The Future Is Free: Free-to-play takes center stage at E3 2013

The Monday before E3 2013, Microsoft took the stage at its annual press conference and, in the breathless pause after the new Metal Gear trailer, announced a free-to-play game for the Xbox 360. It was a moment that easily showed the importance of free-to-play in the current gaming landscape, and it wasn't the last we would hear of the publishing model during E3.Both Microsoft and Sony loaned valuable E3 floorspace to console-based free-to-play demos. Multiple publishers had free-to-play titles on the show floor, from triple-A houses like Ubisoft to companies more traditionally associated with the model like Zynga. Even Nintendo, long the laggard when it comes to new business paradigms, said it would release a first-party free-to-play game by the end of its fiscal year next March. P...

PlayStation C.A.M.P. puzzle game Open Me! brings two Vitas together for puzzle box magic

Thank PlayStation C.A.M.P. for some of PlayStation's most interesting and offbeat titles. The program has spawned creative video game works like echochrome, Tokyo Jungle and the upcoming invisible adventure Rain. It's also spawned Open Me!, a unique augmented reality puzzle game coming to PlayStation Vita later this year in North America. Open Me! for PlayStation Vita didn't garner much attention at Sony's E3 booth this year, but we became enamored with the quirky multiplayer puzzle game after stumbling into it at last year's Tokyo Game Show (where it was known as Box! Open Me). The premise is simple — you open a series of puzzle boxes — but its use of the PS Vita's camera, gyroscope and touchscreen makes for a dazzling experience. Open Me! functions when players point the Vita's...

EA faces barriers to entry for a baseball franchise, says EA Sports chief Andrew Wilson

Baseball is always on Electronic Arts' mind, but there's a lot that has to change if the company is going to get back into the market of baseball video games, according to EA Sports executive vice president Andrew Wilson. The most recent licensed Major League Baseball game from EA Sports was 2005's MVP Baseball 2005, a tremendous swan song for the franchise and the pre-HD console generation that fans of sports gaming still hold in high esteem. After EA inked an exclusive licensing deal with the National Football League for its Madden NFL series later that year, Take-Two Interactive retaliated by signing a seven-year exclusive contract with Major League Baseball for its Major League Baseball 2K franchise — a deal that prevented EA from bringing its well-regarded MVP Baseball series to...
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Scram Kitty and his Buddy on Rails is a space-tripping rollercoaster

When Polygon got some hands-on with independent developer Dakko Dakko's rail-riding platformer, Scram Kitty and his Buddy on Rails on the Wii U, we found that it is adaptable gamers mood and playstyle. In Scram Kitty, experimental, intelligent lab rats have overtaken a space station and have their sights set on ruling earth. As part of their plan, the rats have locked away all cats including the protagonist's super cat called Scram Kitty. Equipped with an anti-grav spinboard, the rail-riding platformer takes players on a ride around the on-rails universe to liberate carriers of cats. Gamers use the directional sticks to influence the spinboard's momentum as it coasts the rails, bunny hop from track-to-track using the jump button or launch across chasms of space to latch onto the next...

Earth Defense Force 2025 bringing cooperative insanity to North America

Sandlot's Earth Defense Force 2025 promises to give players third-person cooperative insanity against robots, massive space ants and colossal spiders. Known as Earth Defense Force 4 in regions outside of North America, the game features co-op, multiplayer and campaign modes. In a gameplay demo, D3's executive producer Miki Takahashi played a few splitscreen co-op missions with Polygon. In the first mission, Takahashi chose an Air Raider class, airborne infantry that calls in air raids and vehicles. And, to highlight the teamwork of classes, we were designated a Ranger, a foot soldier that can use mechs and other vehicles. In this co-op mission, the goal was to destroy all UFOs hovering over a field while masses of spiders swelled to impede the humans' progress. Takahashi called in a...

ZeniMax discusses studio's future and Fallout's E3 absence

Fallout fans may have been disappointed that developer Bethesda didn't reveal a new installment in the series at E3, but vice president of parent company ZeniMax, Pete Hines told Polygon that expecting a major announcement at this early stage is unrealistic. Hines said that even though Todd Howard's Bethesda Game Studios — the studio responsible for developing the Fallout series — revealed that it is already moving on to its next project, it's not going to "say or hint" at all at what they are doing and that "making assumptions" about the unannounced title is a "bad idea." "I mean [fans] have been clammering for a Fallout game for a long time now. What people need to understand — whether it is Bethesda Game Studios, Arkane or anybody — expecting information like that in any short...
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ZeniMax says Prey 2 wasn't up to expectations

The long awaited sequel to Human Head Studios' Prey is in development for an indefinite period because it wasn't up to the quality Bethesda and its parent company ZeniMax Media was expecting, vice president Peter Hines told Polygon at E3. "The reason why we are where we are is because the game is not up to the standards and to the expectations that we all agreed to," Hines said, stating that Bethesda's official statement on the game hasn't changed since last year, which the company is "obviously disappointed and unhappy about." "It was a project that we put time and money and effort into, and spent millions of dollars and a lot of blood and sweat working with the team to make a great game," he said. "And it was not in our collective estimation where it needed to be and so I don't have...

From everywhere to where it counts: Motion control find its place at E3 2013

Three years ago at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, Microsoft hired Cirque du Soleil to perform a multi-million dollar show to promote its motion control device Kinect. Sony put its PlayStation Move wand on stage and Nintendo rode its Wii success with games like The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Motion control games were everywhere, inspiring regular arguments about whether they were a fad or the industry's future.At this year's show, neither Sony nor Microsoft showed a single motion control demo on stage in their press conferences, and Nintendo's Mario and Zelda franchises showed up missing the shaking and pointing they had last time around. Motion controls weren't absent from this year's show, with Harmonix revealing music spectacle Fantasia and Ubisoft annualizing the massively...

Polygon's Editor's Choice selections for E3 2013

It's been a long time since an E3 has been this ... big. There are always a ton of games; that's nothing new, but E3 2013 represented the largest tectonic shift in the industry in nearly a decade. We're finally saying goodbye to the last generation and getting our first glimpse at what, exactly, the future will look like. After sifting through all that this year's show floor had to offer, what follows is the list of the offerings we found most impressive, most important. It took a lot of inter-staff disagreement to get this list, but on one point there can be no argument: It's gonna be an amazing year. Titanfall "The development veterans who created Modern Warfare and the team they’ve assembled are making their debut with Titanfall, an online-only multiplayer-focused...

Outlast is a stealth horror game designed to make the player suffer

The scariest thing about Outlast isn't its mountain asylum setting, or even the thing stalking you through the bloodied building, it's that the game features a hide button. The ability to hide isn't always there and it's not the only thing you can do in the game. Sometimes you can run, crouch, climb. What you can't do, no matter how desperate things get, is fight back. "The core gameplay experience is about no combat," Red Barrels' co-founder Philippe Morin tells me before I have a chance to play the PC and PlayStation 4 game. "It's about having the player suffer." Outlast tells the story of a reporter who gets a tip from an anonymous informant that something fishy is going on at a mountain asylum. The reporter goes there to investigate, but when he arrives he realizes that all hell...
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If the entire game-playing populace of the world was as enthusiastic about Pikmin as Miyamoto, it would probably be the best-selling game franchise of all time

Pikmin 3: Little plants in the shadows of giants

Pikmin has always been a strange series to pursue as a major tentpole franchise. It's a busy game, with lots of moving pieces — both on a mechanical and visual level. It's a deeply, surprisingly complex strategy game, a genre that Nintendo's not especially well-known for, and a genre that its casual-leaning audience doesn't have much crossover interest in. Despite those assumptions, Pikmin has a huge and devout fanship that's been waiting on its next installment since Pikmin 2, which was released nearly a decade ago. Pikmin 3 was first announced in 2008 Shigeru Miyamoto is among that fanbase. In an interview with Polygon, Nintendo of America's Bill Trinen — who translated for Miyamoto — said Pikmin 3 was one of Miyamoto's favorite games that he's ever created. So why has he kept...

Stronghold Crusader 2 wants players to be castlemates

Firefly Studios is offering a unique co-op experience by allowing two players to work together within its castle sim real-time strategy game, Stronghold Crusader 2, the team told Polygon. "With multiplayer we've got teams of AI, but one of the cool things is we've got multiplayer co-op, where you basically share the same castle," said marketing manager Nick Tannahill. "So that is one of the big features that we have. We control the same castle, but I might build the economy and you might build the military side. We'll have voice over Steam chat so we can talk all over. We are aiming to make it the best RTS of 2014." According Tannahill, the game combines all of the aspects of a city builder with real time strategy style, "Which are two quite complex things, so when you split them...

Castle of Illusion plays on nostalgia wisely with a blend of remake and homage

Sega is looking to hit thirtysomething gamers square in the nostalgia zone with Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse, a 3D update to the simple but classic Disney platformer for the Sega Genesis. In that regard, developer Sega Studios Australia is already successful. The gameplay is largely unchanged, merely modernized. Mickey jumps through the game's varied castle environments much as he did in 1990. He'll navigate through Castle of Illusion's fantasy worlds via a 3D hub, unlocking new environments as he collects gems. Mickey relies on a jump stomp to crush his enemies, and has access to a limited number projectiles, like marbles and torches. At E3, Sega showed off two levels from the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 version of Castle of Illusion, including the game's take on the...
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Wolfenstein: The New Order is built on pillars of action and adventure

Wolfenstein: The New Order, MachineGames' reimagining of id Software's military shooter, is more than just a regular first-person shooter, according to gameplay designer Andreas Öjerfors. It's also an action-adventure game. Speaking to Polygon, Öjerfors said that the theme of Wolfenstein — that of a retro, sci-fi future set in the 1960s where the Nazis won World War II — offered the development team opportunities to explore larger-than-life political leaders, weird technology and strange experiments, so it embraced these elements and made the game a first-person action adventure game. "In the adventure aspect ... players [will be taken] around the world to explore all of these different places [and] explore the realities of this new world where the Nazi have taken over the world," he...

EA Sports Ignite doesn't support PC, but it one day might, says EA Sports head Andrew Wilson

EA Sports Ignite, Electronic Arts' new engine for all its next-generation sports games, doesn't support Windows PC or Wii U at the moment. During an interview with Polygon at E3 last week, Andrew Wilson, executive vice president of EA Sports, listed a few reasons why that's the case. He also said there's a chance for EA to translate Ignite to PC in the future. The company's initial slate of next-generation sports titles — Madden NFL 25, FIFA 14 (screenshot above), NBA Live 14 and EA Sports UFC — will be released on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The FIFA series is the only annual sports title that EA still releases on PC, and until FIFA 11 in 2010, the PC version of the game didn't share the same engine or features as its more advanced PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 counterparts. (FIFA 11, F...

Super Smash Bros. director says character selection is stressful 'almost to the brink of death'

Masahiro Sakurai takes the process of adding new characters to the Super Smash Bros. seriously — possibly to the detriment of his mental and physical well-being. Choosing who stays and who goes on the game's roster is "almost deadly in the amount of time it takes me," the director of the new Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and Nintendo 3DS tells Polygon. At E3 last week, Nintendo showed first footage of the next Super Smash Bros., revealing a handful of returning favorites (Mario, Link, Pikachu, Kirby) and three brand-new fighters: Mega Man, Villager from Animal Crossing and the Wii Fit Trainer. What's more difficult than adding a character, Sakurai says, is the removal of characters from Nintendo's fighting game series and the distress that causes its players. "Taking a character out...

Microsoft 'over-delivering value' with $499 Xbox One, Mattrick says

Despite stinging criticism for announcing a console launch $100 more expensive than its direct rival, Microsoft believes Xbox One represents good value. At E3 last week, Microsoft said Xbox One would launch at $499 this November. A few hours later, Sony unveiled its price for PlayStation 4 would be $399, a move many commentators believe has handed Sony a key advantage going into the launch period. "[$499] is a lower number than some of the analysts had forecasted," said head of interactive entertainment Don Mattrick, in an interview with Bloomberg TV. "We're over-delivering value against other choices I think consumers can get. Any modern product you look at these days and $499 isn't a ridiculous price point. We're delivering thousands of dollars of value to people so I think they're...

Dark Souls 2's new engine allows for subtler forms of expression, co-director says

Dark Souls 2's new engine will allow the game's soft-spoken co-director, Yui Tanimura, to fulfill his long-held desire to include new, subtler expressions in the game, Tanimura told Polygon at E3 2013. At the macro level, the sequel's graphical upgrade will allow players to "dive in and immerse themselves within the actual gameplay and feel as if they are actually part of the game itself," Tanimura told Polygon through a translator. In the micro, the new engine allows Dark Souls 2 to include flourishes that weren't possible in the original Dark Souls engine. "The idea of gimmicks in the game is now doable with this new engine," he said. "Things like representing an enemy that is perhaps off-screen but with movement of shadows, or that kind of expression in the game. It's something...

Gameloft brings modern shooting, zombie driving and real-time strategy to E3

Gameloft, the Paris, France-based mobile developer, brought three unreleased games to E3 2013, so Polygon picked up and iPad and went hands-on with the shooter Modern Combat 5, the racing sim Asphalt 8 and the real-time strategy game Total Conquest, each of which is scheduled for release later this year. Asphalt 8: Airborne Asphalt 8: Airborne boasts 47 licensed luxury cars, a new physics engine and a zombie-inspired mode called "Infected," in which the car in last place becomes green, nets unlimited boost and can infect other cars with the gentlest of nudges. The novelty of the new mode made the game immediately accessible. It played like a classic arcade game. Even the occasional crash into an opposing car or bridge abutment didn't set us back too far because it seemed designed to...

Tiny Brains: a clever box of rodents rethinking puzzle games

At an event like E3, it's not unusual for a group of strangers to sit down at a multiplayer co-op game and play together without ever communicating with each other. The unspoken expectation among players tends to be, "just figure it out." You can try this approach when playing Spearhead Games' Tiny Brains. But it won't get you very far.At E3 last week, Polygon jumped into a game of Tiny Brains with three random players who had been pulled into Spearhead Games' booth on the show floor. After a quick tutorial from studio co-founder Simon Darveau where he explained that we would be playing as lab rodents who had developed physics-based super powers after being experimented on, we were tossed into our first obstacle course. During the first few minutes, the four rodents ran around like...
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