Master of The Free World Productions | Jumpcut Entertainment Network

Science-Fiction Weekly – The Solus Project, Stranger Things, Star Wars: Episode VIII

Praise I continually give: I'm watching a new show on Netflix and it's great! From House of Cards to Daredevil to the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt to smaller successes like Love, Netflix's original programming is on fire. The latest show to lure me into a binge-watching coma is Stranger Things, a science-fiction thriller that plays out like a mix between Goonies and The X-Files. Set in small town in Indiana in the 1980s, Stranger Things is one of those shows that you don't want to know anything about before you view it for yourself. Even Netflix's basic program summary gives away too much. Just watch it.

I'm five episodes in, and am thoroughly impressed with the writing, acting (even all of the child actors are great), and moments where it becomes unbearably intense. Stranger Things nabs this week's Golden Grok award (given to the best sci-fi entertainment each week), and is a welcome throwback to the star-gazing entertainment I loved as a child. No, it's not as light and bubbly as films like D.A.R.Y.L. or Flight of the Navigator, but it has a similar flow and pacing to these "classics," which are more about the characters and their place in the world than the science-fiction trappings that surrounds them. What's interesting is that the '80s sci-fi shows were designed with kids in mind, but Stranger Things, while delivering that same style of coming-of-age story, is darker and for the adults who watched those shows as kids.

The Solus Project, a science-fiction survival game from Grip Digital, could have benefited from that '80s love. Although the premise is strong – Earth no longer exists, and mankind has taken to the stars to locate a new planet to call home – there's no pulse to the alien world of the character you play. Lifeless planet meet lifeless human, good luck having fun together.

The Solus Projects' survival mechanics are nicely designed, but the hunt for water and food quickly becomes a rote process that has more to do with messy item management than fulling the need of your character. I love the idea of fighting for survival on a mysterious alien world, but the progression reveals are rarely shocking, the character hardly ever emotes, and well, if the game ended with a M. Night Shyamalan twist that showed I was actually exploring a park in North Dakato, I wouldn't be that surprised.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

If you are in the market for a good "mankind is screwed" story, check out Daniel Arenson's Earth Alone, a novel that I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish. All you need to know: 50 years have passed since aliens destroyed Earth. It's now time for an army to fight back. The book goes places that I didn't expect, and Arenson does a great job of establishing characters that you want to see succeed. The great news: Arenson already has two sequels in the works. Here's hoping he writes faster than George R. R. Martin.

The other book you should put on your radar is Timothy Zahn's upcoming Star Wars: Thrawn. If you haven't read Zahn's Star Wars: Thrawn Trilogy yet, do so now. It's no longer considered canon, but it remains one of the greatest Star Wars stories to date, and a big reason why centers on the character Grand Admiral Thrawn. We thought we'd never see him again after Disney blew up the expanded universe, but he's making his return in Star Wars Rebels: Season 3 this fall, and later in the novel I noted. How much of the original trilogy will be referenced? We'll have to wait to see, but in an interview with Star Wars' official site, Zahn says "Thrawn will span several years of the Star Wars timeline, beginning with his first encounter with the Empire and ending just before the opening of Rebels: Season 3." When asked if he would incorporate story content from the original Thrawn Trilogy, Zahn said he's thrown in bits and pieces, but nothing too blatant, which suggests the trilogy still isn't canon in any capacity. 

Although Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was the primary focus at last weekend's Star Wars Celebration in London, Rian Johnson did take the stage to discuss Star Wars: Episode VIII. Johnson didn't go into too much detail about anything in the upcoming sequel, but did say that it starts right where The Force Awakens left off, with Rey handing the lightsaber to Luke Skywalker. Johnson said that his film dives deeper into the lives of the new characters and challenges them more, drawing inspiration from such films as Bridge on the River Kwai, and Gunga Din. John Boyega also revealed that his character Finn is not in a coma for the entirety of Episode VIII, although Johnson teased that he thought about keeping him in one.

Hasbro's annual "Vote for the Next Black Series Figure" poll is live on Star Wars' official site. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed's Starkiller is on the list! Given the weak competition he's against, you should probably cast a vote for him right now. The other options are Mara Jade (the only other second choice I will accept), Captain Rex (who is already getting a Black Series figure), Dengar, Darth Talon, and Jaina Solo. Do the right thing and give Starkiller the vote.

That's it for this week's Science-Fiction Weekly. I'll be back in seven days with a review of Star Trek Beyond, which opens this weekend, and perhaps even a write-up for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice's extended cut. Calm down, Superman is an alien, so it's science fiction to a degree. Also, I'm morbidly curious about the 30 minutes of new footage. I hated (emphasize that word as much as you can) the original cut of the film, and just need to know if this new version makes it better or even worse.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Epic’s Tim Sweeney has faith in Project Scorpio and Playstation Neo

The longtime Epic Games CEO says that these new consoles will solve old problems for game developers, though he still has concerns on how Microsoft will be approaching game development for Windows 10. …


Gamasutra News

Q& A: From game jam project to Super SteamPuff

We got a chance to talk with team from Weyrdworks Studio about their iOS game, and the Kuala Lumpur indie scene. …


Gamasutra News

Opinion – If Microsoft Doesn’t Understand Project Scorpio, How Can We?

Normally, the unveiling of new hardware is one of the most exciting events in the gaming industry. Hardware evolution carries with it the promise of new experiences, and those experiences ultimately serve as the motivation for consumers to purchase new consoles. When Microsoft revealed Project Scorpio at its E3 2016 press conference, it painted a rosy picture of a future filled with limitless power and 4K gaming – but in the following days, none of Microsoft’s spokespeople were on the same page when it came to articulating the system’s key features or its benefits. If Microsoft doesn’t have a clear vision for what Project Scorpio represents, how are gamers and developers supposed to get excited?

Let’s start by looking at the tentpole feature: 4K gaming. According to the reveal, Project Scorpio’s 6 teraflops of power will make it the most powerful console ever, and can be used to generate visual fidelity unlike any system before it. True 4K gaming sounds great, but what if you don’t have a 4K-capable TV? Xbox head Phil Spencer explained to Xbox Live’s Major Nelson that all of the processing power doesn’t necessarily need to be applied to 4K, and developers could use it in other ways, apparently providing value for gamers without state-of-the-art televisions.

That makes sense so far, but Spencer seemed to contradict himself in a later interview with Eurogamer. When referring to gamers who own a standard 1080p television, Spencer said, “Then you should buy [the Xbox One S], because Scorpio is not going to do anything for you. Scorpio is designed as a 4K console, and if you don't have a 4K TV, the benefit we've designed for, you're not going to see. Clearly, you can buy Scorpio, and if and when you decide you want to buy a 4K television to take advantage of the increased performance, obviously the console will be ready for you.” When you’re revealing a brand new console that won’t be out for another year and a half, it probably isn’t wise to tell a large portion of your consumers that they don’t need to buy it.

Apart from 4K gaming, what other advantages do games on Project Scorpio have? The video shown at Microsoft’s press conference has one person describing the system as “the highest res, the best framerate, no compromises.” Gamers like when their games perform smoothly, so the prospect of a guaranteed framerate increase would be attractive to many. The problem is that it’s not happening. When we asked Microsoft Studios general manager Shannon Loftis about the possibility of framerate superiority on Project Scorpio versus the game on other Xbox hardware, she replied, “No, there wouldn't be a frame rate difference, because typically the frame rate is determined by the game developer and what's right for the gameplay mechanic. You don't necessarily want to create two different mechanics for two different configurations." So though you might get a better resolution when playing in 4K, you may not be getting to jump in performance you’d expect from this supposed powerhouse of a system.

Casting even further doubt on the importance of upgrading is the fact that the Xbox One, Xbox One S, and Project Scorpio will be able to play the same games. “No one gets left behind,” Spencer said during the hardware reveal. In other words, though games on Project Scorpio can use the additional power, they can’t be exclusive to the new hardware; they need to work on Xbox One and Xbox One S, too. That seems pretty straightforward, but when Geoff Keighley asked Loftis about the possibility of Scorpio exclusives, she said, “I don't know about that. We'll see. It's up to the game development community.” This apparently opened the door for Scorpio-only games, though she later tweeted a clarification that she had made a mistake, and that all games would play on all Xbox systems.

Lastly, Microsoft seemed to anticipate the resistance some gamers would have to buying a new console at this point in the generation. In an interview with Wired, Spencer clarified that the company is not aiming for the continuous upgrades seen in the mobile phone industry. “Consumer expectation is that, if you wanted to, you could go buy a new cell phone every year,” Spencer said. “I don’t want to get into that mode with a console…We’re not on a hardware tick-tock that says I need to put out a console every two years or every one year to get people to upgrade. That’s not the console model.”

That’s reassuring. But according to Jeff Rivait, the Xbox platform marketing manager for Xbox Canada, that may not be the case. In an interview with Xbox Enthusiast, Rivait said, “When gamers get to carry forward their games, and they’re not losing the value invested in the ecosystem, in addition to getting more frequent and more powerful hardware, is looking at things like the mobile industry and how they’ve innovated. Yes, if you want to stay on top of things you may be buying consoles more frequently, but you’re also getting better looking and more powerful gaming experiences sooner than you would be getting in previous [generations].”

This implies that we might even see more incremental upgrade consoles, which would support Spencer’s on-stage claims about gaming “beyond generations” and creating a continuous platform service – though it also goes directly against his claims of this kind of cycle not being the console model. Since we can’t take the statements at face value, only time will tell which side of this issue Microsoft ultimately lands on.

I know this all sounds pretty harsh, but to be clear: I am not trying condemn Project Scorpio itself. This all comes down to Microsoft and its inability to deliver a clear, consistent message about what the system is and why we should care about it. If Microsoft can answer those questions between now and holiday 2017, I’ll be lining up to pick up my Scorpio on release day with everyone else. But as an unveiling, this E3 went badly for Project Scorpio thanks to all of the mixed messages. What was undoubtedly meant as a triumphant reveal failed to energize fans, and made Sony look smarter for focusing on games rather than pulling back the curtain on its confirmed “PlayStation Neo.” At least if you don’t say anything about a new system, you don’t run the risk of contradicting yourself and creating more confusion than hype.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Beyond the pitch: Getting your team engaged and excited about a game dev project

Game industry professionals weigh in on specific ways you can lead your team to success, in this continuation of the Games Outcomes Project. …


Gamasutra News

Get a job: Cryptic Studios is hiring a Project Manager

The Star Trek Online dev is currently seeking a Project Manager to work closely with programmers and game producers to organize and coordinate the development of the Cryptic game engine.  …


Gamasutra News

Experimenting with mobile: Lessons about dev, marketing learned on a test project

“I released a game I’m not totally ashamed of, which was my primary objective; I learned a lot of things, on various subjects, and I gained some confidence on my abilities.” …


Gamasutra News

Microsoft discontinues game-creation tool Project Spark

The free-to-play Project Spark let anyone create their own games on the Xbox One and PC, but now it’s being shut down by the platform provider. …


Gamasutra News

Microsoft Ends Support For Project Spark, No Resulting Layoffs

Project Spark, Microsoft’s game creation suite for Xbox One and PC, is coming to an end. It was transitioned out of active development late last year and made entirely free, but now Microsoft is pulling the plug in full.

As of today, the software is unavailable for download. As of August 12, all services will be pulled offline and user-generated content will be unretrievable. If you want to keep any content you or others have created, you’ll need to download it before then.

There have been no layoffs associated with this decision, as many of the people working on Project Spark were transitioned to other projects. “This was an extremely difficult decision for our team that we do not take lightly,” writes community manager Thomas Gratz. “When ‘Project Spark’ transitioned away from active development last fall, many of our team members moved to other projects within Microsoft Studios. While this means there have been no layoffs at Microsoft, it also means it’s simply no longer feasible to continue the behind-the-scenes work involved with keeping ‘Project Spark’ up and running with meaningful updates and bug fixes, so we have come to this hard decision.”

Anyone who purchased and redeemed a Project Spark Starter Kit at retail will receive a credit on their Microsoft Account. If you purchased a retail copy of Project Spark after October 5, 2015 (but before today’s announcement), you’ll get a credit to purchase other software on the Xbox or Windows store.

For more on Project Spark, check out our review.

[Source: Microsoft]

 

Our Take
This is an unsurprising turn of events, but one that comes with the good news that there are no resulting layoffs. Project Spark was an interesting experiment and, if anything, saw Conker get a bit of attention. However, it never really got the marketing push it needed to become a showcase for user creativity. There was quite a bit made on the platform, but much of it goes unsung.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

From Software’s Next Project Will Support PlayStation VR

From Software has experienced a renaissance since the Dark Souls series captured widespread attention, but the studio's been around for decades. A recent video highlights its past work – including the King's Field and Armored Core series – and offers a tiny fragment of tantalizing info about its next project.

The video below, found by Reddit user 113mac113, concludes with a slide calling out what's called simply "Next Title." That's all there is, other than a list of supported platforms, and that's where it gets interesting. In addition to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, it calls out the upcoming PlayStation VR peripheral. (Note: The image above is from Dark Souls III, not this upcoming title.)

(Please visit the site to view this media)

It's barely a nugget of information, but it does indicate support for the device, which is set for an October release.

[Source: Reddit, via GamesRadar]

 

Our Take
We've seen more than a few minigame collections and tech demos in the nascent VR space, but hopefully this is a game that has some actual meat on its bones. The From Software name alone is encouraging, as is the fact that the game is being developed for multiple platforms, which aren't necessarily able to lean on the VR gimmick.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed