June 2, 2010, 9:32 am
Filed under: Features | Tags: , , ,

“Come on, admit it. You must be insanely bored by now.”

It’s 2 am in a hotel bar in Dundee, Scotland. I’m trying to get Ben Bateman, Community Officer at Realtime Worlds, to admit that after spending hundreds of hours playing All Points Bulletin over the last year or so, the game is starting to lose its lure. It’s just a job after all, right?

But he’s having none of it. For Ben and the rest of the 300-strong team involved with creating APB, the prevailing mood is excitement. After 5 long years in development, numerous rethinks and one abandoned platform, the PC-exclusive, ultra-urban MMO shooter is almost done. It’s good, and Realtime Worlds know it.

Bateman says that the beauty of APB is that, thanks to the game’s open-world multiplayer design, anything can and invariably does happen. Outstanding, hilarious or just plain cool things occur on a regular basis. It’s this that keeps him eager to come back for more.

I’ve listened to similar statements from other members of the team. Indeed, you could be forgiven for thinking this was simply the company line. But he’s being honest. Several of the hotel barman’s dodgy cocktails have ensured that.

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April 28, 2010, 8:23 pm
Filed under: Previews | Tags: , ,

It’s been a long time since an F1 game last revved its engines in HD. Since 2007’s F1 Championship Edition much has changed about the sport. Now, the influx of young, media-friendly stars like Fernando Alonso and Louis Hamilton dominate. With their Pussycat Doll girlfriends and giant multi-million pound yachts, they’ve reclaimed F1’s allure.

But for all formula one’s rejuvenated glamour, the licensed videogames have always been dry, drab affairs. F1 2010 promises to change that.

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January 27, 2010, 11:49 pm
Filed under: Features, Interviews | Tags: , , , ,

“We’re so concerned about the minutia that we’ve missed the much more interesting question of ‘how does this game make me feel?’”

Kill Screen is the ambitious new magazine from ex-Wall Street Journal reporter Jamin Brophy-Warren. Launching in January, it’s a project that promises a fresh approach to games journalism. Rejecting the established cycle of news, previews and reviews, Kill Screen aims instead to provide literate, thoughtful pieces on the people, culture and meaning of the medium.

In Brophy-Warren’s own words, “We want to be what early Rolling Stone was to rock n’ roll or Wired was to tech. We want to look like the Fader and walk like the Believer.” It’s an enticing prospect.

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December 14, 2009, 6:19 pm
Filed under: Interviews | Tags: , , ,

Making games is a tricky business, regardless of the size of the studio. UK-based indies Beatnik Games know this all too well. They’ve had a rough couple of years creating Plain Sight, their multiplayer robot-ninja-em-up. It’s a title with a fascinating premise, in which you gain points and power by destroying your enemies, but only bank those points when you destroy yourself and return to your original state.

With such intriguing set-up it would have been terrible if the game had never seen the light of day. Thankfully, after a couple of setbacks Plain Sight is back on track, better than ever and gearing up for release. We dragged producer Robin Lacey away from his booth at the Eurogamer Expo to talk development hell, accessibility and shitting rainbows.

That VideoGame Blog (TVGB): You showed the game at the Eurogamer Expo last year. Tell us a little about the game’s journey since then.

Robin Lacey (RL): Well last year was pretty much an Alpha build, it was just the basic gameplay concept. What we were trying to judge whether people thought the idea fun and if they found it visually interesting – it was basically a prototype. The response was fantastic and we were like, ‘This is great!’ So we went and spent about 3 months or so just working away on it and we thought, ‘Great we’re in Beta stage.’

So around Christmas last year we launched our open beta, which we thought would be fine – we thought maybe 10 people would download it and we’d get a bit of forum feedback. But 50,000 people downloaded it and everything burst into flames and went horribly wrong.

We realized that the game mechanics were broken and it was an absolute nightmare. So over the last 12 months what we’ve done is take the feedback and all of the harsh lessons we learned and tried to make the most refined game we possible can. It’s certainly been interesting.

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December 13, 2009, 3:36 am
Filed under: Interviews | Tags: , , ,

Tiny UK development outfit Hello Games couldn’t of wished for a better introduction to the world. They’ve just finished showing their debut game to packed crowds at the Eurogamer Expo and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

It’s easy to see why. Just watching Joe Danger in action is enough to put a smile on your face. A gorgeously colorful racer-cum-platformer that just bursts with character, it’s a throwback to happier times. Oh and it’s fun too. Should have said that before.

We’ll have a proper preview of the game coming up for you soon, but in the meantime here’s our chat with  Sean Murray, Hello Games’ Managing Director and one of the men that brought Joe Danger to life.

That VideoGame Blog (TVGB): First of all, your blog is outstanding, some of the best writing about games we’ve read in a while.

Sean Murray (SM): Oh thanks! I think we were probably too honest in it, about the mistakes we have made and stuff. But people seem to like it.

TVGB: It’s like the Show and Yell event last night (read about it here). It was a bit chaotic and mental, not even approaching slick, but really, really fun. It had character and you could tell that everyone was really in love with what they were doing.

SM: You’ve just summed up indie games, haven’t you? Pretty rough around the edges but fun.

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The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom, the time-bending puzzle-platformer from devs The Odd Gentlemen, is set for release on Xbox Live Arcade next year. It’s been on the receiving end of many admiring glances here at TVGB, so we thought a chat with The Odd Gentlemen themselves was well overdue. Read on for the thoughts of Matt Korba (Creative Director, Lead Designer, President) and Paul Bellezza (CEO, Producer, Diet Coke Fetcher) on the indie scene, why they’ll never make an FPS and, inevitably, pies.

That VideoGame Blog (TVGB): Winterbottom began as a student thesis. It then became a fully-fledged indie game, and it now has the support of one of the bigger publishing houses. How much has the game changed over that time?

Matt Korba: Well, the core has very much remained the same. We have smoothed out and refined the mechanics from the student game to make them as clear and fun as possible and added some new time tricks. We basically took a short demo of a game and expanded it to a full game’s worth of content, complete with a narrative, leader boards, achievements, the whole nine. The art has gotten a huge update as is apparent from looking at the screenshots side by side. The tech has also dramatically changed. Unfortunately, there is no magic button to take a flash game to the Xbox. We had to build our tools and engine entirely from scratch to make Winterbottom possible.

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December 13, 2009, 2:50 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: ,

Heroes Over Europe offers a vision of World War II filtered through old British comic books, patriotic wartime posters and chirpy Pathe newsreels about ‘our boys.’ It’s a welcoming approach, a presentational style that accounts for much of the game’s strength. But the ‘chocks away’ charm wears away all too quickly. What’s left is a game with a real dearth of ideas.

The sequel to 2005’s Heroes Over the Pacific, HOE transplants the air-based arcade action to a rough approximation of the Battle of Britain. So you’ll be zooming over London defending the houses of Parliament, dispatching vast squadrons of bombers and dog-fighting ‘ace pilots’ over the white cliffs of Dover. All in the name of seeing off those dastardly Nazi chaps.

The game’s central gimmick is the addition of ‘Ace-Kills,’ a feature best described as the air-combat equivalent of bullet-time. Get in close to an enemy and a gauge on your targeting reticule will charge, keep them in your sights for long enough it will eventually turn red – allowing you to click a button, zoom in and pick off vulnerable sections of enemy plane. Think of it as an air-to-air headshot.

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