Epic RPG Roundtable

May 25th, 2008

Vince Weller, Lead Designer of the indie RPG Age of Decadence, has put together one hell of a roundtable discussion on the topic of designing CRPGs.

Tapping RPG luminaries from across the industry, his impressive three part series covers setting, story, and character design.

From Chris Avellone‘s piece, on what made the Aliens setting so strong:

Next, the threats in Aliens are actually two-fold. One is the aliens themselves, which are shadowy, nebulous threats lurking in the dark. The other threat is the human factor – routinely in the movies, it’s the human psychological element that causes the secondary, and usually greater, threat. One could argue “the company” is basically another, equal shadowy nebulous predatory representation of the aliens. As an example, Burke’s greed in Aliens is a huge threat. Hudson’s panic is another. Gorman’s arrogant by-the-book incompetence is another, his unwillingness to admit he’s in over his head nor that he is unfit to command. Apone follows stupid orders. Vasquez is recklessly berserk, and her keeping her storm gun in Aliens and opening fire during the first encounter in the Hadley’s Hope nest actually sets the timer limit on the detonation in the colony. Dallas in Alien is clearly apathetic about following the company’s directives, and his apathy puts the crew in danger. Parker in Alien wants his share, etc, etc. All of these human elements serve to create equal, if not more, significant problems for the player. So having the human factor as a gameplay elements is equally important, and it should be tied into NPC and PC psychology.

Now, let’s take Ripley. Ripley is the hero, and her strength is her perspective on the situation (usually the smartest perspective – “nuke them from orbit”), and her ability to take the psychological handicaps of her crew and immediate party members and either course-correct or overcome them (Hudson’s fear, Newt’s catatonia, Hick’s unwillingness to step up and take command, Burke’s sliminess, Ash’s company loyalty, etc.). So this also seems to be an important part of the franchise.

The roundtable starts here.

FreakAngels

May 24th, 2008

FreakAngels, the weekly series by Warren Ellis and comics newcomer Paul Duffield, is now up to Episode 14. Go read it.

link love 05-23-08

May 23rd, 2008

Computer Space sells for $10,000
One of the top five cabinet designs of all time.

China’s MMOs go dark for three days of mourning.

I can’t wait to play Infinite Line. More here and here. Also, the new trailer for the unrelated Infinite Undiscovery.

In local news, tickets are now on sale for individual showings during Cinevegas. No I must see this films for me this year, but I’m sure the outdoor screening of Them will be a blast.

New additions to the regular readlist: Games Journalism or Bust!, Sexy Videogameland, & chewing pixels.

Xbox Live Arcade Potential Delist List

May 22nd, 2008

So the big story today is the Next-Gen interview with XBLA manager Marc Whitten, where he states:

In addition to allowing these bigger and better games we will be delisting older underperforming titles in order to keep the service focused on a section of high quality games.

The way it will work is that the title will need to be at least 6 months old and have a Metacritic score below 65 and a conversion rate below 6% on the service.  This way titles are not just considered if they are not selling well or not getting good reviews, but actually a combination of both.  We will also give a three-month notice before delisting any title.  Overall I think you will find this will focus the catalogue more on larger, more immersive games and make it much easier to find the games you are looking for.

Out of curiosity, I decided to compile a list of these poor performers, to see what kind of sweep we could be looking at. Please keep in mind that this list is based only on metacritic scores. Conversion rate (the percentage of players who buy the full game after downloading the demo) will most definitely be one of the strongest factors in determining whether a game will be delisted from Xbox Live Arcade, and hard conversion numbers are very difficult to get ahold of. According to Microsoft, the average conversion rate one year ago was 18%, with a high of 51% and a low of 4%. While we don’t know how much the numbers have changed, I’m guessing that it’s only going to be the very bottom of the barrel that ends up affected. Don’t expect a mass cleansing of all the crap games from XBLA anytime soon.

With that said, here’s the list.
Full story, after the jump »

Alan Smithee

May 22nd, 2008

Alan Smithee is a pseudonym generally used by those who, for one reason or another (usually due to a loss of creative control), do not want their given name attached to a product. Originally a nom de plume devised by the Directors Guild of America, some of the notable Alan Smithees in film are the directors of the extended version of David Lynch’s Dune, Dennis Hopper’s Catchfire and the pilot episode of MacGyver.

While the name has fallen out of use within the US film industry, it has spread to other industries, although without the particular guidelines previously maintained by the DGA and MPAA.

Alan Smithee is credited in the following games:

Equinox (1993, Sony Imagesoft, SNES) – Director
Ghosts N Goblins (1999, Capcom, Gameboy Color) – Producer
Huggly Saves the Turtles (2000, Scholastic, PC) – Animator
The Weakest Link (2001, Activision UK, PS1/PS2) – Additional Production
Where’s the Blanket Charlie Brown? (2002, Tivola, PC) – Robot
NHL Hitz 20-03 (2002, Midway, Xbox) – ColorCommentator Voice
1914: The Great War (2002, JoWooD, PC) – Texts
Future Boy (2004, GCCFP, PC) – Cast (Cop)
Fight Club (2004, Vivendi, PS2/Xbox) – Online Multiplayer Development
Eternal Sonata (2007, Namco Bandai, 360) – Additional Voices (English)

Know of any others?