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Monday, September 14, 2009

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Discussing StarCraft II's Storyline
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

IGN recently posted a new interview with Blizzard Entertainment's Andrew Chambers. The lead writer for StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty discussed the storyline for the single player aspect of the eagerly anticipated return to the StarCraft universe. The game will introduce a level of choice and interaction not seen in the original StarCraft and its expansion Brood War.

IGN AU: Blizzard is famous for iterating and changing and tweaking and polishing its products right up until the end, so at this stage, is it all locked in?
Andrew Chambers: No. No, there are literally still fairly major chunks that we're re-examining... let's take an example I'm familiar with. Say we have a conversation between two characters, and it's a cool conversation; we like what's going off in it, it's nicely done, the voice actors did a really good job with it, and so forth. You're playing through the game and you run across this conversation and you're like, yknow, that probably isn't the best place for it – that conversation could actually go a couple of missions earlier and be more impactful... so we're still doing stuff like that, even now, and we will be doing that right up to the eleventh hour. That's one facet – that's the facet I deal with, so the artists, animators, all the rest of it, are also dealing with their own particular areas of interest.

And from a more overarching view as well we're constantly getting feedback. We have a strike team at Blizzard who are giving us feedback; they play through the game, it's all people who aren't on our team, so they haven't seen it before, and they'll give us feedback and their initial impressions... They've not been in meetings for, like, four years explaining it all – they're just looking at what you've produced, and that can be a real eye-opener at times, because the things they think are awesome, you're like 'oh, that was just a throwaway thing', and things that you're convinced are awesome they're like 'I don't get it'. And so we go back, we retool, and figure out how we can tell that part better.

IGN AU: As a writer, you want to have a satisfying conclusion to your story, but you also know that you have two more games to come after this. How do you do that while still leaving enough open for future instalments? And are the stories told in parallel or are they sequential?
Andrew Chambers: We actually planned out the whole storyline during our initial work stage on StarCraft II, because originally, it was going to be pretty much like StarCraft 1 – three campaigns, three races, a certain number of missions each. As we developed the story and it became very apparent that ten missions was just not going to be enough for even one race to tell their story in, and we'd have to rush rush rush to get through the whole thing, it became readily apparent that the right thing to do was separate campaigns, and that actually made it a lot easier to get a satisfying conclusion to each campaign, because you can focus far more on – well, what's a victory for Jim Raynor? You don't have to necessarily worry about what's a victory for the Terran. What's a win for him? And equally, as we move forward into the other races, it will be like what's a win for them?

To answer your question about whether it's all happening at the same time – it's intended to be sequential, so our expansion will pick up from the very end of the first game, Wings of Liberty, and suffice to say, at the end of Wings of Liberty it should be a very satisfying conclusion, but there's a lot of doors still open – 'but what about?', 'isn't that going to mean?!', 'did you think about?', and so on. [And then] in the Zerg campaign we've already got natural conflicts set up, so hopefully it will be a satisfactory conclusion, but also [opens up] a lot more opportunities to continue the story forward from there.
Click over to the page below to read the rest of the Q&A.

IGN: StarCraft II Storyline Q&A
Blizzard Entertainment
StarCraft II: Wings Of Liberty
Buy StarCraft II: Wings Of Liberty

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The Making Of Deus Ex
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | 7 comments

Edge Online has posted a new retrospective of Ion Storm's classic Deus Ex. The game's combination of first person shooter action and role playing elements made it a hit with many gamers. The article features commentary from Warren Spector and Harvey Smith.

Although the commitment to an open gameplay experience – with multiple methods of completing each mission – was there at the beginning, the early story draft would be unrecognisable to Deus Ex veterans. “The original plot was this sprawling, crazy thing with 25 missions in all,” explains Spector. “There was a big mission series all about a plot to take over the government by driving it into a state of emergency. This would call into play a variety of executive orders, which would in turn create a shadow government in Mount Weather under the Greenbrier Estate.

“And that’s all real. One of the designers read about Mount Weather on a website somewhere and said it should be in the game. There really are these executive orders that have been passed since the Eisenhower administration that say, ‘Here’s what’s gonna happen in the state of national emergency.’ And I started reading the conspiracy theories surrounding them, and did a legal search. I had a lawyer go and get a copy of the original executive orders – she could probably get fired. And it’s all true. Recently when an announcement came that there was this shadow government in operation, congress was going, ‘This is an outrage. How could we not have known?’ And everyone in the studio was going, ‘We knew about that three years ago!’”

There were also plans to include the White House as an explorable location, and when it emerged that these had been cut, Internet speculation about government intervention was rife. “There were rumours going around that we deleted the White House because we were too close to reality. In fact, we did discover some really interesting things about the building. When putting together pieces of blueprint and public images and maps from various sources, we thought, ‘Hey wait, there’s a little hole here, and we don’t know what’s in there.’ None of the maps identify it, but there’s a space that has to be filled with something. I think we really did hit on some weird stuff, but we cut the mission because we realised that a few thousand little square rooms would be really boring – we didn’t pull it out because the government made us.”
For the full article click over to the links below.

Edge Online: The Making Of Deus Ex

Out Of The Park Baseball 10 Reviewed
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

Gaming Nexus recently published a new review of Out of the Park Baseball 10. The latest incarnation of the baseball simulation series features 2009 major league rosters, a redesigned pitching system, and improved AI. Gaming Nexus gave OOTPB 10 a grade of A-.

Regardless of the outcome of the game, OOTP records every statistic imaginable. Wonder how well a hitter performs when there is a person on 2nd base, when playing a night game on a real grass field? How does the team do when it comes to covering 3rd base? Anything that you could possibly want to know about your team’s performance is recorded. All of this information is easy to find and very informative.

“Informative” can sometimes mean emotional detachment or extreme boredom, right? A good example of this is if you just think about the last office meeting or class that you had to attend that involved PowerPoint. Thankfully, OOTP dodges that bullet like a pro and doesn’t force feed you anything you don’t want or need.

The game also adds human elements to a potentially monotonous experience. Taking a look at the injuries that can happen in game might show injuries resulting from “heroically rescuing neighbors from a house fire” or “his kid ran into him with his bike.” Watching a game can yield such announcements as “the 1st base coach reached out to catch a foul ball one handed, that’s got to hurt!” Little things like these draw you deeper into the simulation.
Follow the links below for the full review and more information about the game.

Gaming Nexus: OOTPB 10 Review
OOTP Developments
Out Of The Park Baseball X

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EVE Online: Dealing With Engine Bugs
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

CCP Games has released another new developer blog focusing on upcoming changes to its sci-fi MMO, EVE Online. The post explains changes to Destiny, the engine which powers the game, to deal with desync: a glitch that results from the server and client disagreeing about the position of an object.

The physics simulation is basically a differential equation and only knows the current state of objects and only needs this to calculate what their state will be in the next timestep, but if any calculation of direction or acceleration is even slightly different between a client and the server, that difference, however small, will eventually lead to a big difference in position. The clever ones amongst you lot will already have figured out what the result of this is: when you can detect a desync, you've already missed what caused it.

Desync is hard to detect in the first place; a lot of ships are moving at high speeds, coming and going, bumping into each other and whatnot, and all of a sudden maybe one client gets a message saying that he can't target a ship which is, according to his UI, only 5km away because the server says it's out of range. Using devsploits to detect desync helps but as explained above, we can really only detect the issue some time after what caused it has already happened.
Head over to the link below for more.

EVE Online: Desync Bugs
CCP Games
EVE Online

Mac Games News for Friday, September 11, 2009

Diablo III Discussed6:00 AM
Heroes Of Newerth Previewed6:00 AM
Hybrid Characters Classes In Soldak's New Dungeon Crawler6:00 AM
Zuma's Revenge! Coming Next Tuesday6:00 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Friday, September 11, 2009 on one page

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