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Codex Review - posted by Infinitron on Tue 17 September 2019, 00:15:28

Tags: Legends of Amberland: The Forgotten Crown; Silver Lemur Games

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A whole bunch of indie RPGs came out last month - isometric tactical RPGs, narrative RPGs, roguelikes and more. However, the one that definitely left the deepest impression on us was the retro-styled Might & Magic-inspired blobber Legends of Amberland: The Forgotten Crown. Which to be honest is not so surprising on the forum that turned Grimoire into a cultic object. Indeed, who better to review Amberland than Dorateen, the author of our definitive review of Grimoire? It's not as positive a review, of course. Compared to a Wizardry-style blobber like Grimoire, Amberland's dungeons are simplistic. Its itemization is weak and its pixel art might be an acquired taste. But due to its great exploration and innovative mechanics, it ultimately gets a solid thumbs-up from Dorateen. Here's an excerpt from the review:

Battle is joined when the party steps on a tile occupied by an enemy, or in some instances when the enemy jumps into the party's face. While exploring, monsters and men alike are not stationary but move around in their own radius. This creates a situation where an adventuring party can decide each turn whether to advance, retreat or wait while the enemy reposition themselves like pieces on a game board. Sometimes monsters seek to block or restrict the player’s mobility. When both sides finally clash, they are locked in a life and death struggle until one side emerges victorious. And once vanquished, enemies are gone forever as maps do not repopulate.

There's a non-transparent initiative value which determines who gets to act first. Enemies who come in early are typically quick foes who will sneak in a hit before you can react. As for the heroes, the order that each character goes is determined by their position in the party. In a row of seven, it is the central spot that is considered Position One. This character will always be the first party member to take an action, and is also on the receiving end of most incoming attacks. Flanked on either side by characters in Position Two and Three, these act in sequence respectively and they are also treated as part of the front line. The formation ranks continue so that back row support characters are the ones on the far left and far right, who will always act last. It is a system that leverages initiative versus relative security from being targeted. However, once more dangerous enemies who have area-of-effect attacks show up, no party member is completely safe.

Opponents arrange themselves in rows of up to three at a time. Due to their mobile nature, it's likely that others in an area will join a battle in progress once a spot opens up. For example, imagine a large room filled with monsters, moving closer as they engage the party. The player might start out facing two or three of them, but could end up taking on a half dozen or more before gaining any respite. Another tactic enemies use is to crowd inside doorways. Thus, before successfully entering a chamber the party is forced to cut through what seems like an endless horde, which can make for some tense pitched battles.

Every class in Legends of Amberland has a Special Ability that a character of that class can use in addition to their standard attack. The Knight and its variants have a Charge attack that can hit all three enemies on screen. Warriors get a powerful Strike attack that is used to inflict greater damage to a single opponent. Bards can play a song that will replenish a percentage of Spell Points and Hit Points for all party members, while Healers have a lifesaving Recovery ability that will restore all characters who have fallen in battle. The catch is that these Special Abilities can only be activated once before requiring a rest. This becomes a strategic consideration for the player, who has to pick the right moment to use them and ensure that his characters have recharged before facing particularly deadly adversaries.

Resources are vital in a game with frequent combat. Heroes will lose hit points, expend their magic and trigger single use abilities. Thus it becomes necessary to rest, which in turn like in any good Might & Magic-type adventure requires food. There are two forms of nourishment that can be restocked in towns, with two corresponding modes of resting. A full rest is eight hours long and revives the party completely at the cost of both one vegetable ration and one meat ration. Then there's the quick rest, only four hours long, which uses up just one vegetable ration. The quick rest does not restore spell points and only restores half of the party's hit points, but it does reset Special Abilities and cure certain status effects. Therefore it can be used more strategically to save on resources.

Spells can sorted into three general categories. There's offensive magic, healing and curative magic, and preventative or enhancement magic. The latter takes the form of party-wide buffs, including spells like Regeneration, Inspiration (for extra strength), and Magic Armor. These spells do not have a fixed duration. Instead, all buffs expire at midnight on a twenty-four hour clock. It sets a pattern of casting your protections early in the day to take advantage of having them up as long as possible. Later in the game, I often had as many as seven effects running at the same time. (A single mass buff spell would have been a welcome addition.) As mentioned previously, all spells have mastery levels ranked from one to five which increase their power and efficiency. However, with direct damage spells being fairly limited, it seems spellcasters are more suitable as support characters for the fighters who deliver the majority of destruction.​

Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: Legends of Amberland

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Sun 22 September 2019

Preview - posted by Infinitron on Sun 22 September 2019, 18:28:08

Tags: Anshar Studios; Gamedec

The cyberpunk virtual world detective RPG Gamedec is another one of the recently announced European RPGs that had a low profile presence at Gamescom last month. A number of previews of the game were published, but no gameplay footage surfaced. Gamedec was also at PAX West and it looked like that was going happen again, but now Shacknews have belatedly published some gameplay footage they captured there. The game is an isometric adventure RPG that feels a lot like Shadowrun Returns without the combat. In the demo, the player character is summoned to a bar where he quickly jacks into an F2P MMO virtual world called Harvest Time to meet a client who represents a guild of players who have been suffering from unusual persistent glitches. Skill and reputation checks are everywhere, and the game also prominently features a Sherlock Homes-style deduction board that must be used to solve cases.

You can find previews of Gamedec at RPGWatch, CramGaming, RPGamer and TechRaptor. Our friends at the Watch wrote the most detailed one, so I'll post an excerpt from it here:

As mentioned you need to find Stan who is in the virtual game named Harvest Time. As a Gamedec you need to login to the game by going to a location that has special couches for this. By putting up a helmet and wear a special suite that preserves your bodily functions, a connection with the virtual game can be made.

Harvest Time is a hardcore free-to-play grinding game, where people grind resources, similar to Farmville, to earn money and to compete against each other. The developers are at the moment working on three other virtual games; a world with dinosaurs, a Sin City type of gangster world and a dating sim world.

The intention is to have each virtual world feel like you are part of that game. It will also show UI elements that belong to the type of game you are logged in to. In this virtual game, people are harvesting goods, cows are making milk and the UI has elements like the amount of money that you have earned. The developers want to make each virtual game feel different and for that reason every virtual game will have different game mechanics.

However you as a Gamedec, are not here to play the game, but to find Stan. By talking to people you can find someone who knows where he is and who can mark him. In that case some small moving chevrons show that point you in the right direction towards Stan. Augmented artefacts, like this, are only possible inside virtual games.

Once you find Stan you will learn what the problem is and you will be asked to help him. You can do this by talking to the various people in the virtual game to gather information. Usually there is more than one way to find the information you need, so if an option to gather information is blocked, there most likely will be another option available to you. When you have gathered enough information a deduction can be made. This is supported in the game by means of a deduction window. It shows on the left hand side the information that has been gathered up to now. Depending on what information is gathered one or more deductions will show (or none if you have not gathered enough information yet). You can select the deduction you think fits best. This is not necessarily the right deduction, but by selecting the deduction you want to go with, you are choosing your truth, because it fits your agenda or because it matches your personal views. The game will adapt to your choice and will present new options in the deduction window, belonging to selected deduction, for which further information needs to be gathered in order to reach a conclusion of the case. This might not lead to the absolute truth, but it leads to an outcome, which is based on your choices and decisions. It is also possible to finish the case in an early stage, by selecting the solution you think is the right one. This might not be the right one, but the game will adapt to your choice and go with that. It also makes you 'solve' the case a lot faster.

Each case in Gamedec that you have to solve, has more than one possible ending. However, the game itself has a linear structure where you solve one case after the other. The choices you make in each of the cases will impact the characters that are involved in that case. In later cases you will meet some of these characters again and your previous choices will influence the attitude these characters will have towards you.

The developers aim for you to spend 45-60 minutes on a case when you play it normally. But when choosing the shorter path, as described before, this can be reduced to about 20 minutes.

Gamedec has no combat system. There is violence in the game, but it will play out through cut scenes or dialogs and not via interactive combat. An example was given where the Gamedec was meeting a gangster, supported by two bouncers and two turrets. My character could say "I'm going to kill you", but the turrets or the bouncers will likely kill the characters first. I could however, hack the turrets to kill the bouncers, or bribe the bouncers to hack the turrets. In that case my actions would not lead to my death, but to the death of the other. All this takes place without a combat system in placer, which is a deliberate choice as the developers wanted to make a narrative game where choices matter.
The game looks pretty good graphically, but I have to say the writing seems crude and amateurish, especially for a game that's going to live and die on the quality of its dialogue. I hope they plan to hire somebody.

There are 5 comments on Gamedec Gameplay Footage at Shacknews

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Sat 21 September 2019

Editorial - posted by Infinitron on Sat 21 September 2019, 02:22:44

Tags: Dark Sun: Shattered Lands; Joel Billings; Strategic Simulations, Inc.; The Digital Antiquarian; TSR

This week, the Digital Antiquarian's chronicle of roleplaying game history returns to the story of SSI, who he last wrote about back in 2017. Having milked the Gold Box engine to death, by 1992 SSI was in dire financial straits. Despite a worsening business relationship with TSR (who were facing problems of their own), they managed to gain an 18 month extension of their exclusive D&D license and began work on a new RPG engine. At TSR's suggestion, the first game made with the new engine would use the Dark Sun setting, and the result was 1993's Dark Sun: Shattered Lands. SSI needed Shattered Lands to be a Pool of Radiance-caliber hit in order to survive as a premium RPG developer, but unfortunately it was far from that. I quote:

When viewed separately from all of these external pressures, as just a game to be played and hopefully enjoyed, it revealed itself to be a nobly earnest attempt to improve on SSI’s most recent efforts in the realm of CRPGs, even if it wasn’t an entirely unblemished one. On the technological side, SSI’s next-generation engine largely delivered where it needed to: it was indeed vastly slicker, prettier, easier, and more modern than the Gold Box engine, feeling like a true product of the 1990s rather than a holdover from the last decade. It was an engine that could even stand next to the likes of an Ultima VII without undue embarrassment. Indeed, SSI seemed to have learned from their rival’s mistakes and done Origin one better in some places. For example, in place of the real-time, well-nigh uncontrollable frenzy that was combat in Ultima VII, SSI’s engine lapsed seamlessly into a turn-based mode as soon as a fight began; this allowed combat in Shattered Lands to retain most of the tactical complexity and interest that had marked its implementation in the Gold Box games, with the additional advantages of increased audiovisual interest and a less cryptic interface.

At the same time that they endeavored to keep combat interesting, however, SSI’s design team had clearly made a concerted effort to move beyond the exercises in incessant combat and very little else which the Gold Box games had become by the end. Shattered Lands offered much better-developed characters to talk to, along with heaps of real choices to make and alternative pathways to discover. The new approach was enough to impress even so committed an SSI skeptic as Scorpia, Computer Gaming World magazine’s longtime adventure columnist, who had been roundly criticizing the Gold Box games in print for their “incessant, fight-after-fight” nature for half a decade by this point. Now, she could write that “SSI is taking their role-paying line in a new direction, which is good to see”: “the solution to every problem is not kill, kill, kill.” Shay Addams, another prominent adventure pundit, had a similar take: “It’s no secret that I never liked the Gold Box games. Dark Sun, however, kept me coming back to the dungeon for more: more combat, more exploring, more story.”

Still, the game had its fair share of niggles — more than enough of them, in fact, to prevent its achieving a classic status to rival Pool of Radiance and Curse of the Azure Bonds. While SSI was to be commended for attempting to give the setting and plot more nuance and texture, that just wasn’t the sort of thing they did best, and they were still receiving little to no help from TSR on that front. The writing and plotting were derivative in several different directions at once, hackneyed even by the usual standards of the genre. Mind you, the writing wasn’t actually worse than most of that which had accompanied the Gold Box games — but here, moved as it was from a paragraph book onto the screen and expected as it was to do a lot more heavy lifting, its weaknesses were magnified.

Shattered Lands was also damaged as a computer game by its need to conform to TSR’s tabletop rules. The boxed set which presented the Dark Sun setting for the tabletop included a whole range of new rules complications and variations to distinguish it from the already convoluted Dungeon & Dragons base game, and most of these SSI was expected to implement faithfully as part of their licensing agreement. And so Shattered Lands came complete with a bunch of races and classes unfamiliar even to most Gold Box and tabletop Dungeons & Dragons veterans, along with a veritable baseline expectation that every character would be double- or triple-classed. Clerics suddenly had to choose an “element” to worship, which limited their selection of spells — and now everyone had access to a whole parallel sphere of magic known as psionics, and had to choose a specialty there as well. No game designer starting a CRPG from scratch would ever have inserted so much cruft of such marginal utility to the ultimate goal of fun; it was the sort of thing that could only arise from a company like TSR throwing rule after rule at the wall over the course of years in order to sell more supplements. Certainly none of it made much sense in a game explicitly envisioned as a new beginning for Dungeons & Dragons on computers, a place for fresh players to jump aboard. Nor, for that matter, did the choice of the oddball world of Dark Sun as a setting; for all that critics like me have long railed against the tendency, gamers for time immemorial have been demonstrating their preference for CRPGs set in generic high-fantasy worlds — such as that of TSR’s own Forgotten Realms, home of the most commercially successful of the Gold Box games — over more unique settings like this one.

But whatever its intrinsic strengths and weaknesses, Shattered Lands suffered most of all from one undeniable external failing: it was deeply, thoroughly unfashionable in the context of 1993. At a time when the whole industry was moving toward multimedia “talkies,” its many conversations and descriptions were still implemented via screenful after screenful of boring old text. And in addition to the old-fashioned implementation, there also remained the fact that the Dungeons & Dragons name just wasn’t the force it once had been. A measure of the industry’s attitude toward the game and its commercial prospects can be gleaned from its placement in the magazines. Even as they were giving it reasonably positive reviews, Computer Gaming World buried it on page 124 of 276, Shay Addams’s Questbusters newsletter on page 8 of 16. (The lead review of that issue, evidently judged to be more immediately interesting to the newsletter’s readers than a review of Shattered Lands, was of Legend Entertainment’s Gateway 2, a fine game in its own right but one which still had a parser, for God’s sake.)

So, you’ve probably guessed where this is going: Dark Sun: Shattered Lands proved a devastating disappointment to TSR and especially to SSI. After costing more than $1 million and eighteen months to make, with the additional opportunity cost of preventing SSI’s internal developers from doing much of anything else over the course of that period, it sold just 45,917 copies. To put this figure into perspective, consider that it’s barely 5000 more copies than the last tired release of the old Gold Box line, or that it’s about one-sixth of the sales of Pool of Radiance — this in spite of an expanded marketplace in which the number of copies which a hit game could hope to sell was actually far greater than it had been five years before.

When SSI and TSR met again early in 1994, after it had become all too clear that Shattered Lands wasn’t to be the next Pool of Radiance, TSR stated matter-of-factly that they no longer wished to remain in the marriage. Some tense negotiation followed, during which TSR did make some concessions to a frantic SSI, who were facing down the apocalyptic prospect of a license due to expire in less than six months while they still had a lot more Dungeons & Dragons product from third-party developers in the pipeline. TSR agreed to extend the exclusive license for six more months, to January 1, 1995, and to allow SSI to continue to release new games under a non-exclusive license until July 1, 1995. After that, though, the marriage was through. TSR emphasized that there would be no further settlement agreements.
SSI developed numerous other games during this period and also published D&D games by other studios, all of which sold just as poorly. Meanwhile, CEO Joel Billings continually sought out buyers for the ailing company without success. He did eventually find one, but that's a story for a future article.

There are 19 comments on The Digital Antiquarian on Dark Sun and the Fall of SSI

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Fri 20 September 2019

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 20 September 2019, 20:07:51

Tags: Solasta: Crown of the Magister; Tactical Adventures

In retrospect, it's a bit unusual that we learned about the halflings of Solasta: Crown of the Magister before we did about its elves and dwarves. The latest Kickstarter update has the details on those two most iconic races of high fantasy. Like the halfings, they each have two variants. For dwarves, there's the standard fantasy-style Hill Dwarves and the more rustic Snow Dwarves. For elves, there's the well-trodden dichotomy of cultured High Elves and forest-dwelling Sylvan Elves. Since this is the Codex, I'll quote the part about the dwarves:

Children of earth, the dwarves evolved underground, and came to rule an extensive realm beneath the mountains in the west of the continent, with great tunnel-highways connecting the dwarven undercities.

Toward the end of the Elven Wars, a series of earthquakes led to the creation of the Inner Sea. Many tunnel-highways collapsed, and others were flooded. The dwarven realm was broken two parts: the hill dwarves to the south and west of the Inner sea, and the snow dwarves to the north and east.

The Hill Dwarves

The hill dwarves have changed little in the intervening millennia. They still live mostly underground, and their skills in working stone and metal are legendary.

Numerous inventions have been developed to make life easier and improve the quality of dwarven crafts: not least among them are the great pumps that emptied the flooded tunnel-highways and continue to keep them dry.

The Snow Dwarves

Cut off from the rest of the dwarven realm, the snow dwarves adapted to survive and thrive in their harsh, frigid environment. While still a predominantly underground people, the snow dwarves spend more time above ground, hunting and trapping food and prospecting for minerals. They have developed considerable outdoor survival skills as a result, perhaps, becoming even coarser and rougher in the process.

The Cataclysm and After

The Cataclysm further devastated the hill dwarf kingdom. Ancient enchantments had kept two great volcanoes dormant for uncounted ages, but as mana drained from the land in the aftermath of the Cataclysm, the protections were broken.

Countless lives were lost to earthquakes and lava, and more to flooding as the Inner Sea claimed more of the land. Whole settlements were destroyed, and the hill dwarf lands were cut in two by a new volcanic wasteland. The northern and southern kingdoms survived thanks in part to some expansion on the surface, as many of the deeper tunnels were still unsafe.

The snow dwarves fared better, being far from any active volcanoes. They were affected by the loss of mana from the land, but having been among the first to welcome human refugees, they profited greatly from their divine magic.

Enjoying the wilderness and the simplicity of life in the wilds, the snow dwarves also forged an alliance with the like-minded sylvan elves living in their territory, and the Snow Alliance, as it was named, has enjoyed prosperity and peace with its neighbors. Its people remain vigilant, though, as the time since the Cataclysm has not been without strife.

Dwarves are shorter than humans by a head or so. However, their broad and muscular build means that they weigh about the same.

Snow dwarves are a little taller and slimmer on average, but still significantly shorter and stockier than humans. Their overall range of skin tone is similar to that of humans, although snow dwarves often have a slight blue-gray tint, almost the color of slate. Dwarven hair color varies from black through chestnut brown and red-brown to gray. The hair is most often bound up in a braid or a ponytail. Their eyes are generally on the dark side.

Clothing usually reflects the colors of a dwarf’s clan. Hill dwarves favor sashes in their clan colors, while snow dwarves wear clan emblems embroidered into the trim of their cuffs and collars.
I guess humans will be coming up next.

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Preview - posted by Infinitron on Fri 20 September 2019, 19:33:22

Tags: Obsidian Entertainment; The Outer Worlds

After their visit to the Tokyo Game Show, Obsidian continued to Australia where they showed off The Outer Worlds to a number of local and international outlets. The gameplay demo seems to have been the same as last month's big preview bonanza - a brief look at the beginning of the game (which the media isn't allowed to show yet) followed by an hour-long romp on Monarch. Here are a couple of videos:

And here's a list of all the previews I was able to find. Shoutout goes to local Australian gaming site PowerUp who wrote no less than eight articles about the game covering various topics:

In other news, one of the gameplay videos from the Tokyo Game Show seems to have accidentally revealed The Outer Worlds' fifth known companion. It's Vicar Max, the corporate clergyman from Edgewater who also appears in the VGC video. Just one more companion left to discover.

There are 0 comments on The Outer Worlds Australian Preview Tour

Wed 18 September 2019

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 18 September 2019, 23:34:45

Tags: Solasta: Crown of the Magister; Tactical Adventures

Yesterday Tactical Adventures asked backers of Solasta: Crown of the Magister to vote on whether Paladins or Rangers should be the next class to be added to the game. But wait, what's a Paladin? Today's Kickstarter update has some setting-specific details about the Paladins and Rangers of the world of Solasta. Like the game's other classes, each one has three archetypes. The description of the Ranger archetypes is a bit crunchier, so I'll quote that part here:

Wanderers of Solasta’s wilderness, rangers are the kind of people who prefer to sleep out in the woods rather than in a town inn, listening to the sounds of nature rather than the chatter of people.

Trained survivalists and hunters, they are fierce combatants but have enough subtlety to be stealthy when needed. Excellent trackers and archers, they can also have the ability to cast spells that channel the powers of nature.


Masters of the of melee and ranged combat, these are Solasta’s supreme predators. Able to track their prey for days through the worst terrain, they dedicate their whole being to the art of the hunt.

They develop a variety of combat techniques, depending on their prey of choice. Some hunt giants, while others specialize in fighting hordes of smaller monsters.


Heirs to the high elf archery traditions of the old Empire, these are undisputed masters of their art and the deadliest ranged combatants on Solasta. Their specialized training includes many different techniques:
  • Fast shooting, to react to opponent moves with a deadly shot.
  • Close quarters combat, to remain efficient at close range and avoid being cornered by melee combatants.
  • Arrow recovery, to avoid running out of ammunition.
  • Poisoning arrows, to defeat even the toughest enemies – although high elf historians deny that this was a routine tactic of the Imperial ranger forces.
  • Rumors have also been heard of rains of arrows, so far without proof.
Shadow Tamers

Used to wandering the desolated Badlands, these rangers know the lore and languages of darkness, traps, and the underground world. They walk without fear where others would hesitate to tread.

Simply put, a shadow tamer is at ease when others are not. The numberless hazards of the Badlands include darkness, monsters, rough terrain, bad weather, and chaos. Shadow tamers take all of these dangers in stride.

Heights, depths, darkness, monsters: none of these bother them. In fact, they make them deadlier. In the monster’s den, they are the greater monster.​

Now you know!

There are 5 comments on Solasta Kickstarter Update #10: The Paladins and Rangers of Solasta

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 18 September 2019, 23:11:17

Tags: Disco Elysium; ZA/UM

It's been many months since we last had any real news about Disco Elysium, the ambitious detective RPG that has been exciting the Codex's imagination since 2016. Just when it seemed like it was safe to declare it vaporware, today ZA/UM suddenly announced that the game was releasing on October 15th, less than a month from now. Holy shit. Here's the release date trailer, which is chock full of delicious gameplay snippets, along with the accompanying press release.

September 18th 2019 (London, UK): ZA/UM announced today that its hellishly ambitious role-playing game Disco Elysium will launch for PC on October 15th, 2019 on Steam and

Disco Elysium is a groundbreaking open world role playing game with an insane amount of choice and consequence. You’re a detective with a unique skill system at your disposal and a whole city block to carve your path across. Interrogate unforgettable characters, crack murders or take bribes. Be a hero, a prophet, a madman and the greatest detective the world has ever seen.

You’ve never played anything like it.
  • Over 60 hours of game time in a unique urban fantasy setting.
  • An open world you can approach in any order – the bad part of the bad part of town with unforgettable characters.
  • One massive open-ended case and tons of side investigations.
  • Countless tools for role-playing: 24 mad skills to upgrade, over 80 different clothing items to wear, 12 tools to use, 8 psychoactive substances to discover, more than 50 unique "thoughts" to analyze and so on.
  • A hauntingly beautiful original soundtrack by British Sea Power.
What a great year for RPGs this has become.

There are 22 comments on Disco Elysium releasing on October 15th

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 18 September 2019, 22:51:31

Tags: Solasta: Crown of the Magister; Tactical Adventures

The Solasta: Crown of the Magister Kickstarter campaign has done gangbusters over the past week thanks to an appearance on the popular Critical Role livestream. It's raised over €140k and unlocked a couple of social media stretch goals as well. Now Tactical Adventures have announced that as soon the campaign reaches its base funding goal, they plan to add a new class to the game, and you get to decide which one. Paladin or Ranger?

Hello there folks!

You were many to ask for it, and we promised we'd give you a glimpse into the additional content we're intending to bring with the Kickstarter Campaign's completion! Starting now until Sunday 22nd, your votes will decide which class will be added first in Solasta: Crown of the Magister!

As a reminder, this additional class will be unlocked when we reach our Kickstarter Funding Goal of $200,000 / 180,000€.

Where to vote?

You have one vote per platform! We will count the votes at the end to see the total, so don't hesitate to vote in all three places if you want to see your class win the race!
If you don't like social media, they've also set up a backers-only poll which you can read about here if you're a backer.

There are 1 comments on Solasta Kickstarter Update #8: New Class Vote - Paladin vs Ranger

Tue 17 September 2019

Preview - posted by Infinitron on Tue 17 September 2019, 20:47:28

Tags: Obsidian Entertainment; The Outer Worlds

I thought PAX West might be the last time we see The Outer Worlds in action before its release, but it turns out there were still a few gaming events left to promote it at. This weekend Obsidian took the game to Japan for the annual Tokyo Game Show convention. Most of the gameplay reels that have come out of that are using a localized version, but there were two Western outlets in attendance who played the game in English - Gamereactor and VGC. Only VGC uploaded their footage to YouTube, so that's what I'll post here. It's 40 minutes of gameplay from one of the game's early areas, specifically the point where the player character first finds his ship, The Unreliable. Heading over to the nearby town of Edgewater to find a new power regulator for the ship, the player becomes involved in a dispute between the mayor and a group of deserters who have occupied a botanical garden in the adjacent wilderness.

The game looks pretty much final now, some janky enemy AI aside. Even though it's not an open world game per se, the areas look nice and spacious. Too bad we don't get to see the end of that quest, though.

There are 13 comments on The Outer Worlds Tokyo Game Show 2019 Gameplay Footage

Sat 14 September 2019

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Sat 14 September 2019, 18:06:40

Tags: Aeolwyn's Legacy; Brrapp Games; Tim Lang

Tim Lang was the level designer of Might & Magic VI and VII and lead designer of Might & Magic IX back at New World Computing. Since the studio shut down he's been doing all sorts of things, including a short stint on the Medal of Honor series, various mobile games, a vaporware sci-fi RPG project called Project 2137 and an equally vaporous shooter set in the same universe called Zombie Gauntlet Live. A couple of days ago, Tim announced that he'd decided to set the vapor aside and revealed his new project called Aeolwyn’s Legacy. He doesn't describe it as such, but it's very clear that the game is a homage to the late Might & Magic games. First person, party-based, not grid-based, with both real-time and turn-based combat modes. Here's the teaser trailer and details from the official website:

Aeolwyn’s Legacy is Brrapp Games new first-person party-based RPG for the PC. It’s an epic tale in a sprawling world filled with knights, kings, allies and betrayal.

The kingdom of Laryndor is in upheaval! Factions have begun forming against the king. Secret societies are plotting against the monarchy and may even threaten life itself!

Party Based Gameplay
Aeolwyn’s Legacy is a throwback to the Party-based Role Playing Games of old! Instead of playing one all-powerful character you’ve got a party of 4 characters who are under your full control to customize and develop as you choose!

There’s a large open world at your doorstep. Explore the world and find strange monsters and hidden locations. There will be plenty of secrets to uncover! Explore the wilderness and investigate dark dungeons and abandon temples.

Talk to NPCs. Take on quests large and small. Join factions and fight your enemies!

Epic Story
Play an epic, multi-branching story where choices you make may affect your future in Laryndor. Just because you are friendly with one faction doesn’t mean that all the other groups in Laryndor appreciate you meddling in their plans! Meddle too far and they may take action against you!

Fight powerful monsters and loot their treasure! Choose between real time combat to slay your foes, or if you prefer to think more strategically about your battles, switch to turn-based and outsmart your enemies. You can switch between the two any time you want.

Develop Characters
There’s tons of skills to learn, including martial skills, magic skills, and plenty more to help you in your quests! You have four characters to customize any way you want. Do you want to face the world with four soldiers? Do it! Do you prefer magical attacks? Go ahead! In Aeolwyn’s Legacy there are tons of character choices, each with 2 levels of promotions to get even more powerful.

Regular Updates
You won’t get the whole thing all at once! New regions, enemies, and quests will be added regularly!
Yeah, it's extremely low budget. I guess this game might end up being vaporware too, but this time there's an actual demo you can download. Given Tim's track record, the incremental approach to development is probably a good idea. Hopefully he'll release the game on Steam Early Access where it can get some attention.

There are 88 comments on Aeolwyn's Legacy is a Might & Magic VI-like blobber by New World Computing veteran Tim Lang

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Sat 14 September 2019, 17:24:55

Tags: BioWare; Blasteroids 3D; Matt Barton; Shattered Steel; Trent Oster

The second episode of Matt Barton's interview with Trent Oster takes a step back to discuss the latter's early career. Trent's first project as a game developer was an obscure shareware title called Blasteroids 3D, developed by him and his friends under the banner of Finite Element Software. The game failed to make a single dollar, but they learned enough along the way that they were eventually able to commit to developing a larger project which became Shattered Steel, BioWare's little-remembered first game. Trent is a technically-minded guy who enjoys describing the various challenges he faced while developing these games, but this part of the interview is most interesting for its look into the drama of BioWare's early days. Trent's older brother was apparently a difficult person, which led to the both of them being kicked out by the BioDocs after they got tired of his attitude, although Trent would soon return after being kicked out by his brother in turn.

Matt doesn't explicitly say so, but I assume the next episode of the interview will be about the Infinity Engine and Baldur's Gate.

There are 3 comments on Matt Chat 426: Trent Oster on Blasteroids 3D and Shattered Steel

Fri 13 September 2019

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 13 September 2019, 21:24:46

Tags: Dark Crystal Games; Encased

Encased wasn't a big enough deal to be at Gamescom or PAX, but it still looks just as cool as the all the other isometric RPGs that are in development these days. The game quietly slipped into beta early last month after spending little more than a month in alpha, so it's no surprise that the Early Access release has arrived swiftly. Yesterday Dark Crystal unveiled a new teaser trailer announcing that it's going to be out on September 26th, and today they followed that up with a proper announcement that reveals that the game will be releasing on GOG as well. I'll post it all here:

Greetings, recruits!

The time has come. The Early Access version of Encased is almost ready, and the Dome will soon be open to everyone. On September 26th, you can begin exploring the enigma that is the Dome!

Those who pledged their support on Kickstarter, or otherwise pre-ordered the game, will receive their keys via email during the Early Access launch. Over the next few days we will send out a questionnaire where you may choose your platform, Steam or GOG.

Now we will answer the biggest question posed by community: "What can we expect in Early Access?"
  • Early Access will include a section of the game's main plot relating the events leading up to and during the Incident.
  • After the prologue, you will have access to some parts of the open world, where you can explore and discover how life under the Dome changed after the disaster.
  • Portions of the desert beneath the Dome will be obscured as anomalous zones, and temporarily inaccessible. But don't worry, regular content updates will gradually open up new sectors of the Dome for you to explore.
  • The open world has a life of its own. Traveling through the desert, you'll meet wandering traders, bandits, wild animals, the Forefathers' machines and anomaly mazes. Sometimes you’ll encounter unique events leading to a quest or acquainting you with one of the Dome’s factions.
  • The Early Access release will include about 40 weapons. In addition, Encased lets players craft their own weapons, which can lead to more than 100 deadly devices in total!
You will also find new side quests, characters, secrets, locations, items, weapons and armor, new animations, improved sounds and music, item crafting, etc.

Right now and until the start of Early Access, we will continue to polish and improve the game. None of the feedback you sent escaped our notice. We've fixed tons of bugs, changed some small mechanics, and improved what you told us needing improving (but nothing too crazy, we can't add a Godzilla-sized Cheburashka or anything like that).

As a reminder, you can directly report any errors you find in the game by using the "Feedback" button in the interface. You can also message us in Discord .

The Dome awaits, your patience will soon be rewarded! Join your fellow Encased players on Steam or GOG!
This is shaping up to be another pretty mad September.

There are 5 comments on Encased releasing on Early Access on September 26th

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 13 September 2019, 18:17:26

Tags: Pahris Entertainment; Space Wreck

There are always various interesting little hobby projects incubating on our forums. One of these is Space Wreck, a Fallout-inspired isometric space RPG by veteran Codex poster Kamaz originally released last April as a free browser game on In Space Wreck, you play as the captain of a passenger shuttle damaged in an attack by space pirates. Your goal is to find replacement parts for your shuttle on a nearby derelict spacecraft. If that sounds like a simple hook for an RPG, that's because it is - this is an intentionally short game. But it's got the skill checks, multiple quest solutions and choice & consequence you'd expect from an RPG inspired by Fallout. After taking in plenty of criticism from our community, Kamaz decided to keep on improving Space Wreck with an eye towards a proper release on Steam Early Access. Yesterday he launched the game's Steam page with a release date of February 28th. Here's the trailer and description:

Inspired by classic western isometric RPGs (Fallout, Fallout 2, Arcanum), this is hardcore role playing game set in space 20 years post major conflict over asteroid mining.

Role playing
This is the most important part of the game - you can play whatever character you wish, play however you want to. You can be smooth talker, sneaky hacker or brawling bully; or something else - it's your choice: distribute the points in character creation and make decisions when playing.

Multiple solutions
There are always multiple ways to solve problems (quests), usually tied to your character skills and abilities - play to your character's strengths, work around its weaknesses. For example, if you cannot convince someone to help you, hack his computer and blackmail him. Or just straight up pickpocket the guy - all items are always realistically placed in NPC inventories.

Note: there are usually 3-8 ways to complete a quest in the game. They can trigger related events in near future or lead to a different ending in the end slides.

Choice & Consequence
Your actions, your decisions matter to the game world. Make an enemy, you may need him/her later on. Opt for easier solution to current problem and you might have to deal with bigger problem later. And in the end you will get a unique game ending showing you future fate of your character and those who he/she impacted through gameplay.

Non-linear world
You have an objective but how you approach it - it's up to you; game map is as open to you as reasonably possible (it's stranded space ship after all) and there is no single true path to the end. If you know where to go, what to do - you can try to sequence break the game. Combine that with multiple solutions to every quest and you've got freedom to spare.

Optional but unlimited violence
You can complete the game without killing anyone. In fact, combat is completely optional. But if you want to fight - there are no immortal or "essential" NPCs - everyone everywhere has finite amount of HP and is fair game.

Turn-based combat
Game features old-school tactical turn-based combat with grid based movement, action points and dice rolls.
Kamaz, you have our attention. We'll see how this turns out in five months.

There are 7 comments on Space Wreck is a short isometric space RPG inspired by Fallout, coming to Early Access in February

Thu 12 September 2019

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Thu 12 September 2019, 00:22:01

Tags: OtherSide Entertainment; System Shock 3

OtherSide Entertainment's System Shock 3 still doesn't have a publisher, and in recent months the studio has been shedding employees at a steady pace, including Underworld Ascendant game director Joe Fielder and producer/designer Chris Siegel. OtherSide aren't quite dead yet however, or at least the Austin studio isn't. Today they unexpectedly released a new System Shock 3 pre-alpha gameplay teaser. It's got mutants, robots, brief glimpses of combat with wrench and guns, all manner of body horror and of course SHODAN taunts. Following a brief period of IGN exclusivity, the teaser was uploaded to OtherSide's YouTube channel:

I'd say it looks good, if only I was confident it was a real thing that was ever going to be released. I guess we'll see what happens now. It's worth noting that IGN's article describes System Shock 3 as a "first-person action game", although it's also supposed to support various class roles like hacker, stealth specialist and melee master. Also, note the year mentioned in the teaser - 2085, which is between System Shock and System Shock 2. I wonder how that fits with Warren Spector's original plan.

There are 62 comments on System Shock 3 Pre-Alpha Gameplay Teaser

Wed 11 September 2019

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 11 September 2019, 23:21:55

Tags: Jeff Vogel; Queen's Wish: The Conqueror; Spiderweb Software

Jeff Vogel has always liked trolling for attention on his blog, particularly before the release of a new game. This year the game in question is Queen's Wish: The Conqueror, the first entry in a new series which was crowdfunded last year. A new IP will always require more promotion than a sequel or remake, and that's what Jeff delivered last month with the post entitled "Why All Of Our Games Look Like Crap", in which he attempted to explain why his games and Queen's Wish in particular haven't progressed (and indeed may have regressed) in terms of graphical fidelity and art direction. I doubt you'll find it persuasive, which may have been the point. It attracted enough hateclicks that he followed it up with another post called "I Am the Cheapest Bastard In Indie Games" five days later. We've already discussed these posts thoroughly on our forums, but now that the game is released, I'll post an excerpt here:

First, Let's Just Get One Thing Clear ...

I think my games look good, and they contain a lot of really good art.

All of the art in Queen's Wish was made by extremely talented freelancers doing really solid work to my specifications. I feel very lucky to be working with them. If you think my games look bad, any blame for that rests with me entirely.

Second, again, I think Queen’s Wish looks really nice and comfy. Maybe it's a generational thing. People who grew up with Nintendo and Sega really like pixel art. I grew up with Atari and Intellivision, and I am very used to having art that leaves a lot to the imagination.

My art is the sort of game art I grew up with, just with more modern color and detail, designed to give the feel of a tabletop Dungeons & Dragons game. That is my goal.

So when I say my games look like crap, I am maybe being a little clickbaity. Video games are art, art is hugely subjective, and there are lots of people who genuinely like how my games look. I certainly do.

What Is Wrong With Our Art?

If you think my art is fine and don't understand what the problem is, bless you. I'll tell you what some think is wrong, as best I understand it.

1. Queen's Wish has a very retro square-tile top-down view, reminiscent of old Ultima games, old Pokemon games, Spiderweb's first games, tabletop D&D, that sort of thing. For some, that old style is really unfamiliar and/or alienating.

2. Queen's Wish uses art made by a lot of different artists. That means that the style is not quite consistent. We've done our best to make it blend well, but it's a little off.

3. All the characters only look in diagonal directions. I made this choice because I once thought all the art would be hand-drawn, and I desperately needed to reduce the number of icons I needed. This was a mistake, and I'll probably try to fix it in Queen's Wish 2.

4. It's not in 3-D. Some people will only ever be happy with 3-D.

I'm sure there are lots of other problems. These are just the most common complaints. All these problems can be fixed. All they need is money. Lots of money.

You Gotta' Follow Your Muse

Game makers are artists. Artists are dependent on their inspirations. Sometimes your brain just wants to make a certain thing. If you aren't going to do what you want and believe in, why are you writing indie games?

I've been writing games with that angled isometric look for twenty years. Twenty! I just wanted to write something that looks different. I have to change things sometimes to stay interested and keep from burning out. Period.
So Jeff certainly has our attention, but I'm not sure that will translate to sales. From what I hear, Queen's Wish is a better-designed game than the Avadon trilogy in some respects, but it also features an extremely streamlined character system even by the standards of those games. If you do want to give it a look, the game is available on Steam and GOG now for $20 with a 10% launch discount until next week.

There are 21 comments on Queen's Wish: The Conqueror Released

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Wed 11 September 2019, 00:14:03

Tags: Solasta: Crown of the Magister; Tactical Adventures

The Solasta: Crown of the Magister Kickstarter campaign did well over the weekend and has now raised over €85k. On Friday the game's free demo was updated with two additional camera modes, addressing the most frequent complaint players have had about it. The first significant Kickstarter update this week is another lore update, this time introducing the halflings of Solasta. They come in two types - the original dark-haired and insular Marsh Halflings, and the more adventurous seagoing Island Halflings. Oh, and have I mentioned that they're semi-amphibious?

Origins and History

The halflings have always had an affinity toward water. Very few folk from other races know, for example, that our young are born in water and are amphibious for the first part of their lives.

According to legend, the halfling race began in the great marshes of Olme Fen, where the marsh halflings still live. The name “Olme” is fen dialect for “home,” and is pronounced in a very similar way.

The Manacalon Empire of the elves could not conquer the fens, and the Cataclysm, while it certainly caused some problems, harmed the halflings far less than other races. Because of this, some scholars snidely claim that halflings have no history, because they never did anything except hide in the fens. In fact, the halflings have a history that is just as rich as that of any other race. While halfling history will not be found in elven chronicles or dwarven archives, every halfling knows enough history to keep telling stories for as long as the food and drink last.

The Marsh Halflings

The fens of the north-east are home to a large halfling population, most of them making a living from fishing and fowling just like their ancestors have from time immemorial. The marsh halflings, as outsiders call them, seldom travel far from their homes, but they can claim, with good reason, to know every reed and every sinkhole in the few miles round about. They have little curiosity about the outside world and many visitors find them unwelcoming, but they themselves would say that they mind their own business and wish others would do the same.

The Island Halflings

Not all halflings were content to mind their own business, though. As far back as history records, young and venturesome halflings have found easy employment on the boats and ships that ply the rivers and seas. In the earliest times, some would make their fortunes and return home. Many more remained out in the world, though, founding halfling quarters in many ports and settling the southern islands from which their race takes its name. Even the might of the Imperial elven navy was not equal to their seamanship.


The halflings call themselves “folk,” a word which has been borrowed into the Common tongue for people in general. “Halflings” is a name given by other races: first the elves, who called them leathaine (“half-people”), and later by humans. This is because a typical halfling is about half the height of an elf or a human, though elves and even humans are a little thinner in proportion. Skin, hair, and eye color are very similar to those of humans. Marsh halflings tend to be slimmer than island halflings, as well as being paler of skin and darker of everything else.
In other news, the campaign has also achieved some of its social media stretch goals, unlocking Iron Man Mode among other things. One of the next rewards is an additional exclusive item for Kickstarter backers, so you may want to check that out.

There are 18 comments on Solasta Kickstarter Update #5: The Halflings of Solasta

Tue 10 September 2019

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 10 September 2019, 00:21:14

Tags: Copper Dreams; Whalenought Studios

That's right, Copper Dreams is still alive. The game has been in alpha since last November, and the last time we heard about it was in April. What have Joe and Hannah been up to since then? It turns out they spent the summer both adding new features to the alpha build and working on a new beta scenario that's supposed to be released later this month. Oh, and they also moved again and are currently on their way to Austin. But yeah, the new Kickstarter update has the details on those new features, which include a new streaming implementation that makes the game world seamless, swappable modular armor pieces, dual-wielding, and a new combat round mechanic to allow players to directly control companions. It's actually not clear which of these features are going to be added to the currently available alpha and which ones are only part of the beta, but I suppose that won't matter for very long. Here's an excerpt from the update:


Over the summer we finished implementing the remaining systems and code we designated for the alpha at this point. We’ve been doing some Alpha updates throughout the past few months and are posting the last combat testing map soon with a lot of new stuff that we'll be balancing and improving until the beta. So if you're an alpha backer check it out!

We wanted to do a preview of more gameplay but packed up and moved out of Seattle abruptly after we did that last update. We’re drifting somewhere in the wastelands of dairy farms and corn in the middle of the US at the moment, but will be hanging out in Austin soon! Fortunately we've had ample time to finish all this stuff and decided to show off more beta material when it was done. That's this month!

There will be an gameplay walkthrough video soon with a lot of these updates from an area early in the game, and we'll be releasing the Beta by the end of the month.

A part of the summer upgrades was a new pathing/streaming system — the city map is being welded together to be seamless — that's indoor, outdoor, city towers, underground and underwater are all linked together without map changes. This provides a more immersive city experience where you get a feel of scope and direction, and shows off a lot of the gang patrol and loose in&out of combat scenarios. And you can grand-theft-auto (and boat?) your way around quickly.

Plus we can advertise No LoAd TiMeS! like sweet games from the 90s where they streamed levels in while opening doors.

We'll showcase parts of the map as we finalize the art in them. The beta takes place on the south-eastern outer wall of the city where you "land", near a fishing wharf and an Ellis Island-esque inspection station turned gang hideout you need something from. The map location that has been most exciting to make is the block you do shopping and civilian shoulder ramming — a floating market near the middle of the city. The Calitana mining station turned city is sort of cobbled together via various platform-rigs on top of the water, and a floating market was a really fun cyberpunk visual for encapsulating slummin' in a high-tech world.

Unfortunately this area takes the most fine-tuning with civilian AI, driving, and Arms Guild, gang, and MFI patrols throughout. Getting from A to B throughout the game involves going through the market in some capacity, so it's receiving the most attention early on as we seam the other factory and spelunking maps. We'll post update pictures as we get through it.

More Action Choices

Oh yeah, dual wielding! We probably should have led with that. Most of the design philosophy for Copper Dreams and the ruleset comes from trying to accommodate what a player would like to reasonably roll to do in any situation, anytime. The player asking to hold two weapons at once is kind of an obvious ask, so we created an extra row of actions, one for the right and one for the left hand. The off-hand item is the item your character will use to defend/parry with if it exists, and there's a small negative balance modifier for having two out that will influence aiming, so there's a trade-off.

You get the unique actions of each weapon, so you can have some interesting combinations. For instance a throwing javelin in one hand for melee reach and an SMG to burst spray in the other. There are combo attacks you can do with items of similar types, like two knives, two pistols, two clubs, etc where you can attack back-to-back with no prep time for the second attack.


Through the alpha, Turn-a-Tile movement and combat plays essentially like a fast-paced roguelike — and that always left companions pretty open ended as to how they could work. We initially had companions as AI you could give directives to, like an RTS, but that wasn't as fun as we wanted it to be. Backers playing the alpha saw a couple other implementations we tested. We really wanted to keep the easy to play, fast paced, simultaneous, and loose flow of combat while also using companions for an environmentally strategic element. Our solution was keeping what we have because it was working so well, and dividing companion play in combat via round groups and combat risk.

Round Groups

When combat starts, characters involved are sorted into 4 different rounds via an initiative roll. You can have one party member per round. NPCs roll to be sorted and weighted into the 4 rounds as well. Each round can hold any number of enemies. Every character (PC and NPC) play like usual inside a round simultaneously turn-by-turn until they all finish, then recover through the next 3 rounds. Rounds without a character just play out NPC turns.
Check out the full update for more details on additional combat system changes, tile types, visual tweaks and more. It sounds cool, so let's hope the beta really does come out this month.

There are 5 comments on Copper Dreams Kickstarter Update #25: Summer Progress Report, Beta Coming Late September

Sun 8 September 2019

Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Sun 8 September 2019, 23:53:40

Tags: Hardsuit Labs; Paradox Interactive; Rachel Leiker; Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2

Surprisingly there were no special Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2 reveals at PAX West last week, despite the obvious move of taking advantage of a Seattle-based event for a game set in Seattle. Cara Ellison gave two vampire-related talks there, but they weren't broadcast and we found few details about them on social media. On the bright side, since last week Hardsuit have been doing weekly faction reveals on Wednesdays, similar to the clan reveals they did back in May. The factions they've revealed so far are the Pioneers led by Lou Grand (who may or may not be the same person as historical Seattle madame Lou Graham) and the Camarilla led by Alec Cross, both characters who we saw in the game's announcement trailer. Unlike the clan reveals these are just pure lore updates with no livestream announcements, fancy trailers or gameplay details, so they're not that newsworthy on their own, so consider this a roundup. The reason for this newspost is Bloodlines 2's latest dev diary, once again written by lead UI/UX designer Rachel Leiker, and this time it's actually about the UI.

Show the World of Darkness
The setting of the game dictates a certain aesthetic – modern day Noir, old versus new, tradition versus progress. We reflect this direction by presenting the player with a not-so pristine interface throughout the game.

Visual inspiration for the UI has been heavily influenced by Neo-noir and modern styles of media. The basic DNA of the style are high contrast, dramatic use of color, and high texture density to reflect the multi-layered quality of the world. With this in mind, we also needed to be careful not to obscure necessary information in style. The function of the thing is always more important than the form of the thing.

We established some basic scales for iconography and texture treatments - Modern, not Sci-fi; Scruffy, not grungy.

Be a Vampire

A HUD and menus are not typically something one would expect to deal with as a vampire, so we cultivated and curated every interaction to support that fantasy. Color scheme, interactions with the world, and character management have all been designed with this in mind.

To a Vampire, blood is everything. It sustains, it empowers, it demands. In the UI we use the color red very sparingly and only when it pertains to blood - Blood gain, blood loss, using blood, and specific feedback regarding health status. This is to help emphasize to the player that their very precious resource is changing, and they need to act accordingly.


A game with complex systems needs sophisticated feedback. Hierarchies allow us to give the player the right information at the right time without overwhelming or underserving their needs. Every piece of feedback is given a priority against all other forms of feedback, which allows us to easily arrange their placement on screen and their visuals to help the player understand what is most important at any given time.

In the HUD, related items are grouped together – Navigation, Blood-related systems like Health, Hunger, and Disciplines, Combat, and others all have a specific place based on the attention they demand of the player. The more efficiently we can get the necessary information to the player, the more time they can spend immersed in the world and less time engaged with the interface. Notifications also follow this rule – things that demand less of the player’s time are small and appear in a certain location, while Very Important™ notifications such as Quest Completed dominate screen space and player attention.


Players can expect the UI to function the same way no matter how they are using it. From Character Creation to Quests to navigation, the player performs an action and the expected result occurs. The goal here is to make managing your character less of a chore and something you enjoy doing. By making it easier for the player to engage with and understand the menus during gameplay, we ensure that they spend less time thinking about the UI and more time enjoying the game. We achieve this by having a consistent menu layout through all pages, consistent input and button locations, and having precise, easily discernible visual feedback if player interaction is required or not.


This appears at the bottom of this list because it is really the foundation for all our work. Hardsuit Labs as a studio is invested in making games that can be enjoyed by as many people as possible. Wherever, whenever possible, the game UI and UX supports accessible features. For example, color is never the primary source of feedback. We use contrast, texture, iconography, FX, text, and layout to provide the primary feedback and use color as secondary enhancement. This helps players with color vision deficiencies without having to have a separate color-blind mode. We are able to test this by including testers with color vision deficiencies in our QA process to give us feedback. Inclusion is part of the accessibility process as well, we have been very conscious about creating iconography that is non-gender specific and considerate of cultural sensitivities. The icons are designed to not rely on gendered tropes (such as pouty lips for seduction or a man’s dress shirt to represent wardrobe), and we use straightforward ideas for icons that can be interpreted no matter the native language or culture.

I’ll be able to talk more about the accessibility options when we get closer to the game’s release, we have many options that we are implementing in the game to make it an enjoyable experience for all of our players. Designing for accessibility is not only great for the players who need them, but it enhances the experience for all players across the board.

UX is so much more than just meters in the HUD and upgrading your skill tree. It really tries to maximize the enjoyment of the player by removing obstacles and solving problems with good design. When you play Bloodlines 2, our goal is to make sure you get the most out of your time with the game and are able to fully immerse yourself in your story. The various UI elements and UX design are all there to give you what you need without getting in the way, putting the proper amount of Feed into your Feedback*.
Next time there should be two or three more factions and hopefully a more substantive dev diary.

There are 23 comments on Bloodlines 2 Dev Diary #5: FEEDback - UX Design in Bloodlines 2

Fri 6 September 2019

Editorial - posted by Infinitron on Fri 6 September 2019, 23:46:40

Tags: Arthurian Legends; Electronic Arts; Origin Systems; Richard Garriott; The Digital Antiquarian; Ultima VII: Serpent Isle; Warren Spector

For the past eight years, the Digital Antiquarian blog has been following the history of Richard Garriott and Origin Systems, developers of the Ultima series, the preeminent RPG franchise of the 1980s and early 1990s. Now he's reached the point where it all began to fall apart for them. In late 1992, faced with financial uncertainty after the underwhelming commercial reception of Ultima VII, Origin agreed to be acquired by Electronic Arts. Naturally, they had a few games already in development when this happened. For starters, there was the unambitious Forge of Virtue expansion for Ultima VII and Looking Glass' Ultima Underworld II. This article however chooses to focus on the titles that came afterwards - the two Ultima VII engine-based projects, the Worlds of Ultima-style spinoff Arthurian Legends which was soon cancelled, and direct sequel Ultima VII Part Two: Serpent Isle.

The game which would be released under the long-winded title of Ultima VII Part Two: Serpent Isle had had a complicated gestation. It was conceived as Origin’s latest solution to a problem that had long bedeviled them: that of how to leverage their latest expensive Ultima engine for more than one game without violating the letter of a promise Richard Garriott had made more than a decade before to never use the same engine for two successive mainline Ultima games. Back when Ultima VI was the latest and greatest, Origin had tried reusing its engine in a pair of spinoffs called the Worlds of Ultima, which rather awkwardly shoehorned the player’s character from the main series — the “Avatar” — into plots and settings that otherwise had nothing to do with Richard Garriott’s fantasy world of Britannia. Those two games had drawn from early 20th-century science and adventure fiction rather than Renaissance Faire fantasy, and had actually turned out quite magnificently; they’re among the best games ever to bear the Ultima name in this humble critic’s opinion. But, sadly, they had sold like the proverbial space heaters in the Sahara. It seemed that Arthur Conan Doyle and Edgar Rice Burroughs were a bridge too far for fans raised on J.R.R. Tolkien and Lord British.

So, Origin adjusted their approach when thinking of ways to reuse the even more expensive Ultima VII engine. They conceived two projects. One would be somewhat in the spirit of Worlds of Ultima, but would stick closer to Britannia-style fantasy: called Arthurian Legends, it would draw from, as you might assume, the legends of King Arthur, a fairly natural thematic fit for a series whose creator liked to call himself “Lord British.” The other game, the first to go into production, would be a direct sequel to Ultima VII, following the Avatar as he pursued the Guardian, that “Destroyer of Worlds” from the first game, from Britannia to a new world. This game, then, was Serpent Isle. Originally, it was to have had a pirate theme, all fantastical derring-do on an oceanic world, with a voodoo-like magic system in keeping with Earthly legends of Caribbean piracy.

This piratey Serpent Isle was first assigned to Origin writer Jeff George, but he struggled to find ways to adapt the idea to the reality of the Ultima VII engine’s affordances. Finally, after spinning his wheels for some months, he left the company entirely. Warren Spector, who had become Origin’s resident specialist in Just Getting Things Done, then took over the project and radically revised it, dropping the pirate angle and changing the setting to one that was much more Britannia-like, right down to a set of towns each dedicated to one of a set of abstract virtues. Having thus become a less excitingly original concept but a more practical one from a development perspective, Serpent Isle started to make good progress under Spector’s steady hand. Meanwhile another small team started working up a script for Arthurian Legends, which was planned as the Ultima VII engine’s last hurrah.

Yet the somewhat muted response to the first Ultima VII threw a spanner in the works. Origin’s management team was suddenly second-guessing the entire philosophy on which their company had been built: “Do we still create worlds?” Arthurian Legends was starved of resources amidst this crisis of confidence, and finally cancelled in January of 1993. Writer and designer Sheri Graner Ray, one of only two people left on the project at the end, invests its cancellation with major symbolic importance:

I truly believe that on some level we knew that this was the death knell for Origin. It was the last of the truly grass-roots games in production there… the last one that was conceived, championed, and put into development purely by the actual developers, with no support or input from the executives. It was actually, kinda, the end of an era for the game industry in general, as it was also during this time that we were all adjusting to the very recent EA buyout of Origin.
Serpent Isle, on the other hand, was too far along by the time the verdict was in on the first Ultima VII to make a cancellation realistic. It would instead go down in the recollection of most hardcore CRPG fans as the last “real” Ultima, the capstone to the process of evolution a young Richard Garriott had set in motion back in 1980 with a primitive BASIC game called Akalabeth. And yet the fact remains that it could have been so, so much better, had it only caught Origin at a less uncertain, more confident time.

Serpent Isle lacks the refreshingly original settings of the two Worlds of Ultima games, as it does the surprisingly fine writing of the first Ultima VII; Raymond Benson, the head writer on the latter project, worked on Serpent Isle only briefly before decamping to join MicroProse Software. In compensation, though, Serpent Isle is arguably a better game than its predecessor through the first 65 percent or so of its immense length. Ultima VII: The Black Gate can at times feel like the world’s most elaborate high-fantasy walking simulator; you really do spend most of your time just walking around and talking to people, an exercise that’s made rewarding only by the superb writing. Serpent Isle, by contrast, is full to bursting with actual things to do: puzzles to solve, dungeons to explore, quests to fulfill. It stretches its engine in all sorts of unexpected and wonderfully hands-on directions. Halfway in, it seems well on its way to being one of the best Ultima games of all, as fine a sendoff as any venerable series could hope for.

In the end, though, its strengths were all undone by Origin’s crisis of faith in the traditional Ultima concept. Determined to get its sales onto the books of what had been a rather lukewarm fiscal year and to wash their hands of the past it now represented, management demanded that it go out on March 25, 1993, the last day of said year. As a result, the last third or so of Serpent Isle is painfully, obviously unfinished. Conversations become threadbare, plot lines are left to dangle, side quests disappear, and bugs start to sprout up everywhere you look. As the fiction becomes a thinner and thinner veneer pasted over the mechanical nuts and bolts of the design, solubility falls by the wayside. By the end, you’re wandering through a maze of obscure plot triggers that have no logical connection with the events they cause, making a walkthrough a virtual necessity. It’s a downright sad thing to have to witness. Had its team only been allowed another three or four months to finish the job, Serpent Isle could have been not only a great final old-school Ultima but one of the best CRPGs of any type that I’ve ever played, a surefire entrant in my personal gaming hall of fame. As it is, though, it’s a bitter failure, arguably the most heartbreaking one of Warren Spector’s storied career.

And there was to be one final note of cutting irony in all of this: Serpent Isle, which Origin released without a lot of faith in its commercial potential, garnered a surprisingly warm reception among critics and fans alike, and wound up selling almost as well as the first Ultima VII. Indeed, it performed so well that the subject of doing “more games in that vein,” in addition to or even instead of a more streamlined Ultima VIII, was briefly discussed at Origin. As things transpired, though, its success led only to an expansion pack called The Silver Seed before the end of the year; this modest effort became the true swansong for the Ultima VII engine, as well as the whole era of the 100-hour-plus, exploration-focused, free-form single-player CRPG at Origin in general. The very philosophy that had spawned the company, that had been at the core of its identity for the first decade of its existence, was fading into history.​

I'm actually underselling this article, which also covers Chris Roberts' Wing Commander series and failed spinoff Strike Commander. The bottom line is that Origin's first year under EA was a commercial disappointment, and 1994 was the year they had to deliver with Ultima VIII. We all know how that worked out, so prepare for impact.

There are 24 comments on The Digital Antiquarian on Arthurian Legends and Serpent Isle

Development Info - posted by Infinitron on Fri 6 September 2019, 21:41:22

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

Josh Sawyer enjoys flying to Europe each year to attend Game Dev Days, a small game development conference in Graz, Austria. This year his keynote was broadcast live on their Twitch channel. It's about developing games that support "universal character death" - the ability to kill any character - a feature that recent Obsidian RPGs have been known for. Over the course of the 45 minute talk, Josh discusses the challenges of designing main quests that can tolerate the death of critical characters, citing examples from Fallout: New Vegas and Pillars of Eternity II. He notes that this sort of design often results in its own cliches, such as the note with critical information on a dead character's body and characters that are protected by impenetrable glass windows, describes alternative design paradigms including games with no killing at all, and even links the topic to the broader controversy about violence in video games.

It's a fine talk, but the most interesting part is when Josh offhandedly mentions in the last two minutes that the next game he's working on will be "nonviolent". I wonder what that's about.

There are 37 comments on Josh Sawyer on developing games with Universal Character Death

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