Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Answering the Important Questions… Apache vs. Dragon

Posted by Rampant Coyote on February 11, 2015

You know, we didn’t have documentaries like this when I was a kid. Instead, we had to research the material ourselves, the hard way, and turn it into an RPG or a wargame. Then we’d discover that the ol’ M-230 chain gun needs a critical hit to damage Smaug in a vital area, like his eyes, or his missing scale.

 


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Coming Soon: Mechanized Masterpieces 2

Posted by Rampant Coyote on February 10, 2015

“I’m dying already, Mr. Chase. I don’t know that I will survive another sleep in that machine, or another week outside of it. I should be long dead already.”
“But why accelerate it?” Miriam pleaded.
“Because I’m done surviving. I need to live again, if only for a few hours. I need to be strong, bold, and brash. I need to become Brom Bones again. Can’t you see what I am asking? Do you understand what a gift it would be for a man to choose not only when but in what manner he finishes his mortal life?”
— The Van Tassel Legacy, by Jay Barnson

I finished the submitted draft for this story about a year ago. It’s exciting to see it finally see print in this upcoming anthology. There were some pre-releases sold this last weekend, so the book is now out in the wild. It won’t officially be released on February 28th, but it’s now available for pre-order from Amazon:

MMII imageMechanized Masterpieces 2: An American Anthology

This is an anthology of steampunk fiction that is inspired by classic American literature. My story, The Van Tassel Legacy, is based on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. It takes place approximately fifty years after the events of the original tale. A young scientist arrives in the village of Sleepy Hollow, New York, and becomes embroiled in treachery and old secrets within the Van Brunt family. And, of course, a story about a phantom horseman from the Revolutionary War…

And if you aren’t familiar with Steampunk… here’s my take on the subgenre.

 


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AAA to Indie – is the flow of talent going only one way?

Posted by Rampant Coyote on February 9, 2015

Many years ago, I wrote an article for the Escapist called, “Going Rogue,” which was about mainstream – often AAA developers – leaving their big-studio jobs for indie development. A few months ago, Jeffrey Grubb wrote “Why Triple-A Developers Are Going Indie (and Why Indies Aren’t Going Triple-A.

I’ve definitely been noticing the trend lately. It feels like the big, mainstream studios are constantly closing down or performing major layoffs, and rather than hunt around and relocate in order to get another job for another game studio that will probably disappear in about three years, the folks are just forming their own indie studio. They’ll put together a Kickstarter to keep themselves in raman noodles for a few months, and go off to the races.

And thus we have a glut of indie game studios out there. Back when I wrote my article, having mainstream game dev experience as an indie was unusual. Now, it may not be typical, but it’s hardly uncommon.

This business is cyclical, and what I expect to see happen is… more of what we’ve always seen happen. Yes, you’ll see more AAA devs leave the mainstream industry to go indie than the other way around. However, once the industry gets its footing again (right now there’s a sea-change going on, and everybody’s reeling), you’ll get the bigger studios / publishers gobbling up the more consistent, quality indie studios. That’s the way AAA brings the talent back in. They promise the resources and deep pockets to help the little studios grow and weather the lean times. But over time, the little formerly-indie studio becomes completely borged and either fully assimilated or eliminated. It’s the game dev jungle.

Of course, I could be wrong. The whole industry / hobby / medium may be changing so much that, like the dinosaurs, the ecosystem may no longer support what we traditionally think of as AAA games. At least not on the scale that we’re used to. I think you’ll still have larger publishers / consortiums / businesses that act to consolidate the industry a bit – just for mutual survival – so there’ll still be the fragmentation / consolidation cycle.

But fundamentally, I think Jeffrey Grubb nailed it.  Right now, AAA doesn’t offer anything for an indie game developer except maybe a more steady paycheck. But as a programmer, I can make more money outside the games biz. And since working for a major publisher often precludes work “on the side” as an indie… that’s really not much more than a fallback position (game designers and artists, unfortunately, have a bit more struggle finding good jobs outside of the games biz). So why go back?

 


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Minecraft Didn’t Sell Itself

Posted by Rampant Coyote on February 6, 2015

minecraftlogoIt’s popular (in indie circles) to say that Notch did everything wrong with Minecraft, yet it still managed to become the biggest indie success story of all time. The game was confusing to players until they’d checked out some kind of out-of-game tutorial (or had someone sitting next to them explaining it to them). It was written in Java. Distribution was weird. Notch didn’t go through the traditional channels. He didn’t even try to get his game on Steam, for crying out loud! (In fact, I think he refused the offer).

Oh, and he didn’t market it.

Except… really… he did. He marketed it quite well, and cleverly. And this should be a lesson to indie developers across the board. He marketed the game in a very indie way, bypassing some of the conventional wisdom and methods. But some furious marketing was good. Something for all of us to learn from. Not that exactly imitating him would yield the same results – we’ve all gotta find out own style and niche, adapting to (rather than following) current trends and technology.

Konsolo has a fantastic article about exactly how Minecraft was marketed that I’ve been meaning to share:

How Notch Marketed Minecraft


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Indie Hats

Posted by Rampant Coyote on February 5, 2015

I have the brain of a programmer. Or maybe I just have the programming of a programmer. This bites me in the butt as an indie. If I’m not coding, I don’t feel like I’m doing “work.”

This is wrong, wrong, wrong, and I have to keep working at it. Because, with that attitude, I will sluff off important things like design, writing, business development, and working with other people in order to get what I psychologically feel is getting ‘real’ work done. That causes some nasty avoidable bottlenecks, because I feel this need to be “productive.” It can also mean (as has happened on this project quite a bit more than once) that I end up with some stuff in an advanced development stage while other stuff hasn’t even been prototyped yet, meaning I don’t know if the stuff that’s “advanced” is actually what I want in the end or not.

On larger projects, it’s a lot easier to lose sight of things.

One of the big challenges of going indie is learning to be comfortable in all these hats. You may despise the whole business / marketing / sales thing, but you must embrace it. If you work with others (and maybe if you don’t), you have to embrace project management. It’s your game, so even if you work with an artist, or sound designer, or composer, the buck ultimately stops with you for decisions and direction on things you may not know much about. Ditto if you are primarily an artist and have to work with a programmer. You may not have the skill to do his or her job, but you have to know enough to work with your programmer and provide some basic instruction, guidance, and oversight.

And as I keep re-learning, it’s not a case of learning to do it once, but over and over again to avoid slipping back into old habits.


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Underworld Enters Crowdfunding

Posted by Rampant Coyote on February 4, 2015

Underworld-Ascendant---DwarIt’s funny how much I’ve been looking forward to throwing money at OtherSide Entertainment. I wish I had ten grand to send them, because I’d… well, no. Actually, I’d spend it on Frayed Knights. But I’d be tempted.

The Underworld Ascendant Kickstarter is live.

As of the time I’m writing this, they are 1/10th of the way to their goal. I think I’ll join them in saying I’d be thrilled to see ‘em hit their goal the first day. I’m very cautious about pushing Kickstarter campaigns, because of the risk. The risk is still there, but speaking for myself, I personally think they have what it takes to make it happen, and so I’m willing to pony up a bit to give them their chance. And if they hit the stretch goal for co-op play. Well. If they pull it all off and manage to recapture the feel of the original, I’ll be ecstatic.

I still have a design outline I wrote up years ago for an Underworld-like game. I opted to go for the Frayed Knights design instead, though a couple of ideas from the one design found its way into Frayed Knights.  A couple of other ideas temporarily found their way into the game, but it turns out that they sucked, so they were gotten rid of again. For a brief period of time, though, my mouse control mirrored the movement control in Ultima Underworld.  You know what? Bad idea. I’m glad that didn’t catch on back in the day.

But I realized there was a big, empty hole in the modern RPG experience. As much as the Elder Scrolls games borrowed from Ultima Underworld, they were very much their own games, with a very different (and very cool) flavor. One of the few games that came close to capturing that feel was Arx Fatalis, and that game was published over a decade ago.

I used to call games like the Underworld series more of a “survival RPG,” but that’s taken on a whole new meaning in an era of post-apocalyptic titles. But really, the thrilling thing about them was that they were kind of “Dungeon Simulators.” Which, I’ve come to realize much later in life, is perhaps closer to the old-school RPG style… where the emphasis was much less on “role-playing” and more on surviving in what feels like a “living” interactive world. Where creativity and cleverness can trump high stats, and cool events happen organically rather than being scripted.

I feel I have reason to believe that’s what we’ll end up with at the end of this process. But that’s me. YMMV.

UnderworldAscendantArt

And in only vaguely related news (in the “old-school comeback”) department – Becky Heineman is planning a long-overdue sequel to Dragon Wars.

What an amazing time it is to be a CRPG fan.

 


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Mythica: A Quest for Heroes

Posted by Rampant Coyote on February 3, 2015

mythicaBack in the early-to-mid 80s, there were rumors of a Dungeons & Dragons movie. D&D was a weird fad, so of course Hollywood was investigating the possibility of making a movie out of it. And of course, Hollywood investigating (or even buying the movie rights) means very little. We geeky kids were disappointed that while it was talked about, it didn’t materialize.

But not as disappointed as we were when an official Dungeons & Dragons movie finally did hit the theaters in December 2000, in all its blue-lipstick glory. All I can say is that we were all very grateful that The Fellowship of the Ring appeared a year later and washed that taste out of our mouths. Since D&D was largely inspired by the Lord of the Rings books, I think it’s fair to say that the Lord of the Rings trilogy finally gave us the D&D movies that we always wanted. And then some.

But if you have already seen the movies a few times and are looking for some other high-fantasy movie that feels like a rousing game of Dungeons & Dragons, the pickings can be a little slim.

Saturday night, a cold had killed my voice, I was exhausted from FanX, and I was supposed to run a Pathfinder game for game night. It wasn’t happening. However, I’d just received my backer DVD from the Mythica: A Quest for Heroes kickstarter. I’d run into Jason Faller, one of the writers and producers for the movie, at FanX the day before, and he’d assured me (in spite of his obvious bias) that this was their best movie to date. So our gaming group opted to watch this movie instead.

Mythica: A Quest for Heroes is a lower-budget, independent film that is inspired by gaming. And by “inspired by,” I think I mean, “it’s like a D&D campaign got turned into a movie.” But I mean that in a good way. It’s part of a trilogy of movies, for which all principle filming is already completed.

You know what? We really enjoyed the movie. No, it’s not going to go toe-to-toe against The Fellowship of the Ring or anything, but it was a decent movie that felt like an idealized first adventure of a D&D campaign.

The film follows a lame slave girl named Marek, who has been secretly studying under the magician Gojun Pye (played by Kevin Sorbo). She discovers that he is leaving, and begs him to buy her contract and take her with him. Instead, in classic D&D logic, he gives her instructions that effectively amount to, “Go adventure and gain a couple of levels, and then I’ll teach you some more.”

Seriously. He uses different words, but that’s basically what he says.

It doesn’t take long before running away becomes a necessity. Following Gojun Pye’s suggestion, she heads out of town to a tavern  – naturally, the source of countless adventures in D&D campaigns. There she meets a young priestess named Teela who is desperate to rescue her sister who has been kidnapped by orc raiders. Sound familiar? Teela can’t afford to hire seasoned adventurers, and is clearly unimpressed by Marek, but Marek promises that she has a “team.”

So Marek frantically uses bribery and duress to extract commitments from Thane the warrior, and Degen the rogue. They get together with Teela and the four misfits – not getting along very well together to begin with – must face a small army of orcs and a fearsome ogre, among other deadly threats to rescue Teela’s sister.

If you are a D&D player, this storyline probably sounds incredibly familiar. But nevertheless, the filmmakers manage to throw enough twists to keep it entertaining. And as far as it’s low-budget, indie status… thanks to CGI, the special effects are at least up there with an average Doctor Who episode. While the main story is tied up in a satisfactory way, it feels like there was a lot that was set up to be addressed in the future installments. I’m looking forward to them.

Is it a cinematic masterpiece? Of course not. But Mythica: A Quest for Heroes is a fun ride, an entertaining fantasy adventure that hides its shoestring budget remarkably well. Especially if you are a fan of fantasy role-playing games, I recommend the movie.

Mythica: A Quest for Heroes


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FanX Report – 2015

Posted by Rampant Coyote on February 2, 2015

I spent the weekend at the Salt Lake Comic Con FanXperience – sort of an offshoot of Salt Lake Comic Con. As far as the differences between this and the full-fledged Comic Con, it felt like there were fewer panels, and the celebrities were pulled from media outside of traditional geek fandom. I guess it’s supposed to be more of a “pop culture” thing. This year they deliberately reduced the size of FanX to 50,000 attendees (last year it hit 100,000, and Comic Con hit 130,000). It was hardly intimate, but it felt a lot smaller than the previous events.

As I was at a combined table for Xchyler-published authors. We didn’t think that sales were as brisk as they’d been at similar events, and I don’t know why that was the case. We heard similar things from some other authors, but I don’t know how the rest of the vendors fared. We may need to think about another approach for these conventions. I missed the last couple of hours on the floor, though, and typically that’s where the big flurry of buying happens. (I know that’s how I do it… I window shop until the final day).

PiperPicMeta640Compared to my running a game booth for Frayed Knights at Comic Con in September, this was much, much more relaxed. I actually got to play regular attendee about half the time. I got to see Billie Piper and Carrie Fisher. (In a very meta- type photo, I took a picture of Billie Piper getting her picture taken with us. Although – I also got other people snapping pictures, so one could argue that it is a picture of people getting a picture of Billie Piper getting a picture with us….)  Billie Piper was very down-to-earth. Carrie Fisher… not so much. But she was very fun. She smooched the first guy to bring her a Coke – we’re talking serious, 15-second kiss here – so he’s got a story to tell about how he made out with Princess Leia.

A panel on “The Science of Interstellar” – all about the current scientific theory that the movie was based on – was absolutely fascinating. The panelists did a great job, and seemed to know their stuff (they had one physicist among them, at least, who works with a little bit of what they talked about in the movie on a daily basis).

The costumes were – as usual – half the fun. My favorites included a woman dressed up as Idris from Doctor Who – but her dress was clearly (if understatedly) a Tardis. Clever! Also, there was a girl in a Toothless costume (from How to Train Your Dragon) who was amazing (although – especially when she walked on all fours – it looked exhausting). There was also a couple dressed as Thermians from Galaxy Quest who were pretty amazing. I wish I’d taken more pictures – I was way too slow to pull out the ol’ phone or tablet.

The exhibitor floor was also very nice – as usual. While there were plenty of regular shops selling the standard geeky wares, I was personally impressed by all the local talent on display. Particularly the artists (because their skill is on display) and craftspeople. It was also a small enough event this time around that I was able to run into a lot of people I knew, even though it was still far too big to run into everyone I’d hoped to see.


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Volume Control

Posted by Rampant Coyote on January 30, 2015

Okay, I’m not an expert on polishing games. I wish I was. Maybe after I have another dozen games under my belt, I’ll know more. We’ll see. But here’s something to me that appears obvious, but maybe that’s just because I haven’t made a game for Android yet:

When a game runs, it should respect the global volume control settings. “Media volume” should be… like… all media. You know? No exceptions.

In other words, when you install a game in the middle of the night – like, say Heroes of Might & Magic 3 HD, and may have to put the tablet down because the lengthy install procedure, you should not have to worry about the game starting and blaring its music at top volume when you’ve had the tablet in silent / vibrate mode.

Just sayin’. That’s a very simple polish thing that should be automatic. Sounds kind of obvious to me. It sounded kind of obvious to my previously-sleeping wife who woke up to the blaring music, too.

As for HoMM3-HD, we started out on the wrong foot. Let’s not have a repeat of this, like, forever, okay?


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RPGs and Fear of Commitment

Posted by Rampant Coyote on January 29, 2015

mm3_adOnce upon a time, computer RPGs were expensive. Retailing for as much as $79 – which was around $150+ in today’s inflation-adjusted dollars – they were a serious money commitment. They tended to stay reasonably close to full price until the sequel was released – maybe dropping down as low as $45 (which is still $80-$90 by today’s rates).

And in terms of time? Hey, if you were gonna lay down 80 bones for a game, you wanted to squeeze every dollar’s worth out of it. So these games had to be big, beefy, and offer around an hours’ worth of entertainment for every dollar. When you invested in an RPG, you were in for a long-term commitment. Not only would it kill your game budget (well, they did for me), but they would represent weeks – maybe months – of effort to complete.

These RPGs were going to become your world for a while. And they did. I think that’s why I have so many fond recollections of these old-school games. I lived in these worlds for a while.

One does not simply walk into Mordor… or Xeen… or Britannia… or Lost Guardia… or Faerûn…

By contrast, you have the roguelikes. These have been around as long as their full-fledged RPG counterparts (arguably even longer, as some of the oldest RPGs would look a lot more like roguelikes today), but with permadeath lurking around every corner and potentially in every morsel of food, when you start up a roguelike, you do so with the expectation that your entire gaming experience is unlikely to last more than about fifteen minutes. More if you are an expert at that particular game, less if you are new to it. Like the old arcade games, while there may be a theoretically achievable ending (or at least a kill screen), it’s generally just a case of seeing how long you can beat the odds and survive.

If full-fledged RPGs are a long-term commitment, roguelikes are… I won’t even call them a single date. They are more like flirting at a party.

I wonder if that may be part of the reason for the rise in popularity of roguelikes lately is due in no small part to this. They offer a bit of the entertainment value of  a full-fledged RPG, but without the commitment. Because the bottom has virtually dropped out of the pricing on games these days,  I wonder if the time requirement has become an impediment… particularly for the Internet-addicted, social-media-trained audience we’re becoming. Where one game once had to last us for weeks, we can buy a bundle of indie games for less than a dollar a title. I dunno about you, but I get what would once have been considered a years’ supply of games when Steam or GOG.COM have a big sale.  I have a multi-year backlog now.

So committing to a game is psychologically much harder to do. Choose a game out of dozens and dozens with which I’m going to have to be pretty exclusive for a while? That’s difficult!

But worth it?  I dunno. Sure, if it’s an old classic or a popular recent release, I have reason to believe it’ll be worth investing the time and effort into the story, learning the game system, making my characters, and wading through all the introductory material before getting to the “good stuff.” Then it’s only a matter of “settling down” for a few weeks (given my limited playing time) and getting to business. But which one?

And there are all these promising, rarely-covered old and new indie RPGs that somebody ought to try. Seriously. One of my all-time favorites, Knights of the Chalice, received very little acclaim outside of a few outlets, yet it proved to be a couple dozen hours of pure tactical, old-school joy on my end. What if I’d missed it because I was too busy playing the more popular, critically-acclaimed or “classic” titles? Honestly, I played a good deal of the greatly-lauded Bastion and tried to like it (I certainly enjoyed the narration and the music!), but in the end it left me flat, and feeling like I wasted my time.

But is that really so different? Back in the day, there were still plenty of choices, but they weren’t so easy to access. It was a matter of investing both time and a serious chunk of change.

All I can say is that no, making RPGs shorter is not the answer. At least not as a general rule. I’m fine with playing “short” 15-hour-ish RPGs, but I still do love the good ol’ epic quest. Once I finally, like Bilbo Baggins, find myself persuaded to step out the door.


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Appearance: Salt Lake City Comic Con Fan Xperience

Posted by Rampant Coyote on January 28, 2015

TerraMechanicaCoverI’m going to be at the Salt Lake City Comic Con “FanX” convention this weekend at the Xchyler Publishing booth. At least part of the time. Sadly, I’m fighting off a cold right now, but I hope to be in good shape at least by Friday. Not sure about Thursday yet.

There won’t be any demos of Frayed Knights 2 this time, I’m afraid. That sucker has its guts still on the floor of the garage, getting souped up for something a bit more… complete. Also, sadly, the new anthology – Mechanized Masterpieces 2: An American Anthology – doesn’t release for another month. Bummer. But I’ll be there with some copies of Terra Mechanica.

If you’ll be there, come say hi. We’ll be in booth Purple 8.

There’ll be other people to see there, too, or so I’ve heard. Folks like Doctor Who’s Matt Smith, Karen Gillen, and Billie Piper. Christopher Lloyd. Brandon Routh. Nichelle Nichols. Carrie Fisher. People you might have heard of. :)

 

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Daggerfall in Unity?

Posted by Rampant Coyote on January 27, 2015

There have been several projects to remake Daggerfall. But this is… different. Although I know it can’t be as good as I imagine, I am excited about the potential of this toolset. I guess that’s how I know I am a game developer at heart. I see something like this, and I don’t think, “Ooh, I could play a Daggerfall remake!” I think, “Holy cow, what could I make with this?” Of course, given all the other stuff that has to be made to turn something like this into an actual RPG, what I might make might be suspiciously similar to Frayed Knights: The Khan of Wrath right now.

The toolset is really intended for people to make their own Daggerfall re-creations / spinoffs / whatever. It reads in the actual data files from the original game (which is free from Bethesda) and allows you to do all kinds of stuff with it. Mainly in the style of the original, 20-year-old game.  There’s a lot you can do without any coding, and even more you can do if you don’t mind writing a little code, incorporating more content / code from third parties (like AI packs), or using some of the tools developed by the community.

For those who missed it, one of the killer things about Daggerfall (even moreso than its predecessor, Arena) was the scope. You want to talk about procedural / sandbox worlds? The world of Daggerfall was immense. There were some semi-custom towns, NPCs, and dungeons in the game (including some trippy alternate dimension stuff) if you followed the main plot, but following the main plot wasn’t even just optional… the game actively tried to derail you. Fail to be in the right spot at the right time, and you might never be able to “finish” the main storyline. Not that it mattered that much. Daggerfall was kind of a fantasy-world simulator where you just made your own way.

But – with this toolkit – there could be some new life left in that antique world. Like the holy grail of Daggerfall fans in the mid-90s… multiplayer! Yeah, adventure in the actual dungeons of the second Elder Scrolls game with a partner. That would be… kinda cool, if not exactly the bomb now in 2015.


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Shut Up And Take My Money: Yet More Classic RPG Series Reboots

Posted by Rampant Coyote on January 26, 2015

I have faith. Proven teams & talent. The IPs… maybe a little less so, mainly because it’s been so long. But if the success of Wasteland 2 or Might & Magic X: Legacy are any indication, a committed team dedicated to classic old-school games can create worthy successors. Now we have two more classic RPGs that will soon have crowdfunding campaigns for their triumphant return.

I have a tough time containing myself. This is the kind of thing that seemed like an impossible dream ten years ago.

Underworld-Ascendant---DwarFirst up: Some of the original Looking Glass folks putting together the new Ultima Underworld, sans the “Ultima” part but otherwise very much the third in the series (the second one was more tightly tied to the Ultima IP – it was just tacked on at the end in the original). The Kickstarter begins February 4th. I can’t be part of this fast enough, if only in a very peripheral way.

Underworld Ascendant by Otherside Entertainment

Ultima Underworld was one of the “holy trinity” of games that came out at around the same time from Origin that made me decide to try a career in game development. The other two, naturally enough, were Ultima 7 and Wing Commander (well, really, Wing Commander II). It is one of my all-time favorite games and my favorite RPGs. I feel in some ways, it still hasn’t been matched / exceeded, and I’m really thrilled to see what Paul Neurath and company have planned for this new title.

And then, hot on the heels of this game having a Kickstarter launch date, Brian Fargo made the announcement I’ve been kinda waiting for over the last few weeks:

 

Yes, I’ve been expecting this one. They’ve had the license for The Bard’s Tale forever, and many of us were disappointed when inXile released the comedy game by the same name several years back (which actually wasn’t a bad game, IMO… just unhappy that it was called “The Bard’s Tale“). I can’t say that the original games were really that influential on me. The best thing about them was Tales of the Unknown Volume I: The Bard’s Tale (the real title… it was supposed to be the “Tales of the Unknown” series, but that didn’t stick) that they beat Wizardry I to release on the Commodore 64. I had been anxiously waiting the chance to play Wizardry I on my own computer – which never actually happened back then – and then a friend tells me all about this awesome new game that was “just like Wizardry, only better!”

And sure enough, graphically, he was right…  it was clearly superior. The dungeons and city streets were kinda-sorta “textured,” and the enemy encounters were partly animated. It took me forever to make a party strong enough to walk around the city streets without dying, however.  I wondered what kind of game designer made it so your party of adventurers can’t go outside their front door without getting slaughtered.

Still, it was a fun game, and though I never completed it (and probably never will), it was a pretty influential title for me back in the day. Anyway, there’s more news on it here:

IGN: Brian Fargo Announces First Bard’s Tale Sequel in 27 Years

Actually, they have the date wrong – the original game came out around 30 years ago. Dunno where 1988 came from – I think that was when Wasteland 1 released. Anyway, doesn’t matter. Bottom line: Dungeon crawling, pulling from the original for ideas, and some interesting ideas for non-traditional but still turn-based combat.

I’m in.


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Utah Indie Night, January 2015

Posted by Rampant Coyote on January 23, 2015

Indie Night this month was at my alma mater, Brigham Young University. It was cool to hit the ol’ stomping grounds again – I spent many, many hours at the James E. Talmage building getting my Computer Science degree. It seems smaller, now.

But mainly it was cool.

Anyway, the night was kicked off by Lyle Cox giving a talk on finding motivation as an indie… although it covered a variety of subjects concerning health and well-being. He talked about finding life balance, avoiding burnout, maintaining focus, controlling your environment, scheduling, maintaining perspective, self-improvement, and yes, motivation.

It was an idea-packed half-hour. I’m not too much into the touchy-feely side of things, but a lot of the talk made sense. Even the basics – getting enough exercise, and filling your brain with better “brain food”, and discovering a bit more about what motivates you and makes you tick – was valuable information to be reminded of.

After that there were the games, and networking. I got a chance to play the latest version of Eidolon Games’ Flame Warrior, which totally kicked my butt several different ways.  It has changed a lot since last summer’s demo, with a very different interface. And it’s clearly more challenging.

Some other old favorites were there – Script Kiddies, Dub Wars, etc.  But as usual, I took advantage of the opportunity to talk to other game devs and get a feel for how things were going among my fellow indies. Sadly, it’s pretty rough and crowded out there. But it was once again great to draw on their experiences and learn from them, swap ideas, and talk about things that fellow game developers all understand. It was, as always, equal parts educational and motivational.

Big thinks to Greg Squire of Monkey Time Games for organizing things, as always. And thanks to my fellow indies. I had a great time, and I think I really needed the chance to hang out with other game devs for a while and remind myself why I keep doing what I’m doing. We’re all passionate about games, for different reasons sometimes, but we’re passionate enough that it drives us to keep at it in spite of all the other things we could be doing with our time. (I noted that very few indies were caught up on current television shows…)

I’ll end with a couple of quotes from Lyle – one might have been him quoting someone else, but they go like this:

#1 – “You will never influence the world if you try to be like it.” Be unique. Find your own purpose and measure of success. Do something awesome. And:

#2 – “You probably suck at what you are doing right now. So work on self-improvement and keep working on becoming the expert in your craft.” (Probably misquoted, but that’t the gist).


Filed Under: Utah Indie Game Night - Comments: Be the First to Comment



Human Extinction Simulator

Posted by Rampant Coyote on January 22, 2015

HumanExtinctionHuman Extinction Simulator. As I’ve heard it, that was only a working title, until Dave Toulouse of Machine 22 came up with a better one. But the truth was… that was a pretty awesome title. So he kept it.

And it’s finally released.

Human Extinction Simulator is a turn-based tactics game of space fleet battles with a Chess-style flare, fully deterministic.  Meaning – no random results. Again, like Chess.

Unlike Chess, you’ve got 30 different ship types instead of 7, each with different movements and weapon patterns. And 34 different scenarios to play through. Not a small game.

In the full disclosure department – yes, I’m friends with Dave. He’s a great guy, a fellow struggling indie, the maker of the way-more-fun-than-I-expected Bret Airborne, and I am just as personally excited for him as I am for the release of this game.

You can buy the game direct from Steam or… even better… buy it directly from Machine 22 and get a Steam key to go with it. The latter is clearly the better deal.

You can grab it here:

Human Extinction Simulator at Machine22

And you can watch the trailer to see if it’s your cup of tea:


Filed Under: Game Announcements - Comments: 4 Comments to Read



The Era of Enhanced Game Re-Releases

Posted by Rampant Coyote on January 21, 2015

MI2SpecialCompareI remember in the “good old days” (which were neither that good nor that old…) how we’d wish that somebody would remake an old classic game with no changes except improved technology for modern (at the time) systems. Of course, nobody ever did that. If you got a “remake,” it was a complete reboot. There were a handful of exceptions, such as a version of Wing Commander 1-3 redone for Windows 95, or a spiffed-up version of X-Wing or TIE Fighter.

But now, in the middle of the twenty-teens, it’s a Thing. We just had a massive overhaul of the original Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers released.  The first two Monkey Island games got a very nice high-resolution makeover with the addition of voice-overs and commentaries not too long ago. Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2 have gotten “enhanced editions” that run much better on modern systems and higher resolutions, and have some added content of somewhat reasonable quality, and Icewind Dale 1 just had a similar update.  I can frequently be found playing the new Rise of Nations Extended Edition, which is exactly the same as the original game and its expansion which I already own, but with some minor graphical improvements and Steam integration – and built-in functionality for live streaming of a game via Twitch TV. We’re getting lots of “HD” games enhanced for modern screen resolutions and mobile platforms, tiny machines that are far more powerful than the original platforms the games were intended.

I’m already dreading my loss of productivity I know I’ll experience when Heroes of Might & Magic III: HD releases for Android in a few days.

On the indie front (although a lot of these remakes / modern enhanced re-releases are being done by smaller, indie studios), Spiderweb Software is on its second “remake” of the Avernum / Exile series. I haven’t played the newest updates, but from the sounds of it they are quite a bit more than a graphics upgrade.

So here’s the question: That’s what I remember asking for all those years ago. “Just give me <Game X> with modern graphics, no other changes!” And now that’s what we’re being given. Is this a good thing? I lament how Hollywood has gotten itself stuck in a rut of sequels and reboots – how it’s becoming a creative wasteland in that respect. Are games going the same direction? Is it a problem at all?

I dunno. I’m getting what I asked for, so that’s nice. I’ve enjoyed the remakes I’ve played, even if I am replaying almost exactly the same game I played several years ago (then again, whenever I play a “new” FPS, I often feel the same…) I don’t see them limiting the flow of brand-new titles. At least not yet. And I felt my daughter got to enjoy the full impact and awesomeness of the Monkey Island games just fine.

I guess I could worry that we’re taking a step back in gameplay – losing 15+ years of experience in making better games – but let’s get real, here. While I won’t quite all rose-colored-glasses and say that games were all better prior to 2000, but I will certainly say that things haven’t universally improved in that time.

So what’s your take? Are we enhancing the past and providing classics in new packaging that can finally be considered timeless, or are we exposing how creatively bankrupt we’ve become as an industry with these enhanced editions?

 


Filed Under: Biz, Retro - Comments: 7 Comments to Read



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