16th June 2015 / Videogames
Yesterday at E3, Sony announced RIGS: Mechanized Combat League, an upcoming sci-fi e-sports game for their Morpheus VR headset.
RIGS is being developed by Sony’s Guerrilla Cambridge studio here in the UK. I’m working with them to develop the game world of RIGS, and help design and script the commentary dialogue systems. Longtime readers will know of my love for the NFL, and RIGS is very much a game built around the idea of huge, spectacular sports events.
I can’t say any more — no surprise there — but you can watch the E3 trailer, which I scripted, to get more of an idea. Looking forward to this one.
If you’re the sort of person interested in this game, you already know what it is. So what I’ll tell you is that it absolutely lives up to its promise; from the moment I saw an early gameplay sample, I knew this would be a game that would shake things up — and that I wanted to work on.
And I can say how great it is without too much fear of bias, because while I did indeed work on the game, I was just one small part of a large team.
I worked on the ‘Nemesis system’, a major feature whereby enemies all have unique personalities, and the capability to remember their previous encounters with you. Suffice to say, if you get insulted by an Uruk before or after a fight — or even after they kill you! — there’s a good chance I wrote it. It was a lot of fun… and so is SHADOW OF MORDOR. Enjoy.
CSR CLASSICS is now available to download from the iOS app store (I assume it’ll also be out for Android soon).
Once again, I worked closely with the team in Brighton to develop and expand the world of CSR. CLASSICS is all about restoring and racing vintage automobiles, rather than modern supercars, but everything else you’ve come to expect from CSR is there — amazing graphics, compelling gameplay, memorable characters, some great one-liners, and even a story with a twist…
Basically, CSR CLASSICS is even better than original CSR, and I have no doubt it’ll be just as big a hit, if not bigger. I had a great time writing it, and I hope you all enjoy playing it.
CSR RACING is nominated for Visual Arts, which is very well-deserved; when the game was released, it was perhaps second only to INFINITY BLADE in terms of amazing visuals on a goddamn phone. But while I’m delighted to have been involved, obviously the graphics aren’t really anything to do with me.
ZOMBIU, however, is nominated for Use of Narrative, and that’s entirely to do with me and my co-writer Gabrielle Shrager, Ubisoft Montpellier’s Story Design Director. We talked about the game’s use of narrative, and how we approached it, at GDC this year, and if you have a Vault pass, you can watch the session here.
So, yeah. Nothing like an awards nomination to brighten up the morning.
A while back I mentioned I was writing a Secret Prose Story. In fact, by the time of that post I’d already finished it, but had to wait for its release. Now, finally, you can read it for free.
But the story focuses on the human side, specifically on the unassuming heroics of a research base security officer, and an outpost moonbase commander, three years apart but linked by a strange, alien creature…
You can read ACID BURNS on the StarCraft II website, for free, right now. I hope you enjoy it.
We’ll explain how we created the story and mythology behind ZOMBIU, our thoughts behind some of the big decisions, and show how narrative influenced even the mechanics and marketing of the game. Should be a good ‘un.
It’s Not in the Writer’s Manual: A Q&A Session for New Writers, on the other hand, is a roundtable with me and a bunch of other game writers, and if you can’t figure out the contents from the title, you’re in the wrong business.
Although the Narrative Summit only lasts a couple of days, I’ll be there pretty much all week; I’m looking forward to catching up with old friends, and also just spending time in one of my favourite cities. Get in touch if you’re attending and want to arrange a meeting, or just catch up over a drink.
Last November, in the run-up to ZOMBIU’s release, I worked on a promotional web comic for the game: ZOMBIU: Z-14, showing the first fourteen days of the outbreak and leading directly to the start of the game.
What you may not have realised was that the whole thing was first scripted and drawn as a normal-format comic, then edited and animated for the website.
Well, now you can see it for yourself, as Ubisoft have decided to release the whole story as a free PDF. Just go to the Z-14 website, and scroll all the way to the end; there you’ll find a link, “Download the Comic”, which will auto-download the PDF to your computer.
(NB I’ve categorised this under ‘On Sale’ for expediency; be assured, the download is completely free.)
The idea was that Mike — an indie game designer, and creator of the sleeper hit THOMAS WAS ALONE — solicited feedback from game professionals, including designers, audio producers, and the like, and invited the audience to ask questions too. Kieron and I were there to talk to him about game narrative and writing, natch.
I went into the event with a certain amount of trepidation — I’d played THOMAS, but didn’t know Mike at all, and I’d certainly never before given that kind of feedback outside the closed doors of a game development team. The prospect of talking about this stuff in front of a room full of random people was a little nerve-wracking.
I needn’t have worried. Not only is Mike a great, smart guy (who has now gone freelance, by the way), but the whole event went really well, and turned out to be one of my favourite things we did that week.
Happily, you can now enjoy it too, because the panel was recorded. Watch it here…
…or if that’s not working for you, click through to see it on YouTube.
Feels like every time I open my mouth about survival horror these days I get into trouble, but what the hell.
My interview at NowGamer has, to nobody’s surprise, had a couple of quotes cherry-picked out of it — “necessary evil” being the most sensational, I guess — and spread around the Internet, helping fuel the rampant “DEAD SPACE 3 IS CALL OF DUTY OH NOES” wailing and gnashing of teeth. Many commenters even seem to think I’m responsible for these decisions at EA, ha ha.
But the biggest misconception, by far, is that if only EA had continued to produce DEAD SPACE games exactly like the first, they’d be sitting on a goldmine. And that’s simply not the case. Listen carefully, now:
There is a market for survival horror games. I’m part of that market. Survival horror fans are so starved of “real” survival horror right now that we will buy just about anything that crops up. We are loyal, and we will spend money.
Sounds good, right? Encouraging? Not so fast.
The survival horror market is small. Too small to support huge triple-A titles from major publishers. AAA games cost as much to make as a Hollywood movie, and sometimes more. They have to sell millions — not a million, many millions — to make a profit, and justify their cost. And there just aren’t enough “purist” survival horror fans out there to achieve that, not any more. You want to know why games like RESIDENT EVIL and DEAD SPACE have evolved to become more accessible, less “pure”? That’s why. Simple economics.
Sounds bad, right? Discouraging? Not so fast.
AAA is not the only way. If you only watch the big console market, you may not know about recent indie games like AMNESIA: THE DARK DESCENT, or LONE SURVIVOR, or HOME. These are all great survival horror games, and they are all profitable. Because they are not triple-A.
Look, this isn’t rocket science. There is money to be made from survival horror games, so long as you don’t spend a fortune making them.
And the more people support those small, indie survival horror titles, the more chance there is of other developers taking a similar gamble, maybe even a major publisher or two, and that’s the sort of thing that leads to another boom in the genre.
But if not? If we only continue as a niche, with superb, terrifying games like AMNESIA released every so often? That still sounds pretty damn good to me.
I’ve been waiting for this to get an official announcement: I’m giving a lecture at GDC in March, alongside ZOMBIU story design director Gabrielle Shrager. We’ll be explaining how we came up with the game’s mythology and narrative, and how those decisions influenced the gameplay, visuals, and even marketing of the title.
Since last year’s GDC Online was the last to be held in Austin, the Game Narrative Summit has now become part of the main GDC event in San Francisco. I love SF, but haven’t had the chance to go back since WonderCon in 2008, so I’m really looking forward to this.
In general news, seeing as I haven’t posted here in almost a month… well, I haven’t posted here in almost a month. That kind of tells you all you need to know. Lots of exciting stuff; new games projects underway, new comics in development, nose to the grindstone, I can’t talk about any of it yet. So, just the usual, then.
(There is one thing I can tell you; I just finished scripting WASTELAND #48, and it’s a doozy. It’s right in the middle of the final Newbegin story arc, and writing it is a weird combination of over-excitement and constant trepidation. So far, though, it’s all working out nicely.)