As Dan recounted in his article he and I both managed to make it to LittleBigPlanet 2 launch event in New York City a few days ago.
We arrived at the tail end of the event, just in time to watch three very tired looking gamers stumbling out of a room with three beanbags and a big TV. To coincide with the launch of LittleBigPlanet 2, Sony and Media Molecule had partnered with Guinness World Records to try and break 5 world records. They were "Longest marathon playing LittleBigPlanet 2," "Longest marathon playing a platform video game," "Most video game genres played in one video game in 24 hours," "Most user-generated video game levels played in 24 hours," and "Most user-generated video game levels played in a video game marathon."
It took David Dino (Gevurah22), Sean Crowley (Jaeyden), and Lauren Guiliano (Lugey) 3 days without sleep to beat all of the records. In addition, LittleBigPlanet 2 itself broke some records including "Most gaming genres in one video game" and "Most player-created levels in one video game."
Dan and I caught up with David Dino, just to ask him about the experience and what he thought about the game after playing it for so long. David works in hospital administration, although he was one of the beta testers for LittleBigPlanet 2, which was one of the reasons he was picked out to be a part of the event.
“So after playing the game for three days straight, what do you think of the game?”
“Oh it’s 10 times better than the original. There’s so much to do and the level creator is so much easier to use and has so many different options. It really lets you get your game designer out.”
He seemed to have enjoyed the affair, in spite of the total lack of sleep. Apparently they were well attended to and even had fans and developers sit in every now and then to support them.
Unfortunately it was a short interview as David looked like he was ready to keel over at any moment from lack of sleep, but he seemed happy to have talked to someone about his experiences.
Dan and I then got to interview some of the developers of the game from Media Molecule, including Martin Lynagh, producer of LittleBigPlanet 2.
They first talked about some of the new additions to the game, which mostly manifest in the level creator. One of the most interesting additions is the ability to use the creator to make levels that are not in the platforming genre. You can make LittleBigPlanet 2 a racing game, a puzzle game, and Media Molecule is even considering ways that someone could make an RPG with the game. They’ve included a music sequencer and voice recording so that you can make your own sound effects for the game. There’s a cinematic maker included in the game, similar to The Sims, where you can change the camera angles, manipulate the actors on screen, use the automatic lip syncing to record voices for the Sackboys, and basically all the other tools you need to tell a story. In fact Media Molecule sent out a challenge through us for somebody to create a 30 minute film using LittleBigPlanet 2. Anyone up to it?
They also provided some interesting facts about LittleBigPlanet 2. First of all, all the levels in the game were created in the LittleBigPlanet 2 level creator. Media Molecule wanted to make sure that any level they could make, players could make. They made sure to include backwards compatibility, so all of the user created levels transfer over from the first game to the second. According to them that’s around 3.5 million levels, which would take someone 75 years if they played each level for 3 minutes. Craziness.
There is a popular new video making its way across the internet (and various TV shows), you can find it easily if you search for “Red Shirt Guy”. Basically, if you haven’t seen it, it’s a video of a guy, in a red shirt, asking the some of the developers of World of Warcraft a question about the lore of Warcraft and pointing out a mistake. If you haven’t seen it, you can check it out HERE. Well, I scoured Azeroth and tracked down Red Shirt Guy and did a Q&A interview with him. Enjoy!
World-Gaming Network: First off, what's your name? And where are you from? How old are you?
Red Shirt Guy: I'm not comfortable with my name coming out, but it has, thanks to people at my school so I guess I can share it. My name is Ian Bates and I am 17 years old. I'm from a state that's shaped like an upside down boot.
World-Gaming Network: How long have you been playing World of Warcraft?
Red Shirt Guy: Since around November 2006, when one of my friends showed me and I was enamored with their being a whole world with its own ecology which to my delight included dinosaurs! (I really, really, really like dinosaurs).
World-Gaming Network: I know you probably don't want to give out your character names due to how many people will spam you with tells, but do you want to share your guild name and server?
Red Shirt Guy: As I said in my "Red Shirt Guy Speaks Out!" response video my guild is Carpe Imperium on the Malfurion server.
World-Gaming Network: Have you ever played any of the Warcraft real time strategy games? Warcraft, Warcraft 2, etc...
Red Shirt Guy: I have played Warcraft III but not the first two as they are rather old and hard to get.
World-Gaming Network: What are your thoughts on Warcraft III?
Red Shirt Guy: I'm a fan of RTS games so I naturally enjoyed Warcraft III, my favorite aspect of it outside of the story is making the bases into little towns and having them conquer the other ones while making up a story behind it. As you might guess I'm a big fan of storytelling in games.
World-Gaming Network: Was this your first BlizzCon?
Red Shirt Guy: It was actually my fourth. I've gone every year since 2007.
World-Gaming Network: Was your sole purpose of attending BlizzCon this year to ask your question to the dev?
Red Shirt Guy: Not at all, I didn't even have this question until I noticed the discrepancy while on the plane ride to Anaheim. I come mainly as its neat to see the upcoming games and how they're made, it’s one of the few places that I'm relatively comfortable with a large number of people ( I don't need to interact with them too much unless I want to) and its just plain fun to be there amongst my fellow gamers.
World-Gaming Network: I've heard that Blizzard has added an NPC called "WildHammer Fact Checker" to the World of Warcraft: Cataclysm expansion beta test in honor of you. How do you feel about this?
Red Shirt Guy: Red Shirt Guy: It’s actually spelled "Wildhammer" but I am honored. Blizzard has added npcs of famous WoW fans in the past, such as Breanni of warcraftpets.com, but I never in a million epochs thought I would be one.
World-Gaming Network: Yep, there you have it; I’ve just been corrected by Red Shirt Guy….wonderful. I guess I can die a happy man now. Did you know the video from BlizzCon was going to be posted on the internet? Are you surprised by how popular it is?
Red Shirt Guy: I hadn't really thought about that at the time I asked the question. I am extremely surprised that it became popular at all. I just asked a question.
World-Gaming Network: The original posting on YouTube has over 10,000 comments ranging from hateful comments to people calling you a "nerd hero." Do you read the comments?
Red Shirt Guy: I used to read the comments back when I first noticed the video, but at that time they were almost 100% hateful so now a days I don't pay much attention to them.
World-Gaming Network: I think I first saw the video in a Yahoo article. Then that night I saw it on E! TV's The Soup. Have you been keeping track of where else the video has been played?
Red Shirt Guy: I search "Red Shirt Guy" every once in a while to see if I've ended up somewhere new. I think the most impressive place I ended up on was the Jimmy Kimmel show.
World-Gaming Network: What is your favorite color?
Red Shirt Guy: I know this will sound cheesy, but red. Most of my shirts are red in fact.
World-Gaming Network: I've seen the original video and your response video. In both you are wearing the same red shirt. Is that your favorite shirt? Or do you just wear it twice since you are now known as "Red Shirt Guy" to most people on the internet?
Red Shirt Guy: It has become my favorite shirt, but I wore it just for the sake of recognition, as you said I am known as the "Red Shirt Guy" to most people on the internet.
World-Gaming Network: Have you already pre-ordered the Cataclysm expansion?
Red Shirt Guy: Collector's Edition to be precise. =)
World-Gaming Network: What are your thoughts on the World of Warcraft: Cataclysm expansion?
Red Shirt Guy: I think its Blizzard's "see we listen to you guys, expansion" as it has tons of stuff players have been asking for. Revamped 1-60 content, goblins and worgen, flying in Azeroth, ect. I being one of those players am very excited.
Thanks to Ian for taking time out of his busy day to do this interview.
While I was at PAX 2010 this year, I also had a chance to talk to Conor Sheehy from NCsoft about Aion. As usual, we start off with a brief overview of what Aion is.
-----Answer: Aion has two player factions and a third NPZ faction, the original game was based in the inside of a hollowed out world, one player faction was in the lower half and the other was up top. Now with this update, Aion: Assault on Balaurea, you actually go to the outside of the planet and fight the Balaur. The surface of the globe is their homeland.So you’re a content writer.Question: I am. What does that look like in terms of your hands on role in game development?Answer: Well it’s a Korean game, so we don’t actually create any of the content from scratch. We do however, get a very lose leash to adapt and translate the content from it’s Korean roots to something that is marketable in the west.Question: So you’re doing localization?Answer: Yeah we localize, we make it relevant, we take Korean folk tales and stuff, which we don’t understand because we don’t have any frame of reference for them and we adapt them and insert references into them. For example, there’s a group of Shugo, they’re a group of ferret like creatures, and in the original they were given names based on Korean pop groups. In the update we make a reference to Charlie’s Angles by calling them Charlie’s demons, so things like that.Question: What’s it like at the office during crunch time, have you slept at work yet?Answer: Actually it’s not been too bad, we brought in a load of contract writers, I’m one of two permanent writers for the team, and we brought in six contractors. Yeah, we were done two weeks before our deadline.Question: Isn’t that unheard of in the industry? You must have been doing something wrong.Answer: I know we’ve missed a whole level or something. It actually turned out really well, we did a load of work much faster than we anticipated and we were able to go through the game and iron out all the bugs. We are really pleased with the end product; it is really clean and streamlined. Question: What’s the most crazy Korean folk tale that didn’t translate?Answer: Oh man... There’s one I can’t really mention because it actually that bad.Question: Don’t worry it’s only going on the Internet.Answer: Oh man, I literally can’t tell you that. But um, there have been others. Shit, there are two good ones I can’t tell you about. This is awful, I can’t give you other examples cause these are the only two I can think about now... This is terrible. Let’s just say that some of the stuff that they consider PC, we don’t and vice versa I suppose. I guess you could say that bridging those gaps are some of the larger challenges of the job.Question: So what sets this apart from other MMORPGs?Answer: Well there’s a bunch of things. Originally we had flight, which was a big deal for Aion. You can’t actually fly everywhere but, you can glide. This adds a whole new dynamic to the landscape. Since a lot of the world is based around gliding, much of it was created more vertically then other games. A lot of the places are like canyons and ravines, there are ways to catch up drafts to gain altitude. In the update we have these things called wind-streams which are big tunnels of air that act as fast travel throughout the world. They’re like flight paths but they’re more adaptable because you can jump in and out of them where ever you want. Also in the update, we’ve got pets. In other online games pets are mostly there for vanity, they don’t serve much purpose but, in Aion we have four different types of pets, we have pack pets which increase your targeting and help you carry more stuff. We have signal pets, now in most games you have like stealth classes right, you’ll be playing and suddenly you’ll get stabbed in the back by some invisible dude and you’re half dead and then you are dead. Signal pets are really cool because they can see invisible characters. They see them and they start freaking out, so you’ve got a few seconds to figure out where this guy’s coming from and you can buff yourself, get yourself ready, you can run away if you need to. We have fortune pets as well, these guys, you feed them junk items, just crap you would see to a vendor and your pet “recycles” these items, when they turn up they’re useful items to you, they’re enchantment stones or other things you can use to augment your gear. Question: What have you done in this game to develop a story line?Answer: One of the things we have done, that is new to us, come to think of it I’ve never seen it anywhere else in a MMORPG either, is include something called solo instances. This happens twice in the game when you reach certain levels. You actually go and play as another character in the game to discover more about the world. In one of these you go and play as Kromi, you become her you use her skills and abilities. She’s basically a big baddy in the game but, as you play her you learn more about who she is and that her motivation is not so black and white. Up until that point you encounter her a lot in the game and come to know her in a certain way but, when you eventually play as her you discover that she’s actually not a baddy, that she’s been set up. So this is one of the ways that we try to add depth to the story.
Thanks Conor for talking with us about Aion: Assault on Balaurea. For more information on this free expansion (in the US) which is already out, check out na.aiononline.com.
Next up in our PAX 2010 Q&As is Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad. Here is the interview with Tripwire's President, John Gibson.
Question: When is the release date for Heroes of Stalingrad? Answer: 2011. Heroes of Stalingrad is the sequel to Red Orchestra: Ostfront 41-45, which came out in 2006. This is a WWII FPS, set on the Eastern front. For this title we decided to focus the game down on the actual battle of Stalingrad. That battle was kind of the turning point of the war, there are a lot of WWII games that have focused on Normandy and the Americans fighting the Germans but, we felt like the story of Stalingrad was something that really hadn’t been told in this medium yet. There were so many facets to that battle, so many iconic struggles there that we wanted to show. So, it was the Germans and Russians, one of the biggest battles in history, I think there were 3,000,000 casualties, just from the fight for one city. It’s a really exciting setting. Question: How involved where you with the research?Answer: I have a very small part in it that way; I’m the resident gun nut. I collect WWII weapons, so I did a lot of the weapons research for the game. Question: Tell me about something in your research that stood out.Answer: One thing that was really exciting was some of the things we found out about the sniper rifles. I actually own at least one of the sniper rifles in the game and one of the things I found was that these WWII sniper rifles have a scope but are also still equipped with regular gun sights. So one of the things I came across when using the weapon in real live was that the scope was effective at range but almost useless when the target is too close. So in the game we added an option to use the actual iron sights as well as the scope, in case someone surprises you at close range when you’re sniping. Question: I’ve had that problem in games, someone gets too close and all you can see is the fabric on their torso.Answer: Exactly, so that’s one thing that we added that came from some hands on research.Question: Would you have ever found that out if you weren't and actual real life gun nut?Answer: No, no, not at all. Question: How else has that influenced your role in the game’s development?Answer: Well, one of the things that people have said about the original Red Orchestra and I think they’ll say it even more about this one is that weapon handling in the game is very authentic and in depth. From the beginning with Tripwire, we’ve really wanted to do better then anyone else in the world when it comes to giving people the experience of using these weapons. We want to make it feel like, play like and sound like the real thing. I think I’ve influenced that a lot. Some of the stuff that you can’t get, like some of the fully automatic stuff, we found a range where you can rent them. We went and shot machine guns and sub-machine guns and that really effected the game. Being the guy that actually loads some of that stuff into the game, it makes a real difference knowing what it really feels like to fire them. It was also a really good thing to do because, in the original game since we hadn’t fired some of the fully automatic weapons, we kind of over did it with some of the effects and made them harder to use them they should actually be. So in the new game, they’re the right amount of difficulty, sub-machine guns, they don’t actually recoil that much. So what we ended up with this time around was a game that is more in depth but, a little easier to play.Question: What weapon got left out that you’re really choked about?Answer: Flame throwers. We were planning on having flamethrowers in the game and I was really excited about that but, as always happens, you get closer to the end and some things just have to get cut. With that said, at Tripwire, we’re known for putting out free updates for our games, post release. Red Orchestra was released in 2006 and our last update for that came out in 2009, it was shipped with four maps, I think it’s up to fifteen. So maybe we’ll see a flamethrower post release for this. Question: What sets this apart from others FPSs in your eyes?Answer: There are a lot of intangible things that you can’t put bullet point on the back of a game. Our game’s weapons feel better then everyone else’s, that’s just not something you can explain in words. We put a lot of emphasis on raw authenticity and game-play depth. I think that a lot of military shooters are trying to create a Hollywood experience, trying to make the player feel like they’re in an action movie. Which is cool, I don’t want to take away from that but, that’s kind of the path that everyone takes, they all turn right, we turn left. We want to give the players the experience of being in a real war, not a war movie. Obviously there are parts of war that aren't fun; you don’t want to have a player sitting for hours in foxhole, waiting for your enemy to freeze to death, that’s not enjoyable. So we take the real parts of war that make for good gaming and we narrow the game down to those things. Question: Re-playability is the holy grail in all games, it sounds like you guys strive for this with the depth of immersion in the game. Are you looking at multi-player as well?Answer: We were very successful in the multi-player in the first one and that will be a major part of the new title as well. In the first game we only included one mode of multi-player and in Heroes of Stalingrad has three. It will include player vs player game types as well as cooperative campaign. It will also focus on a mode that is all about skirmishes, this is a fun simple game type, where you and a bunch of buddies go in and there’s a bunch of enemies and you just go in and kill them all. Another thing that sets Heroes apart is the way we’ve taken on vehicles. Other games have vehicle systems that put you on the outside, where basically you are the tank. With Heroes of Stalingrad what we wanted to do was give someone the feeling of what it’s like to be a solder inside one of these big hulking beasts in WWII. So we’re creating a fully modeled 3D interior, we’ve got a fully functional AI crew and when another shell comes in and hit your tank, you’re going to see you’re A.I. buddy die. You’re going to get the full experience; you’ll look through the periscope or the little view slits and get the feeling of what it was like to be inside one of these things. I like to say that we’re giving people a near simulator experience but, streamlining it enough to work in a FPS. We think that everyone kind of skims over the in these games and we wanted to do something different. Question: Segueing into AI, tell me a little about the level of competency of your foes and allies in Heroes of Stalingrad. Answer: Well I’ll be the first person to admit my mistakes and anyone who played Red Orchestra Ostfront knows, the AI was terrible. We were a small studio when we started; you know we didn’t have the time to put a lot of work into the A.I. The game was a multi-player shooter anyway, so we were like “oh yeah A.I., who cares”. In the new game we put a lot of focus on the A.I. We actually went so in depth as to have morale, so if the morale is high for instance, they might stand and fight or, if the morale is low and they get charged by the enemy they might just run away. We’ve gone to great lengths to make the A.I. very tactical and intelligent. One of the things you’ll here typical programmers say is “the typical life span of an A.I. in a game is three seconds, they come on screen and you shoot them”, so what follows from that is that you don’t need to make the A.I. very smart. I don’t believe that, I think that’s a self fulfilling prophecy. If you make them dumb, of course they’re only going to be on screen for three seconds. So our goal is to give them a high level of tactical intelligence, they understand what’s happening in the game, they understand the tactical situation, like if they’re being flanked and need to relocate for better cover. They’ll dynamically take cover knowing where their enemies are. We have made it so that they have a realistic vision and understanding of the world. Question: How do you use cover in this game?Answer: We’re really excited about the cover in this game; we’ve developed what’s called a first person cover system. Almost all other games have a third person cover system, there was one other that I can think of that did this called Killzone 2 but, they didn’t do it in multi-player for some reason. One of the reasons we when first person is that third person actually give you a lot of unrealistic advantages, like you’re behind cover and can see your enemy and shoot at them but they can’t hit you. In the game-play, what we have been trying to give you is the feeling of a dynamic fire fight, when you blind fire over a crate you can’t see what you’re shooting at, when you lean out of a door you become more and more exposed and when you pop out to take a shot you have to line up your iron sights with the shot, as opposed to lining it up before hand. Question: Sounds great, thanks for your time.
Thanks to John for talking with us about Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad, which is set to come out in 2011 for the PC. For more information about Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad check out their website at www.heroesofstalingrad.com.
Starting off this week of Q&As is one with Job J. Stauffer, where we talk about the upcoming Kung Fu Live. As usual, this interview starts off with Job introducing himself and Kung Fu Live.
Answer: My name is Job J. Stauffer, I’m here representing the Virtual Air Guitar company. Who is releasing their first independent product this year, it’s actually their first game seeing the market on the PlayStation Network, it’s Kung Fu Live. Question: Tell me a bit about the development of the game, how much did you guys draw in camp kung Fu movies for this?Answer: Ah, pretty much 99%. It’s a mix of everything, it’s old campy kung fu movies, old pulp action comic books, anything fun and awesome that’s kicked ass over the years that anyone one the development team and family has liked. Also, fighting games, Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Streets of Rage, anything that we grew up playing and kicking ass with. You play these games, you watch these movies, you read these comics, you’ve wanted to be in them your whole live. Virtual Air Guitar company has created a game where you are a part of the story, you are in the video game itself, you’re using your entire body to kick ass. Question: Now that you bring it up there’s something distinctly first generation Mortal Kombat about the motion of the game, it kind of reminds me of an jilted white person doing kung fu.Answer: Very much inspired by cheesy action flicks, first gen fighting games and just the kind of stuff we all grew up playing and having fun with. Question: Nice, so talk to me a bit about the game-play itself.Answer: It’s going to be using the PlayStation Eye camera, which is actually incorporating patented proprietary free motion technology that the Virtual Air Guitar company owns. What they’re doing is tracking your entire body, head, hands, arms, feet, everything is being tracked in real time and they’re also removing the background. It’s never been done before, it’s the first time it’s happened on a 2D camera. It’s possible to do this game on a 2D or a 3D camera but, right now it’s coming out later this year on the PlayStation Eye.Question: And you’re not going to talk to me about how it removes the back ground like that?Answer: Ah, I would tell you but, I’m not one of the crazy geniuses from Finland that figured that out.Question: That seems fair. Answer: Yeah these guys know what they’re doing. Hailing from Finland, they came out collage doing all sorts of crazy projects. Hitting up the arts scene and Wired Nextfest. They all came together right out of school, programmers and computer visionary enthusiasts, with all sorts of projects that incorporated cameras. They actually created a kung fu game a few years ago and this is the refinement of that project. The idea was to make it into a full on game, the game that they have always wanted to play and bring it to gamers across the world. We will be doing that later this year.Question: How complex are the levels?Answer: The levels get progressively more complex as the game goes on. You’re going to start out in a simple environment; player on one side, enemies on the other, and enemies will get harder as the game goes on, like every good fighting game. After that, once they teach you how to move around, the levels are going to open up more. They will be more like Smash Bros levels, where there’s more platforms and climbing, more items, more stuff to kick around. All that stuff is built into the game and you’re going to get to see it as you get towards the end. Question: Cool. So the attacks that are done in the game, does the camera interpret your movement and then use one of a number of preset moves?Answer: No, not at all! What it’s doing is creating live real time one to one fighting that’s tracking the motion of your entire body.Question: I could head butt someone?Answer: You could head butt somebody, you could do a kart wheel, or you could spin around 360 in front of the camera and kick a dude in the face and knock him off of a catwalk. Anything you can think of you can do. People ask how many moves in the game and I ask them how many moves can you do yourself? Question: So four.Answer: So four, or four hundred, it doesn’t matter. If you’re a weakling like me you can just flail around your arms and try to survive that way and hope for the best. Or you can actually kick ass, you can incorporate your own kung fu, your own Karate, Capoeira, Drunken master, your own back alley brawling, anything you can think of you can do in the game. Question: Tell me about multi-player.Answer: That is one of those moments where they came up with an idea right at the end. They were like “hey, what if we have one guy on camera and let a second player pick up a controller and fight against him”, that was an ah-ha moment. But then they said “why stop there? There’s four controllers on the PS3, what if we have a five player fighting game with four people sitting on their asses, beating up the one guy on camera who’s doing all the work”. It’s a ton of fun.Question: To what extent has this already turned into a drinking game?Answer: Ah... To what extent? Look I can neither confirm nor deny the level of alcohol consumption that has been taking place either here in the states or over in Finland in the studio. Question: Is your facial hair some kind of Nordic solidarity, or is this how you always look?Answer: Nordic solidarity for Kung Fu Live my friend.
Thanks to Job for taking time out of a busy PAX schedule to talk to us about Kung Fu Live. Kung Fu Live will be coming out this October for PlayStation 3.
I had the chance to sit down with Chris Sherland, Lead Producer for LEGO Universe. Again, this Q&A starts off with a little bit about what LEGO Universe is and then I start shooting my questions.
Answer: It’s a full featured, age appropriate, MMO for kids, based on the Lego play set. So basically anything you could imagine around that idea, we tried to get in the game. Question: Can you throw out some examples?Answer: Sure. There’s two games going on here, there’s your WOW clone, it’s an adventure game. It’s about battling evil forces, it’s about gaining reputation, it’s about getting achievements, completing missions and quests, teaming up with your friends and playing mini-games, it’s all that. Then there’s a building metaphor that goes throughout the whole game. So that starts with quick build, which if you’ve ever played Lego Star Wars, in that game there’s a little pile of bricks on the ground and you just hold a button to turn it into something. It’s not a creative endeavor but, you say “oh look I built this thing”. Then we have modular building which is basically, all of our vehicles in the game, our rockets and race cars, there’s a limitation and a construct that says what parameters those things can be made within. What we will do is stock the loot tables in the game with modules that are pre-built. If you’ve ever built a car out of Lego's, you might not have the pieces; you might not have the talent to make a really good looking car. Question: Hey man, I’m standing right here...Answer: Ha! I was speaking figuratively. But what we do in Lego Universe is we pre-make modules for you and then you’re just combining them but, even with that, your car is never going to look like my car because we will have found different parts and colored them differently and they will still both be functional race cars. Question: How do you handle the model builder?Answer: Well to start off there’s that modular build but on top of that, everybody in Lego Universe gets their own little planet that they have to defend from the evil forces. You do that by battling and building. Have you ever used Lego Digital Designer?Question: No.Answer: Okay so what we have is a CAD program in Lego.com that allows you to build with bricks. You can then order those bricks form Lego and build your design in your living room. Question: Knowing that exists makes me a much happier person.Answer: Good. We basically imported that software and all of that functionality right into Lego Universe. So when you’re on your own little planet, by yourself, you can build whatever you want. Question: So this is like pre-school auto cad?Answer: Exactly and it’s fun too. Getting a CAD building program to be fun was not easy; it took us a long time. Are you familiar with WeDo or Mindstorms? Those are Lego projects that use block based programming languages. So if you do this, that happens and when that happens it shifts into something else. It allows you to basically make robotic stuff out of Lego; we also imported that into here as well. So you can build your own things and them make them do stuff. You can make elevators, you can make platforming games, you can make animals, you name it. Question: Along with the adventure game-play you have level building in this as well?Answer: Yes, it’s almost like a Second Life in that way, you can build anything you want. Question: This is ambitious. How well did it all come together, trying to combine all of these elements?Answer: The first two years were horrifying. Literally, the hardest project I’ve ever worked on. We had a lot of starts where we would get deep into some prototype and then just toss it all out, we did that over and over and over again for four years. We spent a year and a half on the first fifteen minutes of the game. In the end the biggest challenge has been getting the build metaphor right; making it playable was not easy. Question: What did you have to leave out that you regret now?Answer: Well there was some things like public display of models and sharing models, sort of like in a showcase metaphor, that was a really great feature that we weren't able to nail down in time. Don’t worry though we’ll probably roll that out in time. Question: How large is the Universe?Answer: We have five main planets at the moment, surrounding those are other smaller planets that are instant scenarios, like a planet that just has a race track around it. Then there are all of the planets in Lego Universe that are player owned, so as many players as we have, that’s how many planets there will be in the Universe.Question: So this works on a monthly subscription?Answer: Yeah and the reason we went that way was to make sure that Lego Universe was populated with serious players. Also if it was free we would have everybody and their pedophile uncle on it, so a lot of the decision was done for safety reasons.
Thanks again to Chris for spending some time with us a PAX 2010. LEGO Universe is set to come out on October 26th in the US. You can find more information about the game at http://universe.lego.com/.
I also had a chance at PAX 2010 to talk with Michael Perry, Executive producer of Dark Spore. He starts off the Q&A talking a bit about Dark Spore and then starts fielding my questions.
Answer: Dark Spore is a new game from Axis, We took the deep creature editing from Spore and we used it to make a new game. It’s not a sequel to spore. It’s not an expansion pack to Spore. It’s a new Sci-Fi action RPG. What you’re doing in Dark Spore is your building a collection of genetic heroes, each of which has its own unique set of abilities that can be used in combat. Each of those heroes can be organized into squads, which you then take down to attack planets and collect loot for upgrades. Question: Does it have the same format as Spore where you go check out other people’s planets online? Answer: Dark Spore is an online game, so you will be playing with other players as you play though the game but, it’s very focused on the action RPG game-play. So rather then playing on planets that are created by other players you’re playing on planets that are created by Axis. You’ll go down and play through planets that have different types of NPCs and you’ll want to figure out which squad of heroes is the right group to attack that planet. Question: How in depth is the creation of your squad members? Answer: We’re creating a large set of characters that you can unlock in the game. All of the heroes in the game belong to different types and different classes. The types are what we call genesis types and they each have different sets of abilities that fall within those types. For example we have bio-genesis types that have plant like abilities, snares, poisons, roots. Plasma-genesis characters are made out of fire and lightening. Cyber-genesis characters have laser attacks. Quantum-genesis can manipulate space and time; they can warp between different areas. As you collect characters that fall into these types, you will find that they fall into different classes as well and as you build this collection you’ll organize them into squads. Squads are where you can combine the abilities from the variety of heroes in your collection. So the way that works is in our unique campaign system, the campaign design is something we internally call a chain game but it’s very much inspired by games like Plants vs Zombies. What I mean is, before you attack a planet in the game you’ll actually see the enemy NPCs that spawn in on that planet.
You’ll then choose which squad is the right one to attack that group of enemies. You’ll go in, you’ll attack the planet, you’ll play in either solo of co-op (the game totally comes to life as your playing co-op by the way), and you’ll defeat the enemy NPCs in the planet and fight the boss. Then you will have a choice, the choice is, take the loot that you’ve collected on that planet, cash out take it back to your ship and use it to upgrade your heroes. The way you upgrade your heroes is by putting loot on them, parts, hands, armor and so on. Or you can choose to forfeit that loot, leave it and go on to another planet, which is going to be harder. Now why would you make that choice? Harder planets give you better loot. So there is this risk reward system, where you go to harder and harder planets to get better stuff but, if you fail you won’t get any loot at all. Question: So it’s like doubling down? Answer: Absolutely, that’s exactly what it’s like. Now when you do cash out and you take that look backup to your ship, you will go into a new version of the editor that’s very much inspired by the original Spore editor. This will allow you to put these parts on your heroes wherever you want to, everyone who plays this game is going to have a totally custom set of heroes. The parts really matter, they upgrade your stats, they upgrade your gear score. This means you can fight harder and harder enemies, so you can push that chain game farther and farther. Question: What have you done to avoid repetition in the levels? Answer: Re-play is key in a game like this, because you want to go back to earlier levels and grind to get better loot. What we have is a AI director, very much inspired by left for Dead. The AI director in our game controls what NPCs spawn in, it watches how you play the game, dynamically adjusts the difficulty and the behavior of the NPCs and how they’re put together. Every time you go back and re-play one of our levels you’ll see a different experience based on the AI director. Question: How different are the levels? Answer: The levels are created by us, what we’ve done is we’ve created a fixed number of planets they all belong to those five genesis types that I talked about earlier, but when you get to those planets the NPCs that spawn in are all very different. Question: Are there plans to keep adding planets as time goes on? Answer: That’s right, it’s an online game so we’re going to launch it and build an online community and as the game stays online we’ll keep releasing new add-ons for it. Question: So aside from the obvious inspiration, Spore, what else did you draw on for this? Answer: Quite a few different games, obviously we’re big action RPG fans, so we love Diablo, we love Torchlight. But, you know, when I mentioned Plants vs Zombies, there’s a game that you can play in a quick session, it’s very addictive, determining what tools you bring in is part of the game-play. We adopted a system like that to decide which squads you want to bring planet side with you in Dark Spore. Left for Dead, we love that game because you know, you’re playing the same levels over and over again but it’s great every single time. Co-op is awesome in Left for Dead, so we found that very inspiring as well. Question: Re-playability is really what separates the men from the boys in the gaming world. Answer: It is and it brings a quality to the table that’s way beyond what you get with a game that you win and finish and your done playing.
Thanks to Michael for sitting down with us and talking about Dark Spore. Dark Spore is slated to be released in February 2011 for PC and Spring 2011 for Mac. You can find more information at www.darkspore.com.
At PAX 2010, I had a chance to sit down and talk to Julian Mehlfeld, Community Manager at SEGA about their upcoming title, Vanquish.
Question: So tell us a bit about the title, it looks awesome. Answer: It does look awesome, there’s a lot going on at any given moment. Just before we get into the game itself I’ll give you a little background. It’s developed by Platinum games and Shinji Mikami. So Platinum games, if you played Bayonetta, you know they know their shit for really hardcore intense action. Shinji Mikami of course is a gaming god he’s done Resident Evil among other titles. The mixing of these two worlds can only bring awesome and that’s what it is. So the title is Vanquish, you play Sam Gideon. You’re in the future; it’s basically a resource game. The Russians are attacking America and they’re making a play for this space station you’re on. So this space station is harvesting power off the sun and you’re coming on to take these guys out, restore order and make sure they don’t attack other stations, then you want to get your guys and get out of there. Question: So, third person shooter, high action, Sci-Fi? Answer: Right so if you look at it just on the cover it’s a third person shooter its got high action, there’s a lot going on but, the key difference from this game and other third person shooters is the speed and timing. For one, you can move cover to cover in this game and play it like a cover to cover shooter, jump in take a couple shoots, pull back, but you’re only getting about half of the game. There’s a boost mechanic that you can use to move about the environment. So as we are looking at it we can see that there’s just a ton of shit going on at any given time, but you can take it a step further where your suit has boosters that you can use to move around the level. You can use them to move into cover quickly, either being really evasive, or use them to be super aggressive, get up in people’s faces and do melee attacks and knock em back, it really is up to you. Question: What have you done with the cover system in this game? Answer: Yeah, with that dash mechanic you can just drop right in with the X button and from there you can pop out to take a shot or move on to the next piece, your choice. As well as the dash we have what’s called augmented reaction time. This basically gives you a chance to slow down time, bullet time really isn’t the best way to describe it but if your familiar with that, it’s a good point of reference. It will slow down everything around you, giving you a chance to line up shots, or if your dashing and you can’t get a good shoot because your moving so fast you can slow it down. Do a dash from one piece of cover, take out three guys along the way, land behind the next object, boom you’re on your way. Very fun Question: Can you talk a bit about the length of the narrative? Answer: The length of the game is something we’re not discussing at this point, the game is quite long, it will take you to a lot of different areas but in terms of hours or play through we’re not there yet. Question: Fair enough, what about multi-player? Answer: Multi-player, there is none. I know this might come as a bit of a shock to people but, I think when you hear the reasoning behind it, you will understand. People see a game like this and they think how is the multi-player going to work? Shinji Mikami again, this guy knows his single player experiences and so he’s worked on a game that is a really true, really clean, single-player game and that’s what he wants. If you took this same game and made it into a multi-player game, you would have multi-player, it may not be fun but you would have multi-player and it would have a little check box on the back that says “oh we have multi-player”. So what they did was put all their time into a really solid single-player campaign and that’s what we have here. Question: I can get behind a company that knows not to overreach. Answer: Yeah, you can do a bunch of things mediocre or you can do one thing really well. On top of that too I have not seen a game that does a slow down mechanic in multi-player yet, I know a lot have tried. When you look at this game, that is a core part of the game-play. You change that, you’ve changed the game.
Thanks to Julian for taking time out to chat with us! You can pickup Vanquish for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on October 19th. You can find out more info about the game at www.sega.com/vanquish.
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