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5th Cell’s Hybrid is “Marketable Innovation” at Work


The makers behind the quirky title Scribblenauts have revealed their philosophy behind balancing innovation and marketability. “We call it ‘marketable innovation’ here. Commercial viability is extremely important to us. When we do something, we don’t just throw it at a wall and hope it sticks. We look at market data, what people are interested in playing, and offer our own take on that” states Jeremiah Slaczka, creative director at 5th cell.

Take, for example, how Scribblenauts came to be. “When I was designing the base concept, I looked at Nintendogs,” he explains. “I asked, ‘Why is that a market leader?’ And I broke it down scientifically, looking at things — the art style, how the input works. The core theme is puppies, and you know, nobody hates puppies.” In an earlier interview with Game Informer, 5th Cell expounded on the rationale used to design Scribblenauts. “With the DS, we said, “what is the DS and who is the market?” Thus, using the same line of inquiry he came to decide that ‘surprise’ and ‘imagination’ fit the bill and Scribblenauts was born.

Hybrid, on the other hand, markets to a totally different audience than Scribblenauts did. After all, Hybrid is as cover based post-apocalyptic shooter that will release as an XBLA title. The market for the DS and the 360 are different enough that 5th Cell didn’t feel comfortable continuing their signature quirky/cutesy games on the platform.  “Porting over Drawn to Life to the Xbox is a bad idea because no one is going to buy it. That’s fine. We’re all hardcore gamers. So Hybrid has guns and its post apocalyptic.” Unsurprisingly, 5th cell is taking cues from games like Call of Duty and Gears of War. “To try to be successful, we look at the market leaders and say, ‘What are they doing right, and what should we take from that?’ Then we ask, ‘How should we be different than that?'”

Despite going in with surgical precision, Slaczka assures that they’re not in it for making a big hit. “If we fail, we fail. If we succeed, we succeed. We actually don’t care that much [about making it a big hit], but we want to be successful.”

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Bastion looking swell

One more brief trailer into the breach my friends! Bastion was recently picked up by publisher Warner Bros. Interactive, most likely for one of those fancy “Summer of Live” releases, and had a new trailer released at roughly the same time from GDC. We missed it, in a spurt of Dragon Age 2 and Pokemon related reverie, but now we’re here, and we’ve got the scoop. The days old, completely stale scoop!

But that’s okay, because Bastion is one of those games more and more people deserve to hear about. Made by guys who worked on Command and Conquer games for EA in the past, Bastion is nothing, at all, like that, but instead a stylized top down dungeon crawler a la Diablo 2. Its main selling point, however, is its wonderful aesthetic sense. Like, the game is absolutely charming, and the trailer above will sell it a thousand times better than I can.

And yes, I hate doing promotional type posts, but I make an exception for indies, or when I am absorbed in two 40+ hour long games. Oh, actually three, since Radiant Historia still exists and is a thing.

ALAN WAKE: THE SIGNAL & THE WRITER – Review

ALAN WAKE: THE SIGNAL & THE WRITER are expansions developed by Remedy Entertainment to be downloaded at Xbox Live Arcade for the game ALAN WAKE for the Xbox 360. It was directed by MIKKO RAUTALAHTI and MARKUS MÄKI.

Alan Wake is lost again. This time, he’s gone deeper than ever before: inside his own mind. But luckily for him, his mind is inhabited by a terrain he is certainly familiar with: a surreal version of Bright Falls. Both expansions, The Signal and The Writer, are about the same story and one will be incomplete without the other. That being said, they are still distinctively different gameplay-wise. While The Signal has some more interesting combat mechanics, The Writer is focused, has a clearer objective and cooler scenarios. If I were to rate them separately (although that doesn’t make much sense (more on that later)), I would say The Signal is schlock but The Writer is good.

The main problem with The Signal is its general lack of direction. Read the rest of this entry

Slow Your Roll With Some of ilomilo’s Tracks

We’re talking the opposite of Four Loko here: we’re talking Drank-type of roll…rolling (yes this is an actual drink.)

Y’see, the ilomilo blog has songs from the too-cute-to-be-true XBLA puzzle game up for download. 5 clicks nets you 5 different tracks, including “March of the ilomilos,” the track heard in the trailer above. The other songs are undoubtedly some of the better tracks off the OST, so if you’re a fan of the game (and if you’re not, I’m assuming you haven’t downloaded the charming demo) do yourself a favor and get the tracks. You will be a happier person for it.

Play ilomilo on XBLA Early

As in, “right now” early. Y’see, while ilomilo–the cutesy puzzle game–is not officially released on XBLA, there is a super duper secret way of unlocking both the trial and full game. All you have to do is head on to this website and, provided you can use Captcha, you will be given a code to input on the XBL marketplace. This code unlocks the trial version of ilomilo, but should you become overtaken by the cuteness that is ilomilo, you will also be able to purchase the full game.

If you need a reminder for what this game is, just check this trailer out:

Download it, I dare you not to be charmed.

 

Team Meat: Games Today Provide Empty Happiness; Expansion Plans

In an excellent interview over at GameReactor (part 1 here, part 2 here ) Team Meat reveals their thoughts on modern game’s difficulty. Can you guess why they think that the industry is catering to a  larger audience?

“It’s 100% business. It’s a logical business plan. If you want to be able to make as many people as happy as possible, even if it means an empty happiness. So that’s why every single game has super in-depth tutorials that teach the player so they can’t make any mistakes. Everyone’s trying to make sure no-one gets discouraged in any way possible and they make their way through to the end. Because videogames right now are treated like movies. In order to get the whole experience you need to finish every aspect of the game so they want to make it so everyone can do that. And that’s business. It makes business sense.”

This viewpoint comes  to no surprise  for SMB players, I’m sure. Still, it’s great to see that some people in the industry get it, you know? After all, as Edmund states, “not every game in the world should be easily beaten.”

And now, with a hit game on their hands, money, fame, fortune (except not…they haven’t been paid in years), Team Meat will probably look to expand, right? Wrong. On the subject of expansion, Team Meat said the following: “NEVER! Never ever. The very idea of paying someone a salary and insurance and making sure…the idea of someone’s livelihood relying on me is fearful. I don’t like it. I couldn’t raise a child right now.

Whenever any independent gets any sort of money they feel like they have to expand. And in order to make new games they have to expand. This isn’t not every independent, obviously there are always exceptions. But a lot of them do. They got to get these fourteen artists, they got to get this and that but when you get to that point you’re not so much creating games anymore as more you’re trying to find work to pay your employees. And I’ve done that. I’ve been there, in a situation where I’ve looked for contract work and that was a miserable time in my life. I had a shitload of money but that’s not fun. It wasn’t working on what I wanted to. If we hire people we have to find work, find them work, find money and have to make the next ‘whatever’ game. I don’t want to do that but I have to because I’ve five people to pay. It’s scary.”

Of course we all know the real reason they’re not expanding is because they want to keep their sexual friendship intact. Anyway, make sure to read the interview in full–there’s a lot of meaty stuff in there, including how Team Meat got together, a very expensive Coke Zero bottle, and what Team Meat thinks about the new-fangled motion controllers.

 

 

Xbox Live Indie getting all the games in one week

This post is subtitled: “Cthulhu Saves the World has a release date!”

Anyway, you’ve probably been on the XBL Indie section once or twice. Probably around when I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MBIES 1N IT!!!1 was released. You looked at the other best selling games, and found a stream of crap, and many, many titles involving zombies, avatars, or massaging. I mean, XBL Indie is at best a brilliant idea poorly done, as evidenced by the game Try Not to Fart being one of the top selling titles. Seriously, people. Seriously. And it’s evident that some of the creators on the service are fed up with the state of affairs, but until now, there wasn’t a whole lot they could do about it. Microsoft seemed content to relegate it to non-priority status, and has not done a whole lot to promote it. Mostly, the system has relied on grassroots promotion, with the most successful titles being fan favorites like the aforementioned game with zombies in it or Breath of Death VII, an old school comedy RPG that’s actually quite good.

Now, though, things change. A collection of the best talents on the marketplace are banding together to overwhelm the crap by releasing all their games on the same day. …Yes, I know, I’m about as confused as you are. On one hand, it makes a good news story, that’ll get play pretty much everywhere. On the other, I don’t have $50 of expendable cash on the first week of December. I have maybe $10. Which is unfortunate, because so many of these games look fantastic. I was considering highlighting specific ones as the “best of the bunch”, but honestly, with sequels to a number of games I liked (Breath of Death, Aphelion which we reviewed!, and Soulcaster) as well as new games from Ska Studios (maker of the game with the zombies in it and personal favorite Dishwasher: Dead Samurai, possibly the best XBLA game) and radiangames, as well as some awesome looking new titles like competitive brawler Chu’s Dynasty, stick adventurer Alpha Squad, roguelike Epic Dungeon, and the awesomely named Asteroids Do Concern Me, I mean, fuck, how do I highlight one or the other.

In any case, the first week of December is going to be pretty awesome. Though we do not know whether that means December 1st (which is a Wednesday, so XBLA updates) or the first week of December proper, as yet. But it doesn’t matter, because this winter, we will all be poor!

If you’re still skeptical of these games, have no fear, for we shall bring you detailed, tangent-filled reviews of many of these games!

Review: Costume Quest

We should have seen it coming.

There are two types of games on PSN and XBLA. The first is the game that takes small ideas, polishes them to the point of perfection, and then layers on the charm, creating a memorable experience. Recently released (on the same day, no less!) title Super Meat Boy does this to perfection: it is a simple game I could play forever. The other kind is a game that really desires to be a fully featured, $60 game, and uses its price tag and downloadable nature as a crutch to excuse it for overreaching and, ultimately, failing.

And that, sadly, is what we have with Costume Quest.

It’s not a bad game. Okay, it’s schlock. It’s an awful game. But it tries really hard. It is a game with a soul, except its soul is stuck in a sad, depressing body.
Read the rest of this entry

Super Meat Boy Kicks Off With A Sale on XBLA

As a thank you to all the fans, Team Meat has decided to put Super Meat Boy on sale from the release date until November–a move never before taken on XBL. Good news for all you folks wary of high DLC prices, right?

“So, recently we have been talking to MS about eventual sales and the future of Super Meat Boy, we wanted to be able to do something special for Xmas,” says Edmund, SMB creator, on the Meat Blog, “but it felt like a sale only 2 months after launch would be a kinda shitty thing to do to the fans who just bought it.”

So, what’s the sale price? 800 MS points: that’d be 10 dollars.

Now you have two reasons to pick this game up right away: it’s insanely good, and you’ll save money doing it, too. Win-win! Just know that should you partake in this meaty sale, this will be your unavoidable fate:

Super Meat Boy Review

For the past couple of days, my reality has consisted of nothing but blood curdling shrieks. You see, I’m currently trapped in a nightmare. This terrible nightmare has a name–Super Meat Boy. Fun fact: Super Meat Boy is the devil. Hell, Super Meat Boy is perhaps the most infuriating title I’ve played all year. I can’t recall the last time I was this angry at a video game.

Yes, Super Meat Boy is the devil…but I can’t stop playing it.

The premise of the little monster is simple: Dr. Fetus is a dick. And true to form, he’s stolen your love interest, Bandage Girl. I’m sure this sounds familiar to some of you (incidentally the acronym is the same as Super Mario Bros). And, like Mario, I sincerely believe that Meat Boy deserves to be considered for a spot under “generation classic.” A bold claim which will need to be revisited at a later date, but one currently held with real conviction.

I can spend a long time detailing the aspects of SMB which exude the feeling of a classic title–from the retro chiptune soundtrack, to the inclusion of warp zones that teleport Meat Boy to homages to classic gaming consoles. Meat Boy himself oozes charm, thanks to the wonderfully gooey sound effects, his expressions, and his dashing animations. Even the “supporting cast” of Dr. Fetus and Bandage girl are precocious, in their own way (and isn’t the idea of a fetus as a villain amazing in of itself?), but none of this is what makes SMB stand out. Sure, it’s a love letter to old-school platformers, but what really makes SMB superb is the incredibly deliberate design. SMB stands strong on its core design without any of the “features” bloating modern titles. And it’s all the more bold, outstanding of a title for it. Team Meat knows, well, where the meat of the gameplay is.

Meat Boy must run, dash, jump and wall jump at high speeds–nothing new, as far as platforming mechanics go–across worlds designed to be microcosms for your own personal hell. These actions are all governed by simple controls which follow the ‘simple to pick up, difficult to master’ paradigm. The thing about the game is, Team Meat knows where you want to hide your family heirlooms, your children, and your dignity. But I will tell you right now: there is no escape. The only way to come out alive is to have the precision of a madman. Have I mentioned there are no checkpoints in any of the levels? Because there aren’t. Hence, the need for near perfection. Don’t take this to mean that SMB requires specific precision–levels aren’t (always) linear, and can often be approached in a number of ways. Some of the more creative approaches require nerves and reflexes of steel, though. In my current playthrough, I’ve died over two thousand times. Normally, that sort of death count would cause me to give up playing a game, but while each death brings me a little closer to heart attack, it strengthens my resolve to beat the level.

Read the rest of this entry