“The true mission of the violin is to imitate the accents of the human voice, a noble mission that has earned for the violin the glory of being called the king of instruments” - Charles-Auguste de Beriot
There are some who believe that the violin is the most difficult instrument to play; move your finger a centimeter off the mark and you’re playing an entirely different note. Bend your elbow too much (or not enough) and the bow will slide off the strings and give nails on a chalkboard a run for its money.
But it’s more than the degree of difficulty that draws people to the violin: the violin continues to be a literal bridge between music and so many art forms that inspire our decisions and provide us an escape.
In the video game community, the violin has added longevity and helped us to re-imagine our favorite gaming moments. Taylor Davis (YouTube: ViolinTay) has channeled her passion and love for video games into the violin, to the tune of 23 million views and 160,000 subscribers.
I found out in our my INTERVIEW with Taylor that she started playing the violin in elementary school and assumed it would just be something to keep in her life as an escape or hobby as she pursued a possible business career. But the ability to connect video games with the violin has allowed her to become a full-time musician, a person who doesn’t always need a controller to enjoy gaming.
Naturally I had a number of questions to ask her — here’s our EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Taylor Davis: Continue reading “How Taylor Davis’ Violin Is Capturing The Gaming World” »
Believe it or not, EA’s iconic Madden franchise will turn 25 this year, commemorated in the “2014″ version of the game being dubbed Madden 25. But the NCAA Football franchise continues to be a staple all of its own, becoming more than a primer for the Madden Franchise and delivering a unique experience that only the college game can encapsulate. EA’s NCAA football franchise was technically founded in 1994, although it adopted its current “NCAA Football” moniker in 1998 (originally it was “Bill Walsh Football” until it was in the grasp of EA Tiburon).
This week, fans received a look at the presentation of the game, which includes 500 new sequences running in between plays, chatter from players on the defensive side of the ball to help you feel like you’re even more involved in the game (if it’s in the game…), and a half-time show to make you feel even more like a rock-star.
Fans also got a look at the revamped gameplay of NCAA Football 2014 earlier this month, one that utilizes the same Infinity 2 Engine that Madden 13 broke in last year. With an increasing number of NFL fans starting to peak in on Saturday football and networks like ESPN/ABC recently spending over $5 billion to broadcast games, the pressure is on EA and gameplay designer Larry Richart to deliver a game that matches the rise of college football’s popularity. Continue reading “EA Sports Is Taking Some Huge Steps Forward With NCAA Football 2014” »
Hitman: Absolution released in November 2012 ending a 6 year hiatus for Agent 47. Last seen in 2006′s Blood Money, Absolution brought 47 back along with some new tricks and the incredible new online Contracts mode.
The team at IO knew they wanted to make a game that could appeal to a broader market while still maintaining that hardcore experience for long-time fans of the series. “The big challenge was how to achieve a broader appeal without compromising the core of the game. We knew we needed something special to please the hard core fans, and the purist mode and contracts mode were two important components to its success,” game director Tore Blystad explains in our exclusive interview below.
Warframe is a third-person sci-fi shooter from the developers responsible for The Darkness 2 and the upcoming Star Trek game, Digital Extremes.
Having garnered over 1 million users in its first two weeks of open beta, Digital Extremes is successfully bringing a AAA game experience to the free-to-play market. Warframe’s exciting “Space Ninja” combat has definitely captured the attention of gamers, “I honestly thought we’d have a big peak and it would tail off more aggressively but we’ve managed to work our way into the top ten on steam and still hit new concurrency peaks every week,” creative director Steve Sinclair tells us.
Pulse is a unique first person adventure game where players will take on the role of a blind protagonist and will have to make use of a sort of echolocation game mechanic in order to reveal the environment around them.
Originally prototyped as a final project for the Vancouver Film School’s game design program, developer Team Pixel Pi has taken to Kickstarter in order to fund the full production of the game. Made up of 5 core members: Michael Cooper, Lala Fuchs, Maxwell Hannaman, Richard Harrison and Leanne Roed, Pixel Pi won a Unity Award last year for Best Student Project and is also nominated in the Student Showcase for the Independent Games Festival Awards.
“Pulse is a first person survival game that takes place in an unseen world revealed only by sound.”
Bloom: Memories is an isometric action adventure/RPG with a deep focus on meaningful story telling, a rich art style and unique story driven game mechanics. Getting down to the wire on its Kickstarter campaign with 9 days to go now, Bloom: Memories is being developed by Los Angeles based Studio Fawn.
Project lead and artist Dani Landers tells us “the three biggest influences on the design of the game are the original ”Legend of Zelda” and the philosophies behind Journey, with the art of Guild Wars. An action RPG game compared to the gameplay in Zelda mixed with what Landers describes as — “philosophies behind Journey” — ok, you have our attention.
Set in a beautiful and imaginative game world, Bloom: Memories follows the story of a mother and daughter and the bond between them. The title’s stand out features are rooted in its story driven mechanics, as deep down as the combat system and the unique “Linked Heart Mechanic,” something Landers tells us more about in our exclusive interview below. Continue reading “Zelda’s Deep Story-Driven Game Mechanics Meets Journey Inspired ARPG, BLOOM: MEMORIES” »
Recently we reported on the announcement of DuckTales Remastered, the HD remake of the beloved DuckTales NES title. The remastered version is set to bring the same amazing experience the original did with a host of new upgrades and content.
The original DuckTales game is such a memorable experience for a lot of us with its iconic music and non linear gameplay, something Capcom producer Rey Jimenez ensures us developer WayForward takes very seriously. Jimenez tells us “WayForward is using the NES version as the blueprint for all of the level layouts…most of what you’re going to see will be true to those old maps.” He continued by saying that Remastered hosts a bunch of new features that “were done to enhance” what Capcom and WayForward feel “the original dev team intended…”
DuckTales Remastered will feature HD 3D backgrounds and hand drawn sprites as well as a new hub area that will allow players to “take Scrooge for a dive and swim into his vault of money,” says Jimenez. Money collected in the game can be spent on unlockables in the all new gallery as well. Continue reading “Capcom Producer Rey Jimenez Talks New Final Level, Hub Area and Staying True To The Original With DUCKTALES REMASTERED” »
Flowstorm is a 2.5D racing and aerial combat game from two person development team Neat Corporation. An evolved version of old school Thrust clone games, Flowstorm is a “brutally unforgiving” experience that demands player skill “rather than your character virtually becoming better through gaining skills or increasing your level,” one half of the dev team Joachim Holmér tells us.
For those that don’t know, the Thrust clone genre started back with Lunar Lander and Asteroids in 1979 and is centered around a player controlled ship with full directional acceleration that is affected by gravity — you know the ones — a more recent example being PS1′s Gravitation.
Creative director Justin Novelline tells us the game “could be compared in aesthetic to something like Final Fantasy 7″ with gameplay reminiscent of titles like Super Mario World, Super Meat Boy and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.”
Like its name, Bleak is set in a dark, industrial setting on a planet referred to as “The Pinnacle.” Players will go through 70+ levels across a vast and rich game world that “celebrates heavy lore and character driven story-telling.”
The world of Pinnacle is inhabited by several different races each with their own agenda, belief systems and language, something that effects the gameplay significantly. How each race communicates “varies immensely” said Novelline, “We’re excited for Pinnacle to reflect this in a bold way.”
We have some gameplay footage and some screens below along with our exclusive interview.
Players will take control of three different characters: Bleak the Sourcer, Sky the Sylvan and Bug the Beardstaff, and like the various NPCs and enemies in the game, their race, beliefs and language will play large role in how each character can interact with the world. Each of the three playable characters are unique in combat as well with their special abilities, something we get into more detail about in our exclusive developer interview below.
Another interesting feature in Bleak is its two tired approach to the game’s overall design. When players enter a town or city of some kind, the game’s perspective transitions from a sidescrolling action-platformer to a “top-down adventure game to provide the player with a more immersive relationship with the world and its characters. This is two beautiful games in one.”
JHS: What is “Bleak” all about and what sets it apart?
Justin Novelline: “BLEAK” is a dark fantasy platformer that celebrates heavy lore and character driven story-telling. It features unique governments, religions, races, territories, alphabets, ecosystems and a host of compelling characters who you travel along side your journey.
JHS: If you had to, what existing games would you compare to Bleak?
JN: “BLEAK” could be compared in aesthetic to something like Final Fantasy 7, it has dark mechanized steampunk elements. In gameplay it’s closest relatives are a mash up between Super Mario World and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
JHS: Can you elaborate a little bit on the story and setting of Bleak? What is The Pinnacle?
JN: “Pinnacle” (Or more formally “The Pinnacle”) is the attempt at the perfect society (that always works). It’s a planet where the accidental discovery of a new precious metal called “Core” has sent an otherwise simple and peaceful race of people known as “Sourcer’s” into a greed fueled tail spin. In addition to Sourcer’s there are six other races who have watched as their once beautiful home has rotted beneath thanks to greedy Sourcer’s building factories to process and refine core on a massive scale.
JHS: What kinds of influences, games or otherwise, inspired the team at Tenwall to create Bleak? What other games are you guys playing right now around the office?
JN: We’re heavily influenced by story-driven games like Chrono Trigger, Deus Ex, Skyrim, Dark Souls and Bioshock/Bioshock Infinite. Anything where the player is invited to get lost in a games world and lore is really cool and exciting to us.
JHS: Bleak has “3 Playable Characters Each With Their Own Special Abilities.” Can you tell us more about the game’s combat system and how each of the playable characters differ?
JN: In-game you will have the opportunity to play as Bleak the Sourcer, Sky the Sylvan and Bug the Beardstaff. Each character has their own personality, belief system, temperament and of course abilities. The combat system is primarily player vs. environment as their are few offensive abilities. We thought this reinforced how incredibly lethal Pinnacle was and how small and relatively insignificant the protagonists are.
As for specific mechanics:
Bleak: Abilities: Sprints. Power Slams and has the ability to construct helpful machinery.
Sky: Glide jumps. Swings from branches. She can use her flute to commune with the red, summoning spike like brambles and vines to do her bidding.
Bug: Small. Agile. Capable of triple jumping and crawling through small spaces. Can ride an assortment of mounts including the powerful Gorumph.
There will be specific levels that can only be beaten a certain way with a certain character, this not only adds a level of completionism to our game, but also helps in connecting the characters species to the world.
JHS: “Each race in the world of Pinnacle has been fleshed out to such an extent that even their languages are based on unique alphabet glyphs. These will appear throughout the game on signage and in tomes (if you’re lucky enough to find one).” What happens if you do find one? How do these “languages” integrate into the gameplay?
JN: The alphabets will be sprinkled throughout Pinnacle whether it be on “warning signs” or in history books. Your ability to understand them depends on how much of the “Key to the World” (Our game’s Rosetta Stone) you have uncovered. It’s just another level of detail to help the players sense of immersion, because like here on Earth, when you have thousands of miles of terra firma inhabited by different nationalities (never mind different races) how they communicate varies immensely. We’re excited for Pinnacle to reflect this in a bold way.
JHS: Pictured to the right “is a diagram detailing the various belief systems that occur throughout Pinnacle.” Can you tell us more about the belief system in the game?
JN: There are eight different belief systems in game. Each one caters to different races and geographic ideologies. Seeing as there are no cell phones or internet on Pinnacle, communication is far more limited. It was important to us to look at what a Sourcer on Wither might believe versus say an Ero on Glimmer.
Belief systems also effect how NPC’s will react to you. For example, one belief system centered around “The Marauder’s Bay” is called “The Gray”. Followers of The Gray way of life only respect who has the sharper sword. They will attack anyone they think they’re capable of robbing on sight in favor of a brutal and anarchistic life style. If you run across anyone wearing the Gray emblem, good luck.
JHS: How does Mount and Airship Travel work and why is it used?
JN: Both mount and airship travel are carefully correlated to the game’s lore.
Mount’s will be accessible only when there is a good relationship between the player character and the “mount”, which they will be permitted to ride on a case by case basis to aid them in tricky situations. One example of this is that Bug is a Beardstaff. The Beardstaff’s have cultivated a respect and understanding with the “Gorumph’s”, gorilla like creatures with enormous mouths. If the player, playing as Bug comes across an idle Gorumph, they can climb into their mouths and steer them like a wrecking ball through the level. Other playable characters will simply be ignored.
As for Airships, you get to take control of these core powered floating processing plants after meeting the surly Sourcer Pilot “Zep”. His vehicle isn’t much to look at it, but it’ll get you from A to B… or will it?
JHS: There are so many independent games on the radar these days especially with the rising popularity of crowd funding. What does it take, in your opinion, to make an indie game that really stands out from all the others?
JN: Passion and conviction. Believing vehemently in BLEAK and his adventure. This isn’t so much about a game accompanied by a story as it is about a story and universe you get to experience through a game.
JHS: Can you tell the Jace Hall readers something secret about the game we might not already know from the pre release material and Kickstarter?
JN: Some of BLEAK’s most exciting twists are right under everyone’s noses.
Thanks for the questions!
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is said to be the definitive version of the game. Although many of us are disappointed that Eidos Montreal didn’t announce a new game in the Deus Ex series, the Director’s Cut is poised to be more than just some cash grab Wii U port.
At first it seemed as though Nintendo was grasping at straws trying to get some hardcore games over to its new and, to some, struggling platform. As more information is revealed about the Director’s Cut, we can clearly see that Eidos is not only adding new features and game mechanics to the experience but also altering it to better meet fan expectation.
Shovel Knight is a 2D love letter to the 8 bit era of gaming that has been receiving a lot of attention lately after its strong showing at PAX. Now well past its goal on Kickstarter, Shovel Knight is a “a sweeping classic action adventure game” heavily inspired by games like Mega Man, Castlevania and Dark Souls.
[UPDATE: Yacht Club Games has announced that Manami Matsumae who composed classic songs for Mega Man (Cut Man and Elec Man Themes among others) and U.N Squadron will be writing two tracks for Shovel knight along side Jake "Virt" Kaufman who is working on the rest of the games score.]
Shovel Knight is being developed by Yacht Club Games, a team comprised of Sean Velasco and a “crew” of devs from WayForward who have previous experience working on projects like “Contra 4, A Boy and His Blob, Thor: God of Thunder, Mighty Milky Way, BloodRayne Betrayal, and most recently, Double Dragon Neon.”
The game was recently announced to be making its way to both the Nintendo Wii U and the 3DS as well as PC.
Humans Must Answer is a 2D space shmup that is poised to reinvigorate the genre while attracting new players to it. With its open beta available, the dev team at Sumom Games is already noticing players that don’t normally gravitate towards these kinds of experiences enjoying the game.
How is Humans Must Answer doing this?
The game manages the delicate balance of offering an experience hardcore shmup fans will appreciate while allowing enough of a unique approach to the genre that new players are interested as well.
With its slick, “eye-popping” graphics and over the top explosions, on the surface HMA is what every shmup fan wants. But when you peel back the layers here, there a number of advanced weapon systems like “Support Weapons” and deployable turrets as well as non-linear gameplay and tactical boss battles. Continue reading “Sumom Games To Reinvigorate 2D Space Shmups With HUMANS MUST ANSWER (Now in Open Beta)” »
Larian Studios has recently taken to Kickstarter to fund the latest entry in the Divinity series, Original Sin. The game will feature classic turn based combat, non-linear campaign, co-op and an extremely interesting “disagreement” mechanic built right into the game’s dialogue system.
Divinity: Original Sin is an isometric RPG that brings to the table much of what fans of the genre will expect as well as taking the experience to a new level with the game’s unique elemental system and “very reactive/interactive environment.”
Mongrel is a new deeply customizable fighting game for iOS in development by two man team, Blake Whitworth and Stephan Messier. The two just recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for the Unreal Engine powered mobile fighter.
Mongrel is set in a fascinating alternate version of human evolution where “Animals have evolved into humanoid hybrids.”
You are a Mongrel–low on the caste system, you are a lesser hybrid and a slave. You must fight your way through perilous battles with other mongrels and giant beasts alike. “To quickly gain status in a harsh and brutal world, they are given the opportunity to fight for their freedom in the mongrel arenas,” artistic lead Stephan Messier told us.
In the year 2287 Earth has sent out its very first ships to colonize the planet Maria. After crashing, players will take control of the stranded colonists and thrown into a sandbox like game world where they must “explorer, gather, build, create, fight, and ultimately, conquer the land.”
The world is an ever-changing place and the videogame landscape is no exception. The medium’s relatively young age and its reliance on technology, which itself is in a constant state of flux, ensure that videogames and the people and practices that create them are constantly shifting. The past decade or so has proven to be especially transformative for business practices.
We reached out to some game makers to discuss this topic, from a 2-man indie team to an award-winning foreign developer and publisher. Our conversations made it clear that the business isn’t what it used to be and straightforward business practices aren’t quite good enough anymore. Companies like EA and Ubisoft use DRM as a form of loss prevention to stop piracy in its tracks, but often end up frustrating and perhaps driving away real customers while their games get pirated anyway. Furthermore, alienating actual customers may lead to said customers pirating the very content that anti-piracy measures kept them from playing. Continue reading “How To Sell and Market Your Video Game in 2013 (According to Industry Experts)” »
In an age of Best Buy, Amazon, Gamefly and Steam one might be hesitant to start their own video game store. For the two brothers who started World 8 video games, they didn’t have a choice. They loved video games so much the only way they could express it was to start their own store and share their passion with others.
How fitting? A store named after the most epic level in Super Mario Brothers — what some would say is the most challenging — isn’t afraid of the challenge of competing in such a vast marketplace. How do you compete with the likes of billion dollar companies? What lessons have the owners of World 8 learned since they opened their doors in 2011 — when their inventory was a mix of new game releases and their own N64 games they had collected from over the years? Continue reading “What Does It Take To Run a Video Game Store? We Go Inside WORLD 8 Video Games” »
With the release of Bioshock Infinite this week, we sat down with the game’s composer Garry Schyman, to get an inside look at what it takes to create the score for such an ambitious title and how sound and music enhance gameplay.
The Bioshock games have always been known for their mood setting environments and stellar sense of immersion. The characters and settings (visuals) in games are what many people focus on when it comes to whether or not a game really sucked them in or not. A game’s soundtrack has a lot to do with the way player’s experience a title as well, both in their understanding of the characters and the way a game “feels” overall. These are all things that Schyman takes very seriously when composing for anything and especially with the Bioshock franchise.
Don’t Starve is described as an “uncompromising wilderness survival game” by its developer Klei Entertainment. Klei was previously responsible for the fantastic Mark of the Ninja and both Shank titles.
Players will take control of Wilson the “intrepid Gentleman Scientist,” using magic and science in order to survive in a curios and unique game world filled with scary monsters that want to eat you. Its a game that respects the player’s intelligence while challenging it in a fun and immersive way.
Running on a day/night cycle, player’s will have to gather items and loot from the environment and fallen enemies while crafting and researching new items “that match your survival style.” You can also create campfires at night and build structures to keep the baddies out as well as hunt and gather food to feed Wilson when he gets hungry.
Consortium is a unique new RPG developed by Interdimensional Games. Inspired by games like Mass Effect, Half Life and System Shock among others, what makes this game so unique is that it “obliterates the fourth wall!”
You can check out our interview and some exclusive video footage of Consortium with developer commentary below.
The fourth wall is the separation between the audience/gamer and a piece of media. Breaking the fourth wall in gaming has, for the most part, come in the form of comedy–think the Dead Pool trailers. To some this can be effective but is considered more useful as humorous moments because it can break the player’s immersion in more serious situations.