Scrapped Post: D&D Video Games MIA?

UPDATE:  During the WotC New Products seminar at GenCon 2010 an attendee, after asking about new video games, was told:
“Atari has an announcement coming about some kind of D&D video game but they couldn’t talk about it here.”


After a draft post sits in wordpress for a while there comes a point when I don’t see the point of posting it, or I can’t think of a good way to finish it off so it just sits there.  Rather then let it sit there gathering dust I’ll occasionally pull it out and post it here.  I started this one last week and felt it was just a kind of meandering rant with no real worth.  With that said, enjoy!

So what happened to the D&D video game license?  Since roughly 1988 and release of Pool of Radiance there has a been stream of Dungeons and Dragons video games many good and some not-so-good.    Indeed back in 2004 GameSpy even did a 5-Part History of D&D Video Games series during the franchises’ 30th Anniversary.  Last year Turbine’s Dungeons and Dragons Online went to a free-to-play model and that was the biggest D&D video game news we’ve seen in a long while.  Indeed, there have been no new  announcements about development of any games of any kind in long long time.

The last non-MMO D&D game to see a major release was Neverwinter Nights 2 in 2006 (and the mostly forgotten D&D Tactics in 2007) with expansions and/or adventure packs release every 12 months since: Mask of the Betrayer in 2007, Storm of Zehir in 2008, and Mysteries of West Gate in 2009.  That last, however, is something of a fallacy since the adventure pack, developed by Ossian Studios was completed in 2007 and was delayed due to issues with DRM.  With the video-game like and streamlined 4th Edition rules released in 2008 one might have expected some announcement as to a new game in development, but nothing has been said so far.

The answer  I suspect is December 2009 lawsuit between Hasbro (owners of Wizards of the Coast) and Atari.  There have no new details I can find since the original suit was filed.  The gist of the case, as it stands, being that 34% of  Atari Europe is owned by Hasbro competitor Namco Bandai allegedly including 4 subsidiaries involved in the active development in D&D video games, as originally reported over at Ars Technica.  I’ve yet to see any news on what is happening or has happened with that case and given that Hasbro seems to be trying to get the license back from Atari I’m betting that’s why we haven’t seen or heard anything about games.

It was also recently announced that Warner Bros acquired Turbine, Inc. and thus Dungeons and Dragons Online.   I’m fairly certain that DDO is still made under the Atari license, but other then licensing I have no idea how much Atari actually contributes to development.  So as far as I can tell that the D&D license is given to Atari, who contracts with Turbine to make DDO, who is then acquired by Warner Bros.  Maybe I’m missing something, but it just seems a bit bizarre.

Worlds of D&D over at Wertzone

I wanted to take a moment to point any D&D fans, new and old, over to the Wertzone where Adam Whitehead has been slowly eking out historical overviews of the various D&D campaign settings that have existed through the ages.  So if players just getting into D&D with 4e want to see some of what came before or if older gamers want to relive the glories of past adventures I can think of no better place to start.  You can find all the posts HERE or you can jump to a specific post:




They’re all really long so beware!  They’re all really good as well so enjoy!


Review: Plague of Spells by Bruce R. Cordell

A Plague of Spells by Bruce R. CordellPlague of Spells: Abolethic Sovereignty Book 1
Bruce R. Cordell
Wizards of the Coast, 2009

Plague of Spells is not a work without flaws and, for me at least, oscillated between frustrating and genuinely enthralling. The novel opens with the monk Raidon Kane as he returns home to his adopted daughter. The reader gets a brief introduction to the character, with the aid of his mother’s amulet he hunts abberant creatures; those things that D&D pilfered from the mind of H. P. Lovecraft. It isn’t long before disaster strikes as the Spellplague rips through Faerun destroying everything in its path. Well, almost anything since Raidon somehow manages to be saved, thanks in some part to his mystical amulet of the Cerulean Sign. Unfortunately it is while before we see Raidon again and we bounce back and forth between several other characters before the monk makes his appearance. The monk is drafted, almost press-ganged, into a war against a greater threat of an elder evil while at the same time he must shift through the ashes of his own past while trying to come to grips with the vastly changed face of Faerun.
Continue reading “Review: Plague of Spells by Bruce R. Cordell”

We apparently live in Spelljammer

From a article about the recently discovered “dark flow” (massive amounts of our universe flowing towards a fixed point at ridiculous speeds) comes this little gem on “inflation theory”:

A theory called inflation posits that the universe we see is just a small bubble of space-time that got rapidly expanded after the Big Bang. There could be other parts of the cosmos beyond this bubble that we cannot see.

So…apparently we live (might live) in a “bubble”  of space time in a universe that exists outside of our observable surroundings.  I will give $20 to the first NASA scientist that dubs this material/area outside our bubble “The Phlogiston”.

Also, someone better plug that hole in our universe quick!  Beofre things get ugly!

I cast magic missile on the darkness

So as all true nerds know, 4th Edition for D&D is on the horizon.  I’m not precisely sure what all of the new features and changes will be.  (I do know that grappling is on the list though.  Presumably the changes will make is so that grappling is no longer the equivalent of a cleveland steamer in both enjoyment and usefulness.  This might be achieved by limiting the amount of dice rolls needed to less than the current number, which gets dangerously close to that of Amedeo Avogadro.)  Regardless, those changes are probably best covered by other, more knowledgeable, people on this site.  I’m just here to talk about the advertising.

Wizards of the Coast apparently approached the guys from PvP and Penny Arcade and asked them to do something cool to advertise the game.   Being webcomics, the fact that comic strips/panels were part of the end product isn’t particularly suprising.  But the comics are really just supplementing a pretty interesting advertising campaign.  They just played the game.  Wizards literally just provided a DM and everyone played 4th edition while a camera was recording the action.  The podcasts are being put up on the Wizards site each week and apparently it covers a lot of the new changes in the gameplay.  I haven’t gotten a chance to check it out yet so I don’t know if the result is something enjoyable or tediously boring.  But any attempt to sell a product by actually showing the audience the product in question rather than through the gaming industry’s normal smoke and mirrors routine is worthwhile endeavor.

PC-RPGs….gasping for air or on the rise?

There are some interesting rumblings in world of PC RPGs and some uncomfortable silences as well.

First off some older news in the place holder image over at  Interplay, paired with Black Isle Studios and Bioware released perhaps the preatest Post-Gold Box Era computer RPGs ever.  Baldur’s Gate II sucked away months of life taking my fledgling character from the humblest of roots to the pinnacle of goddom (yes) are some of my fondest gaming memories (Quixis of the Open Palm, monk turned just deity).   Planescape: Torment, Icewind Dale, Baldurs Gate, Fallout.  Interplay released some serious gems and it was a bit of shame when they went under.

I should point out one of the images on the placeholder is from the Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance games.  While for consoles only the light hack and slash fun both games featured was damned entertaining and I can only hope a newly formed Interplay finishes the series (both games ended in cliffhangers).

Slightly more troubling is Atari’s current financial difficulties.  Atari, as far as I know, still holds the license for D&D games.  They’ve managed it fairly well, Neverwinter Nights and Neverwinter Nights 2 were fun game but neither managed to eclipse the aforementioned Interplay titles.  I know I might catch some flak for this, but I almost hope EA gets the D&D license instead.  I know, I know but with their recent aquisition of Bioware and Obsidian (studios both tied to those original Interplay titles) means they have the talent, and the financial clout, to produce some top notch titles.  However, with the new ruleset (for pen and paper D&D) scheduled for release this summer I’m guessing we won’t hear any news on new D&D titles (discounting those already in production/active development) until some time in the fall.

Next up was a bit from RockPaperShotgun I saw this morning.  They mentioned a job posting by Blizzard that sparked specution on the development of Diablo 3.  With the semi-flop that was Hellgate a true sequel with the Diablo brand would be nice to see.  Having had a chance to beta Hellgate a bit I’m willing to admit that the gameplay was fun and similar to, though never quite as frantic as, Diablo.  The post casually speculates (a I seriously mean speculates) about a “World of Diablo” and I admit I felt a bit tingly at the thought of that.  I doubt it would happen, Blizzard hardly needs two fantasy MMOs, but still that would be a damned tempting prospect for me….and I don’t really like MMOs.

This isn’t to say that other areas of the PC RPG market are dry.  Bioware is as active as ever promising Mass Effect for PC this May, and additional titles in the series to be released on PC as well.  Even better, in a recent interview over at Eurogamer Bioware’s Matt Atwood mentions that the long developed Bioware original Dragon Age will be out before the fiscal year ends (i.e. before April 2009).  In other areas Bethesda is busy at work on Fallout 3, having enjoyed Oblivion I’m fairly confident they’ll turn out a sweet product.  Other than those titles the market for single-player RPGs on the PC looks rather slim, but maybe I’m missing a few.  I’ll suffer through this dry spell well enough, it isn’t like I don’t have games to play, I’m still working my way through Neverwinter Nights 2, just started Bioshock, and have yet to finish Crysis (and that doesn’t include my consoles) so I’m good to go.  I’m curious to see how whether the single player PC RPG will make any sort of comeback in an MMO saturated market; I for one certainly miss the sense of adventure, exploration, and epic story that those Interplay Infinity-engine titles engendered and hope for something similar down the line.

Open Design

Open Design This is a cool little project by Wolfgang Baur. Baur is a veteran designer of D&D adventures and this project follows in that vein. The idea is that we, the public, contribute donations to help craft and adventure that contains the elements we want. General patronage costs $30, a bit expensive but might be worth it for the experience. If that’s too much for, and you’re sobbing over the loss of Dungeon and Dragon magazines than you may want to check out Kobold Quarterly. Kobold Quarterly is another of Wolfgang’s projects, an open design web ‘zine. For $12/year you get art, design articles, interviews from industry pros and creative community members, and to add incentive for the more creative minded people Wolfgang says: “If the circulation reaches 1,000 subscribers, I’ll open the pages to submissions from all subscribers.” Pretty cool stuff.

D&D Online

(Above) Felwin of Cyre, standing high above House Deneith ward.

Well there are 4 scant weeks left until DDO goes live and the NDA was lifted some time ago. I figure I should at least post some info.The game opens with 2 different n00b areas. The first is designed to familiarize you with controls and features (i.e. tutorials) while the second familiarizes you with questing and socializing. I’ve run through these sections so many times I could do them with my eyes closed now and I’m not going to talk about them too long.
What both of these sections introduce is the multitiered nature of Stormreach. “Newbie” Harbor requires you to complete one of four quests to get to the next area (regular old Harbor) and the next area requires you to complete another set of quests to make it to the next area. As of now there 6 wards in Stormreach, one with a closed off area (supposed to open as part of first live update, I believe) and a seventh ward completely blocked off. These differing areas are where you pick up quests, meet other players, and grab items.
That last statment brings me to one of my problems with the game in that the city itself often feels like a giant Tavern. There is little, if any trouble one can get into putzing around town (save for some rather long falls) and most of the gameplay content is in the quests. Which I suppose is how it should be, but it would be nice have some options for downtime in between quests or while searching for a group.
Stormreach can be pretty impressive visually, such as the above photo and in some of pics below:

Same as first pic, except different perspective. Notice that the draw distance for buildings is pretty good, but not so much for PCs (I also promptly fell after taking this pic, doubling that negative number you see on the purple bar at the bottom of the pic). I should note that I am running the game on a CPU with P4 3.2 ghz processor, 1 gig of PC3200 SDRAM, and a 256 MB Radeon x800 in a PCI-E slot. My game runs pretty good most of the time at 1024×768 w/ 2x AA on, though some the interiors of the game with lighting effects (and sometime with water) drops the framerate to the teens or twenties. Lighting, as you’ll note here, is one the best features of the game so far. I’ll try to grab some dungeon pics to illustrate this point some more.This cool little statue/waterfall is one the Phiarlan enclave. Each of the House wards has an enclave that you can enter, they are all empty at the moment and I’m curious as to what they will be putting there in the future. This next pic is one of my personal favorites:
So, as you can see visually the game is pretty impressive. Ok, that is all I’m going to post on right now, I’ll try to gather some screenshots of some questing and dungeon related material for my next post. Post in comments if you have a particular question or request and I’ll try to help out. Later…..