As you can probably guess, most of the reviews are very positive, and none in this particular batch are particularly negative. I’m going to highlight GameBanshee’s excerpt from the PC Advisor review, though:
I have to commend the folks at 38 Studios for making their first game as ambitious as Reckoning is. In a time when most new IPs are Call of Duty or God of War rip-offs, Reckoning harkens back to a time when games were supremely immersive. Yes, it may not bring much new to the table and the plot and characters may feel hackneyed at times but in Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning we have a game done right. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is now available for the PC and it requires EA Origin installed on your PC to run. It has also been released for the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3.
What’s important to remember about Reckoning is that it’s the first in what I earnestly hope will grow into a quite decent series. While it’s most obvious and most direct competitor is Skyrim, it should be pointed out that Skyrim is Bethesda’s fifth Elder Scrolls game, able to build on a lengthy history of experience and a massive body of lore that has been fleshed out and added to over the course of many years.
By contrast, Reckoning — though it has a massive series bible courtesy of author R.A. Salvatore, and though Big Huge Games has developed other titles prior to this one (e.g. Titan Quest) — is a new thing. That it merits comparison — favourable comparison — to Skyrim is pretty impressive, and I think suggests that the next game set in Amalur will be even more impressive.
The legendary pirate Dead Kel and his Hanged Men have returned to haunt the seas of northern Amalur. Embark on a journey to the distant island of Gallows End with the eccentric Captain Brattigan in an adventure that will uncover a secret so great that it has incited wars and toppled kingdoms. Discover powerful new weapons and Twist of Fate Cards and use them to conquer the island’s unique inhabitants. Become the Lord of Gravehal Keep and lay claim to this once great fort that stands upon the edge of a cliff in the most expansive player housing option yet. In an extensive new story and a host of new side quests, battle treacherous new enemies and face exciting new challenges on the mysterious island of Gallows End.
The DLC adds a fair bit of new area to the game world…a 15% increase is what I’ve seen the majority of gaming sites report. It sounds (and looks) as though a few new monsters will be added as well, as well as a castle that your Fateless One will be able to call home.
The Legend of Dead Kel will be released on March 20th, which means you should all have just enough time to finish your first Mass Effect 3 playthrough.
The sparse website bears little other than a quote attributed to Forgotten Realms prophet Alaundo: “The Lord of Murder shall perish, but in his doom he shall spawn a score of mortal progeny, chaos will be sown by their passage.” Additionally, the site’s background features character images from the 1998 original game and its 2000 sequel.
Though EA has yet to respond to a comment on the website, GameBanshee claims a new Baldur’s Gate project is in the works at Beamdog. The company was cofounded by Trent Oster, a BioWare veteran who held various roles working on games ranging from Neverwinter Nights to Dragon Age. Its credits include a remake of BioWare’s MDK2 for the Wii and PC in 2011.
Speaking to GameBanshee, Oster confirmed only that his company has an announcement on the horizon, and that announcement does not pertain to the rumored Steam rereleases of the original games. A Beamdog representative confirmed this statement for GameSpot.
It’s worth noting that Beamdog recently released an HD update for BioWare’s MDK2, and it’s entirely possible that this website presages a similar update for Baldur’s Gate from them. Time will, of course, tell the tale.
In the meantime, though, wild speculation is encouraged!
The author of this map for Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare wanted to do a tribute to one of his favourite childhood games, and opted to re-create the area where Ultima 7 starts: Trinsic. Based on the screenshot, the map is largely faithful to the layout of the city in the game, although the author did add a sewer system and a couple of other little extras to improve the map’s playability in a first person shooter context.
I don’t know how many of you were/are CoD4 players, and I have no idea whether this map is portable to later entries in the series, but if you have a spare copy of the original Modern Warfare game laying around, fire it up and give it a try!
The author of this map for Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare wanted to do a tribute to one of his favourite childhood games, and opted to re-create the area where Ultima 7 starts: Trinsic. Based on the screenshot, the map is largely faithful to the layout of the city in the game, although the author did add a sewer system and a couple of other little extras to improve the map’s playability in a first person shooter context.
Participation is easy, just “fill in the blanks”. Compiling pictures and detailed information on more than 2000 items was a challenge (as you can imagine), particularly since most of them are quite rare. As such there is still a lot of information left to uncover, or items which fell through the cracks SI Completion Certificate …
Additions, updates, and corrections can be about any item listed (or not listed) in “Ultima: The Ultimate Collector’s Guide” – for either the main series or Ultima Online (including the media guide). All submissions will not only help to preserve the Ultima legacy, but also get your names listed as contributors in the next book.
All you need to do is send missing items, pictures and/or information (UPC/EAN codes, page counts, dimensions, etc) to me at: cmdrfalcon [at] hotmail.com
How to play:
1st Prize (x1) – Copies of “Ultima Online: TUCG 2013 Edition” AND “Ultima: TUCG 2013 Companion”
2nd Prize (x2) – A copy of “Ultima Online: TUCG 2013 Edition”
3rd Prize (x3) – A copy of “Ultima: TUCG 2013 Companion”
Rules & Regulations:
The contest will run from February 25th, 2012 until July 25th, 2012.
The 1st Prize will be awarded to the contributor with the most submissions. Subsequent prizes will be awarded to other submitters based on a random drawing. Winning a prize precludes the contributor from winning subsequent prizes (i.e. the recipient of the 1st Prize cannot also win a 2nd or 3rd prize).
Multiple submissions increases the odds of winning (i.e. 5 contributions = 5 entries into the random draw). That doesn’t require one email for each piece of information. Appropriate credit will be given based on the information provided.
Credit for information will only be given to the first person who submits said information and is subject to verification.
All entrants must provide their full name and email address. Shipping address will also be required if selected as a winner. Winners will be announced prior to pre-orders (approximately July 31, 2012). Prizes will be distributed after the pre-order phase, and before regular release (approximately September 13, 2012).
So if you want a chance to win a copy of the upcoming UO Collector’s Guide, Dragons and Dragonettes, haul out your copies of Ultima: The Ultimate Collector’s Guide and let Stephen Emond know if he missed anything (and send him a picture of it while you’re at it).
The First Age of Update: In a subsequent post at the UDIC Facebook page, Stephen Emond has made a further request:
Specific requests for the UO book… I’m looking for pictures of the following if any of you happen to have them. You will of course get credit and entry into the “Quest for Knowledge” contest to win a copy of the book:
UO The Second Age – Beta CD
UO Lord Blackthorn’s Revenge – Beta CD
UO Age of Shadows – Beta CD
So if, Dragons and Dragonettes, you have any of these things laying about, let him know!
At the official Risen 2 website, there is now a profile of what I assume will be one of the game’s main settings, the mysterious Sword Coast.
On the south coast of Arborea lies the hardly explored Sword Coast.
The Shaganumbi tribe has been settled in the jungle not far from the beaches for generations. The great temple ruins that adorn the area are remnants of the culture and the ancestors of the clan and were built on the sources of the natives’ magic. The Shaganumbi experienced the Inquisition and founded the military base off the Sword Coast, “Puerto Isabella”, while their expanding further into the South Sea.
From this base, the Inquisition tried to monitor the fabled temples. Observations and expeditions of the temple lead to long awaited findings and draw conclusions about the appearance of the Titans.
Sergorn Dragon has often argued that there are some parallels between the Risen series and Ultima 8′s lore, with these Titans being a particular example thereof.
So we know it will be available on Valve’s digital distribution portal, at least. At present, however, it does not seem to be available for pre-order; no price is listed, and no purchase link is given.
The Leviathan is a gigantic two-man-tall beast and was formed by dark powers. It was bred in the deepest abyss solely for the purpose of bringing evil titan storm from the sea to the land! A mixture of sand devils, huge crabs and other creatures, it crushes any intruder with his large claws or overruns his opponents with ease!
Click on through for a picture; the brute does not look like the sort of beasty you’d want to casually stumble into the path of.
The consensus seems to be that the combat system is, as was the case in Risen, a bit difficult to master and in some was resembles Fable’s timing-dependent fighting. Some reviewers have expressed doubts about the game’s performance on consoles, but most reports seem to suggest that the PC version works just fine, thank you.
One thing I did note was that the game makes you choose — at least initially — between two major offensive skills: spellcasting (Voodoo) and firearms. I’m kind of a fan of these sort of contrasts, so it’s nice to at least think (for now) that Risen 2 will make players pit magic against technology for at least some of its length. I’m sure that by the end of the game, though, proficiency can be acquired in both skills.
Don’t miss GameBanshee’s preview (the fourth link, above); it’s very lengthy and comprehensive.
I’ve already made my own thoughts known where the demo for Mass Effect 3 is concerned. But if you’re looking for what actual gaming press websites had to say about it, RPGWatch and GameBanshee have aggregated a few lists of notable commentary.
The basic gist of the Legacy System in The Old Republic is that you can create what is essentially a family of characters whom the game will label and treat as related. If you create alternate characters (“alts”) on the same server once your Legacy has been established, they’ll automatically be treated as Legacy characters.
When you first gain access to the Legacy System (which happens once you complete the first chapter of the single-player campaign for any one character), a second experience bar appears on the game’s interface, which tracks your “Legacy Experience” points; you gain Legacy XP at a reduced rate compared to base XP. But (and here’s the kicker) all your alt characters, even freshly-created ones, all feed into a common Legacy XP pool.
To this point, there have been no rewards granted for gaining Legacy levels, but that is evidently set to change in future SWTOR updates.
Razer naturally had something Mass Effect 3-related to announce:
Award-winning developer BioWare, a label of Electronic Arts Inc. along with Razer, the world leader in high performance gaming hardware, reveal today peripherals and gear created for the highly anticipated Action RPG Mass Effect 3. Fans of the Mass Effect series can arm themselves for the all-out galactic war with the Razer Mass Effect 3 Edition peripheral line which includes a Razer Imperator gaming mouse, Razer Vespula dual-sided gaming mouse mat, Razer BlackWidow Ultimate gaming keyboard, Razer Onza Tournament Edition Xbox 360 controller, and Razer Chimaera Xbox 360 gaming headset. The cutting-edge peripherals will give fans of the series a competitive advantage in the epic battle to save the galaxy from the ancient alien race known only as the Reapers.
I intend to play the game with a cheap little half-sized wireless mouse I picked up at a Wal*Mart in Wyoming, myself.
I just got back from Vegas. Now, I don’t really need an excuse to go to Vegas, but this time I had a good reason. You see, I was celebrating a major life milestone. As of last week, I have officially retired from BioWare. (I’ll give all you gamers a second to let that sink in. Just to be clear, the parting was completely amicable, and 100% my decision.)
For the past twelve years I’ve had the privilege to work at one of the best companies in the video game industry, side by side with the most talented and incredible group of people I’ve ever had the good fortune to know. I’ve enjoyed my time at BioWare immensely, but it’s time for me to move on.
I’m leaving to focus more time and energy on my novels and other non-video game related projects. But even though I’ll no longer be working on games for BioWare, I’m not going to be severing all ties with them. Many of my closest friends still work at the company, and I’m also in the process of writing the next Star Wars: The Old Republic novel, though I can’t say too much about it yet.
Karpyshyn has worked on numerous BioWare titles, from Neverwinter Nights onward, and is by any measure a very talented writer who rightly deserves to enjoy success telling his own stories.
Here was Joystiq’s take on it when it was first announced:
EA really wants you to know that Mass Effect 3 exists. Like, so bad. The publisher’s fervor for raising awareness about ME3 is so great that it’s strapping six copies of the game to six high-altitude weather balloons spread across the globe, and launching them into the literal stratosphere, which is effectively space when spoken in the same sentence as “balloons” and “video games.”
Paris, London, Berlin, New York, San Francisco and Las Vegas will all play host to one of these advertising airships, which are set to launch next week. Eventually though, these puppies are coming back down.
Each copy of the game is equipped with a GPS tracking device, and crazy people will be able to monitor the games’ positions on the official Mass Effect website. Once they land, whoever scrambles to a crash site first will get to keep the copy and play the game a week early, assuming the damn thing is still somehow intact.
No word on whether they’re actually calling it the “Space Edition” of Mass Effect 3, but that’s a label I’ve seen used in a few places.
Anyhow, as I said, these were all lanuched this week, and in at least one case the result was rather hilarious. Leave it to a strong wind and a tall tree to mess everything up, eh?
Buskell is the game’s associate producer, and Gaspur is the senior combat designer. As you can well imagine, the interview mostly focuses on topics like the addition of multiplayer, and changes to combat and class powers.
Ilum stands in PvP limbo. Camping hasn’t exactly vanished, it’s just shifted to immediately outside a faction’s base. Rather than an overwhelming bombardment of Force powers and missiles over the spawn point, there’s an almost-constant, uneasy standoff just on the border of the instant-kill line. It’s an improvement, certainly, but it’s still not fun. Ilum as it stands currently discourages aggression, because pushing the enemy into their base means you will get fewer kills. So instead of an all-out war, players tend to wait in specific locations, kill each other until one side has been pushed back a certain distance, then stop the advancement and let them regroup. It’s functionally not so different from Ilum’s original iteration.
Ilum, by the way, is one of the planets in The Old Republic, and then one for fairly high-level players as I recall. And, evidently, PvP there isn’t so much fun as it is tedious and stalemated. Which is rather like war, I suppose…and which is why players don’t like it.
And if you thought Reckoning’s “Houses of Valor” at-launch DLC was shameless marketeering, consider the fact that at least the Houses of Valor (and the seven or so associated quests) were just a minor side element in that game’s plot (and then one which, after a cumulative day of play, I have yet to encounter).
What has been removed for the “From Ashes” DLC is just…I’m glad I pre-ordered the edition of the game I did, and so will have unfettered access to it. Had I not done so, there is a possibility I’d be furious. I think it will depend on what they do with the new squad member who is central to the DLC. If they turn out not to use him well, I might be more upset at having the DLC than I would have been not having it.
On the other hand, if he’s as critical as reason suggests he should be…
RPS reports on the findings of Destructoid’s Chris Carter. Carter some numbers, adding up what it would cost to obtain all currently-announced DLC for the game. This includes things like hardware purchases for various hardware+DLC tie-in deals.
The number he arrived at: $870 USD
I will love to hear what everyone has to say about that number.
Such reviews as these will be moderately spoilery, although not egregiously so since they are from mainline gaming sites, who are likely subject to NDAs. What details have emerged, however, suggest that the main campaign of Mass Effect 3 will run about 20 hours, with another 20 or so hours of side missions which will add to your in-game ability to effectively combat the Reapers.
Which means I’ll be able to put down Reckoning‘s 200-300 hour-length story for a week to finish ME3, and then dive right back in before I forget anything about my charater’s progress.
BioWare community manager Jessica Merizan waded into the swamps of Reddit just recently, subjecting herself to the vissictitudes of an “Ask Me Anything” thread. Naturally, “From Ashes” was front and center:
What is your personal opinion on the day 1 DLC situation- do you believe it is acceptable?
If that isn’t really a question you can answer, then what do Bioware think about the reaction in the community to the announcement of the day 1 DLC?
I think there’s a lot of misinformation out there and I wish the guy who made the initial video about it would have had an open mind before jumping to conclusions based on a leak we weren’t ready to address. Since I’m a BioWare employee, I know people won’t automatically trust me, but I hope people will consider that it wasn’t cut content from the larger game. I was in Edmonton when we were finishing the game in November/December and I was in Edmonton again last month when they were working on the Day 1 DLC. It definitely was only possible to do because the main game was in certification (which means we had to wait for people to test it and make sure everything was good etc before we could get the greenlight to sell it). I also played the game WITHOUT the DLC in my first playthrough and honestly, it’s an awesome addition but I was more than happy with what I was given in the game. It’s bigger and more expansive than ever. Of course, I understand the concern but I hope we can all have an intelligent conversation about it and cover what the facts are in this situation.
Hope that helps a little bit. This is an awkward format to answer this question, but I know I could explain it if you were sitting next to me on a couch with some coffee/tea
IO9 doesn’t so much pose the question (actually echoing Pop Bioethics), as beg it and answer strongly in the affirmative. And in some ways, I agree with them. Consider:
In nearly great popular science fiction universe, there is a flaw. Born of systemic bias, the flaw is one that fundamentally undermines the narrative that carves its way through the characters, species, technologies and worlds that populate any given sci-fi story. Our greatest stories set in space often reference the flaw with oblique references to a long forgotten species, cataclysmic events, or godlike entities. Something is wrong with the universe, but we cannot place it.
Consider the canon of epic science fiction universes. Like a black hole one can see the flaw by observing the light cast in those moments that confront it at its edges: the series finale of BSG, Q’s tests of Picard, the Butlerian Jihad, the Buggers, the Borg, the obliteration of Alderan by the Death Star. Yet ultimately each of these narratives turns away, unable or unwilling to withstand the abysmal gaze emanating from the depths of the universe. The flaw in every science fiction series is that they shy from the deep horror of the existence of intelligent life in infinite spacetime – save for two: the one that brought first brought it to our attention and the one that sees this horror as the framework for reality.
The flaw is a simple one: the assumption that life has meaning, that intelligent life has a purpose, and that humanity contributes anything to the universe. H.P. Lovecraft, a man “against the world, against life,” refused to assume the universe was good.
Underneath it all, there is the Cosmic Horror of Sovereign, The Collectors, Saren’s indoctrination, and the Keepers. Mass Effect has not one but two entire species — the Keepers and the Collectors — that exist as mindless drones at the beck-and-call of the Reapers. It is herein that the great flaw of the universe so often unaddressed by science fiction is elevated and exposed by the narrative of Mass Effect. The Reapers are biomechanical equivalents of the Elder Gods of H.P. Lovecraft. If the xenomorphs in Alien had a deity, it would be a Reaper. Inconceivable, immortal, uninvolved super-beings that are not divinities per se, but so far beyond our realm of existence as to drive insane those who encounter and worship them. The seat of being, the mind, becomes rent apart and irredeemably misshapen to bend to the whims of a malevolent ancient life form.
The resulting slaves, the Keepers and Collectors, act without thought, remorse, or concern. And they become all the more horrible once they are fully revealed. The Keepers are thought to be beneficent until it is revealed they serve not the inhabitants of the Citadel, or even the Citadel itself, but the purpose of ensuring the Citadel will serve the cyclical apocalypse. The Collectors are revealed to be the remnants of the Protheans – the foundation species that was thought to be the galactic civilization in the wake of which Citadel Space had formed. Instead, Mass Effect exposes the very basis of intelligent exchange in the universe, the Mass Relays, to be a Trojan Horse. Reality is a ruse. Progress a lockstep, well-treaded path to oblivion.
The Reapers and their cyclical destruction of civilization represent one of the most nihilistic interpretation of intelligence in the universe ever presented. Mass Effect answers Fermi’s famous question, “Where is everyone?” with a matter-of-fact, “They have been consumed.”
Now, at the same time as it tells a mostly Cosmicistic tale, Mass Effect does flip the script somewhat. The Protheans figured out, too late, how to avert the main trap that the Reapers had set, and despite the seemingly hopeless disparity in technology, there exists a threadbare reason to hope that this time around, the combined might of the various galactic races might just be enough to drive the Reapers back (albeit at staggeringly high cost).
And lowly humanity will be at the forefront of that fight; in fact, they are central thereto. We do not get the option, after all, to have a Turian Shepard.
This trailer includes some footage from the E3 trailer for the game, and given the way its release was staged over the course of a couple of weeks — with bits of footage being added with each iteration — one suspects that in the end it was all prepared as one massive trailer and chopped up for later release.
IGN has an interview with The Doctors BioWare, Greg Zeschuk and Ray Muzyka. Nothing incredible, but there are a few interesting comments on the challenges of building games that offer meaningful choices to players.
After finding Sierra On-Line to be a less than friendly publisher while creating Ultima II, Richard Garriott eventually decided to move on and form his own company, Origin Systems. The success of the Ultima games during the 80s led to a number of clones being produced.
One of the more interesting was The Wrath of Denethenor by Sierra On-Line. While few people will remember this game for the Apple II and Commodore 64, this advertisement from Sierra in 1988 makes it pretty clear which game inspired it.
Denethenor Advertisement - Sierra, 1988
See if you can find the Ultima in this picture. Look closely at the screenshot in the lower left.
Here is a YouTube video showing just how similar this game and Ultima II truly were.
This martial arts group is evidently called Stunt Forces, and they’re evidently the group that has done the lion’s share of the motion capture work for character and combat animations in the Witcher games.
It’s evidently the most expensive game asset that CD Projekt Red has ever created. Not that we should really be surprised to hear that, I suppose. CGI animation has come a long way, baby, but it’s still pretty expensive to turn out such an eye-meltingly gorgeous cutscene as this.
Not all is roses, though: CD Projekt also reports that there may also be around 4.5 million pirated copies of the game, which was (as the good reader may recall) stripped of what little DRM it shipped with shortly after launch, in what I seem to recall was the first official patch for it.
“We are definitely starting for new consoles,” managing director Adam Badowski told us, when asked whether the pair of known-about “AAA+” games will be for this generation or the next.
“The market is ready for something new,” heralded head of marketing Michal Platkow-Gilewski, “for something faster, more powerful.”
Badowski added: “I can tell you we are and we were focusing on powerful gaming rigs. We’re going to do something amazing, so we need extra processors.
“It will be multi-platform game, so the multi-release at the same time. But if you are talking about leading platform, we will use most powerful, just because it can give us the freedom of creation.
“And it’s cool to develop something special, new – better than others on the market. It’s our goal.”
It’s probably a safe bet that by 2014, we’ll see new consoles pushed out that have some pretty powerful hardware underneath their stylish exteriors, but it makes this old Origin Systems fan smile to hear a developer talking about developing games for hardware that doesn’t quite exist yet.
Actually, more specifically, this person is looking for help getting the game’s sound working in DOSBox:
Any idea how to get the original sound to work on Savage Empire using Dos Box? Been trying to figure it out. It works on Martian Dreams, just not Savage Empire. Using Windows 7. Thanks!!!
My suspicion is that this is a VDMSound-related issue, and that he’d be well-advised to get that set up for himself. However, I’m mostly just grasping at straws, and figured that some of you probably have rather more direct experience getting the game working, with sound, under everyone’s favourite DOS emulator.
So, if you have a suggestion, toss it out in the comments!
Cain is, of course, famous for his work as a designer on the original Fallout, and he also worked on the cumersomely-titled Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura. Indeed, he is on the record as basically measuring himself by these two games.
He was hired by Obsidian Entertainment as a senior programmer in late 2011, evidently on contract, but it was confirmed by Chris Avellone earlier this week that Cain would in fact be staying on at the company in a permanent capacity.
J.E. Sawyer has posted a blog entry discussing his dislike of how weapons and skills are set up in the Fallout series. This at his personal blog, rather than at the Obsidian blog, mind you:
1) In a game where a player makes an investment in a variety of skills, I believe those skills should be applicable from the beginning of the game to the end of the game. In F1, that wasn’t the case with Small Guns/Big Guns/Energy Weapons. In F:NV, it was true for Guns and EWs, but it resulted in a lot of weapon role redundancy between the two skills.
2) I believe taking different skills should change the gameplay of the character. This really has never been true between Small Guns/Guns/EWs. You pretty much use all of them the same way, especially because of role redundancy or application overlap (cf. Laser and Sniper Rifles in F1, Anti-Materiel Rifle and Gauss Rifle in F:NV). It’s also not true of Unarmed/Melee Weapons.
His suggestion for how to deal with these and other issues begins with a recommendation to reduce the number of skill categories (e.g. having a generic “Guns” category rather than numerous type-of-gun-specific categories). That’s likely to enrage some of the harder-core Fallout fans, and perhaps RPG fans in general.
- I was placed in an unpleasant moral situation early on in the title when I hit Highpool. I had to put down someone’s pet, and just as expected, the owner wasn’t happy about the situation I was placed in. And I felt horrible. This was in the first 15 minutes, and the game had caused a new reaction in me I’d never had when playing an RPG.
- Skill progression started defining my character’s personality. There was enough skill choices for me to start imagining what these Rangers had been trained in, what their talents were, and the ability to choose nationality of the characters fleshed them out even more, especially my RPG-toting near-silent Russian demolitions strongman, Romanov, who I began to build an increasingly-complex backstory for. (And yes, my Mom probably worried about me.)
- Despite the graphics at the time, the locations were areas I couldn’t have imagined, certainly not in a computer game. Here was a game where I could use my Intelligence to fight adversaries, transport my consciousness into an android’s brain and battle my character’s childhood fears, contract some serious post-apocalyptic STDs, use a mortar to blow up sections of towns, help a nomadic tribe of railroad tribals predict the future with snake-squeezed moonshine, and navigate a mine-covered golf course only to come face to face with a giant robotic scorpion in the middle of Vegas. Not to mention the range of enemies, personalities, and allies that can join you – all of these things didn’t require some high-tech solution, only a different approach to the game context.
It should come as a surprise to nobody, after reading that last paragraph, that Avellone begins his blog post by extolling the virtues of not using advancements in engine and graphics technology as the primary means of driving development and innovation in games.
There can be little doubt that humanity is destined to live beyond the confines of our Earth and even our solar system. But this expansion is far more than mere adventure, more even than a survival necessity in the great span of time. Human expansion into space will continue to bring radical benefits right here on Earth in the very short term, just as it has already done.
Today we are at a new dawn, the beginnings of the new Space Race! With the retirement of the Space Shuttle and all the budget and planning cutbacks, many have proclaimed the end of the U.S. manned space program, ceding our leadership to Russia and China. But this is not the case.
And how, exactly, is it not the case?
Space X — The firm started by Elon Musk, founder of PayPal and Tesla Motors, launched its Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon Space Capsule in November of last year. It orbited the Earth and safely re-entered, and the company recovered its capsule. This monumental event was the first orbit and re-entry of a space capsule by a non-government entity. They are scheduled to begin cargo service to the ISS this year, with crew to follow. Space X already has plans beyond ISS, beyond LEO (low Earth orbit), all the way to Mars. They believe they can drop prices to low Earth orbit to near $1 million, through fully reusable launch vehicles. If they do this, human space exploration will be hugely profitable for the first time!
Traditional firms are competing in this new era too! Boeing, which makes the main shuttle orbiter and which few can doubt has the capability to build rockets, is one of the major commercial competitors. Sierra Nevada Corp. is building a great “mini shuttle” that could sit atop existing rockets and bring crew comfortably back like an airplane. It is similar to the shuttle but with far less complexity in a simpler and safer system.
The makers of these new vehicles can now sell flights to customers not associated with NASA. This is good for NASA, the vehicle makers and anyone who believes, like I do, that they can create business opportunities in space. My company, Space Adventures, has already flown seven private citizens to the space station and has a circumlunar mission planed in a few years. In fact we are the sixth largest global space agency after NASA, RFSA (Russian Federal Space Agency), ESA (European Space Agency), CSA (Canadian Space Agency) and JAXA (Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency), and ahead of China, Bulgaria and about 19 counties who have flown a single astronaut each.
It’s worth noting that if we look at the most well-known works of sci-fi — Star Wars and Star Trek, and certain others — one common theme that prevails in all of them is that while the governments of the galaxy obviously have access to the biggest, most advanced, and most powerful space ships, corporations and private citizens also have access to cheap, readily available, and even privately-owned means of sailing through the stars.
We’re a long way off from that sort of future, but these early private ventures that Lord British speaks of (Space X, Space Adventures, etc.) are the pioneers — in both technology and practice — that may one day, one century, one millenium arrive us at it. Except for the whole warp drive/hyperdrive thing…I for one am convinced that FTL travel is indeed the stuff of fiction, and only fiction.
Do be sure to follow Richard Garriott’s “HuffPo” blog from now on, Dragons and Dragonettes! He promises to talk about his “30-year plan for Mars” in his next post.
“Unlike earlier media, like film and television, which were born at a time when historians and academics tended to focus on an established canon of ‘important’ works and ‘great men,’ video games were born at a time when the cultural gatekeepers were more open to new ideas, new thinking and new media.”
“Where the early history of film and television has been largely lost thanks to industry indifference and academic ignorance, we have a chance to preserve our history, before our pioneers pass away, our design documents, marketing materials and beta builds disintegrate or get trashed, and our hardware deteriorates to the point of inoperability. The fact is, over the last 40 years or so, we’ve seen the rise of the first new medium of expression and communication since the rise of television and not to preserve our history would be a crime.”
Spector also comments on what the biggest obstacle to such an effort would be. And though he does discuss the cost of such an effort as well, it’s not what he sees as the biggest problem:
“The biggest threat is indifference. Most people making games see what they do as ephemeral, as not worthy of preservation. Who cares about an early design doc for any one of the thousands of games released each year? Why bother saving a T-shirt given out at E3 to promote the release of a game? Will anyone ever care about the September 1st draft of the schedule for a Mickey Mouse game?”
I can’t speak to the Epic Mickey context, but I will note that we have, in the galleries here at Aiera, several documents — some of them about as mundane as a project schedule — which emerged from the development processes of various Ultima games. Including, it should be noted, a few that Spector himself worked on.
Anyhow, Gamasutra has already gone live with their new feature, and evidently has commentary from Richard Garriott as well. (I’ll see if I can get around to posting an excerpt from that later today or some time tomorrow.)
Todd Howard, in an interview with Kotaku, explains Bethesda’s path forward with DLC for Skyrim:
“For Fallout 3 we did five DLCs,” Howard told me during an interview last week at the DICE Summit. “That was a very aggressive path for us. Our plan now is to take more time, to have more meat on them [for Skyrim]. They’ll feel closer to an expansion pack.”
That right there is good news, I think. That’s how DLC should be done.
…in which he admitted that he has no clue under heaven how the game did so well:
As far as sales goes, Skyrim is the best-selling game in Bethesda history. Is there something about the game from a design standpoint that made it more popular and mainstream? The Elder Scrolls series has been typically thought of as very hardcore RPGs.
Todd Howard: The short answer is “I don’t know.” I can give you my guess, which is people underestimate how many core gamers there are; people who want a lot of depth and will play a game for a long time. There are a lot of them. If you give them something unique and good, you don’t have to dumb it down.
There are things we changed to make the game better, but not to appeal to a wider audience. I think we always benefited in Elder Scrolls early on, the fact that it is first-person and kind of walks this action line sometimes. We’ve always benefited from that. Even our own lofty expectations for how the game would be received or sell, it’s way, way beyond that.
I don’t have a way of explaining it.
I think he’s on to something in his first bit of speculation: I think many developers and publishers actually underestimate — considerably so — what the gaming market is comprised of, and where the interests of gamers are focused. The rampant success enjoyed by Double Fine on Kickstarter is evidence enough of that.
Any comparison between the critically panned Dragon Age 2 and the widely celebrated Skyrim is bound to draw the ire of many, especially when that comparison is accompanied by the assertion that the latter has something to learn from the former.
But Rob LeFebvre goes there:
More variety to colors/environments
Oh man, Skyrim designers, I get it. Skyrim is a cold, brown, and gray place. Even the underground is brown and gray. And cold. The monsters there are brown. And gray. The dragons, for the most part, are a variety of grayish-brown.
Please, Skyrim, can I have some color? Just a little? The northern lights at night are pretty, but they are not enough to counteract all the…wait for it…brown.
And repetition? It’s like they got the same guy with the bad Nordic accent to design all the inns. Every. Single. Inn. Has the Exact. Same. Layout. And some minor variation of an annoying bard whom I continue to want to shoot in the head.
Dragon Age II, with all its maze-y back channels and Deep Roads and such, at least has some variety in color and in environment.
Not everything’s perfect in the world of Dragon Age, though. What can DA2 learn from Skyrim?
At a guess? The open world concept, and the importance of not re-using terrain and area assets too often.
Actually, don’t. The Prima-developed app purports to offer a map of the world of Skyrim, but it will evidently microtransact the living tar out of you if you actually want to see all the in-game locations displayed on it.
It’s only been a month or so since he announced that he was hanging up his hat for the time being, but it looks like The CRPG Addict has returned to his blogging ways after having a bit of a “road to Damascus” moment. With him in the role of Saul, a snowless Bar Harbor, Maine, in the role of the Syrian countryside, and the ruins of an old house playing the role of the Almighty:
There was no house but rather the ruins of one: a couple of chimneys and a low stone foundation overlooking the rocky coast. It looked to have been abandoned for a good century or so. (I later found out there was, until recently, a modern house in the clearing next to the ruin, but it the land had been donated to the park and the house torn down. I haven’t been able to find anything on the older house whose ruins were still visible to us.)
As I gazed at the sad and overgrown ruin, a strong and inescapable feeling crept over me: I wanted to go back to the hotel room and play a CRPG.
I realize how pathetic that sounds, even to fellow gamers. I was looking at something fascinating — a piece of history in a place that I loved. But there was never going to be anything else to stoke the sparks of mystery about the place. I have no doubt that the “private road” sign had failed to deter hundreds, if not thousands, of other hikers every year, and there was no chance I was going to find anything in the ruins that hadn’t already been picked over by thousands of hands. I wasn’t going to open the ash trap of one of the old chimneys and discover a previous owner’s journal, detailing a horrific murder that had taken place decades earlier, but providing just enough mitigating clues to heal the heartbreak of a sad centenarian residing in some lonesome house in town. Orcs were not going to suddenly rise from behind the wall and snipe at me with bows. I was not going to find a chest nestled against the outer walls, containing a sword and helmet. The brambles tangled over the stone were not suitable for brewing into potions, nor did they conceal runic letters that, when absorbed, would bestow upon me some fantastic skill. I was not going to stumble upon a concealed trap door, leading me to treasure-filled depths.
While real life, and the real location, should have offered real rewards to compensate for these deficiencies, they were not, at the moment, enough. And so, after spending a respectable amount of time hiking the rest of the island, I used the promise of a fireplace, hot tea, and a good book from the store in town to persuade Irene to return with me to the confines of the bed-and-breakfast, where I spent the next four hours attempting to win Wizardry V. I failed, and I still don’t know exactly what I’m going to do with that game, but I do know that…well, I’m back.
There’s something to that, I think. It’s easy to dismiss us gamers as basement-dwelling schlubs who never get out and see the real world (and to be fair, there are gamers who would be guilty of that charge). But a lot of us don’t fit that easy-to-use stereotype. Many of us are well-traveled individuals who have seen our fair share of interesting places in the world, and many of us have been fortunate enough to return to some of the places we have enjoyed seeing in the past time and time again.
But that sense of mystery just isn’t there.
Most of us aren’t archaeologists; when we go poking around the various places we have been to, we’re not going to find the trappings of a long-forgotten civilization there, waiting for us to scoop them up and piece their ancient puzzle together. There may be places in the world where those little pieces of history yet persist, waiting to be found…but most of us lack the necessary time and resources to go and find them.
But in Britannia, in Amalur, in Thedas, and in a host of other fictional worlds, those hidden secrets are ours to find. And we crave to find them. We have, to wit, the yearning for mystery at the very core of our being, and the real world is just not the sort of place anymore that is able to satisfy that desire.
But I digress.
…this is what I discovered in the intervening month: I’m apparently going to spend a certain percentage of my time screwing around, whether said screwing around involves playing video games or watching Babylon 5 for the seventh time. I’ve made fair progress on my goals in February, but I’ve also spent a lot of time on Reddit, reading old articles on Cracked.com, reading the Mistborn trilogy again, and playing Boggle on my iPhone. None of these things are what I stopped playing CRPGs to do, and playing games, and writing this blog, while overall about as useful as anything else I’ve been doing, at least lets me document my experiences and interact with interesting people.
Let’s all welcome The CRPG Addict back to the big wide world of the Internet, and wish him renewed and continued good fortune in his endeavour to play through a truly mind-boggling number of RPGs.
Zeph sent me an email this morning with the latest update to his Ultima-themed texture pack for Minecraft attached. In addition to updating the package to work with the latest version of the smash hit indie game, he has added new plant graphics and phase changes for Britannia’s two moons.
He was even kind enough to send a screenshot:
I need to try get this working on Minecraft Pocket Edition...
Some notable comments include this summary from Canada’s from Forbes will become relevant in a minute:
What I can say without a doubt is that Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is one hell of a fun game, and you should go buy it and play it right away.
And don’t be fooled by the intro — of the entire game, the opening is the weakest. It’s an odd sort of shortcoming. While the tutorial is effective, it was also not very compelling. I like a game that throws me right into the fray with a dramatic opening, and while I think that Reckoning does attempt to do that, it falls short of the mark.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is a game blatantly made for fans of the RPG genre and is unforgiving if you aren’t completely familiar with what the genre has to offer. It brings all aspects of it full force, unrelenting in its forwardness. Looking over the sections where the game falls short, none of them are actually things wrong with the game. The battle system and storyline idea regarding fate are just so well thought out and planned that the rest of the game looks puny in comparison, even though they?re solid RPG elements.
Seriously, as a guy who has studied philosophy and theology at some length, the whole “deterministic, free-willed hero in a fully deterministic, inexorably fated world” story concept just messes with my head in all the right ways. And even though I’ve only just finished off the first portion of the main plot, Big Huge Games’ writers have already thrown a couple of interesting implications of that framework my way in the dialogue.
RPGWatch reports on — and echoes — a question posed at VG247, one which echoes the comments from Forbes (above). It’s worth remarking on here as well, because a few people who have commented here after trying the demo expressed similar thoughts: the demo is underwhelming and gives a far-too-linear and limited view of the game.
For my own…well, I far preferred Reckoning’s demo, limited as it might have been, to the demo for Mass Effect 3. And the sense I got from the demo is that it was, indeed, limited…but had been artificially limited as well. Magical barriers blocked the entrances to some parts of the world in the demo, barriers that simply are not there in the release game. That’s not to say that your freshly-resurrected character is necessarily going to be able to weather exploring those areas prematurely, but it is to say that the linearity of the demo is somewhat articficial when compared against the actual game.
In conclusion, it’s safe to say that you can buy Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning on any of the three major HD gaming platforms and you’re going to be in for a real treat. The experience on console is essentially interchangeable where it truly matters, but if we had to make a choice, it would have to be the Xbox 360 release. While the more minor visuals upgrades such as texture filtering and improved shadows are nice, it’s the motion blur and reduced aliasing that makes it the marginally better buy.
This as opposed to PS3, mind you. If you want the game “full glory”, go with the PC version:
But clearly it’s the PC version that’s the one to get, even if you have a relatively modest gamers’ rig — it looks better, it plays better, it just feels right. A mid-range graphics card and quad-core CPU is all you need to effortlessly power past the console versions, and even if you play the game at 720p — a low level setting by PC standards — the improvement is still immediately apparent in comparison to the Xbox 360 or PS3 experience. Scale up beyond that and it’s as though the rich detail of the game is fully unlocked, and you’re enjoying Kingdoms of Amalur at the height of its potential.
I play it on PC, and I quite love it. And contra some reviews, I’m quite content with how the game controls using keyboard and mouse.
…[Reckoning] offers up relatively few moral decisions that are expressly presented in expensive cutscenes and plot lines, and instead offers them up in proportion to the size of the scenario, whether that’s a small in-game bonus or a world-altering moment. You might not be making a moral decision in every single situation, or an important one at that, but when you do, chances are you’ll think about it more than in many other games. In order to do this, I’m going to use one of the shortest and most insignificant parts of the game to demonstrate this.
An early quest sees the player hunting antelopes and retrieving their heads in order to recreate a folk tale – placing the heads in the right place summons a troll to kill, who guards a magic ring, which is then presented to a damsel. The player is able to follow the quest forward without any dialogue options or cosmetic choices. The decision made available at the end is a simple one, but has more depth than your typical good/evil or saint/jerk response: do you give the ring back to the person who asked you to retrieve it, or do you keep it for yourself?
Right off the bat, we have context. The player has been given a quest that not only has a definite end goal behind it and a set of steps to complete, but there’s also a larger world that it fits into. In the Amalur universe, Fate dictates that the events of stories play out time and time again over the ages – the recreation of this story is something that is logical within the game world, and has been established at the point the player receives the quest.
The way the quest is set up here is a bit more subtle. As a Fateless One, the player’s character is not bound by Fate in the same way that everyone else in the universe is – unlike others, he or she has the power to change destiny and, perhaps more importantly, change the story being retold. The player’s status as Fateless is important, because it gives the choice weight and meaning, The foreshadowing in this case is fairly simple, and admittedly a bit weak, but it does what it needs to, specifically: the player gets the ring as a reward rather than keeping it. Similarly, the consequence is the magic ring the player gets – probably one of the first and best rings the player will have access to (I used it for several hours afterwards).
Reckoning has also been criticized for not offering more profoundly visible impacts of moral decisions, or for having those decisions trickle down through the rest of the game. The early option to either spare the citizens of a town called Canneroc or slaughter them as a means of staving off a boss fight has been used as an example. I passed that point in the game a while ago, and was faced with the decision; I chose to fight the boss character and spare the town. Had I not done so, the town — in which the player can obtain a house, mind you — would have been deserted on my every subsequent visit thereto, and I would have lost access to (at the very least) the healer and merchants therein.
And, of course, the town would have been visibly empty. Presumably, I would have retained access to my house…though if I had not finished upgrading it, I wouldn’t have been able to continue doing so, since I would have also slaughtered the man I would pay to perform those upgrades.
Losing access to merchants and house upgrades seems a small consequence compared to the sorts of moral choices and consequences that BioWare loves to throw at those of us who play their games…but I have to wonder: does the impact of wiping Canneroc off the map have to be any more significant than it is in Reckoning? Does wiping out a small village in a forest need to have world-shattering implications? Or is the fate of the town more or less meaningless in this massive, fully deterministic world at war…and should the massacre at Canneroc leave nothing more than a ghost town in its wake, visited only occasionally by a young soldier who perhaps feels personally guilty, but not so much that he won’t occasionally go back to repair his gear and swap out a weapon for one he’s storing in that house by the bridge?
establish a central repository of images (screen caps) taken by users of Ultima Online while playing UO. The images might be of events, guild meetings or even character paperdolls.The images will be open to public viewing on an online image-sharing service or hosted website.
The project will be implemented in two phases.
Phase I: Since the early stages of the project may explore different tools and methods to accomplish the project goals, early participants must have enthusiasm for the project and a willingness to try new things. Some ideas that are used in the early project stages may be dropped later and early participants should be open to change and sharing their own ideas and feedback.
Phase II: Implementation. When the project has settled on the best tools to use, the next phase is to open the project to all who wish to participate. By this time a standard set of guidelines and a FAQ should be developed that will allow participants clearly understand the mechanics and goals of the project. Early participants can now promote the DMUO project to their friends to encourage participation by a large group of people.
Raven has also put up a short video introducing the project concept:
Digital Memories of Ultima Online
If any of you Dragons and Dragonettes would be interested in participating in this project, you can sign up to assist at Raven’s site. I’m sure Raven would also be open to people signing up to help set up the DMUO site and/or help settle on an image hosting and display framework.
For my own (and I’ll email Raven later to say as much directly), I’d be happy to offer a subdomain here at Aiera, free of charge, which could be used as the final home of the DMUO project. It is, I think, high time that the two rather disparate sides of Ultima fandom found ways to draw closer together again, and this would be an excellent stepping stone toward that goal.
Plus, let’s face it: most of us here are kind of big fans of archives full of Ultima history, of basically any kind.
Those who registered their code with Deep Silver received an e-mail today in which Deep Silver announced that the “beta test” will take place from February, 20th to March, 2nd. The e-mail recipients are asked to register again on the website betatest.risen2.com with their personal access code.
Since Deep Silver made a little mess with all the registrations and codes, here?s a list about the steps to take (as we currently understand the procedure ourselves):
1. Buy [the Risen] Collector’s Edition to get access code
2. Register with Deep Silver to get personal access code
3. Register on www.betatest.risen2.com to get Steam download code
4. Register on Steam and use last code to download the demo
GameBanshee doubts that there was ever a North American release of the Risen Collector’s Edition, so this beta may well be limited to European Pirahna Bytes fans.
This being a Risen game, you’ll explore a living open world on each island you go to, and level up to unlock skills like musket-shooting, sword-fighting and all manner of dirty tricks, including throwing sand into enemies? eyes.
While we quite like Risen 2′s whole Pirates Of The Caribbean meets world-saving high-fantasy vibe, it’s a little disappointing that pirate ships only transport you between islands and can?t be sailed.
Once again, modern AAA 3D RPGs fail to live up to a standard set by Ultima…and, for that matter, by certain notable Ultima remakes.
In case anyone has forgotten, Mr. Pankratz is the project director at Piranha Bytes. GameBanshee’s interview with him stretches out to two pages in length, so here’s just a little taste of what’s on offer in it:
GB: You’ve stated that we’ll be the captain of our own ship in Risen 2, and that it will be a “central” part of the game. Can you break down how ship customization and travel will function? Will there be on-board combat scenarios and upgrade options to make the ship more powerful/faster?
BP: The player’s ship can moor at all islands and the mainland, so long as the player has discovered their location. To travel, the player can use a travel map to tell the helmsman on board where to go; the ship then casts off and makes for the chosen destination. On board, the player can walk around on deck and talk to crew members, or enter the captain’s cabin to rest. How to acquire a ship in the first place is something you should find out for yourselves…
GB: How linear or non-linear would you say the game is Once we move to a new island, do we have the option to return to previous islands we’ve visited to make use of trainers, tackle side quests, and that sort of thing?
BP: The world will be open, as usual, and as a rule it will be possible to return to places you have already visited later in order to trade, learn, or complete quests. In Risen 2, the world opens up more and more – while the player can only explore one island to begin with, once he/she has a ship, any location can be reached.
This dovetails with what was noted above: that ships in the game are going to be used basically as a means of point-to-point travel, with little or no free-sailing possible in-game. That said, it doesn’t sound like they’ll really restrict which points you can move between at any given time.
Who are…evidently an island native tribe in Risen 2.
As a strong-minded voodoo witch with a gift in magical talents, she is dedicated to the protection of her people. She defends with the strength of the people of her tribe against the dangers and rise of evil within and outside the community.
The nameless hero meets Chani on his travels; she shows him that “savages” are perfectly able to defend themselves against invaders!