One of my earliest memories with games was just after Pokémon had come out in the states for the first time. I remember, after having watched the show for a couple weeks, stumbling across a friend with an original Gameboy playing Pokémon Red version using a Weedle. When he told me he was playing Pokémon, I told him I didn't know there was a Pokémon that had a pumpkin for a head. Boy games have come a long way.
Speaking of games, I also contribute to making them somewhat professionally, and ocassionaly write about them. You should see some of that games writing stuff, I hear it's real popular with the kids these days.
The PC version of Armikrog, the spiritual successor to Neverhood, has been given an official release date: August 18th. It will retail for $24.99 on PC, Mac, and Linux. PlayStation 4 and Wii U versions are on their way, but their launch dates have yet to be announced. News is expected relatively soon, though. The title, which was funded by Kickstarter, follows space explorer Tommynaught and his companion Beak-Beak as they explore a fortress called Armikrog after crash-landing on a mysterious planet.
Rodea the Sky Soldier, the last game for Nintendo’s Wii console, has been delayed until October 13th in North America and October 16th in Europe. The delay is not a large one, seeing as the previous release date was September 22nd and 25th in the US and Europe respectively, but NIS America still feels bad, so the 3DS version will get a launch-edition of the game, including a special box and soundtrack. The Wii U edition will come with a free Wii version of the game, as well.
Hoopa, one of the Legendary Pokémon present in Pokémon X, Y, Omega Ruby, and Alpha Sapphire, but without a way to catch it, will finally be made available. Anyone who goes to see the new The Archdjinni of the Rings – Hoopa film in Japan will be given a Hoopa during pre-booking. The distribution will take place between July 18th and September 30th, and the Hoopa will come with Nasty Plot, Psychic, Astonish, and its signature move Hyperspace Hole. Finally, this little transforming legendary will be available legitimately, assuming you are in Japan and have a Japanese copy of the game this summer.
Hyperspace Hole is a power 80 special psychic attack with 5pp. It never misses and breaks through protect and detect, which makes it impossible to avoid outside of two-turn hiding moves. The Hoopa will be wearing a Focus Sash and will arrive at level 50. All this comes from the latest issue of CoroCoro, translated by Serebii.
UPDATE: Boss Revenge Mode has now been fully funded. No further stretch goals have been revealed.
Koji Igarashi’s Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night has broken its final, $5,000,000 stretch goal for a roguelike mode with less than a day left on its clock, and just when you thought it was over, Iga threw in one last goal. At $5,500,000, the game will add Boss Revenge mode to its long list of now available features and modes, which will allow players to take control of the game’s bosses and go through special boss dungeons and defeat heroes. This also means all previous tiers, including prequel titles on handheld, have been unlocked.
The Kickstarter page has added an update congratulating the achievement.
Everything is charred in the basement—you may have been a little too enthusiastic with the flamethrower. Hot embers crackle beneath your boots where the wooden floor still glows. Waving your Glove of Jesting around to clear the air, it becomes clear that the rest of the floor is stone. You’re standing on a trap door.
At least, you were. Now you’re falling through it.
You have been so overzealous in your pursuit of stretch goals that you’re now poised to take revenge… on our dauntless heroes. At $5.5 million you have the opportunity to unlock Boss Revenge Mode:
Control several different bosses
Utilize their special attacks to wreak havok
Explore a new BOSS REVENGE area
Turn the tables and defeat “Hero” Bosses in your pursuit of humanity’s destruction
The team also added another achievement tier for reaching 60 achievements (59 have been reached already), which will unlock a “pure” costume for Mirriam, showing her appearance before the events of the game itself.
Four hours are left in the campaign. Will it reach its final goals? Only time will tell.
Market research firm EEDAR (Electronic Entertainment Design and Research) has been compiling data on console title distribution over the years—as digital market research firms do—and their most recent report shows that, now, roughly two-thirds of console titles released in 2014 were digital-only, with only 3% being physical only, and the rest being both physical and digital. The “traditional market,” as EEDAR has taken to calling the mixed-release and physical-only market, has been declining in both number of publishers and titles over the years.
Physical distribution has been on a fast decline since 2010, with now only about a third of console titles seeing physical media hit store shelves. EEDAR defines physical+digital releases as a title that sees both distribution methods employed within 90 days of one another, and anything beyond that as one or the other, meaning titles that had physical releases but saw a digital release much later do not count towards the combined field.
This trend may, in part, be because the number of active publishers working in a purely digital marketplace has been dominant over traditional market publishers that bother with physical releases. As more and more smaller publishers shy away from the troubles of physical production and lean towards digital-only distribution, physical distribution is becoming less viable even among larger publishers. That said, it seems that publishers that do operate in the traditional market release more titles in a given year than their digital only competitors.
Steam is the biggest digital game retailer out there, and as such it has a lot of variety in pricing. Twitter user Steam_Spy shared some data on the number of available titles under various price points and the average sales those groups have made. The results are interesting, with the $4.99 and $9.99 price points being far and away the most popular for developers/publishers to set, but the average sales of the $59.99 group trumps all the others, with the $19.99 group taking second.
Now, because these are averages, this data is not all that definite. There are far fewer in the $50.00 to $59.99 range than in most others, so its sample size is much smaller—only 42 games by this charge. By comparison, the sheer volume of low-priced titles means that any number of lesser-known ones that sell poorly or do not sell at all will drag that section’s average down significantly, even if among them, there are another 42 titles that sold as well as the $59.99 titles. What this can tell us, however, is that games in the AAA price range seem to have much higher extremes than many other price points do, or at least have relatively consistent sales numbers.
The second chart shared represents the average sales multiplied by the prices. No numbers are offered for the results, so how exactly this user calculated the prices from a range is unclear. It also doesn’t tell much, because it is combining average and definite values, so it really just helps to visualize the relationships shown in the main graph.
Playtonic Games has brought back two of the industry’s most loved composers to build the Yooka-Laylee soundtrack, and it shows. Grant Kirkhope and David Wise, both veteran Rare composers back in the day, are assembling the soundtrack for the throwback title, and they have been giving out peeks of their progress as they go. Playtonic recently let loose a new clip of a work-in-progress song tentatively-titled “Glacier World,” and is suitably frosty.
The Japanese version of Devil’s Third comes out on August 4th in Japan, but there will not be many ways to get a copy. Aside, no doubt, from the eShop, the only retailer that will have the title will be Amazon.co.jp. There will be no waiting in line for this one—you can get it straight to your door or straight to your console. Of course, the limited retailer availability means not a great number of copies are likely being produced, so Nintendo may be doing this out of lack of confidence in the title’s sales potential.
After many leaks and rumors on the topic, Activision Blizzard has officially announced Skylanders SuperChargers for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U, Wii, 3DS, and iPad for release later this summer. The title will add land, sea, and air vehicles to the franchise. Twenty new characters and twenty vehicle figures will be available come launch, and a starter pack priced at $74.99 will include the game, two of the new character figures, a vehicle, and a new Portal of Power+ to get the physical media into the game.
“At the helm of powerful, tricked-out land, sea and sky vehicles, Portal Masters can engage in a high-octane action-adventure videogame like never before. Kids can speed across Skylands’ roads in vehicular combat, race down roaring rapids and engage in aerial dogfights as they barrel-roll through enemy swarms for the first time. Developed by Vicarious Visions, Skylanders SuperChargers offers a rich story-driven gameplay experience, filled with vehicle-based and on-foot adventures, combat, puzzles, mini games, activities and platforming, set within a variety of all-new compelling environments.
“Skylanders SuperChargers features a brand-new class of heroes, called SuperChargers who are distinct with fresh moves, powerful attacks and all-new weapons. These SuperChargers also have special in-game abilities that help Portal Masters fight Kaos. Twenty new SuperChargers character toys and 20 new vehicle toys will be available.
“Players will have the ability to customize all vehicles in-game with super cool modifications and upgradeable weapons. For the ultimate gameplay experience, players can pair a SuperCharger Skylander with its signature vehicle to create a SuperCharged combination, unlocking an exclusive mod that revs up the performance of both the vehicle and character. Not only are the vehicles playable in the game, but also many feature moving parts, making them fun to play with outside of the game. Additionally, Skylanders SuperChargers supports all 300+ Skylanders toys from previous games, enabling all Skylanders characters to pilot land, sea or sky-based vehicles.
“The game’s storyline focuses on Kaos’ latest attempt to rule Skylands. In his efforts to take down the Skylanders, Kaos has unleashed his most sinister weapon ever – a massive “Doomstation of Ultimate Doomstruction” capable of eating the sky itself! Fortunately, Master Eon has seen the warning signs and assembled a special team of Skylanders to pilot an unstoppable fleet of land, sea and sky vehicles with the power to travel through the reign of destruction to stop Kaos!”
The game and figures hit shelves on September 20th in North America, September 24th in Australia, and September 25th in Europe.
Mighty No. 9 finally comes out on September 15th in the United States and September 18th everywhere else, and big fans have yet another opportunity to show their love when that time comes. Comcept and Deep Silver have announced Mighty No. 9: Signature Edition, which, in addition to the retail release of the title, also comes with the 6.5 inch figurine shown to the left, and it is packaged in a box signed by Keiji Inafune himself.
Each of the statues is individually numbered and has fourteen points of articulation and three interchangeable faceplates. Additionally, all launch window versions of the game will come packed with the Retro Hero DLC, which adds a blocky version of Beck and a one-hit-death difficulty mode.
Shigeki Morimoto hosted Nintendo’s recent surprise Nintendo Direct, and with Satoru Iwata’s health the last couple of years, some Japanese fans have gotten it into their heads that Iwata will be stepping down as Nintendo Direct’s host. Rest assured, despite the rumors, Iwata has every intention of sticking around, though he plans on letting others take the reigns every now and then. In his own words, “This 55-year-old guy won’t be presenting all the time, but will appear in the future” (as translated by Twitter-user Cheesmeister).
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night‘s Kickstarter continues to sail along at a solid pace, and therefore more updates have appeared. Igarashi and crew announced this time that the game’s localizations have far exceeded expectations: the game will be playable in English, Japanese, German, French, Spanish, and Italian, and it will feature full English and Japanese voice acting. Players will be able to pick their audio language of choice at the beginning (and hopefully change their minds should they decided to try both out).
Alucard also made an appearance. At least, his voice did. Robbie Belgrade, the voice of Alucard in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night has entered the project. He will have a special role in Bloodstained as an additional stretch goal, though all they would say about it is, “We’d tell you where in the castle you can find him, but that would be revealing too much.”
Belgrade will also be recording short messages as a Kickstarter reward for a $1000 backer tier. He’s only doing 10, though.
The Retro Video Games System is a planned new game console powered by nostalgia and cartridge technology. The Nintendo 64 was the last cartridge-based console, released in 1996, its blocky, plastic-housed games made obsolete by the advancement of disc-based storage. Cartridges had a few advantages in their heyday, including faster load times and greater durability, but games eventually became too large and complex for them to remain dominant. Mike Kennedy, publisher of Retro Magazine, wants to bring them back, and he has his Retro VGS console in the works to do just that.
The console, which will be taking to Kickstarter sometime this summer for funding, comes at a time when retro-style titles like Shovel Knight and the revival of old genres by veterans are in high demand. Kennedy believes these old-style games are “fast becoming an art-form and genre on today’s mobile and modern consoles.” The console’s body and cartridges are made possible by re-purposing the toolkits for development of the Atari Jaguar, and will be full of some rebranded internal hardware and have its own retro-inspired controller. Kennedy and his team seem to have high hopes for the device, claiming that “RETRO VGS will reestablish the culture of video gaming, something that has been slowly dismantled over the last couple console generations. It will promote game ownership, tangibility and collectability. There will be no system updates, digital downloads or buggy games.” I wouldn’t say system updates or digital distribution are inherently bad things, but there is something nice about the simplicity of literal plug-and-play.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night‘s Kickstarter continues to go strong, and to keep hype up, Iga and his crew have added more stretch goals for backers to hit. A collection of mini stretch goals have been added below the original batch, with every $40,000 above $2.5 million reached adding a new 8-bit song to the soundtrack for classic mode, which unlocked at $2.5 million itself. Anyone who backed (or backs) $60 or more and chose the PC version of the game will now have access to Bloodstained‘s beta, when it is ready, which will both give Inti Creates a lot of much welcome feedback and allow early access to a fair number of fans.
They also added a castle basement to the stretch goals, and for Wii U owners “we’ve heard legends about a remarkable treasure hidden in the castle basement…”
That line has been appended to the Kickstarter’s “What about Nintendo and/or handhelds?” section of the FAQ, and two more stretch goals have been partially revealed in the castle basement, which will unlock after backers get 30 of this rather playful campaign’s backer achievements.
At $2.75 million, Iga plans on making this game his largest (physically) yet, but the $3 million stretch goal is still a little in the dark. That addendum above could be our hint, though: a remarkable treasure in the castle basement. There’s not a lot visible, yet, though we tweaked the brightness/contrast a bit for a touch more clarity, but doesn’t that look a bit like the top of a Wii U logo?
Playtonic Games’ Yooka-Laylee has broken $2.5 million with 29 days left on Kickstarter, making it far and away one of the most successful campaigns to date. With a development team made up of the masters of the 3D platformer genre in its heyday, this does not come as too much of a surprise. The good folk at Gamasutra reached out to Playtonic for their sage advice on making a 3D collection-themed platformer like Yooka-Laylee or its predecessor Banjo-Kazooie, and they got back six bits of wisdom from all over the field, from the character artist to the technical director and beyond.
Character artist Steve Mayles started by saying that appeal rules in character design. Appeal comes from things like a recognizable shape, expressiveness, standout features—in Yooka’s case he notes the colorful crest—and can be “something of an X-factor.” He states that if a player cannot make a connection to a character after one look, the character is weak. He also notes that a lot of a character’s character comes from out-of-game, such as posing in promotional art or box art.
Chris Sutherland, Yooka-Laylee‘s project director, says that before a character should look good, they should feel good. Control of the character is the most important part of a game’s design, as a strong game feels good even if you are just moving around the map. He says he starts out with a box, and once navigating an area with no animations or flavor feels right, that is when you can add all the color and aesthetic touches. He also notes that most characters are controlled with “a few digital buttons and maybe an analog stick, that’s actually a tiny bit of information, so you need to extract everything you can from those inputs and use them to bring the character to life in a responsive and meaningful way.” He offers an example of having a character lean in the direction of the physical controller input if the direction of movement and input direction do not match up exactly for whatever reason (cameras complicate these sorts of things).
The creative lead, Gavin Price, says that world design must be surprising. “Everything the game does,” from bosses to dialog to tiny details, should surprise the player and be memorable in some way or another.
Steven Hurst, the environment artist, adds that the world itself should provoke exploration without being convoluted. A well constructed world encourages players to “to explore every nook and cranny trying to find those subtle clues to those secret areas that you just know are there somewhere.” It should also however, make it difficult to get lost, which can sometimes be as easy as putting a sign in the right place or having plenty of easily recognizable landmarks.
Technical artist Mark Stevenson notes that the collectibles that fill this world should be “smart.” Collectibles are versatile, and aside from being a McGuffin, can also be used for anything from guiding the player (by literally placing a trail of them down), to encouraging exploration (by placing them somewhere they might not have thought to go), to challenging them (by placing them in hard-to-reach places). Good collectibles should also be easy to recognize, even from a distance against the background through any number of visual obstacles—both physical or mechanical (like depth-of-field blurring distant objects).
Finally, Jens Restemeier, the technical director, cautions against trying to build everything from the ground up. Efficiency is king in technical design, and “Off-the-shelf engines and middleware are worth it.” Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel with a custom, in-house engine, don’t be afraid to build on what decades of others have built before you. Back in the day this was not so much an option, and maintaining an environment to build the game in was as difficult if not more so than making the game itself. Polishing the game and improving workflow can take a front seat when you don’t need to have engineers working on the tools for it.
It is all great advice—for any genre of game, really. Strong character and world design is not exclusive to 3D platformers, and through collectibles in the literal sense may be, there are parallels in almost every game (treasure chests in adventures, ammo or weapon caches in shooters…). I can personally attest to Restemeier’s advice. Unless you have a team of master engineers and several years on your hands, it is going to be difficult to make an engine worth the effort with all the pre-existing options out there. You can see the exact quotes from the members at the source.
The hype train for Splatoon continues, and it comes stuffed with plushies. Japan will be receiving a pair of high-quality squid plushies this July, featuring the likeness of the Inklings’ squid forms in orange and green. They will retail for 2,800 Yen (about $23), which sounds like a lot for what looks like fluffy themed pillows, but it’s about average for this sort of thing over there. They measure about 12″ by 4″ by 14″. Nintendo seems to have high hopes for the franchise to start merchandising so early. Plus, they are pretty cute, and they do look suitably soft.
No ink, though. Whether that is a plus or a minus is up to you.
Koji Igarashi, best know for creating Castlevania, has gone the Keiji Inafune route in game design and has taken to Kickstarter to develop the games he loves making. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is an “Igavania” game reminiscent of Igarashi’s earlier Gothic platformers, and people seem pretty sold on the project already. Igarashi took to Kickstarter to prove to investors that the game he wanted to make was also the game consumers wanted made, asking for $500,000 from the community to begin development. In less than a day, the Kickstarter not only reached its goal, but doubled it, breaking $1,000,000. As of this writing, the Kickstarter stands at.$1.8 million and counting.
Aside from being a game people clearly want, Igarashi is being smart about how he goes about making it. Michiru Yamane is handling music, as she has for many past Castlevania titles, and they are teaming up with Inti Creates of Azure Striker Gunvolt and Mighty No. 9 fame (the studio which also happens to be made up mostly of ex-Megaman staff themselves). The game will feature both sword and whip-based combat and generally has the feel of the old Castlevania titles that Igarashi so lovingly crafted. One of the final stretch goals is even an old-style, 8-bit level.
With the Kickstarter more than successful and production moving right along, ex-Rare-made Playtonic Games decided to show off their first major supporting character—the wheeling and dealing Trowzer. Having no legs, Trowzer the snake still manages to wear shorts, a staple of the fashion of this team’s games in the past, and will sell you “slick moves he picked up on the high-stakes sales floor.” How effective his abilities will be is hard to say, though. He is more than a little washed up.
The brief post on Playtonic’s blog sums up Trowzer and his design process pretty thoroughly:
“Trowzer is a business-snake whose career never took off. Not that he knows it – the smug, serpent salesman thinks he’s the bee’s knees (not that he has knees), and for a little dosh he’ll teach you some of the slick moves he picked up on the high-stakes sales floor.
“Yooka-Laylee’s creative lead, Gavin Price explains: “Trowzer thinks of himself as the best salesman ever, but with his downbeat appearance and 1980’s mobile phone, life never took off for him.
““He’ll take your money and count it (he’s an Adder…) and because he knows best he’ll even demonstrate the moves you just bought for you to replicate… if you can follow his jiggling.”
“Character artist extraordinaire, Mr. Steve Mayles described the design process behind his latest creation: “I didn’t want him to be a snake in the traditional sense, and when Gav suggested he should have shorts on (do I have to add shorts to all of my characters?!), a great idea for this was his body could curl back up through the other leg hole. So he’ll move with a certain springiness, which will be fun to animate.”
“So there you have it. We look forward to your beautiful fan art and the inevitable furore surrounding how many pairs of pants he’s wearing (or not wearing).” — Playtonic Games
Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin is out on PC, and not unlike the original Dark Souls, the port is far from perfect. A lot of players lately have been seeing themselves soft-banned—the disciplinary method employed by From Software that places cheaters, hackers, and other EULA breakers in their own sad corner of the servers where online interactions only function between each other. The exact reason is not entirely clear, but the popular theory at present is the helpful mod “DS2fix.”
The mod, as the name might imply, fixes several issued with the game, including a durability bug that has been around since Dark Souls II‘s initial release (which was finally patched out recently), disabling griefers from giving themselves names that crash the game in multiplayer, removing corrupted items, and more. One user, struck with a softban, could not figure out why he received it, and asked Bandai Namco what was going on.
We have looked into this issue further with the Dark Souls 2 server team for the profile you provided and it appears that you have had restrictions/limitations placed on your account for Dark Souls 2: SOTFS, due to one of the following reasons at the time the violation was found:
-Using modified/hacked equipment.
-Hacking, modifying, or exploiting the game (game data, character, souls, Soul Memory, etc.) with external files/mods or trainers.
The Dark Souls II server team (FROMSOFTWARE) has specifically stated that any players found in violation of the End User License Agreement (EULA – which a player is forced to agree to follow before being able to play the game in “online mode”) WILL NOT have these restrictions/limitations lifted from their account. However, players will still be able to play in “online” mode, but the restrictions will limit the online interactions with other players.
The decisions for these restrictions/limitations on your account are ultimately handled by the Dark Souls II server team (FROMSOFTWARE) in Japan that is monitoring the servers and we would have no control or ability to change their decisions (we can only provide information regarding whether or not restrictions have been placed on an account).
His list of mods begins and ends with DS2fix, which is not exactly cheating as much as ensuring his game runs without crashing, and he is not alone in this. The creator of the mod disputed the idea that his mod was causing bans, but a representative from Bandai Namco’s statement—” The safest way for people to avoid these soft bans is to not install mods like DS2Fix into Dark Souls II“—is a bit telling.
If you’re noticing a dearth of online features when playing Dark Souls II, DS2fix might be the reason.
In another example of game developer talent moving away from bigger companies and publishers to make their own teams, many of the audio engineers and musicians from Harmonix—the studio that brought us Guitar Hero and Rock Band—have split off to found SkewSound. The dedicated sound studio has teamed up with Prologue Games to score their current project: the three-act noir adventure Knee Deep. It looks pretty neat, and the trailer’s moody soundtrack hits all the right notes for what the game seems to want to be.
As it stands, the game is still in its Steam Greenlight stage, but its soundtrack alone is already impressive. A blog post on the Prologue Games page by the SkewSound crew includes some more samples, as well. I quite like the cross-section, almost stage-esque aesthetic Prologue has taken with the project.