Cliff Bleszinski quits Epic Games, leaves us with an Unreal feeling

Cliff Bleszinski quits Epic Games, leaves us with an Unreal feeling

Fall must be the season for sea changes in the game industry. Just weeks after BioWare's founders retired, key Epic Games veteran and Design Director Cliff Bleszinski (known to many as just CliffyB) is hanging up his hat. He simply describes it as taking a "much needed break," which makes sense when you see his development experience: he joined Epic's crew with Dare to Dream Volume One in 1993 and has nurtured virtually every major (and often minor) game franchise at the company since, including the Jazz Jackrabbit platformers, untold numbers of games in the Unreal line and most recently the Gears of War series. Bleszinski hasn't said where he's headed next, although it's hard to imagine him switching professions like the two BioWare doctors -- for many, he's synonymous with certain eras of first- and third-person shooters. Wherever he goes, we wish him the best of success.

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Cliff Bleszinski quits Epic Games, leaves us with an Unreal feeling originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 03 Oct 2012 20:47:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Dark Side ‘Cause It Looks Cool: The Failings of Moral Choice in Games

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This is a weekly column focusing on "Western" role-playing games: their stories, their histories, their mechanics, their insanity, and their inanity.

Morality systems have become role-playing. Or at least, a significant amount of people have come to believe this. To take one example, this review of The Old Republic is premised on the concept that BioWare's style of moral choices are effective character-building mechanics. It's a fine review, but it's one that I can't agree with because I find the model of game morality used in The Old Republic and many other role-playing games ineffective at creating a moral system.

In order for a moral choice to have weight, it needs to have two components. First, meaningful choices have to cause the player to lose something in order to gain power. Something has to change, or be expected to change, within the game in order for the decision to matter. In Mass Effect, at one point in the game, you have to choose which of two party members to rescue - the other dies. Or, in Fallout: New Vegas, working with Caesar's Legion turns the New California Republic into an enemy, and vice versa.

Second, a moral choice has to be a difficult choice. The old adage "If doing the right thing were easy, everyone would do it" applies here. This is where games usually fail. They can do it with little choices, like with stealing even when you won't get caught in New Vegas. Take the owned items and you'll lose karma, which might be a small hit compared to the benefits of a new weapon. Alternately, in some games, honorable characters will simply refuse payment for quests, forcing money to be acquired by other means.

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JoystiqDark Side 'Cause It Looks Cool: The Failings of Moral Choice in Games originally appeared on Joystiq on Fri, 10 Feb 2012 19:45:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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The Rhythm Of The Quest in Fallout 3 and New Vegas

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This is a weekly column focusing on "Western" role-playing games: their stories, their histories, their mechanics, their insanity, and their inanity.

Have you ever been horribly frustrated by one part of a game, only to think of it as the best and most memorable section of that game in retrospect? It's the ruins of D.C. for me. I played Fallout 3 on the PC a year or so after release, so the first thing I did was load up on mods, introducing different play balance, graphics, more weapons, and most motivating of all, more music for Galaxy News Radio. But at the start of the game, GNR is in trouble and the station's signal is weak. So I went to fix it as soon as I could.

When I went into the ruins of D.C., I wasn't ready. By heading in that direction almost immediately, I skipped doing smaller-scale quests, which would have provided more experience and better equipment. D.C. was a slog. I scrambled for ammo, for health. I explored nooks and crannies that I didn't need to, because I hadn't even really figured out the game's compass yet. It was nail-bitingly tense, it was fresh, it was new, it took me hours. It was a pain, too. I died multiple times, but oh was it magnificent.

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JoystiqThe Rhythm Of The Quest in Fallout 3 and New Vegas originally appeared on Joystiq on Thu, 02 Feb 2012 20:15:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Ultima: Most. Important. Game Series. Ever.

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This is a weekly column focusing on "Western" role-playing games: their stories, their histories, their mechanics, their insanity, and their inanity.

Hey there. Whatcha playing? No, actually, don't tell me. You're playing Ultima. You don't know you're playing Ultima, but you are. If you're playing an open-world game, you're dealing with Ultima. If you're playing a massively-multiplayer game, you're dealing with Ultima. If you're playing a game with a morality system, Ultima. Even something as simple as three-dimensional graphics - either in perspective or overall representation - have ties to Ultima. How?

Open-world gaming: From the beginning, the Ultima games took place in worlds which were as big as possible given the tech constraints. You traveled across swamps, oceans, and hills, discovering what the world had to offer. The world was rarely "gated", letting exploration proceed in a non-linear fashion. What's more, the developments of open-world gameplay throughout the course of the series presaged the open-world games to come.

Ultima VI (1990) may be the most important open-world game of all time. Previous games in the series had switched perspective based on your context - dungeons were first-person, combat was top-down, and exploration on the world map had a completely different scale than exploration of towns. In Ultima VI, perspective was consistent. Your party walked into a town in the same way that it walks through a dungeon. It was a seamless, consistent world, that felt lived-in, and that open-world games from Grand Theft Auto to Skyrim owe a huge debt to.

The deeper into the series you go, the more complex the world. Want to quit adventuring for a while and bake bread? You could do that. Want to explore dungeons that are totally irrelevant to the plot? That was an option. Grab a cannon and start slaughtering guards so you can steal everything in the town? Well, you could do that, but there were consequences.

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JoystiqUltima: Most. Important. Game Series. Ever. originally appeared on Joystiq on Thu, 26 Jan 2012 20:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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