Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Why John Carmack Thinks The PS3 Is The “Second Best Console Ever Made”

When I was down at Quake Con last week, I got to hear id Software‘s legendary technical director John Carmack speak about all sorts of things.  His keynote lasted more than 90 minutes and throughout, you could clearly tell that John had become a fan of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 console, and far less a fan of Sony’s Playstation 3.  As a PC gamer myself, which console John prefers developing for means little to me (although it is interesting to hear him discuss it) but I know a lot of our readers are console gamers and they definitely want to know what a development icon like John really thinks about their favorite gaming machines.
Luckily enough, John walked into the press room as I was eating lunch one fine day and I had the opportunity to ask him all about what it’s like being a multi-platform developer in today’s gaming world.
"Swizzle Your Gigatexels Dave, Trust me"
John and I spoke for roughly 20 minutes about various topics, including the aforementioned multi-platform development.  While I can’t recall all of what we spoke about, there was one comment I remember extremely well.  That came when I asked him, “So, what do you really think about the PS3?”
His response?
“Well, it’s the second best console ever made”
He smiled and I laughed.
“What’s the first?” I replied
“The 360″
Shame, I was hoping he’d say the Sega Dreamcast.  ^__^
John says it’s not so much the power of the PS3 as it is the dev tools, which he says simply aren’t as good.
However, he did also say that there are places in RAGE where the PS3 works and performs better because the cells have more total processing power.
One thing is for sure.  Even if John thinks that the PS3 is a bigger pain in the ass to develop on, both versions of RAGE look damn near equal. (I’ve played them both) This is simply a testament to the team at id, and the genius of John Carmack.
Stay tuned to RipTen for continued coverage of RAGE and all things id.

Mortal Kombat Kollection - Komplete Your Kollection Trailer

Call of Duty XP Event teaser (Xbox 360)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Guild Wars 2 Demo: Tequatl (PC)

Guild Wars 2 - Getting at the Good Bits Pax Prime Panel (PC)

Gearbox talks Borderlands 2, Aliens: Colonial Marines

Who was there: On hand at Gearbox Software's PAX Prime 2011 panel were president and CEO Randy Pitchford, creative director Mikey Neumann, business development head David Eddings, Aliens: Colonial Marines producer Brian Burleson, art director Jeremy Cook, content designer Scott Kester, and writer Anthony Burch.
What they talked about: Gearbox Software stole last year's Penny Arcade Expo, as it used the venue to announce its acquisition of Duke Nukem Forever and the rest of 3D Realms' iconic guns-and-girls intellectual property. And though the developer had decidedly less to talk about at this year's show, the Gearbox panel closing out PAX remained one of the most popular.
Pitchford began the session by announcing a release date for Aliens Infestation, which is in development for the Nintendo DS at WayForward. The game will arrive in Europe on September 30, with the North American roll out following on October 11.
Then, as has become Pitchford's wont at PAX, the Gearbox CEO briefly addressed a number of other projects in development at the studio. Beginning with Aliens: Colonial Marines, Pitchford said that the goal of the game is to make the sequel to Aliens that everyone wanted to see, with bigger battles between the Colonials and the Aliens.
Next up was Brothers in Arms. Having announced the comical, Inglorious Basterds-esque Brothers in Arms: Furious 4 at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo, Pitchford said that the team remains committed to the more realistic travails of Sgt. Baker and his company. Stopping short of announcing a new game, Pitchford said, "We're going to do more of that. Absolutely, that's happening."
He went on to note that, in working with publisher Ubisoft, Gearbox has begun to approach the Brothers in Arms franchise as a brand that can have more than one thread. As such, it can accommodate both Furious 4 and games that resemble more traditional Brothers in Arms games, like Hell's Highway or Road to Hill 30.
After a number of self-deprecating remarks concerning recent flaps with the press as well as the somewhat-south-of-tepid critical response for Duke Nukem Forever, Pitchford reaffirmed that downloadable content is en route for that game. He also said that "soon we'll talk about" a Gearbox-developed installment in the Duke Nukem franchise.
He then moved on to Borderlands, announcing Borderlands B Test will be available through Steam on September 9. Described as a developer version of the original Borderlands, B Test is an update to all copies of the game, and it will be used as a testing ground for the studio's work on Borderlands 2.
Pitchford said that B Test will let the team closely monitor how gamers are playing the original Borderlands, as it gathers information on, for example, where people are getting stuck at or which guns aren't getting much use. It will also introduce Steam Cloud functionality into the game, allowing all characters to be saved to Valve's servers.
The conversation then shifted to Borderlands 2, with the first topic being, naturally, guns. Borderlands 2 will have an even greater amount of itemization than the first game. New to the franchise will be scopes, which will apparently offer more than just a close-up look at the battlefield. One example of these scopes was a beer bottle tied to a rifle. Players will also be able to dual-wield any weapon in the game.
Gearbox went on to note that the original game's cast of characters won't be playable in Borderlands 2. Though the studio hasn't announced the complete playable-character line-up, it has announced Salvatore the Gunzerker, which is a variant of the first game's Berserker class. The team also teased Maya, who is described as a Siren with powers different than those of the Siren in the original game.
Borderlands 2's story remains largely under wraps, but Gearbox did provide a brief overview. The primary antagonist will be Handsome Jack, who believes he is the hero and the player characters are the villains.
In a surprise, Oprah-like gesture, Pitchford and company then handed out vouchers for a free copy of Borderlands 2, which is expected to arrive between April 1, 2012 and March 31, 2013. In the process, he asked the some 1,000 panel attendees to purchase "the inevitable Borderlands 2 downloadable content" as recompense for 2K Games' generosity.
The Gearbox teamed offered a handful of other tidbits on Borderlands 2 during the Q&A portion of the panel. The team confirmed that Borderlands 2 will have new types of equipment. As one example, elemental artifacts will provide a variety of different character-enhancing bonuses, such as improved vehicle speed.
Gearbox also confirmed that Borderlands 2 will have online and local mutliplayer split-screen functionality. Pitchford also noted that Borderlands 2 will not require a persistent online connection, though he did say that being online will offer advantages such as Steam Cloud saves. The team also said that players will be able to transfer items between characters.
Quote: "…inevitable Borderlands 2 downloadable content."--Randy Pitchford, who was promptly mocked by the team for his inability to keep a secret.
Takeaway: Gearbox clearly has a great deal of respect and affection for its fans. The studio remains at work on all of its core franchises, including Brothers in Arms, Duke Nukem, and of course, Borderlands.

    Monday, August 29, 2011

    Appetite for Distraction - Peggle HD, Drunk Man, Lead Wars

    PAX: It's Official, Shepard Is a Redhead

    The new default female Shepard model in Mass Effect 3 has been decided thanks to voting by Mass Effect fans on Facebook, and she's a redhead.

    Check out BioWare TV to watch the reveal filmed from PAX, which was hosted by FemShep voice actress Jennifer Hale.

    Redheaded Shepard, who will be gracing the cover of the Mass Effect 3 Collector's Edition, won with a landslide. Her 19,576 votes were nearly quadruple the votes for the blonde version that won the first round of the voting process.
    The new default FemShep, as chosen by fans.

    343 Industries opens up on Halo 4, The Reclaimer Trilogy

    Who was there: With PAX Prime playing home to Halo's 10th anniversary party, 343 Industries trotted out some of its franchise leads to part the curtain on Halo 4, calling it the first game in The Reclaimer Trilogy. Moderated by content producer David Ellis, the panel featured franchise director Frank O'Connor, marketing director Kenneh Scott, executive producer Kiki Wolfkill, creative director Josh Holmes, and audio director Sotaro Tojima.
    What they talked about: Ellis started the panel off by asking O'Connor about the history of 343 Industries, with the franchise head responding that the studio technically launched three years ago. 343 was tasked with publishing Halo 3: ODST initially, but they knew they needed a team to continue the Halo franchise.
    Holmes was then asked why Halo 4 was announced as the first in a trilogy. He said that it was important for 343 to signal to fans that the studio is committed to the franchise. When they first started a little over two years ago, they knew the story they wanted to tell. A lot of what this trilogy will focus on is exploring the character of Master Chief, he said. "It's a little bit about getting closer to that character than we have in past games," he said.
    Wolfkill was then asked about building the team from the ground up. She said there were two goals: build a team to create Halo 4, and build a studio with the right culture for moving beyond that game. It was difficult, because they had to find talent with the level of technical and creative expertise to execute. And then there was also the challenge of finding people with the maturity to take on this long-term challenge.
    "From a studio and culture perspective, how do we find that deep talent that has a collaborative spirit and a craftsman approach, so that we could build a studio for the long term?" she said. She also emphasized the amount of passion that's necessary to be in this game for the long haul.
    O'Connor was then asked about the Halo universe that expands beyond the game. "Everything we make in that franchise, whether it be comic books or action figures, they all feed into the games," he said. "We just want to make a richer and more meaningful experience for them."
    Asked about the visual style of the game, Scott said that when he approached the look of the game, there were a lot of creative inputs. "We wanted to take all of these inputs and bubble it up through the art," he said. There is also the desire to convey the emotional notes that players experience through the art, he continued. "The art needs to mature along with the audience."
    He went on to note that the Master Chief people saw in the teaser shown at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo is not the final iteration. In fact, Scott said they are on the fourth iteration of his look at the moment. The focus, he said, is to sell the fantasy that Master Chief is an 800-pound hero that is part tank, part jet fighter.
    Scott was then asked what types of places Master Chief will be heading in the Halo 4. He said that with the Chief headed toward a mysterious new planet, the team is investing heavily in the look and feel of the Forerunner civilization. O'Connor chimed in, saying that players have seen inert, abandoned Forerunner structures in the past, but now they'll see what that technology looks like when it isn't completely dead.
    Tojima was asked about how he plans to provide audio cues to players. He said that it's hard, but his main goal is to achieve music and audio design that's well synched with the story. He started audio production by writing down the emotional connection that the player should be feeling. Wolfkill noted that with every piece audio that the game has, it's telling a story.
    As for how Tojima and his team create an otherworldly sound that is grounded in reality, he said that the audio team is focused on creating something unique, but also believable. "Exciting, realistic" audio is his emphasis, he said, and in the galaxy of the future, Master Chief's experience should sound something a little bit different.
    So to provide the types of sounds they were looking for, he said they frequently traveled abroad to places like Tazmania, as well as operated "in extremely dangerous conditions to capture just the right audio." They then rolled a trailer of a handful of audio engineers in an open field in Washington, firing off potato launchers and other explosive items that were surrounded by microphones. Some of these misfired in unexpected ways.
    Holmes was then asked how Halo 4 would play. "Well, it plays like Halo," he quipped. However, he said it's important to take risks and evolve the feel of gameplay. He said it's all about the question of balance and maintaining the core feel of Halo while also adding in new weapons and abilities. The team also wants to provide new experiences that players haven't had before. He said that it's important to give players options to solve problems in a variety of ways.
    The question of Cortana's role in Halo 4 was then brought up, and Holmes said that Master Chief's personal artifical intelligence definitely has an important role in the game. Though the game is largely about Master Chief and his story, Cortana plays an important role in the character's development. Wolfkill followed that by saying the two have a unique relationship that hasn't been addressed in other games, so continuing that and fleshing it out further is important to the team.
    But is there ever a question about holding back with new ideas? Holmes said that it's a struggle, because as fans, they want the game to remain true to its roots. However, they also want to push things forward. "It's something that we will continue to wrestle with until the game launches," he said.
    O'Connor continued that sentiment, saying that they've prototyped a number of things that were good and fun, but they were ultimately shelved because they weren't appropriate for this game. "They were awesome, but they weren't Halo awesome," he said.
    Asked about Halo 4's multiplayer, Holmes said that it's important to the team to represent all of the different play styles, from casual to competitive. Wolfman then noted that the diversity in Halo fans is reflected in the team itself, saying that there is a lot of debate from within to strike a good balance.
    Halo 4's story is still being closely guarded, but O'Connor did emphasize that the game will be a direct sequel to Halo 3, and that it deals with the fate of Master Chief and Cortana. There's a lot concerning the relationship between those two characters, he said, and then there's also exploring this new, mysterious world. The world, he promised, will have "incredible grandeur and scope."
    Plus, he continued, it's a luxury to commit to a trilogy from the start, which is something they didn't have with the original Halo trilogy. It lets them build a big epic story from the get-go, he said.
    Moving to the Q&A portion of the panel, the team was asked whether 343 Industries is planning any other spin-off games similar to Halo 3: ODST. "We're heads down on Halo 4," O'Connor said. O'Connor also addressed speculation that there will be Halo 4 multiplayer beta access codes packed in with Halo: Anniversary, saying, "There definitely will not be."
    Later in the Q&A session, O'Connor addressed Master Chief's wealth of back story that can be found in Halo novels, saying that it's his past that sets him apart from other military heroes. He said that they'd like to further explore this back story, but he wouldn't commit to whether that happens in Halo 4.
    Quote: "There's 200 or so people working on Halo 4, and they've been doing so for a couple of years now."--Frank O'Connor, on 343 Industries' commitment to the future of Halo.
    Takeaway: With the original Halo trilogy, Bungie was limited by the uncertainty of whether the franchise would find an audience. Now that the audience is known, 343 Industries is able to commit to a more far-reaching and ambitious scope with The Reclaimer Trilogy. And to the delight of fans, Master Chief and Cortana will play a prominent role in this new expansion of the Halo universe.
    For more on Halo 4 and Halo: Anniversary, check out GameSpot presents The HotSpot with guests Frank O'Connor and Dan Ayoub.