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  • Robot Entertainment at PAX 2014 (Part 2)
    Dean
    7374

    Following on from our first part of Robot’s PAX Panel review we now move on from looking at the studios history to present day to looking at some of the interesting prototypes they have been working on in-between OMD2 and OMDU. For the first time we get a glimpse at some of he games that could have been from the creative minds at Robot.

    Mithril

    The first concept that came up at the studio was a game called Mithril, a project that Lance Hoke worked on. It was an accessible hex based browser game that would have the feel of Age that would work well on web browsers and tablets like the iPad. Similar to Tribal Wars but with a much deeper level of strategy. We saw the following concept art from the PAX slides:

    There wasn’t too much detail on this one, it sounds like it didnt get very far along before the next concept came to surface, not much to report on this one but be sure to check out the commentary on the Twitch VOD.

    Lonestar

    Lonestar was the next concept the studio worked on. Ian Fischer described it as emergent gameplay which refers to the gameplay adapting to the actions of the player. For example in games like The Sims where players can tell their own story and the gameplay is shaped by the actions they take. Another example might be games like Fable where players actions can shape the world around them.

    In Robot’s case with Lonestar they set out to create a sci-fi sandbox world that woul have completely randomly generated planets. The players ship had crashed on one of these planets and the player was tasked with finding a way to survive and escape the planet. Everything about the planet would be a randomly generated simulation including the beings that were already living on it.

    The only downside with Lonestar were the challenges of managing the in-game ecology and for a number of other reasons, the project would have been a very large under-taking. Robot went on to scale down the project for their next prototype called “Victory”.

    Victory

    The biggest thing that you’ll notice about Victory when watching the PAX panel video that it was a shooter. A big departure from the typical type of game for the studio to work on. Once again it involved planets that were generated emergently and colonies would be formed on each planet. The generated planets would all have their own unique environments and properties and everything in the game would be a simulation. One simple example would be how close and far the planet would be from the sun would affect the properties and environment of the planet. Players would take the form of a space troubleshooting team who would travel out to these planets. Players would have to figure out what was happening on each planet and what problems there were that needed fixing.

    Ian game some example of problems such as overheating reactors and being taken over by space pirates as just two possible scenarios amongst many others. Players would be challenges to resolve planet problems as quickly as possible before things got too bad. For instance enemies might get bigger and stronger over time, like this monster:

    Robot considered making a very early preview of Victory at PAX the year before, but in the end decided they would return back to Orcs Must Die! for their next game based on TONS of feedback they were getting from the community and press alike. As great and as interesting as these concepts are, there was just so much overwhelming demand to continue the OMD franchise and out of that Orcs Must Die! Unchained was born.

    Orcs Must Die! Unchained

    Following two very successful games of OMD the bots at Robot had long heard the calls to expand the multiplayer element of the game, first adding co-op in OMD2 and then having to cater for the desire to have PvP OMD gameplay. It was out of this that Unchained! was born, and Robot is set to deliver all the things a budding OMD fan could want including full 5v5 fortress siege multiplayer action.

    For the first time in the series players would be able to experience the offensive side of playing OMD.

    We are able to see some excellent early art of the game coming together from its early stages. It is interesting to see the steps Robot took before getting to what we see today in the closed beta. They even had long hair for the War Mage and Sorceress at one point to show that they have aged between OMD2 and Unchained. Here we can see one of the very early levels and early UI design:

    We can can also see some early hero designs below, some of which may still make it into the game. These are actually just a selection of hero ideas that are currently sitting on the walls at Robot HQ. They have a ton of ideas and there certainly isnt a shortage of ideas on the OMDU hero front. Check out some of these cool designs:

    Thoughts to take away

    Things that we can learn from the PAX panel is that Robot is a very diverse studio with very creative minds and can work on a number of different projects over an array of different game genres. We can get an idea that the studio is still interested in strategy but also have a keen interest in emergent gameplay. As we move forward into the future looking at Unchained and beyond, its an exciting time to be a Robot Entertainment fan and I’m sure the studio to continue to keep us guessing even more so from this PAX panel on what kind of other concepts are being though up from the orange pod inside the studio!

    Robot Entertainment at PAX 2014 (Part 1)
    Dean
    7344

    Some of the bots from Robot Entertainment have been hanging out at PAX Prime this weekend, hosting their very own PAX panel titled “An afternoon of fun with Robot Entertainment”. In our first part of our two part series we cover the first part of the panel which looks at Robot history including their time at Ensemble Studios and the games that lead up to Orcs Must Die! Unchained.  For anyone who was in attendance there were plenty of free things being given out including a bag, poster, buttons, t-shirt, band and “Founders PAX” access to the Closed Beta.

    Fans who tuned in to the stream on Twitch were also in for an opportunity to win these sweet prizes. Also making an appearance again is the exclusive Cardboard Tube Samurai skin for the War Mage. This exclusive vanity skin is only being made available to PAX attendees and lucky Twitch stream winners.

    Ensemble days

    Digging into the panel things started off with an introduction to the studio including highlighting Robot’s internal biergarten that they have in the studio and the colour coded pods for each discipline of staff (artist, programmers, design, community etc). Following an introduction of the studio the panel began to talk about Robot’s roots including their time previously at Ensemble Studios taking the audience through the past legacies such as the Age games and Halo Wars, including the big Halo MMO project codenamed “Titan” that was unfortunately cancelled by Microsoft.

    The panel go into some detail about the cancelled MMO project and is well worth watching the stream for any Ensemble fans. Ian Fischer confirms previous Ensemble staffer comments that the game was largely cancelled due to Microsoft’s desire to pursue more casual games.

    Age of Empires Online

    The panel went on to talk about Age of Empires Online and how it started out as Age 4. Ian Fischer described how they originally thought about going back to the old caveman Age 1 settings whilst still at Ensemble Studios. When the studio was shut down, Microsoft wanted to continue the Age 4 project but didnt want it looking like another Age game and wanted to pursue a more casual look. It is this reason why Age of Empires Online adopted the casual more cartoony look in the final product.

    Robot also pushed to have all the Age games put on Steam instead of Games of Windows Live. Although they never did it in Robot’s time managing the Age Community, Microsoft has finally got round to it recently and the Age games have been top sellers on Steam for some time now.

    Prototyping new games

    Whilst most of the studio were working on Age of Empires Online there was a small group in the Orange Pod who spent time prototyping new games for the studios first original IP. Before things morphed into Orcs Must Die! the studio worked on a “tool kit” that would allow players to build their own games. This tool kit idea then turned into a game codenamed “Saber” which later became “Orcs Must Die!”. Here are some early art and designs for the game:

    You will notice that Saber started off looking much darker more serious than the lighter more comic feel of OMD today. As the development progressed and things like physics traps were added the OMD we see today was born. Of course it was soon time for the studio to name the game beyond its prototype name “Saber” and there were alot of discussions in the studio.


    “Orc Invasion”, “Overrun” and “Onslaught” were some of the names that were considered alongside Chris Rippy’s “Orcs Must Die!”. In the end it was whittled down to just two, “Onslaught” and “Orcs Must Die!” and the studio was split 50/50 on each name and in the end a decision was made to go with OMD. The OMD name also helped Robot’s art and design move the game into a more lighter setting. This can also be seen in the War Mage’s art development where he started out more serious before becoming the more goofy hero we see today:

    Orcs Must Die! shipped in 2011 and went on to win AIAS Strategy Simulation game of the year.

    Hero Academy

    Robot’s next original IP was to be Hero Academy a mobile game on Android, iOS and Steam. Once again the project started out from the orange pod. Patrick Hudson talked about the Team Fortress 2 integration and the relationship with Valve and also that they got approached by a number of other IP’s about adding more teams in the game, but it was felt that those would not be as good a fit. Hero Academy also won an award at AIAS, Mobile Game of the Year.

    Echo Prime

    The next mobile game spearheaded by Chris Rippy was a sci-fi RPG “Echo Prime” on iOS and Steam. Which by the way has recently had a price reduction if you haven’t already picked it up.

    Orcs Must Die! 2

    OMD2 was released 30 July 2012 and added a whole bunch of extra monsters, a second playable character (Sorceress) and added Co-Op. After OMD2 the studio decided that they were going to let OMD rest for a bit.

    More prototyping  - coming up in part 2

    Whilst the OMD series was placed on hold the bots began prototyping more new original games across various genres from strategy to FPS. We’re going to cover these very interesting prototypes in part 2 of this blog series later this week. Be sure to check back where we discect some of the other original ideas what have been toyed around with in the studio.

    In the meanwhile… be sure to check out  the stream VOD of the PAX panel where you can see the hour long panel talk about all of the things mentioned above and some of the things we are covering in part 2 later this upcoming week which includes these awesome never before seen concept ideas, and of course Orcs Must Die! Unchained. Check back soon!


    Watch live video from OrcsMustDie on Twitch

    Spotlight On: CusterDawg
    Dean
    7340

    Its that Friday feeling time again as we delve into another spotlight on feature. This week we have CusterDawg in the limelight from the North American OMDU community. Custer is a regular poster on the OMDU forums and you may have seen his YouTube channel where you can find his gameplay videos of Hearthstone and Terraria. Soon Custer will start streaming videos of OMDU gameplay thanks to the new integrated Twitch feature found in the recent 1.4 expansion patch. Lets find out a little more about him in preparation for his streams!

    The Basics

    Name: Custer/CusterDawg/Robert
    Age: 25
    Home Town: Minnetonka, MN

    Questions

    • What is day job?

    I do temp work and I’m also doing part time work at a school. I’m hoping to head back to school next year to get a degree, after paying down some student loans.

     

    • What is the most exciting thing that has happened so far in 2014?

    Besides OMDU? :P I’ve loved some of the movies that came out this year. Some highlights were Captain America: Winter Soldier, X-Men: Days Of Future Past, Guardians Of The Galaxy, Godzilla, and The Wind Rises. Can’t wait for Nolan’s Interstellar. Other than that was fortunate to have my 7th nephew born this week. :)

     

    • Do you have any pets?

    No pets because allergies have always been an issue. I suppose if I could have a pet it would be like a rabbit or something.

     

    • How would you describe your taste in music?

    I like to think of myself as a collector of experiences. I try to take that mentality into everything I do. In the case of music, I try to give everything a shot at least once. As a result I have 6000+ songs in iTunes with a bunch of CD’s left to upload. An example of some of my bands I have listed are: Madonna, Arcade Fire, Daft Punk, Beastie Boys, Radiohead, Air, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Rammstein, Beirut, Sigur Ros, Enya, etc. (a more comprehensive list would give people a much better idea, but lets just say there is a lot of stuff I listen to)

     

    • Favourite gaming system of all time? (PC/Consoles?)

    Don’t have just one. I have such great memories with a bunch of consoles. My earliest system that I played was the colecovision. Played pretty much most game systems at one point or another, family or friends had it. If I had to choose just one though, it would probably be PC. Not only do most games seem to get a port over to PC or emulation if you own the original game, but you just have more freedom and customization with a PC (Hardware, software, etc).

     

    • How did you discover OMD?

    I watch a lot of different Youtubers and the first one I ever subscribed to (Kage848) played the first game as a full LP. I also started watching another Youtuber (Sips), who funnily enough helped inspire one of our current hero’s name, play OMD2. After seeing just how much fun these two people had with the game, I had to get it. conveniently, it was a Steam sale at the time I had made up my mind. So I got both games and started playing the 2nd one co-op the entire way through with my buddy. Hours of fun developing strategies.

     

    • Outside of OMDU what other games are you playing at the moment?

    Currently I’m playing OMDU (most), Hearthstone, a Minecraft server with a bunch of mods, and trying to finish some games off in my Steam library.

     

    • What do you think of the new tutorial so far?

    It’s a good step in the right direction. It helps new players ease into the game and familiarizes them with some basic concepts to help them play the game. I especially like the fact that at the warcamp sections, you can’t skip out the menu and possibly miss some information. There are some bugs with it, like the arrow can get stuck some places and you have to guess where to go if you’ve never played the 2 lane map. Also, if you move faster than the tutorial intends, it skips over some dialog that might be important.

     

    • Well done for hitting level 40 – how long did that take you?

    Well I guess I’ve pretty much played every day for about 3 hours since the wipe (July 22) into Closed Beta. So about a month I guess. There are a few days where I either didn’t play, played a custom/co-op game, or the server was down. So total time to get there was maybe 250 hours? That’s not all wins either.

     

    • If there was one main thing you would like to see changed in OMDU, what would it be?

    Besides a bigger population, some tweaks to heroes/traps/minions, and some mechanics, it might be the state of trap disable. Right now, unless you have the Sorceress, an armored trap, or Gnome Repair Kit, your killbox on defense is completely at the whims of the trap disabling pushers. It feels like sometimes you’ve wasted your coin on traps when a competent Ivy player can disable your entire killbox the whole wave. I’d like to see either more armored traps, more heroes with trap reset, a weaver that provides disable resist/immunity, or having trap disable work different for heroes on defense. Like if as Ivy you went on defense, you could use your right click/disable as a trap enable, temporary immunity (before traps get disabled), or a disable time reduction. I realize that in regards to trap disable you need to find a very delicate balance as it affects a lot of the game.

     

    Shout Out

    • Is there anything you would like to say to all the OMD fans out there right now?

    Just want to tell all players, new ones especially, to give the an honest chance and be patient with it. Sure there are some things that can be frustrating about the game, but the game gets patched fairly frequently and the developers really care about your feedback. Lastly, be sure to do your part to make sure that the game and the community are the best it can be.

     


    Thanks for taking part CusterDawg! We’re looking forward to your future OMDU streams!

    Orcs Must Die! Unchained at Gamescom video
    Dean
    7335

    Just over a week ago OMDU had a presence at the yearly Gamescom event in Germany. At Gamescom we first learned about the new hero, Tundra and the new captain system. Gameforge staff were on hand at the event to show off OMDU to the masses and some of the bots flew out to join them.

    Gameforge have produced a video as below giving fans an inside look at the event and interviewed Robot staffers – producer Chris Rippy and Lead Designer Ian Fischer. Check out the video below!

    More Orcs on show this weekend at PAX Prime

    Hot on the heels of Gamescom is PAX Prime taking place in Seattle this weekend. Robot will be at the event showing off OMDU including hosting their own Robot / OMDU panel taking place in the HEDGEHOG THEATRE on SATURDAY 8/30 1:30PM – 2:30PM. The panel will be streamed on Twitch as well – so don’t miss it!

    Its OMDU expansion patch day!
    Dean
    7291

    Today is the day of the huge expansion patch for Orcs Must Die Unchained! Now is the time to open up your client and update!

    If you haven’t already, check out our summary of the patch changes. We have also updated the numbers and stats database with all the changes from the patch. We’re working on getting the new data for heroes, cards, traps etc as they become available. Stay tuned!

    Happy patch day!

    OMDU Expansion Patch 1.4 gets shiny new trailer
    Dean
    7275

    The Orcs Must Die! Unchained expansion pack as previously detailed now has a shiny new trailer to show off the tons of extra stuff coming in this weeks update. If the 3,500 word patch notes proved too daunting for you here you can see the changes in visual form!

    Huuuge expansion patch coming to OMDU next week
    Dean
    7264

    Robot Entertainment are poised to do it again with another MEGA PATCH due to come out next week, August 27th. The patch notes are so incredibly long at over 30,000 words that we can’t possibly post them here. Instead we have summarised some of the highlights from the update notes below.  We do of course recommend you check out the full patch notes over at the official forums.

    Patch notes quick summary

    • Mandatory tutorial is now in-place for new players.
    • Guardians have new art! A sun and moon guardian depending on which side of the map.
    • Almost unkillable trolls have been fixed – now slower and easier to kill.
    • Hunters and Gnolls nerfed to encourage different things to slot in the early game.
    • Added bonus XP and Skulls for playing co-op games up until level 10 to encourage newer players to co-op.
    • Special packs are now being awarded. At level 10, 20, 30, and 40, a special pack is awarded (containing 3 uncommon, 2 rare, 1 mythic, or 1 heroic, respectively).
    • Matchmaking buckets - If you search for a game as a member of a four or five player team, you will ONLY be matched with other four of five player teams. If you search alone, with a single friend, or with two friends, you will have the same type of group added to your team and you will play against a team composed of other singles, teams of 2, or teams of 3s.
    • Population of matchmaking buckets is now shown in the dash.
    • It is now possible to surrender in a match if the majority of players agree. (Triggered by typing /surrender)
    • Leading minions now ONLY earns leadership and killing enemy minions now ONLY earns coin.
    • On defense, you now earn more coin (2x) if you kill the enemy minions sooner and less (the normal bounty) if you kill them after they have crossed the first scoring gate

    New Hero – Tundra!

    Tundra has both a ranged and melee attack, can disable large numbers of enemy traps, can ignore crowd control on occasion, and is capable of making allied grizzlies even scarier than they were before.

    New Captain system!

    As previously discussed from the preview at Gamescom, there is a new “captain” system added. This is an interesting concept where by at waves 3 and 4 a strong captain minion will be spawned at the upgraded war camp. For the team he is a burden as he is worth no leadership when escorting or past enemy lines, though is worth 2 rift points. For the opposing team however he is an interesting target. If the captain is killed by the opposing team they are awarded 5000 coin and 5000 leadership for a level 3 Captain and 10,000 coin and 10,000 leadership for a level 4 Captain. The rewards are split evenly amongst the teammates.

    The captain systems adds another exciting dynamic to the game and helps spices things up. It should also be a mechanism to break out of a snowball, if the team things they are on the slippery slope they can prioritise killing the captain by going all defence for a wave. Then using the rewards get back into the game with better economy.

    It should be pretty exciting to see how the captain system pans out. As always this is the first release of the captain system and is in testing so expect to see it refined some more down the line. The Paladin’s have been called upon as stand-in art once again for the captains.

    New Cards!

    There are 20 new cards including:

      • Water Sprayer (like Naptha Sprayers, but for frost-based damage)
      • Anti-Magic Field (enemy players atop this cannot use their abilities)
      • Glory Seeker Arrow Walls
      • Barbed Floor Spikes
      • Glyph of Frost Resist
      • Firewall Bracers
      • Ring of Storms
      • Hobgoblin’s Charm (strong targeted heal)
      • Mobility Weaver (a lot of speed, escape, and anti-CC upgrades)
      • 4 new minion waves

    New Vanity Skins!

      • Bear Slayer Bloodspike Skin
      • Adventurer Master Skin
      • Helter Swelter Smolder Skin
      • War Chief Tundra Skin

    We will be updating our numbers and statistics database on the day the patch comes out. If you’re thirsty for more patch information – check out the full patch notes!