Category Archives: News

Borderlands 2 Level Design – An Insider’s View

Concept drawings for Flanksteak, Borderlands 2 NPC, courtesy of Gearbox Software.

Borderlands 2 has been one of our favorite games to blow hours on over the last year.  Seriously, who doesn’t love farming Mick Zaford endlessly for shiny new Maggies?

With all our hours spent on Pandora – almost as many as spent in Tamriel – we’ve developed a genuine fondness for the locales and inhabitants of Gearbox Software’s dysfunctional dystopia.  Naturally, we’re pleased any time that Gearbox gives us a glimpse behind the veil with their “Inside the Box” blog series, posted on their Gearbox community blog.

In this “Inside the Box” article, Gearbox Senior Designer Keith Schuler gives Borderlands 2 fans a fascinating behind-the-scenes look into the level design process for the BL2 mission “Hunting the Firehawk.”

Warning, if you’ve not already played Borderlands 2, Keith’s article does contain some major spoilers.  If you’re past the “Hunting the Firehawk” mission, however, you are guaranteed a few AHA! moments while reading Keith’s article.

The Tamriel Beer Garden at PAX East – You’re Invited!

Bethesda's Tamriel Beer Garden Invitation

Invitation to the Tamriel Beer Garden hosted by Bethesda

If you will be lucky enough to attend PAX East this week or are near the city of Boston, check out this sweet invitation to the Tamriel Beer Garden, hosted by the good folks at Bethesda.

The Tamriel Beer Garden will take place on Saturday night, March 23rd, at the Castle Meeting Space in downtown Boston, from 6PM to 11PM; admission is on a first come, first served basis.

According to the BethBlog:

We encourage fans of The Elder Scrolls to gather for themed food and drinks, music, merchants, cool giveaways, and more. And if you didn’t get your PAX tickets before the event sold out, the event will be your first chance to play The Elder Scrolls Online.

This sounds like an amazing event to check out for fans of the Elder Scrolls Series – wish we could attend.

Is Far Cry 3 Really “Skyrim with Guns?” – Our Impressions So Far

Far Cry 3 Screenshot

Sunscreen? Check. Flip-flops? Check. Assault rifle? Check.

Far Cry 3 is like Skyrim with Guns!” has been an oft-repeated quote even prior to this month’s release of Ubisoft’s new open-world, sandbox first person shooter (FPS).  Here’s our brief take on that claim and some of our impressions of Far Cry 3 thus far.

First off, Far Cry 3 (on the PC) is gorgeous.  The island archipelago wherein the story of Far Cry 3 takes place is huge, incredibly detailed, and graphically stunning.  In this sense, the visuals of Far Cry 3 remind us of the immersive graphics of a modded version of Skyrim with visual settings maxed.  As you run about the islands’ hills, rain forests, beaches, and cliffs in first person, you truly feel transported to the tropical world of Far Cry 3.  If you are short on funds for a trip to Fiji or Tahiti this year, playing Far Cry 3 on a solid gaming PC may be the next best thing.

Far Cry 3 Screenshot 2

Grab me another mai-tai when you get a chance, would ya?

We also found some similarity between the sense of wonder and exploration conveyed by the respective huge maps and numerous locales of Far Cry 3 and Skyrim.  It was this sense of untapped opportunity to explore, especially early in the game, that most gave us the sense that Far Cry 3 is “Skyrim with guns.”  Of course, not unlike Skyrim or the Fallout games, your perception of the hugeness of the world of Far Cry 3 diminishes as you do check-off discoveries through the course of the game.  But it’s that early feeling of unending possibilities in Far Cry 3 that most reminds us of Skyrim.

Crafting in Far Cry 3, on the other hand, does not remind us of Skyrim at all, and instead feels somewhat unnecessary and somewhat tacked-on.  Crafting in Skyrim conveys that aforementioned dynamic of “unlimited possibilities” for much longer than the crafting dynamic in Far Cry 3.  For example, in Far Cry 3 you hunt and skin animals to create and upgrade your gear: backpack, wallet, ammo pouch etc., but you can only create and upgrade each item once, and there is no opportunity to sell previously created and no longer needed items.  In Far Cry 3 the crafting dynamic seems completely independent of the in-game economy.  Of course in Skyrim you can play the game as an alchemist who never does anything but hunt for ingredients, create potions, & sell them in the market if you so choose.  In Far Cry 3, once you’ve hunted and crafted the gear you need to carry enough weapons, ammo, and cash, you may as well stop hunting and crafting since loot and related cash proceeds will cover any needs you have far better than crafting.

Far Cry 3 also implements a basic skill tree and points dynamic.  This falls far short of games like Skyrim, however, offering little divergence or variety in the paths the player can assign points to.  In fact, we have largely ignored the skill tree and points during our latest play-through, as they do not seem to add much to the basic FPS dynamics or our enjoyment of the game.

We love the Fallout games (still playing Fallout New Vegas) and feel that they (obviously, since they are all Bethesda games)  better fit the bill of “Skyrim with guns” in large part due to the wonky, somewhat awkward combat dynamics shared by all the Bethesda games.  Far Cry 3, on the other hand, does do an excellent job of incorporating tight and fluid FPS mechanics into its open-world sandbox.  In our opinion, Ubisoft has done an admirable job of joining the fluid FPS combat of a CoD or Battlefield type game into the sprawling open-world map of a Bethesda type game.

So is Far Cry 3Skyrim with guns?”  Not quite, in our opinion, as it lacks the depth of Skyrim on many levels including crafting, player inventory, storage, homes, skill-tree, etc.  That said, however, Ubisoft deserves kudos, in our opinion, for doing an admirable job of bringing the sense of unlimited sandbox possibilities offered by games like Skyrim to the genre of the FPS, perhaps better than it’s ever been done before.  In some ways, Far Cry 3 could be better described as a “tropical island Grand Theft Auto in the first person with C0D-style gunplay.”  But that’s another debate for another time.  What’s your experience with Far Cry 3 been like so far?

Far Cry 3 Screenshot 3

Enjoy this sweet roll, mother****.

Dragonborn DLC for Skyrim Coming December 4th

Bethesda has just released its first trailer video for the new DLC/expansion for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, entitled Dragonborn.

Skyrim fans first discovered clues to this new DLC when Bethesda released its 1.8 update for Skyrim in October; we previously reported on these clues here.

A definitive clue was released by Bethesda in the form of a tweet last Friday.

According to Bethesda’s post today, Dragonborn will be available on Tuesday, December 4th, on XboxLive for 1600 Microsoft Points.  No word yet on when the PC version of Dragonborn will be available.

PS3 owners?  Sadly, at this point, there really does not seem to be any sense in asking or wondering.

Bethesda Game Studios' Tweet re Dragonborn DLC for Skyrim

Skyrim Devs’ Tweet Teases Upcoming DLC

 

Bethesda Game Studios, developer of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, recently tweeted out a new tease of their rumored, upcoming DLC for Skyrim.

In addition to the picture above, the tweet promises a full trailer on Monday, November 5th.

The rumored DLC is expected to be called “Dragonborn,” based on clues found in the recently released 1.8 update for Skyrim; we previously reported on these clues here.

The definitive discussion of all the related clues and the rumored DLC can be found here in the Bethsoft Forums.

It’s no secret that we’ve been playing an unhealthy amount of Skyrim recently, especially in light of all the other new games available to play (Dishonored, MOH: Warfighter, Borderlands 2 etc.); this new teaser does not bode well for our escape from Tamriel any time soon.

The Elder Scrolls Online is Online… Sort Of

Bethesda has announced, via the BethBlog, the launch of ElderScrollsOnline.com, the official community website of The Elder Scrolls Online MMO game.

BethBlog says the site will feature game development updates, artwork, screenshots, a developers diary, and more.

ElderScrollsOnline.com looks good and already features some nice concept art & development related content; we’re looking forward to seeing what’s next from the TESO development team.

ElderScrollsOnline.com official website

Rumors of Mass Zynga Layoffs Today- UPDATE

UPDATE – unfortunately, Gamasutra has confirmed that the rumors of employee layoffs at Zynga circulating this AM are in fact true.  Gamasutra is reporting that over 100 employees have lost their jobs, many from the Austin studio, while the entire Boston studio has been closed.  The announcement of the layoffs was made during the Apple product launch event this morning; many commentators doubt the timing is any coincidence as Zynga has been struggling the rapid decline of its stock value over that last several weeks.

Please check out all the details over at Gamasutra.com.

BREAKING – the Twittersphere is buzzing with rumors unrelated to the new iPad mini this AM: Gamasutra is tweeting about rumors of massive employee layoffs at Zynga’s Austin & Boston offices. All of this is unconfirmed at this point, so we’ll follow along and keep you posted.

Hopefully these are nothing more than rumors – we wish Zynga’s employees the best of luck and really hope no one is losing their job.

The Elder Scrolls Online – Good News? Check out Massively’s Hands-On

If you’re a fan of The Elder Scrolls games and the world of Tamriel, and especially if you’ve had concerns about what Bethesda’s announcement of The Elder Scrolls Online MMO would mean for the series, you need to check out this great article by Matt Daniel at Massively by Joystiq.  Matt details his hands-on experiences with TESO thus far, and what he says give us great hope as fans of The Elder Scrolls game series.

We were particularly excited/relieved to hear what Matt had to say about the art-style of the online world of Tamriel:

Let me first answer the question on everybody’s mind: Does it feel like an Elder Scrolls game? It does, mostly. The game’s art team has done a fantastic job of recreating the kind of beautiful scenic vistas that players have come to expect from the series, and it’s clear that much attention was paid to keeping the world consistent with previous games.

We’re really pleased to see this illustrated in the screenshots posted by Matt in his article.

The Elder Scrolls Online Screenshot from Massively by Joystiq

Looking more like Skyrim than WoW.

Borderlands 2 DLC: Captain Scarlett & Her Pirates Booty Trailer

Check out the trailer for Captain Scarlett and her Pirate’s Booty, the first campaign add-on for Borderlands 2. This add-on was released today, October 16th for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3.

PC version is available for download at the Steam Store (click the picture below to link to Steam).

Thanks for sharing the trailer, Gearbox!

Borderlands 2 DLC Captain Scarlett by Gearbox Software available at Steam

Skyrim DLC Speculation – Dragonborn?

This AM, several gaming news outlets are reporting rumors of an upcoming downloadable expansion for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, possibly entitled “Dragonborn.”

We looked into the basis for the rumors and can confirm the following:

Yesterday, a user on the Bethsoft forums named Mardoxx wrote a post entitled “Time for some spoilers form[sic] the latest beta” that stated:

Next DLC will be called Dragonborn. It is set in Solstheim. Main locations are Raven Rock, Miraak Temple, Castle Karstaag and Telvanni Tower. You will might be able to ride dragons. Also, new armor types, possibly horse (?) Bomemold, Chitin, Nordic and Stalhrim.

PS3 DLC will come soon and so will mounted spell casting.

(*from)

This could, of cause, be an elaborate troll on Bethesda’s part! The naming in Translate_*.txt is correct though, http://tsdr.uspto.go…pe=statusSearch

Mardoxx also posted a link to the following image:

Skyrim Dragonborn DLC user interface compass

According to Mardoxx, this is the user interface quest compass from the unreleased DLC represents:

Clockwise from top, Telvanni Tower, To Solstheim, Raven Rock, Castle Karstaag, Standing Stones, To Skyrim, Miraak Temple.
Bottom is quest header for Dragonborn quests

It looks Mardoxx has done some down & dirty mining into the datafiles included in the new Skyrim 1.8 Update Beta, announced yesterday.  Check out the whole thread on the Bethsoft forums for all of the intriguing nuggets dug up by Mardoxx.

We’ve been playing a sh!t-TON of modded-Skyrim on our new gaming PC, so this speculation about a new Skyrim expansion has us super excited.  We’re really intrigued by Mardoxx’s suggestions that this will be a full-blown expansion DLC as opposed to the relatively pinner-sized content included in the recent Hearthfire DLC.

Holy sh!t – does this mean we’ll be able to ride dragons with our modded, skimpy-armored Lydia?  Our Frank Frazetta-fueled childhood fantasies will finally be complete.  Thank you, Mardoxx for sharing your exciting finds with other fans of Skyrim.

 

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