progress update

things continue to advance for deus ex. a snapshot of the team last week would look like this:

the programmers just finished giving us a new version. included are numerous new features and game systems, large and small. plus this version includes a bunch of new characters and objects. since our game is really interactive, we need a lot of objects–things you can act on in the game with or without tools, with or without certain player-character skills. not just triggers and switches, but many inventory items, devices containing pieces of backstory and/or plot critical info, etc.

most of the artists have been cranking through 3d object generation–everything from security cameras, ATM’s and retinal scanners to various types of ammo and fire hydrants. some of the artists have been continuing the animations for our *huge* host of NPC’s. and a few artists are working with designers on some of the remaining textures for use in our 3d maps.

the designers meanwhile continue to build out the world, connecting maps with teleporters and travel map triggers. (our travel map, prototyped by norden and the programmers recently, is going to rock. it is functional now and already looks pretty damned good. the final version should be awesome.) also, designers are working to revise minor parts of their mission write-ups, doing things like ensuring that for each skill we support in our game systems we have enough uses for that skill in the actual maps. (not as easy as it sounds.) we are nearing the stage where raw map work ends and NPC and locational scripting begins.

in other sundry disciplines: christian, our writer, is working with individual designers to get the characters all saying the right things at the right times. not only is he writing the conversations, he is using programmer albert yarusso’s ConEdit (a really nice app) to put the NPC conversations into script form. peter is constantly tweaking the schedule based on what we accomplish on a week by week basis. and stan–the sound effects designer–recently came down to spend some time talking to us about the game’s sounds.

meanwhile warren spends most of the day working on this huge mashed potato sculture he’s got going in his office and racing his BMW up and down loop 360. **JUST KIDDING** he’s actually as busy as anyone on the team, managing this very slippery, many-headed development team, continuing to work with designers on their missions, making sure the plot still works in light of 3d location cuts & mergers, and ensuring that the design doc–the monstrous hog that it has become–does not get too out of date.

i was going to rant about a particular designer topic today, but i’ll save it for tomorrow, given the length of this update. (i came in today to work some on the paris catacombs map.)

ps–thanks to all the people out there–friends and strangers alike–who have recently expressed interest in deus ex and who have wished us well here at ion austin. you know who you are…

word of the day: gnotobiotic

3 games that look bloody incredible

the last few months have been good to gamers, at least according to my tastes. half-life, thief, baldur’s gate & the s.m.a.c demo have all been good enough to give me a stiffy.

but of course i must have more…something new. so now, looking to the far horizon of the coming year, there are several games that have me getting really excited.

system shock 2–they just released a series of new shots that i think look awesome. i can just *feel* the game-play radiating off of these images. every location seems to tell some story or imply some interesting interaction-possibility. friends at looking glass & irrational games say that shock2 is really shaping up. some members of the thief team have moved over to work with the shock2 team (i believe). both groups are made up of some of the people who were responsible for underworld, system shock, terra nova and thief. if that doesn’t get you wildly excited, you probably should not be viewing the content on this page. go here for the new shock2 shots. (also, saam runs a really excellent site called Through the Looking Glass. it’s another great place to get info on LG games.)

anachronox–yes, i know i work for ION, but i work at ION *Austin*, so i rarely get out to the dallas location, the mighty tower that it is. (here with warren’s group, we work in a little bank strip plaza…from which we have nearly been evicted several times for reasons i’d rather not divulge.) anyway, i just went to the ION web site and looked over all the new screen shots for the game. so far, from the demos i have seen, the game itself seems like a really interesting blend of strategy and role-playing. so i was already hyped for the game. but now, after seeing the latest work they have done, i am floored. it just looks amazing–revolutionary is the word that comes to mind. like jack nicholson said in _as good as it gets_, “you make me want to be a better designer…” really. looking at those shots is like a kick in the ass–those guys rock. & they are going to raise the bar. so this game is another title i am eagerly awaiting.

diablo 2–baldur’s gate is cool & it consumed a lot of the last few weekends. but as far as stat based/character advancement/kill monsters/collect treasure/ gain levels games go, diablo is the best. (btw–as you probably know, i am personally more inclined to the other side of the RPG–plot, character, setting; this is more what Deus Ex is all about. so don’t be thinking our game is going to be some sort of hack & slash fest.) the new diablo 2 shots seem to show that blizzard has repeated much of the same goodness that made diablo so damned addictive. plus they’ve added a bunch more. something like 6 character types, new monsters, spells, etc. and the ease of their multiplayer access is nothing short of ‘the best in the world.’ i can’t wait to play D2–it’s all the stat based game-play of a game like baldur’s gate, plus it’s faster, leaner and with fewer annoyances. note to blizzard: you should avoid areas that force instant repeated reloads, features that take control of the player’s character away & NPC interactions that suck everyone in the adventuring party into someone else’s conversation. (imho, the 3 worst aspects of BG.)

word of the day: tatterdemalion

FireTeam: Best Game of the Year

cool announcement: the people at have voted FireTeam ‘game of the year.’

check out their other choices here.

also, other good things have been happening for FireTeam (the tactical internet squad game that was my last project at Multitude). OGR, Computer Games Online and MPOG have all independently given FireTeam “4 star ratings.” plus it got the editor’s choice award from Games Domain. it’s very cool that the online gamer community is responding so well to a game that is very much outside the normal gaming genres.

hmm, looking at the page counter, the cauldron site has passed ‘2000 unique ip addresses.’ according to the character advancement tables, don’t i get a new level or something? more hit points? another spell?

ION designer/architectural badass monte martinez says i should get The Zealot, who manages this site, to change the counter so it says: experience points. what about it Zealot? here at ION austin, we’ve been playing *lots* of Baldur’s Gate, including a marathon 15 hour session on saturday. monday through friday is dedicated to Deus Ex, but right now the weekends are for recreational gaming.

DE screenshot and update

for those of you interested in Deus Ex, our dark future conspiracy RPG, i have good news. things are going extremely well. we are, in part, beginning to switch from raw map construction to the implementation of more game-play features. the programmers, led by chris norden, have been writing code like mad and it is beginning to show up in the form of features coming on line. scott martin and al yarusso recently gave us all a demo of some of our inventory management and conversation recording features. it is really sweet and if you play computer RPG’s you will appreciate the depth of control we give you.

also, the new issue of PC Games features a Deus Ex screenshot. for those of you who have asked, the shot is from one of designer steve powers’ Hong Kong subplots. it involves some triads and other secret groups. in the shot, two characters are standing joss temple (neutral ground) discussing the rivalry of their organizations and their mutual competition for the player’s alliance and aid. (btw–steve did the city of mages in serpent isle. so if you liked that, you’ll love the Hong Kong sections of Deus Ex.)

i really have to say–the austin ION office is a completely cool place to work. i’m loving it and having a blast. i also feel like it’s a great place to learn, which is always one of my priorities. we have an awesome mix of people here–people who have worked on RPG’s, ultimas, flight sims, sub sims, strategy games, multiplayer-only games and pov sims. it’s an ecclectic and vibrant place to be. (and, hey, austin is just cool.)

*completely kickass board game alert* over the weekend, i sat down with some friends at warren’s house and played an awesome new board game. (the group consisted of me, warren, a guy named bud, doug church (looking glass/underworld/system shock/thief) and art min (multitude/system shock/terra nova/fireteam). we played EL GRANDE. the game has some fantastic strategic elements and feels really subtle. if you play board games (and if you like games like settlers of cattan), go get EL GRANDE. (and perhaps you too can become EL GRANDE.) doug won, art was second, but i got bronze (and i’m not even a programmer, imagine that). most important of all, i passed up warren in the final round. beating your boss is perhaps not the best career move, but it *is* fun.

you should play baldur’s gate but don’t forget to eat. some of us have been playing for a couple of hours after work here. (ok, more like 8pm-ish to midnight.) it’s totally ad&dictive.

the new mac: i, CARmac

the new year is here.

some of my friends call themselves ‘gamesluts’ because they will play any and all games. i used to be like that, but with time as one of the primary resources i’ve been trying to manage over the last few years, i have become somewhat picky. i generally give a game 30 minutes–if it doesn’t grab me, i dump it and move on. i am seeking some particular (immersive, chilling or strategically interesting) experiences, sans pain and suffering due to bad interface and other stupidness. my favorite game of the old year: THIEF. favorite game of the new year (so far): the S.M.A.C. demo.

anyway, on to the real issue today: i’ve always moved to whichever platform i’ve felt was better for the gamer. (commodore, atari 1040st, amiga, pc.) the pc has reigned supreme for some time and continues to do so. i just read a story that seems to imply that the winds of change are blowing. but this is the first time that mac has done anything to create enthusiasm in me personally.

some features this kickass new mac is supposed to have:

carmack’s endorsement–that is pretty much the ultimate game industry validation in my book.

handles on the case–wow, you mean i don’t have to struggle with a near-frictionless box that weighs more than my gamer-atrophied muscles can handle just to get my pc home for the weekend? this is, in my opinion, the modern equivalent of creating the wheel.

a door–so to get inside your machine and change out hardware, instead of nicking your senstive little geek hands on archaic screws and flimsy metal casings, you simply pop down a hinged door.

colored cases–yes, believe it or not, some of us in the dark-bedroom/play-games-for-12-hours culture actually have some personality…we don’t all want pale, bloodlessly corporate cases and peripherals. if i had my way, my pc would be black with whammo glow-in-the-dark goblin green trim.

open gl support–which seems to excite the programmers…something about not having to rewrite millions of lines of code just to make a game work on a mac and a pc. marketing and sales should get behind this too, since it makes their dream of cross-platform simultaneous release more likely.

game developer support–why did it take people so long to realize that gamers are the drivers of the computer/internet/hardware world. “early adopters.” like porn was to the vcr.

seductive marketing–the mac people are trying to make us all warm and tingly about buying their computers like the vw people are doing with the new bug commericals. here’s a free commercial campaign idea: show people (ok, chicks in underwear mostly) using their imacs to engage in sex-chat over the net, contrasted by scenes of us pc drones sitting in a ‘data processing room’ like members of the borg collective. this would sell a million macs.

rage 128 graphics accelerator card–kickass.

100 meg ethernet connection–faster network access.

conclusion: pc manufacturers need to wake up. the features mentioned above would be easy to do. don’t be arrogant and think that the world is too pc-ingrained to switch. we are fickle, i promise you that. remember how ibm lost most of its empire?