PS3 Attitude

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PS3 Attitude

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Hydrophobia exclusive artwork revealed - Blade Interactive Interview Part II

Welcome back to the second part of PS3 Attitude's interview with Blade Interactive. In the first part we talked with Rob Hewson and Pete Jones about the setting and story of Hydrophobia. In part two we discuss game mechanics, what it's like developing on the PS3 and the future of Blade Interactive's new development tools/toys: InfiniteWorlds and the much extolled HydroEngine. Finally, we share some exclusive artwork of never before seen characters from the Hydrophobia universe - with a couple of new screenshots from the latest build of the game thrown in for good measure.

[PS3 Attiude]: One would expect that the use of a breathing apparatus would add an extra dimension to the game when certain areas become flooded. Will players have the ability to revisit previous locations that are now submerged to explore and interact with in a different way?

Rob Hewson: Yes, and sometimes the change is much more immediate. You can fight through an area one time and there might be a foot of water flowing around and effecting the environment, another person might play through the same area and blow out walls or windows causing a great deal of water to flow into the scene, meaning perhaps the gameplay switches to floating cover. Another player might shoot fuel barrels which let even more water into the scene but also spawn floating fuel fires which are carried around with the flow and find they need to resort to underwater action.

[PS3A]: An aquaphobic in a drowned world has got to be the epitome of bad luck. How does Kate’s hydrophobia manifest in the game? Does it affect her actions and do we, as players, need to manage her fears in order to progress in the game? Or does she just suck it up and get on with things with the phobia acting more as a plot device rather than a game mechanic?

[RH]: A movie is primarily told in images, with Hydrophobia we wanted the story to be told primarily through interactions. The phobia system begins as a game mechanic where, for example, Kate's survivors instinct kicks in when she is in extreme danger of drowning and highlights possibilities for escape. That mechanic is portrayed with a particular aesthetic and in the particular context of Kate's dark side to reveal a deeper narrative thread.

As that thread is explored and pushes Kate's character arc forward it feeds back into the development of Kate's abilities and releases a greater power. So yes it is a plot device, and yes it is a game mechanic. The two are intertwined and evolve symbiotically.

[PS3A]: Kate joins a long list of strong female gaming protagonists. With her titular phobia and reluctant hero persona however she does appear to be somewhat more subtle and grounded than some of her fellow fairer sex counterparts. Was there a particular reason why you chose a woman for the lead character?

[RH]: But do we really have a long list of strong female characters, or do we just have a list of unlikely action heroes with impossible figures? We approached our main character in the same way we did for the setting as a whole. We didn't want another space marine, soldier or back-flipping wonder woman; we've got plenty of those already.

We wanted to create a character who is multi-dimensional, reluctant, flawed... somebody you could truly empathise with. Kate grew into the character she is over the course of countless hours of conversations and debates. As you know she has evolved visually several times, that’s a cosmetic reflection of the way we allowed her to grow around the game, to the point where we can't imagine Hydrophobia starring anybody other than Kate ... she has become almost real to us and we hope she will be for player as well.

[PJ]: And then there’s the dreads. We wanted Kate to have a unique look. When, as she will do, she graces the cover of the specialist press we want her to be immediately recognisable.

There is one interesting footnote to this. We have made Kate’s sexual preferences somewhat ambiguous and although we never intended this directly, some lesbian gaming sites have been speculating as to whether Kate is in fact a “baby dyke” – their words not mine you understand.

[PS3A]: As PS3 Attitude is obviously focused on delivering news specific about the PS3, can you comment on any PS3-centric aspects of the game’s development? With the game also coming out on the 360 how has developing on the two different architectures impacted development? How would you describe your experience with the PS3 so far?

[RH]: PS3 is a different beast, the key is not to think you can just do things the same old way and expect to get the performance you need. From a designer's point of view we don't notice any difference, InfiniteWorlds is platform agnostic, so we can all be editing the same level simultaneously while play testing it on completely different platforms.

The tech team has had to develop specific solutions to take maximum advantage of the PS3s abilities, but that all goes on behind the scenes. At the end of the day I can have a PS3 on my desk playing the same game as the guy opposite me who has a 360. I make a change, he immediately sees it update on his screen, that's why we love InfiniteWorlds.

[PS3A]: From watching the tech demo the HydroEngine is obviously an impressive and powerful piece of software. With studios like EA announcing plans to licence the engines behind their games (i.e. Dead Space) is this a direction Blade Interactive would be interested in? Are there any plans to licence HydroEngine as a middleware component or will it stay strictly in-house?

[PJ]: We're keeping our options open. Clearly we'd like to get Hydrophobia out there first, but after that making the technology available to others would be a benefit to the whole industry, so it's definitely an option.

[PS3A]: Can you comment any more on your new InfiniteWorlds development suite? Will all future games developed by Blade Interactive utilise this new tool and will it also be kept in-house?

[RH]: InfiniteWorlds is phenomenal. Real-time, in-game, on platform editing where multiple users can be working in the same area at the same time. Now we've got InfiniteWorlds we'll never go back. In the early days we looked at other engines and editors, and they fell far short of our aspirations for Hydrophobia, so we built our own and approached it from a completely new angle.

The great thing about using our own tools is that we get to design them around our needs, it puts us in control and allows us to push things which we couldn't otherwise do if we were licesning someone else's technology.

[PJ]: The importance of IW cannot be understated. It has changed the way we make games, moving the creation of the game environment from the artists to the designers (where it should be!) and boosting productivity by an order of magnitude in the process.

IW has one further trick up its sleeve. It creates a game that looks better than anything that’s out there, but gives it an impossibly small memory footprint allowing for the very real possibility of digital distribution – watch this space.

And yes, in the future we also see IW licensed out as middleware.

[PS3A]: Time for the obligatory questions we ask all studios. Will there by any DLC for Hydrophobia? What about Home and trophy support?

[PJ]: Hydrophobia will be released episodically, trophy support – absolutely.

Released episodically, Boston as the setting for Hydrophobia 2 and new character reveals. We don't know what we've done to deserve all these exclusives but we promise to keep doing ... whatever it is we're doing.

Check out the below for an exclusive look at concept art of some of the game's characters: the regal Benedict (one of the Five Founding Fathers?), the androgynous Charlotte, the "Oldman", an irascible Kurt Cisco and, of course, our heroine, Kate Wilson. And is that her left hand glowing? A portent to the nascent powers Rob hints at above perhaps?

We'd like to thank Pete and Rob for taking the time to talk with us about Hydrophobia. Planned for a release in the Spring of next year, we've pencilled in another chat closer to the release date so expect an update some time in March/April 2009.

By the way, Rob also revealed what the population of the Queen of the World is. First person to guess correctly in the comments section (it's a nice round number) wins a prize*.

*Note: prize may be the standard PS3 Attitude virtual cake award.

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Monday, 22 September 2008

Hydrophobia sequel revealed - Blade Interview Part 1

When our friends over at ThreeSpeech posted their three part exposé on next year's survival-on-a-ship adventure Hydrophobia we here at PS3 Attitude were eager to see if the game's creators were prepared to divulge any more details.

Luckily for us all, Rob Hewson and Pete Jones, game designer and Managing Director respectively at Blade Interactive, were more than happy to take the time and talk with us. During the two part interview we cover such diverse topics as advances in real-time fluid dynamics, suicidal adversaries and the current position of strong female characters in gaming.

They even exclusively reveal the location of the sequel!

For those of you who haven't checked the ThreeSpeech interview (which we heartily recommend), here's the short version: It's the mid 21st century and things are not looking too good for mother earth. The oceans have risen and the remaining dry land, overcome by the Great Population Flood, can not support mankind which results in global chaos.

Salvation for the wealthy comes in the form of the Queen of the World (which we've already revealed), a massive floating sea-city where things are also about to take a turn for the worse when the ship experiences a terrorist attack perpetrated by the Malthusians. Named after English economist Thomas Robert Malthus (who predicted the whole population meltdown crisis 350 years prior to these cataclysmic events) the marauding eco-militants espouse a different methodology: "Save the world, kill yourself."

Thrown into the watery mix is Kate Wilson, one of the Queen's security officers who must now not only escape from the sinking vessel but uncover the secrets of the microcosmic pseudo-society all the while battling again her own fear of water.

On to the interview:

PS3 Attitude: During the Three Speech interview you candidly discuss how the tech came first which, in turn, drove the narrative. The story deals with some heavy issues such as climate change, terrorism and the fate of humanity; all quite deep and cinematic in tone. Was the decision to involve respected scriptwriters and directors to create a formidable story that is worthy of the advances in technology something that was key to the project?

The advances alone in water physics would pique most people’s interest in the game but Blade Interactive seems to be really pushing the boat out here (pun unintended) in terms of narrative quality.

Pete Jones: Yes, absolutely. We don't believe in doing things by halves, we set out to make a truly great game, not a glorified tech demo.

We are very serious about the message being portrayed. Overpopulation & scarcity of resources is going to be the hot issue of the 21st century – we’re already seeing this happen.

We also wanted to make our terrorists real; to stand for something, not just to be game cannon fodder. It’s about treating gamers as intelligent, well informed people. If they check online they will see that Malthus was indeed real and that these people are fighting what they believe to be a very real war. That is a mean feat to pull off without upsetting any political, ethnic or religious groupings out there. I suppose it boils down to creating a world that feels real, not just a story.

Rob Hewson: The HydroEngine technology is truly astounding, and allows for an incredibly unique and dynamic gameplay experience, and we wanted this feeling of uniqueness to echo through the entire experience.

Hydrophobia has its own heart and soul, when you pick up the game we want you to get the feeling of discovering a brand new universe, not fighting yet another improbable alien invasion, or facing off against the Nazis yet again... we want you to think wow, this is a world I'd never imagined before, and we want you to feel that it's relevant to the world we live in today.

[PS3A]: The game takes place in the mid 21st century where, over a few short decades, our world has seen a dramatic rise in water levels. Considering the futuristic setting, can we expect to see associative advances in in-game technology? We know Kate can manipulate controls on the ship with her MAVI engineering tool but will weapon and other gadgetry progressions over the fifty years or so also feature - or has the decline of civilisation stymied such advancements?

[RH]: As you say, the world has been engulfed by the Great Population Flood, and inevitably that has a negative effect on technological advancement in general. Of course things have developed, the Five Founding Fathers of the Queen of the World are all examples of big corporations who have prospered while the rest of the world drowns, so there is development but it is unbalanced.

We discussed this very early on. We all felt that the future shouldn’t be a brave new world of gleaming technology where even your toaster is intelligent, that’s actually the easy thing to do, but it doesn’t feel real.

It comes back to this issue of relevance and tangibility again, we want you to buy into this world and invest your belief in it. So we focused on what the up and coming technologies were and how they were predicted to develop over the next few decades. We then factored in the effects of the Great Population Flood, global warming, civilisation collapsing under its own weight. The result is a world that has many different layers and nuances, and feels like a credible future projection of the world we live in today.

[PS3A]: The cover system is quite dynamic due to the very nature of how the objects providing this cover are moving on a body of water. How difficult was this to implement and what other cover systems have you studied? Should we expect a Gears of War and Uncharted type of delivery or is this something on a whole new level?

[RH] : We've certainly studied the standard bearers out there, to see where they worked, and where they didn't. We've developed beyond the boundaries that exist in these games and really pushed for a seamless and immediate feel. We're lucky enough to have some incredibly talented individuals who meticulously pour over every detail, and some exceptional technology to develop with.

Floating cover gives you a platform to shoot from in the water, but you can also duck your head beneath the surface to hide from Malthusians as you float down stream... of course Kate can't hold her breath forever.

As you suggest the floating cover system was a different beast altogether. We are using an excellent procedural animation system and that really helps the situation because there are so many different kinds of floating cover, and Kate has to be incredibly agile in the water around floating cover. With the water being completely dynamic, a traditional animation system would not have given us the scope and flexibility to achieve what we have done.

[PS3A]: The Queen of the World is pretty massive in scale and suggests Kate will have more than enough to do on the super-ship during the course of the game. Will we however get to see any of the other bastions of humanity? Do we get to witness the full extent of the global catastrophe?

[RH] : The Queen of the World is not only vast, it's also extremely varied socially and culturally. The workers who prop up the infrastructure live on the lower decks in rather poor conditions, and the wealthy individuals live in luxury penthouses in the buildings which tower above the deck.

So you've got this beautiful social hierarchy which you can literally see evolve from bottom to top in the ships structure, with the foundations of the Five Founding Fathers piercing through every layer and stretching into the sky above.

When you are down in the neon-lit slums christened Proleville by the inhabitants, you begin to realise that the propaganda presenting the Queen of the World as a triumphant reserve for the super-wealthy isn't the full story.

The influence of the global population flood is evident at every level, from the elitism of the rich and influential at the top, to the tolerance of terrible conditions that the poor endure in favour of living in the utter chaos of the outside world, to the blind eye turned to the gang culture in Proleville.

The Queen is deeply controversial; a reactionary consequence of the worldwide chaos, and ultimately it’s this sense of extremity of reaction that provides the richest perspective on the tragedy the world has endured.

[PJ] : As for the rest of the world out there, the player doesn’t see it directly in this game; the QOTW is the player's universe - the ship is around 2km long and about a kilometre wide.

Actually the sequel to the game is set in a drowned Boston – that’s an exclusive by the way - (New York has had more of its fair share of fictional and real disasters over time) so we do have plans for an expansion of the Hydrophobia world.

[PS3A]: Considering the ethos of the Neo-Malthusians is “Save the world, kill yourself” how does this ethical code manifest in the A.I. of the enemies Kate encounters? Can such a nihilistic attitude be seen in their attack strategies? i.e.: Are the Neo-Malthusians precarious and somewhat indifferent to the own safety?

[RH]: Great question. We absolutely wanted to imprint the Malthusians beliefs in their behaviour, particularly because they are so extreme. They want to ensure they wipe out as many people as possible, this is there general attitude, but they are logical about it too – the longer they stay alive the more people they can kill. However if they are on the back foot, say the rest of their squad has been wiped out, they may resort to a form of kamikaze to finish the job honourably.

In a different situation, say a squad of Malthusians is out numbered and falling back, the squad leader may issue an honour call for a kind of mass kamikaze. The higher ranking members of the Malthusian hierarchy are viewed differently however, these are the scholars of the new order in the world the Malthusians want to create, so they will be protected at all costs.

[PJ] : The main thing is that the Malthusians place absolutely no value on human life – even their own. Some of the leaders however may not respect the value of other people’s lives but do recognise their own through this delusion of grandeur they have built up.

So there you have it. Bostonians, prepare to have your wetsuits ready.

Check back tomorrow when the interview concludes with talk of underwater breathing, how Kate's phobia manifests as gameplay and the future of the tech behind the game. We'll also reveal some exclusive artwork of four other characters from the universe of Hydrophobia.

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Friday, 5 September 2008

Motorstorm Q&A; lacking Home support, long jump trophies and lava

Motorstorm: Pacific Rift is nearly here.

The follow up to one of the most successful titles on the PlayStation 3, expectations are high for the sequel. When we had a chance to play a 70% complete build of the game recently (video below), those expectations were certainly met.

Nigel Kershaw, Game Director at Evolution Studios, spared us some of his valuable time, giving us more details of what to expect from their new baby. Be prepared for water, lava and... Special Brew?

[PS3A] Why did you decide to host Motorstorm: Pacific Rift on a tropical island, and what different environments can we expect to race in this time around?

[NK] Monument Valley was a fantastic location for the first MotorStorm game but for the second we wanted somewhere where we could really stretch our visual and technology muscles. Picking a tropical island gave us a lot of new interactive technology that we felt we could finally do justice with PlayStation 3. Thus you will find interactive water, interactive vegetation, lava and a whole host of destructible scenery.

[PS3A] We have seen the new Monster Truck vehicle class. In the original Motorstorm, your choice of vehicle determined your route and strategy. What should people be thinking about when choosing to race with these huge vehicles?

[NK] The Monster Truck is designed to be the top of the food chain in the MotorStorm line up; its big wheels makes it capable of running right over opposing vehicles. So when you are racing in one aggression is your main weapon. When you are racing against one stay out of the way! These big wheels also make it a good climber, capable of climbing rough terrain that leave other vehicles as twisted wrecks.

[PS3A] What are the biggest differences in gameplay between Motorstorm and Motorstorm: Pacific Rift?

[NK] Pacific Rift is still MotorStorm but we have enhanced and refined the gameplay in a number of areas, making sure that the player has more decisions to make, more control over his vehicle and a much wider variety of game modes to experience.

[PS3A] We remember the furore around split-screen multiplayer in Motorstorm. What new offline and online multiplayer modes feature this time around, and did bringing split-screen modes compromise the graphics in any way?

[NK] With the technology we had developed for the first MotorStorm split-screen was impossible. When we started Pacific Rift we decided that it had to be a key feature of the game, so we went back to the drawing board and completely re-wrote our rendering technology. In terms of graphical compromise it has not affected the single player or the two player split-screen. We are still working on polishing the four player split-screen, so I can't say whether the tracks will be perfect replicas of the single player ones, but we are aiming to make all modes as fun and enthralling as they can be.

[PS3A] What Trophies can we expect, and will the title be Home-compatible? Are these 'day-one' launch features, or will the game require a future patch?

[NK] Trophies are in day 1 with the usual crop of 'finish the game' and 'progression through the game' awards, but there are also some surprises in here that will really have you hunting out the places to make that perfect long jump, finding a driver to knock over etc. Home support will be along later, but rest assured we have some awesome trophies to really integrate into the game.

[PS3A] We remember all the great DLC you brought to Motorstorm. What plans do you have to extend Motorstorm: Pacific Rift with DLC in the future?

[NK] Sure we have lots of plans for downloadable content for Pacific Rift. We have got some exciting ideas where to extend the game, so keep your eyes on the PlayStation Store in the future.

[PS3A] We've seen people like Criterion almost change their game entirely with DLC, such as the addition of motorbikes and maybe even planes. What do you think of this direction in game design, and is it something we can expect from Evolution?

[NK] We’ve got lots of exciting ideas we are working on, but I wouldn’t want to let the cat out of the bag this soon. DLC does offer us the opportunity to develop the game in many ways. Watch this space!

[PS3A] We were jealous when we saw the 'making of' Motorstorm, and your visits/jollies to Monument Valley. Did you manage to stretch the development budget to a tropical paradise field trip this time?

[NK] The research trip for MotorStorm: Pacific Rift involved us spending three long, gruelling weeks exploring Hawaii on foot, in helicopters and on speedboats. (Ed: nice work if you can get it!)

[PS3A] In honour of the tropical setting, what is your favourite Tiki-bar cocktail? And can you buy one anywhere in Runcorn?

[NK] The Mai-Tai is the perfect drink for the island, but as it doesn’t involve Special Brew, you are unlikely to find one in Runcorn!

Our thanks to Nigel and the team at Evolution Studios.

If you're a US reader and you get Qore, there's a demo of Motorstorm: Pacific Rift scheduled for release on the 11th September, so you don't have long to wait before you can experience a small taste of island paradise.

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Wednesday, 18 June 2008

PROTOTYPE; Q&A reveals side-missions, devastation

PROTOTYPE is a forthcoming title where you play as Alex Mercer - a genetically mutated shape-shifter with no memory of his past - who travels through New York trying to regain his memory and find out what has happened to him.

The citizens of NY have been mutated with a virus, and the military have been sent in to deal with the situation. A true 'sandbox' game, Alex must fight both of these opposing factions in his quest for the truth.

We managed to get some time to ask Tim Bennison, Executive Producer at Radical Entertainment, to fill us in on some of the unique game elements in PROTOTYPE.

[PS3A] With PROTOTYPE being a 'sandbox' game, will you have lots of extra little side-missions and tasks you can choose to complete, or ignore, such as have been seen in other games of this type?

[TB] PROTOTYPE will deliver a wide spectrum of gameplay experiences throughout the story/missions. Because Alex Mercer can use his shape-shifting powers at any moment, players will be able to choose how they wish to complete a mission. There are also side missions we call the Web of Intrigue that accompany the key storyline missions, though we’ll be releasing more info on these in the future.

[PS3A] We've heard a little bit about the 'disguise or destroy' concept in this game. What do you mean by that and how does it work?

[TB] Alex can use his shape-shifting powers at any moment throughout the game, so the concept of 'Deceive or Destroy' is absolutely essential to our design process for each mission. Essentially players get to mix-n-match how to play a mission by deciding whether to unleash hell via Alex’s ability to turn his body into deadly weapons, or try and use deception and shape-shift into a civilian or military form and sneak into a scenario.

[PS3A] Just how flexible are Alex's superhuman capabilities? What can gamers expect to see in terms of abilities?

[TB] At any point, in any mission in PROTOTYPE, we want players to feel completely free when engaging enemies and situations. Alex Mercer can shape-shift his body into many different deadly weapons. He has offensive abilities like the claws, blade arm and whipfist; defensive abilities like the shield and armored skin, and some sensory abilities that allow him to see things the normal human eye can’t. And then there’s the part where Alex can consume and become anyone in NY, where he gains their knowledge, appearance, memories and abilities instantly.

The attack and defensive shape-shifting abilities add layers of choice to players. And we’ve really beefed up the concept of traditional power progression. The goal is to make players feel extremely powerful from the start of the game, whilst correctly balancing the enemy threat so that you’re always on edge. The devastation that any one of these powers can cause is pretty spectacular, this is not a Tekken-like one-on-one fight, this is one man taking out 20 elite soldiers with a single killer move.

We have quite a few other powers up our sleeve that haven’t been mentioned yet. We have an array of sensory powers for example, that make the PROTOTYPE a hunter on the par of the Earth’s most dangerous predators.

[PS3A] As well as Alex's abilities, what weapons, vehicles and other items can we expect to see available for use in the game?

[TB] One of our favorite internal memes is that we want Alex to kick butt in a hundred different ways that no one has ever seen before. Alex has the ability to consume and become anyone in New York City, plus Alex can shape-shift his arms into lethal blades, whip fists, ground spikes and claws among others. Some of the defense powers will include forming large arm-shields and a powered, armored form that lets Alex literally smash through vans and large vehicles unhindered.

If that wasn’t enough, we know gamers want to be able to run-n-gun, so yes, I’m glad to say that we’re also offering the use of traditional weapons in PROTOTYPE. We’re really trying to show off what we feel is next-gen gameplay and next-gen ‘choice’ of gameplay. It's pretty fun just ripping a missile-launcher out of a Blackwatch soldier's arms and taking down their own Apache gunships with it.

[PS3A] Back in December you showed a build that was around 20% complete, according to some reports. How far down the line are you now, and when can we expect to see the game released?

[TB] PROTOTYPE is looking better by the day. Our goal is to create a different kind of open-world/action experience. We’re going to polish it and release it when it’s ready in 2009.

[PS3A] How long did it take to create New York City in PROTOTYPE, and to what lengths did you go to to make it accurate?

[TB] One of our guiding principles in making PROTOTYPE is that everything should revolve around the concept of ‘reality plus one fantastic element’.

Having a very topical, believable environment lets us make the fantastic action become so much more stunning because you can contrast it against something you understand and recognise. We took 22,000 photographs of New York City and many hours of 7.1 surround sound-compatible recordings, so the first point to make is we're really keen to do New York City 'right'. Previous games have shown New York City and when you enter their version of Time Square, it has no more than 20 people walking around. That’s definitely NOT New York and so we're really happy with the sheer density, intensity and bustling nature of our game world.

We're talking hundreds of cars, thousands of pedestrians – so when things start to explode you really get the impression the world is caving in around you. Importantly though, we're not trying to recreate a slavish replica of NYC like you might find on Google maps. If you're going to include say, an alleyway, then you'd better have something fun to do in that alleyway. Hence we're going for a slightly modified vision of the city that builds in more action-per-square-foot than all of our previous efforts.

[PS3A]What is the best thing about being a game developer in Vancouver?

[TB] There are dozens of game development companies here so the pool of talent is very deep. We live in a great city, and it’s easy to find a lot of great things to do. But we ignore all that stuff until after we ship our game, of course.

Our thanks to Tim and the team at Radical for sparing us the time. Keep checking back for more on PROTOTYPE as the year progresses.

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Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Haze Week; interview with Rob Yescombe and Derek Littlewood

Recently, we had the pleasure of interviewing Rob Yescombe and Derek Littlewood of Free Radical about Haze. Well, it wasn't going to be about anything else, was it?!

During our 15 minutes with the dynamic duo we found out a lot more about the game. We discovered Rob has an uneasy obsession with his crotch-area, and he can do a Rebel Sidekick We hope Rob likes the size of our 'censored' sticker... Finally, we saw what happens when someone interrupts an interview with Rob and Derek!

Check back later this week for our 'gag reel', which includes some possibly NSFW chat about monkeys and dogs!

Our Haze Competition is now live - go win yourself a signed copy of the game and more...

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Tuesday, 13 May 2008

D+PAD Editor speaks - PS3 flak, Italian food and Wii worries

We managed to get some time between issues to quiz David Scammell, Editor-in-Chief at D+PAD magazine, on all things gaming.

For those of you that don't know, D+PAD is a PDF-based web magazine that is frankly so well put together it makes us feel mildly envious. This month's edition alone had a great review of GTA: IV and some exclusive Motorstorm: Pacific Rift screens that made us sit up and take notice.

Here's the interview in full:

[PS3A] What is your background and why did you start D+PAD magazine?

[DS] Video games have always been one of my greatest passions, and as a kid growing up in the late 80s/90s when gaming really started to take off in the mainstream, it was hard to avoid them.

Back in the day when the internet wasn’t readily available, I remember picking up heaps of gaming magazines at a time to get my fix, and I was even an avid reader of ‘Sonic The Comic’ if anyone out there can remember that!

As a result I always wanted to be a part of the gaming press and found myself writing for a few websites before wanting something I could call my own. I thought about starting my own fansite (albeit with an added twist) but felt the market was saturated and that it would struggle to gain a decent following.

With the industry leaning towards digital distribution, the idea of D+PAD came along with the plan to give consumers a free digital publication with high quality content and a design comparable to that of equivalent print magazines.

[PS3A] How long does it take to put together each edition?

[DS] D+PAD’s a monthly publication so we generally turnaround the magazine from start to finish within four to five weeks. However, with D+PAD being digital we can be a lot more flexible with dates than print magazines could ever be.

So, if postponing the publishing date for a few days allows us to fit in a review of the next big title, we’re able to do so. An example of this would be way back in Issue 3. We were just about to hit the upload button when review code for Call of Duty 4 landed on our desk.

Delaying the issue by a few days allowed us to provide one of the world’s first reviews of the multi-million selling title.

[PS3A] What does a PDF-based magazine offer that you can't find at the newsagent?

[DS] Well, not only is D+PAD completely free and available without having to trek down to your local newsagent, being PDF-based allows us to experiment with other ways to deliver content to our readers.

We’ve introduced video streaming into the latest issue of D+PAD so our readers can check out gameplay footage and trailers on the same page as reading the review.

There are also some other exciting features that we’re currently working on implementing into future issues...

[PS3A] When you're not putting D+PAD together, what do you enjoy doing instead?

[DS] I’d be lying if I said I didn’t play a lot of videogames, but there’s plenty more I get up to besides. I’ve recently put a lot of time into GTA IV in a desperate attempt to gain membership to Rockstar’s 100% Club. And with that 19th May date looming there’s not that long left to achieve it!

But of course, with summer approaching, I’m looking forward to spending a lot of time out in the sun with my fantastic girlfriend and our little puppy dog.

[PS3A] Where do you stand on the 'console wars' debate?

[DS] It’s a very touchy subject and admittedly not one that I like to get myself involved in all that often. I’ve never considered myself to be a fanboy of any sorts, and as editor of a multi-format magazine it’s crucial to remain open-minded.

With that said, I think the PS3 took a lot of unnecessary flak early on and I believe we’re really going to see it come into its own later this year with the exciting 08/09 lineup. I recently had the chance to play Killzone 2 at PlayStation Day which has the potential to blow every other FPS out the water should it all come together for February.

Having said that, the Xbox 360 has proven to be a fantastic console with some great exclusive titles, and in my opinion at least, it still houses a superior online experience – even if it does come at a cost.

Wii, as much as I love the little white box, bothers me slightly. It’s home to a few classic titles, but I’m concerned that targeting casuals as much as it has done and being host to some truly awful, yet worryingly popular, ‘casual’ games may harm the industry in the long run.

It’s great that a wider audience is being introduced to gaming, as long as it doesn’t harm the hardcore that the industry has grown on.

But with all that said and done, I always had a huge fondness for the SEGA consoles and was shocked when they pulled out of the console race. Hopefully one day they’ll be back...

[PS3A] What's the best place to eat at in St. Albans?

[DS] There are so many great places to eat in St. Albans it’s unreal! One of my favourite places though has to be Sazio, a lovely little Italian restaurant that offers an all you can eat lunchtime menu. More than enough to fire you up for a productive afternoon back at the office!

[PS3A] We can vouch for that - we've been there and the food is excellent! Bonus question: Was it really necessary to point those things at us on pages 21 and 22 of Issue 7?

[DS] This is going to sound like a horrendous generalisation on my part, but if there’s one thing I’ve learnt about the majority of gamers it’s that they love their female leads dressed in revealing outfits. And with assets like that, it would be rude not to.

You can get the latest edition of D+PAD at their website, and add yourself to their subscription list to be notified when the next edition is available.

Our thanks to David and please keep up the good work - D+PAD is truly a great read every month.

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Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Holy Baterangs! Interview with Jonathan Smith reveals more Lego Batman details...

PS3 Attitude got a chance to talk with Jonathan Smith of TT Games today about their Lego titles and, specifically, Lego Batman.

Before getting into the interview, here's what we already know about Lego Batman and TT Games.

Recently acknowledged as the leading UK developer in the Develop 100 report, TT Games was acquired last year by Warner Bros Interactive, a result we guess of their relationship with movie licences and tie-ins. They are certainly one of the most respected names in the UK development community and have two big Lego titles coming out this year; Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures and Lego Batman.

Lego Batman is based on an original story where all the lunatics have taken over Arkham Asylum and succeeded in escaping. It's your job to round them up, of course. The campaign to re-capture the likes of Catwoman, the Penguin, the Joker, Killer Croc, Scarecrow and others takes you across 18 Lego infested levels. But that is literally only half the story.

As you play through the 'hero' levels, you'll unlock another 18 levels where you play the game from the villain's point-of-view.

The success of the gameplay in the previous Lego titles is mirrored in Lego Batman with grappling hooks that are similar to those in Star Wars II, the chance to build new items out of Lego pieces and the usual mix of action and puzzle solving. However, in Lego Batman the emphasis will change somewhat - let's find out more from Jonathan Smith:

[PS3A] This is the first time you've developed a title outside of the Lucas arena...

[JS] I suppose it is. We just think of it as a natural progression of our work on Lego games. Obviously, the Lego company has been making play materials for a long time for a wide range of different properties including loads of characters from TV series and movies over the years. So we don't see it as a radical departure for us.

[PS3A] What has been different about working with the PS3 over the years?

[JS] Traveller's Tales (the developers) are experts in working with the PlayStation 3. Obviously they were strong on all Sony platforms from PlayStation 1 through to the PS2 and PSP. They have a lot of expertise in those areas that they've brought to the PS3 when they first starting developing for it a few years ago. With Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga and Lego Indiana Jones on the PS3, and with other PlayStation 3 titles already in development, it is really a platform that everyone is extremely comfortable with and enjoys working on.

[PS3A] What is your approach to producing multi-platform titles?

[JS] Traveller's Tales has been brought up over the last 17 years or so as a specialist in multi-platform development and right from the start their culture and technology has been built up around that. They have proven over the years to be extremely effective and being able to share assets, models, animations, sounds and elements of design between platforms with a common engine at heart but with different modules that allow the advantages of each platform to come to the fore. It is a technology and approach that has served them in good stead over the years.

[PS3A] Batman is an interesting choice because of the different incarnations of the character. There's the mildly camp TV series, the sometimes grittier films, the animated series, the original comic books and the graphic novels. As far as Lego Batman is concerned, which style of Batman are we going to see?

[JS] Lego Batman is really both its own version of Batman, and all the other versions of Batman as well. It is a sort of distillation of many of the common elements that have appeared in the different in carnations over the decades. Elements of it will seem familiar from the comic books in particular but also from your memory of the different things that Batman and the other Gotham City characters have got up to or meant to you across all the other versions. But the game does have its own distinct look in terms of style, the colours we use, vehicles and costumes. They're unique, but I suppose it is best to say they are compatible; compatible with all the other different versions of Batman.

[PS3A] With previous Lego titles there are areas that you can't access until you have played the game through. Once completed, you can access other areas when playing as 'the bad guys'. Is this feature in Lego Batman?

[JS] You're right, but we're taking it to a whole new level. You're right to say that in our previous games we've had the concept of 'story mode' and 'free play', and in 'free play' you can go back and access areas with all the characters you've unlocked, including the bad guys. We still have that, but what we have done that takes this to a new level is 'villain mode'. In 'villain mode' you won't just be able to go back and look at new levels, we're creating an entirely new and separate campaign that tells the whole story of the game from the villain's point-of-view.

[PS3A] Is 'villain mode' unlocked when you finish the hero campaign?

[JS] No - it is actually unlocked as you progress through the game.

[PS3A] What new game mechanics can we expect from your Lego Batman title?

[JS] In Lego Batman it is all about the gadgets and technology that Batman has researched, or have been researched for him. We have the concept of different suits he and Robin can wear that give unique and distinct abilities in order to progress through a level.

[PS3A] I guess that's why Robin is wearing scuba gear in the trailer!

[JS] Exactly, Robin's scuba suit is one of them and both characters have a range of very cool suits that give them special abilities.

[PS3A] What else is new to the series?

[JS] On top of that, people that play the Lego series of games will find plenty of other fundamentally new approaches to the gameplay that suit the action of Batman including a greater emphasis on cool hand-to-hand combat and fighting. In terms of weapons, whereas in Indy we have lots of different firearms, Batman is not a character that needs to use guns to deal with the bad guys, so as well as the cool hand-to-hand combat he has baterangs as well.

[PS3A] How do they work?

[JS] Baterangs work in a very cool way in Lego Batman that you won't have seen in the series before where you can manually target a sequence of different objects with a baterang, then send it off and destroy a group of objects and enemies from a distance.

[PS3A] On the PS3, will that be controlled using the SixAxis or with the analogue sticks?

[JS] The targeting system is stick-based.

[PS3A] You don't have to comment, but that's probably a good move! So what's next for you and the Lego series?

[JS] I'm going to have to be coy about specifics, but the thing about Lego is it can become anyone and do anything. So it's just down to your imagination really. We spend a good deal of time imagining cool directions for the series and all I can say is that we're sure fans won't be disappointed with what comes next. Traveller's Tales are working on another game that will be out this year, and we're very excited about our Guinness Game of World Records. Based on the famous Book of World Records, the idea is that all the most amazing feats of human achievement you've previously read about you can now undertake yourself - in a game, with your friends, you can break those records and become a real record breaker.

PS3 Attitude would like to thank Jonathan Smith for his time and we look forward to catching up with him in person later this year at GameCity 3. Check back soon for more Lego Batman details, and watch the trailer below for some sneak preview action.

Lego Batman is currently planned for release in September this year. Lego Indy is being released on the 6th June, which you can pre-order now.

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Sunday, 16 March 2008 Live 08; Exclusive Far Cry 2 developer interview

Direct from Live 08, we just spent 12 minutes or so with Patrick Redding and Louis-Pierre Pharand about their forthcoming FPS title, Far Cry 2.

The few details we know from the demonstration at Live leave us wanting more. Watch our two-part interview to discover more about the features that really make this FPS shine out above the competition.

Our thanks to Patrick and L-P for their time, and we look forward to finding out more about this intriguing survivalist-shooter in the near future.

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Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Insomniac explain more about their recruitment video

Our friends over at PS3 Fanboy scored an interview with Ryan Schneider of Insomniac (not to be confused with Rob Schneider of 'Saturday Night Live' fame). Ryan explains a little more about the 'wacky' music video they debuted at GDC 08 this year.

Hop on over to PS3 Fanboy for the full interview and a link to the original video (in case you hadn't seen it already).

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Wednesday, 6 February 2008

10 Questions with Qube on 'Q'

Qube Software recently announced a new middleware offering for all current platforms including the PS3.

The product, simply named 'Q', is being officially launched at GDC this month. Founded by Servan Keondjian and Doug Rabson, the software pioneers who between them created Reality Lab and Direct3D, and based in West Hampstead (London), Qube has designed and built Q to provide a consistent software framework for development studios.

"We've designed and built Q so it rocks on the current generation of platforms; the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii and hi-spec gaming PCs. It positions us well for next generation mobile devices and it’s both fast and compact enough so that last generation devices can handle it. It’s a solution that works for every genre; RPG, MMO, FPS, racing, sports, action and even the latest stars like rhythm action games.” - Servan Keondjian, Managing Director

We caught a few moments with Qube Software's Program Manager, Jamie Fowlston, and asked him 10 questions on 'Q':

[PS3A] What does 'Q' bring to the PS3 development community?

[JF] Q brings a number of high-end technical features to the PS3, including background data streaming for huge seamless worlds, a texture manager that allows scenes to have gigabytes of visible texture and a novel n-dimensional animation blending system.

But Q's real innovation is its extensibility, the extent and ease with which it can be customised and specialised by developers.

Extensibility may be much less glamorous than a shiny graphics feature, but it is vastly more important to the process of creating a game. Q has been designed and built to let developers in at every level so they can make the PS3 hardware sing.

[PS3A] Why is it different to other middleware offerings?

[JF] The real problem for middleware has always been the difficulty of customising it.

Existing middleware typically comes in two flavours: game engines and low-level renderers. Game engines give you a naked game and the tools to clothe it; if the game you're building is similar to the original, it'll work great.

But if a developer wants to do something differently, it takes a huge investment in understanding and re-engineering the original game. For low-level renderers, there's lots of work to be done on top of the renderer to complete the game.

Q is a totally different beast.

Q provides high-level features and tools like a game engine, but it is built from small, modular components. Developers can pick and choose the standard components they like, add their own when necessary and even bring in pieces from other developers. We don't know of any other middleware that gives developers such freedom to mix and match the pieces they need.

[PS3A] What challenges did you face in bringing your platform to the PS3, and how was it different to other platforms?

[JF] We actually found the PS3 pretty easy to work with. I don't recall any major challenges. It took us about a month to get everything up and running.

We brought Q up on a PS2 first to make sure it was small and fast so when we ported to PS3 everything went like a rocket. We had some minor performance issues running expensive shaders on early dev kits, but that's ancient history now.

The Cell is obviously quite different to anything on other platforms, but that's just given us the opportunity to offload various tasks onto the SPUs, which is nice.

[PS3A] Which titles are already in development using 'Q' and are any of the PS3-based?

[JF] I'm afraid we can't say anything about the games in development using Q at the moment as they belong to our customers, not us. But I can say that Q's PS3 capability has played an important part in the decision making process for a number of developers.

[PS3A] After seeing the videos of 'EarthSim 2' my immediate reaction was two words - David Braben! What would it take to bring a next-generation 'Elite' sequel to life using 'Q'?

[JF] Earthsim 2 adds a number of custom plug-ins to Q to bring its planets to life, using dynamic tessellation and procedural detail techniques. To build something like Elite on top of that base wouldn't be hard - the technology's been done, the rest is gameplay!

[PS3A] How well will 'Q' work alongside other exciting middleware offerings, such as the Havok 'ragdoll' physics engine or the forthcoming HydroEngine that allows developers to 'flood' levels with realistic water?

[JF] We haven't worked with those specific middleware offerings, but from our point of view integrating another middleware component is just like a developer adding their own components: it's what Q was designed for.

[PS3A] How many people are there in your team now?

[JF] There are 7 of us working on bringing Q to market right now. There are another 3 engineers on the Earthsim 2 team who make sure what we do is useful.

[PS3A] What's the most amazing part of your life?

[JF] Finding out that BAFTA awards bend when knocked off a table.

[PS3A] Where is the best place to eat in West Hampstead?

[JF] The Banana Tree Canteen: the chicken laksa noodle soup is a marvel.

[PS3A] What does the future hold for Qube and what's at stake if you don't reach your goals?

[JF] We're currently working on Q and Earthsim, we think both projects are now ready to take on the world, so we're working hard to make them successful. If we don't reach those goals, we'll have to see what happens; we're not planning for it!

We'll wait to see what Q has to offer when it is fully launched at GDC. In the meantime, take a look below at the three-part Earthsim 2 run-through.

Many thanks to Jamie and Qube Software for sparing us their time - PS3 Attitude will watch what happens next closely.

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Tuesday, 23 October 2007

The PS3 Attitude Interview; LocoRoco Cocoreccho's World No. 1

We have a love/hate relationship with LocoRoco Cocoreccho here at PS3 Attitude. We love the LocoRoco franchise and have spent many an hour smiling happily away at the PSP original. You just can't help yourself! It's certainly a great way to de-stress. In fact, if you gave everyone in the world a PSP and a copy of LocoRoco, you could probably deliver world peace!

But we've not always been that complimentary about the follow up on the PS3. When SCEE told us it was an 'interactive screensaver', we winced. Screensaver or not, it turns out there's a reasonable amount of gameplay in a title that cost only £1.99, and there are world leaderboards to boot.

Not only is 'bunnyho' the world's number one at LocoRoco Cocoreccho, he happens to be from the UK as well - which makes us even happier at PS3 Attitude!

Recently, we spent a few moments with bunnyho finding out what it takes to be the leader.

PS3A: Thanks for spending time talking with us. What first drew you to LocoRoco Cocoreccho?

BH: I usually check the PlayStation Store every day. I saw the trailer via the store a week or two before the game was available and that was enough to convince me to downloaded it when the game came out. I'll be honest, I downloaded it at first glance with no hestitation simply because its LocoRoco!

PS3A: And what is your current high score?

BH: I am at 1,303,060 at the moment.

PS3A: LocoRoco Cocoreccho is a game that involves a number of different mechanics. We don't need to 'tip the land' anymore, but there is a lot of shaking the SixAxis in order to uncover all the LocoRocos and Mui-Muis. What tips and tricks can you offer to other players who want to score big?

BH: The answer to the bigger scores is to spend more time on the mini-games, especially the first and third ones. Interestingly, you can let the LocoRocos do pretty much whatever they want to do. You don't have to keep them all in one place - they're perfectly safe doing their own thing! In the first instance you need to find enough of them to unlock all the different areas so you can get to the third mini-game.

PS3A: What's so special about the third mini-game; the one with the big owl?

BH: It is where you can build up some massives scores. The tactic is simple. Try to coax the bigger LocoRocos in to the mini-game and then lose most of them straight away, leaving just three or four of the larger LocoRocos on his wings. Then, just learn the pattern of eye movements and stay on the wings. And don't get too close to the edge. It's tempting to go for the high scoring 'flashing bee' that comes close to the owl's wingtips, but it's too high risk. You just need to stay on for long enough. I cant stress enough you need A LOT of spare time to get a good high score - a minimum of at least 4-5 hours! I only stopped at 999,990 for this mini-game because I was worried what would happen if I reached a million - there didn't seem to be enough space on the screen for seven figures!

PS3A: Did you find it natural or does it take a lot of practise to be number one?

BH: I'll say that it came naturally, since the day it came out I never left the top 10. The first day alone I was in fourth place, and day-by-day I was moving up and down off the number one slot until the day I got THAT high score. I wouldnt say that practice is needed but mainly time and patience and a good memory of where everything is and when you should perform certain tasks. I always knew in myself I could beat any of my scores on any given day - it just takes a bit of luck on the mini-games not to be eaten and a lot of time. So whilst it comes naturally to me I think most players could beat their current scores if they had the time and patience.

PS3A: If LocoRoco Cocoreccho 2 came along, what would you like to see in the game?

BH: I would like to see more than the one map. Whilst it is a pretty big map with different sections to unlock as you go along, I'd like to see other maps too. That way people could have their own 'map high scores' and then the game could have a master high score for all maps. An option to play the mini-games without going in-game to play them, much like how the original LocoRoco was on the PSP, would be welcome. This would give the game a longer life span, because currently there's pretty much nothing more to do other than the day I get beaten or if I feel like extending my score - which I'd need to put a whol day aside for! Right now positions 1 to 20 of the leaderboard has hardly moved in weeks except for the number two spot who I have seen finally bringing life into the leaderboard - he/she is slowly creeping up my score. I'd also like to see an actual screensaver option for the PS3 just like they ill-advisedly stated in the video preview.

PS3A: Do you prefer LocoRoco on the PSP or the PS3 sequel?

BH: It is a close one but the original PSP title just takes it. Don't get me wrong - I love the new one. It is a different game to the original so a comparison is a bit harsh but in terms of gameplay, the original one is better. Yes the new one is great with the online scoreboard and the cheap price but i guess you pay for what you get. Cocoreccho is not really a long-lasting game or rich in material whereas the original one is 'pick-up-and-play' anytime of day. The PSP original has so many levels and you can play the mini-games whenever you want. The LocoRoco editor is a lot of fun too. In a ideal world if they bought out a LocoRoco 2 on the PS3 with BOTH types of games then they would have a huge hit and I definitely would snap it up in a heartbeat.

PS3 Attitude would like to thank bunnyho for a great interview. Maybe we should all go back and give LocoRoco Cocoreccho another chance, and by all accounts at least a whole day of our time!

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Friday, 20 July 2007

Whilst we're thinking about Super Stardust HD...

If you're one of those people who is wondering how on earth some players are managing to score 700, 800 or 900 million on the PS3 phenom that is Super Stardust HD, you'll love this interview at PS3 Fanboy.

'Zafro' can be found in the top five of the high score list and although he starts off a bit slow, he soon gives up lots of valuable information on how you too can reach the dizzy heights of Super Stardom.

Apparently the answer is to build up at least 70 bombs!! Seriously, it's more complicated than that. You may need some actual talent to play this game after all (something I'm sadly lacking at the moment!).

Read the full Super Smashing interview now...

[via PS3Fanboy]

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