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Thursday, September 11, 2008

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Diablo III: Random Generation, Boss Battles, Customization
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

More information is now available about Diablo III, the eagerly awaited upcoming third installment in Blizzard Entertainment's popular action RPG series. Game Informer and Crispy Gamer both recently published new interviews with Blizzard's Jay Wilson, while IncGamers has posted an interview with community manager Bashiok, and Blizzard's forums have been host to more of Bashiok's comments about the game.

From Game Informer:

GI: Developers will often describe their games as being kind of like Diablo, but when you play them it’s almost a given that they’re not at all like Diablo. So many people have tried to capture what’s made Diablo so successful, and probably close to an equal number have failed. Do you have a sense of why they fail?
Wilson: Yeah. I’m careful about criticizing other games, because a lot of the times I can say, “I like this and this and this, but this is why they didn’t succeed.” With the design team we have at Blizzard, we can usually look at another game and say, “That’s why. That’s why it didn’t work.” It’s hard when you’re developing games. I think for a lot of developers, ego has a tendency to make people make choices that are more emotional than they are logical.
One of the things that we found is that some of the choices we’ve made for Diablo III have made people criticize us for being like World of Warcaft. They’ve said that we’re trying to change things to capitalize on World of Warcraft’s success. We have our own audience. We’re not worried that Diablo III isn’t going to do well or that we somehow need to copy WoW to become more successful. Diablo II was the most successful selling game from Blizzard until very, very recently, when World of Warcraft just passed it.
So we’re not too worried about the success of the series. I think it’s just a gut reaction of developers to say, “We’ll do this differently, just to be different,” when really what they should be saying is, “What kind of game do we want to make, and how can we make the gameplay different and what kinds of things are best for our game.” When you look at other games that are out there and you find things that are better for your game, put it in. They don’t have a copyright on it. They can’t sue you or anything. And nobody is going to think less of you if your game’s great. If you make the greatest God of War clone ever made, everyone’s going to be like, “Awesome!” But if you make the more original God of War clone, if it’s not fun, who cares?
From Crispy Gamer:
Crispy Gamer: Are the dungeons still going to be randomly generated?
Wilson: Yes, we have a ton of random generation in the game. All the dungeons' layouts are randomly generated. The exteriors are not. We have a new system of adventures that allows us to cut sections out of the terrain to put random -- whatever -- in there. We can put random terrain, we can put in scripted events -- we wanted to add a lot more scripted events into the game.

Crispy Gamer: That's got to be pretty challenging for you as a designer…
Wilson: Yeah. It's probably one of the biggest challenges we've made. But you got to take it on because it's Diablo! There's like seven things that we've identified -- replayability through randomness was one of them. Absolutely everything that we can do to improve the randomness. But we looked at the exteriors in Diablo II and realized, the fact that the layouts were random actually didn't improve the game that much. If anything, it hurt the look of the game, because organic environments don't lend themselves to being randomly generated.
You end up generating an outdoor environment like you'd generate a dungeon. So you create a room-like outdoor environment that also has no permanence to it. The world feels very transient. We decided to change that but add in things like the adventure system. On top of all that, all of the monster encounters are randomly generated. The rares and champions -- which are the mini-bosses -- are randomly generated. The items, and attributes on the items, are randomly generated. Essentially we're trying to match the amount of randomness you see in Diablo II.
From IncGamers:
On character customisation at creation: “That's undecided right now. We're leaning toward handling it like with did with the prior Diablos, but might add some customization at some point. Really, though, we're leaning towards characters becoming individualized with their gear and talent specs.”

What about infinitely upgradeable epic weapons? Hellgate did something similar, and LOTRO is adding it in the Mines of Moria expansion. Will DIII do something similar?
“No. There will be loot drops you can customise, like in the prior versions. But you'll still be hunting for better gear throughout the game.”

Bashiok talked a bit about Battle.Net 2.0, which is soon to be released by Blizzard. Diablo 3
“Not much has been officially said about the new Battle.Net, so I can't say a lot. But I can say that you'll be able to find your friends, and get grouped up, very easily. Very. And you'll be able to get matched up with other people at your level to group with online.”
From Blizzard's Forums:
On the latest artwork depicting Skovos:
It is Skovos, and I think this piece was something that Leonard showed and discussed at the WWI Lore and Environment Art panel. It isn't a location that you'll visit in Diablo III, but the artwork is a good example of the work and thought going in to fleshing out the world of Sanctuary. It's already a very complex world with a lot of locations and events, but a lot of it still isn't visually or contextually realized. As we want to create the feeling of a world outside of your immediate view it's important to create or expand upon the locations and stories of that world.
As we're working to create Diablo III we're also working to create a more visually complete Sanctuary.

On changes to how Diablo II handled boss drops:
There's an inherent issue in Diablo II, where the game is degenerated to a task of getting to point B as quickly as possible, spinning the wheel, and then you rinse and repeat. While a lot of people obviously take advantage of it, and it sort of becomes a game in itself to see how fast and efficient you can be, it's not necessarily engaging. You could also say it detracts from the feeling of being immersed in an entire game experience.
Regardless of what happens or changes in Diablo III there are always going to be the min/maxers that game the systems to be more efficient, but as a goal we want to encourage players to experience the game as a whole or at least to a larger degree than an end-game that devolves in to just killing a single boss over and over. A lot of those ideas and details are obviously still under wraps but it is something we're aware of and thinking about.
Click over to the links below to read the rest of the articles.

Game Informer: Jay Wilson Interview
Crispy Gamer: Jay Wilson Interview
IncGamers: Bashiok Interview
GameBanshee: Diablo III Forum Quotes
Blizzard Entertainment
Diablo III
Buy Diablo III

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Will Apple Succeed In Mobile Gaming?
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

The iPod Observer has posted a new article examining Apple's focus on mobile gaming on the iPhone and iPod Touch. The article includes comments from analysts and industry insiders about the company's potential to succeed against more established gaming companies like Sony and Nintendo.

Apple's emerging business model for games is proving to be quite different than the console games, and whether it will be successful is open to question. "The difference between Nintendo and Apple is that Apple treats content as a commodity and Nintendo treats hardware as a commodity," Billy Pidgeon, an analyst with IDC. said. "That's why I would be skeptical about Apple's potential as a real force in the games business. It does play against the traditional razor-razorblade model employed by the gaming industry."

However, Andrew Ayre, the CEO of the company that developed Super Monkey Ball pointed out that Apple is, in a variation of Mr. Schiller's comment, actually targeting a new demographic, mobile games. "From a development standpoint, it's very easy and straightforward to develop for and certainly the graphics and the features such as the touch screen and the accelerometer are pretty unique," Mr. Ayre said.
Head over to the link below to read the full article.

iPod Observer: Games May Be Apple's Next Big Thing

John Carmack Discusses Quake Live
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

Computer and Video Games has published a new interview with legendary game developer John Carmack about Quake Live, id Software's upcoming browser based incarnation of the shooter. The Q&A focuses on a variety of topics related to the game including Live's in-game advertising, id's future plans for browser technology, and the state of gaming on PCs.

So is Quake Live the next step for PC gaming?
John Carmack: I don't think this is the future of PC gaming, though it's certainly an aspect of it. PC developers need to start considering the PC as a unique platform rather than a gaming machine that happens to be in your den rather than your living room.
The traditional big-budget, media-rich, single-player type games like we used to make at id Software through to Doom 3, all that really has to be done cross-platform on the consoles now, to basically cover the development expenses for something like that. But the PC still has huge success stories, with things like The Sims 2 and World of Warcraft, which have been bigger successes than any console game has ever been, or possibly ever could be in the near future. At the end of the day, you have to look at the PC as a platform with its own strengths and weaknesses.

So Quake Live plays to these strengths?
JC: While Quake Live isn't a big-budget extravaganza, it is consciously playing to what we consider to be the PC's strengths. The PC is still a better information platform in terms of browsing the web and showing a lot of statistics and information. That's still really painful to do on the consoles.
It's still got the mouse and keyboard interface which for a competitive first person shooter is still far and away the best way to play, versus playing on an analogue thumbstick or whatever. And I do think that the neat aspect of being able to jump on and play from any place where there's a PC is going to be interesting also.
Visit the site below to read the rest of the interview.

CVG: John Carmack Interview
id Software

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Penny Arcade Adventures Episode One Reviewed
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

Adventure Classic Gaming recently published a review of Hothead Games' Penny Arcade Adventures: On The Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, Episode 1. Based on the characters from the Penny Arcade comic strip, the episodic adventure game allows players to create a character and step into an adventure with Tycho and Gabe. ACG gave the game a score of 5 out of 5.

From the review:

Without pretense, I can say that this game is my favorite computer video game of the year. The game perfectly mixes the adventure and role-playing genres. The script is tight, with just the right dose of sarcastic humor that fans of Penny Arcade have grown to expect. The story is creative, paying homage to the classical robot movies from the 1950s and the beautiful noir movies of Fritz Lang. Gameplay is a excellent breed of adventure and role-playing games. This is particularly true for the battle system that employs a combination of turn based and real-time control. It can make for some frenetic mouse clicking, especially when there are multiple targets against which the player needs to attack. Gamers who play this game on a laptop are well advised against using the touchpad (or trackpad) for control, as timing via singlehanded use of the spacebar above and the touchpad below can be difficult to execute a successful block or counterattack. Instead, I recommend a standalone mouse so that both hands (to control the mouse and the keyboard separately) can be used for faster control and easier play during combat.

The graphics for the main part of the game are in 3D, though in moments of dialogues a window will pop up to show the caption much like a comic. The developer has put a lot of effort into dressing up New Arcadia into America of the 1920s. Every detail of the game world is well taken care to give it a retro look, and no aspect of it is left behind. Fans of the Penny Arcade web comic will be pleased to learn the 2D cell shaded comic strips written by Jerry Holkins and illustrated by Mike Krahulik have been fully incorporated inside the game. These comic strips appear in key cut scenes in the game for storytelling and are nearly indistinguishable from those that appear online on the Penny Arcade website.
Visit the site below to continue reading the review.

Adventure Classic Gaming: PAA Episode 1 Review
Hothead Games
Penny Arcade
Penny Arcade Adventures

Mac Games News for Wednesday, September 10, 2008

IMG Reviews Depths of Peril9:27 AM
Azada Ancient Magic Coming Soon6:00 AM
Eschalon Book II: Creature Features6:00 AM
Frank Pearce Discusses All Things Blizzard6:00 AM
Penny Arcade Adventures Episode Two Preview & Interview6:00 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Wednesday, September 10, 2008 on one page

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