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Firewatch has topless teens, meaty hands, and mystery

Mar 09 // Steven Hansen
Henry clambers up rocks in the Wyoming wilderness with some effort. When I walked towards a little broken bridge, the distance between the side was so small that I felt, in other games, I might be able to walk right over it without jumping. For Henry, it required a little wind up, a jump, and a moment to steady himself on the other side. This mundane pace isn't a slog, it's an important part of Henry's characterization. And, so far, it is there without feeling "unfun," if that's a worry for you. It is restrained, but not patience taxing, and you're constantly engaged in radio dialogue while milling about (atypical in narrative/dialogue heavy games that have you focused on text or choices at the expense of movement). It is Henry's first day on the job as a park lookout. On the other end of his radio is his supervisor, Delilah. They are surprisingly glib for being recently acquainted, especially given their professional dynamic, but otherwise the dialogue felt natural. Except for Henry's bumbled, "p-p-p-p-p-p-panties." [embed]280443:55506:0[/embed] Tasked with investigating some fireworks, Henry finds an abandoned camp with fireworks and booze strewn about. I opted to hang onto the still full whisky bottle, which Henry assured me was a good brand. After kicking out the fire, you can follow a trail of undress all the way to the lake. Delilah is unfazed by reports of bras and underwear, and maybe even chastised Henry's bumbling use of the word "panties," which, c'mon, "underwear" is fine. Down at the lake the two nude swimmers in the distance are illegible against the sun and real creeped out by the weird old guy wandering around. You can yell at them (or ask nicely) to quit with the fireworks, or just throw their boombox into the lake and kill their tunes. They also issue Henry a sick burn in the form of a Sizzler buffet joke. I am pro Sizzler jokes forever. More intrigue abounds as day gives way to a brilliant blue night. A mysterious figure in the distance that Delilah assures you is just a hiker becomes more ominous when you find your lookout tower broken into. What Firewatch has done right in this piece of the game so far, removed from the overall narrative, is provide enough grounding detail to its gorgeous world. That and use the radio mechanic to weave "choose a response" style dialogue divergence a bit more neatly into walk-and-talk play.
Firewatch hands-on photo
Firewatch with me
I've been firewatching out for Campo Santo's new 'exploration mystery' since hearing about the talent behind it. Artist Olly Moss, Mark of the Ninja designer Nels Anderson, and season one The Walking Dead ...

Hands-on with Cuphead: Equal parts charming and challenging

Mar 09 // Steven Hansen
[embed]288823:57676:0[/embed] While the old-school difficulty (three hits and you're dead) is just reflective of developers' design inspirations, it does feel fitting that something this labor intensive to make won't be easily beaten. In fact, piratical ship helm Captain Silver remained unbeaten as long as I stayed at the event, despite a (joking) $2,000 reward. I was able to dispatch the first boss after running across the overworld to a vegetable patch. A grumpy potato pops out of the ground and begins spitting balls at you, every third one or so a pink ball that Cuphead can straw slap (pressing jump while in the air) to charge a super meter. The hit box and timing window for straw slapping pink bits is tight and after the first boss, the bits get real small, so straw slapping instead of straight dodging is risk reward. Again, three hits and you're out. After shooting up the potato enough -- it is adorable that Cuphead's gun is just cute little pew pew beams out of a a pointed finger and raised thumb -- a creepy carrot emerged in the center of the stage. It had red eyes circle in opposite directions and would rub deeply at its temples while bringing homing missiles down. I missed a super to its face, but was able to beat it. [embed]288823:57678:0[/embed] From there I skipped some of other fights I'd seen others play and went straight for the white whale (of the demo) Captain Silver. Silver stands atop his boat on the right side of the screen, occasionally shooting you with pink pellets. The best way to blast him it to get right on under him, but a pesky barrel that drops from the sky screws things up for you. Silver has a couple other cronies he'll whistle to call, too. From the front (right), a series of four tiny sharks with dog collars will plop on deck and slide left, chomping all the way. You can jump over them or crouch and shoot them, but you may also be dealing with Silver gunning for you and that barrel drop at the same time. Like any good classic boss fight, managing screen space is key. Same goes for the big great white Silver calls. It crashes in from the back (left), filling up much of the dock and forcing you forward, which can be extra troublesome late stage when the ship's mouth opens up and starts spitting cannonballs at you. There's also a squid who comes up with a wry smile shaking ink from an old-school ink pot, muddying the screen, which I found hilarious. Cuphead's two-player co-op wasn't playable in the demo and there wasn't much of the overworld, sidequesting, or platforming bits to mess with, but these boss fights are on point, it feels good, and it's charming as hell.
Cuphead hands-on photo
The holy grail
Cuphead has existed in a state of unreality to me since its E3 reveal. Despite seeing footage of the game, it remained in my mind a concept. One that I was in love with, mind. 1930s style animation. A character whose head is ...

GDC VIDEO photo
GDC VIDEO

Escalator Pitch: Would you invest in Majora's Mask?


Would you fund The Legend of Zelda?
Mar 09
// Steven Hansen
We're back with more Escalator Pitches from last week at GDC! Expect to GDsee more of them going up throughout the week. Indie developers make some cool as heck games, but they're not always so great at selling them. We wan...
GDC VIDEO photo
GDC VIDEO

GDC 15 DLC #4: Pita wraps, damn good fries and ragtime


Daily Lunch Chronicles
Mar 08
// Steven Hansen
We didn't have usual cameraman Kenny Redublo during our fourth lunch of GDC (see us dining with Dale here) and things went a bit awry. Our substitute cameraman Mike Cosimano had some fun with it, though, with some silent mov...
GDC VIDEO photo
GDC VIDEO

GDC 15 DLC #3: Japanese katsu curry with Dale


Daily Lunch Chronicles
Mar 08
// Steven Hansen
Look on ye hungry and despair. Familiar face Dale North joined us for the third Daily Lunch Chronicles (watch the last one here). Back behind the camera, Kenny managed to empty his plate before both of us while shooting, but...

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

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

Soul Axiom is a cross between Journey and Tron

Mar 06 // Mike Cosimano
[embed]288643:57628:0[/embed] Soul AxiomDeveloper: Wales InteractivePublisher: Wales InteractiveRelease date: Q3/Q4 2015  Soul Axiom takes place inside Elysia, a social network-type system that allows users to upload their memories and experiences, creating a sort of virtual self. You play as one such agent, sans memories. It was hard to glean any sort of plot from a hands-off demo without sound, but there seems to be something quite sinister happening inside Elysia. Over the course of my demo, I spotted a shadowy figure dragging away a coffin, and a shark attacked the player character towards the end of my time with the game. Unlike Master Reboot, which had a psychological horror bent, Soul Axiom will be more like a thriller. The game will still have a few scares, but Soul Axiom is not designed for spooks. It seemed too ethereal for that, for one thing. The game’s story will be delivered environmentally, similar to the excellent Gone Home. As you learn about the character you’re playing as, you’ll also learn about other people who have used Elysia. According to Wales Interactive co-founder David ‘Dai’ Banner, the team wants to communicate the story without resorting to infodumps. "We’ve got a story to tell, and we want to tell it," Banner said. In order to better understand the story they’ve written, Wales Interactive looks to focus groups. But they aren’t trying to appeal to a wider audience, as is so often the case when a developer uses focus groups. Banner was very adamant that the team wasn’t looking to make a "realistic" game. Soul Axiom is the game they wanted to make, even with the changes that come from playtesting. "We don’t want [Soul Axiom] to be so polished that it loses all personality," Banner said. Instead, the team is asking their focus groups what they thought was happening in the story, tweaking things based on the responses. This mindset is the primary reason behind Soul Axiom’s Early Access release. Unlike most Early Access games, this isn’t an unfinished beta. You aren’t paying for the privilege of bug testing. Banner is okay with tweaking the puzzles, if that means players will reach the end of their story. "We want everybody to see the whole game," he said. The game’s puzzles revolve around powers the player gains access to, like a 'phase' ability that lets players bring objects in and out of existence. Although most of the puzzles I saw were fairly simple (the first level is a linear tutorial), there were a few clear examples of Portal-esque environmental puzzles. It’s hard to not see shades of The Talos Principle in the game’s Egyptian level, so if either of those games are your bag, this might be also your bag! Please come pick up your bag. Soul Axiom was being shown off at the Xbox lounge, but it will be released simultaneously on Xbox One, PS4, and Wii U once the Steam version has been fully playtested. The team is aiming for a six month release window, with their worst case scenario a Q4 2015 release.  
Soul Axiom Preview photo
This Ain't Axiom Nexus
Everything you could say about Soul Axiom feels reductive. It looks like Journey mixed with Tron, except when it looks like Tron mixed with Tron. It’s a puzzler that evokes The Ta...

Borderlands: The Handsome Collection shines in some spots, has problems in others

Mar 05 // Brett Makedonski
Having demoed both games in The Handsome Collection, The Pre-Sequel came off as simply unimpressive. Moving it to current consoles and harnessing the increased power of the PS4 isn't enough to make the four-player local co-op consistently work. Requiring the game to render everything four times over took a noticeable toll on game performance. Despite playing a level that was relatively unpopulated, the frame-rate dropped an annoying amount. It's likely that this won't be the case with fewer users, and there's always the possibility it'll be patched out through optimization in the coming weeks. Another niggling spot in The Pre-Sequel was the menu interface. It's oddly zoomed in by default, and the player needs to zoom out to see the full picture. Although it didn't present much of a problem in our brief demo with a throwaway character, players who actually care about their character builds and weapons will be in and out of those menus with great frequency. [embed]286397:56948:0[/embed] For as much as The Pre-Sequel didn't impress, Borderlands 2 absolutely did. Playing the Tiny Tina add-on, our group of four made our way through extremely busy sections with no dip in performance. That's where Handsome Collection players who look forward to local co-op are going to be most pleased with this package. Apart from those impressions, these are basically identical to the two games as they were on legacy consoles. Gearbox confirmed that nothing's been changed with regard to any overarching systems such as drop rate. It's the Borderlands you already know and (maybe) love. Actually, as far as The Handsome Collection goes, you might be better off not knowing Borderlands yet. It seems like it's a nice introductory package for those that held off on exposure to the series. Anyone that has an extensive history with it will welcome the ability to import characters from legacy consoles (including level, Badass Rank, and campaign progress), but nothing shown marks much of an improvement from what's already been played. Aside from four-player local co-op, it probably doesn't offer enough incentive to most people to convince them to re-invest.
Borderlands preview photo
Borderlands 2 impressed, The Pre-Sequel did not
Traditionally, Game Developers Conference is a very busy show. After what seems like a three-month hibernation, the game industry slowly creaks back awake and GDC is the first time everything's in full gear again. As always, ...

Elite: Dangerous has bold plans for the future

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

GDC scoop photo
GDC scoop

Call of Duty developer Activision showing off Fun at GDC


I make fun, too
Mar 05
// Steven Hansen
We are very busy at the Game Developer Conference eating hamburgers and erecting edifices, but between those activities we are hunting for hot scoops. Ducking behind corners of the Moscone Center's corporate labyrinth, we stu...

Dyscourse is a survival game that's light on survival

Mar 05 // Mike Cosimano
[embed]288640:57626:0[/embed] DyscourseDeveloper: Owlchemy LabsPublisher: Owlchemy LabsRelease date: March 25, 2015  "[Dyscourse] is a story that happens to be about survival," Schwartz clarified. In Dyscourse, you play as Rita, an artist turned barista who has crash landed on a deserted island with a motley crew of "useless tourists." By virtue of being the player character, Rita will determine the group’s focus, be it escape attempts or long-term survival plans. Is your time better spent gathering water or building a giant SOS out of driftwood? It’s a very basic risk/reward system, but what sets the game apart is just how different each playthrough will be. There are no superficial choices. When a character is injured or insulted, that will affect how effective they will be. There’s even unique character models for exhaustion, described by Schwartz as multiple levels of "dishevelment." Since each in-game day contains multiple opportunities for physical exertion and mental exhaustion, there's a good chance you could end a day with a dead survivor, or at least a very incapacitated one. Post-day conversations allow you to potentially mend broken bridges. However, broken bones are another story. According to Schwartz, the game contains an enormous amount of content. “There are about 80,000 English words in the game,” Schwartz said. “So if an American novel is about 100,000, our writer basically wrote a full novel.” A standard playthrough will only see around 15% of that 80,000. It also seems like the team at Owlchemy has succeeded in making their characters feel memorable. Schwartz recounted an anecdote from earlier in the week where a GDC attendee was praising a survivor’s competence, when a total stranger who had demoed the game earlier in the week stopped to accost the attendee. In the other person’s mind, that survivor was bringing the whole group down. I played Dyscourse on an Xbox One controller hooked up to a PC running a “near-final” build of the game. It played quite well, leading me to ask whether the game was headed to consoles. According to Schwartz, they’re “talking to everybody” about bringing the game to other platforms, but right now they’re focusing on the Steam version. They have to be focused; the game comes out in just under three weeks. I’ll certainly be giving Dyscourse a look when it comes out. The game’s sense of humor really works for me and the art style is memorable. There’s also a free expansion planned, starring a host of indie developers (Tim Schafer, Rami Ismail, and more) who get stranded on the island on their way to GDC. In my mind, that’s the real reason to pick up the game. The branching stories and clever dialogue seems like a nice bonus.
Dyscourse preview photo
It's also not Early Access
Owchemy Labs’ Alex Schwartz is one of the bravest men I know. In the midst of GDC, perhaps the most inside baseball-heavy of all conventions, he told a member of the press that Dyscourse was a "survival game." Of c...

Volume is a more thoughtful approach to Metal Gear Solid VR Mission-like stealth

Mar 05 // Steven Hansen
[embed]288637:57627:0[/embed] You do move around in real time, somersaulting over low walls and sticking to others for cover, but Volume isn't about hunting, human-like AI (especially not with the standard pawns). If you're spotted and cut enough corners to get away or duck into a locker, guards will simply reposition and you'll have another chance to get past them correctly. Thanks to plentiful checkpoints, each level -- there will be 100 -- acts as a series of connected stealth puzzles that tasks you with getting all the little blips and getting out.  Locksley will also be outfitted with gadgets picked up on the scene. You can hold one at a time and they add to the mind teasing. The Oddity will attract the undivided attention of any guard in sight, Figment sends a ghost clone running in a line, Mute will silence your footsteps so you can run, and so on. One other nice thing about the checkpoint system is that every time you die and get sent back, the stage timer reverts to whatever time it was at when you first activated the checkpoint. That way one screw up won't kill a leader board run or require you to replay the entire level from start. While I was enjoying sneaking about and feeling out how Volume plays, there is some story here as a, "near future retelling of the Robin Hood legend" starring the voice talents of Andy Serkis (Lords of the Rings, Enslaved) and Jim Sterling (Destructoid). There will also be hefty map-making and customization options to play with.
Volume preview photo
From the creator of Thomas Was Alone
Volume is a fitting name for a polygonal, Metal Gear Solid VR Missions-looking stealth game with enough rectangles to feed a geometry class for the entire year. In the case of Mike Bithell's Thomas Was Alone follow-up, howeve...

GDC VIDEO photo
GDC VIDEO

GDC 15 DLC #2: Oily hamburgers and Cranberries


Daily Lunch Chronicles
Mar 05
// Steven Hansen
The second lunch of GDC was much messier than the first, which you can watch here. Today (well, two days ago, actually) we went with an American staple, the "Hammed Burger," so named for the first woman who ever went totally...
IGF winners photo
IGF winners

These are the 2015 Independent Games Festival winners


Space exploration game Outer Wilds takes grand prize
Mar 05
// Jordan Devore
The winners of the 17th Annual Independent Games Festival were revealed last night in San Francisco and, my goodness, I've got names to Google today. I hardly recognize any of these! Excellence in Visual Art ($3,000) - Metam...

Rock Band 4 is coming, and it's bringing the party back

Mar 05 // Brett Makedonski
While it's important to look forward, fans also can't help but look back. After all, there are some pretty hefty investments there -- both with regard to instrument peripherals and downloadable tracks. Harmonix acknowledges this and is doing its best to make sure that there's continuity across the Rock Band brand, even if it has jumped to new consoles. With regard to instruments, Sussman says that the team's doing its best to ensure that legacy peripherals will be compatible with Rock Band 4. He couldn't definitively say that it'd happen, but Harmonix is working with Sony and Microsoft to try to work something out. Sussman said that he was confident in the chances those conversations would yield positive results. The other big concern, previously purchased downloadable songs, has an even better outlook. Harmonix is tackling the engineering issue, something that Sony and Microsoft are fully supporting. The only problem is that it'll require a lot of man-hours to essentially recreate every song in the library. It's going to eventually happen, but Harmonix can't say how long it'll take to get there. But, players definitely aren't going to be required to buy tracks a second time or anything in that vein. Of course, alongside Rock Band 4's release will be a set of brand new instruments manufactured by Mad Catz. However, that's not the extent of its involvement. Mad Catz is cooperatively publishing the game with Harmonix. This'll likely mark the largest software publishing deal in Mad Catz's history. [embed]288538:57603:0[/embed] Despite Mad Catz's involvement, Rock Band 4 won't release with a flurry of optional equipment like Rock Band 3 did. Because Harmonix is putting focus on the social aspect, it's mostly doing away with Pro mode. Drums will still be supported because the base instrument is all that's needed. Gone are Pro Guitar and Pro Bass. Also nixed are all forms of keyboard. Sussman said that through data collection, Harmonix saw that keys were played a very small percentage of the time relative to other instruments. Although this is the first time in a half-decade that Rock Band's making a return, there's also the well-founded rumor that Guitar Hero will throw its hat back into the ring this year. When asked if the studio was at all disappointed that it'd face immediate competition, Sussman seemed upbeat about Rock Band 4's chances against Activision's property. "We're focused on things we can control. However, I think our pedigree speaks for itself," he said. He's right; Harmonix has a history that's rooted in quality. However, maybe none of that really matters if the general audience just isn't ready to go back to Rock Band. When we pressed Sussman about the idea that most people from his audience seven years ago are likely in very different places in life now, he was unflinching. "While I realize that people move on, a love for music is all that's needed for Rock Band to be appealing to you. That's something that no one grows out of," he commented. Again, Sussman's right. Even if Harmonix stayed mum on a lot about Rock Band 4, it tipped its hand on what might be the most important facet: the game's tone. Rock Band 4 is all about the unique social experience that comes from playing music together. It wants to be a party, a constant source of good times. Basically, Harmonix is doing everything it can to make sure you want to get the band back together.
Rock Band 4 photo
Releasing in 2015, coming to PS4 and Xbox One
Five years after the latest installment in the seminal music/rhythm franchise, Harmonix is going on a proverbial reunion tour. Rock Band 4 is in development for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and it's currently scheduled fo...

GDC rumor photo
GDC rumor

Rumor: Phil Harrison taking his talents elsewhere


Goodbye Microsoft, he hardly knew ya
Mar 04
// Robert Summa
News from GDC has it that the one-time Sony exec and now Microsoft executive Phil Harrison is planning to leave his position with the company. Sources have confirmed with GamesIndustry.biz that he is stepping away after being...
GDC photo
GDC

Seen at GDC: Game development is for whites only


Diversity (or lack thereof) gets the stink finger
Mar 04
// Robert Summa
Spotted around the happenings of this year's Game Developers Conference was a sticker that tells us game development is for whites only. Diversity in game development (especially amongst the sexes) continues to be a hot-butto...
GDC photo
GDC

Creative Assembly reveals inital pitch video for Alien: Isolation


See the never before shown video that started development
Mar 04
// Alessandro Fillari
Alien: Isolation was one of my biggest surprises of last year. As huge fan of the film series, I always wanted to play a title that emulated the original movie's tone and style. Though the action of the James Cameron-he...
GDC photo
GDC

Never seen Alien: Isolation third-person footage shown at GDC


Gameplay showing abandoned alternate camera set-up shown during panel
Mar 04
// Alessandro Fillari
One of the great joys of attending GDC is going to panels conducted by developers talking about your favorite games. Not only will you learn new and exciting details about the development, but you might even see somethi...
GDC15DLC photo
GDC15DLC

GDC 15 DLC #1: Chicken shawarma wrap


Daily Lunch Chronicles
Mar 04
// Steven Hansen
We're at the Game Developers Conference all week. GDC is pretty cool, but also a convention, which means gross convention center lunches. We want to have nice lunches all week. Not too nice. Downtown food is overpriced, even...
Wasteland 2 photo
Wasteland 2

Wasteland 2 on Xbox One and PS4 is a pleasant surprise


Releasing this summer with improvements
Mar 04
// Jordan Devore
[Update: On top of the Xbox One release, Wasteland 2 is also coming to PlayStation 4 this summer, inXile confirmed today. CEO Brian Fargo noted that "if you are backer of Wasteland 2 or have already purchased it on PC, fear ...
Xbox One PC adapter photo
Xbox One PC adapter

Xbox One controller adapts, goes wireless on PC this year


No more cables!
Mar 04
// Jordan Devore
At GDC 2015, Microsoft announced plans to release a wireless adapter for Xbox One controllers on Windows later this year. Great news, but we need dates, Phil Spencer. Specific dates! I had terrible luck with my wireless adapter for the Xbox 360 gamepad -- damn thing was spotty at best, non-functional at worst -- so here's hoping these new ones are an improvement.
Elite on Xbox One photo
Elite on Xbox One

Elite: Dangerous lands on Xbox One this summer


Console debut
Mar 04
// Jordan Devore
[Update: Elite: Dangerous is a timed console exclusive on Xbox One but will be eventually come to PlayStation 4, according to Frontier Developments founder David Braben.] During a talk at the Game Developers Conference, head...
Steam Controller photo
Steam Controller

Oh hey, this looks like the final Steam Controller


Available this November for $49.99
Mar 04
// Jordan Devore
Weird as it might still look, you have to admit that Valve's Steam Controller has come far. Remember this photo? Or this more recent one? It's like leafing through your worst yearbooks. Given that I play PC-centric games with...
Nintendo indies photo
Nintendo indies

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


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

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


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

A 4K Ouya photo
A 4K Ouya

New Nvidia Shield is a $200 Android console


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

Will Bethesda hurry up and announce Fallout 4?

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

Valve in 2015 photo
Valve in 2015

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


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

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