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Friday, July 17, 2009

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Penumbra Collection Available For $5 This Weekend
6:00 AM | IMG News | 22 comments

Frictional Games has announced the re-release of the Penumbra survival horror series for Mac and Linux users. Thanks to a new installer the The Penumbra Collection will be available as a single download starting this Friday the 17th. The new release removes the need to download each game separately and keep track of three serial numbers. To celebrate the re-launch Frictional and participating stores will offer the collection for $5 during the weekend.

During the launch weekend of Friday the 17th to Sunday the 19th the Penumbra Collection for Mac & Linux will sell for a mere USD 5! Windows users recently had the same offer available to them and due to numerous inquires from Mac & Linux gamers we hope that this offer will achieve full cross-platform horror enjoyment. After the launch weekend the Penumbra Collection will sell for USD 20.

About the Penumbra Collection;The Penumbra Collection consist of Penumbra: Overture, Penumbra: Black Plague and the expansion Penumbra: Requiem. Penumbra is a horror adventure featuring a unique physics interaction system, detailed story and dreadful environments. The series has received numerous awards, critical acclaim and recognition for its rejuvenation of the adventure genre as well as its fresh approach to the survival horror genre. Visit for more information, media and demos.

About Frictional Games;A small independent game developer located in the south of Sweden, developing unique technologies to power their creative game ideas. Currently with a crew of four in-house, with a network of contractors to utilise during production, enables the company to be dynamic and efficient. Visit for more information.
The Penumbra Collection will be available from the Frictional Games Store as well as from stores such as the Macgamestore and Mac Games Arcade for $5 this weekend only, with the price returning to $20 after Sunday.

Frictional Games
Mac Games Arcade

A History Of Interactive Fiction
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

Adventure Classic Gaming has published a new interview with Interactive Fiction historian Jimmy Maher. The Q&A format interview covers the history of text based computer games with discussions of early efforts in the genre, high points like many of Infocom's contributions, and the decline of commercial interactive fiction.

You've made it clear that you consider Trinity to be Infocom's finest hour. What are your other personal favorite Infocom games?
You’re giving me license to shine a spotlight on Infocom’s most under-appreciated games, and I’m not going to pass up the chance.

Enchanter (by David Lebling and Marc Blank) -- I've always enjoyed solving puzzles through magic spells, a mechanic Enchanter introduced. Add to that some great (generally) light-hearted writing, some of the best puzzles Infocom ever put together, a difficulty level that is just about perfect (for me, anyway), and a certain impossibly cute little turtle and you have a recipe for FUN! FUN! FUN! I don't even mind the hunger and sleep puzzles.
Ballyhoo (by Jeff O'Neill) -- This game rarely gets mentioned in discussions of Infocom's best, but I've always loved the atmosphere of its run-down, seedy circus, and the smile-through-tears quality that oozes from every line of its writing. No one else in computer games was writing in such a sophisticated way in 1985 -- and for the most part no one is today either.

Bureaucracy (by just about everyone at Infocom, with a little help from Douglas Adams) -- The story of this game's making is an epic in itself. More remarkable is that it came out so well. This is Infocom's only contemporary social satire, loaded with great jabs at the inanities of everyday life in the era of Reagan and Thatcher.

Nord and Bert Couldn't Make Heads or Tails of It (by Jeff O'Neill) -- O'Neill wrote just two games for Infocom, and they both appear on this list, qualifying him easily for the title of Most Underrated IF Author (at least in my eyes). Nord and Bert is a collection of mini-games that all revolve around wordplay. The player's interactions with the parser are the focus of the game, rather than just a means to communicate actions within the storyworld. Nord and Bert is of immense theoretical interest, totally unique in Infocom's catalog, and most of all just great fun. Perhaps more than any other, this is the game that makes me think that Infocom was selling to the wrong market entirely, and to wonder where they could have gone if they could have found a way to draw the attention of readers as opposed to the conventional gamers who just shrugged at Nord and Bert and returned to killing virtual orcs.

With exception of Enchanter, these games are all rather idiosyncratic favorites that seldom appear on lists of the "Best of Infocom." I hope this list begins to illustrate the depth and richness of the Infocom catalog beyond the half-dozen or so huge sellers they are commonly remembered for.
Read the entire article at the link provided below.

Adventure Classic Gaming: Interactive Fiction History

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Diablo III: Inventory Upgrades, Group Play Dynamics
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

More information about Diablo III, the upcoming return to Blizzard Entertainment's popular action RPG franchise, is now available on the official forums, once again thanks to community manager Bashiok. The topics this time involve inventory upgrades and group play dynamics.

On Inventory Upgrades:

Just a few things off the top of my head regarding upgradable bags.
Upgrading storage size is a great reward, and can be much better than any incremental weapon/armor upgrade. (Kills/min could easily calculate out to be much greater without having to stop to clear inventory as much with a bag upgrade as compared to a damage increase from a weapon upgrade.)
Building off the last point, it helps add the sense of your character becoming more powerful and gaining more from the time spent playing.
Increasing the storage size over time/play experience is a great way to scale the player’s sense of the game’s complexity.
Beginning with a small and limited amount of space teaches the player early on that inventory management is an important part of playing the game - and sometimes generating income.
Making and keeping the player aware of their limitations can also help keep a better sense of structure and focus. Being overwhelmed is sometimes as detrimental to a play experience as being bored.
Also keep in mind that while we’re obviously dropping bag upgrades off of monsters now, we could choose any number of alternative ways to get them to the player. Or maybe a combination of different ways. Whatever, I just wouldn’t focus on the ‘how’ of them being delivered right now.
On Group Play:
Playing in groups benefits partly from the per-player item drops, but also an increase in items-per-minute ratio due to groups killing faster than a single player. The amount of items dropping with each additional player is slightly higher than if those players were to just play in their own games. Now, that’s slightly deceiving because we’re talking about the entire pool of drops, but actually each player sees and receives an equal* portion, so in this case we’re looking at the drops as if they were shared completely freely within the group. This may not be the case for all items or groups.
Still, if you have three friends and you’re all buddy-buddy with each other and sharing everything, the benefit of playing together for item drops is noticeable. If you’re all being very stingy and not sharing anything, or just throwing out the crap, you’ll still see a slight increase just from killing speed.
But anyway, with all that in mind, there is already of course a distance limit in which you’ll be considered an active participant in a monster kill to be able to receive a drop from it. If you’re out of range and someone in your party kills something, you don’t get a drop from it. It’s a very obvious solution to deal with a very obvious issue. And the range is fairly forgiving.
So with that settled our focus turns to helping groups help themselves through various mechanics to keep everyone together. To make sure that playing in a group is not only beneficial, but to see if we can help remove or alleviate as many of the burdens that make grouping sometimes less desirable. But those are specifics for another time.
For more of Bashiok's comments click over to the pages listed below.

Blizzplanet: Diablo III Inventory Upgrades
Blizzplanet: Diablo III Group Play
Blizzard Entertainment
Diablo III
Buy Diablo III

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EVE Online: Recent Engineering Upgrades
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | Comment on this story

A blog post on the CCP Games site has revealed recent upgrades to the game code supporting the company's sci-fi mmo, EVE Online. The post includes an overview of the improvements, the methods used to implement the changes, and a history of specific engineering changes added in recent updates.

Let's start with the results
Before we released StacklessIO and EVE64 last year, Jita would reach a maximum of 800-900 pilots, often with a fair amount of lag. After those releases, Jita would reach 800 pilots with no lag and was able to manage about 1,000 pilots with little or moderate lag. It even spiked to 1,400 pilots but with a lot of lag.

The Sunday after the release of Apocrypha 1.3, Jita climbed to 1,150 pilots with no lag. In fact there was plenty of CPU and memory to spare and you noticed the increased performance. We estimate that Jita can now handle 1,400-1,500 pilots with little or moderate lag.

More importantly, there was no lag on Monday morning after this record lag-free Sunday. Jita and other major trade and mission hubs have long suffered from a "hangover" issue that we have referred to internally in EVE Development as "The Jita Problem", where performance has decreased over time.

So how did we do this?
CCP has a technical vision of sharing game-agnostic code between different projects. We have a Core Technology team that works specifically on such code, e.g., the Trinity graphics engine, and then the game teams, such as the EVE Development team, integrate that code and build game specific functionality leveraging as much of the CCP Core Technology Platform as possible. When writing new functionality, the game teams are encouraged to separate the game-specific code from the game-agnostic code and submit as additions and enhancements to the CCP Core Technology Platform. That way all the different development teams within CCP further all our projects. (True leveraging of global synergies.)

Of course the CCP Core Technology Platform, as stands today, didn't come into existence this way. It was originally written simply as a part of EVE and then later the game-agnostic parts were extracted from it. This process has come to be known internally at CCP as "corification", and the act of releasing Core Technology Platform enhancements to EVE Online is called "battletesting".
Visit the page below for more.

EVE Online: Engineering Updates
CCP Games
EVE Online

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

Twenty Sided has posted a new review of Soldak Entertainment's casual action RPG, Kivi's Underworld. Set in the same world as Depths of Peril, Kivi's Underworld allows players to adventure as one of 20 unlockable character classes against a variety of dangerous foes.

From the review:

The greatest weakness of the game is that expectations work against it. I looked at the game and expected “Diablo” style play, and was then frustrated by the lack of character development, inventory, or complex spells. But that’s not what this game is trying to be. It just looks like one of those. It’s a short lunchtime diversion. A quick round of scoring points and bashing stuff up for fun. It’s closer to Swarm than to Fantasy-Themed Isometric Hack-n-Slash III. In keeping with this “quick round” mentality, the game starts almost instantly and is basically free of any sort of loading-screen nonsense.

As a fan of “spreadsheet” RPG’s, I do find myself looking at Kivi and wishing there was more to do. Based on comments I’ve seen in the past, I know this game is precisely what some people are looking for. I’m worried they’ll skip it because it looks like games they don’t enjoy. If you hate the flow-breaking Diablo flea market, iterative character development that has you throw out early characters, and managing an array of complex hotkeys, then Kivi is crafted with your tastes in mind.

When I review a game I usually have a laundry list of things I would have changed or done differently. I really enjoy this part of the review for indie games, because in most cases I know there’s a good chance the designer will read the review and will likely get some sort of benefit from it, even if they disagree with my conclusions. But I don’t know that I can do that here. Nearly every suggestion I could make would drag the game away from its intent. There are layers of strategy and depth and complexity that could be added, but none of them would fit within the scope offered by Kivi’s Underworld. Most of them would center around making the game more complicated, because that is what scratches my particular itch. (Besides, Steven Peeler did solicit suggestions for his next game, and I had my say there.)
Check out the rest of the article at the site below.

Twenty Sided: Kivi's Underworld Review
Soldak Entertainment
Kivi's Underworld

Mac Games News for Thursday, July 16, 2009

Apple Games Features The Abbey6:00 AM
BOH Available As Digital Download6:00 AM
WoW: Druid Q&A6:00 AM
Youda Sushi Chef Comes To Macs6:00 AM
View all of the Mac games news for Thursday, July 16, 2009 on one page

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