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Chris Morris

GDC: Interview with the indie team behind Nous

Mar 11 // Chris Morris
Destructoid: What is Nous about? Brett Cutler, Game Designer: Nous is a top-down action game inside an AI that’s going insane. Nous can’t figure out what it’s for, and it constantly switches personas -- incompetent shrink, abusive drill sergeant, suicidal robot -- on its spiral down. The player’s choices and playstyle shape the character that emerges. What is the history behind the development of the game? Jason Meisel, Graphics Programmer: We began in May 2010. We wanted to create the most “awesome” game we possibly could; we even went around asking people to name the most awesome things they could think of (spiders, bears, motorcycles, and bears riding motorcycles were all very common responses.) However, we soon realized that wasn’t working out. We created tons of prototypes that involved different gravity-based mechanics and gameplay styles. We then shipped the first playable version of the game based on one of those prototypes. We kept creating prototypes, reaching even farther into things like sidescrollers and bullet hells. It wasn’t until Brett pitched Nous that we stopped focusing on gameplay and began focusing on the experience of the game. What inspired the design? BC: Failure. Every milestone we had a different game -- we kept prototyping and throwing it out. We went through so many desperate changes, searching for a great idea but we never found it. We did the only honest thing and poured that frustration and searching into the game itself. How did you arrive at the final mechanics and theme? BC: In the end, we took what was good enough and built up the narrative. The illusion of talking to and influencing this program drove the final design and the last few months of work. How did you approach audio design? BC: Nous needed to sound like a computer in pain -- the SFX are electronic screams. We wrote a lot of original music but in the end relied on a computer -- we used super-slow-mo versions of classical music tracks and ambient electronic tracks to build the world inside Nous. What influenced the art direction? Pohung Chen, Producer/Physics Programmer: A lot of it was due to the lack of art production power. We went with simple abstract shapes because that is within our artistic ability. We then just relied heavily on graphical effects to make the game look interesting and unique. I think it really helps that a lot of players feel very saturated with the super-realistic, high production value art style that many big titles go with today. So seeing a game stripped to bare minimum essentials and still have a visually interesting style is refreshing. How did you achieve the visual aesthetic? JM: When we switched our thematic direction to Nous, we knew we wanted to leverage our graphics technology (which had already been built up to a large number of effects at that point). However, it had to be in a way that we (as programmers) could accomplish ourselves. We decided to make the game more abstract, and I created simple 3D meshes that could be patterned, lit, and moved in interesting ways. We applied particle effects liberally, and iterated on the environmental art a ridiculous number of times. Finally, I created many different glitching and distortion effects that, in tandem, made the visuals much more interesting. Why did you choose to go with a narrative driven game? BC: Nous has a lot of text, and I didn't mean it to be that way. But it ended up being the best way to communicate. When the game wasn’t working, when we hated just not being good enough -- those are real feelings. Narrative ended up being the only clumsy tool I had to get through and reach people. What challenges did this present and how did you tackle them? JM: As the focus shifted towards narrative, it became more clear that a large portion of players just wouldn’t appreciate what the game was doing. We originally wanted Nous to come off as mocking the pretentiousness of “artistic games”, but to be effectively poignant, it had to become just as pretentious! We decided to focus on those who would enjoy the style of game it was becoming; the haters were a hopeless cause. We finished with something that people either love or hate, but the former seems like it’s a large enough group that we did what was best. What did you take away from your IGF experience? Treb Connell, Technical Director: I was incredibly impressed by all the indie games, especially the submissions for the Nuovo awards. They helped me reconsider what a game can be and what effects it can have on a player. I hope that these games motivate developers to think outside the box. I know that I’ll be trying to. JM: IGF was incredible! It’s an incredible feeling to have developers you admire be impressed with your work. I’ve been becoming a bigger and bigger fan of the indie community over the past few years, and being in the same pavilion as all these truly awesome games and developers was an huge honor. I’ve never really felt like a part of the industry, but this week I’ve felt right at home. Where is the game available to play? TC: It’s available for free on WhatIsNous.com
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Awesome Shark Volcano, the team behind the IGF nominated Nous, was able to take some time with me after the Game Developers Conference was over to talk a bit about their game, Nous. We covered everything from the histor...

BlizzCon 2011: Hands-on with the Pandaren Monk

Oct 21 // Chris Morris
I moved through the village, picking up my first few quests. There were numerous Pandaren focused on their training, sparring, meditating, or even just rolling around everywhere. Your master directs you to first spar with the punching bags, an important step in understanding the new combat mechanics that Blizzard has created for the class. The Monk has no auto-attack; instead there is a completely manual combat system that utilizes Chi and Light or Dark energy to execute moves. The standard attack button uses Chi, simultaneously generating Light or Dark energy in the process. This energy can be expended during battle to unleash more devastating attacks and even combinations. Button mashing is a perfectly acceptable method of playing the class, simply hitting buttons as they light up, but I suspect that true mastery will require keen focus and timing. The new class encourages players to be constantly active, mobile, and observant of their surroundings. A new roll maneuver, while fun to simply spam while running around, is also an important tool in combat. While it is impossible to tell what all of the uses might be for the ability, I was able to use it both offensively and defensively. I could use the roll to quickly move out of harm's way, or to instantly get range on an opponent to execute a brutal flying kick. With the Monk, Blizzard is trying to cater to as many players as possible who might enjoy the new combat system, allowing the class to fulfill the role of a tank, DPS, or healer depending on their specialization choices. This certainly won't be for everyone, especially if you enjoy playing as passively as possible, but it should hopefully introduce a bit more thrill to the game for players who have gotten tired of the same old combat mechanics. For anyone who is excited about playing a Pandaren or Monk, but worried about potential racial or faction restrictions, fear not! The Pandaren are WoW's first truly neutral playable race, with players able to choose between either Horde or Alliance upon completion of the starting zone story arc. Pandaren are not restricted to playing only as a Monk: they can choose any class with the exception of Death Knights, Druids, Paladins, or Warlocks. Conversely, all other races with the exception of the Goblin and Worgen can start as a Monk. Let us know what you think about the announcement in the comments below.
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After the announcement of the Mists of Pandaria expansion for World of Warcraft, I was able to jump right into the game and get hands-on with the class and race. Upon being dropped into the new starting area, I was instantly ...

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E3: Hands-on with Torchlight II


Jun 13
// Chris Morris
I had the opportunity to sit down with Travis Baldree, President of Runic Games, for some hands-on quality time with their upcoming sequel to the wildly successful Torchlight. Luckily, I was able to check out what is perhaps ...
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First official Hawken gameplay footage released


Mar 30
// Chris Morris
The gentlemen at Adhesive Games have been hard at work since the release of their initial Hawken teaser trailer. They have finally blessed us with a few minutes of actual gameplay footage for you to feast your eyes upon. If you have not yet heard of Hawken, hopefully seeing this glorious mech combat in action will plant it firmly on your radar.

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Tekkon Kinkreet and giant robots meet Hawken


Mar 10
// Chris Morris
Meet Hawken, an upcoming Mech Combat FPS by the small, indie studio Adhesive Games. The FAQ describes Hawken as a multiplayer mech combat game, focused on "creating an intense and enjoyable battle experience that captures th...

Preview: Dragon Age II

Feb 08 // Chris Morris
Dragon Age II (PC, Mac, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)Developer: BioWarePublisher: Electronic ArtsTo be released: March 6, 2011 (NA) / March 11, 2011 (EU) As a fan of Dragon Age: Origins, I immediately noticed the immense visual improvement that BioWare has made in Dragon Age II. I can confidently say that both console versions look and run extremely well, while the PC version (if you have the hardware) reigns supreme. This should come as good news to many, as many players felt that the console versions of DA:O were not quite up to par visually.DA2's new art style really helps demonstrate the visual improvements that have been made to the engine. While the overall look doesn’t deviate too far from DA:O -- we are still in Ferelden, after all -- it has been tweaked enough to give the game a more unique and interesting style. It is obvious that the art team has put in quite a bit of effort addressing some of the complaints about the “generic fantasy” direction of DA:O. This time around, players should be able to look at a screenshot and instantly recognize the game as Dragon Age II. The story and narrative have been tightened up quite a bit as well: no longer are you simply a random hero placed in the middle of cataclysmic events. This time around, you play as Hawke. Similarly to the way BioWare has shaped the universe of Mass Effect around Shepard, characters you meet throughout the story will now refer to you as a specific individual. Of course, you still have the option of deciding your gender, appearance, and class, but your story is no longer just a series of quests and gameplay events. The tale of Hawke is told through a framed narrative: imagine a bard off in a tavern somewhere, recounting the adventures of the legendary Hawke. You will be playing through events as they are being told. There will be moments where the story can be greatly exaggerated, which has a noticeable effect on gameplay. The storyteller may even get called out for the ridiculousness of his tale, bringing the legend of Hawke back down to earth and showing off a more gritty or realistic side of things. No longer will you simply be limited to predetermined dialog options to advance the story along, either. Dragon Age II has adopted a Mass Effect-style dialog wheel, allowing you to choose your response as more of an emotional decision rather than a string of text. Of course, you can still skip through or interrupt dialog at any point as well, giving conversations a more fluid and realistic feel. If you want to be the tough guy just for the sake of it, go ahead and choose the angry face every time. The story and dialog is designed to elicit an emotional response from you. Chances are, you will find yourself responding appropriately based on how you feel in any given situation. In my opinion, BioWare has done a fantastic job giving the story and characters a considerable amount of depth and life. Having only played the PC version of DA:O, I never had the opportunity to experience the interface and controls of the console versions. I can say, however, that the experience of playing DA2 on a controller was far more fluid and intuitive than I initially expected. I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to pick up the controller and begin playing. Within minutes, I was navigating the menus, setting up my party tactics, and leaping into battle. Executing commands in combat, popping potions, and switching between characters on the fly was all extremely easy. I did not find myself getting frustrated in the slightest or blaming the controls for my untimely demise; everything is quite literally at your fingertips. While the basic controls on the PC version remain pretty much the same, the interface has definitely been improved over DA:O. Not only does it look better, but it is also significantly more responsive and simple to navigate. Tasks such as assigning tactics, skill points, and hot keys no longer feel like an exercise in tedium. Of course, with all of the changes to the controls and interface, many improvements have been made to the way combat is navigated as well. It is immensely more satisfying than in DA:O. BioWare's design philosophy appears to be, “Push a button, something awesome happens,” and that is reflected quite well in DA2. Combat is more akin to what you might experience in an action-RPG now; there is no more awkward shuffling while characters try to get in place to engage in combat. The player can run in, chain combos with their primary attack and use various powers and abilities as they see fit. It is more fluid, intuitive, and dare I say more satisfying than in the original.   If you enjoyed playing Dragon Age in a more tactical and methodical fashion, have no fear; BioWare has not done away with any of the strategic elements of combat. I was still able to pause and assign orders or queue up abilities as I saw fit. In fact, this will still be required for some of the more difficult fights, especially on the higher difficulty settings. BioWare has not converted DA2 into a full-blown action-RPG; they've simply made it considerably more fun to pick up and play. I still enjoyed the PC version the most, as the controls and combat felt like a well executed hybrid of modern MMO and old-school RPG. Dragon Age II is a huge improvement over Dragon Age: Origins in almost every way. As a fan of the first game, I definitely had my fair share of gripes and complaints. I feel like BioWare has really done a fantastic job of listening to the fans and addressing many of the issues that players might have had with the first game. I think it is safe to say that we can expect another hit out of BioWare this March with Dragon Age II.
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With the launch of Dragon Age II just around the corner, the folks at BioWare have been extremely busy putting the final touches on the game. Fortunately, they made some time to come out to San Francisco this past week and sh...

First Look: Stacking

Jan 06 // Chris Morris
Stacking (XBLA, PSN)Developer: Double FinePublisher: THQTo be released: Early 2011 Upon entering the world of Stacking, we are introduced to the story and characters through a silent film style cutscene. We also meet our protagonist, Charlie Blackmore, the smallest of the Russian stacking dolls. After being separated from his family, Charlie is thrust into the world of Stacking and must set out on his quest to reunite with them. You will start out in the Train Station, serving as both the tutorial level and a hub for moving between levels.  We are also introduced to Charlie's unique ability to hop into larger dolls. Charlie can stack up in size, taking advantage of the dolls various abilities to progress through the level. There is a sort of synergistic feel to it, as you are free to experiment with different combinations of dolls and the abilities they provide. In order to complete any given level, you are presented with a series of challenges and a specific stacking set that you must obtain. In order to complete the challenges, you must utilize the abilities of numerous dolls wandering around the level. One doll may have a key attached to his head, allowing you to unlock an important door. Another doll may have a more "subtle" ability, allowing you to clear out an important room by passing gas into a fan. There is no inventory or micro management of any sort, dolls are the only tools you will need to solve these puzzles. The look and feel of the game, as well as the overall level design is spectacular. Stacking is running on the Brutal Legend engine, so needless to say the game benefits greatly from leveraging this technology. The amount of sheer effort and attention to detail that has gone into bringing this miniature world to life goes a long way in completely immersing the player in the game. I was thoroughly impressed with the second level of the demo, which takes place on a cruise ship of sorts. The giant cigars used to create the smokestacks on the ship were a neat little touch, not to mention to adorable cardboard cutout animals that are used for the awesome safari style carnival. Stacking has an enormous amount of depth, especially for a downloadable game. Double Fine has gone to great lengths to provide an experience that caters to both casual and core gamers equally. Each level contains multiple challenges, all of which can be completed multiple times and in multiple ways. Players can always return to a previously visited area to continue unlocking secrets and completing challenges. There will always be at least three challenges per level and often more than that. There are no real fail conditions to speak of, so Stacking attempts to teach players and keep things interesting and fresh by providing a ton of variety and replayability.  As you progress through the game, all of your progress and unlocks will be tracked. You gain access to a hidden warehouse, which functions as a kind of trophy room. As you complete challenges, your friend Levi (who we meet early on) will construct murals depicting various story moments throughout the game. Each of the hundred plus unique dolls that you collect will be on display in your warehouse as well. For completionists, this should be a fun way to track your progress in Stacking. If you are a fan of unique adventure games, or you are just looking for something new and original, Stacking is definitely worth a look. With an awesome art direction, unique puzzling solving gameplay, and an extremely high replay value, Stacking is definitely going to be one of the coolest games of early 2011.
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Since the release of Brutal Legend, the minds over at Double Fine have been hard at work bringing us quirky new adventures and worlds to explore. Their upcoming  XBLA/PSN title, Stacking, has got to be one of the mo...

ASTRO Gaming MixAmp 5.8 Review

Dec 16 // Chris Morris
ASTRO MixAmp™ 5.8Developer: ASTRO GamingReleased: Now AvailablePrice: $99.95 (Introductory), $129.95 Regular ASTRO Gaming has been around for awhile now, gaining popularity within the MLG for their original A40 headset. The A40's were esigned to cater specifically to the professional and hardcore gaming crowds and managed to create an enormous following. They followed up shortly after with the A30's, building upon their success by creating an all-purpose headset, suitable for everything from music to movies. When combined with their original MixAmp audio processor, delivering 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound, it was practically a gamer's wet dream.Almost... except for one little snag. Being tethered to your PC is one thing, especially when you are used to chatting on Ventrilo all the time. With the shift to wireless controllers in this current console generation, no one wants to be tethered to their TV anymore. Other manufacturers began releasing their own wireless headsets, utilizing various technologies. Unfortunately, ASTRO had no such solution until now... behold the new wireless MixAmp 5.8. How well does the new MixAmp work and is it worth the price tag? Let's take a look Upon receiving my MixAmp, the first thing I noticed was the quality of the packaging. You won't run into the standard sort of retail accessory packaging that you might be used to. ASTRO really spared no expense on the design and construction of the box. As silly as that might sound it really goes a long way to demonstrate the care and workmanship that goes into their products. The package opens up and folds out into three separate compartments. The accessories are neatly organized into each section of the box, mine included the necessary AC cable for the transmitter, 3x AAA batteries for the receiver, optical cable, Xbox Live chat cable, USB to mini USB, and a Y-Adapter allowing for the use of a 3rd party headset with separate microphone and audio jacks. The PS3 chat cable and rechargeable battery pack must be purchased separately. Now, I've always been skeptical of wireless audio and with good reason too. Most wireless audio devices are sub par at best and can't hope to match the sheer fidelity of wired audio devices. At worst, it can be prone to interference. Annoying popping, clicking, and hissing that can turn an otherwise pleasant session of Viva Piñata into a major headache. Most wireless headsets broadcast on the already cramped 2.4 GHz spectrum, typically the same frequency as your router, wireless phone, or a myriad of other devices. If you've ever had a problem connecting a device to your wireless router, imagine how your headset feels trying to receive all that marvelous audio. ASTRO has managed to circumvent this issue by pulling out all the stops and using the 5.8GHz signal instead (hence the name). The setup works by transmitting the audio from a base (TX), connected with an optical (TOSlink) cable to your desired console or PC. The transmitter handles the audio processing (now capable of outputting up to 7.1 sound) and sends it to the receiver (RX) connected to your headset. Although the MixAmp now works with any headset (or earbuds) of your choice, the only drawback would have to be the fact that they still need to be wired to the RX. This may be a minor inconvenience to some, especially because you still need to be wired to your controller or PS3 in order to use voice chat. Fortunately, the RX is quite portable and can be easily attached to your hip with the included belt clip. Feel free to wander, go grab that bag of Cheetos or Mountain Dew between rounds. Try not to be too surprised by the fact that the audio is still crystal clear on the opposite side of the house, the range on the TX is incredible. If you haven't used any sort of surround sound setup for gaming before, simulated or otherwise, the difference it can make is nothing short of amazing. As I mentioned above, games like Call of Duty or Dead Space really show off how important high-quality sound can be. Everyone loves having "HD" graphics, but without proper sound, you are really only getting half of the experience. The ability to hear and react to everything, ranging from the lightest foot steps to bullets whizzing by your head, can make a tremendous impact on your gameplay. I can't count the number of times that I've been able to react to the distance and direction of foot steps in Call of Duty, allowing me to utilize those precious few seconds to prevent my enemy from getting the drop on me. The sheer immersion that the sound provides has caused me to physically turn and look away from the screen at times because I thought I actually heard something next to me. I cannot possibly overstate the difference by switching from TV audio to surround sound headphones. Having previously used the wired MixAmp, I can honestly say that the audio quality between the two is pretty damn close. When compared to the popular Turtle Beach X41 headset, I can definitely say that the audio quality or at least the lack of signal degradation from wireless interference is much better. Others have claimed that a slight hissing can be heard in the absence of sound or at higher volumes, but I haven't noticed any such issues. Anyone using the MixAmp 5.8 at an appropriate (ie. not ear-splitting) volume shouldn't notice any sort of background noise or static. So, is it worth the price tag? I would say that it depends on your gaming habits. If you are a casual gamer with a relatively small gaming budget, the MixAmp 5.8 might be a bit steep for you (especially if you need a headset to go with it). On the other hand, if you are a fairly serious gamer and you are looking to have the best competitive advantage or gameplay experience, I would seriously consider checking out this MixAmp. If you don't already have a decent headset, considering pairing it up with one of ASTRO's headsets for the best experience. If you got to the second paragraph and already said to yourself TL;DR, here are the pros and cons of the MixAmp 5.8 PROS Superior wireless sound quality. Plays well with other headsets. Works with multiple hardware setups. Excellent range. Easy setup. CONS Still have to deal with cables on headset end. Chat cables make it worse. (Microsoft proprietary wireless sort of leaves no other option.) No PS3 chat cable included. Eats batteries, 10-12 hour lifespan. (Get the rechargeable pack.) Overall, if you are in the market for an excellent gaming audio solution, the wireless MixAmp is definitely a very worthy purchase. You can check out the MixAmp 5.8 over at the official ASTRO Gaming site!
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It's no secret that a quality surround sound setup is practically mandatory for gaming nowadays. Anyone who wants to gain the competitive edge in games like Call of Duty or Halo or become fully immersed in the environmen...

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Dtoid Live: WoW Cataclysm - realm first level 85 attempt


Dec 07
// Chris Morris
Hey Dtoiders! The expansion pack was just released, so tonight I will be attempting to achieve the Level 85 Realm First Feat of Strength in World of Warcraft: Cataclysm on Zangarmarsh (US) Horde. I will be playing my Frost...
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Icewind Dale 2 Complete now available on GOG


Nov 05
// Chris Morris
In their quest to bring us the best in "awe-inspiring epic, level 20 masterwork role-playing games" GOG.com has just released Icewind Dale 2 Complete. Only one more Atari-Hasbro title remains to complete the collection. Based...
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Preview: The First Templar


Oct 29
// Chris Morris
The First Templar is a cooperative action adventure title being developed by Haemimont Games, the same studio that brought us Tropico 3 and Absolute Power. Set in the late 13th century, the game follows a French Templar and...
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Neverwinter Nights: Diamond now available on GOG


Oct 27
// Chris Morris
Now that Good Old Games has returned in full force, we've been seeing a bunch of great RPG releases over the past few weeks. This week is no exception, as Neverwinter Nights: Diamond has finally been made available for purchase!
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Rift: Planes of Telara Dynamic Invasion Trailer


Oct 25
// Chris Morris
In the latest video from Trion Worlds, invaders from the Plane of Fire take over the shade-touched zone of Gloamwood, giving gamers a look at how planar invasions affect the in-game world of Rift: Planes of Telara. The foo...
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Hands-on: Rift: Planes of Telara


Oct 24
// Chris Morris
I've become an extremely jaded MMO player over the years. With so many games in the genre being derivative and unoriginal, it's tough not to be cynical. With that said, we recently had the opportunity to head out to Trion ...

Getting the smackdown on WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2011

Oct 07 // Chris Morris
WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 (PS3, 360, Wii, PSP, PS2, iPhone)Developer: Yuke’sPublisher: THQTo be released:October 26, 2010 (North America)October 29, 2010 (Europe, Australia)  The first and most noticeable change in SvR 2011 is the new visuals. This title definitely presents a higher degree of realism than the previous iteration. The almost "cartoony" look of SvR 2010, especially in the character select screen has been almost completely changed. Fans looking for a more realistic experience should be delighted by the new skin textures and movement technology, being able to see different muscles and tendons flex and react in the ring is quite impressive. Pair this up with a brand new physics system, giving you a truly dynamic feel to matches, and you have one pretty faithful wrestling simulation. [embed]185806:33829[/embed] Road to Wrestlemania is returning, they have added new storylines and the ability to roam through the backstage area, making decisions or picking fights that will influence the outcome of your Superstar's story. They have also added a brand new WWE Universe Mode which will keep track of your WWE calendar and change dynamically based on how you play the game. The AI that manages Universe Mode will create feuds or alliances, championship matches, and even spontaneous action and events according to your actions. The beauty of the new mode is that you can either let the AI simulate on its own, skipping ahead to specific days or matches, or you modify and change any aspect that you don't like and the AI will respond accordingly. Grappling has been simplified this time around, with all off the grappling happening on the right stick. I have been assured that these changes will not eliminate any of the depth that veteran players enjoy, but will certainly make this title more inviting to players that are picking up Smackdown vs. Raw for the first time. Personally, I had a difficult time getting grappling down in SvR 2010. Once I had the opportunity to pick up the new title, I was immediately able to notice a significant difference. The creation modes are back and better than ever. In addition to having the ability to create up to fifty superstars or divas for use anywhere in the game, players will also have the ability to create their own finishers, move sets, entrances, stories and cutscenes. Probably the most intriguing addition to this year's title was the ability to create branching paths within your custom story, allowing for a multitude of possible resolutions and endings to your personal storyline. Anything built within the creation modes can be shared online and searched for using an in-game browser. You will now be able to search for popular content based on multiple criteria, rather than only being able to sort by rating. The developers have really gone all out to allow players to customize the game in any way they see fit, creating an almost infinite replay value. Of course, no next-gen wrestling game would be complete without a solid online component. It was stressed that they have really tried hard to address all of the latency issues from the previous title. Assuming you aren't busy receiving a major smackdown in the ring, players should hopefully find that they are not cursing at the screen because they "definitely landed that move first!" In addition to the underlying improvements, for the first time ever in a wrestling game, they have managed to implement a 30 player online Royal Rumble! SvR 2011 will allow twelve players to be in the game, with six in the ring with six spectators waiting to hop into the ring. We should have a video interview up for you guys relatively soon. We were able to speak in-depth with Bryan Williams, designer on the game. If you are a fan of the series, you should definitely be pleased with Smackdown vs. Raw 2011. If you are like me and looking for an excuse to get back into the happenings of the WWE, or even want to check out a wrestling game for the first time, then this is definitely one to keep your eyes on!
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Before we had the opportunity to check out Smackdown vs. Raw 2011, Max and I decided that we needed to do our homework. We sat down at Dtoid HQ the night before to get some quality time with Smackdown vs. Raw 2010. It wa...

Hands-on with Might & Magic Clash of Heroes HD

Oct 06 // Chris Morris
Might & Magic Clash of HeroesDeveloper: CapybaraPublisher: UbisoftRelease Date: Q1 2011 For those of you that didn't get the opportunity to play the original Clash of Heroes on the DS, it is a clever blend of RPG, strategy, and puzzle solving elements. Although I was only able to get my hands on the combat portion of the game, there is fairly in-depth exploration component which you can see in the screenshots below.  Combat is where Clash of Heroes truly shines. It's almost as if Capybara was able to take the best and most compelling mechanics from games like Magic: The Gathering and Puzzle Fighter, while still putting their own personal spin on it. The player starts out by picking a hero, which is based on the standard Might & Magic faction types. The faction determines the types of units and spells that will be available during the match, each with its own unique playstyle and strategy. Any given match requires the player to effectively utilize both offense and defense in order to emerge victorious. Players who are familiar with puzzle games will notice the focus on colors and types and the ability to match them in order to execute attacks. Strategy-minded players will be able to decide between matching horizontally for defensive moves, or vertically to establish their offense. For fans of the original, they have done an excellent job in this department. Instead of releasing a straight "HD" port of the DS version, they have attempted to revisit and improve how some of the units will operate in combat. Visually, Clash of Heroes HD is quite a treat. In terms of other RPG's you might be able to relate it to, it certainly gives me that Odin Sphere vibe. Don't take that the wrong way, though. The artists at Capybara definitely have their own unique style and have gone to great pains to create some of the most beautiful artwork and animation I have ever seen in a game, let alone a digital title. The images they have sent along will just have to speak for themselves. Cap(ybara) off the entire experience off with a completely redone multiplayer experience, powered by PSN and XBLA, (which DS players unfortunately did not have access to) and Clash of Heroes is definitely going to be a title to look out for.  
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I must admit, I love Capybara Games. When I think about what their office must look like, all I can picture are double-rainbows, fluffy clouds, and unicorns prancing about everywhere. Considering how adorable all of their gam...

Catching up with Might & Magic Heroes VI

Oct 01 // Chris Morris
[embed]185338:33720[/embed] Might & Magic Heroes VI (PC)Developer: Black Hole EntertainmentPublisher: UbisoftTo be released: 2011 Upon sitting down to start the demo, the first and most obvious improvement was the brand-new engine and art direction for this title. Heroes VI is running on Black Hole's own in-house engine and sports a more realistic visual style, as opposed to the "cartoony" look of Heroes V. Models and textures were sharp and detailed, the effective use of color and contrast in overworld exploration was gorgeous, and the attention to detail in the combat animation blew me away. You may be wondering what type of rig you are going to need to run something like this, but I've been assured that the engine has actually been optimized to run well on laptops! In terms of gameplay, Heroes VI appears to remain true to the series. The classic gameplay loop of building, exploration, resource collection, combat, and character advancement has been faithfully recreated. Everything appears to have been built from the ground up to be more streamlined and responsive, giving the game a truly "next-gen" feel. Some of the changes will include: The new interface is clean and unobtrusive, and manages to make movement and combat a pleasure rather than a chore. Hero progression has been completely retooled, giving the player more freedom to choose how they build and customize their character. Gone are the days of choosing to take the experience reward and crossing your fingers that you will actually unlock something decent. Resource gathering no longer requires that you use up precious action points, constantly backtracking to recapture or harvest previously controlled nodes. Once captured, they will now link to a nearby player-controlled fortress and funnel into your stock each turn. Opposing players must physically capture a fortress in order to gain control of linked resources. Also new is the ability to convert captured cities into any faction that you currently control. There's no more trying to make angels and demons play nice in your party! If you are a fan of any of the previous Heroes titles, or even RPG and strategy games, this is definitely one to look forward to!
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We caught our first glimpse of Might and Magic Heroes VI at this year's gamescom, but further details since then have been fairly sparse. Fortunately, I was able to sit down with producer Erwan LeBreton at Ubisoft's Digital D...

Hands-on: Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit

Sep 16 // Chris Morris
[embed]183055:32718[/embed] Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (Xbox 360, PlayStation3, PC)Developer: Criterion GamesPublisher: Electronic ArtsRelease Date: November 16, 2010 Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit definitely feels like what you might expect from the developers who brought us the Burnout franchise. Not to say that this is a bad thing, in fact, it's quite the opposite. While Hot Pursuit is more about the excitement of the chase, as opposed to straight up destruction, Criterion has done an amazing job of leveraging much of the amazing engine tech that we saw in Burnout Paradise. While the primary objective is to win the race, while simultaneously attempting to outrun the police, the visceral look and feel of smashing into a wall (or anything, for that matter) at 240 MPH is nothing short of spectacular. Hot Pursuit rests somewhere comfortably between an arcade racer and simulation. Although the game doesn't go deep enough to require any tuning, customization, or in-depth driving ability, it does allow you to use the underlying physics engine to fine tune your racing style and take advantage of maneuvers like the drift. The game is extremely accessible. It is easy to just pick up and play with a regular controller -- no racing wheel required here! The beauty of Hot Pursuit is that as you get better at the game, you are challenged to drive on the edge. Players will score extra points and find that their boost meter fills faster for pulling off stunts like racing against oncoming traffic, near misses, slipstreams, drifting, and more. All of this is compounded by the addition of the Autolog, a novel new feature which integrates with your social networks (even some iPhone integration was mentioned) to provide a constant stream of updates and challenges from your friends. Players will be encouraged to participate in a sort of meta-game to achieve (or maintain) the position of top dog among their friends. During our hands-on with the Autolog feature, we were presented with news updates related to the game, screenshots captured by our friends, and a series of challenges to top scores, times, and placement or reclaim positions which had been taken from us previously. The Autolog essentially adds an entirely new dynamic to the game that guarantees there will never be a lack of challenges for the player. Of course, this would all be for naught if we didn't have an amazing world to explore and miles of road to tear up. In addition to being jaw-droopingly beautiful, the game world is huge! The guys at Criterion have essentially created a vast network of roads specifically designed for exotic sports cars, so you can expect to go fast and have a blast doing it. With the help of DICE, they were able to craft rich and diverse environments around these "tracks," making Seacrest County truly feel like a racer's wetdream. Wrap this all up in an amazing (and I do mean amazing) lighting and weather system, and you have one seriously stunning (and fun!) racing game.
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EA invited us out to the Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit On Tour event to get hands-on with the latest installment in the franchise. The event was being held at the Mighty in San Francisco, only a short walk from the Dtoid Headqu...


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