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

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.

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.

 

This is what Jak II: Renegade looks like on CryEngine

I have doubts that a realistic looking Jak game would be better than the original cartoon-style, but this is some impressive work here:

 

While what CryEngine does is really different to the PlayStation 2 aesthetics, it’s actually really good looking. Too bad we didn’t have the chance to see any character models.

Review: Duke Nukem 3D Megaton Edition (PS Vita)

It was difficult to not notice how console gaming changed first person shooters in the last two decades, to a point, that it was almost impossible to imagine that an old school FPS like Duke Nukem 3D would make an appearance on a console. And now it’s on a handheld as well, it’s really weird seeing this nostalgic little title on my PS Vita.


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I’m really amazed how it stood the test of time, I almost forgot how great this game is. Most people recognize Duke Nukem by his macho weird humor and references to movies like Aliens and Evil Dead. But there’s obviously more to the success, it’s a game worth studying, not just playing.

First, the level design is still incredible. The amount of secrets, the complex, intricate pathways, the pacing, the learning curve, the difficulty curve is all logical, very well balanced, neatly put together. The building of tension and atmosphere is superb, and the variety of weapons is actually needed for tactical approach. This game has true depth. I never noticed that when I played it as a kid, since I just used cheat codes. Now on the Vita there aren’t cheats, but there is a kind of cheat-like saving system.

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The game lets you rewind time in this version (presumably in other console versions as well). It’s really intuitive, although sometimes it tends to become corrupted, so I advise to save manually as well. Trophies / achievements aren’t really hard to obtain, anybody who has basic knowledge of the game, can get a 100% rather quickly (although I haven’t tried multiplayer yet).

The graphics are fine, sprites tend to get distorted when viewing from certain high or low angles, but the textures and the resolution do this game a service: the lighting, the variety of set pieces are still really nice, especially on a small screen. The humor, the references might be dated, but it’s still a really amazing experience, especially with Jon St. John’s laidback macho voice acting performance.

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Now, the bonus chapters are quite weak. It’s the major problem with this edition. The Birth is still an official expansion, but it starts to fall apart, frustrating puzzles, secret switches, overpowered enemies and lackluster level design are signs of that this game worked better as a trilogy of chapters. Duke it Out in D. C., Duke: Nuclear Winter and Duke Caribbean: Life’s a Beach are curiosities, fan made content, and not very good, the game at this point becomes silly and unprofessional. But it’s a free addition, so… who am I to complain.

Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition is now free on PlayStation Plus, I recommend getting it, it’s a piece of gaming history that is actually playable and enjoyable to this day.