The Games You May Have Missed: Nintendo Pocket Football Club

Football

This time, we have an obscure hidden gem from the Nintendo 3DS eShop. The service is often criticized for its pricing and such, and this is one of its most expensive offerings of football, but it’s one you’ll want to take a look at. So chew on this for a coincidence: that’s exactly what we’re doing today.

Feast your eyes, ears and… everything elses on Nintendo Pocket Football Club.

Football management sims, as we know, are a fairly nerdly genre. What with their pie charts and stat-pages-amundo, they aren’t the most accessible of games. Nevertheless, if there’s one thing Nintendo do well, it’s making such things all cutesy and welcoming. They worked their magic on turn-based strategy games with the much ballyhooed Advance Wars, and they’ve done just the same here.

In a toontastic little introduction, your 3DS Mii becomes the manager of a football club. You select your team’s name, design a horribly garish home and away kit (a spangly little purple and pink striped number was my choice), and begin training up your no-hopers to be league winners.

Run, tiny dude! RUN!
Run, tiny dude! RUN!

In the adorable wee hub area, there are some screens to be fiddled with. Here, you’ll change your squad composition, scout for players, bolster the abilities of existing ones and arrange matches. It sounds like standard Football Manager fare, but everything is wonderfully streamlined and welcoming. Matches themselves even more so.

On the pitch, as you’d expect, everything runs on automatic. Some light bottom-screen fiddling is in order, to make substitutions or other quick changes where necessary, but it’s all very simple. Touchscreen controls work wonders in this regard; it’s really intuitive to perform on-the-fly changes with a casual stylus poke. This same spirit is carried over into the development of your players.

This is done via training cards, which you receive during games. You build your squad members in various stats, and change their specific abilities and strengths in this way. In short, Nintendo Pocket Football Club boasts just enough of the virtues that so enthral genre fans, while presenting it in such a way that won’t overwhelm newcomers. It’s quite an achievement in this sense.

Whatever Happened To… The Unrivaled Crazitude of ‘Project Rub’?

Project Rub

Hard as it is to comprehend now, the DS’s touchscreen blew minds left, right and centre when it was announced. In the early 2000s, this was pretty well unheard of, and particularly so with regards to a games console. Generally, any screen-touching at that time would only result in that weird rainbow-coloured-warpiness effect.

It was new and unfamiliar territory. We tentatively began to paw at the DS’s display like a cat when a mouse appears on TV. Confused and intrigued and a little hungry. What we needed was a comfortable and entertaining introduction to this brave new world. A game that would deliver on all of Nintendo’s ‘intuitive’ prattle.

That title was Project Rub. Buckle up, ladies and gentlemen, there’s a heaping helping of madness right here.

As we know, regardless of the console, minigame compilations are nothing new. This peculiar effort from Sonic Team is another of them, but it has all the quirky charm it needs to be forgiven. It’s a love story at its heart, with you playing the role of an anonymous hero who falls in love with a passer-by. From those rather cliched beginnings, we embark on a lunatic tale indeed.

Just another day in the life.
Just another day in the life.

Said minigames see you massaging a man’s stomach to free a trapped goldfish, poking at rampaging bull-men to ‘pop’ them, and… pawing at your lady-love’s body in all kinds of bizarre fashions. Project Rub was deeply eccentric and oddly compelling, and its silhouette artstyle only added to its charm.

Its sequel, The Rub Rabbits!, expanded upon all of this. Here, your character has his own smitten admirer, and the love triangle makes for an entertaining narrative. But that’s not really why you’re here, as the games took a further turn for the crazy-ass. At one point, you’ll have to turn your DS upside down to navigate a crop of palm trees, which are being attacked by a giant marauding mecha-crab. That’s not a sentence you get to hear very often, which pretty well says it all.

The travesty, then, is that there has been none of this since 2005. The original was –ironically– the game that made me fall in love with the DS, and this fairly obscure series has a cult following. Will we ever see another?

The Best Easter Eggs of Spring 2014

Easter

The Easter is here and nothing better than creating an entertaining compilation featuring the best easter eggs found in video games released this Spring. Despite the extensive release date since the start of the year, there aren’t many surprising or remarkable easter eggs yet. Probably because most mainstream games are one or two months old, meaning players didn’t have enough time to deeply explore the new virtual realities. Nonetheless, enjoy the following funny and unexpected remarks in Spring 2014’s games.

01010. Dark Souls II – Bird’s Nest

In Dark Souls II, there’s an amusing reference to the previous game concerning a bird’s nest. After defeating the Asylum Demon in Dark Souls I, players can find a bird’s nest with little hatchlings requesting a gift. In the second game, players can find this same nest and gift them something in exchange for a mysterious item. It’s an interesting connection between games.

089. Titanfall – Dog Doll

Inside a bar in Nexus, there’s a peculiar dark brown dog doll with sparkly eyes. The animal is generally imperceptible to most players due to its lateral positioning and its very dark color that blends with the table he’s on. This could perfectly be part of the bar’s decoration but if you look closely, it wouldn’t make any sense to put a dog doll in a customer’s table.

068. The Elder Scrolls Online – Wicked Cats

Probably the most hilarious easter egg found in The Elder Scrolls Online so far, is the wicked cat group located in the Crazy Cat Lady’s House in Ebonheart. When entering the house, several cats will jump around, some will solely make noises and others will stare at you endlessly. Eventually, some cats will perform strange moves too, it’s quite funny.

037. The Goat Simulator – PewPew Robot

The PewPew Robot is an easter egg triggered when you enter the hanging crate. This robot has the words “Pew Pew” scribbled on his back and the interpretations may differ. It can be understood as a popular culture symbol relating to a science fiction space gun. But it can also relate to the famous YouTuber, PewDiePie.

046. Thief – Dead Burrick (Dinossaur)

During Thief’s chapter three, Dirty Secrets, in the underground ruins, players can find a dead animal in the water that resembles a dinosaur. However, it’s a dead burrick, a bizarre bipedal animal from the original Thief series. This is a clear attempt to relate to the previous games and it was surprisingly well executed – that burrick is actually well hidden!

025. inFamous: Second Son – The Knack Plushy

Another hilarious reference to other series in inFamous: Second Son is the Knack plushy. This cute plushy is a representation of Knack, a platform beat ’em up game that features a protagonist with the same name. Knack is a friendly robot with elementary powers. What’s the relation now? Oh, it’s about Sony Computer Entertainment, the publisher of both games.

054. Titanfall – The Bathroom Loch Ness Monster Toy

Titanfall’s Odyssey Map has a very peculiar bathroom or more specifically, a very unusual object there. In this map’s restroom, there’s a sink with nothing more, nothing less than a lock ness monster toy. This creature is a mythical cryptid, whose existence has never been discovered or documented by scientists. Despite being a random choice it’s still quite humorous.

013. inFamous: Second Son – The Cooper Gang Graffiti

The famous Cooper Gang from the Sly Cooper series appears in inFamous: Second Son at the Sienna’s Smith Play Zone. In one of the walls of the park, there’s a huge graffiti featuring some of the Cooper Gang members – Sly Cooper, Bentley and Murray. It’s a fairly controversial choice taking in consideration the game’s criminality background.

072. Castlevania: Lords of Shadows 2 – Roasted Chicken

This curious egg can be achieved by shooting a large bird during the Mirror of Fate quest. While tracking lost pieces of the mirror, players will reach a forest area in Overlook Tower and that’s when the bird will show up with a piece. Killing the bird using a fireball will turn it into a roasted chicken – pretty hilarious, right? Though, if you use others skills, nothing will happen.

091. South Park: The Stick of Truth – Tom Cruise and the Closet

South Park: The Stick of Truth has a hilarious reference to the TV series, season 9 episode “Won’t Come Out of The Closet”, where Tom Cruise literally won’t come out of the closet. In game, this easter egg can be triggered by going to Stan’s house. There’s a closet in his room and inside, there’s a self-locked Tom Cruise screaming: “I’m never coming out”.

Wolfenstein The New Order: 5 Reasons Why You Should Play This Game

Wolfenstein

Wolfenstein: The New Order is the ninth game of the Wolfenstein series and the first one since more than two decades. Machine Games promise a notable revival of the longstanding series with The New Order, an alternate history where the Nazis have emerged victorious from World War II. Despite being a first-person shooter game, The New Order is single-player-only but that shouldn’t be disappointing in any way, since the narrative will have a huge impact in the gameplay. If you don’t know why you should play this game, then here are the top five reasons that make this game absolutely worth playing.

Wolfenstein The New Order1. Your Weapon, Your Way: Unlimited Weapon Variety

Weapon issues won’t be part of The New Order. Players will have access to a non-limited weapon inventory, as well as a dual wielding ability. Some armaments will have special utilities, such as hidden sharping tools, which will enhance and invigorate the combat encounters. Environmental weapons like turrets will be able to be pulled from their stationary position and carried around to defeat enemies. Finally, as players progress through the narrative, they’ll be capable of unveiling Nazi secrets and take control of “super weapons that have been used to dominate Earth and beyond”, as Bethesda stated.

Wolfenstein The New Order2. Fast Paced Non-Linear Mode: Always On the Move

You can play as a more stealthy game and the game plays differently. (…) You start to unlock special abilities, the more you do this then you learn new ways to do stealth take downs. It does allow some variety; it’s not just a one note linear thing. (Pete Hines, Vice President of Public Relations and Marketing, April 16, 2014)

MachineGames has designed The New Order to impose a fast paced non-linear mode, where players can choose their tactical skills and strategic approaches. There are four different skill trees: stealth, tactical, assault and demolitions. Which means the game can end up being very different depending on players’ combat choices. Players can also move freely and naturally with the advanced maneuver system – sprints, lean around and under cover. Furthermore, the whole system forces you to keep moving and never look back. It’s crucial that you accomplish your mission. There’s no time to waste.

Wolfenstein The New Order3. Intriguing Alternate History: It Could Have Happened

Europe, 1960. The war is over. And the Nazis are triumphant victors. Using unrelenting force and brutal intimidation, the Nazis have brought even the most powerful nations to their knees. The Nazi regime now rules the globe with an iron fist. (MachineGames & Bethesda Softworks, April 16, 2014)

The New Order is set in 1960 but contrasting our historic events, the Third Reich won World War II. Therefore, the world became quite different from what we know – it’s an alternate history that could have happened. Players will assume the role of American war hero B.J. Blazkowicz and face a world filled with oppression, tyranny and insanity. In order to restore freedom and democracy, gamers are tasked with an impossible counter-offensive mission against the Nazi forces. Exploring a world controlled by the Third Reich is one of the key features in The New Order. If you ever wondered how the world would look like in case of a Nazi domination, then here’s your chance to find out.

Wolfenstein The New Order4. Interactive World: Environments Won’t Be Just About Aesthetics

The more you discover of Wolfenstein’s levels, the more you’ll find that developer MachineGames seems to be going all-out to build an expansive, fully-featured world around its shooting. (Gamesradar, March 7, 2014)

Environment interaction will be done at multiple levels in the upcoming game of Wolfenstein. There are countless secrets to be unveiled in The New Order and most of them rely on some sort of environmental objects. For example, certain paintings and sculptures can open secret passages. Additionally, the overall environment will be semi-destructible, allowing players to destroy objects, blow up places and unleashing hell upon their Nazi enemies.

Wolfenstein The New Order5. Alternative Health System: Healing is More Realistic

First, let’s talk about the game’s health system. Unlike 2009’s Wolfenstein, The New Order returns the series back to its roots with health and armor pickups. (Gamefront, August 31, 2013)

The health system in The New Order will be more realistic and challenging. Unlike it happens in most first-person shooter games, players’ health will be divided in separate regenerative sections. Once a section has been entirely depleted it won’t regenerate back until players use a health pack. Just as in real life, if you are wounded and bleeding, the only way to get better is to take care of your injuries. On the other hand, if you are careful enough, the segments will recover naturally. This dynamic feature will deeply influence the combat system since players must always consider their health sectors before engaging enemy forces.

The Evil Within: 5 Reasons Why This Game Can’t Scare Anyone

There are numerous games that fail at the most diverse things, yet there aren’t as many failing at their own genre. The Evil Within seems to belong to this restricted group, where games seem to lose their initial essence in the wonders of content production. Labeled as survival-horror, The Evil Within should be delivering an enthusiastic next-gen experience capable of revolutionizing the genre. However, the recently launched trailer at PAX East indicates that more than failing at horror, this game doesn’t seem to scare anyone at all.

asd1. Detached Protagonist

One of the most incoherent features in The Evil Within is the fact that the main character, Sebastian Castellano, does not fear death. The protagonist goes through most of the story wondering if he’s dreaming or if he’s actually part of a living hell. Sebastian is normally detached of emotions and his facial expression is generally hollow and indifferent. Even when the most terrifying enemies approach, he doesn’t seem to have any danger perception. He is not concerned for his mortality, therefore how or why should players be worried about anything at all? The empathy is simply not there.

ew32. Surviving is Utterly Easy

Surviving is the core feature of this genre but in The Evil Within the treat level is rather tragic. Sebastian is able to defeat all kind of enemies with just his weaponry (guns, rifles, crossbows) and the worst part is that it only takes a few shoots to take down the supposedly horrifying creatures. How can there be any type of fear if dying is not a problem at all? Horror and safety just don’t go along and in this case, things are too simple and easy.

ew23. Old Fashioned “Scaring” Tricks

Old scaring tricks used to work marvelously back then but with time and experience players inevitably become tolerant to these same tricks. This happens because the human brain develops involuntary defense mechanisms that won’t allow the same techniques to trigger a similar amount of amusement and fear that it used to. Besides, the surprise element is completely gone. Delivering the same horror features over and over in different contexts does not generate the intended horror sensations. In fact, it can generate opposite feelings such as fun and boredom.

ew44. Repetitive Horror Techniques

In The Evil Within, the supposed scaring techniques are used and abused to exhaustion. The most common one is the out of nowhere monster spawning. It’s surely frightening at the first times, however after a while you’ll always have in mind that wild abominations can appear behind you, so whether they appear or not, it won’t surprise you anymore. Besides, in this game players can simply run away and close a door behind and they’ll be safe. Now, a horror game that allows this kind of maneuver can’t expect to scare anyone.

The Evil Within5. Enemies are Hardly Convincing

The last reason why this game can’t scare players lays on the aesthetics. The general environment visuals are quite gorgeous but when it comes to close range, more specifically characters and monsters, the panorama is very different. Monsters, in general, lack detail and quality, thus realism. The effects are not astonishing as well, which makes the whole in-doors environment a bit rough and hardly convincing.

Dragon Age Inquisition: Meet the Dales’ Exalted Plains – History, Features and Exploration

Dales

The Dales are a vast area of Thedas located southeastern of Orlais to the west of Ferelden and it used to be the homeland of the elven race. BioWare has recently confirmed this territory as an integrant part of the Inquisition’s main maps. However, it’s not known yet if the whole land will be featured in the upcoming game, since only one zone has been unveiled so far – the Exalted Planes. This zone is particularly rich in history and it has been a ceaseless battlefield over the centuries. Blood is yet to be shed once again as the Orlesian Civil War spreads across the land.

History: A Land Forever Shaped by War

The Exalted Plains of the Dales are characterized by equal measures of beauty and strife. It was here, centuries ago, that the elven nation met its bitter end. On these fields, the holdouts of the elven army faced the forces of the human Chantry and died, defending their promised land to the last breath. This legacy of conflict has endured, and battle once again rages in the Dales. (BioWare, 7th April, 2014)

Dragon Age The Dales MapThe elves have a long history of slavery under the supremacy of the Tevinter Imperium but everything changed when they sided with Andraste and Maferath against the slavers. As a reward for their great service, the elves received an extensive land, the Dales, where they could revive their ancient civilization. Elven individuals all over Thedas tried to reach the Dales with just one goal in mind – freedom. United, the race founded Halamshiral, which means “the end of the journey” in Elvish and restored most of their ancient culture. However, peace didn’t last long and with the arrival of the Second Blight, the elves decided to cut off all the bounds with their human neighbours, more specifically Orlais. They remained neutral and watched from far away, while millions of humans perished to the darkspawn. Due to this, the hostility levels between the two races went out of control and war became inevitable. It’s not known what evidently triggered the war since each race has its own version of the events. Nonetheless, Orlais declared holy war against the elves and they’ve successfully taken over the land by force. Furthermore, the elves were forbidden to worship their gods or follow their culture. Those who embraced the Maker were sent to human cities to live in the slums known as alienages. Those who refused the Chantry’s offerings were either killed or exiled into small Dalish clans. Now, the Dales are an Orlesian colony and the Exalted Planes are the main stage of civil war, where human soldiers fight and die in the name of a future free of injustice and oppression.

Features: Dynamic Open World – Alive and Living

The first thing we [did] was try to portray the civil war and the impact it’s having on the environment and the people of that region. In these spaces, we try to provide opportunities for the Inquisition to come in and make its mark on the area. Then the people there rally around that. (Andrew Farrell, Senior Environment Artist, 11th April, 2014)

Dragon Age Inquisition the Dales’ Exalted Plains179_5253173064104393465_nThe Exalted Plains will foretell its own history through interactive and dynamic features. Players won’t need to read much in order to understand what’s going on in that specific land. After all, one image is worth more than a thousand words. And that’s exactly BioWare’s goal in Inquisition, to create a new level of environmental realism. Utilizing Frostbite 3 game engine and next-generation technology, the company is now able to create a deeper and more immersive reality with life of its own. It’s not enough to be alive; the game has to be able to live as well.

Now, it’s already known that Inquisition will feature a more intense choice-driven system, in which characters and factions will behave differently according to player’s decisions. This concept by itself will certainly increase the immersion and engagement levels of the game. However, to create an augmented environmental reality, other elements must be considered. Displacement mapping and interactive waters are two of the advanced techniques being used by BioWare to achieve this new level of environmental realism. The essence seems to rely on the replication of the world around us – every detail counts.

Displacement mapping adds a new level of realism to the environment. Normal maps [in previous-gen technology] brought great detail to surfaces, but displacement mapping actually pushes those details out so you can see them in the silhouette. (…) Interactive water is one of the key things we’ve added to next-gen. It’s got realistic reflections, and also realistically ripples and splashes as you walk through it. (Ben McGrath, Lead Environment Artist, 11th April, 2014)

Exploration: The Real Adventure is About to Begin

Get off the beaten path! Just like exploring in real life, look under all the rocks, under all the bridges, and in all dark corners of the map. Take the path less-traveled and you might something interesting… or surprising. (Andrew Farrell, Senior Environment Artist, 11th April, 2014)

Dragon Age Inquisition the Dales’ Exalted PlainsExploration has always been part of the Dragon Age series but apparently, this system is about to become really complex and challenging. Getting off the main roads and look around might be a good idea at certain times, at least there will be a good chance to discover something unexpected. Who knows what kind of things you’ll be able to find in Inquisition? In the previous games, companion gifts and lore items were the most surprising findings. But in Inquisition there will be much more to explore, which might indicate that there will be much more to discover as well.

The Wolf Among Us: Episode 3 ‘A Crooked Mile’ New Characters

Crooked Mile

A Crooked Mile, the third episode of The Wolf Among Us, introduces a new set of fables with very peculiar fates in which some of them are predestined to change the course of the upcoming episodes. The new reinforcements promise a strong antagonist force, as well as a talented ally frontier gifted with exceptional aptitudes. Among witches, doctors, janitors and vicious killers, this new episode really brings a huge amount of diversity. Meet all the new characters presented in A Crooked Mile.

The Wolf Among Us Greenleaf

1. Auntie Greenleaf

Aunty Greenleaf is one of the few rogue witches living outside of the 13th Floor magic group. She sells illegal spells in Fabletown’s black market and she has been supplying Ichabod Crane with illegal glamours for the past few years. Greenleaf is a nature and animal lover and she relies on her ancient tree to perform magical deeds. However, she’s now working for Bigby, meaning her underworld days have come to an end.

The Wolf Among Us

2. Bloody Mary

This ruthless and vicious antagonist seems to be a higher rank of the Crooked Man’s gang. Bloody Mary kills for fun and she is proud of her malicious spirit. She has been working with the Tweedles Twins and for some reason she has been hunting Ichabod Crane. It’s not clear yet but everything indicates that she’s directly involved with the murder of Faith and Lily.

The Wolf Among Us Crooked Man
3. Crooked Man

The Crooked Man is supposedly the main antagonist of the story and he seems to be behind all the criminal incidents in The Wolf Among Us. He directly employs the Tweedles, Bloody Mary and Georgie from the Pudding & Pie. Consequently, he has all the girls under control, explaining the famous phrase “my lips are sealed”.

The Wolf Among Us Swineheart

4. Doctor Swineheart

Swineheart is Fabletown’s resident physician and he has become a notorious ally by tending to Bigby, Grendel, Holly and Snow’s wounds. He runs the Special Research Section of the Knights of Malta Hospital and he’s skilled at the art of instrumental surgery. Also, he seems to be a kind and generous fable and he usually advices other fables.

The Wolf Among Us Flycatcher

5. Flycatcher

Flycatcher used to be a prince but after losing his family at the Woodlands, he came to Fabletown to become a janitor. He has been hired by the Tweedle brothers to maintain their office and he doesn’t seem too concerned about the town issues. He’s a true workaholic and he uses his endless work tasks to deny himself and his past.

The Wolf Among Us Tim

6. Tiny Tim

Very little is known about Tiny Tim. He is seen driving the Crooked Man’s limousine at the end of the episode, which indicates that he’s most likely his devoted driver.

Interview: Habitat Creator Charles Cox Shares Brand New Details

Habitat

When I saw the first trailer for Habitat, I was captivated by the unique qualities and focus on frenetic fun. Through my colleagues, I managed to get my hands on the GDC demo of the game, and was immediately impressed with the ideas on show. The moment I finished playing, I contacted Charles Cox, founder of 4gency and mastermind behind Habitat and asked for an interview.

The following is a shortened version of that conversation. The interview can be listened to in its entirety by following this link.

habitat

What is Habitat?

Habitat is a strategy game set in low-earth orbit and it’s about building space stations out of space junk.

What sort of personal goal do you want to achieve with Habitat?

my goal for building habitat is twofold. Number one, I’ve always wanted to play a game like this. It’s been a dream of mine since the early days of Buzz Aldrin’s Race Into Space for the PC that I’ve always wanted to get creative with orbital construction. In many ways, Habitat is a game I am building because it’s a game I wish were available for me to play.

Number two, I want to tell a story and give creative power and this kind of enjoyment to other people. I feel that Habitat is a game that is going to be better the more people play it, the more people create things and the more they share them with each other. There was a great opportunity to take this crazy dream I had, and go all in and build not just a game, but a creative platform, so that other people could enjoy and surprise everyone with the things they create. To me that was a thousand times more awesome than just playing the game myself. I knew I had to make this game.

What sort of challenges did you face while developing Habitat?

There have been quite a few. Habitat’s initial concept came to me in february of 2013, I was actually at the air and space museum in washington DC. At the time, the biggest challenge was that all I had were the words and pictures in my head. I saw how the game would play, but communicating that to others caused people to remain skeptical. I had to go very deliberately through each of the phases of explaining out this concept. There was concept art I commissioned from old buddies in the industry, and I made old powerpoint slide decks of how the game would play and what you were supposed to do; there was a lot of programmer art. People were impressed, but despite all that, there was never that sense of full on ignition, like  “let’s go make this, this is incredible”

So eventually, I think it was probably July or August of 2013, I had gotten enough people together who were willing to donate their time to build a prototype of this game. It was fantastic, and it totally fell apart! Everybody wanted different things out of the prototype, and there were too many unanswered questions. Furthermore, my own job that I had at Microsoft was taking away so much of my time, that I couldn’t have a very active hand in leading this effort.

This team of like 6 or 7 people scattered, they did what they thought was right but it never gelled, so I was left with this prototype that didn’t make any sense, they scattered to the winds, and I called a halt. It was a really difficult time. I thought this was going to be my shot for sure, so I had to reset. After that, I finally realized this was only going to happen, I was only going to make the game I really want to make, if I gave every second to making this happen. That said, the only thing left to do was to quit my full time job and try this full time. Ultimately that’s what happened. I left Microsoft in September 2013 and the result is what you see in the GDC demo. It does have a purpose, direction and you and others can see what this is going to become. I know that we’ve got something special.

In the Kickstarter campaign video I noticed mention of your passion for space and the space camp that you attended. Did that influence or help the design of Habitat in any way?

What was great about space camp is that it was a taste of everything. We were there for 7-10 days or so, you lived in dorms, you had teams you were on, and you were doing all these different kinds of challenges. Building moon space stations and doing simulations like being a shuttle pilot.  I think there wasn’t really a single experience in space camp that turned directly into “Construct orbital space stations and smash them together!” They certainly didn’t teach us to do that!

You’re someone who knows, thinks, and believes in games, and I know that, and a lot of times there’s a desire to take your experiences and have more fun with them than you did. That’s not to say space camp wasn’t fun because it was, but there was always this sense of “I really want to see if I can crash the simulator” You can look at that as sad in one way, but in another way, it’s how we kind of remix game ideas and it comes from a very primal place. To answer your question, there were a lot of experiences, not just space camp. The Museum of Flight was a popular destination for my mom and dad and me to go to together in Seattle. My father became the captain at American Airlines so I got to go to the simulators they ran down in texas.

What made you decide to create a Kickstarter for Habitat?

I think that a few things kind of came together. The first was that kickstarter has a history of not only being successful for projects of all kinds, but being especially successful for games, and even more so for PC games. At the time I was looking at Habitat, I was thinking about funding, and I thought  “Okay how am I going to pay for this? How am I going to get on Steam?”. In Seattle there’s a lot of different options, but economic climate is pretty tough for game studios, especially indies.

There’s no small business loans going around any more. Angel investors in the area don’t see games as a legitimate risk, they’re into biotechnology, medical marijuana, and other things. There’s very definitive categories where investors are interested. More than that, in the games business I think there’s an unfortunate, and I hope temporary emphasis on ‘free to play’. I don’t particularly find myself designing good free to play games, and I don’t feel comfortable with it.

The question kind of ended up being “What’s the right way to fund a game that plays like Habitat does, and has this sandbox feel with a dedicated community who wants to give feedback?”. To me kickstarter is really like that holy grail moment, because it’s so perfectly aligned to the story of independent sandbox pc game development. It’s the best possible risk I could take because when I get my idea out in front of the audience, the players are going to tell me whether this is worth it or not.

Could you share any details about the campaign mode?

We have two big ideas for the way we want to do the campaign.  The first is a traditional three act narrative structure. It will take you through a part creative, part narrative three act campaign, wherein you are racing against time to escape the earth.The earth is being eaten by nanomachines, and those nanomachines are starting to actually exit the atmosphere and contaminate low-earth orbit.

You as the player have to get further and further away from this place that humanity has called home forever, and get out into these very strange fields of space junk.  Act 1 you learn to build, the junk is very pedestrian, a lot of school busses and space capsules and booster rockets and so on. In Act 2 you get further out and learn how to fight. That’s where you’re going to find weird weapons such as grappling hooks and particle accelerators, and that’s where you learn there is another habitat that you will have to fight. In Act 3, without revealing too much, it is kind of like going through the looking glass. Once you break out into this very stranger high earth graveyard orbit, it’s like an alien scrapyard. The weirdest stuff you can imagine, such as playing with physics and time. In that graveyard is where you find the means to save humanity and escape from the nanomachines.

The second idea for the campaign is where the term ‘Thousand Generation’s In Orbit’ comes from. This is a mode that is much more like a ‘rogue legacy’ way of building. Rather than holding onto a single habitat or timeline through a three act narrative, what you’re actually doing is you are building a space station, trying to complete smaller missions, but blowing yourself up in the process.

By failing, you’re actually rewarded with research points, and the way we string that narrative together is that if you blow up your habitat there’s a pause, and all of a sudden you’re looking at video of what you did wrong. The next generation of astronauts are reviewing your footage going “hmm, now that’s what happened the last time, so we’re not going to let this happen again, this time we have…” and they unveil the new research they’ve unlocked, which you get to choose through your tech tree. Using the new research you go up and try it again.

We will be listening to feedback from PAX East to build the campaign that fans want, but I don’t think that it’s the right thing to do to combine the two ideas. I think that would kind of give you a halfway experience both ways, so what I think we’d like to do is we’d like to build one of those campaigns in and then offer the second version as something that people can get after launch.

You briefly mentioned the tech tree, could you share any details on what kinds of things you’ll be able to unlock and how that will affect gameplay?

There aren’t a lot of details I can nail down just yet, but what we know is that through the gameplay that we’ve been exploring, there are certain paths of upgrades that we want to tackle. For instance, how your habitat manages its own resources and boosting production upgrades. These will essentially allow you to build larger habitats for less cost, so thats one path.

There is another path which you can go down which is your more war-like path. Having auto-sealing or auto-destruct connections so that you can jettison entire sections of your habitat quickly when in combat. That’s not as much about building and making bigger cities, but rather, staying agile, being able to react to changes and challenges, things like that.

The third path of research will have to do with your engineers. Right now, having multiple engineers is a consequence of having a certain number of citizens on board your habitat, and I think that there are things we’re going to want to empower engineers beyond just welding and repairing.

I want to look at tech tree upgrades the same way I look at achievements only in reverse. Achievements are about what you have done, and tech trees are about what you can do. In both circumstances, I personally like tech tree upgrades that allow you to do certain things you couldn’t do before, rather than get some numerical bonus to something you’ve done. I think a great tech tree is all about letting you do new things rather than saying “5% bonus!”. That’s not a bonus.

I’ll hold myself to that standard as much as I can, and I think that Habitat will allow us to do a lot of unique things in the interplay of all of these crazy elements, but there will of course, be a few 10%-20% bonuses to upgrades because it rounds out the tech tree and gives people some sort of direction.

While I was playing the demo, I noticed that you were left to your own devices to figure out aspects of the game and how they function. One could credit that to the fact that this is an early build, but is that a design aspect that you’d like to keep in the final product, or do you intend on having a more traditional tutorial?

I think that there’s value there. We heard from our players that they like not having their hand held, however, we’ve also heard other players saying “what the hell am I supposed to do?” and that’s a tough thing to reconcile. What I believe the correct answer is, is what I call an open tutorial.

Imagine the difference between a tutorial that pauses your game and throws up a dialogue box that says “do this thing and you’ll be rewarded with the ability to see another dialogue box”. The difference between that and something that looks a little bit more like an objective that says “hey, try flying over here” with some hints that say “do this, this and this”. It sits there, doesn’t bug you,  but when you get there it says “Nice! By the way, did you notice this or this or the other thing? Now let’s do something else” but you don’t actually have to do that mission. You aren’t being forced, the game isn’t paused, and you have no annoying crap on your screen.

I do want you to know that a lot of the lack of hand holding is due to the early build and is not a deliberate philosophy to stay out of your way. I want to stay out of your way, but don’t want to leave players feeling clueless. If in the first 30 seconds you aren’t sure you have a purpose in this life, you have a strong impulse to throw this thing at the wall.

Will you ever encounter more than one habitat or faction?

Right now in the three act campaign, we have a notion of three major enemies. One is space junk in general. From explosives to asteroids, they’re not particularly intelligent in that they only float around. That said, they hurt you if you hit them, therefore I consider them enemies.

The second enemy is a group named Foundation.They’re humans that don’t believe in what you’re being tasked to do, not that they hate you personally. They’re constructing space stations just like you are, but what they don’t like is whoever is choosing who gets to go up on the shuttles and live in space, versus being eaten slowly by nanomachines on Earth.

Foundation does sympathize with humans, but unfortunately, you’re both fighting for the same resources. That gas tank you want powers their habitat as well, so the fight becomes a fight for survival between your habitats and theirs, and that’s a key aspect of Habitat. There is not just one city that you will own, you can make as many as you want. Foundation will do the same.

The third enemy is the nanomachines themselves. They’re less defined at this point but know that in addition to eating up earth and causing trouble down there, they will at times try to infect you as well. They’ll try to throw up infectious material that will eat at your habitat, and they’ll try to pose or clone themselves to look like your people. As a mass of machines that can take any form, I can totally see them playing the cloak card.

Ultimately, I don’t want the narrative to be a complete tragedy. I’m a romantic when it comes to space. I believe we’ll live no matter where we are, but you are fighting the people who think you’re the bad guy. With that said, you both need to realize that the worst thing is the nanomachines, so there’s this great hate/love triangle that you’ve got going on.

You mention the three-way conflict. Would there be any sort of diplomatic aspects where you could call truces, build alliances, declare wars?

One of the comments we received on Kickstarter that said “Neat concept, but you really needed diplomacy options” and I agree. For me the question is “do we put it in now or do we put it in later?” I can’t say for sure when it’s going to arrive, and at this point I don’t know. I don’t want to make this like “Total War”, but on the other hand, I want to exercise the possibility and show the action, and then we can add the nuance and art of this concept and refine it as we go.

Do you have any plans for potential cooperative or competitive multiplayer features, or will this be a single-player, narrative-driven adventure?

People are very interested in multiplayer. We see multiplayer in a couple of different ways. One is what a lot of people think of as internet multiplayer, where you play with people you don’t know, or people you do know but not in the same room. The other potential is a simpler, almost rocket-arena single-screen experience, kind of like on the Xbox, you have four people each in a corner, and they all have to create something and try to blow each other up.

We’ve thought about both, but what we know is that either one is going to increase dev cost and dev time. What’s more, trying to do this alongside the development of the single-player could exponentially increase dev time, and so we need to be very cautious about when we do this, and what level of baked features on single player would be the right time to expand it. At this point, with our $50,000 target, we will not be able to do multiplayer right away. However, we have some stretch goals in mind.

That said, we have not revealed our stretch goals yet. This is deliberate. We do not want to pretend we are something other than who we are. We are a team of five individuals who come from the games business and we’re making this crazy dream happen on a community-based game, that we’ll build piece by piece with people who are passionate about it.

Are you considering mod support?

We are considering it, and considering the fact that it hasn’t been announced as part of our $50,000 target, I think it’s an exercise to the reader to figure out when we might be talking about that. There’s considerable work to do to expose it.

We’re well aware that mod support will increase the longevity of the game, give the community another amazing way to add on to it, I’m excited for it, but I also know the architecture it’ll take, and the community support it’s going to take, and the $50,000 target is not quite enough to get us there. If we hit that $50,000, I think you’re going to see something that will make you very happy.

I noticed on the Kickstarter that you have Xbox One as a platform for Habitat. Do you have any unique ideas that would utilize the Xbox One’s features in mind? And do you have future platforms in mind?

Let’s take the second question first. The platforms for launch are PC, Mac, Linux, and Xbox One. No other consoles are currently planned at this time, but that doesn’t mean we might not add more later.

Going back to the first question, there are several things we’re thinking we’d like to do. Number one, on the Xbox One, the “Record That” feature where it records the last 30 seconds of gameplay is on by default, and thank goodness because that’s perfect for Habitat. I also think there’s a great possibility for Kinect voice-support to shortcut to certain things that would otherwise take a little bit longer on a controller, so here’s an example:

You’re building your habitat and your oxygen is running low, you’ve fixed the leaks, but you know you need another oxygen generator and you have about 30 seconds until the next colony ship shows up. Those 6 people are going to suck down even more oxygen, so you are thinking “What am I going to do?” You zoom out using the left trigger to see what you’ve got to work with, and you say “Habitat, find me oxygen” and all of a sudden, you get an interface that pops up and scans the entire playing field for space junk that is oxygen specific. They’ll light up green and you can grab them.

One of the other things I think would be really cool would be implementing Smartglass. It’d be a sort of interactive encyclopedia for Habitat, so you can look through junk types and how they’re used, and, one thing I’d absolutely love, is a place where players can essentially share blueprints for habitat combinations that they found useful.  You can then go through and be like “I need something to salvage” “I need something to defend against nanomachines” then there is this community set of blueprints that would pop up that are battle tested, and you’re like “cool, I can build this myself!”

What would be dynamite though, is that you could then click on this blueprint, and it sends a message to your Xbox while you’re playing, and just like the ‘Habitat, find me oxygen’ it’d be a command that shows you all the pieces around you that could be used to build that blueprint.

That’s ambitious! I’m not promising that! But these are the types of things that I think the game will make it interesting and fun.

How’s the Kickstarter going? Are you pleased with the outcome?

I’m very pleased. Within the first 72 hours of the campaign, we’ve hit 40% of our goal. We’ve made $20,000 of that $50,000 target.

Congratulations!

Thank you very much. We’re overwhelmed to be upfront and emotional with you. Believers have come out of the woodwork and I’ve seen comments on threads that say stuff like “This is a childhood dream come true, I’ve always wanted this game!” and it’s very gratifying.

That said, Kickstarters current success rate is something like 46.3% so even though we have momentum, we’re keeping the pressure on.

If the first three days are any indication, I think you guys have hit a gold mine of sorts!

We hope so, because this is the game I’ve wanted to build since I was a boy. Being able to bring this to you and all of our fans is the most important thing I can do with the next several years of my life on this earth, so I’m just going to do it.

Excellent! Where can people learn more about Habitat, or follow its development?

The most important link we want to share right now is JoinThe509tha.com/Kickstarter. We have the normal website at Jointhe509th, but all of the latest stuff will be on our Kickstarter, so definitely check that out and help us spread the word. That’s the most important thing!

Whatever Happened to… Advance Wars?

Wars

For us more decrepit gamers, Advance Wars needs no introduction. But hey, while I’m typing words at your face, I suppose I could bring you one for your eyeballs to feast on anyway. Buckle up, all.

This much-ballyhooed Game Boy Advance release arrived in 2001, the first installment in a decade-long series (beginning with Famicom Wars) to leave Japanese shores. It was fairly obscure at the time, but gamers soon came to realise what a tiny miracle they had on their hands. Were turn-based strategy games known for their accessibility? Or their toon-tastic cuteness? Or… existing on Nintendo systems in the first darn place? No, no, and no, yet Advance Wars ticked all three boxes.

Here was a title that combined all of those beard-scratchy concepts, managing resources, defensive lines, fog of war and so forth, into a package which didn’t make newcomers want to cry sad tears of confused sadness. With its primary-coloured friendliness and hand-holding-yet-extensive tutorial, it was perhaps the most accessible game the genre has ever seen.

Advance Wars2

But once it had welcomed you to the party, it then locked the door behind you and announced that it’s not a party at all. That was just a pretext to get you here, so we could have an intervention for your drink problem. Advance Wars was deceptively difficult, with quite the mean learning curve. Anyone deriding its cutesy visuals would probably be in for a rude awakening when the later missions kicked their butts.

It’s a delicate balance, all in all, but in this way Advance Wars gave us the best of both worlds. Strategy players would feel comfortable venturing in, but so too would younger players and those unfamiliar with such games. The first installment was a remarkable success, as were the three sequels it spawned.

All of which begs the question: where’s our next slice? The franchise has been on hiatus since 2008’s Advance Wars: Days of Ruin, and the time is ripe for another. There’s much clamour from fans for a 3DS release, or perhaps a Battalion Wars sequel on Wii U. Either console is a perfect fit for the series, and there’s a surefire hit staring us all in the face right here.

Retro Corner: Asteroids

Asteroids

Ah, Asteroids. As retro gaming celebrities go, this guy is right up there. You’ll see him at swanky game-y cocktail parties, entertaining his groupies alongside Space Invaders and Pac-Man and other such A listers. These are the retro games, and they demand your attention.

Which is why I’m typing words at your face regarding Asteroids right now. So buckle up, because here come some more.

This arcade classic was released way back in 1979 by Atari. It’s credited as one of the games which kick-started the Golden Age of Arcade Games (which is an actual thing, a fancy title complete with capital letters and everything), which is a huge deal for a humble and simplistic shooter. Let’s take a look.

The premise is easy enough to grasp. You are the pilot of a tiny triangular spacecraft, trapped in the middle of an asteroid belt. Not relishing the prospect of a miniature fiery death, your objective is to blast the rocks flying around your ears and survive for a long as possible. Unable to ‘escape,’ the whole thing’s just one survival mode.

Asteroids 2

You control your craft by means of that awkwardy turn-y go-y system we all know so well. It will have to be mastered, as only the deftest of pilots find their way onto the leaderboards. Asteroids is certainly punishing, as a simple slip or unexpected collision will spell your doom. Health bars? Shields? There was none of that newfangled business in 1979. You don’t pass go. You don’t collect $200. You just explode.

If you’ve ever utilised hyperspace mode and cried a little as it materialised you right in a asteroid’s darn face, you’ll know how cheeky the game can be. But more important than that is how successful and influential it was. Defender, Space Invaders and the like were all cut from the same cloth, and hold all of the virtues of early gaming: accessible, instant fun, which was as addictive as it was deceptively challenging.