PC Gamer

Take a deep breath: once a cult sandbox builder, Minecraft has racked up a total of more than 10 million sales across PC, Mac and Linux. Looking at the rather handy Minecraft Stats page, you can see that right this second 10,002,651 have bought the game, with 11,321 of those sales made in the last 24 hours. Those stats have probably changed by the time this post goes live, but just take that as evidence that Minecraft sells. A lot.

The 10 million figure doesn't take into account sales across mobile platforms, and nor does it account for Minecraft's swift domination on the Xbox 360. Obviously the folk at Mojang are pretty happy, so what better way to celebrate than to... add horses? That's what a hint from Mojang developer Jens Bergensten suggests is going to happen. Along with news of the milestone, Bergensten Tweeted a "subtle hint" on the main feature to be ushered in with update 1.6, pointing to the introduction of equine traversal. Boom.
PC Gamer
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

Far Cry 3 might very well rival Saints Row for the "biggest shark jump" award with its retro-rocking Blood Dragon DLC. The more distance each day increases from its sudden April 1 appearance hints increasingly strongly that this totally rad homage to '80s action flicks is a real thing, where psychotic pirates and killer valley kids melt away for oversaturated colors and a hero named Rex Power Colt.

If that isn't enough cheese for you, it seems Australian electronica group Power Glove is contributing a few synth-tastic tracks. Ubisoft hasn't announced anything official yet, but something likely lurks on the VHS-fuzzy horizon soon.

PC Gamer

Once upon a time, in a suburb not too far away, three people made a game called: Strange Adventures in Infinite Space. It had a good sense of humor, a lot of brutal combat, and space-like things in abundance. People liked it a lot and now, the folks behind the game (and other games not unlike it), want to make a 3D folow-up.

If all goes as planned, Infinite Space 3: Sea of Stars is going to be a single-player science fiction roguelike with turn-based navigation and real-time combat. There'll be randomly-generated open worlds, frequent deaths, mod tools and a whole bunch of other cool stuff. Digital Eel, the guys behind Infinite Space 3: Sea of Stars, are asking for a paltry $30,000 to get this project going. And personally, I'm inclined to throw money at them—if people who have shipped sixteen titles and won four Independent Games Festival awards can't get financed, I don't want to live on this planet anymore.

Head to the IS3 Kickstarter page here.
PC Gamer

Speaking to Gamasutra today about the state of "AAA" development in the context of the next run of consoles, Avalanche Studio Creative Director Stefan Ljungqvist told the outlet that what he would like more opportunities to be creative and to delve into more experimental projects. Though some big publishers are leery of risk-taking, creativity-driven projects (with a few exceptions), Ljungqvist says that they might be more inclined to taking risks now because there is a need to be more unique.

"I don't think big-budget games are going away, says Ljungqvist. "There's going to be less of them. But that's a good thing, because maybe we don't need forty first-person shooters. I don't want to play them all , but maybe we need one, two or three." Avalanche co-founder Christofer Sundberg underlines that video games aren't just an art, they're also a business. He also commented on the current landscape between PCs and consoles. "Commercially, the market is certainly pointing toward a direction that is not favorable for consoles," Sundberg says. "But for us consoles have always been our platform—it's the entertainment center of your house."

Sundberg also believes that the PS4 is much easier to develop for than its predecessor, and that it's a good place for small developers. Read the rest of their comments on the original Gamasutra post.
PC Gamer
BioShock Infinite Elizabeth

Spoiler Alert! Don’t read this post or its comments unless you’ve finished BioShock Infinite. Experience it for yourself so you can come back and analyze it with us when you’re done. Don't even scroll down a little. There are screenshots.

Those of you still reading can appreciate why we say that—the ending needs to be experienced fresh, but not talking about it is excruciating, even when your friends are cupping their ears. We’ve been going back and forth about Infinite for a few days, and that conversation comes in two flavors: the technical exercise of untangling all the interdimensional spaghetti, and our critical response to it.

The best way to express that conversation is with the conversation itself, so Evan and Tyler have written out their key points in the dialog below. Evan, you have the floor:

Evan: Let’s talk this out, Tyler. I think it’s fair to call Infinite’s ending one of the most intricate ever. With multiple realities being a theme, mechanic, and plot device, there’s a bunch of inherent complexity to the story. Part of the fun is unraveling the ball of quantum yarn Irrational throws at you, but more simply: did you like the ending, and how it was executed?

Tyler: I did! Well, mostly. I've been untangling it for a couple days, and that it can be untangled is pleasing. It gives me the same kind of pleasure I get from solving logic problems or riddles. Thematically, though, it's less appealing.

Evan: Yeah, I feel similarly. I feel like Infinite’s appeal lies in its complexity more than the characters and the game’s theme, which were the strengths of the original BioShock. But before we dig into more analysis, why don’t we try and unpackage what happened?

Tyler: The Internet has already done some great detective work on this, with pretty graphs! Here’s the gist: After surviving Wounded Knee, Booker DeWitt can either be baptized or not baptized. If he’s baptized, he goes on to become Comstock and create Columbia. If he refuses, he becomes a degenerate drunk. They’re two sides of the same coin.

Now here’s the conflict: The Comstock version of Booker can’t have kids, but he can travel between dimensions, so he invades the dimension where unbaptized Booker exists and buys his daughter Anna, who he renames to Elizabeth. Booker goes back to reclaim her, but is caught in a loop in which he always fails. The loop is broken at the end, we presume, when Anna becomes a Time Lord and Booker returns to the baptism and dies in place of the version of him who would become Comstock.

Or not, we can’t be sure.

Evan: Bingo. It’s not a coincidence that Booker and Elizabeth break into the song “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” near the middle of the game. That song represents one of the central questions Infinite is posing—is it possible to make a change, to be absolved, to reverse a bad decision... like selling your daughter to “wipe away the debt,” as Booker does. It’s a pretty relatable theme—it’s human to make mistakes, and it’s human to fantasize about unmaking them.


Tyler: It’s a redemption story without a redemption, which makes it more tragic. The hero is the villain, even after Comstock is erased, because Booker is the same drunk who would’ve sold his own daughter (unless he somehow remembers his Columbia adventure, but I’d expect a plot-device nosebleed to take the place of that.)

This theme of dichotomies and sameness runs through the whole game. I took the pivotal baptism to mean that we can’t escape our past or wash it away. Whether or not he refuses, Booker is still a jackass. Even if we confront what we've done, it may still consume us.

Booker’s death in that scene meant to me that we can’t change the past, but we can try to change the future...and it really helps if we have a few interdimensional lighthouses. I don’t mean to sound glib. I didn't take it as a positive message, which is welcome. But how did you feel about how we got there?

Evan: A tiny thing that bugged me was the way the twist got telegraphed before you come face to face with Comstock. During the big airship battle at the end he says something along the lines of “Well, you always had a penchant for self-destruction,” which was too much of a wink and a nudge for me. I knew right then that Comstock was Booker.

Tyler: I finished the game at about 4 a.m., so a lot of that foreshadowing bounced off my eyelids. Looking back, it was pretty heavy handed, but I liked that line. It was fun to go “Ooooohhhh” when things started clicking. Figuring out that the Luteces are the same person, and that the coin flip at the beginning represents the number of loops, was neat.

Evan: So, yeah, I think we agree that the technical exercise of mapping out the plot is enjoyable. It reminds me of piecing together the underlying logic of Inception or Lost with my friends. But did we like the ending? Awful boss battle aside, I liked the original BioShock’s conclusion more. Hints are scattered throughout Infinite, but I didn’t like how much exposition and explanation was crammed into the final few minutes.

Tyler: Yes, absolutely. There’s this slow build during the first three-quarters of the game, where you know something is off, and then someone hits the fast-forward button and woosh, we’re traveling through time and space explaining everything to wrap it all up

Evan: Yeah, I wasn’t thrilled with that execution. It leaves you with questions that are fun to unwrap, but in the moment I felt slightly disappointed. Comstock is so central to the premise of the game, but he was weirdly underdeveloped, and that undermined the meaning of everything for me.

Comstock didn’t pester you in the way that Andrew Ryan did. He wasn’t as enigmatic or menacing. I didn’t feel let inside his head. I didn’t feel like I was being constantly watched. I’m not saying that they need to be perfect mirrors of one another in order to be good characters, but killing him felt like an eventuality, and Ryan’s death in BioShock was a dramatic surprise. Infinite also gives you less time after that climax to walk around the world with that blood on your hands.

Related to that, and at the risk of sounding completely cold, I’m not sure how much I cared about Elizabeth at the end. I think the insane asylum level made me care less about her; I had a hard time accepting that her personality just shifted into being so misantropic. I didn’t like how that level fed into her being a damsel in distress rather than the capable, human, gifted person.

Tyler: I disagree about the asylum. Elizabeth became helpless right as I was putting together that this had happened before—the message, to me, was that Booker is the helpless one.

But then, yeah, Comstock becomes a pawn—a willing victim who somehow underestimates Anna and the Luteces—and Anna becomes practically omnipotent, which I didn't like at all. She figures it all out so she can explain it to the player, but I’d have preferred to keep discovering the truth with her. It would have been great to see both Anna and Booker react to the revelation that Booker is her father. That would have been a character-driven scene, instead of a quantum physics-driven scene, which the entire ending is.

Evan: It makes me wonder what Infinite would’ve been like if it had fewer characters, or a mute protagonist. Anyway, what about that moment where you enter Rapture? It’s fan servicey, but I LOOOOVED it. Maybe I just miss being in that world.

Tyler: From the perspective of a fan, I love that the Rapture cameo lets me build theories—like, say, that Andrew Ryan is Booker DeWitt. Comstock is much older than Booker, so we already know that time is irrelevant and BioShock taking place later than Infinite doesn’t negate this theory.

But as we’ve established, that kind of speculative fun is only really fun after the fact, when I’m going back and forth with a friend like we are now.

Evan: We’re friends? Aww.

Yeah, being thrown into Rapture filled me with this intense curiosity about how far they were going to take that scene, that visit. And I think I would’ve liked the ending more if that moment were more than an empty room.

Tyler: I can’t deny that it made me a little giddy, but it reminded me I was playing a game, because all these different worlds and possibilities could have been interpreted to mean “all these different games and players.”

That’s interesting—turning the camera around and pointing it at the medium—but it was winking so hard it squished my relationship with Booker and Anna (if her becoming a god hadn't already) and made it about my relationship with the game, the series, and Ken Levine. Not that I don’t want to hug Ken Levine for making something so clearly meaningful to me.

But, there are technical issues, too. Some of the sound mixing was off—I couldn't hear half of what Ghost Mom was saying—and I can’t be the only one who started playing a Voxophone only to have an important line of dialog interrupt it, and then the sound of munching corpse food interrupt that. I know I should have taken it slower, but standing still and listening is hard when there’s so much to interact with.

Evan: Mmm, corpse food. But yeah, I think we’re coming to a similar conclusion: Infinite’s ending was cerebrally satisfying, and BioShock’s was emotionally manipulative in the best way possible and more interesting on the merits of its characters.

Tyler: Totally. Both have merits, and that’s a great point with which to conclude my critique of the execution. My biggest issue is that BioShock’s emotional narrative can be decoded by playing it naturally—however that may be for each individual—whereas Infinite is a mess if you don’t play it in a specific way. Listening to every Voxophone is essential if you want a fulfilling ending, and that’s not communicated well. There are people reading this because the credits rolled and they looked at their screens and said, “Uh, what?” I think that’s something storytellers want to avoid.

Evan: Yeah, there’s a ton of vital stuff that’s dropped in the Voxophones. There’s literally one called “The Source of Her Powers” from Lutece (“It would seem the universe does not like its peas mixed with its porridge”). Again, back to BioShock: I think it was clever for Irrational to give Rapture multiple mechanisms for the game to talk to the player: your radio, Rapture’s PA system, and audio diaries.

Tyler: Even so, whether it takes one long playthrough, two playthroughs, or reading a thread on NeoGAF, Infinite is a fantastic logic puzzle to figure out. And when you do get the complete story, the themes are there, if a bit overshadowed by all the wibbly wobbly timey wimey.

We expect BioShock to make us think and to reconfigure tropes, and Infinite does that despite the mechanical approach to narrative that tends to happen when you deal with interdimensional time travel. That’s very praise-worthy, and more than we’ve come to expect from games.

Evan: Yeah, shortcomings included, it’d be foolish not to celebrate an ambitious story like this. We need more of them. We need more big publishers to take creative risks and trust their designers to have big, insane dreams that are worthy of deconstructing and writing 2,000-word responses to.
PC Gamer

CD Projekt Red sparked curiosity earlier this year when its Managing Director, Adam Badowski, alluded to a possible multiplayer component in The Witcher 3. Was The Witcher adding a co-op component, or considering becoming a social game with Facebook integration and purchasable farm animals? Hold your horses. CD Projekt is now backpedaling a bit on its comment, saying that it's simply something they're looking into.

Speaking with RPS, head of marketing Tracy Williams clarified that multiplayer is "certainly something we’ll investigate, but it’s not currently set in stone for Witcher ." More comforting, though, was the assertion that, if multiplayer is present, it won't be shoved into our rugged, scowling faces.

In another recent interview with Kotaku, Badowski reaffirmed the studio's position that DRM is counter-productive, and doesn't, ultimately, stop piracy. "We want to give the best user experience possible," he said. "When we removed DRM, people on those torrents were actually asking people not to download our game."
PC Gamer
MechWarrior Online Atlas Concept thumb

MechWarrior Online will stomp out of beta by the end of this summer, and the game's Vancouverian creators at Piranha Games are illuminating further what the free-to-play multiplayer game will look like when it hits its version 1.0 milestone. I spoke with Piranha President Russ Bullock and Creative Director Bryan Ekman last week in San Francisco to get more details about MWO's ambitious territory-control metagame, Community Warfare, ask about the status of this thing, and check up on other upcoming features.

PC Gamer
The Bloom

Torment: Tides of Numenera is about 24 hours from being Kickstarted. To round out our previous chats with inXile's Brian Fargo and Obsidian's Chris Avellone about their roles on the project, we snagged a tag-team interview with two of the principle writers. Colin McComb is the creative lead on the project, having helped develop Planescape: Torment, and the Planescape campaign setting itself. Patrick Rothfuss is a New York Times best-selling author, known for the Kingkiller Chronicle novels (The Name of the Wind, The Wise Man's Fear), making his game writing debut with Torment.

PC Gamer: The first question I had is for you, Colin. When I was talking to Brian Fargo at GDC, he said you were kind of the guy behind the whole “What does one life matter?” question that’s going to be central to the game's story. What's the story behind that?

Colin McComb: Part of it is just that I’m not the same person I was 15 years ago when I was working on Planescape: Torment. Now I’m in my 40s. I've got kids. This is the sort of thing I think about as my own impending mortality looks me in the face. Hopefully it’s going to be many years off, but I’m sitting there looking at it and thinking, “What have I accomplished with my life? What am I doing? What will my kids think of me? What will people in the future think of me?” It sort of spun out from there.

Is that something you see as applying, as a question, to all demographics? Say, people who are younger and might be picking up their first big, deep RPG like this?

"What’s the point of being a movie star? What’s the point of being rich?"
McComb: Yeah, I think I do. This is a question that I think occupies a lot of people’s minds. It informs their activities, whether or not they acknowledge it to themselves. When people say, “Oh, I want to get on television because I’ll be famous,” well, what’s the point of being famous? Well, okay, I want to become a rich and famous movie star. What’s the point of being a movie star? What’s the point of being rich? What’s the point of accumulating power? Why do any of us do the things that we do, if it is not, in fact, to leave a legacy? Some people willingly fade into the shadows. Some people work for their community without taking any fame onto themselves. But they die secure in the knowledge that they have contributed. Everybody wants to leave their own little mark on the tree of history, I think.

Regarding Numenera, specifically, and the Ninth World setting… Brian said you were also the one responsible for that. Did you work with Monte on the Numenera pen and paper RPG prior to Torment?

McComb: I worked on Planescape with Monte prior to this project, actually. Numenera, Monte has created that as his own IP. He did his Kickstarter last year. He approached me and my wife with our mobile games company, 3lb Games, to ask us to design the app for that. We said, “Oh, sweet, that’s super cool. Thank you so much.” Then Brian and Adam Heine and I were kicking around the idea for a new Torment and trying to figure out what our setting was. It became obvious fairly quickly that this was the setting we were looking for. It wasn't a quid pro quo thing. It was, “Holy crap, Monte has the perfect solution.”

Okay. So you guys went to him about that.

McComb: Yeah, absolutely. I worked with Monte for years, collaborating with him on Planescape. After we both left TSR, I worked with him on a supplement called Beyond Countless Doorways for Malhavoc Press, his company. It was sort of a Planescape reunion. So I know the depth and power of his imagination.

Patrick, how did you originally get involved in the project?

Patrcik Rothfuss: Well, I ran into Colin at GenCon last year. It was Sunday, and everything was winding down. I was talking with somebody else, and he wandered by and said, “Hey, are you Patrick Rothfuss?” I get that a fair amount because I kind of look a hobo. It’s really distinctive. I said, “Yeah, I am, who are you?” He says, “I design games.” I say, “Oh, what have you done?” He said, “Oh, this and that, and Planescape.” I’d just been talking about Planescape for my whole life, you know. For the last 13 years, I've been gushing about Planescape whenever I talk about video games. I wouldn't shut up about it to him. I completely hijacked the conversation and gushed all over him.

"I’d just been talking about Planescape for my whole life, you know."
And then I was really curious about the mechanism, I've always been fascinated about the potential of narrative in these games. The branched nature of it. The ability of the reader to choose and direct the story is something you don’t really get in any other medium, with the exception of, like, a Choose Your Own Adventure book. He was really cool about it. He said, “I can show you how that dialogue gets written.” We talked about it and we stayed in touch via e-mail. Then, when this started to get up off the ground, he e-mailed me and I was just giddy at the thought of being involved in any way.

It sounds like you've been a gamer for quite a while, then.

Rothfuss: Not to overstate it, but I've probably been a gamer for as long as there have been computer games. Since back before the old Infocom games.

What do you see as being the biggest differences between writing novels and writing for a game like this? I guess I should ask first, is this the first time you've written for a game?

Rothfuss: It is. It’s going to be the first time. It’s exciting and it’s a little spooky. For me, the exciting part is that it’s new. I get to work with these people who have been doing this for a long time. They know the medium. I’m new to the medium, so I get to learn some stuff. But what I get to bring is, I know story. I've been working on story for a long time, and story is pretty universal stuff. Character and scene and tension. What’s exciting for me is doing some of the things we can do in a video game that you just can’t do in a novel. Exploring all the options of what somebody’s interaction could be in a situation, or what their reaction to a situation could be. It’s just a different type of narrative experience that I've always wanted to turn my hand to.

Is there anything you've found particularly surprising or challenging about writing for a game?

Rothfuss: Well, we haven’t gotten into it very much. The big challenge for me is going to be learning how to work with a team of creative people. Because I’m very used to putting in the hours on writing, but writing a novel is, inherently, a very solitary process, unless you’re co-writing something. If I spend 16 hours alone in my room writing my novel, that’s a productive day. But working with these people, that’s going to be really challenging for me, because I’m used to having all of the control. To be completely honest, I’m worried that I’m going to be the asshole. I’m use to being in control of the story. Whatever I say goes. I’m so not in charge of this. I’m the rookie member of the team. I worry that my tendency to always get my way before is going to make me come off as a real ass in this team setting.

"You can’t write a story, a truly compelling narrative, by committee."
McComb: But, fortunately, we do have safeguards against that, because our primary rule is, we’re not jerks. When one of us says something in an e-mail or comes off in a way that seems overbearing or jerky, the rest of us to say, “Okay, did they actually intend to be a jerk?” And if the answer is, “Possibly yes,” then we have to go to a resolution mechanism. Otherwise, it fails the test. The actual message that’s being put across here: “Oh, wait, I get it. He’s concerned about the direction of this.”

Rothfuss: I've already talked to Colin and I told him just today… I expressed this concern. I’m very free with my opinion, and I love talking about stories. But I’m really looking for him to tell me. To say things like, “Wow, that is a really interesting idea. Thank you. But we are not doing that.” I’m more than willing to admit that he is the boss. You have to have the captain of the ship. Somebody has to be in charge. You can’t write a story, a truly compelling narrative, by committee. It can’t be a democracy. I can’t see that working.

That actually flows well into my next question. You don’t have to go into a lot of detail, but I’m curious what your specific contributions will be, in terms of the story, on the project.

McComb: I’ll start this one. Essentially, what I am doing is providing the main backbone of the story. I’m providing the overall outline, the major story quests, and the major story beats. It’s the spine and the theme that will run throughout the game. What the other writers will be doing is adding the ribs and the musculature and fleshing stuff out. What Pat is going to be doing… I guess I’ll let you describe that.

Rothfuss: You could probably articulate this a little better than me. Obviously, when I agreed to do it, I said, “Yes. I would like to do it. Use me however you think would be best.” That’s what we started with. I knew that I would maybe do a sub-quest or a piece of the story, or maybe create an area and what would happen there. But the more I thought about it… Honestly, it’s when I saw Chris Avellone went up in the Kickstarter . I saw that he was going to do a companion. I thought, “Oh, yeah, the companions.” I remembered all of what happened in so many of these games. So much of the interaction that’s really interesting is between the main character and these companion characters, or between the companion characters themselves. That rolled around in my head for a couple of days before I called Colin and said, “You know, if you wanted me to write a companion, I would be okay with that.” Which is the Midwestern way of saying, "I really, really want to."

Yeah, yeah. I lived in the Midwest for 12 years, so I know how that is.

McComb: If you wanted to write up this interview as if we’re coming across as super articulate and smart, that’d be great.

Rothfuss: We talked about companions today. I’m really excited to do that. One of the things I’m best with is character. I’m coming to realize that. The ability to have control of this character from beginning to end and tell that character’s story—not the main character, not the main story. But I’m really excited about that. Even more so than my initial participation in the creation of the areas and some of these subplots or story arcs.

I might be getting you in trouble with Colin a little bit here, but would you be willing to tease anything about the area or the companion that you’re writing?

McComb: Sorry, I gotta put the veto on that.

Rothfuss: Kevin would write me a very polite e-mail, and when Kevin writes polite e-mails you know that he’s just holding himself back from saying, “You are ruining everything.”

So there's nothing you can share yet, safely?

"It would be my preference to write a female character."
Rothfuss: How about this? Could I express… It would be my preference to write a female character. Would that be a safe thing to say?

McComb: Sure, you can say that. You can tease out a little bit more, but… We don’t want to design on the fly, I guess, is what I’m saying.

Rothfuss: No, absolutely. That, I will say, is what’s really interesting to me. It's the thought of writing a woman. I've been doing more of that in my own, personal writing. Writing maybe a different sort of character than the typical companion that you see sometimes in RPGs. Which I think is going to be perfect, because this RPG is not going to be your typical RPG. It’s going to be really different.

McComb: I do need to say that the character Pat has proposed is very different from anything that we tend to see in RPGs.


PC Gamer: So, Colin, as someone who's been doing this for a while, what do you see as the area that has progressed the most in terms of game storytelling? At least as long as you've been doing it. And where would you liked to see it go from here?

"I think that game stories have, in some senses, become less involving."
McComb: I’m going to try to word this diplomatically, because I said something unfortunate in a different interview, and I realize that it sounded really jerky afterwards. I had to make some apologies. I think that game stories have, in some senses, become less involving. With the advent of full voice acting, it’s really locked a lot of possibilities down, where people could extend things out. The growth of cinematics and movies is actually sort of a handicapping factor. I would like to see us return to an era where text is more important again. This might just be old-fogeyism happening here, but I really like the text-based games. I grew up on the Infocom games. I’m a huge fan of the original Wasteland. Fallout, Fallout 2, the original Baldur’s Gates, Icewind Dale, Planescape: Torment… I guess I had to say that one. I would like to see more reading in games and less, “Here’s a grand vision.”

That's interesting to hear, because some people have kind of perceived the lack of full voice acting in some of these–not just with you guys, but with Obsidian too–as being a product of not having a big publisher budget. But it sounds like you're saying it might be more of a focused decision.

McComb: In some cases, that’s actually very true. When you do voice acting… Yeah, it’s a higher budget, but you also have to get that script in early, so you can get your actors early, and you can commit them into the studio. Then, if you discover something has happened with the development of the gameplay, you are shackled unless you can get that same actor back in to voice the parts in the same voice. You’re basically stuck with the lines you've got, and you have to find a way to work around that.

Rothfuss: I haven’t lived on the inside, but I've been living on the outside playing these games for the better part of 30 years. I think that in some ways, it’s not so much the text. Although I do love the text. But when you read something, you have the freedom to read it in any way you want. You can read that voice in your head however you like. It’s kind of the same way that, at a certain point, realism becomes counterproductive…

McComb: Let me interrupt here very quickly and let me say that you can see this, for instance, in Lord of the Rings. Gandalf is now Ian McKellen. Tyrion is now Peter Dinklage. We can’t see him in any other way.

Rothfuss: Yeah. Similarly, if you think about a great, classic movie. Think about how they did movies back in the day. Some of these real classics, they didn't have a lot of special effects. How did they make a great movie? They had a great script and great actors. If you didn't have both of those, you had nothing. I watched Harvey the other day, and I thought, “All of this is carried on the weight of the words and the performance.” Nowadays they’d have $100 million and they’d put a big CGI rabbit in the end. It would lose so much of the story, because they wouldn’t care about the quality of the actor anymore.

They wouldn't care nearly as much about the quality of the story and the words. Because they were focused so much on some of these other elements. So for me, every time I think about this game, I get excited. Because so much of the focus is on the narrative. As humans, we love stories. Every game that you remember, you remember because of the story. Five years later, you don’t go, “Wow, do you remember that game that had that great explosion?” You remember narrative things. You remember character things. You remember times you were shocked or amazed or emotionally impacted.

McComb: In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, I was totally blown away by the jacking-people-in-their-car mechanic. I had a lot of fun playing as this character with this emergent gameplay. You made up your own story with it as you went along, as opposed to, “Oh, also the flame effects were really great.”

" making the mistakes Hollywood made 30 years ago."
The flip side of that question, that I kind of alluded to: Where do you think game storytelling can go forward here? Where would you like to see it go?

Rothfuss: It’s easy for me, because I haven’t seen the sausage being made. I honestly don’t understand some of the difficulties underneath it all. So I can talk about what I want and not worry too much about how practical it is. But the truth is, video games are such a new genre of storytelling. They’re just teenagers at this point. It’s so new, and they’re making all their bold, brave newbie mistakes. They’re making the mistakes Hollywood made 30 years ago. In the same way that comics have matured–because comics are much older than video games–comics are out of their adolescence now, and this brilliant storytelling that’s happening with comics is taking advantage of what that medium can do that no other medium can.

Right now, video games are kind of trying to be movies. That’s great, but a video game can never be as good a movie as a good movie. I think the real opportunity that’s presented is immersion in a story and the interactive nature of that story. Those are the two things that video games can do… They have the opportunity to do so much more of it than movies can. The more they explore those and the better they get at that, the better the games will be. Otherwise they’re just going to continue to be second-rate movies.

McComb: I think that we can get deeper into the reactivity. We can explore more mature themes. We don’t have to be all about the big guns and the explosions and the "Gee whiz, wow!" effects. We can tell some really deep stories. We can focus on delivering a human experience that people will be interested in and enthralled by, because it will be something that is real. But we can also transport people to another world in which this stuff takes place. It’ll help them examine their own lives through that prism. That’s where I would like to see stories go in games.

Rothfuss: Yeah. So much of what can happen in a novel can happen in a video game. You have the opportunity for escapism. And don’t knock escapism. It sounds a little dirty, but we all need to get away every once in a while. Video games also offer us the benefit of experience without the burden of experience. We can do things in a consequence-free environment. We can live lives other than our own without having to face the long-term consequences of these things. That’s incredibly gratifying.

McComb: Although I would point out that I was reading a comment from somebody online today who was saying, “I really hope this is a similar experience to Planescape: Torment, because when I went through that game, some of those choices I made, I would lie in bed at night and think, ‘What sort of a person have I become?’”

Rothfuss: I know people talk that way about the Walking Dead game… I still have to play that, but people are saying…

McComb: I love it. It is so good.

"It's a legitimate storytelling avenue. It’s not a book. It’s not a movie. It’s a game."
Rothfuss: I think they have started to walk down that road of… It’s that mirrored escapism. It’s a different experience.

McComb: It's a legitimate storytelling avenue. It’s not a book. It’s not a movie. It’s a game. I think that people are really starting to get that now, that it’s an entirely different experience from either of those things. And it is, at the same time, a completely legitimate experience.

Rothfuss: I think we’re fighting to prove that, when we really all agree about it. We’re trying to prove it, too, because anyone who has played at least a handful of games has had an experience and seen a sliver of how incredible this could be. But we’re still figuring out how best to do it.

McComb: Sure. And Walking Dead did it great.

Before we wrap up, do you guys have anything else you wanted to talk about in relation to Torment, the Kickstarter, or game storytelling?

McComb: I would say that...in regards to Kickstarter, I am incredibly grateful and entirely humbled by the support that people are showing to us in this project. We've got four days left at this point. I hope that more people can come aboard so we can expand the depth and the reactivity of the storyline, and really deliver something that’s going to be worthy of the Torment name for them. We’re going to do that anyway, but every additional bit helps.

We appreciate Colin and Patrick taking the time to talk to us. For more on Torment and the RPG Renaissance, check out our interviews with fellow Tormentors, inXile's Brian Fargo and Obsidian's Chris Avellone. The Torment Kickstarter ends in just about a day as of the writing of this, with some pretty significant stretch goals still on the board.
PC Gamer
Remember Me

Here's a new trailer for Capcom's upcoming third-person memory remixing action game, Remember Me. Officially it's called the "Enemies" trailer, but the "Ow, I have a headache now" trailer might be a more fitting name. In it you'll find fast cuts, flashing lights, glitchy effects and some music that I'm tempted to call dubstep, if only to wind up those people that are very passionate about strict genre classifications.

It's a more action-oriented look at the game than previous trailers, which have tended to focus on the Neo-Paris setting, or the weird memory-scrambling puzzle elements. Here we see the variety of enemy types, their abilities, and the combat moves that Nilin deploys to knock the machinery out of them.

Remember Me is due out June 4th.
PC Gamer
QRJZF48JQA6U1364952512609 (1)

Blizzard announced their ambitious plans for the StarCraft 2 World Championship Series yesterday. The scheme involves pulling the world's biggest StarCraft 2 tournaments and leagues into an overarching structure where players are given a global ranking, and compete against each other to be crowned super-mega-planetary-ultra champion. It's an exciting plan - aiming to unify the myriad StarCraft 2 leagues and pull them into a central storyline easy to follow for fans and enticing to new viewers - but it's also a bit confusing. I had the chance to speak to Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime and Executive VP of Global Publishing, Itzik Ben-Bassat to answer a few questions. Click on for WCS 2013 clarifications, and the Blizzard boss's projections for the eSporting future.

PC Gamer: Why did Blizzard decide to revamp the StarCraft 2 World Championship Series for 2013?

Mike Morhaime: We wanted to take the next step and involve the StarCraft 2 ecosystem.

The new system accomplishes two things: it creates a single storyline that's much easier to understand and follow throughout the year, with a global ranking system that makes it simple to track who the top players in the world are. And it allows us to manage scheduling conflicts – we ran into issues last year with a lot of conflicts. This structure allows us to minimise that.

"The new system creates a single storyline that's easier to follow and allows us to manage scheduling conflicts."
It also helps accessibility. We're in South Korea right now, and we announced that StarCraft 2 will be on television five days a week. Internationally it's also a really good story because we'll be broadcasting all three leagues via Twitch.tv in (720p) high definition, for free.

When you watch other sports, having a structure around that so you can see “oh, okay, that's the number one ranked guy in the world and he's playing the eighth ranked guy”. You build up a history over time, and I think that'll make the sport more accessible for people

PCG: How will the games be presented? Will we see highlight reels?

MM: There are definitely opportunities for that, and I think we'll get more creative with that as things go on. There are going to be a lot of important matches going on at a time, and we're going to want to help people navigate that. Just like you do when you open the sports page in the newspaper, very quickly you can see what happened, why it's important, and what happens next.

PCG: How will global rankings work?

MM: As the seasons complete, players will earn points based on how they did in each regional season, then the top finishing players will get invited to a global season finals and get additional points. All of these will be tallied and scored, and added up at the end of the season. At Blizzcon, the top 16 players will be invited to a competition and the winner will be our champion.

PCG: Is there going to be a points weighting for certain regions and competitions?

MM: It'll be a flat playing field, and all players will have to earn their slots. But people can compete in whichever region they want. So you'll probably get some people from Korea opting to play in regions outside of Korea. But each of the leagues will distribute the same number of points and the same monetary prize pool.

"It'll be a flat playing field, and all players will have to earn their slots. But people can compete in whichever region they want."
PCG: Are the prize pools for MLG, GSL, and other participating WCS leagues now provided by Blizzard?

MM: We're not getting into details on where the money's coming from. Blizzard is working in partnership with all of the tournament operators. We have announced the overall prize pool for 2013 – that'll be $1.6 million.

PCG: Will smaller tournaments still be allowed to run? Will they have to schedule around WCS events?

MM: They'll have to schedule around WCS events. The leagues are scheduled to run during the weeks, with the season finals occurring at specific points on the weekends during they year. So there are very few blackout days we're asking other tournaments avoid.

Itzik Ben-Bassat: The system was designed to be open. It's open for players to decided where they want to play, and it's open for other tournaments to still happen. Take the example of Dreamhack – Blizzard are big fans of Dreamhack – and WCS there last year was awesome. It was a very tough choice for us between ESL and Dreamhack (for our European WCS partner), and we were hesitating about it until the last moment. We informed Dreamhack that we decided to partner with ESL for WCS 2013; it doesn't mean that Blizzard won't partner with Dreamhack. We just don't partner with them for WCS specifically. We still want to see them organising awesome SC2 tournaments. We're going to talk with them about awarding points to some of their Dreamhack tournaments. The same goes to other tournament organisers.

PCG: What's been the biggest influencer for you guys in making this change?

IBB: We looked at different sports. You've got different models. One model is the UFC model, where UFC own everything. They own the players, they own the league, they own the production, everything from A to Z. We looked at StarCraft, the tournaments and the great things the community have created – and decided we don't want to replace all of it. We want to be part of it. We want to create an engaging top level experience for viewers, but we still want to allow and support all of these elements going on.

So we partnered with some of the biggest people in the market in order to create these leagues. Blizzard is not trying to run offline events or sell advertising. Our model is more similar to the NFL. We keep the brand itself and the top level experience, but we're partnering with a lot of people who know how to do their job very well in order to bring this experience to players.

"Blizzard is not trying to run offline events or sell advertising. Our model is more similar to the NFL."
PCG: Will Blizzard ever pay players salary directly?

IBB: Our average prize money, if you look at the prize pools and run simulations of how much players get, is - according to our calculations - pretty impressive compared to other things in the market. The difference is we don't control their schedule, we don't control where they play.

PCG: You say you don't want to step in to dictate to the community, but this is more of a direct hand than we've seen previously in managing the StarCraft eSports scene. Why now?

MM: We recognised that we're in a unique position to make some changes to the top level of pro eSports, and to put a system in place with seven partners in the WCS.

A lot of observers of the StarCraft ecosystem were recognising there were a few issues: the scheduling conflicts of last year, for example, the complexities of following the storyline is another one. In order to take StarCraft 2 eSports to the next level, we have a responsibility to do something.

IBB: We really enjoyed WCS last year – some great stories from places like Brazil. But we also came to the conclusion that it's not our role to create the scale of community content. We should encourage the community to create that content and tournaments. But on the top level, the high quality experience, that's where we can bring our expertise in terms of what's best for the IP, and create storylines for people to watch.

PCG: These smaller territories, will they be incorporated into the WCS?

MM: We wanted to start with the three top regions – the places where eSports has matured to a level to support a full year-round peak. I think we're absolutely open to expanding it in the future, but it would have to be if there was a region that evolved to the point of producing enough top level players to justify it..

PCG: Where does eSports go next?

IBB: Where we want to go next with SC2 eSports is 24/7 broadcasting all around the world – matches, and content around the matches that captures viewers. Five years from now I think there’s a dedicated SC channel that provides eSports entertainment.

MM: It’s not that hard to imagine what Itzik’s talking about when you imagine the awesome content that’s created every day, not only by our tournament partners, but also the community in general. There’s commentary, tutorials, all sorts of stuff. If Blizzard acted in a role being able to highlight the most polished content, I don’t think it’s hard to imagine we could fill a dedicated channel.

PCG: Do you see eSports rivalling regular sports in terms of popularity and viewership?

"StarCraft is bigger than the NHL. The numbers this year are double the numbers of last year."
MM: I absolutely do. I think in terms of accessibility, depth, drama and excitement, I think StarCraft has all of those things. Making the storyline simpler and easier to understand, I think it has the potential.

IBB: We were just told the other day that by numbers, StarCraft is bigger than the NHL. If you look just as the last month, we had several live broadcasts, MLG Dallas with record breaking concurrent viewers. Even the Heart of the Swarm release was really successful, with high viewership numbers.

The numbers this year are double the numbers of last year, and we hope to see this trend continuing. If we’re able to double these numbers again next year, we’re getting into very interesting mass market entertainment numbers - especially in the US.

PCG: When you first started work on StarCraft 2, did you see it becoming the global eSport it has?

MM: We thought it’d be a compelling eSport and a great game. I think we expected the viewership to be mostly centred in Asia, where it traditionally has been, and our big surprise is that actually SC2 eSports has taken off in the west. Right now, I’d say it’s more popular in the west than in Asia.

We realised that immediately. If you go back to the first MLG in Anaheim - which I think took everybody by surprise - then it’s just been really big in the west ever since.

PCG: What’s been the biggest change in eSports in the last few years?

MM: The biggest change has been livestreams.