April 28, 2013

Next Mass Effect design team gets even bigger

A titbit on Mass Effect 4 – new designers added to the team:

"Following the closure of Impossible Studios, several senior staffers who were working onInfinity Blade: Dungeons have joined BioWare Montreal as leads on the next Mass Effecttitle. Colin Campbell, who was the lead world designer on Impossible predecessor Big Huge Games' Kingdom of Amalur, will serve as lead level designer on Mass Effect 4 Or Something. Ian Frazier, lead designer on Kingdom of Amalur, will be lead gameplay designer on Mass Effect 4 Or Something."

The 'or something' is probably referencing what Mac Walters recently said where he thought the fourth game in the Mass Effect universe would not be called 4. 

Hat Tip: Kotaku

April 26, 2013

Is this the best ever Sarah Kerrigan cosplay you've ever seen?


During a promotional event for Starcraft II's Heart of the Swarm this wonderful cosplay version of Sarah Kerrigan turned up to get her hands on a deluxe edition of some kind.

Queen of Blades
Pay attention to the detail, it's simply phenomenal. The make up and body paint is very well done. This costume must have taken many many hours to plan and apply.

I think this is probably the best Kerrigan cosplay that's done the rounds! Queen of Blades indeed.


Found here.

April 25, 2013

Who's excited for the new Xbox reveal?

April 21, 2013

Who knew the Master Chief originally had a sword?

chief with sword combat evolved

Only the keenest Halo fans would have known the Master Chief was originally designed to have a sword (as this early design work shows). Guess I'm not that keen a Halo fan eh? 

Presumably the sword was to counter those of the Elite. 

It wasn't until H2 that players got their hands on an energy sword and indeed it wasn't until Halo 3 that the  flame-thrower that was infamously designed was able to be used to burn the Flood into crispy critters. 

Hunter Class wallpaper for Destiny


Here's a new picture released by by Bungie's DeeJ of a Hunter class character from Destiny. It looks pretty bad ass and you can use it as desktop / wallpaper - simply right click and saving is your easiest way to download the image.

April 17, 2013

Bioware's Mike Gamble reviews the ME3 DLC, gets all nostalgic like

mass effect logo banner

Here's a long post written by Mike Gamble, a very involved producer of Mass Effect 3. It covers the DLC that followed the launch of Mass Effect 3. It gives a great insight into the reason used to fashion stories, some of the emotion carried by the development team about the Mass Effect series and it also acknowledges how much Bioware listened to what fans of the game had to say along the way and did some work to reflect those desires. He also talks about what went on during the crunch for the Extended Cut to address the ME3 ending fiasco
Post launch support is something that we’ve taken very seriously at BioWare. Since ME2, we’ve worked hard to make our DLCs special, and expand our worlds in fantastic ways – long after the game has been released. DLC gives us an opportunity to try new things (Lair of the Shadowbroker car chase, Citadel party), but also gives us an opportunity to tell interesting stories that, while related to the core game experience, are fun and unique in their own way.
Downloadable content at BioWare also gives us the opportunity to use our extremely talented team, and further develop their skills. To provide good post launch support, there’s sort of an ebb and flow to things. We have to balance between teams in BioWare Edmonton and BioWare Montreal. Focus on supporting single player adventures, as well as multi player expansions. All the while, we need to maintain a consistent level of quality in these packs, while listening to our fans for feedback and support.

When I was first asked to be the Producer for the ME3 DLC plan, we were somewhere in the twilight hours of development on the ME3 base game. Of course, at that time, the entire team was desperately trying to pack as much quality into the remaining time– so I can easily admit my focus wasn’t yet on the year *after* we shipped the game. We just needed to make sure we released an awesome game. Besides, I thought, I had been the Producer for most of the ME2 DLC…what could possibly go wrong or be different? Fast forward to the day that we submitted the main game to certification. Many cheers and high-fives were given around the office, but for me and the first DLC team – work was only really getting going.

From the beginning, the objective for us was clear. We wanted Mass Effect 3 to be a game that people loved for the entire year, long after they had finished it the first time. We wanted to broaden the story that we had produced in the main game, deepen relationships, add new characters and amazing missions, and support this little feature called Multiplayer the best we could. These were the key pillars of the plan, but of course, plans are built so that they can change…and I’m glad they did!

As soon as we completed the main game, we moved onto From Ashes nearly immediately. From Ashes was a tough one. The team had been pushing pretty hard to complete the main game, and everyone deserved a nice break. Well, everyone except for the From Ashes team! We had learned a lot from our previous character DLCs, and decided to ensure that we focused our development on broadening Javik as a character, and fully integrating him into the ME3 story. Doing that is a huge task, and it involved a bit of planning and foresight as you need to put certain hooks into the main-game for it to connect to the DLC content properly.

We also needed to make sure that Javik felt just as fleshed out as the other squad mates. We learned what we did right and what we needed to improve with previous characters like Zaeed and Kasumi. For Javik, we ended up writing numerous character moments for him, making him part of squad banter, and developing his personal story throughout the large arc of ME3.

After From Ashes launched, we were inspired by the amount of great feedback we had received regarding the character. People found him strong, intelligent, and humorous. It was positive and reassuring to know that the fans loved him. We were, of course, seeing feedback for other aspects of the game too – interpreting the feedback on the endings of the main game became a strong focus for the ME3 team, and helped us to shape the direction of DLC in the coming months.

The Extended Cut was an extremely challenging but rewarding experience. On one side, we wanted to ensure that we put the Extended Cut out as soon as we could for the fans to enjoy with their playthroughs. To that end, we reprioritized the DLC team to put the Extended Cut first on the schedule. On the other side, we wanted to make sure the extended cut answered a lot of the questions that the fans had as well as provide additional clarity and closure. The core ME3 leads and DLC team sat down together for nearly a week and charted out the entire ending sequence on a giant flow chart, with a consolidated list of fan feedback up on the projector screen to ensure we were capturing the right goals.

We made additions, tweaks, and adjustments to the flow, and built in the expanded depth that you see in the Extended Cut. We tried to account for as many characters, plots, and variables as we could fit into the DLC – constantly battling the download size, with some platforms having an upper limit of 2 GB (a technical limit we eventually solved for the Citadel pack). With the Extended Cut’s size and complexity, it was sometimes a dice roll whether or not the build would succeed. It was a hard push to the end… but the team enjoyed the opportunity to spend a little more time resolving the end of the trilogy. When the Extended Cut was released, there was a unanimous breath of relief from the entire DLC team. Onward to our next DLC.

Next for us was Leviathan. Because the extended cut reprioritized our time, we were able to spend some more energy on the ideation process around what we wanted Leviathan to be. Interestingly, it took us some time to actually figure out what we wanted to cover in our first ME3 story-based DLC. Was it a story that was parallel to the war, or tangential? Did it focus on the Krogan? Or perhaps the Salarian STG groups? As we went through this exercise, we eventually solidified on one thing.

We wanted the DLC to be about exploring the galaxy, and giving the player a mystery to solve. The fun part, for us, was to see how we could make that work within the framework of ME3. Our fantastic writing team took that concept, and worked with a number of ideas that they were tossing around at the time (Leviathan of Dis was one of those!). In the end, the story of Leviathan, and its connection to the origin of the Reapers was one that we were all excited for.

After the initial concept, the development process for Leviathan went fairly smoothly, and we made sure we included a lot of existing elements that we knew the fans would enjoy (squad banter, deep character interactions, etc). Of course, while the BioWare Edmonton team was working on Leviathan, the team in Montreal was cooking up something special as well.

Omega was different for us for a variety of reasons. First, it was developed primarily by the team at BioWare Montreal, and it had begun development shortly after the release of ME3. Second, Omega gave us the ability to return to a much-beloved area from ME2, and really flesh it out like we had never been able to do before. What does Omega look like underneath the shopping district you saw in ME2? How far would Aria go to reclaim it? What other interesting enemies and friends called the space station their home? The focus for the team in Montreal was to really answer some of those questions, and to create new places and characters that broadened the series.

Of particular note, Omega also gave us the ability to explore a new character by the name of Nyreen. She was a female turian, and while we had alluded to female turians before, we had never shown one. Of course, a lot of the driving force behind that came directly from the fans and their feedback. I don’t think we could have predicted how popular Nyreen ended up being with the fans, but we’re glad she did. We were recently discussing some of the amazing cosplay we recently saw at PAX, and were proud that she was an inspirational character for some.

Our final DLC for the trilogy, Citadel, was a real treat for us to do, and personally it was my favorite DLC to work on since Shadow Broker. It allowed us to close out the trilogy while adhering to the pillars that Mass Effect has become known for. We’re very much aware that Mass Effect is driven by the incredible characters which incorporate the galaxy, so even our earliest plans for ME3 DLC had us ending on one last adventure that focused on memorable moments with favorite characters. Of course, with the Citadel being an iconic location for us, we also wanted to showcase some of the areas of the space station that players had previously only wondered about – but without a doubt, our focus was on the characters.

That’s why, when we started production on the Citadel, we ensured that the writing and cinematics teams were well equipped to bring our characters to life in new and exciting ways. A tango for Garrus? A music performance from Tali? All of these scenes worked into the larger theme of the pack – a love letter from us, to the trilogy and to our fans. We wanted to round out the pack with some amazing additions (such as the Casino Hub area and the Combat Simulator), in order to add additional value to the pack, and to give us an opportunity to bring in some of the gameplay advances that we’d been pushing in multiplayer over the past year. Now that it’s all completed, we’ve been humbled by the fan reaction to it.

Of course, no discussion of DLC would be complete without talking about our multiplayer content as well. Originally, we didn’t know what to expect from players regarding multiplayer. We had never done a feature like this in Mass Effect before, but we hoped that it would prove itself when the game released. Needless to say, we were pleasantly surprised. From the beginning, we had always planned to support the MP feature with free DLC. What we didn’t plan for is how much we would end up doing!

We wanted to keep the player-base from becoming splintered (like the mind's eye) (those who did download the DLC vs. those who didn’t), and we wanted to make sure that everyone had access to the content. Once we saw that people were playing (and loving) multiplayer, our imaginations went wild. What other features could we add? How many more kits would the engine support? Could we give players access to new challenges, and have their progress reflected on the web? We were able to do all of that, and more.

We have an extremely talented levels and gameplay team who have been tasked over the past year with making multiplayer an ever-growing service. Our only constraint has been how quickly we were able to get the content out. Since we’ve always been developing a story-based single player DLC, it normally meant that we had to develop the multiplayer content at the same time. That was a bit tough on the team, but we have an extremely experienced team, and they were able to deal with it. A full year and 5 multiplayer expansions later, we’ve packed the game to the gills, and it was only possible thanks to your support.

I sincerely hope that we’ve been able to entertain you over the past year, and I’m glad we have such an amazing fan base. You’ve been great. You tell us what works and what doesn’t, and you’ve helped to make this year one of the most rewarding of my life. Thank you.

To see what Mike might be up to these days, why not follow him on Twitter.

April 11, 2013

Will Destiny include competitive multiplayer?

Bungie stalwart Joseph Staten had this to say when asked the question in an interview:

"Destiny is built on a strong foundation of co-op and competitive play and it’s a Bungie game. We love competition, we love that part of the gamer.

We’re not talking about that part of Destiny yet, but you should assume that it’s a Bungie game and we love competitive multiplayer, if you love that then you’ll love Destiny, too."

Which pretty much confirms that Destiny will have a multiplayer component. And why not, they are pretty damn good at it!

April 9, 2013

'Pathways into Darkness' remake available at the Mac Store

pathways into darkness

This is pretty cool news.

You know how Bungie made games before Halo? One of them was called Pathways Into Darkness and it's just been given some love (i.e. remade) and is available from the Mac Store FOR FREE.

"In August of 1993, Bungie Software released Pathways into Darkness the most advanced and ground breaking First Person Shooter for the Macintosh.

The game broke new ground combining Adventure gameplay with the new First Person Shooter game that was just emerging onto the scene. As time passed, the Macintosh hardware and software changed and the game Pathways into Darkness was no longer playable on a modern computer… Until Now.

Painstakingly recreated and updated for OS X, Pathways into Darkness is now free and available for ancient grizzled fans and newcomers to the series.

Sixty-four million years ago, a large extra-terrestrial object struck the Earth in what would later be called the Yucatan Peninsula, in southeastern Mexico. The dust and rock thrown up by the resulting explosion caused enormous climactic changes in the ensuing years, and many of the Earth's species became extinct during the long winter that followed...."

Learn more about this game at the Bungie.org site

I want to know what video game it is!?

I found this text on Texts From Last Night relating a dude being inspiration for someone else's video game...

(310): Dude, just found out there's a monster in a video game named after me. No more dating nerds.

I gotta wonder at what he did to warrant the name honorific...

April 4, 2013

"One loves to possess arms, though they hope never to have occasion for them” said some guy who never played Halo

Another story from the recent GDC conference about Halo 4 – one in which Josh Holmes, who as the creative director for the game, talks about what weapons were cut from the game. The reasoning is most interesting – they were cut from the Sci Fi game for being too Sci Fi!

Josh Holmes told the GDC that "when we started out, I was really pushing the team to go in a very sci-fi direction. I wanted to embrace the sci-fi nature of the enemies and explore concepts that were outside the box for Halo, things that you'd never seen before in the Halo sandbox."

"What we found as we were testing these weapons with players, the really deep sci-fi approach wasn't relatable. As a result, they weren't really gravitating to these weapons."

Eventually, 343 Industries had to make sure that all the weapons in the game could be understood by players immediately. For example, the scattershot is "at it's core, a shotgun," even if it does disintegrate enemies. The other weapons that made Halo 4's final roster all have immediately understandable real-world counterparts, like a sniper rifle or an assault rifle.

"One of the barriers to entry with Halo is that it is sci-fi," Holmes pointed out. "It's had a very steep learning curve that's turned off a lot of players."

To me it sounds like the catering to  ‘noobs’ statement that found it's way out of GDC.

In the end, the Forerunner weapons were just variants of the Human / Elite weapons of choice – probably done mostly for balance reasons than the above…

This video below shows a very clever dude who’s figured out how to show some of these unpolished / unfinished items actually in game.

April 3, 2013

An early Forerunner exploration - Tom Scholes Halo 4 concept design art

foreunner-concept-design-Tom Scholes

Artist Tom Scholes has posted some of the design work he did for Halo for on his site, Crayonbox of Doom.

It’s clear his work ended up having a lot of influence in the look of the game – his Forerunner design seems to have played a role in the campaign level where the Chief meets the Librarian and some of the elements of the maps found in Spartan Ops.

Scholes’ work can be found in the book Awakening: The Art of Halo 4 which features' concept art, character sketches and detailed environments' from a range of artists.

If you like other books, we totally suggest you download the ebook of Mortal Engines.

April 2, 2013

Who is the Queen of the Reef in Destiny?

All we know about the Queen of the Reef thus far is that when bounties are completed for this mysterious character, the player will earn in-game currency.

The Reef is a location in Destiny on an unknown planet, one would naturally assume the Queen was the lady in charge of that end of the woods!

343 talks about the in game limitations of the Prometheans of Halo 4


While everyone was talking about Joe Staten's Destiny panel at GDC, the lads from 343 Industries were also having a post mortem on Halo 4. An intruiging story has come out from Scott Warner about the challenge of designing the Promethean enemy and the success of it.

"We had a number of concerns about the Forerunners that we thought went not completely according to plan and could be improved upon"

IAn apparent "absence of high level vision" on the various Promethean creatures' gameplay mechanics caused 343 to pursue design ideas that were ultimately canned: "It would have been easier for us to understand if we'd had more definition around these characters early on, as far as who they were." Warner gave the example of a prototype build in which two Promethean Knights balled themselves up and attacked Master Chief.

On game play level , Warner mused his view that Halo 4's enemies were shipped with damage tuning and gameplay mechanics that were less than ideal. "The Watcher often encourages a one dimensional approach to those encounters," Warner said, "which we saw develop over time through using research and our own play testing. We knew it'd be a problem, [but] we didn't have a great solution for it before we shipped."

"The damage tooling for the characters," he explained, "we felt like we went a little bit too aggressive with this. When you fight the Watcher, there isn't really a good way to circumvent that interaction with him fast, you have to put a bunch of bullets in him – same way with the Knight. So that, over time, can tip the scale to where it's less fun to interact with him."

Warner explained further how the Prometheans gave they player little in the way of 'tells' as to what they were up to. "The Covenant do a good job of telling you that you've surprised them, or they've got the drop on you, or they feel proud that they've taken you out; that they're scared," he said.

"Our Prometheans don't do that very well, they're very – I hesitate to use the term 'robotic', but they tend to not show a lot of emotion or communicate their state very well in terms of what we'd like to do, what we think would be ideal for those characters. So that's one big area of improvement we're looking for as we move along with our character development in future games."

I've played Halo 4 through twice now and would have to agree with the Watcher observation - if anything should have been cut from Halo 4, it was the Watchers. They offer little of the classic Halo excitement prior games have offered!

Is this the sexiest piece of concept artwork Bungie have ever released?


Is this the sexiest piece of concept artwork Bungie have ever released? It's an Awoken,  a class of character that may be able to be selected as a Guardian for Destiny.

What are the Exo in Bungie's Destiny?


The Exo are character class / player species that players can choose to play as Guardians in Bungie's Destiny Game.

The Exo have been described as the Terminators of the Destiny universe, brutal killing machines that would make Sky Net happy. Joe Staten said the Exo were, "sinister, powerful, and tireless."Or or so it would seem, this above concept art shows an Exo clearly in a contemplative mode, perhaps after a hard fought battle.

Members of the Exo species have been described as being physically intimidating, tending to prefer armour and using technology over magic or stealth.