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2009: The Year in Review

2009: The Year in Review

Editorial - posted by DarkUnderlord on Thu 18 February 2010, 12:35:33

Tags: The Year in Review

In the time-honoured tradition of reminiscing about the year just gone, we take a look at 2009. We began the year with Fallout 3 sweeping the RPG of the year awards for 2008. The year ended with Dragon Age doing much the same for 2009. What else happened in 2009? Well, not much in the way of RPGs really. In fact, some-what prophetically, EuroGamer's list of Exciting RPGs coming in 2009 pretty much summed up what kind of year we were in for:


Star Attraction

Final Fantasy XIII


Supporting Cast

Dragon Age: Origins
Dragon Quest IX
The Witcher: Rise of the White Wolf


In case that wasn't obvious, it was a shit year. So rather than looking at what did happen, let's begin this year in review by looking at the stuff that didn't.



Interplay didn't die.


STILL. Instead they fought Bethesda in court over the Fallout license... and won (NOTE: A preliminary junction which would've otherwise prevented them from continuing work on their MMO and selling the original Fallout Trilogy bundle. As of this moment, the court case is still ongoing). Perhaps Bethesda went in too confidently thinking Interplay CEO Herve Caen wouldn't be able to muster himself out of his cardboard box (did you know that comic is 6 years old now?). Perhaps they were expecting rats as his attorneys? Who knows.


What we do know now (thanks to the court documents) is that Interplay are actually working on some kind of Fallout MMO. No, seriously. They are. Turns out it's not just some big joke after all.


To create its MMOG, Interplay spent more than a year in pre-production. It hired the game designers from the original Fallout game to work on the game design. Interplay hired artists to create concept art for reference during production...Interplay also hired writers to work on the MMOG's story line. The current game design document is more than 600 pages long and describes background material, such as the game world, characters, creatures, weapons, equipment, back story and other key concepts concerning game play.


Apparently people are actually being paid. With money. By Interplay. Wild rumours are now floating around about some kind of stock deal that will see new titles for their Descent, Earthworm Jim, Dark Alliance, and MDK licenses.


Interplay not only aren't dead but they're making more noises than they've ever made in the past half-decade and it doesn't look like they'll be stopping any time soon. Whether any of this comes to fruition or not is still anyone's guess (and with Interplay, you really never can tell) but with a fresh court victory against Bethesda under their belt and money in the bank, Interplay look like they'll be around for many more years to come.



No Elder Scrolls.


Riding the success of Fallout 3, Bethesda's Todd Howard announced they had no "current" plans for an Elder Scrolls V. This isn't just a case of going a year without either, it appears to be there won't be another Elder Scrolls game for quite some time. This breaks their recent pattern of releasing a game in the series every 4 years. Instead Bethesda seem content with releasing books, suing Interplay and buying id Software.




Yes, Zenimax (Bethesda's parent company) is now the proud owner of Doom because id liked what they did with Fallout. Rumour had it they were looking to add Half-Life to the stable too. It certainly wouldn't be out of place with any of the other FPS's they've made or now have under their belt. And hey, maybe they'll finally be able to admit that's the kind of game they've been making anyway.


For the time being though, Bethesda are working on their own MMO...


... which of course is set in the Elder Scrolls world but that hasn't been officially announced yet. Thank you legal documents. Yes, it turns out that Bethesda have been "secretly" working on an Elder Scrolls "World of Warcraft style" MMO since 2006 and it's very close to its official unveiling.


Which will conquer? Interplay's Fallout or Bethesda's Elder Scrolls? Only time will tell.



Aliens RPG gets canned.


Another thing that didn't happen in 2009 was Obsidian's much talked about RPG set in the Aliens universe. Josh Sawyer's run of bad luck heading up projects that get cancelled continued. Rather than being released or even having development continue at a merry pace, it was cancelled in early February... or later in June depending on who you want to believe. Staff were laid-off, assets may have been disposed of and children may have been harmed in the end of production.



Of course, Sega were also under their own financial strain which may well have had something to do with it. You can see videos of Aliens RPG game footage here. Apparently the sudden cancellation put Obsidian on the ropes and they had to sell some arms and legs to stay afloat. Word is they're still alive and looking forward to Alpha Protocol which...



Alpha Protocol gets pushed.


... is something else that didn't happen in 2009. Originally scheduled for an October release, Alpha Protocol has been delayed until 2010. It turns out that while most of us were wondering "just how do you make an RPG set in a James Bones style world of espionage and intrigue", Sony - the company funding the project (or are they, I don't bother keeping track of these things anymore) - were asking themselves the same question. After seeing an early build they commented in some leaked minutes:


Alpha Protocol: Michael Foster, product evaluator, said AP felt barely RPG. Initial level too challenging for players. “Mass Effect felt more RPG.”  Review notes sent to John Merlino a few weeks prior. After meeting Gerald mentioned AP is a high priority for his team.


Note that "challenge" may mean "lacks a tutorial" which we should all be aware can confuse some players. Still, it looks like Obsidian are under the pump to deliver something which rocks our socks off. The game to date sounds intriguing enough with Obsidian pushing the RPG elements and promising "a pretty strong blend of action, character building, character interaction and reactivity".



CD Projekt almost died.


Starting up an RPG company must be asking for trouble. No wonder everyone makes first person shooters and RTS's. After showing off big plans, CD Projekt started the year on the back foot with the news that The Witcher was not going to see a console release as originally intended, with the developers instead focussing on The Witcher 2. And it wasn't just because they felt like it either:


As the financial crisis hit, the studio was affected as well, finding itself incapable of managing all three projects (a console port of The Witcher, and two more titles based on The Witcher intellectual property, one of which was The Witcher 2.) and forced to lay off a significant portion of its staff. The third Witcher IP project was cancelled, and its entire crew was let go or left of their own volition. A second round of layoffs followed as The Witcher: Rise of the White Wolf was cancelled, including around two dozen people losing their jobs yesterday.


The fun part was the console port was out-sourced and the guys who were paid to make it started having a go at CD Projekt, ultimately claiming that they weren't being paid at all which was the real problem. I don't think who put the project on hold and when was ever sorted but it became clear that CD Projekt were in for the fight of their lives in an attempt to stay above water financially.


The upside of all of this is that none of it stopped them doing what they're good at. Which is of course releasing even more enhanced editions of The Witcher. The Witcher, Enhanced Edition, Director's Cut would finally allow "gamers in North America to experience the award-winning RPG as the developers originally envisioned". In true CD Projekt fashion, it was actually just a patch coupled together with a few community made mods with a titled slapped on it.


They ended the year with speculation of a back-door stock-market listing presumably in an attempt to get some much needed funding for The Witcher 2. Incidentally, this is pretty much how Interplay started to go down hill all those years ago... Officially, no new information has yet come to light.



Grimoire wasn't released.


Cleveland Mark Blakemore, regular forumite here at the Codex (or has he left again? I can never keep up) has been working on Grimoire since about as long as I've been on the internet, perhaps longer. An indie game based on ye olde Wizardy series, Grimoire promises to have all the best things that made the games classic. Only it's been "coming soon" since about 2001 and was due "July 2009", then "Fall 2009".



The latest update informs it will be out next month in March. Whether Cleve can live up to his promises, overcome his desire for perfection and release the damn game already, or whether he'll go back to another 10 years of coding his Fallout bunker software (I'm serious there) is anyone's guess.



No, Fan Made Fallout didn't come out either.


And what kind of man would I be without addressing my own failings as a wanna-be RPG developer? My in-development-for-far-too-long-with-nothing-actually-happening Fallout mod project was finally declared dead in April. Yes, I killed it after pretending I was doing something on it for the past 8 years. And you know what? God it felt good to finally put that to sleep.



Age of Decadence delivers a combat demo


For those who don't know, Vault Dweller is a Canadian guy who works as a Vice President of Marketing for some company we won't name. He was also on staff for a while here until I kicked him off in an epic battle of shoutiness over who we should ban in the forums. He started posting topics about game design around 2004 on these forums and soon enough, announced he was working on his own game. He first mentioned the three words that make up its title in 2005. In 2006 he sold-out, went pro, setup his own website and started doing interviews.



AoD has now been in development for about 6 years with a release date of "Thursday" since 2007. VD's game has been highly anticipated by a lot of us simply for the fact that VD talks a lot of shit about what makes a good RPG and this may finally be a chance to see one with lots of choices and consequences... or laugh at VD for failing to live up to his promises.


And no, Age of Decadence didn't happen in 2009 either. However something else did. After talking about it a lot, VD finally released the much anticipated combat demo (get the latest version here). Unlike other Indie games that are talked about a lot without ever seeing much happen, VD has also released a plethora of screenshots and game information through-out the project's life-time.



The Combat Demo signals a move that maybe, just maybe, 2010 (okay, so maybe 2012) might finally have something see the light of day which would give us self-professed hard-core RPG fans something to look forward to. If you haven't already, pick up the demo and sample some old-fashioned turn-based combat (Just make sure you max con and dodge and FUCK YOU VD for making me use the arrow money cheat because you decided to make the best 2-handed sword in the game 1000 gp more expensive than the best weapon for every other category you god-damned fag).


And on that turning point, let's stop looking at what didn't happen in 2009 and start looking at what did.



Geneforge saw it's final release


Geneforge 5, the final instalment in Jeff Vogel's Geneforge saga, was released for windows on the 18th February 2009. It's the same as every other Jeff Vogel game you (probably haven't) played but you can pick up the entire saga on one disc now. It was apparently pretty good. Lots of faction C&C and stuff. Combat was as usual. Grab the demo first if you want.



Fallout: New Vegas


2009 wasn't all bad news for Obsidian. Perhaps because someone at Bethesda has friends there, or because Bethesda can see Obsidian for the talented guys they are (yeah I got a chuckle out of that too) or maybe because they think it's time Obsidian had a decent break, they were given the chance to develop a Fallout game:


Dubbed Fallout: New Vegas, the game is not a sequel to last year’s massively popular Fallout 3, and will instead be a standalone title 'set in the Fallout universe'.

It will, however, be based on the Fallout 3 engine, and no doubt be very familiar to those accustomed to the recent post-nuclear outing.



In a rather bizarre twist, the news was eerily similar to an April Fool's joke we made back in 2005. Information about the game is already coming out, with the game scheduled for release this year. Will Obsidian cock it up completely? Will lead designer Josh Sawyer's curse of cancelled projects finally be broken? Will it actually be a decent Fallout game?


Who the fuck cares.



Knights of the Chalice


You know a game is good when it's not worthy of having a wikipedia article. Such is the case for Knights of the Chalice. Officially released in August 2009, it promised "a traditional 2D RPG where you create a party of heroes and embark on a series of adventures in a fantasy world. The game features tactical turn-based combat, a good AI and user-friendly interface, based on the Open Game Content 3.5 from Wizards of the Coast." and boy did it deliver.


In True Codex Fashion™ we were working on a review which hasn't actually happened yet, but it willl. One day. Have some randomly selected forum comments instead:


I was sold after one round of combat. ~Fezzik
PERFECT 3.5 combat (I think it's 3.5, anyways -- maybe it's 3.0). It has 5 foot steps, orgasmic spells, and etc. Game isn't even that bad looking. ~WholesaleGenocide
Yes, it's 3.5 combat on a computer. Pretty much a perfect translation to the electronic medium and yes, the graphics are rather competent once you get in the game. ~L'ennui
I have to agree with the consensus here, this is the best turn-based combat game I've played in eons. ToEE was similar, but it was so buggy when it came out compared to this indie game. ~crpgnut
The dialogue may be simplistic, but the immediate consequences of decisions made inside the dialogue for the encounters are extremely well done. ~Ashery
Ten minutes into the demo I found myself in a fight against a troll, a couple of wizards, and several warriors. I cast web in the center of the room to block the enemy. What happens? Well, a wizard casts fireball into the center of the web specifically to burn it away. Meanwhile, the troll intentionally skirts the web to get at my cleric. My wizard is bullrushed into the tattered remains of his own web where he gets hopelessly entangled and I quickly die.

I don't think I've ever experienced anything quite like that. Generally I drop web in front of the enemy and they all charge idiotically through it, getting stuck and killed in the process. Wizards buff themselves lots, then shoot a few spells at me. They never intentionally alter the environment.

I'm deeply impressed, and if this is the kind of thing I can expect throughout the game I'm looking forward to the full version. ~youhomofo


You can download the demo here. If you like it, you can find the purchase option in the same link and pick up the game for a measly £14.95 GBP (about $24 USD).


Venetica makes death some-what interesting.


What happens when you take a company that makes adventure games and get them to do an RPG? Venetica, which was released on the 4th September 2009. JarlFrank took a look at the game a few weeks ago and found a "solid Action RPG [that was] a lot of fun to play." Set in 16th century Venice, the story revolves around you playing the daughter of Death himself. The typical cliched opening (your lover gets killed and thus sets you on your journey of revenge) apparently has some interesting puzzles (albeit with the answers in easy-reach, reducing the thinking required to solve them) and a decent story that at least keeps you going until the end.



To date, the game has only been released in Germany. But you can check the official website and try the "Demo Laden!" (assuming you don't mind sprechen ze deutsch). There's no word yet on exactly when our heathen English selves will be able to give it a whirl in our own mother-tongue, though it apparently is being worked on.



Risen delivers deja vu all over again.


Continuing the German theme, Piranha Bytes, makers of the criticially acclaimed (I get to say that right?) Gothic series released Risen. Why? Because their publisher JoWooD Productions took the rights to the Gothic name and Piranha Bytes wanted to make another RPG. What they created is in essence a Gothic game with a different title.


... and there's nothing wrong with that, at least according to Darth Roxor when he took it for a whirl.


And in the end, the question still stands: is Risen a worthy spiritual successor to the Gothic series? Hell yes, if you want another injection of Gothic, Risen is definitely what you’re looking for, since it’s the same formula, but in a new engine, some new ideas and a lot of improvements. If you never liked any game from Piranha Bytes, though, you should avoid it like the plague, because there’s nothing new that would make you enjoy it.


Continuing my inate need to include official release dates, Risen hit the shelves on 2nd October 2009.



Yet more Action RPGs with Torchlight.


Do you want a Fate unlock code? Click here for a Fate unlock code. The makers of Fate decided to do it again in 2009 with their release of Torchlight (27th October 2009). Torchlight is an action RPG thing. There are pets. They take your shit to market. Loot drops like it's Christmas. It's all very Feng shui.


Well, anyhow. The game? It's Diablo. In 3D. For $20. ~Jinsai



It's apparently exactly like it's predecessor Fate. And no, don't ask us for unlock codes. We don't have unlock codes. You can pay your $20 and buy the stinking game yourself (check out the demo first if you must). You'll probably enjoy it too (Though personally, I long to play a game where I can enter the full 13 characters of my name. What is it, 13 characters is too long these days for a god-damned text field? Oh yeah, FUCK YOU for that one as well VD).



You got to morph into a dragon for Divinity 2


How cool would morphing into a dragon and kicking ass be? That was the (only) thought behind Divinity II: Ego Draconis which was released 24th July 2009 in Germany, 20th November 2009 in the rest of Europe and 5th January 2010 in North America (ya, I know). An action RPG that offers the ability to turn into a dragon and fly around while fighting other dragons in arcade like fashion, as well as a huge, crowded and mostly generic Fantasy world. If it wasn't for its few and rarely considerable C&C (or so I've been told), some interesting quests and a mind-reading ability, we'd mention it together with Torchlight above. Instead, we didn't so here is a big ass screenshot we stole from IGN:




The Age of Dragons and their Origins.


Dragon Age: Origins, what is promised to be the first of many games in the Dragon Age series, was released by BioWare on the 3rd November 2009. Dragon Age was very much the only "A grade" title released in 2009 (fuck you Risen et al). That of course guaranteed it the "RPG of the Year" accolade from every website that even bothers to mention RPGs these days (with a mandatory "RPG of the decade" because gosh, why stop at just RPG of the year when you can give one for like, 10 whole years because it's shiney and new).


The process of selecting the title for RPG of the year goes something like this:

  1. Were any RPGs actually released this year?
  2. Were any of them released in English?
  3. Give the English one the award.

And give the award they did. In all seriousness, I'm sure Dragon Age is good, as surprisingly, BioWare actually put a reasonable amount of effort into Dragon Age. Namely in that all the choices are not bleedingly obvious. At least according to some. Not so much according to others.


If you liked Dragon Age a lot, you can even buy the book. Written by BioWare's David Gaider, it's:

[...] chock full of the usual fantasy trappings like elves, dwarves, mages, giant spiders, magic and sword fights, but its focus remains squarely in Gaider’s strength: developing the main characters.

Stolen Throne feels like the original Star Wars trilogy meets the Harry Potter series, with the tales of King Arthur and the darker tone of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series tossed in for effect. It’s a coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of a rebellion to reclaim the throne for the kingdom of Ferelden’s rightful heir.

Giant spiders and King Arthur and Star Wars and Harry Potter and George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire are cool. Therefore the book must be too. Better yet is that there are now two books set in the Dragon Age world, both written by world-renowned fantasy author David Davey Dave Gaiderade. You can pick the second one up from Amazon and get your grubby little hands on the first one as well. Because hey, why wouldn't you buy both?


If you want more actual PC RPG action, don't fret! The expansion pack is on it's way and rest-assured the sequels will be out in another year or two.


On a personal note, as with all the other RPGs mentioned so far, Dragon Age has something similar for me. That is, I haven't played it. Any of them. Rather strange for someone who pretends to be running an RPG website (In my defence, it doesn't help that they release these things all at the same time at the end of the year and that I have a habit of picking up games a few years after their release - Fallout 3 & Mass Effect, here I come). No, instead, I was doing something else with my time...



I got addicted to an MMO.


There's no point having a tradition unless you get to break it every once in a while. I broke tradition this year by actually getting myself hooked on an MMO. While once upon a time, I played EVE online on and off for about 3 months, I never really got into it long enough to really do anything. That changed with Haven & Hearth (NOTE: For some reason the website seems to like diverting to https so don't be surprised if you get some certificate warning).



Haven & Hearth (much like EVE) is a sandbox style game. That is, you can do quite a bit of damage to the environment around you. Set in some kind of germanic / celtic / whatever / I don't really care anyway setting, you can found villages, clear-cut entire forests, build little log cabins, bake food, make wine, brew your own beer and generally have a bunch of fun.



Yes, I've been addicted to planting wheat, watching it grow, harvesting said wheat, grinding it into flour and baking bread out of it. That and wandering around the country-side exploring and hunting bears. For some strange reason I felt compelled to play-on, some times to grind up skills, other times just to bake, smoosh some grapes into wine or scour the land for precious metal mines.


Myself and a group of other Codexers even founded a village named Codexia. We were attacked and mercilessly slaughtered by Germans (one of the games more powerful groups), threatened by some GOONS and generally had a ball of a time with lots of epic DRAMAH, while building up our village and trying to work out how the fuck shit worked. We eventually moved and started building a new town (Nova Codeksia) after realising how appallingly badly built our first village was.



As with all MMO's, our player-group peaked at about 40 Codexers before 97% of them got bored and left, while the few of us who were addicted plowed onwards in our fields of glory. The game is actually in Alpha-development with new stuff added just about every week. We joined in October 09 just after a map reset. The game is now scheduled for a complete reset in about two weeks time so that a new combat system can be implemented.


You can probably expect some of us to be there, looking for just the right spot to found our new village.



End of the Year


It is now (well and truly passed) the end of 2009. In miscellaneous news, Drakensang: The Dark Eye saw it's English release at the beginning of 2009 - though we mentioned it in last years review - and our friends at RPGWatch celebrated 3 years. RPGDot (where the staff at RPGWatch originally came from) has long been dead and replaced with one of those dodgy search sites.


And for those who are interested, the Codex failed to celebrate it's 7th year in 2009. Probably because I can never figure out when we were actually founded and don't know whether I should use the inspiring first news post on 27 June 2002 or a date closer to November... because it turns out we never officially made a "launch" post (or I just can't find it).


We manage to scon some free games from Good Old Games and ran ourselves a short-story competition to pick winners. Don't read them, they're not worth it. No word yet on whether GoG are ever going to let us run any competitions associated with them in anyway ever again. But hey, what's the point of having bridges if you can't burn a few now and then?


On the forum front (non-Codexers run away now, before it's too late), 2009 will be remembered for having a bunch of weird-ass threads on the Codex. The year started off with revelations that a certain member was a tranny. That theme was continued through-out the year with yet more tranny revelations. No, you don't actually want to look at the pics on page 25. Remember: What has been seen, cannot be unseen. At one point the tranny topics got so out of control we ended up with a forum for those topics alone. It lasted a day before the space-time continuum sucked it into Oblivion and we almost demoted Ausir for creating it in the first place. If anyone's going to create weird-ass forums around here, it'll be me, thank you very much. God-damned plebs need to learn their place.


Cleve graced us with another prediction of doom on 24th August 2009:


Next 30 days.

Watch and see.


It's been 152 168 a lot more days then that now and we're still waiting to see.


We drove another modder away by simply taking his habit of signing his name on the bottom of his posts and Drog Black Tooth, creator of the Unofficial Arcanum Patch also left. Then came back. Then left again. Then created a bunch of alts and is still hanging around. The moral of the story is: Modders are a bunch of egotistical weirdo's.


Meanwhile we were reminded that the Codex has been going down to the toilet since at least 2004 and Trash incited Sheek into an internet fight. For realz. The two were going to meet and everything. Disappointingly, as with all internet tough-guyz, both of them chickened out like the little bitches they are. And then blamed each other for chickening out.


On the less mind-bogglingly side of retarded, Admiral Jimbob (who has now gone insane and changed his name) created the most epic internetz comic evar. Which he then followed up with a sequel, proving that Gary's Mod really does have some uses after-all.


So that was 2009 @ the Codex. 2010 promises to be some-what more exciting with... Let's face it, Fallout New Vegas will be RPG of the year with Alpha Protocol coming in as runner-up. We may as well declare that now. Of course if Josh Sawyer's run of bad luck with cancelled projects kicks in, then Alpha Protocol will be the winner. We may even finally see some of the MMO stuff Bethesda have been working on (Assuming they release more of it in their legal case with Interplay).


... and maybe some more RPG developers will kick the bucket because that's always fun to watch.



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