The games industry moves in trends – RTS, MMOs, shooters, space sims – but the industry's also big, and one segment that's developed a new trend is the indie games market. The current trajectory of indie games is a retro one – using graphics that resemble the classic 8- and 16-bit games of old, particularly games like Nidhogg, Kingdom, and Organ Trail.
Mages of Mystralia doesn't go down to 8-bit to accomplish its goals of revitalizing nostalgic titles. Mystralia looks to recapture the spirit of older games – specifically the Zelda games, taking artistic cues from Windwaker and differentiating for originality. We had the opportunity to preview Mages of Mystralia while at PAX East, reminded of a more “intellectual” Magicka fused with Windwaker elements.
We spoke exclusively with the Creative Assembly team about its game engine optimization for the upcoming Total War: Warhammer. Major moves to optimize and refactor the game engine include DirectX 12 integration, better CPU thread management (decoupling the logic and render threads), and GPU-assigned processing to lighten the CPU load.
The interview with Al Bickham, Studio Communications Manager at Creative Assembly, can be found in its entirety below. We hope to soon visit the topic of DirectX 12 support within the Total War: Warhammer engine.
Master of Orion (affectionately, “MoO”) has a decades-long history in the 4X gaming space. The title first shipped in 1993 under pre-bankruptcy publisher Atari, who have since sold the rights to Wargaming.net. Wargaming.net has proliferated through the market with its F2P “World of [Vehicles]” games (fill in the blank – Tanks, Warships, Ponies), but has an even longer history with more traditionally developed and released strategy titles. The company's legacy dates back to 1998 and its Massive Assault series of strategy games.
Today's emerging information on Master of Orion focuses on the game's espionage and economic victory mechanics, new milestones that will be available in the third phase of early access (freshly launched). The MoO team will also be rolling-out the Silicoid and Darlok races, bringing the re-imagined title back up to the original ten races of MoO. A few leaders of the game's ten races include Alan Tudyk (Wash, Firefly), John de Lancie (Q, TNG), Nolan North (Uncharted), Mark Hamill (Luke, Star Wars), and more. Michael Dorn (Worf, Star Trek: TNG) narrates the game.
Industry luminary Warren Spector helmed the keynote at the East Coast Game Conference yesterday in Raleigh. Readers of our Star Citizen (Chris Roberts) and Shroud of the Avatar (Richard Garriott) content are already familiar with Origin, the studio responsible for effectively inventing MMOs, early game graphics technologies, and pioneering PC mechanics. Spector was employee number twenty-six at Origin Systems – a self-described “old-timer” when compared against the studio's maximum 350 employee count – and has a history developing seminal games.
Spector worked at Origin with Richard Garriott, Chris Roberts, Dallas Snell, Starr Long, and other recognized industry veterans. In our interview with Warren Spector, we talk about what it was like working at Origin, behind-the-scenes stories, and throw-in a brief question about System Shock 3.
Our East Coast Game Conference coverage kicks-off with Epic Games' rendering technology, specifically as it pertains to implementation within upcoming MOBA “Paragon.” Epic Games artist Zak Parrish covered topics relating to hair, skin, eyes, and cloth, providing a top-level look at game graphics rendering techniques and pipelines.
The subject was Sparrow, a Braid-like playable archer hero with intensely detailed hair and lighting. Parrish used Sparrow to demonstrate each of his rendering points – but we'll start with sub-surface scattering, which may be a bit of a throwback for readers of our past screen-space subsurface scattering article (more recently in Black Ops III graphics guide).
We've not been shy in our fierce criticisms of VR from a gaming perspective, but the maturation of development has yielded increasingly more mechanically-focused titles targeted at gamers. Mars 2030 aims to be more than a “VR Experience,” as most titles are, and we had the opportunity to get hands-on with the new game at GTC 2016.
Mars 2030 is developed by Fusion and was first shown at the GTC keynote, the Mars rover helmed by industry icon Steve Wozniak. The open-world game takes place on the surface of Mars and deploys unique techniques to match surface color, heights, and physical interaction with terrain. It's playable on non-VR displays as well (and it does look good on 21:9 aspect ratios, based on the keynote), but hopes to stake its flag into the VR market with an agnostic disposition toward the Vive and Rift. Mars 2030 will work on both major devices.
Our hands-on impressions with Mars 2030 left us reasonably impressed with the early demonstration of Fusion's attempt to cast players as astronauts.
We've just posted an overall positive review of FromSoftware's Dark Souls III, a game which we found highly rewarding and challenging, but were critical of its PC port. Some of the issues disclosed in that review spoke of hardware and framerate issues.
Dark Souls III had crashing (CTD) issues, micro-stutter and choppiness in cut-scenes, an immutable 60FPS cap, and difficulties saving keybindings. We look at some fixes for these issues today while pointing-out graphics settings and save file locations.
Total War: Warhammer demonstrates a natural, synergistic fusion of two genres -- the long-standing grand-strategy games, Total War, and even longer-standing Warhammer tabletop game. Campaigns in the Warhammer universe like Storm of Chaos have given way to Total War-like experiences; armies roam the world map, growing or unfurling (or ‘crumbling’) with wins and losses. At the same time, combat in Total War has kept its structure and mechanics: units travel in tightly-knit groups, facing and flanking are important parts of the battle, and strategic map utilization can make-up for troop count disparities. Then, of course, having a strong general and maintaining troop morale dictate most heavily the staying power of military forces.
All these points are shared by the Warhammer tabletop game. As much sense as the partnership makes, it marks an astounding new venture for the Total War team -- a first venture into a fantastical environ.
Following its content-devoid GDC unveil, Obsidian's new “Tyranny” RPG revitalizes the Pillars of Eternity engine, but slaps a new, eviler-than-thou visage on top. We were given a hands-off preview of Tyranny and its single-player, four-character approach to classic RPG progression. The unveil demonstrated Tyranny's unique take on the player's role within conflict, acting an arbiter to warring factions and issuing fate-binding edicts.
Coincidentally, the player's characters are “Fatebinders” – archetypes we'd traditionally see as “bad guys” in standard RPGs, but they're clearly working only in the best interests of Terratus' inhabitants. Where the Lawful Good types might facetiously ask, “who are we to judge the fate of these townsfolk?” the Fatebinders would answer, “uh, that'd be us. Over here, in the red-and-black and radiating evil.”
Some simulations take liberties with real-world scenarios to guarantee a fun, playable experience: using rockets to propel oneself upward, for instance, is not a good idea in real life; swimming in plate armor while wielding a greatsword – probably not realistic; political negotiations where the net result is forward momentum – totally immersion-breaking.
While at GDC 2016 (full coverage here), we got a hands-off preview of upcoming City Ruler “Urban Empire.” Urban Empire is a mix of city building mechanics and diplomatic/political negotiations, bridging two specific genres into a uniquely strategic amalgam.
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