Nexus 2 The Gods Awaken Q&A

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Nexus 2 The Gods Awaken Q&A

Nexus 2 The Gods Awaken is an ongoing Kickstarter project to create a true sequel to a fantastic space tactical game, Nexus, The Jupiter Incident. If you haven’t played the original you can find it on Steam, but it is a must play for any fan of space based games. As said this project is ongoing and needs the assistance of fans and gamers alike to put it over the edge.

We had a chance to chat with Vincent Van Diemen, producer on the project about the thought and development process of the game as well as his background in gaming.

Can you start with telling us about Nexus: The Jupiter Incident for those who might not be familiar with the game?

Nexus is a tactical real-time space game in which you command a fleet of ships through an epic campaign set in an original universe in the near future.

Nexus does a lot of story-telling in all its missions and the way you control your ships is a mixture of micromanagement (especially when you work on the detailed loadout of the ships prior to the missions) and fleet control.

For each and every one of you who don’t know Nexus and want to know more about the actual gameplay (and story), there is a series of play-throughs on YouTube under the title ‘Let’s Play Nexus’. All in 1080p and each episode featuring one single mission of the game. It will take you a full weekend to watch all the episodes, but it’s time well spent.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lototgZSUwk[/youtube]

Give us a general breakdown of Nexus 2?

Nexus 2 is a true sequel to Nexus: The Jupiter Incident. The story picks up 25 years after the events in Nexus 1 and we’ll continue that very story with new developments, new races appearing on the interstellar horizon etc. A new phenomenon is the Psi. These are humans with supernatural powers.

If you know the story of Nexus you know that an AI called Angel disappeared at the end of the game. But where to? The answer lies in the Psi that play an important role in the new story. Because of their extraordinary abilities these Psi are good to have around, and if you can’t have them, then you better make sure your enemies don’t have access to them either.

In terms of gameplay Nexus 2 will stay very close to its predecessor as well. With many improvements of course and some interesting enhancements.

What will the UI in the game look like?

The UI was not the strongest elements of the original game, so we are looking at it very seriously. But it is very hard to say a lot about this. As with many elements of game development we will be trying a lot of stuff, designing it, prototyping it, then refining, redesigning, prototyping etc. Whatever I say about it now, you will probably see something different in the final game.

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Where did the idea come from for the ship designs?

The creation of the ship designs is a complex process. On one hand there is the story. It partly inspires the design of the races. Then a creative mind – such as a concept artist – starts to draw. Then with rough sketches there is interaction between the two disciplines and then the artist moves on (or starts over). If the concept artist has a special source of inspiration is not known to me. I find it an amazing process and I am a big fan of concept art. But the creative part of it is a big black box for me.

As far as controls what can we expect as far as changes in Nexus 2?

Controls will be similar to the original. In fact it’s the same as with the UI. We look at the original game, we discuss what was good and what was bad about it. We redesign whatever we think can be improved and start prototyping it. But – same here – we will not have a groundbreaking new way of ship control. Overall it will stay close to the original, but tweaked.

As far as mission design to you expect it to be linear or more open or perhaps a mix of both?

Simple answer. Linear. We have some ideas about creating some freedom, but story-wise it needs to be linear. Like in Nexus 1 we want to tell a story, we want it to be interesting, a bit like a good sci-fi book. For that we need it to be linear. And we’ll prove once more that linear doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

As far as customizations particularly weapons, can you tell us about how this will be handled in Nexus 2?

Weapons as such cannot be customized. The loadout of ships will be an important task between missions. And during the campaign you will be provided new weapons and utilities to enhance your ships performance in each and every possible way.

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Tell us about the modding that you will allow for the game?

There is a fantastic modding community for Nexus 1 and we know what this did for our game. We are still amazed by what some of these modders did. Really impressive. So, for Nexus 2 we will not only continue to support the modders, but in fact we want to create an even better moddable game. With more and better tools, easier access to parts of the game that were hard to mod in the original. If all goes as planned we will be using the Unreal tech for Nexus 2 and one of the reasons for this is that this tech does allow us easy support for the modding community.

What is your vision for the multiplayer aspect of the game?

Multiplayer will also be similar to Nexus 1, but it’s too early to say too much about it. Multiplayer still needs to be (re-) designed. We have the high level concept ready, but the actual design will probably bring some new ideas. We will see if we have enough time and resources to experiment with these and bring you guys the best multiplayer experience possible.

Are there any specific features that you hope to put in the game?

I am excited about all of the new ideas and features for the game, but these are not mine. I am the producer, not the designer. I am also cautious. Some of the new features may look great on paper, but will they actually work? Is implementing them not too much of a pain (sometimes a single feature breaks a dozen others that were working perfectly before). So, well. That is my job. I definitely have some favorites and I also have some ideas, like for the music. But let’s not get carried away 😉

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Can you tell us about your gaming background?

Once upon a time I had a glorious career in ICT. But in 1993 – the year CD-ROM was introduced I decided to go all games. So, I quit my job and opened a games shop in my home town. Since 2000 I have been working as a producer and I have produced close to 20 games on 5 or 6 different platforms.

As a gamer, I go all the way back to early tabletop gaming devices. My first computer was a Sinclair ZX Spectum. On that machine I learned how to program and I also played many games on it. After that I owned an Atari ST, partly because I was experimenting with electronic music (midi). So, I wrote my own midi software, but also created some games that were distributed in ‘public domain’. Since my ST ended on the attic, I am a PC gamer. I only played GTA4 on the X360, simply because it was not available on PC at first. But a mouse and keyboard are my gaming devices.

Was there a space based game that inspired you before you began working on your own game or perhaps a book, TV series or movie?

You would have to ask the lead designer of Nexus 1, as well as the mission designer(s). I think many of them got their inspiration from books and movies. The lead programmer I know was huge fan of Stanley Kubricks ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. Next time we’ll ask more members of the team what inspired them…

What is your favorite classic game?

Ah, now that is a tricky question. Game, not gameS, right? Well, I am answering it only if I am allowed to mention 2.

Fallout 2 & System Shock 2. Old grumpy guy here J

So there you have it. Be aware this project is ongoing so be on the lookout for more information. Also, if you have a question about the game post a comment and we will put them all together for our next Q&A.

Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect 2
Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect 2 review by Honorabili

WARNING: This review is not for fanboys or people who like simple games or dumbed down RPGs. If you have played as many RPGs as I have, you will find it useful.

One Sentence Review:
“More action-rpg space opera mayhem”

Overall Score:
7 out of 10

Overview:

Mass Effect 2 is a sequel to one of the better modern RPGs out there. Both Mass Effect games are a lot like Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR), taking some elements from the early Fallout games and Planescape: Torment. The game plays like an interactive movie done by a really good director.

I will assume that people who played this game have already played the first one. If you haven’t, you should stop reading this and go play ME1 instead before looking at this game.

You take the role again of Shepard, Captain of the Normandy. I won’t get into any spoilers but the intro of the game will leave you saying “WHAT THE HELL?!” You go around the galaxy recruiting/commanding a team of soldiers, scientists, engineers, etc. trying to uncover clues and complete missions that get you closer to attacking the home of the main baddies, etc.

I won’t cover spoilers and I am writing this review from the perspective of someone that has been playing RPGs from the mid 80s, both normal RPGs (table-top, pen and paper) and classic computer RPGs (non-MMO). Most media out there considers this game the next best thing to sliced bread but I have found some areas that I thought could have been better, especially since they were available in previous Bioware games.

In general, in both games I have a problem with the way they made the dialogue circle. It’s fairly evident after you have been playing for a few minutes that all the nice/good-guy/Paragon options are positioned towards the top of the circle and the asshole/bad-guy/Renegade towards the bottom. My beef with this is that in real life, there’s more to just the extremity of being super nice Jesus Chris Superstar or being Satan/Adolf Hitler. I wish they would have implemented more alignments than just good or bad. In reality nothing is black or white. How about a grey zone? The game has it but all the responses for most of those choices are half assed and you will usually end up getting screwed by the game when you try to apply a rational solution to a problem that compromises both sides.

I wish they would go away from this dumbed down choose-your-own-adventure system and go back towards the roots of more intricate RPGs. It’s kind of annoying how they only phrase part of what your response would be in the options. I miss the days of being able to look at 8-9 different responses that were worded out exactly as my character would deliver them. I would look at lines in Fallout 2 or Planescape: Torment and think “hey, that’s really clever, let’s see what happens?!” Now I can just click on the obvious choices and just keep making my guy nicer/more of an asshole. Like, it takes no skill or thought.

Some people have said that this is now more an action game than rpg. A big problem I found with the action is that there are NO GRENADES. Grenades have been a part of warfare for more than 100 years now. Are you telling me there are no more being used by the military in the future?

Mass Effect 2 vs Mass Effect 1:

ME2 is a lot like part 1 but many things are changed as well.

The first thing that you will notice is that character progression is pretty primitive vs ME1. The game lacks an attribute progression system (hell all attributes in general other than shields, HPs, DPS).

They have done away with the planetary landings/random missions (they are MUCH less in ME2) and your little buggy is gone, which they in turn have replaced with you launching probes (which magically mine minerals for you) from a point and click screen. This is a huge mistake as, at least to me, this was one of the funnest parts of part 1 and that’s the difference between me beating part 1 in 1.5 weeks playing a good 4-6 hours a day and me destroying ME2 in 3 days only. The probing is BORING as hell. I’m good at it but basically as soon as I would start doing it, it would put me in the mood to go do something else (like go play another game or go to sleep). You might say, “Hey, it’s a good concept” but it’s been done right in other games, like Star Control 2 (The Ur-Quan Masters, a 1992 space exploration/combat game, with rpg elements to it). They should have included the buggy and maybe added a chemical analyzer to it to manually explore and drop off mining drones. That might have given the game a feel sort of like Koronis Rift, a lost Lucasfilm Games classic for c64 and other 8-bit computers/systems.

The game was dumbed down even further by removing the inventory system. When you kill enemies the only thing they drop is generic ammo, which you adapt to fit on any gun. This is the same as the previous game, and yes it does make the game go a lot faster. It’s not very realistic though, at least from the perspective of loot. It would have been nice if they gave you bonus money for salvaging and selling the weapons/armor/equipment that enemies dropped, for missions where you can pick that stuff up (not ones where you run off a ship/space station that is blowing up). That part of the game just made no sense to me. Some people think this is an improvement of the game but a good part in just about every RPG is gear/weapons/armor/tool management. Many people who play RPGs care about loot and having special items for their characters. (Some real RPG purists will argue otherwise but the plug-and-play system of loot in this game is just silly).

The game now makes you research for weapon mods, which for which you get resources by probing/mining (the game killer for me). You still buy stuff at stores but they are mainly mods which lead to new research projects for which you still need to waste time mining. This feels like grinding except that you’re not killing anything except strip mining a planet through a simple little interface. Where’s the action?

Fun Factor:

The fight scenes are pretty nice but they are impaired by probing/mining in between missions. I’m only really bitching about it so much because if you want to unlock every item mod/ship mod, you will have to spend time grinding on the probes. That’s not my idea of fun.

The fights themselves are pretty fun, although they are easy, especially with the dumb A.I. (see below) and lack of challenge.

The story is nice, but essentially it’s more of the first game (which I love) but it lacks more secret/side quests. It would have been nice to see more of those that secretly integrated into the background of the main story. An example is in Planescape: Torment when you buy a little toy Modron (an artificial robot race in this fantasy setting) and he lets you go to a special Modron dimension that’s an endless Dungeon. I think something like that is unique in a game but I see how that could make a game company dedicate a lot of resources towards something like that. Some people consider Planescape: Torment to be a failure as a “product” but it’s more like what a real RPG (non video game) is like than many others.

I would have liked as well to have seen a LOT MORE interaction between characters while in missions. I purposely picked characters on missions that would have ethical problems with whatever the mission was at hand. I would have liked to have seen them interacting more with each other, maybe even arguing rather than provide a one liner like “Shepard I don’t agree with this, but you’re the Captain.” They had that in Planescape: Torment but I would like that developed even more than that so it seems like you’re dealing with real people/real characters.

Back to ME2, I would have liked more interactivity with my plot/dialogue choices and more challenging combat and NO grinding/mining (if I wanted that I would go play an MMO). When I played ME1 or KOTOR, I cherished every moment. As I played ME2 I just felt like “okay let’s beat it to say I beat it.” I liked the characters in ME1 more as well but that’s beside the point of this section. Fun Factor got a score of 6 out of 10. Bring back more non-predictable dialogue/plot and better/harder/more intense action and my love will return.

Difficulty Versatility:

Overall, I found this game to be easy. There’s multiple difficulties but overall you won’t feel much of a difference unless you play it on the max difficulty. Doing that will sometimes create a situation where if the story dictates that you get screwed/ambushed by multiple enemies from multiple directions, you will often die then. That’s not really an issue for most of the game because you can just switch the difficulty on the fly through the options menu, and that IS useful.

The A.I. of the game is pretty linear/retarded (for the enemies). It’s not as bad as Dragon Age: Origins (that literally made me stop playing that game, although I bought that game). The biggest problem I had with the A.I. is that the enemies take cover really POORLY. In just about 95% of all combat in the game I have just been able to keep attacking the enemy even when they hide behind a box or wall. I especially love when they hide everything except the top of their head and I just unload a clip of sniper rifle on their sweet spot.

I would have liked the A.I. to get smarter as I set it on a higher difficulty, and not just lower my regen rate. Oh, yes, you have a regen rate in Mass Effect 2. Healing items are pretty common and they’re pretty useless unless you’re a really bad gamer. On the 2nd to last and even on the max difficulty there have only been about 2 real fights where I needed to heal my character. The rest of the time I just take cover and drink some tea and pretend I’m playing Gears of War.

The option to change the difficulty is nice (although it doesn’t do much) but the game is a cakewalk (for me). Difficulty Versatility get a score of 6 out of 10.

Value:

The best price for the PC at the time of this writing that I found quickly was from gogamer.com for $41.90.

For Xbox 360, on gogamer.com they have it on “sale” right now for $52.50, which is a bit steep for me, but then again I don’t buy console games as they are expensive.

The game took me about 3 days to beat which is longer than most new video games these days. The problem with RPGs is that unless they have dramatically different replayabilities then they’re pretty much a game you will play NOW and then again a year or so later. I can justify more paying money like that for a game you can play daily, whether a strategy game (any Civilization game) or FPS (Unreal Tournament series, Call of Duty, Team Fortress 2) than a game you will play sparsely like this one.

Most fans will pay the current amount for the game, if they like it enough to buy. If you are a fast gamer like me, especially for the console crowd, you’re better off renting the game.

I give Value a score of 5 out of 10. Too expensive for my blood to buy but longer than most one shot games out there.

Replayability:

I unlocked pretty much everything on my first run of the game, so I don’t think I’ll replay this for a while now. I’d probably replay Mass Effect 1 before I replay this one anyways (especially since I think ME1 is a better game).

If they add more missions, game modes through DLC then it would entice me to play it again (assuming they addressed at least some of the game design problems I had with ME2). The problem I have with DLC is that it’s simply a way for companies to milk you of more money for stuff they could have included in the game to make it a better game from the start. Business-wise it’s a good move (for profits) but it does make inferior games come out.

Some of my friends are as of this moment replaying it as a different class but the game overall is the same. For me that has the same appeal as watching a movie and then immediately rewatching it. Unless an rpg has a lot of different endings and side quests that are unique to that way you picked to play, then they don’t really have much replayability. Since I have really good memory, I will not go back to ME2 for a long while, maybe before Mass Effect 3 comes out. I give replayability a score of 4 out of 10.

Sound:

The sound effects are nicely picked. You have many sounds from ME1 repeated but they did the job for that game and they continue to work for this one. Some of their menu interfaces have their own sounds and they are pleasant. The weapons sound authentic and that’s important for an action (rpg) game.

The voice actors do a good job and you will hear familiar voices (not just from the gaming industry) doing an amazing job with their characters. I think they add a great level of immersion to the game. Sound gets a score of 9 out of 10.

Music:

The music is great for this game but my beef with it is that it is not constantly playing. There will be some songs like the galaxy interface that you will hear over and over. Some songs, like the ones in your private quarters, are pretty epic, but you can only listen to them by going into that room (for which you hardly ever go into). I would have liked an option to force the game to play music constantly to be integrated, and you can make specific songs override what’s playing for dramatic effect in cut scenes or specific fights.

The music I enjoyed but if we can’t really hear it then it’s not really there. Music gets a score of 7 out of 10. It’s there and great, just absent.

Graphics:

Eye candy! This game looks just as good as ME1 and even almost as good as Dead Space. I think they did a great job with the ingame graphics and cut scene movies. Graphics get a score of 10 out of 10.

Stability/Reliability:

The game never crashed for me, even though I alt-tabbed the game a bunch of times. You’d expect a game with such a pretty graphics engine to go nuts from that but it never did. In fact, I purposely crashed the game sometimes to see if it could recover and the game relaunched immediately, with no performance hit. Stability/Reliability gets a score of 10 out of 10.

Controls:

For PC, the controls are pretty standard. WASD moves you around, the mouse aims, F melee attacks, Shift pauses the game (so that you can issue squad commands and use powers), and Spacebar is the general use/run/everything else key. The controls could have been a bit better, such as including a crouch key, common in most other FPS games, rather than forcing me to run like a little girl for cover. The general action spacebar key sometimes got me killed because my character decided to stand up from cover rather than jump over it. Controls get a score of 7 out of 10. They are enough considering how easy ME2 is but they feel primitive.

Performance:

The game runs pretty okay on my 2 year old gaming PC. There were moments, especially during heavy action sequences when the game did lag/skip frames. Most people will be satified with the overall performance of the game, especially since the graphics of the game are PRETTY. Performance gets a score of 8 out of 10.

My history with this game:

Overall, I like the game. (I’m not as much of a hater as you’d think, but I am critical). I have my opinions on what I wish they would have done differently and I hope they implement some of those changes especially for when we see Mass Effect 3, which is pretty much guaranteed to be made considering how much money this franchise makes.