What do you do after helping craft some of the cuddliest, most heartwarming games of this past generation? If you're the guys at Ambient Studios—some of whom worked at Media Molecule on the big-hearted LittleBigPlanet games—it's making a game about Death and the horrors of the bubonic plague.
Death Inc. imagines shuffling off the mortal coil as an industry and tasks players with killing as many people as they can in 17th Century England. You control Grim T. Livingstone, a freelance Reaper running a small business as he competes in soul harvesting against the Minsitry of Mortality. Despite the grim subject matter, cartoony concept art from the in-development game seems to be lighthearted in he same vein as LBP. In fact, it look a little like Tearaway, the delightful Vita game that Media Molecule is currently working on.
Ambient is promising a streamlined strategy experience which, combined with the lovely looks of Death Inc., sounds great. They're launching a Kickstarter to finish up development and are currently saying the game will be out for PC and Mac.
Update: Because there seems to be some confusion, Death Inc. isn't being made by Media Molecule. Ambient Studios is a small, independent dev team made up of people who used to work at Media Molecule, Lionhead and EA.
Etsy user GeekifyInc created this custom case, so you can convert your iPad into one of the most recognizable Daedric items in Skyrim, the Oghma Infinium. You'll just have to fork over $68.95 if you want to buy it.
The original in-game item looks suspiciously similiar to the case. Let's hope no elves were harmed during the creation.
in-game image via The Elder Scrolls Wiki
I refuse to believe for a single second that any of the reviews under Amazon's Grant Crime Auto: Ice City listing actually paid $3.99 for such an obvious fake. I cannot afford to have my faith in human intelligence damaged any further.
Pointed out by Kotaku reader rh_underhill, Grant Crime Auto: Ice City's description on Amazon reads like the description of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City with some pertinent bits changed. That's because it's the iOS description for Grand Theft Auto: Vice City with some pertinent bits changed. For instance, "Welcome back to the 1980s" now reads "Welcome back to the 2000s." Feels like we never left, doesn't it?
The screenshots are from Gameloft's Gangstar: Miami Vindication, which certainly has a bit of a Vice City vibe to it.
I've pinged Gameloft to see how that makes them feel. They are aware of the issue and are taking steps to have the listing taken down.
In the meantime, heed the warning of the unfortunate folks that purchased this expecting a GTA clone but discovering themselves with 16.7 megs of sub-par grand prix game instead: "this is a game that it is already been made. this is a f***in scamper. the real game is gangster Miami vendication. so if I was amazon I would delete this game because it is a piece of bull s***. don't buy this game."
Let Dave Fennoy, Lee's voice actor in The Walking Dead and Gabriel Tosh's voice actor in StarCraft II, excite you for our next live Q&A.
It's happening tomorrow at 1pm Eastern time.
All signs last year pointed to a project that was mothballed as soon as the ill-fated "Million Dollar Challenge" (which returns this year) threw its last pitch in May. MLB 2K13 never appeared on any list of games Take-Two Interactive planned to release this year, as sure a sign as any that the game was dead. Months of reporting MLB 2K's death practically as fact went unaddressed by either 2K Sports or Take-Two. The game got one (1) title update, the free one that Microsoft gives everybody, and that was it. An email I sent to one of its lead designers bounced as undeliverable three weeks after MLB 2K12 hit shelves, which told me enough. This game was mothballed.
Take-Two Interactive had, for years, been telling Major League Baseball what their position was on publishing another game, in an almost leave-it-or-take-it way. MLB said, "We'll take it." It appears that the league could not accept the diminished prestige of having no presence on the Xbox 360 for this year. And the terms of the semi-exclusive pact it struck back in 2005, which delivered enormous riches to MLB Advanced Media, now hamstrung it from striking a deal with a new developer in time to have a game on shelves this year. It's likely no other developer was willing to make a game under any terms, what with a new console generation likely to be announced at E3 this year. Anyone looking to compete with MLB The Show is looking to catch that game flatfooted during the hardware changeover.
I bring all that up because two things I wanted to ask 2K, though they'd likely not answer, is the length of this licensing agreement and whether it has any exclusive component. My guess is one year (maybe two), and no. Take-Two Interactive, the label's parent company, has aggressively fled costly licensed properties since new management took over in 2007. The reason it has stayed with NBA 2K is because it is a world-beating quality product that singlehandedly made 2K Sports profitable despite the MLB 2K line generating annual losses figured to be as high as $30 million.
So MLB 2K13 looks very much like a stopgap that keeps Major League Baseball's video game presence alive while the hands the project off to someone who doesn't have to hustle out a game from scratch this year, and then do it all over again on more sophisticated hardware for 2014. It's possible they are negotiating with another label as we speak. It's possible that 2K Sports might want to be the one catching The Show flatfooted on the next console generation, but given the damage done to the MLB 2K brand by years of underwhelming releases, and the company's outward willingness to walk away last year, I find that very, very tough to imagine.
So what we have is a game built almost entirely on Take-Two's terms, and my guess those terms are do it as cheaply as possible and sell as many copies as they can, remembering that there is no competitor on the Xbox 360. This is a series that used to publish on every platform known to man-even the DS-as 2K Sports strove to pry any kind of sale it could out of an extremely expensive license struck years before under old (and profligate) management. It's now coming out only on the 360 and the PlayStation 3.
Some components of the game were supported by other parts of Visual Concepts' operation still in place-commentary and presentation is an example (and 2K Sports does this very well.) But as so much of that was dependent on a dialogue referencing what players did in the previous year-which means recording those lines in advance-my expectation is that the commentary, something this game did better than MLB The Show will suffer. Developers will have to make John Kruk and Steve Phillips' analyses generic, lacking any new lines. Their pitch-by-pitch breakdown of how a hitter or pitcher handled an at bat should remain intact, but this will have a deep effect on commentary in the game's career modes and in MLB Today, assuming that is brought back. There is very little chance that the game's underwhelming postseason presentation gets much of an upgrade.
This game's visuals have always been found lacking next to its much better-looking competition in The Show. Nitpicky things like player faces and uniform numerals have long bothered fans, and it's unlikely these got either the time, money, or development staff to be comprehensively addressed. The game introduced some new behind-the-scenes engineering last year, which opened up greater variables in where and how far the ball travels after it is struck. But repetitive and out-of-place animations, if they weren't fixed in MLB 2K12, are sure to be with us in MLB 2K13.
In short, everything surrounding this star-crossed title and its strange encore point to a plant-the-flag product that saves face for Major League Baseball and time and money for 2K Sports. I'll review whatever releases, of course, but this game is going to face very, very low expectations, that it truly is nothing more than a roster update. And if that's the case, discerning gamers would be better off pulling one of the community-edited rosters from 2K Share, saving their money, and playing MLB 2K12.
Editor's Note: The mysterious person known as Superannuation shows up every two weeks like a new paycheck, if you had a job that paid you in gaming rumors and secrets, all sourced to publicly available information.
This time, he/she/it has info on the people who oversaw some Metroid Primes, the people who made Dark Void, and Rome: Total War. On with it...
Announced to much ballyhoo in fall 2008, Armature Studio, founded by principles from the Metroid Prime franchise, has fallen off the radar in a way that perhaps no other studio has this console cycle. In their first four years of existence, they very quietly released only one game: the Vita version of the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, which came out last June. However, a handful of resumes provide some insight into the mysterious studio's activities over the past several years.
Shorty after the studio's formation, Armature struck a deal with Electronic Arts through the publisher's Blueprint division, headed up by industry veteran Lou Castle. Under its arrangement with EA, Armature's small team was to serve as an incubator of intellectual property for the gaming giant‚ & developing various concepts and prototypes that would then be handed off to another team, with Armature's staff keeping a close eye on the projects. The Armature deal was one part of Blueprint's overall mission to figure out ways to counter the rising cost of game development.
Unfortunately, two months after Armature's public debut, EA shuttered the Blueprint division, which likely caused the relationship between the two to go south.
A contract artist says in his resume that he spent a month in late 2009 at Armature contributing to "a military FPS game for the Nintendo Wii system," perhaps a bit of a surprise given that Armature's founders seemed particularly keen on the opportunity to work on less technologically restrictive non-Nintendo platforms after leaving Retro. Another former employee, a technical rigger who was at the studio from March 2010 to April 2012, lists canceled games for WB and Capcom as credits from his time Armature on his resume.
Additionally, an Armature game designer, who joined in fall 2011 and left in September, says that he worked on a cancelled Unreal-based "Unannounced Action Shooter" with both single and multiplayer features, as well as a secondary pitch to Microsoft. (It's unknown if the cancelled action shooter is the same as the project for WB, but it is very possibly not the Capcom project as that was rumored to have been cancelled in summer 2011.)
Above: Metroid Prime 2
Alongside his work at Armature, studio cofounder Todd Keller helped out fellow Austin developers Certain Affinity by providing concept art for Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition and Halo 4's multiplayer maps. Among other things, Keller's art portfolio features what seems to be an interesting piece of concept art for the aforementioned Microsoft pitch that depicts a bunch of Avatars trying to maximize property damage in a given intersection a la Burnout Crash.
Towards the end of a former Armature animator's demo reel are a few brief clips of seeming in-game footage featuring a lanky giant robot bearing an uncanny semblance to the golem in the header image of Armature's website. The clips hint at some sort of action-puzzler where that giant robot is a companion of spunky punk rock character traversing through a ravaged, post-apocalyptic landscape. Roughly lining up the timelines of this employee's time at Armature and Armature's history suggests this footage may have been from Armature's game for Capcom. (There are also some mech and stylized action sequence previz animations that appear to be from work at Armature.)
As to what Armature is working on now, an August job opening alluded to porting "PS3/XBOX360 titles to handheld systems," so they are presumably focusing on more contract work.
Seattle developer Airtight Games appears to be working on a second collaboration with publisher Square Enix, following last summer's lighthearted puzzler Quantum Conundrum.
The resume of a senior environment artist at the developer mentions an "unannounced AAA title" for PS3, Xbox 360, and PC for Square Enix. Lest you think this unannounced title is some mix-up referring to Quantum Conundrum, this artist joined Airtight in February 2012—well after that game's announcement—and his name does not appear anywhere on the Quantum Conundrum credits.
Above: Dark Void
Rather, this Square Enix game seems to be Airtight's primary project—an "unannounced AAA title" it has been developing since the completion of work on Dark Void. The company's website describes this project as "another ambitious AAA title in a genre that is both unique and refreshingly unexplored."
Given the development timeline, Airtight's current AAA effort is likely a continuation of a project called Fate, a post-Dark Void project for an unnamed Japanese publisher which was temporarily placed on hold in April 2011 so that work on the game "could be reassessed." That decision resulted in much of the team working on Fate being let go. Assets from the time of the developmental pause suggested an aesthetic influence from BioShock, but the game has likely changed considerably since then.
Sega Studios Australia's next title will probably have little in common with its recent 2012 London Olympics tie-in game: the very first item listed among desired qualities in a recent senior designer opening at the studio is "Extensive 'Combat Design' experience from a high profile combat-based title." Also, the Sega subsidiary is seeking those with "An excellent understanding of combat game mechanics and dynamics, and how to create game experiences to the requirements of Brand and New I.P.'s."
About a year ago, Sega Studios Australia made nearly half of its employees redundant as it restructured to focus on opportunities in the emerging digital games space. Within the studio's statement on the layoffs, it said that it had "signed a multi-product deal focussing [sic] across the digital marketplace."
Prior to being renamed Sega Studios Australia in 2011, Sega's Aussie studio was known as The Creative Assembly Australia, and produced games such as the console strategy title Stormrise and medieval and Roman-themed entries in the Total War franchise.
The LinkedIn page of Sega Studios Australia's director says the studio is positioning itself as "a new SEGA leader in digital download and F2P multi-platform games" by "Developing licensed & original IP for PSN, XBLA, Wii-U, Vita, 3DS, PC, iOS & Android."
As with all new farms in FarmVille, Enchanted Glen comes with a series of immovable "treasures" that can only be opened and removed after collecting a variety of materials from friends. In this case, however, these treasures are moving, apparently living creatures called Stone Trolls. They like to stomp in place and shake their arms, bringing life and personality to your farm while they're around.
Like in past farms, these Stone Trolls come in multiple sizes and require different items to unlock. From small to large, here's a look at the materials required for each Troll, and how you can earn them.
• Small Troll - 10 Vials of Sunlight
• Medium Troll - 22 Vials of Sunlight
• Large Troll - 28 Magic Mushrooms
• Extra Large Troll - 42 Magic Mushrooms
All of these items are earned through general requests to your news feed, but luckily, you can post two requests for each item before having to wait. That is, you can post a request for Vials of Sunlight by hovering over both a Small and a Medium Troll, earning twice the amount of collectibles at once. We'll likely see more Trolls stomp onto on our farms as we expand, though the only Enchanted Glen expansions available right now cost at least 20 Farm Cas.
While many treasures in FarmVille are ugly, these Trolls are actually quite cute, but the rewards they contain are even better. You'll find different items after removing each Troll, with better, larger items coming from larger Trolls, as you might expect. Whether an animal or a decoration, these Trolls are definitely worth removing in the long run. Make sure to collect as many Vials of Sunlight and Magic Mushrooms as you can, while all of your friends are surely busy doing the same.
Have you already removed any Stone Trolls from your new Enchanted Glen farm? What sorts of prizes did you receive for doing so? Sound off in the Games.com comments!
Republished with permission from:
Brandy Shaul is an editor at Games.com
There are few things harder to do in gaming than gather a bunch of like-minded friends from around the world and try to make a video game out something you love that happens to be owned by a big corporation that you're not a part of.
For a couple of years, Canadian indie game developer Craig Redl has been trying to do that, leading a group of what he calls "crew members" to build a massively multiplayer game called FUO that is inspired by 20th Century Fox and Joss Whedon's 2002 cult favorite "space western" TV series Firefly.
It's not been easy for Redl and his crew, many of whom he says split their time working on the project and holding down day jobs. Slow progress has caused all sorts of headaches, as has Redl's concern that Fox would swoop in and shut them down.
During a phone call with me yesterday, Redl told me that FUO—Firefly Universe Online—has had doubters for a while. The doubters looked at an early screenshot released for the game and scoffed (there's a new screenshot, snapped from Redl's desktop while we spoke, at the top of this story). Even "crew members" on the project began to wonder if they could really pull this thing off. There were those worries about Fox, though Redl told me his team had a breakthrough and seemed to get, if not an okay to go ahead, at least an indication that Fox wasn't going to shut them down.
It's not been easy, but, to be honest, we at Kotaku made it harder for these folks. Over the weekend we ran a story about their project but then became concerned that we'd been had. The official FUO website, designed to showcase the work of Redl and friends' studio, DarkCryo, was emblazoned with an endorsement from the Yes Men, the renowned Internet pranksters. The claims to have gotten "well wishes of Fox Entertainment Group" to make the MMO seemed thin.
We called the project a hoax.
We did so without reaching out to the FUO people for comment, a breach of our own reporting policy.
It appears that we were wrong.
FUO is indeed a real project, Redl tells me. It's the work of a small scrappy team, to be sure.
Redl directed me to the studio's FAQ to find out a lot more about the game, but even that FAQ is vague and more the product of people who are clearly dreaming of a great game if not necessarily equipped to make the next World of Warcraft. The FAQ is behind a login page, inaccessible to casual visitors because there have been just that many doubters, Redl told me. He only wants people who care enough to create an account to see what progress has been made.
The FAQ paints the picture of a game that's ambitious:
Most titles incorporate RP as a sideline function, not at all part of core gameplay mechanics. Arguably the most important element for this lore, and a breakthrough concept for any MMORPG that has ever hit the market, is our exclusive concept we call Roleplay Experience Points, or RPXP.
In its simpliest form, NPCs will require interaction from players, in the form of text, text-to-speech, and emotes. Understanding that presenting a /rude emote to a Federal soldier, or "GIMME THE F#$%IG JOB LOLZ" to a crime Boss, will immediately and severely alter the course of a player's story. While interacting with players may be somewhat flexible as compared to NPCs, players will still be required to stay in character at all times. Doing so will increase faction and territorial reputation, and open more opportunities for you.
RPXP takes this concept a step even further by recording vital statistics during the course of your Character's activities and behaviour throughout the Universe, and uses that information to evolve your gameplay experience. While Character capture, conversion and even death are topics all on their own, RPXP ensures that the neverending footprint of your Character is a permanent contribution to the FUO Universe.
It also shows just how tough a going DarkCryo has had:
When will FUO be released?
On February 26th, 2012, we unveiled the projected release date for an FUO Alpha Sandbox build to be December 26th, 2012. As we had mentioned on our Facebook page, and website at the time, meeting our timelines was contingent on meeting our minimum financial requirements. While the support from our devoted Fanbase has been most overwhelming, and we are greatful for every Fan amongst us, it simply did not meet the standards to ensure quality delivery. If our upcoming kickstart campaign meets its projected goal, we will finally be able to guarantee the revised launch date of Winter 2013 for the Alpha Sandbox build.
The Yes Men endorsement is more visible on the site. It's on the front page for all to see. Redl told me that it had been born from a previous project that DarkCryo was working on with the pranksters.
The Fox go-ahead was indeed informal.
In an e-mail to Kotaku, Redl said that "20th Century Fox has no official agreement with the crew of DarkCryo Entertainment. We sympathize with their list of reasons, and will remain enjoying informal communication only with the 20th until such time as we can overcome their—very tall—hurdles in order to be considered for a derivative license in the future. While the Executive branch of 20th have expressed a condition of confidence regarding transcripts, we can elude to the fact that Hollywood is an extremely small town."
And what exactly did DarkCryo mean by saying they had Fox's well wishes?
"We have had multiple conversations with the Senior Counsel at Fox Legal and, despite popular belief, they are a very generous group of people. While, again, we hesitate to throw transcripts to the wind, our first conversation began with, "We have good news and bad.", with authorization to publicly relay only the bad. Honestly this was the kindest "no" we've every received. Our statement regarding 20th's 'well wishes' was taken from this conversation.
"During our conference calls we were essentially asking how close to the line we are allowed to tread and still maintain a positive, open comm link with Fox Legal. We've never received a C&D, and don't want one. We gave scenarios, and Fox Legal was generous enough to give us specifics on what they perceived to be derivative. So long as we maintain this fine line, Fox Legal stated that "of course" we can proceed, and that they "wish us well".
"When we stated 'well wishes', we were simply alleviating people's fear that - no matter what DarkCryo does—it will be 'shut down.' We know now how to avoid this scenario, and should no longer be an issue."
(We've reached out to FOX and the Yes Men ourselves, but have not heard back yet; if we do, we'll add their comments, too.)
Redl says his team has amassed a terabyte of assets for their game. He thinks the dream of finishing this game really is possible. But his team could use some Kickstarter funds. In fact, that's what was coming next… that's what we originally reported before mistakenly thinking the whole thing was just a Yes Men hoax meant to comment on Kickstarter culture.
The Kickstarter will still happen, but it will be delayed. It'll start after DarkCryo thinks the dust has cleared and once they think they can build people's confidence again. They also have the tough task that any fan game has… to convince people that, sure, even though DarkCryo isn't BioWare or Sony or Activision that they can pull this off, that they can make an MMO worthy of the love people have for Firefly.
We wish them the best of luck.
My two-year-old daughter doesn't think of stars as huge bodies of flaming gas millions of miles away. She thinks of them as little five-pointed symbols that live inside books and on top of Christmas trees. In similar fashion, she knows that there's a moon in the sky but also thinks the glowing circles formed by domed light fixtures in our home are also moons. Getting glimpses of how she's thinking about the universe is almost unbearably cute. And so is Paper Galaxy, which manages to cast the cosmos as a giant playground.
In this adorable title from Liquid Entertainment, you play a little lost moon called Luna who was chasing a cosmic butterfly and sneezed herself across the galaxy. The poor thing caught a cold and sneezed herself clear across the galaxy. Now she's being chased by the big, bad Crab Nebula as she tries to make her way back home to the safety of Mother Earth.
This iOS game adheres to the infinite-runner archetype but is oriented vertically. The goal is to keep going up, up up to travel the many lightyears that separate Luna from Earth. After starting off with a big initial jolt, Luna hooks into the orbits of other planets, spinning and sneezing from one planetary body to another. Along the way, you'll collect stars for power-ups, special planets that can increase your momentum and hazards like black holes and angry suns that will slow you down or bounce you back.
Paper Galaxy looks like what might happen if the South Park guys ever decided to create an unscientific children's book about astronomy. The character designs all ooze charm and get helped along by a too-good-to-be-true orchestral soundtrack. However, underneath all of the audiovisual appeal is a challenging gameplay arc.
Keeping your speed high is the key to success here and it behooves you to make use of the planets that will spin your around to build or rocket you forward to momentum. The timing on the orbits can be tricky to master but is crucial if you want to string together long runs. You can help yourself to in-app purchases of power-ups but can get along just find without them.
My kid is still too young to do any kind of gaming but if she were of age, I'd have no problem letting her play inside Paper Galaxy's fun construction paper aesthetic. And if you're an adult who actually knows that moons can't catch colds, it'll still probably hook you, too.
But now you can actually buy the thing, for $225. It comes with fake money and tiny "ailment" pieces for your surgery needs.