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GDC 2009

R.U.S.E

French game publisher Ubisoft used GDC as a platform to announce a new World War II RTS. R.U.S.E comes from Eugen Systems, creators of Act of War: Direct Action, and is scheduled for release on Windows PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 by the end of 2009.

The game's hook: Players use deception to trick opponents and obtain worldwide victory. To put it in Ubisoft's words: "Truth is the first casualty of war."

One of the tools the cool new technological tools the game uses: The "IRISZOOM Engine" which offers an interface that allows for rapid transitions from a birds-eye view of the entire conflict, down into the heat of the battle and vice versa.

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GDC 2009: Microsoft's 'Kodu Game Creator' = My First Gaming Software Development Kit?

Microsoft is looking for ways to get gamers of all ages interested in creating games. Whether you're a gifted 11-year old or a 65-year old that's always wanted to give development a shot, Kodu might be your first step towards becoming the next great game designer. This simplified programming environment allows Xbox 360 gamers to construct games. With its easy-to-understand tools and surprising versatility, Kodu looks like a perfect primer for modern game creation. While it's not going to teach anyone how to be a C# wizard, it does teach some of the logic and reasoning behind code. At GDC 2009, I checked out a demo of Kodu and was impressed with what I saw.

Kodu lets players kick things off with "starter worlds". From here, objects and terrain can be edited. When players become more adept at using the terrain-editing tools, they can let their imaginations run wild. After the level is up to a user's standards, different objects can be placed throughout it. The levels I saw showed a lot of variety, which surprised me considering how simple the tools are.

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Ever have a flash of game-designing brilliance in the middle of fraggin' your friend, leading your guild through a raid, finishing a puzzle or just plain brushing your teeth in the morning? Wanted to do something about it but too afraid to touch a command console to input progamming languages?

Microsoft Researcher Lead Matthew MacLaurin walks us through a revolutionary new take on computer programming with the Kodu Game Creator being created for the PC and Xbox 360.

"The Kodu language is designed specifically for game development and provides specialized primitives derived from gaming scenarios. Programs are expressed in physical terms, using concepts like vision, hearing, and time to control character behavior. While not as general-purpose as classical programming languages, Kodu can express advanced game design concepts in a simple, direct, and intuitive manner."

Features:

  • High-level language incorporates real-world primitives: collision, color, vision
  • Uses Xbox 360 Game Controller for input — no keyboard required
  • Runs on XBox 360 and PC
  • Interactive terrain editor
  • Bridge and path builder
  • Terrain editor - create worlds of arbitrary shape and size
  • 20 different characters with different abilities

For more, check back later today for Raymond Padilla's impressions on Kodu straight from San Francisco and our GDC 2009 crew there. For now, it's safe to say that this isn't your parent's Logo Writer programming software.

Kodu Game Creator Demo Walkthrough

Kodu Game Creator Walkthrough »


GDC 09: OnLive Video Game Service »


Remember Infinium Labs' Phantom? The promise of downloading and playing PC titles on your television with an ultra-slick lapboard was the Phantom’s main concept. The company handed out t-shirts during E3 that said “Believe” on them. Yes, and we know how well the Phantom turned out. The Phantom was a gigantic turd that never saw the light of day. That was exactly what I thought OnLive would be when I first heard rumblings about it. However, after getting an early presentation of the new OnLive micro-console and service, I believe that there are a number of things that could really make it a viable platform.

Our demo was driven by OnLive’s Steve Perlman (he worked on the team that invented Quicktime, as well as with the X-band service and WebTV) and Mike McGarvey (former CEO of Eidos). In its simplest form, OnLive is a new games on-demand platform that’s been in uber-secret development for over seven years. This service will allow users to stream the latest high-end titles over a high-speed Internet connection to either play OnLive’s new micro console, or any PC or Mac that's online.

By using OnLive’s proprietary compression technology, gameplay is streamed directly from the server, with very little latency issues. All of the processing of gameplay is done server side, and has little to do with the actual platform that users play the games on. While the beta version we played took some time to stream actually play a game, Perlman promises that when the games are properly adapted for the OnLive service, choosing and launching a game will be almost instantaneous.  Server hosting will be launched on both the east and west coast to provide optimal streaming nationwide.

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Team NinjaTeam Ninja's Yosuke Hayashi revealed that the company is working on new intellectual property, as well as "multiple" other projects.

"As Team Ninja, we're most well-known for the Ninja Gaiden series and the Dead or Alive series. I think to our fans, and our userbase, we know that they have expectations for us.

"But, yes, at the same time, we would like to experiment, explore with something that is very much a Team Ninja production but may not be something that's already been put out... that's definitely one of our goals and missions that will continue for the team."

Team Ninja, a subsidiary of Tecmo founded in 1995, is putting out a PlayStation 3 version of Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2. It was previously said to be working on an action title for the 360 code-named "Project Progressive." Not sure if this is the same title Hayashi was referring to in the above interview. Hopefully, all will become clear soon.

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ValveSteamworks is set to deliver a new set of features for developers and publishers that will render DRM obsolete and it's about friggin' time.

The most interesting is the Customer Executable Generation or CEG feature which compliments the anti-piracy solutions already used by Steamworks. CEG actually makes unique copies of games for individual users to use on multiple machines without having to install root kits on their PC.

There's also new support for creating and offering in-game DLC and matchmaking that uses the same lobby framework that Left 4 Dead utilizes. The Steamworks developer's kit is offered free of charge to developers and publishers globally and is a great way to get into making games once you've mastered making LittleBigPlanet levels.

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GDC 2009: Microsoft Unveils New Xbox 360 SDK And Avatar Capabilities In XNA Game Studio 3.1

Microsoft has announced a few new development tools at Game Developers Conference 2009. On the hardware side is the new SDK. Armed with 1GB of memory, this baby should allow developers to run numerous background tools without sacrificing a game's RAM. Plus, it looks cool. I want one...you know, so I can have it.

On the software side is XNA Game Studio 3.1, due out this spring. In addition to allowing downloadable content for Xbox Live Arcade titles, 3.1 is adding further support for the dollies avatars that arrived with the New Xbox Experience. Community Games and Arcade developers will be able to implement avatars with full 3D movement and custom animations. I got to see an avatar being animated in Maya and exported into a level made with XNA Game Studio. Although the new SDK is slick and sexy, the avatar capabilities of 3.1 should lead to some interesting titles that really give players a feeling of being in the game.

Anyone out there playing around with XNA Game Studio? If so, do you have any ideas for the avatar functionality in 3.1? I'm sure the next Cliff Bleszinski (minus the lame car) reads TheFeed, so speak up!

And also, check out more pictures of the slick Xbox 360 hardware (that most of us will never have) after the jump.

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Games for WindowsAt the Game Developers Conference today, Microsoft announced some intriguing new improvements to Games for Windows. Here's how Microsoft is improving the lives of developers and (maybe) gamers: 

  • Anti Piracy: According to Microsoft, zero-day piracy protection and server side authentication will prevent game piracy before street dates, and "protect publishers and consumers by requiring authentication for online play." I'm not sure how requiring authentication will help consumers -- that kind of thing always seems like a hassle more than help to me -- but I do see how it would help publishers.
  • In-Game Marketplace: These new marketplaces will let developers create in-game store fronts and "experiences surrounding the sale of additional content." This is meant to provide developers with extra money and gamers with "a seamless gaming experience."
  • Roaming: Gamers will be able to save personal settings from Games for Windows - LIVE accounts to the cloud, giving you instant access to your account and details from any Windows PC. 

While these announcements are aimed at developers, obviously (Microsoft was speaking at the Game Developers Conference, after all), all these changes to Games For Windows will affect gamers too. In my opinion, this is a mixed bag of good and bad news.

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Castle Crashers

Microsoft announced the winners of the second annual Xbox LIVE Awards last night. The big winner was Castle Crashers. The almost criminally addicting downloadable side-scroller won Game of the Year, Best Original Game, and best Co-op. For the more financial-minded among you, the game also "won" the undeclared prize of best selling LIVE Arcade game in 2008.

Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix tied Castle Crashers for the highest number of awards won. The re-mixed fighter earned accolades for Best Versus Mode, Best Remake, and Best Graphics.

As far as exactly who decides what wins, it works like this: A panel of industry experts nominated the top Xbox LIVE Arcade games in nine separate categories, then 185,000 members of the community voted for the winners. Truly a People's Choice award!

Click the cut for the full list.

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The universe is a scant 33 days away from the NFL Draft and to celebrate, EA's Peter Moore posted the first Madden NFL 10 screenshot on his official blog:

First Madden NFL 10 Screenshot

Look at it. Look. At. It. Even though it's tough to judge a game by its first screenshot, the crispness, detail and sideline Gatorade coolers make me feel funny in my tummy.

Moore didn't reveal too many details beyond the standard "we're making it better" and "we're really excited" party line, but did impart that the team has been hard at work trying to push the performance envelope for the current generation of consoles.

To quote Moore, "We're hitting the real sweet spot of development for this generation of consoles as the team is really hitting its stride in squeezing every ounce of power and capability from the hardware." He went on to say "From everything I have seen in Madden NFL 10 so far this year, the authenticity of gameplay is showing striking improvement in physics, realism and responsiveness."

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'Rock Band Track Pack: Classic Rock' Hits Shelves May 19th

MTV Games, Harmonix and EA announced this morning that the new Rock Band Track Pack: Classic Rock edition will be hitting store shelves on May 19th.

All of Classic Rock's tracks have been available to PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 owners for sometime via DLC, so the Track Pack is mainly geared towards Wii owners, who only have access to some DLC, and PlayStation 2 owners who have no access at all. However, 360 and PS3 users who purchase the Track Pack will be able to download the songs to their hard drives. Everyone else will have to play off the disc.

Priced at $29.99, Rock Band Track Pack: Classic Rock does offer some savings over downloading the songs individually. However, don't be fooled: this is clearly a repack and most of these songs are so old that if you've been purchasing any DLC, chances are you already have these in your library. Seems like yet another lame attempt to re-sell you content they've already created, but it is a chance for PS2 and Wii users to expand their woefully tiny song libraries.

Also, call me crazy, but I think this Track Pack really stretches the limits of the label "classic rock." The Dead Kennedys? Maybe. Siouxsie and The Banshees? You're losing me. Lenny Kravitz? Ok, now you've got to be joking. Next up the "Folk Pack" featuring Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Megadeath and Weezer...I mean, they all play guitar right? That's Folk!!!

Rock Band Track Pack: Classic Rock Track Listing

  • Boston - "Peace of Mind"
  • Boston - "Rock and Roll Band"
  • Dead Kennedys - "California Uber Alles"
  • Dead Kennedys - "Holiday in Cambodia"
  • Free - "All Right Now"
  • George Thorogood & the Destroyers - "Bad to the Bone"
  • James Gang - "Funk #49"
  • Lenny Kravitz - "Let Love Rule"
  • Pat Benatar - "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"
  • The Police - "Can't Stand Losing You"
  • The Police - "Truth Hits Everybody"
  • Rush - "Closer to the Heart"
  • Rush - "Red Barchetta"
  • Siouxsie and The Banshees - "Kiss Them For Me"
  • Steve Miller Band - "Take the Money and Run"
  • Steve Miller Band - "The Joker"
  • The Stone Roses - "Love Spreads"
  • The Who - "Baba O'Riley"
  • The Who - "Behind Blue Eyes"
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Gears of War 2

Microsoft has dropped the dates that some highly anticipated downloadable content will hit Xbox Live for blockbuster titles Gears of War 2 and Halo 3. Here are the details:

  • Gears of War 2: The "Snowblind" map-pack will be available on March 31st, for 800 Microsoft Points. This map pack gives Gears of War 2 players a chance to try out four new, winter-themed environments: Grindyard, Under Hill, Courtyard, and a frozen version of the Gears of War favorite, Fuel depot. Gears of War 2 will also get its third title update soon, which will include a substantial overhaul of the ranking system and new achievements.
  • Halo 3: The Mythic Map Pack, comes out on April 9th with three new maps: Assembly, Orbital and Sandbox. It is 800 Microsoft points as well.

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Live Blog: GDC Mobile Keynote - Neil Young, CEO of ngmoco

The 2009 Game Developers Conference kicks off with the GDC Mobile keynote address that will be delivered by Neil Young, the CEO and founder of ngmoco (with image gallery here). Young left his job at Electronic Arts to form ngmoco which is an iPhone game studio responsible for titles like Rolando, Topple, and Dropship. He'll be discussing how the iPhone changed the industry on par with the introduction of the NES, GameBoy, PSX, Xbox Live, and Wii.

9:30
Sorry for the late start, the 3G is a bit spotty in this conference hall.
Neil Young, CEO and Founder of ngmoco, is on stage and we've just covered the history of mobile games up to the iPhone.
 
9:31
He believes that all of the mobile games before the iPhone were lame. They were mostly ports. Original games were rare.
Neil on the iPhone: "This was becoming the most important device that I ever owned."

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Left 4 Dead

Left 4 Dead's Survival Pack DLC will be released on April 21 on the Xbox 360. The Survival Pack will be free to download, and adds the new Survival multiplayer game mode, where up to four players are given time to prepare before taking on hordes of rampaging undead as long as possible.

Not only is there a new mode for the game, the content pack will add 12 new maps -- well, kind of new, anyway. 11 are sections of existing levels and one ("Lighthouse") created especially for Survival Mode. Survival Pack also adds versus mode to Dead Air and Death Toll, the final two co-op campaigns from the original game release.

The Left 4 Dead: Critics Choice Edition that contains the original game plus the Survival Pack comes out on April 21st as well, in case you're late to the party. No word yet on whether the PC release of this extra content will come on the same day.

Max Payne 3

Good news for a Monday morning, gamers: Rockstar and Take Two have officially announced Max Payne 3!

The game is scheduled for a winter 2009* release on the Xbox 360, the PlayStation 3 and PC.  Max Payne 3 tells the story of a retired police detective embroiled in a world of corruption, turmoil and intense violence. (Intense violence is my favorite kind!)

"We’re starting a new chapter of Max's life with this game," said Sam Houser, founder of Rockstar Games, in a press release. "This is Max as we’ve never seen him before, a few years older, more world-weary and cynical than ever. We experience the downward spiral of his life after the events of Max Payne 2 and witness his last chance for salvation."

Here's the official description of the game:

Since leaving the NYPD and New York itself behind, Max has drifted from bad to worse. Double-crossed and a long way from home, Max is now trapped in a city full of violence and bloodshed, using his weapons and instincts in a desperate search for the truth and a way out.

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