5 Takeaways From Gamescom 2013 (Gamasutra.com)

Indie games have long had cult followings so it’s no surprise that Gamasutra found an Indie-heavy presence at Gamescom. Read on to find out what the five biggest takeaways were for them at Gamescom.

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Five takeaways from GDC Europe 2013

The GDC Europe conference is over for another year (Gamasutra’s full coverage here), and as partner event Gamescom begins to wind down on the press front, I’ve been collating the various tidbits that I’ve taken away from this week.

There was already plenty to think about with regards to the various talks that were given over the last several days, but numerous conversations I had with developers, publishers et al also cemented a number of key points that appeared to brim to the surface on multiple occasions.

Here’s the five main talking points that I seemingly couldn’t escape from throughout the week.

1. Mobile is a massive market, but it’s not the be all and end all

There were, of course, hundreds of developers all eager to show off their mobile games during the show, and a good portion of the talks at GDC Europe centred around the mobile market.

But there was also notable unrest. Many developers I talked to, some who had dabbled in mobile and others who had not, were quite frankly feeling a little sick and tired of the sentiment that if you’re not making a game for mobile platforms, you face being irrelevant.

The team behind Nintendo 3DS game SteamWorld Dig, for example, had previously released a mobile game — and while it provided decent enough sales, the studio wasn’t really all that happy to eventually have its game lost to the destructive tide of mobile games that land on the iOS App Store every day.

The 3DS eShop has been a different story entirely for the Image and Form team. While there clearly aren’t as many potential consumers to hook, the fact that the team’s game was one of only a handful of titles that was made available during its launch week meant that visibility was high, and a feature on the front page of the eShop meant even more sales.

I heard a similar sentiment from plenty of other developers too, including Shadow of the Damneddirector Massimo Guarini. The industry veteran (who founded the studio Ovosonico) revealed his PS Vita game Murasaki Baby earlier this week, and he too doesn’t see the appeal of launching a game onto an online store where he’ll be battling against hundreds and thousands of other titles to rise to the top for a brief space of time.

Murasaki Baby.jpgMassimo Guarini’s Murasaki BabyThis isn’t anything new, of course — just last month Thomas Was Alone creator Mike Bithell noted that “the middle ground devs all ran off to mobile, and left the door unlocked for us.” He too announced a Sony partnership this week, as his upcoming game Volume will debut on PS4 and PS Vita.

But whereas these sorts of musings have been going on for a while, I really got the impression this week that, for many more developers, there’s acknowledgement that mobile isn’t the answer to everything.

2. The confusing indie console message

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that console manufacturers absolutely adore indie devs all of a sudden.

Jump back just a year ago, and The Big Three were touting their massive AAA releases on a regular basis. Throughout this week, there’s a notable indie movement, as there has been throughout 2013: Sony’s conference was packed full of indie games, Microsoft revealed its ID@Xbox self-publishing program, and Nintendo was bigging up a number of its indie games on Nintendo 3DS, including the aforementioned SteamWorld Dig.

But while it all sounds fantastic on the surface, I came away from this week rather confused about whether it’s all for show, or whether these console giants are truly positioning indie games as a main selling point.

Take the contrast between Sony’s conference and its Gamescom show floor display, for example. I’d set out to play as many of the indie games coming to Sony consoles as possible, but when I arrived at the massive Sony booth, it was rather difficult to actually find the indie games.

That’s because while the triple-A releases had each been granted massive space with a handful of monitors each, the indie games had been relegated to the edges and corners of the booth, with barely any signposting at all.

Now, I’m not suggesting that Sony should have thrown OlliOlliSpelunky or Metrico stands up right next to the potentially millions-selling triple-A PS3 and PS4 games that Sony has on the cards — I’d personally love if they’d have done so, but I’m not naive enough to expect that would have been the case.

But when I say that the indie games appeared to be a complete afterthought of the booth, I’m not exaggerating. You had to essentially skim around the outskirts of the Sony booth, away from all the main games, and then peer down at the scattered Vitas to actually find the games you wanted to play.

Multiple times I had to choose a landmark somewhere else in the room — “Let’s meet just next to the massive The Last of Us booth, then we can walk to my game from there” — because it was so difficult to find any individual indie games. Numerous of the devs that I talked to weren’t very happy about it either.

To be fair, at least I could find some indie games at the Sony booth. Perhaps I was looking in the wrong place, but I didn’t see a single indie game at either the massive Nintendo or Microsoft areas. Again, I stress that I wasn’t hugely surprised by this at all, but it does seem to clash somewhat with the indie pushes that appear to be happening online and during conferences.

From my perspective, it’s clear that these companies are well aware that indie games aren’t going to sell consoles to a certain segment of players, hence why the triple-A showing is still very much front and center. Still, it’s discouraging to see one message being pushing in one area, and then seeing an entirely different message in another.

3. Exciting and quirky new hardware still brings in the masses

People are always happy to queue up or stand around to see something a bit different, and this year was no different.

The lines to experience the Oculus Rift VR headset were lengthy, and I had plenty of conversations about how the new HD visuals looked and felt, and what could potentially be done with the technology.

I hadn’t tried the standard version of the Oculus Rift, but pretty much everyone I talked to who had sampled both the standard and HD versions said that there wasn’t a great deal of difference between the two. Still, it’s early days for the hardware, and no doubt numerous months before it will be made available to the public.

But it wasn’t just the Rift that was pulling in the crowds. Mikolaj Kaminski’s Achtung Arcade, an arcade machine packed full of smaller games from the dev, sat quietly in a corner until someone decided to pick up a controller — at which point a crowd would gather to see what all the fuss was about.

And the Luggatron was particularly exciting. Joon Van Hove from Glitchnap, who has previously created arcade-style machines in the most wackiest of places (for example, integrated into a baby carriage) wanted to bring another of his crazy machines to GDC Europe, but could only check one bag in.

This gave him the idea to build the Luggatron — an arcade machine built into a suitcase, with the monitor on the outside. It’s more than an impressive feat, and as you’d expect, plenty of people wanted to give it a try.

It’s remarkable to see this sort of innovation with your own eyes, and it’s no wonder that so many of these smaller indie shows like Wild Rumpus and Bit of Alright are growing so rapidly in popularity, when they have great ideas like these to enjoy.

4. Being an indie console launch title is not the same as being a AAA launch title

Whenever a new Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo console launch rolls around, we regularly hear the same studio names — Ubisoft, for example, are massive fans of early console adoptions, and always make sure to have at least a handful of titles ready for launch.

It’s obvious why, of course: Gamers want to pick up a small number of games with their new consoles, sometimes regardless of quality, and so having a wide spread of titles at launch that perhaps don’t incur as large production costs as normal can be very beneficial. Of course, your relationship with the manufacturer won’t exactly be harmed either.

And there’s the added bonus that the press wants to talk about each and every console launch game. If you’re launching alongside a games console, you are going to get articles all over the shop.

As it turns out, however, it may be the case that smaller indie games delivered at launch don’t see such benefits. As part of a talk earlier this year, Felix Bohatsch from Broken Rules revealed that his game Chasing Aurora had not received any sort of sales spike at the Wii U launch whatsoever.

I’m not going to pretend that Chasing Aurora was fantastic and essential — even Bohatsch himself admitted that the game needed more time, and it was rushed for release at launch — but the fact that the studio saw zero sales spike at launch, while triple-A companies churn out some awful stuff for console launches and still see enough of a spike to make it worthwhile, should really tell us something.

Bohatsch’s reasoning was that it was a combination of players picking up a handful of triple-A games and being satisfied enough with that, and a slightly high price point for the amount of content Broken Rules was offering. From my point of view, it does seem to make sense that more traditional players are going to be focusing on the likes of New Super Mario Bros. U and Nintendo Land instead of heading to the new eShop and plucking out games at random.

In fact, Bohatsch suggested that if he could go back and do it again, he’d instead launch a few months after the Wii U came out, in a bid to catch those people who had finished off all the triple-A titles, and were now hungry for me. It’s an angle well worth considering for any developers who are currently crunching hard to be ready for the upcoming Xbox One and PlayStation 4 launches.

5. The emotional game uprising

Although I don’t like to admit it, I regularly shed a tear or five when watching tear-jerker movies and TV shows. In contrast, I cried for the first time ever at a video game last year — the glorious The Walking Dead.

Stirring up emotion in players has never really been at the forefront of game design — well, unless you’re David Cage, of course — but the last year has definitely seen a surge of developers talking about injecting emotion and personality into their characters.

Take the recent Brothers, for example, which managed to stir up emotion in players simply through gameplay, rather than any real storyline. Telltale and Starbreeze aren’t the only studios exploring emotion either, as plenty of conversations I had this week involved making the player feel something for the characters and their tales.

Quantic Dream’s Cage was once again doling out the prize sentences as per usual, explaining in his GDC Europe talk that “we should learn from films” when it comes to injecting emotion into games.

But there were plenty of developers talking about emotional responses to non-film-like games too. Gone Home was mentioned numerous titles, for example, while the aforementioned Massimo Guarini is currently building an entire game around emotion, as players take his Murasaki Baby by the hand and guide her through fear and elation.

There’s still a long way to go, no doubt, until we can truly claim that video games stir up the range of emotions that other mediums have been mustering up for years. But the overall impression I got this week is that plenty of steps are being taken in the right direction.

Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls Expansion Announced at Gamescom 2013 (GameSpot.com)

Well, this announcement surprised me. Diablo 3 was widely hailed as a massive failure for the franchise. I did not expect an expansion this quickly. But, heck, a new class, a new act, level cap increase to 70, and new loot mechanics sound great to me!

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New Diablo III expansion will include a new character class, a new act, and new loot mechanics.

Blizzard has officially announced the Diablo III expansion Reaper of Souls at Gamescom 2013.

Game director Josh Mosqueira introduced the new expansion during a Blizzard press conference at Gamescom 2013. Mosquiera said the game will feature a brand-new fifth act to pit players against new villain Malthael, a fallen angel. The expansion will take a darker tone than the original Diablo III campaign, Blizzard adds, and will be set in the gothic environment Westmarch.

Blizzard did not mention a release date for Reaper of Souls.

Reaper of Souls will introduce a new class, the Crusader, and increase the level cap to 70. All of the game’s classes will get new skills, passive abilities, and runes. The Crusader class is a descendent of the Paladin order and includes a version of the Fist of the Heavens skill seen in Diablo II.

Mosqueira said Diablo III’s end-game content would also be improved with a new feature, Loot Runs, and an upgrade to the Paragon system. Loot Runs will be entirely randomly generated dungeons designed to take between 15 and 20 minutes to complete, and the Paragon mechanic will now be account-wide, will have no cap, and will allow players to modify the base stats of their characters.

Blizzard says it wants to change the game’s philosophy towards loot, with the expansion now dropping less but better loot. Using the example of a playthrough in Act III, the Reaper of Souls expansions dropped 73 white items as opposed to 256 in the original game. The Act III playthrough also dropped six legendary items, as opposed to one in a Diablo III run.

Legendary items in Reaper of Souls will also now tailor themselves around character builds, adds Blizzard, such as a wizard weapon that has a chance to summon a hydra when killing an enemy. The mystic artisan will also return, allowing players to transmogrify items and tailor the look of characters. The mystic will also be able to enchant items.

The company had previously hinted at the expansion with a teaser website and the promise of a “special announcement” at the European trade show.

Diablo III launched on PC and Mac in May 2012. Blizzard will be bringing Diablo III to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in September, and to the PlayStation 4 in 2013.

Sony Conference @ Gamescom: Announces PS4 Launch, Games

Thankfully for PS4 fans around the world, timers everywhere can begin counting down to launch day. Unfortunately for Europeans, Aussies, and New Zealanders, they have to wait two weeks longer than North America.

Today’s conference was ripe with tons of additional news. Thanks to GameSided.com, we have a full rundown of the big announcements from today’s conference.

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Today Sony held their gamescom conference, in which they revealed the release date of the PS4. Above is a link to the entirety of the conference, but here are some of the highlights from the event. There are a lot, so we’ll cover them in quick succession if you don’t have 90 minutes to watch the video.

-The conference started out with Sony Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida showing off the UI of the PlayStation 4 while playing Killzone Shadow Fall. It looks really sleek and simple, a blessing for a Sony UI that has always seemed to falter. Yoshida sat in a chair onstage, with his back facing the audience. He then made this tweet using the PlayStation 4:

Shuhei Yoshida
@yosp
Let’s start the show 🙂 pic.twitter.com/R8nPJXJpqe

Gran Turismo 6 starts off the gamescom showcase, showing what appears to be almost real-life vehicles. It will be coming to the PS3 on December 6th, 2013. Also, a feature film is in production based on the Gran Turismo series.

LittleBigPlanet Hub will be a free-to-play game launching later this year to little appraise from the crowd. It will serve as free access, allowing you to create levels and maps, but also mentions that you can “buy other fun stuff at the touch of a button.” It seems like it will follow Project Spark’s F2P model in giving you an entry pack and allowing you to but further content as it is released.

Grand Theft Auto V will be coming in a PS3 bundle, which is not new information. What is news is that if you pre-order GTA V through the PlayStation Store, you will get 75% off of other Rockstar Games titles, as well as DLC. That’s a nice bonus.

PS Vita got a huge shout out at the proceedings. The biggest news from the discussion of the handheld is that the PS Vita finally got a price cut. It will run at $199 in North America and 199 Euros, as well as a drastic reduction of the price of memory cards.

Murasaki Baby was announced at gamescom as a PS Vita title that utilizes the Vita’s touchpad. It looks like the art style of Machinarium with a bit more color and plays like a platformer.

Big Fest was announced as a free-to-play music festival simulator for the PS Vita, with a twist. Sony has partnered with Jamendo to bring real, unsigned bands and their music catalog to the game. You can then promote these bands in your own festival and share it with friends and online strangers. Who knows, you could be responsible for helping the next supergroup reach fame through a video game. Both Murasaki Baby and Big Fest show just how varied the handheld’s games can be.

Mark Cerny, PlayStation 4 architect, spoke about the console. A graphic behind him displays “designing the world’s most powerful console” as Cerny states his drive to make a console 10 times more powerful than the PS3. It is also noted that the PlayStation 4 will support Unity for game development, self-publishing and have been working with innovative teams to make bringing games to Sony much easier to accomplish.

-The following games will be making console exclusive debuts on either the PS4 or PS Vita: Rogue Legacy, The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, N++, Volume, Guns of Icarus Online, Wasteland Kings and Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number. A full list is detailed here.

Michael Denny announced that Sony Worldwide Studios and its 14 gaming subsidiaries will play a key factor in the growth of the PS4. Sony Santa Monica, Naughty Dog and Media Molecule are working on unannounced titles for the console. He also announced Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture with a short trailer. The game is a spiritual successor to Dear Esther, so expect a story-driven title. RIME was also announced to be coming to the PlayStation 4, which looks like a cross between Ico and Zelda Wind Waker, stylistically. Helldivers, Resogun, a PS4-exclusive re-imagining of Shadow of the Beast and Playroom information was all revealed in an onslaught of gaming news.

Twitch.tv will be coming to the PlayStation 4. You can use the in-system streaming device to stream gameplay directly to followers, reducing the potential need for capture devices like Elgato. Furthermore, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe president Jim Ryan announced brokered deals with European ISP’s to bring exclusive internet bundles with gaming in mind, including 200 mb/s packages.

Sony Music Unlimited will be available on PS4 launch. It will allow you to play games and music at the same time.

PlayStation Plus will be given a 14 day free trial to all new PlayStation 4 owners. Doing so near launch will give you Instant Gaming Collection access to DriveClub and Resogun. PS+ will also provide Assassin’s Creed III for free in September.

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag featured some gameplay footage, including remote play access using the PS Vita. They really wanted to show off the value of the PS Vita in coordination with the PS4, as “almost all PS4 games can be played remotely on the Vita.”

-A Watch_Dogs movie is apparently in the works. WHY? Nobody knows. They also showed off PS4-exclusive content in a trailer.

-Viewers were shocked to find out that Minecraft is coming to the PlayStation 4 at launch. It was assumed to be an Xbox One exclusive before. Also, War Thunder will be console-exclusive to the PS4.

-Andrew House hit the stage, which could only mean one thing. That’s right, he brought the thunder with a $199 12 GB PS3 bundle, PS4 cross-gen discounts for owners of the PS3 copies of certain games, over 1 million pre-orders of the PS4, a devilishly fun jab at the Xbox One’s constant changing of console message and a PS4 release date of November 15 in North America and November 29th in Europe.

With that, the event came to a close. IGN also happened to pick up on “Magma Red and Wave Blue” alternative PS4 controllers for sale at the end of the year. Now if they only provide multiple launch colors for the PlayStation 4! Either way, that’s it for a big day in video game conferences.

GameSiders, what was your favorite part of the announcement today? The November 15th release? PS Vita price cut? Let us know below!

Gamescom 2013: Live Streams and Product Announcements

Much like with other gamer and tech conferences around the world, Gamescom has tens of thousands of participants, all clamoring to play test their favorite upcoming games, see new tech, and be clued in on the latest product announcements from companies such as Microsoft, EA, and Sony.

Here are a few of of the livestream sites available to participate (in a long distance kinda way) in Cologne, Germany’s gamer fest, along with VG 24/7’s laundry list of what’s what and who’s who for Gamescom 2013.

Sony’s PS4 @ Gamescom

Engadget’s Coverage

IGN’s EA and Sony Coverage

EA’s Live Coverage

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It’s that time of year again, when the gaming press descends on Cologne to check out the biggest games the industry has to offer and ruin their colons with meat. Pat, Sam and I will be there all of next week to play the games, attend the showcases and speak with the developers.

To re-cap everything that we’ll be seeing at the show, I’ve compiled this handy guide to make sure you don’t miss a conference or title. (Note: we will be hosting Sony and EA’s streams in separate pages on the big day, so be sure to check back Tuesday!)

First up…

The conferences:

EA: Tuesday, August 20 – 3pm UK / 4pm Europe / 7am Pacific

We know that EA is bringing at least Titanfall, Battlefield 4, Need for Speed: The Rivals, FIFA 14 and Command & Conquer to gamescom following the publisher’s blog on the matter.

The publisher has made a bit of noise about The Sims 4, which it said will be revealed in full at gamescom, and our money is on an appearance during the EA conference itself.

We’re also expecting to hear more about Dragon Age: Inquisition at the show following its big reveal in this month’s issue of Game Informer, but we’ll find out at the show.

Sony: Tuesday, August 20 – 6pm UK / 7pm Europe / 10am Pacific

Sony has already confirmed that its gamescom event will focus on PS4, and we’re hoping to hear a solid release date for the console during the show. UPDATE: Looks like that will happen, yes.

There’s also the little matter of this rumoured PS4 and PS Vita bundle that may or may not make an appearance. Steph and I recently called round some retailers to ask if it was a real bundle and they had no clue what we were talking about, so it seems unlikely.

It seems likely that games like Killzone: Shadow Fall, inFamous: Second Son, Driveclub, The Order: 1886 will be there in some form although we can’t say for certain yet. We’re still waiting for that LittleBigPlanet 3 announcement too.

Who and what?

Microsoft: Xbox One will be the company’s big focus at gamescom and if rumours are to be believed Microsoft’s presence will yield at least one new game announcement. Gamers seem to think it’s either Crackdown 3 or Fable 4. Truth be told we have no idea yet.

Crackdown’s agility orb logo was spotted during Microsoft’s Xbox One reveal back in May and Phil Spencer has been harping on about it a lot lately. Could this be the elusive, mystery game?

Microsoft’s stance on self-publishing was also pegged for discussion during gamescom before details on the reversal were leaked ahead of time. Microsoft’s Marc Whitten confirmed that the company would issue more details on the policy in Cologne.

Were also hoping to hear more on the Xbox One release dates, which may or may not go down at some point during gamescom. With the console out before year’s end and a TGS announcement unlikely, this is the best place for Microsoft to drop a date on us.

Game-wise we’re hoping for Dead Rising 3, Kinect Sports: Rivals, Project Spark, Forza Motorsport 5, Ryse: Son of Rome, Killer Instinct and more, but we’ll have to wait for the gamescom’s doors to open to find out more.

Nintendo: The Japanese giant makes its return to gamescom this year with a suite of Wii U and 3DS titles on the public show floor. On Wii U Nintendo will bring, “Pikmin 3, The Wonderful 101, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD, Sonic Lost World, Wii Party U, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Super Mario 3D World, Wii Karaoke U, Mario Kart 8.

On 3DS Nintendo will be giving fans a chance to play Pokémon X and Pokémon Y, Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. It’s a strong showing from the company which is something of a bounce-back after last year’s no-show.

Ubisoft: While the company isn’t holding its usual conference at gamescom this year, it is promising to bring a new next-gen IP to the show. Current rumours suggest it’s Child of Light by Ubisoft Montreal. There’s also these Fighter Within domain registrations to consider.

Seeing as the publisher isn’t holding its own pre-show event, you can expect this reveal to go down at Sony’s conference. We’re none the wiser on what it is, although we can also expect showings from Watch Dogs, Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag and The Crew.

Square Enix: Final Fantasy is a big focus for Square this year. The company recently spilled details of its Gamescom 2013 showing, which will give the public plenty of hands-on and demo sessions to look forward to.

We know that Thief, Murdered: Soul Suspect, Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn, Final Fantasy X & X-2 HD Remaster, Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy 13, Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX and Deus Ex: The Fall will be there. There’s no word on Final Fantasy 15 however.

Activison: Blizzard has confirmed it will announce something to do with Diablo 3 at the show, which we’re going to guess will be news on the first expansion or something about the PS4 build.

We’re also expecting to hear more about Call of Duty: Ghosts multiplayer following its big August 14 reveal and of course we’re hoping to get another glimpse of Destiny on the show floor.

Konami: Sorry Metal Gear Solid 5 fans, only Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 and PES 2014 are playable at this year’s gamescom, but that’s still something to get excited for.

Bethesda: The company has confirmed that The Elder Scrolls Online will be playable at gamescom and we wouldn’t be overly-surprised if Wolfenstein: The New Order and The Evil Within were to rear their heads at some point too.

Deep Silver: The publisher will bring it’s newly-announced MOBA Dead Island: Epidemic to Cologne, and Wasteland 2 developer inXile has confirmed it will bring the game to the show floor.

Other games we’re hoping will be at the show, but haven’t been confirmed at the time of writing:

  • Batman: Arkham Origins
  • Eve Online
  • Dark Souls 2
  • Dust 514
  • Half-Life 3 (totes jokes yo)
  • Hawken
  • Hotline Miami 2
  • Payday 2
  • Mad Max
  • Space Hulk
  • Star Citizen
  • War of the Vikings
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
  • World of Tanks Xbox 360
  • WWE 14

No-shows:

  • Capcom
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