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Thu 5 December 2019

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 5 December 2019, 22:16:58

Tags: Bigben Interactive; Black Shamrock; Cyanide Studio; Paranoia: Happiness is Mandatory

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Paranoia: Happiness is Mandatory was supposed to have been out on October 3rd. The game looked decent and that date would have put it right between Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones and Disco Elysium, making for a very exciting month for RPGs. But then Bigben announced that the game was going Epic-exclusive for a year, and then it got delayed...twice! Today the game was finally quietly pushed out with no promotion whatsoever. There isn't even a launch trailer.

You can grab Paranoia from the Epic Games Store for $30 (or $35 for the Ultraviolet Edition which includes some cosmetic DLC and an "experimental weapon"). But honestly, if the publisher has so little confidence in their product, I don't see how they can expect gamers to have any. I wonder what the hell happened here.

There are 49 comments on Paranoia: Happiness is Mandatory Released

Wed 4 December 2019

Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Wed 4 December 2019, 23:58:30

Tags: Solasta: Crown of the Magister; Tactical Adventures

Tactical Adventures have published this month's development recap Kickstarter update for Solasta: Crown of the Magister. Confusingly there was a recap post on their website two weeks ago that didn't go to Kickstarter, which makes this seem kind of arbitrary, but whatever. The game's CrowdOx pledge management portal went online around the same time and the Codex fundraiser pledges are in, so that's good. I'd also recommend checking out the lore update they published on their website a week before that. Anyway, here's an excerpt from today's update:

Art Direction - Research
What do you show new players when they enter the Character Creation screen? Sometimes, seemingly simple questions like these bring up quite a lot of discussions. Do we go for simplicity with a static, cool-looking concept art of the party? Wait... how would that work since the player is supposed to create his four characters from scratch? Who do we show on screen in that case?

While we're still early in development and everything can be subject to changes, our Art Director proposed to go with a dynamic landing screen. By default, you would get four pre-generated characters on screen - and clicking on one would take you to the Character Creation screen where you can switch them with your very own creation, changing the Character Creation screen accordingly every time you swap party members.

Speaking of Character Creation, our Concept Artist has started working on a wide variety of haircuts, beards and moustaches! Note that haircuts and facial hair can be chosen separately, they are not linked together.

For those who might have missed our mid-November Developer Update (only available on our Website), here is also the first visual for our World Map, which will be used to travel from location to location (very early draft).

Monsters & Enemies

We've talked a lot about adventurers and their ilk, but what about the true citizens of Solasta? Those who are shunned by the more "advanced" societies just because they happen to enjoy a little bit of violence and murder. Discrimination, that's what. Of course, it would be hard to have a good High Fantasy setting without the classics. Orcs... and Goblins! You've already met your friendly orc neighbours in the Ruins of Telema (and perhaps even enjoyed a fair few rounds of fisticuffs, they do so enjoy physical activities), so prepare to greet our Goblins!

Now that their 3D models are done, our lead animator Grégoire (who was the guest of our previous article on Animation) is going to spend a good chunk of time bringing them to life! Walking, running, attacking, dying... There's plenty to be done.

Aside from Goblins, our Concept Artist has also worked on bringing some wildlife to the world of Solasta. Behold the wolf!

New Features
One of the much needed features that we couldn't implement in time for the Kickstarter Demo was a functional 3D Map of the level so that players wouldn't get lost in the level. We haven't forgotten about it, and we are now testing a new version that's already working much better than the previous one. Note that it still looks very rough for now, and we plan to remove some elements to improve its readability.

We've also created a tool that adjusts the water level of the ground to add muddy pools and make humid caverns look more realistic! Hopefully those are tools that will be available for the community once the Modding SDK is made public.

Read our previous articles here:
Check out the full update for lots of images and animated GIFs.

There are 1 comments on Solasta Kickstarter Update #33: Dev Journal - Dungeons & Goblins

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Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 4 December 2019, 20:34:11

Tags: Alexander Mishulin; Owlcat Games; Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous

It was always clear that Owlcat Games would follow up the success of Pathfinder: Kingmaker with another Pathfinder RPG. Last week they began teasing something on social media, with a series of images gradually revealing a hidden artwork. It seems that by Sunday the Pathfinder experts in the audience became convinced that they were looking at an adaptation of a certain tabletop adventure path, and they were not mistaken. Today Owlcat officially revealed Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous. It's an epic adventure set in the Worldwound region of Golarion, where a planar tear to the Abyss has unleashed a permanent demonic invasion. According to PC Gamer, who got an early look at the game's feature list, Wrath of the Righteous will include at least two new base classes (the Witch and the Oracle), a new race and new archetypes, plus it'll incorporate the Mythic progression system which is basically Pathfinder's take on epic level abilities. The game will also feature some sort of equivalent to Kingmaker's kingdom management layer, which I guess is now an Owlcat trademark. I'll just post PC Gamer's entire writeup here:


I never set out to become a king, but apparently the king life can just choose you, as my poor confused Cleric found out in my first playthrough of 2018's Pathfinder: Kingmaker. He showed up trying to pay off his student loans and ended up sitting on a throne fending off dryads, giant owlbears, and tax collectors.

At release, Kingmaker offered deadly CRPG combat and memorable moments of humor (like the Inconsequent Debates quest) alongside a unique kingdom management aspect. "The muscle memory I developed playing Baldur’s Gate for hundreds of hours came straight back to me," Andy Kelly wrote in our review.

However, Kingmaker also drew criticism from a number of bugs and contentious difficulty. As Owlcat Games announces Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous today, the studio looks to build on the series' foundation. “We learned a lot from the launch of the Pathfinder: Kingmaker. Now we are making a lot of effort to make sure the game will be released far more polished. A lot of issues came from the fact that the player has a lot of choices in the game, and some of those choices (especially ones that are set apart by 20-30 hours of gameplay) tend to interact in the ways that we didn’t predict.” said Alexander Mishulin, creative director at Owlcat. Mishulin also described additional tools that have been created to help level designers “follow the entire decision tree to make sure the team appropriately addresses all branches.”

Wrath of the Righteous will migrate the RPG to a new part of the world of Golarion, the Worldwound, a demon-infested wasteland where a planar tear to the Abyss—which you’ll be able to visit—has opened. This unfortunate landscape is where you’ll be thrown into a war between mortals and demons. I imagine that a widespread demonic siege will ratchet up the stakes a bit. I’m definitely more worried about rampaging demons than whether or not to pay off a mafia of bards, as I frequently found myself doing in Kingmaker.

Wrath’s setting is actually based on the adventure module for the Pathfinder tabletop game of the same name, so “players of the original adventure path will encounter a lot of familiar faces and encounters, but [there] also will be new characters, twists, and stories,” said Mishulin.

With this change in setting comes a corresponding shift in visual style, moving Pathfinder towards a darker vibe. A meager, single piece of art has been released so far, but from it I can see that the emphasis on the angelic versus the demonic is heavy, and that the action is more dangerous: swords are bloodied and demons are having their faces disassembled.

Owlcat is also bringing at least two new base classes and the mythic progression system from the Pathfinder tabletop game. This system will let you pick from several different Mythics, including a mischievous trickster, an immortal lich, a celestial angel, and others. The mythic progression system grants quite a few powerful ability choices in the tabletop game, so you can expect to have an extra layer of customization on your main character.

Regarding new classes, we know for sure that the Witch—who operates precisely like you’d expect with spells, hexes, and a witch's familiar—will be making an appearance. Alongside them, the Oracle, who is a kind of belief-oriented holy spellcaster, is joining the cast to butt heads with the demonic hordes. There’s no concrete details on which other classes or prestige classes will appear, but there will be new ones beyond those that appeared in Kingmaker, and there’s also going to be a new race and new archetypes to play with.

The unique part of Kingmaker was certainly the kingdom management, and I’m hoping the system will add more meaningful choices in assembling settlements and reduce the number of high risk/low reward events. “In the Wrath of the Righteous we want to keep the best parts of the mix of strategic and RPG experiences," Mishulin told me. "Make it slightly deeper, with a better connection to the core experience and tailored to the story of the Wrath of the Righteous. And of course, we will be listening to our fans to make this system even more enjoyable.”

From the sounds of it, we’ll see a return of a similar system. Perhaps Wrath will put a focus on managing the war effort against the demonic invaders similar to Mass Effect 3? I’d certainly like to see my next befuddled cleric confront a more serious threat, though I imagine he’ll probably be trying to figure out if his loan servicer will accept demon scales.

Owlcat hasn’t shared a release window with this announcement, but more information should come with time over on Wrath of the Righteous' official website.
Owlcat, who left their corporate parent and became an independent studio back in October, apparently raised $1M from venture capital firm GEM Capital to help finance this game. It's unclear if that means there won't be a crowdfunding campaign, although you'd think they would have mentioned it to PC Gamer if they were planning one. By the way, according to GamesIndustry's article about it, Chris Avellone is involved with this too.

There are 52 comments on Owlcat Games' next RPG is Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous

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Mon 2 December 2019

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Mon 2 December 2019, 23:57:16

Tags: 4 Dimension Games; Archaelund

Back in February we posted about Archaelund, the upcoming Realms of Arkania-style RPG by the Codex's DavidBVal set in the world of his previous game Exiled Kingdoms. Archaelund was originally supposed to come out on Steam Early Access in early 2020, but now it looks like it's going to be late 2020. The game has come far enough along to get its own Steam page though, including a super cool teaser trailer. I'll post the trailer along with the Early Access FAQ:

Why Early Access?

There is already an active community following Archaelund's development in forums; we want to broaden this community and give them an Early Access version so they can participate. Listening to players is essential, plus we love to have an active community playing, enjoying the updates and providing feedback during the upcoming years of development.

Approximately how long will this game be in Early Access?

The goal is to release the first Early Access version in fall 2020, then over the following years to make gradual updates until all the planned content is implemented. Our priority is making the game as good as it can get, and make it huge, so we have no dates set in stone.

How is the full version planned to differ from the Early Access version?
  • The Early Access version to be released on fall 2020 includes around 30% of the whole planned geographical areas.
  • Some of the already available areas might be improved during development.
  • The Early Access version covers the character progression up to a limited level, based on the available content at the time.
  • Many more Advanced Careers and playable races are planned, as moving into new Careers is an important part of the character development once mid and high levels are reached.
  • The first Early Access release only includes the first chapter of the Main Quest.
We will make a great effort to make all saved games compatible through each Early Access update.

What is the current state of the Early Access version?

The Early Access version scheduled for fall 2020 will be a playable game with all the core mechanics of Archaelund being functional. The geographical content will include most of the Southern March, a large semi-civilized region of Archaelund. The first chapter of the game's main quest will be completable, as well as dozens of handcrafted quests. This amounts to no less than 30 hours of playable content, probably more.

Will the game be priced differently during and after Early Access?
We will gradually raise the price during the Early Access stage, as we add content and features.

How are you planning on involving the Community in your development process?
By listening attentively, of course! Both positive and negative feedback will be considered. No matter how much thought and work we put into a game, the interaction with players and listening to their opinion is essential to reach the full potential of Archaelund.
Fall 2020 seems like a long time from now, but it's all relative. David tells us he's planned a five year development cycle, with almost four years still left to go until the game's final release.

There are 14 comments on Archaelund gets a teaser trailer, releasing on Early Access in Fall 2020

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Interview - posted by Infinitron on Mon 2 December 2019, 22:31:25

Tags: Baldur's Gate III (Obsidian Entertainment); Dungeon Siege III; George Ziets; Matt Barton; Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity

After taking a week off, Matt Barton is back with another episode of his interview with George Ziets. The episode starts with a couple more questions about Mask of the Betrayer, which soon leads to more discussion of George's narrative design preferences with regards to settings, stories and choices. After that George talks a bit about Dungeon Siege III, which he returned to Obsidian to make (following a short period at Zenimax working on The Elder Scrolls Online) after having been promised he would get to be narrative lead on Obsidian's Baldur's Gate III (which as we know never got off the ground). Without going into details about internal politics, George confirms again that he was forced to go against his design preferences and simplify DS3's narrative, leading to a title that satisfied neither Dungeon Siege fans nor classic Obsidian RPG fans.

Another game that George has some misgivings about is Pillars of Eternity, which he thinks could have turned out better if Obsidian had selected a single story pitch instead of doing a "contest" that ended up combining elements from multiple pitches. Matt doesn't spend much time on Pillars though and chooses to move straight on to Torment: Tides of Numenera, which is the topic of next week's episode. There might be another one after that, too!

There are 1 comments on Matt Chat 434: George Ziets on Narrative Design, Dungeon Siege III and Pillars of Eternity

Fri 22 November 2019

Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Fri 22 November 2019, 14:05:56

Tags: Anshar Studios; Gamedec

After an exclusive early reveal at PC Gamer yesterday, Anshar Studios have officially published the first in what will be a series of dev diaries for their upcoming cyberpunk virtual world detective RPG Gamedec. The topic of this first video is Low City, the perpetually dark underbelly of 22th century Warsaw where players will spend much of their time between missions. I'll post it here along with an excerpt from the accompanying press release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – November 22nd, Katowice, Poland.

Warsaw City, where Gamedec takes place, isn’t officially divided into districts, but everyone knows if they’re in the upper, middle, or lower part of town. The inhabitants of these three areas have completely different qualities of life. In today's video, Łukasz Hacura, an executive producer from Anshar Studios, together with Marcin Przybyłek, author of the Gamedec saga, explain the complexities of Low City. Watch the video and transport yourself to a place where natural light does not reach.

Watch the first Gamedec development diary HERE and prepare yourself for virtual world investigation.

Low City is a place where, even on a sunny day, it’s so dark you can’t get by without artificial lighting. It’s where apartment prices plummet, Public Transport Tubes terminate, and aurocar stops start to show up.

The lower you get, the lower the population becomes. At the very bottom, called RoU (Roof of the Undercity), you can find both deserted places and areas bustling with life.

If you stand on the lowermost walkway of Low City and look 150 meters down, you will see the mist and dust-covered ruins of Old Warsaw. That’s Undercity. Inhabited by savages who rejected civilized life and nasty creatures like poisonous bats or toxic, mutant rats. Low City is protected from those oddities by MG buoys. Whenever they detect a bat approaching or a rat climbing one of the towers, they open fire, eliminating the menace.

Temperature disparities between Low City and Mid City can cause weather anomalies like dirty rains, created by vapor condensation under the walkways of Mid City.

Low City’s biggest allure are the night clubs that are open 24/7. If you don’t come from this polis layer and you intend to visit it, take a few words of advice.

First, watch your account. Don’t let any suspicious-looking individual, even a kid, come near you without a good reason. Second, don’t believe everything you’re told. Third, think twice before going online using local equipment: it’s all knockoffs and patched-up salvage, infusion liquids are not original, and a “cheap gamepill” can damage your metabolic pathways.

So, if you decide to use local devices or medications – do it at your own risk.

Oh, and pay some kid to watch your stuff while you’re in VR. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.​

Anshar have been running a "Steam Wishlist Challenge" since last month where they'll unlock various goodies as the game receives more wishlists. They're also running a community survey that you might want to check out. There'll be more to come next year, I expect.

There are 28 comments on Gamedec Dev Diary: Introducing Low City

Mon 18 November 2019

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Mon 18 November 2019, 01:30:44

Tags: George Ziets; Matt Barton; Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer; Obsidian Entertainment

In this week's episode of Matt Chat, George Ziets discusses the game considered by many to be the high mark of his career - the Mask of the Betrayer expansion for Neverwinter Nights 2. George and Matt agree that expansions are often better than the original games, both because the developers have more experience by the time they create them and because they're smaller & more focused. According to George, the key to designing great choice & consequence as exemplified in Mask of the Betrayer is to keep the overall number of choices small and make sure each one has drastic and wide-ranging effects. He cites the Okku/One of Many choice as an example. During his time at inXile, George made an effort to design choice & consequence in a similar way.

Near the end of the episode, Matt and George talk a bit about the differences between working at large and small studios. Needless to say, George prefers smaller ones. He also has strong opinions about open office layouts (kill it with fire). According to Matt, there are two more episodes left to go.

There are 36 comments on Matt Chat 433: George Ziets on Mask of the Betrayer

Fri 15 November 2019

Company News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 15 November 2019, 14:14:47

Tags: Adam Brennecke; Chris Avellone; Chris Parker; Feargus Urquhart; Grounded; Josh Sawyer; Obsidian Entertainment; The Outer Worlds

As is custom, a number of gaming outlets were invited to Obsidian's offices a couple of weeks ago to have an early look at their recently announced new game. Eurogamer's Robert Purchese took the opportunity to snoop around and try to find out what else was going at the studio one year after their acquisition by Microsoft. Apparently not a whole lot has changed as of yet. Yes, there are people working on post-launch content for The Outer Worlds. Josh Sawyer is working on something too, Chris Parker is the director of some unannounced project, and Feargus Urquhart is very happy that he gets to spend time actually making games now.

To picture the rest of Obsidian, imagine a square and in each corner you have a different team. There are lots of hallways and rooms - it's not open-planned - but in each corner there's an open area where the occupants of nearby rooms teams can convene.

One of these corners is devoted to The Outer Worlds and shoved into another is Grounded. But the other two? Pillars of Eternity is no longer an active thing so what were all the other people working on? I spied my best, by the way, but didn't see anything incriminating - unsurprising for an organised press tour. But on my way around I did see people like Tim Cain waving from his office (Outer Worlds co-director) and, I'm pleased to say, Josh Sawyer. I'm pleased because I genuinely thought he was going to leave.

Sawyer sounded fed up when he talked at Digital Dragons earlier this year. He said Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadire had been "the most stressful directing experience I've had so far" and that he was "burnt out" directing and making isometric RPGs. He also talked about being overridden a number of times by management during development, which sounded ominous.

But Sawyer is there at Obsidian, beloved bike in his office, headphones on, tapping away at something - as far as I know he's finished making the pen-and-paper Pillars of Eternity role-playing game.

In a separate interview, Sawyer's Pillars pal Adam Brennecke, who's directing Grounded, told me: "Just like with Outer Worlds we have big RPGs being worked on right now. We have a lot of stuff being worked on right now." So I thought I'd ask Feargus Urquhart "how many?" at the end of his guided office walkaround tour.

"More than one, less than forty," he told me with a smile. "We're working on a number."

The Outer Worlds is included in that. A post-release plan hasn't been announced yet but there's still a team in The Outer Worlds corner working on something. Obsidian isn't leaving it behind in a rush to work on Microsoft projects.

"Actually it's the opposite," Urquhart said. "What's always been interesting about the independent developer before was: who was going to pay for support? If I'm not being paid for support by the publisher then [...] we have this weird thing of how do we do it?

"In the Microsoft world, we get to run a studio based on what makes sense for the franchises and I'm not having to make these day-to-day decisions so much. People are obviously loving Outer Worlds and we made it because we love it, so now we get to keep on doing things to help support [it]."
The Codex will be interested to know that Robert has been trying to score a one-on-one interview with Feargus since last year in order to ask him about Chris Avellone's accusations from the now-legendary May of Rage. Those interview requests have been blocked, but clearly Chris did not get what he wanted.

I've wanted to speak to Urquhart since the Microsoft acquisition but for one reason or another I haven't been able or allowed to. Part of that, I'm sure, has to do with my wanting to put the allegations made by former Obsidian design director Chris Avellone to him.

Avellone accused Obsidian management of, among other things, meddling in projects and causing more harm than good, usually resulting in more work for the team. When Microsoft was rumoured to be buying Obsidian, Avellone even went so far as to Tweet Xbox boss Phil Spencer to say, "Hire the devs, fire the chaff at the top." Avellone elaborated on his frustrations with Obsidian management in an interview with VG247 earlier this year.

I still haven't had the chance to really sit down with Urquhart to put Avellone's allegations to him, and all the questions I asked him on this visit were off the cuff, made while we were walking around. It wasn't the time or place. But I did unearth some related information.

Microsoft didn't, for instance, "fire the chaff at the top". The co-owners, "they're all still around", Urquhart told me. No one has taken the money and run. Chris Parker, for instance - director of Alpha Protocol - is now making a new game, presumably in charge of it.

"I want to make role-playing games," Urquhart went on, "my partners want to make role-playing games, so this is the best place to do that. We all laugh [about] going to sit on a beach in Fiji but that would be entertaining for about a month. After your 47th Mai Tai...

"I and my partners - and everybody - got in this to make games. That's what's interesting to me. The thing with Microsoft changes that equation and that's cool."

By changing the equation, he means he no longer has to relentlessly pitch Obsidian to publishers to keep the lights on. "Increasingly my job over the last five years has been business, more and more and more," he said. "But more of my job now gets to actually be working on games."

In what capacity? "Meddling," he told USG, with what had to be a knowing grin. "I would love to be a game director again," he said. "I got to do that back on Fallout 2, I've done it intermittently for short periods of time here, and it would be cool to be a game director again."
As mentioned, USgamer's Kat Bailey was also at Obsidian that day. The details seem to be entirely recounted in Eurogamer's article, but you can read about what Feargus told her here and here.

There are 29 comments on Eurogamer checks in on Obsidian one year after acquisition

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 15 November 2019, 00:44:56

Tags: Brian Fargo; inXile Entertainment; Wasteland 3

Microsoft's much-hyped X019 event in London today ended up giving us little more than a seemingly endless stream of trailers for cartoony multiplayer games. That includes Obsidian's new game, which we're just going to pretend doesn't exist, thank you very much. Yet at the very end it was somewhat redeemed when Brian Fargo was finally allowed on stage, ushered in by Phil Spencer himself to close the show and unveil a new Wasteland 3 trailer. It's a gritty lament for the lost world of 1987, which you can tell because it's got a giant robo-Reagan.

Even before the trailer went out, Wasteland 3's Steam page was updated to indicate that the game is coming out on May 19th. It's on GOG now too, and on both stores the game is now available for preorder for a steep $60. There are some preorder-exclusive items which I expect will also be given to Fig backers. The only thing left to find out now is when backers are getting their hands on Wasteland 3's Early Access beta. Brian Fargo and Jeremy Kopman will be talking more about the game at X019 tomorrow, so maybe it'll be announced then.

There are 52 comments on Wasteland 3 gets new trailer, now available for preorder, releasing on May 19th

Wed 13 November 2019

Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Wed 13 November 2019, 23:51:45

Tags: Andy Kipling; Brian Mitsoda; Cara Ellison; Florian Schwarzer; Hardsuit Labs; Paradox Interactive; Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2

In addition to the development update where Hardsuit apologized for its delay, there were a number of other Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2 panels at PDXCON last month that weren't livestreamed. Each one covering a different essential aspect of the game - combat, facial animations, narrative, and hub design. It seems Paradox aren't ready to release the full recordings of those panels yet, but for today's Bloodlines 2 dev diary they put together a video containing snippets from each one. It's not hugely interesting but there is some new gameplay footage in the facial animations part. Here's the video, along with an excerpt from Hardsuit CEO Andy Kipling's personal recap of his visit to PDXCON.

The next day we woke up early and headed over to the Funkhaus where PDXCon was being hosted. We had the chance to show the very same demo we announced the game with, back in March at GDC. To this day, there have been no recordings of this build, which meant that we could offer our guests something exclusive. As I got into the groove, it was 7 months since I last did this demo, I recognized that we hit our familiar stride with when doing the press demos, a demo that was well received. It would turn out to be a stark contrast to the next day, however.

Saturday the 19th started early. We arrived at the venue around 7:30 am and the fans were already there en masse. Kudos to you all who were standing around outside the early cold fall morning.

Demos with the fans started at 8:30 that morning and immediately I was surprised, excited and impressed. In all my years in this industry and with all the demos I have been a part of, I can not say I have ever had the privilege to present to a group of fans like the people at PDXCon. Within 30 seconds of starting the demo, our audience was clapping, cheering, shouting out answers for dialogue and generally showing a level of excitement I haven’t experienced before. And as a developer, that was super inspiring and emotionally fulfilling. For as early as it was, and as jet-lagged and tired I was, that initial experience was a real inspiration and something I took home to Seattle to share with the team. If only they also had been there. And to top it off, I had a Malkavian cosplayer in our audience!

From there it was a few more demos, followed by the big announcement show. After some quick rehearsals outside on the banks of the river Spree, it was back inside the concrete Funkhaus for a deep dive into combat mechanics, where I stood in for our designers, who had opted to stay home and press on with development. Despite my trepidation, it went off without a hitch.

By then, we had also settled into the rhythm that was our time at PDXCon. If one of us was not manning the demo booth, then someone was off giving a talk, be it on Combat, Living World, Dialogue Systems or the game’s narrative. Oh, and speaking of Narrative, I should note that while my experience reflected most of the other HSL dev’s experience, Brian and Cara, being responsible for our narrative, had quite a different experience; doing back to back interviews for two days straight. I’m truly impressed and glad that they could take on that responsibility.

[...] This takes me to the Dev Update on the main stage at PDXCon. While we did not end PDXCon with the keynote it did mark the culmination of a lot of behind-the-scenes work. We spoke to some of the history of the project, the studio, the relationship with Paradox, where we are presently and most importantly; where we are going from here.

I mentioned this earlier and I will mention it again, but the support that you all have shown us following the delay announcement has been tremendous and wonderful. It is that kind of response that inspires and motivates us developers and so I wanted to personally say thanks. It is something that we not only heard leading up to PDXCon but was reinforced over and over while at the event – do what is necessary and best for the game and we will support you.

So, with that in mind, and as we alluded to in the keynote, we are going to be a bit quieter for a while as we do just that – do what is necessary and best for the game; making it all it can be. This means that you may not hear or see from us as much but that does not mean we have forgotten about you. Rather, we are heads down working to make Bloodlines 2 everything we want it to be. We look forward to seeing you on the flip side. Until then...​

There probably won't be any more major Bloodlines 2 news until next year. I would still like to see those panels though. Maybe with accompanying dev diaries going into further detail?

There are 4 comments on Bloodlines 2 Dev Diary #7: PDXCON Recap

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 13 November 2019, 20:21:13

Tags: Call of Saregnar; Legendworks

Since 2014 or so, esteemed Codexer Damjan Mozetič AKA Rhuantavan has been working on an indie pet project by the name of Call of Saregnar. It's an oldschool first-person party-based RPG inspired by the likes of Betrayal at Krondor, Daggerfall and Realms of Arkania, but mostly by Betrayal at Krondor as you'll soon see. Somehow we never got around to posting news about it until now, but this new trailer Rhuantavan put together for the annual Slovenian Games Conference is the perfect opportunity. Check it out:

Call of Saregnar will probably be in development for quite a while longer, but it's definitely coming along nicely. If you'd like to help Rhuantavan and his small team out, you may wish to consider donating to his Patreon. Additional links and details are available on the game's official website.

There are 36 comments on Check out the first trailer for Betrayal at Krondor homage Call of Saregnar

People News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 13 November 2019, 15:52:22

Tags: Josh Sawyer; Obsidian Entertainment; Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire

Most people realize by now that Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire was a commercial disappointment. The possible reasons for this have been debated over dozens of pages on our forums. Now Josh Sawyer himself has come clean about his game's failure, first in a post on his super secret goon forum two weeks ago, and then publicly as a response to a question on his Tumblr Q&A blog this weekend. His main problem is that he's not sure why the game didn't sell, which makes him a poor candidate to lead development on a sequel.

That is not something that I get to decide, but I do think that the relatively low sales of Deadfire mean that if we consider making another Pillars game in this style, we’re going to have to re-examine the entire format of the game.

It is difficult to know exactly why a sequel sells worse than its predecessor if both games review relatively well. Is it because the first game satisfied the existing need and the audience just wasn’t interested in the second? Is it because awareness was lower for the sequel? Is it because despite the strong reviews and the strong sales for the first game, people didn’t “really” like it? Maybe it’s a combination of all of these things.

The problem is that without really understanding the reason(s), it’s hard to know how to move forward. It would be easier in some ways if Deadfire were also a colossal critical failure and we could point to the massive screw-ups that we needed to address. Players did criticize the low difficulty at launch and the main plot, which I think are fair and reasonable, but those problems alone don’t really explain the difference in sales. And while player reviews were weaker for Deadfire than for Pillars 1, professional criticism tended to say that Deadfire was an improvement over the first game in most areas.

(Yes, Deadfire has an 88 Metacritic and Pillars 1 has an 89 Metacritic, but IMO Pillars 1′s review scores benefited from a nostalgia bump.)

Players who hate RTwP combat will say that it’s because Deadfire continued using RTwP combat, in contrast to the phenomenally better-selling (and better-reviewed) turn-based Divinity: OS2. Even if that’s true, Pathfinder: Kingmaker, which generally had lower review scores than Deadfire, sold better than Deadfire and had RTwP combat.

I’m sure some of the people reading this think they know precisely why Deadfire sold worse than Pillars 1. I don’t have that confidence, which is one of several reasons why I am leery about trying to direct a sequel. I couldn’t give our (Obsidian’s) audience the game that they wanted and without understanding where I went wrong, I would be guessing at what the problems are and how to remedy them.
Josh followed this up with some additional contemplation on Twitter. Faced with this sudden outpouring of agony, many people assumed that he'd become depressed about the whole thing. So it was a bit of surprise when in response to another question on Tumblr today, Josh announced that one of the games he'd be interested in directing is...Pillars of Eternity 3. But only if he can figure out what went wrong and how to fix it.

Most of the games I’m interested in making now aren’t ones that would have very large budgets.

I would like to make something akin to a Darklands spiritual successor at some point, though I would be less likely to cleave to Darklands’ mechanics than I was to stick with IE-ish mechanics in Pillars. I just like historical fantasy, especially in late Medieval/early modern Europe.

I’m still interested in making a game about running a bike shop in Chicago. This one is kind of a combination of a sim game and social interaction game, dealing both with the practical realities of running a bike shop as well as the social dynamics of how communities and bike shops interact.

I think the postbellum rise of Chicago is really fascinating, too, and I’m interested in some sort of game focusing on paranormal investigators during the height of American Spiritualism.

I would love to make a Pillars Tactics-style game that focuses on small set piece encounters and a strong, relatively short story with a lot of choice & consequence.

I’d love to make a medieval/early modern European murder mystery in the vein of Name of the Rose or Cadfael.

As awful as some people might find it, I’d really like to make a deeply cynical near future squad-based tactics game in the vein of Jagged Alliance, but you’re playing as some dickhead VP running a PMC cleanup crew and fucking them over to maintain your profit margins.

And I would be interested in directing Pillars 3 if I can figure out how to make it something I would enjoy that there’s an audience for. It may be that someone else would do a better job at that than me, though.
So what is Josh Sawyer up to these days, anyway? It looks like he's arrived in London for X019, so maybe we'll find out soon.

There are 211 comments on Josh Sawyer says he failed with Pillars II, would direct a third game if he can figure out why

Mon 11 November 2019

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Mon 11 November 2019, 01:32:42

Tags: Adventure Construction Set; Earth & Beyond; George Ziets; Matt Barton; Neverwinter Nights 2; Obsidian Entertainment; Westwood Studios

Matt Barton's interview with George Ziets continues this week with some more discussion of the latter's early career. George got his first taste of game design with Stuart Smith's Adventure Construction Set, a mid-1980s game creation toolset that could be used to create Ultima-like RPGs. After talking a bit about how the industry has changed since then (so much more tools, so much more games), the discussion moves on to the topic of George's first professional game development role on Westwood's failed MMO Earth & Beyond. Apparently the game suffered from severe executive meddling, with the entire plot thrown out six months before it was due to release.

George's next role was on Neverwinter Nights 2, which as we know was a development hell of its own. The interview quickly segues into an amusing bitching session about RPG strongholds. George wishes they would all cut the faux-strategy game crap and just work like the strongholds in Baldur's Gate II. It's a really fun episode, and we haven't even gotten to Mask of the Betrayer yet. More to come next week.

There are 8 comments on Matt Chat 432: George Ziets on Adventure Construction Set, Earth & Beyond and Neverwinter Nights 2

Fri 8 November 2019

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Fri 8 November 2019, 22:06:28

Tags: Baldur's Gate III; Beyond Divinity; Divine Divinity; Divinity II; Divinity: Original Sin; Divinity: Original Sin 2; Larian Studios; Swen Vincke

This is not the Larian news you've been waiting for, but for the first time in months there's reason to believe that something may be about to happen. Last week IGN published a single new Baldur's Gate III concept art of an illithid floating in its nautiloid ship.


It also turns out there was an interview with Swen Vincke in last month's issue of Game Informer, which is now available online. The interview is about the history of Larian and Swen's career, a topic that's been covered well enough in recent times, but I'll quote some of the more recent bits.

So how did Baldur’s Gate happen out of this?

I wanted to license an RPG system, preferably D&D, preferably Baldur’s Gate. I got in touch with them through somebody I knew from the industry. They put me in touch with Nate Stewart, who was the head of D&D, and so I got kind of an exam. Like, “What will you do with it?”

I was like, “I’m the perfect guy to make it.” And [then there was] nothing. But we kept bumping into each other at every trade show.

Eventually he calls me and says, “Do you still want to do this?” And I said, “Yes!” He invited me to downtown Seattle and in a shady bar he presented to me the full map for Baldur’s Gate 3. It was pretty much everything we had talked about. A couple of weeks later he called me and they said yes. So we needed to present them with a design document as we were making Divinity: Original Sin II.

So what was one of the biggest changes you made to Divinity: Original Sin during production?

It used to be a real-time game. We made it turn-based. I see that Yakuza has been taking from our book. [laughs]

I asked myself, “What are we doing? We’re making a real-time game because they told us.” Publishers told us that there’s no way you’re going to get your distribution deals if it’s turn-based. It needs to be real-time, blah, blah, blah. We’ve been conditioned into thinking real-time. I was in the shower, I was like, “What are we doing? We’re gonna be competing with Blizzard making an action RPG? We can’t compete with Blizzard, we don’t have the resources. But no one is making turn-based RPGs anymore. So maybe that’s where we should be going.” And that was a really good move.

For Baldur’s Gate 3, how do you encapsulate the entire Dungeons & Dragons system in a video game? Where do you even begin?

It’s really how do we capture the books, the rule system, the feeling you have at the table in a video game, and how do we do that without alienating people that have never played D&D in their lives. Mixing that, I think we found it. You guys will have to judge. You can’t make a game without taking creative risks. You can, but then you’re just making the same game. We’ve taken a lot of creative risks, more than people will expect, I think, considering the amount of money we’re throwing at it.

For instance, in Divinity: Original Sin II, you can do almost anything. How do you build a ruleset that can handle all that?

We try to be very consistent about it. “Systemic” is the in-house word. If it’s not systemic, it doesn’t go in. Basically, we learned this over time, one of the errors that we made in our early games was we were so focused on getting the money that we were puting the systems in there as gimmicks so that we were going to convince people to put money into the games, right? We learned that if you put something in a game, it has to be consistent throughout the game, something that you can always use. If you can’t, you shouldn’t put it in there. We’ve gotten better at it over time because one of the criticisms was always [that] we were very ambitious, but [the games were] badly executed. What people start discovering in D:OS, we just make those systems work always. Whenever we put in a new system it has to work with the existing systems, and if you make those complete, you get stuff like this. That’s where the beauty comes from.

One of the developers came to me and was like, “I’m playing with my buddy, and I’m doing the exact opposite of everything he wants to do.” He said, like, “[The other player] is gonna ruin the game.” I told him, “Don’t worry about it. This game has got you covered.”
In other news, yesterday at a local gaming event called Level Up KL, Swen announced the opening of a new Larian office in Malaysia to help develop Baldur's Gate III. And today Larian released another one of those silly Divinity: Original Sin 2 free Gift Bag DLCs. So what is all this leading up to? Maybe it's all just a coincidence, but note that Google Stadia is launching on November 19th. I doubt Baldur's Gate III will be out this year in any form, but it wouldn't surprise me if they showed us something to help promote Stadia.

There are 51 comments on Swen Vincke Game Informer Interview, New Baldur's Gate III Concept Art, Larian Expands to Malaysia

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Fri 8 November 2019, 01:22:12

Tags: Obsidian Entertainment; The Outer Worlds; Tim Cain

The Outer Worlds has been out for two weeks now. It's now clear that the game is a commercial success, as confirmed earlier this week by Xbox's Phil Spencer and by Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick in today's quarterly earnings call. There have been several developer interviews since launch day, but yesterday's interview with Tim Cain at PC Gamer is the first one to discuss the game's future. The Outer Worlds had a remarkably bug-free launch, so Obsidian have been taking their time with its first patch. It will be out soon though, and then a second patch around Christmas, after which they plan to begin thinking about the sequel. No mention of DLC, though. Here's the relevant portion of the interview:

Cain and his co-director Leonard Boyarsky knew what they had to live up to with The Outer Worlds, shipping an Obsidian RPG—especially since they created Fallout, and Obsidian hadn't made a game in this style since 2010's New Vegas. Before they even had concept artists, they'd written more than 100 pages of worldbuilding material, defining voice and technology and corporations down to specific word choices: Robots have circuit boards, but they don't have chips.

"We got really picky like that. For me, I want to know that 10 years from now, when I'm probably not working on this, that it's still the game I imagined," he says. "Plus, I saw Fallout going in a different direction. No fault of their own—we didn't leave a lot of notes around. So as people started working on it, they had to play the game and go, 'I think this is what they meant...'"​

They did their best to cross every T and dot every I, but what ended up being most surprising about The Outer Worlds was its painless launch. That's the other thing Obsidian's games in this style, like New Vegas and Knights of the Old Republic 2, are known for: Being a bit buggy.

Cain says they were prepared to crunch after release, fixing crashes and issues players ran into. But it was so smooth, they've been able to take a breather and take some time before the first patch, which should be out soon, and respond to some more substantial feedback.

"Somebody found a place that it consistently crashed, but just on one platform, and then there's been another bug where sometimes companions get in a bad state in your ship," Cain says. "But for the most part the things we're fixing are things people have asked for, like larger fonts."

Another quality of life issue he intends to fix is that vending machines don't show how much you're carrying, which makes selling items while over-encumbered a tedious process. There's also difficulty, which came as a surprise: Many players have asked for a harder setting that doesn't come with the restrictions of the Supernova difficulty. He's got a list of UI things to address, and hopes to put out a second update around Christmas, once more player feedback comes in. But when we spoke, it was definitely time for a well-earned victory lap.

I asked Cain about the creation of one of our favorite characters in The Outer Worlds, the robot SAM. The idea for SAM, a no-personality no-illusions-of-humanity plain' ol robot, was to build a companion for players who wanted to play without the "peskiness" of companions having their own sidequests, but with some of their advantages.

Writer Megan Starks took on Sam, and Cain told her: "It's not sentient. But it's programmed to be upbeat, trying to be helpful. It seems everything through the lens of its programming, which is, 'I clean things."

"She wrote some really awesome stuff, Cain says. It says things sometimes that you're like, is it being meta? It's saying something just about cleaning but it's actually sometimes social commentary, too. We had originally thought he was going to be more robotic and it was Megan who said, 'I think it should sound like they recorded a salesman at the factory, who was super excited like, 'Oh my God, I get to be the voice of a robot.'"

So far The Outer Worlds seems to be the kind of success story that makes you wonder why Obsidian hadn't made a game in this style for so long. According to Cain, it wasn't for lack of wanting—it's just been hard to get them made.

"This is the form of a game I love to play," he says. "It's not necessarily open world, because we get tighter control over what kind of narrative we tell. Hub and spoke, is what a lot of people call it. First-person gives us a cool immersion. I know Leonard mentioned once years ago that we had already planned to take Fallout first person after Fallout 2.

"I don't know why a lot of publishers think nobody wants to play this. Part of the reason Obsidian hasn't done it, is because publishers didn't want them. Now Microsoft, I think, is going to keep making stuff in this vein, because this looks so popular. But I can tell you three years ago, not a lot of people were interested in this style of game and Private Division took a chance, and they were really good."

For now, he's got a few months of work ahead to take feedback on The Outer Worlds and prepare that second patch. After that? Well, nothing's official, but it sounds like there's more Space Capitalism ahead.

"I want people to play for awhile and then see what the friction points are and see if there are bugs we missed, put out something before or after Christmas and then think about sequel," says Cain with perhaps just a bit of a twinkle in his eye. "I don't think we're probably going to talk about that. But I'm thinking about it."
According to an announcement on the Obsidian forums, that first patch should be coming along sometime next week. Obsidian are also going to be at Microsoft's X019 event in London on November 14th. If there is any DLC planned, perhaps it'll be announced there.

There are 115 comments on The Outer Worlds is a commercial success, patches and sequel on the way

Tue 5 November 2019

Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Tue 5 November 2019, 20:25:21

Tags: Solasta: Crown of the Magister; Tactical Adventures

The Solasta: Crown of the Magister Kickstarter campaign successfully concluded last month. Two weeks ago, Tactical Adventures announced their plan for keeping us updated on its development. They intend to publish weekly dev diaries on the game's website and Steam page, plus monthly recaps that will also be pushed to Kickstarter. It seems sensible to post news about the latter. As you'd expect, the first dev update isn't about one thing in particular but rather a quick look at everything the team has worked on this month, which includes Solasta's unnamed main city, tutorial levels, world map mechanics, character creation and more. Here's an excerpt:

Main City

There's one question that has been asked quite a few times during our Kickstarter: "Is Solasta a pure dungeon crawling game?" If you've been following our updates, you'd likely know the answer is no! We actually just started working on the main city - which will remain unnamed for now as we don't want to spoil too much. We're still evaluating how much of it will be open for you to visit, we'd hate to pour too much time into that and end up having to cut other locations as a consequence. For those of you out there who are wondering - yes, there will be a tavern, for what's a city without one!

Campaign Introduction

It's no secret that most games nowadays need tutorials to ensure that the player understands how the game works. This could be as simple as pointing out elements in the UI (for instance, many people complained they couldn't find the "Rest" button in the Demo), or as complex as explaining the rules of combat to someone unfamiliar with the tabletop ruleset (Action, Bonus Action, Reaction...). So, in order to do that without boring our future players to tears, we've been working on including those during our Campaign Introduction Levels!

Game Design

There's quite a lot we still need to refine in terms of rules and how everything works in Solasta. For instance, we've been working on Design Documents on two significant topics that weren't part of the Demo: Traveling & Random Encounters. What is revealed on the World Map (more on that later!) and what isn't? How do you travel to undiscovered locations? How do other RPGs handle traveling? This is but a tiny glimpse into the mass of questions we have to find answers to when we put a design onto paper in order to avoid wasting time coding something and realizing afterwards that... well, it just doesn't work (or it does, but it's not fun).

Other topics we've been tackling include climbing (how high can you climb? What affects the DC?), sleight of hand (can it be used for something other than stealing? What happens if you get caught?), rethinking the inventory system again (by the end of the project I think fingers won't be enough to count how many times we've revamped the inventory) and... Party Banter! (Kickstarter Stretch Goal)

Tools & Gadgets

Tools and what now? When you're creating a level, you need tools and gadgets to do what you want. Sometimes, it's something as simple as saying "This door can be lockpicked" or "When I activate this lever, I want that door to open"... but the simple things are often the most crucial ones! So, our Programmers make sure that our Level Designers get what they need - as once they make the gadget, our Level Designers can use it as much as they want. Now some of you might already have an inkling of a larger picture here... If I said modding, would that help?

Wait wait wait, what does this have to do with modding? Well, if and when we release modding tools, we want people to be able to easily make more dungeons and levels - and that's where all these tools & gadgets come in. Everything we add for our Level Designers, we want Modders to be able to use it later on.

Invisible Work

Designers & Artists often get to show off their work with pretty screenshots and gifs, but Programmers? They work in the shadows, carefully biding their time before they can finally OVERTHROW THE TYRANNY OF... Sorry where was I? Ah yes, Programmers. Among other things that you cannot see, but are very important, they've been making improvements on all types of movement (Jumping, Climbing, Crawling...). Because yes, even little things like your character going prone to crawl through a duct automatically when you click on it needs some programming love behind it. Otherwise you'd be stuck with manually having to tell your character to go prone, then crawl, and then manually telling your character to stand back up. Ugh.

Fun fact, our CEO also implemented Character Creation! If you remember the Kickstarter Update where we showed you a sneak peek, back then everything was on paper - now we can actually create a character in-game.
Solasta's CrowdOx pledge management portal will be launching later this month. That's handy because it gives us time to deliver the money from our fundraiser, which ends this Friday. Last chance to get the game if you missed the Kickstarter campaign.

There are 1 comments on Solasta Kickstarter Update #30: Dev Journal - Goodbye Telema!

Codex Review - posted by Infinitron on Tue 5 November 2019, 16:03:47

Tags: Disco Elysium; ZA/UM

There was only a single review of Disco Elysium up on Metacritic when the game was released. Now there are many of them, nearly all glowingly positive. It's time the Codex joined its voice to that chorus, and I can think of no better person to do the singing than blessed bataille, our expert on all things literary and post-Soviet. Get ready, because things are about to get deep:

Instead of giving us the usual freedom to become a soon-heroic, god-chosen nobody, Disco Elysium puts the player in the tear-and-alcohol-soaked shoes of a particular *somebody*. That somebody has a name, a face (sort of), a semblance of life, and a long history of destructive self-abuse, all of which slowly resurface during the course of the game.

While it may seem somewhat restrictive to disallow self-insertion in a cRPG, it helps the story to focus on the inner turmoil of our character as much as on the people and events that surround him. After all, the game’s original title used to be No Truce With The Furies, and that alone illustrates pretty well how important it must have been for the authors to have a singular ruined soul at the epicenter of the narrative. Since one obviously cannot construct effective personal drama for all possible player avatars (the only guaranteed common trait being player agency), the authors made the furies torment our hero through his prior life. It’s one of the instances where Disco Elysium’s PC-centric pen-and-paper origins shine through and affect the standard cRPG conventions. The scope is narrower but more focused, intimate, intense. A bit like that other text-heavy RPG with a set protagonist.

To dial it back a little and return us to the dimension of *computer* role-playing games and their freedom to play as whomever thou wilt, ZA/UM employs an obscure literary trope known as “total retrograde amnesia.” Or was it a selective memory wipe? A mere pretense fueled by shame? Repressed memories? Something more supra-natural? The reason for blanking out is up to the player to establish later down the line. Whatever the cause, only our past is set in stone, and it is for us to decide what kind of person we will become by the time all hell inevitably breaks loose.

The first step on the path of self-discovery is to distribute 8 points between the four main attributes: intelligence, psyche, physique, and motorics. Each attribute governs 6 thematically appropriate skills that may range from something as simple as Logic or Endurance to the more esoteric Inland Empire and Shivers. I highly recommend everyone to read their full descriptions, even if you don’t plan on investing in some of the skills. Besides providing clues and tips on what attributes to pick for certain archetypes, they’re simply a joy to read.

What really stands out when you start familiarizing yourself with the skills is how difficult it may be to fit some of them into the existing RPG categories. It takes a bit of time with the game to truly get what Esprit de Corps is really about, for example. What do Shivers actually do? What’s the difference between Drama and Suggestion? The skill selection might be the player’s first encounter with the experimental side of Disco Elysium, a sign of things to come. It only gets weirder - and sadder.

After a binge of world-ending proportions, our nameless, featureless, and pantsless hero wakes up on the floor, in a room, in a city, on a continent; all of them totally unknown and mysterious (except maybe the floor). How does one proceed under such arcane circumstances? By initiating an inner monologue of course! But who does the talking? Your skills, my liege. Depending on your choices during character creation, it may be Inland Empire lamenting that we didn’t get to see what was on the other side of the killer debauch, or Logic trying to piece something together from what little information about our current situation we have, or Pain Threshold welcoming the anguish that comes with being alive. They start talking when you regain some of your higher cognitive faculties and don’t shut up until the credits roll.

The easiest way to understand how you interact with your skills is to imagine the bicameral mind and-- that’s it, actually. That is exactly how it’s done. The player is in control of what the cop (ah, that’s one mystery solved) says and does, and your skills do most of the background thinking, guiding you to failure and regret (and an occasional triumph).

Oddly enough, each of them has a distinct personality and a... portrait. In a lesser RPG, these could have been templates for the player’s potential party members. They’re chatty, opinionated, and, most importantly, often fallible. Half Light, the mix of a psychotic barbarian and a scaredy-cat which is supposed to represent your fight-or-flight response and vigilance in the face of danger, will misjudge the gravity of a situation as often as assess one correctly. Despite its strong-willed facade, Authority often acts as a feeble sleazeball that tries to exploit its position in the warrior caste and use it as a lever to subjugate other people and get RESPECT. Conceptualization is just a third year humanities student always looking for opportunities to turn life into a living canvas. Fair enough. 24 almost-people to see you through this week-long hangover.​

Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: Disco Elysium

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Mon 4 November 2019

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Mon 4 November 2019, 00:42:06

Tags: Arcanum: of Steamworks and Magick Obscura; Baldur's Gate III; Baldur's Gate III (Obsidian Entertainment); Digimancy Entertainment; Disco Elysium; Earth & Beyond; George Ziets; Journey to the Center of Arcanum; Loom; Matt Barton; The Outer Worlds

The first episode of Matt Barton's interview with George Ziets is a direct continuation of his Digimancy Entertainment announcement from two weeks ago. George said then that he wants his new company to make RPGs with unusual settings, and in the first part of the episode he goes over some of those settings - Arcanum (he finds the Journey to the Center of Arcanum sequel concept intriguing), Ravenloft, the LucasArts adventure game Loom(!), and of course Planescape. In the second part of the episode, George shares his thoughts about a few new games, namely Disco Elysium, The Outer Worlds, and the upcoming Baldur's Gate III. It turns out that when Obsidian were trying to pitch their own BG3 back in 2008, there were a few people in the studio who tried in vain to make it turn-based. George believes that Larian's game will be turn-based, but he has no inside information about the project.

At the end of the episode George talks a bit about how he got his start in the gaming industry at Westwood, where he worked on cancelled MMO Earth & Beyond. Apparently he got an interview invitation from BioWare shortly after he started working there and had to turn them down - quite a life-changing decision. According to Matt, there will be at least three more episodes with George.

There are 16 comments on Matt Chat 431: George Ziets on Alternative Settings and New Games

Fri 1 November 2019

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 1 November 2019, 21:36:42

Tags: Ceres Games; Realms Beyond: Ashes of the Fallen

Looks like all the vaporwarey indie RPGs are checking in these days. What's been going on with Realms Beyond since its last update back in June? It turns out Ceres thought the game's combat demo would be ready by now. It's been taking longer than they expected to polish it to perfection and they now plan on releasing it in January. One essential feature for the demo is the character creation interface, which is the main topic of today's Kickstarter update.

It’s been a while since our last update. We’ve been hard at work designing maps and writing quests – and finishing up the combat demo, which is taking us longer than expected. The main reason for that is the combat demo’s scope: rather than just giving you an arena with a handful of fights, we give you a small story, four different maps with varied environments, shops to buy new equipment in, and the full character creation system as it will appear in the complete game.

The combat already works very well, but we still need to finish up the character creation menu and the shopping interface, and the encounters you’re going to face in the combat demo will have to be playtested a couple of times to make sure it offers just the right amount of challenge. The combat demo is the first taste of the game you’re going to get, and we want to make sure the first impression is a great one. Honestly, we underestimated the actual amount of work the combat demo would require. At the end, we don’t want to release unfinished gameplay elements and that’s why we need to spend more time in designing, implementing and polishing than originally planned. Therefore we are moving the release date of the combat demo to January.

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Character Creation

The most important part of any RPG is its character creation. Many of us have spent hours trying to create different character builds in Fallout, or assembling that perfect party of six in Icewind Dale or the old Gold Box titles. Realms Beyond is going to offer you a complex character creation tool that gives you all the classic choices you would expect – ability scores, classes, skills, feats – and some unique ideas of our own that allow you to further define your characters and their role in the world.

Rather than just picking a race and be done with it, Realms Beyond lets you choose your character’s origin: which region of the world does your character hail from? It is more than just a cosmetic choice, as your character’s origin will influence the knowledge of local customs, politics and events the character has, as well as the reaction some NPCs will have towards that character.

Furthermore, you will be able to select a descent for your characters: which social class they hail from and what they did before they became adventurers. Noble, craftsman, peasant – these descents also come with unique background knowledge for your character. Characters with a noble background will be familiar with the customs of the nobility, while characters with a peasant background will be able to tell a farmer why his crops are failing.

The character backgrounds are more than just flavor, as they will occasionally offer unique insights into the events you encounter during the game.
The update also includes a batch of new screenshots showing various areas recently added to the game, but since we're out of room here you'll have to click to see those yourself.

There are 35 comments on Realms Beyond Kickstarter Update #21: Combat Demo in January, Character Creation and New Screenshots

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 1 November 2019, 15:49:49

Tags: Copper Dreams; Whalenought Studios

To few people's surprise, the Copper Dreams beta ended up not coming out in late September, or in October. Joe and Hannah haven't fallen off the face of the earth, though. As today's Kickstarter update announces, they've got an exact release date for the beta now - November 15th. Along the way, they've also decided to scrap the party combat system that was described in the previous update, so it's back to single character with non-controllable companions now. The update has the details on all of that and more:

Due to some pesky life stuff, we haven’t been able to finalize what we needed to for the beta — primarily driving enemies and some visual anomalies that need updating like mesh-swapping armor pieces working and some effects that will make gameplay more clear. Our newest alpha build featuring the start of those will be up in the next few days, followed by a video showcasing the beta, and releasing it on the 15th of November. A thousand apologies for the delay — we're very excited to finally get it in your hands, and will be on track for a 2020 release.

Beta testers, you’ll be getting an email when that’s available regarding what help we’re looking for with the start of the game. It'll explain what we can focus on tweaking with your suggestions while adding more of those maps in as we continue to finish stitching them together.


The new dialogue layout is pretty slick, using the power of multiple cameras! The characters are all animating 3d models from the game-world who gesture with their chat bubbles. Keywords are thought bubbles, and you get a little report card for people you meet with any known info you've obtained that's important. Aptitudes also use this and show their roll info in their own panels nearby. This was a social roll to get this drunk to follow you around.


The last update we talked about the RISK meter and segmenting turns to different party members. Shortly after we tested and discussed this companion-combat with some of our Alpha backers, we decided to roll back to single-player turn-based combat. Companions will remain auxiliary and the player can direct general commands to (move/attack/talk) as originally planned. Defend is now a normal action you can roll for while playing. Companions are both other agents, hires, and anyone on the street if you can charm/bio-hack them.

Map Stitching

A big part of 2019 activities involved revising some code to get more enemies on screen, better performance with the line of sight transparency and black, as well as stitching together the map. Map loading is so 1999 [insert plethora of games that already got around it], and 20 years later I think we can dismiss it as lazy. And disruptive! I think back to a game like Dungeon Siege, and it was really neat that the whole game was just one enormous map you wade through — it really pits you in the world, rather than seeing it as a small art piece or tactical map.

For a more modern city, having interiors, rooftops, and underground all webbed together gives a much more organic feel, and a lot more tactical variance. This is also effective for the combat and NPC sensory mechanics — with a wide open and expansive the map, not having the safety of a loaded room also makes you vulnerable. Climb a roof and jump into a 3rd story window to escape some gang members, and they could follow, or be welcomed by a bunch of winos with broken bottles inside to surround you.

The Mega-Map is also a very organic way of going from block-to-block in the wilds of Calitana, and it's fun to just rage-drive your way out of a block if you need to get outside quickly. Prior to this map to map points always bottle-necked into large gates to transition scenes, but now there can be multiple streets that exit.

Between more populated towns (city blocks) there lies the urban wilderness, or more appropriately, urban wasteland. With grids down, civilians abandon these areas, and the streets are held by the gang and the gun, and a good taxi or a Treader with a turret attached are your best bets to get through.
Check out the second half of the update for details about Treaders and the game's other drivable vehicles, including lots of animated GIFs. If your vehicle is equipped with a turret or you have an extra pair of cyber-arms, you can automatically fire at enemies while driving around. Joe and Hannah are still figuring out how to best implement that.

There are 8 comments on Copper Dreams Kickstarter Update #26: Combat and Cars, Beta Coming November 15th

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