EA Planning a Mirror's Edge Sequel


No High Scores

I didn’t get deep into Mirror’s Edge, only playing it as a rental (in which I quickly got stuck), but I liked the premise and I liked that EA was trying something a bit different with it. I’ve long thought it deserves a sequel and, according to EA Senior Vice President Patrick Soderlund, it’s going to get one. Said Soderlund in an interview with GameStar:

“I loved Mirror’s Edge and what we did with Mirror’s Edge… We have not abandoned the franchise. And we are working on something, but I’m not willing to talk more about that.”

Seen at CVG.

The Wii U Gets Flexible


banner 2

In an interview with Forbes, Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime lays out some of the ideas behind the Wii U’s online capability.

“So instead of a situation where a publisher has their own network and wants that to be the predominant platform, and having arguments with platform holders, we’re going to welcome that. We’re going to welcome that from the best and the brightest of the third party publishers. I think that Nintendo’s past console business has often included this idea of a set and fixed online structure. So, I think that, going forward, the question is really to what degree Nintendo can create a more flexible system for its consoles.”

So it sounds like Nintendo’s idea is to be “hands off” which is an interesting position to take to say the least.

The entire Q&A is worth a read. I found this bit interesting:

Microsoft’s message at E3 was all about Kinect, how there will be no controller, you are the controller. It seems like Nintendo’s at the polar opposite; you’re putting even more in the controller. Is this indicative of a basic philosophical difference between the two companies?

Well, all I can say is that this is not the first time that Nintendo and our competitors have had dramatically different views on the future of gaming. When we launched the original DS everyone was saying the handheld competitor coming from Sony has more powerful graphics, that’s really the way to go. And we showed that no, two screens, a touch screen, a microphone, that actually led to better gaming experiences. With the Wii, again, at the time our competitors were all about high resolution graphics. We said we think that a motion controlled experience could be more fun. Eighty six million units later around the world, I think people would say we got that one right as well. In this case we’re saying that this two screen experience –either two screens playing the same game or two screens doing fundamentally different things– is the future.

Oodles of New Skyrim Info


banner 2

The Bethesda forum has a Q&A posted which discusses Skyrim and is well worth a read. This is a fan interview so we’re talking some diverse questions.

Here’s a snip:

5) Are loot and quest rewards level scaled, like in Oblivion? Will there be any powerful un-scaled items?

Bruce: We’re handling leveling stuff similar to how we did in Fallout 3, but with a few new twists that we hope players won’t even notice. The enemies and loot are based on the “encounter zone” you’re in, so it could be higher or lower level than your current level. We do have a new concept of epic or “special” loot that you can randomly find in many cases, regardless of the zone, and you will still get better stuff in the better zones with your level higher. Same goes for quest rewards. We try to make them appropriate for what you did. Sometimes that is random, sometimes that is a set item. There’s a lot of specific stuff that is very powerful, like the Daedric artifacts.

9) Can we have some specifics about the PC version of the game? How will it’s UI be different? Will the be a 64-bit executable?

Todd: 64-bit specific exe? Not at this time. As far as UI, it visually looks the same across the platforms, but the controls are entirely different. There’s also a lot of “power user” stuff we do with the keyboard from how favorites work, to quick saves, and more that is similar to what we’ve done before in that area. We’re packing a lot of info on the screen and the whole interface is much less ‘look at giant fonts!’ than, say, Oblivion. The PC version also gets higher res textures, larger render modes, and a bunch of other effects you can scale up if your machine is a beast. Last but most important, is the Creation Kit we’ll be releasing for the PC. Modding the game and making it your own is very important to us and our fans, so we’re going to keep doing whatever we can in that area.

Read the whole thing at the Bethesda Forum.

Deus Ex Human Revolution: 12 Minutes of Gameplay


IGN has posted a 12 minute gameplay video for Deus Ex Human Revolution. This is actually a developer driven preview with a guy from IGN sitting in because…I really don’t know why.

Still, 12 minutes of gameplay footage. Enjoy.

The Final Word on Robin: From Kan Muftic, Senior Concept Artist


banner 2

Some people were “less than thrilled” when Rocksteady announced that Robin was making his way into Arkham City, as if they were going to go all Burt Ward on everyone. Here’s the latest from Rocksteady’s Kan Muftic:

“We wanted to create a Robin that players would identify as a contemporary character and move away from the traditional “Boy Wonder” image that most people know. Our vision of Robin is the one of a troubled young individual that is calm and introverted at times but very dangerous and aggressive if provoked. The shaved head is inspired by cage fighters, because we thought that Robin might be doing that in his spare time to keep him on his toes. Still, we kept all the classic trademarks of Robin’s appearance, such as the red and yellow colors of his outfit, the cape and the mask. We really hope that people will discover our Robin as one of their new favorite characters in the Batman universe. He is back and he means business.”

Could have done without that last line, but overall I like the idea.

Fallout New Vegas Patch Ahead


banner 2

A slew of new screenshots are available on the Bethesda Blog for the latest New Vegas DLC, Old World Blues. In addition, a lengthy fix list for New Vegas is posted and the patch should be available today or tomorrow.

It’s quite a long list, although some are admittedly minor clean up tweaks. Of course “Massive world optimizations in major areas for better stability/performance with multiple DLCs installed” sounds rather important…

* New feature: system save is automatically created prior to endgame sequence. After credits, user is prompted to load save game. This will allow single save players to play DLC without creating a new game.
* Fixed issue where Minigun audio could get stuck/keep playing indefinitely when fired out of VATS.
* Script fix to restore destroyed ED-E. This should address issues players have with attempting to use certain companions (e.g. Rex) or when the player needs to clear his or her companions before entering an area (e.g. Zion / Honest Hearts).
* New “Companion Dismissal Terminals” added to Gun Runners and Lucky 38. These will allow players with lost companions from earlier patches to force-fire if they are experiencing problems attempting to get into DLC or areas that prevent companions from entering.
* Arms no longer lifted above head when sneaking with certain weapons.
* Fixed sound cutting out after extended playthroughs.
* Massive world optimizations in major areas for better stability/performance with multiple DLCs installed.
* Players can now have six or more DLCs installed without encountering an infinite “loading DLC” message on startup.
* Navmesh fixes/NPCs no longer getting stuck.
* Scripts added to keep certain NPCs who were marked as dead from respawning.
* Extensive world optimizations for Hoover Dam.
* Fixed lockup with Ranger Grant’s forcegreet at HD/NCR path.
* Fixed NPC AI packages so they don’t get stuck at HD.
* Fixed bug where upgraded ED-E could be killed in non-hardcore mode.
* Post-assassination Kimball now gets removed prior to Hoover Dam battle.
* Fixed navmesh around Camp Searchlight to improve performance over long soaks.
* Searchlight Troopers don’t bump into each other as often.
* Fixed navmesh on HD Observation Deck.
* New teleport locations for Legion path through Hoover Dam. Improves performance.
* Radio stations will work properly now if DLC is uninstalled.
* Fixed instances where it was possible to fast travel during Hoover Dam battle.
* Fixed case where recruited Remnants were hostile to player during HD battle on Independent and House paths. They will still turn hostile if you shoot them too much though.
* Two vending machines in Hoover Dam were facing the wrong way.
* Made it so Big Sal/Nero no longer accepts yield if the other is already dead.
* Removed Brotherhood objectives when ED-E is given to the Followers.
* Fixed rare instance where Cachino turned hostile on the player if player attacks Big Sal/Nero prior to Cachino entering the room.
* Fixed crashes in Ultra-Luxe.
* Fixed Alpha Squad snipers getting stuck when told to support player.
* Fix for Lily’s weapon being displayed oddly on her back..
* Improvements to navmesh and pathing in Great Khan Longhouse. Fixes crashes.
* Plasma Spaz now gives 20% AP reduction (was 10%).
* Fixed crash after hearing certain ED-E dialog triggers.
* Fixed instance where Boone would constantly holster his rifle in combat if player had lost rep with the NCR.
* Veronica no longer waits for player to speak to her before leaving after Hidden Valley is destroyed.
* Extensive optimizations in McCarran.
* Optimized NPC packages at Camp Golf to improve performance. Misfits now stay in a normal radius.
* Arcade now properly rants against Caesar (once).
* Motor-Runner Helmet now properly 0 weight. Also removed after quest completes.
* NCR Heavy Troopers will now attack player if you attack Hsu.
* Vulpes (and Alerio) now properly forcegreet if you somehow fast travel before their initial forcegreet fires.
* Killing hostages while helping Khans no longer fails quest.
* Gilbert/Ackerman now properly stay dead if murdered.
* Mr. New Vegas will only mention failed NCR attack on Powder Gangers if Troopers are dead and Eddie is alive.
* Fixed case where player could break quest with Orris if they fast traveled after he shoots thugs, but before forcegreet.
* Generic Powder Gangers now set as Aggressive (previously Very Aggressive).
* Fixed rare case of black screen during dialog at REPCONN facility.
* Fixed phantom quest marker remaining on Major Knight after he’s killed.
* Fix for incorrect dialog if player meets Bryce Anders after killing Motor Runner.
* Player can no longer isolate the BoS virus by hitting “isolate virus” three times on a single console.
* Fixed crash related to Arcade leaving the Remnants bunker.
* Fixed Nightkin encounter at Tumbleweed Ranch to occur after user reloads a save.
* Arcade will no longer attempt to initiate his quest during Hoover Dam.
* Hoover Dam Boomer Bombing Run now works properly after save/reload.
* Cass now only barks (ahem, as in barkstring) once per gameday and not every two gamehours.
* Fixed XP exploits with MantisForeleg.
* Massive optimizations in Westside, North Vegas and The Thorn. Improves AI pathing and performance with high uptimes.
* Optimizations in Vault 19.
* Fixed issue where Oliver Swanick would respawn after three days if killed.
* Pathing improvements to The Strip and North Sewers.
* Moved teleport doors on The Strip so NPCs don’t collide with players or other actors that stand in front of doors.
* Ethel, Walter, and the Station Merchant no longer wander or patrol to avoid collisions with other NPCs.
* Separated NPCs in the North Sewers.
* Fixed issue where window in Vault 19 let player see through the world.
* Greasers from Crandon’s quest now become disabled when the player leaves the area.
* Fixed a Legion melee NPC near Nelson that was under the terrain.
* Modified Legion and NCR hit-squad NPCs to use new level lists. They now have a smoother leveling curve that takes into account new level caps. Legion and NCR hit squad spawning was also revised to make their appearance more consistent and less memory-intensive.
* Fixed issue where Omerta thugs wouldn’t leave Freeside if you killed Joana and Carlitos.
* Cazador Poison Effect sound no longer plays globally if someone, somewhere gets stung. Only plays if the player is hit.
* Player can no longer repair the Grenade Launcher with the minigun.
* Fix for companions going into unconscious/conscious cycle over and over again when stung with Cazador poison. In normal mode (or against companions), Cazador poison now lasts 8 seconds, doing 18 points of damage per second. It is, in fact, even deadlier than the normal version, but lasts 1/4 as long. In hardcore mode or against the player, poison remains 30 seconds/5 damage per second.
* Casino slot scripts altered so their max bets do not produce game economy-ruining levels of cap overflow
* Hit the Deck and Stonewall now properly work with player’s weapon condition. Hit the Deck is now +25 DT vs. Explosives instead of +50% vs. Explosives.
* Adjusted Deathclaw fatigue to make them less exploitable with certain attacks. Inconsistent health values for Deathclaws were also corrected (in favor of stronger Deathclaws).
* Cazadores are now properly flagged as fliers, so they won’t set off mines.
* Increased radii for plasma and pulse grenades.
* Fixed bug where rescued Powder Gangers would return to the legion camp.
* Added Followers of the Apocalypse supplies to three areas of Hoover Dam if you gain their support and fight on independent or NCR paths. This also enables the FoA + NCR “good” ending through Julie Farkas.
* Optimizations for Westside.
* Fixed issues with Recharger Pistol animation.
* Fixed issue where Aba Daba Honeymoon wouldn’t update if the player was running O My Papa simultaneously.
* Typo: “Night Stalker Blood” changed to “Nightstalker Blood”
* Yes-Man now checks both Loyal and Pearl’s status before the player can tell him the Boomer leaders are dead.
* Removed “Intelligence” flag from Int<=2 check at REPCONN HQ, as engine doesn’t support checks that low.
* Fixed scripting on Lonesome Drifter barter check so player doesn’t get next objective with Tommy Torini if they fail.
* Legion Assassins moveto script no longer occurs every frame (frees up memory).
* Added recipe so player can now break down 12.7mm ammo.
* Four Eyes now works with ball cap with glasses.
* There is now always an option to give ED-E to Lorenzo, even if player has said no the first time.
* Mister Sandman no longer works on The Forecaster (XP exploit).
* Ultra-Luxe doors no longer disable player controls if player is an enemy of the White Gloves.
* Fix scripting conflict between “Cold, Cold Heart” and Mojave Ghost with Vulpes/Benny.
* Fixed issue where player could become control locked in Gommorah if they had installed Yes-Man.
* Player can now re-hire Arcade if ED-E is in the party.
* Ultra-Luxe now properly pays out in Legion and NCR money.
* Veronica’s companion perks (as in the ones Veronica gets, not the player) now properly assigned.
* Waiting companions will no longer get teleported by the Vault 22 elevator.
* Changed objectives for How Little We Know to better reflect branching paths.
* “Return to Yes-Man” objective no longer reopens if player tells him to go to Lucky 38 in Wild Card: Change in Management.
* Player can no longer pickpocket Button Man to break the scene where he shoots Cachino.
* Player can no longer ask Cachino about plans if Bosses are already dead.
* Fix for ED-E combat dialog.
* Ranger Helmet now has weight/value.
* Fixed Gomorrah holdout scripting to properly affect companions.
* Lily now properly uses Stealth Boy when player is sneaking if told to keep it during her quest.
* Fixed exploit where player could get infinite XP for punching Big Sal’s corpse.
* Fixed scripting for For the Republic II where exposing Karl would prematurely complete the objective to destroy the Khans.
* Fixed instance where fast travel was disabled when creating new game post-credits.
* Inventory will now show cumulative weight of item stacks instead of weight of a single item.
* Missile projectiles will no longer show in player’s target HUD.
* Player will now unequip a weapon if consuming it in the crafting menu (fixes crash).
* Weapons with recharging ammo now display ammo properly.
* Fixed rare instance where player could be control-locked if loading an autosave created while lockpicking a transition door.
* Beamsplitter mod fixed to proper DAM/DPS.
* Crafting can no longer create weapons/armor at 100% condition.
* Repair kits can no longer repair to 100% condition.
* Throwing weapons can no longer take damage, and are dropped when shot at 100% condition.
* DT Perks that increase DT based on enemy weapon should function properly.
* Weapons using multiple rounds of ammunition per shot fired now show proper VATS damage estimate.
* Fixed rare case where broken stick of dynamite could crash game if thrown.
* NPCs will now play face cards on player’s stack in Caravan.
* Various tweaks to audio system to improve memory performance.
* Fixed issue where looping reload weapons would get stuck, causing VATS camera to point to the ground.
* Fixed clock/calendar so that it doesn’t reset on a fresh load.
* Fixed .45 auto pistol displaying incorrect condition/value on modding screen.
* Both DAM and DPS now display on workbenches when creating explosives.
* For ammo that reduce spread (like 12ga) effect is now properly applied to spread, not wobble.
* Fixed crash when attempting to enter DLC1 with equipped quest items.

Sandra Day O’Connor, Game Developer

When you think of octogenarian former Supreme Court Justices, surely the least common post-career move is a jump into game development, right? In the case of Sandra Day O’Connor (the first woman to serve on the highest court), that’s actually the case: Kill Screen recently blogged about Newsweek’s coverage of her iCivics.org games portal, which features a number of legitimately fun games about American history, the legal system, and other civics topics.

The platform isn’t brand-new – in fact, I have actually used it (and the awesome “Do I Have a Right” game) in the past to convince my game-biased (in the negative sense) co-workers to buy into the idea that creating games for our own organization could be a cool, workable idea.

It’s awesome to see iCivics get some mainstream love – it’s a very worthy platform, in terms of both its mission (teaching young people about important topics) and the fact that unlike most “educational” games, these are actually fun.

Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer App Giveaway!


Incinerator Studios, the folks behind the new IOS version of the tabletop deckbuilding game Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer, sent me an email the other day. They had read my review of the game we posted last year at Gameshark.com and they wanted to send me a review code so that I could take a look at the new app. I had already plunked down five bucks for what has become one of my favorite IOS games of the year. So I said “let me give this code you’ve kindly offered to the people”. And they have agreed. I’m pleased to be able to offer one lucky NoHS member my review code thanks to the good folks at Incinerator.

Although the interface is cramped on an iPhone or iPod screen, the whole Ascension game is present and it plays extremely well- and fast, too. It’s a great fit for the small-bite gaming that IOS favors and with AI and multiplayer options it’s imminently accessible. I’ve been ripping through games in ten minutes or less and the AI (which currently has two levels with a third on the way in an update) puts up a pretty good fight. The rules are simple and the gameplay is easy to grasp with some neat deckbuilding strategies that come out of drafting from a constantly in-flux “river” of cards rather than from set stacks like you’d find in Dominion. The art is reminiscent of the work that Bob Pepper did in the early 1980s for the classic Dark Tower, and although the theme isn’t exactly meaningful there’s a lot of potential in the expansions for cool factions and greater synergy between cards. Look for it to show up as IAP sometime in the near future. I think the app is also a good way to check out a good example of the current trend in deckbuilding games that’s still raging across tabletops.

Oh, so you want it? Well, I’m not cheap n’ easy like Bill Abner. Posting here and telling us how great we are doesn’t cut it. I know we’re great already. And I don’t give things to people I don’t know very well. So if you want this code, you’ve got to answer a little pop quiz in your response in the comments section to prove your knowledge of your NoHS hosts. Top scorers will qualify, and we’ll pick a winner from the qualifiers this Sunday in the time waster. #2 pencils ready?

Mark A, B, or C for each question. Extra credit is available at my discretion.

1. Bill Abner is best known for asking what rhetorical question on the Jumping the Shark podcast?

A) Who the f$#k is Vladimir?
B) How the f$#k did I get into a hot air balloon?
C) What the f$#k is a seven year old doing with a compass whistle?

2. Recently, Brandon Cackowski-Schnell lost his hand in an animal feeding incident while on vacation. Which animal was responsible?

A) Gabe Newell
B) A hog
C) “Mister Binky”

3. Todd Brakke is deathly afraid of what common RPG enemy?

A) Bioware
B) Console gamers
C) Spiders

4. Danielle Riendeau has, like, a real job and stuff. She also teaches. Which game does she use to teach proper game design?

A) Little Big Planet 2
B) Earth Defense Force 2017
C) Deadly Premonition

5. Which of these games would Michael Barnes most likely save from a fire?

A) Portal 2
B) Red Dead Redemption
C) Metro 2033

NHL '12 Dev Blog Updates: Sim Engine and Be a GM Mode


No High Scores

The NHL ’12 developer blog had a couple of updates over the weekend. The first is from Games Modes Software Engineer Brian Krause about the rewriting of NHL’s sim engine. The second, authored by Games Modes Producer Gurn Sumal, is about improvements made to the game’s Be a GM mode. Sim engines are such a pivotal component to the long term viability of any sports game (if you play season or franchise modes) that it’s good to see NHL’s getting some love this time around. I’m not remotely qualified to judge what goes into a good sim engine, but I’m impressed with the details Krause provides…

Every statistic and result that the Sim Engine creates is based entirely on the ratings and playing styles of the 12 (or less, in the case of penalties) players on the ice at that time. Who takes a shot (or who gets Hit, or takes a penalty, etc) is based entirely on their attributes, which makes the results very dynamic, but also true to life. I’ll walk you through a simple scenario from a Face Off to a shot on net, and highlight the decision making that goes on ‘under the hood’ to ensure that the game flows in a logical manner.

The example that follows this bit is well worth clicking over to read as it’s a ridiculous level of detail; suffice it to say it’s so important for player ratings to matter in simulation results. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve simmed out a season in an NHL game to see just ridiculous results with regards to which teams made or missed the playoffs. The numbers, if you just looked at league leaders, were always in the ballpark, but the team results didn’t make sense. I remember a couple of years ago seeing a sim (this was right after the Wings/Penguins 7-game NHL Finals series) in which the Wings, Pens, and multiple other perennial playoff contenders missed the cut, while traditionally poor teams like the Islanders went deep into the playoffs. This is tricky. You want a sports game where anything can happen. Who saw the Rams going to and winning the Super Bowl back in 2000? Nobody. But bad rosters need to make for bad teams more often than not. Hopefully this new engine facilitates that.

The Be a GM Mode improvements aren’t as immediately enticing -retired jerseys, new sim interface, etc.- but then I simply can’t get into the GM parts of sports games when playing on a console. The UI, as I say so often, just isn’t capable of letting you run a team without wanting to bash your head into something heavy. It’d be lovely to see them come up with some browser integration stuff like the NCAA team is doing that would let you handle some of the Be a GM duties from the confines of your warm and fuzzy web browser, but if it happens it won’t be this year. Regardless, here’s a bit on how the new sim engine noted above lets you get a better sense of what’s going on with your team when you’re simulating games:

With the new sim engine, we allow you to simulate the game at different speeds and let you pause the sim if want to check out stats at anytime. There is search functionality so that you can focus on particular player’s actions for that game. We even added a net chart to track where shots and goals are occurring on your goalie so you can potentially user player training to improve upon his weaknesses. This lets you guys play Be a GM like a real NHL GM (watching the game) without leaving you in the dark of what’s happening in a game like last year’s Sim Intervention did. If Your Team starts to get into trouble, you can now sim intervene at any point in time of a game (no more period chunks). This lets you be in control of the situation that is at hand whether you’re down by a goal or by 3. There’ll be more on the Action Tracker in the upcoming weeks.

Jumping the Shark Podcast #78


No High Scores
Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This week on Jumping the Shark the whole gang is back in action as we wax patriotic about American game design versus that of the rest of the world. In the what we’re playing part of the show Danielle talks Ocarina of Time 3DS and Trenched, Brandon picks over Hunted and talks about his experiences with the iPad version of the indy RPG Avadon: The Black Fortress, and I talk about Ticket to Ride for the iPad and a little more Dungeon Siege III. Enjoy and we hope you all had a wonderful 4th of July!

Direct Download
iTunes Link
RSS Feed
Past Episodes
(The embedded feed is included after the break.)