Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Molyneux: We Didn’t Have Time To Make Fable III Great

As usual before each new game by Peter Molyneux, it is that time of the year when he admits that last year’s masterpiece was actually rubbish and promises to fix all its flaws – in addition to world hunger – in upcoming games.

“I thought the idea of leveling outside the GUI, but leveling in the environment and the world was actually quite a good one, but I'm not sure...,” he said in his latest interview.

“The real dream of that leveling process was that, as you went through each gate, there would be these tough choices for the player. Which chest should I open? This one or that one? The feeling that you're going through the game at your own pace, but having to make these tough choices, was never actually realized.”
Molyneux then explained that the development studio’s inner process was to blame for preventing him from achieving his artistic vision. “The process,” he explained. “The way that we designed, and the way that we crafted -- meant that the game came together very late. That is one of the things that we're changing; that is just such an old school way of working.”
The late blooming of the game’s design left the team with little time to balance and refine it, and “that meant that what could have been a great mechanic turned out to be a good idea.”
“I don't think that good ideas are a reason to do something; I think it has to feed into the overall experience to be a great idea. I liked the idea of not pressing the pause key and going to some abstracted GUI; I think that worked reasonably well,”Molyneux pondered before admitting that they “didn't have the time to craft that into what that dream was.”
But this is all going to change from now on. “It's because of those things that, now, when we approach development, it's very different, because we want to know precisely how long the experience we're crafting is up front, rather than waiting to the end, so that we have a clear idea how each of these mechanics is used, how they're meted out, how they're exploited, and how they're really used to amplify the whole drama of what that is.”

NPD: Digital Gamers Buy More Games Than Core Gamers

NPD group’s latest report revealed that “digital gamers” are more inclined to buy new games than “core gamers”.

The report defines “digital gamers” as those who play games on a variety of devices primarily via digital distribution, while core gamers are defined as those who buy their console games on physical media.
According to the report, digital gamers buy 5.9 games on average every three months, compared to core gamers who buy 5.4 games on average over the same period. However, core gamers still take the lead in the number of hours played per week as they clock an average of 18 hours per week, compared to digital gamers’ 16 hours.
“The name of the game in 2011 seems to be choice,” said NPD analyst Anita Frazier. “Gamers are increasingly branching out to methods of play other than those that the industry has traditionally expected them to use. Fueled by the growth of smartphones and new tablet devices, mobile gaming continues to accelerate, and what a game is and what it means to be a gamer is evolving, reflecting the rapid nature of change within the industry.”

Monday, June 27, 2011

Star Wars Galaxies To Wither Away In December

Electronic Arts announced that Star Wars Galaxies – the first Star Wars MMO – will go offline permanently in December, just around the time The Old Republic launches.

SOE president John Smedley revealed that the company’s contract with LucasArts was set to expire in 2012 anyway, but both parties agreed to the December 2011 termination day as it “feels like it's the right time for the game to end.”
Smedley stressed that subscriber numbers “have stayed pretty steady for a long time now,” and the decision to end the game was not caused by a decline in subscriptions. He also stressed that no jobs would be lost in the process as all staff will be transferred to “an undisclosed new project in Austin.”

In the meanwhile, a series of “galaxy-ending in-game events” will take place until the final blowout take place in December. More information on those events is available on the official announcement page.

Developer Ridicules Take-Two’s USD40 Mobile Games Plan

Appy Entertainment brand director Paul O'Connor refuted Take-Two boss Strauss Zelnick’s claims that mobile games could be sold for $40 like console games if they offered similar experience.

“Price points aren't lower on iPhone because of five minute games - our latest game, Trucks & Skulls Nitro, clocks in at six hours-plus for $0.99, and our metrics indicate players return to Trucks several times a week, with average sessions longer than five minutes,” he said.
“Prices on iOS games are compressed to free or $1 because this platform is at the centre of the most competitive entertainment software market in history. Surviving here it requires a new kind of thinking that, frankly, most of the console industry has been unwilling (or unable) to achieve.”
“Display size is a consideration in game development, sure, but drawing a direct relationship between screen size and depth of play is like saying 'movies can only be robust and entertaining when viewed on an IMAX screen.' A larger screen can make an image more engaging but if your game isn't designed to take full advantage of this new, connected (and unique) touch-driven platform, then all a larger screen is going to do is amplify the shortcomings of your game.”

Job Listing Reveals Google’s Plan To Build A Gaming Division

Google job listing indicates that the company is building a gaming division.

The job description of the product manager, games describes it as “a rare opportunity to grow a brand-new business - Games at Google!”
“We are looking for a strategic, technical and game-loving Product Manager to drive Google's gaming strategy,” the job listing continues. “You will design strategies for game distribution and discovery, player identity, game mechanics, and more. In addition to designing a great user experience and building out key partnerships, you will be significantly influencing Google's social platform as you work directly with a critical set of early adopters, game developers. Interesting and impactful decisions involving social gaming, privacy, virality, business, and technical APIs await you and the strong, passionate team of gamers you will work with.”
From the job description we can deduce that Google is planning to build a social gaming platform, but it isn’t clear yet whether they plan to create their own games or follow Facebook’s model of relying on third party games.

Take-Two CEO: We Will Charge USD40 For Mobile Games

A lot of developers and publishers have voiced their concern that cheap mobile games might force down the prices of console games, but Take-Two Interactive CEO Strauss Zelnick seems to be the first one to expect mobile games price to rise to match that of console games.

When asked by Forbes if he’d charge $20, $30 or $40 ofr a tablet game, Zelnick answered: “I don't see why not.”
“Tablets are ubiquitous,” he added. “And tablets are a great game platform. And it's the right sized screen. And you use the tablet to have an engaging experience. So if all of that's true, I don't see why we wouldn't be able to sell a robust product for the same price point. The reason the price point is currently lower for an iPhone app is it is used for five minutes, and not for a hundred hours.”
“My take is that small screens will be used for a quick but interactive entertainment experience. Mid and large screens can be a robust and engaging entertainment experience. That's how my kids play games. When they're at home, they don't really play games on their desktops or tablets. They play games on the projection TV.”

Valve Is Likely To Support Wii U

Valve boss and cofounder Gabe Newell said that the improved CPU and GPU performance of the recently unveiled Wii U makes it a viable platform for the studio’s FPS games.

“Wii U seems to be a lot more powerful than the previous generation,” he said. “It sort of fits better into the scalability in terms of graphics performance and CPU performance, so I think it'll be a lot easier for us to fit it into our scalability model.”
Gabe’s comment resonates with Nintendo president Satoru Iwata’s earlier statement that Nintendo hopes that Wii U’s improved performance would attract First Person Shooter developers.
Gabe Newell refused to confirm that Valve is working on any Wii U game.
Note: To the best of our knowledge, credit for the toon accompanying this post goes to Steven Ford (CTTR Champion).

Cliff Bleszinski: If I Am Referred To As The Chainsaw Gun Guy I’ll Shoot Myself

Epic design director Cliff Bleszinski is the genius who designed Gears Of War’s signature chainsaw gun but if you run into him, don’t mention it.

“I can tell you now that if for the rest of my life I am only remembered for a f**king chainsaw gun, I will drink a bottle of whisky and put a gun in my mouth,” he told Digital Spy. “I am far from done with everything.”
“There is plenty of life left in Gears, but you also don't want to beat a dead horse, right? If there was another Gears game down the line, it would have to play around in another couple of spaces,” he added. “It could never just be, 'Hey, Marcus and Cole are back [and] there's more Locust!' Gears is amazing and I love it, absolutely adore it, but it will not be the final legacy of this studio.”
Gears of War 3 is scheduled for release exclusively on Xbox 360 on September 20 worldwide.

Wii U Has No Effect On PlayStation 4 Launch

One of the PlayStation 3’s key competitive advantages is its superiority to its rivals in terms of raw horse power. This has changed now with the announcement of Nintendo’s upcoming Wii U, but it seems that this doesn’t bother Sony at all – at least not enough to interrupt their plans for the future of the PlayStation 3 and its successor.

Speaking to Forbes, Sony's Jack Tretton said that the company has absolutely no intentions to respond to Wii U’s announcement by speeding up PlayStation 4 release. “PlayStation 3 is really just hitting its stride,” he said. “And technologically, I don't think it's possible to provide any advancement beyond what we have. What we've seen from the competition is trying to add features that already exist in PlayStation 3. We invested heavily in that, we rolled a very heavy rock up a steep hill, through the launch period. But now I think that all pays off, and we've got a long run way behind it. So, I wouldn't look for any discussion of a next generation PlayStation for quite some time.”
Needless to say, PlayStation 3 graphics superiority applies only when compared to its fellow consoles as they all lag considerably behind PC on that front. It is also interesting to note that Jack Tretton has repeated the “PlayStation 3 is hitting its stride” several times after he said it the first time 3 years ago in July 2008.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

EA Claims Valve Forced Them To Remove Crysis 2 From Steam

Crysis 2 disappeared silently from Steam, sparking speculations that Electronic Arts has decided to pull it off and make it exclusive to its newly launched digital distribution service, Origin.

EA’s latest title, Alice: Madness Returns, is also not available on steam although all other older titles are still there. This seems to confirm that EA plans to keep the downloadable versions of all new titles exclusive to its own Origin service, but both Alice and Crysis 2 are still available at other e-retailers such as Impulse and Direct2Drive.
EA issued a statement claiming that Crysis 2's removal from Steam“was not an EA decision or the result of any action by EA.”
“Steam has imposed a set of business terms for developers hoping to sell content on that service -- many of which are not imposed by other online game services,” EA explained.“Unfortunately, Crytek has an agreement with another download service which violates the new rules from Steam and resulted in its expulsion of Crysis 2 from Steam.”
In an unrelated interview, EA Games President Frank Gibeau explained that EA doesn’t plan to limit its digital games sales to Origin only. “I think long-term you'll see we believe in reach so we will have other digital retailers for our products because we want to reach as many audiences as possible,” he said. “But at the same time if we can use exclusive content or other ideas to help grow our audience then we're going to do that because we're growing a platform.”

id: Rage Is Steak And Other Shooter Are A McDonald’s Meal

Not afraid of being perceived as arrogant, id Software creative director Tim Willits claimed that comparing the studio’s upcoming FPS (First Person Shooter) “Rage” to other popular titles is like a fine steak to a McDonald’s meal.

“We invented deathmatch, but when we looked at Doom, Quake, Wolfenstein and now Rage, we didn't want to follow the same formula that we have done for the past 20 years,” he said. “So we wanted to make both the single player experience and the multiplayer experience of Rage stand on its own two feet, and be different from our other titles.”
Willits was then asked about the decision to shun competitive multiplayer in favor of story driven co-op in Rage and he admitted that“there's a massive appetite for that sort of thing [competitive multiplayer]; But it's like McDonalds. There's a McDonalds on every street corner, and I love McDonalds, but I don't want to eat McDonalds every day. Sometimes you need to have steak.”

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sony Boss: Kids WIll Nag Parents To Get PS Vita

Executives from both Nintendo and Sony have voiced their concern about the effect of cheaper mobile games on the future of dedicated gaming handhelds such as Nintendo’s 3DS and Sony’s upcoming PS Vita. Sony Computer Entertainment America CEO Jack Tretton doesn’t believe that this threat is that prominent though.

“The great thing about gamers is that they have tremendous influence over what they want to play,” he told The New York Times. “If their parents say I'm getting you an iPad and that's your device, but their friends are playing a dedicated console like a PSP, then the kids will find a way to get a PSP.”
But that doesn’t mean that Sony won’t make use of the lessons learned from mobile platforms. For example, we already know that the PS Vita will support 3G and will have access to an online PlayStation marketplace similar to the iPhone’s App Store.

Molyneux: Fable: The Journey May Be Lam But Not On Rails

Peter Molyneux’s E3 keynote depicted Fable: The Journey as on-rails game where players do nothing but flail their arms around to blast on screen enemies with hadouken-like magic spells. Luckily, it seems that the game won’t be that lame.

“I made a horrendous mistake on the press briefing demo by taking out the navigation, allowing players to move,” Molyneux said before explaining that it was his (wrong) decision to remove the player movement controls from the E3 demo.
“I'll just state on record now that Fable: The Journey is definitely not on rails,” he asserted.
Fable: The Journey is an adventure game where players can use hand gestures and body movements to perform magic spells to attack their enemies. The games is powered by Unreal Engine III.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Microsoft’s E3 Keynote Is Disappointing

E3 is supposed to be the place where publishers make all the exciting announcements for the following year, so you can understand our disappointment when the highlight of Microsoft’s E3 session turned out to be an Xbox 360 exclusive version of the hit PC indie game, MineCraft.

In addition to securing the exclusive rights to the console version of MineCraft, Microsoft also announced Halo 4 and a remastered version of the original Halo: Combat Evolved.
Halo 4 will be the start of a new Halo trilogy and it will be the first Halo title not developed by Bungie. The game, and its sequels, will be developed by the internal studio 343 Industries
It is worth noting that an Xperia Play version of MineCraft will be announced officially soon.
Will all respect to the creativity of MineCraft and to the enthusiasm of its fan base, it saddens us to see Microsoft excited about porting an indie game and milking a ten years old franchise for the seventh time.
MineCraft will be released for Xbox 360 this winter, and the remastered Halo game will be called Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary and it will be released on November 15th to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Halo.

Microsoft Had Veto Power Over Nvidia’s Acquisition For 10 Years

Ten years documents that have been unearthed by InformationWeek revealed that Microsoft attains the right to match any offer for acquisition of 30% or more of Nvidia’s stock by third parties.

“Under the agreement, if an individual or corporation makes an offer to purchase shares equal to or greater than 30% of the outstanding shares of our common stock, Microsoft may have first and last rights of refusal to purchase the stock,” Nvidia said in an SEC filing which was reviewed by InformationWeek.
The agreement was signed in 2001, most likely as part of the deal where Microsoft licensed Nvidia’s chips for use in the Xbox 360. It is interesting to note that Nvidia lost the Xbox 360 GPU contract in 2003 to ATI, but it seems that this didn’t affect Microsoft’s veto power.
While Nvidia’s name is synonymous in our minds with graphics cards, we must not forget that the Nvidia’s ARM-based Tegra chips power a large percentage of smartphones available today, including most of Google’s Android based mobiles and tablets. Over the last two years several analysts inferred that Nvidia might be a target for acquisition by Apple since its Tegra chips are ideal for the iPad; needless to say today’s revelation means that Microsoft has the power to stop any deal of that kind.

Wii 2 Project Café Specs Leaked

This is still highly unconfirmed, but some websites have published the following list, claiming that it is the final hardware specs of Nintendo’s upcoming Wii successor which is still being developed under the codename “Project Café.”

The specs are well above those of the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3, but they are not high enough to guarantee it’ll compete with Microsoft’s and Sony’s next generation of consoles in terms of raw power.
Custom AMD RV770 Chip “WOLF” @ 766Mhz on 32nm process
1398 Gflops
Custom IBM Power 6 Chip “FOX” on 32nm process
4 cores, each two way SMT-capable and clocked at 3.5 GHz
175.9 GFLOPS theoretical peak performance (single-precision)
87.6 GFLOPS theoretical peak performance (double-precision)
512 MB XDR2 DRAM main memory
+ 1024 GDDR5 video memory
+ 16 MB eDRAM
2.5-inch SATA hard drive with 250 GB / 320 GB capacity
Expanded storage via SD and SDHC card memory (up to 64 GB)
Custom Blu-ray Disc, up to 50 GB
Compatible with 7 cm Nintendo GameCube Game Disc and 12 cm Wii Optical Disc
Video output formats
Composite video: 480i, 576i (PAL)
S-Video: 480i, 576i (PAL)
RGB SCART: 480i, 576i (PAL)
Component (YPBPR): 480i, 576i (PAL), 480p, 576p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p
D-Terminal: 480i (D1), 480p (D2), 720p (D4), 1080i (D3), 1080p (D5)
HDMI: 480p, 576p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Activision Announces Call Of Duty Elite

Activision announced a new online service called Call of Duty Elitewhich aims to help the game’s fans connect, compete and improve theirCall of Duty multiplayer experience.

Call of Duty Elite is developed from the ground up by Activision’s new Beachhead studio.
“The average Call of Duty player spends 58 minutes per day playing multiplayer. That is more than the average Facebook user spends per day on Facebook. And yet, right now, there are very few tools to unite and super charge that social community,”said Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision Publishing. “Whether it’s allowing you to connect with your friends, or people of a similar skill level, people who live in your city, people who share your favourite passions, join competitive clans or social groups, or upload, view and comment on the incredible mass of player-generated content, or watch and comment on exclusive created content, Call of Duty Elite will give people more ways to connect with fellow players than ever before. Elite will also allow players of every level to improve their game with an intuitive suite of tools, and compete in tournaments for both real and virtual prizes.”
Elite will offer two-way communication between the service and the game, so that the choices and decisions that players make in Elite through the mobile and web interfaces will affect their in-game experience.  The service will be fully integrated into Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and will launch alongside the game on 8th November, 2011 .
Call of Duty Elite’s features and services engage the community in three key ways:
·         Connect: Call of Duty Elite gives players control over their multiplayer experience, transforming it into a true social network. Players can compete against friends, players of similar skill levels and players with similar interests, join groups, join clans, and play in organized tournaments. They can also track the performance, progress and activity of their entire network, both in the game itself, as well as through mobile and web interfaces.  Elite will be an "always on" way for players to connect with the Call of Duty community.
·         Compete: Call of Duty Elite establishes an exciting, competitive environment for multiplayer. Players will have available a constant stream of events and competitions, tiered to group them with those with similar abilities.  Both in-game and real-world prizes will be rewarded to all skill levels.
·         Improve:  Call of Duty Elite is like having a personal online coach. It provides players with a dynamic strategy guide that tracks their statistics and performances down to the most minute details.  It can show gamers how they stack up against their friends or others in the community. Tools and information are provided so players can learn and up their game.
Carrying forward to future Call of Duty games, Elite will chronicle a player’s gameplay history in a cohesive career record, keeping track of every kill, every game and progress.
Call of Duty Elite has been tailored for Call of Duty’s diverse base of players – hardcore gamers, casual weekend warriors and even beginners,” added Hirshberg.  “Over 7 million gamers play Call of Duty online each day logging hundreds of hours of multiplayer per player per year.  Of course, the out of the boxCall of Duty multiplayer experience that gamers have come to love and expect will continue as is.  However, for those players looking for more, Call of Duty Elite will supercharge their experience.”
Many key features of Call of Duty Elite will be available to Call of Dutyplayers free of charge, but a paid membership will include more. Activision has promised that all content offered through Elite will sell “for less than the cost of any comparable online entertainment service currently in the market.”
The service will be accessible on a number of platforms - via web browsers, mobile devices, through game consoles and within the game interface itself - so that players can connect with Call of Duty Elitewhenever and wherever they want.
Call of Duty Elite will launch this autumn with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. However, to test the scale of the service, Activision will hold a public beta this summer for Elite with Call of Duty®: Black Ops.

EA Launches Origin Service To Compete With Steam

EA announced today the launch of its digital gaming platform: Origin.

Origin allows gamers to buy, download and play games for PC and mobile devices from EA and its partners. Origin will also include social networking features.
EA has also launched the Origin beta desktop application which can be used to access all Origin features.
Origin will also be available on the go with a mobile platform that gives you access to your profile and lets you connect and play with friends in EA’s smartphone titles, including SCRABBLE and the upcoming mobile version of Battlefield 3.  In the future, mobile gamers will also be able to see which games their friends are playing, as well as compare high scores and compete for bragging rights.
After EA’s press conference next week at the E3 Expo in Los Angeles, Origin users will also be able to access exclusive game content and trailers for Mass Effect 3, FIFA 12, SSX, Need for Speed: The Run, STAR WARS: The Old Republic, The Sims 3 and Battlefield 3. EA’s E3 press conference is scheduled for 12:30PM PST on June 6, 2011.

Mass Effect 3 Supports Kinect

The Mass Effect 3 box art found alongside this article was posted then removed promptly on the EA Store yesterday.

In case you didn’t notice it, the narrow purple band above the game’s logo states that the game is “Better With Kinect Sensor.”
The game was originally schedule for release this year, but was delayed to 2012 with the addition of "some new ways to play" as the main reason given.
The note on the box art indicates that the game is playable without Kinect. It is reasonable to speculate if the game will use hand gestures or voice commands to give orders to squad members.

Sony: Cheap Mobile Game Threaten NGP And 3DS

Nintendo has sounded its concerns more than once that the greatest threat to the success of its 3DS is the low price point of mobile games. Now Sony is echoing those concerns for its upcoming NGP.

"The problem is the same. We are dealing with the same issue that Nintendo is," Sony's worldwide studios head Shuhei Yoshida said.
“It's up to content publishers, including ourselves, to show people that this is worth £25 or £30 as opposed to 59p. You cannot release the same content that you put on the iPhone for a dollar on to NGP or some other consoles and expect people to pay 20 times that.”
But that doesn’t mean that mobile games can compete with NGP’s in terms of quality or gameplay, Yoshida reiterated.
“There's no one clear competitor in terms of what NGP offers,”he said. “NGP's going to establish itself as the unique thing that people want to have. NGP cannot be placed against smartphones. You can't make phone calls on it and it's too big to fit into your pocket.”

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

American Army Uses CryEngine 3 For Virtual Reality Training

The U.S. Army has adopted Crytek’s CryEngine 3 to create the “first-ever, fully immersive virtual simulation training program for soldiers.”

According to the press release, the new “Dismounted Soldier Training System” will enable U.S. soldiers, leaders and units to train in a virtual environment to increase the quality of instruction and combat preparedness, while at the same time reducing traditional training expenses associated with large-scale instruction facilities.
Soldiers training with the system will wear a special VR helmet with head tracking, stereo speakers and a microphone, as well as body-mounted sensors and handheld weapons. The full-body suit can read actions such as leaning around or under obstacles or making hand gestures, and translate them into the simulation for other participants to virtually see.
“The goal of Dismounted Soldier is to provide our deploying soldiers with the best available training to ensure that they maintain the military advantage,” said Intelligent Decisions’ President and CEO Harry Martin. “Intelligent Decisions is uniquely qualified to respond to the constantly evolving needs of our armed forces through virtual simulation and training and we look forward to working closely with the Army to achieve their strategic vision. Without question, the Army will be the ultimate influencer and decision maker for the system so that we can realize their long-term goals.”
CryEngine 3 was used in Crysis 2. Pictures of the new system are available in the screens tab.

Rumor: PSP 2 Name Is PS Vita

Two separate reports have surfaced claiming that Sony’s upcoming handheld (codenamed NGP) will be named PlayStation Vita (or PS Vita).

The image found in the screens tab is taken from a blog that has been made private shortly after it was published. The image is said to be a prepared graphic for the E3.
Several websites have also reported anonymous sources confirming the name. Our own sources at a development studio confirmed that they have heard the name “Vita” more than once before it made it to the internet.
Perhaps the strongest clue is the fact that Sony Computer Entertainment developer network website has added the word Vita to its list of subdomains which include PS3, PSP and NGP. Right now vita.scedev.net leads to the development network website unlike nonexistent product names such as ps4.scedev.net which lead to nowhere.