Train2Game news: Starhawk multiplayer beta now open to all

Train2Game Blog readers may have this blog post last month about the Starhawk multiplayer beta being open to PlayStation Plus subscribers.

The good news is that the Starhawk beta is now open to all PlayStation 3 users. To find out how to get involved, visit the PlayStation Blog. Developer Lightbox describe the beta as a “crucial step” as they test game balance, server traffic and general bugs

Find out more about the third person shooter in the Starhawk open beta trailer below.

Beta testing is an excellent way for Train2Game students, especially those on the Games QA Tester course to practice their bug hunting skills. Not only that, but in an interview with the Train2Game blog, Trion Worlds Senior QA Tester Karl Tars said that beta testing is potentially a way to get into the industry.

The Train2Game Blog will be sure to keep you up to date with the latest beta testing opportunities.

So Train2Game, will you be getting involved with the StarHawk public beta?

Leave your comments here on The Train2Game Blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

Train2Game interview with Remedy’s Oskari Häkkinen: Part 1 – Alan Wake PC and Alan Wake’s American Nightmare

Train2Game recently sat down for a chat with Remedy Head of Franchise Development, Oskari Häkkinen. In an in-depth interview, Häkkinen discussed Alan Wake, Alan Wake for PC, and their brand new XBLA release Alan Wake’s American Nightmare. He also offered various insights into the industry that Train2Game students will no doubt find very interesting.

It’s a big interview, so we’ve divided it into two parts. Part one sees Häkkinen discussing the design and development of the Alan Wake games. Read it below here on The Train2Game Blog, or on the Train2Game Scribd page.

Part two of The Train2Game Blog interview with Oskari Häkkinen is here. As usual, leave your comments here on The Train2Game Blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

When it started in development, Alan Wake was going to be an open world title, what pushed Remedy into streamlining the game?

As a vision for Alan Wake it was always a thriller; it was one of the high level visions that we had to do the first thriller in video games, horror has been known in video games but there’d never been a thriller. Certainly that vision stayed the same, but as you said, it was announced as an open world title and that changed into a more linear structure. The reason for that was because we wanted to do the first thriller in video games, and we found that we didn’t have enough control in the open world setting. So when you have the player turning up to a love scene in a monster truck you know that you’ve got something going on that’s not quite tapping into the emotions that you want to create this thriller. So we went for more linear level design with Alan Wake after some time with trying open world, and the game is certainly better for it.

The PC version of Alan Wake is finally here, but why has it come so much later than the Xbox 360 version? And has developing it for PC provided Remedy with any extra challenges?

Yes, it’s been just under two years since Alan Wake came out for Xbox 360. Alan Wake was originally announced as a title for Xbox 360 and PC, but somewhere along the line the stars became unaligned for the PC version, unfortunately. But I will say this; for us, we’ve always wanted to do the PC version, it’s something that as soon as we got the blessing from Microsoft to do, we started on immediately. It’s taken about five months of development.

We really wanted to do justice to the PC version, and we’ve worked really hard on bringing it up to speed with what PC gamers are expecting from a PC game coming out in 2012. So we’ve done a lot of improvements – higher fidelity, higher resolutions, even gone so far as changing some of the textures to improve their resolutions. We’re supporting features like stereoscopic 3D, like multi-screen, we’ve added in features that were long sought after on the Xbox version like ‘Remove Hud’ and FOV.

We’ve done a lot of work, and I think that PC gamers out there that unfortunately weren’t able to get their hands on Alan Wake at the same time as when the Xbox version came out will see how important it is for us to do the PC version, how important it is for us to do it right for them.

Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, the new release from Remedy, is much more action orientated that the original. What is the story behind deciding to move in this direction?

It actually started from the arcade action mode. We were looking at some of the things people were saying about Alan Wake and the story was universally loved, the characters were loved, the atmosphere, the setting…but like you said, some people said they would’ve liked more action.

So After Alan Wake we white box out these levels and said to the team “Go wild, we don’t know how we’re going to use this stuff but maybe it inspires some ideas for something in the future for Alan Wake.”  The thing is, we did that and it turns out it’s a tonne of fun and we’re all playing at the office saying “This is great, let’s get this out to people! It’d be a perfect fit for XBLA.” And that’s fine, but story at the end of the day is part of our DNA. So Sam Lake, our Creative Director and Lead Writer, decided that “OK, we can do this, I’m going to think up and create a story mode for the universe of this and how it would fit in.” And of course using Night Springs as a channel for that, it made perfect sense to go wild with the enemies and wild with the weapons.

You mentioned Alan Wake’s American Nightmare came from a splurge of creativity, was that from an internal game jam or were the team just given a chance to do what they like? Is it good for a game developer to go nuts and do what they want?

This was definitely a case of telling the team, “Do what you want. Every thought and crazy idea you’ve had, now is your time to give it a go in these white box levels.” And of course there was a tonne of ideas that have always been brewing there, and those ideas came out in those levels. Those were things that were a little bit too wild for the original game, but fit in here perfectly. I think giving people the opportunity and the freedom to show skill is something that we at Remedy are very conscious about allowing, and I certainly think that it spurs very good and creative things.

How did the design team go about writing not the game script itself,  but the Night Springs TV shows and the manuscript pages, and isn’t the narrative Alan Wake finds on the pages a little different in American Nightmare?

Um, yes. So in Alan Wake, Wake is finding pages of a novel he apparently wrote, but he doesn’t remember writing. And every time he finds a page and reads it, those events that are described on there seemingly come true. So in Alan Wake, it’s fiction that’s dictating Wake in a way. He’s learned a lot since we saw him last, and he’s learned to use fiction to his advantage.

The manuscript pages are also part of the optional story content in American Nightmare that really connects the dots to the first game, and the overall fiction.

Part two of The Train2Game Blog interview with Oskari Häkkinen is here.

Alan Wake’s American Nightmare is available to download from XBLA now. Alan Wake PC is available to download via Steam, and is released at retail by Nordic Games from March 2nd.

Train2Game news: Alan Wake’s American Nightmare exists because Remedy devs told “Do what you want.”

Train2Game students may be interested to hear that Alan Wake’s American Nightmare came about as a result of Remedy developers being told to do what they wanted following the release of Alan Wake.

That’s according to comments from Remedy Head of Franchise Development Oskari Häkkinen, who was speaking to The Train2Game Blog in a soon to be published interview.

“This was definitely a case of telling the team, “Do what you want. Every thought and crazy idea you’ve had, now is your time to give it a go in these white box levels.” Häkkinen told The Train2Game Blog about the origins of Alan Wake’s American Nightmare.

“And of course there was a tonne of ideas that have always been brewing there, and those ideas came out in those levels. Those were things that were a little bit too wild for the original game, but fit in here perfectly.” he continued, before adding that allowing game developers to let their creative juries flow can be a great thing for a studio.

“I think giving people the opportunity and the freedom to show skill is something that we at Remedy are very conscious about allowing, and I certainly think that it spurs very good and creative things.” said the Remedy man.

And as part of The Train2Game Blog’s huge interview with Remedy, Häkkinen suggested that developers need to see games as a service rather than a one-off product.

“Think a video game more as a service that you’re constantly providing, it’s a gift that keeps giving and if you keep giving, the gamers will keep giving back to you too.” he said.

The Train2Game Blog interview with Remedy Head of Franchise Development Oskari Häkkinen will be published soon.

What are your thoughts on Häkkinen’s comments? How important is the occasional opportunity to go wild to game developers?

Leave your comments here on The Train2Game Blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

Train2Game news: Sony praise “truly next-gen” PlayStation Vita as it launches in UK

PlayStation VitaTrain2Game students may be among those who now own a PlayStation Vita, with the Sony handheld console now available in the UK.

And Sony believes that the PlayStation Vita already represents next-gen consoles and gamers are going to love it.

agreed: “We have a truly next-gen piece of hardware and a great software line-up,” Sony’s senior VP of Worldwide Studios Europe Michael Denny told CVG.

“There’s no question that gamers have been waiting for something new, something that is truly next-gen, so certainly we expect to start with people who care about their games to want a PlayStation Vita.” he continued.

“You look at the specs of the hardware in terms of a portable device… there’s nothing out there like it – there’s nothing that competes with it. It really is a great device, but when you marry with that the great software – 50 titles announced so far – I think it really will appeal to core gamers.

“But going forward, I think it has enough about it with social connectivity and the touch screens to appeal to a wider audience down the tracks.” Denny concluded.

As previously reported by The Train2Game Blog, indie games look set to have a future on the PlayStation Vita, with Sony handing smaller studios development kits for the portable console.

Indeed, Train2Game students on work placements at Double Eleven are among those developing games for the PlayStation Vita.

Check out the Train2Game Blog for more PlayStation Vita news.

Have you already picked up a PlayStation Vita? If so what are your initial impressions?

Leave your comments here on The Train2Game Blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

Train2Game news: Remedy – Think of video games as a service ‘that keeps on giving’

Train2Game students developing games should think of them as a service, rather than a one off product.

That’s according to Oskari Häkkinen Head of Franchise Development at Alan Wake developer Remedy, who was speaking to the Train2Game Blog in a huge interview that’s set to be published later this week.

“We definitely feel that digital is going to be important in the future and that for us as a studio it’s extremely important at this time to learn and understand what digital means and what are the basic things that need to be done in a digital space.” responded Häkkinen when asked about  the future of digital distribution.

Alan Wake  was recently released on PC via Steam, and Alan Wake’s American Nightmare’s is soon to be released through Xbox Live Arcade.

And he added that digital gives developers the opportunity to listen to what gamers what from releases

“One of those things is of course listen to the gamer. The gamer plays and gives you feedback. Analyse that feedback and see if other people are of the same opinion then react to it.” said Häkkinen

“Think a video game more as a service that you’re constantly providing, it’s a gift that keeps giving and if you keep giving, the gamers will keep giving back to you too.” he added.

The Train2Game Blog interview with Remedy Head of Franchise Development Oskari Häkkinen is coming later this week, with Alan Wake, Alan Wake on PC, designing Alan Wake’s American Nightmare and much more discussed in-depth.

What are your thoughts on Häkkinen’s comments? Are games a service rather than a product? Which games do you think provide a good ‘service’?

Leave your comments here on The Train2Game Blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

Train2Game Students given access to Fighting Fantasy IP to create games for Make Something Unreal Live

The Train2Game blog chats to the teams about working with the Fighting Fantasy IP for Make Something Unreal Live at The Gadget Show Live, as the teams become studios in their own right.

The hottest new Indies in town: Commando Kiwi, Derp Studios, Digital Mage and Indigo Jam

With student teams beginning to perform as independent studios and working on a world-renowned IP, we caught up with the development teams to get a few choice words on the latest news and to get some more details on the games they are working on.

First on our list was Commando Kiwi.

Jonny Robinson, Commando Kiwi, said: “When we found out we’d be working on a game inspired by The Warlock of Firetop Mountain; we were all in shock, a few of us have read the book before so our minds were blown away with pure awesomeness! We’re working on a classic IP from legends in the game industry; Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson.”

Next we caught up with Derp Studios to hear their thoughts on working on a Fighting Fantasy title and the genre of game they’re designing.  We also got the lowdown on what it’s like to work remotely when designing games.

Nigel Clark, Derp Studios, said: “Our game is a gripping first-person RPG, a sequel to the second Fighting Fantasy gamebook, Citadel of Chaos.  Strategically combined combat with both melee and magic will only get you so far.  The player must decide the best course of action.  A true test of “fight or flight” awaits our players.”

“To combat the distance factor, we’ve utilised tools within Facebook, Subversion (SVN) and contact points within Train2Game and Epic Games, along with Skype conferences to maintain good team communication. Working as a team is challenging in the first place.  However with your team spread throughout the country it’s even more of a challenge.”

Our next destination was Casa del Digital Mage, where we asked: What do you want to achieve with your game?

Craig Moore, Digital Mage, said: “Digital Mage hopes to help the player truly become engrossed within the battlefields of Allansia by providing ease of use and an intuitive control system enabling quick decisions to control an army as a general should!”

..and what do players have in store should they buy it?

“An exciting, diverse, and adventurous team is sculpting a mobile experience that will keep you on the edge of your seat and keep you coming back for more, with lush graphics and a sweeping soundtrack, Digital Mage is using every last trick in the book to make this the best mobile strategy game available on any platform.”

Lastly we caught up with Indigo Jam, where we asked: What have you been designing and can you get us excited about it?

Indigo Jam, Deathtrap Dungeon, Action Adventure

Ben Stoneman, Indigo Jam, said: “Indigo Jam studios brings the Deathtrap Dungeon title to life with gameplay featuring a dark tale set in Allansia that leads you to a Trail of Champions in the dark dungeon labyrinth of Fang, riddled with monsters and deadly traps and other unknown horrors. Countless adventurers have accepted the challenge but have never been seen again.”

Train2Game then went on to ask: How has the course helped you develop the skills to deliver what is such an imaginative game design?

“Indigo Jam is very lucky to have a good range of skills and abilities gained from the Train2Game courses complemented by the extra training for the UDK Game Jam in November. The team is getting along really well. They are confident in their own abilities, and have delivered at every stage of development.”

 With the energy and hype that the teams are creating, Make Something Unreal Live at The Gadget Show Live can’t come soon enough.

As usual, leave your comments here on The Train2Game Blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

Train2Game news: Middlesbrough studio Double Eleven nominated for 3 awards

Train2Game Blog readers will know that we keep you updated about good things happening to UK game developer, and this is indeed a good thing!

Middlesbrough studio Double Eleven has been shortlisted in three categories for the upcoming North East Business Awards.  The awards include a Small Business Award, Newcomer of the Year Award and Science & Technology Award.

Its news that directly involves a Train2Game student, with Train2Game Game Developer Darren Price currently on a work placement at Double Eleven. The studio was founded by former Rockstar game developers, and they’re working on a PlayStation Vita version of LittleBigPlanet. Industry Gamers listed Double Eleven as a studio to keep an eye on this year.

“We are very proud of how far our business has developed in what is a relatively short space of time. More so, having this acknowledged by making three separate shortlists is a testament to the passion and energy we put into all areas of our business,” said  Double Eleven CEO

“Alongside our highly talented teams sits an experienced and forward thinking group of managers. We know where we want to be, and constantly define what is needed to get there in light of what I believe will be a defining year for the industry. Just being shortlisted amongst businesses from all sectors is a massive mile marker for the distance we have travelled so far on this journey.” added Double Eleven COO Mark South.

The shortlist for each category consists of 3 companies or organisations. The winner of which will be crowned at the Teesside Business Awards on Thursday, 8 March 2012. Winners from the Teesside Awards, will go onto the regional finals.

So Train2Game, what are your thoughts on Double Eleven being nominated for three awards?

Leave your comments here on The Train2Game Blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

Train2Game news: UK Charts – UFC Undisputed 3 knocks out the competition

Train2Game students see THQ’s UFC Undisputed 3 take top spot in this week’s UK Charts, marking the publisher’s first No.1 since Homefront in March last year.

The Train2Game Blog recently interviewed UFC Undisputed 3 senior game designer Wes Bunn, who spoke in depth about development of the game, and offered some excellent insights into the games industry.

Last week’s No.1, Kingdoms of Amular: Reckoning drops out of the top ten entirely, slipping to No.12.

FIFA 12 continues to sell strongly, climbing three to No.2, while Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 also sees an increase in sales moving up to No.3.  A new Nintendo 3DS version, and discounting on other platforms, sees Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games jump to No.4, while Battlefield 3 is up one to No.5.

Former No.1 Final Fantasy XIII-2 slips to No.6 this week, sitting one place ahead of Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure which reaches its highest ever chart position at No.7. Last week’s debutant The Darkness II drops five to No.8, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim remains at No.9, while Just Dance 3 moves up two to complete the top ten.

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations and Metal Gear Solid HD Collection join Kingdoms of Amular: Reckoning in leaving the top ten.

The UKIE Gfk Chart-Track All Formats Top 10 for the week ending 18th February 2012 is therefore as follows:

1: UFC Undisputed 3 – THQ
2: FIFA 12 – EA
3: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 – Activision
4: Mario and Sonic at the Winter Olympic Games – Sega
5: Battlefield 3 – EA
6: Final Fantasy XIII-2 – Square Enix
7: Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure – Activision
8: The Darkness II – 2K
9: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Bethesda
10: Just Dance 3 – Ubisoft

Releases for the coming week include a large amount of PlayStation Vita titles, alongside the launch of Sony’s new handheld console.

What are your thoughts on the charts this week? Is it a well deserved No.1 for UFC Undisputed 3?

Leave your comments here on The Train2Game Blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

[Source: UKIE Games Charts©, compiled by GfK Chart-Track]

Train2Game news: Watch Mojang’s Game Jam LIVE right now!

Train2Game students can tune in and watch Minecraft developer Mojang’s 60 hour Game Jam, right now.

The Minecraft team are making a brand new game this weekend, and donating the funds to the Humble Bundle Charity. Viewers still have time to vote for what genre of game they want Mojang to make, and at the time of writing it looks like they’ll be creating a Steam Punk RTS.

Watch the Mojam on the Mojang Twitch TV channel. It’s sure to provide Train2Game students with an excellent insight into game development.

More information about the Mojam is right here on The Train2Game Blog.

Train2Game students know all about Game Jams, as Train2Game has held two 48 hour long Game Jams, with the four winning teams at the Train2Game & Epic Game Jam, moving onto a Make Something Unreal Live at The Gadget Show Live, where they have the opportunity to win a fully licensed UDK Ios development kit.

As usual, leave your comments here on The Train2Game Blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

Train2Game news: Counter-Strike creator’s new FPS going into closed beta

Train2Game students have the opportunity to register for the closed beta for Tactical Intervention, the new free-to-play FPS from Counter-Strike creator Minh “Gooseman” Le.

The Tactical Intervention closed beta begins in March, and if you want to apply to be involved, head to the website and follow the instructions. While the beta is currently restricted to North America, it’s likely that other regions will follow, so it can’t hurt to register your interest.

Train2Game students can watch the trailer for Tactical Intervention below.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is currently in closed beta, and speaking to The Train2Game Blog at last year’s EuroGamer expo, Valve’s Chet Faliszek said that beta testing is important to game development.

“It’s really important to us because we’re going to let that drive the release date, because we’re really looking to get the feedback from the community over the changes we’ve made.” he said.

“We’ve brought over some stuff that was good from Counter-Strike: Source and we’ve brought over some stuff that was good from 1.6, so it’s going to be interesting to see how the communities react.” the Valve game designer continued.

“Already we’ve got some positive feedback from some of the pros, but we’re telling the communities it’s not going to be either, it’s going to be something new so let’s play it, let’s give feedback and let’s go from there.” Faliszek added.

Beta testing is an excellent way for Train2Game students, especially those on the Games QA Tester course to practice their bug hunting skills. Not only that, but in an interview with the Train2Game blog, Trion Worlds Senior QA Tester Karl Tars said that beta testing is potentially a way to get into the industry.

For the latest news on beta testing opportunities, keep reading The Train2Game Blog.

What are your initial thoughts on Tactical Intervention?

Leave your comments here on The Train2Game Blog, or on the Train2Game forum.