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Found 107 results

  1. Would you go through Hell itself for someone you loved? Thomas Brush's Pinstripe poses that very question as a gorgeous 2D adventure game that has met its initial Kickstarter goal and it now on track to release on PC August 2016. Brush will be using the Kickstarter money to focus on the game full time to finish it in time for an end of summer release. Pinstripe tells a story about fatherhood and Hell, tasking Teddy, an ex-priest, with tracking down his daughter Bo through Hell itself. A variety of creepy, unnerving creatures inhabit the place and one who claims to be God has spirited her away. All of this plays out as a detective adventure game with light platforming elements. Add an incredible, haunting 2D aesthetic complimented by a moody piano soundtrack with a classical accompaniment and that's a recipe for a grandly compelling title with some interesting things to say. Currently Pinstripe has achieved its base goal of $28,000. Its stretch goals include expanded levels, a New Game +, voice acting, and a version of the title for mobile devices. For those interested, people can play Thomas Brush's earlier games, Coma and Skinny, online. I remember playing Brush's solo project for the first time almost three years ago at E3 2013. It was an incredibly crazy year and I stumbled into the IndieCade booth during a bit of down time to see what some of the smaller projects were bringing to the table. And on a small laptop in the back of the IndieCade area was a build of Pinstripe waiting by itself. Brush must have been taking a break, so with no preamble I sat down and began playing. A lot has changed since then. For one thing, the protagonist is no longer named James Weaks. For another, from what I played that day, the setting was left as a vaguely sinister surreal location rather than blatantly stated as being Hell. The character models have received a rework or two. Perhaps most importantly, the main character is now searching for his daughter rather than his wife, which presents a dramatic change in theme. However, even after all that time, I still remember the odd moments, the strange characters and the puppy companion named George. Spiders the size of rooms, black sludge monsters that row boats, a taunting black cat, and the enigmatic pinstripe man wedged themselves into my brain and just hearing the word pinstripe is enough to bring back those memories. I still remember how touched I was by the moment George the puppy, with the blind love and devotion of a dog, allowed himself to be trapped in what seemed like an eternal prison to free his master. I don't know if that scene remains in Pinstripe after three years, though I hope so. I do know that I am excited to see what the final game has in store when Thomas Brush's labor of love is finally complete.
  2. Would you go through Hell itself for someone you loved? Thomas Brush's Pinstripe poses that very question as a gorgeous 2D adventure game that has met its initial Kickstarter goal and it now on track to release on PC August 2016. Brush will be using the Kickstarter money to focus on the game full time to finish it in time for an end of summer release. Pinstripe tells a story about fatherhood and Hell, tasking Teddy, an ex-priest, with tracking down his daughter Bo through Hell itself. A variety of creepy, unnerving creatures inhabit the place and one who claims to be God has spirited her away. All of this plays out as a detective adventure game with light platforming elements. Add an incredible, haunting 2D aesthetic complimented by a moody piano soundtrack with a classical accompaniment and that's a recipe for a grandly compelling title with some interesting things to say. Currently Pinstripe has achieved its base goal of $28,000. Its stretch goals include expanded levels, a New Game +, voice acting, and a version of the title for mobile devices. For those interested, people can play Thomas Brush's earlier games, Coma and Skinny, online. I remember playing Brush's solo project for the first time almost three years ago at E3 2013. It was an incredibly crazy year and I stumbled into the IndieCade booth during a bit of down time to see what some of the smaller projects were bringing to the table. And on a small laptop in the back of the IndieCade area was a build of Pinstripe waiting by itself. Brush must have been taking a break, so with no preamble I sat down and began playing. A lot has changed since then. For one thing, the protagonist is no longer named James Weaks. For another, from what I played that day, the setting was left as a vaguely sinister surreal location rather than blatantly stated as being Hell. The character models have received a rework or two. Perhaps most importantly, the main character is now searching for his daughter rather than his wife, which presents a dramatic change in theme. However, even after all that time, I still remember the odd moments, the strange characters and the puppy companion named George. Spiders the size of rooms, black sludge monsters that row boats, a taunting black cat, and the enigmatic pinstripe man wedged themselves into my brain and just hearing the word pinstripe is enough to bring back those memories. I still remember how touched I was by the moment George the puppy, with the blind love and devotion of a dog, allowed himself to be trapped in what seemed like an eternal prison to free his master. I don't know if that scene remains in Pinstripe after three years, though I hope so. I do know that I am excited to see what the final game has in store when Thomas Brush's labor of love is finally complete. View full article
  3. Austin Wintory, the composer of the Grammy nominated soundtrack that accompanied 2012's Journey, and the Fifth House Ensemble are teaming up to bring a live performance of the thatgamecompany's PS3 title to venues across the United States. The shows will be performed alongside a live, full playthrough of Journey on stage. Sony has specifically created a soundtrackless version of Journey for these performances. Wintory has teamed up with Patrick O'Malley to create a new arrangement for the Fifth House Ensemble that will include bite-sized music pieces triggered by the live player's actions. The new arrangement will include new instruments not included in the game's original soundtrack. The project asked for $5,000 to make the tour a reality. In under 24 hours the Kickstarter managed to raise over $12,000. Players on stage will be selected at competitions held prior to the performances. The first competition will be held in Chicago by the Killer Queen Mercury Squad. Future competitions will be posted as updates to the Kickstarter page. Tour dates February 20, 2016 - MAGFest, National Harbor MD February 28, 2016 - Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago IL April 9, 2016 - Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton FL April 16, 2016 - University of Illinois - Springfield, Springfield IL
  4. Austin Wintory, the composer of the Grammy nominated soundtrack that accompanied 2012's Journey, and the Fifth House Ensemble are teaming up to bring a live performance of the thatgamecompany's PS3 title to venues across the United States. The shows will be performed alongside a live, full playthrough of Journey on stage. Sony has specifically created a soundtrackless version of Journey for these performances. Wintory has teamed up with Patrick O'Malley to create a new arrangement for the Fifth House Ensemble that will include bite-sized music pieces triggered by the live player's actions. The new arrangement will include new instruments not included in the game's original soundtrack. The project asked for $5,000 to make the tour a reality. In under 24 hours the Kickstarter managed to raise over $12,000. Players on stage will be selected at competitions held prior to the performances. The first competition will be held in Chicago by the Killer Queen Mercury Squad. Future competitions will be posted as updates to the Kickstarter page. Tour dates February 20, 2016 - MAGFest, National Harbor MD February 28, 2016 - Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago IL April 9, 2016 - Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton FL April 16, 2016 - University of Illinois - Springfield, Springfield IL View full article
  5. I have been designing a card game for 6 years and I have started a kickstarter to see it come to fruition. The game is a simple, family-friendly game that can be played by middle school aged youth to 99+. The style of game play is adaptable to be as friendly and calm or competitive as your group wants to make it! There is still work being done for videos but the game is fully developed and first edition is ready to be printed. If you or anyone you know is looking for a colorful new game to play around the table, take a look at Blue Octopus! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1205886921/blue-octopus
  6. A little over a week ago, Good Old Games backed the Divinity: Original Sin 2 Kickstarter at the $10,000 level (there are only 17 hours left until the campaign concludes). As a result, developer Larian Games is allowing them to design an original character with a backstory and motivations that crosses paths with the protagonists. Not wanting to keep this power of creation for themselves, GOG has decided to involve the gaming community in a massive brainstorming session to flesh out their new hero. People can pitch their ideas in the comments section of the announcement or by using #GOGHero. When the time comes for the character to be created, Larian will design three characters that combine a number of the best ideas, all with concept art and backstories. Then the community will be able to vote for their favorite champion to become a fully fleshed out NPC in the final game. Some of the ideas being kicked around so far are a lizard paladin with a fear of chocolate, a claustrophobic dwarf who tries to pass himself off as a human wizard, and a vain 310-year-old undead with a fear of fire. Got better ideas? Then get submitting! View full article
  7. A little over a week ago, Good Old Games backed the Divinity: Original Sin 2 Kickstarter at the $10,000 level (there are only 17 hours left until the campaign concludes). As a result, developer Larian Games is allowing them to design an original character with a backstory and motivations that crosses paths with the protagonists. Not wanting to keep this power of creation for themselves, GOG has decided to involve the gaming community in a massive brainstorming session to flesh out their new hero. People can pitch their ideas in the comments section of the announcement or by using #GOGHero. When the time comes for the character to be created, Larian will design three characters that combine a number of the best ideas, all with concept art and backstories. Then the community will be able to vote for their favorite champion to become a fully fleshed out NPC in the final game. Some of the ideas being kicked around so far are a lizard paladin with a fear of chocolate, a claustrophobic dwarf who tries to pass himself off as a human wizard, and a vain 310-year-old undead with a fear of fire. Got better ideas? Then get submitting!
  8. Larian Studios today announced that they would indeed be making a sequel to the critically acclaimed Divinity: Original Sin as well as returning to Kickstarter. This might raise some eyebrows from the community, after all Divinity: Original Sin was a pretty successful release. Larian Studios' founder Swen Vincke took to the company's blog to address those concerns and lay out his hopes and dreams for the development of Divinity: Original Sin II: He goes on to say much more and you can read Vincke's full statement on the Larian website. People who might be interested in backing the Kickstarter when it launches on August 26 can vote now on what they would like to see in the backer reward tiers. Personally, I am a bit on the fence about Kickstarter being the route to take on the heels of a successful game if all they're really after is more player feedback. A prototype of the game will be available for hands-on time at PAX Prime, along with some chances to win some cool swag if you stop by the booth. More information on Divinity: Original Sin II will be available when the Kickstarter launches later this month on the 26th.
  9. Larian Studios today announced that they would indeed be making a sequel to the critically acclaimed Divinity: Original Sin as well as returning to Kickstarter. This might raise some eyebrows from the community, after all Divinity: Original Sin was a pretty successful release. Larian Studios' founder Swen Vincke took to the company's blog to address those concerns and lay out his hopes and dreams for the development of Divinity: Original Sin II: He goes on to say much more and you can read Vincke's full statement on the Larian website. People who might be interested in backing the Kickstarter when it launches on August 26 can vote now on what they would like to see in the backer reward tiers. Personally, I am a bit on the fence about Kickstarter being the route to take on the heels of a successful game if all they're really after is more player feedback. A prototype of the game will be available for hands-on time at PAX Prime, along with some chances to win some cool swag if you stop by the booth. More information on Divinity: Original Sin II will be available when the Kickstarter launches later this month on the 26th. View full article
  10. I have been working on and designing a card game for 6 years and I have started a kickstarter to see it come to fruition. The game is a simple, family-friendly game that can be played by middle school aged youth to 99+. The style of game play is adaptable to be as friendly and calm or cut-throat as your group wants to make it! There is still work being done for videos but the game is fully developed and just ready to get printed. If you or anyone you know is looking for a colorful new game to play around the table, take a look at Blue Octopus! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1205886921/blue-octopus
  11. Flying Mollusk's much touted bio-feedback horror title is now available on PC, albeit in an alpha state. Players can use specialized sensors that allow Nevermind to track their level of fear and change accordingly. In Nevermind, players take on the role of a Neuroprober, a specialized doctor equipped to enter the minds of those who have undergone psychological trauma to help them come to terms with their experiences. The process involves traversing the darkest corners of the patient's subconscious and the effects on the physician can at best be described as... unnerving. “We’re excited to be able to bring Nevermind’s unique psychological-horror experience to a wider audience through Steam. Early Access allows us to garner feedback from players, in integrate it into the final game, which means a better game for everyone,” said Erin Reynolds, Flying Mollusk's creative director. While the sensor idea is a really cool idea, it is ultimately an expensive one. Flying Mollusk has put together a list of the currently compatible bio-sensors that you can read in full here. Unfortunately, prices for these sensors range from $75 to $1,399, which might be a bit pricey if you don't happen to already own a compatible device. More will be added as development continues, so prices could go down as cheaper sensors are made compatible.
  12. Flying Mollusk's much touted bio-feedback horror title is now available on PC, albeit in an alpha state. Players can use specialized sensors that allow Nevermind to track their level of fear and change accordingly. In Nevermind, players take on the role of a Neuroprober, a specialized doctor equipped to enter the minds of those who have undergone psychological trauma to help them come to terms with their experiences. The process involves traversing the darkest corners of the patient's subconscious and the effects on the physician can at best be described as... unnerving. “We’re excited to be able to bring Nevermind’s unique psychological-horror experience to a wider audience through Steam. Early Access allows us to garner feedback from players, in integrate it into the final game, which means a better game for everyone,” said Erin Reynolds, Flying Mollusk's creative director. While the sensor idea is a really cool idea, it is ultimately an expensive one. Flying Mollusk has put together a list of the currently compatible bio-sensors that you can read in full here. Unfortunately, prices for these sensors range from $75 to $1,399, which might be a bit pricey if you don't happen to already own a compatible device. More will be added as development continues, so prices could go down as cheaper sensors are made compatible. View full article
  13. Developer Harebrained Schemes walked away from their completed Kickstarter today with the support of over 30,000 people and $1,204,726. With that kind of cash on hand, here's hoping they don't attract any less than scrupulous runners! Toward the beginning of this year, the minds behind Shadowrun Returns and Shadowrun: Dragonfall launched their Kickstarter campaign for Shadowrun: Hong Kong, a turn-based tactical RPG in the same vein as its predecessors. Set in a setting where cyberpunk meets high fantasy, Shadowrun: Hong Kong will focus on the the criminal undercurrents of a dystopian Hong Kong full of neon lights, scheming corporations, and the runners who risk their lives to make a living. Not only did Harebrained Schemes reach their initial Kickstarter goal, they raised a little over welve times what they originally asked for from backers, allowing for a greatly extended list of features. These features include: Enhanced player controls Animatic scene transitions An additional character: Racter, a robotics expert who manipulates an advanced combat drone. More animatic endings A side mission for Gobbet, an Ork shaman who adheres to the path of Rat. Better sound Another additional character: Gaichu, a former red samurai and master swordsman. Enhanced cyber abilities A side mission for your dwarf hacker companion, Is0bel. Expanded magic system A side mission for Gaichu A revamp of the virtual world with which hackers interface. An additional 4-5 hour long mini-campaign as a follow-up to the core campaign. Even with all of these additional features, Shadowrun: Hong Kong is reportedly on track for a mid-2015 release, with an expected release date sometime in August. Congratulations to the team at Harebrained Schemes. I thoroughly enjoyed both Shadowrun Returns and Shadowrun: Dragonfall. Here's hoping that they can keep the magic alive for the third time around!
  14. Developer Harebrained Schemes walked away from their completed Kickstarter today with the support of over 30,000 people and $1,204,726. With that kind of cash on hand, here's hoping they don't attract any less than scrupulous runners! Toward the beginning of this year, the minds behind Shadowrun Returns and Shadowrun: Dragonfall launched their Kickstarter campaign for Shadowrun: Hong Kong, a turn-based tactical RPG in the same vein as its predecessors. Set in a setting where cyberpunk meets high fantasy, Shadowrun: Hong Kong will focus on the the criminal undercurrents of a dystopian Hong Kong full of neon lights, scheming corporations, and the runners who risk their lives to make a living. Not only did Harebrained Schemes reach their initial Kickstarter goal, they raised a little over welve times what they originally asked for from backers, allowing for a greatly extended list of features. These features include: Enhanced player controls Animatic scene transitions An additional character: Racter, a robotics expert who manipulates an advanced combat drone. More animatic endings A side mission for Gobbet, an Ork shaman who adheres to the path of Rat. Better sound Another additional character: Gaichu, a former red samurai and master swordsman. Enhanced cyber abilities A side mission for your dwarf hacker companion, Is0bel. Expanded magic system A side mission for Gaichu A revamp of the virtual world with which hackers interface. An additional 4-5 hour long mini-campaign as a follow-up to the core campaign. Even with all of these additional features, Shadowrun: Hong Kong is reportedly on track for a mid-2015 release, with an expected release date sometime in August. Congratulations to the team at Harebrained Schemes. I thoroughly enjoyed both Shadowrun Returns and Shadowrun: Dragonfall. Here's hoping that they can keep the magic alive for the third time around! View full article
  15. Covering the early years of video game development, Jeanette Garcia and Daryl Rodriguez's World 1-1 explores the formation of the video game industry from the perspectives of the people who made it all happen. It contains dozens of in-depth interviews with the people who often get overlooked when talking about the old guard of game designers: Warren Robinett (Adventure), Owen Rubin (Space Duel, Major Havoc), Dona Bailey (Centipede), Al Alcorn (Pong), and more. A full list of appearances can be found here. Many of these people you might never have even heard of, since older titles never rolled credits. A digital release is planned for January 15 through VHX, where the film will be available in both downloadable and streaming form. Following its official release, World 1-1 will be shown at various conventions and expos, though no concrete schedule has been announced as of yet. A physical release is planned sometime within the next few months on both DVD and Blu-ray. More information on upcoming events and the film's physical release should become available in the weeks ahead on both the World 1-1 Facebook page and website.
  16. Covering the early years of video game development, Jeanette Garcia and Daryl Rodriguez's World 1-1 explores the formation of the video game industry from the perspectives of the people who made it all happen. It contains dozens of in-depth interviews with the people who often get overlooked when talking about the old guard of game designers: Warren Robinett (Adventure), Owen Rubin (Space Duel, Major Havoc), Dona Bailey (Centipede), Al Alcorn (Pong), and more. A full list of appearances can be found here. Many of these people you might never have even heard of, since older titles never rolled credits. A digital release is planned for January 15 through VHX, where the film will be available in both downloadable and streaming form. Following its official release, World 1-1 will be shown at various conventions and expos, though no concrete schedule has been announced as of yet. A physical release is planned sometime within the next few months on both DVD and Blu-ray. More information on upcoming events and the film's physical release should become available in the weeks ahead on both the World 1-1 Facebook page and website. View full article
  17. Covering the early years of video game development, Jeanette Garcia and Daryl Rodriguez's World 1-1 explores the formation of the video game industry from the perspectives of the people who made it all happen. It contains dozens of in-depth interviews with the people who often get overlooked when talking about the old guard of game designers: Warren Robinett (Adventure), Owen Rubin (Space Duel, Major Havoc), Dona Bailey (Centipede), Al Alcorn (Pong), and more. A full list of appearances can be found here. Many of these people you might never have even heard of, since older titles never rolled credits. A digital release is planned for January 15 through VHX, where the film will be available in both downloadable and streaming form. Following its official release, World 1-1 will be shown at various conventions and expos, though no concrete schedule has been announced as of yet. A physical release is planned sometime within the next few months on both DVD and Blu-ray. More information on upcoming events and the film's physical release should become available in the weeks ahead on both the World 1-1 Facebook page and website. View full article
  18. In an unlisted year end YouTube video, the creator of Mega Man says that Comcept has finished the core game of Mighty No. 9 and are now entering the porting and promotional phases of development. In the video, Inafune wishes everyone a happy new year and talks about how hard the team at Comcept has been working to bring Mighty No. 9 to the public. Comcept's initial Kickstarter asked for $900,000 to make the spiritual successor to Mega Man, but the company received over $4 million in crowd funding. Usually receiving several times the amount of money asked for in a Kickstarter campaign results in delays, but Mighty No. 9 looks to be chugging smoothly along toward its spring 2015 release.
  19. In an unlisted year end YouTube video, the creator of Mega Man says that Comcept has finished the core game of Mighty No. 9 and are now entering the porting and promotional phases of development. In the video, Inafune wishes everyone a happy new year and talks about how hard the team at Comcept has been working to bring Mighty No. 9 to the public. Comcept's initial Kickstarter asked for $900,000 to make the spiritual successor to Mega Man, but the company received over $4 million in crowd funding. Usually receiving several times the amount of money asked for in a Kickstarter campaign results in delays, but Mighty No. 9 looks to be chugging smoothly along toward its spring 2015 release. View full article
  20. RPGs like Wasteland 2 are difficult to pull off without a misstep. They typically have very large ambitions and the larger that they become, the more options that they offer players, the more likely they are to fall short. Trying to account for every way a player might want to interact with a given scenario is a shotgun approach to game design and it is tricky to master. They also tend to be very structurally spread out. The core narrative seems to have importance than the numerous vignettes that players may or may not encounter. Key decisions have the potential to significantly alter events that players come across and lead to different gameplay experiences, meaning that reviews of this type have to be taken with a few more grains of salt than usual. It isn’t impossible to break these types of games down, just a bit harder and a bit more dependent on how the game was played. With that said, let’s roll up our sleeves and get started. The original 1988 Wasteland almost single-handedly made video games about wandering an irradiated, post-apocalyptic world cool. Wasteland predated the beginning of the Fallout series by almost a decade, but became lost in the mists of time. Then in 2012, InXile Entertainment launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $900,000 to develop a true sequel to the 1988 title. Within two days that goal had been reached and by the time the campaign drew to a close a total of around $3,000,000 had been secured to fund development. After two years the result is a staggeringly large RPG with astonishing amounts of detail. In a livestream interview with Joystiq, creative director Brian Fargo stated that if you took all the text written for the game, all of the dialogues and descriptions, the word count would surpass all of that of the entire Harry Potter series. Think about that for a minute: The developers wrote over seven novels worth of text in addition to making a game. Some of you might be a bit skeptical of Fargo’s claim, but having poured 75 hours of my life into Wasteland 2, I believe it. Out of those tens of thousands of words arose the tale of the Desert Rangers, post-apocalyptic cowboys who strive to establish law and order for the residents of the habitable portions of Arizona; an Arizona that has been cut off from the outside world by deadly radiation clouds. Strange animals roam the wastes like mutated honey badgers or giant rabbits posing an ever present threat to those new to wandering the parched lands of Arizona. However, as is the case in an un-irradiated world, the most dangerous creatures in the wasteland are your fellow human beings. Player begin with a team of Desert Ranger recruits that have been tasked with looking into the death of Ace, a fellow Ranger who was gunned down while tracking down the source of a mysterious radio signal. And… well, that’s about as much as I can say before what players experience could conceivably be different from the choices I made. There is no set course in Wasteland 2. Instead, there are numerous vignettes that can be explored at will with only a small number of essential scenarios that need to be dealt with before the main narrative is allowed to progress. After leaving the starting area to tackle the initial task of investigating Ace’s death, players receive calls for help from two different settlements that have found themselves in imminent danger. Choosing to help one over the other leads to sweeping consequences for a large portion of Wasteland 2. Players who are more inclined to explore can encounter smaller side missions, too. The diffuse structure of the narrative leads to a very erratic core narrative. Some of the episode are truly engaging and ask players to make difficult choices, while others feel more like a slog of going through the motions rather than an enjoyable experience. The meat of Wasteland 2 is the turn-based tactical combat. Each character under the player’s command has a certain number of action points that are determined based on their attributes. The more action points they have, the more stuff they can do on their turn. It is a relatively simple system that is pleasantly complicated by alternate firing modes for guns, crouching, and headshots, all of which have different action point costs associated with their execution. The result is a mostly satisfying strategic title that can concoct some difficult scenarios to keep players on their toes. What really bogs down the experience are good ideas that have been executed poorly. A great example of this is any time an NPC follower is picked up that acts independently when in combat. The AI governing their behavior makes mind-bogglingly awful decisions, which can be really frustrating when you are trying to complete an objective that requires them to be alive. They’ll shun cover and brazenly stand in front of several enemies armed with miniguns and grenades without a second thought. It is frustrating to do everything as tactically correct as possible only to have an NPC derp its way into oblivion. Two more great ideas that don’t quite live up to their potential are inventory management and melee combat. Managing inventory becomes problematic because you will often find weird items that may or may not have a purpose later in the game. This reinforces the compulsion to hold onto a variety of random crap that might randomly be useful. Ammo has weight, but you probably want to keep that in your inventory if you feel like living through enemy encounters. Do you like being healed? Yes? Well, that takes up inventory space, too. The amount of stuff a character can carry in their inventory is related to their strength attribute, which is very unfortunate since strength means almost nothing in a game full of ranged weaponry. There are skill categories for blunt weapons, bladed weapons, and unarmed fighting, but none of those routes feel like they pay off in the slightest. Why leave cover to get in close to an enemy when he has five or six ranged friends for backup and you can do two or three times as much damage with one sniper from a mile away? Strength improves melee attacks, but not enough to make them feel like a viable option when compared to all of the cool shotguns, heavy weapons, energy cannons, sniper rifles, and assault weapons. This is all the more unfortunate because you will need a character with high strength just to carry your junk around and they’ll end up feeling like dead weight. By the time I reached the end game I had to stop for five to ten minutes to get my characters’ inventories sorted out every time I acquired something that weighed more than five pounds. Wasteland 2 also features permadeath. If a character loses all of their health, they’ll fall unconscious. If they continue to take hits, they’ll die and exit the party permanently. For a player like me, that just means that losing a party member means reloading an earlier save. I imagine that most players will react similarly since losing a character can be effectively crippling, especially if they were relied on for their non-combat skills like lock picking or demolitions. It is a tangible loss that isn’t easy to replace and is punishing for the rest of the game. My golden standard for permadeath in strategy games was set by XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Losing a soldier was certainly a blow to the missions that followed, but unless it was on the highest difficulties, it wasn’t something that left a campaign crippled. The permadeath served to make XCOM harder, yes, but it also strengthened the emotional attachments players developed for their soldiers. They took on the role of their commander and felt responsible for their soldiers’ fates. Unlike XCOM, a disconnect exists between the player and the characters in Wasteland 2. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing; many games are fantastic without inviting the player into the fiction as a character. The tradeoff seems to be that if you are going to have that sort of distance between the player and the characters, then you need to have engaging characters in which the player can feel emotionally invested. Wasteland 2 only partially succeeds at this. The four Desert Ranger recruits that begin the game can be customized by the player or picked from premade backgrounds. They then all proceed to be silent protagonists, a decision that renders them inert and emotionless. Luckily, the supporting cast of recruitable NPCs does some serious heavy lifting. Characters like Scotchmo, the shotgun wielding hobo with a heart of gold, or Rose, the scientist with a prosthetic arm who dreamed of becoming a Ranger, go a long way toward giving the journey through the wastelands a dash of characterization; saving it from becoming just another generic romp. However, level design is the biggest quagmire that painfully slows the experience of Wasteland 2. There is an awful lot of backtracking through large levels. I kid you not, I eventually picked up a book so that I could have something to do while my characters ran through the same area, repeatedly going back and forth between to NPCs that I needed to talk with. Perhaps more than any other thing that I’ve talked about so far is what dampened my enthusiasm for Wasteland 2. It is not awesome to spend two or three minutes wandering through a level that you’ve already thoroughly explored to get from point A to point B. Fast travel within locations or quick exits from thoroughly explored areas would have been a fantastic addition. Related to the level design is how the camera interacts with the environment. Many tactical games have a fixed camera, but creating a fixed perspective can lead to obstructed vision for players. Wasteland 2 tries to avoid that problem by including multiple camera angles that players can switch between. While a good idea on paper, it quickly becomes disorienting. It can even get you turned around in areas that have been explored. To top it off, even the rotating camera can’t save all of the battles from the challenges of objects obstructing commands. A number of times I noticed characters who were caught at awkward angles in a bit of object that was supposed to provide cover. These incidents were few, but they still popped up from time to time and provided some frustration. With everything that I’ve gone over, you might think that I found Wasteland 2 to be a negative experience. On the contrary, I enjoyed the majority of the time I spent with the Desert Rangers. There are so many things to discover and so many ways to solve the situations that are happened upon. The sense of freedom is enjoyable and it’s nice that entire enemy encounters can be skipped at times if a character possesses the appropriate skills or items. The elements of exploration and discovery are in full force. On top of that, Wasteland 2 has a great sense of humor. At one point my party ran across a solitary man in the wastes who began following us while spouting a lengthy, ridiculous one-sided conversation about all the places he had been and seen. There is a faction of people who live in the wasteland who base their society off of a book of etiquette while also being more than happy to resort to violence. At one point, I found the treasure of the Sierra Madre. There is a world of references that prove to be good humored nods to famous movies, books, and video games and jokes that poke fun at the same. And there is just so much game. I put 75 hours into the game before I saw the credits roll, but I skipped many sidequests that I knew about and I’m sure I skipped other bits of the game that I never even discovered. I enjoyed the game despite its numerous imperfections. At the heart of Wasteland 2 is an earnest effort of staggering proportions and it isn’t hard to appreciate that in the final product. Note: I'm about to go into a topic that might be a bit uncomfortable for some of you out there. If that is the case, feel free to skip down to the conclusion. That being said, there was an issue that I found deeply disconcerting in Wasteland 2’s narrative: The treatment of sexual violence. This is something that video games are notoriously terrible at depicting in a way that is tactful. While I don’t doubt for a minute that Wasteland 2 has nothing but good intentions toward its players, this was something that stood out to me as needing to be called out. There are a number of parts in the game that deal with people who have been enslaved and abused sexually. From a writing standpoint, that would be fine if there was a reason for it, if there was a purpose to including that content. However, from what I saw, this sexual assault is never the focus of the scenarios in which it appears. It might help if I give an example to illustrate what I mean. At one point, Wasteland 2 takes players into a prison that has been converted into a headquarters for a gang that wants to start being what passes for a government. As players make their way through the town that’s just outside the prison, it becomes clear that the people who live there have become indentured as unwilling workers on a nearby farm. Many of the other residents are living in poverty and starving to death. Later, it is possible to return to negotiate with the leader of the gang and help him see the error of his ways and how they’d been going about trying to help people in the worst possible way. That all makes sense, right? It establishes the gang as bad guys, but later it turns out they just had no idea how to go helping people without innocents getting hurt by their efforts. What doesn’t make sense is also including a section of the gang’s camp where slaves are kept like animals and raped repeatedly. What possible purpose does that serve? None. There is no justification for it. The worst part is that it is never mentioned in any of the dialogue that I saw when speaking with any of the gang members or their leader. The focus was meant to be on the farm that the indentured workers were forced to cultivate. The area of the gang’s camp dedicated to rape was rendered as something that was barely worth consideration. This isn’t an isolated incident either. There are several instances of sexual violence invoked casually. InExile was trying to make a gritty game, a mature game, and of course that led to including lots of f-bombs, a number of prostitutes, and segments of sexual violence. People will try to mitigate it by saying that the occurrences of that brand of violence aren’t as explicit as they could be, the camera is distant, the violence isn’t directly shown, but the ugly truth of it is that it is still lurking there in the shadowy underbelly of the game as an implication. The lack of importance tells me that the writers of Wasteland 2 didn’t think when it came to this topic. It is as if the game threw up its hands and said, “Well, OF COURSE, this happens after the end of the world, especially when you are trying to portray the apocalypse in a mature way!” That might sound like a defense, but there is no reason to include scenes of sexual violence in the name of “maturity” or a “grittier experience” when the game in question cannot or will not maturely address the important topics it casually brings up. Nor is grit of such terrible importance to your game when you include a large number of mutated honey badgers as enemies. If you are a developer and are considering including sexual assault in your game, I believe you have a human obligation to try and treat it with the gravity it deserves. Like everything else in your game, there should be a reason that sexual violence is included and that reason shouldn’t be to titillate your players or serve as a momentary distraction. Conclusion: At the end of the day, I am attempting to critique an experience that took up more than three days of solid effort on my part and contained more text than seven books. How does someone even begin to try to do that justice? While Wasteland 2 certainly has a number of issues that relate to its core mechanics, design, and narrative, I enjoyed a lot of my time in its world, especially when it allowed itself to be a bit more lighthearted. The combat is satisfying, though sometimes frustrating. The narrative oscillates from being very good to being really not great from scenario to scenario, but generally errs on the side of quality. Wasteland 2 succeeds at being the game that its backers desired, while also paving the way for a renaissance of games made in this style. However, for as much as I enjoyed its strategic gameplay and unexpected turns, there were many flaws that detracted from my enjoyment on an intellectual level. Wasteland 2 is a solid RPG with enough detail to satisfy even the most rabid of lore-hounds, but I hope that InExile learns to address sensitive topics with a bit more humanity in their future endeavors. View full article
  21. RPGs like Wasteland 2 are difficult to pull off without a misstep. They typically have very large ambitions and the larger that they become, the more options that they offer players, the more likely they are to fall short. Trying to account for every way a player might want to interact with a given scenario is a shotgun approach to game design and it is tricky to master. They also tend to be very structurally spread out. The core narrative seems to have importance than the numerous vignettes that players may or may not encounter. Key decisions have the potential to significantly alter events that players come across and lead to different gameplay experiences, meaning that reviews of this type have to be taken with a few more grains of salt than usual. It isn’t impossible to break these types of games down, just a bit harder and a bit more dependent on how the game was played. With that said, let’s roll up our sleeves and get started. The original 1988 Wasteland almost single-handedly made video games about wandering an irradiated, post-apocalyptic world cool. Wasteland predated the beginning of the Fallout series by almost a decade, but became lost in the mists of time. Then in 2012, InXile Entertainment launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $900,000 to develop a true sequel to the 1988 title. Within two days that goal had been reached and by the time the campaign drew to a close a total of around $3,000,000 had been secured to fund development. After two years the result is a staggeringly large RPG with astonishing amounts of detail. In a livestream interview with Joystiq, creative director Brian Fargo stated that if you took all the text written for the game, all of the dialogues and descriptions, the word count would surpass all of that of the entire Harry Potter series. Think about that for a minute: The developers wrote over seven novels worth of text in addition to making a game. Some of you might be a bit skeptical of Fargo’s claim, but having poured 75 hours of my life into Wasteland 2, I believe it. Out of those tens of thousands of words arose the tale of the Desert Rangers, post-apocalyptic cowboys who strive to establish law and order for the residents of the habitable portions of Arizona; an Arizona that has been cut off from the outside world by deadly radiation clouds. Strange animals roam the wastes like mutated honey badgers or giant rabbits posing an ever present threat to those new to wandering the parched lands of Arizona. However, as is the case in an un-irradiated world, the most dangerous creatures in the wasteland are your fellow human beings. Player begin with a team of Desert Ranger recruits that have been tasked with looking into the death of Ace, a fellow Ranger who was gunned down while tracking down the source of a mysterious radio signal. And… well, that’s about as much as I can say before what players experience could conceivably be different from the choices I made. There is no set course in Wasteland 2. Instead, there are numerous vignettes that can be explored at will with only a small number of essential scenarios that need to be dealt with before the main narrative is allowed to progress. After leaving the starting area to tackle the initial task of investigating Ace’s death, players receive calls for help from two different settlements that have found themselves in imminent danger. Choosing to help one over the other leads to sweeping consequences for a large portion of Wasteland 2. Players who are more inclined to explore can encounter smaller side missions, too. The diffuse structure of the narrative leads to a very erratic core narrative. Some of the episode are truly engaging and ask players to make difficult choices, while others feel more like a slog of going through the motions rather than an enjoyable experience. The meat of Wasteland 2 is the turn-based tactical combat. Each character under the player’s command has a certain number of action points that are determined based on their attributes. The more action points they have, the more stuff they can do on their turn. It is a relatively simple system that is pleasantly complicated by alternate firing modes for guns, crouching, and headshots, all of which have different action point costs associated with their execution. The result is a mostly satisfying strategic title that can concoct some difficult scenarios to keep players on their toes. What really bogs down the experience are good ideas that have been executed poorly. A great example of this is any time an NPC follower is picked up that acts independently when in combat. The AI governing their behavior makes mind-bogglingly awful decisions, which can be really frustrating when you are trying to complete an objective that requires them to be alive. They’ll shun cover and brazenly stand in front of several enemies armed with miniguns and grenades without a second thought. It is frustrating to do everything as tactically correct as possible only to have an NPC derp its way into oblivion. Two more great ideas that don’t quite live up to their potential are inventory management and melee combat. Managing inventory becomes problematic because you will often find weird items that may or may not have a purpose later in the game. This reinforces the compulsion to hold onto a variety of random crap that might randomly be useful. Ammo has weight, but you probably want to keep that in your inventory if you feel like living through enemy encounters. Do you like being healed? Yes? Well, that takes up inventory space, too. The amount of stuff a character can carry in their inventory is related to their strength attribute, which is very unfortunate since strength means almost nothing in a game full of ranged weaponry. There are skill categories for blunt weapons, bladed weapons, and unarmed fighting, but none of those routes feel like they pay off in the slightest. Why leave cover to get in close to an enemy when he has five or six ranged friends for backup and you can do two or three times as much damage with one sniper from a mile away? Strength improves melee attacks, but not enough to make them feel like a viable option when compared to all of the cool shotguns, heavy weapons, energy cannons, sniper rifles, and assault weapons. This is all the more unfortunate because you will need a character with high strength just to carry your junk around and they’ll end up feeling like dead weight. By the time I reached the end game I had to stop for five to ten minutes to get my characters’ inventories sorted out every time I acquired something that weighed more than five pounds. Wasteland 2 also features permadeath. If a character loses all of their health, they’ll fall unconscious. If they continue to take hits, they’ll die and exit the party permanently. For a player like me, that just means that losing a party member means reloading an earlier save. I imagine that most players will react similarly since losing a character can be effectively crippling, especially if they were relied on for their non-combat skills like lock picking or demolitions. It is a tangible loss that isn’t easy to replace and is punishing for the rest of the game. My golden standard for permadeath in strategy games was set by XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Losing a soldier was certainly a blow to the missions that followed, but unless it was on the highest difficulties, it wasn’t something that left a campaign crippled. The permadeath served to make XCOM harder, yes, but it also strengthened the emotional attachments players developed for their soldiers. They took on the role of their commander and felt responsible for their soldiers’ fates. Unlike XCOM, a disconnect exists between the player and the characters in Wasteland 2. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing; many games are fantastic without inviting the player into the fiction as a character. The tradeoff seems to be that if you are going to have that sort of distance between the player and the characters, then you need to have engaging characters in which the player can feel emotionally invested. Wasteland 2 only partially succeeds at this. The four Desert Ranger recruits that begin the game can be customized by the player or picked from premade backgrounds. They then all proceed to be silent protagonists, a decision that renders them inert and emotionless. Luckily, the supporting cast of recruitable NPCs does some serious heavy lifting. Characters like Scotchmo, the shotgun wielding hobo with a heart of gold, or Rose, the scientist with a prosthetic arm who dreamed of becoming a Ranger, go a long way toward giving the journey through the wastelands a dash of characterization; saving it from becoming just another generic romp. However, level design is the biggest quagmire that painfully slows the experience of Wasteland 2. There is an awful lot of backtracking through large levels. I kid you not, I eventually picked up a book so that I could have something to do while my characters ran through the same area, repeatedly going back and forth between to NPCs that I needed to talk with. Perhaps more than any other thing that I’ve talked about so far is what dampened my enthusiasm for Wasteland 2. It is not awesome to spend two or three minutes wandering through a level that you’ve already thoroughly explored to get from point A to point B. Fast travel within locations or quick exits from thoroughly explored areas would have been a fantastic addition. Related to the level design is how the camera interacts with the environment. Many tactical games have a fixed camera, but creating a fixed perspective can lead to obstructed vision for players. Wasteland 2 tries to avoid that problem by including multiple camera angles that players can switch between. While a good idea on paper, it quickly becomes disorienting. It can even get you turned around in areas that have been explored. To top it off, even the rotating camera can’t save all of the battles from the challenges of objects obstructing commands. A number of times I noticed characters who were caught at awkward angles in a bit of object that was supposed to provide cover. These incidents were few, but they still popped up from time to time and provided some frustration. With everything that I’ve gone over, you might think that I found Wasteland 2 to be a negative experience. On the contrary, I enjoyed the majority of the time I spent with the Desert Rangers. There are so many things to discover and so many ways to solve the situations that are happened upon. The sense of freedom is enjoyable and it’s nice that entire enemy encounters can be skipped at times if a character possesses the appropriate skills or items. The elements of exploration and discovery are in full force. On top of that, Wasteland 2 has a great sense of humor. At one point my party ran across a solitary man in the wastes who began following us while spouting a lengthy, ridiculous one-sided conversation about all the places he had been and seen. There is a faction of people who live in the wasteland who base their society off of a book of etiquette while also being more than happy to resort to violence. At one point, I found the treasure of the Sierra Madre. There is a world of references that prove to be good humored nods to famous movies, books, and video games and jokes that poke fun at the same. And there is just so much game. I put 75 hours into the game before I saw the credits roll, but I skipped many sidequests that I knew about and I’m sure I skipped other bits of the game that I never even discovered. I enjoyed the game despite its numerous imperfections. At the heart of Wasteland 2 is an earnest effort of staggering proportions and it isn’t hard to appreciate that in the final product. Note: I'm about to go into a topic that might be a bit uncomfortable for some of you out there. If that is the case, feel free to skip down to the conclusion. That being said, there was an issue that I found deeply disconcerting in Wasteland 2’s narrative: The treatment of sexual violence. This is something that video games are notoriously terrible at depicting in a way that is tactful. While I don’t doubt for a minute that Wasteland 2 has nothing but good intentions toward its players, this was something that stood out to me as needing to be called out. There are a number of parts in the game that deal with people who have been enslaved and abused sexually. From a writing standpoint, that would be fine if there was a reason for it, if there was a purpose to including that content. However, from what I saw, this sexual assault is never the focus of the scenarios in which it appears. It might help if I give an example to illustrate what I mean. At one point, Wasteland 2 takes players into a prison that has been converted into a headquarters for a gang that wants to start being what passes for a government. As players make their way through the town that’s just outside the prison, it becomes clear that the people who live there have become indentured as unwilling workers on a nearby farm. Many of the other residents are living in poverty and starving to death. Later, it is possible to return to negotiate with the leader of the gang and help him see the error of his ways and how they’d been going about trying to help people in the worst possible way. That all makes sense, right? It establishes the gang as bad guys, but later it turns out they just had no idea how to go helping people without innocents getting hurt by their efforts. What doesn’t make sense is also including a section of the gang’s camp where slaves are kept like animals and raped repeatedly. What possible purpose does that serve? None. There is no justification for it. The worst part is that it is never mentioned in any of the dialogue that I saw when speaking with any of the gang members or their leader. The focus was meant to be on the farm that the indentured workers were forced to cultivate. The area of the gang’s camp dedicated to rape was rendered as something that was barely worth consideration. This isn’t an isolated incident either. There are several instances of sexual violence invoked casually. InExile was trying to make a gritty game, a mature game, and of course that led to including lots of f-bombs, a number of prostitutes, and segments of sexual violence. People will try to mitigate it by saying that the occurrences of that brand of violence aren’t as explicit as they could be, the camera is distant, the violence isn’t directly shown, but the ugly truth of it is that it is still lurking there in the shadowy underbelly of the game as an implication. The lack of importance tells me that the writers of Wasteland 2 didn’t think when it came to this topic. It is as if the game threw up its hands and said, “Well, OF COURSE, this happens after the end of the world, especially when you are trying to portray the apocalypse in a mature way!” That might sound like a defense, but there is no reason to include scenes of sexual violence in the name of “maturity” or a “grittier experience” when the game in question cannot or will not maturely address the important topics it casually brings up. Nor is grit of such terrible importance to your game when you include a large number of mutated honey badgers as enemies. If you are a developer and are considering including sexual assault in your game, I believe you have a human obligation to try and treat it with the gravity it deserves. Like everything else in your game, there should be a reason that sexual violence is included and that reason shouldn’t be to titillate your players or serve as a momentary distraction. Conclusion: At the end of the day, I am attempting to critique an experience that took up more than three days of solid effort on my part and contained more text than seven books. How does someone even begin to try to do that justice? While Wasteland 2 certainly has a number of issues that relate to its core mechanics, design, and narrative, I enjoyed a lot of my time in its world, especially when it allowed itself to be a bit more lighthearted. The combat is satisfying, though sometimes frustrating. The narrative oscillates from being very good to being really not great from scenario to scenario, but generally errs on the side of quality. Wasteland 2 succeeds at being the game that its backers desired, while also paving the way for a renaissance of games made in this style. However, for as much as I enjoyed its strategic gameplay and unexpected turns, there were many flaws that detracted from my enjoyment on an intellectual level. Wasteland 2 is a solid RPG with enough detail to satisfy even the most rabid of lore-hounds, but I hope that InExile learns to address sensitive topics with a bit more humanity in their future endeavors.
  22. Many of you might not know that, in addition to writing for Extra Life, I record a video game podcast called The JIM Show with two dashing gentlemen. Most of the time it is just discussion of the latest video game news, sharing our thoughts on the games we're playing, and embarrassing ourselves in front of microphones. However, sometimes we have interesting guests on the show. We've had indie studios like Tangentlemen or Brain & Nerd on to talk about the trials of going independent. We've had talented writers like Harold Goldberd, Nathan Meunier, and Walt Williams on to discuss their work. Heck, we even had a filmmaker, and one of the co-founders of Naughty Dog on our show. What I'm trying to get at here is that while we are mostly goofballs, sometimes we do actually have insightful and interesting talks about video games. This week our podcast was graced with the presence of Eric Trowbridge, the founder of indie studio Apixal and who is currently going through a Kickstarter campaign for Phoenix Dawn. We invited him on because he was clearly very passionate about making games; he quit a job of eight years to try and make his dreams a reality. At the time we interviewed him, his Kickstarter was $10,000 short of its goal with five days left. The day after we recorded with him he'd met his funding goal and there are still two days left in his campaign. All this is leading up to me saying that we had a great time talking with Eric and it was really inspiring how determined and dedicated he is to his project. Our conversation with him provided a window into the stressful lives of developers who turn to Kickstarter for funding. If that sounds interesting to you, you can listen to the podcast embedded below, download it from our hosting site, iTunes, or get our podcast app through the Amazon app store. Music for this episode is a remix of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, 'Forever Yours' by the fantastic Tim Sheehy. More great music like this can be found over on OCRemix.org (FOR FREE). Head over there and check out a place flowing with musical talent! Let us know what you think of the show and if you like seeing this kind of thing in the comments. View full article
  23. Many of you might not know that, in addition to writing for Extra Life, I record a video game podcast called The JIM Show with two dashing gentlemen. Most of the time it is just discussion of the latest video game news, sharing our thoughts on the games we're playing, and embarrassing ourselves in front of microphones. However, sometimes we have interesting guests on the show. We've had indie studios like Tangentlemen or Brain & Nerd on to talk about the trials of going independent. We've had talented writers like Harold Goldberd, Nathan Meunier, and Walt Williams on to discuss their work. Heck, we even had a filmmaker, and one of the co-founders of Naughty Dog on our show. What I'm trying to get at here is that while we are mostly goofballs, sometimes we do actually have insightful and interesting talks about video games. This week our podcast was graced with the presence of Eric Trowbridge, the founder of indie studio Apixal and who is currently going through a Kickstarter campaign for Phoenix Dawn. We invited him on because he was clearly very passionate about making games; he quit a job of eight years to try and make his dreams a reality. At the time we interviewed him, his Kickstarter was $10,000 short of its goal with five days left. The day after we recorded with him he'd met his funding goal and there are still two days left in his campaign. All this is leading up to me saying that we had a great time talking with Eric and it was really inspiring how determined and dedicated he is to his project. Our conversation with him provided a window into the stressful lives of developers who turn to Kickstarter for funding. If that sounds interesting to you, you can listen to the podcast embedded below, download it from our hosting site, iTunes, or get our podcast app through the Amazon app store. Music for this episode is a remix of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, 'Forever Yours' by the fantastic Tim Sheehy. More great music like this can be found over on OCRemix.org (FOR FREE). Head over there and check out a place flowing with musical talent! Let us know what you think of the show and if you like seeing this kind of thing in the comments.
  24. Pier Solar and the Great Architects, the HD remake of 2010 original that was exclusive to the Sega Mega Drive, is due on September 30th for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Ouya, and PC. Pier Solar HD is a direct result of a successful Kickstarter campaign that ran back in 2012. In addition to a release on PS4, PS3, and PC, WaterMelon will also be releasing the RPG on Xbox One, Wii U, and Sega Dreamcast, though the release dates of those versions will be announced next month after they've received certification. I'm gonna be honest, I've been looking forward to playing Pier Solar HD for a long time. Never having had a Sega Mega Drive, I wasn't able to play the original retro release of Pier Solar which made me sad as a big fan of classic RPGs. This news really makes me happy! View full article
  25. Pier Solar and the Great Architects, the HD remake of 2010 original that was exclusive to the Sega Mega Drive, is due on September 30th for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Ouya, and PC. Pier Solar HD is a direct result of a successful Kickstarter campaign that ran back in 2012. In addition to a release on PS4, PS3, and PC, WaterMelon will also be releasing the RPG on Xbox One, Wii U, and Sega Dreamcast, though the release dates of those versions will be announced next month after they've received certification. I'm gonna be honest, I've been looking forward to playing Pier Solar HD for a long time. Never having had a Sega Mega Drive, I wasn't able to play the original retro release of Pier Solar which made me sad as a big fan of classic RPGs. This news really makes me happy!
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