The Witcher® 3: Wild Hunt

Summer landscapes can be taken for granted as bright and breezy backdrops to games. However, what spring started, summer finishes. Following on from the rebirth of spring, summer further fuels and invigorates the landscape. Lands become majestically colourful, gorgeously lush and bursting at the seams with life as the peak of the growing season and life cycle are hit. Bright sunlight basks the land in glorious light and stretches the days, while vivid foliage spreads as far as the eye can see, punctuated by glorious flowering plants, laying a carpet of life over the land. These are the hazy days of summer, indeed. Life breeds life and swathes of landscape are transformed, covered in lush foliage and colour, while the land becomes more productive, increasing interaction and function.

Summer has its own meaning, and this can be injected into games through the landscapes they have and portray - and all of their elements they contain. Smash this wonderful, bright season together with narrative and story arcs and there is a new side to summer environments to be enjoyed and experienced.

The success and majesty of The Witcher 3's landscapes are further elevated when examined through a seasonal lens as it can reveal even more environmental nuances and specific landscape features. The configuration of summer landscapes through fidelity, function and beauty underlines the environment's importance in contributing to The Witcher 3's place-making, story and atmosphere (particularly in Velen and Toussaint), but also demonstrate the sheer importance and power summer has over the landscape, guiding its life and character. Avoiding fawning over each individually hand-placed, wholly-accurate plant (this time) as examples of The Witcher 3's summer landscape, it is the active and productive horticultural landscapes that show summer's power.

Read more…

Firewatch - bburbank

A new patch for Firewatch is now live, and here are the notes:
  • Fix a threading crash that can occur for some users on load screens.
  • Fix a framerate drop when examining most objects.
  • Display version number on the settings screen (currently 1.09)
  • [Windows] Native support for Dualshock 4 controllers on Windows.
Firewatch

Firewatch developer Campo Santo was bought over by Valve last month. In an interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Campo's Sean Vanaman explains that despite the takeover, he and his team will retain their creative freedom while working on their next game, In the Valley of Gods. They'll also benefit from the support of a much larger talent pool.

Vanaman however stresses that said support won't compromise flexibility, telling RPS that Campo as it now exists will continue developing in Unity, and not Valve's Source engine.  

"It’s not like, ‘We do things this way.’ At the same time I’m able to sit around and go, ‘Oh, there are all these really good reasons why people make games in Source too,'" Vanaman tells RPS. "You learn that just by talking to folks and learning. You’re not dictated why it’s done a certain way, it’s up to you to have the wherewithal to learn how things are done and why they’re being done that way and also to challenge it if you want to. We’re not trying to be rebels staying in Unity. We’re just trying to do what we know how to do."

Elsewhere, Vanaman addresses Valve's position in the takeover—a move which he feels is about acquiring "super talented" people, and not simply upping the number of games the developer might go on to release. 

"It’s just about if you put enough super talented people in one place for long enough and treat them well they’ll make really cool shit and that shit will generally be better than the stuff that your competitors are making," says Vanaman. "For all intents and purposes that was our goal at Campo, it was like just get great people in here and everything we make is going to pivot off of that. 

"I think it was just they saw a dozen folks who were a good cultural fit in terms of just where we were in our careers and added a ton of individual expertise and said, ‘We don’t know what the upshot of this is going to be strategically. We can’t figure out what you guys are going to make in five years or two years or six months, but it’s probably going to be pretty good.’"

Read RPS' interview with Sean Vanaman and Jake Rodkin in full this way

Firewatch - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (John Walker)

Campo Santo, creators of Firewatch and the forthcoming In The Valley Of Gods, announced last month that all twelve members of their studio were packing their bags and moving to Valve. The team are all currently in the process of relocating to Seattle, where Valley Of The Gods will be finished in Valve’s Bellevue tower as a Valve game. So we caught up with studio heads Sean Vanaman and Jake Rodkin to find out much more. (more…)

Firewatch

Firewatch developer Campo Santo has announced that it has "agreed to join Valve", where it will "maintain our jobs as video game developers and continue production on" its Ancient Egyptian adventure In the Valley of the Gods.

The announcement was made over the weekend in a blog post on Campo Santo's website, in which the developer explained its reasoning for agreeing to the acquisition. "First", it said, "we really like making video games. Furthermore, and perhaps more accurately, we really like making and producing entertainment."

According to the developer, everything it does, "is geared towards surprising, delighting, and entertaining the customers who have shared in our success".

Read more…

Firewatch - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Brock Wilbur)

tumblr_inline_p7k0haZFOY1qk6t0l_500

While the company webpage still reads “Campo Santo is a small but scrappy video game developer in San Francisco,” that will probably need some updating in the immediate future. The twelve person team behind Firewatch and the forthcoming In The Valley of Gods has been acquired by Valve, where the team will remain intact. Campo Santo is responsible for critically and commercially successful titles, and they will continue work at Valve in Bellevue wrapping up In The Valley of Gods, which of course, will now be a Valve game.

(more…)

Firewatch - bburbank


Here are the latest patch notes:

• Fixed a black screen/graphic corruption issue on specific Mac models running High Sierra.
• Better performance and threading on all platforms.
• Japanese language subtitles have been added.
• Miscellaneous fixes for all subtitle languages.

スムーズな探索をお楽しみください!
Life is Strange - Episode 1

This article was originally published in PC Gamer issue 312. For more quality articles about all things PC gaming, you can subscribe now in the UK and the US. 

Whether you’re switching radio stations in GTA or trekking across epic mountains in The Elder Scrolls as a choir serenades you, music and games often go hand in hand. A soundtrack can make or break a game’s success, even more so when it’s emotionally and narratively driven. It can tacitly evoke a character’s turmoil or elation, immersing us in the story with a vividness that visuals alone could never achieve. 

Adventure games have been the de facto example of this. In 2015, Dontnod’s Life is Strange launched, hooking in over 3 million players. Months later, Oxenfree saw Night School tap into the supernatural, while Firewatch was a successful debut for Campo Santo. 

All three are considered fan favourites, and while their success is attributed to their storytelling, it’s their soundtracks that have allowed them to flourish. I spoke to the music creators behind these adventures to find out what goes into crafting an acclaimed auditory accompaniment. 

“[Musical] scores are 50% of the experience, and I definitely think that with games,” explains Night School Studio cofounder Sean Krankel. “When you look at it, it’s the one part of the game where one vision can come to fruition without too many other things breaking it. In a game, you’ve got mechanics, art, animation, technology, you’ve got all these things that have to work together and if one doesn’t work, the whole system sort of breaks.”

Oxenfree’s soundtrack was created by musician C. Andrew ‘scntfc’ Rohrmann, who pieces together electronic nostalgia with a darkened, brooding intimacy. Depicting a group of teenagers who disturb something ancient and mysterious, the music for Oxenfree needed to feel eerie while also steering clear of horror tropes. “I feel like I was able to find that creepiness in other musical concepts. There’s plenty [of] ‘creepy’ in old recordings, so let’s just really accentuate that sort of thing,” he explains. “I made it a part of the music writing. It wasn’t like ‘music is written and now let’s make it sound old’. Some of that stuff was recorded to 50-year-old tape machines.”

Music in gaming often comes before the story is finished, meaning most music supervisors and musicians have to create a soundtrack from a few key points.

Like a lot of games, Rohrmann didn’t have much to work from in terms of the game itself. Music in gaming often comes before the story is finished, meaning most music supervisors and musicians have to create a soundtrack from a few key points. One sheet of the story and a little bit of concept art was all Rohrmann had to work from, but, as Krankel explains, it allowed the musician to have more of a hand in the design of Oxenfree. “You know those weird tape loop things where you end up interacting with the timeline background track? That was an idea that we had worked on in the creative brainstorms super early on that wouldn’t have been in the game without him,” Krankel says. 

“A lot of the game doesn’t sing until everything is in and unfortunately for Andy [Rohrmann], a lot of his stuff comes in last because it’s the stuff that’s supporting the rest of the experience. Andy had to work sort of blind for the first half of the game. He gave us a large buffet menu of a lot of ingredients to work with and it would be like ‘this is thematic of something frightening or melancholic’ just to create tension, and that became this big bucket of tools to work with. Our general aspiration would be, if every second could be scored perfectly to what the player is doing, that would be awesome. But that’s kinda difficult.” 

While Rohrmann was able to integrate his musical ideas into the story and design of Oxenfree, Chris Remo didn’t really have a choice. As both a designer and the composer of Firewatch, the Campo Santo team member says it was often difficult to navigate his multiple roles. “When we had to put out the trailer and straight up had to write some music for it, that was so valuable because it gave me this baseline,” he says. “The vibe of the soundtrack ended up changing from that original trailer but it was a starting point and that was incredibly valuable.”

Remo describes Firewatch as “70% to 90% atmosphere,” believing that to be “ideally true” of most games. When embarking on a soundtrack in gaming, Remo says that the crucial thing is to “holistically understand what your game is about”. 

“No matter how satisfying a game’s systems are, no matter how gripping the plot is, or how relatable the characters are, plot and characters and world are things that other forms of creative work can also achieve,” he continues. “Game mechanics are very specific to games. The thing that you get when you marry interactive systems and mechanics with those other elements that are not unique to games, like worldbuilding, character, plot and visual representation of those things, the thing you get is a really specific form of atmosphere that is unique to games.” 

The Firewatch soundtrack is an almost jarring collection of both acoustic and electronic elements, with the feeling of isolation at its core. Due to its popularity, Campo Santo went on to release the soundtrack on vinyl but, as Remo continues, it was never his intention to have the soundtrack front and centre. “So much of my effort on the game was on the design side and making sure that all of the elements meshed between the story, the game design, the atmosphere, that’s really the point of Firewatch – the marriage of those things,” he says. “So I saw music as more of a tool to achieve that goal rather than a standalone suite of music unto itself. It was important to me that the music never distracted you. This is where being a designer on the game was intrinsic to how the soundtrack worked.” 

One team that wasn’t so involved with the design aspect of the game but were intrinsic in securing its success is Feel For Music, which worked as music supervisors on Life is Strange. “A lot of the starting place with that was about trying to get that emotional and human feel to the whole thing,” explains Feel For Music’s Ben Sumner. They nailed this human feel with tracks from the likes of alt-J, Syd Matters and Bright Eyes – songs that evoke that intense navigation of impending adulthood, much like the game’s characters.

“The thing that’s gone down well is the fact it’s different from a lot of other videogame music,” Sumner continues. “The idea of having an acoustic, folk-y type sound, there’s not any other games that spring to mind that have such a strong identity with that kind of sound. The focus on narrative for that game lent itself well to having an emotive, simple acoustic kind of sound.” 

Sumner says a lot of the team listened through a lot of the songs while they were making the game, allowing them to test which tracks were working and which weren’t. “They had this drive for it to have a specifi c sound that was emotional. They thought a lot about lyrics and how that played in with the storyline, what happened at the key points in the game and the main characters,” Sumner adds. “Music can be the last thing thought about but the fi rst thing complained about. Some of the best scores are ones you don’t notice, they sit there and help enhance the mood but don’t take the spotlight.” 

While the composers and music supervisors on Oxenfree, Firewatch and Life is Strange perhaps never intended for their soundtracks to become as renowned as the games themselves, it’s not surprising that players have formed intense connections to the music. “The thing that you’re left with is this crystallised emotional experience and music is just a huge part of that,” Chris Remo says. “When so much of the value and the emotional impact of the medium does come down to atmosphere and tone, it only makes sense that music is going to mesh with that closely and powerfully in almost a multiplicative way. That’s a powerful thing and I don’t think there’s any substitute for it.” 

Dear Esther - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Rick Lane)

ethanheader

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.>

Watching walking simulators evolve from the waffling emptiness of Dear Esther into remarkable narrative adventures like Firewatch and What Remains of Edith Finch has been one of my favourite spectator sports as a games journalist. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is one of the better stepping stones on this long and winding road. It has players assume the role of psychic detective Paul Prospero, who arrives in the gorgeous Red Creek Valley on the trail of a missing boy. (more…)

Firewatch - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Adam Smith)

thevalleyofthegodstrailer

Archaeology might be coming of age. There was a time when the hunt for relics and the raiding of tombs and other forgotten places necessitated a thousand explosions and firefights. The Crofts, Joneses and Drakes of the world perform a very noisy kind of historical research and recovery. In The Valley of the Gods, the next game from Firewatch creators Campo Santo, looks like it’ll bring a quieter mode of exploration and excavation. You play as one member of a two-person team investigating a remote valley in Egypt, documenting the mysteries you uncover as you explore. Take out your shovels and unearth the first trailer. It’s right here.

(more…)

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