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Nintendo indies photo
Nintendo indies

Nintendo's big release schedule for Never Alone, Don't Starve, and lots of other indies

'Nindies,' if you will (I won't)
Mar 04
// Jordan Devore
Klei's wilderness survival game Don't Starve: Giant Edition is headed to the Wii U eShop this spring with a convenient map viewable on the GamePad screen (or Off-TV play, if you'd rather). Great! Also cool: E-Line's charming ...
Titan X photo
Titan X

Let's guess how much the Nvidia Titan X will cost

Screw it, I'll just burn my money now
Mar 04
// Jordan Devore
During an Unreal Engine panel at the Game Developers Conference, Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang showed up to announce the Titan X before handing the video card over to Epic's Tim Sweeney. Presumably, yesterday's Nvidia presentation was just too packed full of Nvidia Shield talk. The Titan X has a 12GB frame buffer and 8 billion transistors. How much is this thing gonna cost?
BOXBOY! photo
Block buds
HAL Laboratories (Super Smash Bros., Mother) has been busying itself with a couple Kirby games recently, but it looks like someone over there had an idea for a lil puzzle game and rolled with it. BOXBOY! (already released on...

A 4K Ouya photo
A 4K Ouya

New Nvidia Shield is a $200 Android console

A 4K Ouya
Mar 03
// Steven Hansen
Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang has announced the company's own sort of Ouya/Amazon Fire TV, the "world's first 4K Android TV console," the Tegra X1-powered Nvidia Shield. Not to be confused with Nvidia's recent Nvidia Shield. It i...

Will Bethesda hurry up and announce Fallout 4?

Mar 03 // Nic Rowen
Love takes time to grow. I got about six hours into Fallout 3 before abandoning my first run. Something wasn't clicking. Trekking around the wasteland as a leather-jacketed hard case set on righting every wrong he came across was proving to be a snooze-fest. As was stopping to help every quailing citizen of post-apocalyptia who was having trouble with their computer, or needed a few more iguanas for their stew. I spent most of those first six hours bumbling around in Megaton, the first settlement you discover, running errands for “survivors” who seemed utterly incapable of keeping themselves alive and resenting them for it. I felt like Dudley Do-Right cosplaying as Mad Max. What was worse was I was incompetent at it. I didn't have a clue how to fix their flipping computers. I built my first character like an Olympic athlete who could field strip an M-16 in the dark and catch bullets out of the air with his freakishly tough and unnaturally quick hands. Computers were for nerds, not wasteland avengers. I didn't make a character who could sneak around picking shitty desk locks looking for a password, or charm his way out of a confrontation. I made the kind of guy I thought the wasteland would need – an asskicker, a soldier, a rebel with a heart of gold. And it was so terribly, terribly boring. I went back to the drawing board. I restarted the game with the kind of guy I thought the wasteland would need the least. Another lunatic set loose on the skeleton of the old world. A lanky freak who was about as tough as a ten-year-old with progeria. A man whose talents included small engine repair, skulking about in the shadows, and an unhealthy interest in explosives. Someone who was likely to rebuild something just to blow it up again. I gave him a mohawk the color of corn-silk and a face too long for its own good. Big bulging eyes that jutted out a little too far from each other, just this side of gonk. His S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats could truly be considered “special.” Barely any strength or endurance, moderate charisma and intelligence, but preternatural powers of perception and a wild dash of luck. Maybe it reflected being born under a good sign? Or maybe it was just the natural canniness of the criminally ill. Instead of playing a man driven by a sense of justice and righting wrongs, I gave my new character a spirit of raw curiosity. A person less interested in the right or wrong of something, but driven to explore and experiment, regardless of the outcome. I stopped choosing my words based on what I thought was right, instead just going with whatever dialog option I liked the best at the time, even if it made him occasionally contradictory or less than helpful. He had his mind shattered the moment he was cast out of the only life he ever knew and exiled into a poisoned and dead world. Or maybe there was always a spark of madness in him, fanned into a blaze by the VaultTec door swinging shut behind him. He had a mild phobia of guns, preferring to dive into melee swinging a baseball bat or knife with his skinny arms, or better yet, to just toss grenades at his problems. I found the Vault 101 Utility suit with the red converse sneakers in the opening tutorial and kept him in them the whole game. Fuck leather jackets and metal knee braces, I was going to face the end of the world looking like a hipster janitor. I had one guiding principal for this run: I would only do things that interested me. If a quest-line looked boring, I'd skip it. If something caught my eye, I'd abandon what I was doing and go check it out, I would always follow my curiosity. I would never bother to check my karma level, or spend time worrying about my character build (no amount of meta-gaming would ever repair his broken stats anyway). I got over my fear of sequence breaking or wandering into an area that was too tough or advanced for my character. I just assumed it would all work out eventually. What I'm describing might not seem like much to some people. I'm sure this is how a lot of people already experience big open games like Fallout and Skyrim. But for me, it was a revolution. A complete rewiring of my mental pathways, a total inversion of how I usually approached those sorts of games. It cured me from the paralysis of choice. The self-defeating spiral where there is just so much to do and explore that you spend more time fretting about what you “should” be doing, or what you could be missing, than actually enjoying the experience. Making a character who couldn't or wouldn't use most of the best loot in the game freed me from worrying about completing quests the “best” way. I was free from making choices based on what would get me the best laser gun at the end of a story arc to making choices that would bring me satisfaction. I dove back into the wasteland with my funny-red-sneaker-wearing weirdo, and I didn't come back out until 120 hours later. Forget about chasing down Dad or following up on the main quest; I picked a random direction from the door of Vault 101 and started walking. It wasn't long before I came across an abandoned shack and a big ol' combat knife called the Stabhappy. It was like providence was telling me I was on the right track. I explored what was left of The Mall, stumbling over historic sites while trying to dodge super mutant patrols as a puny level 5 wanderer with distressingly few combat skills (landmines and re-purposed booby traps became my best friend). I got the vague sensation that I was probably supposed to end up in this area as part of some epic quest-line later in the game, but so what? I was curious, plus it was more fun having to sneak by all the mutants than it would have been to just hurl plasma at them. Much later on, I was tasked with escorting a teenager named Sticky from the child-only settlement of Little Lamplight to Big Town, where they exile all the chumps who are getting a little too old for their own good. So I did what any responsible adult would do when saddled with an annoying 16-year-old who has the mental competency of a 13-year-old: I gave him a suit of cybernetic war armor and a gigantic mini-gun. When I got him to Big Town, it seemed weird to let him wander about in his powersuit while the rest of the town's residents wore rags and were trying to defend themselves with rusty bolt-action rifles and lead pipes. So militarizing Big Town became my pet project. One of the many quirks of the Gamebryo engine Bethesda uses is the ability to reverse-pickpocket items into an NPC's possession. If you have a high enough sneak rating, you can (somehow) covertly place a flamethrower in a random NPC's pocket, and they'll equip it next time you load up the area. Same with clothes and armor. The items are persistent, so they'll stick with the characters and over time, Big Town became my own living museum of all the cool gear I couldn't or wouldn't use. Custom power armor from The Pitt DLC, named weapons like the Blackhawk magnum and Lincoln's Repeater. Big Town went from a squalid little town of sad-sack victims to the most lethally armed collection of mentally compromised teens in the wastes. That's just a sample of the kind of dumb shit I got up to. I made the Capital Wasteland my sandbox, and Bethesda provided me with all the right tools and set dressings to play in it. It is a rare and precious thing to lose yourself completely in a game, and Fallout 3 provided me with some of the most memorable and potent moments I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing. I want to feel that excitement again. Skyrim was great, but for as much fun as I had with its dragons and necromancers, a part of me was always wistful for the nuclear ashes of America circa 2277. Obsidian’s New Vegas was a good dose for keeping the shakes at bay, with some welcome mechanics that made soft-skills more important and some colorful characters (all hail “kai-sar”). But its endless brown deserts and frustratingly lethal wildlife left me cold. It felt like the game was always trying to punish me for going off the beaten trail and trying to explore it like the Capital Wasteland. I want to see what the A-team can do. I want to see what Bethesda has learned from Skyrim, what ideas it can poach from New Vegas, and what it'll leave on the cutting-room floor. I want to return to the wasteland, see what kind of stories it has left to tell, what kind of characters are still rattling around in the grave of the old world. I'm hungry for it, ready to chomp down on any scrap of news, hell, I'd be happy even for the meager crumbs of a teaser trailer, anything. It's been almost seven years since Fallout 3 came out and Bethesda has been stubbornly, frustratingly silent about the future of the series. Will the studio finally have something to say about it this GDC? Doubtful. But at this point, I have no choice but to hope.
Fallout 4 hopes photo
The wait is worse than the radioactive cannibals
GDC is here, and as is the case with any big trade show or splashy industry event, I'll be on tenterhooks waiting to hear the one piece of news I care about -- When is Fallout 4 going to happen? For years I've expected the an...

Valve in 2015 photo
Valve in 2015

Valve: Steam Link game-streaming device, controller, free Source 2, and VR in 2015

Announce ALL the things, just not Half-Life 3
Mar 03
// Jed Whitaker
Valve just announced a number of new products for 2015 along with some pricing details. (Leave it to Valve to reveal hardware with dates and pricing at the same time.) This year, the company will release: Steam Link, Steam Ma...

Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide goes all in with hectic co-op action

Mar 03 // Alessandro Fillari
Set during The End Times, Warhammer's take on the apocalypse, the world has been plunged into chaos as war breaks out, forcing the many factions and groups to take up arms and fight back. Set within the city of Ubersreik, five heroes must defend the massive metropolis from the hordes of Skaven, a race of quasi-rat creatures, that wish to sack one of the remaining bastions of the world. As a co-op action brawler, players will be able to select a class of hero and take them through several stages throughout Ubersreik. Each with their own weapons and abilities, the characters feel unique from one another. Some classes can jump into the fray, while others might be better off at a distance. The four classes that have been announced so far -- the Witch-Hunter, Imperial Soldier, Wood Elf, and Pyromage -- have an individualized backstory and arc, which unfolds as you move across the city. During my session, I got to play as the Soldier and Wood Elf, and each had their own banter and point of view regarding the End Times. [embed]288516:57596:0[/embed] In case you haven't quite picked up on it, Vermintide channels a lot of Left 4 Dead, which is actually a really good thing. Gameplay-wise, players will travel from one end of the level to other while using melee and ranged abilities to fight off waves of foes and complete objectives -- and on a narrative level, the story happens in real time. While on one hand it feels a bit more subdued and smaller in scale than what Warhammer tends to dabble in, the focus on these characters in such a smaller setting creates a greater connection to them, which was also one of Left 4 Dead's greatest strengths. I'm looking forward to exploring the city with these characters, some of whom don't seem to get along that well. As you travel though the city, you'll come across many different variations of Skaven that seek to eliminate those remaining in Ubersreik.  Often times you will come across the common types, which can be killed with a single blow but can easily overwhelm; there are tougher variants, such as the gatling rat and heavy-armor Skaven, and rats wielding poison bombs that aim to separate your group. What's impressive about these encounters is that the A.I. will randomly spawn enemies and special hordes. During my two rounds of play, the types of encounters were different, and we even got ambushed much earlier than expected. This dynamic aspect of Vermintide is very interesting, and will definitely keep repeated play exciting. As you clear levels, you'll be able to acquire loot for your characters, such as new weapons and trinkets. Each class has their own type of drops, which encourages experimentation. If you're especially adventurous, replaying stages on higher difficulties will lead to much greater rewards -- though be warned that the encounters are much more perilous and the foes are far more cunning. It's refreshing to experience a Warhammer game with a deep focus on action. While the strategy and online games were fun, I always kinda wanted a game set in the universe that allowed you to get up close and personal. Though there's definitely still much work to be done here -- what I played was in pre-alpha -- there is certainly lot for Games Workshop fans to look forward to in Vermintide.
GDC 2015 photo
Warhammer: Apocalypse Edition
I've long been an admirer of the Warhammer franchise. While a lot of people seem to put more of their attention towards the 40K universe, the high-fantasy setting of the former is so rich and features such...

GDC news photo
GDC news

Sony's virtual reality hat Morpheus coming to PlayStation 4 in 2016

Slick new GDC prototype
Mar 03
// Steven Hansen
In the last month or so, invitations to various virtual reality headset demonstrations have made up a huge chunk of my inbox. GDC is into virtual reality.  I worry someone will pull some garish box out of their bag this ...
Oxenfree photo

Oxenfree is bringing some flair to new-school adventure games

Waiting for the OlliOlli crossover...
Mar 03
// Darren Nakamura
Last year a group of former Telltale and Disney employees came together to form Night School Studio. At GDC this morning, the indie developer unveiled its first project, "supernatural teen thriller" Oxenfree. The studio's Te...

Escalator Pitch: Would you shell out for Sonic 2?

A bit of a softball, innit?
Mar 03
// Steven Hansen
Indie developers make some cool as heck games, but they're not always so great at selling them. We want to them work on their pitch game until they're at Bumgarner levels and we want to take advantage of the the horrible, ho...
Unity 5 photo
Unity 5

Unity 5 shows how to properly sell a game engine

This image is the best
Mar 03
// Jordan Devore
Epic unveiled its new free-to-use (with eventual royalties) pricing model for Unreal Engine 4 this week during the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, while Unity launched the new iteration of its engine, Unity 5, wi...

The Flock is an intense, scary game of flashlight tag

Mar 02 // Alessandro Fillari
In The Flock, you play as a hunter living amongst other hunters in a desolate, ruined city. One of the hunters soon discovers an artifact imbued with light that transforms his gangly and horrific appearance into something different. But the other hunters feel threatened by the artifact, and wish to take it for themselves. With a single hunter on the run with the artifact, the others must chase him down before the wielder can discover the secrets that the ancient tool possesses. Much like the recent Evolve, The Flock focuses on asymmetrical multiplayer where one player battles against others. The wielder of the light must make his way through the ruins activating ancient relics to strengthen the artifact, all the while evading the hunters. Though his movement and agility is limited, the light will keep him protected, and any hunter who's touched by the light's reach will be scorched to a cinder. Unfortunately, it's only effective within line of sight. If the hunters get the jump on the wielder from behind, where it is most vulnerable, then it's all over. [embed]288476:57585:0[/embed] Despite their vulnerability to the light, the hunters possess an assortment of abilities to use against the rogue player. Hunters are very fast and make great use of their jumping and sprinting abilities to reach areas the lone player cannot. Moreover, if the hunters remain still, they will turn to statues, making them immune to the light. In addition to this, they can even make duplicates of their statue form to create decoys and blindside the wielder. Initially, I found it very difficult to make any progress against the wielder, as the light's reach goes far -- it's deadly in the hands of a skilled player. Fortunately, my team of hunters made use of the environment to catch him by surprise. It was great getting the best of him just as he was about to clear the level. The Flock is a neat take on traditional horror titles. I didn't really think horror and multiplayer could mix well, but I found that this title was able to retain the best of both genres.
GDC 2015 photo
Three versus one in the dark
With so many horror titles out, it's difficult to keep things interesting for players. While some focus on throwing countless monsters at you, others seek to make players feel nearly powerless against a limited number of foes...

Megaton Rainfall is superhero action on an epic scale

Mar 02 // Alessandro Fillari
[embed]287535:57294:0[/embed]I's up to you as the Earth's sole superhero to defend cities against an alien invasion. As the mothership sends out waves of flying drones and attack ships, you'll have to take advantage of enemy weak points to inflict massive damage, all while keeping the cities protected. Though the hero is invincible, civilization is not. The health bar of the city is displayed, showing current damage levels done by the aliens and any collateral damage done by the player. If the bar is depleted, the city is leveled and the invaders succeed. One thing that was very apparent was the sense of scale. Right from the beginning, our hero is floating above the Earth's atmosphere, where he can pinpoint danger from around the world. Once he's needed, he rushes down to the planet's surface, a la Superman, and faces the invading forces head-on. Keep in mind, this was all seamless and featured no load times whatsoever. As you race towards the planet's surface, the terrain begins to magnify and the detail of the land comes into focus. It was immensely satisfying being able to move so freely and quickly, and players will be able to explore the Earth in their own way. Moreover, Alfonso Del Cerro even plans to have players move to different planets and satellites across the universe. In some cases, you'll have to confront the alien forces in space or on the Moon and Mars. It's a real wonder how one person was able to develop such a grand game on his own, but Cerro cites procedural content as one of the big ways to make up for the lack of manpower. I do realize that the word ambitious is thrown around a lot, and it's often used lightly. With that said, I really found the sense of scale very impressive. Moreover, Megaton Rainfall's approach to superhero action, where you're more protector than warrior, is refreshing. Hopefully we can learn more about this unique superhero game soon. I'd love to see more of what this universe holds.
GDC 2015 photo
A one-man Earth Defense Force
Last month, we got a tease from an upcoming indie action title that will put players in the role of a superhero during an alien invasion. The trailer certainly inspired a lot of interest, as it was more somber and earnest, no...

Mushroom 11 is a very different game than we saw in 2014

Mar 02 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]288471:57584:0[/embed] It’s not always easy creating the shapes that Mushroom 11 demands, but the learning process is always useful. This is a much better designed game than was shown at PAX East 2014. Following one of the cardinal design rules, Mushroom 11 builds on the mechanics it taught earlier. A prime example lies within the single boss that we saw. Remember that aforesaid boulder ramp? Chapter four's boss could only be defeated by creating ramps to launch stones at the monster’s several weak points. It was a stressful situation that would’ve been frustrating to learn on-the-fly. Figuring it out under tensionless circumstances and implementing it later made the boss a challenging yet fair fight. Speaking with Untame’s Itay Keren, the care and thought put into Mushroom 11 was immediately obvious. Keren told us that each boss ended up taking almost a month to put into the game, a figure that the production schedule hadn’t necessarily allotted for. However, Keren was adamant that the end of each chapter should serve as a test to prove that the player took away skills from the entirety of the level. Truth be told, Mushroom 11 was an incredible game when we saw it almost a year ago, but it felt a bit like a proof of concept. Now, we get to see it intermingled with classic elements of game design. Mushroom 11 was neat before, but now it's shaping up brilliantly.
Mushroom 11 preview photo
And that's a very good thing
We haven’t gotten a look at Untame’s Mushroom 11 since we gave it a Best of PAX East award in 2014. It captured our hearts at the Boston show, with its approach to kinetic energy proving absolutely entrancing...

Free Unreal Engine 4 photo
Free Unreal Engine 4

Go build something: Unreal Engine 4 is free to use

That's not a real room
Mar 02
// Jordan Devore
Epic Games is no longer charging developers a monthly subscription for Unreal Engine 4. The engine is now free for anyone to use. Well, free to a point -- "When you ship a game or application, you pay a 5% royalty on gross re...
GDC 2015 photo
GDC 2015

Valve to give a talk about physics at GDC on March 3 at 3 PM

Should be a good talk
Mar 02
// Jed Whitaker
Sergiy Migdalskiy, a programmer at Valve, will be giving a talk at GDC this week at the start of the THIRD month on the THIRD day at 3 PM. According to Sergiy's LinkedIn he has worked on games such as Counter-Strike: Glo...
AIPD GDC trailer photo
AIPD GDC trailer

Beautiful UE4-powered shooter AIPD coming to GDC

This GDC trailer is chock-full of glowey, shooty twin-stick goodness
Feb 27
// Rob Morrow
Artificial Intelligence Police Department, or AIPD for short, is an upcoming top-down, twin-stick shooter from Frankfurt-based studio Blazing Badger. It recently released this luminous new trailer for its debu...
Liege trailer photo
Liege trailer

Liege is like chess, but with more face-stabbery

It's looking badass in this new GDC/PAX East trailer
Feb 25
// Rob Morrow
Coda Games' sole developer John Rhee just uploaded a revealing new pre-expo teaser for his Kickstarter-funded SRPG trilogy, Liege. In it, we get to see the most recent gameplay footage of the elegant, turn-based/tactica...
Valve VR hardware photo
Valve VR hardware

Valve is showing its 'SteamVR hardware system' next week

New Steam Machines and the final Steam Controller, too
Feb 23
// Jordan Devore
Here I was expecting to find out about Steam Machines and the finished Steam Controller at next week's Game Developers Conference -- sure, that's fine -- but the company also has a surprise in store for the San Francisco show...
Steam machines photo
Steam machines

We might find out more about Steam machines in the very near future

Scheduled to be at GDC
Feb 12
// Brett Makedonski
Valve isn't communicating its plans for its fabled Steam machines all that well. Who could forget CES 2014's anticipated event that basically resulted in Gabe Newell pointing to a list of names and then leaving? We've known a...
Mistwalker photo

Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi to receive GDCA Lifetime Achievement Award

I think I'm due next year
Feb 03
// Steven Hansen
Hironobu Sakaguchi, creator of Final Fantasy and founder of Mistwalker (Last Story) will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 15th annual Game Developers Choice Awards in March. The award show will be strea...
Butt Sniffin Pugs photo
Butt Sniffin Pugs

Alt. control exhibition at GDC features Butt Sniffin Pugs

Real-time butt sniff may give you poop skills
Jan 17
// Jonathan Holmes
A lot of people assume that "weird indie games" all want to use "interactive poetry" to speak to "the human condition" by using "experimental gameplay techniques" to do things like "evoke the emotional experience of repeated...
IGF 2015 photo
IGF 2015

2015 Independent Games Festival finalists named

A bunch of cool games are getting awards soon
Jan 07
// Steven Hansen
We're a couple months away from March's Game Developers Conference, where everyone has to travel to where I live (uh, the city, not my home) and I just get to roll out of a nice non-hotel bed and make my way to appointments. ...
Please stop photo
Please stop

Armored Warfare is a videogame about armored warfare

Moratorium on the words 'armor' and 'war' in game titles
May 29
// Steven Hansen
Advanced Armored Warface Frame Fighter is the new tank game from Obsidian, which I guess means it plays a lot like Resident Evil 1-3, except that it's free-to-play and has a less good name. Armored Warfare is so vague yet st...

A head in the poles: Project Totem is platforming fun

Apr 11 // Steven Hansen
Project Totem (Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developers: Press PlayPublisher: Microsoft StudiosRelease: Fall 2014 Project Totem is called Project Totem because you play as severed rungs in a totem pole. Simple enough. But you plays as rungs, plural, with an 's.' That's how plurals are made. In some languages. Anyway. That's where there's a nice twist, as you control two totems simultaneously. The minimalist style doesn't default to pixel art or faux 8-bit. Rather, the inspiration stems from graphic design, so expect menus full pleasing colors and nice triangles. I hear blue is calming. The gameplay, on the other hand, owes itself to some classic design and a few contemporaries; for example, doing what Super Meat Boy still deserves credit for, it gets you back into the action fast post death. And unless you're super talented and handsome and great at cooking like me, you may be dying often. Sometimes you're meant to as fast paced portions are designed to mess with you and trip you up on routine movements. It's not broken or malicious. It just plays on how we can get psyched out in platformers before muscle memory helps us breeze through.Anticipate jumps that aren't there. In that sense, Project Totem is a bit like two different games. Much of the first run through involves learning how to work the puzzles. You start with consistent movement on your totems, making jumps in time, but alternating terrain occasionally loses perfect reflection and you have to be aware of where they both are. It only gets more complex. There are colored gates that only the same colored totem can get through requiring a button press to swap spots, sometimes quick and often. There are also bits of magnetism that will attract or repel totems, which go beyond walking on the ceiling. Often you have to jump large gaps with momentum, repel the totem away, and attract it back before you're carried into a hazard. Sometimes you're oscillating back and forth for a while. You'll also get stackable totems of the same color, double jumps, and a couple other abilities. Once you can nail the levels as puzzles, you can work on the equally satisfying prospect of speed running and time trials to propel yourself on the leaderboards. All runs earn you totems that stack on your personal, growing pole. And you can compare your pole to all your friends' and see whose is bigger. But it's not just whose is bigger. The better the run -- faster times and fewer deaths -- the better your totem reward. It's the difference between a blinging totem and a piece of plywood. There will also be a daily challenge wherein one winner takes home a special totem piece. The team also hopes to implement ghost data to race against directly, but doesn't want to spoil puzzles. Leaderboards will be there at the least. There's a separate co-op mode -- local only -- available at the onset where you'll both control a couple totems and have to work together to get through levels. Communication and coordination is key. Or telepathy.   I fell into Project Totem's rhythm quickly and happily. All those years of ill-advised multitasking and split attention paid off. Who says you can't text and drive?
Preview: Totem photo
Can't beat that headline
Press Play proved it can make a platformer with Max and the Curse of Brotherhood, but it wasn't meant to test your muscle memory and invite speed running. It was a colorful adventure with some charm and plenty of stopping for...

Preview: Armello combines board games, trading card games, strategy RPG play

Apr 08 // Dale North
[embed]273021:53321:0[/embed] Armello takes the challenge and deck building you'd find in a trading card game and puts it on a game board where movement is something like you'd find in a strategy role-playing game. Four clans, represented by animals, move across the hex game board to conquer the board and take the castle. The story has you representing one of these clan -- Rabbit, Bear, Wolf, and Rat -- as their hero, working to save the land and take over following the death of the King. I was shown a stunning cinematic built by League of Geeks to bring players into Armello's world. It was of the quality you'd expect to see in a high-profile console RPG, set to some very nice music. You'll see some of that in the trailer above. Armello is a digital board game, which means you'll be rolling virtual dice and moving digital pawns. But movement across its hex game board can lead to encounters, which brings players into the RPG side of things, as does the ability to progress through skill trees and modify loadouts.  Die rolls play into the combat system -- they determine how you'll be able to attack or defend in each encounter. And for the card side, skills and other modifiers can be played from a deck during battle.  This combo battle system may sound complicated, but it flowed well in the time I spent with an early build. Flicks and taps have you moving through battles in a way that's easy to understand; it only took a few rounds before I felt like I was getting into Armello's groove. While I didn't have time to delve into the cards' text and abilities, trying out a few showed that they were at least easy to use in battle. Armello seems to be the type of game that is really easy to get into, but has plenty of depth to keep you tuned in. A day/night cycle changes strategy, keeping players on their toes. The night brings out the baddies in the forests, while day has the castle guard on defense. Each of the game boards' hexes are filled with different types of terrain that change with the day cycle, which makes careful navigation important. It'll take more time with the game to make a call on how successful League of Geeks has been with their mashup battle system, but I can at least say for now that it mixes together some of my favorite types of games, and that I'm excited to spend some time with it on my own. Or with a friend: Armello supports both local and online multiplayer as well as single player. I can also say that Armello is stunning. League of Geeks is a collective of talent, staffed with veterans from popular board and video games. What's interesting is that they're all paid according to their level of contribution to the project. Staff working on Armello also worked on games like Darksiders, Bioshock, Puzzle Quest, Pokemon, Warhammer, and more. They've created a world and characters that are very easy on the eyes. Expect lush greenery, striking lighting, and detailed animations -- this is a very pretty game. And keep in mind that I saw it on an iPad. Imagine how much better the PC version might be. [embed]273021:53323:0[/embed] League of Geeks has launched a Kickstarter campaign to bring their core team in on full-time work, as well as bring the game beyond the planned iPad release to PC, Mac, and Linux. They're also looking to bring singer-songwriter Lisa Gerrard (Gladiator, Black Hawk Down) on as a second composer, working alongside Michael Allen. They're hoping to raise $200,000 AUD to get this going. Armello's Kickstarter is live now and will run for 30 days.
Armello photo
Kickstarter launched
I met League of Geeks' Trent Kusters at GDC a few weeks back. We just missed each other at Bitsummit just a week before, but I'm glad we were able to finally meet up as I would have missed seeing a really cool game.  Kus...

To Leave is one of the neatest games I played during GDC

Apr 03 // Steven Hansen
[embed]272809:53244:0[/embed] To Leave (PC [previewed], Mac, Linux, PS4, Vita)Developer: Freaky CreationsPublisher: Freaky CreationsRelease date: 2014 To Leave is artsy, forward in its metaphor. The main character, Harm, is attempting to get out of a rut, out of a harmful life. The way to do this is to take his flying door and get the heck out of his bog of despair. But escape is hard because the door is fragile and if you hit something, you get sent all the way back to the beginning of the game, the bottom of the city Harm lives in. The progression is glorious. This isn't Super Meat Boy sort of rapid repetition that encourages white knuckle runs as fun. These white knuckle runs can send you back to the beginning of the game. Now, there are checkpoints of sort in the world. You're not replaying the whole game after each death, but it's a tense set up and that sees you failing early and often. And then you keep on keeping on, getting better at wresting yourself from the slop. If you want to ignore the metaphor, the base game is exciting to play. If you run out of Drive (a gauge filled by collecting those blue spirit things), you enter an extra atmospheric Hopeless mode with weird music and sludgy controls. Otherwise, you're clinging to your door, avoiding obstacles with the sort of floaty controls. And enemy patterns don't just reset at respawns so you can't just muscle memory or power your way through levels. I jumped forward in the game to a harder level and just compulsively died and started over, trying to run before walking.  To Leave is also artistic. Just take a look at the screenshots. Nothing is tiled and art isn't reused. There are a number of different themed sections as well. "We want to show Ecuadorian craftsmanship," Palacios explains at my surprise. I couldn't quite put my finger on why the game looked so different, despite it's interesting art style, until I realized. And all those benevolent looking stone faces are cool as heck. Then there's the music, which is a huge focus. You can check out some of the samples right here. Even through a laptop's speakers in a semi-trafficked area, the score helped to immerse me in the world. I just wanted to keep listening to it. GDC is always refreshing and playing To Leave was a perfect example of why I love it. The mechanics are tight, the artistry is interesting, and the angle feels new.
Preview: To Leave photo
Ecuador's first indie game
GDC is full of neat games. There are sentai management sims. Body building cats. Hyper Light Drifter. But one of the neatest games I played during GDC is To Leave, which creative director Estefano Palacios says is the first i...

Rhythm Doctor photo
Rhythm Doctor

Have you played Rhythm Doctor?

You should
Mar 27
// Dale North
How have I missed Rhythm Doctor? We gave it a brief mention last year, but I guess I missed that. The first I heard of it was last week at GDC. Walking past the IGF booth, I saw a guy with headphones on, bobbing his head while mashing a huge button. Curious, I walked over. I saw an on-screen cardiograph and a little samurai bobbing its little head. I was hooked from there. 

World of Tanks in 2014: Mobile MMO, new PC engine, console updates coming

Mar 27 // Dale North
World of Tanks Blitz Mobile free-to-play MMO World of Tanks Blitz is looking great. Kislyi told us that they have a lot of work left to do, but they at least have the look down, as the demo I saw had iPad play looking a lot like its PC big brother. And yes, it is a full-scale MMO, and not just a stand-alone mobile game. It offers 7-versus-7 play in smaller maps, but it's otherwise a match on every other level to the PC version. Kislyi said that the average play time is about 7 minutes, allowing for players to jump into a quick match easily. They're still in the testing phase, but they're at a point where this mobile version is a near visual match to what the PC version looked like a couple of years ago. It looks like a high-quality console game already. Kislyi says that they have high hopes for this mobile game as part of their expansion. As of now there is no release date set. World of Tanks Blitz has just entered closed beta; over 150,000 signed up to get in on the action. World of Tanks visual overhaul World of Tanks will see big changes this year with updates that will change its look and feel completely -- a complete redesign. Kislyi talked up brand new graphics engine that will show the tanks in a new light, with greatly increased detail and realism. Weapon fire will be volumetric. Along with this comes a new server-based physics engine that will allow for fully destructible environments. I saw a video example where a tank plowed through a fortification, mowing through it like it was made of hay, with individual bricks flying every direction. It was awesome. Console World of Tanks will keep on keeping on  Kislyi told us that World of Tanks: Xbox 360 edition is doing very well for them, despite being a niche, free-to-play PVP historical tank battle game. They launched about a month ago on Xbox 360. While they're not ready for an official statement, from their data things are looking up for this console expansion. "For Xbox, we are very positive it will grow," Kislyi told Destructoid. "Money wise, it's already economically surplus, so it's good."  He says that the free-to-play model is working very well on Xbox 360. A small percentage are paying something, but the rest are playing for free, enjoying the game.  As for an Xbox One version, while Kislyi says that there's nothing to announce now, he says he'd want to get their first foray on consoles just right before expanding.  The first patch for World of Tanks: Xbox 360 will come sometime in April.    [embed]272476:53140:0[/embed] Wargaming Grand Finals The League Grand Finals are set for April 4-6 in Warsaw, Poland. Fourteen teams will go at it for their piece of the $300,000 prize pool, with members from Russia, North America, Europe, and Asia. These teams were narrowed down from about 3,000 starting out. "This is such an amazing new industry on its own," Kislyi said.  We discussed how other games before World of Tanks proved that competitive gaming is a good business to be in.  Kislyi told us that he doesn't feel like there's any crossover between his and other popular online games, like League of Legends. But he all does feel like they're headed toward the same goal together.  "It's happening now. It's a new thing. History is being written as we speak," he continued. "We also can claim authorship of just one chapter." You'll be able to watch the Grand Finals on next week.
Our chat with Victor Kislyi
I met with Wargaming boss Victor Kislyi last week in a dark, quiet, private meeting room on the GDC expo floor on an early morning following what was probably the biggest party of the week. The chief executive looked surprisi...

Virtual reality photo
Virtual reality

Watch Sony's full Project Morpheus presentation

That Shuhei Yoshida is such a charmer
Mar 26
// Jordan Devore
Sony announced its take on modern-day virtual-reality gaming at the Game Developers Conference and that presentation is now viewable in full above. Consider this a little something extra (or should I say "a lot extra") to su...

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