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Here’s the Square Enix GDC 2016 line-up

The Square Enix GDC 2016 line-up includes some interesting-sounding talks on Rise of the Tomb Raider and Life is Strange.

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Square Enix GDC 2016 line-up

It’s nearly time for GDC again, the annual Games Developers Conference held in San Francisco, where the best and brightest of the video game world descend upon an expo not to try and sell things, but to come together as a community and spread the knowledge and achievements of the medium.

Here’s the full list of the Square Enix GDC 2016 line-up, which includes the usual gamut of technical talks about graphics and technology and all the other stuff that’s obviously really important (but probably not altogether that interesting to your average non-developer) though we’d wager that the Life is Strange talk with DONTNOD and the Rise of the Tomb Raider narrative panel featuring Rhianna Pratchett are going to carry the most universal interest.

Advanced Graphics Techniques Tutorial Day: Rendering Hitman with DirectX 12

Jonas Meyer – Lead Render Programmer, IO Interactive
Monday, March 14th, 11:20-11:50 a.m.
http://schedule.gdconf.com/session/advanced-graphics-techniques-tutorial-day-rendering-hitman-with-directx-12

This talk will give a brief overview of how the Hitman Renderer works, followed by a deep dive into how we manage everything with DirectX 12, including Pipeline State Objects, Root Signatures, Resources, Command Queues and Multithreading.

A “Life is Strange” Case Study: Using Interactive Storytelling and Game Design to Tackle Real-World Problems

Michel Koch – Co-Game Director / Art Director, DONTNOD Entertainment
Raoul Barbet – Co-Game Director, DONTNOD Entertainment
Monday, March 14th, 5:30-6:00 p.m.
http://schedule.gdconf.com/session/life-is-strange-case-study-using-interactive-storytelling-and-game-design-to-tackle-real-world-problems

Join the co-directors of the episodic game “Life Is Strange” as they reveal how they approached the inclusion of emotional, often sensitive, and sometimes taboo real-world issues into the core narrative of the game. Examples from the game will illustrate how the interactive nature of video games can be used to tackle difficult subject matters, driving players to reflect upon intense questions and emotional challenges; and how the coordinated development of story, characters and design can be used to achieve these goals.

Raid on Rise: Narrative Creation on “Rise of The Tomb Raider”

Rhianna Pratchett – Writer, Independent
John Stafford – Lead Narrative Designer, Crystal Dynamics
Cameron Suey – Narrative Designer, Crystal Dynamics
Tore Blystad – Performance Director, Crystal Dynamics
Jeff Adams – Senior Story Artist, Crystal Dynamics
Noah Hughes – Creative Director, Crystal Dynamics
Tuesday, March 15th, 10 – 11 a.m.
Room 3016, West Hall
http://schedule.gdconf.com/session/raid-on-rise-narrative-creation-on-rise-of-the-tomb-raider

The narrative team behind Rise of the Tomb Raider share how they worked together to build the next successful stage of Lara Croft’s adventures, and demonstrate how a strong story and characterization are fundamental for AAA success.

Custom Tools that Power Eidos-Montreal’s Narrative-Driven Experiences (presented by Autodesk)

Jean-Normand Bucci – Director of Labs, R&D department, Eidos-Montréal
Hubert Corriveau – Environment Director, Eidos-Montréal
Wednesday, March 16th, 12:30 – 1:30 p.m.
Room2014, West Hall
http://schedule.gdconf.com/session/custom-tools-that-power-eidos-montreals-narrative-driven-experiences-presented-by-autodesk

In this session, the team from Eidos-Montréal (Jean Normand Bucci, Director of Labs, R&D Department and Hubert Corriveau, Environment Director) will share their knowledge and expertise on the way they use and customize 3ds Max to create more immersive environments for the narrative driven titles from the studio: taking the existing tools and customizing them to facilitate and optimize the production flow.

Real-time Procedural Percussion Scoring in Tomb Raider’s Stealth Combat

Philip Lamperski – Audio Designer, Crystal Dynamics | Bobby Tahouri – Composer, Independent
Wednesday, March 16th, 12 – 12:30 p.m.
Room 3002, West Hall
http://schedule.gdconf.com/session/real-time-procedural-percussion-scoring-in-tomb-raiders-stealth-combat

In Rise of the Tomb Raider, Crystal Dynamics ® used, for the first time, procedurally generated music: the percussion music during combat scenes is composed and played by a software system in real time. It never loops, adapts dynamically to game action, and is different with every gameplay. Furthermore, the music is based on the game composer’s original music: his original MIDI scores and sample data are analyzed in order to compose new music in his style during the game. In this talk, one of the game’s audio designers discusses in detail the benefits of procedurally generated music, as well as the issues and limitations faced when working with it. Videos from the game will be used as illustration.

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More Explosions, More Chaos, and Definitely More Blowing Stuff Up: Optimizations and New DirectX Features in Just Cause 3 (presented by Intel)

Emil Persson, Head of Research, Avalanche Studios
Antoine Cohade, Graphics Application Engineer, Intel
Wednesday, March 16th, 3:30-4:30 p.m.
http://schedule.gdconf.com/session/more-explosions-more-chaos-and-definitely-more-blowing-stuff-up-optimizations-and-new-directx-features-in-just-cause-3-presented-by-intel

Just Cause 3 is Avalanche Studios’ latest addition to the mind-blowing and stuff-blowing open world action-adventure series: Just Cause. Published by Square Enix, the game released on December 1, 2015 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. During the development of the game, Intel and Avalanche Studios have been working closely together to optimize the game on Iris graphics, but also to make use of DX12 level features to further improve the user experience.

This session will cover the changes Avalanche Studios made to their engine to make the game run faster, better and stronger on PC, as well as how Intel’s tools helped us accomplish this goal. PC exclusive features, such as Ordered Independent Transparency and G-buffer blending using Raster Ordered Views, and light assignment for clustered shading using Conservative Rasterization, will also be presented.

GPUOpen – Unlocking Game Development with Open Source (presented by AMD)

Nicolas Thibieroz – Senior Manager, Gaming Engineering, AMD
Jason Stewart – Developer Technology Engineer, AMD
Jean-Normand Bucci – Director of Labs, R&D department, Eidos-Montréal
Wednesday, March 16th, 3:30–4:30 p.m.
Room 2024, West Hall
http://schedule.gdconf.com/session/gpuopen-unlocking-game-development-with-open-source-presented-by-amd

GPUOpen is a new philosophy spearheaded by AMD that aims to bridge the gap between console and PC game development by allowing optimal access to the GPU for developers. GPUOpen is a portal to effects, SDKs, libraries and tools that provide various levels of GPU access and functionalities for real-time graphics and content creation. In addition GPUOpen components are provided with an open source license to give developers full control and usage of the code they choose to use. GPUOpen marks the beginning of a new era where developers are able to achieve their artistic and technical vision via open and unrestricted access to the GPU.

Distilling Franchise: A Lara Croft GO Postmortem

Antoine Routon – Technical Direction, Square Enix Montréal
Thursday, March 17th, 10 – 11 a.m.
Room 134, North Hall
http://schedule.gdconf.com/session/distilling-a-franchise-a-lara-croft-go-postmortem

Lara Croft GO is the next instalment in the award-winning series created by Square Enix Montréal with Hitman GO. Hitman GO boiled down the world of Agent 47® to a minimalistic puzzle inspired by chess and dioramas, Lara Croft GO captures the essence of adventure, acrobatics and exploration. This multidisciplinary talk is a postmortem of Lara Croft GO, discussing how to bridge the gap between two very different franchises, how to distill the action-packed adventures of Lara in a puzzle format, and all the lessons that were learned in the middle.

Improving geometry culling for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided ® (presented by Umbra)

Nicolas Trudel – Graphics Programmer, Eidos – Montréal
Thursday, March 17th, 4-5 p.m.
Room 3007, West Hall
http://schedule.gdconf.com/session/improving-geometry-culling-for-deus-ex-mankind-divided-presented-by-umbra

This talk will explain how we used Umbra in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, a game powered by the Dawn engine. In order to support the very rich environments our artists envision, we needed a very efficient geometry culling solution without the associated manual labour. We will give a general overview of the Dawn Engine™ and show how Umbra was integrated from the edition and offline building to the low level-rendering engine to achieve this goal. We will go into the details of how Umbra was used for the main camera, but also the generation of the shadow maps. Since many of our lights are static, we cached the static geometry visibility to speedup the umbra query. We will also discuss how we used umbra to speed up our offline GI computation.


Buy Rise of the Tomb Raider from Amazon.

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Tom is an itinerant freelance technology writer who found a home as an Editor with Thumbsticks. Powered by coffee, RPGs, and local co-op.

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Littlewood is a cosy RPG set after the battle is over

Littlewood knows there’s nothing finer than a game that gives you a nice little epilogue.

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littlewood cosy RPG
SmashGames

Littlewood knows there’s nothing finer than a game that gives you a nice little epilogue. (No, not yours, The Last of Us Part II.)

But those games that let you go back to the world after the battle is over, to visit with the townsfolk, and just generally chill out are something special. The first game I really remember it from is Wonder Boy 3: The Dragon’s Trap where, once restored to human form, you get to wander the village, chatting with the locals, before going to bed. That’s literally how the epilogue ends; you go back home for a well-earned rest.

It’s just so wholesome. Which is why Littlewood, a new RPG from Sean Wood and SmashGames, is so appealing.

“The world has already been saved. Now it’s time to rebuild your town, learn new hobbies, and forge lifelong friendships in this peaceful and relaxing RPG.”

It’s like Stardew Valley or Animal Crossing, then, but set in a world that was in peril – until the player character saved it. But the trick is, you can’t remember anything about your life before or what happened in the great battle to save the world. In order to restore your memories, you need to build up a welcoming town, encourage people to live there, and hope that spurs your recall.

But a game like Littlewood isn’t about the destination. There is an overall plot, of course, but cosy management RPGs are all about the micro-activities. And in Littlewood, you’ll be gathering, crafting, building, fishing, farming, bug catching, cooking, trading, and more – everything that people love about the genre.

Littlewood is out now on Steam.

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Pikmin 3 Deluxe is coming to Nintendo Switch this fall

Pikmin 3, one of the last remaining Wii U exclusives, is coming to Switch in October.

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Pikmin 3 Deluxe - Nintendo Switch
Nintendo

Pikmin 3, one of the last remaining Wii U exclusives, is coming to Switch in October.

The Nintendo Wii U was a meh system with some fantastic exclusives. The console itself was a bit of a half-step. It was still tied, by name and nunchuck compatibility to the Wii. But, it experimented with the handheld hybridisation that later defined the Switch. Growing pains aside, iit had a great roster of Nintendo-developed games.

But, the Wii U died so that the Switch might live. And Nintendo, more aware than anyone that few people bought its last console, has thankfully brought most of the Wii U’s library to Switch. This article, outlining the dearth of Wii U games remaining without a Switch port was published less than a year ago. In the time since, half of the games have either received a Switch version or will receive a Switch version in the near future.

Pikmin 3 is the latest Wii U classic to get the Switch update, Nintendo announced today. The Deluxe version will include all of the original game’s DLC. Plus it will add new missions and the option to play the entire Story mode in co-op. Head-to-head multiplayer mode, Bingo Battle, will also return.

The RTS hybrid arrives on Switch on October 30. Notably, it is the only announced Nintendo game with a 2020 release date following the release of Paper Mario: The Origami King. Fingers crossed we hear more about those rumoured Mario remasters soon.


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New games added to the big PlayStation Store Summer Sale

New PS4 games join the PlayStation Store Summer Sale, including some of the year’s biggest releases.

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PlayStation Store Summer Sal
Sony / Thumbsticks

New PS4 games join the PlayStation Store Summer Sale, including some of the year’s biggest releases.

Sony has added a new batch of PS4 games to this year’s PlayStation Store summer sale. The headline additions are the acclaimed Final Fantasy VII Remake, the reimagined Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, the fun enough World War Z, and the not as fun as it wants to be Doom Eternal.

The EA-published 3v3 shooter Rocket Arena is slashed in price by a massive 83%, just three weeks after release. And if you’ve been following the moderate buzz around sci-fi FPS Disintegration, it’s now reduced by a tempting 40%.

Other AAA games still on offer include Marvel’s Spider-Man, Dragon Quest XI: Echoes Of An Elusive Age, and Red Dead Redemption 2.

The PSN Summer Sale now runs through to August 19, 2020, which should give you enough time to pick through the mountain of titles on offer. Head over to the PlayStation Store in your region to see the full lineup. Here are some more recommendations from your friends at Thumbsticks.

PlayStation Store Summer Sale Highlights

  • A Plague Tale: Innocence
  • Abzû
  • Alien: Isolation
  • Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey
  • Anthem
  • Bad North
  • Bayonetta
  • Borderlands 3
  • Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
  • Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy
  • Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled
  • Dark Souls III
  • Days Gone
  • Dead Island Definitive Edition
  • Death Stranding
  • Doom Eternal
  • Dragon Quest XI: Echoes Of An Elusive Age
  • Dreams
  • FIFA 20
  • Final Fantasy VII Remake
  • Final Fantasy VIII Remastered
  • For Honor Standard Edition
  • Grid
  • Horizon Zero Dawn Complete Edition
  • Kerbal Space Program Enhanced Edition
  • Kingdom Hearts III Re Mind
  • Maneater
  • Monster Hunter: World
  • Need For Speed Heat
  • Ni No Kuni Ii: Revenant Kingdom
  • Nioh 2
  • Persona 5 Royal
  • Predator: Hunting Grounds
  • Red Dead Redemption 2
  • Resident Evil 2
  • Saints Row: The Third Remastered
  • Secret Of Mana
  • Shenmue III
  • Sid Meier’s Civilization VI
  • Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
  • Superhot
  • Tetris Effect
  • The Last Of Us Remastered
  • The Legend Of Heroes: Trails Of Cold Steel III
  • The Outer Worlds
  • The Sims 4
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
  • Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes Complete Edition
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Digital Edition
  • World War Z
  • Yakuza 5 Remastered
  • Yakuza Kiwami

For more video game deals – including news of this week’s Xbox One bargains – visit our dedicated sales page. You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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Found it interesting, entertaining, useful, or informative? Maybe it even saved you some money. That's great to hear! Sadly, independent publishing is struggling worse than ever, and Thumbsticks is no exception. So please, if you can afford to, consider supporting us via Patreon or buying us a coffee.


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Release date revealed for Microsoft’s xCloud streaming service

xCloud will come to Android on September 15, 2020. There’s no news on a release date for an iOS version of Xbox’s game streaming service, however.

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release date revealed microsoft xcloud android
Microsoft / Thumbsticks

xCloud will come to Android on September 15, 2020. There’s no news on a release date for an iOS version of Xbox’s game streaming service, however.

We’ve been hearing about the “Netflix of video games” for years now. But for all the promise, we’re yet to see anyone actually nail that value proposition.

Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass service – that allows you to play hundreds of PC and Xbox One games for a low monthly subscription fee – is the closest we’ve come thus far. But that still requires on you having some associated hardware to play the games, either an Xbox One console or a Windows PC.

Well, it did require you to have some associated hardware. As of September 15, 2020, all you’ll need is an Android phone.

That’s because Microsoft’s xCloud streaming service, which has been going through testing in the last year, is getting a full release on Android phones. Even better, xCloud access will be bundled in with the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription level, meaning you’ll get “more than 100 games” available to play on your phone or tablet with no console or PC hardware. (There’s no sign of an iOS release date for xCloud yet, but that’s not unusual. It took Steam a very long time to get its in-home streaming app certified on the App Store, for instance.)

xCloud will launch in 22 countries on September 15, 2020. Those countries, at the time of writing, are:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovakia
  • Spain
  • South Korea
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

As usual, it’s primarily Europe and North America that’s catered for, with South Korea and its incredible internet infrastructure in there, too. More countries (and, presumably, that elusive iOS version) will follow in due course.

You’ll need a compatible controller to use xCloud, but the good news is any Xbox One controller – which can connect to Android via Bluetooth – will do the trick. The likes of Razer, PowerA and 8Bitdo will be producing accessories, like the Android-specialist Razer Kishi controller, but you might prefer to get a cheap controller clip. It might be worth buying one quick before they stick “xCloud” in the listing title and jack up the price.


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Most important feature confirmed for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

Well, maybe the second most important feature.

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pet the cat assassins creed valhalla
Ubisoft / Thumbsticks

Well, maybe the second most important feature.

Yes, you can pet the cat in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.

That’s it. That’s the news.

Also, have you seen how big that cat is? That is clearly an ancient ancestor of the Norwegian Forest Cat, a very large, hairy Scandinavian breed. (Like cat Vikings, really.)

Enjoyed this article?

Found it interesting, entertaining, useful, or informative? Maybe it even saved you some money. That's great to hear! Sadly, independent publishing is struggling worse than ever, and Thumbsticks is no exception. So please, if you can afford to, consider supporting us via Patreon or buying us a coffee.


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