Posts Categorized: Videogames

Artwork and Logo for A Game of Thrones: Genesis

From Shacknews:

‘A Game of Thrones: Genesis’ plunges you into the heart of the battles and intrigues between the Families that shaped the Kingdom of Westeros.

However, victory does not necessarily result from brute force. The innovative game mechanics provide players with numerous paths to success: will you opt for a military, economic or diplomatic approach? Trickery, treachery and deceit are widespread and you will constantly have to watch your back if you want to avoid a bitter defeat!

Peacefully or forcefully annex surrounding territories, besiege enemy castles, send spies to infiltrate behind enemy lines, assassinate trouble-making officers or capture them to ask for a ransom… When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground!

Concept Art from A Game of Thrones: Genesis

Sounds akin to the famed Civilization series, which is likely a good things, given the political machinations the series is known for. Though, from the sounds of the announcement, it will be presented as an RTS/RPG hybrid (similar to Warcraft III or Dawn of War II?) Rather than focussing on the story presented in the novels (oh god, a Jaime Lannister hack-n-slash *shudder*), it sounds like it’s taking a wider look at the history and politics of the world. Still, if it’s going up against the likes of the soon-to-be-released Civilization V, then Cyanide Studio likely has their work cut out for them. I’m just glad it’s not a God of War ripoff! Now, an old humourous LucasArts-style adventure game would’ve been something to see!

Is it worth getting excited over? Will it be good? Only time will tell, I suppose.

Dragon Quest 5

The Winner

It may not be flashy, it may not be a blockbuster, but Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride for the Nintendo DS was my favourite game of the year. Last year, I absolutely adored Dragon Quest IV, and had to temper my hopes that its sequel would be able to recapture the magic. Imagine my surprise when Dragon Quest V not only met its predecessor head on, but surpassed it in every way. A charming little RPG that just reeks of old-school charm, Dragon Quest V encapsulated everything that’s wonderful about one of the genre’s premiere series: an epic multi-generational story (that never takes itself too seriously), a blazing fast battle system, and nostalgically muddy graphics. During a period in my life when my free time is devoted almost wholly to reading, writing and family, Dragon Quest V sucked me in for 40 hours and wouldn’t let me go. I wait eagerly for Dragon Quest VI, coming in 2010.

Runner-ups

Torchlight
I wrote about Torchlight a few months ago, when it was first released, and it hasn’t left my gaming rotation since. It’s like Diablo 2.5 and the absolute perfect thing to hold over gamers until the real Diablo 3 rolls around.

Machinarium
Machinarium is a cute adventure game in the vein of the old Monkey Island games, but set in a beautiful dystopia populated by robots. It’s great to see a revitalization of the genre after all these years.

A Boy and His Blob
Sense a theme? I’m a sucker for clean hand-drawn art, and A Boy and his Blob was on my radar from the moment I first saw screenshots. A great puzzle/platformer, it turned out to be more than just eye candy.

You can find my favourite games of 2008 HERE. So, after my decidedly retro list, what are some of your favourite games released in 2009?

Richard Morgan’s best known for his balls-to-the-wall Takeshi Kovacs novels, beginning with Altered Carbon. Violent gunplay, moody set-pieces, breakneck pacing and visual artistry, Morgan is on the bleeding edge of contemporary Science Fiction. In what seems like a match made in heave, Morgan has been hired by Electronic Arts, the publisher behind Mass Effect, Mirror’s Edge and the newly released Dragon Age: Origins, to work on scripts for three of their upcoming games:

About a year ago, and out of the blue, I got an e-mail from one John Miles, an enforcer (okay, not really) for the British arm of EA Games. He had a proposition for me, was I interested? Interested, of course, was putting it mildly. Video gaming is the only thing in my life that I would fully qualify as an addiction. I like a fairly limited number of games (there’s an awful lot of dross out there), but those I like, I really like, and will play them until the game paths, enemy spawning points and scripted incidentals are graven into my synapses. Some game spaces I probably know better than the streets of the city I live in. And, as I’ve said once or twice on this site, I think the gaming medium has a potential for storytelling every bit as charged and exciting as literature or film. So was I interested? Yeah – just a little bit.

Well, John flew up to Glasgow to buy me lunch, and brought with him fellow enforcer Jeff Gamon and development capo Colin Robinson, who framed their proposition thus: was I interested in coming aboard with EA to write and script for a particular game project they had going, with a view to other game projects thereafter, and if so could I be in Berlin in a week’s time?

Talk about your offers you can’t refuse.

That was a year ago. Now, without breaking any Non-Disclosure Agreements, I can cautiously reveal that I’ve been pulled in to consult on three separate games, have spent more time on airplanes and in overseas hotels during the last year than in my entire previous life, and have hit one of the steeper learning curves of my creative existence. Gaming turns out not only to be exactly as fascinating a medium as you’d expect, it’s also a very young industry and its norms have yet to be fully formed. So while it shares some characteristics with the movie world, gaming has yet to produce its version of Story guru Robert McKee or the cut-and-dried writing formula requirements that have strangled so much creativity in places like Hollywood. What you can put into a big budget game is still very much up for grabs, and what’s more, with the breakneck pace of technological development backing the field, it’s constantly changing as well. One producer I’m working with at the moment likens what we’re doing to working in Hollywood circa 1920, when everyone was still working out what you could do with this wild, new medium called film; the only difference is that the rate of evolution in technique for video games is running at about a dozen times the speed it ever did for film. The field is open, the potential huge and, in story terms, only just beginning to be properly tapped

For a writer, that’s a pretty close definition of paradise.

And it hasn’t hurt that the projects I’m working on are all science fiction, so while I chisel patiently away in fantasy at The Dark Commands, my SF muscles are being kept in trim by the concepts at the heart of each game.

Source

What’s most intriguing is Morgan’s stance on videogames as a medium for storytelling. I’ve always felt similarily to Morgan, that Videogaming is still in its infancy, trying to figure itself out, and it’s nice to have a proven storyteller like Morgan involved in helping the medium find its legs. Morgan’s style of storytelling lends itself well to the Videogame medium, and it’s encouraging to see a souless huge company like EA reach out to snag him into their midst. Really, it’s hard to think of an author better suited to the job, and certainly it rings truer than Graham Joyce being chosen to pen Doom 4.

Torchlight Logo

I’ll keep this short. If you’re anything like me, you probably poured an embarrassing amount of hours into the original Diablo and it’s sequel, Diablo II. You’re probably also waiting impatiently for Diablo III. Well, Torchlight is here to fill that void.

Torchlight Screenshot Torchlight Screenshot Torchlight Screenshot

Word of Ember blazed across the land, and the town of Torchlight flared to life.

Ember is the essence of magic and the keystone of alchemy; it lures the restless with promises of power and riches. Miners burrowed deep beneath the dirt streets of Torchlight, discovering veins of the ore richer than any found in living memory- but they were not the first to covet these mines. The miners broke through into the buried past, a dangerous labyrinth of caverns and ruined civilizations, twisted creatures and the bones of those who came before. Evil bubbles up from the depths and threatens to overrun this town as it has so many others. The heart of a villain has infused the Ember, and his darkness seeps through the veins. To survive, the townspeople must break the cycle of destruction; they need a champion who can destroy the evil at its root. Removing the source of the rot may purify the Ember, but it is a long and perilous journey. The champion must battle through rock and fire, through lost cities and ancient tombs, into the palace of the villain himself.

The adventure is set in the mining settlement of Torchlight, a boomtown founded on the discovery of rich veins of Ember – a rare and mysterious ore with the power to enchant or corrupt all that it contacts. This corruptive power may have dire consequences however, and players set out into the nearby mountains and depths below to discover the full extent of Ember’s influence on the civilizations that have come before.

Made by Runic Games a company formed by many of the people behind the Diablo games, Torchlight hits all the same notes. Loot, baddies, cartoony World of Warcraftish graphics, loot, fantastic music, great locations, loot, and more loot. And, hey, it runs smooth as butter even on my three-year-old Macbook, so it’ll certainly run on nearly anything. The guys over at Giant Bomb have a great video preview.

If that isn’t enought to convince you, the game’s only twenty bucks. Still not convniced? There’s a demo, which allows you to carry over your character when you buy the full game. Seriously, though, I’ve been playing it almost non-stop for the last few days and it’s grabbed with that same addictive embrach that Blizzard’s classic dungeon-crawlers did back in high school. If you like the genre, check it out. It’s awesome. I promise.

Torchlight is available for purchase through its Official Website and through Steam.

Taking a page out of Hellgate: London (which crashed and burned, hard) and Maple Story (which is a huge success), Dungeons and Dragons Online is going free-to-play, with micro-transactions included for those really serious about the game. The official web site gives a little rundown:

DDO Unlimited introduces an innovative new way to play – you can download and play DDO for free! For even more action and fun, you can purchase additional adventures, convenience items, and account services at your leisure from the new DDO Store. Can’t get enough of DDO? You can even subscribe, becoming a “VIP”, to get unlimited access to all of the game’s content.

Dungeons and Dragons Online

An article on Gameindustry.biz sheds a bit of light on why DDO went free-to-play:

The US-only, free-to-play makeover for the MMO turns regular subscribers into VIP members and gives access to all game content as well as a monthly Turbine Point allowance. But, said Mersky, the company has still profited from Turbine Point sales.

“They all got a ton of points for being loyal subscribers, for being in the beta. We weren’t really expecting a ton of sales – they had no incentive to. They already had access to all of the content as VIP subscribers, and we just gave them a butt-load of Points,” Mersky told Kotaku, as reported by Eurogamer.

“They’ve gone through their points, and we’ve already sold millions more Turbine points, and we’ve not even opened up the world to the public yet.”

“The hottest selling items are the new Favored Soul class, which is unlockable in-game, but all of our subs just went ahead and spent points on it, unlocked it, and they’re playing it right now,” he added.

[…] Alongside the switch to a free-to-play model comes Module 9, which raises the level cap, adds two new storylines, overhauls the combat system and introduces the Favored Soul. Module 9 will also be released as a regular free update to European subscribers.

You can create an account and download the game HERE.