The latest generation in gaming has brought with it an emphasis on sharing. Screenshots and gameplay videos can be relatively easily captured and uploaded for anyone's audience to see. It's a smart way to drive interaction -- whether it's to share an unbelievable kill streak in Halo, or something as irreverent as a lunatic stabbing goats in the butt.
With the announcement that Windows 10 will, in part, contribute to the "Xbox ecosystem," it really opens the door to the accessibility and possibility of sharing content. In what was called a "platform demo" at GDC in San Francisco last week, we got a first-hand look at how simple Windows 10 will make this process.
Available for any game played on Windows 10 (even non-native Xbox titles) is a Game DVR that operates similarly to the "Xbox, record that" function of the Xbox One. Mapped to the Windows + G command, the DVR captures the past 30 seconds of gameplay, regardless of what's playing.
I've been firewatching out for Campo Santo's new 'exploration mystery' since hearing about the talent behind it. Artist Olly Moss, Mark of the Ninja designer Nels Anderson, and season one The Walking Dead writers and designers Sean Vanaman and Jake Rodkin. It's an exciting crew.
And then I saw the dang thing in its trailer and had to wonder why more games don't make use of a distinct tonal color palette, instead defaulting to an obfuscating attempt at photorealism that just drowns everything out. Compare BioShock to a "realistic" shooter; the Arkham series to Shadow of Mordor. It's just nice to see someone use color, and purposefully.
Because while Firewatch is gorgeous, it is also grounded. It is a story about people -- Henry and his supervisor Delilah -- and I felt that the moment I started controlling Henry. Not a blank player analogue or a camera on wheels. I saw Henry's inelegant, meaty paws stretched out in front of the screen still wearing his wedding ring despite divorce. Telling details are important.
Cuphead has existed in a state of unreality to me since its E3 reveal. Despite seeing footage of the game, it remained in my mind a concept. One that I was in love with, mind. 1930s style animation. A character whose head is a cup. I love it.
But because I've never played a game that was completely hand-drawn on a lightbox to look like a 1930s anime, there was always some weird disconnect between what I saw in the trailer, on-screen, and connecting it to inputting commands on a controller.
This disconnect was mended when I saw a giant corner dedicated to Cuphead at Microsoft's ID@Xbox event last week at GDC. I press a button, Cuphead jumps.
In Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, a game originally developed at a game jam, one player wears the Oculus Rift and sees a bomb that needs to be defused but doesn't know how to defuse it. Their partner only has a binder. Like, a real binder -- no Oculus Rift involved. The binder has all the steps needed to defuse the bomb, but the reader can't actually see the bomb.
It's a game about communication, and it is wonderful not only to spectate, but of course to play. It's really the only game on the PAX East show floor that keeps me coming back for more.
There's been a lot of games that try to copy the success of titles like Worms or Tanks, but often come off feeling too derivative. "Yeah, it's like Worms, but not quite as good" has definitely left my lips a handful of times. Needless to say, I was a little cautious heading in to Mayan Death Robots after hearing such comparisons.
Thankfully, Mayan Death Robots is a unique twist on something that definitely owes its roots to Worms but truly feels like its own experience with innovations. It's exciting to play and exciting to watch, plus you can be a giant robo-monkey and throw banana bombs.
Crash landing on an alien planet is the worst. There's hazardous flora, deadly fauna, and even rock formations that seem to have some sort of blood lust. That just piles on top of the existential crisis of being a robot with an unknown purpose. Such is the existence on Planet of the Eyes.
I played through a couple of demo sections at PAX East. One showed off puzzles while the other demonstrated more action platforming. Both were rife with opportunities for robot death and dismemberment. At the very least, the planet is beautiful as it is repeatedly and mercilessly trying to kill me.
A glance at Downwell's tricolor palette in still shots doesn't really do it justice. Watching it in motion gives a better idea what it does, but not until actually playing it does it all click. It is built around a simple mechanic: press the button to jump; press it again in the air to fire gun boots downward.
The recoil doesn't act as a double jump exactly. No extra height can be gained from the shots, but the little protagonist's descent can be slowed. The catch is that the boots have limited ammunition in a magazine and reloading requires a stop on solid ground. Those simple mechanics produce a surprising depth in the trip down the well.
Everything you could say about Soul Axiom feels reductive. It looks like Journey mixed with Tron, except when it looks like Tron mixed with Tron. It’s a puzzler that evokes The Talos Principle in both its non-linearity and its environmental conundrums. And the story is a spiritual successor to developer Wales Interactive’s previous title Master Reboot. This is the kind of stuff I try to avoid when doing previews.
But it’s still accurate, and it doesn’t diminish how interesting this game looks. Soul Axiom is an unsettling and compelling techno/cyber-thriller, with a killer visual style that matches its high-concept premise. Whether it actually delivers on its many promises is another thing entirely, but there’s a lot to be excited about so far.
Owchemy Labs’ Alex Schwartz is one of the bravest men I know. In the midst of GDC, perhaps the most inside baseball-heavy of all conventions, he told a member of the press that Dyscourse was a "survival game." Of course, that phrase was immediately followed by caveats, but to use a genre descriptor that has become an enormous red flag takes an enormous amount of courage.
It also takes a great deal of faith in your game, which, as it turns out, is well-earned. Dyscourse is like Telltale's The Walking Dead filtered through old-school LucasArts. There are branching narratives, witty dialogue, an eclectic visual style, and choices that will affect whether a character lives or dies. But there’s also survival. Except it’s not actually survival. Follow me so far?
Volume is a fitting name for a polygonal, Metal Gear Solid VR Missions-looking stealth game with enough rectangles to feed a geometry class for the entire year. In the case of Mike Bithell's Thomas Was Alone follow-up, however, "volume" is more about sound than shapes.
Lead Locksley can't kill or attack. It's all about being a sneak. Noise, then, becomes an important weapon for luring guards from their posts, and every bit of noise fractures the world so you can nicely see its effect, along with the ever-present enemy fields of vision.
It's about sight, too. Sound, sight, shapes. These things come together to make a readable stealth game with enough abstraction that it feels more puzzler than sneaking romp. Think Hitman GO compared to Hitman.
I've long been an admirer of the Warhammer franchise. While a lot of people seem to put more of their attention towards the 40K universe, the high-fantasy setting of the former is so rich and features such a breadth of potential. As such, I was surprised to hear last month that Fatshark is making a new Warhammer title.
During a special hands-on session at GDC, the folks behind Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide showed off their co-op title that'll seek to offer hardcore action within the high-fantasy universe, while giving loot hungry players the urge to explore the street and depths of Ubersreik.
Guild Wars 2 is an ambitious project. While ArenaNet's initial offering of Guild Wars was more of a social dungeon crawler than an MMO (the company called it a CORPG, or competitive online role-playing game), the sequel was a bonafide massive experience.
The kicker? ArenaNet was still able to cut out the subscription fee, effectively making Guild Wars 2 buy-to-play and allowing players to return at any time.
Here we are over two years later with the Heart of Thorns expansion on the horizon, and the developer continues to find ways to innovate.
With so many horror titles out, it's difficult to keep things interesting for players. While some focus on throwing countless monsters at you, others seek to make players feel nearly powerless against a limited number of foes. But what about a title that seeks to create a blend of the two? The Flock is a unique title that mixes multiplayer action with the sense of dread felt in horror games.
At the Indie Megabooth at GDC 2015, developer Vogelsap showed just how intense flashlight tag can feel in an unnerving and darkly atmospheric setting.
Last month, we got a tease from an upcoming indie action title that will put players in the role of a superhero during an alien invasion. The trailer certainly inspired a lot of interest, as it was more somber and earnest, not loud and over the top like other superhero games we've seen.
Watching the footage, I got the impression Megaton Rainfall was a mix between Superman and Earth Defense Force, which sounds like it would make for an exciting title. Thankfully, we didn't have to wait too long to play, as the sole developer Alfonso Del Cerro was excited to get the game in player's hands at GDC 2015's Indie Megabooth.
Dubbed a "first-person superhero game" by its creator, Megaton Rainfall feels like a unique blend of genres.
We haven’t gotten a look at Untame’s Mushroom 11since we gave it a Best of PAX East award in 2014. It captured our hearts at the Boston show, with its approach to kinetic energy proving absolutely entrancing. Seeing it at GDC 2015, Mushroom11 isn’t the same game we played 11 months ago. It’s come a long way.
The PAX demo put a lot of emphasis on forcing your way from the right to the left as quickly as possible. Environment served as the primary obstacle, walls and whatnot requiring creative erasing of the omnipresent green blob to hopefully get up and over. It was a skill-based affair, through and through.
Now, Mushroom 11 wants you to think. Each chapter is littered with puzzles that put a halt to the endless scurry leftward. For instance, we saw a bit that necessitated using the blob to form a ramp that would launch a rolling boulder. Another section needed a bridge that would cover five sensors at the same time.