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Radiating Passion: Wasteland 2's Design Document

Wasteland 2 is one of the fathers of the now adolescent Kickstarter revolution and, in keeping with early suggestions, it looks like this is one dad who'll be comfortable having all the necessary talks with his kids. Very open he is.

"We are not afraid of the transparency of our process and thinking and intend to share it along the way."

That said, today not only brings the superbly redesigned artwork above but also, as spotted by Blue, the release of a "vision document" that contains a huge amount of information about the principles that will drive development. Read it in the link back there or follow me to the irradiated underbelly where selected morsels roam.

There's plenty of background on the world of Wasteland but it's the design choices that are of most interest to me. First up is a shot fired at the RPGs of today.

RPGs haven’t kept pace with time - they've regressed and even worse, taken pride in less role-playing than before. Important elements have been lost over time, sacrificed to technology, art constraints, voice-over expenses, and multi-platform console constraints. Wasteland 2 has no such limitations, it brings these RPG elements back, takes them out of the attic, and makes them part of gameplay again.

One of the key elements that Wasteland 2 will concentrate on is full party control, not just in selection of abilities but in appearance and personality.

Will the wastes remember you and your team as diplomatic defenders of justice? As a group of intimidating, brutish thugs?

I became rather excited when I misread 'brutish' as 'British' but without recorded voices I'll be able to read out all the dialogue in a series of exaggerated regional British accents anyway, so no harm done.

It's going to look rubbish though, right? Just brown from here to the horizon, with the occasional bit of gray that, if you squint, looks a bit like a dilapidated building? Not so!

Wasteland also draws strength through its visual style. We don’t want continual stretches of barren, desolate, single-color landscapes – we want green, vibrant overgrowth crawling across the terrain and over buildings and skyscrapers, colorful patchwork signs and facades dotting the horizon, river-cut canyons, and other environmental lures intended to draw you forward.

And as you explore the world, you’ll see hints of what the world was like before as well. The world before the cataclysm was a society of towering skyscrapers of steel, concrete and glass. Styled after architecture of the 70's and 80's and 90's their striking geometric forms cut into the blue skies.

Knowing that makes the update of the original boxart even more impressive.

There's a great deal of emphasis on choices and customisation, including the promise of modding support and imported portraits among other things, but it's the words "Game mechanics that tell the story" that make most excited. It's something I'm used to banging the drum about in strategy games and simulations, something that the majority of my favourite games do so very well. It's hard for me to recall a recent RPG that could make that claim though. If Wasteland 2 can really allow the systems to engineer narrative it could be everything I hoped for when all this excitement first started.

Of course, it's all just words (and a few pieces of concept art) at the moment but they are rather splendid words.

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