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Apr. 19th, 2007

09:17 pm - Street Trace: NYC Interview

So... here it is, the Gaia Industries interview. It's been well worth the wait for this one and it looks like we will be seeing the game very soon.

Hello, thank you for taking time out to talk to me. Let’s start with the obvious: what is Street Trace: NYC?

[Damon] It’s an underground sport borne of the invention and abuse of anti-gravity technology. The Street ‘Tracers,’ compete in a series of tournaments involving racing and arena battle, equipped with their jet-boards and all-in-one gun. That’s it in a nutshell anyway – but there’s actually a giant world we’ve developed – we have a script for the first season of the series plus the first comic book and will be online and available at launch.

 

How was Street Trace born? Did one person come up with the idea and pitch it to the rest of the team or was it an idea that developed slowly over time?

[Damon] Yeah more like over time. A lot of time J. The latest version of the game was started over two years ago and we built the stories and backgrounds while building an initial demo and the big design doc. We met up with Microsoft at E3 2005 and they were really keen on the game but I think everyone was a little skeptical about us actually realizing this on XBLA in under 50MB… even us. We figured we could do it though and that it would be the ideal platform given the massive multiplayer components to the game and Microsoft’s pedigree in that area on the XBOX, and now 360. The ideas, while initially developed by a small team eventually became the coordinated effort of the entire team. It’s pretty organic here – which lends, we believe, to stronger final content but the downside is we invest a lot more time in our dreams.

 

How did you go about getting Street Trace onto XBOX live arcade?

[Jeff] Once the Microsoft Arcade team got behind the project, they sent us the 360 dev kits and we started writing the engine and building the art. The XBOX Arcade team is great to work with. They make sure you are thinking about achievements, leaderboards and the things that make this platform great right from day one. We started a few months before the launch of the 360 so some of this stuff hadn’t occurred to us yet.

 

How long has the game been in development?

[Jeff] The game was in pre-production for about 8 months and has been in full swing development for about 20 months. We expected to release the game much sooner, but we’ve invested a lot of time into perfecting it as much as possible.

 

What stage of development is it in currently?

[Damon] It’s in cert so fingers and toes crossed!

 

You previously announced that Street Trace: NYC would be released in February. What happened to change that?

[Damon] Well we did a ton of user-testing from our events here in NYC and then we made some final changes and tweaks based on that feedback. We spent so long on Street Trace that we want to make sure that everything was seriously tight and seriously fun – both single player and multiplayer.

 

Did you encounter any interesting problems during development?

[Jeff] Most people like to ask about the 50MB limit when talking about the problems of XBLA but this wasn’t a big deal to us. The team had a lot of technical experience on various games and platforms so we squeezed a pretty detailed 3D world with a nice graphic novel style onto the 50MB limit relatively easily. However, this was our first big game working together, so yes there were certainly interesting problems. Any good creative collaborative effort needs time to find its process when there is lots of passion and vision involved. We eventually found ours and the product speaks for itself. On top of people working together for the first time you have all of the new studio issues as well; you work through them.

 

How does the combat aspect of the game work?

[Jeff] There are 4 different weapons, each with its own purpose. The combat is a good blend of action and strategy, the challenge being how you use your weapons based on the given situation. The player’s objectives change within the game depending on the type of game, the environment or who is in the lead. You could be trying to take down as many people as you can,  trying to get to a flag, trying to take out a target, trying to hold onto a lead in a race or trying to run away and hide (which is difficult). The mines are great in some of the tighter arenas and for trying to hold onto first in a race. The laser is a great precision weapon from a distance or in open spaces, excellent for taking out a flag carrier. Stampedes (it fires a spread of heavy, bouncing projectiles) are great for clearing a path during a race and can also be used as kind of “sawed off” shotgun if you’re quick enough to get someone up close. The heat seeking rockets are a great mid-range weapon for knocking someone off of their board but are tougher to use in closer quarters. The board also plays a factor as it has shields, jump, engine and boost units that can all be upgraded along with the guns. Boost really helps for escaping and jump is great for maneuvering around the arenas and hitting shortcuts in the races. Shields are important as well, you won’t get far near the end of a long tournament if you haven’t upgraded your shields a bit.

 

How smart is the AI? Will one AI player act differently from another?

 [Damon] The AI has come a long way and is now mad fun. Initially we found this real difficult as you’re moving so fast and there’s so much to take into account. The AI is pretty forgiving in the early championships to allow novices to find their groove and get to know the levels. The later tournaments are a real test to your ability though – you’ll have to be quick, smart, know the areas, and upgrade using the correct strategies if you want to win Gold. If you want to win Platinum then you might have to go online and get some real human training as this is crazy tough. All of the AI players exhibit different behaviors based on their personality. Bombzonie is a nutcase so you do well to stay away from him in Takedown games; Demon is quick but his defenses can be exploited; Barren is a nippy all-rounder and really the one to watch out for in the later tourneys. You actually feel like you're playing human players in the later AI tournaments and we’re really excited to have finally reached that goal.

 

Take me through the controls.

[Damon] Alright.

Left stick is your movement – left, right, and pull back to lift up your board (for bigger jumps + hitting ramps)

 

The buttons give you the advanced board control…

A – Jump (hold this down when upgraded to fly the board momentarily)

B – Boost – you’ll use this a lot in the races and in modes Hunter and Flag.

X – Board Off – very cool feature.  Tap it to scrape the board and pull tighter turns in races or hold it down and swiftly yank your board around in arena combat.

Y – Grind – hold it down to grind on rails – once on a rail you lock to it so you can use the left control stick to aim and lock on to opponents.

 

The triggers and bumpers are your weapons…

Right Bumper – pulse – quick fire laser – great for sniping when it’s upgraded.

Right Trigger – rockets – big damage, heat seeking rockets – lock on to ensure the hit.

Left Bumper – mines – they’ll bounce where you drop them for 5 seconds.

Left Trigger – stampede – fires an arc-dispersed-foray of bouncing projectiles

 

What is the game’s most exciting feature?

[Damon]Multiplayer tournaments. Within the first game everyone is screaming profanities.

[Jeff] Agreed, the multiplayer cash tournaments, although I seem to be more competitive at the pickup tournaments, I haven’t figured out where all the cash is yet.

 

What’s your favourite game mode?

[Damon] Flag, as long as Adrian isn’t playing.

[Jeff] Hunter, it’s a great cat and mouse game. You really need to anticipate what the other players are going to do.

 

Do you plan to release any downloadable content?

[Damon] Yeah, themes and gamerpics definitely. 

 

Is there anything else you would like to add?

[Damon] We’re gonna be putting up some videos of the game and the events we’ve had (probably around launch) so check them out soon. Also, we really wanna get across just how much fun this game is and how much depth there is so we’re gonna be running some cool tournaments after launch. So get the game, get trained up, and start kicking some @ss.

 

Last words for gamers?

[Jeff] Take a quick break from chainsawing your friends and download the demo.

 

After that fantastic interview I am sure that I will be downloading the game at launch, see you all online (you know I'll be beating you).

Feb. 23rd, 2007

09:03 pm - Preview of Wing Commander Arena

There is a hands-on preview with, newly announced, Wing Commander Arena over at 1up.com. The game will be published by EA and developed by Gaia (the company behind Street Trace:NYC).

http://www.1up.com/do/previewPage?cId=3157440

Feb. 22nd, 2007

10:01 pm - A fantastic NinjaBee interview.

Steve Taylor sent me this link to a great NinjaBee interview. Check it out, it's a must-read!

http://www.rampantgames.com/blog/2007/02/console-indie-interview-with-steve.html

05:08 pm - Even more interviews coming soon.

Here's a full list (probably in order) of all the interviews that will be appearing on this site shortly:

  1. Jeff Minter- Space Giraffe
  2. Gaia Industries- Street Trace: NYC
  3. Denis Bourdain- Mad Tracks
  4. Naked Sky Entertainment- Roboblitz
  5. Joe Pishgar- Catan
  6. Jeremy Throckmorton and Steve Taylor- Band of Bugs
Look out for them over the next few days.

04:49 pm - Inteview with Martyn Brown of Team17

For the first of many interviews I had a chat with Martyn Brown (studio director of Team17) about the upcoming Xbox live arcade game ‘Worms’. Worms is a fun, turn-based strategy game that is part of the Worms franchise which has been around since 1994. Although the Worms franchise was originally 2D many of the most recent games have been 3D. The xbla version will make a welcome return to 2D.

 
In previous interviews Martyn has already said that this version will be more basic (less weapons and game options) than some previous editions of
Worms
. In my interview I have tried to find out more about this highly anticipated game.

 

1. Worms on Xbox live arcade has a long history, take us through the story so far.

We met with a Microsoft executive at a Publisher-Developer event in Lyon (Game Connection) back in late 2004. Soon after, we were contacted by the then Xenon team in
Seattle and they wanted to enquire about Worms for a new digital platform. We’d heard it all before (new world-beating system etc) and besides, we were pretty busy at the studio, so despite talks rumbling on, kits being sent out, discussions of a 3rd party doing the game, things broke down after a while – and that was really Team17’s doing – despite their (and Ross Erickson’s) pressure Worms wouldn’t be a launch title. Then in late 2005 we saw Live Arcade on launch. It took about 5 seconds to realise they were right and Worms needed to be on there. A few phone calls later and the ball was rolling again, much to Microsoft’s and Ross’s delight.
 
2. Please confirm what is new for this version of the game.
  
We’ve not brought anything dramatically new into this title other than really embellished it for the platform; HD visuals, live multiplayer (and Leaderboards) and made to feel comfortable on the 360.   
 
3. I think that the decision to return
Worms to its roots is fantastic, the ‘re-balanced’ weapon set will really enhance the strategic element of the game. However, in OXM’s review of the game they criticised it because it doesn’t include as many weapons as some previous Worms games. Please reiterate the reasons behind the decision.

There are a few reasons really. Firstly, we’ve tried to widen the appeal of the game by making it less hardcore. New players to the old series were often battered and bruised by their online escapades, which put a lot of people off. Too many options and wildly imbalanced weapon sets were very unfriendly and the highly competitive nature tended to give things a sour taste. With the current weapon set (which harks back to the core, tense strategic game play) it’s a lot more clearer and whilst it’s still skill based, it’s a lot easier for new players to feel more involved and less “noob” if you like. The OTT large weapons, whilst amusing in one-off shots, tended to imbalance the game even further and move it away from it’s core values. We realise that some people may miss that stuff, but we believe the game is much stronger for it. Most of the humour in
Worms comes from the banter between players and the outrageous chain reactions, all of which is present in healthy doses here.
    
 
4. In another interview you said that all of the data for
Worms (the main game plus downloadable content) comes to around 500mb. That’s a lot of downloadable content seeing as the game on its own is under 50mb. Will any downloadable content be available at the launch of the game?
 
That actually includes a lot of audio tracks and also FMV, which is perhaps less important in the core content. We expect additional themes and voice-sets to be available from the off, with more to follow soon after and over the months.

 
5. One of my favourite features of
Worms is the voice packs. Could you give an example of one that will be available?
    
We envisage that most, if not all, the classic voice packs will be made available over time. We’re currently discussing the release calendar for this kind of stuff.

 
6. Weapon packs haven’t been mentioned as downloadable content. Is there any chance that we will see them in the future?
    
None, I’m afraid. This goes hand in hand with what I was saying earlier, you need to know that everyone has the same weapons and what the strategies will be. Whilst players can adjust the weapon scheme (contents, availability etc) having different players with essentially different game versions wouldn’t be great (or useful).

 
7.
Worms has been developed for so many different formats, how does Xbox live arcade compare?
    
We didn’t really have many problems until it came to the certification/testing loop which has rumbled on somewhat. There’s a lot of house-keeping required for all the dashboard features and it takes a fair while to test/repeat-test all that stuff.
 
8. Have you got any plans for more games on Xbox live arcade?
    
Sure, but I can’t say what.
 
9. Are there any Xbox live arcade games (other than
Worms) that you particularly admire? Why?
    
I like a bunch of XBLA titles, I LOVE hexic and obviously Geometry Wars. I’m looking forward to the board games too. I play most of the XBLA releases, aside from the retro releases really.
 
10. Have you got anything else you would like to say to
Worms fans?

I just hope everyone enjoys the game and plays with a good spirit – and that means no quitting, being hospitable etc – the community will be made or broken BY the community! GLHF!

Feb. 21st, 2007

05:03 pm - Apologies

I previously posted here that Band of bugs wouldn't be released before IGF. This is NOT necessarily true. I posted it because I misunderstood a comment Steve Taylor made to me in an email.



I am sorry for the misunderstanding.


The interview is still scheduled for the near future.

04:50 pm - Exciting news!

I can now confirm some upcoming features!


There will soon be an interview with Jeff Minter (Space Giraffe) and Martyn Brown (Worms). There will also be an interview with Jeremy Throckmorton (Band of bugs) after Band of bugs is released. That’s a lot of interviews.

Feb. 20th, 2007

07:27 pm - Introductions

Welcome to xbla info!

This site will host news and features about xbox live arcade and some of the fantastic games available on it. I am hoping to "kick start" the site with some truly unique features... stay tuned.