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Cliff Bleszinski: 'I respect that core gamers see free-to-play as a dirty, dirty thing'

Aug 30 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]308383:60188:0[/embed] At this point, LawBreakers co-developer and Killzone series director Arjan Brussee chimed in "If you have a small barrier of entry like an early access fee, then I think that can work. For us, if you look at the game, it's definitely a triple-A type of experience. We don't want to charge $60, but our fans are used to paying money to play games with the Killzone and Gears of War stuff. So, I think we can leverage the free-to-play thing and do cool stuff in that space." Brussee's right in saying that this is a segment of the gaming population that doesn't have a problem coughing up some cash for games. The challenge comes in getting them on-board with free-to-play -- especially those who are distrustful of the model. But, Bleszinski wouldn't want to go back to the traditional sales metrics. "Yeah, for me, that's completely dead. That's pre-orders, that's 'how many do you get in the first two months' and then it's an exponential curve downward after that," Bleszinski said about the idea of his metrics for success suddenly shifting. "People who are still doing that: have fun. For me, that's old. For us, it's about a ramp." Bleszinski continued "We may not make a lot of money in the first couple months. But, in the first year, we may start to ramp up. These games are like a locomotive where they get going and going. Once they get momentum, you look around and say 'How did this game get so damn big?' The marking is a steady launch over the course of a bunch of different beats throughout the year as opposed to blowing the wad at Christmas while everyone else is blowing their wad. Or, the Super Bowl where you try to get Liam Neeson and Kate Upton to do goofy ads. We're in it for the long-run here."
LawBreakers free-to-play photo
But he's done with the traditional model
When Cliff Bleszinski formed Boss Key Productions to create the game now known as LawBreakers, he always knew that free-to-play was the model he wanted. That statement's not as black and white as it sounds. There's a lot of i...

Cliff Bleszinski: We want players to actually use verticality

Aug 29 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]308291:60187:0[/embed] "I don't mean to slag any other games, because those core loops of getting a lot of kills quick are what kill streaks and kill streak rewards are built on," Bleszinski said. "With us, we want to have a little bit of that dance, a little more like Halo where if someone gets the drop on you, you at least have a shot at either getting away or at least taking a dent out of them so they might die by your teammate." The hook that allows LawBreakers this freedom lies in the world-building. Because of a cataclysmic event known as "The Shattering," Earth is left with pockets of low gravity in certain areas. Conveniently enough, LawBreakers' maps are set in some of these areas, which should make for interesting and varied gameplay. Bleszinski was visibly excited about this. "We see these moments where there's this giant zero-gravity pocket where everyone's vertical and people are actually knocking each other around with rockets. One of the comments on Twitter was someone asking if rockets actually propel people. Since you have a rocket jump now, you actually have a radius. We found that with rockets not being a one-hit kill (because we don't really want them to be), even with Kitsune who's a very light character, once we have the law equivalent of her, she probably might be a couple rockets minimum. Still, it's a light character, but we want you to juggle." There's a reason he wants players to juggle. "When you introduce low gravity and the concept of juggling as well as a rocket that you can air-burst with the alt-fire, you see somebody flying through the air blind-firing propelling themselves, and you can suddenly send them over to the other side of the map by air-bursting a rocket and then follow through with your stomp move and kind of chain your moves together. We want the FPS dance to kind of come back." That FPS dance means that players stay alive longer and actually get to make use of the game's vertical axis. "It's a lot greater than your Call of Duty grind. It's a little bit faster than your Titanfall one. It's somewhere around Halo-ish is what I like to say," Bleszinski ultimately said of Spencer's original time until death inquiry. Figuring out exactly how to properly execute all that action is the tough part. LawBreakers' gameplay trailer showed a handful of different characters, each with their own abilities and traits. Bleszinski and his team are now in the position of getting all of those characters work in conjunction with one another without any of them sticking out like a sore thumb. "Perfect balance is nearly impossible to get," Bleszinski commented. "We're still working on it. Right now, in the current build that people are playing off-site, it's very asymmetrical -- two unique classes on both sides. The Law has all sorts of weapons whereas the Breakers have like area-of-effect stuff. That's been really hard to balance. One of the first things we're going to do when we get back is, you have Breacher on the Law side, we're figuring out who the Breacher equivalent is on the Breaker side. That's something that when we go back to symmetrical gameplay, I think it's going to be easier to balance. But, it'll still be slightly asymmetrical." It may not be exactly what he's shooting for, but Bleszinski made reference to a revered fighting game when talking about balanced gameplay. "I saw a graph where they're pointing out the Smash Bros. characters from the original that we've used over the years. Smash Bros. may be the most perfectly balanced game ever because they kept finding a new character and a new exploit without the game ever being patched or updated." An interesting analog, but LawBreakers won't take that approach. Bleszinski continued "Thankfully, we're going to be a living product so we can keep introducing updates, hopefully every couple weeks. Pump that shit through, have test kitchens and things like that. Basically, if we find an exploit that breaks the game, fix it. But, also recognize when there's an exploit that adds to the game. You know, rocket jumping is one of those accidents that actually is cool." Bleszinski and Boss Key can expect to find a lot of those exploits given the combination of possibilities between several unique characters and maps with variable gravity. There are a lot of factors at play. Some exploits will evolve into part of the game, some will get squashed. Those that make verticality more enjoyable and contribute to the FPS dance (as Bleszinski put it) have a better chance of surviving.
Bleszinski interview photo
Doing the FPS dance
Just this week, Cliff Bleszinski and Boss Key Productions pulled back the curtain on LawBreakers -- the free-to-play arena shooter that has been in development under the codename Project BlueStreak. It's more than just the co...

THPS5 photo
THPS5

See if you recognize the skaters old man Tony Hawk has in his game


We want Rune
Aug 27
// Brett Makedonski
You know what they say about times. They are a-changin'. Someone put a bunch of young, hip-lookin' kids in old man Tony Hawk's video game. There's even a younger Tony Hawk, but his name is Riley. Those of you who cut your te...
amiibo photo
amiibo

Walmart's selling the Marth amiibo at a 115 percent mark-up


$27.99, and MSRP is $12.99
Aug 26
// Brett Makedonski
This is rather unusual. We're accustomed to scalpers selling rare amiibo for far more than their retail price, but now Walmart's getting in on the act. Yes, it seems the world's largest private employer is price gouging for N...

Assassin's Creed photo
Assassin's Creed

Assassin's Creed Syndicate's going to be a bit late to the party on PC


Taking precautions
Aug 26
// Brett Makedonski
Almost four weeks after PS4 and Xbox One players have been zipping and stabbing around Victorian London, PC users will finally get their chance with Assassin's Creed Syndicate. Until then, they have to lurk in the shadows, wa...
Just Cause 3 photo
Just Cause 3

Just Cause 3 is giving away a goddamn island, and you probably want no part of it


No bueno
Aug 25
// Brett Makedonski
We like to discourage pre-ordering video games. Sometimes games are broken. Sometimes games suck. No one needs to fork over money before they know the final verdict. However, sometimes video games use their pre-order siren s...

So, how's Gears of War's multiplayer at launch?

Aug 25 // Brett Makedonski
Between last night and this afternoon, I have a fair sample size of matches under my belt. I'm maybe one percent of the way toward the "Seriously..." Achievement, which doesn't sound like much, but it is. The only issue I've encountered was about five seconds of lag at the beginning of one match. Otherwise, everything's been silky smooth. There's one non-performance issue that I have a problem with, however. The War Journal offers multiplayer statistics, but not on how close you are to earning the different Achievements. (If I'm not mistaken, this is a feature that Gears of War 3 implemented quite nicely.) Likewise, Xbox One's "snap an app" feature doesn't track that progress either. The sole indicator is a counter that pops up after a match in which you've hit a milestone toward that Achievement. Hopefully a fix is coming for that. That one insignificant complaint aside, this game holds up its end of the bargain with regard to multiplayer. After the Halo: The Master Chief Collection snafu (that may still be on-going to some degree), it was important for Microsoft to emphatically stick the landing on this one. Fortunately, it lives up to the excellent standard set by the rest of Gears of War Ultimate Edition.
Gears of War photo
Silky smooth so far
I have a novel concept for you: What if a major video game releases and its multiplayer component just works? Like, there isn't a bunch of drama and patches and updates and apologies; instead, you get to play the game immedia...

NBA 2K16 photo
NBA 2K16

NBA 2K16's latest trailer is predicated on a four-year-old hashtag


A bit late
Aug 24
// Brett Makedonski
"Winning!" That's what some marketer with tiger blood in his veins thought when he saw this NBA 2K16 trailer. "This is bi-winning. It wins here, and it wins there. This, now this makes all other trailers look like ...
amiibo photo
amiibo

Who wants a closer look at the Animal Crossing amiibo?


(a)Me(bo)
Aug 24
// Brett Makedonski
We've seen a fair amount about Animal Crossing and amiibo, but a lot of it has to do with the first use of amiibo cards. Well, when both Happy Home Designer and amiibo Festival release, they'll also get so...
Grow Home photo
Grow Home

You love Grow Home so much that it's free on PS Plus next month


Other PS Plus titles revealed, too
Aug 24
// Brett Makedonski
Grow Home entered the PlayStation Plus Vote to Play contest and it climbed, climbed, climbed in the polls. It climbed higher than any others. It climbed so high that it has left the stratosphere of games that cost money...
Rock Band 4 photo
Rock Band 4

The Rock Band 4 disc will cost $20 extra on Xbox One


All due to wireless protocol
Aug 24
// Brett Makedonski
Those who plan to play Rock Band 4 on Xbox One with their instruments from Xbox 360 will have to pay a bit for the privilege. As it turns out, the standalone Rock Band 4 disc will cost $80 instead of $60. That price...

Review: Gears of War Ultimate Edition

Aug 24 // Brett Makedonski
Gears of War Ultimate Edition (PC, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: The CoalitionPublisher: Microsoft StudiosRelease: August 25, 2015 (Xbox One), TBA (PC)MSRP: $39.99  The developers of Gears of War Ultimate Edition have called this "the first at its best." Turns out they aren't wrong, but they also aren't quite precise enough. This is Gears of War -- entire franchise included -- at its best. Gameplay at a steady 60 frames-per-second does wonders for the naturally clunky movement. These soldiers now feel less like the tanks they resemble. That's not exactly the case in the campaign, however. Multiplayer over Xbox Live runs at 60FPS, but solo and cooperative play is locked in at 30. Regardless, it's a vast improvement over previous installments. It's immediately noticeable as soon as you pick the controller up. The Ultimate Edition is running on a mature version of Unreal Engine 3 -- the same engine the original Gears of War was built upon -- so this improvement can likely be chalked up to optimization and more powerful hardware in the Xbox One. This newfound fluidity makes everything less frustrating. Cover-based shooting works as it always has, but moving from spot to spot isn't as likely to end up with your character stuck to a wall you didn't intend. Navigating the game's many battlefields is quicker and more enjoyable. [embed]306974:60086:0[/embed] While a slicker movement system is easy to appreciate, it's the combat -- the actual shooting of guns -- that's the real meat of Gears of War. Almost everything about it is perfectly intact. As many bullets as the enemies can soak up, there's resounding satisfaction anytime an enemy gets tagged with a torque bow or a pistol takes a head clean off. Hip-shooting with the Gnasher is still a frustratingly inaccurate prospect, as it seems like things work out in your favor about half the time. But, the greatest compliment you can give Gears of War (and it holds true in Ultimate Edition) is that it makes fighting fun. That shouldn't necessarily be the case for a game that features pop-up shooting gallery one after another, but it is. Active reload is one of the better game mechanics of the past decade in that it constantly keeps the player's attention during a process that they'd otherwise be uninvolved in. The Lancer (a/k/a "chainsaw gun") is iconic and unironically cool. It's on the back of the combat that the rest of Gears of War gets by. A lot of the level design feels dated now. Settings are distinct through the game's five acts, but they're all used the exact same way. Rarely is there clever subversion to keep the player on their toes. More often than not, it's predictable what lies just ahead. To be fair, there are attempts to break this mold; the second act holds two examples. A large swath of this part of the game asks the player to pathfind by blowing up propane tanks in order to illuminate the road. When mixed with fighting, these are some of the best moments in Gears of War, as it adds a puzzle-like element. Conversely, the end of this act dedicates a chapter to vehicle driving. It's poorly executed, and it comes off as a forced and transparent bid at shaking up monotony. Gears of War can be linear to a fault, but that's a trade-off for its cinematic nature. Chapter length is generally short, and a new cutscene is always just around the corner. Setpieces come about fairly frequently, but they're somewhat subdued when compared to other installments in the series. Rather, this Gears of War is the game that set the tone for the over-the-top action to follow. Despite all the cinematics, Gears of War is notably light on narrative. The story details the human struggle against the invading Locust on the planet of Sera. Things are bleak. Humanity has its back against the wall. Everything feels so down and out. This coalition of well-trained troops is the good guys' last chance. For those who actually care, Gears of War's plot can be effective yet simple. It lacks a lot of nuance, as does the dialogue. Most exchanges between characters are gruff one-liners, either overtly aggressive or sarcastic. To be blunt, the dialogue hasn't aged well but this was never the game's strong suit. The greatest disconnect comes from the superb gameplay and the subpar narrative. It's not only the disparity between the two that rings obvious, but also how they fail to work hand-in-hand. Gameplay often feels less like a means of accomplishing a story-specific goal, but more like a means to trigger a cutscene to advance the plot. Pacing is also an issue, as stakes are high and chaotic at all times. There are plenty of faults, but Gears of War's greatest trick is that you don't notice them while you're playing. It's just a good time from start to finish. On a personal note: my roommate and I played through the entirety of the campaign cooperatively on Insane difficulty in two sittings in one day. I couldn't tell you the last time I dedicated that much of a day to a game. That speaks volumes. For anyone looking to boil the Gears of War experience down to its purest and (arguably) most enjoyable form, competitive multiplayer again serves a big role. There are 19 maps and nine modes (including newcomers team deathmatch, king of the hill, and two-on-two with shotguns). It's undeniably quite the large offering. Again, Gears of War is fantastic when it's just unadulterated combat. By today's standards, eight-person multiplayer should seem tiny, but it really doesn't. There's always plenty of fray to be found. Maps are designed in a nice, symmetric way so that everything's balanced. Although, the majority of weapons are immediately disregarded by most people in favor of constant use of the Gnasher, which feels like the way to go at almost all times. Whether the campaign or multiplayer, Gears of War undoubtedly succeeds in constantly entertaining. The Ultimate Edition takes that to a new level through optimized gameplay, smoother controls, and updated visuals. Most importantly, it makes this classic relevant again. Microsoft has a lot riding on the continued prosperity of Gears; after all, it is one of the publisher's largest properties. Gears of War Ultimate Edition effectively reminds why that's the case, just as it reminds why this is the game that partially influenced an entire generation of gaming. It just took a makeover to help us appreciate it again. [Editor's note: At time of writing, the multiplayer component wasn't live for the general public. A handful of multiplayer games were played in a private room hosted by the developer. We'll report on the state of online play at launch and thereafter. If this aspect of the game sees significant problems in the weeks following release, we'll cover those issues.] [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Gears of War review photo
At its best
For better and for worse, Gears of War helped shape the past generation of gaming. Bursting onto the scene in 2006, it helped solidify now-common tropes like chest-high walls, brown and gray shooters, and muscle-bound sp...

Rise of the Tomb Raider photo
Rise of the Tomb Raider

Lara doesn't need to murder everyone in Rise of the Tomb Raider


Just some people
Aug 21
// Brett Makedonski
The Rise of the Tomb Raider section of Microsoft's gamescom press conference was filled with knives to the back and arrows to the head. Given the large stage, it's obvious why Crystal Dynamics showed a violent slice of ...
GTA photo
GTA

Grand Theft Auto passes 220 million units shipped in its lifetime


That's a lot of reckless violence
Aug 21
// Brett Makedonski
You may have already known this, but a lot of people have played Grand Theft Auto. Like, a whole lot. Like, so many that the franchise is approaching the quarter-billion mark for sold-in units. Take-Two Interactive recently f...
Halo 5 photo
Halo 5

Master Chief won't be unmasked in Halo 5


Guardian his face
Aug 21
// Brett Makedonski
No one has ever seen the face of Xbox's most popular video game franchise. Master Chief's appearance is nothing more than a suit of armor. 343 Industries says it's staying that way for a while -- at least through Halo 5: Guar...
Madden 16 photo
Madden 16

EA goes way over the top to promote Madden


We didn't see this coming
Aug 21
// Brett Makedonski
EA Sports' promotion of Madden has largely been the same for years now. Gameplay trailers, new features, interviews with developers -- we've been there and done that. This is different. This is...weird. And, kind of amazing....
Half-Life x Hotline Miami photo
Half-Life x Hotline Miami

Half-Life 2 in the style of Hotline Miami is the best thing on the Internet today


We go to Miami, but not Ravenholm
Aug 21
// Brett Makedonski
We've all slaughtered scores of headcrabs, but we've never done it from this perspective. This fan-made game takes the Hotline Miami approach to Half-Life 2, trading Freeman's viewpoint for a chaotic overhead one. It ma...
Witcher 3 photo
Witcher 3

Witcher 3 dev wants free DLC to be an industry standard


But it won't
Aug 20
// Brett Makedonski
CD Projekt Red released The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt in May, but it didn't stop offering content there. Over the course of three months, the developer continually put out free add-ons -- 16 in all. That's a trend that it'd l...
XCOM 2 photo
XCOM 2

This is your home on the go in XCOM 2


Meet The Avenger
Aug 20
// Brett Makedonski
The Avenger is where stuff happens in XCOM 2. It's where staff gets assigned, it's where research gets done, it's where scientists explain their roles in a new 12-minute video from Firaxis. Go ahead and get acclimated with t...
Nova-111 photo
Nova-111

What does time even mean anyway in Nova-111?


Find out for yourself very soon
Aug 20
// Brett Makedonski
Funktronic Labs' Nova-111 was the highlight of my BitSummit in 2014. It blends turn-based movement with real-time elements to make an action puzzler of sorts. All of this is to rescue 111 scientists. Just trust us -- it...
Rocket League photo
Rocket League

A high-flyin' reverse aerial Rocket League goal GIF


No teammate screwing it up, either
Aug 18
// Brett Makedonski
What do you do if this goal gets scored on you right off the bat? Do you just rage quit? Is there even any rage, knowing that this opponent clearly has you bested? Do you just hang your head and walk home? Really, its upside...
Fallout on Tinder photo
Fallout on Tinder

Bethesda wants you to swipe right on Vault Boy on Tinder


And then play Fallout Shelter
Aug 18
// Brett Makedonski
After all this time stuck in adverts for Vault-Tec, Vault Boy needs a little love too. The Fallout mascot has turned to matchmaking app Tinder to look for companionship. It's so awkward when you come across the profile o...
WWE 2K16 photo
WWE 2K16

It's Fight Owens Fight with WWE 2K16's latest roster reveal and entrance video


You just gotta Bo-lieve!
Aug 18
// Brett Makedonski
WWE newcomer Kevin Owens has already had spats with John Cena, Cesaro, and Michael Cole, but he won't find any of them when he gets to the bottom of this ramp. That's because his entrance video for WWE 2K16 is in NXT wh...
Until Dawn photo
Until Dawn

Hey, Until Dawn kids: Your winter getaway is a very bad idea


*Sigh* You won't listen
Aug 18
// Brett Makedonski
I urge you, Until Dawn kids: Don't go on that winter getaway. It seems like a lot of fun, but it won't be. It's not all drinking and partying and sexing. There will be a scary guy in a scary mask doing scary things. Your fri...
Community choice photo
Community choice

The community's choosing Max: The Curse of Brotherhood dev's next game


Go vote now!
Aug 18
// Brett Makedonski
What's next for Danish developer Press Play? Well, the studio doesn't know. No one does, because that decision lies in your hands. That's a lot of pressure, huh? Press Play, developer of Xbox One launch title Max: The Curse ...

You don't need a GamePad to play ZombiU

Aug 18 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]306573:60033:0[/embed] Still, it's not anywhere near a deal-breaker. The Xbox One controller and DualShock 4 are serviceable in their one-button press menu summoning. It all just requires a little bit more care. Honestly, if you're playing Zombi carelessly, menu navigation is the least of your concerns. There are some other slight drawbacks in the Xbox One version of Zombi. Textures and character models seem a bit outdated, which can be expected from a game that launched before current consoles released. Also, the frame-rate tends to dip when action gets too thick. Those annoyances are nothing too detrimental to Zombi, though. The captivating environment and the unique survivor-after-survivor gameplay easily overshadow the flaws. And, we shouldn't view the switch from GamePad to regular controllers as a downgrade; we should view it as a fantastic opportunity for a wider audience to experience everything Zombi has to offer.
Zombi impressions photo
Well, just 'Zombi' now
To date, ZombiU has been one of the best (and only) non-Nintendo published Wii U exclusives. It has turned into something of a cult classic, as many have praised the way that it felt more like a survival game and resiste...

Rock Band 4 photo
Rock Band 4

Rock Band 4's latest big addition is Van Halen


PANAMA! PAN-A-MAH-HUH!
Aug 17
// Brett Makedonski
Not recognizing a majority of music in games has been a running theme this year. Guitar Hero Live largely falls victim to this. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 definitely does. Fortunately, Rock Band 4 does not. Harm...
Until Dawn photo
Until Dawn

Can you stay alive for two minutes of live action Until Dawn?


It's not impossible
Aug 17
// Brett Makedonski
Since the beginning of time, sexy teens have been going out into the woods to do naughty things and get slaughtered. It's the circle of life. This time-honored tradition is well-documented in many films of the 1980s. Until D...
Nathan Drake Collection photo
Nathan Drake Collection

The Nathan Drake Collection goes to the ends of the earth for you


Just like Sully does for Drake
Aug 17
// Brett Makedonski
Aww, they grow up so fast, don't they? I mean, one day little Nate's lifting his first ring, the next he's tearing down ancient ruins in search of treasure. Precious moments. Hold onto them. Cherish them forever. Of course, ...
Gears of War photo
Gears of War

Gears of War also redid its Mad World trailer for the re-release


We all knew this would happen
Aug 17
// Brett Makedonski
Microsoft is putting the finishing touches on Gears of War Ultimate Edition, an upgraded remake of the 2006 title. It's extending those duties a bit beyond the game, though. It's also recreating some of the original marketin...

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