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Found 28 results

  1. I’ve been directed through a labyrinthine maze of small meeting rooms and temporary walls that represent the barrier between Wargaming’s inner workings and the public spectacle they have going on outside. E3 is fully underway and I’ve arrived at the heart of the colossal structure that is Wargaming’s E3 booth; a veritable two-story behemoth that’s larger than most houses. With the hugely successful World of Tanks continuing to rake in new players every day, World of Tanks 360 proving itself to be very popular among American gamers, and World of Warplanes spreading its wings, Wargaming has set its sights on finishing World of Warships. That’s why I am there; they will be showing me live, pre-alpha gameplay from their latest build of World of Warships. Christine Yeo, Wargaming’s PR manager, and Ivan Goldensohn, a marketing specialist for Wargaming, greet me at the door to meeting room #8 (mind you, this is on the show floor and I am in a hallway that has more meeting rooms on both sides). After a minute or two of introductions and chatter, the three of us begin talking business. On one wall of the meeting room hangs a giant television on which Ivan begins showing me World of Warships. He has to talk loudly to avoid being drowned out by the realistic sounding explosions. Later I would find out that the explosions sound authentic because the sound design team finds, fires, and records each specific gun and cannon type used in World of Tanks, Warplanes, and Warships. If they can’t find a working model for the gun they need to record, they recreate it to the best of their ability and record the facsimile’s sound. Ivan talks, almost yelling over the sound of explosions, “So, now my plane has been sent out, I’m switching back to macro-management, as I like to call it, versus micromanagement. My turrets are rotating, I’ll see if I can get one more here… See, but this guy’s in a cruiser, so it’s going to be a lot harder to [an explosion drowns out his words and a siren begins blaring].” In World of Warships, players can send out scout planes to get a view of the battlefield (battle-sea?). These planes are controlled by AI, but players can set waypoints for the planes to follow. As you can imagine, these planes represent a huge combat advantage, so both teams will have to pay attention to who has the most vision in the skies. There are a number of different tactics to consider when facing down enemy ships. Two of the most important factors to keep in mind are your target’s hull integrity and the hit points of the individual gun emplacements on the target. You can focus on either sinking the ship or defanging it and eliminating its total hit points. Depending on the class type of your enemy and what warship you happen to be piloting, one option or the other might be more effective. To that end, there are different methods of attacking. We were shown sniper and torpedo modes. The artillery mode previously shown in 2013 has been removed from the game since it incentivized players to hang back behind islands and shell each other. This just ended up rendering the game not as much fun. The sniper mode works much as you might assume from the name. Players enter a sniper-esque view and aim their cannons at their intended target and then take into account distance and adjust accordingly. Torpedoes are one of the most deadly weapons on the seas and can easily destroy an unprepared ship. They can be aimed quickly and will travel in a straight line until they hit something. Players can adjust the spread and aim of the torpedoes; a narrow spread will equal more damage, but is more likely to miss, while a wider spread will more likely score a hit, but do less damage. Ivan continues to show me the various features of World of Warships, “You’ll notice at the top we are seeing some base capture icons. Similar to World of Tanks, we have this Capture the Flag style game. I don’t think they have anyone who’s fast enough to catch up with us, but this looks like torpedo central to me, so I’m going to lock on to him. I’m going to increase my spread to have a greater chance of hitting him. I can then follow these torpedoes and I can actually switch between them. It’s all the little features like this [the explosions of a nearby enemy ship drown out Ivan’s words] help the game come together. Being able to watch your torpedo actually slam into the enemy-[explosions from his torpedo fill the screen as the sound fills the meeting room]” I laugh, “You got him!” Even in pre-alpha, World of Warships looks gorgeous. Wargaming is aware of how great their game looks and has added various ways to get up close with the action and drink in the visuals. A perfect example of this is the ability to have your camera follow torpedoes that you’ve launched. This leads to a few tense seconds of “will it hit?” nail-biting and the opportunity to see a glorious explosion or two or three, depending on how many hit their intended target. Wargaming even added the ability to switch between the torpedoes to capture the action from the best possible angle. Given the presence of scout planes shown in-game and the history of the time period that Wargaming seems to be on a mission to capture, I ask the inevitable question, “Are there any plans to have cross over [between World of Warships] and World of Warplanes?” Christine responds with what seems like a practiced reply, “You know, that is something that people always ask us. We are definitely thinking about different options, but right now I can’t say anything in the near future. It’s just a lot of balancing that we need to take into consideration.” “Well, yeah, it would certainly be a huge undertaking,” I say. It isn’t as simple as just slapping together the code for World of Warplanes and World of Warships together. Balancing how the two games would interact with each other while still maintaining the level of strategy and fairness that have been cornerstones of Wargaming’s titles would be a game designer’s nightmare-level challenge. “Right,” returns Christine, “But [it is understandable] that people ask because the fact that you can send out scouts and meet with aircraft carriers, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility.” “And you know, we are always open to suggestions and what players want is what we usually do,” Ivan pitches in his two cents. As the match ends, Ivan turns to me saying, “It is still in alpha stages. It’s not perfect, but it looks gorgeous. The level of complexity is there, but the ease of use and jumping into it is really cool. And, you know, some of the more complex elements like sending out a scout plane, you’re not going to have to deal with until you get up a couple tiers, so the game is going to dynamically introduce you to those concepts.” “So what elements are not present here that will be in the final version?” I ask out of curiosity. “Well that is a really good question. What’s cool about developing a game like this, is when we are talking about changing it we are not like, ‘we’re going to make this gun slightly bigger’ or ‘this tank, this plane, this ship is going to be slightly faster.’ We are saying fundamentally, from the ground up how do we modify it to be exactly what our players want.” As an example, he mentions the elimination of artillery that was stifling gameplay options for their players. Another thought occurs to me, “What happens when you ram into another ship?” “A lot of damage,” laughs Ivan. “A lot of these models aren’t finalized, so the damage on them isn’t complete. But, I mean, in the final game you are going to be seeing stuff like ships breaking based on where they were hit. So, if you blow off the back of a ship with a killing blow, you will actually see that ship break in that spot, or torpedo damage will cause ships to sink in a different way from overall damage, or bomb damage from airplanes will cause different damage to the top of the ship. So, all that stuff is cool, but then in the fundamental game mode we will be constantly switching it up.” The eventual goal is to have battles flowing and allowing players to join 15v15 warship battles. Even though the game is in pre-alpha, it is hard not to feel a jump of excitement at the prospect of thirty players going at each other on the high seas. Ivan then hands me an iPad to try out World of Tanks: Blitz. As I begin to play (I’m going to fess up, I am absolutely terrible at World of Tanks on PC and I fared little better in World of Tanks: Blitz), I notice and comment about how great the game looks for an iPad app. Ivan launches into an explanation of how they fit Blitz onto an iPad, “This could be a PC game, but this is running from my iPad right now. […] People say, ‘where did you have to make sacrifices to put this on an iPad? What did you have to pull out of a 30GB PC client?’ The answer is nothing. Instead of taking things out, what we did was modify the game to be more app friendly and we used that to our advantage. So, you see we have the module system, all of this is just as complex as the PC. I can switch out the engine, my turret, and my tank. All of this is going to affect my percentages and every detail from your equipment I can put on my tank and there are five different consumables that I can use. What we did instead is we said, ‘where is the game different as a mobile game and how do we change that?’ So, all the maps are a fifth of the size. They are tiny. It is so much more fun. Suddenly you have this little map you can run across the whole thing in a minute and a half and everybody is jumping right into the battle. You have these super focused, super intense battle modes. It is like instead of taking out content, we switched it to make it mobile and it ended up helping everybody.” It turns out that while the PC version takes up around 30GB, the app uses a minuscule 500MB. And it does look remarkably good. The presentation is a bit barebones, but the things that are in-game look great. The maps are just as small as stated, but for a mobile game that’s perfect. I fiddle with the iPad for a few minutes before a Finnish player takes me down like a clumsy, tank-sized bull in a china shop. People who are into fast-paced, military combat games and are looking for a mobile title to fill that particular void couldn’t do much better than World of Tanks: Blitz. It is free and currently available. The conversation turns to World of Tanks 360 and the updates that they have been rolling out for it since release. To sum up the changes these updates have had/will have in the near future: Weather variance to will be added to maps that provide different visibility and aesthetics. New autoloaders, new tanks, new maps, new modes are constantly on the way. World of Tanks: Soccer is a game mode released specifically for the 2014 World Cup. Like the title suggests, players battle it out on the soccer field in tanks trying to score goals by any means necessary. Platoon groups can now go up to seven members instead of three. The conversation draws to a close and I begin to make my way out the door. I think to myself how glad I’ll be to return to E3 next year and see the next incarnation of Wargaming’s immense booth and have another opportunity to sit down and chat with people who are as passionate and committed to their game as Christine and Ivan. There are a lot of video game developers out there these days, especially in the free-to-play market, but Wargaming is special. Wargaming’s commitment over the years to responding to its massive player base is something from which many developers of online games could learn a thing or two. On top of that, they deserve praise for how well it handles free-to-play, right alongside Riot Games. I might be awful at playing their games, but I respect Wargaming for making those games well. As of the writing of this article there is still no official release date for World of Warships, though the beta is speculated to be beginning sometime in the next couple months. View full article
  2. I’ve been directed through a labyrinthine maze of small meeting rooms and temporary walls that represent the barrier between Wargaming’s inner workings and the public spectacle they have going on outside. E3 is fully underway and I’ve arrived at the heart of the colossal structure that is Wargaming’s E3 booth; a veritable two-story behemoth that’s larger than most houses. With the hugely successful World of Tanks continuing to rake in new players every day, World of Tanks 360 proving itself to be very popular among American gamers, and World of Warplanes spreading its wings, Wargaming has set its sights on finishing World of Warships. That’s why I am there; they will be showing me live, pre-alpha gameplay from their latest build of World of Warships. Christine Yeo, Wargaming’s PR manager, and Ivan Goldensohn, a marketing specialist for Wargaming, greet me at the door to meeting room #8 (mind you, this is on the show floor and I am in a hallway that has more meeting rooms on both sides). After a minute or two of introductions and chatter, the three of us begin talking business. On one wall of the meeting room hangs a giant television on which Ivan begins showing me World of Warships. He has to talk loudly to avoid being drowned out by the realistic sounding explosions. Later I would find out that the explosions sound authentic because the sound design team finds, fires, and records each specific gun and cannon type used in World of Tanks, Warplanes, and Warships. If they can’t find a working model for the gun they need to record, they recreate it to the best of their ability and record the facsimile’s sound. Ivan talks, almost yelling over the sound of explosions, “So, now my plane has been sent out, I’m switching back to macro-management, as I like to call it, versus micromanagement. My turrets are rotating, I’ll see if I can get one more here… See, but this guy’s in a cruiser, so it’s going to be a lot harder to [an explosion drowns out his words and a siren begins blaring].” In World of Warships, players can send out scout planes to get a view of the battlefield (battle-sea?). These planes are controlled by AI, but players can set waypoints for the planes to follow. As you can imagine, these planes represent a huge combat advantage, so both teams will have to pay attention to who has the most vision in the skies. There are a number of different tactics to consider when facing down enemy ships. Two of the most important factors to keep in mind are your target’s hull integrity and the hit points of the individual gun emplacements on the target. You can focus on either sinking the ship or defanging it and eliminating its total hit points. Depending on the class type of your enemy and what warship you happen to be piloting, one option or the other might be more effective. To that end, there are different methods of attacking. We were shown sniper and torpedo modes. The artillery mode previously shown in 2013 has been removed from the game since it incentivized players to hang back behind islands and shell each other. This just ended up rendering the game not as much fun. The sniper mode works much as you might assume from the name. Players enter a sniper-esque view and aim their cannons at their intended target and then take into account distance and adjust accordingly. Torpedoes are one of the most deadly weapons on the seas and can easily destroy an unprepared ship. They can be aimed quickly and will travel in a straight line until they hit something. Players can adjust the spread and aim of the torpedoes; a narrow spread will equal more damage, but is more likely to miss, while a wider spread will more likely score a hit, but do less damage. Ivan continues to show me the various features of World of Warships, “You’ll notice at the top we are seeing some base capture icons. Similar to World of Tanks, we have this Capture the Flag style game. I don’t think they have anyone who’s fast enough to catch up with us, but this looks like torpedo central to me, so I’m going to lock on to him. I’m going to increase my spread to have a greater chance of hitting him. I can then follow these torpedoes and I can actually switch between them. It’s all the little features like this [the explosions of a nearby enemy ship drown out Ivan’s words] help the game come together. Being able to watch your torpedo actually slam into the enemy-[explosions from his torpedo fill the screen as the sound fills the meeting room]” I laugh, “You got him!” Even in pre-alpha, World of Warships looks gorgeous. Wargaming is aware of how great their game looks and has added various ways to get up close with the action and drink in the visuals. A perfect example of this is the ability to have your camera follow torpedoes that you’ve launched. This leads to a few tense seconds of “will it hit?” nail-biting and the opportunity to see a glorious explosion or two or three, depending on how many hit their intended target. Wargaming even added the ability to switch between the torpedoes to capture the action from the best possible angle. Given the presence of scout planes shown in-game and the history of the time period that Wargaming seems to be on a mission to capture, I ask the inevitable question, “Are there any plans to have cross over [between World of Warships] and World of Warplanes?” Christine responds with what seems like a practiced reply, “You know, that is something that people always ask us. We are definitely thinking about different options, but right now I can’t say anything in the near future. It’s just a lot of balancing that we need to take into consideration.” “Well, yeah, it would certainly be a huge undertaking,” I say. It isn’t as simple as just slapping together the code for World of Warplanes and World of Warships together. Balancing how the two games would interact with each other while still maintaining the level of strategy and fairness that have been cornerstones of Wargaming’s titles would be a game designer’s nightmare-level challenge. “Right,” returns Christine, “But [it is understandable] that people ask because the fact that you can send out scouts and meet with aircraft carriers, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility.” “And you know, we are always open to suggestions and what players want is what we usually do,” Ivan pitches in his two cents. As the match ends, Ivan turns to me saying, “It is still in alpha stages. It’s not perfect, but it looks gorgeous. The level of complexity is there, but the ease of use and jumping into it is really cool. And, you know, some of the more complex elements like sending out a scout plane, you’re not going to have to deal with until you get up a couple tiers, so the game is going to dynamically introduce you to those concepts.” “So what elements are not present here that will be in the final version?” I ask out of curiosity. “Well that is a really good question. What’s cool about developing a game like this, is when we are talking about changing it we are not like, ‘we’re going to make this gun slightly bigger’ or ‘this tank, this plane, this ship is going to be slightly faster.’ We are saying fundamentally, from the ground up how do we modify it to be exactly what our players want.” As an example, he mentions the elimination of artillery that was stifling gameplay options for their players. Another thought occurs to me, “What happens when you ram into another ship?” “A lot of damage,” laughs Ivan. “A lot of these models aren’t finalized, so the damage on them isn’t complete. But, I mean, in the final game you are going to be seeing stuff like ships breaking based on where they were hit. So, if you blow off the back of a ship with a killing blow, you will actually see that ship break in that spot, or torpedo damage will cause ships to sink in a different way from overall damage, or bomb damage from airplanes will cause different damage to the top of the ship. So, all that stuff is cool, but then in the fundamental game mode we will be constantly switching it up.” The eventual goal is to have battles flowing and allowing players to join 15v15 warship battles. Even though the game is in pre-alpha, it is hard not to feel a jump of excitement at the prospect of thirty players going at each other on the high seas. Ivan then hands me an iPad to try out World of Tanks: Blitz. As I begin to play (I’m going to fess up, I am absolutely terrible at World of Tanks on PC and I fared little better in World of Tanks: Blitz), I notice and comment about how great the game looks for an iPad app. Ivan launches into an explanation of how they fit Blitz onto an iPad, “This could be a PC game, but this is running from my iPad right now. […] People say, ‘where did you have to make sacrifices to put this on an iPad? What did you have to pull out of a 30GB PC client?’ The answer is nothing. Instead of taking things out, what we did was modify the game to be more app friendly and we used that to our advantage. So, you see we have the module system, all of this is just as complex as the PC. I can switch out the engine, my turret, and my tank. All of this is going to affect my percentages and every detail from your equipment I can put on my tank and there are five different consumables that I can use. What we did instead is we said, ‘where is the game different as a mobile game and how do we change that?’ So, all the maps are a fifth of the size. They are tiny. It is so much more fun. Suddenly you have this little map you can run across the whole thing in a minute and a half and everybody is jumping right into the battle. You have these super focused, super intense battle modes. It is like instead of taking out content, we switched it to make it mobile and it ended up helping everybody.” It turns out that while the PC version takes up around 30GB, the app uses a minuscule 500MB. And it does look remarkably good. The presentation is a bit barebones, but the things that are in-game look great. The maps are just as small as stated, but for a mobile game that’s perfect. I fiddle with the iPad for a few minutes before a Finnish player takes me down like a clumsy, tank-sized bull in a china shop. People who are into fast-paced, military combat games and are looking for a mobile title to fill that particular void couldn’t do much better than World of Tanks: Blitz. It is free and currently available. The conversation turns to World of Tanks 360 and the updates that they have been rolling out for it since release. To sum up the changes these updates have had/will have in the near future: Weather variance to will be added to maps that provide different visibility and aesthetics. New autoloaders, new tanks, new maps, new modes are constantly on the way. World of Tanks: Soccer is a game mode released specifically for the 2014 World Cup. Like the title suggests, players battle it out on the soccer field in tanks trying to score goals by any means necessary. Platoon groups can now go up to seven members instead of three. The conversation draws to a close and I begin to make my way out the door. I think to myself how glad I’ll be to return to E3 next year and see the next incarnation of Wargaming’s immense booth and have another opportunity to sit down and chat with people who are as passionate and committed to their game as Christine and Ivan. There are a lot of video game developers out there these days, especially in the free-to-play market, but Wargaming is special. Wargaming’s commitment over the years to responding to its massive player base is something from which many developers of online games could learn a thing or two. On top of that, they deserve praise for how well it handles free-to-play, right alongside Riot Games. I might be awful at playing their games, but I respect Wargaming for making those games well. As of the writing of this article there is still no official release date for World of Warships, though the beta is speculated to be beginning sometime in the next couple months.
  3. In the midst of all the E3 craziness, I had an appointment with the digital distribution company Green Man Gaming. Due to scheduling mishaps that appointment never occurred, but we managed to track down Green Man's EVP of marketing Darren Cairns for a pleasant (and very green) post-E3 interview. ---- How did Green Man Gaming (GMG) begin? Green Man Gaming launched on 10th May 2010 after Paul Sulyok (CEO & Founder) and Lee Packham (EVP Engineering and Co-Founder) wanted to create a digital store loosely based on an eBay and iTunes model, but for gaming - letting people sell the games in their library. As digital game downloads are becoming the dominant and preferred way for people to get their games, Green Man Gaming began leading millions of gamers through the transition from traditional retail purchases into a new digital era. What does GMG offer that sets it apart from competitors like Steam or GOG.com? We know that modern core gamers care about their games, no matter what platform that they play them on. Our service allows gamers to buy games and content across a range of platforms which makes us very different to retailers like Steam and GOG. Green Man Gaming also collects and uses a level of gameplay data that no other commercial retailer has. Valve has data about Steam, Sony has data about PlayStation, Microsoft has data about Xbox; Green Man Gaming has data about all of them. We then use this behavioural data (based on tracked in-game activity, rather than just purchasing or browsing history) to accurately target core gamers with offers and tailored messages that they need and want. Our strength that sets us apart from other retailers, is that we sell what gamers want, how they want (allowing game access and activation across a range of platforms including Steam, Uplay, Origin, other first party platforms, or by our own Capsule client). Combined with our strong Playfire Community, that becomes a larger offer for gamers that is more than just a sale. GMG Acquired Playfire in 2012. Have you seen a boost in users with the inclusion of more social elements into your platform (i.e. achievements, stat tracking)? Being a member of the Playfire community means gamers can track their gameplay and what their friends are playing, join leaderboards, see what other members are excited about on Playfire Buzz, and create Want lists that we can then make great offers on when those games go on sale. The strength of our community comes from their engagement and we've seen a huge boost in users as gamers are signing up to our Playfire Rewards BETA. By linking their Steam account (with other platforms coming very soon), Playfire Members are eligible to earn Green Man Gaming Credit by playing games! Users don’t have to originally buy their games from Green Man Gaming; they simply have to play those games that Playfire attaches rewards to for the chance to earn up to £5 (Edit: About $8.55 US) Green Man Gaming credit (which is converted into local currency depending on a user’s location). This credit can then be spent towards anything on the Green Man Gaming site. Have you found that offering store credit for social participation on GMG uniquely benefits your business? How does that work? We reward people with Green Man Gaming Credit that can only be used on our service, which we know successfully reduces the cost of gaming for those involved. We feel there is a value exchange that benefits both the user and Green Man Gaming. Our users benefits from earning GMG Credit by simply playing the games they love, and we benefit from learning more about their gaming habits and style as they play. We can use this knowledge to target users with more relevant offers based on the way they play games, and help them to discover more games to love. It works! GMG is the number two digital platform in the world. Are there any plans in the work to dethrone Steam to reach number one? I guess this also harkens back to my second question. How do you compete with something like Steam when they seemingly hold such a significant market share? Steam has well over 75 million users, and as we have an official API from Valve, we think of Steam as one of our allies. We understand that many gamers feel comfortable accessing their games through Steam. However, our offering is quite different to Steam, and we are seeing the number of people using Green Man Gaming to access non-Steam games rapidly increasing, as they prefer our range of download options and opportunities to earn Green Man Gaming Credit. We are going to keep focusing on creating something very special here at Green Man Gaming. We are using billions of game data points and user behaviour knowledge to continually improve the user experience for all our customers, and this will never change. We currently sell over 4500 titles across 185 territories, and are working with over 350 official publishing partners to offer even more than just a sale in the future - bringing more great titles, more great deals, and coming soon, very special Playfire Rewards to millions of gamers around the world. ---- A big thank you to Darren Cairns for taking the time to talk with us and to Tracy McGarrigan for being patient and helping to facilitate this interview! View full article
  4. Jack Gardner

    A Q&A With Green Man Gaming's Darren Cairns

    In the midst of all the E3 craziness, I had an appointment with the digital distribution company Green Man Gaming. Due to scheduling mishaps that appointment never occurred, but we managed to track down Green Man's EVP of marketing Darren Cairns for a pleasant (and very green) post-E3 interview. ---- How did Green Man Gaming (GMG) begin? Green Man Gaming launched on 10th May 2010 after Paul Sulyok (CEO & Founder) and Lee Packham (EVP Engineering and Co-Founder) wanted to create a digital store loosely based on an eBay and iTunes model, but for gaming - letting people sell the games in their library. As digital game downloads are becoming the dominant and preferred way for people to get their games, Green Man Gaming began leading millions of gamers through the transition from traditional retail purchases into a new digital era. What does GMG offer that sets it apart from competitors like Steam or GOG.com? We know that modern core gamers care about their games, no matter what platform that they play them on. Our service allows gamers to buy games and content across a range of platforms which makes us very different to retailers like Steam and GOG. Green Man Gaming also collects and uses a level of gameplay data that no other commercial retailer has. Valve has data about Steam, Sony has data about PlayStation, Microsoft has data about Xbox; Green Man Gaming has data about all of them. We then use this behavioural data (based on tracked in-game activity, rather than just purchasing or browsing history) to accurately target core gamers with offers and tailored messages that they need and want. Our strength that sets us apart from other retailers, is that we sell what gamers want, how they want (allowing game access and activation across a range of platforms including Steam, Uplay, Origin, other first party platforms, or by our own Capsule client). Combined with our strong Playfire Community, that becomes a larger offer for gamers that is more than just a sale. GMG Acquired Playfire in 2012. Have you seen a boost in users with the inclusion of more social elements into your platform (i.e. achievements, stat tracking)? Being a member of the Playfire community means gamers can track their gameplay and what their friends are playing, join leaderboards, see what other members are excited about on Playfire Buzz, and create Want lists that we can then make great offers on when those games go on sale. The strength of our community comes from their engagement and we've seen a huge boost in users as gamers are signing up to our Playfire Rewards BETA. By linking their Steam account (with other platforms coming very soon), Playfire Members are eligible to earn Green Man Gaming Credit by playing games! Users don’t have to originally buy their games from Green Man Gaming; they simply have to play those games that Playfire attaches rewards to for the chance to earn up to £5 (Edit: About $8.55 US) Green Man Gaming credit (which is converted into local currency depending on a user’s location). This credit can then be spent towards anything on the Green Man Gaming site. Have you found that offering store credit for social participation on GMG uniquely benefits your business? How does that work? We reward people with Green Man Gaming Credit that can only be used on our service, which we know successfully reduces the cost of gaming for those involved. We feel there is a value exchange that benefits both the user and Green Man Gaming. Our users benefits from earning GMG Credit by simply playing the games they love, and we benefit from learning more about their gaming habits and style as they play. We can use this knowledge to target users with more relevant offers based on the way they play games, and help them to discover more games to love. It works! GMG is the number two digital platform in the world. Are there any plans in the work to dethrone Steam to reach number one? I guess this also harkens back to my second question. How do you compete with something like Steam when they seemingly hold such a significant market share? Steam has well over 75 million users, and as we have an official API from Valve, we think of Steam as one of our allies. We understand that many gamers feel comfortable accessing their games through Steam. However, our offering is quite different to Steam, and we are seeing the number of people using Green Man Gaming to access non-Steam games rapidly increasing, as they prefer our range of download options and opportunities to earn Green Man Gaming Credit. We are going to keep focusing on creating something very special here at Green Man Gaming. We are using billions of game data points and user behaviour knowledge to continually improve the user experience for all our customers, and this will never change. We currently sell over 4500 titles across 185 territories, and are working with over 350 official publishing partners to offer even more than just a sale in the future - bringing more great titles, more great deals, and coming soon, very special Playfire Rewards to millions of gamers around the world. ---- A big thank you to Darren Cairns for taking the time to talk with us and to Tracy McGarrigan for being patient and helping to facilitate this interview!
  5. On the second day of E3 I was led into a small, dark theater for a live demonstration of the first half hour of Telltale Games' Borderlands title. Here is what I saw. Obviously, Spoiler Warning for the first 30 minutes of Tales from the Borderlands and for Borderlands 2. Before beginning the demo, the PR team assured everyone that the game was about 85-90% complete in most places and that any awkward or stilted animations were due to the game being incomplete. With that, Borderlands as told by Telltale began. Tales from the Borderlands begins with a clandestine meeting between main characters Rhys, Fiona, and a mysterious wasteland samurai-type character. Both Rhys and Fiona are surprised to see each other and initially refuse to work together until the samurai forces them to tell their respective stories. Rhys begins with his side of the story. The Hyperion corporation has descended into a strange corporate bloodbath since the death of Handsome Jack in Borderlands 2. Rhys is an eager corporate climber who has almost made it to the Handsome Jack's office. Unfortunately, his jerky acquaintance Vasquez (voiced by the hilarious Patrick Warburton) beat him to the seat of power. In a threat-filled meeting with Vasquez, Rhys happens to overhear that a deal for a Vault Key will be going down on Pandora in the next couple of hours. Eager to hog the glory a Vault Key would bring, Rhys and two of his friends concoct a scheme to beat Vasquez to the deal and purchase it for themselves. As anyone who has played a Borderlands game could tell you, plans made involving Pandora rarely end well. At this point in the demo, a few things were readily apparent. Telltale has gone to great lengths to emulate the style of the Borderlands franchise; it really does look right at home next to Borderlands 1 and 2. However, while it has the look of a Borderlands game, it maintains the mechanics of traditional Telltale adventures like The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us. The timed conversation options return, but this time there are also opportunities to examine objects, people, sounds, etc. with technology that Rhys has had embedded into his body. Though similar to more recent Telltale games, Tales from the Borderlands diverges in its tone. Whereas The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us are fairly dark and grim, Tales from the Borderlands embraces the series penchant for humor and I often found myself chuckling and outright laughing. The plan to beat Vasquez to the Vault Key appears to go smoothly right up until Rhys and company try to interact with one of the Pandora-dwellers whom they affectionately refer to as Grease Face. Understandably, Grease Face doesn't take kindly to Hyperion employees calling him Grease Face. As a fight seems to be imminent, Rhys calls down a combat ready robot from Hyperion headquarters. There are additions to the gameplay that could prove interesting in later episodes. There are loot crates and money that can be picked up and used to bribe characters or buy items, though we never saw how this mechanic would work in-game. The robot Rhys calls upon can be outfitted with different weapons prior to being called down and player's decisions regarding its loadout will affect how the battle progresses. After Rhys escapes the enraged Grease Face and his crew, he makes it to the meeting with the Vault Key dealers. After some tense dialogue and a standoff between the two parties, Rhys straight up rips a guy's heart out. At this point, Fiona interrupts to tell the samurai that Rhys' description of how the standoff ended was a complete lie. She begins to tell her version of the story and how she was there to see what happened and depending on her response three wildly different versions of events can be created. With that, the demo ended. I'm still not sure that the five part Tales from the Borderlands will be able to deliver the same dramatic punches that The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us have proved capable of pulling, but that might not be an issue if it can sustain its level of comedy. Overall, I found Tales from the Borderlands entertaining. I'm still not completely sold on the concept, but I'm willing to strap myself in for another Telltale adventure when it releases later this summer on PC, XBLA, and PSN. View full article
  6. On the second day of E3 I was led into a small, dark theater for a live demonstration of the first half hour of Telltale Games' Borderlands title. Here is what I saw. Obviously, Spoiler Warning for the first 30 minutes of Tales from the Borderlands and for Borderlands 2. Before beginning the demo, the PR team assured everyone that the game was about 85-90% complete in most places and that any awkward or stilted animations were due to the game being incomplete. With that, Borderlands as told by Telltale began. Tales from the Borderlands begins with a clandestine meeting between main characters Rhys, Fiona, and a mysterious wasteland samurai-type character. Both Rhys and Fiona are surprised to see each other and initially refuse to work together until the samurai forces them to tell their respective stories. Rhys begins with his side of the story. The Hyperion corporation has descended into a strange corporate bloodbath since the death of Handsome Jack in Borderlands 2. Rhys is an eager corporate climber who has almost made it to the Handsome Jack's office. Unfortunately, his jerky acquaintance Vasquez (voiced by the hilarious Patrick Warburton) beat him to the seat of power. In a threat-filled meeting with Vasquez, Rhys happens to overhear that a deal for a Vault Key will be going down on Pandora in the next couple of hours. Eager to hog the glory a Vault Key would bring, Rhys and two of his friends concoct a scheme to beat Vasquez to the deal and purchase it for themselves. As anyone who has played a Borderlands game could tell you, plans made involving Pandora rarely end well. At this point in the demo, a few things were readily apparent. Telltale has gone to great lengths to emulate the style of the Borderlands franchise; it really does look right at home next to Borderlands 1 and 2. However, while it has the look of a Borderlands game, it maintains the mechanics of traditional Telltale adventures like The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us. The timed conversation options return, but this time there are also opportunities to examine objects, people, sounds, etc. with technology that Rhys has had embedded into his body. Though similar to more recent Telltale games, Tales from the Borderlands diverges in its tone. Whereas The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us are fairly dark and grim, Tales from the Borderlands embraces the series penchant for humor and I often found myself chuckling and outright laughing. The plan to beat Vasquez to the Vault Key appears to go smoothly right up until Rhys and company try to interact with one of the Pandora-dwellers whom they affectionately refer to as Grease Face. Understandably, Grease Face doesn't take kindly to Hyperion employees calling him Grease Face. As a fight seems to be imminent, Rhys calls down a combat ready robot from Hyperion headquarters. There are additions to the gameplay that could prove interesting in later episodes. There are loot crates and money that can be picked up and used to bribe characters or buy items, though we never saw how this mechanic would work in-game. The robot Rhys calls upon can be outfitted with different weapons prior to being called down and player's decisions regarding its loadout will affect how the battle progresses. After Rhys escapes the enraged Grease Face and his crew, he makes it to the meeting with the Vault Key dealers. After some tense dialogue and a standoff between the two parties, Rhys straight up rips a guy's heart out. At this point, Fiona interrupts to tell the samurai that Rhys' description of how the standoff ended was a complete lie. She begins to tell her version of the story and how she was there to see what happened and depending on her response three wildly different versions of events can be created. With that, the demo ended. I'm still not sure that the five part Tales from the Borderlands will be able to deliver the same dramatic punches that The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us have proved capable of pulling, but that might not be an issue if it can sustain its level of comedy. Overall, I found Tales from the Borderlands entertaining. I'm still not completely sold on the concept, but I'm willing to strap myself in for another Telltale adventure when it releases later this summer on PC, XBLA, and PSN.
  7. At this year’s E3, I had the pleasure of using an Oculus Rift to participate in a 2v2 virtual reality space dogfight. I have never felt more like I was in the future. I arrived at my appointment with developer CCP with a small degree of nervous anticipation. I had been told about a month previously that I would be able to demo the latest build of Valkyrie; the build that they had recently updated to Unreal Engine 4. A month is more than enough time to read about and hear about the colorful variations of simulation sickness that have been cropping up since the advent of virtual reality technology. Along with the excitement I was feeling, I hoped that I wouldn’t get nauseated in a professional setting. However, CCP is a big company and I knew that they’d want to talk EVE Online and Dust 514 before we got down to their VR project. Not that I was complaining. I love me some sci-fi MMOs/Shooters. Past a reception desk and through a delightfully cool and dim waiting lounge, I met CCP’s product manager Ryan Geddes along with two other media members who hailed from the United Kingdom. He told us about the player-driven world of EVE Online and about a few of the newsworthy battles that have taken place there over the last year. In particular Geddes focused on the Battle of B-R5RB, which was a galactic kerfuffle of unprecedented proportions. Though not one of the largest battles in EVE history, it was by far the costliest. Over 75 titan-class ships were destroyed; Titans take over two months of real-world time to build. It is estimated that the in-game damages totaled over 11 trillion ISK. 11 TRILLION. This battle was so catastrophic that it has its own sizable Wikipedia page. Geddes wanted to emphasize how much of the EVE Online universe is driven by player interactions. Going forward, CCP wants to be able to respond more fluidly to their shifting game world. To that end, CCP will be releasing around ten smaller expansions every year instead of one or two larger expansions. The first of these micro-expansions released on June 3. It was dubbed Kronos and added new ships for pirate factions. The second will be released on July 22 and will be the first overhaul to how industry works in EVE Online. All items, ships, ammo, etc. are created by more industrial-minded players; the overhaul should make pursuing industry a more enjoyable path to riches and power for those with a shrewd mind for business. We were then given a brief overview of the history behind EVE Valkyrie. How it began as an after-hours project created by a few developers messing around with the Oculus Rift prototype in the office and grew into a popular attraction at CCP’s Fanfest events. It was originally developed on Unreal Engine 3, but has since been moved over to Unreal Engine 4. The single-player experience will center on the story of Round, one of the first Valkyrie pilots. Round will be voiced by Katie Sackhoff of Battlestar Galactica fame. Project Legion was fleetingly mentioned as well. It began as an attempt to port Dust 514 to the PC, but ended up growing in unexpected and divergent ways from the PlayStation 3 title. Currently it is still a prototype and more details will be released later. However, Geddes wanted to reassure fans, subscribers, and players that they are leaving indelible footprints in the EVE universe. Every kill or death that they’ve experienced in EVE Online, Dust 514, and soon EVE Valkyrie, is cataloged and has an impact, no matter how small, on the larger universe. The end goal of CCP, the very long-term goal, is to unite all of their games on one platform where gamers can switch between Valkyrie, EVE Online, and Legion on the fly. However, that dream is still a long way off. The meeting concluded and I finally heard the long awaited words: “Would you like to try EVE Valkyrie?” Yes. Very much. Inwardly I exploded in eagerness. We were led over to an alcove in their lounge where four large chairs had been set up with Xbox 360 controllers and Oculus Rift headsets. Not quite knowing what to expect, I picked up the Oculus and found it to be surprisingly light. One of the British journalists to my left was about to take off his glasses when Geddes told him that he could keep them on. Newer models of the Rift can be used with glasses, apparently. And with that, I strapped the Oculus Rift onto my face. It is a curious sensation, stepping into someone else’s head. As soon as I had placed the Oculus Rift over my eyes, it felt like I had fallen through some sort of dimensional chasm and found myself in the cockpit of a spacecraft. Never mind that a small part of me knew that I was still seated in the cool, dim comfort of the CCP E3 lounge, the rest of my mind was thoroughly convinced that I was elsewhere. Even my brain was unconsciously duped by the Rift’s illusion. I know this because after a couple minutes I had the strange sensation of not knowing spatially where my arms were. I had to look down at the digital in-game arms that grasped the Valkyrie flight controls for the feeling to recede. Just writing that previous sentence was magical. The amount of difference being able to turn your head makes when playing a game is almost absurd, but it tricks your brain into thinking that you are physically present. I was able to turn my head and remain ensconced within this digital cockpit and fly through an asteroid belt as I attempted to gun down one of the enemy space journalists. It takes some getting used to, that looking around with your head business, but Valkyrie provides a great way to acclimate players to this new form of digital space. Targeting missiles is done by moving your head along with your target until you get a lock. After achieving a lock, you can fire your payload. The experience felt alien to me, but in the best possible ways. The Rift is an amazing bit of technology that is equal parts artifice and magic. I found myself unconsciously trying to shift my “camera” by using the right analog stick on the controller. Of course that didn’t actually work, but it speaks to how deeply current gameplay methods are ingrained into our gaming psyches. My time with Valkyrie was short and sweet. If you have the opportunity to sit down and play with it, I highly recommend that you do so. It is like having a small glimpse of the future. Virtual reality is coming and it is going to drastically change the landscape of gaming. View full article
  8. At this year’s E3, I had the pleasure of using an Oculus Rift to participate in a 2v2 virtual reality space dogfight. I have never felt more like I was in the future. I arrived at my appointment with developer CCP with a small degree of nervous anticipation. I had been told about a month previously that I would be able to demo the latest build of Valkyrie; the build that they had recently updated to Unreal Engine 4. A month is more than enough time to read about and hear about the colorful variations of simulation sickness that have been cropping up since the advent of virtual reality technology. Along with the excitement I was feeling, I hoped that I wouldn’t get nauseated in a professional setting. However, CCP is a big company and I knew that they’d want to talk EVE Online and Dust 514 before we got down to their VR project. Not that I was complaining. I love me some sci-fi MMOs/Shooters. Past a reception desk and through a delightfully cool and dim waiting lounge, I met CCP’s product manager Ryan Geddes along with two other media members who hailed from the United Kingdom. He told us about the player-driven world of EVE Online and about a few of the newsworthy battles that have taken place there over the last year. In particular Geddes focused on the Battle of B-R5RB, which was a galactic kerfuffle of unprecedented proportions. Though not one of the largest battles in EVE history, it was by far the costliest. Over 75 titan-class ships were destroyed; Titans take over two months of real-world time to build. It is estimated that the in-game damages totaled over 11 trillion ISK. 11 TRILLION. This battle was so catastrophic that it has its own sizable Wikipedia page. Geddes wanted to emphasize how much of the EVE Online universe is driven by player interactions. Going forward, CCP wants to be able to respond more fluidly to their shifting game world. To that end, CCP will be releasing around ten smaller expansions every year instead of one or two larger expansions. The first of these micro-expansions released on June 3. It was dubbed Kronos and added new ships for pirate factions. The second will be released on July 22 and will be the first overhaul to how industry works in EVE Online. All items, ships, ammo, etc. are created by more industrial-minded players; the overhaul should make pursuing industry a more enjoyable path to riches and power for those with a shrewd mind for business. We were then given a brief overview of the history behind EVE Valkyrie. How it began as an after-hours project created by a few developers messing around with the Oculus Rift prototype in the office and grew into a popular attraction at CCP’s Fanfest events. It was originally developed on Unreal Engine 3, but has since been moved over to Unreal Engine 4. The single-player experience will center on the story of Round, one of the first Valkyrie pilots. Round will be voiced by Katie Sackhoff of Battlestar Galactica fame. Project Legion was fleetingly mentioned as well. It began as an attempt to port Dust 514 to the PC, but ended up growing in unexpected and divergent ways from the PlayStation 3 title. Currently it is still a prototype and more details will be released later. However, Geddes wanted to reassure fans, subscribers, and players that they are leaving indelible footprints in the EVE universe. Every kill or death that they’ve experienced in EVE Online, Dust 514, and soon EVE Valkyrie, is cataloged and has an impact, no matter how small, on the larger universe. The end goal of CCP, the very long-term goal, is to unite all of their games on one platform where gamers can switch between Valkyrie, EVE Online, and Legion on the fly. However, that dream is still a long way off. The meeting concluded and I finally heard the long awaited words: “Would you like to try EVE Valkyrie?” Yes. Very much. Inwardly I exploded in eagerness. We were led over to an alcove in their lounge where four large chairs had been set up with Xbox 360 controllers and Oculus Rift headsets. Not quite knowing what to expect, I picked up the Oculus and found it to be surprisingly light. One of the British journalists to my left was about to take off his glasses when Geddes told him that he could keep them on. Newer models of the Rift can be used with glasses, apparently. And with that, I strapped the Oculus Rift onto my face. It is a curious sensation, stepping into someone else’s head. As soon as I had placed the Oculus Rift over my eyes, it felt like I had fallen through some sort of dimensional chasm and found myself in the cockpit of a spacecraft. Never mind that a small part of me knew that I was still seated in the cool, dim comfort of the CCP E3 lounge, the rest of my mind was thoroughly convinced that I was elsewhere. Even my brain was unconsciously duped by the Rift’s illusion. I know this because after a couple minutes I had the strange sensation of not knowing spatially where my arms were. I had to look down at the digital in-game arms that grasped the Valkyrie flight controls for the feeling to recede. Just writing that previous sentence was magical. The amount of difference being able to turn your head makes when playing a game is almost absurd, but it tricks your brain into thinking that you are physically present. I was able to turn my head and remain ensconced within this digital cockpit and fly through an asteroid belt as I attempted to gun down one of the enemy space journalists. It takes some getting used to, that looking around with your head business, but Valkyrie provides a great way to acclimate players to this new form of digital space. Targeting missiles is done by moving your head along with your target until you get a lock. After achieving a lock, you can fire your payload. The experience felt alien to me, but in the best possible ways. The Rift is an amazing bit of technology that is equal parts artifice and magic. I found myself unconsciously trying to shift my “camera” by using the right analog stick on the controller. Of course that didn’t actually work, but it speaks to how deeply current gameplay methods are ingrained into our gaming psyches. My time with Valkyrie was short and sweet. If you have the opportunity to sit down and play with it, I highly recommend that you do so. It is like having a small glimpse of the future. Virtual reality is coming and it is going to drastically change the landscape of gaming.
  9. During E3 I had the pleasure of meeting with Martin Brouard from Frima Studios to discuss the indie platforming title Chariot. Afterward, I was able to go hands-on for nearly a half-hour. Spoiler: I couldn't stop smiling. --- Martin Brouard: I’m the Executive Producer for Chariot. It’s a platformer, a couch co-op platformer that’s coming out on Xbox One, PS4, Wii U, and PC this fall. Jack Gardner: Awesome! And we can see it right behind you there. From what I understand the general premise is that a king or emperor has died and you're taking him to his final resting place? MB: Right, you play as a princess and you are accompanied by your very trusty fiancé and before going on with your life, you have to, you know, put your dead father to rest in a really nice sepulcher. But the king is actually back as a ghost and the chariot that you are bringing around everywhere; it’s a coffin on wheels. The king is there and he keeps complaining that you are leaving treasure behind or that you cannot possibly think of burying him here because it is not a proper, kingly place. He always wants more treasure and more interesting places, so that’s how you progress through different levels. [There are] five different environments, 25 levels of exploration. And it is couch co-op so you play both characters. You can play solo, but it is really made for having fun with a friend at home. JG: What different mechanics can we expect to see out of Chariot? MB: The big difference between Chariot and other platformers that we know and love is that it’s a physics-based platformer with a chariot is at the center of it. You need the chariot because that’s what picks up all the loot; that’s what is at the center of the game. So, you’ll push it; you’ll pull it; you’ll use this rope mechanic to pull the chariot, to give some rope to your friend to dangle over a precipice. To try to jump into hard to reach areas. There is lots of exploration. You use the chariot to jump on it, to roll down slopes. [You will have] one special item that you choose for every level, one per character, you use these items to do special moves. There is an attractor, a repulsor, a peg so you can attach your rope to a little escalation peg. There’s something that slows down time and speed boots. By combining these items, one on each character, you can pull off some really fantastic moves and that’s where the fun is. JG: And there is no online co-op or just couch co-op? MB: It’s too… it just wouldn’t make sense for us. It’s really a game where you want to have fun with the person sitting next to you. And be arguing over, “We should be going over there,” “No! Let’s go over there. There is probably something hidden there,” “Alright, alright.” It just wouldn’t be the same over the internet. JG: What is your favorite part of Chariot? MB: My favorite part is definitely when you see some hard to reach area and you’re like, “Okay, we’ve got to get over there,” and you need to figure out a way, but there are different ways to achieve that. Sometimes you’ll try to pull out some really crazy move, and you will try and try again. When after fifteen minutes of trying you finally pull off that move, this is just so satisfying. High-fives all over the place and it is a great satisfaction. Also, the humor. Right now this is an alpha-build. It’s not finished. JG: Wow, that looks great for an alpha-build! MB: Thank you! But the voice overs aren’t implemented yet. There is a lot of humor coming from the king who is interacting with you. He is kinda acting as a chaperone, you know, his daughter with this guy. He’s there to keep an eye on you and make sure you don’t leave any loot on the table. JG: And collecting the loot is how you unlock the gadgets and get the different abilities? MB: You actually get the gadgets by finding the blueprints and special collectibles. Between every level you’ll be meeting with a merchant on the surface. He’s a skeleton dude, I don’t think he even realizes that he’s a skeleton, but he’s improving your stuff in exchange for your loot. For example, if you want to go to the lava levels, you’ll need to make sure that your chariot becomes fireproof. For that you’ll need to find blueprints that are hidden somewhere in the game, but then you also need to give the blueprints to the merchant along with some of your loot, which the king doesn’t like too much. When you part with the blueprint and [pay the merchant], he’ll upgrade the chariot and it will be able to float in lava. Same thing with the ice caverns and other levels. You can also improve your gadgets up to three levels. For example, the repulsor which is basically something that throws the chariot super hard with physics, when you are at level three it really shoots the chariot very far. So, if your friend is standing on it and then you’re shooting it, it’s pretty awesome. JG: Are there enemies in the game? So far I haven’t seen any. MB: Well, it’s not a fighting game, but there are enemies. They're called looters. They will not attack you. They will only attack the chariot, try to grab your loot, and run away with it. So your job is basically to dispatch them as quickly as possible or run away before they steal too much of your loot, because that’s also your score. The princess has a sword, so she’s a close-range character and the fiancé has a little slingshot so he is a ranged character. A lot of times, one player will try to get out while the other will defend, so that leads to some fun little combat scenes, but it’s not at the heart of the game. There are four different enemies. Some of them are even trying to steal the chariot! [laughs] JG: Is it an open-world, Metroid-style game? MB: No, no. The way it works is there are 25 different levels scattered over five different environments. These environments are unlocked when you upgrade the chariot, but there are different entrances and exits in certain levels that sometimes unlock speed runs you can complete for special rewards and leaderboards. JG: So how does that work, is there a hub where you access each level? MB: Yes, there is a map that is currently very placeholder, but every time you find an exit it opens up the path to a new level. Sometimes you find different exits in different levels. There is a lot of exploration there. JG: Well it looks incredible. I can’t wait to play it! MB: Thank you very much, you can play it right now! [laughs] --- And play it I did. Even in early alpha Chariot is almost overwhelmingly charming. The art design is great and does a great job conveying humor and lightheartedness even without dialogue. Levels are cleverly constructed to interact with the chariot and the players in interesting ways. For example, there are certain surfaces that will be solid for the player, but not the chariot and vice versa. The rope mechanics and physics feel statisfying and it feels really rewarding to overcome obstacles with a co-op partner. Recently there have been people expressing a desire for non-violent games to play with family or just as an alternative to the omni-present shooter genre. Though Brouard said that there were looters in Chariot, in nearly a half hour, I never saw a single one and still enjoyed myself immensely. I would feel very comfortable sitting down with my young nephews and playing this along with them. Brouard was right, Chariot can be played alone, but it is meant to embody cooperation and going it alone seems miss a bit of the magic that Chariot has to offer. Keep your eye on Chariot. It releases this fall on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U, and PC. View full article
  10. During E3 I had the pleasure of meeting with Martin Brouard from Frima Studios to discuss the indie platforming title Chariot. Afterward, I was able to go hands-on for nearly a half-hour. Spoiler: I couldn't stop smiling. --- Martin Brouard: I’m the Executive Producer for Chariot. It’s a platformer, a couch co-op platformer that’s coming out on Xbox One, PS4, Wii U, and PC this fall. Jack Gardner: Awesome! And we can see it right behind you there. From what I understand the general premise is that a king or emperor has died and you're taking him to his final resting place? MB: Right, you play as a princess and you are accompanied by your very trusty fiancé and before going on with your life, you have to, you know, put your dead father to rest in a really nice sepulcher. But the king is actually back as a ghost and the chariot that you are bringing around everywhere; it’s a coffin on wheels. The king is there and he keeps complaining that you are leaving treasure behind or that you cannot possibly think of burying him here because it is not a proper, kingly place. He always wants more treasure and more interesting places, so that’s how you progress through different levels. [There are] five different environments, 25 levels of exploration. And it is couch co-op so you play both characters. You can play solo, but it is really made for having fun with a friend at home. JG: What different mechanics can we expect to see out of Chariot? MB: The big difference between Chariot and other platformers that we know and love is that it’s a physics-based platformer with a chariot is at the center of it. You need the chariot because that’s what picks up all the loot; that’s what is at the center of the game. So, you’ll push it; you’ll pull it; you’ll use this rope mechanic to pull the chariot, to give some rope to your friend to dangle over a precipice. To try to jump into hard to reach areas. There is lots of exploration. You use the chariot to jump on it, to roll down slopes. [You will have] one special item that you choose for every level, one per character, you use these items to do special moves. There is an attractor, a repulsor, a peg so you can attach your rope to a little escalation peg. There’s something that slows down time and speed boots. By combining these items, one on each character, you can pull off some really fantastic moves and that’s where the fun is. JG: And there is no online co-op or just couch co-op? MB: It’s too… it just wouldn’t make sense for us. It’s really a game where you want to have fun with the person sitting next to you. And be arguing over, “We should be going over there,” “No! Let’s go over there. There is probably something hidden there,” “Alright, alright.” It just wouldn’t be the same over the internet. JG: What is your favorite part of Chariot? MB: My favorite part is definitely when you see some hard to reach area and you’re like, “Okay, we’ve got to get over there,” and you need to figure out a way, but there are different ways to achieve that. Sometimes you’ll try to pull out some really crazy move, and you will try and try again. When after fifteen minutes of trying you finally pull off that move, this is just so satisfying. High-fives all over the place and it is a great satisfaction. Also, the humor. Right now this is an alpha-build. It’s not finished. JG: Wow, that looks great for an alpha-build! MB: Thank you! But the voice overs aren’t implemented yet. There is a lot of humor coming from the king who is interacting with you. He is kinda acting as a chaperone, you know, his daughter with this guy. He’s there to keep an eye on you and make sure you don’t leave any loot on the table. JG: And collecting the loot is how you unlock the gadgets and get the different abilities? MB: You actually get the gadgets by finding the blueprints and special collectibles. Between every level you’ll be meeting with a merchant on the surface. He’s a skeleton dude, I don’t think he even realizes that he’s a skeleton, but he’s improving your stuff in exchange for your loot. For example, if you want to go to the lava levels, you’ll need to make sure that your chariot becomes fireproof. For that you’ll need to find blueprints that are hidden somewhere in the game, but then you also need to give the blueprints to the merchant along with some of your loot, which the king doesn’t like too much. When you part with the blueprint and [pay the merchant], he’ll upgrade the chariot and it will be able to float in lava. Same thing with the ice caverns and other levels. You can also improve your gadgets up to three levels. For example, the repulsor which is basically something that throws the chariot super hard with physics, when you are at level three it really shoots the chariot very far. So, if your friend is standing on it and then you’re shooting it, it’s pretty awesome. JG: Are there enemies in the game? So far I haven’t seen any. MB: Well, it’s not a fighting game, but there are enemies. They're called looters. They will not attack you. They will only attack the chariot, try to grab your loot, and run away with it. So your job is basically to dispatch them as quickly as possible or run away before they steal too much of your loot, because that’s also your score. The princess has a sword, so she’s a close-range character and the fiancé has a little slingshot so he is a ranged character. A lot of times, one player will try to get out while the other will defend, so that leads to some fun little combat scenes, but it’s not at the heart of the game. There are four different enemies. Some of them are even trying to steal the chariot! [laughs] JG: Is it an open-world, Metroid-style game? MB: No, no. The way it works is there are 25 different levels scattered over five different environments. These environments are unlocked when you upgrade the chariot, but there are different entrances and exits in certain levels that sometimes unlock speed runs you can complete for special rewards and leaderboards. JG: So how does that work, is there a hub where you access each level? MB: Yes, there is a map that is currently very placeholder, but every time you find an exit it opens up the path to a new level. Sometimes you find different exits in different levels. There is a lot of exploration there. JG: Well it looks incredible. I can’t wait to play it! MB: Thank you very much, you can play it right now! [laughs] --- And play it I did. Even in early alpha Chariot is almost overwhelmingly charming. The art design is great and does a great job conveying humor and lightheartedness even without dialogue. Levels are cleverly constructed to interact with the chariot and the players in interesting ways. For example, there are certain surfaces that will be solid for the player, but not the chariot and vice versa. The rope mechanics and physics feel statisfying and it feels really rewarding to overcome obstacles with a co-op partner. Recently there have been people expressing a desire for non-violent games to play with family or just as an alternative to the omni-present shooter genre. Though Brouard said that there were looters in Chariot, in nearly a half hour, I never saw a single one and still enjoyed myself immensely. I would feel very comfortable sitting down with my young nephews and playing this along with them. Brouard was right, Chariot can be played alone, but it is meant to embody cooperation and going it alone seems miss a bit of the magic that Chariot has to offer. Keep your eye on Chariot. It releases this fall on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U, and PC.
  11. While at E3 this year, I had the pleasure of sitting down with French publisher Focus Home Interactive to talk about their upcoming stealth action game that will be released under the name Styx: Master of Shadows. Developed by Cyanide Studios, Styx is a sequel to the 2012 RPG Of Orcs and Men. Other than one of the main characters and the setting, everything has been reworked for this sequel. Master of Shadows’ basic premise is that Styx is a goblin thief who wants to steal the heart of a giant tree. The heart of the tree is made of amber, a substance which is the source of magic and thus incredibly valuable. What could be easier than stealing from a tree? Quite a lot of things if said tree happens to have an entire city and fortress built around it defended by both elves and men. I was able to see a gameplay demonstration taken and it is clear that Styx: Master of Shadows takes many of its cues from Thief: The Dark Project and Thief 2: The Metal Age. The demo I was shown saw Styx sneaking through a town to try and free an ally from prison. There are many features that you would expect in a modern stealth game, such as hiding spots and kills that come in the silent or loud variety. However, there are plenty of interesting additions that set Master of Shadows apart. Styx has a diverse array of powers that derive from amber that flows through his veins. The amber in Styx’s blood serves as the players HUD to indicate whether he is concealed or hidden. Using his amber powers, he can see through walls, turn invisible, create smoke screens, and create a clone of himself. The clone was the most interesting ability shown during the demo; it can be used to scout the level, set off environmental traps, or distract guards by hilariously leaping onto their face and causing them to freak out. Each of these powers can be upgraded to be even more effective and powerful. Levels are all designed with the idea of verticality in mind. Traversing the environments requires a bit more effort and offers more control than in titles like Assassin’s Creed. Players should rarely find themselves stuck with only one route to an objective; alternate paths present themselves both above and below. Physically, Styx isn’t as powerful as humans or elves, so he will often need to resort to trickery and making use of the heights to emerge triumphant. Styx can quickly and silently kill enemies by executing a falling stab attack. He will also be able to poison food and water supplies to discreetly take out guards after a short period of time. Players will need to keep an eye out for anything in the environment that could be useful, like giant, suspended crates that could be dropped on top of overly inquisitive guards. A new feature touted during the demonstration was the living city. While All NPCs have visual and sound detection capabilities, each one is also connected to two or three others who will come looking for their friend if he or she deviates from their established patterns. Bodies of unconscious or dead guards will need to be moved out of sight to avoid alerting other NPCs. Of course, if moving enemies seems like too much of a hassle, players can also dump some acid on a body and dissolve all evidence of wrongdoing. There are plenty of things to do besides pursuing primary objectives and robbing NPCs blind. Each level has ten collectibles scattered throughout and these items require a bit of exploration to discover. As players sneak through levels, there will be opportunities to spy and eavesdrop on NPCs to learn more background info on the world and fulfill optional sidequest objectives. Completing more objectives nets players more experience points which they can use to upgrade their abilities. I was told that an average playthrough of Styx: Master of Shadows should take around twelve hours. Along with a number of difficulty settings, there will also be a challenge mode that unlocks after beating the game that offers players some replayability. It is worth noting that the abilities on display in the demo are by no means exhaustive of what will be available in the finished title. Styx: Master of Shadows will be available sometime this fall for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. View full article
  12. Jack Gardner

    Preview: Styx Returns to Sneak and Steal

    While at E3 this year, I had the pleasure of sitting down with French publisher Focus Home Interactive to talk about their upcoming stealth action game that will be released under the name Styx: Master of Shadows. Developed by Cyanide Studios, Styx is a sequel to the 2012 RPG Of Orcs and Men. Other than one of the main characters and the setting, everything has been reworked for this sequel. Master of Shadows’ basic premise is that Styx is a goblin thief who wants to steal the heart of a giant tree. The heart of the tree is made of amber, a substance which is the source of magic and thus incredibly valuable. What could be easier than stealing from a tree? Quite a lot of things if said tree happens to have an entire city and fortress built around it defended by both elves and men. I was able to see a gameplay demonstration taken and it is clear that Styx: Master of Shadows takes many of its cues from Thief: The Dark Project and Thief 2: The Metal Age. The demo I was shown saw Styx sneaking through a town to try and free an ally from prison. There are many features that you would expect in a modern stealth game, such as hiding spots and kills that come in the silent or loud variety. However, there are plenty of interesting additions that set Master of Shadows apart. Styx has a diverse array of powers that derive from amber that flows through his veins. The amber in Styx’s blood serves as the players HUD to indicate whether he is concealed or hidden. Using his amber powers, he can see through walls, turn invisible, create smoke screens, and create a clone of himself. The clone was the most interesting ability shown during the demo; it can be used to scout the level, set off environmental traps, or distract guards by hilariously leaping onto their face and causing them to freak out. Each of these powers can be upgraded to be even more effective and powerful. Levels are all designed with the idea of verticality in mind. Traversing the environments requires a bit more effort and offers more control than in titles like Assassin’s Creed. Players should rarely find themselves stuck with only one route to an objective; alternate paths present themselves both above and below. Physically, Styx isn’t as powerful as humans or elves, so he will often need to resort to trickery and making use of the heights to emerge triumphant. Styx can quickly and silently kill enemies by executing a falling stab attack. He will also be able to poison food and water supplies to discreetly take out guards after a short period of time. Players will need to keep an eye out for anything in the environment that could be useful, like giant, suspended crates that could be dropped on top of overly inquisitive guards. A new feature touted during the demonstration was the living city. While All NPCs have visual and sound detection capabilities, each one is also connected to two or three others who will come looking for their friend if he or she deviates from their established patterns. Bodies of unconscious or dead guards will need to be moved out of sight to avoid alerting other NPCs. Of course, if moving enemies seems like too much of a hassle, players can also dump some acid on a body and dissolve all evidence of wrongdoing. There are plenty of things to do besides pursuing primary objectives and robbing NPCs blind. Each level has ten collectibles scattered throughout and these items require a bit of exploration to discover. As players sneak through levels, there will be opportunities to spy and eavesdrop on NPCs to learn more background info on the world and fulfill optional sidequest objectives. Completing more objectives nets players more experience points which they can use to upgrade their abilities. I was told that an average playthrough of Styx: Master of Shadows should take around twelve hours. Along with a number of difficulty settings, there will also be a challenge mode that unlocks after beating the game that offers players some replayability. It is worth noting that the abilities on display in the demo are by no means exhaustive of what will be available in the finished title. Styx: Master of Shadows will be available sometime this fall for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
  13. From 2009’s AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! — A Reckless Disregard for Gravity to this year’s Drunken Robot Pornography, Dejobaan Games has really built a name for itself in the industry as a developer that toys with absurd humor. I think that’s partly why I was so taken aback by the sincere and honest attempt at doing something new with Elegy for a Dead World. After I finished a single playthrough of the game, I sat back and chatted with Ichiro Lambe, the founder and president of Dejobaan Games. He asked me what I thought of the game and I told him that I’d have to think about it. It took me a while to answer. Elegy is unlike any game I have ever played. On the most superficial level, it is a side-scroller that tasks the player with moving from left to right in order to progress, but there aren’t any challenges or impediments. Instead, each section of game has a new backdrop of gorgeous alien terrain, depicting crumbling structures and technology. At certain points, the player will receive unobtrusive prompts to write something. The style the player is prompted to write in is determined at the beginning of the game when the player chooses between poetic, story, or blank verse modes. Elegy for a Dead World is all about how people respond to things and construct unique, individual narratives. It demonstrates how creativity moves all people, whether they think they’re creative or not. Each time the game prompts a new written input, it provides context (unless you are playing in blank verse mode) and leaves a number of blanks for the player to fill in with their own words. Of course, all text is editable, not just the blanks, so players never have words forced upon them. With this game, everyone can write a story, a poem, or something else entirely. Eventually, I told Ichiro what I thought about this strange game that’s based on the works of British Romance-era poets. I told him that the best way I could describe it would be to call this game an inspiration simulator. In a sense, it allows players to discover their own story as they tell it to themselves. That is a concept with which I could fall in love. However, I think there are several ways that Elegy for a Dead World could be improved. One of the main problems that I had was that the game seems to be fairly linear from left to right. Though my character had a jet pack, I never had a reason to use it other than to break up the monotony of moving from one side of the screen to the other. More exploration, more verticality to the levels, and more prompts would serve to fill out Elegy and make traversing the desolation of its world a bit more interesting. I would also be very curious see another implementation of this same approach to gamified storytelling that was based on different eras of poets and storytellers with different visual cues. I guess what I’m saying here is that I love the core concept of this game that I would like to see more of it in almost every respect. If you get an opportunity, check out Elegy for a Dead World. It is different in a way that should be appreciated and applauded. View full article
  14. From 2009’s AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! — A Reckless Disregard for Gravity to this year’s Drunken Robot Pornography, Dejobaan Games has really built a name for itself in the industry as a developer that toys with absurd humor. I think that’s partly why I was so taken aback by the sincere and honest attempt at doing something new with Elegy for a Dead World. After I finished a single playthrough of the game, I sat back and chatted with Ichiro Lambe, the founder and president of Dejobaan Games. He asked me what I thought of the game and I told him that I’d have to think about it. It took me a while to answer. Elegy is unlike any game I have ever played. On the most superficial level, it is a side-scroller that tasks the player with moving from left to right in order to progress, but there aren’t any challenges or impediments. Instead, each section of game has a new backdrop of gorgeous alien terrain, depicting crumbling structures and technology. At certain points, the player will receive unobtrusive prompts to write something. The style the player is prompted to write in is determined at the beginning of the game when the player chooses between poetic, story, or blank verse modes. Elegy for a Dead World is all about how people respond to things and construct unique, individual narratives. It demonstrates how creativity moves all people, whether they think they’re creative or not. Each time the game prompts a new written input, it provides context (unless you are playing in blank verse mode) and leaves a number of blanks for the player to fill in with their own words. Of course, all text is editable, not just the blanks, so players never have words forced upon them. With this game, everyone can write a story, a poem, or something else entirely. Eventually, I told Ichiro what I thought about this strange game that’s based on the works of British Romance-era poets. I told him that the best way I could describe it would be to call this game an inspiration simulator. In a sense, it allows players to discover their own story as they tell it to themselves. That is a concept with which I could fall in love. However, I think there are several ways that Elegy for a Dead World could be improved. One of the main problems that I had was that the game seems to be fairly linear from left to right. Though my character had a jet pack, I never had a reason to use it other than to break up the monotony of moving from one side of the screen to the other. More exploration, more verticality to the levels, and more prompts would serve to fill out Elegy and make traversing the desolation of its world a bit more interesting. I would also be very curious see another implementation of this same approach to gamified storytelling that was based on different eras of poets and storytellers with different visual cues. I guess what I’m saying here is that I love the core concept of this game that I would like to see more of it in almost every respect. If you get an opportunity, check out Elegy for a Dead World. It is different in a way that should be appreciated and applauded.
  15. I really adore the game 6180 Moon (even though I am just awful at it) for its tight platforming and clever puzzle mechanics. So imagine my delight to find that the developer behind 6180, Turtle Cream, had returned to E3 this year with a rough build of a new game with a new central mechanic that I have never seen before. Long Take is another game that is both clever and challenging. The premise is that instead of controlling the main character of the game, you are merely the camera man who is trying to make the hero look good. Here is where it gets interesting: Everything outside of your camera frame ceases to exist. All manner of hazards from rockets to lasers can be avoided by zooming the camera closer to the hero. However, the proximity of the zoom has to be weighed against how fast the hero is moving. If the platforming protagonist leaves the camera frame, you fail the level and start over again. This means you have to be careful if he decides to go back to collect the last few coins in the level or makes a dash for the exit. This leads to a number of creative puzzles that revolve around where you point the camera. Though I didn’t have an extended play session with Long Take, it shows a lot of promise for such an early iteration of the concept. I only had a couple gripes about what I have seen thus far. First, the player isn't given time to survey each level to formulate a strategy beforehand (only a brief glimpse of everything before automatically beginning), which leads to a number of frustrating and seemingly unavoidable trial and error deaths. Second, I encountered a bug where things off screen continued to fire despite not being visible, which is really debilitating to the core concept of the title. There were a few other minor annoyances along the lines of the second complaint, but I was assured that they were due to the early build and would be ironed out before release. Overall, color me intrigued and hopeful that Long Take will live up to the pedigree of 6180. View full article
  16. I really adore the game 6180 Moon (even though I am just awful at it) for its tight platforming and clever puzzle mechanics. So imagine my delight to find that the developer behind 6180, Turtle Cream, had returned to E3 this year with a rough build of a new game with a new central mechanic that I have never seen before. Long Take is another game that is both clever and challenging. The premise is that instead of controlling the main character of the game, you are merely the camera man who is trying to make the hero look good. Here is where it gets interesting: Everything outside of your camera frame ceases to exist. All manner of hazards from rockets to lasers can be avoided by zooming the camera closer to the hero. However, the proximity of the zoom has to be weighed against how fast the hero is moving. If the platforming protagonist leaves the camera frame, you fail the level and start over again. This means you have to be careful if he decides to go back to collect the last few coins in the level or makes a dash for the exit. This leads to a number of creative puzzles that revolve around where you point the camera. Though I didn’t have an extended play session with Long Take, it shows a lot of promise for such an early iteration of the concept. I only had a couple gripes about what I have seen thus far. First, the player isn't given time to survey each level to formulate a strategy beforehand (only a brief glimpse of everything before automatically beginning), which leads to a number of frustrating and seemingly unavoidable trial and error deaths. Second, I encountered a bug where things off screen continued to fire despite not being visible, which is really debilitating to the core concept of the title. There were a few other minor annoyances along the lines of the second complaint, but I was assured that they were due to the early build and would be ironed out before release. Overall, color me intrigued and hopeful that Long Take will live up to the pedigree of 6180.
  17. If you have been paying the barest attention to mobile gaming over the last couple months, chances are you’ve heard of the game Threes!, which was designed by indie developer Asher Vollmer. It turns out that Vollmer has been working on a different game in the wake of Threes! success and it happens to be one of the best games I’ve played at E3 this year. Close Castles is a unique take on the tower defense genre that plays like a minimalist reduction of a real-time strategy game. In its current state, Close Castles has no single-player or online multiplayer and as far as I know there aren’t currently plans to make either of those features. The game pits two, three, or four local players against each other in a battle of wits. The premise of Close Castle is, fittingly, that each player has built a castle too close to the neighboring castles of other nations and this has started a war. The war takes place on a grid with each castle residing in a different corner of the grid. Players move their cursor to different squares within their territory to build one of three different structures which then expand their territory. The most basic structures necessary for securing victory in Close Castles are houses, which spawn knights that can attack enemy buildings. If an enemy is invading your lands, towers are a great investment as they assault attacking knights. However, houses and towers don’t just build themselves; all buildings cost money and the more money a play has over their opponents, the more likely they are to secure a victory. To that end, markets are a must for any long-term conquest. I know that I said there were three structures, but another key element to Close Castles is constructing roads. Roads cost nothing and don’t expand your territory, but they are how you direct your knights from their houses to attack enemy buildings. With these basic rules and mechanics, Close Castles sets players loose against each other. On the surface, Close Castles looks simple enough: The last player with a castle standing wins. But how do you go about besting your friends? Do you go for a building out towers to slowly and safely expand your empire? Or do you build a couple early markets and then blitz your opponents with several houses spewing forth knights? Each strategy has advantages and disadvantages. Allowing a player to turtle for too long can result in an unstoppable wave of knights later on, while neglecting early defense can leave you wide open to an early house rush. There is definitely a learning curve to Close Castles that lends itself to evolving strategies over time. One of the hardest lessons to learn is how to build roads. Roads are what allows your knights to target enemy structures and you can target more than one building at a time. However, targeting multiple structures will result in an even split of your knights between those targets. Therefore, the more targets you have, the more you divide your forces. This can allow you to hit multiple locations at once, but if you aren’t careful you can simply end up losing all of your knights and leave yourself open to a counterattack. It is worth noting that we played Close Castles entirely with Xbox 360 controllers, which might make it the first RTS-like game able to be enjoyed with a gamepad. Each building was mapped to a different face button, while the cursor was moved using the left joystick. It felt smooth and responsive, which is incredibly important when you need to respond to an unexpected enemy attack. Close Castles is still in the early stages of development and there are almost certainly features that will be added or tweaked, but as it stands right now it is one of the most game-like games I’ve played at E3. It completely embraces the spirit of tower defense, while getting at the heart of what makes real-time strategy so engaging. It takes those concepts and strips them down to the bare essentials. That this is played against people who are physically present and frantically strategizing both against and with you adds to a sense of frenetic excitement. Though currently there is no release date for Close Castles, if the build I played went on sale for mobile, PC, or consoles tomorrow, I would pick it up and recommend you all do the same. Not because it is doing something radical or something new, the concepts on display are old as Chess, but because it does those old things so well that it makes them feel new. Like I said, Close Castles seems simple enough on the surface, but that simplicity stems from elegance. And elegance is a beautiful thing. View full article
  18. If you have been paying the barest attention to mobile gaming over the last couple months, chances are you’ve heard of the game Threes!, which was designed by indie developer Asher Vollmer. It turns out that Vollmer has been working on a different game in the wake of Threes! success and it happens to be one of the best games I’ve played at E3 this year. Close Castles is a unique take on the tower defense genre that plays like a minimalist reduction of a real-time strategy game. In its current state, Close Castles has no single-player or online multiplayer and as far as I know there aren’t currently plans to make either of those features. The game pits two, three, or four local players against each other in a battle of wits. The premise of Close Castle is, fittingly, that each player has built a castle too close to the neighboring castles of other nations and this has started a war. The war takes place on a grid with each castle residing in a different corner of the grid. Players move their cursor to different squares within their territory to build one of three different structures which then expand their territory. The most basic structures necessary for securing victory in Close Castles are houses, which spawn knights that can attack enemy buildings. If an enemy is invading your lands, towers are a great investment as they assault attacking knights. However, houses and towers don’t just build themselves; all buildings cost money and the more money a play has over their opponents, the more likely they are to secure a victory. To that end, markets are a must for any long-term conquest. I know that I said there were three structures, but another key element to Close Castles is constructing roads. Roads cost nothing and don’t expand your territory, but they are how you direct your knights from their houses to attack enemy buildings. With these basic rules and mechanics, Close Castles sets players loose against each other. On the surface, Close Castles looks simple enough: The last player with a castle standing wins. But how do you go about besting your friends? Do you go for a building out towers to slowly and safely expand your empire? Or do you build a couple early markets and then blitz your opponents with several houses spewing forth knights? Each strategy has advantages and disadvantages. Allowing a player to turtle for too long can result in an unstoppable wave of knights later on, while neglecting early defense can leave you wide open to an early house rush. There is definitely a learning curve to Close Castles that lends itself to evolving strategies over time. One of the hardest lessons to learn is how to build roads. Roads are what allows your knights to target enemy structures and you can target more than one building at a time. However, targeting multiple structures will result in an even split of your knights between those targets. Therefore, the more targets you have, the more you divide your forces. This can allow you to hit multiple locations at once, but if you aren’t careful you can simply end up losing all of your knights and leave yourself open to a counterattack. It is worth noting that we played Close Castles entirely with Xbox 360 controllers, which might make it the first RTS-like game able to be enjoyed with a gamepad. Each building was mapped to a different face button, while the cursor was moved using the left joystick. It felt smooth and responsive, which is incredibly important when you need to respond to an unexpected enemy attack. Close Castles is still in the early stages of development and there are almost certainly features that will be added or tweaked, but as it stands right now it is one of the most game-like games I’ve played at E3. It completely embraces the spirit of tower defense, while getting at the heart of what makes real-time strategy so engaging. It takes those concepts and strips them down to the bare essentials. That this is played against people who are physically present and frantically strategizing both against and with you adds to a sense of frenetic excitement. Though currently there is no release date for Close Castles, if the build I played went on sale for mobile, PC, or consoles tomorrow, I would pick it up and recommend you all do the same. Not because it is doing something radical or something new, the concepts on display are old as Chess, but because it does those old things so well that it makes them feel new. Like I said, Close Castles seems simple enough on the surface, but that simplicity stems from elegance. And elegance is a beautiful thing.
  19. Nintendo came out swinging this E3. It turns out when you develop most of the games for your own video game system you can hoard information about your first party games and then reveal them all at once. Nintendo seems to have learned a bit from its first digital press conference in 2013. This year, viewers were treated to amusing Robot Chicken claymation skits breaking up the gaming new (but not for overly long). After introductions, Nintendo introduced something called Amiibo; small figures which appear to be similar to the toys of Disney Infinity or Skylanders figures. These figures will be used first with Super Smash Bros. Wii U. Amiibo figures can be read with the Wii U gamepad and scanned into the game. There is two-way data sharing between the Wii U and Amiibo figures. In Super Smash Bros. Wii U, data in the figure becomes personalized over time, which means that the figures learn and get stronger the more they are used in-game. They can also learn new moves and level up. Next year a peripheral will be released that allows Amiibo figures to be read into the 3DS. Following the push to sell Amiibo figures, the digital event switched over to a yarn shop. Yes. You read that right. Yoshi’s Woolly World is a soft, friendly platformer starring everyone’s favorite Mario Bros. dinosaur. As the name suggests, the art style is fully committed to wool yarn and a handmade feel. According to Woolly World’s creative director, they want the game to constantly surprise and bring a smile to the face of their players. Yoshi’s Woolly World is coming in 2015. Who do audiences recognize from the Super Mario Bros. series that isn’t Yoshi, Bowser, Peach, Luigi, or Mario? Toad! Nintendo knows that Toad has never been front and center in his very own game… until now. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a puzzle platformer that makes use of the Wii U gamepad. Players will be tasked with guiding Captain Toad through various stages to retrieve a star at the end of each. Then, Nintendo dropped its bombs. There is a new Legend of Zelda game coming to Wii U. That news itself isn’t entirely unexpected, but perhaps we all need to readjust our expectations a bit. I know that I wasn’t expecting to get blown away by the reveal, but I just about pooped my pants when I saw how gorgeous the game was. The brief glimpse of the game in action showed a figure on a horse who many assumed was Link (though later there was a comment by the series’ producer that cast some doubt on that assumption). Though we don’t know much about it, what tidbits we saw were really exciting. Initially we were shown a beautiful vista; then we were told that the vista was an entirely explorable. Yep, the next Legend of Zelda is going to be an open world. That has laser arrows. And weird magic robots. It will be released next year. Knowing that they couldn’t possibly top their previous announcement, Nintendo let everyone cool off with a friendly reminder that Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire will release on November 21. Bayonetta 2 was next on Nintendo’s announcement list. Releasing this October, Bayonetta 2 will come packaged with the first Bayonetta and different outfits based on various Nintendo characters. Speaking of characters, Nintendo announced that Hyrule Warriors will release September 26 and will feature a huge roster of playable characters that includes Link, Zelda, Impa, Midna, and the promise that “you’ll be able to play as your favorite Legend of Zelda character.” Also announced was Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, which looks like a cross between Kirby’s Epic Yarn and Kirby Canvas Curse. Players use the Wii U gamepad to draw a pathway for the ball-ified Kirby to make his way through various levels and defeat any enemies. The Monolithsoft’s logo came up on-screen. Afterward, gorgeous, sweeping CGI sequences heralded a new big budget JRPG. Xenoblade Chronicles X looks like another stab at the next great sweeping space opera and I am totally on board to see where this craziness leads. Next up was Mario Maker, which is possibly one of the most self-explanatory games in history. Mario Maker gives players the ability to create their own Mario levels and share them with friends. Level creators will have the ability to switch between original Super Mario Bros. and New Super Mario Bros. graphic styles. Expect to see this title sometime in 2015. Leave it to Nintendo to ask the one question no one has ever asked themselves: “What if you could shoot ink and turn into a squid?” That was the driving idea behind Splatoon, a third-person paintball shooter that allows players to transform into squids and traverse arenas by flowing through their own ink. Splatoon releases in 2015. The digital press conference concluded with the reveal of the goddess Lady Palutena from Kid Icarus as a playable character in the new Super Smash Bros. The disclosure came in the form of an animated sequence courtesy of the Shaft animation studio; perhaps that means we will be seeing a Super Smash Bros. anime? Make it so, Nintendo. Overall, this was a fantastic press conference from Nintendo. They unveiled games that I’m excited for and want to play. Unfortunately, many of the most interesting games shown were still a year or more out. That’s a long wait no matter how you slice it. Hopefully Super Smash Bros. and the possibility of some third-party titles can tide Wii U owners over until the promises of this E3 come to pass. What did you think of the conference? Good? Adequate? Meh? View full article
  20. Jack Gardner

    E3 2014 - Nintendo's Press Conference

    Nintendo came out swinging this E3. It turns out when you develop most of the games for your own video game system you can hoard information about your first party games and then reveal them all at once. Nintendo seems to have learned a bit from its first digital press conference in 2013. This year, viewers were treated to amusing Robot Chicken claymation skits breaking up the gaming new (but not for overly long). After introductions, Nintendo introduced something called Amiibo; small figures which appear to be similar to the toys of Disney Infinity or Skylanders figures. These figures will be used first with Super Smash Bros. Wii U. Amiibo figures can be read with the Wii U gamepad and scanned into the game. There is two-way data sharing between the Wii U and Amiibo figures. In Super Smash Bros. Wii U, data in the figure becomes personalized over time, which means that the figures learn and get stronger the more they are used in-game. They can also learn new moves and level up. Next year a peripheral will be released that allows Amiibo figures to be read into the 3DS. Following the push to sell Amiibo figures, the digital event switched over to a yarn shop. Yes. You read that right. Yoshi’s Woolly World is a soft, friendly platformer starring everyone’s favorite Mario Bros. dinosaur. As the name suggests, the art style is fully committed to wool yarn and a handmade feel. According to Woolly World’s creative director, they want the game to constantly surprise and bring a smile to the face of their players. Yoshi’s Woolly World is coming in 2015. Who do audiences recognize from the Super Mario Bros. series that isn’t Yoshi, Bowser, Peach, Luigi, or Mario? Toad! Nintendo knows that Toad has never been front and center in his very own game… until now. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a puzzle platformer that makes use of the Wii U gamepad. Players will be tasked with guiding Captain Toad through various stages to retrieve a star at the end of each. Then, Nintendo dropped its bombs. There is a new Legend of Zelda game coming to Wii U. That news itself isn’t entirely unexpected, but perhaps we all need to readjust our expectations a bit. I know that I wasn’t expecting to get blown away by the reveal, but I just about pooped my pants when I saw how gorgeous the game was. The brief glimpse of the game in action showed a figure on a horse who many assumed was Link (though later there was a comment by the series’ producer that cast some doubt on that assumption). Though we don’t know much about it, what tidbits we saw were really exciting. Initially we were shown a beautiful vista; then we were told that the vista was an entirely explorable. Yep, the next Legend of Zelda is going to be an open world. That has laser arrows. And weird magic robots. It will be released next year. Knowing that they couldn’t possibly top their previous announcement, Nintendo let everyone cool off with a friendly reminder that Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire will release on November 21. Bayonetta 2 was next on Nintendo’s announcement list. Releasing this October, Bayonetta 2 will come packaged with the first Bayonetta and different outfits based on various Nintendo characters. Speaking of characters, Nintendo announced that Hyrule Warriors will release September 26 and will feature a huge roster of playable characters that includes Link, Zelda, Impa, Midna, and the promise that “you’ll be able to play as your favorite Legend of Zelda character.” Also announced was Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, which looks like a cross between Kirby’s Epic Yarn and Kirby Canvas Curse. Players use the Wii U gamepad to draw a pathway for the ball-ified Kirby to make his way through various levels and defeat any enemies. The Monolithsoft’s logo came up on-screen. Afterward, gorgeous, sweeping CGI sequences heralded a new big budget JRPG. Xenoblade Chronicles X looks like another stab at the next great sweeping space opera and I am totally on board to see where this craziness leads. Next up was Mario Maker, which is possibly one of the most self-explanatory games in history. Mario Maker gives players the ability to create their own Mario levels and share them with friends. Level creators will have the ability to switch between original Super Mario Bros. and New Super Mario Bros. graphic styles. Expect to see this title sometime in 2015. Leave it to Nintendo to ask the one question no one has ever asked themselves: “What if you could shoot ink and turn into a squid?” That was the driving idea behind Splatoon, a third-person paintball shooter that allows players to transform into squids and traverse arenas by flowing through their own ink. Splatoon releases in 2015. The digital press conference concluded with the reveal of the goddess Lady Palutena from Kid Icarus as a playable character in the new Super Smash Bros. The disclosure came in the form of an animated sequence courtesy of the Shaft animation studio; perhaps that means we will be seeing a Super Smash Bros. anime? Make it so, Nintendo. Overall, this was a fantastic press conference from Nintendo. They unveiled games that I’m excited for and want to play. Unfortunately, many of the most interesting games shown were still a year or more out. That’s a long wait no matter how you slice it. Hopefully Super Smash Bros. and the possibility of some third-party titles can tide Wii U owners over until the promises of this E3 come to pass. What did you think of the conference? Good? Adequate? Meh?
  21. Following Microsoft’s press conference earlier today, Sony had to be on its game. Microsoft showed a fair number of titles with first access DLC for Xbox owners and a couple highly polished an interesting exclusives (here’s lookin’ at you, Sunset Overdrive and Scalebound). Sony seems to have given a suitably escalated response. Sony began by showing a story-teasing, action packed trailer (narrated by Peter Dinklage!) and announcing that PS4 owners would have access to a special first-look alpha of the game beginning this Thursday and continuing through Sunday. It was also revealed that PlayStation owners would receive an exclusive strike mission (the Destiny equivalent of dungeon raids) for Destiny. July 17 marks when Destiny enters open beta. Furthermore, when Destiny releases on September 9, there will also be a bundle with a white PlayStation 4. The Order: 1886 also made an obligatory appearance with a brief segment showing off some atmospheric gameplay. It is worth noting that the trailer below was edited together and, while made up of the gameplay that I saw live, doesn’t quite capture the same intensity or urgency that the gameplay segment demonstrated. After The Order, Sony decided to introduce Entwined. Players control a bird and a fish that fall in love and over try to guide them through several lifetimes to be together. Yes, the concept is weird. On the other hand, the game is a joy to look at and the music relaxing and beautiful. Each creature is assigned a different joystick, meaning that you control both of them simultaneously. The best part about this announcement (I mean, besides that it exists) is that it is available today on PSN for a reasonable $9.99. If you thought that Sucker Punch and Sony had abandoned Second Son, think again! Entwined lead into the reveal of Second Son DLC titled First Light. Players take on the role of fan favorite character Fetch Walker as she deals with the demons of her past. First Light is slated for release sometime in August 2014. LittleBigPlanet 3 debuted with a live gameplay demonstration and trailer. The game introduces new characters as well as co-op gameplay. Sackboy is joined by the dog-like Oddsock who has the ability to wall jump; Toggle a blobby character who can grow and shrink at will; and Swoop who can fly around at will. LittleBigPlanet 3 is coming to PS4 this November. Additionally, you’ll be able to go online and play any level made in LittleBigPlanet 3. Sony had pulled out the big guns with the reveal of LittleBigPlanet 3, and like a comical scene in a sweeping action film they continued to pull out more big guns. It turns out those images and five second video clips that have been popping up and been attributed to a From Software game under the working title of Project Beast were genuine. Bloodborne appears to be a grim action game that makes use of Dark Souls imagery while making use of a slightly different premise. Count me in as excited for this PlayStation exclusive coming 2015. This might get a bit lengthy if I go too in-depth with what happened during the conference, so I am going to shotgun a number of highlights at you: Far Cry 4 was demonstrated live (and has co-op). Dead Island 2 is coming out and one of the characters is voiced by Jack Black. There will be a Last of Us Remastered/Diablo 3 crossover mission that involves taking out infected zombies in Diablo 3. Battlefield Hardline had a trailer (plus the beta, which is available right now for PS4 players). Paradox Interactive has all of its development studios working on exclusive PlayStation titles; the first of which is Magicka 2. With a great live-action trailer and a tagline like “Learn to spell… again” how can you not smile and feel a twinge of anticipation? Double Fine is partnering with Sony to remaster the beloved adventure game Grim Fandango. *JOY SPASMS* Devolver Digital, the publisher behind Hotline Miami, is bringing a load of games to PlayStation consoles first, before they make their way elsewhere. This includes Broforce, Titan Souls, Not A Hero, Hotline Miami Wrong Number, and The Talos Principle. Sound like a lot or never heard of the before? Check out this neat little trailer thing that does your research for you! Then we arrived at the point during the conference where Sony uttered the words Suda 51. The ever unpredictable designer is in the process of crafting a game titled Let It Die, which received a trailer that is probably too graphic to embed directly into this post. Check it out here if you are interested. Suffice it to say that Suda 51 is either a genius or insane. I’m leaning more towards insane, but possibly in a good way? Regardless, Let It Die comes out in 2015. Remember how great Journey was? If you don’t it was fan-flippin’-tastic. One of the artists on that thatgamecompany’s last title spun off his own studio, dubbed it Giant Squid and began working on a mysterious new title called Abzû. Much like Journey, Abzû’s soundtrack has been composed by Austin Wintory. Unlike Journey, Abzû appears to take place completely under water with a diver exploring the unknown depths and interacting with the various denizens of the watery deep. Immediately following Abzû was a trailer that showcased the progress of the highly anticipated No Man’s Sky. I can’t really put into words how excited I am to one day get my hands on No Man’s Sky, but… ugh. It really seems to be doing something different and doing that different thing WELL. Also, I think I just salivated at the thought of playing this game with a VR headset. Sony decided that we needed a bit of a break from new announcements and spent a few minutes reassuring everyone that their virtual reality peripheral Project Morpheus is still a thing and it will have demos n’ stuff. An integrated YouTube app will be making its way to PS4 later this year. This will facilitate the watching of cat videos as well as uploading shared gameplay videos online with friends, family, and strangers. The game streaming service PlayStation Now will enter open beta on July 31 for PlayStation 4 and shortly after available for PS3 and PSVita. As an almost casual aside, it was mentioned that PlayStation Now will also be available on select Sony televisions. All you need is a DualShock 4 controller to play on qualifying television sets. PlayStation TV will be coming to North America. The PlayStation TV is essentially a streaming box that allows the PlayStation 4 to be played on other televisions in the house, can stream PlayStation Vita games to be played on your TV, and allows anyone to access PlayStation Now without the hefty investment costs of a fully-fledged console. PlayStation TV will retail at $100 for the base box and at $139 for a bundle that includes the box, a controller, 8GB of memory, and a digital voucher for a copy of The Lego Movie Game. Oh, and it can stream other services like Netflix, too. In a new push to create more PlayStation exclusives, Sony announced that there will be an PlayStation original series, the first of which is a two run series based on the graphic novel, Powers. The first episode will be available for free. All PlayStation Plus subscribers will be able to view the entire Powers series free of charge. Not being super familiar with the graphic novel, for how it was described made it sound like a police procedural, if those police lived in a world where super-powers existed and there was a specialized police department for super-powered murder cases. That sounds pretty dang cool to me. Then Sony revealed that there is a Ratchet and Clank movie in the works for next year. Sony followed the Ratchet and Clank movie announcement with a drastic tonal shift to The Last of Us Remastered. Now, I’m not going to lie, I couldn’t really tell the difference between the trailer they showed for the enhanced PS4 version over PS3 version, but maybe that’s because my eyes aren’t discerning enough. However, as base and classless as my eyes may be, they couldn’t help getting excited for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. A new trailer was shown that was edited together by Kojima himself. In it we watch Big Boss mourn with urns, grow a ponytail, and be a bit more hardcore than the Solid Snake we’re all accustomed to seeing. I’m relishing the prospect of jumping into whatever craziness Kojima has concocted for The Phantom Pain, because good or bad, it is going to be a ride. Grand Theft Auto V was announced to be coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox one, and PC this fall (though at the press conference they conveniently left out the part about releasing on Xbox One and PC). Players looking to upgrade to a different version will be granted data transfers from whatever system they chose previously to the newer one of their choosing. Sony then revealed a new gameplay segment from Batman: Arkham Knight and, this is coming from someone who hasn’t played previous Arkham games and who is a professional critic, it looks amaze-tastical. I gotta hand it to Sony, they ended this conference incredibly strong. After so many great games debuted or showed impeccable polish, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End tipped the scales in Sony’s favor. Overall I was really impressed by what Sony brought to the table this E3. Maybe that’s partly because I was going in not expecting much besides a victory lap for The Last of Us, a few indies, and a possible Uncharted announcement. What Sony gave was so much more. They announced indie title after indie title, big game that people care about after big game that people care about, and while they kept non-gaming talk low, they hit all the bullet points they needed to and then got back on track with more game reveals and teases. What did you think of the conference? Good? Adequate? Meh? View full article
  22. Jack Gardner

    E3 2014 - Sony's Press Conference

    Following Microsoft’s press conference earlier today, Sony had to be on its game. Microsoft showed a fair number of titles with first access DLC for Xbox owners and a couple highly polished an interesting exclusives (here’s lookin’ at you, Sunset Overdrive and Scalebound). Sony seems to have given a suitably escalated response. Sony began by showing a story-teasing, action packed trailer (narrated by Peter Dinklage!) and announcing that PS4 owners would have access to a special first-look alpha of the game beginning this Thursday and continuing through Sunday. It was also revealed that PlayStation owners would receive an exclusive strike mission (the Destiny equivalent of dungeon raids) for Destiny. July 17 marks when Destiny enters open beta. Furthermore, when Destiny releases on September 9, there will also be a bundle with a white PlayStation 4. The Order: 1886 also made an obligatory appearance with a brief segment showing off some atmospheric gameplay. It is worth noting that the trailer below was edited together and, while made up of the gameplay that I saw live, doesn’t quite capture the same intensity or urgency that the gameplay segment demonstrated. After The Order, Sony decided to introduce Entwined. Players control a bird and a fish that fall in love and over try to guide them through several lifetimes to be together. Yes, the concept is weird. On the other hand, the game is a joy to look at and the music relaxing and beautiful. Each creature is assigned a different joystick, meaning that you control both of them simultaneously. The best part about this announcement (I mean, besides that it exists) is that it is available today on PSN for a reasonable $9.99. If you thought that Sucker Punch and Sony had abandoned Second Son, think again! Entwined lead into the reveal of Second Son DLC titled First Light. Players take on the role of fan favorite character Fetch Walker as she deals with the demons of her past. First Light is slated for release sometime in August 2014. LittleBigPlanet 3 debuted with a live gameplay demonstration and trailer. The game introduces new characters as well as co-op gameplay. Sackboy is joined by the dog-like Oddsock who has the ability to wall jump; Toggle a blobby character who can grow and shrink at will; and Swoop who can fly around at will. LittleBigPlanet 3 is coming to PS4 this November. Additionally, you’ll be able to go online and play any level made in LittleBigPlanet 3. Sony had pulled out the big guns with the reveal of LittleBigPlanet 3, and like a comical scene in a sweeping action film they continued to pull out more big guns. It turns out those images and five second video clips that have been popping up and been attributed to a From Software game under the working title of Project Beast were genuine. Bloodborne appears to be a grim action game that makes use of Dark Souls imagery while making use of a slightly different premise. Count me in as excited for this PlayStation exclusive coming 2015. This might get a bit lengthy if I go too in-depth with what happened during the conference, so I am going to shotgun a number of highlights at you: Far Cry 4 was demonstrated live (and has co-op). Dead Island 2 is coming out and one of the characters is voiced by Jack Black. There will be a Last of Us Remastered/Diablo 3 crossover mission that involves taking out infected zombies in Diablo 3. Battlefield Hardline had a trailer (plus the beta, which is available right now for PS4 players). Paradox Interactive has all of its development studios working on exclusive PlayStation titles; the first of which is Magicka 2. With a great live-action trailer and a tagline like “Learn to spell… again” how can you not smile and feel a twinge of anticipation? Double Fine is partnering with Sony to remaster the beloved adventure game Grim Fandango. *JOY SPASMS* Devolver Digital, the publisher behind Hotline Miami, is bringing a load of games to PlayStation consoles first, before they make their way elsewhere. This includes Broforce, Titan Souls, Not A Hero, Hotline Miami Wrong Number, and The Talos Principle. Sound like a lot or never heard of the before? Check out this neat little trailer thing that does your research for you! Then we arrived at the point during the conference where Sony uttered the words Suda 51. The ever unpredictable designer is in the process of crafting a game titled Let It Die, which received a trailer that is probably too graphic to embed directly into this post. Check it out here if you are interested. Suffice it to say that Suda 51 is either a genius or insane. I’m leaning more towards insane, but possibly in a good way? Regardless, Let It Die comes out in 2015. Remember how great Journey was? If you don’t it was fan-flippin’-tastic. One of the artists on that thatgamecompany’s last title spun off his own studio, dubbed it Giant Squid and began working on a mysterious new title called Abzû. Much like Journey, Abzû’s soundtrack has been composed by Austin Wintory. Unlike Journey, Abzû appears to take place completely under water with a diver exploring the unknown depths and interacting with the various denizens of the watery deep. Immediately following Abzû was a trailer that showcased the progress of the highly anticipated No Man’s Sky. I can’t really put into words how excited I am to one day get my hands on No Man’s Sky, but… ugh. It really seems to be doing something different and doing that different thing WELL. Also, I think I just salivated at the thought of playing this game with a VR headset. Sony decided that we needed a bit of a break from new announcements and spent a few minutes reassuring everyone that their virtual reality peripheral Project Morpheus is still a thing and it will have demos n’ stuff. An integrated YouTube app will be making its way to PS4 later this year. This will facilitate the watching of cat videos as well as uploading shared gameplay videos online with friends, family, and strangers. The game streaming service PlayStation Now will enter open beta on July 31 for PlayStation 4 and shortly after available for PS3 and PSVita. As an almost casual aside, it was mentioned that PlayStation Now will also be available on select Sony televisions. All you need is a DualShock 4 controller to play on qualifying television sets. PlayStation TV will be coming to North America. The PlayStation TV is essentially a streaming box that allows the PlayStation 4 to be played on other televisions in the house, can stream PlayStation Vita games to be played on your TV, and allows anyone to access PlayStation Now without the hefty investment costs of a fully-fledged console. PlayStation TV will retail at $100 for the base box and at $139 for a bundle that includes the box, a controller, 8GB of memory, and a digital voucher for a copy of The Lego Movie Game. Oh, and it can stream other services like Netflix, too. In a new push to create more PlayStation exclusives, Sony announced that there will be an PlayStation original series, the first of which is a two run series based on the graphic novel, Powers. The first episode will be available for free. All PlayStation Plus subscribers will be able to view the entire Powers series free of charge. Not being super familiar with the graphic novel, for how it was described made it sound like a police procedural, if those police lived in a world where super-powers existed and there was a specialized police department for super-powered murder cases. That sounds pretty dang cool to me. Then Sony revealed that there is a Ratchet and Clank movie in the works for next year. Sony followed the Ratchet and Clank movie announcement with a drastic tonal shift to The Last of Us Remastered. Now, I’m not going to lie, I couldn’t really tell the difference between the trailer they showed for the enhanced PS4 version over PS3 version, but maybe that’s because my eyes aren’t discerning enough. However, as base and classless as my eyes may be, they couldn’t help getting excited for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. A new trailer was shown that was edited together by Kojima himself. In it we watch Big Boss mourn with urns, grow a ponytail, and be a bit more hardcore than the Solid Snake we’re all accustomed to seeing. I’m relishing the prospect of jumping into whatever craziness Kojima has concocted for The Phantom Pain, because good or bad, it is going to be a ride. Grand Theft Auto V was announced to be coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox one, and PC this fall (though at the press conference they conveniently left out the part about releasing on Xbox One and PC). Players looking to upgrade to a different version will be granted data transfers from whatever system they chose previously to the newer one of their choosing. Sony then revealed a new gameplay segment from Batman: Arkham Knight and, this is coming from someone who hasn’t played previous Arkham games and who is a professional critic, it looks amaze-tastical. I gotta hand it to Sony, they ended this conference incredibly strong. After so many great games debuted or showed impeccable polish, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End tipped the scales in Sony’s favor. Overall I was really impressed by what Sony brought to the table this E3. Maybe that’s partly because I was going in not expecting much besides a victory lap for The Last of Us, a few indies, and a possible Uncharted announcement. What Sony gave was so much more. They announced indie title after indie title, big game that people care about after big game that people care about, and while they kept non-gaming talk low, they hit all the bullet points they needed to and then got back on track with more game reveals and teases. What did you think of the conference? Good? Adequate? Meh?
  23. Taking a lesson from last year, when Sony publicly mocked their DRM restrictions and announced a console that was $100 cheaper, Microsoft’s press conference was one designed to be as safe as possible. I say safe because how much more secure can you get than by opening with the next installment in the one of the most successful video game franchises of all time? We saw a gameplay trailer for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, where guys with cool sci-fi gadgets do things that we’ve seen guys in first-person shooters do hundreds of times before. It probably won’t be the video game equivalent of Shakespeare, but I know I’m at the very least intrigued to see how multiplayer incorporates all of the cool near-future technology showcased in the trailers and demos. Again, all DLC for Advanced Warfare will be available on Microsoft consoles. Next up, Turn 10 Studios took the stage to announce that Xbox One exclusive Forza Horizon 2 will release on September 30. Also, the new Nürburgring track will be made available this month for owners of Forza Motorsport 5. The track has been recreated down to subcentimeter levels of fidelity. Evolve made its own appearance with a new gameplay trailer focusing on the classes and introducing a new type of monster. Xbox One owners will have first dibs on both the Evolve beta and Evolve’s DLC. Just behind Call of Duty, the next safest bet in the industry is a new Assassin’s Creed game. Which is just what Ubisoft showed off at Microsoft’s press conference with Assassin’s Creed Unity. The title will be exclusive to Xbox One and PlayStation 4 and will feature 4-player co-op. If the idea of sneaking and assassinating in the midst of the French Revolution with three other friends gets you excited, this might be the perfect game for you. As someone who has little interest in the Call of Duties and Assassin’s Creeds of the world, I wasn’t feeling particularly compelled or excited about the games so far, but the newest trailer for Dragon Age: Inquisition made me do a double-take. I’m getting more excited than I probably should be for this game, but I can’t help having faith in BioWare and in the potential that the Dragon Age franchise has always shown. Once more, it seems that Xbox users will be getting some exclusive access to “premium content.” There are no details as of yet what will be contained in that DLC. Sunset Overdrive had a stellar appearance with many winks and knowing nods to the audience in a scripted sequence lampooning traditional shooters. This was followed by a live gameplay demonstration that was well-executed and impressive. Then there was a goofy teaser for a Dead Rising 3 DLC pack that I am not going to write out because it is long and purposefully obnoxious. Harmonix briefly took the stage to discuss how Disney Fantasia and Dance Central Spotlight are coming to consoles this fall and were then quickly ushered off the stage so that Microsoft could divulge some more information on Fable Legends. I haven’t played it, but my reaction to Fable Legends was one of complete and utter boredom. The game has a few interesting ideas (a group of players take on the role of heroes while another player becomes the villainous mastermind who attempts to thwart their progress), but those ideas seem to be piled under layers of uninspired fantasy. Then there was the obligatory, “Project Spark is still a thing, guys! Remember how cool that concept was!?” The trailer was fine; it looked great. However, I’ve played a bit of the game and it is hard to muster much enthusiasm for a great game creation kit that is mired in overpriced microtransactions. *Warning, what follows is riddled with sadness* Another trailer followed Project Spark, this one for a small indie game titled Ori and the Blind Forest. Will it be one of this year’s indie gems? Possibly. Will it make me cry if I play it? No …sniff… *muffled sob* One of the biggest announcements of the press conference was that on November 11, Halo: The Master Chief Collection will release. The collection contains Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3, and Halo 4 on one disc with everything unlocked. Custom playlists will combine the great moments from all four games into one epic smorgasbord. Halo 2 is also receiving the full anniversary treatment that Halo: Combat Evolved received for Halo Anniversary Edition. The original version of Halo 2 will be included alongside the revamped version. In addition to all of that, the original multiplayer that fans fought so hard to protect will be brought back. For multiplayer, every map ever released will be available in 1080p and run at 60fps on dedicated servers. Over 100 maps. That’s a lot of maps. The collection will also include Halo Nightfall, a live action prelude to Halo 5: Guardians. Speaking of Halo 5, purchasing Halo: The Master Chief Collection also nets you access to the Halo 5 beta in December. All previous games Microsoft had talked about up until this point will be released by the end of the year. The second half of the show focused on games coming in 2015 and beyond. Most of the releases talked about were indies (and there is nothing wrong with that, just not a ton of information on the individual games). Then there was the surprise reveal of Rise of the Tomb Raider, a sequel to the Tomb Raider reboot. We see Lara getting some much needed therapy after the traumatic events of the previous game and then raiding some tombs. Ahhhh, nostalgia! There were a few other moments after that, like the announcement of the Phantom Dust reboot, some hilariously scripted gameplay from The Division, and the reveal of Crackdown 3, but what got me most excited was the Xbox One exclusive from Platinum Games titled Scalebound. It looks goofy, different, has giant monsters, and the ideas on display seem like they would be a lot of fun in the hands of the developer who brought us Vanquish and Bayonetta. Honorable indie mentions: That’s it from Microsoft. On the whole, this conference was much better than last year, which is a win for the company, but I can’t help but feel that this was one of the safest press conferences in the five years I’ve watched the show. What do you think? Awesome? Just right? Meh? View full article
  24. Jack Gardner

    E3 2014 - Microsoft's Press Conference

    Taking a lesson from last year, when Sony publicly mocked their DRM restrictions and announced a console that was $100 cheaper, Microsoft’s press conference was one designed to be as safe as possible. I say safe because how much more secure can you get than by opening with the next installment in the one of the most successful video game franchises of all time? We saw a gameplay trailer for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, where guys with cool sci-fi gadgets do things that we’ve seen guys in first-person shooters do hundreds of times before. It probably won’t be the video game equivalent of Shakespeare, but I know I’m at the very least intrigued to see how multiplayer incorporates all of the cool near-future technology showcased in the trailers and demos. Again, all DLC for Advanced Warfare will be available on Microsoft consoles. Next up, Turn 10 Studios took the stage to announce that Xbox One exclusive Forza Horizon 2 will release on September 30. Also, the new Nürburgring track will be made available this month for owners of Forza Motorsport 5. The track has been recreated down to subcentimeter levels of fidelity. Evolve made its own appearance with a new gameplay trailer focusing on the classes and introducing a new type of monster. Xbox One owners will have first dibs on both the Evolve beta and Evolve’s DLC. Just behind Call of Duty, the next safest bet in the industry is a new Assassin’s Creed game. Which is just what Ubisoft showed off at Microsoft’s press conference with Assassin’s Creed Unity. The title will be exclusive to Xbox One and PlayStation 4 and will feature 4-player co-op. If the idea of sneaking and assassinating in the midst of the French Revolution with three other friends gets you excited, this might be the perfect game for you. As someone who has little interest in the Call of Duties and Assassin’s Creeds of the world, I wasn’t feeling particularly compelled or excited about the games so far, but the newest trailer for Dragon Age: Inquisition made me do a double-take. I’m getting more excited than I probably should be for this game, but I can’t help having faith in BioWare and in the potential that the Dragon Age franchise has always shown. Once more, it seems that Xbox users will be getting some exclusive access to “premium content.” There are no details as of yet what will be contained in that DLC. Sunset Overdrive had a stellar appearance with many winks and knowing nods to the audience in a scripted sequence lampooning traditional shooters. This was followed by a live gameplay demonstration that was well-executed and impressive. Then there was a goofy teaser for a Dead Rising 3 DLC pack that I am not going to write out because it is long and purposefully obnoxious. Harmonix briefly took the stage to discuss how Disney Fantasia and Dance Central Spotlight are coming to consoles this fall and were then quickly ushered off the stage so that Microsoft could divulge some more information on Fable Legends. I haven’t played it, but my reaction to Fable Legends was one of complete and utter boredom. The game has a few interesting ideas (a group of players take on the role of heroes while another player becomes the villainous mastermind who attempts to thwart their progress), but those ideas seem to be piled under layers of uninspired fantasy. Then there was the obligatory, “Project Spark is still a thing, guys! Remember how cool that concept was!?” The trailer was fine; it looked great. However, I’ve played a bit of the game and it is hard to muster much enthusiasm for a great game creation kit that is mired in overpriced microtransactions. *Warning, what follows is riddled with sadness* Another trailer followed Project Spark, this one for a small indie game titled Ori and the Blind Forest. Will it be one of this year’s indie gems? Possibly. Will it make me cry if I play it? No …sniff… *muffled sob* One of the biggest announcements of the press conference was that on November 11, Halo: The Master Chief Collection will release. The collection contains Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3, and Halo 4 on one disc with everything unlocked. Custom playlists will combine the great moments from all four games into one epic smorgasbord. Halo 2 is also receiving the full anniversary treatment that Halo: Combat Evolved received for Halo Anniversary Edition. The original version of Halo 2 will be included alongside the revamped version. In addition to all of that, the original multiplayer that fans fought so hard to protect will be brought back. For multiplayer, every map ever released will be available in 1080p and run at 60fps on dedicated servers. Over 100 maps. That’s a lot of maps. The collection will also include Halo Nightfall, a live action prelude to Halo 5: Guardians. Speaking of Halo 5, purchasing Halo: The Master Chief Collection also nets you access to the Halo 5 beta in December. All previous games Microsoft had talked about up until this point will be released by the end of the year. The second half of the show focused on games coming in 2015 and beyond. Most of the releases talked about were indies (and there is nothing wrong with that, just not a ton of information on the individual games). Then there was the surprise reveal of Rise of the Tomb Raider, a sequel to the Tomb Raider reboot. We see Lara getting some much needed therapy after the traumatic events of the previous game and then raiding some tombs. Ahhhh, nostalgia! There were a few other moments after that, like the announcement of the Phantom Dust reboot, some hilariously scripted gameplay from The Division, and the reveal of Crackdown 3, but what got me most excited was the Xbox One exclusive from Platinum Games titled Scalebound. It looks goofy, different, has giant monsters, and the ideas on display seem like they would be a lot of fun in the hands of the developer who brought us Vanquish and Bayonetta. Honorable indie mentions: That’s it from Microsoft. On the whole, this conference was much better than last year, which is a win for the company, but I can’t help but feel that this was one of the safest press conferences in the five years I’ve watched the show. What do you think? Awesome? Just right? Meh?
  25. CD Projeckt RED, the developer behind The Witcher series and Good Old Games, is kicking off E3 with an early press conference, which you can watch right here. The livestream begins at 11am Pacific (2pm Eastern). They're teasing more about The Witcher 3, a new trailer/in-game footage, and a big announcement for GOG.com. Maybe we'll hear something about Cyberpunk 2077? You can watch the livestream of the press conference on thewitcher.com/stream, GOG.com/stream, or right here in the player below. UPDATE: The press conference is over. There were a number of bombshells dropped, so let's cover them for those of you who didn't have a chance to watch live. - The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt will release February 24th, 2015 - The boxed versions of the game will contain a map, soundtrack, the official "Witcher Universe - The Compendium," stickers, and a protective sleeve - Collector's Editions will come with all of the goodies of the boxed game along with a 200 page art book, a Witcher medallion, a SteelBook box, inner and outer containment boxes, and an awesome 33x24x26cm, hand-painted, Polystoone statue of Geralt of Rivia slaying a griffin (there is a neat little marketing/making of video, as well) - Additionally, pre-orders will come with two priority beta keys for The Witcher Adventure Game, a digital board game for PC, Andorid, and iOS that will have both single and multiplayer modes (though the beta will only have multiplayer) - The press conference ended with CD Projeckt RED announcing that they would be launching a digital distribution platform called GOG Galaxy. Galaxy will have many of the same features as the Steam platform, minus DRM, any online requirement (unless your game happens to require online to function like an MMO or if you want to connect to update achievements and chat with friends), cross-play will allow players to game with friends who have bought their games on other platforms. The goal of the platform is to provide users with the most convenient and fair ways of playing their games while being completely optional. This could finally be some real competition for Steam. View full article
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