Conversations: Emil Pagliarulo on Fallout 3

Posted July 31, 2008 by David Wildgoose
Categories: Conversations

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When I was over at Bethesda a couple of months back I had the chance to sit down with Emil Pagliarulo, lead designer on Fallout 3. Some of that interview appeared in the latest issue of OXM (with Fallout 3 on the cover), but he said plenty of interesting stuff that I simply didn’t have the space to use. So here it is, finally! Full interview after the jump…

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E3: Behind the Lips

Posted July 28, 2008 by David Wildgoose
Categories: Thoughts

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E3 was different this year. The July timing meant there was little in the way of new announcements and the invite-only format kept the spectacle at bay. But the more intimate environment allowed for more time with each game, more chances to speak with developers, and generally a more valuable experience for the media.

Some US journalists I spoke with were disappointed that many of the builds they saw were the same as shown at pre-E3 events in June, but for international media it was often the first time we’d seen these titles in person. Ironic that what is ostensibly a US show proved more helpful for non-US media.

I saw a bunch of great games over the course of the week. Personal favourites included Mirror’s Edge, Prince of Persia, Far Cry 2, Age of Booty, De Blob, STALKER: Clear Sky, Colonization, and my pick for “best in show”, Left 4 Dead. But perhaps the most interesting demo I attended was for Microsoft’s Singstar tribute, Lips.

My time at the Xbox room was scheduled for Thursday 2pm – 4pm, the dead zone in other words right at the tail end of the show. It’s at this point that everyone is over it and just wants to go home. My time with Lips was at 3pm, precisely the same time Shigeru Miyamoto and his entourage decided to pay a visit and check out the competition.

Halfway through Keiichi Yano’s endearing presentation, Xbox’s US PR knocked on the door and kicked us out. Mr Miyamoto was clearly more important than some Australian journos. We’d been “Shiggy’d”. What was most frustrating – to be honest, karaoke games aren’t my thing so I wasn’t that fussed about Lips itself – was that when we had to vacate the room Yano had just hinted at how the motion-sensing Lips microphone could have other gaming applications.

There’d been a lot of talk in the lead-up to E3 that Microsoft would introduce “waggle” to the 360 in an effort to mimic the success of the Wii. Turns out they didn’t. But perhaps in the Lips microphone they did. I didn’t get the chance – curse you, Miyamoto! – to ask Yano about how sophisticated the motion-sensor inside the mic actually is, but the way he cryptically mentioned other gameplay possibilities (that they couldn’t demo at the show) gave me pause for thought.

Could the Lips microphone really be Microsoft’s “waggle wand”?

Work: Mass Effect

Posted July 26, 2008 by David Wildgoose
Categories: Work

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My review of the PC version of Mass Effect is published in the latest PC PowerPlay. (Just a little late, I know.) I loved it on Xbox 360 last year, considering it 3rd behind Portal and BioShock on my personal “Best of 2007” list, and the PC version compares favourably thanks to some neat interface tweaks.

As usual, here’s an excerpt:

“Charting Bioware’s approach to RPG design results in something of a linear progression. While each new Bioware new title demonstrates an almost unwavering commitment to dramatic story-telling, expansive game worlds and player choice through dialogue and character advancement, equally there’s a clear determination to showcase combat in an increasingly immediate and immersive fashion. Mass Effect quite clearly continues this evolution.”

For me, Mass Effect is BioWare’s best game. Respect is probably the word I’d use to describe my feelings towards their previous titles. I always felt Baldur’s Gate, Knight of the Old Republic, etc were impressive games, but I could never find myself loving them in the same way I fell for their Black Isle and Obsidian contemporaries. Freed from the shackles of someone else’s IP, BioWare has taken the opportunity to shine. Mass Effect is seriously good.

Work: Independence Play

Posted July 26, 2008 by David Wildgoose
Categories: Work

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Forgive the awful pun, please.

I’ve fallen in love with indie games this year. Much of my life has been spent playing PC games – from Colossal Cave at my Dad’s office on weekends to the daily Quake 3 sessions when I worked at Next Media a few years ago. But when I left the editor’s chair of PC PowerPlay in 2005, I took something of a break from the PC and console gaming stepped in. Of course, I’d always played console games too, but for the first time they were now dominating my gaming hours.

My discovery of the “indie scene” has changed that this year. Today I’m more likely to fire up Audiosurf or Aquaria than switch on my Xbox 360. So I decided to write about the new wave of independent developers for PC PowerPlay. It’s in the new issue (on sale now!) and after the jump is a sample where I speak with Audiosurf creator Dylan Fitterer:

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Work: Fallout 3

Posted July 26, 2008 by David Wildgoose
Categories: Work

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Two articles I wrote from a trip to Bethesda a couple of months back have just recently appeared in print. One is the cover story of the current issue of the Australian Official Xbox Magazine, the other is a short preview in PC PowerPlay.

I’ll quote a couple of extracts below in the hope of encouraging you to pick up both magazines.

From OXM:

“Conversation is presented akin to RPGs like Knights of the Old Republic. You choose from several lines, with the dialogue branching as you choose certain options. Sometimes your skills will influence these options: you may see [Speech] appear next to one option, meaning your Speech skill was high enough to enable you to persuade or charm or threaten convincingly. If you’re a male character, you may have chosen the Lady Killer perk (a perk is like a feat in D&D, an extra ability you can select when you reach a certain level) that allows you to sweet talk the ladies – as well as deal more damage to female enemies. The end result is that there’s a pleasingly wide variety of ways to interact, depending on how you’ve crafted your character stats.”

From PCPP:

“Fallout 3 reminds me of a lot of games I like. Perhaps as a result of my penchant for rolling stealth characters in every RPG, I got a distinct Thief vibe when skulking in the shadows, monitoring enemy movements from a position of (relative) safety before lunging for the knockout blow – usually a sniper shot to the head (attacks when undetected give you a critical strike and deal triple damage).”

And shortly I’ll finally get around to posting the unpublished remainder of the interview I conducted with Emil Pagliarulo (some of which appears in OXM). Fingers crossed!

Work: The Bourne Conspiracy and Alone in the Dark

Posted June 30, 2008 by David Wildgoose
Categories: Work

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Two reviews of mine have been published in print this week. I played The Bourne Conspiracy for the Official PlayStation Magazine and Alone in the Dark for the Official Xbox Magazine. (Go buy them now! The magazines, that is, not necessarily the games.) After the jump is an excerpt from each review along with some additional commentary.

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Keeping Faith in Fallout: What happens when our favourite games change hands

Posted June 28, 2008 by David Wildgoose
Categories: Thoughts

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Recently I had the opportunity to visit Bethesda and play Fallout 3. I’ll shortly be posting extracts from an interview I did with lead designer Emil Pagliarulo, and you can read my hands-on impressions of the game in an upcoming issue of the Official Xbox Magazine. But for now I want to discuss what happens when one major developer inherits a classic series from another major developer.

I’ve been thinking about change recently, and how gamers tend to be somewhat frightened by it. We want to be dazzled by new technology and we say we want innovation and originality, but it seems what gets us most excited is something familiar given a new lick of paint. So, on the one hand, Fallout 3 should be exactly what gamers want – an old idea updated with cool new graphics; on the other hand, it’s kinda scary. How do we know Bethesda isn’t going to ruin an old favourite?

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Choice and Consequence: The meta-game of Execution

Posted June 5, 2008 by David Wildgoose
Categories: Thoughts

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I’ve just played Execution, a self-described “short experimental game”. Download it now and then come back, otherwise I’m going to spoil it all for you. Trust me, it really is short, you’ll be back here within ten minutes.

So, Execution is a game where you have a choice – indeed, just one choice. And the consequence is permanent. Shoot the guy and he remains dead when you start a new game. Hit ESC without shooting him and you “win”. At least, that’s how it seems.

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The Bread Crumb Trial: Why Fable 2 should be wary of half-baked design choices

Posted May 26, 2008 by David Wildgoose
Categories: Thoughts

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In Ultima VII: The Black Gate, it was possible to bake your own bread. You would collect the ingredients and, tediously it must be said, combine them to cook on a fireplace. You could eat the result. For years afterwards, a PC PowerPlay colleague and I would jokingly cite “baking bread” as the must-have feature for any game proclaiming “endless player freedom” or the capacity to “do anything you want”.

Randy Smith has written a quietly defiant column over at Next-Gen – which originally appeared in a recent issue of EDGE. Quiet because the former Ion Storm designer has an easy-going, almost laidback style. Defiant because he’s railing against – albeit in a casual way – a prevailing trend in game design: hand-holding, or to put it another way, the design philosophy that states the player should always be having “fun”. What’s interesting about this last aspect is that it’s implied that there’s only one way to have fun, and the game designer knows best.

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