RPG Codex - All News
Monday - January 20, 2014
RPG Codex - Monte Cook's Numenera Review
RPG Codex member Grunker reviews Monte Cook's pen & paper setting Numenera.
I have tried to review the game as fairly as I could. Still, there are many ways to play RPGs, and while there isn't really a right way to do it, people will still have biases and preferences. In particular, a lot of advice, wording, and rules in Numenera make the game seem pretty clearly geared for "episodic" play, as opposed to "sandbox" play. I won't go into the exact differences here, as there is a whole host of play-styles that can fit under each word, but the basic idea is that sandbox games play more like a wargame campaign, with a greater focus on how things are done, while episodic games play more like a fiction story, with a greater focus on what is done.
Now, I am much more of a sandbox guy myself. Rather than trying to simply ignore my own preferences, however, I have tried to make them clear in my comments. Feel free to ignore these if the mentioned viewpoint doesn't matter for you, though! Furthermore, I am not at all implying that Numenera is awful for sandboxes. In fact, I think it could work great with just a few choice modifications.
For the purpose of this review, I have played this game with a few fellow Codexers (Excidium, Darth Roxor, Jaedar, herostratus, Reject_666_6 and Mystary!). We had only two sessions of play, playing the first introductory adventure that came with the book. I admit this is far from ideal, but I believe even this short play time, coupled with my reading of the book should be enough to make true (if not very deep) criticism of the game.
Monday - January 13, 2014
RPG Codex - New Obsidian Game at GDC 2014
RPG Codex has news that obsidian will reveal a new game at GDC 2014. Usually I wouldn't bother with this, but it might interest a few viewers.
This is actually news from last year, but I don't recall anyone reporting on it yet.
A while ago, Bradley University posted one of those alumni profile articles on an Obsidian Entertainment employee named Katrina Schnell. According to BU, she sang and played the violin for the Pillars of Eternity trailer as an intern last year, and will in January become an Associate Producer for an unannounced project. I guess that's what it takes to land a producer role. Schnell indeed.
More interestingly, the article adds:
This isn't the only game Katrina is working on through Obsidian ..."that game is still a secret and will be announced at Game Developers Conference in San Francisco in 2014!"
The 2014 GDC will be held in San Fransisco starting March 17th.
Friday - January 03, 2014
RPG Codex - Fallout PnP Cards
The RPG Codex were lucky enough to get a hold of some rare Fallout PnP cards. Here is a picture and some details.
If anyone’s ever curious:
- We used them while training/testing PNP rules for Van Buren (the 1st iteration).
- The First Aid cards and Doctor cards represented how many people could “use” per session depending on their skill level.
- The Pip Points were similar to XP in Numenera – you could gain them by doing cool things during the adventure, and then spend them to reroll a die if need be during the game session (it was basically a reward for role-playing and participation).
Thursday - October 24, 2013
RPG Codex - Warren Spector Interview
RPG Codex's Infinitron & Crooked Bee interviewed Warren Spector about Ultima, Origin, and CRPG Design.
Chroniclers of the history of computer roleplaying games sometimes speak of a period in the mid-1990s when the genre suffered a decline – critically, commercially, and in terms of the sheer numbers of games released. See for instance this article by Rowan Kaiser, or Wikipedia. It's probably not a coincidence that it was around that same time that you moved from Origin to Looking Glass, the latter having been focused on a genre of games that investors and publishers considered more "contemporary". As somebody who was very much at the heart of the industry during that time, can you tell us more about these events? After a Golden Age spanning from the 1980s all the way up to around 1993, how could an entire genre collapse so suddenly, across so many different companies?
There's no doubt RPG's were out of favor by the mid-90s. No doubt at all. People didn't seem to want fantasy stories or post-apocalypse stories anymore. They certainly didn't want isometric, 100 hour fantasy or post-apocalypse stories, that's for sure! I couldn't say why it happened, but it did. Everyone was jumping on the CD craze – it was all cinematic games and high-end graphics puzzle games… That was a tough time for me – I mean, picture yourself sitting in a meeting with a bunch of execs, trying to convince them to do all sorts of cool games and being told, "Warren, you're not allowed to say the word 'story' any more." Talk about a slap in the face, a bucket of cold water, a dose of reality.
If you ask me, the reason it all happened was that we assumed our audience wanted 100 hours of play and didn't care much about graphics. Even high end RPGs were pretty plain jane next to things like Myst and even our own Wing Commander series. I think we fell behind our audience in terms of the sophistication they expected and we catered too much to the hardcore fans. That can work when you're spending hundreds of thousands of dollars – even a few million – but when games start costing many millions, you just can't make them for a relatively small audience of fans.
Remember, when I started, "going gold" didn't mean "shipping a game" – it meant you sold 100,000 copies. And when you did that, you went and bought yourself a Ferrari. By the mid-90s, 100,000 copies was a dismal failure. We had to reach out beyond the 100,000 core fans. And none of us did a very good job of that, at the time. Luckily, we figured it out – or started to – later
Read the link for the entire interview as it contains many interesting questions and answers. It's also to long to fit more than one question to preview.
Saturday - October 05, 2013
RPG Codex - Golden Age SSI AD&D CRPGs
The RPG Codex has a new post many of you might find interesting. The post contains retrospectives of many Golden Age SSI AD&D CRPGs.
Upon hearing the phrase "Golden Age of RPGs", many gamers might immediately think of Origin's Ultima series or Sir-Tech's Wizardry series. Some might also remember New World Computing's Might & Magic or even Interplay's Bard's Tale or Wasteland. However, the company that perhaps embodied the Golden Age most of all was Strategic Simulations, Inc., commonly known as SSI.
Over a decade before Baldur's Gate and the Infinity Engine games, SSI published a whole slew of licensed AD&D CRPGs, starting from 1988's legendary Pool of Radiance. The most famous among these were the "Gold Box" titles, named for the distinctive gold-colored boxes in which they were sold, but there were many others. Sadly, these classics remain inexplicably absent from modern digital distribution portals, and their memories may eventually be lost in time...like tears in rain.
To help remedy that, Reggie Carolipio, a chronicler of gaming history whose work we've featured before, has spent the last month finishing up his retrospectives of SSI's Golden Age AD&D titles.
Saturday - September 28, 2013
RPG Codex - Michael Cranford Interview
RPG Codex sent me a link to a new article were they interview Michael Cranford on Bard's Tale, Interplay, and Centauri Alliance.
In 1985, Interplay released Tales of the Unknown: Vol. I: The Bard’s Tale, their own “Wizardry killer” designed and programmed by Brian Fargo’s high school friend Michael Cranford. The game was a smashing success for the company. As Fargo said in his 2011 Matt Chat interview, The Bard’s Tale I “was the product that put us on the map, it was the thing that made us earn significant royalties so we could bring the company to the next level.” In an important way, it was Michael Cranford who kick-started Interplay’s future as RPG developer and publisher. At the same time, Cranford was unhappy about the contract Interplay offered him and left the company after The Bard’s Tale II release. In 1990, he designed his last game, Centauri Alliance, a unique sci-fi CRPG published by Brøderbund for the Apple II and Commodore 64. The choice of platforms coupled with the game’s delayed release turned out to be really unfortunate for its publicity and sales, and no further titles in the Centauri Alliance universe were made. Currently Michael Cranford is CEO at Ninth Degree.
In this interview, Michael talks about the Bard’s Tale series, Interplay, his falling out with Brian Fargo, as well as Centauri Alliance and Brøderbund
Visit the link here for the full interview.
Tuesday - September 10, 2013
RPG Codex - The State of the Adventure Genre
RPG Codex has a new article discussing the state of the Adventure Genre. I play a few adventure games myself so the topic does interest me. What about you do you think the genre is still going strong?
Over the course of the past decade of decline and genre rape, I became aware that the adventure genre was experiencing some sort of resurgence. European developers, with their lower operating costs, were continuing to release new adventure games, and over in the United States, a company by the name of Telltale Games had received the license to produce sequels to some of the old LucasArts properties. Had the genre been resurrected? I'm not sure. Much like in the RPG world, it seems few people took those European developers very seriously, and as for Telltale, in the dark corners of the Internet, certain fans whispered that their games were but shallow imitations of a glorious past.
Perhaps that's why it was no surprise that in February 2012, when legendary LucasArts veteran Tim Schafer launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a new adventure game, he received over 3.3 million dollars from over 87,000 backers. It was an incredible success, that launched a new age of crowdfunding-supported game development that has benefited RPG fans greatly. At that point, I fully anticipated a glorious future for both genres, old-school adventure games and old-school RPGs marching side by side. Unfortunately, it didn't quite work out that way.
One by one, spurred on by Tim Schafer's success, various Sierra veterans made their way onto Kickstarter to fund spiritual successors to their old titles. And...they didn't do so well. Scott Murphy and Mark Crowe, creators of Space Quest? $539,767. Jane Jensen, creator of Gabriel Knight? $435,316. Corey and Lori Cole, creators of Quest for Glory? $409,150. And then there was the downright humiliating failure of Jim Walls' Kickstarter for a Police Quest spiritual successor.
Crowdfunding campaigns for newer franchises have fared a bit better. Revolution Software's Broken Sword sequel got $771,560 on Kickstarter, while Ragnar Tornquist's Dreamfall Chapters achieved a respectable $1,538,425. But none of them have gotten anywhere near Double Fine's number of backers. Tim Schafer's army of 87,000 seems to have dissipated just as quickly as it materialized.
In short: what the hell, adventure game fans, what the hell?
Thursday - September 05, 2013
RPG Codex - Where Journalism Goes to Write Itself
RPG Codex has an interesting aticle about journlism and game press.
Although we had fun at Gamescom, our overall impression of the conference was not very positive. We were just fans who wanted to write about games for other fans, who finally got a look at how the business of games journalism is conducted behind the scenes at conferences like this one. It was a troubling sight.
Thursday - August 29, 2013
RPG Codex - GamesCom 2013 Report
RPGCodex has a new article about their visit to GamesCom 2013.
On July 18, the RPG Codex received an invitation from Limbic Entertainment on behalf of their publisher, Ubisoft. The invitation was for an all expenses paid trip to Gamescom, the gaming convention in Cologne, Germany, and specifically for the Might & Magic Fan Day that was to take place there. The Codex staff members, easily bribed, fought over who was to go. In the end, Grunker came out on top, with JarlFrank tagging along with him for the first day.
During their stay in Germany, they learned more about Might & Magic X, they shook hands with Brian Fargo and watched a gameplay demo of Wasteland 2, and they spoke with the guys from Logic Artists, with Michael Hoss of bitComposer and with Alexander Dergay of Aterdux Entertainment. Here's an article about how it all went down.
Monday - August 05, 2013
RPG Codex - 2012: The Year in Review
RPG Codex has a new opinion article discussing and reviewing the games in 2012.
We have a long-running meme known as "decline" here on the Codex. It's the idea that computer games have been declining in quality since about the late 90's (or earlier, depending on your choice as to the start of the decline). FPSs for example, have gone from the fast-paced, monster-filled and difficult games of Doom - to slower paced games, all played at lamentable running speeds, filled with the same iron sight weapons and BLOOM filled graphics - full of endless cut-scenes, where health has gone from a precious commodity you'd hunt for on every level, to not even being required. Just sit and wait around a bit and your health magically "re-generates" these days.
Monster-filled maze-like levels have been replaced with one single monster (usually spawned behind you to create some sort of "surprise" - or in-front of you right after a cut-scene - but over-used so often as to be predictable) in a single room that presents barely enough of a challenge to warrant even a mild air of concern. Games have been dumbed down, stream-lined, and made easy for today's "modern gamer". Who it seems, can barely handle anything more complicated than basic addition.
Monday - May 20, 2013
RPG Codex - Interview with Colin McComb
You can say whatever you want to say about the RPG Codex, but one thing is for sure they have good interviews. This time the interview is with Colin McComb about writing for Torment: Tides of Numenera.
You’ve credited Chris Avellone with being responsible for a pretty extraordinary 50% of the overall writing on Planescape: Torment, including the first drafts for three-quarters of the characters. T:ToN, on the other hand, seems to be gaining creative contributors almost by the day, one of whom (Pat Rothfuss) is coming to games-writing for the very first time. As the lead writer, how exactly are you planning to manage all of these disparate voices? Is there a danger of an individual vision being lost in the rush to bring in more recognisable, Kickstarter-friendly names?
Having a distributed ensemble writing team is something that we planned for from the start, so while the danger you mention is a risk, we’re prepared for it. Now that the Kickstarter has wrapped, I’m sitting down and fleshing the story out further. This involves outlining specific story beats, levels, and thematic elements to hit at certain points, among other things. It has been a very busy month since the Kickstarter ended and it’s going to be (at least!) another very busy month before we get anyone else really going on the design. That’s just as well, because narrative development is a hugely iterative process, and we’ve already improved and tightened various aspects of the story. By the time our other writers come on board, we’ll have a solid base for them to work from. Further, we’re going to get them rolling in stages, so issues flagged by the first group will translate into improvements for the second, and so on. This staged roll-out will make it easier for me to review their work for consistency and style.
In the meantime, we’ve got our novella writers working on the Tides stories, and we plan to use those to help acclimate the other writers to the baseline of the Tides.
It’s my hope that our writers will feel grounded and able to work with what we have by the time of the first writers’ meeting. At this meeting, we’ll be discussing the story in excruciating detail and breaking it down bit by bit in order to tidy it up.
And then, after they all get moving, I’ll be overseeing and reviewing their work throughout the process. I don’t imagine that I’ll be writing 50% of the game, but I will be writing a fair portion and am going to have my hands in pretty much all of it – whether writing directly, editing, or providing feedback. Fortunately, we have the example of PST to prove that the game doesn’t need to be the work of a single author – multiple writers works just fine, provided there’s good oversight.
The year is 2015, and Torment’s been released. A man appears in a fiendish puff of smoke and offers you the chance to create a game in a setting entirely of your choosing, with absolutely no need to worry about marketability or mass appeal. What do you choose?
Do I have to worry about legal issues? Frankly, I want to keep going with stuff I’ve been involved in and already made a part of me. Numenera is right up at the top there—it’s new, exciting, and the boundaries are wide open. Rothfuss’s Kingkiller world would be pretty great; I know he’s interested in making a game set there. Hell, if we’re novelizing fiction, I’d like to make a game in my Oathbreaker setting, because I’ve been living with that in my head for more than a decade. I’d love to explore the world I created for Torn before they went in a different direction.
If we’re talking tabletop settings, I’d love to work in Birthright again. Doing something with Paizo’s Golarion would be cool, and of course Planescape is always going to have a special place for me.
But even beyond that, I’d love to develop a brand-new setting, because world-building is so goddamn fun. I’d love to do something in the world of Endless Night, where the players are the last bastion of Light... or perhaps the first. Or what about a modern-day horror game being penetrated by dimension-crossing monsters that attack by creating passages through nightmares? Or an urban crime fantasy?
Seriously, though, just one setting? There are so many good ideas out there that I can’t possibly choose one right now while I’m neck-deep in the Ninth World. Let me ask Lucifer (or is it Mephistopheles?) when we’ve wrapped up Torment. I might have a better answer then.
Tuesday - March 26, 2013
RPG Codex - The Lists to Dwarf Them All
RPG Codex brings us the top 10 list of RPGs on PC and Console that no codexer can live without.
Infinitron: The first game to really successfully combine elements of dialogue-heavy reactivity, C&C and adventure gaming in the framework of a traditional RPG, something that a few CRPGs had begun to progress towards in the early 90s, but never quite managed to do before the genre's semi-collapse in the mid-90s. Combined with its simplistic but enjoyably violent combat (a quality which is somehow enhanced by its incongruent turn-based nature) and quirky setting, Fallout is understandably extremely popular on the Codex. However, as an RPG proper, it's not nearly as hardcore as some of its fans think it is.
Trash: I actually remember being really stoked for this game's release. Not because of any mention of reactivity or it being the salvation of role playing games on the PC. No, it was because of the infamous 'watch enemies explode like a blood sausage' comment that I really wanted to give this game a try. Boy did it deliver. Every weapon seemed to cause a new groovy way for my foes to fell. Burned to a crisp, chunks blown out or ripped in half. Whoo. And then you had those nasty little descriptions that just made me want to try and shoot people in the nuts and eyes. Fucking awesome man. Oh, and it also was like really good as an RPG. Yup.
JarlFrank: This is one of those classics that passed beyond my radar and I've only played it after joining the Codex. I had played many other great RPGs that came after Fallout already, so it didn't leave the same impression with me as it did with most other Codexers - but it's a good game, especially when you consider that it was one of the first of its kind and was released during a time of stagnation within the genre. The complex character system, many choices available to the player and violent combat makes it into a definite Codex favourite. Personally, I'd place it much lower on my top ten list (BURN THE HERETIC!) but it's definitely one of these games that does almost everything right. While most of the other Codex favourites are flawed gems, Fallout is a gem without any major flaws, and how often do you find a game like that?
Grunker: Like JarlFrank, I tried this game many years after its release. As a true P&P-fag, I recall first being quite disappointed in the character system and the wasted opportunity that it could have been the first game made with the near-perfect GURPS character system. However, my disappointment soon vanished. While Fallout isn't one of my favourite games due to my personal tastes, I have a great deal of admiration for the game in the way it meshes almost complete non-linearity with a compelling narrative, and how it manages to make its combat and character system fun despite their simplicity.
DarkUnderlord: Fallout is good.
Saturday - February 16, 2013
RPG Codex - Phantasie and Star Command Retrospective
RPGCodex has done another one of their retrospective interviews; this time they've talked to Winston Douglas Wood. He talks with RPG Codex about Phantasie and Star Command -
a quote about these games:
Phantasie (1985) can best be described as a dungeon crawler, but with multiple dungeons, towns and wilderness areas. Unlike many of its contemporaries, it features a top-down view in which the geography is revealed incrementally through exploration, acting as an auto-map. The game's combat is similar to Wizardry in that it is phase-based and lacks character movement, but it contains a number of attacking options such as thrusting, lunging and slashin.......
Star Command (1988) is a different beast - a sci-fi cRPG that, while retaining the classic dungeon-crawling aspect, moves on to simulate an open world space environment, striking a good balance between missions and exploration. It features an eight character party, a Traveller-esque character generation system with four different classes, each with its own class-exclusive skills, and compelling character development with a lot of choice and an involved training process........
Here's his answer about what he wanted to do when he created Phantasie:
What did you want to achieve from the creation of Phantasie? Were there things that you wanted to introduce to computer RPGs that hadn't even been approached by other games? What did you feel was missing from the genre or video games as a whole? Wizardy 1 was limited to a single dungeon with very little interaction other than combat and mapping. Ultima 1 was limited to a single character. I wanted to make a richer environment with a wider variety of places to visit: dungeons, castles, fortresses, islands, and even mythological places. I also wanted a more detailed combat system with a variety of weapons and magic. I felt that being able to have Orcs, Goblins, Trolls, Gnomes and Pixies in your party in addition to the traditional Humans, Elves, Dwarves and Halflings added a fun element as well. I also wanted more puzzles to solve by interacting with other characters and items.
Here's a quote about how he felt when he started working on Star Command:
After the conclusion of the Phantasie series you worked on Star Command, a science fiction RPG. At the time, how did you feel about switching from fantasy and mythological themes to a science fiction setting? When were your ideas for Star Command first conceived? I was excited to try something both new to me and to the computer game market. I also wanted to switch from developing for the Apple II to the PC because it was less restrictive and that market was growing while the Apple market was shrinking. Also science fiction seemed a better fit for the PC market.
Thanks Crooked Bee :)
Source: RPG Codex
Wednesday - September 05, 2012
RPG Codex - Tim Cain Interview
RPG Codex has interviewed Tim Cain, discussing Interplay and Troika, Fallout and more:
Troika's games, while arguably among the genre's most outstanding achievements, were notoriously rough at the time of release, often criticized for bugs and unfinished content. In retrospect, how do you explain this? Do you feel this kind of criticism can sometimes get unfair?
I don't think criticizing Troika games for being buggy was unfair. They were buggy, and I think there were two big reason why that was so. First, we tried putting a lot of features into these games. We really needed to learn how to edit, because we would spend a lot of man-hours putting a feature into a game that hardly any of the players would ultimately care about. For example, Arcanum had newspapers that reported on major incidents that were caused by the player, but I don't remember a single review mentioning that. We spent a lot of time getting that working, and those hours could have spent balancing real-time combat, or fixing the multiplayer code.
Second, we kept our team sizes small, both for budget and for management purposes. This meant we had less total man-hours to work with, and all of the late nights and weekends couldn't make up for the fact that we only had about a dozen people working on the Arcanum and Temple projects. Looking back, I am amazed our games were as feature-rich as they were, but I am not surprised they were as buggy as they were. We should have made some serious feature cuts early in their development.
Troika got characterized as “always blaming the publisher” when something was wrong and I think this was unfair. We would always own up to the parts of the development process in which we had made mistakes, but it seemed that if we ever said “we messed up this, and our publisher messed up that”, some people just heard the latter part of the comment and would start screaming “Troika is blaming the publishers again!”. It got frustrating after a while, especially when I saw people at Troika quoted out of context. But I did gain quite an insight into the American political system, which seems to deal with the same kind of illogical, sound bite oriented system of criticism of its political candidates. People hear what they want to hear, and often make up their minds before seeing, or even in spite of, any evidence to the contrary.
Saturday - July 28, 2012
RPG Codex - Dark Heart of Uukrul Retrospective
RPG Codex has again done one their retrospective interviews, this time with the developers behind the game The Dark Heart of Uukrul, Ian Boswel and Martin Buis.
Crooked Bee from RPG Codex writes about this game:
Corrupted by the evil wizard Uukrul, the underground city of Eriosthe is but a shadow of its former self, its passages now twisted beyond a mortal's understanding. The Dark Heart of Uukrul, a first person turn- and party-based dungeon-crawling CRPG with top-down Goldbox-like combat developed by Ian Boswell and Martin Buis and released by Broderbund in 1989 for Apple II and PC, entrusts you with a single task: cleanse Eriosthe of evil, no matter the cost. And the cost will be high, probably higher than you imagine; Uukrul knows you are coming, and he will be prepared.
A quote about the roles of Ian Boswell and Martin Buis:
You co-designed Dark Heart of Uukrul. What were your roles on the game?
Ian Boswell: We both had a hand in most things. I did more of the programming, and Martin did more of the plotting and design. But the most creative stuff usually emerged from collaborative sessions and many cups of coffee. The maze design – which is huge – was broken into regions, one region being the area you explore between two consecutive sanctuaries. Mostly, one of us took responsibility for the detailed design of a given region, then when it was ready brought it back to the other for playthroughs and fine tuning. This is why many of the regions have a distinct theme or tone to them. Each of them “feels” different. We also had to develop a lot of the required code libraries and design utilities that we needed. There was almost nothing available off the shelf, or open source, back then.
Martin Buis: We started out with more or less equal roles, but specialized as the project progressed. Ian was a fantastic developer and ended up doing all the code – I doubt that any of my code survived into the released game. I remember that Ian designed and wrote the maze drawing algorithm, which involved perspective views and hidden surface removal both of which were state of the art, in 6502 assembler in a single shot and that at the end of coding there were only two bugs that needed to be fixed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an equivalent feat of programming. The level, artwork, story and mechanics were very collaborative. A lot of what we had to do was working out how to get the most from the limitations that the memory, disk and processor imposed upon us. Within those limitations we tried to come up with innovative ideas that would advance the play without taxing our resources.
A quote on the development process:
Ian Boswell: Going from memory here, we were a couple of years at it spare time, while completing University studies, and I spent a year working on it more solidly after that, during which we got signed by Broderbund, so then we had to finish it. But it took more than a year after that. I think challenges we faced were that you had to code everything yourself back then (even wrote our own graphic library in assembler so it would be fast enough), and we had to fit the entire game onto two floppy disks. Martin Buis: Broderbund paid an advance on the Apple version, and we agreed to produce an IBM port, so we put some of that money into ‘hiring’ a couple of our college friends to work on the port. Overall, the process took many years across those two platforms. I shudder to think what the hourly rate would have been! There were a lot of changes that occurred during the development process. We had laid out the basic story, and implemented much of the game engine, but kept trying to do new things with that platform. It seemed like the game was largely complete for a long time while we added features that our playtesting found or that Broderbund requested. For example, the automap function was added relatively late in the process. Perhaps a more focused vision would have helped that, but the gaming market was moving quite quickly as we were completing the game, so there was an element of proactive catch-up, if that makes any sense.
Thanks Crooked Bee.
Source: RPG Codex
Monday - October 04, 2010
RPG Codex - Dark Sun: Shattered Lands Retrospective
For such a classic, I can't recall ever seeing a retrospective of Dark Sun: Shattered Lands, so it's nice that RPG Codex rectified that. Here's an early quote on the setting:
The world of Dark Sun is called Athas. It’s a desert world where the conditions are harsh, water is scarce, resources like metal are almost depleted and only the fittest, strongest and smartest can survive. That’s the reason there is no level-less commoner class in the Dark Sun setting, odds are even your cleaning lady is a level 3 fighter with a strength of 18/00. You’re already something special if you can survive in this environment at all, as the weak have long been weeded out. It’s basically the D&D version of a post-apocalyptic wasteland, except the apocalypse has never really stopped. Due to the depleted resources most weapons and armor are crafted from bones, stone, obsidian, wood, and leather, which makes metal weapons/armor, let alone enchanted weaponry, very, very rare.
Friday - April 16, 2010
RPG Codex - RPG of the Decade: Developers' Choice
A pretty cool article at RPG Codex sees a commentary on key games and studios over the last decade, followed by a calvalcade of developers giving their choice and opinion. Almost every indie developer we know is represented, along with a handful of major studios. The range of thought is striking, from unusual choices like NWN (you'll be surprised how many pick this) to hardore classics such as Arcanum to not being impressed by anything at all. Well worth a read and here's a sample that I bet you won't see coming. Tim Cain's choice is...
Tim Cain (Fallout, Carbine Studios MMO)
There were so many good RPG’s released in the last decade that it is hard to choose the “RPG of the Decade”. I am embarrassed to say that I haven’t played some of them, and I only want to nominate a game that I have played. And that list is still large: Baldur’s Gate 2, Icewind Dale 2, Neverwinter Nights, Dragon Age (Bioware is on a roll in my list, you can see), Fable, Deus Ex, Fallout 3, Geneforge. So I am going with a game that captured my imagination and that I played for many many hours, and that I think about when designing my own games. And that game is…
Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
There are so many things about this game that I loved. It was an open sandbox world, where I was free to go where I wanted and act how I wanted, and I had to live with the consequences of my actions. I became a vampire (and got cured later), I joined every guild and reached leadership status in them (and I loved the Dark Brotherhood the most), I did every Daedric shrine quest, and I explored most of the continent. In fact, I ignored the main storyline for most of my playing of this game, and I had more fun with the guild storylines and with trying to get every house in the game. The huge combination of skills, stats, spells and items, and the detailed character customization at the beginning of the game, really made me feel that I could play roleplay anyone I wanted. The game is not without its flaws (the auto-leveling of monsters springs to mind), but overall, this game was everything I wanted in an RPG: open-ended, re-playable, good-looking and downright fun.
However, an honorable mention must go to Blorp Zingwag: Elf Detective. With a name like that, you know it has to be good.
Thursday - February 18, 2010
RPG Codex - 2009 In Review
RPG Codex has posted their annual acerbic look at the past year. It's divided into "stuff that didn't happen" and, obviously, stuff that did:
Dragon Age: Origins, what is promised to be the first of many games in the Dragon Age series, was released by BioWare on the 3rd November 2009. Dragon Age was very much the only "A grade" title released in 2009 (fuck you Risen et al). That of course guaranteed it the "RPG of the Year" accolade from every website that even bothers to mention RPGs these days (with a mandatory "RPG of the decade" because gosh, why stop at just RPG of the year when you can give one for like, 10 whole years because it's shiney and new).
The process of selecting the title for RPG of the year goes something like this:
- Were any RPGs actually released this year?
- Were any of them released in English?
- Give the English one the award.
And give the award they did. In all seriousness, I'm sure Dragon Age is good, as surprisingly, BioWare actually put a reasonable amount of effort into Dragon Age. Namely in that all the choices are not bleedingly obvious. At least according to some. Not so much according to others.
Saturday - March 07, 2009
RPG Codex - Modding Interviews
From earlier in the week the Codex has a series of 10 interviews with modders, mostly covering their reasons and experiences. The modders involved range from ShiningTed (ToEE, Keep on the Borderlands) to Adam Miller (NWN / 2 Hall of Fame) to Wesp (Vampire: Bloodlines).
Monday - January 19, 2009
RPG Codex - 2008 In Review
Yes, that time of the year again. RPG Codex has their 2008: The Year in Review piece up. As you'd guess, it essentially boils down to "there were no RPGs" but the surprise is half the article is actually a diatribe on The Witcher:
Here's a trick you can try at home. Make something and release it to the world at large. When people complain about obscene loading times that give you enough time to circumnavigate the world, make a cup of tea and read War and Peace three times over before you get into the next area, a translation that isn't too bad but is missing out on extra Dwarf cock and the fact you've built a city full of clones, just re-release the exact same thing only with a fancy bit after the title that makes it sound like you did something to improve it. That about sums up The Witcher: Enhanced Edition.
Monday - January 14, 2008
RPG Codex - 2008, On the Horizon
The Codex has kicked up a look at 2008. Overall, it's a positive piece with a bit of an indie slant:
The German beta for Darghul (a remade and greatly expanded version of the game by Wolf Mittag, more recently known as the creator of Teudogar: The Alliance with Rome) is to be ready by late April. The German version of the game is to be released in 2008, with the English version to follow "a few weeks later".
Every year brings us a Spiderweb Software game or two and 2008 will be no exception. Avernum 5 for PC should be out somewhere around March, and we already know the series will have at least one more title. On the other hand, Geneforge 5 - developed throughout 2008 - will be the conclusion of its line. Here's to hoping Vogel will invent a fresh setting and bring us something really new in the future.
Some people think Temple of Elemental Evil had the best combat system ever to grace a fantasy game. No official editor was ever released, but this didn't stop the Co8 modding team from working on a module recreating the Keep on the Borderlands D&D module. The demo should be released by the end of January.
Friday - December 28, 2007
RPG Codex - 2007 in Review
RPG Codex has kicked up their traditional Year in Review article, with Section8 and Elwro stepping up in VD's absence:
Arguably the biggest RPG news of the year is the unholy union between Oblivion and Fallout. We've seen Bethesda acquire the Fallout IP outright from Interplay, launch their official forums for the game, but most of all - show us graphic scenes of their ill-conceived flipper baby. Forget harlequin fetus, Fallout 3 is the new shock.
It seems Bethesda likes all things nuclear. By shooting at abandoned cars, you'll be able to provoke small nuclear explosions. One of your weapons (called "Fatman”) will use nuclear bombs as ammunition. The game also has its own Fargoth, but this time it's a whole city! Creatively named "Megaton”, it was built in (or around, if you prefer trusting Desslock to believing Pete Hines) the crater of an unexploded bomb. And you can bet your vintage Ink Spots collection that the magnificent example of choice given to the player (you can explode the bomb, or NOT!) will be mentioned a hundred times in the game's previews to come. The screenshots we've seen contain almost exclusively bloom; the teaser we've watched was uninspired at best. (The magnificent concept art we were shown turned out not to have anything to do with the game.)
Friday - November 23, 2007
RPG Codex - King of Dragon Pass Retrospective
Shagnak writes that RPG Codex has posted a retrospective/review on the 1999 title, King of Dragon Pass. I must admit to only knowing the game by reputation, so here's an introductory bit:
So, what's it about? It's hard to put the game within pre-defined genre borders. It begins with you picking the history of your clan by getting told of events and choosing what your ancient clan did during those events, what they decided to do. Your choices here will affect several basic characteristics of your clan, like what god they worship as their main god, what race are their worst enemies and how much land they start with. Most of it isn’t crucial for the gameplay, the disposition of your clan towards slavery being a notable exception, but it adds flavor and increases replayability by giving you a certain freedom in creating your clan.
Friday - September 21, 2007
RPG Codex - Previews and the Gaming Media
RPG Codex' VD has penned an editorial about the profusively positive previews found in the gaming media, using Loki as a case point and examining the previews leading up to release, and then the subsequent review from the same sites after release. It's substantially based on quotes, so it's hard to give a sample snip.
Monday - September 03, 2007
RPG Codex - Legend:Forge Your Destiny
Vault Dweller has posted some info over at RPG Codex on a new RPG in development called Legend:Forge Your Destiny:
According to the website, it's the next evolution in free roam cause-and-affect based RPGs. I was told that the game is being developed by former Oblivion modders, but the concept is promising, so take a look:
Putting the Depth back into RPGs. Achieved via:
a) Comprehensive history, races & politics
b) Immersive storytelling, emotion & action
c) Diverse environments, gameplay & characters
d) Introduction of Maelor; The Law of Attraction with Cause & Effect!
Key Feature - 'Maelor' ::
Every character has a Maelor Alignment, the 'Law of Attraction' determines opportunities - friendly or hostile interactions, quest versions, conversations & conflict. The Players actions alter this alignment, in-turn affecting their experience via 'Cause & Effect'.
You can see some early gallery shots and get more information at the official website.
Tuesday - August 07, 2007
RPG Codex - Next-Gen RPG Design
RPG Codex has a new editorial piece titled Next-Gen Role-playing Design: Are the paradigms of role-playing outdated?, written by Role-Player. The intro introduces the subject, so here we go:
This is part 1 of our latest feature, "Next-Gen Role-Playing Design", where we will be discussing ideas on where we think current cRPG design could go without losing sight of its role-playing foundations. Today's article is about dialogue conventions.It's an unfortunate reality that the persistent debate as to whether the latest videogame releases are "next-gen" and "really RPG" or if it simply amounts to what most people who have seen some of the best cRPG development companies of the 90's die out deem "hype without substance" fails to define any kind of gamer mindset as well as gaming in general. But is there a better term to capture the disenchantment an entire generation of gamers feels when they are told the landmarks of the genre are dead and outdated, and that every other game that came afterwards and imitated - rather than innovated - the formula is new and defining of the next generation of videogames?
Friday - May 18, 2007
RPG Codex - Dialogue Interview
RPG Codex has a new interview on the subject of dialogue in games, with answers from Brian Mitsoda, J.E. Sawyer, Scott Bennie and David Gaider. Here's an early question and the responses:
2. What is the role of dialogues in RPGs, in your opinion? What do they add (or suppose to add) to the overall gameplay experience?
Brian Mitsoda: This is a tricky question because it depends on the game. In some RPGs, it’s to prompt you to hit the “A” button really quickly so you can get back to power-leveling. In some it’s to figure out what path the designer wants you to go down to get the best reward, probably by being sycophantic to Whistlin’ Bilboo the Street Sweeper. In the few that take reactivity into account and allow the player interaction to change up the dynamics in the relationships between the characters and even affect the character’s fate and the story, these dialogues serve to enhance the roleplaying aspect and just possibly make the player a bit more interested in the plot because they can get involved. Adequate to good dialogue (and story) motivates a few players to continue playing and finish the game and hopefully makes the characters and world more real, completing the necessary illusion for a zesty bit of escapism.
J.E. Sawyer: Character dialogue helps define characters, mood, and setting. Like many aspects of design, it gives a sense of style, time, and place to what's happening. In its most blunt application, it conveys rudimentary information, but I think that's using very little of its potential.
Player-selected dialogue helps the player express and define the personality of his or her character. Again, it's often used to reveal basic information, but I think that sells it short, especially for RPGs. If that's really what it's being used for, it doesn't need to be a
Scott Bennie: Well, you have to give the players directions somehow. I think dialogue is as important a defining element as any in an RPG. It's also a key to mood. A game has three tools to produce mood: dialogue, sound, and art. Of those three, dialogue is the easiest to adjust in the design process.
Saturday - March 31, 2007
RPG Codex - The Role We Don't Play
RPG Codex's Role-player has written a lengthy but fascinating piece on contemporary narrative techniques in RPGs:
Developers have been looking outside the medium and at others like cinema as a model to present immersive, "cinematic" experiences that try to tell a story - for this, they assume a game needs to emulate a movie in order to present a sense of narrative. However, including a cinematic sequence angle is akin to shoving a round peg inside a square hole; developers believe these non-interactive cutscenes played out by virtual actors are not only great simulacrums of movies, but that they are also doing a proper job of conveying characterization and plot advancement. The problem is that these cutscenes are taken out of their original context and lose the same sequential meaning they originally have in cinema; whereas a movie is composed of such segments to narrate a story, in a videogame these scenes often fail to narrate the main character’s exploits or expose the consequences of their actions and are presented in a way that actually breaks up the pace of gameplay and the flow of the story itself.
Monday - March 26, 2007
RPG Codex - Indie Roundtable
An indie roundtable featuring Jason Compton (The Broken Hourglass) , Thomas Riegsecker (Eschalon), Steven Peeler (Depths of Peril) and Vault Dweller (Age of Decadence) is up at RPG Codex, discussing various aspects of their respective projects and why they made certain decisions. Here's one of the shorter answer sets:
Why the indie way? Isn't working for a reputable gaming company better than working out of your mom's basement?
Jason: Possibly, but from what I know of the traditional studio experience, it wouldn't have been the right thing for me. Never mind the issue that with a traditional studio, I almost certainly wouldn't be able to take part in the kind of game we're creating with TBH (since, as mentioned, very few companies make this kind of game), I have long been self-employed and I like the lifestyle that allows me. I also am not the kind of person to go running off to California or Texas or Alberta in order to chase a dream. Raven Software is located a short walk from my house (practically just down the street, in fact), but I don't think that would provide me the kind of game development opportunity I'm looking for. So running my own show was the only way to go.
(For the record, my mom's house doesn't have a basement. Mine does, but I prefer my second-floor office.)
Thomas: These “reputable gaming companies” are the ones that are producing the RPGs that none of us seem to enjoy. Working for a large developer means that you are forced to make the game that The Suits want you to make...you are not making your game, you are making their game. I decided that I wanted to make my game.
By the way, it would be much cheaper to work in my mom’s basement, but like Jason, I prefer working in my studio. There are far fewer spiders.
Steven: I actually worked at a reputable game company (Ritual Entertainment) for six years. Don't get me wrong those were six good years, but I learned the hard way that most small game developers have very little control. Since the publishers tend to pay all the bills, they tend to have all the control. I'm not saying this is necessarily wrong, but it's not terribly fun. Anyways, as an indie we have all of the control, which means we will not make a clone of some popular game. We don't have to chase after whatever is hot right now, and we don't have to add every feature under the sun because the publisher seems to think it is critical.
Vince: Unfortunately, the mainstream industry is still obsessed with action RPGs of all shapes and sizes, and since I don't think I have much to contribute to this exciting genre, I have no choice but to try things on my own.
Thursday - January 04, 2007
RPG Codex - 2006: The Year in Review
RPG Codex has released their now-traditional Year in Review, poking some acerbic fun at the RPG year just past. Here's an early snip:
On the plus side, there won't be an expansion to Mage Knight: Trainwreck in Slow Motion due to the numerious crimes against humanity committed by the designers who created "a soulless husk stuffed with empty promises and features that you wouldn't want anyway". The game offered its victims an exciting opportunity to suffer through a generic story presented via a series of loosely connected, but linear maps with bored enemies standing still and waiting to be slaughtered for no reason. Hmm, come to think about it, the last sentence describes Neverwinter Nights 2 as well, but that's a different story.
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