As much as my current position on the whole "games industry-press-consumer" triangle (which is with my back to the gamer edge and feeling the ground starting to crumble beneath me feet) allows me half-guess, last Friday’s release of Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition is one of the most important goings on in the PC gaming canton this whole year.
But not, as one would assume, important in the sense that the PC audience is finally getting to taste the long forbidden fruit in the form of one of the most lauded console games of this (seemingly unending) console generation. No. Rather, as a perfect opportunity for one interested in gaming in general, PC gaming in particular (as well as consumer and press reaction), to draw a bead on things and notice the manifold idiosyncrasies of this love-hate triangle. It's a prime "case study", if you will, of agent, advisor and emptor.
But why? Surely every AAA release these days gets more written about it online than most headline news. Why's this one special, if the quality of the game is secondary? Exactly because the quality of the game seems to be its sole saving grace. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. What to look for:
From Software's declaration that they're not pursuing the port unless...; The Fan's overwhelming cry of attention in the form of a quite audible request for a PC version; the Press' thorough support of the Fan's cry; From's inability to ascertain the dos and don'ts of the PC market (the use of GFWL/graphics options/claimed inability to make the game run without frame drops, despite the PC's superior potential (apparently sorted at launch)); From's (at least, implicit) admission that they might not be the right "man" for the job.
Most important of all, though, the launch. One fan's use of a pirated copy and 23 minutes' work (with 1 week's prior work without access to game code) to sort out a major graphical problem the developers couldn't or wouldn't (and that delicious double-irony); general PC gamers' criticism of so shoddy a port contrasted with fans' claims that either "it's not that bad" or that "you should buy it anyway because you asked for it (and if you don't, no other console developer will ever grace the PC with a port that's not planned for)"; the journos' inability to take a stand, as usual, for fear of stepping on someone's toes; and finally, the worst one of all, the ever-recurring argument of "gamer entitlement".
A small comparison between launch DS (left) and Neogaffer Durante's modded version. Click for larger versions.
Now take a step back, and let's run a comparison, they're always good fun. Imagine any other industry-press-customer (unholy) trinity in which the above could, within reason, happen. Not on a regular basis, like in gaming, just the once. For the purposes of this piece, let's choose the auto industry. Imagine Toyota releases a car whose performance is lauded by Asian/European customers and world press, and that they refuse to release it in America. Imagine Americans get together a request and, with the support of the auto press, convince Toyota to release it there. Imagine Toyota saying they're having some problems with it but they'll release the car anyway. Imagine the car's released but its wheels are the wrong way on and it drives sideways. Imagine some random American got his hands on one of them and after a couple of hours and armed only with a spanner, he manages to get the car to drive diagonally- not ideal, but a vast improvement. Imagine that all through this there is not one single Auto journalist that puts his foot down and says: "This is not acceptable". You can't, can you?
-"But, Tofu, comparing cars and games is idiotic, they're worlds apart in function, it's only natural that the industry-press-consumer reactions are going to be vastly different!"
Ok, then, let's compare it to the movies. Imagine a great movie gets released in Betamax and VHS and later ported over (after customer outcry) to DVD. Imagine the DVD is of equal image quality to the Beta and that you can't use the DVD remote and have to get a different one. Imagine it still sells like hotcakes and that the fans/press tell you it's wholly worth the asking price, despite an abundance of other, similarly priced, good films with proper DVD mastering. Imag-
-"Come on, films don't generate nearly the same amount of consumer involvement as games. That's virtue of the games' DIY nature, as opposed to film, music and that sort of media. These comparisons are pointless!"
Oh, fuck you. You're probably right, but fuck you anyway.
In fact, I'm halfway convinced that trying to draw similarities between games and any other sort of product/medium and their makers'/reviewers'/buyers' relations is quite the fools errand, even fully realizing that that's assigning games an importance that they don't deserve, not yet, at any rate. And I apologize in advance, but the one thing it reminds me of the most is politics. And that's a point I won't bother expanding on, however interesting it might've been, because my relationship with games is dwindling as is and I fucking hate politics. So, again, sorry for the bait. Besides, the whole point was the current paradigm of gaming from all people involved and how alienating it sometimes becomes for a regular punter armed with only common sense and a wallet full of spider webs.
Alienating, because, as a company, you don't ask your customers for favours and set them tasks. You publish a product, and when it gets A-graded and people ask for more, you do the maths and find out if it's possible to give people what they want, and you either do it competently, you get someone to do it for you, or you don't do it, for fear of disparaging current and would be customers. And if you fail, you apologize and fix it for much the same reasons above.
Alienating, because, as a consumer, you don't "beg" for a slice of the pie that you're going to pay for, you ASK for it, with the intention of paying for it. You don't pay for that piece of pie if it turns out it's made of shit rather than apple, as you requested. You don't get to be told "You can't complain because you asked for it!", because you PAID for it. You don't get to be told "You're why we can't have nice things!" because you aren't; you're why we don't get crap. And you sure as fuck don't get to be told you're entitled or elitist when you want to use a mouse or you want to change resolutions or that you detest being told to press "Start" on a PC, because you're what's stopping the big industry from being completely shameless, regardless if anyone recognizes it or not.
And it sure is alienating when a journalist in PC Gamer has the balls to tell his audience that Dark Souls: Prepare To Die edition is worth 89/100. It's bad enough that he's perpetuating a childish affectation, that of game scores, but it's much worse when he's that off base. Unless he wants to argue that the port itself shouldn't be judged. That's too bad, because that's exactly what the his audience is going to play.
Yes, that is an astronaut duck. I like ducks, me.
As adamant as I might feel about my convictions above, I can't help but wonder, though- maybe because it seems wise to question one's common sense, as in, when it turns out it's not so common, maybe that's because it no longer makes much sense. Besides, it is (or should be) rather beyond both my reach and M.O. to presume to tell you how to run a business, how to spend your money or who to listen to, and how to DO YOUR DAMN JOB (BA-DUM to the -TISH, anyone?).
To end this, at long last, I'd like to address the discussion that half-spawned this, one between meself and Dacker Denister. It's also a functional disclaimer of sorts, if one's so inclined to vapidly presume my arguments meaningless because of one minute detail. I have not played Dark Souls, in any of its incarnations, nor will I until From re-releases a proper version for my gaming machine of choice, the PC. Although the main reason is purely a monetary one, I'm fairly sure I still wouldn't if I had 10 times as much money to burn as whatever many €s they're asking for it. I still haven't played (nor will I) Half Life 2 because I recognized it as something outrageous, a game underhandedly turned it into a launchpad for an otherwise utterly unwanted DRM scheme/store. Same goes for Diablo 3 (or would go if I found such "Skinner boxes" the least bit amusing), for obvious reasons. Dark Souls won't surely be the last major game I can live without.
Yes, it sounds judgemental, but it's really not. Even though I think there's some merit to argument that playing loose and fast with your wallet is the reason there's so many garbage nowadays in gaming, I believe it has the most impact on how industry fatcats speak of their customers on many a silly interview out there. Heck, I'm not, and would not, hold it to you or anyone else personally, for fear of insulting someone I don't intend to (because, in the end, (and again) I don't think enough of games to warrant getting into fights because of 'em), not to mention I'd sound like a massive hypocrite in presuming to tell people what to do with their money when I wouldn't take orders on what to do with mine if they came from His Holy Duckness. I do reckon, though, that in buying it, you made a poor choice.
-”Well, that all came across as awfully dramatic and overblown as a Michael Bay movie written by a 5 year-old. Surely you exaggerate?”
Well, yeah. As a wise man once said, there's always the indies. Although it's fair to say that if the indies scratched all the itches I have, that fabled middle ground between big industry and independent, this would never have seen the light of my CRT. But I'll save that rant for some other time.
One of our sources with insider knowledge of Interplay has sent an update regarding the Black Isle announcment:
You will find the ChrisTaylor (Lead Designer of Fallout) and MarkO'Green (Dialog for Fallout) at Black Isle. Right now everyone is saying it's only Black Isle in name and that's simply not true. I know it for a FACT.
Just some food for thought.
Edit: Black Isle are working on a game, but I can now confirm that it is not a new Plancescape or a new Icewind Dale. I can also confirm that this new game is directly related to a game that Black Isle has done in the past. A new Dark Alliance, perhaps?
Interplay has resurrected Black Isle. This will probably be the first and only time this matters to any of us, as Interplay is still just a walking corpse. There is a website, twitter, and facebook account. As far as I know, Interplay has no IPs worth mentioning, so this is an empty gesture.
Interplay didn't close Black Isle out of financial difficulties, like the article indicates. I know, I was there.
Black Isle closed because Herve boldly claimed he didn't need them and their ideas, that he knew what the public really wanted. He also felt, openly so, that PCs were a dying market and consoles were the way to go.
Rumour time, ladies and gents, and one coming from Denister's favorite site, Le Reddit. One user by the name of "fallout4boston" decided to either troll the living hell out of everyone, or go behind the back of his employers in breaking the news: Fallout 4 (tentative title, Howard is toying with the F4llout idea) is heading to Boston, Massachusetts and The Commonwealth. Here's what he said:
The rumors are true, Fallout 4 will take place in Boston. In case you haven't heard, Bethesda has recently been scoping out and researching Boston. They also have a strong connection to MIT. I may or may not be an MIT employee. But that's really all I can say for fear of losing my job.
I am telling you it will take place in Boston. Whether you believe me or not, how do you feel about a Fallout Boston?
To which he also added:
Apologies for the vagueness of this post. It's not just my job that worries me, but also getting the fuck sued out of me. Bethesda's contracts are basically full-proof so if they were to discover who I am, or rather, who I got this information from, a few people including myself could get into a lot of trouble.
Now, I'm no Reddit user, so this to me might as well be chinese insofar as determining its legitimacy. DaC's own Susan, however, uncovered this same rumor on the GameRevolution.com frontpage and a quick Google would indicate that there are a lot of sites pushing it, if none of the big ones. If that's up to plain ol' GaemIng JoUernalIZm or something else, I dunno. More can be added by our own King of Creation, if he's available, since he's the one of us that apparently uses Reddit.
To reiterate Susan's question, should we be excited?
We an' I tink dat depend on de engine. - A smart fella.
I've been hearing reports from people in the Boston area, where my fellow Fallout-obsessed brother lives, that Bethesda has been in the Boston area doing initial research for Fallout 4. It's highly speculative, but the main rumors surround Bethesda's connection to "The Institute", or what we call the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or M.I.T..
M.I.T., although in populated Cambridge and just across the river from Boston proper, still has a small-town feel when it comes to the way news propagates through the community. It is students and staff at M.I.T. that seem to be the ones talking the most about it, and they would be in a position to know. I wouldn't be surprised, at all, if the rumors prove to be true in coming weeks.
Just thought I'd share! I'm not confirming anything, but all signs point to yes.
Mad Max: Fury Road has officially begun principal photography. Here's the press release:
Principal photography began 9 July on the dystopian action adventure "Mad Max: Fury Road," a Kennedy Miller Mitchell production written and directed by "Mad Max" creator and Academy Award(R) winner George Miller ("Happy Feet"). The film will be presented by Warner Bros. Pictures in association with Village Roadshow Pictures. It will be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company, and in select territories by Village Roadshow Pictures.
"Mad Max: Fury Road"--the fourth in the franchise's history--stars Tom Hardy ("The Dark Knight Rises") in the title role of Max Rockatansky, alongside Oscar(R) winner Charlize Theron ("Monster", "Prometheus") as Imperator Furiosa.
According to Miller, "Mad Max is caught up with a group of people fleeing across the Wasteland in a War Rig driven by the Imperator Furiosa. This movie is an account of the Road War which follows. It is based on the Word Burgers of the History Men and eyewitness accounts of those who survived."
"Mad Max: Fury Road" also stars Nicholas Hoult ("X-Men: First Class") as Nux; Hugh Keays-Byrne ("Mad Max," "Sleeping Beauty") as Immortan Joe; and Nathan Jones ("Conan the Barbarian") as Rictus Erectus. Collectively known as The Wives, Zoe Kravitz ("X-Men: First Class") plays Toast, Riley Keough ("Magic Mike") is Capable, and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley ("Transformers: Dark of the Moon") is Splendid. They are joined by supermodel Abbey Lee Kershaw as The Dag and Courtney Eaton as Fragile, both of whom are making their big screen debuts. Also featured in the movie are Josh Helman as Slit, Jennifer Hagan as Miss Giddy, and singer/songwriter/performer iOTA as Coma-Doof Warrior.
The cast is rounded out by well-known Australian actors John Howard, Richard Carter, supermodel Megan Gale, Angus Sampson, Joy Smithers, Gillian Jones, Melissa Jaffer and Melita Jurisic.
Miller is directing the film from a screenplay he wrote with Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris. Miller also produces the film, along with longtime producing partner, Oscar(R) nominee Doug Mitchell ("Babe," "Happy Feet"), and P.J. Voeten. Iain Smith, Graham Burke and Bruce Berman serve as executive producers.
The behind-the-scenes creative team includes Academy Award(R)-winning director of photography John Seale ("The English Patient"); action unit director and stunt coordinator Guy Norris ("Australia"); editor Margaret Sixel ("Happy Feet"); production designer Colin Gibson ("Babe"); Oscar(R)-winning costume designer Jenny Beavan ("A Room with a View"); and makeup designer Lesley Vanderwalt ("Knowing").
Shooting on "Mad Max: Fury Road" is taking place in Africa with the support of the Australian government. Originally slated to be shot in Broken Hill, New South Wales, Australia, the production was forced to relocate due to severe flooding, rendering the Australian landscape unsuitable for the film. The rain turned the area into an oasis instead of the post-apocalyptic terrain that is the setting for Max's world.
On the heels of the Fallout 3 and New Vegas sale, the original Fallout collection is now on sale at Steam for $6.79 - 66% off. The collection includes Fallout, Fallout 2, and Fallout Tactics. Head over here and grab them.
In case you missed the huge discounts on Fallout 3, New Vegas and their DLC during the Steam Summer Sale, now is your chance to grab them. Steam has the new Fallout games on sale today in honor of QuakeCon. Head over and grab them at 66% off.
Ever wonder what's the worst thing that can happen to your favourite games franchise when the studio that made it goes under? Most of DaC knows. And as of today, so do all Stalker fans.
These guys happen.
At least that's the word from Sergey Galyonkin, the same guy that broke the news that GSC was going under and that Stalker 2 was no more. Word is (yes because games news is serious business) the guys pictured above are now free to make a Stalker game with their own engine. Previous GSC boss Sergei Grigorovich and.. er.. "those other guys" [because if it isn't a censored word in DaC, it should] haven't made any sort of official comment yet, but I recommend having your Ukrainian-English dictionaries at the ready or at the very least Google-translating "arrow", "knee" and "mudcrab" into Ukrainian.
Ukrainian blogger and marketing man Sergey Galyonkin – who tipped off the closure of the STALKER 2 project earlier this year – has claimed that Bethesda now have the rights to make a publish a STALKER game. They apparently do not have rights to the extended universe. GSC owner Sergei Grigorovich has not sold the brand, but apparently Bethesda could now make a game based on the property with their own technology. We’ll report more on this as we get it.
This follows on from the closure of STALKER 2 earlier in the year, an event which culminated in Ukrainian spin-off studios such as Survarium devs, Vostok.
We’ve contacted Bethesda for a statement. UPDATE: Currently they are saying “No comment.”
UPDATE 2: Turns out the "creator" was actually a troll posing as the creator to get some lulz on 4chan or something. Anyways, our apologies to the Fallout: Equestria people for mistakenly posting the previous update as legit.
UPDATE: Fallout: Equestria creator responds -
Hey, I am the female responsible for Fallout: Equestria. We had an explosion over at the IRC about this, and how negative the response to it was. I have been a fan of the Fallout franchise long before Fallout 3 made it mainstream.
I'm sure your dumbfounded just because this crossover between the MLP:FiM and Fallout universe exists, so I wanted to provide you with a link to an interview that I had, and I hope it explains why I made this.
Hey, I'm not positive that this will make it onto the headlines, but I am positive that when you read this, your minds will be shitting bricks.
As you may or may not know, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has a growing fandom of teenage and adult men called "bronies". Recently, a female fanfic writer by the name of Khat created the fanfiction "Fallout: Equestria", and ever since it's completion has grown it's own massive fanbase.
I'm not joking. It has about 100+ of it's own little spin-offs.
We finally have our first screenshot of Wasteland 2, together with an update via Kickstarter:
It has been just over a month since my last update and we have been making progress on many fronts. The designers are all working at full steam and generating a wonderfully diverse set of ideas that are well written, nuanced, original, and sometimes creepy. There will be no lack of originality and deep game play in Wasteland 2. The team has risen to the challenge of making a rich world that will capture a post apocalyptic atmosphere and provide a unique experience for each player that dives in.
We are nearly complete with our backer web site which will consolidate our backer database with Kickstarter and PayPal and eventually allow backers to upgrade their tiers or more easily change such things as shipping information. A soft launch is imminent and then we will roll it out for all.
We also have our first pass at a Wasteland 2 screen shot to share that is running inside the Unity engine. The process up till now has been in getting up to speed with Unity but also much discussion about look and feel. Our environment art director Koy Vanoteghem has written a nice piece below on our approach and process.
Releasing a screen shot this early in the process is a new concept for me as we typically want to hone in every element before we show it. But based on the requests and our desire for fan input, we are doing so to solicit feedback on the basic look. Please keep in mind that we have not put in the particle effects and post-processing which will have a dramatic effect on the scene, and this represents just one of the various environments for Wasteland 2 so expect to see other quite different locales. Also, this particular camera angle is on the low end of a range that the player can adjust upwards to a much more top-down view, for those who prefer that style during game play.
I am frequently on twitter sharing my thoughts, soliciting opinions on various subjects and highlighting interesting projects and technology. You can follow me at @brianfargo if you want to stay tuned into such things.
Again I thank you for allowing us to create this game the way it was meant to me made. We’re going to make you all proud.
See the full size image on our Facebook page at Facebook/Ranger.HQ or here.
In our effort to establish the appropriate look and feel for the re-launch of the Wasteland franchise, we sifted through a variety of media types available on the market for inspiration. Among all of the similarly natured games, CG film shorts, and various documentaries, it became increasingly clear that the modern day conception of a post-apocalyptic world has diversified.
Of course, the desert-oriented wasteland devoid of life was still there. But a newer and more compelling version which highlighted nature's reclamation of vacated places took hold of our attention. This new conception gives us the opportunity to generate a variety of environment types while staying true to the narrative. It also allows the location and geology to dictate the flora and fauna, as well as the manner and state of decay. From the dry deserts and icy mountaintops of Arizona to the coastal conditions of LA and larger southern California region, each region generates its own flavor. You saw a bit of this in our early concept pieces we had commissioned. Because the early part of the game, where our development is currently focused, takes place in Arizona, this first screen shot depicts (surprise) a desert scene.
As we moved into prototyping game-play scenarios and in-game environments, we wanted to keep in mind the long-term strategies we had been talking about in the press. With our small team structure and the expectation of a significant integration of contractor and fan/backer based assets, we wanted to consider the efforts that would be involved in synthesizing those contributions into a consistent style and theme. The Unity engine has this wonderfully integrated asset store, full of props, environment sets, FX and tools, and it seemed the perfect proving grounds for our first pass at this new approach of game environment creation.
Certainly, purchased or prefabricated assets are nothing new; a variety of sites are out there selling "game-ready" props, and like most developers, we are familiar with that opportunity. But Unity's Asset Store had a few distinct advantages that we found appealing. The store, being accessible from within the editor itself, along with the purchase, downloading and importing of those packages, made this surprisingly painless. Packages containing not only the models and textures, but also materials, particle attachments, and animations were ready to use and then modify immediately upon purchase. And so our goal was to purchase a variety of packages, modify them to suit our stylistic needs, and put together a scene by combining them with assets and textures generated in-house.
The big exception to all of this is of course characters, which we are developing primarily in house. RPGs have always generated strong relationships between the player and the characters they craft and breathe life into as the game progresses. And to this end, we will be working to create characters that can be read cleanly with our camera angles. Strong silhouettes and bold colors in costuming and accessories, and their animations and poses working with a camera angle (that is still being tested), seemed a tall order for this approach, and so in this shot a few examples of that effort are present.
We will continue to develop the style and look of the game, undoubtedly that is something that will evolve as we move forward and branch out with other environment types. As we become more familiar with our new found friend Unity, and the technologies that are available to us for lighting, shadowing, and material set-up/execution, we hope you'll enjoy seeing it evolve along with us.