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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?

Sensuki Interviews Josh Sawyer about Pillars of Eternity

Codex Interview - posted by Crooked Bee on Thu 31 July 2014, 15:31:32

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

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On June 17th, esteemed community member Sensuki sent a number of miscellaneous questions to Obsidian Entertainment's Josh Sawyer, project lead on the upcoming fantasy RPG Pillars of Eternity. As you may know, a backer-exclusive beta of the game is coming next month already. Now that the work on the E3 presentation and the gameplay video has been finished, Josh got back to Sensuki with the answers.

Sensuki has also added his comments to some of the replies, and incorporated a few of Sawyer's recent tumblr and forum posts into the interview where relevant. Have some snippets and then read it in full.

In a recent interview with Norwegian gaming site, Pillars of Eternity was stated to be "larger, yes, easily larger, than Icewind Dale. We're not quite up to Baldur's Gate 2 size, but it's close". What elements of Pillars of Eternity are up there with Baldur's Gate 2 specifically? (e.g. Length of the crit path, Amount of optional content, Number of Exterior Areas, Quest Complexity, etc.) How would you say you've done regarding Wilderness area scope? Which in the stretch goal thread was slated to be "slightly larger than BG2".

Number of overall areas is getting close to BG2. I think we now have over 150 maps with a healthy split between cities, dungeons, towns, and wilderness maps. I'm happy with the number of wilderness areas we have. I think there will be good content density in them and there are enough of them off the critical path that players will feel rewarded for exploring.

Sensuki: For the record, BG2 has over 275 maps in the original game. I counted them the other week in Infinity Explorer. However, BG2 has stacks of tiny interiors such as houses or child areas of main dungeon levels, so the size of the game may well be getting close to BG2.

The Stronghold update revealed that Pillars of Eternity would use an Act structure instead of a Chapter structure. The IE games used Chapters and generally had up to seven of them. An act structure is common in ARPG games because of Diablo 2, but I can't help but wonder if the use of Acts refers to literal acts in a story, such as a three-act or five-act story structure. Can you elaborate on the use of Acts instead of Chapters for PE?

Eric [Fenstermaker] chose to use acts to consciously follow the classical (Aristotelean/Horatian) concepts of an act structure within a story. His feeling was that chapters do not have the same implications of dramatic progression that acts do.

While Races will give players different bonus attributes, what kind of mechanical bonuses can players expect from choosing a Cultural Background in Pillars of Eternity?

The only mechanical bonuses currently afforded by culture are attribute modifiers and class-based starting equipment sets. We are open to modestly expanding those bonuses based on feedback.

Regarding encounter design, is there anything in Pillars of Eternity that rivals or surpasses the complexity of some of the encounters in Icewind Dale 2 (Orc Shamans beating War Drums to summon reinforcements, Goblins falling off Worgs)? Will there be pre-stealthed enemies? Are there any new scripting features that were built for PE that made things possible you couldn't do in the IE games?

Honestly, I think it will take us a while to exceed the complexity of IWD2 fights. IWD2 and BG2 were built with a lot of tried-and-true scripting functions that programmers and designers developed over previous titles and expansions. Like any other feature, AI in PoE is being built from the ground up, so we have to add layers of complexity over time.

Did any "C priority" features or assets make it into the game besides character/creature art?

I don't use C-priority on the projects I direct. I require the developers on the team to divide requests into "must have" and "would really like to have" (A/B). If by some miracle we complete everything we need and everything we would really like to have, we can discuss third string ideas. This has literally never happened. That said, we did get a healthy amount of B-content in (mostly art).​

The full interview also discusses stances, talents, the combat idle, spell FX, the Gilded Vale location, and some other things.

There are 23 comments on Sensuki Interviews Josh Sawyer about Pillars of Eternity

Wed 30 July 2014
Brian Fargo and Thomas Beekers interviewed by Guy Cocker

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Wed 30 July 2014, 13:00:08

Tags: Brian Fargo; Brother None; InXile Entertainment; Wasteland 2

Following in the footsteps of their comrades from Obsidian, Brian Fargo and his faithful underling Thomas "Brother None" Beekers recently visited London, where they too were interviewed by Wired UK's Guy Cocker. As before, much of the interview is dedicated to general gaming industry gossip, with only about 13 minutes (from around 16:45 to 30:05) of actual Wasteland 2 discussion.

There's not much new information about the game itself in those 15 minutes, but Brian does reveal that the game's final Early Access update is due to release this week. He also reveals that the game's release might be delayed until September, due to physical distribution-related reasons. Tsk tsk.

To me, though, the most enjoyable part of the interview was listening to Brian and Thomas geek out about a bunch of post-apocalyptic movies. Did you know that Interplay nearly secured the rights to develop the Mad Max 4 video game back in the 90s? Not that it would have ever actually been made, of course.

There are 60 comments on Brian Fargo and Thomas Beekers interviewed by Guy Cocker

Tue 29 July 2014
Interview with Josh Sawyer and Brandon Adler at Rock Paper Shotgun, continued

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Tue 29 July 2014, 21:06:09

Tags: Brandon Adler; Darklands; Fallout: New Vegas; J.E. Sawyer; Obsidian Entertainment; Paradox Interactive; Pillars of Eternity

As part of the recent Pillars of Eternity publicity blitz, Josh Sawyer and Brandon Adler were interviewed by Rock Paper Shotgun. The RPS guys are fond of splitting their interviews in half, and so they waited until today to publish its second and final part. In this segment of the interview, Josh talks a bit about Fallout: New Vegas, but quickly returns to the topic of Pillars. Here's an excerpt:

RPS: Do you do anything similar in the design of Pillars of Eternity? Is there a way to make those Infinity Engine style rules work with the themes and story?

Sawyer: I think it’s harder in a game like this. So many of the mechanics are very D&D-ish.

Early on, and this isn’t going to happen now, we had some ideas that people might still be interested in. We use souls, your own and other peoples’, as a justification or a reason as to why powers work the way that they do. But ultimately, many of the ways that those powers work, mechanically, are locked into existing ideas. They’re not necessarily executed exactly how you’ve seen before but we are a little limited in how we can build our classes because we want them to be understood by a D&D audience. We can’t go too heavy on the souls.

So we don’t move too far away. A lot of people will come to this game and make one character that they use in all of these kind of games. A sneaky rogue or an intelligent wizard. If we don’t support that kind of class, or make it play radically different than what the player is used to, it can be frustrating. Because this is a nostalgia-driven game, I think it’s important that we meet that expectation.

But in terms of the setting and narrative, we try to make sure that a lot of the quests, plotpoints and issues that your companions have revolve around the same themes. People who have issues with their identity or their relationship with the gods, and thinking about how souls should be used. These plotpoints are all tied together so that you can see that the issues are real, practical and pressing in the world.

RPS: There’s a huge amount of text, even in what I’ve seen today, and the storytelling seems to be more important than necessarily inventing new playstyles. Is it fair to say that a lot of the team’s work has gone into making as many approaches as possible work in the game, both in terms of roleplaying and skillsets?

Sawyer: In the good old days we just kind of wrote dialogue, and added options, and sometimes they were good, sometimes they were bad and sometimes they were meaningless (laughs). Over time, those dialogues got refined and sometimes that was done in ways that were productive and good, eliminating bullshit options, and trash options that were just bad writing or bad places to go.

But with that refinement there was also a very tight streamlining, so in some games it got to the point where everything except the one good and one bad option was lost. That felt wrong to me. I wanted to write dialogue in a way that gives the players a sense that they’re allowed a good range of expression without falling into approaches that are just the expected ones in any given circumstance.

How do we also make those choices feel like they have weight within the context of the game’s systems and mechanics. That’s why we have the reputation systems and why we don’t have a dialogue skill, we trigger things off your attributes, class, background and race. That way we get a broader spectrum of activity. It’s not a question of ‘do you have the speech skill?’, it’s a question of what class are you, what choices have you made?

If you’re in a conversation, Might may be important because you can try to intimidate someone with a show of strength, or you might want to use Dexterity to pick a pocket. Maybe you want to psych someone out by using Resolve, which is kind of a replacement for charisma, but it’s more a case of personal drive and intensity. Or maybe you use Intellect for a logical deduction.

So instead of needing a Speech skill or Charisma for cool dialogue options, we make sure there are plenty for musclebound bruisers as well. It’s not about building ‘The Speech Character’, it’s about letting players create the character they want to play, and making sure that the game has plenty of options and reactivity for that character.
Josh also has a bit to say about Obsidian's work with Paradox Interactive, and about his beloved Darklands.

There are 14 comments on Interview with Josh Sawyer and Brandon Adler at Rock Paper Shotgun, continued

Sat 26 July 2014
RPG Codex Review: Unrest

Review - posted by Crooked Bee on Sat 26 July 2014, 11:04:33

Tags: Pyrodactyl Games; Unrest

Unrest is the Kickstarted adventure RPG set in a fantasy version of ancient India, developed by Pyrodactyl Games and released just a couple of days ago on Steam and GOG. In this review, esteemed community members Deuce Traveler and VioletShadow tell you about the experience they've had with the game - what they have, and haven't, enjoyed about it.

Have a snippet:

VioletShadow: The concept of seeing the Bhimra's unrest through the eyes of several different main characters worked very well. Not only were the individual segments intertwined in terms of their actions and consequences, but the personal perspective of each of them served to ground the world and make it feel very lived-in. Some of my favorite segments were the ones that involved the peasant. Even though she was only loosely connected to the main plot, her story and the circumstances she found herself in helped illustrate the disconnect between the lower castes and those at the top. Her immediate preoccupations, and those of the other peasants, involved problems directly related to their status in society, such as lack of food and the need to marry into higher castes, rather than political instability or the trade treaty, which for the most part they hadn't even heard of. It made me think of how the isolation of the lower castes created the conditions for problems such as the slums' rioting. This ties into your point regarding events outside the characters' control. Looking back to the segment with the naga, I felt a strong sense of helplessness; there was really nothing she could do to make the situation better. I agree that it made the game world believable, and a much more immersive experience than if some chosen one could erase history and its consequences with eye-rolling heroics.

Deuce Traveler: The world of Unrest is certainly a kind of medieval fantasy setting, but different enough to interest players tired of the all-too-familiar pseudo-European fare. The architecture is eastern, as is the dress of the people. The culture is post-Gupta Indian, featuring an entrenched caste system and Hinduism with nary a hint of Buddhism or Islam. The game's story fleshes out the motivations of its various characters, including the villains, who believe that they were right for making the bloody decisions that propel the plot, despite the catastrophic results. This is not a story of noble heroes pushing back darkness, but instead a tale of survivors with opposing viewpoints going through their lives, which are interrupted on occasion by short outbursts of charity or wickedness.

[...] Finally, there are some major decisions you can make in the game that seem to have little effect on the overall story. In one playthrough, I decided that I was going to put my character in harm's way for the sake of diplomatic niceties. That character was killed. On the second playthrough I decided to be especially conceding during the diplomatic discussions, but then rigidly refused a request for my character to put himself in harm's way. This caused my character to step down from her diplomatic station and retire. In the character's narrative this made a huge difference, since she was now alive rather than dead. But from my perspective as a player the result was the same, since the character would have no further impact on how the story unfolded.​

Read the full review: RPG Codex Review: Unrest

There are 36 comments on RPG Codex Review: Unrest

Josh Sawyer Interview and Pillars of Eternity Gameplay Demonstration at PC Gamer

Preview - posted by Infinitron on Sat 26 July 2014, 03:02:46

Tags: Fallout: New Vegas; J.E. Sawyer; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity

The venerable PC Gamer has launched yet another new feature. This one's a full-blown webshow by the name of, wait for it, The PC Gamer Show. For the show's second (third?) episode, they invited Obsidian's Josh Sawyer over to talk about a bit about Fallout: New Vegas (9:25-17:10) and to do a short gameplay demonstration of Pillars of Eternity (26:15-38:00). It's really nothing we didn't see yesterday, but pre-release gameplay footage is a precious thing, so here's the video:

The rest of the episode has the PC Gamer USA staff playing Divinity: Original Sin, and also mulling over The Definition Of An RPG™. Watch if you dare.

There are 22 comments on Josh Sawyer Interview and Pillars of Eternity Gameplay Demonstration at PC Gamer

Fri 25 July 2014
Shadowrun: Dragonfall Standalone Director's Cut Announced

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 25 July 2014, 22:30:06

Tags: Harebrained Schemes; Jordan Weisman; Mitch Gitelman; Shadowrun: Dragonfall

Marking the one year anniversary of the release of Shadowrun Returns, Harebrained Schemes' Jordan Weisman and Mitch Gitelman have announced today the imminent release of Shadowrun: Dragonfall - Director’s Cut, an enhanced, standalone version of their swell expansion pack. Here's the Kickstarter update:

As Jordan discusses in the video above, exactly one year ago today we released Shadowrun Returns on Steam. It was a pivotal moment for our little studio here. In 14 months, we’d gone from a dozen developers working out of a storage closet to being a full-fledged indie RPG developer. And the last year has been just as important for Harebrained Schemes - in the weeks and months following launch, Shadowrun Returns received a bunch of great reviews and kind words, from old and new fans alike. We even made several Game of the Year lists for 2013.

But most importantly, we got YOUR feedback. We learned what was working and what wasn’t about the game we’d worked so hard to create. Even better, we were able to take a lot of this feedback and channel it directly into Shadowrun: Dragonfall. Save-anywhere. A more open story with more compelling choices and locations to explore. A fully-realized team of runners to command and grow with over the course of the campaign.

And when Dragonfall launched, we were incredibly happy with the response it received. Reviewers praised the story, characters, and writing as some of the best in the business. For an indie studio like ours, that’s a huge deal! Still, as with Shadowrun Returns, we heard feedback about some things that folks wanted to see improved or simply wanted more of. We also heard many requests for a standalone version of the game - since it’s narratively independent of the Shadowrun Returns campaign, players wanted to be able to dive directly into Dragonfall.

So we thought: Why not just… make Dragonfall better?

We’re excited to announce Shadowrun: Dragonfall - Director’s Cut. Inspired by other passionate, community-focused developers like CD Projekt RED (who continued to improve and add to their Witcher titles post-launch), we decided to make an even bigger & better Dragonfall for you guys. The Shadowrun team has been hard at work taking the existing Dragonfall campaign and making it even better - adding new features, missions, art, and more.

And we’ll be releasing it as a standalone title on Steam, GOG and the Humble Store.

What’s more, as a continued “thank you” for your support, the Director’s Cut will be FREE to all Backers and to all owners of the expansion version of Dragonfall. If you’ve played Dragonfall already, this should be a great opportunity to return to the streets of Berlin and enjoy the improved campaign all over again - to try a new archetype and make different decisions. And if you haven’t played Dragonfall yet, this will be the definitive version of the game to dive into.

We’ll be talking more about the specifics later next month - but we wanted you, our Backers, to be the first to know what we’re working on. The Director’s Cut will be released sometime in September.

Stay tuned for a full announcement in August. Until then - from the entire Shadowrun team - thank you again for your continued support, and for your help making Shadowrun Returns and Dragonfall a reality.
Is this is what they were hiring a writer for? It's good news, and long overdue, but at the same time, I'd be a bit disappointed if they're not making a new campaign after all.

There are 61 comments on Shadowrun: Dragonfall Standalone Director's Cut Announced

Frayed Knights released on Steam

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 25 July 2014, 17:53:22

Tags: Frayed Knights; Rampant Games

After spending an arduously long period in Greenlight purgatory, Jay Barnson's 2011 indie comedy blobber Frayed Knights has finally made its way onto Steam. Here's its new trailer and a description:

Frayed Knights: The Skull of S'makh-Daon is a 3D indie computer RPG for Windows featuring turn-based combat, old-school sensibilities, and a story of high adventure and comedy. Who says RPGs have to be so serious?

In a world of jaded heroes and veteran adventurers, you play a team of misfits: Arianna, a dainty warrior with an attitude problem; Dirk, an adrenaline-junky rogue who doesn’t seem to understand the word ‘subtle;’ Benjamin, a nature-priest and an ill-suited newcomer to the adventuring lifestyle, and Chloe, a ditsy sorceress with a love of cute, fuzzy animals and setting her enemies on fire.

Adventuring is always a dangerous profession, but recently things have gotten bad. Very bad. Teams of expert fortune-hunters are getting "morted," suffering great losses against enemies that are better prepared than ever. In the taverns and Adventurer's Guildhalls, whispered rumors speak of the return of an evil that once all but destroyed civilization. But as many great and famous adventurers fall to this growing threat, perhaps this bunch of losers - called "The Frayed Knights" (but never to their faces) - might just be the heroes the world really needs:

The wrong people at the wrong time.
If you're looking for another game to scratch your turn-based blobber itch after Might & Magic X, now might be a good time to give Frayed Knights a try if you haven't already. Its price is $12, with a 15% discount until the end of the month.

There are 16 comments on Frayed Knights released on Steam

Age of Decadence July Update

Game News - posted by VentilatorOfDoom on Fri 25 July 2014, 12:16:41

Tags: Age of Decadence; Iron Tower Studios; Vault Dweller

Vince D. Weller posted another Age of Decadence update on the Iron Tower Studio forums.

We just released an update on Steam so might as well post a forum update at the same time.

We're still working Ganezzar, which is coming along nicely. I'd say we're half done now and the hardest part is behind us now. At this stage we have all the questlines and they flow, interweave, and arrive to logical conclusions quite nicely. They are more focused and interconnected and as a result there is a larger number of options and double-crossing opportunities.

Thus this update is also light on content as Ganezzar is a priority for us as we want to release it as soon as humanly possible.

So, what’s in this update?
  • 13 new Achievements
  • A new conversation with Lorenza
  • If you had a pickpocket encounter in Teron and decided to take Livia to Cado (thieves only option, obviously) instead of killing her or letting her go, you can meet her in Maadoran now and get a glimpse of the role she's going to play in Act 4 (endgame).
  • You asked for a good dagger and we listened. If you manage to save a trader upon arrival to Maadoran, he'll reward you with a nice custom jambia.
  • A new merchant in the Slums who can sell you an axe called Black Dow.
  • Added text explaining what happened if you leave the Monastery area without doing anything and return later when you're good and ready.
  • Added a text-based option to sneak into the vaults as well as the dialogue options depending on how you handled the raiders.
  • Fixed an older dialogue that wasn't triggered correctly - after talking to Old Azra and learning that she spent her youth in Maadoran, you can ask the street 'guide' about her.
  • Fixed a number of minor bugs including the critical strike issue in Aemolas' village
As always, thank you for your continuous support and patronage. If there is something you wish to see in the next update, be it specific items (that won't require new animations), different character types, or certain characters' viewpoints or past, let us know and we'll do our best to add them.​

There's also a few images, here's an example:


Almost as good as Prosper's work, but not quite, right?

There are 13 comments on Age of Decadence July Update

Thu 24 July 2014
Pillars of Eternity Gameplay Video, Previews and Interviews

Preview - posted by Crooked Bee on Thu 24 July 2014, 22:00:25

Tags: Brandon Adler; J.E. Sawyer; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity

Today's the day that marks the release of gameplay videos as well as a bunch of interviews and previews for Obsidian's upcoming real-time-with-elves RPG Pillars of Eternity. Here's the Giantbomb video for your viewing pleasure:

There's also this video from IGN or the one from Dealspwn, but the quality is pretty awful in the latter.

As far as previews are concerned, Gamespot asks the burning question about the thin line between homage and carbon copy:

As I watched Obsidian play Pillars of Eternity, it was hard not to shake the concern that stayed with me throughout the demo: that this was not a game standing on the shoulders of giants, but one relying on slavish devotion. It didn't help that I had just played the excellent Divinity: Original Sin earlier that day, an RPG that uses its inspirations as a springboard rather than as a mold, and in the process establishes an identity that makes it an important step in RPG evolution. Divinity uses old mechanics to say something new. Does Pillars of Eternity use old mechanics to say something old? And if so, is that necessarily a bad thing? [...] The game's title appeared on screen, leaving me to wonder if Pillars of Eternity will refresh role-playing traditions or simply replicate them--and whether pure replication is anything to scoff at, given the legacy of Baldur's Gate and its ilk. Nevertheless, I have faith not just in the strength of the Infinity Engine template, but in Obsidian's ability to use that template to craft a journey worth taking.​

IGN, in the meantime, believes that Pillars of Eternity "seems to push all the right RPG buttons", with Strategy Informer dwelling a bit more on the character creation and Digital Spy quoting Sawyer on Obsidian's goals with the beta:

"We decided very early on we won't use the critical path for this," project lead Josh Sawyer told Digital Spy. "It's not going to have any of the story companions, because that's a big part of the story for people, is meeting those companions and experimenting with them.

"It's mostly for people to get a feel of just how the game plays overall, goofing around with the classes, the mechanics, combat, journals - it's up to them to try and play and mess around with it and see what doesn't really work, or if we aren't communicating things clearly."​

Then there's an interview with Sawyer at PC World, as well as another one at Rock Paper Shotgun.

Finally, PCGamesN runs an article about Obsidian hoping that Pillars of Eternity sales will fund its sequel without Kickstarter. “What I would like, and this is true of any independent developer, is for this title and the expansion to be successful enough that we don't have to go back to Kickstarter to make the sequel,” Sawyer told PCGamesN. Well, fingers crossed.

There are 303 comments on Pillars of Eternity Gameplay Video, Previews and Interviews

Wed 23 July 2014
Risen 3: Titan Lords has a luscious new trailer

Game News - posted by Zed on Wed 23 July 2014, 23:27:11

Tags: Deep Silver; Piranha Bytes; Risen 3: Titan Lords

In a new 12-minute video, Piranha Bytes and Deep Silver tells us why fans of Gothic and Risen should give a shit about Risen 3: Titan Lords. The trailer makes a pretty convincing case of 'going back to the roots', and it doesn't sound bad at all.

Our new trailer explains how Risen 3 takes all the good traits from the Gothic and Risen series to make it the best experience possible. Risen 3 - Titan Lords will be available for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Windows PC on August 15th 2014.

Spotted at RPGWatch.

There are 74 comments on Risen 3: Titan Lords has a luscious new trailer

Mon 21 July 2014
Josh Sawyer and Brandon Adler interviewed by Guy Cocker

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Mon 21 July 2014, 22:40:35

Tags: Brandon Adler; J.E. Sawyer; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity

As you may have heard, Josh Sawyer and Brandon Adler were recently in London to promote Pillars of Eternity. As part of that visit, they were interviewed for a podcast hosted by a chap by the name of Guy Cocker. It's an odd interview, in that only about 11 minutes of it (from around 24:25 to 35:10) are actually about Pillars of Eternity and Obsidian, the rest being dedicated to random quizzing about current events in the gaming industry.

Those 11 minutes do confirm that, as we suspected, the version of Pillars that will be playable at next month's Gamescom is identical to the beta that will be released to eligible backers shortly afterwards. The beta will apparently not be available for purchase after its release, ruling out any form of Early Access release for the game even outside of Steam. Josh also mentions that the game will come with a campaign almanac written from the perspective of an in-game secret society called "The Hand Occult".

As for the non-Obsidian part of the interview, you might be interested to know that Josh is currently playing Ubisoft's Child of Light, and that he also wants to play Divinity: Original Sin but hasn't found the time yet. From the games he saw at E3 earlier this year, he's most anticipating Witcher 3 and also Turtle Rock Studios' Evolve.

There are 12 comments on Josh Sawyer and Brandon Adler interviewed by Guy Cocker

Sun 20 July 2014
RPG Codex Review: The Occult Chronicles and Elder Sign: Omens

Review - posted by Crooked Bee on Sun 20 July 2014, 17:15:56

Tags: Cryptic Comet; Elder Sign: Omens; Fantasy Flight Games; The Occult Chronicles

Last year, two somewhat similar games, The Occult Chronicles and Elder Sign: Omens, were released for Windows within an interval of a few months. Both feature board game mechanics and settings inspired by Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. With such a unique premise, esteemed community member Gragt decided to review both of them in the same article.

Have a few snippets on both games:

The first of the duo is The Occult Chronicles by Cryptic Comet, released in August 2013. As fans of his previous games Armageddon Empires and Solium Infernum already know, Cryptic Comet pretty much means Vic Davis. Davis is a one-man designer/programmer team and a visionary who specializes in developing games for the very small niche best described as “board games specifically made for computers”. By moving tedious elements like bookkeeping and frequent calculations to the computer, these games are able to feature much more complex systems than traditional board games, without alienating players. Coupled with Davis’ terrific sense of style, this has allowed him to craft some great and memorable games, and his latest work is no exception. While his previous games were straight strategy games, The Occult Chronicles deviates from his canon by being a mix of board game and roguelike with a focus on exploration. Davis later regretted calling the game a roguelike as it apparently gave players the wrong set of expectations, but despite his feelings on the matter, in my opinion The Occult Chronicles is much closer to a traditional roguelike than many of the games that have popped up in recent years and claimed the genre for themselves.

[...] this is a terrific little game. It features no animation at all, yet manages to convey a tense and heavy atmosphere thanks to its excellent design. Zane Reichert’s drawings illustrating the various events fit the game’s pulp fiction atmosphere very well, striking a good balance between comic-book and creepy. The slow and brooding music by Stian Stark, who also composed the music for Solium Infernum and Six Guns Saga, is perfect for this kind of game; there are no memorable tunes to speak of, but it sets the tone without intruding. While every adventure follows the same basic structure, there is a decent amount of randomly generated content to experience, and I am still surprised to see events that I missed, connected to quests that weren’t available before. As a horror and occult-themed roguelike, I guess the closest thing to it would be the bona fide roguelike Infra Arcana, but the board game aspect makes it fairly unique. If you can get past the clunky interface and obtuse ability descriptions, there are many hours of quality entertainment to be had. A game takes only a few hours to complete, the atmosphere is thick, the challenge is high, and the different backgrounds and scenario options keep it replayable.

[...] The second game is Elder Sign: Omens by Fantasy Flight Games, released for Windows in November 2013, a mere three months after The Occult Chronicles. This is actually a port of the 2011 game for Android, Apple, and Kindle Fire. Now, it may seem weird to review a game with such a dubious pedigree, but humor me for a while.

The reason it is reviewed here alongside The Occult Chronicles is that both games share many similar elements, from theme and setting to the board game-like gameplay. Of the two, Elder Sign: Omens plays the closest to a traditional board game, which is par for the course considering it is an adaptation of an actual board game, Elder Sign. There are some differences between them, but for the most part Omens is quite faithful to its cardboard sibling. This also makes it a much simpler game than The Occult Chronicles, if only because it could be easily set up on a table with cards, tokens, and dice, whereas The Occult Chronicles, just like other Cryptic Comet games, would be a nightmare of cyclopean proportions to play that way. The basic scenario has you control a team of four investigators in the ’30s, of various backgrounds and talents, who must prevent the awakening of an Ancient One from the Cthulhu Mythos. To achieve this goal, you must explore the Miskatonic University Museum at night to gather supplies and artifacts, including the titular Elder Signs required to seal the cosmic horror. This time the game makes direct use of the Mythos, and you will encounter familiar figures like the Deep Ones, Ithaqua and even Cthulhu himself. Truth be told, the Mythos is used here more as a coat of paint to give a strong and familiar theme to a horror-themed board game that is light on plot, but it does the job rather well. It may not be as involved as Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, but it's good enough to give you your Lovecraft fix as long as you don’t expect a great plot, great characters, or great dialogue — which isn’t something usually found in a Lovecraft story anyway. [...]

Both games have their flaws and merits, and while none ascends to greatness, they are well worth a look, especially if you need a fix of horror and Lovecraft pulp fiction.​

Read the full review: RPG Codex Review: The Occult Chronicles and Elder Sign: Omens

There are 16 comments on RPG Codex Review: The Occult Chronicles and Elder Sign: Omens

Sat 19 July 2014
Dead State Kickstarter Update #45: Progress Report, Design Updates, and Polls

Game News - posted by Crooked Bee on Sat 19 July 2014, 15:00:26

Tags: Dead State; DoubleBear Productions

In the new Kickstarter update for their zombie survival RPG Dead State, DoubleBear talk about the progress they've made since the last Early Access update:

Well, we've been doing some seriously heavy internal testing to prepare everything, and our whole team's focused on a multitude of features, fixes, and assets that will make the open beta that much better when it's released.

Here's a quick progress update:

* Our art team's cranking out assets for unique and special areas, unique armor models, and new NPC models;

* Our programming team is working on implementing dogs, shelter upgrades, and character perks and traits, as well as the usual bug-fixing;

* Our animator is working through importing a number of new and existing animal, human and undead animations into the build and creating new dialogue gesture animations;

* Our design team is crafting crisis events, adding ever more allies and their corresponding dialogues to the game, and working on new and old levels;

* Our sound designer is busily working on weapon-related SFX, and recently provided us with new explosion sounds

* Our composer's finished most of Dead State's core tracks (of which there are many!) and is getting started soon on a unique track for the ending theme.​

Aside from that, Annie and Brian Mitsoda have also resumed their Monday Design Updates, which you might want to check out, too. The latest one, from July 14th, has to do with the game's conversations -- how they help flesh things out and what DoubleBear's current goals with those are.

Also, check out the full update for the list of polls (e.g. "What are you looking forward to the most for the upcoming beta?") that the developers are currently running on their forum.

There are 27 comments on Dead State Kickstarter Update #45: Progress Report, Design Updates, and Polls

Torment: Tides of Numenera Interview at GRY-Online

Interview - posted by Crooked Bee on Sat 19 July 2014, 12:25:00

Tags: Adam Heine; InXile Entertainment; Jeremy Kopman; Kevin Saunders; Torment: Tides of Numenera

Polish magazine GRY-Online offers a dual-language interview (Polish and English) on InXile's Torment: Tides of Numenera. The developers interviewed are Adam Heine (Design Lead), Jeremy Kopman (Crisis Designer), and Kevin Saunders (Project Lead). Have a snippet on difficulty as well as on "romancing options", without which "modern RPGs" apparently "cannot exist" according to the interviewer:

What about game difficulty? Are you planning to escalate it somehow? If so – what will change at „hard” in comparison to „normal”? And if not – how do you want to reconcile the expectations and needs of hardcore RPG gamers and casual ones?

Kevin Saunders: We do plan to have difficulty settings, but aren’t yet prepared to discuss the details of how we’ll approach this feature. In general, we aren’t targeting super casual players, but we are using best practices for UI design and game design to make the game accessible rather than arcane. The quests, storyline, etc. typically don’t take well to different difficulty levels and we aren’t planning much, if anything, there. Meanwhile, because the Crises are hand-crafted experiences, and fairly few in number, we hope we can be somewhat sophisticated in how we alter them based on difficulty.

So as to not fully evade your question, here are a few specific examples (or counter examples):

Opponents: On harder difficulty settings, we may add additional enemies that create more tactically challenging encounters.

Difficult Tasks (DT): If we do make DTs harder at higher difficulties, it won’t be by much. This method of difficulty scaling fundamentally alters too much of the gameplay, making many Skills less useful, which disrupts the balance of a variety of things.

Friendly fire: We will likely have friendly fire active in all difficulty modes and not something that changes due to the difficulty setting. With the turn-based combat, making your party immune to friendly area of effect abilities would fundamentally alter the nature of those abilities and undermine the tactics.

Resting: You may get more “rests” at easier difficulty levels, allowing you to be a little less discerning about when to spend Effort.

Randomness: Not really a difficulty thing, but another axis we’ve toyed with as a game option is the degree of randomness. We are planning for randomness to play a factor in some aspects of gameplay and not others, but might let the player adjust some of this. For example, in Numenera weapons typically inflict a fixed amount of damage, which affects the flavor of combat compared to random damage.

Nowadays modern RPGs cannot exist without romancing options. Previous games from the genre were not avoiding this either – even Planescape: Torment had some kind of love story involving the Nameless One and Annah. Will we able to take relations with our companions to the „next level”? Will it affect story somehow?

Kevin Saunders: Love can indeed be part of one’s legacy, but including love stories is not a focus for us. The types of relationships you can develop depend upon the specifics of the characters and situations – to the extent that any deep connections can be established, it will be because they arose naturally through the story, not because we preplanned them. Of course, romantic love is only one flavor of love.​

The full interview is also worth a read not just for other snippets of info about the game's approach to crises or combat, but also to enjoy Kevin's answers to the typical game journalistic questions about RtwP vs turn-based, the non-rotating camera, and voice-overs and cutscenes.

There are 34 comments on Torment: Tides of Numenera Interview at GRY-Online

Tue 15 July 2014
Interview with Chris Avellone at MemoryLeak

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Tue 15 July 2014, 23:37:15

Tags: Chris Avellone; Obsidian Entertainment

Chris Avellone's latest podcast interview is for a site called "MemoryLeak Interviews", which I think is sort of a successor to the now-defunct "The Critical Bit" which we've linked to in the past. He sounds a bit tipsy in this one:

Few people understand the confluence of game systems and narrative like Chris Avellone. Since his start at Interplay in 1995 Chris has been instrumental in the development of many influential RPGs. In this interview Chris and I discuss his recent kickstarter projects, the design process at Obsidian, and the challenges of developing modern RPGs.
The interview is way too all over the place for me to summarize, but I will say that the most interesting parts for me were Chris' descriptions of his work with Brian Fargo (at around 1:35), Brian Mitsoda (at around 38:55) and Feargus Urquhart (at around 45:05). He elegantly avoids saying anything negative about the latter Brian's work on Alpha Protocol. That's our MCA, always tactful.

There are 46 comments on Interview with Chris Avellone at MemoryLeak

Sun 13 July 2014
RPG Codex Review: Long Live the Queen

Review - posted by Crooked Bee on Sun 13 July 2014, 18:44:59

Tags: Hanako Games; Long Live the Queen

Back in the decline-plagued year of 2011, with no proper RPGs like Divinity: Original Sin or tactical RPGs like Blackguards in sight (and with Age of Decadence remaining the all-too-easy subject of "vaporware" jokes), our very own Darth Roxor did a review of the CYOA RPG Academagia. Our readers generally prefer "full-fledged" RPGs, or at least those with good combat or interesting "choices & consequences" (C&C for short), so Academagia didn't really gain a lot of traction around these parts. However, CYOA RPGs are still RPGs, at least to some extent, and so it shouldn't be too surprising that another one, Long Live the Queen!, has caught our attention.

In this quick review, esteemed community member Deuce Traveler tells us what's good about the game -- but also what's bad, and not particularly exciting, about it. Have a snippet:

And this is my biggest issue with Long Live the Queen. There is no way for you to predict the various skills that you will need to survive. In one playthrough, I had done well building up my courtly skills, only to fall victim to an arrow that I could not avoid due to a lack of archery skills, nor treat the resulting wound due to a lack of battlefield medicine skills. So, I loaded a previous save and pumped my skills up just enough to be able to live through the attack and move on. The game is won on the basis of trial and error rather than any tactical decision making on part of the player. It really is just a choose-your-own-adventure (CYOA) visual novel. Due to its lack of randomization or tactical considerations, the skill checks are simply another CYOA element. Even the somewhat similar skill building simulator, the infamous Slave Maker 3, has more randomization, and that game is a fan project.

That brings me to my final point. Long Live the Queen is a fine story as seen through Elodie's eyes, and the character works as a quirky slate for the player. However, the supporting cast is full of unsympathetic arseholes. Even Elodie's father hides critical information from her, despite having a vested interest in her survival. Her friends are fickle, the nobility behave as vultures over a rotting carcass, and the peasants are either dull or violent. With so many unlikable characters, I often found myself playing Elodie as a martial character, mastering warfare, weapons, and magic. To the game's credit, however, you can play as a much more cultured and peaceable character and still win. I have read, for instance, that there is a winning path for someone who becomes a master musician. You can also develop romantic relationships with many of the different characters, despite a range of ages and genders. Because of this, the game has some replay value for those willing to work through its trial-and-error gameplay loop.​

Read the full review: RPG Codex Review: Long Live the Queen

There are 80 comments on RPG Codex Review: Long Live the Queen

Sat 12 July 2014
Interview with Swen Vincke at PC Gamer

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Sat 12 July 2014, 17:38:07

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

With Divinity: Original Sin receiving rave reviews across the board, the folks at PC Gamer have done a short interview with Swen Vincke about the game's near-term future and patch timetable. There's also some discussion of its oldschool and, interestingly enough, multiplayer-centric design principles. Here's an excerpt:

PCG: What kind of things are you looking at in the big update?

Vincke: We basically have two types of things. We're doing hotfixes where we see problems that we can fix right away for people, and then the patch will contain some extra content. Balancing fixes. We'll introduce the AI personalities—that was one feature that didn't make it fully for release. [Right now] you only have no personality or random personality, which is rather clunky to play with, or the loyal personality which basically does everything you do. We will add five or six AI personalities, and they have distinct opinions about things, and so it's basically your partner. [And] people will be able to create their own personalities.

They make decisions based on certain type of personality, and it makes the game quite different, actually, because then it's really like playing with a human being, to a certain extent.

PCG: Can you go into a little more detail on the kind of personalities that you're shipping in the update?

Vincke: We'll have a knight. That's what you can imagine. Then we'll have a rascal, a maniac, a judge— somebody who's very judgmental—a priest, and a free-spirit, They basically all have different traits that they prefer.

If you put in, let's say, a judgmental character, who would for instance refuse to hire a companion, that's a very big impact on your game right there. If you role-play through that, that really changes your game. It's something that can happen in multiplayer also, right? It's basically what we're trying to do. This gives single-players the feeling of what you get in co-op multiplayer, when you deal with the actions of somebody else.

PCG: Did you guys have a sense of the right way for someone to try to play this game? Is it really designed for multiplayer or is it designed to be single-player and the multiplayer is just a bonus for people who want to make that commitment?

Vincke: It's been designed from the bottom-up with the multiplayer in mind, under the motto that the multiplayer will make the single-player stronger. That sounds strange, so allow me to explain that.

If you make enough RPG like this, in which the party can split up at any time, and each player can do whatever he wants, there is an enormous amount of contingencies that you have to put in place, or you have to come up with a very systemic system which is pretty much what we've done. You have to make sure that whatever storytelling you're trying to do it will work no matter what the players are going to do.

[...] When you're playing it in multiplayer you can be rest assured that becomes very unpredictable, what people are doing. A lot of the development effort was actually focused around that. I'm really happy that we've done it, because typically people always say it dumbs a game down, the fact that you have the multiplayer, and I think in our case it actually strengthens it.

We didn't talk about quests at some point anymore. We just talked about situations which occurred, that players could encounter, and there was no right or not wrong way of doing it. It was just something that happens on your journey. So my advice to anybody doing an RPG would be, "Make a multiplayer version out of it."

PCG: Are there plans for expansions or DLC or massive content updates?

Vincke: We are going to add a number of extra companions. There were planned to be more companions, but just the deadline and production realities, that's too hard to be able to include this, so that's going to come in August, the extra companions. They will be probably more fleshed-out than the ones that are in there now, so a lot of effort is being put into that.

Then beyond that, to be honest, I told you at the beginning of our conversation that this was “all-in,” so we didn't really make any concrete plans. We obviously have lots of ideas, but there are no concrete sense of what we're going to do, so we're going to finish this patch, do a couple of more hotfixes and then probably we're going to take a break, and then I think at that we're going to spend August figuring out where to next, with the RPG that we're going to be making. Then we will announce it with a lot of fanfare and so forth.​

So, those of you who were postponing your playthrough until the companions were complete should clear your schedules for August.

There are 103 comments on Interview with Swen Vincke at PC Gamer

Thu 10 July 2014
Quest for Infamy Released on Steam and GOG

Game News - posted by Crooked Bee on Thu 10 July 2014, 15:39:53

Tags: Infamous Quests; Quest for Infamy

After the adventure RPG Heroine's Quest, which we enjoyed a lot, comes the second title in the ongoing Quest for Glory-inspired renaissance. It's called Quest for Infamy, and was developed by the Codex user Blackthorne (Steven Alexander), who also took part in our huge AdventureDex Interview last year.

You can grab the game on Steam or on GOG. I'll quote the Steam description here.

Why Be Famous When You Can Be Infamous?

Return to the glory days of role-playing and adventure with this humor-filled fantasy epic, styled in the vein of classic PC RPGs, where you play the charming villain. Blending turn-based combat and spellcasting with puzzle solving and adventure, players can choose from three character classes—brigand (strength), rogue (stealth), or sorcerer (magic), each with unique storylines and adventures—in one of the largest retro role-playing experiences ever. A spiritual heir to yesteryear's heroic quests, adventurers are invited to explore a world of hand-drawn wonder, as they wind their way through trap-infested dungeons, battle slavering beasts with swords or custom-made spells, and steal entire town's worth of treasure from unsuspecting townsfolk. Being bad has never felt so good!

  • Classic fantasy Adventure/RPG packed with adventure, puzzles, combat, and spellcasting
  • Play as one of three anti-heroes with unique quests: Brigand, Rogue, or Sorcerer
  • Lie, cheat, and steal your way through tales of charming villainy with multiple endings
  • Use swords, spells, or wits to blaze a path to victory: Styles vary with every play
  • Hand-drawn world seamlessly blends role-playing and adventure
  • Over 50 NPCs and 200 rooms to explore and interact with
  • Customize your own spells, skills, and adventures
Links: Steam; GOG.

There's also a third QfG-inspired game, Mage's Initiation, coming later this year. Keep an eye out for that one, too.

There are 74 comments on Quest for Infamy Released on Steam and GOG

Wed 9 July 2014
Pillars of Eternity Kickstarter Update #82: Creatures; Backer Beta on Aug 18

Game News - posted by Crooked Bee on Wed 9 July 2014, 20:14:37

Tags: Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity

This week's Pillars of Eternity update by associate producer Rose Gomez is pretty short, focusing on the design of some of the game's creatures. It also officially announces the backer beta, to be released on August 18 already. Good progress there.

Anyway, here's one of the monsters:


Blights are lost souls or soul fragments that have bonded with elemental substances. They are often victims of natural disasters (floods, rock slides, forest fires, etc.). They are incoherent, confused, and full of rage, an amorphous cloud that swirls endlessly and with great violence. Within the vortex, dozens of humanoid shapes materialize and vanish from moment to moment. Faces scream in silent agony while hands desperately clutch and claw at their surroundings, as though still trying to escape their tragic fates.

Bîaŵacs, storms that can rip the soul out of a person’s body, often create blights. If souls are ripped free from their bodies and caught in the center of the storm, they may become stuck together and bonded with any other elemental substances in the maelstrom. They are pure chaos and confusion, and destroying them is considered by many to be a mercy to the souls trapped within them.

Blights have been the subject of controversial research carried out by the animancers of Eora. On the one hand, attempts at vivisection have led to promising strides in treating patients who, for one reason or another, contain within their bodies two or more complete souls fused together, which has been identified as the root cause of a variety of mental and physiological disorders. On the other, however, some groups lament that there is a lack of transparency on the methods being employed in these experiments, the general concerns being that these might be somehow inhumane or present some broader risk to the surrounding populace. There are also some who accuse animancers of deliberately trying to create blights for study, but the veracity of these claims is difficult to substantiate.​

Bîaŵac is such a Sawyerian name. To learn about Xaurips and Vithracks, read the full update.

Additionally, in a move that may prove disappointing to some, Obsidian has decided to only provide developer documentary (which was part of some KS tiers) as digital download, avoiding the physical DVD/Bluray stuff entirely. It's like that thing Swen Vincke is talking about.

The next update will "discuss the Backer Beta in more detail." Looking forward to that.

There are 64 comments on Pillars of Eternity Kickstarter Update #82: Creatures; Backer Beta on Aug 18

Divinity: Original Sin Released on GOG

Game News - posted by Crooked Bee on Wed 9 July 2014, 20:02:06

Tags: Divinity: Original Sin; Larian Studios

After some trials and tribulations, Larian's Divinity: Original Sin has been released on today. As you know, originally GOG intended to release the game in August, after the launch of its GOG Galaxy client, in order to offer full multiplayer and automatic patching features comparable to those offered by Steam. However, there was some backslash on their forums because of that decision, and also Examiner's How GOG Screwed up the Divinity: Original Sin release article, all of which led GOG to release the game earlier.

The game does have regional pricing, in case you're wondering, but it also features GOG's "Fair Price Package" and includes the editor, too:

What's cool about it:
  • We're offering a Fair Price Package with this title, so everyone who is adversely affected by the regional pricing plan will be compensated with bonus codes. You will find yours in your order confirmation email.
  • Become part of a reactive, living and vast open world. Explore many different environments, fight all kinds of fantastical creatures and discover tons of desirable items.
  • Experience gripping party- and turn-based combat. Manipulate the environment and use skill & spell combos to overcome your many foes: Use magic to make it rain on your enemies, then cast a lightning spell to fry them to a crisp.
  • Experiment with different skill combinations to ruin the day for enemies and townspeople alike.
  • Play with a friend in co-op multiplayer. Make decisions together (or disagree entirely), as your interactions and relationship with your partner influence the game.
  • Unravel a deep and epic story, set in the early days of the Divinity universe. No prior experience with other Divinity games is necessary, however. The game takes place well before its predecessors, Divine Divinity and Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga, but will still feel familiar to fans.
  • Classless character creation lets you design the character of your choice. Endless item interaction and combinations take exploration and experimentation to another level of freedom.
  • Create your own adventures and share them online. With Original Sin comes the powerful toolset used by the game's designers. Yours are endless new stories to make and share with other players!
Multiplayer notice: Multiplayer is available via Direct IP or LAN.​

In other D:OS-related news, Gamasutra has a short interview with Swen Vincke, which includes, among other things, his strong opinion on digital vs physical content:

Going forward, Larian expects to rely on crowdfunding for its future projects -- though Vincke says his studio has learned a lot from its first brush with Kickstarter.

"Don’t do anything physical," says Vincke, when I ask him about recommendations for his fellow developers who are thinking about using Kickstarter. "I would never again do all the boxed stuff, and I regret that we spent so much time on everything related to making a physical release happen."

The studio wound up devoting a significant amount of resources and time to printing discs, shipping boxes, and getting Original Sin translated and age-rated in multiple territories prior to release. Vincke tells me he ignored good advice to focus on developing a digital game in English and only worry about things like localization after your game is released.

"At the time I answered him by saying ‘you know we’ve been doing this for quite some time, we’ve released so many RPGs, we can deal with this, blah blah blah.’ And it’s true, we have done this several times, and it’s always been miserable! Here too, it was miserable again," says Vincke.

"I will definitely try to listen to my own advice next time." ​

There are 131 comments on Divinity: Original Sin Released on GOG

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