Codex Interview - posted by Crooked Bee on Tue 22 October 2013, 16:18:33Tags: Origin Systems; Retrospective Interview; Ultima Underworld; Ultima Underworld II: Labyrinth of Worlds; Ultima VI: The False Prophet; Ultima VII: Serpent Isle; Ultima VIII: Pagan; Warren Spector; Worlds of Ultima: Martian Dreams; Worlds of Ultima: The Savage Empire
Warren Spector is one of the most celebrated names in the video game industry, most famous for his involvement with Looking Glass Studios' System Shock and Ion Storm's Deus Ex, as well as his philosophy of game design that emphasizes player choice, simulation, and interactive storytelling. At the end of the 1980s - beginning of the 1990s, however, before he came to work on his most widely known titles, Warren also did important work at Richard Garriott's Origin Systems, having been instrumental in the design and production of such unique and significant computer role-playing games as Ultima VI, Ultima VII Part 2: Serpent Isle, the Worlds of Ultima spin-offs (Savage Empire and Martian Dreams), and Ultima Underworld I & II (developed under Origin's supervision by Blue Sky Productions which later became Looking Glass), not to mention his role on various other Origin games such as Wing Commander, Bad Blood or Crusader: No Remorse.
As far as we know, it's been many years since anyone interviewed Warren Spector at length about his work on the Ultima games; this interview aims to rectify that. In it, Warren talks about his pen-and-paper background, his time at Origin and the design philosophy behind the games he was involved with at the time, and also shares some thoughts on the history of the CRPG genre. Have a snippet:
You know, I bet everyone involved in the creation of the Worlds of Ultima series has a different view of how that sub-series came to be. My memory is probably as inaccurate as anyone's, but I remember it being my idea, to be honest. We simply needed to create more games than Richard Garriott and Chris Roberts could produce. And with guys like Paul Neurath and Greg Malone and Stuart Marks and Todd Porter gone, guys like Jeff Johannigman and I had to step up. I think I was the one to suggest creating a spin-off series of non-numbered Ultimas, produced by me and Jeff, that would re-use tech from last numbered one while Richard was creating ground-up new tech for the next numbered one.
My role on Savage Empire started and ended early. I wrote up the initial 20-ish page design spec (which I wish I still had!) for a lost world, dinosaur game. And I wrote up a spec for what became Martian Dreams. I couldn't make both and wasn't willing to pass up the chance to make a Victorian time travel game, so I took on Martian Dreams and Johan did Savage Empire. He and designer, Aaron Allston, probably scrapped my initial design doc instantly. No matter, Savage Empire ended up being a swell game and, despite all the traipsing around the Martian surface, I'm still inordinately proud of Martian Dreams. Frankly, I wish we'd kept the Worlds of Ultima games going.
Starting from Ultima IV, each game in the series improved upon its predecessor, until we arrive at Ultima VIII: Pagan – a run 'n jump game focused around a lone Avatar and leaving behind the meticulous worldbuilding of the previous Ultima games. So, what was going on with Ultima VIII? The way you see and remember it, what made Origin decide to abandon its strategy of gradual iteration on the classic Ultima formula? Was there perhaps at one point a different vision for the game?
To be frank, I was working on other things when U8 was in development so you'd probably want to ask someone else what was going on with that team and that project. As an observer at Origin but outside the team, my impression at the time was that the Ultima guys had a bit of "Commander envy" – as in Wing Commander and Strike Commander envy. Chris's games had managed to reach a broader audience than anything Origin had done to date and I think U8 was an attempt to go after a broader audience. I did the same thing years later between Deus Ex and Deus Ex: Invisible War. The obvious way to reach a broad audience is to simplify, streamline and up the action. That doesn't have to compromise the integrity of your concept but it can and often does. Maybe that's what was going on in U8. But, again, that's a lot of speculation on my part.
As far as connections between Serpent Isle and U8 go, there really weren't many – if any. My teams and Richard's teams worked largely independently. Maybe too much so… We all tried to be aware of what was going on, Ultima-wise, on "the other side" but we were so heads-down, working like crazed weasels to hit our dates, we didn't coordinate as much as we could have. Nothing as dramatic as a shifting product vision, I'm afraid!
Serpent Isle was your last "old school" party-based RPG. In the late 90s, while at Looking Glass, you developed a design philosophy emphasizing player choice, and then you continued with that approach in Deus Ex. During the same period, however, Black Isle Studios was developing its own signature gameplay style which also emphasized player choice, albeit in a different way – games like Tim Cain’s Fallout or Chris Avellone’s Planescape: Torment were traditional party-based CRPGs with an isometric perspective, deep dialogue trees, etc. One could imagine that, had you continued making games like Serpent Isle, they would have turned out a lot like those titles. Do you ever regret not having been able to pursue that path? Do you think you could have married the form of Serpent Isle with the essence of Deus Ex, so to speak?
Interesting question… I think I could have married Serpent Isle's party basis with DX, but I wouldn't have done it with dialogue trees and traditional RPG tropes. The key thing about games like Underworld and System Shock and Deus Ex and, yes, even Disney Epic Mickey, is that they don't rely as much on scripting (dialogue or interaction scripting), as on simulation. I think it'd be possible to make an isometric, party-based game that offers all the player choice and consequence stuff, for sure. I've often thought about giving that a try. You never know – it just might happen some day!
The interesting thing to me, though, is that you really see a radical difference between the philosophy underlying Serpent Isle and the DX philosophy. I see them both as being on the same evolutionary path. I mean, the whole choice and consequence thing grew out of a design philosophy I was steeped in during my tabletop days and then reinforced by Richard's approach in Ultima VI – the "two solutions to every puzzle" idea. The moment that changed my design life was watching a guy play Ultima VI and solve a puzzle in a way Richard and I never thought of. I kind of decided then and there to make nothing but games designed to empower players. I always thought Serpent Isle was one of those games! Maybe I'm wrong!
Read the full interview: RPG Codex Retrospective Interview: Warren Spector on Ultima, Origin, and CRPG Design
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Codex Interview - posted by Crooked Bee on Fri 27 September 2013, 17:25:03Tags: Broderbund Software; Centauri Alliance; Interplay; Michael Cranford; Retrospective Interview; The Bard's Tale; The Bard's Tale II: The Destiny Knight
In 1985, Interplay released Tales of the Unknown: Vol. I: The Bard’s Tale, their own “Wizardry killer” designed and programmed by Brian Fargo’s high school friend Michael Cranford. The game was a smashing success for the company. As Fargo said in his 2011 Matt Chat interview, The Bard’s Tale I “was the product that put us on the map, it was the thing that made us earn significant royalties so we could bring the company to the next level.” In an important way, it was Michael Cranford who kick-started Interplay’s future as RPG developer and publisher. At the same time, Cranford was unhappy about the contract Interplay offered him and left the company after The Bard’s Tale II release. In 1990, he designed his last game, Centauri Alliance, a unique sci-fi CRPG published by Brøderbund for the Apple II and Commodore 64. The choice of platforms coupled with the game’s delayed release turned out to be really unfortunate for its publicity and sales, and no further titles in the Centauri Alliance universe were made. Currently Michael Cranford is CEO at Ninth Degree.
In this interview, Michael talks about the Bard’s Tale series, Interplay, his falling out with Brian Fargo, as well as Centauri Alliance and Brøderbund. Have an Interplay-related snippet:
Well, first off, Heineman wouldn’t know anything about it, except perhaps what Brian might have told him. He was a quirky guy who sat in the corner of the office and had no role in the business operation of the company. Everything that happened was between me and Brian; there was no one else ever present.
When I first came to work at Interplay, I already had a game concept and a working prototype that looked like Wizardry. I built it when I was at Berkeley. I was debating if I should even show it to Brian, rather than just going to Brøderbund or EA or Activision on my own. Brian was a high school friend, so I decided to trust him with it, and I showed it to him. He said he could sell it, and we had a vague verbal understanding of what I would receive. I threw out some numbers and he was positive and agreeable. There were no written terms of any kind. I was a young guy without business experience, and Brian was my friend. It never occurred to me that I might be making a mistake.
Late in the development, I realized I had made one. I had a couple nights where I couldn’t get to sleep, I was so anxious. I was not in a position to enforce our verbal understanding, and I realized that I could have easily brought this to EA on my own. It was sold based on the prototype. I had built every part of the game single handedly, with the exception of composing the music. (My friend Larry Holland did that.)
When the game was nearly done (or maybe entirely done, actually; hard to remember now), Brian produced a contract. I do remember asking for it a number of times and feeling like I was being stalled. I had no idea what he was going to put in it. My memory is not spot-on from 28 years ago, so I am only speaking in general terms. If I am getting any part of this out of order, it’s not intentional. The rest of it is accurate.
The contract (in its initial version) offered me a fraction of what I was expecting, and there were some conditions that would limit my earnings. I talked it through with my friend’s dad, who was the CEO of a large civil engineering firm; he thought it was unacceptable, and urged me to hire an attorney. We ended up spending a significant amount of time negotiating, and in the final equation, I think both of us thought the resulting deal was unfair. I have no doubt that Brian was doing what he thought was right, and that he felt that what he offered me was reasonable. There was a lot of emotion at the time, on my part, but he is a good guy and a smart businessman. I have no resentment against him; I’m just frustrated I wasn’t smarter about all this. I heard his rationale in this very clearly at the time, and I understood where he was coming from. If the deal that we agreed on was presented at the beginning of the process, however, I would not have brought this to him at all.
Now, this story that I held a disk hostage to extort someone – that didn’t happen, I would never do that. Sitting on the source code until the deal I was promised was finally put in writing and honored – that is possible. I honestly can’t remember. But again, there was no pressure to change any terms. The deal I ended up accepting was not what I understood I would get, and not what I would have agreed to if I had. I am a person of my word. I didn’t make very much money from these games.
In general, how would you describe your experience of working with Interplay and Brian Fargo? What are the moments you remember most and least fondly about it? In hindsight, do you think something could have been done for you to stay at Interplay and further develop the ideas you had in mind for the Bard’s Tale series?
It was mostly great. A great team, led by a guy that I admired and who was a true friend to me through high school. I was doing something that I loved. Hanging with a small, tight band of programmers was fun. We did a lot of things together. Nothing in particular stands out, but I enjoyed the time, until we got to the contract negotiation and negativity that I already mentioned. It was a little personal at the time, but then I grew up and let all that go. Just a lesson in life learned. I didn’t handle my part of all that well.
Brian asked me to leave after Bard’s Tale II, he was not happy with the process we went through to arrive at a deal. He told me he wanted me out for BT3 (which would put me at a lower royalty rate, and the fact was that with the tools and code in hand, they didn’t need me for it). The process also burnt me out, and I wanted to go back to school and do my next project on my own anyway.
There is some regret that we didn’t work things out, and that I didn’t stay to see Interplay grow into what it eventually became. That would have been fun. But I chose another path that was fulfilling.
Read the full interview: RPG Codex Retrospective Interview: Michael Cranford on Bard's Tale, Interplay, and Centauri Alliance
Codex Interview - posted by Infinitron on Mon 9 September 2013, 12:49:30Tags: Infamous Quests; Mark Yohalem; Steven Alexander; Wormwood Studios
I still remember the day I played my first adventure game. I must have been around 11 years old then, a lonely kid in a new country. I came back from school that day to find my father and a friend of his messing around with our mighty 386DX family computer. My father's friend had brought with him a housewarming gift, in the form of several boxes of 1.44MB floppy disks filled with pirated games. One of those games was a monster that took up an entire box of floppies all by itself. Its name was King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow.
I was blown away. Never before had I seen a game with such production qualities and such depth. It made my small collection of NES games look like pathetic toys. From that day onward, I was a PC gamer and an adventure game fanatic. I got more adventure games wherever I could find them, pirating some, buying others. I played through all of the LucasArts and Sierra classics, from The Secret of Monkey Island to Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers. I also dabbled in less mainstream titles, like Revolution Software's Beneath a Steel Sky, Adventure Soft's Simon the Sorcerer and Legend Entertainment's Eric the Unready, all of which also turned out to be excellent. Life was good. But all good things come to an end.
My gradual estrangement from the adventure genre actually began not due to anything in the games themselves, but because of my computer. My once mighty machine was becoming long in the tooth, and newer games were becoming unplayable. Nevertheless, when visiting my wealthy, Pentium-owning friends, I couldn't help but notice that my beloved genre was changing. Classic point-and-clicks were dying off and being replaced with Myst clones and FMV games. Was I simply bitter that my computer was unable to run these newer titles, or did I truly dislike them for what they were? I'm actually not sure about that myself, nor does it really matter.
Whatever the case, it was around that time that I received a free CD-ROM with a gaming magazine, which contained a game called Ultima VIII: Pagan. It wasn't a very good game, but somehow it was intriguing enough for me to become further interested in the genre it represented. I used my modem to log onto to that new thing called "The Internet" that everybody was talking about back then, and I began to read. A couple of years after that, I learned about a game called Baldur's Gate that was supposed to be the next best thing in that genre. I bought it when it came out, and from that day onward my path towards becoming a Codexer was set.
But what about my old passion for adventure games? To be honest, after I got into RPGs, I didn't pay much attention to them. I was vaguely aware of a game called Grim Fandango that had turned out to be a commercial disappointment, that there had been some kind of awful action-adventure King's Quest sequel that nobody wanted to talk about, and that the genre was now considered "dead". But I didn't care, because by God, I had Baldur's Gate 2 and Planescape: Torment. Life was good.
Yeah. You all know what happened after that.
* * *
Over the course of the past decade of decline and genre rape, I became aware that the adventure genre was experiencing some sort of resurgence. European developers, with their lower operating costs, were continuing to release new adventure games, and over in the United States, a company by the name of Telltale Games had received the license to produce sequels to some of the old LucasArts properties. Had the genre been resurrected? I'm not sure. Much like in the RPG world, it seems few people took those European developers very seriously, and as for Telltale, in the dark corners of the Internet, certain fans whispered that their games were but shallow imitations of a glorious past.
Perhaps that's why it was no surprise that in February 2012, when legendary LucasArts veteran Tim Schafer launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a new adventure game, he received over 3.3 million dollars from over 87,000 backers. It was an incredible success, that launched a new age of crowdfunding-supported game development that has benefited RPG fans greatly. At that point, I fully anticipated a glorious future for both genres, old-school adventure games and old-school RPGs marching side by side. Unfortunately, it didn't quite work out that way.
One by one, spurred on by Tim Schafer's success, various Sierra veterans made their way onto Kickstarter to fund spiritual successors to their old titles. And...they didn't do so well. Scott Murphy and Mark Crowe, creators of Space Quest? $539,767. Jane Jensen, creator of Gabriel Knight? $435,316. Corey and Lori Cole, creators of Quest for Glory? $409,150. And then there was the downright humiliating failure of Jim Walls' Kickstarter for a Police Quest spiritual successor.
Crowdfunding campaigns for newer franchises have fared a bit better. Revolution Software's Broken Sword sequel got $771,560 on Kickstarter, while Ragnar Tornquist's Dreamfall Chapters achieved a respectable $1,538,425. But none of them have gotten anywhere near Double Fine's number of backers. Tim Schafer's army of 87,000 seems to have dissipated just as quickly as it materialized.
In short: what the hell, adventure game fans, what the hell?
* * *
In all seriousness, I know I can't be the only confused by these events. Just what is going on with adventure games? Not being part of the contemporary adventure gaming "scene", I really had no idea where to start looking for answers.
Luckily for us, we just happen to have two commercial adventure game developers who post regularly on the Codex. Mark Yohalem, also known as MRY, is the lead designer of the incredible Primordia, a classic adventure game inspired by Planescape: Torment (read our interview with him here). Steven Alexander, also known as Blackthorne, is the lead writer and director of the upcoming Quest for Infamy, a Kickstarter-funded RPG/adventure inspired by the Quest for Glory series.
Time and time again, I've been impressed by Mark and Steven's thoughtful and knowledgeable posts in our Adventure Gaming subforum. These two know the score about adventure games, which is why I decided to write down some questions and have a bit of a chat with them, not just about the state of adventure games today, but also about the genre in general. The conversation you're about to read took place over the course of almost an entire month, and it may be the biggest wall of text the Codex has ever produced.
I'm pleased to present...
Read the full article: AdventureDex: A Conversation about the State of the Adventure Genre
Editorial - posted by Grunker on Tue 3 September 2013, 11:54:20
Although we had fun at Gamescom, our overall impression of the conference was not very positive. We were just fans who wanted to write about games for other fans, who finally got a look at how the business of games journalism is conducted behind the scenes at conferences like this one. It was a troubling sight.
Ever since Jeff Gerstmann was fired for writing a negative review, and especially since the proliferation of that famous image of another "journalist" staring blankly at the camera next to a table of commercial products, criticism of modern games journalism has become widespread.
In the following piece, we add our contribution to this ongoing criticism. Have a snippet:
Read the full article: RPG Codex Editorial: Where Journalism Goes to Write Itself
Editorial - posted by Grunker on Fri 30 August 2013, 15:19:11Tags: Julien Pirou; Limbic Entertainment; Might & Magic X: Legacy; Stephan Winter; Ubisoft
On our trip to Gamescom, we met two of the key people behind Might & Magic X Legacy: Creative Designer Julien Pirou from Ubisoft and Managing Director of Limbic Entertainment Stephan Winter. Curious to to get a sense of the vision behind this unexpected oldschool title and to understand just how it came to be, we pulled them aside for a conversation, which is summarized in the following report.
Here's a snippet:
From left to right: Arnaud Fremont - Frank Sawielijew [JarlFrank] - Casper Gronemann [Grunker] - Julien Pirou
Read the full article: RPG Codex Report: The Vision Behind Might & Magic X Legacy
Preview - posted by Grunker on Wed 28 August 2013, 17:14:49Tags: Alexander Dergay; bitComposer; Brian Fargo; Chris Keenan; Daniel Eskildsen; inXile Entertainment; Julien Pirou; Limbic Entertainment; Logic Artists; Matt Findley; Michael Hoss; Might & Magic X: Legacy; Stephan Winter; Thomas Beekers; Ubisoft
On July 18, the RPG Codex received an invitation from Limbic Entertainment on behalf of their publisher, Ubisoft. The invitation was for an all expenses paid trip to Gamescom, the gaming convention in Cologne, Germany, and specifically for the Might & Magic Fan Day that was to take place there. The Codex staff members, easily bribed, fought over who was to go. In the end, Grunker came out on top, with JarlFrank tagging along with him for the first day.
During their stay in Germany, they learned more about Might & Magic X, they shook hands with Brian Fargo and watched a gameplay demo of Wasteland 2, and they spoke with the guys from Logic Artists, with Michael Hoss of bitComposer and with Alexander Dergay of Aterdux Entertainment. Here's an article about how it all went down. Have a snippet:
Officially, we're at Gamescom for the Might & Magic Fan Day. I've been flown in by the dear folks at Ubisoft, who are apparently so desperate for Codex approval that they felt like bribing us with food that you have to stand up to eat, watered down drinks at a party that ends at 12AM, and useless “swag” like Heroes VI artwork and posters. Had we been paid journalists, we would probably have been embarrassed on behalf of our craft to accept it. As simple gamers writing for other gamers, we are mostly annoyed by the prospect of hauling it all back to our various habitats. Our disappointment only grows as it slowly dawns on us that neither Doritos nor other bribes are forthcoming. To drink, we only receive some unlabeled lemonade. Decent, but no Mountain Dew.
From left to right: Casper Gronemann [Grunker] - Brian Fargo - Frank Sawielijew [JarlFrank] - Thomas Beekers [Brother None]
Read the full article: RPG Codex Report: Gamescom, Wasteland 2 Preview And More
Review - posted by Crooked Bee on Sat 24 August 2013, 14:59:47Tags: Arnold Hendrick; Darklands; MicroProse
You know that last year we did a retrospective interview on Darklands, open-world RPG designed by Arnold Hendrick and released by Microprose by 1992. If that didn't convince you to give the game a try, perhaps this review by Darth Roxor might. Have a snippet:
Everything else, however, stays the same. Microprose gave us an absolute classic that should be checked out by every self-respecting RPG enthusiast out there, especially those who favour simulation above all else. It also makes an excellent treat for those who have a big love for history. Not to mention that the game is simply a gift that keeps on giving because just about everything in it is procedurally generated, so no two playthroughs are the same, and you’re bound to stumble upon something new each time you press “create a new world”.
Read the full article: RPG Codex Retrospective Review: Darklands
Preview - posted by Zed on Mon 19 August 2013, 20:13:02Tags: Limbic Entertainment; Might & Magic X: Legacy; Ubisoft
In the midst of all that RPG incline happening a while back, with the Kickstarters and the Codex campaigns, we heard whispers of something terrifying: a big-name publisher is resurrecting a long-lost genre favorite. "Oh no", "It's going to be another browser-game", "I hope they lube it up properly."
The franchise in question was Might and Magic - the classic first-person party-based RPG series originally created by Jon Van Caneghem back in 1986. The first reports were positive. It would be a 'true' Might and Magic title. It would be for the PC. It would be turn-based.
They would call it Might & Magic X: Legacy. Fast-forward a few months, and I have just written a preview of it (because everybody else were busy, probably with 'jobs' and 'love' and... and..). Here's the good news: it doesn't horribly suck hard. There could certainly be improvements made to the game, and I make sure to mention them. Luckily, developers Limbic Entertainment have embraced something they call "open development." This means they involve actual gamers and fans in their beta-testing and make actual changes to the game based on their feedback. Also, it's partially free QA. I hope they will take away something from this preview.
Here's a take-away:
But more worrying, I found the preview to be lacking in the puzzle department. A charming thing about these sorts of games was that they often provided some really good logical challenges in between combat and exploration, and I'm afraid I didn't see much of that at all. I can only hope the other acts provide more varied challenges, puzzles and other surprises as incentives to continue playing. Riddles, movement puzzles, word puzzles - anything like that would be a very welcome addition.
And if you didn't know, starting today, You can play Might & Magic X too! It seems they will release the same stuff I played as an Early Access for pre-orders, or something like that. Check it out: http://store.steampowered.com/app/238750/
Read the full article: RPG Codex hands-on preview: Might & Magic X: Legacy
Interview - posted by Grunker on Thu 8 August 2013, 23:53:10Tags: bitComposer; Chaos Chronicles; Coreplay; Michael Hoss; Peter Ohlmann; Wolfgang Duhr
UPDATE, August 11, 2013: Coreplay has issued a statement in response to this interview. See the end of this interview for Coreplay's response.
Chaos Chronicles was the kind of game the Codex had not dared hope for. Isometric perspective. Turn-based combat with a complex character system a la Temple of Elemental Evil. Overland map travel a la Realms of Arkania. To this formula a pinch of Gold Box was added along with a dash of Wizardry. Dungeons to delve into, treasures to find, creatures to kill. And not a single cent from Kickstarter or any other crowdfunding platform. Chaos Chronicles was to prove to the world and to us exactly what a small developer, full of passion and talent, allied with a small publisher willing to take the necessary risks, would be able to do.
And then, of course, it all went wrong. Chaos Chronicles rapidly sank into the depths of development hell.
After fans petitioned them to allow the game's development to continue, bitComposer issued a statement, and Peter Ohlmann (aka HobGoblin42) of Coreplay responded to that statement. When all was said and done, the question of who was to blame quickly became muddy. Determined to uncover the truth on what happened to Chaos Chronicles, I contacted both Michael Hoss (aka CrashOberbreit) of bitComposer and Peter Ohlmann to hear if they wanted to tell their sides of the story. Michael was the first to respond.
Today, we bring you an interview with Wolfgang Duhr, a member of bitComposer's board of directors. In this surprisingly frank interview, Duhr speaks of the hardships of being an "evil publisher," responds to the accusation that bitComposer was trying to force an early release of Chaos Chronicles, and encourages the community to show ongoing interest in the game so that it might be released.
Regardless of how you feel about bitComposer, this interview is one that we feel is well worth the read.
Read the full article: RPG Codex Exclusive Interview - bitComposer's Take on the Chaos Chronicles Dispute
Editorial - posted by DarkUnderlord on Sun 4 August 2013, 02:08:42Tags: Diablo III; Interplay; inXile Entertainment; Kickstarter; Loot Drop; Mass Effect 3; The Year in Review
It was the year that gave rise to the KickStarter and we take a look back on it in our 2012: The Year in Review:
... until 2012. The success of Double Fine saw the potential for an industry reborn. Old games (like the adventure game market Double Fine were aimed at) with their old fans and niche market couldn't get funding in the modern era. Fans clamoured for these games on forums but the true size and financial possibility of that market was not understood. Or at least, it was a lot smaller and harder to make games for than simply stuffing another Call of Duty remake out the door and cashing the profits. And perhaps the publishers themselves, being inbred dimwits, only really understood games where lots of stuff exploded.
KickStarter changed all of that. By bypassing the publishers and sourcing funds directly from the market, suddenly a whole new world of funding opened up.
And it was huge.
Take a look back on Wasteland 2, Mass Effect 3, Diablo 3 and all that KickStarter stuff.
Read the full article: 2012: The Year in Review
Review - posted by Grunker on Tue 30 July 2013, 13:13:32Tags: Harebrained Schemes; Shadowrun Returns
Having raised $1,836,447, Shadowrun Returns is the first of the "big" Kickstarted RPGs to see the light of day. Knowing the importance such a release holds for the Codex, we just had to ask Harebrained Schemes for a review copy. Lo and behold, on July 22, three days before the game's release, a review copy found its way to my inbox (along with a gift certificate for massive amounts of potato with cheese Doritos upon the release of a favorable review, of course).
Little did Harebrained Schemes realize that a wealthy eccentric who went by the username of Darth Roxor would pay us heaps of cash volunteer to take a look at the game. We consented to this, because of his formidable history of reviewing for the Codex no one else could be assed to do it.
What follows is Darth Roxor's honest review of Shadowrun Returns. Will it Kickstart the Age of Incline™, or will it be forgotten as a sad trickle of an era that ran out of juice before it even began? Here's his final word on the matter:
Read the full article: RPG Codex Review - Darth Roxor Reviews Shadowrun Returns
Interview - posted by Zed on Fri 19 July 2013, 12:03:59Tags: Baldur's Gate; Black Isle Studios; Eternity; Fallout; Game design; GOTY 2018; Icewind Dale; Josh Sawyer; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity; Planescape: Torment
So, here we are, with the responses to our community-sourced questions for Obsidian regarding Project Eternity. Or just Eternity. I really am not sure whether they have dropped the 'Project' bit or not. In any case, project director Josh Sawyer took it upon himself to answers all the questions we had. Well, pretty much all of them. There were a lot of questions.
Here's a wetter:
Can you discuss what the different animal companions will be for the ranger and whether these companions will play any differently? Will they offer different tactical/strategic choices in combat, different choices in the story, or will their differences just be for flavor?
It is more likely that they will offer different tactical choices than story choices, but we want to make the differences more than just cosmetic. We don't have a full animal companion list yet because we're still developing our bestiary.
Kem0sabe has more faith in his question than in developers:
At this point is there a risk that Obsidian is obsessing over particular areas of the game, like the design of rules and mechanics, leading to an over-designed game with too many discreet systems?
Given the choice between an over-designed game and an under-designed game, I'd prefer the former, but I think the risk is low. We design a lot of the fundamental mechanics up front and let the other systems or pieces of content develop more organically as the project progresses.
For example, the classes were initially designed from levels 1-5 and done in waves (starting with the "core four"). We're not going to develop the remaining character levels until we've played around with the classes in the low range for a while. Doing so will allow us to adapt the classes' remaining content and even adjust their core mechanics if we feel it is necessary.
Rake took a minute to describe the environment before asking:
What are your thoughts on descriptive text in the log and in dialogues? It's more of a Fallout thing than an IE one, but Planescape:Torment had it and was better for it. Do you think it offers much to an isometric game fleshing out the world to be worth the effort?
We are currently writing our dialogues with descriptive text in the general style of Planescape: Torment. We don't use it on every node, but we do use it when we feel it adds something to the conversation.
It's pretty lengthy so grab a (healthy) snack and relax (moderately).
Read the full article: RPG Codex community Q&A: Project Eternity with Josh Sawyer
Review - posted by Crooked Bee on Mon 8 July 2013, 21:43:05Tags: Crate Entertainment; Grim Dawn
Grim Dawn is an upcoming action RPG from Titan Quest developers that got successfully kickstarted back in May 2012. Esteemed community member Cynic has played through the alpha seven times already, and thinks it's the best thing since Diablo III sliced bread. So he decided to share his impressions with the rest of us. Here's a snippet:
Difficulty wise, Grim Dawn follows the aRPG tradition of offering 3 difficulty levels each unlockable via full playthroughs. However the Alpha only offers the starting normal difficulty. Don't be fooled though, the game is far from a walk in the park. I’ve only died a handful of times, but the fights are always exciting and exhilarating, forcing me to think about space, the environment, choke points and how much time I have left before my skills recharge. There’s tension, and that’s a good thing. Loot acquisition seems to be nicely paced as well, as I’ve consistently been finding better/more interesting gear which has made me think about what kind of character I want to build.
Read the full article: Cynic's Grim Dawn Alpha Impressions
Editorial - posted by Infinitron on Thu 27 June 2013, 13:29:38Tags: Black Isle Studios; Icewind Dale 2
The year was 2002. Under the inept management of the notorious Herve Caen, Interplay was dying. The company needed money fast, and so it was decided to bring back the Infinity Engine for one last hurrah. Icewind Dale II was a project that should never have been. A slam dunk of a slam dunk. A game that nobody had asked for. It would also be Josh Sawyer's first stint as a Lead Designer.
Did Josh do a decent job? Is Icewind Dale II the black sheep of the Infinity Engine games, or is it an underrated classic? Is Josh Sawyer a true progressive, or merely a fauxgressive white boy with a rape fixation? One Codexer has decided to find the answers to those questions.
Strap yourselves in, because it's time for...
Read the full article: RPG Codex Retrospective Review: Roguey fights for social justice in Josh Sawyer's Icewind Dale II
Review - posted by Grunker on Thu 6 June 2013, 01:03:32Tags: Expeditions: Conquistador; Kickstarter; Logic Artists
The year was 2013. The month was May. The air was hot. And humid. Don't forget humid.
Everybody was holding their breath.
Kickstarter. Some called it salvation, some called it damnation. But in May 2013, the first of the RPGs that would herald the coming of the next decade of digital role-playing would be released.
It was called Expeditions: Conquistador. The entire Codex held its breath. Would Conquistador be the bearer of good news or was it an ill omen all along? Would this be the start of a new golden age, or would the Kickstarter bubble burst even before it had begun growing?
RPG Codex Staff put one of the best men on the job of finding out. A man unlike any other. A professor even. I mean come on, how cool is that?
This is ironyuri's review of Expeditions: Conquistador. Read on, dear Codexer, and venture into the first brush of the jungle of the coming wave of RPGs. Will we float on tides of depth and complexity, or drown in a puddle of shit?
Only time will tell. For now, just click the link below and read the fucking review already.
Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: Expeditions: Conquistador
Editorial - posted by Infinitron on Thu 30 May 2013, 19:35:35Tags: Black Isle Studios; Icewind Dale
Since development on Obsidian Entertainment's Project Eternity began last year, its project director and lead designer, Josh Sawyer, has been a figure of much controversy. His design decisions and the philosophy underlying them have been the spark for many a flamewar, causing Codexer to turn against Codexer, pro-Sawyer battling anti-Sawyer in bloody forum combat.
Yet no Codexer has been so vehement in the defense of everything Sawyer like Roguey, the forum's resident radical feminist and creepy stalker. When Roguey completed a retrospective playthrough of Black Isle's Icewind Dale (which was Josh Sawyer's first foray into game design) and wrote down his impressions, we couldn't help but feel impressed (and amused) by his dedication. We asked for more, and we received. I present to you what I hope will be the first in a series of retrospective reviews of the works of Mr. Joshua Eric Sawyer.
Prepare yourself for...
Read the full article: RPG Codex Retrospective Review: Roguey smashes the patriarchy in Josh Sawyer's Icewind Dale
Interview - posted by Crooked Bee on Sat 18 May 2013, 15:32:06Tags: Colin McComb; inXile Entertainment; Planescape: Torment; Torment: Tides of Numenera
To this day, Black Isle's Planescape: Torment is widely regarded as video gaming's most finely crafted narrative. It goes without saying, then, that it won't be easy for InXile's spiritual successor to Torment, Torment: Tides of Numenera, to live up to its predecessor's reputation. On the other hand, Planescape: Torment's amazing story came packaged alongside a fair share of problems, such as weak combat and a number of poorly designed areas. In this interview, esteemed community member grotsnik talks to Torment 2's creative lead, Colin McComb, about the approach Colin takes in designing and writing for the game so it can live up to the hype, as well as in addressing the weaker parts of Torment: Tides of Numenera's illustrious predecessor. Have a snippet:
A large part of this is defining our base storyline and the behavior of our NPCs within those modules. Right now we’re establishing our constraints and briefs for area design, and we’re planning of the relative size, in terms of gameplay, for each section of the game. We’re also working on character and Mere placement and number and size of dialogues. At some point, even the most completionist of players are going to decide they’ve wrung every bit of reactivity out of an area and move on. But some choices are mutually exclusive, and we don’t see it as a possibility that you’ll be able to experience the entirety of the game in a single playthrough. In fact, I don’t think you’ll get it on two.
Now, I should mention that we don’t see it as our job to make sure people move along at the pace we’ve dictated. We’re designing the story so that people can progress through the mainline at their own pace, while trying to keep the sense of urgency on the story.
But the real answer to the question is that we’re designing the game so that you can go back to areas and explore at your own pace, though you’ll start to have difficulties if you stagnate too long in one place. I see that’s the next question, though, so I’ll save further discussion for that question.
It's often held that the combat in PS:T left a great deal to be desired not only in its mechanics, but also in the sense of (to air videogame theory's most impressive-sounding new buzzphrase) ludonarrative dissonance; in that whether you were murdering your way through the Tenement of Thugs just to get to the alleyway on the other side or bashing entire swarms of mindless critters in the Weeping Catacombs or Curst Underground, fighting frequently came across as arbitrary obstacle-placing, rather than relevant to what the player character was trying to achieve in the game's narrative. Without delving into the undecided technical side of things, how would you want to go about ensuring that the combat never feels disjointed from the story?
Combat should be a part of the story, whether to indulge or to avoid. It should always serve the purpose of moving your understanding of your character ahead, and that’s one of the ways we fell down on PST. Kevin, Adam, and I have talked about this fairly extensively, and we agree that our combats should serve a narrative purpose, and that avoiding those combats will help reveal more about your character as well—whether you talk your way out of fighting or flee from your foe, you’ll create a picture of who you are in this game.
So trash mobs won’t be prevalent in Torment. No random gangsters deciding that you look like a prime target. No killing rats for XP. I’m not saying that we won’t have any mindless fights, just that trouble won’t always come looking for you to ruin your non-combat playthrough. In Numenera as well, you don’t get XP for killing monsters, so combat becomes optional – your XP comes from telling a story, from solving problems, from being clever players. We are enjoying exploring in that vein.
Read the full interview: RPG Codex Interview: Colin McComb on Writing for Torment: Tides of Numenera
Interview - posted by Zed on Tue 7 May 2013, 01:58:55Tags: Baldur's Gate 3 (Obsidian Entertainment); Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn; Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal; Dungeon Siege III; Fallout: New Vegas; George Ziets; King of Dragon Pass; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity; The Elder Scrolls Online; Torment: Tides of Numenera
We are lucky George Ziets managed to leave a strong mark on the world of CRPGs during his adventures at Obsidian Entertainment. Were it not for his phenomenal work on Mask of the Betrayer, perhaps we would not have seen him as a double Kickstarter stretch-goal superstar. Regardless, here we are with Ziets taking on both Project Eternity and the world of Numenera, and we couldn't be happier.
Mr Ziets, being no stranger to taking questions from random people, was the perfect candidate for an RPG Codex feature. In this interview, we ask him about his approach to game design, his influences, ideas, writing, and of course the games he has been involved with in the past (including NWN2: Mask of the Betrayer and the upcoming The Elder Scrolls Online) and present (Project Eternity and Torment: Tides of Numenera) -- and perhaps future.
Have an excerpt:
PE is still in preproduction, so that hasn’t happened yet. I’ve mainly been contributing to world and story design.
I think of area design as another form of storytelling. So the first thing I do is determine the central narrative of the area. What story (or stories) are we trying to tell? And what kind of setting or atmosphere are we trying to convey? Once those questions are answered, I have a context, and everything – main quest, side quests, NPC chatter, etc. – should arise from that. Even the smallest details can (and should) be used to communicate story and setting, so that the area feels like a unified whole.
Baldur’s Gate 2 generally did this well. When I traveled to each of the major areas (Umar Hills, De’arnise Keep, etc.), I felt like I was entering a coherent side story – a self-contained D&D module - where all the dialogues and quests were focused on telling the area’s story and/or the player’s own. That’s what we tried to do on MotB, too.
I look at quests through a similar lens. Every quest is an opportunity to explore another facet of the narrative. We should use them to deepen the player’s experience of the area’s story and setting and explore how different people/factions would react to the same events. I don’t think we should ever have to resort to “generic” quests in a well-designed RPG.
Is your creative process in any way affected by simultaneously writing for both Eternity and Torment? Have you had any problems managing your ideas? For instance, that one project bleeds into another? Are there things that would work in Eternity, but that would absolutely not work in Torment (or vice versa)?
Not really. The two worlds are very different from one another. Despite its exotic nature, Torment feels closer to science fiction or post-apocalyptic fiction to me, especially to Gene Wolfe’s New Sun series. Eternity, on the other hand, is firmly rooted in fantasy and historical traditions, and in my opinion, it feels closer to the Forgotten Realms or the Malazan Books of the Fallen (with some notable differences).
I tend to base my designs heavily on setting and story context, so I haven’t had any trouble with overlap so far.
Read the full article: RPG Codex Interview: George Ziets on Eternity, Torment, and crafting worlds
Preview - posted by Crooked Bee on Sat 20 April 2013, 21:48:37Tags: Divinity: Original Sin; Dragon Commander; Larian Studios
In the midst of the ongoing competition between the Codex and the Watch, Gragt has finally finished writing up an account of his visit to Larian Studios (on March 25th) where he got to play Divinity: Original Sin in co-op with Swen Vincke and Dragon Commander with Farhang Namdar (the game's lead designer). In this preview, he talks at length (I'm not kidding!) about his impressions of both of Larian's upcoming games.
Have a really really short snippet from the entire thing:
All the tension melted away when Swen and I started talking. He's the kind of man with a calm and amiable attitude that makes you instantly feel comfortable, so much in fact that you just want to sit next to him to have a chat about various things. That's actually what we did for the next few hours - sit next to each other, chat and play Divinity: Original Sin in co-op.
[...] Before visiting Larian I had assumed that Dragon Commander was an RTS that allowed you to enter the battlefield in your dragon form and take a direct part in the action; I thought that would be the gimmick that would set it apart from the rest of real-time strategy games. Bear also in mind that I'm no great fan of the RTS genre although I do enjoy some of them occasionally. However, Dragon Commander turned out to be much, much more than what I had expected. In fact, it isn't even an RTS but rather a hybrid of different genres, something that has become very rare these days. In one package, you'll find social interactions and political decisions where your choices actually matter, turn-based strategy with a strong board game feel, and real-time strategy with an action twist.
How does the dialogue between Original Sin's two protagonists play out? What are the stats and how do they come into play outside of combat? In what way is Original Sin's combat reminiscent of Temple of Elemental Evil-meets-Fallout? How is Larian's Dragon Commander similar to Origin's Wing Commander? To what extent is it a board game-turned-computer game? Why are gay marriage and choosing a proper bride important? And what does one sandwich matter? Read all about it in Gragt's article!
Read the full article: An Authentic Account of an Embassy from the RPG Codex to Larian Studios
Interview - posted by Crooked Bee on Fri 5 April 2013, 10:20:55Tags: Julien Pirou; Limbic Entertainment; Might & Magic X: Legacy; Stephan Winter; Ubisoft
Just a couple of weeks ago at PAX East, Ubisoft announced Might & Magic X - Legacy, a new entry in the legendary Might & Magic RPG series. Described by Ubisoft as "a first-person RPG that has pledged to respect the tried-and-tested tradition of its illustrious ancestors, as it leads you to epic adventure and quests while exploring the wild peninsula of Agyn," Might & Magic X is scheduled for release later this year.
Surprisingly enough, in these days of "reboots" and "reimaginings" (Fallout 3, Tomb Raider and Thief being the most prominent examples), Might & Magic X continues to be inspired by World of Xeen rather than something like Skyrim, and features turn-, party- and grid-based gameplay. To find out more about the game, as well as why Ubisoft even decided to make it in the first place -- so far, they are the first and only major publisher to announce an "old school" title -- we sent some questions over to Ubisoft and had them answered collectively by Stephan Winter, CEO of Limbic (the company that develops the game for Ubisoft), Julien Pirou (Writer & Designer), and Gary Paulini (Producer). Have a snippet from the resulting interview:
To us, Might & Magic RPGs are about a party of adventurers exploring a large world in first-person view, meeting a variety of characters, visiting cities, and of course exploring dungeons and fighting monsters in turn-based combat. The specifics may vary from one game to the next (for instance Might & Magic 6 introduced free movement while the earlier games were grid-based), but these basic ingredients were always there and they are still at the core of Might & Magic X - Legacy.
Since there have been several "eras" as far as the gameplay of the series is concerned, we had to think hard about the kind of game we wanted to make. Several pitches were made, more or less faithful to the original games, but we finally decided to go for a gameplay similar to the World of Xeen episodes. We still kept some ideas of the later games, notably our skill system is similar (though not identical) to the skill system featured in Might & Magic 6-7.
Might & Magic games have always been open-world and not just corridor-based, which distinguished them from other first person RPGs such as Wizardry or The Bard's Tale. How open-world will Legacy be compared to the previous titles, and how big will the world itself be? Will the game have level scaling of any sort, i.e., will it scale the power or number of enemies in an area to your level (like Might & Magic II did)?
Might & Magic X starts with a smaller area. This is the "tutorial" area, which we call "Act I". Here you’ll explore your first town, get your first quests, complete your first dungeons, learning how to play along the way. When Act I is over, the rest of the world opens and what you do next is really up to you. If you want to go to that mountain over there despite the fact it’s notoriously full of angry Cyclopes, nothing will stop you.
There will be no scaling of the monsters depending on your level. We feel it’s one of the great pleasures in RPGs to become a demi-god and then return to those Cyclopes and teach them a lesson. However as you progress through the main story some new creatures and monsters may appear in some areas.
While it’s too early to talk the specifics of the game’s world, we can already say it’s bigger than the world of Clouds of Xeen for instance.
Could you elaborate on how training for skills is going to work in Might & Magic X? When will you need to look for a trainer and when will you not?
While, as mentioned earlier, you don’t have to train just to level-up and gain your skill points, we did keep the idea of teachers that can allow you to reach the next tier for your skills.
You start as a Novice, and then you can become Expert, Master and finally Grandmaster by locating the appropriate teacher. Of course Expert teachers are fairly common, while there’s only one Grandmaster teacher per skill and they can be pretty hard to find. And when you do find them, you never know what they’re going to ask you to do before they grant you the title. : )
The interview also discusses the game's class, race and skill system, the question of "accessibility" vs. "simplification", the size of enemy groups, the attractiveness of "niche" video game markets, the absence of any "always online" elements in M&M X and the presence of UPlay (which is unfortunately required, but only for one-time activation).
Be sure to read the interview in full: RPG Codex Interview: Might & Magic X - Legacy