Tagged: Microsoft Studios

Mini-Reviews #3: Screamride, Kalimba, Rayman Legends

Screamride (Xbox One)

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Developed by Frontier developments who made Xbox One launch title Zoo Tycoon, Screamride is a fun game about rollercoasters, riding them, building them and destroying them with impressive physics and destruction mechanics I had a lot of fun with.

The campaign has 3 modes to it: screamrider, destruction and builder with different goals on each level with 6 “series” each of which have multiple levels within them for each gameplay type. I feel like it suffered a bit between being a premium digital title and low-cost retail game but whatever it was it’s certainly fun. (more…)

Gears of War 4 E3 Demo thoughts

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At E3 2015 Microsoft and The Coalition lifted the lid on Gears of War 4 with a live gameplay demo by studio head Rod Fergusson.

The important take out for me was moving away from their traditional teaser trailers to announce games with and do a gameplay demo on-stage which I think was good move. People told Microsoft they wanted less CGI trailers after Crackdown, Scalebound and Phantom Dust at last years E3 so they showed gameplay and then people complain about what they see when it’s quite early, hilarious.

Black Tusk Studios as they were known when they took over the Gears of War franchise back in January 2014 have worked hard on the game and at E3 represented 17 months worth of development time (if the demo was finished in June) and if it launches in November 2016, it will have another 17 months left in development, so whichever way you look at it we’re pretty much dead on the halfway stage in development, The Coalition have also been working with Splash Damage on Gears of War Ultimate Edition which launches next month. (more…)

Microsoft Studios – Current projects list (July 2015)

July 2015 Edition

Please note with Microsoft’s Gamescom conference in early August (likely Tuesday 4th, but don’t hold me to that), I will be holding off on the August Edition until after that show

First-party studios:

  • 343 Industries – Halo 5: Guardians (Xbox One) / Halo: The Master Chief Collection updates (Xbox One)
  • Big Park – Entertainment and sports apps (Xbox One)
  • Decisive Games – Unannounced strategy game
  • [Fun]ction Studios – Hololens development
  • Good Science Studio – Hololens development
  • Lift London – Touch Devices Project / 3 unknown projects
  • Lionhead Studios – Fable Legends (Xbox One/PC) / New IP
  • LXP – Hololens development
  • Mojang – Minecraft (PC/Mobile/Hololens)
  • Press Play – Unannounced new project
  • Rare –  Sea of Thieves (Xbox One/PC) / RareReplay (Xbox One)
  • Team Dakota – Project Spark (Xbox One/PC)
  • The Coalition – Gears of War 4 (Xbox One) / Gears of War Ultimate Edition (Xbox One/PC)
  • Twisted Pixel – “AAA” game
  • Turn10 – Forza Motorsport 6 (Xbox One)

Second party studios (publishing relationships or contract work): (more…)

Microsoft 2015 E3 Conference Review

A very interesting show for Microsoft that focused mainly on their 2015 releases and the same for their 3rd party partners with a few exceptions. Xbox has by far the best first party line-up for the latter part of the year and this showed in their conference, where it was light was in showing their 2016 line-up with the exception of Gears of Wars 4 and ReCore.

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For me the conference was pretty good but a tale of two sections really, Microsoft had a fantastic start with new gameplay for Halo 5 Guardians, a new IP in ReCore and then two big announcements in Backwards Compatibility and the Elite controller then moved on to 3rd party and indie games, and then back to first party games, Hololens and the Gears of War finale. The first half an hour was always going to be hard to match but the second hour didn’t quite get going as much for me although there were some definite highlights.

In terms of actual new announcements of first-party games I was a bit disappointed, we got two brand new games both of which are new IPs: ReCore (Comcept/Armature) and Sea of Thieves (Rare), ReCore was my favourite game of the show so far, the concept is interesting and I’m all about new IPs so it hit the spot perfectly for me I can’t wait to see more which will almost assuredly be Gamescom as its due out in Spring 2016 and the developers said to IGN that we would see more in the next couple of months. (more…)

Black Tusk Studios cancelled new IP: new information and studio timeline

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This post has been difficult for me to come up with a suitable title for so I hope the one I have chosen isn’t misleading. I stumbled upon this information and with what I found I have used it to collate a background on The Coalition from start to the most recent announcement of their second name change along with some questioning of Phil Spencer’s statements of what the project was back when the Gears of War acquisition was announced.

Game Designer Alexander Rohn has Black Tusk’s cancelled new IP listed on his website under professional projects, he worked on the game back in at least 2013 but possibly before too given he refers to them as Microsoft Vancouver. There is nothing to specific like plot and gameplay mechanics but it does mention a few things that given us a small clue about the work Black Tusk did on the now cancelled project.

Quite a coincidence to find this information the same week (via a retweet on twitter) as Black Tusk announce a name change to The Coalition and with Rod’s comment on twitter ending pretty much any possibility that they would be working on non-Gears of War projects, if that wasn’t obvious enough already. (more…)

Reagent Games: Crackdown team? Or someone else?

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Reagent Games were brought to my attention by a friend a while ago but I decided not to write a post on them as I didn’t have much information but now I’ve done a little more digging plus the information that I was originally presented with, perhaps there is a decent picture forming here.

It seems they are staffed by a few ex-Realtime Worlds developers who of course made the original Crackdown in 2007, after they went on to make All Points Bulletin which eventually caused the company’s demise a group broke off from them to form Ruffian Games of which a couple of member of that studio are at Reagent Games too. Ruffian Games of course are the studio financially backed by Microsoft to make Crackdown 2 and have since gone on to do a lot of contract work for them on Kinect games, Xbox One titles including most recently Halo MCC and now they are developing Hollowpoint for PC and Playstation 4.

Back to Reagent games, and here is the information listed on Endole, which is an open free data site for companies

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In-depth look at Xbox One exclusives for 2015 and beyond

Looking at the Xbox One line-up from Microsoft Studios for 2015 and beyond, here is my list of every game both announced and unannounced (within reason) that represent the future of what we will be playing. The first part of the list is what we know and the second part is a big analysis of first-party studios, second-party partners and anything else worth mentioning:

Released/announced 2015 titles:

  • Screamride (Frontier Developments) – 03/03/15
  • Ori and the Blind Forest (Moon Studios) – 11/03/15
  • State of Decay Year One Survival Edition (Undead Labs) – 28/04/15
  • Halo 3 ODST (Unknown) – Spring 2015
  • Unannounced game #1 -> post-Spring pre-Fall 2015
  • Unannounced game #2 -> post-Spring pre-Fall 2015 
  • Fable Legends (Lionhead) – Holiday 2015
  • Gigantic (Motiga) – Holiday 2015
  • Halo 5 Guardians (343 Industries) – 27/10/15
  • Forza Motorsport 6 (Turn10 Studios) – Holiday 2015
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider (Crystal Dynamics) – Holiday 2015

Unknown/2016 titles:

  • Phantom Dust (Unknown) – TBC
  • Scalebound (Platinum Games) – TBC
  • Crackdown (Cloudgine) – TBC
  • Quantum Break (Remedy Entertainment) – 2016
  • Gears of War (Black Tusk Studios) – TBC

(more…)

State of Decay Year One Survival Edition Review

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Undead Labs debut game comes to Xbox One via Year One Survival Edition which is a definitive edition of the original Xbox 360 and PC game including the two DLCs Breakdown and Lifeline with a host of technical and gameplay improvements to tempt new and old players into upgrading.

I reviewed the game at its original release and then Lifeline last year and the same great game I enjoyed so much comes with a few new additions so I want to focus on whats new and how the game has transitioned to a new platform. I will be following up this review with more extensive thoughts on each campaign and then the future of the franchise.

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State of Decay for new comers is a single player zombie survival game set in the open-world of Trumbull Valley (and Danforth city in Lifeline), your aim is survive the zombie apocalypse; build up your community, provide enough resources (food, building material, medicine, gas and weapons) to support them, complete missions and work towards escaping with your survivors in tow. State of Decay and Lifeline are story based campaigns and Breakdown is set in Trumbull County and is an endless campaign which removes the story elements and focuses exclusively on survival as you aim for high scores and progression will increase the zombie threat to provide a bigger challenge. (more…)

Retro: What IPs could Microsoft bring back from its vault? Rare Special Edition!

The Rare Special Edition of my look at the IPs could bring back, both as games I personally want to see and others that might still make interesting new games for Xbox One: Parts one and two focus on other IPs owned by Microsoft:

Banjo-Kazooie

BanjoBoxartThe bear and the bird are such an obvious team to bring back, the ports on Xbox Live Arcade I believe were successful and Nuts & Bolts which unfortunately wasn’t the game a lot of people wanted from the series and wasn’t a success either.

It’s the biggest Rare franchise I feel from the old days, it had a sequel, two handheld spin-offs (Grunty’s Revenge and Banjo Pilot) and is still held in a lot of people’s hearts. Finally making Banjo-Threeie would be a huge project for Xbox One and big for Rare, lead designer of the franchise Gregg Mayles is still at Rare so it makes a lot of sense for them to go back to it. (more…)

One Bit Labs, ex-MS Victoria staff working with Microsoft

So, that’s a bit of a horrendous title but you’ll hopefully see why if you read on! One Bit Labs are a studio I have been loosely been following ever since a friend of mine (@Doffen) brought them to my attention. One Bit Labs are a studio formed from the ashes of Microsoft Studios Victoria who was of course one of the new studios Microsoft opened a while ago and closed in December 2013 for reasons unknown officially.

Based on speculation it seems the intention was to grow the studio into a big base for Xbox development and part of an expansion into Canada, Don Mattrick the former head of the Xbox and related products division is a resident of Vancouver which is where Black Tusk and Big Park (acquired by Microsoft to developed Kinect Joy Ride then Joy Ride Turbo, Kinect Sports Season 2 with Rare and now sports and entertainment apps) are and he was deeply involved in Big Park before he went to Microsoft.

As part of this internal studios expansion Microsoft set-up among others; Lift London, Team Dakota, Black Tusk and Microsoft Studios Victoria, but when Victoria was shut down a group of ex-employees decided to band together and formed One Bit Labs, its worth noting that they were seemingly working on Hololens projects at MS Victoria.

So what have been One Bit Labs been up to? Their website has long given some suggestion of Xbox One work particularly in their hiring section which has mentioned “especially Xbox One” experience for some time but now have a bit clearer picture of what exactly they’ve been working on.

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Just above that though there is a section titled “Current Work” which lists two box arts for Xbox One games, the first is State of Decay Year One Survival Edition which releases this month and the second is labelled “Top Secret” which unless they have a very plainly named and logo’d game is something clearly unannounced:

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So what could it be? Well it could be anything, the work on State of Decay for Xbox One seems like it is contract work which is work done to help Undead Labs and a common industry trend, so it could be more of that, they could be porting something else to Xbox One. It could be an entirely new game either original or based on an established IP for Microsoft (or other publisher) or perhaps an ID@Xbox title, it’s not clear but I would say that I think whatever it is will likely be for Microsoft Studios in some way or another.

It is worth noting that they seem to have aspirations for Playstation 4 and tablet development (or aren’t ruling it out anyway) given that they have a Dualshock 4 and a tablet as part of their big image on their website so it will be interesting to see where they go in the future.

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I will monitor their website to see if they update it at all and report back when they have more to say, its good to see that the studio is getting work though and hopefully they will get to realise their ambitions for the studio as time goes on.

Hype: State of Decay Year One Survival Edition

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Undead Labs first game State of Decay comes to Xbox One (and PC) with Year One Survival Edition in just a few weeks! Featuring a host of improvements on the original release, this is the ultimate version of the great game originally released in 2013.

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Year One Survival Edition features: (more…)

October27fest: Halo 5 Guardians – 343s time to shine

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Microsoft Studios and 343 Industries announced on Sunday (29th March) that Halo 5 Guardians will be launching worldwide on 27th October 2015, for the first time a Halo game will be shipping in October and will form part of Microsoft’s blockbuster line-up for Xbox One this holiday.

Having already played Halo 5 Guardians beta we know what to expect in the arena multiplayer style with the bigger maps and game modes featuring large-scale battles involving vehicles still under wraps but I enjoyed my taste so far. After the issues that Halo The Master Chief Collection has had, there are people obviously sceptical about whether Halo 5 will work as intended when it releases, now I’m no mystic meg but I think given what we have played so far of Halo 5 it worked as you would expect and I don’t really have any major concerns for it when it releases in 7 months, I think there are other things I am somewhat concerned about.

343 Industries I do feel are under pressure, not necessarily from Microsoft but from the long time fans of the franchise and gaming community in general to produce a game worthy of the name and its place as Xbox’s première franchise, without Halo’s success I really have no idea where Xbox would be but I don’t think it would be very far. (more…)

Alan Wake franchise sells 4.5m units, time to bring it back!

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Matias Myllyrinne, CEO of Remedy Entertainment tweeted today to announce that the Alan Wake Franchise has sold 4.5 million units since its release on Xbox 360 in May 2010, since we’ve had two DLC episodes, a PC port which was successful and Alan Wake’s American Nightmare which released in February 2012 on XBLA (May ’12 for PC), unfortunately the initial sales weren’t enough for Microsoft to fund a sequel and instead after American Nightmare Remedy began work on Quantum Break which is currently due for release this year although may get delayed. (more…)

Fable Legends: Windows 10, Free-to-Play and Lionhead’s future

At the Windows 10 event in January Phil Spencer announced something I believed was long-coming: Fable Legends the latest game from Lionhead Studios will be free-to-play when it launches this year and will also be available day one on PC with cross-play and cross-buy support.

This is a very smart decision and makes a lot of sense.

Despite always launching first on Xbox consoles, Fable is somehow seen by some as a PC franchise too, I’m not sure exactly why considering half of the series hasn’t come to PC: Fable 2, Fable Heroes and Fable The Journey and the other 3 games to hit PC were all 6 months late (Fable 1, 3 and Anniversary) but I suppose it doesn’t really matter, there is a market on PC of players who will buy it and that is what matters to Microsoft and Lionhead.

Fable Legends is a very different beast though, continuing to shed the successful RPG style it’s a 4 vs 1 multiplayer game set before the original Fable, very different to the RPGs that become so big the Xbox and Xbox 360. It does however fit in with the current trends of online and multiplayer PC gaming and Microsoft’s new “Games-as-a-Service” thing, the PC market has adapted well to playing games like this for free and buying extra content with a massive uptake and I think it would struggle to have that success just on Xbox One. (more…)

Microsoft stealth announce new studios (LXP, [Fun]ction, SOTA)

I’ve done multiple pieces on this information via Linkedin and job listings and we’ve finally come full circle as Microsoft have what amounts to officially announcing the new studios, given they don’t seem to want to talk about publicly. My earlier posts:

The news comes via the Microsoft Studios blog which recently (in the last few days, I think) has had a facelift with more information. Whilst we can see on Linkedin and Microsoft Careers that these studios exist, despite that recent leak Microsoft themselves haven’t officially acknowledged the studios, it doesn’t get much more official than your own website, though.

What is strange though is that Decisive Games, the new studio mentioned by Kudo Tsunoda is not on the list. Looking at the list, they have their 4 big franchises and most important studios at the top – Halo, Gears, Minecraft and Forza, these are the ones that during the recent re-organisation are still reporting directly to Phil Spencer, the rest of them are then listed in alphabetical order. (more…)