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Tue 3 August 2021

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 3 August 2021, 20:26:21

Tags: Expeditions: Rome; Logic Artists; THQ Nordic

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The fifth developer diary for Expeditions: Rome is not about the game's soundtrack as promised, but instead about a rather more interesting topic. The metagame strategy layer is a defining element of the Expeditions series, but in Rome it will take a far more active role with the player character in command of a full-sized legion. In order to gain resources and upgrade your camp, you will need to capture regions of the world map. For this purpose, Logic Artists have implemented a simple army combat system in which you select formations and other high-level strategic maneuvers over the course of a battle.

As we showed in our story diary, Expeditions: Rome casts you – the player – as the legatus of a legion of Rome. Our foremost priority in designing the campaigns of Rome was to make you feel like you have an army at your fingertips, and to make that army feel useful and necessary. When we set out, we immediately ran into a certain important tension: as the game is fundamentally a party-based RPG, most of the gameplay will revolve around your own group of a dozen Romans meeting new people, engaging in diplomatic talks or investigating plot points, and getting into skirmishes on that small-party scale. A lot of the worldmap gameplay of previous Expeditions games has centered around resource management and survival mechanics, but when you have a legion of 6000 men at your beck and call, what difficulty is there in feeding and otherwise supplying a dozen more people?

To solve this, we have redesigned the survival aspects of Expeditions: Rome dramatically. When you return to the worldmap, you will see not just your own party represented by your character on horseback, but also your legion – typically garrisoned at a fortified camp. You can and will often visit this camp to manage the affairs of the legion as well as the status of your own party. It is here you can recruit new praetorians for your group, treat those who have been injured in combat, craft new equipment for yourself and your praetorians, and even leave behind a praetorian to rest and recuperate at the baths if their morale has fallen too low. Our aim has been for the camp to feel like a place of resources and opportunities, where you visit when you want to do something, not a chore that you have to perform at regular intervals just to survive the game.

All facilities of the legion camp can be upgraded, which changes the appearance of buildings or entire sections of the command area, but to do that you must secure the necessary resources. Fortunately, unlike previous Expeditions games, the legion is not just a narrative element in Expeditions: Rome. This time around, you can deploy it to missions all across the parts of the worldmap under your control.

The worldmap of each campaign is divided into regions. When you control a region, you unlock the ability to build farms, tanneries, iron mines, or lumber yards, which grant you resources needed to upgrade your legion’s camp. We are not building a 4X game here, so the underlying mechanics are straight-forward and easy to understand: Sending your legion on a mission takes a certain amount of in-game time, and has a cost, for example in denarii (salary) or manpower (casualties). Missions also have a difficulty rating that results in a success probability based on the current strength of your legion. If a mission is succeeded, you gain the resources you were promised.

Capturing a new region is where things get a little more complex. You deploy your legion to capture an enemy outpost just as you would send it to perform any other task – however, when the legion reaches its destination, a battle begins. First, you must select which centurion should lead this battle – your legion can have up to 4 centurions which are recruited from the same pool as your personal praetorian guard. The character class of each centurion, as well as any perks they might have to improve their suitability to command, determines the likely outcome: the probability of success, the expected loss of manpower, how much loot you can expect to get out of it, and the probability that the centurion himself will survive the battle.

Next, you select what formation your legion should deploy in. Formations are a type of stratagem, which are randomly made available to you from your strategic pool to represent the unpredictable nature of war. Once you’ve decided how to deploy the legion, the battle is on, and you can follow along as the armies are arrayed against each other and clash. At certain intervals, new decisions pop up, asking you to choose new stratagems for the different phases of battle. If you find yourself unhappy with your options, next time you’re visiting your legion’s camp, you can build a workshop and develop new stratagems to add to your pool. As the game progresses and your workshop is upgraded, you will even be able to upgrade your existing stratagems with better outcomes.

This legion battle system is our way to represent large-scale warfare in a game that is otherwise mainly focused on elite small-unit tactical combat. Our challenge has been to make a simple system with enough depth to stay fresh and interesting throughout the course of a 40-hour RPG, and which ties into the other systems of the game so it doesn’t feel too isolated from the rest of the experience.

This system is one of the areas of the game that we are most focused on expanding and improving as we get closer to finishing Expeditions: Rome. During testing, we have found that there seems to be clear dominant strategies, and that certain choices that do have valid uses don’t feel as useful as they really are – perhaps because their effects are too long-term or too abstract compared to other strategies. Often these problems are easy to solve by adding new mechanics to the system, but the ideal solution would be to address it within the scope of the current feature set, since every new mechanic we add must be supported by UI and tutorialization, which can quickly clutter the interface and overwhelm the player.

Another problem we’re working to solve is how to give the player more ways to affect a battle ahead of time. Going up against a much stronger army can feel like a slog right now, as you throw your legion against them, suffering repeated defeats to whittle down their strength. Though this is in many ways accurate to the Roman republic’s historical approach to warfare (refuse all offers of peace, and instead keep throwing lives at a problem until the enemy is worn out), it isn’t a particularly fun way to win. We want you to have many options to improve your success chance or reduce the enemy strength before you even begin the battle. We’d love to hear what you think we should do to solve this in the comments of this DevDiary – as mentioned, this area of the game is getting a lot of attention right now, and we can always draw inspiration from your suggestions and requests!

Winning a legion battle isn’t the end of conquering a territory. There are always loose ends to tie up – pockets of resistance to exterminate; local aristocrats, tribes, or clans with whom to forge new alliances; or prisoners of war to rescue. Sometimes you can send your legion to handle these things, other times you must send one of your companions in charge of your praetorian guard. A conquered region is pacified only once the loose ends have been dealt with, and then you can safely redeploy your legion to another region without losing control again.
According to the update, this is just one example of Rome's many meta layer systems, which also include field triage, crafting, praetorian mutiny and recruitment. Logic Artists aren't ready to say what the next dev diary will be about, but there'll be a devstream about this one on August 5th.

There are 7 comments on Expeditions: Rome Dev Diary #5 - Metagame: Legion Battles


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Wed 28 July 2021

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 28 July 2021, 23:06:15

Tags: Owlcat Games; Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous

With the release date of Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous fast approaching, Owlcat and their new publisher META have begun promoting the game more frequently. Last week they released another companion trailer about mongrelman archer Lann, yesterday they shared a new piece from the game's soundtrack, and today there's a new dev diary. The topic this time is the graphical and visual changes that Owlcat have implemented for Wrath of the Righteous. These include a more advanced texture pipeline, a darker and less cartoony visual style, more detailed character models, a more efficient process for creating maps, dynamic lighting, and more elaborate weather effects. Once again, I'll post the dev diary and the companion trailer:


However, the main news of the day is that Wrath of the Righteous is now available for preorder, with the usual assortment of in-game bonus items and deluxe editions. Most notably, the Mythic Edition includes a season pass (the contents of which were actually briefly leaked last week) with three post-launch DLCs. The first of these is a high level post-campaign expansion, the second one is a side story featuring a different protagonist along the lines of Kingmaker's Varnhold's Lot DLC, and the third is a roguelike mode with procedural generation similar to the Beneath the Stolen Lands DLC. The new Kickstarter update has the details on what backers are getting, but I'd rather post the full description of the DLCs from the season pass Steam page:

DLC #1
New additional campaign. Import your character from the main campaign to the moment of their greatest triumph — their victory over the Worldwound. Answer a plea from a powerful entity and leave Golarion behind to defend the space-time continuum against imminent collapse. Use your unparalleled mythic powers to do battle with truly invincible opponents. This additional campaign offers 7–8 hours of gameplay.

DLC #2
New additional campaign. The demon attack on Kenabres changed the lives of many. While the mythic hero and their loyal companions were busy liberating the city, the common folk had to find a way to survive, relying only on their humble skills.
Band together with other survivors and try to reach the Defender's Heart tavern, the last foothold of the crusader forces in the city. Choose who will join your group, and make difficult decisions about allocating scarce resources. Remember — in fire-ravaged Kenabres, every scroll and potion could make the difference not only in an individual fight, but also to your very survival. Act in the group's best interests or focus solely on your own well-being. Import your choices to the main campaign and look forward to seeing this story develop in other DLC. This additional campaign offers 6–7 hours of gameplay.

DLC #3
A new rogue-like mode with partial integration into the main campaign. In Alushinyrra's port, climb aboard a cursed ship that will transport you to a mysterious whirlpool lost amidst the Midnight Isles. Dive in and discover a dungeon whose proportions you can only guess at. Go exploring in search of glory, loot, and battles, and come face to face with a secret that will benefit either Nocticula, the mistress of the archipelago, or her enemies. The dungeon's levels, created using random zone generation, are populated with various enemies, devious traps, and secret rooms. You will return victorious to Alushinyrra — or else the cursed ship will return on its own, laden with trophies from the last expedition, to await new adventure-seekers.​

Wrath of the Righteous is available for preorder on Steam and GOG for $50. Kickstarter backers are getting the preorder bonus items of course, and the Commander Edition items as well if they pledged for a high enough tier. It's unfortunate that Owlcat have once again chosen not to grant the season pass to backers, not even to those who pledged extremely large sums of money.

There are 42 comments on Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous Kickstarter Update #94: Dev Diary #4, Preorders and Season Pass


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Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 28 July 2021, 00:26:53

Tags: Monomyth; Rat Tower Software

As promised, the Kickstarter campaign for Rat Tower Software's Ultima Underworld-inspired dungeon crawling RPG Monomyth went live this evening. So did the game's demo, which is available on itch.io and will be released on Steam later on. The pitch video includes last week's trailer along with an additional segment in which RatTower finally reveals his face to his adoring fans. Here it is along with a brief overview:



MONOMYTH is an immersive, first-person dungeon crawling RPG in the vein of Ultima Underworld, Arx Fatalis, and the King’s Field series.

Travel through an open, highly interactive game world, unrestricted by scripted sequences, hard-coded barriers, or tiled movement.

Use swords, daggers, hammers, maces, bows, or a wide range of versatile spells to overcome your enemies in real-time combat!

Remain unseen and unheard by sneaking through the shadows of eerie dungeons deep below the surface of the world.

Talk with the inhabitants of the underworld via a detailed, keyword-based dialogue system. Trade with them or press them for information. But don’t go too far or you may suffer the consequences!

Experiment with a wide range of utility items: Speed potions, water arrows, lockpicks, and many more!

A highly interactive world awaits you! Douse torches, bake bread, drink from fountains, and even play instruments!

Unravel the mysteries of Lysandria as you uncover hidden passages, dive through flooded caves, and overcome the living nightmares that inhabit the ancient halls far below the mighty fortress.
RatTower is looking to raise a minimum of €16,500 to bring Monomyth to the finishing line, with a whole set of stretch goals already planned out afterwards. I expect everybody to pitch in so we can show those clowns at OtherSide Entertainment how it's done. A basic copy of the game will cost you just €15, with a rather exclusive closed beta access available starting from €125. The estimated release date is June 2022.

There are 119 comments on Monomyth now on Kickstarter


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Mon 26 July 2021

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Mon 26 July 2021, 21:53:13

Tags: Mechajammer; Whalenought Studios

Last month when Mechajammer made its appearance at the PC Gaming Show, Whalenought promised that some sort of gameplay video was in the works. Here it is at last, played by Joe and narrated by Hannah. In this particular scenario, the player character is tasked with raiding the compound of a local thug named Three Hand Harry. A one man frontal assault quickly proves unsuccessful, so they opt for a stealthy backdoor approach instead. Of course, it's always possible to just zerg rush the place with a horde of minions. In addition to the video, the new Kickstarter update also has details about some of the latest features that Joe and Hannah have been working on. The most interesting of these is a chaos level system in which the game world changes based on how much havoc the player has been raising.



We consolidated some gameplay from the city into some general overview stuff on navigation. Three Hand Harry is a punk, and Hannah gives a few recommendations on how to greet your neighbors on Calitana.

We're nearing ready to summon you all for some larger game area testing. Prior to this we're finishing some focused improvements on:

enemy / companion AI
NPCs have various ranges of how stupid they are, from attack-flee-wander to actively searching for you through shadows like the terminator. We're finding a nice balanced in-between feel for the median encounter and companion.

UI upgrades
Reflect some of these AI visual updates (noise indicators, suppression meters are louder, etc.)

Sneaking
Some gameplay tweaks to make things easier, based off feedback. Sneaking will now happen anytime you are holding shift and click to move somewhere, or click on yourself to just crouch. Sometimes you just want to duck behind a box, but then you want to run after that, and don't want to enter a sneak mode where you're committed to a slow quiet movement. Much more versatile, and easy to remember, shift for shifty.

Adapting to Chaos
The way the game is laid out and [very] open-ended, it ranges from infiltration focused to very casual exploration and driving. The gangs react to you(r violence) in logical ways — gangs friendly to ones you've attacked will turn hostile to you, and ones also against them open up as allegiances. But what about everything else? There's a city of laborers and citizens at the disposal of syndicates, the gangs, and the newcomer: you.

Knowing how most tabletop sessions go, and most games, we needed reactivity for setting the sandbox on fire. With perpetual saving, we also wanted your actions to have enough consequence to be considered (permanent) decisions, but enough leeway to also have some freedom to experiment. Killing a gang boss is cut and dry, but what about everything else?

There are syndicates to steal from, gangs to conquer, drug dens to bust for property keys, and a whole lot more that are inevitable threats. One of the avoidable things you can do in the game is beat the crap out of all the citizens and laborers. They aren’t terribly easy to pummel on accident (you’re welcome, as you’ll find out), but if your going around and convincing hordes of them to join you there’s going to be consequences.

Like the 13 gangs, Calitana itself has a meter to determine its current threat level. For the gangs, you'll usually cross the line on being able to ally with a gang if you kill their agent, or enough of their laborers/patrols. Likewise for the city meter, the civilians in the city are MFI’s laborers, and too many disappearing is going to raise some flags, or guns, in this case.

The stability of the relationship between the civilian laborers, gangs and syndicates of Calitana is pretty shaky at best. As we’ve said, it’s a pot ready to boil over. Someone just needs to turn up the heat. Driving waves of civilians to your violent bidding is enough to raise some eyebrows of the city administrators.

Threat levels can ease with time until it hits a new grade. As the city’s threat level rises, the civilian crowds thin out. Feeling threatened on top of an already dead-end existence, you tip them over the edge, and the denizens band together to form more small-time gangs in the streets. More bodies, more rats, and more MFI patrols.

This is manageable for the player, but resource management can get tighter when your usual peaceful streets are full of enemies to avoid or waste ammo on. Not is all at a loss though. Paying some heavy tribute to The Faith syndicate will replenish civilians back to an indoctrinated state, dropping the Threat level, and giving them a new lease on life.
Cool stuff. If you want to try it yourself, the Mechajammer demo is available again on Steam until the end of the month as part of the Dreamhack Beyond digital festival.

There are 38 comments on Mechajammer Kickstarter Update #33: Three Hand Harry Commentary Video


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Mon 19 July 2021

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Mon 19 July 2021, 23:28:57

Tags: 3Mind Games; The Protagonist: EX-1

The unusual sci-fi-with-martial-arts tactical RPG The Protagonist: EX-1 was released yesterday after a short stint in Early Access. Oddly, that's a day earlier than the launch date that was announced earlier this month. The new version of the game's trailer seems largely identical to the previous one, including the crotchety Temuera Morrison voice acting. Here it is along with the accompanying press release, which was published today:



Experience tactical combat in this intense sci-fi RPG. After a constructive Early Access campaign, 3Mind Games’ The Protagonist: EX-1 has had a full release on Steam, available for £19.49 / €20.99. With a gripping story of survival behind enemy lines, use strategy and unique hand-to-hand combat mechanics to escape your extraterrestrial prison. The fate of Terra is in your hands!

Set in a brewing war between the planet Terra and an invading synthetic alien threat, in The Protagonist EX-1 you play as Angel, a highly trained special agent who is sent into an alien ship with a squad to neutralise an imminent global threat. However, the mission goes drastically awry and Angel awakens alone in the station’s infirmary, without her squad or any memory of what happened. Having to trust an unfamiliar voice to guide her through the alien ship, Angel must fight formidable enemies, navigate the unknown and find the rest of her team; for the survival of humanity back on Terra.

The Protagonist EX-1 combines RPG and turn-based strategy elements with a gripping science fiction story to keep players entertained for hours. Personalise your campaign as you control Angel and the squad, customising their close-combat abilities and navigating through dynamic dialogue trees, where decisions can have drastic consequences! With characters voiced by an impressive cast, including Hollywood actors Temuera Morrison and Tony Todd, delve into a narrative of war, mystery and extra-terrestrial action as you defeat menacing alien foes and control the fate of the world below you.

Key features:
  • Become the Protagonist - immerse yourself in this extraterrestrial tale of intrigue and adventure
  • Solve puzzles, find clues and fight your way through anyone who dares stand between you and your missions as you explore the space station
  • Get creative with combat using the Martial Arts Combat System (M.A.C.S) and the Initiative and Action Points System, you can customise your character’s close-combat abilities and unlock awesome combos.
  • Featuring a dynamic dialogue system where you make decisions and face the consequences
  • Get to know more than 7 playable characters, featuring the voice talents of Temuera Morrison and Tony Todd; fight over 10 types of enemies; battle with 19+ weapon types; and much more!
The Protagonist is available on Steam for $25. Always weird when these obscure games somehow manage to snag celebrity voice acting talent. I wonder if it could possibly be any good.

There are 35 comments on The Protagonist: EX-1 Released

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Mon 19 July 2021, 00:16:47

Tags: Monomyth; Rat Tower Software

Back in January we reported that Monomyth, the promising indie Ultima Underworld/Arx Fatalis successor whose development we've been following since 2017, would be coming to Kickstarter this year. It took RatTower a little longer than expected to conclude his academic work and set up his business, but he's now ready to announce that the Kickstarter campaign will be launching on July 27th. As promised, the campaign will launch with a public demo that will include the entire first part of the game. Here's the new Kickstarter trailer, which offers a look at exploration, combat, environmental interaction, and of course, baking bread.



Greetings, dungeon-crawling enthusiasts!

Today I bring you some great news:

Monomyth will be coming to Kickstarter on the 27th of July, 2021, at 7 pm CET / 1 pm EST.

As a part of this Kickstarter campaign, you will be able to try a demo of Monomyth yourself! In this demo you will travel to the Serpent's Bastion, an outpost of Lysandria, and a bulwark against the many dangers that lurk in the wastelands surrounding the ancient fortress.

You will be able to create your own character and customize its stats to your liking. The demo will feature dialogue, puzzles, combat, and the full tutorial area of the game - though, it won't hold your hand too much and there is enough room for exploration.

Why a Kickstarter?
You may wonder, why now? Why a Kickstarter after all these years. The answer is, that Monomyth is now entering a phase of development where certain costs arise (equipment, software tools, legal fees, etc), and some assets - most of all the music - have to be done by contractors. While I do a lot of assets myself I am not a musician, so, besides financing core development, that is where the money would go.

So, when will Monomyth be released?
There is still some content to be made, some dialogue to be written and some assets to be created. Feature-wise Monomyth is already on a good track. There will still be some changes to NPCs and the AI.

Monomyth is scheduled for Q2, 2022.

Originally I wanted to go for early 2022 - and I still think that is realistic - but I do not wish to delay it yet another time in case something unforeseen pops up. I tried to calculate a realistic goal and added a little bit. This time is actually a hard deadline. If you followed past updates you know that this is now my full-time job, and given how it went over the last couple of months I would really like it if it stayed that way.
As stated, the final release of Monomyth is scheduled for Q2 2022. RatTower already has plans for what he might be doing afterwards, which you can read about it in the full announcement.

There are 41 comments on Monomyth coming to Kickstarter on July 27th


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Fri 16 July 2021

Editorial - posted by Infinitron on Fri 16 July 2021, 23:36:33

Tags: Chris Avellone; Hardsuit Labs; Paradox Interactive; Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2

Apparently, since his return to the public spotlight, Chris Avellone has been getting a lot of questions about Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2 from fans who are curious to know what the hell happened to it. Today he published an article on his Medium blog to address that question. The long and short of it is that he doesn't know, but that didn't stop him from describing his involvement with the project in his characteristically entertaining fashion. Chris now seems somewhat regretful about the role he played in getting Bloodlines 2 greenlit on behalf of a studio that clearly wasn't up to the task of creating it. Here's an excerpt from his post:

So the Bloodlines 2 pitch. I know all about this process, not just because it’s public knowledge, but because I was there for the pitch meeting.

The pitch meeting happened in Las Vegas. I almost forgot why it was in Vegas, but then I remembered it’s also where the D.I.C.E convention happens every year when there isn’t a pandemic.

If you’re not familiar with D.I.C.E., you’re not missing much. As one described it, it’s where game executives go to jerk each other off, pretend to facilitate contracts, give awards to themselves, and compliment each other on the hard work the developers at their studios do. The Biz Dev guys go there to feed on these same executives and devour them slowly from within like humanoid parasites from the movie The Bay. It’s all part of the vampiric theme.

So Paradox and Hardsuit were in Las Vegas for D.I.C.E. We, being schleps, went there without going to D.I.C.E. because we are not executives. I went because I wanted to help Hardsuit with the pitch, I had been working with Hardsuit for some time prior on the title, and to encourage the Paradox folks the pitch was a good idea because I knew the Paradox folks from years before. This “encouragement” was very selfish of me and in retrospect of all that was going to happen, probably kind of shitty.

Yes, selfish. Yes, shitty. Still, it wasn’t hard to rationalize. It had been so many years since the original, I wanted someone to do it, and I thought Bloodlines fans (including me) had waited long enough. I was mostly thinking of myself, though, because (surprise) I wanted to work on it in any capacity. Now that Paradox had secured the Vampire license, it seemed like it could finally happen… if we could just convince them to do it. Interestingly, Hardsuit didn’t even get 1/3 of the way through the Power Point pitch before we stopped it and just started to chat with Paradox about the project more informally to get them more engaged in the idea (Power Points are easy to zone out to). Paradox did get engaged. They agreed, put pen to paper, blah blah blah.

To fill you in on what I did on the project, since most people think I was booted from it last year (?) along with everyone else. This “news” is attributed to some poorly worded public statements from the usual round of idiots that got passed through a filter held by an idiot and poured into an idiot glass and then passed out to the public and marketed as a refreshing new mineral water that will ultimately pass through your bladder and into your toilet. Thanks for that, idiots. You could have just said, “contract was over.”

To explain my contract: I worked on Bloodlines 2 for almost 2 and a half years, from 2016 to mid-2018, then my contract came to an end. They didn’t use anything I wrote during that time, which was a number of major characters and side missions, check my LinkedIn. This made me sad, but it’s not my choice. The whole experience was like the last five minutes of Barton Fink (not the beach scene, the scene before it, know-it-all), but stretched out over 2 and a half years. Even if I had known all that work was useless, I’d have written anyway, even though its part of your life you don’t get back, so you can’t really dwell on it too much. I’ve been on projects where a LOT more got thrown away… as Bloodlines 2 proved for almost everyone on it in the end, apparently.

So what happened after? Why did the staff change? Why did it move to another developer? Did it actually move to a developer or is that bullshit?

To all of you asking: I have no fucking idea.
In the rest of the post, Chris explains why former Bloodlines 2 devs may have been unable to say why they were fired, expresses his opinion that he and Brian Mitsoda were brought on to grant the project credibility, and makes sure to give a shoutout to composer Rik Schaffer as well. In summary, he knows about as much as we do.

There are 136 comments on Chris Avellone: What the Fuck Happened to Bloodlines 2?


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Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 16 July 2021, 22:37:29

Tags: Crimson Herring Studios; Sovereign Syndicate

As readers of this website will know, the past several years have seen a flood of new isometric RPGs, with the most successful ones inspiring imitators as part of the ongoing renaissance of the genre. The latest such game to come to our attention is Sovereign Syndicate, a Victorian steampunk/fantasy RPG inspired by Harebrained Schemes' Shadowrun games as well as Disco Elysium and other isometric roleplaying titles. Its creator is one Isaac Otway, a former HR administrator/project manager from Edmonton who decided to start a new career in game development and founded a studio called Crimson Herring Studios to fulfill that dream. The game is set in a seedy open world London inhabited by minotaurs, automatons and other creatures. It features an improve-by-use skill system and a tarot card-based skill check mechanic. Sovereign Syndicate has been in development since last April, but as is often the case we found out about it when LESS T_T spotted its Steam page yesterday. Here's its teaser trailer and description:



Explore an open world in this Victorian steampunk cRPG. Choose from three playable characters with branching stories that intertwine. Investigate, interact, and take action to leave your mark on the world and its inhabitants. No random stat points here, use your skills to level them up, and trust your fate to our tarot card chance system.

So, how will you solve your problems? Combat, persuasion, magic, explosives? The choice is yours and all your cards are on the table; but be careful, the docklands aren’t for the faint of heart.

Tarot Card Chance System – Leave your dice at home as you interact with a variety of characters. NPC’s react to your gender, race, appearance, and choice of dialogue, so you’d better look and act the part if you want the “right” results. But not everything is certain, luck plays a role and it’s all in the cards with our tarot card chance system.

Skill and Etiquette System - The skills you use will improve your ability, while ignoring others will cause them to stagnate. Master the skills you choose and learn more about the world and its inhabitants to unlock special dialogue and skill-check options.

So go, see, do! And don’t be afraid to try the unconventional. Drown yourself in gin? Sure, provided you’ve got the constitution for it. Smoke that opium? Certainly, but be careful not to doze off— it might not be safe here. Put it all on black? You only live once, as they say. Even in failure you learn something…

A Rich Open World to Explore - A steampunk fantasy-inspired Victorian London awaits; filled with interesting characters and locations. Explore the back alleys, opium dens, brothels, and more at your peril, or relax and enjoy their simple pleasures. Investigate, interact, and take action to forge your own path.

Three Characters, Three Different Stories – Play as one of three characters with stories that intertwine through the city’s docklands and unfold based on your choices.
  • Atticus Daley, an orphaned minotaur magician crawling out of the bottom of a bottle to find a sense of belonging, and his next fix.
  • Clara Reed, a corsair with a checkered past, and a cunning woman with a rebellious streak. Follow her on a search for vengeance, and the courtesan killer.
  • Otto, the trusty automaton and companion of engineer Theodore Redgrave. More than just the sum of his parts, Otto wants more to life than servitude and utility.
Each character has their own mix of skills, equipment, and expertise, and they might just have to work together to succeed. Will you trust your companions, and should they trust you? Not everyone is a hero after all.
Additional details about Sovereign Syndicate are available on its official website, including two interesting devlogs from earlier this year in which Isaac reveals that he actually initially wanted to license the Shadowrun engine and intellectual property from Harebrained Schemes. His story is rather inspiring, so let's hope it works out.

There are 51 comments on Sovereign Syndicate is an upcoming Victorian steampunk RPG inspired by Shadowrun

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 16 July 2021, 11:46:28

Tags: Devolver Digital; Raphael Colantonio; Weird West; WolfEye Studios

It's been over a year since the last major news about Weird West, the upcoming isometric action RPG/immersive sim from Arkane founder Raf Colantonio. The game did not appear during Devolver Digital's E3 showcase last month, but developer WolfEye promised that something would be coming up soon. Yesterday they announced that the game will be launching this fall. Alongside that announcement comes a rather action-packed new gameplay trailer that introduces Weird West's five protagonists - the Bounty Hunter, the Pigman, the Protector, the Werewolf, and the Oneirist.


Raf and his co-director at WolfEye Julien Roby offered some additional details about four of the five protagonists at the PlayStation Blog and Xbox Wire sites. As you can see, this west is indeed rather weird.

There are 1 comments on Weird West gets gameplay trailer, releasing this fall

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 16 July 2021, 11:03:34

Tags: Baldur's Gate 3; Larian Studios

Due to some last minute issues, Larian ended up releasing the fifth patch for Baldur's Gate 3 a couple of days later than originally planned. Since they already published a fancy community update last week, I'll just post an excerpt from the changelog:

IMPROVEMENTS and ADDITIONS
  • Added new scenes expanding on Shadowheart's mysterious artefact.
  • Added new recruitment scenes with Shadowheart.
  • Additional reactivity from Shadowheart when she approves of you.
  • Added Background Goals - Now every character will have their own series of secret miniquests based on their Background and for each you complete you’ll receive an Inspiration Point up to a maximum of 4.
  • Added new camp scene with Scratch and the owlbear cub.
  • Added Point and Click character responses.
  • Added 12 new magic items in loot and quest rewards.
  • Revised active roll UI during dialogue. This includes improved displaying of bonuses and double dice for rolling with Advantage or Disadvantage.
  • You can now use spells and items to increase chances when rolling during dialogue (including your companions' spells and items).
  • Picking locks and disarming traps are now active rolls.
  • Added a new Disengage action that allows you to avoid provoking Attacks of Opportunity.
  • Adding an item during Bartering will automatically equalise the gold on both sides.
  • Added a way to cancel concentration from the concentration indicator.
  • You can now pin most tooltips to hover over additional terms... for more tooltips.
  • Increased the line limit in the dialogue history window.
  • You can now save while leveling up.
  • Added unique visual effects for class-specific spells.
  • Added new icons for spells, statuses and items.
  • Added dozens of new interactable items, expanding on the lore and background of the world.
  • Revamped visuals for spells used by multiple classes to create more cohesion with Class-specific spells.
  • Properly indicate when an action is fully free (does not count as a full or bonus action in combat).
  • Added a tooltip for surfaces in combat log entries.
  • Added better feedback on saving throws.
  • Added feedback to clarify why casting a spell at a target is impossible.
  • NPCs have new reactions when they're unable to talk to you.
  • Updated assorted spell, item, status, and book descriptions.
According to some of our resident grognards, this is a pretty good patch. Let's hope that trend continues.

There are 4 comments on Baldur's Gate 3 Patch 5 - Breadth & Depth

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 16 July 2021, 01:36:41

Tags: Owlcat Games; Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous

Owlcat have decided to launch a third and final beta test for Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous before the game releases in September. It seems to be a largely incremental update, featuring yet more UI improvements, more music and more voice acting. They've also continued iterating on the crusade system, adding a morale system and an "auto-crusade" option.

The UI keeps evolving!

When you launch the game, you will be able to see the new main menu! Compared to Pathfinder: Kingmaker, it became darker, to reflect the mood of the new game. And a magical mirror will now show you where you stopped before you quit the game the last time.

The crusade interface has also improved, and we’ve fixed various glitches with the UI.

Additionally, you will now get party banter when resting on the global map, and when you are back to your hub (safe location), you will be able to craft there.

More music!

Yes, we keep adding more music into the game! And even some orchestral version will be in the beta this time! To refresh your memory, you can watch this video from back when we recorded them with Baltic Symphony Orchestra.

More voice acting!

We received very positive feedback after the previous stage of beta regarding the voice acting. And we are happy that you liked it so much, because in this version we’ve added even more! Now you will hear your companion and important characters talk during the most important moments in chapters 3 and 4, including the romantic conversations.

Crusade improvements

We keep working on our crusade system. We’ve improved it visually, and added the system of morale, which will stimulate you to keep fighting demons. And for those who don’t feel like dealing with the crusade there is now an option to turn on auto-crusade! It’s new and doesn’t work as well as we plan to make it work, and we will appreciate your bug reports on it, of course!

Bug fixes.

We’ve been fixing the bugs you sent us, and we’ve fixed a lot, but not all. You can read the patch notes here to find out more. Please, if you see a bug, press Alt+B and send us a report about it! It will help us to make the game better, and Iomedae will surely bless you! The game is still in beta, so bugs will probably be something you encounter on your journey. So save often! And into different slots.
As stated, the full patch notes for the update are available here. In other news, Owlcat also announced yesterday that Wrath of the Righteous will be published by small company called META Publishing. I guess self-publishing turned out to be more of a hassle than they anticipated.

There are 6 comments on Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous Kickstarter Update #91: Beta Stage 3 Released

Tue 13 July 2021

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 13 July 2021, 21:10:34

Tags: Solasta: Crown of the Magister; Tactical Adventures

You may recall that the Kickstarter campaign for Solasta: Crown of the Magister fell several thousand euros short of its final stretch goal, which would have added the Sorcerer class to the game. Despite this, when the campaign concluded Tactical Adventures promised that they would add the Sorcerer in a post-launch update. That promise was fulfilled today with the release of the game's first major update. Like the other classes in Solasta, the Sorcerer comes with three optional subclasses - the Draconic Bloodline (an original SRD subclass), the Mana Painter (an expert at draining magic) and the Child of the Rift (which draws its power from the portal through which the humans and their gods came to Solasta). The new update also adds an Ironman Mode, three new environments for the Dungeon Maker, and plenty of other improvements and bugfixes. Here's an overview video with more details:


The full patch notes for the Sorcerer update are available here. So what happens now? It seems that Solasta has sold fairly well, so I'd expect to see more updates. In fact, last month Tactical Adventures quietly announced that they'd opened a new studio in Lyon to create a new tactical RPG in the Solasta setting. The 5th Edition D&D hype is real.

There are 9 comments on Solasta: Crown of the Magister Sorcerer Update

Sun 11 July 2021

Codex Review - posted by Infinitron on Sun 11 July 2021, 14:17:23

Tags: Artefacts Studio; The Dungeon Of Naheulbeuk: The Amulet Of Chaos; The Dungeon Of Naheulbeuk: The Amulet Of Chaos - Ruins of Limis

Artefacts Studio's The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk: The Amulet of Chaos ended up being way more popular on our forums than anybody would have expected for a niche tactical RPG with cartoony graphics and cheesy humor. But what is actually so good about it? According to staff member emiritus Grunker, it all comes down to the game's abundance of systems. None of which are particularly complex individually, but which come together in a way that elevates Naheulbeuk beyond its superficial nu-XCOM trappings. If you can stand the chicken puns, you'll learn a lot from his extremely thorough review:

The way Dungeon of Naheulbeuk is designed to play is ultimately the reason why I will end up recommending a purchase - even at its admittedly high price of 35 of the European Union's rainbow dollars. You control no fewer than 8 characters – the seven members of the core party as well as one additional party member you pick up later – in a tactical hybrid of oldschool RPG combat and modern, nu-XCOM-ish fights. In most aspects, Dungeon of Naheulbeuk is a weird amalgamation of strange niche inspirations blended into a somehow functioning whole that thrives in the constant push and pull between the oldschool and the new school. Nowhere is this as apparent as in the core combat mechanics.

Yes, the combat is nu-XCOM in the sense that it has half- and full-cover mechanics as well as the “move and hit or move twice” simplified action system. But it also places immense importance on a character's facing: your characters can face in 8 directions on the tile-based battle maps, and three different rules govern attacks from the front, from the sides and from behind. Even without factoring in the game's other positional rules, facing alone means a level of positional complexity that very few RPGs can match, and it is is all handled by an interface so intuitive that you soon forget how utterly annoying you thought constantly controlling your characters' facing would be when the game first introduced the concept.

The game’s abilities are also of the nu-XCOM variety: they are cooldown-based and most characters have a maximum of around seven at any time – more realistically 3-5. But they also cost resources like Astral Energy or Stamina and their effects are incredibly impactful. Most of them have branching upgrades in the talent tree that change their effects fairly drastically.

The attribute system is another tug-of-war between tactical modernity and oldschool RPG affinity: on the one hand, Dungeon of Naheulbeuk sports 6 different attributes which you can assign points into, and they have a massive impact on the characters' ability to deal damage or even hit their target. On the other hand, an attempt has been made to make all attributes have some use for all characters, giving you reasons to put points into all six stats for every character. This attempt is less successful, however – you will only ever put points into Intelligence on your mage, and for nearly everyone else it’s a numbers game about having just enough Agility, then just enough Constitution (if necessary), and then dumping the rest into Strength. Still, no stat is useless for anyone and only Agility is really required on some. In the same vein, some stats have unique effects for certain characters, like Charisma being the primary stat for the elf's healing power. I'm sure someone out there made it through the highest difficulty with a team going all-in on Charisma.

The core attributes lead up to a flurry of derived stats – everything from simple things like “Health”, which is just your pool of hit points, to less obvious stats like “Support”, which governs how much a character improves a party member’s ability to hit targets that they are both adjacent to.

There are more examples, but the point is that Dungeon of Naheulbeuk is a game with very modern and simple systems - but there are a lot of them, and the interplay between them gives the game's combat a very real complexity. To this mix, the game adds sufficient enemy variety that throw wrenches with different levels of ingenuity into your well laid plans, ensuring that fights do not become too alike even if they draw their paint from the same palette of colours.

Many haters of the nu-XCOM model undoubtedly stopped reading when they read about the cover system, which feels ubiquitous to so many games today. However I’ve never seen the practical gameplay results that this system has in Dungeon of Naheulbeuk. The enemy variety is great enough, and your characters’ toolbox so deep, that in some fights you literally don’t notice the existence of the cover system at all, while in some fights it is essential. Mostly, cover is a luxury you take when you can afford it, but it is not mandatory and you often ignore it. As such, the cover system ends up speaking to what Dungeon of Naheulbeuk does well: it encourages tactical diversity and each encounter dictates a different pace of play and strategy of attack.

The way the game does this is through the connectivity of its systems. For example, the reason you might want to take cover is obviously due to the shelter it grants you from ranged attacks, but the reasons you might not want to do it are plentiful. Firstly, cover is often very sparsely placed throughout the battle maps and since positioning has such a defining importance in Dungeon of Naheulbeuk, often it is not worth giving up the great placement of an ability or an aggressive formation to gain the cover bonus. Secondly, there are plenty of enemy abilities that simply don't care about cover. Thirdly, full cover blocks valuable line of sight. And fourthly, cover restricts your characters own abilities depending on their function, so it's a tradeoff. The result is that you spend time thinking about whether to take cover or not, and as we all know, that daft cunt Sid Meier said something about good games being a series of interesting choices or some such nonsense.

Now add to this knowledge that the game's basic design consists of having a lot of these subsystems that play off of each other, and you feel yourself being constantly pulled in different directions, having multiple options in each round of each fight.​

Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk

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Sat 10 July 2021

People News - posted by DarkUnderlord on Sat 10 July 2021, 16:31:21

Tags: Chris Avellone; MCA; Men who make awkward passes at women and regret it when they get cancelled

For those who haven't been following the Cancellation of Chris Avellone, the saga has gotten a whole lot juicer. After being cancelled last year because he allegedly made some kind of awkward pass at a girl at a game convention a decade ago, which turned into stories of Chris being some kind of sexual deviant, which resulted in Chris being unemployed... Chris is now taking the matter to Court.

It then turned out that one of his accusers who had dropped receipts of Chris mentioning her lady parts in a text message, had attempted a budding porn career as "Violet" with none other than James Deen (I'll let you google that).

Now, it turns out the original accuser, Karissa Burrows - was pretty keen on having a relationship with Chris right from the get go. That Chris' horrible drunken passes at her were apparently quite well received at the time. At least according to a new article now up on medium from a Jeff Johnson:

As an upfront disclaimer, I haven’t been paying much attention to the game industry for the past few years, so the story of Ms. Barrows’ claim against Mr. Avellone was not known to me until a recent article on Forbes by Erik Kain. That is the reason for the timing of my statement.
[...]
We (Koobismo team) met Ms. Barrows (online) on September 13th, 2012. One of the things discussed with Ms. Barrows was connecting with industry people for interviews. Ms. Barrows mentioned that she knew a lot of people since she attended many comic-book/video game conventions. She would talk about partying with them at every convention. Ms. Barrows officially joined the Koobismo team September 25th, 2012.

NOTE: I (nor anyone on our team) had ever met Karissa in person. Our entire interaction was over Twitter direct messages (see below), Skype, emails, and phone calls.

During this time, Ms. Barrows mentioned that she could connect us with Chris Avellone and David Gaider, since she recently partied with them at Dragon Con (August 30th, 2012 — September 3rd, 2012). Even mentioning candidly that she had “made out with Chris the first night there.” Ms. Barrows would speak about Mr. Avellone very fondly as if there was a potential relationship there. She clearly liked him, and to us, it almost came across like they were dating (by listening to her). Ms. Barrows was more than willing and excited to set up an interview with Mr. Avellone.
[...]
On November 23rd of 2012 our group interviewed Chris Avellone via Skype. The people on the call were Chris Avellone, Karissa Barrows, Phil Hornshaw (currently an editor at GameSpot), Jakub Riedel, and myself (Jeff Johnson). The entire call was recorded. Pre-interview banter through interview, to post interview banter. During this call you can clearly hear Karissa’s affection and attraction to Chris. While the interview is public on YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLj3YcpbV5U, I will also be releasing all relevant audio from the unreleased audio soon. This was the first time I had ever spoken with Mr. Avellone.

[...] attempting to destroy someone with a complete fabrication is something I could not stand by and let slide. When a person lies about something like this, it makes it harder for the real victims of the world.

Unarguable truth has now been presented. As a culture we should always wait to find out the facts before casting judgment on someone. What if this was you or a loved one? This goes beyond politics, beliefs, or life choices. This is about right and wrong, truth and lies.​

You can read the rest yourself, but the text includes receipts with messages between Jeff and Karissa, with Karissa referring to Chris as her "con-boyfriend" (convention boyfriend), and even referring to him as a "complete gentleman". Karissa even says she'll need to "keep the alcohol flowing"...

Thanks to Sahib for the heads up.

There are 336 comments on This is About Right and Wrong: The Chris Avellone Saga Continues

Fri 9 July 2021

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 9 July 2021, 15:59:02

Tags: Baldur's Gate 3; Larian Studios; Swen Vincke

In last month's interview with GameSpot, Swen Vincke revealed that Larian were planning a third Baldur's Gate 3 Panel From Hell event. What they announced a couple of weeks later was really no panel at all, but rather an elaborate livestreamed "LarPG" in which viewers got to direct the actions of a party of costumed Larian employees tasked with locating a mystic artifact in a Belgian castle. In between segments in which he inevitably got members of the party brutally killed, Swen revealed details about the next patch for Baldur's Gate 3. However, that information was much more effectively summarized in the community update video that was showed at the end.

As promised in the interview, Patch 5 is focused on features rather than new content. There's actually some pretty cool stuff here, such as a new skill check interface that allows you to apply bonuses during dice rolls. You can now select a background for your character, with associated side quests which in turn allow you to earn inspiration points that grant said bonuses. Instead of your party always returning to the same generic forested area to camp as in Dragon Age: Origins, Larian have created a whole bunch of mini-camp areas that match the location the party is currently in. Furthermore, you now require food in order to replenish your health and spells fully when resting in camp.



Active Roll: A new way to die (as in dice, it’s a dice pun)

One of the biggest improvements coming in Patch 5 are Active Rolls, our new dice mechanic. In addition to a full upgrade of the old UI, the biggest change here is in how you can influence dice: While previously, the accepted method for attempting a skill check was to tightly cross your fingers ahead of a roll, now you have the option to apply spells and bonuses to these checks to help increase your odds.

So what does that mean exactly? Well, let's say the chances of you passing a certain check seem pretty slim. Rather than leaving you at the mercy of the RNG gods, you now have more agency in the outcome of those rolls. For example, cast Enhance Ability to add an Advantage bonus to the skill check in order to roll twice, or you can cast Guidance to bump that number up for good measure. You can also cast spells from your other party members, although in multiplayer your teammates will have to decide for themselves whether they'll let you use their spells during these rolls. You’ll be spending a spell slot any time you do this, so use them wisely. That is, unless the skill check relates to recruiting the Owlbear cub, in which case we’d recommend you let your heart guide you.

Get rewarded for roleplaying

In this patch we also wanted to find new ways to really celebrate roleplaying. Enter, Background Goals.

You know how the character creator includes an option to choose your character's background? Folk Hero, Acolyte, Urchin, and so on. Now every character will have their own series of secret miniquests based on these roles. Finding out how to complete them is part of fun, but for each you complete you’ll receive an Inspiration Point. Players will get a maximum of four Inspiration Points which can be put toward rerolling dice whenever they wish. Or alternatively, if you’ve already reached your IP cap for the moment then any further point becomes XP.

Camping 2.0

One of the main comments we've received about our resting system has been that it's far too lenient. Before Patch 5, you could initiate a Long Rest and recharge all your spells and HP between every fight without penalty. A lot of players felt this just didn't feel right, and we couldn't agree more. So we've fully revamped how camping works.

Camp Resources are a new feature that will make you think a little more strategically about when to activate a Long Rest. Now in order to make camp, you first need supplies. You know all the food and scraps you find around Baldur's Gate 3? Starting this patch, those can be used to unlock camp for the night. So if you ever wondered to yourself “how much Waterdhavian cheese wheels could one person possibly need?” the answer is as many as you can physically carry, for cheese is now one of the sacred doorways to sleep. Alternatively, you can still initiate a Partial Rest without using any resources but this won't recharge you fully.

Another new addition are Mini Camps. Previously, any time you camped for the night, you would return to your HQ down by the river regardless of how far away it was from the area you were exploring throughout your day. This made us feel sorry for all the characters who were being forced to partake in marathon hikes just to go to bed. So we’ve now introduced smaller localized camps. From the Chapel near the Ravaged Beach to the Underdark, we've recreated every landmark as its own isolated location that can be accessed when you’re ready to hunker down for your Long Rest.
Those are the highlights, but there's plenty more stuff in Patch 5 including improved enemy AI, a dedicated jump ability, and the option to inflict non-lethal attacks. Plus there is some new content as well featuring the companion Shadowheart. The new patch is releasing on July 13th. According to Swen, Patch 6 is already in the works and will be out sooner than people expect.

There are 20 comments on Baldur's Gate 3 Community Update #13: Patch 5 revealed, coming July 13th

Wed 7 July 2021

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 7 July 2021, 00:59:26

Tags: Big Bad Wolf; Nacon; Vampire: the Masquerade - Swansong

French publisher Nacon broadcast their second annual Nacon Connect event today. As expected, Big Bad Wolf's Vampire: The Masquerade - Swansong was one of the titles that made an appearance. The new trailer introduces the second of the game's three vampire protagonists, the ruthless and world-weary Ventrue Galeb. I suspect it will be more popular with Codexers than the previous one. The trailer concludes with a few quick glimpses of beta gameplay footage, revealing a game that looks very much like The Council.


Swansong was originally supposed to be out this year but is now scheduled for release in February 2022. Though oddly the exact month only appeared in the version of the trailer that was shown during the stream.

There are 8 comments on Nacon Connect 2021: Vampire: The Masquerade - Swansong Galeb Trailer

Tue 6 July 2021

Preview - posted by Infinitron on Tue 6 July 2021, 18:59:31

Tags: Dark Crystal Games; Encased; Koch Media

Now that Encased has a publisher, it's enjoying some wider exposure. It looks like Koch Media sent the press a bunch of Early Access keys and today a number of websites published their previews of the game. At the same time, the developers also released a new preview trailer. It looks very Wasteland 2-ish, but the text adventure sequences are a nice surprise.


The previewers seem to have enjoyed the game well enough, although some note that it's still in a somewhat rough state. Here's a list of all the preview articles I was able to track down:

Encased is still scheduled for release sometime this September. I suppose an exact release date can't be far off.

There are 4 comments on Encased Trailer and Previews

Mon 5 July 2021

Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Mon 5 July 2021, 20:05:23

Tags: Expeditions: Rome; Logic Artists; THQ Nordic

The fourth dev diary for Expeditions: Rome is about art direction and visual style. With Rome, Logic Artists are aiming for a more colorful and vibrant look than Expeditions: Viking, in accordance with the game's slightly reduced adherence to historical accuracy. The dev diary is particularly focused on the in-game region of North Africa, which exemplifies these qualities.

We consider the Expeditions series of games to be a kind of historical fiction in game form - a fictional story and series of unusual dramatic events set within the framework of real-world history. This means that while the narrative and the events of the game can be entirely fictional, we always try to keep it grounded, and if not realistic per se, within the boundaries of historical plausibility. We try to never go too far, too over the top, or create elements that are truly fantastical.

This was also the basis for the artistic vision of the game. The previous game in the series ‘Expeditions Viking’ represented a step up in visual quality for us, and when we started work on the project that would become Rome, improving the visuals of the game was on top of our list. The basic overall concept was the same; we wanted to create an exciting and appealing visual representation of the adventures and exploits of legendary generals and explorers, that will be perceived as authentic and immersive, but without being subjugated to absolute historical accuracy.

Creating this kind of authentic historical setting in a top-down computer game, which is inherently unrealistic in nature, is a core challenge of working on Expeditions: Rome. Compromises had to be made, but we always aimed at making the visual design naturalistic and grounded - enhanced with a measure of stylization and idealization, but not fantastic exaggeration. Stylized pseudo-realism, if you will.

One of the visual aspects that seem quite common in historical games is that they tend to overall not be very visually exciting, but instead rather drab, or even colourless. It is as if visual blandness equals realism, and this is something we wanted to avoid at all costs. We wanted our game world to appear as vibrant and appealing as any fantasy setting; something that will excite and immerse the player and make them want to explore our world. In Expeditions: Viking we were fairly strict about historical accuracy, but in Rome we have loosened up on that a little bit to make room for more of the fantastic and extraordinary.

A huge challenge for us was tackling the visual design and presentation of the Northern African region in the game, a sizable part of which is barren desert. One of the risks we faced was that the environment could end up appearing boring and repetitive, and without much color variation or other elements to visually please and excite. This could potentially be very counterproductive to our goals of creating a vibrant world that the player would want to explore and become immersed in.

The first stage in this process started with a lengthy period of research, to gain an overview of the North African landscape, it’s flora and fauna, and finding out just how varied and interesting deserts and their surrounding areas can really be. On top of that North Africa was a lot more fertile two thousand years ago, but since there are unfortunately no photos available from that time, we had to rely on written sources and artistic discretion instead.

Once we had gathered enough material that we felt we had a good basic overview, we started translating it into simple concept sketches to explore the visual opportunities that the limitations and properties of the natural environment afforded us. We asked ourselves “how much can we push this visually and how interesting and magical can we make it look, while still depicting a believable real-world environment ?”

After this initial stage, the next step was designing the specific environments and locations in the game. We realized early on that lighting would be a critical factor and that we could use it to infuse the desert environments with some much needed color, vibrancy and ambience.

Levels can be explored at different times of day, and we wanted the lighting to be distinct and to almost transform each level; creating a different visual experience depending on the time of day the player visits it, despite everything else in the level staying the same. This can be directly traced back to the early explorations we did, but revised and refined to find a balance that would work for us.

An example a game location is the Court of Heaven, which is an oasis settlement of the Nasamones - a mysterious tribal people, about whom very little is known. This afforded us a lot of freedom in the visual design of the faction and inspired by present day Bedouin and Berber peoples. We settled on a very colorful style which would not only provide an interesting visual contrast to the Romans, but also allow us to infuse their desert settlements with vibrant colors that provide yet another layer of contrast to the natural desert environment.

Attempting to create the most exciting and cool visuals, while simultaneously keeping it grounded and authentic is a constant challenge, but it’s one we’ve put a significant amount of effort towards. At the end of the day it is up to the players to judge if we did a good job or not, and we hope that they will enjoy exploring the world that we have created.
Naturally, this particular update is worth reading in full for the screenshots and concept art. There will be a dev stream about this topic with the game's art director on July 7th. The next dev diary is about the music, but it doesn't have a date yet.

There are 6 comments on Expeditions: Rome Dev Diary #4 - Visual Style

Sun 4 July 2021

Codex Review - posted by Infinitron on Sun 4 July 2021, 14:46:06

Tags: Reality Pump Studios; Vendetta - Curse of Raven's Cry

During the dark age of popamole, a German publisher by the name of TopWare Interactive and its Poland-based in-house development studio Reality Pump Studios managed to gain some renown for producing the Two Worlds games, a series of generic fantasy Oblivion clones. With the money earned making those, TopWare set out to create a title that seemed significantly more ambitious, a pirate action-RPG called Raven's Cry. First announced in 2011, the original developer of Raven's Cry was a now-defunct Finnish studio called Octane Games, a subsidiary of mobile developer Nitro Games. Apparently things did not go well there and in 2013 development was transferred to Reality Pump, who finally released the game in a disastrously unfinished state in early 2015. Faced with a predictably negative reception, Reality Pump would rerelease the game as Vendetta - Curse of Raven's Cry in late 2015 and continued to update it throughout 2017, but the damage had been done and it seemed doomed to be forgotten. Which it was, until its recent rediscovery by the esteemed Lord_Potato, our resident expert on obscure and forgotten RPGs. Is the updated and patched Raven's Cry an underrated gem? According to Lord_Potato, the answer is a qualified yes. The game's ship management and combat systems are certainly more extensive than I expected:

Once you secure your first boat (and there are at least two ways to achieve that – one that makes you dependent on a certain faction and another that allows you to stay independent for a while longer) you can try your luck on the high seas. This is where the game truly shines: it offers true ship porn and lets you have lots of fun. You start with the most basic vessel: a schooner. It’s fast, agile, and can be crewed by a few dozen men. It allows travel between islands but has a weak hull, limited room for cargo, and only a few cannons. You will not do a lot of pirating with this one. Thankfully, when confronted by enemies at sea, the schooner can easily outrun them. However, you’ll soon want to find something larger and more dangerous. There are six types of vessels in Vendetta, ranging from small galleons and maneuverable frigates all the way to powerful man-o-wars and ships of the line. Each ship type has a number of stats: the hull and sails, speed, maneuverability, maximum crew, and cannons. These stats can be improved thanks to an upgrade tree with numerous enhancements, which are usually acquired at the expense of cargo space. Additional upgrades can be unlocked as a reward for quests for certain individuals and factions. The only limitation is that you can only have one ship. When you purchase a new one, the old one automatically gets sold (although you do get back some of the money you invested into upgrading it).

In order for a vessel to sail, it requires a crew – both regular sailors and officers. The former can be recruited in any settlement. The latter must be tracked down in various places ranging from taverns to jails. Some will join the crew for cash, others after completing certain quests. There are first officers, boatswains, gun masters, navigators, doctors, and carpenters. Officers come with numerous advantages: they can improve the aim of cannons and shorten reload times, conduct repairs without having to stop at a port, heal the wounded, or improve crew discipline which increases morale and lowers salary costs. However, some officers can also decrease your reputation or cause dissatisfaction among the crew. You can check their stats and biographies in the crew section of the menu. Officers add some character to your crew and allow for a bit of min-maxing. Your people also require food rations and salaries. The larger the crew, the more expensive each sea voyage becomes. Add to that the cost of ammunition and repairs and you get quite a serious list of expenditures.

How do you earn enough money to satisfy all these needs? There is a certain amount of gold to be claimed by completing quests and plundering ancient temples. But the only stable and reliable source of income is sea trade. You have your cargo hold, so use it! There are eleven categories of products that can be bought and sold, ranging from tobacco, rum and cannabis to ebony, sugar and silk. Each civilized island produces certain products and requires others. The rules of supply and demand will determine your trade routes throughout the Caribbean. However, keep in mind that the system is dynamic. If you sell too much rum to an island that wants it, you will flood the market and the prices will drop. Sometimes if you have full cargo of a certain product, it’s better to sell it in several colonies rather than just one in order to receive the best prices. If you try to buy too much of a certain product, its price will increase due to increased demand and lower supply. The system forces you to think and consider your options. When you have a quest objective on the other side of the map, you will most likely plan your journey so that you earn as much as possible before reaching your destination.

Of course, this is a pirate game, so you don’t have to pay for stuff: plundering ships on the high seas is also an attractive option. When sailing from one island to another, various random encounters will be offered to you – other ships or flotillas which will appear nearby – and you can choose to try your luck and engage them. Sometimes Christopher’s ship will be attacked by enemy vessels and then battle becomes inevitable, although it is possible to run away from tough fights if the wind is favourable and Raven’s vessel is fast enough. Sea battles are mandatory during certain quests (including the main quest), so it’s best to be prepared and keep a cargo hold with every possible type of ammunition.

Vendetta’s sea battles require some training and getting used to, but they’re even more enjoyable than their land-based counterparts. You maneuver your ship (taking into consideration the direction and strength of the wind), select an ammunition type and aim your cannons. By changing the angle by which the cannons are raised, you determine how far the cannonballs will fly. The game offers no visual aid to help you target enemy ships. You simply choose an angle, fire your cannons, evaluate the result and then adjust for better accuracy. Keep in mind however that ships are constantly on the move and the waves hitting them can make it more difficult to aim. Sometimes there are also weather impediments, such as a deep fog that limits visibility. This requires you to fire into the mist and look for explosions to see if the cannonballs hit.

Each ship has three HP bars – hull, sails, and crew. Accordingly, there are three types of ammo that target these bars – cannonballs which are best used against hulls (although they can destroy sails too), grapeshot which is used for killing crewmen, and chain shot which is the most effective at destroying sails. If the hull is breached, the ship simply sinks and you cannot plunder it. When sails and masts are destroyed, it is no longer able to maneuver, but may still fire when other ships pass by. If the crew is eliminated, the vessel will stop sailing and firing and basically become a ghost ship.

When nearby foes are defeated and only one enemy ship remains afloat, you may try to board it. It is a risky (an unsuccessful boarding means game over) but rewarding business. The surviving crew members will put up a fight and then the boarding mini-game begins. Surprisingly, unlike regular land and sea battles, it is turn-based. Christopher Raven does not personally board the enemy vessel but commands his men from afar. The choice is between engaging in melee combat and firing your cannons at point-blank range. After each turn the result is calculated (losses to both crews and destruction of both vessels). You then evaluate the situation and make another decision. Be careful – barraging an opponent’s hull at point blank might sink his ship, which means you won't get your hands on his precious cargo. If your foe has fewer men, a melee attack is usually the better course of action. After the enemy crew is butchered, you can decide what to plunder from the captured vessel (the size of your cargo hold is a limitation here). And when you’re done, you get to make one final decision whether to leave the ghost ship be or set it on fire.

Vendetta allows not just small sea duels but also larger clashes between several units or even flotillas from different factions. The largest battle I participated in during my playthrough pitched more than twenty vessels from England, France, and Spain against each other. Surviving such battles requires tactical thinking, careful positioning, and choosing one’s targets wisely. Positioning your ship between two enemies means trouble – your hull will be barraged from both sides with catastrophic results. You can try to use hostile ships to your advantage in a similar way by hiding from the volleys of more powerful foes behind them. All in all, Vendetta’s sea combat system can produce some very memorable and impressive fights. It may seem difficult and unnecessarily complicated at first, but once you understand and master it, you’ll have a great time pirating your way through the Caribbean.​

Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: Vendetta - Curse of Raven's Cry

There are 56 comments on RPG Codex Review: Vendetta - Curse of Raven's Cry

Thu 1 July 2021

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 1 July 2021, 01:33:31

Tags: Colony Ship: A Post-Earth Role Playing Game; Iron Tower Studio

The first new location to be added to the Colony Ship Early Access build is the Factory, the abandoned industrial complex that now serves as a road between the Pit (where the game begins) and the Habitat (where the major factions dwell). We first learned about Vault Dweller's plans for the Factory way back in 2017 and it sounds like he's stuck to them, including a three way conflict between two local gangs and a mercenary outfit with five different outcomes. However, the stealth path isn't ready yet and will only be added next month. Here's the update announcement:

[​IMG]

After two months of work we proudly present the next location - the Factory, an abandoned industrial complex sitting between the Pit and the Habitat (your current destination).

“Before the Mutiny, a rail system suspended high in the Factory's metal canopy would deliver citizens to the dismal warehouses and distribution facilities where they spent their working days. Not surprisingly, that's where the revolt started, quickly spreading throughout the Ship. The factories were looted and stripped for parts, the railway blown up to cut off the Mission Control from the Habitat and prevent reinforcements from pouring in.

Within a few decades, the Factory had been mostly abandoned until growing trade between the Pit and the Habitat turned it into a new Silk Road...”

It features a fun three-way between Thy Brother's Keepers, The Black Hand, and Detroit City, which can end in five different ways.

Right now you can fight or talk your way through. A stealth path will be added in July (if you played our first game, think infiltrating Antidas' palace, only in turn-based stealth mode).
Seems like Iron Tower haven't quite managed to stick to the schedule they laid out in the game's Early Access FAQ, but it's close enough.

There are 17 comments on Colony Ship Early Access Update: New Location - The Factory

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