Posts Tagged ‘The RPG Scrollbars’

The RPG Scrollbars: A Farewell Dip Into The Archives

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It is said that the greatest test is that of time. Actually, I’m not sure if anyone’s said that, except me just then. But that’s fine. I’m sure everyone will remember. Anyway, in the final edition of The RPG Scrollbars, let’s take a look back to see what the people of the past said about what was the present but is now, by the laws of causality, in fact that past. With some help from the magazine archives at archive.org, natch.

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The RPG Scrollbars: Second Chance Servers

It is a truth universally accepted as a buggerance that nothing good lasts forever. The server of your favourite online game will go down. History will move on. The Grim Reaper will move in to slash the network server connection, mumbling about what an obvious waste it is of his talents. Ah, but in the world of digital, things are only over when everyone agrees it’s over. As long as enough of the dissenters have sufficient technical skill and cash for servers. And a little bit of luck avoiding lawyers.

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The RPG Scrollbars: The Many Faces Of Villainy

Not only does a great hero need a great villain, villains are usually just so much more fun. Whether it’s the tortured lost soul who can only find peace by destroying the universe or the cheery psychopath looking to see the world burn, it’s no wonder that many of the greatest films of all time have been defined at least as much by the baddie as any individual scene. Darth Vader, the Terminator, Norman Bates, Dracula… villains get people excited. A great villain lives forever, death be damned. Read the rest of this entry »

The RPG Scrollbars: Quests Done Quick II

It’s Summer Games Done Quick time again! You know what that means. The final seal has been broken, the rivers are turning to blood, and High Dread Azagorath is free to destroy the land. But while people wait, they’re doing speed-runs. And in celebration of that, I thought I’d take a dig through the archives for a few particularly impressive and interesting ones that take that whole idea of a fifty hour epic and beat it down so quickly, the hero’s hometown doesn’t even have time to finish smouldering.

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The RPG Scrollbars: Gameshow For A LARP

This week saw the return of one my all-time favourite TV programmes, Channel 4’s The Crystal Maze – the knockabout silliness of a team, thankfully not usually including Louie Spence, bopping around four time-zones (Industrial, Aztec, Medieval and Futuristic) in a quest to recover magic time crystals, win distinctly underwhelming prizes, and ideally not look like a complete arse. It’s a wonderful show. But, sadly, not one I can really justify talking about while pretending to write an RPG column. Luckily, it is but part of a great lineage – the wonderful world of British TV LARPing.

Just not the kind where you’re going to see many lightning bolt, lightning bolts.

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The RPG Scrollbars: Universes Built For Sharing

For a few horrible minutes during E3, it looked like Bethesda might seriously claim that The Elder Scrolls and Fallout were part of the same universe. Thankfully, not. Despite this being an era where Sony wants a Ghostbusters universe and Universal thinks demeaning the Universal Monsters by linking them with a top-sekrit monstah hunting group led by Dr Jekyll is anything other than schoolboy fan-fiction, Bethesda’s Pete Hines has been quick to go “What? No. No! No…” Phew! Honestly, it’s bad enough that Daggerfall has six endings, ranging from the villain becoming a god to orcs being either defeated or victorious, and canonically all of them are true.

But at a time when we’re seriously asked to pretend that “Dark Universe” is a thing we should want to see, that unholy union really wasn’t impossible…

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The RPG Scrollbars: In search of urban fantasy

There’s a real urban fantasy gap in the gaming industry, and it’s never made much sense. We see a thousand Tolkienesque fantasy games a minute (rough napkin calculation) and the future’s typically so bright, even the lens flares need shades. Yet when it comes to that line where the mundane meets the magical, mostly what we’ve had for the last few years is false hope. Hope that World of Darkness would bring the complexity of Eve to the mean streets of Chicago or wherever. Hope that the right person with a big chequebook would get hooked on something like The Dresden Files or Hellblazer. Hope that games like The Secret World would lead the way.

So much wasted opportunity, just sitting there and waiting to be seized.

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The RPG Scrollbars: Language Of Uncommon Tongues

The sign of a truly hardcore world is that it has its own languages. Klingon. Dothraki. Elvish. The term for these is ‘Conlangs’ – aka ‘constructed languages’ – and whether you see them as a vital part of world-building or a joke-in-waiting on The Big Bang Theory (they’re due a third one one of these days), there’s more to them than just slapping together some uncommon syllables and hoping it sounds alien. Well, actually, that’s exactly how Klingon started, but never mind. Done right, paying attention to language offers more than just another DVD extra. Or at least, it can do…

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The RPG Scrollbars: The Fall Of Tyranny

Kickstarter’s been pretty good for RPGs. We may not have seen the next big leap yet – Divinity: Original Sin 2 is looking pretty damn special, mind – but it’s certainly breathed new life into the classics. Wasteland and Pillars of Eternity are both returning. Numenera went down well, despite a little over-promising. Divinity was superb.

Have I left anyone out? (Oh yeah, don’t forget Taz.)

Oh. Yes. Tyranny. If you thought that game kinda landed and faded quickly, you’re not alone. Despite being a very solid half of a game, even Obsidian/Paradox have admitted that when it came to it, “everyone was hoping that it would do better.” I think it deserved to. The thing is, I’m not sure this should have been a huge surprise.

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The RPG Scrollbars: A Meal Fit For A Hero

“mage food pls”

Gladly! Speaking as a carbon-based lifeform with the need to convert sustenance into continued existence and also poop, I consider myself quite the food devotee. I’m not sure what I’d do without it, except to curl up and die. This, of course, is where most RPG characters have the advantage over us, or at least, have for the last twenty years. Who can forget the Ultima crew, stuffing baguettes and cheese and grapes down their gullet like a production line, only to instantly complain about being hungry? How long ago those days are now. Now, food is typically an optional extra; a way of starting the day with a little more power and a Well Fed flag.

Gosh. If only the same happened when their food entered our realm. As it does, on occasion…

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The RPG Scrollbars: Cool Setting, Bro!

The problem with fantasy is that it’s often not very… well… fantastical. Far too often, even brand new worlds feel like Tolkein or Warcraft or Star Wars with a few twists, and the serial numbers scraped off. The good thing about this is that when a game does take us somewhere new, it feels all the more special for it. This week then, a quick look back at some which have caught my attention for their sense of place. That doesn’t necessarily mean super-original in the great scheme of things, or even not based on a licensed work, or even necessarily that the world contained a great game. These are just a few settings that have stood out from the crowd as cool ideas that surprised, inspired, and deserve borrowing or dusting off.

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The RPG Scrollbars: The CRPG Book Project

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

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The RPG Scrollbars: Saving World Quests

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.

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The RPG Scrollbars: Back To World of Warcraft: Legion

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.

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The RPG Scrollbars: Predicting Planescape

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 »

The RPG Scrollbars: Before Mass Effect Andromeda

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 »

What can PC RPGs learn from Zelda: Breath of the Wild?

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)

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The RPG Scrollbars: Making the RPG genre work in VR

About a year ago, I bought myself a HTC Vive. Since then, it’s gathered a fair bit of dust. I swear, it’s not that I’m a VR skeptic, so much as someone without a whole lot of space to play with who prefers being able to go to the toilet at night without tripping over what I’m going to call ‘a Maplin’ of expensive cabling. Of late though, I’ve been feeling the urge to go back in, largely I must say inspired by stuff I can’t actually play, like the intro to I Expect You To Die (Vive version is coming, I can’t be arsed with Revive) and watching the new Psychonauts and Arkham VR experiences from the PSVR.

So, I did. And I had some fun playing around with some new stuff.

My RPG based dreams though feel further away than ever.

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The RPG Scrollbars: Great ideas more RPGs should steal

They say that they who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it. When it comes to game design though, good ideas fall through the cracks and get forgotten all the time. This week then, I’m going to list a few of my favourite small features from classic or obscure games alike that I think would be cool to see more often, and quite probably ask you for a few of yours. Sounds like a plan? Excellent! Remember, we’re looking for small, specific stuff rather than, say, ‘good combat engine’. The kind of spark that perhaps only one or two games have ever tried, or which have faded for whatever reason over the years, but new games really should steal. Let’s start obscure, with…

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