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D.I.C.E. Summit

D.I.C.E. Awards photo
D.I.C.E. Awards

Shadow of Mordor picks up eight D.I.C.E. awards, but not game of the year

That went to Dragon Age
Feb 06
// Jordan Devore
When I think of the D.I.C.E. Awards, I'll remember montage guy, now and forever. I wasn't around to see if any similar unscripted hilarity took place at this year's show, but I did catch that Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor to...
EA photo

EA exec admits games are 'too hard'

What are all these buttons for?
Feb 06
// Robert Summa
Video games are an interesting medium. On one side of the spectrum, you have hardcore gamers that thrive on a challenge and feast upon the complexities of any given title. And on the other, you have casuals that want to do no...

AIAS scholarships now open for videogame students

Deadline: June 30
Mar 27
// Dale North
The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences (AIAS) is now accepting applications for its scholarships. They're open for those that plan to work toward careers in the gaming industry, for both undergraduate and graduat...

Austin Wintory: Everyone has the potential to make music

Feb 24 // Dale North
[embed]271066:52720:0[/embed] Destructoid: I really enjoyed your D.I.C.E. talk on the democratization of music making. As you said, someone could have a crappy $50 Casio keyboard and the pre-installed software on a computer and go to it and... Wintory: ...and make something that actually sounds good. Even ten years ago it was like, that's clearly amateur stuff. So I did Monaco, for example; I did a double album release. So one of the ones on there was by Laura Intravia, who worked with Video Games Live as the flute player. She would dress up as Link and do a Zelda medley for solo flute that she arranged. She is an excellent flute player. She's also a singer, and when we would do Journey for VGL she would sing "I Was Born for This." The joke was it's Laura Intravia featuring Video Games Live because she is involved on every single track and every piece they do in their setlist until recently. I connected with her, love her, and she's so wonderful. I told her I'm doing this second album with covers of Monaco.  Because she was on tour so much, she decided to get rid of her own place, and I think she moved stuff into her parents' basement because she was only not on the road for what seemed like a few weeks a year. Between shows, she went into her parents' basement, and with a laptop, using, like, FruityLoops, made the thing you hear on that album, and it's unbelievable. She sent it to me asking for production tips. I said that it just needs less reverb, and then it's perfect. I was like 'holy shit,' I couldn't believe it. [embed]271066:52722:0[/embed] It's all about knowing your tool, right? I had a friend show me a video interview with a European electronic dance artist that managed to top the charts with a single. The artist was asked to show his creative process for a magazine, but he couldn't because he had no idea what he did. That may sound terrible to some, but I think that's wonderful! The people that come from a traditional background see that and are threatened by that and I think it's a bunch of bullshit. People respond to it. What does it matter how it came to be? That's nice to hear, coming from you. Because I am one of those conservatory trained guys. [laughs] These people obviously tend to gravitate toward electronic music. But you look at someone like Danny Elfman; he writes orchestral music with the best of them and he does not have a background in that at all. I think that makes his music so incredibly rich and amazing. Even five years ago, it would have felt like a distant wish for any musician to have a chance at making music for a videogame. Now, with this lower barrier of entry, will it be that just about anyone can make music for games? Look at game jams. People can make ridiculously interesting games in 24 hours that 10 years ago they couldn't have because of the tools. Things like Unity and Garage Band speed up the process so much. I love that. So this changes game music for the better, right? It changes all music for the better. Like you said, there's a big dance hit made by a guy that has no idea what he's doing. It's not restricted to games. I think everything benefits from it, from every angle. The competition is dramatically bigger now. I'm not part of a select group of 15 guys. I'm part of all of humanity now. Every person is basically a viable composer and competitor to me until proven otherwise. All the rest of humanity has the potential to be viably up for anything I would be, and I actually really love that because that means I have to be all that I can be to stand a chance. There's no chance for complacency. There's not a certain level in your career that you'd reach where projects just kind of come and you can kind of cruise control from there. No, people respond to what's interesting, different, engaging, and exciting, and if you're not part of that, then it's really easy to just sort of go away. Malcolm Gladwell was once on The Colbert Report, talking about his book The Outliers, which was his follow-up book to Blink. On it, Colbert asked what Gladwell called himself, as he's a writer, a researcher... I can't remember exactly how he prompted him. But Malcolm described himself as being professionally curious. I thought that was fantastic. I stole that, and now on my Twitter it says that I'm professionally curious about music. What's great is that there are 500 million other people that are the same. We can inspire each other, we can drive each other, and we can just generally sort of rise the tide as one giant entity. I don't see any downside to that. [embed]271066:52723:0[/embed] On the flip side of toy keyboards and budget tools, how do you get to use a full orchestra on an indie game like The Banner Saga? Well, it's all Kickstarter! We said, hey, we'd love to do this the right way. They brought me on in the middle of the campaign, and by this point their thing was this out-of-control steamroller. I asked that they have tiers. I made a deal with Stoic and said to carve out some specific rewards where the money geared to get those is going to go solely toward the score instead of toward the general pot, which we would then have to figure out. People took to it like crazy, and we ended up with a bigger budget than I had on Journey. I mean, the deal is structured differently, so that's somewhat of a deceptive statement to make. Without getting into all the minutiae of the finances of it, the takeaway is that there are a lot more musicians on The Banner Saga than on Journey. I mean, the orchestra is the single most populous department in the whole game. Like, Stoic is three guys, and then a few additional programmers and writers came in here and there. But the orchestra was over 50 people, and I had a whole bunch of soloists as well. And percussion, and three different singers, Taylor Davis on violin... so over 60 people performing on the score. So that's the biggest thing you've done so far? I have a few things going on right now that I can't talk about, but I'm trying to think if they'll end up being more than that. There are definitely some things coming up that are more elaborate in terms of the production, but that doesn't necessarily mean that there are more players. In film, I've worked with 100-plus sized groups, and in concert music as well. But Journey was just strings, and it was a modest sized group, too. [embed]271066:52721:0[/embed] But Journey sounded so big and expensive! It was not. It was done right, and I don't feel like we cut corners. It was the first time Sony had done that for a download title. It's funny in hindsight to remember that Journey was supposed to be only a download title. It ended up going a lot further than any of us thought it would. But I remember I had to make a kind of "Braveheart" freedom speech to Sony to say to them that we've come so far and we just need this extra little bit. And look at how that turned out! Do you think they've learned from that? Yeah. I don't need to benefit from that. The produced The Unfinished Swan the same exact way immediately following. I had nothing to do with The Unfinished Swan but I think they felt empowered to go that extra mile from our experience, and it turned out beautifully. It seems like you're well-grounded in the indie side of games. Is that where you want to be? I mean, you can probably pick what you'd like to do at this point, right? No, it's all over the board. I actually prefer to be in both worlds because they are very different and similar at the same time, and the kind of cross-talk that they make within me is very stimulating and helpful to kind of stay fresh. It's funny; doing a game like Monaco, the perception is that Journey is basically triple-A. Talking to my friend, composer Gerard Marino, who worked on God of War and other big titles, in his eyes, Journey is like this little indie. Whichever camp I'm talking to, Journey belonged in the other. It was a weird middle ground in that sense. But Sony showed it the same love that they showed to The Last of Us and Uncharted. The budget was not anywhere near the size of those games, but they didn't sort of just try to sneak it out. In other words, we had the full benefit of what the name Sony brings with it. In my mind, that makes it essentially sort of a triple-A title. Monaco is like pure grass roots. I've got another game coming that's called Gorogoa that's even more starkly. It's an even smaller team than The Banner Saga, but a a beautiful, wonderful game. I'm delighted. And there's bigger stuff as well. Well, whoever you're working with is going to be well off... That's very generous. I feel very lucky to be gainfully employed in any way. Well, you got a Grammy nomination. Has that changed things for you? Obviously I would be stupid to pretend that the phone was ringing more before that than after that. But it wasn't that specifically so much as it was the general insanity of Journey. And it was every day. Especially around this time last year, every day there was another something happening, and it was blurry and ridiculous. And we had already been through a blurry ridiculousness when the game came out and it was selling so well, and the reviews were just perfect scores, one after another. So I had already had several surreal waves of like, is this actually happening? The thing that meant the most about that was as a lifelong admirer of John Williams, to be able to have a brief moment of being sort of, in the eyes of somebody, shoulder to shoulder with him. It was unreal to me. I met him when I was like sixteen years old and it made me realize I could do this. He was just this guy. I had all of his soundtracks already. When I shook his hand I thought that that was the hand that wrote Star Wars and Indiana Jones. That humanized him and made me think that I could do this. I was a profound experience for me. So to be able to circle back and actually sort of share that moment was really personal and meaningful. But I don't think it's some sort of big truth beyond that. And, also, it has a danger hiding beneath it as well. When you have someone offer you a reward nomination or you earn an award of some kind, there's a tendency to think that you are now validated as a great composer. Which means that the next time you go to write a piece of music, you'll think 'this music is great because a great composer wrote it.' And the moment you start to think that is when the end begins. So I get very weary when people try to be super effusive of that sort of praise because I don't actually believe it to be true. I generally don't think I'm a great composer. I think I'm a terrible composer, but I'm good at making sure that people don't hear 99% of what I write. [laughs] I'm a good curator.
Interview: Austin Wintory photo
Interview with Journey, The Banner Saga composer
We managed to catch up to composer Austin Wintory (Journey, The Banner Saga, Monaco) following his D.I.C.E. Summit talk on how technology has changed music making, and how this impacts videogame scores. As a fellow musician a...

Journey was composed on a $50 crappy Casio keyboard

Feb 24 // Dale North
I asked Wintory how he was able to create such expressive music with what most would consider to be a toy, and not a proper musical instrument.  "You know, it's just an input device. Ultimately, at the end of the day, if it's something that needs to be expressive, like flow, I spend a lot of time manipulating controller data. If it's something that needs to be expressive like in the manner of Journey, I'm putting microphones in front of musicians." Be sure to check out our full interview with Austin Wintory later today.
You'd think Austin Wintory would have better tools
We recently had a chance to chat with Journey and The Banner Saga composer Austin Wintory, and as a fellow musician I took the opportunity to talk shop. Curious about which tools he uses to create music with, I asked abo...

Media Molecule on the challenges of making Tearaway

Feb 19 // Dale North
After thanking Crowle for Tearaway, I asked him how he thought the game fared. The Vita platformer was well received, and made it onto many Game of the Year lists last year. We loved it. "I've kind of been pleasantly surprised how well it has connected with people," Crowle told Destructoid. "Kind of more than I thought it might. It was kind of a risk to rely on it pressing the special feelings button on people. It's very hard to judge whether that is working until you're done." "Obviously we're kind of known for making charming games that people make some connection with. But with this one I really wanted to go a little bit deeper. It's not just whimsical, there's more of an arc in what happens with reuniting yourself with the in-game character, and with the ending and all of that stuff." Tearaway garnered early attention from its distinctive visuals, which were built with Media Molecule's custom game engine. But this came engine only after trying other solutions; none of them worked for what they were trying to do with Tearaway's folded-paper look. "It was difficult in the early period where so much of it hinges on the paper engine. It was all custom built and there was no way we could use anything existing," said Crowle. "We had a prototype engine to try out ideas, which was kind of an isometric thing. But it just pushed us in the wrong direction. It was just wasted time to try to make anything in that engine." Crowle continued: "If you're making a game out of paper it just looks like cubes. It was only when we actually had managed to get it far enough along that we were all given our sheets of virtual paper and could all start cutting and folding, that's when it really... well, the first fold was a revelation." [head explosion hand gestures] I told Crowle that I think the game's box art didn't seem to serve the game; it didn't reflect how unique Tearaway really is. The artwork is nice, but any static screenshot of the game as a cover would probably have served the game better. Crowle whispered, "I didn't like the cover." "I think what's fun is seeing how we gradually subverted what someone might think they're getting. I think a lot of people have been surprised, thinking it's the kind of you know, the old THQ or Disney tie-in. It's got kind of a young appeal to it. And actually, when they start playing, they're like whoa. Straight off, you're being asked how you want to be identified, not just the sort of pink and blue boy/girl buttons or things like that." One of the neatest aspects of Tearaway is that you can earn papercraft projects as in-game rewards. You're able to print these and assemble them, adding your own touches along the way. Crowle recalled what they were going for with this choice. "We try to create these loops in game design, feeding into another thing. But, ultimately, they are all just digital things, and they don't mean anything really," Crowle said. "I think it's also not just that you get it out, but you've got to make it yourself. So it's going to look a bit different. When we were experimenting earlier on, and the game wasn't looking as good as it could, it was a really good moment to just get everyone to make squirrels. And although everyone was making the same plan, everyone had put the eyes slightly different. Some people had used too much glue, and others not enough. Even though we all started with exactly the same template, they all looked subtly different. And that really helped us get the look." I asked Crowle if they considered other external interactions for Tearaway, suggesting that some kind of musical tie-in would have been great. This had him recalling something he wanted to do, but ultimately couldn't implement. "Something I really wanted to put in the lab section was the idea of the way you could encode information into paper," he explained. "Not by writing on it, but with the old hole punches. And also the player piano rings. I really wanted to be able to punch holes in paper and then print them out and make music with them. That was pretty out there as an idea to try to tell everyone to go spend an extra six months on that." With as well as Tearaway was received, I asked if Media Molecule would consider making another game along these lines. He seemed to want to keep as vague as possible in his answer. "We put a lot of work into it. I think what we've made is a complete thing it's not like it's a to-be-continued kind of thing. But, obviously, we want people to see it." As we ended our talk, Crowle said that Media Molecule is really pleased at how well Tearaway was received, and mentioned how much they enjoy seeing messages from fans online.  "It has been interesting going online in a weird, stalkerish way, reading everything that everyone has been saying." "It's really cool to see the love."
Making Tearaway photo
Interview with lead creator Rex Crowle
Earlier this month, I caught up with Media Molecule's Rex Crowle, lead creator on one of my favorite games of last year, Tearaway. My main goal was simple: to thank him for such a fantastic Vita game. But we ended up chatting...

Chroma: A musical first-person shooter from Harmonix

Feb 17 // Dale North
Chroma  (PC) Developer: Harmonix, Hidden Path EntertainmentPublisher: HarmonixReleases: 2014 Chroma is a free-to-play musical, arena-based first-person shooter for PC, powered by Unreal Engine and coming to Steam. Let that sink in for a moment. Harmonix says that the concept has been around for two years, but the actual game has only been in development since October. So what we saw earlier this month was early in the pre-alpha state. Hidden Path Entertainment (Counter Strike: Global Offensive) has teamed up with Harmonix in what sounds like a pretty even split on the development of Chroma. Hidden Path holds down the fort with all of the shooter aspects of the game, while Harmonix does the rhythmic and musical side.  Each team has their own side of an arena in Chroma, and each side has its own music. Getting closer to winning causes your side's music to play louder, with the goal being to overtake your opponents in both score and song. At key moments of the song, a musical change up can occur, and the map layout can change along with it. For example, a stylistic change in music could also have sniper towers rising up from the ground to mix up the map. Music is also deeply tied to the shooter mechanics. For most of the weapons of Chroma, you're free to fire at any time. But hitting the right beats or staying on rhythm will bring power and accuracy bonuses, and some actions can only occur on beats. For example, the assault class sub-machine gun needs to be clicked on the beat to reload. The grenade launcher can be fired at will, but it'll only detonate on the downbeat of any given measure. The engineer class is probably the most musical; it features a Rock Band-style HUD that has the player clicking the mouse buttons to line up with the song's beat markers to fire properly. The engineer's gun actually won't fire off beat. Harmonix says that you can think of each teammate as a band member, and their weapons as their instruments. Weapon fire actually sounds like instruments, and ties in with the music nicely. It seems like a lot of thought went into how sound effects could be musical accents.  Chroma has a futuristic, space-y look that, from the maps we saw, seemed to be made up of a lot of angled platforms and other structures. It's what I'd imagine that a battle arena would look like on some futuristic alien planet. The different class types looked to match with their lack of color and angular faces. The game is almost completely monochromatic, save for the brilliant lighting and coloring coming from the weaponry. The whole thing is set to electronic music that seemed heavy on beats and light on melody. [embed]270652:52613:0[/embed] I tried two different maps in this first hands-on session of Chroma. At first, I left my teammates to work on the objective in a point control map while I played with some of the rhythmic features of the map. Jump pads let you quickly bounce from one to the next by tapping the spacebar on the correct beat. There are different bars that require taps on whole notes, half notes, and quarter notes, with an audible prompt to let you know what you should be expecting for the next pad. Do this just right and you'll be able to very quickly navigate across the map. Using these pads, quick traversal is like its own mini-game. Once you get the hang of it, bouncing around like this is quite fun. A timed boost replaces the typical shooter's constant running button in Chroma, so those used to quick movement may feel a big bogged down by the switch. But movement feels pretty slow in general. Mastering the jump pads helps to move faster, but you're not able to defend or fire back while bouncing between pads. The play style is locked to the music, so much so that being on top of the beat seems to matter more than aim accuracy. For example, for the tank class, mastering clicking on the beat lets you get much more than one hit out of their rocket launcher as proper input allows the shot to angle onto another target continually. Getting the beat right also helps with the sniper class; a shot turns into a one-hit kill if it happens on the beat. The pistol also gets a strength boost with on-beat firing.  The combination of shooting and beat matching is a great idea, but having to run down an enemy, aim at it, and shoot at it on a beat is a lot to wrap your head around. I found that trying to line this all up in my head was pretty challenging. I've never been great at aiming, so I liked the idea that having skilled shooter players held back by the rhythmic requirements might level out the field a bit. But it's not clear if it really works out that way. I don't know that these skilled players would look at the situation as favorably, and those bad at keeping a beat or making a shot may feel even worse about the whole thing. The way shooting and music comes together in play starts to make sense after awhile, but it does take a bit of experimentation to get a feel for all of these classes and their respective weapons. There's a lot to learn across the five classes, and with each being so different, the required time to scale this learning curve could hurt Chroma's accessibility. This game will need a really good tutorial. But what if you're not that musical? It's still early, so Harmonix has room to play with the balance, but I feel like those having a hard time keeping the beat will have a hard time enjoying this game. The maps we played were full of visual indicators to give you a feel for the beat, so much so that it seemed like it would be pretty difficult to lose a song's downbeat. But, just like with aiming in a shooter, not everyone has a good sense of rhythm.  Even with my good music sense, I was having a hard time with this early build of Chroma. Other than the timed jumping and maybe the on-beat reloading, none of the musical elements seemed to click for me. The experience was rough overall, from the movement to the beat-timed firing. Even with a full hands-on session I felt like we were only seeing the beginning of a neat idea that hadn't come together yet. With five different classes and a variety of load outs, there's plenty of room for players to get in and find a combination that fits their preferred play style. But who is Chroma for? Gamers that like rhythmical challenges could find the movement and aiming to be too much to take on at once. And shooter fans are going to have to approach this with a pretty open mind to be fine with beat-timed requirements for their shots and reloads.  As for the free-to-play aspect, details are light on monetization, but Harmonix does stress that Chroma will not be a pay-to-win type situation. I love that Harmonix was willing to take on such an ambitious combination, but they're really going to have to focus and fine tune the experience to make it as accessible and balanced as possible. If they figure it out, Chroma could be a truly unique experience. Interested? Sign up for the closed alpha here.
Chroma photo
And it's free-to-play
It makes sense that when word gets out that Harmonix is working on a new game, everyone is going to want to see it. This was exactly the case at an invite-only showing earlier this month, taking place during D.I.C.E. Summit 2...


The Last of Us wins 10 D.I.C.E. Awards

Winners announced
Feb 07
// Dale North
Naughty Dog's The Last of Us swept the 17th Annual D.I.C.E. Award, taking everything from Outstanding Achievement in Story to the Game of the Year awards last night, sweeping the majority of the 13 categories they were nomina...

Keiji Inafune talks Mighty No. 9, shows Mighty No. 7

Mighty No. 7 final design shown
Feb 06
// Dale North
Comcept's Keiji Inafune came to D.I.C.E. Summit 2014 today to talk about the potential of crowdfunding and how the games industry might change for the better through the freedom they provide. But he also took the opportunity ...

Mark Cerny: the future of game consoles looks solid

Good, because that sh*t was expensive
Feb 06
// Dale North
In his D.I.C.E. Summit 2014 talk this morning, PS4 lead system architect Mark Cerny was put on the spot by co-panelists Eugene Jarvis (Raw Thrills) and Mark Turmell (Zynga) on the future of gaming consoles. Cerny quickly...

Mark Cerny remembers optical media, early days fondly

The good old days
Feb 06
// Dale North
At D.I.C.E. Summit 2014 this morning, PS4 system architect Mark Cerny fondly recalled the good old days in his talk with Raw Thrills' Eugene Jarvis and Zynga's Mark Turmell. When asked to talk about the greatest innovations t...
D.I.C.E. photo

Watch the 2014 D.I.C.E. Summit talks live

Learn about the games industry
Feb 05
// Jordan Devore
The 2014 D.I.C.E. Summit is this week in Las Vegas and it's being streamed live this year on Twitch. Today is full of talks from folks like CCP CEO Hilmar Veigar Petursson, Vlambeer's Rami Ismail, and Insomniac Games preside...

D.I.C.E. Summit and awards to be streamed live on Twitch

Felicia Day, Freddie Wong to co-host
Jan 24
// Dale North
The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences' Annual D.I.C.E. Summit and Awards are usually a pretty closed off event. For the longest time it has been an invite-only event for the game development community, with the guest...
D.I.C.E. photo

Keiji Inafune, Rami Ismail to speak at D.I.C.E. Summit

Next month in Las Vegas
Jan 09
// Jordan Devore
While many of us non-attendees give the awards component of D.I.C.E. the most attention, there's also the presentations to consider. The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences has added five extra speakers who will join p...

Xbox co-founder among D.I.C.E. 2014 Summit speakers

The New Golden Age of Gaming theme set
Oct 17
// Dale North
This morning, The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences have listed the first round of speakers for their D.I.C.E. Summit 2014.  This year's theme is The New Golden Age of Gaming. For this first round of speake...

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