After getting duly excited about yesterday's big reveal of Assassin's Creed: Unity's four-player co-op mode and NPC-packed setting, we sent Sam sneaking past the guards at E3 to bring us more info. He spoke with Alexandre Amancio, creative director at Ubisoft Montreal, about the changes Ubisoft is making to the way Assassin's Creed handles freedom and complexity. Here's the transcript of that interview.
“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.”
Epic recently announced that they're making a new free Unreal Tournament game in collaboration with the UT community. This is good news. We like Unreal Tournament. Only yesterday, Andy wrote about his love for Facing Worlds. The monstrous flak cannon took the top spot in our roundup of gaming's greatest guns. With misty-eyed memories of frags gone by, we fired over some questions to Steve Polge, senior programmer and project lead on the new Unreal Tournament, to find out how this community collaboration thing will work.
Why can't the Autobots and Decepticons ever get along? Well, sadly they're programmed to punch each other forever. That does make the Transformers setting a fitting one for a game about brutal, neverending war, however. It's a slightly unexpected direction for Jagex, the creators of the relatively peaceful MMO, Runescape, so we caught up with vice president David Nicholson to ask him about building new bots and the challenges of capturing the magic of a much-loved series.
Interview with Tripwire's John Gibson: "Microsoft's done their best to kill gaming on PC for as long as I can remember"
In April, I spent an entire day at Tripwire Interactive's office in Atlanta, Georgia getting the first look at Killing Floor 2. We talked about KF2's new gore system (enemies burst apart dynamically in 19 places), blood system (every drop of blood stays on the map for an entire match), and new guns, which live up to Tripwire's reputation for accuracy.
I also spent a good deal of time talking to Tripwire president John Gibson about PC gaming at large—his thoughts on SteamOS and the Steam Controller, Epic's Unreal Engine 4, and Battlefield 4's ongoing issues. As always, he had strong opinions about the present problems and future possibilities of PC gaming. His boldest prediction: almost every PC game will end up on Linux eventually, and PC gaming will thrive as a result.
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.’"
Last Life interview: Sam Farmer on the intersection of Total Recall, film noir, and point-and-click adventure
I love film noir and adventure games, so Sam Farmer's Last Life, currently in its final hours on Kickstarter, seems like a game made for me. When I talked to Farmer, though, I was surprised that our conversation veered away from fedoras and shadowy bars and more towards Last Life's sci-fi core. The game is set on Mars, which is weird, and it's about transhumanism—how society changes when 3d printing can indefinitely extend life and AI becomes as intelligent as humanity—which is even weirder. The strangest fact I picked up about Last Life, though, is that Farmer's making the game with his parents.
After the closure of the studio working on World of Darkness, CCP have switched their focus back to Eve. While their core team continues to develop the space MMO, other branches are busy building Eve Valkyrie, and the newly announced shooter, Project Legion. I caught up with CCP CEO Hilmar Veigar Pétursson for a talk about Fanfest, and CCP's plans for the future of the Eve universe.
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.
Dragon Age: Inquisition interview - on fan feedback, romance, returning characters and the open world
The Dragon Age series has evolved in a tumultuous fashion since Origins. The switch from the world-threatening crisis of the first game to the personal stories of Dragon Age 2 proved too great a shift for some fans. Inquisition will again take the series to a grander stage. An open world with dynamic keep battles will bolster the central story, which sees inquisition—led by you—recruiting aid aid to postpone an imminent apocalypse.
How else will Inquisition differ from its predecessors? What have Bioware learned from fans of the series? How will they correct the awkward savegame bugs that could bring characters back to life, and how have they chosen your companions for the new adventure? Chris spoke to executive producer, Mark Darrah, to find out.
Squad's Felipe Falanghe is the creator and lead developer of Kerbal Space Program, and his work space feels a lot like a command module in a rocket soaring to Mun. When he's not busy developing one of PC gaming's most delightful simulators, he's using a gigantic array of peripherals to play games. Felipe was kind enough to take a few moments away from firing Kerbals into space to tell us about his setup.
Civilization: Beyond Earth interview - everything you need to know about the new factions, aliens, technology and more
Civilization: Beyond Earth has been announced. We're the first in the world outside of Firaxis to play it, and you'll be able to read my hands-on impressions in the next issue of PC Gamer UK. While I was at Firaxis, I had the chance to sit down with the two lead designers, Will Miller and David McDonough for a comprehensive hour-long chat about every aspect of Beyond Earth. Read on for details on Beyond Earth's affinities, its dramatic sci-fi tech research web, orbital gun platforms, alien Siege Worms, new high-concept win conditions and loads, loads more.
Welcome to Show Us Your Rig, a new feature where the PC gaming industry's best and brightest show us the systems they use to work and play.
Conifer Games' Jon Shafer requires a lot of information. As the lead designer on Civilization V, he's understandably used to having a lot of data to process—his civ's economic details or battle data from the front lines, perhaps. Lately, most of that information is the thousands of lines of code for his newest project, the upcoming 4X At The Gates. Still, we were surprised when Shafer told us that his setup for both programming and gaming requires four separate screens. For most people, that'd be information overload. For Shafer, it's just another work day.
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.
Batman: Arkham Knight is set in an even larger version of Gotham City than its predecessors managed. It's so big, they've had to include the Batmobile so you can get around quicker. How else are Rocksteady leveraging the muscle of modern PCs? Will we face another rogues' gallery, a la Arkham City? How will the combat system change from the first games? I sat down with Rocksteady's marketing producer Dax Ginn to find out.
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.
It was a big GDC for Oculus VR, announcing the Dev Kit 2 for pre-order at a very reasonable $350. Shortly before the announcement, we caught up with creator Palmer Luckey about the consumer version of the Oculus Rift, what DK2 represents in terms of technical capabilities and how the hardware suits different types of games beyond first-person experiences.
CCP's "audacious vision," CMO David Reid tells me, is to "create virtual worlds more meaningful than real life." The greatest expression of that vision is EVE Online, CCP's infamous space MMO and a game I already consider to be a sort of virtual reality. During our chat today at GDC, I nodded my head as Reid talked about the real emotions players experience in EVE. But CCP isn't at the conference to show off EVE Online—it's demonstrating the latest build of EVE Valkyrie, a VR space combat game that will launch with the Oculus Rift headset. It's clear, however, that CCP's ultimate goal is to combine Valkyrie's use of VR technology with the EVE Online sandbox.
Oculus VR CEO Brendan Iribe believes virtual reality should ignite a new race to increase computing power, much like the rapid iteration of CPUs in the '90s. Speaking to me a few hours before yesterday's announcement of a VR headset from Sony code named Project Morpheus, Iribe expressed positive feelings about the then-rumored announcement, but was predictably concerned that the consoles' fixed hardware can't match virtual reality's rapid rate of advancement.