All posts by Menashe

Buddy & Me Now Has a Wii U Stretch Goal

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buddy and me wii u

Listening to the voice of the fans, Jason Behr and his team at Sunbreak Games have added on a Wii U stretch goal to their Kickstarter campaign. While mobile gamers found the game’s premise intriguing and charming, it was Nintendo fans who really called out to the former-Retro Studios developer and offered their enthusiastic support.

Now the question is whether this stretch goal will help give a boost to the campaign as it enters its final week. Let’s hope Nintendo fans open their wallets and support the developers who listen to their vocal interests.

To read more about Jason Behr and the development of his first project as creative lead at Sunbreak Games, check out our exclusive interview.

To read more about Buddy & Me and help fund the campaign, visit its Kickstarter page. 

 

Disney Shuts Down LucasArts Game Publisher, Star Wars: 1313 and First Assault Canned

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Disney Shuts Down LucasArts Game Publisher, Star Wars: 1313 and First Assault Canned

by Anthony Wright


Today LucasArts confirmed the suspicions of many gamers and announced that Disney have decided to pull the plug on all of LucasArts current projects and move them to a licensing model instead. LucasArts sent Game Informer the following statement earlier today:

“After evaluating our position in the games market, we’ve decided to shift LucasArts from an internal development to a licensing model, minimizing the company’s risk while achieving a broader portfolio of quality Star Wars games. As a result of this change, we’ve had layoffs across the organization. We are incredibly appreciative and proud of the talented teams who have been developing our new titles.” – LucasArts Rep

Two games which have been casualties of the decision are Star Wars: 1313 which managed to make  quite a splash at E3 2012, but has then fallen from the headlines for a long time until rumors started circulating that the game would be cancelled.

The second project is Star Wars: First Assault which only recently surfaced thanks to a leaked video, however the game was already expected to be cancelled by the point it was revealed.

Of course there are bound to be more casualties than just games though, apparently around 150 employees will be out of work as part of the shift in focus. All of my sympathy goes to everyone affected by the closure.

[Source: Game Informer]

Corocoro Magazine: Unconfirmed Drowzee Pre-evolution?

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1997

zzda

 

Supposedly from a new Corocoro magazine. Leaked on 2chan, not confirmed but we will see what happens.

[Source: NintyChronicle]

Okami 2? “Ask Capcom”. Banjo-Kazooie Remake? “Anything’s Possible”

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okami 2 wii u

Okami 2? “Ask Capcom”. Banjo-Kazooie Remake? “Anything’s Possible”

Sometimes I wish developers would be a bit more black and white about their answers instead of giving fans a straw to grasp onto for dear life which they will never ever let go of. Just say no and let the idea die. It will be much more productive to us all. Of course, it’s always fun to fantasize about what could be. But let us do that without developers adding fuel to the fire.

Two recent example are that of Okami 2 on Wii U and a Banjo-Kazooie remake on 3DS. Both responses came via Twitter.

The first one came when a fan told Hideki Kamiya that Okami 2 would be a great fit on Wii U because of the hardware and GamePad. Kamiya replied: “Ask Capcom”. I’m sure at that moment a couple hundred fans thought of the idea of creating a fan petition. Since Okami didn’t sell so well, the would-be petitions would most likely amount to a few thousand signatures, if they were lucky. It would have been better if Kamiya would have just ignored the question unless there was something real to show off. Now I have to live with dreams of an HD Okami 2 exclusive on my Wii U for time untold.

The next open-ended answer came from Rare. A fan asked if one day we could see a Banjo-Kazooie remake on the 3DS, similar to how Ocarina of Time got remade for the handheld. Instead of ignoring the question, the Rare staffer decided to plant a very unlikely smidgen of a possibility in our heads. Why? Probably to torture us.

What do you think about such replies? Do you believe they are worthwhile and enjoyable to get us fantasizing about such possibilities? Or are they futile and frustrating?

New Crash Bandicoot Game Coming?

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crash_bandicoot_by_leomitsu

New Crash Bandicoot Game Coming?

by Anthony W


An interesting screen capture surfaced just recently, showing a countdown for which teases a new Crash Bandicoot game. The countdown which could be briefly viewed at crashbandicoot.com/countdown was then pulled pretty quickly. The page may have gone up earlier than intended as it appears that it also lacked an actual countdown at that point.

Although the text in the center is impossible to make out, you can easily see “He’s Back!” across the bottom of the screen. Given that Activision haven’t exactly managed to do the ex-Playstation mascot justice since they acquired him, hopefully this could allude to a return to the roots of Crash Bandicoot. Also encouraging is that it appears Vicarious Visions is in charge, from their logo near the bottom.

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Another thing which is pretty evident is the presence of the Xbox 360 and Wii-U logos at the bottom, but even more so, the Playstation logo, which doesn’t specify a system, meaning that Playstation 3, Playstation 4 and PS Vita could all be possible platforms.

Iwata implies he may resign over poor business performance

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Nintendo at E3 Show

Iwata implies he may resign over poor business performance


Cheesemeister is at it again, offering the gaming world a look into the Japanese industry with his translations. This time he’s posted something a bit worrying on Neogaf:

Translation of ITmedia report follows:

At an analysts’ meeting on the 31st, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata (53) implied that there is a possibility that he may resign if he is unable to achieve 100 billion yen (US$1.09963 billion) in operating income for the next fiscal year. The company had recently revised its forecast for operating income for the full year ending March 31, 2013 to -20 billion yen (US$220.144 million), making the goal a high hurdle. Iwata aimed to appeal to investors by putting himself on the line to recover the business.

President Iwata, having seen 2 consecutive years of losses, apologized by saying, “We feel greatly accountable for this severe outlook.” He further explained that the basis of meeting the goal by saying, “…we plan to actively release our key titles for Nintendo 3DS which could potentially lead the markets this year.”

In the midst of sluggish sales for the next-generation home console Wii U released last year, Iwata also indicated that portable and home console development groups would be merged.

When asked how he would take responsibility if the goal is not met, Iwata emphasized his strong determination by saying, “Please understand that [achieving it] is my commitment.”

[Read More in his post on Neogaf]

Do You Want to Beta-Test a Very Promising Upcoming 3DS Game and Others in the Future?

airace speed

AiRace-Speed-Plane-Concept-Art-7

Do You Want to Beta-Test a Very Promising Upcoming 3DS Game and Others in the Future?

by Menashe


We just got word from our friends at Qubic Games that their upcoming 3D sci-fi racing game, AiRace Speed, is ready for beta-tesing. It’s close enough to completion that I can practically smell it! Qubic Games is now looking for experienced gamers to join their beta-testing group. So, if you own a 3DS and are skilled at gaming, you can now apply here: http://www.airace-speed.com/test-airace-speed-and-other-qubicgames-titles/

AiRace Speed is one of our most anticipated 3DS games. We even included it in our list of 50 Upcoming 3DS Games We’re Most Excited For. You can think of it as taking inspiration thematically from F-Zero but going in a new direction with a different focus. The focus is more on meticulous level design plotted with hundreds of obstacles that will require you to be a master at maneuvering your futuristic aircraft. Each ship will handle differently and be shaped differently, requiring you to steer it in its own way to avoid the creative hazards that populate these 3D tunnels. AiRace Tunnel, an earlier game in the franchise, was a game we considered to be the best Racing game on DSiWare. So we only expect  the best out of AiRace Speed.

It’s always a thrill to try out new games before they come out so if you’d like to sign up, fill out the form here: http://www.airace-speed.com/test-airace-speed-and-other-qubicgames-titles/

Read more of our coverage of Qubic Games and their games:

Interview with Qubic Games about their upcoming projects

50 Upcoming 3DS Games We’re Excited For

2 Fast 4 Gnomz Review

And also make sure to check out our AiRace Speed gallery on Facebook.

 

Qubic Games Launches AiRace: Speed Website, Begins Providing Updates on the Game

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airace speed

airace speed

Qubic Games Launches AiRace: Speed Website, Begins Providing Updates on the Game

We’re big fans of Qubic Games and we expect some really great racing games to be made on 3DS by them after their successes on the DS. AiRace Tunnel was the best DSiWare racing game and AiRace Speed is their next game in the franchise, being created for 3DS.

While they’ve kept quiet about it until now, it seems that soon we’re going to be getting a lot more information due to the launching of a website blog dedicated to the game. There are already updates on the level design, deadly obstacles, and cool sci-fi racers to star in the game. Here’s Qubic Games’ description of the game:

AiRace Speed will be the third game of the successful AiRace Series. It will be released on 3DS and iOS.

In AiRace Speed you will fly faster than ever in challenging indoor levels: caves, electronic tunnels, pits full of lasers, industrial corridors etc.

The gameplay will be similar to our previous title AiRace: Tunnel but AiRace Speed is much bigger and more sophisticated. Also, you won’t just pilot your planes. The gameplay will include many more mechanics.

QubicGames is very enthusiastic and aims to release one of the best racing games on Nintendo 3DS with AiRace Speed.

The perfect combination of smooth controls and tricky levels is what we want to achieve for the gameplay.

AiRace Speed will have very complex levels, much more than in AiRace: Tunnel.
Levels will feature shortcuts, rewarding paths, closed ways, big chambers, crazy obstacles, strongly curved tunnels etc.

Moreover you will be able to increase the speed of your plane by yourself. With some nitro you’ll speed up like a rocket! But it won’t be easy to handle.

AiRace Speed will feature online leaderboards. So you will be able to rank your best scores and compare with other players! This will add a great replay value to the game. No wonder that there will be many ways to improve your progress into those complex levels!

There’s all sorts of cool concept art on the official site. You’ll get a look at tons of obstacles that you’ll need to avoid:

Airace Speed

You’ll get a closer look at some of the really interesting level design and structure:

Airace Speed

And also a look at the different kinds of ships you’ll be flying. The shape of each racer will affect how you must maneuver it to avoid obstacles:

AiRace-Speed-Plane-Concept-Art-7

Cosmic Highway Kickstarter Campaign Has Just Gone Live

maestro interactive

Cosmic Highway Kickstarter Campaign Has Just Begun

Maestro Interactive have finally up and launched their Kickstarter campaign for Cosmic Highway, an exclusive sci-fi racer for Wii U. The Kickstarter introduces the game:

Cosmic Highway takes music and racing to a whole new level. Do you love engaging music, stunning visuals, and racing? We thought so.

Maestro isn’t looking for an exorbitant sum, just $6000.

Check out our coverage of Cosmic Highway so far with our preview and reveal of the first screenshot.

First Exclusive Screenshot of Cosmic Highway for Wii U

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cosmic highway wii u

First Exclusive Screenshot of Cosmic Highway for Wii U

by Menashe


We held an exclusive interview and preview with Monty Goulet of Maestro Interactive earlier this week and in it we detailed the three games they have in the works for the Wii U. We promised to show you a screenshot of Cosmic Highway and today we can finally give you a first look. Think of this as an appetizer for the main course next week when the official Kickstarter campaign takes off. As you can expect, this screenshot being pre-Kickstarter, comes from a very early prototype of the game. The final product will progress much past what you see now.

What you see in the screenshot is the racer of the character called the “Inventor”. You can tell he’s sort of built his own racer from scratch as is evident from his steampunk  vehicle with those skis attached to the bottom. You can even see the inventor poking  his head out of the top, top hat and all. Each character/racer has his own accompanying music for when he’s in the lead and his own special weapon to give him an advantage over the others. The inventor can use the smokescreen ability to cloud up his opponents view. We’ll have to wait to see what kind of music goes with his steampunk style.

First Screenshot of the Prototype:

cosmic highway wii u

Click to see a larger version

Monty actually was kind enough to send me 10 screenshots of the game but I’d like to do my contribution to the Kickstarter campaign, so I’m only going to show this little tease. Next week you will hopefully be able to see the full reveal of the game in its early prototype form. So stay tuned for the Kickstarter.

This is what we wrote about Cosmic Highway in our preview:

Cosmic Highway – Like F-Zero But With Innovative Use of Sound to Propel Gameplay

cosmic highway wii u

The third Wii U game Maestro are working on is Cosmic Highway. Maestro’s main focus as a developer is to create unique audio experiences in games. Cosmic Highway is no different. You’ve played many racing games before, perhaps. But you’ve never played one that puts such a major emphasis on audio. Think F-Zero, with space racers cruising through 30 different tracks across the galaxy. Each racer will have its own musical style and special abilities. We don’t know all the different ways music and sound effects will affect gameplay but we were given one example.

Each racing track will have its own song. But the music will play with a different musical style according to the racer that’s in first place. So, if you’ve chose the classical racer and you’re in first place, everyone will know you’re in the lead because the soundtrack for the level will be be playing in classical music style. There are to be 180 different songs in the game and you’ll only be able to hear them all if you’re skilled enough to beat the game with every style of racer. There will even be five boss levels to complete. Cosmic Highway will be a game that appeals to both the single-player gamer and the entire family. There is even a five-player split screen mode that can be the life of any party. There will even be a secret world that is meant for Nintendo fans to enjoy. It will have many games that we all recognize from our past.

While the Big Publishers Snooze, Little Indie Studios Are Changing the Face of Wii U

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indie game characters

While the Big Publishers Snooze, Little Indie Studios Are Changing the Face of Wii U

by Menashe


As I was working on my upcoming article, 70+ Upcoming Wii U Games We’re Excited For, I started reaching out to developers for quotes and new information on their upcoming games. Unsurprising, most of the big publishers kept their lips shut tight. However, many of the famous indie developers were very forthcoming and happy to contribute to the feature. The writing of the article became something of an organic, living process as it gave birth to a second idea which came from my amazement at the magnitude indies were embracing and taking advantage of the Wii U. I decided then and there to try and capture in words something of this indie force that has begun to coalesce on the Wii U.

Executives Make All the Creative Decisions in the “Big” Industry

Publishers on Wii U

For shame! There’s no question that big publishers like EA and Activision see the potential of the Wii U to enhance and expand gameplay for traditional gamers that have tired of the same old first-person shooters and cliches. But that doesn’t mean they care enough to do something about it. As long as there isn’t a big install base within three months of a system’s launch they cancel their projects or decide there isn’t enough of a penetration rate to warrant a port. Maybe later, the businessmen in suits conclude, when the Wii U has amassed two years of consumers, then it will be worth it to start porting their games. The creative minds and talented developers don’t get a say in the matter, even if they’re excited to work with the Wii U. As long as it doesn’t add up on paper in the here-and-now, the executives who run the company won’t allow it to pass.

Of course, this is a catch twenty-two. If you don’t support a new system with great games, how will it ever expand enough to become a lucrative market for you in the future? Most gaming systems are not massive markets from the get-go. It takes time until the new market of customers is solidified. In the meantime, it’s up to Nintendo to do it alone and build up a big enough user-base with their own exciting games until the system has become widespread enough to capture the attention of the big-publishers. It’s all about surviving through the long haul, not winning a few sales in the short-term.

A Long-term Build-up of Sales is More Important than Launch Sales

An increase in sales momentum over time matters a lot more...

An increase in sales momentum over time matters a lot more…

Look at the success of systems like the DS, 3DS and PS3. Their winning efforts, their late bloom, depended upon their staying power. Once they’d proven they were capable of surviving long enough, developers eventually saw the market as large enough to warrant their efforts. Meanwhile, the Wii saw incredible success at the beginning, but sales steadily declined as it went on. You can say that long-term momentum is a lot more important to a consoles health than its initial launch year. Sometimes that momentum comes from bringing out a handful of AAA titles in the holiday season while other times it can come from a price drop or an appealing bundle. The best momentum of all comes from the steady rise of quality in the library of games over time as the price of the system begins to drop.

The Wii U has this same predicament; it’s only natural to have small sales at the beginning when only a handful of people (3 million+ , cough, cough) own the system. But, this concept of short-term sales versus long-term sales is for a whole other article. What I really wanted to focus on in this “rant” is that Nintendo is not doing this alone. There are developers who are taking the system seriously and discovering brilliant ways to use the GamePad in innovative and creative manners. These are the same people that have been at the forefront of experimentation and innovation in the industry for a few years now. These are indie developers.

Indies are Taking Up an Increasingly Large Space in the Industry

indie game characters

While you weren’t looking, indies have practically taken over the industry. We’ve come a long way since Pixel (Daisuke Amaya) showed the world that you don’t need a massive 100-person studio to create an epic game. All it takes is one skilled fellow to create a Cave Story, a game that hearkens back to Super Metroid and other Metroidvanias filled with atmosphere and personality. These days, indie development studios number in the thousands and have created some of the industry’s most popular and well-received games, such as Minecraft and Amnesia. (If you like indie games, I think you’ll appreciate this list of the 60 Best Indie Games of All Time that I just made in this thread.) Guess what? Indies no longer just refer to people living out of a garage in their parents houses, but they now have become a first choice for many developers. Yes, many of them have a ton of previous experience in the industry. They chose voluntarily to leave their big company employees and form their own small indie studio where they get full creative control of the games they want to make.

Indies Very Often Have Tons of Experience

I could list hundreds of indies who have amassed incredible experience in the industry before deciding to go it alone. Just look at the Wii U and 3DS current library of indie games. Take Jools Watsham, for example. He’s been the leader of teams at Iguana/Acclaim, working on franchises like Turok and NBA Jam. But he decided he’d much rather leave and make his own studio, Renegade Kid. We owe him thanks for games like Mutant Mudds and Dementium. We’ll speak a bit more about his upcoming mystery game for Wii U (holiday season) in my next article, The 50+ Wii U Games We’re Most Excited For, with an exclusive quote we got from him especially for the article. (Hint: It’s an atmospheric FPS.)

wii u eshop

A few others:

- Fuzzy Wuzzy Games, bringing Armillo to Wii U very soon, is made up of ex-EA and Radical Games staff.

- Wayforward Technologies, of Mighty Switch Force and Shantae fame, are led by John Beck and Matt Bozon- both of whom have been working in the industry since the SNES days

- Tomorrow Corportation, who developed Little Inferno, is made up of Kyle Gabler and Kyle Gray, both of whom had experience at EA

- Two Tribes, bringing Toki Tori 2 to Wii U, has worked with major video game companies including Capcom, Nokia, Team17 and THQ

- Shin’en, who brought Nano Assault Neo to Wii U, has an assortment of staff from across the industry- some making games since the 80′s

Of course, there are also many talented indies who built up from scratch, starting off with smaller games until they had enough experience to make their magnus opum. Just look at Edmund McMillen (Super Meat Boy) and Terry Cavanagh (VVVVVV). But, with many big publishers and game studios closing their doors for good or laying off staff after a single flop, more and more developers are realizing they can do it by themselves with a few other staff to join their team. The options for funding have also grown. There are already a number of exciting projects on their way to Wii U because of Kickstarter. Others have realized that releasing games digitally doesn’t contain the same expenses as retail does. There are no physical boxes that require a publishing deal to help publish and ship to stores.

Nintendo Opens the Door to Indies by Lightening the Requirements

wii u dev kit

Dev Kits for the approved developers

Even more encouraging: according to Nintendo’s latest shift in policy, it’s easier than ever to become an approved developer for the Wii U and 3DS eShop. What are the requirements?

1) You must have released at least one game in the past. Unproven teenagers without even a single game in their resume need not apply. But if you’re not using Wii U as your guinea pig to learn programming, you’re already good to go.

2) You must have registered yourself with the government as a business for tax purposes.

3) You’ll need to pay for a dev kit to work on. This doesn’t cost a tremendous amount but it does help to filter out the little kids who’ve made a Flash game online and now want to randomly publish their casual games on Wii U or 3DS.

Once you’ve proven to Nintendo that you believe in your product enough to pay a bit of money to buy a dev kit, you’ve had a bit of experience in the past, and you’ve registered yourself as a business (an absolutely simple bit of bureaucracy that anyone can do if they chose to) then you’re ready to submit yourself as a developer to Nintendo and get approval. What many might not realize is that until last month there used to be a fourth restriction which Nintendo is now dropping. In the past you had to have a registered place of work (an office) that is exclusively used for your business. This was a big hurdle for many developers. Thinking back to when I watched Indie Game: The Movie,  I don’t think Edmund McMillen of Team Meat was working in a rented office space. It looked more like it was in his own bedroom.

I know personally of some famous indie developers that had this hurdle with Nintendo’s restriction, but I won’t name them without their permission. Whatever the case, it’s nice to know Nintendo has made it even easier to become an approved developer. But, once again I’m digressing from my main point which is to focus on the indies who are taking advantage of the Wii U’s innovation. Although the Wii U isn’t receiving enough love from big publishers who are not doing enough with the potential of the Wii U (exception: Ubisoft, you still have my appreciation for ZombiU), indies are really stepping up to the plate to fill in the void.

Maestro Interactive Brings Innovation to Wii U With Three New Games

maestro interactive

There’s one example I’d like to give of a developer who really gets Wii U. They are called Maestro Interactive and they’re bringing three games to Wii U. *audience applause*

This is the kind of developer that gets me excited about the buzz Wii U is creating for indies inasmuch as it’s lacking the buzz with massive third-party developers. Maestro Interactive is located in Austin, Texas, the same place as Retro Studios. The founder of Maestro, Monty Goulet, actually worked with Retro Studios on Donkey Kong Country Returns. Monty served as a leading member of the Electro-Acoustic Ensemble and he created many of the tools used in the organization. Monty also served as President of a Recording Studio, a Live Sound Engineer for Jazz Fest, and Chief Engineer of an internet radio station.

At one point, Retro Studios contracted Monty, using him to implement the audio in Donkey Kong Country Returns. When his contract for the game was finished, Monty developed his own sound design studio MGGSound, and along with that he formed his game studio, Maestro Interactive. Of course, the studio is made up of talented programmers and artists, but with a musician as its creative lead there’s a very strong focus on the audio experience and the artistry inherent in the game experience. From what I’ve heard of his compositions so far I’m somewhat reminded of David Wise, who was the prolific composer at Rareware back in the SNES and N64 era.

Post-Retro Studios, Maestro Creates a Port of Upcoming Super Ubi Land for Wii U

retro studios wii u

Having a positive experience working on Donkey Kong Country Returns at Retro Studios, Monty was very interested in pursuing development for his indie studio on the Wii U. The first opportunity came knocking when Monty played Super Ubi Land by Notion Games and was reminded of 2D retro platformers like Super Mario World, Kirby’s Dream World, and Donkey Kong Country. Ever the Donkey Kong fan, Monty began discussion with Notion Games over porting the in-development game to Wii U. (Kudos to Emily Rogers for getting Notion Games on board with Nintendo.) Offering advice and suggestions based on his own experience in the industry, Super Ubi Land was improved upon further and enhanced in a way that would fully take advantage of the Wii U. You’ll like the game if any of these elements mean something to you:

- a masterful soundtrack built by a studio who cherishes the audio experience of a game

- 2D retro platforming that plays like a love letter to Donkey Kong Country and similar classics

- massive boss battles

- hand-drawn graphics

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You can get an idea of the game in trailer below, although the game’s look has been improved upon to take advantage of the Wii U.

Their Magnum Opus, Fade Into Darkness

All this was just a prelude to Maestro Interactive’s own ambitions. Maestro wasn’t founded just to remain a contractor, but to realize their own vision. This brings us to Fade Into Darkness, which is one of those games I mentioned is taking advantage of the Wii U’s strengths. If I had to give an example to understand the gameplay you can imagine a mix between the atmospheric exploration and puzzle solving of Myst with a horror theme that will remind you of Amnesia. Take that combination and throw in an innovative focus on auditory gameplay and you’ll understand Fade Into Darkness a bit more.

fade into darkness

In Fade Into Darkness you play as a child who discovers his parents have left him a note saying he must stay put in his locked room as Mom and Dad go in search of help. They warn that there’s a terrible creature roaming their house but it avoids light. As long as he doesn’t leave his well-lit room he should be safe. Being played in first person, the game lets its players immerse themselves in a child’s world all alone. This is a feeling we have all experienced to some degree, but Fade Into Darkness takes our familiarity and flips it on its head, creating a thrilling experience. There’s a very rich and engrossing storyline that you will discover as you make your way from room to room, solving puzzles to illuminate each room you encounter.

Explore a Horror Environment Relying On Your Hearing To Guide You

An protoype build of the game in Unity, later swapped for a stronger engine

A protoype build of the game in Unity, later swapped out for a stronger engine

Since this is an auditory experience where the 3D positional audio actually matters, the rooms will start off dark and you will only have audio cues like music and sound effects to guide you through the room and solve different puzzles. As you discover a bit of light, it will lead you deeper into the puzzle as you continue to explore and eventually completely illuminate the room. But can you imagine what you’ll feel like when it’s pitch black and instead of hearing just the tick tock of a clock, you also hear the growl of a monster slowly approaching from far? The game features a heart-rate system as a health meter, once again relying on audio cues to convey information rather than a visual HUD. As you explore, the frights in your environments may speed up your heart rate and if it reaches a critical point, the game will reset. Faced between insanity and reality, you will often be required to concentrate and distinguish between creatures of darkness and regular environment in order to survive and eventually defeat the darkness. Your environment will come to life with the incredibly rich audio experience.

Exploration, horror, a complex-storyline: all ingredients of an immersive and atmospheric delight for Wii U gamers. But how indeed will it utilize the Wii U’s strengths? One feature in particular hasn’t really been possible on consoles and has been restricted to PC gaming. This is the point-and-click interface on the Wii U’s GamePad that will power much of the exploration and puzzles in the house you explore. Through tapping and dragging on the touch screen you can simulate a mouse-click in the same way it’s been done on an iPad. This is precisely how Nintendo intended to expand the console experiences to include gameplay only found elsewhere until now.

A spiritual successor to Eternal Darkness?

A spiritual successor to Eternal Darkness?

Another way Fade Into Darkness uses the Wii U’s strengths is by utilizing the speaker on the GamePad as well as your TV’s audio to create unique soundscapes and puzzles. For example, sounds coming from objects (or creatures) very close to you may sound like they’re right below your nose. It gives new meaning to positional audio. I can imagine the heart-rate sound would also be coming from the GamePad speaker as opposed to the TV.

Nintendo gamers haven’t had such a unique, deep, and psychological horror game on their systems’ since Eternal Darkness came out on the Gamecube. One thing to note is that the game was originally built in the Unity engine but then Maestro Interactive got a little more ambitious and switched development engines. They couldn’t let it slip to me which engine this would be due to an NDA effective until the official announcement. But, I’m guessing it’s Unreal Engine 3 as no one is usually as strict about such licensing policies as with Unreal Engine 3 but I may be surprised when the name finally gets out. We’ll see more this March when the game is fully revealed at GDC 2013. I’ve only shown one screenshot of the game because the last ones we’ve seen were from GDC 2012 and the game still looked like a Unity-game. Now that it’s been taken to a new level graphically, it wouldn’t be fair to show the old screenshots.

Cosmic Highway – Like F-Zero But With Innovative Use of Sound to Propel Gameplay

cosmic highway wii u

The third Wii U game Maestro are working on is Cosmic Highway. Maestro’s main focus as a developer is to create unique audio experiences in games. Cosmic Highway is no different. You’ve played many racing games before, perhaps. But you’ve never played one that puts such a major emphasis on audio. Think F-Zero, with space racers cruising through 30 different tracks across the galaxy. Each racer will have its own musical style and special abilities. We don’t know all the different ways music and sound effects will affect gameplay but we were given one example.

Each racing track will have its own song. But the music will play with a different musical style according to the racer that’s in first place. So, if you’ve chose the classical racer and you’re in first place, everyone will know you’re in the lead because the soundtrack for the level will be be playing in classical music style. There are to be 180 different songs in the game and you’ll only be able to hear them all if you’re skilled enough to beat the game with every style of racer. There will even be five boss levels to complete. Cosmic Highway will be a game that appeals to both the single-player gamer and the entire family. There is even a five-player split screen mode that can be the life of any party. There will even be a secret world that is meant for Nintendo fans to enjoy. It will have many games that we all recognize from our past.

Maestro’s artist was out of town until tomorrow, Thursday, but we’ll be getting screenshots from him then. So come back to see what it currently looks like. The full game reveal will take place in about a week.

Two Interview Questions about Nintendo for Monty Goulet

wii u indie games

The best part of all this is that Super Ubi Land, Fade Into Darkness, and Cosmic Highway will all be available by the end of Spring 2013, so there’s not long to wait. While most of the information I’ve written until now has come from my correspondence with Monty, I asked him two specific questions not related to his current projects that Nintendo fans would want to know:

NE: Are you allowed to share with us any of your experiences while working together with Retro Studios?

Monty: With regards to Retro, I unfortunately can not disclose really anything due to NDA’s and everything. I can say that these are some of the most talented people to work with, they truly understand the hardware that Nintendo develops and push it to its limits. I mean, it was said in an interview that when they showed their last title (Donkey Kong Country Returns) at E3 in 2010, they had about 70 levels to go. [From what I had seen of the game] that was pretty accurate so that is a testament to how skilled they are as developers.

NE: What do you think of the Wii U as Nintendo’s next-gen system? Does it have a future next to Sony and Microsoft’s next-gen systems? Does the indie-focus help along its success?

Monty: I think the Wii U is a great platform for developers and gamers. Sure, we have the new PS4 being announced tonight, and the Xbox 720 on the horizon, but the early adopters of the next generation will have more to look forward to from Nintendo than the other consoles. I mean, from a sales standpoint people complained that the Wii U sold roughly 60,000 in January. While that is a low number, its not bad necessarily. They have sold 3 Million since launch in November. People compared that to Xbox sales this past month, but the Xbox is a six-seven year old console retailing for much lower now- it balances out for Nintendo.

The issue with publishers pulling out is simply cash flow. They see that there is a small user base on the console, so they pull exclusivity like in the Rayman incident and try to reach a larger market. This isn’t always a smart play. If you look at Epic Mickey, it was on one platform, the Wii and sold 1.3 Million copies, whereas the sequel was on all the platforms and sold around a little over a third of that with 529,000 copies across three platforms. I think exclusivity to one platform helps move console sales and brings more gamers to the platform. That is why it is such a great idea to bring Indie teams to the Wii U to build for it. The more titles Indies bring to the console, the more people will play and buy a Wii U.

iOS has a great interface for their store that Nintendo seems to have emulated quite well, but Apple’s problem is that anyone can build on it…You have companies like GameSalad that are drag and drop for the phone and while some great games come out of those engines, you also get a lot of- as Reggie of Nintendo put it- “Garage Developers”, which hurts the platform in the end. Nintendo still limits the engines that the console can use, Unreal 3, Havok and Unity (in the near future), all of which are professional engines so everyone can expect high quality in the content on the eShop, something Apple can not do. I do like that you can patch and update your games for free on Nintendo’s platform, something FEZ found out the hard way could not be done on XBLA. Only time will tell however how much of a success the shop is for indies, when more developers titles get on the shop and competition grows.

Thanks to Monty Goulet and Maestro Interactive for sharing some of the under-wraps information on their games. And thanks to Emily Rogers for her valuable input into the current Nintendo – indie studio relationship. Keep informed of Maestro’s latest updates:

Website: http://maestrointeractivegames.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/maestro_igames

Mailing List: http://maestrointeractivegames.com/Contact_Us.html

Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/MaestroInteractive

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MaestroInteractiveGames

More Articles

Read my last article, Everything We Know About Super Smash Bros Wii U/3DS if you haven’t already, and stay tuned for my next article on Sunday, 50+ Upcoming Wii U Games That We’re Excited For. It will be filled with exclusive goodies so make sure not to miss it!

Hyrule Historia Video Review

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Prince of Persia Franchise Has Been Put on Pause

Prince of Persia

Prince of Persia

Prince of Persia Franchise Has Been Put on Pause

IGN talked with Ubisoft Montreal CEO, Yannis Mallat, and found out how they plan on keeping the Prince of Persia franchise fresh.

“Brand management is a tricky thing. It needs people’s attention a lot. I think it is fair to say that, right now, Prince of Persia is being paused. But we said the same thing for some other brands that suddenly popped up because a team is willing to do it.”

“I’m not scared at all for Prince of Persia fans. We’ll find something to entertain them with in the future. Prince of Persia is part of Ubisoft’s portfolio. As a matter of fact, we sometimes iterate on franchises and sometimes we give them time to breathe and time to grow, or time to rest. Prince of Persia is as important as any other franchise for Ubisoft. As soon as we have something to show, we will.”

What’s interesting is that last year a screenshot of a rumored Prince of Persia game was leaked. There was also a trailer that teased a game that reminded everyone of Prince of Persia. According to Ubisoft’s latest statements, those media must be from another game.

It seems to me that it would be wise for Ubisoft to give Prince of Persia a breather. The original Prince of Persia came out in 1989 and was published by Brøderbund. Between 1989 and 2003, when the franchise fell into Ubisoft’s hands, there were only two sequels to be released: Prince of Persia 2 and Prince of Persia 3D. However, Ubisoft has been releasing sequels prolifically, publishing 8 Prince of Persia games in 7 years. It’s high time to let the Prince take a bit of a nap if he wants to have energy for the future. In the meantime, the Assassin’s Creed series, which borrowed some of the acrobatic gameplay from Prince of Persia, will go on.

Retro Studios Goes on Buying Spree! Picks Up Vigil, Junction Point, and Bioware Employees

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Retro Studios Vigil Junction Point Bioware

Retro Studios Vigil Junction Point Bioware

Retro Studios Goes on Buying Spree! Pick Up Vigil, Junction Point, and Bioware Employees

Remember when we were joking about how Nintendo should buy Vigil Games, the makers of Darksider 1 and 2? No joke, Retro Studios just picked up a bunch of their employees. What about Junction Point? Those guys are headed by Warren Specter and made Epic Mickey 1 and 2. Retro Studios took some of their employees off the hands of Disney Interactive.

Lastly, Retro Studios also just hired a few ex-Bioware employees. We were working on a big rumor/article we were going to call “Retro 2.0″ but it looks like some of that has already started to come out on its own. But, from what we’ve heard so far, Retro Studios new game will blow whatever you saw from Monolith Soft in the recent Nintendo Direct out of the water. Meaning, it will be nothing short of jaw-dropping.

As you can tell, Nintendo realizes that having franchises like Dragon Quest and Monster Hunter on board their systems is important to have a hand in the the Japanese video game market. But Nintendo also needs a strong plan to control the North American market and win over “hardcore gamers” from Sony and Microsoft. Whereas many may think Nintendo doesn’t have such a plan, the cat is now creeping out of the bag. The plan begins with an expansion of Retro Studios but doesn’t stop there.

Stay tuned for E3 when Retro’s game will get its first reveal and more of Nintendo’s North American agenda becomes clear. In the meantime, look at the new Retro Studios employees:

1. Former: Senior Animator at Bioware. Current: Level 3 Animator at Retro.
2. Former: Concept Artist at Vigil. Current: Contract Concept Artist at Retro.
3. Former: Associate Character Artist at Vigil. Current: Contract Character Artist at Retro.
4. Former: Senior Character Artist at Vigil. Current: Level 3 Character Artist at Retro.
5. Former: Associate Environment Artist from Junction Point. Current: Environment Artist at Retro.

Source: NeoGaf.
via GoNintendo.

Fans Begin Petition for Dark Souls II on Wii U

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Dark Souls Wii U

Fans Begin Petition for Dark Souls II on Wii U

As someone who immensely enjoyed the original Dark Souls, I can identify with this petition. And I hope some of you can too. We would like to get the Wii U off to a good start in terms of third-party support and this seems like it would be a great opportunity as the game is still early on in development. According to the petition:

DARK SOULS II can reach an even larger audience by including development for the Nintendo WiiU. As of now, the game has only been announced for development on PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3.

I can see many ways that the WiiU could benefit the game, such as managing inventory on the touch screen without having to obscure the player’s vision on the TV (the Souls games do not pause, so you must be able to pay attention at all times).

The affordability of a WiiU console compared to a gaming PC, and the free online play compared to Xbox Live fees on 360, make the WiiU version ideal for anyone who does not have or want a PS3.

 

Join the petition by signing here.

Nintendo shows Wii U Zapper/screen prototype, GamePad prototype

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Eguchi This was the start of two-screen gameplay. Iwata Yes. I did that, too. An experiment using the Wii Zapper4 controller was what inspired us to put a gyro sensor in the Nintendo 3DS system, which was in the final phases of development.

Shimamura Yes. After development of Wii Sports Resort, Yamashita-san and I were thinking about something new that would draw upon the knowhow for Wii MotionPlus. We tested gameplay that involved moving the Wii Zapper and having images from the Wii move in sync on a monitor in your hands. It was fairly well received…

Iwata When (Shigeru) Miyamoto-san saw that experiment, he said that he definitely wanted to put a gyro sensor in Nintendo 3DS, so even though the ship was headed out of the harbor, he called it back. This happened after the people in the hardware department had already been declared that “all features are now set!” (laughs)

Yamashita Yeah. (laughs) We intended to present it as a Wii U project, so when it was snatched away for the Nintendo 3DS, we were sad, but also pleased.

Shimamura But thanks to this prototype, however, we were able to explain the structure of Wii U—having a screen in your hands—and it became more compelling.

Iwata The way that Nintendo makes hardware is to take an idea that has arisen and make something makeshift and actually try it out.

Shimamura Right. The next makeshift thing we made for Wii U GamePad concept—a second prototype—is this. Iwata Behold the original form of the Wii U GamePad! (laughs)

Shimamura It’s very high-tech—a monitor and controllers stuck together by double-sided tape. (laughs)

Iwata I remember that you made a lot of prototype software with this.

Shimamura Yeah. If we made a list, I think there’d be about 30. Eguchi We used this prototype and two Wii consoles to run simulations for Wii U. EAD isn’t a hardware department, but a “handicraft team” knowledgeable about hardware makes stuff like this.

Iwata Making this prototype led to Nintendo Land, so the development period for Nintendo Land was quite long. Shimamura Yes, it was.

Iwata Asks


Director Rich Moore Wants Mario To Star In Wreck-It Ralph Sequel

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Wreck-It-Ralph-Mario

Director Rich Moore Wants Mario To Star In Wreck-It Ralph Sequel

From an interview with director Rich Moore:

‘Director Rich Moore is very confident they’ll be getting to work on a sequel in the near future – and he even knows who he wants in it : Mario.

“At dinner last night we were already talking about”, he says, “So we’re talking ‘what could do they do? what kinda of things could happen? who could be in it?”

Mario is someone you’ll definitely see in the next one, says Moore. The only reason the character didn’t appear in the first film is because Moore couldn’t find anywhere for him to go, it wasn’t because Nintendo refused them.

“We’ll really come up with something good for Mario to do [in the next film]“, says Moore. “To be able to present him in the sequel, would be great”.

Interestingly, in a previous interview with IGN, Moore spoke about the specifications Nintendo had when it came to using Bowser in the recently-released movie. Initially, Nintendo wasn’t very thrilled with their take on Bowser:

‘However, it wasn’t all fun and games when it came to depicting these classic characters. Moore recalled one particular snag with Nintendo and their character Bowser:

“We did have kind of a check-in process, where we would show them the footage and say, ‘What do you think? Is it good?’ At one point, [Nintendo] said, ‘Bowser’s much bigger than that. He’s way bigger than Zangief.’ We were like, ‘Okay, we’ll make him bigger. How’s that?’ They’d say, ‘Yes, that’s good — but he wouldn’t drink his coffee like that. He wouldn’t make that mouth.’ [Laughs] Of course, then people from Sega said, ‘Well, Doctor Robotnik is bigger.’ [Laughs] They wanted their characters bigger and bigger. We were going to end up with these giants in a room, with Ralph as this little guy… But I think that stuff really helped. I looked back on our original animation before the Nintendo notes, and it was like, ‘You know, he does look more like Bowser now.’”

 

So, what do you think? Would you want to see Mario in the sequel to Wreck-It Ralph? Do you have hopes or do you think it may flop like the original Super Mario Bros film? And I wonder if it will be voiced by Charles Martinet…

[source] [source]

Will Assassin’s Creed 4 Be Set In Brazil?

assassins_creed_4

Will Assassin’s Creed 4 Be Set In Brazil?

The latest entry of Assassin’c Creed is still hot off the press but Ubisoft Brazil managing director Bertrand Chaverot couldn’t manage to hold back from revealing that the next installment of the franchise will be set in Brazil. Assassin’s Creed 3 featured missions set in the South American country, so it isn’t completely surprising. Still, we wonder how excited this makes fans. From what we’ve heard so far, gamers may not be as excited for more Assassin’s Creed after the third game in the series didn’t live up to the lofty expectations.