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bioware doctors retiring the doctors

Farewell to the Doctors

Yesterday it was announced that BioWare co-founders and the bane of gaming journalist spell checkers everywhere, Doctors Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk were retiring and not just retiring from BioWare but retiring from gaming altogether.

To be honest, this comes as no surprise to me, although I am saddened to see it happen. I work for a small company that was bought out by a very large company and the person who built our company lasted about as long under the new company as the doctors lasted under EA. That’s not to say that EA is the cause, or that EA is a horrible company to work for, but it’s been my experience that people who build companies traditionally want to keep building or rather than maintain that which got them bought out.

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Humble Indie Bundle 6 has arrived

Man, these Humble Indie Bundles. Not only do they just keep coming, they are also pretty much perfect for me, the psuedo-new PC gamer (on a Mac, yes) who has basically gone 75/25 indie. Oh, sure, I still play “big” games, usually something like a year after they come out, and I take my sweet, sweet time with them. But really, most of my playing time these days comes courtesy of crazy Steam sales and humble bundles, and I couldn’t be happier.

I’m sure you know the drill by now. You set your own price to receive 5-6-ish well-received indie titles from the recent past. Most of the money goes to the developers,but you can set it up so that the EFF and Child’s Play get a cut of your contribution, as well as the Humble Bundle service itself. So it’s a win-win-win: you get good games, you get them for ridiculously cheap (if you care to), and some of that money goes to charity.

Of course, none of this helps you if you’ve already got the games. This time around, the bundle includes Torchlight (which everyone loves), Rochard (which is excellent – I reviewed the PSN version back in the old GameShark days), S.P.A.Z., Shatter, Vessel, and Space Pirates and Zombies. If you pay higher than the average, you get Dustforce thrown in for good measure.

Everything works on PC, Mac and Linux. No excuses, people.

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mark of the ninja

Mark of the Ninja in Review

I absolutely hated Klei’s 2011 digital release Shank. I think it is a disgrace, an embarrassment to the video games medium that wallows in joyless, cynical immaturity and dully moronic violence. Its humor and tone are straight out of one of those mid-1990s post-Pulp Fiction “indie” crime or action films and the look was a cheapjack imitation of pretty much any “edgy” adult cartoon you’ve ever seen. The gameplay was stultifyingly stupid, rife with button-mashing and little to offer but mindless and unappealing lowest common denominator bloodshed.  I gave it the lowest score possible at Gameshark, and I stand by that. I ignore the fact that a sequel exists.

So it’s a big surprise that Mark of the Ninja, their latest now on XBLA, isn’t just good- it’s one of the best games of the year. (more…)

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Dragon Age III: Inquisition Officially Official

The worst kept secret at Bioware is that Dragon Age III is in production. Today, franchise Executive Producer Mark Darrah makes that all official-like with an open letter. Given the lack of any detail to speak of whatsoever, there’s not much to report here. Here’s the most relevant bits from the letter.

So here’s what I can confirm for now:

  • The next game will be called Dragon Age III: Inquisition.
  • We won’t be talking about the story of the game today. Though you can make some guesses from the title.
  • This game is being made by a lot of the same team that has been working on Dragon Age since Dragon Age: Origins. It’s composed of both experienced BioWare veterans and talented new developers.
  • We are working on a new engine which we believe will allow us to deliver a more expansive world, better visuals, more reactivity to player choices, and more customization. At PAX East, we talked about armor and followers… Yeah, that kind of customization. We’ve started with Frostbite 2 from DICE as a foundation to accomplish this.

You check out the rest here, if you’re so inclined.

After the break, however, I can offer you an NHS-exclusive look at the main Foozle in DA3! (Yes, this is an excuse to make you click through to see something that is decidedly not the main Foozle in DA3. It’s worth it.)

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Battle Beyond Space Out Now, You Should Buy It

Some six or seven years ago, my good friend (and Christ look-a-like) Frank Branham showed me a prototype for a board game that he designed called Battle Beyond Space. It was inspired by The Last Starfighter and Starcrash, and it had bits salvaged from the old TSR Buck Rogers game as well as lava rock asteroids. The game was awesome, a fun space shoot ’em up with a cool squadron movement mechanic and plenty of total mayhem. We’ve played it off and on over the years, and now it’s finally been released to the general public by none other than Z-Man Games.  I tell ya, that Zev Shlasinger is a man of impeccable taste. Looks like the discounters are selling it for about $32.

It’s a great beer-and-pretzels style dogfight game and the production looks outstanding- the illustrations are right on the money in terms of capturing the tone and atmosphere of it. Also, my name is in the thanks section…printed in Comic Sans. It’s the only Comic Sans in the whole game. I really should demand a complementary copy as reparations.

Anyway, I am totally shilling for this game and for my pal.  Don’t be like old Bill Abner, who failed to buy a copy at Gen Con. Right after meeting Frank. How rude!

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Jumping the Shark Podcast #143

No High Scores Podcast Logo

Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Jumping the Shark 143 can be safely thought of as the show before Borderlands 2. Consequently, Brandon and Bill wax poetic about playing the game and Brandon scolds Bill about not having a build already planned ahead. Binky is such a boy scout. Sort of. Then they bicker for awhile over who’s fault it is that we don’t play more together online, with the consensus being the blame probably lies with me. Funny how that seems to happen. We also set aside some time to talk about the Wii U release strategy, which includes charging extra for a game, and a steeper than expected price point ($300). Sorry, Nintendo, but I don’t think you made a sale to the JTS gang. Hang your collective heads in shame. Finally, we talk some more FTL, Inquisitor, and Dark Souls. As I wrote last week, FTL is really frigg’n good. And it’s $290 cheaper than a Wii U. You know what to do.

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Past Episodes
Edit Type: Skype
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Calendar Man – Week of 9/17

Borderlands 2 comes out this week, which, by my calendar, means that the 2012 Holiday Gaming Season has officially begun. Nothing against Darksiders II and Sleeping Dogs, but from here on out, I’m pretty sure there’s going to be at least one high profile release a week. Hell, this week you have Torchlight II and Realms of Ancient War along with Borderlands 2. Plenty of loot for everyone!

On a side note, Borderlands 2 uses Arabic numerals while Torchlight and Darksiders use Roman numerals. There’s a correlation in there somewhere, but I’m too busy mapping out my Siren build to find it.

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Introducing The New Science

As I continue to make my way through my second Dark Souls playthrough (review coming this week but if you don’t already have this game then there’s just no hope for you) I have a special announcement today as Conquistador Games has launched a Kickstarter campaign for The New Science (TNS).

Before I get into what TNS is all about, I promise that we are not just making boardgames set in the 17th century.

Anyway this is a worker placement/area control game set during the Scientific Revolution.Whereas Road to Enlightenment is this big, somewhat sprawling combination of deck building and Diplomacy, The New Science is a quicker play designed to take about 60-90 minutes for 2-5 players. Well, technically, 2 to 5. Ideally this is a game that is best played with 3 to 5 players.

I had more of a hand in developing this one, and had a much larger role in the rulebook editing so if this rulebook is an issue…you can yell at me. I may yell BACK but you are free to yell.

Speaking of which if you’d like to read the rulebook in PDF form you can do so here at BGG.

OK, here’s what the game is about:

You control one of five famous scientists from the era (Newton, Galileo, etc.), each of which has slightly different “stats” in researching, experimenting, and publishing. The game is played on what is essentially a large tech tree full of important discoveries from the era. Each player attempts to earn prestige (victory points) by first researching, then successfully experimenting on, and finally publishing their works on a specific discovery. The trick here is that when you do decide to publish, every other player can take your findings and build on them, racing up that part of the tech tree (in this case they literally read your book) so deciding when to publish is a key part of the game.

There’s more going on as well with “happening” cards that throw a monkey in the wrench and other areas in which you can spend your limited energy each turn. You are only allowed three actions per turn so deciding where to use them is a big part of the game.

So take a look, see what you think, ask me any questions either here or at my CQ email address billATcqgames.com

Back the project so my family doesn’t starve. Think of the children.

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Grimrock - Skeletons Attack

Legend of Grimrock Review

Grimrock. A word I keep rolling around my tongue like an abjuration. Grimrock. Grim-rock. Rocks, of grimness. Say it enough and the solution of a puzzle may fall out of the repetition, might give me a few hours respite from agonising over the intricacies of the game.

I’m not normally one for puzzle games. They seem drab, lifeless things, a poor use of all the mighty power of modern microprocessors. But the puzzles in Grimrock are different. Some are logical, some time-based, some situational, others are riddles but all of them encourage experimentation and exploration as part of the solution, rewarding creative thinking as much if not more than logic. Built in an astonishing variety from a limited palette of switches, pressure plates and teleports, they’ll frustrate and delight in equal measure.

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FTL Boss battle

Wish Fulfilled: A Week with FTL

Saavik: So you’ve never faced that situation? Faced death?
Kirk: I don’t believe in the no-win scenario.
—Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn

Is there any sci-fi geek of my generation (anyone born in the 70s) who hasn’t wanted a video game to bring the infamous Kobayahsi Maru scenario to video games? Various games have tried. There have been actual Star Trek games that have tried. None that I’ve played have ever quite captured that spirit of crewing and powering and surviving aboard a starship like FTL: Faster Than Light. This rogue-like in space that stumbled into $200,543 in Kickstarter funding, while petitioning for a mere $10,000, is the game I’ve been looking for ever since I first heard Kirk tell Sulu to lock phasers on Reliant and “await my command.”

It’s been a long wait…

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