I missed reporting on this previously, but I noticed a week or two ago that Gamespot had reported that the 27th of March was going to be the day that Disney announced Warren Spector’s next ‘epic’ project. Speculation suggests that this will be a sequel to his rather successful Mickey Mouse title from 2010, Epic Mickey, and that would be a welcome enough thing (to be sure).
Not that anyone here would complain if he revealed a remastered version of Ultima Underworld for the Wii*. But it seems unlikely that Disney would be the label for that.
“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.)
Which, I guess, is like the Golden Globes of the gaming world:
Deus Ex game director and producer, and Disney Epic Mickey creator Warren Spector will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 12th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards (GDCAs) for his contributions to the art and science of games. The Game Developers Choice Awards, held at GDC yearly, are the leading peer-based video game industry awards celebrating the industry’s top games and developers.
In receiving this award, Spector joins fellow gaming industry veterans/history makers Sid Meier (2008, for Civilization and other simulators), Shigeru Miyamoto (for Mario, Donkey Kong, etc.), Richard Garriott (2006, for Ultima), and Will Wright (for the Sim games), among several others.
I’m just going out on a limb here and guessing that Spector himself is going to be honoured for things like Deus Ex and Thief…and hopefully System Shock too.
Deus Ex is without a doubt one of the best, most influential games in history. PC Gamer and PC Zone both have named it the best PC game of all time. It has received countless numbers of “Best”, “Greatest” and “Top” game awards. The story of JC Denton is a perfect fusion of RPG, FPS, and adventure. The world of Deus Ex is immense, the storyline is ambitious and layered, and the freedom of choice guarantees high replayability.
Ancient conspiracies, secret agendas, political intrigues, twisted plots, nanotech-augmentations, difficult moral choices, twenty-four weapons, intense action, deep character customization – it’s all here and it truly combines into a cohesive whole. The depth of the in-game experience and interaction will engage you on a level unparalleled by any other game.
It’s the Game of the Year Edition, the same as can be found on other digital distribution services, and it is rather competitively priced at $9.99. It should include the latest game updates as a result, as well as an editing toolkit, the soundtrack, and a newspaper clipping (scanned, of course) describing recent events in the world the game is set in. If it doesn’t include at least these elements, Dragons and Dragonettes, complain loudly.
To celebrate the launch of Wing Commander and Wing Commander 2 on Good Old Games today, I went through and dug up a series of YouTube clips from a series called The Gaming Standards, which looks at the history of the first Wing Commander, the man (Chris Roberts) who created it, and the things that influenced its development:
The Gaming Standards, Part 1
The Gaming Standards, Part 2
The Gaming Standards, Part 3
The Gaming Standards, Part 4
That’s about it for Wing Commander-related material, Dragons and Dragonettes; hopefully you’ve been checking out all the tasty morsels at the Wing Commander CIC and have enjoyed those too. And if you haven’t already, head on over to GOG and grab yourself a copy of the games!
To celebrate the launch of Wing Commander and Wing Commander 2 on Good Old Games today, I went and dug up a YouTube clip which compares the introductory sequence of Wing Commander 2 as it sounds on a SoundBlaster to how it sounds on a Roland MT-32:
No doubt there will be a lot of fine articles posted to the Wing Commander CIC today, accompanied by much fanfare and celebration on the #Wingnut IRC channel; do be sure to check in at both places to take in what they have to offer.
I’ll be posting a few bits of Wing Commander-related content later today as well, though probably nothing as spectacular as what the CIC will have to offer.
Let me begin by answering Dino’s question about the latest Deus Ex game, Human Revolution, first: no, Warren Spector had nothing to do with the game.
That doesn’t mean, however (if reviews can be trusted), that Human Revolution does not recapture the magic of the original game in the series, getting everything right where the second installment in the series got it wrong.
Ars Technica’s review of the game is almost glowing, praising nearly every aspect of the title…but from the sound of it, the praise is deserved. The game seems intent on forcing you to make hard decisions and to live with the consequences, in both minor details (like inventory management and weapon upgrades) and major details (plot points, who lives or dies, etc.). The action in the Human Revolution is apparently quite intense, and requires no small amount of tactical skill to survive. And the story, though it apparently gets a little too thick with its conspiracies by the end, is nevertheless supposed to be quite gripping.
Oh, and it’s evidently an utterly gorgeous game, especially if played on a DirectX 11-capable PC:
Just. Look. At. The. Lighting.
I haven’t played it yet, and probably won’t get around to doing so for a while, so if any of you Dragons or Dragonettes have a go at it before me, please feel free to share your thoughts here.
Founded in 1990, Looking Glass was not only responsible for some of that decade’s most innovative and memorable games, but was also a place where people like Ken Levine (BioShock), Warren Spector (Deus Ex) and Seamus Blackley (Xbox) all worked under the one roof.
The product of a merger between two companies, Blue Sky Productions and Lerner Research, Looking Glass Studios was based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Developing mostly for the PC, Looking Glass’ first few games were published by PC gaming giant Origin (Wing Commander, Ultima), but by 1995 the studio was developing and publishing its own titles.
Looking Glass’ first game (well, while its development side was still known as Blue Sky) was 1992′s Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss, a first-person role-playing game that not only broke from the traditions of conventional Ultima games, but in many ways blew right past them, its immersive setting and (for the time) amazing 3D graphics making it a critical success.
The games which came next read like a “greatest hits collection” of PC gaming in the 1990s…
Eidos — massively in debt at the time — shut Looking Glass down in the year 2000, a rather ignoble end for such a talented development house. One could almost argue that such was the curse that afflicted all developers who published Ultima titles, I suppose. But in their short span, the did produce some genre-defining — and genre-shattering — games, which frankly still hold up very well today.
Ever since the Underworld games arrived on Good Old Games, one of the more commonly-asked questions has been when System Shock and System Shock 2 will show up for sale. Indeed, the people at GOG rather pointedly referenced this series — the other two-part game series built with the 3D engine that also powered both Underworld titles — in a Q&A session, confirming that for now, there was no possibility of seeing either game arrive on GOG.
For those who haven’t time to read the whole thing, here’s the basic summary (which I admit I did not entirely know, myself):
But even if EA wanted to publish another System Shock, the company didn’t have the rights to do so. Back when the original game was made, producer Warren Spector negotiated a deal in which EA got the trademark to the series, while the developers at Looking Glass Studios kept the rights. To create another System Shock game, you need both. “My thinking was it would force us to be married so it never would be that either party should be able to say we own that, we’re making the next game, screw you,” Spector told the San Jose Mercury News last November.
In hindsight, the deal only jeopardized System Shock’s future. Looking Glass Studios closed in 2000, a year after System Shock 2′s release, and the copyright to the series went into the hands of an insurance company. That left EA with only the System Shock name, but no actual development rights.
Since that time, EA’s trademark on the System Shock name has expired, mind you, and the article goes on to explain why that fact is as much an additional hurdle to the development of a new game in the series as it is an advantage. The legal issues surrounding both the name and development rights for the series are vexingly complicated.
Still: if you were wondering, you can now say you know what the issue with the creation of a new System Shock game is…and you can also quite safely infer that these same issues prevent the games from becoming available for sale through a digital distribution service like Good Old Games.
The preceding was the first of a series of teaser episodes that will be released to promote Electronic Arts’ Swedish studio DICE’s next game, Battlefield 3. It’s been five years since Battlefield 2, and since that time Activision’s Call of Duty franchise has really moved in and taken over the war-sim shooter space (Call of Duty: Black Ops set obscene sales records, for example).
But it looks like DICE isn’t content to be outdone. Their new Frostbite 2 engine looks astounding, the combat pacing seems tight, and the area design is phenomenal. And the lighting…oh, the lighting! But all that aside, what really impresses is how the characters move. Seriously, watch them…they move almost exactly like you’d expect real people to move. It’s especially in the heads: notice how the characters’ heads turn independently, and in particular how the head turns to look before the character shifts directions.
There’s a reason for that: DICE borrowed the ANT character animation system from EA Sports‘ FIFA line of games. Which, if you think about it, makes a lot of sense, actually…the dynamics of running, sparring soccer players can at least loosely be translated to soldiers on a battlefield, and EA Sports has spent nearly a decade working on their character motion control systems. Why not let another EA studio share the benefits of that work by adapting it for use in, in this case, a combat FPS?
BOOM! Studios is issuing, this May, a new Duck Tales comic book series…written by Warren Spector. It’s not quite a video game, but I think we can all be pretty sure that Spector is now basically living his dream.
Richard Garriott and a handful of familiar titles.
Time for another stroll through history.
Courtesy of Joe Garrity and the Origin Museum, Ultima Aiera is pleased to present twelve (12) pictures of Richard Garriott and Warren Spector, which were taken in 1992. These pictures were apparently part of promotion for Software Etc. and Egghead Software. The former was part of the B. Dalton family of stores, and was sold after Dalton filed for Chapter 11 protection. Its modern incarnation is known as GameStop. Egghead Software was another retailer that did well through the 1980s and 1990s, but ultimately fell upon hard times; after filing for bankruptcy, its remaining assets were bought up by Amazon.
Be that as it may…it would appear back in 1992 that Garriott and Spector were part of some sort of promotional event for the retailers, and a few photos from that event have survived to this day.
I kind of skipped over this project, another of the entries currently residing in the Orphanage. It’s kind of funny, to me, that I’d restore its files to working order just after the release of Epic Mickey, since Warren Spector worked on the first entry in the System Shock series.
Be that as it may, you can download the Windows binaries and source code for both versions of the project from its entry here at Aiera.
Also: I don’t want to get myself too excited, but it’s possible that this might be the last download I had left to restore. I’ll have to go through and check all the entries one last time, but…it’d be nice to move on to the next phase of my planned changes to Aiera.
Warren Spector’s new game, the Nintento Wii-exclusive Epic Mickey, is out this week, and there is a predictably huge amount of buzz surrounding the release. And why not? By all appearances, Epic Mickey looks to be positioned to become the game by which the Wii platform will be defined in years to come.
Epic Mickey is Epic
Some of that buzz includes an interview on NPR, which I believe starts in about twenty minutes (from the time of this posting). There’s also a “virtual trading card” making the rounds featuring the former Ultima developer.
The game seems to be getting decent (though not stellar) reviews; IGN praises its “Pixar-like adventure that not only amazes with spectacle and design but tugs at our hearts with its strong character development and remarkable love for Disney lore,” and sings the praises of the 2D cutscenes that serve to drive the plot along. At the same time, they lament the limitations (possibly due to the Wii platform itself) of the “paint and thinner” system and the lack of persistence in the world, and from a pair of major issues with the gameplay itself: “control and camera. It’s very likely you will die needlessly in this game because of these glitches,” they warn.
Anyhow, if you want to check out Epic Mickey, you can purchase it via Amazon (using the link just prior to this statement) and in so doing support Aiera a little bit (the Deluxe Edition is also available). I’d recommend checking it out; I know that I intend to, even given my noted and perhaps even well-attested frustration with control difficulties. It’s Warren Spector doing Disney…I mean, c’mon!
Original post: Okay, so I’ve decided that I actually do quite like you all, so it’s time to give something back (as it were).
But first, a confession: I’ve never played Warren Spector’s Deus Ex before (I know, I know…), and I noticed on Steam that there was an “eight-pack” copy of the game on sale for a quite reasonable price…so I picked it up.
This is an awesome game.
Which leaves me with seven copies of Deus Ex to pass on to…well, anyone with a Steam account, really. I think you need to be my “friend” on Steam for the process to work, but that’s a quick process.
Here’s how it’ll work: the first seven people who make donations will automatically get a copy of the game upon furnishing me with the basic information I need to “gift” a copy to them (i.e. email address and Steam account name). If less than seven people make donations, the remaining copies of the game will be gifted to randomly selected people who, via the contact form, give me their Steam account name (and email address, but that has to be entered in the contact information fields anyhow). If nobody makes donations, all seven copies of the game will be doled out in this way.
And this might not be the only game that comes up for giveaway. I’m just putting that out there; I’ll be watching Steam’s deals fairly closely over the next few days.
It’s a very, very long interview and ranges over a bunch of different aspects of the game, its art, and its design (for example: it’s apparently a rule amongst Disney animators that Mickey’s ears, in any cartoon, are always supposed to face the camera; Epic Mickey enforces this rule on the Mickey 3D character.). As such, I’ll just excerpt the first question here…
Perhaps you could start by telling me about the game.
Okay. Goal one for the project was to make Mickey a video game hero at the same level he’s been in every other medium. He’s been the most popular movie star in the world. He’s obviously been a huge TV star. You go to the theme parks and he’s the guy most people want to get their picture taken with.
But while he’s had some success in video games he’s never been a star at the level of a Mario or a Link or a Sonic or a Master Chief. I just thought that was unfair. So job one had to be to make Mickey a video game hero. The whole team rallied around that.
The game is set in a world called Wasteland, which is a home for all of Disney’s forgotten and rejected characters, theme park rides…
I’m still digging the very classical styling of the game’s visual elements, especially the old-school Mickey Mouse look. Interestingly, the trailer suggests that Mickey’s dialogue (such as it is) is also a throwback to the earliest Disney cartoons featuring him; he doesn’t speak once during the trailer (he does this sort of squeak/grunt thing).
I think Warren Spector has a hit on his hands. I hope he does, at any rate.
All sixeteen pictures were generously provided by Joe Garrity of the Origin Museum.
Some further details on exactly what the original Serpent Isle was supposed to be about can be found at Sheri Graner Ray’s blog:
Originally Bill Armintrout and I were doing the initial design on Serpent Isle. The mandate we were given by Richard and Jeff George (the producer at that time) was that it was to be about the conflict between Brittanian magic and VoDun (VooDoo) magic. And that the island was to be called Serpent Isle because it we were suppoesed to make it in the shape of the snake necklace that Richard wore (and still does, I think.) So I spent a month at the UT LIbrary checking out and reading books on VoDun as that was my side of the design. We’d been in design about three or four months when there was a “re-org.” Jeff George quit and the game was given to Warren Specter to produce. We were told to essentially toss everything out and start over. I recently gave the maps and docs from the earliest part of that design to the Origin Museum.