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Found 510 results

  1. Teased at E3 last year, Crash Bandicoot returns to consoles this year with a remaster that includes his first three games. Fans of the series can look forward to games that have been completely overhauled. New lighting, animations, and fully animated cinematics are all planned to be compatible with 4K and the PS4 Pro. The soundtrack has also been completely redone with new audio recordings and performances. The remastered collection will be titled The Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy. It includes Crash Bandicoot, Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back and Crash Bandicoot: Warped. The games support analog stick movement and feature a new save and checkpoint system that remains consistent throughout the three titles. Studio Vicarious Visions handled the work of updating the classic games has stated that they have overhauled the time trials and bonus levels, too. The trilogy will retail for $39.99 and release for PlayStation 4 on June 30. View full article
  2. An adorable roguelike is on its way toward becoming a reality as Pixel Princess Blitz reached its funding goal on Kickstarter yesterday. The indie project cleared its €77,700 goal with a whopping €102,418. The money will be used by the Hamburg-based indie group to create the PC version of their sandbox action RPG with a crazy endearing art style. The indie devs plan to port the title to PlayStation 4, PS Vita, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch after the PC version of Pixel Princess Blitz releases mid 2018. Pixel Princess Blitz has huge ambitions to present an open world spread out over a grid that is explored in turn-based form. Encounters and dungeons are tackled in real-time with special attacks, reactive AI, and fluid action. Players will need to use the resources they discover to survive, outfitting themselves with upgradable items. Players who aren't careful could see themselves fall victim to permadeath, a system the devs describe as tough, but fair. Multiple factions inhabit the world and how players interact with them shapes how the story unfolds. In fact, every NPC that players encounter has a backstory and motivations that they pursue - that might even include a romantic relationship with the protagonist, Kuruna. Strengthening ties to NPCs can yield a slew of benefits, like combat companions and perhaps even the chance that they will show up to save your from the brink of death itself! Players take on the role of Kuruna, a young adventurer who travels the kingdom of Verad to help those in need. Some strange activities have been reported in the province of Hummingwoods, so Kuruna begins a patrol of the area that quickly becomes much more than she ever imagined. Keep an eye out for Pixel Princess Blitz sometime next year on PC.
  3. An adorable roguelike is on its way toward becoming a reality as Pixel Princess Blitz reached its funding goal on Kickstarter yesterday. The indie project cleared its €77,700 goal with a whopping €102,418. The money will be used by the Hamburg-based indie group to create the PC version of their sandbox action RPG with a crazy endearing art style. The indie devs plan to port the title to PlayStation 4, PS Vita, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch after the PC version of Pixel Princess Blitz releases mid 2018. Pixel Princess Blitz has huge ambitions to present an open world spread out over a grid that is explored in turn-based form. Encounters and dungeons are tackled in real-time with special attacks, reactive AI, and fluid action. Players will need to use the resources they discover to survive, outfitting themselves with upgradable items. Players who aren't careful could see themselves fall victim to permadeath, a system the devs describe as tough, but fair. Multiple factions inhabit the world and how players interact with them shapes how the story unfolds. In fact, every NPC that players encounter has a backstory and motivations that they pursue - that might even include a romantic relationship with the protagonist, Kuruna. Strengthening ties to NPCs can yield a slew of benefits, like combat companions and perhaps even the chance that they will show up to save your from the brink of death itself! Players take on the role of Kuruna, a young adventurer who travels the kingdom of Verad to help those in need. Some strange activities have been reported in the province of Hummingwoods, so Kuruna begins a patrol of the area that quickly becomes much more than she ever imagined. Keep an eye out for Pixel Princess Blitz sometime next year on PC. View full article
  4. It has been a decade since we last saw an officially numbered entry in the venerable Ace Combat series. Since then, fans of Project Aces' aerial combat games have had to content themselves with Ace Combat: Assault Horizon and Ace Combat: Infinity, the free-to-play PS3 digital title. This year marks the return of a series that delivers some of the craziest dogfights in gaming history. Counter to initial reports that Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown would be a PlayStation 4 exclusive, the title will also be coming to PC and Xbox One. However, those who want to experience Ace Combat 7 in virtual reality will have to play it on PS VR. Those who do own PlayStation's virtual reality headset will be able to access missions unavailable on other platforms. Ace Combat 7 marks the return to what has been dubbed "Strangereal" the surreal world in which the other numbered entries of the series have taken place. This other world mirrors our own, but includes more fantastical devices, such as monolithic, nuclear satellites or colossal super planes. The story picks up some time after the conclusion of Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation. The world has advanced since the Gracemerian Incident, and pilots are slowly being replaced with remote controlled drones and AI fighters. The series looks to be carrying on the tradition of high drama storytelling that earned it the nickname "airborne Metal Gear." I am 100% on board with that. No hard release date has been given, but expect to see Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown later this year for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
  5. It has been a decade since we last saw an officially numbered entry in the venerable Ace Combat series. Since then, fans of Project Aces' aerial combat games have had to content themselves with Ace Combat: Assault Horizon and Ace Combat: Infinity, the free-to-play PS3 digital title. This year marks the return of a series that delivers some of the craziest dogfights in gaming history. Counter to initial reports that Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown would be a PlayStation 4 exclusive, the title will also be coming to PC and Xbox One. However, those who want to experience Ace Combat 7 in virtual reality will have to play it on PS VR. Those who do own PlayStation's virtual reality headset will be able to access missions unavailable on other platforms. Ace Combat 7 marks the return to what has been dubbed "Strangereal" the surreal world in which the other numbered entries of the series have taken place. This other world mirrors our own, but includes more fantastical devices, such as monolithic, nuclear satellites or colossal super planes. The story picks up some time after the conclusion of Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation. The world has advanced since the Gracemerian Incident, and pilots are slowly being replaced with remote controlled drones and AI fighters. The series looks to be carrying on the tradition of high drama storytelling that earned it the nickname "airborne Metal Gear." I am 100% on board with that. No hard release date has been given, but expect to see Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown later this year for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. View full article
  6. The final piece of Dark Souls 3 DLC has been given a tantalizing trailer that teases the last bastion of the Age of Fire. The DLC has been dubbed The Ringed City, referring to a legendary stronghold at the end of all things that stands firm against a world smashing and melding in with itself. According to From Software, The Ringed City DLC will be the final Dark Souls related project before the series concludes, possibly for good. Details in the Ringed City are sure to seem enticing to veteran players. Direct parallels are drawn between the Dark Sign, an emblem central to the Dark Souls Series, and the Ringed City itself. Combined with recurring symbols noticed by a number of Dark Souls sleuths, some people wondering if the city might have something to do with Londor, an elusive land that has never been shown in Dark Souls before. Players will have to traverse an area known as the Dreg Heap, flotsam of cities from across time and space that have smashed into one another and become a dangerous, precarious wasteland of rubble. Beyond the Dreg Heap lies the end of the world where the Ringed City stands alone. The city may have even fallen to the forces of the Abyss, a corrupting force in the Dark Souls universe. Interestingly, some of the promotional material for the DLC refers to the Ringed City as "a traditional city for the Pygmies." Pygmies have never been mentioned in the Dark Souls series outside of the first game's introductory cutscene which describes one of the ancient Lords as the Furtive Pygmy. This overlooked character took the titular Dark Soul for itself and its legacy traveled down through the ages to the Sable Church of Londor. It would be fitting if the last piece of Dark Souls' story tied in with the most mysterious Lord of the Dark Soul. Also, the DLC looks like it will be including a bunch of new weapons capable of transforming, one of which kind of looks like a lightsaber. A greater winged demon appears to be one of the prominent boss encounters with some hints that it might be the very last of the great demons. Players should also expect to run into another angry giant in the DLC, possibly the last of its kind as well. Dark Souls III: The Ringed City releases on March 28 for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.
  7. The final piece of Dark Souls 3 DLC has been given a tantalizing trailer that teases the last bastion of the Age of Fire. The DLC has been dubbed The Ringed City, referring to a legendary stronghold at the end of all things that stands firm against a world smashing and melding in with itself. According to From Software, The Ringed City DLC will be the final Dark Souls related project before the series concludes, possibly for good. Details in the Ringed City are sure to seem enticing to veteran players. Direct parallels are drawn between the Dark Sign, an emblem central to the Dark Souls Series, and the Ringed City itself. Combined with recurring symbols noticed by a number of Dark Souls sleuths, some people wondering if the city might have something to do with Londor, an elusive land that has never been shown in Dark Souls before. Players will have to traverse an area known as the Dreg Heap, flotsam of cities from across time and space that have smashed into one another and become a dangerous, precarious wasteland of rubble. Beyond the Dreg Heap lies the end of the world where the Ringed City stands alone. The city may have even fallen to the forces of the Abyss, a corrupting force in the Dark Souls universe. Interestingly, some of the promotional material for the DLC refers to the Ringed City as "a traditional city for the Pygmies." Pygmies have never been mentioned in the Dark Souls series outside of the first game's introductory cutscene which describes one of the ancient Lords as the Furtive Pygmy. This overlooked character took the titular Dark Soul for itself and its legacy traveled down through the ages to the Sable Church of Londor. It would be fitting if the last piece of Dark Souls' story tied in with the most mysterious Lord of the Dark Soul. Also, the DLC looks like it will be including a bunch of new weapons capable of transforming, one of which kind of looks like a lightsaber. A greater winged demon appears to be one of the prominent boss encounters with some hints that it might be the very last of the great demons. Players should also expect to run into another angry giant in the DLC, possibly the last of its kind as well. Dark Souls III: The Ringed City releases on March 28 for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. View full article
  8. BioWare's next installment in the Mass Effect universe looms on the video game release horizon only a scant few weeks away. While we've certainly seen a decent chunk of gameplay and cinematics, much of game still seems to be shrouded in mystery. Today, BioWare pulled back a bit more of the curtain on Mass Effect: Andromeda. As explorers sent to an entirely unexplored new galaxy, players need to establish and secure a new world 2.5 million light years away from Earth. If that weren't already a daunting task, the alien races that inhabit that new galaxy are unpredictable - some might greet explorers with curiosity and open arms, but others are out for blood. Players will need to explore, craft, and fight to carve a new home out of a dangerous new frontier.
  9. BioWare's next installment in the Mass Effect universe looms on the video game release horizon only a scant few weeks away. While we've certainly seen a decent chunk of gameplay and cinematics, much of game still seems to be shrouded in mystery. Today, BioWare pulled back a bit more of the curtain on Mass Effect: Andromeda. As explorers sent to an entirely unexplored new galaxy, players need to establish and secure a new world 2.5 million light years away from Earth. If that weren't already a daunting task, the alien races that inhabit that new galaxy are unpredictable - some might greet explorers with curiosity and open arms, but others are out for blood. Players will need to explore, craft, and fight to carve a new home out of a dangerous new frontier. View full article
  10. Have you ever wished you could run with the Pokémon, bond with them in full 3D? A mod created for Ark: Survival Evolved allows players to do just that! Created by a modder going by the name Mystic Academy, Pokémon Evolved replaces the dinosaurs that roam the Ark world with over 30 fully realized Pokémon and unique, craftable items. Mystic Academy's Pokémon Evolved mod has been around for a little while and became one of the most popular mods for the survival crafting game. However, the mod was slapped with a DMCA notice and closed down. Many expected that notice to be the death knell for Pokémon Evolved, but then something strange happened: The DMCA was lifted. Mystic Academy speculated in an interview with PC Gamer that the DMCA came from a rival modder working on a different mod that also inserts Pokémon into Ark. The DMCA claim probably wouldn't have been lifted if Nintendo had been behind it, as we can see from similar cases where Nintendo has protected their copyright. Now that the DMCA claim has been lifted, Ark players can once more download Pokémon Evolved. However, people interested in the mod should probably download it as quickly as possible. Mystic Academy admits that most of the animations and character models used in their mod come directly from Pokémon X and Y. While they don't directly profit from the mod, Nintendo could very well look at the situation differently and slap Pokémon Evolved with another DMCA. Ark: Survival Evolved comes out of its prolonged Early Access phase later this year when it releases for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.
  11. Have you ever wished you could run with the Pokémon, bond with them in full 3D? A mod created for Ark: Survival Evolved allows players to do just that! Created by a modder going by the name Mystic Academy, Pokémon Evolved replaces the dinosaurs that roam the Ark world with over 30 fully realized Pokémon and unique, craftable items. Mystic Academy's Pokémon Evolved mod has been around for a little while and became one of the most popular mods for the survival crafting game. However, the mod was slapped with a DMCA notice and closed down. Many expected that notice to be the death knell for Pokémon Evolved, but then something strange happened: The DMCA was lifted. Mystic Academy speculated in an interview with PC Gamer that the DMCA came from a rival modder working on a different mod that also inserts Pokémon into Ark. The DMCA claim probably wouldn't have been lifted if Nintendo had been behind it, as we can see from similar cases where Nintendo has protected their copyright. Now that the DMCA claim has been lifted, Ark players can once more download Pokémon Evolved. However, people interested in the mod should probably download it as quickly as possible. Mystic Academy admits that most of the animations and character models used in their mod come directly from Pokémon X and Y. While they don't directly profit from the mod, Nintendo could very well look at the situation differently and slap Pokémon Evolved with another DMCA. Ark: Survival Evolved comes out of its prolonged Early Access phase later this year when it releases for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. View full article
  12. Another Friday, another fifty dollars. The first time Ron Carpenter received the generous donation to his PayPal account, he figured it was just a courteous one-time gift from a viewer of his YouTube channel, Cobra TV. Then week after week, the same donation continued to pop up in his account. Another Friday, another fifty dollars. Carpenter – like most YouTube personalities – started his channel on a whim, without much of a plan or very high expectations. Wearing a mask to retain anonymity, he ranted about games in stream of consciousness videos on a crude, but functional, webcam set-up. “I was depressed, and I was making videos,” he tells me over Skype. Those early videos featured Carpenter farting and making crude, offensive jokes about games. He doesn’t harbor much pride for those early days. As he recalls, “I guess you could say I was a troll back then.” Soon after, he discovered No Man’s Sky, a game that at that point remained a mysteriously intriguing space exploration title from an inconspicuous independent developer. Hello Games had made a splash at the 2013 VGX awards when it released a trailer for its procedurally generated space exploration game. Like many people in the games industry, Carpenter took notice right away. The budding influencer’s curiosity piqued further when Hello Games director Sean Murray came onto Sony’s E3 stage in 2014 to show more of No Man’s Sky in a demo that has since become infamous. Carpenter watched as Sean Murray explored a planet full of dinosaurs and other creatures, hopped into his spaceship, launched through the atmosphere, and immediately started dogfighting in outer space. “It blew my mind away,” says Carpenter of the stage demo, which would prove to be a slight exaggeration of what the final product turned out to be. Misrepresentation or not, the demo was enough to hook Carpenter. “After that,” he says, “I searched for anything I could find on the internet about this game. I didn’t even know what Reddit was at the time. I started taking down notes just because I wanted to learn more.” His excitement for the game fueled his content from that point on; a commitment that proved infectious. Carpenter doesn’t look back fondly on his early videos covering the game. “My first No Man’s Sky video, I’m sitting there in a mask and burping and farting through the thing,” he recalls, “when I realized I had such a passion for this game, those videos just seemed really disrespectful.” It might be strange for current followers to hear that Carpenter’s early videos contained such vulgarity, when he’s built a reputation for objectivity and candor. But regardless of quality, he eventually realized he wasn’t alone in his passion for the game. His viewership and subscription numbers began to reflect that fact. “People were taking me seriously finally. So I thought, ‘they deserve respect and I need to be better.’” As his audience grew, he began to accept donations through PayPal, to help improve the overall quality. He earned just enough to buy a new computer, webcam, and microphone. As his channel found an audience, Carpenter’s Cobra TV became a prominent outlet in the burgeoning No Man’s Sky community. He began to see his videos pop up on Reddit and in Facebook fan groups for the game. In hopes of cultivating and providing a voice for that community, he soon began inviting fellow fans onto his shows to pontificate about the seemingly infinite possibilities of Hello Games’ universe. As such, he became the sort of de-facto leader of the word-of-mouth hype surrounding the game prior to launch. Carpenter had become the pope to god, Sean Murray – preaching to the flock for an increasingly capricious deity. Hyping No Man’s Sky had itself become a popular pastime on the internet, and a burgeoning cottage industry for content creators like Carpenter. While the information that Hello Games released to the public was vague at best, Carpenter found himself filling a need. As he explains, his motivation had less to do with exploiting the game as it did with satiating his own desire to learn more about this mysterious universe. He tells me that what captivated him most about No Man’s Sky was the sheer creativity of it all. “It was the overreaching of the entire game as a package. I say overreaching now, not because of what happened, but because that’s what I wanted to find,” says Carpenter, alluding to the underwhelming state of the final product, “I wanted to find a game where the developers did overreach. They went out of the box and pulled out what was normal. They pulled out something special, put it into the limelight and tried to do something that nobody else has done. That’s what drew me in. The fact that somebody for the first time in a long time, was overreaching.” As a kid, growing up in the marshlands of Florida, some of Carpenter’s most vivid memories are of long walks in the woods near his childhood home. As a child, he would join his father on exploratory walks through the swamps, with little intention other than to observe nature. “I would just look and see, and I was so amazed,” recalls Carpenter. These trips consisted of no hunting, no taking pictures, but just being in the moment and seeing what there was to see; an activity that would sound more than a little familiar to any diehard No Man’s Sky devotee. Later in life, he would take his dog Jasper, a mix of pit bull and German shepherd for long walks through those same marshes. Once in awhile, when Jasper began to snarl and sneer at the water, Carpenter says, “a gator would come out and my dog would sit there, run away a little bit and just bark and bark.” He recalls with a nostalgic chuckle, “I would stand on the top of the hill and yell at [the gator] to get back in the water.” For those anticipating the game, the potential in No Man’s Sky wrested on the promise of finding metaphorical gators in that digital universe’s water; the potential of encountering epic space battles, long-necked dinosaurs, and giant sandworms. Even now, months after launch, and with the release of the Foundation update – a long-awaited content dump of new modes and gameplay tweaks – a common refrain can still be heard around the community: But where’s the giant sandworm? For fans and detractors, so much of what makes No Man’s Sky’s story intriguing, even months after a failed launch, is best exemplified by that one question: But where’s the giant sandworm? Promotional materials and early footage showed a giant sandworm. Common sentiment among the community is that it must be in there somewhere. This is a near-infinite universe full of eighteen quintillion planet-sized planets, after all. Due to the sheer size of this world, it’s quite possible that simply nobody has found it yet. Not for lack of trying; Reddit and dedicated Facebook groups are full of fans posting videos and screenshots of worm-like creatures that could be long-removed cousins to something that might vaguely resemble a giant sandworm. However, not one player has recorded an instance of encountering such an animal. It’s much more likely that the beast just doesn’t exist. But it’s also possible (if infinitesimally so) that it does. And that’s all that matters for some fans. No Man’s Sky fandom is a strange place. Prior to release, fans of the game scoured the internet for any information they could find on Sean Murray’s creation, including Cobra TV videos. They created fan art, bought t-shirts, took to reading old science fiction novels (the Asimovs and Clarks that Murray likes to name-check in interviews), and even made fan videos thanking Hello Games for its time and effort in creating this procedural universe that none of them had yet experienced. On August 9th, 2016, the game released and that fandom grew even stranger. When No Man’s Sky failed to live up to expectations, the community split into two camps: those shouting “Sean Murray is a liar,” and those defending the developer even as they acknowledged the product’s imperfections. The angry voices rang the loudest though, and hating on No Man’s Sky soon became just as sporting as anticipating No Man’s Sky had been just weeks earlier. Here’s where this story gets weirder for me, as the author. I’m going to break a cardinal rule and insert myself into it a bit. I was one of those people who hyped No Man’s Sky far more than it may have deserved. I was one of the people playing gameplay trailers for family and friends, evangelizing the gospel of Sean Murray. I was one of the people that considered themselves a fan of a game that I hadn’t even played yet. Heck, I even found myself re-reading Frank Herbert’s Dune in the weeks before the game’s launch, because, well… giant sandworms! Prior to release, many people would say that anticipating No Man’s Sky was already fun enough, that the game itself didn’t even need to be any good. They had already gotten their money’s worth. Oh… if only that were the case. As I began to research this story, I started to suspect that it was far beyond my scope of practice. I reached out to a few prominent individuals in the community, which soon became a depressing exercise in futility. One source, for example, would only speak to me off the record for fear of being ostracized for his criticisms of the game. Some other people who openly disliked the game declined to comment, and just quietly retreated from the imploding community. When the subreddit was abruptly deleted overnight on October 5th, I reached out to the moderator responsible only to find that he had deleted his own account, my only means of contacting him, due to the overwhelming backlash. That same subreddit, with over 150,000 members at the time, would soon be replaced with another dedicated page for the game, before finally being turned into a Mr. Robot subreddit as a sort of joke at the expense of Hello Games. Did I say this story was strange? I began to get the sense that I was working on uncovering some deep government conspiracy, when in reality, I was simply trying to talk to people about a video game. Even the game’s developers seemed to be susceptible to the drama. After having been silent on Twitter for months, the Hello Games official Twitter account tweeted out that “No Man’s Sky was a mistake.” It would turn out to be the work of a hacker, but it only further demonstrated just how divisive this game had become. Having started my research in October, I began to wonder if I should ever write this article at all, for fear that this story – like the game’s universe – was never ending. And it most certainly isn’t over yet. Hello Games recently released the Foundation Update, which adds base building, freighters, survival mode, creative mode, an online message system, and more. The game finally resembles what it probably should have been from the start, save for a few major features including full online support, factions, and, as far as anyone can tell, giant sandworms. Despite selling millions of copies at launch, No Man’s Sky’s player numbers had since dwindled to the hundreds. Those numbers have seen a minor surge with the update, and the game’s most ardent fans have seen their faith rekindled and rewarded, but it’s still not the smash hit that so many people expected it to be. Those same fans never stopped watching Cobra TV and talking about the game, even if they stopped actually playing the game. Carpenter remains a spokesman for that community, despite never really aspiring to that label. With his smooth baritone and casual dialect, he has a voice for radio, something he’s aspired to since his youth. Although he never wanted to just be known as the guy that talks about No Man’s Sky, he appreciates the experience the game has afforded him. He just wanted to talk about fascinating games, but for Carpenter and his followers, the most fascinating game remains the one that earned him all this recognition in the first place. Another Friday, another fifty dollars. During Hello Games’ self-imposed sabbatical, many people wondered how Carpenter could continue making videos about a game while the developers themselves remained silent. But those same people were still watching. Just as 130,000 people re-subscribed to the new No Man’s Sky Reddit during that time, Carpenter’s viewers kept coming back. “Lots of people on my YouTube channel comment saying, ‘I feel sorry for this mother f___er for wasting his life talking about this game. He’ll never get these years back,’” reflects Carpenter. “I get comments like that all the time.” Another Friday, another fifty dollars. Carpenter had no intentions of accepting this money week after week. So he decided to email the donor to inquire, thinking that maybe it was a mistake, or maybe a glitch with PayPal’s system. It wasn’t. The donor wrote him back to explain. “I received back, this email. [The email] said that one night he was sitting on his couch and he had a gun in his mouth, and he said that one of my No Man’s Sky playlists was playing on his computer,” Carpenter’s voice cracks ever so slightly over Skype. “He never told me what I said, but something that I said in one of my sub-casts, made him yank the gun out of his mouth and reevaluate his situation. He said fifty dollars is nothing compared to what I made him feel like his life was worth. He tried paying me that fifty dollars every week. Finally, I told him that if you continue to keep paying me fifty dollars I’m going to refund it to you every single time.” “That,” he says, “That’s made it worth it.”
  13. Another Friday, another fifty dollars. The first time Ron Carpenter received the generous donation to his PayPal account, he figured it was just a courteous one-time gift from a viewer of his YouTube channel, Cobra TV. Then week after week, the same donation continued to pop up in his account. Another Friday, another fifty dollars. Carpenter – like most YouTube personalities – started his channel on a whim, without much of a plan or very high expectations. Wearing a mask to retain anonymity, he ranted about games in stream of consciousness videos on a crude, but functional, webcam set-up. “I was depressed, and I was making videos,” he tells me over Skype. Those early videos featured Carpenter farting and making crude, offensive jokes about games. He doesn’t harbor much pride for those early days. As he recalls, “I guess you could say I was a troll back then.” Soon after, he discovered No Man’s Sky, a game that at that point remained a mysteriously intriguing space exploration title from an inconspicuous independent developer. Hello Games had made a splash at the 2013 VGX awards when it released a trailer for its procedurally generated space exploration game. Like many people in the games industry, Carpenter took notice right away. The budding influencer’s curiosity piqued further when Hello Games director Sean Murray came onto Sony’s E3 stage in 2014 to show more of No Man’s Sky in a demo that has since become infamous. Carpenter watched as Sean Murray explored a planet full of dinosaurs and other creatures, hopped into his spaceship, launched through the atmosphere, and immediately started dogfighting in outer space. “It blew my mind away,” says Carpenter of the stage demo, which would prove to be a slight exaggeration of what the final product turned out to be. Misrepresentation or not, the demo was enough to hook Carpenter. “After that,” he says, “I searched for anything I could find on the internet about this game. I didn’t even know what Reddit was at the time. I started taking down notes just because I wanted to learn more.” His excitement for the game fueled his content from that point on; a commitment that proved infectious. Carpenter doesn’t look back fondly on his early videos covering the game. “My first No Man’s Sky video, I’m sitting there in a mask and burping and farting through the thing,” he recalls, “when I realized I had such a passion for this game, those videos just seemed really disrespectful.” It might be strange for current followers to hear that Carpenter’s early videos contained such vulgarity, when he’s built a reputation for objectivity and candor. But regardless of quality, he eventually realized he wasn’t alone in his passion for the game. His viewership and subscription numbers began to reflect that fact. “People were taking me seriously finally. So I thought, ‘they deserve respect and I need to be better.’” As his audience grew, he began to accept donations through PayPal, to help improve the overall quality. He earned just enough to buy a new computer, webcam, and microphone. As his channel found an audience, Carpenter’s Cobra TV became a prominent outlet in the burgeoning No Man’s Sky community. He began to see his videos pop up on Reddit and in Facebook fan groups for the game. In hopes of cultivating and providing a voice for that community, he soon began inviting fellow fans onto his shows to pontificate about the seemingly infinite possibilities of Hello Games’ universe. As such, he became the sort of de-facto leader of the word-of-mouth hype surrounding the game prior to launch. Carpenter had become the pope to god, Sean Murray – preaching to the flock for an increasingly capricious deity. Hyping No Man’s Sky had itself become a popular pastime on the internet, and a burgeoning cottage industry for content creators like Carpenter. While the information that Hello Games released to the public was vague at best, Carpenter found himself filling a need. As he explains, his motivation had less to do with exploiting the game as it did with satiating his own desire to learn more about this mysterious universe. He tells me that what captivated him most about No Man’s Sky was the sheer creativity of it all. “It was the overreaching of the entire game as a package. I say overreaching now, not because of what happened, but because that’s what I wanted to find,” says Carpenter, alluding to the underwhelming state of the final product, “I wanted to find a game where the developers did overreach. They went out of the box and pulled out what was normal. They pulled out something special, put it into the limelight and tried to do something that nobody else has done. That’s what drew me in. The fact that somebody for the first time in a long time, was overreaching.” As a kid, growing up in the marshlands of Florida, some of Carpenter’s most vivid memories are of long walks in the woods near his childhood home. As a child, he would join his father on exploratory walks through the swamps, with little intention other than to observe nature. “I would just look and see, and I was so amazed,” recalls Carpenter. These trips consisted of no hunting, no taking pictures, but just being in the moment and seeing what there was to see; an activity that would sound more than a little familiar to any diehard No Man’s Sky devotee. Later in life, he would take his dog Jasper, a mix of pit bull and German shepherd for long walks through those same marshes. Once in awhile, when Jasper began to snarl and sneer at the water, Carpenter says, “a gator would come out and my dog would sit there, run away a little bit and just bark and bark.” He recalls with a nostalgic chuckle, “I would stand on the top of the hill and yell at [the gator] to get back in the water.” For those anticipating the game, the potential in No Man’s Sky wrested on the promise of finding metaphorical gators in that digital universe’s water; the potential of encountering epic space battles, long-necked dinosaurs, and giant sandworms. Even now, months after launch, and with the release of the Foundation update – a long-awaited content dump of new modes and gameplay tweaks – a common refrain can still be heard around the community: But where’s the giant sandworm? For fans and detractors, so much of what makes No Man’s Sky’s story intriguing, even months after a failed launch, is best exemplified by that one question: But where’s the giant sandworm? Promotional materials and early footage showed a giant sandworm. Common sentiment among the community is that it must be in there somewhere. This is a near-infinite universe full of eighteen quintillion planet-sized planets, after all. Due to the sheer size of this world, it’s quite possible that simply nobody has found it yet. Not for lack of trying; Reddit and dedicated Facebook groups are full of fans posting videos and screenshots of worm-like creatures that could be long-removed cousins to something that might vaguely resemble a giant sandworm. However, not one player has recorded an instance of encountering such an animal. It’s much more likely that the beast just doesn’t exist. But it’s also possible (if infinitesimally so) that it does. And that’s all that matters for some fans. No Man’s Sky fandom is a strange place. Prior to release, fans of the game scoured the internet for any information they could find on Sean Murray’s creation, including Cobra TV videos. They created fan art, bought t-shirts, took to reading old science fiction novels (the Asimovs and Clarks that Murray likes to name-check in interviews), and even made fan videos thanking Hello Games for its time and effort in creating this procedural universe that none of them had yet experienced. On August 9th, 2016, the game released and that fandom grew even stranger. When No Man’s Sky failed to live up to expectations, the community split into two camps: those shouting “Sean Murray is a liar,” and those defending the developer even as they acknowledged the product’s imperfections. The angry voices rang the loudest though, and hating on No Man’s Sky soon became just as sporting as anticipating No Man’s Sky had been just weeks earlier. Here’s where this story gets weirder for me, as the author. I’m going to break a cardinal rule and insert myself into it a bit. I was one of those people who hyped No Man’s Sky far more than it may have deserved. I was one of the people playing gameplay trailers for family and friends, evangelizing the gospel of Sean Murray. I was one of the people that considered themselves a fan of a game that I hadn’t even played yet. Heck, I even found myself re-reading Frank Herbert’s Dune in the weeks before the game’s launch, because, well… giant sandworms! Prior to release, many people would say that anticipating No Man’s Sky was already fun enough, that the game itself didn’t even need to be any good. They had already gotten their money’s worth. Oh… if only that were the case. As I began to research this story, I started to suspect that it was far beyond my scope of practice. I reached out to a few prominent individuals in the community, which soon became a depressing exercise in futility. One source, for example, would only speak to me off the record for fear of being ostracized for his criticisms of the game. Some other people who openly disliked the game declined to comment, and just quietly retreated from the imploding community. When the subreddit was abruptly deleted overnight on October 5th, I reached out to the moderator responsible only to find that he had deleted his own account, my only means of contacting him, due to the overwhelming backlash. That same subreddit, with over 150,000 members at the time, would soon be replaced with another dedicated page for the game, before finally being turned into a Mr. Robot subreddit as a sort of joke at the expense of Hello Games. Did I say this story was strange? I began to get the sense that I was working on uncovering some deep government conspiracy, when in reality, I was simply trying to talk to people about a video game. Even the game’s developers seemed to be susceptible to the drama. After having been silent on Twitter for months, the Hello Games official Twitter account tweeted out that “No Man’s Sky was a mistake.” It would turn out to be the work of a hacker, but it only further demonstrated just how divisive this game had become. Having started my research in October, I began to wonder if I should ever write this article at all, for fear that this story – like the game’s universe – was never ending. And it most certainly isn’t over yet. Hello Games recently released the Foundation Update, which adds base building, freighters, survival mode, creative mode, an online message system, and more. The game finally resembles what it probably should have been from the start, save for a few major features including full online support, factions, and, as far as anyone can tell, giant sandworms. Despite selling millions of copies at launch, No Man’s Sky’s player numbers had since dwindled to the hundreds. Those numbers have seen a minor surge with the update, and the game’s most ardent fans have seen their faith rekindled and rewarded, but it’s still not the smash hit that so many people expected it to be. Those same fans never stopped watching Cobra TV and talking about the game, even if they stopped actually playing the game. Carpenter remains a spokesman for that community, despite never really aspiring to that label. With his smooth baritone and casual dialect, he has a voice for radio, something he’s aspired to since his youth. Although he never wanted to just be known as the guy that talks about No Man’s Sky, he appreciates the experience the game has afforded him. He just wanted to talk about fascinating games, but for Carpenter and his followers, the most fascinating game remains the one that earned him all this recognition in the first place. Another Friday, another fifty dollars. During Hello Games’ self-imposed sabbatical, many people wondered how Carpenter could continue making videos about a game while the developers themselves remained silent. But those same people were still watching. Just as 130,000 people re-subscribed to the new No Man’s Sky Reddit during that time, Carpenter’s viewers kept coming back. “Lots of people on my YouTube channel comment saying, ‘I feel sorry for this mother f___er for wasting his life talking about this game. He’ll never get these years back,’” reflects Carpenter. “I get comments like that all the time.” Another Friday, another fifty dollars. Carpenter had no intentions of accepting this money week after week. So he decided to email the donor to inquire, thinking that maybe it was a mistake, or maybe a glitch with PayPal’s system. It wasn’t. The donor wrote him back to explain. “I received back, this email. [The email] said that one night he was sitting on his couch and he had a gun in his mouth, and he said that one of my No Man’s Sky playlists was playing on his computer,” Carpenter’s voice cracks ever so slightly over Skype. “He never told me what I said, but something that I said in one of my sub-casts, made him yank the gun out of his mouth and reevaluate his situation. He said fifty dollars is nothing compared to what I made him feel like his life was worth. He tried paying me that fifty dollars every week. Finally, I told him that if you continue to keep paying me fifty dollars I’m going to refund it to you every single time.” “That,” he says, “That’s made it worth it.” View full article
  14. Here is a bit of news you might have missed in the deluge of information and releases: Double Fine, the developers behind Psychonauts, Headlander, and Grim Fandango Remaster, are moving forward with their plans to remake the LucasArts rock'n roll adventure title Full Throttle. Last year the studio announced plans for several games, but Full Throttle Remastered was mentioned as almost an afterthought. However, more details have been released alongside a new trailer. Full Throttle focuses on the story of Ben, the leader of a biker gang known as the Polecats, who gets swept up into an escalating series of events involving treachery, espionage, and even murder. The game was penned by David Grossman and Tim Schafer, the founder and current head of Double Fine. Full Throttle is considered by many to be one of, if not THE, best adventure games to come out of LucasArts during their domination of the adventure game genre. The remaster will feature overhauled art in both 2D and 3D alongside revamped audio. Much like the Grim Fandango remaster, players will be able to switch between the original and the newly polished graphics. Players will also be able to tweak the audio and UI between old and new. Double Fine plans to include a number of extras inside Full Throttle Remastered including a concept art gallery and a commentary track from Tim Schafer and others who worked on the original game (game developers/publishers, include more commentary tracks with your games - they are super interesting!). Full Throttle Remastered is slated for a 2017 release window for PlayStation 4, PS Vita, and PC.
  15. Here is a bit of news you might have missed in the deluge of information and releases: Double Fine, the developers behind Psychonauts, Headlander, and Grim Fandango Remaster, are moving forward with their plans to remake the LucasArts rock'n roll adventure title Full Throttle. Last year the studio announced plans for several games, but Full Throttle Remastered was mentioned as almost an afterthought. However, more details have been released alongside a new trailer. Full Throttle focuses on the story of Ben, the leader of a biker gang known as the Polecats, who gets swept up into an escalating series of events involving treachery, espionage, and even murder. The game was penned by David Grossman and Tim Schafer, the founder and current head of Double Fine. Full Throttle is considered by many to be one of, if not THE, best adventure games to come out of LucasArts during their domination of the adventure game genre. The remaster will feature overhauled art in both 2D and 3D alongside revamped audio. Much like the Grim Fandango remaster, players will be able to switch between the original and the newly polished graphics. Players will also be able to tweak the audio and UI between old and new. Double Fine plans to include a number of extras inside Full Throttle Remastered including a concept art gallery and a commentary track from Tim Schafer and others who worked on the original game (game developers/publishers, include more commentary tracks with your games - they are super interesting!). Full Throttle Remastered is slated for a 2017 release window for PlayStation 4, PS Vita, and PC. View full article
  16. There are some big What If questions throughout history that people love to hypothesize about. What if Archduke Franz Ferdinand hadn't gone off on off his motorcade route in Sarajevo? What if Stanislav Petrov had made the call? But the most pressing question you now need to see play out is ' What if World War II had been fought with giant mechs instead of tanks?' Iron Harvest, an upcoming RTS from King Art Games, sets out to explore that hypothetical scenario. The setting for the strategic mech action, referred to as 1920+, was created by Polish artist Jakub Różalski who also worked on the board game Scythe, which featured a similar aesthetic and shares the setting. In 1920+, humanity managed to perfect walking machines, large, iron contraptions capable of striding across the land. These vehicles came to permeate everyday life for convenience and the battlefield soon after. World War I still happened and a new threat works in secret across the European continent to throw it into chaos once more. Players will encounter three main factions throughout Iron Harvest. To the west lies the Saxony Empire, a wealthy, influential country whose elites resent the terms of surrender that followed World War I. They posses highly sophisticated factories that could manufacture some of the finest war machines in the world. Rusviet sits in eastern Europe. Though huge in landmass and capable of unparalleled military production, its population has been devastated by the recent war. The discontent spreads as the country's Tsar begins to lose power. A man named Grigori Rasputin seems to offer stability and hope, though it may come at the cost of a revolution. Between Saxony and Rusviet lies the Polania Republic. Largely an agricultural heartland, Polania struggles to maintain its borders with encroachments by its two neighbors. To that end, it has begin to modernize its forces in case either Rusviet or Saxony decide to overstep their bounds. Players will take control of heroes, mechs, and soldiers and make use of everything they can to accomplish mission objectives. Squads will have to use cover carefully to survive the fighting, not an easy task when environments are destructible. King Art Games says that Iron Harvest uses "open sandbox levels," so players have freedom with how they want to approach and accomplish missions across a storyline that seems like it will have some branching paths. The team intends for it to feel like a more narratively driven RTS with some influence from XCOM. King Art Games has yet to release a trailer or additional details. For now, we know that Iron Harvest has a planned release for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. In the meantime, I'd encourage everyone to check out the artwork for the game by Jakub Różalski - it is absolutely gorgeous and gives a pretty clear idea for what King Art intends for the look and feel of Iron Harvest.
  17. There are some big What If questions throughout history that people love to hypothesize about. What if Archduke Franz Ferdinand hadn't gone off on off his motorcade route in Sarajevo? What if Stanislav Petrov had made the call? But the most pressing question you now need to see play out is ' What if World War II had been fought with giant mechs instead of tanks?' Iron Harvest, an upcoming RTS from King Art Games, sets out to explore that hypothetical scenario. The setting for the strategic mech action, referred to as 1920+, was created by Polish artist Jakub Różalski who also worked on the board game Scythe, which featured a similar aesthetic and shares the setting. In 1920+, humanity managed to perfect walking machines, large, iron contraptions capable of striding across the land. These vehicles came to permeate everyday life for convenience and the battlefield soon after. World War I still happened and a new threat works in secret across the European continent to throw it into chaos once more. Players will encounter three main factions throughout Iron Harvest. To the west lies the Saxony Empire, a wealthy, influential country whose elites resent the terms of surrender that followed World War I. They posses highly sophisticated factories that could manufacture some of the finest war machines in the world. Rusviet sits in eastern Europe. Though huge in landmass and capable of unparalleled military production, its population has been devastated by the recent war. The discontent spreads as the country's Tsar begins to lose power. A man named Grigori Rasputin seems to offer stability and hope, though it may come at the cost of a revolution. Between Saxony and Rusviet lies the Polania Republic. Largely an agricultural heartland, Polania struggles to maintain its borders with encroachments by its two neighbors. To that end, it has begin to modernize its forces in case either Rusviet or Saxony decide to overstep their bounds. Players will take control of heroes, mechs, and soldiers and make use of everything they can to accomplish mission objectives. Squads will have to use cover carefully to survive the fighting, not an easy task when environments are destructible. King Art Games says that Iron Harvest uses "open sandbox levels," so players have freedom with how they want to approach and accomplish missions across a storyline that seems like it will have some branching paths. The team intends for it to feel like a more narratively driven RTS with some influence from XCOM. King Art Games has yet to release a trailer or additional details. For now, we know that Iron Harvest has a planned release for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. In the meantime, I'd encourage everyone to check out the artwork for the game by Jakub Różalski - it is absolutely gorgeous and gives a pretty clear idea for what King Art intends for the look and feel of Iron Harvest. View full article
  18. The resurgence of point-and-click adventures in mainstream gaming has been one of the more welcome surprises of the last few years. Daedalic Entertainment, a longtime champion of the genre, have released their most recent adventure, a beautifully realized journey that takes players through a dreamworld between life and death. During an air raid on their hometown, 16-year-old Noah and his young sister Renie take refuge within a bunker. However, they quickly find that the bunker isn't what it appears to be. It contains a portal to the world of Silence, a fantastic world full of its own set of dangers. The two siblings learn this the hard way when Noah loses Renie in Silence and embarks on a journey to find her once more. The journey of the Noah and Renie represents only a small fraction of Silence. Separate from the war raging outside the bunker, another war threatens to rip Silence asunder. The brother and sister soon find themselves wrapped up with the various warring factions in events that could doom the newfound world. Silence releases today for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Mac.
  19. The resurgence of point-and-click adventures in mainstream gaming has been one of the more welcome surprises of the last few years. Daedalic Entertainment, a longtime champion of the genre, have released their most recent adventure, a beautifully realized journey that takes players through a dreamworld between life and death. During an air raid on their hometown, 16-year-old Noah and his young sister Renie take refuge within a bunker. However, they quickly find that the bunker isn't what it appears to be. It contains a portal to the world of Silence, a fantastic world full of its own set of dangers. The two siblings learn this the hard way when Noah loses Renie in Silence and embarks on a journey to find her once more. The journey of the Noah and Renie represents only a small fraction of Silence. Separate from the war raging outside the bunker, another war threatens to rip Silence asunder. The brother and sister soon find themselves wrapped up with the various warring factions in events that could doom the newfound world. Silence releases today for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Mac. View full article
  20. It’s hard to believe that the Tomb Raider series is now 20 years old. The franchise has changed a lot during its long lifetime, and so has its iconic hero Lara Croft. The First Lady of Gaming has donned countless different appearances over the years and been rebooted two separate times. She’s travelled all over the world, solving deadly ancient puzzles and recovering artifacts of incredible power. She’s also had her fair share of enemies - everything from black magic cultists and corrupt corporate cronies to subterranean dinosaurs. While the Tomb Raider series has always been great at conveying the thrill of globetrotting adventure, recent years have seen game developers creating stronger stories and deeper characters to complement their ever-changing worlds. New intellectual properties and classic franchises alike are putting more time and effort behind writing better plotlines, backstories, and dialogue. It’s not easy, though - the biggest obstacle to a solid story in a video game is the fact that it needs to account for a random variable: the person playing it. As a result, most games struggle to balance the skill and entertainment of gameplay with the insight and subtlety that good storytelling needs. This is especially true for titles like Tomb Raider. The increasing popularity of narrative in games has brought Lara to a strange, conflicted crossroads. Her most recent reboot tries to retain the violent, explosive, trigger-happy sense of danger that the series has always been known for while also attempting to deeply humanize her in a pseudo-realistic setting. As Tomb Raider 2013 tried to get the best of both storytelling and gameplay, it only made the juxtaposition between the two more obvious. Tomb Raider created these jarring problems for itself, but its recent sequel makes noticeable strides towards solving them. The 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider was developer Crystal Dynamic’s first entry in the series after it was acquired by Square Enix, and the publisher wasted no time in hyping the game up before release. Tomb Raider 2013 promised to be a darkly compelling and intimately relatable origin story about a young, inexperienced Lara Croft. We would get to see her thrown into a do-or-die situation and watch her transform from a terrified archeologist into a hardened survivor. Once the game launched, it had a promising start – Lara and her crew were shipwrecked on the island of Yamatai. She was captured, injured, and vulnerable as she struggled to endure her early hours on the island. That pretense of believable realism didn’t last long, though. Despite Tomb Raider 2013’s deliberately slow start and steady buildup, it only had a growing sense of dissonance as the game went on. Lara soon seemed less like a survivor and more like a superhuman. Cutscenes and brief gameplay sequences that showed her hunting for food, bandaging wounds and subsisting off of what she could find began to look ridiculous in context. This was a character that didn’t have any of those human needs at any other time during the game - Lara had no necessity for sleep, shelter or even food. She was only required to shoot one deer to get the feeling of “survival” across. She could leap and climb with reckless abandon in spite of her injuries. When she was forced to kill someone for the first time, Lara collapsed to the ground and vomited from shock; seconds later, she was mowing down dozens of men and miraculously recovering from bullet wounds. Tomb Raider 2013’s gameplay experience ran completely counter to the story of arduous perseverance that it was trying to tell, and yet it was a well-received game that drew praise specifically for that story. Most of that praise was directed at the way that Lara’s ordeal transformed her as a character, but such acclaim ignored the fact that she wasn’t surviving - she was thriving thanks to her unnatural physical and mental powers. These recurring tonal issues in Tomb Raider are self-inflicted, sure, but they’re also pervasive in modern, semi-realistic games in general. The Uncharted series stars a savvy psychopath in Nathan Drake, who is really just a murderous avatar for the player. Yet the overarching narrative of the series portrays him as a likable thief with a heart of gold, and even as a sort of warped family man in Uncharted 4. Indeed, it’s never easy to write a good story with the knowledge that the story needs to be interactive. But respectable storytelling in games is rapidly becoming an expectation rather than a rarity, and developers of action/adventure games like these are learning how to adapt to that trend. A game like Rise of the Tomb Raider certainly doesn’t solve all the jarring inconsistencies of its predecessor, but it works hard to balance out as many of them as possible. While Tomb Raider 2013 tossed in a number of disposable secondary characters to provide Lara with motivation between shooting tons of cultists, Rise of the Tomb Raider introduces a militaristic Christian sect with roots in the Vatican who have manipulated her family for years. The backstory, revealed through audio logs, also shows how she was forced to confront the fairly absurd events of the first game (including her traumatic experiences, debilitating injuries and the fact that she had to kill dozens of people) in a series of therapy interviews. Rise of the Tomb Raider dives deeper into Lara’s personal history as well as her obsessive tendencies, both of which have a lot to do with her father. Suffice it to say (without spoilers) that relationships with old friends are strained as she grapples with her deceased dad’s wishes while trying to find her own legacy. She’s become almost disturbingly comfortable with killing the enemies that stand in the way of her aspirations, but the story leverages that fact instead of ignoring it. Other characters that Lara cares about worry about her, and they don’t hesitate to point out her issues. In the end, Rise of the Tomb Raider actually finds some success in making Lara seem more human than in Tomb Raider 2013 without shying away from that game’s contradictions. It makes her feel believably flawed and vulnerable – not physically, but psychologically. There’s definitely still room to improve the narrative dissonance; after all, Lara can apparently survive out in the Siberian wilderness in nothing but a long-sleeve shirt. But if Rise of the Tomb Raider is any indication, Crystal Dynamics can see those problems and is doing something about them. By acknowledging the dissonance of the past without making light of it, this retelling of Tomb Raider fills in a lot of its own plot holes and makes you start to take the new Lara Croft seriously. It manages to make me care about where the rebooted Tomb Raider series could go next, and I hope that developers of other games in the genre can learn from its small but significant steps forward.
  21. It’s hard to believe that the Tomb Raider series is now 20 years old. The franchise has changed a lot during its long lifetime, and so has its iconic hero Lara Croft. The First Lady of Gaming has donned countless different appearances over the years and been rebooted two separate times. She’s travelled all over the world, solving deadly ancient puzzles and recovering artifacts of incredible power. She’s also had her fair share of enemies - everything from black magic cultists and corrupt corporate cronies to subterranean dinosaurs. While the Tomb Raider series has always been great at conveying the thrill of globetrotting adventure, recent years have seen game developers creating stronger stories and deeper characters to complement their ever-changing worlds. New intellectual properties and classic franchises alike are putting more time and effort behind writing better plotlines, backstories, and dialogue. It’s not easy, though - the biggest obstacle to a solid story in a video game is the fact that it needs to account for a random variable: the person playing it. As a result, most games struggle to balance the skill and entertainment of gameplay with the insight and subtlety that good storytelling needs. This is especially true for titles like Tomb Raider. The increasing popularity of narrative in games has brought Lara to a strange, conflicted crossroads. Her most recent reboot tries to retain the violent, explosive, trigger-happy sense of danger that the series has always been known for while also attempting to deeply humanize her in a pseudo-realistic setting. As Tomb Raider 2013 tried to get the best of both storytelling and gameplay, it only made the juxtaposition between the two more obvious. Tomb Raider created these jarring problems for itself, but its recent sequel makes noticeable strides towards solving them. The 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider was developer Crystal Dynamic’s first entry in the series after it was acquired by Square Enix, and the publisher wasted no time in hyping the game up before release. Tomb Raider 2013 promised to be a darkly compelling and intimately relatable origin story about a young, inexperienced Lara Croft. We would get to see her thrown into a do-or-die situation and watch her transform from a terrified archeologist into a hardened survivor. Once the game launched, it had a promising start – Lara and her crew were shipwrecked on the island of Yamatai. She was captured, injured, and vulnerable as she struggled to endure her early hours on the island. That pretense of believable realism didn’t last long, though. Despite Tomb Raider 2013’s deliberately slow start and steady buildup, it only had a growing sense of dissonance as the game went on. Lara soon seemed less like a survivor and more like a superhuman. Cutscenes and brief gameplay sequences that showed her hunting for food, bandaging wounds and subsisting off of what she could find began to look ridiculous in context. This was a character that didn’t have any of those human needs at any other time during the game - Lara had no necessity for sleep, shelter or even food. She was only required to shoot one deer to get the feeling of “survival” across. She could leap and climb with reckless abandon in spite of her injuries. When she was forced to kill someone for the first time, Lara collapsed to the ground and vomited from shock; seconds later, she was mowing down dozens of men and miraculously recovering from bullet wounds. Tomb Raider 2013’s gameplay experience ran completely counter to the story of arduous perseverance that it was trying to tell, and yet it was a well-received game that drew praise specifically for that story. Most of that praise was directed at the way that Lara’s ordeal transformed her as a character, but such acclaim ignored the fact that she wasn’t surviving - she was thriving thanks to her unnatural physical and mental powers. These recurring tonal issues in Tomb Raider are self-inflicted, sure, but they’re also pervasive in modern, semi-realistic games in general. The Uncharted series stars a savvy psychopath in Nathan Drake, who is really just a murderous avatar for the player. Yet the overarching narrative of the series portrays him as a likable thief with a heart of gold, and even as a sort of warped family man in Uncharted 4. Indeed, it’s never easy to write a good story with the knowledge that the story needs to be interactive. But respectable storytelling in games is rapidly becoming an expectation rather than a rarity, and developers of action/adventure games like these are learning how to adapt to that trend. A game like Rise of the Tomb Raider certainly doesn’t solve all the jarring inconsistencies of its predecessor, but it works hard to balance out as many of them as possible. While Tomb Raider 2013 tossed in a number of disposable secondary characters to provide Lara with motivation between shooting tons of cultists, Rise of the Tomb Raider introduces a militaristic Christian sect with roots in the Vatican who have manipulated her family for years. The backstory, revealed through audio logs, also shows how she was forced to confront the fairly absurd events of the first game (including her traumatic experiences, debilitating injuries and the fact that she had to kill dozens of people) in a series of therapy interviews. Rise of the Tomb Raider dives deeper into Lara’s personal history as well as her obsessive tendencies, both of which have a lot to do with her father. Suffice it to say (without spoilers) that relationships with old friends are strained as she grapples with her deceased dad’s wishes while trying to find her own legacy. She’s become almost disturbingly comfortable with killing the enemies that stand in the way of her aspirations, but the story leverages that fact instead of ignoring it. Other characters that Lara cares about worry about her, and they don’t hesitate to point out her issues. In the end, Rise of the Tomb Raider actually finds some success in making Lara seem more human than in Tomb Raider 2013 without shying away from that game’s contradictions. It makes her feel believably flawed and vulnerable – not physically, but psychologically. There’s definitely still room to improve the narrative dissonance; after all, Lara can apparently survive out in the Siberian wilderness in nothing but a long-sleeve shirt. But if Rise of the Tomb Raider is any indication, Crystal Dynamics can see those problems and is doing something about them. By acknowledging the dissonance of the past without making light of it, this retelling of Tomb Raider fills in a lot of its own plot holes and makes you start to take the new Lara Croft seriously. It manages to make me care about where the rebooted Tomb Raider series could go next, and I hope that developers of other games in the genre can learn from its small but significant steps forward. View full article
  22. Hi all, I'm a Seattle-based gamer participating in Extra Life for the first time. My thing is video games and I'm planning to play The Division, Destiny, and maybe some Diablo 3 on PS4 for 11/5. Are there any Seattle-area players who are PS4 players? And playing any of those this weekend? I'd like to join forces and take bake Manhattan, the Moon, or a small village overrun by zombies. Here's my fundraising page in case you want to read my story.
  23. Linelight, like its creator, has a uniquely “Brett Taylor” charm about it. His enthusiasm for the heart and soul of Linelight infects those around him. Despite a retail release being delayed until late January 2017, Linelight's strong showing has generated buzz around the game that has had a number of people in professional development and media circles asking one another, “Have you played Linelight yet?” Often indie games represent the most unique ends of the game industry and the people who make them are no different. I had the opportunity to talk with Brett Taylor earlier this year about his upcoming solo title, Linelight. For over a year, Taylor has been grinding out his personal passion project, a game staring a rectangle locked into a series of over 250 line-based puzzles. Though incredibly simple on the surface, Taylor has managed to leverage that core conceit into a dizzying array of clever puzzles with a surprisingly emotional core. It’s the kind of game where all the elements click together, leaving most who play it with a smile on their face. Talking with him, it was clear just how much effort and zeal Taylor had for Linelight. He’s focused, intent, and bending all of his energy toward finishing it, a colossal task for a single developer. How does someone function as the sole coder, animator, composer, director, marketer, and producer? What does it take to finish a game alone, let alone a game that seems to charm everyone in who plays it? Jack Gardner: What inspired you to make something like this? Why, out of all of the things that you could make, why Linelight? Brett Taylor: Linelight actually started as a programming challenge. I was like, "Okay, what if everything takes place in line? What if you're a line and everything takes place on lines? What would that be like? Is there a game there?" My question to myself was how I would program that. And I was like, "You know, I've never done anything like this before. It's very visual, and I'm a very visual person. I'll take a crack at it." I tried it out and [it was] way harder than I thought that it would be. There's linear algebra [in Linelight], but I initially thought it would be very visual. It's super heavy, data-based stuff; way more than I could have ever anticipated - way more than I'm comfortable with. The game's like [a person, saying,] "I'm belligerent, I'm going to be hard to work with!" I'm like, "I can beat you." So I stayed with it, I was persevering. Each of the mechanics in the game, each of the puzzles- there's no redundancy. There's no filler, it's basically as streamlined as possible with as few barriers between the player and the solution as possible. My goal was to remove all the noise from all the puzzles until I basically can't simplify it anymore. It does feel like a relationship, so I speak of it often as if it is one. It was very hard for me to understand and come to terms and speak the same language as Linelight in the beginning, but eventually we saw eye-to-eye; now we have a great relationship. I'm completely serious about this. [laughs] But yeah, I have a fantastic relationship with this game, and I'm so glad that I pushed through. It's been so rich and generous with its mechanics, and the types of puzzles that have come out, emergence. A lot of people ask me, "Where do you come up with all these ideas for the puzzles?" and honestly, most of the time I don't. The puzzles happen naturally. Jack: You're just discovering this game, rather than creating it? Brett: Exactly, I'm discovering [various aspects of the game]. I'm the one unearthing these gems, basically. So I guess my job is to go to patches of dirt where, using instincts or whatever experience that I have, I believe there's a lot of really great stuff beneath the surface and then [dig to] find those things. I never know exactly what I'm going to find; and in Linelight, I found some really cool stuff. I didn't know there would be this much gameplay in this one mechanic. I have so many more ideas, some small things I prototyped, and I had to stop myself from getting too invested in those because I have to finish the game. I could keep working on this forever, but I'm like no, this is my first independent solo release. Jack: So it's solo? It's all by yourself? Brett: 100% me, from code, music, art, design, to sound. Jack: [The visuals] look very Tron-esque. Brett: What's actually funny is that there's not nearly as much consistency in what people saying that it reminds them of, or what it's like so far. I've been getting a lot of different stuff so far. Jack: Which is really interesting because you have a very minimalist design. Brett: Yeah, actually I feel like it's like if you look at a stick figure, a face, it's like "Oh, this looks like that person" or whatever. It's like you can see it, interpret it, in your own way. I literally had my friend's wife say, "Oh, I don't want to hurt the character. He's so cute." I'm like, "First off, how is it a he? Second, it's a rectangle." Jack: It's a cute rectangle, though. Brett: Yes, it's a cute rectangle. The rectangle does more than just exist. It does move and behave. I programmed it and have given it the minimal amount of life it has, so it still feels like a plain rectangle, but it actually is a character and does emote so subtly in tiny ways. Just the way it moves and bends around corners and stuff gives it [a very light] sense of personality. Jack: Which [step of development] been the hardest for you to embrace? Music, coding, sound...? Brett: Production. Being the producer. Jack: Producer? Brett: I actually didn't think I would have an answer for that, but yes. Being the producer of the game is a role I did not think I was going to have to fill, but when you spend a few months telling people its 2-3 months away and you don't… I'm a very punctual person. I don't like being late, but flexibility is important too. But after having done that for a while, I was like I feel like I'm falling into a pattern that I've seen other developers fall into and that's unacceptable. [Delays are] not sustainable, I have to finish the game at some point. So being the producer was super hard because, months and months ago, I, as a producer, was very agreeable to myself. Imagine working on a project and having a producer who, if you asked for an extension or whatever for a deadline, would always say yes. You get nothing finished. I've asked people that before, and they say that sounds great – it’s not. You need someone to hold accountability and have deadlines and boundaries. It's challenging because there's Artist Brett who's - and all of this is happening in one head, which is difficult because I'm arguing with myself - previously, Artist Brett used to win most of the arguments, now it's Producer Brett saying, "Nope, good. Ship it." and Artist Brett's like, "Yeah, alright. Fine, ship it." Jack: So is Linelight done or is this still a couple months out? Brett: It's very close to done. [Editor’s Note: Brett and I talked for a bit about potential release dates and when work on the game would be done, but Linelight is now on track for a release on January 31, 2017, a bit later than he speculated] It’s difficult to estimate because I'm not just making the game, I'm also self-publishing. Jack: Which is its own headache, I'm sure. Brett: It's a lot of nouns. All the adjectives. There's a lot of stuff that I'm doing. So my goal is that if this does really well, my next project I can hire people. I'm not the best person to be doing marketing or PR. I like going into my silo and working and working, sealing myself away. I put my phone away, it's on airplane mode every day, all the time. I don't check Facebook, I don't do any of that stuff. My friends are like, "Did you check out my Snapchat?" I'm like, "Don't take it personally, I don't check anybody's Snapchat." Because I'm super zoned in on that, which is not conducive to somebody who's trying to get Twitter following and stuff and interact with people on Twitter. So [hopefully I’ll be] getting other people to help me with that. Jack: You're mentioning your next project. Where do you go from here? Do you stay with the minimalist stuff or do you go with something completely different? Brett: I don't know, I don't know…. Honestly, this is…. Jack: This is your life right now, your baby? Brett: Well, people have said it's my baby, and I get a little bit like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, this is a baby. And I am the parent of this baby, but saying "this is my baby" - my self-esteem is not tied to the success of this game, financial or critical, at least to the best of my abilities. Ideally, there would be like- there's got to be some ties there, but not too much. I don't want to get too... it's just a slippery slope. As far as next project goes, I'm assuming a similar process to how this started. I'm going to see what's interesting and then see where that takes me. If it doesn't go anywhere then I'll find something else. Actually last year I had an idea for this game but my goal was to have 10 prototypes done by, I think it was October. So I had a few months of just prototype stuff, and then I would decide which project I wanted to work on. But Linelight kept coming back. I was working on it on the side, and eventually I added some mechanics and I was like, "Whoa! Whoa! This is really cool." and then [the game and I] sort of fell into the relationship with each other I guess. Jack: How long have you been working on it? Brett: It's been a full year. Jack: Full year? Brett: Yeah. So I worked for a casual gaming company in New York City for three years, and I left at the end of May last year. Took a month off or so just to relax and not work for a little while, a month and a half, but I have to be doing something, so I was still working a little bit. But then mid-June, mid-July or whatever, I picked Linelight back up and I was full-time into development. It's pretty much been my full-time thing since. Now I'm doing seven days a week, but it's not all development work. A lot of it's housekeeping stuff because I'm also a business owner at the same time. There are a lot of tasks no one wants to do, and [it’s difficult to find people] to hire to do those tasks because generally nobody wants to, they're not particularly rewarding. Jack: Gotta live. Brett: Exactly. Jack: So I was going to ask, you worked at a casual gaming company. Where did you come from? What's your background? Brett: I've always been indie at heart. I was actually afraid of working at a casual game [company]. I got the job, and I worried that if I started working there I’d get the indie beaten out of me. It was an actual fear, I'm thinking questions like, "Will I start thinking in free-to-play terms?" And actually to a degree, yeah, I've changed what I thought my ethics were out of necessity just to work at the company and survive. It was also kind of fun and interesting seeing what overlap there could be between my interests and a viable product for a casual audience. So yeah, that's my only professional experience in the game industry, but I've been making games since freshman year of college. So it's been about 8 years, since 2008. Once I discovered how to program it was like everything I wanted to do, but couldn't put into words. But I've always been a musician. I was primarily musician, that's where it started. Jack: What did you play? Brett: Played piano and composer as well. I grew up really wanting to write the music for video games, and then I discovered how to program and I was like, "This is super cool!” It enabled me to get the ideas in my head out, and I have a lot of design ideas and all sorts of other stuff. I also like to do music so everything just sort of falls together. Jack: I can compose my own video games! Brett: Exactly! It would be very strange for me to hire somebody else to write the music for my own video games. Though there are some artists in mind that can write in the style that I can't that I really like. Jack: Like who? Brett: Nigel Good. Nobody knows about this guy, but Nigel Good is sort of, I don't want to say like Deadmau5. It's like electronic music, super upbeat, but it's not obnoxiously so. It's hard for me to describe it, but I really like his work. I never interact with anybody else about him. I've never found anybody else that knows about him, and literally his SoundCloud profile says "Canadian school teacher by day, music producer when I have time for it." [Laughs] Grant Kirkhope also has a place in my heart. His work hugely influenced me when I was younger. I started composing in 2003. I've been playing piano since I was 3 or 4, so I was late to the game for composing. But video game music, I was super into that. The musical style of Linelight is very much a juxtaposition of flowy and natural with the inorganic. There's piano music and strings with this glitchy, driving percussion track. If you play the game, you'll notice it, when the enemies come in they sort of represent that soundtrack. And there's no metaphor specifically behind it. I just like the sound of it. There's been no style guide for Linelight. People ask me questions that sort of imply that there would be and there's not. Everything's made to taste, which is not useful advice if someone's looking and asks, "Hey, how do I get into this?" and [I can only say], "Well, does it feel right?" It's not useful, but that is how I've been developing it. Jack: Is there a thematic or concrete story for Linelight, or is it a series of flowing puzzles? Brett: There are story elements. I had much more specific ideas for the story, but I ended up scaling it back dramatically because I realized what makes the game so great is the puzzles. That's the bread and butter of Linelight. That is the core of the game. I'm going to focus on that and, unfortunately, story had to take a backseat. Jack: Well it sounds kind of like the story fell on the same lines as your [minimalist] game design philosophy?' Brett: Yeah, it's definitely a minimalist story. There are bits and pieces of the story that- What's the best way to put it? It's not one big story, it's a lot of little stories and a lot of smaller moments. There's a lot of metaphors in the game just because it's so minimalist it's actually pretty easy to [put them in.] I could probably shoehorn whatever metaphor I wanted into it, but it did come from a deliberate place. There's an ending to the game that is probably the most specific piece of story that's like a very clear metaphor to me. It's all without text, so I'm not asking people to pick up on that, but that's for me at least. Jack: As the creator that's the only important thing, really. Brett: And that people play the game and enjoy it. But it all comes down to "Do I enjoy it?" My least good design decisions happen when I'm like "How are people going to react this? How can I make this communicate to other people? What would be cool for other people to experience?" It's not all about other people. I think of it in terms of like "What would be cool? Does this make sense to me?" I understand that, yeah, I have biases, but for the most part, when I ask the question "What do I think is cool?" that's where the best material comes from. I find that's true for a lot of other people's games as well. I feel like you can really tell when a game, or any sort of creative outlet or media, has come from a place of, the creator made it because they wanted it to exist or that it came from a place that they were excited about. I think most of my favorite games all come from that place, from a creator who had the idea and they just did what they wanted with it. And the game is almost saying, “I'm this way, and you can like me or not like me.” I'm not trying to appeal to anybody in any particular way, which is, casual gaming-wise, sort of the opposite. You want to appeal to as large an audience as you can. If I'd gone about that mission for Linelight it would be a very different game, and, ironically, it would not have appealed to nearly as many people. I swear that's totally true. Jack: You know yourself better than you know other people. Brett: Exactly, yeah, and I know what I like, and, generally speaking, I don't think that my tastes are crazy off the mark from [the tastes of the] majority of people out there. I have a very specific niches, things that I especially like or favorites, preferences. But on the whole, yeah. A big thank you to Brett Taylor for taking the time to talk with me at length about his life as a solo indie game developer and his personal journey creating Linelight. As of right now Linelight will release for PC and PlayStation 4 on January 31, 2017.
  24. Linelight, like its creator, has a uniquely “Brett Taylor” charm about it. His enthusiasm for the heart and soul of Linelight infects those around him. Despite a retail release being delayed until late January 2017, Linelight's strong showing has generated buzz around the game that has had a number of people in professional development and media circles asking one another, “Have you played Linelight yet?” Often indie games represent the most unique ends of the game industry and the people who make them are no different. I had the opportunity to talk with Brett Taylor earlier this year about his upcoming solo title, Linelight. For over a year, Taylor has been grinding out his personal passion project, a game staring a rectangle locked into a series of over 250 line-based puzzles. Though incredibly simple on the surface, Taylor has managed to leverage that core conceit into a dizzying array of clever puzzles with a surprisingly emotional core. It’s the kind of game where all the elements click together, leaving most who play it with a smile on their face. Talking with him, it was clear just how much effort and zeal Taylor had for Linelight. He’s focused, intent, and bending all of his energy toward finishing it, a colossal task for a single developer. How does someone function as the sole coder, animator, composer, director, marketer, and producer? What does it take to finish a game alone, let alone a game that seems to charm everyone in who plays it? Jack Gardner: What inspired you to make something like this? Why, out of all of the things that you could make, why Linelight? Brett Taylor: Linelight actually started as a programming challenge. I was like, "Okay, what if everything takes place in line? What if you're a line and everything takes place on lines? What would that be like? Is there a game there?" My question to myself was how I would program that. And I was like, "You know, I've never done anything like this before. It's very visual, and I'm a very visual person. I'll take a crack at it." I tried it out and [it was] way harder than I thought that it would be. There's linear algebra [in Linelight], but I initially thought it would be very visual. It's super heavy, data-based stuff; way more than I could have ever anticipated - way more than I'm comfortable with. The game's like [a person, saying,] "I'm belligerent, I'm going to be hard to work with!" I'm like, "I can beat you." So I stayed with it, I was persevering. Each of the mechanics in the game, each of the puzzles- there's no redundancy. There's no filler, it's basically as streamlined as possible with as few barriers between the player and the solution as possible. My goal was to remove all the noise from all the puzzles until I basically can't simplify it anymore. It does feel like a relationship, so I speak of it often as if it is one. It was very hard for me to understand and come to terms and speak the same language as Linelight in the beginning, but eventually we saw eye-to-eye; now we have a great relationship. I'm completely serious about this. [laughs] But yeah, I have a fantastic relationship with this game, and I'm so glad that I pushed through. It's been so rich and generous with its mechanics, and the types of puzzles that have come out, emergence. A lot of people ask me, "Where do you come up with all these ideas for the puzzles?" and honestly, most of the time I don't. The puzzles happen naturally. Jack: You're just discovering this game, rather than creating it? Brett: Exactly, I'm discovering [various aspects of the game]. I'm the one unearthing these gems, basically. So I guess my job is to go to patches of dirt where, using instincts or whatever experience that I have, I believe there's a lot of really great stuff beneath the surface and then [dig to] find those things. I never know exactly what I'm going to find; and in Linelight, I found some really cool stuff. I didn't know there would be this much gameplay in this one mechanic. I have so many more ideas, some small things I prototyped, and I had to stop myself from getting too invested in those because I have to finish the game. I could keep working on this forever, but I'm like no, this is my first independent solo release. Jack: So it's solo? It's all by yourself? Brett: 100% me, from code, music, art, design, to sound. Jack: [The visuals] look very Tron-esque. Brett: What's actually funny is that there's not nearly as much consistency in what people saying that it reminds them of, or what it's like so far. I've been getting a lot of different stuff so far. Jack: Which is really interesting because you have a very minimalist design. Brett: Yeah, actually I feel like it's like if you look at a stick figure, a face, it's like "Oh, this looks like that person" or whatever. It's like you can see it, interpret it, in your own way. I literally had my friend's wife say, "Oh, I don't want to hurt the character. He's so cute." I'm like, "First off, how is it a he? Second, it's a rectangle." Jack: It's a cute rectangle, though. Brett: Yes, it's a cute rectangle. The rectangle does more than just exist. It does move and behave. I programmed it and have given it the minimal amount of life it has, so it still feels like a plain rectangle, but it actually is a character and does emote so subtly in tiny ways. Just the way it moves and bends around corners and stuff gives it [a very light] sense of personality. Jack: Which [step of development] been the hardest for you to embrace? Music, coding, sound...? Brett: Production. Being the producer. Jack: Producer? Brett: I actually didn't think I would have an answer for that, but yes. Being the producer of the game is a role I did not think I was going to have to fill, but when you spend a few months telling people its 2-3 months away and you don't… I'm a very punctual person. I don't like being late, but flexibility is important too. But after having done that for a while, I was like I feel like I'm falling into a pattern that I've seen other developers fall into and that's unacceptable. [Delays are] not sustainable, I have to finish the game at some point. So being the producer was super hard because, months and months ago, I, as a producer, was very agreeable to myself. Imagine working on a project and having a producer who, if you asked for an extension or whatever for a deadline, would always say yes. You get nothing finished. I've asked people that before, and they say that sounds great – it’s not. You need someone to hold accountability and have deadlines and boundaries. It's challenging because there's Artist Brett who's - and all of this is happening in one head, which is difficult because I'm arguing with myself - previously, Artist Brett used to win most of the arguments, now it's Producer Brett saying, "Nope, good. Ship it." and Artist Brett's like, "Yeah, alright. Fine, ship it." Jack: So is Linelight done or is this still a couple months out? Brett: It's very close to done. [Editor’s Note: Brett and I talked for a bit about potential release dates and when work on the game would be done, but Linelight is now on track for a release on January 31, 2017, a bit later than he speculated] It’s difficult to estimate because I'm not just making the game, I'm also self-publishing. Jack: Which is its own headache, I'm sure. Brett: It's a lot of nouns. All the adjectives. There's a lot of stuff that I'm doing. So my goal is that if this does really well, my next project I can hire people. I'm not the best person to be doing marketing or PR. I like going into my silo and working and working, sealing myself away. I put my phone away, it's on airplane mode every day, all the time. I don't check Facebook, I don't do any of that stuff. My friends are like, "Did you check out my Snapchat?" I'm like, "Don't take it personally, I don't check anybody's Snapchat." Because I'm super zoned in on that, which is not conducive to somebody who's trying to get Twitter following and stuff and interact with people on Twitter. So [hopefully I’ll be] getting other people to help me with that. Jack: You're mentioning your next project. Where do you go from here? Do you stay with the minimalist stuff or do you go with something completely different? Brett: I don't know, I don't know…. Honestly, this is…. Jack: This is your life right now, your baby? Brett: Well, people have said it's my baby, and I get a little bit like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, this is a baby. And I am the parent of this baby, but saying "this is my baby" - my self-esteem is not tied to the success of this game, financial or critical, at least to the best of my abilities. Ideally, there would be like- there's got to be some ties there, but not too much. I don't want to get too... it's just a slippery slope. As far as next project goes, I'm assuming a similar process to how this started. I'm going to see what's interesting and then see where that takes me. If it doesn't go anywhere then I'll find something else. Actually last year I had an idea for this game but my goal was to have 10 prototypes done by, I think it was October. So I had a few months of just prototype stuff, and then I would decide which project I wanted to work on. But Linelight kept coming back. I was working on it on the side, and eventually I added some mechanics and I was like, "Whoa! Whoa! This is really cool." and then [the game and I] sort of fell into the relationship with each other I guess. Jack: How long have you been working on it? Brett: It's been a full year. Jack: Full year? Brett: Yeah. So I worked for a casual gaming company in New York City for three years, and I left at the end of May last year. Took a month off or so just to relax and not work for a little while, a month and a half, but I have to be doing something, so I was still working a little bit. But then mid-June, mid-July or whatever, I picked Linelight back up and I was full-time into development. It's pretty much been my full-time thing since. Now I'm doing seven days a week, but it's not all development work. A lot of it's housekeeping stuff because I'm also a business owner at the same time. There are a lot of tasks no one wants to do, and [it’s difficult to find people] to hire to do those tasks because generally nobody wants to, they're not particularly rewarding. Jack: Gotta live. Brett: Exactly. Jack: So I was going to ask, you worked at a casual gaming company. Where did you come from? What's your background? Brett: I've always been indie at heart. I was actually afraid of working at a casual game [company]. I got the job, and I worried that if I started working there I’d get the indie beaten out of me. It was an actual fear, I'm thinking questions like, "Will I start thinking in free-to-play terms?" And actually to a degree, yeah, I've changed what I thought my ethics were out of necessity just to work at the company and survive. It was also kind of fun and interesting seeing what overlap there could be between my interests and a viable product for a casual audience. So yeah, that's my only professional experience in the game industry, but I've been making games since freshman year of college. So it's been about 8 years, since 2008. Once I discovered how to program it was like everything I wanted to do, but couldn't put into words. But I've always been a musician. I was primarily musician, that's where it started. Jack: What did you play? Brett: Played piano and composer as well. I grew up really wanting to write the music for video games, and then I discovered how to program and I was like, "This is super cool!” It enabled me to get the ideas in my head out, and I have a lot of design ideas and all sorts of other stuff. I also like to do music so everything just sort of falls together. Jack: I can compose my own video games! Brett: Exactly! It would be very strange for me to hire somebody else to write the music for my own video games. Though there are some artists in mind that can write in the style that I can't that I really like. Jack: Like who? Brett: Nigel Good. Nobody knows about this guy, but Nigel Good is sort of, I don't want to say like Deadmau5. It's like electronic music, super upbeat, but it's not obnoxiously so. It's hard for me to describe it, but I really like his work. I never interact with anybody else about him. I've never found anybody else that knows about him, and literally his SoundCloud profile says "Canadian school teacher by day, music producer when I have time for it." [Laughs] Grant Kirkhope also has a place in my heart. His work hugely influenced me when I was younger. I started composing in 2003. I've been playing piano since I was 3 or 4, so I was late to the game for composing. But video game music, I was super into that. The musical style of Linelight is very much a juxtaposition of flowy and natural with the inorganic. There's piano music and strings with this glitchy, driving percussion track. If you play the game, you'll notice it, when the enemies come in they sort of represent that soundtrack. And there's no metaphor specifically behind it. I just like the sound of it. There's been no style guide for Linelight. People ask me questions that sort of imply that there would be and there's not. Everything's made to taste, which is not useful advice if someone's looking and asks, "Hey, how do I get into this?" and [I can only say], "Well, does it feel right?" It's not useful, but that is how I've been developing it. Jack: Is there a thematic or concrete story for Linelight, or is it a series of flowing puzzles? Brett: There are story elements. I had much more specific ideas for the story, but I ended up scaling it back dramatically because I realized what makes the game so great is the puzzles. That's the bread and butter of Linelight. That is the core of the game. I'm going to focus on that and, unfortunately, story had to take a backseat. Jack: Well it sounds kind of like the story fell on the same lines as your [minimalist] game design philosophy?' Brett: Yeah, it's definitely a minimalist story. There are bits and pieces of the story that- What's the best way to put it? It's not one big story, it's a lot of little stories and a lot of smaller moments. There's a lot of metaphors in the game just because it's so minimalist it's actually pretty easy to [put them in.] I could probably shoehorn whatever metaphor I wanted into it, but it did come from a deliberate place. There's an ending to the game that is probably the most specific piece of story that's like a very clear metaphor to me. It's all without text, so I'm not asking people to pick up on that, but that's for me at least. Jack: As the creator that's the only important thing, really. Brett: And that people play the game and enjoy it. But it all comes down to "Do I enjoy it?" My least good design decisions happen when I'm like "How are people going to react this? How can I make this communicate to other people? What would be cool for other people to experience?" It's not all about other people. I think of it in terms of like "What would be cool? Does this make sense to me?" I understand that, yeah, I have biases, but for the most part, when I ask the question "What do I think is cool?" that's where the best material comes from. I find that's true for a lot of other people's games as well. I feel like you can really tell when a game, or any sort of creative outlet or media, has come from a place of, the creator made it because they wanted it to exist or that it came from a place that they were excited about. I think most of my favorite games all come from that place, from a creator who had the idea and they just did what they wanted with it. And the game is almost saying, “I'm this way, and you can like me or not like me.” I'm not trying to appeal to anybody in any particular way, which is, casual gaming-wise, sort of the opposite. You want to appeal to as large an audience as you can. If I'd gone about that mission for Linelight it would be a very different game, and, ironically, it would not have appealed to nearly as many people. I swear that's totally true. Jack: You know yourself better than you know other people. Brett: Exactly, yeah, and I know what I like, and, generally speaking, I don't think that my tastes are crazy off the mark from [the tastes of the] majority of people out there. I have a very specific niches, things that I especially like or favorites, preferences. But on the whole, yeah. A big thank you to Brett Taylor for taking the time to talk with me at length about his life as a solo indie game developer and his personal journey creating Linelight. As of right now Linelight will release for PC and PlayStation 4 on January 31, 2017. View full article
  25. Square Enix dropped a lot of news, trailers, and screenshots yesterday. We now know that the next official entries in the Kingdom Hearts series will be released as a part of the PlayStation 4 exclusive Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue on January 24 next year. The bundle includes a remastered HD version of Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance and two new pieces to the long running franchise (the ninth and tenth entries, despite Kingdom Hearts III looming in the distance). Kingdom Hearts χ [chi] Back Cover will essentially be an animated movie that fills in some gaps in the series lore, unraveling the tale of the Foretellers, who I believe was introduced in a Kingdom Hearts title that never made it to the West, though I could be wrong. The collection will be rounded out by a new game titled Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth By Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage – that retells the events of the PSP Kingdom Hearts game Birth By Sleep from the perspective of the character Aqua. A snazzy, new trailer accompanied the release date and it's really something. Who would have ever thought we'd get to see hardcore anime action mixed with Mickey Mouse using a giant key as a sword with explosions going off in the background. What a time to be alive! Another collection, this one consisting entirely of previously released games from the Kingdom Hearts franchise, has been announced for PlayStation 4. Square Enix has packed six revamped games from the past fifteen years into one handy bundle titled Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX. They run at 60fps and visually hold up very well considering some were released well over a decade ago. The collection contains the following: Kingdom Hearts FINAL MIX Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (HD remastered cinematics) Kingdom Hearts II FINAL MIX Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep FINAL MIX Kingdom Hearts Re:coded This collection will release across North America on March 28, 2017. Finally, Square Enix slightly teased Kingdom Hearts III via Twitter yesterday. The company released two new screenshots of the game that show protagonist Sora's new Drive Form abilities in action in the halls of Disney's Olympus. The first screenshot gives fans a glimpse at what the developers of KH III have dubbed Guard Form - apparently allowing Sora to transform his keyblade into the form of Hercules' shield. The second image hints at a "power form" but the exact details on it are a bit scant as the world from which the form originates has not been revealed yet. The devs doctored the image to give an idea of what the form does without revealing details about the keyblade. There's still no official release date for Kingdom Hearts III, but at least those who have yet to get into the series will have a brand new way to do so early next year.
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