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    Capcom's version of Red Dead Revolver was a very weird game.

    News Matthew Byrd
    Sep 28, 2018

    A new video from YouTube channel People Make Games explores Capcom's bizarre version of Red Dead Revolver

    Yes, in case you didn't know, Capcom was the original publisher of Red Dead Revolver. Initially developed by a studio named Angel Studios, Red Dead Revolver was supposed to be released as a Capcom title. That plan hit a bit of a snag in 2002 when Take-Two Interactive acquired Angel Studios and renamed them Rockstar San Diego. It seems that the initial plan was for Rockstar and Capcom to work together on the project. However, Capcom decided to "cancel" the game in 2003 following what they felt was a lack of progress. Rockstar Games then acquired the rights to the Red Dead Revolverseries in order to publish it under the Rockstar label.  

    It seems that Capcom's Red Deadactually started as a project called SWAT. That game utilized a four-person split-screen that allowed you to control four members of a S.W.A.T. team at once. As the video noted, the project bore a strange resemblance to a game known as Hired Guns which was developed by DMA Design; the studio that would go on to make the Grand Theft Auto series and become known as Rockstar North. 

    The story goes that a Capcom executive decided to abandon that project after he watched a western movie starring Ringo Starr (yes, that Ringo Starr) and became enthusiastic about making a western game. SWAT soon stood for "Spaghetti Western Action Title" (slow clap), was eventually renamed Red Dead Revolver, and work on the project's new direction began right away.

    According to Dominic Craig, a former Rockstar designer who worked on Red Dead Revolver, the original version of the game wasn't very fun. He describes it as being somewhere between Panzer Dragoon and "the really bad Japanese action games that were coming out in the early 2000s." Craig seems to suggest that the biggest problem with the project at the time was its awful control scheme and dated feel. 

    Actually, the whole project sounded like a bit of a mess at that time. Characters were basically inside jokes meant to represent people within the studio. The game's story was little more than an homage to old westerns that had little to say on its own account. In fact, the original version of the protagonist was basically a ghost who was looking for revenge against its killers (which was based on High Plains Drifter). That's kind of a cool idea, but the problem was that there were a lot of cool and weird ideas being tossed around for the game that nobody could seem to make work when it came time to polish the final product. That led to numerous delays. 

    Eventually, Capcom agreed to let Rockstar pick-up the project under the condition that Capcom was allowed to publish the game in Japan if it was ever finished. It's been suggested that Capcom was also trying to secure the rights to publish Grand Theft Auto in Japan as part of this deal. Once Rockstar had the game, they requested that Rockstar San Diego tone some of the game's more absurd elements (even though the final game was still pretty crazy). Rockstar San Diego also took that time to give the game a much stronger overall narrative and fix its originally loathsome controls. That's how we ended up with the Red Dead Revolver we eventually played. 

    While most of Red Dead Revolver was scrapped when it came time for Rockstar to develop Red Dead Redemption, that wasn't the original plan. Initially, Redemptionwas supposed to be a sequel to Revolver that followed the protagonist from the first game (Nate Harlow) as he and his son are forced to abandon their quiet life as they run from men who want to kill Harlow for murdering the Governor. Aspects of that story did eventually make their way into Red Dead Redemption.  


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    The Street Fighter EX star will be a guest fighter in SNK's all-female King of Fighters spinoff. Also, Skullo's a lady now. Sure, why not.

    News Gavin Jasper
    Sep 28, 2018

    As if Bowsette weren’t enough, now we’re getting a more official example of Rule 63 in a video game. Earlier this month, SNK released the unorthodox fighting game SNK Heroines Tag Team Frenzy. The two-on-two King of Fightersspinoff features a cast of all female fighters, as well as a gender-switched Terry Bogard. Now, SNK has revealed the game's first DLC character and it’s a bit of a doozy.

    Joining the ladies will be Skullomania from Street Fighter EX and Arika’s new game EX Fighting Layer. Coincidentally, Terry Bogard will be showing up in EX Fighting Layer sometime soon, making this guest character business a little quid pro quo. I would have rather seen Skullomania show up in a proper King of Fighters game, but I’ll take what I can get.

    Skullomania will also be a woman because that’s just par for the course.

    FURTHER READING: THE 25 BEST FIGHTING GAME GUEST CHARACTERS

    Skullomania first appeared in Street Fighter EX in late 1996, back when 3D graphics were a huge novelty. Arika developed the game, as well as its sequels, with both classic Street Fightercharacters and an original cast. Skullomania was one of the more popular and memorable inclusions. He was a Japanese businessman who was tasked with dressing up like a superhero for a promotional appearance, only to get bitten by the bug (metaphorical, not literal like Peter Parker) and begin a crime-fighting career while dressed as a skeleton.

    Only recently did Arika bring back Skullomania and the rest of their original characters for EX Fighting Layer. Hence the need for cross-promotion. Coincidentally, the tagline, “Friend or Foe? Enter the Skullolady,” is taken from Skullomania’s Street Fighter EX 3 ending. Full respect for the obscure reference.

    Skullomania will be available for SNK Heroines Tag Team Frenzy on Oct. 11.

    Gavin Jasper writes for Den of Geek and is glad to see that Skullomania is running wild, brother. Read more of his articles here and follow him on Twitter @Gavin4L


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    Mortal Kombat's co-creator shares an uncomfortable truth about Spider-Man's fights.

    News Matthew Byrd
    Sep 28, 2018

    Ed Boon, Creative Director of NetherRealm Studios and co-creator of the Mortal Kombat series, has shared what he imagined Spider-Man PS4 would have looked like if his studio had made the game. 

    No, it's not a serious take on that concept. Instead, it's a gif/video that has been edited to include some very Mortal Kombat elements in the base Spider-Man game for PS4. Specifically, it shows Spider-Man beating up his foes as usual, but this time we get to see the very real damage that such tremendous blows would cause via a Mortal Kombat-like x-ray camera system. 

    The footage is not only genuinely well edited, but it addresses an odd problem with Insomniac's Spider-Man: the fact that Spider-Man arguably kills quite a few people during the course of his adventure. We see in this video that you can certainly make the argument that some of Spider-Man's normal fights would result in the deaths of quite a few bad guys, but there are also instances in the game where Spider-Man does things like punch people off buildings. Some of those thugs are caught and trapped by a mysterious web, but others are allowed to float right to the ground.

    In any case, Insomniac seems to approve of this interpretation of their game. Their Twitter account replied to Ed Boon with the message"You’d be seeing some inner INNER Demons then!!"

    So what is Ed Boon actually working on? Don't ask us. The man has been teasing Mortal Kombat projects for quite some time now, but we've yet to see any definitive prove that anything is actually being done with the franchise. Of course, NetherRealm did make the amazing Injustice and Injustice 2 fighting games, so there is some precedent for them being allowed to work with superheroes.

    All the same, we doubt that Marvel will let them take this approach with their characters. 

    Matthew Byrd is a staff writer for Den of Geek. He spends most of his days trying to pitch deep-dive analytical pieces about Killer Klowns From Outer Space to an increasingly perturbed series of editors. You can read more of his work here or find him on Twitter at @SilverTuna014


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    Assassin's Creed Odyssey takes the series to Ancient Greece. Is this new entry worth the trip? Here's our review!

    Release Date: October 5, 2018
    Platform: PS4 (reviewed), XBO, PC
    Developer: Ubisoft Quebec
    Publisher: Ubisoft
    Genre: Action-Adventure

    It’s easy to take a franchise like Assassin’s Creed for granted when a new title drops just about annually, but the long-running series continues to thrive over ten years after its debut. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey transports players to ancient Greece, a rich milieu that developer Ubisoft Quebec harnesses to inspire new gameplay features that significantly change the classic AC formula. The game world is vast and varied, and while stealth and parkour-style traversal remain the focus of the experience, combat and exploration receive major enhancements, making this one of the most well-rounded entries in the franchise’s history.

    The game begins by asking you to choose your hero, either Kassandra or Alexios. They’re siblings but unlike twins Jacob and Evie Frye in AC: Syndicate, you’ll only be able to play as one of them throughout the campaign. It’s a major decision that alters the game from top to bottom depending on who you choose, and it’s the first taste of Odyssey’s strong focus on choice. A new dialogue system allows players to explore branching story paths, which adds an element of agency to the experience that, while featured in countless other action RPGs, feels like a breath of fresh air for this franchise.

    Related Article: How the Assassin's Creed Franchise Was Born

    One of the pervading issues with open-world RPGs is that these games are so gigantic and long that the story often gets drowned in the deluge of quests, side quests, and side-side quests that dominate the experience. One is often compelled to skip through the story bits to get through the zillion tasks peppering the world map, but Odyssey makes a valiant effort to combat this by telling a really, really good story.

    At its heart, the game is an epic family drama revolving around Kassandra, Alexio, and their parents, who they’re separated from at an early age in gut-wrenchingly tragic fashion. The campaign sees you trekking, climbing, and sailing across Greece to piece together the true nature of that fateful moment. You choose who or who not to befriend, trust, forgive, and of course, kill. Giving players the power of choice in a narrative is nothing new, but because the story is so well told and the drama is so juicy (plot twists abound), the dialogue system doesn’t feel like a cheap gimmick but rather an effective storytelling device.

    Buy Assassin's Creed Odyssey

    Odyssey is customizable through and through, from the different pieces of weapons and gear you collect on your adventures to the special abilities you utilize in combat (melee and ranged) and stealth, to the way you treat the dozens of side characters you’ll meet as you explore the sprawling game world. This is, of course, a ubiquitous design approach in modern games, but more often than not these branching paths result in a story that doesn’t have the purity of vision of a linear game. Ubisoft Quebec, however, tells the central family’s story so well that it acts as a sort of narrative foundation on which all other things are built. There are at least a dozen cutscenes that elicit real, raw emotion, which is incredibly hard to do in a medium that bookends cinematic moments with spinning loading icons.

    Another thing that earns Odysseya spot in the ACPantheon is its well-balanced gameplay. In my experience, this is the first game in the franchise in which the combat is the most solid pillar of gameplay (this is fitting considering the setting, which is full of warring Athenians and Spartans, a Greek city-state almost exclusively associated with bloody violence and poor souls being cinematically kicked off of cliffs). Melee combat is a blast, with snappy action and a tight dodge and parrying system that is fast and responsive, but feels weighty, which is most noticeable when wielding some of the heavier weapons.

    Related Article: No New Assassin's Creed Game in 2019

    There are seven weapon types, which feel unique in use, come with their own strengths and weaknesses, and can be leveled up and enhanced with “engravings,” which slightly boost stats. Armor is upgradeable as well, and as in previous titles, dressing your hero up in shiny, colorful, often ill-matching gear is a pleasure. “Assassin Abilities” are arranged in a rudimentary tree system, but the skills themselves are all fun to employ. The aforementioned Spartan kick is the standout (launching unwitting victims off of high ledges with a forceful punt never, ever gets old), but others, like the ability to slow down time and hack enemies with lightning speed, or the ability to light your weapons on fire, are just as satisfying.

    Enemy encounters occur on the side of the road, in near-impenetrable fortresses, and in makeshift bandit camps, but all of the gory displays of guts and glory are separated by miles and miles of sunbaked Greek countryside, majestic mountains, gaping canyons, and lots of water to sail across to your heart’s content on your ship, with your trusty crew of seafarers. The largest chunk of play time is spent traversing the staggeringly big game world, which could be a drag but absolutely isn’t.

    This game is an ode to mother nature in the way Horizon: Zero Dawn is, populating the landscapes with enough quests, enemy encampments, hidden caves, and wildlife to keep you busy, but spreading them out wide enough to allow you ample opportunity to take in the beauty of the environments, which seem to stretch out as far as the eye can see. The draw distance is ungodly here--while in most previous titles the focus of the famous “synchronization” aerial shots was to take in the historically-accurate architecture in denser cities, Odyssey’s synchronizations act as a showcase for the game’s gorgeous natural environments as opposed to man-made structures.

    There are unfortunately a lot of low-quality textures clearly visible throughout the game, which are distracting at times, but that’s to be expected from a game world this large. Otherwise, the game is definitely a looker, with a day-night cycle that captures natural lighting just right, and environmental effects that, while not state-of-the-art, work in concert to create a stunning presentation.

    Related Article: Why Assassin's Creed Unity Failed, According to Ubisoft

    Exploration is truly gratifying here, and Ubisoft Quebec has implemented a new system of in-game guidance called “Exploration Mode,” which gives players clues as to where their next objective is on the map instead of pointing the location out plainly. You can switch to the old system (which has been used in every other ACgame to date), but this new mode encourages you to forge a bond with the environments, a process that is genuinely fun and immersive.

    The series’ signature climbing and traversal mechanics are as good as ever, though they don’t seem all that improved either. You can scale cliff walls and mountains, which brings The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to mind, but simple things like crawling through windows still feel awkward. Thankfully, the game is mostly about horizontal movement, which is much more manageable than vertical.

    The core gameplay here is truly excellent, but the game’s complexity lies in its inventive quest sub-systems, which see you rising up the mercenary ranks by killing other contract killers in the world, all of whom have their sights set on you as well if the price is right. Knowing these powerful enemies are roaming the world at all times creates a feeling of continuity throughout the game world that really adds more to the experience than maybe Ubisoft Quebec even intended. There are also a couple of other quest trees that see you hunting down members of another equally deadly group of baddies and investigating the origins of the hero’s past, but to go into any further detail would spoil the fun of it. There are several epic battles triggered at key points throughout the game as well, with enemies and allies filling the screen in great numbers as you do your best to tilt the odds in your army’s favor, a la Dynasty Warriors. These sections are a thrill.

    Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey is about as dense a game as you’re going to find on the market. There are so many things to do, characters to meet, quests to complete, weapons to find, and mountains to scale that you’re guaranteed to get your money’s worth for the full price tag (there are also some really cool surprises to be found in the latter half of the game, but again, it wouldn't be right to spoil them here). That being said, there’s nothing revolutionary going on here. The dialogue system, while used incredibly effectively here, is an old idea, and while the combat and exploration are fantastic, the truth is, The Witcher 3 did all of this better, and that’s a three-year-old game. For the most part, this essentially feels like the same AC we’ve been playing for the past five years or so, but that’s not a bad thing. Ubisoft is iterating and improving on a winning formula, and the storytelling here is perhaps as good as it’s ever been in the series.

    Bernard Boo is a freelance contributor. Read more of his work here.

    4/5
    ReviewBernard Boo
    Oct 1, 2018

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    Mega Man 11 is the first major installment in the classic action-platformer series in years. Was it worth the wait? Our review...

    Release Date: October 2, 2018
    Platform: PS4 (reviewed), XBO, Switch, PC
    Developer: Capcom
    Publisher: Capcom
    Genre: Action-Adventure

    There have been some truly great Mega Mangames (2 and 3 come to mind immediately) and some pretty bad ones (like 6 and 7), and plenty that are somewhere in-between. Mega Man 11 adds a fresh coat of a paint to the series and the initially intriguing Double Gear system, but in the end, it just can’t escape feeling like another by-the-numbers Mega Man sequel.

    Let's start with the positives. The Double Gear system is the biggest innovation a mainline Mega Man game has seen in decades. Click one trigger button for the Speed Gear and Mega Man slows down time to dodge attacks. Click another button for the Power Gear and get a powerful new attack. But don’t overuse either or they overheat. When Mega Man’s life is on the line, he can call on the power of both gears for a super powerful shot that leaves him completely drained for a few moments.

    Related Article: 25 Best Mega Man Games Ranked

    The Double Gear system is actually incorporated into the story in some interesting ways, and I had fun experimenting with it at first, but most of the time I forgot about it. It feels kind of gimmicky and even unnecessary.

    The other big change in Mega Man 11 is, of course, the graphics. It’s hard to believe, but this is the first true HD Mega Man game, since the last two titles went back to their retro roots with NES-inspired visuals. The results are largely positive. Finally, Mega Man and the world of 20XX look exactly like the box art we were promised long ago (if not better), and it’s always a welcome sight to see new visual takes of some of the blue bomber’s oldest foes.

    But while this is easily the best looking Mega Man game, the stages themselves aren’t especially interesting to traverse. And most of them incorporate some especially frustrating hazards that will likely have you dying dozens of times (or just lowering the difficulty) before you finally get past them. I found Bounce Man’s stage and its tricky jumps to be especially frustrating, and the constantly creeping fire of Torch Man’s stage is sure to lead to some broken controllers.

    Buy Mega Man 11

    Robot masters themselves are similarly a mixed bag. While Block Man and his extra giant form are a standout encounter, and Acid Man deserves credit for originality, most of these bosses are just variations on the same elemental themes of fire, ice, and electricity we’ve seen for decades now. It’s surprising to see Capcom take a step back from some of the more creative designs of the last few mainline Mega Man games.

    My favorite stages, the ones that best combined new ideas and throwbacks to older titles, were actually the first two Dr. Wily stages. After conquering Dr. Wily, there are some missions and time trials to tackle, but that’s about it. Mega Man games have never been known for their length, but this is an especially barebones offering.

    Related Article: The Best, Worst, and Weirdest Mega Man Bosses

    But the most disappointing part of Mega Man 11 has got to be the soundtrack. In the NES era, Mega Man games were known for having some of the best soundtracks in gaming. A lot of those songs still hold up well. The Mega Man 11's soundtrack, on the other hand, is completely forgettable. It sounds like it could have been composed for any random indie game. Given the franchise’s lineage, it’s just sad how little care apparently went into the music. At least the voice acting and other sound effects are competent though, even if nothing really stands out.

    Mega Man 11 looks great and the controls are as tight as ever, but poor level design, unnecessary new mechanics, and an abysmal soundtrack hold it back from greatness, or even from being one of the better Mega Man games. Hardcore fans will check it out no matter what, but everyone else is better off revisiting the blue bomber’s classic hits instead.

    Chris Freiberg is a freelance contributor. Read more of his work here.

    3/5
    ReviewChris Freiberg
    Oct 1, 2018

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    Some of the worst Acclaim games (including Street Fighter: The Movie) may get a second chance.

    News Matthew Byrd
    Oct 1, 2018

    Liquid Media has purchased the rights to 65 games in the old Acclaim library. 

    The Canadian company purchased the rights to these titles from Throwback Entertainment (a company that acquired the rights to many Acclaim titles after the former video game publisher went out of business in 2004). The rights to these games reportedly cost Liquid Media about $1 million. 

    What did they get for that money? Well, they seemed to have purchased a lot of the games that are largely responsible for Acclaim going out of business in the first place. The full list of titles (which you can find here on Geekwire) includes games like Big FootCutthroat Island, and the infamous Street Fighter: The Movie(the...umm...game). It also includes the rights to some more well-known games like NBA Jam (at least some of the lesser NBA Jam titles), NFL Quarterback ClubBubble Bobble, and some of the Bust A Move games. 

    However, the situation surrounding some of the bigger names on this list is a bit complicated. Just because Liquid Media owns the rights to Street Fighter: The Movie doesn't mean they can start making Street Fighter games. Similarly, owning the rights to some classic sports games doesn't mean they can start developing NBA and NFL titles. The rights seem to be limited to the specific games in question. Even the release of those specific games is potentially complicated by other issues involving expired licenses and similar legal problems. 

    So why would anyone buy the rights to these games? Well, Liquid Media representatives noted the recent rise in retro gaming popularity (specifically the success of the NES and SNES Classic Editions as well as the upcoming release of the PlayStation Classic) as justification for acquiring some of these old properties. That would seem to suggest they're interested in some kind of bundle release, but the wording of their press statements hint at some kind of remasters. 

    Regardless, we tend to think that Liquid Media has overestimated the lasting appeal of Street Fighter: The Movie (the...umm...game). 

    Matthew Byrd is a staff writer for Den of Geek. He spends most of his days trying to pitch deep-dive analytical pieces about Killer Klowns From Outer Space to an increasingly perturbed series of editors. You can read more of his work here or find him on Twitter at @SilverTuna014


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    Minecraft: Dungeons is a dungeon crawler spin-off of the widely-popular series.

    News Matthew Byrd
    Oct 1, 2018

    Mojang is developing a new game based on the Minecraft universe. 

    Titled Minecraft: Dungeons, this new project is a dungeon crawler set in the Minecraft universe. It will allow up to four players to venture into dungeons in order to acquire new weapons, defeat hordes of dungeon dwelling enemies, and (presumably) try to escape at some point. According to the description of this game provided via the Minecraft website, it's a real passion project that the developers are excited to work on

    "As a game developer, when you're carefully crafting something like Minecraft Dungeons, you're pouring your heart and soul into something you're really proud of... which you can't tell a living soul about," says Mojang's Tom Stone. "In other words, these poor devs have been sworn to ABSOLUTE SECRECY for a long, long, time. But now they can finally spill the beans!"

    While the developers can apparently spill the beans, that doesn't mean that they are. All we really know about Minecraft: Dungeons at this point is the game's basic premise and the promise that it's going to be released sometime in 2019 for the PC (there are currently no other release platforms listed at this time). Beyond that, there's quite a bit about this project that we don't know. 

    However, based on the game's trailer, we can assume that Minecraft: Dungeons is going to resemble Minecraft in terms of the game's visuals and its general sense of style. We would also assume that it's not going to feature a radically overhauled combat system, but it's possible that Dungeons will alter Minecraft's combat and basic gameplay slightly just to support what seems to be more of an action-fuelled adventure. 

    We fully expect to hear much more about this game ahead of its release. 

    Matthew Byrd is a staff writer for Den of Geek. He spends most of his days trying to pitch deep-dive analytical pieces about Killer Klowns From Outer Space to an increasingly perturbed series of editors. You can read more of his work here or find him on Twitter at @SilverTuna014


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    Everquest's The Burning Lands is the game's 25th expansion.

    News Matthew Byrd
    Oct 1, 2018

    Everquest (yes, that Everquest) is getting a new expansion. 

    Dubbed The Burning Lands, this upcoming piece of Everquest content is the MMO's 25th expansion. Remarkably, the upcoming expansion will serve as a kind of call back to Everquest's 2002 expansion, Planes of Power(which goes to show just how large and rich this world really is). Developer Daybreak Game Company has stated that the expansion will "head back to the Planes" and break from recent content trends by focusing on something a 'bit more...elemental." 

    The studio isn't sharing many more details about the expansion, but a tease from Lauren McLemore, one of the developer's producers, hints at what long-time fans can expect from the upcoming release. 

    "The expansion name might give you some clues, but let’s just say that air and fire will play a big role in your upcoming adventures," said McLemore. "I don’t want to give away too much yet, but only the most daring will be able to successfully navigate the upcoming conflict!"

    That statement seems to hint that the next expansion will cater to veteran/hardcore Everquest players, which makes a lot of sense when you consider that most of the people who play Everquest probably fall into that demographic. So far as that goes, it's not entirely clear how many people are still playing Everquest. The obvious answer to that question is "enough people to justify the release of a new expansion," but a specific number is more elusive. PC Gamer points out that Steamspy recorded 317 concurrent players recently, but that number is almost certainly large when you account for non-Steam users. 

    In any case, the absurd continuing popularity of this 1999 MMO suggests that World of Warcraft might not be going away entirely any time soon. 

    Matthew Byrd is a staff writer for Den of Geek. He spends most of his days trying to pitch deep-dive analytical pieces about Killer Klowns From Outer Space to an increasingly perturbed series of editors. You can read more of his work here or find him on Twitter at @SilverTuna014


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    Grow your own marijuana empire in Devolver Digital's Weedcraft Inc. Check out the debut trailer!

    News Matthew Byrd
    Oct 1, 2018

    Devolver Digital has announced a new management sim game called Weedcraft Inc that's all about growing and selling marijuana.

    Weedcraft Inc's debut trailer is certainly one of the strangest game trailers we've seen in quite some time. The bulk of its opening is comprised of real-life footage featuring celebrities and politicians talking about - or simply smoking - marijuana. It feels like Devolver is trying to showcase just what a hot topic marijuana is these days, but the execution of this part of the trailer feels closer to a "meh" YouTube meme than something you would use to promote the release of an upcoming game. 

    As for the game itself...well, it's fairly interesting.

    Weedcraft Inc explores the business of producing, breeding and selling weed in America, delving deep into the financial, political and cultural aspects of the country's complex relationship with this troublesome and promising plant,” reads the description of Weedcraft Inc's trailer. "Would-be Mary Jane moguls will need to prioritize resources carefully as they manage the production and distribution of their weed. Cultivate killer plants, cross-breed them to create unique strains of the devil’s lettuce, hire and manage a growing staff, and be prepared to take on the competition.”

    Based on that description, it sounds like the weed you grow and sell in this game may not be entirely legal. So far as that goes, it sounds like growing and selling weed is really the least of your worries. Instead, it looks like the game is really all about building your empire through various means of influence and possibly even intimidation. 

    That all sounds kind of neat, but the trailer has us worried regarding the actual depth of this game. It feels like the title might follow a storyline, which suggests that you might not get a Sim City-like chance to really grow and expand a marijuana empire. Whether Weedcraft Inc ends up being good enough for whatever it is may be up for debate until the game's 2019 PC release date. 

    Matthew Byrd is a staff writer for Den of Geek. He spends most of his days trying to pitch deep-dive analytical pieces about Killer Klowns From Outer Space to an increasingly perturbed series of editors. You can read more of his work here or find him on Twitter at @SilverTuna014


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    The ultimate scream queen, Jamie Lee Curtis returns to her iconic role and embraces a lifetime of Halloween.

    News Mike Cecchini
    Oct 1, 2018

    If you’re a fan of genre-driven pop culture, there’s no better month than October. The new TV season is still revealing its secrets; the next batch of the year’s biggest movies of are right on the horizon; and best of all, it’s Halloween, the perfect excuse of all to indulge in the eerie delights entertainment has to offer.

    Perhaps there’s a reason for the recent year-round horror renaissance in movies, on TV, and even in comics. Horror movie villains are easy to grasp. Imagined horrors can be understood. Like the relatively recent dominance of superhero movies and television, horror helps us define an increasingly chaotic world in clearer tones.

    It’s often the monsters we remember. Their extraordinary powers, iconic looks, and terrifying brutality grant them a hold on us that borders on the supernatural. The survivors, the heroes, and the antiheroes who defeat them, are always decidedly ordinary. They represent resilience, grit, and the individual’s ability to do what must be done to achieve victory in the face of overwhelming odds.

    Our Den of Geek magazine cover story focuses on the horror genre’s single greatest example of an ordinary person overcoming extraordinary odds: Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode from the Halloween franchise. Laurie does the best any of us could hope to do in the worst situation and she does it without powers, without mystical weapons, and even without perfectly timed one-liners. As October gives way to November, remember how relatively simple actions can add up to meaningful victories, no matter how dark the night may seem.  

    The Den of Geek special edition magazine will distributed at New York Comic Con at the Javits Center from Oct. 4 - 7. Not at NYCC? Don't worry! The glossy, 68-page collector’s edition will also be available for pre-order for fans unable to attend the convention. A digital version of the magazine will be available to read on DenofGeek.com beginning on Oct. 3. 

    You can find Den of Geek contributors moderating key panels during the show. Podcast Editor Michael Ahr will moderate The Man in the High Castle panel on Thursday, Oct. 4 at Hammerstein Ballroom. Editor-in-Chief Mike Cecchini will moderate the Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles panel on Friday, Oct. 5 on the Main Stage. Associate Editor Kayti Burt will moderate the Tor Presents #FEARLESSWOMEN panel on Friday, Oct. 5 in Room 1A18.

    DEN OF GEEK MAGAZINE Highlights for NYCC 2018:

    • Jamie Lee Curtis and director David Gordon Green talk returning to the source of evil with Halloween.

    • The Big Fall Movie Preview featuring exclusive interviews with Mortal Engines producer Peter Jackson and director Christian Rivers, Bumblebee screenwriter Christina Hodson, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse star Shameik Moore.

    • Our Fall TV Preview features exclusive interviews with The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina co-creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and stars Kiernan Shipka and Miranda Otto, Daredevil showrunner Erik Oleson, Big Mouth co-creators Nick Kroll and Andrew Goldberg, and Titans executive producer Geoff Johns and star Brenton Thwaites.

    • Feature: Mission Mars - How shows like National Geographic’s MARS and Hulu’s The First are reigniting our interest in space travel.

    We'll see you all at New York Comic Con! Click here to view previous digital issues of Den of Geek magazine.

    Share your reactions to the cover with #NYCCgeek on Twitter or Instagram, or let us know what you think in the comments below!


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    Destiny developer Bungie has registered a new trademark that may point at the studio's next project.

    News John Saavedra
    Oct 1, 2018

    As Destiny 2 begins its second year of content drops and updates, Bungie is starting to look toward the feature. The Destiny developer has just registered a new trademark with the European Union Intellectual Property Office for something called "Matter." The trademark covers both "computer game software" and "online electronic services." Included with the registration is also a logo, which you can see above. 

    Now, let's get this out of the way, we have absolutely no idea what "Matter" actually is, but a recent deal with Chinese publisher NetEase does point to the possibility that it's Bungie's next game. In June 2018, Bungie announced that NetEase, which now owns a minor stake in the company, had invested $100 million to develop a new game for the publisher. It's possible that "Matter" is the game in question. 

    Related Article: Destiny 2 - Forsaken Review

    Bungie also has a 10-year deal with Activision through 2024, but that deal involves the exclusive publishing rights to Destiny content specifically. The studio hasn't revealed that it's working on any further Destiny games, but it has provided a roadmap of content drops scheduled through the first half of 2019. What might be coming from the Destiny franchise beyond that remains to be seen.

    The studio, which first came to fame in the 2000s with the seminal Halo series, has been hard at work on Destiny, an online spiritual successor to Halo, since at least 2010. That's eight years of work on a single franchise. It's possible, of course, that work will continue on the series with a smaller dedicated team while Bungie develops its next game.

    Related Article: Halo 2 - The History of a Controversial FPS Classic 

    What could that next game be? Given that Bungie's last two offerings have revolved around the first-person shooter genre, it's reasonable that "Matter" or whatever the next game is called will follow that route. The more interesting question will be whether Bungie's next effort will lean as heavily on live services as Destiny. We'll, of course, keep you updated as we hear more. 

    John Saavedra is Games Editor at Den of Geek. Read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @johnsjr9


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    "Footage" from a rumored Harry Potter RPG has sent the internet into a frenzy.

    News Matthew Byrd
    Oct 2, 2018

    A rapid series of rumors and leaks suggest that a major new Harry Potter RPG is in development.

    It all started when users on Reddit, ResetEra, and other online forums began sharing what looked to be footage from a new, previously unannounced Harry Potter game. The footage showcased a young wizard roaming the halls of Hogwarts and doing battle with various foes. While the "footage" was captured via a shaky, and seemingly secret, recording, the game looked beautiful and appeared to be somewhat far along in the development process. Of course, that's somewhat strange to hear considering that there's been no word regarding such a major new Harry Potterproject in development. 

    The video in question was taken down by Warner Bros. not long after its initial upload. However, that didn't stop fans from speculating what this footage was from. Initial rumors suggested this game was everything from Rocksteady's next project to a flat-out fake made by an ambitious and talented fan. 

    However, new evidence suggests that this footage may indeed be from an upcoming Harry Potter game. 

    Eurogamer has spotted a tweet from BBC News reported Lizo Mzimba who says that sources are telling him that this footage is from an upcoming Hary Potter RPG that is believed to be called Harry Potter: Magic Awakened. He says that other titles like Magic Forever are also being considered. Incredibly, he also notes that this may just be one of several Harry Potter games in development. 

    Mzimba doesn't name his sources, but it's worth noting that he's a well-known Harry Potter fan who has historically been close to the franchise. To that end, Eurogamer is also citing similar sources close to the project who are confirming that this game is real and is currently in development. They, and other sites, are also suggesting that it's highly possible that this game is being developed by Avalanche Software (the team responsible for the Disney Infinity series) and that it's likely an "AAA" size game with "narrative and branching storytelling." However, some of that information is speculation based on reports of what Avalanche has been working on since they were acquired by Warner Bros. 

    Further rumors suggest that this game may be at least a year away from actually being released. While that has not been confirmed at this time, we fully expect to see some official footage from this game sometime during the next few months if it is indeed a real project. 

    Matthew Byrd is a staff writer for Den of Geek. He spends most of his days trying to pitch deep-dive analytical pieces about Killer Klowns From Outer Space to an increasingly perturbed series of editors. You can read more of his work here or find him on Twitter at @SilverTuna014


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    Bowsette fans' latest obsession? Indie Rock Rosalina, the latest Nintendo meme to break the internet.

    NewsJohn Saavedra
    Oct 2, 2018

    2018 is the year of the Nintendo meme, according to the internet, which can't get enough of alternate versions of the company's most beloved characters. The shenanigans stem from the creation of the Bowsette meme, which imagines what it would be like if Bowser were to put on the Super Crown, a new item in the upcoming New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe that allows any of the characters in the game to morph into a version of Peach. Toadette, for example, puts the crown on and becomes Peachette. While Nintendo hasn't officially revealed what Bowser would look like after putting on the Super Crown, the internet has wasted no time in producing fan art depictions of the infamous Bowsette. The result is a bit shocking and has inspired everything from a fan-made Amiibo and new cosplays to quite a few porn parodies. 

    But Bowsette is old news at this point. Now is the time of Indie Rock Rosalina, a surprising new version of the space princess that was scrapped from Super Mario Odyssey. According to a new art book of the game (via Polygon), Nintendo created concept art for a guitar-playing, casual version of Rosalina for Odyssey but decided to nix the idea during development. The princess, who is usually clad in long gowns, donned a t-shirt and jeans for this new look, which is closer to singer-songwriter than royalty. 

    You can see what we mean in this piece of fan art, courtesy of @Mediamaster_127 on Twitter:

    Unsurprisingly, Indie Rock Rosalina has become the internet's latest meme obsession. You can find quite a few pieces of fan art out there at the moment, and perhaps a bit more if you're into that sort of thing...

    The real question is what plan Nintendo originally had for Indie Rock Rosalina in Super Mario Odyssey. Some fans have theorized that the Big N might have planned to make her a resident of the musical New Donk City before they scrapped the design. At the very least, it would have been nice to see Rosalina playing a few tunes during Mario's adventure. But hopefully not "Wonderwall."

    John Saavedra is an associate editor at Den of Geek. Read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @johnsjr9


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    Google wants to revolutionize the concept of video game streaming starting with Assassin's Creed Odyssey.

    News Matthew Byrd
    Oct 2, 2018

    Google is entering the growing world of video game streaming with an ambitious new program called Project Stream. 

    The idea behind Project Stream is ambitious, yet oddly simple. Google wants you to be able to stream some of the latest video games directly from your Google Chrome browser. Essentially, they want browser games to go from these tiny Adobe Flash projects to full-length, Triple-A gaming experiences, and they want to start that transition by allowing a small number of testers to play Assassin's Creed Odyssey directly from their browser. 

    It sounds crazy, but if the footage that Google released of Odyssey running on Project Stream is to be believed...well, it just might be crazy enough to work. Granted, this whole thing is dependent on a large number of factors. For instance, Google knows that not everyone has access to true high-speed internet. Even if they do have access to quality internet, Google has to find a way to deliver the kind of gaming streaming experience that is relatively lag-free and suffers no downgrade in graphical quality. 

    However, Google feels that the evolution of entertainment delivery necessitates that they find a way to make video game streaming work. 

    "Streaming media has transformed the way we consume music and video, making it easy to instantly access your favorite content," says Google via a blog post. "It's a technically complex process that has come a long way in a few short years, but the next technical frontier for streaming will be much more demanding than video."

    Anyone interested in helping Google test this bold new future can sign-up for the Project Stream test here. There's no word on how many participants Google will accept, but initial participants must be 17, must live in the United States, and must have access to at least a 25 megabits per second internet connection. Those who are accepted will be able to play Odyssey for free for a limited time via their Chrome browser starting on October 5. 

    Where Project Stream goes from there remains to be seen. 

    Matthew Byrd is a staff writer for Den of Geek. He spends most of his days trying to pitch deep-dive analytical pieces about Killer Klowns From Outer Space to an increasingly perturbed series of editors. You can read more of his work here or find him on Twitter at @SilverTuna014


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    The Witcher's creator isn't happy with the original deal he made with CD Projekt Red.

    News Matthew Byrd
    Oct 2, 2018

    The Witcher author Andrzej Sapkowski is trying to get a larger cut of The Witcher game series' profits. 

    Developer CD Projekt Red recently received a demand from Sapkowski's lawyers in which he requests $16.1 million in royalties. If you're wondering how CD Projekt Red got away with licensing The Witcher series without paying Sapkowski...well, they didn't. In fact, in an interview with Eurogamer, Andrzej Sapkowski admitted that CD Projekt Red once offered him a share of future profits from The Witcher. He instead elected to take an up-front payment because he didn't "foresee their success."

    However, now that The Witcher games have proven to be wildly successful and have even resulted in spin-offs, Sapkowski wants in on the action. According to the demand his lawyers sent, Sapkowski's request is partially based on the belief that the agreement between CD Projekt Red and himself may have technically been based on "the first in a series of games." As such, the author's legal team believes that "distribution of all other games, including their expansions, add-ons etc., is, simply speaking, unlawful."

    As for how those lawyers arrived at $16.1 million, that number is based on "standard royalty rates associated with use of a work, particularly in adaptations, [which] are approximately 5-15% of the profits generated." 

    CD Projekt Red released a formal statement to these requests in which they referred to the demand as "groundless" in regards to both their "merit" and "the stipulated amount." CD Projekt Red (referred to in the statement as The Company) insists that they have "legitimately and legally acquired copyright to Mr. Andrzej Sapkowski’s work" and that "all liabilities payable by the Company in association therewith have been properly discharged." That said, they also indicated that they are interested in reaching an "amicable resolution" that is "respectful of previously expressed intents of both parties, as well as existing contracts."

    It's worth noting that Sapkowski is part of the recent Netflix deal which will bring a live-action adaptation of The Witcher to that service, so this deal is just in relation to the success of The Witchergames developed by CD Projekt Red. 

    Matthew Byrd is a staff writer for Den of Geek. He spends most of his days trying to pitch deep-dive analytical pieces about Killer Klowns From Outer Space to an increasingly perturbed series of editors. You can read more of his work here or find him on Twitter at @SilverTuna014


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    The mysterious new game from Square Enix, The Quiet Man, arrives next month! Here's a new trailer...

    NewsMatthew Byrd
    Oct 3, 2018

    One of the only real surprises from Square Enix's E3 2018 press conference was the reveal of The Quiet Man. What began as a live-action trailer transitioned into what appears to be our first look at the gameplay of this still relatively obscure title.

    In the trailer, we see an individual wandering the streets of the city who confronts gang members in an alley. The individual - our hero? - appears to be deaf, hence the "Quiet Man" name and the use of the tagline “silence rings loudest.” Nevertheless, he is able to easily dispose of these thugs. 

    It seems that the trailer's use of live-action is more than just a stylistic marketing choice. According to the video's YouTube descriptionThe Quiet Man "delivers an immersive story driven cinematic action experience seamlessly blending high-production live action, realistic CG and pulse-pounding action gameplay." It promises an "adrenaline-fueled motion picture like experience which can be completed in one sitting." We have to admit that advertising that last part as a feature does strike us as a bit odd. 

    Related Article: Deus Ex Franchise Not Dead, According to Square Enix

    Based on all of the information made available thus far, we suspect that this is going to be a kind of interactive motion picture experience more than a fully-fledged game. Human Head Studios, the team you might know from the infamously canceled version of Prey 2, is the developer behind the mystery project.

    Here's everything else we know:

    The Quiet Man Release Date

    The Quiet Man arrives on Nov. 1. It's coming to PS4 and PC.

    The Quiet Man Trailers

    Check out a new trailer:

    Here's the first trailer:

    Matthew Byrd is a staff writer for Den of Geek. He spends most of his days trying to pitch deep-dive analytical pieces about Killer Klowns From Outer Space to an increasingly perturbed series of editors. You can read more of his work here or find him on Twitter at @SilverTuna014


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    Get ready to follow in Special Agent Dale Cooper's footsteps in a new Twin Peaks virtual reality game.

    News John Saavedra
    Oct 3, 2018

    Well, this is unexpected. Twin Peaks is being adapted into a virtual reality game from Collider Games. The VR experience is coming to Steam for the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift and a demo of the game will be made available for the first time in next week's Festival of Disruption, which is hosted by David Lynch, in Los Angeles. The event runs on Oct. 13-14.

    As far as what the game actually, Collider, whose games division is developing the project, has the details on what fans might expect from Twin Peaks VR. The experience includes "moments and settings" from the original series as well as Twin Peaks: The Return, the revival that aired on Showtime in 2017 to critical acclaim. It sounds like a big chunk of the action will take place in the Red Room, the otherworldly realm that became protagonist Dale Cooper's prison for 25 years before he managed to escape in The Return. According to the press release from Collider, players "will follow in the footsteps of Special Agent Dale Cooper and try to make their way back into the life they left behind."

    Related Article: The Secrets of Twin Peaks: The Return

    No release date has been announced for the game. We'll keep you updated as we hear more details about Twin Peaks VR.

    It sounds like fans shouldn't expect this game to answer any big questions about the Twin Peaks universe. For those of you who haven't caught up on Lynch's return to the infamous Washington mountain town, you should know that it's a bewildering, awe-inspiring, amazing 18-part television experience that isn't so much a continuation of the original series' story as it is an exercise in uncompromising filmmaking. Those who are tired of the same old revivals that bring back beloved icons from the '80s and '90s but older and less interesting should delight in what Lynch has done with Twin Peaks: The Return, which is pretty much a middle finger to "getting the band back together." 

    John Saavedra is an associate editor at Den of Geek. Read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @johnsjr9


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    Mega Man is coming to the big screen for his first live-action movie!

    News John Saavedra
    Oct 4, 2018

    Mega Man is getting a live-action movie from 20th Century Fox, Capcom announced today. The movie, which is tentatively titled MEGA MANwill be written and directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, the team that previously brought you sci-fi horror film Viral and Paranormal Activity 3 and 4. They also directed the hit online dating documentary, Catfish. No release date has been set for their first foray into video game adaptations. 

    As for the Blue Bomber, he is enjoying a bit of a renaissance this year. Capcom has shown renewed interest in the character that first put the company on the map in terms of the video game console business. 1987's Mega Man on the NES was one of the first original console games released by the Japanese publisher, which up to that point had mostly focused on arcade cabinets and ports. While the action-platformer didn't quite take the world by storm in terms of sales, it did charm critics and lead the way for the seminal Mega Man 2, which sold 1.5 million copies, making it the best-selling Mega Man game of all time. The rest is action-platforming history.

    This year, Capcom released the Mega Man X Legacy Collection, a compilation of all eight Mega Man X titles. We thought it was a solid collection that celebrates one of the most distinct eras of Mega Man history. A new installment in the main Mega Manseries, Mega Man 11, will also be released on Oct. 5. We weren't as impressed with this entry, although hardcore fans of the series will likely enjoy it. A new cartoon, Mega Man: Fully Charged, the Blue Bomber's first TV series since the 1994 animated series, also premiered in August 2018. 

    It's a good time to be a Mega Man fan. With a movie now on the way, Mega Man might blast his way to a whole new audience. We'll keep you posted on all Mega Man news as we learn it!

    John Saavedra is Games Editor at Den of Geek. Read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @johnsjr9


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    Some of gaming's greatest horror minds talk about the challenges of designing truly scary games.

    Feature Matthew Byrd
    Oct 4, 2018

    Horror may be a centuries-old genre, but horror game developers have faced challenges that Mary Shelley, Stephen King, and John Carpenter never had to. They’ve battled the idea that games are meant to be simple fun while learning how to turn code into nightmares.

    How did they do it? We asked that question to some of the creators responsible for gaming’s greatest horror experiences. Here’s what they have to say about making scary games.

    Wright Bagwell

    Designer of Dead Space, Director of Dead Space 2 at Visceral Games

    “Scaring the shit out of the player was definitely the goal [with Dead Space],” Wright Bagwell recalls. “I remember [Dead Space creator and executive producer] Glen Schofield saying that he wanted to build the scariest game of all time.”

    At that time, building the scariest game of all-time meant besting the current genre king, Resident Evil 4. Indeed, the Dead Space team initially referred to their project as “Resident Evil 4 in space.” It was a bankable pitch, but the team struggled when it came to balancing the action of a game like Resident Evil 4 with their goal of designing the scariest game ever made.

    “Some of [the team] were like, ‘You can’t make a scary game if you let the player move and shoot,’” Bagwell says. “What they realized is that you don’t have to have these clunky control schemes in order to scare the player. You can do that through audio and lighting and level design and enemy design.”

    While the Dead Space team was against crippling the player with awkward controls, Bagwell says that it was important to ensure the player didn’t feel like “James Bond.” Accomplishing that meant depriving them of fundamental resources and general confidence.

    “We said, ‘You need to feel like you’re desperate for health and for bullets all of the time,” Bagwell says. “We let you move and shoot and all these things…[but] to counter that, we made very dark, claustrophobic environments.”

    When it came time to develop Dead Space 2, Bagwell and the rest of the team even went so far as to develop a system that measured how many resources the player had when they reached the game’s various checkpoints. By forcing the player to constantly scrounge for resources, the team also ensured that the player couldn’t hide from a level’s darkest corners.

    “You kind of walk into every situation feeling like, ‘God, I don't have everything I need to win whatever fight I think might be coming,’” Bagwell says. “So I'm going to be cautious and I'm going to scout every inch of this level to try to find a bullet, power node upgrade, health upgrade, etc.”

    Of course, even the most desperate of players need something to be scared of. Fortunately, the Dead Space franchise wasn’t lacking in intimidating enemies. From Necromorphs that had a habit of playing possum in order to instill a sense of false security to Stalkers whose basic design was inspired by the velociraptors in Jurassic Park, Dead Space’s various nightmares had a habit of attacking you in ways you aren’t prepared for. Even the game’s save rooms harbor jump scares.

    Related Article: The Twisted Grindhouse Legacy of Manhunt

    Yet, Bagwell says that the original versions of Dead Space featured “about four times as many enemies and jump scares” as the final product. Many of those enemies and scares were cut when the team began to seriously examine the value of restraint.

    “As we developed every level, what we found is that less is more,” Bagwell says. “Sometimes the best experience is when nothing happens. It constantly raises the tension where you’re like, ‘Okay, nothing happened, something big is probably coming, oh god, it’s gonna be big.’”

    Ironically, the team wasn’t prepared for Dead Space 2’s biggest scare: The infamous NoonTech Diagnostic sequence. Bagwell recalls watching the gruesome death scene triggered when the player failed to properly insert a needle in the hero’s eye.

    “You get into this machine and now you just have to aim this needle at your eye and then poke it,” says Bagwell. “I was so proud of it because when you make games, even the most surprising or entertaining thing that you put in you end up having to play it and watch it just thousands of times...inevitably at the end of the development cycle for most games you're like, ‘Ugh, okay. I've played this so many times.’ It just doesn't really entertain you that much as one of the developers.”

    However, Bagwell says that the final time watching the NoonTech Diagnostic sequence was just as intimidating as the first.

    “We turned off the lights and watched it for the final time. There was this feeling of, ‘Oh, God. This is horrible.’ But like, ‘Yes. This is so awesome. This is going to be great’ … It was the only thing I’ve ever done where I was not numb to it by the end of the development cycle.”

    Following the closure of Dead Space developer Visceral Games in 2017, and the apparent death of the franchise, Bagwell also wonders if it’s too much to ask people to spend “10 to 15 hours feeling like [they’re] going to have a heart attack.”

    “I just think that there's a smaller number of people who want to experience that,” Bagwell says. “If I was trying to create a game that sold as well as possible, I wouldn't think that scaring people to death would be the best way.”

    Sam Barlow

    Writer and Designer of Silent Hill: Origins and Silent Hill: Shattered Memories at Climax Studios

    “[With] suspense...you’re trying to give the audience enough information that they can put it together in their head and be dreading something happening,” Sam Barlow says. “There’s a special tool set in video games where you’re really doing that.”

    With Silent Hill: Shattered Memories and Silent Hill: Origins, Barlow wanted to return to Silent Hill’s roots. Mechanically, that meant ensuring that the titles emphasized exploration and puzzle solving over action. What it really meant, though, was creating a world of psychological horror unique to gaming.

    “If you want to tell a story that’s all about someone’s inner monologue, then go write a book,” Barlow says. “I think psychological horror gets to have its cake and eat it by allowing that character’s state of mind to bleed into visualness.”

    In Shattered Memories, the player’s state of mind manifested itself through choices. The game created a psychological profile for each player that is most obviously furthered by sections featuring a psychologist. Dr. Kaufmann asks you basic psych profile questions (such as “How easily do you make friends?”) as well as more complicated conundrums such as how you would determine the guilt of various characters in a story. All of these sections will impact the events of the game in some way based on how you shape your own mental state.

    However, Shattered Memories doesn’t always rely on the player to be honest about their own mindset. The game also examines the in-game actions of every player and uses them to shape the rest of their adventure in ways they may not realize. Focus on sleazy posters and characters you meet become more sexualized. Linger on bottles of booze too long and you will be regarded as an alcoholic. Why would developers go to such incredible trouble to just alter a few in-game details? It’s because they were trying to create a story that felt unique to the medium of gaming.

    “We made you deeply feel their story, the way in which you had projected [your thoughts] on to your protagonist,” Barlow says. “It's very hard to untangle the interactivity from the experience of [that story].”

    Related Article: Exploring the Terror of P.T., the Silent Hills Demo

    Interactivity may have helped Shattered Memories’ story, but it proved to be a bit of a burden when it came time to design the game’s action sequences. Just as the developers weren’t interested in telling a story that felt standard, they also weren’t interested in making another game where you shot your problems away. To that end, Climax Studios decided to utilize the kind of “action” that we typically see in slasher films.

    “The action element was running, it was being scared,” Barlow says. “Fight or flight is kicking in, you're anticipating something bad happening. … Your imagination is now doing all the work and it's terrifying.”

    That style of action complemented the story, but it wasn’t what executives had in mind. Because Shattered Memories launched as a Nintendo Wii game, they wanted it to utilize the popular motion control schemes of the time. Their ideas didn’t necessarily mesh with the ambitions of the game’s design team.

    “Everyone told us ‘We should be swinging rusty pipes using a Wiimote and aiming guns with a Wiimote,’” Barlow says. “We went ‘It's fine! It's fine. Why not be ambitious?’”

    The game’s most ambitious aspect was the ending. The player’s psychological profile contributed to the details of the ending in subtle, significant, ways. Each ending catered to their subconscious, but that degree of variance meant no detail could be overlooked.

    “Every scene of the game contain[ed] the DNA of that ending,” Barlow says. “When an artist dressed an area, he was trying to touch on those pieces of imagery. When a puzzle designer was coming up with an interactive moment, they were trying to establish some metaphors or set up some actions. … That whole game is soaked with a deliberate repetition of imagery and ideas so that when we get to that ending, it lands as hard it can.”

    Bill Gardner

    Designer on BioShock at Irrational Games, Director of Perception at The Deep End Games

    “Listen, I love horror. I grew up with horror,” Bill Gardner says. “My parents owned a video store when I was growing up so you name it, I’ve seen it.”

    Gardner may have been a horror film fan, but when it came to game design, he soon discovered that not all horror film concepts translate across multiple mediums. This is especially true of an infamous sequence near the beginning of BioShock when the player encounters a Big Daddy for the first time. The sequence only really works if the player is intently watching a Big Daddy destroy one of the game’s splicers (human scroungers) through the other side of a window.

    However, Gardner became annoyed by testers’ ability to “run in the corner and put their head down” while the sequence was playing out. In doing so, they were able to hide from the event that established the underlying horror of BioShock. Frustrated, he asked BioShock director Ken Levine if they could manipulate the camera and take control away from the player just this once. Levine told him something that would become the basis of BioShock’s approach to video game horror.

    “[He said,] ‘The second you do that, the director, the creators, the designers, they’re putting their hand on the player’s shoulder and saying, ‘It’s okay. You’re gonna be safe.’ You can’t be hurt here and that’s what a cutscene really is.”

    BioShock used interactive cutscenes to tell a meta-story about how gamers are never really in control. Instead, players are subject to the machinations of the storytellers, as the protagonist falls deeper into a routine of command and compliance. It’s a narrative experience that showed Gardner the difference between a horror game and a truly scary game.

    “A horror game where there are waves of [zombies], it’s like ‘Okay, this is more fun than scary,’” Gardner says. “In the context of a game...I'm much more interested in sequences where it's one zombie and I get the backstory.”

    Related Article: How Resident Evil 4 Influenced BioShock

    With Perception, Gardner tried to translate that intimate brand of fear into a digital experience. The story of a blind girl stuck in a haunted home, Perception forced players to empathize with the protagonist’s disability. Indeed, Perception is designed to ensure that the player is blind to much of what is happening.

    “I'm most interested in creating an atmosphere of dread, and that feeling of what's around the next corner,” said Barlow. “ Is someone there? That sort of paranoia, that dread...Most horror is about veiling things in mystery and misdirection, and lack of information.”

    While that is indeed true of most horror, there are times when it can be handy to not only give gamers something to latch onto in a horror game but to understand what makes that relationship between the gamer and the game so important. Indeed, Gardner believes that great horror gaming should utilize the connections the player establishes.

    “There’s a thing that connects with gamers in the back of their head, and they’re like, ‘This could be me,’” Gardner says. “When you look at BioShock, the way that Ken and the team designed [the games], you look at the things that [the players are] tormented with, and they’re the echoes of [the protagonist’s] personality and their former life.”

    Thomas Grip

    Designer on Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Director of SOMA at Frictional Games

    SOMA, Amnesia, Penumbra, most of the horror there is fairly cozy,” says Thomas Grip, who likes to make players feel comfortable before introducing the horror. “You just add an extra layer [and it goes] from being cozy to being a horror environment.”

    Fans of Grip’s horror games probably wouldn’t describe them as cozy, though. His titles create thick horror atmosphere through sound and shadow. They throw players into dark areas and force them to endure the implied - and often overt - presence of nightmarish monsters. His games are a masterclass in creating atmosphere through graphics and sound. However, Grip believes truly effective horror atmosphere is about more than audio and visuals.

    “Atmosphere is not just some vague essence. It's not like a perfume...even though it might feel like that for a player, they like to soak in the atmosphere,” Grip says. “It's more about the scenario that you're building up with a player.”

    In Amnesia, that scenario includes the presence of a sanity system. If the player spends too much time in the shadows hiding from enemies or is forced to witness horrific events, the sanity of their character may drop. This can cause their character to suffer blurry vision, see enemies that really aren't’ there, and even pass out. It’s a terrific way to “gamify” Lovecraftian themes of sanity and horror.

    However, sanity is more than a just game mechanic in Amnesia. Grip and his team also attempted to account for the general sanity of the player when designing Amnesia’s key sequences. Grip elaborates on that idea by highlighting his favorite scene from Amnesia, a revolutionary horror experience that helped kick off a new era of pure horror gaming.

    “[You’re] looking for certain items and suddenly you hear [a monster],” Grip says. “You go into the closet...the monster is going to go inspect the closet...you're thinking, ‘Should I make a run for it? What's my best course of action?’ ... We made what was basically a [cutscene] but we managed to do it in gameplay.”

    Said gameplay includes the use of a first-person perspective. While Amnesia wasn’t the first first-person horror game, its use of that viewpoint was seen as a revolutionary moment in the history of horror design. Few other games up until that point had used the first-person perspective in this overt way that took information away from the player. While Grip says that the use of first-person gameplay was partially based on design preferences, it was also implemented because it made things easier.

    “[With first-person] you can mimic movements that people do in horror movies. So, for example, just looking behind a corner, peeking through doors, those moments are way harder to do in a third person mode...from my end I think the controls are tighter in a first-person game,” says Grip. “Also doing it from first-person meant that you didn't have to render any character models so you're like, okay, you can skip the hardest part in the making of a game. That was nice.”

    If first-person gameplay broke some horror trends of the era, then Amnesia’s complete lack of combat absolutely shattered genre conventions. When it comes to combat in horror games, Grip simply feels that it affords the player too much safety.

    “Games tell you through the combat system what the default manner of dealing with the dangers are,” Grip says. “[If the] game doesn't tell you at all how to deal with it...it's much harder for the player to feel secure.”

    While Amnesia doesn’t offer you any real defensive options, that doesn’t mean that the game is trying to deprive you of all resources. In fact, Amnesia is one of the best horror games out there in terms of utilizing a clear series of rules regarding horror encounters. Part of Grip’s desire to adhere to clear rules is based on his preferences in horror films.

    “The thing is that I think what made the film [Nightmare on] Elm Street good is that it's consistent,” says Grip. “Even though Freddy Krueger is anything can happen in our dreams, but it always happens in the dreams, right? So there's this certain terror about, 'Oh no, someone is falling asleep. Oh no, what shit is going to happen to them?' Whereas in [2017’s] It, there's no consistency to the clown scares...There's no formula for it, so it gets harder for you to get engaged in it.”

    To that end, Grip ensured that Amnesia employed a clear series of rules regarding how its scariest moments work.

    “In Amnesia...the monsters make a sound before you even see them,” Grip says. “You can have encounters with monsters where the players never sees the monsters, they just hear the music and perhaps some footsteps...Then the player wonders, "Where the hell did the monster go?" And, that works very successfully.”

    Perhaps constant panic isn’t as “fun” as a jump scare, but Grip isn’t sure whether fun is what keeps people glued to horror or makes horror effective.

    “‘Fun’ is a sort of tricky word to use. I think ‘engagement’ is better,” Grip says. “As long as you can wrap it up in some sort of engaging structure, the sky's the limit in how much you want to terrorize your audience.”

    Matthew Byrd is a staff writer for Den of Geek. He spends most of his days trying to pitch deep-dive analytical pieces about Killer Klowns From Outer Space to an increasingly perturbed series of editors. You can read more of his work here or find him on Twitter at @SilverTuna014

    Read and download the Den of Geek NYCC 2018 Special Edition Magazine right here!


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    The return of the arcade business is inevitable, but not in the way you think.

    FeatureBernard Boo
    Oct 4, 2018

    Amusement arcades were bustling social centers for kids and teenagers in the ‘80s and ‘90s. It was heaven on earth, a place where kids could escape the anxieties of school, forget about their parents, make mischief with their friends, and get lost in the hunt for the ever-elusive high score.

    Sadly, over the past couple of decades, arcades have played an ever-diminishing role in the gaming industry. Preserving the history of retro games grows more difficult as time rolls on as specialty parts become scarcer and the games industry evolves. But hope lies in new, boundary-pushing business owners who aim to celebrate and preserve arcade culture while packaging the nostalgia in a way that saves these classic machines from irrelevancy and ushers them into the future by pairing them with trendy food and craft beer.

    Related Article: The Lost Era of Coin-Op Conversion

    In recent years, business owners have recognized that arcade evangelists who yearn for the “good old days” represent an untapped market and have started opening new types of gaming establishments. Those ‘80s and ‘90s kids are now all grown up, which has led to a string of food and alcohol-purveying arcades finding success in major cities like New York (Barcade), Chicago (Emporium Arcade Bar), and Los Angeles (Button Mash). Arcade bar Coin-Op, which has locations in San Diego, San Francisco, and Sacramento, has become a go-to destination for patrons looking to kick back, sip on some craft cocktails, and play retro games with friends.

    “The original idea behind Coin-Op was to open a bar-restaurant concept with something of an entertainment aspect to it,” says Coin-Op CEO Mark Bolton. “Me and my business partners grew up going to arcades in malls and entertainment centers in the ‘90s. We wanted to tie that into our new passion for cocktails and going out to bars and restaurants.”

    For Bolton, the appeal of an arcade-bar hybrid arose out of the current generation’s desire for interactivity and constant engagement.

    “People are looking for something to do other than just sit at a bar these days,” Bolton says. “There’s so much interaction in your daily life with social media and having your phone in your hand at all times. It’s nice for people to play games with their friends rather than just sit there.”

    Cocktails and coin-ops are a match made in heaven. Dave & Buster’s has marketed this concoction to great success for years, boasting 117 locations across the country as of July 2018 and $332 million in revenue in Q1 2018, but there are still a few establishments out there that endeavor to preserve the purity of the ‘80s and ‘90s-style, family-friendly arcade experience.

    Related Article: The Judge Dredd Arcade Game That Never Was

    High Scores Arcade in Alameda, CA (with a second location just up the highway in Hayward) is a family-owned and operated business that was opened by husband and wife team Shawn and Meg Livernoche in 2013 (their original New Jersey location closed in 2010) that aims to bring back warm memories of the traditional amusement arcade, offering visitors a chance to play classic games they haven’t seen in decades, or for the younger set to discover the joy of playing Outrun, Tempest, and Galaga. Unlike Coin-Op and other bar-cades however, High Scores is an alcohol-free environment.

    “We really do want to promote the idea that anybody of any age can come in at any time, and also give adults the opportunity to have a place to come and have fun where alcohol is not the centerpiece,” says Shawn, whose arcade has cultivated a tight-knit community of devotees of all ages since it opened.

    “People who grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s and now have families come in with their kids and want to show them the games that they grew up with, and it starts this cool generational thing, which is fun to watch,” says Meg.

    “That’s what we love the most, the community that the arcade builds,” Shawn adds. “These classic games don’t just encourage kids to compete with each other. There’s a certain level of honor and dignity and learning and respect that comes along with all of this culture.”

    While home consoles currently dominate the gaming sphere, the Livernoches don’t see the console and arcade markets as mutually exclusive. “Usually, the kids who play consoles at home also come in and appreciate our arcade,” Meg explains. “People who play Fortnite and League of Legends don’t necessarily translate that well to the arcade, but for the most part, kids pick our games up pretty quickly and like them just as much as console games because most of the basic skills are the same.”

    Related Article: A Look Back at Splatterhouse, the Horror Arcade Game Masterpiece

    The overlap in demographics between arcade and home console gamers has been one of the key factors in High Scores’ winning formula, and while some modern arcades, like YESTERcades (New Jersey) and Emporium Arcade Bar, do dedicate floor space to home consoles and even hold console game nights, to the Livernoches, the ultimate appeal of classic arcades is the fact that they provide unique, visceral, hand-crafted experiences that you simply can’t replicate at home.

    “You can’t have the experience at home where each piece of furniture in front of you with a screen in it represents a different world,” Shawn explains. “And you’re supposed to play these games with specific kinds of controls designed in a specific way, and with a little presentation designed to keep you [engaged] in that world. You can’t do that at home on a console.”

    The Livernoches grew up in the ‘80s and experienced the arcade boom firsthand, so stepping into High Scores feels like being transported back to that era. Legendary machines like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Frogger, and Defender line the walls of the ‘80s-inspired space, alongside later classics like Street Fighter II Turbo and Mortal Kombat II. The Livernoches even built a custom Oregon Trail cabinet decked out in pioneer-themed decor.

    When asked if they think ‘80s-style arcades could ever make a comeback and permeate pop culture like they once did, the Livernoches are doubtful, though they don’t think the business will ever die out completely.

    “I don’t think arcades will ever be as widespread as they once were,” Meg says. “Arcades were this big, bright light in the ‘80s that spread across and hit everybody’s community in some way. And now, arcades are competing with home consoles.”

    “There are just a finite amount of machines and materials left,” Shawn adds. “I do have the awareness of a preservationist. We’re determined and committed to continue, year by year, to add more games to our collection that people can come in and play, and bring as much of that era back as possible.”

    Related Article: Space Invaders - The Arcade Classic at 40

    The authentic arcade experience is fortunately still alive and well thanks to business owners like the Livernoches, but is there a way to take the spirit of ‘80s arcades into the future? “We can [produce new machines] for classic arcade titles,” says Shawn, “or we can try to create new ones in the spirit of those old games.”

    Launched in 2013, Killer Queen is a five-on-five combat game inspired by classic ‘80s and ‘90s gameplay and developed by BumbleBear Games. Machines can be found in over forty arcades and bars across the country, and Windows and Switch ports are scheduled for Q1 2019. The game could be a glimpse into a potentially bright future for new arcade development.

    Killer Queen is wildly popular,” Meg says. “We saw some people at California Extreme [an annual retro arcade show] developing for the physical space of an arcade, which is great. Stern is making pinball [machines], Jersey Jack is making pinball machines. People thought that [we saw] the complete end of the run, but it’s picking up.”

    Author and video game historian Brett Weiss (The SNES Omnibus, The Arcade and Other Strange Tales) thinks that, if arcades are to ever truly make a comeback, they will have to continue to adapt to new trends -- whether that means bar-cades or the multi-million dollar eSports industry.

    “The arcade environment was very competitive in the late '70s and early '80s, and then again in the early 1990s with Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat,” Weiss says. “This type of competitiveness carries over to esports. The link is the sheer competition."

    Indeed, some arcades have turned to eSports as the next step in the industry’s evolution. Arcade chain GameWorks offers eSports lounges in many of its locations where players can compete in a variety of games. Red Bullhas also recently opened Gaming Spheres -- a combination eSports arcade and live stream studio -- in London and Tokyo.

    The industry is looking beyond conventional hardware, too: arcades and amusement parks focusing on virtual reality have started sprouting worldwide. In fact, according to a 2017 report by Grand View Research (via Forbes), VR gaming could hit $45 billion in revenue by 2025. Mind you, this takes into account home VR setups as well, but the average living room can’t match a dedicated arcade center with space for more advanced experiences, not to mention that VR headsets are still very expensive. The arcade could become the best and most affordable way to enjoy VR around the world.

    Related Article: Konami's Aliens Arcade Game Is Still Amazing

    For the moment, arcade bars and breweries are compelling gamers to leave their homes to play games on a greater scale now than we’ve seen in a long time. If places like Coin-Op (which also happens to house Killer Queen cabinets) continue to make money and continue to rise in popularity, who’s to say there won’t be a reignited demand for new machines? Market research and statistics firm Statista estimates that the U.S. amusement arcade business will rake in $2.2 billion in revenue in 2019, an uptick from the last ten years.

    “I think you’ll see arcade-style bars and arcades in [nightlife] settings proliferate,” says Bolton of the arcade bar model. “I’m even seeing regular bars start to have pinball games and one or two standalone cabinets more often. I think we’ll see more arcade [machines] along with food and cocktails and beer. That’ll go a long way.”

    Bar-cades seem to be picking up steam in major cities across the country, but what of wholesome, alcohol-free arcades like High Scores? In 2016 (the last year the report was available), coin-op trade magazine Play Meter ran a “state of the industry” report that estimated that there were still 2,500 arcades in operation in 2015, and that number could grow if renewed interest in this niche market continues. Weiss thinks the future of arcades may lie in businesses willing to cater to clients young and old, citing examples like Free Play Arcade in Texas, which provides a family-friendly atmosphere by day and an adults-only bar-cade experience at night.

    "I think a mix [of family fun and nightlife] might be the way. [Kids] and parents’ interests these days are more in line with each other than they used to be. There used to be certain activities for kids and certain activities for grown-ups. But we’re blurring the lines these days, with more adults enjoying geek culture. Maybe that mixed model is the best way forward.”

    Bernard Boo is a freelance contributor. Read more of his work here.

    Photo credit: Polina Kharnas

    Read and download the Den of Geek NYCC 2018 Special Edition Magazine right here!


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