Q& A: Soldak’s lessons learned in 13 years of making RPGs

Steven Peeler has been developing RPGs as Soldak Entertainment for 13 years now, from his first title Depths of Peril up to last year’s Zombasite. Here, he opens up about the things he’s learned. …

from Gamasutra News http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/290915/Qamp_A_Soldaks_lessons_learned_in_13_years_of_making_RPGs.php

The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series – A New Frontier Ep. 3: Above The Law Review

Late zombie mayhem and a cliffhanger conclusion can’t quite save Above the Law. The third episode of the New Frontier makes great narrative strides, but it runs too much on autopilot along the way. While the story itself is satisfying to watch–especially in how it ups the stakes for protagonist Javi Garcia–this is one of those Walking Dead episodes that’s much more of an interactive movie than an adventure game.

Like this season’s first episode, Above the Law kicks things off with a flashback. This brief look into the past helps establish the leading foursome as something of an alternative family unit for the zombie apocalypse. It’s also oddly hopeful in contrast with the present, which is full of hardships and unexpected curveballs.

The themes about the importance of family ties in a world where nobody can be trusted aren’t exactly subtle here, but they work, thanks mainly to the advancement of the relationship brewing between Javi and Kate. Now that their predictable mutual attraction is finally addressed, we get to see the group dynamic shift in meaningful ways.

Seeing these events transpire is gratifying, despite feeling overly predictable. Richmond is exactly the cesspool it appears to be. Clementine returns at the most opportune moment and is every bit the pint-sized badass she was last time out. David is a serial abuser and blowhard practically begging you to steal his wife. Jesus is wise and cool. Tripp is gruff but lovable. And, yes, Above the Law features speeches from corrupt people about how you have to do whatever it takes to survive in a world where the dead walk around and eat people.

Most of the above is Walking Dead 101. Nobody will be surprised that those elements are big parts of this episode. Nonetheless, the superb quality of the script, voice acting, and animation (which is smoother and more lifelike than in previous episodes, with no jarring jerks or hiccups that have been relatively common in the past) makes everything compelling to watch even though you get the sense that the story is pretty blatantly maneuvering everyone into place.

The lack of meaningful choices proves to be the bigger sin–you might as well get some popcorn out for the first 45 minutes or so of Above the Law.

The lack of meaningful choices proves to be the bigger sin–you might as well get some popcorn out for the first 45 minutes or so of Above the Law. It’s easy to forget you’re doing anything but watching an animated movie…and then you wind up getting killed when zombies show up after the midpoint and you’re sitting back from the keyboard or with the gamepad in your lap as a spectator. A fair number of dialogue options appear in the early stages of the episode, but none of them seem to really impact the direction of the story. Most result in typical Telltale feedback like “Kate will remember that” and have no immediate effect on other characters.

The action heats up toward the end of the episode when the truth about Richmond’s leadership is revealed through a nod back to what happened to Prescott in Episode 2. Also, a handful of challenging battles with humans and zombies require multiple clicks of keys in order to avoid a chomp or shot in the face. Although the surprise of having to twitch-click your way through battles is tough to handle at first, given the lightweight first two-thirds of the game, nothing here provides any serious obstacles.

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Everything concludes with a revenge-fueled fight that, while somewhat satisfying, ends in such a copycat way that it takes you right out of the game if you’re familiar with the TV show. Instead of something original and natural, you get a forced (and all too familiar) scene that immediately recalls a series-famous trope. As a result, the scene is more derivative than shocking (although you’ll still need a strong stomach to endure the entire thing–at least if you go for the most extreme final stroke.)

In other words, bring on Episode 4. As much as Above the Law advances A New Frontier’s narrative and sets up what will inevitably be a chaotic battle for Richmond, there just isn’t enough to do this time around. Telltale’s Walking Dead series always treads the line between interactive fiction and adventure game, but here the whole production tips over the edge to the point where you feel like you’re watching a movie. Granted, it’s a pretty good movie. It’s filled with realistic characters, intense scenes, and some of the most brutal violence depicted in the franchise thus far. But it’s essentially a movie nonetheless, with too many compromises made to manipulate the plot and characters into position for the upcoming finale.

from GameSpot https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/the-walking-dead-the-telltale-series-a-new-frontie/1900-6416647/

Why depicting gruesome historical moments in games can be a tough call

The Great Whale Road tries hard to present a historically accurate vision of early medieval Europe. How did its developers grapple with some of the uglier aspects of that era? …

from Gamasutra News http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/295031/Why_depicting_gruesome_historical_moments_in_games_can_be_a_tough_call.php

Spontaneous Battlegrounds Friendship Quickly Turns Tragic

In PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds’ default mode, it’s every person for themselves. That does not mean, however, that people don’t form alliances. It just means that they tend to end poorly, sometimes with tears.

CamCANTRUN highlighted a moment in which he became pals with another player while they were holding down a house they’d converted into a makeshift fort. There weren’t many players left alive, and the play space—that is, the region of the map not awash in a sea of electrified death air—had become enclosed. They both knew they didn’t have much time.

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Their temporary alliance began as one of necessity, but between taking shots at other players, they got to talking.

“We could be like Peeta and Katniss and just live forever in this circle,” said the other player, jokingly.

“We could,” replied Cam. “If you want, we could make it there.”

A pause.

“[The thing] in this game is, ‘Don’t trust fucking anybody,’” said the other guy after a moment.

“That’s fair,” said Cam. “I respect you, and I look forward to dying with you, my friend.”

“Same here,” said the other player. “Same here.”

Then, with moments left until shit invariably hit the fan, they had a pleasant conversation about PUBG’s gun physics, because video games are just really good sometimes.

“What’s your name, man?” asked Cam after they finished talking about gun physics.

“It’s Hunter,” replied the other player.

“My name’s Cameron,” said Cam. “It’s nice to meet you.”

At this point, there were only five players left alive, Cam and Hunter included. Then Cam took out a dude on a nearby hill. Four. Cam pointed this out and also noted that the Death Circle on the map was closing in. Hunter, in turn, said nothing. When two people are operating with the knowledge that one might have to put a bullet in the other, deathly silence is not a great sign

“You just gonna go silent on me, Hunter?” asked Cam.

“I don’t know what to do!” replied Hunter. “I’m scared!”

They both laughed.

Three players left. At this point, the stakes were clear: if one of them left the building, they would try to kill each other, and some rando would swoop in and sweep up the remains. Cam, though, decided to go for it. He sprinted out of the building and made it to cover behind a tree. Nobody shot at him.

Then: gunfire. The game’s “alive” counter indicated that somebody went down.

“Oh no, Hunter!” whispered Cam. “Noooooo!”

The guy who shot Hunter was visible. He hid behind a car, and Cam couldn’t get a clean shot on him. Eventually, they both rushed each other and ended up playing ring-around-the-rosie with a boulder. Finally, they came face-to-face. Both sprayed fire at each other, but when the dust settled, only Cam was left standing.

“Aaaaaaaaa,” he yelled, half-joking, but probably also a little bit serious, while firing rounds into the air. “Hunter, I miss you so baaaaaad!”

He’s discussing wonky gun physics with angels now, that beautiful, precious soul.

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from Kotaku http://steamed.kotaku.com/spontaneous-battlegrounds-friendship-quickly-turns-trag-1793911346

Gizmodo Watch This Industrious Badger Bury an Entire Cow by Itself | Deadspin Coastal Carolina Suspe

Gizmodo Watch This Industrious Badger Bury an Entire Cow by Itself | Deadspin Coastal Carolina Suspended Their Entire Cheerleading Squad And Won’t Say Why | Jezebel Fellow Dirt Bags: Turns Out It’s Okay If You Don’t Wash Your Legs | The Root Sean Hannity Is Garbage, but Not All Opinion Shows Are Trash |

from Kotaku http://kinjaroundup.kinja.com/1793908750