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Some thoughts on the Fallout 3 article

Editorial - posted by Vault Dweller on Sun 17 June 2007, 00:26:25

Tags: Bethesda Softworks; Fallout 3

I decided to share some thoughts on the Fallout 3 article with you guys:

To show that Bethesda understands and, like, totally digs the setting, the game features exploding nuclear reactors in cars and mind-blowing "tell me it's a joke" handheld nuclear catapults. In the example described in the Game Informer article, the main character, undoubtedly inspired by the famous Baron Munchausen, kills two giant ants by shooting at a NEARBY car's nuclear reactor. A small nuclear blast destroys the car and the ants, but ignores the resourceful main character, standing a few meters away. The nuclear catapult is an even more retarded concept and, hopefully, needs no explanation. Using nuclear explosions in close combat in a survival game that watches your rad count is kinda stupid. Even for Bethesda.​

There are 200 comments on Some thoughts on the Fallout 3 article

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The Dialogue Interview

Interview - posted by Vault Dweller on Fri 18 May 2007, 02:56:49

Tags: Brian Mitsoda; David Gaider; Josh Sawyer; Scott Bennie

I've decided to explore the concept of dialogues in RPGs a bit by asking Brian Mitsoda, JE Sawyer, Scott Bennie, and David Gaider a few questions about this delicate subject. I also asked Chris Avellone, but he's busy watching the Aliens movies for ...uh... research purposes. I tried to play dirty and threw "think of teh kidz!" line at him. His chilling "The kids must suffer" reply provided a rare glimpse into his dark soul and, coincidentally, answered question #10: "What's evil and how do you show these traits in your characters?". Anyway, the interview:

6. What games/characters would you use as outstanding examples of great writing in games and why? What influenced you as a game writer?

Brian Mitsoda: Fallout was the game that made me transition from a career in film and apply at Interplay. I enjoyed that the story could be different to each player and I saw potential in reactive storytelling and the possibilities of game narratives. I was a bit naive in thinking it wouldn't sink into the same formulaic trappings of the film industry, but I look at games like Planescape, Psychonauts, and System Shock as examples of how interesting stories and gameplay can be intertwined in a way that can't easily be duplicated by other forms of entertainment. Planescape, I probably don't have to explain the sense of brilliant weirdness and fantastic exploration to readers of this site and Chris (Avellone, my boss) really hates it when people get fanboy on him (but you should probably dress up like Falls-From-Grace and wait for him in his car, he loves that.) The mind voyeurism/exploration aspects of Psychonauts and the smoothness with which they were blended into the game design, wow... more games should have that kind of story integration (and be that funny). For System Shock, I not only enjoyed the terrifying exploration of Citadel Station, but I don't think I've ever hated a "bad guy" in any game, movie, or book more than Shodan because she actively taunted and harassed me in a way that traditional written medium bad guys can't replicate.​

There are 42 comments on The Dialogue Interview

Neverwinter Nights 2 interview

Interview - posted by Vault Dweller on Fri 27 April 2007, 15:04:25

Tags: Josh Sawyer; Neverwinter Nights 2; Obsidian Entertainment

We asked Josh Sawyer a few questions about Neverwinter Nights 2:

4. How would you evaluate the finished product? Any lessons learned there? What worked well, what worked ... uh, not so well? What was the game's biggest strength/weakness?

I think the game as released is a high 7, low 8 title. To be honest, the major issues are due to a lack of polish. There's certainly a lot of stuff in the game, but none of it really looks or feels great. At best, the controls and features feel good, at worst they feel terrible.

For example, the camera. Programming got the camera in and fixed a number of its glaring problems, but for all the various camera modes you could run in, it was hard to find one that felt good. The toolset is also an appropriate example: highly functional, very powerful, not enjoyable or fast to use for many tasks.

The biggest problems during development were an unrealistic scope and a lack of focus on quality/fun from the beginning. It's arguable that the former resulted in the latter. With D&D games, it's easy to become consumed by the idea of adding every feat, class, and race you can find in various books.​
It doesn't matter whether you agree with Josh or not, what matters is that he isn't afraid to speak his mind. :salute:

There are 19 comments on Neverwinter Nights 2 interview

Jade Empire review

Review - posted by Role-Player on Wed 18 April 2007, 00:24:28

Tags: BioWare; Jade Empire

Our dragon punch to Bioware's latest console port to grace the computer role-playing genre, Jade Empire: Special Edition, is finally up.

It's nice that Bioware made something that people who don't enjoy RPGs could get into, but they don’t seem to have thought about the people who actually enjoy them. Jade Empire is pretty much Knights of the Old Republic - only shorter, with kung fu instead of lightsabers, a less obvious main villain, a setting that while not radically new feels fresh in the face of all the usual high fantasy drivel that pollutes the genre, and with considerable role-playing thrown in to the mix. This may be good news for those who enjoy Bioware games as it’s pretty much what you’d expect the game to be and in this regard, doesn’t disappoint. It’s a definite improvement on some of their design philosophies but don’t pop a vein, however; we’re still treading Bioware territory here.​

You might want to give it a shot. Or not. It does feature oriental lezzies, though.

There are 49 comments on Jade Empire review

The Role We Don't Play

Editorial - posted by Role-Player on Fri 30 March 2007, 01:28:22

Role-Player thinks he's the shit, so he offers his perspective on what he thinks may be contributing to the lack of role in contemporary role-playing games, along with some design suggestions to offset the problem on his editorial titled The Role We Don't Play:

It’s a harsh reality of the genre that, whether by developer influence or actual player demand, CRPGs have been trying to emulate Hollywood productions in order to present games with an increasing focus on emulating cinematic experiences. However, the result is often amateurish and embarrassing since the transposition from one medium to the other is made while disregarding the formal vocabulary of cinema and its context; something is lost in translation from cinema to videogame, and developers end up trying to implement narrative elements that run contrary to the narrative possibilities of the other medium. They look at movies and try to create videogames that behave – that play – like movies, which generally fails to build upon the strengths of the videogame medium and poorly uses the narrative structures of cinema. Some developers have tried experimenting with other approaches to the problem, trying to create situations where realtime player input is crucial and determines the flow of the story but these sequences often feel like compartmentalized and separated from the rest of the game; more in common with minigames than a situation that feels natural and fluid to the rest of the game and the gamer, if for no other reason than developers often can’t handle the complexities of the videogame medium and only propose simplistic input methods for these situations which in a certain way, present challenges and base interactivity that feel like glorified variations of classics like Space Ace or Dragon’s Lair.​
You'd think people not caring about his rants would shut the guy up, but he went and done it anyway.

There are 36 comments on The Role We Don't Play

Our Feargus Urquhart interview

Interview - posted by Role-Player on Mon 26 March 2007, 04:10:11

Tags: Feargus Urquhart; Obsidian Entertainment

We've managed to sit down with Feargus Urquhart of Obsidian Entertainment and ask him some questions about the company in general - running a business, getting licenses, reaction to games and so on. Here's his take on Knights of the Old Republic: The Sith Lords:

4) The Sith Lords had a considerable amount of cut content, which caused much discussion in the community and the creation of fan projects with the intent of restoring the game. While the publisher had its share of blame, do you feel part of the issue may have been a lack of management focus?

I'm pretty good and taking the responsibility for things that happen on our games and I could, of course, say that there were things that we could have done to get more content in the game. But, that's always the case. Every game I have ever made has had content cut during its production. This happens for a ton of reasons. Often it is because we just planned for too much up front, which is partly what happened with KotOR2 and we had to ship before we were able to really polish the end of the game. I am still very proud of what we did with KotOR2 and I feel the excitement over the end of the game being "castrated", as I've heard people say, is a little harsh and melodramatic. Particularly when that is followed with comments about the second and third time that person played through the game. Having said that, I'm not excusing anything or sweeping anything under the rug. I want more for every game we make, and I feel we can always do better job at it.​
We're vocal about a lot of things but Feargus is a cool guy who's willing to chat, so here's your chance to learn a bit more about the man and the company.

There are 14 comments on Our Feargus Urquhart interview

Interview with indie RPG developers

Interview - posted by Vault Dweller on Mon 26 March 2007, 01:17:19

Here is an overview (and a handy reference guide) of the indie "industry": who does what, how, and why, and what do these people have to offer. It's a long read, so go get some popcorn.

8. Dialogues. What role do dialogues play in your game? Why? Are there great lines like "I saw a mudcrab the other day" or "Elvish, motherfucker! Do you speak it?" in your game?

Thomas: Dialogue in any RPG is critical to establishing the game world and advancing the storyline. Eschalon handles dialogue via a branching system with different responses based on quest flags. It is simple yet effective and allows the player to have multiple responses to most situations based on how they want to play their character. Overall we’ve chosen to keep the dialogue a bit leaner compared to other contemporary RPGs to more closely match the flow of a classic RPG. As for great lines, I guess the player will need to make that judgment for themselves!</blockquoute>​

There are 46 comments on Interview with indie RPG developers

Oblivion - The Second Opinion

Review - posted by Section8 on Thu 22 February 2007, 04:05:22

Tags: Bethesda Softworks; The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

Nearly a year ago we published a review of Oblivion.You know, back when that sort of thing was poignant. Now, just in case anyone still cares, here's a second opinion.

Every now and then, a game comes along that sounds so insanely good on paper, that it doesn't really need salesmanship to get it out the door and into the eagerly grasping hands of gamers. But that didn't stop Bethesda hyping the ever-loving shit out of fourth Elder Scrolls RPG anyway. So is it the second coming? Is it even a decent game? These are the sort of questions that rattled through my mind as I sat back and watched the Patrick Stewart narrated introduction to Tamriel's Imperial province of Cyrodiil, where the game takes place.​

There are 37 comments on Oblivion - The Second Opinion

Mass Effect Interview

Interview - posted by Vault Dweller on Thu 1 February 2007, 13:40:08

Tags: BioWare; Casey Hudson; Mass Effect

Although Mass Effect is a console game, the depth of its design had surprised us, which is why we'd like to introduce the game to our readers (special thanks to Casey Hudson):

How would you compare Mass Effect to Knights of the Old Republic?

It's a good question. In some ways Mass Effect is a lot like Knights of the Old Republic, so all KOTOR fans should be really excited. You have a starship, and you travel the galaxy, having all these really great moments. You have all these Mass Effect powers, which are a lot like Force Powers in the Star Wars universe. However, the main difference, which is where the game really shines, is the main character. I know the word "extreme" may seem overused a bit, but it's an extreme character who does some very extreme stuff unlike Revan who was a very blank character.​

Click here to learn more.

There are 93 comments on Mass Effect Interview

So Hyped, So Mediocre: The Bard's Tale Review

Review - posted by Role-Player on Mon 29 January 2007, 04:01:05

Tags: Brian Fargo; inXile Entertainment; The Bard's Tale (2004)

inXile's The Bard's Tale gets a Codexian smackdown for your reading pleasure. Bard lovers stay away.

Unlike most other hack’n’slashers, The Bard’s Tale has no inventory to speak of nor does it have any loot that you can physically acquire from fallen enemies. All the items the Bard can acquire are either purchased at weapon stores and taverns, or handed out at several fixed points in the game’s story with the weaker equipment being automatically converted to the game’s currency. It's not hard to imagine some sort of brief setup on why this happens - considering the Bard's big mouth and penchant for making rash decisions, he might have angered some wizard or genie that made his desire for coin come true but at the expense of never being able to acquire items unless he spent the gold he cherished so much. But nothing ever explains the logic behind this quirky mechanic, ingame or otherwise. And since the Bard's equipment is improved once in a while by picking up better weapons and replacing the ones he has automatically with shinier and deadlier versions, why am still I finding poor weapons that are instantly changed to gold? Instead of just finding a ton of weapons the Bard won't equip and since automation was apparently a design goal, why not have enemies just drop gold right away? There's no point showing the player a weapon or item the Bard has picked up but won't be able to use. There could be a certain charm to the items you find on slain enemies but seeing Wolfs dropping the likes of picnic baskets and red hoods isn’t exactly pushing humor to new heights.

Who would've thought loot in a hack'n'slasher was good?

There are 32 comments on So Hyped, So Mediocre: The Bard's Tale Review

2006: The Year in Review

Editorial - posted by Vault Dweller on Thu 4 January 2007, 21:21:55

Tags: The Year in Review

Another great year is done and gone. Let's take a moment and bask in the memories:

Bioware's younger brother kinda saved the year with Neverwinter Nights 2, which could be described as Baldur's Gate 2 meets Icewind Dale 2, which is great, because these are my favourite games. From Baldur's Gate we’ve got the epic story reflecting the choiceless life of the Chosen One, and from Icewind Dale 2 we’ve got endless waves of enemies and more combat than in Halo, which is another of my favourite games, so I'm pretty sure we are dealing with an instant classic and a game of the year material here. Any game that features a githyanki proctologist
who will remove a two handed sword that got stuck in your ass during a questionable anal game when you were a child
has gotta be good. Don't worry about getting lost in the game though, it's one of the most linear games I've ever seen, and even individual maps feature super linear maze-like designs, firmly leading you in circles to your destinations through waves of unavoidable enemies. Every now and then you are given a dialogue option that can help you avoid 5% of combat in an area, to remind you that it's not a Diablo clone, but a fully blown role-playing game.​

There are 46 comments on 2006: The Year in Review

Forgotten Gems: Wizardry 8 Review

Review - posted by Role-Player on Mon 27 November 2006, 02:57:42

Tags: Sir-Tech; Wizardry 8

Today we look back at a forgotten gem of a game, Wizardry 8, developed by Sir-Tech. Here's a glimpse of our review.

The depth of the character system really allows for some good party design and this shows in combat. There are all sorts of combinations one can pull off that take advantage of the strengths of party members. You can focus on going for direct damage spells to quickly take out single targets or use status changing spells to reduce enemy resistances then send frontliners to clean them up. You can have spellcasters depend solely on spells at every turn or equip them with ranged weapons to cause some damage while saving spell points for more drastic situations. Or just have Bards play their instruments and Gadgeteers use their gadgets while spellcasters cast Stamina on them. Working with each character's skill levels is also important. For instance an Alchemist may create potions but if he is not skilled at throwing them he may fumble and drop it on the party instead. In which case a Ninja might be a better choice given his excellence with thrown items. Frontliners who have problems with our of reach enemies can invest in ranged weapons, bomb throwing, or protecting weaker members by taking blows directed at them. You can also hire RPCs which may benefit the party by bringing in skills no one else in the party has. Eight characters not enough? Open a can of Canned Elemental on your enemies too. Dozens and dozens of ways to handle combat are available. And honestly, how many other games allow you to play as a Faerie Ninja?​

There are 46 comments on Forgotten Gems: Wizardry 8 Review

Gothic 3 Review

Review - posted by Vault Dweller on Mon 20 November 2006, 03:46:22

Tags: Gothic III; Piranha Bytes

I humbly submit our Gothic 3 review to your attention:

The orcs in Gothic 3 are not some wild beasts, roaming the land, but a well organized tribal society that knows nothing but war and respects nothing but strength. No wonder they have finally won. The buggers have always dreamt of world domination, but were defeated and stopped at every turn, from The Lord of the Rings to Warcraft 3, until Piranha Bytes developers of equal opportunities gave them a chance to run the show. And you know what, it kinda worked. The war is finally over - a fact noted and appreciated by many humans who were sick and tired of it. The towns and settlements are properly guarded and managed. The slave business (trade, management, and hunting) is a booming industry that has even brought the hashashin experts from the south. Great employment opportunities are available for human mercenaries who don't think that hiding in caves & forests, playing Robin Hood, is a good career path.​

Don't forget to take a look at the screens. My character risked his life many a time for them.

There are 125 comments on Gothic 3 Review

Drakensang interview

Interview - posted by Vault Dweller on Wed 8 November 2006, 17:23:17

Tags: Drakensang

We present you our Drakensang interview with Jan Lechner, Project Lead, and Bernd Beyreuther, Creative Director.

5. You've also mentioned that you feel that a "purely turn-based system only addresses a minority of today's RPG audience". Even though I agree with you 100%, unfortunately, here is a simple question: why? Do you feel that the era of turn-based RPGs is over and no TB game, no matter how successful it is, can bring it back? Or do you feel that a TB game simply can not be successful these days, at least not the way a Baldur's Gate-like game can?

Bernd Beyreuther: That is a good and very interesting question. I don’t think that a round-based RPG can not be a success, quite the opposite, I played “Advance Wars” obsessively for several weeks on my DS not long ago. I do believe that you can still make turn-based games that reach the masses. In fact, we are working on several concepts in this direction, especially with the new portable systems in mind.

It is another question, whether an RPG that aims to captivate and entertain – which needs to have cinematic, dramatic, emotional aspects in addition to the rules and combat system – is well served by interruptions. I believe that the intellectual, pondering chess-like style of a TB game does not mix well with atmospheric elements, story and emotion, as it breaks the player’s immersion.​
Read the rest here

There are 8 comments on Drakensang interview

The Broken Hourglass interview

Interview - posted by Vault Dweller on Tue 12 September 2006, 17:32:48

Tags: The Broken Hourglass

The Broken Hourglass is a promising indie title, inspired by the Baldur's Gate series. We asked Jason Compton a few questions about the game:

Augmenting the skills are traits, one-time purchases which enable new attack modes, or make a character better at managing the weight of his or her armor or weapons, or make certain types of attack more or less effective. Traits are point-buy and each has a unique cost, so no two traits are necessarily exactly alike or equivalent. We are presently planning to include negative traits as well, allowing you to "buy" points by taking a permanent hindrance.​
Negative traits are a great, but often overlooked feature. Definitely include them.

There are 6 comments on The Broken Hourglass interview

Prelude interview: The Zero Sum story

Interview - posted by Vault Dweller on Sun 30 July 2006, 16:35:58

Tags: Prelude to Darkness; Zero Sum

We've tracked down Zero Sum's CP McBee and Mat Williams and pretty much demanded to answer our questions. Or else.

2. You must have realized that the game won't sell as much as an action RPG or at least as a somewhat familiar RPG with orcs and elves and knights in shiny armors would. Yet you made it anyway. Why?

Our goal was to build games specifically for hard core role playing gamers. Both Mat and I had worked at video game companies before, but it didn't take much foresight to tell where the industry was headed. Overhead costs were soaring and people were becoming much more conservative with what kind of creative risks they were willing to take on a game. They lacked originality and required no thought whatsoever. So, we decided to proceed even though there was not so much money to be made initially. It was more important to us to build a sustainable business model based on the creation of good games. We thought it would be feasible because our margins would be lowered via exclusively distributing through the internet.​

There are 16 comments on Prelude interview: The Zero Sum story

Battle Lord interview

Interview - posted by Vault Dweller on Sat 17 June 2006, 08:18:37

Tags: King's Bounty: The Legend

In order to bring you the most comprehensive Battle Lord interview in the history of the internet, we've formed an unholy alliance with TCancer.

5. The game is being labeled as a fantasy RPG. What role-playing elements does it offer?

I would rather say that our game is more an adventure with RPG elements. First of all we have an advanced spell system, which is non-linear or offers a choice between enemy parties. Some quests or options of their accomplishment will be connected with your character development. And, of course, there will be character development. The hero has about 30 skills and a traditional for RPGs inventory/doll.​
Click here for 23 more questions

There are 14 comments on Battle Lord interview

Gothic 3 interview, part II

Interview - posted by Vault Dweller on Sat 20 May 2006, 06:11:07

Tags: Gothic III; Piranha Bytes

Here is the second part of our Gothic 3 interview with Kai Rosenkranz.

9. Tell us about factions. It's been mentioned that you can join more than one faction, and that you can leave a faction. Can you explain how that works? Also, why did you decide to move away from the "join one faction and stick with it" model? Any Orcish factions/clans?

We have increased the degree of freedom in most aspects of the game. To create a coherent gameplay, the guild-concept needed a little more freedom, too. The general idea is to turn limits into options. In the predecessors, joining a guild meant being forced into only one third of the game. So in fact one would have to play the game at least three times to get the big picture. In Gothic 3, the hero can pick out the plum jobs and sympathize with more than one guild, or with none. Whether or not a guild offers him a quest does no longer depend on his affiliation to the guild, but on its attitude towards the player.​
A controversial feature. If done right, it would add another layer of depth to the game. If not... deja vu.

There are 9 comments on Gothic 3 interview, part II

From beyond the moons of Saturn, something turn-based this way comes.

Interview - posted by DarkUnderlord on Mon 8 May 2006, 03:03:42

Tags: Dropship; Laidback Gaming; Michael Sean McCarthy

Remember Troika Games? You know, that small development studio founded by some former members of Interplay Entertainment which collapsed in financial ruin this past Christmas? Well, someone survived. Michael McCarthy, probably best described as an all-round art guy and part of the Troika team, got in touch with us recently and told us about something new he's planning. It's an RPG. An Action-RPG actually. With turn-based combat... and it's set in that good old 3/4 top-down "isometric" view. We've dubbed it Project T-BAR 3/4 and he's setup his own studio called Laid Back Gaming to get the game developed. We decided to ask Michael all about it.

So all right then, here are the questions...

There are 41 comments on From beyond the moons of Saturn, something turn-based this way comes.

Gothic 3 interview, part I

Interview - posted by Vault Dweller on Wed 3 May 2006, 01:56:12

Tags: Gothic III; Piranha Bytes

Piranha Bytes' Kai Rosenkranz has answered a few questions about upcoming Gothic 3 to satisfy our curiosity. Kai asked us to split it in two parts to protect the uninitiated from all secret Gothic knowledge contained in the second part, which will be posted a week after E3

13. How does Gothic 3 handle choices & consequences? How important are choices and what would they affect? Would my character (not the player!) ever get a reason to regret a previously made choice?

Gothic 3 is all about choices in the first place. Yes, there are great sword fights, powerful magic, a lifelike gaming world... but yet choices are the main gameplay element. The player can literally shape the world and influence the story through the way he's handling things. Most decisions have to be made in the field of human relations. The way the player is treating others influences their attitude towards him, and thus their cooperativeness depends on the right choice of words. With a dexterous tongue the hero can even talk a whole city into a revolution. This can also backfire on him, of course. If he falls out of favour with someone, he will most likely not get useful hints or lucrative quests. And yes, if the whole world wants him dead, he might at last regret his choices.​
That's all I ever wanted - an option to make choices I will regret later on.

There are 33 comments on Gothic 3 interview, part I

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