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Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition brings the gang back together

May 18 // Alessandro Fillari
Now this isn't the first time that the original DMC series has received the Special Edition treatment. A year following the release of 2005's Devil May Cry 3, Capcom released an enhanced version that made a number additions and tweaks -- most notably the inclusion of a playable Vergil with his own moves and levels to play through. Now with the release Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition coming, nearly eight years after the original, the creative minds at Capcom sought to rekindle the same enthusiasm found in Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition for this supped up re-release. And much like the recent Definitive Edition for DmC, they looked their well-received PC release as the base."There was content in the PC version of the original DMC4 that was not possible for consoles at the time due to hardware limitations. We have always wanted to provide these features to more DMC fans, most notably Legendary Dark Knight Mode," said DMC producer Takashi Fujii. "We wanted to provide a good action game that really gives the player a lot to sink their teeth into. With the features I’ve mentioned previously, and the addition of three new playable characters we’ve designed, I think fans will be very happy with all the content we’re offering in DMC4 Special Edition. With the hardware capabilities introduced in the new console generation, it proved this was the right time to revisit DMC4 and provide all of these features that we had been thinking about."Back when Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition was revealed last year, we all got a nice tease showing that Vergil was going to be making a return. But who would've thought that DMC's leading ladies, Trish and Lady, were going to get in on the action as well? While the ladies were already present in the core DMC4 story, Vergil's campaign in the Special Edition features his own unique story taking place many years before the events of DMC3 and 4. In addition to these new characters are several tweaks and upgrades made to the core game. Such as higher texture and graphical quality, auto-saves, rebalanced orb and proud soul economy, official trophy support across all platforms (take that early generation seven architecture!), and also some tweaks to puzzles -- such as the infamous dice game. It's a pretty meaty package. You might as well call it "Super Devil May Cry 4." The larger cast was a way for Capcom to offer variety in a convincing and fun way that stayed true to its combat heritage."Everyone plays Devil May Cry games a bit differently, and so with Devil May Cry 4 Special Edition in particular, it was important to us to give players more ways to enjoy the gameplay experience," explained the producer. "It was important that these characters each had distinctive combat styles, so fighting a boss you may have fought as Nero, for example, will feel very different from doing so with Lady or Vergil." In the two hours I spent with the game last month, it was quite clear that a lot of work went into the new characters. Though of course they're still going through the same areas and fighting the same bosses from the original game, that didn't really bother me all that much after getting settled with the new characters. Any fan will tell you that the combat is the crux of the series, and the new characters offered a lot depth and complexity that are totally unique to them -- which really set themselves apart from both Dante and Nero. And yes, for those who've gotten really comfortable with Dante and Nero over the last seven and half years, you'll be please to know that they're largely untouched (aside from general gameplay tweaks). "No changes have been made to Nero or Dante," said the producer rather bluntly and with the utmost clarity. So please, use high-level tricks such as guard flying and intertia to your heart's content. And with the sharing functionality on PS4 and Xbox One, showing off your high-flying antics and finger acrobatics will be much easier than before.For those who read my long preview last month, you could tell that I was quite smitten with this title. Devil May Cry is easily my favorite Capcom IP, and seeing it return this year with two really cool titles was a total joy for me. Checking out the new characters in DMC4SE was a complete blast, and I can't wait to dive back in from the beginning. I'm telling you guys, Trish and Lady are not to be messed with. Vergil's got some serious moves, and his concentration mechanic is a total game-changer, but these ladies are total bad-asses. I cannot wait to see some high-level exhibitionist videos later once people get them in their hands.With the release next month just after E3, you'll have the opportunity to get some quality time with the gang again. We all remember that tease at the end of DMC4 with Dante, Lady, and Trish teaming up to battle more demons, so it's definitely exciting to see that it's finally coming to fruition. So don't let this slip past you. If you've been screaming for a chance to return to these wonderfully goofy characters in this over the top world, you finally got it.And by the way, be sure to check out Capcom's weekly twitch livestream on Wednesdays for sessions with DMC4: Special Edition  by Capcom staff.
Devil May Cry photo
Capcom Producer talks revitalizing DMC4
In case you missed it, Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition is now a thing. Following up on their release of the excellent DmC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition (seriously, it's great), Capcom are readying their second hit o...

Adam Tierney and Mariel Cartwright on the evolution of Til Morning's Light

May 17 // Jonathan Holmes
Tell us about the origins of Til Morning’s Light. Where did the concept come from and how did you two get involved? Adam: It started as an original WayForward pitch that Mariel and I teamed up on 5 or 6 years ago. In fact, I think it might have been the first project we worked on together. Mariel: I had just gotten started working with WayForward at the time, as one of my earliest game industry gigs. I do a lot of art for WayForward’s game pitches, and this was one of the first ones I did art on! I always thought it was a cool concept so it was great to see it come back after all this time. Five years is a long time. What changed about the concept between that initial document and the game you ended up making? Adam: Not as much as you'd think. From the beginning, the main character was always a teenage girl named Erica, locked in a haunted house, trying to survive overnight and escape by morning. The enemies were different - just bugs and rats and bats, from what I recall. And the concept was originally envisioned as a 2D sideview game (like the original Clocktower), whereas the final game is fully 3D. But thematically, it didn't change much. Mariel: Yeah, surprisingly, from my end the biggest thing visually that changed about Erica was her outfit. It was actually fun to revisit just a few drawings I did back then and really try to bring that character to life. Can you talk about each of your roles on the game? Mariel: I was the lead concept artist.  I designed Erica, the NPCs, and most of the creatures under Adam’s direction. I also storyboarded all the cutscenes in the game, and did a few bit illustrations you’ll see in the game. Adam: I wrote and directed Til Morning's Light, and led the design team. I basically oversaw all creative aspects of the production, working with all the artists and coders as they implemented everything. How would you describe Erica? What did you hope to accomplish with her? Adam: I've always loved the standard setup of a young female protagonist in horror games and films. In the original pitch, we had a very clear visual for Erica (from Mariel's art), but she didn't have much of a defined personality back then. After the game was signed with Amazon Game Studios, we came up with the idea of making her very meek and timid at the start of the game, then slowly evolving her to be more aggressive and powerful over the course of her adventure, so that the girl who came out at the end would feel like a completely different character. Mariel: I think Erica is someone that a lot of girls can relate to— smart, self-aware, but shy and afraid to stand up for herself. Adam: Stephanie Sheh (who voices Erica) really brought Erica to life as sort of a cute dork. Once we heard her take on the character, all remaining dialog was written with that personality in mind. So Erica got a little more hammy and sarcastic as production went along. In what ways does Erica “evolve” over the course of the game? Adam: In terms of VO and story, she begins the game timid and easily-frightened. Her wit and sarcasm is still there, but it's less confident. As the game progresses and she has to defeat all these insane bosses and creatures, Erica gets more and more frustrated and aggressive, so that by the end of the game she's the strongest person in the house. It was a lot of fun to build a story around the idea of your main character slowly evolving over the course of 12 story hours. Mariel: She also changed visually as well - starting with just her normal outfit at the beginning and becoming more tattered, dirty and messy as she progresses through the house. It’s a cool way to evolve her both mentally and physically and show how far she’s come. How would you compare Erica to other WayForward characters? Adam: She's much more subtle than most of WayForward's heroines. With characters like Shantae, Patricia Wagon, and Kebako (Cat Girl) you have very loud, action-packed, dynamic personalities that hit the ground running. With Til Morning's Light, there were still the usual WayForward sensibilities (especially in the visual design and gameplay), but we wanted a very slow build of the characters, and a slow reveal of plot points, with more emphasis on emotional highs and lows than we typically include in our game stories. Mariel: Yeah, Erica is less cartoon-y and more relatable of a character, I think. I definitely I see a bit of myself in her and I’m sure many others will too. Is Til Morning’s Light a “horror” game? How scary is this thing? Adam: Most people would consider it a horror game, I think. "Spooky" might be a slightly more accurate term. There are lots of unsettling, creepy moments, but there's no real blood or gore. If you've ever seen the film Coraline - which is kind of a film for teens, although there is still real risk and death - we're tonally pretty close to that, but maybe a little bit older and darker. I'd say our bosses are probably the scariest thing in the game - even though they're each charismatic (in their own ways), they're also a tremendous, deadly threat to Erica. What’s the gameplay like? Is it a mix of action and puzzling? Adam: Yeah, the game is equal parts exploration, combat, and puzzling. You explore the mansion grounds, which spans over 100 unique locations. Advancing through the game is very lock-and-key driven (in typical horror genre fashion). Combat is rhythm-based, using a touch input system of taps and swipes that get more complicated and challenging as you advance. And puzzling involves a little of everything - deciphering clues, finding pieces, combining and manipulating objects - everything you've come to expect in this genre. Mariel: Erica is a normal girl that’s been thrown into a crazy situation, so she doesn’t have an arsenal of weapons to blow up her enemies. She instead has to rely on what she has, which is basically just herself, so the combat and puzzles were designed around that. Are there any unique features in the game you can talk about? Adam: Most of the ghosts you encounter in the game are friendly. As a general rule in this game, ghosts are good and creatures are bad (and it's explained why through the story). But occasionally you'll come across a ghost that's lost and attempts to flee from Erica. These moments provide a game-long secondary objective to locate and essentially rescue all the 'lost souls' in the game (ghosts without memory of who they are or where they come from). This process involves first revealing the ghost by using the camera on Erica's phone (a mode that's enhanced in the Fire phone version of the game), then after the ghost is revealed, chasing it around the area until Erica absorbs it. Performing this process on all lost souls in the game yields a very special reward. What’s the story like in this game? And how did that come together? Adam: As I mentioned, it's really all about Erica. Although there are over a dozen speaking characters in the story, the story revolves around her. And even the types of secondary characters we included were done as a way to highlight different aspects of Erica (romance, confidence, being a child, being an adult, etc). I'd say the story legitimately runs the gamut of being very funny at times, then very unsettling, then very depressing, and ultimately a (hopefully) very satisfying conclusion. Mariel: I did all the storyboards, so it was important to really show how she changed from scene to scene. Everything from her expressions, posture, and appearance changed as the story progresses, so I’m hoping people really relate to that. Adam: The story was developed between WayForward and Amazon Game Studios. As a publisher, they are very collaborative and tend to assign 'experts' in each area of the game. So rather than me working on the game's story with only producers, they had a story expert who would go back and forth with me on plot, characters, and drafts of the script. The process was very exciting, and I think the story and dialog we ended up with is more developed than if we'd just put it together on our own. The game is getting a release on iOS, Fire phone, and tablets. Were there any challenges in making a game like this for mobile devices? Adam: Not really challenges as much as things we needed to keep in mind. Thematically, there are a lot of complex actions Erica performs in the game. But we wanted the game's controls to essentially support single-touch throughout the adventure. So boiling down a fairly complex, traditional horror game design to a handful of single screen taps took some real thought. The combat, as I mentioned before, is rhythm-based, and this came from us experimenting with a variety of different approaches early on. Initially, we tried combat that was directly-controlled (hit for hit), but to get that feeling good on a mobile device, we had to essentially overpower Erica (which worked against the game being a horror title). So, we ultimately went with a minigame-like rhythm interface, similar to Buddha Finger or Elite Beat Agents. Once we did that, we were able to have tight, challenging combat, but still keep Erica as only a semi-confident combatant. How is TML different from other action-adventure games offered on the iOS and Fire devices? Adam: First and foremost, it's a really meaty game. I think gamers will be surprised by just how much content is here - story, characters, locations, secrets, battles, etc. It feels like a console experience shrunk down for mobile devices, rather than the more bite-sized adventures you often see on mobile. There also doesn't seem to be a tremendous amount of deep horror games on mobile devices. There are a few that attempt this – Amazon Game Studios just shipped another great horror game, Lost Within, on mobile devices a few weeks ago. But overall, I think most publishers and developers don't attempt the genre on mobile because they doubt the possibility of something being creepy and immersive on a tiny screen. Hopefully Til Morning's Light will go toward proving that these types of games are very possible, and work well, on mobile devices.  How has working with Amazon on this game been? Adam: Amazon Game Studios has been a dream to work with. They're very hands on, but at the same time never interfered with the process or put up walls. I think their primary goal is to understand the kind of game that the developer is envisioning and then do everything they can to help realize that vision. Whether we were tackling story or combat or puzzling, I don't recall ever getting any mandates or notes I disagreed with (which as publisher, would be completely within their rights to do). They just sought to fully understand what this game was all about then use any and all expertise they had available to help make it as great as possible. I look forward to working with them on another project in the future. Were there any previous games in particular that influenced your work on Til Morning’s Light? Mariel: Oh man, I love horror games— Silent Hill, Clock Tower, Resident Evil, Fatal Frame — with a soft spot for ones with female protagonists, like Haunting Ground. I love stories where a normal girl is thrown into a terrifying situation and has to fight her way out, so I tried to channel that into Erica. Adam: I've loved horror games and films ever since I was a kid, so I'm sure it all had a subtle influence on this game. My project previous to Til Morning's Light was a Silent Hill title, which is my favorite game series. So SH fans might note some similarities in this game. The same goes for Resident Evil, Luigi's Mansion, Castlevania, Metroid - anything creepy with room-by-room progression.  Who’s the target audience for this game? Adam: Core gamers, the same people enjoying the best games on PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, and Steam PC right now. From the beginning, Amazon Game Studios let us know that this product should appeal primarily to core gamers, which is why Til Morning's Light is a very robust, console-like experience. Obviously we tailored the controls to what works best for mobile devices and tweaked some of our design implementations based on how people enjoy mobile games. But the goal was generally to create something very substantial and immersive. At the same time, there's no real blood or gore in the game. So although it can get pretty dark and unsettling and tense at times, younger gamers who aren't easily frightened should also find the game appropriate to play. Anything else you want to let our readers know about Til Morning’s Light? Mariel: I’ve wanted to be part of a horror game for a long time, so it was awesome to be given the opportunity to work on Til Morning’s Light. I can’t wait ’til it’s out so everyone can see what we put together! Adam: This is the most personal game I've ever worked on, and the talent on this team was some of the best that WayForward's ever put together. I can't wait for gamers and horror fans to check the game out, and hopefully it resonates with you all the same way it did with us.
Til Morning's Light photo
Skullgirls and WayForward devs speak
[Til Morning's Light is a new horror adventure title from WayForward and Amazon Game Studios, bringing together talent from titles such as Aliens: Infestation, Skullgirls, and... Sailor Moon? We've got a v...

Sega's Thunder Blade makes a fierce return in the 3D Classics Series

May 13 // Alessandro Fillari
Originally released in 1987, Thunder Blade brings players to the helm of a heavily armed attack helicopter as they battle waves of foes in tanks, jets, and battleships across a variety of locations. Much like the other Sega offerings of its time, the story is kept light in favor of offering accessible and fast arcade-style gameplay. You're the good guy, everyone else is bad -- shoot them. Though unlike most other shoot-'em-up titles, Thunder Blade features a unique take on perspective, as the action will transition from an overhead angle to the over-the-shoulder look similar to Space Harrier during key sections of the stage. This dynamic switch of perspective made it a welcome fit for the 3D remaster. "We felt that this point of view was extremely well suited for a stereoscopic 3D conversion," said producer Yosuke Okunari. "When we went to actually build the game out in 3D, we found that it gained a very unique sense of actually being suspended in their air, and was even more impactful than the original game. This same thing happened with 3D Galaxy Force II, where by implementing stereoscopic 3D, the game's visual view point style transcended in to its final form, you could say." Thunder Blade has made the transition quite well, and the new hardware has done wonders for the gameplay. The frame rate is rock solid, and the controls for the 3DS are super sharp and make controlling the attack chopper feel very accurate. The left stick controls movement and altitude, while both shoulder buttons control speed (increase and decrease). Though the 3DS is a far cry from the control scheme found on the original arcade release -- which featured a flight stick and a special chair that sought to emulate the cockpit of a helicopter -- I can safely say that 3D Thunder Blade is a fine port, and the action still kept me on my toes during the hectic battles. Much like the other 3D Classic titles, Thunder Blade makes exquisite use out of the new 3D visuals and hardware. One of the most striking elements is its depth of view during altering perspectives, and the new 3D visuals do well to enhance the view and sense of movement during the action. Though the draw distances unfortunately haven't been improved, I was still quite impressed with how the visuals sharpened up. Interestingly enough, the transition to 3D meant having to design the new visuals around the new perspectives independently, and layering them on top of one another. "For this version, we had to implement 3D separately for each of these three types of scenes," said the producer. "The boss stages were particularly difficult. The original game actually had preset depths. Even more so than some of the Genesis games, there were a number of situations where we wouldn't really have to worry about if we left them in 2D, suddenly [having] paradoxical situations when we put them into 3D." "Thunder Blade has three types of gameplay for every stage. The first are scenes that are from the top-down, which allow you to fully appreciate and enjoy changing your helicopter’s altitude. The second are scenes that are 'over the shoulder,' which are reminiscent of After Burner II. The last are the boss battles, where you are not able to change your altitude but you are placed into a forced-scroll situation where you can control your speed and progression. There are no other games that allow you to experience these three types of gameplay all in a single game." Though they were keen on keeping the 3D remaster as it was with the original title, they did implement some new features -- both out of necessity and the desire to include new content with the original game. As some areas didn't take to the new 3D visuals too well, such as shadows glitching out and boss battles resulting in odd bugs, they had to be cut in order to preserve the experience. But in order to make up for this, they implemented a stage that's brand new to the original Thunder Blade. Okunari stated that the new level will be consistent with the rest of the game and really offer an exciting finish. "The new stage feels natural and uses the graphical style of the era, all while taking advantage of the stereoscopic 3D to deliver a scene where you flying into the center of a base, reminiscent of the final Death Star scene in Return of the Jedi. The boss has a really awesome background to it as well, so I encourage everyone to check it out." Not only that, there's the new Arrange mode which is unlocked after completing the arcade mode. In Arrange Mode, players will control an alternate helicopter with different weapons and tackle stages that have some additions to them. While the the original arcade mode is exciting, the extra content goes above and beyond what I expected. I was pretty damn pleased with how 3D Thunder Blade turned out. It helped to scratch that shooter itch I had after playing Space Harrier and After Burner, and Thunder Blade definitely holds its own. While the style and approach is a bit different, I still found it to be a welcome addition to the Classics series. And it's a fine 3D remaster, too. This title is a good one to close out the spring phase of the Classics series, and it'll definitely hold you over till the summer titles come a knocking.
Sega 3D Classics photo
Sans crazy arcade installation
It's been a real joy re-experiencing classic titles from Sega's past. With the recent releases of Outrun and Fantasy Zone II bringing back some serious nostalgia trips, the folks at Sega have still got plenty of 3D remasters ...

Castlevania's IGA back with 'dream game' Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

May 11 // Steven Hansen
Bloodstained stars Miriam, an orphan stuck in the middle of "a classic tale of magic, or rather faith and belief, versus science," Igarashi told me through a translator. A group of alchemists, fearing its waning relevancy as science captures the 18th century setting, try to warn against the world losing faith. Start fucking loving science, they warn, and a bunch demons will take over. When that doesn't happen, egg on face, the alchemists start fusing demonic crystals into orphans to call the demons to earth, attempting to instigate a global annihilating "told ya so." The demon crystals have a, "natural inclination to expand, eat away at hosts' bodies," not unlike bad videogame companies, perhaps. "Stained glass" acts as an artistic motif reflected in the art style, but those pretty shades in characters' skin are also the basis of gameplay. Enemies drop materials, which are forged into gems, which can be formed into weapons. Rare materials can be forged into ability crystals that can be stuck in Miriam's body. They can also be combined in a number of ways, like adding a strength+ attribute crystal to a double jump for a double jump attack move. Igarashi explained the new system would be a little less repetitive than old Castlevania's, naming Aria of Sorrow specifically, where "you're just grinding on the same enemy to create the same thing." Why stained glass? "Stained glass is already cool-looking as it is, but stained glass weapons is badass." A recent walk through Grace Cathedral in San Francisco has me in agreement. Igarashi, "wanted to have a more colorful palette," and so on top of the stained glass, you have a blue-heavy protagonist, purple tinted key items (candles, keys), and an active blood orange sky in the background (thanks to parallax scrolling) inspired by an 18th century Icelandic volcano eruption that killed 23,000 Brits and bore a "bloody sun rising." All of this is framed by classic Gothic gray. If the mock up is any indication, it could look lovely. That's a "could," of course, because the game has not been made yet. Igarashi is someone you can likely depend on to make a Castlevania-style game. Inti Creates has been delivering for a long time. And Bloodstained isn't even held hostage by its Kickstarter, though it's meant to fund the last "20%" of development (and make for physical, pressed Xbox One and PS4 discs). Still, it's a way's out. Igarashi hasn't been gone from Konami much more than a year and shopping this proved difficult, hence last year's "hold." Igarashi "scoured the globe" and "pitched every major -- even minor -- publisher on this concept." "There was a ton of interest, but for various reasons, from, 'we do distribution for Konami and...don't want to anger them,' to 'Oh, this looks like a Japanese game.' But they didn't realize Igavania games sold better in America than any other territory." Incidentally, despite the widening popularity of the term "metroidvania," the team is eschewing the "castle" and "metroid," opting for the term "Igavania," explaining, "We want to make sure we don't anger Nintendo, and Igavania is a more accurate name." This project will likely irk someone at Konami regardless -- "Konami doesn't know about it," Igarashi said last month -- perhaps even more if it proves successful, like Mighty No. 9 or the recent not-Banjo-Kazooie platformer from ex-Rare folks, Yooka-Laylee. Given those examples (or Double Fine Adventure Game, or a number of others), it feels like a sure thing, but Igarashi does seem a bit more unsure after constant publisher rejection. "A lot of them were more interested in AAA stuff," he said. "There's a big disconnect between what the publishers are giving people and what the fans want." Inafune's success, specifically, "proved that the Western audience would put its money where its mouth is and support the creators that it loves." Igarashi doesn't expect he'll generate "anything close" to Mighty No. 9. He remains modest about the whole thing. "I spent the last year trying to make this work because I believe that's what the fans are telling me. And if the Kickstarter campaign shows that's not the case, then in the end the publishers were right and I was wrong." "From Iga-san's perspective," the translator, explains, "the most frustrating, saddening part is that he did his due diligence. He tried to work within the standard publisher model." It does seem surprising that Mr. Castlevania shops around a Castlevania and no one bites. Then again, why did Igarashi have to leave Konami in the first place to make this sort of game? "In the good old days, it used to be, as a producer you'd put your neck out on the line to make a game and if it's didn't work out, then you'd be done," Igarashi explained. Speaking specifically of Konami, at least as far as he left it a year ago (and somehow it was in a better state then), "Recently, there's more of a delicacy at [Konami] towards how they handle IP to the point where rather than maybe making new games, 'let's just not touch it'" becomes the mantra. "Or, 'we have to do it a bigger way." The 3D Castlevania, perhaps. Igarashi thinks it's "more risk averse" because someone used to, "pledge it would be okay, and it was their responsibility," but given that he would've have pledged on a new Castlevania, or Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima's likely ending relationship with the company, I'm not sure that's all of it. But Konami is in the past now. Inti Creates is making Bloodstained under Igarashi's direction. "We had several developers that were interested," he explained. "We needed a team that was both capable, but more importantly passionate. "They said, 'Listen, ever since becoming an independent studio, we've wanted to do three games.' One was a Mega Man type game, which they're now doing. The second was an Igavania game. And the third is a Zelda-type game, which they will probably never get a chance to do," Igarashi chuckled. Nintendo seems more open these days, though. Igarashi did dredge up some past, scoring the composer of Symphony of the Night, Michiru Yamane. "I basically tricked her into joining the campaign by getting her really drunk and making her promise she would help," Igarashi said. "You think that's a joke, but it's the truth." I believe it. And I believe Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night's campaign shouldn't have a problem, "proving that this is a concept that the fans really want." I mean, all you have to do is ask "Sword or whip?" and they flip.
IGA's metroidvania photo
Publishers wouldn't touch it
Last year, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night assistant director and subsequent series producer Koji "IGA" Igarashi left Konami after nearly 25 years with the company. At GDC that year, Igarashi ended his interesting Symphony...

Swery: D4 on PC is '100 percent bona fide D4'

May 07 // Brett Makedonski
The reason that Swery doesn't feel that the Kinect-to-mouse transition is a concession of sorts is because control method isn't what's at the core of D4. Swery elaborated "D4 is a game that doesn't derive its entertainment value merely from the fact that you can control it. My design has always been focused around the 'sensory replication' element. All input devices have their own special characteristics, and I feel that I've created separate control schemes that are all designed specifically for the Kinect, controller, and now the mouse." This "sensory replication" Swery speaks of isn't some marketable-sounding term that he tacked on to describe control schemes; it's something he spends a lot of time thinking about and crafting experiences around. In fact, further hypothesizing by Swery is the reason the PC port is even happening. He explained how D4 on PC came to be by saying "I started working on the PC version at the end of last year, through to GDC this year. At that time, I had made no plans about releasing it. It was just an experiment to help prove the contents of my GDC speech. To sum up [my speech]: 'Even without Kinect, the theory of symbolization and sensory replication through minute observations is still possible, and pieces that replicate sensations in this manner can enhance the overall empathy that people experience.' In order to prove this, I started making a sample version of the game that could be played using only the mouse. I revealed it to people at GDC and PAX East, and since people responded more positively than I had expected, I decided to develop an official release." That official release won't come as easy as one might think. This is Access Games' first time working on a PC title. (The poorly-received PC port of Deadly Premonition was controlled by another studio, and Swery says that Access wasn't able to exert control over the process because it didn't own the rights to the game.) Because of Access' inexperience developing for PC, Swery describes the process as including "a lot of unexpected surprises and problems." He went into detail by saying "Like I talked about earlier, we had to figure out how to create sensory replication with the mouse. Since we couldn't use Kinect, we needed to figure out how to make the PC version a game that anyone could easily enjoy with the mouse. Our game designers, programmers, and UI designers really had to rack their brains about this. Next, we had to think about adding user options and confirming minimum system requirements and recommended specifications that didn't exist in the console version. Since we created an original shader for D4 using our own code, it was hard to make it backwards compatible simply through changing settings in Unreal Engine, so we had to adjust the code and add new parts to it. Since we've only worked on console games so far, this was a brand new experience for us." Above all else, Swery's says he's dedicated to not letting the PC version of D4 go the way of Deadly Premonition. "The team that worked on the Xbox One version of D4 is in charge, and I've also been taking part in the adjustments. We're really serious about this, and intend to treat the D4 IP with the utmost care." One thing that he wasn't too serious about was commenting on his feelings about Microsoft announcing one year ago that it'd release a version of Xbox One without Kinect. After all, Swery had likely undertook this project with the understanding that Kinect would be something that's in every living room that an Xbox One is in. All of a sudden, that wasn't the case. Swery took the high (and humorous) road by simply chiming in "#ThanksObama." Temporary comedic relief aside, Swery seems very serious about D4 and its future. When asked about reading fan theories (a pastime that's dominated the Destructoid office at times), Swery said that he refrains out of respect for the fans. He clarified by saying "D4 is of the mystery genre. With this genre, the fun comes from 'enjoying' all the mysteries up to the end. I think it's natural for people to closely watch the developments, hypothesize, and then think up their own opinions and theories. That's what's so great and important about the mystery genre. With that in mind, I think I have no right to take part in those sorts of discussions." For all the transparency and openness behind the whole process of getting D4 to PC, Swery turned mysterious again when the topic on everyone's mind came up: Is a second part to D4 ever getting made? "I still can't talk about what'll be coming next. All I can say is that I'm working my hardest!," he said. Figures. But, maybe with the help of a PC audience pushing for more D4, we'll get the resolution we need. Or, maybe we'll get more fights with a cat lady. Both are welcome with open arms.
Swery interview photo
Kinect didn't make the game
To say that developer Hidetaka Suehiro -- or, Swery65 as most everyone knows him -- has a knack for creating unique and strange videogame experiences would be an understatement. He has a loyal cult following, as anyone that l...

Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China gives the series a fresh perspective

Mar 31 // Alessandro Fillari
Assassin's Creed Chronicles (PC, PS4, Xbox One [previewed])Developer: Climax StudiosPublisher: Ubisoft Release date: April 21, 2015 (Episode One) / Fall 2015 (Episodes Two and Three) "It's a very exciting and very challenging project to work on," said lead game designer Xavier Penin. "[Ubisoft] had a pretty [sizable] pitch for the project and wanted them to be short, episodic, and each of the stories would have their own specific artstyles that fit the character and time period. We knew we had to focus our efforts on making something that didn't just feel like a smaller Assassin's Creed." For the first episode, Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China, players take on the role of female assassin Shao Jun, who fans might recognize from the animated film Assassin's Creed Embers. Picking up some time after the events of Embers in 1526, Shao Jun returns to China after her training with Ezio Auditore and seeks revenge against Emporer Jiajing of the Ming Dynasty after the massacre of the Chinese Assassin Brotherhood. During her exploits, she'll acquire new abilities and contacts that will help in her quest, and revitalize the Assassin presence in 16th-century China. China has been a top requested location from fans, along with a playable Shao Jun, and seeing it come to pass is exciting. In the three levels I played, set in The Forbidden City and Fujian Province, we got to experience a starkly different setting and visual palette not seen from the series. Moreover, the brief taste of the India and Russia episodes we saw also feature their own art styles and aesthetic. Granted, the nature of this downloadable title allows them to try different settings, but I was blown away by the potential AC has in such lush environments. This enthusiasm was also shared by the folks behind the title. [embed]289710:57987:0[/embed] "When we were going to do this game with [Shao Jun], I was really excited about it and wanted to get all the information about background and her story, but it was actually pretty thin," said Penin. "So eventually we decided to come up with new ideas and settings, beyond Embers, and we came up with a story that AC fans will enjoy." Understandably, the switch from 3D to 2.5D has brought some changes to the action-stealth gameplay. For the most part, players will still traverse the environment with free-running maneuvers while avoiding detection, and only using combat as a last resort. Players will run and leap across obstacles in the environment and move between the foreground and background during traversal. I was impressed with the depth shown in the environments, and I was quite surprised that areas shown off were largely interactive. In one section during a prison escape, I had to find my gear before making an exit, which meant having to search for a guard's keys. After traveling through a hallway, I entered a large cavern housing dozens of prison cells. Off in the distance in the background, there were several guards making their rounds near a number of prisoners. From the foreground, I jumped onto a fallen pillar, which allowed me seamlessly run across to the background of the environment, which had its own unique layout and design. It was neat to be able to see how much depth the levels have, and the later levels show off much more intuitive and clever design. The stealth gameplay has had a bit of change, however, and the assassins now have to rely more on shadows and darkness to slip past their foes. Instead of the line-of-sight design from past titles, Chronicles utilizes a vision cone system. Similar to Mark of the Ninja's gameplay, all enemies can see and hear only a certain distance ahead of them, which gives you the means to figure out the best way around them. While it's still very much AC, the new design feels different. The lead designer elaborated a little further with how they went about re-designing AC stealth for 2.5D. "We had a lot of work to find the right recipe because this is the type of gameplay that require precise signs of feedback," said Penin. "We experimented a lot with the detection system, which focuses on cones of vision that work really well because it shows accurately in the 2D perspective. While some people initially thought [the visual representation of enemy line of sight] got in the way of the art style, ultimately the function allowed for us to design the stealth for players to be more interesting." Though you can easily avoid all conflicts by sticking in the shadows or hiding inside doorways or off the sides of ledges, there are a whole assortment of gadgets that Shao Jun has at her disposal, such as the rope dart which can sling enemies and help her traverse to new heights. The action and pace of the stealth from past games is present, though there seems to be much more thought put into it. Some sections felt like actual puzzles more than action-stealth gameplay, and I mean that as a good thing. The narrowing of the perspective put a lot more depth into this facet of gameplay, and it was refreshing to have a more refined approach to it. I'm also quite impressed with the visual aesthetic of Chronicles. The developers have stated that each episode will have a unique look to it, and China's style is stunning in its representation of perpetual autumn and uses of inkblot-style visuals and palettes. The colors are vibrant and lush, and the shadows and darkness show a certain roughness, as if it's a place that only the Assassins, history's wet-workers, can venture to. These still-images do not do this title justice -- it's quite gorgeous in action. While I was enjoying myself throughout the China setting, a part of me wished this was a fully 3D title rather than a downloadable side story. Nothing against this game, as it's really solid and makes some clever choices in regards to approach to stealth in a limited perspective, however I feel that such rich settings would be better used for full-fledged 3D Assassin's Creed titles. In any case, Assassin's Creed Chronicles is looking to be a nice surprise for the franchise. Though we can undoubtedly expect to see another main entry in the series this year, Chronicles will serve to be a nice change of pace for those looking for a different take on the series. For those who bit on the Unity season pass, you'll get the first episode on day one. The bite-sized nature of these titles will make them easy to get into, but they're sure to surprise players with how much depth is present.
2.5D Assassin's Creed photo
Stabbin' necks through history in 2.5D
It's not often we see a major player in the big leagues of yearly releases reinvent itself in a more modest and distinct way. With Assassin's Creed titles expected every year, it's been a bit of a challenge for Ubisoft to kee...

EVE Online's new focus is putting power in the players' hands

Mar 26 // Brett Makedonski
Nordgren said that this was "a huge step" for CCP. She cited it as the developer's way of saying "What you see in space should be much more in the hands of players." But, it's not necessarily as simple as CCP providing the sandbox for pilots to play in -- that might threaten the very foundation which EVE Online was built upon. "We're going more and more in that direction," Nordgren remarked about the possibility of an open sandbox. "But, it'll never completely get there," Nordgren continued. She elaborated "We’re going more toward a place where we want to control the reality of the New Eden universe, how it works, and what’s possible. Ideally, players should control anything that players can build, for example. And, then they can work with what you can do in that reality. It’s a fictional space universe, and it makes sense that we as a developer are responsible for the world, and we should give tools to the players to do stuff in it." If the change to structures is the functional example of this mindset, the customization to spaceships is the creative embodiment of it. It's borderline silly how big of a deal this is to the EVE Online universe; after all, nearly every other game on the market is chomping at the bit to offer (in most cases read: sell) extra skins. [embed]289358:57918:0[/embed] Even Nordgren had to chuckle a bit when I asked why this was such a monumental step. As it turns out, it's less about the actual aesthetic, and more about what they represent. "The game is 12 years old, and we have a very ambitious art direction for it as part of why it looks really good. We haven’t really given players any means to stand out or customize their stuff. Players have been asking for this for a long time," she explained. "You had some options before, but it was mostly through acquiring completely different special ships rather than changing your ship. This is a huge upgrade to that. Also, it’s really reflecting that the players are getting more power in the universe. These almighty space pilots get to finally decide what their ships look like." All-in-all, it boils down to CCP becoming less rigid as the gatekeepers to EVE Online. It seems as if the developer strives to draw attention away from the idea that the game has limitations, and enforce a mentality that it just exists as the player wants it to. This is apparent by looking at the roadmap to changing EVE over the years, which has moved from two major updates each year, to ten updates per year, and now, a constant stream of new features. Nordgren says that CCP found this evolution of its features model to be "a natural progression" because it would want to release updates that weren't necessarily thematically tied to whatever happened to come next. This left a lot in limbo, which is a pointless problem in an ever-changing, living, persistent world. But, mostly, CCP found itself in a weird place where players only paid particular attention at certain times. Nordgren said "In the past, we’ve trained people to really care about these release dates because we had two per year, and features would only come on those days. So obviously, people would invest a lot and care about those dates. But then, a bunch of features actually become available in between. So, it's like 'Well, they’re not exactly part of the release, and they’re not part of the next release, so how are we going to tell people about them?' We release a bunch of stuff, but people barely notice because it’s not on this big date." The solution? As Nordgren, with a grin on her face, brazenly put it "Shit's gonna change all the time." She added "You’re probably going to care more when it’s big features, so let’s focus on the features instead of the dates. Instead of trying to teach everyone that this date has this name and then talk about what’s in it, we just talk about features." So, if EVE Online feels like a more fluid entity beginning in the coming months, that's because it is. A lot of care and planning has gone into making it seem like a game with less monumental changes. Those changes are still happening, they're just not telegraphed the same way. It's all part of an ever-evolving model to put power in the players' hands and to make the EVE universe as closely rooted to the possible and the achievable as it can be.
EVE Online photo
New directions for New Eden
The developers at CCP face a unique challenge with EVE Online that other studios don't necessarily face. Its players expect an incredibly deep and detailed experience, which means that evolving the game is particularly d...

Dirty Bomb aims high with its focus on hardcore FPS action

Mar 26 // Alessandro Fillari
Dirty Bomb (PC)Developer: Splash DamagePublisher: Nexon Release date: March 26th 2015 (Open Access) "For us, we were kind of accustomed to shipping packaged products and retail games, so that within itself was a different mentality to production,"said Splash Damage co-founder and chief branding officer Richard Jolly while discussing their transition to developing a free-to-play title. "So you essentially get the game to what is considered open beta, which is pretty much the final game in most cases, and then the players will play it, release a few updates and a bit of DLC, and then you walk away from it. But with Dirty Bomb, we're kind of back to mod-making. It's constantly evolving, and the game we had in the alpha with our fans is completely different than what we had now. It's interesting to have that level of transparency with our fans, and that's really helped us because we're still actively developing the game." [embed]289520:57922:0[/embed] Set in near-future London, the city had been plunged into chaos after a mysterious "dirty bomb" released toxic gases and large amounts of radiation. In the years since, London is now an abandoned husk of its former self, and the only ones willing to venture into the decaying remains of England's capital city are mercenaries who see the opportunity where others do not. With valuables and other fortunes to find in London, those crazy enough to set foot inside will have to fight for their riches in order to make it out on top. While on the surface it feels like a grittier and more mature take on Team Fortress 2, there's certainly a lot more going on with Dirty Bomb than at first glance. In total, there are several unique characters with their own arsenals and backstories. While many of them share a similar archetype, such as the sniper, medic, and assault classes, they each have access to their own particular set of skills and weapons that are specific to them. There's a lot of humor and humanity found in Dirty Bomb, and the accompanying flavor text that describes each character and their motives for merc work did a lot to bring me in. When in battle, you can select a squad of three characters. These three are the characters you can switch off from during the game, so you'll have to choose wisely. I mostly stuck with Phoenix, Vassili, and Arty, a medic, sniper, and support group. Though I initially was confused on how exactly I could switch off between the character gear, I quickly picked it up after a few minutes of play. Essentially, the members of your squad are loadouts, similar to those in Call of Duty or Battlefield, and you'll have need to switch between them in order to stay ahead of your foes. During a match in the game mode Stopwatch, a neat mix between the standard demolition and capture the flag modes, I was able to switch off between the characters when they were needed. Set on the map Terminal, the attackers have to plants charges on a wall within the quarantine zone in order to gain access to the train station that houses valuable documents that the attackers need to destroy -- but of course, the data is being protected by another group of mercs who aim to keep them intact. Playing on both sides, I found that I needed to switch up my classes more often, as when I was attacking I had to stay healed more often. While on defense, I needed to pick off the oncoming threat from afar. I was really impressed with how the flow of the game motivated me to switch things up more often, as I usually just stick with one class in other titles. I felt I experimented more often in this title than in most other shooters. This aspect of experimentation was something that the developers wished they players would explore. "Games are always an evolution, right? Especially since we were making this for ourselves, before the publisher stepped in," said lead designer Neil Alphonso. "We wanted to really bring out the characters of the mercs. They look really cool, and we wanted to reflect that in the gameplay more. So far it's worked really well, we've had players come up with combinations that we would've never expected in closed testing that we never would've expected, and of course we're gonna have to keep adjusting to that." When you win matches and collect cash, you can purchase cases that yield merc cards that offer a different variation for each character. Spanning across different rarity types, each type of card will offer that specific character a new loadout and special perks. For instance, I found a found a bronze card for Vassili, which not only gave him a new sniper rifle with higher rate of fire, but also gave him the ability to throw his melee weapon. As you find rarer cards, you'll gain access to new abilities and weapons for your characters. Though lead and bronze cards are very common, silver and gold cards really change the game for your characters, as they turn your merc into an elite badass decked out with perks and other special gear. While it's possible to the find much of the content on your own without ever spending a dime by combining junk cards and turning them into rare ones -- there are many different options to take advantage of if you feel as though you want get content quicker. As credits can be acquired pretty easily, you can always be comfortable with what you have, and the developers were clear that Dirty Bomb is a game that will not be "pay-to-win." "If you're making a competitive shooter, something that's hardcore, then the first thing people want is a fair playing field," said Alphonso. "The way I look at it, and it's a bit idealistic, but you just have to make a game that people enjoy enough, that they want to give you money. Rather than they feel like they need you to in order to compete." It's not too often that we see a F2P title with so much openness and transparency from the developers. Generally, the free-to-play genre has somewhat of a bad reputation because of poor practices from certain titles. And while it's understandable that many players feel a bit apprehensive for upcoming ones, I can say that Dirty Bomb was a pretty rad title in the hours I spent with it. Though I kinda wished that the developers stuck with Brink's traversal system, because that'd be such a welcome fit for this game, I found the action in DB to be pretty hectic, bombastic, and super satisfying to take part in. Not only did I feel like I got in some great action moments, going on a seven-kill streak was pretty damn great, but I also felt like I was a pretty integral part of the team as a healer and support unit. With the game available on Steam, now's your chance to get involved with the game that's been in the works for quite some time. And since it's still an on-going process, the developers have continued plans to roll out new features and content in the coming months, such as new maps and other cool content. I had a blast (no pun intended), and the folks from Splash Damage haven't lost their touch for fast and frenetic FPS gameplay.
Dirty Bomb photo
Rule 1: Don't be a dick
The folks at Splash Damage have been busy over the last two years. Since the release of Brink and a stint on Batman: Arkham Origins' multiplayer, they figured it was time to return to their roots with a heavy focus on PC...

EVE: Valkyrie wants to be the leader in VR eSports

Mar 20 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]289262:57848:0[/embed] Odds are decent that Valkyrie might hold that ambitious mantle because of the inherent nature of VR. One thing that O'Brien's CCP Newcastle team quickly found out is that VR works best when there's a minimal disconnect between the real and the immersive world. "For every bit of immersion that you're getting in this other world, there's less and less of the real world there. We're going for full immersion, because if you end up somewhere between the two, that can make simulation sickness worse and you'll feel weird. Like, we really avoid, for example, big hand movements or your character doing something that your brain tells you you’re not doing. Even our controller is positioned not in a joystick position, but in the position of the console controller. We very minimally move the pilot. I mean, the ship moves, but we don't do any touching other screens because that really jars you out of the experience. So, I actually think in our experience, the more immersed you are, the less likely you are to get simulation sickness." That's the kind of learning on-the-job that CCP (and, really, all VR developers) have had to deal with. As O'Brien says "It's becoming less and less true, but a year ago, there were no real VR experts. We're kind of learning, and talking to the manufacturers, there aren't any hard and fast rules. They have guidelines of what to try to do or what to try to avoid, but really, we're all still learning." And, it's that learning curve which hamstrings a current eSports favorite: first-person shooters. Developers are working on integrating FPS to virtual reality, but no one's done it particularly well yet. O'Brien thinks it'll eventually happen, but he's not sure when. "I'm sure at some point, someone will crack FPS, but they haven't yet. FPS in VR is very disorientating because your body is doing things that you're not doing. There are set ups that you can get where you're walking on a treadmill, but one of the disconnects that breaks immersion is when your body is doing something in the immersive world that you're not doing in the real world. It's little things, like in most first-person shooters, the gun is your hands, but in real life, you could be looking around. There are a lot of things to solve there. But, the main thing is locomotion. You're running and jumping in the virtual world, but you're really seated in a sofa. That's very disorientating for the body." For all the extra time that CCP has had to spend on Valkyrie, it legitimately seems like time well-spent. The game running on the new Crescent Bay headset is a significant upgrade over what we've seen in the past. Despite being a space dog-fighting game, the world is now filled with enough debris and objects to feel occupied. There's also a new emphasis on color that makes the world vibrant and enjoyable to cruise around in. Even dying is neat because the respawn screen puts you inside a pod that seems like it's ripped straight out of Alien's Nostromo. However, even if Oculus launched, say, six months ago, O'Brien is confident that Valkyrie would've eventually ended up where it is today (and, further, where it'll eventually go). "We would've shipped a smaller experience and built on it," he said. That building could go in any direction, but an obvious one is to connect it to the greater EVE universe. O'Brien would like to eventually do that, but it's not a priority now. "We have a small team, and I want to stay focused on making a great competitive multiplayer game," O'Brien stated. He continued, "I think you need to focus on one thing: the game, rather than what's the link to the EVE universe. I think once the game's up and running and working well, then we can look at longer term things. Ultimately, I don’t know how many years hence it'd be, but it'd be great if the battle you just saw was real capsuleers there, as well. But right now, I want to give that experience in the EVE universe without actually getting hamstrung by a direct connection." He's right; talking about melding Valkyrie into EVE Online is kind of putting the cart before the horse. For the time being, getting this game into people's hands is the main priority. O'Brien acknowledges that it won't be easy, but that road is getting less rocky. "There are more and more people coming into the arena, and that can only be good for VR in general. There are a lot of people that are starting to invest because the tech does work now," O'Brien commented. "I think the key to adoption is going to be facilitating easy trial, because I haven't met anybody yet who has tried one of these headsets and gone 'eh, it wasn't great.' Once people have done that, as long as it's at the right price point and not too hard of a tech setup – right now, I think it's more about making it easy for the consumer rather than the quality of the experience, because the quality of the experience is definitely there." But, virtual reality is nigh impossible to convey second-hand. It really is something that needs to be personally experienced. O'Brien concluded the interview by empathizing with anyone who's VR-wary, even if he's a believer. "There are two types of people in the world: There are people who have tried a VR headset and those who haven't. People who have tried are all converts, and people who haven't are all skeptics because VR has already been the next big thing so many times."
EVE: Valkyrie preview photo
Ambitious, for sure
It was almost a year ago (ten months, more accurately) when I sat down with EVE: Valkyrie's developers, and they told me "We're ready to ship when Oculus is ready to ship." At the time, Valkyrie was considered a flagship...

Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries is a dark reinvention of classic fairytale fiction

Mar 16 // Alessandro Fillari
[embed]288994:57765:0[/embed] Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries (PC [previewed], PlayStation  4, Xbox One)Developer: GRIN Game StudioPublisher: GRIN Game StudioRelease date: March 17, 2015 (Part I)MSRP: $9.99 "It's a very exciting time," said CEO of GRIN Game Studio Wim Wouters. "Two years we've been working on this title now, and for our first big title it's certainly a crazy position to be in." In the span of six months, the developers successfully funded Woolfe through Kickstarter and is already set for release this week. Of course, GRIN already spent years developing the title on its own, but the studio needed the extra funds to push through development. With the support the team found from crowdfunding, it was able to expand its vision and create a deeper game. With this relatively quick turnaround, the CEO of Grin felt it was important to live up to the setting of its game in a timely manner. "We wanted to keep our promise [to the backers]. And even though it's a split release, the first part coming in March and the next coming later this year, the backers were very supportive of our decision," he said.  Set in a radically altered take of the Little Red Riding Hood fairytale, Woolfe brings players into a world filled with magic and conspiracy. Taking place in an era vaguely reminiscent of the 1800s during the Industrial Revolution, you take on the role a young axe-wielding Red Riding Hood who must navigate the city and surrounding wilderness to uncover the mystery behind her parents' deaths, and how other characters from fairytale lore might be connected. Along the way, she'll come into conflict with Woolfe, the human leader (and alternate incarnation of the big bad wolf) of an army of clockwork soldiers that wishes to rule the land. Of course, many people saw instant parallels with American McGee's Alice. Which is fair, as Woolfe shares its darker aesthetic and approach to fantasy fiction. Though despite that, the two games are totally different from one another. Wouters and the developers at Grin would get the comparisons often, and while they see it as flattering to be compared to a game they admire, they also expressed that it put a lot of pressure on them to make sure they could deliver. As Red, you'll explore a variety of different environments in 2.5D fashion. Though it looks purely like a side-scroller, you're able to explore the backgrounds of the levels to uncover clues and find switches to advance your path. Along the way, you'll encounter creatures and other foes that must be dispatched with Red's axe or magical abilities. In some cases, you'll have to use stealth to maneuver past foes and other obstacles to find clues. Combat plays a large focus in Red Hood Diaries, as you'll have to battle waves of enemies often. Controls are simple for the most part, but the game feels accessible and smooth. Woolfe does a good job of handling both combat and platforming, and it's all paced pretty well. During my session, I traveled through the streets of the city while on the hunt for the Pied   Piper, who's been abducting the children of the city. Finding his trail within the sewers, Red explored the depths of the city to uncover the lair of the traveling child abductor. This interpretation of the character was a man who was gangly and disgusting in appearance. His new look matched the creepiness of his character's origins, and seeing Red track him through the sewers and confront him was big and exciting moment to take part in. By far, the most striking element of Woolfe is the visual design. The environments are stunning, both vibrant in terms of color, but also detailed enough to show that the world is filled with many denizens and lived in. Though a lot of devs are moving on to Unreal Engine 4, UE3 is still putting in a lot of work and shows off some impressive designs. It's very much a chaotic mix between the prose and detail of the Brothers Grimm's fairy tales, with the style and tone of the films from Tim Burton. Which is everything I'd want to see in a dark fairytale. It was certainly an intriguing title to play, though the build I was playing was slightly older than the complete one and featured some bugs and minor platforming and graphical quirks, particularly with somewhat janky animations. Still, I was totally drawn in by the world that GRIN Game Studio created. It's not that often we get such a unique reinterpretation of fairytale fiction, especially for that of Red Riding Hood. And for $9.99, it's a nice way to get a proper introduction into the world of Woolfe before venturing off into the second part of the adventure set for release later this year. If you're into grim fairy tales and want a nice little adventure title to explore, this is definitely one you'll want to keep on your radar.
Woolfe photo
My, what a big axe you have!
Over the last three years, Kickstarter has totally changed the game for many developers. With the option to crowdfund projects, cut out the middle-man (publishers), and communicate directly with fans to help create the game, ...

Tim Schafer open to revisiting Psychonauts

Mar 13 // Laura Kate Dale
With that out of the way, we got Tim to chat a little about his career over the years. First up on the chopping block was a question we had been dying to ask Schafer for a while. Just how did he expect people to get through his obtuse adventure game logic back in the day? I have no idea; people were smarter back then. Playing the games I sometimes wonder that myself. I think, "This puzzle's really hard, how are people supposed to get that?" Part of the reason is that back in the day [...] the thinking was "people are not going to finish this game." Sometimes we thought that. That's why we did the easy mode in Monkey Island 2, but the answer is for most of these puzzle the hints are there if you keep talking to people, if you keep digging down. Most of them are hinted at if you keep exploring all the dialog.  So we made the first half of Broken Age and the first half is always easier than the second half of a game. We were like "this is too easy." We made Grim Fandango and that's too hard. Adventure game fans are hard to please. Next up on our list of questions was one that readers have been trying to get an answer to for a while. Which of Tim's series means the most to him, and which would he most like to revisit? That's a tough question because of course every game is important at the time. There's things people don't expect when they ask me this like Kinect Party -- did you ever play Kinect Party? It was our lowest-selling game of all time. It's a Kinect game where little kids play with their grandparents together and it was really rewarding to see families playing that, it was just so rewarding, you know? The world of Psychonauts is so interesting because you can just keep creating more brains every time you meet somebody and wonder what the world inside their brain looks like. It also feels like the kind of unfinished story of Eddie Briggs [Brutal Legend] would be a great excuse to work with Jack [Black] again. It's hard because of how Grim ended. It was a really rich and full world but I feel like that character had such a complete progression that I feel like he's done with. I don't know if I want to go back down that road with someone who isn't Manny. All the other ones, a lot of them at least like Psychonauts you can just imagine. For Brutal Legend it's kind of already designed because we had to throw away half that game to get it done two years late. It's a lot easier to imagine going forward with that or Psychonauts. A recent hot topic brought sharply into focus by Peter Molyneux's Godus was the effect crowdfunding campaigns can have on audience's faith in developers. From pitching your game to fans for financial investment before development has begun to the pitfalls along the way, with Schafer himself previously facing the firing line from disgruntled Kickstarter backers, we wanted to know if he plans to continue crowdfunding his future projects and what effect he thinks Kickstarter failures have on the reputations of developers. There were so many great things to Kickstarter when it first exploded and we had that rush of not just money but also goodwill too. That love and support from the community told us that people want to play adventure games still and that was really important to us. Because everything's announced at the start of creating your game and not the end like we normally do, it makes more sense to be transparent like we were. That made us vulnerable to a lot of criticism because people could see "oh, the schedule's changing" or "You're doing this thing the way I don't want you to do it." The experiment's not over yet and I'd still call it an experiment, but being that exposed and vulnerable was difficult. There were some good things and toward the end there have been some bad things. My hope was that by being really transparent and showing all the ups and downs of game development, that people who play games would start to understand more of what goes on when making a game. But still, after all this time, it still seems like people get super mad about things that are totally normal. Things like schedules slipping happen on almost every project but people just don't hear about it because we don't usually show people.  I think developers have to learn like publishers had to learn before the warning signs when a game is in trouble and what is just going through the normal ups and downs of development. The question I personally wanted an answer to the most: when is Broken Age: Act 2 coming? Well we're in beta now and we're going to come out this spring. There's not much time left in spring. When's the last day of spring? It's coming out this spring which is very soon. At this point we pushed him on how soon was very soon? We confirmed basically that it's more than three days away still. Well, not this week. I've been playing the Vita version on the plane over here. It's finished, we just want to catch all the bugs. Finally, with all our serious questions out the way, we ended the interview on a slightly lighter note. Yes, you guessed it, we asked him about his favorite butts in videogames. We mainly learned that Tim Schafer rarely thinks about butts when designing a character. Favorite butt in videogames? Are there a lot of butts in videogames? I guess everyone has a butt but you don't often get to see them. I guess in third-person games you're running behind them. I'm now trying to do the interesting task of trying to visualize butts from videogames, they don't usually get a starring role. I'm now seriously worrying I've not been paying enough attention to butts in the games that I've made. Have we ever shown any butts in my games? Yep, you've stumped me with butts. Manny's butt in Grim Fandango is boney; it's basically just a pelvis in a suit.  In Costume Quest actually there was a cat that had a very prominent butt featured, so I guess that butt.
Tim Schafer interview photo
Schafer talks Broken Age, crowdfunding, narrative, and butts
Last night Destructoid attended the videogame BAFTAs in order to do some hard-hitting journalism. Speaking to Tim Schafer, who was in attendance to hand Shadow of Mordor the BAFTA for Best Design, we spent ten minutes discuss...

The Last of Us actress 'wasn't prepared for the positive' response to Ellie's sexual orientation

Mar 13 // Laura Kate Dale
[Small spoilers below for The Last of Us.] When asked if she would be interested in reprising the role of Ellie in a future The Last of Us sequel, she replied simply with an energetic "Oh fuck yeah!" before apologizing to the amassed journalists for her use of language. When pushed on the issue and asked how she would go about portraying an older Ellie, she cautiously told us: It just depends if they want to revisit the story again. Ellie could go either way, [Joel] lied to her so you don't know how she would take that -- would she be mad at him, would she be okay with, there's many places you could go. Interestingly, we also learned that while Ashley Johnson has done on screen roles in huge projects like The Avengers, she is still recognized more often for her work voicing Ellie. I probably get recognized for The Last of Us more than anything, which is crazy because it isn't physically my face. Last of Us has changed my life in so many ways and we shot it for over three years so, and including the DLC I guess four, so being part of something for that long and the experiences you have, the relationships you form, I wouldn't change it for anything, it's one of my favorite things I've worked on. Considering Johnson was up against some pretty tough competition for this years Best Performance award including Kevin Spacey and Troy Baker, we asked her how she felt about her win and if there were any nominees she expected would win the award instead of her. I feel good, I mean I'm kind of a little overwhelmed I guess, shocked and um, yeah. Struggling to find my words. Everybody up for the award was awesome obviously, that's why they were all picked out. For me Troy Baker, and I'm not just saying that because I know him, but his character in Far Cry 4 was so ridiculous and amazing. Melissa Hutchison, I'm such a fan of those games, she's just incredible. Obviously Kevin Spacey, he's a pretty good actor. Those first two in particular though they both really stood out to me. Even though Ashley Johnson had just won a BAFTA for her performance as Ellie, we asked her if there were any aspects of her performance that she looks back on and cringes. There are definitely times playing through Left Behind where I wanted myself to get out of the way. Ellie would just get right in the way and I'd be like "just fucking move." She'd start whistling randomly and Clickers are right there and it's like "Okay they're right there can you please just shut up because now they're definitely going to hear us." Just as our time talking with Ashley was coming to a close, we decided to ask her a couple of ending questions about Left Behind being a coming out story for her character. Firstly, we wanted to know how she felt watching players learn that her character is gay. Usually when I try to tackle any role I know early on in the process what the sexual preference of that character is because that can be a huge part of who they are. With Ellie it was something that wasn't ever really discussed. I think with Ellie growing up in this world it wasn't something that was every really necessarily brought up. When we finally got to the DLC and Neil Druckmann told me what he wanted to do, I was like yeah of course, that completely makes sense for who Ellie is and why her relationship with Riley was so important to her. I was surprised by the way people reacted. We didn't know how people were going to respond and I think I was more prepared for the negative comments. What I wasn't as prepared for was the positive ones. I've had so many men and women come up to me and told me things sometimes they haven't even told their parents. It has profoundly changed my life. We finished up the interview by touching on the critical reception that Left Behind had. I wanted to know if Ashley Johnson thought Left Behind would have won the BAFTA for Best Story if Ellie had been in a heterosexual relationship rather than a homosexual one.  I don't know, I think for me it's just hard to answer because now that's who Ellie is and that is what it is. I know that Neil didn't want to make that decision based on trying to make a crazy statement of get any kind of controversy. It was just a character based decision and I think that relationship did have a big impact on people. I don't know, but I'm really going to think about it. I think they definitely took some risks with the story. I think if you told most people Left Behind was just the story of two teenage girls hanging out and figuring out their place in the world, I think a lot of people wouldn't be interested in playing that. I think after the full game came out and players had a chance to connect with Ellie, I think they wanted to know more about who she was. I sat down with Neil and he told me what the story would be and he just sort of said to me "I think Ellie is gay, this is her story. I think Riley was her first love and that's the story that I want to tell" and right then I was like "Yeah, I'm on board, let's do it." I think in general the story is focused on their love and that relationship and the importance of that which excited me a lot.
Ashley Johnson Interview photo
An interview spanning high and low brow material
Last night Destructoid attended the videogame BAFTAs in order to do some hard-hitting journalism. Speaking to Ashley Johnson following her BAFTA win for Best Performance for voicing Ellie in The Last of Us and its story DLC L...

Sega brings back OutRun with style for the 3D Classics Series

Mar 11 // Alessandro Fillari
For those not quite familiar, OutRun is an arcade-style racing game that tasks players with racing their shiny Ferrari Testarossa across a stretch of land. At several points, you'll be able to choose which path you'd like to take, which will take you to a brand new setting that you'd likely not see in previous playthroughs. This nonlinear gameplay was rather unconventional for a racing title, which made it quite popular with arcade goers who wished for repeat plays. Over the years, it's developed quite a legacy for Sega, and it has even inspired musicians like Kavinsky for its portrayal of style in high-speed. It was a rather seminal title for Sega, earning a lot praise and finding much success in the arcades. Developed by Yu Suzuki, the creator of Shenmue, Virtua Fighter, and After Burner, it focused on fast gameplay while giving players a soothing and equally pulsing soundtrack to listen to. It even got several followups over the years. But with this remaster of OutRun, the folks at Sega had to put in extra work to retain the the original's style and feel without watering down the experience. "OutRun and After Burner II are two games that were the most important games in Sega’s history through the 1980s. However, due to a number of reasons, there was a time when there were no opportunities to port these two titles to other platforms," said producer Yosuke Okunari. "The most important thing for these kinds of games, and this is apparent from a video of the game you may have seen, is not to take these important games and try to remake them completely from scratch, but rather to recreate the playstyle as faithful to the original as you possibly can. And because the game preserves the feeling of the era it was made in, that history and the memories of those times can be communicated to everyone." During my playthrough, I immediately noticed how much smoother it felt. I played a bit of game when I younger in the arcades, so seeing this in action on a handheld was kind of a trip. And with the 3D enabled, the game doesn't lose performance one bit. It was impressive to see that a super fast racing game like OutRun would be able to make the transition so well. Honestly, it felt a bit hypnotic going over 200 km an hour. Once you're in the zone, you're kinda in a trance. Okunari-san explained that with the success of the previous titles on 3D Classics, they were able to tackle the necessary hurdles porting OutRun would take. "The 3DS is a notable piece of hardware, but it’s not a console that’s particularly well suited for creating faithful ports," he explained. "And so we were not able to include these two titles when we first began the development for the Sega 3D Classics. Only through the success of the first batch were we able to obtain the technical know-how and development budget to work on these two titles. It’s because of all the fans’ support." Often times, the 3DS tends to have some trouble with handling ports of classic or even recent titles. Which made porting the game, despite its age, somewhat of a challenge. One of the techniques that titles like After Burner and Space Harrier use is a way of presenting 2D sprites as pseudo-3D visuals, which is done with unique sprite-scaling designs. But in order to keep it consistent with other titles, the developers had to double the performance on OutRun, upgrading it from thirty frames per second to sixty. "Tying to get squeeze out more performance that the original title supported was a very difficult undertaking," said the producer. "Simply straight porting the game as is would prove to be a challenge in and of itself, but we had to optimize and improve the programming so it would run twice the speed as the original. Also, we added two new songs to the game, and made a point that they had to blend naturally and feel completely natural in the game, which was also a great challenge. Essentially using the same sound sources as the original, while ensuring that they would sound different and unique compared to the original three songs. New songs in the style and feel of the era when the game was originally released, back in the '80s." It's certainly eye-opening to see the amount of work that goes into remasters for classic titles. I supposed with the technology we have now, it's easy to think of products and software from the past as easy to make, or even easy to transition onto current hardware. Given the limitations they had and parameters they had to work within, I'm very impressed with what I played. I spent a good amount of time with OutRun on the 3DS, and it played like a dream. I highly recommend giving it a shot, especially if you're a first-timer. The sense of speed is just as sharp as it was back in the arcade days and experiencing it within the palms of your hands is real rush.
Sega 3D Classics photo
Race with flair on March 12
One of the great things about Sega's ongoing 3DS Classics series is that it allows retro games from the publisher's past to find a new audience. And given its rich and diverse history of quirky and fan-favorite titles, there'...

Xbox to indie devs: There's a place for your game on Windows 10, no matter the size

Mar 11 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]288897:57724:0[/embed] According to Charla, that's the program's ultimate goal. "The most important thing to us is to make sure that when someone turns on their Xbox One or their Windows 10 device, they have access to a really broad array of videogames," he said. "The nice thing about that is that for us at ID@Xbox, it creates a really easy, kind of north-star central goal that we align ourselves to every day which is 'Let’s make life really easy for developers.' The easier we make life for developers, the more we reduce friction to get onto our platforms, the more we make Xbox and Windows 10 a great sustainable ecosystem." That's where Windows 10 comes in, at least in the gaming space. If Microsoft wants consumers playing games on any Windows 10 device, it starts with convincing developers to put their titles on those platforms. But, Charla deals solely with indies -- a demographic that's not known for their extensive resources. Would this mean that some independent developers might be averse to the idea of over-extending themselves to too many platforms at once? Charla doesn't think so. He commented "We’re not about trying to put requirements on developers; we’re about providing options for developers. The thing with Windows 10 is that it has a huge, broad reach. That doesn’t mean you have to make your game work on phone on Windows 10, and on PC on Windows 10, and on HoloLens on Windows 10. You should make your games for the platforms, endpoints, or devices that you think it’ll succeed on. We think that including Xbox Live needs to be pretty straight-forward, and for the developers who have done it so far, it’s been pretty straight-forward. And, they’re not the biggest developers in the world, right? We think it enables developers to offer their players an interesting addition to the game." It will make for an interesting option for developers, but it's also Microsoft's vision of the future (at least for now). It's reasonable to assume that Xbox and Microsoft have a vested interest in getting as many developers as possible to philosophically buy into the program. Given that ID@Xbox helps indies publish their games, maybe Xbox will offer extra incentive to developers that release across multiple platforms. It's easy to see a scenario where these studios are offered some sort of preferential treatment, whether it be in the form of extra support or funding. However, Charla denies that this is the case. He insisted that while ID@Xbox is dedicated to decreasing the burden on developers, it's not sweetening the pot for some that are willing to help this new ecosystem thrive. Instead, that assistance is being distributed unilaterally in the form of services such as speeding up the certification process or holding showcases for the games in the program. And, now it's about giving developers options. But, one option that still won't be available is XNA. XNA is a free toolset that's aimed at developing games across several Microsoft platforms. Some notable examples of titles created with it are Dust: An Elysian Tail, Bastion, Fez, and Charlie Murder. There's talk within the development community that it'll make a return, and this new emphasis on unifying games on Windows 10 seems like the perfect time. When asked point-blank if XNA is coming back, Charla responded with a definitive "No." He elaborated "But, I think that when you think about what XNA was for, a lot of that spirit is still at Microsoft in the desire to make sure that anyone can create games for Microsoft devices, whether they’re a 150 team at a major publisher or a teenager who’s just learning how to code. We want to make sure that the Microsoft ecosystem is a place where you can make games and learn. In that spirit, XNA was a solution design for the technology that was available at the time. It was a program that was created to foster the creative spirit. We’ve always said that we want Xbox One – and by extension, Windows 10 – to be a place that isn’t just a place to enjoy great content; it's a place to create great content." Really, that's step one when it comes to creating a platform for games: make sure people want to create there. That's what ID@Xbox is dedicated to doing. Charla wrapped up the interview by saying "But, it’s important to us to support developers and to make their lives easy, and to support the spirit that anyone can make a game." By most accounts, ID@Xbox has been doing that all along. Now, Windows 10 just makes it so developers have a few more options.
Xbox interview photo
'We're about providing options for developers'
Microsoft announced last week at GDC in San Francisco that it was introducing cross-play between Xbox One and Windows 10 devices. That opens a world of possibility in ways for developers to deliver games to their audience. So...

The DmC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition changelog is extensive

Mar 10 // Alessandro Fillari
[embed]288866:57701:0[/embed] With Hardcore Mode being the highlight of Definitive Edition, you'll want to enable that as soon as possible, especially if you're quite familiar with the game or are otherwise up for the challenge. Though if you enjoyed DmC before as it was and just want to be able experience it with a new visual fidelity, you can by all means do so. Ninja Theory's Rahni Tucker, who was the combat designer on the original title and now serves as the creative director on Definitive Edition, commented on a number of the upgrades DmC gained. "The point of HCM is to create an experience that [is] still [Ninja Theory's] DmC, but with a bit of a throwback to the classic DMCs in terms of balance," she said. "We didn't make these changes to the default game, because there are a lot of players who enjoy the current balance; and we didn't want to alienate those players. This way everyone has the option to play the game with the difficulty/balance that suits them. The hardest felt changes in this mode are those to the style system. Getting a SSS, and keeping it, is a lot more difficult in Hardcore Mode. Devil Trigger also throws-back to original DMCs with HCM active, so the player will need to stay on their toes after activating it." Here are a few examples of what's been altered for Hardcore Mode. General Toggle-able on all difficulty levels, for both Dante and Vergil. Does not affect mission unlocking Unique style pars and leaderboards for Hardcore Mode on every difficulty Style Rank Style Rank System re-balanced for HCM Style Rank decay rate on hardcore mode increased further. On hardcore mode, penalties on the Style Rank gain for repeating the same move multiple times is significantly increased. Balance No auto-parry from prop/shredder. Only the 1st strike in an attack can perform a parry. + 5% damage for all enemies. Dreamrunners can parry the Arbiter Flush projectile 3 times on DMD.  One of the biggest changes in Hardcore Mode that I'm sure many will appreciate are the infamous color enemies. With the modifier enabled, players can use whatever weapon they want against these specific enemies, however the like-element weapon is still best for the situation. Red/Blue enemies Frost/Hell Knights can be struck with any weapon. They take reduced damage, and do not react, when hit by weapons that do not match their color (unless Devil Trigger is active)  Ghost/Hell Rages can be struck with any weapon. They take reduced damage, and do not react, when hit by weapons that do not match their color (unless Devil Trigger is active). They are still partially invisible unless in the correct mode.  Hell Rages have 10% less health to accommodate use of any weapon against them. "This was always a controversial point," said Tucker. "On the one hand, DMC is all about variety and being able to creatively mix combos, and the red/blue enemies deflecting Dante's attacks went against that; however, we found during focus testing that players were confused about which weapons to use, so for clarity and feedback purposes the deflection was much better. In the end, after seeing fan feedback, we've changed it for DE so you can hit any guy with any weapon. Using the correct weapon causes hit reactions (they don't get interrupted by the wrong weapon) and still deals more damage." And that's just the tip of the iceberg. You can find more info about the changelog on Capcom-Unity's blog, featuring details about parry windows, Vergil gameplay, and the finer benefits of having an increased frame rate to work with. After reading through the changes, and getting a sense of the developer's view on DMC, I have an even greater appreciation for the game. It's not often we got a detailed look like this with developer commentary, so it's definitely something I respect Ninja Theory for. Also, the launch trailer is excellent. '80s gothic rock from The Lost Boys is such a great fit for DmC.DmC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition - Change Log [Capcom-Unity]
DmC Devil May Cry DE photo
Sans fedora and color keys
With DmC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition out now, fans of the series have another title to keep them satiated till the next one is ready. As you've likely read, Chris gave his impressions of the game earlier. He was im...

Skyworld takes unique advantage of Valve's new virtual reality tech

Mar 06 // Alessandro Fillari
For our demo, the developers led me into a closed-off room which housed Valve's virtual reality hardware. Around the room were two cameras that tracked movement and set the boundaries of the VR environment by scanning the dimensions of the room. They then handed me the headset, which still looked as if it was in the prototype phase. Wires to the headset were numerous, which required a belt around my waist to hold all of them down. Honestly, it felt like I was wearing something from '90s cyberpunk like Ghost in the Shell or Johnny Mnemonic. It was weighty, but had a number of devices working at once. I actually almost tripped over one of the wires before our demo even started. But any apprehension I had for the device soon faded once I tried out the interface and witnessed it in action. With the headset on, I was in a home menu showing a number of games and applications. The controllers they gave me, which were also connected with wires, were two wand-like devices that were somewhat like a mix between the Sony Move and Wii Remote. Similar to the headset, they were in early form. Using trackpads on the controllers allowed me to cycle through options. And just for fun, pressing down the trackpad caused a balloon to inflate from the controller in the digital space, which was amusing. It felt intuitive, and surprisingly accurate. I could look around to see the menu system with its grey, almost minimalistic background, but the Valve engineer instructed me to look towards the floor. On the floor was a box, which represented the center of the space. Once I started walking forward outside the box, I made it a few steps before a grid popped up in front of me. This grid represented the physical wall that I was about to walk into, which the camera picked up and visualized within the VR space. It was pretty cool stuff, and I felt that I could've spent plenty of time exploring the home menu, but of course, they had a game to show. [embed]288675:57632:0[/embed] Last year, the developers of World of Diving showed off an impressive demonstration for their underwater-exploration sim. The use of the Oculus Rift was well designed and featured impressive depth and range. With the success and buzz they generated with that title, they attracted the attention of Valve, leading to a partnership. But the new VR technology they were presented meant having to design something a bit different. "When they asked to work together with us to make a demo for the GDC announcement, the first thing that came to mind was that we should do something like World of Diving," said creative director Richard Stitselaar. "But that title was designed around the first Oculus, and then the DK2 came along, we had to ramp it up to seventy-five frames per second, then Valve came along and said 'guys, it needs 90 frames per second.' So we had to do a lot of optimization on the game, and we figured we should use our knowledge with VR and apply it to a new game instead." Skyworld is totally different from World of Diving. Set on a floating island that houses a small civilization, you play as an omnipotent ruler that must wage war on the opposing side. As a quasi tabletop turn-based strategy title, players use both Steam controllers as wands in game to conjure up creatures and interact with the world. Over time, you'll build your defenses and expand your resources, which will allow you to send infantry and even dragons to attack your enemies. With the left controller, I was able to pull up a magic book, which housed unit info and spells to cast. Using the right controller allowed me to interact with the elements on the table. Whether picking up units to reposition them or interacting with blacksmiths or dragons, each controller had its own separate uses that complemented the other. "First we had this interaction model where you would look at something as this dot in the middle and then select it," said Stitselaar. "It feels natural to have something in your hand that could enhance the world itself." When you think of VR, you're probably thinking of something that's a bit action-y or fast-paced, and likely not a turn-based strategy title. But Skyworld definitely makes great use of the technology. I was able to view all aspects of the environment with clarity, as zooming simply meant stepping closer. Of course, I had to let go of some very basic certainties when playing with the demo. For instance, we all know that if there's an object in front of you, then you'll likely have to move if you want to get around it. I spent much of the demo walking around the 'table,' never thinking to actually walk up to whatever object I wanted. Eventually, the engineers from Valve and Vertigo Games instructed me that it was okay to walk through the table -- it wasn't real. After attacking enemy installations and moving my infantry around, my time with the demo ended. It was fairly brief, and I felt I only scratched the surface of what I could do. Valve's technology was easily the most impressive use of virtual reality I've seen in a long time, though. Moreover, Vertigo Games' work impressed. I was pleasantly surprised to experience a title that used VR in an original way. While the technology has a ways to go before it will get in the hands of consumers, I'm excited about what the future of VR holds.
Valve VR photo
Vertigo Games talks the future of VR
We got a big shock at the beginning of the week when Valve announced its partnership with HTC to produce a new virtual reality headset. We all knew the company had ambitions to enter the console market with Steam Machines, bu...

Elite: Dangerous has bold plans for the future

Mar 05 // Alessandro Fillari
"It's always brilliant to see how many people were supportive of the game," said lead designer David Braben as he reflected on the initial debut of Elite. "So many people helped us do that, and one of the great things about Kickstarter is that it brings together a crowd of people who all have very similar goal. So it's worked overall very, very well for us -- I'm actually very proud of what we've done. And another thing, we've not only shipped the game, but we've continued support of the game." As one of the early Kickstarter success stories, Elite: Dangerous grabbed a lot of attention for its vision as a space-exploration title across a massive and ever-growing universe. As a sequel to the '90s space sim Frontier, many fans of the genre yearned for a return, which they got in Frontier Developments' crowdfunded title. Despite its scope and breadth of content so far, the creators already have much of the development mapped out for the next few years. [embed]288572:57606:0[/embed] "I see [the vision] for a very, very long time growing, and it'll keep us occupied. We said there would be paid updates, and some of the things we said you could do in those is going down to planet surfaces, get up out of your chair and explore the cockpit, boarding other ships, big-game hunting, driving other types of vehicles on the surface to explore cities; but designing each one is like a whole new type of game. We have to be careful, but to me those are the perfect types of game experiences." With the success of previous updates and expansions, such as patch 1.1, the developers fully plan continue support with new patches and paid content packs in the future. With the Wings update, which seeks to add more PvP content, co-op play, and other enhancements to matchmaking, there is a sizeable amount of content on the horizon. "We've had amazing dedication from a lot of players, many players have played a significant amount of time -- more than a thousand hours. We're listening to a lot of players and quite a few of the people who've played that length of time are saying 'oh, I've seen everything now,' and they actually haven't. The great thing with this model is that we can add content continually, such as the Wings update and the community events. We've only been out for around three months, and people are already sinking so much time into it." The most surprising announcement from this week was that Elite would be making its way to consoles. Though the space sim genre is somewhat notorious for its complexity and dense gameplay, the developers were adamant that the title would not only feature all the content released thus far, but also that it would not be watered down for consoles. "I don't want to dumb it down," said Braben rather bluntly. "I'm an Xbox gamer, and I love games on my Xbox, but there are some games I feel that have been dumbed down a bit [for console port]. I get sick of tutorials, that are giving you very obvious instructions. So overall, I'm very excited about the console. It'll offer a different feel for players where you're sitting back on a comfortable chair or siting up close to a desk." Of course, with the recent trends seeing virtual reality as the future of games, the developers wanted to get ahead of that by being among the first to officially support the device. Which certainly plaid off, as it's one of the most used games for the Oculus Rift headset. As more companies are announcing devices, Braben is optimistic about the potential VR has for gaming. "[Working with VR] has been a good experience," he said. "The great thing about being independent is when we first released [a beta] in 2013, there was Oculus Rift support five or six days later, which we added. We were always excited abut it, and we thought our game would make great use of it. What's good to see now is that the number of new head-mounted displays coming out, and I think that's exciting -- what's interesting is that I think there aren't any other triple-A titles like Elite: Dangerous that are officially supporting it right out of the box. We see lots of demos, but it's surprising to see there isn't a consumer release VR headset." It's great to see that a hardcore space sim has been so widely accepted by fans. And as the game grows every few months with its updates, players will have plenty of content to dive into. The future looks bright for Elite: Dangerous, and with the console releases on the horizon, the barrier for entry is much lower now for those looking to dive into interstellar exploration.
Elite: Dangerous photo
The developers talk content updates and VR
Things have been going well for Frontier Developments. With the success of Elite: Dangerous, which features a sizeable and passionate community of space explorers, and having won the prestigious Audience Award from the 2015 G...

ArenaNet: Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns 'is like Metroid and Zelda slammed together'

Mar 03 // Chris Carter
So how exactly do you tackle an MMO expansion? For the most part, developers will put a new level cap in place, and immediately make your old gear irrelevant within the first few quests. It's a traditional system that isn't inherently flawed for the right type of gamer, but ArenaNet is trying something different with the Masteries system in Heart of Thorns. I asked Johanson how they plan to keep people interested for longer periods of time. With a level cap that's a firm goal to reach for, but how is Guild Wars 2 going to entice players to get every Mastery? He responded with, "Well there's a lot of variety here. Combat masteries are needed for certain big bosses, like one foe that has thick bark -- you'll need one special ability to strip the bark, otherwise you'll have to run for your life. There's a lot of combat abilities peppered about, which will drive players alone. For the most part the story is not gated, but other parts will be." Going on, he noted that "We'll also be adding more Masteries and points. The system is not a one-off in the expansion. This is the message to players that this is the new system going forward as we build and progress the game. We'll continue to add more challenging content and new Masteries for players to play with. Each of these systems we picked is how we plan to build and grow the game in the future." Johanson was excited to talk about what influenced this system, stating, "We noted that this took a lot of progression from other franchises. In fact, the traversal systems like gliding are like Metroid and Zelda slammed together. Some day you'll be able to come back and do other things, like bounce up on a certain mushroom and go up into certain treetop areas. So how are they tackling exploration? Will players want to go to places other than the expansion? "We don't want to have empty, barren areas like other MMOs," he responded. "We want people to go back to everywhere in the game. We want strong core areas with lots of fun things to do. Inherently, there will be more people to play with in those areas, which is what MMOs are all about. So we want to make less areas and create more focused experiences." Johanson was mum about discussing dungeon or raid content, as nothing has been announced yet. But when coaxed, he stated, "Yeah, we're looking at all of that. Especially with raid content. We very clearly heard that people think we have a very fun combat system. Minute-to-minute it's exciting, but there are not enough creatures in the game that force you to use that whole skill bar or take advantage of that combat system. PVP has that, but if you love PVE you don't really get to experience that in the core game. So we're addressing that in Heart of Thorns. But that is all I can say today." I also asked how they plan on getting players to level 80, since you need to max out to play the new Heart of Thorns content: "We haven't discussed anything specific as to how we're going to help new players. Tying in to a previous point there's a compelling reason to go back to old content. With our sidekicking system you can also go back and play with lower-level players. In other words, there will always be people to play with. I think the jungle as a goal will be a great thing for people to work towards. We do have a lot of account-based systems, so we think it's okay to ask people to go back and level-up new characters." I also touched on the concept of the Revenant, noting that there's a propensity to claim that new classes are overpowered to entice players to level-up new characters and keep playing -- so I asked how they plan to balance it head-on. "I love that question! Even before we showed it people on our fan forums said it was overpowered which is amazingly funny. I think it's balanced because it has a balanced armor rating and balanced range. It has a lot of movement in combat, but outside of combat it has a tough time getting between battles. One of the things you can do to counter the Revenant is outrange it. It doesn't have a lot of blocks or counters. It can also be interrupted. It also has to control its energy bar constantly, which limits its skills despite the fact that it has more skills than most professions." I tried to get in a secret announcement for a new race, but had no such luck: "We looked at races but they don't really have a huge point in Guild Wars 2 from a gameplay standpoint. The content needs are much tougher, like more starting zones and voice-work. That doesn't give us a lot of content for the time we put in. There's some ones our fans would love to see, but I don't think that adds much gameplay-wise." Switching gears to PVP, I asked about the MOBA influences that the new Stronghold mode wore on its sleeve. Johanson was enthusiastically stated "Yeah! MOBAs and Dota-lites definitely were influences. Fort Aspenwood in Guild Wars provided some inspiration. We tried to take all of those things and put our own unique twist on it." When asked if there will be any disparity between World vs. World and Stronghold modes in terms of rewards, Johanson replied, "No, we're aiming to really strike the balance between the two. It will really depend on your personal skill level. For instance if you find a great guild for World vs. World, you'll likely reap more benefits than Stronghold. World vs. World has its own progression system, so there's that to keep into account." I continued to press PVP, asking if ArenaNet was interested in more "micro" type PVP modes similar to League of Legends' Dominion, and Johanson was pretty excited at the strong reception to PVP so far. "Definitely. We're looking at more modes like Stronghold, where people have roles to play, where everyone can help their team win, but you can constantly change roles. It has to be approachable. People in the office who didn't even play PVP were into Stronghold, so that's something we're looking at." All things said, I'm happy with the direction Guild Wars 2 is taking. Expect more coverage as Heart of Thorns as the year goes on. [Both lunch and dinner were provided at the event in ArenaNet's offices in Bellevue, Washington.]
Guild Wars 2 interview photo
An interview with lead designer Colin Johanson
Guild Wars 2 is one of the most accessible MMOs ever made. Eschewing the Holy Trinity of class builds, you can basically pick any character you want and still fulfill a role in any group. Everyone can heal, and everyone ...

Exclusive: Dot Arcade is a new full color videogame for Wii U

Feb 25 // Jonathan Holmes
James isn't working on the game entirely on his own. He's partnered with talented programmer and composer Andrew Lim to help bring the game to life. James tells us Dot Arcade "...started off its life as a physical system prototype! It was essentially a wooden box with an 8x8 LED grid and a SNES controller plugged in. A perfect accessory for any coffee table." Hearing that, my mind immediately turned to Tenya Wanya Teens, a game I've been excited about but unable to play for years. It hasn't been released to the public, and is only available at events due to its unique, lightbulb-intensive controller. James knew what I was talking about, stating "Tenya Wanya Teens came up as a topic a few times during our development -- I think there's a really similar spirit behind that as there is with Dot Arcade." So how did James and Andrew get around the limitation that comes with creating unique hardware for a game? It wasn't an overnight process. According to James "...creating and manufacturing physical hardware is really complicated for just two dudes alone. But the dot games were a sensation with everyone we showed them to, and co-workers at Andrew's day job nearly made it a ritual to have lunch session showdowns for the highest scores. It's definitely the type of game that brings people together, and I remember that's one of the things I mentioned hoping to put special focus on as far back as when I appeared on Sup Holmes." Luckily for us, that passion for bringing people together just happened to be a perfect fit for Nintendo's latest home console. James said "We wanted to find some way we could share the dot games with the rest of the world, and Wii U seemed like the right fit. It was important that the experience emphasize the more intimate GamePad screen, but also beneficial to broadcast gameplay to others in the room on T... and taking it a step further, share scores with friends anywhere through Miiverse! So we started development on the collection of games, Dot Arcade." Dot Arcade isn't one game, but a collection of three games -- Mr. Snake, Dodge Club, and Rally Driver. Each uses the same 8x8 screen of virtual flashing lights to display the action. It's something like the classic Lite Brite art-toy with a mind of its own. Each game has it's own "cabinet artwork" created by a featured guest artist like Jordan Canales and Jeremy Hobbs. While the game wont be out until "probably next month," James isn't shy about letting us know about his future plans for the series, such as "...secret extra cabinets for each game." and a plan to make "...Dot Arcade into something like a bit Generations series and introduce Dot Arcade Vol. 2 with three new games/featured artists... and so on, as long as there's an audience with interest!" It will be interesting to see how enthusiasts react to Dot Arcade. James is well aware that "The end result is a bit tricky to describe" and"static screenshots don't seem to do the games justice" but he's hopeful they'll still find their audience. Like so many successful solo designers before him, James loves videogames, and he's made a game that he and his friends really enjoy. That gives him faith other people will enjoy it too, as according to James, Dot Arcade is "...the most raw form of video game -- there's no story other than what's implied by the cabinet art, and there's no real game graphics to speak of, just a focus on having fun manipulating an object on the screen. They're entertaining in a way that's shared only with the most vintage of video games. " Some cynics assume "vintage" games are all trying to pass off a lack of ambition as "8-bit cool", but that's not the case with Dot Arcade. James and Andrew worked hard to make sure the games provide something fresh while remaining true to the fundamentals, stating they've "...even paid special attention to detail throughout the experience, and kept everything authentic to how it worked on our physical hardware. The beeping / buzzing sound effects, frame-by-frame input feedback, slowdown with many objects on screen... as well as details outside the gameplay, where the menu music on the TV and GamePad are different, but complement each other in unison. We've only seen first party Nintendo games try to pull this off." I take Dot Arcade to be the riskiest type of "retro" game. It's not the type of game many are nostalgic for, and like James said, it's not a game that can sell itself on screenshots and characters alone. Like the 16x16 pixel Zelda demake from a while back, Dot Arcade gets by on a combination of the strength of its design and the imagination of its players. The fact James has enough faith in himself and his potential fans to put out a game like Dot Arcade speaks to love of videogames and the people who play them. 
Dot Arcade photo
James Montanga abstracts upon the abstract
Two of James Montagna's most well known games are Adventure Time: Hey Ice King Why'd You Steal Our Garbage?!! and Wonder Momo. These games sold because of their characters. Wonder Momo had built up a strong following thr...

Why are so few of Evolve's characters female?

Feb 08 // Kyle MacGregor
At one point this involved reworking a female character into a man. Markov, one of the assaults, started out as Nikola, but Robb says his character designers never quite realized their vision for her. Consequently, she was scrapped in favor of what would wind up a male form. Asked if Turtle Rock felt pressure from the outside to make those sort of changes, Robb said his team never discussed which demographics would be represented or in what capacity. Apparently, it was just about "making cool, compelling characters."  "One of things that was really important to the character team, we wanted to make the female characters we do have strong, intelligent, cool female characters," he said. "We kept all their clothes on. We didn't go for the whole Dead or Alive-- There's no boob jiggle or any of that bullshit." Robb said the team has many more character ideas kicking around, "a lot" of which are female. He hopes to explore them should the game do well at market. We'll just have to wait and see. Evolve launches this Tuesday, February 10 for Xbox One, PC, and PlayStation 4.
Evolve female characters photo
The creative director responds
Evolve will launch with twelve hunters: eight men, three women, and a robot, though it's referred to as a "he." Of the three female characters, two are medics (Val and Caira) and the other (Maggie) is a trapper. There are cur...

He's really the Prince of All Jerks
I was surprised to find myself given the opportunity to interview Christopher Sabat; the founder of voice over studio, Okratron500, and the voice actor for Vegeta, and many other Dragon Ball characters. I've been a huge Drag...

Jacob 'Humble' Browe talks Minelands: Call of the Border

Feb 07 // Brittany Vincent
Minelands: Call of the Border, from Triple-A Developer Entertainment, is Browe's baby, the product that's single-handedly responsible for his rise to prominence. It's received dozens of perfect 10/10, 5/5, 3/3, 2/2, and 1/1 scores from outlets just like this one, and none of us have even gotten to play the game yet. It's a thrill ride to be sure, but the game isn't the only reason he's becoming a household name. After putting out a series of daily developer diaries, a photo documentary series with stills from each minute of his day (including videos from each of his Starbucks jaunts), Browe has gained a following with fans as well. His Twitter features up-to-the-minute news and opinions sponsored by now-defunct "energy" soda Vault, where he speaks only in lowercase, using bizarre syntax and phrases like "v cool" and "p sure." When it comes to the industry he grew up shunning to ensure he could still impress vapid women in high school, no detail can go overlooked. Browe was the picture of patience and humility during our chat in the Gaylord Hotel suite he so lavishly recommended that I reserve with my credit card. I had requested my own room, but he was gracious enough to suggest we share the executive suite because, as he put it, "There's way too much space in here for one lonely guy." He spent much of the interview posted up at the minibar alternating between downing shots like a fish desperately seeking the glistening life force of water and checking his iPhone 6 Plus, making moves on his fantasy football team roster. It's like I wasn't even there, which actually allowed me to capture an even more intimate portrait of one of gaming's rising stars. When he did talk though, I definitely felt a sort of camaraderie I hadn't felt in some time from other devs. Chatting in the dimly-lit suite's makeshift "living room" area felt a lot like, well, home. Over a steaming cup of hotel brand coffee, Browe opened up about Minelands: Call of the Border, and why he thinks it has struck a chord with reviewers, who were privy to fifty 30-second trailers over the course of a three-month period before release. "Obviously everyone's excited because my game is taking creative risks like no other company out there. Minelands is doing something completely and totally new," Browe gushed, with a twinkle in his eye that could have been all the booze he had taken in before and during our talk. "For the first time in history, players can use two weapons at once. So if you're trying to kill an enemy and make sure he's dead, you could use your shotgun and your AK at the same time to dual-wield. You can even reload independently. And you don't even have to hold two weapons at a time if you don't want to. It's not required at all. " Technically, Browe reminded me earlier on when we met, Minelands is a first-person shooter, but its host of envelope-pushing features ensure that it defies classification. For instance, you'll be able to save your progress anywhere in the game. Rather than waiting for checkpoints, you can go to the menu at any time -- whether on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, or N-Gage -- and save. Female characters, I was told, would play a major role as well.  "Commander Hua Wei is a fellow operative from China, and as you play through the game as Captain Guardevoi she's by your side every step of the way. She'll give you waypoints from her command center, and appear before you as a hologram of sorts for in-game interactions. This is the first time there's ever been a female commander in a shooter, let alone one that gives you orders as you go along. Of course, there's still plenty of time for romance in the game. Hua Wei may be your colleague as you trek across the Minelands to defeat the nefarious Hangdog Mack at the Border, but there's no battlefield too big to let love in." Though he didn't share much else regarding the title that's launched him into the gaming celebrity stratosphere, Browe did invite me out for dinner next week, where he's ordered that I come dressed in heels and a revealing dress so that we can talk about his creative process. But what about how the players feel about the actual game? I'm dying to know myself. Minelands has been released to the public already, but technically won't be going on sale for another couple of days, and then only at retailers like GameStop and Bed Bath and Beyond. Some members of approved media outlets who've seen the multitude of trailers are keeping mum about the game thus far other than the quotes okayed for the promotional materials: "Fantastic!" proclaims a prominent games magazine. "Brilliantly!" exclaimed a digital publication. Browe had quotes on hand, but he wasn't so forthcoming about sharing them with me, keeping silent so as not to give anyone a taste of what's already being called Game of the Year material. I did see something along the lines of "Brilliantly terrible," but I'm almost certain the "terrible" was a typo and it was something like 'Brilliantly, terribly genius" from Video Diversion Educator Magazine. But they wouldn't get the last word on things. That pleasure belonged to Browe as he gave me his parting words to pass on.  "Please subscribe to my Patreon and support independent video game development. Buy me a vanilla bean frappuccino if you end up liking Minelands: Call of the Border. I also accept major credit cards. It's all for the fans, and I'm planning on making something even bigger soon involving player choice. Two words: Branching dialogue options." Browe had wiggled his eyebrows seductively toward me after divulging this information, and even as I pen this piece now I'm astounded. Truly, Jacob "Humble" Browe is a visionary.
Minelands photo
A rising star speaks
Jacob "Humble" Browe is a visionary. He's just shipped a multi-billion dollar game to hundreds of retailers across the United States and Canada, with additional release dates staggered across the world. After running a succ...

To Infinity and beyond: A chat with Disney Infinity's executive producer

Feb 05 // Jason Faulkner
Infinity had its work cut out for it as it entered the market. Skylanders had a monopoly, but Vignocchi stated that all it did was prove market opportunity. The team behind the series knew that the Disney IP, software innovation (through the Toy Box), and higher figure quality would be the key to differentiate the series, and focused on those aspects. When designing the games and figures, the designers try and follow Pixar's maxim to "make movies (games/figures) that they would want to see (play)." The most important aspect to them is, does this character "allow us to bring unique and incredible gameplay" to the series? What's going on in the world of Disney, theatrical releases and other key events, have some bearing on which characters make it to life, but if it wouldn't be fun to play them, they won't get made. I also inquired about the recently released Toy Box 2.0 app for the iPhone, I was curious as to whether a future version of the app would utilize the NFC capabilities of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus if they were unlocked by Apple. Vignocchi stated that the approach right now was to consolidate and connect the Disney Infinity series across all platforms, console, iOS, and PC. Right now the figures are unlocked on PC and iOS via a unlock code included with the figures, and did not mention plans to expand NFC capabilities to any other platform. My final question concerned a dream of mine I've had since I was a child, to go on a magical adventure with Boba Fett, The Hulk, and Mickey Mouse, and being two-thirds of the way there has haunted me for months. The first Disney Infinity release was solely Disney properties, 2.0 added Marvel to the mix. I was hoping I would get confirmation that Star Wars was part of a massive Disney Infinity 3.0 that also included favorites from original LucasArts games, so that I could finally give up on the material world beyond my Disney Infinity playsets and PlayStation 4. Unfortunately, Vignocchi stated that he had "nothing to announce at this time." But for a moment, I felt like I could sense a twinkle in his eye from across the Atlantic.
Disney Infinity Q&A photo
NFC won't let me be
The near-field communication (NFC) figure craze was at its height this past holiday season. Skylanders, amiibo, and Disney Infinity figures flew off shelves in droves. I know my local Wal-Mart looked like an adorable Bat...

Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin is more than just a remaster

Feb 05 // Alessandro Fillari
Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin (PC, PS3, PS4 [previewed], Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: From SoftwarePublisher: Bandai Namco GamesRelease date: April 7, 2015MSRP: $59.99 "It's about the rediscovery of the Dark Souls II experience, from the director's perspective," said Yoshimura during his presentation on Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin. "That was something that the team at From Software in Japan really wanted players to experience." The developers and publisher Bandai Namco have kept many details close to the vest, in part due to the studio working on another Souls-esque experience with Bloodborne, and wanting to keep fans in suspense. It's easy to think of this as nothing more than a remastered game-of-the-year edition, which is totally fair, but From Software wanted to set the record straight. In the cursed kingdom of Drangelic, you play as an afflicted traveler looking to find a cure to end their suffering. With the kingdom filled with monsters and other nefarious foes, you'll discover that the curse, and those crazy enough to remain in the defiled lands, are all linked in the fate of Drangelic. Granted, you know this if you played the original Dark Souls II. You might even be comfortable with what lurks in the cursed lands. But what if I were to tell you that things are a bit different with the coming of Scholar of the First Sin? With this release, From Software wanted to spice things up by adding characters as well as overhauling and retweaking gameplay. "If you played Dark Souls II on Xbox 360 or PS3 all the way through, then you would think of this game, Scholar of the First Sin, as roughly the same game with all of the DLCs," said marketing director Brian Hong. "But what we're really trying to get across with players is that with [current-generation systems], we have a completely different experience for Dark Souls II." A common criticism of the original release last year was that it was much easier than its predecessor. While there is an argument for that case, even though it was still an immensely challenging game, the folks at From Software want to address those concerns head-on. Scholar of the First Sin is to Dark Souls II what Master Quest is to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. It's not only for newcomers looking to see what the Souls experience is all about, it's also for those who may think they've mastered Dark Souls II. In my brief time with the game, it was apparent the game wanted me to feel very uncomfortable with what lied behind the corner even though I've already cleared the previous title. But of course, the feeling of discomfort is a normal part of the series' experience. One of Scholar of the First Sin's most apparent changes is that enemy and monster placements have been reworked. Foes you encountered at certain points in DSII will appear much earlier, and in greater numbers. During my session in the Forest of Fallen Giants, Ogres were wandering throughout, and Hollow Infantry are in larger groups. Surprisingly, the Heide Knights were nowhere to be seen, as they've been moved to other locations. With the increased number of foes, and different placement of them, I found myself having to effectively relearn aspects of areas I was quite familiar with. What's even more surprising was that the A.I. was not only improved, but the enemies of Dark Souls II had also lost their fear of Bonfire spots. They will have no qualms about chasing players down to their safe havens. To put it simply, you're more vulnerable in Scholar of the First Sin than in the original, which means you'll be using your hoards of lifegems far more often. As any fan of the Souls series will tell, mastering your environment and knowing the limits of your enemies is everything. So it was especially interesting to see that Scholar of the First Sin pulls the rug from under the players. From Software has especially had fun in placing monsters in areas that were not present in the original game. For instance, elevators that lead to bosses or shortcuts now house enemies that lay in wait for the player. With the technology that the current-gen has brought, the developers were very keen on getting the title out on the new hardware. With the increased horsepower, From Software was able to bring a visual boost to the Souls experience. In addition to the title running at 60 frames per second and at 1080p, the texture quality and lighting are improved to give the atmosphere an extra kick. Moreover, online multiplayer has also seen a boost with a maximum of six players during engagements. Much like another upcoming remaster, the developers were also inspired by much of what PC modders were able to accomplish, and wanted to offer the same level of content boosts (like textures and lighting) to the console releases. "Thanks to those players online, we were surprised by what they came up with," said Yoshimura. "Just one week after the release of [Dark Souls II], we saw all these mods being released, and the team at From Software were surprised and like 'This mod is awesome!'" Surprisingly, the producer was candid about the state of parity between each version. As there was some controversy over the differences in the original game to the one that was ultimately released, Bandai Namco was very adamant about what's in Scholar of the First Sin. "All [current-gen] versions will run at 1080p and 60 frames per second, including the Xbox One. So it is not 900p blah-blah-blah, it's 1080p and 60 FPS for all three platforms. Though some people said that it is worse to play the game on PC without DirectX 11, and the answer is yes. I'm really confident about clarifying this, because the improved lighting and shadows, clothing effects, and etc. -- this is only available on DirectX 11 technology, and not on DirectX 9." If you have the PS3, Xbox 360, or PC (DX9) versions of Scholar of the First Sin, then you might find yourself surprised to see that nothing has been altered visually or tech-wise, though you'll definitely experience the gameplay enhancements and new content. I dug what I played of the PlayStation 4 version. Though I was a little disappointed that no new areas were implemented, it's exciting to see that the developers sought to redefine what Dark Souls II was. The graphical boosts are very apparent -- quite stunning in person, even -- and the smooth 60 FPS combat is immediately noticeable. Though it's a bit disappointing that only those with new hardware will be able to experience it (without mods, of course). It's an interesting experience to re-learn Dark Souls II. Coming off of its predecessor, it seemed to have gotten flack for not quite living up to that standard while wanting to try something different. But with Scholar of the First Sin, which the folks at From Software consider the definitive edition, it feels like the game has gotten a much-needed invigoration -- especially with Bloodborne coming out the month before. It's not often you get to experience a game like this for the first time all over again, and that's something fans should love.
Dark Souls II photo
Prepare to die harder
I'll be the first to say it: it's going to be the year of Souls. With the release of Bloodborne only a month away, which looks to redefine the experience along with its wonderful change of setting, From Software has been...

Meet the winner of Nintendo Power's The Mask II contest

Feb 04 // Tony Ponce
The contest page with the Nathan's entry form cut out. Meet Nathan Ryan Runk from Arbutus, MD. He entered and won that The Mask II contest, and despite never getting the chance to share the screen with Mr. Ace Ventura, he's pleased with how the whole matter was resolved. It was pure luck that brought Nathan, then 12 years old, into the winner's circle. "I actually rarely entered any contests in Nintendo Power," he explains. "I entered maybe about a dozen in the seven or so years of having a subscription. I only entered ones that really appealed to me, and, being a preteen in the mid-'90s, anything Jim Carrey OBVIOUSLY was appealing." Nathan was notified of his victory within a month or two, and afterwards, Nintendo would call him up every few months to keep him informed of new developments. Fun fact: The lady who kept in contact with him was Leslie Swan, former managing editor for Nintendo Power and current localization director for Nintendo of America, though she is better known to most of you as the voice of Princess Peach in Super Mario 64. Nathan's notification letter from THQ. When it was clear that the movie wasn't happening, Nathan was properly taken care of. Above is a letter sent to him on November 4, 1996, from product marketing manager John Ardell of THQ, which published The Mask SNES videogame under the Black Pearl Software label and partnered with Nintendo for this contest. The letter reads: I am sorry that the filming of The Mask II has been postponed and that we were not able to send you to the set. Enclosed please find an official crew jacket from The Mask II that was supplied by New Line Cinema. Additionally, I have included a few of our new Super Nintendo games for your collection. Thank you for your patience with this promotion. On top of the jacket, which Nathan sadly can't find anymore, and the box of games, which of course included the original The Mask, Nathan also emerged from the deal with a cool $5,000 (the estimated value of the prize package, according to the official contest rules). As he remembers, "They gave me the option to wait indefinitely or take the cash... I took the cash. Absolutely the right call! Also, when I was on the phone with the people from Nintendo, they asked me if there was anything else that I really wanted. I said that I had just recently gotten an N64 and really wanted Pilotwings 64 (loved the original). In less than a week, I received that with the check." As we are well aware, a pseudo-sequel called Son of the Mask eventually released in 2005. There's no telling if all involved parties would have honored the contest had Nathan not taken the check that day, but it's all for the best. "I would have likely been okay with doing a walk-on in Son of the Mask because, at the time, I didn't know how bad it was going to be. Knowing what I do now and even if that were an option, I'm glad I went with the money." The printed apology on page 39 of Vol. 285. So if everything turned out rosy, why did Nintendo keep quiet about the fate of the contest this whole time? No one knows for certain, but as Nathan theorizes, "[T]hey don't want to be viewed as having ever let their fan base down, which I completely understand. Printing that shows that they failed one of their subscribers (even though they didn't) and it might erode the validity of their contest, even though that would be undeserved. Nintendo has earned the reputation of being a 'good' company, something that I feel is nearly impossible to do." These days, Nathan lives with his wife a short drive away from his childhood home. He's not as huge a gamer as he once was -- he used to be extremely into the XBAND modem and used the handle "King Gorth" -- but he still makes a time for rounds of Mario Kart 8 and the like. And with that, we finally have closure on one of the weirder events in Nintendo Power history. Nathan didn't get his big Hollywood break, but he did make out like a bandit, and that ought to put a smile on everyone's faces. Nathan's smile is probably a bit bigger than most, what with his being treated like a king for the better part of a year. The Player's Poll Contest on pages 82 and 83 of Vol. 77. I'll leave you with Nathan's thoughts regarding Nintendo Power's closure: "It's a bit sad whenever something from your childhood goes away. It was like that store that you really used to like but hadn't been to in years that 'suddenly' closes down. It's a bit of nostalgia that kids nowadays will know nothing about, and that, I think, is the worst part. "My subscription ended in 1999 (still have all my back issues), so when it all ended, I wasn't surprised. I had stopped caring as much, as had most people around me. I was the last of my friends to have a subscription. I really don't think my situation was an isolated incident. But for those of us who had a subscription, it was a magical experience. Every month, you had the inside edge on all the newest games. You could get your friends through any level, find all the secrets and know all the codes. There was no YouTube, no Wiki, no walkthrough. You had to have the Power. "And then, one day, the Power went out."
The Mask II Mystery photo
Consider this mystery... SSSMOKED!
In my heart of hearts, Nintendo Power will never die. If you were an American Nintendo gamer in the late '80s to early '90s, this monthly rag granted you unfettered access to a world of insider news and gossip that made you t...

Evolve director on DLC: 'I don't like people thinking we're doing underhanded, dirty shit'

Jan 20 // Kyle MacGregor
Robb expected questions about Evolve's DLC-abetting design, and was quick to label Ashton's choice of words as unfortunate. He attempted to assuage any fears Evolve was some sort of DLC delivery system, explaining the game's architecture was designed to be adaptable, something easily expanded upon. The furor, he said, stemmed from a misunderstanding and a lack of clarity. "That was hugely disheartening for me," Robb said candidly. "I don't like people thinking we're doing underhanded, dirty shit." It's easy to take Robb at his word. Unlike other executives, he comes into work wearing a hoodie and trainers rather than a suit and tie. He sports a long, silvery beard, like many others at the studio, refusing to clip until the game ships (for charity, no less). He's genuine, down to earth, the epitome of casual, and the first to admit he isn't really much of a businessman. Robb describes himself as more of a "gamer geek," one who's just "lucky enough to make them." He keeps a bearded dragon in Turtle Rock's open-air office, where the seating is in a constant state of flux and the company's newest intern may be sitting beside one of the founders. He talks like a real person rather than some corporate robot, complete with liberal use of profanity and cartoon character voices. "We have the game set up in such a way that we can expand upon it if that is the desire," Robb told me. "Our plan is one we pushed for as consumers. Never split the community, no pay to win, all that kind of bullshit that are hallmarks of DLC plans specifically made to leech money out of people." Money is definitely a concern, though, as Robb points out the studio has bills to pay and nearly a hundred families to support. Plus, there's a money-hungry publisher involved. Still, it seems like Turtle Rock is at least advocating for a more consumer-friendly post-release business model. "If we're going to make money we want to feel good about the way we've done it," Robb said. "We don't want to feel like we've hoodwinked people." That doesn't mean he views DLC as some sort of taboo, though. "I don't quite understand the knee-jerk negative reaction to DLC. Because I know for me, as a gamer, when I have a game I really love and I play it for a while and I want more, I want more. I'll pay for it. I don't mind." Robb is cognizant the industry is teeming with parasitic DLC programs, and was quick to point out all of Evolve's maps will be free. "Good," I tell him. "People hate shelling out $20 for map packs." So does Robb. At this point in the conversation, I recall glancing back at a 2K Games PR handler sitting in the corner, trying not to squirm as Robb made one unbridled remark after the next. "I think a lot of people probably feel like [DLC] is milking the community," Robb admitted. "That's fair because a lot of companies approach it that way." "All our maps are gonna be free," he told me again, and would do so a few more times before our talk was over. "Everyone gets that. Any of the monsters or hunters we put out are going to be paid DLC, but the nice thing about that, and this is something we pushed for really hard, even if you don't buy it you can play against it. So it's still not splitting the community. And not only is it not splitting the community, but it's enriching your game experience even if you're not interested." Turtle Rock hopes Evolve is something people will continue to play for a long time and views DLC as a way to keep folks invested in the experience. "Just keeping the game fresh in some way is always a good way to bring people back for more. Any of the DLC we make, our plans around DLC are about introducing new experiences. We want to have more content that significantly changes the game and breathes life into all the stuff that came first." "You have all these maps, and maybe you get bored of them after a while, but you throw a new monster in there and that has a ripple effect across the entire game." It sounds reasonable, the way Robb explains it one-on-one in a secluded room, but the way 2K presents it to the world at large comes across as anything but. Evolve projects like an experience that's being carved up part and parcel between its downloadable pre-order bonus monster (which retails for a hefty $15) and a complicated web of premium bundles. It's disheartening, really. 2K is preying on a part of your psyche that fears if you don't get the biggest, most expensive package you'll wind up missing out or paying more later. Meanwhile, you have no idea if you'll even enjoy the $60 base game in the first place. "There are way too many ideas we cannot fit into the box," Robb told me. "Budget-wise, time-wise, there's too much cool shit for us to leave it laying there and never do anything with it. But we wanted to be good about it as consumers." Robb seems like his heart is in the right place, but just as that 2K representative lurked at the back of the room, a massive corporation with stock and investors looms over the whole operation. This isn't some indie passion project. It would likely be handled differently if it were. There are other interests involved, and a lot riding on this project's success. Evolve was salvaged from THQ's wreckage, purchased by Take-Two Interactive for $10.8 million. They want a return on that investment. As always, consumers will be the ones footing the bill.
Evolve DLC interview photo
The push and pull of good intentions and capitalism
Evolve was peddling pre-order bonuses before its publisher had even shown off what the game looked like. A year later, we have a better idea what type of experience Evolve will offer when it releases next month. However, conc...

Project Scissors dev: 'Working with a renowned film director could easily become a nightmare'

Jan 14 // Jonathan Holmes
Dtoid: The Ju-on series is largely psychological horror, where Clock Tower is more physical. In short, Ju-on plays upon my fears of insanity, mortality, and crushing guilt/depression/shame, where Clock Tower mostly makes me afraid that a small man will stab me. How do you plan to combine these two brands of horror into one game? Kono-san: I intend to focus on the atmosphere along with the physical fear from the Clock Tower franchise. That is, focusing on the psychological fear in the process leading up to the murder. Also, being killed with scissors will have an additional significance. This kind of fear at a deeper level comes from Ju-on and the influence from Mr. Shimizu. Dtoid: Hideo Kojima and film director Guillermo del Toro are teaming up for the next Silent Hill. What do you think of their collaboration, and do you see this pairing of game and film directors becoming more and more common? Kono-san: Upon seeing the movie starring the ghost of Mr. del Toro (The Devil's Backbone), it felt like a Japanese film with a fateful confrontation between the characters. I've heard he has a deep understanding of subculture, including games, so I think it has great potential for a successful creative collaboration. Working with a renowned film director without a proper understanding of games who might force his off-the-point suggestions could easily become a nightmare. However, if it is possible to establish a partnership with mutual respect for the culture each party embraces, these kinds of collaborations may become more common. It goes without saying that my relationship with Mr. Shimizu is this kind of positive partnership. Dtoid: What's truly going to set Project Scissors apart from other games in the genre? Why will audiences want to play it? Kono-san: Since this game is a point & click "adventure game," it is possible to create a cinematic effect in the storytelling, more so compared to games that emphasize action. As such, similar to my previous work, there are many in-game events with a touch of dark humor being prepared. Moreover, I think there is no game that emphasizes "escaping" and "hiding" as much as this game does. The anxiety when playing hide-and-seek, or playing tag. I would like to deliver entertainment that evokes the sense of butterflies in your stomach, at its purest. [Part 1] [Part 2]
Project Scissors photo
The final part of our interview series with Nude Maker
[Art by Mariel "Kinuko" Cartwright] We're closing out our Project Scissors: NightCry pre-release interview series with director Hifume Kono by bringing the focus back on the historic pairing between developer K...

You play as a woman in Project Scissors because 'who wants to hear the screams of a grown man?'

Jan 13 // Jonathan Holmes
Dtoid: Some have interpreted the Clock Tower series to symbolize the fear a young woman may feel towards their budding sexuality, and from the potential physical and sexual threats they may find from others who lust after them. The over-sized scissor weapons are easy to interpret as a phallic symbols. Were any of these themes intended, or is it just a case of fan interpretation going overboard? Kono-san: In my mind, the fear and anxiety a girl may feel in her adolescence holds great meaning from an occultist point of view. It's said that most victims of poltergeists are girls in their adolescence, and in the film Carrie, the physical changes experienced by the teenage heroine are the turning points for the script. I did intend on the scissor to be a phallic symbol, and for the killing with the scissors as an alternative to sexual intercourse, from the original installment of Clock Tower. Unraveling the history of crime around the world, there are numerous cases of sexually impotent individuals committing suicide as an alternative to sexual intercourse. I try and avoid sexual imagery in games for the general public, but as humans are burdened with karma, I feel that treating such themes implicitly adds to the depth of the narrative. I did not expect gamers to understand my intentions, but it pleases me greatly to know that some players and fans of Clock Tower have interpreted my true intentions.  In Project Scissors, the scissors will be treated as a symbol for a new interpretation. I hope players will play the game to find out what the scissors represents for themselves.Dtoid: The Clock Tower games have traditionally starred women. Any concern that male players will struggle to identify with a female player character? Any interest in creating a game with a male protagonist and perhaps a female enemy to shake things up, or is the established formula here to stay? Kono-san: It may be hard to relate to, but who wants to hear the terrified screams of a grown man? Additionally, beauty is highlighted in a hideous world where blood is spilled and pieces of flesh are splattered in the scenery. I wanted to illustrate that kind of beauty. Although the main character [of Project Scissors] will be a female, she will not be your ordinary heroine. I am currently enjoying illustrating such a heroine as we develop this new title, and I hope gamers will also enjoy the new type of heroine featured in our game. Dtoid: What type of control scheme are you looking at to ensure the game feels familiar and yet accessible to players at the same time, while being appropriate for that of a horror title? Kono-san: My goal is to implement a control mechanism that allows for the most number of players to play my games. I believe that the point & click mechanism is the best fit for this, and I will intend to keep it as simple as possible. However, in order to emphasize the "escape" and "hide" systems, I have added one additional element to the control mechanic. We are currently balancing this through trial and error so that it will be effective in the game. [Part 1]
Project Scissors photo
Part two of our three-part interview with Nude Maker
The original Clock Tower was a cult hit when it was first released, and it's managed to stay fresh in the minds of horror game fans ever since. The Jennifer Connelly look-a-like lead; the shocking juxtaposition between quaint...

The Grudge director is working on Project Scissors 'for free'

Jan 12 // Jonathan Holmes
Dtoid: How did the collaboration between Kono-san and Shizumi-san come together? Kono-san: For me to create a brand new horror franchise, I felt the need for "fresh air" from outside the games industry. This new air should not be a comfortable breeze; it must be a dominant force, like a hurricane. This was when I came up with working with Mr. Shimizu, the director of one of my favorite films, Ju-on. I was very nervous as I approached him, since we did not have any budget to afford an internationally renowned film director like him. However, Mr. Shimizu really was intrigued about the project, and kindly agreed to work with us for free as our partner!!! At that time, I felt so lucky that I probably would have been able to win the jackpot 10 times in a row. Dtoid: The Clock Tower series has never flinched when it comes showing the player character suffer a gruesome death. Will NightCry maintain the same level of disempowerment and player suffering? Kono-san: We will most definitely express gruesome deaths and disempowerment in this installment as well. However, these are not simply elements that display bad taste. These situations help to illustrate that only under these disempowering situations will human bravery shine. Maybe these occasions are as rare as finding a diamond in the sandy shore. But that's what makes these occasions so special. I use these situations in the game because I hold a positive view towards the essence to being human. This time around, the deaths are terrifying, but the ultimate horror awaits beyond the deaths. This is much more terrifying than simply dying. Will characters fight off this horrible ending, or will they get swept up by their fear? I hope gamers will play the finished game to find out for themselves. [embed]286049:56853:0[/embed] Dtoid: What compelled you to develop this follow-up title for mobile devices rather than as a full-fledged console release? Kono-san: In creating the spiritual successor to Clock Tower, the important thing for me was to keep the point & click mechanism. (Of course, I had my share of sleepless nights before deciding this because the point & click is NOT the preferred choice of control mechanism for commercial games these days.) With that in my mind, it was obvious that touchscreens for smartphones and tablets would have a high affinity for this game, so this was a natural decision for me. Also, I don't like talking this way, [but] the budget for this project was also a major factor. I was only able to provide a very limited budget for this game.
NightCry photo
Part one of a three-part interview with Nude Maker
Earlier this month, our first look at Clock Tower spiritual successor Project Scissors: NightCry arrived in the form of a live-action trailer made by Ju-on and The Grudge director Takashi Shimizu. It was p...

RuPaul on drag, games, and those who fear a changing world

Jan 07 // Jonathan Holmes
Ru grew up in an era when arcade gaming was huge. She said her favorites back then including "the usual suspects, but Ms. Pac-Man really stands out for me," which doesn't come as a huge surprise if you've played Dragopolis 2.0. It's simple, like many classic arcade games, but with an aggressive coat of blush and lip gloss affectionately applied to the surface.  In addressing one of the greatest drag performers in history, my mind naturally wandered to the appeal of drag and what it shares with the appeal of gaming. Both allow you to shed the roles you were born into and take on an identity more reflective of your internal sense of self. Both are about going beyond what reality handed you and reinventing reality as you see fit. Both are often a refuge to "sissies" or "nerds" or others who don't meet our culture's standards around "normal" masculinity, and give them a place of empowerment and belonging. Ru didn't seem as hot about that idea. When asked about the parallels between drag and gaming, she replied, "The obvious parallels between being a drag performer and a gamer is you get to choose your persona and perfect it by your level of skill. Skill is a huge factor, but the ability to accessorize your identity is also a huge factor." Ru made a strong point, but I could tell she was more interested in gameplay mechanics than social constructs, which makes sense given her new foray into game development. Maybe the parallels between being in drag and being in a game are only fascinating to someone like me, a permanent resident in the world of gaming, a tourist (at best) to the world of drag. She showed a little more spark in our discussion of how both gaming and drag have faced their share of xenophobia. I spoke to her with disdain about how changes in gender roles, the content of popular games and seemingly any other challenge to convention can so easily trigger death threats, hate campaigns, or other outpourings of fear. She seemed all too aware of this process, stating, "Yes, and something tells me that those people live in constant fear anyway. The world is changing and those who are willing to adapt will not be left behind." This is a conversation I'm guessing Ru has had many times over the years, though that steel rod of defiance kept her from becoming slack in her reflections. Standing up to hate is something you should never grow bored of.  At this point I decide to go for my Hail Mary pass and ask RuPaul, world famous entertainer, drag legend, and budding game developer, this question: "You've made a career from singing, modeling, acting, judging, hosting, and so much more. But through it all, you've maintained your spot in the public eye through the expression of your unique personality. Some might that say you're the Sonic the Hedgehog of the TV world. Would you take that as a compliment, and would you be interested in starring in a Sonic the Hedgehog-style platformer?" "This may be the stupidest question anyone has ever asked another human being," I thought to myself, fully expecting for RuPaul to either cancel the interview or politely pretend that the question never happened. Instead, she responded with a thoughtful, playful comment. "I'm crazy nuts about Sonic the Hedgehog, always have been," she said. "Stickwithitness is my middle name and I've always admired anyone who can persevere against all odds. Life is a game and videogames offer a taste of what it's like to strategize in the big mean world of real life. I love games that challenge you to be all that you are and more, and I think we succeeded with Dragopolis." They say there are no small roles, only small actors. RuPaul may have just proved that there are no dumb interview questions either, only uncreative responses. "Stickwithitness" indeed. It was a fitting end for an interview with a performer who has succeeded against all odds, even in the face of one of the worst questions ever put to print. On top of that, she also managed to throw in a plug for her game at the last minute, a game that also succeeds against all odds. It's a lot more fun than it probably has any right to be. Chalk up another win-win for team RuPaul. 
RuPaul photo
Also, Sonic
RuPaul has taken just about every form of media by storm. Film, music, talk shows, reality shows, live performances, comedy, drama: You name it, Ru's tried it. Now she can also scratch game development off the list as well. ...

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