Yes, this is technically a story about consoles—or, more accurately, a story about what won't be coming to consoles. Bioware has revealed that all future Dragon Age: Inquisition DLC will be exclusive to PC, PS4 and Xbox One, with the PS3 and Xbox 360 being left in the proverbial wasteland.
Why should you care? Well, it seems strange to drop platforms mid-way through a game's life unless the thing you're working on really can't support that platform. As Dragon Age creative director Mike Laidlaw told Eurogamer earlier in the year, the team faced "memory limitations" as a result of developing for the last-gen consoles.
"Yes we could have had more enemies on screen," Laidlaw said, "but instead we were able to think about how we could have enemies that work together - buffing each other, for example. Was there a potential for us, if we went beyond Gen 3, to go further? Sure, but we have to build a game that we are able to ship in the box."
In future that restriction won't exist, and that could mean good things for the final chapters of Inquisition's DLC. Chris enjoyed the game's last singleplayer add-on, Jaws of Hakkon, but a leaked survey hinted that future DLC will be more integral to the story of the Inquisition. That survey referred to a "last adventure", and that "your next mission will determine the future of the Inquisition". It sounds pretty big, and hopefully this move will mean less development restrictions for Bioware.
After a decade making big budget games, and co-founding Crackdown studio Ruffian, Gareth Noyce has gone indie. Lumo is his first solo project, a cute isometric platformer that has echoes of Nintendo s best 3D Mario games. You play a boy lost in a danger-filled castle, and must navigate him safely through 300 rooms of traps, puzzles, obscure game references and precise platforming.
The game s rooms float against a colourful space backdrop, each presenting a different challenge or obstacle to traverse. It s a series of self-contained platforming moments, reminiscent of the sublime Super Mario Galaxy games. But its roots go deeper: Noyce cites classic ZX Spectrum platformer Head Over Heels as his biggest influence. Lumo is steeped in gaming history, but with a modern sheen.
At first, I can t jump. I m waddling around the castle, carefully moving between shifting platforms and spinning flames. But then I get a power-up that lets me leap in the air, and I retrace my steps, hopping effortlessly over the platforms that caused me so much trouble earlier. It s classic Metroid-style progression, and it s really satisfying. Hopefully this theme continues throughout.
Even at this early stage it s surprisingly polished, and doesn t feel like a one-man project. The art is chunky and colourful, with impressive lighting. Flames throw dancing shadows on the walls; the boy s magic amulet casts a glow on his face. There s a real fidelity to the world, even if it is cartoonish. Old-school gamers will also appreciate the Spectrum-era game references littering the levels.
The controls are tricky to get your head around. The boy only moves in four directions, and they re relative to the orientation of the room. You ll push left to go forward, because that s where he s facing, only to walk off an edge and fall to your death. It s a curious control scheme, but I eventually got to grips with it.
The platforming starts out simple, but grows in complexity over time. One minute you re standing atop a ball rolling through a narrow maze suspended over a deadly drop. The next you re using fans to fire crates into the air and hopping over them. In one room a crate with eyes follows you around, love hearts popping out of its head. You have to lure it towards a raised platform, then use it as a step.
I ve only played a fraction of the 300 rooms, and the game is already brimming with ideas. The real test will be keeping this invention up for hundreds more locations.
Right now Lumo is a refreshingly simple, back-to-basics game. It exists purely to be a fun, challenging platformer, without a story or any of the other trappings of modern game design tainting its purity. I can t wait to play more.
Supporting my otherwise completely unsupportable theory that games are made by throwing darts into a wall of nouns, here's Rogue Invader. It's a 1-bit side-scrolling roguelike shooter. Yes, indeed. Distinctive visual gimmick aside, it's a robust sounding package—complete with minibosses, sidequests, procedural generation and weapon modification.
Here, for you, is a trailer:
The "1-bit HD" means the game is rendered through either black or white pixels—a bit like what Lucas Pope is doing with Return of the Obra Dinn. Here, though, you're upgrading weapons and killing aliens, rather than exploring a 19th century ship.
Despite the trailer's request to thumbs-up Rogue Invader's Steam Greenlight page, it has now been accepted onto the store. You can find more details at that aforementioned page. Rogue Invader is due out later this year.
Plenty of people still aren't sure what No Man's Sky is. We know all about the unprecedentedly huge, mathematically generated galaxy, but that isn't enough: people want objectives, and purpose! Hearing the demand, Hello Games founder Sean Murray visited IGN to explain some of the more 'game-y' aspects of No Man's Sky. You'll see the results in the video embedded above.
Some interesting points: weapons and ships will be procedurally generated, with Murray mentioning "hundreds of thousands" of possible variants. The game's user interface is very Destiny-centric, while mining for resources is as simple as shooting at them. Oh, and alien creatures will headbutt you to death if you're not careful, but you'd be silly to retalliate: robot sentries guarding each of the planets do not negotiate.
All the details are in the video above, but the greatest pleasure is just seeing more of the game in action. Personally, I can't wait to do absolutely nothing of consequence in a foreign galaxy.
You may recall a lengthy Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain gameplay demo rolled out during E3 last month. It's hard to convey the series' focus on freedom in a single playthrough, though, so Hideo Kojima has released another video of the same mission, played out in a different way. Don't worry though: there are still horses and cardboard boxes.
The only available video is the Japanese version at present, though I expect an English one to pop up soon. Matthew Pellett had hands-on with the game last month, noting that a stealth approach will require some restraint. "Those seeking the classic Metal Gear experience should know The Phantom Pain doesn t disappoint when it comes to corner-hiding, throat-stabbing espionage—but to play it in this manner requires some extreme restraint when the game is urging you to experiment with all it has to offer."
Cheers to VG247 for the heads up.
Ubisoft had a pretty rough 2014, but if you can cast your mind back further than the Assassin's Creed: Unity debacle, you'll remember people weren't too happy about Watch Dogs, either. Compared to the game's hype-building 2012 reveal, the graphics in the final build fell short of breathtaking. It's not a phenomenon unique to Ubisoft: many publishers show off idealistic vertical slices at game conventions to sate the market's appetite for bleeding edge tech, but the practice has proven damaging for Ubisoft, according to CEO Yves Guillemot.
In an interview with The Guardian, Guillemot said the publisher's E3 2015 showing deliberately featured gameplay footage playable on target machines, ie, systems they're optimising the game to actually run on.
With E3 2015 we said, OK, let s make sure the games are playable, that they re running on the target machines," Guillemot said.
"When we show something, we ask the team, make sure it s playable, make sure gamers can immediately see exactly what it is. That s what we learned from the Watch Dogs experience if it can t be played on the target machine, it can be a risk.
Guillemot also addressed the question of why Watch Dogs turned out the way it did, and why it was delayed.
"It s a real challenge to create those types of games, he said. When they come out, especially the first iterations, they are not perfect on everything. We think we launched a good quality game for a first step in a new brand with a new technology. It s just so complex seamless multiplayer, connectivity with mobile and tablets, so many things it was maybe a bit too much for a first iteration.
Despite all the fuss, Watch Dogs is actually a pretty decent game. "Creative hacking and covert multiplayer modes bring exciting new life to otherwise familiar open-world man-shooting," Christoper Livingston wrote in his review.
We write about FPSes each week in Triggernometry, a mixture of tips, esports, and a celebration of virtual marksmanship.
There s been at least one new Call of Duty game released every year since 2003. It s one of the most successful entertainment products in the world, with Modern Warfare 3 grossing a ludicrous 775 million dollars in five days. The number of discarded CoD-branded Doritos packages and Mountain Dew bottles could be stacked to the moon (probably, I don t know, just guessing). And yet you'd think no one likes it.
No matter what Call of Duty tries, as ESL associate producer Charles Watson pointed out in a tweet, it's met with hostility every year. CoD has a terrible image problem, especially on PC, where its concurrent player counts aren't keeping up with the competition (go try to find an Advanced Warfare match). I still enjoy new CoDs, as much as I criticize them, but it's safe to say that we're collectively tired of them. I don't know if Activision can win back the sort of admiration CoD had from 2003 to 2007.
I know what I would do, though. As someone who has never made a game and doesn't have any idea how to, I know exactly what I would do. To be exciting again, especially to PC gamers, Call of Duty has to stop being Call of Duty.
How I would ruin Call Of Duty
If I were directing a Call of Duty, I d start with a weird choice of writer. Mark Boal, who s known for The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty, and contributing to Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, is clearly a good writer, but I d go after someone like True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto (which I probably only say because grumpy Colin Farrell is fresh in my mind). Or I d hound Charlie Brooker (Screenwipe, Black Mirror), Fran Walsh (Dead Alive, The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit), Julie Taymor (Titus, Frida), or Bryan Fuller (a bunch of Star Trek, Pushing Daisies, Hannibal). I d get someone you wouldn t expect to write a war movie to write a war game.
And I d insist we say something more interesting about war than are you willing to rip out your lungs and replace them with cyberlungs? I d go to the Burma Campaign. Then the future. Then the First Barbary War. I d pull ideas from Spec Ops: The Line, The Thin Red Line, and other things with the line in their titles (except maybe Walk the Line, but some Johnny Cash couldn't hurt). I d kill every character with a speaking role. I'd break the fourth wall constantly. I'd make Leo Tolstoy a playable character. And then Leo Tolstoy would die in a space mission.
I d make sure my gameplay designers were willing to be weird, too. It's not enough to write an interesting story, but then put the players in tried-and-true 'guy whispers in your ear to take the one on the left' scenarios. Call of Duty campaigns are all 'do this' and 'do that,' but they're the most fun when they give me some room to move, where I can make my own decisions about how to handle a situation. We re not making a movie, I d write in big letters on a whiteboard, even though I hired a filmmaker to design the story. I d demand there be multiple solutions to every problem. I'd make not shooting anyone a viable option. We d miss every deadline. They d say I don t know how to make a game (I don t). I'd be fired.
But if I could keep going, I d bring the multiplayer back to the basics. Good ideas introduced in CoD 4—the ideas that had me obsessed with it for months—have been added to and iterated on and it's out of control. CoD 4 s unlock system was just about leveling. It was easy to set goals (I worked hard for the Barrett .50cal and was ecstatic when I unlocked it), and loadout decisions felt a lot more meaningful—they weren t overwhelming, at least. I'd probably write some stupid team-wide email about efficient game design.
Today s CoDs feel more like blood-soaked spin-cycles, and that sense of playing war has diminished.
I d slow it down, too. Ghosts' fast time-to-kill, crowded maps, and circular spawns weren t much fun for me. I was constantly taking a couple shots to the back with no time to dance, no window for a comeback (maybe I've gotten slower, to be fair). I used to play Team Hardcore in CoD 4, where lethal bullets were the point, but back then I felt like I had more room to maneuver. My favorite maps were Overgrown and Crossfire, where I had this sense of playing guerrilla warfare, hiding in grass or fighting my way down a street. Today s CoDs feel more like blood-soaked spin-cycles, and that sense of playing war has diminished.
I d make big maps—not Battlefield big, but bigger, more war-like and less arena-like. I d make them rectangular instead of round, sort of like in that first Medal of Honor reboot, which failed, yeah, but had some good ideas. I d include all kinds of ballistics modeling that no one wants. There wouldn t be any drones or system hacks. They'd tell me I have to include jetpacks, and I would say that I am but I totally wouldn't. Just guns, grenades, and the constant feeling that war is futile.
The end of CoD
At this point we re over a year late and well over-budget (it doesn t help that I hired David Lynch to write a dream sequence and insisted we motion capture an elephant). It s the first time Call of Duty has missed a year since 2003. Somehow, I haven t been fired, so I go on to make sure players can host their own custom dedicated servers. It s really important to multiplayer shooter communities that they have the chance to, you know, build communities, I say. And so is moddability. Look at the most-played shooters today: if they re not free-to-play, they re probably moddable. My game isn t going to go the way of Titanfall and Evolve. To hell with that. I insist we need to include a map editor and other mod tools, and we add another year or so to development.
By the time we're ready to reveal it, it's been a few years since any Call of Duty has released (assuming another developer didn t have one cooking, which they would have, but this is my design). It s now E3 2019, and investors are furious as I take the stage at some conference or other, but having waited so long, the players are eager to see what we've been doing.
This. Is. Call of Duty, I say to a rapt audience. There s an explosion of smoke. The lights shut off. A giant screen above the stage flickers on and we see the 3D rendered faces of Sigourney Weaver and Michael Keaton arguing about the UN Security Council or whatever, with interspersed scenes of soldiers past and present scrambling through mortar fire and screaming at the audacity of the sun for shining on them. We finally land on one soldier, bloody and bruised, reaching a vista of fire and smoke. "The people really aren't for war," we hear a woman say. It's Jeannette Rankin, the only US congressperson to vote against entering WWII. "They just go along." Inception horn. Explosions. Some dumb title like 'Call of Duty: Forever At War' fades in. The crowd cheers.
CoD: FaW releases in November to critical acclaim (the word masterpiece is used in every review). It's everyone's game of the year. Someone mods in all the maps and weapons from CoD 4 and Black Ops 2. Its concurrent player count dethrones League of Legends and Dota 2. Gabe Newell gifts me his knife collection as thanks for my contribution to video games. Activision lays off my 800-person team, and no one ever makes a Call of Duty again.
(Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 releases on November 6. The new multiplayer specialists look kind of cool.)
Windows 10 is expected to go RTM by Friday
The latest rumor surrounding the upcoming Windows 10 platform is that Microsoft plans to finalize the operating system by the end of the week. Currently, the most recent build of the Technical Preview is 10162, which was the third release in just a week that also saw the release of 10159 and 10158. That said, a few more builds could arrive before Microsoft stamps the Windows 10 RTM seal of approval by Friday.
News of the possible RTM build arrives after Microsoft s Terry Myerson revealed last week how Microsoft plans to roll out Windows 10. First on the list will be the RTM build for OEMs, so that they can load the platform on their new devices. After that, Microsoft plans to release a build to retailers across the globe. Participants in the Windows Insiders club won t see the finished build until launch day, June 29.
If you reserved your copy of Windows 10, we will notify you once our compatibility work confirms you will have a great experience, and Windows 10 has been downloaded on your system, Myerson said. If your system is not ready yet for your upgrade to Windows 10, we will provide more details during the upgrade experience.
According to a report from BetaNews, the most recent release spotted in the wild is Build 10176, which is supposedly undergoing testing as a RTM build. However, screenshots were leaked by Wzor surfaced on Sunday, based on Build 10163, and show not only the installation process but the Calendar app revealing an RTM sign-off date of July 9, 2015. Note that these screenshots could be fake, so take them with a grain of salt.
In a report on Monday, Windows watcher Paul Thurrott seemingly backed up claims that Windows 10 will go RTM this week. He suggested that OEMs will need the RTM build within days so that they can have Windows 10 on their new devices in time for the July 29 launch. Common sense tells us that Windows 10 will need to be finalized soon, he stated..
The big deal about Windows 10 is that Microsoft isn t releasing the platform and then immediately jumping on development of an upcoming service pack. Instead, the company is choosing to update Windows 10 on a regular basis with bug fixes and features. Windows 10 is essentially the last full release of an operating system from Microsoft.
Of course, the other big deal with Windows 10 is that it brings back the Start Menu. Even more, Windows Insiders have helped shape the platform, and that should be good news for consumers who aren t keen on Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. As we ve reported over the last several months, the Start Screen still exists; it s just turned off for Windows 10 desktop customers.
Microsoft plans to make Windows 10 free for an entire year to customers on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. The update will roll out in waves, so reserve your spot in the launch now.
The Star Wars: Battlefront alpha test videos we told you about last week have been removed by EA (which we kind of expected), but you can still feast your eyes on these 4K screenshots from an alpha battle on Hoth, posted on AllGamesBeta.
These are "Star Wars Battlefront Closed Alpha Hoth Multiplayer 4K Ultra Settings Screens," as AGB succinctly put it, which essentially means that they're as sexy as they can possibly be. There is literally no other information about them on the site, but what else do you really need to know? Check out the full gallery, which by my quick count is 31 images in total, at allgamesbeta.com.
CD Projekt has announced that a "very large update" in the form of version 1.07 is coming soon to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The patch will add a new movement response mode for Geralt, make a number of changes to the inventory system, and give Roach a bit of a tune-up.
A closer look at what's coming:
- A new, alternative (optional) movement response mode for Geralt.
- A player stash for storing items, available in various locations throughout the game. Stash locations are marked on the player's map.
- Crafting and alchemy components no longer add to the overall inventory weight.
- Books are now placed in a dedicated tab in the Inventory and books that have already been read are properly grayed out.
- Multiple sorting options are now available in the Inventory.
- Alchemy formulas and crafting diagrams can be "pinned", meaning all components and ingredients required to make them will be conveniently marked in the Shop panel.
- Dozens of fixes for quest related issues, both major and minor.
- A few performance enhancements, including the optimization of FX, scenes and general gameplay.
- Various improvements to horse behavior.
CD Projekt didn't get into how the new "movement response mode" will actually work, but Marcin Momot explained that it's intended to address complaints about how Geralt handles in the game. "Some players have been reporting that Geralt's responsiveness was not up to their preferences so we are introducing a toggle to switch between two types of responsiveness," he wrote. "Once you play it, you'll be able to choose the one that fits you better." It's a selectable option, he added separately, so that players who prefer the old system (or are at least used to it) aren't forced to endure unnecessary changes.
The only downside to the patch is that the studio has been so focused on getting it finished on time that there won't be any free DLC this week. A detailed breakdown of what the 1.07 update will entail will be released later this week.