Posts Tagged ‘Developer’

h1

Ambrov X: A Sime~Gen RPG Kickstarter

September 5, 2013

Ambrov X

Just wanted to share something cool I discovered recently — well, credit actually goes to my friend M.L. Brennan who first brought it to my attention. She’s an author and went to Worldcon last weekend where she got to chat with Jacqueline Lichtenberg and Jean Lorrah, two impressive women writers in the world of sci-fi and fantasy fiction, who are also now involved with the development of a video game based on their Sime~Gem Universe. By all accounts, they had a fascinating discussion into the representation and role of women in the business.

Anyway, an indie dev studio out of Cincinnati called Loreful is the company behind the game, and they now have a Kickstarter up for Ambrov X, a single-player, action-adventure space opera episodic RPG featuring story-driven gameplay and diverse characters:

Set in the award winning Sime~Gen Universe by Jacqueline Lichtenberg and Jean Lorrah, Ambrov X casts players in a far distant future as leaders of an unlikely but elite crew tasked with planting space beacons which allow for faster than light space travel. The Ambrov X saga unfolds into an action-packed story of first contact. Complete with epic battles and emotional decision making, Ambrov X brings to life the single-player, story-driven RPG through a thrilling space opera adventure. Ambrov X is scheduled for a 2015 release on Windows, OS X and Linux. With alternate releases for XBOX, PS4, iOS and Android to be released at a later date. On Sept. 3rd, check us out on Kickstarter to JOIN IN THE ADVENTURE!

Ambrov X also made news earlier this week with the announcement to bring in Jennifer Hepler (video game writer extraordinaire who wrote for BioWare and did work for Dragon Age and also the story for one of the coolest classes in Star Wars: The Old Republic — the Smuggler, of course!) when the Kickstarter reaches it $750,000 stretch goal. In a recent update, Hepler says, “We are reaching out past the “straight white male” demographic and trying to create a game for anyone who loves a good sci-fi story. Players can play any gender and romance any gender they want. Because who am I to come into your living room and tell you how to play?”

So check it out! I’m really excited about supporting this nifty indie game, it’s pretty awesome looking. You can visit the Kickstarter page and look at the details here: Ambrov X

h1

It’s A Perfect World

May 24, 2013

Cryptic/Perfect World seems bent on taking up all my gaming time lately. Though I can’t seem to convince my husband to come back to Star Trek Online with me, I myself have been sucked back into the game big time.

Romulan starting area

Um, yeah. This is definitely not the STO I knew and remembered. It’s bigger and better. I am still set-phasers-to-stunned by how much has changed. I know a lot of features have been added since I left, but it’s also the little things too. Stuff has been tidied up and streamlined, from the user interface to combat mechanics, the visuals and environment and effects have been updated or improved. This was something I played for almost two years before I stopped, but coming back again now feels like discovering a brand new game.

And yet, memories of gameplay inevitably flow back to me while I’m playing. Sometimes it’s a good thing, like during ground combat. Remembering the Expose/Exploit system helped me decide which weapons to give to myself and my bridge officers, and mobs went down without any trouble. But sometimes, half-remembering the game can also hinder. During space combat with my new Romulan character, I’m maneuvering my beached whale of a starting hunk of metal and wishing so badly I was still back in my main’s escort ship. A lot of the battle tactics I developed I mastered using that little Maelstrom, and that baby turned on a dime.

Space combat

Perhaps not surprisingly, my first foray back among the stars did not go so well. I even forgot the golden rule of STO space combat: DO NOT hang around exploding ships! I guess my MMO-player instinct to run up to enemies I’ve just killed in order to loot them was just too strong, and I was almost blown up for it, bleh.

It’s a shame I can only fit in about an hour or less of time in STO during the afternoons, because like I said, the mister doesn’t seem to have any interest in captain duties anymore. As for the game we’re both still playing, the obsession with Neverwinter is still holding strong and I’m glad to report we’re slowly climbing the levels every evening.

Ebon Downs

It’s a good balance, don’t you think? Sci-fi by day, fantasy by night.

h1

DAW: Funcom

March 28, 2013
shout out

Shout-out to Funcom

Outstanding. Apparently, my blog’s revival has serendipitously coincided with DAW, or Developer Appreciation Week. This is good, because I would have been loath to miss out on this tradition. Let’s all take part in sharing the love! Originally the brainchild of Scarybooster, DAW is a chance for gamers and bloggers everywhere to show our appreciation for developers, and thank them for their hard work in bringing us the games we enjoy.

Anyway, there are so many devs that deserve a pat on the back, but this year I would like to dedicate my DAW post to Funcom and the team who brings us The Secret World (and I’m not the only one).

TSW enchanted me from the outset to become the biggest and most pleasant gaming surprise for me in 2012. To be honest, I didn’t know what I was expecting at first, but it certainly wasn’t something I anticipated playing past the first 30 days. I think I bought the game out of curiosity more than anything. It was meant to be an MMO to dabble away in for a while, a summer distraction and not much more.

Fast forward almost nine months later, and I am still playing. More importantly, I am still having a blast.

Of course, Funcom has had its struggles and TSW has not been free of issues, but I’d like to think I know a gem when I see one. The guild I am in has even set up weekly sessions to play TSW together, and I have to say that week after week it still never fails to entertain me, to shock me, to make me shake my head and say to myself, “Damn, this game is bloody brilliant.”

So, to the good folks working on TSW, keep up the good work. You have in me a loyal subscriber who does not at all mind her money going to support the likes of creepy Innsmouth Academy occult headmasters or rifle-dancing Marya. Thank you for your ingenuity, for having the guts to push the envelope, and for making one hell of a unique MMO.

Good times:

werewolf

darkness war

Hell Fallen

cat god

templars

 

 

h1

Rift: My Storm Legion Tour – Player Housing And Dimensions

October 25, 2012

In this final post of my tour of the Rift: Storm Legion expansion, I will talk about what Community Manager James “Elrar” Nichols showed me of the highly anticipated Dimensions feature, perhaps more widely known as Rift’s housing system. Remember how I said in my last post that I was saving the best for last? Well, while I can’t speak for others, I have to say this was personally my favorite part of my almost two-hour tour. (You can find the first part about new zones here, and the second part about dungeons and raids here.)

I confess I was looking forward to my tour of the Dimensions feature the most, and believe me when I say it didn’t disappoint. First of all, I almost feel like it could have constituted an expansion all by itself. The fact that we get this intricate housing system plus two huge continents of PvE content and the dungeons and raids in Storm Legion is just starting to sink in.

Second of all, I am beginning to get a deeper understanding of why the Rift team prefers to use the name “Dimensions” rather than the term “housing” when referring to this feature. Sure, it may also sound better for marketing, but to me the plain and simple truth is, the word “housing” just doesn’t cut it; I don’t think it’s really enough to describe the sheer scope of we’re being offered with this expansion.

For this part of the tour, Elrar took me several dimensions in order to explain how the whole system works. The first one we went to, “Elrar’s Bar”, was a relatively simple endeavor in the Stone Flask Tavern location where I was allowed to muck about and get hands-on with everything. The first thing Elrar told me to do was to look up. The surroundings clearly showed that I was in the Stonefields area, but what I saw above me was most definitely not a Stonefield sky. Yep, it was one of those things Elrar had put in to customize his own little corner of Telara. Pretty!

Here, I was shown the basics and given an explanation of the system. I was told you can own multiple dimensions, but can only have one active. As to why, Elrar clarified that this is because the feature is still so new. Indeed, testers have suggested letting players have more active dimensions, but before the team can expand the system further they have to make sure current conditions won’t crash out the system. But in the future, who knows what’s possible? This feature will continue to be expanded. I didn’t press for more information, but it seems that in the meantime if you wanted to switch active dimensions, doing so is as simple as having all your items packed up into a box before moving.

As to how to gain ownership of new dimensions, I got the impression that they work a lot like many other items in the game — some will be easily accessible, while others will have varying degrees of rarity, with the rarest dimension “keys” being highly coveted and requiring the appropriate level of investment to obtain them.

I asked Elrar when is the earliest a player can have access to his or her own personal dimension. His answer: through a quest you can get at level 5, or in other words, pretty much as soon as you complete the tutorial area. That’s pretty great news; Rift developers are aware that not everyone who will be interested in housing will also be interested in questing, leveling, endgame, etc. and their goal is to make the Dimensions feature as accessible as possible. This will also allow newcomers to the game access to a huge part of the Storm Legion right off the bat, since I was told the bulk of the new areas in the expansion, i.e. much of everything else I saw on the tour, will only be available to level 50 characters.

Next, a closer look at the controls and decorating tools. As a “friend” of Elrar, my character had access to his dimension, though each player will have the ability to further customize these options to designate who can visit, place items, or make changes, etc. In the dimensions UI, you can also set whether or not you want your dimension private or public, but more on that later.

If you look at the screenshots, you can see that the UI is very intuitive. Clicking on the wrench icon will give you access to a bunch of options, allowing you to take an item and move it along multiple axes, or rotate it, or scale it, etc. You can do this with virtually every item. In this next shot, I took a formerly normal-sized stool and shrank it into a size fit for a dollhouse. In the screenshot after that, I was playing with the height of some of the furniture. Want a bed that floats in mid air? Sure, you got it! Can’t jump high enough to get to it? Create yourself a flight of floating steps using books! Pretty much everything seems possible.

Items aren’t just limited to furnishings. I already mentioned the way you can customize the sky with a projector, and there are also music boxes to add to your dimension, letting you set the perfect mood. With a click of a button you can bring up a list of all the items in your dimension, and actually doing so was how I came across a peculiar entry called “Dimensional Bartender.” Yes, Elrar has his own personal barkeep. I stood by as he served up a line drinks and then watched with amusement as Elrar’s character promptly chugged them all down.

From what I saw and heard, I got the impression that there will be various methods to procure dimensional items, with the most common items being easily accessible and obtainable, and those rarer and more unique items likely requiring more time and effort invested in the game.

Later, I was shown several other examples of dimensions and what their owners have done to them. The impressive display of creativity and user-created content simply boggled my mind, and left me with no doubt that this feature will have a profound impact on the Rift community.

Elrar had described dimensions as being virtual neighborhoods, a social system that is easy to access, share and explore. Indeed, there were many open to the public which you can enter from anywhere in the world. I could also see that a bunch of them were highly recommended by other players using the feature’s rating system. It occurred to me that certain dimensions can even have the potential to become in-game tourist destinations (“Hey, have you seen the ____ dimension?” “OMG, you have GOT to visit the _____ dimension!”) In fact, we ran into many other players while visiting the public dimensions.

In this dimension, the decorating has started in this corner of the house. Everything seen here has been placed there by hand.

In this one, the owner built the entire second floor from scratch, just adding to the basic structure of the house provided.

This next dimension features a boat in a lovely little grotto. I was told that the boat, also constructed from scratch, is made up of about a few dozen or so separate pieces — again, all placed by hand. This is sort of what I meant when I said that the term housing just doesn’t seem sufficient to encompass this feature. This is about way more than maintaining a home in a game, it’s also about the complete freedom to build and share anything you can imagine.

To further illustrate that point, here’s another dimension Elrar showed me. The owner has made a jumping puzzle out of it! Literally, the sky’s the limit. My own personal limit here, however, would be my crappy platformer skills. By the way, did I mention that I’m notoriously bad at jumping puzzles in MMOs? Not surprisingly, I didn’t get very far on this. There will be no prizes for me.

One thing I do know for certain now: there will be absolutely no jumping whatsoever required in my own dimension when I get Storm Legion.

Here’s a couple more screenshots to show two versions of the same building structure template, but their owners have done very different things to its exterior. The second house has been cover with rocks, creating a cave-like stronghold complete with hidden entrance, and which even has an added second floor.

Here are some more examples of fun things other players have built in their dimensions. Some of it almost puts me in mind of Minecraft on steroids.

I think housing is something a lot of people enjoy and would like to see implemented in more MMOs, so I wasn’t surprised when so much of the buzz I’ve heard surrounding the Storm Legion expansion involved the dimension system. But now I know it’s also because of the lengths that Rift has gone with it. They seem to have embraced it completely, intending full well to deliver their promise of giving players the ability to unleash their creativity and transform their dimensions into anything they want.

I actually thought of the Sims at one point, and considering what a big fan I am of the building and decorating capabilities in those games, I definitely mean it as a compliment. Can you imagine the potential for roleplayers? For everyone? My mind is swimming with the possibilities.

And so ends the write-up of my Storm Legion tour, I hope you enjoyed reading about my experience and thoughts. I was initially unsure of how I was going to present all this, but ultimately decided just to write about what I saw and heard from my guide and lay out everything as they were shown to me. I couldn’t help it, though; I just had to gush a little when it came to Dimensions. If you haven’t gathered already, I was very impressed by this feature.

Again, I want to say thank you to the Rift team and Elrar for this wonderful opportunity. But of course, I must also curse them now because I’m tempted to resubscribe right away and not to wait at all to buy the expansion.

h1

Rift: My Storm Legion Tour – Dungeons And Raids

October 24, 2012

Continuing with the write-up of my tour of Rift: Storm Legion during the beta weekend, in this post I’ll focus on what Community Manager James “Elrar” Nichols showed me regarding dungeons and raids. To view the previous part on the world and new zones, see here.

I was told that Storm Legion will launch with seven dungeons and a couple of raids — one 20-man and one 10-man — with another 20-man being added in the first big patch. It’s clear that just because they have a huge expansion coming out soon, this by no means indicates that the Rift team will be slacking on their update schedule. New content will continue rolling in as it has always done, and players won’t have long to wait.

I’ll confess right now that this post will be image-heavy. A lot of the encounters shown to me were still works-in-progress; that and time constraints meant that we didn’t do much fighting beyond Elrar exercising his supermod tour guide powers and insta-killing the bosses so we could check out the beautiful dungeon interiors. Works for me! It won’t do well to spoil the fights for myself at this early stage anyway, so I was happy to follow along, pressing my PrntScn key every two seconds in amazement at the environmental details.

Our first stop: Storm Breaker Protocol, a level 52-56 five-man dungeon. The first thing we did was climb into a mech-like robots, giving us access to a set of cool-sounding abilities like Eradication Pulse and Rocket Salvo. We proceeded to clear trash, and I was told players will also get a chance to fight bosses in these Storm Breaker robots. Elrar confirmed that these kinds of fights are new to Rift; like many of upcoming features we’ll see in Storm Legion, they’re the result of ongoing experimentation with new ideas and implementation of mechanics by the Rift team, ultimately letting the player response guide their decisions.

By the way, I want to mention that the level 60 character provided to me was a Mage, mostly because I told Elrar I was fascinated with what I’ve seen of the new Harbinger soul. In the end, I didn’t actually get much of a chance to experiment with his abilities during the tour, but the good news is the little I did see of his conjured blades and weapons spells confirms my suspicions that this “melee battle mage” soul is as unique as it looks.

The next dungeon we saw was Empyrean Core, a level 58-60 five-man instance intended for players towards the end of the leveling experience. Some stunning bosses and sights in there. Honestly, the following screenshots I took don’t do that place justice, as I lost a lot of the nuances created by the play of light and shadow.

Next, Elrar brought me to the Endless Eclipse, the 20-man raid that will be available about a month after Storm Legion’s launch, where players will eventually get to battle Regulos. Which reminds me, I want to mention that all throughout the tour I was being provided with commentary about the game  world’s history and background information behind all these instances. There’s context in all we’ll get to do in the new expansion, and not for the first or last time, I wished I was more well-versed in Rift lore.

Here’s a few images from that place; as you can see it’s appropriately “deathy” in there. Again, I want to emphasize that it looks so much better in game with all my settings cranked up.

 

Finally, we checked out Frozen Tempest, the 20-man raid that will be available at Storm Legion’s launch. Here, players will get to battle Crucia, the power-hungry dragon goddess who controls the minds of the Storm Legion cult which makes even Regulos shake in his boots.

Got some great pics in there of the two of us getting our butts kicked, because Elrar forgot to turn on his supermod powers of invulnerability. Here he is getting stomped on by a giant harpy (and I was next)!:


Stay tuned for my third and final post in which I will talk about what I saw of the highly anticipated Dimensions feature also known as Rift’s housing system. Believe me when I say it deserves a full post dedicated to it all on its own! Not that everything else I’d seen so far didn’t look fantastic, but Elrar definitely saved the best for last during our tour. And thus, so will I!

h1

Rift: My Storm Legion Tour – New Zones

October 23, 2012

First of all, I want to thank the Rift team and especially Community Manager James “Elrar” Nichols for the amazing opportunity of being offered a private tour of their upcoming expansion Storm Legion during this beta weekend. This Monday, I was provided with a level 60 character, and along with the masterful Elrar acting as my personal in-game tour guide, we traveled to a variety of locations in the game so he could show me some of the features while allowing me to get in some hands-on time.

I’ve always admired Trion’s dedication to building rapport with their players and their enthusiasm to reach out to bloggers and the gaming community, and I’m really grateful to have been included. I know several have already gotten their write-ups posted, so here’s mine.

The fact is, Rift and I have always enjoyed a genial relationship; I played for many months, leveling my Cleric to 50 and continued to enjoy the game for a long time after that thanks to the flexibility of the soul system and the frequent content updates. I did stop playing around last winter when pretty much all my MMO gaming came to a screeching halt when I gave birth to my daughter, but with the announcement of Storm Legion this summer I knew I was going to be heading back into Rift sometime soon.

I just had no idea how soon. I knew I wanted to play the expansion, but my plan was originally to hold off on it until next year when my current MMO plate isn’t quite so full, but after my tour on Monday I think I’m going to have to reevaluate that plan. It’s probably safe to say that some of the things I saw shifted around my priorities somewhat, and there are more than a few features I’d definitely want to get a jump start on and not wait around for.

Elrar began our tour in Tempest Bay, the massive new cross-faction city on its own island on the map. The mechanical eldritch theme it has going there reflects a long history of its highly-advanced society. I imagine once the expansion goes live and players begin flocking to this city for their everyday in-game needs, it’ll look sufficiently more populated and lived-in. For now, from what I saw Tempest Bay positively radiates the majesty and grandeur of a central capital.

Elrar and his supermod powers ported us to various locations around the world next, exploring some of the new zones. Storm Legion will add two gigantic continents to the game world, Dusken and Brevane. Each of them will be bigger than the original game world, essentially tripling the size of Rift. Level 50s will have access to these areas in the new expansion.

Our first destination, Morban. And yes, the mood of the zone is as baleful and sinister as the name suggests; in the area called the Forest of Flesh, my guide led me by several foreboding structures nestled in a twisted wood. It’s an eerie sight to behold and yet a feast for the eyes. Rift being an original intellectual property, Elrar explained how their artists get a lot of free rein to design and theme the zones. Indeed you can see the full extent of the creativity at work here in the unique lines and forms of the architecture and biodiversity.

Our next stop was Seratos, the next zone over. My guide ported me into an area called the Pus Swamp. Hmm, flesh and pus and hey, I think I’m starting to see a pattern here! I was reminded that we’re in the realm of Regulos now; everything here has pretty much been taken over by the planes. Speaking of which, throughout my tour I was treated to many interesting tidbits of background information and the history of Telara. So, not only has the Rift team been hard at work adding content to their game, they’ve also beefed up the lore big time.

I also had the chance to visit the Kingdom of Pelladane and the Eastern Holdings on the other continent of Brevane. Along the way, I got to see how quests will be treated in the new expansion. Firstly, I was fortunate enough to experience a spontaneous rift event during my tour and was assured that rifts will continue to be a main feature and the driving force behind the game. I was happy to hear that. Of course, there will also still be quest hubs where players can show up and talk to a bunch of NPCs, but Elrar also emphasized a concerted move towards improving the flow of questing and making it feel more like a natural and organic experience.

I was shown a couple of examples of this. In one instance, I was just running around the area when I suddenly stumbled across an item on the ground with a quest indicator floating above it. In another instance, me killing a random mob also triggered a quest. This obviously is a move to encourage more exploration; Rift has always been very good at doing this, what with their artifacts and collection system and such — but now there’s even more reason to go poking your head into every nook and corner, or killing every monster you see.

Storm Legion is going to be chock-full of new features and lots of cool stuff, and there’s definitely no way I can fit all that I saw on Monday into one post. So stick around, I’ll be sure to cover my tour of dungeons and raids, and housing and dimensions in my next couple of updates!

h1

Funcommunication

August 9, 2012

Everyone gets those warm, fuzzy feelings for a company when they make a good product, but for me and many others that’s only a part of the story. When it comes to MMOs and the game makers that produce them, quality customer care and communication can go a long way in making up the rest of it.

A few days ago, my husband and I were playing The Secret World and had the misfortune of running into a bugged quest, one of those profoundly and irreversibly screwed up situations with a stuck objective which could only be fixed with a petition to a GM. It was the first time since I started playing this game that I had to do this, but I’d heard nothing but good things from many of my friends who have had contact with customer service, so I was admittedly quite curious as to what my own experience would be like.

Honestly? I was pleasantly surprised. On a Saturday evening, right smack in the middle of a busy celebration weekend, both my husband’s and my tickets were answered by a helpful in-game representative within ten minutes, and within another five we were all fixed up and ready to go. Let’s face it, bugged quests are irritating as all hell and no one ever likes running into them, but the sting sure is lessened by a prompt response and swift resolution to the problem. I was very satisfied.

Granted, based on the inevitable complaints on the forums, not everyone has been as fortunate. So maybe you can say that my husband and I just happened to hit the GM lottery.

Still, no one can deny the other ways that Funcom has attempted to reach out to their customer base and fans of their game. From their efforts, I gather there has been a push to improve customer service and communication since the days of Age of Conan, especially in the realm of social media.

For the most part, it’s been pretty effective on me. Recall the /headdesk inducing chat bug that plagued TSW for weeks, at a time when the game is still so new and getting to know your fellow players is of the utmost importance. Several choice words not limited to “unacceptable” and “game breaking” came to mind, but while I can’t speak for others, I know I for one was immediately appeased when I saw this update post and understood that they were working on it and that the problem was more complex than expected. Well, that and Indiana Jones references get me EVERY TIME.

Between following @Morteia and @funcom_tsw accounts on Twitter, I know I can actually count on staying up-to-date with TSW happenings. In particular, I have also been impressed by Creative Director Ragnar Tornquist’s presence on Twitter, forums and game sites, interacting with players and answering their questions. Thus far, he has responded to pretty much every one of mine. As a player and a fan of his work, I won’t deny that felt pretty damn amazing. To see such a celebrated designer and someone so integral to the game’s development get so involved is very rare indeed and I gotta say much appreciated.

That’s not all. After watching this hilarious webcast from yesterday, I also have to give a special nod to the livestreams hosted by TSW devs about once every other week. With the hosts drinking beer and swearing up a storm (though given that PvP was involved, I can understand completely), the recording is most decidedly NSFW, but still I have to say its genuine and unscripted nature is what I love best about it and why I will always make the effort to tune in each time.

I know not everything can be revealed due to spoilers and I certainly don’t begrudge a company’s need to keep certain information hush-hush during development. And yet, I can’t help but feel that the kind of candidness I saw in yesterday’s livestream is a breath of fresh air at a time when it’s way more common to hear the dreaded words “We can’t talk about that right now” come repeatedly out of a developer’s mouth. Open and honest communication and Q&As like that give me high hopes for the future of TSW.

As well, aside from showing everyone that he is one cruel tease, Ragnar’s random revelations (yay for alliteration) such as Peter Stormare doing voice work for the game are quite significant. They’re not particularly telling, nor are they true game updates, but those little tidbits do a good job of letting me know that there are some big things up the pipeline to look forward to (can you say Odin and Norse mythology?!)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,156 other followers