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How South Park: The Stick of Truth steeled Obsidian for making Tyranny

The fart jokes, sexual delinquency and lightly-salted racism of South Park: The Stick of Truth helped Obsidian grapple with the morally repugnant acts players can commit in Tyranny. …


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Planet Coaster Review – A Walk In The Theme Park

Theme parks have the incredible ability to transport visitors to magical new worlds. I find it hard to walk through Disney World’s fairy-dust-sprinkled streets without dreaming about the amazing attractions I’d cook up if I only had a billion dollars and a team of Imagineers on payroll. Planet Coaster is a theme park creation toolkit that helps scratch that itch. While this simulated theme park proves that managing your own wonderland isn’t all fun and games, its nearly limitless creation tools allow for some grand displays sure to inspire the tycoons of tomorrow.

Planet Coaster is almost a misnomer. While roller coasters are certainly a star attraction for any theme park, that’s only one element in Planet Coaster’s larger diorama. Frontier Developments (of Roller Coaster Tycoon fame) has created a complete theme park simulator that allows you to customize little details (like the speed of your tilt-a-whirl) while managing a staff and funding advertisement campaigns to attract the masses across the country.

Of course, those masses get most excited about roller coasters that send their stomachs into zero-g. Planet Coaster’s roller coaster creation set seems intimidating at first, but it’s easy to use. I found it simple to lay out a track, add loops or hills, and then add extra curves and twists to every inch of the track. During my time with Planet Coaster, I discovered that I was a sadistic designer who took a little too much pride in the fact that guests would often step off rides and immediately vomit, but I also never felt restricted while creating these horror shows.

Those who suffer from the blank-page syndrome might find inspiration by editing one of Planet Coaster’s extensive premade tracks. The game also offers great feedback on your creations, so you know if your coaster isn’t obeying the laws of physics or if it’s too twisty and will make your guests sick. I found it very handy that I could automatically smooth out bumpy sections or autocomplete my tracks once my creative juices had started to run low.

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The elasticity of Planet Coaster’s creation tools extends into the rest of the park. You can populate your playground with a variety of non-coaster rides, band stands, and shops. A wide array of scenery allows you to create sci-fi utopias, wild west sideshows, or pirate getaways. I ran into a few problems laying paths across my parks and connecting a ride’s exit back to the main park, but for the most part the only limit I felt while creating my theme parks was my own imagination.

As a creation kit, Planet Coaster is impressive. Unfortunately, as a management sim, the game feels like a slow ride on a carousel. You oversee everything from the price of your ticket sales, to the amount of money you spend on advertisements, to what new ride technology to research next; but making sure you have enough janitors to clean up after your guests isn’t nearly as exciting as building a death-defying new coaster. A Career Mode lets you jump through a series of pre-made parks and complete a series of tasks to rejuvenate each park, but these objectives are often boring or tedious, so you’re better off creating your own park from scratch.

Planet Coaster offers few carrots to continue to expand your park outside of the sheer joy of creation. Thankfully, Planet Coaster has so many tools available that that creating your own worlds of fun is often its own reward.

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Snoop Dogg, Future, More Coming To NBA 2K17′s Park After Dark

Publisher 2K is taking its music game to the next level with the introduction of the Park After Dark series in NBA 2K17. Artists including Future and Snoop Dogg will provide exclusive performances for fans in the game's MyPark Mode.

“Music is such a big part of the NBA 2K franchise and greater basketball culture, so taking such an innovative approach demonstrates our commitment to evolving the game into a destination for more than just hoops,” says Alfie Brody, VP of marketing for NBA 2K. “Park After Dark is something we hope further connects our community and elevates their NBA 2K17 experience.” 

Players can visit an in-game nightclub, featuring a center stage and light show. There, they can compete in special 3-point shootouts and dunk contests, or just hang out and enjoy the show.

The first Park After Dark is scheduled on November 26.

 

Our Take
Your move, Forza Horizon 3. 

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Answering South Park: Fractured But Whole’s Lingering Questions

This is it, the tail end of Game Informer's run of exclusive features covering Ubisoft's South Park: The Fractured But Whole. On this special edition podcast, we Skype in Ubisoft San Francisco's senior producer Jason Schroeder and director of design Paul Cross to field questions from the community about the upcoming RPG from the minds of Matt Stone and Trey Parker. Tune in to learn more about the game's fascinating development, how the game compares to The Stick of Truth, and whether or not the new season will change the story.

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Beyond Brown Notes – The Sounds Of South Park

The children of South Park have changed their game for The Fractured But Whole, and the soundtrack has changed along with it. Whereas Stick of Truth looked to games like Skyrim and the soundtracks of the Lord of the Rings films, Fractured But Whole is looking toward the super hero genre. It is also expanding how much music and how many sound effects are part of the game by a huge degree.

Nicholas Bonardi is the lead audio designer for South Park: The Fractured But Whole, leading a team that works closely with long time South Park composer, Jamie Dunlap, to craft the sound of the game. For Stick of Truth, Obsidian mostly pulled music directly from the show, and worked with Dunlap to fill in the gap. Here Dunlap, as well as Bonardi and the rest of the sound team, are crafting more original sound.

“He knows what South Park sounds like,” Bonardi says of Dunlap. “He’s been working with them for so long that he has a large degree of trust with them and thankfully, we’ve earned their trust early on.” Bonardi said that early on he also pieced together music from the show to soundtrack the game, but Nonardi works so fast, so it’s often just better to request original music from him. “Living in the digital age is what allows South Park to make its stuff so quickly,” Bonardi says. “Jaimie [Dunlap]’s used to getting his stuff at like 2:00 in the morning on a Saturday when the show releases on Wednesday, so he needs to get them the music by Tuesday night. He’s got literally no time to do it.” Dunlap works from his home-based music studio in L.A., but the magic of the digital age allows him to turn around music very quickly. “The quality of what he gives us sounds very much like an orchestra right off the bat. Usually, we can just run with it without a lot of back and forth.” Bonardi and his team are also composing music for the game, but Dunlap takes a listen to everything giving it the South Park thumbs up.

The super hero movie references are very clear, and you will hear all kinds of music inspiration from super hero films, despite the main Civil War narrative baseline. Avengers-style music is an obvious inclusion, but so is inspiration from the X-Men films, and Batman. “Superman – sort of,” Bonardi says. “The good parts of it. But also some more retro stuff, like Batman Returns.” Both The Coon and Mysterion’s soundtrack are heavily inspired by Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight film trilogy, but Coon’s group, coon and Friends, borrows more from The Avengers. Mysterion’s group, Freedom Pals, are more inspired the sound of the X-Men films, partly due to Timmy’s role as an Xavier-type.

Outside of the protagonist children, the town’s assorted factions have their own soundtracks, as well. One of the more interesting pieces of music we got to hear belonged to the Vamp Kids, which offers a clear auditory reference to Castlevania and that distinct Konami brand of rock.

Where the music is mostly on Dunlap’s court, the game’s sound effects are handled almost entirely by Ubisoft. Much of the show’s sound effects come from cheap sound effect albums, which adds a level of cheapo humor to the show’s audio design. The team has access to all the show’s iconic sounds, like doors, the school bell, and the vocalized cat meows, but Ubisoft is handling one of the game’s most important sound effects – the farts.

The studio Bonardi and his team use to record sound has a corner dedicated to fart sounds, with plungers, a Vuvuzela (which Bonardi admits he’s not really sure what that was used for), as well as a jar of Flarp Noise Putty.

A lot of the fart sound effects on the show are simply down to the skilled voice work of Matt and Trey, but Bonardi and his team needed to come up with a much larger library for the games myriad sounds. "In a game like this, there's a point where you end up with farts on everything," Bonardi says. "And you go, 'Oh man. There are too many farts. Everything farts.' We have to work on really getting different qualities into these farts, to the point where you're focusing on these powers, but it has a quality of a fart to it." Bonardi describes the protagonist joining with Kyle (A.K.A. Human Kite) for his fart-kour power. "If you just have a regular fart through the whole thing, then you're just farting all the time. We mixed it so it's kind of like a jet engine in there. We layered it to the point where it's more jet engine, but it is still gated by this farty quality."

Trey and Matt were presented with tons of different sounds going down the list saying which ones they liked and didn’t like, which gave a Ubisoft a good idea of what they liked and what kind of fart sounds they should focus on. For all of its focus on farts, however, Bonardi assures no real farts were recorded for the game. "I can say, pretty much flat out – no."

"You wouldn't think you would have this much direction in something as simple as a fart," Bonardi says. When asked how many fart sounds his team has recorded Bonardi says, "I actually do not know how big the library is now. It’s tempting to put a number on it. I am going to say it's definitely more than 100."

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Working With Trey And Matt – The South Park: Fractured But Whole Workflow

In 2011, Comedy Central aired a documentary called 6 Days to Air: The Making of South Park. The documentary was a showcase for how South Park comes together every week and detailed the presumed impossible process of conceiving, writing, and animating a television show in six days. It proved the creators of South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, are brilliant, hard-working, fast, and maybe a little bit insane.

Fractured But Whole is not being made in six days. The game has been in development for years, but that does not mean Trey and Matt are abandoning their fast pace or penchant for last-second changes. We spoke with Ubisoft San Francisco about what it’s like to work with the award-winning duo, and how it is translating their work ethic into a video game.

Trey and Matt enjoyed their time finishing up Stick of Truth with Ubisoft, preferring that process to their earlier work on Stick of Truth, which helped them make the decision to pursue a second game. “From the first brainstorming meeting we asked, ‘What story do you want to tell? What game mechanics were you unhappy with in the last game? What things do we look at from the last game that were definitely successes, but where do we want to iterate?’” senior producer Jason Schroeder says.

The answers to those questions were outlined, and Trey and Matt went off to start the design process, while Ubisoft started making decisions about the technical side of development. For Stick of Truth, Obsidian essentially translated all of South Park’s animation into its engine by re-animating it. For Fractured, Ubisoft adapted its Snowdrop engine (which was used to build The Division) so that it could take the art assets directly from South Park’s animators and artists and insert them into the game with little to no need for adaptation.

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Senior producer Jason Schroeder and director of design Paul Cross discuss working with Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

From there, the game started to take shape. In the early stages, Schroeder and select team members would visit South Park Studios for a few days twice a month and have frequent video conference calls. Schroeder describes seeing Trey pace around the table in these meetings, just as he does in 6 Days To Air, outlining what he would want to see in the game, while Schroeder would outline the feasibility of his ideas.

The script for the game arrives from Trey and Matt, and it’s written just as they write the show. “They work in Movie Magic Screenwriter. It’s old as hell. It’s like the precursor to Final Draft,” narrative designer Jolie Menzel says. “I guarantee you they started using it in college and just never stopped.” Outside of the dialogue, those scripts have stage directions in them, which are translated to gameplay.

Ubisoft makes changes in those scripts as necessary, but recognizes their technical role in the process. “We are kind of the straight man,” Menzel says, “They’re going to handle all the big jokes. They’re going to handle the big punchlines. A lot of what we do is support them. We set up the shot so they can slam it in.

Schroeder would be the one to tell Trey and Matt no when necessary. “You want them to be happy. You want to please them, and have them be proud of what they’re working on, so there is a level of that – wanting to impress them,” Schroeder says. “But at the same time, I think that if I was coming at it purely as a pleaser, they’d go, ‘You’re not going to get s*** done from me. I need someone who is going to get things done.’”

With the show, Trey and Matt know the limits of both the medium, and their self-imposed time constraints, and after completing one game, they’re well on their way to learning the constraints of this different, interactive medium. “When their creativity runs up against a constraint, that’s when they hit another, ‘Oh, we can make fun of that.’” The game’s original title was less subtle, and when they were told you can’t release a game with the word butthole in the title, Trey and Matt worked within those constraints in order to arrive at the game’s current title, as an example of recognizing boundaries.

In this later portion of development, Trey and Matt play frequent builds of the game, giving feedback and making changes where necessary. They will even write out changes on their whiteboard during these video conference play sessions, and Ubisoft points its cameras at the board to better understand what needs to change. “I know [Trey] well enough at this point where we jump onto a call and if he’s like, ‘How much is it going to bum you out…’ I’m like, ‘Dammit. Here it comes,’” Schroeder says. Sometimes those changes are large, but often they are small. Schroeder has the wider, full game experience in his head, which works in tandem with Trey and Matt’s decisions.

When South Park is on the air, the dynamic changes, but not dramatically. “I become slightly less demanding,” Schroeder says when Trey and Matt are working on the show. They don’t disappear, however. After 20 seasons of television, Trey and Matt know exactly what their availability will be and continue to work on the game. The meetings are fewer, but they are still happening. Schroeder knows he can’t ask for that extra 15 minutes he might get when the show is not airing, but the communication channels are still open. “Bill Hader is in the building and he’s like, ‘Hey. Get out of here.’” Schroeder jokes that Hader is the muscle making sure Trey and Matt stay focused on the show when the season is happening.

“They’re not horrible tyrants. They’re always happy to compromise with us,” Menzel says. “It’s not as tumultuous as you might think it is. We have a few people who work on the show who also work on the game, and they have it a lot worse than we do in the show.” Trey and Matt still work very fast, but the game is less compressed. They have more time to create the game than they do their show, and for the most part, Menzel says things are mostly all set, but changes will come, and Ubisoft is ready for them.

“Our ending is actually very gelled. There was this one weekend where Trey was like, ‘I got it!’” Menzel says.  In regard to those all-important last second jokes, Schroeder says, “If it doesn’t mess with our age rating? It shouldn’t be a problem.”

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Why Ubisoft Trusted The Rocksmith Team With South Park

Fans of Obsidian's South Park: The Stick of Truth might have been surprised to hear that the television show's next RPG is being made by Ubisoft San Francisco, the developers behind the music-rhythm game Rocksmith. While visiting the studio for our November cover story on South Park: The Fractured But Whole, we spoke with senior producer Jason Schroeder and director of design Paul Cross about how the team went from third-party consultants on Ubisoft-published games to tackling an ambitious RPG alongside Matt Stone and Trey Parker.

Watch the video below to learn more about the studio behind the new game and what the future holds for potential future South Park games.

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The Classes And Character Sheets Of South Park: The Fractured But Whole

South Park: The Fractured But Whole may be a game about super heroes, but it’s still an RPG. You will still find many elements of fantasy role-playing games in its structure, and one of those elements are classes. What class you choose and how it affects your player, however, is much different from South Park: The Stick of Truth.

At the game’s opening, after you’ve customized your character, you choose between three classes: Brutalist, Blaster, and Speedster. Each of those classes has four abilities. The Brutalist is the strong class, the Blaster is the ranged class, and the Speedster is the fast class. After you make your choice, Cartman explains your backstory and you get a quick tutorial on the abilities of your chosen class. You can actually try each class out before making your final decision, which is indicative of how classes play out for the rest of the game.

You level up your base stats as you progress through the game, like power and health, but you are not upgrading your abilities, or pouring points into stats related to a specific class. This means you are never locked into a class and can always change. You likely won’t be changing constantly, however. "It's a little more of a measured choice than that,” senior producer Jason Schroeder says, “Cartman is your dungeon master, or your game master, so you kind of need to go to him to change it. So it's a little bit of a choice you need to hold on to."

After you’ve picked your class and made your way through the game’s first narrative day, Cartman gives you the option to start multi-classing. "You can say, ‘I’m going to take two Brutalist powers, a Speedster power, and the Speedster Ultimate and make a character mixed toward that direction.” Schroeder offers as an example of how to mix and match abilities. Other classes will open up later in the game, as well as the option to mix and match between more than just two classes. We don’t know the full list yet, but we know Elementalist and Mystic classes will appear, as well as psychic and healing classes.

The whole idea of shuffling class abilities is to make your character more malleable and customizable. "As your understanding of the tactics games becomes more sophisticated, the classes give you a different range of tactical choices you could be making," Schroeder says. You can even choose to shift your class make-up to complement your buddies, who’s abilities are set in stone when they join your party. You can’t edit their abilities, but you do get a chance to rearrange the party at the start of every fight if there are certain abilities you need to take advantage of in a particular fight.

As part of your character’s development, you also have a character sheet you are filling out through the course of the game. It functions as a progress tracker, with your missions and side-quests showing up on one side, and your character definitions on the other. You have stats like Spunk (your magic and special abilities), Brawn (your physical strength), Dexterity (aiming and accuracy), Speed (how much you can move in the tactical grid, and where you place in the turn order), and Fortitude (defense).

The sheet also details your character’s custom aspects like race, gender, religion, as well as who your arch enemy is, what your kryptonite is, and your power source, which is always your butt. Some of those aspects you can declare, but others, like holy alignment, are based on how you play the game and will affect dialogue and cutscenes, though it doesn’t have major bearing on the overall direction of the story.

There is also an economic level on the character sheet that has to do with how much money is in your pocket, and how much you have in savings. Schroeder didn’t go into too much detail about the economic level, but referenced the season 13 Margaritaville episode of the show, which examined the complicated process of attempting to save money. We didn’t learn more about it, but the character sheet also tracks your detective level.

You also earn a name beyond simply the new kid, and it changes throughout the course of the game. Cartman is always trying out different names on you, nearly all of them themed around butts or farts, but the public learns to identify you as the Farting Vigilante.

Ideally, the malleability of the class system should let players have more control over how to play the game, and maybe even allow you to build your way up to Cartman’s class. "The Coon is a Ninja Maninal, so that one's pretty hard.” Schroeder says, “He's not super enthusiastic about having another Ninja Manimal on the team."

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How The Last Few Seasons Will Affect South Park: The Fractured But Whole

Season 17 of South Park aired its season finale four months prior to the release of South Park: The Stick of Truth. Season 18 aired its premiere about five months after the game's release. Season 20 just began airing last month. This means that three seasons of South Park will have aired three full seasons between the release of Stick of Truth and The Fractured But Whole, which is planned for release early next year. We spoke with Fractured But Whole’s creators at Ubisoft San Francisco to find out how all of those episodes will factor into the game.

You begin Fractured as the new kid, affectionately nicknamed "***" by Cartman on your first adventure, still caught up in the fantasy story. Cartman, however, has decided to change games, focusing now on super heroes, which means you have to start over. For this reason, Fractured takes place only a few days after the events of Stick of Truth, but a lot has happened in the show in that time.

When it comes to canon and where the games fit into the show’s timeline, there is no answer. Senior producer Jason Schroeder sums up South Park canon succinctly saying, "It doesn't matter. If [Matt and Trey] need it for the plot, that space exists." South Park is a show that manufactures what it needs episode to episode, ignoring the wider narrative ramifications for the sake of the joke. One of its main characters used to die in every episode, and still does from time to time. For this reason, you won’t find many narrative conceits for why entire buildings have suddenly appeared in the town, or how SoDoSoPa appeared and crumbled in just a few days.

That does not mean, however, that the game and the show exist in separate bubbles. The show does affect the game. "We were watching season 19, and I literally had the town map up and was like, 'S—, okay. I guess this is all moving here now,'” says, narrative designer Jolie Menzel. “I had to update the town map like every week on my physical map."

During our time at Ubisoft San Francisco, we saw many elements from the show’s last few seasons in the game. One of season 19’s core new characters, PC Principal, is in the game. “[Matt and Trey] really liked what they were doing with the gentrification stuff and the feeling of refreshing the town a bit. Having PC Principal as a character – there was always a question mark in their minds and in ours if he was sticking around,” Schroeder says. “There's still more stuff for him to say. There is still more of the American state of mind reflected in PC Principal.” Early on, it seemed he might be killed off, maybe even during his introductory episode. "I think they thought they were going to, but then they thought, 'One more joke, one more joke…'" Schroeder says.

Other elements of the gentrification of South Park storyline that will be in the game is the existence of SoDoSoPa, which is in the same shape as it was at the end of season 19. It will also be surrounding the McCormick’s house just as it did in the show. You won't find Whole Foods in the town, though. "There's no Whole Foods, because it flew off into space," Schroeder says.

Crunchy's bar-turned-microbrewery will be in the game, and it is where you will find PC Principal. We also saw Classi, and the requisite explanation of how to spell her name. It’s unclear exactly what roles PC Principal and Classi will play in the story, but we do know PC Principal will offer combat training, and Classi will have at least one task for you.

For more aspects of the recent seasons that have made it into Fractured But Whole, head to page two.


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Replay – The Bad South Park Games

The Stick of Truth is great, and we're confident about The Fractured But Whole, but there was a time when South Park and video games didn't get along.

We've got all kinds of features planned this month about why we think South Park: The Fractured But Whole (which is on our cover this month) will be a good game, but we wanted to take a moment to remember the South Park license back before its creators stepped in and said, "Stop it. Let us take care of this!"

We focus mostly on the Nintendo 64 South Park games where Andrew Reiner, Ben Reeves, myself, and special guests Yoda and Wade Wojcik check out Chef's Luv Shack, South Park Rally, the simply titled South Park (which we did play on a previous episode of Replay). We also play a bit of the Xbox 360 Xbox Live Arcade game, South Park: Tenorman's Revenge (which former editor Dan Ryckert gave a 2). We promise you're not going to have a bad time.

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