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Interview

Elite: Dangerous has bold plans for the future

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

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

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

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

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

Why are so few of Evolve's characters female?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A game like X-Files and True Detective? Just don't go Normcore

Dec 17 // Jonathan Holmes
[embed]285025:56686:0[/embed] Dtoid: On Sup Holmes a little while back, Ron talked about how Blazing Saddles was one of the inspirations for Monkey Island 2. Any inspirations like that for Thimbleweed Park? Gary: Thimbleweed Park is a satire and parody of shows like Twin Peaks and David Lynch, X-Files and True Detective. Ron: Gary and I both like humor that is a little bizarre. Game humor works well when it’s drawn not only from the characters and the dialog, but also from the world. Seeing odd things that tell their own funny story. Seeing something in the background that makes you chuckle and adds to the world. Like the chainsaw hanging in the kitchen. It was just there and it helps tell the story of the world. Dtoid: If you could make a live-action TV show of Thimbleweed Park, who would you cast? (Hint: Joe Flaherty needs the work.) Ron: I never like to think about actors when I’m creating or writing characters. If I get someone in my head, then the character becomes them, or some other character they played. I’d rather characters were blank slates. Once the game is done, I can start to think about it, but never before. Some people have compared the two agents in Thimbleweed Park to Mulder and Scully on the X-Files. I don’t know that if we’d thought of that before because their personalities are so different. If we had, then they would run the risk of just becoming those two characters. [embed]285025:56687:0[/embed] Dtoid: Do you have an ideal audience for Thimbleweed Park? Kids? Republicans? Normcore Enthusiasts?Ron: What’s a ‘normcore’? Seriously, I have no idea what that is. It’s not some kind of fetish thing is it? Like being a Republican?Gary: We’re planning on having two difficulty levels: A harder more traditional old-school point & click graphic adventure mode for savvy adventure gamers, and an easier ‘casual’ gaming mode which will be more accessible. So I’d like to think we’ll have something for everyone ‒ Democrats, Republicans, and Kids alike. Dtoid:  For many of today's youth, the iPad/iPod/iPhone is the only game console worth owning. For a lot of your fans in their 20s and 30s, consoles are the place to be. Any thoughts on how to approach those markets with Thimbleweed Park? Console ports maybe? A mini version of Thimbleweed Park for Apple devices to help suck them into the PC/Mac/Linux game? Something else?Ron: I do most of my gaming on an iPad, so this is a question very dear to me. Due to the roots of Thimbleweed Park, we felt that it needed to come out on the PC first. We have a stretch goal for the iOS/Android ports that hopefully we’ll hit. Getting onto consoles is also something we’d like to do and will start exploring that when the game is a little farther along. We know how we’d adjust the UI for touch and controllers, and it will be something we pay close attention to during development. Nothing worse than a crappy port. Dtoid: There are a lot of easier jobs in the world than independent videogame developer? What keeps you two going? Gary: I love the process of telling stories with characters and have worked in comics, animation and video games. One of the nice things about a video game the scale of Thimbleweed Park is that it’s mainly going to be me and Ron, we’re the core creative team and we’re in charge of developing a story we want to tell.Ron: I don’t know how to do anything else but make games. I’m basically unemployable in the real world. [embed]285025:56685:0[/embed] [Part one] [Part two]
Thimbleweed Park photo
Never pay more than 20 bucks for a computer game
Oh no! It's the end of our three part interview with Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick, creators of Maniac Mansion and the masterminds behind Thimbleweed Park, a game that has currently raised over $500K on Kickstarter. We di...

Shantae and the Pirate's Curse Wii U releasing Christmas Day

Dec 16 // Jonathan Holmes
Dtoid: Can you describe the game to people who’ve never played a Shantae game before? Bozon: Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is the third game in the series, which began back in 2002 on the Game Boy Color. This game marks the conclusion of that story arc, but the game caters to first time players. It’s easy to go in cold and no nothing about the previous games. In a nutshell, Shantae is descended from Genies, but is half human. She guards a little fishing village named Scuttle Town from pirates, using what magic she has for various acts of heroism. In a previous game, Shantae’s magical powers have been stolen and now she’s trying to get by without them. A villainous pirate named Risky Boots appears and makes Shantae and offer she can’t refuse, and soon the two enemies are setting sail for adventure in search of legendary powers that will save the world from Risky’s ghostly boss, the Pirate Master. The game plays a lot like Metroid or Castlevania, with Shantae whipping enemies with her long hair and locating pirate-based upgrades. Soon she’ll be firing a flintlock pistol, gliding on a giant hat, launching herself into the air on a huge cannon, stuff like that. I’ve heard it said that Shantae is like the Parodius of the Castlevania series, which kind of makes sense. Dtoid: The first game, Shantae, was a full retail game by Capcom. The second was a download sized indie title. How long is Pirate’s Curse by comparison? Bozon: We approached Pirate’s Curse as we would any other retail game. Based on playtime, total number of dungeons and bosses, you could argue that it’s the size of the first two games combined. Think of it as a $30 retail game in terms of overall scope. Of our recent titles, it breaks down most similarly to Adventure Time: Hey Ice King Why’d You Steal our Garbage, but is roughly 20-25% longer. Most players clock in around 10 hours, not including the second mode that unlocks. Dtoid: Why release a 3DS game on Wii U rather than a fully HD version like Mighty Switch Force Hyper Drive Edition? Bozon: The decision to release Pirate’s Curse on Wii U was driven almost entirely by WayForward fans. We already have a Wii U Shantae game in development – our Kickstarter project Shantae: Half-Genie Hero. That game is made entirely from HD assets with 2D and 3D backgrounds, very similar to our previous game DuckTales: Remastered. But fans were very excited about playing Pirate’s Curse on the Wii U, and since we had already tried it with Mighty Switch Force 2, and the process was pretty straightforward, it seemed worth doing again. It wasn’t quite as easy this time because Pirate’s Curse is a huge game by comparison, and has more involved touch screen features that had to be redesigned for off screen play.  Dtoid: What features are new in the Wii U version? Which are you most excited about? Bozon: In addition to off TV play, we’ve added HD menus and character portraits. The character art has become well known in its own right, having been created by Inti Creates, the developer behind the Mega Man Zero series. There are around 100 HD illustrations, and they’re worth a closer look on your TV. They’re in stereoscopic 3D on 3DS, but HD here and both look incredible. We also support Wii U Pro Controller, and the Wii Classic Controller Pro. The game plays remarkably well with these controllers. But if I had to pick one feature to call my favorite, it’s the HD portraits. Dtoid: Would you call this the definitive version on the game? Bozon: Not necessarily. The game is pretty much the same. The only deciding factor is if you prefer your portrait artwork with stereoscopic embellishments, or in high resolution. Or if you prefer to play in the living room or on the go! Both versions are great!Dtoid: Why does WayForward continue to support the Wii U despite the relatively small install base?Bozon: We’ve been there supporting Nintendo with every system launch starting with the Game Boy Color. We want to be first in line to make games for these legendary platforms. Whether they reach a massive audience or not, Nintendo fans occupy an extremely loyal corner of the game industry. They like intelligent design and visually iconic characters, and they typically understand that games of high quality take time. Sure, we want our games to appear everywhere and be played by everyone, but I feel we have a real connection with Nintendo and its fans. We’re working to expand our fan base, but Nintendo fans got us here which is why we go the extra mile to serve them when we can. Dtoid: If you could add any character to the Smash Bros roster, who would it be?Bozon: I’m supposed to say Shantae, right? Yes, I would love to play as her in Smash and I want a Shantae Amiibo. Her move set aligns nicely, since she dances to charge up her bigger moves, can get extra jumps by way of Cannon or Harpy Transformation. And she brings more girl power, and has been Nintendo exclusive since back on Game Boy. So yeah, Shantae. But if I HAVE to choose someone else, then it’s easy. Bomberman! He’s has an enduring Nintendo legacy, comes in various colors, and his bomb-based move set would make him a blast to play. Dtoid: Thanks Matt! It's always a pleasure. 
Shantae photo
'Nintendo fans got us here which is why we go the extra mile to serve them'
The long awaited Shantae and the Pirate's Curse is finally about to hit the Wii U. The game has been out on the 3DS for a little while now, but I've been holding out for the home console version. Wii U-specific features like...

Thimbleweed Park Kickstarter was a joke for five seconds

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

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

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

This War of Mine is a harrowing journey of survival

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

Resident Evil was a difficult game to remaster in HD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SoundSelf with Oculus Rift is the ultimate trip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alien: Isolation is haunting and uncompromisingly scary

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

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

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







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