Shadowrun Online Offering Free-To-Play Alternative

Cliffhanger Productions, makers of the Shadowrun Online Kickstarter project, announced a new business model for their game. While they are planning the game to be free-to-play, there will also be a special Campaign Server.

Those who pledge over $25 during the Kickstarter drive (or for $39.99 afterward) will be able to play the game with no additional charges and all items in the game can be purchased with in-game cash. The Free-to-Play server will have premium items available for real money and an additional premium subscription will offer booster packs and special shops and major content updates will be sold separately every three or four months for both servers.

The Kickstarter has also been updated with new backer rewards, including t-shirts, hoodies, and a boxed copy of the game — find out more at Kickstarter.com/shadowrun-online.

An Augmented Soundtrack Experience

Download the official Augmented Soundtrack Experience from the makers of The Dark Knight Rises.

Z+ augmented sound changes your perception of reality. Your world will be transformed into Gotham City. Experience amazing Z+ real-time augmented sound, including new and exclusive music from the movie only available in this app. Use the app to experience music by Hans Zimmer in a totally new way and access over 2 hours of new and exclusive music including the extended “Origins” soundtrack. Fans can also fly the BAT with the actual movie sound effect simulator by Academy Award winning sound designer Richard King.

Start by putting on headphones (it works without them, but to get the full experience you really need headphones) and start up the app. Immediately, you are engulfed in sounds of Gotham City. Punctuated by Hans Zimmer’s score, what you hear and how you hear it is augmented by what is happening around you, what you are doing and the time of day.

In addition to the customized Gotham soundtrack, the app also contains audio clips of Hans Zimmer and Christopher Nolan (director of The Dark Knight Rises) discussing the process of scoring the film.

The app has two modes: AutoPilot and Manual. In AutoPilot, the app chooses what you hear based on a number of conditions. What you hear when in a quiet place is different from what you hear in an area with more background noise.

Users are also treated to different soundscapes based on whether they are still or in action and the time of day. The app also uses sounds and voices near you to augment the experience.

Wasteland 2 Developer Chris Avellone Says Kickstarter Won’t Replace Publishers

Obsidian’s Chris Avellone is working with inXile Entertainment on Wasteland 2, one of the most anticipated game projects funded with Kickstarter. He addressed the issue of demand, and whether having the majority of all your sales upfront was a good thing.

“I think that there’s a danger of nobody, or a small percentage of people buying it once it’s funded. But at the same time the advantage comes from the fact that you’ve developed a project with funding, you’ve hit the goals that the players want, they enjoy the product – chances are that you can do it again, with Wasteland 3 or whatever,” said Avellone. “The reward if people do respond to it after a kickstarter, and you sell shitloads and people really find it fun, suddenly things change in a different way – suddenly you don’t need kickstarter to sort the next project but you’ve proven the idea is viable and that people will pay for it, and not just the original backers. It becomes more validating.”

On encouraging a sense of entitlement Avellone said, “I think there’s always that danger, it’s already there to begin with. What has changed is that you get a lot more input about what people want to see, you can talk frankly about it. That makes you more likely to hit the end goal I think.”

“I think publishers are basically rolling the dice a bit when they start projects, they develop them in a vacuum for a year or so before they can say anything to the public, before any direction is shared. They don’t know if it’s going to be profitable or popular so I think that’s why they often play it safe with the sequels and the franchises etc.” he added. “With a Kickstarter you get that input early and you know how exciting people find your project, you’ve got that acid test.”

Some think that crowdfunding will eventuality be a replacement for publishers, but Avellone disagrees saying, “There’ll always be room for publishers and AAA titles, no matter what. People will always want those summer blockbusters and big production value games. I think the publisher model will always be there, Kickstarter will always be a better fit for indie and concept games. Kickstarter won’t be the silver bullet that changes everything.”

While Wasteland 2 was one of the most successful game projects on Kickstarter, Avellone agrees with the sentiment that fatigue is setting in.

“I think people already are getting tired of hearing about it,” said Avellone. “People are also running out of money for it – it had a contagious energy once Double Fine started doing it which caught hold of everybody because it was brand new and it was an exciting thing to get involved with. It had the appeal of being something special, something to get involved with that no-one else will.

“I think that all contributed to this huge emotional wave with Double Fine, but that’s been going down as it becomes more standardized and it’s harder to get excited by new appeals as the exhaustion sets in.”

The thing above all else that Avellone gets asked about is doing a new version of Planescape: Torment, one of the most acclaimed games to come out of his time at Black Isle studios. If Obsidian was to take up a game like that, Avellone intimates that they would look to change it in key ways.

“Yeah – I think the challenges we’ve spoken about would all have to be considered and to be honest I don’t know if I’d want to do it as a Planescape game – I think a better approach would be to ignore the D&D mechanics and respect what Planescape was trying to do and what the game did and see if you can do what Fallout did when it became the spiritual successor to Wasteland,” said Avellone. “I think if you made a game using some of the concepts of Planescape, the metaphysical ideas and the plane travel, without using the D&D mechanics, you could actually come up with a much better game. With Torment, I’d argue that the D&D base actually, in places, got in the way of the experience. It was a lot harder to make a game with those ideas in it with D&D mechanics. So much that we had to break a lot of them. We had to ignore certain spells, change up the class mechanic so that you can switch at any time you like by remembering abilities.”

“That was stuff that D&D didn’t allow for, it was to restraining in some respects. If we did do a spiritual successor, then I don’t know if we’d use the Planescape licence or attach the mechanics, perhaps something that has a different feel to Torment,” he concluded.

Source: GamesIndustry.biz

Activision Taps Swrve For Mobile Push

Activision Blizzard has announced their intention to work with Swrve New Media, which has expertise with in-game behavioral analytics and A/B testing in mobile applications, to enhance its first-party mobile offerings. The publisher will utilize Swrve’s proprietary testing platform in the company’s mobile games in order to test, tune and optimize its games in real-time; the company already uses it in the popular iOS title Skylanders Cloud Patrol.

“You are seeing this announcement as well as a few others of late really focus on our serious intention to get into mobile in a fairly significant way,” said Greg Canessa, vice president of Mobile at Activision Publishing. “When you take a look at our Activision Mobile publishing announcements, we look at our first-party stuff and then at our Swerve relationship, you see us taking the steps to bolster our internal platform capabilities around mobile, our data analytics capabilities and of course launching Skylanders Cloud Patrol as our first effort. This is the beginning of a lot more you are going to see from us in the mobile space.”

“We have a wide variety of IP and the market for iOS and Android is very broad,” he added. “There is lighter touch and then there are more and more immersive experiences. All of those are interesting to us. Without going into specifics, you can see Skylanders is more light hearted which appeals to a broader audience. I think you are going to see us do more of that. To a point, we have more core games on different platforms and we can go into that as well. I think we’re interested in all sorts of entertainment experiences.”

Source: GamesIndustry International

Blizzard Announces First Ever Digital Deluxe Edition For Mists Of Pandaria

Blizzard has confirmed that World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria will launch on September 25, 2012. Along with the standard retail Collector’s Edition, they will also be offering a Digital Deluxe Edition for the first time ever.

The retail Collector’s Edition will have the full expansion for Mac/PC on DVD-Rom, a 208-page hardback tome on The Art of Mists of Pandaria, a Mists of Pandaria mouse pad, a Behind the Scenes DVD and Blu-Ray two-disc set, and a Mists of Pandaria soundtrack on CD. The digital editions to the Collector’s Edition (which comprises the extras in the Digital Deluxe Edition) include a Imperial Quilen mount, the Lucky Quilen Cub, a Diablo III Pandaria themed Banner sigil and accent, and two StarCraft II portraits in the infested orc and the night elf Templar.

The Mists of Pandaria Standard Edition will retail for $39.99, the all-new Digital Deluxe edition will be $59.99, while the Mists of Pandaria Collector’s Edition (with additional bonus items also available exclusively at select retail locations) will be priced at $79.99.

Source: Battle.Net

Puzzle Quest Developer Asserts Independence

While Firemint and IronMonkey have merged to form Firemonkeys, Infinite Interactive will separate from the merger agreement it made with Firemint last year. The company will separate from the Electronic Arts’ owned entity and retain control of the Puzzle Quest IP.

“There was never an actual acquisition of Infinite, it was more of a merger,” said studio founder and creative lead Steve Fawkner. “It was all amicable stuff – as much as it would be fun to have a bit of a scandal. Unfortunately there isn’t one. I think everybody agreed that Infinite does its best work when it’s independent, and so we headed back out into the wilderness to work on our own stuff again.”

When asked what the company will do next, Fawkner said, “While I don’t have a specific announcement that I can make at the moment, if you shook a Magic 8-Ball and asked it ‘Will Infinite’s next game be a Puzzle Quest title ‘, then it would quite probably say ‘All signs point to yes!'”

Source: Joystiq

Windows 8 Called A ‘Catastrophe’ By Gabe Newell

Valve founder Gabe Newell is looking intently at platforms like mobile and tablets, despite the fact that his company has been highly reliant upon PC for its profits. Also, while Microsoft is hoping that the release of Windows 8 will give them a boost, Newell is very bearish about the new OS.

“I think that Windows 8 is kind of a catastrophe for everybody in the PC space,” said Newell to former Microsoft Game Studios head Ed Fries. “I think that we’re going to lose some of the top-tier PC [original equipment manufacturers]. They’ll exit the market. I think margins are going to be destroyed for a bunch of people. If that’s true, it’s going to be a good idea to have alternatives to hedge against that eventuality.”

“But when you start thinking about a platform, you have to address it,” he added. “You have to address mobile. You have to look at what’s going to happen post-tablet. If you look at the mouse and keyboard, it was stable for about 25 years. I think touch will be stable for about 10 years.”

Source: VentureBeat.com

Darksiders II: Death Comes For All

Check out the first all-gameplay trailer for Darksiders II, where the Crowfather sets the stage for our tale.  The fate of mankind may be determined by the actions of the most feared horseman of the apocalypse: Death.

Apple CEO Teases ‘Amazing New Products’

The latest fiscal reports were not what many analysts were hoping for for Apple, despite having revenue of $35 billion and profit of $8.8 billion. However, Apple CEO Tim Cook is very bullish on the near future for the company.

“We are really looking forward to the amazing new products we’ve got in the pipeline,” said Cook, after announcing the financial reports.

It is believed that an iPhone 5 and iPad Mini will launch later this year.