Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 20 March 2019, 22:54:30Tags: Obsidian Entertainment; The Outer Worlds
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Wed 20 March 2019
Wed 20 March 2019
The Outer Worlds to launch on the Epic Games Store and Microsoft Store, only coming to Steam in 2020
Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 20 March 2019, 22:54:30Tags: Obsidian Entertainment; The Outer Worlds
Despite enjoying an extremely positive debut and having the marketing muscle of not one but two major publishers in its corner, the powers that be have apparently decided that The Outer Worlds must make moar money. At their GDC keynote today, Epic Games announced that The Outer Worlds will be launching on the Epic Games Store, which offers an an advantageous revenue share. It won't come out on Steam until a year afterwards. The game is not quite an Epic-exclusive however, since it's also launching on Microsoft's own Microsoft Store platform, and on consoles of course. There's no fancy trailer or press release for this announcement, just this tweet:
As you can see from the replies, many people are upset about this. Patrice Desilets' Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey, another Private Division title, was also announced as an Epic-exclusive at the keynote, so it appears to be a publisher decision. If you're an Epic-hater at least you've got the Microsoft Store option, although that means dealing with UWP or whatever it's called.
Tue 19 March 2019
Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Tue 19 March 2019, 18:06:14Tags: OtherSide Entertainment; System Shock 3; Warren Spector
Despite the loss of their publishing arrangement with Starbreeze, OtherSide Entertainment pledged last month that they would proceed with the development of System Shock 3, which they claim is now more than halfway completed. Yesterday at the Unity Keynote at GDC, we finally got to see what they've come up with since the game was announced way back in December 2015. Headlined by a curiously non-bespectacled Warren Spector, the presentation was primarily a technical discussion about lighting algorithms and rendering pipelines, but it began with the unveiling of several images from the game's current build (available on the official website) followed by a brief teaser trailer:
That animated SHODAN won't be to everybody's liking, but otherwise the game looks certainly looks more impressive than Underworld Ascendant. OtherSide still don't have a new publisher, and I imagine that with this prototype they intend to attract one. We'll see how that works out for them.
Thu 14 March 2019
Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Thu 14 March 2019, 14:11:26Tags: Colony Ship: A Post-Earth Role Playing Game; Iron Tower Studio; Vince D. Weller
The Colony Ship combat demo has taken a bit longer to finalize than Iron Tower hoped for, mainly due to issues with getting armor to appear on characters properly as well as a lack of portraits. For that reason, this month's development update is very similar to the previous one - a progress report and a batch of screenshots. The most visible new feature of the game's latest build is a mouseover targeting info display.
We made good progress with things that matter (but hard to show) like programming, balance, and scripting but poor progress with relatively minor but highly visible things like armor models and portraits. As (probably) mentioned previously, the demo is fully playable and has 14 fights, 2 of them optional. We're still playing it on a daily basis, ironman-style as there's no save/load system yet, so the demo has already received 2 balance updates as a result. The engine is great and very stable. I didn't have a single crash yet (despite daily updates); there were some occasional freezes earlier (for example, if one enemy knocks you out and his helpful buddy shoots in the face, scoring a knockdown) but I didn't have any in my last 2-hour long play session.
The feats are now working and two gadgets out of three are done (the energy shield and the distortion field). All gadget parts (each gadget consists of 3 upgradeable parts that increase its properties such as shield's regen rate or damage resistance) are nicely modeled and textured. The main new addition is the targeting info (see the screens below). It gives you a full THC breakdown, which will help the player to understand how it's calculated and helps us make sure that bonuses and penalties are implemented properly. RNG is working great, so far the balance between hits and misses is perfect.
So far the armor thing (the delay) is our biggest problem, which is a good indicator as I can think of worse things to screw up. It's slowly moving forward, so I hope that we'll have it done in 3 weeks. Similar to the weapons, the armor is split into 2 main categories: common Ship-made ballistic armor and rare Earth-made combat and anti-riot armor. You can expect 10 unique models for each category: helmet, body armor, jacket/coat, boots, goggles, mask/respirator. Right now we have about a third (talking about the models).
PS. We'd appreciate if you take a moment to click on that big follow button here:
Wed 13 March 2019
Game News - posted by Darth Roxor on Wed 13 March 2019, 21:16:54Tags: Julian Gollop; Phoenix Point; Snapshot Games
Phoenix Point, everyone's most eagerly anticipated nu-xcom-but-not-really-actually-nu-xcom spiritual successor of X-COM by none other than Julian Gollop, the creator of the X-COM series, has been going through some interesting developments ever since it was successfully crowdfounded at Fig.
Fans and backers alike will no doubt rejoice about the fact that Phoenix Point has finally found a welcoming home and financial stability by signing up for a 1-year-long deal of exclusive presence on the brand-new Epic Store. "Exclusive" is just another word for "exceptional" and Snapshot Games founder Julian Gollop is as positive about this auspicious endeavour as anyone would be. From the official announcement:
I have some major news to share: we have signed a deal with Epic Games to bring Phoenix Point exclusively to the Epic Games Store for its first year of release on PC and Mac.
This deal is a real game changer for our studio, because, thanks to Epic’s support, it is certain that we will be able to update and expand Phoenix Point for years to come.
We want to share our success with all the backers who have helped us get here, so we have a special benefit to announce: if you backed or pre-ordered Phoenix Point at any time since our crowdfunding campaign until today, you will receive a year of free DLC.
A year of free DLC? Sounds exciting! But what does it mean for fans who really, really wanted to get the game DLC and DRM free on a platform such as GOG? No worries, because Snapshot's got you covered. From the official FAQ:
I really wanted the game on Steam or GOG.com. What can I do?
Whichever delivery option you had originally opted for, we’re still positive that you will have a fantastic experience with Phoenix Point on the Epic Games Launcher.
All backers up to this point will also STILL receive a Steam or GOG key after the 1 year exclusivity period. The Steam/GOG key will also receive the same 1 year of free DLC which came with the Epic key.
If we really can’t tempt you over, we understand. You can cancel your pre-order (this includes Fig.co crowdfunding backers) at any time in the next 28 days for a full refund.
Good guys provide their fans with multiple options and Snapshot Games are no exception. And in case you're worrying that any prospective refund made by you would harm the game's development, worry no more, because the community manager confirmed on the official Discord channel for the game that Phoenix Point can, and will, manage just fine without you.
Keep in mind that we knew there would be backlash. We knew there would be refunds. If we had to refund 100% of currently pre-orders, we'd still be in the black. We didn't make the decision lightly.
Truly gets the noggin joggin'!
Tue 12 March 2019
Game News - posted by VentilatorOfDoom on Tue 12 March 2019, 16:31:34Tags: Heroic Fantasy Games; Knights of the Chalice 2
In anticipation of the soon-to-come Kickstarter campaign for The Dark Arena module of Knights of the Chalice 2, Pierre Begue has released a trailer showing gameplay from the Augury of Chaos module, which is already finished and will be a backer reward:
Development Info - posted by VentilatorOfDoom on Tue 12 March 2019, 09:42:58Tags: Black Shamrock; RuneQuest
Ireland-based developer Black Shamrock plans to bring RuneQuest to your gaming rig in cRPG form, according to this press release. We appreciate the effort.
Dublin, 11th March 2019 – After 40 years as a beloved role-playing adventure series, Chaosium Inc. is partnering with Dublin-based developer Black Shamrock to bring RuneQuest into the 21st century – as a video game RPG. Black Shamrock is developing an all new RPG adventure based on the work of legendary fantasy game designer and world-builder Greg Stafford for the very first time.
Get ready to enter RuneQuest’s legendary setting of Glorantha, a vibrant world with its own history, religion and lore. Glorantha has provided the setting for generations of gamemasters and will now be the basis for Black Shamrock’s new RPG adventure.
Olivier Masclef, Managing Director from Black Shamrock comments: “We’re so excited to be working on such a legendary fantasy role-playing world and take very seriously the trust that Chaosium has placed with us. As up-and-coming RPG specialists, the opportunity to bring the world of Glorantha to life is a dream come true.”
"We cannot be more excited than to be working together with Black Shamrock to bring the fantastic setting of Glorantha to life as a video game. With its vibrant characters and incredible mythology, this is what RuneQuest fans have been waiting for since RPG video games were invented!" says Jeff Richard, Creative Director of Chaosium.
I, for one, welcome our new Irish cRPG overlords.
Tue 5 March 2019
Codex Interview - posted by VentilatorOfDoom on Tue 5 March 2019, 11:29:11Tags: Heroic Fantasy Games; Knights of the Chalice 2
I took the opportunity to talk to Pierre Begue, the developer behind the 10 years old cRPG gem Knights of the Chalice, about his upcoming Kickstarter campaign for Knights of the Chalice 2 among other things.
The main story of KotC1 was inspired by old-school modules like "Slave Lords" and "Against the Giants". What inspired KotC2?
KotC 2 Augury of Chaos is a brand new adventure which does not really borrow much from any particular classic D&D module. Parts of it may have been inspired by the classic D&D module White Plume Mountain, other parts by the Slave Lords series, and yet other parts by Planescape: Torment, Dark Sun: Shattered Lands and the Baldur's Gate series. Cryptographic challenges were inspired by the adventure game Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars. However, for the most part, Augury of Chaos is the result of a number of cool ideas I've been writing down over the years.
For the Kickstarter module, KotC 2 The Dark Arena, and the other modules in the planned trilogy, my sources of inspiration include the D&D module Red Hand of Doom, the games Dark Sun: Shattered Lands and Dark Sun: Wake of the Ravager, the Baldur's Gate series, Conan books, Spartacus films, the book The Seven Serpents, the d20 module Mad Manor of Astabar and various classic D&D modules, such as Against the Cult of the Reptile God, Castle Amber, Castle Caldwell and Beyond, The Veiled Society and Lost Tomb of Martek (in it, particularly the Mobius Tower).
Thanks to Pierre for the great answers.
The splendiferous return of turn-based D&D in video game form is at hand.
Also, offering a finished game as KS reward for the next module seems like an interesting plan.
Read the full article: Knights of the Chalice 2 Pre-Kickstarter Interview
Mon 4 March 2019
Codex Review - posted by Infinitron on Mon 4 March 2019, 01:14:53Tags: Kingdom Come: Deliverance; Warhorse Studios
Warhorse Studios' medieval open world action-RPG Kingdom Come: Deliverance was released a year ago and became an immediate commercial success despite the best efforts of insipid cultural commissars. Since then the game has seen win after win. It's gotten three DLCs with another on the way, Warhorse have been acquired for a cool 33M Euros for their efforts, and it even won second place in our 2018 GOTY awards. How then can it be that it never received a proper Codex review? I assume PorkyThePaladin was wondering that himself, which is why he decided to write one. Porky finds Kingdom Come to be a wonderfully realized medieval adventure - albeit one that comes short of achieving true greatness, due to both combat balance issues and more intractably, a lack of narrative agency. Here's an excerpt from his review:
On top of the things mentioned before, KCD is full of interesting systems and simulation aspects. Aside from the deep combat system talked about earlier, there is fairly deep NPC behavior. At night, NPCs go home and sleep in their beds, taking off their day clothes. If they must go out, they will walk with torches or candle lamps. In the morning, they have breakfast in their homes and go outside, typically to their workplace. Farmers work the land, blacksmiths pound on metal, millers carry sacks around, and guards patrol the streets and roads. In the evenings, men often go to taverns and drink or play dice games. Women sweep the houses or streets. There are a lot of little custom touches that really make the world feel alive. There are even dogs and pigs walking around, or lounging under the sun. The AI is also good enough to run away from trouble, raise an alarm if it sees you doing shady things, close and lock doors when needed, and other such things.
There is an in-depth stealth and subterfuge system. You can sneak by staying out of sight and hearing, which is affected not only by your stats in the relevant skills, but also by what you are wearing. Put on soft, dark clothes, and you will make virtually no noise and blend into the night. Try sneaking in a suit of plate mail, on the other hand, and you will make enough noise to bring the entire Cuman army down your way. Correct clothes can also serve as a disguise, allowing you to enter hostile areas, for instance wearing Cuman armor will let you infiltrate an enemy camp in one of the main quests. You can also perform sneak attacks if you catch an enemy unawares, and there is an interesting lockpicking system in play. To navigate it, you move the mouse around until finding the lock's sweet spot, and then rotate the lock with the D key, while at the same time using the mouse to keep the sweet spot moving so that it stays in the same place relative to the rest of the lock. Not exactly rocket science, but it's probably the most interesting lockpicking system I've seen so far in a game.
There is also a very interesting and deep charisma system. It is affected by many factors, such as the quality of your armor and clothing (a shining suit of plate will impress people a lot more than peasant rags), your deeds and stats/perks, whether or not your clothing and armor are repaired and in good condition, or torn apart and covered with dirt and blood, if your weapon is covered in blood (this helps to intimidate people), when was the last time you bathed, and other such factors. The humorously designed perks add to this in various ways. For instance, there is one perk that makes your character more attractive to the opposite sex if he doesn't shower a certain amount of time. On the other hand, the stench is so strong, that your stealth is reduced by 30%.
Horse-riding is another in-depth system, with your skill at Horsemanship, and various equipment such as different types of saddles, reins and horseshoes affecting how well your horse can "handle", and how fast it can go. Horses themselves can be purchased (you get one free one in the beginning), and have different stats in different areas. They can also be outfitted with caparisons for that medieval knight steed look.
Even something like sharpening your sword is a detailed activity, as is alchemy and gambling. Reading is something that has to be learned, and until you do, manuscripts will appear as gibberish to you when you try to read them.
[...] KCD is not a game like Fallout or Arcanum or New Vegas, where you can side with different factions, or complete the entire game without combat. The high level plot is locked in and will flow the same way regardless. You are Henry, and you will side with Radzig Kobyla and fight againts the forces of Sigismund, the Red Fox. While you can use diplomacy and speech and charisma at times to avoid combat, or at other times and with other builds, use your stealth and subterfuge skills to get what you need, you can never truly build a character around these things, and get through the game that way. At some points, you will have to fight. So from a strictly traditional RPG view, KCD would definitely be lacking in this regard. And yet, within that somewhat restricting narrative and mechanical structure, the game still manages to feel rather free and open-ended. This is partially due to being open world, of course, since at any given moment, you can travel in any direction, and choose to focus on various side quests or activities, should you not feel drawn to the main quest at that time. But aside from that, the way the quests are constructed, there is often some choice to be had on the micro level.
You can barge in and fight, occasionally sneak around and use cunning, or talk your way through some (but not all) situations. Sometimes you can pay your way around an obstacle. Sometimes you can poison your enemies so you don't have to fight them all. Or you can at least decide to fight them in melee, at range, or at range while riding your horse away. You can forgive your enemies and let them go once they surrender, or finish them off. You can dress yourself in different ways, do things in different order, or tackle problems in novel ways. So even though the overall story of the game will always be the same, and you won't always be able to handle things in different ways, the underlying details are varied enough to provide you with a feeling of a dynamic world.
For such a large game, there are not a huge number of quests, around eighty or so, but they are all very beefy. There are no fetch quests here, just substantial missions with a lot of stuff to do and many phases to them. For example, in one of the early game quests, you are supposed to go on a hunt with a young nobleman. So you travel to some woods together, and after an exchange of "pleasantries", the first phase of this quest revolves around a competition to see who can shoot down more rabbits within several hours. Once that's done, you embark on a boar hunt, and the noble rides off on his horse hot on the trail. Being horseless, you quickly lose track of him and must now find him in the large expanse of the forest. This is the second phase. Once you track him down, you realize he has been captured by two Cuman bandits. So at this point, the third phase begins, where you must either defeat them in combat to free him, or to sneak in and untie him, escaping together. So this one quest involves hunting, conversations, exploration, combat and/or stealth. And this is by no means an outlier, as pretty much all the other quests are similar in terms of not just being a simple "go to A, do B" type of quest, but rather involving multiple steps, and combinations of dialogue, combat, exploration and optionally (and only at times) stealth, diplomacy, and other approaches.
On the flip side, as mentioned above, people who love Fallout/Arcanum/Bloodlines type quests will find KCD quests not providing them with enough choice on a regular enough basis. There are some great ones in KCD in this regard, that allow the player to use their build to progress in completely different ways, including combat, speech, intimidation, stealth, or trickery. And yet, in many other situations, your hands will be a lot more tied, and you will have to resort to the more standard combination of combat, exploration, and limited-choice dialogue to get where you are going. So if having all or most quests be approachable from many different directions and to have all of this tightly tied to your character build is what's most important about RPGs for you, KCD might not be a game that will scratch that particular itch.
Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: Kingdom Come: Deliverance
Sun 3 March 2019
Interview - posted by Infinitron on Sun 3 March 2019, 02:12:54Tags: Leonard Boyarsky; Obsidian Entertainment; The Outer Worlds; Tim Cain
In a special episode of their podcast, yesterday Game Informer published their concluding interview with Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky about The Outer Worlds. The interview was a massive 70 minutes long and featured dozens of questions solicited from the community over the past half-week. Rather than attempt to summarize all of it, I figured I'd share my two main takeaways from the interview. First of all, the game is an advanced stage of development - more-or-less content-complete and playable from start to finish. Tim and Leonard have moved on to tasks such as polishing the user interface and overseeing voice-over production. I don't know if the August release date that was accidentally leaked by Steam last week is accurate, but the game is definitely coming out this year, and maybe sooner than you think.
That brings us to my second takeaway, which is that Tim and Leonard have had to make some tough choices to meet that release window. Over the course of the interview, they speak several times of features and content that they were forced to cut, ranging from unarmed combat to background-based choice & consequence to a questline involving corporate intrigue. The game has a day-night cycle, but no NPC schedules. Modding weapons is in, but crafting them from scratch is out (although that's actually good). Beyond that, there are the expected sacrifices to the gods of the mass market, most notably the fact that the game has not been designed with disabled quest markers in mind (and in fact, there currently is no option to disable them, although Tim and Leonard promise they'll look into that). For better or worse, it's an extraordinarily honest interview, and I recommend listening if you have the time:
So that's the end of Game Informer's month-long Outer Worlds bonanza. We won't have to wait long to see the game again though, because Tim and Leonard are giving a talk about it at PAX East in a few weeks, on March 30th.
Fri 1 March 2019
Interview - posted by Infinitron on Fri 1 March 2019, 00:59:32Tags: Feargus Urquhart; Leonard Boyarsky; Obsidian Entertainment; The Outer Worlds; Tim Cain
The final week of Game Informer's big feature on The Outer Worlds has given us two more interviews. On Monday, Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky shared some of their experiences from the game's development. According to Leonard, keeping the game within scope has been a challenge and it's had to be scaled back twice, but overall development has "gone great". On Wednesday, Game Informer published their interview with Feargus Urquhart. He spoke about Microsoft's acquisition of Obsidian and the general state of the studio, and revealed some details about the earliest history of the concept that became The Outer Worlds. Apparently, there are "three-ish" development teams at Obsidian right now, two of which are working on unannounced new projects. Anyway, here are the videos:
These are probably the last two pieces of content from Game Informer's visit to Obsidian. However, they plan to do another interview with Tim and Leonard in a future episode of the site's weekly podcast, with questions solicited from the community. You can submit a question by leaving a comment here.
Thu 28 February 2019
Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 28 February 2019, 23:24:11Tags: Owlcat Games; Pathfinder: Kingmaker; Pathfinder: Kingmaker - Varnhold's Lot
There have typically been two types of expansion packs for RPGs - post-game expansions which are separate campaigns that are often sequels in all but name, and mid-game expansions that add additional content to the base game. The new Varnhold's Lot DLC for Pathfinder: Kingmaker is an unusual combination of the two. It's a separate campaign, but it takes place during the events of Kingmaker with consequences that can be exported to the base game. You play as the general of Maegar Varn, a fellow baron of the Stolen Lands who appears in the main campaign. This expansion is his story:
Just as you were claiming your first title, another hero of the Stolen Lands became a baron too: Maegar Varn, captain of the Varnling Host mercenary band and rightful ruler of Varnhold (this guy sure likes the sound of his name!). If you've played the main campaign, you already know what happened to him next... Or do you? In this DLC, you join Varn as his general, and experience Varnhold's valorous history firsthand — the whole of it, not just the outcome!
Varnhold's Lot is a more substantial expansion than The Wildcards and has been priced accordingly. It can be yours for $12 on Steam or GOG. You can read about the accompanying hotfix here. Owlcat plan to release the game's next major patch in March.
Tue 26 February 2019
Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 26 February 2019, 18:08:35Tags: InXile Entertainment; Krome Studios; The Bard's Tale III: Thief of Fate
Krome Studios have released their remaster of the third and final chapter of the original Bard's Tale trilogy, The Bard's Tale III: Thief of Fate. Originally released in 1988, Bard's Tale III was even bigger than its predecessor and considerably weirder, sending the player on a journey through a variety of parallel worlds to challenge a mad god. For that reason, it took Krome longer than expected to complete the remaster, although a beta version has been available since December. Unlike the previous two games in the series, Bard's Tale III's development was primarily led by Burger Bill (now Rebecca) Heineman. Considering her history with this remaster, it's not surprising that she doesn't appear in the launch trailer:
Owners of the remastered Bard's Tale Trilogy pack have received the third game as a free update. In addition to the game itself, Krome used the extra development time to finalize the promised optional Legacy Mode, which brings the games in line with their original 1980s releases in terms of mechanics. There are a whole bunch of new quality-of-life improvements as well. Details about all of that, including an extensive changelog, are available in the release announcement post on Steam. Now, onward to Wasteland!
Sun 24 February 2019
Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sun 24 February 2019, 19:58:15Tags: Hardsuit Labs; Paradox Interactive
In late 2015, Paradox Interactive acquired the World of Darkness IP, but nothing has come of that on the video game front other than a couple of highly forgettable interactive fiction games. That might be about to change. Since late last month, Paradox have been running an elaborate ARG involving a mysterious Twitter account and a fictional dating website called Tender, which you can read about here. It's all rather tedious to be honest, but the long and short of it is that what we've seen in the ARG strongly suggests that they're about to reveal a Vampire: The Masquerade game. Actually, you need look no further than the fact that Tender is an actual thing in the Vampire: The Masquerade setting.
It's been theorized that the developer is Seattle-based studio Hardsuit Labs, who recently announced the imminent shutdown of their venerable F2P shooter Blacklight: Retribution and have been working on an "unannounced project" since at least 2017. Job ads and resumes indicate that their game is using Unreal Engine 4 and involves "established IP lore" and "an emphasis on acting performance". Paradox acquired a 33% stake in Hardsuit in early 2018, and the studio employs Martin Ka'ai Cluney, a former Obsidian designer who worked on the cancelled Aliens RPG. But what really makes Hardsuit's involvement seem likely is that several images of what appear to be various locations in Seattle have been revealed over the course of the ARG. Go with what you know!
another image was uncovered revealing that "Tender" plan to make an announcement on March 21st in San Francisco. That's right, the same time and place as the annual Game Developers Conference. I don't like posting news about teases and conjecture, but it now seems undeniable that something significant is coming next month. Hopefully whatever it is will be as fancy as this ARG.
Interview - posted by Infinitron on Sun 24 February 2019, 00:41:32Tags: Carrie Patel; Leonard Boyarsky; Megan Starks; Obsidian Entertainment; The Outer Worlds; Tim Cain
Time for a roundup of the rest of this week's The Outer Worlds features at Game Informer. On Wednesday there was an article about the game's visuals, offering a glimpse at some of its concept art, character models, and most notably, loading screens inspired by Arcanum's famous newspapers. On Thursday there was an article about the game's companions that introduces three of them - Ellie the easygoing mercenary pirate and Felix the brash young rebel-without-a-cause, both of whom we also saw in December's gameplay video, as well as Parvati, a naive mechanic. Finally, on Friday there was a surprisingly extensive interview with Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky about the game's comedic tone. Tim and Leonard's goal is to have a good balance between comedy and seriousness, and apparently they're exercising a good deal of oversight to make sure the writing team gets it right. The video of the interview was uploaded to YouTube today:
So that was the third week of Game Informer's Outer Worlds bonanza. One more week to go.
Sat 23 February 2019
Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sat 23 February 2019, 15:42:53Tags: 4 Dimension Games; Archaelund
Exiled Kingdoms is an isometric action-RPG from 4 Dimension Games, a one-man indie studio run by David Ballestrino, better known on the Codex as DavidBVal. The game was originally developed for mobile platforms where it's been available since 2016, but was released on Steam in early 2018. We never posted about Exiled Kingdoms, possibly because it's a mobile action-RPG or more likely because David didn't nag us about it enough. Happily, there'll be no such doubts about his next game - Archaelund, a Realms of Arkania-style RPG with first-person exploration and turn-based tactical combat, set in the same universe as Exiled Kingdoms and designed for PC. Here's the announcement:
The full announcement includes several screenshots and an animated GIF revealing a slick exploration-combat transition. There are more details about Archaelund in its thread on the Exiled Kingdoms official forums. We'll be keeping an eye on this one.
Today is the first anniversary of the Steam release of Exiled Kingdoms, making it a great time to make an announcement about Archaelund. For those that don't know, since last October I've been working on this project.
Archaelund is set in the Exiled Kingdoms world, but is a very different and far more ambitious game. Party-based, with far more options and possibilities and featuring tactical combat, but with the same open world concept and design philosophy you loved in EK. An Early Access release is planned for Q1 2020.
Archaelund, at a glance
Humanity has survived, and now has returned to its ancient Homeland: Archaelund.
Two centuries ago, a magical cataclysm brought the Horrors upon our world, and the Andorian Empire was annihilated in a matter of weeks. The few survivors fled to the savage island of Varannar, a distant Imperial Colony. For generations the Exiles endured the hardships of this new life, although they never again stood united under the old Imperial banner.
The Exiled Kingdoms were born, but the scars left by the Fall were still painfully visible in them, for the Kingdoms were mere grotesque parodies of what humanity had once been. Varsilia, the mightiest of the Kingdoms, became morbidly obsessed over Imperial history and preserving its traditions. Ilmarans turned into fanatical zealots of a new faith, while in Thuram, the remnants of the Imperial Wizards established a magocracy that disregards all matters except the arcane, and quickly declined into endogamy. On the west, the Kingdom of Mercia had emerged from the surviving Imperial Legions, establishing a nightmarish rule based on slavery and arbitrary discipline. The four Kingdoms held irreconcilable views and ambitions, and locked together in a small and hostile land as they were, they often plotted against each other or even clashed openly in the battlefield.
But the in-fighting ceased when, generations later, a route back to the old continent of Andoria was discovered, and it was proved that the Horrors were no more. For the first time in centuries humanity looked at the future with optimism, and many left aside the old grudges and obsessions. Expeditions were sent, and thousands of colonists, soldiers, adventurers and ruffians embarked to Archaelund. The promises of land, riches and Imperial relics excited the imagination and ambition of thousands, from mere farmers to noble second-sons.
They quickly found they were not the sole claimnants of Archaelund, and re-colonization has not been peaceful nor easy; the Horrors are gone but they left behind a scarred world, eldritch energies and warped monsters roam the lands, and a subterranean race called the Geldryn, once slaves to the Andorian Empire, now aspire to inherit the surface world. Because of all this, Archaelund is a land full of danger, adventure and opportunity.
Just like many others before, your party of adventurers has finally saved up enough money to embark and sail East. The Silver Star has crossed the Andor Sea for two weeks, when you catch the first glimpse of the ancient land of your ancestors, unimpressed by its mundane visage. Little you suspect that, very soon, you're going to get involved in a plot that traces back to the terror of the final days of the Empire, and now threatens with destroying the remnants of civilization...
Thu 21 February 2019
Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 21 February 2019, 00:18:15Tags: Ceres Games; Realms Beyond: Ashes of the Fallen
Realms Beyond has received its first major Kickstarter update since the conclusion of the crowdfunding campaign in November. With mundane tasks like setting up a Backerkit site now out of the way, it looks like Ceres have been able to start spending time on the game's more advanced features, such as enemy AI. The goal is to make the AI not only intelligent, but also reflective of the personalities of the game's various creatures.
When we started out working on the combat system we had a lot to do to lay the basic foundations. We had to get our character animation system running and implement stuff like combat logic, hexboard generation from level topology, or hexboard queries for paths and floodings at runtime.That's a nice shout-out. Hopefully we won't have to wait long for the next update.
That left little time to care about something as high level as AI (Artificial Intelligence). As a consequence our first prototype for AI ‘grew’ with time. At first, all it could do were melee attacks. Then we added ranged attacks. Then we implemented an enemy spell AI for intelligent placing of area spells (trying to maximize hits on enemies and minimize hits on allies). Finally we included rather specific routines (like fleeing) for characters that suffered from spells like fear. We realized that AI has to be able to deal with script spells that are loaded at runtime (a feature that could be interesting for future modifications). To allow for that we coded routines that simulate spell executions and judge their effects in a more general way.
Thus our prototype grew and grew until we were sure that we covered every capability that could possibly be required. Then we started to build it from scratch to make it more flexible and debugable. And now we feel like we can finally talk about AI.
The paradigm we had in mind for development has always been: What do we expect from a turn based AI?
Well, technically, we expect a lot! A demon wizard that fails to choose his fireball spell over a magic missile, or who fails to place the fireball in a way that maximizes damage on the player party is a no-go. An assassin who simply attacks her closest target instead of trying to stab your wizard in the back is not only little immersive – it also obliterates strategic bottlenecks like doors. And a human NPC ally that is not able to plan his path avoiding enemy attacks of opportunity is an annoyance. So when we talk about expectations from a ‘technical’ point of view, one can say that we expect ‘a lot’. A proper (3.5e based) combat AI has to be able to perform a lot of intelligent choices for enemies that we expect to behave intelligent.
Assuming that we built an AI that is able to live up to those expectations, it is time to consider a different connotation: What do we expect from AI not in terms of quality but in terms of personality?
If every enemy behaved optimally the challenge would be maximized – and immersion would be all but gone. We want goblins to horde around their closest enemy. We want orcs to ignore attacks of opportunity. And an ogre might even be too stupid to leave an area that is affected by a damage-over-time spell. Even beyond ‘intelligence’ enemies should show personality in every decision that gameplay offers: While most races ignore unconscious or otherwise helpless enemies on the battle field and proceed to face those player characters that can still fight, certain foul creatures like goblins or gnolls should be known for finishing off their helpless foes. It’s those little twists that make combats immersive.
We hope that – apart from the challenge of making our AI capable of ‘good’ decisions – we also do a good job to diversify enemy behaviours enough to allow you to detect patterns and become especially hateful of one enemy or the other.
Once again, allow us to mention Knights of the Chalice here (btw, the developer Pierre Begue will launch a Kickstarter campaign for the sequel very soon) . It is owing to that game that we had a very precise idea about what we had to do when we first started prototyping our CPU-controlled opponents. The AI of KotC (and, of course, its excellent encounter design) made almost all combats interesting. It may be prone to crowd in bottlenecks (a fact can be exploited a lot once you get the stone wall spell) but hey – weaknesses are something you also expect from an AI to have fun, another fact that we are well aware of.
Hopefully, we can soon present you some more combat vids that display various AI behaviours. Until then, feel invited to write us (here in the comments or in our forum) what you think about our ideas and what you consider important for a turn-based AI. And if you have a memorable story to tell about a combat against an especially cunning AI: please share it with us.
Mon 18 February 2019
Game News - posted by Infinitron on Mon 18 February 2019, 23:57:31Tags: Leonard Boyarsky; Obsidian Entertainment; The Outer Worlds; Tim Cain
Game Informer's final article about The Outer Worlds last week was about Tim and Leonard's general approach to choice & consequence. You'd think that would be interesting, but it wasn't particularly. Today's feature article has a bit more substance to it. It's a detailed look at the game's setting, the Halcyon star system - its history and its various locations. Warning, deep lore ahead:
“This is an alternate history,” says co-director Leonard Boyarsky. “There was a point where the timeline split off. It was at a certain point, around the time of Einstein. There was a first World War, but it was for different reasons. And maybe there wasn’t a second World War.” One of the defining features that set Earth apart in this new timeline is the nature of companies, classism, and the central importance of money-making. Imagine the already absurd power of corporations, banks, and billionaires in the real world, and ratchet it up several more degrees. “What if the trusts hadn’t been broken up?,” Boyarsky muses. “You have these robber barons at the turn of the 20th century. A couple of hundred years later, what if we still have that culture?”Sounds promising. A map large enough to contain three or four towns is more than I expected, so maybe this game will have some of that open world vibe after all. Coming later this week - details about The Outer Worlds' art, characters and comedy.
In this twist on history, Earth is already the domain of massive and powerful companies as humanity begins to spread out across the stars. Rather than the intrepid explorers and diplomats of some other science fiction properties, it’s the reaching arm of capitalism that sends humanity hurtling into the void, and habitable planets across the galaxy are being carved up like parcels of land in the American Old West. This first installment of The Outer Worlds focuses on one particular solar system called Halcyon, and the ten companies that banded together to purchase it. “The corporations have pretty much taken over everything,” Boyarsky says. “But they want to go that last little bit and make it the perfect society for corporations. When Earth was colonizing the furthest reaches of the galaxy, they bought one of the furthest colonies and set up what they thought would be a corporate utopia, where they can control every aspect of people’s lives.”
When speaking to the developers at Obsidian, it’s especially exciting to learn how expansive this new universe really is. While Halcyon has received the bulk of the attention and fleshing out, the team isn’t shy about highlighting this one solar system as just one part of a larger network of humans across the stars. “We made a list of the other colonies,” says co-director Tim Cain. “They have names and what their major products are. There are some companies and governments that were big enough that they just bought a colony on their own. Ours is unusual in that there are ten different corporations, but it’s because it was so far away and took so much money. We also have said that there is one guy who is pretty much like the Bill Gates of the universe. He was so wealthy that he bought a colony by himself. And the first thing he did was seal it off. No one’s been there for a hundred years.”
[...] The Halcyon system and its colonies didn’t turn out the way the corporate board had hoped. Things looked promising in the beginning, with two seemingly habitable planets and an initial group of colonists aboard a first ship. But even before The Hope went missing, problems arose.
One of the habitable worlds, Terra 1 was a moon orbiting a massive gas giant called Olympus. Human terraforming didn’t work on the planet, and among other problems, much of the local fauna was dramatically altered, sizing it up into mega versions that pose tremendous threats to human life. In-game, Terra 1 has been renamed as Monarch, and it’s a dangerous place to live. It’s also where the board’s outsized influence has begun to fray, as many groups and individuals are rebelling against the companies.
For players, Monarch will replicate some of the expectations of an open-world space, but on a smaller scale. “Monarch has a bigger wide-open playspace,” Boyarsky says. “There’s three or four different little towns on Monarch. Because it has a big, wide-open area, you can walk between them, or just fly to the different ones in your ship once you unlock the landing pads.”
The other comfortably habitable planet orbiting the Halcyon star is called Terra 2, and it remains much more under the sway of the board. Here, the colonists have largely accepted and even embraced their roles as corporate workers, but the façade is slowly breaking down, as towns slowly fall into disarray. Marauding thugs who have abandoned the company life wander around outside the towns. And even inside, the appearance of homey comfort has begun to fray as prefab structures have begun to fall apart and jobs remain unfilled, even as the various companies try to keep up good appearances.
It’s here that players will visit one of several contained locales, including the smaller settlements of Edgewater (inside the Emerald Vale), and Roseway, the town first shown in early videos for The Outer Worlds. Terra 2 is also home to Byzantium, the gilded city of the well-to-do, where every Halcyon colonist wishes they could live. Byzantium is closed off to those without the means to be appropriate residents; it’s a literal gated community with secrets that lesser company workers will simply never learn.
While Terra 2 and Monarch are the two largest and most involved environments that players will encounter, they are not the only places that players will visit. Several other smaller destinations play important roles in the unfolding game, especially the ship that brought that first group of colonists to the system. “The Groundbreaker is the original colony ship, parked in the Lagrange point of Terra 2,” Cain explains. This station acts as a main port for the system, as ships come and go. “Freighters that come from out of the colony unload their stuff there, and go from there to be delivered around the colony,” Boyarsky says. “There’s some people there who live a bit outside the law.”
In addition to rubbing elbows with the criminal element aboard the station, players will also rocket off to some of the other less-friendly planetary bodies around the system. There’s an asteroid called Scylla, which contains some laboratories and transmitting stations. “There’s a lot of abandoned stuff there; there’s no town on Scylla,” Boyarsky says.
“We also have Tartarus, which is kind Venusian, but it’s even worse,” Cain says. “It’s just a nasty planet. It’s where the maximum security prison is, run by United Defense Logistics; Spacer’s Choice is a wholly owned subsidiary.” We don’t know much about Tartarus, or what business the players might have on a prison planet, but one of its chief exports does make for an amusing aside. “There’s a product sold called Tartarus Sauce, for dipping Saltuna fish sticks,” Cain says with a smile. “What they do is they take mayonnaise and they expose it the caustic environment of Tartarus for just a few seconds, and then put the lid back on, and they sell it. It makes the mayo really tangy, because it introduces a lot of very low-level toxins. There’s not a lot of restrictions on corporate food products.”
Some of the other “outer worlds” of Halcyon are less likely to be on-foot destinations in the game, but may play a role in an understanding of the full setting. There’ the ice-planet of Typhon, around which The Hope has been parked until the company’s governing board can figure out what to do with it. Obsidian also shared that Eridanos is a gas giant currently being mined for resources, and another celestial body is named Hephaestus, a small mineral-rich planet near the sun.
Game News - posted by Infinitron on Mon 18 February 2019, 22:43:47Tags: InXile Entertainment; Paul Marzagalli; The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep
Bard's Tale IV was a flop on release, but thanks to the Microsoft buyout, inXile have been able to continue supporting it. In December, they announced that a major update was on the way, featuring numerous improvements and a free DLC. As is often the case, that update has now become a full-blown Director's Cut, to be released in June. The latest Kickstarter update has the details:
2.0 expands to become the Director’s Cut
We are still in development on the free DLC patch, which also includes a number of other player-requested features and items off of our own post-release support list. As the scope of the patch has expanded (and continues to), we decided that it warranted a more formal title than 2.0. When released, it will turn the game into “The Bard’s Tale IV: Barrows Deep - Director’s Cut”. We are introducing several new features, most notably the previously mentioned DLC and an engine update, a larger undertaking allowing us to further improve performance and optimization. Many of those features were discussed in our last update, and include:
So that's nine months of post-release support for a game that appears to have sold fewer than 50,000 copies. Pretty nice! The only catch is that Mac and Linux backers are going to have to wait until then to play the game.
Sat 16 February 2019
Company News - posted by Infinitron on Sat 16 February 2019, 21:14:50Tags: Colony Ship: A Post-Earth Role Playing Game; Dungeon Rats; Iron Tower Studio; The Age of Decadence; Vince D. Weller
A year ago, Vault Dweller wrote a very interesting business diary update, a highly transparent look at his studio's operations including revenue charts, market analysis and more. Well, it looks like that's going to be an annual thing. This year's business diary is much shorter but comes with big news. Instead of the small tactical spin-off he described last year, Vince has decided his studio's next game will be a full-blown sequel to Colony Ship. To try and avoid the dreaded "sequel fatigue syndrome" he's always warned about, Vince intends to take the game in an ambitious but not unexpected direction - the surface of the alien-inhabited planet the colony ship has at long last arrived at. I quote:
Colony Ship, formerly known as The New WorldSorry, Inquisition RPG fans. Maybe in 2030?
As the last update says, we finally have a playable build, so we hope to release the combat beta in 2 months and a full demo by the end of the year, so it should be a very busy, stressful, but exciting year for us. In unexpected news, our efforts were noticed and we've received our first publishing offer from a well-known company (in fact, I was very surprised to learn that not only they're aware we exist but that they also read our updates occasionally). Some folks are destined for greatness and greatness does call for strategic alliances and capital injections. Sadly, we're too small-minded to dream of such things, so we'll stick with our 0.0003% of the global market.
Anyway, we've been working for 2 years building the "infrastructure" (RPG-izing the engine, developing systems: character, combat, stealth, inventory, dialogue, etc), working on items, models, effects, etc. Even though we're far from done, the time and effort investment is already considerable. Starting from scratch every time is painful, so we'll have to brave the dangers of the "more of the same" curse and do a proper sequel, instead of another small tactical game or a brand new project.
Naturally, investing 3 years into a sequel and selling 30% of the original will be equally painful (as Dungeon Rats' sales data shows, you don't have to spend 3 years to sell 30% when a single year will do), but what we in mind is so crazy it might actually work.
The main problem with sequels is that the setting and gameplay remain the same. It's nearly impossible to switch gears and offer the player something radically different. While your best fans may be enthralled with the initial game and crave more of it, part of what they are craving is the sense of exploration (of a land and a rule set), novelty, and wonder that accompanying a new RPG - things that will almost inherently be absent in a sequel. Obsidian's Deadfire, for example, plays the same way as the original (which is to be expected, of course; after all, Fallout 2 plays the same way too - you know what works, what doesn't, so you follow the established path and know what to expect from the enemies and factions). With Colony Ship, this problem is easy to solve, not because we're so clever, but because the setting itself implies its solution: we land the Ship and start the Colony.
A Tentative Sequel
From Colony Ship's intro: "...after the Ship's launch a deep space probe transmitted highly detailed images of the surface, which revealed one minor setback: this very habitable world is already inhabited. Since the voyage is estimated to take close to 400 years, it’s possible that by the time the Ship arrives the colonists will encounter a mature civilization, corresponding to Earth’s Middles Ages."
The typical space opera trope is that when we make first contact, it is with aliens either corresponding to very primitive indigenous people (such as in Avatar), consisting of a nightmarish swarm (as in Starship Troopers), or at some extraordinary level of technology themselves (as in Star Trek or Babylon 5). Here, however, while the aliens are pre-industrial, they are well past the spears and face-paint stage, and have well-established political, economic, and military systems.
More importantly, they are alien, which means that while they may be humanoid (to make our animator's life easier), the fundamental logic of their society, religion, and power should be truly alien to ours and vice versa. The result is a highly asymmetrical kulturcampf.
For the record, it won't be a retelling of the conquest of the New World but on another planet. The ragtag Terrans who'd land on Proxima B after 400 years of space travel and in-fighting will be at a disadvantage and will have to fight for survival and adapt to this less than welcoming arid new world. Reinforcements won't be coming, so the Terrans will be on their own and each defeat will bring them closer to being wiped out for good. They will have to rely on crude firearms more than ever as the high-tech weapons and gear intended for the future colony were used up during the Mutiny and the civil war that followed. New factions will emerge in response to new threats, each offering a different way to survive and become part of this world.
While we're playing around with the basic concepts, we're exploring what the alien civilization might look like. Joan Piqué Llorens out of Barcelona thinks it might look like this: https://www.artstation.com/artwork/BmvNgA
Back to the alien culture. Needless to say, it has to be unique in a good way and thus interesting to explore, which is easier said than done. The first attempt was a complete disaster but fortunately for everyone, Mark Yohalem (Primordia, Fallen Gods) was the first to see it, so he quickly pointed out the flaws and helped us find a much better angle. The second attempt managed to get Mark's stamp of approval:
"Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself, but I do kind of like it. I also like the sense of this spectacular and alien civilization that is basically being destabilized in a way that you can see the whole thing crumbling in the face of familiar human tech. Makes any sense of victory a bit melancholy."
Now that we have a good socio-political and religious foundation in place we can spend the next 2 years slowly fleshing out, so that by the time Colony Ship is released, the new setting will be mapped out and ready to go.
Fri 15 February 2019
Editorial - posted by Infinitron on Fri 15 February 2019, 20:53:21Tags: Origin Systems; Raymond Benson; Richard Garriott; The Digital Antiquarian; Ultima VII: The Black Gate
The Digital Antiquarian has finally published his long-awaited retrospective article on Ultima VII: The Black Gate, considered by many one of the finest RPGs of the golden era. Once again, coming two weeks after his previous article, it's extra long and can be divided into three parts. The first part is about the game's development, which happened at a time when Origin was rapidly expanding and Richard Garriott was becoming increasingly disconnected from day-to-day operations, the second part is about the game itself, and the third part is about its critical and commercial reception, which was more mixed than many people realize. To the Antiquarian, Ultima VII's saving grace and indeed what makes it a classic is primarily its writing, which directed by the playwright Raymond Benson, a man whose background was considerably more urbane than that of Origin's army of overworked young coders. His team's work still stands up today, and for its time it was virtually without peer.
I’ve never cared much one way or the other about Britannia as a setting, but darned if Ultima VII doesn’t shed a whole new light on the place. At its best, playing this game is… pleasant, a word not used much in regard to ludic aesthetics, but one that perhaps ought to crop up more frequently. The graphics are colorful, the music lovely, the company you keep more often than not charming. It’s disarmingly engaging just to wander around and talk to people.Although the game was not a flop per se, the Antiquarian theorizes that Ultima VII's relatively underwhelming reception relative to its budget was the reason for the series' radical change of direction in Ultima VIII. Thankfully, Ultima VII Part Two was greenlit during its development and so we got one last good Ultima before that. For his next article however, the Antiquarian will be taking a closer look at the Fellowship, Ultima VII's antagonistic religious group, and its obvious real-life inspiration.
Underneath the pleasantness, not so much undercutting it is as giving it more texture, is a note of melancholy. This adventure in Britannia takes place many years after the Avatar’s previous ones, and the old companions in adventure who make up his party are as enthusiastic as ever, but also a little grayer, a little more stooped. Meanwhile other old friends (and enemies) from the previous games are forever waiting in the wings for one last cameo. If a Britannia scoffer like me can feel a certain poignancy, it must be that much more pronounced for those who are more invested in the setting. Today, the valedictory feel to Ultima VII is that much affecting because we know for sure that this is indeed the end of the line for the classic incarnation of Britannia. The single-player series wouldn’t return there until Ultima IX, and that unloved game would alter the place’s personality almost beyond recognition. Ah, well… it’s hard to imagine a lovelier, more affectionate sendoff for old-school Britannia than the one it gets here.
Yet even as the game pays loving tribute to the Britannia of yore, there’s an aesthetic sophistication about it that belies the series’s teenage-dungeonmaster roots. It starts with the box, which, apart from the title, is a foreboding solid black. The very simplicity screams major statement, like the Beatles’ White Album or Prince’s Black Album. Certainly it’s a long way from the heaving bosoms and fire-breathing dragons of the typical CRPG cover art.
When you start the game, you’re first greeted with a title screen that evokes the iconic opening sequence to Ultima IV, all bright spring colors and music that smacks of Vivaldi. But then, in the first of many toyings with the fourth wall, the scene dissolves into static, to be replaced by the figure of the Guardian speaking directly to you.
As you wander through Britannia in the game proper, the Guardian will continue to speak to you from time to time — the only voice acting in the game. His ominous presence is constantly jarring you when you least expect it.
The video snippet below of a play within the play, as it were, that you encounter early in the game illustrates some more of the depth and nuance of Ultima VII‘s writing. (Needless to say, this scene in particular owes much to Raymond Benson’s theatrical background.)
This sequences offers a rather extraordinary layer cake of meanings, making it the equal of a sophisticated stage or film production. We have the deliberately, banally bad play put on by the Fellowship actors, with its “moon, June, spoon” rhyme sequences. Yet peaking through the banality, making it feel sinister rather than just inept, is a hint of cult-like menace. Meanwhile the asides of our companions tell us not only that the writers know the play is bad, but that said companions are smart enough to recognize it as well. We have Iolo’s witty near-breaking of the fourth wall with his comment about “visual effects.” And then we have Spark’s final verdict on the passion play, delivered as only a teenager can: “This is terrible!” (For some reason, that line makes me laugh every time.) No other game of 1992, with the possible exception only of the text adventure Shades of Gray, wove so many variegated threads of understanding into its writing. Nor is the scene above singular. The writing frequently displays the same wit and sophistication as what you see above. This is writing by and for adults.
For all of the cutting-edge programming that went into the game, it really is the writing that does the bulk of the heavy lifting in Ultima VII. And it’s here that this first million-dollar computer game stands out most from the many big-budget productions that would follow it. Origin poured a huge percentage of that budget not into graphics or sound but into content in its purest form. If not the broadest world yet created for a computer at the time of the game’s release, this incarnation of Britannia must be the deepest and most varied. Nothing here is rote; every character has a personality, every character has something all her own to say. The sheer scale of the project which Raymond Benson’s team tackled — this game definitely has more words in it than any computer game before it — is well-nigh flabbergasting.
Further, the writers have more on their minds than escapist fantasy. They use the setting of Britannia to ponder the allure of religious cults, the social divide between rich and poor, and even the representation of women in fantasy art, along with tax policy, environmental issues, and racism. The game is never preachy about such matters, but seamlessly works its little nuggets for thought into the high-fantasy setting. Ultima VII may lack the overriding moral message that had defined its three predecessors, but that doesn’t mean it has nothing to say. Indeed, given the newfound nuance and depth of the writing, the series suddenly has more to say here than ever before.