What is it with skilled engine programmers and their ability to turn thousands of cubes into an impressive beauty? Though not entirely voxel-based like, say, the Atomontage Engine, the VoxelFarm Engine from creator Miguel Cepero still does a perfectly fine job rendering amazing landscapes on the fly.
VoxelFarm harnesses ambient occlusion and a special block coloration system for a subtle and natural appearance. Removing chunks of blocks leaves softened edges affected by light and shadow instead of harsh angles. The procedural generation of the terrain means distant mountains and other landmarks take on a wonderfully smooth color gradation. It almost makes me not want to think about the possibilities of plundering such an exquisite environment in a Minecraft-like sandbox game.
Though VoxelFarm is little more than an ambitious tech demo for now, Cepero's website offers an abundance on the intricacies of procedural graphics, voxels, and polygons. It's definitely work checking out.
Two of the many -isms supercharging BioShock Infinite's narrative is the religious extremism and racism of Zachary Comstock, the zealous ultra-nationalist founder of Columbia and a figure of worship for many of its citizens. In an interview with GameSpot, Creative Director Ken Levine stresses the difficulty in creating Comstock as a designer from a non-religious background, and he recalls how a certain end-game scene with the character nearly caused an Irrational artist to quit in protest.
"There was a scene in the game at the end where one of our artists got to a point in the game, played it, turned off BioShock, opened up his computer, opened Microsoft Word, and wrote a resignation letter," Levine says. "It had offended him so much."
Last month, Levine spoke of a certain Infinite character getting "highly altered" after input from religious team members. It seems the character in question is Comstock, and Levine used the artist's concerns as a springboard for deepening the character's traits regarding faith beyond his limited interaction with religion.
"I realized that something I could connect to was a notion of forgiveness and what an important part that is of the New Testament and why Christ was such a revolutionary figure," Levine explains. "And thinking about how I would incorporate the power of that notion to Comstock into his world was, to me, the key. Because who hasn't done things that they don't want to be forgiven for?
"And it occurred to me that I had to figure out why people follow him," he continues. "That was the key to his character. Why do people follow him? What does he provide to them? And I struggled with that for a long time because obviously an ecstatic religious experience is something that a religious leader provides but I don't have a connection to as a writer. And it's always hard when you're trying to write something that you have never felt. And that would feel dishonest to me."
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt brings several new and interesting features beyond its beautifully bleak landscape. A thread on the World of Players RPG community (via OXM) collects the highlights of a pair of previews from German magazines PC Games and Gamestar, including the addition of Fallout-style location-based damage and a staggering number of quests.
Check out some of the more notable features below:
Geralt can steer boats and ride horses to reach his destination. He can tame wild versions of the latter with his Axii spell, but you can also purchase mounts from various stables.
The monster-slayer apparently hit the gym after The Witcher 2 wrapped up, as he now adds climbing and jumping to his movement abilities.
Three primary areas make up The Witcher 3's explorable land, and their entirety is available to you from the very start. Your actions and choices can trigger 36 different states for the world along with three possible endings. Some Witcher 2 choices affect your story as well, though it isn't clear which of the second game's endings constitute canon.
You'll be able to hunt various critters and sell their fur and meat for gold. Let's hope you won't need to create and heft around dozens of crafted bags. The main story missions take around 50 hours to complete, and side-quests take an equal amount of time. For completionists, you're looking at over 100 hours of Witchering.
Sorry, sociopaths—Geralt won't lift a finger against innocent civilians no matter how hard you mash your attack key.
Area transitions are all seamless.
You can direct Geralt's strikes to hit individual body parts of a foe a la Fallout's VATS system. Finally, you can now execute the ancient "nut-stab" maneuver passed down from Witchers of old.
At first glance, Oblivionauts seems somewhat convoluted. It's neither a total conversion like Enderal nor a straightforward supplement of extra gear. The mod adopts more non-linearity than Skyrim in its dungeons but instead of starting with a blank slate, you pick a pre-built class for your character. After reading more of creator Far Realms' outline, I think it's one of the most ambitious projects I've seen from a mod team.
Here's how it works: instead of having you wander an expansive landscape and stumble upon new areas and quests, Oblivionauts slots you into a "hub" base serving both as your home and as a launching point for smaller, insulated mini-campaigns. After choosing your equipment and class, you're whisked away to a custom map selected from a list and progress through its challenges until reaching the end, where you're brought back home to choose another journey.
The exciting bonus to all this is that Far Realms intends to continually expand the mod's available maps through contributions from the entire Skyrim modding community. It's a wink and a nod to Neverwinter Nights' module system, and the group says any combination of custom parameters are possible—more races, a replacement of the class system, and other setups.
Experiencing these quests outside of the setting of Skyrim or as the Dovahkin means Oblivionauts could very well produce a ton of wacky stories without trespassing upon the vanilla game. Far Realms explains that your character—a crimson-faced Dremora—never actually sets foot on Skyrim, and starting a new game with Oblivionauts activated sends you directly to your base.
Far Realms is targeting an early summer release for the mod, but it's looking for extra modeling and code-crunching help to speed up the process. Have a look at Oblivionauts on Mod DB for more info.
On the surface, slapping a jetpack on a dragon just seems redundant. But Divinity: Dragon Commander isn't an ordinary fantasy game. Larian's upcoming RTS/card game/RPG/skeleton marriage simulator blends political power plays with massive strategic wars, but it also piles on the absurd beyond rocketeering wyverns. Here's a trailer showing off the steampunk craziness, including appearances of elves with lightning-bolt ears, dapper dragon-men, and a somehow boobed reptilian adviser.
Beyond the wacky cast, it looks like conquering territories involves juggling unit production and smart troop placement alongside advantageous marriages. Think Crusader Kings II or the Total War games, only with dragons. In fact, appending "only with with dragons" to any similarities you see in Dragon Commander works rather well. Except for that undead woman sporting lipstick where her lips used to be. I've got nothing on that.
We don't know when Divinity: Dragon Commander is releasing, but given the level of eccentricity in Larian's latest, I'd prefer giving it all the time it needs to deliver a perfect jetpacking experience.
Let’s get this out of the way: you’re going to find the dragon riding in Dragonborn disappointing. You can’t steer the beast or land wherever you want, and while you can direct your dragon to attack enemies, you probably know by now that dragons aren’t that good at killing things, and you might as well dismount and do it yourself. So, that sucks, but luckily there are other rewards that make Dragonborn worth your time and money.
"While Apocrypha looks impressive – as if HR Giger took a flamethrower to a bookshop – it isn’t much fun to be in." This Skyrim expansion takes place on the frostbitten island of Solstheim in Morrowind, where a series of mysterious shrines and brainwashed acolytes hint at the reawakening of the original Dragonborn, Miraak, who is unhappy to find an off-brand imposter running around slurping up dragon souls. Before a fairly typical boss fight with Miraak you’ll have to repeatedly visit a plane of Oblivion called Apocrypha, and while it looks impressive – as if HR Giger took a flamethrower to a bookshop – it isn’t much fun to be in, featuring repetitive fights with the same two demons and lengthy searches for switches that open gates.
But it’s not as if main quests have ever been the best part of The Elder Scrolls. It’s all about the side quests, and Solstheim is home to an abundance of NPCs who mill around hoping someone will come along and solve their problems for them. Invest in a mining operation that unearths far more than precious stones, solve puzzles to unlock the tomb of an ancient dragon priest, foil an assassination to acquire a new subterranean home, and complete loads of other quests and missions – some trivial, some extensive.
It’s all about the side quests, and Solstheim is home to an abundance - some trivial, some extensive." There are also new followers to recruit, such as a clanky, sputtering Dwarven robot. Finally. At least one quest is reserved for higher level characters: there’s a treasure map leading to enchanted armour and a gaggle of ghost pirates, but it’s restricted to players over level 36.
Fans of Morrowind will be pleased to see some familiar creatures, like the Netch, who hover benignly unless provoked, and the Riekling, fierce little goblins who ride boars into battle (also available as followers, provided you help a particular tribe with their pesky Nord problem).
While Solstheim isn’t massive, there are plenty of ruins and caves to explore, as well as some charming overworld locations, like a town where the homes are built inside giant mushrooms. I reckon there’s about 25 hours of content, with new spells and shouts, new weapons and armour to find and craft, and some fantastic new abilities (I can now summon a ghostly drum that feeds me stamina, and my attacks and shouts no longer hurt my followers).
Dragonborn also seems highly stable: I haven’t experienced a single crash or glitch. Apart from the so-so main questline and the repetitive labyrinths of Apocrypha, the hours I’ve spent questing in Solstheim have been well worth it.
Expect to pay: $20/£14 Release: Out now Developer: Bethesda Game Studios Publisher: Bethesda Softworks Multiplayer: No Link: www.bit.ly/pcg-drag
The writers of Remember Me are going to great lengths to let you know their game takes place in the future. For starters, it's set in Neo Paris. Also there's a character called Edge, the sort of name that could only come about in the dystopian vision of a world where celebrity baby naming gets extreme. I'm actually amazed that they haven't included a device that plugs into your head and overlays glitchy VR graphics throughout the world... OH NO WAIT, THEY HAVE.
And yet, despite the futurist world-building bullshit and aggressive Protagonist Amnesia plot device, Remember Me does look like a promising slice of sci-fi pulp gaming. I'm not entirely convinced it'll be great, but it seems like a silly enough concept that it just might work. Or maybe it'll prove (*drum-roll*) entirely forgettable.
As the trailer reveals, Remember Me is due out June 4th.
While we're still waiting on details about War of the Roses' much anticipated (by me) Brian Blessed DLC, Fatshark continue to update their medieval melee FPS in new and interesting ways. The latest content drop, titled Outside the Law, puts a Robin Hood-style twist on the ongoing battle between Lancastrians and Yorkists - adding in flaming arrows and a lush new forest map.
Greenwood is the appropriately titled verdant landscape, taking the fight across hills and valleys, through fallen trees abandoned camps. Not that there's time to stop and stare at the saturated scenery - the Elm Self Bow and Yew Self Bow will cause fire to reign from the skies. Knights also get to try their hand at the new Woodsman’s Axe, Headsman’s Axe, Shillelagh Mace and Quarterstaff weapons.
To celebrate the update, War of the Roses will be free to try this weekend. While the game's demo currently lets players sample all the maps, along with base classes and weapons, the weekend trial will presumably be the full deal - allowing levelling and unlocks as well.
Gamasutra's survey of Game Developers Conference attendees shows some startlingly pronounced changes to the industry - changes which are extremely good news if you happen to own a PC. 49% of attendees are making their next game for PC and Mac while just 11% said they were developing games for PS4 and the next Xbox.
Blimey! Even last-gen consoles did better than that, scoring 13% for Sony and 13.2% for Microsoft.
It's a big swing to PC: a much smaller chunk - 34.6% - made their last game for PC. This probably also reflects the massive migration away from AAA development towards indie: 53% identified themselves as indies, and just over half of those said they'd been indies for less than two years. And where better to publish your indie game than PC?
Have a poke at Gamasutra's numbers: lots of other interesting stats found therein.
Role-reversed tower defence game Anomaly is back, with the freshly announced and aptly named sequel Anomaly 2. The brief teaser trailer reveals some additional features over the "tower offence" of Anomaly: Warzone Earth. This time, your troops can morph into mechs, granting various abilities to use in specific combat situations. There's also the promise of multiplayer, giving you the chance to run through a friend's gauntlet of turrets and tendrils.
In Anomaly, you play as the hapless troops fighting through the AI's tower defence maze. For their follow-up, 11 Bit Studios are promising an improved visual engine, multiple endings and "more than a million tactical combinations to build your squad".
Bizarrely, the game has already been on sale. 11 Bit previously gave people the option to pre-order their "secret game" at 50% off. That deal's now off the table, but Anomaly 2 is due for Windows, Mac and Linux in Q2 2013 for $14.99.