The Escapist - All News
Wednesday - January 08, 2014
The Escapist - Couple Names Daugther Tali'Zorah
Since day 1, her first name was always going to be Tali'Zorah. It's not necessarily "named after Mass Effect", but rather my wife fell in love with the name during our first playthrough of ME1 many years ago. Confused friends and relatives are told "we wanted a nice Quarian name" just because it's funny to see the confusion become worse.
Kotaku also has this story. They mention a comment from the above thread:
By that standard, Tali is easily a wonderful name for a little girl. It's beautiful, mellifluous, and appealingly feminine. But in the forum thread, the "'Zorah" suffix (surname?) is what bothers some. "Luke" is an excellent name, for example. (Of course it is!) But when this girl is 17 and filling out "Tali'Zorah" on her SAT bubble sheet, "That's kind of like calling your kid 'Luke Skywalker Smith," reasoned one commenter.
So, do you agree eith this or would you name your child after a video game character?
Monday - August 26, 2013
The Escapist - Designing The Apocalypse
Escapist Magazine has a new interview with Creative Director Greg Kasavin about Bastion.
The ending is very different from the rest of the game - you can't freely switch out your choices. Once you pick, that's it. Was that a conscious decision?
Yeah, that was very conscious. We weren't sure exactly how it was going to go, but I really liked the idea that, in this game - to back up a little bit, we have no last boss or anything like that, right? The metaphorical "last boss" of the game is just an expressive choice that you make. That is the ultimate challenge. In a game where you've been making cool, fun gameplay choices the entire time, here, now, is a choice whose consequences are unclear. You have to decide what's right without the game spelling out for you that you're going to get, like, +25% damage, or something like that. The idea that we're going to save these expressive narrative choices that don't necessarily have any gameplay impact at all for the very end seemed pretty exciting. We thought those choices could have the highest impact by sort of coming out of nowhere in that way near the end. But I don't think they come out of nowhere [totally], because they really are the first moments in the actual story of the game when the character is confronted with situations where he does have to make this kind of choice. So it all seemed to work out nicely, and we liked saving that sort of thing for last.
We felt that, either consciously or not, if the player was gonna invest that much time into the game to get to that point, chances are he would feel something about the world and about these characters and could make a choice accordingly. Whereas if we put those kind of choices in early on, they would be less meaningful, because you would have less time to basically get to know everything about the world. It's like, "Why should I care what happens?" We didn't end up using this as a tagline, but the sort-of tagline we had for the game early on was, "What will you make of the world?" - both speaking to how you build up the world around you, but it's also speaking to [the player] deciding what to make of it, I guess, in a more spiritual sense; you get to decide what happens to it. Because, ultimately, in any story, it comes down to: how is the world different between the beginning of the story and the end of the story? We wanted that difference to be pretty profound in the case of our game.
Monday - December 31, 2012
The Escapist - 2012: Five Favorites
The Escapist has penned an article about five favorites from 2012. Diablo 3 is one of these five favorites:
2. Diablo III
Okay, so the loot drops were completely random, and only suited your character, or any character for that matter, one in twenty times. Sure, you could use the Auction House to pick up gear that suits you, but the economy was so wonky you had to farm for days to afford even a single upgrade, assuming it was still available by the time you accrued the gold to buy it. Perhaps the character customization was a little too user-friendly, making customization largely a farce, especially in higher difficulties. I won't deny it had problems. I also won't deny that it was some of the most fun I've had all year.
Source: The Escapist
Wednesday - October 24, 2012
The Escapist - Playing it Properly
In an editorial at Ed Smith from The Escapist ponders over if seasoned video game players aren't playing the games incorrectly. Using Heavy Rain as an example, he tells the story of how his girlfriend plays Heavy Rain. Here's his thoughts on this:
I start to feel like she's playing it wrong. Not badly, you understand, just incorrectly. See, for all its lengthy dialogue and scripted action, Heavy Rain is pretty choice-heavy; you can talk to that guy, or this guy, or neither, and your decisions affect the game. My girlfriend's talking to all the wrong people. Take one of the early levels. As FBI agent Norman Jayden, she's meant to be rounding up evidence from a muddy crime scene. After about fifteen minutes of scanning for fibers and walking around, she's turned up nothing but cop DNA and dead cats. Another detective comes over and asks if she's ready to leave. Shrugging, she hits "yes" and I only just manage to grab the controller before she gets back into her car.
And here's his conclusion:
And then it hits me. Like Batman staring down at Harvey Dent's body, I suddenly realize I've become the thing I hate. Nagging my girlfriend to do what she's told, I'm the scoring system at the end of each level, the angry support character telling you off for doing it wrong. I'm the thing that kills videogames, the prodding performance review that won't let you be.
Heavy Rain is an adventure game, but when I read this, I wondered whether or not we,
the veterans of the rpg-genre, are doing the same as Ed Smith is. Please discuss.
Source: The Escapist
Friday - January 20, 2012
The Escapist - How Dragon Age 2 Fell Apart
An editorial at The Escapist discusses how and when Dragon Age 2 fell apart. The author is critical about how DA2 handled the narrative choices. A sample:
So I return to the point where Dragon Age II fell apart, the "Best Served Cold" quest. My Hawke would have been overjoyed to learn of a rebellion against Knight-Commander Meredith by Templars and Mages combined! What an opportunity to not only unseat a maniac who was threatening to destroy the city, but to also forge a new bond of cooperation between the two factions whose rivalry had been at the heart of Kirkwall's tensions!
Monday - November 15, 2010
The Escapist - Know Your Gaming Roots
This isn't about RPGs although a couple of games of interest get mentioned - but I thought the idea of understanding where some of the current popular games stem from was an interesting one. Shamus Young talks about Know Your Gaming Roots:
What made them important: Eye of the Beholder is a classic and served as my introduction to Dungeons & Dragons on the computer, but I don't think the game has any progeny on the shelves today. I think a first-person, party-oriented, turn-based RPG would be an impossible pitch in today's market. (You could claim that something like Dragon Age is a descendant, but I think that would be a stretch.) But what solidified Westwood's place in history is the fact that they basically invented the Real-Time Strategy genre. Bits of the idea had surfaced in earlier games, but Westwood's Dune II gave us the full package: Build a base, harvest resources, make dudes, and kill the enemy base. (Yes, Dune II - they invented a new genre in the process of making a sequel. Man, do I miss those days.) After Dune they went on to create the Command & Conquer games. What happened to them: They were purchased by Electronic Arts in 1998, and closed by EA in 2003. The silver lining is that EA admitted their mistake and CEO John Riccitiello took responsibility for the once-successful company flaming out under his management. They seem to have mended their ways, and BioWare has fared much better in their service since then. Hm, admitting fault and changing direction? I disagree with Riccitiello from time to time, but this is a pretty good example of why he's a class act compared to other guys I could mention.
What made them important: Eye of the Beholder is a classic and served as my introduction to Dungeons & Dragons on the computer, but I don't think the game has any progeny on the shelves today. I think a first-person, party-oriented, turn-based RPG would be an impossible pitch in today's market. (You could claim that something like Dragon Age is a descendant, but I think that would be a stretch.)
But what solidified Westwood's place in history is the fact that they basically invented the Real-Time Strategy genre. Bits of the idea had surfaced in earlier games, but Westwood's Dune II gave us the full package: Build a base, harvest resources, make dudes, and kill the enemy base. (Yes, Dune II - they invented a new genre in the process of making a sequel. Man, do I miss those days.) After Dune they went on to create the Command & Conquer games.
What happened to them: They were purchased by Electronic Arts in 1998, and closed by EA in 2003. The silver lining is that EA admitted their mistake and CEO John Riccitiello took responsibility for the once-successful company flaming out under his management. They seem to have mended their ways, and BioWare has fared much better in their service since then. Hm, admitting fault and changing direction? I disagree with Riccitiello from time to time, but this is a pretty good example of why he's a class act compared to other guys I could mention.
Sunday - July 04, 2010
The Escapist - Editorial about how the Term RPG is a Mess
But the nature of a specific D&D game can vary a great deal depending on who is running the game and these gameplay aspects will appeal to different types of players. Some people just want to kill stuff and don't care about story. Some want to play characters, etc. But since every game was run by a person, D&D was able to be all things to all people. If the game wasn't giving you what you wanted then it was a problem with your DM, not the game.
So then the computer rolled in and people started making videogames out of what they thought were the crucial components of an RPG. Some focused on character building, some on storytelling, some on strategy. And they all called their wildly divergent games "Role Playing Games"
In similar news, also at The Escapist, a former? IGN PC editor, Steve Butts, covers nearly every genre convention and our expectations to them.
Another part of the problem is that genre definitions based on the interaction and presentation of the game are vague enough to be confusing. At the most basic level, for example, almost every game is a simulation because almost every game simulates some kind of reality. From football to fishing to flying to finance, any game that represents a real world system is, by definition, a simulation. Likewise, most games are designed to put the player in a discrete role or responsibility, so most games have some element of roleplaying. You could even argue that all games are strategy games to the extent that they require players to collect and contextualize information to improve the quality of range of their interactions with the game world. The best games blur the lines between distinct genre divisions. Is GTA a driving game? Yes, but not just a driving game. Is Borderlands a shooter? Yes, but not just a shooter. Is Mass Effect an RPG? Yes, but not just an RPG.
Wednesday - June 16, 2010
The Escapist - Editorial about E: Everyone - but not for me
The co-founder of The escapist Alexander Macris has written a rather thought-provoking article dealing with the rising costs of game production. And how this affects the games being produced. Here's one of his thoughts - the others are very intriguing to read, too:
What does it mean to say that in 1999 a videogame only needed to reach 80,000 customers to break even? It means that videogames once had economics similar to book publishing or music publishing. A low cost of production relative to retail price point creates a low breakeven point that incentivizes publishers to invest in top-quality genres that cater to specific niches. They can capture every consumer's taste, no matter how obscure, with something great.
Here's his closing statement:
So at E3 this year, I'll be prowling around like some sort of saber-toothed tiger of videogaming. My food supply has grown scarce; my days as an apex consumer are limited. I'm rated E for Endangered.
Saturday - January 30, 2010
The Escapist - Yahtzee on RPGs
Since genre classification arguments are all the rage with the release of Mass Effect 2, here's Yahtzee's take on it over at The Escapist. Of course, he has no real solutions, either:
I don't know if anyone else has noticed, but the videogame cataloging system is in dire need of revision. I'm talking about all the different genre titles that define the style of game play: names like "first person shooter," "strategy," "beat 'em up." I really feel that a lot of them are becoming increasingly misnamed. Take "simulation," for example. Surely every game is a "simulation" of something, whether it be flying a World War 2 fighter plane or finely slicing the buttocks of minotaurs. Same goes for "adventure." Even more specific names like "shooter" don't encapsulate the grab-bag of genres most shooters are these days; the word "shooter" could just as easily apply to both Uncharted 2 and Space Invaders. But the worst of these is "role-playing game," and the fact that its definition has never been particularly clear doesn't help. Again, surely every game has you playing a role to a certain extent, but presumably it's intended to harken back to the old pen-and-paper role-playing games you used to play with your little friends around the kitchen table in your pathetic, idle youth (or pathetic, idle current existence). But those games were about literally taking on a role; by this token the only true video RPGs are ones like Mass Effect or Vampire: Bloodlines that let you make dialogue and action choices that define the nature of your character's personality, and there are plenty of RPGs that don't do that.
I don't know if anyone else has noticed, but the videogame cataloging system is in dire need of revision. I'm talking about all the different genre titles that define the style of game play: names like "first person shooter," "strategy," "beat 'em up." I really feel that a lot of them are becoming increasingly misnamed. Take "simulation," for example. Surely every game is a "simulation" of something, whether it be flying a World War 2 fighter plane or finely slicing the buttocks of minotaurs. Same goes for "adventure." Even more specific names like "shooter" don't encapsulate the grab-bag of genres most shooters are these days; the word "shooter" could just as easily apply to both Uncharted 2 and Space Invaders.
But the worst of these is "role-playing game," and the fact that its definition has never been particularly clear doesn't help. Again, surely every game has you playing a role to a certain extent, but presumably it's intended to harken back to the old pen-and-paper role-playing games you used to play with your little friends around the kitchen table in your pathetic, idle youth (or pathetic, idle current existence). But those games were about literally taking on a role; by this token the only true video RPGs are ones like Mass Effect or Vampire: Bloodlines that let you make dialogue and action choices that define the nature of your character's personality, and there are plenty of RPGs that don't do that.
Saturday - December 05, 2009
The Escapist - The Writers of BioWare
Another Shamus Young article, this time his regular Experience Points column at The Escapist. Shamus looks at the characters and writing in recent BioWare games (from KotOR on) and (surprise!) finds consistent archetypes. Some of the selections will no doubt be debatable, so you can also read his comments at his blog. A sample:
If you've played the BioWare games from the last decade, you may have noticed some really strong similarities between them. Some take place in the Star Wars universe, some in a high fantasy setting, some in a space-faring future, but the same elements, characters, themes, and plot devices appear again and again. Once you get to know these games, you can recognize what NPC archetype you're talking to within a minute or two of meeting them. Think about how similar your companions are from game to game: The Remorseless Killer The product of a warrior culture, the Remorseless Killer is just doing his job. His grim, scorched-earth, genocidal, baby-killing job. Don't take it personally. Most of the time his awful deeds served the greater good. Or seemed to. He thinks. It's all sort of a blur now. Still, he can't help it so it's best not to dwell on the past anyway. The Berzerker Unlike the Remorseless Killer, the Berzerker doesn't just go around killing people for some misguided cause. He does it for laughs! If you need someone to snap out a couple of witty one-liners while mowing down foes, the Berzerker is your man.
If you've played the BioWare games from the last decade, you may have noticed some really strong similarities between them. Some take place in the Star Wars universe, some in a high fantasy setting, some in a space-faring future, but the same elements, characters, themes, and plot devices appear again and again. Once you get to know these games, you can recognize what NPC archetype you're talking to within a minute or two of meeting them.
Think about how similar your companions are from game to game:
The Remorseless Killer
The product of a warrior culture, the Remorseless Killer is just doing his job. His grim, scorched-earth, genocidal, baby-killing job. Don't take it personally. Most of the time his awful deeds served the greater good. Or seemed to. He thinks. It's all sort of a blur now. Still, he can't help it so it's best not to dwell on the past anyway.
Unlike the Remorseless Killer, the Berzerker doesn't just go around killing people for some misguided cause. He does it for laughs! If you need someone to snap out a couple of witty one-liners while mowing down foes, the Berzerker is your man.
Saturday - November 07, 2009
The Escapist - Quest for the Sidequest!
Shamus Young is at it again and this time he is taking aim at moronic sidequests. He's fed up with having to kill a horde of bad guys in search of that ever elusive 'key'. Here is a taste from his first few paragraphs to get a feeling of what the rest of the article is about:
You've just arrived at the abandoned house where you think the diamond stash may be hidden. The windows are broken, the steps are falling apart, and the yard is a sea of knee-high grass. You walk up to the front door, but you can't open it because there's a strip of yellow police tape across the door with the words DO NOT CROSS written on it. Drat! How can you get in? Suddenly a wandering hobo gets your attention. He tells you that there's a crack den just down the street filled with bloodthirsty, heavily-armed gangsters. The hobo is pretty sure they have a pair of scissors in the basement that you could use to cut the police tape.
I submit that the person who goes into the crack den for the scissors is the second stupidest person in history. The stupidest person in history is the one who came up with this quest in the first place. I've played more than my share of quest / adventure / RPG games in my day, and I've seen this quest in one form or another about infinity times. It is well past the point where game designers need to quit doing this.
Saturday - October 24, 2009
The Escapist - Ding! Now You Suck Less
Shamus Young from Twenty Sided writes one of his pieces for The Escapist, titled Ding! Now You Suck Less. As you probably guessed, it's about leveling and how game designers often "muck this up":
4.It lets the player customize both their character and the gameplay to focus on the parts they enjoy the most. "I hate sneaking around in the dark. I'd much rather just lob fireballs at these guys, so I'll put more points into magic."
How game designers muck this up: Too often, games will offer single-solution challenges. This lock must be picked. This guard must be charmed out of the way by your speech skill. This puzzle can only be solved with a fireball. A good game will let you choose any way you like to solve a problem. You can talk the guard into giving you the key, pick the lock or burn the door down with a fireball. A bad game will make you do a little of everything according to the wishes of the totalitarian designer. See also: forced stealth gameplay sections.
Tuesday - August 04, 2009
The Escapist - Roleplaying: Evolved
This article at The Escapist looks at the roots of roleplaying to illuminate the evolution of the genre - or the lack of it. Here's one of the central arguments:
Consider this: Back in the day, Dungeons & Dragons gave us six primary characteristics - Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution and Charisma. Each was represented by a number on a scale, but the most important statistic for determining a character's overall effectiveness was its level. Fallout 3, the game of the year in 2008, has seven primary characteristics represented by numbers on a scale, including Strength, Intelligence and Charisma. Agility stands in for Dexterity and Endurance for Constitution. Levels? Check, and now as then, they boil down a character's overall potency to a single number.
Fallout 3 isn't a bad game, and it doesn't stand alone in committing this particular failure of imagination. A determined ludo-archaeologist could unearth Strength and Levels in the many progeny of D&D from one end of GameStop to the other. But it's a perfect example of how far roleplaying hasn't managed to come in 35 years. For everything that Fallout 3, Mass Effect and the others bring to the table, what's the point of the Strength and Levels, for crying out loud?
Saturday - May 23, 2009
The Escapist - Death to Good Graphics
I'm not really much of a fan of Shamus Young but his piece Death to Good Graphics at The Escapist raises an issue many RPG fans have argued for some time:
You can see where this is going. The one hour room gave way to two hours, and eventually led to teams of people working for days to make just a few moments of playable content. Now you have someone designing the level, someone else making unique meshes to decorate the space, a specialized texture artist, and a lot of work being done to set up complex lighting systems, moving machinery, special environmental effects, and all of the other steps needed to take advantage of current-gen graphics engines. That's more than a thousand fold increase in the amount of work required to give players a few seconds of entertainment. This inflation of manhours is obviously unsustainable, and even the amount of work we're putting into games now is probably too much. Taking another step forward is folly.
Sunday - September 14, 2008
The Escapist - The Long and Short of RPGs
The Escapist complains most RPGs are too long in a piece called The Long and Short of RPGs. Nearly every example is a console JRPG but the author does include western RPGs in the intro. Oddly, she doesn't call for shorter games - but rather a setting to allow players to choose a shorter or longer version:
The obvious answer is to just not do that, of course. And I've tried. With fierce resolve, I have steadfastly refused to explore entire sections of maps, left doors unopened, ladders unscaled, bureaus unsearched, pots unbroken. And I've had a miserable time. Eventually, I simply had to admit that if I don't search a game's every last nook and cranny, I end up fretting about what I might've missed and don't really enjoy myself. Yes, I have issues, I know. I'll consult a therapist later. In the mean time, I have a solution that will allow gamers like me to enjoy even the most epic of RPGs: a length setting. Difficulty settings make games like Halo or BioShock accessible to players of all skill and patience levels, and a length setting would do the same for RPGs. At the game's outset, you would choose either Long, which provides the full-blown experience, or Short, which hits the highlights of the full game, but cuts out a lot of the sidequests or extraneous story. Essentially, it's the Cliff's Notes version of the game, providing the broad brush strokes of the experience, but not all the detail.
The obvious answer is to just not do that, of course. And I've tried. With fierce resolve, I have steadfastly refused to explore entire sections of maps, left doors unopened, ladders unscaled, bureaus unsearched, pots unbroken. And I've had a miserable time. Eventually, I simply had to admit that if I don't search a game's every last nook and cranny, I end up fretting about what I might've missed and don't really enjoy myself. Yes, I have issues, I know. I'll consult a therapist later. In the mean time, I have a solution that will allow gamers like me to enjoy even the most epic of RPGs: a length setting.
Difficulty settings make games like Halo or BioShock accessible to players of all skill and patience levels, and a length setting would do the same for RPGs. At the game's outset, you would choose either Long, which provides the full-blown experience, or Short, which hits the highlights of the full game, but cuts out a lot of the sidequests or extraneous story. Essentially, it's the Cliff's Notes version of the game, providing the broad brush strokes of the experience, but not all the detail.
Wednesday - August 13, 2008
The Escapist - Loading Times
Shamus Young takes an amusing look at Loading Times in games over at The Escapist, using The Witcher as his prime example. Here's the introductory paragraph:
Loading screens. Satan's immersion-breaking intermissions. Long enough to break the flow of gameplay, short enough that you can't just fire up the DS and play something else. It's a slice of time you're obliged to throw away, the gaming equivalent of sitting in traffic. You can't leave the computer but there's nothing to do. You sit slack-jawed and stare at the screen in anticipation of the computer getting back to the entertainment.
He actually makes a few very good points.
Thursday - July 10, 2008
The Escapist - Age of the World Builders
Virtual worlds is the subject of a piece called The Age of World Builders at The Escapist, referencing games like Bioshock, GTA4 and, of course, Oblivion:
Oblivion Lead Designer Emil Pagliarulo believes that we have delivered the promise of virtual reality that was often discussed and hyped in the '90s. Through first-person visuals, realistic physics and simulated time and weather, game developers have brought about the visions of immersive VR, but without the bulky headgear and excessive wires.
When you play an MMOG, a game like Oblivion or Bethesda's current big project, Fallout 3, "you're not controlling that character, you are that character," Pagliarulo says. "You get a sense of control over the world that you can't find anywhere else."
A fellow Bethesda world-builder, Executive Producer Todd Howard, describes these virtual worlds as existing in two layers, the believable world and the game world.
"The allure [of the believable world] is that players can imprint themselves," Howard says. "Players think 'I want to be this person, I want to do this thing!' and it's our job to fulfill as many of those ideas as possible."
Thursday - May 08, 2008
The Escapist - Hard Times
Kieron Gillen writes a piece for The Escapist called Hard Times, which looks at the progression of games from mostly unbeatable in the old days (getting harder and harder until it became impossible to continue) to today's cakewalks:
The results of the entryist movement have been mixed. Compare what happens when you say "Knights of the Old Republic," which practically beat itself, and "Deus Ex: Invisible War," which was nigh impossible, in a room full of gamers. Fine-tuning difficulty remains problematic for developers. While it may have been satisfactory for System Shock 2 to sell 250,000 units in 1999, sales numbers like that in today's development environment would be disastrous. So while Bioshock plays similarly to SS2, it's far more forgiving if you're not an experienced first-person gamer. Ken Levine was famously quoted as telling the team he wanted his grandmother to be able to complete it on "Easy."
Which is all well and good, but there's a problem with entryism: No one appreciates the top end, since everyone follows the path of least resistance. If "Grandma Mode" is available, hardcore gamers are more likely to waltz through the game than attempt a harder difficulty. There's no point to putting yourself through a tougher experience if the end result is the same. Fundamentally, the entryist movement has failed - the bottom level has been lowered, but the top level, the level at which games were originally designed to be played, has been weakened in turn. In short, Mass Effect is not Planescape: Torment.
I'm not sure I agree with all the examples but it's an interesting piece.
Wednesday - January 16, 2008
The Escapist - Where Have All My Heroes Gone?
The Escapist has an interesing piece titled Where Have All My Heroes Gone?, calling for "heroic" game development:
I need a new BioWare.
Perhaps I should explain. Back in the day, when videogaming - specifically, PC gaming - was young and fresh (as was I, more or less), I was something of what you might call an Electronic Arts fanboy. In my eyes, EA held the same sort of heroic stature that other people would ascribe to musicians or movie stars. They were rebels and trailblazers, out on the edge of the art, not only promising great new things to the hinterland gamers in the world, but delivering beyond our expectations. [...]
But time passed, as it has a way of doing, and the innovative brilliance behind games like Starflight and The Bard's Tale soon gave way to higher volume and lower standards. As the company expanded and the number of titles it released grew accordingly, looking forward to a new EA game became an exercise in futility. In fact, before long there was no such thing as an "EA game," just games that EA published.
Wednesday - November 07, 2007
The Escapist - Who's In the Driver's Seat?
The Escapist tackles story-telling in the latest issue, including this piece called Who's In the Driver's Seat?
But in fact, no matter how airtight the logic or lucrative the rewards, the decision to hitch games to character-driven stories is a misguided one that seldom produces respectable stories and even less frequently yields the best thing games can offer: fulfilling and enjoyable gameplay.
The problem is game writers refer to the "player character" as a single entity, when it's in fact a compound creature, like Jekyll and Hyde. And, as the poor doctor discovered, only one can be in control. Either the character is driving the game's narrative or the player is.
Tuesday - September 18, 2007
The Escapist - D&D Fourth Edition Article
The Escapist has an editorial up on Wizards of the Coast's latest edition of the D&D ruleset, promulgating the idea that its web tie-in component is about WotC's desire to capitolise on the popularity of MMORPGs:
So why change the rules now? What does WotC hope to gain with this newest revision? This is nothing less than a grab for mainstream acceptance. Revisions for the new edition are supposed to "support the way the game is actually played," rather than forcing a style of play onto players. People will be able to run games online, on a "virtual tabletop." Even beyond the d20 and digital realms, with projects like Gleemax (a social-networking site targeting tabletop gamers) and a focus on organized play, all signs point to WotC aiming very high with its ambitions.
Thursday - July 19, 2007
The Escapist - Issue 106
Last year, Arthur received an assignment from a prominent editor for a prominent gaming publication to review a prominent game by a prominent developer for a prominent console. The review was scheduled to run alongside "exclusive features" offered to said editor by said developer. Merely because they were friends.
"This person actually makes no qualms over his relationship with the developer," says Arthur. "He takes trips out to Japan and visits him while he's there. He blogs all the time about being his best bud. [He] always seems to get exclusives out of them. It's blatantly obvious, and he never makes any [bones] about it. He is [the developer's] homeboy."
Wednesday - June 20, 2007
The Escapist - Richard Garriott Interview
The Escapist has an interview with Richard Garriott on his vision and "why he thinks most games just aren't good enough". As you'd expect, MMORPGs and Tabula Rasa take up a chunk of the text but the comments on Ultima IV and "The Hero's Journey" make it worth the read:
But then there's the second aspect of what makes a virtual reality interesting or relevant, which is "Why am I there, why do I want to be there, why do I care to be there and why is it important to be there?" And so I tried to attack that problem, especially starting with Ultima IV, where I came to the realization or decision that a major problem I saw in most gaming - especially most fantasy roleplaying gaming - is that they all still, to this day, have the same general plot. Which is, you're the hero and you know that because you're told so in the introduction. Your job is to kill the bad guy, and you know that because you're told so in the introduction.
In general, having played those games, the bad guy doesn't do anything particularly bad other than he just waits for you in the final level for you to come and fight him and kill him. And in fact, what you as the player do is you pillage, plunder, maim and steal and do whatever it is you can to do to become as powerful as you need to be to come and knock off the supposed bad guy.
The Escapist - Gaming's Fringe Cults
The latest Escapist looks at Gaming's Fringe Cults and who would have guessed that NMA would be one of the three groups interviewed and discussed?
Started on Geocities nearly a decade ago by a Serbian named "Miroslav" (who only left the site due to the Bosnian War), NMA has built a reputation as the definitive, and most vocal (read: kinda mean), Fallout community on the web. And to hear Thomas "Brother None" Beekers, Sebastian "Silencer" Lenartowicz and Sander Philipse - NMA's administrators - tell it, they're not going away any time soon. "With the times, our goals have changed," Beekers says. "Originally, we were formed to be as supportive as we could be of Fallout, and this was great between Fallout 1 and 2, before Tactics' release dashed our hopes of a good spin-off and no new release was forthcoming (there were two Fallout 3 start-ups that were cancelled before Van Buren [Black Isle's Fallout 3 tech demo, hosted on NMA]).
"Now, we're mostly evangelists of recreating the original Fallout experience. We try to convince the media and publishers that there is a viable niche market for Fallout-like games that has been under-serviced for years."
There's also another piece on gaming culture at The Escapist that's not really related to our coverage but it was written by Corvus Elrond who occasionally posts on RPGWatch. Titled The Mythology of You, it looks at common forum personalities.
Thursday - May 24, 2007
The Escapist - From Black Isle to Bethesda
The latest Escapist has a post-apoc theme with a piece on S.T.A.L.K.E.R. called Worlds from the Zone and another on Fallout's history titled From Black Isle to Bethesda: Fallout's Story. This second piece is written by Michael "Zonk" Zenke from Slashdot but some readers may remember his work at RPGDot (particularly MMORPGDot) as "Dialogue". There are a couple of small dodgy factual bits (such as Black Isle being credited instead of Interplay) but it's generally a good read (although perhaps a subject that has been well done before):
Their straightforward design hung all character actions on a series of simple attributes and skills, and nearly matched the degree of flexibility seen in Jackson's GURPS. This open-minded outlook extended to the gameplay and story, as well. The "do what you want" sandbox concept made famous by Grand Theft Auto and The Elder Scrolls series was still something of a rarity in 1997. (For instance, Fallout's competition that year was the on-rails Japanese RPG Final Fantasy VII.) By empowering players, the Black Isle developers made the game world's drama and emotion more poignant. The dystopian imagery and black humor laced throughout the game drew the player in, making him a party to a joke that was one-third funny and two-thirds horrifying. In short: it worked.
Thursday - April 26, 2007
The Escapist - Next-Gen Storytelling
I haven't had the chance to read the article but Warren Spector has popped up at The Escapist, writing an article titled Next-Generation Storytelling:
Sure, more powerful hardware offers new possibilities. We will certainly be able to create more believable actors. We're already seeing next-gen visuals get better. And there's at least the possibility that some of our horsepower will go toward more robust NPC behavior. This could allow us to tell better interactive stories.
Wednesday - April 11, 2007
The Escapist - Paladins can Loot?
This is actually from the previous issue and was overlooked...The Escapist has an article titled Paladins can Loot?, which discusses alignment in CRPGs and the so-called "Gygax model" from D&D:
Lawful Good or Neutral Evil? Open Palm or Closed Fist? Such questions were inconceivable in gaming's early days. Rogue didn't care if you styled yourself a noble hero, and the classic Gold Box games wouldn't let you be much else. The first major North American computer roleplaying game to seriously consider any form of player alignment, Ultima IV, demanded the player conform to the game's eight virtues. When your choices are limited to honesty, compassion, humility and the like, it's hard to be, well, evil.
Wednesday - February 14, 2007
The Escapist - Killjoy
An interesting piece in the latest Escapist tackles the issue of death in games, and RPGs in particular. Titled Killjoy: How Inconsequential Death Took the Fun Out of Virtual Life, the article argues that the quick-death mechanics often found in RPGs have resulted in a culture of quick-save creeping and destroyed narrative tension:
It's tense frustration, really; at best, anxiety. The feeling is familiar to most people who have played a single-player computer RPG recently. Leading your party down a dark and mysterious cavern, your finger is poised over F2 or F5 or whatever button quicksaves. Every so often, you tap the button, watch a progress bar move, the action pauses for a moment, and then you get back to the tunnel. Suddenly, a spike thrusts up from the floor. Your wizard is dead. So it's F3 or F7, a longer pause - "LOADING" emblazoned on the screen - a hang in the music, and then the wizard's alive again, a few feet farther back. Perhaps you're wondering how your versions of the indomitable Conan, Gandalf and Robin of Locksley started dying faster than Dirk the Daring. More likely, though, you're just muttering about why developers can't find a way to speed up quickloading. It's supposed to be quick, after all.
Tuesday - February 06, 2007
The Escapist - Anachronox & Bethesda
The latest Escapist has two articles of interest to us. The first is titled Ion's Other Game and speaks with Tom Hall about the development of Anachronox and pushing the game out as Ion Storm crumbled:
Anachronox was caught in the slow-motion explosion of a drama bomb. Ion Storm Dallas was busy eating itself, a process chronicled everywhere from NPR to Gamespot to our own magazine, and Tom Hall was caught in the middle. "I had different roles at different times: Chief Creative Officer, President, etc. But, basically, I served as the Project Lead on Anachronox, and, where I could, as conscience of the company." He blames Ion's collapse on the company's lack of focus, or rather, their focus on things other than game development. "Once there was a re-focus on making games - boom, they got done."
The second article looks at the history of Bethesda from the founding by Chris Weaver in 1986:
When Weaver set out to design Arena, the first The Elder Scrolls installment, in 1992, Bethesda had been primarily working the sports game angle: In the six years since Gridiron debuted, six of the 10 games they developed were sports sims, and the other four were adaptations from other media. And throughout the company's life, TES has been their only ongoing in-house, non-sports or original franchise. If Weaver had a baby, Arena was it, and it showed.
Tuesday - December 26, 2006
The Escapist - The Rise & Fall of Troika
Subtitled How Interplay's Golden Boys Struck Out on Their Own, The Escapist's The Rise and Fall of Troika offers a broad overview of Troika's career with a few comments from Boyarsky and Anderson (and a relayed answer from Tim Cain). There's nothing new but it does offer another perspective:
"Great Ideas. Never Enough Testing."
Boyarsky, Cain and Anderson's creative vision first came together at Interplay. Together, the three worked on Fallout, the critically-acclaimed, post-apocalyptic RPG that has lived on in the hearts and minds of PC gamers as a sterling example of gaming done right. Cain was credited as Producer, Boyarsky as Art Director and Anderson as a Lead Artist.
Tuesday - December 12, 2006
The Escapist - Boutique MMOGs & The Industrialisation of Play
The latest edition of The Escapist has two articles that may be of interest to our readers.
Boutique MMOGs by Allen Varney
Imagine, for discussion's sake, that you don't have $50 million, so you can't build and market a full-scale World of Warcraft massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) clone. Suppose, too, you don't have rock superstar Bono on speed-dial, and unlike BioWare/Pandemic Studios, you can't finance your new MMOG through his $300 million Elevation Partners holding company. To get still more outlandish, let's say you cannot easily lay your hands on a paltry $3 million - no, really, work with me here - so you couldn't even produce a smaller-scale "casual MMOG" like Puzzle Pirates or Gaia Online or Dofus. Assume, hypothetically, you - just you, together with maybe two or three other indigent programmers - have six months of savings and a budget in the low four figures. How would you create and market a full-featured MMOG?
The Industrialisation of Play by Shannon Drake
To the real world, Julian Dibbell is a contributing editor for Wired, with other work appearing in New York magazine, Feed and Topic. To the hardcore MMOG player, though, Julian is one of Them: a gold farmer, someone who plays an online game for hours upon hours only to sell the loot he picks up for real-world money. He documented his farming experiences on his website, and then wrote a book about it called Play Money: Or How I Quit My Day Job And Made Millions Trading Virtual Loot. I sat down with Dibbell to get an idea of what the MMOG industry's Devil would say about his book, farming and the industry in general, given an open mic.
Source: The Escapist
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