Polyphony Digital has a reputation for taking its sweet time to bring Gran Turismo games to Sony consoles, and Gran Turismo Sport won’t be an exception to the rule. The studio has delayed its first PS4 racing game to sometime in 2017 after having previously committed to a November 2016 launch. Why the sudden change of plans? Polyphony chief Kazunori Yamauchi says his team doesn’t want to “compromise the experience in any way” — as is frequently the case, the company would rather be late than sully its obsessive vision. That’s wise given the history of rushed driving game launches (case in point: Driveclub), but it’s unfortunate for PS4 owners who’ve been waiting for what’s likely to be their console’s definitive racing title.
Source: PlayStation Blog
Microsoft is getting its proverbial development ducks in a row, with the addition of new capabilities to its Dev Center that should make multi-platform publishing a whole lot more straightforward, as well as provide more feedback to developers.
Microsoft’s been working towards this point for some time — it announced the plan in January last year and even before that had selectively been porting Windows apps to the console — but this is the first time devs have been able to offer apps built using the Anniversary Update SDK directly to Xbox One owners.
The Dev Center Dashboard has also been overhauled, meaning it should be quicker and easier to edit apps, as well as bringing notifications and personalized suggestions.
Ultimately, there are a whole load of new options aimed at giving developers more control over their apps and games across Windows and Xbox devices. These include the ability to only push an update to a small percentage of users or to make updating mandatory, which would be handy if, for example, a developer discovers a serious bug.
If you want to start making cross-platform games that’ll end up on the Xbox One, don’t forget that you’ll need concept approval too. We wouldn’t want you wasting all that effort.
Source: Windows Blog
I’ve been reading a really great story recently. By which I mean I have been playing a really great video game. Specifically, I’ve been playing adventure game Kentucky Route Zero, now on its fourth episode (of five). Despite being a video game, it is also one of the best magical-realist stories I’ve read in years. Kentucky Route Zero’s existence is a testament to the steadily improving quality of prose writing in video games.
It certainly wasn’t always this way. For decades, with the exception of the text-adventure genre, writing in games was merely functional: It was for labels, instruction or only the faintest of character-building. It was riddled with typos, infamous translation errors and unclear meaning. This was just fine, because the stories that video games were trying to tell — when they were even trying to tell one — were usually very simple. “Text-adventure” games by companies like Infocom told intriguing and clever stories — but these were very much in the Dungeons & Dragons vein, and catered to niche audiences. But as mainstream video games entered more cinematic territory in the ’90s, they embraced storytelling and narrative like never before. To do this, developers generally adopted two techniques: cutscenes (pre-rendered cinematics) and lore-dump text files. These text files — which described character, backstory, settings, props, weapons, etc. — were often found in the margins of the pause menu, in a file called the journal, the codex or something in this vein.
In role-playing games, these “journals” evolved into actual digital books that piled up in your inventory (perhaps you are familiar with playing Skyrim and having a Deathlord about to smash you in the face when you pause the game, freeze time and whip out a book about the reign of Uriel Septim and start reading). Because they were now putting lore in things that looked like books, video-game developers felt compelled to try their hand at writing. The results were, er, hit and miss. Skyrim books are full of purple prose, derivative stories, and tons of telling at the expense of showing. On the other hand, the books in The Witcher 3 inventory are wittier and full of character (perhaps because they were rooted in honest-to-God literature; The Witcher is itself an adaptation of a long-running novel series).
But games like Kentucky Route Zero have taken a different tack, completely embracing story, making it the core subject of the game. The story in these games has sometimes displaced traditional gameplay mechanics (often, there is no way at all to “win”). In doing so, they have created hybrid works of fiction that depend upon the quality of their written word, while most games would rely on the quality of their bullet physics. They have blurred the line between interactive fiction and the kind of respectable novels your English teacher would assign.
The central narrative in Kentucky Route Zero is about deliveryman Conway’s journey down the mythical “Zero” highway to deliver a package. However, it’s not really about him. Like Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude, the meat of the experience lies much more in the exploration of the ensemble cast that accompanies Conway, and its complex web of relationships, desires, and regrets. The primary gameplay mechanic revolves around selecting people to speak with, and then making dialogue choices to shape a conversation. The writing in these conversations is crisp and compact, bursting with Southern-fried flavor straight out of a Flannery O’Conner short story.
The characters, though they are animated with blank faces, strike vivid, fully realized figures thanks to their dialogue. You can subtly shape who they become through your choices, but the options you don’t choose can also reveal something about these mysterious, troubled people as well. Instead of a descriptive paragraph of prose, the background art in the game paints mysterious images that still allow the player’s imagination to fill in the blanks. Playing Kentucky Route Zero is like interacting with a deconstructed and digitized novel: You have to assemble the setting, the characters, and the story yourself at your own pace, but what you create is a rewardingly intimate and layered narrative about the human experience.
Eighty Days for iOS tilts even further into interactive-fiction territory. The game is a retelling of Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days. The experience consists of actual gameplay mechanics: You plan a route around the world on a map, and you stop in at markets to buy and sell your goods in order to fund your trip. But the game’s real genius lies in the deftly written prose and the subtle relationship development between player-character, Passepartout, and his employer and adventurer, Phileas Fogg. Sure, it’s about the journey around the world, but it’s just as much about crafting the dynamic between these two characters. And though it has startling power as a narrative (it was Time magazine’s “Game of the Year,” while The Telegraph lauded it as one of the best “novels of the year”), 80 Days remains very much a traditional game with a clear objective and win state.
But some works blur the line between game and story even further; for example, The Silent History. This iOS app is actually classified as an “e-book,” despite several highly gamified elements. The story is set in a world where new children have been born without the ability to comprehend language, and the main narrative is a serialized, thought-provoking story of parenting that delivers on a high-minded literary pursuit: the exploration of how language shapes our world. And yet it’s also iPhone app for which, like Pokemon Go, you need to physically hunt down and download geolocated side stories that flesh out the world. This design choice makes the fiction feel more realized, but it also makes the book feel a lot like a video game.
There has also been a resurgence of text-adventure games of late in the classic Infocom style. Plenty of young writers and developers in the Interactive Fiction Database and on other small indie-game platforms like itch.io, are creating compelling, heartfelt and funny stories using Twine, open-source writing software tailored for interactive fiction.
It’s clear that great prose is no longer confined to the page — it has found a welcoming new home in the medium of games, and this should come as no surprise. It’s always been the mission of great literature to transport the reader to a fantastic new land. So too has it been for great video games. It was only a matter of time till the twain did meet.
Sony was vague about when PlayStation Now would reach PCs, but apparently you didn’t have to wait long at all — it’s available today. If you have a sufficiently beefy Windows PC (a 3.5GHz Core i3 or better), you can stream PS3 games to your computer that include recent additions like Tomb Raider: GOTY Edition or Heavy Rain. You’ll still need a fairly pricey subscription. You’ll ideally want a DualShock 4 controller (either wired or through the $25 wireless adapter due in September) to play as well, although it’s not strictly necessary — an Xbox 360 gamepad is fine if you don’t need Sixaxis support, for instance. As it is, Sony is sweetening the pot through a promo that gives you a year of PS Now for $100. That’s inexpensive enough that it could be worth a shot, especially if you’ve never owned a PlayStation and want to see what the fuss is about.
Source: PlayStation Blog
11 Bit Studios made a name for itself with This War of Mine, a powerful game about the civilian casualties of war, and now the company is back with a second experience that peers into the heart of humanity. Frostpunk is a dystopian look at society as it exists on an Earth that has completely frozen over. Humans rely on steam-powered machines, fighting the cold world with heat, and society as we know it has evaporated. People focus on survival, at times disposing of morality in order to continue existing. Frostpunk asks whether this societal change makes people stronger or weaker, more or less human.
Frostpunk has strategy and management features, but it’s ultimately a game about making decisions and questioning morality. The studio aims to make Frostpunk’s steampunk characteristics believable, which is one reason developers gravitated toward the idea of a frozen planet — it’s logical that humans would want to surround themselves with the warmth of steam engines in such a cold environment. This narrative decision bleeds into the game’s art style, where the remnants of civilization are presented in warm tones and nature is a cold palette.
“This is a deeply serious game created for a mature gamer,” creative director Michal Drozdowski says. “Looking back at This War of Mine, we’re pushing boundaries even further, but we’re not pointing at reality in the same fashion. We’re putting human nature under a microscope to ask about what happens when people need to stay alive.”
11 Bit senior writer Pawel Miechowski said similar things about This War of Mine back in 2014, calling that game “serious” and “mature.” This War of Mine sold well and won multiple awards, including the Audience Award at the 2015 Independent Games Festival. With Frostpunk, 11 Bit is sticking with its strengths in creating a moody, thoughtful and emotive gaming experience. The studio says Frostpunk is its biggest and most complex game to date.
Frostpunk is scheduled to hit PC in 2017. The game’s introductory teaser trailer is the first in a series that 11 Bit promises will continue soon.
LG has continued to push the limits of 21:9 aspect ratio monitors over the years and its latest three additions are something to behold. Ready to debut at IFA and coming to the US this fall, they include the “world’s largest” 38-inch curved 38UC99 model that goes on sale in September for $1,500, a 34-inch curved 34UC79G due in October for $700, and the flat 34-inch 34UM79M coming in November for $600.
That massive 38-incher packs a Quad HD+ resolution of 3,840 x 1,600 and is apparently the first ultrawide monitor with a USB-C port built-in. The 34UM79M has integrated Google Cast support (plus built-in support for multitasking, so you can Netflix while you work without giving up any screen space). Finally, that curved 34-inch model is pitched as “the world’s first 144Hz IPS 21:9 Curved UltraWide gaming monitor,” with AMD FreeSync included to cut down on stuttering and tearing when the action gets hectic.
Source: LG Newsroom
Pokémon Go players who felt they were wrongly banned might get a reprieve. That’s because developer Niantic has said that in its quest to block bots and data scrapers, some people who used third-party map apps to locate the virtual critters were wrongly blocked.
“Each end-user app can be used as a collection tool by the app creator, invisibly collecting and forwarding data to the app creator without the knowledge of the end user,” Niantic writes. “These apps can have an effect similar to DDoS attacks on our servers.”
The company says it’s rearranged of few things in its back-end and can reverse bans on a “small subset” of accounts. That won’t apply to accounts doing nothing but remotely accessing and capturing Pokemon, taking part in gym battles or grabbing supplies from Pokéstops. In fact, it sounds like bans for those terms-of-service-violating activities will become even more strict.
“Our main priority is to provide a fair, fun and legitimate experience for all players, so, aggressive banning will continue to occur for players who engage in these kinds of activities.”
Source: Pokemon Go Live
PlayStation VR is going to launch with a game that allows players to sexually assault a woman who is actively asking them to stop. Yes, that’s exactly as gross as it sounds and yes, of course the game is Dead or Alive Xtreme 3. The game’s virtual reality update is slated to launch on the same day as PlayStation VR, and features a handful of experiences designed to let players ogle the female body. A video from Gamer.ne.jp shows that one of these game modes features active harassment — allowing a player to continually touch a woman who is verbally protesting.
Watching a grown man grope a bikini model in virtual reality is awkward enough in its own right, but listening to the video’s dialogue makes it worse. As the player pokes and prods Kasumi’s body with the PlayStation 4’s motion controller, she tells him “I don’t like it,” and uses a word that directly translates to “bad” that is often used to flatly deny permission. The player persists, and the character naturally recoils. We did too — it’s a blatantly sexist and aggressive experience.
We’ve come to expect over-the-top, sexist gameplay from Dead or Alive’s beach volleyball spinoffs, but denial of consent being part of Xtreme 3’s VR gameplay takes the series to a new low. For the target market, this may well be part of the fantasy, but seeing that power fantasy played out on this console cycle’s biggest hardware platform is pretty disturbing. The developers know it, too — Koei Tecmo long ago decided that Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 might be too sexist for the US market. Well, they’re not wrong.
Google’s first indie gaming festival is less than a month away, and today the company is announcing the 30 games that made the cut for the competition. You can find the whole list here, but note that you won’t be able to try out all of them just yet — 20 of the 30 games haven’t been released in Google Play yet. Games that are out in the store now include Chetan Surpur’s Orbit, High Score Hero’s Hovercraft: Takedown, Double Coconut’s Parallyzed and Roofboot (both still in beta) and Worthing & Moncrieff’s A Matter of Murder. (The full list of games can be found here.)
Google judges have whittled down 200 submissions that came in over the last month down to these final 30, all of which will be on display and playable at the event. Fans will get a chance to vote on their favorites, and a combo of fan votes and judging will narrow things down to a field of 15 games, all of which will have a chance to present their creations to the judges and audience in an effort to win a prize.
If you haven’t heard of these games, well, that’s why Google is having its indie games festival in the first place: the whole goal is to expose small, lesser-known developers to a wider audience. The festival takes place in San Francisco on September 24th, and registration is now open to the public. If you’re an Android fan who wants to see creative games get more exposure on the platform, this event is worth keeping an eye on.
Free-to-play games based on popular franchises were a huge trend for awhile. But, as Microsoft showed us this week by canceling Halo Online for Russia, there are no guarantees for success. Ubisoft is following suit and shutting down Ghost Recon Phantoms, formerly known as Ghost Recon Online. As Gamasutra writes, this was the publisher’s maiden voyage into the market when it launched back in 2011.
It “wasn’t as successful as we had hoped for, so we had to make the decision to close the game,” a note on the game’s Euro forums reads. “This decision wasn’t easy for us and we tried to find other ways. But in the end we decided to close the game and focus on other projects.” Sounds a little cold, yeah? A US-targeted blog post is a little less harsh, but the overall message is similar. Hopefully you didn’t have a ton of money in your in-game wallet, because there isn’t a way to get a refund for that, either. Ubisoft also explicitly notes that there won’t be a sequel, player numbers won’t be disclosed and fans won’t be able to host the game on their own.
The servers shut off on December 1st, so if you want to get in a few more rounds of the microtransaction-based shooter, don’t hesitate. And, perhaps let this be a warning about investing big in free-to-play games not named Team Fortress 2, Dota 2 or League of Legends — they can shut down at any time and take your money with them no matter who’s in charge.
Source: Ubisoft (1), (2)