Shacknews - Steve Watts

Good news, CCG fans. Elder Scrolls: Legends, Bethesda's take on the digital collectible card game, is available on iPad. You can find it on the App Store now. Like many of its competitors in the digital CCG space, it's free-to-play with optional packs to purchase. You can get three free packs for linking or signing up for a Bethesda account.

As a longtime Hearthstone player, I've been eager to try out Elder Scrolls: Legends too, but I opted to wait until it was available on iPad. Those familiar with Blizzard's CCG will find it pretty easy to jump in, though ESL has some notable differences. Most strikingly, it splits most battles into two lanes, forcing you to make strategic choices to balance two separate battle areas. You can also choose upgrade paths for cards as they level up, and an extensive story mode grants some basic cards and choices. It has a different enough flavor that I can see playing splitting my time between both, giving me one more daily game to check in on.

Elder Scrolls: Legends isn't wasting any time with expansion plans. As previously reported, a new standalone story called The Fall of the Dark Brotherhood is coming on April 5 for $19.99. That will introduce 40 new cards, along with a new keyword called "Slay" that rewards you for killing an opposing creature. Very thematic for the famous assassin's guild. You can check out some of the cards coming in the Dark Brotherhood set now on the official site.

The timing will likely pit the first expansion for Elder Scrolls: Legends directly against Hearthstone's next expansion, Journey to Un'Goro, which is scheduled for sometime in early April. You can read my ongoing card reviews leading up to that release.

Elder Scrolls: Legends came out of beta on PC earlier this month, and it will come to Android tablets next month, followed by Mac OS in May and iOS and Android phones in the summer.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

The Disney Afternoon Collection is a nostalgic trip back to the NES heyday, when Capcom's deal with Disney resulted in some of the most polished 8-bit platformers around. The collection, which packages Darkwing Duck, Talespin, both DuckTales and both Chip 'n Dale games, is coming to PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on April 18 for $19.99. Shacknews talked with John Faciane, associate producer, about the ins and outs of revisiting the classics.

Where did the genesis of this idea come from, to group these games together?

I joined the team at Capcom in July 2016 and this project was already in motion. As I came on to the project in the producer role, there were several different combinations of games being considered, but we kept coming back to what we knew fans wanted. Darkwing Duck, DuckTales, DuckTales 2, TaleSpin, Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers, and Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers 2 have been the 8-bit titles that fans ask us about, especially following the release of Mega Man Legacy Collection. Since these were all games based on TV shows that aired during the Disney Afternoon programming block it seemed like a natural fit once we looked at the project as a whole. What can you tell us about Digital Eclipse's work, and what you learned about it from the Mega Man Legacy Collection?

The Eclipse Engine effectively decompiles the game data and rebuilds it into a different programming language for new platforms. This process preserves everything from the original games as they played on their original consoles, including frame rate quirks and flickering that those of us who grew up playing these games experienced.

Digital Eclipse has been focused on NES classics so far. Has there been any thought given to expanding these retro collections to other platforms?

One of the things I enjoyed about working with Frank Cifaldi and the team over at Digital Eclipse is that they are passionate about preserving games for future generations. With The Disney Afternoon Collection and Mega Man Legacy Collection, they have helped us share a large part of our gaming history with new and returning fans, and celebrate the impact that this era and these games had on gamers. At this time though there are no plans beyond what we have announced with The Disney Afternoon Collection.

The name is very consciously a signal to people who grew up watching those afternoon cartoons. What went into that angle for presenting the collection in this particular way?

I was one of those kids who grew up watching these cartoons. I even had the DuckTales bed sheets and comforter set as a kid! This collection will definitely be enjoyed by kids that grew up during that time. The biggest thing we wanted to emphasize in the presentation of this collection is the celebration of the era, which many consider to be the golden age of Disney television animation.

As those of us who were born in the mid to late 80s are getting older, we’ve become more and more nostalgic for our childhood, so one of the ways I’ve been able to satiate my hunger for nostalgia has been to work on this collection. Probably the first thing you will notice immediately upon booting up the collection is the color scheme. The early 90s were all about bright colors and geometric shapes. You see it everywhere when you look at media and fashion from this time period. One of the biggest influences on the art design of this project has been early 90s pop culture. I really think you’ll get that feeling when browsing the collection, especially if you grew up during that time.

What unexpected challenges have you faced while porting these games, many of them for the first time in years?

Accessibility is probably the biggest challenge in every sense of the word. All of these games are out of print and some of them are very rare. In the early stages of production, I looked around on the internet for fun to see about how much you would need to pay for all six of the cartridges and it was well over $500, with DuckTales 2 alone coming in at around $200.

The other aspect of accessibility is like most 8-bit games of that era, they were known to be challenging. With that in mind, we looked into ways we could make these more accessible for new players and worked with the team at Digital Eclipse to add features to the collection such as the ability to create Save States and use the Rewind feature to allow players to go back in time before making a mistake.

Some fans have suggested this collection would be a good fit on handheld systems like Switch, 3DS, and Vita. Are you keeping an eye on those platforms as possibilities?

Unfortunately, I don’t have any news to share at this time, but please know that we are listening and we value the wonderful feedback we get from our fans.

Shacknews - David Craddock

Diverse skills and blasters set to kill are a powerful combination, but good defense is just as critical as a good offense in Mass Effect Andromeda. A good set of armor not only bolsters your defensive capabilities, but can look fashionable as well. This guide will help you suit up Scott and Sara Ryder, and instruct you on ways to customize and choose armor based on where your missions take you.

Creating New Armor

Your spaceship, the Tempest, plays host to all sorts of powerful tools and equipment. One of those is the Research and Development area, where you can forge myriad types of armor. Head to the Tempest's research room to begin the R&D phase.

Here, Data Points act as a currency. You need the proper amount of Data Points to research armor and other items if you want to create them. Acquire points by scanning objects. The more scanning you do, the more points you earn. Once you've got the requisite amount, research it in the research area, then head over to the development section to forge your new set of armor.

Equipping Armor

With your armor fresh off the assembly line, you can equip it via the Loadout Menu. Open the Loadout Menu by leaving the Tempest and setting foot on the surface of a planet. That the menu appears at this juncture is the game's way of telling you to prepare yourself for the environment ahead. The Loadout Menu serves numerous functions. You can equip or unequip weapons, pack consumables for your opening excursion, and change in and out of armor.

If you're not ready to depart the Tempest, there's another, simpler way to check out your armor. Go to the bridge of your ship and hang a left. You'll enter a tiny room where you can access loadout options similar to the menu. Go through weapons, armor, and other items at your leisure.

Customizing Armor

One size fits any Ryder, but you can change the color of any outfit to suit your tastes. Make your way into the Pathfinder's Quarters, approach the wardrobe, and interact with it to activate the Wardrobe Menu. Take your time tailoring the color of outfit. When you're ready to model it, equip it by pressing X on PlayStation 4, or A if you're playing on Xbox One or PC.

Now that you've personalized your duds, read our guides on romancing characters, or peruse our general guides for strategies as well as info on re-specing, scanning planets, and more.

Shacknews - David Craddock

Scanning planets is a long-standing tradition of the Mass Effect series, and Mass Effect: Andromeda continues the trend. Although scanning returns, it works differently for Scott and Sara Ryder than it did for Commander Shepherd and her (or his) crew. In fact, it's even easier. This guide will teach you the fundamentals of scanning planets, as well as performing personal scans.

How to Scan Planets in Mass Effect: Andromeda

Scanning planets was a chore in previous Mass Effect titles. You had to work your way through section by section to turn up minerals and other goodies, like combing a beach with a metal detector. Fortunately, Andromeda streamlined scanning.

Suvi—one of your companions and a potential love interest for Fem Ryder—will speak up when she detects something worth scanning on a planet. Simply activate the scanner by pressing LT on Xbox One and PC, or L2 on PS4. A red ring appears like an "X" on a treasure map, acting as a beacon to wear an item can be found. If no ring appears, just move on; there's nothing on the planet worth finding, at least in terms of loot.

You should be able to pick out items as you scan; most of them stick out. Your scanner in conjunction with your own eyeballs will guide you to your findings, which usually end up being experience points or crafting materials. Once you zero in on your target, press LT or LT again to dispatch a probe that harvests the goodies for you.

How to Use Personal Scans in Mass Effect: Andromeda

Personal scans are just as efficient as planetary scans. When you approach something interesting, your controller will vibrate and a notification will appear in the lower-left corner of your screen. Personal scanning is done by pressing A on Xbox One and PC, or X if you're playing on PS4.

Always take advantage of opportunities to do personal scans. You'll earn research credits that go toward crafting and other upgrades or, if you're on a mission, will progress further along the line of objectives you're supposed to complete.

Bushed after a busy day scanning rocks? Romance a character during your downtime aboard the Tempest, or check out our collection of other Mass Effect: Andromeda guides for other tips and tactics. 

Shacknews - Greg Burke

This week on Shack's Arcade Corner we take a look back at Virtua Fighter, the classic arcade fighting game. This game is widely heralded as the first fighter to bring polygons to the arcade. The game also created 3D gameplay mechanics such as knocking your opponent off the level for the win. One interesting tidbit about the arcade cabinet is that it contained parts made by Lockheed Martin, the defense contractor. We definitely have fond memories of trying to be king of this arcade cabinet back in the day. Check out this video to find out more about the iconic arcade classic that is Virtua Fighter. 

For more videos, including gameplay and interviews, visit the Shacknews and GamerHub.tv YouTube channels.

If you have a suggestion for a future episode of Shack's Arcade Corner, please let us know in the comments section or tweet @shacknews & @GregBurke85 with #ArcadeCorner.

Shacknews - David Craddock

While many love interests in Mass Effect Andromeda are exclusive to either Scott or Sara Ryder, Keri T'Vessa is down to party with either. Better yet, she comes with no strings attached. You can carry on a fling with her even if you're tied to another romance that demands exclusivity, and she can be courted without completing Loyalty Missions first.

How to Romance Keri T'Vessa

Keri T'Vessa is an asari journalist—known as a vidmaker in Mass Effect Andromeda parlance—interested in interviewing you about your exploits and topical events in the galaxy. You can meet her after beginning the mission Path of a Hero, a line of missions that culminates with Keri joining Ryder's romantic lineup.

Begin by talking to Director Tann and then to Addison. You should receive an email directing you to Keri. She camps out in the Common Area of the Nexus. Talk to her and flirt whenever the option arises.

You'll get more opportunities to talk with Keri after finishing two priority ops: A Better Beginning, and A Trail of Hope. Talk to her in the Common Area after completing a mission continue flirting. The final step involves checking off one more priority op, titled The Journey to Meridian. Go to her, flirt, and select the option to take things further. Keri has no problems hooking up with Ryder on the side, so don't let being in a committed relationship stand in your way.

Finding (More) Love in Mass Effect Andromeda

Whether you're looking for commitment or a no-strings-attached fling, Mass Effect Andromeda brims with characters looking for love. Refer to our guides to learn how to romance other characters, and bookmark our Mass Effect Andromeda guide hub for all sorts of tips, tricks, and tactics. 

Shacknews - David Craddock

Of Mass Effect Andromeda's many romanceable characters, Suvi is one of the most susceptible to Ryder's charms. The catch is that she'll only respond to Sara Ryder, the female twin. If you chose to walk in Scott's space boots, you'll need to look elsewhere for love.

How to Romance Suvi

Assuming you're playing as Fem Ryder, begin Suvi's romance quest line, head onto your ship, the Tempest, and take a walk along the bridge. You should see Suvi hanging out near the galaxy map. Chat with her and choose "I could show you," a flirtatious option.

Suvi's interested, but only just getting warmed up. You'll get to turn up the heat after colonizing Prodromos, the first colony in need of Ryder's help on Eos. Board the Tempest and return to the bridge, where you'll find Suvi waiting. When the dialogue option "We should chat on this more" comes up, select it.

You'll have to take an interlude from romancing Suvi to complete the mission titled A Trail of Hope. As always, go back to the Tempest's bridge a third time. Talk to Suvi and say "You're not alone" when the option becomes available.

At this point, you're close to sealing the deal. Embark on the mission Hunting the Archon and make your way back to Suvi, who's in her usual spot. You will be able to commit to Suvi, but locking down her heart bars you from wooing anyone else. Seal the deal by completing the mission The Journey to Meridian, then reading an email from Suvi. You will only receive this email if you agreed to see her exclusively.

Once you're done reading Suvi's email, enter the Nexus and make trails to the Tech Lab. Suvi is waiting for you there. Interact with her and follow the prompts to initiate the romance scene.

Just because you and Suvi are "going steady," as the kids back on earth used to say, doesn't mean you have to take yourself off the market for a fling. Check out the rest of our Mass Effect Andromeda romance guides to get other characters swooning, and visit our guide hub for more tips, strategies, and walkthroughs.

Shacknews - John Keefer

It looks like a small piece of foam can fix the desyncing issues of the left Joy-Con controller for the Nintendo Switch, used to better insulate the onboard Bluetooth wireless antennae form RF interference. Nintendo provided the fix when a faulty Joy-Con was returned as part of the warranty. Nintendo has finally acknowledged the issue, sort of, and is starting to officially deal with it.

What the company offered was more of a "Nothing to See Here" rather than a mea culpa.

"There is no design issue with the Joy-Con controllers, and no widespread proactive repair or replacement effort is underway," Nintendo said in a statement to Kotaku. "A manufacturing variation has resulted in wireless interference with a small number of the left Joy-Con. Moving forward this will not be an issue, as the manufacturing variation has been addressed and corrected at the factory level. We have determined a simple fix can be made to any affected Joy-Con to improve connectivity."

This "manufacturing variation" has appeared in numerous press units, including our own, prompting many stories on the issue. If press units had the problem, it is highly likely more than a "small number" of consumer controllers had it as well. Nintendo, however, maintains that there could be additional issues unrelated to the Joy-Con design that may be causing trouble.

"There are other reasons consumers may be experiencing wireless interference. We are asking consumers to contact our customer support team so we can help them determine if a repair is necessary," Nintendo said. If a repair is warranted, the company has said it will repair the Joy-Cons free of charge, with a turn-around time of roughly a week.

Nintendo seems to be downplaying the issue, whether because it is, in truth, a minor thing, or it just doesn't want to put a damper on the huge initial success the Switch has had since its March 3 debut. This is a hardware issue and not firmware, and as with any potential hardware problems, a recall could be in order. That would affect upward of two million Joy-Cons shipped with the consoles, and not even including those sold as extras. That could end up being costly for Nintendo, at least until it can start a new production run with the fix implemented.

Depending on how quickly it addresses this issue on the manufacturing side, the company could also calculate how long it expects before its initial, faulty stock is sold out. That may necessitate extending the warranty for those impacted, similar to Microsoft's warranty extension after its Red Ring problem was discovered to be fairly widespread.

Of course, if Nintendo wanted to be generous to the point of making the story a positive one, it could give online store credit or a free game from the eShop as a proactive mea culpa. Online plans for the Switch should be revealed soon, and while it will be free at the start, it could offer that promotion a longer period. All are viable options.

Nintendo owes its supporters something, because in truth, the company brought this on itself. It had months to test the hardware in home conditions before it was released. We'll likely never know if desyncing ever reared its ugly head in tests. If it didn't, it could be because Nintendo knew to always keep the controllers close to the Switch so the Bluetooth signal was unimpeded, or didn't test it in real-world home conditions where RF interference was more likely.

Even if that is the case, it doesn't matter as a company should test its units as thoroughly as the fans will once they get it in their hands. This is not the fiasco level of tone deafness that was the Xbox 360's Red Ring. This isn't an arrogant mistake, although the official statement is less than satisfying, but it is still a mistake that was preventable. Nintendo has shown just how easily fixable it is, and how it should have been handled from the start. 

Shacknews - David Craddock

If you didn't expect to enjoy Doom's take on narrative arcs and character development as you did, much less rave about it as one of the best game stories of 2016, you weren't alone. Creative director Hugo Martin came to the project with a skill set perfectly suited to changing the fan base's perception of what a Doom story could be. Martin, along with executive producer Marty Stratton and writer Adam Gascoine, were largely responsible for shaping the game's story. Martin got his start in games, spent time in Hollywood contributing to blockbusters such as 2013's Pacific Rim, then bounced back to the games business and landed his job at id Software.

I've been interviewing Hugo Martin and executive producer Marty Stratton for a larger feature on Doom. In that context, we got to talking about subjects not far removed from pulling off glory kills and replenishing ammo by carving through demons with chainsaws. This extract from my talks with Martin touches on cinematic experiences in games, the storytelling lessons he picked up from working in Hollywood, and how comic books informed Doom's visuals and narrative.


A lot of producers talk about crafting a "cinematic experience" in a game. You've actually crafted cinematic experiences in cinema. Do you find that "cinematic experiences" so often boil down to watching two characters stand around and talk? I like when games make use of storytelling devices unique to the medium—that is, actually playing the game. I wondered what your take was as someone who's told stories in both formats.

Throughout my career I was bouncing back and forth, and I started in games, plus I'm a huge gamer. I definitely understand the medium... I mean, I like to think I do. [laughs] I find my film background and my passion for films to be very useful. We're going for feelings. That's basically it. In the film medium, you've got different limitations and different things you can do. And obviously in games you have a whole different set of limitations.

It's funny. I agree with you: I like games like Bloodborne so much because it doesn't really stop me. I don't necessarily want to be stopped if I don't have to be. It's got to be a pretty good story in a video game for me to want to sit there and watch people talk. And what's really funny about that is that's not really a good thing. How many times are you going to sit there and watch two people have a conversation? The main character of the film is going to watch people have a conversation? That's pretty rare.

In games, it's just because of the way the medium works. You tend to end up doing that a lot. I think what you see in film, and what we can learn from film, is you take a film like Michael Clayton—that movie uses the same type of efficiency that we tried to use in Doom. It's giving you so much information but does it in such an efficient way. I think the best kind of storytelling is when you don't even really realize you're being told a story. I think we all get pissed off in games and movies when you can feel it: "It's story time! I'm six years old again, and the teacher's got the book out and she's explaining everything to me. Oh my god. I'm so bored."

My favorite kind of storytelling is when I don't even notice it's happening. I think for the most part, that's what we tried to do with Doom. Whether or not we did that successfully, I'll leave that up to the fans. There is a tremendous amount of storytelling going on in Doom, and very little of it has to do with people telling you stuff. The story of Doom is: we want the player to feel like a badass. That's it. That's the story of Doom. It's a combination of progression in the game, the weapons, the few things people say to you, their reaction to you. There's even more stuff in the codecs if you choose to read or listen to it.

All of it has one goal in mind: Doom 2016 is doing its damnedest to make you feel strong. If we had 10 dollars, we'd spend eight of it on combat, a dollar on something else, and one dollar left for the story. All of that money would be spent on making you feel like a badass.

With my film background, you look at films that do well, and you pull out of it what you can and try to apply it to your game. One thing about my film background that I think helps me, and it's kind of an attitude that we have here, is: there's never enough time, there's never enough money, to do the thing you really want to do. There's this "Let's figure out a way to get it done" attitude in film that I love.

Think about all the making-of stories. Like Empire Strikes Back: it's a bunch of kids in a garage, and they're pulling off the best effects the world had ever seen. The matte paintings for the Hoth scenes are made by some kid who never even worked on a film before. They were some of the best Hoth paintings the world had ever seen. That's the kind of attitude that I really wanted the team to have: this roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-it-done. We love to make two dollars look like 20. Just being really smart about it.

Take James Cameron on Aliens. He wants 20 aliens in suits; the studio says, "You have a budget for seven or eight." The way he figures out to make seven or eight aliens look like 20 is, what they actually look like is total shit, but to the audience, they look amazing on film. He gets really clever: "Okay, that doesn't look as good as we want. Let's put some smoke here. Let's turn down the lights. Let's keep action going."

That's really what working on a game or movie is like when it's at its best. That's the fun. The box is always too small. I think the attitude in film is, learn how to pack as much shit as you can into that box. I think some of the best work that Ridley Scott ever did was, he didn't have enough money to make the sets in Alien look the way he wanted to, so he started turning off lights and filling the room with smoke. He created a visual style that to this day is... I mean, come on. What looks better than Blade Runner or Aliens? And that was born out of him not having enough resources to do what he wanted to do.

The box was too small. Those restrictions that are put on creative people, that's where innovation comes through. Honestly, innovation is why we do this. It's so exciting to work with a team, and there's this camaraderie that comes out of it when you're figuring out a way to put something that's way too big into the box you have—and then you actually figure out a way to do it, and the audience is like, "Holy..." Their perception of the box is way bigger than it is. That's what gets me up in the morning.

That's a film attitude, but certainly they've been doing that in games for [decades]. The truth is, nobody has enough money. Everybody's box is too small. Even Apple's box is too small. I think we look at Apple products and think, Oh my god, they have unlimited resources. Everybody's got a schedule, everybody's got a deadline to meet, and that makes the box smaller than you want, but I think the best teams embrace the box.

I'm not as much of a film buff as you are, but I am interested in learning about how movies are made. I've found that I gravitate toward films that were made with practical effects. Take, as an example, the original Star Wars trilogy and the prequels. Whether someone loves the prequels or hates them, there are stark differences between the creative processes.

I think that James Cameron in Avatar pretty much showed you what he can do when his box is bigger, and it was pretty fucking spectacular. Some of my favorite things in art—art being film, games, fine art, illustrations, whatever—I think the best decisions you make, as a creative person, is the stuff that you leave out of the image.

Those are usually what make the parts that you left in even more powerful, because you're giving the audience an opportunity to participate in the image, or the game, or the story. I'll use Doom as an example. The game itself did not allow for us to expand on the story of the Doom Slayer and some of the lore as much as we... I wouldn't say "wanted to," but "could have." Not only did we have resource limitations, we had time limitations. We also had the fact that the race car wasn't built for that. I don't think that's what people wanted from Doom. [Author's note: Martin and the development team at id Software use a race car/race track analogy for Doom's player-character and levels, respectively.]

So what we did was, we edited, edited, edited. We gave you Part A of the story, and Part C of the story, and we asked you to figure out Part B. In my opinion, that's the best way to go about it. You're basically making me, as an audience member, sit up in my chair and participate and figure it out. That's what I find to be the most engaging approach.

What happens when your box gets really big and you have CG... let's take visuals for example. My biggest problem with the [Star Wars] prequels is I can see everything. It's almost like I want to go in there and say, "Okay, I know we modeled all this shit. I know it was all designed and we spent a lot of money on the Jedi Temple, but for Christ's sake, can somebody turn off some lights and give this room some style?"

And I know why they did that. "That carpet? We paid a lot of money for that carpet. That stuff on the wall? That was really expensive. I want to see this creature fully lit from every angle because we spent two months making this thing in CG." And I'm like, dude, I don't want to see this whole thing. The analogy that I use—it's a concept I taught to my students—is when someone is telling you a story, and they're telling you every single detail. Hey, how was that movie? "Okay, so the credits started. Then it said, 'Directed by...' Jesus Christ, dude. You're killing me.

A really good storyteller edits and only hits the high points, and then you paint a picture in your mind to fill in the rest of the story. That's how you entertain people. That's true, in my opinion, for games, for painting, for film. And a lot of times, as in our case, that was a result of our box being too small to fit stuff in, so we let the audience fill in the blanks. Ultimately, that creates a higher level of audience participation. It's more engaging that way.

When we look back on Alien, for example, a lot of times [Ridley Scott] shut the lights off because stuff didn't look that good. But, my god, tell me you don't fill in the blanks on Blade Runner so much. It's just smoke and silhouettes with hints of detail, but that is the greatest depiction of a futuristic city to this day. Honestly. Maybe Fifth Element, but I'd like somebody to show me a better depiction of a futuristic city than Blade Runner.

I've taken screen shots of every inch of that film to do film study, lighting—to really understand it. When you take a screen shot [of Blade Runner], it's amazing how little information is really on-screen. It's all implied. It's all silhouettes, and your mind is filling in the blanks. The story that you create in your head is always going to be better than the one I write down for you. No one's a better director than you, that's for sure.

If you allow your audience to participate in your game's story and your game's visual, it's going to be more compelling because what they fill in the blanks with is always going to be the coolest thing for them. Honestly, that was a bit of a debate for us on Doom 2016. The difference is in games, you have to see your objective. The reason why I came to games is because I love games, and I find making games to be extremely compelling. You just heard me rant about movies and art for 10 minutes, but I'm never going to put that stuff above gameplay. Gameplay rules the roost around here.

I might run the kitchen, and Marty runs the restaurant, but fun is the boss. Fun runs the show around here. [Doom] is a video game, so gameplay first. But when it came to visuals, I very much wanted to use that Ridley Scott approach of smoke and silhouettes when possible. Now, that became a challenge. On a film set—I worked at Blur for many years—some environment artist is going to model every detail of an environment, and it's very difficult to turn around and say to him, "Yeah, we're going to shut lights off and put a bunch of smoke in there, and they won't really see it." He's going to be like, "Then why am I here?"

That tends to be a bit of a struggle, so whenever possible we try to use that Ridley Scott approach to make [Doom] more suggestive. It's a bit of a balance in video games. I want to see my objectives. Gameplay first, art second. We're always going back and forth on that, but it's all about audience participation for me.

My favorite moment in video game storytelling over the last three years—and I won't talk about our game because that would be obnoxious—in Bloodborne, there's a woman in a white dress in one of the levels. I think it's in the last level before the last boss. She's standing there staring up at the boss arena you're going to enter, and she doesn't say anything, and she's bloody. The story I have in my head of who that girl is—I have a whole thing built up in my head that that's the wife of the boss you fight at the end, and the boss is all disfigured, and... It's a great story! I want to write it down. [laughs] But I love the fact that it's my story. Bloodborne, very similarly to Doom, is kind of like, don't tell me the whole story; let me figure it out.

Bloodborne is a good example. I love all of the SoulsBorne games, and what I like about their approach to lore is when you find a sword on a corpse, that sword wasn't placed arbitrarily. That corpse wasn't there by chance. But you don't have to care about that. You can read the weapon's description, or you can just equip it and go back to killing bad guys. Doom was like that. I read all the monuments about the Doom Slayer, but a friend didn't, and he never missed a beat.

And they felt like a badass. I think that's a story that you both got, but you have a little more context as to exactly what kind of badass you are. That's what I like. We said, "Let's give them the option." Personally, as a fanboy, I very much enjoy digging into that stuff. I want to read about every aspect of the stuff I'm into. We leave that open for the player. If you want more context, you can find it.

I gave a talk at a game lab conference in Barcelona about this. When it comes to audience participation, if you look at some of the great pieces of art in history and you think about those images, they're doing the same thing. Comic books are the obvious ones. How many comic books use heavy blacks? A lot of stuff falls into shadow, and you're just catching a little bit of information and [a glimpse] of characters standing there. Pretty much every cool Batman poster ever is like that.

I was actually thinking of Batman.

Completely, right? Some of the best Frank Miller images are like that, and some of the best Batman images are like that. My mind fills in the rest. I think that's why those images are so cool. I think it's a really powerful concept. I like experiencing art in that way, and I like making art like that.

My favorite depiction of Batman is from The Animated Series where he's just a shadow with glowing white eyes.

Totally! Or the Ninja Turtles when they do that. It's the coolest thing. I actually like the [Star Wars] prequels. I realize I'm in the minority, and I totally agree with people's issues with them. What I like about the prequels compared to the originals—obviously I like both—but I think George [Lucas] swung for the fences. There's a lot of really cool stuff. In a half-hour's worth of any of the prequels, there are new ships, new characters, new ideas that I really like.

With Force Awakens, and I think that's a great film, but there aren't as many new ideas being introduced. But one thing is that when I close my eyes and think about the pros and cons of the prequels, it's too fucking bright. There's just too much information. I can see too much stuff. They don't leave enough to the imagination.


Related Articles: - Why Doom won the Shacknews 2016 Game of the Year award.- Shack's review of Doom

Shacknews - Steve Watts

For a time, Apple's iPad seemed like the future of personal computing, as well as a strong third pillar to its burgeoning business of selling computers and (mostly) phones. In more recent years, the iPad has floundered, as the company struggled to find just how the tablet fits into its ecosystem. Yesterday, in deeds more than words, Apple confirmed it. The iPad is struggling, and Cupertino doesn't know what to do with it anymore.

Yesterday's announcement wasn't delivered with a flashy presentation and a winning smile. The Apple store went down for a few hours, and then went back up with some new products. This isn't unheard of for product revisions, like the also-announced Product Red iPhones. But this was the unveiling of the new line of iPad and iPad Pro. I would have expected fanfare and a touting of new whiz-bang features, but we saw none of that.

Maybe that's because the new line simply doesn't have new features. This was a hardware revision, unaccompanied by a software update that makes even older iPads feel new. That's understandable to a point. iOS11 is surely coming later this year. But even in terms of hardware, this revision was fairly minor. 

Sales of iPad have been slumping. CBS reports that shipments of the iPad have decreased for the last 12 quarters in a row. Industry watchers have attributed the slump to any number of factors, from the longevity of an iPad to the increased power and screen size of phones. They've tended to last consumers 5-6 years instead of 2-3, making them more akin to a standard Mac laptop or desktop than a cell phone. The Pro and Mini have both failed to catch on, as simply making the device larger or smaller isn't enough of a hardware distinction to spur new sales.

Cupertino seems caught in an infinite loop. Without strong sales, it has no reason to invest heavily in development of new hardware features. Without new hardware features, consumers have no reason to upgrade. 

That isn't to say the product announcement didn't have anything new to announce. The new iPad line is simpler, with less confusion over the difference between an iPad and an Air. The starting device gets a bigger, brighter screen and a faster chip as cribbed from its successful iPhone. Plus, as a company notorious for its "Apple Tax," the sharp price reduction comes as a surprise. The new iPad starts at $329, undercutting competitors from Sony and Samsung.

These are solid, market-facing decisions. But Apple, a company that has avoided seeming too professorial in explaining its business interests, doesn't tend to make its announcements in the context of the bottom line. Apple's public face is about capturing a sense of wonder, and trusting that the magic–along with its legion of fans–will do the rest. This particular revision was short on magic, and long on practical business decisions, and those simply aren't the image Apple likes to project.

Instead, Apple frames its hardware in lofty terms. This is why its take on the tablet was presented as the future of personal computing. If Apple still does believe in that vision of the future, though, it didn't show yesterday. We can only hope that it will treat the iPad line with more reverance than the iPod. It completely ignored the 15th anniversary of the iPod last year.

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