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You never know... Thief edition

I'm a big fan of Thief and Thief2. Amazing games, by far the best stealth ever made. The first one introduced the real stealth gameplay to videogame realm and the sequel elevated it into masterpiece that's still yet to be matched, let alone surpassed. So... what did community did to save Thief fans from starving to death? Let's go back to 2000. Thief2 has just been released, unfortunately rumored multiplayer didn't make it. But fans hope it will be in Thief3. Soon after LookingGlassStudios closes it's doors. On consoles it would mean no more Thieving fun for long 5 years. After those 5 years finally ION Storm releases the third game in the series Unfortunately it doesn't live up to expectations. It's much worse than previous two, and of course there's no multiplayer. So anyone who loved Thief so much is left with nothing but broken heart. No other game can give the same experience THief 1-2 did. Sure,there are other stealth games, some are even great, but not only they don't offer the same stealth perfection, but they also differ in style a lot. And since THief 3 flopped(damn you Xbox!!!) the series died. On consoles that would mean the end. But on pc it's different. first of all:
FanMissions  LookingGlassStudios was kind enough to release mission tools for THief 1 and 2. This resulted in flood of FMs. Just go to: thousands of fms, hundreds of them are actually high quality(the users are now experienced and new missions are very nicely done). Yep, six years after Thief2 was released there's still big constant stream of quality fan missions. Not only small ones, but also "monsters" like
Shadows of Metal Age a 11mission long add-on like mod with new graphics, characters, changed protagonist and very cool cutscenes , or The Circle of Stone and Shadow a trilogy of extreme high quality FMs(the first one Gathering at the Inn is one of THE best levels I've played in any game). But that's not all. What about the promised multiplayer? Let me introduce you to Thievery- a mod for Unreal Tournament  it's basically Thief multiplayer. Yes... done years before Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow and done better than anything Ubi has done so far. So we finally got the Thief MP we waited for so long. So, we Taffers(as THief fans like to call themselves) not only got our singleplayer fix, but also great Thief multiplayer, all thanks to mods. Any Thief fan has tons of content to play with. Without any official support, without new games Taffers can still enjoy their beloved game. Screw Eidos, we can survive on our own just fine! Isn't it wonderful? And so typical to PCgaming? What's in for the future? Besides more amazing Thief2 fan missions of course. Well, three things: 1.Thief3 fan-missions the editor was released some time ago and first good Fms are starting to come out.Fans are playing with the engine and maybe someday they will be able to bring it more or less to Thief2 level. 2.Night Blade Thievery team is also working on Nightblade, follow up to Thievery , this time on ut2004 engine(altough now it's on hold till they finish AlienSwarm:Infested on Source).  3.DarkMod fans are making total conversion of Doom3 to make it run like Thief2. It's designed as singleplayer mod. And it's likely the future of THief fandom, especially since by 2009 Doom3 engine will become open source.  It will be interesting to see what will become the next platform for Thief FMs. THief2 still has couple good years of life in it, but sooner or later the community will have to switch to new engine. Will THief3 be modified enough to handle this? Or will DarkMod become community's choice. One way or another it will be exciting to follow. Thief community survived the death of the franchise, not only that, the community managed to flourish even when the IP was a rotting corpse in retail market. And that's what's so beautiful about pcgaming. On consoles Thief legacy would be end with disappointing Thief3. On Pc we are getting high-quality SP, high-quality MP and great perspectives for future. 6 years after Thief2 was released the community is incredibly experienced with editing tools. Over 8 years of experience allows them to do wonders with the engine. Obviously they're not going to compete graphically with Splinter Cell: Double Agent, even Thief3 fan-missions or DarkMod won't reach those levels of visuals, let alone Thief 2. But they can offer much better stealth gameplay with level design quality that has not been seen in this sub-genre since 2000.

You never know....sim racing edition

PCgaming is full of sub-genres. Today I will write a bit about one of them: racing simulators. THis sub-genre is a real showcase of how fans can save the genre from oblivion. In 90s it was all clear and organized. PC racing sim community consisted of two big developers. Papyrus(makers of Nascar Racing series and most of all the revolutionary Grand Prix Legends) and Geoff Crammond(maker of Grand Prix series for Microprose). Few people remember now the revolutions those two teams brought, like Grand Prix 2 being the first game where wheels didn't touch the road all the time. In late 90s another dev entered the race: ISI. Their Sports Car GT put them on sim racing map. THen they took over the PC side of EA's F1 line and started to compete with Geoff Crammond's team. People though nobody would be able to match Geoff's efforts. And yet with F1 2002 and F1 Challenge 99-02 ISI not only matched Grand Prix series, but in the eyes of many they surpassed it. Meanwhile Papyrus was breaking new levels of realism with their Nascar series.

All went well untill 2003. The three masterpieces: F1 Challenge 99-02, Grand Prix 4 and Nascar Racing 2003 were out.  But that was the end of those series. Exclusive Nascar rights were sold to EA, which resulted in Papyrus closure, while Sony secured exclusive F1 rights, which ended Geoff Crammond's long career and EA severed their contract with ISI. By mid 2003 all three sim kings were either dead, or near death. It was armageddon for the genre. Warthog surprised everyone in 2004 with RichardBurnsRally, but shortly after release the company was closed also. So what did the community do? First they turned into mods. Grand Prix 4 to this day is regulary updated with new seasons. Nascar Racing 2003 also saw it's share of good mods, including the great Project Wildfire's Trans-Am and GTP( untill the whole mod scandal, where the moron Krammer bassicaly killed the healthy community by threating to sue everyone who make mods for NR2003.) and the incredible Grand Prix Legends saw continous fan improvements. But it was the F1 2002 and later F1 Challenge 99-02 that becamed the modding platform for sim racing community. There were litaraly dozens of mods made for F1C, including such classics like ETCC 2003 Evolution or Prototype C.

But the most important mod was GT Racing 2002. Created by small team of modders who called themselves Simbin, they would later be the driving force behind sim racing resurrection. Still, mods, even the best ones were just a life support, while the genre needed a full recovery. It all started with ISI. They survived on skeleton crew, less than 10 people remained in the team. They had no contract with publisher and no popular racing license to back them up. That didn't stop them though. ISI still had their G-Motor engine they used in F1C. And they sold that engine to SImbin. That's how GTR was made, it was the point from which racing sim genre was resurrected on PC, Simbin later followed GTR with GTLegends, GTR2 and RACE.  Giving sim fans finally some new software to enjoy. Meanwhile ISI was working on G-Motor2 engine(which is what GTR2 and RACE use) as a base for their new sim called rFactor.  the game quickly becamed the platform of choice for the community. rFactor was released in mid 2005, to this day it's community is alive and well and the game is continuously updated. It's likely the best racing MP you can get now and the net code is just insane. ISI expected good initial sales and then they planned to make a sequel after two years. Instead, the initial sales were disappointing, but the game surprisingly is selling steadily for 18 months now, which is why ISI is still working on new additions for it. Another fan initiative is Live for Speed  A indie racing sim with incredible physics. The team was too small to make full game from the start, which is why they cut it into three releases(S1, S2 and S3). Currently they have released S2, which makes the sim almost complete(including the real-time tyre deformation). It's scary to think how good S3 will be. The last contender to the throne is NetKAR PRO  The game started as a freeware project, before finaly going PRO. It's currently the most innovative racing sim, with tyre physics that are generation ahead of anything else and stuff like fully interactive clickable cocptic. THe game obviously does have some problems, but they're regularly fixed and now over 6 months after the game release the game is more than playable. The history doesn't end here though. THere's still lot to look forward to in 2007. People from RichardBurnsRally team have formed small indie dev group. THey're working on Drivers Republic, which looks like it will completely revolutionize the way racing sims handle car modifications. We can also expect Live for Speed S3 release next-year, Simbin also is working on new racing sims. ANd most of all..the "big boys" are coming back. The ex-Papyrus people are working on First Racing, a MMO Racing game using upgraded Nascar Racing 2003 engine( even if currently the community is hating this project because of all the NR2003 modding mess) It's very surprising how it all ended. In late 2003 sim racing was all gloom and doom. And in such short time it changed from "worst ever" to "better than ever". Because looking at current condition of this sub-genre... there has never been time where it has been in healthier state than today. Not only there are so many good games to play, but the upcoming line-up is filled with promising titles. This sub-genre shows that no game type can really die in PCgaming. Mods and indie titles saved it. Fans and their continuous effort are one of the things makes PCgaming so damn good

Indie gaming bonanza- my top10 favorites

For the last 3 years I've been getting more and more into Indie gaming. It's area that's unfortunately largely ignored by gaming sites and mags. That's huge mistake. Nowadays indie devs can make great and beautiful games fill the niche that's ignored by big developers and publishers. If anyone wants to learn a bit about indie gaming(as well as freeware releases and Japanese doujin games scene) I recommend visiting those sites: Independent Games Festival- the most important indie games awards Game Tunnel -the biggest review site new sites: Insert Credit Doujinaroni v2 Doujin-food Game Set Watch Independent Gaming Blog The 2 Bears The Independent Gaming Source(TIGS) So I would like to write few words about my favorite indie games Now... I must explain something. I will be just choosing from typically commercial indie/DIYG(do it yourself games) or to be more specific: titles that are often described as "casual games". So I'm not going to name freeware titles, adventure games or all those incredible simulators indie devs make regularly(I leave that for later blogs :) ) Steam Brigade  link A side-scrolling real-time strategy game. Bizarre combination? Yep. But it works. It's bassicaly an unique RTS mixed with lemmings-like puzzle game. At each end of the screen there are factory, one yours and one of the enemy. All the units you produce walk/drive/fly out of your factory and automatically go toward the other end of the level. You can't control them, but they interact with stuff that's on the ground.Soldiers can go into bunkers and shoot, constructors can use turrets etc. when your constructor reaches the enemy's base you win. You have direct control over only one unit: flying-steam-powered-thing. Your ship has a strong magnet and using it you can pick up objects and units and throw them(either to transport them or us them as a meat bombs if you throw them from high level ). It's sounds crazy, but it fricking rocks. Just try the demo. Plus the art style makes the game a real pleasure to watch. Just be warned, the difficulty level is extreme. Eets  link EETS is one of the very best puzzle games I've played in my life.. What is it about? THe titular "Eets" is small creature with big mouth. He doesn't have arms, just legs and big teeth. Out little Eets is very hungry animal. Your goal is to take him to "puzzle piece", when he touches it the level ends. But you can't control him directly, he walks where he wants, you have to influence him, for example make him angry(he eats barriers and jumps farther) or scared(he doesn't jump, so he will turn around at the end of the cliff).Anyway, It looks great, has great sense of humor, the puzzles are fun as hell, while being very challenging. And don't worry that it will end to soon: the built-in editor is easy to use, but powerful. Already there are many fan-made levels available for download. Simply put: if you love puzzle games, especially Lemmings don't hesitate, download the demo and I can assure you that 60 minutes later you will buy the whole game with happy smile on your face :) And if you want to learn a little about how games like Eets get made, then read Eets' post mortem at Gamasutra, fascinating read. It's sad that such small indie games can't even apear on DS or PSP, because even on handlends only "big boys" matter Samorost2  link Why Samorost2? Well, the first one is freeware(it's also included with it's sequel). Anyway, this game is about little alien living in cosmic space that's filled with many root-like structures(samorost means root in slavic). The art style is hard to describe, it mixes photographed roots with 2D flash animations. One way or another it looks absolutely beautiful. But that's not the only good thing about this game. It's clever puzzle game, your goal is to pass each screen in search of your beloved dog which was abducted by evil aliens. There is always one way to get through each stage.. You have to click on various items and figure out how and in which order use them to clear the path of our little alien. Great music complements the quirky art style and both combined they create really special atmosphere Chain Reaction  link Most older PC gamers remember the Impossible Machine series of games from Dynamix. THose games don't need any recommendation. They set the bar for PC puzzle games incredibly high and have withstood the test of time very well. But... wouldn't you like to play new version of those games? This time in full 3D and with good physics? If that's what you want then Chain Reaction is perfect for you. Not only it's exactly like that, but it's made by Jeff Tunnel, the creator of Impossible Machine. For those unfortunate souls who never had a chance to play Dynamix's classics, Chain Reaction's gameplay is about transporting alien into certain part of the screen. To do so you have to construct series of elaborate and crazy machine combination, like the ones from Warner Brothers cartoon which will, when set into motion allow the alien to reach his goal.It's fun, fun, fun. The machines you construct are crazy, but at the same time , the solutions to those puzzles are very logical, even if it's Tom and Jerry's logic Gish  link Perfect hero for the next generation: a ball of tar. No... I'm serious. Gish is a ball of tar. He can change his shape, stick to surfaces and jump, all this done with physics. THe game is bassicaly a very intellectually challenging physics-based platformer with nice art style and nicely done difficulty(it increases to pretty extreme levels, but it's done in stages, so the game rarely is too easy or to hard). If you're looking for great and innovative 2D platformer, then GIsh is easily the best choice in last 5 years. The game got 8.2 from Gamespot who wrote "Gish uses a well-worn genre as the launching pad for some exuberant and largely successful experimentation." Wik and Fable of Souls  link Wik follows the adventures of frog-like troll creature. Wik has a number of frog like abilities. He can swing around by latching to things with his super strong frog-like tongue. He can also use his tongue to pull objects into his mouth and then spit them as a projectile weapon. He can also jump very high, and very far. The goal of each level is to deliver certain amount of coins to gatherer in a specific time limit. The gatherer creature walks slowly from the left bottom of the screen to the right bottom. He only picks up what lies on the ground. So you as a Wik need to stick coints into your tongue and then spit it out on the ground in front of the gatherer. There are of course many difficulties and enemies to overcome along the way. THe game has great fairy-tale like graphics and music. Plus it got 9.0 from Gamespot. Darwinia  link "An epic game about tribe of sprites trapped inside polygonal world of modern videogame"- that was the first description of Darwinia I've ever heard and instantly I knew it will be something special. The game plays like simplified RTS where combat is handled in CannonFodder-like way(you control the shots directly). The art style and music are masterpieces. I almost cried when I first launched this game. Suddenly I was flooded with memories of old amiga days(especially the warezed versions, the music in Darwinia is like taken straight form warez groups' intros). For detailed gameplay description read Gamespot's review . THe game was actually selling terribly, but since it won IGF 2006 and was released on Steam the sales picked up like hell(they sold more through Steam in a week then they did in a 6 months through their website). Now Darwinia has turned into some sort of legend and indie gaming symbol. It gave indie community exposure like never before. So what are you waiting for? Get this game..NOW. Oh..and seriously..Darwinians have to be the best and most memorable visually characters in last decade Uplink  link A hacking simulator. It's hard to classify this game, it's bassicaly new genre. It plays like a simplified operating system. You log into networks, hack into systems, change IP routes, cover your tracks, transfer money to your accounts, get emails with assignments, even call administrators through phone, record their voices and use them in voice-activated systems. The game bassicaly follows the sand box pattern, but there is a big plot somewhere there, waiting for player to discover it and follow it throigh it's conclusion. Uplink has spawned variety of clones, no wonder, it's just incredibly fun and addicting. Starscape  link THis is a little-known gem. It's bassicaly asteroids clone with added tons of depth and options. You play as a pilot who must help to protect the space station/, aid the crew with rebuilding the station’s defences, acquire alien technology and create your own uniquely configured set of fighters. By mining the asteroids within the grid dimension, valuable resources can be harvested to fuel the Aegis’s(that's the station's name) molecular furnace and build devastating weaponry. Within the nodes of the grid you will encounter allies to aid in the struggle to escape, uncover the terrible purpose of the evil Archnid race and learn why you and the rest of the crew were brought here. I've always enjoyed Asteroids-like games(especialy the unforgettable Stardust series for Amigas), but they were always a bit to shallow. Starscape's basic gameplay is very high-quality, but thanks to added strategy and free-roaming elements it doesn't get boring even after long time, while it still remains Asteroids-like(so it doesn't change into StarControl-like game) Pontifex2  link A bridge building game. Doesn't sound too exciting, but in reality it's tons of fun. THe bridges can be preety complex and everything follows the strick rules of physics. In Pontifex2( or Bridge COnstruction Set, like it's sometimes called) you design and build bridges and then stress test them to see how your creations hold up under pressure. When test vehicles pass over your bridge and make it safely across you know you've succeeded. If they plummet into the river you know you need to go back to the drawing board. The game recieved numerous awards including IGF 2003 Audience Award. Much prettier version of Pontifex2 called Bridge IT was developed for Nvidia as demonstration of their GPUs. So if you have GeForce4 Ti or stronger you might want to check it out

My favorite game of E3 2006

So it has ended. This was a very nice E3 for PCgaming, lots of announcements, lots of cool footage(have you seen the Supreme Commander nuclear explosions? WOW!!!). I was disappointed by poor PC coverage on Gamespot and other big sites, but other smaller European sites provided me with what I needed. So what was my favorite game of this E3? Battle Lord easily.  The game caught my attention because it's being made by the team who created the incredible Space Rangers2, I loves SR2 so I was interested in BattleLord before I even learned anything specific about it. And when I finally did... I was amazed. Here we have fantasy game that plays like a mix of classic turn-based strategy game like Heroes of Might and Magic and a typical roleplaying game. So in Battlelord you walk around the world, solve quests, upgrade your character etcm, but then the whole combat system is handled like in HoMM series, by complex turn-based system. You can recruit armies, heroes etc. Heck... you can even have a wife and kids. Somebody called Battlelord a "Kings Bounty for next-generation". It's a great way to put it. I've waited for such game for so many years. It looks incredibly fun If you want to learn more about it I recommend Gamespot's preview screens movies- slow download(10KB/s limit, but it's worth it, trust me) And a bit more about E3. THe best CG trailer this year was easily Warhammer: Mark of Chaos Digic Pictures has taken the CG king crown from BLUR and blizzard other great CG trailers for you to download are: WarhammerOnline- I guess Warhammer has good luck for amazing CGs :) Hellgate:London and for other lesser known stuff from E3 that I really recommend to download(with all this SPORE/ MGS4 hype it's easy to overlook some real gems) Sacred2 trailer Mythic Wars trailer Broken Sword 4 trailer Drakensang first footage ArmedAssaulttrailer Sam and Max: Season One trailer

even more Arkania

short blog post today :) The good souls at RPGDot forums have translated the german preview of Drakensang my favorite part: "We pretty much build 1:1 copies of real castles because the way that they have been built is based on principles that have long been forgotten", explains Martin Elsäßer. "To give you an example of the inventive medieval art of construction would be that paths that lead up to a castle are always turning left. The reason is that knights always carried the shields to their left and thus their less protected side was exposed to the archers of the castle"" Uh..oh :) Exciting like hell :)

Return to Arkania

Good news. Anyone remembers this incredible trilogy of fantasy RPGs?  Ten years ago there was an amazing RPG series called "Realms of Arkania". Alongside with Might and Magic(back then it still rocked) and Wizardy(which was made by the same team that did Arkania) it was the best first-person party based RPG series. It's last game :Shadows over Rive stands proud as one of the last great games of this type. It has been ten long years since the last time PC gamers had a chance to walk on the lands of Aventuria. Now..the series is returning to videogame realm. Ladies and Gentlemen, I introduce you to DRAKENSANG read about it here: here  If they manage to bring the quality and depth of first three games to modern PC and equip it with good graphics, then... well... we're all for a treat as it will likely be THE best RPG of 2007. (and yes..I do know DragonAge is also coming in 2007, that's how good the original RoA trilogy was ). And prospects are good so far: the game will have turn-based combat, makers of pen and paper original are closely working on designing this game, including writing the whole storyline. Yes, there are definitely reasons to be excited. UPDATE: stuff that we know about this game so far(taken from the official forums)

- The rule-system in the back is turn based, but the game runs in realtime and can be paused at any time. - We will have authored NPCs (some of them important Aventurian personalities) that will interact among each other. - You will have full control over all of your characters in the party. - You will have full control over classes and skills. It is not learning by doing. Well, for using your skills you get experience of course... and for experience you can learn talents... so it's actually learning by doing, but not in the way of "jumping around all the time to get a better jumper". The plot of the game is set in Aventuria´s present time. Further information from Nebelreiter (Fanpro forum): - the developers design the game as a "Baldurs Gate in 3D" based on the Dark Eye (DSA) rule system and setting. - The party will consist of 4 characters. - with much love for the detailed settings of Aventuria, the developers did intensive research about medieval architecture. Partially real castles will be recreated 1:1. Also a 3000-inhabitants city will be implemented.

Wow. 1:1 castles? 3000 persons city? BG-like party system? Count me in :)

the importance of pointing and clicking

Look below and share the wonders Sierra did 1993  Looks good? Yes. Simple, effective, clean, it symbolises the stuff that made adventure games so good in early 90s. But why am I lamenting about "good old days"? There's one big reason and it's name is: "Dreamfall: the Longest Journey" It's by far the most hyped adventure game in the last couple years and after long wait it's finally out. First reviews and impressions are starting to appear. The general consensus is that the story is masterpiece, but gameplay is pretty disappointing. What makes an adventure game good? Story and puzzles. It seems Dreamfall does only the former good. What is wrong with it's gameplay? Well, they added combat and stealth elements. I don't have much against those, despite being hardcore adventure gamer. But if developer decided to add it then at least make them fun. Funcom apparently forgot to do that. The combat makes Jade Empire look like Virtua Fighter in comparison and the stealth is as complex as Pac-man. So not only those arcadish elements are mediocre, the actual adventure part of the game is apparently dumbed down like hell also. The puzzles are extremely simple and the game constantly holds player by the hand. What was Funcom thinking? Not only they risk alienating the old Longest Journey fanbase, but how are those action elements supposed to attract new gamers when they're so weak? Wouldn't it make more sense to spend the money and development time on improving what actually counts in adventure games: puzzles and longer story? That's what is so good about point and click adventure games. Most of all, they're not action-friendly. Sure, games like Blade Runner proved that such control scheme can work well in action sequences, but generally a choice of such interface automatically limits the action sequences dev can include in their game. Second, it's anti consolish. Point and click is typically PCish control method. So games like that are mostly PC-centric, with eventual console versions being ports, not affecting the original game. And third: it's just the best control method. Not only the simplest and most effective, but when used correctly it can elevate gameplay to levels that direct control never could. GabrielKnight3 showed how to do that, too bad nobody followed Jane Jansen's example. Fortunately there is also good news. Paradise from maker of Syberia and Amazon is point and click, beautiful and will soon be out. Upcoming Sam and Max 2 from Telltale also will use this control method. And also Revolution Software has delivered a great gift to all adventure fans: Broken Sword 4: Angel of Death will be point and click! Yes, just look at this beauty  The subtle white of mouse cursor. The elegant three icon interface opened by right click.. man, I feel warmth in my old adventure gamer heart. BrokenSword4 going PnC is even more significant because BS3 was direct-control game. It worked well, but not perfect. What&;s more it was Charles Cecil(Broken Sword series creator) that proclaimed point and click "dead". BS3 sold very well, but surprisingly over 80% of it's sales were PC ones, the combined PS2 and Xbox sales barely made for 20%. So THQ requested that BS4 be made as PC exclusive. And it seems Revolution realized that despite everything point and click is simply the best way to play adventure games. So, ladies and gentlemen... point and click is alive and well, let's hope more devs will realize that.

Why don't they make RPGs like that anymore?

I was recently playing Oblivion a bit. Fine game and all, but ultimately another step in making ElderScrolls less hardcore and less... well roleplaying. Playing though newest Bethesda game actually reminded me more of Redguard(which isn't a bad thing since I liked that game) than Daggerfall. Yes to my surprise a series that was once a symbol of hardcore roleplaying in computer gaming is now traveling towards the path of action-adventure. Feeling pretty sick from it I've reinstalled Planescape:Torment to soothe my nerves.  I'm now 15hrs into it. I've discovered that I don't remember much from this game, a very pleasant surprise. Anyway, after playing more of it I began to wonder: why such games aren't made anymore? There's obviously a great need for such games. And they wouldn't be that expensive to make. Tools are now pretty cheap and isometric game with pre-rendered backgrounds and 3d characters(something like Temple of Elemental Evil) wouldn't cost much to make and it would look more than fine. Instead devs "waste" money or another Diablo clone with pretty graphics. I can understand big publishers, but what about the small ones? Indie devs have picked the torch in strategy, adventure or sim genres. Sure, those games aren't that pretty, but they;re fun and most of all, not dumbed down. And recent example of GalacticCivilizations2(game from 4X genre, which is even more niche than hardcore RPG) shows that such games can do really well. Fortunately recently there seems to be increase trend of indie devs to try RPG development. LEt's see what will come out of this. But by "RPGs like that" I don't mean gameplay-only. I mean also setting. Planescape isn't exacly record-breaking setting when it comes to popularity. But thanks to that it was cheap and the setting is just amazing. No matter how much a developer will try, they won't make such detailed setting on their own. 2-3 years of few persons working on game world will never be able to compete with anything from Pen and Paper realm. Pen and Paper RPGs are an untouched gold mine. Rights to those IP would be dirty cheap and effects would be amazing. Look at JadeEmpire. Sure..Bioware spent lot of time on it and by videogame standards the setting is very detailed. But compare it to Rokugan(from Legends of Five Rings RPG) JadeEmpire suddenly seems medicore at best. And since Planescape:torment made such great use of SIGIL, I began to wonder how kick-ass a game based on WRAITH: the Oblivion would be.  For those who don't know what Wraith is. It was a pen and paper RPG where players took a role of dead souls wandering in underworld. I recommend reading about it here: Just like SIGIL represented what was best in the setting and used it to make Planescape:Torment such a masterpiece. A Wraith cRPG set in Empire of Stygia would quite likely made the best setting ever seen in videogame. Imagine the possibilities. In ToEE there were different starting sections depending on your your allegiances. In Wraith you could start while being alive and roleplaying through one day of your life that would end with your death. Only then you would begin a real adventure through the afterlife Ehh.. I guess all that's left for me are hopeless dreams of Wraith:the Oblivion cRPG running on Temple of Elemental Evil-like engine.