After an extended break, Digital Blend is back in action. The past few weeks have been a roller-coaster, amiright? Journey swept through the D.I.C.E. Awards, trouncing AAA monsters and indie darlings alike with a Game of the Year nod and more nominations/awards than anyone else. J.J. Abrams and Gabe Newell confirmed that they’ll be working together on movie and game projects both. Then, as recently as this week, we had Sony stepping up in front of the world to share the first details on its PlayStation 4.
We’re back though! Digital Blend continues to bring you the most noteworthy or unfairly under-the-radar news and releases in the world of under-$20 gaming. Mobile, portable, downloadable, indie… it’s all fair game, just so long as you’re not dropping more than a double-sawbuck on it. We’re adding a special section this week to point you in the direction of any D.I.C.E. content that you might have missed. Read on, friends, for your final Digital Blend of February 2013.
All Things D.I.C.E.
* Chatting with Infocom founder Dave Lebling about his work in games, the Infocom ethos, and the studio’s lasting impact on gamers and the culture that they immerse themselves in.
* Supergiant Games co-founder Amir Rao speaks to us about the making of Bastion and the way he and his team approach the challenges of developing for multiple interfaces.
* Gearbox Software boss Randy Pitchford describes the challenges of boosting the level cap in Borderlands 2.
* 343 Industries’ Frank O’Connor and Kiki Wolfkill justify the studio’s somewhat “safe” approach to Halo 4‘s presentation and promise plenty of surprises to come further down the road.
* The benefits and drawbacks of developing for a transmedia world from Syfy head of original programming Mark Stern.
* Various D.I.C.E. attendees discuss why the annual developer-facing conference is important to them and to the industry as a whole.
* The PlayStation 4 has been announced, and with it comes the completely expected ramping up of Sony’s attention on the PS Vita. It seems that the powerful little handheld was always meant to be both a standalone gaming system as well as a PS4 companion. Not only will you (theoretically) be able to use the Vita as a sort of Wii U GamePad-like second screen controller, you’ll also be able to use it as a PS4 Remote Play device. Sony is pushing all PS4 devs to work on supporting the Remote Play feature out of the box.
* BioWare brings a year-long downloadable content campaign for Mass Effect 3 to an end over the next two weeks, with Reckoning and Citadel set to arrive next week and the week after, respectively, for all platforms other than Wii U, which remains unconfirmed. Reckoning is a free download that bolsters the game’s co-op Galaxy at War content with new weapons and characters. Citadel, on the other hand, brings Commander Shepard and his/her crew back to the Citadel for one last romp together.
* Unity Technologies co-founder Nicholas Francis confirmed this week that he’s leaving the company to work on developing games. Unity is the company behind the popular mobile-friendly game engine that powers games such as Dead Trigger, Shadowgun, and the PS Vita puzzler Escape Plan.
* GungHo Online Entertainment recently purchased the Suda51 studio Grasshopper Manufacture. The purchase was made possible thanks to the phenomenal success of the Japanese mobile game Puzzles & Dragons. In fact, the success of that game was so great that it enabled GungHo to invest in growing the company well beyond Grasshopper.
* The PS Vita may be able to double as a Wii U GamePad-like controller for the PS4, but Sony will also support mobile apps for both iOS and Android. No Windows Phone 8 for some reason; you get one guess why. The apps will offer secondary content, such as in-game maps, as well as access to various social features that the PS4 will support.
* Indie darling and Digital Blend favorite Hotline Miami is hopping over from PC to Sony products, with releases planned for both the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita. There’s no word yet on release timing, though we do know that development is being handled by a separate studio, the Netherlands-based Abstraction Games. Abstraction is no stranger to Sony devices, having developed PS Minis (and WiiWare) ports of Cut the Rope and Angry Birds.
Top buys of the week…
The ambitious 16-bit genre-bender from Arcen Games returns in a sequel that promises across-the-board improvements. There’s not really any one category that the game fits into, as it offers play in the realms of action, platforming, strategy, and more. This is no small-fry indie; you get a lot of meat packed into one game. Even better, if you already own the first game, the second game is yours for free. Conversely, if you act quickly and buy the sequel now, you also get the first game free of charge. Get to it.
This absolutely gorgeous puzzle game is an easy pick of the week, delivering a combination of “Isaac Newton meets M.C. Escher” (per the Steam profile). The product of a two-person dev team and a past PAX 10 winner, The Bridge is something special. If you heeded our previous pick and ended up loving Antichamber, then this one is definitely worth your time.
Ubisoft’s first campaign expansion for Assassin’s Creed 3 stumbles a bit on the play side, but the story is positively delightful. It tells an alt-history tale of a post-Revolutionary War George Washington declaring himself to be king of post-colonial America, using *surprise* an Apple of Eden to enforce his rule. This is the first of three episodes, which can be purchased a la carte or as part of the game’s Season Pass. Our review.
Do you like puzzle games? Do you like quirky indie titles that challenge the notion of what qualifies as a game? Do you appreciate a minimalistic-yet-beautiful artistic vision? All of these elements combine in the first-person puzzler Year Walk, for iOS. Go get it.