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Sat 17 February 2018

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?

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sat 17 February 2018, 01:10:18

Tags: Fallen Gods; Mark Yohalem; Wormwood Studios

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As members of our community may know, the next game from Primordia creator Mark Yohalem is Fallen Gods, a roguelite RPG inspired by Norse folklore, the board game Barbarian Prince, the computer game King of Dragon Pass, and the Lone Wolf gamebooks. Fallen Gods has been in development since 2014, and was first properly revealed at the end of 2015. After that we heard little about it, other than a look at a preliminary teaser trailer in 2016. I was almost ready to dismiss the game as vaporware, but the interview with Mark earlier this month should have been a clue that I was wrong. Although it still has no release date, it seems that Fallen Gods is now far along enough to finally show in detail. Today's introductory post on the Wormwood Studios blog is only the first in a series of weekly development updates. It includes a few screenshots:

[​IMG] [​IMG]

Once, the world was better, the gods greater, the wars over, the end farther. You were born in the Cloudlands during those days, one of the Ormfolk, forever young and strong, worshiped by those below for your forefathers’ deeds. But all is not well. Now, wolves and worse haunt the night, the law holds no sway, and men’s hearts grow hard toward your kind. Fearful of their dwindling shares of souls, your brothers turned against each other ... and against you. And so you were cast down from the clouds, a fallen god broken upon the bitter earth. You rise, still free from death, with only the slightest hope of winning your way back to the heavens that are your rightful home.

Fallen Gods is an RPG inspired by the board game Barbarian Prince, the computer game King of Dragon Pass, and the sagas, eddas, and folklore of the far north. With a dark, wry tone, it tells the story of a god trying to survive in a dying world ruled by beings with great might and wits, but without the wisdom to heal the wounds left by their wars. The game has been in production for about four years, and its concepts have been building in my head for decades.

At the core of Fallen Gods are interactive events, choose-your-own-adventure vignettes in the spirit of the Lone Wolf gamebooks. Throughout the game, the player will enter towns and tunnels, meet strangers and friends on the road, face earthly and unearthly foes, and witness wonders of all kinds. Each of these events, accompanied by a hand-painted illustration, consists of a series of nodes, each a paragraph of text followed by several choices that depend upon the skills the god knows, the items he bears, and the followers he leads.

These events, like Fallen Gods itself, are about exploring the game’s world, mechanics, and story. In every session, dozens of the hundreds of possible events are spread across a procedurally generated landscape in a way that creates both surprise and coherence. Events are both destinations for the player to seek out and obstacles to bar his way. They provide the landmarks and characters that bring the world to life and make geographic exploration rewarding and dangerous.

Events also provide a laboratory for mechanical exploration. Just as the world is unique in every session, so too is the god, with different skills, strengths, supplies, followers, and gear. These things, alone and together, are powerful tools that can open up new paths, some obvious, others requiring thought and experience. Thus, for example, the Death Lore skill (allowing the god to speak to the dead) and the Wurmskin Cloak (allowing him to understand the speech of birds) can together unlock a new path through the “Windfall” event, which begins with the god finding a field full of dead starlings. Or, in “The Whale,” the player might use the Wild Heart skill (allowing him to bend beasts to his will) along with Nail (a magical spear) to draw back and harpoon his titular foe. In another example, the screenshot below shows a few of the possible forks at the start of the “All Is Lost” event.

As the player passes along these different event paths, he uncovers more about the world and what has befallen it. This “narrative exploration” reflects three values (aside from the basic goal of engaging writing). First, what the player learns should be relevant to the game’s mechanics and thus of practical value. As in the wonderful King of Dragon Pass, an understanding of the setting’s laws and lore helps in handling both friends and foes, in making informed choices rather than guesses. Second, while Fallen Gods involves plenty of words, reading should lead to doing: there is never more than a paragraph of text before the player is back in control, either making a choice with strategic consequences, fighting foes in a tactical battle, or exploring the world while managing resources. Third, the setting should be uncanny and unsettling, rooted in the same rich soil from which modern fantasy springs, but growing along different lines.

That setting grew from my fascination with Iceland and its marvelous Commonwealth, a nation of silver-tongued skalds, quick-witted warriors, troll-women, and land-wights, a land haunted at night by the Northern Lights, where some men still worshiped the beautifully flawed Norse gods. Where but in that Iceland would they compose an epic about a man who “was so great a lawyer that his match was not to be found”? This is Njal Thorgeilsson, the 10th century hero of the hauntingly titled Saga of Burnt Njal, a man who warns that “by the law alone will our land be built up” in a saga that vividly shows the other path, as scenes of farms and families give way to an endless blood-feud that brings Njal his fatal epithet. Where but in that Iceland would men dream up nabrok, wealth-bringing pants stitched from a dead man’s skin, or tilberi, milk-sucking worms shaped by witches from wool-wrapped ribs? What other land, so tiny, so remote, so poor, could bring forth not just Snorri Sturluson but Leif Erikson?

But Fallen Gods is not a “Norse” or “Viking” game; neither is it a Tolkien-inspired fantasy setting. Rather, like Tolkien’s own setting, it is drawn from the old lore and poured into a new glass, hopefully yielding something familiar but also strange.

Over the next weeks, we’ll be sharing more about the game’s setting and its systems, its paintings and its pixels, its music and its narration, to give you a sense of what has already been done and what still needs to be finished. The game has no targeted release date because everything about it has taken far longer than I ever imagined. Perhaps it will come in 2018; perhaps in 2019; perhaps later still. One way or the other, it will be done “in the fullness of time.”
Let the anticipation begin again. Next week's update, I'm told, will go into further detail about the game's various inspirations.

There are 12 comments on Fallen Gods Update #1: Introducing Fallen Gods

Fri 16 February 2018

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 16 February 2018, 02:30:30

Tags: David Rogers; InXile Entertainment; Paul Marzagalli; The Bard's Tale IV

As I recall, inXile were planning to release a Bard's Tale IV gameplay trailer last month. For some reason that never materialized, and instead they mysteriously disappeared for almost two months. Now there's finally a new Bard's Tale IV Kickstarter update. There's still no trailer in sight, but the update does contain plenty of animated GIFs showcasing what I assume is the game's latest build. The much-maligned character portraits seen in last year's combat video have been touched up, but they're still 2D cutouts that swivel and bob around. I guess that's probably not going to change. As for the update itself, it's the description of the two Bard classes that we were promised in the previous update. There's the Brew Master, who concocts beverages and gains combat bonuses when drunk, and the Rabble Rouser, whose songs bestow damage-increasing buffs on his party. I quote:

Brew Master ("Just one more test, and then we are ready for the world!")

Bards are only as powerful as the brew that fuels them. In the original trilogy, bards must wet their whistle. When they’ve sung too many songs, they’d have to return to the Adventurer’s Guild for a drink. Caith is a big, wild place, and the adventure extends well beyond the walls of Skara Brae! With that in mind, we didn’t want to force the player to stop what they are doing and backtrack to the Guild every few fights. Still, we also wanted to hold true to the booze-fueled theme of the Bard's Tales of old. In The Bard's Tale IV, the Bard drinks as they fight to gain useful generate Spell Points, which are in turn used to sing their magical songs.

Brew Masters are not only masters of brewing beers and spirits, they’re masters of drunken brawling. The bard’s Basic Combat skill teaches a bard to not only swing a hatchet, but also how to chug a drink in the heat of combat and craft Trow Squeezins, a drinkable power-up. Trow Squeezins, and really all brews in The Bard’s Tale, do two things: grant Spell Points and build up the status effect "Drunken." The Spell Points can be saved up or spent on one of the bard’s magical songs (which we’ll cover below). As for the latter, being drunk also carries its own risks and rewards.

How well a bard can hold their drink is based on their Intelligence stat. While your Drunken status effect is equal to or lower than your Intelligence stat, you’re fine, dandy, and fighting-fit. However, the moment your Drunken status exceeds your Intelligence, your bard goes into a drunken fury, gaining a huge burst of Strength before blacking out for a few turns. Overindulging limits how many songs your bard can sing in a fight before going out of commission, but can also be used strategically to get yourself out of a jam. The boost in Strength they receive before blacking out empowers both their attacks and their songs, allowing for huge damage/defense spikes in a time of need.

The next skill in the Brew Master line is Battle Brewer. Battle Brewer grants +1 Intelligence, allowing you to hold your liquor that much better. You’ll need it, because it also teaches you how to craft Elven Wine. Elven Wine is notoriously potent. It grants +2 Spell Points, but also grants +4 Drunken. Since you can only chug booze once per turn, and some songs cost 2 or more Spell Points to sing, Elven Wine is your fastest way to pull off that clutch song. It’s also your fastest way to end up asleep in a nearby gutter when your party is being bashed by some giant monster. Please drink responsibly.

Mean Drunk is another optional skill bards can pick up along the way. It’s not required to achieve the title of Brew Master, but it sure is handy for them. The Mean Drunk skill grants your Bard a passive effect which causes them to throw a mug at the enemy after every drink, for a little extra tick of damage.

The next skill in the Brew Master skill line is Town Drunk. Through this skill you learn to brew beer. It’s not just any beer though - it's Dwarven Stout! This grants +1 Spell Point and +2 Drunken, but it also causes your next melee attack to be empowered with Dwarven belligerence, causing knockback to enemies you hit. The fact that some boozes grant bonus attack effects makes Bards very versatile. Knockback can be used to disrupt enemy positioning, causing a channeled attack to miss, or exposing a weak wizard that would have otherwise been protected by their ally.

Lastly, we have the capstone skill in the class line: Brew Master. Brew Master grants the bard extra Strength, Intelligence, the recipe to brew Lowland Park Whisky, and the Shot of Courage passive. Lowland Park Whisky is the finest whisky in all the land, and in addition to granting Spell Points and Drunken, those who drink it are empowered with pompous indignation that causes their next melee attack to deal Mental Damage. That’s a huge buff, as Mental Damage is used to break the focus of enemies and ignores Armor. Generally, attacks that deal Mental Damage are on the weak side, but when a bard is swigging Lowland Park Whisky, they can pump out the highest Mental Damage in the game. The Shot of Courage passive is nothing to sneeze at either. At the start of each combat, the bard takes a free drink, granting them a free spell point and a Drunken level.

Brew Masters are powerful allies, able to choose the right brew for the job. A clever Brew Master also knows the exact moment to over-indulge for a huge burst of power to wipe out an enemy party. It’s also useful to note that bards can drink any booze they come across, so if your party contains more than one bard, only one needs to go down this path to brew booze for the others.

Rabble Rouser ("Time for a bit of the rough and tumble!")

Rabble Rousers are probably the most aggressive of the Bards, emboldening their allies to perform great feats. If you want to boost your party's damage output, Rabble Rouser is the Bardic class for you.

The first skill you learn on the way to becoming a great Rabble-Rousing musician is, appropriately, Hot Crossed Buns. Hot Crossed Buns is the first skill any bard learns as they pursue any of the four musical classes: Rabble Rouser, Troubadour, Minstrel, and War Chanter. From the Hot Crossed Buns skill, the bard learns to play the most basic instrument, the Bones. With their musical Bones, they can play Sanctuary Score, the first magical song a bard learns. By singing Sanctuary Score, the Bard shifts into a stance which provides healing for the entire party at the end of each turn, until they leave the stance willingly or mental damage breaks their focus, forcing them out of the stance.

Rabble Rouser: Novice is the first real step down the Rabble Rouser path. Here, the bard learns to play Rhyme of the Doutime on a Schofar. This new song reduces the cooldowns of all your allies' abilities, allowing a character to launch the same ability multiple times in a row, which can be incredibly power if an enemy needs just one more hit to go down, or that character is benefiting from lots of buffs.

If you become a Rabble Rouser: Master you gain access to an even more powerful song, Falkentyne’s Fury. In this iteration of The Bard’s Tale, Falkentyne’s Fury marks all enemies with a special Falkentyne’s Mark for a few turns. If that enemy takes damage while the Mark is on them, it explodes, dealing Falkentyne’s Mark extra damage. This ability does a TON of damage, and drives you to spread the damage out across the entire enemy party before the Mark falls off, rather than focusing your damage on a single character like you normally might be inclined to do.

And lastly, if the Review Board deems you worthy, you can become a Grand Rabble Rouser. Grand Rabble Rouser grants you a suite of stat bonuses, but most importantly of all, it grants your party one bonus Opportunity point! Opportunity is probably the most sought-after upgrade in all of Bard’s Tale, as each point lets you perform an additional action each turn. If it sounds like you might want to build out an entire party of Rabble Rousers, keep in mind you can’t gain bonus Opportunity from the same skill twice, so it’s probably best to diversify your party if you’re going for an All-Bard "marching band" party build!
Be sure to check out those animated GIFs in the full update. The next Bard's Tale IV update will be showcasing the Practitioner, the game's spellcaster archetype. There'll be two more archetypes left to show after that, the Fighter and the Rogue, but it looks like they're not doing another survey to select which one.

UPDATE: inXile have quietly added a paragraph to the update announcing that The Bard's Tale IV will be releasing in Q3 2018. That's rather important! And it's going to get a subtitle too, like the previous games in the series. The game's backer alpha should be arriving very soon.

There are 19 comments on Bard's Tale IV Kickstarter Update #41: The Bard Archetype, Release in Q3 2018

Thu 15 February 2018

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 15 February 2018, 00:01:13

Tags: OtherSide Entertainment; Sam Luangkhot; Underworld Ascendant

Development on Underworld Ascendant continues to pick up pace. In the latest monthly development update, OtherSide are now able to reveal to reveal the game world's basic structure. They plan to use an Ultima Underwold 2-style hub-and-spoke model, with the player embarking on missions out of the Lizard Man settlement of Marcaul. The update also has details on Ascendant's controversial character progression mechanic, where players are rewarded with skill points for discovering new ways to interact with the game's emergent systems. This mechanic is justified via narrative - the Lizard Men of Marcaul value survival skills and reward you with knowledge from their magical library in exchange for discovering new techniques. Here's an excerpt from the update:

An Ever-Evolving Stygian Abyss

Many of you have asked about our plans for Underworld Ascendant’s environments. For example, is it a hub-and-spoke model? Is it a large open sandbox world? Or maybe one-off, discrete levels? In Underworld Ascendant, we’re taking a similar route to Ultima Underworld 2. The player will accept missions and bounties, acquire skills, trade for provisions and equipment, and interact with Faction intermediaries in Marcaul, a Lizard Man settlement and hub of trade and intrigue. Once you’ve readied yourself for your next challenge, you’ll navigate The Circle of Portals outside of town to travel to levels.

The primary reason we’re using this design is because it maximizes the amount of time players are in interesting and relevant environments. Second, this design leverages our small team in the most optimal way (currently 14 internally) and allows us to focus on making great interactive and dynamic environments where you can track even small changes as the narrative progresses.

Exploration is an important feature of The Stygian Abyss and there will be plenty of dark tombs and labyrinthine caverns to explore, with the help of The Silver Sapling!

New quests are offered by the Factions each day in Marcaul, and these range in challenge, reward, consequence, and location. You may even return to a level area two or more times over the course of the game. However, each time you visit a level, you’ll encounter new opportunities, challenges, and more. Helpful creatures like Lizard Man allies may be present or a swarm of Lava Bats may now inhabit the area. Useful flora like the glue plants may have been harvested and replaced with Nether Moss, which causes Deep Slugs to leave a sight-blocking smoke trail. Movement options also change, as the Outcast tribe’s construction efforts expand or are destroyed.

We’ll talk more about the Outcasts and their relationship with the Factions (and you!) at a later time.

As the game progresses, the world state begins to decay, causing the local ecology to become even more challenging, as fierce creatures crawl up from the lower depths and thermal vents appear.

These are a few of the ways we’re working to ensure that not only are levels different every time you visit them, but that you can play through the game multiple times and have a uniquely different experience each time.

In future updates, we’ll talk about the world state changes in depth, as well as its driver: our main nemesis, Typhon.

Feat-Based Player Growth

It’s been important to the team to closely examine RPG gameplay and story elements from the previous games in the series, to determine what to build upon and where to do something differently.

We’ve kept elements like The Silver Sapling, while eschewed others like stats and character classes. (Apologies those of you burning to play once more as a shepherd.) Instead, the player has a wide variety of combat, stealth, and magic skills and abilities to choose from to customize their character to match your preferred play-style.

We want players to teach themselves and reward them for experimentation as they explore Underworld Ascendant’s deep gameplay systems. It’s important to us to avoid overtly hand-holding the player, while teaching them the full depth of the opportunities within the immersive sim ecology, where logic-based simulated systems ensure elements like physics and physical properties make sense.

Our earliest example of this during our Kickstarter was a locked wooden door: You can burn it down, either with a spell, torch, or burning debris. You can pick the lock. You can bash it down, but the sound may attract foes.

Add to that a bevy of spells that allow you to alter physics, transform physical properties, manipulate creatures with exploitable behaviors, and, well, there’s much to learn.

So, instead of taking the traditional experience point route or requiring players to repeatedly use a skill to improve it, player growth in Underworld Ascendant is focused on a Feats-based system.

A “Feat” in our game is an action that demonstrates the player is hitting a key milestone toward understanding a play-style (combat, stealth, magic, environ, or key combinations) or game system. Think “the Labors of Hercules.”

Performing a Feat will gain the player a skill point. New skills cost one or more skill points. A few of our internal rules for Feats are that there should always be multiple ways to perform them and they can never be mundane.

One example? Many of our traps are physics-based, so can be blocked by heavy objects or stuck in place with adhesives. We decided to make this action a Feat after an external tester showed that she could stop a tick tock trap by tossing a glue ball directly at its seams. Which worked! (We’d never seen this before… Something that happens often when external testers play our game.) And that example is one of many ways to perform that Feat.

Through this, we hope to reward fun with more fun, while also not overwhelming the player with too many options right off the bat. And as you prove you understand and are actively engaging the many options available to you in the sim, you’ll unlock skills and abilities that grant you access to even more.​

Now that Ascendant's design is finalized, it appears there's much more to come in future updates. The game will also be featured in the PC Gamer panel at the annual SXSW event in Austin next month, on March 16th.

There are 6 comments on Underworld Ascendant Update #43: World Design, Player Progression

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Wed 14 February 2018

Editorial - posted by Infinitron on Wed 14 February 2018, 22:25:06

Tags: Dead State; Dungeon Rats; Iron Tower Studio; The Age of Decadence; The New World; Vince D. Weller

Over at the Iron Tower Studio forums, Vault Dweller has published a very interesting editorial. It's the first part in what he's calling his "business diary", which aims to provide us with a highly transparent look at the studio's operations. That includes not just revenue charts, which Vince has posted in our forums from time to time, but also a chronicle of his business decisions, an analysis of the indie RPG market, a few details about Iron Tower's collaboration with Brian Mitsoda on Dead State, and even some thoughts on Kickstarter. The most notable takeaway may be that despite the commercial disappointment of the Age of Decadence dungeon crawling spinoff Dungeon Rats, Vince still aims to produce a similar spinoff for The New World after its release. Here's an excerpt:

The Age of Decadence (our first full-scale RPG)

We released it in Oct 2015 and I’m happy to report it’s still selling and still being mentioned favorably here and there (which is why it’s still selling, I assume). We’ve sold 126,295 copies to-date at an average rate of $13.51 per copy. The price reflects not just the discounts during the sale events but the regional pricing as well, which is an equally strong factor.

Year by year it goes something like this:
  • 2013-2014 (Early Access & Direct Pre-Orders): 13,124 copies – $320,157 – $24.39 avg.
  • 2015: 20,771 – $472,869 – $22.76
  • 2016 48,798 – $620,914 – $12.72 (50% discount is introduced in March)
  • 2017 43,808 – $293,714 – $6.70 (75% off on sale events throughout the year)
The moral of this story is twofold:

First, the number of copies sold never tells you the full picture. In 2017 we sold twice as many copies as in 2015 and almost the same as in 2016 but got less than half of 2016’s revenue.

Second, 95% of what you sell is sold during the sale events so your sale price (lowered further by the regional pricing) becomes your effective price during that year. It’s also worth noting the increase of copies sold as we increased the discounts. 73% of copies were sold at 50-75% off.

In January 2018 we reduced the price from $29.99 to $19.99 to boost non-sale sales and mainly to see what happens (i.e. gather more data).

Dungeon Rats (the tactical spin-off)

Let’s start with the goals, in the order of importance.
  • Our main goal was to support our full scale RPGs with tactical spin-offs. Full-scale RPGs take many years (3-4 years for proper studios with proper budgets; we hope to do it in 4-5 years), so we desperately need a revenue booster.
  • The New World will be a party-based RPG where your Charisma determines how many followers you can have and the experience is split between the party members so a smaller party would always be further ahead. We had no experience in this area (we didn’t even know if we’d be able to balance it), so we decided to try these features in Dungeon Rats first and get the hands-on experience and feedback from thousands of players.
  • Since AoD was in development for over 10 years, it was important to show people that we can stick with a proper schedule and deliver a game on time. A faith-building exercise.
We hit goals #2 and 3, but it’s too early to say about goal #1. I hoped that Dungeon Rats would sell 100,000 copies in the first year on the strength of the combat system and the low price ($8.99, under $5 during sale events), but in the first 14 months it sold only 33,027 copies at $5.55 avg. Of course, without proper statistics it’s hard to say whether DR did as well as it could under the circumstances or failed miserably.

Overall though, AoD always sells more and and there wasn't a single day when DR sold even half as much. The obvious conclusion is that a strong seller (relatively speaking) has to be a “full-scale” game, whether choice-driven or strictly tactical. Anything else would have a very limited appeal by default.

Still, the idea to make tactical spin-offs to boost revenues had merits and while the first year sales are below our expectations, I hope that the game will keep selling over the next 3 years and make a more convincing case when it’s time to make a decision.

What worked well there (although not for everyone) is the scarcity of resources (food and alchemical reagents). Originally, we did it simply because there are no healers and stores in a prison mine, but it did evolve into an interesting feature. While we won’t be able to add complex quests with multiple solutions to our tactical spin-offs (it would double the development time but not the revenues), we’ll be able to improve the survival aspects and develop them further.

So IF Dungeon Rats will keep selling while maintaining a decent rating, the next tactical game (The New World’s spin-off) will take place during the Mutiny and feature a fully customizable squad (you’ll be able to create an entire party yourself), mission-based structure, base building and defense.

If you think it’s the right direction (and if you liked Dungeon Rats to begin with), take a moment and write a review. So far AoD got 1,553 reviews with 81% rating while DR is sitting with 210 reviews and 79% rating. If you have suggestions on how to improve the tactical design, we’d love to hear from you as well.
Fantastic stuff. Hopefully additional indie developers will take up Vince's offer and publish similar pieces of their own.

There are 85 comments on Taking Care of Business: Iron Tower Studio Business Diary

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Tue 13 February 2018

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 13 February 2018, 18:27:29

Tags: Kingdom Come: Deliverance; Warhorse Studios

This morning, Warhorse Studios released Kingdom Come: Deliverance, their historical open world action-RPG set in medieval Bohemia. It's been a long journey for Warhorse, originally founded as Prague Game Studios in late 2011. Kingdom Come will be their first released title, and as far as I can tell they've been working on it for that entire time, although development only kicked into high gear after the game was formally revealed in December 2013 and successfully Kickstarted a month later. The founder of Warhorse, Mafia series creator Dan Vavra, is an outspoken and sometimes controversial gentleman. With Kingdom Come, he set out to prove that he could produce a better AAA game than big budget titles such as Skyrim, and at a lower cost. Needless to say, many of us here on the Codex have been rooting for him. But as development went on and on, some worried that he'd bitten off more than he could chew, that the game would be rejected as janky European shovelware.

Now that it's out, it's clear that Kingdom Come is indeed not the most polished title in the world. But that doesn't seem to be hurting its sales so far. Open world RPGs have always gotten a lot of leeway on jankiness, and the hunger for a Witcher 3 successor is real. The more important question of how the game measures up as a roleplaying experience is something we'll all be investigating in the coming weeks. For now, enjoy one last trailer:

Kingdom Come: Deliverance is available now on Steam for the price of $60.

There are 51 comments on Kingdom Come: Deliverance Released

Mon 12 February 2018

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Mon 12 February 2018, 23:19:50

Tags: Divinity: Original Sin 2; Larian Studios

Divinity: Original Sin 2 was our RPG of the Year for 2017, but we never did get around to reviewing it. The reason being that none of our reviewers was able to finish the game before ragequitting in disgust. Although clearly not enough to sway popular opinion against it, the changes Larian chose to introduce to the Original Sin combat system seem universally unpopular. Which raises the question of why the heck they were introduced in the first place. That question is sort of addressed in today's interview with systems designer Nick Pechenin over at Gamasutra, although you may find his reasoning questionable. Here's an excerpt:

There’s a special kind of anarchy in the fights you experience in Divinity: Original Sin II.

This computer RPG, released last year by Larian Studios, encapsulates the freeform promise of the genre, allowing you to tackle its quests and face its world’s threats in wildly varying ways. Nowhere is that principle better expressed than when you’re in combat. In any fight, half the battlefield can end up on fire and the other drenched in acid. The air might be thick with electrified clouds, and summoned characters and resurrected corpses wander free.

Victory often feels as if it’s plucked from the jaws of death – or from chaos – and yet DOS2’s combat design is founded on establishing predictability for players, so they can make and execute plans, tight pacing, and also a sense of a story within the battle. As systems designer Nick Pechenin says, “Fights are basically performances, and you want some kind of plot in them.”

DOS2’s combat design is a close evolution from 2014’s Divinity: Original Sin, but Larian Studios knew the original had some issues. The team liked the depth of its combat, but felt that it tipped the balance too far towards chaos. The problem was with its armor system.

Armor had the chance of blocking status effects, meaning that if you planned to knock a bunch of enemies out with a stun attack, you didn’t know for sure it’d work in every case. “The good part about this was that every encounter felt different, so when you started a fight it felt fresh. Things went wrong and right in very different ways,” says Pechenin. “But at the same time it really prevented long-term planning, because you didn’t know how many people you’d stun, so you couldn’t predict what you’d do next turn, and because of this you just wouldn’t think about the next turn.”

So one of the big changes to DOS2’s combat design was to its armor system. Rather than absorbing a proportion of incoming damage, armor completely negates it. There are two armor types: physical and magic, which negates any magical attack, including negative status effects. But as these values take damage they’re whittled down, and once gone, the character is left open to losing HP and vulnerable to status effects.

So far, so deterministic, but Larian wanted attacks to retain a ‘spicy’ feeling. The solution was a small variability in incoming damage which may entirely knock armor out, or it may not. “So there’s still some RNG there and you don’t know exactly how things will turn out, but you have a high chance that things will go as you want them to,” says Pechenin. “But at other times the game will throw a curve ball at you and make you scramble to find a new plan.”

The next challenge was to set the pacing of battles. Larian wanted each to last an ideal number of turns. They wanted the time it took to destroy the armor on an enemy to feel good, as well as the number of turns that it’d take to stun an enemy, to destroy the armor on a player character, or to kill them.

It was not easy, since DOS2 features so many variables. Larian’s combat designers never know how many characters the player will be fielding in an encounter, since one or more of them can be off exploring an entirely different part of the map.

The characters who are in the fight will be equipped with very different armor and weapons, which might be very powerful because they’ve explored every inch of the maps, or they might be very weak because they’ve only played through the main campaign. They may be high level for the area, or low. Players might have unlocked many different spells and abilities, or very few. They may not know how to use them well, and they may simply forget to use them. They may have large stocks of consumables such as grenades and potions, or they might be hoarding them. In short, the dynamic range of the potential power a player fields in any given encounter is very wide.

Larian’s approach to balancing enemies’ armor and HP values was to create a curve to the way HP increases as characters level up, and then to use that a baseline value from which enemies’ stats would be calculated.

“Getting that curve nailed down was quite a challenge, just because of how much extra content we have,” says Pechenin. Some players might have discovered an amazing sword that allows them to one-shot enemies, which effectively reduced the challenge to nothing.

But rather than balance out these extremes, Larian embraced them. “Our usual philosophy is for player to be as OP as they want to be,” says Pechenin. But to mitigate the effects of a player finding an amazing sword, they also steepened the HP curve so that in a few hours that sword will be next to useless, returning the character to the baseline – unless they’ve found an excellent replacement.

In truth, he admits they went a little far with the steepness, because players complained about their super weapons getting superseded too soon, and so they patched in a slightly gentler curve. “This is completely valid, but in general the curve allowed us to give something very impactful to the player but still present them challenges even after 50-60 hours of playtime.”​

Oookay. This interview is really quite bizarre, and I'll let you guys pick it apart. At least Larian appear to be vaguely aware of the issues people have had. What comes next, I wonder? They were supposed to announce something new at PAX South last month, but that ended up not happening.

There are 43 comments on Divinity: Original Sin 2 Combat Mechanics Interview at Gamasutra

Sat 10 February 2018

People News - posted by Infinitron on Sat 10 February 2018, 00:23:53

Tags: Beamdog; David Gaider; Trent Oster

Precisely two years after joining Beamdog as Creative Director, David Gaider has abruptly left the studio without having produced a single title during his tenure. His departure was announced on Beamdog's company blog:

Today, Beamdog bids farewell to our Creative Director, David Gaider.

Dave came to Beamdog during interesting times. Since then, he has been teacher, mentor, and friend to many on the team. We’ve seen Dave conjure new worlds we’d love to play in, and spin stories in places already close to our hearts. Someday we will share the fruits of his labour!

Most lasting, Dave has built a creative team that will shape the stories Beamdog tells in the years to come. He has freely shared his incredible wealth of storytelling and narrative design experience with the developers, designers, and artists around him. We’ve all learned a lot from Dave and we hope he picked up a trick or two from us as well.

As fans of Dragon Age, KoTOR, Baldur’s Gate, and many of the other incredible worlds Dave has helped create, we’re excited to find out what’s next (come on, give us a clue Dave!) be it a new game, novel, or whatever else it is you choose to create.

We’ll certainly miss your lunchtime stories. Best of luck Dave!
It's unclear what this means for the Dungeons & Dragons RPG that Beamdog have been speculated to be working on since 2016. Has it been cancelled? Was it actually Planescape: Unraveled? The wording of their announcement suggests that Beamdog may intend to proceed with the creative team that Gaider built, but were unable to keep him onboard for whatever reason. As for the man himself, who knows? Perhaps he'll return to BioWare, or perhaps he has yet more far-flung adventures to embark on.

Update: Over at PC Gamer, Trent Oster reveals that this departure has been planned for a while:

Beamdog co-founder Trent Oster said Gaider's departure has been in the works for awhile, so the impact on current projects will be minimal. "Dave was a valued member of our team and has done a lot of great work for us over the last two years," Oster said. "While we're sad to see Dave go, we are anxious to step up and show how we have grown as a studio and as a team."
Does that mean there's going to be an announcement soon?

There are 82 comments on David Gaider leaves Beamdog

Fri 9 February 2018

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 9 February 2018, 23:51:37

Tags: The Boar Studio; Titan Outpost

Titan Outpost is an upcoming isometric sci-fi RPG by RPG Codex veteran poster Frank "MF" de Boer. It's set in the far future of 2077 during an energy crisis, in which the player is tasked with setting up a mining outpost on Titan, the sixth moon of Saturn. Like No Truce With The Furies, Titan Outpost will not have any combat system, but will instead feature innovative dialogue mechanics as well as logistical elements inspired by the original X-Com's Geoscape and Cryo's Dune. The game has an official website, but MF has been posting development updates in his hosted forum here on the Codex, where he set up shop last July. Although there have been plenty of screenshots of Titan Outpost, the latest update offers us our first look at live gameplay footage. It's a demonstration of the aforementioned dialogue mechanics, in what is planned to be the game's introductory tutorial quest. A good excuse to finally post about it on our front page. Here's the video and a description:

It is the year 2077. Humanity is in the midst of an energy crisis and the future of civilisation is in peril.

Your mission is a last-ditch effort at satiating your species’ ever-growing thirst for fuel. With unmitigated growth, environmental change was inevitable. Earth’s equator is slowly becoming a lifeless desert. Endless fields of solar arrays gave us some breathing room, but collective efforts at temperature regulation only compounded our energy problems. We colonized the moon in 2060 and the demand for energy only grew larger.

In crisis, people united. Europe, West-Russia, The United States, Japan and most South American countries united to form the International Autonomous Space Association. You work this supranational organisation.

A cold war has arisen between your employers and the economically powerful Chinese, who are working on colonising Mars and also have a presence in the Saturnian system. On frosty Titan, this war will literally be very cold indeed.

Harvest the moon’s abundant hydrocarbon resources and uncover its mysteries. Explore the orange moon, visit lakes of methane and establish a mining operation. The extremely cold climate will be your biggest enemy. Or will it?


Titan Outpost is an isometric, single-player role-playing game set on Titan, the sixth moon of the planet Saturn. Humanity is engulfed in an energy crisis and you are there to harvest the moon’s precious resources and uncover its mysteries.

There is no combat in the game. Titan itself is your biggest enemy and your character will need to use a variety of skills to handle missions. In an atmosphere so uninvitingly cold that methane is a liquid, every choice matters and every step counts.
  • The PICA character system features four attributes -Physical, Intelligence, Charisma and Awarenss- and six skills, ranging from science to exploration.
  • Branching storylines and multiple quest solutions.
  • Discrete time system, where every passing second determines unfolding events and the game world continues while your character sleeps. The game would be considered turn-based if it had combat.
  • Logistical elements , think original Dune adventure meets the strategic layer of X-com.
  • A rich backstory with a combination of realistic science-fiction and cold war tension.
  • Over twenty locations, a hundred if you count all the lakes.
  • Build and expand your base, it’s not called Titan Outpost for nothing.
  • Research exciting new technologies, ranging from new ways to keep warm, generating more power or making Titan ever so slightly more like Earth.
  • Multiple factions: You can decide to join the Chinese, work for independent contractors or stay loyal to your employer.
  • 70s aesthetic.
Looks very cool. We'll be keeping an eye on this one.

There are 26 comments on Titan Outpost is a combat-less isometric sci-fi RPG set on the moon of Saturn

Tue 6 February 2018

Preview - posted by Infinitron on Tue 6 February 2018, 23:16:59

Tags: Josh Sawyer; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire

In this weekend's Pillars of Eternity II Fig update, Obsidian said they would be releasing details about the game's new ship system in the following update a few weeks from now. It turns out we don't have to wait that long. Today, a raft of previews were published across the web with a focus on describing said ship system. As is often the case, PCGamesN have the most in-depth preview, including a 14 minute Josh Sawyer interview video:

Here's a list of all of today's previews and interviews that we've been able to track down. Besides the PCGamesN preview, the Game Informer interview with Josh is the most interesting read here.

In other news that just happens to have been released today, Game Informer have revealed that Pillars II is set to receive a console release in late 2018. As with the first game, the console port is being developed by a third party, in this case the Brazilian studio Red Cerberus. I assume this is part of the terms of Obsidian's publishing arrangement with Versus Evil, but it sure would have looked better if they'd waited until after the PC release to announce it.

There are 49 comments on Pillars of Eternity II Previews - Ship System Details, Console Release

Mon 5 February 2018

Company News - posted by Infinitron on Mon 5 February 2018, 23:36:04

Tags: Obsidian Entertainment; The Outer Worlds

A user on the Obsidian forums named UrbaNebula spotted a new Obsidian trademark yesterday, for something called The Outer Worlds. They've actually trademarked it for four different purposes - computer games, gaming-related online services, gaming-related literature and board/card games - which suggests that this is a large, AAA-caliber enterprise. In other words, we may have just learned the title for Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarksy's unannounced game, currently known only as Project Indiana. Take a look:

Congratulations on the scoop, UrbaNebula. It's worth noting that this trademark appears to be owned directly by Obsidian, and not by the "Dark Rock Industries Limited" shell company that owns the Pillars of Eternity trademark and intellectual property. Whether that means anything is yet to be seen.

There are 95 comments on Obsidian have trademarked "The Outer Worlds", possible title for Cain and Boyarsky's Project Indiana

Information - posted by Crooked Bee on Mon 5 February 2018, 22:58:12

Tags: CRPG Book Project; Felipe Pepe

Ever since the release of Cleve Blakemore's Grimoire, here at the RPG Codex we know that miracles are real. Sometimes, something momentous happens that shatters the mundane course of life and changes the way you look at things. Something you were not sure you ever expected to happen. Something to which you can then refer as a brief moment of incline in the generally declining trajectory of the world.

One such occasion is today, with another, no less vaporware epic project finally seeing the light of day. Today, esteemed community member felipepepe has released his CRPG Book Project -- a veritable encyclopedia of computer RPG knowledge. You can download it for free here.

600 hours of gameplay! 528 pages of content! 244+ Maps in the game to explore! 400+ RPGs in the book to explore! 64 intelligent NPCs with 8000 Words in Vocabulary! 112 intelligent contributors from all around the globe! It's all there, as described by felipepepe himself in a special blog post about the release:

Four years ago I began a journey.

On Feb 5 2014 I posted the results of the RPG Codex’s Top 70 poll, in which we elected the best CRPGs of all time. But I felt that a simple list was too dry… more than the ranking, I was interested in WHY these games were good. From there came the idea of asking people to write a short paragraph talking about each title.

This became an updated version of the Codex’s Top 70, now with screenshots and brief descriptions of each game. That’s my favorite piece of content I ever made, but I still wanted more – more games, more screenshots, longer reviews, tips on mods, fan-made patches, etc. So I made a list of all the RPGs I wanted to cover and began recruiting volunteers for the “CRPG Book Project”.

Having done the Top 70 list in 3 months, I thought I could do 300 games in about 10 months or so. Ha, it took me four years… but it is done!

Dear reader, I present you the full release of the CRPG BOOK PROJECT!

The book is first and foremost a collection of RPG reviews, but it also includes a number of articles on topics ranging from CRPG cartography to the origins of the genre. Quite a few Codexers have contributed to it, too, alongside the likes of Scorpia and Chris Avellone.

In the blog post, felipepepe also addresses the inevitable questions about the possibility of a hardback copy of the book, future proofreading plans, etc. He's looking for a good way to crowdfund the book or print it on demand without making it too expensive or too complicated in terms of taxes - so if you have an idea how he could go about doing that, do get in touch with him.

Anyway - congrats, felipe, for seeing this project through to the end with, dare I say, a truly neanderthal dedication. Everyone else, go check out the book right now!

There are 180 comments on Felipepepe's Encyclopedic CRPG Book Released

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Mon 5 February 2018, 22:48:57

Tags: Arcanum: of Steamworks and Magick Obscura; Blizzard Entertainment; Diablo III; Leonard Boyarsky; Matt Barton; Obsidian Entertainment; Temple of Elemental Evil; Tim Cain; Troika Games; Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines

The third and final episode of Matt Barton's interview with Leonard Boyarsky is all about his post-Interplay, post-Fallout years. It's the most interesting part of the interview in my opinion, because it reveals just how full of regret Leonard is about this part of his career. He spares no words in describing how Troika mismanaged the development of Arcanum due to the naive idea that they could replicate the favorable conditions of Fallout's development at their own company with a skeleton crew. And how their choice to work with the unfinished Source engine crippled the development of Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, something which ended up severely damaging his health and has left him traumatized to this day.

Leonard also has regrets about his work on Diablo 3 at Blizzard, which is something he's talked about before - though interestingly in this interview he also seems to put some of the blame for the game's problems on a lack of decisive leadership at higher levels of management. However, in retrospect, Leonard's biggest regret is not putting more of Troika's top writing talent on The Temple of Elemental Evil, which he believes has harmed the game's legacy in comparison with the studio's other two titles.

In summary, it's Leonard's belief that he was extremely lucky with Fallout, and he's never been able to replicate that experience since. The interview does end on a positive note though, when a jovial Tim Cain shows up and starts up an impromptu dual interview. They talk a bit about the circumstances that led to Leonard leaving Blizzard to work on Obsidian's unrevealed new project, but there are no new details. Let's hope, however, that they finally manage to unlock some of that Fallout magic.

There are 12 comments on Matt Chat 397: Interview with Leonard Boyarsky, Part Three

Sat 3 February 2018

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Sat 3 February 2018, 18:45:44

Tags: Fallen Gods; Iron Tower Studio; Mark Yohalem; The New World; Vince D. Weller; Wormwood Studios

The freelance writer Chris Picone, who has previously interviewed Iron Tower Studio's Vince D. Weller and Primordia designer Mark Yohalem, has now published a massive interview with both. It's very much like an RPG version of our AdventureDex interview from 2013, which is even linked to in the footnotes. It covers all the frequently discussed RPG topics, such as inventory management, combat density, magic systems, resting, character death and save-scumming. There's lots of details about Mark's upcoming Fallen Gods, Vince's upcoming The New World and most interestingly, also the historical "Inquisition RPG" that Vince plans to develop afterwards. As you might expect, in the interview it's thoughtful Mark vs practical Vince. Here's an excerpt:

CSH: AoD was the first cRPG I’ve played in a long time where you’re totally on your own and not part of some adventuring party. I thought it odd at first, for no other reason than that it’s no longer the done thing. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. In AoD, if you played as a fighter, you would experience a combat-heavy game and a number of experiences simply were not available to you since your character lacked the means to engage in those opportunities. Similarly, if you played as a merchant or lore master, you were forced to get creative about solving your problems because combat was not a feasible option. This concept was the foundation of pen-and-paper roleplaying because although you were part of a party, you normally only controlled one of those characters yourself, but is something that modern, party-based cRPGs seem to lack. The modern cRPG gamer is used to having their cake and eating it, too, but I feel like we’re losing out on some of the core roleplaying experience in the process. Is there a way to have a party-based cRPG and still have that character-centric experience?

Players love party-member interactions, which have grown in prominence and complexity as time has gone on. Certainly, they are among the most memorable and likable parts of RPGs for me. There’s a reason why Primordia features a “party,” and Clarity has intra-party dialogues that are modelled on the Biowarean (was it Bioware who came up with it first?) approach where you can talk a bit more every time you’ve made some main-quest progress.

Fallen Gods has a party, but it’s not the kind of party that people are used to. It is something more like the Clan Ring in King of Dragon Pass; maybe even thinner in terms of characterisation. Your followers have unique names, but currently generic portraits and sprites (one for each of the follower types: churl, woodsman, fighter, priest, skald, berserk, maiden, witch). While they chime in during events, and can be asked to undertake tasks during events, this chiming in is also generic. While only one of each follower type will quip per event node (the happiest of that type, typically), it’s not as if Ragnar the Fighter will ever say something different from Hrut the Fighter. And you don’t really interact directly with them – they speak, but you can’t talk back to them. You can give them items, as discussed above, which can make them happier, but it’s not like, say, Dragon Age: Origins where this unlocks deeper interactions. It’s all very superficial.

There are a few reasons for this. The first is that when I was working on the now-abandoned (and pre-empted by FTL) predecessor to Fallen Gods, Star Captain, I tried writing events where the crew (still fairly generic) were heavily integrated into the text and story. It turned out to ramify into impossible-to-imagine complexity very quickly. The second is that I wanted to keep the focus on the eponymous Fallen God, rather than the earthbound beings helping him. Said god is something of an egoist, anyway, and would not be interested in learning about Skadi the Churl’s tough childhood.

Third, another lesson I learned in working on Star Captain – a lesson that I think RPGs could often benefit from – is that it’s better when events or dialogue keep moving forward. The “hub” model of dialogue so common to RPGs, especially to lore dumpers, totally kills the game’s momentum. Because Fallen Gods is meant to be pretty quick-moving, it would be antithetical to let you go on a random dialogue digression with a follower. Finally, having the followers thinly characterised works well in a procedurally generated setting where followers die a lot. As noted earlier, FG is procedurally generated in terms of selecting what goes where, but the content is all pre-designed. Since there are dozens of followers to hire in a given game session, trying to make each one unique would be a huge amount of work. And it would actually tend to highlight the smallness of the game’s content when you encountered Bjorn the Berserk twice in a row, and he was exactly the same each time.

Anyway, I think this is one of many ways that Fallen Gods is likely to disappoint many players – especially fans of Primordia – who expect rich characterisation in an RPG. The characterisation is either non-existent (for many followers), generic (for, say, berserks and witches, who have strong but non-character-specific voices), or indirect (as with the god). And the NPCs you meet are really going to be characterised in at most a couple nodes of text, maybe a few words of dialogue. I think we’ve done a pretty good job with making that little bit count, more because of our great artists, narrator, and composer than because of our middling writer, but the proof of the pudding will be in the reading.

Vince: AoD was a solo game because working your way up in a faction to secure your future required a single character. You don’t show up for work with your five closest friends who don’t have anything better to do today.

TNW is more about adventuring and dealing with multiple factions at once (to ensure your own survival) which does call for a band of like-minded individuals. Not sure about the Inquisition game yet but we’re leaning toward party-based as well.

As for having that character-centric experience in a party-based game, it depends on the design and goals. For example, in games like Baldur’s Gate or Pillars of Eternity there are no non-combat classes, so any character you pick will be handy in a fight, thus a party of six will be able to kick a lot of ass regardless of its makeup.

Our approach is a bit different. In TNW you’ll increase skills by using them instead of gaining skill points and distributing them as you see fit.

Let’s say you’re a talker accompanied by three brutes waiting for your nod to crush your enemies. The problem is that unless your brutes get a regular workout, they won’t be very skilled. So you’re mostly talking your way through the game, your brutes won’t get regular workouts and will never be as skilled as a combat-focused party. They might be able to get you out of trouble but you won’t be able to fight your way through the game.

Essentially, you’ll have four types of parties:

· The warband (your typical western)
· The grifters (while you don’t need two talkers, you might need people with the right connections or ideas, think traveling with Miltiades in AoD)
· The infiltrators
· The jacks (of all trades), who won’t be as good at combat, diplomacy, or stealth as the specialist parties.

Plus, your Charisma determines how many followers you can inspire to tag along. If you want 3 party members, you need to have CHA 8 (out of 10), which is a significant investment.
This interview is a real classic, the kind I'd like to have done myself. Read the full thing there.

There are 100 comments on Vince D. Weller and Mark Yohalem RPG Mega-Interview by Chris Picone

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sat 3 February 2018, 16:29:27

Tags: Kingdom Come: Deliverance; Warhorse Studios

Warhorse Studios' medieval Czech action-RPG Kingdom Come: Deliverance comes out in less than two weeks. Over the past few months, Warhorse have released a succession of increasingly impressive trailers and gameplay videos on their YouTube channel. The game is now available for preorder on GOG, which is a good excuse to post the latest of these. It's a story trailer called "A Blacksmith's Tale", referring to the young protagonist Henry, though it's also about the politics of early 15th century Bohemia. The trailer includes a decent look at the game's combat, and also at its Dan Vavra self-insert character. Check it out:

It should be noted that although Kingdom Come is now available for preorder on GOG, it's not coming out there until February 27th, giving Steam two weeks of exclusivity. Some sort of publisher shenanigan or piracy paranoia, no doubt.

There are 31 comments on Kingdom Come: Deliverance gets more trailers, now available for preorder on GOG

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sat 3 February 2018, 01:33:05

Tags: Katrina Garsten; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire

Obsidian have published the first Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire Fig update for 2018. Once again, it coincides with the release of a beta update the day before. The main highlight of the new beta is the addition of the ship system, including crew management and naval combat on the world map. But the new Fig update isn't about that. Instead it's simply a restatement of the recent release date announcement, along with the obligatory Katrina Garsten video, this time showcasing some of the game's graphical improvements. The surprise ending might be inspired by Alfred Hitchcock, or maybe by Realms Beyond:

According to the update, Pillars of Eternity II keys should be available to backers on the backer portal now, though it looks like they haven't showed up yet. The next update, which will describe the new ship system, will be published in a few weeks.

There are 27 comments on Pillars of Eternity II Fig Update #44: Eye Candy Compilation, Backer Beta Update 2 Released

Wed 31 January 2018

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 31 January 2018, 20:11:17

Tags: Avernum 3: Ruined World; Jeff Vogel; Spiderweb Software

Spiderweb Software's Avernum 3: Ruined World came out today. Turns out the release date was January 31st all along. It's the last episode of Jeff Vogel's trilogy of remakes, which started with Avernum: Escape from the Pit way back in 2011. Back in October, Jeff wrote a blog post reflecting on his long career of remaking remakes. We've already seen the new game's trailer and description, so I thought I'd quote an excerpt from that:

In A Previous Millenium, I Wrote A Hit

In 1997, I'd been making games full-time for a couple years. I wrote (and still write) retro, turn-based, low-budget indie RPGs with fun systems, interesting stories, and mediocre graphics.

Happily, I got started at a time when there were very few good RPGs out in the market. I got a nice computer, wanted to play a good RPG, and couldn't find one. So I wrote one. It sold, because no competition. This is a key example of my most important business strategy: Get Very Lucky.

My first games, Exile: Escape From the Pit and Exile 2: Crystal Souls, were designed on a simple principle: I would go back to all the RPGs I loved as a kid and steal the best idea from each one. I then carefully combined all my quality stolen ideas into a coherent whole. This is called being a game designer.

For our third game, I had a better idea. I spent months playing all the new RPGs that had come out over the previous 2-3 years. Then I stole the best idea from each one of those. Thus, I transitioned from stealing ideas from old games to stealing ideas from new games. This is how you evolve as a game designer.

I ended up with Exile 3: Ruined World, which has been our biggest success. It features a gigantic world, that is easy to get lost in. As time passed, the game world evolved. If you didn't fight the monsters off, they would ruin towns and kill the townsfolk. (Though, no matter how slow you play, you can always still win the game.) If you didn't want to follow the story, you could be a bounty hunter or merchant. You could buy a house.

It Was The Right Title At The Right Time

In 1997, it was what people wanted. It was a legit shareware hit. Now, having a hit indie game in 1997 (when the world wide web was basically nothing and most of my sales came from AOL) was different from having one in 2017.

These days, the sales of a hit indie game will buy you a mansion made of yachts. Back then, it bought me a modest house and made my parents slightly less ashamed to say what I did for a living.

I won awards, to the extent there were game awards back then. I got attention from the traditional games media, which was really worth something then. And it established me in the business for good.

But even then, I knew that the real prize was not the praise (which I don't care about) or the money (which is nice, but then you spend it and it's gone). What was really valuable was that I owned the game. It was mine. I could do with it whatever I wanted. Forever.

A Lesson For Young Creators

Never underestimate the value of owning your work. There hasn't been a day since 1997 that I haven't made money off of Exile 3. The reason is that I own it. It's mine, to alter, remaster, and distribute. All according to my whims, with all the earnings going to me.

It's a tough market out there. But suppose you release a new game and nobody ever even hears of it. Wait five years, remaster it and it really will be, as far an anyone is concerned, a new game. You can try selling it again!

And ten years from now, people will be using new consoles, new devices, new sorts of computers. Port your game to them! Each new port is an all new release. A new chance for your game to get noticed and catch on and become a hit!

"But Your Games Are All The Same And Look Like Crap"

I have a follow-up post about the reactions when I announced Avernum 3: Ruined World. It's pretty funny, but this is already long so I broke it out into its own post.

When Avernum 3: Ruined World comes out (hopefully in January for Windows/Mac and March for iPad), I'll have spent over four years of my life on it. It's not a game for everyone. It's mostly the product of one person, and it'll show.

Even if you don't like my work, I hope you take some satisfaction in this: Vidya games are still a place where one weirdo can make weird things for other weirdos and make a living at it. As long as this is possible, there's hope. Maybe the next weird thing for weirdos will be YOUR perfect game, the Best Game Ever, and it never would have existed in a purely big-budget world.
Avernum 3: Ruined World is available now on Steam and GOG for $20, with a 10% launch discount until next week. Its release, along with the release of Avadon 3 last year, marks the quiet end of a certain era of indie RPG development. You might remember that Jeff once said he was planning to launch a Kickstarter this year for his next game's engine. We'll see if that happens.

There are 31 comments on Avernum 3: Ruined World Released

Tue 30 January 2018

Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Tue 30 January 2018, 14:20:14

Tags: Iron Tower Studio; Nick Skolozdra; The New World; Vince D. Weller

Vault Dweller has published 2018's first development update for The New World. It's an important update, summarizing the previous year's work and announcing this year's plans - namely, the release of a combat demo. And yes, it includes our very first look at the actual game, in the form of two screenshots from the location known as the Pit. Behold:

[​IMG] [​IMG]

2017 was a busy year: we did a lot of programming and animation work, produced a lot of art assets, defined locations (quests, places of interest, key characters), factions (leaders, relationships, goals), expanded the Pit’s quests, finalized the systems, and did a lot of work on the first two locations, so we started 2018 in a pretty good shape.

Our main goal for this year is to release a combat demo. It’s a major milestone as it’s practically a game in itself. We do that, it means we have the engine (fully customized for what we need), all systems except stealth, all art assets and animation, interface, and TONS of small things that take a lot of time. It’s a massive amount of work and it took us 5,5 years to reach this point with AoD. If we do it in 2 years this time around, it will mean that we’re right on schedule for 2020 release and give us 2 years to work on quests and locations.

What’s done:

- Map grid. In CSG, the tiles are aligned according to the surface angle and look better by not sticking into the ground;
- Non-combat and combat pathfinding. Two separate systems now, which allows smooth movement when exploring locations and good old tactical tile-to-tile movement in combat. Your combat path is also displayed with a nice spline, so no more uncertainty of "where exactly will my character move when I click here" kind;
- Map checking system that spawns warnings if certain map objects are not configured properly - this should decrease the amount of level-design bugs;
- Hierarchical item classes and visual item editor;
- Chargen;
- The flexible structure of character classes that allows adding new creature types with a different appearance, item slots and behavior easily. Implementing new creature type was a big task in AoD/Torque and required writing a lot of code from scratch every time;
- Party system. Better-looking party following, comparing to DR;
- Animation system based on a proper state machine this time. Animations blended with ragdoll, which should help to avoid situations like dead/knockdown characters sticking into the wall;
- Inventory system and screen. Inventory space is now grid-based;
- Character screen;
- Dialogue system, screen, and visual node-based dialogue editor;
- Cover system which provides defense bonuses based on cover type and angle of enemy's fire;
- Combat exit areas - special tiles, Fallout-style, that allow player to flee from combat and execute attached scripts;
- Overhead icons, more informative than in previous games, since they now can display progress bars, numbers, and other useful context-based information;
- Discrete hitbox/collision system. We got rid of the chaotic line of fire and attack results that were animation-based. In AoD/DR the cursor could report you that you are able to hit a target, but then, when you click, your enemy would turn around or scratch his butt, and your arrow could fly past him despite all the odds;
- RPG Camera, replicated from AoD, also includes optional orthographic projection mode;
- Doors (prototype, not final)
- Basic destructible environment;
- Building system (floors visibility, interior/exterior objects)
- Basic combat system (weapons, attack modes, THC calculation, hitting, missing, simple RNG) and combat flow (start, end, combat queue, detecting enemies, advancing turns). No status effects yet.
- Global and local quest variables and game states;
According to Iron Tower programmer Nick Skolozdra, it'll probably take around six additional months to complete the remaining gameplay features required for the combat demo. In the nearer future, expect an update presenting the game's armor system.

There are 54 comments on The New World Update #23: State of the Game, First Screenshots

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 30 January 2018, 02:08:53

Tags: Bevontule; Multithreaded Games

We've been sporadically following the development of Multithreaded Games' Japanese-influenced RPG Bevontule since 2016. The game was successfully greenlit for release on Steam last year and recently got its Steam store page. Now, like many indie titles before it, Bevontule is seeking its fortune on Kickstarter. The game seems to have acquired a subtitle along the way - "Altar of Roots". You might be able to figure out what that means from the highly detailed Kickstarter page. But first, the pitch video. Did you know it's pronounced "BeVONtulay?"

Bevontule is a tactical role-playing game that occurs primarily on the surface of the continent of Onich – a vast and isolated landmass surrounding a central ocean known as the Inner Sea. Discovered some 1,500 years ago by a number of refugees fleeing their own war-torn homeland, it quickly becomes clear that – despite its welcoming appearance – Onich harbors dark and deadly secrets that were presumably left alone for good reason.

In present-day Onich, the continent is slowly being ravaged by a blight known as the Kelvari: an expansive, semi-sentient and root-like network of unknown origin and composition that has already “claimed” nearly 60% of the surface of Onich – primarily in the north and west. At the same time, grotesque creatures known as “Rootsouls” accompany the slow but certain spread of the Kelvari. While massive regions of the continent are safe – either via proximity or outright delusional thinking – other nations are on the immediate boundary of the Kelvari fields and have at times had limited success in fighting back the scourge. Politically, this leads to much tension between disparate nations – many of which do not understand the existential threat posed ... and as such, do little in the way of offering up material support to those fighting.

The player takes control of Bodom, a mysterious person that appears along the western shores of the Inner Sea, allegedly hailing from the northernmost regions of Onich. Claiming the ability to destroy the Kelvari, he quickly finds himself a valuable asset in the ensuing struggle against them – as well as a pawn to the political machinations of regional and continental players. Will you stave off the looming calamity... or unwittingly hasten its arrival?

Key Features
  • Enjoy a mature and highly-detailed plot spanning thousands of years.
  • Fight in a challenging tactical, turn-based combat system where proper positioning and timing are critical.
  • Visit a beautiful world with modern 3D environments to discover, explore, and conquer.
  • Fend off free-roaming enemies with a wide variety of movement patterns, behaviors, and habitats.
  • Prepare for an unrelenting and highly-intelligent enemy AI that can be scaled to various difficulty levels.
  • Play alongside a cast of interesting characters with defined roles, yet deeply customizable skill sets – allowing multiple builds for each combatant.
  • Unlock, learn, and equip from hundreds of combat skills, attribute bonuses, and world-based buffs.
  • Explore loads of side quests, optional bosses/areas, and minigames!
  • Scavenge, create, and upgrade items using an original skill-based crafting system.
  • Utilize an integrated bestiary system that rewards discovery, experimentation, and exploitation of enemies for rewards.
Multithreaded are looking to raise $50,000 to finish Bevontule, with an estimated release date on March 2019. If you're interested, a copy of the game can be yours for just $15. You can also try out its latest free demo here. Good luck, guys!

There are 32 comments on Western JRPG Bevontule: Altar of Roots now on Kickstarter

Sun 28 January 2018

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Sun 28 January 2018, 19:37:38

Tags: Fallout; Interplay; Leonard Boyarsky; Matt Barton

The second episode of Matt Barton's interview with Leonard Boyarsky is dedicated almost entirely to the development of Fallout. Much of this will be familiar to our readers - the story of how Leonard got on the Fallout team, how he came up with its 50s-flavored setting and aesthetic, the creation of the Vault Boy, and the dispute with Steve Jackson that led the replacement of GURPS with SPECIAL. More interesting is Leonard's discussion of how he became involved in writing and design despite his official role as art director. According to Leonard, it's precisely his lack of a background in writing that may have allowed him to design scenarios with convincing and naturalistic choice & consequence.

Another interesting bit is Leonard's claim that the original Wasteland had very little influence on Fallout. Apparently he only played Wasteland for the first time quite late in the game's development, and the only Wasteland references in it are minor easter eggs like Tycho's background as a Desert Ranger. The interview ends with the story of how he, Tim Cain and Jason Anderson left Interplay to form Troika, but more about that in the next episode.

There are 12 comments on Matt Chat 396: Interview with Leonard Boyarsky, Part Two

Community - posted by felipepepe on Sun 28 January 2018, 10:47:31

Tags: GOTY 2017

It's finally time to crunch the numbers and see what the Codex played & enjoyed in 2017.
This year we had 966 voters, who rated 84 games divided into three categories: Game of the Year, Best Expansion and Best PC Port/Remaster.

For those of you who just want the TL;DR, here are the winners:


  1. Divinity: Original Sin 2
  2. Prey
  3. Battle Brothers
Best Expansion
  1. Grim Dawn - Ashes of Malmouth
  2. Path of Exile: The Fall of Oriath
  3. Path of Exile: War for the Atlas
Best PC Port/Remaster
  1. The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel
  2. The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky The 3rd
  3. Disgaea 2
For the full results, fancy graphs and snarky analysis, just follow the link bellow.

Read the full article: RPG Codex GOTY 2017: Results & Cool Graphs

There are 450 comments on RPG Codex GOTY 2017: Results & Cool Graphs

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