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Friday, January 2, 2009

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Apple Games: A Tale In The Desert IV, iPod Real Soccer
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

Apple Games recently published two new feature articles, one covering the unique cooperative MMO A Tale in the Desert IV, and the other featuring the iPod version of Gameloft's Real Soccer. The A Tale in the Desert article features comments from creator Andrew Tepper and two of the game's players, and a look at the game's current and future offerings. The Real Soccer article offers an overview of the game's features and list of tips and tricks.

A Tale In The Desert IV:

Kaayru summons two players, Telanoc and Alexandriall, to join the discussion. Both of them cite ATITD’s social aspects as a major reason for playing. Telanoc explains: “I have never seen a place where the people are so involved with each other on so many levels. What hooked me and keeps me coming back is the way the game is played. When something is done here, it is done. There can only be one person to climb the mountain first. It gives a history that other games lack.”

Part of that history involves the players creating unique tests that are carved into the monuments for their respective disciplines and incorporated into the next Telling. They guarantee that at least seven of ATITD IV’s 49 tests will be new, but Tepper keeps all other changes secret until he’s ready to reveal them. As veterans of previous Tellings know, there are always surprises in store.

Telanoc, who has been a regular player since Tale II, elaborates: “The game isn’t afraid to take chances with content. In Tale III, there was a plague that was really controversial to many people, and it was interesting how we dealt with it: some people buckled down to look for a cure, some people tried to keep on going as if nothing had happened, and others hid in their homes.”
Real Soccer for iPod:
League play is just one of many options in Real Soccer 2009, where you’ll find over 290 clubs and national teams, all of them featuring real players from around the world. Compete in four cups, five national leagues, and 10 club leagues as you collect 15 trophies to fill your case. Set your strategy, including formation and offense/defense mix, and play matches in stadiums located in San Paolo, Paris, Milan, Manchester, Barcelona, Madrid, Berlin, Vienna, and London.

Don’t forget to choose one of four difficulty levels, select the weather, and decide whether tie games should go to extra time. If you just want a quick contest, set up an exhibition match or a penalty kicks competition, or engage in some training to sharpen your skills. During matches, you can watch replays of key moments to see what you did right or wrong.

Luckily, if you make a mistake and score an own goal in a key game, you won’t have to worry about national headlines displaying your ignominy for all to see. Not everything requires true-to-life realism.
Check out the links listed below to read the rest of Apple's new articles.

Apple Games: A Tale In The Desert IV
Apple Games: iPod Real Soccer
A Tale in the Desert

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Geneforge 5: Overthrow Reviewed
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | 4 comments

Macworld has posted a new review of Spiderweb Software's Geneforge 5: Overthrow. The fifth game in the fantasy RPG series brings the saga its conclusion, allowing players to determine whether the Shapers or the rebellion will achieve victory. Macworld gave the game a score of 3 out of 5 mice.

From the review:

Since the mythology of Geneforge is built around the magical Shapers, when selecting a class you’ll want to pick something that has strong shaping abilities. But the Shaper creatures aren’t particularly innovative in terms of gameplay—the pets that you create are similar to ones you’d find in other RPGs. So despite all the in-game text about evolving creatures and perfecting control, the shaped creatures look and feel worn. “Evolving” your creatures involves maxing out their stats as you gain experience, much like you would enhance your spells and weapons. Their appearance, actions, and use don’t alter save on a superficial level. Your “shaping” skills are limited to cookie-cutter creatures like dinosaurs and trolls, and then watch them change color as they get stronger.

I’m new to the Geneforge series, and the story and gameplay took a while for me to get into, as my character kept on going in an out of amnesia and my guide didn’t speak in complete sentences (which was intended to convey she too was just waking up from control by the Shapers). There are multiple paths, sects, and ways to solve a problem and the lack of a linear plot may turn off some players. Simply, there are so many plots, subplots, and characters to keep track of that only dedicated RPG fans won’t be turned off. While the lack of graphical sophistication lends the game to an old school feel, the monotonous environments and unidentifiable characters make it hard to feel attachment to the world. There is plenty of text to get through to get the full experience, so the game feels sluggish coming out of the gates, but rewards players who stick with it.

The game will take you many hours to play, and that’s only with one character. With six classes, differing sects that open up different maps, and dozens of endings, the complete experience requires an investment not in hours, but days.
Head over to the site below to read the full review.

Macworld: Genforge 5 Review
Spiderweb Software
Geneforge 5
Buy Geneforge 5

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Diablo III: Interview & Concept Art
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | 1 comment recently posted a new interview with Blizzard Entertainment's Jay Wilson about Diablo III, the upcoming continuation of its action RPG franchise. The interview covers a variety of topics including D3's combat system, the new characters classes, and the game's progress.

1UP: Can you elaborate on your "deeper combat" comment? What makes Diablo 3's combat deeper than its predecessors?
JW: Combat is as deep as the options the designers give themselves. Whenever you add a new capability to a monster -- potentially something that feels unbeatable -- it's more of an opportunity to expand the depth of your characters so they can respond to those threats. A good example would be if you look at Diablo 2: There were a couple of problems with just the power of the characters and the way they were made powerful. A player could run faster than any monster, so you could escape just about any threat. You had endless health and resource -- by resource, I mean mana -- because of potions. And you had the Town Portal, which could instantly get you out of any problem. Those were incredibly powerful mechanics to escape danger and were not class-specific. So every kind of class really had no need for anything like an escape skill or reactionary ability. They simply needed to attack, and if they ever got in over their heads, they simply ran away or drank potions. And it's the same response across the board.

So one of the things we focused on is that response -- 1) setting up scenarios where the players can't easily get out of danger without the use of class-specific skills, and 2) giving them really simple controls to use a broader range of skills without making the game that much more complex to play. I really distinguish the difference between complexity and depth; to me, complexity is adding more buttons, while depth is making a single button more powerful and versatile. So that's always been our goal -- reducing the amount of controls while making each button mean more. So that's one of the reasons we added the Hotbar; it's one of the reasons why we avoided the potion-health system. And when people play the game, they may not notice this next point that much, but we leveled out the movement speed somewhat so that the player moves at a more reasonable rate compared to the monsters.
Sons of the Storm has also posted a handful of concept artwork from Diablo III as well as previous games in the series. Click on the links below to read the interview and view the art. Diablo III Interview
Sons Of The Storm
Blizzard Entertainment
Diablo III
Buy Diablo III

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Designers Discuss Ten Years Of Baldur's Gate
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | 12 comments

A recent offering from RPG Vault celebrates ten years since the release of the original Baldur's Gate with comments from Bioware developers on the success of the game and its sequel. The Dungeons & Dragons RPG series led players on a series of adventures through the Forgotten Realms setting and along the way cemented its position as a classic in the genre.

Ross Gardner: Designer, Baldur's Gate
At that time, I was mainly working as a designer. My primary area of responsibility was to make sure all the items and spells were implemented and working properly, as well as to script a few of the major fights. The other thing I was responsible for was balance testing. It was a constant fight between me and the Interplay testers; they were always trying to make it easier, and I was always pushing back to make it harder.

At one point, I got so frustrated with the final battle with Sarevok that I created a 7th level Minsc, gave him some weapons and armor, and then began to spawn in Sarevok's - mowing through them like a hot knife through butter. After I'd killed six or seven of them, I spawned in a final one and took a screenshot, with the fresh one standing among all his slaughtered predecessors. I edited it and put a bubble above Minsc's head that read "Sigh... another one of those pesky Sarevoks" and then e-mailed it out to the company. Growing up playing D&D with James Ohlen (the Lead Designer on BG, and now on our new MMO), I knew that would piss him off to no end, and suffice to say he was much tougher when I tried to fight him the next day.

Luke Kristjanson: Writer, Baldur's Gate
Some parts of BG seem simple now, and many perceived character relationships were outright imaginary. The players imposed their own perceptions on those tiny sprites and unrecorded text. One forum member didn't realize that you could drag the character portraits to reorder the party. He slip-clicked out of inventory and accidentally swapped Minsc into top position, triggering a sound event: "Magic is impressive, but now Minsc leads! Swords for everyone!" He thought Minsc had spontaneously seized control of the party. Well, he had spent too much time on magic and not enough on kicking evil in the face, so it seemed reasonable. And it would have been awesome.

In an early playthrough, I swore Viconia's magic resistance blocked every beneficial spell I threw at her except healing from Ajantis. They had a whole "forbidden attraction" thing going on, it was so obvious. But I knew the back end. Nothing.

Imoen's popularity was a surprise, mostly because she didn't exist. What's that mean? Her character was a late addition to fill a non-psychotic-thief gap in the early levels. We had no recording budget left, so I assembled her lines by editing voice-over left from a scrapped demo. The original character was a guard named Pique. That's why she has no standalone confrontations / interactions with other party members, which makes her relationship to the player seem closer, and led to making her a half-sister in BG II. Make enough happen, and people see their own patterns. Blunt force content.
Read more of the comments at the page listed below.

RPG Vault: Baldur's Gate Memories

Mac Games News for Thursday, January 1, 2009

Apple Games Features Petz Sports, iPod Slyder Adventures6:00 AM
EV Nova Goes Universal6:00 AM
iPod: Crystal Defenders, Chinese Checkers, Trivial Pursuit6:00 AM
Pirates Of The Caribbean Online Reviewed6:00 AM
The Benefits Of Making Games For Macs6:00 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Thursday, January 1, 2009 on one page

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