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Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Adam Smith)

Season two of the The Walking Dead has started strong, taking on the task of switching to a new player character confidently. Clementine is a complex character, capable of carrying the narrative while also reacting to the player’s input in a believable fashion. With the third episode, the story enters a new phase, one that shifts the setting and tone somewhat, and places the focus on a smaller cast, with Michael Madsen’s Bill Carver at the fore. It’s bleak and brutal, but that’s nothing new. It’s also a bit underwhelming. Here’s wot I think, with spoilers carefully avoided.>

… [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to The Walking Dead: Season 2 Episode 3 review">walkingdead-s2e3-teaser







Spoiler warning: this review contains light spoilers for the first two episodes of The Walking Dead Season Two. All references to specific events in episode three are kept vague to avoid spoiling the story.



Clementine is no longer a child. There's a moment near the end of In Harm's Way, the third episode of The Walking Dead season two, that removes all doubt: Clementine is smarter, more capable, and more reliable than nearly any of the adults around her. "Why does it always have to be me?" Clementine asks, with the tired resignation of an Indiana Jones or John McClane stepping up to do the action hero thing one more time. She stops just short of breaking the fourth wall and mugging to the camera.



This episode of Clementine's story left me thinking about two things: the increasingly graphic violence Telltale is willing to inflict upon its characters, and the challenge of balancing player empowerment with a character who is rarely empowered.



In Harm's Way opens with Clementine's group of survivors imprisoned by Bill Carver, who showed up at the end of episode two to bring his wandering flock back to the herd. Michael Madsen's menacing voice performance sells Carver as the crazy villain who firmly believes he is always in the right, even when he kills or maims for no reason. He's a little too over the top, especially when his threats devolve into angrily quoting bible verses, but the caricature serves its purpose. I'm attached to these characters, and I'm genuinely afraid Carver will kill any one of them.



Carver brings to mind the menacing Governor from the Walking Dead comics.



Eventually, he does. Surviving under Carver's thumb sets up an unnerving structure for the episode. It feels like any dialogue option, any decision, may incur his wrath. At one point, I make a decision that causes Carver to kill. I feel terrible about it, replaying the choice in my head, wondering if I could've saved them. But I've played enough of Telltale's adventures now to get how the scene works, and to comfort myself with the knowledge that this particular death was almost certainly a predetermined plot point.



In a weird way, episode three makes me feel helpless as a player while making Clementine feel far more capable than any 11-year-old should realistically be. The Walking Dead always shoves its cast headlong into tragedy, but this is the first instance that its characters have truly been prisoners. It creates a weird dissonance. In previous episodes, I never chose where Lee or Clementine were going in the world, but I didn't feel like I needed to. I was following the story, unconsciously assuming that they were going wherever they could to survive. The location of an episode never felt limiting.



Once imprisoned by Carver, I was frustrated by the game forcing me from place to place without my input. Clementine wanted to escape, and so did I, but I had no control over how I tried to escape. One particular moment stood out: I was abruptly caught skulking around for seemingly no reason. Clementine left the door open, which I wouldn't have done. The transition from exploring to cutscene was so jarring, I actually thought I'd failed the scene in some way: one second I was alone, the next I'd been caught by a character who wasn't there a second before. It felt unfair, like I was the victim of Telltale's game engine if I'd taken a different path, maybe my capture would've made sense.



Walkers are, are usual, far less threatening than other humans.



That scene aside, the more I played, the more I felt like Telltale knew exactly how it was using this limitation. Being a prisoner is not fun. Prisoners do not get to choose where they go and what they do. Living in fear of Carver adds an uncomfortable uncertainty to every choice a reminder that my attempts to escape might fail, and they might have severe consequences.



Why, then, does the 11-year-old Clementine feel so much stronger than nearly all of the characters around her? In Harm's Way mostly abandons the dialogue options Clem had in season two's first episode, which allowed her to act innocent to manipulate adults. In episode three, everyone knows she's tough, and the rest of the characters sheepishly give Clementine the most dangerous responsibilities while they sit around freaking out. It's ridiculous, and reminds me that I'm an adult controlling a child in a video game. When Clementine sighs "Why does it always have to be me?" it's just too on-the-nose it has to be me because I'm the one playing the game, and it wouldn't be much of a game if I sat around doing nothing.



But that's not the only reason. Clementine feels so strong and confident because that's how I play her. Telltale has written adult-like dialogue options for Clementine, choices that make her less believable as a young character. Maybe this is part of her coming-of-age growth, but it loses some of the nuance of Clementine's interactions from earlier in the season.



Clementine has several chances to help her fellow survivors or stay quiet.



I realize that if I chose different options if I blamed someone instead of taking responsibility, or stayed silent instead of speaking up, my Clementine may be very different. But she'd still be the 11-year-old girl that the adults all turn to for help. Most of the characters mope around helplessly, or bluster into getting themselves caught. Without Clementine, they'd all be dead.



Episode three's setting may be the most constraining of the season so far, but it does introduce a couple new characters (and survivors from season one DLC 400 Days) I want to see more of. This is also as violent as Telltale has ever been, and it completely sells Carver's cruelty and the brutality of this post-apocalyptic world. In episode one, I thought Clementine's suturing scene was egregious, played for shock value. Here, violence is used to convey the emotions of the characters and the shades of morality in The Walking Dead. Unfortunately, the environmental limitations and Clementine's maturity pull me out of this episode more than I'd like.



Episode two is still the strongest of the season so far, but In Harm's Way does pull off a repeat trick. It tells a 90 minute story that stands well on its own, while ending with a violent cliffhanger to tease what's coming next. I'm left wondering, again, how dark this story can get.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to The Walking Dead Season 2 gets third episode next week">In Harm's Way







I haven't played Telltale's Walking Dead games, but I do know that they don't feature Andrea, Michonne, The Governor's laboured Southern accent, or klutsy idiot T-Dog from the wildly varying TV show, so by comparison they should be pretty good. Pretty soon I'll have one more entry in the series to eventually play through, as Episode 3 of Season 2 has just been given a release date of...blimey, next week. That makes it a wait of just a month and a bit since the arrival of Episode 2, which must be some sort of record for the developers of almost every episodic game in existence. Season 2 Episode 3 is entitled 'In Harm's Way', and sees the gang ditching the whole zombie apocalypse to go on a wine appreciation holiday in the Algarve. Sorry, I've got my notes mixed up again. Oh, I see - yet more terrible things await Clementine and co.



May 13th. That's the date to write on your friend's forehead with a permanent marker pen, although of course you shouldn't do that at all. May 13th, according to my computer's calendar, is a Tuesday, which means we only have 3 days to wait. If you've not finished Episode 2 yet, you should probably go and do that now.



Here's a probably quite spoilery trailer:



PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to The Long Dark’s creative director explains why the apocalypse doesn’t need zombies">newtop1







From the Aztecs worrying about the sun disappearing from the sky, to Hollywood's endless variations on the end of the world, it seems like every civilisation is fascinated with the idea that it might be the last. Perhaps it's a sign of humanity's general narcissism, with each generation secretly hoping to be the one left staring into the abyss at the end of it all, because that might make us special. Or maybe folk just like seeing what happens when stuff goes really wrong.



The Long Dark is going to deliver a comparatively restrained, but no less frightening, vision of our demise. It's a survival game, funded on Kickstarter, which has already generated plenty of buzz for its startling visuals. The end of the world has rarely looked prettier. And it has also never been more popular on PC. MMOs like Rust, DayZ, and the forthcoming H1Z1 are dealing with the collapse of society in lurid, and let's be honest, often quite funny, ways, as players behave exactly as reprehensibly as you'd expect from survivors eking out a living in the End Days. But there are other games, like Telltale's hugely successful The Walking Dead episodes, which look to paint a slightly more considered, and humane, picture of the apocalypse.



The Walking Dead is the link I immediately make with The Long Dark, which is being created by Canadian startup Hinterland Games. I spoke with founder and creative director Raphael van Lierop about the team's goals for the game, starting with whether he thinks a free-roaming version of The Walking Dead is a fair comparison. "I think that s fair," he says. "Certainly, they were an excellent example of how to deliver a story-driven adventure game within a fairly confined, linear experience."







However, the games' paths start to diverge at that point. There are no zombies in The Long Dark. Your antagonists will be the environment itself, in the form of hunger, lack of shelter, and the cold, as well as the animals wandering around the stunningly illustrated Northern wilderness, and, of course, other people. Because people are the worst, and the total breakdown of law and order hasn't helped their manners at all.



Van Lierop definitely isn't trying to out-bleak The Walking Dead, though. "We won t deal with moral choices the way that they did," he says. "Like, 'you have four seconds to decide which of these two people is going to survive'. Our approach will be quite different from that." Part of that approach will be ensuring that players, who'll be exploring a world in which technology has failed entirely due to an unspecified geomagnetic event, get to experience moments of beauty and hope amidst all the tension and horror.







The easiest way to achieve that effect, according to van Lierop, is by giving mother nature a makeover. "We ve adopted a very storybook, painterly art style," he says, "and we emphasise bright colours, and have these very dramatic sunsets." Once the stars are out, The Long Dark is arguably even prettier. As in Skyrim, the aurora borealis allow for some stunning skyboxes. Indeed, the Northern Lights are so important to the game's aesthetic, that in the original pitch video van Lierop describes them as a visual metaphor for the power of nature and how the world has changed.







The message seems to be: In a world gone to hell, beauty matters even more. "Nature is, in a lot of ways, neutral to your existence," says van Lierop. "Just like zombies are neutral to your existence. But you'll have these moments when you crest a hill and see this beautiful landscape. You might be in the midst of freezing or starving to death, but as a player you ll still think: "Wow. That s beautiful."



The team at Hinterland currently comprises 10 staff, most of whom have a background in AAA development. The dichotomy between nature's beauty and its inherent dangerousness is something van Lierop has carried over from the pre-production work he was involved with on Far Cry 3, where one of the key design ideas was 'savage beauty'. He's also drawn on a lot of his own time exploring the Northern Canadian wilderness: "You know that at any point if you make a bad decision, or you have an accident, that you could go from vacationing in a beautiful, exotic place to being in a very dramatic survival situation."











Van Lierop cites Cormac McCarthy's none-more-grim novel The Road and Fallout 3 as The Long Dark's other key influences. Bethesda's post-nukes RPG sparked his imagination because: "Everything you saw on the horizon was potentially an interesting place to explore. I found that so compelling, and I remember thinking: 'What would this be like if there was no combat? What if it was just wandering through the environment? There's no zombies, there's no nothing, you're just looking for places and trying to survive.'"



The design has evolved since then, and you will be able to shoot animals, but with resources inevitably scarce that often won't be the best approach. So, if combat isn't at the core of what The Long Dark is going to be, what is? The game begins in the immediate aftermath of your plane crash-landing in the wilderness as a result of the unexplained geomagnetic event. As pilot Will McKenzie, you stumble out of the wreckage, and presumably immediately begin to regret not wearing thermal underwear for the flight.



Though this is an open world, which you're free to explore as you choose, it won't be as open as, say, Skyrim. The comparison van Lierop makes instead is with Stalker. "It didn't have huge contiguous maps where you could just move seamlessly from one area to another you would go through a connective portal, and it's the same for us." The point here is that it will make it easier for Hinterland to funnel the player and manage the narrative aspects of the game. Specifically, the encounters you need to have with other humans to drive the story forwards.







In addition to the not insignificant task of staying alive, you'll gradually discover how the world has changed in the aftermath of magnetgate, as no-one else is calling it, and perhaps eventually discover the cause of the disaster. That's a way off though. The Long Dark is being built in seasons, in both senses of the word, the first of which will be winter, and will comprise an as yet unspecified number episodes before the focus shifts to spring. The arc will cover an entire year, and the suggestion is that you can expect significant cast changes over the course of it.



Again The Walking Dead link seems clear, but van Lierop doesn't think you'll mind the lack of zombies. "I think the fascination with the zombie genre particularly is almost a cathartic thing. The more zombies we can shoot in videogames, the more control we might feel about the way the world is around us. Maybe the world feels like it's falling apart around us and that's our way of coping with it. they're not even that much of a threat. It's really the humans who survive, and how society's mores change in light of the zombie invasion: that's the real threat."







It will be key to the potential success of The Long Dark that your encounters with strangers have some subtlety to them. Something that's tricky to achieve, beyond creating ever more intricate dialogue trees. I ask van Lierop how they're hoping to handle player interaction with NPCs. "You have trepidation," he says, "you're skeptical about them, but you also recognize to some degree that your success depends on being able to interact with other survivors and learn what they know."



Again, in many instances combat will be a possible outcome, but likely a disastrous one for you, given your fragility. But as to how to give those meetings depth and nuance, van Lierop isn't ready to discuss what he thinks the solution will be, other than it's definitely on the to-do list. In addition to the main narrative mode, there's also a pure sandbox variant in which your goal will be to survive for as long as possible, which is what the team has been spending most of its energy on recently. "For a long time nobody could break through the two-day mark," he says, before excitedly telling me that someone just managed to hit five days.







Before we finish, I ask him for a typical example of how it can go wrong in survival mode, and he tells me a story about trying to make a nighttime dash from a lookout tower to a supply cache. As the sun set, and the weather began to close in, he began to hear animals in the trees. To help navigate better, he lit a flare, before climbing a hill only to find himself face to face with a wolf. Startled by the flare, it scampered off into the night. "I thought, 'Shit. If I hadn't had this flare in my hand, as soon as I came over that edge '"



The story doesn't have a happy ending. The weather closed in, swiftly turning into blizzard conditions but van Lierop designed the map, if anyone could find his way to safety in the whiteout, it ought to be him. "I walked and walked and walked," he says. "I came across various landmarks, and I thought I was on my way. I was very close to death when I thought I was at my destination, and I did that classic thing that you always read about in survival literature, which was I ended up realizing I was back at the lookout tower where I had started!"











PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to PC Gamer Podcast #376 – GDC 2014 with Steve Gaynor, Sean Vanaman, and more">Steve Gaynor, Sean Vanaman, and Tim Rogers playing Towerfall before podcasting.



Steve Gaynor, Sean Vanaman, and Tim Rogers playing Towerfall before podcasting.







In this week's special GDC 2014 episode, we recorded from Tyler's kitchen in downtown San Francisco with two groups of game developer guests who hiked over from GDC. First up, hear from Xaviant design director Tim Lindsey, whose resume also includes CCP, Bethesda, and Hi-Rez; Twinbeard Studios founder and Frog Fractions creator Jim Crawford; and Mode 7 Games' Ian Hardingham, who designed and programmed Frozen Synapse and is now working on Frozen Endzone.



The second group features Steve Gaynor, co-founder of The Fullbright Company and writer/designer of Gone Home; Sean Vanaman, former lead writer and project lead on The Walking Dead at Telltale Games, Idle Thumbs podcast co-host, and founder of Campo Santo; and Tim Rogers, creator of "abstract minimalist electronic sport" Videoball.



Download: PC Gamer Podcast #376 GDC 2014 Special



Have a question, comment, complaint, or observation? Send an MP3 to pcgamerpodcast@gmail.com or call us toll-free at 877-404-1337 x724.



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@ELahti (Evan Lahti)

@wesleyfenlon (Wes Fenlon)

@tyler_wilde (Tyler Wilde)

@demiurge (Cory Banks)

@Timothy_Lindsey (Tim Lindsey)

@mogwai_poet (Jim Crawford)

@IanHardingham (Ian Hardingham)

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Podcast theme by Ben Prunty.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Nathan Grayson)

I hope they end up calling it Firewatch: Origins

Campo Santo is a new studio made up of top tier talent from – DEEP BREATH – Double Fine, Klei, Telltale, and 2K Marin. OK, that didn’t require much air to say out loud at all and I can type without breathing for probably, like, hours, but you get the idea. With the powers of Mark of the Ninja lead Nels Anderson, Walking Dead: Season One leads Sean Vanaman and Jake Rodkin, ex-Irrational and Double Fine man Chris Remo, and artist Olly Moss (among others) combined, we get a story-based mystery about isolation, the creeping unknown, and human relationships set in… rural Wyoming. Huh. It’s called Firewatch, and it seems interesting. I think. Also incredibly orange. Scant first details below.

… [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer






In this week's episode, Tyler takes the helm while Evan is in Canada and the crew poorly segues between news topics including Watch Dogs, Dark Souls 2, DirectX 12, Batman: Arkham Knight, and the latest Diablo 3 patch. Wes talks about The Walking Dead, Cory is playing Shadowrun Returns: Dragonfall, and Tyler talks about The Yawhg and says some really offensive things while quoting South Park: The Stick of Truth. It turns out Cory hates poop jokes.



Segue from reading to listing and download PC Gamer Podcast #374 - Segue Academy.



Have a question, comment, complaint, or observation? Send an MP3 to pcgamerpodcast@gmail.com or call us toll-free at 877-404-1337 x724.



Subscribe to the podcast RSS feed.



Follow us on Twitter:



@ELahti (Evan Lahti)

@wesleyfenlon (Wes Fenlon)

@tyler_wilde (Tyler Wilde)

@demiurge (Cory Banks)



Podcast theme by Ben Prunty.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Adam Smith)

'eh? isn't this a game about feelings and crying and finding moments of hope and beauty in a decaying world? what am I doing here?'

It s good to see Clementine again, even if I m not particularly keen on the new company she’s keeping. I ve just finished playing the first two episodes of The Walking Dead season two and I m feeling a mixture of grief, frustration and relief. The latter is due to the strength of the second episode in particular. After a wobbly first episode, the transition to Clementine s time is showing a great deal of care and craft. Here s wot I think.>

… [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to The Walking Dead: Season 2′s Episode 2 trailer shows A House Divided">Walking Dead







Telltale have released a trailer for the second episode of The Walking Dead: Season 2. It's called A House Divided, and will be a heart-warming tale of how, despite seemingly insurmountable differences, a group of people come together in a spirit of harmony and friendship. Oh wait, no, not that. The other thing. With the pettiness and regrets and monstrous retribution in a world where societal collapse leads to bitter, terrible survival.



The episode will be released next Tuesday, March 4th.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Nathan Grayson)

Wait! Don't kill that zombie! Probably for reasons!

TOO MANY TWOS IN THAT HEADLINE. 2 Episode 2 Furious. Live Free (Walking) Die Epi2odic. I don’t know anymore. I’m having a strange day. But anyway, The Walking Dead Season Two Episode Two has been trailerfied, and it’s looking as brooding and dramatic as ever. I see potential for plot twists, revelations, and the very real possibility that the walkingest dead of all… is man. I am interested to see where this one goes, especially given that it seems to be addressing some of my concerns after season two’s slightly lukewarm first episode. Watch below, but beware of minor spoilers.

… [visit site to read more]

...

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