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  • BioWare

    'Anthem' is proof that crunch can't save AAA games

    by 
    Jessica Conditt
    Jessica Conditt
    04.04.2019

    Anthem is a fiery mess. Since launching in February, BioWare's loot shooter has been plagued by game-breaking bugs, narrative and gameplay inconsistencies and an overwhelming sense of incomplete blandness. Critically, Anthem has received middling reviews, and its current Metacritic score, 55, is the lowest a BioWare title has ever received. Yes, that includes Mass Effect: Andromeda. A report out of Kotaku this week helps explain why Anthem is in disarray, and it shines a light on a consistent and increasingly public issue in AAA development: crunch.

  • Motion Twin

    The rich and mysterious story buried in 'Dead Cells'

    by 
    Jessica Conditt
    Jessica Conditt
    04.03.2019

    There's a story in Dead Cells. Motion Twin's glossy, pixelated platformer is known for offering brutal battles and rich customization options in a sprawling, neon castle ravaged by bloodthirsty beasts, but there's also a plotline lurking below the constant threat of death. Far below. Like, so far that it even surprised the people who created Dead Cells. "The story and the lore in this game was really, like, chaotic. Really chaotic," lead designer Sébastien Bénard said. "Really, really a mess," marketing manager Steve Filby added. "At the beginning we did not want to have any kind of story, at least not too much," Bénard continued. "We knew that the loop between dying and getting back into action should be as short as possible and lore was just getting in the way."

  • Hello Games

    'No Man's Sky VR' is the purest way to explore the universe

    by 
    Jessica Conditt
    Jessica Conditt
    04.02.2019

    There's been at least one moment in the past year when Sean Murray, the creator of No Man's Sky, has been seated around an awards-ceremony table with the people behind Fortnite, Rainbow Six Siege or Warframe, and they've all shared a moment of incredulity. "We're like, 'Yeah, so, two years ago was pretty rough, right?'" Murray said, laughing. "And everyone's in the same boat."

  • Hello Games

    'No Man's Sky VR' puts the universe on your headset for free

    by 
    Jessica Conditt
    Jessica Conditt
    03.25.2019

    No Man's Sky studio Hello Games has rolled out a steady stream of updates to take its stargazing simulator from "cautionary indie tale" to "Best Ongoing Game award nominee" in just two years. No Man's Sky is a sprawling exploration of the universe and a near-infinite number of its planets, filled with crafting, digging, flying, building and hodgepodge creatures of all kinds. And, soon, it'll all be in VR.

  • Nintendo

    'Cadence of Hyrule' for Switch puts a Zelda spin on an indie classic

    by 
    Jessica Conditt
    Jessica Conditt
    03.20.2019

    Hyrule is about to get down. Cadence of Hyrule - Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda (what a mouthful) is heading to the Nintendo Switch this spring. It's a top-down 2D roguelike that infuses the universe of The Legend of Zelda into the rhythmic world of beloved 2015 indie game Crypt of the NecroDancer.

  • Devolver Digital

    'High Maintenance' meets 'Civilization' in 'Weedcraft Inc'

    by 
    Jessica Conditt
    Jessica Conditt
    02.05.2019

    When I was a kid smoking weed in high school, I was convinced that marijuana would never be legal. The idea that it's legal now, I'm in my late 40s, it's shocking to me." Scott Alexander speaks in rapid-fire paragraphs brimming with information about modern marijuana laws, politics and culture. He's the lead writer on Weedcraft Inc, the first original video game developed and published by popular indie label Devolver Digital. Weedcraft Inc is a tycoon or world-building game, similar to Civilization or Tropico, but players start out as low-grade weed dealers and build their empires from there. It's in beta now, and the full game is due to drop some time in April.

  • GDC

    The online conference that might change video games for good

    by 
    Jessica Conditt
    Jessica Conditt
    01.24.2019

    Language is a tool, and just like any tool, it has equal capacity to inflict both good and bad on the world. Language is a beautiful, human thing; the connective tissue that transfers culture, knowledge and critical information across borders and generations. It's also a means of segregation and detachment, erecting invisible walls among neighbors and strangers alike, impeding coexistence on a global scale.

  • GDC

    Nearly half of game developers want to unionize

    by 
    Jessica Conditt
    Jessica Conditt
    01.24.2019

    Unionization isn't a new idea for the game development industry, but it is a particularly hot and contentious topic right now. A handful of events in 2018 thrust the unionization conversation to the forefront, including Rockstar boss Dan Houser's comments about developers working 100-hour weeks to finish Red Dead Redemption 2, and the tragic implosion and bitter residue of Telltale Games. Groups like Game Workers Unite have been pounding the pavement (physically and digitally) and gathering support for unionization across the globe, with a goal to "bring hope to and empower those suffering in this industry." In December, a UK chapter of Game Workers Unite became a legal trade union.

  • Friend & Foe

    Excited and exhausted: The hours before the launch of 'Vane'

    by 
    Jessica Conditt
    Jessica Conditt
    01.15.2019

    By the time our Skype call connects and Matt Smith says hello, it's already January 15th at the Friend & Foe offices in Tokyo. After nearly five years of development and public promises, his studio's first original game, Vane, is out across Europe and Asia. It'll go live in the US in about six hours. "[I'm] excited, really excited, exhausted, and kind of nervous as well," Smith said. "I think those are the main three things, but it's just -- the thing is, it's kind of hard also to turn away from it. I've got other things I should probably turn my life back to, but there's this draw to continually check Twitter, even though there's nothing interesting, nothing we need to look at there, and we can probably afford to leave it alone for a couple of days -- and probably should, just to recharge our batteries. So I'm really nervous and I really want to make sure everything goes well, so I'm sort of obsessively tracking things and checking things."

  • Capybara Games

    The Xbox One's original indie game is finally here

    by 
    Jessica Conditt
    Jessica Conditt
    12.21.2018

    Patience. Below is a game steeped in time, from creation to consumption, and it demands patience from developers and players alike. Capybara Games revealed Below during the Xbox E3 conference in 2013, suggesting this beautiful, dark and expansive adventure game would be out soon. So, fans waited. And waited. Another trailer dropped, showing a tiny character fighting its way through massive dungeons filled with supernatural secrets, but no release date appeared. Fans waited some more.

  • Stardew Valley

    'Stardew Valley' creator is working on more content and a new game

    by 
    Richard Lawler
    Richard Lawler
    12.15.2018

    In a blog post and a few tweets, solo game developer Eric Barone laid out plans for 2019 that will expand his hit indie game Stardew Valley and extend to a new title. Now that he has regained the right to self-publish the top-down farming RPG on most platforms (except for mobile and Switch which remain with Chucklefish), he's working on a new free content update for it. While he's still working on that by himself -- and has put work on an all-new game in the Stardew Valley universe to the side -- the plan is to end the solo act and form a team to work on future expansions. Of course, players on consoles like PS4 and Xbox One are still waiting for the last update that added multiplayer (1.3) while Switch owners have noted some issues with the game and, according to Barone, addressing those situations is a priority. Once there's an actual team cranking out content for Stardew Valley players, then the plan is for Barone to split time between that and the unnamed new game. Simple, right?

  • Kongregate

    Kartridge is a curated game store, now with more Indie Megabooth

    by 
    Jessica Conditt
    Jessica Conditt
    12.13.2018

    With the surprise launch of the Epic Games Store last week, followed by scores of news articles and tweets proclaiming war between Steam and Epic, it might be shocking to hear that there are other digital video game marketplaces on the internet. Kartridge, for instance, is a game store from Kongregate that offers a curated selection of independent titles -- rather than a holding cell for every project under the sun, as Steam has become for many players. Today, Kartridge announced a partnership with the Indie Megabooth to spotlight prominent games from the group's six-year history as a traveling showcase. Titles on Kartridge from IMB alumni will be clearly marked and featured on the store's main page, and the list will be updated quarterly with fresh games.

  • The Epic Games Store is the best thing that could happen to Steam

    by 
    Jessica Conditt
    Jessica Conditt
    12.13.2018

    By the time The Game Awards cameras switched off on December 6th, after three hours of sternum-pounding concerts, raucous celebration and heartfelt speeches, the video game landscape had changed in a massive way. In the show's first hour, the studio behind Fortnite and the Unreal Engine launched its new digital marketplace, The Epic Games Store, and its simple gray-and-white logo became a consistent theme throughout the night. It seemed that every time a trailer for a new game faded to black, the Epic Games Store emblem was there.

  • Motion Twin

    Does the video game industry need E3?

    by 
    Jessica Conditt
    Jessica Conditt
    12.04.2018

    E3 is not a place for us." Steve Filby handles marketing for Motion Twin, the studio behind Dead Cells, and he's been building and shipping games for the past six years. Dead Cells is one of the hottest independent titles around, following a wildly successful stint on Steam Early Access, where the studio sold more than 730,000 copies in just one year -- before the game was technically finished. It's a bright and sprawling roguelike reminiscent of Castlevania, and since officially launching in August, it's picked up a handful of accolades, including two nominations at the 2018 Game Awards. Dead Cells did all of this without exhibiting at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, the video game industry's most publicized trade show.

  • The Wandering Ben

    Ben Wander's quest to become a household name

    by 
    Jessica Conditt
    Jessica Conditt
    11.18.2018

    Even casual video game fans know Sid Meier's name. They've seen it countless times, printed in sturdy text across every box in the Civilization series for the past 27 years, the most recent one being 2016's Sid Meier's Civilization VI. It's come to the point where most gamers can't hear "Civilization" without immediately thinking, "Sid Meier," and vice versa. "People know who Sid Meier is because his name's on the front," indie developer Ben Wander said on the busy Tulsa Pop Culture Expo show floor. He was showing off his first game as independent developer The Wandering Ben, a noir murder mystery called A Case of Distrust.

  • ID@Xbox won't disappear with the next console generation

    by 
    Jessica Conditt
    Jessica Conditt
    10.30.2018

    When Microsoft revealed the ID@Xbox program in 2013, Xbox CVP Phil Harrison said he hoped it would usher tens of thousands of games onto the Xbox ecosystem. Five years on, Microsoft is 10 percent of the way there -- the company has officially published 1,000 games via the ID@Xbox program. (All things remaining equal, this means we'll hit Harrison's goal by 2068. Maybe hold off on printing those "Congrats on 10,000 games" banners for another few decades). "We're really kinda happy with where we are right now," ID@Xbox head Chris Charla told Engadget. "That doesn't mean there isn't tons of work to do for developers going forward, or that we're gonna slow down."

  • Sony/Mossmouth/Blitworks

    'Spelunky 2' brings more thrilling adventure in 2019

    by 
    David Lumb
    David Lumb
    08.29.2018

    The Indiana Jones-styled roguelike Spelunky is a modern classic indie game that's been around for the better part of a decade in various releases across multiple platforms and console generations. We knew a sequel was coming, but had no idea when. Out of nowhere, developers Mossmouth and Blitworks have dropped a trailer and revealed the game is coming sometime next year.

  • Kong Orange

    'Felix the Reaper' puts a playful spin on the danse macabre

    by 
    Jessica Conditt
    Jessica Conditt
    08.25.2018

    Death is always dancing. That's the inspiration behind Felix the Reaper, a romantic-comedy puzzle game about a love-struck employee at the Ministry of Death. Felix, the marshmallowy Death employee, is on a mission to seduce a worker at the Ministry of Life with his bureaucratic skills and slick dance moves. In the game, this means players navigate Felix through a series of spatial puzzles, ensuring he remains in the shadows and reaches the conclusion of each level -- which ends with someone dying in a gruesome, yet comical, manner.

  • Lambic Studios

    Finding peace in a hopeless, goat-filled apocalypse

    by 
    Jessica Conditt
    Jessica Conditt
    08.24.2018

    The end of the world has never felt so peaceful. The Stillness of the Wind is a meditative and enrapturing experience about the death of the Earth, as told through the simple, daily habits of a lone grandmother on a ramshackle farm. I played through the first 10 minutes of the game in a tiny booth at the center of the Gamescom business hall on a busy public day, and its deliberate gameplay, prescient message and adorable goats instantly made the outside world fade away.

  • Square Enix

    'Life is Strange 2' deals with brotherhood in the face of death

    by 
    Jessica Conditt
    Jessica Conditt
    08.22.2018

    Life is Strange 2 begins with a bleak bang. Developer Dontnod shared the game's first 20 minutes this week on YouTube, introducing series fans to the Diaz family before diving straight into a chaotic, violent scene that sets the stage for the rest of the five-episode season. This article contains spoilers for the first 20 minutes of Life is Strange 2