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[E3 2011] Elder Scrolls: Skyrim gameplay demo

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[E3 2011] Elder Scrolls: Skyrim gameplay demo

Bethesda has recently displayed a gameplay demo for their upcoming RPG The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

The demo’s showing off a number of features, including a positively gorgeous engine and world design, dual-wield controls allowing the player to manipulate spells or weapons in either hand, and wandering, apparently unscripted and unpredictable dragon encounters. The demo video also features an informative inteview.

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Lawful Good: Altruism through duty

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Lawful Good: Altruism through duty

In the forgotten past (which is to say, February), my esteemed colleague Bob wrote an impassioned piece in support of Chaotic Good. He hailed Chaotic Good as the least selfish and most human of the altruistic alignments, contrasted against its imperious and robotic Lawful counterpart.

Now, Lawful Good has something of a reputation. The alignment is infamous for being a killjoy — the law-abiding stick in the mud with delusions of authority trying to impose their rules on a party of (loosely) altruistic brigands. Nobody likes a moral busybody telling them what to do, and most D&D players resent the implicit, self-proclaimed position of the LG character (often a paladin or cleric, but not always) as the voice of Authority, rarely a friend to the adventuring party.

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Role-playing is not stat-grinding

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Role-playing is not stat-grinding

The role-playing genre has begun to stagnate.

It’s hardly crippled. Some giants still garner worldwide attention, such as the Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and Fallout franchises. Even after the massive spectacle of genre excess that was Final Fantasy XIII, people still anticipate the next title. But these and lesser-known RPGs are islands in a teeming sea of shooters and action titles, often on the verge of being swamped.

And yet “RPG elements” have proliferated to the point of an industry standard. Most games include at least a token narrative executed with varying degrees of proficiency. Many also include some form of level-based advancement, perks, and/or equipment. Some even include the dreaded moral choice system. In a very real sense, the original niche of role-playing games has become the dominant paradigm.

Yet role-playing games, particularly “classic” role-playing games, continue to define themselves by rigid accordance to traditional mechanics. This conservatism probably represents the greatest handicap to the genre. Just as other games have begun to adopt “RPG elements,” perhaps it’s time for RPGs and their fans to seriously consider abandoning some of their own.

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Cause of PSN outage remains disputed after six days

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Cause of PSN outage remains disputed after six days

Six days into the ongoing outages on the Playstation Network, the exact cause of the outage remains in dispute, and no one knows precisely when PSN will get back online.

Sony spokesperson Satoshi Fukuoka has blamed an “external intrusion” into its system and announced that a “thorough investigation” was ongoing.

While Sony pins the blame on unspecified outside hackers, not everyone believes it.

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In Defense of Quicktime Events

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In Defense of Quicktime Events

Apologies for my recent silences, ladies and gentlemen. But have no fear, because it’s Pontification Hat time again! This time, rather than attacking a tired-out trope, the topic is instead the defense of a device that’s become an industry standard, even in the face of severe criticism.

I speak, of course, of the dreaded quick-time event, that now all-but-ubiquitous gameplay device where a cutscene can only be completed with the right button combination.

Now, I know what you may be thinking: “James!” you protest, “aren’t quick-time events a cheap gimmick thrown in by unimaginative developers to cash in on a fad? What can they offer that the core gameplay shouldn’t already be providing, except for the chance to trip the player up with gruesome consequences for missing the specific button prompt?”

It’s manifestly obvious quick-time events are sometimes inserted when there’s no earthly reason for them to be present. It’s also obvious that there are many examples of bad QTEs, where the player’s survival depends on hitting the right randomized button at a given moment. But criticism of execution isn’t the same as criticism of concept.

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New behind-the-scenes video of Halo fan film production

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New behind-the-scenes video of Halo fan film production

Keyshot Productions has released the first behind-the-scenes video for their upcoming Halo fan film, Operation Chastity.

The video exhibits the array of props being constructed for the film, alongside the professional makeup and film crews being used by the project. These include mockup Marine armor and weapons and an (apparently functional) Warthog. It’s clear that Keystone Productions has much greater resources to bear than a typical fan project.

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Bioware to produce Mass Effect anime

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Bioware to produce Mass Effect anime

Bioware FUNimation, and Tokyo-based T.O Entertainment are working in concert to produce an animated Mass Effect feature film due for release next summer.

“Over the last few years, we have revealed different pieces of the Mass Effect world through different media,” said Bioware executive producer Casey Hudson. “Extending the story through an anime medium is another amazing opportunity for us… Partnering with FUNimation ensures that we will bring this rich universe to life with the utmost quality and the same attention to detail that the Mass Effect games are known for.”

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iPhone 5 rumors and hopes, collected in one infographic

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iPhone 5 rumors and hopes, collected in one infographic

With the iPhone 5 expected sometime in Summer or Fall of this year, rumors are flying thick about possible changes from its predecessors.Will it have a new chassis? Will it feature HDMI output? Will it blend?

An enterprising fellow from nowhereelse.fr decided to compile all these rumors into a single lengthy infographic. Not content with that, he then decided to assign percentages! It’s not really clear where they came from, but we can only guess at how much work this rather comprehensive listing and its estimates represent.

Thanks, Steve Hemmerstoffer, for this mighty labor on Apple fans’ behalf. Read On