonders.

In design, we are creating flow charts for story progression, depending on which factions the player is aiding, and which he’s harming. David Shelley pushes a strategic vision, while Edwin McRae drives things from an NPC and story arc viewpoint. This all feeds into the locations we need, and hence the environmental art required.

In systems, Paul Murray and David Shelley are running through a first draft of the various crafting methods, beginning with Alchemy. Again, this affects other elements, such as the skills system, and especially the economy (meaning what players find as loot, as well as, in stores). While single player game economics has a bit more slop allowed than in multi-player games, we still need valuable items to feel valuable and achievable. All the glittery things scattered on the ground after battle should have some meaning.

The art team is busy as ever, since we revamped under our new art director, Lee Dotson. The animation and rigging team is moving from player characters to the first batch of enemies. The new environments are moving from concept to implementation. And we’ve squeezed in a revision to our main user interface — with much discussion with the designers over what the scribbled wireframes really mean for functionality. Meetings can be noisy, but very positive.
So yeah, don't worry, Seven Dragon Saga is still still alive.

There are 21 comments on Seven Dragon Saga Update: Progress Report

Wed 22 July 2015
RPG Codex Retrospective Review: The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall (1996)

Review - posted by Crooked Bee on Wed 22 July 2015, 16:48:32

Tags: Bethesda Softworks; Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall

After reviewing Arena, the Elder Scrolls game that started it all, esteemed community member Deuce Traveler now moves on to the 1996 The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall. Daggerfall is famous, or infamous, for both its scope and its sprawling randomized dungeons, which I dearly loved, but how does it fare today?

Deuce Traveler has all the answers.

Ah, Daggerfall. Both stunning in its depth and a hot mess when it comes to its glaring bugs. It's a game which doesn’t deserve the hype lavished on it by its nostalgic fans, despite being groundbreaking for its time. I spent months playing it, and my feelings continually wavered between frustration and amazement. I found Arena to be more fun, but Daggerfall to be better structured. I found Morrowind to be more immersive, but Daggerfall’s main plot to be more interesting. There is one thing that most of us can agree upon, though - it’s a better game than Oblivion.

[...] No review of Daggerfall is truly complete without mentioning the massive amount of pixelated boobs that this game provides. And no, I’m not talking about fools. I’m talking tits, jugs, gazongas, hooters, knockers, fun bags, bazoombas, cha-chas, num-nums, cantaloupes, flapdoodles, mounds, torpedoes, rack, neeners, soombas, mammaries and milk bombs. They are simply everywhere, although they do change from location to location. If you're a religious type, the finest examples can be found in temples dedicated to Kynareth, goddess of air, and Dibella, goddess of love (and there are also barechested men in Dibella’s temples for all the female gamers out there). The sophisticated aficionado can also find a varied assortment of bare sweater puppies in personal chambers inside castles, at some mage guilds, on monsters in dungeons and among the daedra princesses. Unfortunately, we would have to wait until The Witcher to get in-game collectible cards, but there’s always CTRL-F5 in DOSBox. I used to think that some of those Oblivion mods went a bit over the top, but after playing Daggerfall, it's tempting to view them as a return to form.

[...] I will admit that some of the side quests are complex in clever ways. One quest that stood out for me was a Knights of the Dragon quest where I was asked to help a witch hiding in the depths of a dungeon. Upon finding her, she tasked me with locating and delivering a young girl to her to so that she could become the witch's apprentice. I took up the quest, but when I approached the girl she screamed for help and I found myself in a running battle with the nearby guards who followed me all the way to the dungeon. After delivering the girl, I still had to fight my way out of the dungeon, I took a reputation hit with the local people, and the next time I talked to a random child I was told off by the little tyke. All this was quite clever, but also a bit messed up. The leadership of the Knights of the Dragon distrusts magic-users, so why this was one of their faction quests is still a mystery to me. Once I realized I was kidnapping the girl, I could have turned her over to the authorities and asked for forgiveness, but that would have resulted in a loss of reputation points with the knighthood for the failed quest, instead of being rewarded for making the more moral, citizen-friendly decision. Also, the witch was near an underwater cavern, so to get to her I had to swim through a crowd of soldiers who were standing in place waiting for me on the pool floor without drowning. Have I mentioned that the citizens of Daggerfall's cities can walk on water? In summary, the copy-and-paste nature of Daggerfall's side quests and dungeons leads to an endless stream of glitches and nonsensical moments that emphasizes the game's design flaws, harming immersion more than it helps it.​

Read the full article: RPG Codex Retrospective Review: The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall (1996)

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Tue 21 July 2015
WTF: Knights of the Old Republic II gets new official patch, TSLRCM now available via Steam Workshop

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 21 July 2015, 20:40:05

Tags: Aspyr Media; Obsidian Entertainment; Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords; The Sith Lords Restored Content Mod

Over a decade since its troubled release, Obsidian's Knights of the Old Republic II has received a new official patch introducing a host of enhancements. The responsible party is Aspyr Media, the company previously known for developing the Mac and mobile ports of the original KOTOR. Their announcement post on Steam has the details:

Introducing and updated KOTOR II for Mac, Linux, and Windows!!!

Aspyr in partnership with Disney/Lucas is proud to announce STAR WARS™ Knights of the Old Republic™ II - The Sith Lords™ is now available on Mac and LInux, along with a massive update to all 3 platforms.

New features include:
  • 37 achievements to be earned through gameplay
  • Steam Cloud saves
  • Native widescreen resolution support
  • Resolution support up to 4K and 5K
  • Support for controllers, including Xbox 360, Xbox One, Playstation 3, and Playstation 4, along with several others (check the system requirements for details)
  • Steam Workshop support! We proudly worked with the Restored Content Mod team to have their famous TSLRCM up on launch day
Oh...and we added a "Force Speed Effects" option in the menu ;)

Chime in here with your thoughts on the update! I will be starting seperate forums for both Technical Support and Workshop Mods shortly.

Why did we do this? Because we LOVE KOTOR 2. But lets all remember what love truly is...Love is making a shot to the knees of a target 120 kilometers away using an Aratech sniper rifle with a tri-light scope.
This is pretty awesome! Note that in addition to the Restored Content Mod itself, the M4-78 Droid Planet Mod is also available on Steam Workshop. Both mods have received updated versions for this release. The game itself, if you don't own it already, is currently on sale for $7.5. What about the GOG version, you ask? According to the developers, that might be coming later.

There are 136 comments on WTF: Knights of the Old Republic II gets new official patch, TSLRCM now available via Steam Workshop

Matt Chat 300: Half of a Chris Avellone Interview

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Tue 21 July 2015, 18:22:57

Tags: Chris Avellone; Matt Barton

For the 300th episode of his show, Matt Barton decided to interview Chris Avellone - mainly about his involvement with the recently announced Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear, it seems. Unfortunately, something got fucked up and the audio track for the main part of the interview was lost, leaving only 13 or so minutes of Q&A about miscellaneous stuff. In that time, Chris talks a bit about his failure to make it into Bard's Tale IV, and about the types of genres and games he'd like to work on after he's done with his current projects. He seems to be interested in working on a game that doesn't utilize a traditional RPG "talking head" set-up for dialogue. He'd also like to work on a "mundane" hard science fiction game. Chris hasn't forgotten his Arcanum LP, but he's postponing that in order to help create more content for Torment and Siege of Dragonspear.


To fill in the rest of the episode, Matt added an additional part of his ongoing interview with MUD pioneer Richard Bartle, but I haven't been following that. Perhaps he can submit the audioless part of the Avellone interview to a lip reader for transcription?

There are 27 comments on Matt Chat 300: Half of a Chris Avellone Interview

Mon 20 July 2015
Underworld Ascendant Update #6: Meet Joe Fielder and the Shadow Beast

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Mon 20 July 2015, 23:58:22

Tags: Chris Siegel; Joe Fielder; OtherSide Entertainment; Underworld Ascendant

The pre-production of Underworld Ascendant has been humming along quietly for the past month. The game's previous update didn't really have much gameplay-wise, but it did feature a self-introduction by design director Joe Fielder, which offered a glimpse at the sort of things OtherSide are working on right now:

Hey, everyone. It's been a few months since I joined on as design director, so I thought I'd say hello, explain what I do around here, and hint obliquely at what's next for Underworld Ascendant.

My game background is pretty wildly disparate, ranging from level design in first-person shooters in the Medal of Honor series, puzzle design for Stephen Spielberg's BOOM BLOX, narrative for BioShock Infinite, and more. I've also been a producer for art, narrative, and design, a game journalist, and a comic book writer. I've worked on enormous AAA games and scrappy indie projects.

The reason I mention this is I've found myself drawing on ALL those experiences on a daily basis.

For instance, puzzle design comes to bear, albeit a little abstractly, while considering ways that the player will utilize the Improvisation Engine to find clever ways to interact with the environment and the creatures within it. Narrative and level design play a part in plotting out how we introduce those gameplay elements and tie them into the overall world in fun, interesting ways. Comic book writing helps me consider what information we might express visually and game writing, how to keep dialogue lean, focused, and out of the way of the action. Game reviewing means always thinking about what players will find compelling and fun. And my time in production means I have some incredibly talented artists and audio designers to draw upon to help ensure the Stygian Abyss looks and sounds amazing.

[...] Over the last few months, we've taken the time to work out the game's backstory, not only so we know the spine of the overall narrative, but so we understand the underlying philosophies behind each Faction. Knowing their wants and desires helps reveal their points of conflict with each other and how to design how they live, build, dress, create, fight, and utilize magic. It informs us exactly how the story of the Underworld should seep into every stone AND tie into gameplay systems, so we can create a world full of wonder that's fun to play and fascinating to explore.

At the same time, we've been tackling those aforementioned gameplay systems and fleshing out our bestiary of creatures, so that those elements are equally integrated and pervasive. But that's a topic for another day, after [redacted] is finished. Suffice to say, we have some fun stuff in store.
Today's update introduces one of the game's monsters - the Shadow Beast, a translucent fiend that was also in the original Ultima Underworld. Producer Chris Siegel chose a rather unusual manner of describing it. Here's an excerpt from his interview with the Shadow Beast, which in true Underworld Ascendant fashion, provides an overview of its role in the game's ecology:

CS: But now you are back! New and improved! Can you tell us a bit about how you fit into the new Stygian Abyss?

SB: Sure, I don't want to give too much away of course. First let's be clear about this. Shadow Beasts are smart. We are not really just apex predators, we have communities. We have a natural camouflage mechanism that causes us to take on the coloration of their surroundings. Moreover, we also have an innate magical ability that occludes us from easy detection (they appear dimly, if at all, under light or detect spells-Ed.). Lurking in the far corners of the Underworld, we use our stealth to waylay the unwary. We have been known to take contracts from other factions and races to...remove obstacles forcefully. (I think he means they hire out as assassins-Ed.)
CS: Interesting. Tell me more about your communities.

SB: We live in small familial communities in the darkest, most secluded parts of the Underworld. We don't like visitors. No one has ever discovered a shadow beast clan home. Or at least none have lived to tell the tale. (Laughs) We usually build our clan homes in cool, dark and dry areas. But we are everywhere not just in the dry regions, and when hunting for food will range into other biomes of the Underworld, including hot caverns and the fungal forests. One thing we dislike is the stench of the Underswamp.(Makes face. Pinches nose).

CS: I see. How do you get along with other races of the Underworld?

SB: We are very territorial and clannish and live by an 'eye for an eye' credo, so sometimes a particular shadow beast group will take umbrage with one of the Underworld factions, or another shadow beast clan, sparking a short lived but violent dispute. If we are angry with a faction we do not attack outright, but from the shadows, always from the shadows.

CS: What do you eat?

SB: We beasts live on a wide range of foodstuffs, and will eat most anything when times are tough. Our favorite is Earthclot, with a single one of these creatures being able to feed a clan for a week. We also hunt Rippers, and I think we may be the only ones tough enough to eat them.
The update also informs us that OtherSide are now hard at work developing the game's first vertical slice build. I assume that it's from this build that they plan to eventually release some much-needed gameplay footage.

There are 4 comments on Underworld Ascendant Update #6: Meet Joe Fielder and the Shadow Beast

Knights of the Chalice 2 Development Update

Development Info - posted by VentilatorOfDoom on Mon 20 July 2015, 10:26:20

Tags: Heroic Fantasy Games; Knights of the Chalice 2

Pierre Begue prepared a substantial KotC2 development update, this time in his public forum, free for all to see, and thouroughly describes the progress he's been making while solitarily slaving away at the KotC2 engine implementation.
Hello, turn-based RPG fans!

Between questions of health, nutrition, sports and a fridge breaking down on me, in the last few days my attention has constantly been diverted away from the good stuff, which is KotC 2 development.

Nevertheless, here is the promised update with lots of new screenshots and new design pages for your consumption.

Regarding combat, as I mentioned recently, I have finally implemented the most basic actions: moving in combat, taking a five-foot step, ending one's turn, delaying, standard attack, full attack, charge attack and attack of opportunity.

My plan is to continue implementing combat actions one by one, fixing bugs as I go. Today, while preparing this update, I harvested a good number of fresh bugs that I will have to correct first.

After that, I will focus on ranged attacks, opening the inventory in combat, grapple, bull rush, the other combat manoeuvers, the basic spells, ready versus spell, ready to counterspell, using a magic item in combat, using a class or racial power in combat, and using a spell-like ability. Spells, their interface and their graphical implementation will of course be a big part of the job. Afterwards comes the artificial intelligence.

In the following pictures, you can see the combat engine in action. We will review some of their details below. Click on a picture to enlarge it.
New subraces, new classes and class features, read all of it here.

There are 31 comments on Knights of the Chalice 2 Development Update

Sat 18 July 2015
Balrum is on Steam Greenlight, coming late summer

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sat 18 July 2015, 12:05:05

Tags: Balcony Team; Balrum

Balrum is a sandboxy oldschool RPG that was Kickstarted back in 2013. Its development has been quietly humming along since then, and it's now scheduled to be released at the end of summer. In anticipation of the release, the developers at Balcony Team put up a Steam Greenlight page for the game yesterday. Here's the new teaser trailer they created for it, along with the game's description:



Balrum is an old-school, hybrid turn-based, open world, RPG. Balrum features a living fantasy world with deep tactical combat and dozens of side quests next to an epic main quest. In addition to traditional RPG features Balrum has deep crafting which allows the player to craft their own custom items. Balrum also features farming your own crops, building your home, and survival mechanics complemented by the game's main features. In Balrum you control a single character, but your character will have a faithful animal companion as a pet. Your pet is fully controllable and adds greatly to the complexity of the combat.

Features:
  • Real-Time world with Turn-Based Combat
  • A huge Open World to explore with dozens of Dungeons
  • Your Choices define your Class
  • Dozens of Side Quests and an epic Main Quest
  • Building
  • Farming
  • An animal Pet as your loyal companion
  • Deep Crafting Systems (Alchemy, Cooking, Weapon Crafting, Armor Crafting, Item Combining)
  • Day/Night Cycle with Weather System
  • Survival Mechanics
Go vote it up. If you'd like to see more of the game, Balcony Team have also uploaded a whole bunch of short gameplay videos to their YouTube channel.

There are 32 comments on Balrum is on Steam Greenlight, coming late summer

Shadowrun: Hong Kong Kickstarter Update #34: New Wiki, Release Date Next Week

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sat 18 July 2015, 01:28:55

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

In their last Kickstarter update from over a month ago, Harebrained Schemes announced that Shadowrun: Hong Kong would be content-complete by the 4th of July. Today's update doesn't really have much to say about that, though. Instead, it announces the launch of a new official Shadowun wiki, run by the omnipresent Tagaziel, with a focus on modding. Normally, that wouldn't be interesting enough for me to make a newspost about it, but Codexer eXalted spotted some interesting tidbits in the page describing the Shadowrun: Hong Kong editor's new features:
  • Spell Bouncing is a new effect that can be applied to dragon lines that causes spells cast while standing on them to have special effects. At it's most basic, a spell cast on an enemy will hit a target and bounce to another. This along with the new On Hit Effects can allow for some powerful spell-slinging opportunities.
  • The alert system has been overhauled and heat no longer rises for each turn the player is in the matrix or taking actions. This has been changed to a Yellow alert system that is raised when Personas or ESPs are within line of sight of IC or fail to hack Blocker IC.
  • With the advent of the new turn director, it is possible to toggle in and out of turn mode within the matrix if there is hostile IC around and it is not yet aware of the player.
  • The Turn Director has received a massive overhaul. It is now possible to toggle between turn mode and freemove if the player is not in combat but there are hostiles around.
The update does also have a short paragraph about the game's development status:

We’re in the home stretch of development and on-track for release! Stay tuned for more screenshots and a release date announcement next week. I have to say, it’s been amazing watching our art team grow and build off their visual successes in each new Shadowrun game. In addition to a great story and some very exciting game play & feature set improvements, Hong Kong is without a doubt our best-looking Shadowrun yet! I can’t wait for all of you to play it.
Release date announcement, huh? According to the game's new GOG preorder page, that's going to be August 31. I wonder if they just made that up.

There are 8 comments on Shadowrun: Hong Kong Kickstarter Update #34: New Wiki, Release Date Next Week

Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear Interview at Rock Paper Shotgun

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Sat 18 July 2015, 00:59:42

Tags: Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition; Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear; Beamdog; Cameron Tofer; Trent Oster

Rock Paper Shotgun have published a two-page interview with the developers of Beamdog's upcoming Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear expansion. Namely, with co-founders Trent Oster and Cameron Tofer, writer Amber Scott, and a couple others. The first page of the interview is concerned mostly with the efforts that are going into the expansion's writing, but from a Codexian perspective, it's the second page that provides the juiciest quotes:

While Beamdog have now sold millions of copies of their Extended Editions across both PC and tablets, receiving a generally warm reception from critics, there’s no doubt that they had rough and imperfect launches. Both at the reveal and after, Oster spoke about Beamdog’s ”direct” relationship with fans and customers. If there’s one thing people on the internet can be relied upon to do, it’s volunteering their opinions when they’re unhappy with something. Beamdog have not been given an easy ride and many Baldur’s Gate fans have insisted that the original versions of the game, supplemented by mods, are still the way to play. Oster does not agree and he has a lot of confidence in the work that his team has performed over the years.

“What’s hilarious is how much of the [Infinity] Engine is really left. When we started, we deleted about three hundred thousand lines of code and replaced them,” he says. “A lot of it was written around Windows 95, a lot of hacks and workarounds that would allow it to work well on Windows 95. Computing has changed a lot since Windows 95! Baldur’s Gate was built around the idea of having a lot of hard drive space that was huge and slow, as well as very limited real-time memory.” Part of the Beamdog’s re-write was performed in order to get the game functioning on devices like the iPad, but Oster says it has also mades for a slimmer, more efficient game, even if it took a little while to get there (and Oster is no stranger to radically rebuilding things to try and get them to run better, as his racing blog testifies).

“When we have a fan saying they’re never going to buy the Enhanced Edition, they’re going to mod their version, I think, well… Okay, I’m going to read through their feedback.” he continues. “And I’m going to get the old version of Baldur’s Gate. I’ll put all those mods on and I’ll play it and then I’ll still be like ‘You can’t be serious!’ It’s so clunky. It’s so clunky compared to what we have now, which is really slick. We’ve learned our lesson, we’ve made updates and fixes, and with Siege of Dragonspear we’ll have a whole new user interface. We’ve torn it down to the ground and rebuilt it.”

What may not be so apparent to many of those Baldur’s Gate purists is that half of the team now working for Beamdog are modders themselves, people who have known the ins and outs (and imperfections) of the Infinity Engine for many years and who initially took it upon themselves to make what they did out of their love for the games. Furthermore, Beamdog are hoping that, after Siege of Dragonspear is released, some players might try modding it themselves. Their plan is to make some of the development tools they’ve been using available for everyone else to tinker with.

Perhaps most important is the time that Beamdog have invested, because Siege of Dragonspear is certainly not a new idea. It’s been gestating, in one form or another, for nearly four years. “We started talking about it as we were working on the first Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition and we actually started working on it before [the Enhanced Edition of] Baldur’s Gate II shipped,” says Oster. “Then we were going to try and ship it before we shipped Baldur’s Gate II, but Atari really started ratcheting up the pressure on us they and were exceptionally firm on the release date, so we just had to put it aside.”

And here we return to that idea of compromise, or at least of obligation. One of the things Oster and his team are happiest about now is being free and independent, not being compelled to hit a release date by an inflexible publisher nor, he adds, having to argue the value of a property with them. Their sales figures, he says, tell that story, and he’s clearly endured frustrations with pushy publishers in the past. While Oster hopes that Siege of Dragonspear will see release some time this year, he says there’s no need to rush and is adamant that “A game that ships on time and is not great is not remembered. A great game that ships late is still a great game.”

Time has given Beamdog the chance to thoroughly digest their ideas and, Oster says, “really get to grips with the story we want to tell. It’s great to come back to something and say, ‘Yes, I still really like these aspects of this,’ but also see what you thought was a really good idea at the time and be able to say ‘In retrospect, I don’t think so.’” Speaking just after the reveal, Tofer described the team as having a particular sense of confidence. “We’ve established ourselves now,” he says. “We’re free to plan our own schedules. The company is financially stable. We’re independent. Now, we can choose our own destiny.”​

According to Trent, Siege of Dragonspear will be larger than Tales of the Sword Coast and Throne of Bhaal combined, and its script has about three hundred thousand words. The UI improvements they're introducing in it will also be ported to Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition, along with some unspecified additional tweaks to account for the player's higher level upon importing a character. Beamdog's not fucking around, it seems. And if they've really sold "millions of copies", I guess they can afford it.

There are 39 comments on Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear Interview at Rock Paper Shotgun

Thu 16 July 2015
Call for Males to Participate in Video Games and Dreams Research

Community - posted by DarkUnderlord on Thu 16 July 2015, 14:44:09

Tags: Dream Research

Are you male? Do you dream? WOULD YOU LIKE TO TAKE PART IN SCIENCE? Well then, here's your chance:

Our video game laboratory at MacEwan University in Alberta, Canada has been examining the effects of video game play on night time dreams for a decade. We have found that there are various well-being outcomes evidenced in the dreams of gamers. You can read about this work in our lab’s blog at http://academic.macewan.ca/gackenbachj/

We are posting this to you, males who would select either: First Person Shooter, Role-play, Action or Adventure style games as being your favorite. We would request that you only participate in this research if you play video games at least once a year, and remember your night time dreams at least once per week. The survey would only take about an hour to complete and I am in need of participants just like you! If you are interested, please go to:

https://macewanpsych.us.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_byFGfnBy5EBIbgp
This research opportunity is absolutely free and there is no marketing involved to sell anything. This is simply your motive to help us with our research if you desire to do so.

If you have any questions please feel free to write to Craig Guthrie, Honors Student Researcher, Bachelor of Arts Psychology, Honors, MacEwan University, guthriec@mymacewan.ca or his supervisor Jayne Gackenbach, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, MacEwan University, gackenbachj@macewan.ca ​

Do male gamers dream of tasteful rape majestic elves.

There are 30 comments on Call for Males to Participate in Video Games and Dreams Research

Wed 15 July 2015
AntharioN Released

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 15 July 2015, 18:42:42

Tags: Antharion; Orphic Software

Today sees the release of AntharioN, a retro-looking turn-based indie RPG from Orphic Software that was Kickstarted and re-Kickstarted back in 2012. Here's the launch trailer and description from its Steam page:



Antharion is an epic old-school fantasy RPG that combines tactical turn-based combat with the freedom of a huge living-breathing open world. You'll create and customize a party of four: choosing from seven races, nine classes and fifteen skills, before setting out to explore the fully interactive continent of Antharion. Explore dungeons, get thrown in jail, discover hidden passageways, burglarize homes, read books, create potions, become and infamous pickpocket, embark on a journey at sea and discover uncharted islands or persuade NPCs to do your bidding. In Antharion no play style is off limits.

Features
  • Create and fully customize a party of four, choosing from 7 races, 9 classes and 15 skills.
  • Journey through five huge provinces, each with its own environment, history and culture.
  • Experience an open-ended epic storyline where you determine what happens.
  • Turn-based tactical combat makes dungeon crawling endlessly satisfying.
  • Explore a huge living-breathing and fully interactive open world.
  • Make choices that matter and affect the world around you.
  • Enjoy total freedom to play however you want.
Looks ambitious. So many RPGs from the early days of Kickstarter coming out these days - I hope it doesn't get completely lost in the crowd. AntharioN is available for the price of $18 on Steam or directly from Orphic's website. No GOG release, because that's how GOG rolls these days.

There are 33 comments on AntharioN Released

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