Welcome to Through the Looking GlassOriginally created to follow Looking Glass Studios and their games, these days we are many things to different people. Whether you wish to discuss the games themselves and fan content, enjoy games inspired by the legacy of the game studio or just enjoy chatting about games or life in general - Welcome!
The Director's cut features all DX:HR DLC, infologs, quick inventory capabilities, beefed-up graphics and combat mechanics, new augs, and probably the most anticipated improvement to the original game: re-worked boss fights.
...and the Russian version:
Discuss the video in our System Shock forum thread.
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Disagreements over concepts for the reboot, as well as internal restructuring at Eidos Montreal have plagued the title's development since its announcement all the way back in May of 2009. Further confidence in Square Enix' handling of the beloved franchise was shaken in late July, 2013 when Eidos Montreal founder and general manager, Stephane D'Astous, resigned, citing “irreconcilable differences” with the parent company.
"The lack of leadership, lack of courage and the lack of communication were so evident, that I wasn't able to conduct my job correctly. I realized that our differences were irreconcilable, and that the best decision was unfortunately to part ways."
David Anfossi, executive producer of Deus Ex: Human Revolution stepped into to fill D'Astous' role as Eidos Montreal head. D'Astous' resignation comes on the heels of a $69 million restructuring of Square Enix in the first quarter of 2013.
"Since last year's financial short-coming performance of Square Enix Europe, we (HQ London and GM Eidos Montreal) have had growing and divergent opinions on what needed to be done to correct the situation," said D'Astous. The co-founder's departure follows the resignation or reassignment of several lead designers, animators, and artists for the project in recent years.
Opinions about Deus Ex: Human Revolution have varied among fans of the classic Deus Ex series, and Thief fans remain sharply divided over Eidos Montreal's changes to the franchise and the ability of the development team to deliver a worthy successor to the classic series. Mixed reviews at E3 in July drove a bigger wedge into the fan base, though most hands-on reviews were positive.
Problems with Thief's developers and publishers should come as no surprise to long-time fans of the series. Looking Glass Studio received strong critical and commercial success with Thief II: The Metal Age in 2000, but the studio was crippled by debt problems and slow returns on the game. Subsequently, the planned expansion (Thief II Gold) was scrapped, and the license went to Ion Storm Dallas. The follow up, Thief: Deadly Shadows (or T3) was the product of financial strain with publisher Eidos, and a rushed development cycle.
Though many fans hoped the relative success of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the longer development cycle, and larger budget were signs of a return to the glory days of Looking Glass Studio's vision for Thief, the reboot seems to be a departure from the emphasis on open exploration in early games. Many hold out hope that the reboot will be an improvement over Deadly Shadows. Fans get to test their theories next February.
For the latest Thief 4 News, check out the Thief 4 Article Index at the TTLG Thief 4 Anticipation Forum.
“We are really excited to offer our fans the content that they have been asking for,” said Ken Levine, creative director of Irrational Games. “With the Burial at Sea episodes, we are building a Rapture-based narrative experience that is almost entirely built from scratch.”
With a $15 price tag, there should be plenty of content, but the wiser investment for some fans will be the $20 Season Pass which unlocks Burial at Sea as well as the recently released Clash in the Clouds DLC, a combat/sky line focused extension that takes place in previously unexplored areas of Columbia, the floating city featured in Bioshock Infinite.
Says Levine, “With Clash in the Clouds, people get a pure action experience that takes BioShock Infinite combat to its highest challenge and intensity level.”
Clash in the Clouds brings new enemies and offers 60 “Blue Ribbon” challenges that unlock goodies like concept art, and new Kintescopes,and Voxphones.
Burial at Sea and Clash in the Clouds is available via Steam, XBox Live, and PSN.
We've just had some delightful news today: a new unofficial patch for System Shock 2 and a similar one for Thief 2 have surfaced! This is huge!
The patch was announced by a mysterious user named 'Le Corbeau' on the French forum Ariane4ever. The list of changes introduced by this patch is simply amazing, making both games fully compatible with modern hardware and Windows releases, and opening new horizons for the modding community.
Arkane's secret project has finally been unveiled. GameInformer's cover story for August will feature DISHONORED, the first person scifi/fantasy stealth/action game.
Arkane Studios and founder Raf Colantonio have made memorable games in the past (Arx Fatalis, Dark Messiah of Might & Magic) that ultimately suffered from a lack of publisher support. Bethesda Softworks believes in their vision and is giving them all the time, money, and development help (regular meetings with guys like The Elder Scrolls' Todd Howard don't make your game worse) they need. Harvey Smith, one of the main minds behind the first two Deus Ex games and a legendary veteran of game development, shares the vision and is on board as Dishonored's co-creative director along with Colantonio. Viktor Antonov designed Half-Life 2's iconic City 17 and is lending his talents to Dishonored's world. This is a perfect storm for creating a game that shatters the mold that first-person action games have built for themselves in the mainstream.
We've seen the game running, and now we share Colantonio and Smith's vision too. Dishonored is the antithesis of a edge-of-your-seat roller-coaster ride. It's a game about assassination where you don't have to kill anyone. It's a game about infiltration where you can set up traps and slaughter the entire garrison of an aristocrat's mansion rather than sneak in. It's a game about brutal violence where you can slip in and out of a fortified barracks with nobody ever knowing you were there. It's a game about morality and player choice where the world you create is based on your actions, not navigating conversation trees.
The Dishonored forums have opened over at Bethesda's official site. I hope you'll join us there. :)
In this Episode of the interview podcast:
Tim Stellmach, lead designer on Thief and Thief II, as well as a designer on Underworld II, System Shock, and Terra Nova.
Laura Baldwin, designer/writer on Thief and System Shock 2.
Sara Verrilli, QA on System Shock and designer on Thief and Thief 2.
If you missed the first two, (or don't like podcasts) transcripts are available here:
Dan Schmidt (Ultima Underworld, System Shock, and Thief, not to mention Guitar Hero and Rock Band)
Austin Grossman (Ultima Underworld 2, System Shock, Deus Ex,)
This editorial was original published in Gamesauce Magazine.
On Designing Games with Dynamic, Non-linear Gameplay
by Harvey Smith & Raphael Colantonio of Arkane Studios
Around 16 years ago, the two of us were drawn into the industry by a love of games that were part first-person-shooter and part role-playing game (for lack of a better descriptor). Games like Ultima Underworld, in other words. Such immersive games are marked by a combination of values and player-experiences: visceral first-person action, exploration, role-playing, player-driven pacing, environmental coherency, physical interaction, non-combat interactions, and AI behavioral simulation.
These shibboleths join us to a subset of game developers who've made games that are sometimes hard to categorize. In 1980, Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord featured a crude first-person view for dungeon encounters, and seven years later FTL created Dungeon Master, which came closer to being real-time and enhanced the visual fidelity of the world, thus taking a strong step toward putting the player more fully into the world of an RPG. The Ultima games made by Richard Garriot and Origin always had an extra layer of depth due to the fidelity of the world, the way items could be consumed or alchemically combined, and the way the characters in the world seemed to exist, living according to the intricate schedules that allowed the player to infer additional meaning in each situation. While not presented from a first-person perspective, the Ultimas (and the original Fallout series) were hugely influential on this family of games.
But this hard-to-categorize genre of games wasn't fully realized until Doug Church and Looking Glass Technologies made Underworld, System Shock, Terra Nova, and Thief, an unprecedented run in terms of cutting-edge technology and singular creative vision. Arkane's first release, Arx Fatalis, was a direct homage to Underworld itself. In other corners of the industry, over time, the Deus Ex games, STALKER, Arkane's Dark Messiah, the Bioshock game, and a few others trace their lineage directly from Underworld. Games like Morrowind, Oblivion, Fallout 3, and Far Cry 2 all feel like cousins, sharing some of the same core values.
We love these sorts of games. And we believe the industry could learn a lot from them.
A Proliferation of Genres
In today's game "industry" there are many types of games being designed and executed, especially once you take into account the variation that exists within the mod scene, the indie movement, and all the experimentation found in academic programs. There are developers now who focus on serious games for professional training, military recruitment, education, social causes, or artistic expression. Increasingly, people are being paid to make advertisement games which support fashion or fast food. Mobile and social games are ubiquitous, having leapt into existence seemingly out of nowhere. Party music and exercise games have flourished over the last few years. This proliferation is great. Some subset of these games will be ground-breaking or inspiring, providing more fuel for the creative fires.
Among expensive commercial projects aimed at core gamers, there are strategy games, side-scrollers, creativity toys like Little Big Planet, and evolved adventure games like Heavy Rain, with its focus on traditional storytelling segregated from the game-play. Fast-paced, first-person shooters are still super popular, as evidenced by Modern Warfare, Halo and Half-life. Then there are the open world games like Crackdown, Just Cause or Red Dead Redemption. And there are numerous third-person action games with an emphasis on character animations or sticky cover systems. Driving or racing games and flight sims are perennials. MMOs are everywhere, from the mega-WoW to the stunningly community-driven EVE Online. This list is not all-inclusive, of course, but it demonstrates that we're working within a plural medium.
Some of these games rely on simple timing or control input, requiring the player to jump or turn a vehicle at the right time. Many of them involve traveling along a fairly narrow or linear path, killing an enemy, collecting some resources, and moving to the next mission marker. Some put more emphasis on selling the fantasy than letting the player engage in expression. Others are so expansive that they trade off depth for breadth, allowing the players to explore a land mass, but only at shallow level.
In Search of Mystery and Exploration
Among all of these games and genres, periodically there are interactive works that provide players with the sense that they have influence over just enough dynamics to exceed their ability to hold it all in mind at once; or enough dynamics to create some sort of unified aesthetic effect; or dynamics that in some way provide a sense of mystery - like something large enough, complex enough, or happening fast enough to feel just beyond comprehension. That sense of mystery and exploration, created through interaction with very analog systems, is somehow vital to games. To use very old examples; Lunar Lander crated that sense through small physics impulses versus gravity, applied at just the right second, and Dragon's Lair by contrast didn't really have it, except as a really coarse sense of exploration in the form of finding out where the next cinematic scene might lead. Lunar Lander, like a good board game, could be played over and over; in contrast, Dragon's Lair- while an entertaining experience - was over once you'd seen all the scenes. Recently, games like Red Dead Redemption provided interesting dynamics like this as the player guided his horse, herded cattle, or attempted to lasso another horse; all of these systems, even when manipulated via clunky interface, feel analog enough to create some sense of play that is absent in many games. When you think about backing up and moving forward in time in Braid - manipulating your avatar's position, the music and the enemy locations - maybe you can remember a sense of fascination with the interplay of all the elements and your influence over them. That sensation is worth chasing at the expense of many other forms of time and effort that routinely go into games.
In ideal circumstances, the two of us want to make games with some of those qualities, games that allow players to experiment with systems, to make decisions about how to solve problems, and to find their own way - games that involve dynamic, non-linear play between the player and the environment. We don't always succeed, but when we get our way and things come together just right, our games should be presenting the player with worlds where there are clear, interesting consequences for each action.
Defying the Trend Toward Static Games
The problem is that as games have embraced polish and opened up to wider audiences, they've also become more static. In order to preclude unsightly physics interactions, the tendency is to lock down all the objects in the world. It's as if you put players in a little cocoon of non-interactivity to protect them from breaking the game. There are counter-examples, as we've said: A game like Red Dead Redemption - thank the stars - favors open movement, player-driven pacing, some simulational wackiness and (often) casual secondary goals made up by the player, despite a few wonky moments and bugs. RDR feels like a game that favors interactivity over the cinematic experience.
The proliferation of photo realism has also led to more static (albeit prettier) games. If you render the most realistic environment you can, the temptation is to minimize the number of dynamic elements in order to make the game run at an acceptable framerate, but in doing so you rob the game of its most valuable element: dynamism. Again, it's the exceptions that are most interesting. Bioshock will be in our minds for many years, not just because of the impressive setting, art direction and characters, but more poignantly because our own memories of the game are built on decisions we made: times we backtracked to a room because we remembers a specific resource remained there; moments we executed a convoluted plan and defeated enemies in a clever way; or instances in which the environment felt like it belonged more to us than to the enemy because of decisions and investments we'd made earlier.
As games have embraced the Hollywood fantasy, they've become more static as well. Taking cover and firing over a wall might look like a scene from last year's action movie, but these macro actions feel more like pressing a button and triggering an animation than playing a game. Getting stuck on cover points while trying to smoothly move around in the environment never feels right.
No Perfect Formulas
Everyone has different tastes of course. For our part, we're chasing something immersive, atmospheric, and expressive - built from lots of atomic actions and player decision that matter. We don't always get a chance to work on games like this, but it's always the goal.
Too often, the people managing or funding AAA games seem to lack confidence in interactivity or innovation as selling points. This diffidence comes across in the series of expensive me-too games that come and go. Teams are encouraged to use last year's characters and settings and to pound off all the risky, rough edges. As a result, there are about five games a year that are interesting. To be fair, there are multiple ways to succeed; some games are great because they're super polished, while others are great because they enable the player to experience something wondrous, often at the expense of accessibility or smoothness.
Hollywood figured out a while ago that there's no formula for success - that no one can predict which creative projects are going to be successful. There are just too many variables. So the Hollywood approach is to encourage constraint where possible, but to respect creatives (while trying to get them locked down under contract). Then the five percent of projects that are successful fund all of the others. Which five percent will be successful no one can predict; even the people who invest their money in games haven't figured that out yet.
Game development is not easy. Especially if you've got a set of aesthetic goals on top of all the other goals related to satisfying players, making the tech work, building tools for your team, hitting the platform specs, meeting the needs of business, et cetera, et cetera. Success relies on a dizzying number of factors, some of which are intangible or simply come down to chemistry.
We believe that named values and distinct creative targets - shooting or a specific player - experience that allows players to express themselves, make meaningful decisions and explore the environment according to their own whims and strategies - is the best way to make games that inspire people and stay in the minds for many years.
Most of us have already seen this, but I am posting it here because it ought to be here.