GDC 2011 results
Monday 07 March 2011 - 18:13PM
Paul Hellard

The 25th Game Developers Conference, just wrapped up in San Francisco, has broken their own attendance record.

This huge event in the city's Moscone Center, managed to break last year's attendeance record comfortably.  Last year was 18,250 and this year brought in in excess of 19,000 attendees. There were also over 650 speakers in sessions over the five days, bringing these eyes to around 450 lectures, roundtables, panels and tutorials. There were also associated summits, and get togethers, parties and challenges bringing people from up to 70 countries to the event.

The conference was also accompanied by the 13th Annual Independent Games Festival (IGF) and the 11th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards (GDCAs).

Satoru Iwata, the Nintendo President gave the keynote, covering the history of his company and how he sees the future of gaming. There were some incredibly detailed 'post-mortems' in the challenges of game development, and the show floor was packed all three days it was open. Congratulations to the organisers for a job well done.

See you in 2012!

Related links:
GDC 2011

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GDC 2011 Wrap Up
Saturday 05 March 2011 - 18:55PM
Peter Rizkalla

Game Developers Conference 2011. The nuts and bolts of the game industry, all in one week.

The whole idea behind GDC is to equip and to provide ample opportunity for aspiring game developers to pursue their dreams and work in their crafts. I must admit that this idea was not accentuated enough at last year's GDC. However, this years GDC was a definite step in the right direction. No matter where a new game developer or student of game development turned, there was opportunity around every corner. Huge name producers of game technology such as Epic Games, Havok, GameSpy and Nvidia all allowed such opportunities by making all of their development tools completely free to use and offered open invitations to use them. Even Google got in on the act!

The sessions this year were a big improvement. For example; there was a lot less ranting and a lot more encouraging. I personally enjoyed and was very refreshed by the positive, "you can do it" mindset that Donald Mustard at Chair Entertainment expressed to the crowd as well as Retro Studio's positive yet realistic approach to conveying the challenges of game development and enjoying the end product. Sure there were a bunch of sadder tales like the trials of Team Meat and Klei, but even those stories had a happy and victorious outcome. In short, there are more open doors for game developers to walk through now than ever before and GDC 2011 has conveyed that message perfectly.

Oh, and the hosts of the Game Developer's Choice Awards were still corny as hell. See you all next year!

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HANDS-ON: Section 8: Prejudice
Saturday 05 March 2011 - 17:50PM
Peter Rizkalla

Section 8: Prejudice was the most surprising game at this year's GDC. Here's why.

First of all, it has endured an immense graphical update since the first Section 8 which we covered in a production piece a while back. Environments are much more complex and much more 'green' than the previous title which primarily took place on dusty Mars-like terrain.

The weapons and armor have also both gone through a graphic overhaul which is even more surprising considering the outstanding design that we saw prevalent in the first title. Everything looks outstanding and it all has a feel kind of like Halo mixed with Killzone with a lot more color.

TimeGate game designer, Mark Yetter, let me know that not just the graphics have been enhanced but every other part of the game from the animation to the campaign to the multiplayer to the weapons system. Speaking of the weapons system, they have implemented a new system that allows you to apply attributes to weapons much like using explosive rounds or incendiary rounds in Left 4 Dead 2. One of the more interesting new guns is the pulse cannon which is an energy projectile weapon, charged to unleash an even more powerful sonic wave. This gun is almost identical to the same pulse cannon that was in War: Final Assault.

Now all of this sounds well and good but what really makes this game so surprising is that fact that this is a full blown sequel, is going to be released solely through digital distribution and will have a price tag of just $15.

TimeGate is self publishing Section 8: Prejudice in the Spring of 2011 and it will be available on Xbox LIVE Arcade, PSN and Steam.

Related links:
Section 8
CGSociety article

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Fable 3 on NVIDIA 3D
Saturday 05 March 2011 - 17:33PM
Peter Rizkalla

Fable 3 is now available with the NVIDIA 3D Vision connections!

Everyone has been on the stereoscopic kick of late and, to be honest, a lot of gamers think it's just a fad and it will get old after a while. Well, most gamers haven't tried NVIDIA's version of 3D. I have to say, I was really impressed when I tried it out. I tried Fable 3 on PC.

Let me talk about Fable 3 for a second. We covered Fable 3 just a short while ago in a production piece and although it was a big hit on the Xbox 360, it ran poorly with lost frames, poor saturation and other problems which all make the Xbox 360 really start to show it's age. I could not wait to see Fable 3 on PC. Sure enough, Fable 3 will be released for PC on May 17th with a new 'Hardcore' difficulty mode and added bonuses for people who waited. The PC version will contain all of the DLC that came with the Fable 3 Limited Edition version on 360 and will be included on the disc and not a separate download. When asked about possible DRM, the Microsoft rep I was talking to got a little flustered and mentioned that there will be DRM in the retail version of Fable 3 but promised that it would not be as intrusive as some other forms of DRM out there. Ya hear that Ubisoft?!

Alright, back to NVIDIA. The NVIDIA 3D function works with active shutter glasses and a USB dongle. That's it. Just install the driver for the dongle, plug it in, put on the glasses and it's all set. The 3D effect does not require any in-game settings to be activated. It only requires that the game itself be made with the 3D effect and that you have an NVIDIA card installed that supports 3D. The USB dongle is all that controls the 3D effect; a button on the front of the dongle turns the effect on and off while a slider on the back adjusts the depth of the effect. To be honest, this is the best example of 3D I have ever seen in a game; the characters in Fable 3 look like action figures had started coming to life.

Keep in mind, you're going to pay for what you get; the glasses and dongle kit cost $150.

Related links:
Fable 3
Fable 3 CGSociety article

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HANDS-ON: Chime Super Deluxe
Saturday 05 March 2011 - 17:04PM
Peter Rizkalla

Chime is an out of-the-park color filled strategy game with music, challenge and brain-tease.

For those of you who don’t know anything about the brilliant game Chime, it originally released on Xbox LIVE Arcade and was a giant fundraiser for charity. It later came out on Steam with the added feature of including the 'Still Alive' song from portal. This game has been so well received that English developers, Zoë Mode, are now releasing an expanded version called Chime Super Deluxe exclusively for the PlayStation Network.

Chime is a sensory relaxer. It’s graphics are simple and soothing and the music is creative and very, very underground. No character models here; Chime dazzles the eyes with minimalist design elements such as luminous blocks and grid based levels ranging from very simple to very complex.

Chime adds a slew of new features such as new 2-4 player multiplayer modes and new music. Ten music tracks total will be included featuring 'electronica' style music with artists such as Moby. However, the Zoë Mode devs are hopeful that the game will sell well so that they can add many more tracks and really branch out into other music genres as well.

All goes well, it should be coming out on PSN in a month for about ten dollars or seven euros.

Related links:

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Hands-on: Kid Icarus: Uprising
Friday 04 March 2011 - 22:48PM
Peter Rizkalla

Let's see… How long has it been since a Kid Icarus game has been released?

What’s it been, like… 20 years! It’s about time Nintendo gave us some "Kid Icarus" love. The game plays like an action/adventure title mixed in with a third-person shooter with just a dash of 'rail shooter' tossed in. The art is gorgeous for a portable title. The main character Pit retains the same look as his character model from Super Smash Bros, 'Brawl'.

Enemies are just as random as they’ve always have been with things ranging from hokey looking eggplant baddies to giant eyes with mouths and other ridiculous looking models. Thankfully, not everything has that 'cartoony', low-res feel to it; the environments look surprisingly complex especially when flying above them. You’ll see things like ice caverns and huge castles. Also, some of the bigger, more intimidating baddies are comprised of pretty impressive models and designs.

My biggest concern going into this was, 'How well are the textures going to look up close; especially with the 3D functionality?' Turns out, the textures didn’t pixelate at all on my watch. Speaking of the 3D, it works pretty well and Nintendo makes sure to toss in plenty of flying bad guys and lasers right at your face to really give you the effect.

Keep in mind that there are no glasses necessary to get the 3D effect on the 3DS when playing the game. Wrap your noggin around that and the fact that a 3D effect even exists. This brings a whole new level of appreciation. Still no solid release date on when this will be released but it will be after the E3 in June.

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Hands-on: Super Street Fighter 4: 3D
Friday 04 March 2011 - 22:41PM
Peter Rizkalla

This is probably going to be the most highly sought after launch title of the Nintendo 3DS.

Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition is an exact port of the home console versions with a few added extras to the 3D functionality of the 3DS which, mind you, works very well. After playing it for a bit I am actually very excited about this port which is weird because I am rarely ever excited about ports.

There is nothing taken away from the core gameplay; it plays exactly like the home versions. The tiny 'd-pad' was a little bit of a hassle at first but after a short while you barely notice it. Typically, I love the fact that the 360 and PS3 have four shoulder buttons instead of just two. I can then program the two extra buttons to press all three punch buttons or all three kicks. The 3DS however only has two shoulder buttons (which was already expected).

Before I got my hands on this demo, I dreaded the idea of trying to cramp my hand around the system to reach all three punch or kick buttons to perform certain moves. Capcom anticipated my anxiety at this problem and offered a solution. If you’ve ever seen gameplay footage of SSF4 on 3DS you will have noticed that during a fight there are four touchable tiles on the bottom screen that perform special moves, super moves and ultra moves. Well, you can change the functionality of those tiles to have the execute all three punch or kick commands rather than the specials and supers. As a gamer, thank you Capcom!
Here are the only issues I have so far. The tiles allow you to instantly pull off specials, supers and ultras with just a touch. Well that’s all well and good for most moves because most moves can be pulled off quickly either way. However, characters who have to charge their moves like Blanka and Guile can now instantly pull off their moves without having to hold a direction for two seconds like normal. I can already see guys online cheating like holy hell with Guile. We’ll just have to wait and see. Also, Capcom has added the option to fight in kind of an 'over the shoulder view' instead of the traditional side view.

This might have been a nice feature on the home versions but on the smaller 3DS screen, it gets a little hard to follow what’s happening. Sure it looks nice with the 3D feature and all, but in the heat of battle serious player are probably not going to care. Again, this is something that you would have to spend more time with to get used to. Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition [SSF4:3D] will launch in the States with the 3DS on March 27th and then a couple days later for Europe and Australia. Of course, the 3DS and SSF4:3D are both already out in Japan.

Related links:
Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition

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Google SketchUp
Thursday 03 March 2011 - 22:37PM
Peter Rizkalla

There's a Google product on the GDC show floor that will make many aspiring 3D artists very happy.

As if any Google product doesn't make everyone happy. Google SketchUp is on display and it's, basically, a very easy to use 3D modeling application.

Modeling can be done very easily with very intuitive tools that point-and-click your design into existence without having to manage through a lot of numbers and values. For example, the pen tool creates divisions within polygons and will snap to vertices within the model as well as familiar values so that straight lines can be cut all the way across a cube at the exact same height all the way around. It was actually amazing to see it and it's even more amazing that we’ve reached a level of 3D graphical development that there is now an application for 'casual' 3D artists.

Of course, with any 'simplified' piece of software, there are limitations. You can model, but you can't animate in SketchUp. Rendering is limited also; the basic stuff is there like rendering out your work in picture or video form but when you think about it there’s really no use in rendering your video if you can’t animate your work. Basic texture-mapping is also available which is all any beginning modeler really needs. Mind you, these are tiny limitations at most when considering the fact that the software is totally free.

Google has released two versions; the free version, which can be downloaded right now, and a Pro version which has greater compatibility with 3ds Max and Maya. The Pro version is going for about $500 per license.

Related links:
GDC 2011
Google SketchUp

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Donkey Kong @ GDC 2011
Thursday 03 March 2011 - 17:14PM
Peter Rizkalla

If you ever have the opportunity to work on a Donkey Kong title, don't ask questions, just do it.

Shigeru Miyamoto himself says "Donkey Kong is my baby and you better get it right," it tends to leave just a little bit of pressure on your shoulders. Yeah… just a little bit. This was exactly the case when Nintendo came to Retro Studios to have them resurrect the Donkey Kong Country series with DK: Country Returns for the Wii. Today, Retro Studios (all wearing Donkey Kong-ish red ties) held a panel to talk about the challenges in creating a new DK: Country title. As I noted, they worked directly with Nintendo and the father of DK, Shigeru Miyamoto.
One of the main things that Miyamoto wanted to have in DK: Country Returns was the ground pound manoeuvre. This actually proved a bit of a challenge for Retro as their approach to this did not initially resonate with Miyamoto. At first they had DK pounding the ground one hand after the other. Just a plain and simple "left, right, left, right" animation. Like a giant walking in fast forward. After Miyamoto was less than impressed with this animation, Retro went back to the drawing board and, instead, made an animation that has Donkey Kong pound the ground in a 1-2 punch fashion over and over again; much like a horse galloping. It seems like such a small detail but it was amazing to Retro how that small improvement changed the feel to the manoeuvre and also adds to the whole feel of the game.
The devs at Retro caught Miyamoto controlling DK and just running back and forth for 10 solid minutes. No one could figure out why until he said "It looks like DK is blowing." Everyone was like "What the hell?". Miyamoto had been analysing DK’s "turn" animation when he transitions from right to left (or vice versa). DK would kick up some dust and it looked almost like he was blowing out air. So Miyamoto says "It might be fun to make DK blow on things." The lights didn't instantly come on when the idea was brought back to Retro Studios but that's how the blow manoeuvre came about in the final product.
The panel of speakers constantly compared DK with their previous Nintendo hit Metroid Prime. I’m not sure exactly why that is because these are two totally different games so it doesn't seem fair to compare the two. Maybe it's because they are just used to making such a complex game as Metroid Prime and instead now having to make a game which is much less complex and just as fun.
The co-op multiplayer function was really pushed in DK: Country Returns. In the original DK there was a co-op multiplayer function but you would your partner in and out. There wasn't a way to play simultaneously. Shigeru Miyamoto wanted Retro to really focus on the single player aspect but a single player DK title had been released just a few years ago on the GameCube in the form of DK: Jungle Beat and they really wanted to set Country Returns apart from Jungle Beat. Also, after seeing four players play simultaneously in The New Super Mario Bros. Wii, They absolutely insisted on pushing the multiplayer.
One of the biggest hurdles that needed to be climbed seems like a generic statement. "To make it look good and make it run efficiently." Seriously, what game developer doesn’t want to do that? As an example, Retro ran into a few issues with the "cling" feature where DK and Diddy grab hold of grass and vines on walls and the walls would curve. The system simply didn’t work and they had to completely scrap it and start over.
Sure enough, as work progressed on the game, Shigeru Miyamoto told the Retro team, "I'm looking forward to playing this with my family and enjoying it." Again, no pressure!

Related links:
GDC 2011
Donkey Kong

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HANDS-ON: Mortal Kombat
Thursday 03 March 2011 - 15:40PM
Peter Rizkalla

So I finally got a chance to get my grubby hands on the new Mortal Kombat.

Sony’s GDC booth has a playable build and it’s in 3D. There were only four selectable characters to choose from; Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Johnny Cage and Mileena. Why Mileena has become one of the main characters of Mortal Kombat, I have no idea, but either way, she plays great. Mileena has a fluidity to her moves that no one else has. Scorpion and Sub-Zero feel much stronger now. In previous games they had slick, ninja-esque manoeuvres. They still have that now but they also seem more 'powerhouse' with heavy, brawler style punches and kicks. Johnny Cage feels like he has always felt and he’s is still a dirt bag. He still does the splits and punches you in the nuts, only this time when he does his X-Factor manoeuvre; he gives you three nut checks in a row.
Touching on the 3D that Sony is implementing in the PS3 version of Mortal Kombat: it didn’t really work. Sure, you could tell when the 3D was on but nothing really popped out at you too much. Well… maybe the menus. It’s a bad sign when you say to yourself "I can’t tell if this is 3D or not." Hopefully this is just a kink and they get it all ironed out by the time the game is released. Mortal Kombat is coming out on PS3 and Xbox 360 and will be released in three versions on April 19th; a standard edition with just the game, a special edition with collectible Scorpion and Sub-Zero book-ends and an even more special edition which comes with a full blown Mortal Kombat arcade style joystick. If that isn’t enough, the demo will be released for PlayStation 3 on March 15th and even earlier (March 8th) for PlayStation Plus subscribers. As for the 360, the demo will be available "later".

Related links:
Mortal Kombat

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Red Dead Redemption
Thursday 03 March 2011 - 15:17PM
Paul Hellard

The gang at the Red Dead Redemption team seemed almost happy, tonight.

Perhaps I could call it 'less serious', having taken away the Game of the Year as well as the Award for best Audio, Game Design and Best Technology.  They almost smiled. I certainly hope they had a great time. Well done guys. 

Double Fine Games founder Tim Schafer hosted the ceremony which stumbled along into the early SF evening. There weren't too many surprises, and I reckon many of the half packed room just wanted to get started with the evening's parties and networking opps.

Markus 'Notch' Perrson wore out the carpet as well, wearing an even wider smile. His 'Minecraft' won two awards first at the Independent Awards and then three more at the 2011 Game Developers Choice Awards (GDCA).  The Independent hit game 'MineCraft' surprised at least this writer bringing results as Best Game, the Best Downloadable as well as the Innovation Award.  As mentioned earlier, it also walked up to collect trophies in the IDF Awards, including the coveted Seamus McNally Grand Prize.

Playdead Studios took the Best Visuals Award for the very dark 'Limbo' game, which I am sure only emo's play, and the very cool looking 'Cut the Rope' was the year's best Handheld game.

The quiet, elusive character of Yu Suzuki, SEGA developer, won the nights Pioneer Award with his history of incredible titles behind him. He seemed genuinely humbled and said he'd always lived his professional life everyday  as though he was a pioneer. "It's an honour to be, officially, a pioneer." he said.

Peter Molyneaux used his speech during the Lifetime Achievement Award to apologise for "being an incredibly difficult person to work with." His Fable work stands testament as just one example that this is all worth it.

Lifetime Achievement Award
Peter Molyneux

Pioneer Award
Yu Suzuki

Ambassador Award
Tim Brengle and Ian Mackenzie

Game of the Year
Red Dead Redemption

Innovation Award

Best Debut Game

Best Audio
Red Dead Redemption

Best Game Design
Red Dead Redemption

Best Technology
Red Dead Redemption

Best Visual Arts

Best Writing
MassEffect 2

Best Downloadable Game


Best Handheld Game

Cut the Rope

Related links:
GDC 2011
Red Dead Redemption

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Indie Game Awards
Wednesday 02 March 2011 - 21:28PM
Paul Hellard

This ceremony celebrates a world where people can do stuff that is really off the wall.

'Stuff that just cannot make it into mainstream games,' according to the compere of the IGF Awards host Bytejacker regular Anthony Carboni.

The Best Student Game Award with $2,500 was won by the developers of FRACT from the University of Montreal.  "I took a chance at 28, and decided to go back to school and get into making games," said Richard Flanagan.

The Technical Achievement Award, also Excellence in Audio Award, as well as the $10,000 Direct2Drive Vision award, went to 'Amnesia: The Dark Descent' from Frictional Games in Sweden. 'After three years of thinking we're not going to make games anymore and hating everything and living on noodles..... and getting awards for it, that seems like too much.'

The winners of the Nuovo Award were both totally speechless and dressed in the costumes and the colors of the two Nidhogg developers. Said very little. Very funny.

The IGF isn't here to makes small things bigger. The beauty of the small is what the IGF is all about. The 2011 Seamus McNally Grand Prize went to Minecraft from Mojang, a sandbox game which allows players to build things with textured 3D cubes. While the Independent Game Festival is more like an all-in Frat Party, the sentiments are real, the jokes hilarious and the majority of the recipients are honestly stunned and happy.

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Satoru Iwata keynote
Wednesday 02 March 2011 - 15:03PM
Peter Rizkalla

"Content is king."

That is how Satoru Iwata started this year’s GDC keynote. Keeping in mind that the main premise of this keynote is the 25 year birthday of video games, Iwata recalls some of his earlier, more arrogant, days as a gaming pioneer. In his first years at Nintendo, he competed fiercely with Shigeru Miyamoto (the father of Mario, Zelda and Donkey Kong) to make better games and he honestly believed his games to be much more superior to Miyamoto's. "Mr. Miyamoto taught me a painful lesson. Content really is king" says Iwata. He then touches on his and Miyamoto's responsibilities as trailblazing game developers back in the NES days mentioning how they were generalists wearing many hats rather than specialists. This does, indeed, sound like a story you would hear from a grandfather and Iwata even says, "We were video game cavemen."
The keynote then goes on to show off many, many graphs and charts in true to form Nintendo fashion detailing who plays what and where and how old and how long, yada, yada, yada. Iwata finally puts the graphs away and starts talking about something unusual to Nintendo, social networking games. Anyone who has even remotely been on Facebook has heard of games like FarmVille and Social City. Although these games reside on social networking sites, he hesitates to call them 'social'. He talked about how a social game should actually make you socialize. For example, systems like the Atari 2600 and the NES allowed for two players to play together hence socialize. The N64 allowed for four players. Even the Gameboy allowed for socialization with a connection cable. Granted, multiplayer is technically the purest form of socialization in video games.
Iwata then moves on to a different subject; the phrase "Must Have”. Of Nintendo’s most popular “Must Have” titles he first notes Mario. “Mario has only remained popular because he has changed. Mario always evolves.” Says Iwata. Pokemon is another of the most popular Nintendo franchises. Iwata mentions “The fundamental appeal of Pokemon is the idea of collecting and trading. Pokemon obtained from friends would grow faster. This was intentional to promote interaction.” He goes on to give even more mentions to 'Must Have' titles such as Tetris, Kirby, The Sims and even gives Call of Duty a nice little nod. Funny story; Iwata talks about how Kirby’s original name was changed for the sake of the English speaking market because when spoken, Kirby’s original name sounded like 'Tinkle Popo'.
Now we start getting into some stuff we want to know about, the Nintendo 3DS. Iwata talks about how the online systems for Wii and DSi really aren’t working as good as they should and promises a better experience on the 3DS. To elaborate on the 3DS, an unexpected surprise speaking jumps on the stage. Nintendo’s favorite son, Reggie Fils-Aime.
Reggie was all facts on stage. He told the crowd to consider two words, Content and Location. On the content side, Reggie dropped a bomb on us by promising that the 3DS will feature the streaming video service Netflix with a variety of features. One of which will allow movies to be viewed on the 3DS then continued on the Wii. Next Reggie promises another future 3DS treat in the form of 3D movie trailers starting with a 3D trailer for the upcoming Green Lantern movie. Lastly, we already know that the 3DS can take 3D pictures but we now know that it will also be able to record video in 3D! Next up was the idea of Location. Reggie promises that in late May AT&T will be implementing over 10,000 free Wi-Fi hot spots for the 3DS all over the US (or, at least we assume they will be all over the US. He didn’t actually specify.) These hot spots will automatically connect your 3DS to Nintendo’s SpotPass service and automatically download game content for your games regardless of which game is in your system at the time.
The last thing Reggie touched on was the new eShop feature on the 3DS. It will be very similar to the Wii Shop Channel, will include DSiWare as well and will feature all new features such as a 3D Virtual Console and 3D Classics where classic games will be remade in 3D for the new handheld.
Satoru Iwata comes back out to finish off the keynote. On the heals of Reggie’s 3DS-fest, Iwata drops another bomb in that Nintendo is working on a completely brand new Mario title in the same vein as Mario 64 exclusively for the 3DS. At this point they showed the logo of the new 3DS Mario title and the entire crowd nearly lost their minds and here’s why. On the right side of the logo was a silhouette of what looks like a raccoon tail! Could this indicate that the Super Leaf power-up would finally be making a return and that we would see Raccoon Mario once again in this new 3DS Mario title? I can honestly speak for the whole crowd when I say “We sure hope so.”
Iwata ends with what he thinks is wrong with the game industry today touching on the lack of craftsmanship and talent development in today’s game industry. His solution is summed up in one word… “innovation”. He says “Trust in your passion, believe in your dream and make the impossible possible" he ends with “We've been making impossible possible for 25 years, why stop now?

Related links:
GDC 2011

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Infinity Blade @ GDC
Wednesday 02 March 2011 - 03:16AM
Peter Rizkalla

The pressure of game production is nothing compared to seeding the idea in the first place.

When Chair Entertainment first started, Creative Director Donald Mustard along with all of Chair’s other employees (all five of them) locked themselves in a room for two weeks with the sole purpose of coming up with as many game ideas as possible. From that exercise, hundreds of ideas were birthed and the best 20 or 30 of those ideas were recorded onto one-sheets for future production. Infinity Blade was one of those ideas.

Chair is known for games like Undertow and, the amazingly well done Shadow Complex. Donald attributes Chair’s success to a few simple principles. 'Find a hole in the market and fill it' was his philosophy when creating Shadow Complex. No one was really making Castlevania-ish, Metroid-ish style games for home consoles because no one wants to spend $60 retail for that kind of game nowadays. So that's why they made Shadow Complex in the style that they did and made it an inexpensive, downloadable title for home consoles.

As for mobile devices with touch screens, there were plenty of market holes to fill because this was (and still is) a new frontier for game development. A specific market hole in the mobile device platform was that there were really no gritty looking, hardcore graphics games. Mostly you just have lighthearted looking games like Cut The Rope or Angry Birds. This explains Infinity Blade’s dark graphical style. Donald Mustard goes on, "We believe at Chair that if you're making a downloadable game, that people don't want a cheap version of their favorite retail game. They want a unique experience." Which is yet another quality of Infinity Blade.

“If we could make a game where if I see an enemy swinging a sword at me in some angle and then I can swipe my finger to counter the swing, then that would be something I've never experienced before and the game would be fun.” Which is, of course, the unique experience of Infinity Blade.

Also, knowing when people would pick up and play games on mobile devices needed to be considered such as "On the couch while watching TV" or "While going to the bathroom" (let’s be real, we all do this) so he goes on to say, "How much of a rich gaming experience can we give people before their legs go numb!"

Lastly, they had to think about the fact that your fingers would be in the way of the screen when you play games on the iPhone or whatever. Everyone at Chair agreed that in order to solve this particular issue, they had to make games that can be played with only one finger.

Basically, the whole session acted as a gigantic service to anyone looking to put together games for mobile devices on how to consider what needs to be considered. It was actually very informative, especially to anyone who has developed or tried to develop games using the Unreal Engine before.

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Wednesday 02 March 2011 - 00:24AM
Peter Rizkalla

If you are unfamiliar with Klei Entertainment, then you are not the only one.

Klei has actually made some great stuff but not too many people have been exposed to their games. They created the very lighthearted Eets as well as Sugar Rush; both 2D animated titles. However, Klei’s biggest claim to fame is the recently released Shank which was featured at last years IGF and later published by EA. The very fashionable Klei CEO Jamie Cheng shared a postmortem on the development of Shank.

Keep in mind, although this postmortem (as well as the previous Meatboy postmortem) might seem a little grim, it is not meant to discourage aspiring game developers but rather to equip them so that they may be able to 'count the cost', per se. One of the first things Jamie commented with the 'technical' difficulties of creating Shank. The entire game is about 2Gbs large in size right now but originally it featured 4Gbs of size just for the cinematics alone! So, getting the game down to a manageable size was key to not having problems with Microsoft or Sony when attempting to put it on their respective networks. The Xbox 360 proved to reveal another problem with file fragmentation. The game would fragment and for some people it would take ten seconds to load levels and for others it would take a full minute to load.

Getting Shank to become a reality almost had Klei go completely broke. Jamie gave his employees the choice to take temporary wage reductions, which some indeed took and were paid back with interest. Jamie and some other big dogs at Klei even had to take bank loans against their houses to get more funding!

If that wasn’t bad enough, Jamie’s home office was hit with a flood. All of their computers were on the ground when this happened and, what’s worse, the PC power supplies were on the bottom of the computer cases. Miraculously, all the computers involved in the flood still work till today and Jamie expressed extreme thankfulness that the flood didn't happen in their server room.

On a much brighter side, Klei experienced a very good relationship with EA when publishing the game. Having your game published by EA makes your game an 'EA game' and brings a little bit of notoriety to your title. Jamie’s only qualm was that he was not so in love with EA’s style of PR; he preferred to have actual press conferences where the press would have a back-and-fourth exchange between the devs rather than just sending out press releases. Now, that would be ideal but not very convenient.

Long story short, Shank was a roaring success. It sold more in the first 24 hours of it’s release than the entire lifetime of their first game, Eets! Although everyone loves Steam to death, Shank did better on consoles than on Steam. That’s because platformers like Shank just feel better with a controller. The Steam version does, indeed, support controllers but controllers are not readily available to most PC gamers.

Related links:
Klei Entertainment

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Team Meat @ GDC
Monday 28 February 2011 - 19:59PM
Peter Rizkalla

Here's some sage advice from a team that has been through the grinder!

Anyone even remotely thinking about making a game has to take advice from the Team Meat guys and learn from their hard earned experiences while developing their indie hit, Super Meat Boy. It’s kind of a sad story but it can definitely serve to aspiring game developers, not as a warning to 'stay far away', but as a clear message saying, "be sure to count the cost." Super meat Boy game programmer Tommy Refenes opened up the SMB 'post-mortem' session and then brought in game designer Edmund McMillen via Skype.

Super Meat Boy (which was a big hit at last year’s GDC) originally started as an online flash game on NewGrounds. As Meat Boy began gaining incredible popularity, both Edmund and Tommy contacted Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo to see about bringing the game to consoles. Although Ed could never get a hold of Nintendo’s Reggie Fils-Aime, he did post up a video on YouTube talking about his and Tommy’s project which got the attention of Nintendo for a possible release on the Wii through WiiWare. Unfortunately, neither one of them could afford the $3,000 cost of a Nintendo game development kit at the time to make this happen.

Eventually they got a hold of Microsoft and struck a deal to release the game on Xbox LIVE Arcade. Originally they planned on making it identical to the online flash game but as they continued work on the game, they began to fall more and more in love with the project and decided to flesh it out to the extreme. "It seemed like a shame not to go 'all out' for it" says Tommy. As any Meat Boy fan can tell you, the game did indeed have a month of exclusivity on Xbox LIVE Arcade before also being released on PC through Steam. However, these guys could not over emphasize the amount of stress and pressure involved. The whole reason why Ed isn’t even here is because he blames pressures of the IGF for sleepless nights and fits of anxiety.

Tommy also shares stories such as not eating, only getting a few hours of sleep per night, two solid months of no days off and no free time and having fever nightmares of the sheer insane amount of work that was involved. When attending last year’s IGF Awards, they shared “We didn't need to hear how people would not vote for our game for stupid little things.” In fact, when the game went into bug testing, all of the responsibility fell on Tommy because he was basically the only programmer on the game. At this point Ed felt guilty and wanted to just say "The hell with it, it's not worth it. I don't want to do it anymore."

As if the story wasn’t sad enough already, towards the launch they received very little support from Microsoft to popularize the game even further. Later they also ran into a roadblock with Nintendo; a size restriction is keeping Super Meat Boy from being a reality on WiiWare. Regardless, there is a silver lining to this story. The game sold great because of it's own Metacritic review scores. Tommy also comments, "When we see someone playing our game and they're not putting it down, it makes all the sadness go away." Edmund also brings a positive twist on the story, "We released on Steam and it did better than Xbox" which is, of course, a big nod to Valve! In closing, Edmund shared even more sunshine in this gloomy tale by giving us a glimpse of the retail packaging of Super Meat Boy which will be released for PC and, "will be available at “Wal-Mart". I’m not trying to be cute, those are Edmund’s exact words!

Related links:
Super Meat Boy
GDC 2011

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Arrival at GDC 2011
Monday 28 February 2011 - 00:54AM
Peter Rizkalla

It's a long haul from Los Angeles on this CGSociety road trip!

After a seven and a half hour drive, a few bottles of water, a couple bathroom breaks and whole boatload of snacks, I’ve finally arrived in San Francisco anxiously awaiting the opening of the Moscone Center doors where the 2011 Game Developer’s Conference will be held. I’m expecting this year’s show to be a lot more engaging than last year. Not to discount Sid Meier's brilliant keynote from last year's show, but, Nintendo's Satoru Iwata will be making this year's keynote presentation.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a GDC without the Game Developer’s Choice Award Show. This year’s favorites for Game Of The Year look to be a big toss up. My predictions… Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood will walk away with a couple noteworthy mentions. The Game Of The Year award itself looks to be coin flip between Red Dead Redemption and Mass Effect 2. Aside from the award shows, there are a lot of good-looking sessions out there (as well as a bunch of gawd-awful ones which we will make every attempt to shield your ever-so-sensitive eyes from). It’s ramping up and we’re going to bring you all the best. Stay tuned to good ol’ CGSociety!

Related links:
GDC 2011

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GDC 2011
Thursday 24 February 2011 - 20:38PM
Paul Hellard

The Game Developers Conference for 2011 begins Monday.
This marks the 25th time it has been staged. Once you're decided on making it to the Moscone Center in the city, it'll be time to set up your schedule Builder online.  This can also be downloaded to your phone so you have it with you all the time, even when the WiFi is doubtful. Much like the SIGGRAPH Pocket guide application.

There are Tracks covering the Production, the financial strings and creative visuals of games. There are streams for the Independent producer, the student of particular software packages, genres and game streams.

Speakers have been gathered from Splash Damage, Naughty Dog, Ubisoft, EA, Bungie LLC, Valve Software, LucasArts, Riot Games, Rockstar, CCP, Epic, Zeboyd, Loot Drop and many, many more active studios. The Trade show floor opens on Wednesday with displays and product information demonstrations planned from studios, software vendors and industry luminaries.

The 11th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards and the 13th Annual Independent Games Festival Awards are on Wednesday night. Here the very best developers are celebrated and honoured for their work over the past year. Award highlights are Lifetime Achievement, Pioneer, Ambassador and the coveted Game of the Year Award, which was won last year by Naughty Dog for Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.

There is so much happening over the next week in San Francisco. Be sure to jump back here for when we land and get into the action in at the Game Developer's Conference.

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» GDC 2011 results
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» Fable 3 on NVIDIA 3D
» HANDS-ON: Chime Super Deluxe
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» Donkey Kong @ GDC 2011
» HANDS-ON: Mortal Kombat
» Red Dead Redemption
» Indie Game Awards
» Satoru Iwata keynote
» Infinity Blade @ GDC
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» Arrival at GDC 2011
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