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Left 4 Dead 2 update brings Linux support and Extended Mutations

 Left 4 Dead 2 update brings Linux support and Extended Mutations


Like the zombies it’s filled with, Left 4 Dead 2 just won’t stay down. Valve continue to update their co-op FPS with new features – this time shoring up the game’s Steam Workshop support with an official release of their Extended Mutations. In effect, they’ve mutated the mutators to provide advanced scripting tools to the community, allowing them to tweak rules and create new game modes. Like adding tiny, shrunken undead. They’d be cute if not for the biting.



Valve say they’ll be highlighting some of the best mutations on the official blog later in the week. For now, they recommend Holdout: “It is a multi-map Mutation that includes the concept of resources and buildable items. It was created to showcase some of the functionality of EMS and as a byproduct, it is pretty damn fun.” Valve plan to continue supporting the top community mutations through official servers.

This latest update also marks the full release of other beta features, including Linux support – which has now been rolled out to allow testing on further builds and distros. You can find the full patch notes here.

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Joystick and Other Game Controllers for Linux

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Linux systems support a wide variety of games and emulators. Obviously, many Linux gamers will want to use joystick controllers or other game controllers for gaming instead of a keyboard. Thankfully, Linux supports many game controllers. The Linux kernel contains drivers for several joysticks and controllers, so many Linux gamers can plugin their game controller and begin playing. However, the Linux kernel does not support all joysticks and controllers. Adding support for these controllers and making them work is easy to do.

First, here are some random facts that may be helpful to know about Linux and game controllers. The xf86-input-joystick module is not a driver for gaming. Instead, it allows users to move the cursor with a joystick rather than the mouse. The xserver-xorg-input-joystick driver acts the same way. So, on Linux gaming systems, uninstall xserver-xorg-input-joystick and xf86-input-joystick if they are on the system. Otherwise, the joysticks will only control the cursor and not a game. It is also helpful to know that on Linux, the device path for the first game controller to be plugged in is /dev/input/js0, the second would be /dev/input/js1, and so on.

If the Linux system does not recognize the game controller, then the gamer has one of two issues. One, the game itself may not allow controllers. For instance, the video game Supertux v0.1.3 does not support controllers but Supertux v0.3.3 does support controllers. The second possible problem may be the lack of support for the game controller. To fix this issue, install “joystick” by installing it through the system’s package manager or by typing “sudo apt-get install joystick” in a terminal with root privileges. This is a joystick driver that adds support for more controller types. Users may also want to install the joystick configuration utility “jstest-gtk” by typing “sudo apt-get install jstest-gtk” in a terminal with root privileges. This tool (discussed later) can help make a controller work by calibrating the device.

If the controller is still not recognized by the system, then check /dev/input/js0. If the file /dev/input/js0 is missing (if the controller in question is js0), then check the connection ports and cables associated with the game device. Also, make sure that the controller is not broken. If the controller has a light that turns on when plugged into a computer, then the gamer will know that the connection and power is fine between the Linux system and the controller. If the controller requires batteries, then try putting in new batteries. To make sure that Linux is recognizing the device, type “cat /dev/input/js0" in the command-line. Now, when a button is pressed or a joystick is moved, odd symbols will appear on the screen. When finished with this last test, press "Ctrl-c". If all of these tips fail, then perhaps one of the suggestions further on in the article will help.

The joystick configuration utility “jstest-gtk” allows gamers to calibrate their controller and test the controller’s functionality. With the controller(s) plugged in, click a controller to configure the settings. Under the buttons heading on the controller configuration window, are several white boxes with a number inside. For every button pressed on the controller, one of those boxes turn black. This allows users to make sure that each button is recognized by the system. If two buttons make the same box dark, then the system is acting as if those two buttons are the same. This would mean the user needs a different driver. After checking the buttons, try moving the joystick(s). The “+” in one of the circular graphs should move. This calibrator shows three graphs, so if the controller only has one joystick, do not worry, the controller was not detect incorrectly. If a joystick is moved to the upper-left corner and two or three of the bars below show -32767, then the joystick is detected. Moving the joystick up should show -32767 and moving down should display 32767 (not negative). Moving the controller left should make one or two bars show -32767 and moving right will display 32767. When testing all of the joystick’s directional movements, move the joystick all of the way to each direction. If a number other than positive or negative 32767 is shown and/or the numbers are not zero at the joystick’s default position, then calibration is needed. On many controllers, testing the arrow keys uses the graph and number bars like the joysticks. Testing and calibration is the same.

NOTE: If a joystick(s) or arrow keys are not recognized or the test results show numbers other than +/-32767, the controller may have an “Analog” button that changes the controller’s behavior. Pressing this button may make a joystick and/or arrows work correctly.

NOTE: For calibration and testing, the controller must be turned on (if it has an on/off switch or button) and powered properly.

NOTE ON WIRELESS DEVICES: If the controller is wireless, make sure that the bluetooth, radio, infrared, etc. settings are correctly configured and installed. Often times, users assume that the wireless controller’s connection is fine. Also, interference from other devices may play a part in the controller’s odd behavior.

Some hardware manufacturers supply Linux drivers. A Linux gamer could still use an unsupported controller if the manufacturer supports a Linux driver. If not, then the gamer should look for a driver by searching websites like Launchpad.net, Sourceforge.net, and Google Code. The user may also try searching their package manager for a driver. For instance, a user may have a Wii controller that they wish to use on their Linux system. To make this device usable on the system, they may search their package manager or the Internet and find the xwiimote driver. This is a driver specifically for the Wii remote.

NOTE: To install the xwiimote via command-line, type “sudo apt-get install xwiimote" in a terminal with root privileges. Alternately, search for the driver in the system’s package manager.

NOTE: When installing drivers, it is best to restart the computer. Although Linux does not seem to require this most of the time, it is a better practice to restart the system when adding drivers or changing the kernel. Other than that, the user does not need to perform other tasks for the driver. The kernel will handle the rest.

Some games may need to be configured for controllers. To do this, look through the options, setting, and/or preferences of the game in question. Under the settings for game controls, change each keyboard button to a key on the controller. Depending on the game, this can be done by selecting a particular command (like jump) and press a button on the controller that should be “jump”.

Once a gamer has tried all of these tasks, their game controller should work. If not, try setting up an account here https://bugzilla.kernel.org/, and report that the kernel does not support the controller. However, before reporting to the kernel developers, make sure that the system is up-to-date, especially the kernel. Also, be absolutely sure that the device itself is fine and that the game supports controllers. When the report is filed, be thorough about describing the device. This means including the model number, manufacturer, date made, connection type (it may be an issue with the port driver - unlikely), and one or more easy ways to obtain a controller of that type. Informing the kernel developers on how to obtain the device is not required, but it will help the kernel developers and make their task easier. They can then obtain the controller and use it to test and develop drivers.

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Shadowrun Online Creators Detail Its Free To Play Model

Realizing that there’s been confusion over the free to play business model underlying the upcoming Shadowrun Online, the game’s creators have opted to explain things in clear, plain language.

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When Shadowrun Online joins the ever-expanding ranks of free to play massively multiplayer online roleplaying titles at some as-yet-undetermined point in the future, the game will feature its own unique take on the increasingly common revenue system. Unfortunately, anything new is bound to generate confusion, and that’s exactly what’s happened with Shadowrun Online. Thus, in the interest of clearing up any misinformation, the people behind the game have posted a new entry on the game’s official blog that lays everything out clearly.

The quick and dirty version is that there will be two groups of players, the premium group who shells out cash for a subscription to the title, and those who are playing the game for free. Both of these groups will buy and sell items using the game’s core currency (Nuyen, for you Shadowrun geeks), but the free to play set can also spend real-world cash for extra bonuses that the premium group receives innately. Further, the premium group receives bonus cash and experience during gameplay, and their actions are weighted more heavily than the free to play gamers when it comes to advancing the MMO’s global storyline. To what degree this holds true remains to be seen.

With all of that in mind, it should be noted that all players, regardless of payment status, will be playing on the same server and have the ability to complete all the same content alongside any other player in Shadowrun Online. Also, if a free to play gamer opts to pay for a subscription, his or her characters and progress will carry over to the new payment model. The only real change is that all of the aforementioned subscriber bonuses will then be applied to their future Shadowrun Online gameplay sessions.

Those of you who’ve been playing MMOs for years may suddenly be wondering what happens if a premium player decides to be extra generous to a free to play player. Specifically, what’s to stop a premium player from powerleveling a free to play gamer, thus removing all challenge? The developers have an answer for this too:
Premium items cannot not be given to characters if they belong to the ‘other’ business model. As we expect different cash levels (campaigners may be more affluent), cash will also not be traded, which incidentally also discourages professional cash farmers - though you can always sell your item to the fixer, of course. Professional cash farming (for those who don’t know it) is often done by involuntary labor (read modern-day-slaves) and we have no intention of supporting that.
You can find more granular details of this system on the official blog, alongside a handy chart to help you remember how everything works. Needless to say, those who shell out money to play Shadowrun Online will have a more streamlined, lucrative existence in the game, but the scheme doesn’t seem to offer players a “pay to win” option per se. In short, you’re free to continue anticipating Shadowrun Online.

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Haunt a First Person Horror for Linux

From Linuxaria


Some time ago Mark Hadley (AgentParsec) created a game that captivated gamers around the world. Slender: The Eight Pages, available for free on Windows and Mac this was a short, experimental game that helped to breathe new life into the horror genre through its use of pure, uncensored fear.

Inspired by this game and its success Haunt (formerly known as Haunt: The Real Slender Game) is an adventure/horror game released for Linux, Mac and Windows that bring you in these terrifying setting.

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Synopsis

An unnamed male character comes across an abandoned pickup truck outside the fenced off Green Park in Poland. The truck belongs to a paranormal investigation/historical preservation organization known as, Project: HAUNT. Along with the truck the character discovers a portfolio with a document regarding the purpose of Project: HAUNT. Out of curiosity, the unnamed male ventures into the park to investigate the whereabouts of the organizations members and their discoveries by collecting a set of documents and photographs as well as keys to locked off locations within the parks grounds.

The story of Haunt is different from the original Slender Man mythos and story. By reading the scraps of paper found in the game (if the player has the chance to do it, since standing still for too long will make Slender Man kill you), the player discovers that the Project: HAUNT members caught a group of periodists that were in the building area. Mark Slender (one of the periodists) managed to escape the building and was able to hide in a bunker near the building, but the project members found him and burned him inside the bunker, which failed to instantly kill him but managed to burn his face beyond recognition. The group then left Mark for dead and the “Mark Slender case” was closed, but the project members began to experience paranoia as well as other symptoms.

The gameplay

The point of this game is to find all the scraps of the notes, in which each one has information about what happened. The player will also find the park map billboard in a lot of areas, to find out where they currently are. In addition, there are keys you’ll need to find to unlock access to some of those places, and there are special photos to find on the Gamer and Paranormal difficulty level settings.

The game has 3 difficulty settings:

Noob – Infinite Flashlight / Map Markers / Small Slender Agro / No Extra Photos To Find / Darkness Will Never come
Gamer – Batteries / No Markers(This is currently bugged) / Medium Slender Agro / Extra Photos To Find / Night Will Come
Paranormal – Batteries / No Markers / High Slender Agro / Extra Photos To Find / Game Starts At Night

So to see all the photos and information available you should end the game at “Paranormal”, but I suggest to start as “Gamer” in your first couple of games, and if you are killed right from the start don’t worry…it’s normal.

Installation

The files are waiting for authorization (IndieDB and Desura) and the game it’s on the greenlight program on Steam so at the moment the best way to get the .zip file with the full game it’s download it from Game Front, if your country it’s on the “white list” of this provider, Italy is not :( , while it’s allowed from United States and many other countries.

If your country is not allowed on Game Front you can use atomicgamer as alternative, but for me it’s been painfully slow.

Once downloaded the file unzip it and rename the folder Haunt_1_Data in Haunt_1.1_Data, after that you should be able to run Haunt_1.1.x86_64 and play the game, from a terminal you can use these commands:

mv Haunt_1_Data/ Haunt_1.1_Data
chmod +x Haunt_1.1.x86_64
./Haunt_1.1.x86_64


Please remember that it’s still a beta version and there could be some bugs in the game.

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Indie 2D Fantasy ARPG Chasm leaps over Kickstarter goal

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The promising Chasm has met its Kickstarter target – and not just because it gave me an excuse to use that exciting headline. OK, so it’s mostly that, but I also like the cut of the action RPG’s jib. The Symphony of the Night/Zelda/Diablo-inspired sidescroller has brought in all $150,000 required to make the game happen. It’s still a few…hundred thousand dollars shy of achieving all its stretch goals, but there are five days to go before Mr Kickstarter bangs his power-gavel and declares Chasm’s funding campaign “OOOOOVEERRRRR”. Also: Mr Kickstarter is a robot.

While wait for Discord Games to, y’know, finish making it – development would probably go a lot smoother if I stopped poking them with a stick – remember that there’s a demo here and also on the Kickstarter page, for PC, Mac and Linux. If you’re too afraid of that great fiery sky-ball to leave the house, I can’t think of a more ironic game to play today.



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Indie development sim Game Dev Tycoon gives pirates a taste of their own torrenting
DRM is a constantly tricky balancing act between deterring piracy, however briefly, and not…View Post

Indie development sim Game Dev Tycoon gives pirates a taste of their own torrenting

DRM is a constantly tricky balancing act between deterring piracy, however briefly, and not…

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Indie development sim Game Dev Tycoon gives pirates a taste of their own torrenting

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DRM is a constantly tricky balancing act between deterring piracy, however briefly, and not upsetting every one of your legitimate customers. That’s why it’s always great to see copy-protection measures that specifically target, and hilariously mess with, inveterate torrenters. Whether it’s Batman’s uncontrollable cape in Arkham Asylum, or Serious Sam 3′s immortal pink scorpion, pirate-specific hijinks provide the best kind of schadenfreude.

This specific example from Greenheart Games, creators of the Game Dev Story-like development sim Game Dev Tycoon, might be one of the best – if just for the hypocrisy at the heart of its piraception. The game’s developers uploaded their game to “the number one torrent sharing site” with one key difference: As players built up their development studio, they are told that not enough people were buying legitimate copies of their games – leading to a slow and unavoidable financial collapse.

“Initially we thought about telling them their copy is an illegal copy, but instead we didn’t want to pass up the unique opportunity of holding a mirror in front of them and showing them what piracy can do to game developers,” explains Greenheart’s Patrick Klug.

“Slowly their in-game funds dwindle, and new games they create have a high chance to be pirated until their virtual game development company goes bankrupt.”

And some of the “customer” responses highlighted by Greenheart are amazing.

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Key quote: “I mean can I research a DRM or something…”

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Greenheart estimate 93.6% of the game’s players were using a cracked version of the game at the end of its first day of release – roughly 3,104 users. Of course, it’s worth reiterating that there are many nuanced caveats around the piracy debate – specifically that one pirated version does not equal one lost sale. You can read Greenheart’s full analyses of their experiment here.

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Knights of Pen & Paper +1 Edition Announced

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Paradox Interactive announced that they will be bringing the mobile meta-RPG game Knights of Pen & Paper to PC, Mac, and Linux platforms in a new version called Knights of Pen & Paper +1 Edition. The publisher is forming a partnership with Behold Studios to bring the game to consumer desktops with new features, improvements and content. The +1 Edition will also be released to mobile devices when it launches across all platforms in the Second Quarter of 2013.

“When we first saw Knights of Pen& Paper, the game scored a natural 20 on its Charm Person roll,” said Shams Jorjani, VP of Business Development and Corporate Paladin at Paradox Interactive. “We knew it was the kind of title that was right up our alley, and we’re glad to be able to keep supporting the Brazilian developer community with new partners like Behold studios.”

The +1 Edition is an RPG where players control players that are gaming at their dungeon master’s table. Players will be able to go on adventures with other tablemates and spend their loot to boost their warriors and mages while also improving their snacks, game table and source books. Full campaigns can take player characters through a wide selection of monsters and quests, all classically rendered in retro pixel art. All this and the joy of watching the characters fight with the DM about random encounters.



You can find more info about the game by visiting Paradox’s Website.

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A Cry for Game Programming Help!View Postshared via WordPress.com

A Cry for Game Programming Help!

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shared via WordPress.com



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NVIDIA Delivers Massive Performance Boost to Linux Gaming

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NVIDIA today announced the latest NVIDIA® GeForce® drivers — R310 — double the performance(1) and dramatically reduce game loading times for those gaming on the Linux operating system.

The result of almost a year of development by NVIDIA, Valve and other game developers, the new GeForce R310 drivers are designed to give GeForce customers the best possible Linux-based PC gaming experience — and showcase the enormous potential of the world’s biggest open-source operating system.

Available for download at www.geforce.com, the new R310 drivers were also thoroughly tested with Steam for Linux, the extension of Valve’s phenomenally popular Steam gaming platform that officially opened to gamers starting today.

“With this release, NVIDIA has managed to increase the overall gaming performance under Linux,” said Doug Lombardi, vice president of marketing at Valve. “NVIDIA took an unquestioned leadership position developing R310 drivers with us and other studios to provide an absolutely unequalled solution for Linux gamers.”

The R310 drivers support the newest GeForce GTX 600 series GPUs, which have redefined gaming for desktop and notebook PCs by combining revolutionary performance and gaming technology features with an incredibly power-efficient design. Gamers with previous generation GeForce GPUs, including the 8800 GT and above, are encouraged to download these new drivers as well.

For an up-to-date third-party listing of games and applications that are currently in development for Linux, visit the Marlamin site.

For more information on how GeForce GTX GPUs are dramatically changing the way games are played and experienced on Linux, visit www.geforce.com. For more NVIDIA news, company and product information, videos, images and other information, visit the NVIDIA newsroom. The NVIDIA Flickr page hosts the entire lineup of GeForce product photos.

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An Interview With Chris Avellone on Project Eternity: A Word on Romance

Obsidian Entertainment’s Chris Avellone talks to us about Project Eternity, and shares his thoughts on writing romances, non-lethal options, and more.



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It’s been two weeks since the success of Obsidian Entertainment’s success with funding Project Eternity on Kickstarter. Garnering over $4 million in funding, the party-based, isometric RPG is set for release sometime in early 2014 for the PC, Mac, and Linux platforms.

Since the success of the Kickstarter, I finally had a chance to sit down with Chris Avellone to talk about Project Eternity. Chris Avellone is one of the game’s lead designers and the narrative lead of titles such as Fallout: New Vegas and Alpha Protocol.



I’ve finally compiled the questions I wanted to ask you. Apologies for the lateness!

Do not ever apologize to me, Ian. Instead, you must offer tribute of blood and intestines to the time gods.

When you guys were putting together the Kickstarter pitch, did you ever think it would be as successful as it is?

No way. At least not for me… I am a born-again pessimist since age 13. Rob Nesler, our art director and wearer of fine hats and drinker of fine booze (which you can observe in our livestream video here), however, was convinced we’d leave flames in the dirt from our screaming tire tracks. Still, because he’s apparently our very masculine (?) version of Cassandra, we didn’t heed his prophecies until the day of judgment. The players and backers knew better than us as well, so maybe we have 70,000 Cassandras.

But streuth (Australian-archaic for “truth,” which I promised I’d never use in conversation but said nothing about writing), it’s been a challenge. Bloody oath,* has it. Let me elaborate in this next question.

* I was also asked never to say this in conversation. I believe it’s effectively “hell yes?” An Australian can correct me if they’re reading this.

How are you guys coping with the $4M+ budget and the heightened media attention?

The budget means more hiring than we expected at first - no surprise considering it’s roughly 4x the funding goal and the stretch goal content additions. The good news is we already have a capable crew to draw from, not to mention volunteers who popped out of the woodwork. It doesn’t affect time frame of the project, and considering we have the logistic info from the Black Isle Infinity Engine games (resources, time frame per asset, etc. – this is important because of one of the questions & answers below), and the fact that a lot of us have done this type of game before, that helps nail down a lot of the X factors involved with the project.

The press aspects are minimal compared to the fan and player-based feedback, and while corresponding with the backers takes time, it’s time well spent for a lot of reasons – dealing with the fans and processing their feedback ends up being more energizing and it saves a lot of time discussing and setting/clarifying expectations and features people genuinely care about vs. crap they don’t, so we don’t need to waste any resources doing it. I prefer the fan interaction, personally, as it beats working in silence for months and rolling the dice at the end to see if the game resonates with the public.

You’ve stated in the past that you don’t like romances in games—at least to the extent that they’ve been done in games thus far. Were you to implement a romance subplot in Project Eternity, what would it involve?

Not a big fan of romances. I did four in Alpha Protocol because Chris Parker, our project director, demanded it because he thinks romance apparently is easy, or MAYBE it’s because he wanted to be an asshole and give me tons of them to do because I LOVE them so much (although to be honest, I think he felt it was more in keeping with the spy genre to have so many romances, even if I did ask to downscope them). At least I got to do the “hatemance” version of most of them, which makes it a little more palatable.

Also, the only reason the romance bits in Mask of the Betrayer worked was because George Ziets helped me with them since he was able to describe what love is to me and explain how it works (I almost asked for a PowerPoint presentation). It seems like a messy, complicated process, not unlike a waterbirth. Don’t even get me started on the kissing aspects, which is revolting because people EAT with their mouths. Bleh.

So if I were to implement a romance subplot in Eternity - I wouldn’t. I’d examine interpersonal relationships from another angle and I wouldn’t confine it to love and romance. Maybe I’d explore it after a “loving” relationship crashed and burned, and one or both was killed in the aftermath enough for them to see if it had really been worth it spending the last few years of their physical existence chained to each other in a dance of human misery and/or a plateau of soul-killing compromise. Or maybe I’d explore a veteran’s love affair with his craft of murder and allowing souls to be freed to travel beyond their bleeding shell, or a Cipher’s obsession with plucking the emotions of deep-rooted souls to try and see what makes people attracted to each other beyond their baser instincts and discovers love… specifically, his love of manipulating others. You could build an entire dungeon and quest where he devotes himself to replicating facsimiles of love, reducer a Higher Love to a baser thing and using NPCs he encounters as puppets for his experimentations, turning something supposedly beautiful into something filthy, mechanical, but surrounded by blank-eyed soul-twisted drones echoing all the hollow Disney-like platitudes and fairy tale existence where everyone lives happily ever after.

Game writing and dialogue has typically been peripheral to the combat in games. In Planescape Torment, you had to wade through countless enemies regardless of your stats or the decisions you made. Are there any plans to incorporate dialogue options into the gameplay so the two aren’t necessarily separate from each other?

I’d argue dialogue and dialogue exploration was the principal mechanic in Torment (not something I’m proud of, wish I’d pushed for more dungeons and other mechanics). Now, the dialogue is more along the lines of Fallout 2/BG2 density, and it’ll have the same feel, which is appropriate for an Infinity Engine game. We do plan to have dialogues that effect the density and agendas of battles (and allowing you to avoid a chunk of them at an undetermined % of frequency).

Are there non-violent or non-lethal options available to the player in Project Eternity?

Yep. You can use stealth and speech options to circumvent, prevent, and resolve tense situations, much like in the Fallout titles. While there won’t be a pacifist path in the title, there are times where you can accomplish objectives with more social/sneaky builds in inventive ways.

We also want to explore the idea of speech as a tool, not as a key. That may sound odd – we don’t want speech skills used as insta-wins when the option comes up, which doesn’t allow for much player contribution in the interaction beyond pressing the highlighted button. We experimented with this slightly in Fallout: New Vegas and the DLCs, although what we’d like to explore is more along the lines of what we did in Alpha Protocol: if you know enough about a target or subject, there may be different ways and approaches you want to use to create a desired result, which may involve pissing the listener off, flattering them, or intimidating them, for example, but none of these technically “win” the scenario, they either provide a broader context or more information on the target’s attitudes and motivations but it all depends on which way a player wants to push them.

A better example of a dialogue tool is the “Empathy” skill from Fallout 1 and 2. It was a perk that color-coded your responses to indicate whether the response would create a favorable, neutral, or hostile reaction. That didn’t mean that that option would lead to a good or bad result, however, and you had to decide what to do based on the clues the Empathy perk gave you (for example, you may not want to get in good with the leaders of Vault City in F2 because you feel slimy and dirty doing so, even if you’re being unfailingly polite – or you may want to make a mob boss angry and hostile so he has a heart attack right then and there).

A few RPGs, including the newly released Dishonored and the much older Deus Ex contain scripted elements while allowing for non-scripted or emergent behavior. Are there any plans to allow, or even create opportunities for the player to “play outside the bounds” of the scripted events in Project Eternity?

While we’ll have a core narrative, we would like to allow for player-driven stories through the game mechanics when possible, as those end up being far more personal and stronger to a player than anything we could script (a lesson I learned very early on in my gamemastering days all the way to the Van Buren play sessions we had at Black Isle for Fallout 3).

Aside from writing the stories in the games you’ve worked—and are working on, how else do you contribute to the games? Do you have any input on the game’s design?

It depends on the title – at the most senior level of a project (if I’m in the role of Project Director), I have full input on all design aspects of a title with the exception of owner input and publisher input and often, in these instances, I’m weighing in on all aspects of the design and often doing core writing and core design (Fallout New Vegas DLCs).

When it comes to other projects, I often am in the role of an advisor, imparting suggestions for pipelines and cautionary tales based on the many, many mistakes I’ve made in the past. While giving advice and support is welcome, I prefer a specific role on at least one project in the studio since that allows me to get my hands dirty and contribute more directly (and it keeps me on the front lines so I don’t get rusty or unhappy).

For the Fallout New Vegas DLCs, for example and a few of the pitch projects, I’ve been Project Director and Narrative Lead, for New Vegas, I was a senior narrative designer for the most part, for Knights of the Old Republic II, I was Lead Designer and Narrative Lead, while on Alpha Protocol I was largely a narrative lead with some lead designer responsibilities (system design fell to the Project Director, Chris Parker, on Alpha Protocol in that instance, and he guided the Systems Lead with input and vision).

So to make a long answer even longer, the amount of input I have on design varies, and the goal is to allow people at their level to be empowered to have their vision imparted in the project – so, for example, if I’m not a Project Lead on the title, I defer to the Project Lead and the owners’ design direction and advise or give perspectives, critiques, etc. when asked. It’s taken me a while to figure out the best role to assume at the studio to be helpful, and it tends to change on a yearly basis and also change based on the project.

Other specific contributions I have are design producer duties (I’m obsessed with pipelines and hierarchies and making sure nothing gets lost, based on previous mistakes), writing and scripting characters and quests, and doing level design (such as for Wasteland 2). Wasteland 2 has been a breath of fresh air, since I haven’t had much opportunity to do level design since Knights of the Old Republic II and I love drawing maps and laying out area quests.

Besides your future work on Project Eternity and having already returned to Fallout, have you any other universes or settings you’d like to visit?

Sure. Wasteland 2 at inXile has already been an opportunity to return to one of my favorite franchises, so I can check that off the list (until Wasteland 3 - ::crosses fingers::). Other ones include: The Wire, Firefly, Ghost in the Shell, the Walking Dead (movie or comics), Chronotrigger, Torment (although that’s difficult for a variety of reasons), and Star Wars (I’ve always wanted to do Knights of the Old Republic III and finish the trilogy).

It’s been officially disclosed that Obsidian plans to use Unity to develop Project Eternity. Is there a reason you’ve chosen to use Unity’s development tools over other options?

It meets our needs, has a good deal of support, fits within our budget, and is user-friendly. I’ve been happy with it on Eternity and on Wasteland 2, and it works great, so… yeah, that’s pretty much it. I wish I had something more critique-y to say, but I don’t.

Given your vast experience with designing and developing RPGs, are there any lessons or experiences you’d take from those previous games to avoid in Project Eternity?

Awareness of scope. If you don’t know the scope, find out the specs for each part of the design and development toolbox (build a small level, a medium level, a large level, write a 15 node dialogue, a 50 node, a 150 node or more companion, build a weapon from start to finish, build a critter using the full range of animations, etc.). Then use a stopwatch to time each task until you know how long each one takes, and use that as a gauge of how much work you have in store – then seriously consider cutting it down to 50% or 75% of that amount to account for X factors during production.

Second, always ask “why the player should give a shit?” with every design decision, lore choice, and faction design. When fleshing out the world, keep in mind the player’s role as an agent of change, not your personal presentation. While you do want to put yourself and topics you’re passionate about in a title, that doesn’t mean crap if the player can’t interact with it in a way that empowers them.

Examine pacing and expectations. As an example, Torment was an extremely dialogue heavy game, and I do believe (I can hear pitchforks and torches being gathered) it could have benefited from more dungeon exploration, more combats, in addition to the dialogue depth it had. I tried to correct that when doing Targos in IWD2… I started off with a lot of fights and exploration rewards that immediately highlighted the threat the city was facing, then moved into dialogues (punctuated by a few fights), then a blast-off at the end.

Project Eternity has been described (by Forbes) as a ‘roleplaying risotto’ rather than a unique dish of its own. What are you doing to give the RPG its unique flavor and ensure that it’s more than just a mash-up of other games?

Finally, what makes Project Eternity more than a simple nostalgia trip?

Combining these two into one answer since the answer’s one and the same: Considering they’re all elements of Infinity Engine games, it’s taking the best of each, and they aren’t mutually exclusive. We have learned a lot of role-playing lessons over the year when applied to our designers such as how to employ dialogue mechanics (see above), making sure we’re rewarding for every style of gameplay (some titles we’ve done previously at Black Isle were punishing to a player that pursued a certain path, a path that we allowed, but cut a good deal of content out as a result – for example, “slavers” in Fallout 2), the idea of taking fantasy tropes and re-imagining them from the more narrative-driven metaphysical aspects of the world (soul transference, the nature of gods and their agendas, the Cipher class).

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Maia, an Indie Development from the UK KickstarterThrough a recent Twitter post, the details about a game called Maia caught my attention.…View Postshared via WordPress.com

Maia, an Indie Development from the UK Kickstarter

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