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Fri 12 February 2016

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?

Spend your Friday evening watching Josh Sawyer play some White March Part 2

Game News - posted by Zed on Fri 12 February 2016, 23:00:02

Tags: Carrie Patel; J.E. Sawyer; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity; Pillars of Eternity: The White March

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In two hours from this news being posted, at 16:00 PST, Obsidian Game Designer Josh Sawyer will be playing some Pillars of Eternity: The White March Part 2, over at the official Obsidian Twitch channel.

(starts at around 8:12)
While you're waiting for it to begin, you might want to check out this exclusive video of the expansion's new companion, the Aumaua barbarian Maneha, over at PCGamesN:

The White March Part 2 is being released on Tuesday, February the 16th. Let's hope Unity holds up for the grand showing.

There are 12 comments on Spend your Friday evening watching Josh Sawyer play some White March Part 2

Bard's Tale IV Kickstarter Update #27: Pre-Alpha Screenshot, Fichti Lore

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 12 February 2016, 22:58:51

Tags: Bard's Tale IV; InXile Entertainment; Matt Findley; Nathan Long

That's right, Bard's Tale IV is still alive. In the game's first Kickstarter update since November, inXile president and New Orleans studio lead Matt Findley offers a short development status report along with this pre-alpha screenshot of a pastoral lakeside area:

Also included in the update is a lore writeup courtesy of lead writer Nathan Long, describing one of the game's cultures, the matriarchal, totally-not-Pictish Fichti. Here's an excerpt from that:

Caith is the land in which we set our story, the land of Skara Brae. It is a land of stone-fenced fields, vast forests, windswept mountains and rocky shorelines at the northern end of a island in a northern sea. In Caith's lowlands live the Dael, ruddy, hardy farmers with a feudal society of knights, dukes and castles. In Caith's great northwestern forests live the Fichti, short, dark haired hunters and gatherers who keep to the older ways of tribe, clan and totem. On the shores and isles of Caith's rugged north east coast live the Einarr, descendants of Norn raiders, but now settled fishers, shepherds, and sailors. The three cultures don't mix very much, but they all think of Caith as their home, and occasionally, if the threat is great enough, they all come together to defend it.

Right now, I'd like to talk to you in detail about one of those cultures, the Fichti.

Relations with the Outside World

Although they understand they live in the land of Caith, the Fichti do not feel much kinship for the Dael or the Einarr, the other cultures who share that land. The Dael they think of as weak farmers, too civilized to survive alone in the wilderness. Still, there is little animosity between the two cultures unless some greedy Dael sneak into the woods to poach game or timber. Other than that, the Fichti are happy to trade furs for axeheads with their soft southern cousins, for the one thing they do like about the Dael is the strength and sharpness of their steel.

The Einarr are the Fichti's traditional enemies, going back to the days when Einarr longboats would glide onto the shores of the inner sea and Einarr raiders would sack Fichti villages and take captives and plunder. The Einarr don't raid anymore, but old grudges die hard, and no Fichti shakes hands with an Einarr without checking after to make sure all his fingers are still there.

The Fichti have no real relationship with the Dwarfs, who don't make a habit of roaming around the northern woods, but they are the race of men who have the closest relationship with the elves, though they still regard them as beings to be mistrusted. They honor the elves as the original rulers of the forests, but also believe they abandoned the world when it needed them most, and left it to men to save it from the Famhair. They also fear the elven habit of luring away Fichti men and women who appeal to them. At the same time, the elves have often helped the Fichti against the darker horrors of the forest, and have taught them much of magic and the land, so they are grateful for their kindness.

A Fichti saying that illustrates this conflicted relationship is, "Take elven wisdom, not elven wine." This refers to the belief that any advice freely given by an elf is safe to take, but any time food or drink or a bargain is offered, it is always a trap, and must be avoided at all costs, or the Fichti who made the deal, even if they didn't know a deal was being made, could end up as playthings for some elven lord or lady, trapped forever in the Realm of Coill.​

Hopefully updates will be more frequent from now on.

There are 8 comments on Bard's Tale IV Kickstarter Update #27: Pre-Alpha Screenshot, Fichti Lore

RPG Codex GOTY 2015 Poll - All citizens take part

Community - posted by VentilatorOfDoom on Fri 12 February 2016, 11:39:36

It looks like Felipepepe got butthurt because there was no newspost about the GOTY 2015 voting currently going on. I detected this at once.
Since I can't see a girl suffer that much, I decided to produce such a newspost.

So, without further ado, please click on this link and take part in the RPG Codex's GOTY 2015 poll.

edit: I was informed of the existence of a counter-poll, an alternative to the one by Felipepepe. This one is the product of a completely different butthurt, that of toro in fact. Anyway, in the interest of science potential drama every upstanding citizen may want to partake in both polls.
Link to the alternative poll.

There are 67 comments on RPG Codex GOTY 2015 Poll - All citizens take part

Thu 11 February 2016
Seven Dragon Saga February Update: Shaping the World

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 11 February 2016, 23:10:40

Tags: Seven Dragon Saga; Tactical Simulations Interactive

After taking a break for the holidays, the developers of Seven Dragon Saga have resumed their regular update schedule. In the latest post, they offer a glimpse at the game's strategic world map:


The art team is beginning to shape the strategic map of the Firewind Coast, the setting for our first Seven Dragon Saga game. The water level is laid in, but not colored, and the rest of the color is just blocked in, but you should be able to see where we are headed. Harsh mountains, deadly badlands to the east, and sinister swamps to the far north will provide plenty of areas for exploration.

The lands are several hundred miles east to west, so there are plenty of places to discover ruins, stumble upon dangerous monsters, and uncover artifacts of power. Skills determine what you can discover, and how much effort it is to travel. Players can camp to rest and recover.

The game begins around the large bay in the north, the country of Aphelon, populated by the part draconic Feydri. They had belonged to a much larger, united kingdom, stretching well to the east, but their cousins, the Drakyri offended the dragons and paid the price. Now the mountains are awash in monsters, bandits and rebels, and the farther east is a parched badland, full of melted ruins, and shattered cities. The Drakyri themselves, cling to life deep underground, away from the keen sight and long memories of the dragons.

As we want exploration to be a big part of the game experience, it’s exciting to see the land come to life. The engineers are already working on the underpinnings, so it will be great to see the work of the two departments come together. Should be a great year for Seven Dragon Saga.
A response to a commenter on the TSI Facebook page reveals more information about the map's functionality:

A single icon represents the party, which can move freely. With the correct skills, the party may find footprints leading places, see patrols, and discover new locations. Locations are separate tactical maps. We intend to make it as alive as time allows, clouds certainly, day/night cycles, and whatever else fits time and budget.​

Nice - now you're talking Gold Box.

There are 14 comments on Seven Dragon Saga February Update: Shaping the World

The Escapist gets a look at The Eyeless in Pillars of Eternity: The White March Part 2

Preview - posted by Infinitron on Thu 11 February 2016, 22:45:39

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

For this week's event in their modest PR campaign for the concluding chapter of the Pillars of Eternity: The White March expansion, Obsidian have given The Escapist an exclusive look at the expansion's villains, a race of terrifying god-forged giants known as The Eyeless. In addition to some renders and a couple of screenshots that demonstrate just how giant they are, there's also a short description from Josh Sawyer and character artist Dimitri Berman. I quote:

[​IMG] [​IMG]

Obsidian Entertainment's Pillars of Eternity was a smash hit when it was released last year. It was soon followed by The White Marsh Part 1 expansion, taking players even deeper into the mysteries of Eora.

Now, with the final installment of that expansion coming on February 16 in the form of The White March - Part 2, we get a glimpse at The Eyeless, massive creatures that players will encounter and be forced to defeat to move through the game.

"At the beginning of the second part of The White March, the Watcher has a dream in which they see terrible visions of these monstrous creatures sweeping across the Eastern Reach, destroying every settlement and overpowering every army in their path." said Josh Sawyer, Obsidian's game director for the series. "It's unclear where the Eyeless have come from and why they would want to destroy civilization, but the Watcher's dream puts them on a path to find out why."

And since the story calls for The Eyeless, it's up to the character artist team to bring them to life.

"From the start, we knew the Eyeless had to be really unique," said Dimitri Berman, lead character artist on Pillars of Eternity. "The story called for a race of beings forged by a god, so at once it was an exciting challenge. The Eyeless had to be practical because they were built for a purpose, but they were also truly alien to Eora, so we tried to convey that in their statuesque form. We also imagined the god could forge with both bronze and organic matter indiscriminately, and sometimes might blend the two, so there are parts where the internal metal skeleton reveals itself through the thin moon-flesh."
Pretty scary. Although they also remind me a little of Hoborg from The Neverhood. :P

There are 13 comments on The Escapist gets a look at The Eyeless in Pillars of Eternity: The White March Part 2

Wed 10 February 2016
Divinity: Original Sin 2 Kickstarter Update #21: Skill Tier Vote #2, Bobby Slavov hired as composer

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 10 February 2016, 16:38:59

Tags: David Walgrave; Divinity: Original Sin 2; Larian Studios; Swen Vincke

It's been a while since we heard anything about the development of Divinity: Original Sin 2. In the game's first Kickstarter update for 2016, Swen Vincke announces that Larian have hired a new composer to replace the departed Kirill Pokrovsky. His name is Borislav "Bobby" Slavov, formerly of Crytek, and apparently he's a huge Divinity fan. Bobby has some cool ideas for Original Sin 2, though Swen isn't ready to talk about them yet. The update also announces the launching of a new vote to determine the game's second skill tier (I guess they decided using the second place winner in the previous one wasn't the best idea). The winner in the first vote was of course Polymorph, which means that Swen is no longer playing favorites in this one...for the most part. Here's the video and text:

Music to your Ears

Last year we lost Kirill Pokrovsky, a brilliant composer and dear friend. While Kirill will be a part of every game we make, the time has come to pass the mantle to another musical genius. Since our ambitions for the music in Divinity:Original Sin 2 are very high, it took a while but today we're happy to report that we found the perfect fit for the job.

Today, we would proudly like to introduce you to Borislav “Bobby” Slavov!

Bobby is an award-winning video game composer and music director, having played and composed for Knights of Honor, Two Worlds II, WorldShift, Gothic 3, and most recently, Crysis 2, Crysis 3, and Ryse: Son of Rome.

Apart from his credentials as a music director, Bobby’s work on adaptive music in video games was a thing that really caught our attention. He's developed novel techniques to ensure that music evolves in real time according to players’ actions and decisions in the game. In Divinity: Original Sin 2 his plan is to take this to the next level and we can honestly say that our jaws dropped when he told us what he wants to do. Very cool stuff!

We're thrilled to work with Bobby, and we think you're going to love his music -- we already do!

Lullaby and The Aria of The Frying Pan

You may squeak and squawk in real life, but in Divinity: Original Sin 2 you’ll be able to sing like an angel -- if you pick the Bard Skill Tree, of course. We are back with another poll to Choose a Skill Tree. After the last poll, we (and by ‘we’ we mean ‘only David’) were shocked to find that you picked the Polymorph skill tree over Bard.

But we still need you to pick a second skill tree, so get ready to vote again!. Log in to your Larian Vault account and let us know which from the list below you would like to see in the game:
  • Trap Master
  • Bard
  • Unarmed Combatant
  • Summoning Master
  • Juggernaut
  • Guardian
  • Alchemist
In the video, Swen spends some time walking around the studio and peeking at people's monitors, but he doesn't reveal much. We'll learn more about Divinity: Original Sin 2 soon though, with Swen attending the PC Gamer Weekender convention on March 5th and EGX Rezzed on April 7th. In the meantime, go vote!

There are 61 comments on Divinity: Original Sin 2 Kickstarter Update #21: Skill Tier Vote #2, Bobby Slavov hired as composer

Tue 9 February 2016
Whalenought's Copper Dreams and future Staglands games to use unified ruleset, more info on Feb 25th

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 9 February 2016, 16:34:31

Tags: Copper Dreams; Whalenought Studios

Whalenought Studios' upcoming cyberpunk-themed RPG, Copper Dreams, was originally supposed to receive some sort of gameplay reveal trailer in December. That ended up getting delayed, along with the reveal of the Serpent in the Staglands expansion (which increasingly looks like it's going to be an entirely new game). A new post on the official Whalenought site announces that all of that stuff will be arriving starting from February 25th. Apparently, they've been using the extra time to shore up their fundamentals. Introducing The Burning Candle ruleset:

On February 25th we are happy to finally unveil our Copper Dreams preview. At that time we will also be starting a series of posts detailing the ruleset and world mechanics we’ve made that will be used for the game as well as the future Vol campaigns, which to help house their similarities amongst very different campaigns we’ve decided to name as The Burning Candle ruleset.

Mechanics are designed from aspects of pen and paper we enjoy and thought would synchronize well into various systems that only a computer format can execute on: environmental combat simulations and the use of time on a global and micro level. Time is the focus on a lot of elements, and branches into many of the mechanics we’ll be going over.

It’s a primarily d8 ruleset that is specifically focused on the adventure part of roleplaying, with an importance on resting and downtime and the repercussions that has throughout. As you progress characters there is less throwing larger and larger piles of dice at opponents and more emphasis on strategic use of items and positioning in an ever dangerous combat mode.

The ruleset encompassed everything from dice rolls, challenge rolls, environmental uses, interactive items, combat, and player management of systems to the implications of the global clock. We’re excited to start sharing more on the 25th with our first topic!
The announcement will be followed by a new interview with Shane Stacks on the 27th. 2016 is definitely off to an interesting start.

There are 24 comments on Whalenought's Copper Dreams and future Staglands games to use unified ruleset, more info on Feb 25th

David Gaider has joined Beamdog as Creative Director

People News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 9 February 2016, 15:46:46

Tags: Amber Scott; Beamdog; Brent Knowles; David Gaider

Beamdog published a post on their official blog yesterday announcing some notable individuals that they've hired over the past year or so. They include various ex-Bioware developers, including former Baldur's Gate 2 designer and Dragon Age: Origins lead designer Brent Knowles, who we interviewed last year (that last question looks a bit prophetic now). Here's the post:

Greetings! Today's post is all about achievements. First, in the literal sense, we're in the process of testing our Steam achievement system. You might see achievements for our games on Steam but be unable to access them. That's because we're still internally testing the achievements to make sure they're fully functional when they go live in the next update. We'll post again here when that happens.

Second, in the metaphorical sense, we'd like to celebrate our achievements in some recent hiring and promotions. I say “recent” but in truth some of the employees mentioned here were hired over a year ago. We've been so focused on our work that we've neglected to celebrate them properly (and there's a lot to celebrate, as there's triple-A talent here). The time to rectify that oversight is NOW.

In September 2015 we added Brent Knowles to the Beamdog team as a designer. Brent has worked for many years on titles familiar to us, including Baldur's Gate 2 and Neverwinter Nights. (His first project was BG2, so in a way coming to Beamdog is like coming full circle). We're happy to have him on the team.

Shawn Potter has also joined us temporarily as a contract programmer. Shawn previously worked as lead gameplay programmer for Mass Effect 3 and senior programmer for Mass Effect 1 and 2. We're excited to make use of his l33t programming skills (or should that be skillz? I'm never sure what the kids are saying these days. They're still saying l33t, though, right?)

Beambard Amber Scott received a promotion to Publishing and Marketing Coordinator. That's right, she successfully finagled a raise out of goofing off on social media. Amber will be responsible for coordinating convention appearances, managing press releases and blog updates, and running events like the fun live stream we did last week.

Thea Kent joined us several months ago as an illustrator and immediately made herself invaluable. You might have seen her work in Dragon+ magazine recently—she did the character art for Glint Gardnersonson.

In November, um, 2014, Jason Knipe came on board (sorry for the late accolades, Jason). He was the lead graphics programmer on Knights of the Old Republic and Neverwinter Nights, and now works for us as a graphics programmer and a fighter-tank in our D&D games.

Finally, Tom Rhodes has taken the reins as art director as of this month. Tom worked on all three Dragon Age games as concept artist, and he quickly made his mark here drawing an awesome picture of a high-speed unicorn chase. Note: do not attempt high-speed unicorn chases at home.

We also hired a writer named Dave. He seems pretty cool so far.
Wait a minute - Dave? Could that be...

Wow. What do you have planned, Beamdog? It's too late for these people to be involved in any significant way with Siege of Dragonspear, after all. Has Trent Oster embarked on a madcap scheme to recreate BioWare circa ~2000? And can he succeed? I guess we'll find out this year.

UPDATE: The news about Gaider is official now. He's joined as the company's Creative Director. It's a new era for Beamdog.

There are 182 comments on David Gaider has joined Beamdog as Creative Director

Sat 6 February 2016
Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear Twitch Stream

Preview - posted by Infinitron on Sat 6 February 2016, 16:41:15

Tags: Amber Scott; Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition; Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear; Beamdog; Phillip Daigle

Beamdog did an hour-long livestream of their upcoming Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear interquel expansion on Twitch last night, hosted by writer Amber Scott and lead designer Philip Daigle. The stream showcases an area called the "Underground River" which is being used by the Shining Lady's crusader army to deliver supplies to Dragonspear Castle, along with its surrounding outdoor environs. As they play, Amber and Phillip deliver various anecdotes about the expansion's development.

From what I can tell from the stream, the game is going to be packed with all sorts of bizarre encounters, in true Forgotten Realms tradition. There's lots of companion interjections and even attribute checks, though Phillip is usually too distracted to do anything but run straight into combat, which seems like typical mid-level AD&D fare. It seems pretty fun, reminiscent of Icewind Dale 2 in its premise, but cheesier.

There are 133 comments on Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear Twitch Stream

Fri 5 February 2016
Shadowrun: Hong Kong Kickstarter Update #43: Shadows of Hong Kong Bonus Campaign Released

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 5 February 2016, 20:20:53

Tags: Harebrained Schemes; Shadowrun: Hong Kong; Shadowrun: Hong Kong - Shadows of Hong Kong

Without much in the way of hype other than a single Facebook post last week, Harebrained Schemes have released their Shadows of Hong Kong sequel mini-campaign for Shadowrun: Hong Kong. Along the way, they've also added audio commentary to the game and in true Kickstarter RPG tradition, rebranded it as an Extended Edition. The latest update has the details:

We are pleased to announce that the Shadows of Hong Kong bonus campaign is now available as part of a free update to Shadowrun: Hong Kong.This update also adds the developer audio commentary Kickstarter reward and a variety of small game improvements such as new visual effects, updated dialogue, and editor features for User Generated Content.

So, we’ve rebranded the title as Shadowrun: Hong Kong - Extended Edition to reflect all the new content. Hong Kong has never been better!

The Extended Edition update is free for all Backers and existing owners of Shadowrun: Hong Kong - to receive the update, you just need to go to your chosen game store (Steam, GOG, or Humble) and download it as you would any other game update. (On Steam this should be automatic.)

Shadows of Hong Kong Bonus Campaign

Set in the weeks following the events of the main campaign, Shadows of Hong Kong will give you -- and your team -- the opportunity to turn the tables on the elite corporate police force that once hunted you. Through layers of corporate greed and urban strife, you will contend with dangerous enemies, uncover a deadly conspiracy, and cement your reputation as a Prime Runner… assuming that you survive, of course.

To play the bonus campaign: after updating to the latest version of the game, select “New Game” from the main title screen menu (see below) to find the new campaign and continue your adventure! Note: You must have completed the main Shadowrun: Hong Kong campaign in order to play Shadows of Hong Kong. When you start Shadows of Hong Kong you will be able to select a high-karma character to import from any valid "final save" file to continue the story with.

Over 100+ Minutes of Audio Commentary!

The team had a great time recording the Audio Commentary for the game.You’ll hear more about character motivations, the interesting choices you’re familiar with, or perhaps even some Easter Eggs you may have missed. (SPOILER ALERT: If you want to discover these things on your own, listen at your own risk - the Commentary assumes that you’ve already played the game!)

Interactive audio icons are spread throughout the game where the various areas are discussed. Our hope is that you have some extra fun along with us and learn a little something more about the game at the same time. Audio commentary can be enabled in the Options menu.

Here’s a quick taste of the audio commentary.
Thus ends the Harebrained Schemes Shadowrun cycle, for now at least. Shadowrun: Hong Kong Extended Edition is currently on sale for 50% off, both on Steam and GOG. If you were planning on playing it but hadn't gotten to it yet, now is the time.

There are 58 comments on Shadowrun: Hong Kong Kickstarter Update #43: Shadows of Hong Kong Bonus Campaign Released

The Digital Antiquarian on Ultima V

Editorial - posted by Infinitron on Fri 5 February 2016, 19:56:07

Tags: Electronic Arts; Origin Systems; Richard Garriott; The Digital Antiquarian; Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny

The Digital Antiquarian has finally resumed his series of articles about the history of the Ultima series. Continuing where he left off back in 2014, his latest article tells the story of what Origin was up to during the years between the releases of Ultima IV and its 1988 sequel, Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny. There's lots of details I'd never heard about here - the internal civil war that preceded Origin's return from New Hampshire back to Texas, and most interestingly, the source of Richard Garriott's well-known antipathy towards Trip Hawkins' Electronic Arts. But I'll just quote the part where it gets down to brass tacks and describes the development of Ultima V itself:

Beginnings and endings can be tricky things for an historian to come to grips with. Certainly the middle period of the eventual nine-game Ultima series is full of them. There’s the beginning marked by the great conceptual leap that is Ultima IV, when the series became about more than killing monsters, collecting loot, and leveling up — a leap that changed the series’s character to such an extent that plenty of fans will tell you that you needn’t even bother with anything that came before, that the real Ultima starts right here. And there’s the ending that is Ultima VI, the first Ultima not built on the code base of its predecessor, the first not developed and released first and foremost for the Apple II, the first for which Richard did none of the programming.

In between the two lies Ultima V, a crossroads game if ever there was one. It marks the end of the line for the 8-bit Ultimas, the basic structure that began with Akalabeth pushed to a complex extreme that would have been unthinkable back in 1980. How extraordinary to think that this game runs on essentially the same computer as Akalabeth, plus only 16 K of memory here or an extra disk drive there. The series’s glorious last hurrah on the Apple II, it also marks the beginning of a radically different development methodology that would carry forward into the era of the MS-DOS-developed Ultimas. Starting with Ultima V, new Ultimas would no longer be the end result of Richard Garriott toiling alone in front of a single Apple II for months or years until he emerged with bleary eyes and disk in hand. From now on, Richard would direct, design, and supervise, while other people did most of the grunt work.

It was an obviously necessary step from the perspective of even the most minimally informed outsider. Ultima IV had taken him two years, twice as long as originally planned, and had nearly killed him in the process. If the series was to continue to grow in scale and ambition, as he himself always demanded it should, something had to give. Yet Richard resisted the obvious for quite some time. He struggled alone, first with the abortive Ultima IV Part 2 and then with Ultima V, for almost a year while while everyone fretted at the lack of progress. He genuinely loved programming, took pride in knowing each new Ultima was truly his personal expression, top to bottom. But at last he accepted that he needed help — an acceptance that would change everything about the way that Ultimas got made forevermore.

The process started with two new programmers, Steve Meuse and John Miles. The former started writing tools to make it easier to create the world, to put a friendly interface on all of the tasks that Richard normally managed by hand using nothing more than a hex editor. Meuse’s “Ultima Creation Package” would grow into something that, according to Richard, “almost anyone could use.” Meanwhile Miles took over most of the actual game-programming tasks from Richard; more than half of the code that shipped in the finished game would be his. “The transition of doing it all yourself to doing it as a team was very painful,” Richard says of this landmark change of late 1986 that marked the abrupt end of his days as a working programmer. “However, once you had a team in place, and especially once you were no longer sharing the duties of both doing it and managing it, the pain went away.”

Richard’s team only continued to expand after the move to Austin, as all of that pent-up Texas talent began arriving on Origin’s doorstep. The finished game credits no fewer than six programmers in addition to Richard himself. With so many more people involved, this Ultima needed a project manager — the role also commonly referred to as “producer” — for the first time as well. That role went to Dallas Snell, late of Penguin Software, who , nobody being too specialized yet at this stage, did some of the programming as well. Snell lobbied for months for the hiring of a full-time artist, but Richard remained skeptical of the need for one until quite some time after the move to Austin. But at last Denis Loubet, an Austin artist who had been doing cover art for Richard’s games since the days of Akalabeth, joined the Origin staff to do all of the art for Ultima V, whether the media be paper or cardboard or pixels. Loubet’s work, blessedly free of the chainmail bikinis and other cheesecake tendencies that make most vintage CRPG art so cringe-worthy, would now become even more integral to the series, helping to maintain its aura of having just a little more class than the standard CRPG fare. Finally, and also largely thanks to Snell’s determination to professionalize the process of making Ultimas, there are fourteen people — fourteen! — credited solely for play-testing Ultima V, more than enough to ensure that there wouldn’t be any more blatant screw-ups like the vital clue that was left out of Ultima IV.

Freed from the pressure of programming, Richard could make Ultima V a much more consciously designed game than its predecessors. From an interview conducted almost a year before the game was published:

In previous Ultimas the combat systems were not designed out on paper ahead of time. I kind of ranked weapons in order of strength… the higher up the list of weapons you got, the better the weapon. Now I’ve actually designed an entire gaming system, including magic and combat, that is just as good to play on paper as on the computer. It’s extremely well-balanced, both [sic.] the weapons, armor, and magic, and we’ve been balancing the costs and uses of those things for six months — essentially by playing Ultima on paper.
Origin was so proud of this system of rules that they planned for some time to make an Ultima tabletop RPG out of them. That project fell by the wayside, but just the fact that Richard was thinking this way represented a huge step forward for a series whose mechanics had always felt ad hoc in comparison to those of its original rival, Wizardry. “I can tell you in numbers the probabilities of your being able to do something,” said Richard, “whereas in previous Ultimas I probably wouldn’t be able to do so. I just kind of did it until it looked right.”
This is a fantastic article even by the Digital Antiquarian's high standards and I recommend that all gaming history connoisseurs give it a read. As usual, it'll be followed up by a post taking a look at the game itself.

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Thu 4 February 2016
Pillars of Eternity Patch 3.0 New Features Video

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 4 February 2016, 23:03:50

Tags: Adam Brennecke; Obsidian Entertainment; Paradox Interactive; Pillars of Eternity; Pillars of Eternity: The White March

With the second part of the Pillars of Eternity: The White March expansion due for release in less than two weeks, Obsidian have released a video detailing the new features that are going to be added in the accompanying version 3.0 update. These include new stronghold quests, overhauled Athletics and Survival skills, late game trash mob reduction and more. The video is included in a new press release from Paradox:

IRVINE, Calif. and STOCKHOLM — Feb. 4, 2016 — Obsidian Entertainment and Paradox Interactive today revealed several forthcoming updates to Pillars of Eternity, the award-winning title backed by dedicated fans of classic role-playing games (RPGs). Later this month, alongside the release of the game’s second expansion, The White March – Part 2, Obsidian will make new updates to the gameplay and features of Pillars of Eternity available for all players. These updates will include a streamlined combat UI, updates to the in-game Stronghold and portions of the game world, a new “Story Time” game mode, and improvements to a broad variety of in-game features such as knockout injuries that change the difficulty during combat. Version “3.0” of the game will arrive as a free update to all players of Pillars of Eternity on February 16, 2016, the same day as the release of The White March – Part 2.

Full details on all upcoming changes are available in a new developer video, available here:

With the forthcoming release of the update and expansion, Obsidian and Paradox bring the exciting first chapter of Pillars of Eternity to a close. "We're committed to expanding and supporting the Pillars of Eternity experience. We have many stories to tell in this world and this has only been the first one," said Obsidian CEO Feargus Urquhart. Gamers who have been waiting for the complete Pillars of Eternity story can now experience the incredible narrative from start to finish, up to and including the exciting conclusion to the story of The White March.

Pillars of Eternity, created by veterans also known for Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, Fallout: New Vegas, and South Park: The Stick of Truth, is an RPG inspired by classic titles such as Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale,and Planescape: Torment. Created thanks to over 75,000 crowdfunding backers, Pillars of Eternity has sold over 700,000 units, was released to critical acclaim in March 2015, and is among Metacritic’s 15 Best PC Games of 2015.

For more information on Pillars of Eternity and The White March – Part 2, visit​

The full changelog for Pillars of Eternity v3.0 is available here. Soon, the game will reach its final form - though it's becoming increasingly clear that the team isn't planning on taking any breaks.

There are 53 comments on Pillars of Eternity Patch 3.0 New Features Video

Tue 2 February 2016
Expeditions: Viking Newsletter #1: Official Website, Game Informer Preview, Screenshots

Preview - posted by Infinitron on Tue 2 February 2016, 19:49:44

Tags: Expeditions: Viking; Jonas Wæver; Logic Artists

It's been many months since the last time we heard anything about Expeditions: Viking, the sequel to Expeditions: Conquistador from Danish developer Logic Artists. Now that the new year has begun in earnest, they're starting to get their PR machine into gear. There is a now an official Expeditions series website, where you can sign up to a monthly newsletter about the development of Viking. The first newsletter went out today, and while it's not terribly interesting in itself, it does link to a Game Informer preview that has some new information and screenshots. I quote:

When Expeditions: Conquistador was released in 2013 after a successful Kickstarter campaign, developer Logic Artists danced on the line between strategy and RPG. Since that title’s release, the studio has taken feedback from fans to ultimately make the bold decision to convert the series into a full-fledged RPG.

Viking won’t eliminate the strategy elements of its predecessor. Instead, Logic Artists has found a way to adjust those to fit its vision for the sequel.

“Conquistador always had about as many RPG elements as it had strategy elements, so our approach has been to extrapolate the major RPG elements and to make them bigger, deeper, and more compelling,” creative director Jonas Wæver told us. “Ultimately, Viking still has to feel like a sequel to Conquistador, even though it’s a much more focused game in some respects, so instead of just cutting all the strategy-features from Conquistador, we’ve tried to find ways to twist those features in a more RPG-ish direction.”

Some of the changes that make Viking feel more like an RPG are in presentation. For instance, discreet areas that you'll be able to explore are connected by a 2D overworld map that fans of Fallout and Fallout 2 will be familiar.

One of the most compelling elements though, is the setting. The Viking age isn’t one we see often. Wæver says there are benefits and challenges to working in this time period.

“The Viking age is both really easy and really challenging to deal with historically because written accounts are so sparse and so biased – the Norse didn’t really write a whole lot, since brevity is of the essence when you have to chisel your words into stones!” he says. “This gives us a lot of freedom to choose our own approach to the historical elements, but it also makes it difficult to find trustworthy sources to rely on for shaping our game world. Fortunately there are tons and tons of archaeological sources about the Viking age, so we’ve been relying on a lot of that to get the clothing, the architecture, the tools and weapons, and the ships just right.”

The story will focus on interpersonal relationships and the conflicts and alliances among the tribes. Wæver says he and his team are fortunate that Tolkien’s work was rooted in Northern European lore and gamers will have a touchstone when they play Viking.

The narrative is full of political intrigue, though in the harsh setting the Vikings endured. The game will begin as your father is murdered and you are thrust into the role of leader. Other tribes will attempt to exploit the situation, so you'll gather those loyal to you and set off for England.

From there, you’ll have choices. You can take the stereotypical path and plunder the land, or you can earn the trust of the locals and bring an overwhelming force back home to take back what’s yours.

Players will be part of a small group, though you’ll be able to hire mercenaries (that you can create) to beef up your forces. Conquistador featured a personality trait system that will carry over to Viking, giving your party members' opinions and reactions to the decisions you make.

The game will also feature a flexible class system. You’ll be able to pick and choose from the available skills, and the game will assign a label that fits your profile. While Viking is historically rooted, there will be more fantastical elements as well.

Witchcraft isn’t magic per se, instead dealing in poisons and curses. The latter of these impacts superstitious enemies instilling status effects. It’s an interesting approach that takes into account the cultural beliefs of the era while retaining its historical foundation.

Expeditions: Viking is due for PC Fall 2016.​

See the full preview for the screenshots. The newsletter itself can be viewed here, thanks to ERYFKRAD. Hopefully they'll post these on their website too.

There are 15 comments on Expeditions: Viking Newsletter #1: Official Website, Game Informer Preview, Screenshots

Mon 1 February 2016
Underworld Ascendant Update #19: Prototype Getting Combat and Parkour, New Screenshots

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Mon 1 February 2016, 22:11:37

Tags: OtherSide Entertainment; Underworld Ascendant

Today's Underworld Ascendant update announces that the game's prototype is about to get a major upgrade, adding parkour-style movement capabilities and a rudimentary combat system (along with a bad guy to use it on). Here are the details:

Today we are updating the Prototype build with new gameplay features. First up is more advanced movement modes. The team are fans of Jackie Chan movies, Parkour and David Belle, and American Ninja Warrior. Moving through a space with grace, flow and just feeling awesome doing it, is one of the goals for movement in the Underworld.

When a game has great movement controls, like the old Id games Doom and Quake, they become an extension of the player. No thought is needed for basic navigation, and it opens up for players to become more creative and skilled at getting around the world. In recent memory Mirror's Edge did this especially well. The Parkour skills chain together so beautifully and when you master the game it is like a ballet moving around the game world.

Tim and Will have put together the bones we can build on for a robust movement system. They have decided - at least for the moment- to have full body awareness. This means that the body of the player can be seen by the player, and it also reacts like any other physical object in the world. Momentum matters. Run faster you jump further. Chain jumps together you keep your momentum going, stop for a second and your momentum is lost. Jumping wall to wall if you pause you start sliding down the side of the wall. Sliding down a slope is fast, running up a slope is slower than on a flat plane.

Second, we've stood up the beginnings of combat. There are 3 attacks so far: a light swing, an overhead swing and a stab. There is a bad guy wandering about who just wants to be hit.

Most RPG games have you cleave your way through battles without much thought. Looking at my Fallout 4 play through I've killed over 4,000 enemies. Yikes. Maybe I'm the reason the Commonwealth isn't prospering.

Tim is trying to make each encounter more meaningful and impactful. We will also keep the combat encounters intimate, giving more opportunity to show off unique features of the monsters and opponents. If you look back on the simple combat of Ultima Underworld they were all intimate affairs.

That is the feeling we are going after, but with more robust tactics, movement and use of the 3D space than was technically possible in the original games. Enemies with have 'tells' so the player can learn to react to them properly. We are still looking at other complexities like locational damage, status effects, dodging and blocking. How complex we push the AI in combat is being experimented with, but we expect them to have options, not just 'ARRGH kill the player' and 'oh no I'm hurt! Run away'. If they have spells they will use them, if they are carrying a magic weapon it will be equipped.
Also included in the update is the first proper look at art director Nate Wells' new vision for the game, which OtherSide are calling an "Authored Look":

[​IMG] [​IMG]
Over at the OtherSide forums, Chris Siegel explains what exactly that means. Like many things about this game, it's a bit ambitious.

There are 50 comments on Underworld Ascendant Update #19: Prototype Getting Combat and Parkour, New Screenshots

Thu 28 January 2016
Pillars of Eternity: The White March Part 2 Screenshots at PC Gamer

Preview - posted by Infinitron on Thu 28 January 2016, 23:33:16

Tags: Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity; Pillars of Eternity: The White March

The lucky fellows at PC Gamer have gotten their hands on the first batch of screenshots from the second part of the Pillars of Eternity: The White March expansion, which is due for release in less than three weeks. Along with the screenshots they also received a description of the location featured in them, a temple of the goddess Ondra called the Abbey of the Fallen Moon. Behold:

[​IMG] [​IMG]

Ask the denizens of the White March if they've heard of the Abbey of the Fallen Moon, and they will tell you they have. Ask them for directions to it, and you'll be met only with blank stares.

When someone wants desperately to forget something, they pray to Ondra, goddess of the sea, to take it from their memory. The abbey is thought to be one of Ondra's most sacred sites and to be home to some of her highest ranking clergy, but so little about it is known to outsiders that many have supposed the goddess has used her dominion over memory to protect knowledge of its whereabouts and activities.

The abbey's name is thought to originate with an old folk legend. The story tells of Ondra's unrequited love for the moon, and how in her frustration, she once reached out to touch it, causing a piece of it to fall into her, and resulting in widespread catastrophe. It is said she continues to pursue the moon, and this serves as the most common explanation for the tides.

One persistent rumor among lower level Ondrite clergy is that the abbey houses a number of important and powerful holy relics. Of particular appeal to Ondrite Giftbearers is a pool known as the Salt Well. Giftbearers are faithful servants of Ondra who travel from village to village, helping people to forget painful memories. They accept memento objects that represent these memories, and deposit them into deep water for Ondra to accept into her keeping. Bearing these memories, while a relief to their original owners, takes an emotional toll on the Giftbearers over time. It is said that if one is to bathe in the Salt Well, however, then they have their burdens washed clean—even Giftbearers.
Of all the gods of Eora, Ondra was probably the least involved in the story of the base game, so it makes sense that she's a focus of the expansion.

There are 58 comments on Pillars of Eternity: The White March Part 2 Screenshots at PC Gamer

Torment: Tides of Numenera Beta Footage with Colin McComb at Eurogamer

Preview - posted by Infinitron on Thu 28 January 2016, 22:58:34

Tags: Colin McComb; InXile Entertainment; Torment: Tides of Numenera

On the day before its Early Access release, Colin McComb joined Eurogamer's Robert Purchese to chat about Torment: Tides of Numenera while watching a 33 minute gameplay video. The footage appears to be a direct continuation from where the IGN stream from last week left off, and it's a far better demonstration of the game's strengths. Watch as Colin takes you on a guided tour throughout Sagus Cliffs, while showcasing various moments of reactivity:

Takeaways from the video: The beta is probably around 30% of the full game, the full game will have 13 Crisis encounters, and Colin can neither confirm nor deny the possibility of a Torment expansion or sequel.

There are 56 comments on Torment: Tides of Numenera Beta Footage with Colin McComb at Eurogamer

Consortium: The Tower, a Deus Ex-like first person immersive sim, now on Kickstarter

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 28 January 2016, 17:47:30

Tags: Consortium: The Tower; Interdimensional Games

The original Consortium by Interdimensional Games was a first person RPGish sort of game - a science fiction adventure set on board a futuristic aircraft, meant to be the first in a trilogy. Originally Kickstarted in 2013, it came out too early, received poor reviews and was largely ignored by the public. The developers spent some time fixing it and received some positive reappraisals, but were never able to earn enough money to make the sequel, which is why they launched an additional Kickstarter campaign earlier this month. The sequel's name is Consortium: The Tower, and as you can imagine, it's set in a futuristic tower. The developers describe it as "Deus Ex Meets Die Hard". Here's the pitch video and a gameplay description:

The experience of The Tower is one of absolute freedom of movement, speech and action, within a single-location, sandbox environment. There will be no cut scenes, and full control will never be taken away for “gamey” reasons. Immersion is absolutely paramount, and to that end the world within the Tower will feel realistically alive and reactive to however you choose to approach each and every situation.

A branching, “waterfall” narrative and dialogue system should appeal to those looking for a truly replayable experience, and will ensure that your decisions are plentiful without feeling cheap or obvious.

Diplomacy is a key way of traversing the narrative. Choose to speak anytime and anywhere with the push of a button. While rather difficult, you will be able to play through the entire experience without raising your weapon. Trick, bribe, scare, hire, or simply convince potential combatants to disarm, all while developing relationships with your crew, other Consortium officers, the London Police, and any other characters you meet throughout the experience.

The Bishop’s arsenal of customizable, futuristic gadgetry gives him immense freedom of movement. Run faster, jump higher, glide through the air, breathe underwater, and fall from great heights, all while exploring every nook and cranny of the Tower.

The Bishop can also utilize highly experimental, potentially dangerous stealth technology, such as invisibility and sound dampening.

Find yourself in the middle of intense firefights, and choose to either kill or incapacitate all those in your way. The Consortium officers working with you will praise you for using non-lethal means, but will react with increasing alarm should you too often resort to murderous violence. There may also be other factions interested in aiding you through the Tower, should the Consortium turn its back on you.

As with CONSORTIUM before it, many events within The Tower will play out regardless of your interaction with them, creating an environment cultivated for immersion and replayability. Your chosen actions (and inactions) within this environment will cause ripples, dramatically impacting the unfolding narrative in major ways.​

Check out the Kickstarter page for more information and more cool videos and animated GIFs. The minimum pledge to get the game is 15 Canadian dollars and the funding goal is a steep 450,000 CAD. I'm not sure they can make it, but let no one say I didn't do what I could.

There are 58 comments on Consortium: The Tower, a Deus Ex-like first person immersive sim, now on Kickstarter

Wed 27 January 2016
Colony Ship RPG Update #1

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 27 January 2016, 16:58:47

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

Vault Dweller has posted the first official update for Iron Tower's as-yet-unnamed Colony Ship RPG project. It's a great big design document, an excerpt of which we saw in November's Age of Decadence post-release update. There's information about the setting, the character system, weapons and more. Here's an excerpt:

The Overall Design

As mentioned previously, we want the CSG to feel and play differently from AoD. The core design (turn-based, choices & consequences, non-linear, text-heavy) would remain the same, of course.

So the new design elements are:
  • Party-based. It’s a fundamental change that affects every design aspect, most notably content “gating”. If you have 3-4 party members, most likely you’ll have all skills covered.
  • Feats. Feats require character levels (another departure from the AoD design) and will replace (and greatly expand) skills’ passive abilities. Our aim is to offer greater customization of your character’s abilities and builds’ support. So far we have the following categories: General (feats like True Grit or Critical Thinker), Specialist (Pistolero, Fast Draw, Paint It Red, etc), On Kill (Bloodlust, Second Wind), Target (anything related to the target: type, number, awareness, etc - Crowd Control, Duelist, Bounty Hunter, etc), Party-related (Warband, Magnificent Five), Combat (Adrenaline Rush, Headhunter), etc. No filler +1 to skill or +5 damage feats but meaningful feats that fit and strengthen your particular gameplay style.
  • Focus on ranged combat. While melee builds will be viable, most enemies will use guns. We’ll discuss it in great details later.
  • Focus on exploration rather than working your way up in a faction. While factions will get a lot of attention (see above) and play a large role, you won’t join a faction but will remain an outsider, free to work for and deal with all factions, which fits the setting better as these factions aren’t guilds but different hubs. However, many quests would have conflicting interests and reputation would play a stronger and more immediate role than it did in AoD, so you won’t be able to please everyone for long.
  • Multiple-piece armor. AoD had a very basic “body armor + helmet” setup. With the CSG, we want to go a bit further: helmet, chest, right arm, left arm, legs. We’re thinking of cumulative DR against general attacks and individual piece’s DR against aimed attacks. We’ll test this system in the dungeon crawler to build up some experience in this area and see how it works.
The Character System

Expect the same 6 stats (Str, Dex, Con, Int, Per, Cha). So far the main changes are Cha determining the number and type of party members and Int determining the number of tagged skills (faster progression) instead of a SP bonus, which is a more elegant solution. A smarter person can excel at and master more skills than a person of average intelligence.

So far we're planning to go with 18 skills, grouped in sets of three:

Melee: Fist, Bladed, Blunt

Firearms: Pistol, Shotgun, SMG

Energy Weapons: Pistol, Rifle, Cannon

Science: Medical, Mechanical, Computer

Speech: Persuastion, Streetwise, Trading

Stealth: Lockpick, Pickpocket, Sneak

In the future updates, we’ll give you a proper overview of the four factions and 16 locations and talk about design.​

See the full update for an image of various submachine guns designs from the game. They're a bit less weird than the pistol designs were.

There are 311 comments on Colony Ship RPG Update #1

Torment: Tides of Numenera Released on Steam Early Access

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 27 January 2016, 01:57:33

Tags: InXile Entertainment; Torment: Tides of Numenera

As promised, inXile released the Torment: Tides of Numenera beta on Steam Early Access today, bringing its five days of Early Early Access to an end. It's priced at $45 - significantly less than the cheapest beta Kickstarter tier, but on par with the cost of a minimum tier plus beta addon, which is fair I guess. Here's a short launch trailer they put together, plus the game's Early Access FAQ:

Why Early Access?

“Originally launched on Kickstarter in early 2013 after our successful crowdfunding of Wasteland 2, the first part of Torment: Tides of Numenera is now ready for the fans who helped make it happen and anyone looking for deep, reactive gameplay and a rich narrative experience.

Our experience with Wasteland 2 on Steam Early Access led to it being one of the first success stories on the platform, enabling it to become a bigger, better game - all thanks to your valuable input. We want to recreate that success with Torment: Tides of Numenera and push it even further. We will be actively listening to your feedback on all aspects of the game, from our graphics and art, to interface, to gameplay systems and, of course, story and characters, in order to create a worthy successor to the Torment legacy.

We're not the only developers who have had success with Early Access. Many of our friends have had great success with doing high-quality RPGs on the platform as well, such as Divinity: Original Sin. What we’ve found is that by interacting with our fans and players, we’re able to ensure that we are delivering experiences that meet, and surpass, expectations. By buying Torment: Tides of Numenera in Early Access, you too can have a hand in crafting the spiritual follow-up to one of the most legendary RPGs of all time.”

Approximately how long will this game be in Early Access?

“A huge reason our previous Early Access title, Wasteland 2, was such a success was that we listened intently to community feedback and adjusted large sections of our design in response. Thus, we try to remain as flexible with our production scheduling as possible in order to ensure we release a game worthy of your patience and support. That said, we’re as anxious as anyone to release the final version.”

How is the full version planned to differ from the Early Access version?

“Torment is a single-player, deeply story-driven RPG. That means that while we are giving you the first chapter in the story, we are saving the later chapters for the final release. Additionally, with your feedback, we will continue to add new gameplay features and improvements to balance, update our visuals, sound, interface, and more. And that doesn't even touch on the additions to the storyline, conversations and characters you will meet in the game, which we also hope to flesh out even more.”

What is the current state of the Early Access version?

“This version of Torment is close to feature complete and contains most of the first major location of the game. Throughout Early Access, we will iterate and improve on features and content in the game, and roll out changes for you so that we can get your feedback and insight for what works.”

Will the game be priced differently during and after Early Access?

“It has yet to be determined whether the price of the game will change during or after early access.”

How are you planning on involving the Community in your development process?

“We built a 'Feedback' button right into the game so we can gather your feedback on all aspects of the game, from our graphics, to interface, to gameplay systems and, of course, story and characters. Our experience with Wasteland 2 on Steam Early Access led to it being one of the first success stories on the platform, enabling it to become a bigger, better game thanks to your valuable input. We want to recreate that success with Torment: Tides of Numenera and push things even farther in order to create a worthy successor to the Torment legacy.”
If you'd like to know more about the Torment beta, there are reviews at PCGamesN and Rock Paper Shotgun. The consensus seems to be "wait".

There are 60 comments on Torment: Tides of Numenera Released on Steam Early Access

Mon 25 January 2016
Matt Chat 324: Interview with Styg, Part Three

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Mon 25 January 2016, 15:44:35

Tags: Matt Barton; OlderBytes; Stygian Software; Swords and Sorcery: Underworld; Underrail

In the third and final episode of his interview with Underrail developer Styg, Matt Barton passes on a few remaining questions from viewers, including one about the game's unique Oddity progression system (which is apparently inspired by System Shock 2 and by sandbox MMO Haven & Hearth, of all things). Styg reveals that he'd like to work on a fantasy RPG someday, but he doesn't have any concrete plans for his next game yet.

After running out of questions, Matt also has a short chat with Underrail artist Mario Tovirac, who reveals something of Stygian Software's team dynamic. The interview still turns out to be quite short though, so Matt pads it with some Swords and Sorcery: Underworld gameplay footage.

There are 18 comments on Matt Chat 324: Interview with Styg, Part Three

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