Thursday, 5 March 2015

Exclusinterview: Nick Chester (Harmonix)

Image from
Earlier today I talked about Rock Band 4 being announced for PS4 and Xbox One, coming out later this year, but that's really all of the information that was released, other than a dev diary. I decided to follow up with Harmonix, and I've managed to grab a quick interview with Harmonix's PR Lead, Nick Chester, and here's what he said...

GAK: What made you want to rejuvenate the Rock Band franchise after such a long time away from it? 
We’ve always intended to come back to the franchise at some point – we’ve been saying as much for years! But the timing had to be right for us in terms of where the new consoles were in their life cycle and, more importantly, where our creative vision was for the title. We had to have the right idea, the right creative energy, and it’s all come together for us for Rock Band 4. We’re so excited to evolve the Rock Band experience on new platforms.
GAK: Are you thinking of adding any new modes other than the likes of Tour?
We’re not really discussing new features at this time. We’ll have more information to share later this year!
GAK: Will the gameplay differ much to previous Rock Band entries?
I can’t really get into specifics, but I can say that the core Rock Band gameplay that fans love and know will be making a return. We have some truly amazing innovations that will add to the experience, but we’re not ready to talk about them just yet… soon!
GAK: How important is it to you that the fans help develop and shape the game? Do you think that this open development can help revive the music genre after its little hiatus?
It’s absolutely vital for us to get feedback from our players and fans – we’ve already started it by sending out some public surveys over the past year. As we’ve said, we look at Rock Band 4 as THE Rock Band game for the generation, and intend to update the game with content and features that will be informed by how people are playing the game and what fans want.
GAK: Mad Catz are making the peripherals this time around; what can we expect the price range to be?
Mad Catz is an amazing partner with a lot of experience on the hardware side, and we’re excited to be working with them. In terms of pricing, we’re not quite ready to talk about that at the moment.
GAK: Last of all, what's the hardest song that you've completed on Expert in any Guitar Hero game?
Speaking personally, I’m proud of the fact that I was able to get through “Green Grass and High Tides” on Expert guitar… just barely, though. I’m not ashamed – it’s all in good fun.

Rock Band 4 comes out later this year for PS4 and Xbox One. Harmonix are also developing a reboot of their classic Amplitude, coming to PS3 and PS4, which will be playable at PAX East from tomorrow!

GDC/IGF Round-Up Day 2

Image from
There's been another jam-packed day of GDC news, the biggest being that WE DID IT! Harmonix finally announced Rock Band 4 for PS4 and Xbox One later this year! As well as having new peripherals, the game will be compatible with older guitars and drumsets too, as well as support all previous Rock Band songs, which amounts to over 2000, all importable from previous games. 

Microsoft also had a lot to announce for consumers and developers alike: the former getting a list of Windows 10/Xbox One Cross-Play games, including #IDARB and The Behemoth's upcoming Game 4, and the latter getting two free Xbox One dev kits and the ability to turn their Xbox One into a test kit by joining the ID@Xbox program. There were also a couple of rumors surrounding Microsoft: one being from GamesIndustry that suggests Xbox VP and former SCEE VP Phil Harrison will be leaving his post, and the second being from Eurogamer, who's interview with Phil Spencer sparked rumors that some type of Battletoads game could be coming this year , backed up by the fact that this ear is creator Rare's 30th anniversary, and how Rare are owned by Microsoft.

Last of all, both IGF and GDC held their awards ceremonies today, with the big winners being space exploration game Outer Wilds and Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor respectively. Each winner of a IGF award earns $3000 for development, while a GDC award winner earns respect. There were also three people who earned awards at GDC: CEO of Frontier, David Braben, won the Pioneer Award for developing the first Elite game way back in 1980; Mistwalker founder and Final Fantasy creator won the Lifetime Achievement award for obvious reasons, and developer of Wizardry Brenda Romero won the Ambassador Award for being one of the longest-serving women in the gaming industry.

So what do you guys make of this? Are you excited for Rock Band 4? And dod you think that Battletoads (Or any Rare property) will be revived later this year? Tell us in the comments!

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

GDC Round-Up: Day 1

Image from
So this year's edition of the Game Developers Conference, running alongside the Independent Games Festival in San Fran, and there's been so much news jam-packed into the first day that I'm not even making this article a list.

The first big announcement was the final Project Morpheus Specs, which absolutely trump the competition: it has a 1900 x 1080p OLED screen, a 120fps rate and 100 degrees of viewing angles. It sounds like Valve's recently announced RE Vive headset has already been beaten, and the Project Morpheus should be launching around early 2016. Valve haven't been beaten quietly though, announcing a load of new products, the biggest being the Source 2 engine, that's free to all game developers. There's also the Steam Link box, which will stream games from any Steam Machine or PC in 1080p 60fps for $49.99 in November, alongside the first Steam Machines by Alienware and Falcon Northwest, and the Steam Controller, which'll cost a huge $49.99.

Nvidia also announced their foray into the android console market with the Shield console, which contains its crazy fast Tegra X1 chip, (Allowing for the possibility of 4K film visuals and 1080p60 game visuals) an Android TV OS, 50 optimized Android games and the ability to stream console games from its Grid subscription service. It'll be coming out in the first half of the year in the US, and the second half in the UK.

Now onto games: the biggest gameplay video being The Witcher 3, which was actually streamed via the Grid service. The graphics were absolutely stunning, and the open world gameplay looks fun, but probably the most innovative game there was Dig Rush. Although it's a simple game, it's designed to help people with amblyopia, or lazy eye, by testing out their strong and weak eyes with colour and stereoscopic 3D (Finally, a use for it). If it's indie games your looking for, 1) you're at the wrong festival, and 2) Microsoft have you covered, announcing dozens of games coming to Xbox One, including the critically acclaimed Wasteland 2 and Shovel Knight, plus a couple of odd-sounding ones like Reagan-Gorbachev, which sounds... interesting.

Oh yeah, and Elite: Dangerous is also coming to Xbox One.

Stay tuned for more GDC coverage, and maybe some IGF stuff if anything comes out of it!

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Random Reviews: A Good Snowman is Hard to Build!

Ed: We've decided to do away with review scores and instead recommend games to different groups of gamers. If a game is the best, then we'll recommend it to everyone!
img from:

A Good Snowman is Hard to Build.

Welcome to another Random Review!

Today, I will be reviewing a game called A Good Snowman is Hard to Build. This game is available on Steam and will help you build a perfect friend or even give you snow much fun (Yes, I did just do that). A Good Snowman is Hard to Build takes you on a puzzle based adventure with lots of free hugs!

Beginning your adventure!

The aim of the game is simple. You arrive in your garden and need to complete a set of (Hard!) puzzles to build a snowman or snowwoman. In fact, some may say that you are the garden’s guardian (Oh, yeah?) appearing as a black creature - with no visible features - throughout your journey.
Since each creature is unfinished, you have to work hard to complete your friends. This also includes naming them. The obvious aim of the game is to roll the snow into balls to complete the ‘friend’ however, things do not always appear as they seem.

a good snowman is hard to build 3
 img from:

Personally, I really did enjoy this game, but more in a guilty pleasure kind of way. Even though it can be sadistic and cruel, it was also very adorable to play (When you're not tearing your hair out). In fact I was amazed by how addicting a game of such a simple context could be. This is the kind of game you could spend 5 minutes on one level and 20 minutes on the next. However, I feel that the most important message of the game is hugging! Don’t forget that it’s important to hug your frosty friends once in a while.

Do you want to build a Snowman?

I really did like this game. It was an excellent challenge and something different from the games I usually play. This is why I would recommend this game to fans of the puzzle genre. Even though I liked it, I don’t think that it’s for everyone.  

Verdict: ‘A good game for puzzle fans’.

Did you enjoy this review or perhaps have played the game yourself? Do tell us in the comments below!

Huge thanks to Draknek for the review code!

Unreal Price

Image from
Unreal Engine 4 has been known as the ultimate graphical engine, probably tied for CryEngine3, but it's generally been snubbed for Unity when it comes to indie developers. That won't be happening anymore, however, as Epic have announced that they're releasing the engine FOR FREE from now on, and you'll only be required to give them 5% of your revenue if you're making over $3000 a quarter. In their words: "We succeed when you succeed."

So what does this mean for games in general? Well, for starters, we'll see a lot more indie games made with UE4, meaning that we'll also see indie games that are a lot prettier, too. Unreal 4 also has a GUI to use that allows you to program a game using only visual tools, rather than code, so we'll also see a lot more games in general, and probably a fair few that are shoddy. The coolest news, however, is that UE4 could now be used in schools to push coding classes, which will mean a whole lotta talented developers ready to make the next generation of games. Still, there's no doubt that Unity will still be popular, but expect to see the Unreal symbol a lot more in the future.

The Trailer of the Day today is the Amplitude - A Cult Classic Reborn trailer, which pretty much explains itself. The recently kickstarted game is coming to PS4 and PS3, and this trailer showcases a couple of the multiplayer modes that have been added in this reboot. Perhaps Amplitude will ease us into the recently touted Guitar Hero/Rock Band reboot?


Monday, 2 March 2015

SWTOR Lowdown: Speedrun Canceled?

Image from

Here is the sad news from Bioware today. More from this in tomorrow's This Week in Gaming where I will get into my views on this as well as some Contrast-related news. 

Hey folks,

I will cut right to the chase, we are cancelling our ESL Operation Victory competition. Our reason revolves around the Coratanni encounter. I know many of you raised concerns about the issues related to the encounter, and we agree.

We spent a lot of time this week testing bug fixes to see how viable the fixed version would be in a speed running environment. We have applied improvements to the Coratanni encounter as of tomorrow’s patch but there are still situations that could impact players focused on a timed run.

We thank you for your feedback around the contest and should we decide to do something like this in the future, we will let you know. Also, let us know your feedback on the concept of doing a speedrun contest. As we explore options like this in the future it would be great to know your thoughts.