Some stuff’s happened.

28 08 2014

Some stuff happened. By stuff, I mean, Windows Update broke my computer. Best I can gather, KB2982791 – update MS14-045, the August 12th 2014 update, prevented my computer from booting. There was a fix, which involved booting the system either into Safe Mode (which didn’t work for me) or mounting it to another system and deleting some subset of files…but that knowledge didn’t come to me until after I’d gone forward with a format. (It was time anyway.)

It was a good (if sudden and uncomfortable) opportunity to upgrade: bigger boot drive, new video card (one of the four fans on my SLI’d cards was dying and being quite loud about it) and quieter fans throughout the case. I also got a new monitor so I could fully leverage the card I got. XCOM in 2160p looks ludicrously good. Too good.

I’m still (slowly) reinstalling software onto my system, just as I need to. I’m enjoying the extra clean Windows install for the time being.

There’s a LOT of good stuff on the horizon, gaming-wise.

Wasteland 2 is imminent. September 19th.

Civilization: Beyond Earth (aka Alpha Centauri Rebornlooks fantastic.

Don’t Starve is getting a co-op mode in the very near future.

XCOM: Long War is still intensely entertaining.

I unsubbed from Wildstar because, frankly, I don’t have time to run Fed Ex quests while I’m killing xenos.





Oh, right. This old thing.

14 03 2013

Kickstarter, how I love thee.

This is old news now, for the most part, but for old news it’s certainly making a lot of new noise. inXile is my dream come true. Brian Fargo – as in the guy that presented us Fallout – is now leading a team consisting of many of the people that worked on those legendary Interplay titles in making titles in that very spirit. Wasteland 2 is happening. The gameplay looks fantastic…like the classic Fallout that lives in my heart had a beautiful child with XCOM. It looks really, really good. They’ve now decided to push the concept team over to a new project for preproduction…a spiritual successor to Torment. (I know that TotalBiscuit commented recently that he wasn’t sure this was a thing. Here’s Extra Credits explaining why pre-production is so vital to a good game.)

These are incredibly low risk Kickstarters. Not only does the team behind it consist of some legendary names with a staggering collective resume (Fargo, McCombs, Monte Fucking Cook) but look at that Wasteland gameplay. Customizeable UI? Upload our own custom portraits for characters? We can set up an ambush? I scratched my monitor throwing my wallet at it.

Fargo says it best in his intro video for Torment: he’ll never have to have an awkward chat with a publisher ever again. He’ll never have to mitigate the potential damage that comes from metric-based publisher directives…you know, like the ones that kicked the recent Simcity launch right in its junk. When you cut out that intensely overbearing middleman and you return to a world where you can focus on creativity and need to stretch dollars, you can make decisions that publishers would consider unacceptable risks. Fargo and his crew are giving us DRM Free, text-based, turn-based, top-down RPGs where story is the focus. There’s no FPS elements. There are no microtransactions, no always online bologna-crap. Like I said back when I gushed about Project Eternity…these guys can and will breathe reality into our dreams. Watching those dreams take shape in real time is rather nice. I do want story. I do want freedom to wander. I do want time to consider my next moves and experience a heavily tactical turn-based strategy game. I want replay value and character development and deep, meaningful, resonating choice with real goddamn consequences.

It turns out I’m not alone. These projects are netting millions of dollars from crowd-sourcing from people who – like me – remember the games Interplay and Black Isle gave us long ago. It demonstrates fan interest; it generates start-up capital; it gets us what we want.

That’s not to say Kickstarter is the end-all/be-all killer to publishing, as much as I want it to be.  Will I give my money to Brian Fargo and Friends? Hell yes. Would I have given my money to the brilliant gung ho indie dev that gave us FTL? No. Why not? Well, because Fargo and Friends have demonstrated very clearly an ability to produce; their actions very clearly match up with their motivations and my expectations.

Meanwhile, I am 100% convinced that Garriott can’t hope to generate a game I’ll enjoy. Make no mistake, I hold a tremendous amount of respect for Ultima 4 through 6 and I even enjoyed what of 7 I played, long ago. And possibly Tabula Rasa was a better idea than we saw, maybe hamstrung by publisher directives or any number of design-level problems that went against Garriott’s “vision”. But where has he been this whole time? What games has he made? The big picture on the Kickstarter page tauts that they’ve got devs from pre-EA Bioware and freakin’ System Shock. (But they put Tabula Rasa in there, which, you know, I’d have dropped from my resume, personally.) I’d like to see names. Fargo is a name. Colin McComb is a name. Monte Fucking Cook is a name. Garriott is…well, he was a name. You need to show me that you can make something that I’ll like…and while it’s obviously a very early prototype, that conversation system…blech. I’ve seen Interplay’s convo systems and I know the people who made those systems are on inXile’s payroll.

Wasteland 2 is slated to drop in October. I can’t wait.

XCOM

So, it seems like they fixed the teleport bug. I’ve only played a bit since the patch, but it’s looking good. (I have yet to play a mission in the notorious graveyard though.) The patch is being beta tested and you can opt in on Steam here. I recommend it. I’ve been planning a new kick-off in XCOM for Youtube, pending this patch, but you know, real life has a way of utterly gobbling up my time.

There’s also word of a big announcement at PAX from the Firaxis guys; Jake Solomon will be there as well as others from the XCOM and Civ 5 teams. I’m hoping they’re going to drop some real meaty DLC on us.





Star Citizen funding is over $5 million.

19 11 2012

I haven’t seen an official number really as this is all rather in-the-moment…but the amount seems to be somewhere between five and six million dollars (American) of crowd sourced funding for Star Citizen. The numbers I’ve seen all fall into that range.

Total Biscuit says nearly five as of yesterday, as well as mentioning they’ll be sourcing more funding from private investors. VG24/7 reports over 5 millionAnd Joystiq says six.

Even if it is ‘only’ the lower bound, this is huge. Not only does this mean we will see a finished product in two to three years, but it means that crowd sourcing can’t possibly be considered a niche thing anymore. This is real. It doesn’t (sadly) mean that EA’s in any kind of danger. (Let’s face it: they pull in a bajillion dollars everytime they barely reskin Modern Duty and throw it to the masses.) It may mean those games will drop in quality but that’s wild speculation on my part that I’ll spell out for you in a moment.

What does this mean?

Game publishers are, how you might say, a bit risk averse. Military-wrapped FPSs are predictable cash cows, so we can expect Call of Warfare 16 as it’s something they can be certain will make them money. If they pour 10-50 million or 100 million or whatever into development, they’ll still get incredible return on that money. (I Googled “Black Ops 2 gross” and saw the phrase ‘$1 billion’. This doesn’t qualify as a citation, but it’s further than my interest in FPSs goes these days. Here’s something I very quickly found on the first Black Ops to put it in perspective.) Investors will get behind developing a game like this because they can be very confident they’ll make money on their investment.

Well, when a game nets over four million in funding from prospective buyers who are willing to wait two to four years for a game they’re paying for now, that’s arguably a better predictor for how much money a game might make: because it’s already  made money. I can only imagine what it’d be like to roll into a meeting with prospective video game investors and say “Hey, look, we want six million to make this game, which doesn’t exist yet and has already generated us six million dollars for development.”

To be fair, in this (and virtually all of the extreme cases I cite from Kickstarter) is a case where the devs in question are basically legendary: people know Chris Roberts. They know he’s put out good products before and people want a similar – if updated – product from him again. That doesn’t rule out smaller fish in the pond though; small projects make enough money to pay two or three people for a year to crank out a small but entertaining game. (Remember FTL.) Still, my favorite bit is the part where there’s no publisher to tell them what model to follow or what kind of things they need to feature to support the swag and action figure lines. They are making the game they want to, because $6 million worth of fan dreams are stacked up on their design document.

My wild extrapolation.

EA will continue to make Medal of Warfare clones and I don’t see any Kickstarted FPSs really holding a candle to them in the near future…on one condition. EA may not take kickstarted game seriously because they throw more than twice the numbers generated by a crowd-sourced effort at one of their own games, but I do know people that will: the developers.

I wonder how many now-ex-Bioware team members are watching Chris Roberts count his crowd-sourced dollars today. How many of them grew up with Wing Commander and Privateer and games in that generation? How many of those now-ex-Bioware guys got into making video games because of some really awesome games they played in the 90s? They left EA for a lot of reasons, no doubt, but considering the wonky trends their IPs have fallen down, I can’t help but muse that “loss of creative control” weighs in to their decision.

Either they’ll wait for their non-compete clauses to wear out, or they’ll move to California, or maybe they’ll need to wait for the sting to fade…but I look forward to the day when we see a Kickstarter pop up with some guys saying “Hey, Daniel Erickson here. My friends and I made games like KOTOR, Dragon Age, and Mass Effect pre-multiplayer. Maybe you remember how those games were and you miss it. Well, we do too. Give us ten million and we’ll do it again.”

My wallet’s in my hand, guys. California is a nice state. A state that doesn’t back Non-compete clause bullshit.  I’m just saying.

Anyway, maybe they will or maybe they won’t. But they’re not the only devs watching this happen. They’re not the only devs maybe wondering if they need to deal with EA or other big publishers. We may see a lot of small studios coming out of the woodwork in the years to come, with the ability to pay talented developers, designers, and artists without a giant AAA corp behind them. Then maybe, just maybe, we’ll start seeing the quality of these military FPSs go down…because the talent will want to work on something more interesting.

Yep. Wallet in hand. I check Kickstarter daily. Just sayin’.