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?
RPG Codex Re-Preview: The Age of Decadence
Preview - posted by Crooked Bee
on Wed 25 March 2015, 19:02:34
It's been a while since we last previewed Iron Tower Studios' turn-based, Rome-inspired postapocalyptic RPG The Age of Decadence. Now that the game has been in Steam Early Access for quite some time already, esteemed community member MasterSmithFandango has decided that the Codex needs to re-preview what has traditionally been the second most anticipated game around here. (The first being, of course, the legendary Grimoire: Heralds of the Winged Exemplar). But whereas the golden baby is still caught up in the net of 19 micro-issues preventing it from taking wing, Thursday feels like it’s just around the corner (again) - so let's hear how The Age of Decadence is shaping up.
For the uninitiated, The Age of Decadence is an RPG developed by our very own Vault Dweller. Set in a low fantasy, post-apocalyptic Rome-inspired universe, the game is developed with a particular focus on choices and consequences, branching storylines, and multiple quest solutions. The intention is for there to be no “right way” to play, but rather to give the player enough flexibility to find his own path.
In an attempt to provide a Fair and Balanced™ preview, I want to look at each system individually then talk about how they mesh together. This preview will be spoiler-free and, other than generally, I won’t comment on the actual content. Right now there are two completed cities (essentially quest hubs), with a third currently being tested before being added to the regular EA release with a bit more to come after that.
[...] Ultimately, the character system as currently implemented (and this late in the game it’s probably close to set in stone) is effective, if not perfect. I do feel there are some things missing that could greatly improve the system. More synergies as mentioned above would add some depth, especially between the civic skills and the civic stats. Having a high charisma giving a slight bonus to persuasion, or having high intelligence give a bonus to lore just seems like another missed opportunity. This isn’t a system that I feel would be fun to spend hours just building characters on, but for the purposes of providing decent effects on the game world, it does the job.
[...] If you haven’t invested fairly heavily into combat skills, don’t bother. This game is very much one that punishes a jack-of-all-trades play style, and nowhere will that be more evident than in combat. Each point in dodge, block, or your weapon skills will have a big effect on your ability to survive. If you do invest heavily, combat can be challenging at times but generally isn’t too difficult, although some encounters you may lose just due to the numbers game.
That actually may be the problem – often when I lose a fight I feel that it’s not because I played the fight poorly, but rather that I got screwed by the random number generator. When I reload to do the fight again, I don’t really do anything differently to adapt to the battle – I just hope the RNG doesn’t screw me as badly. I have no problem with dice rolls, mind you, but I like feeling that when I lose I’ve learned something new that will allow me to be better at the game, and I just don’t get that here.
Combat is one area where I feel that there is so much promise, but in practice it lacks a certain satisfaction. On the surface it’s got all of the pieces a great combat system would require. You have a variety of attacks, each with their own pros and cons and utility, you have the ability to move around tactically and exercise your brain a bit, and the stats and skills translate in a clear way to your performance on the battlefield. Still, after a heavy dose I feel like I want something else. I would say this is an area where the whole is less than the sum of its parts. Part of it is because when you engage an enemy you just stand in the square next to him, going back and forth until one of you doesn’t get up. Moving away from someone who's beside you in combat gives them an attack of opportunity, so your best bet is almost always to engage unless you need to retreat to your support to prevent being totally overrun.
[...] The writing is top notch. I found myself reading in great detail all of the stories from the storyteller, and all the related conversations. The descriptions of what was going on in the world were just fantastic, and the setting really feels fresh. There is an air of ambiguity to everything that is so refreshing in this age of “GATHER ARMY TO FIGHT DARK EVIL”-level of storytelling.
Additionally, the quests are designed to be radically different each time you play through them. You can choose to piss everyone off – and there are multiple ways to do that. Each character I play through feels like I’m just getting one piece of a larger story, and playing through the same area with a different character you can see different angles and how things can play out differently.
Vault Dweller has always been about choices and consequences, and this game tackles that in spades. It seems like every little thing you do will have some effect on the game world. Sometimes it’s small, sometimes it’s massive – it’s always interesting, though. The way you treat people you meet, the decisions you make when deciding who to side with in conflicts – they all have long-term effects. Forget seeing all the content in one playthrough. Shit, forget seeing half the content in one playthrough. This is a game that will cut off quests as you go. But where a door closes, another one opens.
We have one, count it, one Royal Edition copy of Pillars of Eternity to give away! This is just like a regular full edition of Pillars of Eternity except it includes the following:
Digital Novella by Chris Avellone: A digital novella that focus on the backstory of some of the more interesting characters that players may encounter over the course of their travels in Pillars of Eternity.
Collector’s Book PDF: Digital version of the book that is being published by Dark Horse. It contains lots of information and art on the setting, story, and creatures of Pillars of Eternity. 112 pages.
Hi-res Concept Art pieces: High resolution pieces of our concept art. Contains everything from concepts of areas and creatures to props and mood pieces.
Digital Strategy Guide: Digital version of our strategy guide from Prima penned by the same writer of the Fallout: New Vegas guide. Contains all the information players will need to master Pillars of Eternity and reveal all of the content available.
Digital Original Soundtrack: This soundtrack contains many of the game's music tracks performed by a live orchestra. Contains at least 17 tracks in MP3 and FLAC formats.
Digital Campaign Almanac: The Campaign Almanac contains everything related to the lore, history, and world of Eora as originally told by Hylsman Horag and revised by the Hand Occult. The 35 page almanac has commentary provided by a variety of authors and is an engrossing read for anyone keen to delve deeper into the world of the Pillars of Eternity.
Making of Documentary: A video documentary of the entire Pillars of Eternity development process - from beginning to end. Includes commentary from the developers and behind the scenes footage of game shows and events.
Digital Hi-res Game Map: A high resolution map of Eora's Eastern Reach. Details include locations that players will be traveling to and locations that they may be seen in future Pillars of Eternity products.
Wallpapers: High resolution and multi-monitor wallpapers of cool concept art and in-game artwork.
Ringtones: Short clips of sounds and music from Pillars of Eternity. Perfect as mobile ringtones.
... and of course it comes with the actual game itself. If you want this to be all yours, all you have to do is:
Write a piece of speculative fiction dramatizing the fateful AD&D session that put J.E. Sawyer on the path to ultimate balance.
Post your entry in the comments for this news item. Our esteemed panel of judges (the staff) will then pick a winner.
Competition closes 31st March. So get your entries in. We will accept multiple entries per person. Judges' decision will be final. The prize will be delivered in the form of a digital Steam key.
Eurogamer are on an inXile roll today. Another one of their staff members, Robert Purchese, has an article about a talk he had with Colin McComb at EGX Rezzed about Black Isle's cancelled King's Field-inspired Planescape game for the original Playstation. We've heard about the PSX Planescape game before, but I believe this is the first time we've seen direct quotations from its vision document.
Brief in hand, McComb got going. It was just him and a programmer in a small office for weeks, months even. He hadn't made a computer game before, only tabletop games, but gradually ideas began to form, and the project known as Planescape PSX was born.
He can only remember so much, nearly 20 years later, but he does manage to dig out an old vision document for me. McComb isn't sure who wrote it but seems fairly sure it wasn't him.
"The goals of Planescape PSX are to immerse the player in an interesting and stunningly distinct fully-3D gaming world; constantly provide the player with interesting and rewarding activity; and to make players feel like their characters are in a real fantasy world."
Remember, it is 1996.
"Players will find themselves in amazing places, face-to-face with creatures both bizarre and frightening, unlike anything seen before in a console [role-playing game]. Combat in Planescape will not simply be a matter of holding down the fire button and being quick to dodge. Players will be buffeted by a Githyanki's long sword as it crashes against their shield or be knocked to the ground by the mad rush of a dying Wererat."
It was going to be a first-person "running through a crypt type thing", McComb summarises - with branching dialogue! It would have real-time combat and, of course, be based in the weird and wonderful Planescape setting of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.
"Planescape PSX is, at its heart, an RPG. Players will create their characters - warriors, thieves, magicians and clerics - and take them out adventuring. Players will be able to tailor their characters to suit their own play styles ... and adventure in several districts of Sigil, the City of Doors and beyond, to Baator and the gate town of Ribcage."
You were going to be able to climb, swim, float or fly to achieve mission goals - even pass through walls. "Warriors," on the other hand, "may simply choose the direct approach and try to kick the s*** out of whatever stands in their way".
Spells and items and powers taken directly from Advanced Dungeon & Dragons would open up to you as you play.
The story would cast you as a lowly enforcer for the Harmonium, the law-people of Sigil, "the guys who believed in order and goodness and tried to keep everybody on the straight and narrow", adds McComb. Sigil is the city connecting all the multiple planes, from which the weird and wonderful come. It's a dirty and dangerous hotpot constantly close to boiling point.
You, as the Harmonium recruit, would go to break up a routine riot in the slums. It's there you'd uncover the deeper threads of a bigger conspiracy. "It turns out this conspiracy led all the way to the upper-planes and the lower-planes," adds McComb, "because there were people in the upper-planes selling weapons to keep the Blood War going.
He adds: "We realised it was total fantasy and there was no way that could ever happen in real life!"
Above all else, Planescape PSX was going to be tough.
"Unlike Doom where you get armoured up like a crab and go toe-to-toe with everything until they are all dead, things in Planescape can make you dead very easily, especially if you're unprepared. Until he knows the lay of the land the player will do more running than fighting. Exploring does not mean finding strange new places and depopulating them. It means the player will learn what he can and can not tackle, where he should and should not go and be compelled to sharpen his skills, wits, and weapons to explore the game further."
"Players will learn things the hard way in Planescape," it concludes, like a marketing slogan. "Planescape PSX will hit back."
The article also reveals that Interplay was already considering a sequel if the game did well, which would you allow you to import your character from the original. But then of course, it was cancelled, and the third Planescape game by Zeb Cook was transformed into Stonekeep 2, which was also cancelled, and Colin ended up working on the last survivor, Planescape: Torment. Oh, 90s Interplay.
Eurogamer's Wesley Yin-Poole recently had a Skype chat with Brian Fargo and Wasteland 2 lead designer Chris Keenan. In the resulting interview article, Brian and Chris speak mainly of the upcoming Wasteland 2 Game of the Year Edition, and also a little bit about Torment: Tides of Numenera and inXile's next project, Bard's Tale 4. There's a lot of good stuff here, but I'll try to quote the most interesting bits. On Wasteland 2 GOTY's graphical and gameplay improvements:
Unity 5 introduced a physically-based rendering system that simulates the way the light bounces off of materials in a more realistic way. We're getting a little technical here, but, basically, Unity 5 spreads out specular maps so glass, for example, feels different because light bounces off of it in a different way to, say, stone or brick.
InXile is going through all of its Wasteland 2 assets and modifying them to make use of this new system. "Being a top-down game you see a lot of the terrain," Keenan says. "So we're focusing on making the terrain and the ground plane and the tops of buildings and all that stuff as great as it can be.
"Every single scene is getting basically a complete treatment," Keenan says. "We're not starting from scratch, certainly, because we have a pretty good foundation to everything. But we're just going through and putting a little extra love into every scene."
InXile is also creating brand new character models, which is welcome because, well, let's just say it: they were pretty crude. The new models include new clothing options, some of which you'll see in character creation, where you can now tweak your characters' hat, face and face accessories. You might want your character to wear a gas mask, or a beard. Beards are on trend, so best get those growing.
I found Wasteland 2's combat functional at best. For all the pre-release talk of tactics, cover and planning ahead, you never had to think too hard about those things. Enemies tended to either charge at you and thus get caught up in your fire, or stay behind cover, in which case they were easily flanked. The whole thing lacked depth and nuance.
So, InXile is having a go at making combat more interesting, but it sounds like this won't be a dramatic change, more a bonus benefit of populating areas with more stuff.
"Combat is more deadly, but it's more deadly if you play the way you played before," Keenan says.
"It was a little bit easier to stand out away from cover. Some areas didn't have a huge amount of cover. We have been adding more. Even with melee enemies, the more we added cover and made them move around and have some choke points, the more interesting the combat was. It's much more about trying to get your way in, find good tactical spots around enemies. If you just do straight bum rush now, you'll get pretty beat up.
"It was something we weren't super happy with. It was a little bit easy in some areas to just stand out in cover. When it worked, it worked well. When we had the tough enemies, the ranged guys who used cover, and pushed the melee guys in between that, it felt pretty good. We've been taking that approach and amplifying it."
And on Bard's Tale 4:
"It's going to be a proper sequel to the original," Fargo says, without giving much away.
"We felt a little cheeky and we did that comedy version in 2004, and we cracked ourselves up with it. But we recognise people wanted a true sequel. And they wanted that classic dungeon crawl. I think Bard's Tale is probably as close to my heart as any game as I've ever done before. And I love this style of game."
Then some good old-fashioned Fargo hype: "I think where people will hopefully be pleasantly surprised, is just how ambitious it is. From a graphical perspective, from a musical perspective, it's going to be bigger and bolder than what people are thinking it will be."
Chris Keenan is similarly enthusiastic, but a tad more reserved.
"There's a lot of room for improvement in that genre," he says. "They aren't going to be the huge, five million sellers, so they've kind of been a little bit lost in time. There's not a big swathe of them that come out. You've had your Might & Magic 10s and your Grimrocks, but there's certainly a lot of creative freedom we can take on it."
InXile, having enjoyed success on Kickstarter with Wasteland 2 and Torment: Tides of Numenera, is hoping for a crowdfunded hattrick with a Kickstarter for The Bard's Tale 4, due to go live this summer.
I'm a little concerned. Kickstarter is in a very different place now than it was when inXile and Double Fine and all the others were raising millions a day back in 2012. At least, that's the perception. But Fargo reckons Kickstarter is still great for developers who deliver, who gamers trust.
"When I announced The Bard's Tale 4 I had more interest and people tweeting me, shut up and take my money, than I ever did on the other two," he says.
"Ultimately, on Kickstarter, going out and begging for money is not the way. Are they excited about product, and do they think you can deliver it? If you have those two things, you can continue to have success."
Fargo won't tell me anything substantial about his plans for The Bard's Tale 4, but I do know he'll dip into its development, as he did with Wasteland 2 and as he's doing with Torment. "On The Bard's Tale 4 I'm hand-picking the musicians," he says. "I've already had one of the songs written and I'm having it translated.
"I'm always involved in every level, but I'm more of a producer than a designer. My job is to get everybody thinking right and hitting the right sensibilities and making a product no one person could ever do."
Wesley also asked Brian about Wasteland 2's sales. He sounds a tad defensive about the topic, but confirms that the game has sold "in the hundreds of thousands of units". But then, we already knew that.
Although everybody might be too busy playing Pillars of Eternity to read it, this month's Torment: Tides of NumeneraKickstarter update by Kevin Saunders is quite interesting. After giving Pillars the obligatory shout-out, Kevin hands the microphone to Nathan Long, who explains in detail the team's process for designing companions, using the Aeon Priest companion Aligern as an example. Here's an excerpt:
Well, though I had the honor of developing one of the companions from scratch, more than half of them were created by our fearless leader, Colin McComb, who wrote up a series of what we are calling CDCs, Companion Design Constraint documents. CDCs are bare-bones descriptions of the characters and what role they are supposed to play in the story and the party. They are two or three pages at the most, with a paragraph each for appearance, personality, history, motivation, a few sample lines to get the feel for the character's voice, and a brief outline of their arc and how it hooks into the Last Castoff's story.
Aligern is one of the companions Colin came up with - a crusty old Aeon Priest weighed down with guilt, who uses the tattoos that cover his body to power devastating attacks and daunting defenses - and a few weeks ago Colin asked me to flesh him out and start writing the barks, banters, and dialogs that he'll have throughout the game.
My first step was to read carefully through Aligern's CDC and then expand it into a CB, otherwise known as a Companion Brief, a ten to fifteen page document that goes into more detail about Aligern's back-story, his goals and personality, and gets specific about where and when in the game the Last Castoff will meet him, at what locations his story will advance, and how many different possible endings he will have. Most of these things had been figured out in the abstract long ago, but I fleshed out the details.
Once I put together something I thought felt pretty solid, I showed it to Colin, Kevin, George, and Adam, who gave me a raft - several rafts actually - of notes, and we had a flurry of email and Skype conversations as we discussed their suggestions and the best ways to implement them.
After several revisions and reviews, Colin and the others gave me the okay to take Aligern to the next step, the Companion Design Document - or CDD for short - which I've never ever confused with the CDC or the CB. Never! (We also have ZDCs, ZBs, ZDDs for Zones and MDCs, MBs, MDDs for Meres. Is your head spinning yet?)
The CDD is a 50 to 70 page behemoth of a document where the character's back-story, personality, and story arc are finally turned into actual dialog. Within it are endless lists of situations that the character will be able to react to in the game, from the moment they first meet the Last Castoff, to battle cries, to threats, to reacting to the environment, to banter with the other companions, to moments of revelation, to moments of treachery, to leaving the party.
And normal dialog is just one way you can interact with your companions. There are also the companion's Reflections, who you can meet in the Labyrinth, and who may tell you secrets about them their real-world selves won't.
Filling in the CDD takes a while, but once it's done and reviewed to make sure I've captured Aligern's voice and kept it consistent, I move on to the last step of the process: creating Aligern's Global Dialog. Some of the companion writers, such as Chris Avellone and Patrick Rothfuss, don't continue on to the Global Dialog creation. We don’t need them to become experts at the conversation editor, and a full time designer can use their CDD to implement the dialog. (Though the original writer later does a pass on the implemented content to make sure it stayed true to their voice.)
The Global Dialog for each companion is typically a massive dialog tree, into which go the conversations that companions can have with the Last Castoff throughout the course of the game. To include the degree of reactivity we want in Torment, we decided to break up these Global Dialogs across the game’s major story points. Even so, these tend to have more than 150 nodes each (though some of these nodes are duplicates, or at least similar, throughout the game). For Aligern, these include heart-to-hearts about his story, reactions to significant events in the Last Castoff's story, reactions to things that recently happened to the party, and reactions to things the Last Castoff asked Aligern to do for him, or did to him. This dialog is where some of the deepest, meatiest, most heartfelt - and sometimes painful - conversations in the game are found.
Not included here are the samples of dialogue with Aligern that Nathan provided. He's definitely Tides of Numenera's equivalent of Dak'kon...but with more collar grabbing.
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Pillars of Eternity Released
Game News - posted by Infinitron
on Thu 26 March 2015, 19:19:27
Two and a half years of development. Almost 2000 pages of Codex discussion, full of hope and rage. Of all the fruits of Kickstarter, none has had an impact on our site like Obsidian Entertainment's spiritual successor to the Infinity Engine games, Pillars of Eternity. And today, over twelve years since the release of the last original Infinity Engine title, it's finally here. Obsidian haven't yet released any new Kickstarter update in honor of this occasion, but there is a launch trailer:
I should mention that the game is reviewing extremely well - it's clearly going to be both Obsidian and Paradox's highest rated game ever. Here's a list of all the reviews and impressions pieces we were able to find:
Hopefully, our own review won't be a long time coming. For now, let us rejoice, for the heirs of Black Isle Studios, after a decade of eking out a meager living in the shadows of BioWare and Bethesda, have finally taken their rightful place at the top of the roleplaying genre. Pillars of Eternity is now available on Steam, GOG and various other digital retailers for the price of $45.
Earlier today, Obsidian deployed the keys for Pillars of Eternity, which is now just 15 hours away, on the game's backer portal. For those who hadn't already figured that out themselves, they've published one last Kickstarter update announcing it, along with some other stuff. Here's an excerpt:
Hey, everyone. After two and a half years, we're happy that you're finally going be able to get your hands on Pillars of Eternity. It's been a great pleasure to work on a traditional PC RPG again and it wouldn't have been possible without your interest, support, and feedback. We hope that playing Pillars of Eternity gives you the same feelings you had when you played the Infinity Engine games. Many of you have told us how much these games have meant to you over the years. It's always been our goal to recapture that experience as well as we can. We've worked hard to provide you with a beautiful world to explore, flexible systems that allow you to build all the characters and parties you can dream up, and a rich story that responds to the choices you make. Nothing can replace the Infinity Engine games, but we hope Pillars of Eternity is a worthy successor to that heritage.
Thank you again for all you have done.
Kickstarter Tiers and Special Editions
Due to popular demand we have created special Kickstarter Backer editions on both Steam and GOG. These editions match the retail versions of the Hero, Champion, and Royal editions, but they come with a few extra Kickstarter goodies. When you go onto your Products page on the Backer Portal you will see which Kickstarter edition was granted to your Kickstarter tier. This was done so that people could download their rewards in multiple places.
Unfortunately, we were unable to map every tier perfectly. We have many tiers, many different combinations of add-ons, and only a few Kickstarter editions. Don't worry, though, because if your Kickstarter edition doesn't come with a reward you should be getting for your Kickstarter tier you can download it from the Backer Portal. In fact, the Backer Portal is the official way to download your rewards - we will always have them available for you on the Portal.
If you would like to see what products come with your Backer tier you can find that information by going to your Orders page on the Backer Portal. If you expand your order you can click on the "What does this include?" link to see all of your rewards associated with the order.
Documentary and Novella
As most of you know we will be releasing the documentary and the novella after we release the game. For the documentary, this was to ensure that you could view the full journey of Pillars' creation - including the release of the game and launch party, and for the novella, that it is done at the highest quality for Backers. Both of these items will not be available on the Backer Portal initially, but once they are released you will be able to download them like any other reward.
The full update has step-by-step instructions explaining how to redeem one's key, as well as some information on the Pillars of Eternity Dark Horse Collector's Guide and Prima Strategy Guide, which are now available for sale separately.
In an impromptu little publicity blitz, two Torment: Tides of Numenera interviews appeared on the Internet today. The first interview, over at GameWatcher, is a transcript of a chat with Colin McComb and Thomas Beekers which took place at the EGX Rezzed convention earlier this month. The second interview, at Polish Torment fansite Grimuar Sferowca, is a more in-depth piece featuring inXile's fourth musketeer, George Ziets, who also has a bit to say about Pillars of Eternity, Mask of the Betrayer and various other games. It's the more interesting interview by far, so that's what I'll be quoting:
Grimuar: Hello George! Thank you for finding the time to answer our questions. Using the opportunity, we’d like to congratulate you on the successful funding of your own dark corner of the Bloom! You’ve been involved in several projects lately ‒ what has been taking most of your time in the recent months? Could you tell us more about the development of the Gullet?
George Ziets: Thanks! Since May of 2014, I’ve been a full-time employee at InXile, focused almost entirely upon Torment. As Lead Area Designer, I’m designing two of our zones (the Bloom and Sagus Cliffs), overseeing the work of our other area designers, writing some dialogue, and working with the artists to develop character concepts, models, and level art. I’ve also contributed to story discussions and revisions, but the main narrative is mostly the province of our creative lead, Colin McComb.
The Gullet was a part of my initial design for the Bloom, located deep in the creature’s guts. I intended it as Torment’s version of dungeon content, focused primarily on exploration and combat. In the original Planescape: Torment, I enjoyed the catacombs sequence that followed the Buried Village (including the Drowned Nations, the various crypts, and the Nameless One’s Tomb) because it contrasted with the heavily dialogue-driven gameplay that preceded and followed it and broke up the pacing of the game. I thought that the Gullet could serve a similar purpose in the Bloom, albeit on a smaller scale. It could also provide some fun reactivity to the player’s choices earlier in the zone – for example, if your actions caused the Bloom to feed upon certain people, you might encounter them again in the depths (or an echo of them, anyway).
But when we initially prioritized our scenes for the Bloom, we realized that the main narrative of the Bloom could function without the Gullet. Since our resources are limited on Torment, the Gullet became C priority, and it appeared likely that it would be cut. Thankfully, our Kickstarter backers stepped in and changed all that.
So now the Gullet is alive and well (and satisfying disturbing, I might add). Area designer Joby Bednar and I updated my original design and expanded some elements, and Joby is currently developing the level in Unity.
You have been a Pillars of Eternity stretch goal ‒ however, we feel you haven’t had too many chances to introduce your work on the project. We remember you writing interesting stuff about Woedica, one of Eora’s deities. Could you elaborate a bit on your work on PoE?
I was involved in the early narrative and world-building work on PoE, when the team only consisted of Josh and a few other people. It was a fun phase of the project – I love world-building, and Eora (which didn’t even have a name at the time) was almost a blank slate, except for the player races, the map, the focus on souls, and a few lore elements that Josh wrote during the Kickstarter campaign.
First I came up with a bunch of deities, which made good sense to me as an initial step. (It seems like a society would use gods to represent things that are important to them, so defining the deities was a good way to get to know the people of the Dyrwood and their neighbors.) Then I wrote a lot of lore about cities, dungeons, prominent people, organizations, and important places in the region, including a detailed breakdown of Defiance Bay. I think the team has expanded the city a lot since I worked on it, but some of my neighborhoods are still present (e.g., Brackenbury, Ondra’s Gift), and it sounds like they’ve retained some of the other lore too.
In appx. March of 2013, when more people started to roll onto the project, a number of us (Josh, Chris Avellone, Eric Fenstermaker, Jorge Salgado, me) wrote up ideas for a main storyline. Then Eric and I spent a couple weeks on Skype (he was in California, I was in Ohio) synthesizing many of those ideas into an initial draft. During that time, I also assisted with some writing on their vertical slice (Dyrford), though I don’t know if any of my dialogue is still in the game.
Around May of 2013, I shifted my focus over to Torment during a lull in my PoE work, but my role on Torment quickly expanded, and InXile ultimately offered me a full-time position. That turned out to be a good fit – the only downside is that I never had a chance to do any additional work on PoE.
Read the whole thing to learn about Mask of the Betrayer's cut content, George's thoughts on "games as art", his inspirations, his favorite gaming moments, and more. Good stuff.
13 days after its underwhelming launch, TSI have thrown in the towel on the Seven Dragon Saga Kickstarter campaign. In the final Kickstarter update, company president David Klein reaffirmed that the game is not cancelled, and that another Kickstarter campaign is planned. I quote:
Over $100,000, and nearly 2,000 backers achieved and a new direction, discovered.
We’re postponing our Kickstarter campaign. No, TSI is NOT giving up on Seven Dragon Saga! Quite the contrary. We’ve done some serious reflection and come to the conclusion that we can’t create the level of RPG today that we know we’ll be able to create tomorrow.
Given its heritage, SDS needs to set a new standard for the RPG genre. Not a ‘style over substance’ AAA standard. A standard that delivers a fresh, compelling and truly satisfying RPG experience. SDS deserves no less. And that goes for you too, our wonderful, loyal supporters.
We launched this campaign at "veteran difficulty" (what some call "a high funding goal") because wanted to be sure that we would do SDS justice. We knew there would be a lot of you that remembered the classics or would appreciate our efforts to build a fresh RPG, but we underestimated how much new content we'd need to show in the middle of the campaign to engage people that were less familiar with the older games.
We'd thought we could talk about core mechanics when it is clear that you want to actually see those mechanics in action. We need to show off more than we had ready right now. There came a point where it became more tell than show.
We've had incredibly positive results from this Kickstarter. The press awareness, fan response, and community feedback has been tremendous. We're taking that feedback and what we've learned to refine our work further. We'll be coming back as soon as humanly possible, with a better, more refined Kickstarter, and some code you'll actually be able to play, along with killer videos and artwork.
Once again, we are extremely grateful for all of your encouragement and support. We will continue to follow our progress by signing up for our newsletter on our website: http://www.tsi-games.com/ and by following us on social media. This way, you can hear about our Kickstarter re-launch when it happens. And it WILL happen!
Hmmm, okay. I still say one of you should create an account on the Codex, though. We can show you the way.
The embargo on streaming gameplay from Pillars of Eternity was lifted today, and all across the Internet, gaming journalists and YouTube personalities are broadcasting footage from their press copies. By all accounts their impressions are very positive, and as the hype rises, so do the game's pre-order numbers - it's currently the fourth best-selling game on Steam. But we're not interested in hype and spoilers here. I made this newspost to tell you that Obsidian have released the second part of their Pillars of Eternity Making Of documentary. This part is mainly about the experience of Kickstarting the game, and as you can expect, it's considerably more upbeat than the first one...although there is a funny bit where Josh admits something about the campaign that a lot of our readers suspected.
In this weekend's Seven Dragon SagaKickstarter update, Paul Murray describes the nitty-gritty implementation details of the game's turn-based combat system. It's a compromise between classic action points and modern "move and attack"-type systems. I quote:
A lot of combat in games involves what you allow the characters to do each turn. There are various ways to restrict this: from the simple, “one move, one attack”, to the action points systems where everything has a cost. In Seven Dragon Saga we chose a flexible middle ground. One move, one attack, provides minimal choice for the player, while an action point system tends to favor a more static battle -- most players choose to use points to attack as often as possible, sacrificing movement.
Each turn, the character has three actions of differing size: Unique (most attacks), Standard (most movements), and Minor (quick spells and abilities). The player may substitute a smaller action for a bigger one, so a Turn could consist of two Standards and a Minor, or three Minors.
So how’s this work in detail? Spellcasting is limited to one spell per turn, so one could cast a buff spell (Standard), draw a weapon (Minor) and attack with it (Unique). Or a meleer could gut an enemy in front of him (Unique), move up to the next enemy (Standard), and mark it with a Leadership debuff (Minor). A Shadowmaster character could turn invisible (Minor), shoot an opponent with surprise (Unique) and return to invisibility (Minor).
Movements come in two forms: conventional, Running, Evasion and Mystic Leap, which use Standard actions; and fast, Flash Step and Teleport, which use Minor actions. Each provides its own tactical advantages and disadvantages. Using Flash Step, a character could move out from cover, shoot, and move back into cover in the same turn. Evasion and Leap take up the Standard action, but avoid any Opportunity Attacks. Running is the overall fastest movement.
In addition, there are limited use abilities which provide extra actions. Adrenaline gives an additional Unique, and that always desirable extra attack or spell. Mobility provides an added Standard, for more movement, or just another useful action. Quickness nets an extra Minor action.
All of this provides the player great tactical choice, while giving the game strong control over damage per turn from players and enemies. Maintaining this balance allows us to design interesting battles with an expectation of their overall duration and challenge. No one wants a fight that is both a foregone conclusion and drags things out.
Sounds pretty cool. Not sure about the names of the action size categories, though.
We already a know a bit about Seven Dragon Saga's Goals system from a pre-Kickstarter blog post on the game's website, but the latest Kickstarter update from David Shelley describes the system in far more detail, along with a cool example demonstrating its usage. I quote:
During character creation, the game asks three questions about personal motivation, and then asks the player to select a final Goal. Goals are part of the character advancement, but also method to give each character a bit more personality than a pool of abilities. Even a poorly chosen goal will not cripple a character, so the choice shouldn't be high stakes.
The first question derives from the Race of the character, asking about her youth. The second comes from the Class selected, and the third from the Specialty. Together they provide an abbreviated background for that character.
We have over a dozen Goals charted out, but expect to tweak this as we layout the different quests. Our plan is for players to get equal opportunities to choose each Goal, and that no Goal gets allied only to ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ solutions to quests.
So at creation, the player must decide how he will apportion the Goals. Will she strive to match all the characters’ Goal as closely as possible? If so, then when she reaches a solution to a quest that matches, all the characters benefit. But the long term consequences might not be what the player wishes. Also no quest has possible solutions which match every Goal, So a narrow selection of Goal removes the possibility of rewards in the majority of quests.
Let’s take a look at the two Goals in the image above: Seeker and Serenity. How might they come up and into conflict in resolving a quest? The player’s ultimate goal is securing the Dragonsteel mines and clearing a path for its long term export to the empire. The party comes upon a village in a well situated vale, overlooked by a lord’s castle. The vale appears clear of dangerous monsters, and the road in decent shape.
The town has befriended a Fire Wyrm; a tough, non-flying dragonkin, all scales and smoke, and used it to drive off monstrous threats. They have also used it to keep the lord’s tax collectors at bay, and they have no interest in obeying a distant emperor. The lord has enough troops to threaten any unilateral deal the party could make with the villagers. The castle has been a repository of old books for some time, and the lord would be happy to share its knowledge with the party, if his tax problem were solved. Possible solutions.
Assault the village, slay the Wyrm. Resulting in the villagers no longer being a problem, but the lord’s tax base destroyed. Intimidate or eliminate the lord, and access the library. The player satisfied the Seeker Goal (and probably some others). The vale is now vulnerable to monsters, bandits, etc. Villagers and nobles in the surrounding area are not going to be friendly.
Lure the Wyrm away from the village and slay it. The lord can reestablish the old status quo, and reward the party. The vale is less protected, the villagers are probably unhappy and a few get strung up. The player gets the Seeker Goal Nobles in the region are friendlier, villagers less so.
Set up a threat forcing both the villagers and the troops to join forces (lure something in). Use a bit of diplomacy to bridge the gap. The lord underestimates the party’s benefits and does not choose to reward them, but agrees to help secure the vale for the empire’s route. The player gets the Serenity goal, for minimizing the disruption to the locals.
Set the Fire Wyrm onto the castle, slay the noble. Library burns. Villagers agree to protection of the empire, lest local nobles come for vengeance. The player satisfies neither goal. However, this option could still satisfy the Goal of another character. So some Goals can be complementary, while others will commonly conflict. For instance, Thrill of Battle and Serenity are going to be uncommon bedfellows.
In the above example, we note the following: how the player enjoys playing, how the choices affect long term elements of the world, and the individual character goals all jostle for priority. Is the player most interested in random mayhem, consequences be damned, in optimizing the rewards to his characters? Or is the player interested in diplomatically shaping the world to achieve the edict from the emperor. These many opportunities to explore and experiment, should provide plenty of fun.
Nice - that quest is definitely Vault Dweller-approved. This is the sort of thing that should have been given a prominent place in the game's initial pitch.
In the first Shadowrun: Hong KongKickstarter update since the game was successfully funded last month, Mitch Gitelman provides us with another development status overview, in the same style as the one from early February when the campaign was still running. I'll quote the most interesting bits. As before, there's also an image of one of the game's companions at the end.
Mitch here again in our new office space. Thanks to your funding, we grew out of our old space and had to move into a larger room in the studio. As you can imagine, it's been a period of intense work since the Kickstarter ended. The entire team is in full production on a spectrum of cool stuff across the game so I thought it was time to pull my head out of production for a minute to give you another “peek behind the curtain” at the development process of Shadowrun: Hong Kong.
Tyler and Connor have completed their first and second passes on most of the side runs in the game, except for the crew’s personal missions. We want Andrew to get more time writing and exploring the crew before we start making those. Kevin has been busting on new Matrix gameplay for quite awhile now and all is going according to his cunning plans. Exciting stuff there. Trevor has taken a fresh look at all the spirits and drones in the game and is completing work on all our new crew abilities. He’s also driving the new interface features and updates we’re implementing.
Andrew and I have had the toughest time on the project so far. While I was managing the Kickstarter campaign, Andrew completed a detailed story outline. Once we had focused time together, we realized that our story was too complicated to tell within our time budget. We decided to step back and reassess our basic assumptions so that we didn’t end up with some sort of “Frankensteined” version of our story. When this proved to be a more time-consuming than I was comfortable with, I called in Mike McCain, the Game Director of Shadowrun: Dragonfall, to lend us his editorial perspective. I’m pleased to report that the process worked and we have a story we’re happy with. Andrew is now hard at work, happily writing dialogue and consulting with the designers on their runs. Huzzah!
Speaking of additive music, Brenton coded up the system and tested it with Jeff to make sure it works in a variety of gameplay situations. He’s working on Dragon Lines now - they’re the HK equivalent of the leylines that mages and shaman use to augment their abilities. Garret’s pounding away on new Matrix features and we’re optimistic that our revamp is going to come together well. More to say about those in a future update!
Full speed ahead!
Like I said in my last status update, the development of SR:HK isn’t going to be smooth as silk. The story iteration was frustrating for Andrew and concerning for the team but we’re happy that it’s behind us so we can move forward confident that we have the right story to tell. There are more challenges ahead, of course, but we prefer to live in the moment, trying not to worry about those. We’ve put together a great group and have fun working together. It’s a real pleasure making this game.
That's it for now. Before I go, I thought you’d like a look at how our favorite Somali dwarf decker, Is0bel, is looking.
Shame about that cut storyline. Maybe we'll learn what that was supposed to be someday. Sounds like the whole affair was a bit traumatic for the team, though. Hopefully they won't have to pester the Dragonfall guys anymore to get things done.
It looks like the guys at OtherSide want to be really sure they get the Lizardmen in Underworld Ascendant right, because they've decided to do another backer vote about their appearance, this time without color as a conflating factor. That and more in the new Kickstarter update:
A few weeks ago we started a vote on the new look of the Lizardmen. We thought our fans would definitely have a preference for either the Blue Lizardman or Green Lizardman. Well, we thought wrong! The vote came down to a literal tie, or at least close enough that no clear winner could be announced.
Thinking that maybe the colorization of the Lizardmen in the pictures was biasing folks towards one or the other, we've decided to run the vote again with the colors removed from the artwork. Let's see what happens this time! Know that in-game, the Lizardmen will likely come in all sorts of colors, so what we are going for here is really to find out which overall look our fans prefer.
Head on over to our forums and have your opinion heard. Again!
This week, Jeff and Will (or, as we like to call them, the Mad Engineers) have been busy working on something. They won't let on what it is (they like being mysterious), but they did send us this pic. All we can say is, we can't wait to adventure there!
Dreaming of Ice
Today marks the arrival of the vernal equinox in these parts. However, you’d never know it from looking outside our offices, with the ground still covered in snow and ice. The Boston area has broken snowfall records going back more than a century, with over 108 inches this winter so far. Perhaps it is a message that we should have ice caverns in Underworld Ascendant? What do you think? Feel free to post your thoughts in the Forum.
Lava levels and ice levels, ooh. I hope the ice is slippery here, too.
Obsidian's Josh Sawyer was a guest on Gregory "Arvan Eleron" Wilson's Twitch channel last night. The topic of the stream was of course the upcoming Pillars of Eternity, which is now less than a week away. Arv's interview with Josh was about 50 minutes long, with another 33 minutes in which he passed on questions from viewers. He also fired up the game's beta and took the Beetle World Tour while he was at it. Watch the archived version here:
(starts at around 14:00)
Topics covered in the interview include Josh's impressions of Kickstarter-funded gaming, his design philosophy, the game's races and classes, the graphics and UI, voice acting, and much more. The Q&A session is also worth listening to - a few Codexian questions managed to slip their way in, including one about Sensuki's favorite topic.
Admist the noise created by events such as PAX East, the imminent release of Pillars of Eternity, and (among CRPG enthusiasts) prominent Kickstarters such as Underworld Ascendent and Seven Dragon Saga, there is little chance for smaller actors in the CRPG space to get the attention they may (or may not) deserve.
Dungeons of Aledorn launched on Kickstarter earlier this month. In their pitch, developers Team 21 namedrop games like Betrayal at Krondor, Realms of Arkania: Shadows over Riva, Might & Magic, King's Bounty and Fallout. The game is described as a spiritual successor to the old-school and hardcore RPG/Dungeon Crawler masterpieces. It uses a first-person view for the exploration, and a tactical top-down view for the hexagon and turn-based combat. Just going by the name-dropping and features alone, Dungeons of Aledorn sounds like a game that should be on every RPG fan's radar, even if just discreetly blipping near the outer rim.
I sent a few questions to Team 21, and they gracefully answered them.
There seem to be environmental considerations to make in combat, such as lighting oil on fire. This was seen in Divinity: Original Sin. Are there other ways to manipulate the environment, and how prominent will this be in Aledorn?
It will be possible, for example, by using magical spells. We have spells that create solid walls, ice walls and thus are modifying the environment. Furthermore, it will also be possible to maneuver the various obstacles and props. Here, however, we go a little further in interacting with the battlefield than most games. While in most games it is necessary to destroy barriers, in our game you can jump or climb over them. While characters perform these maneuvers, the battle system will subtracts the appropriate number of action points. The system will roll the luck dice and compare it to your skill level and, if successful, the player will overcome the obstacle and land where they wanted to be. If they fail the roll, the character is probably going to fall on the ground instead, thus giving the enemy a considerable advantage.
By creating fire, you can also impact the AI. So, for example,if you have to fight a pack of wolves, you'll be able to cut them off with fire, as they would rather run away from the flames than going straight through them.
There will also be numerous items generated on the battlefield that can give advantages, and not only to the player, but the enemy too. So as you've pointed out, oil may be set on fire creating a barrier between you and the enemy. We have more to reveal on this, but can’t say too much without revealing some awesome tactics that we want the players to figure out for themselves.
You mention an emphasis on complex quests. Quests with choices and consequences, with impact on gameplay. Can you expand a little bit on this? Also, will choices throughout the game affect the possible ending outcomes? Fallout's “end slides” are very popular among Codexers – can we expect something like this?
Yes, some quests will have different endings, which then affect subsequent quests in the game. This mainly concerns the side quests. The basic main storyline is pretty much given as is, but with different ways to move to the next milestone. There are a few ways to do this, and it's the player's choice.
We're looking at karma and characters leaving a mark on the world, but they're currently only stretch goals, since such a complex feature requires a huge amount of additional work. However, we have the underlying mechanisms for this feature prepared already.
The latest Seven Dragon SagaKickstarter update offers yet another mechanics infodump from lead designer David Shelley. This one's about the Specialty system, a set of additional descriptive modifiers that characters receive in character creation which allows increased customization. I quote:
Where Race give shape to the character, innate toughness, mobility, senses, and link to the mystical; and Class defined the character’s core features; Specialty gives it a final direction. Experimenting with the three pieces is quick and fun, and generates interesting synergies. Here is an overview of the Specialties.
Deadly. Extra attacks during the encounter, extra damage, increases to the statistic used for damage, and the Mystic Leap ability to get to where you need to deal damage. Did I say damage often enough? Works well with any character you don’t want focused on support.
Tactical. Some damage support, but more importantly, it gives a character access to all the weapons in the game. Prefer your Knight to be sword and board? Make him a Tactical Knight. Want the Scout to be up close and personal with blades? Make him Tactical.
Fast. The best Mystic Leaping range of any class, lots of teleports, some extra actions to get extra movement. If you want the character to get where the enemy is weakest, or kite the slow beast, then Fast is a good choice. Shade Elves and Half Shades have an innate Flash Step, which can complement Fast, while the dragonkin races have Surefooted, meaning they ignore difficult terrain.
Priestly. This is an overall control and support Specialty. Some healing, anti-magic, harm undead, pin, leadership, a few talismans to toss around, and some good social skills make this an all-around useful choice. Priestly Soultenders get very strong heals, while Priestly Wraith Hunters have the best harm undead. A Priestly Wizard can both cast spells and cancel other magic (including breath weapons and such).
Defensive. Lots more hit points, harder to hit in combat, luckier, and the powerful deflection ability, increase the character’s survival significantly. Best with Classes using light armor, heavy armor characters still benefit.
Tough. A bit of healing, good hit points, some protection from Trauma, better statistics, and the taunt ability to guide the enemy to this more survivable character. An obvious choice with heavy armor, though hardly useless to light armor characters.
Rogue. This Specialty provides the classic thief skills of streetwise, lockpick, traps and bluff. Harder to hit, an emphasis on dexterity, leaping capability, make the character mobile. A few talismans provide some mystical firepower (think grenades, and pools). A natural to combine with the stealthy Scout, and/or the Doorwalking High Elf, it adds some style to other characters. Who says the thief need to be the squishiest? A Rogue Knight can handle both traps and ambushes while out on point.
Noble. Another leadership, evasive Specialty, with the skills of the court: seduction, socialize, politics and bureaucracy. So, in combat, better survivability, and some support feature. With diplomacy, the critical skills to thrive.
The seven elements. These seven allow any character to have proficiency to cast spells. It further allows Wizards to cast the most powerful spells, and at a longer range. Some teleport ability allows them to move about the battlefield. Weapon users can benefit from using spells to add elemental damage. See my discussion on magic for the feel of each element.
I’ve now presented a brief overview on the three main pieces of creating a character. It gives rise to many different characters, and allows customizing to varied play styles. We love the ability to experiment, and hope you will too. There is also the further synergy of putting together all six members of the team.
I’ll talk about the Goals system for each character in another update.
In the latest Seven Dragon Saga Kickstarter update, Dave Shelley offers a comprehensive listing of the game's classes. I quote:
Back in the Gold Box days, we used the AD&D system, and Classes were pretty simple and familiar to a lot of our audience (Fighter, Mage, Thief are pretty archetypal). With Seven Dragon Saga, we are starting with a pool of abilities and parceling them out into Classes and Specialties with clear concepts. I'll go over the highlights of each Class we've devised, but not list every ability and rank. As noted earlier, we are in development, so details may change and which of these make initial release is still to be determined.
About half the starting ability points come from the Classes and really set the theme of the character, so they are the combat anchor for the remaining aspects: Race and Specialty.
Legionnaire. Veterans from light units of the empire's many wars. Aware of the battlefield, and, with shield guard ability, can further reduce damage from opponents. Shield and light armor make this the hardest Class to hit. Push survival higher with the Defensive Specialty, adding deflection and luck. Or go with the Noble Specialty, for added Hit Points, some useful skills, and the ability to add Leadership bonuses to the rest of the party.
Knight. Specialist of heavy infantry units. Higher overall statistics, especially strength, extra hit points and two-handed weapon abilities. Excellent for the front lines with staying power and multiple targets, or add a speciality with extra movement, such as Fast, and send him as a missile into the heart of the enemy.
Scout. What makes the Scout unique is a very high stealth skill, and Shadowmaster, the ability to turn invisible. Scouts excel at flanking or getting behind opponents before they realize they are even there. Often sent to spot the enemy, remove pickets and guide others. Their Sniper ability improves bow use. A natural choice to add the Rogue Specialty to, and create the sneak thief. Nature Scouts become invisible casters, making them major threats.
Wizard. The classic spell slinger, and only class that can cast spells from multiple elements. Has 2nd level spells from all elements available at the start. Also has a host of knowledge skills for understanding the occult, and strange artifacts. Combine with an elemental Specialty to access up to 4th level spells, or gain more utility with a less mystical choice.
Pitfighter. Recruited, honestly or not, to perform in the pits to entertain the nobility, and the masses. Lots of hit points, aware of the battlefield, extra attack once per encounter. Good with the Fast Specialty to apply their damage to any target in the area.
Archer. An excellent sniper or deadly assassin, with massive range, ability to cover fire, and able to fall back on blades if he's pinned down. This is a damage output class, and could improve this further with the Deadly Specialty, or he could choose an elemental Specialty just to get at the spell which converts his damage to that element (fire arrows!).
Wraith Hunter. The empire has a strong dislike for the undead, and the hunters are specialized at eradicating them; somewhat similar to the D&D Paladins, without the religious link. Good hit points, strength, awareness of the battlefield, complements additional defense and the ability to Harm the undead. Increase Harm and add in Heal by matching with the Priestly Specialty. Select Death Element Specialty and add Necromantic spells to further control and destroy undead.
Soultender. A solid fighter, often using the spear to extend reach, a selfish Soultender is a hard character to bring down with her abilities to restore her own hit points. Keeping folks alive during battle is a major task, and the Healer has the two major abilities for that: Heal and Rejuvenation. Also, Physician skill for more mundane injuries, better recovery of party Fatigue and Trauma. Combine with Priestly for very high healing, some harm undead, or Nature Element to mimic a druid.
Edwin will provide more of the lore for the Classes, but you may note the number of military oriented Classes reflects the empire's martial roots. I’ll be sharing an Update on Specialties soon.
There are also a couple of new Kickstarter tiers, but eh, that doesn't mean much at this point.
TSI continues to release increasingly interesting Seven Dragon Saga Kickstarter updates. The latest one consists of a short lore video about the Touched by Edwin McRae and a treatise on tactical combat by Paul Murray and David Shelley. Here's Paul Murray's part:
Ever since my earliest days at SSI with games like Wizards Crown, I've sought to make party composition matter. With SDS I'm working to achieve that in a couple of different ways. First, the ability systems allows players to create a wide variety of characters, providing the option of creating specialists, such as front line warriors, or creating generalists who can deal with more situation. Allowing players to choose and experiment with character types, party composition and tactical strategies is a key goal. In addition, we're working on bringing tactical options to the environment, and enemy AI.
With Wizard's Crown, I was happy to make a system where putting together a shield wall with a row of long weapons behind could be an effective strategy, so party characters mattered as part of a unit, not just as a needed slot in a fixed, ideal composition. With the Gold Box games, we had a limited amount of terrain, but I was happy to see players taking advantage on what was there, anchoring lines, or positioning enemies into the perfect line for a lighting bolt bounce for double damage. Many of the strategy games I've done, such as Panzer General make terrain analysis critical.
In the video, you may have noticed the Shade Elf leap to a higher elevation level. The game is 3D, so we take height advantage into consideration. You can reach some heights by conventional movement (stairs, ramps), but others require special movements such as Mystic Leap or Teleport. Leap is an expensive ability available from a couple of Specialties, while Teleport is limited use, so each has its own flavor.
Cover matters, and we are still evaluating how best to convey valid cover to the player. Using cover on the player's part leads to a more static feel to the battle, meaning that shield or armor walls are important to shield squishier, ranged characters. Limiting the directions of approach matter, so support spells, locations of impassable and difficult terrain and aggro control come to the fore.
When an enemy chooses to stick to cover, or utilize a static defense, then character mobility and altering of terrain can be deciding factors. In the video, we see the mage turning the rock wall from cover, into a cone of damaging debris. Having the right sort of attack type to utilize this strategy turns the tables on enemies. Surefooted characters can move through difficult terrain, such as loose debris fields without penalty. So enemies counting on a flank being covered by an expanse of open, slow travel will be in for a rude surprise. Similarly, the enemy counting on a high rock to guard an approach becomes unhappy when the leapers occupy it as a sniper's nest.
So destructive terrain can have multiple uses. I covered an example of removing cover, and using destruction to induce damage, but some terrain can become difficult terrain, limiting movement in the region. I'm working with the design team on options where removing a piece of terrain can have wider effects; doing some initial tests on triggering floods. The goal is to make the terrain as dynamic and tactically interesting as practical. Sometimes its as useful as an extra party member, at other times, it multiplies the effectiveness of the enemy.
Working on multiple AI approaches to fighting the party. From the simplest, path to nearest and hit it, to more static overlapping defense, or favoring more diffuse enveloping techniques. Like the player, I want the computer to switch things up and ideally recognize valid strategies against specific party composition.
In the broader context of the adventuring zones, I want party order and relative position to matter. Having a picket well out front is an approach with advantages and disadvantages. That character lacks support, but if she is both perceptive and sneaky, she can allow the party to evaluate enemies before the enemies realize. Cautious parties may be able to navigate around, while aggressive players can position themselves for optimal use of a surprise round. Pickets can also be caught out, without cover, and go down before others can react.
Other aspects of party order can involve whether to position a line of heavies in front of lighter characters, or keep one to the back of the party. How far to string the party out is another consideration. In short, I want tactical considerations to suffuse as much of the system as we can.
They have this stuff pretty well thought out. It'll be good for their next Kickstarter campaign if they can figure out how to present it properly.
StarCrawlers, a rare Sci-Fi blobber successfully funded on KickStarter a year ago has finally crawled its way to Steam Early access, complete with a launch trailer, non-vaporware gameplay and a development plan:
Why Early Access?
“Early Access is a great opportunity to continue creating new content for StarCrawlers while refining and improving based on your feedback. There’s a ton of abilities, enemies & missions already - we’re excited to show you what we’ve accomplished so far and work with the community to take it to the next level!”
Approximately how long will this game be in Early Access?
“We will be in early access for about 6 months, during which time we’ll be focusing on creating new content (additional missions, events, random encounters, environments and loot) to make the StarCrawlers universe even more dynamic, interactive, and fun to explore.”
How is the full version planned to differ from the Early Access version?
“For full release, we plan to not only complete integration of the main campaign, but also add additional abilities, enemies, environments, and tons of random events and traps to encounter. Based on player feedback during Early Access, we will be refining the balance between class abilities, enemy power and game difficulty. Also loot. Lots of loot.”
What is the current state of the Early Access version?
“StarCrawlers has been in development for over a year and we’re proud of the stability and fun of the current beta experience. The prologue of the main campaign is fully playable alongside infinitely generated side missions. As the beta progress, we will be introducing additional campaign chapters in sequential updates. We’re committed to updating the beta frequently, not only to resolve any issues that crop up for our beta testers but to add lots of new content to explore.”
Will the game be priced differently during and after Early Access?
“Final pricing has yet to be determined, but it will not be lower than the Early Access price.”
How are you planning on involving the Community in your development process?
“The Early Access community will be vital in helping us to balance the game and to bring a higher degree of polish to the StarCrawlers experience. We’re already building a vibrant community on the Steam forums, and everyone is invited to post feedback, email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact us via twitter @juggernaut_news at anytime. We’re crushing bugs and making gameplay tweaks based on user feedback - jump in!”
As of now, the game is still quite bare-bone, as could be expected from an Early Access game, however, each update has added loads of noticeable improvements and additions to the game, and seems to be shaping up rather well. Procedural map and mission generation, distinct classes and homicidal robots are certainly a welcome addition to the blobbing family. It's also being sold at 25% off the "full" price until March 24th.