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Found 22 results

  1. The future of humanity is bleak. Or rather, the future seems so in Subset Games' dark vision of it in their upcoming title Into The Breach. Far into the future, humanity struggles to survive in the wake of an apocalypse only to find themselves beset on all sides by gigantic creatures that seem to have bred beneath the earth. In an effort to save what little of humanity remains, players must pilot giant mechs and battle these monsters. Subset Games have gone a much different direction with the gameplay of Into The Breach, deviating from the successful design they implemented for ship-to-ship combat and randomly generated role-playing in FTL: Faster Than Light. Into The Breach is actually a turn-based strategy game, taking cues from franchises like Advanced Wars and Fire Emblem. Maps are randomly generated and terrain features like buildings, mountains, and forests take damage as players wage their battles against the bug forces. Units will gain experience as they fight, becoming more powerful the longer they stay alive. Some stages will hold bonus objectives that grant additional rewards as players progress through their frantic final war for survival. Of course, there are still some elements of FTL in there - Subset Games wouldn't want to make things too easy, right? Should a player fail to successfully defend the last of humanity, they have been outfitted with a time travel device to allow them to try again. Each time a player travels back in time, the world will be altered and randomly generate, which will in turn change the war against the kaiju. That means the Into The Breech is more than willing to cut players down for poor strategic decisions. Into The Breach is currently planned as a single-player game that will release for Windows, Mac, and Linux. No release date has been given and likely won't be revealed any time soon. Each platform will likely launch sequentially rather than all at once.
  2. The future of humanity is bleak. Or rather, the future seems so in Subset Games' dark vision of it in their upcoming title Into The Breach. Far into the future, humanity struggles to survive in the wake of an apocalypse only to find themselves beset on all sides by gigantic creatures that seem to have bred beneath the earth. In an effort to save what little of humanity remains, players must pilot giant mechs and battle these monsters. Subset Games have gone a much different direction with the gameplay of Into The Breach, deviating from the successful design they implemented for ship-to-ship combat and randomly generated role-playing in FTL: Faster Than Light. Into The Breach is actually a turn-based strategy game, taking cues from franchises like Advanced Wars and Fire Emblem. Maps are randomly generated and terrain features like buildings, mountains, and forests take damage as players wage their battles against the bug forces. Units will gain experience as they fight, becoming more powerful the longer they stay alive. Some stages will hold bonus objectives that grant additional rewards as players progress through their frantic final war for survival. Of course, there are still some elements of FTL in there - Subset Games wouldn't want to make things too easy, right? Should a player fail to successfully defend the last of humanity, they have been outfitted with a time travel device to allow them to try again. Each time a player travels back in time, the world will be altered and randomly generate, which will in turn change the war against the kaiju. That means the Into The Breech is more than willing to cut players down for poor strategic decisions. Into The Breach is currently planned as a single-player game that will release for Windows, Mac, and Linux. No release date has been given and likely won't be revealed any time soon. Each platform will likely launch sequentially rather than all at once. View full article
  3. I just finished playing through the publicly available build of Return of the Obra Dinn and I definitely liked what I saw. Currently being developed by Lucas Pope, the creator of indie darling Papers, Please, Return of the Obra Dinn seems to be an adventure game that centers on the mysterious merchant vessel Obra Dinn. Set in 1808, the East India Company sends the player, an insurance adjuster, to board the ship and investigate its return after five years lost at sea. The company also provides a mysterious package to be opened only once the player has boarded. As player explores the seemingly abandoned ship, it becomes clear that something horrible has happened; the bones of the captain, crew, and passengers litter the deck and holds. An unnerving atmosphere permeates the ship, one that only becomes more palpable when the parcel the company sent along is opened. It contains a watch inscribed with indecipherable symbols and images. The mysterious watch begins to react when the player encounters the remains of each deceased crew member. It causes the world to dissolve before reconstructing the universe around the last second of the departed's life. Players can then walk around the ship as it existed during that second, the universe completely still, frozen in time. The time reversal and freezing effect would be a very neat in a game that uses a conventional graphical style, but Return of the Obra Dinn has a very distinct 1-bit aesthetic that tries to replicate late 80s computer graphics. This aesthetic really sets Obra Dinn apart from anything else you've ever seen. Though the preview stretches to emulate early computer graphics, it does interesting new things with them by rendering them in real-time from a first-person perspective. The effect is really quite interesting and says a lot about how far video games can actually distance themselves from reality while still depicting recognizable objects. There isn't a whole lot of game in the available build. It took me about 15 minutes to complete the entire thing, but it is certainly an arresting look at a game very early in its development. It has an interesting mechanic, a great aesthetic, and it has me very intrigued. I'm eager to see where this goes. If you would like to try Return of the Obra Dinn for yourself, you can find the download for it here.
  4. Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series made some waves when adventure game developer Telltale Games teased it at the tail end of last year. We now have a narrower release window with the series set to premiere this spring on consoles, PC, Android, and iOS. Much like Telltale's Game of Thrones, their Guardians of the Galaxy series will tell a new story set within the universe seen in the films. Familiar characters such as Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket Raccoon, and Groot all return with a redesigned that aims to fit them in with the art style of Telltale's vision. The new tale follows the galactic group of reluctant heroes as they discover an artifact of immense power following a climactic encounter. Each member of the team has a competing interest in the item, but so does an enemy who represents the last of a dying race who will hunt the team to the ends of the galaxy to obtain it. The Guardians will be traveling to a wide number of locations including Earth, the starship Milano, the hollowed out space titan skull called Knowhere, and beyond to locations not seen in the films. Borrowing from the films (and Telltale's natural affinity for including fantastic musical accompaniments to their games), the Guardians of the Galaxy series will feature a licensed soundtrack of its own to help players slip into the retro-camp fun in store for them. today at PAX East in Boston at 6pm in the Albatross Theater, so if you are at the show be sure to stop and give it a look. Telltale Games will be hosting a panel discussing their creative process on the title. Those who can't be there in person can check it out live on Twitch. Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series premiers on March 17 at SXSW in Austin, TX at the Paramount Theater. Telltale will be hosting a Crowd Play event where attendees can help decide what decisions are made on the big screen during the live gameplay via their mobile devices. In order to attend, interested people will need to obtain either an SXSW or SXSW Gaming badge and seats will be available on a first come, first serve basis. The voices for the Guardians of the Galaxy series won't be the same as the ones from the movies. Instead, Scott Porter (Friday Night Lights, The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series) will take on the role of Star-Lord, Emily O'Brien (Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor) tackles Gamora, Nolan North (basically all games with voice acting, Uncharted) becomes Rocket Raccoon, Brandon Paul Eells (Watch Dogs) gives life to Drax, and Adam Harrington (The Wolf Among Us, League of Legends) groots his best as Groot. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 releases on May 5 and with a narrower release day centered on this spring, I'd be willing to bet Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series will be releasing around that same time, possibly in late April.
  5. Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series made some waves when adventure game developer Telltale Games teased it at the tail end of last year. We now have a narrower release window with the series set to premiere this spring on consoles, PC, Android, and iOS. Much like Telltale's Game of Thrones, their Guardians of the Galaxy series will tell a new story set within the universe seen in the films. Familiar characters such as Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket Raccoon, and Groot all return with a redesigned that aims to fit them in with the art style of Telltale's vision. The new tale follows the galactic group of reluctant heroes as they discover an artifact of immense power following a climactic encounter. Each member of the team has a competing interest in the item, but so does an enemy who represents the last of a dying race who will hunt the team to the ends of the galaxy to obtain it. The Guardians will be traveling to a wide number of locations including Earth, the starship Milano, the hollowed out space titan skull called Knowhere, and beyond to locations not seen in the films. Borrowing from the films (and Telltale's natural affinity for including fantastic musical accompaniments to their games), the Guardians of the Galaxy series will feature a licensed soundtrack of its own to help players slip into the retro-camp fun in store for them. today at PAX East in Boston at 6pm in the Albatross Theater, so if you are at the show be sure to stop and give it a look. Telltale Games will be hosting a panel discussing their creative process on the title. Those who can't be there in person can check it out live on Twitch. Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series premiers on March 17 at SXSW in Austin, TX at the Paramount Theater. Telltale will be hosting a Crowd Play event where attendees can help decide what decisions are made on the big screen during the live gameplay via their mobile devices. In order to attend, interested people will need to obtain either an SXSW or SXSW Gaming badge and seats will be available on a first come, first serve basis. The voices for the Guardians of the Galaxy series won't be the same as the ones from the movies. Instead, Scott Porter (Friday Night Lights, The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series) will take on the role of Star-Lord, Emily O'Brien (Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor) tackles Gamora, Nolan North (basically all games with voice acting, Uncharted) becomes Rocket Raccoon, Brandon Paul Eells (Watch Dogs) gives life to Drax, and Adam Harrington (The Wolf Among Us, League of Legends) groots his best as Groot. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 releases on May 5 and with a narrower release day centered on this spring, I'd be willing to bet Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series will be releasing around that same time, possibly in late April. View full article
  6. In 2003, creative partners Chris Delaporte and Patrick Daher released France’s first feature-length, computer-animated film Kaena: The Prophecy to average and mixed reviews. The two unknowns from the video game industry had still surpassed all obstacles and expectations even with their film’s lackluster reception. Their team of novices created a CGI film unlike any seen before by taking inspiration from video games rather than western 2D animation - a vision sparked by a chance meeting with Steven Spielberg. Its video game influences, however, didn't doom the film and its creators to their current obscurity. Trouble plagued Kaena's development, and its amateur team ultimately produced what critics called a world-heavy story told through ugly graphics. Regardless of the results, video games nudged Kaena into its unique place in the history of computer animated movies. Kaena: The Prophecy takes place on a dying world that evolved around a giant tree called Axis. When the tree’s life-giving sap begins drying up, its people refuse to accept that their so-called gods, sap creatures also struggling to survive on the opposite side of the planet, won’t help them. The protagonist Kaena sets out to save her people. She meets Opaz, the last member of an alien species known as the Vecarians, while on her quest. Through him, she discovers the origins of her planet and how to save it. The film’s history begins at Amazing Studio, founded by Eric Chahi and Frederic Savoir. At the time, Chahi was well known for Another World (AKA Out of this World), a cinematic platformer inspired by Prince of Persia. Chahi and Savoir founded Amazing Studio in 1992 to create their next ambitious platformer, Heart of Darkness. Chris Delaporte and Patrick Daher served as additional team members in the studio with Delaporte creating backgrounds and game screens and Daher contributing to the game’s many pre-rendered cutscenes. Daher was a self-taught 3D animator and video game designer. Delaporte was a graffiti artist and painter until Starwatcher, a canceled film that was slated to be the first feature-length CGI movie, inspired him to become a 3D artist. A pre-rendered teaser for Heart of Darkness appeared at E3 1995 attracting the attention of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas among others. This teaser showed a sample of the game’s 35 minutes of pre-rendered, computer-animated cutscenes. It impressed Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg, co-founders of DreamWorks, so much that they invited the Amazing Studio team to DreamWorks’ offices in California to propose that they abandon the game and make a movie instead. Chahi and his team refused, wanting to stick with their original vision and complete the game even though development had dragged on for three years and would continue for another three. Not all of Chahi’s crew agreed though. Disappointed with their team’s decision, Daher and Delaporte left Amazing Studio the same year to begin their own video game project. The idea of creating a feature-length film with computer graphics intrigued Delaporte. At this time, the first film of its kind, Toy Story (1995), hadn’t been released. Delaporte and Daher hoped to create their own game like Heart of Darkness with a strong story and nice graphics to attract Hollywood’s attention again. For the next year, they worked without pay on a demo for Gaina, the game that would eventually become Kaena: The Prophecy. Delaporte created the story and world while Daher developed the game system. In 1997, Delaporte and Daher pitched Gaina to Denis Friedman, the project’s destined producer. Friedman also had a background in the video game industry. Starting in 1982, he worked as a game programmer for Atari until Jack Tramiel, the founder of the Commodore computer company, purchased it. During this transition, Friedman survived as one of 50 out of 3000 employees that weren’t laid off. From then until 1997, he moved between the United States and Europe as a game producer and general manager for Atari, Brøderbund Software, and Sony. Friedman then left his job as general director for Sony Computer Entertainment France to found Chaman Productions and pursue his interest in producing animation and franchises that spanned multiple mediums. When Friedman saw the demo for Gaina, he not only took it as Chaman’s first project but also proposed to produce a television movie based on it. Delaporte and Daher readily agreed. The two of them created a two minute cutscene to pitch the game and 52-minute movie based on it to 200 professionals at MIP TV. The demo received such praise that Friedman decided to expand the TV movie into a feature-length film. He set its budget at 18 million francs, about $4.9 million. The team also renamed the game and movie project from Gaina to Axis to better appeal to English speakers and a more global audience. Chaman was ready to assemble a crew to create Axis, the film that would become Kaena: The Prophecy, but this was a major feat to accomplish in Europe at the time. Unlike the American film industry, Europe didn’t have established animation studios like Disney, Pixar, or DreamWorks. Computer animation experts were also uncommon in France. Despite these difficulties, assistant director Virginie Guilminot accepted the challenge of building a crew of 3D artists from across Europe. With ages ranging from 20 to 30 years old, people with more talent, versatility, and motivation than experience ultimately made up the motley crew. Artists from the video game industry formed the team’s core, and beginner graphic designers and professionals from the audiovisual industry joined them. Delaporte originally filled the role of writer and artistic director, but after several months of confusion he realized that he would need to step up as the film’s director if he wanted it to reflect his vision. Friedman gave him permission to direct provided that he worked with a co-director. This would be Pascal Pinion, a traditional animator and storyboard artist for various American, British, and French television shows and films including Doug and the computer animated series Insektors. Patrick Bonneau took the role of animation director. In favor of finding a job in France, Bonneau had just ended a six year contract at George Lucas’s Industrial Light & Music where he contributed to films like Men in Black and Star Wars: Episode I. Starting with a team of 10, film production on Axis formally began in 1997. Over the next three years, Delaporte and the team wrote and polished the script to ensure that it targeted its intended audience and completed pre-production on the film. The script went through twelve versions in a year and a half. Japanese anime such as Akira greatly influenced Delaporte, who found it amazing that animated films could target adult audiences. Most western animated films at the time didn’t do this. Delaporte, 25 when he started writing Axis, determined that he would create a film that he as a young adult wanted to watch. Axis’ success would rely on an audience segment of 15 to 25-year-olds that larger studios in the animation industry had mostly ignored. Importantly, this segment also consumed the largest amount of video games and comics. Delaporte and the team targeted that demographic, creating a Lara Croft-like protagonist with an exaggerated feminine form and scanty clothing. The themes of the film also focused on the transition from childhood to adulthood, a relatable concept for teenagers. While the film originated in France, Delaporte and Friedman wanted to produce it in English. The team felt that Axis’ universal coming-of-age theme would be best portrayed in a more globally known language than French. The assembled cast included Kirsten Dunst, who played Kiki in the English dub of Kiki’s Delivery Service, as Kaena and Richard Harris, the original Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films, as Opaz. On a side note, Kaena: The Prophecy, as Richard Harris’ last film, is dedicated in his memory. The production phase and animation began in 2000, and the inexperienced crew quickly realized their weaknesses. Their 3D character models had too many polygons to render in a reasonable time, requiring that the crew remodel all of them. Most prominently, however, Friedman grossly underestimated the film’s original budget. Because they didn’t have the money to invest in custom-made tools and plugins for special effects and animations, the team relied on commercially available software, often using them unconventionally to attain the desired results. The team used software meant for fabric, for example, to create hair. This would later make Kaena: The Prophecy the first computer-animated film of this scale to use only out-of-the-box software and hardware. The team also didn’t have the luxury to update the film as technology improved throughout its development like larger production houses commonly did. Its ambition made the novice studio the laughing stock of the industry, but that only made its team more determined to succeed. In the wake of the failures of other adult-oriented animated films, including Titan AE and the box office bomb Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, no one believed Axis would pay off. Its original science fiction story and unconventional art style, mixing Japanese anime-like artwork, European imagery, video game-reminiscent characters, and sepia tone realism, also made Axis a risky venture. Combine these factors with a crew that spent as much time botching and redoing as they did making the film, the studio looked both incompetent and naïve. Chaman Productions forged on, however, even beginning production on the accompanying Axis video game for the PlayStation 2. Twenty members of Chaman co-developed it with an additional team of five from Namco in Japan. Friedman also discussed tentative plans for releasing the game on the GameCube, Game Boy Advance, and Xbox and future plans for more Axis games and movies with Gamespot in 2001. Later that year, the project went through its final name change. The Axis video game became Kaena, and the film became Kaena: The Prophecy. At the height of the movie’s production, the team swelled to 70 people, which included members of Canadian studios who would animate 70% of the movie. At the midpoint of the property’s production in January 2002, Friedman promised that Kaena would appear in the prestigious Cannes Film Festival as Shrek had. Two months later, disaster struck. Chaman Productions, weighed down by an unrelated multiplayer online game project that it was also producing, filed for bankruptcy. The bankruptcy took the team completely by surprise, its unexpected nature rendering it even more devastating. Delaporte, Daher, and Friedman dreamed of Chaman becoming the European DreamWorks and looked forward to continuing to work together. Those dreams were over. The next chapter of Kaena: The Prophecy’s development began at Xilam, the studio that would complete the production of both the film and companion game. Xilam, founded by Marc du Pontavice, was one of Europe’s leading animation companies best known for Space Goofs and Oggy and the Cockroaches. It was about to start production on Stupid Invaders, a computer-animated movie based on Space Goofs, when Pontavice heard that Chaman filed for bankruptcy. Pontavice found Kaena fascinating, its story inspired, beautiful, and dense with an intelligently constructed universe. The half complete film, however, suffered from an underdeveloped studio with no experience in animation. As co-founder of Gaumont TV, founder of Gaumont Multimedia, and founder of Xilam Animation, Pontavice had extensive experience in computer graphic, cartoon, feature film, and video game production, but completing the project would still challenge him. The budget for the film and game lacked an estimated 5.3 to 6.1 million euros, about $9.5 to $11 million, the film’s investors threatened to cut their losses, and the crew felt similarly disillusioned. Over twelve companies inspected the Kaena property, but only Pontavice had the resources and experience to make an offer to take over the project. Xilam bought the game and movie for a mere 150,000 euros, roughly $270,000, each. For the first three months, Pontavice directed the crew to create a new demo that would attract new investments and reinvigorate the team. Once he’d obtained adequate funding and improved morale, Pontavice reconstructed the full 70-person team and continued production in full force. Kaena: The Prophecy arrived in France in June 2003, and the game released the following year. Despite its French origins, the film proved easy to export and sold in more than 40 territories. The film cost a total of 14.5 million euros, about $26 million, making it the most expensive animated feature ever produced in France at that time. It won as the first computer-animated, feature-length film in France, but the Spanish movie The Enchanted Forest (2001) beat it as the first such European film. Xilam also finished the Kaena video game in-house. Namco published it on the PlayStation 2 in April 2004 but, bizarrely, only ever released it in Japan. From the time Delaporte and Daher began working on their initial game demo to the PlayStation 2 game’s release, the project spanned nine years. Since their release, the film and the game have mostly been forgotten, and the creators have moved on to new projects. The Kaena action-adventure game featured beautiful pre-rendered backgrounds akin to PlayStation-era Final Fantasy games, but its poor controls and limited release made it easy to overlook. The film had a slightly better reception, receiving a Golden Globe Award nomination, but the recognition was not enough to keep it out of obscurity. After the film’s release, with the crew eager to use all the experience they’d gained, Delaporte began work on a sequel. He didn’t get far before the project quickly and quietly ended. Since then, he has turned his focus to producing live-action and commercials. Information on Daher is elusive, but he appears to be an animator for commercials. Denis Friedman founded a new company called Denis Friedman Productions. Over the past few years, he successfully Kickstarted and created the pilot episode of his latest project Urbance, a hybrid 2D-3D animated series targeting 16 to 25-year-olds. Marc du Pontavice continues to produce mostly 2D- and 3D-animated series for children under Xilam. Video games influenced Kaena’s development from its inception, but they shouldn’t be blamed for France’s first CGI movie’s poor reception. The novice video game artists that created Kaena: The Prophecy sought to capture the hearts of teenage and young adult gamers with a rich world, a mature story, and realistic but stylized artwork. Video games inspired, among all of Kaena’s other accomplishments, one of the first movies to explore the distinctive storytelling properties of feature-length CGI films. The creators dared to make a film for a mature audience with a unique story and an art style unlike any seen before or since. In an industry that to this day rarely ventures outside children’s and family comedies, they dared to make a film in a genre that no one has yet mastered in CGI film. While the fact that its creators were ambitious novices working in a young art form may have doomed Kaena to mediocrity from the start, it took people who didn’t know better to try what more entrenched experts would never do. Kaena prophesized that CGI films didn’t have to be translations of 2D cartoons into 3D or live-action into photorealistic graphics; the fledgling art form had as many great stories to tell in novel ways as any other medium. The challenge remained figuring out how to use it effectively to tell them. Video games inspired the Kaena experiment and have since inspired some of the most flawed, unique, bizarre, and amazing movies CGI has to offer. Imagine the films to come when just the right games motivate just the right teams to fulfill the prophecy that Kaena foretold.
  7. In 2003, creative partners Chris Delaporte and Patrick Daher released France’s first feature-length, computer-animated film Kaena: The Prophecy to average and mixed reviews. The two unknowns from the video game industry had still surpassed all obstacles and expectations even with their film’s lackluster reception. Their team of novices created a CGI film unlike any seen before by taking inspiration from video games rather than western 2D animation - a vision sparked by a chance meeting with Steven Spielberg. Its video game influences, however, didn't doom the film and its creators to their current obscurity. Trouble plagued Kaena's development, and its amateur team ultimately produced what critics called a world-heavy story told through ugly graphics. Regardless of the results, video games nudged Kaena into its unique place in the history of computer animated movies. Kaena: The Prophecy takes place on a dying world that evolved around a giant tree called Axis. When the tree’s life-giving sap begins drying up, its people refuse to accept that their so-called gods, sap creatures also struggling to survive on the opposite side of the planet, won’t help them. The protagonist Kaena sets out to save her people. She meets Opaz, the last member of an alien species known as the Vecarians, while on her quest. Through him, she discovers the origins of her planet and how to save it. The film’s history begins at Amazing Studio, founded by Eric Chahi and Frederic Savoir. At the time, Chahi was well known for Another World (AKA Out of this World), a cinematic platformer inspired by Prince of Persia. Chahi and Savoir founded Amazing Studio in 1992 to create their next ambitious platformer, Heart of Darkness. Chris Delaporte and Patrick Daher served as additional team members in the studio with Delaporte creating backgrounds and game screens and Daher contributing to the game’s many pre-rendered cutscenes. Daher was a self-taught 3D animator and video game designer. Delaporte was a graffiti artist and painter until Starwatcher, a canceled film that was slated to be the first feature-length CGI movie, inspired him to become a 3D artist. A pre-rendered teaser for Heart of Darkness appeared at E3 1995 attracting the attention of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas among others. This teaser showed a sample of the game’s 35 minutes of pre-rendered, computer-animated cutscenes. It impressed Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg, co-founders of DreamWorks, so much that they invited the Amazing Studio team to DreamWorks’ offices in California to propose that they abandon the game and make a movie instead. Chahi and his team refused, wanting to stick with their original vision and complete the game even though development had dragged on for three years and would continue for another three. Not all of Chahi’s crew agreed though. Disappointed with their team’s decision, Daher and Delaporte left Amazing Studio the same year to begin their own video game project. The idea of creating a feature-length film with computer graphics intrigued Delaporte. At this time, the first film of its kind, Toy Story (1995), hadn’t been released. Delaporte and Daher hoped to create their own game like Heart of Darkness with a strong story and nice graphics to attract Hollywood’s attention again. For the next year, they worked without pay on a demo for Gaina, the game that would eventually become Kaena: The Prophecy. Delaporte created the story and world while Daher developed the game system. In 1997, Delaporte and Daher pitched Gaina to Denis Friedman, the project’s destined producer. Friedman also had a background in the video game industry. Starting in 1982, he worked as a game programmer for Atari until Jack Tramiel, the founder of the Commodore computer company, purchased it. During this transition, Friedman survived as one of 50 out of 3000 employees that weren’t laid off. From then until 1997, he moved between the United States and Europe as a game producer and general manager for Atari, Brøderbund Software, and Sony. Friedman then left his job as general director for Sony Computer Entertainment France to found Chaman Productions and pursue his interest in producing animation and franchises that spanned multiple mediums. When Friedman saw the demo for Gaina, he not only took it as Chaman’s first project but also proposed to produce a television movie based on it. Delaporte and Daher readily agreed. The two of them created a two minute cutscene to pitch the game and 52-minute movie based on it to 200 professionals at MIP TV. The demo received such praise that Friedman decided to expand the TV movie into a feature-length film. He set its budget at 18 million francs, about $4.9 million. The team also renamed the game and movie project from Gaina to Axis to better appeal to English speakers and a more global audience. Chaman was ready to assemble a crew to create Axis, the film that would become Kaena: The Prophecy, but this was a major feat to accomplish in Europe at the time. Unlike the American film industry, Europe didn’t have established animation studios like Disney, Pixar, or DreamWorks. Computer animation experts were also uncommon in France. Despite these difficulties, assistant director Virginie Guilminot accepted the challenge of building a crew of 3D artists from across Europe. With ages ranging from 20 to 30 years old, people with more talent, versatility, and motivation than experience ultimately made up the motley crew. Artists from the video game industry formed the team’s core, and beginner graphic designers and professionals from the audiovisual industry joined them. Delaporte originally filled the role of writer and artistic director, but after several months of confusion he realized that he would need to step up as the film’s director if he wanted it to reflect his vision. Friedman gave him permission to direct provided that he worked with a co-director. This would be Pascal Pinion, a traditional animator and storyboard artist for various American, British, and French television shows and films including Doug and the computer animated series Insektors. Patrick Bonneau took the role of animation director. In favor of finding a job in France, Bonneau had just ended a six year contract at George Lucas’s Industrial Light & Music where he contributed to films like Men in Black and Star Wars: Episode I. Starting with a team of 10, film production on Axis formally began in 1997. Over the next three years, Delaporte and the team wrote and polished the script to ensure that it targeted its intended audience and completed pre-production on the film. The script went through twelve versions in a year and a half. Japanese anime such as Akira greatly influenced Delaporte, who found it amazing that animated films could target adult audiences. Most western animated films at the time didn’t do this. Delaporte, 25 when he started writing Axis, determined that he would create a film that he as a young adult wanted to watch. Axis’ success would rely on an audience segment of 15 to 25-year-olds that larger studios in the animation industry had mostly ignored. Importantly, this segment also consumed the largest amount of video games and comics. Delaporte and the team targeted that demographic, creating a Lara Croft-like protagonist with an exaggerated feminine form and scanty clothing. The themes of the film also focused on the transition from childhood to adulthood, a relatable concept for teenagers. While the film originated in France, Delaporte and Friedman wanted to produce it in English. The team felt that Axis’ universal coming-of-age theme would be best portrayed in a more globally known language than French. The assembled cast included Kirsten Dunst, who played Kiki in the English dub of Kiki’s Delivery Service, as Kaena and Richard Harris, the original Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films, as Opaz. On a side note, Kaena: The Prophecy, as Richard Harris’ last film, is dedicated in his memory. The production phase and animation began in 2000, and the inexperienced crew quickly realized their weaknesses. Their 3D character models had too many polygons to render in a reasonable time, requiring that the crew remodel all of them. Most prominently, however, Friedman grossly underestimated the film’s original budget. Because they didn’t have the money to invest in custom-made tools and plugins for special effects and animations, the team relied on commercially available software, often using them unconventionally to attain the desired results. The team used software meant for fabric, for example, to create hair. This would later make Kaena: The Prophecy the first computer-animated film of this scale to use only out-of-the-box software and hardware. The team also didn’t have the luxury to update the film as technology improved throughout its development like larger production houses commonly did. Its ambition made the novice studio the laughing stock of the industry, but that only made its team more determined to succeed. In the wake of the failures of other adult-oriented animated films, including Titan AE and the box office bomb Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, no one believed Axis would pay off. Its original science fiction story and unconventional art style, mixing Japanese anime-like artwork, European imagery, video game-reminiscent characters, and sepia tone realism, also made Axis a risky venture. Combine these factors with a crew that spent as much time botching and redoing as they did making the film, the studio looked both incompetent and naïve. Chaman Productions forged on, however, even beginning production on the accompanying Axis video game for the PlayStation 2. Twenty members of Chaman co-developed it with an additional team of five from Namco in Japan. Friedman also discussed tentative plans for releasing the game on the GameCube, Game Boy Advance, and Xbox and future plans for more Axis games and movies with Gamespot in 2001. Later that year, the project went through its final name change. The Axis video game became Kaena, and the film became Kaena: The Prophecy. At the height of the movie’s production, the team swelled to 70 people, which included members of Canadian studios who would animate 70% of the movie. At the midpoint of the property’s production in January 2002, Friedman promised that Kaena would appear in the prestigious Cannes Film Festival as Shrek had. Two months later, disaster struck. Chaman Productions, weighed down by an unrelated multiplayer online game project that it was also producing, filed for bankruptcy. The bankruptcy took the team completely by surprise, its unexpected nature rendering it even more devastating. Delaporte, Daher, and Friedman dreamed of Chaman becoming the European DreamWorks and looked forward to continuing to work together. Those dreams were over. The next chapter of Kaena: The Prophecy’s development began at Xilam, the studio that would complete the production of both the film and companion game. Xilam, founded by Marc du Pontavice, was one of Europe’s leading animation companies best known for Space Goofs and Oggy and the Cockroaches. It was about to start production on Stupid Invaders, a computer-animated movie based on Space Goofs, when Pontavice heard that Chaman filed for bankruptcy. Pontavice found Kaena fascinating, its story inspired, beautiful, and dense with an intelligently constructed universe. The half complete film, however, suffered from an underdeveloped studio with no experience in animation. As co-founder of Gaumont TV, founder of Gaumont Multimedia, and founder of Xilam Animation, Pontavice had extensive experience in computer graphic, cartoon, feature film, and video game production, but completing the project would still challenge him. The budget for the film and game lacked an estimated 5.3 to 6.1 million euros, about $9.5 to $11 million, the film’s investors threatened to cut their losses, and the crew felt similarly disillusioned. Over twelve companies inspected the Kaena property, but only Pontavice had the resources and experience to make an offer to take over the project. Xilam bought the game and movie for a mere 150,000 euros, roughly $270,000, each. For the first three months, Pontavice directed the crew to create a new demo that would attract new investments and reinvigorate the team. Once he’d obtained adequate funding and improved morale, Pontavice reconstructed the full 70-person team and continued production in full force. Kaena: The Prophecy arrived in France in June 2003, and the game released the following year. Despite its French origins, the film proved easy to export and sold in more than 40 territories. The film cost a total of 14.5 million euros, about $26 million, making it the most expensive animated feature ever produced in France at that time. It won as the first computer-animated, feature-length film in France, but the Spanish movie The Enchanted Forest (2001) beat it as the first such European film. Xilam also finished the Kaena video game in-house. Namco published it on the PlayStation 2 in April 2004 but, bizarrely, only ever released it in Japan. From the time Delaporte and Daher began working on their initial game demo to the PlayStation 2 game’s release, the project spanned nine years. Since their release, the film and the game have mostly been forgotten, and the creators have moved on to new projects. The Kaena action-adventure game featured beautiful pre-rendered backgrounds akin to PlayStation-era Final Fantasy games, but its poor controls and limited release made it easy to overlook. The film had a slightly better reception, receiving a Golden Globe Award nomination, but the recognition was not enough to keep it out of obscurity. After the film’s release, with the crew eager to use all the experience they’d gained, Delaporte began work on a sequel. He didn’t get far before the project quickly and quietly ended. Since then, he has turned his focus to producing live-action and commercials. Information on Daher is elusive, but he appears to be an animator for commercials. Denis Friedman founded a new company called Denis Friedman Productions. Over the past few years, he successfully Kickstarted and created the pilot episode of his latest project Urbance, a hybrid 2D-3D animated series targeting 16 to 25-year-olds. Marc du Pontavice continues to produce mostly 2D- and 3D-animated series for children under Xilam. Video games influenced Kaena’s development from its inception, but they shouldn’t be blamed for France’s first CGI movie’s poor reception. The novice video game artists that created Kaena: The Prophecy sought to capture the hearts of teenage and young adult gamers with a rich world, a mature story, and realistic but stylized artwork. Video games inspired, among all of Kaena’s other accomplishments, one of the first movies to explore the distinctive storytelling properties of feature-length CGI films. The creators dared to make a film for a mature audience with a unique story and an art style unlike any seen before or since. In an industry that to this day rarely ventures outside children’s and family comedies, they dared to make a film in a genre that no one has yet mastered in CGI film. While the fact that its creators were ambitious novices working in a young art form may have doomed Kaena to mediocrity from the start, it took people who didn’t know better to try what more entrenched experts would never do. Kaena prophesized that CGI films didn’t have to be translations of 2D cartoons into 3D or live-action into photorealistic graphics; the fledgling art form had as many great stories to tell in novel ways as any other medium. The challenge remained figuring out how to use it effectively to tell them. Video games inspired the Kaena experiment and have since inspired some of the most flawed, unique, bizarre, and amazing movies CGI has to offer. Imagine the films to come when just the right games motivate just the right teams to fulfill the prophecy that Kaena foretold. View full article
  8. One of the first films that many people will think of when presented with the term “video game documentary” will be Indie Game: The Movie. While it touched on several specific aspects of game design and philosophy, the film was more about the personal journey of each developer. Us and the Game Industry isn’t about the journey; it is about what video games are and the different ways that the people who make them think about them. It presents the audience with a variety of ideas from numerous different perspectives within the industry. We are even given a unique look into the design philosophies behind individual team members from thatgamecompany. Nowhere else are you going to see such an in-depth look behind-the-scenes of indie game development. Us and the Game Industry captures the passion of game development during a period between 2009 and 2012. It explores how indie developers approach the messages that they want their games to convey. It is a cry for more humanity in game development; for games that exist for a reason other than making money. At one point, Robin Hunicke describes the feeling of walking through E3 as an experienced veteran and realizing that many of them felt like the same game packaged under different art. The indie developers in the documentary are each attempting to make a game that is different in its core. Chris Crawford, one of the earliest video game designers and the founder of GDC, denounces the focus on graphics for many recent games. The audience hears the idea behind the game Mutazione, an adventure game from the German indie developer Die Gute Fabrik described as a “swamp opera” that was conceived of by illustrator Nils Deneken. We are presented with a number of games from Jason Rohrer, the developer of underground indie titles like Passage and The Castle Doctrine. We glimpse the thoughts of Alexander Bruce as he develops Antichamber, one of the most mind-bending puzzle games of the last decade. Zach Gage shares his thoughts on casual game development and games designed to waste time. However, the audience spends the most time with the developers at thatgamecompany, hearing the different ideas that went into the creation of games like Flower and Journey. In fact, since the documentary was filmed during Journey’s development, we see the iteration of ideas in pre-alpha builds that eventually become the finished game. Austin Wintory appears to describe the challenges of making an adaptive soundtrack that responds to the actions that players perform while in-game. “When you have something to say and you are using a medium and using lots of money and people’s time, their life, to say something… You want to make sure that what you are saying is something relevant and valuable.” – Jenova Chen The resulting film doesn’t have a cohesive story or any single answer to what video games are now or could be in the future. However, it clearly demonstrates how broad the term “video game” has become and the vastness of the unexplored territory yet before those who make games. It also reveals the differing views of the developers as far as why they choose to make games and what value they see in video games. Stephanie Beth and Clay Westervelt have made something special with their documentary. It is a thoughtful, unrushed, and thoroughly interesting look at the current state of game development. I have no doubt that in a decade and beyond it will become a valuable resource for video game archivists and historians to gain insight into how early games were made. If you are interested in game development, this is a great documentary from which to learn how the industry works. Us and the Game Industry is available for download on the film’s official website as well as on Steam.
  9. The talented video game remixing community that thrives on OverClocked Remix has put together their latest (completely free) album in tribute to the handheld gaming system that brought mobile gaming mainstream and its creator, Gunpei Yokoi. The fifteen tracks of Legacy: Game Boy 25th Anniversary are a lovingly crafted tribute to the massively successful Game Boy. Like the memories of the now obsolete system, the sixteen artists who worked on the album manage to convey a beautiful sense of nostalgia. This is worth checking out for anyone who remembers fond moments with the Game Boy or anyone who loves good music, for that matter. I make no secret of how much I love OverClocked Remix. The video game remix community is an interesting one that brims with talented musicians who provide their own unique takes on the classic video game music we all love and also some of the music that isn't so widely known (like this remix of the Versus Play music from Super Dodge Ball or this remix based on OutRun). Almost all of the music on OCRemix available free of charge to download and enjoy, so enjoy one of the largest tributes to video game music on the internet and pay a visit to their site sometime. You can download the Legacy album here.
  10. Famed throughout the world for his talents as an illustrator and character designer, Yoshitaka Amano partnered with Ubisoft to craft an artistic rendering inspired by the upcoming downloadable title, Child of Light. Yoshitaka Amano has quite the legacy in the video game industry. There is a reason you might have gotten a Final Fantasy vibe from the completed piece; Amano designed the iconic look of the franchise himself. From 1987-1994, Amano worked for Square as their main character, image, and graphic designer. He has also continued to create logos and promotional images for the series up until the present. Child of Light releases as a downloadable title on April 30 on Xbox Live, PSN, Wii U eShop, UPlay, and Steam. It features a unique melding of traditional turn-based RPG gameplay and western folklore visuals. Personally, this is one of my most anticipated smaller-scale titles for the coming year and I am excited to see Ubisoft going out of their way to show support for such a cool project. Keep your eye on this one, folks!
  11. In part one, we looked at the early era of bone-chilling games, ending with an overview of the first commercially successful horror title, Alone in The Dark. In this second installment, we’ll look at the frightful legacy left behind by the pioneers of video game scares. With 1992’s Alone in The Dark, Infrogames had unintentionally opened a Pandora’s Box; as copies of the floppies flew off the shelves, publishers began to see the potential profitability of horror games. More game makers than ever before began trying to scare their audiences. The same year Alone in the Dark hit shelves, the lesser-known Dark Seed made waves in the fledgling video game horror community by releasing with art design by H.R. Geiger, the artist best known for his work creating the monster from Alien. At Geiger’s insistence, the title was among the first to feature high-resolution (for the time) graphics at 640x400. A point-and-click adventure game, Dark Seed placed players in the role of Mike Dawson, proud owner of an old, creepy mansion (notice a pattern of creepy old houses, yet?). By the time the credits roll, alien embryos have been implanted, parallel universes have been discovered, and creepy images have taken hold in your memory, never to leave. Dark Seed released on Amiga and DOS systems and was later ported to the Amiga CD and Mac, while Japan received Saturn and PlayStation ports. The game was relatively well received at the time, despite stability issues and the difficulty of the title. Due to the massive popularity of Alone in the Dark, Dark Seed’s release has largely been overshadowed and many gamers remain unaware of the title’s existence. The 7th Guest by Trilobyte was released 1993 to a storm of press and popularity. Trilobyte created a game full of adult-oriented content, FMV cutscenes, puzzles, and pre-rendered 3D graphics. The game was so large that it became one of the first games to be released only on CD rather than floppy disk. The unprecedented amount of graphical innovations led to attention from the public, which translated into more than two million copies being sold. In Mark Wolf’s book, The Video Game Explosion: A History from PONG to PlayStation and Beyond, Wolf quotes Bill Gates saying that The 7th Guest was a “new standard in interactive entertainment.” In 1993, Mr. Gates was certainly not overstating the truth, and the game still has appeal today. To date, The 7th Guest and its sequels have seen a re-release on PC, Mac, and the iOS app store. In 1995, Roberta Williams, creator of Mystery House and the King’s Quest series, produced another frightful adventure game with Sierra On-Line called Phantasmagoria. Phantasmagoria billed itself as a psychological horror point-and-click adventure game. The tagline on the box, “Pray it’s only a nightmare,” indicates that at this point the video game industry had fully embraced the notion of instilling fear into its products. Surprisingly, the plot didn't revolve around a creepy mansio- Okay, I’m lying, the plot totally revolves around a creepy mansion. Phantasmagoria’s story centered around Adrienne Delaney and her husband Don who move into an isolated old mansion previously owned by a wizard with a rather dubious reputation. What follows Adrienne and Don’s poor choice of abode is an evil tale of murder, violence, and devilry. Phantasmagoria was incredibly successful, despite being some retailers refusing to carry it and an outright ban in Australia, becoming one of the best-selling games of the 1995. Fun fact: Phantasmagoria made use of full-motion video and was the first game to use a live actress as an in-game avatar. The vast amounts of data created by the video files forced the game to be released on seven discs. While Roberta Williams was leading the reign of terror in the American markets of 1995, half a world away Clock Tower was making waves in Japan on the Super Famicom. Clock Tower follows the life of Jennifer Simpson, a newly adopted orphan who is brought to live with the mysterious Barrows family and the events that unfold when she arrives at their home. Clock Tower was designed to be a point-and-click adventure title, albeit with controls simplified for a wired gamepad rather than a keyboard. While very similar to traditional adventure games, what set Clock Tower apart was the method developer Human Entertainment used to instill fear into players. While players navigate the environment (spoiler: the environment happens to be a creepy mansion) and solve puzzles, there is the ever present threat of death in the form of a murderous boy dubbed the Scissorman. The Scissorman appears at both randomly and at predetermined times, robbing players of a sense of safety and control. Clock Tower also lacks any meaningful combat, meaning that if Scissorman is encountered by the player the only recourse is to run and hide. The creepy edge this gives to the horror imagery found in Clock Tower cannot be overstated. 1995 was the year of the horror adventure game with a third highly influential title coming onto the scene courtesy of developer The Dreamers Guild titled, I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream. Possibly one of the most mature looks at disturbing and uncomfortable subject matter to be found in video games, I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream is a science-fiction horror game set in a future version of Earth controlled by a super computer known as AM, who has eradicated all human life on the planet with the exception of five unfortunate souls whom the machine has kept alive to torture indefinitely. After 109 years of torture, AM decides that each human must undergo trials that prey on the captive’s deepest fears. The game unflinchingly deals with numerous difficult issues like insanity and genocide, but does so in a manner that is meant to make people think about the issues rather than exploit them for easy emotional payoffs. I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream is a difficult game that is certainly not for everyone, but it is also one that I would recommend to gamers who believe that games can have important things to say on difficult subjects. You might notice a similarity between many of the horror games released leading up to 1996, they were all point-and-click horror adventure titles. Though many of these titles were great, developers were beginning to look for more interesting gameplay mechanics and new ways to scare their rapidly growing audience. Sweet Home on the NES might not be well remembered by Western audiences because it was never officially released in the West and Alone in the Dark is mostly recalled these days for the terrible 2007 Uwe Boll film and the mediocre 2008 video game rather than the series point-and-click roots, but the influence of both titles was definitely felt in the game that coined the term survival horror and launched it into the public consciousness of both East and West: Resident Evil.
  12. The documentary, World 1-1, aims to cover the origins of video games and to that end has lined up an impressive array of interviews. Now it just needs funding. Video games have the unique distinction, at least for now, of having many of the people who created the medium still alive. Jeanette Garcia and Daryl Rodriguez figure that now is the time for someone to catalog the origins of video games while those creators are still around and able to share their experiences. The result of their effort is World 1-1, the first in a series of documentaries about the history of video games. World 1-1 tells the story of Atari, the business deals, the technological innovations, and the raging personalities that smashed together and formed video games as we know them, and how video games were almost lost forever. A selection from their Kickstarter page explains their approach: #1 The business deals: A question that is often asked is whether video games are art. They definitely are, but they're also a business. In the creation of this industry, it was ultimately the businessmen and the deals they made that took video games out of the universities and out of the hands of the select few who had access to computers at the time. Engineers had the creativity, knowledge, and ingenuity, but their innovations had to make business sense. World 1-1 will look further into the business deals that got video games out of the garages of the elite and into everyone's home. #2 The personalities of the pioneers: Atari exec Ray Kassar once called the game designers "high-strung prima donnas". While that's certainly one perspective and not true for all game designers, it's a testament that creative individuals are often perceived differently due to their intriguing personalities. This film will provide firsthand accounts from the game designers and explore who they really were and who they are today. #3 The creations of the engineers: The innovations of the time were a break through in technology. The creators had the incredible technical challenge of making a video game without a microprocessor. The early companies developed the design of putting the games on external chips, which has remained the same until today. World 1-1 will highlight the legendary titles and the lesser-known games that were precursors to the games we play today. In addition to their enthusiasm for the project, Garcia and Rodriguez have lined up interviews with a number of the video game industry's pioneers and prominent figures. These include: Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell, Activision co-founder David Crane, Adventure creator Warren Robinett, co-creator of Centipede Dona Bailey, creator of Night Driver Dave Shepperd, and Garry Kitchen a programmer for the original Donkey Kong. Other industry professionals are lending their talents such as, IGN's Colin Moriarty and Peer Schneider, video game personality Patrick Scott Patterson, and Rick Medina, owner of Arcade Odyssey. The goal of the Kickstarter is to raise $15,000 to fund expenses such as travel and equipment costs. Currently, the project is sitting at $2,563 with 14 days until the Kickstarter is over. For more information, check out their Kickstarter page or Facebook. Honestly, a someone with a huge interest in the history of video gaming, I would love to see something like this made. I think it is an interesting project and both Garcia and Rodriguez seem to have done their homework and lined up what could be some really amazing interviews. Many of these people won't be around for much longer and capturing their stories on film in an amazing opportunity. Contribute if you think World 1-1 is something worthwhile.
  13. The popular science-fiction television program Falling Skies is making its way into the video game space this year and into next year. Beginning with a release of a mobile title this holiday season, publisher Little Orbit will then roll out a multiplatform release sometime in 2014. It is unconfirmed if the title will be on next-gen, current-gen, or cross-gen consoles. The games will all feature voice acting by characters from the television series. The writers behind the show will also be lending a helping hand to the game's storyline. As of this time it is unknown who is actually developing the titles. Any Falling Skies fans out there? Are you interested in this? Or will it just be another one of those "licensed games" people tend to vilify?
  14. until
    Strength in Numbers (SiN) Studios is an independent video game development company based in Lansing, Michigan. We are currently creating our launch title, Tuebor, and are releasing it to the public in late August of this year. We're in the stage of Beta testing Tuebor now and would like to invite others to play with us! Thought this would be a great community to reach out to to play with us! When: Friday, July 29 8:00pm EST - ?? What: The level is called Lava Flow. We will work together to defeat waves of NPC's and ruthless artificial intelligence systems. Where: We will be posting the game client on our social media outlets on Friday, the 29th. Facebook: www.facebook.com/sinstudios Twitter: www.twitter.com/sin_studios Why: It's going to be a great time and provide a preview of the game before it's released! If you have any questions, please email me at : emily.springer@tueborgame.com
  15. until
    What: From theMidwestLAN.com... MidWestLAN was started in 2003 by a few friends, and a passion for LAN gaming. They went on to run in their first season, 4 very well received events with everyone except one selling completely out with a waiting list to get in. As the LAN party evolved the original team stayed dedicated on their goal of focusing on the gamer and not on their own needs which separated themselves from many of the early 2000-era LANs. The original 5 events saw monumental growth, as they went from 20 person events to the 100+ person LANs MWL is known for today. After MWL5 the original staff elected to step aside to pursue other interests. However, the Empire Gamers LAN team stepped up and, with the same dedication towards providing high quality LAN events that appeal to all types of gamers, continues operating MidWestLAN to this very day. Whether you’re a weekend warrior or an aspiring pro you can bet there will be something for you at MidWestLAN. Where: Marriott Madison West 1313 John Q Hammons Dr Middleton, WI 53562 (Remember GeekKon? Same area. ) When: August 5th-7th (Fri-Sun) How: MidwestLAN has graciously invited us to take part in this year's event, offering us a table to help spread the word, as well as donate 50% of the entry fees from their League of Legends tournament and 10% of t-shirt sales to Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. Our volunteer needs for this event will be a minimum of two people for each shift. Volunteers will be provided one badge for the tenure of their volunteered time and must return it at the end of your shift. If you want to enjoy the event after your scheduled shift, consider supporting the convention by purchasing a badge as they are kind enough to host us at no cost to the hospital. Please see the MKE/MAD forums to register to volunteer!
  16. I just finished playing through the publicly available build of Return of the Obra Dinn and I definitely liked what I saw. Currently being developed by Lucas Pope, the creator of indie darling Papers, Please, Return of the Obra Dinn seems to be an adventure game that centers on the mysterious merchant vessel Obra Dinn. Set in 1808, the East India Company sends the player, an insurance adjuster, to board the ship and investigate its return after five years lost at sea. The company also provides a mysterious package to be opened only once the player has boarded. As player explores the seemingly abandoned ship, it becomes clear that something horrible has happened; the bones of the captain, crew, and passengers litter the deck and holds. An unnerving atmosphere permeates the ship, one that only becomes more palpable when the parcel the company sent along is opened. It contains a watch inscribed with indecipherable symbols and images. The mysterious watch begins to react when the player encounters the remains of each deceased crew member. It causes the world to dissolve before reconstructing the universe around the last second of the departed's life. Players can then walk around the ship as it existed during that second, the universe completely still, frozen in time. The time reversal and freezing effect would be a very neat in a game that uses a conventional graphical style, but Return of the Obra Dinn has a very distinct 1-bit aesthetic that tries to replicate late 80s computer graphics. This aesthetic really sets Obra Dinn apart from anything else you've ever seen. Though the preview stretches to emulate early computer graphics, it does interesting new things with them by rendering them in real-time from a first-person perspective. The effect is really quite interesting and says a lot about how far video games can actually distance themselves from reality while still depicting recognizable objects. There isn't a whole lot of game in the available build. It took me about 15 minutes to complete the entire thing, but it is certainly an arresting look at a game very early in its development. It has an interesting mechanic, a great aesthetic, and it has me very intrigued. I'm eager to see where this goes. If you would like to try Return of the Obra Dinn for yourself, you can find the download for it here. View full article
  17. One of the first films that many people will think of when presented with the term “video game documentary” will be Indie Game: The Movie. While it touched on several specific aspects of game design and philosophy, the film was more about the personal journey of each developer. Us and the Game Industry isn’t about the journey; it is about what video games are and the different ways that the people who make them think about them. It presents the audience with a variety of ideas from numerous different perspectives within the industry. We are even given a unique look into the design philosophies behind individual team members from thatgamecompany. Nowhere else are you going to see such an in-depth look behind-the-scenes of indie game development. Us and the Game Industry captures the passion of game development during a period between 2009 and 2012. It explores how indie developers approach the messages that they want their games to convey. It is a cry for more humanity in game development; for games that exist for a reason other than making money. At one point, Robin Hunicke describes the feeling of walking through E3 as an experienced veteran and realizing that many of them felt like the same game packaged under different art. The indie developers in the documentary are each attempting to make a game that is different in its core. Chris Crawford, one of the earliest video game designers and the founder of GDC, denounces the focus on graphics for many recent games. The audience hears the idea behind the game Mutazione, an adventure game from the German indie developer Die Gute Fabrik described as a “swamp opera” that was conceived of by illustrator Nils Deneken. We are presented with a number of games from Jason Rohrer, the developer of underground indie titles like Passage and The Castle Doctrine. We glimpse the thoughts of Alexander Bruce as he develops Antichamber, one of the most mind-bending puzzle games of the last decade. Zach Gage shares his thoughts on casual game development and games designed to waste time. However, the audience spends the most time with the developers at thatgamecompany, hearing the different ideas that went into the creation of games like Flower and Journey. In fact, since the documentary was filmed during Journey’s development, we see the iteration of ideas in pre-alpha builds that eventually become the finished game. Austin Wintory appears to describe the challenges of making an adaptive soundtrack that responds to the actions that players perform while in-game. “When you have something to say and you are using a medium and using lots of money and people’s time, their life, to say something… You want to make sure that what you are saying is something relevant and valuable.” – Jenova Chen The resulting film doesn’t have a cohesive story or any single answer to what video games are now or could be in the future. However, it clearly demonstrates how broad the term “video game” has become and the vastness of the unexplored territory yet before those who make games. It also reveals the differing views of the developers as far as why they choose to make games and what value they see in video games. Stephanie Beth and Clay Westervelt have made something special with their documentary. It is a thoughtful, unrushed, and thoroughly interesting look at the current state of game development. I have no doubt that in a decade and beyond it will become a valuable resource for video game archivists and historians to gain insight into how early games were made. If you are interested in game development, this is a great documentary from which to learn how the industry works. Us and the Game Industry is available for download on the film’s official website as well as on Steam. View full article
  18. The talented video game remixing community that thrives on OverClocked Remix has put together their latest (completely free) album in tribute to the handheld gaming system that brought mobile gaming mainstream and its creator, Gunpei Yokoi. The fifteen tracks of Legacy: Game Boy 25th Anniversary are a lovingly crafted tribute to the massively successful Game Boy. Like the memories of the now obsolete system, the sixteen artists who worked on the album manage to convey a beautiful sense of nostalgia. This is worth checking out for anyone who remembers fond moments with the Game Boy or anyone who loves good music, for that matter. I make no secret of how much I love OverClocked Remix. The video game remix community is an interesting one that brims with talented musicians who provide their own unique takes on the classic video game music we all love and also some of the music that isn't so widely known (like this remix of the Versus Play music from Super Dodge Ball or this remix based on OutRun). Almost all of the music on OCRemix available free of charge to download and enjoy, so enjoy one of the largest tributes to video game music on the internet and pay a visit to their site sometime. You can download the Legacy album here. View full article
  19. Famed throughout the world for his talents as an illustrator and character designer, Yoshitaka Amano partnered with Ubisoft to craft an artistic rendering inspired by the upcoming downloadable title, Child of Light. Yoshitaka Amano has quite the legacy in the video game industry. There is a reason you might have gotten a Final Fantasy vibe from the completed piece; Amano designed the iconic look of the franchise himself. From 1987-1994, Amano worked for Square as their main character, image, and graphic designer. He has also continued to create logos and promotional images for the series up until the present. Child of Light releases as a downloadable title on April 30 on Xbox Live, PSN, Wii U eShop, UPlay, and Steam. It features a unique melding of traditional turn-based RPG gameplay and western folklore visuals. Personally, this is one of my most anticipated smaller-scale titles for the coming year and I am excited to see Ubisoft going out of their way to show support for such a cool project. Keep your eye on this one, folks! View full article
  20. In part one, we looked at the early era of bone-chilling games, ending with an overview of the first commercially successful horror title, Alone in The Dark. In this second installment, we’ll look at the frightful legacy left behind by the pioneers of video game scares. With 1992’s Alone in The Dark, Infrogames had unintentionally opened a Pandora’s Box; as copies of the floppies flew off the shelves, publishers began to see the potential profitability of horror games. More game makers than ever before began trying to scare their audiences. The same year Alone in the Dark hit shelves, the lesser-known Dark Seed made waves in the fledgling video game horror community by releasing with art design by H.R. Geiger, the artist best known for his work creating the monster from Alien. At Geiger’s insistence, the title was among the first to feature high-resolution (for the time) graphics at 640x400. A point-and-click adventure game, Dark Seed placed players in the role of Mike Dawson, proud owner of an old, creepy mansion (notice a pattern of creepy old houses, yet?). By the time the credits roll, alien embryos have been implanted, parallel universes have been discovered, and creepy images have taken hold in your memory, never to leave. Dark Seed released on Amiga and DOS systems and was later ported to the Amiga CD and Mac, while Japan received Saturn and PlayStation ports. The game was relatively well received at the time, despite stability issues and the difficulty of the title. Due to the massive popularity of Alone in the Dark, Dark Seed’s release has largely been overshadowed and many gamers remain unaware of the title’s existence. The 7th Guest by Trilobyte was released 1993 to a storm of press and popularity. Trilobyte created a game full of adult-oriented content, FMV cutscenes, puzzles, and pre-rendered 3D graphics. The game was so large that it became one of the first games to be released only on CD rather than floppy disk. The unprecedented amount of graphical innovations led to attention from the public, which translated into more than two million copies being sold. In Mark Wolf’s book, The Video Game Explosion: A History from PONG to PlayStation and Beyond, Wolf quotes Bill Gates saying that The 7th Guest was a “new standard in interactive entertainment.” In 1993, Mr. Gates was certainly not overstating the truth, and the game still has appeal today. To date, The 7th Guest and its sequels have seen a re-release on PC, Mac, and the iOS app store. In 1995, Roberta Williams, creator of Mystery House and the King’s Quest series, produced another frightful adventure game with Sierra On-Line called Phantasmagoria. Phantasmagoria billed itself as a psychological horror point-and-click adventure game. The tagline on the box, “Pray it’s only a nightmare,” indicates that at this point the video game industry had fully embraced the notion of instilling fear into its products. Surprisingly, the plot didn't revolve around a creepy mansio- Okay, I’m lying, the plot totally revolves around a creepy mansion. Phantasmagoria’s story centered around Adrienne Delaney and her husband Don who move into an isolated old mansion previously owned by a wizard with a rather dubious reputation. What follows Adrienne and Don’s poor choice of abode is an evil tale of murder, violence, and devilry. Phantasmagoria was incredibly successful, despite being some retailers refusing to carry it and an outright ban in Australia, becoming one of the best-selling games of the 1995. Fun fact: Phantasmagoria made use of full-motion video and was the first game to use a live actress as an in-game avatar. The vast amounts of data created by the video files forced the game to be released on seven discs. While Roberta Williams was leading the reign of terror in the American markets of 1995, half a world away Clock Tower was making waves in Japan on the Super Famicom. Clock Tower follows the life of Jennifer Simpson, a newly adopted orphan who is brought to live with the mysterious Barrows family and the events that unfold when she arrives at their home. Clock Tower was designed to be a point-and-click adventure title, albeit with controls simplified for a wired gamepad rather than a keyboard. While very similar to traditional adventure games, what set Clock Tower apart was the method developer Human Entertainment used to instill fear into players. While players navigate the environment (spoiler: the environment happens to be a creepy mansion) and solve puzzles, there is the ever present threat of death in the form of a murderous boy dubbed the Scissorman. The Scissorman appears at both randomly and at predetermined times, robbing players of a sense of safety and control. Clock Tower also lacks any meaningful combat, meaning that if Scissorman is encountered by the player the only recourse is to run and hide. The creepy edge this gives to the horror imagery found in Clock Tower cannot be overstated. 1995 was the year of the horror adventure game with a third highly influential title coming onto the scene courtesy of developer The Dreamers Guild titled, I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream. Possibly one of the most mature looks at disturbing and uncomfortable subject matter to be found in video games, I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream is a science-fiction horror game set in a future version of Earth controlled by a super computer known as AM, who has eradicated all human life on the planet with the exception of five unfortunate souls whom the machine has kept alive to torture indefinitely. After 109 years of torture, AM decides that each human must undergo trials that prey on the captive’s deepest fears. The game unflinchingly deals with numerous difficult issues like insanity and genocide, but does so in a manner that is meant to make people think about the issues rather than exploit them for easy emotional payoffs. I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream is a difficult game that is certainly not for everyone, but it is also one that I would recommend to gamers who believe that games can have important things to say on difficult subjects. You might notice a similarity between many of the horror games released leading up to 1996, they were all point-and-click horror adventure titles. Though many of these titles were great, developers were beginning to look for more interesting gameplay mechanics and new ways to scare their rapidly growing audience. Sweet Home on the NES might not be well remembered by Western audiences because it was never officially released in the West and Alone in the Dark is mostly recalled these days for the terrible 2007 Uwe Boll film and the mediocre 2008 video game rather than the series point-and-click roots, but the influence of both titles was definitely felt in the game that coined the term survival horror and launched it into the public consciousness of both East and West: Resident Evil. View full article
  21. The documentary, World 1-1, aims to cover the origins of video games and to that end has lined up an impressive array of interviews. Now it just needs funding. Video games have the unique distinction, at least for now, of having many of the people who created the medium still alive. Jeanette Garcia and Daryl Rodriguez figure that now is the time for someone to catalog the origins of video games while those creators are still around and able to share their experiences. The result of their effort is World 1-1, the first in a series of documentaries about the history of video games. World 1-1 tells the story of Atari, the business deals, the technological innovations, and the raging personalities that smashed together and formed video games as we know them, and how video games were almost lost forever. A selection from their Kickstarter page explains their approach: #1 The business deals: A question that is often asked is whether video games are art. They definitely are, but they're also a business. In the creation of this industry, it was ultimately the businessmen and the deals they made that took video games out of the universities and out of the hands of the select few who had access to computers at the time. Engineers had the creativity, knowledge, and ingenuity, but their innovations had to make business sense. World 1-1 will look further into the business deals that got video games out of the garages of the elite and into everyone's home. #2 The personalities of the pioneers: Atari exec Ray Kassar once called the game designers "high-strung prima donnas". While that's certainly one perspective and not true for all game designers, it's a testament that creative individuals are often perceived differently due to their intriguing personalities. This film will provide firsthand accounts from the game designers and explore who they really were and who they are today. #3 The creations of the engineers: The innovations of the time were a break through in technology. The creators had the incredible technical challenge of making a video game without a microprocessor. The early companies developed the design of putting the games on external chips, which has remained the same until today. World 1-1 will highlight the legendary titles and the lesser-known games that were precursors to the games we play today. In addition to their enthusiasm for the project, Garcia and Rodriguez have lined up interviews with a number of the video game industry's pioneers and prominent figures. These include: Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell, Activision co-founder David Crane, Adventure creator Warren Robinett, co-creator of Centipede Dona Bailey, creator of Night Driver Dave Shepperd, and Garry Kitchen a programmer for the original Donkey Kong. Other industry professionals are lending their talents such as, IGN's Colin Moriarty and Peer Schneider, video game personality Patrick Scott Patterson, and Rick Medina, owner of Arcade Odyssey. The goal of the Kickstarter is to raise $15,000 to fund expenses such as travel and equipment costs. Currently, the project is sitting at $2,563 with 14 days until the Kickstarter is over. For more information, check out their Kickstarter page or Facebook. Honestly, a someone with a huge interest in the history of video gaming, I would love to see something like this made. I think it is an interesting project and both Garcia and Rodriguez seem to have done their homework and lined up what could be some really amazing interviews. Many of these people won't be around for much longer and capturing their stories on film in an amazing opportunity. Contribute if you think World 1-1 is something worthwhile. View full article
  22. The popular science-fiction television program Falling Skies is making its way into the video game space this year and into next year. Beginning with a release of a mobile title this holiday season, publisher Little Orbit will then roll out a multiplatform release sometime in 2014. It is unconfirmed if the title will be on next-gen, current-gen, or cross-gen consoles. The games will all feature voice acting by characters from the television series. The writers behind the show will also be lending a helping hand to the game's storyline. As of this time it is unknown who is actually developing the titles. Any Falling Skies fans out there? Are you interested in this? Or will it just be another one of those "licensed games" people tend to vilify? View full article