Shacknews - Steve Watts

The formerly Wii U exclusive Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge will be hitting the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 this spring. It will launch at retail and digital platforms on April 2, sporting most of the Wii U's features and a few new ones as well.

Razor's Edge features a few revisions from the original Ninja Gaiden 3: improved enemy AI, fewer quick-time events, and the ability to sever limbs, among others. Enemies will still try to fight back even after having a few extremities lopped off, apparently having taken lessons from the Black Knight. It also revises the Ninja Skills system, and adds Kasumi Ayane, and Momiji as playable characters in Chapter Challenge and Ninja Trials mode. Ayane gets her own story chapters as well. The PS3/360 versions will include the Wii U's paid downloadable content from the start.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

We already know that Assassin's Creed 3's three-part alternate history, "Tyranny of King Washington," will be kicking off on February 19. For you calendar-obsessive types and history buffs, of which there might be some crossover, Ubisoft has detailed dates for the other two parts of story in March and April.

The second part of the series, entitled The Infamy, will hit on March 19, and the third and final part (The Redemption) will follow on April 23. All of these dates are for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC, but Ubisoft promises that they will be available for the Wii U eShop at some point as well. Each will cost $9.99, or you can still grab a season pass to get them all (and two multiplayer packs) for $29.99.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

As we fast approach the official kick-off of next-generation announcements, developers and publishers are starting to talk more candidly about it. Take-Two recently had its third quarter results call, in which CEO Strauss Zelnick dropped some hints about its upcoming plans.

According to Gamasutra, Zelnick said the company has an "extensive pipeline of unannounced titles," but cautioned that they aren't all planned for the next-gen consoles. He kept most of his comments vague, saying, "we can't really talk about next-gen, because we're not the ones who can talk about it first." He also noted that as they transition in to more hardware power, the company doesn't expect a large difference in production costs.

One game that doesn't seem aimed at the next generation is Grand Theft Auto 5, which is coming this fall. Zelnick dismissed the idea that the game was coming to next gen consoles. "There is not one gamer who is going to sit out of GTA V hoping that something that is going to come along down the road that's better," he said. "It's going to blow everyone away, and it's going to be in the market in September."

Shacknews - Steve Watts

After a more than 10-year hiatus, the strategy RPG series Age of Wonders is getting set for a comeback with the appropriately named Age of Wonders 3. Dutch developer Triumph Studios, the original co-creator before it went on to make Overlord, is aiming for a release this fall on PCs, possibly with a simultaneous Mac release. A tablet version might follow later.

The game focuses on RPG classes as leaders in their respective empires. The official site uses a Goblin Theocrat as an example, who can build a religious-based empire with goblin crusaders. "We want players to be able to choose between lots of different play styles, without being restricted by fantasy cliches, like All Goblins Are Evil," the site notes.

Lead designer Lennart Sas was cagey when Eurogamer asked if Epic Games was serving as its partner to help fund the project, only saying, "That's something for a later moment." Epic helped create the series in 1999, so the company may be back to pitch in with a revival.

Triumph already has plans for a scenario generator and mod tools, along with DLC like extra classes, races, units, and story campaigns.

Shacknews - John Keefer

Civilization 5 lead designer Jon Shafer has kickstarted a new 4X turn-based strategy game called Jon Shafer's At the Gates, coming from his new three-person indie studio, Conifer Games. The game is about half-way complete already and he is looking for a modest $40,000 target to get it officially off the ground.

"The core aspects of the game are all in-place, but a lot of the peripheral, more 'boring' work still needs to be done," he told Shacknews. "Things like sound effects and hotkey systems. We also want to polish up the art and add nice 2D animations for all the units and the landscape. The gameplay also needs iteration time. The features are in but the game hasn't had much playtesting, and I'm sure it's not very much fun to play at this rough stage! There’s also a lot of AI work still left to do."

Shafer has already taken a cue from the Sid Meier school of game naming. "Making games is a tough business, especially as an indie," he said. "You really have to take advantage of every possible opportunity to spread the word about what you're up to. I was very fortunate to have been chosen as the lead for one of the biggest strategy titles of the past decade. As a result there are a few people who actually recognize my name. If putting that in the title will help increase the chance that the game succeeds. As a brand-new businessman I have to take advantage of that. Though, yes, I do feel a little bit dirty about it."

At the Gates lets the player take on the role of a barbarian tribe battling the Roman Empire in its waning days. It may look a bit like a Civ game, he said the differences run deep.

"The fact that the game transforms as you play is a huge difference," Shafer said. "The effects of the seasons means that you have to be more flexible and plan ahead more. Sending an army off in the winter without making sufficient preparations is a death wish. And if you don't have enough food saved up your people will starve. Much of the time in a Civ game you can pretty much just play on autopilot. Hitting the end turn 10 times in a row might not make much of a difference. Well, in ATG that would be a really, really bad idea."

When seasons change, rivers will swell, farms stop producing food in winter, and coastal areas can turn to ice. Shafer said the game's resources will deplete over time, so you can't sit back and hunker down waiting for the enemy to come to you. You will need to continue to explore, meet new leaders and be diplomatic.

"The main way of building relations is through completing requests, and these requests are all situational," he said. "You can't just give another leader some food and expect them to like you. Just imagine how that sort of thing would go over with someone you've just met. But if that same person is starving to death and you give them a meal the context and effects are completely different. That's the idea behind diplomacy in ATG."

Shafer said that there is a possibility of modding for the game as well. "We've been thinking about XML modding, a map editor and even releasing some source code for the game, but it all takes work. Honestly it depends on how the Kickstarter campaign does. ... We'd really like to flesh out the modding side, as well as add more factions and gameplay options. If the campaign does really well, we might even look at crazy stuff like making the Roman factions playable."

With the modest crowdfunding goal, Shafer is optimistic. "Our scope is tight. We don't have a complex, expensive 3D engine, nor are we including multiplayer. We know what we want from the game and there's very little risk," he said. "One of my goals with ATG is to really mix things up with the 4X genre. I feel that there hasn't been a lot of innovation in that space during the past decade, and I'm hoping that ATG shows that there's still a lot of meat that we haven't yet gotten to. I strongly feel that the 4X genre has been underserved and people really want more of these types of games. The fans are a passionate group, and I think they'll be really excited by ATG."

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Around this time last year, Psychonauts fans had reason to get excited after Minecraft creator Markus "Notch" Persson suggested throwing a few (million) bucks in Double Fine's direction to make a sequel. Valentine's is a great time for breaking hearts, though, so it's only fitting that Persson recently dispelled that notion.

"I somewhat naively thought 'a couple of million' was two million," Persson said on Reddit (via VentureBeat). "I had no doubt in my mind that a Psychonauts 2 would earn that money back easily. Turns out they wanted 18 million dollars, haha. I don't have the time at the moment to even try to get educated enough to make an 18 million dollar deal. Perhaps in some distant future when I'm no longer trying to make games, I could get into angel investing. I've made one private investment into a game so far, at $100K, and it's frankly a lot more work than I thought."

The comment from Tim Schafer that kicked off the proceedings mentioned "a few million dollars," but Persson later reportedly said $13 million was a "can do" proposition. It may be disappointing, but it's hard to blame Persson for his hesitance. $18 million would be a large chunk out of almost anyone's budget, even at his 2012 earnings of more than $100 million.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

That Netflix box in your living room--you know, the white one with the green ring--is getting more streaming video with Verizon's Redbox Instant. The movie streaming service will be exclusive to Xbox 360 amongst consoles, launching "in the very near future."

Redbox Instant membership offers both streaming movies and four one-night credits for rentals from Redbox kiosks, charging $8 per month for DVDs or $9 for Blu-rays. Obviously you'll need Xbox Live Gold membership on top of that to stream onto your Xbox 360.

It'll also sell downloads of movies, which people won't need a Redbox subscription to buy.

If you're already in the Redbox Instant beta, you should receive a code to access the Xbox 360 app "in the coming days," Microsoft's Larry 'Major Nelson' Hryb says. If you're not, hey, you can sign up for the beta and hope you'll get in.

Shacknews - Kat Bailey

Carbine Studios doesn't mince words when talking about their mission statement. It's right there on their website: "We're Carbine Studios--a developer formed by a bunch of gamers looking to make the Next Great MMO."

It's a studio out to fix seemingly every niggling problem the MMO genre has had since the beginning of time. They want to fix the lack of interactivity; the endgame problems that plague seemingly every MMO, and the way the content is actually delivered. Their first project, WildStar, is one big clearinghouse for ideas from people who have worked on everything from Ultima Online to Dark Age of Camelot to World of Warcraft. It's an MMO that wants to be all things to all people, crazy as that sounds.

Like World of Warcraft, Carbine wants to have massive 40-man raids and huge dungeons; like Dark Age of Camelot, they want great PVP, and like Star Wars Galaxies, they want to cater to crafters, settlers, and explorers. So much is going on that it feels as if the whole idea could end up simply shaking apart; or worse, feeling boring and under-developed.

All of those elements, however, are part of a broader mission to craft an MMO that has tons to do, but also doesn't force a player down any one path. Content director Mike Donatelli, who has worked on Dark Age of Camelot and Warhammer Online, describes it like this: "I'll play another MMO, do the story, finish up, have some fun, and look back on it as a discreet chunk of time. Here it's like you'll be in an area and doing a quest, then you'll be doing a challenge, then you kind of run off into a tangent, but that tangent also dovetails into what you're doing."

He continues: "It all feels very 'gamey,' but we embrace the hell out of gamey. We love gameplay. Gameplay is king. It's just fun, right? We should just keep making games that are fun and not focusing on what we're going to force people into doing."

That approach--the freedom to explore and do what you want--is coded into the story itself. WildStar is set on a wild, unexplored planet that is just being settled by competing factions. Essentially, players are being plopped down on the frontier and told to have at it. It's pretty much a complete 180 from Star Wars: The Old Republic, where everything is subordinate to the story. In fact, up until the endgame, WildStar doesn't figure to focus much on story at all.

"We only start the story at cap," Donatelli says. "You will get little bits and pieces. But only when you hit cap do you get the full story. It was deliberate. We want something to look forward to."

In the meantime, you will find yourself completing a variety of quest chains that are built to be completed in around two hours. Donatelli likens it to an episode of the A-Team: "At the end of this playthrough, I rescued a town, saved someone, and now I'm done. It keeps people from being confused when logging in."

For those who don't mind exploring a little bit though, there's much more. Wander to another part of the map, and you're apt to trigger another quest chain if you're at the right level. If you're an Explorer, one of several sub-specialties, you can uncover hidden caves or climb to the top of a mountain and plant a flag. If you're a Soldier, you can just hang out and kill monsters. That's where the promise of being 'all things to all players' starts to come into focus.

One of the direct results of this approach is that WildStar is almost constantly peppering you with content. Wander around for a bit, and you might find a skull that can be plopped on a pile for a zone-wide buff. Wander around a bit more, and you might randomly be asked to shoot down a hovercopter with a bazooka. Quests come in seemingly every few seconds, and they can be completed just as quickly. The long travel times and gaps between quests that sometimes plague other MMOs are so far virtually non-existent in WildStar.

Above all, Donatelli wants players to feel like they're free to do whatever they want: "Some MMOs are built around the idea that you have to play X-number of hours. We've locked you into a path. We've measured it, and tested it, and you can't go faster than this. We took the barriers out, because we'd be foolish to turn around and say that it's going to take anyone 300 hours to get through this game. You can never count on what a player will do. Players are smart. They're going to work around your artificial blocks."

And for those who do work around those blocks? Donatelli says the idea is to reward players who hit the level cap with new gameplay modes--think large-scale PVP--and a substantial storyline. Carbine also plans regular monthly events, many of which are being developed right now, and weekly content drops.

Of course, every MMORPG developer promises an endless amount of content, but it feels like there's a special urgency over at Carbine to make sure that people don't run out of things to do in WildStar. They make comparisons to China, where free-to-play MMORPGs are king, and content updates have to be almost constant in order to satisfy voracious fans. They know that as soon as people run out of things to do, they will be gone, never to return.

Crazy as it seems to try and reach out and appeal to every single type of MMO fan (Carbine even hits the furry demographic with the bunny-like Aurins), it feels almost necessary given the scope of the content that WildStar is trying to deliver. A narrower focus risks narrowing the content too, and potentially boring a subset of players who don't want to go on raids, but definitely want to collect things and build houses. And to its credit, Carbine is making it easy on itself by building a platform early on that will allow them to modify their world almost on the fly, which should allow them to get new content to the masses almost on the fly.

All told, it's an ambitious project that holds a lot of promise. Maybe Carbine won't make "the next great MMO," but given all the talent and intelligent ideas behind WildStar, it should at least be a fun one. It is expected to launch sometime this year.

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

"Star Wars Pinball." You pretty much know how the rest of this article goes. It's pinball. But with Star Wars. And it will be available on pretty much every video gaming device imaginable later this month.

Star Wars-themed pinball tables will be available as DLC for Pinball FX2 on Xbox 360 and Windows 8; Zen Pinball 2 on PS3, Vita, and Mac; Zen Pinball on iOS; and Zen Pinball HD on Android. Star Wars Pinball will also be available as a standalone app on iOS and Android, with new platforms to be announced later on.

The first pack includes three tables, based on The Empire Strikes Back, The Clone Wars, and Boba Fett. Each table will feature interactive 3D characters and "unique gameplay." Zen Studios plans on releasing ten themed tables in all.

Shacknews - Nikole Zivalich

Isaac's third outing is definitely his most ambitious yet. Provided you're not allergic to snow, Dead Space 3 is another wild ride and great addition to a series that still has some of the most interesting shooting mechanics and enemy design out there. Then, Sanzaru must be commended for crafting a game that not only delivers on all of its promises, but goes well beyond them. Thieves in Time is a gorgeous, intelligent, and fun adventure that gamers--Sly fans and newcomers alike--will love. Finally, CD Projekt RED has officially announced The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The game is not only the next game in the award-winning franchise, but it will also be "the final Witcher game from the studio."

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