gdc 2014

Interview: Endless Space and StarDrive developers talk about 4X design

Wes Fenlon at

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.

How to teach an AI parkour

Tom Francis at

When all you expected to be able to do in a third person action game was press a button to jump over a gap, 'traversal' in level design wasn't that hard. Adding the odd bit of scenery you can vault over isn't much harder: level designers place markers that tell your character they can vault, and what animation to play to make it look right.

But full free-running over complex terrain has become an expected feature, and the job of manually marking which bits of a level you can climb, vault or scramble over has become dauntingly huge. At GDC in San Francisco last week, Ben Sunshine-Hill of Havok explained a solution they're offering to developers as middleware: AI.

Ken Levine outlines his system for replayable narrative in games

Tom Francis at

Ken Levine's been working on what he calls 'linear narratives' for 19 years, most recently in BioShock Infinite. In February, his studio Irrational closed and Levine left to start a new game with a smaller team, focusing on making something story-driven but replayable. At the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco on Friday, he gave a talk to explain what he means by that, and to lay out the basics of a system he thinks might be able to achieve it.

Why Manveer Heir's attack on stereotypes in games was the most important moment of GDC 2014

Tom Senior at

Bioware Montreal developer Manveer Heir received a standing ovation at GDC this week for his speech challenging the prevalence of lazy, reductive stereotypes in games. He implored the industry to "stop being so scared", and start making games with more diverse characters in an effort to "reject stereotypes as a social responsibility to mankind".

The speech formed one part of this year's advocacy series of presentations, which explored problematic issues in gamer culture and the industry at large. The clarity and passion of Heir's speech in particular proved a stand-out moment, not just because of the issues at stake, but because of his mature, reasoned approach to stimulating debate around the depiction of gender, race and sexuality in games.

The week's highs and lows in PC Gaming

PC Gamer at

Every week, the PC Gamer team pick their most and least favourite happenings from the last seven days. Here you'll find the week's soaring highs and stagnant lows, picked from the news, the games we've played, the culture at large. The only thing that's guaranteed is there'll be no neutral opinions.

CCP: Virtual reality is "where things are going," could change "the human condition overall"

Tyler Wilde at

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.

Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty's GDC trailer shows visually improved meat chunks

Phil Savage at

Hello. Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee is getting a major upgrade in the form of New 'n' Tasty, an enhanced re-release of the weird and wonderful 2D platformer. Described as a "ground-up remake", New 'n' Tasty promises enhanced visuals, "refined gameplay", and overhauled sound design. All that, and yet they still haven't learnt the correct spelling of odyssey. A new trailer has been released for GDC, giving you a taste of the game's new look. Follow me.

Crytek are also targeting indies, announce royalty free CryEngine subscription

Phil Savage at

It's WAR! Not real war, with bombs and screaming, but tech war, with payment models and indie schmoozing. Last night, Epic unveiled their subscription plan for Unreal Engine 4, offering the binary development tools and engine source for $19 per month. Now, Crytek have announced their own "CryEngine-as-a-service" subscription model. It has a couple of advantages over Epic's plan: it's cheaper, at $9.90 per month, and it's royalty free.

PC Gamer Podcast #376 - GDC 2014 with Steve Gaynor, Sean Vanaman, and more

PC Gamer at

In this week's special GDC 2014 episode, we recorded from Tyler's kitchen in downtown San Francisco with two groups of game developer guests who hiked over from GDC. First up, hear from Xaviant design director Tim Lindsey, whose resume also includes CCP, Bethesda, and Hi-Rez; Twinbeard Studios founder and Frog Fractions creator Jim Crawford; and Mode 7 Games' Ian Hardingham, who designed and programmed Frozen Synapse and is now working on Frozen Endzone.

The Division GDC trailer showcases Snowdrop engine's visuals, flexibility

Omri Petitte at

During Ubisoft Massive's latest video tour of The Division's impressive Snowdrop engine at GDC 2014, one developer likened his ease of creating a bleak depiction of urban decay to tinkering with a Lego set. That's definitely not the same kind of Legos I remember growing up with, but the analogy is pretty apt considering the studio's deep drive to portray a massively multiplayer post-apocalyptic city in as much detail as possible.

Oculus CEO: Intel, Nvidia, and AMD need virtual reality, fixed console hardware won't keep up

Tyler Wilde at

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.

Clockwork Empires gameplay video — first-ever footage

Evan Lahti at

Yesterday we ran a world-exclusive first hands-on with Clockwork Empires, Gaslamp Games' steampunk settlement-builder. Today we're glad to reveal the first-ever, non-trailer gameplay footage of the game, accompanied by some commentary from yours truly.

PlanetSide 2's PlayerStudio helps players get rich by making hats

PC Gamer at

Looking for an exit strategy from your dead end job and have a keen eye for showstopping sci-fi helmet design? Perhaps you should consider a sideline making user-generated content for PlanetSide 2. We spoke with the game’s senior art director Trammel Isaac, who told us power users like CoffeeOutlaw are already making thousands of dollars making and selling new looks for existing weapons and equipment in the game through the Player Studio program.

Unreal Engine 4 tools and source code now available for a $19 monthly subscription

Tyler Wilde at

At a GDC 2014 press briefing today, Epic founder Tim Sweeney announced that Unreal Engine 4 is now available for game development, but not just for big studios. Access to the binary development tools and the UE4 source code is now included in a $19/mo subscription plan. Developers will also pay Epic five percent of any revenue earned from UE4 developed games.

Oculus Rift Development Kit 2 on sale now, an even better consumer version is "the next step"

Tyler Wilde at

A new model of the Oculus Rift Development Kit—simply called Development Kit 2 or DK2—is available for pre-order today for $350 with an estimated shipping date of July. Compared to the original virtual reality headset prototype, Development Kit 2 has a higher resolution screen (960x1080 per eye), generates no motion blur, and includes positional head tracking using a CMOS sensor.

Unity 5 unveiled at GDC 2014

Ian Birnbaum at

Unity 5, the latest version of the popular game development engine, was unveiled at the Game Development Conference in San Francisco today. The new update will include big updates to Unity’s audio and lighting tools and 64-bit engine support, according to Unity Technologies. Unity 5 will be available for pre-order starting today, and is accompanied by a trailer featuring lots of flashy light rendering and a wub-wub distortion soundtrack.

Choice Chamber is a Twitch Plays Pokémon-Inspired Social Experiment

Samuel Roberts at

Last night I played a little bit of Choice Chamber, a 2D platformer where the parameters of the game are decided by polling the audience watching on Twitch. Which weapon will you have to fight the enemies before you, a sword or a hammer? How high can you jump when faced with flying foes? These options are voted for on the fly as the people opt for the most exciting outcome. Or, at least, the one that'll garner the funniest reaction from the poor bastard sat gawping at the screen on Twitch.

Outside of the novelty of the premise – roughly ten people were watching and no doubt turning against me, on Twitch, as I played through a few screens – it's a straightforward 2D hack-and-slash game with only jumping and attacking as commands. But having your fate in the hands of the audience is a genuinely refreshing idea with an unpredictable element of social experimentation. You're always able to see the three variables being voted on in the top right-hand corner of the screen, and the result no doubt makes you question the way you're perceived by the viewers. Honestly, if I was watching me pull my concentration face on Twitch, I'd probably engineer my own death too.

GDC 2014 kicks off today

PC Gamer at

It's here. GDC 2014 is the biggest gathering of game developers and creators ever, and PC Gamer is here all week. We'll be on the show floor in San Francisco's Moscone Center talking with developers, attending panels, podcasting with special guests, going hands-on with new games, and reporting all of the biggest news from the event. Expect coverage from both the US and UK teams on the games industry's most creative-centric show of the year.

Crytek to show off CryEngine Linux support at GDC

Emanuel Maiberg at

Can it run Crysis? If you’re using Linux, the answer will eventually be “yes.” The German developer behind the first Far Cry and the Crysis games announced that it will show off its impressive CryEngine running natively on Linux for the first time during GDC.