Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The Finite Forest: Tale of Tales Begs To Keep "Art" Alive

The self-described team of artists (rather than games developers or designers) Tale of Tales have long courted the periphery of PC games community. Their string of releases including most famously The Path have all been controversial for one reason or another; usually whether or not they are games at all, and thus deserving of some people's attention or money. (For the record: it doesn't matter and yes they are.)

Now the group, led by husband-and-wife team Auriea Harvey & Michaël Samyn, are asking for donations to keep their first release alive. The Endless Forest requires €165 a month to keep the servers alive. Historically it has been supported by arts charities and communities donations but now that money is running out and the servers are in danger of being shut off for good.

First opened in 2005, The Endless Forest is a peaceful non-combative non-constructive non-verbal social world where players are anthropomorphically-faced deer frolicking around a forest and the ruins, follys and natural features found within. There is no way to speak or communicate in text with other players in this world. Instead, being deer as they are, they use body language (kneel, sit, leap, run around in circles...) and barks. There are no goals, enemies or dangers. Its an extraordinary experience and free to play.

I detailed my personal thoughts on the situation in the comments thread for Rock, Paper, Shotgun's article on this, and I cannot put it better than I did then:
The things is… I would love to. I’d love to be able to throw the whole €165/m at them just to know Endless Forest is still around should I one day want to go back and wander the forest for a couple of hours…

But I can’t. My money is exceedingly tight and I have to be very careful what I put it towards.

What surprises me is that they are [primarily] requesting regular, repeat payments. Yes, they can be cancelled at any time so technically a person could give a single payment but the impression is a significant element. [Also, one-off payments can in fact be made from the Donate page]. Should ToT ask for people to throw, oh, a one off amount of €5 in return for a simple unique visual effect upon their deer I am sure they would make their money for the next 3 months almost immediately. Handled correctly, it could be a great opportunity to build interest in Endless Forest again, their old releases on multiple platforms and their future projects.

Hell, they could ask for pre-orders of 8 (yes, that’s the name of their next big project) and I’d be throwing money at the screen. At least some of that could keep TEF alive.
TEF is free to play and can be downloaded from their website. If you are generous enough to donate, you can do so from this page.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Baldur's Gate: Reduxed?

I do love a good old fashioned map.
So, I imagine there's a lot of people disappointed with the Baldur's Gate announcement, or rather the lack of the announcement they were hoping for. Even though the BG:EE (for that is its name, so sayeth the prophet) website is no working, there are still few details at this time beyond a confirmation that it is the original game 're-forged' in an updated Infinity engine. For those of us with leaky memories, the Infinity engine was, or is?, the old 2D engine that the original games ran under.

Okay, so it's not Baldur's Gate III. It could always have been worse, as Susan Arendt of The Escapist trolled her twitter followers with this well placed 'reaction'.

Yes, yes she was actually kidding. Thank Bhall.
From what we do know, I would speculate we will see a retextured 2D roleplaying game in the Fourth Edition of Dungeon & Dragons following the same plot-line (plot-net, really) with restructured locations and monsters. Essentially, the same as before but a little shinier and using the new edition's Power-based combat mechanics.

I am really not sure how I feel about that vision of the future. The original games were based on 2nd Edition rules which are, from my personal perspective, extremely convoluted and backwards. However 4th Edition rules are limited in scope and flavourless. It is though easier to teach and play, more mechanically logical and coherent.

There is no great reason why games like this cannot tell the same story any better or worse than the originals or be necessarily more or less enjoyable but whatever Overhaul Games do there will be huge arguments over any changes they make. When beginning this piece, I had considered writing about how I would envision my perfect Baldur's Gate remake, and invite any reading to offer their own dreams, but if we allow ourselves to dwell on dreams we will never be happy with whatever we get in the end.

It is a ballsy move by any producer or developer to resurrect a beloved IP even under the best of circumstances. Whatever the result, BG:EE is likely to both sell in huge numbers and, unless it is exceptional in ever way and probably even then, be eviscerated by fans of the original. At stake is a further re-release, potentially a series of character roleplay game remakes and a thousand happy memories.

Good luck, Overhaul.

Remembering Forgotten Realms - Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition Announced

The end result of a Miniature Giant Space Hamster going for eyes.

It has been well ever thirteen years since the first instalment of the legendary Baldur's Gate series. BioWare's epic story of the child of a dead god set in the Forgotten Realms D&D world set the bar for character roleplaying adventure games. Over four years they released two games and two game-sized expansion packs, each of which gave easily over a hundred hours of gameplay for a single play-through, a feat which is impossible today.

At 7pm UTC a slavering audience gathered, expecting the announcement of a third full game. A countdown and the above seal-of-Bhall image over a background of the original character portraits from the first two games was brought down by interest about ten minutes before the hour. Then the site failed entirely, sometimes giving errors and sometimes nothing at all.

However the internet was soon flooded with proper games news websites telling us an email from Atari (the publishers) revealed the announced game is Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition. Developed by Overhaul Games, it looks to be an updated re-release of the origin game and it will be released in the nebulous period known as Summer. Does that mean it will be released 6 months later in the Southern Hemisphere? Probably. There are no further details at this time.

UPDATE: A developer representative contacted IGN directly (which sounds rather like cheating [/pout]). I could paraphrase or I could quote. Let's go with the later option, shall we?
"We're adding new original content in the spirit of the original game," the representative said, as well as "maintaining all the awesome that is Baldur's Gate." The team behind it will include new staff, as well as team members responsible for the original games. 
It was also confirmed that Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition will be released at a later date. Both this and the first Enhanced Edition will be made in a "re-forged version of the Infinity Engine."