- The Sims 4
- The Sims 3
- Other Sim Games
This week the hosts of TWIMMO wade through the weeks news, much like a fisherman wades through the river, seeking not only the satisfaction of catching the elusive bass but also the calm and serenity of the waters’ gentle trickle. ;
Mike B visits Maxis and plays some Darkspore, Black Prophecy beta is broken down, and World of Tanks officially launches.
Keynote speaker Will Wright is the award-winning creator of Spore, The Sims, and SimCity. The head of the entertainment think tank Stupid Fun Club, Wright is widely acknowledged for creating the simulation video game genre.
Innovators in technology and design continually reimagine computer games. User-generated content for commercial games (Spore, Little Big Planet), social network games (Farmville), vast simulation worlds with their own economies (World of Warcraft), games using mobile phones to augment reality (Ghostwire)–ten years ago these were dreams, and now they’re part of the cultural fabric. As the imagined becomes real, the question of “what’s next?” confronts both academic researchers and the game industry.
“Inventing the Future of Games,” a day-long symposium April 15 in Silicon Valley, aims to explore the possibilities of the next decade of gaming innovation and technology. Sponsored by the UC Santa Cruz Center for Games and Playable Media, the symposium will gather some of the brightest minds of academia and industry to discuss the advancement of game design and technology.
The inaugural symposium, which starts at 8:30 a.m. at the India Community Center in Milpitas, Calif., will feature keynote speeches by Sims creator Will Wright, Linden Lab CEO Rod Humble (Second Life), and Michael Mateas, co-creator of Facade and director of the UC Santa Cruz Center for Games and Playable Media. Tickets are $100 for the general public and $30 for UC Santa Cruz students.
“We’re looking forward to starting conversations between academics and industry professionals on where the field of computer games might go,” said Mateas, an associate professor of computer science in the Jack Baskin School of Engineering. “Moving toward games that truly pay attention to the player’s actions and generate dynamic responses would allow games to create new types of experiences. It would open up new approaches in interactive storytelling. Multi-player missions and quests could be adapted to specific social play styles. A whole new world of games waits to be discovered.”
The symposium will include four sessions: exploring the relationship between games and cinema, making self-generating games, the future of games and culture, and creating new forms of character and dialogue.
Session speakers will include Jordan Mechner (Prince of Persia), Emily Short (Galatea), Ian Bogost (Georgia Tech/A Slow Year), Tracey Fullerton (University of Southern California/The Night Journey), Robin Hunicke (thatgamecompany), and UC Santa Cruz game program faculty members Noah Wardrip-Fruin, Marilyn Walker, Arnav Jhala, and Jim Whitehead. UC Santa Cruz’s John Funge, Warren Sack, Soraya Murray, and Sri Kurniawan will moderate the panels.
For more information, visit games.soe.ucsc.edu
We kicked off our day (henceforth dubbed “Darkspore Day”) like most developer studio visits, with a tour of Maxis’ lofty, open-space facilities. Instead of a sit-down presentation, however, the morning was spent visiting with different developers, with each of them giving brief mini-presentations on what they do. It was great to see that the enthusiasm was still running high, even with launch day so near. Executive Producer Michael Perry also noted the different approach Maxis has taken with the development of Darkspore has really helped, including staging a large number of closed betas, as well as pushing back the release date of Darkspore by a month. As a result of this “open door” policy, Maxis has been able to really listen to their player’s needs, and I instantly noticed at least a dozen new features that were added due to feedback.
Darkspore itself, the lore of it, the art style and the story all lend themselves very, very well to an MMO setting. To have this wonderful, mystical world available to us where our leveling system is handled through loot drops and affixed by giving us additional horns or eyes or arms to throw on our creature to improve our strength, health, critical damaging rating, etc. would be awesome. The higher the average of your attributes, the higher your level. Open world PvP, and instanced MOBAs would fulfill the needs of the PvP crowd, and a rich story with off-beat and untraditional MMO quests would satisfy those PvEers. Dive into crafting, or housing and adopt the traditional elements of the MMO into the mix and suddenly, a Darkspore MMO could be what a lot of players think might be missing from the games we play. Then again, it would never satisfy those of us who play Rift, or WoW, to lure those players away It wouldn’t have the cerebral challenge of games like EVE Online. What it would have is a fantastic gameplay, mixed with a wondrous world that could encourage creativity amongst the player base like never before, and a character create that could put even the best in the business in a corner.
I love it when development teams invite the average fans into their workplace and show them behind the scenes features on how they bring a game to life. Sure, playing it is great, but there is always something special about getting a view of what goes on behind the game. Wish games could include special features like movies do – easter eggs, storyboard art, pics/videos of deleted content, etc!
On the tour of the office, we stopped by the art and level design pit for a sneak peek of TNX, a planet that will be released after launch. Artist Brian Vanderlust began with a graybox of the level and stepped us through the process of realizing the environment in the game’s proprietary engine, revealing a lush environment featuring high vistas and a second vertical layer, pebbled with ruins of what seemed like a lost technological civilization. Though each level represents roughly a 10-15 minute playthrough, Brian explained that the rough cut takes the team about a month to produce, with several additional months for polish.
Level Designer Dale Dowd showed us how he was quickly able to take a map drawn up in a tool similar to Adobe Illustrator quickly to 3D using in house EA tools, saving time on painstaking modeling, and focusing more on tasks like placing mobs and pathing. Mike Perry explained that one of modern EA’s goals is to get to the playable stage as fast as possible to see if what’s in-process is actually fun, and such tools help turn Dale into a one-man level building machine.
Katersoneseven was one of the many people who attended Darkspore Day held at the Maxis Studio on April 12th. She has uploaded a 30 minute video showing off how her day went. Check it out below!
Here are the updated patch notes for the Open Beta:
- Added Endless Play mode – After completing Apocalypse mode (or hitting the beta Darkspore Threat cap), players may chain to harder versions of the same Darkspore Threat level to prove their skills and to increase the chance of gaining rare special items.
- Loading screens now show loading progress for each player.
- Hero profiles now have combined stats as one number rather than two.
- Increased scroll speed on Darkspore Threat selection screen.
- Updated Item names to be more consistent and suggestive of their purpose.
- Fixed issues where Helix was repeating background information on areas that had already been visited.
- Added custom key binding to the Options screen.
- Added an option to disable left-click-attack so that left click will be move-only.
- Chat system will now inform the player if they are whispering or inviting someone offline.
- Fixed an issue where the friends list was not updating online and offline status.
- Moved and expanded the Galaxy Map to fit more information and to make it more readable.
- Fixed an issue where loot drops would not show the dropped item.
- Health and Power numbers are now displayed when you rollover the Health and Power bars in the UI.
- Updated hint text so that it doesn’t appear at incorrect times.
- Players can now reset all game options by using a new “Default” button in the Options screen.
- Rotating tips and hints are now displayed on the main Navigation screen.
- Added additional effects to the black hole near Zelem’s Nexus.
- Added muzzle effects to many squad abilities.
- Fixed some issues where movement animations were popping.
- Improved planet environment textures and lighting.
- Changed appearance of combat text to be clearer.
- Wing items now flap periodically.
- Improved legibility of catalyst link text.
- Made numerous improvements to visual effects.
- Added a new fire thorns effect for Undermind and Pain Hounds abilities.
- The party UI now includes the player.
- Players in a party will now be able to see what area of the spaceship each member is in.
- Hero profile and Helix log can now be accessed in the party UI.
- Updated inventory UI to have large tabs for Upgrades, Weapons, Items, Detail, and Buyback.
- Added “Special Items” filter for items rewarded after completing a Darkspore Threat.
- Added icons to indicate which items are currently equipped.
- Fixed an issue where items picked up on a planet were not immediately appearing in the inventory.
- Retuned starting inventory size and inventory size upgrades.
- Moved the search filter and enabled persistence of last setting.
- Detail items now sell for a flat amount regardless of their initial item level.
- When inventory capacity is exceeded, you are required to clear space immediately upon returning to the spaceship.
- New Objectives system implemented.
- Objectives for each Darkspore Threat now include a daily objective, three random objectives, and an unlockable time objective.
- Objectives are now tracked individually, and can be reviewed while on planet by pressing the “o” key or clicking the Objectives button on the HUD.
- Added several new possible objectives.
- Updated the Editor item selling functionality to improve usability for power users: Sell items in the editor by holding the shift key down while left-clicking on an item. Shift-right-click to quick-sell an item without prompting the player. Items sold in this manner will temporarily remain with a DNA icon, and may bought back by clicking on the item again.
- Added hints to the Editor describing how to equip a hero, rotate the camera, use place items asymmetrically, and sell items.
- Updated the stat tooltips in the editor to clarify the relationship between stats and squad abilities.
- Hero profile now has greater emphasis on showing abilities.
- Moved hero biography and fiction to a second tab.
- Added passive ability descriptions for each hero.
- Added short and easy to understand ability descriptions to each ability.
- Hero profile can now be viewed while on planet by pressing the “c” key or by clicking the profile button in the HUD.
- Players now have a 1.5x chance of earning rare item rewards after completing their first Darkspore Threat each day.
- Fixed some issues where enemies that died from an ability with knockback sometimes remained floating in the air.
- Horde gates will now close on the first player who triggers them.
- Allies and enemies can now teleport into the horde gate area by walking up to the horde walls.
- Resurrection Orbs can now be found in solo play.
- Fixed some issues where Heroes that had been enlarged by abilities were firing over the heads of short enemies.
- Fixed a bug where the display of catalyst links was not properly shown when chaining Darkspore Threats.
- Picking up health catalysts now increases current health instead of only increasing max health.
- Seraph-XS is now unlocked at Crogenitor Level 20; Tork, Char, Skar and Orion are unlocked five levels later than before.
- Added new Weapon Store weapons so that heroes always have at least one weapon available at their unlock level.
- Reduced the amount of power that is returned by power capsules.
- Items with Dodge Rating now have higher values.
- Catalysts now scale more slowly as their level increases.
- Each point of Dexterity is now worth 6 points of Dodge Rating instead of 5.
- Each point of Mind is now worth 6 points of Resist rating instead of 5.
- Cooldown reduction cap is now 60%.
- Reduced DNA drop amounts.
- Retuned some of the rare and epic catalysts.
- Added two new PvP Arenas on Scaldron and Verdanth.
- Heroes in PvP now display a ring showing their team color.
- Player images are now shown in the PvP matchmaking screen.
- Fixed an issue where PvP squads were not selecting properly.
- Dead enemies now take on a darker tone so that players don’t mistake them for live enemies.
- Improved the effects that occur when a Mutation Agent mutates a minion.
- Darkspore Operatives updated to account for edge case issues where a player is disconnected.
- Added various new NPC death animations.
- Fixed an issue where some boss death animations were interrupted and they failed to drop loot.
- Fix a bug where stealth was not turning off enemy visual effects.
- Fixed all Voltroid effects to properly reflect their charge level.
- Voltroid discharge damage greatly increased for higher charge levels.
- Made several changes to Voltroid behavior to make them more robust in certain situations, and improve appearance.
- Invincitrons are now immune to the switching knockback when in their shielded phase.
- Fixed a bug where a captain’s buffs could vanish in certain situations.
- The audio cue for a captain now stops when it is killed.
- Orcus now prefers to use Ground Slam rather than Disease Cone.
- Ground Slam now deals increased damage in Invasion and Apocalypse.
- Orcus’ minions heal him for more if he consumes them in Invasion and Apocalypse.
- Orcus now puts up his shield during Ground Slam, so he can no longer be stunned to interrupt it.
- Increased the time it takes Shielded Grenadier to set up his shield after turning in Onslaught and Invasion modes.
- Reduced the amount of damage that can be dealt to NPCs with Carapace.
- Increased captain health.
- Captain attack speed and cooldown reduction now scales with the number of players.
- Increased the healing of the NPCs with Regenerative in Invasion and Apocalypse.
- Increased the effect of Frenzied, Ghostly, Reflective and Tough.
- NPCs with Unstoppable are now immune to DoTs and being slept, taunted or terrified.
- NPCs with Surefooted are now immune to knockbacks and pulls.
- Improved ability of Vaulting Amphiod to reach the player in complex terrain.
- Reduced the turn rate of Shielded Grenadiers and Grenadier Protectors.
- Reduced the size of TCD-24, MKS-522, and TSE-PAK.
- Shielded Grenadier grenades no longer fragment in Onslaught mode but fragment even more in Apocalypse mode.
- Elite Lieutenants are more likely to appear in higher Darkspore Threat levels.
General Ability Changes
- Pets without a timeout (eg, Savage Ally, Dendrones) now make more of an effort to stay where they are visible to the player.
- Fixed a bug where some channeled abilities were not obeying the minimum channeling time (1.5 seconds for most of them).
- Improved queuing of move commands around channeled abilities.
- Daze status effects now show both the daze effect over the target’s head and also the snare effect at the feet when the target moves.
- Reduced the scaling of ability damage based on the primary stat.
- Fixed a bug where characters could get stuck in an attack animation while Feared.
- Basic attacks now chain properly while taunted.
- Reduced the projectile distance on some heroes from 50 to 30.
- Health leech and power leech are now half as effective for area effect abilities.
- Reduced the Overdrive recharge time and use time (recharges more often but doesn’t last as long).
- Matched the timing of Meteor Strike’s damage with the visual of striking the ground.
- Reduced the attack speed increase and cooldown bonus of Overdrive slightly.
- Reduced the duration of Roar of Derision’s taunt in PvP.
- Soul Link cooldown is now faster.
- Slightly increased the damage of Proximity Mine.
- Reduced the waiting time before Proximity Mine will explode when placed beneath an enemy’s feet.
- Increased the cooldown of Proximity Mine.
- Increased the range of Roar of Derision.
- Slightly increased the cooldown of Lifeforce Siphon and reduced the casting range and the distance limit before it breaks.
- Gravity Storm now properly scales with Area Effect Radius items.
- Corrected Gravity Storm’s description to reflect that it does Physical damage.
- Updated description of Gravitic Field for clarity.
- Fixed a bug where Gravity Storm allowed players to keep moving while caught in the storm.
- Reduced the damage bonus of Soul Collector.
- Reduced the Overdrive bonus of Deadly Precision slightly.
- Increased the damage of Plasma Spray in PvE.
- Plasma Spray now deals double damage in PvP.
- Concussive Orbit now stuns for 2 seconds in PvE and 1 second in PvP.
- Fixed a bug where Elemental Guardians would persist after the caster’s death in certain situations.
- Changed the size of Elemental Guardians.
- Reduced the cast time and channel duration of Plasma Spray.
- Tweaked the damage of Elemental Guardian’s fireball.
- Concussive Orbit now deals physical damage.
- Added a description of the Overdrive bonus for Concussive Orbit.
- Renamed Cauterize to Shockwave to more appropriately reflect the appearance of the ability.
- Reduced the duration of Shockwave’s stun in PvE.
- Reduced the chaining damage bonus on Arc Weld to 25%.
- Fixed an error in Arc Weld’s tooltip that was causing it to under-report the correct number of jumps.
- Concussive Sequence now stuns for 3 seconds in PvE and 1.5 seconds in PvP.
- Changed the damage, cooldown, and power cost of Webbed Lightning.
- Webbed Lightning can only deal damage to each target once.
- Increased the number of Webbed Lightning projectiles in PvP.
- Reduced the damage of Chain Lightning.
- Charged Field no longer increases critical damage in Overdrive.
- The damage of Chain Lightning now falls off more quickly after jumping.
Reduced the overdrive bonus of Unpredictability.
- Fixed a bug where Sentry Drone wasn’t dealing the proper amount of damage during overdrive.
- Updated description of Chronostabilizer for clarity.
- Reduced the overdrive bonus of Chronostabilizer.
- Fixed the debuff icon for the weakness caused by Crippling Shot.
- Some additional time is allowed before the game is ended if his pet can resurrect him.
- Savage’s pet will not resurrect him if he has been vaporized by a critical hit.
- Fixed a bug where Savage Ally would persist after the caster’s death in certain situations.
- The duration of Savage Ally’s taunt from Bestial Mastery has been reduced slightly in PvE.
- Fixed a bug where Savage Ally’s taunt was using the PvE duration in PvP.
- Reduced the physical vulnerability debuff from Bestial Mastery to bring it in line with other passive damage increases.
- Fixed a bug that was causing Bestial Mastery to report the wrong resurrection health amount in overdrive.
- Reduced the damage of the beast pet’s attack slightly.
- Reduced the healing percentage and damage increase of Savage Ally’s enrage.
- Increased the cooldown of Savage Ally.
- Reduced the range and tweaked the behavior of Contact Grenade.
- Tweaked the cooldown and duration of Stealth Module.
- Reduced Attractor Bomb taunt and stun durations in PvP.
- Reduced casting time of Shadow Cloak.
- Reduced the damage bonus from Opportunism.
- Reduced the distance that Homing Missiles will travel before exploding.
- Homing Missiles will no longer home in on enemies that are in a completely different direction from where the missile was fired.
- Reduced the overdrive bonus of Rampant Growth.
- Increased the damage of Tork weapons.
- Laser beams no longer damage players in Ghostform.
- Fixed a bug with the fire thorns on Pain Hounds that was causing them to be immune to physical damage.
Yesterday, Maxis invited a number of press people from various videogame sites to spend a whole day with the developers of Darkspore as well as to launch the open beta in which everyone can play. They took a lot of pics which have been posted on Plixi. Check them out – or view them below!