Baldur’s Gate gets Steam Achievements

Okay, this came to as a surprise to me, and so far no major news sites noticed, but this is huge. Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition and Baldur’s Gate II Enhanced Edition got Steam Achievements.

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They are inactive at the moment, but the Siege of Dragonspear website tells us that the expansion will be released at the end of March, so it’s pretty reasonable to think that a patch will activate them soon. Also, the collector’s edition looks like this:

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Really exciting news, we can finally show off our 100% with our favorite RPGs. Although it will be hard, as some of the achievements require to beat the game solo or on the hardest difficulty settings, and completing absolutely everything, including all three alignments.

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What System Shock 3 Needs to be About

OtherSide Entertainment has revealed that one of my all-time favorite villain, SHODAN will be returning with System Shock 3. This is not a big surprise, although this made me wonder if SHODAN is really that essential to System Shock, or are there much more important elements in the series that we need to see?

Don’t get me wrong: SHODAN is the trademark of the series (especially if Terri Brosius is involved). If the story justifies her presence, if the developers can make her new and terrifying again, if she’s not just a recycled icon repeating her catchphrases… she might be the star again.

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But System Shock is fundamentally a game about the clash of philosophical ideas, and SHODAN is merely an impersonation of one side. System Shock was always about humanity. How the human race fares in extreme situations. It was about the importance of the individual versus the needs of the many. It was about flesh versus technology. About the corruption of certitudes. About the culture shock in reaction to a higher system (artificial intelligence, space exploration, augmentation of humans, etc.).

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What Heavy Rain Can Teach You About Bad Narrative Design

David Cage’s Heavy Rain presents itself as an “Interactive Drama”, and mostly succeeds in being just that. It tells a compelling murder mystery thriller, the choices the player makes impact the outcome of events, and the story is told through the viewpoints of well written characters with voice actors who make them come alive. But the game’s dramatic structure and environmental design is not on par with its story, and I’m going to try to analyse these weaknesses.

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First of all, I won’t spoil any of the endings, but I will speak in detail about the Prologue and the dramatic turn of events in Chapter 1. Also, I’m not here to criticize the game and condemn it just for the sake of it. Heavy Rain is excellent in many ways, but because of this, its shortcomings are more surprising. They need to be analysed for us to understand why they happened and what a narrative designer can learn from these mistakes.

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What Bloodborne Can Teach You About Good Writing

Bloodborne, the spiritual successor of Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls, at its surface, might not seem a very complicated game. In fact, you might miss most of its stories and narrative design if you’re not a very good observer and a competent reader of clues. 

I could talk much about how the Souls series manages to get its hidden narratives right, but recently I have played Bloodborne, and there was an explicit line of dialogue that has stuck with me.

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How to Become a Better Game Designer

This subject came up while conducting an interview with a fairly successful (but still medium sized) development studio, so I might as well share some insights. Specifically, the debate was about gaming and education: those who want to become better video game designers, can’t really grasp how to educate themselves. Now, in my experience there are excellent schools in America, I’ve also visited one in Germany, and it was nice to see progress. But not many can afford to go to school while already working on a game, and many countries still don’t teach basic principles of good game design. The solution is obviously autodidacticism, but you should always take every learning material with a grain of salt. I’ve worked as an information manager, I know how difficult is to identify useful knowledge. Continue reading

The Importance of Miasmata

This was going to be another “Games We’d Like to Play” article, but it would’ve been a stretch to write it, since I can sum it up for you real quickly: “I want to play a game just like Miasmata, but with less rough edges.” Now, I found out that IonFX is indeed working on a spiritual successor to Miasmata, so that made my day.

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Review: God of War Collection HD

Last year I bought a PlayStation 3 to discover all the exclusives I missed so far, God of War was one of them. At first, it wasn’t particularly interesting to me, I never really enjoyed the genre (nor the Greek mythology to be fair), but Kratos seemed to be an important character in the history of the console. I had to experience the game. Continue reading

Games We’d Like to Play #1: Space Adventure

I would like to play a game something akin to Mass Effect, but without action. To make a great team of scientists, archaeologists, mathematicians, physicists, paleontologists and so on (like in Michael Crichton’s novels); and to go to undiscovered planets and do research. The gameplay would be about the discovery. Getting samples of unidentified materials (maybe of extinct ancient species), insects, plants, bring it to the ship and research them, just like in StarCraft II – Wings of Liberty. But not to make new weapons and cutting edge laser technology to kill other species. Just to make discoveries to make a better team, with better equipment! After you gain a new and better item, you should go back to previous planets and reach previously unreachable places – such as acid lakes or giant canyons – and make further discoveries. Also, if you have a better cartographer, you should see more detailed maps of the planets. Continue reading

The Maps of Might and Magic

I have played many RPGs in the past, but the most important franchise for me is Might and Magic. Since they are really more about exploration than tight narrative, they have very nice and BIG worlds to explore.

One of my favorite art forms is Cartography, so this will be a new article category from now on. Let’s start with the Maps of Might and Magic.

Might and Magic Book I: The Secret of the Inner Sanctum – Land of Varn

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Pneuma: Breath of Life – Gameplay Reveal Trailer

Yet another gorgeous looking puzzle adventure game, Pneuma: Breath of Life is coming very soon from Deco Digital, an independent studio based in Derby, England. Check out the reveal trailer:

As you can see, it will be a timed exclusive for the Xbox, but after 30 days, it will find its way to Steam as well. Coming February 27th. Oh, and it supports Oculus!

The Witness – Development Milestone Reached

Some of you might remember The Witness from the 2013 PlayStation Experience, but not much was said about it since. It’s an independent exploration game from the creator of Braid featuring more than 600 puzzles.

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It also features a really gorgeous art style, in case you didn’t notice. I guess pretty much everyone wants such a colorful game as soon as possible, right?

Still no release date, but developer Jonathan Blow posted some updates, he hints that the game is now in its last development phase.

It does *not* mean that the game is done. We still have a lot to do! But it *does* mean that the nature of the work changes and becomes simpler, because we don’t have to be making high-level creative decisions any more. It is now much more about turning the finish-the-game crank (making sure stuff plays well and polishing it up) for anything related to game design, modeling and texturing.

The Witness comes to PC and PS4.

5 things that should be in Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain

Hideo Kojima’s main series, the saga about Snakes, hours and hours of cutscenes, giant nuclear mech-weapons and tactical espionage gameplay, the Metal Gear Solid will have a new episode in a few weeks, month or years (theres no official release date yet), so as a (metal) solid addict of the series, I’m gonna list some things, that I definitely want to be in it.

 

1. A great story

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Essential in the series. The main issue here will be the transformation of the main protagonist from the good guy Naked Snake (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater) across the revolutionary Naked Snake (Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker) to the brutal „Venom” Snake with vengeance. Snake will no more be a peaceful guy, who doesn’t want to kill any enemy on the battlefield, he will be a really gritty and gruesome dictator – according to the beautifully directed trailers and infos. And we already knew that he will be the main boss from the first two Metal Gear games from MSX, and this game will tell the reason for everything. As a big fan of the game Peace Walker, I don’t like its story, I think it’s idolizing the character Boss and don’t really add anything to the saga’s plot. But with this predecessor (plus Ground Zeroes),  there should be something better, emotionally greater in the new game.

 

2. A great cast

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We already knew some of the characters from previous installments. Alongside Big Boss, Kazuhira Miller is a likeable guy from Peace Walker, he always has a good tip for the situations on the battlefield and has a great sense of humor. I think he was the best character in Peace Walker and he is really pissed off in the ending video of Ground Zeroes. If he only has a few great lines and moments, I will be thrilled. And then there’s the badass Ocelot, who is older now and not just a bishounen like in Snake Eater, he always has some great lines and cutscene-moments in the entire series. I don’t like Huey Emmerich much, he is just Otacon in the 70s, but he is crucial for the story. If we believe from the infos from Kojima Corp, Quiet will not just a big breasted eye-candy, and in gameplay videos we already saw that she can help us in action (as other squad members and the dog), so I really want to like her (previous games always had otaku-based eyecandy elements, and I think these little winks are not that sexist or chauvinist things as some might think on the internet).

 

3. Fluid gameplay and new elements in tactical espionage

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In the infamously short Ground Zeroes we can already see and try some of the features from the Fox Engine and the new functions (such as easier CQC and interrogate or the iDroid) – and if Phantom Pain will be as fast, beautiful and intuitive in an open world sandbox jungle in Africa as in this short „demo” with the small Naval Base, this will be potentially the best episode in the series. When I played Ground Zeroes, I loved the tagging, the iDroid options, the return of the walkman, but I really missed the Fulton Recovery, which is the awesomest thing in Peace Walker – but that will be in Phantom Pain. I want to overfulton the Mother Base with animals.

 

4. Kojima’s cutscenes

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As a movie geek, I love the long (and I mean LONG) cutscenes of Kojima. He adds a movie-like feeling, and not a bad movie feeling, but something like from Kubrick. In Ground Zeroes, the 10 minute length intro is a single take and the „camera” position is artistically placed, so we don’t see too many things (such us Skull Face’s face), just as many as the creators want to. This add a little found footage-feel to it, and this is amazing. In the Phantom Pain trailers we can saw some of the elements of the coming scenes, and wow… I wonder, will there be some hidden POV-shots, as in Snake Eater and Guns of the Patriots?

 

5. The weird easter eggs

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In all the previous installments, I love the little mystical things, such as UFO subplots, ghost photography hunt, Moai sculptures, movie references and even the Monster Hunter crossover or Kojima sightings and the divine wind of Tanegashima. I always love when I find some references to future or past things, and these are not that crappy references as the Star Wars prequels have, these are beautifully placed and well balanced… I love it this way, the crew behind the Metal Gear series know how to do these.

What do you think? What are the components that you want to be in the next MGS game?

The Art of Mark Molnar

According to his Twitter account, Mark Molnar lives in the UK, but we absolutely appreciate that he has a Hungarian family name (we have a Molnár too!). Anyway, Mark Molnar does concept art really professionally. According to his portfolio, he worked for major film and game companies, like LucasFilm, Weta, Crystal Dynamics.

Just a sample of his work:

Hellblade “The Canyon of Hands”

 

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Star Wars “Trench Run”

 

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Warhammer 40k – Only War, “Headquarters”

 

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Check out his website, his sketchblog and his artbook!

Grow Home – Ubisoft’s new game looks amazing!

Okay, I tried to do more meaningful posts, but this is just simply awesome.

 

Ubisoft announced its “procedurally animated” PC game, developed by a small team called Ubisoft Reflections. The so called procedural animation was only an experiment, but now its a fully realized game inspired by movies like Wall-E and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

What I really like about this, is how vivid the colors are, I really hope that it makes its way to the consoles (maybe handhelds) as well. I always dread using UPlay.

The Art of Octavi Navarro

This artist from Barcelona operates a website called Pixels, Huh. That should tell you everything: he does pixel art. Gorgeous, retrogaming nostalgia while these pictures don’t depict actual games. So it’s original art done in the style of older video games.

So here’s a taste:

“The tip of the iceberg”:

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“Cats”:

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“1979”:

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Somehow these remind me of the films of Wes Anderson as well. Their composition is just amazing.

More on his website: Pixels Huh.