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Interview

Thimbleweed Park Kickstarter was a joke for five seconds

Dec 12 // Jonathan Holmes
Dtoid: What brought the two of you back together again for Thimbleweed Park? Gary: Ron and I have stayed in touch over the years and have often talked about doing another point & click adventure together, but usually our schedules haven’t lined up. About six months ago our schedules lined up, and Ron had the idea for us to try Kickstarting a classic adventure game. Ron: When I said “Let’s do a Kickstarter for this,” I was actually joking, but 5 seconds later my brain said, “Yeah, that’s a good idea.”Dtoid: Maniac Mansion's visuals were shaped in part by the technical limitations of the time. Thimbleweed Park isn't constrained by those limitations, yet it shares a similar look. What it is about the visual style you created with Maniac Mansion that inspired you to return to it?Ron: I’ve always resisted the idea of doing another point & click adventure game. I knew if I did one, there would have to be something special about it. When Gary and I started talking about how much fun it was to work on Maniac Mansion together, and how we should make another adventure game that really was like that, my brain started to really get excited. The authentic Maniac Mansion art style was the missing “special” part.Gary: We think there’s a real charm and innocence to the retro art—not only is it nostalgic and a throwback to the first games we did, but there’s also something about playing a game with what amounts to colorful animated icons. Players immediately understand the representation of the characters and environment and tend to use their own imaginations to fill in and create a richly detailed world. Dtoid: Was Kickstarter always the plan for Thimbleweed Park? Did you ever consider going the traditional publisher route? Gary: I don’t think a traditional publisher would be that interested in a project like Thimbleweed Park. Aside from the funding side of things, Kickstarter is also an opportunity to connect with and directly build a community.Ron: That is one exciting thing about crowdfunding: connecting with players. During Maniac Mansion there was no connection. We worked on the game, released it and then waited three months for magazines to come out with a review. Maybe we’d get some letters mailed in. By the time Monkey Island was released, there was CompuServe, but the community was still very small. Now we have over 13,000 people to talk to and the game hasn’t even started production.
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'Mommy, I'm worried! He hasn't eaten in five years!'
The Thimbleweed Park Kickstarter is almost over! We're celebrating this historic event with an explosive interview series starring not one, but two amazing middle aged men -- Mr. Ron Gilbert (Monkey Island) and Mr. Gary ... read feature

Oddworld creator talks Jim Henson, VR, Videogame Awards and more

Nov 16 // Jonathan Holmes
He also confirmed that the critically acclaimed Oddworld New N' Tasty is still in development for all previously announced platforms, and that Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath should be coming to smartphones any time now. Lorne said he's played through the game twice on his phone already, despite the fact that he doesn't generally like playing through his own stuff, due to habitual self criticism. As someone who tends to avoid playing more complicated games on touch devices, I was left feeling pretty optimistic about the port. That said, Lorne is so packed with positive energy that I could have just been drunk off of his chutzpah.  Thanks again to Lorne for appearing on the show, and tune in today at 4pm EST when we welcome Dina Abou Karam, community manager at Comcept to the program. We're going to be giving away new CDs by Mega Man/Mighty Number 9/Shovel Knight/Target Acquired composer Manami Matsumae. Tune in to win (maybe)!
Sup Holmes photo
Holy smokes this guy is a 'huge wow'
Last Sunday on Sup Holmes (also on Libsyn and iTunes) we talked with Oddworld series creator Lorne Lanning... a lot. It's the longest episode we've done, chalking in at almost 2 1/2 hours. I know that sounds like a long... read feature

This War of Mine is a harrowing journey of survival

Oct 30 // Alessandro Fillari
[embed]283152:56165:0[/embed] This War of Mine (Android, iOS, PC [previewed])Developer: 11 bit studiosPublisher: 11 bit studiosRelease Date: November 14, 2014 (PC) After a war breaks out in an unnamed country, the citizens of a city caught in the crossfire are left scattered and isolated from the outside world. With the collapse of society and law, survivors must fend for themselves while avoiding the raging conflict to live another day. But as the war grows increasingly hostile, desperation and despair become more apparent, and with the remnants of society out to get you or in need of help, you'll have to decide how far you and your allies are willing to go in order to survive. It's rare for a game to show this side of war, specifically the human cost of war. In other titles, the survivors would be background characters seen for only a brief moment, while the big and well-armed soldier you'd likely be playing as would make a small comment about them to show some humanity before going to mow down dozens of enemy soldiers. This is one aspect of war that the developers wanted to see more of, and having an experience from the side of powerless shows the unseen torment and misery absent from most other war games. "My brother, who's also the CEO [of 11 bit studios] brought me an article called 'One year in hell', and it's an interview with a guy who survived a siege of a city in Bosnia during the Yugoslavian wars in the early '90s -- and the end line of the interview is that 'when war breaks out, you are not prepared for it, and in war there are no good or bad guys, you have to do certain things in order to survive,'" said Pawel Miechowski, senior writer on This War of Mine. "We were so moved by this interview, that everyone on the team agreed that it would be great for our next game -- and it certainly evolved from a game to more of an experience." In order to survive in the war-torn city, you'll have to work together with your band of characters as they scavenge, build, defend, and support one another through the conflict. Your survival begins in an abandoned three-story shelter, and using the skills and know-how of your allies, you must keep it safe and stable enough for what's to come. At the beginning, you're given a random set of survivors with varying specialties and backgrounds. I started off with Pavle, a former football player; Bruno, a cook who knows how to handle resources; and Marko, a street hustler who can get in and out of scavenging missions quickly. During the day, your group must keep busy and manage the various areas of the shelter. Using supplies and resources found from scavenging, you have to decide what resources your allies need. Should they have a furnace to keep them warm? Or perhaps they need beds installed to sleep comfortably. What you choose to build is up to you, but putting off important necessities, such as a stove for cooking or a workbench to build weapons and support items, could lead to tragedy later on. During the night, other players can raid your shelter, and if you aren't prepared, bandits could take everything -- even the lives of your group. With constant threats around during the day, you'll have to wait for nightfall to venture on supply runs. Choosing the right person for the job, you can send them out to scout and scavenge the nearby ruins, meet traders, or find new allies. In most cases, you'll find abandoned homes littered with valuables and items used for crafting, but you'll encounter other people on occasions who have taken up residence in certain areas. And these folk are just like you. They're not bandits or marauders, just regular people protecting what's theirs from outsiders. Of course, what they have could help your crew out, and you have to decide if sneaking in and taking their stuff or stealing it by force is a better option than just simple trading. The tension is palpable, and with the unpredictability of the environment, one moment can change the fate of the survivors. For the first half hour, my characters were in relatively decent shape. They had food, medicine, and scavenged enough supplies to build stoves, radios, and workshops in the shelter. While they certainly weren't comfortable, they had food and shelter -- which was enough. But during a scavenge run with Pavle, things took a turn for the worst. After killing another scavenger in self-defense, he returned to the shelter a changed man. He became depressed, sick, and even began to openly consider suicide. Each character has their own biography, sort of like private diaries, and this recent event affected him greatly. This also affected the other survivors, as they were clearly disturbed by what he had done, and began to openly question his actions. "What you do has an influence on [the characters'] emotions," said Miechowski. "If you do something that goes against their beliefs or attitudes, they may get sad, depressed, or even suffer a nervous breakdown. We have an immense emotional layer." This War of Mine managed to really impress me with its way of illustrating moral ambiguity. As civilians caught up in a war they have no part of, they're left to scrounge and eek out a living in a hostile environment, all the while trying to preserve what dignity they have left. And with others needing to do the same, you're confronted with situations that call for tough choices, and often times you have to make a decision that will haunt you long after. With my group in dire straights, and in need of medicine, I sent the depressed David out to scavenge a seemingly abandoned home. Once he got there, he found out it was not abandoned; it was the home of an elderly couple. Their house was chock full of supplies, and with no defenses, I could have made out like a bandit. But I didn't. I felt terrible for the couple, who were frightened and asked me for mercy. While I felt I made the right decision, I soon paid for my good intentions by seeing my group's morale and health further deteriorate. It all came to a head when my shelter was raided during a supply run, and with only an ill Bruno and a depressed Pavle to guard it, they were easily picked off. The most tragic part about this event was that Marko had just come back from his best supply run yet, finding enough medicine, food, and guns to last for the days ahead. "The best thing I believe is that you are the moral judge," said Miechowski, "and because you're the storyteller, and your deeds create the consequences, the game expects you to live with your decisions." I don't regret leaving the elderly couple in peace, even if they possibly had medicine and food for my group, but I do wish I made better choices leading up to that defining event. It's moments like this, which are randomly occurring, that made This War of Mine feel unique and evocative. Morality during war is such an interesting subject for games to tackle, and it's incredibly refreshing to see a game that focuses on the survival of your allies as the meat of the experience, and not the shooting. I found a lot to like with This War of Mine. I was surprised to see how quickly I became attached to the characters, which made it difficult to see them go out so awfully. With its release next month, I feel that a lot of people yearning for a different kind of war game should sit up and take notice. We seldom get a war experience that's haunting and gut-wrenching as this.
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War through the eyes of the powerless
War, what is it good for? For starters, it makes for easy entertainment in fiction. With the rise of war games over the last two decades, it's common to see these experiences as nothing but an over-the-top spectacle to show o... read feature

Resident Evil was a difficult game to remaster in HD

Oct 23 // Alessandro Fillari
Resident Evil Remastered (PS3, PS4 [previewed], Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC)Developer: CapcomPublisher: CapcomRelease Date: Early 2015 Resident Evil Remastered is a high-def release of Capcom's 2002 remake of the original game from 1996. Set in a seemingly abandoned mansion in the woods, the elite police unit S.T.A.R.S. must investigate and uncover the mysteries behind a series of gruesome murders. Taking control of either Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine, players will experience the events from their unique perspectives and uncover a greater conspiracy that will haunt them for years to come. More than a decade after its release, fans still hold the remake as one of the best entries in the series. Blending enhanced visuals with greatly refined gameplay, RE devotees were yearning for more titles in this vein. But since the release of Resident Evil 4 in 2005, and along with the influence of the hugely popular live-action films, the series has steered toward more action-adventure gameplay and scenarios. While Revelations and its upcoming sequel are certainly a blend of the series' action and survival aspects, there's still a desire for the pure survival horror experience that came with Resident Evil. And that desire will undoubtedly be satisfied here. The most talked about aspect of REmastered is the updated visuals, and with good reason. Considering the unique circumstances of this HD reworking, many fans are worried that this might end up like a certain other botched remaster. Standard-definition televisions and the 4:3 aspect ratio were commonplace in 2002, but those aren't the only issues Capcom faced for the remake. Resident Evil blended 2D background images and in-game FMV (lighting, candles, and other 2D animated visuals) along with 3D characters and objects. As the 2D backgrounds were set in stone and obviously couldn't be reworked, this made creating an HD remaster with a 16:9 aspect ratio a difficult proposition. Original Speaking with producer Yoshiaki Hirabayashi, he described at length the challenges the team had to tackle in order to maintain the original style during the transition into HD. "The biggest challenge for us in raising the resolution was the backgrounds themselves and the effects in them. Originally, these had been created from still images, so there was a lot of work done by hand to the assets we had in order to raise the quality bar," he said. "If the original data had been large enough, this would have been a relatively easy process, but the assets we're working with were created for a game over a decade ago, so we didn't have a lot of high-resolution source material to work from. We had to find a way to take what we had on hand and work hard to make resolution and other adjustments bit by bit." In order to work around these limitations, the developers used editing and manipulation techniques to get the most out of the graphics, while retaining the 'look' of the original game. Most apparent of the changes are the use of cropping and pan & scan techniques. The former sections out the desired part of the image that serves as our visual focus, while the latter gives the illusion of a moving camera to keep the action and important aspects of the picture in focus. Remastered Initially, I found the HD look to be a bit jarring. Not because I'm a purist, but I was so used to original that it was noticeable where changes were made. The static look of the original is very much an element of the game's atmosphere, so seeing the focus shift around and certain areas of background cropped out was instantly apparent. Having said that, I did find the HD aesthetic to be remarkable. The screenshots don't do the visuals justice; in motion you see a number of the visual upgrades working at once, and it helps to breathe new life into the game. Granted, there are some noticeable places where the background looks slightly stretched out, but I still found they had a greater level of detail. In addition to this, I felt the new touches to the animated atmospheric details helped make the environments feel more terrifying and spooky -- which was yet another challenge for the developers. "As far as effects are concerned, these were all redone from scratch," said Hirabayashi. "Even then, we had the original designer on hand to personally look over all of these and ensure that they were in line with his vision. We used multiple techniques depending on the needs of a particular scene. Our goal was to preserve the feeling and atmosphere of a given scene while raising the resolution. Each scene, each cut, was judged on its own merits as we determined the best way to handle them one at a time. That was a tough process. There is definitely a sort of flavor or sensibility in backgrounds created as 2D pieces that can be very hard to replicate in polygons." Moreover, the 3D character models have been updated as well. The texture work on all the models is significantly improved, giving them some much-needed polish and detail. But sensing that graphical changes might upset purists, Capcom has included an option to switch back to the original visuals and 4:3 resolution at any time within the options menu. Not content with just offering updated visuals, the team looked to add gameplay tweaks and other content to the remaster. In addition to new costumes, specifically the Resident Evil 5 BSAA outfits for Jill and Chris, Remastered features a brand new control type called 'modern' mode. With it enabled, players can use the analog stick for auto-run and 360-degree movement without having to deal with the traditional and somewhat cumbersome 'tank' controls. Now when I first heard about the controls, I felt that a new movement method would undermine much of the terror by giving players too much freedom, especially when you consider enemy AI and movement was designed around players using tank-style controls. But Hirabayashi was well aware of the difference it would make and had the team behind the remaster rework the controls while maintaining a balance. "We spent a great deal of time fine tuning everything from the characters' movement speeds to the button layout in order to replicate as closely as we could the tempo and difficulty of the original control scheme," said Hirabayashi. "I think that people who have played the original iteration of this title will much prefer the original controls as that is how the game was initially designed. That said, we know that there is also a portion of the audience who will be experiencing the game for the very first time. For those uninitiated in this series who may be more accustomed to modern 3D games and controls, I imagine they might have a hard time wrapping their heads around the original scheme. By implementing both, we are able to bring new players in without making sweeping changes to the overall difficulty." As one of the defining aspects of classic RE was the...unusual control type, it certainly felt sacrilegious to use an easier method of movement. For better or worse, this also cemented its reputation as a punishing game that demanded precision. With that said, I found myself taking quite a liking to the new controls after some time passed. I appreciated not having to hold down the run button to move with haste, and I also liked being able to round corners faster. But I still found myself having to readjust my movement when moving out from a different screen, which was a common problem for classic RE. Though if you're not a fan of the controls, or want to go for an old-school run, then you're totally free to select the classic control type. What made me appreciate the modern setup more was how I would utilize both options at once. Modern mode also has the classic tank controls on the d-pad, and in some cases I preferred using those over the new type. While I used modern controls for basic traversal throughout the mansion, I mostly stuck with the d-pad for combat, as back-stepping wasn't available for modern mode, and the aiming wasn't as precise. After spending about an hour with the game, I felt right at home with the HD remaster, which I imagine must be the best compliment you give it. While I came into this series with RE4, I ended up playing the classic games to see how they stack up, and found a new appreciation for the series. With the release of REmastered, it certainly brings up a discussion for fans about which style of game is more faithful to the series. And while that debate can be worthwhile, Hirabayashi feels both types of Resident Evil experiences can coexist. "As for the RE series itself, we have fans on both sides of the fence. Each user has their own specific taste and things they look for in games. I don't think we can narrow this down to finding the 'right' answer since there are actually a plethora of 'questions' we're attempting to address," said the producer. "For me personally, the important part of this series is the survival horror aspect. Whether a game tends more toward the older style, focuses on action, or even breaks ground and does something entirely new, the important part is that that core element of survival horror is maintained. Put simply, the specific style of a given game is less important to me. What's important is that survival horror ethos." I'm quite liking the direction the franchise is taking. It's not too often you see publishers hold up both the past and present simultaneously, and with two upcoming releases showing the best aspects of the series' past, I'm very much looking forward to seeing what the future holds for Resident Evil. With the remaster set for release early next year, it's a great time for new players to take the plunge. But for those who want an excuse to re-enter survival horror, Resident Evil Remastered will rekindle that familiar feeling of dread.
Resident Evil photo
Capcom talks challenges of remastering a classic
With the rise of high-definition re-releases, many fans have likely made a wish list of titles they hope will eventually get the HD treatment. Whether they be classics from the '90s or 2000s, we're seeing a variety of games f... read feature

Four things I loved about playing Assassin's Creed: Rogue

Oct 13 // Alessandro Fillari
Assassin's Creed: Rogue (PS3, Xbox 360[Previewed], PC)Developer: Ubisoft SofiaPublisher: UbisoftRelease Date: November 11, 2014 (PC Early 2015) Set after the events of Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag and taking place before Ratonhnhaké:ton's story in Assassin's Creed III, players take on the role of Shay Cormac, a newly trained assassin in North America. While slowly becoming disillusioned by their ways, he is eventually betrayed and left for dead after a mission goes south. He manages to escape and retreats back to New York, but vows vengeance against the Order of Assassins. He later meets Haytham Kenway of the Templar order, and joins their fight against the Assassins -- using their own skills and training against them. "We wanted to tell the story that was left unfinished with the Kenway saga, and what happened in North America," said producer Karl Luhe. "There's a big piece of the story, a corner piece of that trilogy that hasn't been told yet." While the timeline of events can get a bit confusing here, Rogue serves to bridge the gap between Black Flag and ACIII, showing why the Brotherhood of Assassins was in such disarray during Ratonhnhaké:ton's journey, but also has ties to the events of AC: Unity. So fans who have the opportunity to play through both Rogue and Unity will no doubt get more enjoyment out of the story. 1. Steppin' to the bad side While the Order of Assassins is often seen as a force for good, or rather a lesser shade of gray, the events of Rogue aims to show a different side to the conflict. If Black Flag fulfilled the pirate fantasy, then Rogue seeks to put players in the shoes of a cunning operative working for a shadowy organization. As the first full Templar experience in the AC series, it's your duty to undermine and weaken the Assassins' influence on civilization. This might be a shock to the system for many, as you'll no doubt come into conflict with those you've helped from other games. But this change of perspective also gives players a different way to play. "We really wanted to tell a story of what it's like to be a Templar, and we felt it was important to have it from a perspective of someone who really believed they're doing the right thing," said Luhe. "He honestly believes what he is doing is right for human kind, and he's horrified by what he sees some of the assassins are doing early on in the game, and hence he ends up hunting them down." While playing the early missions, it was certainly a bit jarring to see how things are different from the other side. But I quickly realized that the Assassins are nasty foes indeed. While exploring the open city of New York, I had to bust up some territory controlled by the Assassins. While exploring for ways break into their base, I found that several new types of enemies, one of which called Stalkers, would scout around and try to locate me. While Shay's eagle vision made finding them a bit easier, they still managed to get the jump on me in some cases by using the same stealth tactics, such as hiding by benches, using crowds, and haystacks. Sound familiar? Well get used to feeling a bit uneasy around such spots, as the Assassins are quite adapt at using them. But then again, so are you. 2. New York and the great pond In keeping with its predecessor, Assassin's Creed: Rogue aims to maintain the dual open-world design for the high seas and the urban environments. Set across the Eastern coast of North America and the North Atlantic, you'll quickly find that you have a much larger space to play in than previous games. Judging from what I saw, this is likely the largest AC game that Ubisoft has released yet. "With every new Assassin's Creed game, we want to be true to that fantasy, and this time you're a Templar," said the producer. "We wanted to try a new setting and we went up north around Canada, with icy terrain, and this gives us new experiences with gameplay and the ambiance. Also, this is set during the Seven Year War, so there's this big war raging between the French and the British, and we really play upon that." In New York, Shay must capture and amass the cities resources to benefit the Templar Order. This can be done by winning over the hearts of New Yorkers by renovating city institutions, and of course weakening the Assassins' hold over the environment, which in turn frees up economic resources. While New York is the only major city that players can expect to explore, the addition of two fully open-water areas, the North Atlantic and the River Valley, gives players a large variety of places to explore. Much like Black Flag, you can explore the oceans, capture territory, raid forts, hunt animals, engage in naval warfare, and use the spoils to strengthen Shay's resources and the Templar Order's hold in the Atlantic. 3. This wonderful bag of tricks One of the benefits of being the bad guy getting to play with all the cool toys. As a Templar, Shay has access to a vast number of resources that greatly dwarf what the Assassins of the 1700s possess. Because of this, you'll be utilizing weapons, ships, and other gear that will allow the Templar to explore and control areas of the world that the Assassins could not. Early in his Templar career, Shay meets Benjamin Franklin, who gives him access to experimental equipment and gear. One of which is a modified pellet gun that fires various sleeping, poison, and tracking darts, in addition to doubling as a grenade launcher. In one mission, I had to enter a gas factory and use both sleep grenades to knock out clusters of guards, while using the shrapnel grenades to destroy dangerous chemicals would be used against the populace. Using these tools in conjunction with his Assassin training makes Shay a serious predator, and also inspires you to try and experiment. Shay's handlers from the Templar Order have also bestowed him a powerful vessel to conquer the seas. Called the Morrigan, this beauty is outfitted with special cannons that fire rapid rounds at enemies, weaponized oil to burn the ships that try to follow, and a powerful Ice Ram that can punch through sheets of ice scattered around the ocean and punch holes into ships. 4. Dangerous Waters Avast! Ye Matey. Your adventures on the oceans along with a hearty crew did not end with Black Flag. Though the upcoming Unity has removed the naval exploration entirely, Rogue aims to fill the void by expanding upon the high-seas gameplay that began in ACIII. The Templar Order will have to sail through dangerous waters and battle countless ships to take control of the new world. Much like Black Flag, players must explore the waters to claim territory from the enemy, all the while expanding your own resources by capturing or salvaging ships, finding loot, and exploring the small areas of land. However, with the new locations around the Atlantic, players will have their work cut out for them as the environments are much more dangerous than before. In the River Valley, players will have to navigate their ship through tight canals in mountainous areas. In the North Atlantic zone, the low temperature has caused ice and blizzards to form. If your ship is unprepared, expect to face serious danger when traveling into waters that require special upgrades. Though the environment can be an equally strong foe, it can also become your greatest ally on the high seas. In some areas of the ocean, particularly the icy waters of the North Atlantic, you can use the iceberg and heavy ice to your advantage. If your ship is being pecked at by schooners or gunboats, you can destroy the icebergs nearby to create heavy waves to sink or damage enemy ships.Well, now that I've shared my thoughts on what I dug about it, now I gotta switch gears and discussed what rubbed me the wrong way. I know, this seems like an expected complaint, and you've likely already noticed in the pictures, but the game looks incredibly dated. Granted, I was playing on Xbox 360 and not a PC build, but I still got the impression that it was held back by the old consoles. I found it to run rather sluggishly. There were long load times, and the visuals and performance came to a crawl at some points. Failing a mission became a point of frustration, as I'd have to wait for an extended period to start playing again. Perhaps this is because I've already become used to playing on the new hardware, but the visuals in Rogue are aged. Which is a shame, as there are a number of beautiful environments and great art directions throughout. I really enjoyed going through the environments and taking at a look at the locales, but then I saw that there were points with graphical artifacts and texture pop-in would come in. It's a bit jarring how rough the game looks, and it took me out of the moment at some points. But in any event, I still found my time with the game to be quite enjoyable. Of course, this isn't a major step forward for the series. By all intents and purposes, it's Black Flag with much more content and a new storyline. And that sounds great to me. With over 30 hours worth of content in this title, which will no doubt be plentiful, I can definitely see myself returning to the high seas to hunt for more assassins once the game is released next month.
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And some things I didn't like
It's been four years since Assassin's Creed became an annual fixture. Every year, like clockwork, Ubisoft releases a brand new, fully developed title in the AC series. But things have changed slightly this year. In a surprisi... read feature

Smash Bros. clones didn't 'increase required man-hours'

Oct 11 // Jonathan Holmes
He also has a word or two for the people complaining about clones. He says they're like "...a free dessert after a luxurious meal that was prepared free of charge. In a restaurant with this type of service, I don’t think there’s anybody who would say, 'Change this to a meat dish!!' Yet, I’m told [to do that] about Smash Bros. But, I guess since a lot of them are children, it cannot be helped." I'm just sad Samus doesn't have a Justin Bailey clone. If that makes me sound like a child, then pass me a pacifier. I'll suck it with pride.
Smash Bros. photo
It's not Dr. Mario's fault that Ridley had to stay home
Smash Bros. for the 3DS has been out for a week now, and while reception has been generally positive, there are naturally going to be some gripes after the hype dies down -- fighting Little Mac on a totally flat course, 3DS n... read feature

Watch Dogs: Bad Blood goes punk, features co-op play and new modes

Sep 15 // Alessandro Fillari
Watch Dogs: Bad Blood (PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 [previewed], PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U)Developer: Ubisoft MontrealPublisher: UbisoftRelease Date: September 23, 2014 (Season Pass) / September 30, 2014 (Retail) Set a few months after the end of the main campaign, players take on the role of Raymond "T-Bone" Kenney, a fellow hacker who helped Aiden Pearce during his fight against Blume Corporation. As he tries to tie-up loose ends before leaving Chicago for good, T-Bone encounters an old acquaintance that needs his help -- not wanting to leave him hanging, he must once again take on the Blume Corporation, while trying to cover his tracks and get out of the game in one piece. First and foremost, anyone expecting a Blood Dragon style addition to the main game will be disappointed. Bad Blood serves as an epilogue to the main story of Watch Dogs, tying up loose ends and showing what became of the main characters after Aiden Pearce succeeded in getting his revenge. Don't expect a tongue-in-cheek and self-aware title here, this is still Watch Dogs. With that said, Bad Blood seems to have a lot more fun with the material, opting to go with more of a punk take on the computer hacker, rather than a brooding and oh so serious anti-hero. T-Bone is a really fun character to play as -- he'll offer witty banter and show sass to the other characters, all the while using bizarre gadgets and tricks to take down the competition. Basically, he's the exact opposite of Aiden. Speaking with Project Manager David Thériault and Senior Game Designer Aurélien Chiron, the developers at Ubisoft wanted to keep the core of the Watch Dogs experience the same, while at the same time adding a shift in tone and new gameplay tweaks. "It's great to come back and show something new for fans," said Thériault. "We feel it will bring a lot of freshness and newness to the franchise." Much like Aiden, T-Bone possesses the tools to hack into Chicago's computer network to manipulate the city's installations to his whim. He'll have to use these tricks, along with some heavy firepower and cunning to overcome the many enemies that are out to get him and his allies. Unlike the other hacker, T-Bone has got some unique tricks up his sleeve. The veteran hacker can bring his customized R/C car Eugene out into the field, which has a taser and access to the same hacking abilities. Eugene can enter smalls spaces and avoid the sights of guards to complete tasks too difficult by traditional means. Of course, since the game is still set in Chicago, many players will likely feel at home when starting Bad Blood. However, the developers hope to switch things up by adding in a few surprises. "While it is still set in Chicago, we added in a lot of new locations that the player hasn't seen in Watch Dogs," said Aurélien while discussing the new content. "In these new locations, we play with the space much more. In terms of tools, you can use Eugene, which allows you to sneak past enemies and in tight spaces to accomplish goals." In order to spice up the side-content, the developers opted to create a brand new series of side-missions called Street Sweep. After a certain point in the game's story, T-Bone will make contact with an ally in the Chicago Police Department who has a whole stack full of case files that need solving. In addition to the existing side content, these new missions allow T-Bone to level up, acquire currency to upgrade his gear and buy new costumes, and help clean the streets of Chicago to boost his reputation. Think Person of Interest, but with a main character that wields a giant wretch and an all-purpose smartphone as his weapons of choice. "We wanted to add more variety to the side-content, and we wanted to add more objectives to the types of missions and places, and with Street Sweep we now have endless missions available for players," said Aurélien while elaborating on the new Street Sweep missions. "The goal was to never have two missions that are the same, they are all generated but they are never the same. With the Street Sweep, players can enjoy the side-missions as much as they want." Moreover, the Street Sweep missions can also be played in Watch Dogs' brand new co-op mode. Much like the existing online mode, players can seamlessly enter or have another player join their game where you can take down gangs and rival hackers. The co-op play offers an interesting change of pace from the existing multiplayer mode. Instead of being constantly cautious of anyone entering your game, you can now have a buddy with you helping out. It makes you wonder why they didn't include something like this in the first place. With that said, and being totally honest, I didn't really see much difference between the Street Sweeps and regular side-missions. Especially since they're in mostly the same urban and outdoor environments in and around Chicago. The added story for the Street Sweep, with the female police detective and T-Bone brought some charm to the missions, but I found myself mostly doing the same shoot or hack X while avoiding everyone else missions. It felt repetitive, but the solid shooting mechanics and combined with the hacking gameplay still kept things entertaining. Granted this was still pretty early on in the game. So perhaps once you progress further, we'll hopefully see just how much different things can get -- I really do like the idea of a randomized mission system. But in any case, I rather enjoyed myself with Watch Dogs: Bad Blood. While it seems to be sticking very closely with the same formula from the main game, for better or worse, I found T-Bone to be much more of an interesting character to play as than Pearce. Perhaps it's because he's got a serious set of dreadlocks and a heavy melee weapon, which definitely sets himself apart from Aiden. I feel the change in tone, making it a little more fun and cool, can do a lot to set itself apart from the main campaign. T-Bone was a fun character to play as, and I'm looking forward to going back in seeing where his trek through Chicago will take him. Bad Blood will be available for Season Pass holders on September 23, a full week earlier before it will be available for all on September 30 -- with the release of the Wii U version coming sometime later.
Watch Dogs photo
Hack the planet....again
Say what you will about Ubisoft, but they've got a knack for trying something a little different for their DLC offerings. After the incredibly successful launch of Watch Dogs back in May, it seemed like they've been biding th... read feature

BioWare is working to specifically differentiate Dragon Age: Inquisition from Dragon Age II

Sep 12 // Chris Carter
Speaking to BioWare's Mark Darrah (Executive Producer, Inquisition), and Aaryn Flynn (BioWare Edmonton General Manager), I immediately led with the question "what did you guys learn from Dragon Age II that didn't go over as well as you had hoped?" Darrah fielded this by stating that "we did a lot of experimentation in Dragon Age II. The hero is a reactive hero, as opposed to a hero that causes reactions like the Warden from Origins. I think that lack of clarity made the story more convoluted. It's a story of people as opposed to a story of events, and I think that was a problem for many people." Darrah continued, speaking on the issues with combat in Dragon Age II. "I think that's what got us in trouble with Dragon Age II -- the new story method, and that it was faster and easier gameplay wise. It feels like you're just swinging this sword around and it doesn't weigh anything, whereas combat was more deliberate in Origins. We're fixing that in Inquisition. Combat will have a lot more weight to it than both prior games. We're balancing it towards a more difficulty middle-ground, so that you have to use some of the tools you're given. Maybe you don't have to master the tactical camera, but you'll have to master some aspect of the game and use them together to really master Inquisition." Flynn sounded off as well, stating, "I think we misjudged there with Dragon Age II. People wanted something that they could really master over time. We didn't do that with the sequel." To me, that's good news in terms of where Inquisition is headed. A middle-ground of fun, engaging combat that's maybe a little less clunky than Origins but deeper than Dragon Age II is a great compromise. Another thing that bothered me though about DA II though was the lack of customization of party members and characters, so I pushed on that point. Darrah commented on how they are addressing that in Inquisition, stating, "in the sequel, we removed the ability to equip armor to your followers. That was intended as a way to really make the characters stand out, but we realized that people wanted that element in the game. So in Inquisition we added it back, but still kept that feel of individuality. We didn't want people putting plate mail on every character and having four walking trash cans. In Inquisition if you put armor on Cassandra for instance, she still looks like Cassandra." [embed]279148:55276:0[/embed] Flynn shed some light on the developmental process of both existing games as well. "Origins was a six-year project. There was a big desire to experiment on Dragon Age II after that long development time. A lot of people thought that their ideas weren't heard for the original, so we incorporated some into the sequel. I do think we experimented too much in Dragon Age II. Some of it was too big of a price to pay." Following up, I asked if there was a certain group of people that reacted well to the game. Darrah responded, "yeah, I think what a lot of people had a problem with was that it felt like a different series. Most of the people who loved Dragon Age II didn't play Origins. If you go to the sequel after playing tons of Origins you'll probably wonder how the series could progress that way. That was its biggest sin. It was too many new things." Another big thing that disappointed me in DA II was player choice -- or the lack thereof. I described the scenario in Origins where you've given at least five choices as to what to do with a possessed child. In the sequel there's nothing comparable, and choices are usually limited to two major options. I continued on down that path, asking how BioWare was going to improve on player choice in Inquisition, and got some pretty good answers. Darrah responded, saying, "Yeah the tone icons caused some confusion in Dragon Age II. We meant well with them, but we're backing away from them in the third game. We're using them now sparingly, just to warn players that they're being sarcastic, for instance, or letting them know that they're about to jump in bed with someone. It's not so much to spoil the surprise, but prevent players from reloading the game after accidentally kicking a party member out of the group." The duo also went on to cite Mass Effect's Saren as a great way to ground moral choices in games. On the topic of anchoring morality, Flynn stated, "I think that the lack of clarity in Dragon Age II hurt things a bit. With Origins you had a clear evil, and you could play off that. It's what made Saren such a tragic figure -- you could really see his evil side as well as his clear good side, and that made him more complex. But there was some grey there, just not all grey. That's something we are looking to bring to Inquisition." So how about gameplay? Darrah was on point with the improvements in Inquisition. "You can dye items, and Inquisition will feature the most advanced crafting system we've ever had. The tactical camera is also even better than it was in Origins. Before, you could just pause, give orders, and unpause. Now you can move the camera around a lot better in more advanced ways. The creature inspector tool will give you more information now. There are still synergies and now you can see how to combine them better. Weapons will have hilts and blades. Runes will be more customizable to give you the weapon you want." The romance system is something I always felt that was lacking in either game, and Darrah was excited to tell us how they're changing it. "The affection system was always very gamey, in a bad way. We made it a bit more organic. All your party members can approve or disapprove of your choices. You can't just give them 30 wet loaves of bread to make them fall in love with you. You really have to talk to your companions to romance them rather than game them. There are no meters anymore, you have to have a real conversation." Of course, I had to bring up DLC at some point. People are rightfully wary of EA's influence, and Darrah noted that they are going to mostly going to listen to fan demand to shape post-game support. Although he wasn't able to confirm anything, DLC will likely be comprised of sandboxes -- large new areas that players can wander around and complete a main quest in, but also find sidequests for. There isn't going to be another expansion like Awakening though, sadly. Darrah said that it was "far too much work, and very expensive, as everything has to interact with the original game." Well there you have it. Whether you enjoy Origins or Dragon Age II more, it seems as if elements of both will make their way into Inquisition. From what I've played that's a very good thing, but time will tell if it all pays off when the actual game launches on November 18.
BioWare interview photo
They learned quite a bit from the second iteration
When I entered BioWare's offices and had a chance to speak to the game's Executive Producer and Studio GM, I had one goal in mind -- to find out how Dragon Age: Inquisition was going to be more like Origins, and les... read feature

SoundSelf with Oculus Rift is the ultimate trip

Sep 08 // Alessandro Fillari
[embed]280557:55545:0[/embed] The creation of SoundSelf was done not only out of a desire to create a different kind of audio-visual experience with VR, but was also an experiment in spirituality and understanding the practice of tapping into the player's trance state. Initially, he was concerned about finding outside interest for such a bizarre title, and opted to learn C++ and make the game himself. Fortunately, he found another developer willing to take this bizarre ride with him and expanded upon the game's scope. "After two and a half years of working on it, this is our first vertical slice," said Robin Arnott, while recounting the history of SoundSelf. "And that's because that took so much experimentation and trial and error to even find the thing that works about it. We're not building off thirty years of successful and failed experiments like first person shooters are." Before my session with the game, they brought us into their tent on the show floor where we sat on cozy pillows and drank warm tea. This prep period was to relax players, as SoundSelf doesn't use a traditional control setup. With the Oculus Rift headset, players manipulate the experience with the sound of their voice using only a microphone. Once I laid back on the floor and put on the headset, the word 'chant' appeared on the screen, prompting players to hum to themselves. Doing so would engage the experience, and with the headset, you can look around in real-time and see the experience change as you react to it with your voice. But before you think of this as some pretentious turbo-indie game that claims "you're the controller!", I can tell you that this title actually lives up to that potential. Granted, this is very much like a ride, to put it simply. But that's actually the point. Ultimately, Arnott wanted to create an experiment that would tap into a player's trance-like state while they're engaged in a videogame. "SoundSelf for me was me trying to understand perception, and what perception means for self...by trying to hack it. By poking at it, and seeing what it does to people's brains, I'm coming to terms with and understanding my own brain and my existence as a perceptual being." During my time with the game, I definitely got the sense that the creator wanted to try something a bit different. While I was reacting to the SoundSelf, I noticed that it was altering the visuals and audio of the game. I giggled to myself a couple times during the demo, and the game would pick up the noise from my throat microphone and alter the experience in real-time. I cannot stress enough that pictures and even video do not do it justice. Seeing the visuals move around dynamically was akin to looking through a morphing kaleidoscope with a mind of its own. One major influence that Arnott wasn't shy about sharing was the Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey. In it, an astronaut travels through a near endless pathway of psychedelic lights and sounds to reach a destination that would bring about his rebirth. In many ways, the creator of SoundSelf hopes to recapture that same sense of wonder. "The Star Child sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey is a sequence of reinvention of self," said Arnott. "And Kubrick did that with twenty minutes of [EXCITED GESTURES and GIBBERISH], because he wanted to put you in that experience of subjective transformation, and I think SoundSelf is an experience of transformation." The comparison to 2001 was very accurate and quite apt. While many games strive to be like movies, not many can actually recreate the same sense of awe while at the same time being true to themselves. This title manages to let players experience their own personal trip through the stars, dynamically created by their own senses and rhythmic pitch. By and large, this was the most experimental game I played at PAX. It was also just a demo showing the vertical slice -- the final release will likely be a bit more comprehensive. In many ways, and I mean this in the best way, it felt like a palette cleanser. I was exhausted coming into SoundSelf, but left lighter and in a better mood coming out of it. It was therapeutic, which is something I don't say too often about games. And I honestly can't think of a better compliment than that.
SoundSelf photo
Creator Robin Arnott talks about this VR trek through vibrant sights and sounds
It's no secret that gaming conventions are fertile ground for developers to try out their new creations. Back in April, Jonathan Holmes got the chance to check out SoundSelf with Robin Arnott, the creator of the unorthodox ho... read feature

How Final Fantasy Type-0 came to PS4 and Xbox One

Sep 04 // Kyle MacGregor
Final Fantasy Type-0 was unveiled at E3 2006. Back in those days, it was going by a different name and aimed to release on a different platform. Type-0 was first introduced to the world as a cell phone game, Final Fantasy Agito XIII. The project expanded in size and scope, and eventually outgrew the capabilities of the hardware. It needed to move to another platform. Tabata told me Square Enix "already had a development team with know how to create a PSP game." They recently had shipped Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII and Sony's portable just "seemed like a natural fit." "At the time we released the Japanese version," Tabata continued, his story jumping ahead to 2011, "the console market was shifting and we were considering whether to bring it overseas or not." The economics just didn't make a lot of sense, and Square Enix thought it was more prudent to wait and see how the situation played out. "Unfortunately, we were unable to release the PSP version overseas," Tabata lamented. "But we still continued thinking about the best way [to localize] it." In early 2013, we caught wind of a report suggesting Square Enix was experimenting with a high-definition version, though little else was revealed -- at least until Square Enix made the official announcement roughly a year later. "The reason why we evolved to the PS4 and Xbox One version was because at the time the PSP market was coming to an end," Tabata explained. "So for our best option we wanted to consider bringing the game to a bigger screen. When found out the PS4 and Xbox One were emerging, we were able to finally realize the HD version of the game and decided to remaster the game itself." Prior to the interview, I asked a Square Enix representative whether the publisher ever considered the PS Vita as a potential platform. He told me the company took a wait and see approach with the portable. It sounded like when became clear the Vita wouldn't be as successful as its predecessor, Square Enix decided to explore other options.
Final Fantasy Type-0  HD photo
Wait until the time is right
Final Fantasy Type-0 HD wasn't on the show floor at PAX last weekend, but Square Enix did show off the action RPG behind closed doors. During our meeting with the publisher, Destructoid touched base with director Hajime ... read feature

Final Fantasy Type-0 HD is a mature new take on the series

Sep 02 // Kyle MacGregor
The original Final Fantasy Type-0 never made it out of Japan, so western audiences might not yet realize how much of a stark departure it is from the rest of the series. Unlike the numbered titles, it eschews a turn-based battle system for action-oriented combat that's a tad more graphic than to what Final Fantasy fans have become accustomed. In a brief hands-off demonstration, Tabata walked me through just how violent the game could be, casting fire spells, which incinerated enemies and left behind blackened ashy corpses.The physical attacks were no less brutal than those of the magic variety, resulting in blood-soaked wounds and stained weaponry.  Tabata voiced a desire to steer clear of whittling away hit points so Type-0 could "evoke the true nature of battle." The story also veers in a new direction, drawing inspiration from films and documentaries that pull the camera back a bit to tell a story about the wider world. The tale follows fourteen mages from a military academy that become caught up in a world war. Rather than focus on any single protagonist or party of characters, time is shared equally amongst the vantage points -- something Tabata likened to Game of Thrones. "In comparison to the traditional Final Fantasy titles, [Type-0] really has more of a mature take on it," Tabata told me. "It's for adults. It's more active. And it draws upon realistic drama. Those are the three types of experiences we try to evoke through this game." Tabata also mentioned folks who played the original game thought Type-0 was "a bit hard to play," so the new version will include four difficulty modes. Square Enix also has gone back in and tinkered with the combat system. "Distance with the enemy plays a big role in how you perceive and play the game," Tabata said. "So, with this HD version, we were able tune the abilities, tune the magic, alter the balance, and adjust the balance of the enemy battles. "I really fine-tuned the game to be played on the big screen," he continued. "I was glad we were able to do that." Final Fantasy Type-0 HD will launch on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One within the next year.
FF Type-0 preview photo
Evoking battle's true nature
Final Fantasy Type-0 HD is taking Square Enix's beloved RPG series in a bold new direction. According to director Hajime Tabata, it's "much more mature in comparison with previous titles" and provides "a completely new take o... read feature

Experts think competitive doubles could make it big in Smash Bros.

Aug 24 // Jonathan Holmes
When initially asked why doubles Smash Bros never "caught on", Nick replied brassily "I don't think it's fair to say they never 'caught on', since a significant portion of competitive Smash history is rooted in the popularity and complexity and amazing things that come out of doubles. On the other side of that coin, however, is that the complexity and depth of it makes it much more difficult to watch or to effectively train for." Never to make a claim without backing it with facts, Nick sited a few instances where doubles play affected the Smash competitive scene as a whole- "The most popular smash meme (I do believe it has overtaken "FINAL DESTINATION" at this point) 'WOMBO COMBO' is a direct result of Melee doubles play. Also the acclaimed old school Melee player and father of the modern Melee Falcon Isai only started playing Melee to take part in teams competitions, only trying hard in team competitions.  The Ken and Isai "unbeatable" team was a huge piece of Melee history, and Forward and Taj finally taking a set from them and Azen and Chillen out-placing them were HUGE accomplishments." [embed]280066:55423:0[/embed] Never one to only see one side of a situation, Nick reflected on how "The two-on -two, or 'doubles' as we refer to it, has always been a staple event at tournaments almost since tournaments themselves started.  They were never the 'main event' however, it was just an alternative bracket for everyone to get even more Smash action out of, but much less felt like it was on the line (and to be fair, significantly less money was on the line compared to singles in probably close to 100% of all cases).  However, sometimes the doubles event would retrospectively be the highlight of the tournament, depending on how the sets in singles played out." ZeRo seemed to agree, stating that "Doubles is considered to be the 'side meal', while singles is the 'meat' or so to speak, where you earn the most respect and prizes from winning events. Almost every event features a doubles and singles competitions for the Smash games being played there. It's very common to play them. We saw them at MLG, EVO and CEO this year, for example. It's a format that's very loved, but just, not as big as singles." So far, we've just talked about Melee, which is far from the whole story, especially in Japan. According to Nick "As competitive gameplay for Brawl got more and more defensively oriented and less 'spectator friendly', Brawl doubles remained a shining and beautiful diamond that managed to remain interesting and even comparable to Melee doubles excitement. The biggest welcome change that resulted from Brawl doubles was increased character diversity. In Japan, however, Brawl has a huge scene.  So much so that they even host specifically doubles tournaments, and they've advanced the doubles metagame so much that even top singles MK (Meta Knight) players in double MK teams cannot win those tournaments (latest results here)." The video below is one of the example's Nick showed me displaying how two technically less skilled players (Lucas and Lucario) can use the team dynamic win against players who would likely defeat them in one-on-one matches. [embed]280066:55422:0[/embed] But what about the world outside Japan? Why isn't Brawl doubles big anywhere else? Sadly, Meta Knight is likely to blame (again). Nick says "In America, the fear that Double Meta Knight teams would run rampant (and they definitely would have, knowing the American meta...), several TO's decided to ban Double MK after the Doubles Grand Finals of APEX2012 which, although all 4 players were playing incredibly well, was seen as boring because it was all the same character, which is a rarity for teams play." ZeRo also notes the reality of Nintendo's lacking online system as major barrier, stating "The reason it's not as big, in my opinion at least, it's because of how teams for anything work. To have a good efficient team, you have to put time in the team. In Smash, since we don't have an online mode that allows players to correctly practice the format. Brawl/Project M can't be played online anymore, and Melee doesn't have a good enough platform for it. Maybe for 2 players, but definitely not for 4 players connected to it. This heavily affects players from forming a good team, effectively negating them from winning said events. You can't practice, or develop synergy." [embed]280066:55424:0[/embed] So when it comes to the reality of competitive play, being in full control isn't just a goal, it's a necessity, stating "Most of the time Smash events feature players from all over the world, and your teammate is almost never near you. Things like this make teams a smaller format. Some people think. 'I shouldn't enter if I don't have a shot at winning' against established and experienced teams. Teams is all about teamwork, really. Takes a lot of time. And singles is more of a personal thing. That's why I think they're more popular. This, and for some people, they just don't like to rely on others. Mainly, for things like this. You know, worrying that the other person cares as much as you do can also be a big deal."He's also aware of how doubles may call for too much to keep track of. He believes that "... teams are harder to commentate than singles. Much harder. Fighting games are already chaotic to commentate with just two people. Imagine four of them! It's chaos, especially for Smash which has always something going on the screen. This makes the format less attractive to people spectating at home. Personally, I enjoy and love them and have never had this issue, but several people have told me this, so it may be one of the reasons." Both Nick and ZeRo think that all this could change with the upcoming release of Smash Bros. Nick says "Depending on several factors, I believe that Smash 4's greatest success as a spectator event could be with Doubles. Right now team games are the biggest games to watch (DotA, LoL, CS:GO). Additionally, the cast of Smash 4 is going to be the most varied yet, and I'm hoping Sakurai got his act together with character balance after Brawl's fiasco.  If the game's speed plays somewhere between Melee and Brawl it'll be a perfect candidate to push for Doubles being the limelight. Seeing how Nintendo runs their tournaments for Pokémon, I don't doubt that if Nintendo ran official Smash 4 leagues or tournaments that they would try to push a 2v2 type situation, because that mode is just another bullet point on the long checklist that makes Smash stand out as unique from other fighting games." Zero seems to agree. The growing popularity of team-based competitive eSports as a sign that Smash Bros. could garner the attention of both the traditional fighting game fans and the immensely popular competitive RTS audience, depending on how the game's system operates. He wonders "Who knows, maybe the system will give the players the tools to practice teams properly? It's kinda like League of Legends. The system allows players to always practice their format -5v5- in the proper way. Imagine League players could only play 1v1's online. The main format would be that, because its what people can practice and prepare for. 5v5's in this case would be much smaller and inaccessible. Something like this happens for Smash. And yes, I know, way different games, but trying to compare it to get my point cross." Regardless of what the larger competitive Smash scene ends up doing, it's clear that ZeRo is going to continue to enjoy Doubles as just one part of the Smash Bros experience. He ended the interview with this thought -- "I love doubles, especially when you have experienced teams and rivalries going on. Always so intense. Hopefully in the future we can see more of them! Love teaming with my buddy Mew2King, and would like to team with Armada at some point as well because he's another fantastic teams player." Only a few more months until we see for ourselves if doubles in Smash Bros. finally takes its place in the competitive spotlight.
Smash Bros. photo
ZeRo and DarkDragoon double up on doubles talk
The Super Smash Bros series is one of the few ongoing competitive fighting game series that was designed from the ground up for two-on-two simultaneous play, but you might not know that if you only went by the biggest moments... read feature

Alien: Isolation is haunting and uncompromisingly scary

Aug 13 // Alessandro Fillari
Alien: Isolation (PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 [previewed], PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Creative AssemblyPublisher: SegaRelease Date: October 7, 2014 Back when the uproar over Aliens: Colonial Marines happened, the developers at Creative Assembly were hard at work on Isolation and waiting for the time to unveil their project. "No one ever made the Alien game I wanted to play, which was about taking you back to the roots of the series -- which is one Alien, who is really meaningful," said creative lead Alistair Hope. "What would it be like to encounter Ridley Scott's original Alien? Who's massive, intelligent, and just something that's hunting you down." First off, forget everything you know about the sequels to the original Alien. This game is set several decades before those events, and many of the buzzwords, tropes, and other plot points for the colonial space-marines don't exist yet. The ship from the original film, the Nostromo, is destroyed, the Alien was blown out of the airlock, and the fate of lone survivor Ellen Ripley is unknown. Taking place 15 years after the original film, Alien: Isolation tells the story of Amanda Ripley, the daughter of the series' central character. After receiving word that the space station Sevastopol has recovered the Nostromo's flight recorder, she hurries to the station to learn of her mother's fate. Upon arriving, she finds the station in chaos as staff have gone into disarray after an Alien has taken up residence there. Now with the lives of herself and her crew on the line, Amanda must venture through the Sevastopol looking for answers, while evading the near omnipresent Alien. Now when I first heard that we'd be playing as the daughter of Ellen Ripley, I sorta rolled my eyes and thought of it as a gimmick to eek some connection from the first movie. But I was wrong -- in the few hours I had with the game, I saw a lot to like with Amanda's character. She's scrappy, determined, and can definitely handle herself. "We wanted to tell a story that had an emotional connection to that first film, to focus on someone who actually cared about the Nostromo," said Hope. "She has a lot of the same qualities of her mother, but she's taken her own path and she's very much her own character." With more people clamoring for strong female heroes to play as, Ripley is exactly the kind of character many would like. Not only does she set herself apart from her mother by being more talkative, and more knowledgeable and handy, but she feels like a unique character that works well on her own. It's refreshing to play as a regular character with an unusual history brought into a trying circumstance, as opposed to just another space-marine that you'd likely forget about by game's end. In more ways than one, Alien: Isolation is very much a throwback to the bleak and haunting sci-fi and horror films of the 1970s. Everything from the character look, atmosphere, and visual style have been recreated to match the tone and style of the original Alien film. To take things further, film grain and the color palette match with what many fans saw from the first film, and Creative Assembly wanted to recreate the same atmosphere for this new game. "One of the big things I love about Alien is that '70s view of the future," said Hope. "That low-fi sci-fi. It's cool because it owns its own space, it's not the style of science fiction that we're used to, and it looks great and very immersive." One of the big takeaways I had from this game is the art design. Isolation's aesthetic comes from the past's view of the future. As future prediction is relative to the times, the 1970s view of the future features structural designs and computers that feel analog and mechanical, CRT monitors with charming and antiquated graphics are placed in every room, and multilingual welcome signs show a coalesced human society of the future. The developers at Creative Assembly did an admirable job with replicating the "used" future look, as seen in Alien, Moon, and Star Wars. And it definitely makes for a more visually appealing haunted house. In case you haven't figured it out by now, Alien: Isolation is almost the opposite style and tone seen in James Cameron's Aliens, and from all the derivatives that followed. While Aliens emphasized action-horror with powerful characters stretched to their limits, Alien is a horror-thriller with characters who are outmatched by an unknown force. Creative Assembly wanted to return to the original tone and atmosphere, as it's still largely unknown for gaming. "One of the things we put up on the wall [during initial design] was to 're-Alien the Alien'. You can go back to the original Alien, which is over 35 years old, and even though it's old you can still get an emotional response from it," Hope stated. "And it's a testament to the power of the craft. It was important to me to have the Alien not run around your waist like a rabid dog, but to be big and imposing, that commanded your respect." Respect is a great way of putting it. In the previous games, players are used to mowing down swarms of aliens without feeling any real fear. It's very ingrained, when you think about it. This aspect of the human vs. alien conflict is what CA wanted to change, and in order to do so, players had to be knocked down a few pegs. "Horror I think is about small victories. It's those tiny moments where you think 'maybe I can make it,' and if I keep doing it maybe I can." In an atmosphere filled with dread, the tension is incredibly heavy. You're not playing as a badass space-marine with ammo and firepower to blow away swarms of Aliens; you're a regular person with limited resources that has to think about firing a shot or even whether to make the tough decision to peek around a corner to see if the enemy is near. You're vulnerable, and the odds are against you. And the creature you're up against is intelligent, cunning, and unkillable by conventional means. And encountering it is quite possibly the worst thing that can happen to your character. During my session, I had to find a trauma kit to heal an injured crew member. I carefully made my way through an abandoned crew's quarters, and suddenly the Alien crashed down from a shaft in the ceiling. Not noticing me, I ducked under a table and watched as he lurked through the halls, looking for a new prey. For most other Alien games, we would've ended the encounter there with a few shots from a pulse rifle. Not so here. Stealth and careful use of your gadgets, such as the invaluable motion tracker (which shows movement and objectives) and noisemaker gadget (which does exactly that) are necessary for survival.  Once the Alien discovers you, you're pretty much done for. Within the first ten minutes of encountering this thing, I was killed twice. Both times featured unique death animations, one where the Alien yanks Ripley and finishes her with a single bite, and another where the Alien crawls on top of Ripley and goes for the kill. It was certainly humbling to face against something that I was no match for, I was definitely on edge throughout my few hours with the game. In keeping with its "throwback" style, the gameplay feels very much like a return to classic survival horror. Specifically in the vein of early Resident Evil titles and Alone in the Dark. Your resources are limited and sparse, you face unrelenting and powerful odds, and you're vulnerable to attack at the unlikeliest of moments -- to say things are tense would be putting it lightly. Moreover, Isolation also uses a fixed save point system. Creative Assembly cited this as a design choice to get players to think about where they want to set their flag, but also to prevent players from taking advantage of checkpoints and save-anywhere options, which would mitigate the tension. There were definitely times where I felt too nervous to make a move, as the Alien would have a general sense of where I was and stay around the area. And no, it usually won't go away if it knows you're there. Safety feels like a luxury, and moments that felt like downtime only resulted in the creature re-emerging from its hiding spot, almost as if to remind players who's boss. "We certainly don't want players to feel 100 percent safe, however this game has to be about tension and release," said Hope, while discussing the balance between creating tension. "It can't be unrelentingly oppressive and constantly overbearing, you need to be able to breath, before you can embark into the unknown." While he's definitely correct about striking a balance between tension and release, I myself was mostly tense throughout the experience. One major criticism I had was that the objective locations are kept fairly vague while only giving you a general direction to head to. Picture this: you're looking for a small keycard located in a hallway with multiple rooms. You don't know where it is, and you have to sneak through each room searching for it, all the while having the Alien lurking about. You begin to get frustrated, you can't find what you need to leave and you start to panic, you knock over a nearby object (objects create noise which attracts the Alien), and the creature rushes off to your room. At times, it felt like I was in a hopeless situation and that a restart was necessary. I was stuck in a supply closet and the Alien stuck its head toward the vents of the closets to see if I was inside. During this point, you can hold your breath and wait for the Alien to pass, but I let go of the button and let out a big gasp for air -- of course, the Alien heard it, ripped the doors off its hinges and dragged me to my death. It's moments like these that make the experience incredibly suspenseful, but in order to survive, you have to be prepared. To get the upper hand on the Alien and overcome many other obstacles, Ripley must use her engineering skills to craft items and weaponry to survive her trek through the Sevastopol. The in-game crafting system allows players to make Medkits, ammo, and other tools to survive. While you will acquire core weaponry, such as the revolver, stun-baton, and flamethrower, many other gadgets like the noisemaker and Molotov cocktails require components that are found from looting dead bodies and crates. Though be careful, crafting will not pause the game and if you're in an unsafe location, you can be easily picked off by the Alien. While the Alien is unrelenting and intimidating, it isn't the only enemy you have to worry about. Throughout the station you'll find other humans doing whatever it takes to survive the chaos. Even if means taking out Ripley. While there are people that players can peacefully interact with, others will attack on sight. Which is not only a problem, but the noise from this conflict will also attract the Alien. Though depending on how you play, this can work to your advantage. If you're clever enough, you can lure the beast out of hiding with gadgets and use the humans as a distraction. If done right, the Alien will leap out from whatever vent or rafter it's hiding from and make quick work of them, allowing you to pick up resources after the carnage. "It's not about killing, it's about survival. It felt like there had to more interaction with this creature than just pulling a trigger," said Hope while discussing the different options you have for combat." You can actually finish the game without killing anyone, so it's down to your choice. It's a big part of the game experience, we put these situations in your hands." Another enemy to watch out for are the Working Joes, or synthetic androids as seen from the films. Throughout the Sevastopol there are Working Joes on standby, and in some cases players can activate them for assistance, such as locating and procuring sensitive equipment. However, the Working Joes are also kept to maintain the integrity of the station, and if players tamper or destroy sensitive equipment, the androids will treat you as a hostile threat and enter a search-and-destroy protocol. While they appear slow and crude, they're extremely powerful and possess some sharper senses than the creature. The Alien is intimidating and scary, but Working Joes are just plain creepy. I came in expecting a game that would be better than the previous titles by default, but I ended up playing a game that not only surprised me with its cleverness and complexity, it gave me a greater appreciation for the original film as well. Alien: Isolation knows exactly what it's doing, and its approach to offering an uncompromising and harsh experience that'll frighten and humble players should win over many who wrote off the series. With its release on October 7, Isolation's return to classic horror will likely give gamers looking for a survivalist experience -- and those in need of a good scare -- something to look anticipate. And with the Alien lurking the halls of the space station, the odds will certainly be against you. But to quote the cunning android Ash from the original film, "I can't lie to you about your chances, but … you have my sympathies."
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Admire its purity
Though it was initially seen as "Jaws-in-space," the legacy for Alien is certainly much more pristine than the one with the giant shark. Originally released in 1979, the first Alien would eventually become a much-loved horror... read feature

Father of the Wasteland: How to trust your fans and revive a classic

Aug 05 // Alessandro Fillari
The original Wasteland was released in 1988 for the Commodore 64, PC DOS, and Apple II. Players were dropped in the role of a Desert Ranger, the peacekeepers in post-apocalyptic USA. Set in the Southwest of North America, the game tasked you with exploring and combating the dangers of life after a nuclear war. As a choice-driven game, you can freely explore the ruins of the old world while forging your own path in the grim future. I know what you're thinking: this sounds like Fallout. That's because Fallout was a successor to Wasteland. "I think Wasteland, in a way, was one of the first sandbox type gameplays," Brian Fargo said. Taking influence from the then-popular Ultima series, the post-apocalyptic setting was an enticing change of pace for many. Fargo and his team at Interplay wanted to allow players to make their story and choose where they wanted to go. Years after work on Wasteland, Interplay went on to create Fallout, which was a spiritual successor to Wasteland, set in post-nuclear-war USA. Fargo and his team at Interplay had always been interested in creating a direct sequel to Wasteland, but licensing issues and fickle publishers prevented them. "I didn't know what I was going to do with the company at the time. Honestly, I just stopped pitching titles to publishers," Fargo said. "After hearing so many horror stories, it was just a waste of time."   Following the success of DoubleFine's Kickstarter project, which would become Broken Age, many others raced to create their own Kickstarter campaigns. While there were many that would not make it, inXile's own campaign would prove to be another success story for the crowdfunding site. With close to $3 million dollars raised from over 60,000 backers, Kickstarter allowed Brian Fargo and inXile to get a second chance at making the game they've always wanted. "We've been given such an incredible opportunity," Fargo said. Because of this -- and the high rate of failure and/or disappointment of most Kickstarter projects -- the developers at inXile wanted to pull out all the stops and make the game that would surpass expectations. "I wanted to make sure we over-deliver and go beyond anyone's expectations for what they thought they were gonna get," Fargo said. "For me, not only from my backers that put faith in me, but other fellow developers who said 'don't screw this up, Brian. You know you need to do a good job.' "What a lot of people don't know is I've spent twice as much money than we raised on the Kickstarter on this project to just blow it out all the way, to do something just huge in scope." As a direct sequel to Wasteland, players will join the ranks of the Desert Rangers and explore the post-apocalyptic landscapes of Arizona and Los Angeles. You will be able to create a brand new character with unique skills and weaponry, acquire loot and allies, and explore both hand-crafted and procedurally-generated locations with their own unique quests and events.  "The budget for this game is much closer to five million, but that's because I poured in more of my own money and money from our sales from Bard's Tale and sales from Early Access, because I wanted to do something more ambitious. We could've kept it at the Kickstarter budget, but I wanted to knock this out of the ballpark and have people point and say 'that's what Kickstarter can do!' So I felt it was worth the risk." And going all out was exactly what they did. They filmed a live-action opening cinematic featuring cosplayers from a post-apocalyptic convention in the desert of Nevada. They used a children's choir to sing gospel songs for the dangerous and God-fearing cult of Samson. Much of the game is voiced, bringing out words from writers who have written for the original Wasteland, Planescape: Torment, Fallout, and Baldur's Gate. The developers want the narrative to be the centerpiece of Wasteland 2's design. "With Chris Avellone, Colin McComb, Nathan Long, Michael Stackpole, we take writing very seriously," Fargo said. There are over 500,000 lines of written dialog. "We feel it adds so much to the game and I feel it needs to be taken seriously. We have more words in this game than the Lord of the Rings trilogy. "For Wasteland 2, I like to call it a narrative sandbox game," Fargo said. "We've written all of these different threads based upon what you've done in the narrative. You can make any choice spin off in any different way. On top of that, you can shoot anyone you encounter. "I think the elements of 'old-school' [lots of choice and variables] are timeless. All this cause-and-effect gameplay, the subtlety of detail, the nuance of the humor -- good cause and effect is the hallmark of any game. By virtue of the design, when you do something, it turns something else off. I had a very famous game designer in my office a month ago, and he said 'why would you do that, create all that stuff that most people won't encounter?' and I said that's the charm of what it is." Fargo was adamant about allowing players to have total freedom in how they express themselves in Wasteland 2. This mandate is apparent even in the beginning moments. After watching the burial of a fallen Desert Ranger during the opening cinematic, players can choose to desecrate the grave once gameplay starts. Even after warnings from General Vargas, a returning character from the original game, players can choose to proceed with violating the grave. All ally NPC characters in the area will open fire on your squad, ending the game before it even properly begins. While most players will never see this scenario, the developers felt it was important to have so players can choose to express themselves in anyway they see fit. "I think about a sandbox game like Grand Theft Auto as the ultimate sandbox, you can go pump weights, get tattoos, you can jack an airplane. You can do whatever you want, but it doesn't really affect the narrative structure, the missions are exactly the same. There's nothing wrong with it, but it's a different kind of thing." There was a lot of candid talk between Fargo and I about promises from other games with open-ended experiences. While it was clear that he had an enormous respect for the talent at other studios, there was still a feeling of skepticism when discussing the potential that other games aspire towards. In that respect, this is something that Fargo wishes not to fall short on. "A lot of games promise to do it," Fargo said about offering flexibility in choices. "But we're really delivering on all that stuff. The game is so large in scope, you can play this game over and over again for more than ten years. My president is still finding new content even after 700 hundreds hours of gameplay." One of the least-talked-about aspects of game development through Kickstarter is the perpetual state of anxiety the developers are in. With your development under a microscope by fans and press alike, this level of transparency is unprecedented for traditional game development. Unlike developing games through a publisher, you're beholden to your backers. And there's no greater low than getting their buyer's remorse. "The first scary risk for me was that we were committing to talking about and showing things that were not in their final state. You know how when these people come out with a game, and there's this first impression and that you can never get out of this hole of the first impression? That was a risk, and we wanted their feedback, but it worked." Fargo was so anxious about the initial reveal of Wasteland 2's gameplay video back in February 2013 that the potential development of their next title was dependent on the reception to the video. "If the first gameplay demo for Wasteland 2 didn't play well for the fans, then I wouldn't have done the Kickstarter for Torment," Fargo explained. "It's completely, 100% based on trust. For me, I've never had more pressure in my life. I can't imagine what would happen had I not been able to deliver. You'd be done right at that point." Fortunately for them, the video was well received by backers and newcomers alike. Emboldened, they started a second Kickstarter campaign for the successor to Planescape: Torment a month later, which found even greater success. It brought in over $4 million from over 70,000 backers. "When you're utilizing the power of the crowd and really listening to them, it's really powerful because you're vetting the great ideas and getting them from a lot of different sources," Fargo said. "That has paid off great, and Early Access has been an adjunct of that too." With the advent of Steam's Early Access, the extra feedback from direct play has served as a boon for inXile. "Going back to the old days of Fallout, we would just make the game, do our best  instinctively and keep our fingers crossed, but now we're getting it out there and taking all the feedback that you would usually get post-launch. So we got it all moved up to the front without having people beat on it after release." With the rise of the internet and the organization of online communities, the constant communication has served as great tool for the developers, but also a reminder of a shift in power. "Think back in the late '90s, if people had a problem with the game, they'd have to do a letter-writing campaign. The consumers had zero power in the '90s, but now (with social media and the internet), they have all the power." Fargo and his team's collective experience helped them handle the demands of game development, publishing, and communication simultaneously. However, on the morning of our interview with Fargo, the Kickstarter for Areal, which received a lot of press for its development and business practices, had just imploded. This was a rather timely reminder of the results of mismanaged production funded publicly. And Fargo offered some harsh, if helpful, truths about folks looking to get into making a game through Kickstarter for all the wrong reasons. "I've said this before about Kickstarter, it's not the place to cut your teeth and learn how to make a game. I don't think it's good for that," Fargo said. "Because once you've gone out and failed, you're publicly flogging yourself out there. It's gonna be harder to start another project, and it might even hurt you finding a job. Who knows, right? He's the guy who took your money and failed to deliver. You don't want to be that guy. So I think it's a horrible idea for people to cut their teeth on their first project on crowdfunding. However, once you've done production for awhile, then it's easier to do." Fargo is still optimistic about the future of development through crowdsourcing. "That's why Kickstarter is so perfect, because the mid-level developer was disappearing for the most part. You have the big AAA guys, then the small indie-developers making the smaller titles like Goat Simulator and all that stuff. There are games like [Wasteland 2] that can't be made with three or four guys and so [crowdfunding] does allow for games like this to be made." The release of this title means a great deal for all those involved. Not only is it the return of an influential and much-loved title, but it's also a game that feels like a blast from the past that's adapted and accommodated the skills and tricks from the modern day. "We've put our heart and soul into this game, I've put my own money into this, my guys have been working seven days a week, and I haven't even gone on my honeymoon," said Fargo. "My wife wants to kill me, she's been waiting two years for our honeymoon."While the game is now available on Early Access, the official launch of Wasteland 2 should come in September, 26 years after the release of the original. It looks like Kickstarter is about to get another success story. And for inXile Entertainment, that means another shot at making something memorable.
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Brian Fargo talks fulfilling the trust of fans and the pressures of crowdfunding games
Take a moment and think about your dream game. You've probably been thinking about this for awhile. It's always in the back of your mind. Whenever you see new a title promising to do what your dream game does, you wonder if i... read feature

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Shoutouts to Podtoid
It doesn't feel like it has been that long since former Destructoid reviews editor Aaron Linde moved on to work in the game industry, but it has been almost six years now. In that time, he has contributed to a number of deve... read feature

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'Why would you take that toy from a baby, you dumb man!?'
Slender: The Arrival is coming to Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 this year, and it's arriving with some added content (which owners of the game on PC will receive for free). Casey Lynch from Midnight City came by to play through... read feature

Two pros are 'edgy' about slight landing lag in Smash Bros. 4

Jul 13 // Jonathan Holmes
They may be right. We'll lave to wait and see before we find out how bad the landing lag is for the majority of characters, and how much it bothers the majority of players. Still, doesn't the fact that these two amazing players are put off by a slight delay in how long it takes to get back into the action after landing make them sound... a little obsessive? Obsessed with being in control of their characters, impatient during even a split second before they can move again, and always hungry for more tension?  I don't know how anyone who doesn't have the tendency towards being an obsessive, adrenaline-loving, "impatient control freak" could ever become an expert at Melee. If you don't love the rush that comes from quickly and efficiently executing total control over your character, you're not very likely to get that good at the game. Maybe a better way of saying the same thing would have been - "These days, Melee attracts a lot of people who thrive off constant action, where the player has seamless, immaculate control over nearly every aspect of player movement."  Or maybe it was better to just say "impatient control freaks"? It's certainly a lot shorter. What do you guys think?
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'Guarded' optimism from a couple of masters
Yesterday I wrote an article about why I'd like to have the option to turn on tripping in Smash Bros for the Wii U and 3DS. It upset a lot of people. Sorry, guys. One part that some people found particularly insulting was ins... read feature

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It's okay, the children want to be thrown
Max hung out with Dave and Daniel of Spry Fox Games to check out their upcoming title, The Road Not Taken. From the makers of Triple Town, this puzzle roguelike puts the player in an adorable world, with dark undercurrents. ... read feature

DNA splicing will make you a better you in Subnautica

May 30 // Hamza CTZ Aziz
Unknown Worlds is a studio that embraces its community. It was especially important for the team to not only show the game off at PAX East, but to get as much feedback as they could. "I feel like the response was quite positive to a non-violent sci-fi underwater world," Cleveland said of the PAX reception. "There was especially a lot of women, a lot of kids, and a lot of parents that all wanted to play that. That was really awesome, because after [Natural Selection II] -- I felt it was such a hardcore game and I loved that -- but it's just I want to expand and reach regular people too. I feel like people thought it was a breath of fresh air, and they enjoyed the non-combat elements, and they enjoyed the exploration parts." A good majority of the people that were demoing the games at Unknown Worlds' booth were in fact community, and one member that goes by the name of IronHorse kept pushing this idea of permanence every time people playing the demo would ask. Essentially all your actions will affect the world in some way. A basic example would be a player destroying a coral reef by running their submarine into it. If that happens, it means creatures can't make their home in it anymore, depleting that region of its formerly native wildlife. This idea of permanence was a concept Unknown was throwing around, and now it's something they're actually implementing because of the response. "That idea of permanence really seemed to resonate with people even though it wasn't in the game at all," Cleveland explained. "But the way they demoed it and talked about it, they said that every time they mentioned it people got really excited. Which to me is, 'okay we really have to figure out a way to make that work.' That was a big shift because we weren't sure about that before. It was just one of many ideas that we had talked about." With this new focus, it opens up many questions for the development team. Specifically, they want permanence but not the loss players typically see in games like say Dark Souls. That said, players can expect a hardcore mode with one life permadeath along with a more casual free mode where they don't ever have to worry about death. As Cleveland was explaining this to me, he started throwing out ideas of what they could potentially offer players, and it was a nice peek under the hood of game development. One of the more interesting ideas Cleveland mentioned was allowing players to inject a creature with oxytocin (a love hormone) so it would become closer to the player. All these ideas are great for the development process, but it can also be quite scary for someone in Cleveland's position. Everything is in production, and you can't have, for example, the animator just sitting around waiting for some work to drop in his lap. They have to maintain a schedule to get the game released on time, all while maintaining a budget as to not run out of money. So what kind of game is Subnautica? We've grown up always trying to fit games into a specific genre, but that's not so much the case with game development anymore, thanks in large part to the independent scene. "For me, it's about that the thrill, the excitement of experiencing the unknown," Cleveland said. "Not knowing what's in the world, how deep you can go, what's down there, seeing the lifeforms get really weird as you get really deep. It's basically a really beautiful, life affirming world that you can explore and tinker with." Journey was given as an example in regards to the story elements, while the world itself borrows from Skyrim, and there's building aspects from Minecraft. They're also borrowing from BioShock as players will be able to inject DNA into themselves. A player could take the DNA from a type of glow fish, for example, so they no longer need a flashlight in dark areas because your body will glow. This in turn means predatory creatures will be able to see you more clearly, however. "If we can do a game with this art style, non-violent, underwater, where your actions affect the world in a permanent way, I feel like we have enough qualitative data from people that we have a game that people will buy." Subnautica was going to borrow another big element from the likes of Minecraft and Spelunky with randomly generated worlds, but that idea has been scrapped in favor of big, handcrafted worlds. "It's a huge change for us. Everyone on the team except me was especially excited about that. I'm like 'GRRR!' but I understand why, and I think it's a good decision for us. We're already having difficulties with areas that felt too generic. And then you'd see a set piece, a really beautiful handcrafted lava-volcano area with caves, and just something very specific and beautiful that if you see that in more than one place you're just like 'okay that's just the same set piece just copied in a different region. It's not that interesting.' We definitely risked having this medium ground where the world alternated between generic and copied set pieces. "There's a reason why Minecraft and Spelunky can do randomly generated worlds -- that's because their blocks are tiny and their graphical fidelity is low. We're doing something opposite. We have bigger tiles and our fidelity is much higher. I think if we did a more low detailed world I think it would have been great, but we're not doing that. At the end of the day we realized we would rather make a very visually appealing world and not have the replayability come from a random map. "So instead, the way we're thinking about it now is you start in the same place every time but as you are making choices all through the game it's changing the world. That's the idea. We're hoping, it's easier said than done. Hopefully your choices will change how you play the game, and so you'll want to replay it from that perspective. And if you don't want to replay it, that's another big mind shift. We don't have to make a game that has a hundred hours of replayability. I actually really enjoy games that are three hours long like Limbo, Journey, [etc]. I like games that reach a pinnacle of emotional depths so they really capture my imagination, and it's really short but really awesome." A lot of this is new ground for Unknown Worlds, but perhaps the biggest change for the team is how they're staying away from violence in general with Subnautica. "For NS2, we spent so much time fighting each other and just making gun based play. [I'm] just completely bored of that. I'm sure all the people here are too. When I think of things like DNA splicing and taking scientific readings off the bottom of the ocean, to me that's much more interesting ideas. Something that we haven't seen very much of. "The other part is that when I was first prototyping [Subnautica] it was right about when Sandy Hook happened. It was just turning my stomach to think about making another game filled with guns. I don't believe games cause violence, but I just don't want to spend my creative energy creating more. So hey let's try something new! See where it gets us." The non-violent approach will also help open up the game to a wider audience. As Minecraft has proven, there is an audience that wants to just build and explore. Still, there are dangers in the wild that you will have to deal with, and it'll be up to players to figure out how, from just trying to avoid the danger altogether to luring a predator's food source nearby to distract it. This marks the first of a monthly, recurring series where Destructoid will be bringing you a behind-the-scenes look at the on-going development of Unknown Worlds' Subnautica. Note that the game will be changing constantly as the team develops the title. We'll be following Subnautica's development closely over the coming months, up to the targeted August release, and beyond. If there are any specific aspects you'd like to know more about ask away in the comments and we'll follow up.
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A continuing look at the development of Subnautica
Natural Selection began life in 2002 as a mod that successfully married the first-person shooter and real-time strategy genres. It's since gone on to eat up the last 12 years of developer Unknown Worlds' time as they created ... read feature

The Cave Story/Kero Blaster/Gero Blaster connections

May 30 // Jonathan Holmes
What are the biggest differences between Gero Blaster and Kero Blaster? It became a completely different game. The only bits left over are the Frog as the protagonist, some characters, and some controls, but the weapons, maps and story are all completely different. Many apologies to those who were looking forward to Gero Blaster. But I didn't decide to change the name until the announcement on April 1st because I was worried about completely losing the name recognition I had gained with Gero Blaster. Is there anything about Gero Blaster that you really wanted to fit into Kero Blaster but just couldn't get it to fit? In Gero Blaster, I had this missile-looking projectile and some really eccentric boss characters that I wanted to use a lot, but if I added too much, it would really disrupt the game's balance, so I just left them out. Also, I had this umbrella-esque item that would allow you to fall slowly from the air, but I left it out for the same reasons. The umbrella was really cute so if I get the chance, I'd like put it in the games to come after this one. Seeing that Kero Blaster is your biggest release since Cave Story, did you feel pressure to deliver something specific to Cave Story fans? Were you afraid that people would be disappointed that the game is focused more on action and less on exploration and story? I was worried about that issue for a long time. Even when I re-played Cave Story, I would think of how great it turned out and think there's no way to do better. However, when I finally decided to remake Kero Blaster, I had this really clear vision of what I wanted and then I wasn't afraid of anything. I was just excited and felt like I really wanted everyone to get their hands on this game as fast as possible. Is there any relation between the frog doctor and nurse in Cave Story and the Blue and Pink medical team in Kero Blaster? There's no relation. They're completely different worlds. Thanks for the insights. We can't wait to see what you come up with next. 
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Daisuke 'Pixel' Amaya tells all
Daisuke "Pixel" Amaya (Cave Story, Kero Blaster, Ikachan, Guxt) has a unique style that would be hard for anyone to convincingly counterfeit. His music, visuals, stories, and designs complement each other in ways that allow t... read feature

Cave Story creator on wanting to quit, working with publishers

May 29 // Jonathan Holmes
The Cave Story Beta was a very different game, and it was pretty far along before you started over and created the game we know as Cave Story today. Something similar happened with Gero Blaster's transformation into Kero Blaster. Most of us aren't even capable of creating a videogame, let alone recreating one. What is it that motivates you to create an entire game, scrap it, and recreate it? How does it aid in your creative process? Just like you said, creating a game is a lot of work! Actually, after I completed Cave Story, I thought 'I should stop making games' and 'This should be my last one' and then I created music production software called Pxtone Collage. I felt pretty satisfied making software when it came to programming, but being away from gaming, I didn't feel satisfied when it came to ideas like 'I'd really like to create my own world' or 'I want to make some story, maps, or music.' So in the end, I'm still making games. It's difficult to remain motivated. I've had many days where I couldn't get motivated and I've ended up wasting a whole day. But this time, when I finally decided to remake the game (Gero Blaster), I wasn't working alone, so for that half a year, I was able to make a significant amount of progress. Mr. Ms. Kawanaka, who I met at a business incubator in Kyoto, was skilled with level design and production, so I was able to leave the level design and production in Kero Blaster up to him her. [Edit: The original translation we received referred to Kawanaka-san with male pronouns. Nayan Ramachandran of Playism, Kero Blaster's publisher on PC, just informed us that this was likely in error as Kawanaka-san is a woman.] When I worked alone, I would waste a day on a bug that I couldn't figure out that by the evening, I would feel depressed about the current condition of the game. But by giving a part of the game to another person, I was able to focus on smaller parts while the stages in the game were steadily being created. This way, I didn't really have to worry about losing motivation. You have now worked with Playism and Nicalis, two wonderful, smaller-scale publishers. If a company like Nintendo or Sony came to you with an unlimited budget to make Cave Story 2, would you take the deal or would you rather continue to work on a smaller scale? Or both? It's a bit daunting to have to make things for money. It's impossible for me. If I can continue to make a living the way I am now, then I'm pretty satisfied with that. -- Check back tomorrow for part two!
Kero Blaster photo
On the road from Cave Story to Kero Blaster
[Kero Blaster art by Paul Veer] Cave Story is one of the most influential games to see release in the past ten years. It showed the world that one person can make a videogame that is as good if not better than works from... read feature

The old world European electronic noir of Transistor

May 23 // Steven Hansen
[embed]275304:54005:0[/embed] "I would say it has a darker vibe overall," Korb said. "It has a little noir influence, at least for me. Where Bastion was sort of earthly and warm and frontier-sy, I wanted to go in a different direction. I wanted to keep it as eclectic as I could, but I tried to center it around electronic elements with some old world European influences. I wanted it to have a bit of a vintage feel, but to combine those things in a way that was compelling and with a little bit of post-rock and other things peppered in there." Transistor writer Greg Kasavin chimed in, "I think we like playing with anachronistic feelings in different ways. In Bastion, it's primarily frontier-sy, this old world feeling, but sometimes it's like, 'wait a minute, that seems newer.' It's inverted on this game. Here it's modern by default, but here's the old world feelings where you're like, 'wait, is this the future?'" The juxtaposition is meant, "to put the player in a unique space," Korb said. "It's less about new, more about specific," Kasavin said. "We knew as a starting point we were more interested in the cyberpunk aesthetic as opposed to the glossy, future, laser guns and spaceships type sci-fi. We didn't want to do straight ahead cyber punk either, mostly out of respect because it's been done so well so many times already. What are we contributing to this if it's going to be flowing trench coats and giant magnums and sunglasses and pouring rain and stuff?" [embed]275304:54008:0[/embed] Kasavin and artist Jen Zee have already talked about casting cyberpunk aside. "We have to find some reason for our version of this stuff to exist and that means trying to find another angle on it, Kasavin said. "Jen discovered stuff from an art standpoint pretty early on and Darren's dabbling with music and various story tests and all that eventually led to the thing that we showed. But that all just took a while." All aspects of design inform one another. We've heard about the art or about relatively Supergiants' lax planning. "The nature of game development is you have a bunch of people working separately on all these different disciplines and they can't come together before a certain time in the project, Korb said. "At that point, then you can see what you have." "I've been smiling because I think of Heart of Darkness," Kasavin chuckles. "No one goes native, having been left unchecked for too long. No one has a different understanding of the game as everyone else because you develop a shared intuition around it. So we try to have that balance where people get to do their individual work in the way that they think is best, like Jen making artwork or Darren making music, and then there's the part where we're constantly trying to make sure that it all fits together and feels right, which is an intuitive, ongoing process. We don't necessarily know until we try it." And come together it did, with a droning, crooning coolness that challenges Bastion's warmth and just about everything that makes it up. Talking with Amir Rao, Greg Kasavin, Jen Zee and Darren Korb is instructive for their insight. It doesn't clear up Transistor's aloofness, but this winding, exciting series has hopefully shown off the verbosity and hammered out ideas bubbling underneath it.  Part I | Part II | Part III
Under a red sky Part IV photo
Darren Korb talks Transistor's eclectic, memorable soundtrack
As much as Jen Zee's mood paintings and art catalyzed what would become Transistor early on, so too did Darren Korb's music. The soundtrack is an important part of Transistor and while I'd like to be able to yell at you to go... read feature

Transistor's sword was a briefcase at one point

May 22 // Steven Hansen
Art majors in the audience may be excitedly raising your hands if you see the art history thread sewn between those influences that shine through in Transistor a lot more than the idea for a cyberpunk aesthetic that acted as an initial starting point. "We brought in the cyberpunk and then we decided that we didn’t want any of it," Zee said. "We rejected all the cyberpunk things. We were like, 'no trench coats, no rain.'" "A lot of cyberpunk stuff actually does tip its hat to Art Deco movements. Blade Runner definitely has that. I love Art Nouveau personally and I know a lot of other artists do too so I'm surprised it doesn't show up in a lot more videogames. So I thought I'd take the opportunity to integrate it into the cyberpunk and make something that feels a little different, not so dreary and dystopian as other things that may be considered in the same genre." While Transistor's lead, Red, quickly became iconic, the tone of the game came first. "We're pretty sloppy with our pre-production," Zee said. "I love characters, but I think the thing that felt most natural was to just start with mood paintings, which were just really quick color sketches of something that's trying to capture the atmosphere of what we want the game to feel like, or what I think fits into the game we’ve already created. "I think the issue with starting with a character is that it's too specific when everyone else is also looking at the game very abstractly and when you get too specific and do things like characters or even a specific asset for the game, it can start feeling like, 'oh here's the box that I put you all in now' and it just doesn’t foster creativity, I think." Red did materialize, but not without some struggle. "There's a much longer story there and I don't think we're actually going to get into because it's one of those things," Transistor's writer, Greg Kasavin, trailed off.  "But I mean, the shorter version is after iterating on character stuff for a while, there was this specific image that [Zee] made of [Red] that people on the team saw and were like, 'that's awesome, let's do that,' and it still evolved, like the look of the Transistor evolved..."   "But she didn't evolve a lot," Zee noted. Early concept image for Red and the Transistor "We struggled for a long period," Zee said. "There was nothing the whole theme was glomming onto, including myself. Then we made a decision and some new art was made and within the span of a day or two we found her and she was born and kept forever." "It combined a bunch of older ideas that had been kicking around for a while," Kasavin said. "You've heard us kind of alluding to how we circle in on things and sometimes we go back out and sometimes we come back around to ideas that we realized had stuck with us. When an idea can survive around here for a long period of time, we start to gain confidence in it as something that, at the very least, we like." "It's one of those things where it's not quite there, nothing's working, you scrap it all, and the thing you make next really quickly is just the right thing," Zee said. We hadn't seen that concept image yet, so we asked if the Transistor's design came about in a similar manner. "She was designed with the sword," Zee explained. "It was basically linked -- sorry, not to speak for you -- to the story," Kasavin said. "A big part of it was making a high-level decision on what the story was going to be about. Centrally, not moment by moment. ... It was an idea real early on, this story about a character whose voice has been taken from her partnered with a character who had been reduced to only a voice. ... None of us knew how Jen was going to spin it. ... There was an understanding at that point that she would not be speaking and that the sword would be. That was part of the idea behind those characters." But it could have been anything, not just a sword. "It could have been any kind of possessed, inanimate object," Zee said. "Pretty sure I went for the sword because Castlevania is amazing and the flying sword that follows you around is familiar."  As for alternatives to the sword? "I think without context it just wouldn't make sense," Kasavin laughed. A pause. "We could say at one point it was going to be a briefcase," Zee said. "We liked the idea," Kasavin explained. "It's a pairing of characters. Those characters took different forms."  Am I the only one who wants to see briefcase concept art, if there even is any? We've still got a music-focused discussion with Darren Korb and more on the way. Stay tuned.
Under a red sky Part III photo
Under a red sky Part III: Talking with Transistor's artist Jen Zee
Parts I and II of this series have touched on various elements of Transistor's design, but not one of its most striking facets, the artistry that immediately arrested many of us when Transistor was announced. We also sat down... read feature

Drakengard 3 photo
The interview is exactly what it sounds like
Guys, Taro Yoko is adorable. At least, I think he is. I know he's not actually a cute little puppet, but this interview regarding Drakengard 3 is adorable and informative. This may be one of my favorite interviews yet, simpl... read feature

Under a red sky Part II: Transistor's strategy for doing strategy

May 20 // Steven Hansen
With its isometric view and sumptuous art, Transistor may not feel like the most radical departure from Bastion, but its free mix of real-time combat and time-frozen strategy complicates design. "A lot of what Bastion had to teach you is this simple stuff: what button should I be pressing, what should I be thinking about when I'm playing. On top of that for this game we have the strategic layer and the hardest thing to do for me as a game developer -- and I think it's hard for every developer -- is to simulate the lack of knowledge of a first-time player," Rao said. The shared gaming literacy of Bastion's action-oriented combat let you make certain assumptions. "In Bastion, everyone rolls. Everyone knows like roll out of the way of damage. That's innate to you and how you play and how you think," Rao said. "Whereas in a tactical game, players have a wider set of potential options or things that they're thinking about at the time. That's a more challenging space. "In a game that has some strategic or tactical pleasures, that gap in knowledge is part of the pleasure. Figuring out the tactics and strategies that start to work for you and appeal to you. It's a constant combination of trying to encourage certain player behaviors. For example, in what we showed at PAX, attacking enemies from behind does more damage. We want to teach you that without forcing you to use that as a tactic. "Just because you force a player to mime something doesn't mean they learn anything. They've just gone through the thing you forced them to do. In a game with more tactical pleasures, you have to be open to the idea that the player may not learn something the first time and it's okay as long as they can get through it. They may learn it a second or third or fourth or fifth time they have an opportunity to engage with the systems." "The joke I have is that we don’t ship with the game. So if we have to stand there and explain how to play...if we have to explain it now, when are we going to make it explain itself later?" Kasavin said. "You have to be introspective when you're watching people play," Rao said. "And all those moments when you want to grab the controller from the player are actually a failure on your part to design something that encourages the kind of behavior that you're looking for. So at PAX, it's a lot of what we observe [that serves as useful feedback]. Sometimes more than what people say about the game." "We really like it when we can just observe and we don't have to intervene. We see intervention as a failure," Kasavin said. "We don't intervene," Rao said. "You need to see if it will resolve itself otherwise you ruin your experiment." "We have these moments where we’re like cringing, 'oh god, this person...' We blame ourselves. But, oh god, this guy, you know, this person just is not seeing this thing that we thought was noticeable but it's not. They don't know where they're going. Then they have their epiphany and it's like, oh thank goodness," Kasavin said. "If we can see this many people get through it and learn the system successfully, then we can go back home with the confidence that we can move forward from that foundation." "We often talked about how if we were just making a straight-up turn-based game...like if we made things more difficult for ourselves by trying to do both, but we felt, for us, it was really key to do both," Kasavin said. "So much of it is letting players discover these options for themselves instead of 'you have to use this' in certain situations.  "That means making the real-time mode very viable and even better in certain situations. For us, that's exciting during development, even in high-level play, stuff that we haven't talked about. New game plus, like super late game there are situations where resolving a fight can be preferable in real time with certain power combinations. ... Then you have people who are much more straight ahead in a strategy game. Every time they can go into planning mode, they use it. Every time the cool down is up. They play it more like turn-based game. "Everyone can enjoy strategic thought even if they don't consider themselves into strategy games. When they're watching a baseball game, everyone's the armchair coach. They know exactly what everyone should be doing. People have an intuitive sense of strategy. And also just the drama, the anticipation, of 'okay, here's what's going to happen when I hit go,' and then watching the resolution of that. And nine out of ten times it goes how you want and one out of ten times it kind of blows up in your face and you have to deal with it. "Having to deal with the consequences of your decision making on the fly seems fun as an idea. It's fun to look back, those are the kinds of things we were talking about when we had no idea what this game was going to be. It's interesting to look back and see that stuff in there after all this time." The strategy element seems to make sense. Supergiant's founders did come from EA, from Command and Conquer, but Kasavin said, "it didn't even come from that directly, or at least not consciously. I think a lot of us just really have a lot of fond memories of playing games with some sort of strategic or tactical component. Like we talked a lot about the 2D, isometric Fallout and stuff like Shining Force, Final Fantasy: Tactics. We knew we didn’t want to make a straight up turn-based game because we like the immediacy of action RPGs...but we wanted to see if we could take some of those pleasures, to use a word Amir used, and just kind of combine some of how we felt about those games with the immediacy of an action RPG." The result, in my early hours with Transistor, is a game that can wreck you quickly, wherein you need a time-stopping reprieve, though once you get confident and skilled enough, you can real time your way through certain situations. It reminded me of Final Fantasy XII, which I played as a typical, turn-based RPG, except when walking past weak enemies and letting the AI thwack them a few times. "Yeah, when the guys were weak, it was the equivalent of, in the older Final Fantasy games, holding down the button so everyone attacks and wipes out whoever you're fighting. Yeah that game got super crazy strategic for some of the fights," Kasavin said. I take someone not wincing at my mention of XII as my series favorite as a win. But Transistor wasn't developed in a game-less vacuum, and it's developed by people who love playing games. "I think it's not even, 'oh, we need to stay in touch,'" Rao said. "We play games for a lot of reasons that have nothing to do with making them." "I'd be playing Transistor over and over and over again all week," Korb said. "And for half a day I'd be like, I'm going to relax and play some other videogame. Play South Park, whatever." "I've been playing tons of [Dota 2]," Rao said. "I was a DOTA 1 fiend and I transitioned to Dota 2 as soon as I could. And so I've been playing Dota 2 basically nonstop throughout the development of Transistor." "I was roommates with Amir for a time when we were working in LA," Kasavin said. "I'd watch Amir playing Warcraft-era DOTA, but I never played it. So when it came time to do this game," with the strategic focus, "Dota 2 became one of the many references. I started dabbling with it as well and just I got crazy..." "Sucked in," Amir said. "Yeah," Kasavin laughed. "That is by far the game I've played the most [through Transistor's development]." "Greg and I are in deep," Rao said. "We went to the Intentional to watch professional Dota for several days together just for fun in the summer. It was amazing." "It seems like people skew one way or the other but I've always really liked competitive games and RPGs and stuff like that in parallel," Kasavin said. "I thought I was past the point where I could get really into a competitive game and then I got really into Dota." On the narrative side, Telltale's games got some love (Walking Dead and Wolf Among Us). "I'm just now cutting through my backlog," Kasavin said, "starting with Dark Souls II and the stuff Blizzard has released." Diablo and its recent expansion, along with Hearthstone. "Diablo II is one of my favorite games of all time," Rao said. "Anything Diablo, I will just do for hundreds of hours without worrying, so that's good." "I play a lot of portable games," Kasavin said. "The Vita and 3DS just have a lot of these really cool, interesting niches of games, like Phoenix Wright and Bravely Default. I play all that kind of stuff. For me, that stuff is closer to the nineties Super Nintendo golden era of games that, on big consoles, you don't see that stuff. But it lives on. I love me some Fire Emblem. Like, a lot." XCOM "cut across everyone," the one title early in development that spanned tastes, from the Dota fiends to the Papers, Please admirers. "I bought a PS3 so I could play The Last of Us," Korb added. "Kind of late to that party. And GTA V. Just the scope of that game blew my mind. I could tell a story about playing that game for 15 minutes that was crazy. I climbed to the top of a mountain and went in a helicopter and went sky diving and landed on a mountain bike and rode down and shot a guy and went scuba diving, and that's five minutes of the game." Grand Theft Auto V sits in a weird spot in gaming consciousness. With its success, you know millions of regular people are playing it, but even a few months later you hear less and less about it -- especially in the industry -- as attention turns to new consoles and new games. "You have people who devote time and money to one game and you have the other people who are just trying to keep up with everything." "Yeah, keeping up is hard," Rao said, "It's an incredible time to be someone who plays lots of things. It's a very hard time to be someone who plays deeply a few things [because of how many good things pass you by]. That's mostly how I like to play games. I like to spend the maximum amount of time with something. I think that's how most people played games when they could only get a couple of games a year. You have to draw all the juice from it." "Stuff like Dota or Diablo becomes like a comfort food," Kasavin said. "Its reputation is that it's this extremely harsh, almost bitter game. People are just going to tear you apart if you're not on point 100 percent of the time. You still get to the point where there's something really comfortable and familiar around playing it even when people are calling you horrible, horrible, things. Even that part of the experience is strangely familiar." "It's good to leave an environment where you love everyone you work with and respect them and go to Dota," Rao said. "It's a nice contrast." Indeed. Still a few more parts to look forward to in this series, including a discussion on naming the game, Korb talking tunes, and Jen Zee on her lovely art (plus some early concept art) and how both Red and the Transistor came to be.
Transistor interview II photo
Supergiant talks letting players take the wheel, strategy design, and some of their favorite games
Make sure to read Part I in this series. It deals with development crunch time, getting a game ready to launch, and the genesis of Transistor post Bastion. Now we're continuing the abrupt, jerky carnival ride through time and... read feature

Under a red sky: How Transistor came to be Part I

May 19 // Steven Hansen
[from left to right: Greg Kasavin, Darren Korb, Amir Rao] There was something of a calm in the air walking into the modern, open floor plan office, past the kitchen and fuzzy knoll of Bastion plushies that topped a long counter top. Visiting a studio that makes videogames, you always sort of expect to crawl into some hidey-hole of digital wizardry (and with the indies, you breathe a sigh of relief they haven't burnt the place down and have properly filled out the papers on their commercial lease), but it's people at knickknack decorated desks with enough monitors to watch the entirety of True Detective simultaneously.  On our way upstairs, passing the fridge, I noticed word magnets arranged to read, "how is this memory not broken and hairy." "Not that it's calm right now," Kasavin, Transistor's writer, explained, "but it definitely sort of feels like we're in the eye of the storm and things are about to get crazy for us one way or another." The team is focusing on "rubber stamping," doing all the small things that need to be done leading up to release, including three regions of certification on the Sony side and getting review codes out. "It's plenty of work but it's sort of finite and there are often dependencies on people outside of this studio so you can't necessarily work all night." "You could," Korb, Transistor's composer and sound designer, interjects. "I guess Amir has had some late nights talking to Sony people in Europe," Kasavin said. "Waking up at 3am so he can talk to Europe," Korb said. Of course, getting to this point of relative calm was a long time coming after years of development and the explosive sprint to the finish. "Crunch time," as it has become known with increasingly negative connotation. "I think people have different understandings of what crunch is," Kasavin said. "Some people define it as a mandated work schedule. Like, when there's a decree from the executive producer, 'Our new work hours are 10am to 9pm, seven days a week.' Where I first met Amir and Gavin, we were at EA and we were on the 'EA Spouse' team, which was one of the extreme cases of crunch. "But there is never a mandated crunch on this project, which was very important to us going in because we pushed ourselves really hard at the end of Bastion and we really want to do this for the long haul and that means not burning the candle at both ends and taking the time you need. At the same time...we don't release games very often so I think we all feel individually very motivated to push at the end because we can rest after it comes out. For the last few months, the game is at a point where every waking moment, you can do something to potentially make it better. "But we've all been through it multiple times and been through it once together as a team so we have a pretty good sense of what our own limits are and when we get to the point of diminishing returns of like, 'dude, you're terrible to work with and making tons of mistakes, chill out.' I don't think we’ve ever had someone reach that kind of point on this project. "Some would argue it's still like crunch. [That] if you're working weekends and you're working past five, you're mismanaging your project. I don't see it that way." Kasavin addressed another feared development term: feature creep. "For us it's really important to put in the small little things that we care about and we don't know that other people will notice or care about. I do think if you put in enough stuff like that, chances are that players are gonna run into something and be like, ‘Oh, that's cool!' "We take each others' feedback on the team and constantly create a lot of work for each other by giving feedback. Some would call it feature creep or whatever, but we see it as giving feedback and improving and iterating on what's there...I think we all really don't want to disappoint each other as it were. So when little things come up we make time for them and that sometimes means working long hours...How this game does is going to affect my life for a long time one way or another so I see it as being in my best interest to do whatever I can to make this game as good as I can as an individual. Fortunately, my wife is forgiving of that." "I feel the same way," Korb said. "If we were to not do everything we could at this point, I'd be letting myself down. Ultimately one of the things I think we want to do is to make stuff that we enjoy and think is cool, right?" Just having the opportunity to try is something Kasavin notes SuperGiant is "in a very privileged position to do" following Bastion's success. "We came from...environments where you’re basically never going to get a shot at making your own original IP. That’s the game designer's dream scenario. Everyone's got an idea of what they would make. We were able to actually do that. Very few studios, big or small, have a chance to do that sort of thing so it's just like, you wanna keep that going." And forward momentum seems to be the way to do that without getting bogged down in concerns of marketability. Build something cool that you like and you can find an audience. "I was personally very bullish on it as a strategy," Kasavin said. "Put it in an environment where people can just play it and then see what happens. My own take on it is that if the game is not ready to be played, then it is not ready to be announced." It's about getting a representative sample and letting players have at it, rather than announcements and first hands-ons 18 months later. "I used to work in the gaming press and it was really frustrating to me. I don't know if it's real. Is it just smoke and mirrors? I want to know if it's a real videogame." That's why Transistor popped up out of the ether one day, when it was ready. "We actually didn't really know what the scope of [Bastion's] success would be or where we would end up or how much time we would have to make the second project until much later," Kasavin said.  "Yeah it took a while for us to really comprehend the scope of what Bastion had become for a lot of people. For us, our concerns were much more material," Rao, Transistor's director, said. "More like, 'we're living in my dad's house, it would be good to live not here and work not in this place.' And so we were really interested in, okay can we get an office space and learning about whatever a commercial lease is, moving the company out of San Jose and into San Francisco. That all took months. "There was the PC version of the game on Steam and Mac and Linux and there was just a lot of Bastion stuff still happening. The iPad version took a long time for us. We understood more of what Bastion was when we were working on the iPad version. I think that realization was a slow dawn upon us and it came with heavy expectations of what we would have to do next. It was actually kind of interesting that this project was more born from a tail end or during the tail end of that time where we still didn't really really know what Bastion was." "We came to a point where it's like, ‘what do we want to do from here? We don't want to just bring Bastion to new platforms for the rest of our lives,'" Kasavin said. "Though we did do that for a while," Rao noted. "People are sometimes surprised to hear...we don't plan the next thing at the tail end of whatever we're doing. We like to take some time and space," Rao said. "It's almost taboo," Kasavin said. "Your mind goes there naturally. At this point, we're hardly working on the game itself anymore so your mind starts to go there: 'what do you want to...?' No, no, no. Don't let your mind go there because we need to launch this game. Whatever you think you want to do right now, you may be totally, totally wrong." Especially as you distance yourself from what you've been working on. "I have children, I can say you love the stuff almost like you love your kids, but you kind of, by the end, you want to be done," Kasavin said. "You want to send your kid off to boarding school," Korb added. "Yes, go to the military," Kasavin said. "Enjoy your time in the armed forces and do your country proud, thank you. You don’t want to plan the next thing from that mindset. People are like, 'so, are you going to do a sequel?' And we can't help but laugh." "It's really nice, too, because you don't have to keep secrets," Rao said. "Because we literally have no idea." Transistor did squirm its way out of this primordial, rested and distanced brain meld eventually, and with part II of this series we'll get a more detailed look on Transistor development decisions, games that influenced Transistor and the SuperGiant team (start guessing in the comments), and San Jose's sleepy car jacking.
Get amped for Transistor photo
Supergiant talks 'crunch,' Bastion success, and starting its second project
Turning down a one-way alley towards SuperGiant's downtown San Francisco office space, I noticed the fenced parking lots on either corner decorated with two sorts of barbed wire. Three classical, no nonsense parallel strands ... read feature

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I hope the final boss is the Gibson
Max recently sat down with Brandon Dillon of Double Fine, Programmer and Project Lead on Hack 'N' Slash. Brandon walked us through a demonstration of the game, which allows players to manipulate the actual code of the game with the protagonist's USB sword, and we all learn some lessons in critical thinking. read feature

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Max interviews the creator of this dark future
Max sat down with Sam Farmer, the creator of Last Life. Being developed in association with Double Fine, Last Life is a point-and-click adventure game set in a cyber-noir future, where death doesn't always mean the end. Check out the Kickstarter for this game here. read feature

Destiny photo
Don't hold your breath for character imports between console platforms
Destiny is going to be a huge game where you'll be able to sink hundreds of hours into the experience. So it's a good thing Bungie is looking into making sure players can import their characters from last-gen consoles to the ... read feature







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