Industry luminary Warren Spector helmed the keynote at the East Coast Game Conference yesterday in Raleigh. Readers of our Star Citizen (Chris Roberts) and Shroud of the Avatar (Richard Garriott) content are already familiar with Origin, the studio responsible for effectively inventing MMOs, early game graphics technologies, and pioneering PC mechanics. Spector was employee number twenty-six at Origin Systems – a self-described “old-timer” when compared against the studio's maximum 350 employee count – and has a history developing seminal games.
Spector worked at Origin with Richard Garriott, Chris Roberts, Dallas Snell, Starr Long, and other recognized industry veterans. In our interview with Warren Spector, we talk about what it was like working at Origin, behind-the-scenes stories, and throw-in a brief question about System Shock 3.
Our East Coast Game Conference coverage kicks-off with Epic Games' rendering technology, specifically as it pertains to implementation within upcoming MOBA “Paragon.” Epic Games artist Zak Parrish covered topics relating to hair, skin, eyes, and cloth, providing a top-level look at game graphics rendering techniques and pipelines.
The subject was Sparrow, a Braid-like playable archer hero with intensely detailed hair and lighting. Parrish used Sparrow to demonstrate each of his rendering points – but we'll start with sub-surface scattering, which may be a bit of a throwback for readers of our past screen-space subsurface scattering article (more recently in Black Ops III graphics guide).
Atlas Reactor is a “turn-based team tactics game” developed by Trion Worlds and currently in open alpha, although that will be replaced by a closed beta on April 14th. Small teams of “freelancers” compete to kill each other in simultaneous turn-based combat, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear (and don’t matter).
The words “fast-paced” get tossed around a lot in Atlas Reactor marketing materials, and it’s an accurate description. The tutorial mission implies a Frozen Synapse-esque game of turn-based strategy and careful planning, and the solo gameplay confirms that initial impression with leisurely minute-long planning phases. Competitive gameplay is much faster, however—decisions must be made in a matter of seconds, and things quickly become hectic. “Turn-based” and “fast-paced” aren’t often said in the same sentence, but it turns out they go pretty well together. The worst part of a turn-based game is waiting for the opponent’s turn to end; Monopoly would be a lot better if everyone had to complete their turns within five seconds. Also if families didn't play it together, but that's another story.
We've not been shy in our fierce criticisms of VR from a gaming perspective, but the maturation of development has yielded increasingly more mechanically-focused titles targeted at gamers. Mars 2030 aims to be more than a “VR Experience,” as most titles are, and we had the opportunity to get hands-on with the new game at GTC 2016.
Mars 2030 is developed by Fusion and was first shown at the GTC keynote, the Mars rover helmed by industry icon Steve Wozniak. The open-world game takes place on the surface of Mars and deploys unique techniques to match surface color, heights, and physical interaction with terrain. It's playable on non-VR displays as well (and it does look good on 21:9 aspect ratios, based on the keynote), but hopes to stake its flag into the VR market with an agnostic disposition toward the Vive and Rift. Mars 2030 will work on both major devices.
Our hands-on impressions with Mars 2030 left us reasonably impressed with the early demonstration of Fusion's attempt to cast players as astronauts.
The games industry sometimes churns titles in a way that feels excessively incremental – an attachment to counting and ever-lengthier sub-titles. It wouldn’t be time for a major release if it weren’t a sequel, and today’s sequel has built a brand upon challenging player skill. Dark Souls returns with its third game, which has now appended a third Roman numeral to its suffix. In DS3, the planet is dying and the we're one of the many who have been resurrected to save it – and die trying. Several times.
Our Dark Souls III review & gameplay video looks into the dark, medieval-fantasy world and definitively analyzes mechanics, PC controls, graphics, and replayability.
We've just posted an overall positive review of FromSoftware's Dark Souls III, a game which we found highly rewarding and challenging, but were critical of its PC port. Some of the issues disclosed in that review spoke of hardware and framerate issues.
Dark Souls III had crashing (CTD) issues, micro-stutter and choppiness in cut-scenes, an immutable 60FPS cap, and difficulties saving keybindings. We look at some fixes for these issues today while pointing-out graphics settings and save file locations.
Fallout 4’s first DLC – Automatron – was released last week for $10. In it, the player has to stop “The Mechanist,” an evil villain creating robots that are terrorizing the Commonwealth. More significantly, Automatron adds the ability to create and customize robots.
Today, we're reviewing that DLC. Fallout 4: Automatron marks Bethesda's ambitious expansion efforts with its best-selling title, and we've got story and gameplay analysis below.
Total War: Warhammer demonstrates a natural, synergistic fusion of two genres -- the long-standing grand-strategy games, Total War, and even longer-standing Warhammer tabletop game. Campaigns in the Warhammer universe like Storm of Chaos have given way to Total War-like experiences; armies roam the world map, growing or unfurling (or ‘crumbling’) with wins and losses. At the same time, combat in Total War has kept its structure and mechanics: units travel in tightly-knit groups, facing and flanking are important parts of the battle, and strategic map utilization can make-up for troop count disparities. Then, of course, having a strong general and maintaining troop morale dictate most heavily the staying power of military forces.
All these points are shared by the Warhammer tabletop game. As much sense as the partnership makes, it marks an astounding new venture for the Total War team -- a first venture into a fantastical environ.
Following its content-devoid GDC unveil, Obsidian's new “Tyranny” RPG revitalizes the Pillars of Eternity engine, but slaps a new, eviler-than-thou visage on top. We were given a hands-off preview of Tyranny and its single-player, four-character approach to classic RPG progression. The unveil demonstrated Tyranny's unique take on the player's role within conflict, acting an arbiter to warring factions and issuing fate-binding edicts.
Coincidentally, the player's characters are “Fatebinders” – archetypes we'd traditionally see as “bad guys” in standard RPGs, but they're clearly working only in the best interests of Terratus' inhabitants. Where the Lawful Good types might facetiously ask, “who are we to judge the fate of these townsfolk?” the Fatebinders would answer, “uh, that'd be us. Over here, in the red-and-black and radiating evil.”
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