Gaming Features

The games industry circulates triple-A titles and genres in predictable waves. Last year saw the launch of several multi-million dollar titles, to include Watch Dogs and Titanfall, followed later by Destiny’s $500mm launch, Far Cry 4 and ACU, Dragon Age: Inquisition, and more. 2014 was a competitive year for big-name studios, though the indie scene was not unremarkable: Nidhogg, Shovel Knight, and Goat Simulator all made a huge impact.

Having played Fatshark Games’ Warhammer: End of Times - Vermintide, I’m left conflicted. I played the miniatures game for years -- spending untold fortunes on it -- and the idea of a game set in an Imperial (the largest Human faction) city falling victim to a mass uprising of the rat-like Skaven sounds fun and exciting. Even more interesting is the idea of a game following the events that occur simultaneously in the miniatures game, as is the case with Vermintide.

Randomly and procedurally-generated content is becoming more prevalent in independent games created by small teams. I discovered at PAX East that this is extending to a variety of game genres and genre hybrids.

Montreal studio Clever Plays has designed a unique twin-stick action RPG, Leap of Fate, that blends elements of magic and cyberpunk lore within a randomly-generated setting. Game Director Mattieu Bégin took me through half a standard playthrough and broke-down the game’s premise, core mechanics, and replayability.

Cliff Bleszinski has made video games for over half his life, hitting the industry with Jazz Jackrabbit and providing the vision for the Unreal and Gears of War franchises. After several highly-visible titles, he decided to leave video games indefinitely in 2012, departing Epic Games, the studio that got Bleszinski started.

Now, one of the most influential minds behind modern twitch shooters has reemerged in the industry with his co-founded studio, Boss Key Productions. Bleszinski's studio plans to arrive on the scene with tentatively-named Project Bluestreak.

The first FORCED was an invigorated revisit to the era of Gauntlet, developed before the release of 2014's Gauntlet action RPG. We gave the game high praise in our review, remarking that it was among the best co-operative games available on the market. Through today, FORCED has sold in excess of 300,000 copies – profound success for a relatively new development company.

It's like watching a pair of kids excitedly explain their make-believe games to one another, but in this instance, the kids are veteran developers and the games are real. We managed to get Richard Garriott (SOTA) and Chris Roberts (Star Citizen) in a room together to discuss the early days of the industry, and during camera setup, the two talked space.

Physically-based rendering promises photorealistic lighting in 3D environments by offering a mathematical, less production-intensive approach to the rendering of light. The three letter acronym – “PBR” – has circulated lately as industry frontrunners like Chris Roberts (Star Citizen) have touted its presence in triple-A titles. A few game engines come to mind when we think of advanced, hyper-realistic graphics capabilities; one of those engines is the CryEngine, developed and maintained by Crytek and best-known for advancing PC graphics with Crysis.

While at GDC, we had the opportunity to ask a pair of CryEngine developers to explain what PBR is, how it affects gameplay, and if it has any performance or production impact to games. Joining us in the below video is 3D Environment Artist Sina Els and Engine Programmer Scott Peter, providing a top-level definition of physically-based rendering and its uses.

For a week, our team wandered San Francisco and Boston, trekking between GDC and PAX East. We endured delayed flights, frozen rain, unseasonable (for us) heat in California, massive snow drifts (in Boston), smelly clothes, unfortunate public transport, and the overall frustration of travel and hotel. But for brief 10 minutes, fortune shined on me.

Three One Zero revealed new gameplay for its first-person space survival title Adr1ft at PAX East. I played through this never-before-seen demo, detailing my impressions of the game’s presentation, mechanics, and overall immersion.

Adr1ft puts players in the first-person perspective of an astronaut who wakes up following the destruction of her space station and the death of her crew. The game uses simple mechanics but challenges the player to wisely conserve oxygen and repair the astronaut’s suit to upgrade their health throughout the playthrough. Adr1ft debuts on PC this September and features Oculus Rift support, ranking it among the slew of impending “First-Person Experience” titles now trending.

For some background, I spent 8 years selling and playing board, miniature, and card games. That’s a whole lot of shuffling, rolling, measuring, and reading small text. So, upon meeting Colm Larkin of Gambrinous at GDC 2015, I was taken-in by the hand-drawn art-style of Guild of Dungeoneering. Its cartoonish style brought to my mind imagery of the popular Munchkins game, a tongue-in-cheek jab at D&D -- not far from Guild of Dungeoneering.

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