2/11/12

Skyrim Reviewed




It wasn’t until I ascended the frigid 7000 steps of the Throat of the World and made my way to the doorstep of High Hrothgar that I finally took a moment for myself. I stood there, gazing over the region atop the tallest mountain in the land thinking of my travels. I’d already ventured through several of the best dungeons Bethesda has ever made, looted relics from antiquated treasure chests, fiercely battled dragons and even visited a freezing Norse castle. But it wasn’t until this particular moment where from my rugged snowy perspective it hit me that Skyrim is a game that takes its time to show you all of it's riches. It’s an utterly fantastic experience that’s marred by only a few missteps.



A Gorgeously Crafted World
Skyrim is the best looking open world game I’ve ever played on a console, mostly due to the care Bethesda paid to the minute details--it’s mind numbing! Look closely you’ll find a frosty haze blowing over the ridged mountains, individual branches dancing in the wind and even skeletons bursting into pieces going clickety-clack all over the ground. One of my personal favorites? The small crystals that form around your equipment--complete with a chilly crackling sound--as ice spells are cast your way.

The world of Skyrim breaths and seems to organically live an unscripted life and things will go on despite your presence. As I roamed around I always felt that something great was happening both in front and behind me. It made me believe that I could turn a corner and anything could happen.

The larger, more grander things are great too. Not once did I find two similar looking rock formations. The mountain ranges are particularly jaw-dropping, in fact I bet I could identify most of them by their unique formations. All the major cities have their own look and feel about them, supporting diverse cultures within those walls. I got a sense that some cities are older than others, and built from different regional materials by different masters. The variety and realism helps build an identity for each location, and it works.

With as much attention as Bethesda paid to the details I was surprised to find tracks weren’t left in the snow. There were no fancy water effect on the screen, for instance walking under a waterfall left no drips and rain seems to never hit me. A few rare textures looked a bit too smeared. In some of the ice caves I found highly pixelated wall textures.

A screenshot of some of the rough and rarely found textures in Skyrim (Xbox 360, captured with my iPhone 4S).

Character models moved away from Oblivion’s caricature-esque aesthetic and are now slightly more realistic. Generally they’re good enough and certainly not ugly, but in some cases the character models looked a little generic. In fact in some cases they looked like they might belong in a Gothic game instead of The Elder Scrolls game. Thankfully there is enough diversity that rarely did I find the same two people walking around (though I did scratch my head that the exact same kids seem to be running around the cities).

Honestly these things hardly matter as Skyrim is just so good looking and these minor faults are easy to overlook.





The Norse Gods Cheer You On
Without giving away too much, Skyrim opens up at a higher pace than previous Elder Scrolls games. I didn't think it was particularly great but it’s a fairly fun start . The scripted sequences look a little dated. NPC movement is distractingly stiff and they still awkwardly turn on a dime. It hardly matters though because once the game opened up, I quickly forgot all about that.

The leveling process in Skyrim is more enjoyable and rewarding than Oblivion’s, and that is thanks in part to the new perk system borrowed from Fallout 3. As I progressed and refined my skills, I felt markedly more capable and powerful. Enemies who easily overpowered me early on in the game were killed with one shout as I neared the end of the game. One of my favorite moments when leveling up is the sounds of the Norse cheering you on as you progress.

The autosave system now utilizes 3 slots, just in case you get yourself into a bind. It’s a good system too as it saves after sleeping, waiting, loading, fast-travels and immediately after you slay a dragon. Still I highly recommend creating 5 of your own save slots and rotating through those as well. I ran into a particularly nasty bug that halted my progression through the main quest line. After contacting Bethesda I was informed that this was a known issue and a patch was on the way. That (day-1) patch is now available and has indeed addressed the issue--but beware.

Some random gameplay notes: It’s never disclosed in the manual or the tutorial but the player can pick up items by pressing and holding the A or X button. The lockpicking mechanic is just like the one found in Fallout 3, and investing in perks is actually worthwhile. There are books laying around everywhere and some do a good job of foreshadow encounters you may have and others bump up your skill level. The kill-cam from Fallout 3 has made it’s way into the game and yes it still can miss some of the action. There are treasure maps too, much like the ones found in Red Dead Redemption that even include crude draws leading to hidden booty. Gone are the item caps and vendor’s now have money pools that refresh every 24 hours. The amount seems to be directly tied to the player’s level.

Underneath the sheen of new technology and a revamped interface, I could still feel Skyrim’s roots deeply tied to Oblivion. Heavy melee attacks still feel powerfully slow like they could crush a truck. Spell casting feels even more mystical thanks to new animations and dual-wielding. Archery is now a viable option and blocking melee attack still feels you are in an automobile accident. So much fun with so many ways to kill.

Though the overall experience has been streamlined, and improvements have been made across the board, I don’t think Skyrim is going to bring in many new players to the series. The world is about the same size as Oblivion but it’s now more densely packed with an (almost) overwhelming amount of things to do.


Found this guy sleeping under his bed. Must have heard a dragon! (Xbox 360, captured with my iPhone 4S)




A New Way To Interface
Let’s just get this out of the way--functionally the new mapping system is leagues above the one found in Oblivion! It does everything it should, and even marks dungeons you’ve already cleared so there’s no confusion. Imagine Google Maps filled with dragons and castles.

The rest of the interface has also been completely overhauled to make things more accessible. Although it works fairly well and the simplicity grew on me it’s not as great as I hoped. For example, early on in the game I had a hard time determining which weapons were single-handed versus double-handed because it isn’t not specified anywhere in the interface. I eventually realized one-handed weapons are displayed vertically and two-handed weapons diagonally.

The new favorites system is well done as it pauses the action to allow quick access to your custom built list. Access favorites by pressing either up or down on the D-Pad. It’s a waste that both buttons do the same thing where as left and right can be bound to different items or abilities.

The quest log has been greatly improved as main quests and larger side-quests are clearly displayed, noted and easily viewable including bullet-points for specific tasks. The smaller quests--like item deliveries or bandit contracts--are all grouped into one smaller area and also displayed as bullet-point. No more scrolling!



Floating at a table, drinking some mead...like you do. (Xbox 360, captured with my iPhone 4S)

Skyrim is in dire need of a character page. Not just so we can marvel at how awesome our character looks in our hard-to-obtain loot (like in Oblivion) but so we can make sure every item slot is filled. I know it sounds nuts but there were a few times where I found myself bootless or shirtless because a quest stripped me of my clothes or I just plain forgot to equip. Unfortunately the game lacks the ability to directly compare two inventory items. Instead Skyrim only focused against what I was wearing.

I think the ability to save weapon/armor sets would be helpful. One of the characters I played was a Mage/Thief hybrid.  During various missions I was required to use their specialty garb and re-equiping head to toe was a drag.

In terms of Guild progression and standings, Oblivion made it easy by placing all the relevant information on one page. It was quick, concise and I knew my ranking in each guild. I was stunned to see Skyrim has nothing of the sort! At times I found myself confused as to where I stood within each faction because they have endless contracts to acquire. I missed collecting accolades like trophies.

Quest markers have been improved. The player can now see the objective marker through walls and in some cases it helped me find those nasty, little, obscure quest items. There is a chance some players might find this less challenging and it could diminishes those serendipitous moments.

Overall I do wish the game exposed more of the low-level character stuff. Experience points and money are often awarded for completing quests but only money is ever shown to the player. Details regarding experience points are nowhere to be found in the Skill menu where the bulk of your information resides. There is a meter to show one’s progression within a level so you can get an idea where you stand, but there are no numbers associated with it. I found myself wanting more granularity with character statistics.

Sure the new interface is more functional--particularly the map--but gone is the ability to sort items in your inventory. Oblivion’s interface was overflowing with character with it’s sliding metal latches and parchment-looking backgrounds. Unfortunately I found Skyrim’s new minimalistic interface not only missing some much needed features, but also lacking personality. What a stark contrast from the beautiful world of Skyrim--boring and lifeless.





New Dungeons, New Puzzles and Some Repeating
One of the best things about Skyrim is wonderful dungeon design. All are excitingly unique, interesting to explore, filled with more puzzles and traps, and bubbling over with atmosphere. It’s all there! The crackling of the rocky walls dirt particles sprinkled through beams of sunlight dusting over you and the dreary drip of water in the background. These dungeons are a testamite to Bethesda’s hard work to improve the dungeon exploring experience.


I believe the addition of more traps was a wise move because I found myself walking more slowly through the dungeons, and I suspect this was intentional in design. One of my favorite things about the new designs is that all the dungeons I visited now do a good job of looping the player back to the entrance. Rigged treasure chests now have visible traps giving the player the opportunity to disarm using the lockpicking skill. The puzzle elements are a nice touch but they lack variety to keep it interesting. Remember the demo that we’ve all seen of the claw and the door puzzle? Well unfortunately it’s recycled many many times. Does it really matter though? Incorporating puzzles is still a welcome change.




Big Dragons And Shouting It Out
Yes these are literal shouts. Once you learn the words you obtain some cool and use abilities. Shouts can be unlocked using the souls of dragons and can then be leveled up 3 times. It’s a great addition to the game. I constantly used them regardless of my character class. I found no overwhelmingly powerful shout so I bounced around using various ones.

The Dragons in the Skyrim add a wonderful and exciting variable to those who roam the region. To me they never once felt scripted or predictable. Watching a dragon off in the distance swoop down and turn the plains into his playground was astonishingly cool. At one point in the game I was attacked by a dragon in one of the larger cities and complete chaos ensued. Guards quickly took out their bows and civilians ran for cover, but when all was said and done several people were fried to a crisp. It was just so cool to see that kind of interaction on an AI level, and it reminded me of the fun I use to have with Doom. Afterward, once the dragon was slain, NPCs gathered around the Dragon carcase and remarked how in all their years they’d never seen such a thing.

An interesting note is the Dragons’ skeletons remain persistent to the world, so even after you’ve completely looted their bodies the bones remain forever. It’s cool in theory but it did eventually lead to some silly situations. In one instance, every time I entered a city where I killed a dragon the body would randomly fall from the sky and land in different parts of town. This happened constantly and not a single NPC would take notice of it after the initial slaying. Another time a dragon died right in the middle of town and NPCs would walk right through the colossal skeleton.

The Dragon who's bones kept falling from the Sky in Whiterun. (Xbox 360, captured with my iPhone 4S)


There were moments when I heard a really loud roar over my head and as I looked up a dragon was swooping down for me--it was intense! I found the dragons a thrill to fight, particularly near the beginning of the game but once I reached a higher level (around level 30) they hardly posed a threat. Regardless of this and a few bugs these immense flying beast were a sight to behold and add a great element of surprise to the fighting.




Jobs, Horses, Sidekicks and Traveling
There is more to do in Skyrim than in previous Elderscrolls games. Dungeons and mountain sides are more abundant with ore which needs to be collected with a pickaxe. You can then head back to town and smelt the ore to make bars for crating weapons, armor and jewelry. You can chop wood, enchant, cook, finally put leather hides to good use and much more.

The horse riding experience is so much better as the animals are much much easier to control. Horses feel like they belong in the world and really get you around quickly. The controls don’t feel as authentic as the ones found in Red Dead Redemption, but they are close. I do wish there was a way to set the horses to a passive mode because yes my friends they attack enemies. Too many times I found myself scrambling to save my horses from certain death thus distracting me from the real fight. A few times my horse even attacked a dragon (hilarious!) And boy does this game need the ability to whistle for your horse--but at least they can swim now!

Sidekicks act as mules like in Fallout 3 and will automatically use the better, more applicable equipment that they carry. There were a few moments where my sidekick got in the way, and what made it frustrating is the fact that they were unmovable--who’s the Dragonborn here?! Also fair warning to horse riders, sidekicks do not hop along for the ride and are rather slow to follow. They often get stuck on trees and such.

Another travel option is the carriage. For a few gold pieces you can travel to any city in Skyrim, even if you’ve not visited it yet. Though I didn't use the carriage at all in my initial playthrough, I found myself using it a lot in my second.










Conclusion
Jeremy Soule provides an amazing aural landscape with his compositions. When the action picks up the deep bombastic tones of the Norse gods take over. Then when the action subsides it subtly flows over to a winter daydream. I know it sounds cheesy to say but I felt like the score spun it's own tale. I have no doubt this score will leave it’s mark on players much like the one in Oblivion. It truly is it’s own character in the game.

With Skyrim it’s clear to me that Bethesda has managed to bring everything together more cohesively than any of their previous games. The graphics are phenomenal, the sounds brought me farther into the experience, the combat is balanced and a ton of fun and the level progression is rewarding. I feel like this is the Elder Scrolls game we’ve always wanted Bethesda to make.


12/2/11

Just Cause 2 Interview: Peter Johansson and Fredrik Larsson

Developed by Avalanche Studios, Just Cause 2 finds Mr Rico Rodriguez returning to a much better, bulkier game world. Having unlimited access to a grapple hook, a parachute and a massive arsenal of death in a beautiful open-world is essentially a dream come true for most gamers.

To sweeten the pot this open-world goes out of its way to pat you on the back for all the destruction you cause. It's a lot of fun, but I came away with some questions that needed to be answered.

So I asked: What other Easter-eggs exist beyond the Lost island reference? Were fully destructible structures ever considered? Will Just Cause 2 ever end up on the Wii? How does the Heat system really work? Why on earth can't we purchase multiple items from the Black Market? I posed these and many more questions to Avalanche Studios.

Let's start with with Game Designer Peter Johansson:




What're the plans for Just Cause 2 DLC , and will any of it contain new islands?
There are plenty of DLC planned but unfortunately I cannot go into details of future DLC at the moment, sorry.



Will any of the DLC be free, if not what will it cost?
The first DLC item was released in all territories early April free of charge as a thank you to the community for their support of the game. We’ll continuously release more DLC at a very low cost and there may even be more free items available in the future.



Rockstar experienced less-than-expected sales with their DLC for Grand Theft Auto 4. Some believe this is due to the original games enormous amount of inconsumable content. Given the relative size of Just Cause 2 are there worries with the planned DLC performing similarly at Avalanche Studios?
Many of the coming DLC items for Just Cause 2 are tools that, for a very low price, immediately give you new ways to play around and experiment in the game world. So the DLC adds a new dimension to the core gameplay which makes it very accessible regardless of if you’ve already finished the story or not.






Besides the island dedicated to the TV show Lost I’m curious if there are any more hidden areas in the game you care to reveal or hint towards?
There are lots of hidden things to discover if you explore Panau and keep your eyes peeled. Hot air balloons, mechanical shark and, if you look hard enough, a bubble gun.



How is the game performing in the US in terms of sales?
I don’t have any sales numbers yet, but we’re very happy about the positive reception we’ve got from reviewers and the community so far.



In regards to the narrative, the game seems to walk the line between being serious and comedic--was this planned from the beginning or was it intended to lean more towards another direction?
Just Cause 2 allows you to do some insane over the top stunts. You have an unlimited amount of parachutes and a grappling hook that defies gravity simply because it makes the game more fun to play. At the same time, the theme of the story is quite serious in nature and some of the things that you can do in the game are really quite violent. Therefore, we felt that the overall tone of the game needed to be playful or it could all just end up being in bad taste.



Is any of the voice acting in the game meant to be humorous or ironic?
Yes, it’s meant to be lighthearted to fit in with the overall tone of the game.



Has work begun on Just Cause 3?
We have a lot of ideas for a sequel but nothing has been decided yet.



If Just Cause 3 is in the works, are there plans to include local and/or one-line coop?
There are no firm decisions yet about a sequel so naturally I can’t go into any details.






Were fully destructible buildings ever considered for the game?
Yes, we did some prototyping of it and our engine supports it but it was a bit too late to get it into the game since it also needs to fit into the logic of everything else that’s destructible. You also need to handle buildings that play an important part in missions etc. It’s something that really needs to be integrated into the design from the start.




Are there ever plans to bring Just Cause 2 to the Wii in any form?
There are no plans for that at the moment.



What's the theory--in terms of gameplay challenges for the player--behind the hybrid health system? Why combine both the regeneration and health pack mechanics instead of sticking to one?
In Just Cause 2 most enemies fire quick projectile attacks at you (i.e. bullets) and the accuracy of those attacks depends on your actions. If you stay exposed for too long, move or stand still then there’s always going to be a certain amount of randomness to it regardless of how well you play. Therefore a recharging system is suitable to ensure there’s a “shield” for those random hits and to give you time to react if your combat tactics arn’t up to scratch.

A fully recharging system usually punishes you very quickly with death since that forces you to stay on your toes at all times and constantly play tactically. Frequent deaths like that would be very frustrating in an open world game the size of Just Cause 2, so that’s why we opted for a hybrid system where instead of dying, you receive permanent damage that can only be recharged by health packs. That way combat can still be tactical and challenging, but not as hardcore or demanding as a pure shooter where each scenario can be directed in detail.



What was the biggest challenge for the team in terms of gameplay design?
I’d say that the biggest game design challenges when creating a non-linear open-world game the size of Just Cause 2 is to create a structure for the progression of the story, missions and rewards for the player.



Just Cause 2 already appears to have a fairly large fanbase due to its wacky departure from reality in terms of gameplay. For example falling 3000 feet without a parachute and suddenly using the grappling hook 50 feet above ground to pull yourself to safety. It's incredibly wacky, fun and rewarding trick to pull off! The first time I fully upgraded the Assault Rifle I expected it to shoot mini-missiles but nothing of the sort happened. It left me wondering why the weapons and vehicles don’t seem to follow suit.
We wanted the weapons to retain their basic properties even after upgrading, to keep the game balanced. But there’s a possibility for something like this for DLC.



Why doesn't Rico have the ability to grab on to ledges? In some cases it seems it would make it easier to navigate close quarter combat and environments.
It’s always a balancing act to decide where to spend development resources. A ledge grab system in such a large and varied game world as in Just Cause 2 is not a small undertaking, just consider the amount of QA required. And since Rico has the ability to traverse any object anyway with the grappling hook it was decided that those resources were better spent elsewhere.



Why is this process of purchasing items from the Black Market sandwiched in between two cut scenes? Why can’t we purchase multiple items at once?
I agree it would be nice to be able to purchase multiple items but unfortunately we couldn't implement it in time. It’s not simply a GUI issue, you must also consider where the items end up in the game world.



Was there ever an upgrade path considered for the grappling hook and parachute?
Yes, upgrading the grappling hook was considered but, again, it comes down to resources and time and how this would affect the overall balance of the game.



Have you had a chance to check out any of the community made mods like the Bolo patch? What are your thoughts on what they’ve added to the game?
Just Cause 2 has been a labor of love for us and all we want is for gamers everywhere to have fun with it so we really like the mods.



Can you explain in detail how the Heat system works? What conditions must be met to trip an alert? How does the meter cool?
Heat is triggered when you do certain actions that are considered hostile by the military, for example sabotaging their property or if you’re discovered in a restricted area. Heat starts to cool down if the military hasn’t seen you for a while.



The ability to run seems to be fairly ineffective. Was this designed specifically to not compete with the grapple system in any way?
The sprint is a bit quicker than the normal run but it’s mostly useful for very short distances. The grappling hook is always more effective if you want to get to anything that’s further away than about 20 meters.



How come some cutscenes can be skipped and some can't?
The Avalanche Engine constantly streams resources in and out of memory to enable the player to seamlessly navigate through the huge and detailed game world without interruption for loading. So when a cutscene is running, the engine streams resources for the next location and that’s why it can’t be skipped before loading is finished.



The other night I spent almost 2 hours trying to track down the final item in one of the larger cities to completely liberate it--it was exhaustive. I'm curious if it was ever considered by the team to assist the player in tracking down some of the more difficult items?
Resource items can be tracked by using the signal strength indicator in the upper left corner of the screen but there isn’t a similar system for other activities that count towards completion. There’s the military logo on items that can be sabotaged, but I agree they can sometimes be easy to miss in the larger locations.

A few systems to assist the player with this was considered, for example marking them out on the map or listing them in the database for each location so you know what to look for but that unfortunately couldn’t be implemented in time for release.



Moving on to Lead Programmer Fredrick Larsson:




What was the biggest technical challenge Avalanche Studios faced in developing Just Cause 2?
The biggest technical challenge would be the capitol city of Panau. We have always been good at drawing lots of trees and landscapes but we didn't have the necessary building blocks in our engine to be able to create the city when we started development.

The challenge was much harder than we thought it would be, mainly due to the fact that we couldn't cheat at all since the player is able to reach every surface of the city with the grappling hook.

Many hours of programming and optimization has been put into the city to make it acceptable as far as memory consumption and performance goes, but in the end it feels like it was worth it.



Why is the YouTube system that's present on the PS3 not integrated in the PC and X360 experiences?
The YouTube feature was actually included because Sony included it into their SDK and if it would have been a part of Microsoft’s XDK then we would have included it on the Xbox as well. I really hope that Microsoft includes it in the future because as an avid Xbox gamer I would really like to see that feature on the 360.





Did Avalanche Studios incorporate some kind of procedural shading and/or texture system to create the landscape or was it completely crafted by hand?
The landscape is partially handcrafted and partially procedurally generated. Artists 'paint' the landscape in an editor that we have created for them but instead of painting with colors they paint with heights and types. The type could for example be beach, arctic, desert or jungle and is the basis for how the landscape is generated.

It is not just the textures and shaders that are influenced by the type but also what kind of trees there are going to be and how sparse they are going to be placed, if there are going to be rocks on the ground and much more.



Was there strong debate amongst the team to exclude DX9/Windows XP support?
Actually there was very little debate regarding this decision. We all felt that it would steal too much focus from other features if we were to implement and support both DirectX9 and DirectX10. I am guessing that the reason we for choose DirectX10 is obvious for everybody that has played the game! We would never have been able to make it as beautiful on DirectX9.



The PC version of the game handles many things correctly like offering adjustable sliders for many graphical settings along with proper Xbox 360 controller support, but there is an issue that has cropped up with rebinding the ‘E’ key. Why can’t this be rebounded like other keys? Will that be changed in a future patch?
This is an annoying little bug that unfortunately got through our Q/A processes. If, or maybe rather when, we get to do another patch it will include a fix for this bug.

10/5/11

Rage Reviewed



One of my favorite things about id Software is how self-aware they are about their place in the industry. They fully realize their ability to craft graphically stunning worlds is unmatched, and they're even hip to how critics feel about their ability to tell stories--or the lack thereof--and it seemingly doesn’t concern them. This has been id Softwares modus operandi since Wolfenstein, all the way up to Doom 3. And hey, I thought Doom 3 was a lot of fun. It definitely provided enough entertainment for my $50, but that game was also released 7 years ago. The video game landscape--along with my personal preferences--has changed quite a bit. Though I love love LOVE me a gorgeous looking game, these days I need a little more than that. My praise for the creative spirit in a video game has risen over that of technical execution, and this is just one of the many reasons why I didn't fall in love with Rage.

But before we get into it, let's get some specifics out of the way. I played Rage on the Playstation 3 (this also means I have no idea how well the game performs on the PC or Xbox 360). There was an 8GB mandatory installation that took 18 minutes and 43 seconds to complete. My total game time came out to be 13 hours and 15 minutes, and that’s with completing most side-missions. According to my TV the game was running at 720P and--unfortunately, due to some tearing--it appears V-Sync has been disabled.




A MUSEUM OF RAGE--YOU CAN LOOK BUT NOT TOUCH
First and foremost, Rage--running at its much touted 60 frames per second--is simply glorious to watch in action. It is one of, if not, the most impressive graphical achievement in console gaming today. Mind you I do say that with slight hesitation because it’s not flawless. There were some rare moments of screen tearing, and this normally happened to me during highly intense combat sequences. But the single biggest issue is that some fairly egregious texture pop-in takes place throughout the entire game, and it can be really distracting too! Despite these issues, Rage still had many moments were it smacked me across the face with something stunning and, for at least a few moments, I had to stop to take it all in.




AN "OPEN" WORLD THAT'S CLOSED FOR BUSINESS
Technically speaking Rage is an open-world game, and indeed it allowed me to explore at my leisure, there just seemed to be little point to it. The world is surprisingly small, and...barren (hoho). The few, narrow roads that line the landscape come across as nothing more than hallways that led me to my next destination. Only having a few smallish open areas for arena-type battles weren't enough to make up for that fact either. There was no sense of discovery for me, and in a world that looks this good that's criminal. It's SO disappointing!

The encounters with patrolling bandits did kept things interesting for a few hours but after a while the whole process ran a little long in the tooth. Eventually I found myself driving around these encounters to avoid all vehicle combat because it just wasn't rewarding enough. There are no experience points to be earn by killing them, the bandit bounties are marginally worthwhile, and frankly these encounters are just not as fun as the first-person segments--why not move on, right?

One things that was immediately apparent early on was the wonderful design of the landscape. Unfortunately the rocky structures and hills are littered with invisible walls. Perhaps I’ve played too much Fallout New Vegas, but I really wanted to explore those magnificent looking mountains to see if I could find a random cave--not happening.

Included in the game is a mini-map to help you get around the wasteland, and it’s a big help too. Whenever a new mission is acquired a marker will pointing you in the right direction, but what would have been even more helpful is if there was an overworld map too. If you’re like me and want something like that then you’ll have to go to the manual because it’s located there--what?









SOLID GAMEPLAY MECHANICS GO BOOM
The first time I used ironsight with one of the Rage weapons it became immediately clear that the shooting would feel solid. Guns in this game, like no other, appear to have a real weight to them with just the right amount of kick. There are not a ton of weapons (a la Borderlands), but I found the arsenal to be interesting and large enough to kill whatever crossed me path. The Wingstick was, without a doubt, the most fun to use in combat. I was always sure to carry a ton of them with me, because it was such a blast to play with. Later on in the game you unlock the ability to make an Advanced Wingstick, with the ability to hit multiple enemies. Yes, loved this, more of it please!

Each weapon has 4 possible ammo types, all fairly unique and cool looking when fired. There are minor upgrades (think laser sights, additional damage, etc) to purchase for weapons from a local vendors, but they're typical. Unfortunately Engineering only allows you to craft ammo and not parts for the weapons themselves, so you're essentially stuck with the same weapons throughout the entire game (save one, and that's found near the end).

A few hours into the game I was offered the option to choose a specific type of wardrobe (or class). The first options was a Wastelander, where I could look like a local and receive discounts on cash purchases. The second was a Roughneck, who has increased armor. The last was the Fabricator who has enhanced Engineering capabilities. I choose the Fabricator, but it was never really clear just how beneficial it was to my Engineering ability, and no one ever alluded to the fact that I was now someone who was crafty. Without that or perhaps class specific missions it felt like a missed opportunity to pull me into the world.

Side-missions were fine overall, but some would lead to the exact same spot more then once. In one instance I was told to clear out some mutants in the sewers--and so I did--and an hour later someone else wanted me to track down some bandit...in the same sewers. Thankfully this wasn't a very common theme throughout the game, but it’s worth mentioning. These side-missions varied from finding a relative to helping someone kill some other guys uncle to assisting someone named Stanley deliver mail. The later consist of delivering packages within a given time frame to various mailboxes that are sprinkled throughout the wasteland. Fun for a few hours, but ultimately forgettable.

One of my favorite mechanics in the game is the defibrillator mini-game. If you go down, you’re offered the chance to revive yourself by playing a little rhythm mini-game. If you’re successful you’ll not only revive yourself but you’ll send out a shock-wave that stuns the enemies surrounding you. The defibrillator recharges about every 20 minutes, so it’s not something you can abuse. It’s an original concept that’s useful, fun and engaging.

One of the more enjoyable things in Rage is Engineering. You will be able to construct a bunch of items with all the junk you collect throughout the wasteland. Things like Sentry bots, additional ammo and Wingsticks, health packs and more. It’s a fun, rewarding system to use. Throughout the game you’ll come across a few locked doors here and there. These doors are only accessible with a Lockgrinder, which can only be obtained through Engineering.





DRAB VEHICLE ACTION IS DRAB
The introduction of vehicles of Rage wasn’t a bad idea, but it’s unfortunate id decided to focus so much attention on them. Sure driving around the wasteland completing the Stunt jump challenges is fun for a bit, but again, it feels a little pointless after a while.

The racing action held within the cities consists of speed runs, missile challenges, mini-gun challenges and arenas battles. Competing and winning in these challenges award race flags, and this currency is the only way you can purchase upgrades for your vehicle. It was an ok time, but again after a few races I was ready to move on to ids far superior first-person segments. I’m still sitting here, tripping out that id Software made a racing game.




“THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THING IS THE WORLD CANNOT BE TOUCHED, ONLY FELT”
I wouldn’t call it completely fair to say id hasn’t provide an emotional experience with Rage. Sure the story is a bit boring and the characters are shallow, but the other parts--the running and gunning--evoked a raw intensity from me. Make no mistake with this review--Rage is a pretty fun video game--but it's hard not to step back and be disappointed. This was id Software's time to really shine with something special. Rage should have been a game that completely blew me away, and it didn't.

I’ll never forget the moment the game ended, because it was one of the few transitional moments in gaming where I honestly felt blinded sided. I sat there, stunned with controller in hand, under the impression I was entering the final act, but it all suddenly just ended. It was utterly anticlimactic, uneventful and ultimately a bitter pill to swallow. It could be one of the worst endings I’ve ever seen in a video game, yes it’s that bad.

With Rage it’s become apparent to me that not only has id Software's position in the industry changed, but I now realize they refuse to grow with the rest of us.

1/6/11

44 Reasons My Only Friend Is A Man-Chicken



 Welcome back everyone! I hope your holidays were filled with hearty feasts and tons of back-slapping. Me? Oh my back is very sore. Hey who wants do a list?!

So there I sat on New Years Day toying around with the idea of throwing together a "ZOMG I'M AWESOME!" post, but I decided on something a little more constructive--a complete list of all the video games I completed in 2010. I mean, it should have the same affect right?

Now to be clear, this list is comprised of games I completed to their fullest extent. I'm talking rolling credits here folks. As an added bonus I've also included a brief one-sentence review for each title. Before we begin I must let you know that I'm an avid Left 4 Dead 2 player (as in I've put in over 350 hours in 2010). I also returned to World of Warcraft in December thanks to the release of Cataclysm, so now my life is especially pathetic.

Oh well, let's get the show on the road yo...


Alan Wake - A unique thriller with some pretty unnerving moments, excellently paced, and combat that can run a bit long in the tooth towards the end.

Alan Wake: The Signal - A short but interesting experience for the fans of the series.

Alan Wake: The Writer - More interesting and revealing than The Signal, built for fans of the narrative.

Assassin's Creed 2 (x1 PC, x1 Xbox 360) - Though the economy is essentially broken I found this game to be a total blast, but at times for me the challenge lied in the controls and not the enemies.

Assassin's Creed Brotherhood - I really enjoyed this game quite a bit. It's even more refined and has more goodies to chase than it's predecessor. It also allows you to control a brotherhood of assassin's--what's not to love? (Oops! Just broke my one-sentence rule. Oh heck let's do one more for fun!) Blah blah blah.

Bioshock 2 (x1 PC, x1 Xbox 360)- It was impossible for this game to live up to expectations, but if you just sit back and accept the game for what it's trying to do then you'll find a solid game here with combat mechanics that rivals the original.

Blur - Good fun for roughly 75% of the game. It's suppose to be some kind of modern or adult version of Mario Kart  but it ran out of steam towards the end.

Civilization 5 - Binary crack. Next?

Crackdown 2 - Uuuugh! The first Crackdown is one of my favorite games of this generation, so I really wanted to love this game. Surprisingly it's less entertaining (how is this even possible Microsoft?) and almost became a chore to complete.

Dante's Inferno - Pulsating vagina's and babies oozing out of breasts, and that's just the third level. It didn't do enough gameplay-wise to make me even enjoy it.

Darksiders - Once I got past the banality of the first hour, I actually learned to appreciate Darksiders quite a bit.

Dead Nation - A fun, isometric coop zombie shooter where shit blows up real good!

Dead Rising 2 - I enjoyed this sequel much more than the first but it's wonky controls still annoyed me.

Deathspank - A strange and amusingly written game that's inspired by MMO mechanics. Unfortunately the whole thing got a little stale despite it all.

Dragon Age: Origins (x1 PC/x1 Console) - It seems to borrow a bit too much from the Lord of the Rings in both the narrative and aesthetic sense, but I loved the gameplay--video games!

Dragon Age: Awakenings - Weird, fun and with lots of foggy scenes and slimy, spiked things to fight.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West - A peculiar game with stunningly well made cutscenes, outstanding voiceover work and visuals that seem to remind us that browns aren't the only colors fit for video games. However the gameplay mechanics need a bit more variety.

Fable 3 (x2) - Though I've played through this game twice and found it to be fairly fun I was still highly annoyed by some of the obtuse design decisions. Plus this game has possibly the worst map system ever created in a video game ever.

Fallout: New Vegas - With some big shoes to fill, I found FNV to be surprisingly rad--buggy--but rad!

God of War 3 - Too bloody, too gorgeous, too impressively jaunty, too many plot holes and ultimately too awesome to pass up for PS3 owners.

God of War Ghost of Sparta - Simply one of the best PSP games around, but a stark reminder of why I'm not a fan of the PSP.

Halo: Reach - Easily the best single player Halo campaign to date. Though it's coupled with a robust mulitplayer model I still lost interest after a week (I realize 75% of  you are now leaving this blog).

Heavy Rain - A step forward in long video game drama, a step backwards in voice acting, a step forward in quick time interaction, a step backwards in reducing that whole uncanny valley effect but a step forward in graphical fidelity. Plus it was fun.

Just Cause 2 - A (real!) open world game where the protagonist has a grappling hook, a parachute and must destroy a bunch of things for money--I mean come ON! This is easily one of my most favorite games of 2010.

Kayne and Lynch 2: Dog Days - Dirty, slimy, bloody and stripped clean--not only does this describe the protagonist of the game but it this pretty much describes how I felt after playing the game.

King's Bounty Armored Princess - I just adore this whole series, and Armored Princess does a nice job of building on the King's Bounty experience.

Kirby's Epic Yarn - If you told me a year ago that I would enjoy a Kirby game more than a Metroid game I would have slapped you (probably with my shoe too), but that's actually the case now. It's a really fun game, don't let the looks of it fool you.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light - A decidedly good game with some excellent coop puzzle elements.

Limbo - I really love that Limbo tries to tell a story that's completely left up for interpretation without arrogance, but most importantly at the end of the day it never loses sight of what it is--a well made video game.

Mafia 2 - I had a love first game, so I was anticipating the sequel immensely. Unfortunately the "window shopping only" design within the city only teased me until frustration set in. A gorgeously designed metropolis that lacks any significant amount of interesting interactivity is incoherent in today's market.

Mass Effect 2 (x2 Xbox 360, x1 PC) - A better looking game than the first, much more to do than the first, a larger cast than the first, but the narrative is far less interesting and goes essentially nowhere--loved it enough to play it three times but in the end it's just not as epic as the first.

Matt Hazard: Blood Bath and Beyond - An interesting idea that falls very very flat.

Plants vs Zombies - I've played this ridiculously addictive game on just about every platform--so, yea, great times.

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands - There's a reason the word forgotten is in the title.

Puzzle Quest 2 - An improvement over the first and I couldn't put it down.

Red Dead Redemption - A spaghetti western with something to say, if you pay close attention and listen then you'll realize it's the best game of 2010.

Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare - Leave it up to Rockstar to prove me wrong! After this DLC was announced I scoffed at the zomibfication of yet another game, but it turned out to be a fun and wacky add-on.

Resident Evil 5 - Tank controls that didn't annoy, and ultimately lead to a lot of fun. I think we've reached a point with the series where it's in need to take a serious look at itself.

Singularity - Enjoyable enough to play all the way through, but in the end was forgettable enough that I had to check to be sure it came out this year. :(

Spider-man: Shattered Dimensions - Surprisingly fun with a ton of variety, but a little to modulated with all the different Spider-mans you control.

Splinter Cell Conviction - I really appreciate what they were going for with it's minimalistic approach but I was hoping for something as powerful as Chaos Theory, heck I would've taken something half as interesting.

Split Second Velocity - I love arcade racers and this beautiful game had enough going for it that I deemed it my favorite racer of 2010.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 - An incredible amount of variety in gameplay mechanics and a ton of fun to play--and I know this is going to sound crazy--but I found it to be a tad too long.

Supreme Commander 2 - I'm a sucker for an RTS games that resembles Total Annihilation, but even then the boredom began to set in at the 15 minute mark.


The Partials! Here is a list of the games I spent a considerable amount of time with (usually 5+ hours or so) but didn't completed in time to make this list.

Metro 2033
Monster Hunter Tri
Final Fantasy 13
Army of Two: The 40th Day
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
Gothic 4
Costume Quest
Bayonetta
Joe Danger
Metal of Honor
The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom
Need For Speed: Hot Persuit
Vanquish
Dead to Rights: Retribution
3D Dot Game Heroes
Skate 3
Lost Planet 2
Dragon Quest 9
ModNation Racers
Alpha Protocol
Naughty Bear
Starcraft 2
Metroid Other M
Amnesia: The Dark Decent
Castlenavia Lord of Shadows
DJ Hero 2
Vanquish
Pac-man Championship Edition DX
Gran Turismo 5
Epic Mickey
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm
Bejewled 2 Blitz

7/21/10

Fable 3 Interview: Peter Molyneux


Sitting down to interview Peter Molyneux is an experience that's not unlike the Fable series itself--it's whimsical, charming and a little all over the place.

So with the very limited amount of time of 20 minutes I sat down with him and we talked about Fable 3. We discussed the new crafting system, how to marrying well, how Fable 2 was a little bit like DOS and how you just might get mobbed being a King.

Read on...




It appears that crafting--in its own unique way--has made its way into the Fable series with 3. Can you elaborate a bit on the weapon morphing concept?
Well, I really love the idea of crafting. I think it's a really lovely idea, especially in RPGs, so we thought 'why not let players craft their own swords?' So we initially thought we would give you some kind of Blacksmithing mini-game or we would let you find different things like augmentations, but it was all a bit messy.

Then we thought 'hang on a second! Why cant we change this sword so that it's reflective of how you fight.' So as you're fighting, your sword will start to physically change. For instance the curvature of the blade is now dictated by how many times you've performed a specific action in battle, the notches in the blade represent how many times you've died using it, and the brightness of the glow of the sword indicates how many innocent or evil people you've killed. We've got about 88,000 combinations of things going on here and we mix in your Gamescore as well. It's really quite unique.

So, as you're doing this--as you're crafting your sword--you're unlocking abilities too. There are a lot of finishing and special moves that can be unlocked.

Also you're free, at any time, to actually sell that sword on line. You can trade it too!



In previous Fable games the player was often rewarded for exploring places like hidden caves and such with Legendary weapons. Are you pulling that stuff out of the game now that this new crafting system is being implemented into the game?
No that's a different type of sword, these legendary weapons, and they actually have everything these morphing type of swords have too. The thing is, they have an additional quest associated with them and when you successfully complete these little quests the sword gets even better.

But back to these other swords. These swords are crafted by you! They will have your Gamertag in their names, and if you grind it out then you can make some really superb swords.



Ok, just to be clear--all the swords are malleable including the Legendary swords, but these Legendary swords have these, sort of, side quests associated with them?
Yes. The Legendary swords have these side collectibles associated with them, something like killing 50 goblins or something of the sort. So yes, you know, the players will still have lots of things to find. By the way, this whole idea of crafting and morphing applies to Hammers, Guns, Swords, Rifles and Gauntlets in Fable 3.



Where will the player store and manage all their stuff ?
Well we've got this place called The Sanctuary and it's a replacement for pressing the Start button.

Pressing the Start button in Fable 2 brought up a 2D list of things and it was kind of like going back to DOS. It would list 200 clothing items or 450 swords, and we thought to ourselves 'Why does the pause button always have to do the same thing? Why can't we just teleport the player to another place in the world.' So when you press the Start button, very quickly, it just teleports you to The Sanctuary.

So, yes, we have this chamber with some rooms attached to it. One room has anything to do with your clothes, another room has anything to do with your treasure and another has anything to do with your weapons.

At this point Peter runs into the weapon chamber where two gauntlets lie, and with a big grin on his face puts them both on...


For instance, look at these two gauntlets. You can wear these two gauntlets at the same time. The first one is a Force Gauntlet and it allows you to push things away with your left hand. On the right hand here, we'll put on a Fireball Gauntlet so that, now, when you cast a spell you'll get a combination of pushing and fire. You can also have a combination of pushing and ice if you like. If you had the combination of ice and fire then they would cancel each other out. This way you're weaving these spells together.

See, this gauntlet is level 1 and that gauntlet is level 5 and that will vary the amount of power you get. I really really love that! I love the feeling of 'Hey I'll try to mix these two things together'.



Does the one-button combat remain the same?
Well, we've got one button combat but it's more interesting. For instance, one attack button can be the same as a combination of two other buttons. We can say 'Right, let's swing our sword and shoot our gun. We can say swing your sword and cast magic. We can say shoot your gun and cast magic.'

So now we've got one-button combat and I think a lot of casual players will just focus on it--they'll just keep pressing this one button. Then they're the core players who will really, strategically use it. The problem is, the core say 'what reward do I get for doing combat well'. My answer is, the weapons will now level themselves up.

So there is a lot more leveling up in Fable 3. It's not just happening on the GUI side. It's more focused on making and changing things, which you can do over and over again. It's also another way to earn money, because as you level up a weapon it becomes more valuable to sell. There is a lot of some really cool work being done here!



You say the weapons in Fable 3 will change their appearance as you level them up. So let's say you focus on fighting in one particular style and you love your weapon, and then later on you switch to another style changing it's appearance unfavorably. I'm curious if it's possible to go back to the sword design that you originally liked?
Its just like the morphing system that we have applied to our hero. If you start going down one path it'll start changing the sword, but you can bring it back too. You might have to work a little harder to bring it back though.

What's so cool about all this is that the name of the sword changes with your gamertag integrated into it, and it will always be known as that too. So you will be able to sell it and watch it on-line to see what other people do with it.

It's a really really cool system!

From the development side, changing what the different buttons do has lead us down this route of crafting your own weapons. It's lead to the player feeling like they're getting more powerful, this thing that you're holding in your hand is getting more powerful--I think it's just really really cool.



Is there any kind of visual indicator in terms of the weapon level-up process?
Yes when your sword levels-up, the player will have this sort of Greyskull moment and they will see their sword change.

You know, it's interesting that everything in the game is based on a scale of one-to-five. We didn't want these sort of complex systems in Fable 3. So, for instance, you can have a one-to-five sword, one-to-five hammer, one-to-five in jobs, the muscles in your arms--everything is one-to-five.



Let's say I've progressed my sword up to level 5 and then I put it up on the marketplace, would I be able to buy back my own sword?
Absolutely! Also, you can have someone come into your world--yes there is coop in the game--and you can give them your sword. They can use it, and then give it back to you and it will still be called your sword.



Do I have to give it to the person I'm playing with or is it possible for them to steal it?
No, there is no stealing.

But back to the coop stuff--we actually changed it an enormous amount. The part where your friend comes in, they're now their own hero and not a stupid henchman like they were in Fable 2. They come in with their dog and free to go off running around while you do your things. They're not tied to your camera now. The coop is really cool now.

You can even--and it's quite bizarre--but you can even bring someone in, get married, have sex and have children. If you want to enter a business relationship, you will be able to do that as well. Want to buy a house together? You can!

I talked about leveling up, well you can level your house from one-to-five now too.

We've tried to take all the raw gameplay stuff and really improve it without making is super-complex. There was a lot of leveling up in the previous Fable games and it was all about moving afar, from here to there and it wasn't very exciting. Now when you level up you get that big reward. I think that's a huge improvement.



In the original Fable the Guild Hall was the hub for everything and I really missed that quite a bit in Fable 2. There was a sense of home, or at least a place to be when you wernt out questing. So, in Fable 3, The Sanctuary looks a lot like the Guild Hall--is it back?
Yes it's back. The Sanctuary is indeed your hub. It has this map system we call a "Living Map" where you can zoom into the towns and see the people  of the community walking about--it's alive.

You'll also be able to buy houses from the Living  Map. It's a lot more detailed than the map in Fable 2 where it wasn't really a map. It's just so much more helpful, especially when you rule. Half way through Fable 3 you're going to become a king and this map is going to be very useful.



Ok, so let's talk pacing. Are you guys going to be more aggressive in your push to get the player through the narrative now that you've got this dramatic change half-way through the game, or are you still going to let players do whatever they want?
For me when a game is nagging me to do something in particular, and I all want to do is something else, I just hate it! I hate when quest givers are like "Go to the woods! Go to the woods! Don't forget to go the woods!" "Well shut the FUCK UP! I know where the woods are! I don't want to go to the woods. Why are you telling me to go to the woods?" So, you know, if you go up to a quest giver in Fable 3 you can tell them to shut up and give me the quest. That way you can move on, and if you don't want to accept the quest then you just walk away. I think that's really really cool.

Now if you go to The Sanctuary, there is this John Cleese character, and he's the butler in the game. He's there to help you be the best you can possibly be, so every once in a while he'll prompt you on occasions when the AI think you're really not doing anything, but he doesn't pester you.



When you become King is there going to be a completely different interface?
You know, here's the thing about us talking about being king--it's a MASSIVE spoiler. I don't really want to get into the experience of being king.

Listen, the only thing I've said is that there is this beautiful mechanic. See, you're a revolutionary, and you're going to lead this rebellion and you've got to get people to follow you. Once you do that you're going to assault the castle. You're ready to take on this evil--king Logan.

On the way through this you're going to have to make promises to people. For instance the mayor in one of the smaller communities will say, "That king Logan is rotten! He stopped giving us money and now our people arnt able to do the things they want to do. If we promise to support you, will you promise to give us 200,000 gold? If you do, then our community will support you." So, of course you do it! So you make all the promises on your journey and when you become king, you will have to decide if you're going to deliver on these promises, but guess what? You're not going to have all the resources to do it.

Actually, the follow mechanic--the idea of getting people to follow you--is unified across the whole game. It replaces experience. What's so cool is that you can grind and get a bunch of people to like you and follow you, or you can do the big quest to make these promises. So there is this great replacement of experience. You get followers for being good in combat, you get followers for making friends, you get follows for marrying well! If you marry well, you get a whole new bunch of followers and that will make you more powerful. That, in turn, makes the revolution more powerful!



Can you define "marrying well"?
Well, if you marry someone from the slums, she's not going to have much influence, and that will effect you and your followers.



I know there hasn't been any armor in the Fable series and I'm curious if there will be any in Fable 3?
You know, we're not fans of armor. It's just about weapons in Fable, and you know, your clothing is important too. As a king, if you don't walk out in some sort of disguise people will mob you, but no armor--we're just not fans of it. For me, armor is just like...it just doesn't make sense, in a way. It's just another confusion in combat.



As the interview wrapped up I informed Peter that my wife is a HUGE Fable fan and was bursting at the seams to read this interview. It was at this point Peter smiled, put his arm over my shoulders and informed me that I could get her name into Fable 3 through a pre-order program they're working on.

Charming and whimsical.

6/25/10

E3 Interview - Deus Ex: Human Revolution

After seeing a particularly impressive 20 minute demonstration of Deus Ex: Human Revolution at this years E3 I was given the opportunity to sit down for about 15 minutes and interview two gentlemen from Eidos-Montreal--the Producer David Anfossi and Lead Game Designer Jean-Francois Dugas. I think it went well and fans of the series will be pleased with most of their answers. First I would like to comment briefly on what I saw in the demonstration.


If Eidos-Monteal continues to head in the direction they're headed right now with Deus Ex: Human Revolution, then I think there is a good chance we're going to get a real sequel/prequel to the original games. It looked and sounded like a Deus Ex game. The only real issue I had with it was that some of the character models looked a bit antiquated, and they were animated poorly. In contrast, some of the others characters looked great--so I don't know if some of the work was perhaps placeholder art, but I've got to speak to what I saw and how it looked. I'll let you decide if you're going to faith in the studio. We were told that the build we saw was pre-alpha, so it's obvious that the game has a ways to go in term of development.

...anyway, let's get on with the interview!



Let's being with the RPG aspects of the game. How deep can we expect the game to go?
So the RPG component is very important to us because this is where you control the flow of the game. It's not only about the features but it's also about making sure that the player has the right tools to play the game one way or another. If he wants to use brute force and be very aggressive then he has the tools to do that, if he wants to be very sneaky and low key then he has the tools to do that too.

But in terms of the component obviously you can talk to people and try to convince them of certain things, and you can try to buy some stuff as well.

In terms of the economy we have two layers. We have the money system that allows you to buy equipment, weapon upgrades or even to modify confrontations. We also have the economy of the experience points that you can earn from stealth, fighting or hacking and stuff like that. Basically with the augmentations that you buy, you can unlock the ability with those augmentations and XP points. So all those elements together help create the character that suits your play style.

Also we have a lot of choices that have consequences as you play through the game.  You will meet characters, and depending on how you deal with them, there might be some consequences later on in the game. Things like that.



I know it's a stretch to ask but can you elaborate a little bit on the plot? There was some discussion in the demo about how Human Revolution is being developed on a more "human level". Also, how effective will these choices be? Can they effect things on a global level?
Well we don't want to spoil anything at this point but I will say that you play as Adam Jensen who works for a Detroit-based biotech company called Sarif Industries. Early on in the game you have no augmentations at all. During a course of events you're badly injured and forced to use augmentations to save your life. As Adam comes back from the grave he begins to investigate those events, who might have been involved and also the reasons behind the attack.
In terms of what we meant by "human level", we're trying to build a game where you meet characters that have--including your own--shade of grey. There are no characters that are super-good or super-evil. It's more about "why do these people do what they do?" We're trying to explore the motivations and the actions of the character as opposed to just saying "oh, we're against this or against that". We want to know where they're coming from and things like that. This is why we say it plays out more on a human level, because it touches on themes that we can relate.



How do some of the moral choices, like killing characters, effect the game?
This is part of the roleplaying aspect of the game. We want the players to question who Adam Jensen is and leave it up to the player to discover those things. We want to give the player freedom of discovery. As you play the game, a lot of things you do will have some kind of effect and will even change the ending.



Are there plans to have a multiplayer component?
Deus Ex Human Revolution is a single player game. That's the tradition of the franchise. When we brought the game back from the dead--and it's not an easy task--we didn't want to split the team up and have them working all over the place. We don't want to make a game with average components. We want to make sure we're recreating the single-player experience the best way that we can. We decided to focus everything we've got on the single-player experience. Now speaking in terms of future plans for online stuff and DLC--we're not talking about that right now. Let me say this: We want to make sure the the Deus Ex name stays alive!



Is the game going to resemble the experience of Deus Ex 1 where you can complete the entire game without killing someone?
Yes...well, mostly. There're exceptions with the boss battles. You must kill those characters for the story to progress. For the rest of the game you can go from the beginning of the levels all the way to the end without killing someone. You might stun some people, sneak around them or you just might pretend you're John Rambo! *big laugh*



...so you have to kill the bosses? There isn't an option to incapacitate them or something along those lines?
You have to kill them.




Can you talk about the characters (NPCs) you will encounter in the game?
In terms of main characters there actually are quit a few. I think we're currently sitting somewhere around 12? I don't want to get too much into those numbers because things of course may change, but
there're quite a lot of characters that you're going to meet.

What's important to us is that they all feel natural, useful and are interesting for the player to interact with. Some of these characters might have a secret that you're interested in, some of them might open an alternate paths for you to go down, or some might even be a
blackmarket dealers--those kinds of people. We want your experience with the NPCs
to be rewarding and meaningful.




Can you talk about the game world? There appears to be product brands that have been created for the game, for instance in the bar there is the number 6. I noticed that there were hexagons in several places too, including on Adams forehead. Can you elaborate on this?
What's so funny to us is that there are some things we do in the game that are done on purpose, and then there are things that are basically just random. The fans, like you, sometimes notice things and go crazy with it all. They come up with all these deep explanations and they honestly have no correlation to our original design and we're just like "Yeah! That's awesome!" 



See, when we started building this game, in terms of the art direction, we really wanted to come up with our own flavor. So when we started our research we discovered a lot of sketches from Leonardo Davinci and it inspired us to jump back to the renaissance era. We started to look at all his work and we realized that it was a really momentous time for human beings. People were discovering these amazing things about the human body. I mean, people were dying from the black death and doing these really strange things to their bodies, and I think it was a time when we really questioned ourselves.

So with the technology of today, we're starting to see computers integrated into our body. So the transformation is already happening and we think it's the next big step in our evolution. It's not happening in 2027, it's happening today in 2010.

So, basically we saw all these geometrical form and patterns so we decided to integrate them into the game. You'll see them in the advertisements, the architecture, floor designs and many other aspects of the game.




Are there going to be different Ammo types in the game?
Yes there will be different ammo types, but it's not going to be different per weapon though.




In terms of Eidos-Montreals design philosophy for the game, I would like to be very clear here for the sake of the fans: In Human Revolution you're going to be put in a gigantic box--the level--and then you're going to be given a start and end point, where there will be several different routes to get to that end point, correct?
Absolutely! In the demo we showed you today there were five different ways to get through that particular level. For all of maps in Human Revolution, the ability to have multiple solutions are at the heart of the experience. Everywhere you go there are at least two ways, and more to progress…always always always.



Now, no one has mention the Playstation Move or other motion control devices yet. Since this is a big theme at the show this year I have to ask--are there plans to incorporate this kind of technology into the game?
We have 130 people working on the game today and we're too far along into production to even consider that kind of technology. This is a really big game when you consider all the side quests, perhaps somewhere around 30 hours of
gameplay, and we just don't have the resources to incorporate those kinds of things at this point.




You have all these paths and multiple endings, and considering Deus Ex Human Revolution is a prequel, I'm curious how you can have multiple endings when the story has already been told?We see Human Revolution as a sort of reboot of the franchise, so we're essentially approaching it as a new IP. It's a series that is appreciated by a very strong but small group of people, but really a lot of people don't even know what Deus Ex is these days. So we're really trying to develop a new protagonist along with a bunch of new characters. You won't have to be familiar with the original games to appreciate Human Revolution, but there are going to be some connections in there for those that are familiar with the lore.



Are there going to be any characters from any of the previous Deus Ex games that will appear in Human Revolutions?
I'm so sorry, I don't speak
english anymore!  



Will Sheldon Pacotti, the writer from Deus Ex 1, be involved with Human Revolution in any capacity?
Yes! We have 4 writers on the team right now and Sheldon has been a consultant. He's there to make sure everything is lining up correctly.


Can you talk a little bit about inspirations for the team in terms of developing the future in Human Revolutions and its aesthetic?
Yes! So, obviously Blade Runner is an inspiration. We're not hiding that or any of the other inspirations because they're just so...awesome. You will see them in there, but we're trying to create our own feel along with it. 
We wanted to make you see things you've ever seen before. There are places in the game that have these old looking buildings, but then they will have some technological device attached to it. We tried to imagine and anticipate what Detroit might look like in the future. So with the double-decker city you can see we went a little crazy with the design, but I think it's a game that's instantly fun because of that. We want it to sit in reality, but also in fantasy too. For us we also wanted to have fun making it all--that's important to the team. 



Are we looking at releases for the PC, Xbox 360 and PS3?
That is correct.



Did you have to make any concessions between any of the platforms?

None.



Is the PC version of the game going to be mouse-driven?
Absolutely!



Positively?
Yes. Unless something happens that I cannot predict.



Will there be gamepad support in the PC release?
I'm sure there will be. When we did the initial control layout we planned on including
gamepad support.



There has been some controversy about a particular screenshot that was released which includes a poster in it saying "Wanted For Mass Murder" and it had a picture of George Bush. This was in fun, I'm sure?
That was concept art that was meant to be viewed internally at our studio only, but unfortunately it was released publicly. Sometimes the artists go crazy and have fun with their concept art and it's meant to amuse us--you know, just to have fun. It's hard to manage everything when you're working with such a large group and sometimes things slip through. It was, in no way, meant to be a political statement!



Thanks for your time guys and good luck!

Thanks!