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Sat 19 January 2019

Editorial - posted by Infinitron on Sat 19 January 2019, 01:08:04

Tags: Blue Sky Productions; Chuck Yeager’s Advanced Flight Trainer; Deep Space: Operation Copernicus; Doug Church; Lerner Research; Looking Glass Studios; Ned Lerner; Origin Systems; Paul Neurath; Space Rogue; The Digital Antiquarian; Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss; Warren Spector

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The Digital Antiquarian announced last week that he was switching to a bi-weekly update schedule and so his promised article about Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss was published today, a week later than expected. It looks like he made good use of that extra time however, because the article is absolutely packed with detail. Not just about the development of Ultima Underworld, but also about the early history of Looking Glass Studios and its two original component studios - Ned Lerner's flight sim-focused Lerner Research, and Paul Neurath's RPG-focused Blue Sky Productions. At the end, with the help of Origin producer Warren Spector, Underworld was successfully finished and became an unexpected smash hit. I quote:

Blue Sky soon discovered that becoming an official Ultima game, while great for marketing purposes and for their own sense of legitimacy, was something of a double-edged sword. Origin demanded that they go back through all the text in the game to insert Ultima‘s trademark (and flagrantly misused) “thees” and “thous,” provoking much annoyance and mockery. And Origin themselves made a cinematic introduction for the game in Austin, featuring Richard Garriott, one of the industry’s worst voice actors of all time — and that, friends, is really saying something — in the leading role, bizarrely mispronouncing the word “Stygian.” It seems no one at Origin, much less at Blue Sky, dared to correct Lord British’s diction… (The British magazine PC Review‘s eventual reaction to the finished product is one for the ages: “I had to listen to it two or three times before I fully grasped what was going on because for the first couple of times I was falling about laughing at the badly dubbed Dick Van Dyke cockney accents that all these lovable Americans think we sound like. You know: ‘Awlright, Guv’noor, oop the happle un stairs!'”)

While Origin made the dodgy intro in Texas, Warren Spector got everybody in New England focused on the goal of a finished, shipped game. Doug Church:

Not only was he [Spector] great creatively to help us put finishing touches on it and clean it up and make it real, but he also knew how to finish projects and keep us motivated and on track. He had that ability to say, “Guys, guys, you’re focused in totally the wrong place.” He had that ability to help me and the rest of the guys reset, from the big-picture view of someone who has done it before and was really creative, but who also understood getting games done. It was a huge, huge win.​

It’s very easy in hacker-driven game development to wind up with a sophisticated simulation that’s lots of fun for the programmers to create but less fun to actually play. Spector was there to head off this tendency as well at Blue Sky, as when he pared down an absurdly complex combat system to something simple and tactilly intuitive, or when he convinced the boys not to damage the player’s character every time he accidentally bumped into a wall. That, said Spector, “doesn’t sound like fun to me” as a player — and it was the player’s fun, he gently taught Blue Sky, that had to be the final arbitrator.

At Spector’s behest, Neurath rented a second office in Boston — officially known as the “Finish Underworld Now” office — and insisted that everyone leave the house and come in to work there every day during the last two months of the project. The more businesslike atmosphere helped them all focus on getting to the end result, as did Spector himself, who spent pretty much all of those last two months in the office with the team in Boston.

Spector did much to make Blue Sky feel like a valued part of the Origin family, but the relationship still remained rocky at times — especially when the former learned that the latter intended to release Ultima Underworld just two weeks before Ultima VII, the long-awaited next title in the franchise’s main series. It seemed all but certain that their game would get buried under the hype for Ultima VII, would be utterly forgotten by Origin’s marketers. Certainly marketing’s initial feedback hadn’t been encouraging. They were, they said, having trouble figuring out how to advertise Ultima Underworld. Its graphics were spectacular when seen in motion, but in still screenshots they didn’t look like much at all compared to a Wing Commander II or an Ultima VII. Blue Sky seethed with frustration, certain this was just an excuse for an anemic, disinterested advertising campaign.

In Origin’s defense, the problem their marketers pointed to was a real one. And it wasn’t really clear what they could have done about the release-date issue either. The original plan had been, as they didn’t hesitate to remind Blue Sky, to release Ultima Underworld in time for the Christmas of 1991, but the protracted development had put paid to that idea. Now, Blue Sky themselves needed Ultima Underworld to come out as quickly as possible because they needed the royalties in order to survive; for them, delaying it was simply impossible. Meanwhile Origin, who had cash-flow concerns of their own, certainly wasn’t going to delay Ultima VII, quite possibly the most expensive computer game ever made to that point, for a mere spinoff title. The situation was what it was.

Whatever was to happen in terms of sales, Blue Sky’s young hackers did get the satisfaction in late March of 1992 of seeing their game as a boxed product on store shelves, something more than one of them has described as a downright surreal experience. Dan Schmidt:

We were a bunch of kids straight out of school. This was the first professional project we’d ever done. We felt lucky that anyone would see it at all. We’d go into a games store and see our game there on the shelf. Someone would walk up to it, and we’d want to say, “No! No! You don’t want to buy that! We just hacked that together. It’s not, like, a real game.”​

In the beginning, sales went about as expected. A snapshot from Origin’s in-house newsletter dated July 31, 1992, shows 71,000 copies of Ultima VII shipped, just 41,000 copies of Ultima Underworld. But, thanks to ecstatic reviews and strong word of mouth — Origin may have struggled to see how groundbreaking the game really was, but gamers got it immediately — Ultima Underworld kept on selling, getting stronger every month. “It was the first game that ever gave me a sense of actually being in a real place,” wrote one buyer in a letter to Origin, clear evidence that Blue Sky had absolutely nailed their original design goal. Soon industry scuttlebutt had it outselling Ultima VII by two to one. Paul Neurath claims that Ultima Underworld eventually sold more than half a million copies worldwide, an extraordinary figure for the time, and considerably more than Ultima VII or, indeed, any previous Ultima had managed.
The Antiquarian never did get around to writing his article about Ultima VII, but it seems he's just as enthusiastic about Ultima Underworld and the studio that created it. Looking Glass will be the topic of many more articles in the future, starting with a closer look at Underworld itself in his next installment.

There are 7 comments on The Digital Antiquarian on Ultima Underworld

Fri 18 January 2019

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 18 January 2019, 22:37:54

Tags: Heroes of a Broken Land 2; Winged Pixel

Winged Pixel's Heroes of a Broken Land was one of the more unusual minor titles of the early Kickstarter era. A strategy RPG that combined city building in a procedurally generated overworld with first person dungeon crawling using multiple parties of heroes. Naturally it was an extremely niche release, and having received its its last update over two and a half years ago, we weren't expecting to hear any more from it. Big mistake! It turns out Winged Pixel have been working on a sequel this entire time. Heroes of a Broken Land 2 looks to be very much the same sort of thing as its predecessor, but with a 3D map and somewhat improved graphics. Here's the announcement:

Heroes of a Broken Land 2 is a procedural epic RPG, combining exploration and dungeon crawling with town building and multiple party management.

It will be available in a “early access” state later in 2019 with a full release planned for sometime in 2020.

Heroes of a Broken Land 2 will feature a procedural world that’s highly customizable. The final version will contain:
  • Over 30 classes, hundreds of skills and 3 playable races
  • Build and customize you own town, dozens of buildings and additions
  • Dozens and dozens of unique quests and adventures that are seamlessly woven into a procedural world
  • Much much more!
Join the discussion here.
According to its Steam page, Heroes of a Broken Land 2 is coming to Early Access in August, and the plan is to stay in Early Access for at least a year. Quite a lot of detail for a game that's still seven months away - you'd think it'd be released sooner.

There are 3 comments on Heroes of a Broken Land 2 is on the way, coming to Steam Early Access in August

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Sun 13 January 2019

Community - posted by felipepepe on Sun 13 January 2019, 02:59:11

Tags: GOTY 2018

Ladies and gentlemen, it is time!

The voting for the RPG Codex's 2018 GOTY poll is now open:

2018 was a very different year, as we had more RPGs than ever before, but few "must-play" big releases. Instead, every sub-genre got its own niche title:

ATOM for Fallout fans,
Pathfinder & PoE2 for Infinity Engine fans,
Monster Hunter for Action-RPG fans,
Dragon Quest XI for JRPG fans,
The Bard's Tale trilogy remake for nostalgic people,
Battletech and Mutant Year Zero for Tacticool bros,
Kingdom Come for walking simulator fans,
and so on...

As such, this time we have almost 100 games in our GOTY poll, divided into three categories: GOTY, Best DLC/Expansion and Best Port/Remake. The poll is long, but just scroll past all the games you didn't play and focus on the ones you did.

Hopefully we can narrow that list down to the the truly special games released this year. Or maybe we will find out that everyone enjoyed a different game. Who knows?

There are 278 comments on RPG Codex's 2018 GOTY - VOTE NOW!

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Wed 9 January 2019

Codex Review - posted by Infinitron on Wed 9 January 2019, 00:09:03


Against all odds, the Atom Team's ATOM RPG has turned out to be one of 2018's most well-received titles and a strong contender for our next RPG of the year. Together with Pathfinder: Kingmaker, it forms the basis of an unexpected Russian RPG Renaissance which we hope will continue. That said, for most people ATOM is probably just a well-executed Fallout homage with some funny memes. Not so for the esteemed bataille however, who identified the game's more esoteric qualities early on. In fact, bataille found ATOM so inspired that she volunteered to review it for us, and did a damn fine job. Here's an excerpt from her literary analysis of the game:

First, let’s address the enormous, almost embarrassingly fat elephant in the room before proceeding. The elephant that, before now, I have tried not to glance at too often.

ATOM RPG is exceedingly postmodernist. Actually, I’m fairly certain that it’s the most conventionally postmodernist game I have ever played. Virtually its every aspect is a citation. Its source may be an old Soviet song, a socialist realist film, an actor from the era of Perestroika, a novel written by a dissident, a controversial public figure, an internet meme (yikes), or Fallout. A lot of Fallout. At its most surface level, mechanically and story-wise, ATOM is made of Fallout. It’s got its own Iguana Bob, Richard Grey, The Followers, Rad-X, Vaults, FEV, the BoS, etc. Whether it’s part of the nostalgia motif, a set of homages, or plagiarism is for you to decide, but I think it fits the game’s fever dream feel very well.

It’s not Fallout 2, however, where the elements of its first part were deconstructed to inspect them from a different perspective, but rather a boxful of stuff to play with. In Atom Team’s hands, the borrowed material is clay to create a statue of Lenin with, tear it down, and then make a million other things following the same scenario. It’s playful, lively, and not preachy in any way.

A fair warning, though: like with any PM text, to enjoy ATOM fully, you’ll probably need to play it in Russian and be quite a prestigious Codexer who is no stranger to the 20th century Russian culture. Half the game’s population talks in direct quotes from literature, songs, films, or Soviet clichés. Knowing Sorokin, Yerofeyev, Zinovyev, and Shalamov is a must. Otherwise, you’ll be doomed to giggle at jokes about bigots assuming someone’s hunger level for the 40 to 50 hours required to finish the game. Which is funny enough, I guess, but the game’s main strength lies within the bounds of its literary exercises.

Otradnoye serves as a tutorial village (or as Shady Sands if we were to speak the elephant language), a place designed to be quite moderate in all aspects so as not to overwhelm a beginner. Its secrets are not too obscure; the mutated wildlife is easily dispatched; the quests are simple and easy to follow. The characters are mostly played straight, too.

It’s interesting to note that there are no generic NPCs. Not in Otradnoye, not anywhere else. Every character has their own name, dialogue, and a portrait. Even guards, farmers, and drunkards.

While the ominous implications of this are quite obvious, mostly, ATOM RPG doesn’t degenerate into filler conversations. I’d say only about 5 to 10 percent of all NPCs don’t have anything notable about them. Usually, even if they haven’t got a role in the grander scheme of things, people either have an interesting rumor to share or reference/parody/quote some other Russian text (thus amusing you a bit, hopefully).

Structurally, the conversations are pretty basic. If a character is not involved in a quest of some kind, you’ll only be able to ask them the same four questions. This highlights one somewhat major problem with the game’s dialogues: it seems that some of them have been done absentmindedly, almost on autopilot. More than once I have found myself scratching my head in surprise at some painfully obvious and stupid sentences. A few dozen conversations read (clearly unintentionally) like an unedited stream of consciousness. Again, it’s for you to decide if that’s a dadaist technique that deepens the artistic merit of ATOM or laziness/lack of time on the part of Atom Team.

But when conversations are good, they are witty, often times hilarious, and even touching. Death or misery is rarely the punch line to a joke. The writers are clearly in love with the strange and eccentric but never do they take sides. Be it a hypocritical cult leader, wacky conspiracy theorist, devoted red commissar, or time traveler who is often confused by his own omniscience, all of them are exaggerated to emphasize the qualities that make them tick.​

Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: ATOM RPG

There are 213 comments on RPG Codex Review: ATOM RPG

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Sat 5 January 2019

Editorial - posted by Infinitron on Sat 5 January 2019, 16:33:05

Tags: Black Crypt; Bloodwych; Captive; Dungeon Master; Dungeon Master II: The Legend of Skullkeep; Eye of the Beholder; Eye of the Beholder 2: The Legend of Darkmoon; Eye of the Beholder 3: Assault on Myth Drannor; FTL Games; Interplay; Knightmare; Lands of Lore: The Throne of Chaos; Stonekeep; Strategic Simulations, Inc.; The Digital Antiquarian; Westwood Studios

Three years ago, the Digital Antiquarian wrote about Dungeon Master, the game that launched the real-time first-person dungeon crawler genre. Between its release in 1987 and the eventual downfall of the genre in the mid-1990s, Dungeon Master inspired a legion of imitators. The most famous of these were Westwood Studios' AD&D-based Eye of the Beholder games, which they followed up with the appealingly casualized Lands of Lore. But there were others, including 1989's multiplayer-supporting Bloodwych, 1990's procedurally generated sci-fi-themed Captive, 1991's brutally difficult Knightmare (based on the famous British children's TV show), 1992's Black Crypt from Raven Software (yes, that Raven Software), and finally 1995's infamously underwhelming Stonekeep from Interplay. These games are the topic of the Digital Antiquarian's latest article, which he concludes with a reflection on why none of them ever really managed to surpass their progenitor. Here's an excerpt:

Following the success of Eye of the Beholder, the dam well and truly burst in the United States. Before the end of 1991, Westwood had cranked out an Eye of the Beholder II, which is larger and somewhat more difficult than its predecessor, but otherwise shares the same strengths and weaknesses. In 1993, their publisher SSI took over to make an Eye of the Beholder III in-house; it’s generally less well-thought-of than the first two games. Meanwhile Bloodwych and Captive got MS-DOS ports and arrived Stateside. Even FTL, whose attitude toward making new products can most generously be described as “relaxed,” finally managed to complete and release their long-rumored MS-DOS port of Dungeon Master — whereupon its dated graphics were, predictably if a little unfairly, compared unfavorably with the more spectacular audiovisuals of Eye of the Beholder in the American gaming press.

Another, somewhat more obscure title from this peak of the real-time blobber’s popularity was early 1992’s Black Crypt, the very first game from the American studio Raven Software, who would go on to a long and productive life. (As of this writing, they’re still active, having spent the last eight years or so making new entries in the Call of Duty franchise.) Although created by an American developer and published by the American Electronic Arts, one has to assume that Black Crypt was aimed primarily at European players, as it was made available only for the Amiga. Even in Europe, however, it failed to garner much attention in an increasingly saturated market; it looked a little better than Dungeon Master but not as good as Eye of the Beholder, and otherwise failed to stand out from the pack in terms of level design, interface, or mechanics.

With, that is, one exception. For the first time, Black Crypt added an auto-map to the formula. Unfortunately, it was needlessly painful to access, being available only through a mana-draining wizard’s spell. Soon, though, Westwood would take up and perfect Raven’s innovation, as the real-time blobber entered the final phase of its existence as a gaming staple.

Released in late 1993, Westwood’s Lands of Lore: The Throne of Chaos was an attempt to drag the now long-established real-time-blobber format into the multimedia age, while also transforming it into a more streamlined and accessible experience. It comes very, very close to realizing its ambitions, but is let down a bit by some poor design choices as it wears on.

Having gone their separate ways from SSI and from the strictures of the Dungeons & Dragons license, Westwood got to enjoy at last the same freedom which had spawned the easy elegance of Dungeon Master; they were free to, as Westwood’s Louis Castle would later put it, create cleaner rules that “worked within the context of a digital environment,” making extensive use of higher-math functions that could never have been implemented in a tabletop game. These designers, however, took their newfound freedom in a very different direction from the hardcore logistical and tactical challenge that was FTL’s game. “We’re trying to make our games more accessible to everybody,” said Westwood’s Brett Sperry at the time, “and we feel that the game consoles offer a clue as to where we should go in terms of interface. You don’t really have to read a manual for a lot of games, the entertainment and enjoyment is immediate.”

Lands of Lore places you in control of just two or three characters at a time, who come in and out of your party as the fairly linear story line dictates. The magic system is similarly condensed down to just seven spells. In place of the tactical maneuvering and environmental exploitation that marks combat within the more interactive dungeons of Dungeon Master is a simple but satisfying rock-paper-scissors approach: monsters are more or less vulnerable to different sorts of attacks, requiring you adjust your spells and equipment accordingly. And, most tellingly of all, an auto-map is always at your fingertips, even automatically annotating hidden switches and secret doors you might have overlooked in the first-person view.

Whether all of this results in a game that’s better than Dungeon Master is very much — if you’ll excuse the pun! — in the eye of the beholder. The auto-map alone changes the personality of the game almost enough to make it feel like the beginning of a different sub-genre entirely. Yet Lands of Lore has an undeniable charm all its own as a less taxing, more light-hearted sort of fantasy romp.

One thing thing at least is certain: at the time of its release, Lands of Lore was by far the most attractive blobber the world had yet seen. Abandoning the stilted medieval conceits of most CRPGs, its atmosphere is more fairy tale than Tolkien, full of bright cartoon-like tableaux rendered by veteran Hanna-Barbara and Disney animators. The music and voice acting in the CD-ROM version are superb, with none other than Patrick Stewart of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame acting as narrator.

Sadly, though, the charm does begin to evaporate somewhat as the game wears on. There’s an infamous one-level difficulty spike in the mid-game that’s all but guaranteed to run off the very newbies and casual players Westwood was trying to attract. Worse, the last 25 percent or so is clearly unfinished, a tedious slog through empty corridors with nothing of interest beyond hordes of overpowered monsters. When you get near the end and the game suddenly takes away the auto-map you’ve been relying on, you’re left wondering how the designers could have so completely lost all sense of the game they started out making. More so than any of the other games I’ve written about today, Lands of Lore: The Throne of Chaos, despite enjoying considerable commercial success which would lead to two sequels, feels like a missed opportunity to make something truly great.

Real-time blobbers would continue to appear for a couple more years after Lands of Lore. The last remotely notable examples are two 1995 releases: FTL’s ridiculously belated and rather unimaginative Dungeon Master II, which was widely and justifiably panned by reviewers; and Interplay’s years-in-the-making Stonekeep, which briefly dazzled some reviewers with such extraneous bells and whistles as an introductory cinematic that by at least one employee’s account cost ten times as much as the underwhelming game behind it. (If any other anecdote more cogently illustrates the sheer madness of the industry’s drunk-on-CD-ROM “interactive movie” period, I don’t know what it is.) Needless to say, neither game outdoes the original Dungeon Master where it counts.

At this point, then, we have to confront the place where the example I used in opening this article — that of interactive fiction and its urtext of Adventure — begins to break down when applied to the real-time blobber. Adventure, whatever its own merits, really was the launching pad for a whole universe of possibilities involving parsers and text. But the real-time blobber never did manage to transcend its own urtext, as is illustrated by the long shadow the latter has cast over this very article. None of the real-time blobbers that came after Dungeon Master was clearly better than it; arguably, none was ever quite as good. Why should this be?

Any answer to that question must, first of all, pay due homage to just how fully-realized Dungeon Master was as a game system, as well as to how tight its level designs were. It presented everyone who tried to follow it with one heck of a high bar to clear. Beyond that obvious fact, though, we must also consider the nature of the comparison with the text adventure, which at the end of the day is something of an apples-and-oranges proposition. The real-time blobber is a more strictly demarcated category than the text adventure; this is why we tend to talk about real-time blobbers as a sub-genre and text adventures as a genre. Perhaps there’s only so much you can do with wandering through grid-based dungeons, making maps, solving mechanical puzzles, and killing monsters. And perhaps Dungeon Master had already done it all about as well as it could be done, making everything that came after superfluous to all but the fanatics and the completists.
However, according to the Antiquarian, the primary reason why Dungeon Master was never surpassed is that the genre became obsolete when developers finally had the means to take dungeon crawling off the grid, starting from a little game called Ultima Underworld. That's the topic of next week's article.

There are 25 comments on The Digital Antiquarian on the Real-Time Dungeon Crawler Genre after Dungeon Master

Mon 24 December 2018

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Mon 24 December 2018, 01:56:41

Tags: Golden Era Games; Grimoire: Heralds of the Winged Exemplar

As you may know, Cleve Blakemore has been promising a new and improved Grimoire V2 since almost the day of the game's release back in 2017. For the longest time it seemed like vaporware, but since August's wishlist drive things have been warming up. For the last three months, Cleve has published V2 development updates on Grimoire's Steam page at a regular pace. And it looks pretty great! There are going to be new areas, balance updates of course, and even minigames. Oh, and somewhere along the way the game's price was reduced to $20, even though it never did reach the requisite 50,000 wishlists. But even with all that activity, it was still quite a surprise when Cleve actually released the new version today. Here's his announcement post:

Version 2 of Grimoire is now live on the Steam Store with a 50% sale through to the New Year! The most incredible old fashioned computer roleplaying game just got a little more awesome!

CURRENT WISHLISTS # : 39,812 (combined)

Huge amounts of tweaks, fixes, adjustments and new content is found in this version, including the crafting workshop and all the item enhancements!

You can see all the items in your inventory, sort them on a variety of attributes like type and value, assay them, poison them, forge them, enchant them and merge them into new items! There is now a forge, alchemy bench, shrine and hearth in the game where different classes acquire various crafting arts they can apply to items to modify them or greatly improve them in combat!

The manual is being output to .PDF shortly and will be made available on the store from the main page freely so it can be examined by players who have not yet purchased the game to get a good feel for the mechanics. It is extremely extensive and explains all facets of gameplay with detailed explanations of all modes including combat, NPC interaction, character creation, level up, character review and the many mini interfaces like lockpicking and door forcing. It is suitable for printing and formatted for A4 output.

Beginning a new game from the classic game start will reveal new monster graphics and additional features have been added to the original maps. None of this should affect existing save games but players who have completed these areas may not see some of the new events. This will not affect the new regions at all which constitute brand new areas in the game.
How long has it been, 16 months of development? In Neanderthal years, that's almost nothing! It's another pleasant treat for Christmas. Grimoire is currently on sale with a 50% discount thanks to the Steam winter sale, so there's no excuse not to get it now.

There are 75 comments on Grimoire Version 2 is actually out

Sun 23 December 2018

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sun 23 December 2018, 23:58:46

Tags: Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire

Owners of Pillars of Eternity II who logged onto Steam this Thursday may have noticed the game receiving a mysterious 2GB patch. Those of them who happened to start a new playthrough with the patch were startled to discover the existence of a fully functional turn-based mode(!). Obsidian were quick to withdraw the patch, but it was too late. A Reddit user named raggnarok may have been the first to break the news, including screenshots (and there's a video too if you think these are photoshopped).

[​IMG] [​IMG]
Those of you who remember our 2015 April Fools joke will find this news both amazing and hilarious. How much did Tim Cain know and when did he know it? Looks like inXile aren't the only ones splurging on that Microsoft cash! I guess it makes sense to put this together for the console release next year. If you'd like to know more, Codex Deadfire cultist Safav Hamon has done some datamining and figured out the details of how the game's mechanics will be adapted for turn-based gameplay. If you'd like to try it yourself, user Nryn has helpfully provided instructions for retrieving the revoked version from Steam. The patch also includes a completely new ship combat UI, so I guess Josh Sawyer really was working on that. When will this be released for real, you ask? Obsidian aren't talking. It's probably safe to assume we won't get any official answers until next year.

There are 151 comments on WTF - Pillars of Eternity II is apparently getting a turn-based mode

Sat 22 December 2018

Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Sat 22 December 2018, 01:47:55

Tags: Colony Ship: A Post-Earth Role Playing Game; Iron Tower Studio; Vince D. Weller

This year's first Colony Ship development update delivered the game's first official screenshots. The final update of the year comes with...more screenshots, but now with fully functional systems and UI. They're all from the combat demo, which is now scheduled for release early next year. The demo takes place in the "Courthouse", the arena that was described in the update about The Pit from last April. The "Chief Justice" looks to be quite a character:

[​IMG] [​IMG]
[​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

After nearly 2 years of work we finally have a playable build, which is very exciting. First, we finally get to see how things work in-game, not on paper, and second, it's great to see the game rapidly changing with every daily update. It's very rough, of course, as it's the First Iteration: a promise of things to come rather than an actual game, but the promise IS there and it's a good thing. Right now you can talk to people, fight, loot bodies, increase skills and equip new gear. The dialogue scripts are working like a charm, so you can go through all the fights and get one of 5 endings. The AI is doing a pretty good job seeking cover, flanking, and using different attacks. Collapsible textbox, pop-up attack icons with tooltips, status icons that tell you which enemies your character has a line of sight on, if the enemies are in cover, and most importantly, if you're still in cover when the enemies are flanking you; the cover provides the highest bonus when the cover is between you and the enemy; less when the enemy is at an angle), etc.

The only feature that's not done yet is the gadgets (energy shield and such), which gives us time to focus on the basic mechanics, iron them out, then introduce the gadgets. The armor sets are almost done, waiting to be textured. Plus tons of small things like various GUI improvements, proper textbox messages that show rolls Battle Brothers style (it's much easier to accept missing 3 times in a row when you see what you're rolling), blood splatters, a balance pass or two (changed AP from DEX+10 to DEX*1.5+5, working on the attack and weapon stats now), the cursor, etc. All in all, I'd say we need 2 months to get the combat system into shape before we start beta-testing, then another month before we release it.

It's longer than we expected but late is always better than never. In comparison, it took us over 5 years to reach this point with AoD (due to working part-time and being inexperienced), so overall the game is progressing nicely.

Anyway, here are some screens. Keep in mind, that's it's work in progress, as rough as the very first build can be.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and your families.
By historical Iron Tower standards, a three month delay is practically ahead of schedule. I can't wait to see this in action.

There are 49 comments on Colony Ship Update #33: State of the Game - Combat Demo Screenshots

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sat 22 December 2018, 00:30:40

Tags: David Rogers; InXile Entertainment; Paul Marzagalli; The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep

Wasteland 3 isn't the only inXile game benefiting from the infusion of Microsoft cash. Despite being by all appearances a catastrophic commercial failure, The Bard's Tale IV is going to receive some substantial updates next year. In fact it already got a big update last month, which added a beta implementation of grid movement among other things. Yet there's much more on the way, including the Haernhold free DLC which was going to be added to the game had it gotten 500,000 wishlists before it was released. The new Kickstarter update has the details:

A Note from David

Hey everyone, David Rogers here to tell you about some of the good stuff we have coming down the pipe in the upcoming 2.0 patch. We've been hard at work poring through our forums, listening to reviews, and talking directly to some of our most dedicated fans so we could continue to improve the game. This patch brings another sweep of balance changes such as:
  • Last patch, we focused primarily on balancing player abilities, and you'll see a little more of that this patch.
  • We're turning our main focus to enemy tuning and balance in order to ensure our enemies continue to challenge you throughout the game.
  • We're also making several adjustments to the end game economy by adding an additional tier of high level, master-crafted, items; adjusting merchants to sell more useful gear; expanded their inventory size for easy of use; and adjusted the gold faucets so gold stays useful and not over-abundant through the end game.
  • We're adding additional portraits to character creation which includes 2 new female dwarves and 2 new male elves.
  • We've added 9 new fast travel locations to the world. We've buffed many of our unique items and elven puzzle weapons to make them feel more competitive vs. standard gear.
This patch also brings a few long requested features, namely inventory filtering and controller support. These have been two of our most requested features and we're please to be bringing them to you. We hope with all these changes you'll give the game a 2nd playthrough or that one of these features encourages you to dive in. If you've left a review on Steam or GOG and we've made changes that address your concerns, we'd also appreciate you revising that review. We're passionate about making The Bard's Tale IV the best game it can be, and we hope that shows with every patch.

I want to give a very special thanks to everyone who's been active on our forums, written reviews, made reddit posts, and generally everyone who's provided us feedback. So much of what we did this sprint was pointed out by you, the fans. You didn't have to stop and reach out to us to help us improve the game, but you did, and that support has been invaluable. Thank you!

A Note from Jeff & The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep team

Jeff Pellegrin here, and I would like thank everyone who communicated issues, bugs, concerns, and feedback (both positive and negative) on GOG, Steam, Kickstarter, etc. We aggressively tackled many issues and continue to patch and add features to The Bard’s Tale IV based on your input.

One key feature to show that we are listening is an extra Song of Exploration “Struggler's Lament” which can instantly resolve most doors that are locked by puzzles. The ability will not resolve optional content that can be rewarding and could be critical in your adventures, so make sure to still learn our different puzzles systems because that knowledge will come in handy eventually! Best of luck and thank you!

The Best Way To Say "Thank You!"

Hi everyone, Paul back for the remainder of the update. Last summer we held a contest - the more wishlist adds that we got for the game, the more benefits for every player. We never achieved the last item on that list - the free DLC. That was that, but then, as some of you know, the game had a rougher launch than we'd hoped for. Since then, we've released several updates, and as David and Jeff have detailed, we're continuing to support the game with even more improvements.

We knew that we wanted to do something special for everyone that was there at launch, as a way to say thanks for your support at that moment, and we realized the solution was right there for us - deliver the content that we didn't get with the Wishlist Initiative. We're happy to report that every owner of the game will be getting "The Royal Necropolis of Haernhold" DLC for FREE in early 2019, so look forward to a new adventure in the dwarven realm of Kinestia!

Here's what Lead Designer Russell Krueger has to say about the area:

The Royal Necropolis of Haernhold is a new, combat-focused dungeon that lets players travel to Kinestia to uncover the nature of Tarjan’s treachery and undo the catastrophe that has befallen the tomb of the dwarves’ greatest hero, Gaerwyn. We are pleased to announce that this dungeon will feature several new mini-boss fights and two very challenging boss fights.

Fans of our puzzles won’t be left out in the cold either! While the emphasis is very much on trying out and acquiring new, powerful gear and then using it on the most challenging fights we’ve ever made, we are also able to leverage all of our existing puzzle designs and components for a set of new, mind-bending puzzles that players will have to solve to find the secrets of Gaerwyn’s tomb.

Combined with the combat balance updates for end game parties, players will have plenty of content that will keep them on their toes! A friendly word of warning however: once players step foot into the Royal Necropolis, they will be stalked from the shadows by one of the most powerful and deadly minions Tarjan has ever bent to his will. Keep an eye out above you, because you never know when this creature will drop in to say hello…
It sounds like inXile are attempting to address some of the key complaints from our official review. This update might be our first test of Brian Fargo's claim that all his studio really needed in order to shine was a bigger budget.

There are 7 comments on Bard's Tale IV Kickstarter Update #54: Upcoming Updates, Haernhold Free DLC

Fri 21 December 2018

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 21 December 2018, 23:49:40

Tags: InXile Entertainment; Paul Marzagalli; Wasteland 3

inXile have published their first Wasteland 3 Fig update in over six months. You'd expect there to be more two years after the campaign, but it's mostly just a brief description of where the game is right now, with a promise of more next year. The main takeaway from the update is that the campaign's $3.25M stretch goal which it failed to meet has now been added to the game anyway. In case you've forgotten (and you probably have) that stretch goal was the "Bizarre", a high-end black market in-game location. That Microsoft cash in action! Oh, and there's also some kind of new combat knockout mechanic. I quote:

Hi everyone, Paul here with an end of year check-in on Wasteland. With 2019 right around the corner, we're ever closer to Colorado and the Desert Rangers' answer to the Patriarch's call. We hope this finds everyone having a fantastic holiday season! We’re very excited to have Wasteland 3 at the stage now where we can focus most of our efforts on bringing the game world to life and maximizing its reactivity to player choices. Our team is currently hard at work doing an end-to-end pass through the game to instill each quest, character, and moment with as much interactivity and personality as we can possibly cram into it! We absolutely cannot wait to start sharing more on this front in early 2019 and are looking forward to giving you, our backers, the opportunity to help shape some of the most interesting (and weird!) moments of reactivity in the game! Further in this update, we've got some news on the stretch goal front, but right now we wanted to kick things off with some big news for the company.

"Are we going to get the Bizarre?"

As many of you recall, when the Fig crowdfunding campaign ended, we got close to (but didn't quite reach) our stretch goal for "The Bizarre", a new area of the game. We left its status open-ended as slacker backer support continued to come in. In recent months, we've begun getting the inquiries - "Hey, are we close?" "Did the Bizarre make it in?" "Are we getting the Bizarre?", etc. etc., and we're happy to report today that, YES, YOU DID IT!

Thanks to your support, The Bizarre is now in Wasteland 3! Expect to hear more about this curious slice of the Colorado Wasteland as we roll through 2019!

Our design team has also been hard at work fleshing out our combat systems to make battles as tactically interesting and choice-filled as they can be! One example of this is a new Down-But-Not-Out system that will give players (as well as foes) a chance to stage desperate comebacks from near-death situations. The Wasteland is a brutal and deadly place, but it is also a place where the extremely cunning or stubborn can sometimes cheat death in dramatic ways! You can expect us to share this system (as well as other nefarious surprises and aces in the hole) in much greater detail in our early 2019 updates, and we’re counting on your feedback to help make everything that we’ve been working on as good as possible!

We Wish You a Merry Christmas and a Wasteland New Year!

Thanks to all of you one last time for helping to make the Bizarre a reality! 2019 is shaping up to be an amazing year for Wasteland fans, and we are looking forward to taking the journey with you! We look forward to finally being able to share some first looks at how all those systems are coming together and give you some glimpses into the world of Wasteland 3. In the meanwhile, all of us at inXile wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year! Safe travels if you are heading anywhere!
Hopefully by "first looks" they mean gameplay videos. They don't have the excuse of being focused on Bard's Tale IV anymore.

There are 10 comments on Wasteland 3 Fig Update #27: End of Year Update - Bizarre Stretch Goal Unlocked

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 21 December 2018, 15:49:15

Tags: Stygian Software; Underrail; Underrail: Expedition

The Underrail: Expedition expansion has been in closed alpha for the past few months. Styg and his team have just about finalized its final dungeon, which (surprise) has taken longer than expected. They've also continued to iterate on the game's mechanics, which you can try out yourself in a new experimental beta version of the base game now available on Steam. Details on all of this are available in the latest development update, which also announces the launching of store pages for the expansion on Steam and GOG. And of course, where there's a store page, there's a trailer.

Hi guys,

As a lot of you know, the expansion has been in closed alpha for a while now. This helped us weed out a lot of bugs from the available content (which doesn't include the last dungeon) and we would like to thank our dedicated alpha testers for their time. Without them it would take much much longer to get the DLC to run properly and smoothly and we surely would not have found as many bugs. This is not the end of alpha, though, as it will remain in place (likely) to the very release.

Speaking of release, we have the store pages up now (Steam; GOG) with a brand new trailer, so check it out. You can't pre-purchase it, but you can wishlist it.

In preparation for the eventual release (it will happen) I'm pushing the version on the experimental branch. In regards to the original game, this update has a bit of everything, including fixes for some old persistent bugs, but also this is the code that runs the current build of Expedition and I want to make sure it doesn't break anything in the base game before we finally release the DLC.

To play experimental branch on Steam, you right click the game in your library and go to "Betas" tab. To do so on GOG, you select the game and choose More->Settings. Make sure you don't override all your live version saves just in case something goes horribly wrong.

And finally, in regards to DLC development, the final dungeon is just about done. Though the dungeon is very small, we developed a lot of custom content for it specifically, so it took longer than expected (per usual). After we're done with the final dungeon we'll need some time to wrap things up and do some final testing and then the game is good to go.

That's it for now. Let us know what you thought of the trailer and the new experimental version. Enjoy the holidays and hopefully take some break from work like we will.

Merry Christmas! Christ is born!
The full update includes an extensive changelog for the new experimental version. Oh and before you ask, the release date on the expansion's Steam store page is just "2019", which is rather obvious at this point. It does sound like it's going to be early 2019, though. Hopefully!

There are 21 comments on Underrail Dev Log #60: Expedition Trailer, Version Beta

Thu 20 December 2018

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 20 December 2018, 01:27:43


ATOM RPG, the Soviet Fallout-like that was Kickstarted last April, was released today after a year in Early Access and many more years in development. I've said before that ATOM seemed like it was a cut above the usual Eastern European shovelware Fallout clone. In recent weeks that's become especially clear as the game neared completion and our users began noticing its extremely culturally literate writing. I've been a bit concerned about the game being rushed to make it out this year, but judging by initial impressions, it doesn't seem to be in a particularly bad shape. It does appear that the devs didn't have time to finalize a launch trailer though, so I'll just post their release announcement:

Hello, dear friends!

At long last, it happened! Finally the moment came, when we can finally say that ATOM RPG is complete! Honestly, it’s hard for us to believe it happened so fast, in just a bit more than a year’s time. The main reason for this amazing growth from a two hour long Kickstarter beta to a game that makes some players lose themselves for 100+ hours, is in you - our awesome players.

It was very hard at times, but we managed, thanks to the advice you gave, the trust you put in us, the constant support you blessed us with. These are not empty words, when we say that ATOM is our game, but it’s also yours.

Now let’s see what we have accomplished together:

ATOM is a Fallout and Wasteland inspired RPG that became something more or less original and independant as it was developed. It’s completely non-linear. It features more than 450+ NPC characters, each with a unique portrait, a branching dialogue and his or her own place in the world’s structure.

ATOM has various endings and various paths to reach them with. The system of perks, skills and traits will let you create any character type you can imagine, be it a brawler or a traveling intellectual.

ATOM now features more than 250 unique quests of all shapes and sizes - from simple to epic, from partially hidden to in-your-face obvious.

It has 90+ different locations, scattered around three global maps. It holds 100+ types of weapons, 30+ types of enemies, and even a car. A lot is possible in this living world, the fate of which largely depends on your gameplay choices.

And the best thing is this: We’re not letting go of this world just yet. After this release, there will be plenty more content to come in the shape of free DLCs and patches!

Thank you for walking this road with us.

And let there always be ATOM!
ATOM is available on Steam now for just $15. It's a nice final treat for 2018. According to today's Kickstarter update, the game will eventually make its way to GOG as well.

There are 52 comments on ATOM RPG Released

Sun 16 December 2018

Codex Review - posted by Infinitron on Sun 16 December 2018, 02:17:41

Tags: Das Geisterschiff; Graverobber Foundation

If you're like me, you may have once thought that zwanzig_zwoelf was just some dude who spent all his time shitposting in our Shoutbox. It turns out he'd spent the last few years teaching himself Unity and working on his first game - Das Geisterschiff, a cyberpunk-themed wireframe dungeon crawler which he finally released back in September (and on Steam in November). Since then, zwanzig has periodically whined politely requested that we review it. It took a while, but in the end Darth Roxor himself stepped up to perform the task. His conclusion? Das Geistershiff is a decent first attempt which is more cleverly designed than it may first appear to be, though it's too short and simple to be considered great. Here's an excerpt:

To dismiss the most obvious bit first, despite calling itself a dungeon crawler, and certainly being one, Das Geisterschiff is not an RPG. There’s no character creation or inventory, statistics are limited to the bare minimum like accuracy, evasion and health, you have four different guns, and that’s basically it.

Then what’s left? A weird mash-up of features that ends up fairly compelling in practice. You are the pilot of a combat suit sent on covert ops that involve prowling through maze-like levels with step-based movement and blasting various undesirables in turn-based combat.

The combat works on an I-go-you-go basis, and though the narrow list of basic building blocks highlighted above could make it seem very simple, there’s more to it than meets the eye. Das Geisterschiff compensates the simplicity with many minor mechanics and quirks that give the gameplay more involvement than just shooting and ending turn.

For starters, all your guns are very distinct and fit for different purposes. The submachine gun is effective at short range and boosts your evasion, the assault rifle is better for longer engagements but makes you move like a slug, the laser rifle is more of a tool for busting through locked doors or mines since it’s too easily dodged by enemies, while the bazooka is a weapon of last resort with great damage but low ammo and splash damage that can also harm you if not handled with care. Choosing the right gun for the job is important, as enemies are varied in movement speed (some can move two steps in combat), behaviour and stats.

Another important thing to consider are your surroundings. Often it’s better to run away from an enemy than waste ammo and health, but for that you need a winding path where you could safely lose the heat. You can also gain advantage from high ground by standing on top of ramps or try to lead baddies into the vicinity of mines and blast them for splash damage, although truth be told you’re more likely to step into them yourself.

Since movement is paired with shooting, and you don’t have to choose one or the other, this gives you some more options as well. You can backpedal and shoot incoming melee enemies or hide behind a corner, then charge and fire off a burst from your smg as they get close. Or you can go for a straight-up crash course and ram the gits, though this makes both you and the target take damage – calculated by comparing the weights of both combatants – which will also let you shoot after the ramming is done. But you have to be careful, because dodging a ramming attack gives the combatant a free action – whether it’s moving back, counter-ramming or shooting, it’s never pretty for those on the receiving end.

You could still argue that all of this sounds basic, and I agree, but the thing is – it works. Thanks to all this, Das Geisterschiff rarely falls into a routine of predictable/throwaway encounters, because something can always go wrong, not to mention that they work well at burning through your resources. These would be health, which can be replenished if you find extra armour plating in a level, and ammunition, which can’t be refilled at all, and which makes running from unnecessary encounters all the more important.

However, there’s one big bummer that strips the combat of many of its merits, and that’s the enemy AI. I can understand simple bots being dumb, but the game also involves fights with enemy commandos who are just as likely to fall for the cheapest of tricks and who sometimes act in odd ways. For example, if you go into a minefield and combat starts, you’d expect your foe to wait for you to come through the hazard, but no, they’re in fact very happy to clear the way for you, often leaving themselves vulnerable once they need to reload after shooting the mines. Further, and this is a much bigger problem, running away from enemies is often as easy as moving around a column in circles until they lose interest and leave.

Finally, I think a major oversight that doesn’t let the combat really shine, and which lends itself to some of the AI exploits, is that you always face single enemies. If they came at least in pairs sometimes, you’d have to think much harder about tackling them efficiently, be careful about getting cornered, etc. Bonus points if you could also turn them against each other with friendly fire or just pre-scripted animosity.​

Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: Das Geisterschiff

There are 29 comments on RPG Codex Review: Das Geisterschiff

Sat 15 December 2018

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Sat 15 December 2018, 01:46:57

Tags: Leonard Boyarsky; Obsidian Entertainment; The Outer Worlds; Tim Cain

There have been a few more articles about The Outer Worlds published in the media since last week's big preview blast. Most notably, a short article at Kotaku that clarifies that despite its first-person perspective, the game will not be a Fallout: New Vegas-style open world RPG. Structurally, it'll be more similar to traditional 2000s-era RPGs like Knights of the Old Republic 2. That's a rare combination, which raises the possibility that the game might actually be a bit like Deus Ex. And what do you know, Deus Ex actually gets a mention in today's extensive interview with Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky at PC Gamer. It's a long piece in which Tim and Leonard discuss both the lessons they've learned over the course of the careers as well as the various design decisions they've made on The Outer Worlds. I'll try to quote the most interesting parts here:

PC Gamer: When you thought about the games you've made before, what did you say at the beginning of developing this game that you wanted to do differently? Not just the theme, but the guiding tenants of the design, of the story you wanted to tell, what the player was going to be able to do in the game. What did you want to do that you hadn't done before?

Tim: When we made Fallout, I was always going 'in the main quest, you always have to be able to fight your way, talk your way, or sneak your way through. Since then all this stuff has happened with companions and people love having companions. We're not doing romance because, well, that's been done. But I wanted to explore the things a player can do with his companions that still felt like the player's the hero, but make the companions much more integral to his path through the game. And that's what that fourth path came up, the leader idea.

There are skills that support it. The way you interact with your companions changes, and it's just a really interesting path through the game. It's more of a jack of all trades. Once you switch out companions you're good at different things. That is a really fun character to play because you're like, 'hey, let's go try and talk to these people.' You do it and fail. 'Okay, you two go back in the ship. I'm going to load out these two combat guys and we're just going to go kill everybody.' You can't do that with other characters. You can't just change your build on the fly like that.

Wes: One of the things I thought was interesting in the dialogue you showed: if you don't have a high enough intimidate skill, you'll still show the option there to make the player go, 'oh, I wish I had that.' Are there cases in dialogue using one of those skills, like intimidation or persuasion, where it fails if you're not at a high enough level?

Tim: No, it will always succeed if you're high enough level. One reason we show when you're close is you could always take a drug that improved that skill. You could run back to your ship and get a companion that can improve the skill or you can say, 'wait, I'll be back.' You'd go up a level, put all the points into that skill, and come back. So you have all these options if you're really close. That's why I like it.

Leonard: When you get to major story points or major turning points in the main story arc, nine times out of 10 to get into the place where you can start using your dialogue skills effectively, you have to have an extra piece of information, maybe have done research on the character, find that item that they've always been looking for because you've talked to people and you find that out. It's not just a simple matter of like, 'I'm going to put all my points into dialogue skills and then whenever I talk to these guys, I get those options.' Once you get those options, they'll get you to where you want to go.

To answer one of your previous questions, this is maybe something we have learned, over the years. We used to do dialogue where you had to pick the right choices all along this path to open up the [skill-based] dialogue choices, and then you have to pick the right dialogue ones, and it's just like 'I put all my points into dialogue and if I blow this, I'm screwed, because I'm going to have to end up fighting this guy.' So we wanted to make it still feel challenging. It still felt like you were making choices, but a much more directed form of that. So you don't have to get every decision right to get into the right place to be able to pick the right dialogue skill, if that makes sense.

Wes: I think a lot of people will see shades of Mass Effect in Outer Worlds. In Mass Effect you would go to a planet, do a whole hub and then you leave and you probably wouldn't go back to it if it wasn't like the Citadel. How are the explorable spaces in this game going to compare? It seems like you're gonna be returning to places a bit more. You're spending more time in different areas of these two planets?

Tim: You're returning to the planets a lot, but going to different areas.

Leonard: And it just depends how you want to play it. What we showed off in the demo, that's a fairly large area. You could go through there and spend a whole bunch of time exhausting everything in that area. I don't know if there's anything that sends you back to that specific area, but in other places we do have things that'll send you back so you can see how your choices have influenced the outcome. Once again, it's the open-endedness of letting you play how you want. If you're on a main quest and you're like, 'oh, I want to get here so I can get over to this place, maybe I won't spend all the time like exhausting every corner of this map.' It feels a little bit more open-ended, or at least we hope that's what it will feel like to players.

Wes: Are there any other forms of interactivity in the game, beyond combat and talking to characters? You showed a really brief lockpicking segment that seemed like it was just, hold a button and if your skill is a high enough threshold, it works. Are there puzzles or minigames, things you're intereacting with in the world?

Leonard: We originally talked about lockpicking minigames or hacking minigames. There's a couple different schools of thought. Some people here believe that they have yet to run into one of those types of minigames that is actually satisfying to play over and over and over again. And, you know, once again, we're starting from scratch. If I want to play a stealth character who lockpicks a lot, if I don't like the kind of minigame we picked, then is it going to make my experience worse? That is an art in and of itself. So instead of us taking time to figure out the different minigames and iterate on those games and polish them and make them fun, we would just rather concentrate on creating this great new IP with this new world that people are going to love, hopefully. And this great story and this great setting. It would be detrimental if we came up with minigames that weren't fun. I don't think it's detrimental to not have those minigames as a stealth player.

Tim: We put a lot of puzzles into the game itself. There's this is one area where if you're really good at hacking, you can hack a terminal and get the robots to attack each other, but if you put your points more into sneaking, then you can go sneak into an area to get the access code for that terminal and get them to fight each other. And then if you're just so good at sneaking and have absolutely no hacking whatsoever, just sneak by the robots altogether and don't even try to get them to fight each other. But what I like about that is you often find people go, 'I keep trying to sneak by the robots but I can't. What's that computer do? Ohhh.' If you're trying to do something and it's too hard there's always another way to do it. And we tried to do it without the Deus Ex 'there's always going to be a big vent.' Sometimes it's like, what in this environment have I not tried to use yet? Or am I like two points away from being able to hack something? Wait, this drug makes me smarter and smarts make my hacking better. Ding, I can temporarily hack this. And that just feels fun. It feels like a great use of both that drug and my hacking skills.
Other topics covered in the interview include combat quality (they're trying, but it's going to be a compromise) and the possibility of a pacifist playthrough (they're not sure, but in any case killing robots doesn't count). There's also a frank admission by Tim and Leonard that the original Fallout was basically a fluke (something that Leonard has spoken about before) which made them think they could do it all alone. The subsequent experience of the Troika years humbled them and taught them to become more focused team players.

There are 131 comments on Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky on The Outer Worlds at PC Gamer

Fri 14 December 2018

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 14 December 2018, 19:36:14

Tags: Owlcat Games; Pathfinder: Kingmaker; Pathfinder: Kingmaker - The Wildcards

The Wildcards, Owlcat Games' first DLC for Pathfinder: Kingmaker, was delayed a week and is out today (once again colliding with an Obsidian release!). As stated in last month's season pass announcement, The Wildcards adds a new race - Tieflings, a new class - Kineticists, and a new companion - Kaessi the Tiefling Kineticist. It's not a big DLC, but then Owlcat seem to have enough work on their hands as it is. Maybe that's why there's no release trailer, which is weird because even the Bloody Mess free DLC got one. I'll just post the description:

Fiend blood runs through their veins, whispering cruel truths and evil ideas. Who are they? Tieflings, the outcasts of the civilized world.

Living channels of elemental energy, tamers of wild power - who are they? Kineticists, masters of occult elemental skills.

A mysterious stranger crosses the threshold of your barony - marked with the blood of devils, gifted with the power of the elements. Who is she? Discover for yourself!

This new DLC for Pathfinder: Kingmaker includes:
  • A new playable race. During the poll to decide which bonus race we were going to add to the game, one particular option was requested a lot (besides the winner - Aasimars): Tieflings, the people with a drop of demonic blood in their veins. They didn't make it into the base game, but became the natural choice for the first piece of post-release content.
  • A new playable class. They master the raw power of the elements, channeling it into their wild talents to manipulate the world around them. Kineticists are living conduits of primal energy, deadly both in close and ranged combat.
  • A new companion. If you combine a race with a class, you get a character. Welcome your new companion, the Tiefling Kineticist who comes, just like every other companion, with her own storyline. She could also be a romance option and may hold one of the positions in the Kingdom.
The new companion will join your party in the beginning of Chapter 2. Those who would like to add the companion to their current playthrough can do so at any point before the end of Chapter 5 ("War of the River Kings"): the companion will ask for an audience at your throne room. However, we would advise to begin your acquaintance with the character as soon as possible.​

The Wildcards is available now on Steam and GOG for $8. Alongside the DLC comes a new hotfix, which you can read about here. Kingmaker's second major patch was also supposed to come out this month, but has been delayed to mid-January.

There are 40 comments on Pathfinder: Kingmaker - The Wildcards DLC Released

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 14 December 2018, 02:07:21

Tags: Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire; Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire - The Forgotten Sanctum

Although it might be overlooked in the wake of The Outer Worlds' announcement, today Obsidian released The Forgotten Sanctum, the third and final expansion DLC for Pillars of Eternity II. We already learned a good deal about The Forgotten Sanctum in last month's Fig update, but now there's finally a trailer. It's narrated by the archmage Maura, who appears to be up to no good.

Alongside the core content of the expansion, Obsidian's team of youngsters have also added something called the Critter Cleaver, a Doctor Moreau-esque contraption that allows you to vivisect and recombine your pets. Josh Sawyer is suitably horrified by what his underlings have created. You can read more about it in the new Fig update, which also has a bunch of new screenshots and the latest details about the expansion's accompanying Patch 4.0. I'll quote the parts that have changed from last month's update:

Patch 4.0

Thanks to all the wonderful Watchers who participated in the Beta test, the Deadfire team is proud to release patch 4.0 alongside "The Forgotten Sanctum". Check out the full list!
  • One additional sub-class per class:
    • Tactician (Fighter)
    • Furyshaper (Barbarian)
    • Debonaire (Rogue)
    • Steel Garrote (Paladin)
    • Arcane Archer (Ranger)
    • Forbidden Fist (Monk)
    • Bellower (Chanter)
    • Priest of Woedica (Priest)
    • Ancient (Druid)
    • Blood Mage (Wizard)
    • Psion (Cipher)
  • Two new Mega Bosses
    • The Arcane Savant, Sigilmaster Auranic - Don't judge this megaboss by her size - Auranic may just be the most powerful wizard the Watcher has had the misfortune to face.
    • The Helfire Construct, Dorudugan - This construct comes wreathed in flame and comes crashing down to face any who dare face it.
There's a tone of finality to this update, which also includes a full list of all the major updates Pillars II has received since it was released in May. However, there have been rumors of an additional secret god challenge mode that doesn't appear to have been added to the game, and the console port is coming out next year, so perhaps we haven't seen our last Fig update quite yet. The Forgotten Sanctum is available now on Steam and GOG for the usual price of $10.

There are 33 comments on Pillars of Eternity II Fig Update #59: The Forgotten Sanctum Released

Thu 13 December 2018

Preview - posted by Infinitron on Thu 13 December 2018, 01:38:21

Tags: Ctrl Alt Ninja; Druidstone: The Secret of the Menhir Forest

Rock Paper Shotgun's John Walker appears to be the first journalist to get his hands on a preview build of Druidstone, the upcoming turn-based tactical RPG from the former Legend of Grimrock devs at Ctrl Alt Ninja. The preview appears to consist of a multi-stage combat scenario, with resource attrition playing a major factor. John finds the game's emphasis on tactics and resource management over system mastery and powerbuilding appealing. It certainly sounds quite challenging, although keep in mind we are talking about John Walker here. Here's an excerpt:

The last thing I was expecting Druidstone: The Secret Of The Menhir Forest to remind me of was a deck-builder. Not least because it doesn’t feature any decks. And yet, there’s something about this deeply tactical isometric RPG, from Legend Of Grimrock’s creators, that contains the same spirit of gradually gaining a deeper and more refined understanding of a limited set of tools, through repeated failure, and incremental improvement.

This is at first glance a very traditional turned-based RPG – much as Grimrock recalled the glory days of the first-person dungeon crawler, this visually suggested memories of late-90s BioWare-ish battling. But playing it, it quickly becomes apparent this isn’t going to be a game that lets you spam your most powerful attacks at repeated mobs, but rather something that’s going to demand a lot more planning, a lot more forethought. This is going to be tough.

Gosh, it’s so tough. At one point over the weekend I emailed the game’s creators, Ctrl Alt Ninja, to say, “Ha ha, you got me. This is impossible, isn’t it?” They’d warned me it was hard. “Pretty hard for first timers, so good luck!” they said when first sending me this single level, before deploying a telling smiley face. But, I thought I’d realised, they were teasing me. Because once I’d managed to survive the first two mobs (three attempts), I then took about five goes to get past the third. (This is no rogue-like – the game checkpoints you within a level, although I was soon to learn this is as much a curse as a blessing.) But I did it! I was mastering this thing!

And then the level’s boss appeared, and started conjuring four other utterly lethal enemies every third turn, while at the same time turning the floor on which my team were standing into some terrifying roulette of death. I had a single go at just attacking everything, and that quickly proved suicide. So I thought: tactics! I left two of my three heroes on the other side of the door before triggering him, perhaps sacrifice the one guy while the other two sprint for freedom? Oops, nope, because a) the key to rescue the prisoner we were here for in the first place was in with the boss, and b) it turned out that coming in the way I wanted to escape were approximately 49 billion skellingtons, priests and demons, and they were flipping raising other monstrosities from beneath as they went.

So it was that I sent my you-got-me email. “Oh haha, it’s literally impossible!” I began. “You meanies,” I finished. And yet when their reply came back, it was a list of tips. They were for real. I’m meant to be able to do this. “Now, go and defeat that sick bastard,” Petri Häkkinen concluded. “I’m counting on you!”

Yeah I think I know who’s the sick bastard mumble mumble.

One of the most important points Häkkinen made in his hints was to say,

“If you have wasted a lot of abilities early in the mission (it can easily happen to beginners because they don’t know the basic premise of the game yet), it could be easier to just restart the demo and replay the early parts. You will find the early fights much easier this time.”
Yup, that really was it. Because as I mentioned, Druidstone is a game that makes me think of Slay The Spire meets XCOM 2 before it makes me think of Neverwinter Nights. At the start of this level, each of my characters has a healthy list of abilities, spells, attacks. But a lot of them have little numbers alongside. Aava, a ranged character with a bow, also has the ability to raise a companion from defeat! Except that has a little “1” by it. And that means she gets to do it precisely once this entire level. That’s not per encounter, but per whole mission. Her volley attack that allows me to hit two enemies in one shot also comes with a dreaded “1”. Meanwhile little Oiko, a sort of mage-thief, can stab up close as often as he likes (which isn’t often with his paltry health pool), and fire ranged Forcebolts with alacrity, but his AOE Fire spell only has three charges, and powerful chaining Lightning just the one.

And yes, of course, I’d used them all up when fighting the mob of rats, then the small gang of skeletons, and indeed mopped up any remaining taking on the even more powerful band of druids who appeared after. My cupboards were bare but for the simplest attacks come the big boss, my heals and revives had gone, and I wasn’t in any fit state for anything. And you know what else? He was right. Playing again those earlier fights that had left me so ragged? They weren’t so tough! Without any of the limited abilities, too!

It’s that sense of having a far better understanding of my ‘deck’ from each repeated attempt at each set of encounters, which cards I really don’t want to exhaust, as it were, that made this the case. Except, that is, until the priests and their guards.
See the full preview to learn how John's Druidstone adventure ended (spoiler: he failed to finish the scenario). Although still in alpha, it sounds like the game is in very good shape. Hopefully we'll get to see some footage from the preview build ourselves at some point.

There are 18 comments on Druidstone Preview at Rock Paper Shotgun

Sun 9 December 2018

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sun 9 December 2018, 02:06:24

Tags: Operencia: The Stolen Sun; Zen Studios

A few years ago, due to the runaway success of the original Legend of Grimrock, it seemed like a new blobber was being announced every other month. That success largely failed to repeat itself, so it's a surprise to encounter a new one in late 2018, coming right after the failure of Bard's Tale IV. Especially when it's being made by Zen Studios, a Hungarian developer best known for their pinball adaptations. The game's title is Operencia: The Stolen Sun, and it's a turn-based dungeon crawler with a setting based on Hungarian folklore and mythology. It actually looks rather pretty, although some will disapprove of the apparent absence of party creation. As usual, here's the announcement trailer and Steam page description:

Zen Studios’ modern homage to classic first-person dungeon-crawlers takes you to the land of Operencia, an unconventional fantasy world inspired by a faraway land referenced in countless Central European folktales. An old-school turn-based battle system combines with inspiration from unexplored mythology to offer an RPG experience that feels unique yet also familiar.

A Tale for the Ages
An unknown force has abducted the Sun King Napkiraly, leaving Operencia in a state of perpetual darkness – and eventual doom. From hidden royal tombs and cursed castles to an ascent up the World Tree to reach the Copper Forest of the Land of the Gods, explore diverse settings throughout the far reaches of the land…and beyond. Each location boasts its own unique atmosphere, visual style, level design and puzzles, and many take place entirely outdoors.

Where History Meets Legend
Operencia is home to an intriguing mix of unexplored mythology and fantastical versions of actual historical locations (e.g., Deva Fortress, Balvanyos) and characters (e.g., Attila, Seven Chieftains of the Magyars), all coming together to form one cohesive new gaming universe. Several of your own seven party members take influence from heroes of forgotten tales told hundreds of years ago, such as the brave knight Mezey and Sebastian the Dragon Slayer.

Classic Gameplay and Exploration
Along with a deeply strategic turn-based battle system full of spells and special skills to execute, tile-based movement encourages thorough exploration of each area. For added challenge, turn on Cartographer mode to plot out each of the 13 maps yourself. How many secrets will you find?

Beautiful Presentation
Breathtaking hand-drawn cutscenes and fabulous 2D character portraits bring the story to life in a style not easily compared to any other game. More than 30 colorful roles are fully voiced through top-tier performances authentic to the game’s Central European roots.

Other Key Features
  • Explore 13 diverse, puzzle-filled levels
  • Defeat more than 50 enemy types
  • Switch between 7 fully upgradable – and memorable – characters
  • Robust difficulty settings allow you to select options such as limiting saves, implementing permadeath, and disabling auto-mapping to create your own
  • Stunning visuals powered by Unreal Engine 4
  • An epic orchestral score composed by Arthur Grosz
  • Fully 3D environments, enemies and objects, plus high-fidelity advanced effects with dynamic shadows and lighting
  • AAA Indie production quality and polish with top-tier voice acting, soundtrack, cutscenes and writing
Zen Studios' goal is to create Hungary's own "Witcher moment". I really don't think they're going to achieve that with this game, but hey, might as well put those pinball bucks to good use. You can read more about Operencia on the game's official website. It's supposed to come out sometime next year.

There are 44 comments on Operencia: The Stolen Sun is an upcoming turn-based dungeon crawler by a Hungarian pinball developer

Fri 7 December 2018

Preview - posted by Infinitron on Fri 7 December 2018, 19:01:12

Tags: Charles Staples; Leonard Boyarsky; Matthew Singh; Megan Starks; Obsidian Entertainment; The Outer Worlds; Tim Cain

We didn't have to wait long to learn more about The Outer Worlds. Not only were a whole bunch of highly detailed previews published today, but Game Informer got their hands on 14 minutes of gameplay footage. The footage reveals a game that is clearly aiming to be an all but explicit Fallout: New Vegas clone, from its traditional dialogue trees and silent protagonist to its authentically Gamebryo-esque janky combat. There's even a VATS equivalent slow mode called Tactical Time Dilation (TTD). In the scenario shown, the protagonist and his two companions answer a distress call and embark on a short mission to retrieve a corporate scientist's stolen research (on "diet toothpaste") from a group of bandits. There are low intelligence dialogue options, and we get to see the flaw system mentioned in the game's Steam description in action. It's a shame about the two annoying journos talking over it, though.

Here are links to all of today's previews:

There's more information in these previews than I can possibly be bothered to summarize on my own, but pretty much any one of them will tell you all you need to know. Obsidian seem to have little to hide, which makes me hopeful that the game will come out on schedule. For the most critical edge, the RPG Site preview is probably the best. They also have a bonus interview with Megan Starks. Oh, and one last thing - there are no romances!

There are 134 comments on The Outer Worlds Gameplay Footage, Previews and Interviews

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 7 December 2018, 12:14:41

Tags: Leonard Boyarsky; Obsidian Entertainment; Private Division; The Outer Worlds; Tim Cain

Yesterday was The Game Awards, the annual video game awards show hosted by cheerful industry propagandist Geoff Keighley. As usual, there were a bunch of premieres and trailers unveiled at the event. Even BioWare showed up to remind us that Dragon Age still exists. But we were all watching for one reason only, for that moment when Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky went up on the stage to reveal Obsidian's new RPG, now officially confirmed as The Outer Worlds. It's a colorful first-person sci-fi action-RPG set on a corporate-controlled space colony on the edge of the galaxy. Here's the announcement trailer and the description from the game's Steam page:

The Outer Worlds is a new single-player first-person sci-fi RPG from Obsidian Entertainment and Private Division.

In The Outer Worlds, you awake from hibernation on a colonist ship that was lost in transit to Halcyon, the furthest colony from Earth located at the edge of the galaxy, only to find yourself in the midst of a deep conspiracy threatening to destroy it. As you explore the furthest reaches of space and encounter various factions, all vying for power, the character you decide to become will determine how this player-driven story unfolds. In the corporate equation for the colony, you are the unplanned variable.

Key Features
  • The player-driven story RPG: In keeping with the Obsidian tradition, how you approach The Outer Worlds is up to you. Your choices affect not only the way the story develops; but your character build, companion stories, and end game scenarios.
  • You can be flawed, in a good way: New to The Outer Worlds is the idea of flaws. A compelling hero is made by the flaws they carry with them. While playing The Outer Worlds, the game tracks your experience to find what you aren't particularly good at. Keep getting attacked by Raptidons? Taking the Raptiphobia flaw gives you a debuff when confronting the vicious creatures, but rewards you with an additional character perk immediately. This optional approach to the game helps you build the character you want while exploring Halcyon.
  • Lead your companions: During your journey through the furthest colony, you will meet a host of characters who will want to join your crew. Armed with unique abilities, these companions all have their own missions, motivations, and ideals. It's up to you to help them achieve their goals, or turn them to your own ends.
  • Explore the corporate colony: Halcyon is a colony at the edge of the galaxy owned and operated by a corporate board. They control everything... except for the alien monsters left behind when the terraforming of the colony’s two planets didn’t exactly go according to plan. Find your ship, build your crew, and explore the settlements, space stations, and other intriguing locations throughout Halcyon.
The Outer Worlds appears to be aimed squarely at fans of Fallout who are disappointed with recent offerings from Bethesda, and it's certainly being received that way. We know the game has been in development since 2016, so it's not surprising that it's scheduled for release next year. Screenshots are available on the Steam page and on the game's official website. It looks like there are also going to be some previews coming out later today, so stay tuned.

There are 285 comments on Obsidian's new game is The Outer Worlds, a first-person sci-fi RPG set on a corporate space colony

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