In which I present a set of freely usable scenarios for any RPG designer to steal.
No, no, no. You’re welcome.
RPS Feature Whose Questline Is It Anyway?
In which I present a set of freely usable scenarios for any RPG designer to steal.
No, no, no. You’re welcome.
RPS Feature A bit like Wikipedia, but on paper
Since the invention of the RPG, there have been many, many RPGs. Maybe too many to count. At least six! Let’s see. Ultima VII. Al-Qadim: The Genie’s Curse. The Magic Candle III. Faery Tale Adventure II: Halls of the Dead. Two or three more, probably, and that’s if you don’t count Quest For Glory. But who has time to play them all?
Oh, if only there was a ridiculously large tome devoted to trying to catalogue them all in a decent amount of depth, currently at 450 pages and rising. If only. If only…
RPS Feature Words read: 2 / 1921
Previously in this column, somehow not taken up by the industry as of yet, I suggested that the word ‘quest’ was being somewhat damaged of late by the fact that it can be anything from ‘Kill the Great Red Dragon’ to ‘bring me some orange juice.’ I advocated a system where instead, tasks were split between two basic categories – what used to justifiably be called ‘quests’, and the more prosaic ‘shit to do’. I realise now though that I missed an important third category, World Quests, named because scattering mostly pointless crap everywhere is much easier than actually filling an open world.
RPS Feature It 'aint easy beating green
Like many, my relationship to World of Warcraft [official site] has shifted over the years, from second home (though never second job, unlike many) to an occasional jaunt to go catch up with my Undead Mage and see the latest fun stuff and twists and turns in Blizzard’s ongoing demonic soap opera. Sure, it’s a theme park, but so’s Disneyworld. I like making return trips to The Haunted Mansion too. And, with Legion, Blizzard’s done a much better job than its previous expansions of providing reasons to either stick around or come back. With Patch 7.2, Tomb of Sargeras, I decided to check back in on the battle against both The Burning Legion and the six-month content drought. From my perspective as a casual soloer, sure, but there’s quite a few of us.
RPS Feature The long awaited follow-up to Forgotten Realms: Baldur's Gate
If you go down to planescape.com today, you’re sure of a big surprise. Unless you’re expecting a countdown, in which case, it’s that. What could it mean? Well, if you open the page source, you’ll see a secret message hidden in there – 0x50 0x53 0x54 0x45 0x45. Convert that from ASCII numbers to letters and you get PSTEE. The two most likely translations of that are either Planescape Torment: Enhanced Edition as Beamdog’s latest updated release, or someone is really looking forward to going down to Gregg’s for a pastie sometime on Tuesday. It’s not confirmed. It could be something else. Maybe there’s a ‘Planescape Kids’ TV series coming out. Nobody’s told me.
Though it would explain this changelog I found lying around the other week… Read the rest of this entry »
RPS Feature Uneasy Ryder
Since the original trailers, some players have had questions about Mass Effect Andromeda [official site] and some of its details. In the name of answers, we present this snippet from the official prequel novel. Available March 28th from all good bookshelves.
From where Director Tann stood, the curves of the Nexus stretched out like the wings of an angel, embracing Andromeda and all its potential. He winced at the thought. Human thought. Sentimental. Shameful. A thought most unbecoming of a salarian, who should have seen nothing but steel and forceshields, aluminium and plastic.
The buzzer rang. Ah. Distraction. How welcome.
“Send him in.” Read the rest of this entry »
RPS Feature Breath of fresh air
Regardless of platform, when you’ve got so many people rushing to call a game ‘possibly the best game ever’, it’s worth taking a look. This week then, what can RPGs learn from the 1994’s Rise of the Robots – the action brawler that combined ugly rendered graphics with ridiculous AI, and a musical score produced by the Queen’s own Brian May sitting uncomfortably on his keyboard for a while.
Hmm. I can’t think of anything. Fine. Let’s talk about the new Zelda instead. In particular, how its devotion to freedom goes well beyond simply giving you a map to play. Inevitably, spoilers follow, though it’s not really a plot game. Neverthless:
WARNING. I’M TALKING ABOUT THE FINAL LOCATION/VILLAIN
THIS IS A THING THAT WILL BE TALKED ABOUT IF YOU READ ON
COMPLAIN ABOUT SPOILERS AND I WILL LAUGH AT YOU
(A LINK TO THE PAST IS STILL THE BEST ONE)
RPS Feature Digital archeology
There’s no better way to cause trouble than to talk about ‘firsts’. Say for instance that King’s Quest IV featured the first female adventure character, and you’re probably going to be drowned out by some pedant waving a copy of Infocom’s Plundered Hearts in your face. That pedant may even be me. Of course, that’s nothing compared to the folly of calling, say, Everquest the first MMO and leaving it without some very quick clarification. The extent of the first M in MMORPG, the importance of success over existence, the jump between mainframe and computer and all manner of other stuff makes it tricky to plant a flag everyone can actually agree deserves to be there.
But there aren’t many games with a better claim than Lucasarts’ Habitat, the latest classic game to get a fancy modern revival project. It definitely deserves it.
RPS Feature The Long Journey Here
Hello, God talking. At least, within a certain small sphere. Like a few of Team RPS, I’ve been writing for games as well as writing about them recently, most prominently as the writer of Daedalic Studio West’s The Long Journey Home [official site] – a space exploration RPG with roguelike elements (but not the crap ones). You know. A SERPGWRENCO. We’re now at the stage where my job is basically done, the universe is designed, the dialogue is all written, and I’m asking tramps on the street if I can borrow their whisky just so I can breathe heavily into the bag. There’s not much more fun than working on a game inspired by some of your favourites, notably Star Control 2. At the same time, well… oh dear, here comes that pesky hyperventilation again…
But I’m not here to market, but to talk tools. I know I’m always interested in seeing behind the scenes, so this week, I thought I’d pull back the curtain a little to talk not so much about what I’ve been working on, but what I’ve been working in.
RPS Feature New perspectives
Darkest Dungeon is an RPG in which four flawed heroes face damnably transcendent terrors as they explore the ancient narrow passages beneath a cursed mansion. Notch by notch, their grasp on sanity slips and their vitality trickles thinner as their torch dims and new horror befalls them.
This is a game in which pressure mounts, misfortune crushes, and mistakes are punished. You can’t expect your party to always survive, whether driven to death or madness, and its turn-based combat plays out with the constant understanding that every decision can turn on a knife-edge: a missed hit, an ill-considered target, the wrong ability. And a lot of that tension is founded on something that on its face sounds prosaic, even old-fashioned:
THE MECHANIC: 2D combat Read the rest of this entry »
RPS Feature The Psychopath's Toybox
I forget which game it was, exactly. If I had to pick one, I’d say probably the text adventure Humbug. It doesn’t really matter, as it’s not really the game’s fault, but I still remember the sadness of being told to go into the inventory and realising that while I was thinking of a big room full of bubbling liquids in interesting flasks and other cool science stuff, the game was actually saying ‘look in your pockets’. Especially as if it was Humbug, it’s a game about wandering around and exploring your crazy inventor grandfather’s house. I must have searched for whole minutes, back in 1990.
There’s never been a game that really harnessed that desire, but still, it explains a lot about one of my favourite things in RPGs – particularly those of the early 90s – that the inventory often was a place to experiment rather than simply pluck the correct item at the correct time. Even if then, as now, it’s often been more accident than design.
RPS Feature Backed by the Space Pope
Yes, it’s that time again… give or take a week. 2017’s looking like a fantastic year for RPGs already, thanks to the second big wave of Kickstarters due to hit, and bringing sequels and brand new adventures with it. But, let’s not get complacent. Since I sadly cannot, and would not be so arrogant as to lay down resolutions for the industry without its will, instead there will be Commandments that are Law.
Which is a bit like lore, only harder to skip by hammering the ESC key.
RPS Feature What's it like to revisit the WoW of old?
Last week saw the return of World of Warcraft‘s most controversial server, Nostalrius. It’s a private server which aims to recreate the experience of ‘vanilla’ World of Warcraft – that is, WoW as it was at or shortly after launch, before being supplemented and re-shaped by a hundred updates and multiple expansions. Logging on, I’m told “Position in queue, 3801. Estimated time: 47 minutes”, before being ushered into a world of lag and people complaining about random disconnects. So, uh… yeah! Congratulations to the team for perfectly recreating the vanilla WoW experience!
RPS Feature A Two Year Tradition
As mentioned last week, it’s been one of those years. Lots of the biggest RPGs that we were expecting decided to spend a few more months in bed, or simply skip 2016. Can’t blame them! It’ll mean an awesome 2017, even if looking back there’s only been a few big names to pick from. Still, tradition is tradition! This week, another year marks another set of the RPG genre’s most fiercely fought-over fictional awards.
(Disclaimer: Actual fighting may also be fictional, all awards are based on the incredibly scientific principle of Wot I Think, awards cannot be exchanged for money, goods or services unless they too are entirely fictional. Please write all questions or complaints onto the back of a Myst CD using a Sharpie, break it into four pieces and bury them in interesting points around the globe for future treasure hunters to encounter, reforge, and then gag “Oh, god, Myst…” Or indeed, not. Completely your choice!)
RPS Feature What to look forward to next year
So… 2016. (FX: ‘Urrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh….’) It’s not been the greatest of years, from just about every celebrity you might have loved deciding to peg it, to America electing the Curious Orange. As far as RPGs go, it’s also been fairly quiet, thanks to lots of stuff deciding to stay in the oven for a few more months. That’s not to say we’ve had nothing, not least Early Access versions of many of these games. Awards are coming later this month! But in terms of big, BIG, BIG releases, it’s been kinda quiet. Next year though? Whoooo-boy, do we have a lot of awesome stuff on the way. Here are some of my picks for the games I’m most excited to get my hands on in 2017.
RPS Feature Ankle-deep
It’s been a long time coming, but finally here’s my final review of Tyranny [official site], having completed the very lengthy game. You can read my thoughts at about the mid-point here, and I’d say I’ve changed my mind about very little, other than to have a greater respect for where the story was heading. Here’s wot I think: Read the rest of this entry »
RPS Feature Shelf assured
If you want Geralt to go and fight monsters for you, it’ll probably cost a few orens. To have him on your shelf? If you’re lucky, about £25. I’ve been waiting to get my hands on the official Witcher 3 figure set for months now… and honestly, I’m still waiting. They were originally due out at the end of October, only to be delayed until November. I was hoping to cover the entire series in one go, but that would mean delaying at least a week, and I suspect these things are going to be in high demand. So, to increase the odds of you being able to snag one for Christmas, let’s check out Geralt and Triss.
Spoiler: They’re every bit as good as you’d hope after the games. Read the rest of this entry »
RPS Feature The meek shall inherit NOTHING!
So, a confession. My plan for this week was to talk about Obsidian’s Tyranny [official site] – the game, not any rumours of Feargus Urquhart openly stealing puddings from the company fridge no matter how well labelled! Unfortunately, that plan hit a tiny snag… I haven’t had a chance to play much of it yet. A shame, simply because the genre is well overdue a game that, to quote, Kakos Industries, Does Evil Better.
This week then, a tribute to and call out for the games that at least did evil interesting.
RPS Feature In space, nobody can hear your bias
This week, something a little different. I’m going to talk about something I’m working on myself. Obviously, this brings with it certain complications. I’m won’t pretend not to be biased, though I don’t mean this to be an advert. I just thought it would be interesting to share some of what I’ve been working on as the writer and co-quest designer of Daedalic Studio West’s The Long Journey Home [official site], and to dig in to the difficulties and decisions that underpin the making of RPG quests.
Got the disclaimer? Cool. Filter accordingly as we blast off. Next week, back to other games and/or long rants about where my bloody Witcher 3 action figures are.
RPS Feature Welcome to the big time, pal!
Even by Blizzard’s standards, The Mean Streets of Gadgetzan is taking the piss. In case you missed it, which I know you didn’t, but work with me here, it’s the newest Hearthstone expansion. The trailer is wonderful. The setting is a corrupt crime-town full of gangsters, hoodlums and mugs, all fighting for cash and control in a tongue-in-cheek mix of Lord of the Rings and Bugsy Malone. I’d love to play a full adventure/RPG/heck even shooter set in that world, not just play with a new set of cards using it as a theme. In just a minute of charismatic art and a fun song, Blizzard fleshed out Gadgetzan with more love and more detail than some games manage in their entire runs.
But, uh, here’s the thing. This is what Gadgetzan actually looks like.