Videogame Concept Art

I am a sucker for gaming art books so I thought it’d be an idea to summarise some useful information I have gathered on the subject into one post. This is coming from the perspective of a fan here, apologies to any art/gaming students/professionals who disagree with my ramblings. Also note that while there shouldn’t be any spoilers in this post, I would advise against getting any of these books or visiting any links without finishing the respective game first.

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Exploring Guild Wars Eye of the North

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This weekend was the ‘sneak peak’ for the new Guild Wars expansion- The Eye of the North. Basically the opening area of the new campaign was unlocked for those that pre-ordered the game, so we could start playing a week before the official release. Of course this meant I took screen shots. Lots of screen shots. This means two things: firstly expect a lot of screen shot posts and secondly some spoilers if you haven’t played it.

Exploring Guild Wars: Prophecies – Part One

Welcome to Ascalon City

The original Guild Wars campaign is known as Prophecies. Starting this campaign takes your newly created character to Ascalon City, the largest city in the Kingdom of Ascalon:

The view from the edge of the city

Continue reading Exploring Guild Wars: Prophecies – Part One

How Guild Wars works

This post started off as a reply to NokkonWud, but as I went into so much detail I thought it might as well come in handy to others considering getting the game.

Guild Wars is broken down into three core games:

  • Prophecies: the original game which is the closest to a traditional western RPG in theme of the three. Despite being the oldest of the campaigns it is not a deserted realm by any means.
  • Factions: the second add-on which takes an oriental theme. I can’t comment much on this one as Gameplay are being slow with the package, but it is apparently the smallest of the three and PvP oriented. Again I am not sure yet but this campaign is apparently popular for Alliance Battles, a form of PvP.
  • Nightfall: the third campaign, which has a African and Arabian feel. As this is the newest the guild I am in, the Godless (an offshoot of OcUK) seem to exist here the most.

Each campaign can be bought individually but if you have more than one your characters can move between them. The key difference between Guild Wars and traditional MMOs are that the level cap is a low 20, which can be reached very quickly, making it a game more about skill than grind. It also means that some people can get bored of it as there is no urge to level up as you can’t, most people migrate to the PvP side of things, which can be as frantic as an online FPS. Also outside of towns the game is instanced, both a good thing so you don’t have to queue for bosses to spawn, and a bad thing as you won’t wander into anyone else apart from you party. It is definitely entertaining, which I can prove based on that fact I am approaching 400 hours of game time, though I’d say it’s an MMO you’ll either love or hate.

There are two reasons I’d say to give it a go. Firstly there are no monthly fees which means you can pick it up and put it down at your leisure (I stopped playing in 2005, my characters still exist since I started playing again). Secondly the newest campaign, Nightfall can be picked up – in collector’s edition form no less – for a bargain £18.96 on Amazon.co.uk which is cheaper than most places do the standard editions.

Another update

So I’ve been slow to update again, resulting in the state of limbo so often seen on abandoned websites across the Internet.

In short, I have completed Jade Empire, of which the final battles were the first genuine challenge of the whole game.

I have now started playing the free-to-play MMO Guild Wars. I clocked up over 300 hours on this back in 2005 in the long holiday between finishing university and starting work and have taken it up again to stop myself spending too much money on new games.

Problem is it’s so addictive I’ve just ordered the two expansion packs…

Jade Empire

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The other day I ordered Jade Empire Special Edition which was recently released for the PC. I have a great respect for the Bioware, the developers who also created (in my opinion) the greatest RPG of them all: Baldur’s Gate II. After hearing some positive things about Jade Empire I picked it up. It got it for £17.99 which was quite reasonable, it came in a ‘steel-book’ case common with Xbox 360 limited edition games, a poster and an art book. The poster is not brilliant and the art book is a short staple bound pamphlet- Half-Life 2 Raising the Bar this isn’t.

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On the whole I’d say I’m impressed with the game. There are only three core attributes: body, mind and spirit as opposed to the array available in Baldur’s Gate or Oblivion. This makes it easier to pick up and play, there isn’t much in the way of customisation to be done. It is a very different game to a traditional RPG. You don’t loot the dead for their belongings to sell to merchants, you receive silver automatically. The primary customisations are not what class of armour you buy- in fact as far as I can tell so far you will be stuck with the same paper doll that you start with – but martial art styles and spells. They all have their different powers and chaining some of them together unleashes ‘harmonic combos’. The only one I have found so far slows an opponent and with the second blow obliterates him leaving behind a health power-up. I think the general feeling I get is that it is a very streamlined RPG, revealing its Xbox origins, but a good one nonetheless. Very much more pick up and play than its larger cousins like Baldur’s Gate or Oblivion.

je_tablelegofdoom.jpgGraphically it has aged okay though having got this after playing Oblivion you can see the difference. After seeing the emotion conveyed in the characters of games like Dead Rising and Gears of War, the NPCs here show the game’s true age. The plot seems deep enough and there are hours of fully spoken dialogue, exposition and conversation trees. Its not however, without its faults which mainly are a result of its porting. A lot of the core assets of the game have not been updated with the port. As a widescreen user this is particularly noticeable with stretched loading screen artwork and menu screens (though it does support my screen’s resolution in true widescreen in game). My main gripe is with the frequent cut-scenes. These FMVs rendered in the game engine but saved as video files are extremely low resolution and are no doubt the same files that were on the Xbox version. The definition of analogue television would have let them get away with it then but now it is a glaring eyesore in an otherwise well produced game.

Despite these complaints its a fun game and I’m enjoying playing it. Its also quite crazy at times. I have the ability to turn into a giant frog and poison my enemies and just this evening I managed to pick up a pair of table legs and wield them like dual katanas, as you can see in the screenshot. Madness. Worth the £17.99, I can see a lot of potential for a ‘next-gen’ sequel.