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Monday, January 26, 2009

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Vendetta Online: Changes To Economic Model, Game Update
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

Guild Software has released a new patch and posted an update on the development blog for its massively-multiplayer online space strategy game, Vendetta Online. The latest update brings the game to version 1.8.55 and includes a variety of new updates, bug fixes, and content additions. The blog entry details changes to the games economic model.

The VO economy was implemented very simply, some five years ago, to allow people to discover dynamically changing trade routes between our 135-odd stations and profit from them. The process of discovering these routes and using them was "part of the fun", but also made trading more inaccessible to new people. Additionally, for reasons of stability, we implemented such a simplistic economy that there was only a limited amount of tweaking that could be done on the development side.

This has been changing, over the last several years. We've moved a lot of data out of static Lua tables and put it directly into the database, to allow for more dynamic modification. As of this week, we've been making some fairly significant changes to the granularity with which items may be defined, per-location. For instance, as of the recent past, the best that we could specify for any given item was a min/max price value, price drop per unit sold, and demand increase over time. That is per item, across the entire galaxy. We did not have any way of specifically making an item more valuable at a particular station, or regional location. The original thinking was to simply align where given items would be sold, and then let the demand value increase allow for profitability that would generally increase as one went further and further away from the place of the item's manufacture. Again, in the early days we "kept it simple" for implementation reasons and to be sure the economy would generally work, which it did for a number of years (somewhat inflated price values and the mass-trade issue notwithstanding).

However, the political/economic map of the galaxy has changed over the last few months, with the introduction of Nation Border Defenses, and even more powerful Capitol defenses, that make it more difficult for pirates to attack traders and miners in a large area of space. I have maintained all along that it was my plan to drive more traffic to grayspace (unaligned space), by creating more lucrative routes to and from those locales. After all, a lot of our content revolves around "danger", the danger of a transport traveling through grayspace territory, and therefore hiring combat escorts. The danger of pirates lying in wait to take on major convoys at significant risk, because the rewards are so high. So on and so forth. A lot of our current gameplay stems from this, and a lot of our future gameplay will as well. We don't require it of everyone, it will always be possible to mine or trade in "safer" locations, but the rewards will be much smaller.
Head over to the links below for more information.

Vendetta Online News
Guild Software
Strategy First
Vendetta Online

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StarCraft II: Q&A Round 48
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

The 48th Q&A focusing on answers to fan questions about StarCraft II, Blizzard Entertainment's long awaited sequel to the original StarCraft, is now available. SC II will introduce new multiplayer action and a continuation of the storyline.

Chat with Devs:
The new year is well on its way and with it, the devs have been making much progress in both the artistic polish of the game, as well as continued development of multiplayer game mechanics. The art team has been adding several new death animations for units including the Drone’s disintegration into ashes when torched by Hellions, or the explosion of the Overlord sacs by Marine Gauss Rifle fire, and even Marauders being sliced into various pieces by Dark Templars. All of it is quite a sight to see and it is the hope of the art team that these additional animations will really give players a grand experience of immersion into an epic StarCraft battle. On the multiplayer side, the designers are testing out various macro-management encouraging mechanics that will be implemented to each race, but still be played out differently per race. These macro elements will be aimed to allow players with greater macro-management skills to compete with the advantage of gathering more resources than a player who does not emphasize as much on resourcing. More details about the mechanics that are being implemented will be covered in the next Q&A batch and is also planned to be showcased in the next StarCraft II Battle Report.

1. The recently released screenshot ( shows a combat in rainy night appearance. Will night or different weather be limited to campaign mode? And will it be possible to select it on the map editor?
Night and rain effects will be possible in campaign mode but are not likely occur in multiplayer. Additionally, these effects will be available to map editors to use for custom maps.

5. When two opposing forces come to a Xel'naga tower who gets control? Is it the person with the largest army or is it on a first-come/first-serve basis?
When two opposing forces are near a Xel’Naga Watch Tower, they both lose control of the Watch Tower, regardless of the size of the army or the order of who arrives first. For example, when you have a ground unit next to the Xel’Naga Watch Tower, you will get vision of the area surrounding the Xel’Naga Watch Tower. When the opponent’s unit approaches close enough to control the Watch Tower, the Xel’Naga Watch Tower will shut down and both you and your opponent will lose the increased visual range given by the tower.
Click over to the link below to read the rest of the Q&A.

StarCraft Forums: SC 2 Q&A Batch 48
StarCraft Forums: Ask Your SC 2 Questions Here
StarCraft Forums: Q&A Archive
Blizzard Entertainment
StarCraft II: Wings Of Liberty
Buy StarCraft II: Wings Of Liberty

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Kivi's Underworld Reviewed
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

Killer Betties has published a new review of Soldak Entertainment's casual action RPG, Kivi's Underworld. In Kivi's Underworld players adventure as one of 20 character classes against a variety of dangerous foes. KB gave the game a score of 3 out of 5.

From the review:

Each level has a set objective but there are also secret rooms that give you more points if you find and unlock them. A cool feature is you can go back to a played level and try to find something you may have missed the first time around. Since playing a level only takes about 15 or so minutes the game moves right along.

The game has a very simple to use interface that displays everything you might want to know and tells you the shortcut key to bring up the display. The characters move nicely on the game board, and you can sometimes slip on the ice or race past an opponent while battling him. I also noticed you get bonus points if you destroy barrels quickly, as well as a cool kill frenzy bonus if you wipe out a number of bad guys quickly.

The music fits the game well and includes a nice narration of each chapter. Since this is a simple game you don’t talk to anyone, you just march around and fight and explore, which reminded me of games of old that were not to deep in story yet still fun to play. You can even buy power ups to improve Kivi, the amount you have to spend depends on how well you complete each quest in the game.
Head over to the page linked below to read the full review.

Killer Betties: Kivi's Underworld Review
Soldak Entertainment
Kivi's Underworld

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The Making Of A World Of Warcraft Cinematic
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

CG Channel recently posted the results of an interview with Jeff Chamberlain and Fausto De Martini, CGI artists for Blizzard Entertainment. The interview focuses on the development of the cinematic trailer for the World of Warcraft expansion, Wrath of the Lich King.

Blizzard cinematics are popular in part because of the excellent animation of characters, effects and camera work. Does Blizzard use Motion Capture or other technologies to achieve this level of animation?
We’ve built a team of really strong keyframe animators, and we have always keyframed our animation—and we prefer it that way. As I said, we strive for a hyper-realistic look, so our characters proportions are way augmented from what they would be in real life. As a result, they would tend to look a bit odd if they moved like someone with normal proportions would. Keyframed animation allows us to move our characters in a stylized way that fits the overall look. Also, there’s something about the level of quality you can get from a keyframed animation compared to a motion-captured one.
We have used motion capture a lot for getting a realistic handheld feel in our cameras, and in the interest of creating more and better content, we’ve looked into using motion capture as a tool during previsualization. Having the ability to quickly try out different angles and layouts for a shot by utilizing the speed of motion capture is very compelling from a director’s viewpoint. As far as the final frames go, we plan on sticking with our stylized keyframed animation.

The reanimated corpse dragon in the Lich King cinematic is beautifully executed in its design, modeling, effects and animation. Can you tell us a little bit about the tools and techniques used in those sequences?
We approached the sequence in which Arthas raises the frost wyrm in exactly the same manner as we approach all of our projects. We start with a loose script written by a few cinematics guys: Blizzard Entertainment’s vice president of creative development Chris Metzen; and the leads from the game team. The idea then moves to storyboarding and 2D concepting. Once that’s done, we start pre-visualizing the sequence. Modeling, animation, and production tech tend to then take over for a while, generating the meat of the project. Finally, finishing (lighting and compositing), effects, and matte painting take it all home.
Wrath of the Lich King was a project with a lot of firsts in our pipeline. It was the first time we used Maya to animate and lay out every shot, the first time we rendered every shot in Renderman, and the first time we used Nuke to composite. Some other products we use are 3ds Max and Mudbox for modeling, Mirage for storyboarding, and anything we can get our hands on for effects and matte painting.
Check out the link below to read more.

CG Channel: The Making Of A WoW Cinematic
Blizzard Entertainment
World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King

Mac Games News for Friday, January 23, 2009

IMG Reviews Swarm Gold10:17 AM
Apple Games Features City Of Heroes, iPod Wonder Blocks6:00 AM
Cradle Of Rome Comes To Macs6:00 AM
Spore Galactic Adventures & Creature Keeper Announced6:00 AM
World Of Goo Soundtrack Available For Free6:00 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Friday, January 23, 2009 on one page

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