We took a look at a couple of racing games at EGX, mainly to do a specific comparison. There were quite a few games of this ilk at the show, including The Crew, and Forza Horizon 2, but we wanted to compare track racers, rather than the open world elements of the others. We played Driveclub on the PS4 and Project Cars on the Xbox One.
Project Cars has more in common with Gran Turismo, and is definitely from the more discerning simulation racer. It's hard to comment on the car tuning capabilities, as the short demo only allowed us a 5 lap race of Silverstone, so we can merely give you a feel for the driving. Visually, the lighting was the most realistic we've ever seen in a game. The race tracks and environments were approaching photorealistic and were pretty stunning. This did mean some pretty mean sun bloom effects, especially at sunset, where a veil of orange sunlight dropped over the track obscuring everything in front of you.
As for the cars, they were very shiny, but to be honest, it's the feel and handling that will really determine the success of a game. As a more realistic racer the driving was the more challenging of the two games. The cars seemed to lack a certain oomph in acceleration, but on the other hand were very hard to control in the tight corners. The driver AI was pretty impressive, especially in terms of other cars shunting you, but the accident rate of other cars was higher too. This was impacted by the fact that minor bumps on the track, whether it was the ridge of the track or debris caused cars to flip violently and get in your way. We were also concerned about the final lap. Despite a terrible performance by the Backwards Compatible drivers we finished in the top 4 and we suspect there was a certain amount of rubber-banding going on in the demo to please the crowd. It remains to be seen if this appears in the final game.
So onto Driveclub. This was a much more arcadey affair, with more vibrant colours, particle effects and twirly smokey stuff flying across the road. It's almost as if the developers had a meeting and decided, 'Lets use ALL the graphics'. Noticeable too was the slightly dirtier aliasing of the vehicles and a slightly jarring frame rate at 30 FPS. The fact that we noticed this means it's visibly discernable. Nevertheless, it's much more fun to play, if you prefer to not worry about adjustable suspension and power-to-weight ratios.
The demo was the same Nilgiri Hills route from the Beta, although a snowy Norwegian mountain circuit was also playable. Lighting was less realistic, however the landscape around the track was much more interesting and pretty to look at. This bodes well for the other locations when we get to see them. It will be interesting if any of the environments have a real impact on gameplay. The Norwegian route had patches of Ice on the track which affected handling, so we look forward to rally routes or alpine races.
Scoring was not just based on position, but also overtakes and beating drifts and high speeds in certain sections of the routes of other players online. Knocking into drivers and the sides of the track deducted you points too. Handling was much more forgiving, with a drift mechanic that felt very similar to the NFS franchise. The whole experience seemed much faster paced, exciting, and accessible.
Overall, two quite different games. Whether ultra-real simulator racing is your bag, or if you prefer to jump in and slide round Northern India, there's something for everyone here. It's good to see an element of diversity in a fairly oversaturated market. The question is, will any of these steal the Need For Speed bottle of bubbly?
Jon met with Mike, after playing the latest version of Volume at EGX in London. He very kindly opened up about his game, discussing the gameplay, music, level editing and even some new unannounced features. You heard it here first, folks!
It’s an intriguing idea that the narrative takes place inside quite a limited environment. Understandably, you're doing this to make the budget more affordable, how are you going to move your plot forward? You've said you won't be using long ‘Kojimaesque' cut-scenes, so will you be doing motion-comic based exposes like Infamous, or do you have something else in mind?
We mix and match a few things. Every thing in the game takes place in the room. We have a couple of cut-scenes, in-game with animation and camera angles. We have a few of those which we use for the big moments. The rest of the story is done with the dialogue between our three principal cast members; Locksley, the AI and the bad guy, Gisborne. And there's some secondary characters who you hear from as well, but it's all kind of done as this voiceover gameplay, which is a bit different, and basically using some of the techniques you see in Lets Plays. I find it very interesting how you can tell a story while the game is going on. It could be an interesting experiment to see if we can pull it off.
You've done a lot of research on the Robin Hood legend. Is Volume closer to the original or are you cherry picking from all the Ballads - we noticed a quote from A 'Lytell Geste of Robyn Hode’. Geste refers to either a tale of exploits or Romantic Story - Does Rob have a love interest in Volume
I'll tell you now. There is no Maid Marion in this game. The romanticism thing; its not just romanticism in terms of romantic love, it's in more in terms of chivalry. A really interesting creation of the Victorian era is that they were obsessed with medieval fiction because, historically, it was the fear of industrialisation, they wanted a simpler time. It's very interesting that we now have Steampunk, which is a nostalgia for Victoriana, because of our fears of industrialisation. Humanity has always looked back at better times. So in terms of how we do it, we don't do the love story. The love story is a crucial part of the Robin Hood Legend, it's not in Volume, because there's a chance people might like Volume and I kind what to have somewhere to go. The Sheriff of Nottingham is not in Volume either.
Did you ever consider writing the Sheriff of Nottingham as a female character?
I have some ideas for the Sheriff, but I'm not going to comment on that yet because, honestly, it can all change. The Sheriff, Maid Marion, the death of Robin Hood, that stuff is all in various other stories. We're basically doing the first game here, we're telling one of the first stories of Robin Hood and one of the often used secondary villains is Gisborne, which is why we're starting with him. It's kind of the Batman Begins approach; you don't put The Joker in the first game.
So will each Volume game be like the ballads and be episodic in form?
It's not that we're planning a franchise, it's that we want to leave the possibility of a franchise open. So I can't tell you the five game plan, because we don't have one. Basically I was very mindful as I didn’t consider the possibility of future Thomas Was Alone (TWA) games, although I may still go back to it at some point. With Volume it feels like it was worth putting some effort into leaving some doors open for ourselves. There is no plan. We'll see how it goes with this one. If it goes well, if people like the world and people like the characters, we have loads of different things we can tap into, and that's the great thing about Robin Hood. There's hundreds of years of stories we can play with.
It's very refreshing to have a game which is quintessentially English. It's going to be great to have a new generation experiencing the Robin Hood story. Do you think, following the tax benefits of producing culturally British games, we will see a resurgence of games that celebrate our culture? Or do you think we'll get a lot of cop-outs that use the UK as a location?
I think it'll definitely have some influence. The way the tax benefits work is that if you're a game developer based in Britain, or in any EU country even, but paying tax in the UK, then you're kind of OK. You don't have to do the cultural test. TWA, for example, qualifies and that's a game set inside a computer mainframe, which could be any location. I don't think a British location is required. What I think the conversation does is it makes people think about this. It certainly made me think about it. I didn't make a Robin Hood game because of the tax breaks, but because of the conversations around the culture. With the ideas floating around of British games, it did make me think, maybe I could explore that. I like British comedy, I like British humour, I like British history, so exploring that and also exploring both the light and the dark.... Robin Hood, the legend, is sort of jingoistic in a lot of ways. There's a lot of cultural identity and prejudice built into those stories. Robin Hood is a story that middle class people have told each other to feel better about poverty for hundreds of years and you can't do a Robin Hood game in this day and age without considering that element of it. Is it OK in this day and age to make a story about a white rich guy who saves poor people? That's kind of been done, so you have to explore that, and hopefully that's what we are doing.
What other British culture would you like to see celebrated in the medium of the games industry?
There’s a wealth of stuff. We have an incredible cultural heritage and I thinks there’s a lot of things. I'd love to see games play with that stuff, I really want to se more open world games, like GTA London. I remember using The Getaway to find out where a McDonalds was in London when I was a kid, I remember that and thinking, ‘That’s cool’.
TWA had a gorgeous soundtrack that was procedurally generated based on how you played it. Is this the case with Volume?
Procedural is a big word, it was actually randomised; it was a bunch of samples and there’s a rule-set as to when those samples can play. What the player is doing has no impact, it’s not reactive. It just pieces together a piece of music that doesn't repeat, essentially. In terms of Volume, the original plan was actually to cheat. We were going to do something very simple, just basically looping tracks. The reality is that it’s got more complex than TWA, because on one level we have ambient music and track and that works very similarly to TWA, but we also have a reactive element to it, now. When you are in action-moments the music picks up again.
Do you mean like the surprised ‘You’ve been discovered!’ sound from MGS?
Musically we experimented with stuff like that. We had whooshes and bells and noises, but what we found was that having the music swell, and it’s quite fast and reactionary, it’s punchy, well.... you notice it. We also have a probability based shout-out system so occasionally enemies will be talking and yelling at you as you go. We found that that created the same effect without ripping off other games.
It wouldn't be a rip-off, it would be an homage surely?
(Smiles) It would be, it would be a nostalgic reference….
Has David (Housden) been influenced by the music of the 15th century when composing? Are we going to hear any electro-troubadour music for instance?
It’s been a real journey to find the sound of this game. The way me and Dave work is essentially I make mix-tapes for him and we make mix-tapes for each other and we bounce tracks we like back and forth. In terms of this one, really, the music is a bunch of things. There’s a lot of instrumental influence from medieval music. You'll be playing the games and a lot of things will come in, like strings, a lot of strings actually because I love strings, and Dave knows that’s the way to make me like a track, to just stick some strings in it. But then also what we found in our musical research was that medieval music doesn't sound as medieval as Hollywood historical music. We've got the real stuff and we also got the ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’ stuff (sings).
Cantering music you mean?
Exactly. No one played music like that back then. We all associate that kind of Hollywood sound with that period, so we bring in some of that and then, yes, we also have a lot of electronica and synths and virtual space sounds. It’s about creating that hybrid, and we also do that with the aesthetic so that the costumes of the characters are a combination of modern fashion and also elements of the medieval. Also the enemies are 'roboty' virtual characters but they also are suits of armour, so we're always trying to blend the future with the medieval, and the music is just one part of that.
Will you have to play as Rob before having the choice to choose a female character?
So, you play as Rob for the story and at the point that you finish the story a bunch of characters are unlocked. So it’s not just a female option, there are multiple options available to you.
That’s the first time we've heard that isn’t it?
I think that’s the first time I've said that, yes. You're welcome (smiles).
Will the story have branching conclusions? Are we looking for good or bad choices?
No. It’s a very locked down story, it is delivered and concludes in such a way that it is open to further play for the player via a few options, character-wise. We've got a game, which is endless in theory, so we're not going to stop you from playing. The story ends, the credits roll and there is a reason to get back into the action.
I noticed the long windows in the volume room. Is this, by any chance, set in a building inspired by the church of Kirk Lees?
No, the only relevance is that it is a warehouse influenced by medieval architecture. The location of where you are is a big plot point, it is established at the start of the game that you are being hunted by Gisborne and he’s getting closer to finding you, creating a tension across the whole game. But no, there’s no relevance to the church at Kirk Lees. Nice try though!
I also enjoyed the lovely oil painting style artwork of some of the characters painted by Daz. Will these feature in the actual game, or are they just design concepts?
They’re your targets. There’s a series of villains who are basically the people who’ve profited from the poor in the world of Volume. People who run the country now and they're archetypal. There’s the soldier, the alchemist, there’s a whole bunch of them. Lots and lots of very nasty people, and yes you are showing the world how to rob from them. So you get their stories and you get to see what part they played in Gisborne’s rise to power.
Part of the central idea of the story is that Rob must increase his notoriety as time goes on in the way he shows off his crimes of the rich. Is Rob the ultimate YouTuber? Is he the PewDiePie of our time?
He is the PewDiePie of our time, yes (smiles). That was the conversation that led to Charlie being cast. I was sitting in the pub talking to some friends and they were asking who my version of Robin Hood was and I said, well basically he’s Charlie McDonnell, but he’s a thiāf, stealing, he’s robbing. Someone round the table said, “I'm mates with Charlie, do you want his phone number?” and that’s how he got cast. It’s that idea if Robin hood existed..well he never really existed, but if he existed now, he wouldn't be hiding in the woods. Robin Hood was always a show off, he would be finding the best way to visibly piss off the rich people.
In terms of the gameplay, will you be replacing XP with ‘views’ to help levelling up in the game?
There’s not a character progression in the game, you unlock levels and through those levels you gain access to new mechanics. The problem with the progression system is the user-generated content. We do use the idea of how many people are watching as a plot device. That’s discussed and talked about.
When it comes to mixing your levels - you said really good versions of the core levels could become the definitive version. We like the idea that the actual game could evolve as people play it. Lets imagine new players come to Volume a few months down the line; Will there be a radio switch that lets people play ‘Vanilla’ Volume or ‘remixed’ Volume?
Yeah. The way the game works is that it tracks your play and it delivers story moments to you based on your progress through the game. The progress does’t mean the progress through the core vanilla levels...I like the term Vanilla levels, I’ll never use it in the game, but I like it….those levels are unlocked by completing previous levels. They are essentially tutorial, walking you through learning how to play at a simple pace, they’re how the game is designed to be played, but they are one option from a set off tabs: Core Game and Online. If you wanted to, yes, you could experience all the story without touching the levels we've made.
How do you feel about that?
I feel awesome about that! It’s really interesting, that’s why I'm doing it (smiles).
We've never seen that before. Is there a precedent for it?
Probably. I don't know if it’s unprecedented, but it’s certainly interesting. I read a lot about Vampire: The Masquerade -Bloodlines. I love how that game’s changed since release. And if you’ve played it recently, through the community updates, it’s a completely new game.
Much like the Terratech chaps who released a very early Alpha and got feedback from their community?
Yeah, but I like the idea of designing the game without that feedback, making the mechanics where I want them to be, but then just setting them free and see what happens.
Will it be possible, therefore, for players to record their own voices and replace Danny and Charlie’s VO?
No. That’s something we’ve talked about but is beyond the scope of what we can do with this game.
That could also leave it open to a certain amount of abuse too?
Sure, we analyse text and we decide whether something is suitable for the community using normal text filtering.
And, ahem, silly-shaped levels?
Silly shaped levels will get through, but honestly, if anyone wants to make a cock out of a 31 x 31 pixel grid, they’re more than welcome to. If the audience want to do that, they can. They can't make anything too anatomically correct, so I think we're fine.
What’s the likely age rating for Volume?
We don’t know yet. I know that, in terms of the content we're creating, we’re targeting quite a low age rating. It’s not an 18 certificated game. In terms of how things will work with user-generated content, we have to investigate and talk to the ratings board and find out how we're going to place that.
For the desktop versions of the games, you're planning PC and Mac. Will you be supporting Linux?
We’re not committing to that as Linux can be a bit shaky, we’re committing to PC and Mac and we’ll probably give Linux a go, but I’m not going to say it’s coming until I know it’s coming. The PC and Mac versions will be coming one month after the console versions.
Will desktop users be able to mod the game beyond the actual level designer?
No. Because it’s a Unity game it is going to be pretty locked down. They can can certainly try, and it will be interesting to see what they produce but we’re not going to go beyond the level editor by design.
Do you feel that you still have the same amount of control over your project with extra devs on hand, or do you sometimes feel you have to accommodate other ideas at the expense of your own?
I've put a team around me that I respect and have yet to see them come to me with anything that is not better than what I suggested. Genuinely. I have a world class team working with me and they are all better at what they do than I am.
You made a decision to make Volume a non-violent game and not have killing. Do you think the gaming audience will eventually tire of first-person shooters?
No, and I haven’t. I love first person shooters, I adore first person shooters, I can't imagine a time when I’m not going to enjoy them. it’s a very basic, instinctively fun activity. I think it’s a cool way to play a video game. It wasn't right for Volume, but I'm never going to rule out doing a game with that content because I enjoy playing that content.
Volume is looking much more polished and ‘next-gen’. At what point did you feel, ‘Yes, that’s a product that is worthy of the PS4'?
I don’t yet (laughs), I’m never going to stop iterating and fiddling, however the big moment for me was when we got some new lighting stuff in. We were looking at Lockesley and there was a point where the camera was close enough to him that you could see if there was a problem. To me he looks like a character from a PS4 game.
We noticed when we looked at Locksley in the main menu he was very polished and soft focus, very suited to PS4.
Thank you, and that’s actually in-game too, when you’re playing the game there’s some cool depth of field stuff. For me that looks like a game worthy of those platforms.
This time round, you have a much larger voice cast. Were there more challenges involved ?
I outsourced a studio to record, but I'm always in the room directing. I direct those scenes, I also write those scenes. The biggest challenge is getting natural interaction. That’s when you have two characters talking to each other and making it sound like they are chatting to each other. The way we did that was literally by putting them in the same room. With Danny and Charlie, we spent a day rehearsing it, we booked out a theatre space in London and we rehearsed like it was a play. The following day we went into the VO studio and they recorded it in the same room, talking to each other. The bad guy, Gisborne...
Who is playing Gisborne?
Nice try (smiles), we are recording him in a couple of weeks but he'll be working with a recording of Danny and Charlie’s performance. He’s a very fine actor so this shouldn't be a problem. It’s going to be very fun announcing that.
And when will you be announcing him?
I'm not committing to that yet, not publicly anyway (laughs).
How are you going to ensure longevity of Volume post release?
We're going to bring the game out and see whether people like it, we're going to see what they like about it, what part of the game is interesting to them and we're going to try and serve content that they want. I’m not interested in making the same game for three years after release, so it’s not going to be an update every month, but if there’s something that’s not working we'll fix it and if an idea comes to me and I want to try something cool with the game, then I'll add it. There is no content plan, there is no structure.
Will Project #3 have any VR control capabilities?
I’ve no idea. That’s an honest answer. I don't know, yet, if even Volume will (smiles).
Finally, how keen are you to hear the phrase “From the creator of Volume” appear on future projects?
Hah, we'll see how it reviews. TWA was something like my seventh game, so it would be nice to have another worthy of being on the poster. We'll see how it reviews...
New footage showing more gameplay feature and voice overs from Charlie McDonnell and Danny Wallace
Backwards Compatible would like to thank Mike for his time.
All images and footage courtesy of Mike Bithell Games
We ducked into the Sony stand first thing to avoid the queues this morning and had a go at the latest offering by From Software. Battleborne is the spiritual successor to the Dark Souls games, but not directly linked plot-wise.
First off the game looks fantastic. We're still playing Dark Souls on our old office 360 and the upgrade in visual quality is considerable. The dark gothic steeples, the wet shine on the damp cobbles and the extra detail on the enemies you face is incredibly pleasing. Dark Souls fans are going to wet their pants.
We tried two character classes; the first, a twin-knifed assassin type with more speed and agility was actually quite a good way to start playing, especially if you're a beginner. The control and combat system is very familiar, although it has been tweaked slightly. The inventory system is more logical, with the health replenish tied to the triangle button. There is no shield to use in Bloodborne, so your left hand is free to use another weapon, in this case a pistol, which acts as your limited supply alternate fire weapon. Fighting in particular ways help to boost your health, encouraging a more intense flow to battle, and increasing the tension. Hitting enemies at certain times can also bring about a more powerful powered up blow with your weapons and allows you to defeat more challenging characters.
Nevertheless it is still challenging, and the difficulty still scaled up, even in the short time we had to play. It definitely had a familiar feel, albeit in a prettier, polished package. Bloodborne is released in Japan in February 2015.
Backwards Compatible met with Jolyon Webb and Russell Clarke, developers of Terratech, at EGX, to talk more about the game.
JW: Yeah, you get very close to the things you make, what happened is that, going months back now, we first showed this to the public at Rezzed, and we were wondering whether people would have the patience to snap things together; would they enjoy that experience or would they go 'oh this is a novelty’ and then give up after a couple of minutes? What we found is, kind of what we hoped would happen, is happening. there is a core interest into ‘Ooh if that falls over, maybe I can make it more stable if I do that...'
BC: That’s how we’ve been playing it, especially in the flying challenge. we’ve been spending a lot of our time trying to work out the optimum power to weight ratio. We looked at the community creations and downloaded and looked at some to copy and test ourselves. We like the challenge modes as it gives us an idea of what to expect in the main game.
JW: Also, you know like in a big strategy game or a complex shooter game, there’s a daunting level of complexity. You almost have to take night classes! There’s a massive attraction to that but it’s not an easy entry point. We wanted something where, hopefully, within a couple of minutes you’re amused by something and you discover something.
BC: In the demo you start with a single block. in the full game will you start with a base to work from or do you have the same situation where you need to scavenge and level up first?
JW: Everything is still evolving, partly because we keep going to shows and the Beta is expanding. The Beta is going really well for us, people are really interested, we’re getting a very engaged community and it keeps giving us ideas; people have an enthusiasm for a certain type of gameplay and they speak loudly about what they want.
BC: So would you consider two different modes - a beginners mode for exploration and an ‘iron-man’ mode for the hard core fan ?
JW: At this point we want the world to have its own logic, rather than splitting it up. What we hope is going to happen is that complexity emerges through playing and through people interacting, but also that we don’t impose complexity at the early stages. What we may do later on is introduce ‘safe areas’ where people who enjoy the experimentation can kind of dive in and play with that.
BC: The picture/save feature is awesome. How easy is it implement in pictures on the internet? Can any picture taken in game be posted anywhere on the internet and be used to load a vehicle? I can see sights with awesome galleries being stopping points for prospectors wanting to try out new vehicles.
JW: It has to be done through the game because what’s happening is there is metadata in the picture. The picture stores a ‘recipe’ which is the list of blocks and their connections and their relative values and that can be quite complex. You can compress that information down very small and then what happens is Russ has developed a way to code spare space into the picture and all the data is merged together. If you open it as a picture, it just looks like a normal picture, but when you open it in the game it hunts down the extra data to load the vehicle.
BC: Could this feature be built into video? I could see a video version of soundcloud, where in-line comments could be saves of vehicles at that point.
RC: You wouldn’t be able to get it just from the image - you’d have to encode into the stream somehow..
JW: It would be cool though wouldn’t it? Very cool!
RC: Theoretically we could that in the game by dynamically encoding into a video on screen. The only thing is is the information gets compressed, so you’d have to somehow…
JW: You know how you can tap comments into a YouTube video? Could we do something similar to that?
BC: Do you have any plans for more freedom when it comes to personalisation of vehicles like an in-game paint job designer
JW: We thought about that. One of the really interesting things about designing the look and the feel of the vehicles is…every other game I’ve ever worked on I’ve designed the objects and maybe the variations on them, like designing the whole house. Here, we’re designing the bricks. The secret of good car design is supposedly you can draw it with five lines. For instance with an E-Type Jag or an old-school Land Rover, three or four lines and you can see the shape. In Terratech you need personality within the components. But you still have relatively little control over how they are constructed by users. If you paint a small section, or put a sticker on it, when it gets larger it can end up as flashing little bits of irritating detail.
BC: So will players ever be able to create their own corporations with a unique look and character?
JW: The answer to that is, we just don’t know. We've actually got plans for nine corporations all of which hit most of the major sci-fi clichés. We think clichés are really really good fun, we don't know why people get so worried about them! They're emotional hooks. We want people to pick up things and say, “hell, I kinda get what this is about and.. oh, that’s cool.”
BC: The Venture Corporation buggies look quite like the Big Trak toys you used to get back in the 80’s…
JW: Yes! And it also has half a nod to the old Evel Knieval toys too. So people will say ‘ I know this one, This is the fast one.’ With nine corporations and most of them which are likely to have a minimum of 15 parts, maybe they could go up to twenty or forty parts. So you’ve got a nine times twenty times…I don’t know, you get an infinite explosion of combinations….
BC: Do you build the whole thing first and then break it down?
JW: What we do is create concepts of whole vehicles. We try to decide what will be a cool looking vehicle and also try to decide what the character of an individual block would be. The key thing is, you should be able to see a block and read a good deal of personality from the block.For example if you take one of the earliest ones, the GSO, which has this slightly clunky, soviet era, style, it's very heavily influenced by a lot of the paneling on lorries and jeeps, there tend to be soft curves, kinda round edges. If you think of a tractor you see fairly ugly blocky shape, but it has a character from its functionality. Looking at the Venture Corporation which is going in now, some of the bracing and curves are very much based on high tech sports composites. If you think of the shapes you might get with carbon fibre cowling on F1 cars. Or carbon fibre on artificial limbs too, that express a movement and a dynamism.
BC: How concerned are you that the game needs a narrative?
JW: We have plans for a narrative backstory, but we’re not going to lead you through it chapter by chapter. The first thing we want people to do is have fun rather than sit down and listen to a plot. Again from talking Terratech to the shows, is that people who go and say ‘What’s the story?” sit and down and a couple of minutes in, don’t care. Each one of the Corporations exist in the game world, each with their own personality, and some of the side quests in the game may link into that personality. The aim is also to inject moments of humour and conflict into the game. We don't want to slam them with the story but hopefully there’s also a depth and resonance to them that makes the world interesting.
BC: Do you have any plans for more extreme environments? Space or Zero-G environments?
JW: There’s been a lot of talk about zero-g environments. It is interesting as our initial thoughts were to focus on land-based vehicles. We started putting boosters in and very rapidly they got hacked and people were jumping and we thought, heck! Let’s go with this. it made the game very interesting and challenging. Every thing has a weight, a mass, a thrust, a torque. There’s all the inherent logic to allow it to operate in a zero-g environment. I don’t think its going to happen very soon, but we inherently like the idea. We talked about water as well and that becomes much more challenging again because of the buoyancy and drag.
BC: Have you tried to make the real world physics as real as possible?
JW: It’s not a aerodynamics lab to test real world simulation, but the rules are consistent and they’re based on real world physics, so they’re a simplification of real world physics. Conceptually to the observer they behave like real world physics. If you move too far from that, it doesn’t tie into the brain stem stuff. The thing about the screen is you can’t smell it, you can’t touch it, it’s not real and they way that you brake through that is that you trigger as many things that speak to a person’s real experiences. The key things is you have to give people a reason why they are doing this. You need to give an example where people see it and understand it. The interest and complexity will explode as we add more and more modules.
BC: Do you have plans to go beyond the PC and Mac to the consoles?
JW: We’re very, very open to that and we’ve had conversations around this possibility, I won’t say any more than that. It runs in Unity so, apart from all the usual adjustments, the core of Unity is an excellent platform for moving across to the consoles.
BC: Would it work on mobile?
JW: Yes it would; it would need an interface that is as simple as possible, but we’ve kept that fairly simple for the game anyway. The second thing is that it makes it plausible for a touch and swipe, pinch and zoom sort of action. The physics simulations are expensive to run, so you wouldn’t get a very large number of blocks running on a very old mobile phone, but this stuff’s evolving all the time. look at the iPhone 6, it’s staggering what it can do.
Do you plan to monetise content at any point in the future?
JW: We’re all gamers working in a game company. I enjoy DLC, but I’m not so sure about the whole pay-to-win thing. It’s a world to have fun in it’s not for reaching level 20 and the progression is impossible without buying the crystals, you know?
RC: We’re not opposed to in-game monetisation, but the reasons we haven’t gone down that road is because of the market that we’re pursuing. PC gamers are not very open to that sort of transaction, it may work if we go onto mobile devices. We don’t like the idea of speed-ups, etc. They give a bad name to the whole gaming world, but there are games that allow you to spend a whole lot of money, such as League of Legends; you don’t feel bad because you get a whole lot of content.
BC: With the sumo challenge being very Robot War-esque it makes great viewing for streaming. Have you considered that Terratech may be a cool game for e-sports?
JW: We put the game out into to the community to find out what people would do with it. The sumo mode wasn’t our most important feature to begin with but people liked it. If that continues to grow, then I don’t see why not, but that particular mode, in my opinion, doesn't have the most potential for e-sports, but it may be good for streaming and YouTube. I think the more strategic gameplay has potential for e-sports to make a MOBA-like event in real time.
BC: What other games have you seen here for the first time that have impressed you this weekend?
RC: Tiny Keep is great, that’s really, really cool and goes on sale on Monday. It’s a procedural dungeon crawler with rogue-like aspects, but very accessible. One that’s completely new to me is Speedrunners - a party game. Imagine micro-machines as a side scrolling platformer with weapons and power ups. It’s brilliant.
JW: Never Alone. I don’t know how deep it is, but for heaven sake, they’ve nailed the look of it. It’s really, really lovely. There’s also a game called Calvino Noir which is a side scroller set in a 1930’s Austrian City. You have a combination of a noir aesthetic with the architecture of the time. Quite a gritty game.
Backwards Compatible thank Jolyon and Russell for their time.
The game looks and sounds incredible and is a fantastic piece of work from an independent development team, capturing the feel of the weather and landscape of the Alaskan Tundra.
Never Alone will be available on Steam, The Xbox One and PS4 this November.
We had an all-too brief play of Alien Isolation. We had a chance at survival mode, with the aim of getting past the level before our 10 minute time restriction. The demo drops you inside one of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation's ships, with little narrative explanation. You have a few moments in a 'safe' room to pick up various items before you venture out into the main corridors of the ship.
The items included batteries (for your torch), scraps of metal, and other trinkets which, at the time of play, were not clear as to their purpose. Oh, and a flame thrower. This sounds exciting, and if we thought we could rampage through the darkly lit corridors of the spaceship burning xenomorphs in our path, we were wrong. The flamethrower had two shots. Great.
It is obvious Alien Isolation has an emphasis on stealth, skulking and climbing through hatches. The tension of being caught is palpable, especially with the ever present clicking of the motion tracker to essentially shit you up. As you view the motion tracker, your main view becomes blurred, so the balance you have between searching for imminent threats and being able to see your surroundings adds further to the scares. Your destination is also marked on the motion tracker, and it keeps the main view refreshingly HUD free, allowing you to keep an eye out for the big black beastie.
And what of the Alien? 10 minutes wasn't enough to really gauge how good the AI was, but needless to say, once it spots you the fear levels rise exponentially. We were told, in our briefing before the demo, to ensure we break the line of sight between the alien and ourselves, and this worked in some cases, but most of the time we were toast. Ripley we are not. In essence you have to constantly check the range of the Alien, frantically search the area you are in for resources (your torch battery eventually runs out and you don't want to be in the dark with that thing) and make your way towards your destination.
Visually the game is an Alien-fan's wet dream. From the retro-future decor to the 80's chunky, rounded edged CRT modules, big heavy buttons and slightly beige veneer on walls to the oh-so familiar metallic venting and black, green and orange hues from the Aliens films, they've definitely cracked the feel and look of the environment. There are plenty of references to the films, with books and toys strewn around (the japanese robot and the dipping stork) and even photos of the crew stuck to the inside of the doors of the lockers you can hide in. Mind you we were too busy watching a spiky tail burst through our chest...
Alien Isolation comes out on October the 7th.
We had a chance to play the HD update of Sleeping dogs and it's looking pretty good. In fact it would be truthful to say it is one of the best HD versions of any game we've seen. All in-game skins and textures have been re-renedered and it is looking stunning. All DLC from the original version comes with the game, and we had great fun zooming around in the Sting (the fastest vehicle from the original) looking like Adam Jensen from Deus Ex.
The game is coming out on October the 10th, and has some pretty stiff competition up against it (Alien Isolation) but is a desirable update for fans of the game and a must buy if you never got round to playing it the first time.
Backwards Compatible are at EGX and we will be bringing you previews and observations of the games as we play them. Follow this feed to get updates and opinions from the weekend.