| Interviews Bad puns and video games since 1999. Sat, 23 Oct 2021 04:58:13 +0100 5 Sat, 23 Oct 2021 04:58:13 +0100 AMD FidelityFX Super Resolution: the Digital Foundry interview

Everyone wants extra performance from their PC hardware, right? And that's where technologies like AMD's FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR), Nvidia's DLSS and Intel's upcoming XeSS are all about - essentially allowing the GPU to render at a lower resolution, then either upscaling or reconstructing to the native output of the display. In a sense, this is new territory for PC, where native resolution rendering was for a long time considered the only way forward. However, in console land, 'smart upscaling' isn't new, really coming to the fore with the launch of PS4 Pro in 2016. PC has embraced similar techniques, but has also spawned its own blend - and AMD's FSR in particular stands apart. So when Team Red asked us if were interested to talk FSR, we jumped at the chance. AMD's approach is different, both in terms of technology and philosophy.

To set the scene, what we've traditionally defined as 'smart upscalers' have all had one thing in common: the use of prior frames as a reference for improving the quality of the next one to render. All of the effort the GPU has spent in generating a previous image, working in combination with motion vectors that inform the game of where those pixels will end up in the future, allows for extra detail to be injected into a freshly rendered frame. The two key technologies to use this initially were checkerboard rendering and temporal super-sampling. These techniques what made PS4 Pro's 4.2TF GPU capable of producing a pretty convincing 4K output and they've been used on all consoles by this point. Similar techniques are now found in a range of engines supported on PC too - and with an added component from machine learning, that's how DLSS 2.x works as well, and additionally, it's how we expect Intel's XeSS to play out.

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]]> Sat, 16 Oct 2021 13:47:00 +0100 Richard Leadbetter
Baldur's Gate 3: Patch 6 impressions and a big interview with Larian

Baldur's Gate 3 gets a whopping Steam Early Access update today in the shape of Patch 6. The headline goodies are a new Dungeons & Dragons class to play as - the Sorcerer - plus a whole new area to explore: Grymforge.

I'll explore a few of the additions here, as I had a chance to play them at EGX recently, and then lead into an interview with Larian headmaster Swen Vincke, who I interviewed after the show.

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]]> Thu, 14 Oct 2021 18:30:00 +0100 Robert Purchese
The big interview: EA, FIFA and loot boxes

FIFA 22 is out in the wild, and in gameplay terms it's going down well. But, as anyone who's read Eurogamer's review will know, we still have a few problems with how it's monetised. Specifically, the hugely-popular Ultimate Team mode and its controversial loot boxes.

Ultimate Team, which drives hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for publisher and developer EA each year, revolves around the idea of building a squad of players, which you then use to play in matches, both offline and online.

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]]> Fri, 08 Oct 2021 10:00:00 +0100 Wesley Yin-Poole
Zool Redimensioned: how a new generation of developers revitalised a 90s platform icon

We've seen a lot of retro remakes and remasters in recent times and even brand-new games built with a vintage aesthetic, but the recent arrival of Zool Redimensioned is intriguing - simply because of the way in which it was made and the ethos behind its development. Yes, one of the objectives behind the game is to return the Amiga platforming icon to gamers' attention - and yes, perhaps this is about testing the waters for some kind of return for the ninja from the Nth Dimension. But just as important as that is the fact that Zool Redimensioned was built by students at the Sumo Digital Academy, creating their own C++ engine as the foundation for the remaster. It's an investment from a major studio in nurturing a new wave of game developers.

You can learn all about it in this special DF Retro interview, where John Linneman and Audi Sorlie talk to Jacob Habgood, director of education partnerships at the Sumo Group about how Zool Redimensioned came to be, while Sumo Digital Academy intern Emma Rogers shares her experiences in helping to create the new version of the game. On top of that, we get some fascinating insights and historical perspectives from none other than Ian Stewart - co-founder of Gremlin Graphics, the 80s/90s publishing powerhouse responsible not just for Zool, but a range of almost legendary micro-computer franchises from Potty Pigeon, Bounder, Monty Mole, through to Switchblade and the officially licensed Lotus racing games - and many more.

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]]> Sun, 03 Oct 2021 15:00:00 +0100 Richard Leadbetter
The big Gran Turismo 7 interview

Gran Turismo is back. Not that it's ever been away, of course - Gran Turismo Sport released towards the end of 2017, providing a foundation for a pleasingly modern take on the series with a new focus on online inspired by the likes of iRacing and some strong post-release support.

Now, though, is the time for the first numbered release in the series since 2013, and with that comes a different set of expectations - a proper campaign, a broader car list and a return to the collectathons of old, all of which Gran Turismo 7 looks set to deliver upon.

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]]> Thu, 16 Sep 2021 14:00:00 +0100 Martin Robinson
The big interview: how Intel Alchemist GPUs and XeSS upscaling will change PC gaming

Last week, Intel finally laid down its cards. Architecture Day 2021 saw the company deliver an array of truly exciting new products, stretching across CPUs and graphics, from laptop to datacentre. The firm is looking to massively accelerate its compute performance by a factor of 1000x over several years. It's a seemingly impossible task, but Intel wants to achieve it by leveraging the state of the art in CPU, GPU and integration technology. A core part of the strategy is in delivering competitive graphics performance - and that's where the new line of discrete GPUs from Intel comes to the fore... and they're looking superb.

Codenamed Alchemist, the new GPU looks to take Intel's existing graphics tech - found in integrated form in its Tiger Lake and in limited release via the DG1 graphics card - and expand it out in all directions. More execution units (96 in DG1, up to 512 in DG2), more power, more memory bandwidth plus all the speed and efficiency advantages of TSMC's new 6nm fabrication process.

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]]> Tue, 24 Aug 2021 15:00:00 +0100 Richard Leadbetter
The big Back 4 Blood interview: environmental storytelling, always online, and the new card system

Perhaps one of the most anticipated games since its unveiling at The Game Awards last year, Back 4 Blood, developed by the makers of Left 4 Dead, marks a return to a lost era. Turtle Rock Studios has been explicit in saying that it has been disappointed by releases in the zombie shooter genre in the past decade, so it has come back to the genre do it itself. And while it has also been explicit about the fact that this is a new IP, the studio has not shied away from the game's familiarity with its spiritual predecessor and its formula.

The game was delayed in March, from 22nd June to 12th October, giving the team more time to finish it off. It was also revealed Back 4 Blood will be on Xbox Game Pass on day one and will be always online. An open beta is also set to be launched on 12th August, with early access available right now for those who pre-ordered.

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]]> Thu, 05 Aug 2021 20:00:00 +0100 Ishraq Subhan
"Regardless of how you feel about Sylvanas, you're going to get some answers"

Finally, it seems, Warcraft fans who have wondered just what Blizzard is doing with supervillain Sylvanas Windrunner will get some answers.

This week, Blizzard launches World of Warcraft Shadowlands update 9.1, dubbed Chains of Domination, and with it adds a brand new raid that ends with a boss fight against Warcraft's most divisive character: the Banshee Queen herself.

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]]> Mon, 28 Jun 2021 15:48:00 +0100 Wesley Yin-Poole
Monster Hunter finally broke the west, but it wants to go broader still

When the original Monster Hunter Stories launched back in 2016, Capcom's series' wasn't exactly unloved, yet it was still a relatively niche concern in the west - loved by a dedicated core, but yet to capture the mainstream imagination.

How much can change over five years. Its sequel launches to a world that's truly fallen for Monster Hunter - thanks in no small part to the breakout success of Monster Hunter World, which opened up the series to a whole new audience, which was followed up handsomely by this year's exquisite Monster Hunter Rise.

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]]> Thu, 24 Jun 2021 14:00:00 +0100 Martin Robinson
The fan who took the reins at a JRPG powerhouse

There are beloved boutique Japanese studios, and then there's Falcom; a true grandee about to celebrate its 40th anniversary, the company traces its beginnings back to a hobbyist shop selling PCs and Apple IIIs as well as the curious games people were coding for them, before turning to making those games themselves. The studio has stayed purposefully modest ever since, still employing just over 60 people as it continues doing what it does best: making RPGs rich in character and story, with vast arcs that can span multiple games.

Fans of Falcom are a dedicated bunch, then - like Toshihiro Kondo, for example, who took over the reins from founder Masayuki Kato in 2007. Since then, there's been a gentle push towards the west that's led to new audiences discovering the likes of Ys, the brilliantly breezy action RPG, and the ongoing Legend of Heroes series and its offshoots - a series that rivals the likes of Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy in longevity.

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]]> Thu, 24 Jun 2021 08:00:00 +0100 Martin Robinson
When Nintendo went Hollywood: a casual conversation with the man who helped shape the N64

Somewhat inexplicably, it is a quarter of a century since the Nintendo 64 first appeared in Japan - marking the beginning not just of Nintendo's first proper foray into 3D, but also the start of a whole new era of video games. It's far from Nintendo's most successful console, and with a relatively slim number of titles it's perhaps not one of its most beloved either, but there's a strong case to be made for the N64 being one of Nintendo's most important pieces of hardware.

Working within Nintendo back then was Giles Goddard, who'd helped push Nintendo into 3D with his work on Star Fox at Argonaut before he decamped to Kyoto to join the company full-time. It's here that Goddard worked on 1080° Snowboarding, the extreme sports game that went on to become beloved by many - and it's territory he's since returned to with Carve Snowboarding, which recently released on Oculus Quest to critical acclaim, while elsewhere his studio is lending its talents to Playdate with the California Games-esque Whitewater Wipeout.

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]]> Wed, 23 Jun 2021 08:00:00 +0100 Martin Robinson
The big Forza Horizon 5 interview: "There's not any point being bigger if it's more of the same"

Perhaps not one of the biggest, but one of the most pleasant surprises of E3 2021 was the unveiling of Forza Horizon 5 in a relatively substantial gameplay demo during the Xbox showcase - with a November 2021 release date to boot. It was a given that this enormously polished and entertaining open-word driving series by Playground Games would return, but we didn't know when; for its first four entries it had been on a strict biennial schedule, but the UK-set Forza Horizon 4 has now been entertaining people for almost three years with little sign of flagging, thanks to a well-judged and assiduously maintained weekly and monthly update schedule, as well as easy accessibility on Game Pass on both Xbox and PC.

It was to be expected that Horizon 4 might break the rhythm. While still emphasising beautiful and optimistic open-world driving fun and esoteric car collection, 4 brought a cautious but deliberate shift in emphasis towards 'live' gaming, with its constant updates and its living map populated by default with other players. It was more successful in some areas than others; the game is constantly rewarding to dip into, but (as with many previous Forza Horizons) it has struggled to make its rather chaotic online multiplayer offering as sticky as its solo challenges.

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]]> Thu, 17 Jun 2021 08:00:00 +0100 Oli Welsh
With Guilty Gear Strive, Daisuke Ishiwatari aims to make one of the most complex fighting games around finally accessible

Guilty Gear Strive is nearly upon us. Developer Arc System Works has held a number of beta tests, each with its own set of issues pounced upon by the anime fighting game series' fans. But the bigger picture is this: with Strive, chief creator Daisuke Ishiwatari aims to do the seemingly impossible - make Guilty Gear accessible.

Guilty Gear's reputation precedes itself. Perhaps it would be better to say Guilty Gear's reputation hangs around its neck like a cowbell. Bong! Here comes another Guilty Gear. Head for the hills! This one's even harder than the last! Long combos, brutal timing, multiple complex mechanics and tricky characters - Guilty Gear has it all and then some. Play online as a newcomer against the series' modest but seriously properly into it fanbase and, well, you can imagine how hard things can get.

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]]> Mon, 07 Jun 2021 12:08:00 +0100 Wesley Yin-Poole
"I want things a bit more cosy" - the humble origins of Hokko Life

Packing up your bags and travelling across oceans to a new town, to embark on a new adventure with friends old and new; it's sorely tempting to draw parallels between the story of solo developer Robert Tatnell and the game series his project most frequently draws comparisons to. Listening to the Stockholm-based British designer tell his tale, it's almost as if he's elected to live a real-life Animal Crossing these past few years.

"Around 12 years ago I worked at Lionhead in Guildford. Around that time, there was almost like a mini Swedish invasion. Then they all found the other Swedes who were living in Guilford, it was summertime and everyone's partying. I made some of the best friends that I have in my life.

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]]> Mon, 07 Jun 2021 09:00:00 +0100 Martin Robinson
An interview with Warhammer 40,000 author Dan Abnett, who's writing Fatshark's Darktide

Dan Abnett has a lot to say about Warhammer 40,000 - and so he should. The author behind some of the most beloved Warhammer 40,000 books ever written has been thinking about the lore of Games Workshop's grim dark universe for 20 years. But it's not all about the Space Marines stomping about imperiously, shouting "for the Emperor!" while blasting all in their path to bits with guns large enough to suit a tank. In penning the Gaunt's Ghosts series, which is about Warhammer 40,000's regular human infantry, and the Eisenhorn trilogy, which is about inquisitors who hunt down heretics and demons, Abnett gave Warhammer 40,000 a more human face. Unlike the genetically boosted Space Marines, bog standard humans are squishy, vulnerable and, crucially, relatable. It's exactly this expertise that sparked Abnett's involvement with Darktide.

Warhammer 40,000 Darktide is the next game from Fatshark, the developer of the much-loved Vermintide series of fantasy Warhammer games. Like Vermintide, Darktide is a co-op focused first-person shooter / melee hybrid in which you fight against the odds. Yes, it's yet another Warhammer 40,000 video game in a sea of Warhammer 40,000 video games - that sea just swelled to ocean scale, by the way - but Darktide stands out because it's a bit different. You do not play as a Space Marine pushing back the xenos on an alien world in some universe-shattering galactic war. Instead, you play an ogryn, what I think is a tech priest, and perhaps an Imperial Guard soldier or two (Fatshark is keeping a lot of its cards close to its chest at the moment) - a motley crew that ends up helping an Inquisitor investigate a mysterious Nurgle-worshipping cult that's spreading across a continent-sized hive city.

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]]> Thu, 03 Jun 2021 18:25:00 +0100 Wesley Yin-Poole
Plotting a course: how Mass Effect 3 brought the trilogy to a close

Whatever you think of Mass Effect 3's final moments, it's fair to say BioWare's third chapter brought the trilogy to a close in style. Over the course of the game, every squadmate past and present gets their turn in the spotlight, major story arcs get revisited and tied off, and Shepard is prepped for their last big mission.

But how did BioWare begin planning Mass Effect 3? How much was set in stone already? And how did the studio start tackling the headache of (potentially) killing off everyone in Mass Effect 2's extraordinary Suicide Mission? To celebrate the release of Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, I sat down for an extended interview with lead writer Mac Walters to discuss how the game's story was set down - and some of the things which changed along the way. Read on for new details of cut ideas and swapped missions, plus an early idea for an Easter egg which would have ended the whole trilogy in the first half hour of Mass Effect 1.

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]]> Fri, 14 May 2021 08:00:00 +0100 Tom Phillips
Mortal Kombat movie producer's "dream" is to do a Marvel with the famous fighting game franchise

UPDATE 6TH MAY 2021: You can rent the movie premiere of Mortal Kombat at home from 6th May, so we're re-publishing our interview with the filmmakers, below.

ORIGINAL 17TH MARCH 2021: As the new Mortal Kombat movie approaches (it's due out in the US at cinemas and on HBO Max on April 16th, and is "coming soon" to the UK), thoughts are turning to what's next. Is this promising-looking martial arts fantasy film a one-off? Or is it the start of something more?

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]]> Thu, 06 May 2021 12:17:00 +0100 Wesley Yin-Poole
In a series-first, the classic Rome: Total War is getting an extensive remaster

Creative Assembly's much-revered strategy classic Rome: Total War is getting a remaster, in celebration of the Total War games reaching their 20th anniversary this year.

It's a big first for the series, and is mostly being handled by London-based Feral Interactive, in collaboration with Creative Assembly itself. It's coming to Windows, Mac and Linux on 29th April this year, with cross-platform multiplayer available from the off - another series first - and will include both the Alexander and Barbarian Invasion expansions. It'll also launch at £24.99 here in the UK, with a 50 per cent discount to £12.49 if you already own the original. Here's a look at the first trailer:

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]]> Thu, 25 Mar 2021 15:00:00 +0000 Chris Tapsell
How Civilization 6 prevents Portugal's unique new ability from being incredibly annoying

On 25th March, Civilization 6's New Frontier Pass releases its final premium DLC: the Portugal pack - and it's going out on a high. This eye-catching, naval exploration-based new civ has a unique ability we've not seen before: it can put a building on another civ's tile. And when it does, there's nothing you can do to get rid of it.

Here's how it works: Portugal has the Nau, a unique naval melee unit that replaces the Caravel. It starts with one free promotion, requires less maintenance than the Caravel and has two charges to build Feitorias - special shipping ports unique to Portugal. A Feitoria can only be built by a Nau unit on a foreign city's coastal tile next to a luxury or bonus resource.

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]]> Wed, 24 Mar 2021 12:42:00 +0000 Wesley Yin-Poole
As Resident Evil turns 25, its loremaster digs into the first game's many secrets

Resident Evil is celebrating its 25th birthday. The first game in the Capcom's zombie horror series launched in Japan on the PlayStation on 22nd March, 1996. It is a well-documented work, a game analysed to within an inch of its life over the years in articles and videos and interviews. So, to mark the occasion, we thought we'd do something a bit different: speak to Resident Evil's loremaster to get fresh insight into the Resident Evil that started it all.

"TheBatMan" is perhaps the biggest Resident Evil fan in the world, and we've reported on his work before: a 2700-page long document, a decade in the making, that details the entire mythology of the Resident Evil series.

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]]> Mon, 22 Mar 2021 11:47:00 +0000 Wesley Yin-Poole
Call of the Sea: Lovecraft, new studios, and the legacy of Myst

Call of the Sea was one of my favourite games of 2020. Even when I think about it now, I feel warmer. Partly that's to do with the literal warmth of the tropical island setting, but I think more of it is to do with the gentle nature of the game. It's a game without combat, a game about puzzles. A game with an eerie mystery pulling you farther in. It's an adventure played at walking speed, both metaphorically and literally. And I relish that. I relish an adventure I can sink into like a comfy armchair each evening, one that doesn't rough me up and shake me around before I sleep. I wish more games were like it.

And the more I read about Call of the Sea, the more remarkable it seems. It is the debut game by a Spanish studio called Out of the Blue Games (appropriately), and it was made in only a year-and-a-half. For a game to be built so assuredly in such a short space of time, by a new studio, is very impressive. Intrigued, I tracked down studio co-founder and Call of the Sea game director, Tatiana Delgado, for a chat.

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]]> Wed, 17 Mar 2021 13:00:00 +0000 Robert Purchese
Bungie on Destiny 2's Content Vault, solo challenges and the return of Exotic missions

Last month, we spoke with Bungie general manager Justin Truman to discuss Destiny 2's latest major update Season of the Chosen.

We start by talking about the surprise return of Exotic missions in recent weeks. These are secret quests which can be attempted alone or as part of a team, and between their challenge and unique spin on Destiny's mechanics, are up there with dungeons and raids as some of the best activities the game has to offer.

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]]> Wed, 10 Mar 2021 14:00:00 +0000 Matthew Reynolds
How the grand dame of shooting games is making its return

There are shooting games, and there are shooting games. Irem's 1987 R-Type can't exactly claim to be the first of its kind, and you could well argue there are more widely acclaimed shooting games, but you'd be hard pushed to find any as iconic as this stately sci-fi venture. Cold, composed and challenging, it's the archetypal 80s shooter, and a prime example of the genre in its pomp.

The popularity of shooting games would wane throughout the 90s, however, and by the turn of the century those in charge of the series wondered whether it had a future at all. Which explains the brilliantly fatalistic air that hangs over R-Type Final, the 2004 entry that was imagined as a full-stop for the series.

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]]> Tue, 02 Mar 2021 09:23:00 +0000 Martin Robinson
How PlayStation 5 exclusive Returnal is keeping the arcade fires alive

It doesn't really feel like a PlayStation launch without a Housemarque title, whether that's Super Stardust's fine appearances at the dawn of PS3, Vita and PSVR or Resogun's star turn upon the release of PlayStation 4. For PlayStation 5, we've had to wait a little while, but it's understandable why - with Returnal, Housemarque makes perhaps its biggest departure yet with a shift to blockbuster third-person action.

We've just been afforded a fresh look at Returnal as part of tonight's State of Play, showcasing the procedural levels, the intense atmosphere and gunplay as well as a surprise shift to a PT-inspired first-person interlude. It's a lot to take in, so we spoke through it all with Housemarque's own Mikael Haveri and Returnal director Harry Krueger.

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]]> Thu, 25 Feb 2021 23:00:00 +0000 Martin Robinson
How a dark vision of Robin Hood inspired a competitive heist game

"I'm gonna cut your heart out with a spoon!" Ahh, Robin Hood, ahh, Alan Rickman. This is a legend we've seen reinterpreted time and time again for the small and big screens. And now, Robin Hood is the inspiration for Sumo Digital's new game.

Hood: Outlaws & Legends is bang on trend as far as games like Hunt: Showdown are concerned. It's a PvPvE game which, in this case, means two teams of legendary outlaws try to break into a castle guarded by computer-controlled guards - and a monstrous-sounding Sheriff of Nottingham - and liberate the big chest of gold there. And all while competing with each other.

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]]> Sat, 20 Feb 2021 08:00:00 +0000 Robert Purchese