Morning Caffeinated! -- Diablo stories, Black Mesa, and so long Paragon

Ramblings and musings of occasional significance to the Shacknews audience. This is the morning edition for September 4, 2012. Topics include: We get behind-the-scenes stories on Blizzard and its games; Black Mesa: Source finally has a release date; and NCSoft pulls the plug on City of Heroes and developer Paragon Studios. Wake up, scrubs, it's the Morning Caffeinated!

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Welcome back from the long weekend, Shack. Hope you had a relaxing Labor Day. While I was supposed to have the holiday off, I still got a few hours in yesterday on a project I have been working on for more than two months, and you finally got to see the start of it yesterday.

Stay awhile for some stories ...

David Craddock, author and Shacker since 2005, posted in Chatty back in mid-June about a book he was working on about Blizzard Entertainment, called Stay Awhile and Listen. Now, anything we post on Blizzard usually does great traffic on Shack, so it immediately got the rusty gears in my head cranking. When I was at GameSpy, I had worked with author David Kushner to publish a chapter of Masters of Doom that site as the book was about to come out, so I proposed the same idea to David C., this time for the Shack audience. He was agreeable, having a bond with Chatty and the Shack crowd. We went back and forth for several weeks, discussing excerpts and ideas, and we finally came upon a format. Starting with yesterday's feature, we will publish several stories like that from the book on a regular basis. The grand finale will be Shacknews posting a full chapter from Stay Awhile and Listen, along with an in-depth interview with David C., over the course of a week beginning Monday, October 29. We've pretty much agreed on the chapter (no spoilers here, sorry), but we'll tease you with stories from the development of the Diablo series, the Warcraft series (including that big MMO) and StarCraft, as well as tidbits from the days of Condor (later Blizzard North), and Silicon & Synpase (later Blizzard Entertainment). If the feedback to the first article is any indication, you guys should enjoy what we have planned. Thanks to David C. for being such a willing participant.
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Unfortunately for Paragon Studios, one of its superheroes will not be swooping in to save it from villain NCSoft. The developer of City of Heroes will be closed, and operation of the superhero/supervillain MMO will be terminated by the end of the year. With Guild Wars 2 doing so well, maybe NCSoft can see clear to shuffle some of the displaced Paragon staff off to ArenaNet, which has its hands full with its well-received MMO. Well, it's a thought.
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Black Mesa is finally coming (we hope). A countdown clock has appeared on the dev site a few days ago, with zero hour on September 14, and we can only hope the team behind the highly anticipated mod can deliver. It's been eight years in the making, and being teased with a leaked video didn't help. This is such big news that even the BBC reported it. The team has promised everything that Half-Life had to offer, but in a prettier updated-Source-engine package that offers some minor changes. Well, all except the Xen section, which will be added later. I'm not going to miss that part in the slightest, but I really can't wait to try it. As hanged_man called it, this has been the Duke Nukem Forever of anticipated mods. Let's hope it fares a lot better.
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Random bits & Quick hits: If you aren't excited enough by Dishonored, Bethesda has offered you some more prodding. The free Rat Assassin app has you slicing and dicing plague rats and using your powers to get high scores. Dishonored is already high on my wish list, but I still like the app ... Okay, it's a sequel, but it's not called Final Fantasy XIII-3. It's Lightning Returns and Square Enix will bring an end to the trilogy. Are you excited by this or disappointed that there is nothing to report on FF Versus XIII? ... By all accounts, PAX Prime was a success, and Steve told me he has a ton of content to get to this week. Watch for previews and interviews from his trip. Flashback: While the closing of Paragon is a shame for all involved, it got me thinking about the studio that I was saddest to see fold up shop. I'd have to go with Looking Glass Studios (loved System Shock and Thief so much), followed closely by Ensemble. What studio do you miss the most? Have a great short week, Shack.
Access all of Shacknews' features or hot topics quickly: Community Spotlight -- Late Night Computing -- Morning Caffeinated! -- Release List -- Shacknews Daily -- Weekend Confirmed -- What are You Playing? -- Where are they now -- Reviews -- Previews -- Editorials -- Interviews
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From The Chatty

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    September 4, 2012 5:30 AM

    John Keefer posted a new article, Morning Caffeinated! -- Diablo stories, Black Mesa, and so long Paragon.

    Ramblings and musings of occasional significance to the Shacknews audience. This is the morning edition for September 4, 2012. Topics include: We get behind-the-scenes stories on Blizzard and its games; Black Mesa: Source finally has a release date; and NCSoft pulls the plug on City of Heroes and developer Paragon Studios. Wake up, scrubs, it's the Morning Caffeinated!

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      September 4, 2012 5:46 AM

      Its a shame NCsoft couldn't have placed Paragon on City of Heroes Wars. Guild Wars in modern day spandex. I would be all into that.

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      September 4, 2012 5:56 AM

      I think I miss Sierra the most but seeing Origin and Westwood get shut down also sucked too

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      September 4, 2012 6:03 AM

      Black Isle, the real one. Obsidian is kind of the same, but its more of a buggy fps than an isometric masterpiece. They did make my darling Alpha Protocol for me so it's like we still have them on occasion.

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        September 4, 2012 6:12 AM

        I see Obsidian as Black Isle 2. Lots of staff overlap.

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          September 4, 2012 6:20 AM

          But they aren't making nonstop classics anymore. They do interesting things, but they lost a guy who killed the bugs somewhere in that transition. I want them to make one big sell out money maker game so they can finish their next real one properly and get on the right track.

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            September 4, 2012 6:31 AM

            I'm kind of excited about Wasteland 2 because they'll have the writers from Obsidian but everyone else will be from inXile

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            September 4, 2012 6:34 AM

            Did you like Alpha Protocol? That was my sleeper hit of 2010, even though reviews fried it.

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              September 4, 2012 7:34 AM

              I enjoyed it up until the end when I slept with everyone, ruined the immersion for myself, and combat got way harder since stealth basically became useless.

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                September 4, 2012 9:01 AM

                Useless? Huh. I found stealth+pistols a vastly overpowered path through the game.

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                  September 4, 2012 9:11 AM

                  Plus martial arts and you got a stew goin' baby!

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              September 4, 2012 8:29 AM

              I'd say along with KoToR 1, it's my favorite game. I've played through the game so many times I've lost count and gotten different results almost every time. You are kind of forced into stealth, martial arts, and pistol to "win" though. It's a textbook example of Flawed Masterpiece.

              I find the games I tend to really get hooked with are broken somewhat, but do one or two things wildly different or at least in a really interesting way as opposed to pure fun. Modern Warfare 2's multiplayer is fun as hell, BUT it's nothing mindblowing in it's uniqueness so when I think of Best Ever that never comes up even though I played a disgusting number of hours of it. But the fact that if I do a certain number of steps in the exact right order in Alpha Protocol I can have Draino put in someone's cocaine so that a boss fight 3 steps away is easier because the dude is all fucked up is branded into my brain as something awesome I never stop cheerleading for people to buy the game in Steam Sales. I have the 360 copy and the PC copy just to give that tiny little $5 vote for a sequel that will never come. :(

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      September 4, 2012 6:05 AM

      What studio do you miss the most?

      Bioware & Blizzard

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        September 4, 2012 6:28 AM

        Possible side topic is an upcoming Keefinated: Do our memories of past excellent games keep us from fully enjoying and appreciating new offerings from the same company? BioWare and Blizzard's old games had flaws, but today they are revered as the pinnacle of that company's achievement. For the post part our memories see companies going downhill. Has a company ever gone uphill in your mind? It can't be a new company, but an established dev with at least 4-5 titles under its belt.

        Just a thought ...

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          September 4, 2012 6:57 AM

          I think that'd be a very interesting topic.

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          September 4, 2012 7:07 AM

          First part of your query: Casey Hudson and Jay Wilson single-handedly killed Bioware and Blizzard in my mind. With Blizzard its a little harder to quantify since their games are so spread apart. With Bioware they've released one or two games per year for the past 5 years so its a pretty clear decline. While I know hindsight & nostalgia play a role, I think one can make a pretty compelling argument about this.

          To the second part: Valve maybe? Remember all the Steam/HL2 release anger? Now they are the Jesus of gaming.

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            September 4, 2012 7:09 AM

            I agree with both of your answers and would also add Telltale to the list of devs that have gotten better over time. Jurassic Park was a misstep but walking dead owns so much.

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            September 4, 2012 7:44 AM

            Not to go all Blizzard Defense League on you, but even if you don't like any of Blizzards recent releases, Jay Wilson wasn't responsible for all them.

            Bioware's troubles seem to be directly the result of growing too fast. They went from being a developer methodically putting out games as they wanted to, to EA's RPG factory.

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              September 4, 2012 9:14 AM

              No way. It's perfectly logical to believe one individual was able to single handedly destroy games they didn't even work on.

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            September 4, 2012 9:02 AM

            Metzen's story telling < Jay Wilson

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          September 4, 2012 7:16 AM

          I think that happens in every creative medium

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          September 4, 2012 11:50 AM

          EA was widely considered to be going uphill for a while, weren't they? Back when they were putting out some interesting games, a few years back?

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            September 4, 2012 12:12 PM

            Yes, around the time of Mirror's Edge.

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        September 4, 2012 7:32 AM

        Black Isle too.

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        September 4, 2012 11:17 AM

        Looking Glass. EOT.

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        September 4, 2012 11:49 AM

        The Rare that gave me Blast Corps and Goldeneye.

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      September 4, 2012 7:46 AM

      I've never gotten into Half-Life, but I may try another attempt with Black Mesa. Here's hoping I suck less at it this time.

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        September 4, 2012 8:43 AM

        You Papaboo'in' sumbitch GET IN THERE AND MAN THE FUCK UP.

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          September 4, 2012 9:24 AM

          But sarge, I tain't so good at hittin' those dad-gum headcrabs with nuthin!

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      September 4, 2012 11:52 AM

      Black Mesa on the 14th and Torchlight 2 not too far behind it? Its gonna be a sweet month.

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      September 4, 2012 11:53 AM

      "Black Mesa: Source"? Tch!