Thursday, January 31, 2008

Skate cruises past Tony Hawk

According to EA's in-progress press and financial's conference call, the megapublisher has confirmed that newcomer Skate (PS3, Xbox 360) ollied up and over Tony Hawk this third fiscal quarter, outselling the ageing franchise 2 to 1 despite being released on three fewer platforms. Gamer opinion was overwhelmingly in favour of the new 'flickit' control innovations introduced by EA BlackBox's impressive game, which proved to be a much more tactile and immersive way of controlling the skater, compared with the 'press a button to ollie' controls favored by Tony Hawk. Thanks again Shacknews!

Tomb Raider Underworld first look

New at IGN PS3 this morning is the first preview of Crystal Dynamic's new Tomb Raider game, entitled Tomb Raider: Underworld. After the return to form in Tomb Raider: Legend, then a solid follow-up in the truly excellent remake Tomb Raider: Anniversary, gamers have been looking forward to seeing what Lara will get up to in her next adventure. Looking to push Lara further into 'Next-gen' territory, the Underworld team have focussed on several key areas including world interaction, according to the preview.

"...the team wanted Lara to affect the world and the world to affect Lara. By saying that, the developers wanted to give players the feeling that they were explorers, and that they could manipulate items or elements of the world freely, but in a natural way to help them choose their paths or solutions to puzzles."

AI has also been a focus during TR:U's development, with enemies and wildlife reacting realistically according to their line of sight and the threat presented by Lara:

"This meant that Lara could use the confusion of battle to get the poachers and jaguars to target each other while she stayed back and picked off the survivors. It also meant that she had to be careful, because your opponents won't blindly fling themselves towards you either; both sets of enemies would use ambush and squad tactics to eliminate their targets, actively seek cover to protect themselves, and retreat if they needed."

In addition to Lara's already spectacular gymnastic abilities, the team have beefed up Lara's combat capabilities in TR: U. In addition to punches, kicks, knees and acrobatic take-downs, Lara is free to use objects in the environment as melee weapons against her foes. During gun-play, Lara may now focus on more than one target at once, allowing her to defend herself against larger mobs of enemies.

It certainly sounds as though Crystal Dynamics are on track for another fantastic entry in the venerable Tomb Raider franchise. Hopefully they will sort out the niggles with the camera that marred Anniversary, and we'll be left with a delicious helping of Lara goodness come release.

Head over to IGN to check out the rest of the preview.

Here's a teaser image to keep you going!

Rock Band March DLC revealed by OXM?

A post on the Gamespot forums has revealed the March schedule of Rock Band downloadable content, taken from the Official XBox Magazine's March 2008 XBLA schedule.

The tracks, an eclectic mix including songs from Nine Inch Nails, Black Sabbath and Metallica is sure to drive virtual rockers wild as its released over the coming weeks. As usual, it contains a mixture of covers and master recordings.

The full list is as follows:

3/04 Thrash Pack:

3/11 Singles:

3/18 Nine Inch Nails pack:

3/25 Metal Pack:

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Force Unleashed: Brand New Interview and Gameplay footage

New at Gametrailers this afternoon is an interview with the project lead of LucasArts' new Star Wars game, "The Force Unleashed", Hayden Blackman. The three-part interview contains details about the gameplay, over-the-top force powers, combos and exciting technology behind this truly next-gen game. Trailers embedded below.

EA announces Facebreaker - it's boxing, with added Team Fortress 2 influence!

Hot off the press at 1Up this afternoon is an announcement by EA of a new boxing game called Facebreaker. Featuring Team Fortress 2 style cartoon shading, Facebreaker promises to be a more lighthearted and arcade-style boxing game than previous efforts from EA (Fight Night). Promising features such as 'real time facial deformation', we can't wait to see more. According to 1Up, more details can be expected in the March 08 issue of EGM. Head over there for the rest of the announcement.

First Valve released Team Fortress 2, then EA announced that Fifa Street 3 would have cartoon-style graphics, then Battlefield Heroes was announced to contain exaggerated characters with non-photorealistic rendering. Now comes Facebreaker. You have to wonder, are EA going to 'toonise' all of their franchises?

Blizzard 2007 revenue: $1.2 Billion

Wearing their money hats todays is Blizzard, announcing that their 2007 revenue totaled $1.2 Billion. Yes, you read that correctly. Guess those 10 million World of Warcraft players are paying their subscriptions on time then. Cheers for the heads up Shacknews!

Valve’s Doug Lombardi talks SteamWorks

Following up from yesterday's announcement, the good folks at Rock, Paper, Shotgun have put up an interview with Valve’s Doug Lombardi where he talks about the ramifications of yesterday's release of SteamWorks for the PC gaming industry. Of particular interest is the idea of not supplying the executable of a game on a retail-purchased disk, instead after installing the game, the user would need to download the final key piece of the game from Steam before being able to play. The impacts of this on rampant PC game piracy could be immense.

RPS: How solid is Steam against the activities of villainous pirates?

Lombardi: It’s solid in what we call “day zero piracy”. We encourage people to preload, so we give the bits of a game away on Steam, but those pieces are useless until we supply the magical final parts that allow all those things to become game pieces, the same will be true of using Steamworks from a disc. All the art assets and game assets will be useless until a user authenticates them and gets the final pieces.

Head over to Rock, Paper, Shotgun for the rest of the interview.

Rez HD up on XBLA

Available today on XBLA is Q Entertainment's psychedelic rhythm game Rez HD. Sporting significantly updated visuals and audio from the original Dreamcast and Playstation 2 versions, the game will set you back 800 Microsoft Points. Early reviews (IGN, Eurogamer, 1Up) point to Rez HD being a must-have XBLA experience. Launch trailer embedded below:

Zero Punctuation reviews Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles

Up this morning at The Escapist is Zero Punctuation's latest gaming assassination-by-monologue of Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles for the Wii. Hilarious stuff as always! Check it out below:

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Far Cry 2: New 'Dunia' Engine Technical details unveiled

Some interesting new info about Ubisoft's in-house Far Cry 2 Engine, dubbed the 'Dunia' engine, has appeared over at German hardware site PC Games Hardware Extreme. In an interview with Ubisoft's Technical Director Dominic Guay, various technical details are uncovered about the technology behind this exciting African-set upcoming entry in the Far Cry franchise.

Details discussed include the engine's impressive fire, wind and weather effects, DirectX 10 optimizations, as well as the ability for the engine to stream in large amounts of detailed terrain on the fly, meaning no pesky loading times for gamers with itchy trigger fingers. With an enormous playable area some 50 sq km in size, this has clearly been a significant technical and artistic challenge for the team.

DG: Well, Dunia was built from the ground up. It was developed during the last 3 years in our R&D effort for Far Cry 2. We had a few major goals in mind as we built the technology. First, we wanted to get rid of the concept of “levels”. “Levels” have been used since before the Pac Man days to manage progression and content and are, from a technical standpoint, a very safe way of managing things. However, FC2 is a truly open world game and we couldn’t do with such a limitation anymore. A change of scale like that one changes a lot of thing in a technology.

AI is also covered, with the team promising AI entities that live independently of the player's actions.

They have basic needs that they need to satisfy and they go about their business satisfying those needs. Obviously, those needs change according to the time of day or weather: for example most people like to sleep at night.

Head on over to the post at PCGH for the rest of the interview.

For some footage of the engine in action, check out the embedded trailer below.

Valve releases Steamworks, a complete suite of publishing tools for Steam

New from Valve this morning is an announcement that they have released a suite of Steam developer tools for free. Including everything from copy protection and sales reporting, to in-game achievement management and social networking services, Steamworks is sure to be a hit with independent developers, and will further guarantee the dominance of Steam as the digital distribution network of choice. Rock, Paper, Shotgun have a nice summary of the press release, and the full list of available services is below (courtesy of Kotaku).

Steamworks offers:
• Real-time stats on sales, gameplay, and product activation: Know exactly how well your title is selling before the charts are released. Find out how much of your game is being played. Login into your Steamworks account pages and view up to the hour information regarding worldwide product activations and player data.

• State of the art encryption system: Stop paying to have your game pirated before it's released. Steamworks takes anti-piracy to a new level with strong encryption that keeps your game locked until the moment it is released.

• Territory/version control: The key-based authentication provided in Steamworks also provides territory/version controls to help curb gray market importing and deliver territory-specific content to any given country or region.

• Auto updating: Insures all customers are playing the latest and greatest version of your games.

• Voice chat: Available for use both in and out of game.

• Multiplayer matchmaking: Steamworks offers you all the multiplayer backend and matchmaking services that have been created to support Counter-Strike and Team Fortress 2, the most played action games in the world.

• Social networking services: With support for achievements, leaderboards, and avatars, Steamworks allows you to give your gamers as many rewards as you would like, plus support for tracking the world's best professional and amateur players of your game.

• Development tools: Steamworks allows you to administer private betas which can be updated multiple times each day. Also includes data collection tools for QA, play testing, and usability studies.

CryEngine to debut on consoles at GDC 2008

The hot CryEngine will make its console debut at GDC 2008, according to Gamasutra this morning. Since the announcement of the spectacular Crysis, gamers have speculated when German developer Crytek would bring their considerable expertise to the XBox 360 and PS3. Hopefully we'll hear more about CryEngine for consoles at GDC.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Burnout Paradise review roundup

More than any other game in recent memory, aside from perhaps Assassins Creed, Burnout Paradise has polarised opinion. The new iteration of EA's venerable car crashing franchise is somewhat of a radical departure from the tried and trusted designs of Burnout games past. Criterion has shaken things up this time around people, and by all accounts, the results are a bit hit and miss.

Gone are the event selections from a menu, instead replaced by a sprawling metropolis with events available at the city's intersections. Gone also is the popular puzzle-solving Crash mode, replaced instead by a 'crash-n-tumble anytime' "Showtime" mode. Both design decisions have certainly drawn their share of criticism. On the upside, the online integration looks to be solid, with the game allowing players to join up with their mates online without leaving the game to do so. Visuals and Audio are top-notch.

So is Burnout Paradise a leap forwards into a truly next-gen racing experience or a step backwards? Personally, I like the open-world design, and think Criterion deserve credit for not resting on their laurels, but your mileage (no pun intended) may very.

Picked up your copy yet? Post your opinions in the comments below. If you're still making up your mind, below are some recent reviews of the game.

Evil Avatar
Ars Technica

Tiberium: Command and Conquer revisits the FPS!

Up at IGN today is a preview of Tiberium, a new FPS set in the Command and Conquer universe. Not since C&C: Renegade have we seen a FPS set in the fiction of EA's popular RTS game. Announced last December, Tiberium is being developed by the Guys and Gals at EALA and has been in production for 2 years, with a 2009 release date. Gametrailers has managed to snag the first pre-alpha gameplay footage, embedded below for your convenience.

Head over to IGN for the full scoop!

New Mario Kart Wii info

GoNintendo this morning brings us some tidbits from the Wii incarnation of Mario Kart, taken from the latest issue of the German magazine NMag. Among other info, the post confirms that Baby Peach and Boo will be available as drivers in the game, with Sliding and snaking confirmed as gameplay features. Unfortunately there's no mention of a release date as yet - hopefully one will be forthcoming soon. Head over to GoNintendo to check out the rest of the post.

Mass Effect: The Jack Thompson bonus round

Well I didn't see this one coming...everyone's favourite anti-gaming crusader Jack Thompson has weighed in on the whole Mass Effect controversy over at Kotaku this morning, where he is quoted as saying

"I don't see any problem with it. The guy who shot his mouth off about it had no idea what the Hell he was talking about" (referring to the alleged nudity and sex scenes in the game).

Whoa, slow down there Jack, you mean to say that you're actually supporting the game? Head over to Kotaku to read the rest of the post.

Devil May Cry 4: Final hands-on preview

Hot off the press at 1Up this evening is a preview of the final version of Devil May Cry 4, ahead of its upcoming release. It's chock full of useful info about this highly anticipated title, including details about the development team, differences between the X360 and PS3 versions, loads about the available weapons and plenty of other handy info! Check it out!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Grand Theft Auto 4: Gorgeous new shots

Hold onto your socks folks...some awesome new GTA4 shots have surfaced over at Neogaf. I, like half the rest of the world, cannot wait to get my hands on this. Lets hope it turns out to be the truly next-gen experience recent previews have hinted at. No word as to whether these are from the PS3 or X360 version of the game.

Mass Effect: Fox Vs. EA Round 4

A brief recap for those who have missed this interesting series of events.

Round 1: Roughly one week ago, US radio talk show host and author Cooper Lawrence appears on Fox News' The Live Desk with Martha MacCallum, and starts wailing on Bioware's Mass Effect's allegedly explicit sex scenes and nudity in a roundtable about the game. Footage below (thanks Gametrailers) Only one problem Cooper, you forgot to play the game...Oh, and the people on the panel also forgot to play the game. Oh boy, this is gonna be good...

Round 2: EA understandably gets a bit pissy about this and demands that the incorrect statements made about the game be retracted.

Round 3: Fox reponds saying that they've invited EA onto The Live Desk several times but have not received any response. Lawrence's most recent self-help book, “The Cult of Perfection”, takes a user-review beating on, courtesy of irate gamers.

Round 4: Lawrence is interviewed by the New York Times, and retracts her statements about Mass Effect, this time after having actually watched the game.

“I recognize that I misspoke,” she said. “I really regret saying that, and now that I’ve seen the game and seen the sex scenes it’s kind of a joke.

“Before the show I had asked somebody about what they had heard, and they had said it’s like pornography,” she added. “But it’s not like pornography. I’ve seen episodes of ‘Lost’ that are more sexually explicit.”

A statement from Bioware CEO Ray Muzyka, confirmed that they were not impressed by the saga:

“We’re hurt. We believe in video games as an art form, and on behalf of the 120 people who poured their blood and tears into this game over three years, we’re just really hurt that someone would misrepresent the game without even playing it. All we can hope for is that people who actually play our games will see the truth.”

Good. Hopefully that will be the end of it. Did we all learn our lessons here people?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Rumor: Gears of War 2 details unveiled?

Straight from the totally-unconfirmed-but-sounds-awesome department comes this post from GameGuru claiming to have obtained details about the highly anticipated follow-up to the X360 smash hit, Gears of War. Specifics mentioned are that Gears2 will:

- Use the Unreal 3.5 Engine
- Contain 4 new weapons
- Be twice as big as the original
- Have controllable Air vehicles
- Have additional melee weapons
- New and bigger set-pieces
- Contain large outdoor environments, including 'Battlefield Wars'.

The post also contains a gameplay layout from what is claimed to be a Gears 2 Multiplayer map.

Time will tell if the info is legit or not, but hey, any Gears 2 news is good news right?

Team Fortress 2 Patch released, new CTF version of "Well"

Shacknews has news of the latest Team Fortress 2 patch that includes a CTF version of the "Well" map. Other patch highlights are:

- Added new capture the flag map CTF_Well
- Added Spanish map descriptions
- Added new option to auto-save a scoreboard screenshot at the end of a map to the Multiplayer->Advanced dialog
- Added more particle optimizations for mid range and low end hardware
- Updated CP_GravelPit to fix all known exploits and changed the scoring method to score per capture rather than per round
- Updated "nextlevel" CVAR to trigger a changelevel at the end of the current round (not mini-round)
- Fixed SourceTV demo recording problem
- Fixed mp_stalemate_enable not preventing Sudden Death mode on some maps
- Fixed a couple cases where player stats were not being recorded correctly
- Fixed some log entries being truncated
- Fixed crash caused by trying to import a custom player spray
- Removed the "Reset Stats" button from the Player Stats screen

You can grab the update by signing into Steam and firing up TF2. Enjoy!

Getting Started...

Here's a few links to get things started.

Firstly, the first screenshots of the sequel to the well-received PS3 Launch title Resistance: Fall of Man have showed up at IGN PS3 here. Definitely looking nice - I'm looking forward to seeing it in motion...with Insomniac at the helm however, there's no reason to expect it to be anything less than stellar.

Secondly, as a self-confessed Guitar Hero addict, I was very happy to see some new, good quality DLC available for GHIII on the X360 Live Marketplace. The new pack is called the 'Classic Rock Pack', and contains Foreigner's "Juke Box Hero," Journey's "Any Way You Want It" and Boston's "Peace of Mind". I would expect it to be available to PS3 owners soon. As with all other GHIII song packs, this one will set you back 500 MS points. A HD trailer for the new content is also available on XBLM, so if classic rock is your thing, give it a look.

Edit: GameTrailers have the trailer up now, embedded below for your rocking convenience.

Finally, Lucasarts have begun to take the wraps off their awesome-looking new Star Wars title, The Force Unleashed, which is coming out later this year. It's noteworthy because it integrates 3 key technologies (2 of which are new) in an attempt to make the experience truly 'Next Gen'. Well, judging by the webdoc available here, they look to have pulled it off. Getting Havok, Euphoria (a new biomechanical AI package from the guys at Natural Motion, also being used in Rockstar's upcoming GTA4), and Digital Molecular Matter (from Pixelux) to play nicely together is no mean feat, and I can't wait to see more from this exciting game!

That's all for now, I'll post again soon.


Hello! Welcome to Game Theory Online - a new blog where I plan to post about all the latest happenings in the Video Game Industry. Each day I'll post random links of interest that are relevant to this Industry. When I'm not at work as a Programmer, I'm busy either spending time with my family (I have a 15 month old daughter), trawling the Interwebs for news or playing my Xbox 360. Hopefully I'll be able to provide readers with an interesting perspective on the latest Video Game Industry happenings.