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?
Risen 3: Titan Lords has a luscious new trailer
Game News - posted by Zed
on Wed 23 July 2014, 23:27:11
In a new 12-minute video, Piranha Bytes and Deep Silver tells us why fans of Gothic and Risen should give a shit about Risen 3: Titan Lords. The trailer makes a pretty convincing case of 'going back to the roots', and it doesn't sound bad at all.
Our new trailer explains how Risen 3 takes all the good traits from the Gothic and Risen series to make it the best experience possible. Risen 3 - Titan Lords will be available for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Windows PC on August 15th 2014.
As you may have heard, Josh Sawyer and Brandon Adler were recently in London to promote Pillars of Eternity. As part of that visit, they were interviewed for a podcast hosted by a chap by the name of Guy Cocker. It's an odd interview, in that only about 11 minutes of it (from around 24:25 to 35:10) are actually about Pillars of Eternity and Obsidian, the rest being dedicated to random quizzing about current events in the gaming industry.
Those 11 minutes do confirm that, as we suspected, the version of Pillars that will be playable at next month's Gamescom is identical to the beta that will be released to eligible backers shortly afterwards. The beta will apparently not be available for purchase after its release, ruling out any form of Early Access release for the game even outside of Steam. Josh also mentions that the game will come with a campaign almanac written from the perspective of an in-game secret society called "The Hand Occult".
As for the non-Obsidian part of the interview, you might be interested to know that Josh is currently playing Ubisoft's Child of Light, and that he also wants to play Divinity: Original Sin but hasn't found the time yet. From the games he saw at E3 earlier this year, he's most anticipating Witcher 3 and also Turtle Rock Studios' Evolve.
Last year, two somewhat similar games, The Occult Chronicles and Elder Sign: Omens, were released for Windows within an interval of a few months. Both feature board game mechanics and settings inspired by Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. With such a unique premise, esteemed community member Gragt decided to review both of them in the same article.
Have a few snippets on both games:
The first of the duo is The Occult Chronicles by Cryptic Comet, released in August 2013. As fans of his previous games Armageddon Empires and Solium Infernum already know, Cryptic Comet pretty much means Vic Davis. Davis is a one-man designer/programmer team and a visionary who specializes in developing games for the very small niche best described as “board games specifically made for computers”. By moving tedious elements like bookkeeping and frequent calculations to the computer, these games are able to feature much more complex systems than traditional board games, without alienating players. Coupled with Davis’ terrific sense of style, this has allowed him to craft some great and memorable games, and his latest work is no exception. While his previous games were straight strategy games, The Occult Chronicles deviates from his canon by being a mix of board game and roguelike with a focus on exploration. Davis later regretted calling the game a roguelike as it apparently gave players the wrong set of expectations, but despite his feelings on the matter, in my opinion The Occult Chronicles is much closer to a traditional roguelike than many of the games that have popped up in recent years and claimed the genre for themselves.
[...] this is a terrific little game. It features no animation at all, yet manages to convey a tense and heavy atmosphere thanks to its excellent design. Zane Reichert’s drawings illustrating the various events fit the game’s pulp fiction atmosphere very well, striking a good balance between comic-book and creepy. The slow and brooding music by Stian Stark, who also composed the music for Solium Infernum and Six Guns Saga, is perfect for this kind of game; there are no memorable tunes to speak of, but it sets the tone without intruding. While every adventure follows the same basic structure, there is a decent amount of randomly generated content to experience, and I am still surprised to see events that I missed, connected to quests that weren’t available before. As a horror and occult-themed roguelike, I guess the closest thing to it would be the bona fide roguelike Infra Arcana, but the board game aspect makes it fairly unique. If you can get past the clunky interface and obtuse ability descriptions, there are many hours of quality entertainment to be had. A game takes only a few hours to complete, the atmosphere is thick, the challenge is high, and the different backgrounds and scenario options keep it replayable.
[...] The second game is Elder Sign: Omens by Fantasy Flight Games, released for Windows in November 2013, a mere three months after The Occult Chronicles. This is actually a port of the 2011 game for Android, Apple, and Kindle Fire. Now, it may seem weird to review a game with such a dubious pedigree, but humor me for a while.
The reason it is reviewed here alongside The Occult Chronicles is that both games share many similar elements, from theme and setting to the board game-like gameplay. Of the two, Elder Sign: Omens plays the closest to a traditional board game, which is par for the course considering it is an adaptation of an actual board game, Elder Sign. There are some differences between them, but for the most part Omens is quite faithful to its cardboard sibling. This also makes it a much simpler game than The Occult Chronicles, if only because it could be easily set up on a table with cards, tokens, and dice, whereas The Occult Chronicles, just like other Cryptic Comet games, would be a nightmare of cyclopean proportions to play that way. The basic scenario has you control a team of four investigators in the ’30s, of various backgrounds and talents, who must prevent the awakening of an Ancient One from the Cthulhu Mythos. To achieve this goal, you must explore the Miskatonic University Museum at night to gather supplies and artifacts, including the titular Elder Signs required to seal the cosmic horror. This time the game makes direct use of the Mythos, and you will encounter familiar figures like the Deep Ones, Ithaqua and even Cthulhu himself. Truth be told, the Mythos is used here more as a coat of paint to give a strong and familiar theme to a horror-themed board game that is light on plot, but it does the job rather well. It may not be as involved as Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, but it's good enough to give you your Lovecraft fix as long as you don’t expect a great plot, great characters, or great dialogue — which isn’t something usually found in a Lovecraft story anyway. [...]
Both games have their flaws and merits, and while none ascends to greatness, they are well worth a look, especially if you need a fix of horror and Lovecraft pulp fiction.
In the new Kickstarter update for their zombie survival RPG Dead State, DoubleBear talk about the progress they've made since the last Early Access update:
Well, we've been doing some seriously heavy internal testing to prepare everything, and our whole team's focused on a multitude of features, fixes, and assets that will make the open beta that much better when it's released.
Here's a quick progress update:
* Our art team's cranking out assets for unique and special areas, unique armor models, and new NPC models;
* Our programming team is working on implementing dogs, shelter upgrades, and character perks and traits, as well as the usual bug-fixing;
* Our animator is working through importing a number of new and existing animal, human and undead animations into the build and creating new dialogue gesture animations;
* Our design team is crafting crisis events, adding ever more allies and their corresponding dialogues to the game, and working on new and old levels;
* Our sound designer is busily working on weapon-related SFX, and recently provided us with new explosion sounds
* Our composer's finished most of Dead State's core tracks (of which there are many!) and is getting started soon on a unique track for the ending theme.
Aside from that, Annie and Brian Mitsoda have also resumed their Monday Design Updates, which you might want to check out, too. The latest one, from July 14th, has to do with the game's conversations -- how they help flesh things out and what DoubleBear's current goals with those are.
Also, check out the full update for the list of polls (e.g. "What are you looking forward to the most for the upcoming beta?") that the developers are currently running on their forum.
Polish magazine GRY-Online offers a dual-language interview (Polish and English) on InXile's Torment: Tides of Numenera. The developers interviewed are Adam Heine (Design Lead), Jeremy Kopman (Crisis Designer), and Kevin Saunders (Project Lead). Have a snippet on difficulty as well as on "romancing options", without which "modern RPGs" apparently "cannot exist" according to the interviewer:
What about game difficulty? Are you planning to escalate it somehow? If so – what will change at „hard” in comparison to „normal”? And if not – how do you want to reconcile the expectations and needs of hardcore RPG gamers and casual ones?
Kevin Saunders: We do plan to have difficulty settings, but aren’t yet prepared to discuss the details of how we’ll approach this feature. In general, we aren’t targeting super casual players, but we are using best practices for UI design and game design to make the game accessible rather than arcane. The quests, storyline, etc. typically don’t take well to different difficulty levels and we aren’t planning much, if anything, there. Meanwhile, because the Crises are hand-crafted experiences, and fairly few in number, we hope we can be somewhat sophisticated in how we alter them based on difficulty.
So as to not fully evade your question, here are a few specific examples (or counter examples):
Opponents: On harder difficulty settings, we may add additional enemies that create more tactically challenging encounters.
Difficult Tasks (DT): If we do make DTs harder at higher difficulties, it won’t be by much. This method of difficulty scaling fundamentally alters too much of the gameplay, making many Skills less useful, which disrupts the balance of a variety of things.
Friendly fire: We will likely have friendly fire active in all difficulty modes and not something that changes due to the difficulty setting. With the turn-based combat, making your party immune to friendly area of effect abilities would fundamentally alter the nature of those abilities and undermine the tactics.
Resting: You may get more “rests” at easier difficulty levels, allowing you to be a little less discerning about when to spend Effort.
Randomness: Not really a difficulty thing, but another axis we’ve toyed with as a game option is the degree of randomness. We are planning for randomness to play a factor in some aspects of gameplay and not others, but might let the player adjust some of this. For example, in Numenera weapons typically inflict a fixed amount of damage, which affects the flavor of combat compared to random damage.
Nowadays modern RPGs cannot exist without romancing options. Previous games from the genre were not avoiding this either – even Planescape: Torment had some kind of love story involving the Nameless One and Annah. Will we able to take relations with our companions to the „next level”? Will it affect story somehow?
Kevin Saunders: Love can indeed be part of one’s legacy, but including love stories is not a focus for us. The types of relationships you can develop depend upon the specifics of the characters and situations – to the extent that any deep connections can be established, it will be because they arose naturally through the story, not because we preplanned them. Of course, romantic love is only one flavor of love.
The full interview is also worth a read not just for other snippets of info about the game's approach to crises or combat, but also to enjoy Kevin's answers to the typical game journalistic questions about RtwP vs turn-based, the non-rotating camera, and voice-overs and cutscenes.
Few people understand the confluence of game systems and narrative like Chris Avellone. Since his start at Interplay in 1995 Chris has been instrumental in the development of many influential RPGs. In this interview Chris and I discuss his recent kickstarter projects, the design process at Obsidian, and the challenges of developing modern RPGs.
The interview is way too all over the place for me to summarize, but I will say that the most interesting parts for me were Chris' descriptions of his work with Brian Fargo (at around 1:35), Brian Mitsoda (at around 38:55) and Feargus Urquhart (at around 45:05). He elegantly avoids saying anything negative about the latter Brian's work on Alpha Protocol. That's our MCA, always tactful.
Back in the decline-plagued year of 2011, with no proper RPGs like Divinity: Original Sin or tactical RPGs like Blackguards in sight (and with Age of Decadence remaining the all-too-easy subject of "vaporware" jokes), our very own Darth Roxor did a review of the CYOA RPG Academagia. Our readers generally prefer "full-fledged" RPGs, or at least those with good combat or interesting "choices & consequences" (C&C for short), so Academagia didn't really gain a lot of traction around these parts. However, CYOA RPGs are still RPGs, at least to some extent, and so it shouldn't be too surprising that another one, Long Live the Queen!, has caught our attention.
In this quick review, esteemed community member Deuce Traveler tells us what's good about the game -- but also what's bad, and not particularly exciting, about it. Have a snippet:
And this is my biggest issue with Long Live the Queen. There is no way for you to predict the various skills that you will need to survive. In one playthrough, I had done well building up my courtly skills, only to fall victim to an arrow that I could not avoid due to a lack of archery skills, nor treat the resulting wound due to a lack of battlefield medicine skills. So, I loaded a previous save and pumped my skills up just enough to be able to live through the attack and move on. The game is won on the basis of trial and error rather than any tactical decision making on part of the player. It really is just a choose-your-own-adventure (CYOA) visual novel. Due to its lack of randomization or tactical considerations, the skill checks are simply another CYOA element. Even the somewhat similar skill building simulator, the infamous Slave Maker 3, has more randomization, and that game is a fan project.
That brings me to my final point. Long Live the Queen is a fine story as seen through Elodie's eyes, and the character works as a quirky slate for the player. However, the supporting cast is full of unsympathetic arseholes. Even Elodie's father hides critical information from her, despite having a vested interest in her survival. Her friends are fickle, the nobility behave as vultures over a rotting carcass, and the peasants are either dull or violent. With so many unlikable characters, I often found myself playing Elodie as a martial character, mastering warfare, weapons, and magic. To the game's credit, however, you can play as a much more cultured and peaceable character and still win. I have read, for instance, that there is a winning path for someone who becomes a master musician. You can also develop romantic relationships with many of the different characters, despite a range of ages and genders. Because of this, the game has some replay value for those willing to work through its trial-and-error gameplay loop.
With Divinity: Original Sin receiving ravereviews across the board, the folks at PC Gamer have done a short interview with Swen Vincke about the game's near-term future and patch timetable. There's also some discussion of its oldschool and, interestingly enough, multiplayer-centric design principles. Here's an excerpt:
PCG: What kind of things are you looking at in the big update?
Vincke: We basically have two types of things. We're doing hotfixes where we see problems that we can fix right away for people, and then the patch will contain some extra content. Balancing fixes. We'll introduce the AI personalities—that was one feature that didn't make it fully for release. [Right now] you only have no personality or random personality, which is rather clunky to play with, or the loyal personality which basically does everything you do. We will add five or six AI personalities, and they have distinct opinions about things, and so it's basically your partner. [And] people will be able to create their own personalities.
They make decisions based on certain type of personality, and it makes the game quite different, actually, because then it's really like playing with a human being, to a certain extent.
PCG: Can you go into a little more detail on the kind of personalities that you're shipping in the update?
Vincke: We'll have a knight. That's what you can imagine. Then we'll have a rascal, a maniac, a judge— somebody who's very judgmental—a priest, and a free-spirit, They basically all have different traits that they prefer.
If you put in, let's say, a judgmental character, who would for instance refuse to hire a companion, that's a very big impact on your game right there. If you role-play through that, that really changes your game. It's something that can happen in multiplayer also, right? It's basically what we're trying to do. This gives single-players the feeling of what you get in co-op multiplayer, when you deal with the actions of somebody else.
PCG: Did you guys have a sense of the right way for someone to try to play this game? Is it really designed for multiplayer or is it designed to be single-player and the multiplayer is just a bonus for people who want to make that commitment?
Vincke: It's been designed from the bottom-up with the multiplayer in mind, under the motto that the multiplayer will make the single-player stronger. That sounds strange, so allow me to explain that.
If you make enough RPG like this, in which the party can split up at any time, and each player can do whatever he wants, there is an enormous amount of contingencies that you have to put in place, or you have to come up with a very systemic system which is pretty much what we've done. You have to make sure that whatever storytelling you're trying to do it will work no matter what the players are going to do.
[...] When you're playing it in multiplayer you can be rest assured that becomes very unpredictable, what people are doing. A lot of the development effort was actually focused around that. I'm really happy that we've done it, because typically people always say it dumbs a game down, the fact that you have the multiplayer, and I think in our case it actually strengthens it.
We didn't talk about quests at some point anymore. We just talked about situations which occurred, that players could encounter, and there was no right or not wrong way of doing it. It was just something that happens on your journey. So my advice to anybody doing an RPG would be, "Make a multiplayer version out of it."
PCG: Are there plans for expansions or DLC or massive content updates?
Vincke: We are going to add a number of extra companions. There were planned to be more companions, but just the deadline and production realities, that's too hard to be able to include this, so that's going to come in August, the extra companions. They will be probably more fleshed-out than the ones that are in there now, so a lot of effort is being put into that.
Then beyond that, to be honest, I told you at the beginning of our conversation that this was “all-in,” so we didn't really make any concrete plans. We obviously have lots of ideas, but there are no concrete sense of what we're going to do, so we're going to finish this patch, do a couple of more hotfixes and then probably we're going to take a break, and then I think at that we're going to spend August figuring out where to next, with the RPG that we're going to be making. Then we will announce it with a lot of fanfare and so forth.
So, those of you who were postponing your playthrough until the companions were complete should clear your schedules for August.
After the adventure RPG Heroine's Quest, which we enjoyed a lot, comes the second title in the ongoing Quest for Glory-inspired renaissance. It's called Quest for Infamy, and was developed by the Codex user Blackthorne (Steven Alexander), who also took part in our huge AdventureDex Interview last year.
You can grab the game on Steam or on GOG. I'll quote the Steam description here.
Why Be Famous When You Can Be Infamous?
Return to the glory days of role-playing and adventure with this humor-filled fantasy epic, styled in the vein of classic PC RPGs, where you play the charming villain. Blending turn-based combat and spellcasting with puzzle solving and adventure, players can choose from three character classes—brigand (strength), rogue (stealth), or sorcerer (magic), each with unique storylines and adventures—in one of the largest retro role-playing experiences ever. A spiritual heir to yesteryear's heroic quests, adventurers are invited to explore a world of hand-drawn wonder, as they wind their way through trap-infested dungeons, battle slavering beasts with swords or custom-made spells, and steal entire town's worth of treasure from unsuspecting townsfolk. Being bad has never felt so good!
Classic fantasy Adventure/RPG packed with adventure, puzzles, combat, and spellcasting
Play as one of three anti-heroes with unique quests: Brigand, Rogue, or Sorcerer
Lie, cheat, and steal your way through tales of charming villainy with multiple endings
Use swords, spells, or wits to blaze a path to victory: Styles vary with every play
Hand-drawn world seamlessly blends role-playing and adventure
Over 50 NPCs and 200 rooms to explore and interact with
This week's Pillars of Eternityupdate by associate producer Rose Gomez is pretty short, focusing on the design of some of the game's creatures. It also officially announces the backer beta, to be released on August 18 already. Good progress there.
Anyway, here's one of the monsters:
Blights are lost souls or soul fragments that have bonded with elemental substances. They are often victims of natural disasters (floods, rock slides, forest fires, etc.). They are incoherent, confused, and full of rage, an amorphous cloud that swirls endlessly and with great violence. Within the vortex, dozens of humanoid shapes materialize and vanish from moment to moment. Faces scream in silent agony while hands desperately clutch and claw at their surroundings, as though still trying to escape their tragic fates.
Bîaŵacs, storms that can rip the soul out of a person’s body, often create blights. If souls are ripped free from their bodies and caught in the center of the storm, they may become stuck together and bonded with any other elemental substances in the maelstrom. They are pure chaos and confusion, and destroying them is considered by many to be a mercy to the souls trapped within them.
Blights have been the subject of controversial research carried out by the animancers of Eora. On the one hand, attempts at vivisection have led to promising strides in treating patients who, for one reason or another, contain within their bodies two or more complete souls fused together, which has been identified as the root cause of a variety of mental and physiological disorders. On the other, however, some groups lament that there is a lack of transparency on the methods being employed in these experiments, the general concerns being that these might be somehow inhumane or present some broader risk to the surrounding populace. There are also some who accuse animancers of deliberately trying to create blights for study, but the veracity of these claims is difficult to substantiate.
Additionally, in a move that may prove disappointing to some, Obsidian has decided to only provide developer documentary (which was part of some KS tiers) as digital download, avoiding the physical DVD/Bluray stuff entirely. It's like that thing Swen Vincke is talking about.
The next update will "discuss the Backer Beta in more detail." Looking forward to that.
After some trials and tribulations, Larian's Divinity: Original Sin has been released on GOG.com today. As you know, originally GOG intended to release the game in August, after the launch of its GOG Galaxy client, in order to offer full multiplayer and automatic patching features comparable to those offered by Steam. However, there was some backslash on their forums because of that decision, and also Examiner's How GOG Screwed up the Divinity: Original Sin release article, all of which led GOG to release the game earlier.
The game does have regional pricing, in case you're wondering, but it also features GOG's "Fair Price Package" and includes the editor, too:
What's cool about it:
We're offering a Fair Price Package with this title, so everyone who is adversely affected by the regional pricing plan will be compensated with bonus codes. You will find yours in your order confirmation email.
Become part of a reactive, living and vast open world. Explore many different environments, fight all kinds of fantastical creatures and discover tons of desirable items.
Experience gripping party- and turn-based combat. Manipulate the environment and use skill & spell combos to overcome your many foes: Use magic to make it rain on your enemies, then cast a lightning spell to fry them to a crisp.
Experiment with different skill combinations to ruin the day for enemies and townspeople alike.
Play with a friend in co-op multiplayer. Make decisions together (or disagree entirely), as your interactions and relationship with your partner influence the game.
Unravel a deep and epic story, set in the early days of the Divinity universe. No prior experience with other Divinity games is necessary, however. The game takes place well before its predecessors, Divine Divinity and Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga, but will still feel familiar to fans.
Classless character creation lets you design the character of your choice. Endless item interaction and combinations take exploration and experimentation to another level of freedom.
Create your own adventures and share them online. With Original Sin comes the powerful toolset used by the game's designers. Yours are endless new stories to make and share with other players!
Multiplayer notice: Multiplayer is available via Direct IP or LAN.
In other D:OS-related news, Gamasutra has a short interview with Swen Vincke, which includes, among other things, his strong opinion on digital vs physical content:
Going forward, Larian expects to rely on crowdfunding for its future projects -- though Vincke says his studio has learned a lot from its first brush with Kickstarter.
"Don’t do anything physical," says Vincke, when I ask him about recommendations for his fellow developers who are thinking about using Kickstarter. "I would never again do all the boxed stuff, and I regret that we spent so much time on everything related to making a physical release happen."
The studio wound up devoting a significant amount of resources and time to printing discs, shipping boxes, and getting Original Sin translated and age-rated in multiple territories prior to release. Vincke tells me he ignored good advice to focus on developing a digital game in English and only worry about things like localization after your game is released.
"At the time I answered him by saying ‘you know we’ve been doing this for quite some time, we’ve released so many RPGs, we can deal with this, blah blah blah.’ And it’s true, we have done this several times, and it’s always been miserable! Here too, it was miserable again," says Vincke.
"I will definitely try to listen to my own advice next time."
This main part of month's Age of Decadenceupdate is a bit light on content:
Another month is gone. Fortunately, we've hit our goals and even though I barely remember June, I see a truckload of different files and find the progress on all fronts extremely pleasing.
The town and the castle look great and the questlines are well thought through and have a good number of options and an even greater amount of double-crossing and backstabbing. If you want to play an opportunist who is betraying out of habit now, you won’t be disappointed.
As you know each town has a theme and a certain main event. Teron is a frontier town, lawless and dangerous. Very Deadwood-like. The event is a military takeover attempt. Maadoran is more “civilized”, Byzantine and more sophisticated. The event is a power struggle. Ganezzar is a religious town. You saw some preachers here and there, saw Meru’s creed slowly spreading, and now you’ll see where it all comes from and why. The event is the siege.
If you’re playing as an Imperial Guard, you’ll participate in the events that trigger the siege. All the other characters will arrive to Ganezzar (to the Aurelian camp outside the walls) when the siege is already in progress. While your faction may have certain preconceived notions about which side you should be on, you won’t have to do what you’re told.
Anyway, we’re very excited about it and it feels great to see the town becoming more and more "real" and all the questlines falling into place and forming a coherent story, which changes based on the angle you’re looking at it from. We still have a month of work ahead of us before we can star testing the 'base', but it’s definitely going well.
But it makes up for that with a dialogue screenshots section which is among the coolest I've seen yet. I'll make an exception from my usual routine and quote it too:
As for screens of the month, I mentioned Faelan in one of the earlier updates. He’s Meru’s pet “magus” and if you feel like killing him, you’ll have to fight him with your eyes closed, text-adventure style. Mazin, our artist extraordinaire, and I worked on it together which resulted in a 6,300-word document. So, the battle is truly epic, filled with excitement, adventure, and many death screens.
It’s hard to present this fight in a few screens, but I’ll try. There are several reasons to want him dead, from practical to personal. Here is one of them – Glabrio, the guildmaster of the local branch of the thieves guild, sends you to kill him.
The magus isn’t really a magus. He’s a powerful hypnotist, which has the same awe-inspired effect on the locals. He’s very loyal to Meru and overall, if you get to know him, he is a fairly decent guy. Weird as fuck but decent, which is more than can be said about many people.
The rules of this fight are simple: 3 strikes and you're out. A critical strike counts for two. This way if the magus manages to stab you once, the game isn't over yet and you can still fight him and vice versa. A single successful attack won't take the magus out of commission and he might still cut your throat from ear to ear.
That's right, it's a literal blind fight - because he's a hypnotist, see? Very clever.
Brian Mitsoda doesn't like when people call Dead State vaporware. He doesn't like it so much, that he decided to draft a two parteditorial/retrospective to answer the question "Why isn't Dead State Done Yet?!". It's a candid behind-the-scenes look at what I imagine might be the typical development cycle of a low budget Kickstarter game. Here's an excerpt:
Now, I’d like to jump back in time to the summer of 2009. That was the year where Annie, me, and Iron Tower kicked around the idea of Dead State publicly and I eventually formed DoubleBear. It wasn’t until 2010 that we decided to go forward with full development of Dead State, and we went public with that knowledge hesitantly. I say “hesitantly“ because most games aren’t announced until they’ve cleared pre-production: however, we needed to find volunteers to help us out with the production, and going public was the only way to put the word out. Aside from money needed for engine licensing, computer equipment, and business fees, we had zerobudget for production. Most of the time spent on the game in 2010 and 2011 was not full-time, but done as a side project for about 3-5 people - and a month of production without a budget does not equal to a month of full-time paid production. The difference is 40-60 hours a week per full-time developer, versus 20-40 hours a month for volunteer staff. Let me say that again: a complex game with no budget does not equal the same progress as a game that is being worked on full-time. Without adequate progress, momentum on any creative project gets stalled quickly, and that hurts everyone’s enthusiasm for soldiering on. When you need to pay the bills, your side project is going to suffer, and for a time in 2011, very little work was getting done on Dead State, and it was killing our will to continue making the game.
I’ve never discussed this before, but there was a point where we nearly canceled Dead State. In 2011, we had to face the facts: without a budget, there was really no way to make an RPG. We had talked about Kickstarter back then, but I felt it wasn’t fair to ask for funding with just a good idea or screen mockups. My biggest concern for a Kickstarter was that we needed to get a basic version of the game together to show our work to potential backers, and we would only have a few months to do it. Together, we decided that in the spring of 2012, either we would take the time needed to create a pitch for Kickstarter, or we would cancel the project. It was only because of a dedicated effort that the game got into shape for the Kickstarter campaign, and it was that experience that showed me that the core team (including myself) could do the game full-time if we had the money to make that happen.
In June of 2012, we launched on Kickstarter, and managed a successful campaign despite some higher profile projects being covered in the press. In July of 2012, we had the funds we needed to pay for full production. This money also allowed us to bring on contributors full-time and additionally search for and hire additional personnel to round out our project staff. For all intents and purposes, the Kickstarter rebooted production of Dead State. As of mid-July 2012, we were finally working as a full-time production studio and the progress being made on the game was instantly a whole lot faster. As far as I’m concerned, production on Dead State started at the point when my team could get paid to do full-time work (you know, how most games actually get made).
Luckily, most of the pre-production was done pre-Kickstarter, so post-funding, it was all about further development on our tools, creating art and design content, establishing schedules, and looking for additional team members. I will say that once we had financing, that responsibility to deliver Dead State was profound, and I’m aware of it every single day. We are indebted to our backers: there would be no DoubleBear or Dead State without them. If we want to grow our business and continue to make games, of course Dead State is going to be finished - does anyone seriously think we’d blow our professional reputations by ‘abandoning’ a project on Early Access? (Side note: Unfinished RPGs on Early Access are not a license to print money.) It’s always been our goal to build to something, namely an experienced group of talent that can continue to make video games and maybe even attempt another RPG (if it doesn’t bankrupt us).
[...] Before I wrap this up, I want to mention that when Troika released Bloodlines, several dozen people had poured years of development time into that game, and while we did not get the time we wanted to polish it, we all knew we were working on a great RPG and were proud of our (incredibly hard) work on it. The thing is: financially, it bombed. Today, it’s still a popular game, but back when it was released, we saw it enter the marketplace and heard crickets. Yes, in time people discovered it and loved it, but the feeling you have when a game you put so much effort into - that you feel you did more things right than you did wrong - when that game bombs, it’s devastating and makes you less likely to take risks in your career in the future. Morale aside, without the momentum of sales and fan support, Troika did not last long after Bloodlines shipped. All the accolades that came later couldn’t save the company.
Getting a team together, creating a new RPG, and getting the public to embrace it takes years of effort. Without support - without people getting the word out about it - an RPG isn’t going to get the attention it needs to sustain the developers so they can make another one. If gamers want more and different types of RPGs to be created, they need to understand the process of development and embrace the fact that RPG development is only going to be made possible by supporting both experienced and new teams. I’m not asking for everyone out there to buy a copy of Dead State (although that would be nice), but if you’re knocking my team for the length of the game’s development, I am asking for you to understand the complexity of what we are creating before you dismiss us. The absolute worst thing that can happen to any RPG development team is to create fans after it’s too late to create another game.
You may also wish to check out this reply to the second part of the article, in which Brian reveals that that the game's planned release date is now "September or October", with the public beta planned for August.
The latest article from Jimmy Maher's Digital Antiquarian blog is dedicated to Origin's seminal 1985 title, Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar, as I suspected it would be. It's obvious that he's a huge fan of this game and what it represents. The article describes with loving attention to detail the circumstances behind its creation, beginning with the story of Origin's temporary decampment to Massachusetts after the release of Ultima III. It makes an attempt at deciphering the motives and psychological factors that may have led the young Richard Garriott to decide that he needed to develop a radically new form of RPG. But even if you're the type of RPG player who prefers Wizardry over Ultima, there is a snippet of information here you may find interesting:
With Chuck Bueche’s action game Caverns of Callisto having failed to set the industry on fire, Origin now concentrated on, as their tagline would eventually have it, “creating worlds” in the form of big, ambitious games. Soon after the move to New England, they hired Dave Albert away from Penguin Software. Albert, who had majored in journalism at university and served as editor and writer for SoftSide magazine before coming to Penguin, would help Robert Garriott to put a professional face to this collection of young hackers. Albert also brought with him Greg Malone and his game in progress, the very original if polarizing oriental CRPG Moebius. Before releasing their next slate of games after Ultima III and Caverns of Callisto, Origin signed a distribution deal with Electronic Arts, becoming one of the first of what would eventually be quite a number of EA “Affiliated Labels.” This gave the still tiny Origin a badly needed presence in mass-market chains like Toys “R” Us and Sears.
Origin stretched out its tendrils in many intriguing directions during these early days. They entered into a contract with Steve Jackson Games — Steve Jackson was a friend of Richard’s from his Austin SCA troupe — to adapt that company’s popular board game Car Wars for the computer. They also agreed to make a computer game to accompany a planned film version of Morgan Llywelyn’s novel Lion of Ireland; Richard would get to spend two weeks on the set in southern Ireland soaking up the ambiance in the name of research. Richard also made tentative plans with none other than Andrew Greenberg of Wizardry fame to collaborate on “the ultimate fantasy role-playing game.” Most of this came to naught: the movie’s financing fell through and it never got made; the ultimate collaboration remained nothing more than talk. Only the Car Wars project survived, and only after a fashion: Chuck Bueche turned the turn-based board game into the real-time CRPG Autoduel over the considerable misgivings of Steve Jackson.
Meanwhile and preeminently, there was Ultima IV, the game that would change everything for Ultima and for Origin. As was his routine by now, Richard started working on it almost from the moment that Ultima III shipped, starting once again from the previous game’s code base and once again designing and coding virtually everything himself on his trusty Apple II. But, like the fourth Wizardry game that was its obvious competitor, it took much longer to complete than anyone had anticipated. Originally slated for Christmas 1984, it took a final desperate dash just to get it out in time for Christmas 1985.
Anticipation grew all the while. For a game to remain in active, continuous development for two years at that time was virtually unprecedented. Truly Richard Garriott must be doing something amazing. The hints and tidbits that he let drop during interviews certainly sounded good: Ultima IV‘s world map would consist of 256 X 256 tiles, 16 times the size of Ultima III‘s 64 X 64-tile world; there would be a full parser-based conversation engine for talking with others; spells would now require reagents to cast, with the finding of their recipes and ingredients a mini-game within the game; dungeons would now contain “rooms” that opened into a tactical map. Yet the thing that Richard kept bringing up most was none of these incremental improvements, but something he insisted marked a change in the very nature of the game. There would be, he said, no evil character to defeat. Instead the player must become a better person, an “Avatar of Virtue.” What was that all about?
Richard Garriott has told many times the story of how Ultima IV came to be. Akalabeth, Ultima I, and Ultima IIhad, he says, existed for him in a vacuum — or, maybe better said, an echo chamber. Any fan mail or other feedback from players of those games had never reached him because neither California Pacific nor Sierra had bothered to forward it to him. Once Ultima III came out under his own company’s aegis, however, he started getting a flood of letters telling him how fans really played his games. This generally entailed lots of murdering, stealing, and all-around reprehensible behavior. Now, it’s perhaps a bit surprising that this should come as sucha shock to Richard, since those early games essentially forced this behavior on the player if she wished to succeed. Still, the letters set it out all out in unmistakeable black and white, as it were. And then there were the truly crazy letters from religious fundamentalists and anti-Dungeons and Dragons activists, which included such lovely epithets as “Satanic perverter of America’s youth.”
“People,” Richard said in another interview, “read things into my games that were simply statistical anomalies in the programming. They thought I was putting messages into the game.” To his mind, those first four games were all simply “here’s some money, here’s some weapons, here’s some monsters, go kill them and you win.” Like the Beatles a generation earlier, he now decided to give those who wanted hidden messages something that actually, you know, existed to think about it. Less facetiously, all of this feedback did make him begin to think seriously for the first time about the sorts of messages his games were delivering, to begin to understand they were not “just games,” that they could and did say something about the world. He began to understand that every creative work says something, whether its creator intends it to do so or not. It says something about the person who created it, the culture he came from, the audience to which it’s expected to appeal. Richard wasn’t sure he liked what his games were saying — albeit all but unbeknownst to their creator — so he decided to take conscious control of his message with Ultima IV.
It makes for kind of a beautiful story about a young man discovering himself as an artist, discovering that the work he puts into the world really does matter. And there’s no reason to believe it isn’t true in the large strokes. That said, there are indications that the full story may be at least a bit more complicated than the glib summary that Richard has given in almost thirty years worth of interviews.
The Antiquarian isn't done with Ultima IV yet. For his next article, Jimmy will conduct a retrospective playthrough of the game and examine its virtue system in closer detail.
I don't know if (m)any of you care after the disappointment that was Risen 2, but Piranha Bytes' Risen 3 is now available for preorder on Steam. $49,99/49,99€ though, so beware. (I mean, D:OS is just forty.)
The world has been abandoned by its gods and is scarred from the rampage of the Titans. Humanity is struggling to regain strength and rally its forces. You, however, have more pressing concerns: your own life has been shattered and you must set off to reclaim what is lost amidst the darkness that is spreading throughout the world. Who knows, maybe you'll even save the world at the same time?
Three threads of destiny lie before you. Three ways to rise up against the Titans and regain your soul. Which path to take? The choice is yours.
Freedom: Freely explore and take on quests at your leisure. Quests will have different ways to tackle them and different outcomes. You can play different parts of the game in whatever order you wish and shape your character individually.
Exploration: Discover quests and characters as you make your way through the diverse world of Risen 3 - Titan Lords. From quaint medieval-style towns to delving deep into the dank dark of mines, to the supernatural shadow world, there is a wealth of possibilities waiting to be explored. You will be able to traverse this world in a variety of ways, from swimming to climbing.
Enhanced combat: Featuring a revamped fighting system, with new animation systems in place that add nuance to the fights.
Magic is back! Crystal magic has returned, bringing with it devastating new combat abilities. Wield elements such as lightning, fire and ice to obliterate your foes, or make use of a multitude of additional magical skills to aid you in exploration - the choice is yours!
Guilds & factions: Choose to ally yourself with one of three distinct guilds, each offering unique skills, armouries and quests allowing you to approach your quest in very different ways. Discover additional factions that exist to bend the balance of political power in the world, each with their own agenda for you to uncover. Be careful which characters you trust – some might ally with you with the intent of fulfilling their own sinister plans.
The release day is August 12, 2014. Fingers crossed, of course, but I'm not holding my breath.
In the latest update on the Underrail dev blog, Styg formally introduces Core City, the game's largest settlement, which will be added to the game in its next update. Check it out:
Hey guys. We've been quiet lately, but that's only because we've been working hard on the biggest and the most difficult section of the game, center of the game world, the metropolis that is Core City.
The Core City is the place of extremes. On one hand we have the oligarch families and their associates who live lives of luxury (or at least what can be considered such in the world of Underrail) while on the other hand the slums are filled with the poor that perish daily from hunger, disease and gang fighting.
The masters of Core City know how to keep the masses complacent though. What started as place for gangs to settle their disputes has grown to become the most popular form of entertainment in the city and the whole of Underrail. We're talking about the Arena, the Roman style field of combat where they pit men against various deadly creatures as well as gladiator against gladiator. All for the viewing pleasure of the numerous Arena fans. Watching people die violently is the favorite pastime for the oppressed masses of Core City.
People from all over the Underrail pay for the privilege to watch direct broadcasts of these fights as well as take trips to Core City to watch the matches live, if they can manage to get hold of tickets which are always sold out quickly. The Arena and the its betting office have made the oligarch families rich.
Players will, of course, be given an opportunity to test themselves in the Arena and see if they have what it takes to climb all the way to the top and claim the title of Invictus.
Beyond that they will also have an opportunity to enter the Gauntlet, and new blood sport where the contenders race through series of rooms, each containing a unique challenge, to be the first to reach the finish line and claim the prize, or die trying.
This update will be taking us a bit longer than we expected, but in many ways this is the hardest section to develop. It encompasses more intractable NPCs than any other update, way more urban areas than any other city so far as well as multiple quest-lines. All this stuffs had us stretched a bit thin, but if we get this part of the game right it should be more or less smooth sailing to completion.
Oooh yeah. The last episode of Matt Barton's interview with Robert Sirotek is here, and it's a must watch. Robert finally lets loose in this one. He talks about Wizardry 8, and Brenda Romero's role in its development (which he's very eager to clarify that she was not in charge of). He talks about Sir-Tech's falling out with DW Bradley, and the drama that surrounded it. But the highlight of the interview is Robert's extensive description of the Stones of Arnhem fiasco and of his interactions with the Codex's own Cleveland Mark Blakemore (whom he refuses to address by name, referring to him only as "the crackerjack programmer").
You may be alarmed to learn that Mr. Sirotek is very much aware of Cleve's activities on this forum, and that he's quite furious over what he views as an unwarranted trashing of his reputation. He makes an effort to explain why he paid Cleve such a meager salary for his work on Stones of Arnhem, and expresses his horror at the nature of the artwork that was produced by the game's art team. He also admits that, as many suspected, he too was involved with bringing about the sudden cancellation of the Sir-Tech auction that revealed the wonders of the penisaurus to the world back in 2012.
At the end of the interview, Robert talks a bit about his involvement with Brenda and John Romero's Facebook game development company Loot Drop, which he apparently terminated due to being "uncomfortable with their direction". He also reveals that he's considering making a return to the game development industry in the wake of the recent resurgence of PC gaming. Although in his case, it'll probably be more like a return to the "product development industry". Yegad.
As you may recall, we quite enjoyed Daedalic's tactical RPG Blackguards. Its unique combat design and difficulty have already earned it a prominent place among this year's released or to-be-released oldschool RPGs (which also include Might and Magic X, Divinity: Original Sin, Wasteland 2 and Pillars of Eternity). Next year is promising to be interesting too, and not only thanks to Torment: Tides of Numenera's release, but also because Daedalic has recently announced a sequel to Blackguards, Blackguards 2, to come out in 2015 as well.
For this interview, we reached out to Kai Fiebig, producer on Blackguards and Blackguards 2. Have a snippet:
Could you talk a bit about the inspirations behind the first game, and how they have changed (if they have) for the sequel? One of our reviewers compared Blackguards to "a European version of Final Fantasy Tactics" - to what extent was that one of your inspirations, and to what extent do you intend to keep your inspirations the same for Blackguards 2?
My personal inspiration for Blackguards was mainly good old pen & paper combat, with the ambition to put as much of the diversity of tactical options and creative use of the environment pen & paper combat can offer into a video game.
Ideally, every single battle fought should tell a small story in itself, with the player „writing“ the part of his heroes. The game presents only the challenges and a huge variety of abilities, spells and environmental interactions the player can choose from, combine and improvise with, to overcome those challenges.
This ideal remains an ideal, as video games cannot accomplish the same level of interactivity as pen & paper games. But getting as close as possible is a great motor for making these kind of games.
The press release talks about "faction-based" gameplay and the need to conquer lands and defend them. It sounds like a big change from the first game. Could you elaborate on how that is going to work, exactly? Is Blackguards 2 going to be more open-ended, or do you prefer to continue focusing on tactical turn-based battles at the expense of non-linearity?
Yes, in Blackguards 2 the goal is to conquer a small province in the south of Aventuria. We are not operating on a military scale with huge armies, though; more like clans or war bands. The main goal is to capture the capital of the province. How many and what kind of fortifications, cities or other strategic points the player conquers before attacking the capital is all up to them. Every conquered point on the map gives the player certain bonuses, so it's a good idea to choose a route that grants bonuses matching the personal play-style and preferred tactics. Once the walls of the capital have been breached, there are multiple endings with different outcomes for each of the heroes, depending on player's choices.
The press release also mentions some "revisions and simplifications" to the RPG system. Understandably, many of our readers (who were quite happy with the first game) are worried that you might remove complexity instead of adding or iterating on it. Could you go into some detail on the "simplification" part?
Like already mentioned above - we have absolutely zero intentions to lower the level of complexity. We love complex turn based combat. We are just going to simplify the character sheet so players know which knobs to turn to improve in which discipline of combat.
In fact, we even increase the complexity a bit by introducing Stamina, which basically works like Astral Points, only for warriors and their special abilities. There will be attacks and spells that drain Stamina, and of course Special Abilities that increase the Stamina regeneration.
Although Blackguards was about scoundrels and anti-heroes, the storyline was quite heroic and featured some pretty altruistic moments. What are your own thoughts on the original game's balance between the heroic and the non-heroic stuff? How dark of a journey can we expect this time?
Blackguards 2 will be darker. And the player will be presented with some really fucked up moral choices.
PC Gamer has a new feature called "PC Classic Commentary", in which one of their staff members plays a classic PC game for an hour together with one of its developers. They're off to a promising start, with the very first game featured being the Looking Glass Studios classic Ultima Underworld, with commentary from Paul Neurath, who I imagine is looking to drum up publicity for his new venture.
I haven't watched it yet, but I don't believe the game has ever been examined in this way before, so there's bound to be some interesting new information here.
Over at Eurogamer, Swen Vincke speaks candidly about Divinity: Original Sin's commercial reception:
Old-school fantasy role-playing game Divinity: Original Sin is Larian Studios' fastest-selling title ever, the developer has confirmed to Eurogamer.
The £29.99 game launched proper on 30th June after a stint as a Steam Early Access title, and has already shifted 160,000 copies. At the time of publication it was the top-selling game on Steam.
It's already approaching profitability, Larian boss Swen Vincke told Eurogamer. Divinity: Original Sin cost around €4m to make, following a successful Kickstarter that raised just under $1m.
"It's doing pretty well," Vincke said. "We're very happy about it. And to be honest we didn't expect it. We thought it was going to do well but not this well.
"It's definitely the fastest-selling game we've ever published. The last figures I saw we were at 160,000. For us that's pretty good. We're definitely going to break even and hopefully we'll make sufficient profit for our next game."
To work out how much money Larian has made from Divnity so far, it's not as simple as taking the revenue from the game then taking out Valve's standard 30 per cent cut.
For Larian, which as a Belgian studio works in euros, its rule of thumb is to take the dollars generated then half that figure it to arrive at a euro amount. So, if a game makes $100,000, the studio makes €50,000.
Divinity: Original Sin costs $39.99. If it's sold 160,000 copies, that's $6.39m in revenue. Half that and we get €3.19m (£2.5m), which means the project is well on its way to breaking even.
Vincke put Divinity: Original Sin's success down to its Steam Early Access and Kickstarter communities.
"The feedback we received from them was worth its weight in gold," he said. "It's almost a co-development between us and them, because they pointed out things we were doing wrong, and encouraged us to expand on the areas we were doing right. As a result you get a group intelligence applied to a game. It's always much better than a single person."
This, coupled with strong word of mouth, is keeping Divinity at the top of Steam's sales charts, ahead of the likes of DayZ and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
"It's word of mouth that is driving Original Sin right now," Vincke said. "We were late with our game, working on it until the last day, so we don't even have reviews out there. We have exactly two ads we did with the last of our money. It was definitely not marketing doing it."
160,000 copies in three days, that's fantastic! We can probably take that as a lower bound on the expected sales of all the other major Kickstarter RPGs that are going to be released over the next year or so. Good times, they are a-coming! Swen also has a bit to say about Larian's plans for the future:
Now that Divinity: Original Sin's success seems secure, what's next for Larian?
Larian is working on a hotfix for the game, as well as its first major patch, which will add new content. There is also content promised to Divinity's Kickstarter backers but cut from the release version of the game that is due to be added in. And then there is ongoing support for the Divinity engine toolkit. "There's still work to be done," Vincke stressed.
But longer term, it seems Larian will take a hard-earned break before brainstorming its next project.
"We sleep and then we're going to have a party and then we're going to sit together and figure out what the next game is," Vincke said.
"Nobody believes us but we really don't have anything planned. This was all in for us. This was part of our plan when we started to go independent, that we'd make the biggest RPG we could with what we had in terms of money, and then we'll see what comes out of it.
"So we went all in. We have to pay back our debts now, because we made a lot of them. It looks like that's going to happen. And then we will see. But for sure we will make a big fuss of whatever it is when we announce it."
Vincke then said he plans to try to obtain the license for a mystery role-playing franchise - but stopped short of saying what it was.
"There was a certain license we tried to get, but they haven't replied to us," he said. "Maybe now they will reply to us! I'm not going to tell you, because that will ruin the chances of me getting it.
"We asked them a couple of months ago, so we'll ask them again now. Maybe they'll be interested. It's in the RPG space, that's for sure.
"If they refuse to answer this time I'm going to put it in the press and then hopefully something will happen. Or I'll launch a Kickstarter and say, this is the game we want to make, but we don't have the license yet. But maybe we can get it this way."
I wonder if they're going to try to make a Dark Eye RPG again.