Thursday, July 4, 2013

Studio d'Artdink's next epic game is... Dragonball!?

A few weeks ago, Namco-Bandai games announced a new Dragonball game--Battle of Z. I don't know about you, but I wasn't very excited about the prospect of a new Dragonball game, despite being a long-time fan of the franchise. After so many terrible games developed by Spike, it's hard to muster much interest, you know?

And even though Spike's rights to Dragonball expired with the whimpering mass of failure that was last year's Ultimate Tenkaichi, the fact that the early material for Battle of Z failed to indicate the game's developer indicated, to me at least, that it wasn't going to be anyone special.

But, goddamn, Battle of Z is being developed by the venerable Studio d'Artdink!

And if you don't know that name, you should. The recent, utterly fantastic PS3 game Macross 30: Voices Across the Galaxy was developed by Artdink, as were all of the fantastic Gundam Battle and Macross games on the Playstation Portable, all of the Hybrid Pack Macross games for the Playstation 3, and Gundam Seed Battle Destiny for the Playstation Vita.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Essential Ideas for the New Roleplaying Renaissance

Alongside tens of thousands of fellow gamers, I have participated in the recent surge of crowdfunding that, I believe, will lead to a very real gaming renaissance. Two of the most exciting of these games are Obsidian's Project Eternity and InXile Entertainment's Torment: Tides of Numenera.

Both of these titles are being constructed along the lines of the greatest classic cRPGs of the "golden era" of PC gaming. Not only are these games being developed in the same mold as Baldur's Gate and Planescape Torment and Arcanum, they are being developed by the same hugely talented people responsible for those classic games. It's all extremely exciting, and perhaps most exciting of all is the new dialogues opening up between developers and consumers--gamers, that's us!--which involve openly asking for gamers' input in the pre-production stages of game development. InXile's forum for Torment has a very nice set of mechanics in place for contributing game ideas--a mechanic I have made full use of in the past several days. My mind has been devoured with thoughts like: What are the things that annoy the hell out of me in isometric RPGs? What are the things that I always want to see an RPGs but never do?

This train of thought led me to propose several ideas both mechanical and aesthetic. Because both Torment: Tides of Numenera and Project Eternity are very much being developed in the vein of classic, Infinity Engine cRPGs, I feel that these ideas are applicable--and, to a certain degree, vital--to both titles. Or, rather, these are things that belong in every RPG of merit. While some may read these notions of mine and think, "that's obvious," or, "that's too simple of a thing to bother proposing,"--and while I may agree with those sentiments--I still believe that some things simply need to be said. Because of that universality, I am incorporating these ideas into a blog post to provide me (and anyone else who feels like it) with an easy resource to point out and say, "I want that."

I will do my best to fully articulate these ideas as best I can--which means I'll be writing as much as I feel necessary to clearly convey both my ideas in specific, as well as their emotional impetus. If you don't have the time or inclination to properly hear me out, please just avoid this essay entirely. Like I said, this is mainly a compilation of different ideas I have that I want to place in a single place, easy for me to access whenever, wherever, for my own personal use. As I conceive of new ideas--and/or find the time to fully articulate them--I will add them to this posting.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Review: Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition

Baldur's Gate. It is a classic. An icon of the golden age of PC gaming. One of the quintessential roleplaying games of all time. Even gamers who have never touched the game, who have never played a single roleplaying game in their lives, know its name. First released on the 30th of November in 1998 by a small development studio called Bioware, Baldur's Gate quickly became a favorite of gamers the world over and catapulted Bioware to the upper echelons of developer fame. One year after the launch of Baldur's Gate, Bioware graced the world with a sequel, Shadows of Amn, which to this day is regarded as the pinnacle of the Western-roleplaying game genre and one of the finest computer games in history. In 2012 a site went live on the Internet, the domain simply Baldur's Gate. It was nothing but a generic tiled wallpaper and an audio track playing in the background. A small, inconsequential thing--and we saw it. 

Gamers across the globe analyzed the music, the imagery, the website information. Rumors of a Steam version of Baldur's Gate abounded. Rumors of sequels and remakes spread like wildfire. We all dared to hope, dared to voice the greatest desire of our heart--to see the Baldur's Gate series return to the gaming world and usher in a new roleplaying renaissance renaissance.

Ultimately, it was not a re-release or a re-make, but something in the middle. A small company, Beamdog, with much discussion, debate and determination managed to secure the rights to make an enhanced edition of Baldur's Gate. To redesign the venerable Infinity Engine to perform better on modern PCs, to display properly at higher resolutions, and to incorporate touch controls to appeal to the rising market of tablet gaming. One week after Beamdog began accepting pre-orders for the Enhanced Edition, two-thousand people had opened up their wallets and exclaimed, "Yes, please!"

And we waited. And we waited. And now, finally, it is here. Fourteen years after the original release of Baldur's Gate, Beamdog's Enhanced Edition offers revised gameplay mechanics based off the Infinity Engine build used in Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal; widescreen and high resolution support; full optimization for modern operating systems; new characters, quests and story content; as well as full translations of the game in French, German, Spanish, Polish and Czech thanks to the tireless efforts of the community. Baldur's Gate was one of the greatest games ever made. By all rights, this offering from Beamdog should be either equally good, or even better. Does the Enhanced Edition of Baldur's Gate live up to the well-earned reputation of its original incarnation, or does it just make a mess of things?