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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

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Amnesia: The Dark Descent Reaches Alpha
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | 2 comments

Frictional Games recently announced that Amnesia: The Dark Descent has reached the alpha stage. The upcoming new adventure horror title from the creators of the Penumbra series is described as a title which will take players on a "thrill-ride through the depths of madness and explore the dark side of human emotions." It follows the tale of a protagonist on the run from a horrifying foe.

So what does this mean? In general terms it means that we now have a large chunk of the game done which we can evaluate and draw conclusions from. More specifically it means:
  • All code for tech, tools and game are done and what is left is basically polish. Note again that this is for all platforms! Sure, the polish is not an easy thing and can include plenty of smaller feature additions, but it is a road map that we can control and plan for.
  • We can now, for the first time in almost three years, test the game and see how it really plays like!
  • We now have all of the design for the game done and know with strong certainty how we want it to play and how to fulfill that vision. Much work remains, but now we know what we are working for.
  • Having the design done also means that we can pinpoint very exactly what needs to be done and how it should be done. This means that can we now for the first time see a finish line and know that we have what it takes to cross it!
This project has been an emotional roller coaster for us at Frictional Games. There have been many times when we thought we where done for and had to stop making games. Now we finally feel that we have the finished game firmly in our grasp. Hopefully all the sweat and tears we put into this will help create an extra memorable experience for you all to play in a couple of months!
For more information about the game follow the links below.

Frictional Blog: Alpha Status
Frictional Games
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Buy Amnesia: The Dark Descent

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Din's Curse Beta Updated
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

Soldak Entertainment has released an update for the beta version of its upcoming action RPG, Din's Curse. The beta version is available to testers and those who have pre-ordered the game. In addition to a variety of quests to complete and monsters to slay the final game will feature 6 characters classes with 18 specialties for a total of 141 possible character combinations.

Din, champion of the gods, has cursed you into a second life of service because you selfishly squandered your first one while causing misfortune to those around you. To redeem yourself, you must impress Din by building a reputation for helping others. Travel the spacious western plains of Aleria and save desperate towns from the brink of annihilation. Until you're redeemed, you're doomed to wander the earth alone for all eternity.

In Din's Curse, you will explore an extensive underground, slaying dangerous monsters, solving dynamic quests, dodging deadly traps, and in your spare time, plundering loot. Quell uprisings, flush out traitors, kill assassins, cure plagues, purge curses, end wars, and complete other dangerous quests or the danger WILL escalate. Not all is as it seems though, traitors will gladly stab you in the back, renegades can revolt against the town, spies can set up ambushes, and items might even curse or possess your friends.

Choose one of 141 class combinations and journey to an infinite number of dynamically generated towns with vastly different problems. Every game is a surprise! Your actions have real consequences in this dynamic, evolving world. Your choices actually matter!

Open the door to Din's Curse. Surprising adventures await!
Click over to the links below to read more about the game and the latest beta update.

Din's Curse Patches
Soldak Entertainment
Din's Curse
Buy Din's Curse

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BioWare's Greg Zeschuk Discusses RPGs
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

A.V. Club has posted a new interview with BioWare cofounder Greg Zeschuk. The developer discussed the company's popular role playing game franchises including Baldur's Gate and Dragon Age, covering topics like cinematics, romance, dialog trees, and how the genre is evolving.

AVC: Starting with Baldurís Gate II, your games have also become well-known for the romances that the player forms with other characters in the game. With Dragon Age, the gay sex scene made the news. People are scared that their kids will just all of a sudden end up in this situation in a tent with the bisexual elf, and thatís not really at all how it works.
GZ: No, not even remotely. [Laughs.]

AVC: Do you think thereís a better way to communicate that thereís a whole context and a lengthy relationship leading up to these scenes? Or do you think these controversies just flare up and move on?
GZ: On one hand, at a very high level, demographics are going to help us on this, because sooner or later, people who have actually played games are going to be in most of the decision-making positions in the Western world. So 20 years from now, itís all fine and itís all going to blow over, because everybody kind of gets it.

And secondarily, I think thereís always an agenda with these things, and so it just comes down to debunking it. Itís part of making the games that we make. We feel really strongly that we want those options available. We want people to feel that thereís something for everyone, thereís someone for everyone, thereís relationships there. It reflects the real world in our minds. So you knowÖ On a personal level, I donít get frustrated with it anymore. Itís part of the price of doing business, in a sense.

AVC: Weíve seen experiments in natural language processing and other ways to conduct a conversation in a game. BioWareís titles continue to use dialogue trees, where players choose from a handful of options. Are you looking for ways to move past that? Or do you like them, because theyíre a good way to encapsulate the most meaningful options?
GZ: The problem with natural language processing and the thing that really holds the technology back, is that when it crashes and burns, itís horrific. I think we would be in a position to really take a serious look at it, once two things happen. Number one, it becomes much more flawless, like in terms of how well it works, how reliably it can respond, it doesnít have any horrible failure cases. And secondarily, to get there, you need a reasonable level of processing power. The interesting thing about a dialogue-choice system is that weíve devoted so much into all kinds of other systems for processing, and dialogue choices use zero processing. So suddenly, if you want to have a great natural language processor, you need to dial down your graphics to make it work. Once you have a demonstrated system that works really awesome and doesnít cost a lot from a performance perspective, then I think weíll be all over it.

But you know, the user experience is maybe a third thing to think about. How do you actually interface with that? Do you have your microphone, and you have to have voice recognition plus natural language processing working together flawlessly to actually get the key you need to open the door? And if it doesnít work that well, then itís not going to be fun to play.
Read the full Q&A at the page below.

AVClub: Greg Zeschuk Interview
Dragon Age: Origins

Missions Of The Reliant OS X Version In Development
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | 1 comment

Orange River Studio's Michael Rubin has informed us that his Classic OS shareware game set in outer space, Missions of the Reliant, will be receiving an OS X version. Reliant fan and Mac Programmer Gwynne Raskind has started work on porting the game and will be offering progress updates on her blog.

From The Monk's Brew:
For those of you who donít know, I did write one other computer game in the past, The Missions of Starship Reliant (aka, Missions of the Reliant). I had always wanted to write and release a game throughout my childhood, but all I knew back in the 80s was BASIC, and that never got me very far. And so, at one point in my mid-twenties, and being a Mac fan and all, I decided to pick up some books and learn Pascal. In 1994, amid great imaginary fanfare and to much fictitious critical acclaim, the first version of Missions was released in all of its $20 shareware glory. (The sequel, Missions II, was released in 1996, but it was really just an expansion of the original and not truly a sequel. It just sounded cool.)

About a week ago I received an e-mail from Gwynne Raskind, apparently a Missions fan from back in the day, but also a talented Mac programmer. Maybe you can see where this is going.

She asked if I was interested in seeing an OS X port of Missions, and volunteered to take on the Mac Toolbox-to-Cocoa port if I still had the source code and was willing to share it. Itís a pretty fantastic idea to me, really. Iíd love to see the old game running again on todayís systems, and SheepShaver doesnít count since (a) the sound is messed up, (b) you need an old Mac OS ROM file, and (c) itís kind of an unsupported mess to get up and running.

My only stipulations were that first, the port would need to be released as free/donationware, and second, that she couldnít laugh at me while reading my old code. At least, not to my face.

From Gwynne's Blog:
Those who have been using Macs for at least 14 years may or may not remember a space game for old Macs that went by the name ďMissions of the ReliantĒ.

It was a really fun little game with a few missions in it, changable crew members in your ship, powerups for your ship, a nice big galaxy to hang around in, systems that took damage and could be repairedÖ if youíre thinking Rescue!, donít, Missions was much better.

Anyway, like all the old Mac games, itís long since nonfunctional on modern machines. But I wasnít willing to settle for that, so I pulled up my e-mail and wrote a letter to Michael Rubin, the original author of Missions, asking if I might get the source code and take a crack at porting it to OS X.

His enthusiasm was beyond anything I could have hoped for. Iím very grateful to him for the opportunity heís given me to bring a classic back to the Mac. Iíll be posting updates here regularly about my progress on the port.
Visit the pages below for more information about Missions of the Reliant and Rubin's upcoming game, Vespers.

Michael Rubin's Blog
Gwynne Raskind's Blog

Mac Games News for Monday, February 8, 2010

City Of Heroes Secret Admirer Contest6:00 AM
Dragon Age: Origins Collectors Edition For Mac Reviewed6:00 AM
The Rise And Fall Of The Lich King6:00 AM
The Sims Franchise Turns Ten6:00 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Monday, February 8, 2010 on one page

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