Peter Molyneux Interview on Fable: The Journey and Kinect


No High Scores

GamingUnion.net has posted the first part of an interview with Peter Molyneux they conducted at E3 this year. The topic is Fable: The Journey, but I found it interesting that Molyneux, completely unprompted, addresses what many people (myself included) feel is the core issue with Kinect…

I’ll admit that Kinect has got some problems. As an input device it has some real problems. Without a thumb stick, navigation is a real problem. You haven’t got any buttons, so ordering the player to do something can be somewhat of a problem. But what Kinect does have is a great sense of freedom and emotion. So that’s what we’ve tried to do with Fable: The Journey.

Welcome to what we’ve all been saying for a year now. This is why I don’t roll my eyes when I see games like Forza 4 and Mass Effect 3 looking for ways to use Kinect in conjunction with existing controllers. There’s cool tech here, but as a stand-alone device for interacting with games it will never, ever, get the job done. It’s a novelty that fades very quickly for anyone over the age of ten. But you find small, simple ways to use it along with existing control schemes and suddenly you have options. Maybe not options worth $100 out of pocket for players, but options all the same.

The full interview is worth checking out. Molyneux goes on to protest the notion that the game is on rails, saying that Fable has always been “about freedom,” and that Fable: The Journey will encompass that by allowing you to move around your caravan using body or hand gestures. At this point I’m not totally writing the game off, but it’s got a lot to prove before I put any money down on it.

Spotted at Eurogamer.

Tropico 4 E3 Trailer


Live on tape delay from E3, it’s the Tropico 4 trailer. I haven’t played one of these since the first game, but I’ve heard so many good things about Tropico 3 it’s tempting to give this one a host. In any case, you should watch this just for the music. It’ll liven your day.

NCAA Football '12 UStream "Demo Event"


No High Scores

From the NCAA Football ’12 blog, there’s going to be a 60-minute streaming video presentation today at 1:00 EDT to discuss the game and many of its new features. If they put up embeddable final video after it’s done, I’ll make a point of updating it here. Here’s the word from the blog:

The demo for NCAA Football 12 drops next week and to prepare you for the occasion we’re rolling out 60 minutes of live streaming video full of info, insight and answers to your biggest questions.

Head to Ustream.tv/EASPORTSLIVE at 10AM PT/1PM ET Tuesday June 20 and if you get there on time and behave you’ll get to sneak a peek at Road to Glory. That mode is going to surprise a lot of people. As far as the demo goes, you’ll have a chance to learn about the teams, modes and other inside info directly from the game makers themselves. Set your alarm and be there live.

Mount & Blade: With Fire and Sword Content Update


Paradox sends word this morning that Mount & Blade: With Fire and Sword has received a sizable update that includes playable female characters (woo!), the ability of troops to crouch as well as reload on the run, and an alternative melee fighting style for musketeers. The press release doesn’t go into further detail, but they’ve also made available a downloadable storyline walkthrough that lists three separate quest chains you can get involved in. I’m assuming this is new as well? Someone page Bill back from his balloon. He’s got a diary to get back into! Here’s the PR with new feature list and complete patch log included after the break:

Paradox Interactive and TaleWorlds Entertainment is aiming to keep fans of Mount & Blade: With Fire and Sword happy with a new and extensive content update.

This update to the newly released stand-alone expansion pack Mount & Blade: With Fire and Sword adds tons of features and improvements to Mount & Blade: With Fire and Sword. A trailer and a story line walkthrough has also been released!

Highly sought after features such as authentic pikemen line formations and crouching marksmen formations along with new troop commands, like volley fire & row formation, bring army tactics to a whole new level. Now pikemen will make steady their weapons in order to cripple incoming cavalry with ease! Marksmen can form multiple firing lines within their squad in order to maximize firing rates and damage output!

Other great new features include:

- New alternative melee fighting style for musketeers.
- Great new ragdoll physics effects.
- New particle and sound effects for firearms, for added realism.
- Completely redone Captain Mode introduces a new troops purchasing system & all new troops!
- Female player characters and armors!
- A rebalanced single player experience, including an improved economy, item balance, and difficulty.
- New and more realistic caravan management system. New quests.
- An improved multiplayer balance to both classes & weapons, providing more distinct play styles.
- Healthier faster horses!
- Crouching and the ability to run and reload add more styles of play.
- An all new grenade system with a new explosion model and particle effects.

And the 1.141 patch log:
General Gameplay:
———
- Firearms have been rebalanced.
- Firearms have been given refined melee animations.
- All Melee weapons have been rebalanced.
- Horses have been made faster and rebalanced.
- Characters can now crouch. The default key is ‘z’.
- New troop orders for volley firing and line formations.
- Added new types of ranged ammunition, ex: piercing arrows.
- Pikes have two types of thrusting attacks.
- Reloading interrupted by being hit is now continued where it left off.
- Switching to pistols is now quicker whereas switching to muskets has been made slower.
- New grenade explosion/damage system.
- New tactics introduced via crouching pikemen/marksmen formations.

Audio/Visual:
————-
- New sounds and particle systems for firearm shots,bullet hits, and ricochets.
- Order menus redesigned.
- Female face textures retouched slightly.
- Motion blur effect has been removed from some weapons.
- All armors have female versions.

Multiplayer:
———–
- Multiplayer Captain modes have received an overhaul; all new troops and troop purchasing system.
- New stat/behavior balances for musketeers and infantry.
- Network code improved.

Single Player:
————-
- Added starting option to play the game with a female character.
- Battlefield AI enhanced and can give the new volley fire orders.
- New Village Elder Quests.
- New and more realistic Caravan Trading System.
- Economic balances to production and troops.
- Various balances made in the interest of fairness to starting characters.
- New balances to weapons and redone grenade rules/system.

Bug Fixes:
———-
- Fixed siege door abuse in some multiplayer maps.
- Fixed ladder placements in many maps.
- Navigation meshes in lots of maps fixed.
- Double barreled pistols’ reload animation bug is fixed
- Grenade splash damage bugs fixed.
- Fixed typo in trade permit cost.
- Lots of fixes to problematic quests and npc behaviors/interactions.
- Various bug fixes.

Paradox Announces King Arthur: Fallen Champions


No High Scores

Fans of King Arthur: The Roleplaying Wargame who don’t want to wait for Q4′s King Arthur II to get with moving armies around, and doing whatever other stuff you do in these games, have something new to keep an eye on. Today Paradox announced they would “very soon” release King Arthur: Fallen Champions, which aims to bridge the gap between the first game and its sequel. Don’t they know you’re supposed to use comic books and cheesy SyFy movies for this sort of thing? Here’s the PR on this $10 game…

King Arthur: Fallen Champions features the story of three brave souls – a knight, an enchantress, and a prophet – who venture through uncharted lands beyond the Forest of Bedegraine in fulfillment of their individual quests. Sir Lionel, a brave knight from Britannia, is on a quest to rescue a damsel in distress. Lady Corrigan of the Sidhe, an enchantress of the twilight, is seeking the secret pathways that will lead her back to her lost home of Tir na nOg. Drest the Chosen, a prophet of the North, is drawn by the mystic voices and visions to explore the wild lands. Tied together by strings of fate, these three heroes must join hands in order to prevail as champions of a forgotten battle that began long time ago.

Features:
- Follow three unique heroes, each with their own storyline featuring adventure quests and epic fights. The fates of these three heroes are intertwined, and their quests lead up to one massive battle under extraordinary circumstances.
- A variety of battle types fought on unique, beautifully crafted battlemaps, ranging from smaller tactical skirmishes to grand engagements against superior numbers.
- A dark and gripping fantasy tale that bridges the gap between King Arthur and King Arthur II, set in an ancient region of Britannia, beyond the well-known territories of King Arthur – The Role-playing Wargame.

50% Off Interplay Games at GoG.com


No High Scores

This morning Good Old Games has decided you’re far too poor and destitute to bother with some fancy summer vacation. Quick! Someone recall Bill from his balloon and call Brandon back from the beach! Instead they, and you, should save money by staying home and buying old Interplay games for 50% off.

Okay, sure, the reasoning isn’t particularly sound, but there’s a solid list of games in GoG’s Interplay lineup that includes the Fallout series, Descent (including Freespace), and Jagged Alliance, all available for a $2.99 through July 4th. In fact, you can save yourself the decision making and pick up all 32 games for $95.68. Don’t do it because I said so, though. Just listen to what Alan Rickman thinks of all this…

Kind of sums it all up right there, doesn’t it?

Calendar Man – Week of 6/20

Wait a minute! How can I be doing a Calendar Man when I’m on vacation? Magic! Well, magic and future posting. Due to the fact that this column was written before the Sunday ads came out, the deals section is going to be limited. Sorry kids, but you’ll have to do some deal hunting of your own this week.

There’s actually a fair amount of stuff coming out this week with Dungeon Siege making its return, Shadows of the Damn making its debut and F.3.A.R. 3 making the despoiling of anagrams its life’s mission. Oh, and I think there’s a Zelda remake or something out for the 3DS. If you listen closely, you can hear angels singing. Angels and people who have done nothing with their 3DS except gaze longingly at the 3D Pokedex.

Enough yammering. I’ve a beach to get to. Hit it!

New Releases
By the time you read this, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D will already be out, even earlier so for our European friends. I’m torn. I don’t like the idea of supporting remakes but everything I’ve read says it’s awesome. I don’t know. It’s not like the game is going anywhere. I think I have time to decide.

After the horrors of Daggerdale, I may have to give Dungeon Siege 3 a try. The achievements look annoying but early reviews are positive and I haven’t read anything about story crippling bugs, something you usually find in Obsidian games. This is right up my co-op alley, Earth Defense Force is fast approaching so this one may have to wait.

The garage of Cars 2 games come out this week, ushering in a new era of anthropomorphic vehicles. One has to wonder how the Cars got this way. Did they achieve sentience, rise up and kill off the humans, yet still keep human society intact or did they develop in a universe parallel to our own, completely devoid of human contact? These questions, and many others, keep me up at night.

Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising is a new MMO that allows you to have minions, minions culled from both humans and mythological beasts. I gotta think there’d be some simmering tension there between the humans and the minotaurs, what with all of the stomping about and bullfighting. Good luck planning those trust building exercises.

Ubisoft won’t be content until our nations children are blind and bleeding from useless eye sockets. Why else would they release Petz Fantasy 3D for the 3DS? Oh sure, it looks like it’s just a harmless unicorn simulator, but that’s only until little Sally’s face melts off from the 3D. For shame Ubisoft!

Petz Fantasy 3D is unique because you use both hands, each with it’s own stylus! As someone who has a problem keeping one hand in check, I don’t see this working out well for me.

ArmA 2: Reinforcements adds Her Majesty’s Armed Forces and private military contractors to the Arma Universe, something the product description page puts in quotes, lest you think that Amazon knows of an alternate universe that this game is capable of dropping new life forms into all willy-nilly.

F.E.A.R. 3 is finally out, and Alma is about to have her baby. I hear the game starts off with a montage of the previous two F.E.A.R. games, all done to Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach”. She has made up her mind, she’s keeping her baby. She’s going to keep her baby.

Shadows of the Damned looks like a very strange game. I hope the strangeness doesn’t take away from the game play and focus too much on boner guns and surreal monsters. I’ll wait for the Barnes opinion on this one

Deals
As I’m writing these based off of ad scans from before the ads come out, be sure to confirm with the store before you raise a ruckus over a pricing gaffe.

Toys R Us – Get either Madden or Super Monkey Ball 3D for 15 bucks with purchase of Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D. Get Wii Flingsmash for ten bucks with purchase of WiiPlay Motion. Save $25 bucks on purchase of any DS system, Cars 2 DS and a Cars themed DS carrying case.

Target – Get a $25 gift card with purchase of 3DS. Purchase Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D and save 50% off of any other 3DS game. Buy any Cars 2 game and get a movie ticket (up to $8.50) to see Cars 2.

Best Buy – Get all of the following games for $39.99 each: LA Noire, Mortal Kombat, Brink, TW PGA Tour 12 and Halo Reach. Get Dragon Age II for $34.99. Fallout: New Vegas is $19.99. Get a free $25 gift card with purchase of Kinect. Get a free $10 gift card with purchase of Dungeon Siege 3. Get $25 off of any 3DS game with purchase of Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D. Get a free 30 day membership to World of Cars with purchase of Cars 2. Looks like it’s just console versions for that last one, so be sure to check when you’re in the store.

Again, the deals section is shortened as I don’t have access to everything, but hopefully it’s enough. Enjoy your week! I’m off to the beach.

Jumping the Shark Podcast #76


No High Scores
Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

With E3 freshly behind us, we used this week’s Jumping the Shark to talk about E3 the show. What we liked about this year’s show. What we think is changing about it, for better or worse. Why you know more about what’s going on there if you just stay home. Etc. In the what we’re playing segment, Bill dispenses with Hunted, Brandon finds Greent Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters to be surprisingly enjoyable, Danielle digs out Costume Quest and Saints Row 2 from her back catalog, and I lament that my “early” copy of Dungeon Siege 3 refuses to install (due to a Steam activation issue)…

Direct Download
iTunes Link
RSS Feed
Past Episodes
(More E3 thoughts, and the embedded feed included after the break.)

For the first time in what feels like months I did a multi-track edit for this show, so if you notice an improvement in overall audio quality and polish, well, there you go. I truly would like to get back to editing this way more often, it always was the default, but when it comes down to it, it takes much more time and I seem to have precious little of that of late.

With regards to E3, the issue I keep coming back to is one of taking questions. It used to be you got a personal demo (hands on or otherwise) for most of the games you saw (assuming a press appointment, of course) and you could really interact with whomever was giving it, be that a developer or PR rep. This year the majority of stuff I saw was in the form of what I think of as the “herd demo,” where they bring in a mass of people, give them a narrated hands-off demo, and move ‘em on out in order to repeat it for the next throng.

I’m sure publishers and developers find this an efficient model, but it’s terrible for press coverage as you typically get either no opportunity at all to ask questions or you might be lucky enough to answer a question or two while they set up the next group. This does not lead to better coverage of E3, since the only thing that really can distinguish one site’s coverage form another’s is asking different questions that get reps off the script. Even when you can ask a question or two, half the time the answer is, “We’re not talking about that yet.” The bigger sites, particularly ones with a video team in tow, tend to get more opportunities to get people on the record, but when you’re there for a smaller site with a notepad and pen in your hand, it’s pretty clear the bigger publishers there want you to move on to the next thing.

Making press coverage all the more futile, we’re seeing more and more of these demos recorded and posted online for everyone to digest. That’s great for you guys in the sense that you do get to see what we see, but at that point, do we even need to be there? Are we anything more then stenographers desperately trying to find some kind of angle, some niggling detail in the background that everybody else somehow missed? Sadly, the answer is, “no.” It doesn’t stop me from having a fabulous time, because I go for the company and not the job, but it’s still unfortunate that the biggest players in this business have so little interest in anything but the safest of finely honed presentations.

AEG announces Ninja: Legend of the Scorpion Clan


My press man over at AEG sent an item today announcing a game called Ninja: Legend of the Scorpion Clan. Now, unless you’re talking Sho Kosugi, the word ninja for me has as much appeal as “zombie” or “pirate”. Which is to say, absolutely none. Don’t get me wrong, one of my childhood heroes (and Halloween costume ’86) was Storm Shadow, I got busted for having throwing stars at school, and I once fell out of a tree trying to use climbing claws. I do love ninjas, but they’re one of those things that people get dead wrong. Generally when they go for that damned nerd humour route whereby something dark and violent is juxtaposed with something innocent and/or cute.

Anyway it’s designed by Frederic Moyersoen, who’s done some great games in the past including this great stealth/hidden movement title called Nuns on the Run. This is one to watch- I like the cool, serious ninja theme and it’s tied into the popular Legend of the Five Rings setting. Releasing at Gencon, but widely available in October. Press and description follows.

Ninja: Legend of the Scorpion Clan is a new board game coming from Alderac Entertainment Group. Designed by veteran game designer Fréderic Moyersoen, Ninja features fast play, hidden movement, limited information, bluff and guile. It is sure to challenge players and bring hours of enjoyment.

Ninja marks a major excursion of the vaunted Legend of the Five Rings property into a board game format. L5R, as it is called by its fans, has become a staple of hobby gaming over its 16 years, thanks in large part to its loyal and devoted fans. It has won numerous awards for both its collectible card game and its role-playing games versions, and the property has also spawned novels and a miniatures game. Ninja: Legend of the Scorpion Clan brings the depth and detail of L5R’s fantasy samurai world to board gamers in a fast-playing exciting, and accessible manner.

The game centers around one very dangerous night at a castle in the provinces of the Lion Clan. Honorable Lion samurai stand vigilant watch around the castle, protecting it from harm. The Scorpion Clan sends one well trained ninja to infiltrate the castle for nefarious purposes… it may be to assassinate an imperial guest under the Lion’s protection, or poison the well, or steal the daimyo’s war plans for the coming season. Whatever the goal, the ninja has vowed to accomplish it, or die trying. Worse yet for the Lion Clan, the ninja has an accomplice: a traitor among the ranks of the Lion samurai whose true loyalty lies with the Scorpion.

The intruders move in secret, marking their positions on a small copy of the game board. They can move freely, but the faster they move, the easier they are to detect. Moats, walls, and most especially sentries all serve to hamper their movement. And if a guard stumbles across their position, the alarm will be raised!

The guards must listen for intruders, search the area, and rouse additional guards when they think there’s trouble.

All this is handled through the Alarm Level. As incidents occur, the Alarm Level rises, allowing the guard player to take more actions each turn. Over time, the Alarm Level gradually diminishes… until a new incident raises suspicions once more. All this is handled through card play, but deductive reasoning and intuition will also be required to find the intruders before they can complete their missions and escape.

Although time and numbers weigh in the guards’ favor, the intruders have tricks aplenty. Climbing ropes, shuriken, drugged sake, and other tricks will distract the guards… or eliminate them completely. But of course, each such action may raise the Alert Level, as well as give the guard player a clue to your location.

The guards have their own secrets, of course. The intruders don’t know the precise location of their mission targets, and while searching for them, they may stumble upon a nightingale floor that gives a telltale squeak, or even a hidden guard ready to slay any foe!

The game is designed for 2–4 players, and plays in less than an hour. With three players, one player handles the guards, one the traitor, and one the ninja (the intruders don’t have to cooperate, either). With 4 players, the guards are split into two teams, which has its own benefits and challenges.

Talking Smuggle Truck

Since we decided a while ago that it was ok to pimp our writing from other outlets here on No high Scores (we all came from the mothership, after all), I’m going to go right ahead and point you towards a feature I wrote for Kill Screen, which went live yesterday. For the piece, I interviewed the maker of Smuggle Truck – the iOS/PC game about driving illegal immigrants across border landscapes in a wacky, wobbly-physics world.

I think the biggest misconception when the game was revealed was that this was basically an offensive, racist pile of crap from a bunch of people who aren’t qualified to talk about the subject, but in reality, the game was made as a satire, based on a real-life experience that we couldn’t talk too much about, for fear that ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement) could get upset…

I was very personally interested in this story from the get-go, for a variety of reasons. First, because I love satire – good satire that says something on one level and provides a ridiculous, hilarious picture on the surface. Second, because it’s just a damned good story – what Alex and friends went through is interesting, and the way they chose to deal with it is unconventional, creative, and thoroughly awesome. Finally, because I’m actually going to be making games of this nature not too long from now (games with a social message, that is) for my day job – and I want to see how it’s done (and done well).

Eventually, the Owlchemy guys even had to censor their own game, by creating “Snuggle Truck” – a version wherein the immigrant characters are replaced by cuddly stuffed animals. Again, I would have loved to dig even more deeply into that, but hey, they (very understandably) want to keep releasing games on Apple devices. I think they said everything they needed to with the switch of a letter and a sickeningly cute art change.