Rockstar’s Dan Houser Talks Max Payne 3

While the gaming industry tends to be a very open one when it comes to marketing and hands-on time for titles, but not with Rockstar Games. The developer purposefully keeps its projects under wraps and lets out info in small organized chunks, but it’s all part of the grand strategy.

“It’s really important to us that the games (feel) kind of magical,” said Dan Houser, VP of creative and co-founder of Rockstar. “It might annoy people that we don’t give out more information, but I think the end point is people enjoy the experience. The less they know about how things are pieced together and how things are broken down and what our processes are, the more it will feel like this thing is alive, that you are being dragged into the experience. That’s what we want.”

A notable issue with Rockstar’s upcoming Max Payne 3 is that the last entry released several years ago, meaning that there’s a competition with rose colored glasses much as anything. “I think the challenge of nostalgia is a profound one, because one thing about videogames is your memory tends to remove the horrendous,” Houser says. “(The games) become these great, perfect experiences. It’s definitely a challenge to get the right pitch when you want to appeal to the fans of the original and bring in a new audience.”

Houser is the lead writer on Max Payne 3, which has a story where Max finds himself embroiled in a kidnapping scheme in Brazil. “If games are to be the next major form of creative consumption, art, cultural expression or whatever the correct term is, then strong narrative has to be part of that,” he says. “If the mechanics are fine and the story is ridiculous, the experience is much diminished.”

With notable exceptions, multiplayer modes tend to exist outside of the realm of the main single-player story, but Houser hints that may not be the case with Max Payne 3. “We wanted to put some elements of single player into the multiplayer so the multiplayer will have a lot more detail and have elements of story in it and have a sort of an immersive quality,” he says. “We think that’s something that is under-explored in multiplayer.”

As always for Rockstar, both realism and attention to detail are important. “We are building a film set, but it’s a 360-degree film set that has to join together and feel real,” he explains. “Some of the stuff we end up being most obsessed by are the things that join between walls. And where a lot of other games fail is their models may look great, but they don’t sit together very well.”

Despite the similarities between Rockstar’s approach to games and movie studios, Houser isn’t eager to jump down the 3D rabbit hole. “I don’t think anyone has solved the riddle of how you make 3D an integral part of the gaming experience,” he said simply.

Source: Variety

PS3 Music Unlimited Gets More Control

The Music Unlimited service has been updated on the PS3. There’s new branding on the service, but there’s also a “My Channels” function that lets users build custom radio stations around selected favorite artists, a feature not unlike Pandora.

“Another great enhancement to the service makes it easier to skip tracks you dislike. Really don’t like a song that is playing on one of the channels Just “dislike” it and we’ll automatically skip to the next one,” said Mike Aragon, Vice President of Sony Network Entertainment. “The ‘My Channels’ and the ‘dislike’ enhancements — available to both Basic and Premium subscribers — add to your ability to customize the music you listen to on the service. The features will also available via a firmware update today for 2010 and 2011 connected BRAVIAs, PCs, and Blu-ray Disc devices, so you’ll share a common experience among your Music Unlimited enabled devices.”

“We’ve also given PS3 users more power to adjust on the fly with the ability to edit playlists directly from the system,” noted Aragon. “You can now create new playlists from scratch, delete or rename them. Songs can also be deleted or added to existing playlist providing complete control over your listening experience.”


Skylanders Soars Early For Activision

Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventures was one of the more original offerings this holiday season, combining elements of toy buying with video games. The hybrid has gotten good reviews and appeared in the Toys “R” Us Holiday Hot Toy List and the Toy Insider Hot 20 List.

“While it’s still very early in the holiday selling season, the game is performing ahead of our expectations in both starter pack sales and the sale of individual toys,” said Actvision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg. “Of the the 30 plus characters, some are already very hard to find and we’ve already seen Skylanders characters sell for as much as $70 on eBay. Finally, after only a few weeks in the market, literally all of our major retail partners across all territories have already placed re-orders.”

“We’ll also be supporting the game with our largest marketing campaign ever for a new property, which includes a heavy TV campaign in the US and Europe, an extensive mall and home tour to generate hands-on trial, as well as a 2 minute 3D trailer in theaters which runs in front of a number of holiday movies including Puss In Boots, Happy Feet 2, and The Muppets,” said Hirshberg.

Activision has had numerous point-of-sale advertisements including interactive kiosks, and retailers are reciprocating with lots of shelf space. “For $69.99, a kid gets three toys, the Portal of Power, a videogame with a 30 level single-player mode, co-op game play, and endless hours in battle mode,” noted Hirshberg. “It also comes with a vast connected webworld at no extra charge, as well as a poster and trading cards. When you consider that three average toys with no interactive capabilities whatsoever and an average new videogame would cost you more than the Skylanders starter pack, I think it’s fair to say that this is an exciting value proposition for the holidays.”

This is a great beginning, though as Hirshberg noted, “like any new IP, Skylanders will take time to reach its full potential.”

Source: IndustryGamers

3DS Legend Of Zelda Limited Edition Coming

As part of the 25th anniversary of the Legend of Zelda, there will be a special bundle of the 3DS. The 3DS The Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary Limited Edition will come with a special gold etching on a black 3DS with a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D.



Social Gaming Industry Worth $1.43 Billion In Japan During 2010

Enterbrain indicates that social games have seen radical growth in the past couple of years in Japan. Social gaming was worth an estimated $326 million in 2009, whereas it ballooned to $1.43 billion in 2010.

The study also says that 37 percent of all social game users have spent money on a social game, and roughly 20 percent say they’re still spending money. 30 percent of social game players own a smartphone and for those that still own feature phones, 54.4 percent of them are interested in getting a smartphone and a further 80 percent of those users say that when they purchase a smartphone they intend to continue playing social games.


Assassin’s Creed Coming 2012 Says Ubisoft CEO

Assassin’s Creed will have another entry in 2012, as confirmed by Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot during a conference call. While no details were given, it is believed that the game will wrap up the story arch with Desmond Miles and conclude the “end of the world” plot set in December 2012.

Meanwhile, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations has higher pre-orders than Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood did last year, although its sales are ultimately expected to be “double-digit” lower than it’s predecessor. “We want to be careful and prudent, but we have high expectations for the product,” Guillemot said,

The Assassin’s Creed has sold over 31 million copies since its inception in November 2007, Ubisoft indicates.

Source: Gamasutra

Call Of Duty Elite Servers Blown Up By Usage

The launch day of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 sent millions to retailers to pick up a copy, and a good percentage wanted to register for an account on Call of Duty Elite. The demand was such that the service is suffering from a significant backlog as hundreds of thousands look to log in, as technicians look to fix the issue.

“We are proud to say that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 has launched and millions of people are already playing online,” said Chacko Sonny Studio Head for Beachhead Studio. “Registration requests for our new live service Call of Duty Elite are exceeding even our most optimistic expectations, which is creating a bottleneck and some players have not been able to register. We have already registered hundreds of thousands of players and we are working around the clock to increase our capacity as quickly as possible.”

“Please be assured your gameplay data is safe and that whenever you successfully register for Call of Duty Elite, all of your data will be waiting for you,” he added. “So enjoy the game, start ranking up and we assure you we are working around the clock to accommodate every player who wants to be a part of Call of Duty Elite as quickly as possible. We will update you frequently to keep you informed.”


Wii Still 45 Percent Of Ubisoft’s Business

The Wii has not had a good 2011, with diminished hardware and software sales. Still, despite the difficulties that third-parties have had with the system, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot says that the Wii is a huge part of their business.

“Today, the Wii still is 45 percent of our business,” he said. “Just Dance, all those casual games, are selling extremely well.”

As for the Wii U, he hopes that the system’s new capabilities, including better graphics and the tablet controller, will help propel the company’s business to a new level. “Now to [what audience] will it be addressed We don’t exactly know yet,” said Guillemot. “But the potential of the machine, and the tablet [controller], I think is a good way to improve the potential gameplay.”

Source: Gamasutra

DC Universe Online Sees 1000 Percent Increase In Concurrent Users

Recently, Sony Online Entertainment president John Smedley indicated that 120,000 new PC users had been added to DC Universe Online since the switch to free-to-play. Now he says that the game has achieved “1000 percent of our pre-F2P concurrent numbers” though it has not come without technical issues.

“We’re very aware of the long queues and other issues,” said Smedley. “We’re working on adding more hardware and working on our servers so we don’t have them.”


Adobe Acquires Auditude

Adobe Systems has announced that they have acquired Auditude. This will help the company offer end-to-end video, connecting authoring, publishing, monetization and optimization to help customers build long-term businesses through the delivery of video content across all IP-enabled devices.

“Premium video publishers want to capitalize on the foundational shift to digital by providing viewers with great media experiences and maximizing the value of their content on every IP device,” said David Wadhwani, senior vice president and general manager for Adobe’s Digital Media Business Unit. “With this acquisition, Adobe can now offer an unparalleled platform for authoring, distributing, analyzing and monetizing digital video experiences everywhere — simplifying work flows, increasing consumer engagement, delivering insights and driving increased revenue for content publishers.”

“By joining Adobe we are accelerating our vision of helping top media companies and publishers maximize the value of their video content,” said Jeremy Helfand, CEO of Auditude. “Adobe has deep roots in video and bringing our capabilities together will provide great incremental benefits for our customers. As part of Adobe we are excited to bring publishers and media companies a platform offering that has never been possible before, driving unprecedented monetization opportunities for them.”