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An in-depth review of the "Ghost Mode" gameplay overhaul mod

As I'm sure you can all relate, the 10th Witcher Games Anniversary video brought a lot of feels. And with them came the itch to do yet another playthrough of my favourite video game. This time, to freshen up the experience, I decided to break from my tradition of only installing visual enhancement mods and look into the gameplay overhauls recommended on the sub.
To my surprise in-depth assessments of these mods were nowhere to be found. True you can look up detailed descriptions of what they change, but that won't give you an impression of how the changes work in practice nor an objective look at how they impact the overall experience. Thus the goal of this thread is to help you decide if you would enjoy using "Ghost Mode" for your next playthrough and to serve as a resource for posterity.
Note: the title of this post is no misnomer. This is a long read. If you already have an idea of what the mod is about and are just wondering "if it's any good", then feel free to skip to the TLDR rating section at the bottom.


First thing first, all the changes introduced by the mod remain true to the vanilla feel, flow and story of the game. There is no need to worry that the game you know and love will suddenly be unrecognisable, that you won't know your arse from your elbow. Secondly, I do not plan to rehash the full changelog in this review. Changes from Vanilla will only be mentioned if they are relevant to the point I am making.
Dsiclaimer: this review is written with the above in mind. I do not claim my experience to be completely exhaustive. For example, things which were difficult or annoying for my setup might be trivial for others and vice versa. Your mileage may vary.

General Gameplay

The mod has been implemented in a competent way. I did not notice any performance decrease compared to Vanilla and encountered no game breaking bugs. There was only a single major issue in 2.6 which was repeatable and highly annoying, but thankfully it seems to be fully fixed with version 2.7.
Immersion has been improved and the game world is more believable. Some examples:

Quests and Experience

The way the experience penalty works has also been changed. Previously you would get 100% of quest experience if you were at most 5 levels above the quest level, and basically 0% if you were 6 levels above or more. Now for every level you are above a quest the experience reward is reduced by 16%. This also works the other way around, you will receive an experience bonus for doing quests which are higher level than you.
This way you get the best of both worlds. You get to tailor the quest order to your liking, without having to suffer meta-gaming pressure, and at the same time Geralt will not end up overlevelled.


This is usually the number one reason why people recommend this mod and it is clear to see why. The author has implemented a great number of improvements to nearly all of the vanilla systems. Combat is more challenging and rewards players for their skill and preparation better. Geralt's overpowered traits and abilities have been toned down and your specialisation makes a much bigger difference to how you approach fights.
Overall, most battles are more fun with GM compared to vanilla. However this comes at a cost: namely the "realism", feel and flow of combat have all decreased to facilitate the above. Let's examine the 4 main areas where GM changes combat and evaluate them in detail.

Enemy behaviour

The first thing you will probably notice is that "all enemies have a reduced reaction time". The reason I put quotes around that phrase is because I don't know the actual inner workings of the mod and precisely how it has modified the AI scripts. Therefore I am just calling the effect as I saw and experienced it during my playthrough. The easiest way to describe it is: the time frame between you being in range of an enemy and the enemy starting their action is now much lower.
The primary effect of this change is an increase in difficulty. You now have to have faster reflexes in order to be able to dodge enemy attacks. Additionally, enemies will spend significantly less time in a hit recovery state after you land a blow. Which means that you won't be able to chain as many attacks as you could before, since your enemy will dodge/retaliate much more rapidly.
This change really shines when it comes to boss fights. The faster enemy reaction time forces you to play by the boss' rules and pay attention to their mechanics, rather than treating them as a higher health & damage generic enemy. To give a concrete example, let us look at the Olgierd fight at the burning manor.
In Vanilla you can easily beat him on Death March by ignoring the fight's mechanics. You simply position yourself slightly outside of his melee range and start a rend which he walks into. Then you follow this up with a quick dodge to the side to avoid the sand in the eyes and immediately start another rend. The boss gets locked in the above AI loop and you win pretty easily. The reduced reaction time in Ghost Mode counters this perfectly. By the time you are winding up your rend the boss, instead of walking into your sword, starts his own attack which targets where you will be after you swing and hits you before you can deal any damage.
So to beat him I had to actually play by the rules, which means conventional sword swinging is out of the question, especially as you also leave yourself open to a quick counter attack which kills you in 2-3 hits. The rules in this case are: counter his attack, swing once and go on the defensive. There are three different attacks he throws at you:
  • The red charge: when you are far away from him, it is the easiest to counter and the bare minimum required to win. If you can only counter this then you will win, but it will take ages.
  • The phase charge: is when he turns semi transparent and steps side to side. He only does this if your are slightly outside of melee range, so you have much less margin of error on your counter. If you are quick enough you can counter this type of attack with a close to 100% success rate, which means that a better player can defeat him much more rapidly.
  • Finally we have the slash combo, which he does when you are in melee range. This one is also counterable, but the reaction time is so small I didn't feel it was worth the risk. Especially because if you fail it and only parry you will be locked in that stance for a few of his hits which will drain your stamina significantly (and you cannot counter without stamina, but more on this topic later).
So as you can see from the above GM makes you pay attention to the intended mechanics and rewards skilled play.
The change to reaction time also has its downsides however, and they are major ones. Most notably, enemies which have extremely fast attack animations by default become unfair in melee combat. Especially if they are in a group. The best example of this problem are all of the insectoid type enemies like the endregas and the kikimores. Their attack animation is fast and when you pair it with an increased aggression and run speed it means that you literally cannot attack them preemptively. If you start any type of attack (without dodging one of their attacks or parrying first) they will strike you first, even if you were outside of their melee range when you initiated your swing. As you can probably tell fighting groups of these enemies is extremely annoying especially early on. Later you can cheese them by unloading your entire reserve of Dancing Stars & Northern wind bombs for some semblance of crowd control, but even that is like putting a plaster on an amputated leg. What's strange is that looking at past feedback numerous people have complained about these enemies, throughout the mod's life cycle. Yet the author has failed to address the problem, which is that they shouldn't have reduced reaction time in the first place. Such empty difficulty, only for its own sake is never good.
Another downside is that early on you cannot take on groups of certain enemies, like wraiths, nekkers or insectoids for example, without resorting to AI abuse. This probably only applies to the higher difficulties, but when the best way of beating groups in the early game is dragging enemies one by one to the edge of their AI leash it doesn't feel good. No matter how skilled you are in melee combat you cannot defeat such packs head on without numerous deaths, which doesn't make you feel like a witcher at all in those encounters.
Finally, GM also implements monster "dodge" with a much more heavy handed approach compared to Vanilla. All sorts of enemies will now dodge your attacks more frequently. This is yet another example of where combat quality was sacrificed in order to increase combat difficulty. I write "dodge" in quotation marks because normally the word implies that the enemy sees your attack and reacts to it by getting out of the way. This mod makes the enemies which "dodge" the most feel like blatant AI bots with rigid if-then logic in their script, which harms immersion. Some examples:
  • Enemies dodging mid attack, when it makes no sense for them to do so
  • Werewolves dodging while airborne in the middle of their lunge
  • Humans dodging attacks that come from behind them and they cannot see
  • Shrieker glitching into its "on the ground" dodge animation while flying, after being shot with a crossbow
  • Occasionally enemies dodging attacks while burning, sirens dodging when knocked down etc.

Skill Balance changes

A lot of adjustments have been made to the skill tree in order to improve how balanced Geralt is in combat. The changes can mostly be summed up by saying "baseline Geralt was nerfed". What that means in practice is that witchering aspects you do not invest points into will be significantly worse compared to vanilla. For example the signs, crossbow and damage bombs are a lot less useful for my mainly sword focused build. This is a good thing as specialisation encourages more diversity in your playstyle. Here are some examples:
  • Quen no longer always blocks at least 1 attack, regardless of how much damage it's supposed to absorb. Now it's no longer the combat crutch it used to be in Vanilla as it will only absorb the value of the shield and the rest of the damage will go through.
  • Poison and bleed effects are no longer extremely overpowered boss monster killers. Their duration and damage are significantly reduced to the point where 1 poison application is equal to about 2 additional sword attacks. Still good, but now balanced.
  • Crossbow & Bombs now only deal half damage if they were auto aimed. And of course manual aiming during combat is way too slow unless you have invested into the related skills. There seem to be a few minor bugs related to these items. For example manual crossbow shots sometimes don't bring big flyers down despite hitting them successfully. Superior Samum, manually aimed, dealing 5 (yes five) damage on kikimores.
  • In general overpowered skills have been nerfed (rend, whirl, euphoria etc.) while underpowered abilities have been buffed (crippling strikes, undying, counter attack etc.).
Overall the skill tree feels significantly more polished and we now have a lot more viable choices to pick from.

Defensive techniques (dodge, roll, counter, parry)

The way dodging and rolling worked in Vanilla was a simple binary check. Did you press the appropriate button before the attack connected with your character? If yes then avoid all damage, regardless of where your character ended up going (for attacks which can be dodged). And while this was still a big improvement from the second game, the i-frames were way too generous and the moves lacked any stamina cost. Which made it all to easy to just spam the dodge button and be invulnerable. GM changes this behaviour by also taking into account the direction Geralt moves in when dodging/rolling with respect to the enemy attack. Now if you dodge in time but still end up connecting with the attack, depending on the angle, you will take partial damage and debuffs based on what direction you were going in.
Parrying and countering have been significantly enhanced compared to the base game. Essentially now you can parry/counter nearly all attacks, those coming from monsters included. Taking counters as an example, you may counter light attacks just like before - by reducing all incoming damage - but now you retaliate against monsters with a "counter slash". This also applies to heavy attacks (including hammer and spear wielding humans) except that damage is reduced only by 50%. Both parry and counter now have a stamina cost depending on the attack you have deflected. This is a great addition to the game in my opinion. It plays perfectly with the risk and reward scale. Countering carries a greater reward because you spend your time negating the monster attack and dealing damage on your own, instead of just negating as you would with a dodge. However the risk is also greater because you confusing monster light and heavy attacks means you will take significant damage, especially if your build is not prepared for it. Yet another gameplay element where skill is rewarded.

Armour, stamina and different playstyles

Stamina management is now a big part of combat, rather than a mere afterthought with Tawny oil. The base regeneration rate is significantly reduced, all combat actions pause this regeneration for a short while and counter and parry stamina costs are increased. The armour you are wearing now also affects your stamina more than the Vanilla regeneration penalties. Light armour has no penalties and increases stamina regen, medium armour introduces a stamina cost for rolling & sprinting and heavy armour has stamina costs associated with rolling, dodging and sprinting.
Armour now plays a much bigger role in the game thanks to its significantly increased damage absorption capabilities. Plenty of enemies now have high armour values which also makes the armour penetration stat on swords better. To help with this, your heavy attacks now have a significant amount of armour penetration by default. This means that quick attack spam is no longer maximum dps against all enemy types and you will have to mix in heavy attacks much more frequently. Some enemies like golems are so heavily armoured that using quick attacks against them is basically pointless. Similarly, high armour values on your gear now make a big dent in the incoming damage whereas in Vanilla they were useless and the only thing that mattered were the resistances on the gear.
Both of these changes together translate into very distinct melee combat playstyles depending on which Witcher set you are wearing, which is one of the best features of GM for me.
  • Light Armour: the Cat set provides the combat experience which is closest to Vanilla DM, with a few important tweaks. Firstly, because you have very little damage reduction, Quen is practically useless. It won't even fully absorb a light attack from a drowner. This combined with the change to the defensive techniques means that you actually have to be quick on your feet and good at dodging, you can only rely on your own skill. Secondly you can also mix in counters for increased dps once you are familiar with the attack patterns of the enemies. However you still have to dodge heavy attacks due to your lack of defence. This makes the Feline armour playstyle a skillful dance combining counters & dodging which is extremely fun, especially against bosses and small enemy groups.
  • Medium Armour: the Wolf set is a bit of a jack of all trades, master of none. It has less damage compared to the Cat but more defensive stats and armour. This essentially means that your playstyle is similar to the Cat but you reduce some of the risk and settle for a lesser reward. You still can't afford to counter heavy attacks, but at the same time the stamina penalties for sprinting and rolling are mostly irrelevant as the latter is only necessary to get out of the way of enemy AoE attacks. As a result you will be safer against large groups compared to the cat but will have to settle for reduced offensive capabilities.
  • Heavy Armour: the Bear set in GM presents a markedly different combat experience compared to vanilla. The quickest way to describe it is as an "immovable object". The stamina cost for dodging means that you will spend all of your time holding your ground and countering ALL enemy attacks (apart from AoE). The high armour value and damage resists mean that you can shrug off heavy attacks with ease. Combine this with talents that use adrenaline to heal you and an Ekkimara decoction to create a true tank build. However, due to the slow stamina regeneration signs are pretty much out of the question because every sign costs 10+ counter attacks leading to a big dps loss. This playstyle is extremely fun against groups of enemies because it allows you to combine defense with offense and simultaneously negate enemy damage. It also has its weaknesses - namely big enemies and bosses who make heavy use of area effect attacks, such as Griffins and Imlerith for example. Overall I didn't spend much time testing this playstyle in my run, but I found it very satisfying and fun. Definitely keen on using it for a complete playthrough in the future.
Another highlight of the GM combat enhancements are the 1v1 fist fights (seriously). They are much more challenging, fun and skill intensive due to the reworked stamina system. In Vanilla these were pretty formulaic - keep your distance from the opponent so that they only lunge with a heavy attack, which is easier to counter compared to the fast jabs. Counter it, throw a one-two and then rinse and repeat. In Ghost Mode you no longer have the stamina to consecutively counter all attacks and must spend some time in between counters to recover, which introduces a great deal of tension and makes the fights more skillful. Remember, dodging pauses your stamina regeneration so you don't have an easy way around this. Especially as many arenas are quite small which make this process challenging. Furthermore blocking jabs costs significantly less stamina, so if you're confident in countering the opponent's fast attacks you have a great opportunity to skill display. In addition group fist fights are a lot easier compared to Vanilla, because the opponents aren't health sponges. This is another great change in my book as those were pretty tedious and the fist fight system doesn't really work great for group combat.
Finally, to finish off this section, I would like to spend some time looking at enemy balance in the Blood & Wine expansion. There were several problems with it in my opinion, which overall decrease the quality of the experience.
  • Giant centipedes deal too much damage. Yes they are generally easy to avoid, however them one shotting a character in master crafted Feline Gear + Quen + Superior Insect Oil + Protective Coating + 600 hp green mutagen at full life seems excessive. I'd suggest a 30% damage nerf. For comparison, level appropriate Giant Centipedes hit harder than red skull cyclopses and werewolves.
  • High concentration of monsters which work badly with the reduced reaction times due to their instant attacks.
  • Arachnomorph damage seems to be balanced against them hitting you once when most of the time they double tap you, which enables 1 small spider to pretty much instantly kill you from full life if you make a mistake. Damage should be reduced by at least 40%.
  • The two Guardian Panthers in the Professor Moreau quest are extremely overtuned for when you face them and, as a consequence, require extremely cheesy strategies to beat.
  • Alps are probably the hardest enemies in the whole game. Thankfully you only have to fight them twice. The first one's alone and she's manageable, but the second involves you getting tag-teamed by a Bruxa as well and that one is quite painful. It's a good thing Dettlaff can mind control other "lesser" vampires, because otherwise one of those ginger vamps would easily wipe the floor with both him & Regis at the same time.

Items and crafting

  • Witcher set bonuses now scale with the number of pieces equipped rather than being binary. Bonuses also apply from the lowest set tier and not just Grandmaster level. This is a good change in my book as they diversify your combat style from an earlier stage of the game. Set swords are no longer the best weapons for their level requirement, so exploring the world and doing contracts for relics feels much more rewarding.
  • The weapon & armour upgrade kits, sold by master craftsmen, are a great addition to the game. They allow you to increase the base damage/armour of your equipment by increasing its level requirement by 1 (i.e. the Aerondight effect). This enables you to make use of those special relic swords like: Hjalmar's Steel Sword, Pang of Conscience, Blade of the Bits, Winter's Blade etc. from the moment you obtain them to as long as you wish. This means that you must only pick a weapon based on if its secondary stats have synergy with your build, and this opens up a lot of choices and min-maxing.
  • Speaking of special relic swords, these now have significantly improved secondary stats which makes them stand out from the generic random relics. Depending on your build you will probably end up using one of these for most of your playthrough. It feels great to get a "special" sword reward for a quest which is actually useful and not vendor fodder like in Vanilla.
  • Equipment crafting now requires significantly less materials, so you are no longer forced to dismantle an entire army's worth of arsenal to craft something. Unfortunately the craftsmen will now rip you off much harder, comparatively to Vanilla, with their fees. So if you want to unlock all the levels of the Runewright and deck out Corvo Bianco in the various Witcher sets you will still have to pick up and vendor massive amounts of loot.
  • Crafting costs of random weapons in the early game, before you can access sets and contract relics, are prohibitively expensive.
  • White Gull isn't so difficult to produce anymore as it doesn't require Redanian Herbal and you can craft the Mandrake Cordial yourself, white honey now comes with more charges - both are nice QoL changes.
  • Potions and bombs require significantly less ingredients, so theoretically you would need to spend less time picking flowers. However considering that you could buy most of these cheaply from herbalists in the vanilla game (and still can) this change is more or less irrelevant in practice.
Cooking recipes are a good addition to the immersion in my experience. A witcher on the path should be able to cook himself a meal while squatting in some untamed wilderness. Unfortunately, in practice I did not use these recipes at all after leaving White Orchard. There are a few problems with the current implementation:
  • Food & drink healing is not balanced according to the amount of ingredients required to produce. For example, right at the start of the game you can learn how to make apple juice which is in the top tier of drink healing and costs next to nothing to make, in contrast with other much more expensive drink recipes which very often heal for less. Food recipes require way too many ingredients (the vast majority of which must be bought) and offer sub par healing in comparison.
  • Human enemies in Velen and onwards drop way too much food, often between 2-3 pieces each. Why should I waste money buying ingredients and cooking when I could obtain something nearly as good for free?
  • Coking recipes are too expensive for what they offer. They could use a 50% coin cost reduction across the board. Food recipes should require less ingredients. There should be more distinct healing "tiers" for different food & drink, less total recipes and bandits should drop less grub to incentivise people to interact with the system.


  • Enemies focusing more on NPCs during combat (if present) makes certain escort quests significantly more annoying on Death March: namely the Black Pearl and the Skellige mine clearing duo. Those NPCs could use a buff to their survivability.
  • All wolves/dogs & boars are significantly weaker compared to the vanilla game. Probably a design decision, but it feels out of place since all other enemies are harder. Wolves in the Land of a Thousand Fables do have level appropriate stats unlike all their siblings for some reason.
  • Kinks to the extra books/notes feature: fist fight quests keep giving you the same note after a brawl for every brawl, many texts are given out at weird times. For example, right at the beginning of some action sequence.
  • Early game bosses and contract monsters (level req < 15) could use a modest health reduction to prevent boredom. Later on the only enemy that felt too "health spongy" was Iris' nightmare. Those Olgierds could use a health reduction because at the moment the fight is quite repetitive, lacks the atmosphere of the burning manor fight and so becomes a bit tedious.
  • The base Yrden duration is too short and makes fighting Wraith bosses extremely tedious early on, until you get Enhanced or preferably Superior Moon Dust.
  • Superior Cursed Oil now requires berserker skin which is not obtainable in Skellige if you investigate the massacre with Ceris. Previously there was a bug where berserkers spawned near Kaer Morhen, but this seems to be fixed in the newest version. The only place I found berserker skin in the whole game was in the Borsodi vault (?), dropped by one of his guardsmen (??). Either put a copy of the ingredient somewhere in the Vildkaarls' village, or change it to some other more lore appropriate place. The current location makes no sense.
  • The inventory weight system is at best a sidegrade to Vanilla. Yes, it is unrealistic that Geralt is able to hold all these weightless ingredients in Roach's saddlebags. So this mod now gives them weight and forces you to regularly deposit all your ingredients in the stash. Then to access them more conveniently every time you are at an appropriate vendor (alchemist/blacksmith/armourer) Geralt is able to telepathically access said stash to obtain the ingredients. To me it seems like one unrealistic element was simply replaced with a different one equally as unrealistic, so what's the point?
    • In all fairness you can reduce the weight of all items from the mod options, but that slider leads to even more immersion problems. Because if you wish to compensate for the weight on all the ingredients you have to turn up the slider so much that all the swords and armour now weigh practically nothing as well. A better solution would be keeping the weight slider and adding a check box for "Zero ingredient weight", or just using the vanilla weight system because the current implementation isn't a clear improvement.
  • I find the name of the mod to be a bit unfortunate, since it has nothing to do with any of the content. Makes you wonder if it's one of the reasons why it is not more popular.
  • Grapeshot seems to deal insignificant damage to higher level enemies. Superior version of it hits arachas for 5 damage with an aimed shot for example. Even without bomb talents it shouldn't be this weak.
  • Aerondight has lost a great deal of its unique flavour (all items can now be upgraded) and the nerf to its secondary stats was too great. Before it would give 10% attack power per stack, up to 10 stacks, now this has been reduced to 5% crit damage. For comparison, random relic swords can spawn with 60%+ critical damage and have 4 other secondary stats as well. Not to mention free sockets, which cost ~8000 gold for Aerondight. Finally, while the bonus at maximum stacks is still great it's now harder to maintain due to the decreased enemy reaction time, is basically non-existent against all the instant attack foes (and for heavy armour builds) and has overlap with several consumables (thunderbolt potion & oils now give crit chance) and talents which reduces its effectiveness even further. Overall the sword feels underwhelming and not worth using.
  • Olgierd's sabre, Iris, no longer gains charges when enemies block your attacks and doesn't buff the damage of the fast attacks. To compensate it now deals 10% of target's maximum life in addition to the other bonus damage when charged. I was very excited to use this sword with the new item upgrade kits and was left moderately disappointed. The life loss penalty is still too big and basically forces you into using Katakan decoction which doesn't feel great. Furthermore, to charge the sword you must deliver 3 successful fast attacks in succession. Against armoured enemies this feels horrible as you're effectively whacking them with a wet noodle until you can charge the finisher. In addition, humans are much more likely to dodge your attacks compared to before causing you to often whiff on the charged strong attack while still paying the health cost. Overall the sword is still worth using and feels satisfying with the Severance runeword, however I would like to see some quality of life change: for example halving the health penalty.
  • This mod breaks the following achievements: equipping a full witcher set (Armed and Dangerous), equipping all the grandmaster set pieces (Dressed to Kill), equipping Aerondight (Embodiment of the Five Virtues). Tested on GoG. Probably irrelevant for 99% of people, but worth mentioning.
  • The Undvik set has less armour than the basic Feline set, despite having a higher level requirement and being heavy armour.
  • Superior Full Moon heal, based on current toxicity, either does not work or heals a minuscule amount.
  • Kill count bestiary section feels a bit too arcade-y and gimmicky for my tastes. Would prefer it hidden at the bottom of the list and collapsed by default or, better yet, an optional toggle in the mod options if possible.

Scoring (TLDR)

I will now attempt to rate this mod based on an arbitrary scale I just made up. A score of 5/10 means that overall the mod neither improves nor deteriorates the experience when compared to the original game. A higher score than that is good, lower is bad.
  • -1 for the fast reaction times on enemies with instantaneous attack animations (and the fact that this hasn't been fixed for so long) and the balancing issues of Blood & Wine.
  • -0.5 for the overall lowered quality of the combat experience: namely its feel, flow & realism.
  • -0.5 for all the points listed in the Nitpick section.
  • -0.5 for the experience penalty system which promotes meta-gaming and for the subpar support of the NG+ mode
Overall: 7.5/10. Despite the occasional hiccups I thoroughly enjoyed my playthrough with Ghost Mode. I found the mod to be an overall improvement to the base game and definitely recommend it.

Never Asked Questions

Q: What difficulty should I play on?
  • You are looking for a similar challenge to vanilla Death March or early game B&BB, to see if you like the other gameplay changes? Story & Sword. If you don't care about the combat then I would suggest that you also reduce monster damage from the mod options.
  • You played on Death March from level 1 and found it too easy? Blood and Broken Bones.
  • You played on Death March from level 1 with self-imposed limitations such as: no Quen, not using set swords, deliberately skipping some of the best talents and found it too easy? Death March.
Q: What build did you use?
A: Combat/Alchemy - GM Death March
I went for delusion & poisoned blades first. Muscle memory & strength training second, then back to alchemy for protective coating, afterwards filled out the combat tree. Undying was only equipped once the first B&W skill slot was unlocked and I could move an alchemy skill there, on lower difficulty levels I would replace it with Razor Focus. Delusion is optional. I pick it mostly for RP reasons although the extra stamina regen is nice, especially early on. If you don't want to use it then replace it with the Synergy skill from the alchemy tree.
Q: Any other interesting stats/tidbits from your run?
  • Hardest 1v1 fight: werewolf outside of the Whispering Hillock, ~10 deaths.
  • Other boss fights with number of deaths in parenthesis: WO Griffin (1), Imlerith (2), Toad Prince (0), Olgierd (3), Caretaker (1), Olgierds (2), Caranthir (0), Eredin (1), Dettlaff (0)
  • Hardest group fight: arachas cave south west of Harviken on Faroe, 8 deaths.
  • Found the "Tor Zirael" sword for the first time ever in 4 playthroughs, not sure if finally lucky or spawn chance increased in the mod. Unfortunately, stats wise it's still rubbish.
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[Table] IAmA: We're Humble Indie Bundle 6: creators of Torchlight, Dustforce, Rochard, Shatter, SPAZ, and Vessel. Ask us anything!

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Date: 2012-09-26
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Questions Answers
Hitbox team: Are you guys actually capable of SSing the insane "difficult" levels you build? Hahahahahaha.
For those not in the know, have a look: Link to www.youtube.com. no :(
This is for everyone. If you could have any 5 indie games in a Humble Indie Bundle what would you pick? Hey, I am a huge fan of your channel! I subscribed ever since the Overgrowth video, which has made a huge difference for Wolfire, by the way.
It is hard to pick five games, without revealing Humble Indie Bundle 7. :)
Cave Story.
Dear Esther.
Half-life 3.
Wait, you guys have future bundles scheduled already? Not exactly scheduled, but in the works. It can take a long time to bring games to Linux.
What are the profits of the Humble Bundle compared to actually selling the games individually at their regular prices? For Rochard, it's volume & visibility. Our game is not very well known and those who know think it's PSN-only game. We had a bad start last year due to PSN breach and bad market timing. Also, bringing the game to the Linux platform has been very exciting.
It's a good boost of cash to game sales, though obviously the unit price is a lot lower than we might get via other channels.
Funnily enough, our Shatter sales are currently up on Steam too, so the increased fan base and visibility on the game is already starting to have a "downstream" effect.
I've heard about Rochard for the first time with this bundle and I just can't stop playing! Thank you guys for an amazing game and a flawless Linux port! If you ever release Rochard 2 (I saw the video, there are some nice new mechanics there) you'll have my preorder from day one. Thanks for the Linux port belong to the awesome Linux team from Unity!
HIB games have linux ports and Steam codes. Steam is coming to Linux. Do any of you have plans to bring your Linux ports to Steam? Yes indeed we do :)
We will also use the Steamplay option if available, so like with the Mac/PC version, one key to rule them all.
Definitely. With a Linux build and Steam on Linux, it would be insane not to do it :)
Yes, we are hassling Valve already.
Are any of you worried about profit lost in HIB as far as those that pay <$1? Those who pay $1 for the bundle probably wouldn't pay $1 (at 90% off) for a single game on Steam. Well, at least something is still going to charity right. The Bundle isn't all about profit. Disappointing if people pay less than $1 but that is the nature of the beast, and we wouldn't have the high volume of sales and higher payers without the word of mouth the opportunity to pay what you want generates.
Is there any significant impact, and what is the percentage of people who purchase just a dollar or less? Since adding the $1 minimum for Steam keys, penny purchases have stopped being a problem. The real issue was people hoarding Steam keys for resale, just to give out for fun, or to use for getting extra coal, like in Valve's Christmas promotion. At a $1 floor, that issue almost completely disappears.
Would you rather fight 50 duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck? Would the 50 duck-sized horses attack me at the same time, or would they be queued like in some rogue-like? Horses and ducks are both by nature herbivores and non aggressive to meat, which I am made of. So either one should be ok because I don't think they would want to fight me, and I don't want to fight them.
Would the 50 duck-sized horses attack me at the same time, or would they be queued like in some rogue-like? The 50 duck-sized horses are taped together to form a horse-sized horse made of duck-sized horses.
Is that even legal. It's fine, the duck-sized horses are actually comprised of millions of ant-sized ducks, and the ant-sized ducks are just made of carbon.
If I had a game I created and would like to put it for Humble Bundle, what should I do? We used Unity3D engine (which I have a strong love-hate relationship with), and they did all the dirty work for us. What we did is make the actual builds using the editor provided by Unity Linux team, test it out and report back to them.
Thanks for your answer, another question for programmers. There is a lot of young game developers/graduates who are looking for experience. Would it be possible to get internship at Humble Bundle? Do you look for people like this? What type of skills are expected by developers like this? You need experience and connections, but also burning desire to be in the business. Unfortunately I haven't heard any school that could actually provide you that.
Start small. Best thing you can do to yourself is actually finish a game. There's much more work in it that you might think of.
How did you get your games involved with HIB? The founder of our company met with the Humble Bundle team at Game Connection Lyon some years ago, probably in 2009. They contacted us after PSN release in October 2011. We were supposed to be in the bundle earlier, but we didn't have proper Linux build until 22nd of September.
Hey, they only gave me a coffee! You should have held out.
Any news about the Mac / Linux versions of Vessel ? We currently have three Linux game developers working on the Mac and Linux builds, but it is still experiencing some pretty big issues and unfortunately is still not ready to go. We were totally sure that it was going to be ready last week, but unexpected issues keep popping up, so it is really hard to get an updated ETA other than "hopefully very soon".
With Steam for Linux imminent, will the Linux versions of current Humble Bundle games be available on Steam? Will future bundles? We plan to support Steam for Linux. We've been hassling Valve about it. Keen to be in the first wave.
Do you think more indie developers will begin to focus on Linux because of Steam and these bundles? What about the larger developers? (I asked a similar question a few years ago, but I think it's worth revisiting.) Unity3D on Linux is going to be big. We'll definitely put the Linux version on Steam asap.
When is the Mac version of Torchlight II coming out? Do do you see TLII being in a Humble Bundle anytime soon? That's next on the agenda, but it will take a couple months at least.
Hi, thanks for doing this. My question is, to nobody in particular, What is the part of your game that you are most proud of? I made most of the physics based gameplay code in Rochard, and I have to say that's the part I'm most proud of. Originally we had quite little physics gameplay in the game, but it ended up being the most important aspect of the game in the end!
For me all the systems we made were cool for a limited time and them sort of just become part of the background, and I don't think about them much once they work. This may be why we kept adding stuff to SPAZ. We wanted to recapture that cool "shiny new stuff" feeling for a while.
In the end, for me when we get a piece of fan mail from someone who has sunk 50+ hours into SPAZ and then provides suggestions for SPAZ, desire for SPAZ2, that is really cool. To know you touched another gamer with your crazy ideas.
The soundtrack of Shatter is obviously a great success and highlight.
But I like the fact we took the challenge of a "broken" genre head on, something that had known flaws, and were able to overcome them with thoughtful design and usability, bringing "control" to a genre that has none. We purposely set out to do that and happy we succeeded.
I'm most proud that we actually managed to finish Dustforce and that people got to play it (and that some of them enjoyed it)!
Un-humble answer: I made the tech that let us throw about 11,000 (I think) high res sprites at the game (e.g, here's dustwraith's generated sprite sheet (scaled down)) and use any of them wherever we liked without having to budget x sprites per area, or compress them all ugly, or make them lower res.
Also you can make levels REALLY big, like hundreds of millions of pixels across, but we never used that tech.
I'm most proud that we were able to make a game that connected with the heritage of ARPGs, do it with a small, dedicated team, and basically provide a stable foundation for our company. Oh, and only charge $20 for it at release.
I just wanted to say that the physics in Rochard are amazing! Did you come up with any of the puzzles or did you have to make the physics first so that puzzles could be created? Creating the levels for Rochard was quite liquid and organic process. Originally the character could not affect the world (he was just an observer in point of physics -- engine/PhysX restriction), and level designers were creating puzzle that did not require player interaction, like the fuses, lasers, forcefields and such.
Later on, when I was able to redo the whole character physics system, we we're able to do puzzles with player interacting with the elements in the world. So the designers would go back, tweak the levels and the puzzles and come up with something cool.
We don't have much traditional physics puzzles in the game (such as see-saws and such). There is a lot more that can be done!
My only question at the moment is "When will my Torchlight characters get faces?" I love that you guys fixed the game crashing portal bug on Linux so fast. I can live with the missing heads, but it is quite disconcerting when viewing my character up close. That's a known issue that should hopefully be fixed soon. Sorry about that one!
Dustforce is one of the most exhilaratingly fun games I have ever played. Although I kind of sometimes hate you guys for making a game that is so singularly, unbelievably frustrating that I sometimes want to launch my gamepad down the hallway :P. On a technical note, though, I'll admit I'm really, really impressed with the tech (and I'm one of those snobby systems-programmer types); it's pretty, fluid, and well-animated, and yet doesn't kill my system. How do you go about generating the sprites, and how do you manage to keep the game's framerate smooth with that much to render? Thanks, that's very kind of you! I don't get many compliments on the tech, only complaints when it doesn't work! But that's just the nature of the work. Finally sprites are drawn by using pages from the buffer texture. We don't use an indirection texture (though we did for a while), instead I just draw multiple quads for sprites that take up more than one page.
The sprites are packed in to groups (i.e the dustwraith "sprite set" above)(another example\) using some basic binary tree bin packing, then those groups are packed in to a single "Virtual Texture" space. Each of those little pink(?) squares represents a page, which are stored compressed (losslessly) in ram. When a sprite needs to be drawn and it isn't already in video memory, its page/s are decompressed and loaded in to free slot/s in the page buffer texture.
This right here is awesome. I'm a nerd for this kind of stuff and would LOVE to hear more of it. You should do another AMA some time, or some kind explanation of development (assuming it wouldn't give away any trade secrets you may have). Thanks! I've been saying since Dustforce was released that I'd do a blog post about the tech, but I'm not really sure how to approach it so I never got around to it. Maybe one day...
Secrets bad!
This is awesome, thank you for this comment. I'm out of my element with graphics programming, is this the kind of thing you're referring to when you say "virtual texture"? Or is Dustforce doing something different? Amazing job, the game runs beautifully. Yep, very similar to that. The main difference is we're not using an indirection texture (which the pixel shader would use to look up the correct page according to the UV co-ordinates), instead I cut up the sprites in to multiple pages (if necessary) and draw from the page buffer directly.
@maxschaefer: how did the Torchlight 2 launch go?? @Lifeformed: This isn't a question but I really love your music, your soundtrack has been on repeat since I got the bundle. :D. The launch went great! Of course there were some issues, there always are in a big multiplayer game launch, but I think overall it went really well, and people are loving it. Thanks for the compliment on the music! We are really lucky to have Matt Uelmen as a sound guy.
Hello, apparently, porting games on Linux made ​​specifically for the humble bundle. Will you continue to offer your future games under Linux? (I understand if Baddie22 not responding :)) We've had a good response from Linux users, so we'd consider doing it again for future titles. Once Steam for Linux is up and running that will make it an even better proposition.
Never heard of Rochard when I bought the bundle, then played it, and loved it! Best game in the bundle, imho. Here's a Rochard 2 demo/preview we made last year (it uses mostly Rochard assets): Link to www.youtube.com
Please tell me you're working on a sequel! Edit: also, thanks for the linux version ^_^ Unfortunately, we don't have the funding for the sequel. There's lot of debt to pay before we can continue work on it.
Aw man, that looks awesome. Very sorry to hear about the debt/lack of funding, I hope you guys figure something out eventually. Crowdfunding perhaps? Definitely, crowd funding is an option.
Question to any, has having your game ported to Linux increased the chance of further ports to that platform in the future? Probably. Rochard has been a test bench for Unity3D Linux team, who have done awesome job!
If i've to ask one question, it would be : How did you get started? Started in 1997(eek!) by getting together with a couple of friends and ordering a Net Yaroze from Sony (the home programmable PlayStation). Kind of grew from there.
This question is for everyone, feel free to answer it if you want. And yes i mean your beginning in creation of indie games. Messing around in Flash MX in high school, tried ActionScript, found it was fun to make stuff.
What according to you is the future of distribution for indie developers? Steam or Humble Bundle type sales? :) Both. I think both are wonderful for indie developers - the Humble Bundle gets a lot of eyes on games people might never have heard about, and the unique pay model makes it accessible for almost anyone, and Steam provides the year-round sales platform and indie needs for stability.
While sales and bundles are great for cash boosts, I don't think developers can rely on them alone for profitability, and they are "training" consumers to expect higher and higher value for every dollar.
Digital distribution is key, but how games are monetized is going to have to continue to evolve.
Why not both? :)
Will there ever be a visual novel or racing game in a Humble Bundle? Hmmm not a racing game per se, but we'd be interested to port GripShift to PC/Mac/Linux and have in a bundle.
To everyone: If you could only play one more game for the rest of your life, what would it be? Probably Civilization IV.. it's frustrating, but I boot it up at least once a year.
Deus Ex (the original) 7 times and counting.
Eyetoy Groove. Seriously.
This is for HIB. In most bundles, you add some games after a few days of sale. What's the reasoning behind this? Do you experience a surge in sales after doing this? Also, do those new games now get equal share from future sales or those developers don't get as much? I'm guessing it both adds more value and gives HIB a chance to reach out again midway through to keep the momentum going. There definitely seems to be a surge, so whatever the reasoning, that is a positive outcome.
It's a way to help rekindle excitement about the promotion. The games are typically from previous bundles that we have run, so it is a good way for people who missed bundle X to catch up.
The new games typically get an equal share going starting when they are added (you can always tweak or see the splits by clicking the triangle next to the developers slider).
This is about the Linux version of Torchlight, I'm sorry, but I keep wondering about this. Please note that I'm eternally grateful for porting Torchlight to Linux, and I love the game and have played it in wine until now. Did seriously nobody notice the missing heads (nobody even ran it once before release?) or did you decide that nobody will play it on Linux anyways, and those who do are used to being treated bad? Would you make the same decision of releasing a broken game if it was Windows? That was a pretty unfortunate bug. It is known and should hopefully be fixed soon.
I bought this Humble Bundle for one dollar so I can redeem the games on Steam. I'm flat broke this month, so that's why I couldn't spend more. I feel guilty for doing this. Do you get a lot of people paying a buck or less for great selections such as this one? Sounds like it's a buck more than otherwise have gone to the Bundle so thank you!
Thanks! Send me a PM if you feel like your bundle is missing some Dustforce!
Really enjoyed playing through Rochard. I caught a really obscure Ghostbusters quote part way in; "Listen.. you smell something?" and was wondering what other little easter-eggs I might have missed. I haven't noticed that one! There are a lot of references to popular culture in the game. It's not a secret, but I love the fact that the voice of John Rochard is mr. Jon St John, the voice of Duke Nukem. These characters are quite the opposite as protagonists.
I'm not sure where that was?... I can't remember that sentence :O.
As an aspiring musician, at what point of development do you normally include musicians for score and specifically, at what point did they get involved with your game in HIB? For Shatter, we had Module involved from very early in development. It was important to create the score as something that informed the visuals and gameplay and wasn't just bolted on. You don't always have that luxury, but in this case it worked out great.
Tough to get a gig though. With so many other musicians trying to break into games you have to be both good and persistent. Give it a shot and see what happens. Good luck with your efforts!
How do you honestly feel about the people who only donates $0.1 ? I know the transaction costs, servers and bandwidth cost more, so it doesn't feel very good.
Do you have any plans on adding your games to Desura? Work in progress.
Favourite game and favourite song in game? Link to www.youtube.com no competition here :)
Link to www.youtube.com
Close second.. well, tie for first.
But what if you were harming their young (for sake of provoking the fight)? That doesn't sound like me. Never happen.
You're being chased by a gang out to kill you as long as you are in the town, in order to escape with your life you have to go down one of two alleys after being chased throughout the city (being cut off any other escape routes out of the city). You will be coming close to either the nesting area of 100 duck sized horses or 1 horse sized duck. Being wary of threats to their young you know you will be attacked, but won't die [if you fight back in defense] unlike the intentions of gang following you. which do you choose? Quick stop at corner store for a loaf of bread and a box of sugar cubes (it borders the alley entrance). THEN befriend the giant duck with the bread and ride it into battle while leading the micro horses with a trail of cubes. When we encounter the gang, I throw the remaining cubes and bread among the gang and let my minions tear them apart.
But to be fair a horse sized duck is 100X worse.
What does the future hold for Recoil Games after HIB and Rochard? It really depends on Rochard sales and our forthcoming mobile game. A sequel is in the plans, but the project is on hold.
Being a Finnish company, how much Rovio's and Remedy's success have helped your journey? Rovio's and Remedy's success has not directly affected us in any way. Phenomenal successes of Supercell and Rovio have made games industry more serious business in Finland.
To the Dustforce crew (and anyone else who wants to chime in, really): What tools do you use to develop with? I'm sure I'm not the only one that is curious about what the industry actually uses to produce awesome 2d games such as yours. The art in Dustforce was done in Flash, the programming was done in Visual Studio using C++ and AngelScript. The game engine and editor we made ourselves.
@snlehton What is your worst bug you have had to ever unearth and fix (in games)? That would have to be heap corruption, hands down. It's like cancer of software development. You never notice it until it's too late, and then it impossible to know what was the cause.
The worst one was having a pointer to an element inside dynamically allocated array, and the corruption happened in such situation that the array was reallocated (more elements pushed in with no room for them). Accessing that pointer later on would have unexpected results, usually access violation or jump to unknown address due to invalid virtual table reference... evil stuff!
My question is to snlehton. Is there any plan to bring any kind of editor to Rochard? I had a blast with this game but I wasn't ready to be done with it. I fell in love with the gameplay and want more! I'm sure you all are readying the 2nd chapter but man would I love to tweak things around and build some levels. Any plans at all to open up development to fans? We have thought of it, but I'm not sure if that is going to happen any time soon. It would need quite a bit of preparing, as the internal editor stuff is not necessarily most user-friendly stuff available :)
What's a good entry point for programmers interested in learning to write games for Linux? Try Unity :) Link to www.unity3d.com
Are there ever many serious arguments involving certain aspects of the development of a game? Yes. I have seen it in more than one company/project. When making Rochard, some design decisions were not agreed which eventually led to disputes between individual developers. It's creative work that differs from "regular" software projects, where valid arguments and reasoning are more likely to prevent disputes.
Do you feel bad that I donate all my contribution to child's play? Not at all!
It's a good boost of cash to game sales, though obviously the unit price is a lot lower than we might get via other channels. Funnily enough, our Shatter sales are currently up on Steam too, so the increased fan base and visibility on the game is already starting to have a "downstream" effect. You're not alone :) we're seeing it too. It's subtle, but it's there.
Yes; No;
For us, we luckily were assigned an ace porter for Linux, because here's me with Linux. Link to i3.kym-cdn.com. We are with Blorfy.
That's next on the agenda, but it will take a couple months at least. Oh, and we look forward down the road eventually to having TL2 in a bundle!
I'm probably most proud of how we took what was already an unusual mechanic (liquid physics) and did something completely new with it (creating creatures formed out of it) and then made that the center of the game, growing the visuals, design, story, style, and music all from that unique core. That reminds me that I really really need to get some time to check out the games in the bundle. Vessel looked really interesting!
Edit: And SPAZ. It may be one of my favorite games ever. Thanks! Excellent! :)
Visual Studio 2010. Visual Studio 2012.
(And somehow get Minecraft to run inside Visual Studio)
Just make your own version of it. And once you make it, then you make Visual Studio inside of Minecraft. Link to i.imgur.com
You and TotalBiscuit would get along great. Lol, he is our narrator :)
Last updated: 2012-10-01 01:41 UTC
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