June 21, 2016

Kingdom Hearts 2.8: E3 Recap

Kingdom Hearts 2.8 was one of the highlights of my E3 experience and the demo I played did not disappoint. Kingdom Hearts has been my favorite game since I was a young boy playing Kingdom Hearts 1 on the PS2 and with the epic conclusion to Sora’s tale fast approaching it was nice to see something new to hold over the Kingdom Hearts community while we wait for Kingdom Hearts 3. The demo was great, and the game promises to fill in some gaps in the story, but there are also issues with Kingdom Hearts 2.8 and the Kingdom Hearts series as a whole that must be addressed. The demo I played was from Kingdom Hearts 0.2: A Fragmentary Passge. The gameplay felt fresh, Aqua’s playstyle was portrayed well from the playstation portable to the playstation 4, and while it is a new game it feels similar to the beloved controls from Kingdom Hearts 2. This is the last piece of the puzzle before Kingdom Hearts 3; however, at this point it feels like we are being strung along rather than led down the path to the epic conclusion we have all been waiting for. Square Enix has put over a decade of work into making the Kingdom Hearts franchise as close to perfect as they can, and in most cases they have succeeded; however, the lack of information available for Kingdom Hearts 3 made playing the demo of Kingdom Hearts 2.8 feel like a distraction rather than a focal point. It was strange not seeing Kingdom Hearts 3 displayed on the E3 floor, considering last year Square spent a good deal of time talking about the game. Returning to Kingdom Hearts 2.8, I was not disappointed with the improvements made both on the technical and gameplay sides of the experience. Square Enix has overhauled the graphics of Kingdom Hearts. The entire demo looked elegant, with vibrant colors, fluid movement/combat, and engrossing soundtrack coming together to make the presentation of Kingdom Hearts 0.2: A Fragmentary Passage the best we have seen to date. While the game is new, it feels refreshing, and like the work that ahs been put into updating the Kingdom Hearts console engine was worth it. This game is one to look forward to, and while we are still mostly in the dark regarding Kingdom Hearts 3, 2.8 promises to bring us closer to the epic conclusion we have all been waiting for. This is the beginning of the end for Sora’s tale, and from what Square Enix displayed at E3 this will be an epic conclusion indeed.
June 21, 2016

Dragon Lens Studios: A Developer to Watch

During the final hours of E3 I had the pleasure of meeting the founder of Dragon Lens Studios. Dragon Lens is an independent game development company based in Idaho, and the currently hold the title of largest company in their home state. Dragon Lens is the perfect example of what happens when you decide to take your dream into your own hands, rather than expecting them to come to fruition on their own. Founded in March of 2014 by Jeffery Miller, Dragon Lens Studios has worked hard to establish themself as developers from a state normally unknown to the gaming industry.   When asked about the vision he had for the company, Miller had this to say: “I have loved JRPG’s since I was a child, and the western RPG came along with the openness to do whatever you wish, I want to blend the two genres together perfectly and create a true JWRPG”. This vision is something they are trying to portray through their flagship project titled Phantasy Quest, and while not much information was given on the game itself, Miller promises to create something great. Dragon Lens does not only create their own games, they also have taken a role as the parent company for other independent developers throughout the state of Idaho. They live by the statement “nothing big happens without big dreams” and have done their best to do as much as they can to help members of their community recognize their dreams. Dragon Lens stated that they wish to always be known as an independent developer in order to ensure their games are always a projection of their vision and not a large publisher’s vision of Dragon Len’s ideas. Expect great things from this company, if anyone can make their dream a reality it is Dragon Lens Studios.
June 16, 2016

Dead by Daylight: E3 recap!

In the modern times of video games the major publishers/developers reign supreme over the community. Digital distribution has made it easier for smaller companies to share their work with us and allow their ideas to come to fruition by making it into the hands of gamers around the world. This is the case for Dead by Daylight, a new game from developers Behaviour Interactive, and their game blew everyone at Gaming at a Glance away. Seeing the passion this company has for their game and the original ideas used in development made us even more invested in testing Dead by Daylight and made us realize that even the smallest teams can produce something great in the saturated game industry we are all apart of. The concept of Dead by Daylight is original and borrows from the classic slasher/horror films we all know and love. Behaviour did their best to place true fear in the hearts of players without resorting to jump scares and gore to do so. The psychological thriller style of Dead by Daylight made me feel truly afraid throughout the match I was able to play, and I loved every moment of it. The concept of Dead by Daylight is an original and made someone like myself who does not usually like horror games excited to play. The game is an asymmetrical online multiplayer survival horror game that tasks a group of four survivors with escaping from a psychotic killer bent on sacrificing the survivors to a supernatural being through impalement by meat-hook. Both the survivors and the killer are played by live players and each map is a procedural generation, meaning that no two maps will ever be truly the same. Matches play out in a unique way that made multiplayer feel fresh in a horror game. The two factions facing one another are a team of four survivors and a lone killer. The survivors are tasks with finding and repairing five generators in order to gather enough electrical power to open an escape route hidden on the map. The killer is tasks with hunting the survivors and sacrificing them all to a supernatural being by hanging them on a meat-hook. There are currently three killers available for play: the trapper, the hillbilly with a chainsaw, and the wraith. The trapper takes bear traps into battle as his special ability, the hillybilly with a chainsaw is surprisingly enough a hillbilly with a chainsaw, and the wraith is able to turn invisible for a short time. Each killer feels similar enough to make playing them easy to pick up, but their unique powers make their individuality stand out and give each a different way to scare unsuspecting survivors. Survivors have a heartbeat blaring throughout their headphones as the killer grows closer, and they are able to determine when they are “safe” or in danger via this mechanic. Leveling and rank also play a role in this multiplayer only game: leveling allows survivors to use new items at the beginning of each match and allows killers to use new abilities during different matches, while ranking is used for a proper skill based matchmaking system in order to make each match fair for both new and old players. Behaviour Interactive put countless years of thought and work into creating this game, and we were able to sit down and ask both the creative director and the producer some questions. When asked how the concept of this game came into existence, the creative director Ashley Pannell had this to say: “8 years ago I had an idea for a game, I wanted to replicate the classic horror movie in video game form. I came together with my team and friends to create a prototype and we decided on a hide and seek mechanic in a horror world. The procedural generation for maps came about when we realized we never wanted to allow the same match to happen twice”. When talking to the producer, he stated: “We wanted to replicate the sense of stress and fear, and I feel we accomplished that based on the reaction from fans”. This game has shown what original ideas can do for video games, and I cannot wait to go home to download and devote countless hours to Dead by Daylight. The game released on June 14th 2016 and rests at the top of the list for new releases on steam.
June 14, 2016

Gwent: E3 Recap

Here at E3 Ryan and I had the chance to interview members of CD Projekt Red and play test their latest project. For those who were unaware, the team that brought us Gwent in the Witcher 3 are working towards bringing us a full game version of Gwent. CD Projekt Red promises to bring us not only a multiplayer mode, but all new single player adventures to further expand on the lore of the Witcher. For those of you who enjoyed the Witcher 3, and especially those who enjoyed Gwent, get ready to spend countless more hours grinding through match after match. The game of Gwent is the game of choice for those in the pubs throughout the world of the Witcher 3, and this game is perfect for those who enjoy a side order of strategy with their beer. The game of Gwent focuses heavily on strategy and deceiving the opponent in order to win two out of three of the rounds to complete your crown and claim your victory. Strategy plays a large role not just in play, but in building your decks. Projekt Red has adjusted some mechanics of the game and added new cards in order to make the game more balanced and provide more options for players to find their own style. The strategy behind building decks comes from deciding which cards work with one another, which to mulligan, and when the perfect time to play the hero ability is due to lack of a draw phase in the game. Those who played Gwent in the Witcher 3 will feel right at home in this rendition of the game. The main attraction of this new vision of the game of Gwent is the multiplayer capabilities, and the changes CD Projekt Red have made in order to make multiplayer more balanced. While not all details were seen during the play test the developers spoke of the addition of new cards and mechanics in order to better balance the game for multiplayer. We were allowed to spend about 20 minutes playing against other members of the play test group, and we were able to see new cards and new mechanics that make the game I spent hours playing throughout Witcher 3 feel fresh and exciting once again. The strategy behind Gwent is relatively the same, but being able to play against a live opponent adds a new level of unpredictability from the player on the other side of the virtual table. While multiplayer is the main attraction of Gwent CD Projekt Red has promised to provide a unique set of single player campaigns in order to further expand on the lore of the Witcher. These campaigns will feature both new and old characters, feature an open world map, and each is designed to take 10+ hours to complete. The open world allows the player to explore and in turn find new cards to add to their deck throughout the world. My short experience with the play test of Gwent was a positive one, and I hope to see this game grow much like other online trading card games. As a fan of the Witcher 3 I felt right at home, but this fact also presents the major flaw I see for this game to achieve the level of success it could. While tutorials are present in the game, those who do not fully understand the lore of the Witcher will be unable to be completely immersed in this new adventure. The closed beta for Gwent will begin sometime in September of 2016, and anyone can register at www.playgwent.com.
June 14, 2016

Is The Playstation Neo A Bad Move For Sony?

Everyone in the gaming community is talking about the Playstation Neo, AKA the Playstation 4.5, and many are concerned with what this new hardware could do to Sony’s platform. The purpose of consoles has always been to set system requirements for developers, and to always give gamers without the money to build a high end gaming rig the option to play any game they choose at a consistent resolution and frame-rate; however, this new piece of hardware from Sony presents an interesting shift in the way developers will have to approach developing for the Playstation 4. This is the first time a developer will be upgrading the hardware of a system to this extent, including CPU, GPU, and memory, and he concern for this is that it will require developers to make a difficult choice as to how they want to approach developing for this system. In order to keep current Playstation 4 owners engaged within the community, Sony has promised that there will be no exclusive games for the Playstation Neo; however, does this solve all of the issues? Developers have always been able to know exactly what requirements they needed to meet for a console due to the lack of options between hardware, unlike a PC, this means that it has always been a challenge of actually building the game rather than making sure a wide range of specs would be reached. With two different version of a console, especially one with more power than the other, developers will now have to decide if they would rather develop for the base model of the Playstation 4 and have to build in higher resolution options for the game, or build for the Neo with lower resolution options to make the game playable on the base model of the system. One thing is for certain, the Playstation Neo has many concerned as to how this new set of hardware will affect the Playstation 4 community, but at least Sony has recognized that not everyone will rush out to the store day one to purchase a Neo when they already have a Playstation 4 in their home. Only time will tell what developers do to adjust for this split in hardware, but maybe this new technology will open the door for a higher standard of consoles yet again.   Written By: Brock Thompson, Lead Writer for Gaming at a Glance

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