GDC 2009

SEGA Dates Alpha Protocol

It's GDC 2010 week, people, and that means it's time to get all spy-like, with Obsidian's awesome espionage RPG Alpha Protocol. G4's Eric Eckstein checked this one out at the conference, and brought back word on how this game is shaping up. I heard he has a license to kill....

"Obsidian Entertainment's spy action RPG, Alpha Protocol has been long in the making, and we've been watching it evolve over the years.  Since its unveiling, combat has continually been refined, character interaction optimized and overall, it's looking like a better improved game thanks to the delays."

For the rest of the preview, you're obliged to check out the full link. And for more GDC awesomeness, check out our GDC headquarters.

Developers Secretly Briefed By Sony About PSP Rental Service

So, yesterday we heard, via a consumer survey posted on Joystiq, Sony might possibly be considering thinking about wondering about potentially working on a download rental service for the PSP. It certainly sounds like a logical and profitable venture, which is why it's not that surprising that reports have now surfaced that Sony in fact secretly briefed developers at this year's GDC back in March about the prospective rental service.

According to a source that spoke to Develop magazine, Sony held private meetings with several development studios at GDC, outlining the service and providing documentation to support it. This certainly makes for a meatier rumor, especially since it suggests that Sony is more than just fantasizing about this service.

Plus, as Develop points out, Sony's recent digital-only release of Patapon 2 marked a significant shift away from the UMD model rumored to be on the way out, and seems like a pretty good indication that Sony is looking to go all digital for the PSP, and possibly UMD-less for the still shadowy PSP 2.

Of course, without official confirmation regarding Sony's intentions, we'll just have to keep on speculating for now. Good thing we're used to it.



Batman: Arkham Asylum delayed

Well, it’s official. Those Batman: Arkham Asylum delayed rumors bataranging around our heads have been confirmed by Eidos and Warner Bros. Interactive. The highly anticipated (and pretty darn good looking) action/stealth title featuring everyone’s favorite Dark Knight has been pushed to the end of summer. There’s no specific release date at this point, but as soon as we hear, you’ll be the first to know. In the meantime, why not check out TheFeed's Raymond Padilla’s preview of the game from GDC 2009.

Anyone crying in their oatmeal over the delay?

A Boy and His Blob: Trouble on Blobolonia was one the hardest games for me to play as a kid. Etched above the title was the name David Crane, who I wondered for so many years (prior to the interwebs you bums) who he actually was. Eventually I came to learn of the basics his illustrious career and an overview of how much he's given to the annals of gaming.

However, our very own Billy Berghammer had a chance to sit down with the legendary game-designing maestro for an extensive interview, providing the most intimate of details to the last couple decades of the gaming industry.

In part 1, Mr. Crane talks about his early beginnings at Atari and his eventual rebellion to help found Activision. Part 2 continues with the creative origins of Pitfall and A Boy and His Blob and the renditions that they've come to spawn today. Finally, the part 3 wraps up with the founding of his new company Skyworks Interactive and his pioneering in the field of "advergaming" and iPhone games.

David Crane Interview Part 1: Atari And Activision Career

David Crane Interview Part 1: Atari and Activision Career »

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'The Conduit' Single Player Preview

Ever since seeing the first impressive tech demo of the Quantum3 engine a couple of years ago, I've been interested in seeing what High Voltage Software could do with the Nintendo Wii. My interest was further piqued when I briefly saw The Conduit in action at PAX 2008. Recently, I had a chance to sit down with High Voltage's creative Director, Matt Corso, for a look at the game's single player campaign.

Let me start by saying that everything you've heard about the game's graphics is true. For a Wii game, The Conduit shines. With glistening bump-mapped textures and impressive lighting, it's clear The Conduit is squeezing a lot out of Nintendo's console. While the game is limited in the end by the Wii's max resolution of 480p, it still looked pretty good on an HDTV. Furthermore, the game kept its framerate throughout the demo I was shown, and animations seemed smooth and natural. It's obviously still not in the same league graphically as games like Killzone 2 or Bioshock, but it doesn't scream "last-gen" like many other games on the Wii.

Read more for a full preview of The Conduit's Single Player!

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Even after all these years, you still can't get enough of the classic arcade shooting of Space Invaders?

Foundation 9 Marketing Manager Sandra Lew, walks us through the Xbox Live Arcade enhanced edition of the remade shooter, Space Invaders Extreme. The 30th Anniversary rendition features HD enhanced imagery and "interactive" rhythmic sound.

Exclusive in this walkthrough however, is the demonstration of online multiplayer --up to four players-- which has four modes, including "Survivor", which "plays a little like Puzzle Fighter". Fans of classic arcade gaming and online competitive play rejoice, your new boat might have just come in. Backbone Entertainment looks to have this revamped classic shooter available "late April".

As an added exclusive bonus (after the cut), check out British, game-designing Guru Jeff Minter's (Gridrunner, Trip-A-Tron, Tempest 2000, Space Giraffe) rhythmic visualizer software Neon, and how it bring the backgrounds of Space Invaders Extreme to life.

Space Invaders Extreme Walkthrough 

Space Invaders Extreme Walkthrough - Exclusive Multiplayer »

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After interviewing Q Games President Dylan Cuthbert about PixelJunk Eden, we hit him up on some questions with a franchise he helped create for Nintendo – Star Fox. As most Star Fox fans would agree, there were few Star Fox titles worth playing: Star Fox, Star Fox 64, and Star Fox Command. Not surprisingly, Cuthbert was involved in the creation of two out of  three - Star Fox, and Star Fox Command. Cuthbert was also involved with the development of Star Fox 2, however sadly, even though that game was never released, there were apparently elements from that game - including the tank levels - that made it into Star Fox 64.

Original Star Fox Creator Not Interested In Making Star Fox For Wii

Since the release of Star Fox Command on the Nintendo DS, there hasn’t been a Star Fox title for quite a while. Considering the fact that there hasn’t been a Star Fox title released on the Wii so far, most would believe that this year will be the year where Fox McCloud will climb into his Arwing for his first Wii Star Fox voyage.

So will Cuthbert and Q Games be at the helm? Not likely….

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Stardock Entertainment President/CEO Brad Wardell chats with us to discuss their new Impulse gaming distribution service and the Gas Powered Games'-developed Demigod. Explained in greater detail, is the very interesting subject of Game Object Obfuscation (GOO) and how you'll be able to resell your used, digital games. (Great explanation if you were confused on the tech-heavy GOO press from before)

Demigod's street date is April 14 on the Impulse download service and retail stores which is exclusively available for the PC.

GDC 09: Brad Wardell Impulse Gaming Service G.O.O. Explanation/Demigod Interview

GDC 09: Brad Wardell Interview »

'Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood' Preview

Instead of a sequel, Call of Juarez: Bound In Blood for the PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 is actually a prequel to the original Ubisoft published game from 2006. Returning is the hellbent Reverend, Ray McCall, although the story takes place before he turned to the cloth. However, Ubisoft indicated the plot explains the events that eventually cause Ray to become a religious man. Ray is joined by his brother Thomas, and together they fight their way through a number of classic old west scenarios on a quest for the Gold of Juarez.

Each of the brothers have different strengths, with Ray being more of a classic assault character who favors bigger guns and close-ranged combat, while Thomas is more of a sniper, with longer-range weapons and the ability to climb some walls and buildings. At the beginning of each of the game's chapters, the player can choose which of the brothers they wish to use, and the other brother will be controlled by the AI, providing support. Unfortunately, the game does not feature any co-op, which is a huge disappointment, considering both brothers are involved together in much of the story-line.

Read More for the full Call of Juarez: Bound In Blood Preview. Plus, get a look at the game in action with three gameplay clips after the cut.

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Not intimately familiar with CrimeCraft?

If you take a tactical shooter, RPG, MMO and modern day war-torn setting and pop 'em all into the Unreal 3 Engine you'd probably end up with CrimeCraft. Check your guns at the door as Vogster Entertainment's Casey Dickinson and Matt McEnerney walk us through their ubran, persistent-online action game, CrimeCraft... and all the gritty exploration and PVP combat you'll encounter on the PC.

This genre hybrid is currently is in closed beta with a larger beta expected to be announced "probably next month."

CrimeCraft GDC 09 Walkthrough

GDC 09: CrimeCraft Walkthrough »

Need a little flight of fancy in your MMO experience? Take an in-depth walkthrough as NCsoft melds eastern hardcore MMOs with the great storytelling of western MMOs with the MMORPG Aion: Tower of Eternity for the PC. Join NCsoft's Liv Blazier and Brian Knox as they detail the game's:

  • Factions
  • Flight
  • Character customization
  • Armor and weapons utilization
  • Combo-based battle system
  • Pvp system

...and an attached trailer to illustrate everything in full, rich detail. Look for Aion May 26 when it launches exclusively on the PC.

GDC 09: Aion: Tower of Eternity Walkthrough

GDC 09: Aion: Tower of Eternity Walkthrough »


Q Games: Not Indie Enough?

One of the most curious situations at Game Developers Conference 2009 was the treatment of Q Games (PixelJunk) by the independent game developers community. For various reasons, some independent developers resent Q Games. These developers feel that Q isn't "indie" enough. Some of the rumblings I heard at the show included:

  • Q's PixelJunk Eden was nominated for awards in both the Independent Games Festival and the Game Developers Choice Awards. Some developers felt that being nominated for a GDCA should have excluded PixelJunk Eden from the IGF.
  • Although Q Games is independently funded, some are questioning its relationship with Sony. This is primarily based on the fact that it designed the PlayStation 3's Cross Media Bar (XMB) and visualizers.
  • Some developers feel that Q Games is big enough that it shouldn't be considered an independent developer.

In a literal sense, Q Games is absolutely an independent developer. Some believe that others are making claims against Q because they're jealous of its success and in some cases, that's probably an accurate assessment. Other people will argue that being "indie" isn't necessarily based on a company's size or financial success, but rather its spirit. That's where things get nebulous. How do you define what an indie developer is? Is it a classification that a company can outgrow?

I've heard people argue passionately against and on behalf of Q Games. Now I want to know what you think. Do you see Q Games as an independent developer? Why or why not?

During last week’s GDC, I got a gameplay presentation of BioWare's upcoming PC, Xbox 360, and PS3 RPG Dragon Age: Origins from lead designer Mike Laidlaw. The game, set for release in the second half of 2009, is looking extremely impressive. Laidlaw promised an average of 80 hours of gameplay with much more available to gamers that want to experience everything. The story revolves around an enemy known as the "Blight" and your quest to raise the armies of Ferelden to combat the darkspawn before they destroy the world. You will play as a member of the Grey Wardens, an ancient order created to fight the Blight, but have mostly been forgotten.

Dragon Age: Origins Red Cliff Gameplay

Dragon Age: Origins GDC 09 Gameplay Footage »

The game will offer several “Origins” to choose from. These story-starting points will reportedly change the way the game plays. If you choose to be a Human nobleman, your experience will be much different than choosing to play as a lowly Elf. Yes, Elves in Ferelden are the bottom of the social order. A nice change of pace, for once! It remains to be seen, however, if this will actually result in different gameplay or just change some quest lines and NPC reactions to your character.

The game runs in a gorgeous 3D engine with high-quality character models and scenery. In addition to your created character, you will form alliances and control other characters in a party. The loyalty of your allies will change as you make decisions throughout the game. Sten, a barbarian-like character, will become less loyal if you continuously help people. His goal is the main quest and he doesn't like helping other people much. This manifests in gameplay by how effective allies are in combat, whereas a loyal character performs better than a disloyal character. If you make enough decisions to completely piss off a character, they might leave. This is all handled on a point system. After making a choice, you’ll see something like “Sten (-10)” and the status can be checked on the character sheet.

Keep reading for more on Dragon Age: Origins.

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Why GDC 2009 Was a Wasted Opportunity

The G4 crew is back from Game Developers Conference 2009 and while I'm proud of everyone's contributions, I'm also annoyed with how numerous publishers are using GDC as a mini-E3. GDC is a fantastic event that hosts some of the most brilliant and creative minds in game development from around the world. Unfortunately, too many publishers decided to hold game demos at the show. Publishers had a great deal of the gaming press focused on product rather than talent. This was such a shame; instead of helping outlets educate their audiences about game development and raise the profile of game designers, publishers generated more preview coverage than features on their developers. This absolutely flies in the face of what GDC is all about and I'm disappointed that the show was used in such a manner.

Most of the blame should go to the publishers. While I understand that it's convenient and cost effective for publishers to reach a vast number of outlets during a tradeshow, it was inappropriate to do so at GDC. It's disrespectful to their development partners and Think Services (the company that organizes GDC). The developers should be the focus of GDC; publishers should have been working with the press to get more stories on their talent and the development process that led up to their great games -- helping gamers learn more about development, allowing them to appreciate games on a different level.

Instead, the publishers ordered their PR teams to push dozens of games at the show, most of which were B-level or C-level titles. Furthermore, most of the stuff I saw was under embargo, so instead of using my time reporting on the fantastic sessions at GDC, publishers had me looking at games that can't be written about until this week or next. It was a wasted opportunity.

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GDC 2009: 'Smartbomb' Author Heather Chaplin Tells Game Designers To Grow Up

In one of the more controversial panels at GDC 2009, Heather Chaplin, co-author of the excellent Smartbomb, had some strong words for the development community. The panel was called "Burned by Friendly Fire: Game Critics Rant" (also featuring X-Play's Adam Sessler!) and Chaplin's message was simple: grow up. She earnestly wishes that game developers would grow up so that their works will be taken more seriously by the mainstream media, Chaplin said:

"It is you guys as game designers who are mired deeply in ‘guy culture'. You aren’t men. You are stunted adolescents."

MTV Multiplayer added, "She singled Bleszinski out in her talk, saying she liked him, but that she was distressed by how juvenile most major games are. She dismissed top games as 'power fantasies' and charged the games industry with neoteny." That last quote made more of an impact once I found out what neoteny meant.

Seriously though, Chaplin is tired of hearing "games are a new medium" used as an excuse. Personally, I'm a little torn on the matter. I agree with part of her point, but I also believe that the so-called immaturity is part of the business' charm. I got into this side of the industry because I grew up with games and thought it was absolutely ridiculous that I could make a living writing about them. I stayed because I still love games and the business helps make sure that I never have to grow up.

I fully admit that I approach Chaplin's words with caution -- she's a friend whom I respect greatly (I also thought my charming immaturity is what brought us together). I further admit that if it was someone I didn't know, I wouldn't take these words seriously and would assume that it's just another person trying to bash the business. However, I know Heather and I know that she has tremendous respect for game creators. While it might seem like her words are overly harsh, I believe that it's because she wants game designers to progress and get the respect they deserve.

Since I'm torn on the matter, I shall ask you: does Chaplin have a point? To game designers need to grow up? Do their works need to evolve to something more than just "power fantasies"? Leave a comment and let me know (please)!


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