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News for Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Posted by WorstUsernameEver - at 0:13

Since The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has shipped and presumably only a smaller team will work on its DLC, IGN is looking to the unannounced, but most likely upcoming Fallout 4 by Bethesda, and writes on five lessons Fallout 4 could learn from Bethesda's latest Elder Scrolls title. Here's on leveling:

RPG veterans are all too familiar with the typical conventions of leveling. In many JRPGs, for instance, you earn experience in battle and level-up automatically, with all of your statistics taking some sort of boost regardless of how useful they happen to be to the character in question. A game like Bethesda's Fallout 3 stepped things up for the gamer by giving them a high degree of customization, continuing an established trend for the series with an existing formula. Leveling had its own perks, of course, but players could associate skill points to build up any statistic they wanted whether or not it was actually being used.

This system works fine, and in its own way it's quite rewarding. The thing is, Skyrim's leveling methodology is something Bethesda should take a close look at when it develops Fallout 4. Skyrim's leveling is, at its core, rather basic. You can only upgrade one of three statistics when you level-up. But then, things get much more complicated as you associate a very finite amount of skill points to impressive skill trees that require you to choose your course carefully. You simply cannot master everything in the game. Better yet, individual skills level up as you use them, not the other way around, which feels more organic and allows you to better embody the character you're playing as.
Considering how close Bethesda has made the Fallout franchise to their Elder Scrolls titles already, I'm not sure if what it needs is getting even closer to it by ditching the tried-and-true exp-based leveling system.

News for Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Posted by WorstUsernameEver - at 9:50

The second and last part of GameBanshee's post-mortem with Chris Avellone has been put online, this time focusing mostly on the last story-based DLC, Lonesome Road, and the J.E. Sawyer-led Honest Hearts, with plenty of interesting behind-the-scenes stuff for both. Here's a snip:

From what we understand, you headed up all of the story-based DLC except for Honest Hearts, which fell under the watchful eye of J.E. Sawyer. Did the two of you work together to ensure that the add-ons meshed well, or was J.E. given free reign when working on the DLC? And because Joshua Graham originated in Van Buren (which J.E. was lead designer on), would you say that he's different in any measurable ways from the antagonists in the other DLC?

There's a different approach, and it depends on the stage of Van Buren you mean (Josh and I were lead designers on VB at different times). Originally, there was a character called the Burned Man (and Caesar's Legion) in both versions of VB. As far as the Burned Man goes, he was pretty messed up, and I think my version was more brutal than Josh's (not saying that's bad, but the Burned Man in VB1 carried a lot of baggage for a companion character, as indicated on the Vault wiki).

I’ve never taken them except from Fallout (again, because that pen and paper game was designed for the computer game)… but even then, in terms of groups and factions, Caesar’s Legion, the Hanged Man/Burned Man, and more, just went on to be taken by others and re-interpreted in different ways as the years went on. They’ve mutated over time, and they’re not anything like they were initially except in name.

Josh had free reign over Honest Hearts, much like he did in New Vegas, and I feel that giving Josh the authority to voice and carry out his designs as he sees fit gets the best results. His execution on ideas is solid.

When doing Honest Hearts, I did have a list of requests, and this was it:

- Maintain the same team hierarchy as the other DLCs. This didn't need to be expressly said, but we re-organized the team for the DLCs.

- Maintain the new pipelines we made for the DLC (we had new naming conventions and script conventions everyone was expected to follow, for example).

- In terms of narrative, here was the only things that were requested:

- Any conversation with Graham mentions that when he first heard a courier was coming to look for him or the Blackfoot [CFA: original name of tribals] tribe had captured a "courier," he should initially be surprised it was the player, as if he was expecting a different courier (Ulysses, although he won't describe him or name him). If asked to elaborate:

- Graham should mention that previous Caesars and generals sought to send agents West to look for new territory and to exterminate any threats to the Legion, although none ever returned, no matter how capable they were - there was one, however, that he thought might still be alive out there based on stories he'd heard, but he won't elaborate any further - but hey, if Graham managed to survive, maybe other cast-offs of the Legion survived out there as well when they were believed dead.

This can be spoken by anyone, Graham or otherwise.

- Graham/Random NPC should mention that Caesar was lucky that the NCR trade route from the "Divide" was wracked by storms, and that only left the chokepoint at the Mojave Outpost (and possibly the Blackfoot/New Canaan trade route) for the Legion to target in order to cut off supplies to the NCR West of the Colorado. Graham doesn't know what happened at the Divide, only that it was destroyed and it was fortunate it was for the Legion, as it helped hurt the trade routes to the NCR in the Mojave.

- Graham/Random NPC may make mention that only madmen would go to the Divide, the road there is a death trap and a road to the grave. If Graham says the lines, I'll want to incorporate it into the trailer for DLC4, if possible, so some drama in the delivery would be welcome. Wink

- A tribal or dead scout may make mention either verbally or in a note that many years ago, a courier did visit the outskirts of DLC2, and he wore a strange pattern on his back (Ulysses' coat with the Old World flag).

- Graham/Random NPC can mention that the only other stretch of territory West of the Mojave is the Big Empty, and that might as well be a wall to any living thing... no one's ever gone there and returned, just like the "Legend of the Sierra Madre." If the player has been to DLC1, would be nice if some reactivity bonus was given to this topic. Again, if Graham says this line, I'd like to use it for a trailer for DLC3, so drama would be welcome.

- Any other links between the DLCs you can think of - assuming Bethesda approves the next iteration, DLC3's going to be high-tech Wizard of Oz (and could have been the source of the mutated mountain lions), DLC4 is the final battle against Ulysses where he tries to kill the player - see below.

News for Thursday, November 24, 2011

Posted by WorstUsernameEver - at 21:51

In one of those "I can't believe how quickly game prices fall these days" for the second day of its Steam Autumn sales, Valve has Fallout: New Vegas and its DLC 75% off their normal price, making the vanilla title $/€ 4.99 and its DLC $/€ 2.49 with the exception of Courier's Stash and Gun Runners' Arsenal which come at $/€ 0.49 and $/€ 0.99. It's also worth noting that Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition is 50% off (as are vanilla and its separate DLC, should you prefer it that way) but considering it's very likely that the title will end up on another daily sale I'd recommend holding off from grabbing it for now.

Posted by WorstUsernameEver - at 1:01

GameBanshee has put online the first part of a huge Q&A with Obsidian's co-founder and creative director Chris Avellone on Fallout: New Vegas and its downloadable content packs, delving particularly deeply into the latter with questions dealing with their themes and gameplay additions. Here's a snip:

You explored different themes with each DLC. What themes would you say were the most important in these add-ons, and do you feel that Fallout's story traditions suit focusing on such themes?

Lonesome Road was purposely built around the final image at the end of Fallout 1 - the Vault Dweller walking off into a lonely future. The idea of a protagonist whose home is lost to him, walking off into the wilderness after helping to nurture and protect a place that ultimately exiles him (or where he simply no longer belongs) is one of the hallmarks of Fallout. The sense of abandonment and the lone wanderer connection was important in Lonesome Road, except you're not walking into a lonely future, you're walking into your character's past and seeing what it's done in the present. Ulysses hints that it's possible the player left the West and left NCR because he didn't belong, and that's why he walked the road to the Mojave - but that's Ulysses' perspective, and the motivations for your character are your own.

I think Old World Blues and Lonesome Road had two themes that strongly hooked into Fallout, and have always been there. The theme of Old World Blues was always "the optimistic atomic future of what might have been," and the idea that all of these technological marvels could have saved the world if they had simply had a better guiding hand - it's not the technology to blame, it's the thought behind it.

Dead Money was more of a survivalist horror experience, and the theme of greed and human nature was an experiment that I felt fit with the adventure arc, so I went with it. I did feel that Fallout could use some more struggle-for-survival elements, and that was part of it as well - in short, I wanted miracle items like Stimpaks to feel amazing again rather than cause players to shrug.

One of Dead Money's most unique features was the Sierra Madre itself, a resort and casino that was transformed into a deadly and dreary place. Has juxtaposition of old-world decadence and the darker side of life been a design or narrative goal of yours throughout the DLCs?

Depends on gameplay experience we're shooting for. Joe Sanabria, our art director for the DLCs, worked closely with the level builders so design and art reinforced each other and the DLC theme. We started with what we wanted the player to feel in the DLCs... in Dead Money, for example, we were specifically targeting isolation, terror, obscuring the player's view, claustrophobia, and the theme of greed - whether reflected in the decaying casino, the companion personalities, or the graffiti.

News for Monday, November 21, 2011

Posted by WorstUsernameEver - at 21:09

Despite the title, the author of Bitmob's editorial doesn't claim that Fallout: New Vegas is going to be remembered as a classic in the future, but simply notes some similarities in the setting and themes between Obsidian's take on the Fallout universe and Lawrence of Arabia. Here's a snip:

When it comes to plot, the game and film also walk similar paths. An outsider comes into the picture, uniting the various and disparate tribes in order to drive a common enemy (or enemies) from the lands. In Lawrence of Arabia, we find T.E. Lawrence uniting the various Arab tribes to drive out the Turks while in New Vegas the main character must choose to get rid of Caesar’s Legion, the New California Republic, or both.

Lawrence had to choose as well, deciding whether or not he wanted to help his British superiors or the native Arabs. In the end, he chose to help the Arabs form their own state, believing they had the right to be free. The player has the same power in New Vegas, deciding what is best for the people or even what is best for himself. Will the NCR be the best fit, or is the player the one who should be ruling?

The epics heavily deal in the morality of their respective protagonists. Lawrence learns what it means to kill and the human cost of what he is doing in his guerrilla war. He finds that he enjoys killing, and it disturbs him. He finds things out about himself that he wishes he never knew.

News for Saturday, November 19, 2011

Posted by Tagaziel - at 23:43

As of 19th November 2011, the world-famous Fallout wiki, The Vault, has relocated to a new host and is now available at, hosted by Curse.

We at NMA wish all the best to The Vault in this new, exciting chapter of their history.

News for Friday, November 18, 2011

Posted by Tagaziel - at 18:39

Given the recent release of the Afterfall: InSanity demo, we have decided to provide the community with a preview, based on said demonstration version:

Contrary to expectations, the writing is competent. It isn't exactly the apex of character design or plot craftsmanship, but it works well. As long as we ignore the fact that a psychiatrist is bashing open the heads of his former coworkers with an axe (although that might be because he himself is insane; it remains to be seen if the authors decided to use this potential plot thread) and the quite cheesy rationale for sending Tokaj off on what's possibly a suicide mission. The demo concludes the first portion before anything really interesting happens, but opens several plot threads and leaves the player curious, which is always a good sign.

Link: Afterfall: InSanity NMA preview

News for Thursday, November 17, 2011

Posted by Brother None - at 21:01

CVG offers a must-read feature on some of the key problems of videogame reviewing in today's world, a topic often discussed here on NMA. For those thinking videogame journalists get "bribed", you're wrong, the problem is much more structural than that, and CVG identifies a number of key problems: the way marketing approaches review scores and aggregate sites, and the way reviewers are forced to take aggregate sites into account if for no other reason than the huge backlash when they "dare" to give an AAA game a "low" score like 7/10.

From the perspective of a reviewer, review aggregation sites need to be irrelevant. If you're going to let the opinions of the crowd shape and shift your own, the job you're being paid to do has suddenly become irrelevant. Whilst it's understandable that the number-crunchers in publishing will be obsessed with Metacritic, the fact that anyone else buys into this fuzzy-science is nothing short of bizarre.

It's odd enough that we see people actively dismiss games that average at anything less than an 8, but the extent to which aggregated scores have been championed by gamers is genuinely a little bit frightening.

If you're one of the people who've been devastated by a 'rogue' publication damaging the score of your favourite game, then I've got an important message for you: That game's publishers bloody love you. Seriously - they can't get enough of you. I guarantee that you've caused at least six people in marketing to get up out of their chair and do a funny little dance on the table.
For all these years, they thought the only people who'd care about these numbers was them - after all, they're the guys that actually often get paid a cash-bonus for achieving a Metacritic score. Obviously they'll be slightly bemused about why you do care, but they're utterly thrilled that you do.

Considering the disdain that most respectable gamers will have for sites that they don't personally enjoy reading, It's odd enough sometimes that people will accept a tainted average like Metacritic. It's even weirder when people start to get annoyed by an individual website's decision.
Thanks GameBanshee.

Posted by Tagaziel - at 16:14

For those that wonder or still care about Afterfall: Insanity, the demo for the game went live several hours ago. It's available, for instance, for Gamer's Hell. Be warned, it's 1.8 GB big, although supposedly pretty long.

Link: Afterfall: Insanity demo

News for Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Posted by Brother None - at 16:48

The Chris Avellone-written graphic novel that was included in the collector's edition of Fallout: New Vegas is now available digitally from Dark Horse Comics, through their website or iOS app for $2.99.

All Roads introduces the world of New Vegas, a town of dreamers and desperadoes being torn apart by warring factions vying for complete control of this desert oasis, and tells an intriguing tale of loyalty and violence that leads right up to the beginning of the game. Written by Chris Avellone, the game’s senior designer, All Roads is tightly integrated into the story of New Vegas, even containing clues to in-game missions for the sharp-eyed reader. Artists Jean Diaz (Incorruptible) and Wellinton Alves (Shadowland: Blood on the Streets, Nova) and cover artist Geof Darrow (Hard Boiled, The Matrix Comics, The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot) stunningly interpret the world of New Vegas!
Thanks GameBanshee.

News for Thursday, November 10, 2011

Posted by Brother None - at 17:18

Bethesda and Interplay suddenly remembered a clause in the APA that means that despite requests from both for this case to go before jury, it won't be going before jury, Duck and Cover reports.

Also, as you'd expect, Interplay has argued Bethesda dealt with them in bad faith.

A. Interplay proposes to prove the following facts in support of its counter-claims:
(1) The Asset Purchase Agreement signed between Interplay and Bethesda on April 4, 2007, (APA) is void ab initio because there was no "meeting of the minds" with respect to the rights granted between the parties;
That's really not a new or shocking claim. Bethesda can be fined or more for that if the court agrees, and technically the APA could be voided, which would revert the Fallout license back to Interplay and see them be paid a ton of licensing fees out of the profits of Fallout 3 and New Vegas. I have never heard anyone other than Interplay stockholders suggest this is a likely case scenario.

News for Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Posted by Brother None - at 13:19

As Bethesda made its proposed ground rules in its motion in limine, Interplay responds with its own, Duck and Cover reports. Their motion appears to be mostly Interplay's lawyer Jeffrey Gersh noting Bethesda is unreasonably dragging its feet on this case, specifically the deposition of expert witnesses. From Gersh's letter to Bethesda:

I have spoken with our client [Interplay] concerning the proposed dates for the deposition of your supposed expert in Washington D.C. [Editor's note: Interplay and their lawyer are based in California] and it is not going to be feasible for us to travel to Washington D.C. for at most a 3 hour deposition, especially given the fact that you have refused to propose any alternative dates for the three officers of Bethesda around the same time or even close. Interestingly, it took you two weeks to even let me know that none of the dates I gave you worked for your client. It is inconceivable that this simple query about available dates could not have been answered in 48 hours. It is even more inconceivable that you have not even proposed alternative dates, even if a date conflicted with my schedule, which had I known weeks ago I might have found a way to move things around. But you delayed again to respond making it impossible for me to do anything. This has been going on since July as I recall and you have just put up road block after road block, even knowingly trying to force me to travel and take deposition on the Jewish holidays.

I am not going to debate this with you any further. It is obvious that we are going to have to now bring this to the Court's attention.

News for Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Posted by Brother None - at 15:52

Duck and Cover reports Bethesda filed a motion in limine against Interplay. Only one segment is quoted, and it seems to indicate Bethesda is asking for Interplay to be forced to prove that the TLA is a copyright/trademark license (going back to the "Fallout name only" claim Bethesda made) and - quite reasonably - that Interplay bears the burden of proof that they have the required funding and have commenced full-scale development. So far so good, that makes sense. But to confuse the issue, the filing then offers three points that seem to state that - despite having the burden of proof - Interplay should be precluded from offering evidence or arguments on said claims. Maybe my legalese is breaking down, but I don't see how this filing makes any sense.

For the reasons set forth in the accompanying memorandum, Bethesda moves the Court for an order:

(1) Holding that Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff Interplay Entertainment Corp. (“Interplay”) bears the burden of proof at trial on each of the following issues: (a) that Interplay has a trademark and copyright license; (b) that Interplay had commenced “full-scale development of its FALLOUT MMOG” by April 4, 2009 as set forth in Section 2.3 of the Trademark License Agreement entered into by Bethesda and Interplay on April 4, 2007 (the “TLA”); and (c) that Interplay had “secured financing for the FALLOUT MMOG in an amount no less than US$30,000,000.00” by April 4, 2009 as set forth in Section 2.3 of the TLA;

(2) Precluding Interplay from offering parol evidence to support its defense that the TLA granted Interplay a copyright license;

(3) Precluding Interplay from arguing at trial that it had satisfied the “full-scale development” and “Minimum Financing” requirements set forth in Section 2.3 of the TLA by April 4, 2009; and

(4) Precluding Interplay from amending its pleadings to assert the affirmative defense of mistake.
Note we don't have the full document so this is just going from a fragment of the filing, but from this quote this is a farcical filing from Bethesda. That would be nothing new.

EDIT: good commentary here, noting it is normal for this kind of filing to be partially rather than fully granted, and noting the only real head-scratcher in this filing is the third point.

News for Thursday, November 3, 2011

Posted by WorstUsernameEver - at 17:18

It doesn't come exactly as a surprise, but Bethesda has just announced through their blog that an "Ultimate Edition" for Fallout: New Vegas will get released next year (February 7th in North America and February 10th in Europe) and will of course include every DLC for the title.

We’re pleased to announce the Fallout: New Vegas Ultimate Edition will be available in retail stores across North America on February 7th 2012 and throughout Europe on February 10th. The Ultimate Edition comes complete with all of the game add-on content for Fallout: New Vegas – Dead Money, Honest Hearts, Old World Blues, Lonesome Road, Courier’s Stash, and Gun Runners’ Arsenal.

For players who are seasoned explorers of New Vegas or just getting into the game for the first time, the Ultimate Edition expands beyond the Wasteland like never before with the Sierra Madre Casino, Zion National Park, Big MT research crater and the treacherous Divide now open for exploring. Along with new areas to explore, each of the four main add-on packs increases the maximum level cap by five levels, ultimately raising the cap to level 50.

New Vegas Ultimate Edition will be available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.
Here's the box art:

News for Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Posted by Brother None - at 16:51

Slovenian statue crafter Samo Kramberger has a ton of videogame based statues on display on his on his Deviant Art page, and these New Vegas-based statues were just too cool not to share with you guys:

Thanks Jason Bergman/Kotaku.

Posted by Brother None - at 10:47

UK-based developer/publisher Elite Systems has announced the delay of their Elite Collection release, which contains a bunch of old 8-bit era games. The delay allows them to add Interplay titles, including Wasteland.

THE BARD’S TALE (I, II & III) – the acclaimed fantasy role-playing video game series based loosely on traditional Dungeons and Dragons game play and inspired by the Wizardry computer games
WASTELAND a post-apocalyptic computer role-playing game first released in 1988 and perhaps also
The revised date will be announced soon, you can pick up the entire package upon release for a promotional launch price (£0.69/Euro0.79/$0.99). See what else it contains here.

Thanks kgreene/Touch Arcade.