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?
AdventureDex: Primordia vs Tormentum - Dark Sorrow: Which is Better and Why?
Would you like to go on an adventure? We decide to take a look at two adventure games: Primordia, the two year old creation from Wormwood Studios, and Tormentum - Dark Sorrow, the as yet unreleased adventure from OhNoo! Studios:
Primordia starts off with your character (a robot), and your robotic companion, being attacked by another rather seemingly simple-minded robot which takes your power core. It all snowballs from there. Part of Primordia's charm is that it doesn't give much away either in the way of its story up-front. In order to understand what's going on, you must explore and solve puzzles. With each puzzle revealing a small piece of the larger puzzle that drives you through-out the game: Who am I, and what am I doing here? And even, what happened in this place?
[...] Tormentum, sadly, just doesn't have the same drive. You start off captured in prison. You escape... and... keep escaping... or something... It "makes sense" in the end but while Primordia's world has you wanting to know what happened, Tormentum just never really bothers. There are no hints dropped or clues to be found. No signs you can look at and think "That's actually a number... not a name." or "I wonder what that means?". In fact, if anything, Tormentum down-right sins when it comes to Adventure gaming.
With two days of funding left, the Underworld Ascendant Kickstarter campaign has shot into high gear once again. Last night, it sailed past $700,000 and 12,000 backers, unlocking the Tracy Hickman novel stretch goal, which will establish the backstory of the Dark Elves faction. The Lizardmen stretch goal at $750k seems like a sure thing now, but to make things more interesting, OtherSide Entertainment have added an intermediate "mini-stretch goal" at $725k - the Dire Grove. The latest Kickstarter update explains:
The next stretch goal, at $750,000, is to unlock the Lizardman. The Lizardmen are fierce hunters who worship the Underswamp and its wild magics. The crafty Lizardmen prefer luring their prey into traps to immobilize their future dinner. What better creatures to guard the secrets of the Underswamp?
We've already funded their home with our first stretch goal, the Underswamp. So now let’s get them to settle in. Besides, they’re the only intelligent creatures that would actually like to live there.
To help induce the Lizardmen to move in, let’s unlock the Dire Grove, a special area within the Underswamp. The Dire Grove is dominated by a massive species of swamp willow. These willows make fine roosts for Lizardmen treehouses. They also bear a fluorescent green berry, which is said to have an odd magical effect if consumed.
Upon our Kickstarter reaching $725,000 in funding, halfway to bringing the Lizardmen home, we will add the Dire Grove to Underworld Ascendant.
You might also be interested in the previous Kickstarter update from yesterday, which provided an evocative description of the kind of experience we can expect from the game's beginning moments, a little physics demonstration, and an endorsement from good old Brian Fargo (recorded before the game was renamed from Ascension to Ascendant?).
Oh man, this week just keeps on getting weirder and weirder. This was just announced at GDC:
Now, normally we wouldn't report on console-related news on the Codex, but this trailer does confirm that Wasteland 2 will be receiving a host of improvements, including a "quirks & perks" system, a "precision strike" system (which I guess means some kind of aimed shots mechanic), a graphical overhaul (we knew about that already), a sorely needed update for the character models, and new voice acting. And of course all of those things will be coming to PC as well. There's no release date though, just "Coming Soon".
I can't say that I mind the existence of after-market console ports for my PC-exclusive RPGs, but what a weird way to find out about it! I wonder if there will be a PS4 version as well.
Whalenought Studios published a new Serpent in the StaglandsKickstarter update today to show off the game's awesome new preview trailer. Check it out:
We’ve put together a preview trailer showcasing some new systems and content. Enjoy!
One location we didn’t feature in the preview trailer was Tratis Saltis, a favorite due to the very different environment it brings. The area’s subsurface is an expanse of hot springs like veins breathing heat from depths below, and it gives some variety to the usually snow blasted peninsula. The persistently wet ground has made the few surviving settlers here build above surface level upon giant trees and mushrooms, and you wade through a dangerous bog below to traverse the district. Vol is an "eye ball" planet, and in the perpetually cold regions like the Staglands heated places like these are hard to come by and usually cherished for what vegetation and life they provide. Regrettably for these settlers, some of that is quite dangerous.
We'll be showing this location off in a future update more in-depth!
The update also has some information about the fulfillment of the game's physical rewards and a preview of some of its character portraits. But the most important part the reader has to discover for himself. See that code at the end of the trailer? That translates to "Coming May 28 2015".
I missed the Age of DecadenceJanuary update which announced the launch of the Ganezzar beta. Probably because it was only published in Iron Tower's news blog and not in the forums. Whoops! Well, better late than never:
The beta of the third ‘chapter’ is now available to anyone who has the game in their Steam library. To access the beta build, right click on the game in your Steam library, select Properties, click on Betas tab. If it’s set on “None - Opt out of all beta programs”, change it to Test – Private Testing Branch.
Enter the Access Code (‘blacksheepwall’), click on Check Code, and wait for Steam to download the files.
About this beta. It’s a 'work in progress' build with many rough edges. It's in the same state Teron and Maadoran were when we released them to the testers, so for us it's business as usual (except for releasing it to all Early Access’ patrons rather than to the closed beta testers). For people who just want to play the next chapter expecting a few odd bugs here and there, it might be not what they expected.
To remind you, we put the very first playable build on Dec 24. We spent the next 3 weeks improving it, testing, moving things around, tweaking, etc, so the chapter is in a much better shape, but at this stage it’s still about functionality rather than form.
It would take us at least 4-5 weeks to bring it to an ‘enjoyable’ level and another 2-3 weeks to get it to the same state as Teron and Maadoran.
What makes a game city a city? In AoD it’s:
Interconnected faction quests that are the foundation. They are the hardest, most time-consuming development aspect. Scripting them is a nightmare.
Side quests that aren’t connected to anything. They are isolated situations that fill the city with activities and random things to do. They are a pleasure to write and script and can be done in 2 weeks at most.
Static NPCs and visual touches that would make it *look* like a city
Things you can click on it and read descriptions or interact with.
So far we did a rough implementation of the faction quests, which means that the city is fairly empty and lifeless, which can be jarring. So if you want more, wait a few weeks.
Now that we did release something, we will update it on a weekly basis, improving the foundation, adding all the missing things, and making it an enjoyable and atmospheric location, so stay tuned.
Since then, the beta has received five weekly updates, which you can read about there or at the game's Steam community hub. And last month, Vault Dweller published this modest February update:
The main reason for this update is to let you know that the beta will be updated on Friday. The reason for the delay is the art changes in Al-Akia, which is a key part of House Crassus' questline. Why now? That's the beauty of our budget-free development process. Mazin, our artist extraordinaire, is working part-time as he needs to support himself, yet still finds time to help us.
His time is valuable to us, thus we have to use it 'strategically'. For example, now he's working on Hellgate, which is an ancient command center where a lot of explorers died rather painfully, so it has to look the part. We were planning to go with our old design for Al-Akia which is the best we could do but not good enough.
Mazin couldn't change the entire place in a few days but he made a couple of great suggestions, did a couple of sketches (something we can tweak in a week), so that's what Oscar is working on now. Apologies for the delay but in the grand scheme of things a week delay is more than manageable.
Overall, things are going well (more or less) and we're planning - hoping? - to finish Ganezzar by mid-March. By then all Hellgate-related art and animations should be in place. We're almost done with the faction questlines. After this week's update all that's left to do will be the 'Maadoran is destroyed' and 'House Aurelian is destroyed' scenarios as well as using the ship to break the siege. We should be able to do it in a week and then focus on side quests, npcs, visual polish, and scripting issues.
As always, thank you for your support and patience.
Check out the full update for a few images of a fearsome monstrosity that lives in the Hellgate. "The deeper you go into the ruins, the stranger things get."
RPG players are generally pretty addicted to the coolest form of game playing around. But what about if you are in the mood for something a little different? The people at All Slots download list their favorite slots games for you to choose from. Slots are fun and can win you a stack of cash.
It's unusual to report that a Kickstarter campaign has reached its first stretch goal three days before its conclusion, but that's what happened with Underworld Ascendant this morning. The game's rate of funding slowed down somewhat after the spike it experienced around the time it hit its base funding goal, but it's now at over $650k, with over 11,500 backers. The first stretch goal was the Underswamp, which was described in a Kickstarter update from yesterday:
Crouched on the confluence of two slow-moving subterranean river systems, the Underswamp is a miasma of odd fungus, twisted trees and creeping lichen. Dank and full of life; a menagerie of deadly toothed and venomous predators roam the spongy terrain. But there is also strange beauty to be found, such as shimmering fluorescent air plants floating above the dark waters. Deep within the Underswamp lie ruins of the temple of Ishtass. This extensive complex, nearly a league across and half sunk in the swamp, is said to hold ancient secrets.
With the Underswamp comes the Rotworm Skin Boots, which give adventurers extra speed wading through the swamp. Let’s all put on the boots and make a final sprint to bring the Underswamp home to the Sygian Abyss!
That's now in, with four days left to unlock the Tracy Hickman novel at $700k, and more importantly, the Lizardmen at $750k. Hopefully the funding spike from four days ago won't turn out to have cancelled out the usual last day funding rush.
Just when you thought things couldn't get any weirder. The Tactical Simulations Interactive guys sent out this press release today about a new initiative that they're launching:
March 2, 2015 - Los Angeles - Tactical Simulations Interactive (TSI) today unveiled "Gateway" – a system that allows players to transfer their favorite characters across supported RPGs. The initiative will be rolled out in TSI’s debut title, Seven Dragon Saga– an original fantasy RPG for PC, Mac and Linux, based upon an original pen and paper role-playing system designed by former Strategic Simulations Interactive (SSI) alumni Keith Brors and David Shelley. Developers inXile and Harebrained Schemes have also announced support for Gateway, with more set to sign on in the coming months.
With Gateway, TSI is inviting RPG developers to take part in an initiative that hearkens back to the days of classic RPGs like The Bard’s Tale, Ultima and Wizardry -- a time when players could fully transfer their characters and parties into different games, without having to create them from scratch for each game.
"Gateway goes beyond being an import/export feature -- it represents a development philosophy that I enthusiastically endorse. By proposing and developing a data standard for game characters, TSI is establishing a stepping stone for independent CRPG developers to collaborate and share content and expertise. It is very much in the spirit of crowd funding and independent game development. As a fan of SSI's titles, I'm thrilled at their return through Seven Dragon Saga and am excited they are spearheading this initiative through Gateway,” said Kevin Saunders, Project Director, Torment: Tides of Numenera - inXile.
"I think there are a lot of gamers out there who've put a lot of time and effort into building their RPG characters and would love Gateway's export so they can continue their relationship," said Mitch Gitelman, Co-Founder, Studio Manager - Harebrained Schemes.
“We are really excited about the initial reaction to Gateway from the development community and, as gamers ourselves, we love the idea of carrying across our characters and adventuring parties into different RPGs," said David Shelley, Producer/Lead Designer, Seven Dragon Saga. "From a technical standpoint, we are proposing an independent app that avoids any issues with an existing game's user interface and makes it a quick process for developers to add to their games."
Developers wishing to support Gateway in their games should contact Tactical Simulations Interactive at firstname.lastname@example.org.
No, I have no idea how this will actually work. Though I imagine coming up with a bunch of approximate conversion algorithms for these wildly disparate systems could be a lot of fun. Anyway, it's nice to see evidence of the Kickstarter RPG cartel alliance in action!
Oh, and speaking of Kickstarter, there's another part of the press release that a lot of people probably missed:
About Seven Dragon Saga
Seven Dragon Saga takes place in a high-powered fantasy universe, revolving around the Empire of the Seven Dragons, and TSI has today launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the game’s development. Eschewing traditional RPG tropes, Seven Dragon Saga provides the player with effective heroes right from the start, with TSI aiming to provide the next step in meaningful player experiences in the same way that SSI's ‘Gold Box’ titles did during the 1980s and 1990s.
Wait, what? Guys, guys...you have to stopdoingthis. I wonder if it means the Kickstarter is coming soon, though.
Update: TSI's David Klein spoke to VentureBeat about the Gateway system earlier today, revealing more information about its technical workings:
“… We envisioned this as something that could be a real boon to players. We also wanted to keep things simple for developers and add greater utility to ‘Gateway’ over time,” TSI president David Klein told GamesBeat this morning. “Gateway creates a standard character format, so importing games don’t need to know the details of which game the character came from. If they see gaps between the character and their own format, they can use a query UI to allow the player make selections. And, as an example, if the Gateway format has the stats for strength and health, the importer could use them to derive unique stats like willpower; say the average of the two existing stats. The whole goal is to allow importing games to use as much or as little of the incoming characters as they feel comfortable.”
As for importing characters from games with different settings — say, steampunk to fantasy — Klein said that it wants to allow “your characters to continue their adventures in a new setting — while ensuring they can be imported without breaking game play or immersion.”
The studio told GamesBeat this could just include basic details, like the name, gender, age, or race of a character. But Gateway can also bring over classes, stats, and skills, and TSI said that this could even extend to equipment and currency.
The Underworld Ascendant Kickstarter campaign has earned over 50,000 dollars in the past couple of days, which enabled it to meet its funding goal of 600,000 dollars earlier than most people expected, with six days of fundraising still to go. Paul Neurath and the team celebrate the occasion in the latest Kickstarter update. They've also taken the opportunity to rearrange the stretch goals to a more crowd-pleasing configuration. In particular, the much-desired Lizardmen stretch goal is now at the achievable 750,000 dollar point. Here are the details:
Today we reached our base funding goal of $600,000. What to say…
Humbled. Honored to have your support. To be honest, a bit relieved that we did in fact reach this milestone. Incredibly excited that we can now make the game we have so passionately wanted to make for twenty years, and do it together with you.
The team will celebrate and enjoy for a long moment… then right back to work! We are relishing climbing up into the stretch goals over the next 6 days of the campaign. Let’s enjoy that together. Then we can have an even bigger collective celebration.
Speaking of stretch goals… Once it became apparent that we would not necessarily be zooming up and past the $1.2M stretch goal, we decided that it made more sense to break out the $150,000 big stretch goals into 3 smaller $50,000 chunks each. Breaking it out like this gives the community a better chance to reach at least 1 or 2 of the 3 original features within whatever stretch goal we end up in, rather than making it an all-or-nothing proposition.
We have also taken this as an opportunity to shift around a couple of the features. Most notably, we swapped the Necropolis and Haunt, with the Underswamp and Lizardmen. These are both very similar scoped features. We made the swap because we’ve seen a lot of chatter about the Lizardmen, which seem to be a fan favorite, and we wanted to up the odds that they would get reached.
So let’s pull together and make sure that we can reach the $750,000 mark, and bring the Lizardmen to their swampy home in the Stygian Abyss. They’re counting on us!
You can view the revised stretch goal map in the full update. You might also be interested in the previous Kickstarter update from earlier today, which among other things introduced the game's writer, Joe Fielder, formerly of Irrational Games. In a blog post on the game's official site, he revealed something of the characterization of the game's core three factions:
Werner Herzog once said, "The common denominator of the universe is not harmony, but chaos, hostility, and murder." That's a bit dark, but clearly true in The Stygian Abyss. It's one of the most hostile environments possible. And yet Cabirus attempted to build it into a utopia, one of the most optimistic goals imaginable.
Will you decide to follow his example? Or stoke the flames of war?
It'll be our job to craft the story to react to your decisions, immerse in the world, compel you to discover all the amazing things you can do, and goad you to play further.
We'll also be working hard to ensure Underworld Ascendant retains its deep dark dungeon fantasy feel, but in a fresh, original way that's all its own. Part of that means coming up with takes on races that are different from what you've seen elsewhere.
For instance, the Dwarves in Underworld Ascendant are true mountain folk: rugged frontier types who are smart and wary, like early pioneers like Kit Carson mixed with HBO's Deadwood and Jack London's White Fang. They feel a distinct sense of ownership over the Underworld since they erected much of its infrastructure and see the other intelligent races as freeloaders, at best.
Meanwhile, the Shamblers are a fungal society, an alien hive mind who view The Stygian Abyss as a complete ecosystem... which would thrive under its direct care. The Dark Elves are obsessed with attaining mental and physical perfection, like a mix of Spartan warriors and social Darwinists. They're fiercely independent, rankle at what they perceive as The Shamblers' controlling influence, and like to pick fights with the Dwarves simply to test their mettle.
As in the original Ultima Underworld games, no race has a set alignment. Each faction has its own unique worldview and valid reasons for their actions. They're headed for conflict and, likely, tragedy.
I wonder how he'll characterize the Lizardmen if they make it in.
It's been almost three months since we learned that inXile would be releasing a comprehensive "balance pass" for Wasteland 2. We have gotten two patches since then, but nothing that you could call a "balance pass", and some people have begun to get skeptical. Well, today's Kickstarter update reveals why things may be taking longer than expected. Wasteland 2 is due to get not just a balance pass, but also an improved character system and an engine upgrade.
Part of the newfound freedom we’ve gained from being an exclusively crowdfunded company is that it allows us to offer a high level of post-release support. While this is normal practice for an active multiplayer game, we believe that the ongoing improvements to the single player experience in Wasteland 2 are worth the time and money. The game truly continues to be a passion project for the team here at inXile.
And we’re not done yet…
If you've been keeping a close eye on things, you might have heard tell that we're looking at doing some more balancing and improvements of Wasteland 2 in the future. We have expanded our original plan and decided that this is going to be a part of something much larger for all our fans.
In pursuit of this goal, one task we're working on right now is migrating the Wasteland 2 codebase from the Unity 4.5 engine to Unity 5, which will enable some new possibilities for us. A major benefit of moving to Unity 5 is that 5 will include many of the tools from Unity 4.x Pro. We relied on many of these tools during our development (like creating and building navigation meshes), and they will be available to modders without having to pay thousands of dollars for a Pro Unity license. There is no doubt that this migration will allow us to release better tools for modding to our community in the future.
So what’s the “something bigger” that I teased earlier? Let’s just say that the Orange County lifestyle might be getting to us as the game will be receiving a facelift. Unity 5 offers physically based shading, which is already starting to look amazing in the scenes we’ve touched up.
As well as visual improvements, we have quite a few quirky tricks up our sleeves. The character system is getting perked up and will include some new elements to modify gameplay. Of course, more details will be released in the future so stay tuned!
Accounts of Josh Sawyer's recent European Pillars of Eternity publicity tour are continuing to be posted across the Web. If the previous one was mainly about story, then this new article at PCGamesN is all about the combat. The author was somewhat apprehensive of the game's combat before, which is why he named the article "How Josh Sawyer sold me on Pillars of Eternity's combat". Much of the information in it will be familiar to dedicated Pillars-watchers, but this part near the beginning has some interesting details about a couple of the game's areas. I quote:
To start off the combat demo, the party actually avoids conflict. Sneaking through a gothic fortress lousy with priests and paladins, they come across a stash of robes. All dressed up in burlap, they’re able to get further into the complex without putting swords through anyone. Finding a disguise doesn’t guarantee success, though. The party is questioned by a priest, but manages to keep up the pretense thanks to their skills, which translate into conversation skills as well as combat ones.
Eventually, the good luck ends, and the party is spotted by a guard who doesn’t fall for their disguise. A brawl ensues. This is probably the fourth time in two days that the chap driving the demo has been in this fight, but it’s still clearly a tough one. It’s a maze of corridors and rooms with a veritable army of holy warriors, and the party’s stamina is whittled away. The situation could have been avoided, though.
“You can actually bluff your way through the whole level,” says Sawyer. “You don’t have to fight anyone.” But that requires characters with skills that can overcome an interrogation from several different guards, all who will ask different questions with different skill requirements.
The party is whisked away from the fortress to a gargantuan, cavernous dungeon, Endless Paths of Od Nua. “During the Kickstarter phase, we had this challenge,” says Sawyer. “‘Hey everybody, how big can we make this big, crazy mega-dungeon?’ That was kind of a mistake, because the answer was 15 levels.”
Endless Paths’ levels vary in size and the type of monsters found in them, but they are all big, and spreading throughout them are the limbs of a massive statue. As well as being an increasingly tough combat challenge, it’s all wrapped up in this story of the dungeon’s history.
“So as you go through the dungeon you’ll see different parts of him [the statue],” explains Sawyer. “You’ll see his hands, his head, his feet and everything, and learning the story of how that statue came to exist there and what it’s doing in there is a big part of unlocking the mystery of Endless Paths.”
As soon as the party starts its journey through level eight of Endless Paths, they almost step right on a trap. In Pillars of Eternity, stealth mode doubles as a searching for traps mode, and when they are disabled, they can also be recovered and then used against the buggers that put them there in the first place.
Even with spells going off in all directions - many of which should be familiar to D&D or Baldur’s Gate players - Pillars of Eternity’s combat isn’t much fun to watch. It’s all a bit messy and chaotic if you don’t know what’s going on, if you’re not there, giving the orders to the party yourself. But once you understand the rules and character’s abilities, things start to become a lot easier to read.
Knowing that all types of plate armour are weak against electricity, for example, makes it easy to understand why your knight is having so much trouble now that a mage has bathed the battlefield in a spiderweb of electricity.
Pacifist runs, nice. Though I must say, it's an unusual choice to begin an article about how you were sold on a game's combat by describing how you avoided it.
After receiving several shout-outs yesterday, the Underworld Ascendant Kickstarter campaign made it past $550,000 of funding and 10,000 backers, and it's now approaching its funding goal at a relatively brisk pace. The first Kickstarter update of the campaign's final week is all about melee combat, and OtherSide's thoughts about how to improve it beyond the simple clickfest formula of the original Underworlds. I quote:
In most fantasy RPG’s, fighters are not the sharpest tools in the shed. Rather than relying on their brains, they use their ample brawn. Wading into a battle, slashing and smashing every foe in sight.
Nothing wrong-headed with that style of character. Can be great fun! Underworld Ascendant welcomes players who want to play a straight up, traditional fighter character. But fighting can go much deeper than simply brawn. Finesse. The tactics of maneuvering back-and-forth with an opponent in a flowing, dynamic engagement. Mastering a weapon. Learning your opponent’s weakness, then using that against them. Players who choose to focus on fighting will be able grow into masters of the art of combat.
What does this mean in terms of game play? Here is one illustrative example…
[Caveat. Please understand that we are still in prototype phase. What is described below is our best guess at how combat will likely work well. But as we have learned from making games such as Ultima Underworld and Thief, often you discover further along in development that changes from the original design plan are needed to achieve the best gameplay. So this is just a starting point.]
Romulus, a master swordsman, has just turned a corner to spy a Dire Faerie, hovering in the middle of a large and high-ceiled chamber. The Faerie has not yet noticed Romulus, so he decides on a stealthy approach to try to get close, unnoticed.
Romulus closes in quickly, and is nearly on top of the Faerie before it becomes of aware of the fighter’s presence. The Faerie spins and tries to fly away, but Romulus is able to land a blow to one of the Faerie’s wings before it can get out of reach. The damage to the wing makes the Faerie’s flight unsteady; harder for it to maneuver outside of Romulus’ range. Romulus has achieved his first objective of the battle, to neutralize the Faerie’s advantage of flight.
Now he closes in for the kill. Since Romulus has fought Faeries before, he has learned some of their weaknesses. The game reveals this by showing a glow on the Faerie’s left chest, which is especially vulnerable.
Romulus closes in to try to land the killing blow…
This is just one way this battle might evolve. Each battle will be fluid and dynamic, with the player having choices to make, tactics to adjust. As players master that art of warfare, they will gain new skills that layer into these choices. Some skills will make them simply deadly, but others will open up new tactics they can try using.
It is worth highlighting that in Underworld Ascendant combat will not be a fast, twitch experience. Even though gameplay is played out in fluid first-person 3D, the pace will be slower than a “shooter”, giving players more time to make tactical decisions.
Likewise, it will not be a game about pixel precision landing of blows. Your fighter’s character skill will factor into the success of landing blows, more so than your quick twitch ability. If you are role-playing a master swordsman, we want you be able to actually fight just like a master swordsman, even if you’ve never hefted a real sword in your life.
Paired with the Improvisation Engine, combat in the game is not just about whittling away your opponent’s hit points. With maneuvering, knowledge and planning the combat possibilities are practically endless, and ensure that Mages aren’t the only ones who fight with flashy tricks!
We've had updates on magic and melee now, so I suppose there's a good chance the next one will be about thievery. Considering the developers' background, that could be pretty interesting.
We know from previous Torment: Tides of Numenera updates and interviews that the game will be implementing the Effort mechanic from the Numenera PnP rules. Effort allows you to actually spend your character's stats to aid in overcoming difficult tasks, in dialogue, combat and elsewhere. In the latest Torment Kickstarter update, Adam Heine gives a more detailed explanation of this mechanic, and describes how it will be implemented in the game in practice. Oh, and there's a new screenshot, too - a WIP render of an area we've seen before. Here's that, and an excerpt from Adam's treatise:
In TTON, we handle tasks with an Effort dialog. Because Effort is a new mechanic—and a key mechanic at that—we decided to display the Effort dialog every time the player attempts a Difficult Task.
"What?!" I hear you say. "You're telling me I have to click away this annoying pop-up every time I try anything?" Yes, that's what I'm telling you. But it's not annoying at all—the opposite, actually. Part of that is there aren't as many Difficult Tasks as you might think. Each task is uniquely crafted (that is, you won't be picking twenty generic locks in a row), so when there is a difficult task, the Effort dialog adds import to it, making every task a potentially significant event. You don't click the pop-up away. You make a real decision, every time.
("But can't I just reload until I beat the task without Effort?" You could, but in some cases you'd be missing out on content that is only available when you fail some tasks. And anyway, as I've said in the past, savescumming isn't technically any easier, it's just a different way to play.)
What do you see when the Effort dialog appears? This:
The difficulty of the task. By default, this difficulty appears as one of eleven abstract labels (e.g. Routine, Challenging, Impossible, etc.), but you'll be able to change this in the Game Options to show the actual target number (i.e. the Task Difficulty multiplied by 3) or to not show any difficulty at all.
The adjusted difficulty of the task. If you have any skills or assets that apply to the task, then the initial difficulty will be visible but crossed out, and the actual difficulty (what you're trying to beat) will appear beneath it. Note that it's possible to have penalties, such that a task is harder than the base difficulty for some characters. That will be reflected here as well.
When you mouse over the difficulties, a tooltip will display showing you what skills and assets you have that are adjusting the difficulty (if any). This way, we don't have to clutter the dialog with a bunch of text, but you can have access to all the information if you want it.
An icon conveying which stat applies to this task. This determines which Stat Pool the Effort cost comes out of. Most tasks will only allow one stat: Might, Speed, or Intellect. In special cases (usually when the PC has certain abilities), a PC might be able to choose to replace the original Stat Pool with a different one. For example, a Jack with the Brute Finesse ability can choose to apply either Speed or Might to non-combat Speed tasks.
An Effort slider. This allows the player to choose how many levels of Effort he will apply to the task. As he increases the slider, the Effort dialog will show him how much Stat Pool will be deducted and the adjusted difficulty will change to reflect the Effort he's applying.
Sidebar refresher: The first level of Effort costs 3 from the applicable Stat Pool. Every level of Effort thereafter costs an additional 2. If the PC has any Edge in the applicable Stat Pool (another thing you gain each Tier), then his Edge is subtracted from the overall Effort cost. So if a player has 1 Might Edge and purchases two levels of Effort, it will cost him 4 Might (3 for the first level + 2 for the second level – 1 for his Might Edge).
If the PC has 3 or more Edge in the applicable Stat, then the Effort slider will automatically be set to however many levels of Effort that PC can get for free.
Sounds cool. I'd worry less about save-scumming, and more about how resting to recharge your Stat Pools could trivialize the mechanic entirely. Though it seems like inXile already have some ideas about how they're going to deincentivize that.
If you were a computer RPG fan of a certain type in the 1990s, your preferred brand of gaming came in two distinct flavors. There were the top-down/isometric RPGs, such as Origin's Ultima series in the early 90s, and the RPGs from Black Isle and BioWare later on. And then there were the first person games from Looking Glass Studios - Ultima Underworld, System Shock, Thief - which would form the foundation of the genre that Warren Spector would retroactively dub the "immersive sim". Despite the seemingly wide differences between these two genres, they would end up following strikingly parallel paths. Both would place an increasing emphasis on developing the concepts of player choice and reactivity, and both would suffer a precipitous decline in the early 2000s, due to destructive trends in the gaming industry which have been heavily discussed in our forums and elsewhere.
With the rise of big budget crowdfunded gaming in 2012, isometric RPGs made a huge comeback. But that other type of RPG, the Looking Glass-style first person immersive sim, was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps, people reasoned, this was due to the fact that producing a good-looking first person game requires more budget than even a successful Kickstarter can possibly provide. Or maybe it was because the veterans of Looking Glass and successor company Ion Storm Austin had scattered to the four winds - to Irrational Games, Arkane Studios, Valve, Bethesda and Zynga. It would seem that the implosion of the latter company due to the bursting of the social gaming bubble was what finally changed the situation for the better.
Back in July 2014, we first learned of the creation of OtherSide Entertainment by Paul Neurath, founder of Looking Glass Studios, after his departure from Zynga. Joining him was Tim Stellmach, lead designer of Ultima Underworld II and the Thief series. Their first project would be "Underworld Ascension", a successor to the Ultima Underworld series. After six months of quiet behind-the-scenes preparations, which would see the project renamed to Underworld Ascendant, the inevitable Kickstarter was finally announced in late January. It's now been three weeks since the Kickstarter's launch, and while it will clearly make its $600,000 goal, it's not the huge success some may have hoped for. I can think of any number of reasons for that, but that's outside the scope of this post. Suffice it to say, the same people who thought a first person Kickstarter game was a non-starter due to budgetary reasons are likely to be skeptical about the viability of this one.
Regardless of the Kickstarter's success or lack thereof, the prospect of a Looking Glass Studios revival is a matter of the utmost importance to a site like ours. For that reason, several weeks ago, we made arrangements for a personal visitation by stalwart Codexer mindx2 to the humble headquarters of OtherSide Entertainment in Boston, Massachusetts. That visit took place last Friday, and mindx2 would spend the entire subsequent weekend compiling his discussions with Paul Neurath and the rest of the OtherSiders into a lengthy interview/report. I don't know if this report will change anybody's mind about pledging to Underworld Ascendant, but you'll definitely view them more sympathetically after reading it. Without further ado...
A representative from a site called GameWatchers met up with Josh Sawyer recently to ask a few questions about the upcoming Pillars of Eternity. The resulting interview focuses on the game's story and setting, and also reveals something of the nature of its expansion pack. Here's an excerpt:
GameWatcher: How do you kick off a big new universe like this? It must be difficult to juggle the need to inform the player without swamping them in exposition.
Josh Sawyer: I think it’s important to establish what’s important in this part of the world. The region in the game is called the Eastern Reach, and it’s a colonial area. Your character is not from here. When you start the game, your character is as new to this world as you are. We don’t try to elaborate other than in lore books and things like that, we don’t explain everything to you in a big wall of text. We just say; here’s what these people are worried about, here’s what is going on right here at this moment in time, this is what they’re trying to do. So in terms of world-building we try to give you a picture of the state of this huge colonial area, and the direction in which it’s headed. We’re not writing some huge guidebook to the universe that covers every single bit of information, we’re trying to focus on what’s happening in one corner of the world. One set of stories, and the characters that are involved in them.
GameWatcher: In the Baldur’s Gate series we were dealing with these huge epochal events, Gods dying and rising again, all that good stuff. Are you taking a similarly high fantasy approach in Pillars, or are things a little more grounded?
Josh Sawyer: Well, we do try to keep things a little more realistic and grounded, but at the same time we know that people like it when the stakes get epically big. My kind of philosophy is to start with something small and personal, and slowly build it into something momentous. In Fallout: New Vegas for example, you start out with a fairly simple plot; someone’s shot you in the head, dropped you in a ditch, and you’re out to find the man who did it. Then, as you start to explore you find out there’s a lot of crazy shit going on in the world, and you start to become embroiled in it. In Pillars it’s a not too dissimilar situation, where you become embroiled in something that you weren’t really looking for, and as you start to deal with the fallout you get drawn into the larger story. As you start to grow in scale you realise that this is not a small conflict, it’s part of something a lot bigger. RPGs are about growth, not only of your character as they become more powerful, but of your place in the world. Gaining reputation, things like that. So even though our game is a little more grounded in focus, maybe a little more believable, I think it’s important that we have that escalation.
GameWatcher: You decided not add in multi-classing options for Pillars, which were a big part of previous Infinity Engine games. Was that a conscious decision to simplify things for the first game using this new rules system?
Josh Sawyer: Yeah. Well, a bit simple within the realm of having eleven classes and six races all in the game, but yes. Multi-classing is something that tabletop D&D still struggles with. Every edition has tried another way to do it, but… I understand why people want to do it, totally, it’s very cool but it’s also a very hard thing to do. For this first game we thought let’s stick with single classes, but have a tonne of options within those classes. If you want to make a speedy, offensive fighter or a tough tank fighter you can, if you want to change the focus of your character you can do that. We might do multi-classing in the future, but we had to do so much stuff for this game that at a certain point we had to say, OK, we’ve promised eleven classes in the Kickstarter, let’s just stick to those.
GameWatcher: In terms of additional content for the game, will you be heading down the DLC pack route, which is something Paradox as a publisher is known for, or will you be concentrating on larger expansions?
Josh Sawyer: No, we want to do a traditional expansion, and we’re in the early stages of planning for that right now. Part of the Kickstarter campaign was a full expansion, so we’re definitely doing a Tales of the Sword Coast style campaign. We’re still in the early stages of design for that right now, though. What I would say about additional content other than that, is that I would like to see any gameplay tweaks and changes we make in an expansion get rolled into a free patch. So if you don’t want to buy an expansion, you get all the same gameplay benefits without the extra story.
GameWatcher: Obviously I’m trying to stay well out of the spoiler minefield here, but does Pillars have a distinct, one-off story? The original Baldur’s Gate sort of set itself up directly for a sequel at the end – does this feel like a complete story in and of itself?
Josh Sawyer: Yes, I think it does. Obviously if we want to make a sequel we’ll follow up on things, but this is a complete story with a distinct ending. There’s no big twist that gets unresolved, and there’s a real sense of closure at the end. There’s lots of stuff to build on, obviously, but the main conflict is resolved at the end of the game.
Fallout: New Vegas - Fantasy Edition, eh? They could certainly do worse.
Today's Underworld AscendantKickstarter update provides some details about the game's magic system. It's an evolution of Ultima Underworld's rune-based magic system, with additional experimentation and crafting options:
We wanted to do a deeper dive into one of the core game systems in Underworld Ascendant, magic. Can’t have a fantasy game without magic!
Magic in Underworld Ascendant springs from the original Underworlds. As with the originals, magic is built on rune stones. Scattered around the Abyss is an alphabet of rune stones, each inscribed with a runic letter. The Avatar discovers these stones as they explore the Abyss, over time building a vocabulary of spells.
To cast a spell, the player lays outs particular combinations of stones. For instance, the pair of stones IN LOR casts a dim magic light. A much more powerful version of this spell using 3 rune stones, VAS IN LOR, casts the brightness of daylight. Learning new spell combinations is part of the fun. You feel as if you are growing in arcane knowledge --- which of course you are!
Underworld Ascendant explores a new dimension of runic magic. As players master the lore they will uncover hidden powers, and learn how to magically transform their runes. For instance, a mage might learn how to transfigure the runes for a Fireball, POR FLAM, to enlarge its blast radius. As the mage’s knowledge deepens, to make the Fireball dance around the chamber, seeking out each nearby foe in turn. Or perhaps instead, to burn with a violet aura, which clings to foes longer and with more terrible effect. Ultimately, a mage can craft their own repertoire of unique and powerful runes.
Spells in Underworld Ascendant are also far more diverse than the standard RPG variations on “blast your foe”. There is magic that will aid in your being stealthy, alert you to a variety of dangers, let you levitate or fly, bar a door, to name just a few. These more diverse non-combat spells feed right into the Improvisation Engine, giving spell casters all sorts of clever approaches to solve challenges.
Speaking of spell casters, any Avatar can learn to wield at least some magic. A player focused on, say, combat skills, will never become master of the magical arts. However, they can still learn to cast some less powerful spells if they choose.
The update also reports that a name has been selected for the game's gelatinous "Tunnel Trapper" monster - Earthclot. No new backer vote has been introduced after the conclusion of this one, so I guess they're done with those.
Because we raised money for Torment, one of the rewards we're due is the "Obelisk from a Lost Empire", where we work with inXile to "determine the characteristics, design and tides of a monument of our choosing. The Obelisk can be a statue, a pillar, a pyramid or something else that will be placed somewhere in the game. The player will be able to interact with it and thus learn more of the story we wish to tell."
inXile now want to know the following from us:
- The shape, size and look of your Obelisk
- A description of what you'd like to have happen when the player interacts with it.
We will take your outline to our design and art team, and then contact you again once we have a concept and design outline for you to approve.
- When designing the Obelisk, please keep in mind this is a top-down game and a lot of things are not conveyed on the model. Focus on the descriptive text for details.
- While the Obelisk can take any shape, it should not be larger than XXX and can not have any moving parts on the model itself – though it can be described as moving in the text.
- The interaction with the Obelisk can be either a short text or a brief conversation, please define and outline how you’d like to see this interaction work.
- The interaction with the Obelisk should be self-contained, so it can’t be tied to a bigger quest or pose a great danger to the player.
- The Obelisk should not require a specific context or biome, so that we can place them in any of our areas.
- The Obelisk design should fit in the Ninth World setting. If the design or look of it does not fit we may need to adjust it until it does.
Oh and also:
You filled in "A troll. Like the one we sent Brian Fargo in the mail!" While funny, obviously exactly reproducing the Codex troll would not fit the setting or tone of the game. "Devil"-like figures like the troll in general wouldn't fit. Perhaps you guys can put your heads together and come up with some alternatives? We would love to hear back this week.
We are now taking suggestions for troll-like things that fit the theme, or other ideas.
Remember Zaharia, the Middle Eastern-themed isometric RPG that went on Kickstarter last year but failed to meet its funding goal? Well, now the team behind that game, Inner Void Interactive, is back with a new project - Icy, a survival RPG set in a post-apocalyptic world witnessing a new Ice Age. Icy was actually announced back in May 2014 as "Project Frozen World" and significant development has already gone into the game, so the very modest Indiegogo campaign launched today is only meant to provide funds for the finishing touches. Here's the pitch video and feature list:
Live a survival experience in a peculiar post-apocalyptic setting.
Create your character, characterizing it choosing among 3 main attributes and 10 different skills that affects the whole game.
Influence the plot with different choices, changing the course of events that will lead to multiple different endings.
Manage to keep together group of survivors, each one with different needs, values and ideals.
Scavenge for items and hunt for food, face the challenges of the Frozen World.
Enjoy more than 400 hand-drawn artworks.
More than 10'000 dialogue lines.
Day/night cycle that affects the gameplay.
A mere 5 dollars will get you a copy of Icy, which is scheduled to be released in June this year, but only if the fundraiser hits its 2500 dollar goal. You can learn more about the game from the dev diaries that were posted on the official website over the past nine months. Don't forget to vote it up on Steam Greenlight, too. Oh, and yes, the name is temporary.
Nearly a year after the previous one, Dr Schultz has posted a new entry in his irregular series of interviews with the Torment: Tides of Numenera development team, over at the official Italian language Torment blog. This time, it's an interview with Colin McComb, focusing on the topic of the game's narrative. Naturally, he can't reveal much, so the interview is not very long, but there are a few interesting tidbits here:
You’ve stated before that you’ve chosen the Numenera license mostly because of its setting, but as far as I know Torment’s story takes place in uncharted territories. I mean, parts of the Ninth World not covered in the Corebook. Why? And is there any chance we are going see parts of the Steadfast/Beyond in TON?
You won’t see any places from the Corebook, but some will be referenced. We didn’t want to risk conflicting with anything Monte Cook Games had planned in the Steadfast; as a younger setting, it still needs to establish some meta-campaign narrative. The Corebook was still being worked on when we began planning Torment, so we all thought it would be better if we built out beyond the Beyond and we could integrate the two areas later.
I’m under the impression that the Endless Battle is going to play a huge role in Torment’s story. Can you tell us a little more about this conflict? Additionally - given the fact that ToN is a game about legacies - is it safe to assume that the player will be able to influence the outcome of the war?
It’s funny that you should ask about that, because the Endless Battle came up in story meetings just recently. At the risk of handing out spoilers: It does play an important role in the game, both symbolically and narratively. Born out of an argument between the Changing God and the First Castoff, it has become essentially a feature of the landscape over the last several centuries. Much like the everlasting storm of Catatumbo, it’s almost a force of nature by this point. Think of the trenches and craters of World War I, and then add time distortions, gravity fields, sentient machines, and nightmare creatures released from other dimensions, and you’ll start to get an idea what it’s like.
At this point, the two sides are at a stalemate, but they push and prod for incremental advantage. Victory isn’t in sight for either side, but neither are they willing to admit defeat – they are fighting for ideological principles now, for their reputations, for some other reason – and so, despite the First being dead and the Changing God not involved in the fight, the Endless Battle continues.
It is not safe to assume that you will be able to influence the outcome of the war. On the other hand, I don’t know that you should assume you can’t.
Our readers are always eager to learn new details about Torment Companions. Can you tell us something we don’t already know about one or two of them?
Our cold, calculating jack’s name is Matkina. Her original conception was the stainless steel jack, a nod to Harry Harrison’s “Stainless Steel Rat”, and her character arc originated there. It’s changed significantly since then, but the deadly confidence, careful thought, and occasional impulsiveness colored her initial narrative portrait.
Bonus question: after the astonishing success of TTON you are confirmed as Creative Lead of the third Torment game, set in a different universe and powered by a new ruleset . The choice is entirely up to you. What will this universe/ruleset be?
We’ve loved working with Monte Cook Games, and they’ve been a fantastic business partner, but since you’ve said a different universe/different rules…
Do I get to keep working with the same team? Because if we’re together again, I think in this imagined future we’ll take a swing at inventing our own world and our own rules. Given that I’ve created and developed a number of different worlds now, and given that Adam is doing great things with the rules, and given that George and Kevin are brilliant, I don’t see any reason we wouldn’t create our own world completely under our own control. Why, we could blow up the world and no one could stop us!
Uh, hypothetically speaking, of course…
There sure are lots of Torment interviews these days. I wonder if inXile are building up hype towards something?
The Underworld Ascendant Kickstarter campaign hit the $500,000 milestone over the weekend, something that the guys at OtherSide were quite happy to break their vacation to celebrate in a Kickstarter update. Owing to the quick success of the Splatter Seed Sling backer goal, the update also went and announced a third backer goal for next week, to be unlocked at 10,000 backers. Naturally, it's a Shambler artifact - a sharp-witted talking skull (hmmm...) named Chattering Bart. But today's update is more interesting than that. OtherSide's decision to use the Unity engine for this game has received criticism for some quarters. In the video accompanying the update, programmers Will Teixeira and Jeff Kesselman talk about the advantages of Unity for developing a game that's heavily based on physical simulation. It also includes some new footage of the game's prototype. Check it out:
There has been a lot of chatter about the in-game visuals in the Underworld Ascendant early prototype. Some have called them downright homely. We take no insult.
As with the games we developed at LookingGlass, our philosophy is to avoid putting a lot of time into making pretty in-game visuals during early development. This enables us to iterate fast early on, rapidly improving game play. The tradeoff is having less impressive visuals to show off with a prototype. For fans who want to see gorgeous visuals upfront, this can be a hurdle.
Good news is that we can and will dramatically step up the visual bar. Not at the expense of gameplay, and not to try to chase AAA games that have tens-of-millions to throw at visuals, but we'll deliver a great-looking indie game.
Explaining some of the how:
Beyond tapping into the enthusiasm of Chris’ kids, our art team has track record of delivering games known for their wonderful art style and 3D visuals: BioShock, BioShock Infinite,Uncharted 2, The Last of Us, among others.
As for the software engine, we are currently using Unity 4.6 for the prototype. This version’s visual capabilities are dated. However, it's proven and robust, enabling fast prototyping.
This week we started doing test builds with a beta version of Unity 5. Its capabilities are hugely improved. Notable new features include physically-based shading, PhysX 3.3, and global illumination. Check out what Unity 5 promises to deliver when it is released for production useHERE.
When the Unity 5 beta becomes sufficiently stable that using it will not slow down our development, we will make the switch. We expect Unity 5 will be a good fit for the project’s needs. However, if we are surprised to learn it fails to deliver, we will switch to a more suitable engine.
They've also updated the Kickstarter pitch video with some of this new stuff. Nice! BTW, don't forget to vote for Underworld Ascendant on the GOG.com community wishlist.
Do you enjoy reminiscing? Looking back on years past as if the years that followed them hadn't happened yet? Well, since everything in 2013 got postponed, we thought it gave us the perfect excuse to postpone the 2013 Year in Review.
Until now. We look back on the games that were released:
Moving on to other legal stoushes and stories of inanity from 2013, we have Chaos Chronicles. It was supposed to be a turn-based, old-school, classic... and other buzzwords we like to hear... RPG under development by CorePlay. It started the year by putting its official forums on the Codex.
And it was all downhill from there.
... the publishers that died:
... and they died. THQ that is, not Trey Parker or Matt Stone. The remains of the company were acquired by UbiSoft which, after some concern about what kind of limbo the game would end up in, did confirm they would complete the game.
... the delays:
If 2012 was the year that gave rise to the KickStarter, then 2013 was the year of delayed incline. For all those who thought release dates for KickStarter projects of just one year later were a tad optimistic, you were right, as several major projects got delayed.
... the birth of Steam Early Access:
Long-time gamers would know that video games don't get finished, they just get released. Often in a horribly buggy and unfinished state that then requires multiple follow-up patches. In many cases, the game fails to sell enough copies, the patches never materialise (or some legal road block from the publisher gets in the way) and that's the end of that. You'll take your buggy unplayable piece of shit and you'll like it.
Not so anymore! 2013 finally saw the year when the standard industry model... actually became the standard industry model. And it pretty much happened that quickly.
... and more!
It may give you a weird feeling reading it now since we talk about games "slated for a 2014 release" that have been out for months. But come with us now, on a journey through time and space, back to 2013.