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Monday - June 17, 2013
RPGWatch Feature: Meriwether - Interview with Joshua DeBonis
GhanBuriGhan had the opportunity to ask Sortasoft's founder and director Joshua DeBonis a few question on “Meriwether: An American Epic”. Like this question on the RPG gameplay elements:
RPGWatch: The historical setting as well as the financial support the project received by various public sources could lead gamers to the conclusion that Meriwether will be more Edutainment than game. What are the central gameplay elements that you think will make Meriwether attractive to RPG players?
Josh: It's been a constant struggle to separate Meriwether from edutainment. Yes, you will learn things playing this game. But we are approaching it first and foremost as a game, in the same way that we approach other games we design. I tend to favor elegant, distilled game mechanics that are easily approachable but have great depth to explore. This philosophy manifests itself in Meriwether in many ways; we wanted a game that won't feel too daunting to a history buff who doesn't play a lot of video games, but also will have lots of difficult choices to offer to hardcore gamers. We have shown and playtested the game at both PAX East and a Lewis and Clark convention, and had a very positive response at each. I think we are well on way to making that difficult balance a reality.
There's two parts that will be especially attractive to CRPG players. The first is our dialogue system. Our writer, Carlos Hernandez, is an incredible storyteller and he is giving a unique voice to all of the amazing characters. The conversations are a pleasure to play, but they also offer an interesting "facet" mechanic. We associate each dialogue choice with one facet of Lewis's personality-leader, soldier, diplomat, scientist, or melancholy. When you choose an option, it increases your level in that facet. Occasionally, you need to choose melancholy to keep balanced, which can often lead to an undesirable situation. The trick is to choose it at the right moment! So the facet system will couple a good story with good gameplay and provides players with a pretty unique dialogue system.
The other mechanic that I think will interest CRPG players is managing the party as a whole. You need to balance all of your resources very carefully. Will you spend your timing hunting or clearing a safe path for your boats? Will you trade your last spare rifle for horses to make your journey across the Rocky Mountains easier? The real Lewis and Clark Expedition had to think about balancing those choices every second of their voyage, and they import beautifully into our game.
Release: In development
Expeditions: Conquistador - Review Roundup
Here are a few more reviews for Expeditions: Conquistador.
Indie Luchador, 4/5
Outside of combat, Expeditions Conquistador has a lot of great RPG elements. You will take missions from the Spanish governor as well as others along the way. The dialogue for this is great and makes you feel like you're in the historical time period of the 1500s. The characters match the setting perfectly, and saying the right thing can give you an advantage. You can use things such as diplomacy to avoid combat in certain situations altogether. You will also have a lot of interactions with your team of conquistadors -- during exploration you may take some time out to get to know a few of them better or make some decisions based on their actions. This can help them trust you or despise you and everyone on your team will react in a positive or negative way depending on your reaction. These decisions range from outside opportunities for team members or even religious beliefs which really adds morality and your own belief structure into the game. This helps to gain attachments to some of the characters, and it is some great storytelling.
Although the writing, and its depiction of characters both American and European, doesn’t shy from the horrors of the situation, the portrayal has enough complexity to avoid generalisation. Indeed, it uses fantasy tropes – forbidden rites, abandoned temples, mysterious shaman – and then casts them on their head. The writers also avoid the temptation of creating pure and noble natives pitched against thoroughly nasty Europeans. The people, whatever their culture, are flawed, interesting and frequently unusual.
The characters and plotlines are the game’s strength and they’re strong enough that even when I was feeling the strain of yet more wandering, camp management and combat, I still wanted to continue, to see what happened next. In its depiction of the theme and times, the writing hits the sweet spot between historical accuracy and flexibility, allowing female characters much more active roles on the frontline than might be expected, and permitting the player to make decisions that are modern and almost entirely based on hindsight and an anachronistic worldview.
No matter where you are in the world, what you do, how the people are spoken to, the decisions that you make, everything affects each and every person in your crew. Have a few aggressive followers? They won’t hesitate to assert their feelings on the natives, but don’t be too hasty! The more open-minded, peaceful folk might take offense to purging a town full of women and children. Do enough to upset specific followers and they could leave your expedition altogether or, even worse, rise up in attempted mutiny. Character interaction on this level hasn’t been done this well since Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn – which, to those in the know, understand how large of a feat that is.
This last review is also available in a video version
Expeditions: ConquistadorSP/MP: Single-player
Matt Chat - Interview With Lord British
Fallout: New Vegas - Cut Material
No Mutants Allowed bring us an overview of material that was cut from Fallout: New Vegas according to a trustworthy source.
Here are two of them:
When Ulysses was still a companion in the game, he was indeed meant to be recruitable at the location that became Wolfhorn Ranch, as some people have guessed from the fact that the location was called "Ulysess' camp" in some localized versions of the game. This version of Ulysses would actually not be open about his allegiance with the Legion, but rather try to gently steer the character to more pro-Legion views while offering commentary of the various locations and events of the game. Ulysses would only openly admit his pro-Legion beliefs when dealing with a Legion-affiliated PC.
The Black Mountain location was meant to play a larger role in the NCR/Legion conflict at one point, with factions interested in controlling it due to its satellite system (the NCR to expand their broadcast range and the Legion to use as a jamming system). Digging through the files of the game one can still find some references to a quest that involved blowing up the satellite dishes that was tied to that older design of the area.
Fallout: NVSP/MP: Single-player
Platform: PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Witcher 3 - Interview @ RPS
In an interview with Rock Paper Shotgun, CD Projekt's head Marcin Iwinski talks about free DLC and DRM concerns for The Witcher 3.
“A lot of people on forums are saying, ‘No, but you guys are anti-DRM,’” Iwinski admitted during an interview with RPS. “And we really are anti-DRM. But at the same time, there are people who’ll be fine with [Xbox One's online-heavy DRM]. They’ll buy the console and just want to play. Why should we not give them this option?”
“That’s our approach, but at the same time, we don’t know what the final policies are. Things might be changing. There’s a lot of heat right now. From our perspective, we’ll always choose the most gamer-friendly solution. And on the platform where we have control – which is PC – we’ll release on GOG day one and DRM-free.”
“We’ll be supporting The Witcher 3 for years after it comes out,” he said. “We’re also building the Redkit, and we’ll talk about modding Witcher 3 when the time comes. It’s all about a long-term relationship with our gamers. It even works from a business perspective. Abandoning our baby that we’ve worked on for several years would be crazy. The fact that we have a second game in development just gives us a better way to reallocate resources – QA and whatnot. It’s just a better way to manage the process internally. It’s better for the people and the team.”
Cube World - Game Information
I reported on a game called Cube World last month. It's a voxel-based exploration RPG, and now the webpage has been updated with more infomation. Give it a look and see if the game interests you.
I'm Wollay, the creator of Cube World. I started this game in June 2011 as a hobby project. My inspirations were Minecraft, Zelda, Secret of Mana, Monster Hunter, Diablo, World of Warcraft and many more. My aim was to create an infinite, colorful, procedurally generated world, full of adventures, monsters, and mysteries. The result is Cube World, a voxel-based role-playing game.
My wife joined development in 2012, and we're planning to release an alpha version for Windows PC soon. The alpha already has many features, but some are still missing. You can check out a feature overview below.
The alpha will be available for a lower price than the beta version and the final version. We're planning to release updates regularly. Updates are free.
A main feature of Cube World is the random world generation. In contrast to many games, worlds are not designed by a level designer, but generated procedurally by the game using math and random numbers. The result is an endless world (nearly endless, i.e. players can't reach the borders), so players can explore new landscapes all the time.
Players can generate their own worlds by specifiying one single number, the seed. The same seeds result in exactly the same world, so players can share their worlds with friends by telling them their seeds.
Worlds are generated on-the-fly while playing, so there are neither long precomputations nor huge save files at the beginning.
There are no artificial borders. You can literally reach each cube the world is made of. If you see a mountain on the horizon, you can climb that mountain. If you see a tree, you can climb on top of the tree. At least if your climbing skill is good enough. :)
Cube World consists of different lands with varying climates and themes. There are grasslands, snowy landscapes, wide oceans, dangerous lava lands, jungles, and deserts. Landscapes are full of mountains, caves, rivers, lakes, forests, rocks, dungeons, castles, ruins, catacombs, temples, villages, and more.
Transistor - More Previews
Here are a couple of recent previews and one interview for Supergiant Games' upcoming action-RPG Transistor.
Besides launching both short and long range attacks along a prescribed axis, the Transistor grants Red the ability to stop time, move from cover to cover or around her opponents, and launch multiple attacks on multiple targets in a single ‘turn.’ Each decision drains a section of the Transistor’s stored power, and when the power bar is drained, the player must execute the chosen moves in the real world, watching as Red makes real what they had planned out beforehand.
If all of that sounds a bit more complicated than Bastion’s brawler mechanics, the game’s tutorial helps communicate the surprisingly intuitive and simplistic control scheme against a number of single enemies. But when the Process arrives en masse, the game’s true genius begins to shine through. As mentioned above, Red’s attacks are only damaging along a single line drawn directly out from her position; if the player can manage to line up the enemies like dominoes, Red’s attacks are capable of inflicting damage against everytone in that path.
Those who recall the more frenzied and frantic sections of Bastion’s endgame – or that game’s Training modes for individual weapons – don’t need to be told just how quickly a battle can become a fast-paced game of chess. Planning out repeated strikes against larger opponents and seeing the damage to be inflicted stack up on screen, or using attacks with higher splash damage to inflict widespread injury is satisfyingly calculated. The balancing comes when Red is forced to seek cover and stay mobile until the Transistor recharges, before returning to the offensive once more.
At the top of the screen is a meter that comes into play when you press R2 to immediately freeze time. At this point, you can move Red around and queue up attacks. Each of these actions takes up a portion of the meter, but you are free to move and line up attacks on rows of enemies, which is where the unique pattern of each attack comes into play. Once you're ready, pressing R2 again will unfreeze time, and Red will execute all of the selected moves and actions. Enemies are still able to move — albeit slowly — during this phase, but careful planning of attacks often allowed me to wipe out an entire room of foes. The meter recharges quickly, so the flow of combat has a unique pace, with real-time action beats alternating with meticulously executed queued combos.
The queuing mechanic also seems like it will be used in puzzle solving. One such situation included a locked door with two switches. Pressing both switches would open the door, but not long enough to pass through. By using action queuing, I was able to hit both switches and pass through the door before it closed. I was pleased to see this, because it gives me hope that the full game will feature more extensive puzzles that make creative use of your abilities.
Regarding the greatest excitement of working on Transistor, Kasavin noted that the team simply enjoys making deep and interesting worlds wherein players "give a damn." The team enjoys its games' unique identities and wants to explore the limits of their potential. When asked if he felt pressured to produce a game at the level of Bastion's success, Kasavin noted that the real pressure comes from being surrounded by so many talented people on a daily basis and wanting to contribute as effectively as his colleagues. He also remarked that debate and disagreement within the company aids in the creative process, ultimately providing a better product. Fortunately, events such as E3 present the opportunity for validation from the public, letting Supergiant Games know that they're moving in the right direction.
In terms of qualities specific to Transistor, Kasavin noted that "The Process" is a sort of force that seeks out the Transistor, a blade that the protagonist, Red, discovers at the onset. While exploring, players encounter columns jutting from the floor and monsters; Kasavin states that this is The Process. The sentient blade, Transistor, is aware of The Process, and responds in the present, differing significantly from the omniscient narration of Rucks in Bastion. I asked Kasavin if the types of powers gained from the dead bodies Red encounters had anything to do with the deceased's former lives or personalities, to which he was bemused, noting that that may be a motivation behind the types of powers gained.
System Shock 2 - Source Fan-Made Remake Cancelled
The fan made source remake for System Shock 2 has been cancelled. Mark Valentine the man behind the project has released his assets for the Source Engine remake. Valentine said that people are welcome to continue working on it, and that he’ll help with this project’s development if that ever happens.
“I’m releasing all my assets because I hate it when people make something cool and they just sit on their assets and all that work is lost forever. I refuse to do that. So here’s all the map files, all the models and textures I had converted, some basic instructions for the pipeline I was using.”
Those interested can download System Shock 2′s Source assets from here. There is also a video showcasing what the project looked like.
System Shock 2SP/MP: Single-player
Borderlands 2 - Q&A on Future Content
2K Games released a new Q&A video hosted by Borderlands 2 writer Anthony Burch, creative director Paul Hellquist, and Gearbox VP Steve Gibson. The five and a half minute video answers questions from fans about characters, gameplay and future releases.
We asked you for your questions on Borderlands 2. Here are some of them answered by Steve, Paul and Anthony from Gearbox!
Borderlands 2SP/MP: Single + MP
Witcher 3 - Preview Roundup #3
Hopefully this is the last roundup of news from E3 for the The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. First we have a full audio presentation from E3 from gamertagradio.
Now here are the previews.
After speaking with a jarl, the demo took Geralt to the seas, where he passed a raiding party's ship (the rowers' song reaching across the water). We then saw the fast travel option, which is quite appreciated in a game of this size. The game, which can occupy a thorough player for over 100 hours, is 35 times larger than The Witcher 2. Yes, it's also larger than Skyrim, although comparing the two misses a few points. Allegedly it takes Geralt 40 minutes to pass from one end of the world to the other. On a horse. The developers actually have tools to develop realistic geography. They have one tool, for example, with a single purpose: to measure where rain would gather on terrain and allow a forest to grow.
I later interviewed Jonas Mattsson, an environment artist, and he explained the construction of the world as "organic," a term I commonly use when critiquing level design and world building. He assured me that the player would encounter something interesting every two to five minutes, and I believe it. From a single vantage point, we could see a house on a little island cliff, a fallen ruin, roads leading away, farmhouses, mountains, a forest, and probably more things I missed. That I couldn't take control of Geralt and explore almost killed me. There are sure to be side quests, caves, monsters, and treasure along all these routes, and some of the quests randomly pop up, although none are randomly generated. The entire game is handcrafted, which gives it a feeling of immense authenticity.
When Geralt headed to some ruins, he discovered a Fiend eating a corpse on the ground. A Fiend is a hulking three-eyed antlered beast of terrifying composure — you can spot it in the E3 trailer. It immediately attacked and an intense battle unfolded. The Fiend unleashed its special attack: using its third eye to hypnotize Geralt, causing his vision to darken and blur. The effect was horrifying, exciting, and unique — probably the coolest single thing I saw at E3.
Littering the landscape are mobs of creatures and monsters, small and large, as well as bandits, mercenaries, and other humanoid opponents. Like any good open world action game, whether or not you engage your opponent is entirely up to you. If you see bandits attempting to ransack a house you can, if you desire, keep on walking and let them go about their business. Or you can intervene. Doing so might give you access to secrets and lore about the world around you, fleshing out Wild Hunt‘s narrative, or may even open up an entirely new side quest story. Either way, if you do chose to engage opponents you find Wild Hunt has changed up the combat in a few ways from Assassin’s of Kings. Enemies are generally a lot tougher and methodical to take down, Geralt’s sword play faster, and sign powers like Igni easier to chain into battle (like incinerating your enemies). CDPR have also noted the negative reception from fans in regards to Assassin’s of Kings quick time events, removing all such things from Wild Hunt‘s combat.
Graphically speaking, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt captures those little details beautifully. Although we were reminded that we weren't seeing a final version of the game, the graphics were simply stunning. One sequence showed Geralt meditating for hours, and as the sun moved around him and day turned to night and night turned to day, the complex weather system and dynamic landscape of The Witcher 3 really came to life. Rippling grasses, wispy clouds and impressive lighting effects looked as good as anything I've seen at E3 and the team at CD Projekt RED should be (and is) proud of their product. But it's more than just a pretty game. Mattsson reaffirmed the company message that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is about bringing an intense, gripping story to the open world genre.
"Story can be lost in the open world," said Mattsson. "We want it to make sense. There is no 'collect ten flowers' or 'take this package over there' type questing. We are eager to prove that we made an open world with a strong story."
And here is a interview from OnlySP.
Q: On that note, will there be multiple endings?
A: Yes, sure. We’re having around 36 endings, as far as I remember. These affect the state that you will leave the world in after your playthrough.
Q: Firstly, the loading times… how prevalent will those be? Do you have any idea how long they’ll be and how often you’ll encounter them?
A: Thanks to new technology on RedEngine3, we were actually able to create a world without loading screens as you travel across the world. This should answer your question. *laughs*
Q: I did see a few framerate issues during the presentation. It was from a pre-alpha version, though, so I imagine those will be ironed out in the full release.
A: Yeah, definitely. We didn’t have everything fully optimized. It’s still very much a work-in-progress, so many elements, such as streaming, are still being created.
South Park - Preview Roundup #3
Here we are for the third time for more previews for South Park: The Stick of Truth based on it's showing at E3.
Combat itself plays out very similarly to Mario & Luigi, with timed button presses for extra damage becoming a must. All of the skills, like the rest of the game, involve a combination of school-age "magic" and real-life perversion. It's safe to say that Obsidian didn't skimp on any of South Park's foul-mouthed humor, as our demo's final battle with Cartman saw us mashing the A button to overpower his farts with our own.
It's tough to call South Park: The Stick of Truth "gorgeous," with its cardboard cut-out characters, but it is easy to say that it is extremely true to the show. Take away the HUD and UI and an argument could be made that just maybe you're watching an episode of the television show. The environments are equally impressive, with destructible objects aplenty. South Park's level-up system takes place within the world of - what else - Facebook, as the New Kid gains power by finding new friends in South Park, and the aesthetic works quite well.
Combat is turn-based, so players alternate turns with computer-controlled enemies they will encounter. The spells and abilities players use are comical, such as a lightning spell involving a bucket of water, jumper cables and a car battery, or the Flame Blast combining a can of hairspray and lighter. To restore mana, players must down burritos.
The show's humor is on full display during Stick of Truth, starting with the rampant passing of gas that serves as the game's equivalent to magic. After cupping his hands to catch farts, the player tosses them to cause damage.
"No magic with the fan running," shouts Butters. "You'll kill us."
Game developer Ubisoft demonstrated how "The Stick of Truth" would honor the show's spirit at E3 conference in Los Angeles. The demo begins, as so many episodes do, in South Park Elementary School. Rather than playing as existing characters from the show, the game puts players in control of a new student, dubbed "Commander Douchebag" by Eric Cartman, one of the show's main four characters.
The Commander finds himself in the middle of a war that's broken out in the school between two factions competing for the titular Stick of Truth — an artifact that holds either great power, or just provides a plot device for 8-year-old boys to fight over. Green-hatted Kyle leads the peaceful Elves, while Cartman has taken control of the belligerent Wizards. The Commander recruits series regular Butters into his party and sets out, under Cartman's orders, to stop Kyle.
The game looks exactly like the show, and the animation retains its occasionally jerky feel. All of the series regulars reprise their voice roles, and the music sounds like a parody of the epic tracks in games like "The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim."
South ParkSP/MP: Single-player
BioWare - GM Aaryn Flynn Reflects on E3 2013
BioWare's GM Aaryn Flynn shares his thoughts about this years E3 on the company's blog.
What did it feel like to show the first glimpse of Dragon Age: Inquisition to the world during the E3 press conference?
[Aaryn Flynn]: Very humbling. Many team members who are much closer to the game could have stood up there, but I got chosen because I’m more ‘expendable’! To represent their collective effort, in front of thousands of people is a big responsibility.
I wish I could convey how hard the team has been working for the past couple of years on the game. They had a vision to not do a CG trailer, but instead to show a trailer made from in-game footage, and they accomplished that in spades. But beyond that, there’s so much we haven’t shown yet, and we will very soon. This was just the team’s way of showing a small window into the game for fans that’ve been with us from the beginning.
You shared just a few of the first details about the game during the conference, but for those that weren’t able to watch, could you leave us with a refresher?
[AMF]: Dragon Age: Inquisition will launch in the Fall of 2014 on PC, PS4, Xbox One, PS3, and Xbox 360. We’ve shown Varric, a Qunari (who has a name, we’re just not releasing it yet!), Cassandra, and Morrigan.
With the breach of the Fade happening in the sky, demons have poured out and created a pretty big problem for the Inquisitor, the character you will play. You’ll have to cover huge areas of Thedas to uncover what happened. As you do, the choices you make will impact the world and bring everything to an ultimate conclusion.
Project Eternity - Social Round-up #3
Gamebanshee has another round-up of forum posts, and social network activity from the developers for Project Eternity. Most of the topics cover the UI mockup from a few weeks back.
Thanks for the feedback, everyone, divergent though it may be. Here are some things we are going to continue to look into:
* Better use of space overall. Not all of the decorative elements need to be there. We would like to have more room for the ability icons in particular.
* Re-working and re-positioning of the player menu (inventory, etc.).
* Possibly vertically orienting the character portraits and ability icons on one side of the screen. The combat log pretty much has to be horizontally-oriented, but other than scrolling through it, that's a non-interactive element of the UI.
I have to say I think it's strange that people are requesting UI layouts with character portraits far away from action icons, floating wireframe UIs, and similar features. While it's true that BG1 and IWD1 used wrap-around UIs, that was because 640x480 base resolutions didn't allow us to fit all of the elements along one edge of the screen. As soon as we went to 800x600 in IWD2, we immediately went to a consolidated UI layout that made mouse movement much more efficient. I understand that a lot of people use hotkeys and we certainly plan to support that, but GUIs need to be functional for people who use them. Putting abilities 75%+ of the screen width away from the character portraits is really inefficient.
While I certainly think the idea of a bone and obsidian UI could be really cool looking [note: he's referring to a forum user's idea], it would also be very stark and high-contrast. I think it would wind up dominating the screen, regardless of the environment. Our outdoor environments, especially, will fall more in the BG and BG2 spectrum of colors, which is why we went with more subdued natural tones and copper accents. We can certainly look at alternatives, but I wanted to give feedback on that particular idea.
Pillars of EternitySP/MP: Single-player