Disney Closes Doors on Split/Second Developer

Really hate these stories.

Disney today confirmed to Develop that the publisher is closing the doors on Black Rock, the developer of both Pure and Split/Second, both games while critically successful failed to do much at the cash register.

The Disney statement: “Disney Interactive Studios confirms that Black Rock Studios’ current project has not been greenlit for further development, consequently the company informed employees yesterday of the intent to enter a consultation process on the proposal to close the studios.”

Black Rock has fired back, however. Again Develop has the goods on this story where two Black Rock employees state that the new game pitch was merely lip service and that Disney knew the axe was falling at the start of the year.

This bit from the story says a lot, I think.

By the time Christmas 2010 came around, Disney had pushed online and social gaming to the top of the agenda – the US HQ bought Facebook game firm Playdom and bumped its CEO John Pleasants up to Disney Interactive boss, pushing out former head Graham Hopper. Then Disney went about trimming its console business….

In this business the critical reception usually doesn’t matter. Still, the 360 version of Split Second supposedly sold around 500,000 units so it’s not like no one bought the game and with the overall critical praise…a damn shame Disney kicked the developer to the curb.

Media Molecule Says Goodbye to Littlebigplanet

UK developer Media Molecule confirmed today that the company is taking a break from developing future LBP games. Siobhan Reddy made the statement at Barcelona’s GameLab 2011 event:

“We’re stepping away from LittleBigPlanet to focus on some new ideas.”

What this means for the future of the franchise is unclear, but the Sony Cambridge studio developed the PSP version and the sweet looking Vita version is being developed by both Double11 and Tarsier Studios so I doubt this marks the end of the franchise. That said, LBP and LBP2 have taken on a life of their own with all of the user made content available. So maybe it’s not a bad idea for the company to branch out into something different.

Mass Effect: What Went Right and What Went South

Wired has a preview/interview with producer Jesse Houston on ME3 and the history of the series and the lessons the company has learned over the years of developing the franchise.

It’s not too long and is worth a read.

“We learned a lot about the way story flow should work” from Dragon Age 2, Houston said. “I don’t want to go into too many details, but ultimately, we’ve listened to the fans in a big way: We’re taking it very, very seriously and we’re committed to making sure we don’t repeat mistakes.”

Don't Shoot the Food – Hunted Demon's Forge Edition

No High Scores

Since returning from vacation, I’ve been playing a lot of Hunted: The Demon’s Forge. It’s a co-op game, but I’m playing it single player as my limited co-op experience with Bill and my extensive single player experience has led me to believe that the game would kind of suck in co-op. Well, if you were playing Caddoc, the big, burly melee guy. Then again, the entire game sucks as Caddoc, so it’s not much of a stretch to think co-op would suck with him as well as it would have the added suckitude of pissing off your partner because you keep dying. At least that’s how it would go for me.

The problem, as I see it (and don’t worry, we’ll get to the food soon enough) is that Caddoc doesn’t pull his weight in co-op. He’s melee, so he should be drawing the aggro off of the archer lady, and he does, but he’s also a bit of wuss and it doesn’t take much to kill him. Oh sure, blocking is key, but when you’re mobbed, shields only work for the beasties in front of you. The rest of them can get at you quite nicely, and when they get into their four swing attack animations, you can get killed fairly quickly. Caddoc doesn’t have the same area of effect spells that E’lara does, so when he gets mobbed, he’s limited in how he can deal with him. Based on this, you would think that the best way would be for Caddoc to deal with the up close guys while E’lara helps him out with her magical arrows when things get too crazy. You would be right except for the fact that while Caddoc is getting mobbed, E’lara usually is too so she has her own problems to deal with. The other, common scenario is that while Caddoc is being mobbed, a gaggle of archers are perforating both of you, requiring E’lara to turn her magic elsewhere…

The revive system in this game certainly doesn’t help matters. Caddoc and E’lara can each carry vials that can revive their fallen teammates. As you progress through the game you’ll be given a higher capacity for vials based on how much you revive one another. Limiting the number of times you can revive your partner is, to put it bluntly, an extremely stupid decision. I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be a risk/reward system in place for revivals, but in this case, if you revive your partner and then don’t find another vial, you’re essentially penalized for reviving them, or they’re penalized for being downed, and it seems a tad bit harsh. In Gears of War, you had to balance your ability to get to your partner and revive them with the current engagement. Yeah, he may be bleeding out, but if you don’t deal with some more of these dudes, you won’t be able to get there any way. In Borderlands, the downed player has the ability to revive themselves if they can somehow shoot through the darkening vision and kill someone. In Halo, if you die, at least one person in the squad has to survive until you can come back. All of these games offer some seriously tense moments around a partner’s death or downing, but none of them seem like they’re penalizing you for dying. Hunted seems like it’s penalizing you, and maybe that’s the point, but if you’re looking to play a fun night of co-op monster slaying, there’s no need to engender animosity between the players due to a cruddy revive system. The fact that the vials you pick up have to be actively picked up, as opposed to health and mana potions that you pick up automatically makes the system seem even more punishing. In the heat of battle, if I run out of vials, I know not only have to be on the lookout for them on the battlefield, but also looking at the on-screen prompt to make sure I’m not stopping to pick up gold instead of revive vials while my partner bleeds out.

So, with this in mind, it got me thinking to food and how really good dishes can use different textures and flavors to play off of each other to a harmonious end, just as good co-op games can use the different play styles of the players to good ends, even within the restrictions of the game. A couple of months ago I found a recipe for a paella that uses soy chorizo and edamame in it. I’m not a big paella fan as the traditional dish has a lot of shellfish in it, and I don’t dig on shellfish, but this seemed like a winner. The only problem I could see was that it would combine the softness of rice with the crunch of soybeans and my wife is not a big fan of mixing textures within dishes. I can sort of understand that as mouth feel is a big deal for me, but I thought it would be worth it. In the end, we both loved it and my son inhaled it as if he had been in the desert for a month. My only complaint is that having the bell pepper in the mix the entire time the rice is cooking makes it too soft and I’d rather put it in with the edamame at the end. Then again, maybe that would raise the crunch factor too much, so who knows. Bottom line is that this is a great dish, full of flavor and with some really different but complimentary textures that play off each other wonderfully, like a good co-op game in your mouth. Best of all, no one has to be Caddoc.

Paella with Soy Chorizo and Edamame – Cooking Light

1. 6 oz soy chorizo – I made this with real chorizo and it was to die for. Obviously, I’m not advocating you break your moral or religious code for pork, but dayum.
2. 2 Tbl extra-virgin olive oil
3. 2 1/4 cups chopped yellow onion – sure it says yellow, but feel free to use frozen onion if time is an issue.
4. 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed – OK< saffron is very expensive, at least it is when you buy it at Kroger. Maybe you can get saffron for less at ethnic markets, but I haven't checked. You've been warned.
5. 4 garlic cloves, minced
6. 1 cup Valencia or other medium-grain rice
7. 1 cup (1/2-inch) pieces red bell pepper - use whatever kind of bell pepper you want, but red is nice and colorful. I think I used orange. I'm crazy that way.
8. 1/2 cup dry white wine
9. 2 cups organic vegetable broth
10. 1/4 teaspoon salt
11. 1 1/2 cups frozen shelled edamame, thawed
12. 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
13. 1/4 cup chopped green onions

Cooking Steps
1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the chorizo and cook until browned. I don’t know how soy chorizo is, but the coloring of the “real” stuff makes it hard to tell when it’s brown. Shoot for around ten minutes or so. Make sure it’s all crumbled up by the time it’s done. Once done, remove it from the pan and set aside.
2. Return pan to medium heat. Add the oil, swirl the pan to get even coverage with the oil and the add the onion, cooking for ten minutes.
3. Add the saffron threads and garlic and stir constantly for a minute.
4. Add the rice and bell pepper and cook for two minutes, stirring frequently.
5. Add the white wine and cook for two minutes or until the liquid is almost gone, stirring frequently.
6. Add the vegetable broth and salt and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed. It’s ok if the rice is a little wet, you just don’t want soup.
7. Return the chorizo to the pan and stir in the edamame. Cook for five minutes or until everything is fully heated. Sprinkle on the parsley and green onions and dinner is served.

Still hungry? Check out the Don’t Shoot the Food archive.

OOTP 12 Gets First Patch

Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of …OOTP being patched within a week or two after release. It’s the reason we are waiting to port our OOTP league over to the new version until after we finish the 2016 season. By that time we may even see another patch released and I don’t want to port our league over and have a massive patch come out.

Here’s the fix list:

* An improved major league roster set (you’ll need to start a new game to take advantage of the changes)
* Tweaked budget calculation at the start of the offseason
* Tweaked player contract demand adjustment
* Tweaked salary arbitration demands and estimates
* Improved roster AI
* Fixed a crash when saving and leaving a game and then immediately quick-simming it
* Historical leagues: Added the option to base the recalculation of player potential ratings on 1) recalc period, 2) remaining career, 3) peak seasons, or 4) remaining peak seasons.
* Fixed a bug that prevented you from making substitutions in the pregame screen when real lineups were used
* When selecting league stats totals from a different year in the league setup, the game now automatically calculates the matching league total modifiers to ensure proper stats output for all categories. Also, for fictional leagues, the year is remembered and the “Automatically adjust league totals modifiers for historical accuracy” function now works properly
* The option to send a player to rehab is no longer visible if the player is still injured, unless it is a day-to-day injury
* Fixed several small cosmetic bugs and glitches

Grab the patch here

War of Honor in Review

Less than an hour after Bill Abner posts “we’re not just shilling for Gameshark here”…here I am shilling for Gameshark here. The thing is, it’s tough reviewing a couple of board games a month as it is, and there’s no way I’d be able to do exclusive board game reviews for NoHS. Bill does that for you when I tell him to go play a game and he can pat me on the back publically here for turning him on to it. So the Gameshark reviews keep us in promised board game content, and there’s that odd chance that maybe, just maybe, you might see something here that might get you and your friends or family together for tabletop fun.

This week, I’m taking a look at War of Honor. It’s a sort of “super starter” set for AEG’s long-running Legend of the Five Rings CCG. It offers some enhanced rules for multiplayer as well as some streamlining in terms of victory conditions and an abstract map element. Basically, it’s four clan starters and a quick-start rulebook. It’s also quite good, and having never played L5R I’ve been really surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed it. It’s also a good value at $50, particularly since you just need extra starter decks to expand the game.

Next week, I’m going to be reviewing Godzilla: Kaiju World Wars. It’s cruisin’ for a bruisin’. Prepare for destruction.

Tom Chick Makes Me Want to Play FEAR 3

When we first started NHS a few people asked me if this was merely a way for us to shill for GameShark. I hope by now we have proven that not to be the case. We like it when you read our stuff at the Mothership but we try to keep the constant plugging to a minimum. I usually tweet our stuff in the feed section but when I have something more to say I think a little plug is warranted.

I had no desire to play FEAR 3. I never thought much of this series and was a bit surprised when a “part 3″ was green lighted. Reviews have been middling but you guys know I don’t read or pay much attention to reviews unless it’s by someone I know. I can honestly tell you that I do not care, at all, what game sites think of a videogame. No offense to you writers out there. I just don’t know you. So you can’t be trusted. It’s not personal. Now, you might say, “Well Bill how can we trust YOUR babbling?” You guys know me, though, right? Old friends, even.

I do listen to certain people, though. Like Tom. I just posted Tom’s review and looks like I have another game on my play list. I certainly don’t always agree with Tom. In fact the first review I read by Tom Chick was in CGS+ magazine where he blasted Heroes of Might and Magic II and I thought “That guy’s a dumb ass.” I have since learned better.

I have a copy of FEAR 3 sitting here, unopened. Time to crack the shrink, as it were.

OH — before I forget it looks like the GameShark Code Crew has added some website pop up survey. If you hop over there (and pop ups are not auto killed by your browser) take the 30 seconds it takes to do that survey and tell them how much the website design is terrible and how awesome the reviews are.

Don’t tell them I sent you. Our little secret.

Deckbuilding game Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer now on IOS

Last year at Gameshark I reviewed a pretty decent but somewhat limited-in-scope deckbuilding game called Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer. I liked its simple rules, cool art, and ease of play. I also liked it better than Dominion, but so far I’ve liked every deckbuilding game better than Dominion. The designer of that game forgot to include a theme, setting, context or a game to go along with the mechanics.

Anyway, while the Dominion camp continues to refuse to make money by failing to release an IOS version of that game, Ascension is now available for five bucks. I bought it, and I can vouch for it. It’s a great rendition of the tabletop game and like the best IOS board and card games, it’s extremely frictionless to play and in a shorter amount of time than its physical counterpart. The AI is decent but there’s pass-and-play as well as multiplayer matchmaking for online games. The interface is a little tight on the iPhone, but it’s clear and easy to manage. It’s very polished, and with a new expansion for the card game available I’m sure it’ll turn up as an IAP in the near future.

So this is a “buy” if you’re down with IOS card games, definitely. I’d pick it over Battle of Gundabad, its only deckbuilding competition on the App Store.

Summer Officially Arrives with Steam Sale

No High Scores

Starting today, Steam wants to send you to summer camp, where you can spend all your money on games you might get to within the next ten years. Maybe. Today’s list of deals includes the following titles:

- Dawn of War II Retribution, $14.99 (50% off)
- Oblivion GOTY, $6.80 (66% off)
- Lead and Gold, $1.50 (85% off)
- Borderlands GOTY, $7.50 (75% off)
- Blood Bowl Legendary Edition, $13.59 (66% off)
- Operation Flashpoint: Red River, $29.24 (35% off)
- Recettear, $5.00 (75% off)
- Back to the Future, $12.49 (50% off)
- Medal of Honor, $10.19 (66% off)
- Bit.Trip Runner, $2.50 (75% off)
- Test Drive Unlimited 2, $9.99 (50% off)
- The Witcher 2, $33.49 (33% off) Buy this!

There will be a new list of games for sale every day until July 10th. I’m putting my credit card in a safe deposit box on my way home from work today.

Limbo Officially Hitting PSN, PC via Steam

The game everyone loves but Barnes* is making its way to both PSN and PC.

Many rumors were popping up about this but now it’s been confirmed. Look for a release “later this year.”

*I’ve never played Limbo. I am, however, quite certain Mike is going to tell you in the comments why he likes this game as much as a root canal performed by the dentist from Little Shop of Horrors. It’s why we love him.