The Way Open-World Games Can Kill The Gaming Experience


Once upon a time, in the near past, gamers cried out against the flood of linear, set-piece heavy games. It wasn’t worth the money to play a game that lasted 7 hours, involved limited choices and a crippling amount of hand holding.

Sandbox gaming brought with it a much-needed reprieve from the boredom of most AAA action games. Players could go anywhere on the map rather than being ushered through narrow corridors, we could ride horses or drive cars, there was a renewed sense of exploration in gaming. NPCs entered the frame and memorable quotes and animations not to mention glitches became the fuel for countless memes. Sandbox gaming rose to become the dominant force in gaming.

Telltale_Games

But with all this freedom and choice there is one area that inevitably suffers, the narrative. When developers seek to give us a wealth of experiences they seem to either offer us clichéd stories or stories so vast in their complexity that they are hard to follow and ultimately fall flat. In comparison when developers like Tell-Tale choose to focus our attention on the story but offer a simplified gameplay experience, we find ourselves drawn into these worlds and are unable to tear our eyes away from our screens.

Now I understand that there are many gamers who love the countless fetch quests, hunts, escort excursions and good old start a fight with that guy missions, but I find that many of these side quest detract from the main story and only offer minimal opportunities for advancement and add little to my enjoyment of the game.

ACUnity

Assassin’s Creed: Unity is a game where all too often side quests and the illusion of a dynamic world detracted so much from my experience that I found everything hard to follow and ultimately uninteresting. I love the chance to jump and run my way through beautifully recreated historic sites and I love random events unfolding in front of me that I can either watch or get involved in. However, following the story in dribs and drabs if I happened to try a detective mission, or do a co-op mission, or jump through to another time period which at best is a disjointed experience and at worst is a confusing jumble of good guys who are bad guys and bad guys who are good guys and a bunch of characters and factions I couldn’t give a fig about.

The Order 1886

Many of us don’t want the interactive movie style of Call of Duty or the clumsy on rails feel of The Order, we want a bit more freedom. But if open-world freedom is constantly presenting a massive list of distractions then inevitably the story is going to suffer.

In my opinion well-structured and interesting narrative should be a major focus in games. We are so impressed by the technology that offer dynamic worlds but all too often these nuances act as nothing more than padding and add nothing to the narrative.

So what is the true gaming utopia we seek?

Balance isn’t easy in games. If you have narrative that is too self-indulgent or convoluted you could end up alienating potential players, the Metal Gear series risks this with their flair for the dramatic. However, the Metal Gear series has got the right idea generally – make story and characters highly important, full of twists and turns and character development, coupled with gameplay that complements the story. Just don’t overdo it with cut scenes.

Game environments are also something to get right. Sound and setting are very important but many open-world games cut and paste locations to accommodate the vast amount of side missions, NPCs and miscellaneous happenings.

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What’s more, they stick to one location with a minor sub-location to make it look different. In Assassin’s Creed: Rogue we had snow, water, forest, towns, forts, but these were repeated throughout the world ad nauseum. One of the best parts in my experience was the adrenaline-pumping run through Lisbon during an earthquake. Guess what? It was linear and the only place away from the wilds of North America, which we largely explored previously in Assassin’s Creed III.

City-focused games like InFamous are the same. Once you’ve explored the Space Needle, had fun catching the monorail, and found the few other buildings that look a bit different, Seattle loses its appeal to explore. Then it depends completely on the gameplay experience and story, because you are stuck in that place. The solution is to have less focus on building a massive cityscape with millions of side-options and gimmicks, and instead focus on a tight narrative that grabs you and carries you along slowly, but with more freedom and choice than a film, through a number of beautifully created environments.

Wolfenstein The New Order

Impossible? I don’t think so. It’s about balance. Assassin’s Creed II had a good degree of that balance and diversity despite being open world. Metal Gear Solid 4 felt more open than it was, despite the great variety of stunning settings and largely linear approach, an illusion that allowed differences of gameplay style (stealth or run and gun) encased in a continually progressing story flow. Wolfenstein: The New Order brought both self-aware kitsch and sentimental depth to the shooter story, and if it had a bit more open environment would have had that balance.

Bigger is not necessarily better here. Allow me to point out the painfully obvious – most of us have to work, study, take care of kids or do other things besides sit down and play games. In this ‘time poor’ life, most of us enjoy games in bits and pieces when we can find the time.

This means the story should be strong and easy to follow, even after weeks spent away, with interesting multi-faceted characters. It should be easy to jump back into, gameplay-wise, without having to strain our memories. Ultimately it’s how engaging the experience is that determines if we come back and finish the game or move on, disappointed.

Call of Duty: Black Ops III Teaser Trailer Releaved While Game Details Leaked


While getting ready for the world reveal of Call of Duty: Black Ops III which is set for 26 April, Activision and Treyarch have released a teaser trailer titled “Ember”. In the trailer we are shown that in the next 50 years technological advancements will lead us into a world where only those who risk going too far, we will find out how far we can actually go. You can watch the teaser trailer below:

When the official Call of Duty Twitter account’s tweet about the teaser trailer was getting around, the Deus Ex Twitter account replied to it with the following meme:

[tweet https://twitter.com/DeusEx/status/591328359197462528 align=’center’]

At the same time there has been some leaked images on Imgur from Call of Duty: Black Ops III marketing material that has surfaced online, revealing more information on the campaign which can be played co-op supporting up to four players online with cinematic arena style play and character progression whereas a new movement system, tailored map design and specialist characters have been revealed for the multiplayer mode. Last of all the Call of Duty: Black Ops III Zombies will feature an all new narrative and XP progression system.

Looks like Call of Duty: Black Ops III will be releasing on 6 November 2015 with preorder giving you access to the beta on PS4, Xbox One and PC according to an article on Kotaku.

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Call Of Duty: Black Ops III Coming This Year From Treyarch


Earlier this week, players uncovered a series of clues hidden within Call of Duty: Black Ops II, SnapChat and Instagram. After working in the shadows, Treyarch and Activision returns this year with Call of Duty: Black Ops III. There’s so much to talk about and plenty of questions, but the good news is you won’t have to wait long for answers as the world reveal of Call of Duty: Black Ops III is set for 26 April so stay tuned for details. In the meantime, check out the short teaser below:

Thanks to ThaTiemsz, Call of Duty website’s source code contains more information about the upcoming game which states:

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 is the first title for next-gen hardware in the critically acclaimed Black Ops series. Developed by Treyarch, the award-winning creator of the two most-played games in Call of Duty history. Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 deploys players into a dark, twisted future where a new breed of Black Ops soldier emerges and the lines are blurred between our own humanity and the technology we created to stay ahead, in a world where cutting-edge military robotics define warfare. With three unique game modes: Campaign, Multiplayer and Zombies, providing fans with the deepest and most ambitious Call of Duty ever.

Also enjoy this Black Ops 3 Art that was also discovered in the source code.

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Call Of Duty Wreaks Havoc With The First Downloadable Content Pack For Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare


The first DLC pack for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Havoc, is on the way.  The DLC pack from Activision and Sledgehammer Games will be available first, exclusively on Xbox LIVE for the Xbox One, and Xbox 360 beginning on 27 January, with other platforms to follow.

Michael Condrey, Co-Founder and Studio Head, Sledgehammer Games, stated:

We’re looking forward to playing the new DLC content with fans. The response to Advanced Warfare has been amazing and the creativity and gameplay variety of the content coming in  Havoc is more exciting than ever.

Glen Schofield, Co-Founder and Studio Head, Sledgehammer Games, added:

The entire team at Sledgehammer Games is really excited about the release of the Havoc and we are ready to kick-off a long DLC season filled with new maps, the new Exo Zombies mode and more,

The definitive DLC offering, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Havoc includes four new, epic multiplayer maps, access to the versatile AE4 directed energy assault rifle, the AE4 Widowmaker custom variant, plus an exciting new Zombies cooperative mode called Exo Zombies, that features a story told through the eyes of four employees of the Atlas corporation, played by a celebrity cast consisting of John Malkovich (In the Line of Fire, RED, Burn After Reading), Bill Paxton (Aliens, Titanic, Edge of Tomorrow), Rose McGowan (Planet Terror, Scream), and Jon Bernthal (Fury, The Walking Dead). The actors provide their voice over and likeness in a dark and cinematic experience new to Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.

Players enter a world where a DNA bioweapon unexpectedly spawns a bloodthirsty, ravenous mutant horde infecting an entire secret Atlas research facility and sending personnel running for their lives. Following a failed evacuation, four survivors, un-trained and underprepared, must face the most vicious mutations ever unleashed. The Exo Zombies co-op mode ushers in a new breed of Zombies and a truly unique experience, coming first to the Havoc DLC Pack.

Havoc delivers four new, exotic and diverse multiplayer maps set around the globe tailor-made for players to unleash their exoskeleton’s abilities, including:

  • Core: Deploy to the Gobi desert where the ravaged ruins of a nuclear fusion plant set the stage for a high-octane warzone. Take down enemies through the wreckage in long-range combat or get up-close and personal in the tunnels surrounding the central turbine. Activate decontamination drones using the map-based scorestreak to help clean out the competition.
  • Urban: Prepare yourself for brutal, high-speed combat in Dallas Ward 3, a future mega structure, funneling players into a close-quarters free-for-all. This modular compound’s verticality unleashes the exoskeleton’s capabilities. Stay focused during the timed event as blast doors alter the map’s flow and sightlines.
  • Sideshow: In the shadow of Devil’s Tower, Wyoming, this abandoned inn’s open layout amplifies its creep factor. Blast your way through the clown inn with close-quarters battles or use long-range site-lines from the mining facilities and natural terrain. Use the map-based scorestreak to activate the lights, music, and magic of the clown marquee and rain down a barrage of rainbow smoke-trailed cannonballs.
  • Drift: An idyllic ski resort high in the Rocky Mountains is transformed into a festive high-altitude playground, perfect for an all-out firefight. Make your way to the highly contested over watch in the glass observation deck or take a ride on the carousel to deliver 360 degrees of carnage. Players can use the map-altering timed event to their advantage as an avalanche of snow and debris disorients players, intensifying the battle.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Havoc will be available first, exclusively on Xbox LIVE on 27 January. The Havoc DLC Pack is also included in the Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare DLC Season Pass, where fans can purchase all four DLC Packs planned for the year, as part of the discounted bundle. Season Pass holders also now have instant access to the Havoc DLC Pack bonus weapons. The AE4 directed energy assault rifle and its custom weapon variant, the AE4 Widowmaker, combine a versatile firing mechanism with all-around movement speed and handling.

Activision’s Call Of Duty Championship, Presented By Xbox Prepares To Boost Esports To New Heights


It’s time to determine who is the best of the best as the third annual Call of Duty Championship, presented by Xbox tournament will bring the top Call of Duty eSport athletes in the world to Los Angeles, 27 – 29 March, in the definitive Call of Duty competition. Activision, Sledgehammer Games and Xbox, in partnership with Major League Gaming (MLG) and additional international eSports partners, will play host to 32 of the best Call of Duty teams from around the world, as they compete in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and the rights to be called the Call of Duty “World Champions,” and ultimately claim the lion’s share of the tournament’s $1 million prize purse in the crowning contest where Power Changes Everything. This year’s tournament will include a variety of compelling programming covering the weekend’s non-stop excitement and hard fought matches, with the final match live streamed on the Xbox Live online entertainment network and other broadcast partners for the world to experience in real time.

Michael Condrey, Co-founder and Studio Head, Sledgehammer Games, said:

From Day 1, the team at Sledgehammer Games set out to bring a new way to play Call of Duty multiplayer to fans. We couldn’t be more thrilled of how the competitive community has embraced and mastered the new player movements and game modes of Advanced Warfare. This is posed to be one of the most exciting Call of Duty competitive seasons with the Call of Duty Championship being one of the best eSports tournaments of the year.

Glen Schofield, Co-Founder and Studio Head, Sledgehammer Games, added:

We developed Advanced Warfare with the competitive community in mind and we can’t wait for the top talent from around the world to compete in the Call of Duty Championships.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare drops players into an adrenaline-filled multiplayer experience, allowing fans to take the exoskeleton and its array of special abilities online.  A first for the franchise, the power of the exoskeleton introduces all-new ways to manoeuvre combat situations on the ground and in the air, alongside an arsenal of futuristic weapon technology that gives players more ways to take opponents on, all while maintaining the signature breakneck Call of Duty multiplayer feel. In addition, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’s robust in-game eSports offering allows fans to compete the same way the pros do.

The best Call of Duty teams from five continents, covering Asia, Australia, North America, South America and Europe, will contend for their place in Call of Duty history at the Call of Duty Championship, presented by Xbox tournament in a range of qualifying events hosted by eSports organisations. Qualifying for the Call of Duty Championship, presented by Xbox will be handled through online tournaments played on Xbox One and broadcasted on MLG.tv, with select live regional finals taking place February through early March in Australia, Brazil, the U.K. and the U.S. The regional finals will be played on Xbox One and will also be broadcasted live on MLG.tv and additional broadcast partners.

The dates are as follows:

The Call of Duty Championship, presented by Xbox tournament is open to all qualified players, whether professional gamers or not, provided they meet the requirements of the official rules and regulations. Further details on the 2015 Call of Duty Championship, presented by Xbox, can be found at the MLG Website. For additional tournament information visit the Call of Duty Website.

Watch the Latest Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Trailer


Activision have released their latest trailer for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare that is set for release in two weeks time.

The trailer shows off a lot of the lovely Kevin Spacey along with high paced action, bullets and explosions. Lots of explosions.

A new vision for the blockbuster franchise, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare takes players to a future devastated by a global attack. Rising from the chaos is Atlas, a Private Military Corporation led by the cunning Jonathan Irons. With the most powerful military force in the world, Atlas has effectively become a superpower for hire. Playing as Jack Mitchell, suit up in an advanced exoskeleton and join a highly-trained unit committed to restoring order.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare launches on PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC on November 4. Those that pre-order the Day Zero Edition will unlock the game 24 hours earlier on November 3.

BlockStorm Impressions: An FPS in the Block Renaissance


Blockstorm borrows heavily from the aesthetic of the recent block renaissance, whilst the game play is reminiscent of classic team based FPS games. If I was to draw an obvious comparison, I would say Blockstorm feels like a mash up of Minecraft and the original Team Fortress, and that isn’t a bad thing.

I had a lot of fun with Blockstorm when I gave it a quick spin. It was so nice to sink into a world where characters moved with a slipperiness long since removed from modern FPS games – where you could dig into an enemy base or brick up an opening to fortify a position. The character selection from the get-go features a large array of your standard military-looking grunts, and then there are the odd balls, naturally I chose to play as a Minotaur. Appearance seemingly has no effect on combat, so I was free to run around as a figure of Greek mythology, whilst my team mates donned Storm Trooper outfits and Daft Punk’s iconic helmets.

There is a sense of fun that pervades a game like this: the seriousness of Call of Duty or Battlefield melts away when there is no voice over telling you to push harder or kill that last man – the game become about playing rather than competing. That is not to say I didn’t have some heated matches, but without that built in tone I felt less combative when I was taken out by a foe, and I got my ass handed to me a few times. One player waited whilst I bricked up the entrance to my base then knifed me and finished the job sealing himself in the bunker and winning the match by taking the base. It was brilliant – and made me really consider the potential of this game.

pompei-map

The levels in this game are expansive, there is a huge area to cover, complete with lots of buildings and wilderness to traverse. The colour palette is varied and bright – the creators have put in a lot of effort to make sure that there are plenty of different textures making up the world. The inclusion of 100 blocks to your loadout gives you a finite number to play with as you build walls or steps or anything else you can manage in the world.

You also have a trusty shovel which brings destructibility to the world, but also the ability to dig fox holes and carve out sniper posts. I really wish games like Battlefield would incorporate a shovel feature, they spend so much money on building engines with real world destruction, and yet you can’t dig in on a beach – go figure.

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The game modes are your standard Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Assault. I spent most of my time playing Assault, which places a red and a blue team against each other – one attacking and one defending a base. The matches were fast and fun, however, the respawn time for defenders was punishing – 17 seconds is way too long to keep someone out of a game, especially on the smaller stages. It just made it too easy for the other team to sweep in and take the base. Other than this, the modes work well, they don’t reinvent the wheel but they aren’t meant to. The building mechanics are where this game will shine.

BlockStorm

Unfortunately, no one I was playing with was well versed in construction so the only blocks laid down were in the form of walls and basic steps, however once some seasoned builders find their way into this game I foresee some interesting traps popping up during matches.

In the interest of brevity I’ll leave it there. The game is promising, fun and cheap at $5.99 for a single pack or $9.99 for a double pack, and with the publishers throwing in the soundtrack for all purchasers, it is more than worth the price of admission.

Five Unsung Games of E3 2014


Exciting and Intriguing Games Galore!

In the lead up to E3 there’s always excitement. Blockbuster titles, big budget IP’s and as always the latest Call of Duty, dominate the headlines.

But this year we’re seeing more and more small titles, be them indie or even indie inspired titles from larger companies, that look to be unique and exciting but go reasonably unnoticed.

Here’s a look at just a few of the unsung games to watch out for in the future!

Below – Capy Games

(PC and Xbox One)

What is it?

Below is a top down adventure game, drawing from Roguelike games of the past in its style and approach to gameplay and difficulty. It’s premise centres around a lone warrior exploring a mysterious island, with a randomly generated world and permanent death.

Why am I excited?

While we still don’t know much about this game so far, even though it was revealed a year ago at E3 2013, the art style and aesthetics really draw me to it. Below looks to be a really intriguing title for the Xbox One that is quite different to a lot of the games coming out, combining nostalgia and new technology with a Dark Souls-esque difficulty. Early gameplay reports from the PAX East demo have been very positive, making this game from Capy one to keep an eye out for.

No Man’s Sky – Hello Games

(Platforms TBA)

What is it?

No Man’s Sky is a game that takes place in a huge, huge, procedurally generated universe. The player will find themselves exploring distinctive new planets, collecting information from environmental conditions and charting wildlife as well as exploring deep oceans and fighting off enemies in space. While not much more has been announced, it looks to be a hugely ambitious and gorgeous space game.

Why am I excited?

Maybe it’s the mystery of No Man’s Sky that draws me to it, or maybe it’s just how ambitious and gorgeous it looks. The idea of having a huge, procedurally generated universe to explore has been something I’ve wanted since Spore’s Space Stage and beyond. While we don’t know a lot about this game, one thing is certain; when Hello Games finally releases, fans will be queuing up in droves to grab this one.

Witness – Number None Inc.

(PC, iOS and PS4)

What is it?

Waking up on an unknown island, the player finds themselves in a world of puzzles while they explore the ten themed realms around them. The game takes the formula of a first person puzzler with a vibrant art style.

Why am I excited?

Witness, coming from Jonathan Blow of Braid fame, looks to be a fascinating game. The idea of exploring a colourful puzzle island in first person calls to mind experiences like Portal, but what really interests me is the subtle storytelling Blow aims for by using the world and puzzles within it to shape the player’s experience. There’s a lot of potential in this title, and I hope to see more at E3 this year!

Valiant Hearts – Ubisoft

(PC, Mac, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One)

What is it?

Valiant Hearts is a game about World War One, exploring the story of four strangers amidst the fighting that help a young German soldier. The game is inspired by letters written during this period of history and takes the format of a 2D side-scroling action puzzle game.

Why am I excited?

After how much I loved Child of Light, especially for demonstrating what the UbiArt Framework can do, seeing this game’s first trailer really got me excited. While the art style stunning the subject matter is the real draw for me. Taking a look at the effects of the Great War on different parts of society and both sides of the conflict is something not many games have dared do, and I’m really interested to see what stories Ubisoft tells.

Helldivers – Arrow Games

(PS3, PS4 and PS Vita)

What is it?

Helldivers is a top down multiplayer shooter that uses randomly generated maps and calls back to classic shooters of the past. The game features always on friendly fire and challenging difficulties in order to create havok and, as the developer hopes, hilarious deaths with friends.

Why am I excited?

This game seems like it will be a lot of fun to play with friends. It feels like it’ll be brutally painful in such an entertaining way, mowing down each other accidentally (or at least that’ll be the excuse) while trying to complete missions. Not only this, the combat looks quite deep with the use of ‘strategems’ to change the field drastically, such as calling in air strikes and passive buffs for players. This is one to look out for, especially if you’re a fan of multiplayer action!

Jayden Perry ©2014