Eurogamer Expo: Enslaved Developer Session with Ninja Theory’s Tameem Antoniades

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West hits the shelves today, and after getting a decent hands on with it at Eurogamer, I hope its successful title for developers Ninja Theory. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West has been received positively by the gaming press, and arguably rightly so given the effort that Ninja Theory went through to produce their latest title.

Ninja Theory Chief Designer and the main man behind Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, Tameem Antoniades hosted a Sunday developer session at the Eurogamer Expo, and it was very interesting indeed. The session provided a massive insight into the development and production of Enslaved: Odyssey to the West and was well received by the audience. Many who attended the Ninja Theory developer session had been queuing for up to an hour, but the wait was surely worth it!

Tameem Antoniades provided a very interesting talk, which would have been useful to any Train2Game student. However, if you didn’t manage to make it to the Ninja Theory developer session, fear not, for I was there. So here’s a look at the development of Enslaved: Odyssey to the West.

For those unfamiliar with Ninja Theory, they’re a development studio based in Cambridge, and were responsible for the highly acclaimed, PlayStation 3 exclusive, Heavenly Sword back in 2007. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is their first multiplatform title but it looks set to improve upon the already excellent story telling of Heavenly Sword. Ninja Theory’s next title will be DmC, a reboot of the Devil May Cry series.

But for the past three years, the main focus of Ninja Theory has been on producing Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. To start the Eurogamer developer session, Tameem explained that the original concept of Enslaved was to produce a game based on “a buddy road movie” exploring the relationship between two main characters.

But of course, an idea alone can’t make a game, so what Ninja Theory did next was to produce a concept trailer. Tameem explained that this trailer was pieced together by Ninja Theory, using various clips from unrelated films and TV programmes to show the main themes behind Enslaved.

The concept trailer is three years old, and we in the audience were lucky enough to be the first people to see it in public. The trailer was very cinematic, and full of robots, martial arts and Eastern themes. At this point the game was called Monkey: Journey to the West, but needed to be changed to Enslaved: Odyssey to the West for copyright reasons.

We then got to see another trailer for Enslaved, and this too was a first public viewing. In order to try and get a publisher on board, Ninja Theory produced a CGI trailer for Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. This was produced almost three years ago and shows that the original concept of Enslaved was a lot darker than the game that’s been released today, but it was very impressive nonetheless. Tameem Antoniades stressed the importance of game studios producing good concept trailers, explaining that “Better trailers are more likely to be signed up” If that isn’t sound advice for Train2Game students, I don’t know what is!

The Ninja Theory Chief Designer then went on to discuss developing the art style of Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, complete with plenty of images to illustrate the changes that occurred during development.

In the beginning, Monkey looked a lot more like a primate, with Tameem explaining that the character was originally based on a Gorilla in Barcelona zoo. The concept art for Trip was rather different to the somewhat innocent character in Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. The original designers were darker, more gothic, some would say sexier: the concept designs of Trip in a very low top raised many an eyebrow.

Tameem explained that when Ninja Theory were casting for the role of Trip, they sent this concept out work to agencies in order to get women who actually looked like the character. However, the developers were surprised when 40 girls turned up, in costume, in the same outfit as the rather oddly dressed Trip! Who knew that actresses were so enthusiastic about playing roles in games?

Next, we were shown concept art for locations in Enslaved, and once again these looked very impressive. Tameem was keen to explain how Ninja Theory wanted the concept art to be evocative. Of course the next step was to take the concept art and put it in a 3D environment. These art style tests involved creating 3D landscapes with cameras panning all around them in order to make sure they had the right feel for developing further. All this effort before even a single game level is produced!

We also got to see some exclusive character style and animation tests that were produced early in the development of Enslaved.  Tameem explained that this was much like casting the characters, with every movement they make in-game based on these original tests. Naturally, Monkey’s movement style is rather beast like with his own distinct style of running and jumping. Meanwhile, a more comic character in the form of Pigsy is slower, and bumbles a lot more. Still, in these basic tests it was entirely possible to see that the characters were already taking shape…and that was before the actors got involved.

Ninja Theory are well known for their use of actors and motion capture in games and Enslaved is no different. We got to see yet another exclusive video showing Andy Serkis – who plays Monkey – performing tests for motion capture in order to research facial movements. This involved the actor spouting random lines, most of which made no sense whatsoever! Tameem explained that when it comes to the characters faces, the only thing that’s added artificially is the eyes.

We also got to see plenty of clips showing the actors doing what they do best, acting! It was amazing to see how the main actors were interacting with each other, and items around them, then seeing their movements translated perfectly onto the characters in the in-game world. Motion capture in games surely has to be the way forward. The acting in Enslaved could equal that of any film.

Tameem closed the Eurogamer developer session by discussing writing for Enslaved, and the influence of Hollywood screen writer Alex Garland. We were shown an early scene from the game in which Monkey and Trip needed to get over a bridge. The dialogue went on for awhile, and Tameem explained how Garland pointed how scenes, in both films and games, should conform to “one scene for one purpose” We then got to see the final cut of the scene, with flowed a lot better than the original version. Apparently, Antoniades and Garland then repeated this process for most scenes in the game.

As you can clearly see, a lot of work went into producing Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, with development from concept to release taking three years. If you want to learn even more about the game, you can take a look at this developer diary from Ninja Theory.

Still not had your lust for information from developers tended to? Then why not read about the Shogun 2: Total War developer session from Mike Simpson of The Creative Assembly.

So, what are your thoughts on the Enslaved developer session? Does it provide you with a better insight into how games production works? Has it made you keener to produce games?

As usual, leave your thoughts here on the Train2Game blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West hands on at Eurogamer

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West from Ninja Theory is a game that I’m very much looking forward to.  The title is released on October 8th, but it was available to play at the Eurogamer Expo.

Of course, the Eurogamer Expo was a busy event so I needed to wait until almost the end of the show on Sunday before getting to spend quality time with Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, but boy, was it worth it. It provided me with probably the best 30 minutes of my entire Eurogamer Experience.

Be warned, if you plan on purchasing Enslaved: Odyssey to the West in the near future, don’t want to know what happens in the first two chapters, you should read no further. Here be spoilers.

But why not enjoy this fascinating Enslaved: Odyssey to the West developer diary instead?

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

For those unfamiliar with Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, its an action adventure game developed by Cambridge based developers Ninja Theory. It’s loosely based upon the ancient Chinese novel, Journey to the West, but with a futuristic adaptation to the classic tale. The story focuses around two characters, a man named Monkey and a woman called Trip. Monkey provides the player controlled muscle of the partnership while Trip provides the brains. However, this is a forced partnership with Trip having placed a Slavers headband on Monkey in order for him to help her travel across a post-apocalyptic North America and get home. Monkey is therefore compelled to aid Trip, because so long as he wears the head band, if she dies, he dies.

But, this isn’t how the game starts and when Chapter 1 begins Monkey and Trip don’t know each other.  However, they’re both trapped inside pods on a slave airship and through Monkey’s eyes we see Trip escaping thanks to her technological skills. Soon problems start within the airship and Monkey is able to escape from his broken pod, thus putting the player in control of the main character.

With explosions throughout the airship, and clever camera angles, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West immediately feels like a cinematic experience. The opening section is more or less a tutorial explaining how to run, climb and jump through a variety of increasingly dangerous sections of the ship. Monkey is following Trip at this point but unaware of who Monkey is, Trip is closing doors behind her, thus forcing Monkey to jump and climb around the ship.

Combat is also introduced in Chapter One of Enslaved: Odyssey to the West through a series of battles with Mechs. The controls are simple but combat is satisfying enough. Monkey can employ a mix of heavy, light, ranged and counter attacks. However, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West isn’t a mindless hack and slash affair, and you’ll need to be tactical in order to succeed. Beat a mech during battle and Monkey can finish them with one of many nice finishers that will be seen from a variety of different angles.

After fighting off some more Mechs, and some more fast paced climbing and jumping, Monkey escapes the airship…through clinging to the outside of Trips’s escape pod.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

When Monkey comes round he discovers that Trip has placed the aforementioned Slavers headband on him, and as you’d imagine, he’s not best pleased. Its here we get our first taste of not only the relationship that’ll develop between Monkey and Trip, but also the quality of the acting in Enslaved: Odyssey to the West.  As you’ll know if you’ve watched one of Ninja Theory’s Enslaved developer diaries actors including Andy Serkis used motion capture to film the scenes together and they really do stand up against anything you’ll see in a film.

Of course, it helps that Enslaved: Odyssey to the West looks fantastic. The game may take place in a the warn torn, post apocalyptic environment of North America, but this isn’t  yet another game filled with brown pallet after brown pallet. The second Chapter of Enslaved is filled with an assortment of bright colours as you make your way through a New York city which may have been partially destroyed by war, but that doesn’t prevent nature reclaiming the city.

Unfortunately, my busy schedule meant that shortly after starting Chapter 2, I needed to stop playing Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. However, my taster was enough to convince me that it’s going to be a great game.

Later on in the week, I’ll give you an insight into the production of Enslaved: Odyssey to the West I gained by attending one of the Eurogamer Expo developer sessions.

In the meantime, you what are your thoughts about Enslaved: Odyssey to the West? Is it a game you will be buying? Or would you rather stick to franchises that you know? Maybe Enslaved is a game you’ll buy once the price drops?

As usual, you can leave your thoughts on Enslaved: Odyssey to the West here on the Train2Game blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

Summary: Eurogamer Expo 2010

EurogamerTrain2Game was at the Eurogamer Expo over the weekend and naturally so was I. During my time inside Earls Court not only did I get hands on time with a number of upcoming games, but I also attended some very interesting Developer Sessions.

Future blogs will go into much more detail about my impressions of the Eurogamer Expo, but here is a summary of what I saw, what I played, and  some initial impressions of what I found out.

Killzone 3 looks good in 3D…probably.

The first game I played at the Eurogamer Expo was Killzone 3, which can probably be considered odd that I’ve not played a Killzone title before. (Though I did almost buy Killzone 2 once) The main attraction of Killzone 3 was not only an opportunity to play a game that’s not released until February 2011, but to experience a game in 3D for the first time.

I excitedly sat down, put the PlayStation 3 controller in my lap, then picked up the 3D glasses. Unfortunately, 3D glasses don’t fit over regular glasses, which marred my entire experience. My time spent playing Killzone 3 was effectively played in double vision! It’s bound to be a good game, but I couldn’t get to grips with Killzone 3 due to my need for regular glasses.

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood introduces a new type of multiplayer experience.

The Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood multiplayer mode got its first public showing in the UK at the Eurogamer Expo and due to its popularity, I didn’t get much time to play the game. However, after watching others play the Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood multiplayer mode, it’s clear that it certainly does bring something different to the multiplayer table. This isn’t just aiming weapons in the direction of your enemy and hoping for the best, it’s all about stealth and cunning as you try to take out one specific target. Expect more on Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood later this week.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is rather impressive.

As the evening arrived, the Eurogamer Expo started getting quieter so I was able to sit down and spend a good half hour playing Ninja Theory’s upcoming title Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. I played through the first chapter and a half of the game, and this short introduction suggests that everything is fitting into place nicely. There’ll be a full article about my time playing Enslaved: Odyssey to the West later this week. And in addition to this you’ll see…

insights into the development of Enslaved: Odyssey to the West.

Ninja Theory’s Tameem Antoniades provided and interesting Developer session about the production of Enslaved. He took us through how the game was made right from the basic concept, through character design, to script writing with Alex Garland and ‘filming’ the scenes using motion capture. Again, expect to see more about this later in the week.

Now of course this isn’t everything I experienced at the Eurogamer Expo, but is just a mere taster. In upcoming blogs not only can you expect to see more about these games, but also about others including Medal of Honor, Gears of War 3 and Marvel is Capcom 3.

In the meantime, what were your highlights of the Eurogamer Expo?

As usual, leave your thoughts here on the Train2Game blog or on the Train2Game forum.

Eurogamer Expo preview (or what I want to play)

It’s almost here. The third Eurogamer Expo takes place in London’s Earls Court this weekend, and this year it promises to be bigger and better than ever. Various games developers will be showing off titles, and allowing us gamers’ to get out hands on both current and yet to be released games. I’ll be attending the Eurogamer Expo on Sunday, so here’s a look at the games I’m most looking forward to getting my hands on.

Dragon Age 2

Dragon Age 2

Dragon Age: Origins was one of my top games of the last year, so I’m intrigued to see what Bioware are going to be offering with Dragon Age 2. All we’ve really seen in public about Dragon Age 2 is an impressive looking CGI trailer, with Bioware keeping fairly tight lipped about the game itself. What we do know is that rather than the player to choose every aspect of their character, the protagonist of Dragon Age 2 will be called Hawke and comes in a similar method to Mass Effects’ Comander Shepard. The gameplay has apparently been streamlined, allowing smoother gameplay on consoles. However, this has left traditional RPG fans on the PC worried that Dragon Age 2 will be a toned down, experience.

As a PC Gamer, and Dragon Age: Origins fan, I’m therefore very keen to see for myself how Dragon Age 2 is shaping up at Eurogamer. Dragon Age 2 is scheduled for release on March 11 2011.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West


This action adventure game, from Ninja Theory draws loosely from 400 year old Chinese novel Journey to the West and it looks very impressive indeed. Not only that, but Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is written by the award winning Alex Garland and directed by actor Andy Serkis. The Lord of the Rings man, also voiced and performed the motion capture for Monkey, one of the two main characters in Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. The other main character is a woman named Trip, who in order to get home, places a slavers headband on Monkey. If Trip dies, then Monkey dies, compelling him to guide her home.

The player therefore controls Monkey as he battles through stunning looking environments using both martial arts and weapons as the two protagonists’ journey to the west.  Fortunately for us, early reviews say that Enslaved: Odyssey to the West isn’t just one giant escort mission, and that Trip is rather useful in non combat situations.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is released on October 8th, but you can get your hands on it early at the Eurogamer expo. Alternatively, you can watch this developer diary!

Fallout: New Vegas

Fallout: New Vegas

Another title which I’m looking forward to seeing at the Eurogamer Expo is Fallout: New Vegas.  This Obsidian Entertainment developed semi-sequel to 2008’s Fallout 3 looks to be yet another impressive game available for consumers to test on the show floor. Fallout: New Vegas boasts a large number of new features, many of which are covered in this in depth looking at the upcoming title. You can also see Fallout: New Vegas in action in this developer diary from Obsidian.

Fallout New: Vegas is set for release on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on October 22nd.

Of course, this is just a handful of the many games on show at the Eurogamer Expo, and the event features various other attractions including developer sessions, and an indie game arcade.

Train2Game will also be at Eurogamer, and we’ll be giving away the new PlayStation Move controller with a PlayStation 3 320GB slim at Eurogamer 2010.

To enter the prize draw pick up a entry form at Stand 12 in the Career fair. We look forward to seeing you there.

Are you heading to Eurogamer this weekend? If so, what do you want to see?

As usual, leave your thoughts here on the Train2Game blog or on the Train2Game forum.

An interesting Enslaved: Odyssey to the West developer diary for Train2Game students

Ninja Theory has released a developer diary about their upcoming game, Enslaved:  Odyssey to the West, and its essential viewing for Train2Game students.  This Enslaved: Odyssey to the West developer diary is titled ‘Behind the game Part 1 : reinventing a legend’ and features the developers –  including Director Andy Serkis – discussing the inspiration and story behind the game.

The ‘Chief Creative Ninja’ of Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, Tameem Antoniades, explains how the game is based on ‘Journey to the West’ a 400 year old Chinese novel. Antoniades also describes how they’ve taken the core concepts of the book, but put them in the updated setting of a post-apocalyptic North America, replacing magic with technology and demons with droids.

Meanwhile Andy Serkis – who is not only directing Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, but also plays the role of Monkey – talks about how ambitious basing a game around two characters is, and how games will soon be on par with films when it comes to story telling.

Ninja Theory will certainly be hoping this is the case with Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, having brought on board writer Alex Garland, whose works include The Beach and 28 Days Later. In addition to all of this, the developer diary features actress Lindsey Shaw, who plays the role of Trip, and it explains the basic story behind the game. You can watch the Enslaved: Odyssey to the West developer diary below. After that, you can watch  a previous developer diary here.

For a more in depth look at Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, take a look at Gabe’s impressions on the Thoughts of Train2Game blog. You can also hear Tameem Antoniandes speaking about the game on this weeks GameSpot UK podcast.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is released on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on October 8th. However, you’ll be able to get your hands on a playable version of the game at the Eurogamer expo this weekend.

Train2Game will also be at Eurogamer, will be giving away the new PlayStation Move controller with a PlayStation 3 320GB slim.

To enter the prize draw, pick up an entry form at Stand 12 in the Career fair. We look forward to seeing you there.

So Train2Game, what are your thoughts on the Enslaved: Odyssey to the West developer diary? Is having high profile names such as Andy Serkis and Alex Garland a good thing for the games industry? And are you looking forward to the game?

You can leave your thoughts on Enslaved: Odyssey to the West here on the Train2Game blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West Dev Diary – Building Story & Character

Ninja Theory have launched the first in series of Developer Diaries that allow us – that’s you too Train2Game students – a look at their upcoming title Enslaved: Odyssey to the West.

The first Enslaved Dev Diary is titled ‘Building Story & Character’ and looks at the process of doing this for Odyssey to the West. The developers talk about creating the characters of Monkey and Trip, along with developing the relationship between the two. (Monkey is apparently ‘Like Tarzan having a bad day) We also find out a bit about the Chinese origins of the story.

The Ninja Theory team also discuss how the importance of both the acting and writing of Enslaved. Actor Andy Serkis provided character motion capture for Monkey, while screen writer Alex Garland – famous for his work on 28 weeks later – has provided help with writing the game.

The key thing to take from the video seems to be how the developers want Enslaved: Odyssey to the West want the game to feel like a movie. You can watch the Enslaved Developer Diary below.

So Train2Game, what do you think of the Enslaved Developer Diary? Do you think having film writers involved will help the game feel more like a movie? Will you be buying Enslaved: Odyssey to the West?

As usual, leave your thoughts here or on the Train2Game forum.