Back when I first started thinking about this whole Interactive Narratives idea, the first certainty would be that Knights of the Old Republic would be my starting point. It stands as arguably the best game that BioWare have ever made, is a game I attempt to play through at least once every 12-18 months, and back at the 2004 Game Developers Choice Awards it won three major prizes: Game of the Year, Excellence in Writing, and Best Original Character (take that, meatbags).
I think we can all agree that it's pretty damn good.
Naturally, therefore, my first port of call was Drew Karpyshyn, lead writer on KOTOR and the first two titles for the also-critically-acclaimed space opera that followed as BioWare sought to create a universe that was all their own in Mass Effect. After a spot of email swapping, difficulties in aligning schedules, holidays that fell at inopportune times on both sides, we finally managed to get a little exchange going, and I fired over a number of questions to him about how he got into the business of writing interactive fiction, and his experience working with such a massive IP as Star Wars, before comparing that to building something from scratch with Mass Effect.
NB. Do be warned that things get pretty spoilerrific from this point on, so if you're yet to play KOTOR or Mass Effect, do be aware that we start chatting about some rather major plot points.
"Working in a universe as expansive as Star Wars is all about research," he told me. "You need to understand the science and lore that has come before - in this case literally decades of material has been assembled to create the SW universe fans know. You also need to be a fan of the franchise, because that's the only way to know what resonates with the audience.
"For a new universe like Mass Effect, however, there isn't an existing fan base or an existing setting. You need to do all the planning yourself (with the help of others on the team!). At BioWare, we spent almost a year planning out the universe of Mass Effect before we began working on the actual game and the Shepard's story. And because we didn't have an existing fan base we could look to in order to see what worked and what didn't, we had to trust our instincts. With KOTOR, I had a strong sense that Star Wars fans were going to love the game. Until Mass Effect actually came out, however, none of us really knew if it would connect with fans. Fortunately, it did."Click here to read more...
When we head over to Gamescom each year it’s usually the done thing to go and check out all the games. After all, there’s more than a few of them there, and here at Dealspwn we do like our games. However, we were presented with an opportunity to chat with some of the people behind the Unreal Engine 4 – the latest version of Epic Games’ proprietary engine – to discuss how it has been doing in the hands of developers, and in turn learn more about the community-driven Unreal Tournament project. In a day full of presentations to other developers, I was lucky to sit down with Technical Artist Zak Parrish, Lead Programmer James Golding, and Senior Designer of the UT project Jim Brown, to find out more about one of the industry’s leading development tools.
To start off, I had to ask about Epic’s newly opened UK office. Comprising mostly of the team at Pitbull Studio, last month’s announcement was a huge boost to the industry here in the UK. I asked the team what it was like officially bringing them into the Epic family and setting up shop on our shores. “I moved back over here in January to help set up the UK office, and that’s been super exciting to be back in the UK and seeing Epic make a commitment to the UK and embrace all the talent and stuff that’s going on here,” said Golding. “We already have a lot of developers using the engine in the UK and interested, so that makes sense, and we’ve had this relationship with Pitbull for a couple of years now, working super close with those guys and we’ve been treating them like peers, like part of Epic, for a long time, so it feels very natural.”Click here to read more...
I had just spent the last twenty or so minutes watching Dreamfall Chapters Book One: Reborn in action, seeing locations like Europolis brought to life and how the player would interact with the world. As a fan of the series, I was excited. In fact, seeing that the game was so close to a finished state only made me want it sooner. If you haven’t already (and don’t mind a few light spoilers – nothing big, I promise you!) then be sure to check out the gameplay presentation on our YouTube channel. Or watch the embed above. Because convenience.
Once it was over, Creative Director Ragnar Tørnquist & Lead Writer Dag Scheve took some time to discuss a number of topics, such as development, the PS4 announcement, and both the good & bad sides of fandom. Before we get going though, a quick confession – I had originally planned for this to be a video interview, but technological failings on my part meant that we would have to do things the hard way. What this means is that I’ve robbed you of yet another glorious moment of Tørnquist & Scheve posing with Toby the Dealspwny. For that, I am deeply sorry.
2013 was a big year for Red Thread Games. The Kickstarter was a success and development even hit its Alpha milestone on time before the year’s end, but to me the most notable part of the year was JourneyCon. With fans from 17 different countries attending the inaugural event, it was quite the achievement for the Norwegian developers. “It happened!” exclaimed Dag, when I asked how successful they had felt it had been. “We sold out, yeah,” Ragnar began. “That was our prime goal, I think! That and that it was a good event, and it was fun. It was amazing [to learn] where people came from. There was one guy from Oregon [in the US], there was people traveling from all over Europe, there was one guy from New York! People just came in from across the world, and that was great.” Despite this, Ragnar admitted that it was a draining experience “not because of the fans, but because the amount of work it was.” With Book One emerging in the very near future, it’s no wonder he confirmed there wouldn’t be one this year, was hopeful that they would do it again in the future.Click here to read more...
It's been almost three months since WildStar launched, and the team at Carbine Studios have already dropped two sizable content patches into the game. They're not done yet though, and so to learn a bit more about what is in store for the MMORPG I sat down with Lead System Designer Nick Roth at this year's Gamescom. We get the lowdown on the new zone of the Defile, the first in-game holiday event Shades Eve, and the all-new 5-man dungeon The Ultimate ProtoGames.
Assassin's Creed: Rogue will let us play as a Templar and hunt assassins on last-gen consoles this Christmas. With poison bombs. And Haytham Kenway. It's a great premise, but will Rogue be a fitting sendoff for the Assassin's Creed III arc or a game too far for the franchise? I sat down with Ubisoft Sofia producer Karl Luhe to get the latest details on the new features and the party line.
Stay tuned for our hands-on preview!
Blood Bowl 2 is bringing more than snazzy 3D graphics to the experience. Packing a new transfer system, revamped race-specific AI, deep campaign designed in close collaboration with Games Workshop, retooled economy, streamlined mechanics and more, it's clear that the ambitious sequel plans to be bigger in every way. Perhaps even a major eSport.
After attending a presentation at Gamescom, I naturally had to know more, so thankfully the lead designer was on hand to explain all of Blood Bowl 2's new features and how they've been carefully designed from the ground up in line with player feedback.
Can Evolve truly make 4 v 1 multiplayer fun? Why the delay? What are the DLC plans? How tough was it to balance? What features were cut? Why can't we play it yet?!
Evolve has attracted a huge number of questions over the last few months, and thankfully, we've now got plenty of answers thanks to Turtle Rock producer Denby Grace. If you're excited, concerned or just suitably intrigued by the upcoming new-gen shooter, this is the interview you need.
Crystal Dynamics' Tomb Raider reboot certainly was impressive. And gritty. So very, very gritty.
Thankfully the other Crystal Dynamics team is still making Tomb Raider games based on a confident Lara fighting crazy bad guys, dodging ludicrously silly traps and absolutely loving it; all voiced by the inestimable Keeley Hawes.
In effect, then, Lara Croft And The Guardian Of Light feels more like the Tomb Raider games of old, even if it's an isometric puzzly shooter for up to four players. Keen to know more, I interviewed Crystal Dynamics producer Robert Siwiak to learn about the new gameplay elements, economy, story and whether we'd see more ridiculous crossover characters this time around.
No, really: pretty much everything.
After showing us the latest build of Disney Infinity 2.0, producer Jason Moffitt was on hand to dish the details on the Guardians Of The Galaxy playset, new figures, new characters, new features, new toybox tools and even the possibility of Star Wars coming to the franchise. If you've already sampled our hands-on preview and developer walkthrough, it's high time you armed yourself with all the intel you'll need for the upcoming September release.
As associate producer of the Disney Infinity franchise, John Day certainly knows his stuff. So he made the perfect guide to chaperone us around the latest build of Disney Infinity 2.0, showing off the new characters and combat to expect in the Spider-Man playset, alongside brand new automation and building features to use in Toybox Mode.
In effect, he does whatever a spider can. Stick around for more Disney Infinity 2.0 coverage this afternoon, including a hands-on preview and interview!
How come Claptrap can navigate stairs in Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel? Why the hell does he need oxygen? What's the most badass, awesome thing in a game overflowing with badassery and awesomesauce?
Carl catches up with Gearbox's James Lopez and 2K Australia's Joel Eschler at this year's Gamescom to find out, and get the lowdown on the latest addition to the playable roster for Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel.
I love the old Infinity Engine RPGs, and I'm not alone. Jon often makes the point that the stories modern games tell seem to have suffered as a result of having so many more advanced tools (particularly when we start bandying around the word "cinematic"), and that there's something to be said for text-heavy adventures and RPGs making the very most of their limited options. The writing had to be spot on, the world building exceptionally well researched, everything providing the optimal framing for whatever adventure was to be had.
Games couldn't rely on polish and looks to get by as they can now, they actually had to be good. And we were spoilt rotten with games of exceptional quality.
Pillars of Eternity wants to tap into all of that, reviving that old-school spirit, but upgrading and updating a few of the more clunky mechanisms that have grown rusty over the years, and the team at Obsidian look to be right on track. We've already sent the half-hour gameplay presentation we checked out a couple of weeks back, but we also got the opportunity to put a bunch of further questions to project director Josh Sawyer, and he waxed lyrical regarding classes, romance, and one of the game's best Easter eggs.Click here to read more...
I remember interviewing Ted Price at an EA showcase a couple of years back and wondering where the boundless energy of the Ted Price I had in my head had gone. The game Insomniac was showing off there was Fuse, and only a few weeks before, a new trailer had emerged that probed our deepest fears for that game -- the transformation of a colourful, mechanically-noteworthy shooter into a grey mess with a far more serious tone.
I asked him why the name had changed from Overstrike 9 and it looked like something behind his eyes just died.
But Sunset Overdrive is different. It's colourful, loaded with bonkers weaponry, and seems utterly determined to prove that post-apocalyptic games can embrace a frenzied party of irreverent fun, all the while channelling the spirit of Crackdown and Jet Set Radio and, according to Insomniac's community lead James Stevenson, The Omega Man.Click here to check out my interview with Insomniac's James Stevenson >>
At a recent Microsoft showcase, I sat down with Playground games' creative director, Ralph Fulton, to have a bit of a chat about the upcoming Forza Horizon 2. The hands-on preview is already live, and here's a little taster:
The dusty tracks of Colorado are abandoned in the sequel for the sweeping coastlines of Southern France and a Northern Italy, on a map that Playground are touting as being three times the size of the original game's. The difference is clear already, and for this European writer at least, enormously welcome. Even in the short demo I breezed through, everything seems a little more vibrant, the vineyards and rolling fields delivering more colour, peppered with quaint Mediterranean villages. The Lamborghini that adorns every shot of Horizon 2's marketing is certainly more at home here - a millionaire's paradise, and a driving fan's dream.
Forza Horizon release for Xbox One on September 30th.
Alien: Isolation made me jump so high out of my seat at one point that one of the reps in the near-pitch-black room started audibly chuckling. I had flashbacks of my time with The Evil Within a couple of weeks before, and I determined that I'm not built for horror games.
Of course, the trouble is that I can't help myself when they're really, really good. I adore Resident Evil 2 and 4, and I loved my time with Dead Space and Amnesia. And I came away from Alien: Isolation shaking like a leaf but with a grin fixed to my face. Forget the disappointment of Colonial Marines, Creative Assembly have done something rather special here. By taking inspiration from Ridley Scott's original masterpiece of oppressive tension rather than James Cameron's equally brilliant (but in a totally different way) action bonanza, Creative Assembly might be delivering us a game finally worthy of Giger's monstrous xenomorph.
It all starts with fans making the Alien game that they always wanted to play, and to find out a little bit more I sat down with creative lead Al Hope to find out exactly how he and the team are going about doing just that.Click here to watch our interview with Alien: Isolation's creative lead, Al Hope >>
Carbine have been so busy over the past couple of years detailing the reams of content that they'll be stuffing into WildStar, that not much has emerged on what'll be on offer come Level 50. But that all changed with the supreme unveiling of the Warplots content last week. As Carl detailed in his enormous fact-stuffed blowout a few days ago, Warplots will serve up a 40-v-40 carnival of PvP goodness as two beefy War Parties craft and customise their own battle fortresses before plonking them down and slugging it out for ultimate victory.
As the marvellous Mr. Phillips puts it, "it’s basically as if the original incarnation of World of Warcraft’s Alterec Valley and indie title Orcs Must Die! had a baby, and then many Chua were rained upon it for kicks – that’s pretty much Warplots in a nutshell."
That sounds pretty awesome, even to a relative MMO noob such as myself, so naturally I had to ask design producer Stephan Frost about it when I caught up with him at the end of last week.
Click here for more, cupcake >>
Psyonix and Square Enix's free-to-play, asymmetrical PvP shooter Nosgoth is in closed beta right now, and we had a chance to check out some of the new classes and muck about in the game last week.
You can check out my Nosgoth preview here, and here are a few thought I had following my hands-on:
I had a blast with Nosgoth but I want to see more. We were only playing 4-v-4 team deathmatch. I want more modes, inventive game types. I'd love to see bigger maps and more combatants. Beacham mentioned the War For Nosgoth mode, which is basically the ranked tournament mode for the game that'll become available at regular time intervals, but I'm still curious as to how Psyonix and Square are planning on keeping players hooked for the long haul. I had fun, sure, but I'll need more if I'm going to invest time, let alone money, in the long term. Hopefully, we'll be able to bring you an update on that soon as we jump into the game's beta for an extended stint.
Afterwards, I sat down for a chat with Square Enix game director Bill Beacham to talk about Nosgoth, how important its been to the dev team to leverage the extensive lore that the universe and the Kain IP have to offer, the challenges faced in creating a game that has two tyeams with very different playstyles, and how Square Enix are looking to make a F2P game that is all about growing the community first and monetising second.
At this year's EGX Rezzed, there were plenty of indie titles on show that take slight spins on existing genres to create new experiences, but one title on show took matter the extra mile in that department by blending several genres together in an experience that changes at a moment's notice. That game is Concursion - an upcoming indie title from Puuba studios - and I was invited to talk to one of the key players behind the game, developer Daniel Garfield, on the show floor. We'll have a hands-on impressions piece landing later this week, but in this interview we learn about the influences Garfield had, the challenges of balancing a game that at first glance probably shouldn't work, and its notable musical direction.
You can learn more about Concursion by heading over to its Steam Greenlight page. Stay tuned for our preview later this week.
Virtual Reality has the power to immerse us in brave new worlds, to make our gaming experiences infinitely more powerful and personal. As such, a new wave of VR adventures are currently in development for Oculus Rift and other platforms, designed to take advantage of its intimate and overwhelming new perspective.
Private Eye is one such project, currently being developed by Jake Slack. This investigative thriller casts players as a wheelchair-bound detective who has to recall pivotal events from his past and scrutinise clues from a first-person perspective, exploring a gritty 1950s setting in full 360 degrees. Originally developed during a Game Jam, it's now vying for mainstream exposure on Steam Greenlight.
Having tried it out at EGX Rezzed (and being thoroughly mindblown in the process), naturally we grabbed Slack for a in-depth interview. Discover how Private Eye plans to shake up the adventure genre, what Oculus Rift can do for the genre and what real developers think about the controversial takeover in the video above. Subscribe to Dealspwn for more gaming videos.
Flushed with success from addictive Vita skateboarding game OlliOlli, Roll7 have revealed that their brand new title is a very different kettle of fish. Not A Hero blends cinematic cover-based shooting with two-dimensional platforming, casting players as a washed-up failed hero who performs increasingly bizwetworks to further his boss' political career.
His boss being a "giant purple rabbit from the future" called Bunny Lord. Because... why not.
Keen to learn more, we grabbed Roll7's John Ribbins for an interview at EGX Rezzed, during which we discussed Not A Hero's setting, gameplay, stern difficulty level and inspirations. With our site's official mascot -- Toby The Dealspwny -- overseeing the proceedings from his shoulder.
You can watch it all in the video above, or on our YouTube channel. Stay tuned for our video preview at 17:00!