Rift Developer Opens Red Door

Trion has announced that they are launching a new development and publishing platform for online games codenamed Red Door. It is designed to help developers release their games more quickly, will help share content across multiple devices, support live patching/updates and will support multiple monetization solutions.

“Media and entertainment are transforming into connected services that evolve around the user,” said Trion CEO Lars Buttler. “Our goal is to revolutionize premium games and help the industry realize its potential in the connected era. Our first title Rift is just the tip of the iceberg; with Red Door we intend to catalyze significant change for the industry and unleash new creative possibilities. We want to hear from those with big bold ideas and dreams.”

Windows Phone Gets Xbox Live Marketplace App

Microsoft has announced that they are developing a Windows Phone app that lets users navigate and control content on the Xbox Live Marketplace. The Xbox Companion App will let users access the new TV services launching on Xbox Live this year and allows Windows Phone users to integrate their handsets with Xbox Live.

The app will let users browse the Xbox Live Marketplace, access information about a film, TV show or song, and link to related items. “It’s an infinite road of interactive content,” writes Ben Rudolph.

Source: windowsteamblog.com {link no longer active}

Halo Movie Filming Starting 2012: Rumor

Rumors are that work on a Halo movie is beginning to spin up again. The reports state that filming will begin in 2012 and be conducted by Steven Spielberg and his production company Dreamworks.

There have been reports circulating since 2009 that Spielberg was interested in making a Halo film based on the source material of the novels. The reasoning to use the novels instead of the games was to avoid playing production fees to Universal and Fox for their abortive attempt to make a Halo film.

Source: halo.bungie.org {link no longer active}

Indie Developer Dissects ‘Pay What You Want’ Model

Joost van Dongen, creator of the game Proun has discussed what he sees as the problems with the download for free business model. He made $20,000 on the game with purchasers paying an average of $5.23; including people who downloaded the game for free, the average price paid drops to $0.09.

47,379 people downloaded Proun for free, while roughly 200,000 people pirated the game via torrents. The problem, as Dongen sees it, is the friction caused by having to enter card details.

“People are lazy,” he writes. “Systems that remember your payment details and thus don’t require you to fill in anything each time you buy something are tremendously successful. Think Amazon, think Steam. So I think if I had set a minimum price of $1, way more people would have decided to pay a couple of dollars for Proun. Simply because they already had their Credit Card out for the $1 and figured the game was actually worth a bit more.”

“Fewer people would have played Proun, but I think more people would have paid, making Proun a bigger success financially,” he adds. “Note the emphasis on financially: my main goal was to get as many people as possible to play my game, and the scheme I used was definitely a good choice for that!”

Dongen notes that he will set the minimum price to $1, hoping that people will pay more after crossing the threshold of entering their credit card information.

Source: joostdevblog.blogspot.com

PS3 Long Live Play – To Michael

Sony has gone big with their latest advertisement, bringing is several disparate game universes into an ad that might be the best of the year. It’s all the celebration of the person who makes the difference for them, time and time again…

{linked video marked as “private”}



A Closer Look At Battlelog

A direct competitor to Call of Duty’s “Elite,” Battlefield 3’s Battlelog is a social layer that allows players to create an online persona including minor customization to their avatar and how dog tags are displayed. Similar to Facebook, the profile’s main purpose is to organize and display a player’s individual stats. Any time a player logs game time, those stats — down to how many bullets you fired and with what weapons — are updated on the profile. The profile and stats can be accessed through the console, web or on mobile phones. As you use certain weapons or solider classes, such as Assault or Recon, the player will gain experience. Weapons and classes then level up, providing players with better guns, perks or stats. Battlelog’s social elements come from how players create teams and respond to games. Much like Facebook, the bottom-right of the screen has a “Com Center” where users can chat with their friends and set up quick games by dragging and dropping friends into a “party.” Players can also set up “platoons” to help track stats among smaller groups of players. Facebook runs through the entire experience as players can comment on matches, player profiles or even “Hooah” (read: “Like”) posts. Users can sync their account with Facebook to automatically pull in their existing friends or share out when they level up or gain new items. Check out this official trailer for an overview of features.

Feature: Superplay For Blizzard Executives

Blizzard is one of the more acclaimed developers on the planet, producing hits like World of Warcraft and StarCraft II. It’s something of a charmed place to work, but the individuals at Superplay {link no longer active} have left that all behind for the chance to make mobile games. We talked with Superplay president Paul Della Bitta about leaving Blizzard and the company’s first game in Cosmonauts.

[a]list: Why did you leave Blizzard to found Superplay games?

Paul Della Bitta: Blizzard was an amazing place to work and all the founders had great experience there. We saw the rest of the gaming scene with mobile platforms and tablets and saw an opportunity to jump into that side of things and take the lessons from the AAA games industry and apply it to the mobile space. It was an opportunity for us to make games the we enjoyed growing up and even now. Maybe they aren’t as complicated nowadays on mobile and social platforms, but if you go back to the SNES and Genesis games that we enjoyed with our friends, games like that are our model. Also some of the new mechanics you see and the multiplayer in social games or World of Warcraft where you’re playing those types of games only now doing it online with other people while still enjoying the game.

[a]list: Do you feel there’s an appeal of going from AAA gaming to mobile gaming as you are?

Paul Della Bitta: Absolutely. It’s disruptive to the gaming industry and you’re going to see more of this. Even though it’s very well known how much this will change the gaming scene, were going to continue seeing a dramatic shift. We probably could have gone earlier, as could other people who are AAA game developers, because the mobile hardware have caught up with earlier consoles. You can’t really create a Modern Warfare, but now it’s more polished than what you would find on PS1 with a different interface that lets you do some unique things with social mechanics, you can create hybrids of arcade games with social games. The more we talked about it the more excited we got about it.

[a]list: Do you think it appeals to you and other developers that you can have more control over your own destiny and your own product? There are only going to be so many creative heads at Blizzard after all…

Paul Della Bitta: That absolutely plays a role. That’s why you’re seeing more traditional game developers jumping out because it allows them to express themselves and have more say on what games you’re working on. You can wear more hats that appeals to some, but it scares others and they stay in AAA which is great. Obviously we have a lot of people in the industry, and they love to be working on establishing franchises and others want to jump out and do their own things. You’re going to get some unique gameplay and ideas that you might not of ever seen without this social and mobile revolution. It lets them do some fantastic stuff and I’ll bet you see it have impact on big budget games.

[a]list: I know there’s some appeal in being able to iterate more quickly and having a finished product in less than a year. Blizzard is pretty famous for taking their time with games.

Paul Della Bitta: It goes back to the school yard; if you look at the games for the SNES you were pumping out games from studios quickly – every six or eight months and you’re launching a SKU and it feels like that same environment. You can crank out a game every six months. It’s quick prototyping you can throw it together very fast and your art team and animate it very quickly and that’s attractive to many people that even smaller developers can put out games quickly. So it’s very a very easy environment to jump into.

Blizzard has a really good process and it obviously works. So we’ve learned about the product development cycle and taken some lessons on how that works into a good game. However, some things you can’t do that – if you take two years to ship a mobile product, it’s going to be a totally different hardware landscape, but at the same time, there are lessons to be learned from the way Blizzard develops looking at what’s important to the players, what they want. It’s easy to get caught up in the wrong areas, but it comes down to the user experience and that’s where we should we focus.

[a]list: How did your diverse group of workers get together at Superplay?

Paul Della Bitta: The founders worked at Blizzard and we had a few people that worked on Command & Conquer at Westwood and then at Petroglyph after that. I was the one who worked at Turbine and some people had some other jobs, but the founders are from Blizzard. Throughout the years you get to know people – the games industry is pretty small and you tend to run into the same people. It’s gotten a little larger of late, but there’s this network of people you know, so it’s a natural growth. We reached out to those people [we knew] and that something we continue to do. There are plenty of people in start-ups now, but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t in contact with people in the AAA games industry.

[a]list: Talk to me how you came up with your first game in Cosmonauts.

Paul Della Bitta: This is the perfect example of how great it is to have freedom as an indie company. These conversations took place at a beer garden or BBQ of what games would we would like to play. Looking back at our roots, we loved the Worms gameplay style. We looked at it for tablets and we considered a funny concept – one our members suggested we look at the Cold War, and let’s say the Soviets won the space war and they find these aliens and stylistically you have cute aliens and cute Soviets. Those who have skill as a gamer can be satisfied and so can a casual gamers. We loved the asynchronous gameplay of Words with Friends as a turn based game, and it kinda evolved over time to ultimately we decided to do. Cosmonauts was our pilot episode to what we would like to develop. Our next games will probably be more evocative of the RPGs from the past and some of the other asynchronous multiplayer games we think people are going to like.

[a]list: Is the stylized art part of a plan to draw in more people?

Paul Della Bitta: Absolutely. We feel like in the space, there’s a market for the realistic style like with Infinity Blade, but honestly we have a great art director and he was most recently lead animator for World of Warcraft and he had a great idea for ship-to-ship combat. So you’re talking a male demo oriented game, but we’re talking about integrating with a younger demo and we feel like that cartoony type of style is good for all demos; it ages well. It doesn’t matter how fast the machine gets because cartoony is timeless; it’s a long term approach with a IP. We’d like to take it to different gameplay style and potentially grow it and we think the art style could remain.

[a]list: That’s very evocative of Blizzard’s development style right there, looking at not only what they’ve done with World of Warcraft, but also StarCraft II and now Diablo III.

Paul Della Bitta: Blizzard doesn’t go for ultra-real in the graphics. If you want to have [a game] around for ten years, you don’t want something that tries to look real. For instance, compare Call of Duty 2 against the against Modern Warfare 3 – the visuals are drastically different. WoW is still fading a little bit but it’s held up well after several years.

[a]list: I notice your game is free-to-play. Tell me about your thoughts on that business format and why its preferable for mobile.

Paul Della Bitta: For mobile, it’s the preferential way to go. You want people to experience the product and then they can make the decision to pay. If they want to play and continue to play they can ante up. I can’t tell you how many times I payed 99 cents apiece for a ten games and only play one for more than five minutes. You don’t want people to pay up to experience the game. If they like it, they can make some in-game purchases, leaving it up to the consumers liking the game. That’s also a decision we can make as a start-up and the platform allows us that luxury. We think players will like it and if they want to make purchase, that’s great.

[a]list: Would you consider going into the social gaming space?

Paul Della Bitta: I think that we would consider it. It Its not some we’re passionate about; some of those social games are not what we would consider gaming. We think they’re introducing more people into the games, but we’d like more skill involved. We like the social ascetic but we like skill-based games. Zynga’s latest offering they’re trying to do it, if that’s considered social.

[a]list: I would expect, and hope, that we’re moving towards a future where platform doesn’t matter and that the games you experience can and will be anywhere.

Paul Della Bitta: Some day, you’re going to be able to play iPad games on your TV. The cloud space will be the consolidating element that will let the game be the same everywhere – you won’t have to worry about where you play it. The idea of an integrated platform…. I think it would be amazing for developers and players. If I can play a game on my PC take with me on a mobile device, I think that would be great.

I should note that we enjoyed having that aspect of having your information everywhere; if you create a Cosmonauts account on our platform, if you are on Android, or upgraded to a new phone, you can log in it will pull of all of your information, so all your progress and information is saved. We’ll have all of your information and it will be as integrated on your iPad or your Droid. We have that functionality and we think it is important.

[a]list: In the meantime there are still disparate platforms. about pulling your games to other platforms, like consoles, if they’re popular enough?

Paul Della Bitta: We’re keeping our options option. We’re looking at some great tools that make designing and engineering these games for different platforms, like XBLA or PSN so it doesn’t take so much effort to put them out on those platforms. We want to make great games people want to play and if we think it works well, we’ll move to a new platform.

[a]list: Anything to conclude with?

Paul Della Bitta: I think that we’re just getting started. Cosmonauts is an example of some simple things we can do. We hope people try Cosmonauts and enjoy that; we hope projects in the future will reflect that design, and we’re going to bring cool things to the space.

[a]list: Paul, thanks.

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