Earlier this month Cliff Bleszinski revealed his next project: a free-to-play, PC-focused arena shooter called Project BlueStreak created by Boss Key Productions, his new studio. Following a Reddit AMA that answered some surface-level questions about the game, I spoke with Bleszinski about what sort of shooter he’s hoping to create.
Divinity: Original Sin interview: how Larian built an RPG with no wrong choices, and details on its next update
Larian Studios launched the final version of Divinity: Original Sin on June 30, after a successful Kickstarter campaign and a long stint in Steam Early Access. The extended beta time paid off: Original Sin has been the top selling game on Steam since its launch. Speaking to PC Gamer on Tuesday, Larian founder and creative director Swen Vincke says the team is "very happy," and though I can tell he's tired, he's still incredibly excited to talk in detail about my progress through the game.
One would expect it's vacation time for the studio, but not yet—Vincke tells me that Larian has a major content update coming for the game, hopefully in the next week, and exclusively revealed plans for new companion AI. Our edited discussion is below, including a few clearly-marked spoilers on early parts of the game.
Rainbow Six Siege was our favorite game at E3. The promise of a Rainbow reboot centered around competitive multiplayer and high-fidelity destruction captured our tactical imaginations, but Ubisoft’s narrow, one-level demo left us with a ton of unanswered questions. How does destruction work? Would it be moddable? Can hostages move on their own? What form will co-op take?
The most surprising, charming game I played at E3 was on the Oculus Rift, but it wasn't bullet-dodger Superhot or fright factory Alien Isolation. It was platformer Lucky's Tale, which looks and plays a whole lot like 3D Mario. But man oh man, does VR make a difference. The sense of depth it adds is immediately helpful and immersive, and I knew immediately VR would have been a killer feature in a game like Super Mario 3D World on the Wii U. But Lucky's Tale will be a PC, Oculus Rift exclusive, launching alongside the consumer version of the Rift at an unannounced future date. The demo was so exciting, I had to find out more.
In my last E3 appointment, I spent 30 minutes talking with creator Paul Bettner about how his studio stumbled onto the idea of doing a traditional platformer in VR, the technical challenges of nailing the VR camera, and the future of Oculus hardware.
E3 isn't the easiest place to demo a sprawling, intricate strategy game like Civilization: Beyond Earth, but it is a great place to give the talented developers at Firaxis a chance to talk about the sci-fi future of Civ. While I played a demo build of Beyond Earth's early game, landing on an alien planet and stumbling around in deadly miasma, I talked to lead producer Lena Brenk about what's changed since our big reveal, how XCOM has influenced Beyond Earth, and Sid Meier's 10 Commandments of Civ.
“There are over 100 billion star systems,” Elite creator David Braben tells me when I ask if that number could possibly be true. “In fact, it’s closer to 400 billion. It’s a very silly number anyway.” Elite: Dangerous is the modernised sequel to the classic freeform space sim, and there’s no faulting developer Frontier’s ambition. The game sees you, a rookie pilot, set loose in a vast celestial sandbox with 100 credits in your space-wallet and dreams of achieving the ultimate pilot rating: elite. How you do this is up to you, whether you become a trader, a pirate, a smuggler, and many more jobs besides.
Braben compares his vision of the Milky Way to the California gold rush of the 1800s. “When there was a gold rush in San Francisco in 1849, many of the people who made money didn't mine a single piece of gold. What they did was take a cargo of spades and things like that, and sold them at stupidly inflated prices. Our galaxy will be continuously evolving. You might get the occasional gold rush, which changes the status of a particular place. Players will be running in to try and get some of the gold that’s been discovered in some outlying system. But what else will happen is that a whole raft of other things will be in demand. The need for food and equipment will skyrocket.”
Tripwire Entertainment knows a thing or two about guns—both the real deal, and the ones they create in video games like the upcoming Killing Floor 2. In 2006, as a mod-team-turned-development studio working on World War 2 shooter Red Orchestra, they managed to create reload animations smoother and more detailed than the large teams developing Battlefield and Call of Duty.
"[Back then] we heard 'how come these guys' reload animations are better than yours?’" says Tripwire's president, John Gibson, thinking back to the competitive World War 2 market in 2006. "We heard the same thing about our sounds. We had pretty good sounds in the first Red Orchestra game. And the DICE guys actually said that motivated them to want to do better, and that's why Battlefield Bad Company had such amazing sounds. They were like ‘crap, we have to do better than these guys.’"
At the Game Developers Conference in March I previewed Endless Legend, a fantasy 4X strategy game from Amplitude Studios that is now available on Steam Early Access. I wanted to spend more time talking to Amplitude's creative director, Romain de Waubert de Genlis (above right), about the recent resurgence of the 4X genre and the success of his previous game Endless Space. We decided to talk over lunch with another 4X designer, Daniel DiCicco (above left), who is working on a sequel to his indie success StarDrive. Over the course of an hour we discussed different approaches to 4X design, their all-time favorite 4Xs, what they think the genre is missing, and more.
It's a long, meaty conversation about one of the most complex corners of PC gaming. Read on to join us for lunch.
Smite interview: Hi-Rez COO Todd Harris on competing MOBAs, F2P economics, and religious sensitivity
During the three-day launch tournament for Smite, Hi-Rez Studios' actiony third-person MOBA, I met Hi-Rez COO Todd Harris in the crowded halls of Atlanta's Center Stage Theater. When I found him, Harris was busy corralling a group of popular Youtubers into teams to face off in a just-for-fun showmatch before Sunday's grand finals. As Harris and I headed out of the hallway to find a quiet place to chat, fans kept stopping him, shaking his hand and asking for a card with an exclusive launch tournament skin. I thought it was a little odd, at first, that a COO would be so well-recognized. But Harris is a regular fixture of Hi-Rez's YouTube comedy series. He seems happy to make himself look silly on camera. After the grand finals, he'll get up on stage and proudly proclaim that while Smite isn't the number one MOBA, it is the third biggest. He grins as he briefly chants "Number three!" into the microphone.
Crusader Kings II: Rajas of India releases this Tuesday, expanding the map of Paradox's medieval strategy sandbox to central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Not one to venture into strange, new lands unprepared, I met with CK2 lead designer Henrik Fåhraeus to learn everything there was to know about what lies in wait with this expansion. We talked about historical accuracy, India's religions and castes, and more. If you promise not to plot my untimely death, you can share in my findings below.
Transformers Universe interview: CCO Alex Horton on big changes and working with a beloved franchise
Once an MMO, now a class-based, multiplayer tactical action game, Transformers Universe has seen a lot of radical changes.
As Chief Creative Officer at Jagex, the developer working on Transformers Universe, Alex Horton is the perfect person to tell us what led the company to make those changes, what it’s like working with one of Hasbro’s most treasured brands, and what we can expects from the game when it finally comes out.
As the lead content designer on Diablo III, Kevin Martens has learned a lot over the past two years. He’s learned about disastrous online launches and failed real-money auction houses and what gamers really love about Diablo. He admits that the team made more than a few miscalculations leading up to the 2012 launch. Upcoming expansion Reaper of Souls, releasing on March 25, takes big steps to fix those miscalculations. I talked to Martens and senior level designer Larra Paolilli for their thoughts on the auction house, the internet connection requirement, and PvP, as well as the Loot 2.0 patch and Reaper of Souls’ new Adventure Mode.
Youtuber Antti Kokkonen, who uploads Let's Plays to Youtube under the username Zemalf, is one of the best XCOM players in the world. On January 11, he finished a 50 hour run of XCOM: Enemy Within on Impossible Ironman difficulty without losing a single country. Or Interceptor. Or mission. Or soldier.
It was a perfect run on the game's hardest difficulty (and his first time through the game). On Ironman, XCOM is limited to a single save file. No do-overs. Beating the game on Impossible Ironman is a rare feat, but beating it without losing a single soldier? That really does sound impossible. But Zemalf did it, and he recorded it all across 58 Let's Play videos.
"I consider myself an okay player, but the run did go really well," he told PC Gamer. With Zemalf's help, we've broken down this achievement in XCOM mastery, dissecting his 58 part series into the key moments that defined the run.
It's safe to say that Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey was exhausted when we sat down at last week's International CES to chat. He'd been in town for eight days, talking to the press and showing the newest Oculus Rift prototype, dubbed "Crystal Cove." The newest headset uses 360 degree positional tracking and low persistence motion blur tech to essentially keep wimps like me from vomiting during use. But even though he was wiped, Luckey still took a few moments to talk to me about the promise of VR for videogames and beyond, the rumors of John Carmack making an Oculus Rift game, and his thoughts PC gaming moving to the living room.
Given the importance and success of games like Counter-Strike, Team Fortress 2, and more recently Dota 2, Valve's modding DNA is pretty iron-clad. A new interview with co-founder Gabe Newell in the Washington Post gives some insight into just why it is that modders—and their work—seem to find a home at Valve.
Sid Meier is a game design legend. He co-founded MicroProse in 1982 and created Civilization, one of the longest-running and most loved series in gaming. Now the creative director at Firaxis—and overseer for both the Civ and XCOM franchises, Meier can be choosy about what he works on. His choice: Ace Patrol: Pacific Skies, a WWI-era turn-based strategy game that's small in price but big on strategy, and even influenced by tabletop games.
PC Gamer spoke to Meier about his interest in smaller game design, and how it let his team take some risks. He also shared his view of the changing strategy game market, and how he thinks all gamers are strategy gamers at heart.
Eidos Montreal's latest gig shaping its Thief reboot treads a fine and shadowy line. The modern entry to the esteemed stealth series has the cautious attention of franchise fans who've long awaited a new Thief, but it's also mixing the new in with the tried-and-true: a grittier and more involved Garrett, an all-revealing Focus mechanic, and a conservative jumping/climbing control scheme.
Tripwire: "SteamOS, Steam Machines, and Steam Controller will be the best thing to happen to PC gaming since digital distribution"
John Gibson has been making PC-exclusive games for more than a decade. As President of Tripwire Interactive, he’s helped push Killing Floor, Red Orchestra 2, Rising Storm out the door of the developer’s Roswell, Georgia studio. He also happens to have a pretty nice sound system for his PC. We asked Gibson to weigh in on Valve’s trinity of announcements.
Earlier this week we announced Betrayer, a self-funded indie FPS from veteran ex-Monolith personnel who have formed their own studio, Blackpowder Games. Betrayer is unique—a 15th-century atmospheric shooter set in colonial Virginia—but I wanted to hear firsthand how Blackpowder's collective decades of experience on other, more action-focused franchises is informing its work on the game.
Late last week we learned that Arma 3 won’t initially release with any campaign content (something that should make it an interesting challenge to review, for one thing). Instead, Arma 3 will launch with 12 single-player showcases, nine multiplayer scenarios, eight firing drills, and its mission editor, while campaign episodes will parachute in shortly after release. This should allow the military sim to emerge from beta sooner at the cost of staggering its content.
I got in touch with Joris-Jan van't Land (Project Lead) and Jay Crowe (Creative Director) to learn more about about this decision as well as what we should expect from the content of the campaign.