A Tim Schafer Designed “Game of Thrones” Style Strategy Game? Yes, Please

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After Tim Schafer was done with one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns of all time for his studio Double Fine’s entrant into the adventure genre Schafer once helped perfect, many expected to not hear from the company until “Broken Age” was completed.

It’s somewhat of a surprise then to hear today that Schafer and co. are already working on another Kickstarter title before “Broken Age” even has a confirmed release date. While it’s initially troubling to think of Double Fine’s new offering “Massive Chalice” as a reason for them to reach into your pockets again, once you actually begin read about the game, you may take up that internet joke and start willingly throwing money at your screen.

Described as a turn based tactical RPG that sees you command generations of heroes and try to repel demon hordes from a vast and intricate fantasy land ruled by factions, “Massive Chalice” cites its inspirations as games like  “Fire Emblem,” “Final Fantasy Tactics,” and “X-Com,” but also mentions the influences of TV shows like “Game of Thrones.” Collectively, of course, those are known as some of the best things ever.

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In, fact, much of “Massive Chalice” reads like a best of. You’ve got the feuding factions of “Game of Thrones,” the permadeath system of “Fire Emblem,” the tactical map design from the “Total War” series, and the combat style of “XCOM” all blended together and topped with that unique dialogue and general feel that Schafer studios usually provide.

It’s that last part that really matters, as if this was Peter Molyneux preaching a game where you control a faction over generations in a multi-faceted, kingdom consuming war involving mysticism and a variety of in-depth strategy elements, it’d be easy to dismiss it as all hype. However, Schafer (and for that matter project lead Brad Muir), have a history of always delivering an experience that may not be perfect, but is noteworthy and unlike anything else regardless of where it draws inspiration.

By the project’s own admission, “Massive Chalice” is unlike anything the studio has ever attempted. Whenever one of the most creatively exciting developers out there decide to step out of their comfort zone, that’s a cause to take notice of, and one that may easily be worth the $20 backing price.

The New “Among the Sleep” Demo is Sure to Make Even Grown Men as Scared as a Baby

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If you haven’t been following it, “Among the Sleep” is a unique upcoming indie project that looks to take horror away from its recent “action game with some jump moments” state, and back to the realm of true terror by placing you in the shoes of the most unlikely horror hero of all.

An infant.

That’s right. In “Among the Sleep” you play through the eyes of a baby as he is awoken during a dark and stormy night and sets off in search of his parents, with nothing but his teddy bear as company. Without giving too much away, it turns out this is no normal night, and in fact some serious terror is lurking all throughout the house.

It’s a unique title to be sure, and to help people get a grasp exactly how terrifying it can be, developer Krillbite Studio has uploaded a demo of the game to the project’s Kickstarter page, for Mac, Linux, and PC users.

So how is it? Pants wettingly terrifying, since you ask.

Even in its clearly rough early state, the game does a great job of making you feel truly helpless, and of showing the world through a baby’s eyes (for example, writing is just scribble and jumbled letters). Scares can come in the form of normal things like lightning strikes, bizarre noises, and darkened hallways, but as the demo progresses, you’ll start seeing some truly freaky stuff that would horrify anyone.

There’s almost sure to be a moment during this demo when you’ll find yourself ducking under a table out of fright  until everything is okay, just like a baby would. It’s an effect accomplished through some truly incredible atmospheric design, and while it remains to be seen if “Among the Sleep” has the gameplay legs to be worth an entire adventure, the demo is a must play for anyone with the courage, and is sure to put “Among the Sleep” on a lot more gamer’s radars.

New Videos Show that Virtual Reality Suddenly isn’t so Far Away

If you haven’t been following, the oculus rift is an amazing new virtual reality device that will allow the gamer to achieve a sort of free look effect while playing a game. It’s not quite the vision of virtual reality that we pictured from sci-fi, but it does represent the most realistic step towards that vision that video gaming has ever seen.

Now that early units have begun shipping to early kickstarter backers, we’re starting to get some pretty interesting footage of the device showing everyone exactly why that is.

The first comes to us from a gamer playing the free running “Mirror’s Edge.”

“Mirror’s Edge” is the exact type of game that people dreamed about when they heard of the oculus rift, and also the type they worried if the device was capable of handling. From that video, I’m going to say that concern has been addressed triumphantly

In fact, I pretty much just have to say “wow.”  While we don’t know how much time was invested in learning to play the game, it doesn’t appear that the user in that video misses much of a step with the rift, and instead the only times he seems disoriented are when he’s in a particularly narrow movement space, admiring the rift’s ability to put a new perspective on the game, or when participating in an awe inspiring free fall which serves as the definitive climax to the video.

While it’s difficult to gain the same sensation that the rift supposedly inspires just by watching a video, it doesn’t take much imagination when viewing that video to see that it has potential to lend a truly unprecedented interactive experience to select titles. Of course when you’re talking creative and imaginative experiences, nothing tops the next video.

In what has to be the most incredible demonstration of interactive gaming ever filmed, the person in that video is using an omni-directional treadmill, which can read and feed your movements to a video game character, and pairs it with the oculus rift to play “Team Fortress 2″ in a manner more in line with the virtual reality experience we’ve all dreamed of, albeit in a much more exhausting manner than previously considered.

The other thing that video shows is that there is a possible future for VR gaming, which is an idea that has never really been given an honest attempt or chance. Whether or not the oculus rift is the device we all look back to when identifying the true turning point of the concept, even the earliest and roughest footage shows a VR device that does something no other has truly managed to do yet.

Impress.

Five Reasons 2013 Will Be One of Gaming’s Greatest Years

While individual  game releases will always (deservedly) get most of the love, there is nothing like a truly great overall year of gaming. Even though it’s never an intended effect, it’s amazing when a group of independent properties come together to create an incredible 365, or 366 if we’re talking leap years, days of gaming. Years like 2001 (“Halo: CE,” “Grand Theft Auto III,” “Final Fantasy X”), 2007 (“Bioshock,” “Portal,” “Mass Effect”), and, of course, the greatest of them all, 1998 (featuring the holy trinity of “Metal Gear Solid,” “Half-Life,” and “Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time”) represent some of the best times ever to be a gamer.

And 2013 has the potential to join, or even exceed, all of them. Thanks to some fortunate timing, and a few delays, it’s looking to be a landmark year of video gaming that will be remembered for many, surely lesser, years to come. While there are many, many reasons for this, here are five that lead me to believe that 2013 in gaming will be one for the ages.

Mobile Gaming is Coming Into Its Own

“Serious” gamers may look down on the mobile gaming market, but it’s time that all gamers realize that we’ve come a long, long way from “Doodle Jump”. Now, instead of being an outlet for puzzlers, tower defense titles, and slightly lesser console ports, mobile gaming is producing intriguing and inventive titles at a rapid pace, due in large part to a sea of developers making use of the simpler programming on mobile devices, and the still interesting touch controls, to provide a constant, and often cheap, flow of amazing games on the go. Since the explosion in tablet sales over the last couple of years, we’re even starting to see more titles developed specifically with their larger sized screens and more powerful abilities in mind.

There hasn’t really been a truly noteworthy traditional handheld gaming system since the Nintendo DS, but thankfully an ever growing community has slowly turned a platform that was only used for brief sessions of “Snake” in your downtime, to one of the most exciting fields for surprising high quality video game releases. Expect this to continue in 2013.

The Next Generation Begins

As the Wii U is proving, a new console doesn’t have to blow minds to still produce some genuine excitement and huge sales numbers. While nothing from the other major gaming companies is official, it’s looking more and more likely that 2013 will bring gamers the next generation of Xbox and Playstation consoles (even if it is only a preview at the least). While that means that gamers will have to soon be plucking down some serious cash on new consoles, accessories and games (not to mention still trying to keep up with the releases still to come for the previous consoles), there is nothing more exciting than the promise of a new gaming generation.

Soon battle lines will be drawn once again as gamers choose their alliances, and new specs and features will again re-shape what we thought was possible in the medium. This has been a great console lifecycle, but it’s gone on for longer than usual, and it’s time for a new day to begin.

People Are Choosing the Games They Want, and What They Want in Games

One of the biggest changes to gaming over the last year or two has been the influence of sites like Kickstarter (or more recently Steam’s “Greenlight” program). Now, developers have open forums where they can present their ideas and let the community decide their interest in them, and even help by directly funding the titles. Even though the road to success is not guaranteed, it’s now easier than ever for a good idea to see life, and for gamers to help make sure the games they want get a chance.

But this isn’t just about sites like those. It’s also about events like “Mass Effect 3′s” optional new endings, or “Bioshock: Infinite’s” alternate cover. Now, more than ever, gamers have the ability to directly influence the decisions of major developers, and have a word about the final product. While this is a controversial move, the fact that the average gamer now has so much power to directly influence the titles available to them will have some major, and intriguing, implications in the coming year.

Influence of 2012’s Biggest Games

2012 was not one of those all-time great years of gaming I mentioned, but it did have some all-time great games. It’s natural to build off of what came before, and in the case of 2013, that could mean some exciting and sweeping changes across several genres.

Particularly, look for the success of “The Walking Dead” to lead to a revival of the traditional point and click genre, as well as a greater focus on the effect of storytelling in games. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the indie hit “Slender” put horror game developers back to the drawing board to come up with some fresh ideas for the genre (and veer it away slightly from the growing action elements), and if the praise that “Far Cry 3” is garnering expands the aging FPS market into more of the sandbox gaming territory.  Other less likely, but equally welcome innovations would be if more all-star developers got together on independent properties like in “Dishonored,” or if other long dead franchises get exciting resurrections like “XCOM,” or even if “Journey” inspires people to look towards developing with art, and not violence, more in mind.

Whatever the final influences may be, 2012 showed there are still some exciting places for gaming to go. 2013 might just take us to all of them.

That Lineup…

Oh sweet heaven, the amazing lineup of 2013. While you can never guarantee that any game will be great no matter how it may look, with 2013 set to deliver no less than “Grand Theft Auto V,” “Bioshock: Infinite,” “Last of Us,”  “Watch Dogs,” “Crysis 3,” “Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time,” “Simcity,” “Command and Conquer Generals 2” and the new “Tomb Raider,” it’s very likely that we are going to get a host of instant classics.

Of course, that’s just some of the games that we actually know about. Many of the best games of this year came out of nowhere, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the best game of 2013 is one that no one is talking about yet. Even in an ever expanding industry, at the end of the day games are still king, and the games set for 2013 are some of the most exciting that I’ve seen in a long time.

Obsidian Announces Project Eternity

It hard not to think of Obsidian as the “little brother” of the video game world.

While made up of competent and experienced developers, the company itself often piggybacks off of the successes of big brother development companies like Bethesda and Bioware, with titles such as “KOTOR:II” (someone remind me to do something about how much I hate that game…), “Fallout: New Vegas,” “Dungeon Siege III,” and “Neverwinter Nights 2.” While they’ve proven they have the ability to take the ball and run with it, they’ve yet to come up with something impressive of their own doing.

Of course if there’s one advantage to riding on the shoulders of RPG giants, it’s that you gain a real great lay of the land.

Which is why it’s so exciting that the company has announced a new independent Kickstarter project under the name “Project Eternity.”  From what is known about the game, it looks to bring back the classic, western, isometric perspective RPG genre, complete with the traditional party based, paused combat system seen in some of the Bioware classics of yore. If you really want an idea of how much inspiration Obsidian is drawing for this title, you only have to look at their own description, which lays some serious hype on the game:

“‘Project Eternity’ will take the central hero, memorable companions and the epic exploration of ‘Baldur’s Gate,’ add in the fun, intense combat and dungeon diving of ‘Icewind Dale,’ and tie it all together with the emotional writing and mature thematic exploration of ‘Planescape: Torment.’”

If you’ve never played those games (shame on you) then let me assure you that is a tall task even for a group of aforementioned giant riders. It’s certainly an intriguing concept however, especially considering that the concepts presented in those games mentioned have influenced the RPG genre as much as any others, and this style of title hasn’t been done well in a long, long time. Throw in the fact that much of the Obsidian development team worked on some of those titles mentioned, and maybe you can understand why it’s time for classic RPG fans to start getting excited.

Obviously, when you’re trying to get people to throw money at something that you’d really like to do (which, by the way, quite a few people are already doing) there is an understandable tendency to exaggerate. That being said, though, I’m such a big fan of those style of games that I still want to see how close they can get to fulfilling their promise, and I’m willing to put aside my seething, blinding hatred of “KOTOR: II” to give Obsidian the chance to also prove themselves worthy as developers of independent properties.

Besides, this is the same company that’s managing to make a “South Park” video game look unbelievably incredible. So I wouldn’t dare tell them there isn’t anything they can’t do.

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