We Interview Chris Avellone From Obsidian Entertainment: Part 2

Chris Avellone metal

 Chris Avellone From Obsidian Entertainment

Be sure to read Part 1 here!

General Questions About Gaming And Game Design:

What do you think about games that are based around an alignment based system? Are they too limited? How would you enforce the alignment role-playing aspect?

I don’t always believe in a game imposing morality unless it’s part of a franchise (Star Wars). In Alpha Protocol we did away with a player morality bar because in the espionage world, it’s difficult to say whether you’re “good” or “bad,” you’re just out to accomplish your mission and your reasons are your own. I do feel it’s fair if you set up reputation bars for other people, companions, and factions because it’s easier to imagine how NPCs and communities would judge your actions that us trying to judge the player and slap a +/- on it.

I did dislike the alignment system in D&D because it always assumed the player should choose an alignment before adventuring in the world. So in Torment, we let the player be a blank slate and let the alignment evolve (and reverse) over time depending on your actions. We felt that this was a better interpretation of the alignment system and it made more sense in the context of the narrative.

What do you think about the trend that we see in modern gaming where people consider MMORPGs to be RPGs? Is this correct or have they simply not had then chance to play a real traditional RPG?

Advancement schemes are similar, and some of the cause and effect you experience in RPGs is there, and I’d argue the ability to form your own party from other players provides the equivalent of an RPG experience in many respects. You may not always be able to make your decisions and actions felt in the environment because you can’t disturb the MMORPG equilibrium to the same extent as you can in a single-player RPG, but some of the core elements are there, yes.

If you had to remake a classic RPG made by another studio, which one would you remake and why?

SSI Wizard’s Crown or Eternal Dagger because I loved the way they showcased the dungeons and allowed you to develop your character. Pool of Radiance would also be fun (the 1st Goldbox one) as would Dark Sun’s Shattered Lands (which I loved).

What is the most influential yet obscure game you have ever played and why do you find it so important in your gaming history?

Well, in terms of influential yet obscure, that cuts a lot of games out – I feel a lot of the more common games have had a big influence on my designs (Portal, Chronotrigger, Ultima Underworld). If I were to name some “obscure” ones, I’d probably say System Shock 2 is the top of the list (it’s basically a design doc for how to make a great game), Amnesia: The Dark Descent for introducing a challenge mechanism that could simultaneously terrify you, Bastion’s narration mechanics, and Wasteland for proving to me how you could use game mechanics in the context of a “conventional” RPG to make some truly brilliant levels if you took a step back and thought outside the box.

What was your favorite character from RPGs you have worked on and why?

That’s tough, and it varies. I liked most of the Torment cast for different reasons, even Ignus and Vhailor. If I had to choose one, it would probably be Fall-From-Grace, I always enjoyed the premise of a puritan succubus who’s simultaneously the nicest, wisest, and gentlest people you can meet on the Planes. Jennifer Hale did a great job with her voice.

Who is your favorite co-worker and why?

Brian Menze, our concept artist and the lead artist on South Park now. I’ve known Brian ever since the Black Isle days, and he’s been my friend for a very, very long time. We still try and do comic book Wednesdays every week, and the studio would be a sadder place without his presence. He’s brought a lot of characters in the studio to life, and he’s incredibly modest and humble about his pieces, which makes me like him all the more.

Who in computing or video game history has been your idol and why?

Tim Cain, Tom Hall, Richard Dansky, to name a few. Tim reimagined how RPG mechanics could work for me, Tom Hall reimagined how design aesthetics could be applied in unconventional ways (Anachronox), and Richard Dansky never stops being a great guy and helping people.

I couldn’t possibly name everyone, but those are the people that jump to mind. I have the good fortune to work with Tim Cain on this project, and that’s one of my life goals on my bucket list.

First Project Eternity Screenshot

What do you watch/play/listen-to/read while trying to get creative ideas for projects?

Mostly trance music. I can’t listen to anything with lyrics while writing a character, I find the words and inner speech of the character I’m writing gets all jumbled up.

Going to see a live show or play I’ve found is one of the best means to stir the creative pot up when I have writer’s block (or even if I don’t). I have a lot of friends in the theater or who play in bands, and watching them live is enthusiastically contagious.

Other times, I immerse myself in research. Often when tackling an area, concept, or type of game, I try to read as much literature and watch as much media relevant to it (example, for Fallout New Vegas: Lonesome Road, I re-read Damnation Alley again, watched The Road, etc, etc.). When I got back into Wasteland, I started listening to a lot more 80s music, watching 80s movies and even researching 80s commercials to get a feel for the era… I’m embarrassed to say my memories of the 80s have slipped away, so it’s a shock to remember some of the big moments and media of the decade.

Project Eternity Specific Questions:

I always loved the interaction between my party members in some of your previous games, especially in Planescape: Torment. I did not like how rare these interactions did happen though. Do you plan on implementing a more ongoing interaction between the party companions? Have you considered adding interactions that will only happen when you have certain companions in the party?

Yes and yes, we feel companion commentary with each other is a strong means of showing how alive and reactive your companions are – not just to the world and your actions, but to each other’s presence. Plus, they’re fun to write, I certainly enjoyed writing the ones in Torment and would have loved to have written more.

Are we going to be limited in party size? Yes, it would probably make the game a lot easier to be walking around with an army so what we are asking is, what would be the magic number and how can you logically limit the size? Have you considered implementing the hiring of mercenary NPCs?

Party size will be a single player character and up to five companions – or as you mentioned above with mercenaries, you can also round out your party with recruited allies (which you can customize and build in the Adventurer’s Hall).

How do you plan to sell the game once it is finished and live? Retail? Steam? Impulse? GOG?

GOG (DRM-free) and Steam are our digital distribution outlets. We are also going to see if we can work on distributing the boxed version at retail as well, but we have not specific plans on that yet.

Have you considered making certain parts of the game have a randomized value that would add to the replayability of the game? Have you considered randomizing major plot points or the true intentions of certain characters?

Right now, our efforts have been focused on the hand-crafted elements that will make up the spine of the game.

project eternity wallpaper

Will gear be generally usable by most characters or will it require a certain adjustment for use? By this I mean, can a mage wear at least some level of real armor. Also, a dwarf wouldn’t be able to wear a troll’s armor unless he had an armorer make a suit of armor from that troll’s armor. Do you plan to implement that kind of level of equipment realism in the game? Will gear have wear and tear? Will the game offer some level of crafting element?

We won’t restrict gear according to player race. If you find armor, any race can wear it.

Would somebody be able to simply play not caring what the game’s plot is trying to get us to do? What I mean is similar to what’s found in the game Mount & Blade, for which you can pick what you really want to do such as hire one-self out to work for the highest paying empire or faction.

Like an Infinity Engine title, there is a plot, and while we will have dungeons that respawn and events in the world that you can cause to happen through your actions (such as turning a town or city hostile), the game requires some interaction with the plot from the player to progress. That said, we do want the player to feel free in how they approach the plot and feel that they can make the choices they want to make.

Will you give players the option to dramatically change the world in the RPG such as by ending it or potentially creating utopia?

The story hasn’t been nailed down yet, we’re still crafting it. We do want the world to persist in some fashion after the first installment, and even if great changes occur in the first game, there’s still plenty of world to explore in future games.

Would we be able to have our character fall in love with other characters in the game? Do we get to choose this or what if the game chose for us? Would it be possible to start a family, such as in the Fable games or Europa 1400 The Guild?

There’ll be a variety of mature relationships in the game, and you can choose to interact with them as little or as much as you want.

How is time handled in the game? Will the game take the course of a year? Will it take many years with some of the effects from the earlier part of the game affecting the mid and end game?

We’re handling time in a similar fashion to the BG and IWD games. Events happen in more-or-less real-time (real game time, that is, not literally minute per real world minute) except for rest sequences. We probably won’t be advancing time artificially off screen (“Act 1 is over, so X years pass,” for example).

Will the game offer any kind of multiplayer, such as letting our friends take over our party members in combat?

We want to focus on the single-player experience and make sure that’s solid. We don’t have any multiplayer plans at this time.

Would you let players submit translated versions of the game in other languages that haven’t yet been scheduled for translation?

They would most likely be part of the translation efforts if they wanted to volunteer. We’d welcome the help, and we’ve already received a huge amount of support from international fans that would love to do the translations for us (and if you are one of them and you’re reading this –thanks again).

Do you plan on updating the game with expansions once the game is released? How often would this happen? Would players be able to make their own mods or expansions once the game is live and would an editor be made available eventually?

We would like to do this, although we’re still examining how the pipelines for expansions would work. We don’t want to promise something that we couldn’t do until we’d done more research. We recently released an update with our modding views – we like modding, we want to encourage it, but we don’t want to promise it unless we know we can do it, or else we’d do our players and backers a disservice.

Although I have asked about technology already, since this is such a game changer, I made it a separate question: Will this universe have guns or gunpowder?

It has both. Gunpowder weapons exist, though they are single-shot wheellock variety, and are primarily used to give mages an unprecedented run for their money.

Will all the major races be humanoids or will you implement at least one really weird non-humanoid races a major player in this world?

We’ve got a selection of races, both seemingly-traditional and ones that are more off the beaten path. Some of the concept pieces we’ve released (notably the female dwarf) should give some clues as to what to expect from the choices for race in the game.

What’s the major mode of transportation in this universe?

Foot travel is the primary mode of transportation, although occasionally players may find themselves magically transported somewhere. To speed up overland travel, we will implement a map UI so the player can quickly move their party to locations they’ve already discovered. Note that our map UI is similar to what’s been found in the Icewind Dale and Baldur’s Gate games, not Elder Scrolls or Fallout 3/New Vegas-style fast travel.

What kinds of religions will we see in the game?

This will fall on Josh Sawyer (our resident theologian). More to come on this as the world is fleshed out in future updates.

Machinarium review en espanol

Machinarium screenshot
Machinarium screenshot

Machinarium review en español por Leandro Montesanto


DESARROLLADORA:
AMANITA DESIGN
TITULO:
MACHINARIUM
FECHA DE SALIDA: 16 de octubre del 2009
VALOR: formato virtual+ost 20 dolares;formato fisico edicion coleccionista 7 libras
PLATAFORMAS: PC (windows,linux,mac)
PUNTAJE TOTAL: 10/10
DEMO GRATUITA ONLINE: http://machinarium.net/demo/
Reseña en una oracion: la nueva escuela de juegos recibe a su artistico avatar

Prologo:

Juego realizado por la empresa Checa, Amanita Design, en el 2009; en el cual usamos a un robot sin nombre, al que se le denominara “machi” con motivos de practicidad, este es desechado como chatarra y su mision es rescatar a su novia de las manos de la hermandad Capa Negra; el despliegue resonante de su simpleza no hace valor al gran juego “point and click” (aventura grafica para nosotros) que hoy decidi reseñar ya que su ambientacion cyberpunk, su banda sonora, su sistema de juego, la forma en la cual esta contada la historia, sus coloridos escenarios y sus intrincados puzzles son lo mas fresco que vi en años de jugon.


Jugabilidad, ambientacion y mi historia con el juego:

El juego, como mencione anteriormente, transcurre en un ambiente cyberpunk, puede sonar extraño para muchos es “cute” en si, adorable, pero a su vez caotico, recuerda mucho a la vida urbana, ya que cada robot cumple un rol. Hay barrios bajos y artistas entre ellos. Un detalle sorprendente es la iglesia que tiene horarios para que los robots vayan a rezar, programados a cumplir funciones hasta el fin de los tiempos. Al ser una aventura grafica novedosa e ingeniosa, cuenta la historia de los involucrados a travez de dialogos globos tipo comics pero con animaciones simples dentro de ellas como dibujadas por un niño haciendo que se pueda jugar en cualquier pais sin necesidad de ser traducido. El sistema de juego aplica las leyes del espacio y el rango de alcance de machi ya que no podemos con el mouse atravesar la pantalla para ver que items podemos asir (agarrar) si machi no esta en un rango determinado cercano al objeto, ademas puede estirar su cuerpo verticalmente para alcanzar objetos en lo alto. Si tenemos problemas para darnos una idea de como solucionar los puzzles (un tip como se dice) podemos clickear el icono superior derecho (una lamparita) que nos orientara para seguir nuestro camino y si realmente te rendis no hace falta buscar una guia solo debemos acceder a un minijuego (en la parte superior derecha tambien) en un libro que recuerda mucho a los antigüos matamarcianos sidescroll. Vale aclarar que los puzzles estan espectacularmente armados y proveeran a los jugones de la vieja escuela un desafio. A mi personalmente me costaron mucho pero no soy un asiduo jugador de aventuras graficas; como agregado hace referencias a juegos de antaño un ejemplo seria un cameo al lado de la puerta del arcade nada mas ni nada menos que Space Invaders.

Musica y sonidos:

La musica derrocha calidad, tiene tonos jazzeros de a momentos, tranquila, melancolica, te sumerge en ese mundo bohemio y como si fuera poco al ser en su totalidad ambiental realiza un trabajo estupendo para calmarte cuando estas “luchando” contra un puzzle en tu cabeza. Ahora mismo la estoy escuchandolo para realizar esta reseña. Es importante destacar que fue creada por Tomas Dvorak, artista contemporaneo checo del cual recomiendo, si les ha gustado, sus otros trabajos musicales firmados con el pseudonimo de Floex. Los sonidos son acordes a la situacion, no destacan pero acompañan.

Controles y estabilidad:

El sitema de controles es simple, como en toda aventura grafica usamos casi enteramente el mouse, pero en los minijuegos tenemos la opcion de usar el teclado, haciendo la interface mucho mas intiuitiva y estimulante; con respecto a la estabilidad personalmente no tuve ningun problema, pero a algunos amigos tuvieron problema con el save del juego, ya que lo tomaba como archivo temporal y al pasar el ccleanr se eliminaba; debido a eso Amanita Design creo un parche de estabilidad rapidamente, se puede acceder a el via el blog de la empresa. Las nuevas ediciones del juego vienen con los parches incorporados.

Valor:

Su version en formato virtual puede conseguirse a 20 dolares en la pagina del Machinarium, con el OST incluido en formato mp3 para windows, mac o linux. Ademas para windows puede conseguirse via Steam, Impulse (para comprar esa version hasle click aqui), Direct 2 Drive y Gamers Gate; como si esto fuera poco, puede conseguirse la vercion fisica que fue lanzada este año que contiene el OST, un poster y un artwork en formato fisico para mac y windows a un precio especial de 7 libras via e bay o amazon.

Conclucion:

Una experiencia inigualable recomiendo que prueben los otros juegos de la empresa, en especial el Samorost 1 y 2

 

Links de interes:

Amanita design blog: http://machinarium.net/blog/ (se puede bajar la demo)
Amanita design website: http://www.amanitadesign.com/

The Death of PC Gaming: Not just yet!

Game Over tombstone
Game Over tombstone

Now if you’ve read any of the other articles in the series you would have seen me write about how many software companies rather not create titles for PC anymore choosing instead to go with consoles. Even though this is still the case for many developers the last few months have been pretty good for PC titles.

Below are the PC Digital Download charts for the week ending Feb 27th as well as overall top PC game sales for direct download sites and though some of the games listed there are also multiplatform titles there are a lot of big names there and exclusive PC titles.

Steam

    1. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 LE (Pre-Order) – DICE
    2. *Supreme Commander 2 – Gas Powered Games
    3. *Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 – Infinity Ward
    4. *Napoleon: Total War Imperial Edition – Creative Assembly
    5. *Aliens vs. Predator – Rebellion
    6. *Napoleon: Total War – Creative Assembly
    7. Assassin’s Creed 2 (Pre-Order) – Ubisoft Montreal
    8. SpellForce 2: Gold Edition – Phenomic
    9. Dawn of War II – Chaos Rising (Pre-Order) – Relic
    10. BioShock 2 – 2K Marin, Digital Extremes
    11. *Left 4 Dead 2 – Valve
    12. Mass Effect 2 – BioWare

Direct2Drive

    1. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 LE (Pre-Order) – EA DICE
    2. Star Trek Online Digital Deluxe Edition – Cryptic
    3. BioShock 1 + 2 Bundle – 2K Games
    4. Star Trek Online – Cryptic
    5. Dragon Age: Origins + Awakening Pre-Order Bundle – BioWare
    6. Civilization 4 Complete – Firaxis
    7. Aion – NCSoft
    8. Mass Effect 2 Digital Deluxe Edition – BioWare
    9. BioShock 2 – 2K Marin, Digital Extremes
    10. Mass Effect 2 – BioWare

Impulse

    1. *Sins of a Solar Empire Trinity Pack – Ironclad
    2. *Sins of a Solar Empire: Diplomacy – Ironclad
    3. *Sins of a Solar Empire Expansion Bundle – Ironclad
    4. Dawn of Discovery Gold – Blue Byte
    5. Mount & Blade – Taleworlds
    6. *GalCiv II: Ultimate Edition – Stardock
    7. *Sins of a Solar Empire: Entrenchment – Ironclad
    8. Ecochron Legends – StarWrath3D
    9. Eufloria – Omni-Labs
    10. Supreme Commander Gold – Gas Powered Games

GOG

    1. Psychonauts
    2. Advent Rising
    3. Bloodrayne 2
    4. Bloodrayne
    5. Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within
    6. Arcanum
    7. Phantasmagoria 2
    8. Call to Power 2
    9. King’s Quest 4-5-6
    10. Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers

Now add to this the fact that the rising popularity of direct gaming download sites are promoting older games and the upcoming releases of PC mega hits like Civilization V and we could be seeing the beginning of a resurgence.

Trine

Trine
Trine

Trine review by Honorabili

One Sentence Review:
“Symphony of the Night + The Lost Vikings + Out of This World = fun!”

Overall Score:

8 out of 10

Overview:

Trine is a fantasy action puzzle platformer game that consists of three soul-bound characters that got trapped that way at the beginning of the game through magic making their way through each map in stages. You switch characters depending on which one you want to use, in the style of The Lost Vikings, only that all three characters take up the same place, rather than like in The Lost Vikings each being an independent character that you control once at a time.

The three characters are a mage, a rogue archer, and a warrior.

The mage can move objects around through magic and summon magic cubes/planks, which you can use to use to jump higher or drop on enemies.

The rogue archer is basically the most powerful character in the game. She can fire a ton of arrows that although they don’t do as much damage as the warrior, you can eventually fire multiple numbers of them and you can dispatch enemies safely at a distance. The best ability she has is firing a grappling arrow, sort of like the grappling hook gun that Batman has, which you can use to climb up, slide down, rock back and forth, swing, and all sorts of crazy acrobatics. She can light torches by firing flame arrows at them. For me, she’s basically the main character to use.

The warrior is supposed to be the main fighter, although the rogue archer is superior in my eyes. He mainly mashes things, whether parts of the terrain or boxes or enemies. He can also pick stuff up and move it around and he has a shield which absorbs most damage, so long as you angle it properly. He can also light torches, simply by chopping them with his sword.

There are 3 stats in this game, health, mana/energy, and XP.

Health is pretty self explanatory, with some enemies dropping hearts which can heal you. You can also heal by going to a checkpoint, if your health is lower than the minimum that difficulty setting designates as the minimum.

Mana/energy gets used up any time the mage does anything, or to do special attacks for the other two characters. The rogue archer mainly uses the energy to fire lit arrows when you pick up that power. The warrior uses energy to perform special attacks. You replentish mana/energy by going to the next checkpoint or by picking up blue vials which some enemies drop, which this is the most common drop in the game.

The last stat is XP. You pick this up in green vials that are scattered throughout the map (mainly in hard to reach places) and by killing enemies. When you get enough XP all three characters level up and you get a certain amount of character points which you use to purchase new powers or improve old ones.

The final thing to mention regarding general gameplay is that there are different treasures/loot hidden throughout the maps. Each one can boost your powers by a set amount or add a completely different kind of power to the character. For example, I picked up an item which lets my mage swim under water for unlimited amounts of time.

The game gets told as a fairy tale story, and it’s really well done in that sense.

As of the time of this writing, this game is only available on PC. You can play the demo here from Steam.

This is an indie title by Frozenbyte. It has gained a lot of acclaim/awards from other gaming sites. Overall, it’s a great, although short game.

Fun Factor:

This game is a lot of fun, especially the first time through. There are many different approaches and solutions towards getting through an area or fighting enemies and to me that makes for an intelligent game, which most games are not these days, especially a platformer game. The atmosphere and way the game got made keeps you playing. The first time I played the game I was dead tired and started playing it at 11 PM. I went to bed that day at 5 AM.

For the first playthrough I give the game a Fun Factor score of 9 out of 10. For the repeat plays, I give it a score of 6 out of 10, maybe even 7 if it’s been a while.

Difficulty Versatility:

There are different difficulties but they are mostly the same. The only difference I found in game play is that the amount of health that you get when a character dies and resurrects at the checkpoints is lowered the harder you set it. I got really good at this game real fast so I would recommend playing it right from the start at the max difficulty. Most of the game is pretty easy to me, but some parts are tricky. Difficulty Versatility gets a score of 6 out of 10.

Value:

When I got this game it was $5 (when I announced the sale last time). At that cost, the game is an amazing value.

When it’s not on sale, this game usually goes for about $20. At the time of this writing, you can get it for that much through ebgames.com in DVD and also as the downloaded version. You can get it for the same price through Steam.

You can also get it from Impulse here, which is one of our sponsors.

Trine
$19.99

For $20, considering it took me 5-6 hours to beat the game the first time, it’s not so much a great value. At that cost, I’d give Value a score of 4 out of 10. At a cost of $10, I’d give it a 6 out of 10. At $5, I’d give Value a score of 8 out of 10.

Replayability:

This is a pretty short game. I’ve played it twice so far and the game was predictable the entire 2nd playthrough. I have a good memory and since I just played it back to back, I will probably revisit this game in a year or two. I’d give replayability a 4 out of 10, mainly because it’s such a well made game and the action is well done.

Sound:

The voice acting for the game is great. I enjoy when they argue with each other, regarding the path they are taking for solving the main plot. It’s comical. The mage is a shy dork, the rogue archer is a hot sexy lady, and the warrior is a dumb jock.

The sound effects are well done too. The arrows sound real. The smashing of the warrior’s sword or the impact on his shield sound amazing. Sound gets a score of 8 out of 10. I would have given it a higher score, if it had more voice acting.

Music:

The music for the game is beautiful. It goes well with the atmostphere and the fairy tale setting. The music sometimes reminds me of a Tim Burton kind of fairy tale movie. Danny Elfman would be proud! It is written by Ari Pulkkinen. I wish it were available for download. The music from Trine gets a score of 10 out of 10. It’s simply beautiful.

Graphics:

The game looks beautiful. It reminds me sort of the style that the first Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen had, only from the point of view of a side-scrolling platformer instead of the top down and not pixelated at all. They look well drawn and the game is simply beautiful. For what this game is, the Graphics deserve a score of 10 out of 10.

Stability/Reliability:

The game runs rock solid even while alt-tabbing the living hell out of it. Nothing to complain here. It loads up quickly as well each time. Stability/Reliability gets a score of 10 out of 10.

Controls:

The controls are simple and fluid. Standard WASD + mouse combo work like a charm for Trine. Once you’ve played the game for a while, you will be able to use each character almost as if it’s second nature to you. It doesn’t take long to get used to the controls. Eventually you will find yourself just drilling everything with the rogue archer and the enemies won’t stand a chance. Controls get a score of 10 out of 10.

Performance:

The game runs perfectly on most gaming machines, even some obsolete ones. I never saw lag, not even once during any part of this game. The levels load up quickly as well. Performance gets a score of 10 out of 10.

My history with this game:

This was one of over 300 games I bought during the Steam holiday sale. Although the game is short I enjoyed playing it as much nearly as when I played Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for the first time. I would recommend it to people who like that game a lot, who are PC gamers.