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E3 2015 Predictions!

E3-2013

Cross-referenced and updated with my 2015 overall predictions, 5 months in things change so if there are any anomalies put it down to time changing my thought process.

These announcements might not necessarily be directly in the conference, there could be pre/post-show stuff too but this stuff will be announced for E3 time if not at the event, the number in square brackets is for me to score each bullet points once the show is over to see how many I got right:

Microsoft:

  • Fable Legends = Summer release for open beta [1]
  • No Xbox One Slim but new platform branding (logo, marketing guff) [2]
  • New controller with share button, built-in microphone for voice commands, headset port announced for summer release [2]
  • Rare announce 30th Anniversary celebration collection and Battletoads (2015, cross-play/buy with PC) [3]
  • New Banjo-Kazooie announced [1]
  • Quantum Break gameplay demo “early 2016”, Scalebound gameplay = Spring 2016 [2]
  • Alan Wake Remastered announced [2]
  • Halo 5 Guardians gets a second BTB beta and Halo Reach port for MCC, Limited Edition console announced [3]
  • Gears of War Remastered announced for Xbox One/PC for November with cross-play and Gears of War 4 teaser with small gameplay demo (for Xbox One only) [4]
  • Joe Montana NFL Football 16 announced for late July release date with console bundle, does have the NFL license [3]
  • New IPs announced from Press Play and Twisted Pixel [2]
  • Decisive Games announce their strategy game for PC/Xbox One, cross-play/buy for 2016 release [2]
  • Short Hololens section teasing a game in development [1]
  • OS/platform section showing Windows 10 on Xbox One with new platform features and unified store [1]
  • Games with gold announced for July as Tomb Raider Definitive Edition or Ryse, two games a month moving forwards [2]
  • Big indie section featuring Below and other new titles, Summer of Arcade style promotion announced [2]
  • Gigantic = August (open beta launch), Forza Motorsport 6 and Rise of the Tomb Raider = September [3]
  • Minecraft cross-play between Xbox and PC versions, cross-buy on Windows 10 store, Xbox exclusive dedicated servers using azure, other exclusive content, Telltale’s Minecraft Story Mode revealed [4]
  • Two more IP revivals from the OG Xbox catalogue [1]
  • Killer instinct Season 3, State of Decay Year 2 (sequel with co-op) announced [1]
  • More digital only first-party download games announced [1]
  • First-party MOBA announced [1]
  • New AAA IP announced for 2016 from a new development partner [2]
  • Popular/upcoming free-to-play MOBA and FPS announced for Xbox One from new partners with Windows 10 cross-play [2]
  • Third-party exclusive announced for 2016 [1]
  • New smaller and thinner set-top box style Xbox 360 announced, $99 [1]

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Job Listings: Lionhead and Minecraft

Lionhead Studios, the house of Fable and a new IP which could be set for an unveiling this year have been busy recruiting new people for projects known and unknown alike, Fable Legends is of course their current project due for release this year and labelled very clearly on the Lionhead recruitment page like so:

Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 00.29.48

There is another interesting one that doesn’t mention Fable Legends by name but does mention the world of Fable, it could just be an oversight or a copy and paste from another listing but I found it interesting never the less, perhaps Lionhead are cooking up something else in the Fable franchise? (more…)

Reagent Games: Crackdown team? Or someone else?

Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 02.53.54

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

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 18.42.34

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Microsoft Studios – Current projects list (May 2015)

May 2015 Edition

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)
  • Black Tusk Studios – Gears of War (Xbox One)
  • Decisive Games – Unannounced project
  • [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) / Scrolls (PC/Mobile)
  • Press Play – Kalimba (Xbox One/PC)
  • Rare – Unannounced game(s)
  • Team Dakota – Project Spark (Xbox One/PC)
  • Twisted Pixel – New IP
  • Turn10 – Forza Motorsport 6 (Xbox One) / Forza Horizon 2 Presents Fast and Furious (Xbox One/Xbox 360)

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

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

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Job Listings: Rare

Another new set of job listings at Rare and this time mainly for some contract jobs as well get closer to presumably some sort of inevitable announcement(s?) at E3!

Technical Lighting Artist (Full time position) highlights:

  • Deliver world class lighting for an exciting and new project
  • Work with the Art Director to translating intense mood and atmosphere from concept art to in-game environments
  • Working with colour grading and other post process effects to achieve a game with a rich atmosphere, tone, and depth
  • Experience with Unreal Engine or equivalent is a plus

What I found interesting here was the idea of intense mood and atmosphere, I wouldn’t for example consider that to be something that would translate well to the rumoured Banjo-Kazooie game, assuming that is their AAA project which is what this job listing seems to be for given the Unreal Engine reference.

Perhaps this could be something to do with Perfect Dark? Ken Lobb said only recently it wasn’t in development but perhaps that has changed? Rare do have an Incubation team so its possible that they working with that team or maybe its a new IP entirely? Who knows (hopefully we will soon!), it’s certainly an interesting thing to notice. (more…)

Splash Damage (Brink, Dirty Bomb) worked on Halo MCC, maybe more?

Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 01.11.19

Based in the south of England like myself Splash Damage are a studio well-known for multiplayer shooters such as Brink, Enemy Territory and soon Dirty Bomb as well as the multiplayer for Batman Arkham Origins, they’ve worked with a range of publishers including Activision, Bethesda, Warner Bros, Nexon and now seemingly Microsoft.

Whilst I was doing some searching on Linkedin recently I noticed that a Splash Damage employee Gordon Biggans listed Halo The Master Chief Collection March 2015 Content update in his profile, this was particularly interesting as Splash Damage were not one of the original studios workings on the game – Ruffian Games, Saber Interactive, Certain Affinity, United Front Games, 343 Industries and Blur Studios, so to see Microsoft had added in another studio was quite interesting and perhaps shows that they needed a studio with significant multiplayer experience to finally get the game up and running as it should do. (more…)

Microsoft Studios – Current projects list (April 2015)

April 2015 Edition

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)
  • Black Tusk Studios – Gears of War (Xbox One)
  • Decisive Games – Unannounced project
  • [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) / Scrolls (PC/Mobile)
  • Press Play – Kalimba (Xbox One/PC)
  • Rare – Unannounced game(s)
  • Team Dakota – Project Spark (Xbox One/PC)
  • Twisted Pixel – New IP
  • Turn10 – Forza Motorsport 6 (Xbox One) / Forza Horizon 2 Presents Fast and Furious (Xbox One/Xbox 360)

Second party studios (publishing relationships): (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…)

Speculation (based on rumour): Are Microsoft making a new “hardcore” Xbox One controller?

Neowin.net posted an interesting rumour (that was possibly backed up by a post on the DirectX forums) about Microsoft developing a new “hardcore” Xbox One controller, I find the need to define it as a hardcore controller a bit strange if Microsoft have really dubbed it that but I guess its likely to be the core group of players that are likely to pick one up outside of it replacing the current controller in the console bundles.

Microsoft have released a number of special edition controllers already for Xbox One, with a new controller in development it could potentially explain why they did not release the White controller that was part of the White console and Sunset Overdrive bundle standalone as they will go on a full assault with that when they release the new version.

Here im going to look at what Microsoft could do to the Xbox One controller to improve it and justify releasing a new one, if they are indeed doing so:

Share button

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Microsoft Studios – Current projects list (GDC March 2015)

GDC March 2015 Edition

First-party studios:

Second party studios (publishing relationships): (more…)

Gears of War Collection Speculation: What, When and Who?

I suppose the first question should be: Will Microsoft release a Gears of War Collection? I am 100% certain in say that yes, they will. Halo The Master Chief Collection for all its faults still sold very well and shows the high demand for such a collection, Microsoft will have paid a large amount of money to Epic Games for the IP and noted when they bought it that it included the earlier games released as well, it’s an absolute no brainer and I feel confident in saying we will be playing it this year too.

Perhaps I should note at this point I have no “insider” information about when we’ll be playing it and all of this is just speculation on my end.

I believe the following scenario is a reasonable assumption: A Collection of Gears of War 1-3 with all the DLC and add-ons (including the PC exclusive campaign level) will release on Xbox One and PC with cross-play and possibly cross-buy, the developer wont be Black Tusk, they are busy making Gears of War “4” and instead will be someone who has a background in multiplayer games and Unreal Engine experience, there will be no Anniversary treatment either.

Now for the big one: August 2015 release.

Why only Gears of War 1-3? What about Judgment?

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Microsoft’s new studios are Hololens developers

Recent rumours, website leaks, job listings and Linkedin profiles have given us some indication that Microsoft have some new unannounced game studios working hard in Redmond, following my previous posts and more recent events being the Windows 10 event in January it seems that the announcement of Hololens has given us an insight into what these new studios are working on and the answer is Hololens.

Previous posts:

Using the people whose profiles I was looking at before its easy to see at the very least I was right that they are working in these studios, which is reassuring at least!

What I’m looking for here is the people associated with Microsoft Studios and Xbox, theres obviously going to be profiles i’ll miss because there are so many but the purpose of my interest was to find out about the new Microsoft Studios and then to find out what they were doing so this like a part 2 to my previous posts. (more…)

Job listing: Decisive Games, Microsoft’s new strategy game studio

Credit goes to Marcel for bringing this job listing to my attention!

Its been known for a while that Microsoft are looking at the Real Time Strategy for a comeback with the purchase of the Rise of Nations IP from the ashes of the 38 Studios fiasco and the Steam re-releases of Age of Empires 2, Age of Mythology and Rise of Nations made with Hidden Path Entertainment and Skybox Labs but Microsoft’s long awaited return to the RTS genre goes beyond that.

Earlier this year they were hiring for a Software Development Engineer for a “new AAA title within an established and well-loved strategy game franchise”, now this could be several things, really. The listing states for Windows and Xbox, Phil Spencer the Head of Xbox, is a well known fan of Halo Wars and I believe that sooner or later it will get a sequel on Xbox One, 343i are also hiring for someone to help in a new product line (of games) in the Halo universe, the other obvious candidates are the 3 franchises mentioned above that have been re-released recently.

“The Decisive Games team is focused on world class strategy game development, and is building a studio that will bring the next installment in a beloved strategy game franchise to the next generation of gamers around the world.” (Via Microsoft Careers – link reliability may vary as positions get filled)

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 14.50.14

The job listing seems pretty conclusive about what the studio is, they are called Decisive Games and they are building world class strategy game(s) as well as asking for “familiar” with Direct X11 and Xbox 360/One APIs.

This job listing comes at an interesting time with Microsoft having a Windows 10 conference on 21st January next year in which Phil Spencer will be in attendance to talk things Windows 10 and has tweeted he will be “focused” on PC gaming but it doesn’t say exclusively focused on PC, so I suspect we will see how Windows 10 will tie in with Xbox One via the OS, likely a new UI and perhaps we will get a tease for something next year, E3 is a long way away and whilst this isn’t a gaming conference Microsoft have teased things before using the UI at the Xbox One reveal so its not unheard of.

Im not really sure if they would be developing a game that is multiplatform in the RTS genre, despite the great control scheme Ensemble Studios came up with Halo Wars I suspect an RTS released on both would not be very successful unless a lot of effort went into controls, UI etc and it would probably end up being two very different games.

Things at Xbox look like they’re about to get interesting for PC owners and the event in January would be a good place for Microsoft to show a renewed commitment to PC.

Job listings: Rare using UE4? Various Turn10, 343i, Lionhead, PressPlay and Twisted Pixel listings too

Link reliability may vary as positions get filled.

I’ve not done one of these in a while but I have been checking around the Microsoft Studios recruitment pages and Linkedin to find a few interesting things, even if there is nothing huge around.

I think the biggest thing I found really was that Rare may using Epic’s Unreal Engine 4 in their next project(s). This is somewhat of a surprise if you factor in the (impressive, in my opinion) tech that Rare have used to make their engines since they became part of Microsoft Studios and that they made a new engine for Xbox One and Kinect Sports Rivals, however considering that engine was likely developed heavily for Kinect, unless they wanted to spend time and go back to make changes to it using Unreal Engine 4 is likely the quickest way to get their next project underway.

Microsoft are using Unreal Engine 4 in several announced projects – Fable Legends, Scalebound, Crackdown and the next Gears of War so it’s unsurprising if they were going to use an existing engine that they would pick Unreal Engine 4 given their close relationship with Epic.

Rare UE4

(Via Rare’s Contract recruitment page)

There are a number of other Rare job listings via the Microsoft recruitment website mainly engineering roles but not entirely.. Theres all the usual talk of “games as a service” which what I found most interesting was that right at the bottom of the listing under “desirable experience” was “MMO development” as well as “cross-platform development including Windows”. Theres a lot of talk about Azure features so presumably whatever they’re planning obviously is considering multiplayer but I can’t say an MMO or heavily online based title was quite what I had in mind for Rare when Phil Spencer said they can be more than Kinect Sports. Interestingly as well it seems the game is further along than we might have anticipated: “Hot off the launch of 2014’s Kinect Sports Rivals for Xbox One, Rare is already deep into the development of its next eye-opening AAA adventure.”

Rare Services Rare Services 2(Via Microsoft recruitment)

Rare job listings: Software Engineer (Services) – Software EngineerUser Experience LeadLead Services Programmer

State of the Art (SOTA)

One of the studios that appeared on the recent LXP Studios website State of the Art (SOTA) also have a single job posting on the website as well as a couple of mentions on Linkedin although interesting the Kathleen Mulcahy has now changed her description to working for [Fun]ction Studios?

State of the Art (SOTA): User Experience Visual Designer (Incubation) – Kathleen Mulcahy LinkedinScott Wade Linkedin

343 Industries

343i have been hiring recently for a game which forms a “new product line in the Halo franchise” two of the 3 images are from earlier this year but the Lead Concept Artist listing and Software Development Engineer are more recent ones. 343i working with external partners is nothing new, including themselves Halo The Master Chief Collection had 4 developers – Saber Interactive (update graphics engines on CEA/2A), Certain Affinity (multiplayer maps, integration, 2A multiplayer) and Ruffian Games (Halo 3/4 ports) but the fact that they list it specifically as the publishing side of 343i and lists work on a AAA Xbox One title under experience suggests its for the new product line. Being AAA it rules out Spartan Strike for Xbox One and my guess considering the Head of Xbox Phil Spencer is a big fan of Halo Wars suggests it could be for a sequel, or another spin-off?

343 Industries: Lead Concept Artist – Software Development Engineer

Turn10 Studios

When Forza Horizon 2 was announced on IGN First earlier this year one of the articles they did with the news blowout of the new title was an interview with Turn10 Studios Dan Greenawalt and Alan Hartman and near the bottom Dan says this about the future of Forza:

“I’m not saying I know what the next 10 years are gonna be,” he says. “But when I look at the trajectory of the last 10 years, I don’t see how it’s possible that the only thing Forza would be is Forza Motorsport and Forza Horizon. It’s gonna continue to grow, just as games have continued to grow.

“I don’t have a design on where the series will grow to, but I’m very excited about it because I think for us to have a greater impact in car culture and gaming culture it has to be more than just Motorsport and Horizon.”

IGN First: Third Forza game possible

With Forza Horizon 2 out now on Xbox 360 and Xbox One I’ve looked towards the future of Forza, I’ve always had Forza Motorsport 6 pegged in for release as a holiday 2015 title because Forza Motorsport has shipped every other year since its original release in 2005 and whilst I was rummaging through the Microsoft careers website I found two job listings that might hint at future expansion in the series to go along with the Forza mobile job listing I found earlier this year (link below)

Turn10: Franchise ManagerForza Franchise Management Program ManagerForza mobile job listing

There aren’t any megatons here but as usual gives an idea of what MS might be thinking about. Rare switching to UE4 isn’t a huge surprise, their next game possibly being online multiplayer focused somewhat is a surprise, and others like Forza are just building on what we already know. I’ll update the post if I see anything else relevant.

Lionhead Studios:

We’ve known for a while now that Lionhead incubation have been tasked with making a new IP for Xbox One with an 8 man team on the job and it seems in recent months Lionhead have been looking to expand that group with some new recruits as shown by the multiple job listings, nothing particularly gives away their plans though, unfortunately.

Lionhead Studios recruitment page

Twisted Pixel:

Developers of ‘Splosion Man and more recently Xbox One launch title (later released on PC and Xbox 360) Lococycle, it seems they may have switched from their internal Beard engine to one of the more well known engines such as Unreal or Unity. This wouldnt be a huge surprise, given how popular Unreal Engine for Microsoft titles as mentioned above but I suspect they’re more likely to be using Unity (which PressPlay used for Max: The Curse of Brotherhood) if they are actually using a new engine. The job listings themselves dont give away too much more than what we known already of their new project I would hope for a 2015 reveal and possibly even release, given that they only developed Lococycle for Xbox 360 and finished it at some point between E3 2013 and the Xbox One release (which was ported by Double Helix, as well as the PC version)

Their recruitment page has been empty for a long time but has recently seen a flurry of new activities appear which suggests they might be going through a small expansion phase as they continue along with their new project

 Twisted Pixel recruitment page

PressPlay

Based in Denmark the creators of Max: The Curse of Brotherhood are an efficient widespread studio working on a number of projects. At the moment it’s believed they’re working on a new IP, another game in the Max franchise as well as Project Totem which is imminently due to be given its final name (Kalimba?) and possibly a release date.

The most notable listings are for multiplayer or co-op experience and combat systems which suggests their next title could be quite different. They are also known to be using Lift London technology of some sort so it will be interesting to see how all this fits together.

PressPlay: ProducerGameplay Programmer