Q&A: N-Gage producers Scott Foe and Shane Neville
Pocket Kingdom and Rifts: Promise of Power are both closer to release, and now clearer in our minds as the games' producers tell all.
At the recent N-Gage event in Vancouver, two of Nokia's North American game producers, Scott Foe and Shane Neville, made themselves available to GameSpot to discuss their upcoming games, Pocket Kingdom and Rifts: Promise of Power.
The two titles are in radically different stages of development, but both look promising. Foe's Pocket Kingdom, a collaborative effort between Sega and Nokia that's due in October, is being billed is the first global, mobile MMO. Rifts: Promise of Power, which is being developed by Backbone Entertainment, is a tactical RPG based on Palladium Books' Rifts series of pen-and-paper RPGs and is being readied for release in the summer of 2005.
We first spoke with Pocket Kingdom producer Scott Foe:
GameSpot: Do you anticipate a need for an active brigade of moderators to control the MMO elements of PK?
Scott Foe: All communities need moderators, but the beauty of Pocket Kingdom is that griefing is actually part of the system. In fact, you are taught to grief when you first play the game, right off the bat! It's player vs. player combat, so I don't think that much in-game moderation will be necessary--however, we'll be policing police the boards and stuff. Our group has been doing this since the beginning of console gaming, so we're old hands.
GS: How difficult was it to integrate the various cultural disparities between the Japanese and US teams? Can you comment on Sega's expertise in the area of MMO games?
SF: Well, the game's story concept and that kind of dynamic comes from us, but the development was a joint project between the Japanese and US teams working together. It was actually a very smooth transition, because I worked for Sega when this project began. Sega's always been a leader in online gaming, actually. Remember the Dreamcast network? Nokia is the leader of mobile technology, so it only made sense that they worked together. The biggest challenge was the Japanese and Finnish teams fighting with me for phone conferences, while I was based in San Francisco!
GS: Could you discuss some of the games that inspired Pocket Kingdom?
SF: Heroes of Might and Magic, Military Madness, Warsong, and Advance Wars are all sort of ancestors of Pocket Kingdom, but the great strategy communities that fans have built over the years are our greatest inspiration. I personally have a great love of online strategy games: in the late 90s, you had Mr. Fixit, where community interaction was a game in and of itself. The games may change, but the community aspect is always there, and I wanted to bring that into the game itself. Here's a question for you: Are you Gosu? Gosu is Korean slang for High-Handed--a Gosu is basically the cream of the crop, he's a gamer that plays like a god. Our game will answer that question; Noob and Gosu are actual ranks in PK. The beauty of our game is that it's all one world. There are no regional servers. Every time you log on, you'll actually know who owns the world! In fact, you'll even get a trophy if you've owned the world.
Another of the things I really wanted to do in Pocket Kingdom was to tell an entirely new story; I'm sick of elves that live in trees, I'm tired of dragons that are old and wise. Instead, we have three amazing griefers, who were Numbers One, Two, and Three in PK and then got kicked off N-Gage Arena when they got caught griefing, and now everyone's scrambling to reclaim their spots. All the characters know that they live in a video game, but that doesn't make what they're doing any less important. The game's trash-talking feature actually gives you a bonus on defense, so this self-referential aspect is really integral to the game. Also, we have some really cool plans for the community site, which will be extremely well-integrated into the game.
GS: How long had the idea for Pocket Kingdom been kicking around Sega, before Nokia decided to do something about it?
SF: Pocket Kingdom has been kicking around Sega for about 2 years. The idea was to wait for the mobile environment to mature to the point where we could really get it to work, and Nokia's there with the N-Gage. Keep in mind that Sega had a mobile division before almost anyone else, so we knew what to look for.
Next up was Rifts producer Shane Neville.
GameSpot: Can you detail the multiplayer features a little bit more. Are you anticipating downloadable content over Arena?
Shane Neville: Downloadable content probably won't be happening. There are going to be multiple online game modes, which haven't been announced at this stage. Rifts will, however, support one-on-one challenges over Arena.
GS: So, this Rifts game has a title. This suggests that it's not simply a game for the N-Gage, but also a franchise. Can you elaborate?
SN: We don't have any sequel plans right now, but internally there's a lot of excitement about this game, both at Nokia and at developer Backbone Entertainment. We definitely compose our contracts to have maximum flexibility. I certainly wouldn't be surprised if there was a sequel, if the original's a success.
GS: How do you anticipate fans of the pen-and-paper will react to this game? How much effort have you put into making this game authentic, versus making it playable?
SN: When it comes to authenticity, there's certain things you have to change. The in-game art is much smaller, for instance, so there's a little less visual detail to the characters than there is in the book. No matter what, we always come back to the question, "is this Rifts?" It's not necessarily going to be word-for-word, but I think the game really captures the RPG's flavor. Kevin [Siembieda, creator of Rifts] read our game document and was constantly saying, "Wow, this is a great idea! I'm going to use this in my next DM session!"
GS: Could you discuss the story at all at this juncture? Will you be fighting for or against the CSA, for instance? What about the Federation of Magic? The Xiticix?
SN: At this time, I can't comment.
GS: How much body modification is possible in Rifts?
SN: It depends on your character's class. If you're a magic user or psionic, you simply can't, because the rules would dictate that you would no longer be that class. Head Hunters and Cyborgs, obviously, can both use body modifications.
GS: What size of MMC will this game come on?
SN: Probably a 32 MB cartridge.
GS: How many spells will you be able to access? Psi-powers? Techno-wizardry?
SN: Well, we started off with the full list, which is a lot! We're currently cutting it down. The game's got the same spell-learning system as the book; when you gain levels, you can learn new spells, although the studying component will be automated. Count on the big psi powers being present. Also, ley line dynamics will definitely play a role. No comment on techno-wizardry, other than the fact that it'll be in the game.
GS: Is the Battle Magus involved with the Federation of Magic?
SN: Yep, the Battle Magus class is actually from the Magic Kingdom, which is related to the evil Federation of Magic. Battle Magi don't have to be evil, though. You can choose any alignment you wish for your characters.
GS: What's the game's narrative layout going to be like? Will it be more directed or free-form? Will you get to leave Earth, or go to Lone Star?
SN: The story itself is relatively non-linear. There are going to be tons of side quests. The towns on the map won't be randomly generated--everything in the game is going to be pre-determined. You'll get to interact with a lot of characters from the book. And, no, you'll be staying on Earth for this one. There are no plans to include Texas at this point.
GS: From what I've seen so far, the combat looks kind of like Final Fantasy Tactics. Can you name some other sources of inspiration for the game?
SN: Well, a lot of tactical RPGs were the inspiration for this game. Stuff like Laser Squad Nemesis, Disgaea, and La Pucelle all come to mind. But here's the thing: the story always sucks in those games. The difference in Rifts is that the story is a very important part of the game. In fact, we have a writer who's doing the story and all of the dialogue.
GS: Thanks, Scott. Thanks, Shane.
By Steve Palley -- GameSpot
POSTED: 09/17/04 05:42 PM PST
Jamdat's big day on the Street
Mobile game publisher makes hay on Day One of its IPO; shares climb 41 percent.
Jamdat Mobile, an LA-based mobile applications company, reported unexpectedly strong Day One results from Wall Street today. The company raised approximately $61 million from an initial public offering of 5.5 million shares of stock.
Jamdat shares closed at $22.51 after active trading on the Nasdaq. Reportedly, almost 7 million shares traded hands today. The closing price represented an increase of over 40 percent based on the initial pricing of $16 per share. Such endorsement from the investment community strongly suggests the mobile gaming market may be attracting more than just venture capitalists.
Jamdat had planned to sell only 5.3 million shares of stock at $13-15 per share; instead, it allocated additional shares after demand proved heavier than anticipated. The IPO was underwritten by Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch & Co, and UBS Investment Bank.
The company has benefited from its early start and carrier associations solidified by company CEO Mitch Lasky. "Jamdat was an early leader in wireless games, and while the industry tends to undervalue games' potential, carriers such as Verizon and Sprint have done very well with games as an additional revenue stream," said Billy Pidgeon, a senior analyst with the Zelos Group and an expert on the wireless market.
Jamdat Mobile is primarily known for developing and publishing games for cell phones, such as its popular Jamdat Bowling games, Neverwinter Nights, and Jamdat Sports NFL 2005. Earlier this summer when the company said it intended to go public, the news was greeted with mixed reactions; calendar Q1 of 2004 was the four-year-old company's first profitable quarter. Jamdat had posted a loss of $4.3 million on $4.2 million in revenue over the first half of 2003.
Can Jamdat capitalize on its success today? Says Pidgeon: ”There is still huge unrealized potential in wireless games, and Jamdat is poised to continue to lead in the sector.”
By Steve Palley -- GameSpot
POSTED: 09/29/04 05:41 PM PST
Iwata: Revolution will bring a "paradigm shift" to gaming
Nintendo president confirms his company's next-gen console will be unveiled at E3, says it will lure retired gamers and nongamers to the market.
TOKYO--In a full-page interview in Thursday's Kyoto Journal, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata commented on the current state of the company's next-generation game console--being developed under the working title "Revolution."
<!-- blank error ad -->Iwata said the Revolution will cause a "paradigm shift" in video gaming, and reconfirmed that details on the machine will be unveiled at the upcoming E3 in May. He added that the machine will most likely come out somewhere between 2005 and 2006, when Sony and Microsoft are expected to release their next-generation consoles. Currently very little is known about the Revolution except that it may not use a conventional controller and may be able to connect to a PC monitor as well as the traditional TV screen.
"The keyword for the DS was 'innovative product,' but it will be 'paradigm shift in [game] play' with the Revolution," Iwata said in his interview with Kyoto's popular local newspaper.
"The concept behind our new console, tentatively named 'Revolution,' is the same as the DS. We want it to broaden the [video gaming] audience range, and we don't want it to be something that people will see as too irrelevant to them, too difficult to use, or as something that wastes space. We'll announce specific details at the E3 ... It will most likely come out between this year [and] next year, which is considered to be the transition period for home consoles," Iwata said.
Iwata said the DS and PSP aren't directly competing, because Nintendo is aiming for nongamers and retired gamers with its handheld, while Sony is targeting the traditional gaming audience. He added that his company will also attempt to avoid competing in the next-gen console market.
"Similar to the relationship that the DS has with the PSP, we won't fight over the same share of the pie with another company. We have no intention of fighting over shares of the market in a way that will shrink it. For us, success will depend on whether we can call back people that have stopped playing games, and whether we can also bring in a new base of customers. That way, our share [of the market] will increase since the market will grow bigger," Iwata said.
Iwata also took time to comment on the success of the DS. "We shipped 2.8 million units in Japan and America by the end of last year, and most had reached the hands of our customers by early after New Year's. Its sales are very good when compared to the launch of other game machines we've sold in the past. We feel that the DS has gained a wide range of audience. Aside from video game fans, people that haven't played games in a long time, or never played games before, have been picking up the DS," Iwata said. "According to research, the sales of game hardware for one month, starting in late November, increased by 75 percent compared to the past year, and game software sales also rose by about 10 percent. I believe that the DS is hindering people from losing interest in video games."
When asked by the Kyoto Journal what he thought of the PSP, Iwata stated relatively bluntly that Sony is going in a direction that Nintendo doesn't believe in, though he softened that by saying he welcomes Sony's entrance into the market--since it should expand the total gaming audience.
"In the past, the video game industry grew on high-quality graphics and data volume," Iwata said. "We decided to move into a different direction, since we believe that those days have ended. But by watching the PSP, we see that there are also people that have different thoughts from us. But it's up to the consumers to make the judgment, and it'll also be good if we can expand the market size by bringing out our best points."
Iwata also commented briefly on Nintendo's entrance into the movie market, hinting that although the company is strongly considering the move, it isn't completely sure if it will be going into the business just yet.
"We're strongly considering the matter. I've been in contact with the script writers, directors, and the production companies. We're looking into the potentials between movies and video games. But if we decide to really go into the movie business, it will be around summer of 2006 at the earliest."
By Hirohiko Niizumi -- GameSpot
POSTED: 01/14/05 05:14 PM PST
Nintendo Japan taking DS, GBA multimedia adapter preorders
Play-Yan's Web-only sales begin next month; the peripheral will play MPEG-4 movies and MP3 music files.
TOKYO--Nintendo has begun accepting preorders for the Play-Yan, a peripheral that makes it possible to play MP3 and MPEG-4 files on the DS and the Game Boy Advance SP. The Play-Yan will go on sale February 21, and is offered both by itself for 5,000 yen ($49) or bundled with MediaStage 4.2 software for 6,000 yen ($59). The peripheral will be available only through <extlink href="http://www.nintendo.co.jp/n08/playan/">Nintendo's Japanese-language Web site</extlink>.
<!-- blank error ad -->MediaStage is a Panasonic-made Windows application that lets users encode movies for the Play-Yan, manage files, and play them on a PC. However, it requires Windows XP Professional SP1 or Home Edition SP1 or higher. MediaStage does not encode MP3 files.
Unlike the PSP, the Play-Yan doesn't come with a direct connection to a PC. Playing media files on the DS or GBA SP will be a two-step process: first downloading the data to an SD card (which must be purchased separately) from a PC, and second inserting the SD card into the Play-Yan and snapping the Play-Yan into the handheld's cartridge slot.
The Play-Yan allows users to select a movie from a list of thumbnails. When playing music, it offers a shuffle mode and a repeat mode to loop a single track or all the tracks, plus configurable bass and surround sound. Also, songs can be organized into folders. One thing that the Play-Yan doesn't support is still images, so putting JPEG files onto the SD card won't do any good.
On the GBA SP, the Play-Yan can play up to four hours of movies or 16 hours of music (when running on earphones). On the DS, it can play five hours of movies or 20 hours of music with earphones. The GBA SP will play music files in mono on its internal speakers, while the DS's internal speakers will play files in stereo. Using the earphones--which Nintendo suggests, since the Play-Yan is designed for that--will allow stereo playback on both the GBA SP and DS. Movie files will play only in mono sound for both handhelds. Also, the Play-Yan won't work with the classic GBA.
Nintendo first announced its Play-Yan plans a month ago, just one week after Sony launched its PSP in Japan.
The full specifications for Nintendo's Play-Yan are as follows:
Name: Play-Yan (Model AGS-006)
Size: 58.5mm x 43.4mm x 11mm
Weight: 16 grams
Media: SD Memory Card (64MB to 1GB)
Headphone output: Stereo Minijack
Battery Life, GBA SP: Movie - 4 hours; Audio - 16 hours*
Battery Life, DS: Movie - 5 hours; Audio - 20 hours *
* Battery life calculated with use of earphones; may differ depending on environment and SD card.
File Format: ASF (SD-VIDEO Standard)
Video Format: MPEG-4 Video
Screen Resolution: 128x96 (Sub-QCIF), 176x144 (QCIF), 240x176, 320x240 (QVGA), 352x288 (CIF)
Bit Rate: 64kbps to 1Mbps
Frame Rate: 6fps to 30fps
Sound Format: Bit rate - 32kbps; Sampling rate - 8kHz
File Format: MP3 (MPEG1 Layer-3)
Bit Rate: 32kbps, 40kbps, 48kbps, 56kbps, 64kbps, 80kbps, 96kbps, 112kbps, 128kbps, 160kbps, 192kbps, 224kbps, 256kbps, 320kbps, CBR, VBR, ABR
Sampling Frequency: 32KHz, 44.1KHz, 48KHz
ID3 Tag: v1, v1.1, v2, v1/v2 mixed, v1.1/v2 mixed
Examples of Recordable Length on a 512MB SD Card:
Movie Recorded on a DIGA DVD recorder:
Superfine Mode (320x240, 15fps), 1050kbps: Approximately 1 hour
Fine Mode (320x240, 12fps), 430kbps: Approximately 2.5 hours
Normal Mode (176x144, 12fps), 300kbps: Approximately 3.5 hours
Economy Mode (176x144, 6fps), 100kbps: Approximately 11 hours
Movie Recorded on a PC Using MediaStage:
512kbps 240x176 (30fps): Approximately 2 hours
384kbps 240x176 (30fps): Approximately 3 hours
256kbps 240x176 (15fps): Approximately 4 hours
128kbps: Approximately 9 hours (accomodates about 170 three-minute songs)
By Hirohiko Niizumi -- GameSpot
POSTED: 01/19/05 12:41 PM PST
Последний раз редактировалось Mihalych, 20.01.2005 в 12:46.
Tales of Eternia coming to the PSP in March
Namco's first RPG for the PSP is dated in Japan; port of the 2000 PlayStation version gets tweak to graphics.
TOKYO--Namco announced today that it will release Tales of Eternia for the PSP on March 3 in Japan.
<!-- blank error ad -->Tales of Eternia for the PSP was previously announced under the working title T.O.E. The game is essentially a port of the PlayStation edition released in 2000, albeit with graphical refinements and some changes that accommodate the PSP's screen. It seems that Namco is intentionally launching the game on March 3 (3/3), as Tales of Eternia was originally released as the third installment in the Tales series.
In America, Tales of Eternia was released under the name Tales of Destiny II. For a look back at the PlayStation original, check out GameSpot's earlier coverage.
The game is will be priced at 4,800 yen ($47).
By Hirohiko Niizumi -- GameSpot
POSTED: 01/19/05 03:13 PM PST
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