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In Japan, everything changes in the spring. And this April 1, Tecmo Koei, from the sound of it, is making some big changes. At least, on paper.
According to a new press release, Tecmo Koei is reorganizing its corporate structure. Meh, right? That sounds rather boring and insidery, but the relevant info is how it impacts Team Ninja. Or, rather, the moniker.
Team Ninja is (was?) a Tecmo Koei game development division best known for Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive.
The release states that Team Ninja will be reorganized into two new development teams: Ichigaya Development Group 1 and Ichigaya Development Group 2. Neither of them seemed to have "Team Ninja" in them. The "Ichigaya" naming is because Tecmo's offices are located near Ichigaya Station in Tokyo.
What's more, Team Ninja leader Yosuke Hayashi now has a new, official title: Starting April 1, he is the "Head of Ichigaya Development Group 1" and the words "Team Ninja" will no longer appear in his "official" job description, it seems.
It doesn't stop with Hayashi. Keisuke Kikuchi, who used to be "Team Ninja Senior Manager", is now "Head of Ichigaya Development Group 2."
"Ichigaya Development Group" doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, does it?
I'd imagine that Tecmo Koei isn't killing off the "Team Ninja" brand, and this is probably more organizational streamlining than anything. Team Ninja was slated to work on upcoming title Yaiba, and I'd be surprised not to see the Team Ninja logo slapped on that game. But, it could be the end of an era, especially if you hold on to things like names, logos, and business cards.
Kotaku is following up with Tecmo Koei for further clarification and will update this post should the company comment.
組織変更及び人事異動に関するお知らせ [Tecmo Koei, Thanks Sang!]
There are two reasons the console port of Diablo III, announced by Blizzard last month and shown off at PAX East this weekend, could be the definitive version of the game.
The first reason is obvious: you can play offline. You don't have to worry about server errors or Time Warner Cable while playing this incarnation of Blizzard's action-RPG.
Reason #2 is harder to understand without getting your hands on the PlayStation 3 version of the third Diablo, but it becomes obvious almost as soon as you do: Diablo III feels much, much better on a controller than it does on a mouse and keyboard.
Put the pitchforks down, folks. I was skeptical too. I spent many, many hours in the demon-infested hells of Diablo II (and a few more with Diablo III), and for a while, I figured a console version would never work. When I think Diablo, I think "click, click, click."
But after just a few minutes with Diablo III on PS3—which trades the clicking for nudging, jiggling, and mashing—I almost wish this series had been built for controllers all along.
I know. Blasphemy. Really, though, it feels like a different game: I hopped on a demo at PAX East this morning, loaded up a Demon Hunter, and wandered through one of the dungeons, flinging arrows and firing energy bolts as I danced my way around a mob of enemies. And it felt good. Surprisingly good.
To play this version, you move around with the left joystick while using the colored buttons to attack monsters and interact with the world. On the PS3 controller, you can assign attacks to R1 and all four of the colored buttons. You use L1 (and, I believe, L2) for potions. There's also a new evade command: you can use the right joystick to roll around and dodge enemy attacks.
The takeaway here is that you can move and attack simultaneously, instead of hammering your left mouse button to do just about everything. For a ranged attacker like the Demon Hunter, this is near-revolutionary. It feels graceful. Natural. More like you're inhabiting your character and less like you're guiding them from above.
Worth noting: this is the first Blizzard-developed console game in 20 years. You might remember console ports of the first StarCraft and Diablo—for Nintendo 64 and PlayStation 1, respectively—but those were built by external companies. This one is all in house.
Likely you have questions. I did too. So after playing the Diablo III demo this morning, I headed to a back room to chat with Joshua Mosqueira and Matthew Berger, both designers on the DIII port.
My first question: is this the best version of the game?
"They're both our kids," Mosqueira said. "The thing to keep in mind is that they're different."
How diplomatic. Ever the good parents, Mosqueira and his team don't want to admit that one of their games is more successful than the other, but I suspect they have private conversations about how much better it feels to play something like Diablo III on a PlayStation controller.
I asked Berger and Mosqueira about a number of other subjects, from next-gen consoles to server issues. Let's go through them.
What's new? Other than the obvious—the whole "new console" thing—Blizzard says they've overhauled the boss battles, making them feel more like the sprawling fights you'd see in an action-RPG on your Xbox or PlayStation.
"We know that there's a huge tradition of boss battles on console games," said Berger. "We're going through bosses and updating visuals, cinematics. Also, the pacing."
The item system has also been revamped, and you can now see whether an item will boost your stats even before you pick it up. Your inventory, character, and quests pages are now all tabs of one menu screen, accessible via the select button on the PS3 version. And you equip items through a radial menu rather than a ragdoll screen.
"We don't want to simplify the game," Mosqueira said. "We just want to streamline the experience."
So just how much is new? Says Berger: "If you played it on PC, you should expect it to feel familiar, but you should also expect to be surprised." Okay!
Fans have already shown some anger at this port—one message board user theorized that the PC version of Diablo III was actually a "beta" for this one. I asked the designers if that was true. Their answer: no.
This version of Diablo III won't connect to Battle.net, so don't expect any sort of cross-play between your PS3 and PC. Instead, you'll use the PlayStation Network infrastructure to play online. You can also play co-op with four people in your living room. No split screen, though—"The last thing we want to do is make your nice big TV into four smaller TVs," says Berger.
Interestingly, when you're playing co-op, the looting system will go old-school. While in Diablo III on PC every player sees their own items and doesn't have to worry about anyone else ganking them, on consoles, while playing co-op, you'll all swim in the same treasure pool.
"Loot drops a bit more, but everybody gets to share it," said Berger. "So if he picks up your bow, you can just punch him. We let the players police themselves."
No real word on PlayStation 4 just yet. Blizzard's designers wouldn't talk next-gen consoles—the PR representative sitting in on our interview shut down any and all PS4-related questions—but they did seem excited about putting Diablo on Sony's next console.
Are there really people who still haven't played Diablo III? Last we heard, Blizzard said they sold 12 million copies of the controversial game. So I was skeptical: just how many PS3 owners who might be interested in Diablo III haven't already played it on PC?
"Just judging by the number of people coming by our booth," Mosqueira said, "at least 50% of the people haven't played Diablo III."
They're not worried about Error 37 this time around. "Our plan is to be 100% ready," said Berger.
No news on expansion packs, or how they'd work on consoles. "Right now we're focusing on getting the core game out," Mosqueira said. "We still need to figure out exactly how we'll handle DLC and that kind of stuff."
Blizzard is known for their frequent patches and content updates, which might seem like a difficult thing to pull off on consoles, but Mosqueira said they've had extensive conversations with Sony about the importance of flexible patching in a game like Diablo III, and that Sony is on board.
What took so friggin' long? It seems like Blizzard has been talking about bringing Diablo to consoles for quite a few years now, but according to Mosqueira, development didn't really kick into gear until last year, after Diablo III shipped on PC. So what were they doing until then?
"What took the longest is finding the team," Mosqueira said. "We have a stringent process, an interview gauntlet that can take up to six months. The core of the console team were all hired specifically 'cause of their console backgrounds."
When's it coming out? "Soon-ish," Mosqueira said.
"When it's ready," added Berger. "On Blizzard time, because it's a Blizzard game, and we're treating it like any other game."
Any other consoles? Blizzard's designers were coy about this one.
"Step one is making it awesome for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4," said Mosqueira. "We don't have any other announcements at this moment, aside from 'stay tuned.'"
So if Diablo III really can be played offline... The PC version of Diablo III was online-only. The console version of Diablo III has an offline mode. So I asked the designers: now that fans can look at the PS3 and see that yes, Diablo III can be an offline game, will we ever see an offline mode added to the PC version of the game?
"It's one of those difficult decisions we had to make," said Mosqueira. "Right now there's no plans. Some of the reasoning behind it is, the PC and console ecosystems are very different."
Blizzard and Sony both did some research and found that many PS3s are never connected to the Internet, he said. "So we figured the best way to offer that Diablo experience was to let players play offline."
There were plenty of delicious Borderlands announcements at PAX East today, but those who weren't present for the revelry may be feeling left out. Thus, a treat is in order! Gearbox was apparently handing out SHiFT codes, which give players access to special golden keys. Predictably, golden keys open golden loot chests. Also predictably, golden loot chests have rare loot inside. Seeing a pattern?
The nice thing about these codes is that they can be used by an unlimited number of players until they expire, so when someone posts a code online—like Redditor TripleRPD did this afternoon—they can be shared throughout the community. These codes (one for each platform) seem to be active still, but just in case, it's best not to delay.
David Gil wants to make a documentary about the ever-growing community of LGBT gamers, and you're going to help him. Isn't that what Kickstarter is for?
Gil's project, Gaming in Color, aims to "take a closer look at the challenges and the growth of these communities in the gaming world." Gil himself is billed as a freelance director and cinematographer.
The gaming world is far more diverse than the media would have you think. To counter this, we'll be documenting the experiences of LGBT and women gamers / game developers to introduce perspectives you may not have seen before.
The rewards range from a DVD to the typical ridiculous $10,000 trip, dinner and screening. But considering how often I still hear homophobic slurs being thrown around, by gamers and others alike, I think this is definitely something worth funding. The more prevalent the LGBT gaming community makes itself, the more educated—and less hateful—the rest of our little corner of the world will become.
So far the project has raised over $5,000 of its $50,000 goal, and it's still got 47 days to go.
343 Industries announced during a PAX East panel yesterday that Halo 4 will soon get its own version of Halo: Reach's Forge World map (pictured above), a feature that has been missed since 4 launched. Called "Forge Island" and releasing for free on April 11, the map will provide a series of open spaces in which Halo 4 forgers can putz around and try to smack one another by swinging tanks around like giant, deadly paddles. That's what I'm going to do there, at least.
Also on their way are a title update and a new competitive skill ranking system that will hearken back to the days of Halo 2 and Halo 3 by assigning players numbers from one to 50 and matching them up based on their playing prowess. The title update will tweak this and that, making camouflaged players more visible when they shoot, adding x-markers to signify where teammates have recently died, and adjusting the Gauss Warthog turret's auto-aim, magnetism and damage, presumably to make it less of an unstoppable death cannon.
343 also discussed some statistics:
It seems we're a bloodthirsty bunch.
Halo 4 logs 11.6 million players [Gamespot]
It's no secret that Nintendo has had a major problem marketing the Wii U. Most non-gamers (and even some gamers) I speak with have no idea that it even exists. Even Jimmy Fallon couldn't quite figure it out—and he was supposed to be showing it off that night.
Now Nintendo has apparently ramped up its efforts to explain just what the hell that big, glaring "U" means with the posters that GTTV host Geoff Keighley spotted and Tweeted about at PAX East today. "Why Wii U?" the ad reads, followed by a lengthy list of all the things the Wii U does that that crappy old Wii simply doesn't. Keighley followed up with a second tweet explaining that you can tear the flyers away and take them home, like phone-pole ads for a neighborhood dog walker, just in case you forget all the things the Wii won't do.
I'll say this: at least we can be sure Nintendo is definitely aware of the issue. But strangely, it seems like they left "GameCube game compatibility" off that list. Now why would they do that? Check out the full poster below.
Rock, Paper, Scissors is too simple for our modern times. That's why Margaret Robertson and her fellow game designers at Hide & Seek have created Rock, Paper, Scissors, Hadoken, Baby Sloth.
You could be playing it right now, if you have a friend nearby. Rock beats scissors, scissors beat paper, paper beats rock, Hadoken beats all of those, but baby sloth beats Hadoken (and loses to everything else).
RPSHBS is just one of 10 so-called Tiny Games—real-world games that can be explained in a few sentences and played just about anywhere—on display at PAX East in Boston this week. You can see me learn it and play it against Robertson in the video above.
Hide & Seek make Tiny Games for public festivals all the time, but they're hoping to release hundreds of them that you can play via a Tiny Games phone app. They've got a Kickstarter going to raise money to make the app (the funding window closes on April 13). For many more details about the project, take a look at their Kickstarter here. At the very least, you'll probably wind up getting some new ideas for games you can play at the park or in the kitchen.
And here are two more PAX East Tiny Games, which I really wish I'd had a chance to see people play:
Gearbox has been pulling this stunt at PAX East this weekend, and today during their panel they showed this video of a whole bunch of people getting punked.
I'll tell you one thing: if I ever see a Dr. Zed vending machine in a mall in Baltimore, I'm staying the hell away from it, no matter how much incendiary damage I've suffered.
Gearbox showed off a little trailer that looks like Tiny Tina is playing something of a Dungeons and Dragons-esque board game, but Brick, Mordecai and Lilith aren't quite understanding her rules.
Could this teaser trailer—shown off during Gearbox's PAX East panel today—be hinting at upcoming DLC? An official Borderlands 2 board game? A mobile spin-off? A sequel where it's just you playing against Tiny Tina in board games?! Gearbox isn't telling yet. But when I officially know, you'll know.
Tiny Tina's game is called Bunkers & Badasses. Roll for initiative!
At their PAX East panel today, the developers announced a few more fixes that players will see in future patches.
Chris Faylor community manager at Gearbox mentioned the most notable changes:
But... that's it. No apology has been mentioned officially yet. Just a commitment to future patches. But whether or not those will significantly change such a mangled game isn't clear. So far the bullet-pointed changes are too vague to make sense of.
They noted at the panel today that some people aren't happy with the outcome of the game. But they maintain that they are still in love with the universe. We'll see if that translates.