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Found 76 results

  1. The rocky road to Team Ninja’s release of Nioh meant that a lot of factors were working against the action RPG when it hit store shelves in February. It had originally been announced back in 2004 by Koei as a straight RPG adaptation of Oni, an unfinished script by famed Japanese film legend Akira Kurosawa. Over the years, it was ripped apart and stitched back together by various development teams trying desperately to make it work. Nioh became a Dynasty Warriors-esque large-scale war game after the merger of Tecmo and Koei. The multiple development teams slowly scrapped almost all of the Akira Kurosawa’s story beats from the title. It wasn’t until Team Ninja fully took control of the project in 2012 that Nioh became recognizably similar to the game that released in 2017. Team Ninja had a very simple elevator pitch for their vision of Nioh: What if you combined a fanciful retelling of Japan’s Sengoku jidai with Dark Souls? Nioh weaves the heavily altered story of William Adams, a sailor for the Dutch East India Company who became the first Western samurai, a top advisor to Japan’s Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, and became known as Miura Anjin. Those three facts are about all that remain in Nioh of the real William’s life story. Nioh takes the framework of William’s journey to Japan in the 1600s at the end of one hundred years of civil war and brings it into a more fanciful setting full of spirits and monsters. William begins his tale in England, where a mysterious figure named Edward Kelley imprisons his guardian spirit. The pursuit of this creepy sorcerer takes William to the shores of Japan where evil spirits and demons have run amok, feeding off the death caused by the war. William’s becomes embroiled in the war himself after finding that the sorcerer has allied himself with the enemies of Tokugawa Ieyasu. Soon the conflict threatens to spin out of control as the sorcerer wields ever more powerful magic granted by his consumption of guardian spirits and crystalized spirit stones called Amrita. William, however, has his own array of abilities to combat threats both magical and mundane. One of Nioh’s draws is the ability to play with a wide selection of fighting styles. Players can choose from katana, axe, dual wielding swords, spears, and kusarigama (a sickle with a weighted chain). Each weapon has its own unique style and move set that becomes even deeper with the addition of stances. Any given weapon has three separate stances, high, mid, and low. High stance has slower, more powerful attacks, middle has a good mix between power and agility, and low stance tends to have the fastest attack and dodge speeds. Each of these stances alters the move sets and combos of their given weapon in addition to their differing benefits. On top of that, Nioh allows players to put points into ninjutsu and onmyo to gain ninja and spellcasting abilities. The robust combat system presents a definite learning curve. Those just beginning Nioh will doubtlessly struggle with when to switch stances and the make use of the various abilities at their disposal. However, the true mechanic that every Nioh player will absolutely need to master comes down to one thing: Ki. In Dark Souls, players must manage a stamina gauge that depletes as various attacks are used. Nioh has a Ki meter that serves the same purpose. However, the key difference between the two systems is that timing a follow-up button press after a string of attacks restores some of the player’s lost Ki. This means that those with a good sense of timing and battle rhythm can make more attacks or dodges without becoming exhausted and vulnerable. Some abilities even give attack bonuses for players who can pull off this move. This technique becomes even more necessary when battling the demonic yokai spirits who can create areas that slow Ki regeneration unless the player can purify them with that well-timed button press. Nioh does a number of small, yet significant things when it comes to combat that make it feel like a fresh experience. Adding the active Ki system goes a long way toward creating more engaging combat, but so does extending the effectiveness of status impairments. Typically, status effects in games are more for the rank and file enemies. Nioh allows even the bosses to be affected by the likes of poison, fire, and paralysis. These can help give the winning edge in a particularly challenging boss fight or make an otherwise difficult enemy encounter manageable. Projectile weapons also go a long way toward breathing life into Nioh. Players can equip bows, matchlock rifles, or personal cannons to deal with enemies from afar. These weapons prove to be very effective and benefit from leveling stats that benefit your hand-to-hand combat abilities, so they continue to be effective into the late game. In fact, I was able to take down the final boss of Nioh with a shred of health from cover by making quick use of my fully loaded cannon to land critical headshots. Nioh slips up most when it comes to the level design. One of the things that worked in the favor of the Dark Souls series was the interconnected world that truly felt like a giant puzzle to be solved through exploration. Nioh has a much more linear structure governed by missions. Each mission is its own contained world that leads players toward a boss fight. The quality of these areas varies greatly. Some are perfectly serviceable, a few inch up into “good” territory, but many of them are only interesting on a visual level and only present straight-forward slogs from one combat encounter to another. The worst levels include areas where the player can easily slip off a ledge and fall to what feels like an incredibly cheap death. One boss fight in particular happens to encapsulate both the frustrating level and boss design. A decent slice into the game, the player is tasked with clearing out a flooded temple. Upon reaching the boss, the player becomes locked inside an arena floating on the water to do battle with a giant ooze monster. Except you can’t swim in Nioh, so a trip off the edge of the arena is an instant death. Just don’t fall off, right? Well, the boss is such a large creature, that targeting it means you can’t see anything behind you, so it becomes difficult to tell when you’re in danger of running off the edge. Okay, so don’t target the creature? Well, if you let your attention wander, you might miss the short wind up it does for a move that blasts half the arena with an insta-death energy beam. If you happen to be doing fine against this yokai hell-beast, it actually has two versions of its insta-death move. The first has a warning animation of about a second or two. The second has a split-second jiggle that’s easily missed in the heat of combat. Speaking of those bosses, they represent some of the most irritating encounters I’ve had in video games. Some are relatively easy to overcome while others will leave you dazed with how quickly they destroyed you. Many of the bosses present long, painful bouts of learning when to dodge, what moves will instantly kill you, and what you can or can’t block. On the other hand, a fair number of these encounters feel like truly climactic battles where the odds are stacked against you. Conclusion: When everything goes right in Nioh, it feels wonderfully fluid, responsive, and challenging. The combat shines brightly as something from which future games in the action RPG genre should draw inspiration. While Dark Souls mastered slow, methodical combat and Bloodborne rewarded fast, brutal aggression, Nioh requires players to be fast and precise in order to keep abreast of the chaotic action. However, that’s a delicate balance to maintain and sometimes bosses and level design don’t quite support that balancing act. The visual designs of monsters are routinely interesting to take in and discovering new creatures adds to the fun of progression. The loot system feels unnecessary and clutters up Nioh with useless items. There’s a very solid core to Nioh that deserves expansion. A little more inspiration from similar games (some kind of healing reward for aggression similar to Bloodborne might have been nice), while cutting any needless complications or unfair designs could go a long way toward taking any Nioh successor to even greater acclaim in the future. Nioh is now available for PlayStation 4
  2. The rocky road to Team Ninja’s release of Nioh meant that a lot of factors were working against the action RPG when it hit store shelves in February. It had originally been announced back in 2004 by Koei as a straight RPG adaptation of Oni, an unfinished script by famed Japanese film legend Akira Kurosawa. Over the years, it was ripped apart and stitched back together by various development teams trying desperately to make it work. Nioh became a Dynasty Warriors-esque large-scale war game after the merger of Tecmo and Koei. The multiple development teams slowly scrapped almost all of the Akira Kurosawa’s story beats from the title. It wasn’t until Team Ninja fully took control of the project in 2012 that Nioh became recognizably similar to the game that released in 2017. Team Ninja had a very simple elevator pitch for their vision of Nioh: What if you combined a fanciful retelling of Japan’s Sengoku jidai with Dark Souls? Nioh weaves the heavily altered story of William Adams, a sailor for the Dutch East India Company who became the first Western samurai, a top advisor to Japan’s Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, and became known as Miura Anjin. Those three facts are about all that remain in Nioh of the real William’s life story. Nioh takes the framework of William’s journey to Japan in the 1600s at the end of one hundred years of civil war and brings it into a more fanciful setting full of spirits and monsters. William begins his tale in England, where a mysterious figure named Edward Kelley imprisons his guardian spirit. The pursuit of this creepy sorcerer takes William to the shores of Japan where evil spirits and demons have run amok, feeding off the death caused by the war. William’s becomes embroiled in the war himself after finding that the sorcerer has allied himself with the enemies of Tokugawa Ieyasu. Soon the conflict threatens to spin out of control as the sorcerer wields ever more powerful magic granted by his consumption of guardian spirits and crystalized spirit stones called Amrita. William, however, has his own array of abilities to combat threats both magical and mundane. One of Nioh’s draws is the ability to play with a wide selection of fighting styles. Players can choose from katana, axe, dual wielding swords, spears, and kusarigama (a sickle with a weighted chain). Each weapon has its own unique style and move set that becomes even deeper with the addition of stances. Any given weapon has three separate stances, high, mid, and low. High stance has slower, more powerful attacks, middle has a good mix between power and agility, and low stance tends to have the fastest attack and dodge speeds. Each of these stances alters the move sets and combos of their given weapon in addition to their differing benefits. On top of that, Nioh allows players to put points into ninjutsu and onmyo to gain ninja and spellcasting abilities. The robust combat system presents a definite learning curve. Those just beginning Nioh will doubtlessly struggle with when to switch stances and the make use of the various abilities at their disposal. However, the true mechanic that every Nioh player will absolutely need to master comes down to one thing: Ki. In Dark Souls, players must manage a stamina gauge that depletes as various attacks are used. Nioh has a Ki meter that serves the same purpose. However, the key difference between the two systems is that timing a follow-up button press after a string of attacks restores some of the player’s lost Ki. This means that those with a good sense of timing and battle rhythm can make more attacks or dodges without becoming exhausted and vulnerable. Some abilities even give attack bonuses for players who can pull off this move. This technique becomes even more necessary when battling the demonic yokai spirits who can create areas that slow Ki regeneration unless the player can purify them with that well-timed button press. Nioh does a number of small, yet significant things when it comes to combat that make it feel like a fresh experience. Adding the active Ki system goes a long way toward creating more engaging combat, but so does extending the effectiveness of status impairments. Typically, status effects in games are more for the rank and file enemies. Nioh allows even the bosses to be affected by the likes of poison, fire, and paralysis. These can help give the winning edge in a particularly challenging boss fight or make an otherwise difficult enemy encounter manageable. Projectile weapons also go a long way toward breathing life into Nioh. Players can equip bows, matchlock rifles, or personal cannons to deal with enemies from afar. These weapons prove to be very effective and benefit from leveling stats that benefit your hand-to-hand combat abilities, so they continue to be effective into the late game. In fact, I was able to take down the final boss of Nioh with a shred of health from cover by making quick use of my fully loaded cannon to land critical headshots. Nioh slips up most when it comes to the level design. One of the things that worked in the favor of the Dark Souls series was the interconnected world that truly felt like a giant puzzle to be solved through exploration. Nioh has a much more linear structure governed by missions. Each mission is its own contained world that leads players toward a boss fight. The quality of these areas varies greatly. Some are perfectly serviceable, a few inch up into “good” territory, but many of them are only interesting on a visual level and only present straight-forward slogs from one combat encounter to another. The worst levels include areas where the player can easily slip off a ledge and fall to what feels like an incredibly cheap death. One boss fight in particular happens to encapsulate both the frustrating level and boss design. A decent slice into the game, the player is tasked with clearing out a flooded temple. Upon reaching the boss, the player becomes locked inside an arena floating on the water to do battle with a giant ooze monster. Except you can’t swim in Nioh, so a trip off the edge of the arena is an instant death. Just don’t fall off, right? Well, the boss is such a large creature, that targeting it means you can’t see anything behind you, so it becomes difficult to tell when you’re in danger of running off the edge. Okay, so don’t target the creature? Well, if you let your attention wander, you might miss the short wind up it does for a move that blasts half the arena with an insta-death energy beam. If you happen to be doing fine against this yokai hell-beast, it actually has two versions of its insta-death move. The first has a warning animation of about a second or two. The second has a split-second jiggle that’s easily missed in the heat of combat. Speaking of those bosses, they represent some of the most irritating encounters I’ve had in video games. Some are relatively easy to overcome while others will leave you dazed with how quickly they destroyed you. Many of the bosses present long, painful bouts of learning when to dodge, what moves will instantly kill you, and what you can or can’t block. On the other hand, a fair number of these encounters feel like truly climactic battles where the odds are stacked against you. Conclusion: When everything goes right in Nioh, it feels wonderfully fluid, responsive, and challenging. The combat shines brightly as something from which future games in the action RPG genre should draw inspiration. While Dark Souls mastered slow, methodical combat and Bloodborne rewarded fast, brutal aggression, Nioh requires players to be fast and precise in order to keep abreast of the chaotic action. However, that’s a delicate balance to maintain and sometimes bosses and level design don’t quite support that balancing act. The visual designs of monsters are routinely interesting to take in and discovering new creatures adds to the fun of progression. The loot system feels unnecessary and clutters up Nioh with useless items. There’s a very solid core to Nioh that deserves expansion. A little more inspiration from similar games (some kind of healing reward for aggression similar to Bloodborne might have been nice), while cutting any needless complications or unfair designs could go a long way toward taking any Nioh successor to even greater acclaim in the future. Nioh is now available for PlayStation 4 View full article
  3. One of the most critically acclaimed titles of 2013, The Last of Us served as the PlayStation 3's swan song. Pushing the system to its limits, Naughty Dog's foray into a grim, apocalyptic vision of the future became a title that would be talked about for years to come for its presentation, pacing, characters, and gripping story. A film adaptation was announced following the massive success of The Last of Us. At the tail end of 2016, Sony unveiled a sequel. This week we take a look at the infected ruins of America as experienced by Joel and Ellie on their road trip through a world where a human life is as cheap as a bullet. Is The Last of Us one of the best games period? Outro music: The Last of Us 'Sarah' by nckmusic (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR02995) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! A Patreon has been created for those looking to support the show. You can also follow the show on Twitter: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
  4. One of the most critically acclaimed titles of 2013, The Last of Us served as the PlayStation 3's swan song. Pushing the system to its limits, Naughty Dog's foray into a grim, apocalyptic vision of the future became a title that would be talked about for years to come for its presentation, pacing, characters, and gripping story. A film adaptation was announced following the massive success of The Last of Us. At the tail end of 2016, Sony unveiled a sequel. This week we take a look at the infected ruins of America as experienced by Joel and Ellie on their road trip through a world where a human life is as cheap as a bullet. Is The Last of Us one of the best games period? Outro music: The Last of Us 'Sarah' by nckmusic (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR02995) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! A Patreon has been created for those looking to support the show. You can also follow the show on Twitter: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday View full article
  5. Powers, the first PlayStation Original Series, is an adaptation of a graphic novel by the same name. Sharlto Copley, best known for his roles in District 9 and Elysium, plays an detective who once had superpowers and now specializes in superhuman criminal investigations. The show is clearly aiming for a gritty, mature tone. The trailer drops several F-bombs, has a couple crazy people, and things get smashed in an angry fashion. It remains to be seen if the series can deliver on its promising concept, but if anyone can be counted on to give an interesting performance it is Copley. There is no announced release date quite yet for the series. However, it is worth noting that the Powers will be free for PlayStation Plus members.
  6. One part Ico and one part The Wind Waker, RIME has definitely caught our attention. RIME takes players to a mysterious island that harbors the ruins of a past civilization. As a (at least currently) nameless young boy, players explore the ancient artifacts that have been left scattered around the island. Here is the first trailer: No release date or price has been announced for RIME, which will be coming to PlayStation 4. Personally, this is one of my most anticipated indie games on the horizon. What are some of the games on your watch list, PS4 or otherwise?
  7. Over the past few days I had the opportunity to take a break from reviewing the incredibly long PC RPG Divinity: Original Sin (68 hours in with the end still not in sight!) by suiting up as one of humanity’s last Guardians. After three focused days with the beta, I can say with confidence that Bungie has put what it learned from years developing Halo and successfully read the gaming landscape to create an FPS title that will stand the test of time. The Destiny beta was previewed on PlayStation 4. How does one describe Destiny? Destiny seems like a hodgepodge of various elements copped from other famous science-fiction games, movies, and books that were then rolled up into one package, streamlined, and then given some of the characteristics of an MMO (I thought about putting in the dictionary definition of destiny here instead, but decided that would be too obvious). The physics of the movement is very Halo-esque, giving the player a sensation of great power and fluidity, while eschewing the frantic pacing of titles like Call of Duty or Titanfall. Meanwhile the gunplay is heavily influenced by Borderlands. The aesthetics and setting have Star Wars influences written all over along them (imagine that the Deathstar was sentient, good, and didn’t blow up planets and you basically have the premise for Destiny). Finally, the story is a mix of Rendezvous with Rama and Childhood’s End both of which were written by Arthur C. Clarke. And here is the thing: All of those disparate elements come together feeling new and fresh, which is a real achievement! I walked away from my weekend with Destiny having enjoyed myself and feeling optimistic about the game’s future. However, I don’t think it is enough to tell you that I had this positive reaction to Destiny, instead I’m going to attempt to explain why. One of the main attractions of Destiny is how it empowers players. It goes about this in a variety of ways, but first and foremost, it conveys power through movement and terrain traversal. As usual for an FPS, players can toggle between normal running and sprinting, the pace of which is not frenetically fast, but instead instils a feeling of accuracy and control. It is a small touch, but it works. Jumping represents a major contributor to the empowerment of movement in Destiny. At first it seems like a more toned-down version of Halo’s high, floaty jumps, but upon reaching level three or four, players unlock the double jump and it changes everything. In my mind, Titanfall was the first FPS that truly embraced the notion of verticality and freedom of movement. I played Titanfall and felt like I was seeing what the new trend in multiplayer would be; Bungie, much like Respawn, realized that it needed to get away from the landlocked mentality of last-gen’s shooters. I won’t say that Bungie looked at Titanfall and tried to emulate it; Destiny has clearly been in development for years, too long to make such a fundamental change to its entire structure and gameplay dynamics. Destiny and Titanfall both happened to hit on the idea that giving players more options in how they move makes the game a great deal more fun and allows for a more flowing feel to the entire affair. Oh, and the speeder bikes that you can summon almost anywhere control very well and lend the maps a sense of scope while finally allowing you to see what it would be like to ride one of the speeders from Return of the Jedi. Those are pretty sweet. Beyond movement, Destiny takes a running leap (har har) right out of the gate in regards to progression. Completing missions and killing enemies grants experience that adds up over time to level characters. Over the course of the first few missions players level up frequently, about a level per story mission, and find new equipment everywhere. Each level rewards players with a new ability, a variation of one of their existing abilities, an upgrade for core power, or a boost to base stats. New equipment comes in the familiar rarity color coding made omnipresent by Diablo (now go ahead and tell me that Diablo wasn’t the first game to start this sort of color scheme, Diablo was the first I could recall), though the best equipment typically drops in the form of schematics that must be decoded. Uncommon or rare weapons also gain experience the more they are used and can be upgraded once they’ve been used enough in battle. All of this comes together to give players a real sense of escalating power. Now, I can’t speak as to how this will continue on in the full version of Destiny, since the beta caps progress at level 8, but I’d imagine that, similar to other MMOs, the pace of power growth will slow dramatically during the mid to late game compared to the early sections. And make no mistake, Destiny is an MMO despite the marketing of it as being a “shared world.” Destiny takes many design decisions found in a typical MMO and applies them to a first-person shooter in a remarkably deft manner. The elements are there, from random events, to raids (called Strikes), to sidequests that branch off from the main story missions, to seeing the numbers indicating damage dealt pop up with ever successful shot to an enemy. At any given time I could see three or four other Guardians pursuing side missions or participating in random events, but social interaction never felt forced on me or like it took me out of the experience. The strange part is that this all comes together very well. I have my gripes with the Borderlands series, but being able to team up with friends and shoot your way through a campaign was undeniably fun. Destiny captures the essence of that co-op experience and applies it on a wider scale. In fact, the gameplay really does remind me of Borderlands, albeit with more mobility, except that Destiny manages to both make the gameplay its own and appropriately tone the entire affair. That tone is what will make Destiny such a success. Undoubtedly many kids under the age of 17 got their hands on the M rated Borderlands and Borderlands 2, but think of how many more copies Borderlands would have been able to sell with a T rating from the ESRB. On June 26 the ESRB announced that Destiny will be rated T, which widens the audience quite a bit. Combine that with the Star Wars vibe that the title exudes, the sweeping scope, the gameplay which can be enjoyed with friends, and the lack of a subscription fee (ignoring, for a second, PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live), and to me that seems like something that will be astronomically big. It will be innocuous enough to get by most parents while still appealing to the youth demographic and it will be interesting and edgy enough to pull in the older crowds. Now, from all those glowing statements about what Destiny does right, you might be thinking that this is the most perfect game to have ever existed or that I am a goon paid for by Bungie. Neither of those assumptions are correct for there are a number of areas in Destiny that fell short. Many people have pointed to Peter Dinklage’s voice acting performance as something that detracts significantly from their experience. I would never presume to try and invalidate the feelings that other people have, because gut reactions to things can never be “wrong” in any quantitative sense. However, I do think that this is a case of people signaling out a surface-level, lackluster element and pinning their frustrations on it. While Peter Dinklage at times certainly gives a phoned-in performance* (which could very well detract from some players in-game experience, it just didn’t significantly alter my own), the main problem with Destiny isn’t that the performances aren’t as nuanced and deep as they could be; the main problem is that Destiny’s narrative doesn’t know how to begin its story. I don’t want to be overly critical here because Destiny is still months from release and could very well have some of the beginning story elements locked away. However, the product on display in the beta is clunky. It is never sure of how much or when it should dole out information. My character awakens to the line, “you’ve been dead for a long time,” and immediately, without any questions asked, the game placed me into the action. Now, this is a good way to grab a player’s attention, but it comes with a number of questions that demand answers after that action is concluded. Those answers never came. I was whisked away to the last human city, Tower, where I was given general background information about the state of the world and my character’s place in it, but those don’t satisfactorily answer why or how my character was brought back from the dead. There are lots of logic things that can be overlooked in the name of drama, but it was really irritating to me to hear my character speak and somehow fail to ask how he was brought back from the dead. That’s kind of a big deal. If technology is advanced enough to bring people back from the dead after “a long time” how is humanity in bad shape? This serves as a great example of one of my biggest complaints regarding Destiny, because there are numerous times when important details about the world seemed to go unexplained or ignored. Players are simply told to accept the quirks of the various races and events in Destiny’s story without enough context to make sense of it all. The previous paragraph was a minor complaint. That might seem odd, but the story of Destiny is such a secondary (possibly tertiary) concern that it won’t be something that affects most players experience with the game, because the refinement of Destiny’s gameplay trumps most of the minor quibbles it has, story or otherwise. One of those nitpicks goes to the AI, which seem to encounter invisible walls from time to time that can be used to pick off enemies or manipulate them into doing stupid things like running out of cover for no reason. Melee enemies in particular seem to be hit on the head with dumb. Jumping to a high elevation causes them to mill around helplessly like lost puppies. If I had to pick one more smallish complaint, it would be that the sidequests scattered throughout the exploration mode are largely uninteresting and seem to exist mostly out of obligation. Despite the annoyances and the narrative concerns, the heart of the matter is that Destiny is fun. The diversity of inspirations works to make the journey through a devastated Earth and beyond seem new instead of rehashed. It is visually exciting and delivers moments of tense action, comradery, and a sense of adventure. All other concerns aside, the bottom line is that Destiny is such an enjoyable experience that trumps almost any other criticism you could level at it. Destiny releases September 9 for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. * Regarding Peter Dinklage: Here’s the thing, folks, Peter Dinklage is a very talented actor. He has a real flair for the dramatic and is capable of turning an audience to putty in his hands through his tone of voice. While it is true that the end result of his voice acting in Destiny sounds less than stellar, we don’t know why he sounds that way. Making a video game is a highly collaborative process. It could be that he found the lines too ridiculous to say seriously; it could be that he just didn’t care; it could be that Dinklage acts best when physically present on a set (to my knowledge, he has only ever done voice work for one other property and that was for Ice Age: Continental Drift in 2012); but it could also be that the people directing him didn’t know how to get what they wanted or they made the call that what they recorded was an acceptable final product. It is important to remember that Peter Dinklage doesn’t have the final say on what goes into Destiny and that others are making the call that those lines were read appropriately. Finally, in Destiny, Dinklage voices a robot and, to me, he sounds very robot-like and detached in-game, which could contribute to why some of his lines sound so lifeless. He’s undeniably a great actor, capable of compelling work (Here is a brilliant scene from Game of Thrones Season 4, spoiler warning and all that), but for that talent to shine it require people in a number of other capacities to recognize what the game needs and bring it out of Dinklage.
  8. Following Microsoft’s press conference earlier today, Sony had to be on its game. Microsoft showed a fair number of titles with first access DLC for Xbox owners and a couple highly polished an interesting exclusives (here’s lookin’ at you, Sunset Overdrive and Scalebound). Sony seems to have given a suitably escalated response. Sony began by showing a story-teasing, action packed trailer (narrated by Peter Dinklage!) and announcing that PS4 owners would have access to a special first-look alpha of the game beginning this Thursday and continuing through Sunday. It was also revealed that PlayStation owners would receive an exclusive strike mission (the Destiny equivalent of dungeon raids) for Destiny. July 17 marks when Destiny enters open beta. Furthermore, when Destiny releases on September 9, there will also be a bundle with a white PlayStation 4. The Order: 1886 also made an obligatory appearance with a brief segment showing off some atmospheric gameplay. It is worth noting that the trailer below was edited together and, while made up of the gameplay that I saw live, doesn’t quite capture the same intensity or urgency that the gameplay segment demonstrated. After The Order, Sony decided to introduce Entwined. Players control a bird and a fish that fall in love and over try to guide them through several lifetimes to be together. Yes, the concept is weird. On the other hand, the game is a joy to look at and the music relaxing and beautiful. Each creature is assigned a different joystick, meaning that you control both of them simultaneously. The best part about this announcement (I mean, besides that it exists) is that it is available today on PSN for a reasonable $9.99. If you thought that Sucker Punch and Sony had abandoned Second Son, think again! Entwined lead into the reveal of Second Son DLC titled First Light. Players take on the role of fan favorite character Fetch Walker as she deals with the demons of her past. First Light is slated for release sometime in August 2014. LittleBigPlanet 3 debuted with a live gameplay demonstration and trailer. The game introduces new characters as well as co-op gameplay. Sackboy is joined by the dog-like Oddsock who has the ability to wall jump; Toggle a blobby character who can grow and shrink at will; and Swoop who can fly around at will. LittleBigPlanet 3 is coming to PS4 this November. Additionally, you’ll be able to go online and play any level made in LittleBigPlanet 3. Sony had pulled out the big guns with the reveal of LittleBigPlanet 3, and like a comical scene in a sweeping action film they continued to pull out more big guns. It turns out those images and five second video clips that have been popping up and been attributed to a From Software game under the working title of Project Beast were genuine. Bloodborne appears to be a grim action game that makes use of Dark Souls imagery while making use of a slightly different premise. Count me in as excited for this PlayStation exclusive coming 2015. This might get a bit lengthy if I go too in-depth with what happened during the conference, so I am going to shotgun a number of highlights at you: Far Cry 4 was demonstrated live (and has co-op). Dead Island 2 is coming out and one of the characters is voiced by Jack Black. There will be a Last of Us Remastered/Diablo 3 crossover mission that involves taking out infected zombies in Diablo 3. Battlefield Hardline had a trailer (plus the beta, which is available right now for PS4 players). Paradox Interactive has all of its development studios working on exclusive PlayStation titles; the first of which is Magicka 2. With a great live-action trailer and a tagline like “Learn to spell… again” how can you not smile and feel a twinge of anticipation? Double Fine is partnering with Sony to remaster the beloved adventure game Grim Fandango. *JOY SPASMS* Devolver Digital, the publisher behind Hotline Miami, is bringing a load of games to PlayStation consoles first, before they make their way elsewhere. This includes Broforce, Titan Souls, Not A Hero, Hotline Miami Wrong Number, and The Talos Principle. Sound like a lot or never heard of the before? Check out this neat little trailer thing that does your research for you! Then we arrived at the point during the conference where Sony uttered the words Suda 51. The ever unpredictable designer is in the process of crafting a game titled Let It Die, which received a trailer that is probably too graphic to embed directly into this post. Check it out here if you are interested. Suffice it to say that Suda 51 is either a genius or insane. I’m leaning more towards insane, but possibly in a good way? Regardless, Let It Die comes out in 2015. Remember how great Journey was? If you don’t it was fan-flippin’-tastic. One of the artists on that thatgamecompany’s last title spun off his own studio, dubbed it Giant Squid and began working on a mysterious new title called Abzû. Much like Journey, Abzû’s soundtrack has been composed by Austin Wintory. Unlike Journey, Abzû appears to take place completely under water with a diver exploring the unknown depths and interacting with the various denizens of the watery deep. Immediately following Abzû was a trailer that showcased the progress of the highly anticipated No Man’s Sky. I can’t really put into words how excited I am to one day get my hands on No Man’s Sky, but… ugh. It really seems to be doing something different and doing that different thing WELL. Also, I think I just salivated at the thought of playing this game with a VR headset. Sony decided that we needed a bit of a break from new announcements and spent a few minutes reassuring everyone that their virtual reality peripheral Project Morpheus is still a thing and it will have demos n’ stuff. An integrated YouTube app will be making its way to PS4 later this year. This will facilitate the watching of cat videos as well as uploading shared gameplay videos online with friends, family, and strangers. The game streaming service PlayStation Now will enter open beta on July 31 for PlayStation 4 and shortly after available for PS3 and PSVita. As an almost casual aside, it was mentioned that PlayStation Now will also be available on select Sony televisions. All you need is a DualShock 4 controller to play on qualifying television sets. PlayStation TV will be coming to North America. The PlayStation TV is essentially a streaming box that allows the PlayStation 4 to be played on other televisions in the house, can stream PlayStation Vita games to be played on your TV, and allows anyone to access PlayStation Now without the hefty investment costs of a fully-fledged console. PlayStation TV will retail at $100 for the base box and at $139 for a bundle that includes the box, a controller, 8GB of memory, and a digital voucher for a copy of The Lego Movie Game. Oh, and it can stream other services like Netflix, too. In a new push to create more PlayStation exclusives, Sony announced that there will be an PlayStation original series, the first of which is a two run series based on the graphic novel, Powers. The first episode will be available for free. All PlayStation Plus subscribers will be able to view the entire Powers series free of charge. Not being super familiar with the graphic novel, for how it was described made it sound like a police procedural, if those police lived in a world where super-powers existed and there was a specialized police department for super-powered murder cases. That sounds pretty dang cool to me. Then Sony revealed that there is a Ratchet and Clank movie in the works for next year. Sony followed the Ratchet and Clank movie announcement with a drastic tonal shift to The Last of Us Remastered. Now, I’m not going to lie, I couldn’t really tell the difference between the trailer they showed for the enhanced PS4 version over PS3 version, but maybe that’s because my eyes aren’t discerning enough. However, as base and classless as my eyes may be, they couldn’t help getting excited for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. A new trailer was shown that was edited together by Kojima himself. In it we watch Big Boss mourn with urns, grow a ponytail, and be a bit more hardcore than the Solid Snake we’re all accustomed to seeing. I’m relishing the prospect of jumping into whatever craziness Kojima has concocted for The Phantom Pain, because good or bad, it is going to be a ride. Grand Theft Auto V was announced to be coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox one, and PC this fall (though at the press conference they conveniently left out the part about releasing on Xbox One and PC). Players looking to upgrade to a different version will be granted data transfers from whatever system they chose previously to the newer one of their choosing. Sony then revealed a new gameplay segment from Batman: Arkham Knight and, this is coming from someone who hasn’t played previous Arkham games and who is a professional critic, it looks amaze-tastical. I gotta hand it to Sony, they ended this conference incredibly strong. After so many great games debuted or showed impeccable polish, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End tipped the scales in Sony’s favor. Overall I was really impressed by what Sony brought to the table this E3. Maybe that’s partly because I was going in not expecting much besides a victory lap for The Last of Us, a few indies, and a possible Uncharted announcement. What Sony gave was so much more. They announced indie title after indie title, big game that people care about after big game that people care about, and while they kept non-gaming talk low, they hit all the bullet points they needed to and then got back on track with more game reveals and teases. What did you think of the conference? Good? Adequate? Meh?
  9. Another Friday, another fifty dollars. The first time Ron Carpenter received the generous donation to his PayPal account, he figured it was just a courteous one-time gift from a viewer of his YouTube channel, Cobra TV. Then week after week, the same donation continued to pop up in his account. Another Friday, another fifty dollars. Carpenter – like most YouTube personalities – started his channel on a whim, without much of a plan or very high expectations. Wearing a mask to retain anonymity, he ranted about games in stream of consciousness videos on a crude, but functional, webcam set-up. “I was depressed, and I was making videos,” he tells me over Skype. Those early videos featured Carpenter farting and making crude, offensive jokes about games. He doesn’t harbor much pride for those early days. As he recalls, “I guess you could say I was a troll back then.” Soon after, he discovered No Man’s Sky, a game that at that point remained a mysteriously intriguing space exploration title from an inconspicuous independent developer. Hello Games had made a splash at the 2013 VGX awards when it released a trailer for its procedurally generated space exploration game. Like many people in the games industry, Carpenter took notice right away. The budding influencer’s curiosity piqued further when Hello Games director Sean Murray came onto Sony’s E3 stage in 2014 to show more of No Man’s Sky in a demo that has since become infamous. Carpenter watched as Sean Murray explored a planet full of dinosaurs and other creatures, hopped into his spaceship, launched through the atmosphere, and immediately started dogfighting in outer space. “It blew my mind away,” says Carpenter of the stage demo, which would prove to be a slight exaggeration of what the final product turned out to be. Misrepresentation or not, the demo was enough to hook Carpenter. “After that,” he says, “I searched for anything I could find on the internet about this game. I didn’t even know what Reddit was at the time. I started taking down notes just because I wanted to learn more.” His excitement for the game fueled his content from that point on; a commitment that proved infectious. Carpenter doesn’t look back fondly on his early videos covering the game. “My first No Man’s Sky video, I’m sitting there in a mask and burping and farting through the thing,” he recalls, “when I realized I had such a passion for this game, those videos just seemed really disrespectful.” It might be strange for current followers to hear that Carpenter’s early videos contained such vulgarity, when he’s built a reputation for objectivity and candor. But regardless of quality, he eventually realized he wasn’t alone in his passion for the game. His viewership and subscription numbers began to reflect that fact. “People were taking me seriously finally. So I thought, ‘they deserve respect and I need to be better.’” As his audience grew, he began to accept donations through PayPal, to help improve the overall quality. He earned just enough to buy a new computer, webcam, and microphone. As his channel found an audience, Carpenter’s Cobra TV became a prominent outlet in the burgeoning No Man’s Sky community. He began to see his videos pop up on Reddit and in Facebook fan groups for the game. In hopes of cultivating and providing a voice for that community, he soon began inviting fellow fans onto his shows to pontificate about the seemingly infinite possibilities of Hello Games’ universe. As such, he became the sort of de-facto leader of the word-of-mouth hype surrounding the game prior to launch. Carpenter had become the pope to god, Sean Murray – preaching to the flock for an increasingly capricious deity. Hyping No Man’s Sky had itself become a popular pastime on the internet, and a burgeoning cottage industry for content creators like Carpenter. While the information that Hello Games released to the public was vague at best, Carpenter found himself filling a need. As he explains, his motivation had less to do with exploiting the game as it did with satiating his own desire to learn more about this mysterious universe. He tells me that what captivated him most about No Man’s Sky was the sheer creativity of it all. “It was the overreaching of the entire game as a package. I say overreaching now, not because of what happened, but because that’s what I wanted to find,” says Carpenter, alluding to the underwhelming state of the final product, “I wanted to find a game where the developers did overreach. They went out of the box and pulled out what was normal. They pulled out something special, put it into the limelight and tried to do something that nobody else has done. That’s what drew me in. The fact that somebody for the first time in a long time, was overreaching.” As a kid, growing up in the marshlands of Florida, some of Carpenter’s most vivid memories are of long walks in the woods near his childhood home. As a child, he would join his father on exploratory walks through the swamps, with little intention other than to observe nature. “I would just look and see, and I was so amazed,” recalls Carpenter. These trips consisted of no hunting, no taking pictures, but just being in the moment and seeing what there was to see; an activity that would sound more than a little familiar to any diehard No Man’s Sky devotee. Later in life, he would take his dog Jasper, a mix of pit bull and German shepherd for long walks through those same marshes. Once in awhile, when Jasper began to snarl and sneer at the water, Carpenter says, “a gator would come out and my dog would sit there, run away a little bit and just bark and bark.” He recalls with a nostalgic chuckle, “I would stand on the top of the hill and yell at [the gator] to get back in the water.” For those anticipating the game, the potential in No Man’s Sky wrested on the promise of finding metaphorical gators in that digital universe’s water; the potential of encountering epic space battles, long-necked dinosaurs, and giant sandworms. Even now, months after launch, and with the release of the Foundation update – a long-awaited content dump of new modes and gameplay tweaks – a common refrain can still be heard around the community: But where’s the giant sandworm? For fans and detractors, so much of what makes No Man’s Sky’s story intriguing, even months after a failed launch, is best exemplified by that one question: But where’s the giant sandworm? Promotional materials and early footage showed a giant sandworm. Common sentiment among the community is that it must be in there somewhere. This is a near-infinite universe full of eighteen quintillion planet-sized planets, after all. Due to the sheer size of this world, it’s quite possible that simply nobody has found it yet. Not for lack of trying; Reddit and dedicated Facebook groups are full of fans posting videos and screenshots of worm-like creatures that could be long-removed cousins to something that might vaguely resemble a giant sandworm. However, not one player has recorded an instance of encountering such an animal. It’s much more likely that the beast just doesn’t exist. But it’s also possible (if infinitesimally so) that it does. And that’s all that matters for some fans. No Man’s Sky fandom is a strange place. Prior to release, fans of the game scoured the internet for any information they could find on Sean Murray’s creation, including Cobra TV videos. They created fan art, bought t-shirts, took to reading old science fiction novels (the Asimovs and Clarks that Murray likes to name-check in interviews), and even made fan videos thanking Hello Games for its time and effort in creating this procedural universe that none of them had yet experienced. On August 9th, 2016, the game released and that fandom grew even stranger. When No Man’s Sky failed to live up to expectations, the community split into two camps: those shouting “Sean Murray is a liar,” and those defending the developer even as they acknowledged the product’s imperfections. The angry voices rang the loudest though, and hating on No Man’s Sky soon became just as sporting as anticipating No Man’s Sky had been just weeks earlier. Here’s where this story gets weirder for me, as the author. I’m going to break a cardinal rule and insert myself into it a bit. I was one of those people who hyped No Man’s Sky far more than it may have deserved. I was one of the people playing gameplay trailers for family and friends, evangelizing the gospel of Sean Murray. I was one of the people that considered themselves a fan of a game that I hadn’t even played yet. Heck, I even found myself re-reading Frank Herbert’s Dune in the weeks before the game’s launch, because, well… giant sandworms! Prior to release, many people would say that anticipating No Man’s Sky was already fun enough, that the game itself didn’t even need to be any good. They had already gotten their money’s worth. Oh… if only that were the case. As I began to research this story, I started to suspect that it was far beyond my scope of practice. I reached out to a few prominent individuals in the community, which soon became a depressing exercise in futility. One source, for example, would only speak to me off the record for fear of being ostracized for his criticisms of the game. Some other people who openly disliked the game declined to comment, and just quietly retreated from the imploding community. When the subreddit was abruptly deleted overnight on October 5th, I reached out to the moderator responsible only to find that he had deleted his own account, my only means of contacting him, due to the overwhelming backlash. That same subreddit, with over 150,000 members at the time, would soon be replaced with another dedicated page for the game, before finally being turned into a Mr. Robot subreddit as a sort of joke at the expense of Hello Games. Did I say this story was strange? I began to get the sense that I was working on uncovering some deep government conspiracy, when in reality, I was simply trying to talk to people about a video game. Even the game’s developers seemed to be susceptible to the drama. After having been silent on Twitter for months, the Hello Games official Twitter account tweeted out that “No Man’s Sky was a mistake.” It would turn out to be the work of a hacker, but it only further demonstrated just how divisive this game had become. Having started my research in October, I began to wonder if I should ever write this article at all, for fear that this story – like the game’s universe – was never ending. And it most certainly isn’t over yet. Hello Games recently released the Foundation Update, which adds base building, freighters, survival mode, creative mode, an online message system, and more. The game finally resembles what it probably should have been from the start, save for a few major features including full online support, factions, and, as far as anyone can tell, giant sandworms. Despite selling millions of copies at launch, No Man’s Sky’s player numbers had since dwindled to the hundreds. Those numbers have seen a minor surge with the update, and the game’s most ardent fans have seen their faith rekindled and rewarded, but it’s still not the smash hit that so many people expected it to be. Those same fans never stopped watching Cobra TV and talking about the game, even if they stopped actually playing the game. Carpenter remains a spokesman for that community, despite never really aspiring to that label. With his smooth baritone and casual dialect, he has a voice for radio, something he’s aspired to since his youth. Although he never wanted to just be known as the guy that talks about No Man’s Sky, he appreciates the experience the game has afforded him. He just wanted to talk about fascinating games, but for Carpenter and his followers, the most fascinating game remains the one that earned him all this recognition in the first place. Another Friday, another fifty dollars. During Hello Games’ self-imposed sabbatical, many people wondered how Carpenter could continue making videos about a game while the developers themselves remained silent. But those same people were still watching. Just as 130,000 people re-subscribed to the new No Man’s Sky Reddit during that time, Carpenter’s viewers kept coming back. “Lots of people on my YouTube channel comment saying, ‘I feel sorry for this mother f___er for wasting his life talking about this game. He’ll never get these years back,’” reflects Carpenter. “I get comments like that all the time.” Another Friday, another fifty dollars. Carpenter had no intentions of accepting this money week after week. So he decided to email the donor to inquire, thinking that maybe it was a mistake, or maybe a glitch with PayPal’s system. It wasn’t. The donor wrote him back to explain. “I received back, this email. [The email] said that one night he was sitting on his couch and he had a gun in his mouth, and he said that one of my No Man’s Sky playlists was playing on his computer,” Carpenter’s voice cracks ever so slightly over Skype. “He never told me what I said, but something that I said in one of my sub-casts, made him yank the gun out of his mouth and reevaluate his situation. He said fifty dollars is nothing compared to what I made him feel like his life was worth. He tried paying me that fifty dollars every week. Finally, I told him that if you continue to keep paying me fifty dollars I’m going to refund it to you every single time.” “That,” he says, “That’s made it worth it.” View full article
  10. Another Friday, another fifty dollars. The first time Ron Carpenter received the generous donation to his PayPal account, he figured it was just a courteous one-time gift from a viewer of his YouTube channel, Cobra TV. Then week after week, the same donation continued to pop up in his account. Another Friday, another fifty dollars. Carpenter – like most YouTube personalities – started his channel on a whim, without much of a plan or very high expectations. Wearing a mask to retain anonymity, he ranted about games in stream of consciousness videos on a crude, but functional, webcam set-up. “I was depressed, and I was making videos,” he tells me over Skype. Those early videos featured Carpenter farting and making crude, offensive jokes about games. He doesn’t harbor much pride for those early days. As he recalls, “I guess you could say I was a troll back then.” Soon after, he discovered No Man’s Sky, a game that at that point remained a mysteriously intriguing space exploration title from an inconspicuous independent developer. Hello Games had made a splash at the 2013 VGX awards when it released a trailer for its procedurally generated space exploration game. Like many people in the games industry, Carpenter took notice right away. The budding influencer’s curiosity piqued further when Hello Games director Sean Murray came onto Sony’s E3 stage in 2014 to show more of No Man’s Sky in a demo that has since become infamous. Carpenter watched as Sean Murray explored a planet full of dinosaurs and other creatures, hopped into his spaceship, launched through the atmosphere, and immediately started dogfighting in outer space. “It blew my mind away,” says Carpenter of the stage demo, which would prove to be a slight exaggeration of what the final product turned out to be. Misrepresentation or not, the demo was enough to hook Carpenter. “After that,” he says, “I searched for anything I could find on the internet about this game. I didn’t even know what Reddit was at the time. I started taking down notes just because I wanted to learn more.” His excitement for the game fueled his content from that point on; a commitment that proved infectious. Carpenter doesn’t look back fondly on his early videos covering the game. “My first No Man’s Sky video, I’m sitting there in a mask and burping and farting through the thing,” he recalls, “when I realized I had such a passion for this game, those videos just seemed really disrespectful.” It might be strange for current followers to hear that Carpenter’s early videos contained such vulgarity, when he’s built a reputation for objectivity and candor. But regardless of quality, he eventually realized he wasn’t alone in his passion for the game. His viewership and subscription numbers began to reflect that fact. “People were taking me seriously finally. So I thought, ‘they deserve respect and I need to be better.’” As his audience grew, he began to accept donations through PayPal, to help improve the overall quality. He earned just enough to buy a new computer, webcam, and microphone. As his channel found an audience, Carpenter’s Cobra TV became a prominent outlet in the burgeoning No Man’s Sky community. He began to see his videos pop up on Reddit and in Facebook fan groups for the game. In hopes of cultivating and providing a voice for that community, he soon began inviting fellow fans onto his shows to pontificate about the seemingly infinite possibilities of Hello Games’ universe. As such, he became the sort of de-facto leader of the word-of-mouth hype surrounding the game prior to launch. Carpenter had become the pope to god, Sean Murray – preaching to the flock for an increasingly capricious deity. Hyping No Man’s Sky had itself become a popular pastime on the internet, and a burgeoning cottage industry for content creators like Carpenter. While the information that Hello Games released to the public was vague at best, Carpenter found himself filling a need. As he explains, his motivation had less to do with exploiting the game as it did with satiating his own desire to learn more about this mysterious universe. He tells me that what captivated him most about No Man’s Sky was the sheer creativity of it all. “It was the overreaching of the entire game as a package. I say overreaching now, not because of what happened, but because that’s what I wanted to find,” says Carpenter, alluding to the underwhelming state of the final product, “I wanted to find a game where the developers did overreach. They went out of the box and pulled out what was normal. They pulled out something special, put it into the limelight and tried to do something that nobody else has done. That’s what drew me in. The fact that somebody for the first time in a long time, was overreaching.” As a kid, growing up in the marshlands of Florida, some of Carpenter’s most vivid memories are of long walks in the woods near his childhood home. As a child, he would join his father on exploratory walks through the swamps, with little intention other than to observe nature. “I would just look and see, and I was so amazed,” recalls Carpenter. These trips consisted of no hunting, no taking pictures, but just being in the moment and seeing what there was to see; an activity that would sound more than a little familiar to any diehard No Man’s Sky devotee. Later in life, he would take his dog Jasper, a mix of pit bull and German shepherd for long walks through those same marshes. Once in awhile, when Jasper began to snarl and sneer at the water, Carpenter says, “a gator would come out and my dog would sit there, run away a little bit and just bark and bark.” He recalls with a nostalgic chuckle, “I would stand on the top of the hill and yell at [the gator] to get back in the water.” For those anticipating the game, the potential in No Man’s Sky wrested on the promise of finding metaphorical gators in that digital universe’s water; the potential of encountering epic space battles, long-necked dinosaurs, and giant sandworms. Even now, months after launch, and with the release of the Foundation update – a long-awaited content dump of new modes and gameplay tweaks – a common refrain can still be heard around the community: But where’s the giant sandworm? For fans and detractors, so much of what makes No Man’s Sky’s story intriguing, even months after a failed launch, is best exemplified by that one question: But where’s the giant sandworm? Promotional materials and early footage showed a giant sandworm. Common sentiment among the community is that it must be in there somewhere. This is a near-infinite universe full of eighteen quintillion planet-sized planets, after all. Due to the sheer size of this world, it’s quite possible that simply nobody has found it yet. Not for lack of trying; Reddit and dedicated Facebook groups are full of fans posting videos and screenshots of worm-like creatures that could be long-removed cousins to something that might vaguely resemble a giant sandworm. However, not one player has recorded an instance of encountering such an animal. It’s much more likely that the beast just doesn’t exist. But it’s also possible (if infinitesimally so) that it does. And that’s all that matters for some fans. No Man’s Sky fandom is a strange place. Prior to release, fans of the game scoured the internet for any information they could find on Sean Murray’s creation, including Cobra TV videos. They created fan art, bought t-shirts, took to reading old science fiction novels (the Asimovs and Clarks that Murray likes to name-check in interviews), and even made fan videos thanking Hello Games for its time and effort in creating this procedural universe that none of them had yet experienced. On August 9th, 2016, the game released and that fandom grew even stranger. When No Man’s Sky failed to live up to expectations, the community split into two camps: those shouting “Sean Murray is a liar,” and those defending the developer even as they acknowledged the product’s imperfections. The angry voices rang the loudest though, and hating on No Man’s Sky soon became just as sporting as anticipating No Man’s Sky had been just weeks earlier. Here’s where this story gets weirder for me, as the author. I’m going to break a cardinal rule and insert myself into it a bit. I was one of those people who hyped No Man’s Sky far more than it may have deserved. I was one of the people playing gameplay trailers for family and friends, evangelizing the gospel of Sean Murray. I was one of the people that considered themselves a fan of a game that I hadn’t even played yet. Heck, I even found myself re-reading Frank Herbert’s Dune in the weeks before the game’s launch, because, well… giant sandworms! Prior to release, many people would say that anticipating No Man’s Sky was already fun enough, that the game itself didn’t even need to be any good. They had already gotten their money’s worth. Oh… if only that were the case. As I began to research this story, I started to suspect that it was far beyond my scope of practice. I reached out to a few prominent individuals in the community, which soon became a depressing exercise in futility. One source, for example, would only speak to me off the record for fear of being ostracized for his criticisms of the game. Some other people who openly disliked the game declined to comment, and just quietly retreated from the imploding community. When the subreddit was abruptly deleted overnight on October 5th, I reached out to the moderator responsible only to find that he had deleted his own account, my only means of contacting him, due to the overwhelming backlash. That same subreddit, with over 150,000 members at the time, would soon be replaced with another dedicated page for the game, before finally being turned into a Mr. Robot subreddit as a sort of joke at the expense of Hello Games. Did I say this story was strange? I began to get the sense that I was working on uncovering some deep government conspiracy, when in reality, I was simply trying to talk to people about a video game. Even the game’s developers seemed to be susceptible to the drama. After having been silent on Twitter for months, the Hello Games official Twitter account tweeted out that “No Man’s Sky was a mistake.” It would turn out to be the work of a hacker, but it only further demonstrated just how divisive this game had become. Having started my research in October, I began to wonder if I should ever write this article at all, for fear that this story – like the game’s universe – was never ending. And it most certainly isn’t over yet. Hello Games recently released the Foundation Update, which adds base building, freighters, survival mode, creative mode, an online message system, and more. The game finally resembles what it probably should have been from the start, save for a few major features including full online support, factions, and, as far as anyone can tell, giant sandworms. Despite selling millions of copies at launch, No Man’s Sky’s player numbers had since dwindled to the hundreds. Those numbers have seen a minor surge with the update, and the game’s most ardent fans have seen their faith rekindled and rewarded, but it’s still not the smash hit that so many people expected it to be. Those same fans never stopped watching Cobra TV and talking about the game, even if they stopped actually playing the game. Carpenter remains a spokesman for that community, despite never really aspiring to that label. With his smooth baritone and casual dialect, he has a voice for radio, something he’s aspired to since his youth. Although he never wanted to just be known as the guy that talks about No Man’s Sky, he appreciates the experience the game has afforded him. He just wanted to talk about fascinating games, but for Carpenter and his followers, the most fascinating game remains the one that earned him all this recognition in the first place. Another Friday, another fifty dollars. During Hello Games’ self-imposed sabbatical, many people wondered how Carpenter could continue making videos about a game while the developers themselves remained silent. But those same people were still watching. Just as 130,000 people re-subscribed to the new No Man’s Sky Reddit during that time, Carpenter’s viewers kept coming back. “Lots of people on my YouTube channel comment saying, ‘I feel sorry for this mother f___er for wasting his life talking about this game. He’ll never get these years back,’” reflects Carpenter. “I get comments like that all the time.” Another Friday, another fifty dollars. Carpenter had no intentions of accepting this money week after week. So he decided to email the donor to inquire, thinking that maybe it was a mistake, or maybe a glitch with PayPal’s system. It wasn’t. The donor wrote him back to explain. “I received back, this email. [The email] said that one night he was sitting on his couch and he had a gun in his mouth, and he said that one of my No Man’s Sky playlists was playing on his computer,” Carpenter’s voice cracks ever so slightly over Skype. “He never told me what I said, but something that I said in one of my sub-casts, made him yank the gun out of his mouth and reevaluate his situation. He said fifty dollars is nothing compared to what I made him feel like his life was worth. He tried paying me that fifty dollars every week. Finally, I told him that if you continue to keep paying me fifty dollars I’m going to refund it to you every single time.” “That,” he says, “That’s made it worth it.”
  11. In the wake of building enthusiasm for the successfully kickstarted Oculus Rift, Sony chose GDC 2014 to reveal its own virtual reality headset for the PS4. Details about this new piece of technology are scarce, but what we do know is pretty interesting. The headset will function similarly to the Oculus Rift with a head-mounted display at 1080p resolution with a slightly smaller field of view at 90o instead of the Oculus' 100o. Both the Oculus Rift and Morpheus have numerous built-in accelerometers and gyroscopes to accurately track head movements and translate that into in-game camera moves. So far, the biggest difference between the two peripherals is that the Rift will use a built-in camera to track head orientation and movement, while Morpheus will be making use of the PlayStation camera. Shuhei Yoshida, the president of Sony Computer Entertainment, confirmed that the PlayStation camera will be a requirement for Morpheus to function properly. The trade-off for this is that Sony is planning to have Morpheus fully compatible with all PlayStation controllers, even the PS Move (remember that thing?). No price point or release date has been announced as Morpheus is still an early prototype. however, it is a functional prototype and it will be available for demoing at GDC and possibly other events throughout the year. With Oculus and Morpheus heading toward a clash in the untested waters of VR technology, this could be one of the most interesting business battles in the video game industry for quite some time. Is VR the future of video game technology or is it just another fad that will fade away like 3D?
  12. Sony has announced a new format of the Blu-ray disc, upping the storage capacity from 50 GB to 300 GB. Born out of a collaboration between Sony and Panasonic, the next generation of discs are expected to go into production and be available mid-2015. In addition, there are plans in place to improve the capacity of archival Blu-ray discs up to a full 1 TB of storage over the following years. The goal of this new disc format is to provide a data archive that will be compatible with different generations of technology. This will ensure that information will be readable even as storage capacity increases. Initially, this technology will be put to use in the film industry and in cloud storage centers that deal with large amounts of data storage. The impact this could have on the video game industry remains to be seen, especially given the expanding scope of digital distribution. What do you think of archival Blu-ray? Is it something that might alter the video game landscape? Or will it come after most gamers have made the leap to digital downloads?
  13. Announced via the PlayStation Blog, Naughty Dog has released the opening cinematic for the first and only bit of DLC for The Last of Us featuring the core game's protagonist Ellie and her childhood friend Riley. The DLC, titled Left Behind, is written by returning The Last of Us scribe Neil Druckmann and will star voice actress Ashley Johnson once again as Ellie and newcomer Yaani King as Riley. Left Behind will feature new ways to fight off and deal with enemies, most notably the ability to manipulate opposing factions into fighting each other, like unleashing infected clickers on unsuspecting enemy soldiers. Of course, the main highlight of the DLC will be the relationship between Ellie and Riley and how that transforms Ellie into the character players see in The Last of Us. Left Behind is expected to hit the PlayStation Store on February 14.
  14. Mojang, the developer behind Minecraft, posted to the PlayStation blog this morning that the popular PC, mobile, and Xbox 360 world building game will be coming to PlayStation 3 tomorrow. That Minecraft is coming to PS3 comes as little surprise in the wake of announcements to port the title to both Vita and PlayStation 4. Tomorrow, PlayStation gamers will be able to get their hands on the same version of the game that is currently available on other platforms. From now on, all future console editions of Minecraft will be developed together, presumably releasing at similar times. Downloadable skins and texture packs will be available on PSN shortly after the game's launch. Console exclusive content might be making an appearance in the near future as well. As always, when asked if the mythical Herobrine will appear in the latest iteration of Minecraft the answer was, "Probably not." Minecraft is an amazing game and one I personally love playing. This comes as welcome news for Sony gamers who have yet to experience the terror of the first night or the discovery of The End.
  15. I’ve had my PlayStation 4 for almost two weeks now, just enough time to sink my teeth into a few of the launch titles and get over the initial zealous excitement of opening a box of new hardware. Even after ruminating on the new machine for a while, I have to say that I am still very much impressed. Before I even get into the actual hardware and software, I want to give a thought or two on Sony’s marketing strategy. Sony did a great job of raising public awareness of its console, obviously learning a bit from Nintendo’s missteps with the Wii U. The Greatness Awaits and Perfect Day commercials performed their jobs admirably and rank among some of my favorite video game commercials (yes, I have a list). However, neither of their biggest commercials talk about one of the biggest selling points of Sony consoles: PlayStation Plus. While the service gives subscribers access to lower prices on PSN and allows online play on the PS4, it also gives subscribers free games every month and people still seem surprised when they find that out. Nestled in amongst the cellophane-wrapped goodies of a new PlayStation 4 is a small voucher that provides codes for $10 on the PSN store, a free 30-day trial of the Music Unlimited service, and a month of free PlayStation Plus. Not only did I pick up Knack and Killzone Shadow Fall with my console, I also received the fast-paced and addictive side-scrolling shooter Resogun and the indie platformer Contrast for free. Let me reiterate that: I got two games for free and yet that seems to be a secret. Sony, you’re doing something wrong if people don’t know they can get video games for free just by purchasing your console and using a code to get a brief PlayStation Plus membership. But I digress. The physical design of the machine is pleasing, with slightly slanted front and back sides giving an air of futuristic sophistication. If these things were white instead of black, they wouldn’t look out of place as a sci-fi gadget in the next J.J. Abrams Star Trek film. The only complaint I have is that the slants can make it unnecessarily difficult to plug and unplug wires from the back of the machine if you need to shuffle it around or have a limited supply of HDMI cables. On first booting up the console, expect to put in around 30-40 minutes of set-up time. This includes syncing up PSN accounts, downloading launch updates to access the PlayStation Network, setting system preferences, and downloading/installing new games. Once all of that is finished and the console reboots, the dashboard is opened up. One of the things that most impresses me about the PS4 is the fluidity of its menus, which are arranged into two rows. The primary row functions as the main menu with the most recently used games or apps placed farther left where they can be quickly accessed. Selecting a game or app from this list instantly launches it, while hovering on it for a second reveals drop down menus with more specific options. Meanwhile, the PSN store, friend lists, notifications, and messages are located in the secondary row. Players can freely flick between the two rows at any time, ridding gamers from the headache of shuffling through an ocean of icons. My biggest complaint with the user interface isn’t ever related to the PlayStation 4, it is with the online store Sony built for it. The PSN store menus are still a huge pain to navigate and I can only image they will get worse as more games, movies, and television shows are added. Unfortunately, that complaint also applies to many of the other apps available to PS4 users (with the notable exception of Netflix). That being said, once the device has been set-up and the menus successfully navigated, the console moves incredibly fast. Netflix opens and begins streaming a show or movie within 10 seconds. As you play, the PS4 constantly records your previous 15 minutes of gameplay. Pressing the share button on the PS4 controller brings up the option to edit a video clip from that footage and upload it online to share with friends. Uploading videos takes under 20 minutes with decent internet speeds. You can immediately suspend gameplay at any time to return to the menus to send friends messages or fiddle with settings. Once installed, games launch within a matter of seconds. The controller for the PlayStation 4 is arguably one of its best features and represents a drastic step forward from the previous incarnations of the DualShock. While it retains a design very similar to previous iterations, there are a number of small improvements that add up to a truly great controller. The material which covers the front is smooth, while the back plating is slightly textured to give it a bit more traction when gripped. Both of the analog sticks have ridges surrounding the edges to give thumbs more of a hold. The L2 and R2 triggers have a bit of an outward flair making them easier to press and providing a comfortable resting position for fingers. The touchpad in the center of the controller is perhaps the biggest addition and the source of my only complaint. The only game that has required me to use the touchpad has been Killzone Shadow Fall where it is used to give orders to a tactical drone. It feels awkward to quickly switch between joysticks and buttons to reach the touchpad with a thumb. Maybe I just have small hands or it was clumsily implemented in Shadow Fall, but whatever the reason I am not overly fond of the touch pad. The controller also includes a light on the back which changes colors depending on the in-game situation, but seems to serve no real purpose except looking cool and helping gamers to find their controllers in the dark. There is also a built in speaker which yells things at you during various in-game situations. Most often it will be too loud and jarring, so you will want to turn it down with the in-game options. The Share and the Options buttons have replaced the traditional Start and Select buttons. As previously discussed, the share button allows players to share a clip from their past 15 minutes of gameplay, but it also can take screenshots or initiate a livestream. The Options button pauses the game to bring up the in-game options, crazy, right? One of the most convenient aspects of the PS4 controller is that it allows users to plug their own headphones into the audio jack built into the bottom. You can then stream all of the audio to your headphones and not have to worry about disturbing sleeping housemates or neighbors. The controller also has a fairly decent rechargeable battery life and can be set to turn off after being left untouched for a set amount of time. Maybe it is the addition of the touchpad, light and speakers, but the PS4’s controller has a more agreeable heft to it than that of previous DualShock controllers. Overall, the controller just feels good to hold and play with, excepting the times when it shouts too loud or requires quick and awkward swipes on the touchpad. What good is a console without good games to play on it? While not nearly as lackluster as the 3DS or Wii U launch line-up, the PlayStation 4 library at this time isn’t terribly compelling. Outside of Shadow Fall, Knack, and Resogun nearly every game available on PS4 can also be played on other systems. I think Sony was hoping that Killzone would be a console-selling IP, but I don’t think it is a must have. The shooting is a bit loose, certain mechanics don’t live up to their full potential, and the story is fairly standard as far as sci-fi shooters go. Knack is a simplistic, yet fun and challenging brawler for a younger type of gamer that is certainly charming, but also not a system seller. Resogun is a great arcade game on par with Geometry Wars or a supercharged Space Invaders, but it isn’t going to convince people to buy PS4s. True, you can play Battlefield 4, Call of Duty: Ghosts, and Assassin’s Creed IV on the console, but you can play those on any other piece of last-gen tech. As it stands now, the library is a bit slim and could use an infusion of life. This is likely to come slowly over the course of next year as the industry shifts to the next-gen with the release of games like Infamous: Second Son and The Order: 1886 and the various console-exclusive indie games like Helldivers and Guns of Icarus Online (and maybe Rime, my most anticipated indie game at the moment?). Unfortunately if you are looking to pick up the console at this time you are looking at a hefty amount of cross-platform sports titles and FPS games, with exceptions for kid-friendly Knack or Lego Marvel Super Heroes (which won’t release until the 29th). From the physical design to the user interface, the overall impression of the PlayStation 4 is fantastic. It is a solid piece of hardware that possesses so many advantages over its predecessor that it is kind of silly. The ability to share gameplay clips, screen shots, or livestream on the fly is a very welcome addition to functionality and in all other respects the console seems built for the convenience of gamers. The biggest strike against the console is that there aren’t any truly amazing titles, but this is less of a problem because the hardware is so much better than what was available previously. I am honestly surprised at how tangible the improvements to the console feel beyond the expected visual upgrades. My recommendation: If you are the kind of person who loves to stay up to date with the latest gaming technology, the PlayStation 4 is an impressive piece of hardware and has some fun titles worth playing, just don’t expect any life-changing experiences from the games currently available. If you aren’t thrilled by FPS games, Assassin’s Creed, or sports titles, you might want to hold off on a PlayStation 4 until that must-have game drops or a price drop hits. Extra Lifers out there, what do you think of the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One? Are they worth buying right off the bat or are prospective customers better off waiting a while?
  16. People are busy and sometimes they just don’t have two hours to sit down and watch video game PR people talk about new releases and gizmos. Thankfully, you have us. Sony kicked off their press event by debuting the user interface of the PlayStation 4. The UI looked very similar to the PS3’s current mode of operation. Without some hands-on operation, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact differences. The addition Sony wanted to direct the majority of attention to was the ability to hop into live online games on the fly with friends. Sony’s president of worldwide studios, Shuhei Yoshida, demonstrated the speed of the new UI by jumping into the final minute of a Killzone: Shadow Fall multiplayer match. Following the user interface demonstration, the show’s main presenter, Jim Ryan, took the stage to show off a new trailer for Grand Turismo 6. Polyphony will be introducing the latest concept cars from various manufacturers that will only be appearing in GT6. The new Grand Turismo title will be dropping December 6. Ryan also announced that Polyphony is working with Sony Pictures to develop a feature film based on the Grand Turismo Academy from GT6. Next, Sony presented a new, free-to-play collection of creation tools and games in the form of LittleBigPlanet Hub. Players will have access to tons of free content and will be able to purchase other digital items and tools as they see fit. At Grand Theft Auto V’s launch on Sept 17, there will be a PS3 bundle available as well as an elite headset. Starting today, any gamer that pre-orders GTA V will receive 75% off other Rockstar games. Sony, proving that they firmly believe in the Vita’s future, announced several titles that are being ported to the handheld including: Batman: Arkham Origins, Lego Marvel, Football Manager Classic 2014, and Borderlands 2. They also announced that several major indie games would be making their way to the device such as Starbound, Fez, and Velocity 2X. These three titles will also be coming to PS4. The Vita will be receiving a price drop to $199 as well as significant reductions to memory card prices. Following these announcements, several new titles were announced for Vita. First, Ovosonico’s Murasaki Baby tasks players with leading a child safely through a nightmare fantasy world that looks like Tim Burton and the animators behind The Yellow Submarine got together. Using touch controls, players will quite literally take the child by the hand and lead them through the various dangers like nose monsters and thunderstorms. BigFest, a music management game, is another title coming to Vita. Tasking gamers with throwing the best music festival ever, players will design the festival and organize the music to be as successful as possible. In a unique twist, all of the music players can promote is written and performed by real, unsigned bands and Big Fest could actually influence their careers depending on how well you manage your festivals. The game also has co-op and competitive modes, but we aren’t sure yet how they function. In addition to these two new titles, the PC indie hit Rogue Legacy will make its way to PS4 and Vita next year along with Edmund McMillain’s The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth next spring. PlayStation Plus subscribers get The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth for free. N++ will make its debut on PS4 sometime soon. Exclusively on PS4 this winter, the creator of Thomas Was Alone, will be bringing his next game, Volume, to PS4 and Vita. Guns of Icarus Online is also coming to PS4 next year. Vlambeer, the developer behind Ridiculous Fishing, is bringing their self-described “Rogue-like-like” title Wasteland Kings to PS4 and Vita next year. Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number will be a console exclusive for the PS4 and Vita next year. Several new exclusive titles were announced for PlayStation 4. The Chinese Room’s mysterious Everybody’s Gone to The Rapture made its debut with a new trailer. Tequila Works’ Rime also surfaced, looking like Ico crossed with a Miyazaki film. Hell Divers, a new game from Arrowhead, is coming to PS4, PS3, and Vita. It appears to feature co-operative alien fighting gameplay mildly reminiscent of what the team achieved with Magicka. A reimagined version of an Amiga game of the same name, Shadow of the Beast, will be making its way to PS4. The Playroom, a suite of mini-games and interactive toys, will be pre-installed on every PS4. Playroom uses the DualShock 4 and PlayStation camera to provide party games and gimmicky fun. A new InFamous: Second Son trailer was shown, as well as new multiplayer footage of Killzone: Shadow Fall. In a bit of a surprise announcement, Twitch.tv will be coming to PS4, presumably in the form of an app similar to what you can find on the Xbox 360. However, it will probably not function as an alternative to the built-in Ustream in-game streaming. Music Unlimited will allow gamers to listen to music while playing games. And easily control their music selection with the DualShock 4 controller. European internet access can sometimes be insufficient to play online. However, Sony is partnering with some of Europe’s leading ISPs to offer broadband packages that give attractive bonuses for gamers. It is unknown if similar packages will be available in North American markets. Additional details on these offers will be coming in the near future. Ubisoft showed off the Vita’s remote gameplay capabilities with a PS4 copy of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. We are really hoping that remote play works as well as it appears on stage (something that has historically been spotty at best). A new Watch_Dogs trailer was shown and Ubisoft announced that a film based on Watch_Dogs is in the works. Unsurprisingly, Minecraft will be available on PS4 at launch, marking the moment when you will be able to play Minecraft on literally every single electronic device ever constructed. The final game announced was War Thunder from Gaijin (not to be confused with Gaijin Games). War Thunder is a free-to-play, next-gen, WWII combat MMO with literally hundreds of aircraft, ground vehicles, over 100,000 km2 of battle area, co-op modes, a mission editor, and five nations with unique weapons battling for world domination. The closing bullet points of Sony’s conference were more like bombshells. First, the 12GB PS3 price will be dropped to $199. Second, players who buy the PS3 versions of Battlefield 4, Assassin’s Creed IV, Call of Duty Ghosts, or Watch_Dogs will be able to buy their PS4 counterparts at “a significantly discounted price.” Third, players were reminded that all PS4 games playable via remote play on Vita. Finally, priced at $399, the PlayStation 4 will be launching in 32 countries and available in North America on November 15. If you are interested, you can view the official stream of the conference for yourself. What do you think about the PS4 and its launch line-up? Pre-ordering? No? Let us know what you think!
  17. While at E3, I had a chance to sit down with a few of the people from Gaijin Games, the developer behind the Bit.Trip series to talk with them about the challenges of porting Runner2 to Vita and what it is like to be an indie developer in this day and age. The three members of the team that I had the pleasure of talking with during the interview were Danny Johnson – Designer Extraordinaire, Dant Rambo – Associate Producer (with the coolest name ever), and Chris Meyer – 3D Artist and Dream Maker. (Note: Gaijin's official job titles probably do not include “extraordinaire,” “(with the coolest name ever),” or “dream maker,” but that doesn’t mean they don’t apply) --- Danny Johnson: With the Vita Version, we heard the feedback from a lot of fans that there was a desire to get the game on Vita. We’ve heard from other independent developers that their games had done really well on the Vita and stuff like that, so it was a market that we really wanted to go after. It is just that we hadn’t scheduled to do it at the beginning of the project, so we finished the main game up on consoles and then have been doing the Vita version amongst other things. So, basically what we have to show is Runner2. It’s all of Runner2. It’s, you know, the same game, but on handheld. We’ve retained everything from the console version, so I think that’s pretty impressive. Jack Gardner: So, you heard from other people that it would be good to have it on the Vita. What specifically makes Runner2 good to have on Vita? DJ: I think part of it is that we heard there was a bit of a different audience on Vita versus even on the PS3. People just, you know, want to play it [on the go] or just as their main device or they don’t like playing consoles, I don’t know. I think the big thing was that people wanted access to the game without having to sit at home, [laughs] which, you know, is understandable these days. Dant Rambo: I guess I’d also add that it is cool to be a part of the big indie push on Vita, which is nuts. Chris Meyer: Sony in general, not just Vita, is really embracing the indies. JG: Did Sony approach you guys about putting it on the Vita? DJ: I’m sure they kinda nudged us and said, ‘so you’re gonna put it on the Vita, right?’ You know? So we’ve kept in contact with them all throughout development, just making sure things were going all right. They definitely like to see stuff on the Vita. We kind of had that idea that we wanted to do it and it was a little bit of seeing how it goes and when can we fit it in and now is the time. JG: Are there a lot of challenges involved in taking a game that was made with consoles in mind and putting it on a handheld? Artistically, programming-wise, etc.? DJ: I think the ideal is that we could bring the same exact game and put it on handhelds. I mean, at this point we’ve only been working on it for about a month or so, but we’ve got it running. We just need a lot of the little optimization stuff and to work out the kinks. But it seems like it has been pretty good, pretty easy. You know, always bringing a game to a new platform brings a new set of challenges, but the whole thing is that we are looking to retain the main game and keep it at a solid frame rate. CM: We just don’t want to trim it down. We don’t want to give handheld users a lesser experience. DR: And it is also cool that it is level-based, so it already lends itself well to being on a mobile device, so you can pick it up and play it for five minute or for hours. JG: With the PS4 coming out soon, will Runner2 be available on the PS4? DR: That’s not out of the question. DJ: Yeah, I think part of it was we were waiting to see how their backwards compatibility was going to work and if you could still play it on PS4. I think they’ve said they have some streaming capabilities, but I think it is possible that we would port it up to PS4. Who knows if we would add stuff or what, but the whole thing about Runner2 was we didn’t want to leave it out of the hands of anyone. We wanted to make sure that anyone who wanted to play the game could play the game. So, we put it on whatever we could. JG: Alright, makes sense. Are there plans to create a follow-up or branch out into different explorations of the concept? DJ: Um… There is still stuff yet to be done on Runner2. We’re not going to go into that quite yet, but we are not done with Runner2, but definitely at this point we are looking into other avenues, other games, future projects, a couple of exciting possibilities, but that stuff is still probably a little ways out. But we have been toying with smaller stuff and bigger stuff, so… yeah. JG: Has the reception of the game been pretty good today? DR: Yeah, I would say so. I haven’t heard anything negative. Even people who had never played it on console seemed to really enjoy playing it. CM: There are also a lot of fans who have already played it, beaten it, one-hundred percent-ed it that want to play it again on their Vita. [Laughs] DJ: The console version was so well rated, that we hope it would bring out the people who are interested on Vita. JG: Yeah, that’s always the mark of a- [clattering noise] Always the mark of a great game when someone throws their pen in the middle of an interview. [laughter] When people like the game so much that they want to buy it again so that they can play it again. DJ: We certainly love how the fans have accepted the game and gone far beyond what we would expect. Like, one-hundred percent-ing the whole game and posting videos on YouTube. DR: One related anecdote to that, is that someone on Twitter said that they one-hundred percent-ed it and then deleted their save file so that they could start again. That was nuts. JG: Wow, I don’t know of anyone that actually deletes their save file… DR: At least not intentionally. [Laughs] JG: So, about how big is your team at Gaijin? DR: It is nine, I can confirm. DJ: Nine full-time, I think we have two or three contractors. JG: And how involved is Sony in the process of creating a game like Runner2? DJ: I’m not the person that they deal with, but I think that they just sort of make sure that things are going well for us, that we have the stuff we need. I think the PS4 dev kit came before we even ordered it or anything, so we were like, ‘Oh, awesome! We’ll have to check this out!’ JG: They are kind of hands off when it comes to- DJ: Yeah, I mean they’ll talk to us when we need to. I mean we have some people over there that we know pretty well and will answer our questions if we need them. JG: But it is a pretty good relationship? DJ: Yeah, we definitely like them. We make them happy and they make us happy. Everyone wins. DR: It is a good relationship. JG: I’m just wondering with the whole indie push coming out of Sony and the implosion of Microsoft’s indie stuff, people have been kind of wondering about indie development on consoles and for big companies like Microsoft and Sony. They’ve hear a lot about how terrible Microsoft has been for developers, but I haven’t heard a lot of people talking about Sony. DJ: Part of it was, you know with all the console makers, they have a lot of guidelines that you need to go through. Some of them make it easier or harder for you, which is a bit rough. We kind of like the Steam model where they are very hands off and they let you do what you need to do to make it work. It is a different approach from the consoles, but they are a little more nimble than these big corporations. I don’t know, it is tough to say. DR: I guess there is a little bit more of a hurdle with Microsoft because they don’t allow you to self-publish. JG: Is it hard to find a publisher for indie developers on consoles? CM: If I am not mistaken, we were able to establish Gaijin Games itself as a publisher. I think we can take that route if we want to. We worked with Aksys in the past because we wanted someone to help fund our game and get it through, because that is always really beneficial to a small team to see if they can get a game out there. But we’ve allowed ourselves the ability to self-publish on some of the platforms. Whenever that option is available we like to do it, but whenever there is publisher assistance then that is also pretty helpful. DR: This isn’t even related to us, but I met someone in the Sony booth today who had an idea for a game and they said Sony and Nintendo wanted to play ball right away, but he was here trying to find a publisher for Microsoft. Which isn’t to say that it is harder or easier. DJ: And I mean, we’ve talked with Microsoft, and they do support developers. It is just that they have a different approach to who they want on their system. It’s not a terrible approach or anything like that, it is just that they have their own mindset. Sony seems to be more, ‘we’ll take any cool games we can get,’ whereas Microsoft is a bit more exclusive with their stuff. DR: One last thing: The intended launch window for the Vita version of Runner2 is between mid-July and mid-August. JG: If you loved Runner2, you’ll love Runner2 on Vita. DR: You’ll love playing it on the toilet! CM: That’s the new feature. [Laughter] Runner2, fully titled Bit.Trip Presents Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien, is a side-scrolling platformer currently available for Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, PC, and Mac. The Vita version, as stated in the interview, will release sometime between mid-July and mid-August.
  18. Teased during the pre-E3 Sony press conference, I was given a screening of the twelve-minute long real-time short film developed by Quantic Dream for the PlayStation 4. The tech demo itself is very impressive. The plot revolves around an actor trying to do his best to act within a video game and each take getting ruined by glitches and faux pas. The entire thing was done in real-time. Real-time graphics are all produced by the game engine, not as pre-rendered cutscenes. For people who might not understand what that means, think of it as the difference between seeing a performance live, versus a movie version. To prove that the demo was actually in real-time, we were shown a live demonstration of the tech, with a free camera moving around the set seen in the short film as the goblin moved around and lighting and other settings were changed on the fly. The character models in the demo were created using the same techniques that Hollywood uses for big budget special effects characters. The actors in the short film even performed on a stage together to get the most realistic and believable interactions possible. The team even went so far as to include details that you never see in the trailer. Zooming in close to one of the sorcerer’s eyes, the presenter pointed out that they had included blood vessels, eyelashes, and even a waterline between the eye and the eyelid. This amount of detailing is now possible, and even if you have no need of that minutia, this means you only need to create one character model during development instead of several for varying distances. If a game director wants to have the camera go right up to the eyeball, he can have that shot without creating drastically more work for the team. All this work on the character models occurs so that emotion can be conveyed in subtle ways, through facial expressions and body language instead of using words. Quantic dream has worked hard to eliminate imperfections and achieve what they call “true HD.” This means no jagged lines that appear upon close inspection of most current generation titles. The presenter told us that despite how good The Dark Sorcerer looks, there is still a lot of room for improvement. He stated that on top of using unoptimized hardware, they were only making use of about half of the PS4’s memory capacity, using the same engine from Beyond: Two Souls, and were just using hi-res character models that they plugged into the system to see what would happen. In the future they will have optimized hardware, make full use of the internal memory, a new game engine specifically for PS4, and models made for those ideal hardware limits. Quantic Dream took only six months to create The Dark Sorcerer from scratch and it is exciting to imagine what they might come up with in a full production cycle with a dedicated team. Much like Kara, which eventually became Beyond: Two Souls, The Dark Sorcerer is meant to show off the capabilities of the new hardware, not to be taken as a trailer for an actual game. That isn’t to say The Dark Sorcerer might not become something more in the future, but for now the developers assured me that they don’t have anything in the works for The Dark Sorcerer beyond the tech demo.
  19. At E3 2013, Sony went out of its way to demonstrate its support of indie titles and developers, dedicating a large section of their booth area specifically to independent games. One of the games on display was Supergiant Games’ Transistor which I was able to play for a sizable chunk of time. The demo of Transistor began with text, explaining that assassins had been silencing the important voices of Cloudbank one by one and that Red, one of the most famous and beloved singers in the city, was next. These assassins, who belong to a group known as “The Process,” fail to kill Red, but succeed in taking her voice. Red is saved by clutching onto the Transistor, a sword-like device that contains a sentient intelligence and can absorb other minds into its own. The Transistor whisks Red to safety on the other side of Cloudbank, where it explains to her what it is and who The Process are. Red sheds her impractical singer’s garb and takes off on the run from the homicidal machines of The Process. As I progressed through the level, I encountered people who had recently died or were dying. The Transistor was able to communicate with them and convince their souls to come along on the adventure, absorbing them into itself. Each time this occurred, a new ability was unlocked to use in battle. After unlocking all the abilities in the demo, I was able to attack with a short-range shockwave, a long-range piercing laser, a devastating cluster bomb attack, and teleport dash through obstacles and enemies to use sneak attacks. Much like Supergiant Games’ critically acclaimed Bastion, combat occurs in real-time. However, players can now freeze time and plan out their next few moves in advance before executing them in quick succession. This adds a very enjoyable layer of strategy to engaging enemies in combat. Players won’t be able to use this ability continuously. A bar at the top of the screen depletes after each usage, and players will need to wait until it fills back up again to unleash their strategic fury upon their foes. There are light RPG elements to the combat, as well. You can see how much life enemies have and how much damage you do to them. After a combo done in strategic mode, a small message will appear next to an enemy which tells you how well you did against it. I actually laughed out loud after I unleashed a flurry of attacks against a boss creature and the message progressed from “Great!” to “Overkill” to “Seriously, can’t you read?” Transistor felt really at home on the PS4. The Supergiant team did a great job mapping the controls to appropriate and natural feeling buttons and creating a pretty self-explanatory HUD. Each attack was mapped to one of the controller’s face buttons, while R2 controlled the time freeze ability. There was just something intangibly satisfying about destroying enemies in both real-time and in the lightning strikes following the time freeze. Given that Red has lost her voice, the Transistor becomes her voice. It talks constantly, explaining the world and monologue-ing about the state of affairs in which the two find themselves. The demo ends with the Transistor urging her to escape, but Red silently riding her motorcycle back into the heart of Cloudbank with the amazed Transistor in tow. I honestly couldn't wait to see what happened next and how abilities would be expanded and improved further along in the game. Visually and audibly, Transistor impressed me. I even heard that someone (i.e. me) put the trailer for Supergiant Games’ next hit on loop in a YouTube playlist, just to hear its music and see the visuals. But don’t just take my word for it. You can watch the trailer below: Transistor will release in early 2014 on PS4 and PC.
  20. Nearly four years after being announced for PS3, and after scrapped release date after scrapped release date, Team Ico’s newest title shows signs that it might have a appear during the Electronic Entertainment Expo. An observant NeoGAF poster happened across a posting for the game while looking through the pre-show information on E3 Insider. While no direct details are revealed in the posting, it is implied that there will be new screenshots and videos available on June 11th. The Last Guardian was officially unveiled at E3 in 2009. Since then, it has been scheduled to release in 2011 and 2012, before disappearing almost entirely. Rumors circulated for a while that the project was dead after the departure of the game’s director and Ico creator Fumito Ueda, despite the fact that Sony had contracted him to complete The Last Guardian. The last anyone heard of the title was shortly after the PlayStation 4 reveal from Shuhei Yoshida, the president of Sony’s Worldwide Studios, who stated that, “We are waiting for the right time to re-introduce [the game.]” This could mean that The Last Guardian is going to be a launch title for the PS4, or might be the final swan song of the PS3. Either way, it looks like we might finally hear more about this elusive title come E3 in a little over a week. What do you guys think? Are we going to hear all about the game? Nothing? Will it be for the PS4, PS3, or both?
  21. We are only a day out from the release of The Last Guardian, the game that has taken Team Ico over eleven years to create. Earlier this year we discussed the developer's first game, Ico, and the impact it had on game development going forward. To be a bit topical, we are happy to present a lengthy, in-depth look at Team Ico's second game, Shadow of the Colossus. The 2005 PlayStation 2 title carried the spirit of Ico into a large open-world full of magic, danger, and beautiful stillness. Though not glowingly received by critics at the time, regard for the third-person adventure game seems to have grown over the years. Usually opinions on a game degrade over time, so the case of Shadow of the Colossus might strike some as particularly odd. Has a large segment of the gaming population collectively chosen to wear rose-colored glasses or have people been slowly realizing the merits of the game that pits a man against living mountains? Also, this marks the one year anniversary of The Best Games Period podcast - a huge thank you to everyone who took the time out of their day to listen in each week. We really appreciate those of you who have left comments and reviews. We hope that you'll stick with us as we keep talking about the best games through 2017 and beyond! Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: 'The Sunlit Earth' by Kow Otani (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POTlM3SyMVo) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! You can also follow the show on Twitter: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
  22. We are only a day out from the release of The Last Guardian, the game that has taken Team Ico over eleven years to create. Earlier this year we discussed the developer's first game, Ico, and the impact it had on game development going forward. To be a bit topical, we are happy to present a lengthy, in-depth look at Team Ico's second game, Shadow of the Colossus. The 2005 PlayStation 2 title carried the spirit of Ico into a large open-world full of magic, danger, and beautiful stillness. Though not glowingly received by critics at the time, regard for the third-person adventure game seems to have grown over the years. Usually opinions on a game degrade over time, so the case of Shadow of the Colossus might strike some as particularly odd. Has a large segment of the gaming population collectively chosen to wear rose-colored glasses or have people been slowly realizing the merits of the game that pits a man against living mountains? Also, this marks the one year anniversary of The Best Games Period podcast - a huge thank you to everyone who took the time out of their day to listen in each week. We really appreciate those of you who have left comments and reviews. We hope that you'll stick with us as we keep talking about the best games through 2017 and beyond! Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: 'The Sunlit Earth' by Kow Otani (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POTlM3SyMVo) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! You can also follow the show on Twitter: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday View full article
  23. While the first attempt at recording Episode 41 might have failed due to technical difficulties, we've returned this week with a brand new and totally original discussion of Flower, the PlayStation 3's 2009 indie darling. While playing as the wind using motion controls might have been a breath of fresh air, has the game become stale over time? What about the prestigious "Best Independent Game Fueled By Dew" award that the Spike Video Game Awards bestowed upon Flower? Has the honor of that accolade dimmed over the past years? More importantly, is Flower one of the best games period? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: Shenmue 'Reflections' by Reuben Kee (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR01159) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! You can also follow the show on Twitter: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
  24. While the first attempt at recording Episode 41 might have failed due to technical difficulties, we've returned this week with a brand new and totally original discussion of Flower, the PlayStation 3's 2009 indie darling. While playing as the wind using motion controls might have been a breath of fresh air, has the game become stale over time? What about the prestigious "Best Independent Game Fueled By Dew" award that the Spike Video Game Awards bestowed upon Flower? Has the honor of that accolade dimmed over the past years? More importantly, is Flower one of the best games period? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: Shenmue 'Reflections' by Reuben Kee (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR01159) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! You can also follow the show on Twitter: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday View full article
  25. Shuhei Yoshida, the president of Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios, took to the PlayStation Blog yesterday to announce that The Last Guardian would not be meeting its expected October 25 release date. While this will undoubtedly disappoint many who have waited years for the Team Ico game to release, the good news is that it will still be coming out in 2016. The Last Guardian hits retail on the new date of December 6. "Fumito Ueda, gen DESIGN and JAPAN Studio have a wonderful vision for The Last Guardian’s touching, emotional journey of friendship and trust, and we want to deliver the most polished experience possible for our fans who have supported us for so long," Yoshida wrote before going on to explain the root cause for postponing the release of The Last Guardian. "A delay is a difficult decision, particularly with this game, but we have encountered more bugs than anticipated while in the final stages of development. To ensure that The Last Guardian delivers on the experience that the game’s creators have envisioned, we need to take the extra time to work on those issues." At the very least this speaks well of Sony's willingness to accommodate the full QA testing phase of The Last Guardian's development process. It isn't hard to imagine that a game might hold a number of unforeseen bugs after 9 years of development, a large chunk of which was dedicated to making the game on a different console. Though it pains me to wait, I'm glad Sony isn't plopping it into the market as soon as possible with a crippling series of bugs. Here is hoping that extra month of QA testing leads to a better game for us all.