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Jack Gardner
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.

Jack Gardner
The Lost Planet series is a bit of a gaming anomaly. The first game, Lost Planet: Extreme Condition, gave players robotic suits of armor called Vital Suits, a grappling hook, and giant enemy monsters to shoot. The gameplay was pretty straightforward and the game world was refreshing and fun, but the story was the special kind of so-bad-its-good. All of these elements combined to create a pretty enjoyable game. Extreme Condition also had an online multiplayer component, which became the main focus of Lost Planet 2. Many people felt alienated by the shift in direction from the first Lost Planet game and most people assumed that the series died after the sequel.

Then, Capcom did the unthinkable. They decided to try and revitalize the series with a story driven, single-player experience. Early trailers showed a bearded man both in and out of a gigantic Vital Suit fighting off Akrid, insect-like enemies that were the mainstays of the previous two titles. This seemed like a step in the right direction for a series seemingly back from the dead.
I was able to play the single-player demo and what I saw was in desperate need of last minute tweaking. Picking up the single-player, I was thrust into a boss battle against a giant ice worm. The creature thrashed at the room sending claws through the broken window and occasionally spitting larva reminiscent of the face-huggers from the Alien series. All of the elements were present for a thrilling, satisfying battle. Unfortunately, the sheer amount of health the ice worm had made this battle last for nearly seven minutes. During that time I stood in one place constantly shooting at the worm, occasionally turning to take care of the face-huggers. After defeating the worm, I ran through some hallways of the destroyed facility before running onto a platform outside and waited for an elevator. Surprise! The worm appeared again and a repeat of the last encounter began. I stood still and shot at the giant worm and its larva for a prolonged period of time until the elevator arrived. Then I got into a giant Vital Suit to fight the worm in close-quarters-combat. What I thought would be an awesome culmination of the demo, possibly redeeming the lackluster combat up until that point, turned out to be a difficult quick-time-event to which I died repeatedly. After pressing on through the frustration generated by the ice worm sequence, I encountered a cutscene which sets up the story of Lost Planet 3.

Visually, Lost Planet 3 is gorgeous. Snow swirls, creatures and VSs look appropriately amazing, fantastic, and cool, and the animations are smooth and pleasing. The cutscenes in particular were dazzling and left me wanting to just watch a Lost Planet CG film. However, in pretty much every other area I found Lost Planet 3 to be in need of some polish. Many of the sound effects seemed to be place-holders, guns made strange, unsatisfying, and decidedly un-gunlike noises. The music would probably have been pretty great, but after spending twenty minutes listening to the same, looped orchestral track it began to wear a bit thin. The gameplay seemed sluggish and unresponsive, moving from cover to cover seemed to take too long and the aiming felt slippery.

To be fair, most of my time spent in single-player was standing stationary and holding down the shoulder button to shoot. This is mostly a balancing issue that could be taken care of with a bit of effort between now and release. It remains to be seen if these problems will persist into the full retail release or if I happened to play through a particularly frustrating part of the game.
Lost Planet 3 is being developed by Spark Unlimited and published by Capcom. Expect to see it hitting stores August 27 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC. 

Jack Gardner
For people who may not be familiar with Octodad, you play as an octopus that masquerades as a human and tries to perform mundane tasks like walking or using forks without alerting normal humans that he is, in fact, an octopus. During E3, I was able to sit down and play as the sneaky cephalopod on the PS4. 
The demo of Dadliest Catch (by the way, how can you NOT love such a terrible/hilarious play on Deadliest Catch?) tasked me with making it to my wedding without drawing too much attention to my rather obvious tentacles. Shoulder buttons control leg movements in conjunction with the analog sticks, while tapping one of the face buttons allows you to control one of the hand-tentacles to grab and manipulate objects. While the controls seem simple, deadliest Catch goes to great lengths to inform players that if an octopus was to put on a man’s suit, tie, and pants, it would be very difficult for that aquatic creature to assume the role of a father. By using the octopus’ natural (See: completely unnatural) ability to walk and pick up things, players will need to figure out the best way to complete objectives like cooking dinner or putting a wedding ring on a beloved’s hand. Often, picking up a single object or walking in a straight line results in hilarious destruction and much limb flailing.

I began by having to put on a bowtie, which proved incredibly disastrous, as I sent wedding gifts scattering across the floor before falling onto a table, burying myself underneath a mountain of presents. When I tried to rise up, like a beautiful, aquatic phoenix, I smashed a few of the gifts through the stained-glass window of the church. Luckily, no one was around to observe my miserable performance and I was able to saunter away from the wreckage of my bowtie adventure, whistling innocently (or whatever the cephalopod equivalent of whistling would be). Following the bowtie escapade, I needed to walk down the aisle of a church to get married to my human bride. On the way, I wobbled from right to left, knocking over several pillars that lined the pews and nearly falling over multiple times, all while the digital wedding-goers wondered at my clumsiness. If these missteps occur too often while other people can see you, they will begin to get suspicious and eventually see through the ruse, resulting in a game over. Luckily, I successfully made it to my bride, after which I needed to make my way to a nearby chest and retrieve the wedding ring. Retrieving the ring with little effort (okay, I might have thrown a ton of jewels out of the chest all over the church altar), I carefully placed the ring into the possession of my bride. And just like that, the demo was over. 

I could tell you a lot of things about Octodad: Dadliest Catch. I could say that the animations are amazingly funny; that the ridiculousness of the premise is really enjoyable if you can find some modicum of joy in your heart; that the team at Young Horses has put a lot of genuine heart into Dadliest Catch. I could say those things. But I think what really speaks for the game is that throughout the entire demo I couldn’t stop smiling and laughing.
Dadliest Catch is a direct sequel to the original PC game (which can be downloaded here) and will be releasing on PC, Mac, Linux, and PS4 sometime this year.

Jack Gardner
One of the biggest “huh” moments of E3, overshadowed by the console war between the PS4 and Xbox One, was the revelation that a new game based on the 1980 film Mad Max was in the works by Avalanche Studios simply titled Mad Max. We were given a live, hands-off demonstration of Mad Max in action. How does Max hold up in the 21st century?
Slated as a next-gen, open-world title, Mad Max will put players in the boots of the titular Max himself as he struggles to reclaim his classic Interceptor car from the marauders of the post-apocalyptic wasteland in which the game is set. Along the way, Max is aided by the twisted genius of the deformed Chum Bucket, a mechanic who builds Max a new vehicle called the Magnum Opus, which can be upgraded in a variety of different ways.
In the demonstration, Max needed to get to a place called Gas Town for unspecified reasons. Along the way, he saw some wrecked cars along the road and stopped to scavenge them for supplies. Scavenging will be an integral part of surviving in Mad Max and will net you all kinds of new equipment and upgrades. By searching the wreckage, Max walked away with a beat-up, but serviceable harpoon cannon. This new weapon was put to use a few moments later when Max was ambushed by bandits while driving toward Gas Town. Using the harpoon cannon rips pieces of other cars off, exposing enemies or even destroying the vehicle outright. During this encounter, one of the bandits managed to jump onto the roof of the Magnum Opus and started trying to get into the car. The demonstrator took the opportunity to show off how the game’s physics can be used to repel boarders, swerving to and fro, eventually dislodging the tenacious bandit.

After the dust had settled, we were told that if we went back and searched the bodies and vehicles, we could probably find more cool stuff, but in the interest of time we pressed on. The map system in place right now looks like a placeholder for the final design, but it functions. Really important areas will be highlighted on the map, but random encounters, roving bands of marauders, and smaller sidequests will not be. While the roads are always the safest routes to take, players will be able to cut through the more dangerous wilderness to find riches and glory. Off-road exploration of the desert wastes will be necessary to find some of the coolest gear and locations.
Encountering a bandit camp roadblock and an entrenched sniper, Max stepped out of the Magnum Opus to take care of both on foot. The combat in Mad Max is brutal and intense. Max will use whatever he can to best his adversaries, be it fists, shotguns, or explosive harpoons. Using these weapons, Max caused havoc in the camp and destroyed the roadblock before sneaking up behind the sniper to finish him off with a silent takedown. It was at this point that the demonstrator paused to make it clear that Mad Max is not a stealth game, nor do they encourage that type of play, but there are times when you can make use of the element of surprise.
After taking the sniper’s rifle and making his way back to the Opus, Max continued on his way, before encountering a walled fortress blocking his route. The gates of the fortress glowed red, alerting players that the Opus would need to be upgraded before being able to bash through them. This is where the team at Avalanche has tried to make Mad Max shine. There are numerous ways to approach a combat scenario: head-on with guns blazing, long range sniping/mortar attacks, by using vehicles, etc.
In the demo, Max used his newly acquired sniper rifle to take out a couple of sentries on the fort’s walls. This caused an alarm to go up and loud bells began clanging within the enemy camp. Max had awoken the horde, which began pouring from the now open gate. Running back to the Magnum Opus, Max jumped in and floored the accelerator, rushing straight into the oncoming sea of marauders. Then the screen faded to the slogan for the title, “Only the savage survive.”

Everything we saw was from a pre-alpha version of Mad Max, and is subject to change as the final version is still quite a ways off. To be honest, not much is known about the game, but from what I saw I thought it looked like an intense, visceral, and potentially fun experience. Look for Mad Max in 2014 on Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

Jack Gardner
UPDATE: Don Mattrick, Microsoft's president of interactive entertainment has released an official statement on Microsoft's stance change. Below you can find his full statement.
Last week at E3, the excitement, creativity and future of our industry was on display for a global audience.

For us, the future comes in the form of Xbox One, a system designed to be the best place to play games this year and for many years to come. As is our heritage with Xbox, we designed a system that could take full advantage of advances in technology in order to deliver a breakthrough in game play and entertainment. We imagined a new set of benefits such as easier roaming, family sharing, and new ways to try and buy games. We believe in the benefits of a connected, digital future.

Since unveiling our plans for Xbox One, my team and I have heard directly from many of you, read your comments and listened to your feedback. I would like to take the opportunity today to thank you for your assistance in helping us to reshape the future of Xbox One.

You told us how much you loved the flexibility you have today with games delivered on disc. The ability to lend, share, and resell these games at your discretion is of incredible importance to you. Also important to you is the freedom to play offline, for any length of time, anywhere in the world.

So, today I am announcing the following changes to Xbox One and how you can play, share, lend, and resell your games exactly as you do today on Xbox 360. Here is what that means:

An internet connection will not be required to play offline Xbox One games – After a one-time system set-up with a new Xbox One, you can play any disc based game without ever connecting online again. There is no 24 hour connection requirement and you can take your Xbox One anywhere you want and play your games, just like on Xbox 360.

Trade-in, lend, resell, gift, and rent disc based games just like you do today – There will be no limitations to using and sharing games, it will work just as it does today on Xbox 360.

In addition to buying a disc from a retailer, you can also download games from Xbox Live on day of release. If you choose to download your games, you will be able to play them offline just like you do today. Xbox One games will be playable on any Xbox One console -- there will be no regional restrictions.

These changes will impact some of the scenarios we previously announced for Xbox One. The sharing of games will work as it does today, you will simply share the disc. Downloaded titles cannot be shared or resold. Also, similar to today, playing disc based games will require that the disc be in the tray.

We appreciate your passion, support and willingness to challenge the assumptions of digital licensing and connectivity. While we believe that the majority of people will play games online and access the cloud for both games and entertainment, we will give consumers the choice of both physical and digital content. We have listened and we have heard loud and clear from your feedback that you want the best of both worlds.

Thank you again for your candid feedback. Our team remains committed to listening, taking feedback and delivering a great product for you later this year.
It is good to know that even a giant corporation like Microsoft can understand which way the wind is blowing. If you didn't feel like reading the full statement, Mattrick clarified the following things:
Downloaded games can still be accessed anywhere at any times, but disc-based games cannot, unless you have the disc. This effectively ends the "you can take your library with you" line that Microsoft was trying to sell.
  You will need to download a day-one patch in order to disable the Xbox One's 24-hour check-in component.
  The regional restrictions on the Xbox One have been lifted. You can buy an Xbox One from anywhere in the world and it will play Xbox One games from anywhere in the world.
  Original story: In a stunning turn of events, Microsoft has revised its policies on 24-hour required system check-ins for the Xbox one and used game DRM that would restrict the resale of games.
The reversal of Microsoft's stance for the Xbox One was likely in response to Sony's PlayStation 4 press conference during E3, after which they received numerous complains and were on the receiving end of pretty intense consumer hatred. You can check out the important points over on their official site, or read the important bullet points below.
- Though the Xbox One is still designed to be connected to the internet, it will no longer cease playing games after 24-hours pass in an offline state.
- The Xbox one will not have used game DRM that prohibits or restricts the sale of used games. There will be no additional hoops to go through if you want to lend a game to a friend or trade your game in for cash or store credit.
Needless to say, this is incredibly unexpected and has left most of the folks across the industry feeling like the gif below.

We'll continue to monitor the story as it develops.

Jack Gardner
For those who are unfamiliar with Earth Defense Force (EDF), let me paint a word-picture of what the series is like, at least as I am familiar with it from the previous two game that have released in North America. Imagine a third-person shooter with low-budget graphics, hilarious animation, and a laughable storyline. Combine that mental image with the concepts of infinite ammo, flying saucers, lasers, jet packs, destructible environments, giant robots, hundreds of giant ants, spiders, and other insects. Does that sound awesome? Then EDF 2017 and its direct sequel EDF 2025 might just be for you.
The events of the first game aren’t all that important. All you need to know is that aliens dubbed “The Ravagers” descended on Earth, and were defeated by the Earth Defense Force. Thought to be destroyed, the Ravagers suddenly reappear in 2025 stronger than ever, and the EDF must once more step up to stop the global threat.

Taking cues from a previous EDF title called Insect Armageddon, 2025 has four playable classes. The Air Raider can call down vehicle drops and functions as a support class, improving and working with other classes. The Ranger class is the most balanced and “normal” of the classes, able to roll out of danger. The third class is the mobile Wing Diver, who comes equipped with a jet pack and laser weapons. Playing as a Wing Diver was perhaps the most fun I had with a class in my hour with EDF 2025. The light weapons she uses are offset by her maneuverability in the air, in which she can fly almost indefinitely. Some of her weapons drain her jet pack energy, forcing an early landing if you aren’t careful, but there is no fall damage in EDF. Finally, the Fencer heavy weapons class can bring four weapons into a level instead of two and can switch between both load outs on the fly. Basically, the Fencer quadra-wields weapons. QUADRA. WIELDS. WEAPONS. Oh, and the Fencer has access to hyper-charged melee weapons like a gravity hammer that can be charged up and releases a gigantic shockwave. 
The game was designed with splitscreen and online co-op in mind. Up to four people can play together online, while two people can play together locally in splitscreen. Some weapons can only be used in conjunction with other classes in multiplayer. The example I was shown involved the Air Raider and the Fencer. As the fencer, I had a weapon which fired a single, powerful guided-missile, while the Air Raider had a guiding laser which could be used to select the target for the missile.

Many features have stayed the same from 2017 to 2025. The goal of each mission is as simple as it ever was: Destroy all the enemies. There have been some slight graphical improvements and the frame rate no longer stutters when faced with hundreds of charging ants, spiders, flying saucers, giant robots, etc. However, the low-grade charm of 2017 remains intact. The multiple difficulty levels ranging from Easy to Inferno return, as well as better weapon rewards for completing higher difficulties. Previous EDF titles consisted of up to sixty missions. When I asked one of the developers about how many missions we could expect to see in 2025, she was unable to give the exact number of missions, but assured me that “the number will be much higher than sixty.” In 2017, buildings would crumble into rubble at the slightest touch of a rocket. While buildings no longer seems as if they are constructed of papier-mâché, they remain destructible.  Another new aspect is that enemies can pick up your character and toss them around. While this might seem like it would be frustrating, players will be able to continue firing while grabbed. These attacks feature the use of new (and hilarious) ragdoll animations which also occur anytime your character is hit by an explosion. 

The Earth Defense Force series holds a special place in my heart. With cheesy graphics, a laughable story, and hilarious scenarios, EDF has always been a great arcade experience to share with friends. By now it appears that 2025 will fill the shoes left by 2017. For every step taken to improve the experience, there is a half-step backward onto a banana peel, which is where Earth Defense Force truly shines. Mark my words, Earth Defense Force 2025 will be a cult classic for many years to come.
Earth Defense Force 2025 will release July 4, 2013 in Japan and February 4, 2014 in North America on Xbox 360 and PS3. There are currently no plans for a next-gen release.

Jack Gardner
Treyarch announced today that new DLC for Call of Duty: Black Ops II titled Vengeance will be available on Xbox Live beginning July 2. This will be the third multiplayer DLC pack for the popular first-person shooter.
The map pack will include four new places to compete against fellow gamers: Cove, Detour, Rush, and Uplink. Cove takes place on a small island in the middle of the Indian Ocean on which a smuggling plane has crash landed. Covering a destroyed suspension bridge, Detour pits players head to head in confined, close-quarters combat. The Rush map actually takes place on a paintball course, while Uplink is a remake of the much loved Summit map from Call of Duty: Black Ops.

Vengeance will also include a new zombie map called Buried that takes place in an subterranean mining town from the Old West. Players will meet up with old characters from previous zombie modes and have access to a new weapon called the Ray Gun Mark II.
Who else is ready to blast some zombies and celebrate freedom?

Jack Gardner
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.

Jack Gardner
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.

Jack Gardner
As many people know, Jonathan Blow, the creator of the highly acclaimed indie game Braid, has been working on his next game called The Witness. However, details on the project are incredibly scarce.
What many people do not know is that a while ago there was a call for people to submit art that could become a poster for The Witness. It turns out that the art poster was (very) briefly featured in this PS4 promotional spot at about 0:57. You can now download the hi-res image from their website. From there, Jonathan Blow says that, "If you like it, feel free to use it as a desktop image, or whatever!"

I know think I know what will be going up on my walls sometime soon!

Jack Gardner
The fine folks at CD Projekt RED were kind enough to show us a nearly hour long gameplay demo of the upcoming high-fantasy RPG blockbuster, as well as answer some of our nagging questions. Here is what we took away from what we saw.
The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt is set several years after the events of The Witcher 2, meaning that there are few direct connections to previous games in the series. The decision was made to distance the third title from the previous two so that the team could step away from the political intrigue of the previous titles and focus on Geralt’s personal journey. In The Witcher 3, Geralt is in pursuit of a terrifying and deadly group of spectral warriors known as the Wild Hunt. In the game world, witchers were originally monster hunters and that aspect of the game world will become the central focus of the story.
There are several new features being added into The Witcher 3:
Trading and Bartering: the new system will make it profitable to travel around the world buying and selling items to locations that might have them in short supply to earn a profit. For example, fish will be cheap in coastal towns, while towns farther inland or far from bodies of water will pay well for fish.
  Transportation: With the dramatically increased scope of the world, the team at CD Projekt RED wanted to make it easy to traverse the world. To this end, they included abilities and vehicles like swimming climbing, sailing, riding, and fast travel. These means of transportation are not without their hazards however. We were cautioned that sailing into a storm, could result in a ship wreck and having to swim to shore and that swimming comes with its own dangers, like freezing from ice water.
  A Day/Night Cycle: You will be able to rest and change the time of day. This will have various effects on the monsters you hunt and how you hunt them. The example we were given was that if you were to fight werewolves, you would be better off fighting them in daylight, rather than under the light of a full-moon.
  Witcher Senses: the visualization of Geralt’s years of training. You’ll be able to see the important investigative markers that will help you track monsters. These clues will lead you to monsters or give you clues regarding how to best defeat them.
The scale of The Witcher 3 has increased dramatically. For the purposes of the demo, we were only shown one island, but we were told that island was bigger than all of The Witcher 2. In fact, the entire world is 35x larger than the previous Witcher games and it is entirely open world. The team at CD Projekt RED designed the world to be large, but also dense, so there will always be something new to explore and see just over the next hill or behind the next tree.
We were shown a portion of the main quest, which revolves around Geralt’s mission to destroy the Wild Hunt, a ghastly, deadly, and evil collection of spectral warriors. In the gameplay segment, Geralt was searching for Bjorn, the sole survivor of a raid by the Hunt. Traveling to the small village in which Bjorn has gone to stay with relatives, the demonstrator steered us toward some intriguing ruins on the top of a hill. He explained to us that the team has worked very hard to make such areas appealing so that players will want to diverge from the beaten path and explore. In the ruins, we discovered a hulking creature known as a fiend. Looking like a cross between a stag and a rhinoceros, the fiend charged Geralt and we were given the chance to see the titular witcher in combat. More dodge moves have been added since The Witcher 2, increasing maneuverability within combat scenarios. Geralt can also do minor magic, like shooting sparks and flames from his hands. These spells will have different effects on monsters, like lighting them on fire which can then spread elsewhere.

As the fight with the fiend progressed, it demonstrated how important it is to know your adversary in The Witcher 3. When you discover what kind of a beast you are going to be facing, it is best to consult the Bestiary, a compendium of Geralt’s lifetime of monster hunting and adventuring. This will give players insight into how best to tackle the creature. With the fiend, he can cast a spell of darkness and shroud itself in shadow, the only visible thing remaining is a singular red eye on its forehead. It can use this opportunity to either attack or escape, making an unprepared attack on the fiend a very poor idea.
For prospective players who are just hearing about this series now or who are intrigued, we were assured that players won’t have had to play the The Witcher and The Witcher 2 in order to understand what is happening. The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt will release on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC in early 2014.

Jack Gardner
In the midst of the insanity that made up E3 2013, I encountered a game called Pinstripe at the IndieCade booth. What followed was akin to a descent into surreal madness of the sort one might expect from a more malign Alice in Wonderland.
With little introduction, I was thrust into the role of James Weaks, an absurdly wealthy man who is aboard a train with his wife. After being asked to retrieve my wife’s scarf, I was able to explore the various compartments of the train using the W, A, S, and D keys to move. As I moved through the train cars, I came into contact with various other passengers who chatted about their goals in life, before I was able to proceed. Once I obtained the scarf from several cars farther forward, I encountered what appeared to be a demonic cat. With some cryptic words, the cat vanished and the train wrecked itself in a snowy land.
The haunting melodies of Pinstripe’s soundtrack played as I tried to get my bearings. Donning my wife’s scarf against the cold, I soldiered on through the ice. Soon I began to meet other survivors from the wreck, but all of them seemed different, obsessed with their desires. One of the first people I encountered was an alcoholic from the train, who was now obsessed with drinking the honey from black beehives. After retrieving a hive for him to eat, he allowed me through his shelter and I found a blunderbuss. With this weapon I was able to sever ropes and fight the enemies that had appeared; odd tear drop creatures with propellers that dropped oozing bombs. It became clear that not everything was right in the world.
Pressing onward, I solved more problems from people who had been on the train and I met what seemed to be a dog from my childhood. I saw the fleeting image of my wife, running in the distance. Shortly after, I was told by the demonic cat that my wife was waiting at the hotel, a building off in the distance. To reach the hotel, I needed to take a boat across a lake. In a scene that brought to mind the crossing of the river Styx from Greek mythology, I was propelled on the boat by a lanky, oozing, black creature with a singular red eye for a head. Upon reaching the far shore, I disembarked (hoping never to see that monster again) and made my way into the nearby hotel where I was greeted by the demonic feline. At this point, my demonic guide revealed that the world was no longer the mortal world, but “a place where the selfish become more selfish” before vanishing into a puff of smoke.

More than a little disturbed, I made my way to the top of the hotel, encountering fantastical creatures, like a strange spore-spider creature the size of an entire room. In the process of solving puzzles, I ran across a newspaper with a headline proclaiming the suicide of a certain Mr. James Weaks and a scrap of paper hinting that the pinstripe man might know of a way out of this world. More and more perplexed, I made my way to the room in which the cat had told me my wife would be, only to find a mannequin and the black cat, taunting me for my foolishness and condemning me to spend eternity within the room. Seemingly doomed to spend the rest of existence trapped and alone with my dog, I explored my prison. After fiddling with a singular mirror, a portal to another world was opened and I stepped though with my trusty dog companion.
On the other side of the mirror, a crystalline wall arose and would not open, unless someone stood on a certain spot. Gently, my dog explained that it had been my loyal friend its entire life, and it would not stop being so now. Urging me to go on, it stood on the switch and allowed me to proceed – leaving him behind. It was a poignant moment and one that was followed by the conclusion of my time with Pinstripe.
At its heart, Pinstripe is a 2D point-and-click adventure game with some light puzzle, action, and platforming elements. Overall, the impression I walked away from Pinstripe with was good. The surreal insanity of the world really engaged me and kept me wondering where the story would bring me next. The sound design and music are worth noting as well, given how well they blended with the simple and understated visuals. The actual gameplay was frankly a bit bland, but it was serviceable and it didn’t really need to be interesting given the intriguing aesthetic, sounds, music, and story.  
Pinstripe is being developed by one-man team Thomas Brush and will continue development until it is done, aiming for a release on PC sometime in 2013.