Gaming Features

PAX is a microcosm of the gaming industry: Fraught with chaos and ambition, but terribly fun to take part in. The indie scene is the center of that chaos and ambition; its developers are often more open and willing to share or provide insight, it’s just a matter of finding the games worth seeing.

Mekazoo was one of those.

Activision allowed two of their most credentialed employees to host a PAX ’15 panel on the role users play in game development. PhDs Justin Shacklette and Spencer Stirling spent nearly an hour explaining how the company is constantly, intelligently collecting data referred to as "Smart Data."

The relatively new (~4 years old) Game Science Division is a group of physicists and mathematicians who also happen to be talented programmers. Their goal is to collect and analyze data to find ways to make the games more fun. Using metrics to make products better is nothing new, and marketing teams are doing this in almost every business in the world; however, as far as Shacklette knew, only Activision and one other company (Riot) have been doing this to improve games instead of just sales.

Space games have made a bit of a dent in the industry lately. Between Star Citizen, Elite: Dangerous, Rebel Galaxy, Dreadnought, and others, we’ve seen the industry trend shift toward a revisit to one of the oldest genres. Dreadnought takes a different approach from its space sim counterparts, focusing instead on more FPS-styled obliteration of opposing teams.

We’ve previewed Dreadnought twice now. The first time – PAX South – the game had little competition in the way of other on-site booths, easily ranking it among the best games at the show. We then saw Dreadnought at PAX East about six months ago, where we reported on team elimination gameplay (see: Counter-Strike in space) and remarked that the game had gotten steadily better. That trend hasn’t stopped. Our PAX 2015 hands-on with Dreadnought reveals more gameplay, customization mechanics, and monetization avenues.

1999. That’s the year. I spent most of our meeting with Atari and Nvizzio trying to remember when I last went deep with Roller Coaster Tycoon – more than a decade ago. Yikes.

RCT was the product of an era infatuated with city builders, civilization management, and RTS games. The industry ebbs in cycles of these almost-episodic fascinations – it’s MOBAs today, it was MMOs in the early-to-mid years of the century, and it was isometric builders in the late 90s.

Enough of that.

Today, we’re looking at Roller Coaster Tycoon World – which I’m truncating to RCTW, for the sake of these PAX-worn fingers – the series’ first PC release since 2004. RCTW continues the game’s iconic theme park construction, management, roller coaster design, and visitor torture, introducing a number of era-appropriate features along the way. The game is developed by Nvizzio, published by Atari, and is confirmed for a 4Q15 release at price-points undisclosed.

Almost a year ago, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequal didn't fare well here at GN. Editor-in-Chief Steve Burke and I both disliked the game quite intensely. From that perspective, my preliminary outlook on Battleborn was neutral. It's not the same franchise, sure, but the game's look and initial reveals bore some familiar smells. This was on top an animated teaser trailer that made the game look... very violent. Violence in games isn't something we're particularly shy of here, but that trailer was brutal.

Time to sit down and play.

“Keegan Dies” was the name of my custom-tuned, rogue-killing Zombie I built while playing Sword Coast Legends at PAX Prime 2015, named affectionately for the team’s video producer. Other monster types were considered – demons, giant spiders, and drow – but a zombie seemed a fitting start for the dungeon.

We haven’t looked at Sword Coast Legends since GDC 2015, where we were limited to a hands-off presentation of the game’s DM and player modes. Since then, developers n-space have improved tremendously upon the game’s user interface and overall presentation.

Sword Coast Legends is a new PC RPG rooted in Dungeons & Dragons ruleset, borrowing inspiration from the likes of Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale. The game is slated for a September 29 release date on PC, Linux, and Mac. This Sword Coast Legends gameplay preview looks at the (mostly) finalized DM mode, the campaign tools, and hands-on impressions of the mechanics.

The time has finally come: Monday is the beginning of the main event for The International 2015, Valve’s DOTA 2 eSports tournament. The tournament has officially collected the largest single-event eSports prize pool in history.

Last weekend, four teams made their final gambits for spots in the event; China’s CDEC Gaming and Korean team MVP Phoenix snuck into the final two spots. This past week, all 16 teams battled through a fierce group stage to determine the final bracket for the main event.

So, you've decided to play Skyrim again. Or perhaps this is the first time. Either way, you've installed the game, played a few minutes, and realized something: wow, this is pretty ugly.

Skyrim isn't exactly a game that has visually aged well. It's more than three years old, was already a bit dated when it came out (Bethesda's four-year development cycle shows), and with gorgeous games like The Witcher 3 having been released this year, Skyrim doesn't really have much to offer on the visual front.

It is, however, a gun that runs on Creation Engine, and it has a development kit with an active community. We have the technology. We can rebuild it.

Cloud Imperium Games' Star Citizen has several planned differentiators when it comes to space sims. One of the most noteworthy is the promise of ships manned by multiple crew members, expected to be released as a separate “multi-crew module” in the near-ish future. Pilots, co-pilots, gunners, engineers, and other roles will all need to be filled to create a co-operative, team-intensive gameplay experience; it's an ambitious goal, but one that CIG's Chris Roberts feels confident can be achieved.

Our recent trip to CIG's Santa Monica offices already yielded a progress update on the game's “Star Marine” FPS module, addressing concerns of delays, and now we're back with multi-crew. CIG CEO Chris Roberts joined us to discuss multi-crew combat, game engine technology, technical challenges faced with zoning and instancing, and more.

Star Citizen’s been oscillating in the news cycle lately. The game – now around $80m in funding – has reached a point of industry-wide recognition, ensuring contentious encounters with groups unsupportive of the game’s progress.

We first went deep on Star Citizen’s first-person shooter module, now called “Star Marine,” at PAX East in April of 2014. This was Chris Roberts’ first time explaining (with great detail) the overall vision for FPS and its interaction with other gameplay elements. Following this, an unveil event at PAX Australia showcased some of the FPS module’s progress. In January of 2015, CIG CEO Chris Roberts revealed new information on the persistent universe during PAX South, leading the PAX East 2015 hopes of FPS availability to backers in the March to April timeframe.

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