“We are building titles for the Nintendo console, but not anywhere near as many as we are for PS or Xbox.” – Electronic Arts CFO Blake Jorgensen says that EA is making games for the Wii U after all. …
Today following the Xbox One reveal, Game Informer editor-in-chief Andy McNamara and executive editor Andrew Reiner sat down with Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirschberg to talk about Call of Duty: Ghosts. The conversation covered changes to multiplayer, the next-generation engine, and the story behind this new branch of the mega-franchise.
He also tiptoes around our question about underwater segments appearing in multiplayer.
Game Informer: You announced that exclusive timed DLC is coming to Xbox One first. Are you looking at a similar timing window you used for Xbox 360.
Eric Hirshberg: Very similar. It's a continuation of that great relationship we had with Microsoft.
How has the process of building a new future for Call of Duty been with new hardware that is still in development?
It's been a white-knuckle ride, to be honest. First of all, there are the complexities of cross-generation development. Period. And then there is the fact that a lot of the capabilities of the next-gen hardware are still coming online and being polished by the first-parties. So, our teams have had their hands full. What you saw today, I think that's a really good reflection of what we trying to accomplish. I hope you agree it's a pretty big change from what we've been able to do with current-gen.
For a while there I thought there would be a period where people wouldn't be able to notice a difference.
That's why we did that side-by-side video. I think in your mind's eye, the current-gen looks great. Black Ops II is a great looking game, but it's not until you see it that you really go "that's a big improvement."
That's a big investment for Activision overall, considering Xbox One's install base will be smaller than the current-gen at launch.
Of course it's a big investment. We've left nothing to chance here. The cross-generational development on its own is big, but we're putting more manpower and technology and ideas into this game. We're interested in establishing the gold standard for the next-gen like we did the current gen. That's what we intend on doing. The size of the investment doesn't just apply to this year. We're looking at establishing that gold standard for next-gen for the next decade.
For the last game, you had a lot of leadership coming from Sledgehammer games. The messaging for this game seems to be just Infinity Ward.
Infinity Ward is leading development, but as is the case with pretty much all Call of Duty games, we'll have multiple development teams contributing. We'll have more on that later. Sledgehammer is not working on this game, but they are working on some other stuff we haven't announced yet. (Editor's note: Activision followed up to let us know that Raven and Neversoft are supporting the development of Call of Duty: Ghosts.)
Microsoft didn't announce a date today, but do you think you'll be ready for launch?
They haven't even announced their date yet, so I can't have a date for us. (laughs) We're planning to be there for the launch window for sure.
You said Ghosts offers a new story with new characters. Are you wiping the slate clean with no connection to the series' established fiction? The look of the game and setting certainly sings of the most recent games.
I agree with you that it has that big Call of Duty epic scale, but saying it's familiar to those games? I disagree. You just saw a little bit of the teaser and what we're doing for multiplayer in the behind-the-scenes video. The idea of dynamic maps is going to be a game changer for us.
The map impacting change on you and you impacting change on the map becomes a strategic weapon now that can be used against you or for you. The whole idea of learning the maps and learning the flow is going to take on a whole new level of strategy. I think that's a big change. The same goes for character customization.
For the story, this is the first time the enemy has more firepower and more manpower. You're a part of this ragtag, small group that is trying to fight their way back from being crippled or close to obliterated. I think this is going to be a very new experience. That said, it's a balancing act.
We have to continue to make the game people fell in love with and know so well and also have to continue to find new ways to innovate. I think this game will find the right balance. It's Infinity Ward. They started the Modern Warfare series. They set the standard for current gen. They do this better than anybody.
If you look at the trailer, there's an entire level that takes place underwater. We've had underwater scenes before where you scuba dive from here to there and is a big moment, but this is a whole new thing with underwater physics and underwater gameplay and underwater weapons.
Are you bringing that underwater gameplay to multiplayer?
Hmmmm… We'll have to wait and see.
I know EA seems to be hyped with the battle coming up. What's your stance on Call of Duty versus Battlefield for next-gen consoles? Is there something to that fight. Or is it something the press just likes to get behind?
I've been pretty consistent with these types of questions. We don't focus on our competitors. We've had strong competition with Call of Duty every single year on the current-gen systems. We don't focus on that. We focus on making the best game we can.
You put a lot of focus on the writer, Stephen Gaghan (Traffic, Syriana). What is his involvement with the game creation process?
We've had David Goyer helping out with the Treyarch games for years now. It's funny how people compare movies and games. It's almost impossible not to, as we're seeing more Hollywood talent In the writing standpoint, acting standpoint, and technology standpoint. They're getting involved in it.
The thing we've done with Stephen Gaghan is he's just imbedded in this game. The way we struck the deal, he has an office at Infinity Ward. He's there into the wee hours of the night. He there's with the team kicking around ideas. The story creation, the mythology creation, and character creation are happening simultaneously and are interwoven with the gameplay design.
Lots of times those two things are oddly disconnected in the creative process, where people think first about what's going to make a great gameplay experience. That's understandable. It's a game. That's where it should start, but lots of times the story is retrofitted into the game design. In this case, it's organically grown. We want to eliminate as many creative restrictions as possible. As wonderful as the Call of Duty games are, we wanted a clean slate.
For example, you roll with one squad throughout the entire game. If you played any past Call of Duty games, you know that we've been very fast and loose with those rules. We jump to different identities throughout levels, and sometimes within levels. In this case, this is what is happening to this squad. This is what is happening to these characters. You're going to develop a real relationship with those characters. I think that will be new for the franchise. One of them is your brother. One of them is your father. You've been through hell together. You're the underdogs.
Are you going 64-player or 100-player for multiplayer?
I think Call of Duty is the best multiplayer game in the world. It's hard to argue with the number of people that play it every day and every month. We have a winning formula. We always innovate within that. We always find new ways to keep it fresh and new.
Smartglass is becoming a big part of gaming. Are you adding new functionality to Ghosts outside of Elite?
You're going to see us take that to a whole new level. A seamless second screen experience will be integral to next gen.
Microsoft has announced that it will be producing a live action television series based on the Halo franchise, shown exclusively via the new Xbox One console. 343 Industries will oversee the show, and Stephen Spielberg will play a part as well (though his full role wasn’t yet revealed).
Spielberg appeared in a short video at today’s announcement, where he said he was excited to be involved with “the heroes, worlds, and wonders that Halo will take us to.”
The remastered version of DuckTales did not appear overnight. Capcom has been working with Disney on and off for more than the past two years to get the project off the ground.
Christian Svensson, corporate officer/senior vice-president at Capcom, likes to speak up from time to time on Capcom's message boards. Last time we heard from him, he revealed that all of the original DuckTales voice actors were returning to act in the game.
Recently, Svensson appeared on the message boards again, talking about how long Capcom and Disney has been working together on the project:
It took more than two years (on and off) to do the deal even before any development started. The first conversations I had with folks at Disney about this were had at Dice in 2010 (Feb 2010).
Initial proposals for greenlight started preparation in mid-late 2011 (when it looked like we would be able to reach a deal with Disney). Active development started a bit later after greenlight was achieved.
You can check out the game's original announcement and trailer here.
Former THQ president Jason Rubin has spoken about the struggles Metro: Last Light developer 4A Games went through to get its game to launch. In a post on GamesIndustry International, Rubin extolled the efforts of the Ukrainian studio, citing a relatively meager budget, cramped working conditions, and extreme logistical troubles as major adversities.
According to Rubin, the game’s development budget was “less than some of its competitors spend on cut scenes, a mere 10 percent of the budget of its biggest competitors.” That budget apparently didn’t extend to swanky office equipment, with 4A’s staff sat “elbow to elbow” at card tables and on folding chairs. Upon seeing 4A Games in person, Rubin wrote, he wanted to buy them proper office chairs, but the logistics were something else.
“When 4A needed another dev kit, or high-end PC, or whatever,” Rubin wrote, “Someone from 4A had to fly to the States and sneak it back to the Ukraine in a backpack lest it be ‘seized’ at the border by thieving customs officials. After visiting the team I wanted to buy them Aeron office chairs, considered a fundamental human right in the west. There were no outlets in the Ukraine, and our only option was to pack a truck in Poland and try to find an ‘expediter’ to help bribe its way down to Kiev.”
In the end, the offices were too cramped for the wider Aeron chairs anyway.
Last week when Precursor Games teased its crowd funding campaign for a spiritual successor to Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem, we reached out to Silicon Knights to find out how it was connected to the new studio. Today, we received a call from Mike Mays, chief financial officer at Silicon Knights who answered some of our questions.
As reported last week, art assets from Silicon Knights were sold to Precursor Games. Mays told Game Informer a different story. When employees were laid off, they had the option of purchasing art. Denis Dyack did not buy any, but others now at Precursor Games did.
According to Mays, Silicon Knights retained very little of the material from Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem, as the property is owned entirely by Nintendo. As we mentioned last week, Precursor Games hosts a forum for the GameCube title (including the official logo for Eternal Darkness, giving the forum an appearance of being official or sanctioned) alongside the one for Shadow of the Eternals, its current crowd-supported project.
Mays also told us that employees could "take computers," but clarified that those staff members did not take possession of the hardware immediately. Epic Games pursued legal action against the developer to insure that transferred PCs had been wiped clean before deaccessioning occurred.
He also shared with us that Silicon Knights is now "mostly working on legal issues." He declined to comment on how many people are currently employed at the company, saying only that it's "more than one." Mays also declined to answer a question about staffing distribution and would not clarify if there are any employees currently working on product development.
We reached out to Nintendo for some additional information on the disposition of the Eternal Darkness property and its thoughts on Precursor Games' tightly-connected spiritual sequel. As of publication, we have yet to receive a response.
Blizzard rolled out patch 1.08 to Diablo 3‘s American servers yesterday and, along with it, a very substantial bug. The patch increased the stack size for in-game gold in the auction house from 1 million to 10 million, effectively making gold ten times cheaper. Players then discovered a serious bug: Canceling a gold auction refunded them double the amount listed. Streams of the bug in action soon spread the word quickly. Thanks to the higher stack size, players were reportedly duplicating trillions in gold. Some were buying up high-value items in the auction house, thus driving up prices and massively inflating the in-game economy.
Blizzard became aware of the issue last night and shut down the auction house. As of midnight Pacific, the company had created a fix for the problem, but it still hasn’t been implemented. The studio has decided not to rollback the update, and will instead “make corrections” to individual accounts. Writing on the Diablo 3 forums, community manager Lylirra stated, “We feel that this is the best course of action given the nature of the dupe, how relatively few players used it, and the fact that its effects were fairly limited within the region.”
We’ve contacted Blizzard regarding the current status of the problem.
[Thanks, Pablo and Erik!]
Ubisoft Reflections is working on a game which will be announced at next month’s E3 conference. Speaking at the UK’s Game Horizon conference today, recently appointed managing director Pauline Jacquey said her studio’s involved with another game in addition to Watch Dogs, which is due on November 19.
“We work on Watch Dogs,” Jacquey said, “We work on [Just Dance 4], and we work on something that I’m not supposed to tell you about. I wish that I could. It’s going to be announced at E3.”
Jacquey prefaced her studio’s recent résumé by saying Reflections collaborates internationally with other Ubisoft studios. Reflections co-developed a number of recent Ubisoft games, including Just Dance 4 and Far Cry 3. The last game the studio took the lead on is 2011′s Driver: San Francisco.
However, in a February GamesIndustry International interview, Jacquey said she also wants the UK-based Reflections to develop its “own games,” going on to hint at a return to racing.
“So I want this [collaborative international development] to be a very strong pillar of the studio,” Jacquey told GamesIndustry International, “But yes, I want us to do our own games and I’m very interested in the evolution of the industry like free-to-play and digital and mobile. And that’s something that I did already, in the past. Not very famous games, but still millions of players. So I don’t know exactly which shape it could take, I’ve only been here for three months, but my intention is to have a very varied portfolio and collaboration will not just be what we do.
“We already have interesting technology that we develop for the group that’s linked to what we did in the past, driving. It’s really cool, I think it’s in the top technology you have at Ubisoft. And we have collaboration but we are already doing our own thing, but I can’t talk about it.”
Spicy Horse, the studio founded by Alice creator American McGee in 2007, is working on a game based on The Wizard of Oz – but it’s not American McGee’s Oz, the game that was canceled in 2004 when publisher Atari pulled funding.
“This is not, in any way, shape or form, the title from 2004,” Spicy Horse Community Manager Kelly Heckman tells Joystiq.
The new Oz game is still in its early stages, and Spicy Horse has yet to decide which genre it will be – strategy, puzzler, platformer, action, FPS – though the studio has a few ideas. The game will be cross-platform between tablets and PC, Mac and Linux, and while Spicy Horse likes the idea of a physical product, it has no concrete plans in that regard.
“It will be based on the entire Oz series – almost all 14 titles – so expect to see unique things not seen in previous incarnations,” Heckman says.
As legend has it, nearly a decade ago McGee began crafting a Wizard of Oz game, but Atari canceled it in 2004, after producing a handful of action figures and concept art. McGee went on to found Spicy Horse and partnered with EA to launch Alice: Madness Returns in 2011. Spicy Horse is currently in talks with EA to retrieve the Alice license, and it has plans for a third game in the series, Alice: Otherlands.
Spicy Horse is working on two Kickstarters – one for Alice: Otherlands and one for Oz – but which project actually goes live will depend entirely on EA and how that Alice deal goes down, Heckman says.
Yesterday on the Facebook page for Alice: Otherlands, one fan suggested that if Spicy Horse couldn’t work out the Alice rights with EA, it should develop “that Oz title instead.”
Spicy Horse responded, “It’s already in the works.”
Precursor Games has announced a 12-part spiritual successor to Silicon Knights’ 2002 effort Eternal Darkness, with creator Denis Dyack attached as chief creative officer. …