Train2Game News: Halo: Spartan Assault coming to mobile

Halo Spartan AssaultA new Halo game is being added to the franchise, this time for the mobile market. The game will be released in July.

Halo: Spartan Assault is a top-down shooter built for mobiles and tablets, with the iconic sights and sounds you would expect from a Halo title.

Spartan Assault however is only available for Windows Phone 8 and tablets such as the Surface. Dan Ayoub, the executive producer for publishing at 343, explains that the purpose here is to drive interest in these Microsoft platforms, which is pretty honest and straightforward of him.

Whether or not it’ll make you buy one of those cool Nokia phones, Spartan Assault is nevertheless a high quality experience when it rolls under your thumbs. Though it plays like it was born in the 16-bit era of top-down shooters, the presentation is excellent.

Ayoub said that his team’s main goal was to, as he puts it, “un-tether Halo”.

“We had to let it be something that you can take with you wherever you go. But we also had to make the right Halo game, we couldn’t just copy and paste the experience onto mobiles and tablets.

“We also wanted to change the dialogue about what’s possible on mobiles. A lot of people have preconceptions about what a mobile game is. They think it’s not going to look great and it’s not going to sound great. We wanted to crush those perceptions.”

The biggest achievement is the controls. Those familiar with using virtual analogues on touch-screens will notice how, due to the lack of resistance, thumbs will naturally glide away from the analogues. Spartan Assault, however, features virtual sticks that follow your thumbs, meaning that control remains on the tip of your fingers.

It’s not perfect but it’s as close as any mobile developer has come.

Other elements are more traditional. Set within a narrative that bridges the gap between Halo 3 and 4, in Spartan Assault players will command an UNSC Infinity Spartan who is limited to two weapons, an assortment of grenades and a trusty melee attack. Enemies come in waves and shields need to be recharged before the next burst of action.

Other parts are entirely new. There will be microtransactions for certain upgrades and new weapons. The game saves to the cloud, meaning you can start on mobile and continue on tablet or desktop.

The game’s 25 levels will take about several hours to get though, and certain milestones will unlock Achievements on Halo 4. This being a mobile game, post-release content is already planned, with weekly challenges in place and content add-ons penciled in.

Series custodian 343 Industries has partnered with Netherlands studio Vanguard Games to build this, which in itself is interesting as that studio was co-founded by Martin de Ronde – the man who helped establish Killzone outfit Guerrilla.

“We are a team of console developers learning a new space, so we had to unlearn things really quickly,” says Ayoub.

While it’s been a challenge for those console developers to un-think their approach to a project, what they have brought to the mobile games space is encouraging. This is an attractive, light-weight version of Halo for both commuters and hardcore fans of the series.

You can enjoy the trailer for the game below

Train2Game News: Games Industry News – 01.03.13

It’s the end of the week so it is time for a round up of news from Train2Game!

Ubisoft revealed the name of the next instalment in the Assassin’s Creed saga, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. The evidence is all pointing towards a Pirate theme but whether the Assassin is a Pirate or battling Pirates waits to be seen. Ubisoft are releasing more information on Monday.

Two weeks ago, 11 bit studios offered gamers a chance to buy its secret next game at half price. Today, that secret game was unveiled as 11 bit studios announces Anomaly 2, the sequel to the award-winning strategy game, Anomaly Warzone Earth. Anomaly 2 will deliver a hardcore real-time strategy experience with exceptional tactical variety, intense multiplayer and remarkable visuals. You can view the trailer, here.

2K and Gearbox Software announced today that the Borderlands 2: Add-On Content Pack is now available in stores. The pack is a single packaged product that adds hours of additional gameplay with Borderlands 2’s first two add-on campaigns, Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate’s Booty and Mr. Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage, as well as a fifth playable character, Gaige the Mechromancer. In addition, bundled in the pack is The Creature Slaughter Dome battle arena, unique weapons including the Gearbox Gun Pack and Skyrocket Grenade, some extra heads and skins for your character and a Golden Key to unlock the chest in Sanctuary.

The previously canadian-exclusive console, the Wii Mini, has found its way to UK online retailers. Both Amazon and Game are listing the console at £79.99. The Wii Mini is essentially a stripped Wii in that online functionality and Gamecube games support has been removed. The console only supports disc-based games. It will be released in Europe on March 22.

Finally Microsoft are having a huge games sale at the moment. The sale started on February 26 and will run to March 4. The sale is seeing up to 75% off big games such as the Halo, Resident Evil and Call of Duty titles. The games on sale change daily so make sure you keep an eye on it or you might miss something you want at a low, low price.

Train2Game News: End of week round up – 15.02.13

It is the end of the week which means it is time for the end of week games industry news round up from Train2Game.

A game that I blogged about earlier this week, Injustice: Gods Among Us, has had a new character confirmed. You will be able to play as Aquaman in the DC Universe beat ’em up game. You can view the King of the seven seas in action in the following trailer:

A new Pokémon has been revealed this week for the upcoming Pokémon X and Y. The new Pokémon, Sylveon, is a new evolution of Eevee, one of the most beloved Pokémon since it was first discovered in Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue. Players with Eevee can evolve it into one of seven evolutions, like Vaporeon, Jolteon, and Flareon. Sylveon will be the eighth Eevee evolution.

A new PR campaign has been launched by 11 bit studios, who created Anomaly Warzone Earth and Funky Smugglers. The studio have just released a teaser trailer for their next big game and any one who pre-orders it now, before any more information is released, will get 50% off. In addition they will also get access to the multiplayer beta in March. You can view the teaser trailer here:

Last November Bungie’s follow up project to Halo was leaked and now the company have confirmed it. Some information on Destiny that leaked last year was later confirmed by Bungie to be real. Destiny is to be an open world sandbox game with an engaging universe set 700 years into the future. Whether or not it’ll be an MMO is still unclear, but I guess we may find out this Sunday.

Telltale games, the creators of the episodic Walking Dead games have said anything is possible in the second series of the game. Telltale have already stated that they want to carry over your choices from the first season of The Walking Dead game to the second one. What these choices will impact is still up in the air, as the studio is currently in the conceptual phase. Dan Connors, CEO and co-founder of Telltale Games said “We’re talking through different scenarios, though I don’t think we’ve talked through one where we just start with a new set of characters.” The possibility of having more cross over characters from the TV show are also being discussed.

Train2Game News: Mid-week round up – 06.12.12

The Train2Game team has searched around and found some of the exciting news from this week.

343 Industries, who recently released Halo 4, have said that they are in early stages of developing a new Halo. Frank O’Connor, the franchise development director for Halo, said that “a lot of people at 343 are already prototyping ideas and software and art for future Halo products”. Many within the 343 Industries studio are still working on post launch content for Halo 4.

Sega has revealed a new partnership with Games Workshop which will see Total War developer Creative Assembly making multiple titles set in the Warhammer fantasy universe. Creative Assembly studio director Tim Heaton said: “With this year being our 25th anniversary, it seems fitting for us to embark on such a dream project with such a well-established partner. The incredibly rich and detailed Warhammer world is something we grew up with, and has left an indelible imprint on us as both designers and gamers.”

Sony Pictures Consumer Products has teamed up with Capcom-owned developer Beeline Interactive to produce an Android and iOS Ghostbusters game, targeting an ‘early 2013’ release. The new Ghostbusters will be a ‘freemium’ title based on the popular eighties movies. The players will play the role of “a fledgling Ghostbuster. Who ya gunna call?

UK celebrity, chat show host and film critic Jonathan Ross has opened a new game development studio named Hotsauce Interactive, based in Candem, North London. The outfit is part of Ross’ TV production company Hotsauce, and has already released its debut game, Cacha Cacha Aliens for iOS. It is understood that Hotsauce Interactive is staffed by a number of experienced developers and the studio may look into releasing games on hand-held and console in the future.

Customers of Valve’s Steam digital distribution service can now play their PC games on a TV. The much anticipated Big Picture mode has been in beta for some time, but has only now seen public release. Big Picture is designed to be compatible with gamepads, but also supports the use of a Mouse and Keyboard. To celebrate, Valve has placed over thirty “controller-friendly” games on sale.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 made $1 billion a day quicker than Modern Warfare 3, Activision has announced. That’s $1 billion in worldwide retail sales in 15 days since launch, based on Chart-Track and internal figures. Modern Warfare 3 took 16 days to cross the $1 billion mark. For comparison, James Cameron’s Avatar made $1 billion in 17 days. Since launch, more than 150 million hours have been logged online playing the game on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network.

Kickstarter’s United Kingdom operation has reached £2,069,164 in pledges since its launch late in October. 45,799 backers contributed to the £2 million, with 30 projects having successfully ended their funding drive out of 407 launched. Of those backers, 39 percent came from the UK.

Train2Game News: New IP from Bungie

The next game from Halo creator, Bungie, has been leaked onto the internet. The project had been one of publisher Activision’s most closely guarded secrets.

The game is going to be called “Destiny” and it is planned to have a universe as deep and rich as the Star Wars universe.

Activision has previously told investors that the game would be “genre-defining” and prove to be one of its two “largest growth opportunities” over coming years, alongside the Call of Duty series.

Following the leak, Bungie reproduced one of the images on its own site and confirmed the leak’s authenticity.

The game will be set 700 years in the future, and feature battles with aliens to protect the “last city on Earth” after the collapse of mankind’s efforts to colonise the Solar System.

Microsoft has said it has plans for at least another two Halo games. Its most recent sequel, Halo 4, was created by its own subsidiary 343 Industries. The series as a whole has generated more than £2.1bn in revenues to date.

Pier Harding-Rolls, head of games research at IHS Screen Digest said “You can never have sure bets and the risks involved with creating new IP [intellectual property] are always relatively high, but to have a studio like Bungie involved reduces the risk considerably for Activision due to its incredible track record

“I’m sure we’ll see a lot more of it at E3 [games conference] in June where games like this can be shown in a satisfying way.”

Train2Game News: Mid-week round up – 24.10.12

Steams Workshop, which is used to create content for games such as Team Fortress 2 and Skyrim, has turned one. The user created content has subsequently earned “millions of dollars” for their creators and Steam themselves.

The Greatest Video Game Music 2, the follow-up to the best-selling video game album of all time, will be released worldwide on Nov 6 and has been performed by The London Philharmonic Orchestra. The digital soundtrack album will include 17 new orchestral renditions of video game theme songs like Halo, Batman: Arkham City, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations and the ever-so classic Final Fantasy VII.

Following the success of Borderlands 2, an iOS spin-off has been confirmed with a release date of October 31. The game sees you play as the original 4 vault hunters from the first Borderlands in a wave-based survival game. Additionally, in true Borderlands style you can earn experience and level up your characters, unlocking new skills and abilities with each character having their own set of unique skills and abilities.

The first reviews of Hitman: Absolution have surface in Official Playstation Magazine UK and Official Xbox Magazine. Both magazines gave the game 9 out of 10. OPM said “This is the peak of the series so far” and OXM said “it a triumph of stealth and sandbox design that retains everything that fans have ever loved about the series”.

Wish Studios, a newly formed studio in Brighton, is working with Sony to develop a new IP. While other details about the partnership remain shrouded in secrecy, the status of Wish’s new client will likely serve as a significant help to the recently founded start-up’s presence in the industry.

A report by Google has said that over 50% of people use their tablet for gaming. The only activity performed more than gaming on a tablet is checking emails. The study, which was commissioned and published by Google, found that 51.5 per cent of its participants used their tablet for gaming in a two-week period.

The new dashboard for the Xbox was launched yesterday. It includes an internet explorer app giving the console a browser and the newly launched Xbox music which is similar to that of Spotify. The update also saw the removal of the Twitter and Facebook apps.

In an interesting collaboration, a new mod was made for the MMO World of Warcraft which sees the newly introduced pet battles become Pokemon battles. The aptly name WOWkemon sees a short tutorial by Professor Birch describing the Pokémon-ified battle screens and ability menus with the familiar sounds, screen effects, and even the font closely resembling the style of the handheld game legend.

Train2Game News: Microsoft hiring developer for next-gen Halo

Microsoft appears to be hiring for a next-gen addition to the Halo series. An advert on their careers website states that Halo 4 producers 343 Studios are looking for an experienced graphics developer.

“Microsoft Studios 343 Industries is looking for an experienced graphics developer to help create the current and next generation of game visuals in the Halo universe. Work on one of the most exciting and creative properties in the industry; Work with the incredible 343 team to help drive the future of Halo.” reads the job advert.

“We are looking for an experienced graphics developer to help us deliver cutting edge graphics technologies for AAA experiences. Candidates should understand and have experience with how to bring great graphics to life.”

While it’s entirely possible that Microsoft may have a nex-gen Xbox console in development, the company says there won’t be any reveal this year.

Microsoft studio 343 are currently working on Halo 4, so be sure to keep reading The Train2Game Blog for the latest news on its development.

Halo 4 isn’t the first title in the series from 343, who produced last year’s Halo: Anniversary, which you can find out about the development of in this Train2Game Blog interview with producers Dan Ayoub and Dennis Ries.

What are your thoughts on the possibility of a next-gen Halo?

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

Train2Game at Gamescom: Interview with Halo: Anniversary developers 343


Train2Game were at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany from 17th August to 21st August. While there, we spoke with 343 Executive Producer Dan Ayoub and Producer Dennis Ries about the upcoming and Halo: Anniversary.

In a wide ranging interview they discussed what elements of game design make Halo such a successful franchise, new features including 3D and classic mode, and offer Train2Game students advice on how to get into the games industry. 

Read the interview here on the Train2Game blog, then leave your comments here or on the Train2Game forum.

Halo: Reach makes $200 million worldwide in first day

Halo ReachHalo: Reach has become the most successful entertainment launch of the year, according to Microsoft. The company say that the Xbox 360 exclusive Halo: Reach made $200 million in just its first day on sale.

The launch of Halo: Reach on September 13th saw fans worldwide queuing up at midnight launches to be among the first to get their hands on a copy of the game.

Microsoft say that the launch of Halo: Reach eclipsed the whole three-day opening weekends this years biggest films including Toy Story 3 and Iron Man 2.

Meanwhile, Chart Track have released figures that show Halo: Reach sold 330,000 copies here in the UK during its first day on sale. That already makes Halo: Reach number ten in the list of all-time best-ever weekly sales for an individual title in the UK, and of course there’s still six more days to add to the stats.

Of course, Microsoft will have expected Halo: Reach to be a massive success, giving the popularity of the Xbox 360 exclusive series, and the sheer amount of marketing behind it.

Whatever the reason behind the success of Halo: Reach, it’s good news for the games industry which has seen the market slump to pre-Nintendo Wii levels.

UKIE Director General Michael Rawlinson has therefore praised the Halo: Reach sales numbers:

This is excellent news for the video games and interactive entertainment industry, demonstrating how games sales continue to increase despite difficult economic circumstances.

“With one in every three people classifying themselves as gamers, and with over half of UK households containing at least one video games console, the UK video games market is in great shape for the future.”

So Train2Game, what do you think of the success of Halo: Reach? Is it well deserved? Will Halo: Reach hold onto the title of biggest entertainment launch of the year? Or will a certain Call of Duty: Black Ops’ be the new champion after its release on November 9th?

You can leave your thoughts about Halo: Reach here on the Train2Game blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

Halo: Reach finally released

Halo ReachStores across the world opened at midnight last night to celebrate the launch of the much anticipated Halo: Reach. Here in the UK, hundreds of people queued up in the early hours to be some of the first to get there hands on Halo: Reach, the latest game in Bungie’s highly successful series.

Halo: Reach is the fourth instalment of the Xbox exclusive shooter, and comes three years after the release of Halo 3. However, Halo: Reach is not a sequel but rather prequel to the previous instalments of the Halo franchise.

Halo 3 was the biggest selling video game of all-time, a record now held by Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Microsoft will be hoping that Halo: Reach can repeat the success of Halo 3, having invested an extra 60% in marketing spending according to Xbox 360 Director Stephen McGill. The entertainment and devices director told MCV:

“Halo: Reach is extremely important for us. Not just from a revenue and business perspective, but Halo is such an iconic franchise and one that has delivered huge innovation with every release.”

Meanwhile, Editor of GameSpot UK Guy Cocker told the BBC that Halo: Reach is “quite a big deal” and is by far the game that Xbox 360 owners are most excited about right now.

“We’re able to track activity and Halo: Reach is the most popular game on the site right now,”

“In comparison to Halo 3 though, I’m not sure how well it will go down.

“It’s had a good critical reception, but Microsoft are certainly spending a lot of money promoting the game.”

Halo: Reach certainly has had a great critical reception with its current score of 92% on Metacritic.

The Halo series games have sold over 34 million copies since the original was released on the Xbox, and analysts suggest that a Halo game could once again encourage people to invest in one of Microsofts consoles. Anita Frazier, an anal list at research firm NPD said:

“If hardware sales react in a similar fashion to what was experienced when Halo 3 was launched in September 2007, September could be a huge sales month for Xbox 360 hardware. We can expect big numbers to be reported with September results.”

Halo fans may have only been playing Halo: Reach for a matter of hours, but already Bungie have had reports of cheaters.  The developers say that they’re ready to ban any Halo: Reach players caught cheating.

“Our team is standing at the ready behind the sights of our fully operational Banhammer Battlestation. We take the Reach online experience VERY seriously.”

The Halo: Reach midnight launches echo similar events for the release of Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty earlier this year.

So have any Train2Game students got your hands on a copy of Halo: Reach yet? Perhaps you attended a Halo: Reach midnight launch event? If you don’t own an Xbox 360, do you think the release of Halo: Reach could encourage you to do so?

And have you spotted any cheaters yet?

You can leave your thoughts on Halo: Reach here on the Train2Game blog, or on the Train2Game forum.