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Welcome to the Nukapedia News Digest, brought you by Iguana Bob's Special Holiday menu… Our Jumbo-Sized Prime Cuts are
made from food for the whole family.
In your edition this week:
From the Administrative Enclave
- Limmiegirl has setup an official Formspring. We intend on using it for official questions to people like JES, but feel free to ask us stuff, and you might just get a response. [http://www.formspring.me/Nukapedia Join in here]. If you want us to relay a question to JES, leave a message with Limmie.
- In a close run race, with an unfortunate attempt at voter fraud, Dead Gunner's Mod request has closed with 16 yays, and 18 Nays, and has not been successful this time around.
- Its Administrator/Moderator Question time on the forums. We're discussing rules (like Chat rule 9, or the prohibition of distortions of the English language), and the team over here.
- And lastly, our longest continuously serving bureaucrat, KingClyde may be away for a few weeks with some medical issues. He hopes to pop in every now and then though.
- Wikia Community Choice Awards: Best in 2012 Gaming
- The end of the year means it's time to rate your favorite games, characters, stories, villains, and more. Peep this year's Gaming Award categories, and vote for your favorites! (You can also add nominees if you feel like we missed something.)
- Your Gaming Tips and Tricks
- Starting on January 3rd and lasting for one week, Wikia and Wikia Games will tweet out your best video game Tips and Tricks. Have a favorite suggestion from your gaming community? Want to share a rare secret or cheat for your game of choice? Let us know.
- Remember to keep an eye on @Wikia and @WikiaGames on January 3rd for your tips, and be sure to retweet when the time comes!
Attention Nukapedia Shoppers
You can get the Bethesda Steam collection for £64.99; including Fallout 3 - Game of the year, and the regular edition of Fallout: New Vegas. There's also Brink (and the Fallout/SpecOps combo pack), Quake, Rage, and the last 3 TES games. Thats almost half price.
(if you can update us with prices in your currency that would be awesome)
Fallout, Fallout 2, and Fallout Tactics are now 50% off at gog.com - thats 50% off the new higher price, so $US4.99 each.
Had to check my calendar today to make sure it wasn't April 1st.”— Brian Fargo
As I reported earlier in the week, Interplay are promising to bring back "Project V13". I've highlighted a lot of the problems with their campaign, including where the money goes, what happened to the last PV13, and some shady stuff with the campaign… If you want to check it out yourself, head over to blackisle.com.
- We were working on a previous version of PV13, which would have gone in a very different direction, but had to take a deep breath and throw out that previous design work. We’re back with a new vision and new concept that we want to share with you.
- Our new game is post-apocalyptic. We dig the genre. The world has ended (exactly how is a mystery) and the story is all about what pitiful little survivors are left.
- What we don’t dig are some of the genre tropes. We’re actively avoiding anything that looks like the desert for our setting. We’re not going all Waterworld on you, but endless flat plains of brown sand are not in the cards.
- There are ruins; lots of ruins. Our vision is one of crumbling buildings, ruined skyscrapers and the remains of humanity’s great technology progress on display for all to mourn and pity. More junk for you to scavenge, steal or rebuild.
- See, rebuilding is a great theme. Most of the PA games to date have got the apocalypse covered. We’d like to see what comes next. What would people when they are given the tools necessary to make something new from something old?
- That’s where the strategy part of the game comes in. Each player is in charge of a small community: a few small ruins and even fewer survivors. From that you will forge a new town or city. We want you to choose what to focus on and how to rebuild. You’ll make decisions as to where certain buildings will go and how they will be staffed. You’ll need to recruit additional survivors to make it all work.
- But the player is more than just a mayor or city planner. They have to take an active role in confronting the challenges and dangers of this brave new world. That’s where the missions come into play. Missions are self-contained adventures where the player character is under direct control. You move, shoot, sneak, ambush – whateverit takes to get the job done. Rewards from missions can benefit your town, and your town’s hard work can make your missions easier (or even possible in the first place). It’s a big circle – what you do in adventures affects your town and what you do in town affects your adventuring.
Notice the lack of the term "MMO". More of that dreaded editorialising follows, but this is PV13 in the same way that new Black Isle is the old Black Isle. I can change my name to Charlie Chaplin, but it won't make me a comic genius.
The press has reacted rather negatively.
- Gamespy: Shady Sands: Black Isle Kicks Off Troubling Crowd-Funding Campaign For Non-Fallout RPG, Project V13.
- Destructiod: Black Isle needs a Kickstarter to Kickstart a Kickstarter.
- Black Isle Studios Launches Crowdfunding Campaign for Post-apocalyptic Strategy/RPG
- After the long and messy Fallout lawsuit and Interplay's shady Project V13 campaign this week, could these two guys make the situation any worse? I honestly don't think they could. And at the very least, they would spark genuine interest in Interplay once again. Heck, they even suggest selling Interplay for cheap to Brian Fargo, which could be the best thing to happen to the studio since Baldur's Gate.
- I intend on ending PV13 coverage here, unless there are any objections.
News from the wastes
Ask a Dev
No Mutants Allowed have some comprehensive summaries of the Wasteland 2 ask a dev forums…
Did you contribute to the Wasteland Kickstarter? You get a free game, no not that one, another one! Login to Ranger Centre and get your free Steam copy of Bards Tale today.
Fergus talks to Kotaku
Fergus Urquhart, CEO of Obsidian and the guy who Black Isle is named for spoke to Kotaku… I've quoted some of it, but theres a lot of really good stuff I can't copy over.
- I was put in charge of it when I was 26," Urquhart told me as we sat in his office in sunny Irvine, California earlier this month. Urquhart, Obsidian's CEO and one of five co-founders, spent an afternoon chatting with me about his company's culture and history—which began with that small division at Interplay.
- "They wanted to call it DragonPlay, and I just thought DragonPlay sounded lame," Urquhart said, laughing. "They were looking for something-Play I guess. The joke was always that the adult version of Interplay would be..."
- He paused for a few seconds, waiting for me to get it. I didn't.
- Clearly that wouldn't work. So they called it Black Isle—after a Scottish landmark of the same name—and under Urquhart's leadership, the studio cranked out a number of isometric RPGs that people grew to love. Black Isle's resumé included heavy-hitters like Icewind Dale, Planescape: Torment, and Fallout 2. The company also helped publish the BioWare-developed Baldur's Gate and its sequel, generally considered two of the best role-playing games ever made.
Fergus is also of Scottish ancestry.
- But by 2000, their parent company Interplay was in trouble. Cash trouble.
- "We did fine," Urquhart said. "Our product made lots of money, and internally, the BioWare stuff made even more money. It was great, Black Isle. We were doing well."
- But Interplay wasn't. "Whether it was probably some transitional stuff or some bets that just didn't pay off," Urquhart said, Black Isle's parent company was in a bad place. And as a result of their financial hardships, Interplay lost the license to Dungeons & Dragons—a license that had been used for almost every Black Isle game so far.
- This made things difficult for Urquhart's team. They'd already sunk a great deal of time into Baldur's Gate III: The Black Hound—the details of which are well-documented—and now they couldn't do a thing with the D&D-packed code and ideas they'd created.
- "It was unfortunate because we loved working on D&D games," Urquhart said. "We'd been working on Baldur's Gate III for about a year, a year and a half, and so that happened... That kinda pushed us out the door."
- Interplay didn't seem like a viable option anymore, Urquhart said. So he and some of the team started to think about moving on.
- "We were like you know what, we're still in our early 30s," he said. "If there's a time to start a company before we get to be old and 40, then this is the time to do it."
- The office is sectioned off by game, so it's currently broken up into three divisions: One for South Park, one for their Kickstartered game Project: Eternity, and one for an unannounced game that's still in the very early stages of production.
- As we walk through the halls, Urquhart shows me some of their coolest artifacts: a soda machine that distributes beverages via scary robotic claw; a customized Obsidian arcade machine that's currently broken; Shattered Steel lunchboxes and Baldur's Gate flasks. We pass Josh Sawyer, a tall, heavily-tattooed game designer who led development on RPGs like Icewind Dale II and Neverwinter Nights 2.
- "This is Josh Sawyer's office," Urquhart tells me. He points to a set of hanging dolls above the designer's desk. "And those are his Teletubbies."
- "They're not Teletubbies!" Sawyer yells. "They're Pikmin!"
- Urquhart laughs heartily. He's a jovial, infectiously energetic man, and I get the impression he spends a lot of time bouncing from office to office, shmoozing and goofing around with his employees. He chuckles and jokes as we pass fellow Obsidianites in the halls. He almost seems too nice to be in charge of a video game studio.
(So those of you who haven't shopped for Josh yet….) …
- One of those publishers was Disney, who enlisted Obsidian to design a video game prequel to Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Tentatively called Dwarves, it would be a third-person action game for Xbox 360 and PS3 that focused on Snow White's seven companions. There would be a whole new story, and at the end, you'd banish the antagonist to Snow White's iconic magical mirror.
- "It was a lot of fun," Urquhart said. "We feel we turned in a really cool prototype. We worked on it for about a year. It's one of the games here that the team just loved working on. And unfortunately—which, it happens in this industry—you have changes of focus at a publisher."
- Those changes of focus were caused by a CEO change, which led to a total shift of direction. Suddenly Disney was no longer interested in doing a Snow White prequel. Snow White was untouchable, they said. The game was cancelled.
- Viva New Vegas
- Just as Aliens was cancelled—and right after they'd finished both expansion packs to Neverwinter :Nights 2—Urquhart got a call from Todd Vaughn, vice president of development at Bethesda. The folks there had just released Fallout 3, and their internal team was moving on to Skyrim. They had something else in mind for Obsidian.
- "We've talked to the Bethesda guys more than once about doing games," Urquhart said. "They called me once about Star Trek, and I was probably being a little bit too much, too arrogant of a developer... This would've been like 2007—way before the movies—and it was like, Star Trek wasn't in a good place. I don't know what I said, but I now know it probably sounded arrogant.
- This time, Bethesda wanted Obsidian to work on a franchise that Urquhart, Chris Taylor, and the rest of their team knew quite well: Fallout.
- "They came to us and said, ‘We think it'd be cool if you did something on the West Coast,'" Urquhart said. "We were like, ‘Sure!'"
- So Urquhart sat down one night with the other four owners and started to brainstorm. They decided that the game a heavy focus on factions, as per fan request. They immediately decided to set the game in Las Vegas. They even plotted out a rudimentary intro: "What could be more Vegas than starting off the game with you getting shot in the head and buried in the desert?"
- Bethesda loved the treatment and immediately greenlit New Vegas, which Obsidian released in October 2010. It was well-received—and according to many critics and fans, better than Fallout 3—but it was also full of bugs. For some people the game was near-unplayable thanks to constant glitches and crashes. Many of the game's issues have since been patched, but for fans paying $60, New Vegas was unforgivable.
- "The timeline was compressed," Urquhart said. "It was a timeline we agreed to—I think we bit off a little more than we could chew, and then it was a little hard to recover... We learned some lessons about trying to make too big a game. We also learned some lessons about managing QA."
- "We as a company got into a big room and we said, ‘We are not gonna make buggy games anymore,'" Urquhart said.
- So they designed an entirely new bug-tracking system—a computerized program that automatically sends crash reports to their engineers. Their last bug-recording system, Urquhart said, involved pens and paper.
- "I think that's what people are gonna see from us from now on—they're not gonna see buggy products," he said. "I dunno what the exact count is, but we're a ways away from being done on South Park and we've already fixed 10,000 bugs."
- "So would you want to make a (bug-free) sequel to New Vegas?" I asked.
- "We would love to work on Fallout again," Urquhart said. "Hell, we would love to work in the Elder Scrolls universe. Nothing is going on at this point in time, but we talk about it all the time... I'd love to do a Fallout: New Vegas 2. I think a Fallout: New Vegas 2 would kick ass.
- "I believe New Vegas is a great, like—you have Fallout, and then you have New Vegas. They feel like separate products. Same engine, same everything, but they feel totally different. ‘Sister product' is the best way to put it."
- When I asked Urquhart about North Carolina—the cancelled project that led to significant layoffs at Obsidian earlier this year—he said he couldn't talk much about it. It was an original IP—a big, third-person, open-world game designed and created by Obsidian. They pitched it to several publishers in 2011, complete with a fancy book full of ideas and concept art. But Urquhart couldn't say much more than that.
- "We went down the road with a few publishers," he said. "We did get it signed up with a publisher, and unfortunately as happens sometimes, projects just don't go. Particularly when it's been not that long, it's hard to go into a lot of detail about it. It's too bad—we thought it was really cool."
- So the game was axed, and at the beginning of this year, Obsidian had to lay off a large team of people. (Earlier this year I reported that North Carolina was a first-party game for the next Xbox—codenamed Durango—and that it was published by Microsoft. Urquhart wouldn't comment on whether that was true.)
- Games are cancelled. It happens. But for an independent developer like Obsidian, this has become a trend over the past decade: everyone spends a great deal of time and money on a video game that never actually makes it to reality.
- Even today, as Obsidian seems to be in a comfortable position, they still have to stay scrappy to survive.
- "As soon as we get back from the holidays, I'm on the road looking for the next thing," Urquhart said. "We're generally always pitching. Products that are working right now for our publishers might not work, and probably people don't know a lot about this aspect, but in general, all agreements that any developer signs with a publisher have this line called 'cancel for convenience.' We could get a call tomorrow saying, 'Yeah, we don't want to move forward with product X.'"
- When that sort of thing happens, Obsidian will usually get a kill fee of some sort, but that's never enough to pay everyone for nine months—the amount of time that it usually takes to put together a new deal, Urquhart said.
- "It's hard," he said. "That can be done with a 75-person team. Suddenly I have 75 people tomorrow that don't have work. What do we do and how do we handle it?"
Thought i'd finally found some good CA cheddar (beehive), but nope, it's from utah. leave it to utah to out-cheddar CA. come on… CA, how can you make so much cheese and not make one good cheddar in the whole damned bunch”— Josh Sawyer, Twitter
- in lieu of the recent mass killing in Connecticut, how do you feel about the way mental illnesses are portrayed in video games? Will Project Eternity have a strong focus or allusion to the theme at all?
- They're usually portrayed poorly because writers lean on what they've seen of mental illness in popular culture instead of researching how mental illness actually "works". It's difficult enough to portray believable characters; mental illness adds a lot of potential complexity to those portrayals. For many people, mental illness, especially certain forms like depression, are hard to comprehend -- even among people with whom we have close relationships.
- I do not believe mental illness will be a large focus in Project Eternity, though we have discussed it. In Michel Foucault's early work Madness and Civilization, he described how perception of mental illness and social attitudes toward mental illness (and the mentally ill) changed from the Renaissance through the 20th century. The Dyrwood will likely mirror Renaissance attitudes toward mental illness with larger cities tending to marginalize (and attempt to normalize) the mentally ill.
- What is your favorite song?
- Rather than a Relic this week, I thought you'd rather see this
- In the "sure wish we had a video" category, aptly-monikered defense contractor Rheinmetall has run a highly successful test of its 50kW high-energy laser weapon. It works by hunting down incoming targets using a so-called Skyguard radar system, then locking in with an optical scanner before firing multiple, superimposed beams for extra energy. During the Swiss trials, the German-made HEL cannon managed to cut through a 15mm steel girder from over 3,200 feet away and knock down several drones diving at over 110 mph. Most impressively, the laser succeeded in dipatching an 82mm steel projectile in flight, showing the viability of beam-based weapons against potential mortar attacks. Rheinmetall has quintupled the power in just the last year, and plans to ramp up the juice to 60kW in 2013 trials, saying "nothing stands in the way" of a future 100kW system. Of course if that doesn't work out, it could always start up a death metal band.
- Actually, I think we do have a video of that…
Your next news digest
I don't expect there to be news next week, but will publish in the event there is… However:
- Be on the lookout for our new years day news review for the year. If you have any suggestions (content or format), please comment.