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Thursday - February 18, 2016
The Digital Antiquarian - On Garriott and Ultima V
@The Digital Antiquarian, Jimmy Maher discusses the story of Ultima V and how it reflects a changing and evolving Richard Garriott.
For me, the Ultima series isn't most interesting as the saga of Britannia, but rather as something more intimate. It's the CRPG equivalent of the film Boyhood. As we play through the games we see its creator grow up, from the giddy kid who stuck supercomputers, space shuttles, and Star Wars in his fantasy games - because, hey, those things are all just as cool as Dungeons and Dragons to a nerdy teenager - to the more serious young man who used Ultima IV and, now, Ultima V to try to work out a philosophy for living. Taken as a whole, the series can be seen as a coming-of-age tale as well as a fantasy epic. Having reached a stage in my life where the former is more interesting than the latter, that's how I prefer to see it anyway. Rather than talk about the Ages of Britannia, I prefer to talk about the ages of Richard Garriott.
In Ultima IV, we saw his awakening to the idea that there are causes greater than himself, things out there worth believing in, and we saw his eagerness to shout his discoveries from every possible rooftop. This is the age of ideology - of sit-ins and marches, of Occupy Wall Street, of the Peace Corps and the Mormon missionary years. Teenagers and those in their immediate post-teenage years are natural zealots in everything from world politics to the kind of music they listen to (the latter, it must be said, having at least equal importance to the former to many of them).
Yet we must acknowledge that zealotry has a dark side; this is also the age of the Hitler Youth and the Jihad. Some never outgrow the age of ideology and zealotry, a situation with major consequences for the world we live in today. Thankfully, Richard Garriott isn't one of these. Ultima V is the story of his coming to realize that society must be a negotiation, not a proclamation. "I kind of think of it as my statement against TV evangelists," he says, "or any other group which would push their personal philosophical beliefs on anybody else." The world of Ultima V is messier than Ultima IV‘s neat system of ethics can possibly begin to address, full of infinite shades of gray rather than clear blacks and whites. But the message of Ultima V is one we need perhaps even more now than we did in 1988. If only the worst we had to deal with today was television evangelists...
Friday - February 12, 2016
Internet Archive - Win 3.1 Games available
In 2015, the Internet Archive started the year with the arrival of the DOS Collection, where thousands of games, applications and utilities for DOS became playable in the browser with a single click. The result has been many hundreds of thousands of visitors to the programs, and many hours of research and entertainment.
This year, it's time to upgrade to Windows.
We've now added over 1,000 programs that run, in your browser, in a Windows 3.1 environment. This includes many games, lots of utilities and business software, and what would best be called "Apps" of the 1990s - programs that did something simple, like provide a calculator or a looping animation, that could be done by an individual or small company to great success.
Tuesday - February 09, 2016
The Digital Antiquarian - The Road to Ultima V
@The Digital Antiquarian, Jimmy Maher explores the development of Ultima V. In this article we learn about the internal squabbles, business deals and relocation of Origin.
The most dangerous of these conflicts was the great sibling squabble over just where Origin Systems should be located. Back at the end of 1983, you may remember, Robert had been able to convince Richard to move the company from their parents' garage in Houston, Texas, up to New Hampshire, where his wife Marcy had found a fine position of her own working for Bell Labs. The deal was that they would remain there for at least three years. Robert, who had spent the months before the move commuting cross-country in his private plane, hoped that during the three years something might change: Marcy might get a transfer, or Richard might decide he actually liked New England and wanted to stay there. Well, at the end of 1986 the three years were up, and neither of those things had happened.
Thus Richard and company, reunited again with Bueche, found themselves a minimalist office in Austin in early 1987, fifteen desks ranged along a single long hallway. And Richard himself, now becoming a very wealthy young man indeed thanks to the huge success of Ultima III and IV, started work on Britannia Manor, a custom-built house-cum-castle worthy of Lord British; it came complete with secret passageways, a cave, a wine cellar, and a stellar observatory. It was pretty clear he wasn't planning to go anywhere else anytime soon.
Jimmy also examined the specifics of the business deal between Origin and EA and how it went sour.
The origin of Origin's EA problem dated back to August of 1985, about a month before the release of Ultima IV. By this point distribution was starting to become a real issue for a little publisher like Origin, as the few really big publishers, small enough in number to count on one hand, were taking advantage of their size and clout to squeeze the little guys off of store shelves. Knowing he had a hugely anticipated game on his hands with Ultima IV, one that with the proper care and handling should easily exceed the considerable-in-its-own-right success of Ultima III, Robert also knew he needed excellent distribution to realize its potential. He therefore turned to EA, one of the biggest of the big boys of the industry.
Friday - January 15, 2016
Sony - Trademarks VRPG (Virtual Reality RPG)
@Gamerant they discuss the possibility of a VRPG.
Sony Computer Entertainment Japan files to trademark the phrase ‘VRPG', leading some fans to suggest that a virtual reality role-playing game is on the way.
Sony has been incredibly busy with its trademarking lately. Just last week the company made headlines when its plans to trademark ‘Let's Play' were revealed. Backlash from gamers and the YouTube community ensued and the USPTO soon denied the request for being too similar to an existing trademark. The company's Day's Gone trademark also made the rounds, with Sony filing for it in relation to a game that may have some sort of online component. Apparently the company's not done yet, having filed a trademark for the phrase ‘VRPG'.
If the trademark does relate to an upcoming virtual reality RPG, then PlayStation VR early adopters will no doubt be overjoyed. The upcoming headset already has a strong lineup of games including Psychonauts: In the Rhombus of Ruin, Robinson: The Journey, and Tekken 7 and a fully-fledged role-playing game would only bolster that list. The PlayStation VR headset is predicted to sell 1.9 million units in 2016 alone but if Sony can show gamers that the device has a varied list of games coming to it, then the actual sales may even outpace that prediction.
Friday - January 08, 2016
GDC Vault - X-Com: UFO defense
@GDC Vault developer Julian Gollop talks about his classic X-Com game and its development over 20 years ago with publisher Microprose. I've included the youtube video for those who prefer it but the gdc has the longer video.
Firaxis' and 2K Games' recent X-COM: Enemy Unknown is actually a remake of a series that began twenty years ago. It all started in 1994 with MicroProse's UFO: Enemy Unknown, entitled X-COM: UFO Defense in North America, a real-time base management simulation with turn-based tactical combat and an engaging story of alien invasion. The marriage of its distinct Geoscape and Battlescape views represented the game's strategy and battle modes, respectively; and they provided what felt like two different and compelling games in one. In this postmortem, Julian Gollop will lay out the tactics he deployed in directing, co-designing, co-programming, and even co-drawing the first, and often highest regarded, UFO/X-COM entry.
Thursday - January 07, 2016
The History of Dungeon Master - Part 2
@The Digital Antiquarian, Jimmy Maher offers a thoughtful take about the history of Dungeon Master by FTL and its impact on rpgs as a genre. Part 1 focuses on the commercial history of the game with Part 2 focusing on the actual play experience.
Like any cagey revolutionary, Dungeon Master doesn't lay all its cards on the table when we first meet it. When the curtain goes up - or, rather, when the iron gate opens - on its first level, we might think we're just in for a Wizardry with better graphics and the luxury of a mouse-driven interface. Because this first level is entirely deserted, it's not immediately obvious that the game is even running in real time, much less what a huge difference that quality is ultimately going to make to the experience. And because we can't do anything at this point other than move around, it's also not immediately obvious just what an interactive sort of dungeon we've just entered.'
With our party formed, the bits and pieces of the user interface get filled in. Running along the top we now see each of the members of our party along with what he's carrying in his right and left hands, which doesn't amount to much of anything at the moment. Three bar graphs show each character's current hit points, stamina, and mana.
While the first of these is a very traditional metric, the second provides a good example of how Dungeon Master so often yet so subtly transcends the tabletop roots of previous CRPGs. When a character exerts himself - by fighting or by running about quickly, and especially by doing either whilst carrying a heavy load - his stamina drops, diminishing his effectiveness in combat and slowing him down. He can regain stamina only by resting or through magical means. Weaker characters naturally fatigue more quickly than stronger ones. This mechanic would be impossible to replicate on the tabletop; the amount of bookkeeping required would have defied even the most pedantic of human Dungeon Masters. On the computer, however, it works a treat.
Monday - January 04, 2016
Gamerant - Not Enough Time to Play Fallout 4
At Gamerant, Rob Gordon has written an editorial about how he does not seem to have time play games like Fallout 4 now that's he's older and has a family:
This is the situation I found myself in over Christmas, with an extended break from work. Apart from some excellent time with the family, I found plenty of spare hours to play video games, much like when I was a kid. My game of choice was Fallout 4, where I had plenty of unfinished business (and side quests) to take care of. Exploring the dangerous wasteland of post-nuclear war Boston has been one of the highlights of video gaming this year, and having such a large portion of time proved incredibly satisfying. There was time to work through the ruins of the city, hunting for valuable items and new weaponry, completing missions for some of the other denizens of the Commonwealth. For once, there was time to get immersed in the game.
Monday - December 28, 2015
Folk Tale - Experimental Build 0.3.12.0
Folk Tale has released the optional Experimental build 0.3.12.0, with a few holiday fixes for the ever-improving RPG/Village-sim hybrid.
EXPERIMENTAL BUILD (0.3.12.0)
This is a small update to the experimental opt-in build before the holidays to fix a number of usability issues and add in a much requested feature (find peasants button). The normal patching schedule will resume in the New Year.
Where can I get it?
Player: Added find peasants button to minimap including headcount
Player: Z and X now adjust camera zoom (Aron to do), especially useful in construction mode
Player: Mouse cursor is now constrained to the window when in fullscreen mode (Windows only)
Player: Added audio settings toggle to prevent battle music from playing
Player: Save games now always create a new save instead of overwriting the last one
Maps: Tutorial: UI blocking removed so game responds to input from keyboard and/or mouse during dialogue
Maps: Mordrich’s Factory: Temporarily removed option to fight Mordrich as it stops campaign from advancing
Maps: Added dialog at end of campaign to let players know that’s as far as we’ve got
Balancing: Villagers require fewer carrots to become full
Editor: Q and E now change elevation, Z and X zoom
Fix: Workbench: OrderMove should not work on dead characters
Fix: Workbench: Mobs set to human faction will no longer require food
Fix: Workbench: Disabled conversation options would mess up the output order
Fix: Selling buildings would not return items from the equipment store back to global inventory
Monday - December 21, 2015
RPCS3 PS3 Emulator - DX12 Support
PS3 emulation technology seems to be progressing nicely. In this video, we see a clip of Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice, played on DX12 with a nice framerate.
Sunday - December 20, 2015
Gamingbolt - Most Wanted JRPG's of 2016
Gamingbolt presents their top 20 most wanted JRPG's of 2016. The list includes a sequel to the best-selling Bravely Default, plus some other truly amazing entries.
Saturday - December 19, 2015
World of Darkness - White Wolf's Plans
White Wolf CEO Tobias Sjögren and Lead Storyteller Martin Elricsson discuss their plans for the future of the popular World of Darkness universe. Thanks, Couch!
Devilian - RPS Preview
Rock, Paper, Shotgun is calling Devilian, a new Korean Diablo-like MMO, an "afternoon nap in gaming form". Ouch.
Devilian is the gaming equivalent of a convincingly painted view of scenery. It looks pretty decent until you get too close, and bang your head on the wall. It’s a cross between an action RPG and a free-to-play MMO, that offers an expanse of entirely free content, eight hundred thousand different in-game currencies, ninety-seven billion menus, and an almost hypnotically bland grind.
Which makes me think: there must have been so many talented people working on this. It looks great, it’s functional, enormously complex systems are all interacting and working, thousands of players are simultaneously on one server… none of this is easy to get right. And yet the result is something completely without inspiration, wholly derivative, and existing only to hopefully pull in some of that sweet, sweet Marketplace purchasing before the next game exactly like it comes along. What a strange thing to work so hard to create.
Source: Rock, Paper, Shotgun
Friday - December 18, 2015
Xenoblade Chronicles X - Thoughts on Design
Time Magazine talks with Tetsuya Takahashi, executive director for Xenoblade Chronicles X. He discusses the different approaches between Japanese and Western game design.
"Except for a subset of titles, Japanese RPGs are budgeted so they’ll make a profit off sales within Japan alone,” says Takahasi. “It seems to me that building the entire world of the game itself (making it open-world) is considered one must-have element for Western RPGs nowadays, but that just can’t be done in the current Japan scene. But lately, I’ve started to wonder about whether this is really just because of budgetary issues. I think this is probably due to differences in cultural tastes, but in the current situation, it’s difficult to take content created in Japan and have it accepted in the West. As a result, you can only create things scaled to make money within Japan alone, and it becomes this negative spiral.""Japanese tastes are unique compared to those in the West, so if you focus solely on gamers within Japan, you’ll always find yourself running into this problem. (I think this is easy to see when you notice that FPS-style games sell only around 100,000 copies or so in Japan, as opposed to 10 million worldwide.)"
Thursday - December 17, 2015
Star Wars - The Oriental Connection
ASidCast discusses Star Wars and the Asian mythologies and philosophies that inspired it. Thanks again, Couch.
The movies were not my introduction to Star Wars, though. That would be Knights of the Old Republic, which I had played shortly before watching the movies on STAR Movies. Knights was one of the first RPGs I ever played, and it blew me away. I knew the game was based on the lore of the movies, and it made me want to watch them. I played the sequel Sith Lords shortly afterwards, and against all my expectations, I loved it even more than the original (except the ending, which was later fixed by the cut content patch). I still prefer Sith Lords more, because (among other reasons) it is not your typical Star Wars story, but it deals with the underlying concepts- especially the Force and morality- in a much deeper way.
Both of the games made me very curious to know about the concept of the Force. It was perhaps mostly due to studying in what can be described as a Hindu missionary school, where we had to study a lot of religious texts and Indian myths, but I found something very familiar in how the Force was handled in Star Wars lore.
The Force has been described as an all-encompassing field of energy that connects every living thing to each other. When I first came across the description, I immediately thought of the concept of what we studied about Brahman. Brahman (not to be confused with Brahmin or Brahma) is a Vedic concept of the ultimate reality or truth, which has been adopted by Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and other religions. It is also said to be an ever-present energy or entity or concept that connects all life. The concept of Qi is also somewhat similar.
Wednesday - December 16, 2015
Ghost in the Shell - SAC: First Assault Online
It's not an RPG, sadly; it's an FPS. But cyberpunk fans will want to know if the new Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex title, First Assault Online, is any good. PC Gamer has a look.
First Assault Online is a multiplayer FPS set in the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex universe that’s just launched on Steam Early Access. Stand Alone Complex is an anime series based on Masamune Shirow’s manga about Section 9, a group of cybernetically-enhanced operatives fighting cyber-terrorism in a futuristic Japan. This would be a great setting for a Deus Ex-style RPG, but Korean developer Neople has, instead, used it as the basis for a squad-based shooter.
“Picking a genre wasn't easy,” they explain. “But we were excited by episode 24 of season one, in which Section 9 are tested to their limits and forced to take on an opposing special ops team.” This episode, they say, made them imagine what it would be like to fight together as a perfectly synchronised team, and First Assault Online was born. You can play the Early Access version now for £4, but when it launches it’ll be free-to-play and come with the usual array of optional paid-for content.
The result of Neople’s desire to make you feel like you’re part of Section 9—whose cyber-brains are linked together when they fight in the series—is the SkillSync system. This encourages you to stick together by letting you share your squad’s special abilities including thermoptic camo, seeing through walls, and the ability to transform your arm into a missile launcher. If you’re near someone who has an ability activated, you can hit the E button and use it yourself. It’s a neat concept, and I did naturally find myself sticking close to my team as I played to leech their cyber-powers.
Tuesday - December 15, 2015
TUN: The Great Infinity Engine Do-Over
Bedwyr sent us an interesting editorial about the Kickstarter Infinity Engine revival of the twenty-teens and what it means for RPG production. Are we missing something we had in 1998? Thanks, Bedwyr!
Saturday - December 12, 2015
The History of Dungeon Master - Part 1
@The Digital Antiquarian, Jimmy Maher offers a thoughtful take about the history of Dungeon Master by FTL and its impact on rpgs as a genre. Part 1 focuses on the commercial history of the game with part 2 set to focus on the actual play experience.
But what a dungeon crawl it is! Having agreed to work from that very traditional premise, its developers gave themselves permission to innovate wildly within it and to question every assumption of its forefather. The result is as dramatic a leap beyond Wizardry as that game had been beyond the earliest proto-CRPGs like Temple of Apshai. Wizardry had brought with it a feeling that its developers had finally figured something out that the rest of the software world had been groping toward for some time - had gotten something fundamentally right at last. More than six years later, Dungeon Master arrived carrying much the same aura.
Indeed, Dungeon Master would prove to be almost too good at what it did, would have the same almost stultifying effect as earlier had Wizardry on the dungeon crawls that followed. It would seldom if ever be even equaled in the years immediately following its release, and wouldn't be clearly bettered until something called Ultima Underworld dropped five long years further on. The dungeon crawl, it seemed, was just a quantum sort of genre.
What FTL themselves came to consider the first proper sequel, Dungeon Master II: The Legend of Skullkeep, arrived only in 1994, almost seven years after the original. By now the Dungeon Master mania had long since died away, and FTL, for all those years a one-product company, was in increasingly dire straits as a result. The situation gave this belated release something of the feel of a final Hail Mary. And like most such, it didn't work out. Rather astonishingly for a company that had built its reputation around technical innovation, Dungeon Master II was painfully outdated, still wedded to the old step-wise movement long after everyone else had gone to smooth-scrolling 3D environments in the wake of Ultima Underworld and Doom, the very titles the original Dungeon Master had done so much to inspire. It garnered lukewarm reviews and worse sales, and FTL went out of business in 1996.
Friday - March 06, 2015
Ars Technica - 2014 Steam Sales Estimates
Forum members Jhwisner & Silver submitted links to a new article on Ars Technica where the site posted Steam sales estimates for all 2014 PC games.
Here is more information form Jhwisner.
Ars Technica used data availible publicaly through steam's API to estimate sales, ownership, and playtime for the 400 most popular games on steam for 2014. They did this for 2013 previously and it was pretty interesting.
Some interesting tidbits (these are games released in 2014, numbers are estimated Steam owners and obviously does not include sales on GoG or other distribution systems)
Divinity: Original Sin ~ 802,315
Dark Souls II ~ 964,266
South Park: The Stick of Truth ~ 929,442
Wasteland 2 ~ 384,760
Banner Saga ~ 343,511
Final Fantasy XIII ~ 327,959
Shadowrun Dragonfall Director's edition ~ 313,082
To put this in some perspective, they also found there to be roughly 3 million new Skyrim owners on Steam since 4/14/2014. The good news there is that if you think Bethesda likes money, then they might not be at all disingenous when they said they were putting an increased focus on the PC going forward..
Sunday - November 23, 2014
Video Gamer - Changing Review Policy
Tom Orry has written an editorial announcing changes in their review policy.
The reason is this:
There's also an increasing likelihood that the game we review will have changed by the time it's in your hands on 'Day One'. It now seems more likely than not that a game will receive a patch between the time the disc is printed and it goes on sale. We need to account for this in our reviews.
Tom Orry announces that the changes in review policy will be these:
We will only award a game a score if we've been able to test all aspects to our satisfaction, offline and online.
We will award a game a score based on the experience at the time. Review conditions will be stated in the coverage.
Review text and scores may be updated once we've tested the game in consumer conditions, with the game released and online servers populated with real players.
Review text and scores may be updated if a title receives significant and game-changing updates post release. This does not include DLC unless offered for free to all.
If review text or score is changed the original text and score will be archived on the page.
Double Fine Studios - Project Cancelled - Layoffs
A yet undisclosed project fell through so that the developer had to let 12 people go from the company. A quote from Tim Schafer:
"One of our unannounced projects was unexpectedly cancelled by its publisher, forcing us to reduce our staff by 12 people," Double Fine founder Tim Schafer said in a statement to GameSpot. "Our remaining projects -- Broken Age, Massive Chalice, and Grim Fandango Remastered, were unaffected." Double Fine did not disclose the nature of the project or the publisher who canceled it.
Polygon - Games are better without damsels to save
Claire Hosking has written an opinion piece for Polygon. It it, she argues that game
don't need to have damsels in distress to save. And that they are better this way.
The starting point for Claire Hosking is this:
Anita Sarkeesian's Feminist Frequency series has amazing influence for someone who's simply doing what so many have done before - making videos about about their opinions on books, TV, film and video games.... Anthony Burch, Joss Whedon and Tim Schafer - have listened and encouraged their followers to take note, while Saints Row creative Director Steve Jaros has said, "I actually think [Tropes vs. Women creator Anita Sarkeesian's] right in this case" when a video was critical of an aspect of the game.
Claire Hoskings argues that when a female character has to e.g. rescued by the player she becomes just a thing to fetch. She does so with a quote from Anita Sarkeesian's Tropes in Video Games, part 1:
...[damseling is] a plot device in which a female character is placed in a perilous situation from which she cannot escape on her own and must be rescued by a male character, usually providing a core incentive or motivation for the protagonist’s quest. In video games this is most often accomplished via kidnapping but it can also take the form of petrification or demon possession for example."
Games like Bioshock or Gone Home use audio logs and environmental narrative to flesh out characters you’re searching for; they’re games about entering their world and understanding their life. It’s an interesting game design question — there are many, many reasons why a character might be interesting to find or deliberately trying to keep something from you. Every one of them says more about the character than just someone being taken away and locked up.
While they are damsels, they exist for others and no longer have their own initiative or interactions......It also frequently portrays love as transactional — save girl, get kiss — rather than something that springs from spending time with a person and getting to know them. None of this makes for good writing. The fact damseling happens overwhelmingly to female characters has a particular meaning in a society that has historically restricted women’s freedoms and denied them equal autonomy with men.
Thursday - July 18, 2013
Dungeonmans - Videos and Digital Tier
Galaad writes in to let us know of the latest Kickstarter update for Dungeonmans (currently at $21K out of an asked $35K) about a new digital tier with alpha access, new let's play videos and user feedback.
Multiple people have asked about a tier where they can get Alpha access without needing to buy in for the (awesome) physical copy of the Dungeonmans soundtrack. This is a fine idea, especially for monster crushers outside of the USA who would be forced to pay extra for shipping.
I've introduced the DIGITAL EXPLORER tier which will get you into the Alpha as well as provide you with a PDF copy of the Dungeonmans Almanac! Perfect for those of you who want set out into the earliest Dungeonmans experience but like to pack light.
Monday - June 25, 2012
Hooked Gamers - Nine Sequells They'd Like to See
Hooked Gamers has an editorial about the rpg sequels they'd like to see.
The link: http://www.hookedgamers.com/features/2012/06/20/
Among them are KOTOR 3, Icewind Dale 3, and Alpha Protocol 2.
A quote on AP2:
I couldn’t have been more surprised if I tried, when I put out a call to see what RPG sequels people most wanted and Alpha Protocol 2 came back as one of the top answers. However there is merit to the idea. Alpha Protocol had a ton of great ideas that ultimately fell flat; if polished to a shiny veneer, a sequel could deliver the goods as the game Obsidian originally intended to make.
Country: Russian Federation