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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?

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RPG Codex Report: Gamescom 2016 - Expeditions: Viking, Tyranny, Space Hulk: Deathwing, Styx and more

Editorial - posted by Bubbles on Thu 22 September 2016, 16:02:42

Tags: Brian Heins; Cyanide; Daedalic Entertainment; Expeditions: Viking; Focus Home Interactive; Gamescom 2016; Logic Artists; Masquerada; Mimimi Productions; Obsidian Entertainment; Shadow Tactics; Silence: The Whispered World 2; Space Hulk: Deathwing; State of Mind; Streum on Studio; Styx: Shards of Darkness; The Long Journey Home; Tyranny; Witching Hour Studios

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Our Gamescom coverage continues at its customary breakneck pace. In this instalment we're covering Expeditions: Viking by Logic Artists as well as Obsidian's latest masterpiece Tyranny, the Asian Kickstarter sensation Masquerada by Witching Hour Studios, four games by Daedalic (Silence, State of Mind, The Long Journey Home, and Shadow Tactics), and finally Streum on Studio's Space Hulk: Deathwing and Cyanide's Styx: Shards of Darkness. All in a day's work.

Here are a few appetizers from the full, XXL-sized report:

...Overall, I'm quite happy with the current state of the combat in Expeditions: Viking; it still seems to need a fair bit of balance and AI work, and many of the active combat abilities still have to be implemented, but even in this early state it already feels genuinely fun and tactical to play.

... Unfortunately, our [Tyranny] session didn't feature any dialogue or c&c at all; instead, we spent a few minutes discussing the new spellcrafting mechanics before launching into a short dungeon delve where we got to experience various puzzles, fought lots and lots of mobs, and had a big boss battle... The overall experience reminded me quite strongly of the boss battles in Aarklash: Legacy.

... Remember how I said Masquerada was not my type of game because it's too linear and doesn't have much interactivity? Well, at least Masquerada is still a game. [Silence] is a barely interactive movie, and from the hands-on I played of it, my impression is that it would actually be better off as a movie.

...The auteur was Martin Ganteföhr and the masterpiece-to-be is his new sci-fi adventure game State of Mind. You might be familiar with Ganteföhr from his previous work, which includes beloved classics like The Mystery of the Druids, The Moment of Silence, and Overclocked. Ganteföhr began his presentation with an extensive introduction to the life and work of Ray Kurzweil, the visionary author of “The Singularity Is Near” and “Transcend: Nine Steps to Living Well Forever”...

... In short, The Long Journey Home looks to be a fun, if somewhat casual Space RPG/Roguelike with a few interesting mechanics; I'm definitely going to play it.

... Shadow Tactics is being pitched as a “modern take” on the real time tactics genre, in the vein of the old Commandos and Desperados titles...

...At its core, Deathwing is a game where you blast hordes of enemies into tiny pieces with your squad of heavily armoured Space Marines. Your characters have access to a vast range of Warhammer-based weaponry, from heavy flamers to miniguns, as well as an array of powerful psychic abilities. You equip your crew, send them to one of the many derelict “Space Hulk” vessels drifting through space, and then you start blowing up swarms of Tyranid Genestealers. There is some sort of storyline attached to all the killing and maiming, but it doesn't seem particularly important to the gameplay.

...[Styx: Shards of Darkness] is even simpler to describe: it's a direct sequel to Styx: Master of Shadows, featuring the same methodical third person stealth gameplay as the first title.​

The full article includes a variety of hideous selfies, a highly awkward interview centered around an amateur fantasy novelist from Thailand, and a lengthy rant about Tyranny's UI design. In other words, it's a typical Codex piece.

There are 67 comments on RPG Codex Report: Gamescom 2016 - Expeditions: Viking, Tyranny, Space Hulk: Deathwing, Styx and more

Tue 27 September 2016
Underworld Ascendant Update #29: Bestiary Design Principles

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 27 September 2016, 18:41:32

Tags: OtherSide Entertainment; Underworld Ascendant

The folks at OtherSide Entertainment continue to work on the Underworld Ascendant pre-alpha Vertical Slice release, which increasingly looks like it's not going to be out before the end of the year. The game's latest monthly update has some news on what they've been up to recently, plus a short treatise on the design principles of its bestiary, which is appropriately systemic and hierarchical:

As mentioned before, we're holding off on showing our work on the Underworld Ascendant Vertical Slice until its far along and polished. In the meantime, we thought you'd be interested in a peek under the hood at the design work involved.

When you interact with a denizen of The Stygian Abyss in Underworld Ascendant, you're encountering many hours of work involved in bringing it to life... Modeling, animation, AI, and -- what we'll cover a bit today -- a core set of underlying design principles that dictate its role in the game.

The inhabitants come in three main forms:
  • CATALYSTS - Beings who possess robust behaviors, advanced combat tactics, and, if intelligent, can converse, trade, or engage with the player. (Ex: The Lizard Men.)
  • CONFOUNDERS - Creatures who enhance or detract in combat, like The Wailing Haunt or Lich, or act as environmental hazards, like The Ripper or Lurker.
  • COLLABORATORS - Inhabitants with useful behaviors that the player can exploit, like the Earth Clot, a bulky, gelatinous mass that can be prodded down hallways to break traps or act as cover.
One of the core design principles of Underworld Ascendant is to educate the player about the rules of the simulated dungeon world without overt hand-holding. The goal of "teaching players to teach themselves" underlies the game's level design, narrative, and even the combat design.

For instance, there are four tiers of CATALYSTS, whose roles in combat...
  • TIER 1 - Teach the player the basic moves & skills of the CATALYST.
  • TIER 2 - Make sure the player is paying attention
  • TIER 3 - Challenge the player.
  • TIER 4 - Provide a fight to remember.
In the Vertical Slice, the player will not only face creatures from each category, he/she will find that a mix or an entrant from a higher tier can make for a much different encounter.

Next month, we'll give a fresh behind-the-scenes peek at the making of the Underworld Ascendant Vertical Slice. This time, about the game narrative...​

The update also has a list of the new personnel OtherSide have hired over the past few months, two of which are QA guys. Ascendant might not be coming out anytime soon, but it doesn't appear to be due to lack of funding.

There are 0 comments on Underworld Ascendant Update #29: Bestiary Design Principles

Mon 26 September 2016
Torment Fan Q&A Video #2

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Mon 26 September 2016, 22:09:48

Tags: Colin McComb; Gavin Jurgens-Fyhrie; InXile Entertainment; Torment: Tides of Numenera

inXile have published their second Torment: Tides of Numenera Q&A video featuring Colin McComb and Gavin Jurgens-Fyhrie. This time, Colin and Gavin answer questions about the Meres that were removed from the game's introduction, the possibilities for conflict with companions, the nature of the game's timed quests, the visual customizability of the Last Castoff, and a couple of other things.


And that's it - this is the final video in the series. I guess they didn't get very many questions.

There are 4 comments on Torment Fan Q&A Video #2

Sun 25 September 2016
Colin McComb on Character and Narrative Design in Torment at EGX 2016

Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Sun 25 September 2016, 17:08:44

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

Colin McComb is at the annual EGX trade fair in Birmingham this year, where he just finished giving a half hour talk about Torment: Tides of Numenera. It was a two part presentation. The first half was about inXile's philosophy for characterization of NPCs, and the second was about their process for narrative, quest and area design, using several backer NPCs from Sagus Cliffs as an example. Along the way, he made reference to concepts such as Maslow's hierarchy of needs and the GNS (Genital Naming System). Yes, it was that kind of talk. Watch it here:


There's a brief five minute Q&A session at the end, but nothing much of interest comes up there other than a welcome confirmation that all of the Cyphers in the game are hand-placed with no randomization.

There are 3 comments on Colin McComb on Character and Narrative Design in Torment at EGX 2016

Fri 23 September 2016
Stellar Tactics Released on Steam Early Access

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 23 September 2016, 23:36:42

Tags: Maverick Games; Stellar Tactics

Remember Stellar Tactics, the ambitious-looking turn-based sci-fi sandbox RPG by Arcanum producer Don Wilkins that was on Kickstarter back in April? Even though the Kickstarter campaign was a failure, Don kept on working on the game with the aim of releasing it on Steam Early Access...which is what he did today. Here's its launch trailer and an excerpt from the Early Access FAQ:



Approximately how long will this game be in Early Access?

“I'm not sure. I am committed to making this a great game and much will depend on your feedback and support. I'll be adding content constantly over the coming months, tuning game play based on feedback and implementing features listed in the Stellar Tactics Roadmap, posted in the discussion forums.”

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

“The final version of the game will open up tens of thousands of systems to explore, space combat and more. I'd like to add the following features over the coming months:

• Access to 10,000 sectors
• space combat
• the ability to trade commodities across the universe
• dynamic mission and faction warfare generator
• complete perk system
• device system
• faction system
• crafting system
• repair system
• planetary mining
• access to all ships and upgrades
• additional hand crafted story content”

What is the current state of the Early Access version?

“The Early Access version of the game is fully playable and contains the entire beginning story-line and all supporting features. It will give players a good idea of what they can expect from the full version of the game when it's released. I will be adding new content regularly over the course of Early Access.”

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

“Stellar Tactics price may go up, down or stay the same during and after Early Access. I'm not expecting to change the price, but it is possible.”​

If you'd like to join in, the Stellar Tactics Early Access build is available on Steam for $20. For more information, be sure to check out the game's detailed official website.

There are 6 comments on Stellar Tactics Released on Steam Early Access


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Tyranny Spellcrafting and Dungeon Crawl Stream

Preview - posted by Infinitron on Fri 23 September 2016, 22:50:56

Tags: Brian Heins; Mikey Dowling; Nick Carver; Obsidian Entertainment; Paradox Interactive; Tyranny

Obsidian broadcasted some Tyranny gameplay on Paradox's Twitch channel yesterday, in a livestream hosted by game director Brian Heins, systems designer Nick Carver and community manager Mikey Dowling. The stream was pretty much an extended look at what game journalists (including our own Bubbles and JarlFrank) got to see at Gamescom last month. After fiddling with the spellcrafting system a bit, Brian, Nick and Mikey embarked on a lengthy crawl into the Oldwalls dungeon, fighting numerous Banes, collecting various artifacts and solving minor puzzles. Unlike Gamescom however, they were playing the game on Hard difficulty, which led to several companion knockouts during the harder battles and a total party wipe against the dungeon's final boss. Paradox uploaded a video of the stream to their YouTube channel today, so you can see for yourself:


As they played the game, Brian answered various questions from Twitch chat. Unfortunately there's still no answer to the most important question of when the release date is, but he did say they're doing another stream in two weeks, so maybe it won't be long now.

There are 17 comments on Tyranny Spellcrafting and Dungeon Crawl Stream

Dungeon Rats FAQ and Screenshots

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 23 September 2016, 16:06:01

Tags: Dungeon Rats; Iron Tower Studios; Vault Dweller

Over at the Iron Tower forums, Vault Dweller has posted a detailed FAQ for his recently announced party-based combat crawler, Dungeon Rats. Since the game is supposed to come out very soon and I doubt there will be many fancy development updates, I figured I might as well post it as news:

What kind of game is it?
Dungeon Rats is a turn-based, party-based RPG focused almost exclusively on combat for players who like turn-based combat in general and AoD combat in particular. So if you like challenging turn-based combat built around trade-offs and featuring different attack types, alchemy, and tons of stats and modifiers, this game might be for you. If not...

Price & length?

$8.99; 50 fights in total; about 10 hours if you know what you’re doing, much longer if you don’t (i.e. a new player).

Release date?

Anywhere from late Oct to mid Nov. The game is almost ready: fully playable from start to finish, all the content is in, we need 5-6 weeks for polishing and extra art assets (missing portraits, ending slides art, etc).

Why this game? Why not another game like AoD?

Our next full scale RPG is the “colony ship game”, currently in pre-production, which means designing the systems, fleshing out the setting and locations, and defining these locations visually. Basically, we can’t start working on it until we have the “blueprints” to follow.

This gave us a year (10 months development cycle, 2 months of post release support) to put together a combat game using the AoD engine, systems, and assets. Doing anything else (new engine, different systems, non-combat aspects, etc) would have easily doubled or tripled the development time. Considering that party-based combat was the most requested feature, we built a game around it, giving you something different instead of going for more of the same.

Difficulty levels?

At lower difficulty levels your enemies get a THC (to-hit chance) penalty (30% on Easy, 15% on Normal, no penalty on Hard), which makes it harder to hit you and greatly increases your party’s life expectancy. THC also affects the combat AI, so your enemies won’t be using fancier attacks against you.

Party mechanics?

Your Charisma will determine how many people you can recruit: min 1, max 3, so your party size will range from 2 to 4. Not everyone will be eager to join you; some NPCs will require convincing (Charisma checks). You will have full control over your party members once they join your party. All skill points you earn will be divided between the party members, so a bigger party will level up more slowly.

Can I make my own party?

No. You will create your own character and recruit other convicts. Party members are a resource much like gear and skill points. You acquire it slowly, swapping one party member for another or replacing fallen brethren when an opportunity comes up. This approach fits both the prison setting and Charisma-driven setup. Keep in mind that losing party members is normal on Hard.

Solo Mode? Ironman?

You can select Ironman and/or Solo mode when you start a new game. If you choose the Solo mode your CHA will be lowered to 2 to give you two extra and much needed stat points. You won’t be able to recruit any companions.

Do I need to buy or play AoD first?

No. It’s a stand-alone game that takes place before the events in AoD. However, some comments and stories will make more sense to those who played AoD a couple of times.

Is there a story?

There is the story of your escape and the prison’s hierarchy. There is also a background story that began long before you were imprisoned. That story and its conclusion will expand the lore of the gameworld.

Dialogues? Text adventures?

There are many talkative characters; each fight has a text intro, so you aren’t just moving from one fight to the next; there is quite a bit of exploration with text-adventure elements and stat-checks.

Whom are we fighting?

Various prisoners (unaffiliated convicts, gang members – we have three gangs running the prison and their overlord who calls himself the Emperor), prison guards, legionaries sent to clean up the mess, which started long before you arrived, mechanical constructs, and various oversized local flora and fauna.

New loot?

20 new items (weapons, armor, misc).
Vault Dweller is answering additional questions in the FAQ's thread (although of course you can also ask him questions here). He's also created a screenshot thread showcasing various interesting scenes from the game, so check that out too.

There are 0 comments on Dungeon Rats FAQ and Screenshots

Torment Fan Q&A Video #1

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 23 September 2016, 15:43:46

Tags: Brian Fargo; Colin McComb; Gavin Jurgens-Fyhrie; InXile Entertainment; Torment: Tides of Numenera

A couple of weeks or so ago, inXile asked fans on Twitter and Facebook to provide questions about Torment: Tides of Numenera for a future Q&A session. Yesterday, they released the first in a new series of videos where they'll be answering some of those questions, featuring Colin McComb and Gavin Jurgens-Fyhrie (who has somehow managed to rise to the rank of senior writer without ever appearing on video, until now). Topics addressed include the utility of the Tidal affinities and skills, the nature of the Changing God, the design of the backers NPCs and more.


I guess this is the sort of stuff they'll be doing until the game is released. If you'd like to hear more about Torment, Gamereactor's Gamescom interviews with Brian Fargo and Colin McComb (which they were a bit late to come out with) are worth checking out, particularly the former which also has some thoughts from Fargo about inXile's future.

There are 1 comments on Torment Fan Q&A Video #1

Tyranny Dev Diary Video #2: Artistry in the Game

Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Fri 23 September 2016, 00:31:10

Tags: Brian Heins; Brian Menze; Feargus Urquhart; Justin Bell; Matthew Singh; Obsidian Entertainment; Paradox Interactive; Tyranny

Tyranny was supposed to have a dev diary blog update yesterday, but it looks like Obsidian and Paradox have decided to skip that in favor of other things. Earlier today, Paradox published the second episode in the series of Tyranny dev diary videos that they've produced. It's all about the game's artistic aspects: environmental design, character design, character animations and music. There's lots of interesting snippets of gameplay footage here, including a look at a new companion - Sirin, the sixteen year old Archon of Song, who was briefly mentioned in an interview last month. So that's six confirmed companions now.


Obsidian will also be broadcasting some Tyranny gameplay on Paradox's Twitch channel later today, at 4:00PM PDT/1:00AM CEST, so stay tuned.

There are 31 comments on Tyranny Dev Diary Video #2: Artistry in the Game

Thu 22 September 2016
Sorcery! and The Warlock of Firetop Mountain classic gamebook adaptations now available on Steam

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 22 September 2016, 21:01:21

Tags: inkle; Sorcery!; The Warlock of Firetop Mountain; Tin Man Games

The Fighting Fantasy series was a line of choose-your-own-adventure roleplaying gamebooks created by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone that was quite popular in the 1980s and early 1990s. Probably the most famous among them were Jackson's Sorcery! books, a self-contained four-part series designed for an older audience that featured more complex mechanics and strong continuity.

Over the past few years, a game development studio called inkle has been releasing videogame adaptations of the Sorcery! books which have been quite well-received. They started out on mobile, but this year began releasing them on PC as well. The first two Sorcery! books, The Shamutanti Hills and Kharé - Cityport of Traps, were released together on Steam in February and the third, The Seven Serpents, was released in April. Today, they released their adaptation of the fourth and final book in the series, The Crown of Kings. The price tag on each part is $10, with a hefty 40% discount on Crown of Kings until next week. You may be able to get it for even cheaper in this bundle if you already own some of the others. Here's its official trailer:


inkle aren't the only studio who have been working on Fighting Fantasy adaptations. Late last month, Tin Man Games released their adaptation of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, the first book in the series, after a successful Kickstarter campaign last year. It's a different take on the formula, with a more fleshed out combat model and an accordingly higher price of $20. Here's its trailer:


Warlock has been well-received on our forums and is worth checking out. Tin Man Games have also released adaptations of several other lesser-known Fighting Fantasy gamebooks over the years, but I can't vouch for their quality.

There are 4 comments on Sorcery! and The Warlock of Firetop Mountain classic gamebook adaptations now available on Steam

Sun 18 September 2016
RPG Codex Review: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Review - posted by Crooked Bee on Sun 18 September 2016, 15:07:42

Tags: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided; Eidos Montreal

Ion Storm's Deus Ex belongs to the Codex's all-time beloved classics, and even the 2011 Deus Ex: Human Revolution earned a place in our Top 75 RPG list. This year, Eidos Montreal released a sequel to Human Revolution, called Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, set two years after that game's events. Does it improve on or at least match the level of quality of its predecessor, or is it more of a mixed bag?

According to esteemed community member TNO, it is unfortunately the latter. Here are a few excerpts from his review:

One of the dividends of increasing technology is the mission environments in Mankind Divided have generally gotten bigger, and so they more closely approach the near-perfection of the original Deus Ex. Pallisade Bank is perhaps the best example: huge, multi-level with executive offices, lobby, vaults, connected with a labyrinth of hidden and not-so-hidden passages with lots of points of entry and egress, and similarly lots of things to uncover and find (it also benefits synergistically from being an interesting concept: a data-bank and vault for information that generally lies beyond national jurisdiction). Generally the median level of Mankind Divided approaches the most 'open' levels of Human Revolution (e.g. Hengsha Docks, Court gardens), and this move in mission design is to be warmly welcomed, although the continued reliance on air-ducts and ventilation systems for many of these alternative routes does give a blemish.

Mankind Divided has moved steadily more towards 'open world' principles too. Probably 70% or so of the game content is off the critical path, and a Codex Let's Player managed to finish the game in around 4 hours by ignoring it. They probably missed out: the 'side-quest' content is very good, covering a good mix of police procedural and espionage: a murder mystery plot is one highlight, the player's tracking down of a 'black market media' organization that threatens to blow cover of another group another, and piecing together the backstory behind a new, highly (but selectively) lethal recreational drug the same. [...]

Perhaps the most noteworthy innovation in Mankind Divided is in the field of avarice. Much of the utterly rubbish microtransaction and monetization typically in the ambit of low-rent mobile games come out in force. There's the wholly indefensible shop where you can pay real money to buy Praxis kits for your character, the entirely unnecessary and tacked on breach mode with semi-randomized rewards and microtransactions galore, the stupid mobile app integration, and the pre-order and extra item DLCs. These are all mercifully unnecessary and can be ignored during the course of the game, but they represent the early signs of metastasis of pay-to-win and monetization to single player games where they were heretofore mercifully absent. Would that the radioactive criticism the developers have received from all quarters put this cancerous development firmly in remission. [...]

The player generally expects plot arcs to have a resolution, and for characters to develop during the course of the story: subverting these expectations in the narrative can work well, and can be a fop to verisimilitude: in real life, people's characters do not always develop in step with some grander narrative, and you don't always get all the answers. Do it too much, though, and the player suspects you are not even trying (or, worse, hope to spin things out for sequels and DLC). Mankind Divided falls into the latter category. It is actually slightly worse than a hypothetical Deus Ex that stopped after UNATCO: at least in that you have learned something. In Mankind Divided, although you solve the initial case, the bulk of the narrative interest is in the underlying actions of the players 'behind the scenes', and this plot merely treads water: Adam Jensen (and you) haven't really learned anything about the world that you didn't already know at the start.

Conclusion: Not enough steps forward, a few steps back

Mankind Divided is so near and yet so far. Its elements mostly build upon the strong foundations of Human Revolution, but occasionally they retreat back from earlier triumphs, and leave some major flaws uncorrected. It is cleverly written but with a few too many mis-steps, and a central lacuna around the player character himself. At its best, the strengths of the game combine harmoniously to produce one of the best opening thirds in computer gaming; the fatal weakness is that it is no more than an opening third, and the game ends on a deeply imperfect cadence with too many themes undeveloped, leave alone resolved.

The game indicates considerable talent, and the writing team know their craft well. My hope is that the impressive story Mankind Divided intimates has been mostly written, and that subsequent additions to the franchise will adroitly fulfill the undoubted promise manifest here. Yet these games do not yet exist, and thus Mankind Divided remains a promissory note for a series of games which in combination may form a masterpiece. Unless and until that happens, this opening act, despite its qualities, cannot justify its own purchase.​

These excerpts do not, however, do justice to everything that the review talks about, so be sure to read it in full: RPG Codex Review: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

(Warning: the review contains some mild spoilers.)

There are 30 comments on RPG Codex Review: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Fri 16 September 2016
Dungeon Rats, Iron Tower Studio's Age of Decadence dungeon crawler, officially announced

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 16 September 2016, 02:38:09

Tags: Dungeon Rats; Iron Tower Studios; Vault Dweller

We've known that Iron Tower Studio have had plans to develop a party-based dungeon crawler set in the world of The Age of Decadence for a long time. Vault Dweller revealed some information about it in AoD's two post-release updates last year, and in June he revealed that it was planned for an October release, but compared to what we know about the Colony Ship RPG, details have been quite sparse. Until today, that is, when he published a news update on AoD's Steam community hub officially announcing it. The game's title: Dungeon Rats. Its official website was unveiled several hours later, with more details and a collection of screenshots:

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[​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

Your adventure starts in the dusty shadows of a prison mine many leagues from any trading post or settlement. The 'Second Chance' (as in your second chance to become a productive member of society) is the most feared of all ‘hard labor’ and ‘gladiator camp’ prisons. Once the jewel in a string of rich iron mines, the shafts were long ago exhausted and the ore spent. No longer profitable using conventional slave labor, the prisoners who work it now trade whatever ore they can scratch from the rock for scraps of food.

Having already tested the futility of fighting the guards, you do not resist when you are hurled into a cage suspended above the main shaft. The barred door crashes shut, the crack of a whip signals a pair of slaves to the crank, and the cage begins its slow and creaking descent. A one way trip to hell awaits, past bright fires, screaming faces, and beyond, into the impenetrable blackness of the lower levels.

Dungeon Rats, named after the 7th Heavy Armored Division of the Imperial Guards, is a turn-based, party-based dungeon crawler set in the same world as Age of Decadence. This is an RPG focused almost exclusively on squad level tactical combat for players who enjoy turn-based games in general, and AoD's combat systems in particular. If fighting your way out of a prison mine - and frequently dying in the attempt - is your idea of a good time, you've come to the right place.

Starting out as a new prisoner at the bottom of the gangs-ruled prison hierarchy, and of the prison itself, you must fight to survive and develop your combat skills, acquiring better weapons and equipment as you go. Recruit allies to your struggle or carry on as a lone wolf, and kill anyone foolish enough to stand in your way.

Features include:
  • Tactical combat system, including standard attacks, aimed attacks targeting specific body parts, and per-weapon special attacks such as Whirlwind and Impale.
  • Detailed crafting and alchemy systems: forge your own weapons, brew potions and poisons, experiment with Liquid Fire and Black Powder.
  • 8 weapon types: Daggers, Swords, Axes, Hammers, Spears, Bows, Crossbows, and Throwing Weapons, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
  • Fully customizable main character, as well as 10 possible companions, not all of them human (maximum party size is 4).
  • 50 challenging fights
Notable changes from the Age of Decadence:
  • Party-based - the most frequently requested feature.
  • Flanking and other strategic bonuses. Positioning matters a lot.
  • Manual placement of your characters before a fight.
  • Charisma determines the number and quality of your party members.
  • Skill points are split between the party members: more people means fewer skills points per person and slower level ups.
  • New weapons, armor, and creatures.
  • 3 difficulty levels: Nice Guy, Tough Bastard, Murderous Psychopath
According to Vault Dweller, Dungeon Rats is still tentatively scheduled for release next month, and definitely no later than November. After all of the RPGs that have been delayed this year, that's welcome news.

There are 304 comments on Dungeon Rats, Iron Tower Studio's Age of Decadence dungeon crawler, officially announced

Thu 15 September 2016
South Park: The Fractured But Whole delayed to Q1 2017

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 15 September 2016, 22:51:36

Tags: South Park: The Fractured But Whole; Ubisoft

In a brief notice on the game's official website, Ubisoft inform us that their in-house sequel to South Park: The Stick of Truth, South Park: The Fractured But Whole, has been delayed to next year:

South Park: The Fractured But Whole will now launch on Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC, calendar Q1 2017. The development team wants to make sure the game experience meets the high expectations of fans and the additional time will help them achieve this goal.
Yet another game stricken off the list of RPGOTY 2016 candidates. Sad!

There are 6 comments on South Park: The Fractured But Whole delayed to Q1 2017

Divinity: Original Sin 2 Released on Steam Early Access

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 15 September 2016, 19:39:02

Tags: Divinity: Original Sin 2; Larian Studios

After its release to Kickstarter backers yesterday, the Divinity: Original Sin 2 Early Access build is now available to the general population on Steam. Here's its launch trailer and Early Access FAQ:



Why Early Access?

“Early Access gives you the chance to support the development of Divinity: Original Sin 2. You'll get immediate access to Act 1 which currently contains around 8-12 hours of the game as well as the PvP Arena mode. You will receive the full game upon release.

Be aware that there are still some rough edges and that certain features are missing. Bugs will be fixed, performance will be improved, and new features and improvements will be added regularly during the next months.

If you want a full, polished experience, we advise you to wait until release. It only makes sense to play an Early Access game if, for instance, you want to support the development of the game, you want to help development with your feedback or if you want to get a taste of things to come.”

Approximately how long will this game be in Early Access?

“We plan to release the full game later next year, 2017.”

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

“The full version will have a full campaign, more maps for the PvP Arena mode, a brand new Game Master Mode, more difficulty modes and generally more content: new origin stories, a new playable Undead race, new skill schools and other new features. The editor we used to make the game will also be released.”

What is the current state of the Early Access version?

“The Early Access version currently contains: Act 1 of the main story campaign with 8-12 hours of gameplay, playable both in single-player and 2-player, 3-player or 4-player co-op; 2 difficulty modes: Classic and Explorer; 4 playable races (one more to come); 4 origin stories (more to be added); 8 skill schools; a new PvP Arena Mode with 6 maps.

We will be updating the game regularly. It's important to know that during Early Access, savegame compatibility between versions may not always be guaranteed.”

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

“The price will not be increased upon release. All Early Access versions will be automatically be updated to full versions.”

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

“Like with the first Divinity: Original Sin, your feedback is essential for us to make the game better, so we'd love to hear from you. Let us know what you think of the balancing, what bugs you encountered, what you think could be improved and what adventures you experienced. The more you tell us, the better we can make Divinity: Original Sin 2!”
Early impressions of Divinity: Original Sin 2 have been positive, unless you're triggered by third person dialogue options. If you weren't a backer, you can grab the game on Steam now for $45, with a release on GOG's "Games in Development" program expected next month.

There are 4 comments on Divinity: Original Sin 2 Released on Steam Early Access

Wed 14 September 2016
Divinity: Original Sin 2 Kickstarter Update #29: Early Access Released to Kickstarter Backers

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 14 September 2016, 19:30:20

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

As promised in last week's Kickstarter update, Larian broadcasted a three hour Divinity: Original Sin 2 gameplay/Q&A stream on their Twitch channel today, a day ahead of the game's Early Access release. At the very end of the stream, Swen had a very nice surprise: the Early Access release is available to Kickstarter backers, right now. The new Kickstarter update has the details:


What is ‘Early Access’ Anyway?

Just to remind you all - this is an early access version of the game. It’s to make sure we’re going down the right path, to let you test a lot of the dialogs and systems that we’re working on.

Early Access includes two sections of the game: Act 1 of the campaign, and the PvP arena.

Act 1 gives you the chance to explore (and escape) Fort Joy, a camp where the Magisters bring Sourcerers to make sure they are not a threat to society, and the surrounding swamps.

The PvP arena is where you can battle your friends (or strangers) online or over LAN. There are a range of maps and two game types to get you going so you can enjoy combat with high-level characters and skills.

We’ll have our notebooks ready, so please let us know what you think on our forums!

Streams

Of course, not everyone will be able to claim their Steam key right now. If you’re not able to get the game just yet, but want to keep the hype as high as possible, then we’ve got you covered.

Over the next three days we’ll be showing off the game with some of our favourite youtubers - kicking off with Angry Joe at 2pm PT (22:00 Berlin / 9pm London). Keep an eye on Twitter and Facebook for more information!
Those of you who pledged to our Divinity: Original Sin 2 fundraiser last year should be set up with an account on the Larian Vault, just like a regular Kickstarter backer. If you also pledged to the Kickstarter directly, you may be able to merge your pledges and optionally upgrade to a higher tier. For details and support on that, please contact Angthoron.

There are 52 comments on Divinity: Original Sin 2 Kickstarter Update #29: Early Access Released to Kickstarter Backers

Avadon 3: The Warborn Released

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 14 September 2016, 19:11:48

Tags: Avadon 3: The Warborn; Jeff Vogel; Spiderweb Software

Today sees the release of Avadon 3: The Warborn, the final chapter of Jeff Vogel's Avadon trilogy. The first two Avadon games were not very well-received on the Codex. The series as a whole is regarded as an ill-considered attempt to pander to the "BioWare audience", a serious decline in quality after the imaginative Geneforge series. When Jeff officially announced Avadon 3 back in May, he also took the time to post his thoughts about the Avadon series as a whole. Since we've already seen the game's trailer and description, I thought I'd quote some of that here:

What Is Avadon About?

If you want the basic facts of the story, they are on the main game page, and I'm tired of rewriting it. (This is the sort of disciplined approach to PR that has enable me to maintain decades of consistent anonymity.)

I'm more interested in talking about the process.

In the 20+ years I've been doing this, I've always had one main habit: I write the sort of game I enjoy playing. They are always RPGs, because I am obsessed with that genre. It's a genre that allows for great variety. (And the basic, addictive elements of which have infected just about every other genre.)

Whenever I'm not sure what to do with a game, I always make the choice I would prefer if I was a player. It's a compass that has almost never steered me wrong.

When I decided to write Avadon, I'd just played Dragon Age: Origins, which is still, for my money, one of the finest RRPGs every made. It made me want to write a similar game: An epic story, full of intrigue, dark fantasy, and touch choices, set in a huge and complex world. I wanted the battles to have their own flavor, with lots of different tactical options and unexpected events, and in which movement and positioning are really important.

I think I succeeded. Kind of. I will say that I enjoy playing Avadon games more than I enjoy playing any of my other games. A lot of my fans don't care for Avadon as much, but that's ok. We write a lot of different sorts of RPGs.

But I'm Ready To Move On and Feel Bad About What Has Come Before

Like many creators, I hate looking at the work I've done. Even if it's good, it still pales in comparison to the beautiful image I had in my mind when I began. Looking at the final work can be a painful process.

A painful process, but a helpful one. When you fail to do what you wanted to do, well, failure can be very educational. You just need to look hard and honest at you failures and see what you can do to correct them.

So, some things I'm unhappy with about the Avadon series.

When I was designing Avadon, I was very ambitious. Lynaeus, the continent on which the series takes place, has 5 friendly nations and six hostile nations, each of which has its own politics, history, and so on. I wanted to make a whole world.

In the end, however, I was just one designer.

There are so many factions, wings of government, conflicts, controversies ... Too much for me to keep track of, too much to fully develop. I wrote so much lore I could never find a place to fit into the game. There were so many locations I just wasn't able to give enough time to.

My eyes were bigger than my stomach on this one.

Also, i didn't put as much polish in these games as I should. Avadon 3 will have a lot of careful rebalancing and useful interface improvements. However, these changes should have been in Avadon 2. Honestly, a lot of these things should have been in Avadon 1 so I didn't have to fix them in the first place.

I have a good excuse for some of this. I'm only one person, and I'm getting older and slower. Still, a problem is a problem, and, if I'm asking people for money, I'm still responsible for flaws.

Finally, I've stuck with this particular engine, graphics style, and world style for too long. After I remaster Avernum 3 (our most popular game over the years), I'm going to do something way different. It's well past time.
Maybe Jeff has a future in this genre after all. For now, though, Avadon 3: The Warborn is available on Steam and GOG for $20, with a 10% launch discount until next week.

There are 51 comments on Avadon 3: The Warborn Released

Sun 11 September 2016
The Digital Antiquarian on Quest for Glory 1 and 2

Editorial - posted by Infinitron on Sun 11 September 2016, 01:04:40

Tags: Corey Cole; Lori Cole; Quest for Glory I: So You Want To Be A Hero; Quest for Glory II: Trial by Fire; Sierra Entertainment; The Digital Antiquarian

For the past couple of months, Jimmy Maher has been writing weekly articles about the history of legendary adventure game studio Sierra On-Line for his excellent Digital Antiquarian blog. Yesterday, his chronicle reached the topic of Corey and Lori Ann Cole's Quest for Glory series, bringing it under our purview. More specifically, the article tells the story of Corey's early life & career and how he ended up at Sierra, and describes the development, release and reception of the first two games in the series. Like many other adventuring gaming historians, Jimmy is of the opinion that the Quest for Glory games were some of the best-designed adventures Sierra ever made, something which he attributes to the Coles' greater maturity and experience as game players compared to the studio's other designers. The article explains:

If forced to choose one adjective to describe Hero’s Quest and the series it spawned as a whole, I would have to go with “generous” — not, as the regular readers among you can doubtless attest, an adjective I commonly apply to Sierra games in general. Hero’s Quest‘s generosity extends far beyond its lack of the sudden deaths, incomprehensible puzzles, hidden dead ends, and generalized player abuse that were so typical of Sierra designs. Departing from Sierra’s other series with their King Grahams, Rosellas, Roger Wilcos, and Larry Laffers, the Coles elected not to name or characterize their hero, preferring to let their players imagine and sculpt the character each of them wanted to play. Even within the framework of a given character class, alternate approaches and puzzle — er, problem — solutions abound, while the environment is fleshed-out to a degree unprecedented in a Sierra adventure game. Virtually every reasonable action, not to mention plenty of unreasonable ones, will give some sort of response, some acknowledgement of your cleverness, curiosity, or sense of humor. Almost any way you prefer to approach your role is viable. For instance, while it’s possible to leave behind a trail of monstrous carnage worthy of a Bard’s Tale game, it’s also possible to complete the entire game without taking a single life. The game is so responsive to your will that the few places where it does fall down a bit, such as in not allowing you to choose the sex of your character — resource constraints led the Coles to make the hero male-only — stand out more in contrast to how flexible the rest ofthis particular game is than they do in contrast to most other games of the period.

Indeed, Hero’s Quest is such a design outlier from the other Sierra games of its era that I contacted the Coles with the explicit goal of coming to understand just how it could have come out so differently. Corey took me back all the way the mid-1970s, to one of his formative experiences as a computer programmer and game designer alike, when he wrote a simple player-versus-computer tic-tac-toe game for a time-shared system to which he had access. “Originally,” he says, “it played perfectly, always winning or drawing, and nobody played it for long. After I introduced random play errors by the computer, so that a lucky player could occasionally win, people got hooked on the game.” From this “ah-ha!” moment and a few others like it was born the Coles’ Rule #1 for game design: “The player must always have fun.” “We try to remember that rule,” says Corey, “every time we create a potentially frustrating puzzle.” The trick, as he describes it, is to make “the puzzles and challenges feel difficult, yet give the player a chance to succeed after reasonable effort.” Which leads us to Rule #2: “The player wants to win.” “We aren’t here to antagonize the players,” he says. “We work with them in a cooperative storytelling effort. If the player fails, everybody loses; we want to see everyone win.”

Although their professional credits in the realm of game design were all but nonexistent at the time they came to Sierra, the Coles were nevertheless used to thinking about games far more deeply than was the norm in Oakhurst. They were, for one thing, dedicated players of games, very much in tune with the experience of being a player, whether sitting behind a table or a computer. Ken Williams, by contrast, had no interest in tabletop games, and had sat down and played for himself exactly one computerized adventure game in his life (that game being, characteristically for Ken, the ribald original Softporn). While Roberta Williams had been inspired to create Mystery House by the original Adventure and some of the early Scott Adams games, her experience as a player never extended much beyond those primitive early text adventures; she was soon telling interviewers that she “didn’t have the time” to actually play games. Most of Sierra’s other design staff came to the role through the back door of being working artists, writers, or programmers, not through the obvious front door of loving games as a pursuit unto themselves. Corey states bluntly that “almost nobody there played [emphasis mine] games.” The isolation from the ordinary player’s experience that led to so many bad designs was actually encouraged by Ken Williams; he suggested that his staffers not look too much at what the competition was doing out of some misguided desire to preserve the “originality” of Sierra’s own games.

But the Coles were a little different than the majority of said staffers. Corey points out that they were both over thirty by the time they started at Sierra. They had, he notes, also “traveled a fair amount,” and “both the real-life experience and extensive tabletop-gaming experience gave [us] a more ‘mature’ attitude toward game development, especially that the designer is a partner to the player, not an antagonist to be overcome.” Given the wealth of experience with games and ideas about how games ought to be that they brought with them to Sierra, the Coles probably benefited as much from the laissez-faire approach to game-making engendered by Ken Williams as some of the others designers perhaps suffered from the same lack of direction. Certainly Ken’s personal guidance was only sporadic, and often inconsistent.

The Coles had no affinity for any of Sierra’s extant games; they considered them “unfair and not much fun.” Yet the process of game development at Sierra was so unstructured that they had little sense of really reacting against them either. As I mentioned earlier, Lori didn’t much care for any of the adventure games she had seen, from any company. She wouldn’t change her position until she played Lucasfilm Games’s The Secret of Monkey Island in 1990. After that experience, she became a great fan of the Lucasfilm adventures, enjoying them far more than the works of her fellow designers at Sierra. For now, though, rather than emulating existing computerized adventure or RPG games, the Coles strove to re-create the experience of sitting at a table with a great storytelling game master at its head.
The latter half of the article tells the tale of Quest for Glory 2's troubled development, which is something I personally was unaware of. Apparently, the game suffered from the switch to a cumbersome new "Hollywood-style" production pipeline where the artists and designers had no contact with each other. The last-minute renaming of the franchise from Hero's Quest to Quest for Glory due to a trademark dispute and the fact that it was in direct competition with King's Quest 5, Sierra's first "next-gen" VGA and mouse-based title, did the game no favors either. Despite these handicaps, Quest for Glory 2 still managed to sell a decent number of copies, and the series was allowed to continue. But that's a story for a future article.

There are 33 comments on The Digital Antiquarian on Quest for Glory 1 and 2

Fri 9 September 2016
Divinity: Original Sin 2 Kickstarter Update #27: PAX West Recap

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 9 September 2016, 20:17:04

Tags: Colin McComb; Divinity: Original Sin 2; J.E. Sawyer; Larian Studios; Swen Vincke

Larian have published a new Divinity: Original Sin 2 Kickstarter update recapping their visit to PAX West last weekend. There's no big news here, just the usual Larian humor and good cheer. Watch for the Josh Sawyer and Colin McComb testimonies at around 4:45 of the video:


The game is releasing on Steam Early Access next week on September 15th, so if you pledged make sure to get your key from the Larian Vault. Larian will be holding a three hour "Devline" Q&A stream on Twitch the day before, at 17:00 GMT. They're promising to reveal "something that you've been asking for for a long time". I wonder what that'll be.

There are 22 comments on Divinity: Original Sin 2 Kickstarter Update #27: PAX West Recap

Torment Kickstarter Update #58: Legacy & Meaning Trailer, Building the Necropolis

Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Fri 9 September 2016, 02:08:03

Tags: Adam Heine; Chris Keenan; Eric Schwarz; InXile Entertainment; Techland; Torment: Tides of Numenera

With the conclusion of Gamescom and PAX West, inXile have published a new Torment: Tides of Numenera Kickstarter update with a recap of their visits, including links to the media coverage the game received. Naturally, the Codex has already reported on most of that coverage, but as with most Torment updates, inXile have added a little something extra. In this case, an overview of the development of the Necropolis, a massive network of hexagonal tombs that they designed in order to house the nearly 4000 tombstones and epitaphs owed to high-tier backers. By using procedural generation techniques and fancy visual effects, inXile scripter Joby Bednar was able to make one room stand in for 625 different tombs, each one accessible by entering the proper code. Here's an excerpt from Joby's report, plus a new Torment trailer from Techland to spice things up:


First up, how are the tombs arranged and how does one navigate them? We went through a number of designs to try to make things work, each of which ended up being their own stories to tell – suffice it to say though, they didn't fully meet the needs set by Adam or had weaknesses that made them hard to implement or difficult for the player to navigate through.

Eventually, after many discussions, what we decided on was a massive honeycomb of hexagonal tombs. Within each tomb, you can see the neighboring tombs. There is a central control room overlooking them all, where you are able to punch in an address on a hexagonal keypad where the player could enter a specific code. Within each tomb, there is a duplicate control panel that allows you the additional option to press one of the six outer hexagonal segments to teleport to one of the six neighboring tombs. Below you can see roughly what this would look like when represented visually.

[...] But those are just empty rooms. It became clear that while we wanted each tomb to look similar, we also wanted them to appear slightly different from each other so that players would know something changed when they went to a new tomb. This meant creating quite a few art assets that we could populate each tomb with for each individual backer tombstone and monument. Our artist Daniel Kim created a lot of these designs which we were able to assign to each individual tombstone and monument.

To create the hundreds of combinations of these assets and make each tomb look random, but not actually be random, I leveraged Unity’s built-in functionality for Perlin Noise. If you’ve played or seen Minecraft, then you are familiar with Perlin Noise and procedurally generated content. Two-dimensional Perlin Noise is effectively a grid of random-ish values, and by using a set algorithm we were able to generate the massive amounts of content, but have it be the same for every player rather than changing every time you play the game.

Furthermore, by leveraging an algorithm instead of needing to predefine everything, we could protect ourselves from memory bloat and the true beast of game development: iteration. I’ve never worked on a game where the initial design was implemented exactly as initially designed. Iteration on your design is always going to happen, and you need to expect it when developing system architectures. If I had developed a system where all this was pre-generated and stored in data files, my job would have been much harder if anyone was inspired and had a "great idea." Any changes would have required a lot of work to modify, show, refine and iterate upon again, so the algorithmic approach saved time in the long run.

This became relevant when it came time to start playing with the Necropolis in the game engine and design feedback began to come in from Adam, George and others. For example, to help ensure that each tomb felt interesting to visit and somewhat distinct from the last, I set up different configurations so even if multiple tombs had just four tombstones, those tombstones would be arranged differently. For the tombs that had a single epitaph, the epitaph might be in the center of the room or against the back wall so that it would stand out better and look like it was placed naturally.

So, what does this end up looking like in the game? When the player reaches the Necropolis, what they'll see is a massive expanse of tomb chambers before them, a control panel at the center, and the option to enter a 4-digit numeric code to navigate from tomb to tomb. And of course, each backer who has a tomb will be given the code to theirs so that they can go and find it in the game – but you'll also be able to visit the tomb of anyone else, either by exploring manually or entering their specific address.
As for the future, Colin McComb will be attending EGX on September 25th to talk about Torment's story some more. But beyond that, I'm not sure. The game is content complete now, so I guess they're just going to release some hype material every now and then until it releases early next year.

There are 53 comments on Torment Kickstarter Update #58: Legacy & Meaning Trailer, Building the Necropolis

Thu 8 September 2016
Herve Caen finally packs it in - Interplay IPs to be sold off

Company News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 8 September 2016, 18:07:54

Tags: Eric Caen; Interplay

The shambling corpse of Interplay may finally be about to find its grave. The writing has been on the wall for the company that gave us Fallout and Planescape: Torment ever since they lost their license to sell the original Fallout trilogy, which was probably their main source of income during all these years. Yesterday, in a press release on NASDAQ's GlobeNewswire service, Interplay announced that they were selling off all of their remaining intellectual properties. The Caen brothers' fifteen year strip-mining adventure is finally at an end. Here's the announcement:

Interplay Announces Sale of Significant IP Portfolio, Wedbush Securities as Strategic Advisor

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 7, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Leading video game software developer, publisher, and licensor, Interplay Entertainment Corp., today announced a process to sell its library of video game assets and intellectual property. The expected sale represents some 70 titles and dozens of characters.

"Interplay has entertained millions of players with its well-recognized games, including Earthworm Jim, Freespace, Giants, Kingpin, Messiah, MDK, Run Like Hell, Sacrifice, Battlechess, Clayfighter, Dark Alliance, and Descent. As game creators, we are proud of the entertainment these properties have provided over the years. With the proliferation of mobile, augmented reality, virtual reality and other new forms of consumption, we believe that consumers are ready to experience and interact with Interplay's characters, stories and game play in ways never possible before. We look forward to seeing how this unique portfolio of interactive entertainment icons will evolve for the worldwide audience," states Eric Caen, President of Interplay.

For more information about Interplay's sale of intellectual property, please contact Joe Morgan at Wedbush Securities (joe.morgan@wedbush.com), who has been engaged by the company to assist in this process.​

So what does this mean for RPGs? Not much, unless you're really excited about the idea of a Stonekeep sequel. Still, it's a long overdue ending for the company that revitalized the genre in the late 90s, and it'll be interesting (and possibly horrifying) to see what happens to these IPs that have been in the freezer for so many years. We do know Brian Fargo is a huge fan of Sacrifice. I wonder if they'll take the truly final step of selling off the Interplay brand name too...

There are 125 comments on Herve Caen finally packs it in - Interplay IPs to be sold off

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