Darkstone on Steam

Darkstone arrived on Steam in September. Darkstone is an action RPG that was originally released for PC and the PlayStation back in 1999.

I remember losing many hours to playing this and being in awe of how good it was. However, this is definitely one of those games where the only people who should pick it up now are probably those, like me, who can still see it through nostalgia-tinged glasses.

This was a very good game for its time, but the game design really shows its age.

 

Darkstone Screenshot

Cityographer – Randomly Generate Cities for RPGs

Cityographer is a Kickstarter-funded random city generator/mapping software for role-playing games. You set up the parameters for the city you want to randomly generate using dialogue screens like this:

Cityographer Dialog Box

Cityographer then cranks out randomly generated cities based on your choices that look like this:
cityographer-002

Cityographer was successfully Kickstarted back in June 2012. Developer Joe Wetzel is still working on finishing the program but has made a lot of progress. So far, though, I haven’t seen any indication on what the retail price of this will be for those who didn’t participate in the Kickstarter funding.

Quest-Free Skyrim?

Mattie Brice makes the case for eliminating quests altogether in open world role-playing game such as Skyrim,

My response? Abandon quests altogether for future Elder Scrolls games. Skyrim is at a place in its evolution where the series can’t rationalize holding onto several RPG conventions for convention’s sake. There is no reason that we need to go into Skyrim expecting quests to guide us along everywhere because the point of the game is to explore with player-driven volition. I can see a Skyrim that has no quests that are explicitly given to the player but only offers rumors and clues along with different ways of obtaining them. My first time in Riverwood, I was looting the general store on the top floor and happened to overhear some siblings arguing over finding something called the golden claw. Just that knowledge should have empowered me to go find it, but Skyrim relies on the quest-giving model and its explicitly defined objectives, which are all created by developers instead of the player. This is especially problematic when you get the claw back from the bandit who holds it. Your game journal tells you to explore the barrow further. My decision to keep going into the ruins or to get the claw back to the store would be more meaningful if I came to that decision on my own, as hints were already there to do so.

I left Skyrim feeling that this was it. There’s nowhere else to progress given the trajectory the series has found for itself. It’s the same ol’ fantasy with the same ol’ combat, the same “epic” story that I have seen before. A stronger focus on helping the player tell their stories through the method that The Elder Scrolls has established would shed the necessity that binds the series in its RPG conventions. As recent RPG developers have found, the usual ways that the genre tells stories isn’t working anymore, and there’s little progress in designing something players haven’t seen before. The narrative is in the play. Let me play.

Interesting. I’m not sure we’ll ever seen a quest-free Elder Scrolls, but Skyrim does get a bit annoying in its quest-a-holic format. My son was about 20 hours into Skyrim on the XBox when he looked up and said “Dad, how do I abandon a quest?” Well, at least on the console versions, you can’t. Accept a quest, and you’re stuck with it forever. That design decision is extremely annoying.

The other problem with Skyrim quests, IMO, is the lack of parallel quest structures. For example, I enjoyed the entire line of Thieves Guild quests. What I would have liked even more, however, would have been the option to go undercover and bring the Thieves Guild to justice. I could just ignore the Thieves Guild altogether, or perhaps go in and slaughter the whole bunch, but neither of those options parallels the existing Thieves Guild quests.

Wizard of Oz RPGs

Saw an ad for a Wizard of Oz-themed pen-and-paper RPG the other day and decided to look around the web for Oz-based RPGs.

The RPG I saw the ad for was Emerald City Expeditions’ Oz: Dark and Terrible, which describes it thusly,

Welcome Welcome to Oz! An Oz where Witches with extraordinary magical abilities vie for power against a steamtech based Emerald City, lead by the Wizard himself. But who has the right to rule all of Oz? Does might make right? All of the familiar characters from the Land Oz are in Oz: Dark & Terrible, with one exception. The Scarecrow is an Anidum; a creature containing a person’s soul that has been transplanted into a mannequin, while the witch responsible walks around in the Husk with all its memories. The Tin Woodsman is a retired member of the Wizard’s “secret service”, the Tin Men, who ensure the citizens of the Emerald City remain loyal to their ruler and are willing to use whatever means necessary to achieve their goals. The Cowardly Lion is a disgraced exile from his rightful kingdom after his father betrayed the other Animals in a catastrophic battle against Blinkie, the former Wicked Witch of the South, who refuses to be like other Carnivores who eat the hearts of Humans to gain lycanthropic powers. The exception is Dorothy. She never went to Oz…yet. You play the role of an Outsider. Or, you can play a native of Oz, be he a mutated Munchkin, tribal Quadling, or even an Automaton, a sentient clockwork machine, among dozens of other possibilities. Oz: Dark & Terrible is based on the Land of Oz created by L. Frank Baum. But we have taken Oz in a direction never before seen. 256 pages, b&w interior, hardcover, removable map

F. Douglas Wall has also written an Oz-based RPG, Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road. A print version of Adventures in Oz can be bought for $14.99 at Lulu.com or a PDF version is available from DriveThruRPG for $7.99. Wall also maintains a regularly updated blog devoted to the Adventures in Oz game.

Adventures in Oz seems to take a more conventional approach to the Oz milieu,

The Adventure Begins With You! For over 100 years, Dorothy’s adventures in the Land of Oz have fired the imaginations of millions. Now it’s time to create your own Adventures in Oz! * Easily create your own unique Oz character, or recreate your favorite Oz hero! * Simple rules and a bloodless combat system make it a great game for Oz fans of all ages! * Over 30 locations from L. Frank Baum’s Oz stories as well as advice for creating your own Ozzy locales! * “The Jaded City of Oz” a fun new Oz adventure!

Its odd there doesn’t seem to have been a serious attempt to make an Oz-based MMO yet. Perhaps Oz is too identified with the 1939 in the general public’s imagination to do a non-film based game.