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Civilization goes Beyond Earth, but not back to Alpha Centauri

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Civilization goes Beyond Earth, but not back to Alpha Centauri

Civilization: Beyond Earth is the first Civilization game to focus on humanity’s expansion into the stars, but it stands very much in the shadow of Firaxis legendary sci-fi 4X, Alpha Centauri. While superficially similar to Civilization II, Alpha Centauri had its own identity and inspired a generation of passionate fans. So my first question for Civilization: Beyond Earth designers David McDonough and Anton Strenger was the obvious one. How much of its inspiration would Beyond Earth take from Alpha Centauri?

The answer might disappoint players who have spent years revisiting Planet via backwards-compatibility fixes and the Good Old Games edition of Alpha Centauri. There’s a lot more than licensing issues dividing Civilization: Beyond Earth from Firaxis’ first trip to the stars. The truth is that Alpha Centauri is a work of dystopian sci-fi, while Beyond Earth is a continuation of the fundamentally optimistic Civilization series.

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How Creative Assembly designed Alien: Isolation's terrifyingly clever xenomorph

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How Creative Assembly designed Alien: Isolation's terrifyingly clever xenomorph

Alien: Isolation burst out of Creative Assembly's chest yesterday, splattering previews all over the internet and making us spill our collective cereal — here is my Alien: Isolation preview, in case you're interested in finding out more. The game plays, in the parts we've been shown at least, like Amnesia in space, with only a solitary, highly intelligent and free-roaming xenomorph forming the game's horror centrepiece.

Gary Napper, lead designer at Creative Assembly, and Jude Bond, lead artist, spoke to me about how to create a truly terrifying artificial intelligence, what they thought of recent games in the franchise and how Alien: Isolation hopes to sustain a level of tension from start to finish that doesn't result in heart-stopping fatalities. Come have a look at the words we said to one another.

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Placing authenticity over accuracy in Total War: Rome II

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Placing authenticity over accuracy in Total War: Rome II

Playing Total War: Rome II as a classicist is a wee bit like watching the latest Marvel or DC cinematic adaptation as a comic book aficionado. It might be delightful to see something you’re mildly obsessed with transposed to another medium, but god forbid artistic license be employed. 

In between stamping out the Samnite threat in Rome II’s prologue, I sat down with Creative Assembly studio director Michael Simpson and communications manager Al Bickham to chat about striking a balance between historical accuracy and entertainment. 

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The Making of Civilization V: Brave New World

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The Making of Civilization V: Brave New World

Making Civilization is a negotiation. Between the series’ past and its future. Between members of an experienced development team who have had years to think about making it better. Between Firaxis and a passionate fan community for whom Civilization has been a way of life. It’s not always an easy exchange.

“When this team was developing Civ V everyone bought into that vision," Dennis Shirk, senior producer on the Brave New World expansion, told me. “It’s not the kind of development where the designer is the only voice in the room. The entire team gets to contribute to a game. So it does cut a little bit when we release something like Civ V and you see Civfanatics [a major fan forum] split into two camps, it cuts a little bit. Because you’re kind of like a kid that wants their parents blessing and say, ‘You did a really good job.’ It doesn’t always happen, but you make your decisions, you take your risks, and try something new, and you put it all out there."

With Brave New World, Firaxis have once again tried to get their fans blessing with daring new changes. It is the game it took Firaxis five years to learn how to make.

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Size Five Games talk about Gun Monkeys, their secret shooter that isn't The Swindle

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Size Five Games talk about Gun Monkeys, their secret shooter that isn't The Swindle

Gun Monkeys is a 2D multiplayer shooter by Size Five Games, notable because it's not the game Size Five Games were thought to be working on two days ago. That still in-development game is The Swindle (interview here), a project whose ever vastening complexity demanded that its lead developer Dan Marshall take a short break to work on something else. That something else is Gun Monkeys, a 2D multiplayer shooter that's just sent me around in a big grammatical circle with its dizzyingly neon backdrops and bouncy, kerblammy gunplay. I spoke to Dan about development fatigue, the upcoming Gun Monkeys beta and how to procedurally generate a penis.

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Chris Taylor on Wildman and life as an escaped zoo animal

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Chris Taylor on Wildman and life as an escaped zoo animalChris Taylor isn’t sleeping well. It’s Friday, January 11th, and there are only 72 hours until Gas Powered’s first Kickstarter goes live. He and his team at Gas Powered Games are constantly second-guessing themselves and worrying about the strength of their pitch for Wildman. Are they showing too little? They have prototype assets they can use, but they worry that the low-quality will make people think Wildman is likewise low-quality. But if they only show the stuff that looks good right now, chiefly concept art, Taylor and GPG worry that people will think the project looks too narrow, or too incomplete. How do you create a pitch that leaves people satisfied, yet hungry for more?

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Gabe Newell explains Valve's Steam Box at CES, and the possible future of a Steam-based ecosystem

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Gabe Newell explains Valve's Steam Box at CES, and the possible future of a Steam-based ecosystem

While we still don’t know a whole lot about the Steam Box, Valve’s Gabe Newell explained much of the thinking and intent behind it in an exclusive interview to The Verge. While you should read the whole thing, there are a few key takeaways that give us more clues as to what Valve plan with the Steam Box.

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The Best PC games of 2013: Maia

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The Best PC games of 2013: Maia

While 2013 may be packed with big releases like Bioshock Infinite, SimCity, and Manshoot 7, one of the more ambitious projects is Maia. A return to the god game genre, Maia has you manage a colony on a distant planet. Hostile elements and violent indigenous creatures are the physical threats your colonists will face from the outside but isolation on the edge of space will take its toll on your followers mental state.

We talked to the game's developer, Simon Roth, to learn more about the darkly comic game.

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The best PC games of 2013: SimCity

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The best PC games of 2013: SimCity

Christmas is not only a time for remembering, but also a time for forgetting. No not forgetting, sorry, I mean looking ahead. So let's take a look at some of the most anticipated PC games of 2013, the upcoming high notes in the operatic aria of the next twelve months. SimCity is, personally, rocking my anticipation gland to the degree that I require medication to prevent it rupturing in my sleep, so I asked George Pigula, associate producer on the game, all about it. Specifically, for some reason, all about homeless people.

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Evil Geniuses CEO Alex Garfield on managing and marketing a fledgling eSports dynasty

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Evil Geniuses CEO Alex Garfield on managing and marketing a fledgling eSports dynasty

Evil Geniuses are sometimes described as the New York Yankees of eSports, a backhanded sort of compliment that both grants that EG consistently field one of the strongest, most star-studded lineups around, but also that they owe their reputation to their deep pockets. It also suggests that the team’s results are not quite in line with its roster, the old sports morality tale of money being able to buy talent, but not success.

Team CEO Alex Garfield is hardly the kind of owner-tycoon you’d expect to find managing a team of star players and eSports celebrities. He’s reserved and softspoken, seemingly better suited to a graduate seminar room than the dubstep-blasted arenas that eSports call home. He doesn’t aggressively chase media, and he doesn't brag about results or publicly push EG players about their performance. While Forbes recently named the 27-year-old to their “30 under 30" list for “Games and Apps", he’s generally content to work in the background, quietly building the sponsor relationships with companies like Intel and Monster (among many others) that allow Evil Geniuses to pay top dollar for top-shelf talent.

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BioShock Infinite: an interview with Irrational's level designer

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BioShock Infinite: an interview with Irrational's level designerBioShock Infinite is a game about a flying city and a lady who can do really good magic tricks. We've been playing it, partaking in its heady mix of turn-of-the-century technology, hyperactive combat and quantum-punk science-fiction.

The game is on course to become Irrational's freshest masterpiece, being every bit as artistically original and mechanically complex as the original game, while promising one of the most compelling locations gaming's yet seen. It's hot stuff. 

I sat down with Shawn Elliott, level designer at Irrational, to discuss in some depth the decisions behind the design choices he and Irrational have made in developing a new BioShock. I say 'discuss', what actually happens when you talk to Shawn Elliott is you ask him a question about game design and he talks forever. Thank goodness the man knows what he's on about.

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Blizzard's Mike Morhaime on the future of StarCraft 2 eSports, Heart of the Swarm, and community concerns

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Blizzard's Mike Morhaime on the future of StarCraft 2 eSports, Heart of the Swarm, and community concernsAs president and CEO of Blizzard, Mike Morhaime underlines Blizzard’s commitment to StarCraft and its thriving pro community every time he appears at a tournament. It’s an increasingly important message to send: during the autumn, the StarCraft community seemed to be getting morose about its own future, and Blizzard’s ability to help it grow. Since then, Blizzard have been pushing back and trying to reassure the community that not only will Heart of the Swarm be a strong expansion, but that Blizzard hear and understand the the community’s concerns. With Morhaime in the audience, they can hardly miss it.

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Inside the Hawken launch: "the big thing is for us not to screw up."

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Inside the Hawken launch: "the big thing is for us not to screw up."

PC gaming: it never stops. Yesterday, Adhesive Games launched Hawken - a ridiculously impressive stompy robot shooter. It’s a gorgeous looking thing: a game that shows off what the PC is capable of when tech is placed in the hands of talented artists. 

But it’s a bit more than that. As one of a growing number of free-to-play FPS games it’s a potential contender for next year’s most popular title. It’s fast, slick and hefty - but with a smart progression system that rewards extended play. 

On the eve of it’s launch, I sat down to chat with Meteor Entertainment's CEO Mark Long, to talk about the challenges ahead, and why just getting through the game’s first day would be a major achievement.

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Ghostcrawler on Pandaria and beyond: WoW players "shouldn't have time to get bored."

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Ghostcrawler on Pandaria and beyond: WoW players "shouldn't have time to get bored." If you're a World of Warcraft player, Greg Street is Important. He's the 'lead systems designer' of WoW: the person responsible for maintain some semblance of balance across all of WoW's classes and subclasses. That makes him the go-to man for WoW players to complain about their/someone else's class/spec being over/underpowered. 

What’s odd is how open Greg is: he’s active on the Blizzard forums and twitter, ready to answer player’s questions with a level of detail, depth and earnest honesty unmatched in the industry. 

He’s also quite funny.

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Stellar: Chris Roberts on building Star Citizen and why indies should embrace Kickstarter

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Stellar: Chris Roberts on building Star Citizen and why indies should embrace Kickstarter2012 has been the year of crowdfunding and Star Citizen is its champion. Having now raised nearly $7m through the game’s official site and the hugely popular Kickstarter, creator Chris Roberts has more funding than he ever thought possible. I spoke with him about some of his plans for the game’s combat, both dogfights and boarding actions, about crowdfunding alternatives to Kickstarter and about the weight of expectation that sits upon this project.

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FSX Blue Angels show off aerobatic skills at virtual air show

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FSX Blue Angels show off aerobatic skills at virtual air showOne thing that never fails to amaze about the flight sim community, is how far people will go to emulate the real world of flight. Virtual airlines task pilots with flying commercial airliner routes in-game, adhering to authentic schedules and maintaining strict rotas. Air Traffic Controllers think nothing of getting home after work, firing up their network and spending a few hours guiding other players around the simulated skies across the internet. But for sheer dedication, few beat the pilots of the FSX Blue Angels, the Microsoft Flight Simulator X version of the US Navy’s flying aerobatic team. This past weekend saw the annual ‘Fleet Week’ show and we took the opportunity to catch up with Event Coordinator and FSX Blue Angel #8 - ‘Skyman’, to find out a little more about what goes into being the FSX community’s premier aerobatic organisation...

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Assassin's Creed 3 interview: Ubisoft discuss boats, booty and bellends

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Assassin's Creed 3 interview: Ubisoft discuss boats, booty and bellendsAssassin's Creed has always strived for authenticity. The memory-accessing Animus, for instance, can instantly translate into English any language it streams into your virtual ears, be it Arabic or Italian. In past games the Animus was a bit of a prude, neglecting to translate the ruder terms some native speakers would shout at Ezio and Altair as they scambled across roof tiles. Assassin's Creed 3 is set in America though, during the revolution, where everybody speaks good old fashioned American. So perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised when I was accosted by a particular word that I didn't even know had been invented in the 18th century. Confused, I turned to Assassin's Creed 3's lead designer Steven Masters, to ask him about assassins, America, naval warfare and swear words.

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Article submitted by: Chris Evans

Interview With Two Kyle’s On Little Inferno and Tomorrow Corporation

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Article submitted by: Chris Evans

Settlers Online Interview With Timo Gerken

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Alienware on Surface Pro: "it's not going to be capable of high-performance class gaming"

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Alienware on Surface Pro: "it's not going to be capable of high-performance class gaming"

Desktops, laptops, tanktops, notebooks. Alienware have developed gaming-spec machines for - except tanktops obviously - pretty much all manner and shape of setup, recently cramming a high-performance PC into something about the size of a lunchbox with the X51. It's in their very nature to consider what physical form a gaming PC can take, so the announcement of Microsoft's Surface Pro, the Windows 8 powered tablet PC, should have pricked some ears at Alienware HQ, right? Right! In an Alienware interview with PCGamesN, product manager Eddy Goyanes gave us his thoughts on Surface Pro, as well as the potential for a Alienware gaming tablet. Spoiler: there's just enough potential to warrant the mock-up you're seeing right now.

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Moebius: Empire Rising review

World of Warcraft

Why Heroes of the Storm is the MOBA Blizzard always wanted to play

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Hearthstone review

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Guild Wars 2's April Feature Pack will improve the quality of life in Tyria

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Embrace the Chaos: X-Com creator Julian Gollop on independence and the trouble with Ubisoft

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Civilization goes Beyond Earth, but not back to Alpha Centauri

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The Elder Scrolls Online review in progress

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The Wolf Among Us: A Crooked Mile PC review

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Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel goes to the moon, lets you play as Claptrap

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The PCGamesN Podcast: Episode 4 - now with added tanks

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Betrayer review

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Goat Simulator review

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Diablo III: Reaper of Souls review

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