Welcome to the Nukapedia News Digest - brought to you by the Internet, which we are reliably informed is not series of tubes.
In your edition this week:
From the administrative Enclave....
- An anonymous user (commonly refered to about the place as "The GECK-Anon" has brought it to our attention that some of the SPECIAL stats listed on Fallout 3 and New Vegas pages might not be quite right and asks if we should be using the characters base stat, or the effective stat after their usual items.
Xbox Magazine UK lists the 100 most important people to Xbox
- 97. Chris Avellone, designer, Obsidian Entertainment
- For a while he looked lost in gaming's hinterlands with big, text-heavy RPGs like Planescape: Torment that publishers didn't think people wanted to play. Since then, he's been recruited to a $4m-raising Kickstarter project, which just goes to show what those publishers know.
- 13. Todd Howard, exec producer, Bethesda
- No one makes sprawling fantasy and science fiction RPGs like Bethesda: Elder Scrolls and Fallout 3 have a unique capacity to touch your imagination like few other games. And behind each of them is Todd Howard.
Personally I think they've sold Chris Avellone very short - for a list of people who are most important to the world of Xbox, they strangely haven't mentioned any Xbox titles! No Fallout:New Vegas, Alpha Protocol or Star Wars Knight of the Old Republic 2?
News from the Wastes
MCA talks about Eternity and Wasteland 2 Design Documents
Pretty much as it says in the title, Chris has always been a great one for talking about the Black Isle / Obsidian development process, here he is at Rezzed telling us a few more of their secrets.... Wasteland is at 13:38.
Dateline: Rockville, MD
We reported earlier in the year on suggestions that all is not good at id Software The former independent - now Bethesda/Zenimax home studio that birthed Wolfenstein, Doom, and Quake, with projects such as Rage 2 (and Rage DLC) being cancelled, Doom 4 being refocused, and suggestions that the company could be turned into a gaming engine skunkworks rather than a game development studio.
Well it looks like change is happening. IGN reports that studio President Todd Hollenshead has left. Pete Hines, one of Bethesda's VPs told them:
After many years with the studio, Todd Hollenshead decided to leave id Software to pursue other personal interests, While Todd was not part of the development teams, he was an integral part of id Software’s success as the business head of the studio and we wish him the very best in his future endeavors”— Pete Hines
The Elder Scrolls: Online
- On the First Person view
- Lead Gameplay Designer Nick Konlke explained, “It came together much faster and better than I was expecting. Sometimes when you go from prototype to playable, it’s pretty good but then once you get to mass production it can introduce 75 new issues. It didn’t go that way this time. Instead, it was suddenly two months later and it’s in and we’re done, so that was good.
- On PVP
- Nick explained, “All the testing is still internal, but we’re pretty excited to get that part of the game into the beta. We just had a big office-wide PvP test that was quite a bit of fun, and there are any number of anecdotes that I could share from that experience. But let’s just say it’s pretty big; there are some epic battles going on with 50 on 50 groups meeting on the open field.
- The main thing that I’m really happy about as a result of this is that we’re getting a lot of builds tested. We’re in the middle of a lot of balancing and adjustments in development, and a lot of times even a small balance tweak will lead to whole shifts in the metagame around the office in terms of what build is now the popular one.
- On next gen consoles and transitioning the game to multi-platoform.
- “I think the main thing we discovered was that we were already headed in a certain direction with the style of game we were making in terms of a lot of things that are in common with modern console RPGs. So the technology just happens to line up really well with where we are in our schedule. So the technology is there and we can do it, and the design of the game didn’t have to change. It was more a case of making a few tweaks here and there, but fundamentally the game is identical. That allows us to present the same game across all platforms.”
- In terms of any special considerations that needed to be made for things like the pacing of combat or the active dodging mechanic, Nick went on to note, “For someone like me who is into the nitty gritty details of it sure, but for the majority of players, not so much. There are some things like locomotion or run animations where you have to make those a bit smoother to account for joysticks. Then you also have to make sure the keybindings work across everything.
- So there are some minor things here and there, but we haven’t had to adjust any major mechanic as we intended it to work in the PC version of the game.”
Pete Hines talks about cross studio collaboration
Pete Hines, VP of Marketing for Bethesda Softworks talked to IGN (as did some senior officials at other publishing companies) about new franchises and studios, and in the process gave us an insight as to how things work at Bethesda/Zenimax alighned studios.
“If you look at the last big thing we did, Dishonored, the fun of it was talking guys like Raph and Harvey and their team at Arkane, with all of them chomping at the bit,” Hines said. “That’s maybe not a thing that most publishers would embrace, because clearly most publishers that are doing these kinds of games are moving towards really heavy action. We’re going the other way. These guys get excited about it. ‘Bethesda is going to take a chance on me doing this thing that nobody else would let me do.’ And they know it, because they’ve worked with other publishers. There is a benefit to that. Jens at Machine Games has a really funny way of putting it, based on past experiences and how that’s very different. There is just a bit of feeling untethered.”
“There’s benefit to how we publish games as opposed to other folks,” Hines continued. “When Machine Games has a build of Wolfenstein, we have points along the way where they share a build, and it’s not just me and them who are playing it. They share it with the guys at Bethesda Game Studios, or at id, or at Tango, or at Arkane, who will play it. The level designers and artists and stuff at these other studios will play it and give them feedback. It’s helpful. I don’t know of other publishers that let all of their studios see all of the other stuff – and not just see it, but play it and say what they think. That collaboration, on the surface it sounds pretty powerful, but for these guys I think it’s really meaningful that somebody else who does what they do is giving them feedback.”
Hines believes that this kind of collaboration can help a new studio along, and also helps Bethesda be more confident in new brands.
“That kind of feedback is really helpful for guys like Tango and Machine Games. They have a little bit of a safety net along the way, to kind of sanity-check what they’re doing,” he said. “We publish from a developer’s standpoint – understanding the process, how it works, where it can go sideways, how to do it better. It’s that collaboration thing. Feedback is really important, and not just focus-testing and bringing in gamers.”
“We’re constantly talking with other developers, but it always has to be the right fit,” Hines said. “Who are you, what have you done, what are you trying to do now, and how does it sync up with us? We don’t have a process like ‘well, what are our 15 titles for this year? What’s our Q2 shooter?’ Because we’re smaller, we just do fewer titles and go big on all of them, rather than :deciding to go big on a lot, but [saying] ‘half of them are going to fail, and the ones that succeed will pay for the ones that fail.’ We’re not built that way. We’re never going to get to 20 games a year.”
“We’re going to continue to pick and choose where we want to place our bets,” Hines added. “What’s the game and the idea and the team where we say, ‘we believe in those guys. We think they have the chops to do it. We think we can make that a success and sell everybody else on the idea that what they’re making is great.’ If that ends up being somebody external, great, but we’re not in a rush, like, ‘quick, we have to sign three more titles for next year.’ That’s not how we’re structured and it’s not our focus.”
Pete Hines talks Wolfenstien
Yes, thats right, three stories this week involving VP of Marketing at Bethesda Softworks Pete Hines (Hi Pete!). He spoke with [http://uk.ign.com/articles/2013/06/25/the-potential-of-wolfenstein-the-new-order?+main+twitter IGN about how Wolfenstien fits into the modern shooter market.
- “Ultimately, part of it is just the intent and the notion that Machine Games has,” Hines told IGN. “We think what this represented, and what it still represents, is cool. We think there’s a better way to do it for this audience. We’re not doing Wolfenstein because we think, ‘oh, everybody thinks of Wolfenstein when they think first-person shooters.’ We’re not that naive. But we do think there’s something to this world.”
- “When we looked at it, we wanted to put our own take on it, so it still has the crazy, over-the-top action, but it has all these other elements to it now,” Hines continued. “They’re adding character and story and other stuff that’s not just a straight-up shooter all the time. It’s not monotonous. You’re starting to get a little taste of that. I think it’s hard to put in the full context of what it feels like across the whole game, as you’re taking that roller-coaster ride.”
- “You get that whole line of inquiry with Frau Engel that’s kind of creepy. A number of folks have said it feels like the Tarantino bar thing,” he told us. “Then you look at the violence, it’s got some of that Tarantino over-the-top Nazi killing. That’s not unintentional. They wanted to get that tone of B.J.’s ridiculous commentary and internal monologue. They felt like there was something compelling to do there.”
- “If I asked you to describe Master Chief, you could probably do ten minutes on that,” Hines said. “He’s got a personality. He means something. B.J., though, he didn’t really have one, even after all this time. He’s just the guy that you play. They said, ‘no, we want to explore that. This big thuggish Nazi-ass-kicking guy, what is he actually like? What’s it like when he tries to talk to a woman?’ He speaks in one-word answers and it’s really awkward because that’s not something he’s good at. I think there are a lot of things there that people today will appreciate.”
Speaking of Frau Engel, here's some of what The Metro (a Free newspaper in the UK) had to say about her (along with a picture), and some other play elements:
- Frau Engel has a robotic bodyguard with her (which she described as ‘harmless’) and forces you into a game of cards in order to test whether you are of pure Ayran stock or not. Engel and Bubi are cartoonish caricatures and yet still the sequence manages to be very tense, not least because it’s not at all clear what choice is likely to be the safe one or how exactly Engel expects the encounter to end.
- It is the developer playing though so the correct choice is made (don’t try and make a grab for the gun) and a subsequent cut scene introduces love interest Anya, in what is quite a touching scene for a game with giant robot Nazi tigers in it.
- The second hands-off preview is more action based and takes part amongst a crashed train (presumably the one you were just on) on a bridge. Nazis are everywhere and we get a first look at their advanced technology in action. Thinking about it we didn’t actually see any evidence of supernatural elements but the game is unexpectedly reminiscent of BioShock Infinite’s technology, particularly the use of the robot George Washington as an enemy.
- The weapons at your disposal show similarly little restraint and include not just standard machine and Gatling guns but a range of energy and beam weapons that make short work of the destructible scenery. The demo is being played on a PC but the game’s visual are still hugely impressive and there’s a good attention to detail as the playtester shoots away at a pair of Nazi legs, from under the small gap beneath a crate he was hiding behind.
- It’s an exciting sequence but we do notice a few clichés creeping in that we could have lived without, notably a fixed turret sequence where you must mow down incoming reinforcements.
- We also note that B.J. seems to be carting around an awful lot of weapons with him, and accessing them via a curiously old-fashioned looking weapon menu. It’s not until we play the game though that we realise quite how old school it all is.
- Not only does the game reject the only-two-weapons-at-a-time set-up of Halo but it also doesn’t have any recharging health (or at least not much, see interview below). Instead it’s just you and your toolbox of weapons versus the Nazi hordes and 100 units of health.
- What a few years ago was made to seem outdated and unfashionable now seems like a breath of fresh air, as we carefully creep around a train station – searching desperately for extra ammo and medikits. At first of course we weren’t creeping, until the game reminded us just how soft and flabby recharging health had made us over the years.
- After instantly dying a couple of times we learn to make use of the handy leaning mechanic when under cover (which is nicely reminiscent of GoldenEye 007) and then look for an alternate plan of attack. As old school as the game is in some ways the enemy artificial intelligence is not so retro, and although we manage to tempt a few goons up the stairs to mow them down with ease the rest of them flank us from behind and the robot on the ground floor gets into a position where it can fire on us too.
- It’s all far more frantic and tense than any other shooter we’ve played for some time, and makes us nostalgic for a style of game we’d previously thought had been deservedly mothballed. Whether the novelty will last through the whole game we don’t know but Starbreeze/MachineGame’s knack for innovative storytelling suggests to us this could be one of the surprise hits of the year.
Relic of the war that Wasn't
This week we asked Ug-Qualtoth (or GuardianOfTheWastes as you may know him) to take a look at the ECHELON system - this is pretty significant for those of you who have been following government spying in the news.
Due to Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing, there has been a spike of interest on exactly what the world’s governments are observing. It will please you to know all this spying is not a new phenomenon by any means, and it is from this truth that the relic of the war that wasn’t stems this week.
The sharing of information between GCHQ (the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters) and the NSA (the United States’ National Security Agency) has a long history, dating at the very least to the Cold War era. In 1946, the UKUSA Agreement was signed by five nations, namely the UK, USA, Australia, Canada and New Zealand in the mutual interest of gathering signals intelligence. The system they set up came to be dubbed ECHELON, and was, according to a report by the European Parliament from 2001 on the system, established to monitor the military and diplomatic communications between the Soviet Union and the nations of the Eastern Bloc.
When the Parliament started to dig into the capabilities and political implications of the system in 2000-1, they found it was capable of intercepting and inspecting information sent via telephone, fax, e-mail and more information globally by intercepting satellite trunk signals, public switched telephone networks (once nearly solely responsible for the internet’s traffic) and microwave transmissions. They also noted that due to the positions of the countries involved in the UKUSA agreement, also known as the AUSCANNZUKUS Agreement and the Five Eyes, if they operated listening stations in their relevant regions, they would have near global coverage and the ability to attempt to intercept information from any nation. However, these interceptions did not generally amount to more than the ability to sort information, and the ECHELON system was deemed unable to comprehensively analyse the information collected.
The system is slowly becoming redundant. Around 99% of the world’s voice and data communication now takes place via fibre optics, and the amount of communication via satellite has plummeted. Recently, even the area that the ECHELON system focused on primarily, Eastern Europe, only sends between 0.4% and 5% of its international communications by satellite. This severely limits the capabilities of the system. Even in the developing world, satellites are used primarily for video communication rather than anything that can provide intelligence, so vast majority of communication can no longer be intercepted by earth stations.
This has led to the interception of communications hosted on fibre optic cables, which can only be intercepted at very specific locations. At this point, the scandal surrounding the PRISM system and Edward Snowden picks up where ECHELON left off.
Now-a-days, the ECHELON system has been enjoying its new vocation. It has reportedly been used by the US government to commit corporate espionage. Such claims have arisen that the US stole information on German gear-less wind turbines, Belgian speech technology, and cause European company Airbus to lose $6 billion when a contract with Saudi Arabia fell through because the NSA exposed them for bribing Saudi officials. How the NSA knew, they wouldn’t say.
On a more upbeat note, the European Parliament also pointed out in their report that it’s not just the UKUSA group that listening in...
So, behave yourselves citizens, Big Brother is watching.
Your next Nukapedia News Digest
Will be in about a week, which is about right for a weekly news bulletin. 02:10, June 29, 2013 (UTC)