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Outcast - a genre bending masterpiece

Codex Review - posted by DarkUnderlord on Mon 19 July 2010, 09:13:03

Tags: Appeal; Outcast

TNO got bored of all the New Shit™ and decided to take a quick look at some Good Old Shit™ by reviewing Outcast. Outcast is more a puzzle-adventure-type-thing than an RPG-type-thing but here's a bit:

The dialogue is broadly good, and is also broadly well acted. The music is utterly sensational: well composed, well motifed, and well performed by the Moscow orchestra and chorus. Three examples although I really could have taken any of the tracks: 1 2 3. Also the incidental sounds (especially the beast calls) make the world of Outcast come alive.

Helping this is the careful scripting of the NPCs. Talanzaar, the bazaar-esque trading hub of Adelpha is a case in point. Dozens of NPCs carry loads, move to and from each other, go on set 'rounds' or patrols, go to their workshops to craft items for you and generally, well, make it look like the bustling bazaar. It simply beggars belief why games almost ten years later still can't do something similarly convincing. Similar sentiments apply to the fauna too.​

If the game sounds mildly interesting, you can pick it up from GOG these days. /Shameless plug

There are 33 comments on Outcast - a genre bending masterpiece

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Annie Mitsoda's (nee Carlson's) Zombie Baby

Interview - posted by DarkUnderlord on Mon 12 July 2010, 15:56:04

Tags: Annie VanderMeer; DoubleBear Productions

<p style="text-align: left;">Annie Carlson, formerly of Obsidian Entertainment and currently of DoubleBear Productions, took some time out of her busy two-job schedule to answer us some questions. She speaks of DoubleBear, babies, Zombies:
<p style="text-align: left;"> 
<p style="text-align: left; padding-left: 30px;">Can't go into details about our stage of development, but that focus question is a good one so I'ma address that. Functionally speaking, I'm going to say we have to get the combat working on a solid model, because it's tied into a lot of basic character creation skills. Also it's a common adage among designers that "if the combat sucks, your game is fucked," so we want to get the basics of that working well before we get the survival/management aspects ironed out. I'd say they're of equal importance, but perfecting the functionality of the combat I think is a little higher priority, but also easier to do at the early stages and will require fundamentally less polish and tweaking than the management aspects will.
<p style="text-align: left;"> 
<p style="text-align: left;">... and turds:
<p style="padding-left: 30px;"> 
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">I recall being fantastically pissed-off at <span style="font-style: italic;">Dark Cloud</span> - not only because at the time I had no money for games and my computer would play basically nothing at all, but because you could get trapped in an attack combo that could break your weapon right in the middle of it. Since you didn't really gain levels but your weapon did, that meant you were suddenly fucked. Also you had to eat and drink, which was implemented particularly shittily. It's not that I can't handle food in an RPG, it was just really terrible in that game. It was poo topping on a crap sundae.
<p style="padding-left: 30px;"> 
Read the rest here.

There are 58 comments on Annie Mitsoda's (nee Carlson's) Zombie Baby

Avadon: The Black Fortress Interview

Interview - posted by Jason on Sun 13 June 2010, 08:47:48

Tags: Avadon: The Black Fortress; Jeff Vogel; Spiderweb Software

<!-- @page { margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } -->
<p style="margin-bottom: 0in;">Now that the details for Avadon: The Black Fortess are out and about, we thought it time to pin down Jeff Vogel for another round of questioning.
<p style="margin-bottom: 0in;">&nbsp;

Any future plans not related to Avadon?

Quite a few. We&rsquo;re looking hard at the future, figuring out if we have a place in it. In the near future, will will be releasing new, highly upgraded versions of the first Avernum trilogy. They are about a decade old and really showing their age.

We are also looking hard at other platforms. Specifically the little ones that you carry around everywhere.​

There are 24 comments on Avadon: The Black Fortress Interview

Mass Effect 2: A Narratological Review

Editorial - posted by DarkUnderlord on Fri 11 June 2010, 04:47:57

Tags: Mass Effect 2

TNO follows up from his earlier escapades of looking at the story side of things in Mass Effect by casting his eye to the aptly named sequel in: Mass Effect 2: A Narratological Review.
<p style="padding-left: 30px;"><span class="postbody">The real problem is the titanic catastrophe of the plot itself. There are lots of little niggles with ME2 (&ldquo;Why do I start looking like the terminator if I pick nasty options in dialogue?&rdquo; &ldquo;If the Collectors go through the O4 relay, why don&rsquo;t people notice this/why not just blockade it or blow up the relay?&rdquo;) but these are sufficiently minor that you assume some semi-plausible explanation can be fan-wanked in. The main plot of ME2 careens from the simply sloppy (reliance on plot coupons and McGuffins), to the irredeemably bad &lsquo;oh-god-I-hope-this-gets-retconned&rsquo; stupid (the human Reaper). </span>
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">[...]
<p style="padding-left: 30px;"><span class="postbody"> Jetting off half-way across the galaxy to lift emotional baggage for the party made them less a crack team of elite specialists and more an angst battalion. </span>
<span class="postbody">Fan-wanking commence! Your angst battalion has been attacked!

There are 42 comments on Mass Effect 2: A Narratological Review

The #5 RPGs of the Decade (that we think you should play)

Editorial - posted by DarkUnderlord on Tue 18 May 2010, 02:29:38

In a follow-up to our award winning, critically acclaimed RPG of the Decade - Developers' Choice article, we make our own picks for RPGs of the decade:
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">Gothic 2 was, in the eyes of most fans, the very best installment of the series. It had a reasonably-sized world (quite large, but not too large), every single encounter was hand-placed which led to perfect balancing, and it had the best NPC schedules since Ultima VII. The capital city of the game really felt alive, with NPCs going about their daily business, going to the pub in the evening and sleeping at night. Many quests had multiple solutions (there were at least three ways to enter the city, and the expansion added another one) which, sometimes, required you to use your brain.
We've included our personal picks, did some argy-bargy to pick a "top #5 that you should play", before finishing off with the Your Choice Awards. That's where we asked you to send in your pick for RPG of the decade. You didn't but we've included the responses of those who did. We also picked three random winners from that competition which without further ado are as follows:
  • <span class="postbody">stony3k (Arcanum)</span>
  • <span class="postbody">Ronald Abadi (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic)
  • <span class="postbody">Dandelion (Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines)
They'll each be getting a free game of their choice from Good Old Games.
So go on and read our conclusion to the 2000's in RPGs.

There are 88 comments on The #5 RPGs of the Decade (that we think you should play)

RPG of the Decade - Developers' Choice

Information - posted by DarkUnderlord on Fri 16 April 2010, 06:02:24

It's been 10 long years of RPGs. In our RPG of the Decade - Developers' Choice we take a look back at the decade that's just been and go over some of the more notable events. We then asked a bunch of better-known developers in the RPG field what their RPG of the decade was:
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">I mentioned earlier that "choice and consequence" is a catch-cry here on the Codex. Well, choice and consequence is not an ingredient in a Bethesda game. In your typical Bethesda game, you get to role-play everyone. You get to make every choice, typically without any consequences.
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">&nbsp;
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">And by God does that make their games hugely successful.
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">[...]
<p style="padding-left: 30px;"><span class="postbody">Tim Cain: There were so many good RPG&rsquo;s released in the last decade that it is hard to choose the &ldquo;RPG of the Decade&rdquo;. I am embarrassed to say that I haven&rsquo;t played some of them, and I only want to nominate a game that I have played. And that list is still large: Baldur&rsquo;s Gate 2, Icewind Dale 2, Neverwinter Nights, Dragon Age (Bioware is on a roll in my list, you can see), Fable, Deus Ex, Fallout 3, Geneforge. So I am going with a game that captured my imagination and that I played for many many hours, and that I think about when designing my own games. And that game is&hellip; </span>
<span class="postbody">Read the rest to find out!</span>
<span class="postbody">We're also running a competition. Let us know what your RPG of the decade is and we'll give a random entrant a free GOG game of their choice. </span>Competition closes 30th April 2010.

There are 222 comments on RPG of the Decade - Developers' Choice

Interview with Dave Gilbert of Wadjet Eye Games

Interview - posted by Jason on Sun 11 April 2010, 04:40:31

We take a break from our regularly scheduled programming to bring you an interview with indie adventure game designer Dave Gilbert of Wadjet Eye Games.
<p style="padding-left: 30px;"><!-- @page { margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } -->
<p style="margin-bottom: 0in; padding-left: 30px;">The gameplay is much more dialogue oriented than the typical adventure game, as shown by Sierra and Lucas Arts, where you mostly collect and combine items. What made you decide to deviate from the traditional adventure formula and focus on dialogue instead of items?
<p style="margin-bottom: 0in; padding-left: 30px;">&nbsp;
<p style="margin-bottom: 0in; padding-left: 30px;">Even though Blackwell deals with ghosts, it&rsquo;s very grounded in reality. And in a setting like that, it&rsquo;s hard to justify the usual adventure game puzzles of using objects in obscure ways to solve arbitrary puzzles. In you&rsquo;re in a fantasy game and you find a door that can only be opened by six mystical bagels, then fine. You can accept that. But when the setting is urban noir, it&rsquo;s more difficult to suspend your disbelief. So instead I focused more on dialog-related puzzles and gameplay. I&rsquo;ve always been a sucker for games like that.

There are 34 comments on Interview with Dave Gilbert of Wadjet Eye Games

Mass Effect: A Narratological Review

Editorial - posted by DarkUnderlord on Mon 5 April 2010, 09:11:26

Tags: Mass Effect

TNO decided to take a look at Mass Effect but not from the usual game point of view, instead by taking an in-depth look at its story (He originally posted this in our forum but why just leave it there?). Here's what he came up with:
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">These are good subversions, but they aren't pulled off properly. Humans are still 'special', and one of the endings of the game lets you put them wholly in charge. Whatever choice you make humans become the top dog, as all of the other species get mauled by the terminators. The reveal of the real big bad (the 'Reapers') does set them up as nasty villains ("slaughtering all life in the galaxy? peh. We've done that repeatedly for millions of years.") But no explanation is ever offered for why they bother doing this - Bioware hides behind alien inscrutability (you can't possibly understand, beyond your comprehension etc. etc.) Maybe sequels will satisfy this, but I don't hold my breath for this explanation being any good.
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">[...]
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">One thing that deserves a rant are the SPECTREs (Special whatever and Tactical Reconassaince, or whatever the backronym was.) Another part of Bioware's formula is having a leet crew of kewl people who have absolute power to protect the established order by any means necessary (see the Grey Wardens). This trope is rammed into the game with barely any justification. Intelligence services? Sure. Black ops? Fine. But mankind has never done this 'special dudes who are cool and answer to no one' as the best way of doing these things. Why would wider alien community (of multiple species) agree to this sort of thing? What if one of them discovers a plot device of doom and goes crazy?
Crazy is good.

There are 9 comments on Mass Effect: A Narratological Review

Knights of the Chalice Interview with Pierre Begue

Interview - posted by VentilatorOfDoom on Mon 1 March 2010, 22:59:31

Tags: Knights of the Chalice

Newsposting machine VentilatorofDoom caught up with developer Pierre Begue to find out his thoughts since the release of Knights of the Chalice.
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">5. In contrast to most of today's RPGs you didn't include skills and skill dependent non-combat gameplay. Different skills are typically a prerequisite for alternate quest solutions, the handling of specific situations (diplomatic, combat, stealth etc.) and the like. What's your stance on that?

I am totally in favour of having distinct solutions to quests, but as a designer I prefer to leave it to the player to decide what course of action he would rather take. In other words, I am not in favour of leaving out options to bluff, lie, tell the truth, intimidate, or be diplomatic at any point just because a character lacks points in one skill or another. Now it may well be that you need to perform a skill check to see if the bluff or diplomacy was successful, but you could instead make a check based on one of the character's main abilities (Charisma, Wisdom, etc). So I don't see skills as essential to the system.
Furthermore, in my opinion, it's much more important and interesting for a CRPG to provide a few options with distinct follow-up outcomes, than a lot of options all leading to the same outcome (even if they go through a different skill check).
Read the full interview

There are 34 comments on Knights of the Chalice Interview with Pierre Begue

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:
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">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.
2009: The list of things that didn't happen.

There are 3 comments on 2009: The Year in Review

Let's Review Dragon Age: Origins! (again)

Review - posted by DarkUnderlord on Mon 8 February 2010, 04:05:11

Tags: Dragon Age: Origins

Elzair takes a stab at reviewing Dragon Age:
<p style="padding-left: 30px;"><span class="postbody">Well, the game finally made it to stores last month, so it is time to talk about it. Since Bioware claims that it is a spiritual successor to <span style="font-style: italic;">Baldur's Gate II</span>, I will make comparisons between the two. While it is a somewhat decent game, I do not think it meets the (admittedly low) standards set by <span style="font-style: italic;">Baldur's Gate II</span>. </span>

There are 27 comments on Let's Review Dragon Age: Origins! (again)


Review - posted by JarlFrank on Sat 6 February 2010, 02:35:41

Tags: Venetica

Venetica is the first RPG of a German adventure game developer. You're playing the daughter of Death and have to stop the Undead Lord who tries to enslave nations with necromancy.
The game is very action-focused and&nbsp;has a good story with interesting characters, but the RPG elements are light and the game suffers from a multitude of bugs and&nbsp;performance&nbsp;problems.
Read our review here.

There are 25 comments on Venetica

Dragon Age: Choices and Consequences

Review - posted by DarkUnderlord on Sat 23 January 2010, 06:35:41

Tags: BioWare; Dragon Age: Origins

Vault Dweller reviews BioWare's Dragon Age and takes a look at its choices and consequences. Here's a snip:

It's hard to find a better way to introduce a game world, its different races and customs than by tasking the player with seeking allies and offering several gameworld-affecting options, which, in essence, give you an opportunity to tweak the gameworld to your liking.​

Can't overcome your dislike of the nature-dwelling, freedom-loving elves? Replace them with werewolves (by convincing the werewolves to wipe out the elves). Think that nothing good comes from meddling with magic? Let the Circle die in the tower and tell the templars to imprison the rest. Or, if you're a blood mage practicing the forbidden art, use this opportunity to wipe out both the templars and the Circle mages while they're weakened. A goal as flexible and generic as "gather allies" works perfectly with this design by encouraging you to understand your potential options, giving you the appropriate choices, and generating the logical outcomes and consequences.​

Read the rest here.

There are 26 comments on Dragon Age: Choices and Consequences

Risen – probably the strongest deja-vu you’ll ever experience

Review - posted by DarkUnderlord on Sun 13 December 2009, 14:39:33

Tags: Piranha Bytes; Risen

Darth Roxor takes a look at Risen, Piranha Bytes spiritual successor to the Gothic series. Is it all it's cracked up to be?

Now that we’re done with the background, I believe it’s time to focus on the meat of the game. Risen is divided into four chapters, and saying that they’re a mixed bag is an understatement. In the first one, you’ll need to swear allegiance to one of the factions, and generally, this one is the best from the ‘roleplaying’ perspective. I believe it has the most sidequests, and many of them have a few ways of approaching and finishing. Basically the whole Harbour Town is an exercise in choosing sides – the major quests found there are possible to finish in two ways, either for the inquisition or the Don. They mostly arise from a common problem, but then have multiple ways to do them, two ways to finish and different outcomes. For example, five pieces of valuable ceremonial armour have been misplaced somewhere. Both the inquisition and the rebels are looking for them, but only one man associated with the rebels knows where they all are. Three different people have the pieces, and you can either steal them, if you have the skill, beat them up if you feel capable, or buy them for insane prices. After you have them all, you can take the armour either to the inquisition or to the rebels, which yields you reputation, gold (the rebels usually pay better) and utility items (potions, scrolls). Depending on who you choose to support in these quests will also unlock new quests and teachers – for example, aiding the rebel Delgado not only gives you another, otherwise unavailable, quest, but he’s also the only person in the game who can teach you the third level of pickpocketing.


If you join the inquisition, you’ll end up in the monastery, where you’ll need to finish your basic training first. The monastery is also home to some of the most interesting quests in the game. For example, the first test you’ll have to pass, is the test of combat. You’ll need to beat three recruits first, and in the end challenge Master Aric, the combat trainer. You can approach Aric in two ways – if you grasped Risen’s combat really well already, you can try beating him fair and square, but it’s a tough fight. However, if you get beaten once, you can ask the other recruits for advice, and you’ll be able to drastically tip the scales in your favour by getting Aric drunk and replacing his fancy sword with a weak one. Another well done quest is the murder investigation – you’ll feel like in The Name of the Rose, gathering clues about the murder, interrogating witnesses, and eventually pretending to be a weed trader to lure out the murderer, who’ll turn out to be, well… someone you probably didn’t expect.​

Read the rest here.

There are 31 comments on Risen – probably the strongest deja-vu you’ll ever experience

Codex Good Old Games Short Story Competition

Competition - posted by DarkUnderlord on Tue 25 August 2009, 13:47:22

<span class="postbody">Good Old Games thought it would be a great idea to give us #10 games to give-away as part of some sort of competition. To show them how stupid that was and in order to make them regret it, we've come up with the Codex Good Old Games Short Story Competition. Follow the link for details and entries received so far.</span>
Thanks to all those who entered. The winners are:
  • Speculative fiction set in a future society based around the teachings of Volourn.
    • Darth Roxor. For a r00falicious Volournian poem.
    • Quilty. While the judges weren't entirely certain of it's relevance to the topic, the visual imagery was hard to pass up.
  • Why/How Age of Decadence should be made into an MMORPG. Entrants are encouraged to include hypothetical gameplay examples and prototype screenshots.
    • Silellak. How could we pass up the MMOARPG or screenshots accurately typifying the average MMO experience?
    • Annie Carlson. Someone else's breadcrumb trail came close but Annie's revolutionary click combat "where whichever opponent is able to click their mouse button the most times is declared the winner" won the day.
  • Developing Grimoire: A Day in the Life.
    • Elite. A clear judges favourite for conveying Cleve's endless suffering as an intellectually talented developer.
    • Seymour. This was difficult as the judges were going for Darth Roxor but his Volournian poem took the prize, leaving Seymour to collect on his entry here.
  • DarkUnderlord
    • POOPERSCOOPER. Truly, a visual masterpiece.
    • Shannow. Ultimately for mentioning Fez, just pipping spacemoose to the prize
  • Attack of the 50-foot Multi-Headed Dick.
    • Data4. A clear winner in this category for his lovecraftian epic. Though the judges insist he complete his masterwork before collecting his prize...
    • Occasionally Fatal. A struggle in this category with many winners considered but OF coming through in the end, possibly because of cigars.

There are 0 comments on Codex Good Old Games Short Story Competition

NWN2: Mysteries of Westgate Review

Review - posted by baby arm on Sun 17 May 2009, 01:58:05

Tags: Neverwinter Nights 2: Mysteries of Westgate; Ossian Studios

Our dear Ubersturmfuhrer Vault Dweller plunked down his ten bucks to get a crack at Ossian's Neverwinter Nights 2 adventure pack, Mysteries of Westgate.

Here's his review.

There are 17 comments on NWN2: Mysteries of Westgate Review

Ron Gilbert - the DeathSpank Interview

Interview - posted by baby arm on Tue 12 May 2009, 07:10:58

Tags: DeathSpank; Ron Gilbert

Ron Gilbert gave us the whys, wheres, and whatfors on his upcoming action RPG, DeathSpank.
Read on...

There are 0 comments on Ron Gilbert - the DeathSpank Interview

Andhaira finds out about Knights of the Chalice

Interview - posted by DarkUnderlord on Mon 11 May 2009, 11:32:00

Tags: Knights of the Chalice

Local Codexian Andhaira sent some questions to Knights of the Chalice creator Pierre Begue. Here's what Pierre said about his upcoming indie RPG:
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">Knights of the Chalice is 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. It is based on the Open Game Content 3.5 from Wizards of the Coast.
If that sounds like something you might be interested in, be sure to read the rest.

There are 19 comments on Andhaira finds out about Knights of the Chalice

A few words with Michal Kicinski, Co-Founder of CD Projekt

Interview - posted by DarkUnderlord on Wed 29 April 2009, 11:22:45

Tags: CD Projekt; Michal Kicinski; Witcher, The

Some months ago (before CD Projekt were rumoured to be facing imminent doom), we asked Michal Kicinski, Co-Founder of CD Projekt a few questions about RPGs, hype and what Cd Projekt were up to. A few months later and with issues of timing and translating Polish out of the way, here it is:
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">Lastly, I'd like to send greetings from the CD Projekt team to the Codex community. There's no denying you are very demanding, but these demands are seldom baseless. Even though we do not post here very actively, we often browse the Codex, trying to draw conclusions from the discussions here and amend our projects if we decide it's needed. Of course, substantial points are the most useful; but reading some hearty bitching and creative invective-hurling is an interesting diversion :)
Oh I'm sorry, did you want me to quote something more interesting? You'll have to read the interview for that.

There are 5 comments on A few words with Michal Kicinski, Co-Founder of CD Projekt

A Long Hard Look at Mount & Blade

Codex Review - posted by DarkUnderlord on Tue 21 April 2009, 18:30:48

Tags: Armagan; Mount & Blade; TaleWorlds

The final retail release of Mount & Blade has been out for a while now, so what better time than now to give it a long hard look:

Yes, it seems that despite all the trade caravans running about the place, you are the single driving force behind the entire economy. Of course the trade skill helps reduce purchase prices significantly but as you really need money to get the decent equipment (which unlike most games, you'll have to buy rather than find from killing stuff) you need a lotta cash. Where do you get cash from in a world that has none? How am I supposed to make that kind of money if I can't sell any of my expensive goods to anyone? More to the point, how can an item be worth 80,000 denars if no-one on the planet even has that much cash to pay for it? It's like selling a loaf of bread for a gazillion dollars. It's asinine.

[...] That leaves you pretty much making your own story up. You'll join a Faction and decide that the Rhodoks will pay for defeating Lord X in battle and so after them you go. You'll gain the support of your Khan and get elected as War Leader. You'll call the other Lords to your aide and you and groups of other War Parties will ride into enemy territory to lay waste to all before them. This is the meat of Mount & Blade and it's quite fun. However your battles will almost always result in victory and with a bit of luck, the Khan may even reward you with a Town, Village or Castle for your efforts.

... and like all rewards in Mount & Blade, they're entirely worthless too.​

Read the rest (and there's a lot of it) here...

There are 18 comments on A Long Hard Look at Mount & Blade

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