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CRPGs as Learning Tools

In my book Dungeons & Desktops, I wrote in the introduction that I think CRPGs are the greatest learning tools ever designed. To my shame, however, I did not properly defend that statement--at least, not directly. While I think most of us would agree that the basic mechanics of a CRPG teach us valuable transferable skills like resource management, long-term planning, team management, statistical analysis, and so on, what makes them better than other learning tools, including other types of videogames?

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Matt Chat 175: Lori Ann & Corey Cole on Quest for Glory 5

Hi, guys! I'm back this week with the final installment of my interview with Quest for Glory designers Lori Ann and Corey Cole. In this segment, we chat about the ill-fated Quest for Glory V, focusing on why it wasn't the game it should have been. We wrap up with more juicy details about their upcoming Hero U project, which was successfully funded a short while back. I also sample the beer some have called "The Best Beer in the World."

Download the mp4.

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Kickstarter-Funded Games: Are We Asking for Too Little?

As someone who has been to bat for several Kickstarter projects lately, I'm becoming concerned with what's going to happen on the other end. After all this community support, will it be back to business as usual when the products hit the shelves? Will all this "fan outreach" end when they start worrying about maximizing their sales?

How will I feel when the games that I've not only helped fund, but--like many of you, have also promoted heavily with every social media tool at my disposal--how will I feel if those games end up on the shelf with the same kind of closed-source, DRM-encrusted, shrinkwrap-licensed bullshit that plagues the rest of the industry?

After some preliminary research, I've found that while most of the big game projects at least promise a DRM free version (at least as a limited option to backers), there are few promises that they will *exclusively* offer DRM free versions.

Let's consider how some of the Kickstarters I've supported are handling these issues:

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Matt Chat 174: Lori and Corey talk QFG 2-4

I'm back this week with Lori Ann and Corey Cole, the wizards behind the Quest for Glory series. In this episode, they discuss games 2-4 in the series, including all the behind-the-scenes shenanigans at Sierra On-Line. It's required listening for all fans of the franchise. On a related note, their Hero U: Rogue to Redemption Kickstarter has been successfully funded along with Dave Marsh's Shadowgate. I'm sure both teams are celebrating quite heavily right now! I wish them all good luck making the games of their dreams without having to worry about some publisher's demands.

Download the mp4 here.

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Matt Chat 173: Lori and Corey Cole on Quest for Glory

Hi, guys! Welcome back. This is the second segment of my gargantuan interview with QFG designers Lori Ann and Corey Cole. We chat here about their backgrounds, the first QFG game (Hero's Quest), and some thoughts about good puzzle design.

Download the mp4 here.

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Matt Chat 172: Josh Sawyer on Fallout 3, New Vegas, Dungeon Siege III, and Alpha Protcol

In this segment, Josh and I chat about Fallout 3 and New Vegas as well as two not-so-great titles, Dungeon Siege III and Alpha Protocol. Josh also talks about getting a job in the industry and the importance of Making Mods.

Download the mp4 here.

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Fixed: Heart of Winter "Insert DVD" Problem

I've spent the better part of the morning finding a workaround for this issue for the 3-in-1 boxed set DVD Icewind Dale collection. After completing the main campaign, I wanted to play the Heart of Winter expansion. It found the characters and asked if I wanted to import them. But then it hung on a screen asking me to insert the Icewind Dale DVD, which was already in the drive.

Solution:

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Matt Chat 171: Josh Sawyer on Icewind Dale and Neverwinter Nights

This week I'm back with Josh Sawyer to continue our chat about his history and game design philosophy. Josh started off as a web master at Interplay, but made such a positive impression on the management that he was soon designing his own games. Josh and I (and I suspect YOU!) have a lot of the same games that inspired us, like Pool of Radiance. Josh also talks about some cancelled projects, such as Project Jefferson (BG III) and the Aliens RPG.

You can download the video here.

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Skyrim, now with Disco Soundtrack

Skyrim: Designed by John Romero and John Carmack.Skyrim: Designed by John Romero and John Carmack.Modern CRPGs are console shooters. And that pisses me off. But how did they get this way? Last week I wrote about some features I'd like to see in a classic-style CRPG. I've been thinking more along these lines, thinking carefully about all of my favorite CRPGs and attempting to isolate the elements that so endeared them to me. What I've discovered is that this exercise is futile. You cannot create a good game simply by taking out the best gameplay mechanics from different games--what's more important is how well a designer has been able to build an attractive and coherent homology. I don't much like the term, but I like how Barry Brummett defines "stylistic homology" as "the signifying system that is a style is held together by formal properties such that one could look at a new article of dress, for instance, newly designed, and identify it as Edwardian." I think we could easily do the same for individual games or even whole game franchises, assuming it's well-designed. For instance, World of Warcraft has such a coherent homology that I'm sure most players would be able to look at screenshots of a city they hadn't personally visited--such as the Undercity--and realize it was from WOW and not Guild Wars 2. If you bear with me a moment, you can also see that this concept extends beyond just artwork and into gameplay. Even before you ever played a monk in WOW, for instance, if you're familiar with the other classes then you already have a pretty good idea of how the talents, abilities, and so on will play out. I think it's the sign of a great game when you can introduce something as radical as an entirely new class and not have the rest of the game fall apart.

Unfortunately, the problem is that such coherence comes at a cost. The same factors that allow us to already have a pretty good idea of what the monk will be like are the same factors that lead to boredom and disinterest. And man oh man, am I bored with WOW and Skyrim.

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The Kickstarters I'm Backing and Why

For the future!For the future!There are so many great Kickstarters going on right now that I'm GRAVELY concerned some of these will get lost in the shuffle. So to that end, I'm going to post some notes about each of the projects I'm backing, and I encourage you to do the same! I'll order these by the time they have left to go: Salem, Star Citizen, Hero-U, Shadowgate, and Cthulhu World Combat.

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