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Nukapedia News Digest - 8 June 2012

Agent c June 8, 2012 User blog:Agent c
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Welcome to the Nukapedia News Digest - Brought to you by The Last Gasp Saloon - its probably the last place you'd want to drink.

In your digest this week:

Project Spotlight

I know we don't normally open with the spotlight, but we do have some big news...

New User Network

Congratulations to The Old World Relics, who as of this week has officially graduated from the New User Network. For his efforts so far we're pleased to bestow upon him the coveted Editors Red Pen:

Chrisdesign red glossy pen
You have been given A stylish editors' red pen.
Your efforts and diligence have not gone unnoticed, and you have been given a small token of appreciation.
For all your hard work on the wiki to date - hey, do you know how hard it is to find a working pen in the wastes? The New User Network Team

Thats not all, his efforts have also been recognised with the awarding of Patroller status!

If you're interested in learning more about editing, make sure you sign up to the New User Network, where we can pair you with one of our experienced editors to help learn the ways of the wiki. We also have more "New User Blitzes" on the drawing board to help organise a time and place for would be editors to learn the ropes in real time - if you're interested in participating, drop me a note on my talk page.

Meet the Press

Moving now into the off site news... Being E3 Week the gaming press has been working in overdrive... Here's a collection of some of the best.
MCA-F

MCA with Gamestar (Russia)

Starting our roundup of what the news being made by our favourite newsmakers, Gamestar has been talking to Chris Avellone. (Warning, site partially in Russian/Cyrilic, but the article is in English/Latin Alphabet).

GS:Is it safe to say that role-playing genre is having the second birth now? Which RPG do you consider to be the main ones in this console generation?
MCA:I think old-school RPGs are having a rebirth, thanks to Kickstarter, which I'm thankful for - between Wasteland 2 and Shadowrun, I'm pretty excited to see what these next series of games will end up as. I'm also glad that Legend of Grimrock was well-received, as I enjoy playing that style of game as well.
GS:If it’s not a secret, what is the main expenditure item while developing of the role-playing game?
If by expenditure item you mean resources, I'd say marketing, and from at least one of our most recent RPGs, the marketing outstripped the cost of developing the project several times over.
GS:What is your favorite games system of the all time, and why?
MCA:The Hero System (pen and paper game) because it allowed full customization of a character and an interesting section of disadvantages, both of which made it ideal for a role-playing game. In terms of computer game systems, I enjoyed Wizard's Crown and Wasteland 1 solely because the skill gain and progression made me add personality to my characters in ways I hadn't seen before. No current RPG system since Fallout 1 has impressed me or made me feel like I was role-playing more than F1.
GS:How much time does take from the moment of the first idea till the story outline writing? When do the game-designers start their work, how is further cooperation of the group built with the material written? On which stage is the ready scenario with dialogues and scenes enriched?
MCA:The publisher pitches we do require that we have a story outline (at least a page or two) when we submit the pitch. That can take 1-2 weeks, and then we build from there. Over the next 3-4 months the Creative Lead helps flesh out the areas, major NPCs, companions, etc., vets it with the other Leads, and then when the game enters full production (usually after vertical slice), the narrative tasks are divided up or, for a smaller title, the Creative Lead does all the major scripting for the title.
GS:What, in your opinion, is the emotional component of the plot in? Is a not easy choice made by the player, leading to unexpected consequences, the death of the key character that was so loved by the gamer or unexpected turns of the history?
MCA:I feel companion death has been cheapened in the past few years that it's tough to create an emotional reaction from it - although often that's because it's so heavily scripted. I feel the biggest emotional hook isn't in an unexpected consequence, it's in making a difficult decision that must be made, you understand what the fallout could be as a result, then seeing the misfortune happen when you prayed it wouldn't.
When doing titles at Obsidian, we purposely try and create emotional moments - not just misfortune, but emotional ups and downs. We call them "emotional vistas"... emotional narrative moments that leave a lasting impact on you as a player. They end up being events you remember, not because of the violence or volume, but because of the insight and something occurring within the game itself that changes your perception of events. Our goal is simple scenes and realizations for the player’s experience that have the same punch as Rutger Hauer’s/Roy Batty's lines at the end of Blade Runner, where he sums up the misery of the human condition in a few simple sentences. That’s what we strive for from our characters and the player.

For Fallout New Vegas: Dead Money, we outlined what these core moments were in the team presentation, and communicated to everyone when these moments would occur and the meaning they would have for the player.

GS:To what extent does the final result correspond to the one you planned to receive in the beginning?
MCA:It depends. We re-read the Fallout: New Vegas pitch document recently, and comparing it to the final result, the story itself ended up changing quite a bit over the development cycle. With the DLC packs, however, the story and scope largely stayed the same throughout, so it may be symptomatic of the amount of time it takes for a title from start to finish - the more time you have to iterate on a story, the more it can evolve (or mutate) over time.

Avellone gathers his party

Ever the busy boy, Chris Avellone has also been talking to "Gather your party". Here's some premium (iguana) bits:

GYP: I imagine things have been pretty exciting for you now that you’re going to be involved in Wasteland 2. Can you tell us a bit of what you’ll be doing and what kind of role you might be playing in its development?
MCA: I’m doing a bunch of things so far, more than I expected. I’m helping with the vision doc, designing opening areas and the area design process, and helping build templates for dialogues and area specs. My contribution isn’t nearly as much as Fargo, Findley, Keenan and the rest of the inXile team, however.
When not doing physical design, I offer feedback and critiques and forward any random tidbits and elements I’ve dug out of my latest Wasteland 1 playthrough (“Remember when there used to be a West Germany?” “Hey, Reagan had a hover tank named after him!” “Needles used carrier pigeons as their communications center?!”
Overall, I’m at inXile about 1.5-2 days during the week, either in design meetings, checking out Unity, or typing away on my headphones, and I love it.
GYP: Speaking of post-apocalyptic survival, you did a lot in the development of Fallout: New Vegas and its DLC. Which of the add-ons were you happiest with how it came out and which one do you felt you would have wanted to give more time? Which was your favorite as a designer and as a player?
MCA: I enjoyed Dead Money and Old World Blues most as a designer, and Old World Blues most as a player. I think, against internal expectations (including mine), Old World Blues turned out better than we expected. I felt we’d be burned at the stake by including that much clown-nose-honking humor in the Fallout universe. Still, we figured after the oppressive and desperation in Dead Money and Lonesome Road, a little levity was the shift the title needed.
GYP: Old World Blues was also my favorite. I took the Wild Wasteland perk so I knew what I was getting into. Was there any add-on you wanted to put even more time on?
MCA: All of them. I suppose Dead Money was the one that felt like it didn’t have enough time whether it came across that way or not (it’s why we had many of the restrictions the DLC had in terms of equipment stripping and not being able to return). I’m not certain more time would have helped Lonesome Road, as it was a resource issue more than a more time issue. Old World Blues felt like it had enough time to cook, in my opinion, and there were very few things I wish we could have put in – I felt like we got everything we wanted in there, plus more (the appliances in the Sink).
GYP: You said there were heavy limitations put on the design team for Old World Blues, was it the most challenging to make?
MCA: Sometimes bookends and parameters are limitations, and it’s a designer’s job to make them work in their favor. Some of the best designs can come about because of tight budgets and lack of resources to do it the way you envision… but the result ends up being better than the original vision ever could have been.
Plus, not to go on a tangential rant, I’ve seen plenty of movies that have suffered from too much budget, so having the opposite problem isn’t such a bad thing.
So – we turned all the limitations to non-limitations with narrative decisions. I think I discussed this in “Plot vs. Play” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55CenBjJ7lw) but we didn’t have any time to make major new art pieces, so we looked at our toolbox (I almost wrote “toybox” here, maybe that was a faux pas), and said “take the toolbox and put the existing art in new combinations and we’ll explain it with the narrative.” The designers were told to just make fun levels in the context of being “experiments” and they went from there.
We weren’t sure how it would be received, but I’d like to believe that everyone who played it “felt” the fun the designers were having on all levels.
GYP: Who was your absolute favorite character from Fallout: New Vegas?
MCA: Dr. Mobius, followed by Christine or Dr.8. I enjoyed writing Cass a lot but Dr. Mobius had more things closer to my heart to say.
GYP: It really shows. Mobius ended up having some real depth to him. I’m guessing Chris Avellone the bounty hunter from Fallout 1 won’t be showing up in any future titles then?
MCA: I have a rule after Fallout 2 that I don’t want to ever add any “in joke” name characters named after developers in our titles, although it’s not always up to me. I feel it detracts from the gameplay experience to do so and the player always senses there’s something “off” about the character even if they don’t recognize the name. I will say that some franchises, however, are all about building characters around devs (Wasteland, Ultima), so it depends whether it’s a franchise hallmark or not.
GYP: With your industry experience, how great an impact would you say publishers have on a game’s final design?
MCA: Publisher impact on a game design varies. THQ, for example, trusts us to handle the RPG elements in South Park. Bethesda trusted us to handle the Fallout franchise based on our experience. SEGA left the Alpha Protocol story and branching alone (and even agreed to let it be rewritten and re-recorded), but did have requests for the more action-based game mechanics and implementation – it’s our job to listen, digest, and if we disagree, we raise a critique, and if the critique is ignored or clarified with additional information, then you move forward.
GYP: Staying with New Vegas, Obsidian wasn’t awarded a bonus from Bethesda because it didn’t meet a certain score on Metacritic (which is debatable for reliability). Unfortunately Obsidian Entertainment also had some turbulence and had to cancel a project a couple months back. With all the work and effort put in to making a game, do you feel the amount of emphasis the industry puts on reducing a game to a series of scored reviews is a fair way to judge a game’s worth?
MCA: I don’t know. I do feel that some sites use a dramatically different scale and ranking system, which makes a final score difficult to judge.
GYP: Besides the revival of “dead genres” do you think we will see a difference in games made by developers who utilize crowdsourcing like Kickstarter in contrast to developers that work with publishers?
MCA: Yes, on a high level, they’ll make more interesting designs and on a low level, they’ll be more than happy to make use of the keyboard for inputs rather than worrying about mapping it to a controller. This sounds like a minor thing, but it’s not. I can’t tell you how happy I was to be driving home from inXile one evening trying to figure out how we’d pull off a function using the controller, and it occurred to me THAT IT’S NOT OUR PROBLEM ANY MORE, and the “issue” was solved. THANK GOD.
GYP: Just for fun, if you had the means to make any kind of game you wanted, what kind would it be and what features would you implement?
MCA: There are a few things: Giving the player their own theme music they could customize from their own local computer soundtracks or grabbing them from the game’s music list – they could summon their theme music like a spell effect and gain bonuses while the theme music was playing (we did this in our Fallout pen and paper game at Interplay).
Also, I’d love to see more games that do design and gameplay with audio – one thing I’ve always wanted to try is have “audiomancers” who can collect SFX as audio weapons from the environment. As an example, they could attack or eavesdrop on a wolf, listen to its idle bark or dying snarl, record it, and use that SFX as pieces to create “audio spells” to attack other opponents. It would add to the exploration and sneaking in an RPG where you pay more attention to the wind rushing through the trees, the coughing/snoring of an unsuspecting guard, the crashing of the waves, or even the crunch of your feet in snow.
I’d also love the chance to do “true war” in a fantasy setting a la Black Company and the Malazan Book of the Fallen – both of those series showcase what “war” could be like in a fantasy setting in fascinating ways. The Deadhouse Gates in particular, still haunts me with some of the battles in that book.
Lastly, one of our systems designers, Matt MacLean proposed a “honeycomb mission structure” for Alpha Protocol a long time ago, and I’d love to do a game that used that structure for missions. The idea with a Honeycomb Mission Structure is that you’re presented with one central goal, and a number of satellite missions that you can optionally choose to take on that have impacts on each other and the goal mission as well, kind of like a hub of missions surrounding a central mission. You can pick and choose the missions that cater to your playstyle and then use those to achieve your objective.
GYP: Judging by the SFX idea, I’m guessing the Sonic Emitter in Old World Blues was your doing. All those concepts sound great. I already want to give you my money.
MCA: Yeah, it was a scaled-down idea of my dream above. For those not familiar with it, the Sonic Emitter was a weapon you could shape by collecting sound effects, and I thought it would be fun for the audio department. I don’t think they found it as enjoyable as I did, and the principle goal of making 5 different weapons using the same art model didn’t pan out, either, because our awesome weapon modeler, Dan Alpert, refused to let that stand and added customized sound waves on the back of each version of the Emitter. (Thanks, Dan.)
GYP: Finally, what’s next for Obsidian Entertainment? How’s it been working with the South Park Team for the South Park RPG?
MCA: It’s going great. Never thought we’d get the chance to work on South Park – when we first got the call from those guys, we thought that Red 5 in the office above was punking us.
Then we wondered how a South Park RPG would work, Matt and Trey explained it with a simple cinematic, and it all clicked. Hope to have more news soon (by the time this interview hits, that info may have already been released).
I will say that there’s nothing better than being in a room with Matt and Trey and they start getting excited enough about a questline that they’ll start acting out the quest line in the character voices. Pure gold.

Brian Fargo meets Game Informer

Brian Fargo
Brian Fargo's been speaking to gameinformer, informing them about his upcoming game Wasteland 2, and also talks about the early days...
(on the change from Interplay as developer to developer-publisher)
We were doing these products for Electronic Arts. We were surviving, but we weren’t making much money…. We had had hit after hit after hit, and I said I had to change my business model, because this was as good as it gets at the time. So I decided to become a publisher, and one of my first games was Battle Chess. I went to Electronic Arts and said, “I’d like to keep doing Wasteland.” They said, “Well, it’s our trademark, and if you want to do it you have to do it for us.” I wasn’t making money doing that, so it really made no sense. I then got Interplay rolling as a standalone publisher…and I continued to pester them, asking if there was any chance they’d let it go. The answer was pretty consistently “no.” So finally, I said, “Fine. We’ll just do our own Wasteland.” And that’s when I kicked off Fallout.
GI:Do you worry about being perceived as Fallout Junior, as ironic as that would be?
BF:One of the best thing about doing a Kickstarter project is [people ask me], do I worry about attracting the new audience, the young audience, the mass audience. And my answer is always the same, which is, “I don’t care.” Because my fans have told me what they want. I’m making this game for them. These backers who gave me the money – I know what they want, and I’m going to be communicating with them throughout. We’re going to make a kick-ass top-down, isometric, turn-based game with cause and effect, post-apocalyptic, gritty, mature-rated, warped sense of humor. If I do a good job of that, I believe the new people will find me. Whether they think I’m Fallout Junior or not – it’s ironic – but let them think what they want. To me, I just have to create this core experience and let the chips fall where they may.
GI:Do you worry at all about the vision of the designers and the developers getting distorted by this audience participation in the development cycle?
BF:That is another very common question I get, and no, I don’t. Because we all have versions of it, you know. Even doing the tiers, right? I’ll give you an example which was early on we said, “How about we give the backers a special ability that non-backers don’t get?” Well that sounds pretty good on paper, right? Isn’t that cool? Guess what? They hated it! They hated it. They want the same experience for everyone and they don’t want to change for them or for anyone, even if it gives them a benefit. Now to me, that is slightly counter-intuitive, but I understood where they were coming from. And we didn’t do it, and I am glad we didn’t do it. Now if you take that extrapolation to the game design there are lots of things like that which are minor in the details which they have a very strong reaction to. I think as long as you are working with them on broad strokes type stuff, they kind of know what the product is, but if I was going to introduce something new or radical or go for a graphic look that is completely different than what they are expecting, then we need to be in communication with them.
Now once we have established those key points, we’ll go silent for a little while, but then we go into beta test, right? Well what is beta test? It is just audience participation. I don’t think Blizzard is afraid to do beta test. I don’t think Valve is afraid to do beta test. And they have to make changes based upon that input. So we’re not going to get in there in the beginning and say "Do you like the way this sentence reads?" you know? "Do you like the way this music sounds?" We’re not going to go there. We’re not going to go into every nuance of the detail. But they are going to get their input on the first pass, which is the broad-stroke vision of it all, and then on the second pass they are going to get in on the specifics of the game and majority rules. You know, if I put a – even if it is a song and 85 percent of people chime in and go, “We hate that song,” well, why fight it, right? There is no point. But I find that when I work with the fans as a whole, they are pretty smart. There are always the outliers that say things that you can’t do, but as a whole I find them to be very smart and they tend to fall in the places where I think they are. I’d say 80 to 90 percent of the time my instincts are kind of in line with where I thought they’d be, but then there’s the things like I mentioned earlier about “Don’t give us something extra,” little things like that which catch me off-guard. And again, I don’t think that affects the experience negatively in anyway.

Dateline, Irvine, CA

Obsidian (and publisher THQ) are ramping up the hype machine for their next RPG project, South Park: Stick of Truth. The Premise appears to be based around the epsiode where the boys return a copy of "lord of the rings" to the video rental store, and you play a new kid in town, quickly christened "Douchebag" by no less than Cartman himself; however unless there's a Fallout connection, we're unlikely to be covering it further.

I guess I won't have to worry about Wasteland 2 content when I see Jesus toting a gun in the South Park game....

— Brian Fargo, Twitter

Wrap

Relic of the War that Wasn't

BurlingtonEntrance

Thats a long way back to the surface...

One of the earlier relics covered in this series was the Greenbrier Resort, the would be home to the US congress in the event of, well you know what. Well this week its the turn of the British Prime Minister with the Burlington Facility - described by some as an underground city.

Throughout its lifetime from its construction (beginning 1956) thorugh to final decommisioning in 1991 (and remaining classified until 2004) the designated continuity of government site for the British Prime Minister and his staff would be known by a many names - Hawthorn Central Government War Headquarters, Stockwell, Subterfuge, Turnstile and the mysterious "Site 3", however today we generally know the facility as Burlington.

Unlike other "fallout shelters", Burlington was built on a grand scale from a quarry that also doubled as a aircraft factory in World War 2. In the event of WW3 it would become home to 4,000, is between 60 and 100 feet underground, and has an area of approximately 35 acres (Thats 141,640 square metres) - it was so big it even had electric buggies available to help inhabitants get around, and corridors were given street names.

In Addition to being home to the Prime Minister, his advisors, and his staff; the BBC had recording and transmitting facilities within the shelter. Wartime planning envisioned the BBC offering a limited wartime service through local stations, with information from the National Government syndicated on demand. The facility was so secret that neither the BBC staff, nor most of the civil servants designated to relocate to the shelter had no idea of its existence, or their status - if war had broken out, the first they would have learned of it would be when they were handed railway tickets and told to report to the station.

Facilities included a Medical Centre, dental surgery, Bakery, laundry, two kitchens, its own telephone exchange (complete with telephone books - remember those?), and a library containing a trove of information expected to be useful, including maps and acts of parliament. From his office in the facility, the Prime Minister could run the country almost as normal. Only the Prime Minister warranted a private Bathroom, other inhabitants would have to settle for communal facilities.

Faced with a £40 million bill to modernize the centre in the early 1990's or a £500,000 per anum bill just to keep as is, and the decreasing likelihood of Nuclear war, the facility was closed in 1991. The Facility however remained classified as a "decoy bunker" until 2004. No word what facility, if any, has replaced it.

During its lifetime the facility began to develop a reputation as the UK's own Area 51, and contained amongst other things crashed alien spacecraft - perhaps showing that truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

Sadly, its not currently possible to visit Burlington. There are some questions as to its current status (as to whether its MOD or purchased for use by other companies) and the site is apparently full of asbestos making it unsafe for casual visitors (however, Englush Heritage apparently have an interest in the facility); However there are a collection of videos and more pictures made by those lucky enough to visit the facility.

Next Week: ¡Atención! ¡Atención!

Calling all Sectoids, Floaters and Mutants Mutons

I like XCOM Enemy Unknown more each time I see it.

— Brian Fargo, Twitter

Just a quick shout out for the X-Com Wiki - the other home of our Number 1 editor Jspoel. For those of you not in the know, the classic 1990's tactical sim which pitted man against alien is being redone and re-imagined by Firaxis - the spiritual successors to Microprose (responsible for the original X-Com).

To wet your whistle, here's the E3 Trailer for X-Com: Enemy Unknown

Want to know more or help with the wiki? Fire up your SkyRanger and head on over.

Paying our respects...

Just a short note to mention the passing of Sci Fi author Ray Bradbury, who died this week aged 91. His best known books include the Martian Chronicles (depicting the colonisation of Mars), and Farenheit 451 (where books are banned). Lovers of Sci-Fi and great literature in general have truly lost a great.

Your Next Wiki News Digest

News day is Friday. See you all again next week. Agent c 03:11, June 8, 2012 (UTC)

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