role-playing game

Castle!: A construction kit that lets RPGers storm the walls

Some of my fondest childhood toy memories revolve around Legos. About the time my brother showed up with a Dungeons & Dragons book, we left the Legos behind. Thanks to the thriving world of role-playing miniatures, that sense of building and creation doesn't have to be consigned to the depths of childhood.

It's always been easy to get your hands on miniature monsters and knights, but creating landscapes for them to play in is another matter. The Castle! Kickstarter from Castle Foundry is looking to provide RPGers with a setting that is just as engaging as their carefully painted minis. … Read more

Deadly exploit briefly massacres World of Warcraft

Imagine your virtual character relaxing in the confines of the massive World of Warcraft city Orgrimmar, when suddenly, zero health points. Upon spinning the mouse cursor around, everything around you also simultaneously perishes. Not long after the death, countless skeletons of fallen players stack up upon the city streets.

While this sounds like a bad dream that might strike someone who plays World of Warcraft too much, the deadly scenario played out yesterday across many WoW servers around the world. Entire Horde and Alliance megacities -- including Stormwind -- suddenly became graveyards for thousands afflicted by an in-game exploit carried out by malicious players. … Read more

Bethesda teases Skyrim expansion

Those of you craving more details about the upcoming Skyrim expansion -- officially titled Dawnguard -- are going to have to sit tight until the E3 gaming convention on June 5-7.

The only information available so far suggests the expansion will arrive this summer and will be first available exclusively on the Xbox 360. Other gaming consoles (PlayStation 3 and PC) will get it a month later, according to Eurogamer. Bethesda did not announce any sort of pricing scheme.

Looking at the teaser image, everything seems standard about the picture of Dragonborn except his eyes. In the original Skyrim images … Read more

Mass Effect 2 serves up mass market RPG action

There was a time when role-playing games were the domain of geeked-out obsessives overly concerned with stats, percentages, and the rolling of virtual 20-sided dice--or else fans of ornate, absurdist Japanese RPGs (such as the Final Fantasy series). For the coveted mainstream gamer, it could be very unfriendly territory.

For that reason, the original Mass Effect (EA, 2007), was something of a revelation, keeping much of the strategy and complexity of a traditional RPG, but wrapping it up in an action-packed third-person shooter, with a compelling (but digestible) storyline, and massive set pieces straight out of a big-budget Hollywood sci-fi epic.

Developer BioWare seems to have cornered the market on this new breed of RPG, following up with the very similar Dragon Age: Origins (a sword-and-sorcery take that managed to overcome the staleness of its genre), and now Mass Effect 2--which has quickly become the first critical darling of 2010.

Dan: Mass Effect 2 nails that elusive mix of highbrow and lowbrow (as the terms apply to game mechanics). There's still a complex plot, and characters with intertwining motives and methods, plus the flexibility to approach tasks in whatever order you choose. At the same time, most of the actual RPG stat-counting takes place behind the scenes (weapons stats no longer need to be pored over, the game simply defaults to the best guns you have), and the physical actions of running, shooting, and taking cover are much closer to what we expect from the current generation of highly polished third-person action games.

The focus on traditional duck-and-cover shooting is a clear indication of Mass Effect's console origins. Sister game Dragon Age was originally developed for PCs and ported to consoles (instead of the other way around), so it feels slower and more strategic (plus, that game lets you travel with three companions at a time, rather than Mass Effect's two).

The game definitely has that elusive 'X' factor that draws players in, perhaps partly by presenting a greatest hits melody of pop-culture highlights, from the thinly veiled political subtext of 'BSG,' and routinely shifting alliances of '24,' to the Star-Wars-reminiscent design, such as the Coruscant-like planet of Illium. For whatever reasons, the game is simply impossible to put down once you start playing, leading to many late nights of galaxy-saving (and resource mining on random planets).

And yet, despite racking up 25-plus hours of in-game time over the past week, there's still a nagging feeling that we've hit something of a wall in terms of game design.… Read more

Why do young techies want to be werewolves?

SEBASTOPOL, Calif.--By day, Silicon Valley's young elite were scribbling frenetically on whiteboards in the conference rooms at O'Reilly Media's corporate complex here, with executives and engineers from normally competing companies working together to tackle problems from open-standard implementation to social-network privacy. But in the evening, their dark sides emerged.

The occasion was Social Web FooCamp held here last weekend, a relatively new offshoot of the annual invite-only "unconference" that Tim O'Reilly started throwing in 2003. And the after-hours activity was Werewolf, a strategy game that has been a craze among the Web 2.… Read more