Posts byFraser Brown
Microsoft took quite the beating since the reveal of their Xbox One thingymabob. Initially, discussion of games took a back seat to seething white hot rage over the platform’s draconian DRM policy and its once-per-24-hour online activation feature. While the industry was in the midst of a long running debate over the used-game market, Microsoft stuffed wool in its ears and confidently told consumers that these restrictions were in everyone’s best interests.
Most people took issue with this. Then there was Don Mattrick’s baffling suggestion to those who don’t have access to the internet constantly — notably members of the armed forces, for whom gaming is one of the few ways they can unwind in a job that is equal parts stressful and incredibly boring. He told them to just get a 360, which of course is a great way to promote a new console. But it looks like Microsoft’s confidence in its path has wavered since E3, and the company has done a complete 180.
Rumours of Microsoft’s massive shift in its DRM and online policy regarding Xbox One — which were floating through the internet all day — have finally been confirmed by Don Mattrick in a press release. Used games restrictions are being lifted, and the inexplicable internet check-in nonsense has been done away with. Cause for celebration, no?
Another day, another developer left unimpressed by Microsoft’s anti-independent developer stance with the Xbox One. Dean “Rocket” Hall, designer of Day Z, popular Arma II mod and soon-to-be stand alone PC zombie survival sim, discussed making the title a multi-platform affair with Eurogamer on Thursday.
Like Lorne Lanning, Hall was approached by Microsoft to develop the currently PC-only title for its seemingly anachronistic big publisher box, Xbox One. But the bizarre restrictions that it has put on developers left him with an easy decision: he won’t be making Day Z for Xbox One, but might for PS4.
Getting a booth at E3 isn’t cheap. Last year, the then struggling — now dead — THQ couldn’t afford to maintain a booth, and some developers revealed costs to be around $45,000, though that likely rises with larger booths in more prominent positions. So it is no wonder that at this year’s E3, Ouya, the tiny android console, was nowhere to be seen on the show floor.
Being a crowd-funded console, Ouya obviously doesn’t have the absurd financial power of Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo, and no doubt the developer does not want to be seen squandering the cash of early adopters, especially given how lukewarm the console’s initial reception has been. Missing out on such a huge show is problematic, however, as the Electronic Software Association, big publishers and the press have made this spectacle one of the most important events in the annual gaming calender.
Thus, Ouya took advantage of the show without throwing money at the ESA by setting a booth up in a car park outside the conference centre. It was a smart decision, allowing them to still get appointments with the press and have a physical presence at E3. But according to Julie Urhman, Ouya founder, the ESA did not take kindly to the developer failing to pay its tithe.
My low expectations for the EA conference kept me in good stead today, as reveal after reveal left me unfazed and smug. For a company so happy to churn out the same old crap every single year, the whole concept of the “next generation” seemed laughable, and for the most part EA was more than happy to tell us all about the sports playing and gun shooting you’ll be doing on your PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Yet, the womb of the Elder Gods also saw fit to let slip a few surprises; possibly even good surprises — no, not the tentacles of Ammutseba, Devourer of Stars. Temper your excitement, however, because all but one of these surprises were nothing but horrible little teases. For shame, EA. For Shame.
The first day of spectacle, announcements and Ubisoft’s Aisha Tyler (I prefer her in Archer) desperately trying to make hashtags is now behind us. The focus of this year’s E3 has undoubtedly been the “next generation”, but the term is merely a piece of console jargon. What we witnessed was slightly prettier games for a couple of new consoles, but the same old philosophies that have been going around for the last few years.
If there truly isn’t anything new under the sun, then the E3 conferences — if not the whole show itself — are the proof-filled pudding. Cars, guns and sports dominated Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft and Sony’s over-the-top shows, and they all started to blend together. My cynicism and general distaste for the big publisher console orgy aside, there were a few highlights.
We’ve got four conferences to get through, so without further ado, let’s recap Microsoft’s.
Double Fine has two games in the works right now: Broken Age, the adventure title that spurred the recent Kickstarter trend, and Massive Chalice, the studio’s new Kickstarter-funded project. Tim Schafer and Brad Muir sat down with Games Industry International to discuss their recently announced title and their thoughts on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
The studio has titles on both consoles as well as Mac and PC, and Schafer considers Double Fine a platform agnostic developer, yet neither of its new titles are planned for current or future consoles. According to Schafer, it’s simply a matter of how easy it is to self-publish games for Mac, PC and Linux.
Rumours make for piss-poor news and tend to be the cheapest weapon in a journalist’s arsenal — indeed, we’ve taken a few potshots at their prevalence in our industry before — but humour me for a moment: Prey 2 might be in the works again. Yes, it’s an unsubstantiated rumour in that Bethesda’s keep schtum, and it comes from Kotaku of all places, but Prey 2!
According to a tipster Kotaku’s had a back and forth with, Bethesda has tossed the troubled title to Dishonored developer Arkane, and they are planning to release it in the distant future of 2016. Rather than working off the foundation — which we saw a little off way back in 2011 — it’s one of those reboot dealios, inexplicably inspired by System Shock.
More details from the tipster and a report from Prey 2 fansite Alien Noire make the whole thing seem like a terrible mess, with a desperate Bethesda trying to recoup their losses and a studio that’s far from keen on their new project.
Last year, Double Fine sparked the Kickstarter frenzy that we continue to be engulfed by, raising just over $3.3 million dollars for Broken Age – then known as “Double Fine Adventure”. Though Broken Age is still a work-in-progress, the developer is already looking to its next game and also looking for funding. Massive Chalice will be Double Fine’s second Kickstarter project, a turn-based tactical strategy game inspired by the likes of Fire Emblem, XCOM and Final Fantasy Tactics.
I’m not particularly fond of developers asking for donations and funding for a second project while their first one remains unfinished, though I can see the logic behind it. InXile did the same thing with Torment, reaching their goal in a matter of hours, and reasoned that it allows the studio to lay the ground work for their next project and know how much they can do, adding extra writers, more characters, and other additions depending on how much money is raised and what stretch goals are reached.
And like inXile and Wasteland 2, Double Fine has already shown off Broken Age, so at least backers know how its progressing. Only a third of Double Fine is actually working on Broken Age, suggesting that there won’t be any overlap and the second title shouldn’t harm development of Broken Age. It helps comfort me that Massive Chalice sounds absolutely wonderful, to boot.
Mars: War Logs is the video game equivalent to a B-Movie — a straight to DVD sci-fi action romp. It’s an ambitious RPG that sets about creating an inventive, yet dirty, Martian dystopia, but is ultimately limited by a small budget and weak writing. There’s an intriguing setting and the glimmer of a much bigger picture, but unfortunately the entirety of the game focuses exclusively on a bunch of fairly dull characters and their ramshackle environs.
I found it best enjoyed after a couple of glasses of whisky and a running commentary from myself and whomever stepped into my room as I was playing. Snide remarks and the rolling of eyes made it all a bit more bearable, like watching an awful film on Mystery Science Theatre 3000. It’s not a particularly good game, but it’s not broken, only takes around ten hours to complete, and there are hints of the wonderful Total Recall. So it’s not all bad.
After six months of players tapping away at a bunch of tiny digital cubes that made up a larger cube, the “experiment” devised by 22 Cans and Peter Molyneux, Curiosity, has come to an end. I’m not at all sure what the experiment has proved, other than that there is a worrying amount of people who will happily perform extremely mundane tasks when Peter Molyneux tells them they might win a prize.
Credit where credit’s due however, as Molyneux, the over-enthusiastic bullshit merchant who — after three games — didn’t manage to come close to fufilling the promises he made about the original Fable, has actually come through, delivering his promise to offer a “live-changing reward” to the person who cracks the curious cube.
Bryan Henderson shattered the final “cubelet”, and has shared what his prize is. It all relates to Godus, 22 Cans’s Kickstarted god sim. Bryan “will be the god of all players,” Molyneux reveals in a video sent to the winner. The chap from my hometown of Edinburgh will dictate the rules of the world, having a tangible impact on everyone who plays Godus. He will also get a share of the title’s profits, getting a piece of the pie every time someone spends money on the game.