Archive for May, 2014
During a post-earnings conference call last night, Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson revealed that the publisher has a “major new game” to announce that’s powered by Frostbite 3 and developed by “some of our most talented teams.” Frostbite 3 is EA’s proprietary engine that powers games like Battlefield 4 and Need for Speed: Rivals.
What could it be? We won’t have to wait too long to find out, as Wilson said in prepared remarks that the game will be announced next month at E3. This game is scheduled for release in the third quarter of this year, and it appears EA has high hopes for it.
“If you don’t have a Battlefield in a year, you’ve got a hole there that you have to fill,” EA CFO Blake Jorgensen told investors (via Metro). “The way we’re filling that hole is essentially new titles along the lines of FIFA: World Cup, UFC, a golf game, The Sims, and Dragon Age. I would say that fills about two-thirds of the hole and the rest of the hole we would assume is being filled by this new, unannounced game.”
Jorgensen went on to say that EA is “highly conscious” that this game will need to be compelling if it is to succeed against other major titles in the busy holiday period. He added that when you see this game at E3, you’ll be convinced that it’s a unique offering.
Also during EA E3 2014’s press conference, Wilson said the company plans to not only talk about previously announced titles, but also “unveil details on at least six new projects in development at EA.” None of these were specified.
“Over the next few years, we will deliver some epic new entertainment experiences to our players, built on a foundation of creativity and innovation,” Wilson said. “I’m looking forward to sharing a lot more with our gamers in just a few short weeks.”
EA’s E3 2014 press conference, which it is calling “EA World Premiere: E3 2014 Preview,” takes place Monday, June 9 starting at 12 p.m. PDT. It will be held at the Shrine Expo Hall in Los Angeles and should last for about 60 minutes. GameSpot will bring you all the news as it happens.
Cloud-gaming company OnLive announced today that Gaijin Entertainment’s free-to-play MMO War Thunder is now available through their service. It’s the first free-to-play game available through OnLive, the company points out. War Thunder is currently available on PC and PlayStation 4 (in Europe, at least).
War Thunder for OnLive also works with the company’s CloudLift subscription ($7.95/month), allowing subscribers to play
the game wherever they want without re-downloading it. Progress and purchases are synced through the cloud, so there’s no need to worry about that.
OnLive explains that War Thunder through OnLive “massively lowers” the recommended PC specifications, and notes that the game can even be played on an Android tablet, so long as you have a Bluetooth controller. This is the first time War Thunder has ever been playable on a tablet.
“OnLive is making it possible for our millions of War Thunder fans to jump into combat quickly, wherever they are and on whatever device they’re carrying,” Gaijin Entertainment CEO Anton Yudintsev said in a statement. “We’re looking forward to engaging our current players more deeply and more often, while bringing new users into our game.”
War Thunder now has 6 million registered users, up from 5 million, the company adds. You can try a 30-minute demo of War Thunder through OnLive at the game’s product page.
That’s not the only announcement OnLive had to make today. The company also announced this morning that it has hired James Alan Cook as its general counsel and senior vice president of business and legal affairs. Cook previously worked at the Sony-owned Gaikai under the same title, and also held positions at Atari and The 3DO Company.
“OnLive is poised to create enormous waves in the ways that interactive games and other consumer and commercial software products are delivered to their target audiences,” Cook said in a statement.
For more about OnLive, check out the platform’s website.
We just had our first son born nine months ago.” Brian McRae–one of the two-person, husband-and-wife team designing the upcoming PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC adventure Source at FenixFire–explains the inspiration behind the alien landscape that stretches before us. “When a baby is born, they don’t know what the world is supposed to look like. It’s a strange thing. They’re just grabbing stuff. Is this edible? What does this do? Is this dangerous? Helpful? Harmful? And we wanted to bring that infant-eyes aspect to this game.” I can see that sense of wonder manifest in Source, as the bioluminescent firefly ventures across this dreamlike environment. However, that feeling of awe extends beyond the confines of the game. McRae and his wife, Anna Gambal-McRae, have jumped from the predictability of AAA development into the rocky waters of the indie scene, and they’re learning how to stay afloat in this unexplored world.
“[Source] is all about this exchange of energy,” McRae explains. The energy pulses off you, creating a blue aura around the firefly you use to explore this strange land. Lightning bolts shoot from your body. You move boxes with these bursts, corral glowing keys, power dormant cocoons, and fry pesky enemy threats. Seeing the dazzling lights sparkle in the gloomy morass of the unknown is a beautiful sight, so much so that I was mesmerized as McRae soared over geometric outcroppings, darting above the docile, insect-like fauna.
“You’re always losing energy as you fly around. You lose energy as you shoot, as you jump, as you speedburst. Just like any living creature in real life, right? We all need food, oxygen, all this kind of stuff to survive,” McRae says. There’s only one piece of information onscreen, a lone bar that keeps track of how much energy your firefly still has. The rest is filled with the alien splendor of this world. “In most games, you’re the big guy with the big gun just mowing down lots of guys, and the way to balance that and make it difficult is to just have more waves of creatures coming in and shooting,” he notes. “[But in Source], you’re battling against survival.” It’s a marked shift from what’s expected. There are puzzles to solve and enemies to kill, but every act you take weakens your firefly. You’re just treading water–searching for more power–doing whatever you can before your energy runs dry.
McRae and his wife have jumped from the predictability of AAA development into the rocky waters of the indie scene, and they’re learning how to stay afloat in this unexplored world.
The goal of McRae and Gambal-McRae is to “make things look familiar and yet unfamiliar at the same time.” I can see this intent in how strange Source looks, how it aligns common shapes in uncommon patterns to skew your sense of normalcy. And that unfamiliarity has pushed Source into a realm in which going the independent route was the only chance of seeing this through to completion. “It’s kind of off the beaten path, and it’s something that a publisher would have no business doing,” McRae says. “This isn’t either a sexy girl or a big guy with a gun. You actually have to think about it a little bit.” But even if a big publisher had shown interest, McRae would have had reservations working with the company. “I’m a little wary of publishers. I’ve worked with a publisher before and had a terrible go of it.”
McRae wasn’t always in this position. Source is a “dream project” for McRae and Gambal-McRae, a drastic change from where they once were. “I used to work at Blizzard. I was the lead environment artist for StarCraft: Ghost,” he says. “She’s an environment artist as well. She worked at The Collective on Silent Hill: Homecoming, GI Joe, and Front Mission.” So they’ve gone through the grind of developing highly scrutinized games with big budgets, and they appreciate the intimate control they have over Source. “Now we don’t have to have a meeting to talk about whether we’re going to do something. We just go and put it in because we’re a small team and we can do it.”
Being on your own is liberating, but it’s also scary when you don’t have a lifeboat to save you from treacherous waters. “I’m extremely terrified,” McRae responds when asked what it felt like to show an unfinished version of his game. “But we just showed this at PAX; we got a lot of great reception from that. We submitted to Steam Greenlight five days ago, and then yesterday just got green-lit. We have a 62 percent yes vote.” So things are going smoothly in one regard. People who have seen the game are excited by the prospect of exploring this fantastical world. That doesn’t mean it has been easy to put Source together, though. People need money to make games, and all the positive reception in the world doesn’t matter if there’s no funding. “We’re doing a Kickstarter that’s failing miserably at the moment. If it happens, great. If not, it’s not going to stop us. We’re going to keep going.”
Life gets in the way of development. “We’re only four months in. We’re a two-person team–a husband-and-wife team–and we’re doing this nights and weekends. We’re self-funding this stuff right now.” When they’re not working on Source, they’re doing contract work developing software for clients. They worked with the Oculus Rift, for instance, when the virtual reality headset was still in its infancy, designing a demonstration in which you explore a house called Tuscany World. So they do have steady work, though every project that pours money into the household demands time and energy that could have been spent working on Source. It’s a tough balancing act–getting funding while trying to realize your dream–and one that is only becoming more complicated now that they have a child to care for.
“Now my wife can’t work on the game as much, only when he’s sleeping, so it’s been a little tough,” McRae explains. “It might be nice if we could get some kind of funding so we could hire a babysitter.” It’s the reality of being independent. Now that McRae and Gambal-McRae can finally create their dream project, can implement whatever they want without meetings or approval from higher-ups, they have run into a wall that holds so many people back. Reality can get in the way of realizing one’s vision, and they’re pushing through together to figure out a way to care for their child, create software for clients, and bring Source to life. It’s not an easy situation for anyone.
But McRae is not deterred. “I think video games are the ultimate art form. You have the visuals; you have audio. You’re playing with time, you’re playing with animation, and you’re playing with interactivity. There’s no other art form that encompasses all of those aspects all together. And the sky’s the limit with what it is you want to do, show, and express.” So they’re going to keep working. “It’s a personal game, very artistic game. We’re both artists, we want to express, and that’s what this game’s about.”