PlatinumGames at GDC 2014

Platinum Games

Filed: PlatinumGames

Hey, this is Andrew Brasher, International Coordinator. Last week I led a few of our staff to my second GDC (Game Developers Conference). I’m going to give you a run through of our GDC experience, for those who aren’t familiar with exactly everything that goes on.

Being based in Osaka, GDC is a bit of a trek for the PlatinumGames team. Our route is Osaka-Tokyo-San Francisco, and it takes more than half a day to reach our destination.

When we arrived in San Francisco, the cherry blossoms of Union Square were almost in full bloom, which was definitely a treat for a Japanese company.

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We arrived on Tuesday and had a little time to explore the city before the main conference began.

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The PlatinumGames staff takes a walk around San Francisco.

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Being an unusual sight, the trolley downtown got brought up in conversation more than a few times.

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I feel like I’ve seen this building before… where was it… Oh yeah, we blew this up with a giant microwave.

GDC gets fully underway on Wednesday morning and lasts until Friday afternoon.

It takes place in the Moscone Center in San Francisco. The events are spread across three buildings: North, South, and West.

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Here’s the North building.

The Keynote speech on Wednesday includes dozens of presentations by different people who will be speaking at GDC.

The presentations are short—under a minute I think—existing just to give a quick idea of what is available to participants.

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Sessions come in all different shapes and sizes. Some are slideshow presentations to rooms of hundreds of people,

some are round table discussions between 30-50 participants, and some are poster sessions that have data graphed out in hallways with an exhibitor nearby to answer any questions.

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We sent a team of visual artists and programmers to pick up on what GDC had to offer.

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Our Visual Artist Yoshiomi Kure (pictured on the left) on his way to the day’s next session.

We had a lot to take in the three days we were there:

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Character studies in BioShock Infinite,

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Lighting in The Last of Us,

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Design talks on Rayman Legends…

There were plenty of interesting talks providing all kinds of interesting information from some of gaming’s greats, so we kept our schedules packed every day.

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The rare times we had a moment to step out of the lecture halls, we wandered through the expo floor

to see what new announcements there were for game middle-ware. The expo was full of companies of all sizes,

ready to show off their newest developments to the crowds of visitors. Every morning there were long lines of participants waiting for the doors to open.

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Take a look at what went on inside:

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We got to see our friends at Quixel, who Platinum’s been using since their freeware days. It was exciting to see how far they’d come.

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Some of the biggest news this year, as you may have heard, was Sony announcing its new Project Morpheus, a VR gaming headset for PlayStation 4.

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For some discussion outside of current game development, The Video Game History Museum has a special exhibition on Nintendo this year.

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I can’t believe there’s an old Milton Bradley Legend of Zelda board game. I wanted this so badly after seeing it.

The days go by quick but there’s a long time left to digest all the new information. I look forward to checking out GDC next year as well!

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Fan Roundup February, 2014

Bayonetta

Filed: Bayonetta, Community, Games, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, The Wonderful 101

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At PlatinumGames we are thankful for our fans. You set aside your precious game time to write about our games, make high-quality videos, and create beautiful arts and crafts. We thought we would help spread these creations with regular Fan Roundup posts here on the official blog. Enjoy, and please keep that content coming!

We are sure 101 has been keeping your thumbs occupied, but if your feet are feeling a bit neglected, these wonder shoes should do the trick! Thank you Mairead Ralph.

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When it comes to art on a more traditional canvas, our Japanese fans have got you covered. Here are some of our favorites (with many more on our official Facebook page!)

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Japanese fans aren’t the only artists out there! Check out this creative character blend of Bayonetta and another femme fatal by PlagueOfGripes.

Take a look at this Wonder-Pendant. It may not be functional on a pseudo-digital sub-atomic particle level, but it will complement any outfit. Besides, fan “Bucha” who sent this in is already Wonder Talented.

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Saur’s helpful tutorial series has videos for both newcomers to 101 and veterans hoping to take their game to a higher level. This video gives tips for attaining the coveted Pure Platinum rank.

In a three-part blog on Destructoid, Chimpomagee explores the way 101 uses subtle visual cues to introduce systems to the player. We couldn’t have explained it better ourselves!

Many fans have noticed the DNA 101 shares with past PG titles. Gabriel Turcott-Dube explains what he calls the “secret ingredients” of The Wonderful 101; a truly wondrous concoction.

Speaking of in-depth analyses, check out Matthew Matosis’s review of The Wonderful 101. The video offers a comprehensive look (and at 37 minutes we do mean comprehensive) at 101 while contextualizing it with comparisons to Director Kamiya’s past titles. His critique is fair; his attention to detail second to none. Truly a review for the thinking action game fan.

Have any PlatiumGames related content you would like to share? Please let us know.

Find us on Facebook, or tweet to @platinumgames

Thank you!

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Parrying the Blade Mode

METAL GEAR RISING

Filed: Games, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, PGTV, PlatinumGames

Hey, I’m Takahisa Taura, a game designer for Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Recently on my way to work, I find myself looking at streetlights and walls thinking “This’d probably be easy to cut…” and “Bet I could ninja run over that.”

But on to the show… As of now, we’re just about a few short weeks away from the game’s release. Those who played the demo probably already know this, but Rising contains an action command called “parrying” that is critical for getting through battle with flair. Being in charge of the action elements of the game, I’d like to take a minute to talk about exactly what parrying is.

First then, let’s define it. Parrying is executing an attack at the same time as your opponent in order to block their incoming attack.

So how do you parry?
1) Face the direction of the incoming attack. (hold the directional stick in the enemy’s direction)
2) Execute a light attack. (PS3: □/360: X)

Do that and you’ll have pulled off a parry that completely protects you from the enemy’s attack. It’s a beautiful thing. What’s more, if you parry at the exact moment you expect the enemy’s attack to connect, Raiden will counterattack right after you parry. Also very cool.

If you’re able to hit the enemy with this counter, another chance will open up for you: a golden opportunity to cut the enemy to ribbons with “Blade Mode.”

The player just keeps cutting like they can’t get enough of it. (They must’ve been releasing a lot of pent-up stress.) Just don’t start feeling smug because you accomplished one parry.

If you’re going against someone skilled with a sword, they might parry and counter your parry counter right back at you.

Well, not so much they might, as they will, and it’ll look something like this.

I know they’re the enemy, but bravo to them. Nice maneuver.

Now, how are we supposed to solve this problem? It’s easier than you think.
If they parry counter your parry counter, just parry counter the parry counter of your parry counter!

And what if they parry counter that? Then parry counter their parry counter of you parry counter of their parry counter of your parry counter!!

This is how it should look.

All right. Enough of that or we will end up getting caught in an infinite parry counter loop; however, if we fight the good fight and emerge victorious from our parry counter infi-loop, Rising gives us the chance to dismember our opponent with Blade Mode. Jumping into Blade Mode here feels so much better than just waltzing up to the enemy and executing it normally.

The rush almost makes me want to charge at the screen yelling, “WHAT NOW, PUNK!”

Parry → Blade Mode can suffice as your main fighting strategy throughout the game, so there’s no harm in learning it here.

Some of you reading this, though, may be thinking, “I’m bad at action games. How am I supposed to time my attacks with the enemy’s attacks?!” or “I tried that parry stuff in the demo and it was impossible.”
But don’t give up yet.

The full version of Rising comes with an “easy assist” option that can be activated when selecting easy mode. With easy assist, all you have to do is keep on attacking, and the game will automatically parry for you. A real lifesaver if you are so inclined, as you won’t need to worry about timing anymore, and can enjoy a comfortable play-through of the game. I recommend trying it out.

Of course, you can’t just advance through the whole game effortlessly cutting down enemy after enemy; eventually, you’re going to run into a challenge. For example, this voluptuous femme fatale… (whose tripod use is provocative… to say the least)

Attacking while I’m all tied up like this? Not fair at all…

And what about this huge, mysterious military weapon…

So big and so fast… That isn’t fair either!

Then there is this guy? We can’t even cut him apart without him putting himself back together again! What are we going to do!?

Have I said not fair yet?
Not fair.

Well, besides what I’ve just mentioned here, there are plenty of other powerful enemies you’ll encounter in the game. You’ll just have to find out who they are after playing the game yourself.

Hope you’re ready.

(Note: Video in this post is 60FPS.)

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Reacting to Blade Mode

METAL GEAR RISING

Filed: Games, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, PGTV

Hey everybody, my name is Hirokazu Takeuchi, and I’m in charge of character animation in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. I’m starting to worry that this katana I’ve been swinging around at my desk every day during development is going to cut somebody.

Gameplay in MGR centers on a concept other games haven’t touched; the freedom to cut any part of an enemy. From an animation standpoint, it took considerable trial and error to get this to work.

This blog is about some of those animations; in particular, what happens when an enemy is chopped up via Blade Mode, and how they react to that.

Up until now, most games that had dismemberment systems only allowed things to be cut in a predetermined fashion. Slicing the enemy in two, for example, would usually mean simply creating one animation of the upper body separating from the lower half.

We, however, have given the player freedom. We don’t know where they’re going to cut. They could choose to cut off a leg or an arm… they could cut horizontally, vertically, diagonally…

At the starting stages of development, there were different ways we tried to express this endless amount of possible reactions through procedural animations. Heads would fly or just plop off without relying on any canned animations.

Ultimately, though, these programmed reactions just couldn’t cross the threshold to become something we thought fully conveyed the intensity of the action, so we decided to undertake the slow, daunting task of creating animations for every thinkable dismemberment possibility.

We’d cut the enemy one way, add an animation, cut from a different angle, add another animation, repeating this process until the end of development, until we eventually were satisfied with the array of reactions we were able to get from each enemy.

These are only a fraction of the different reactions you will see in the game:

We tried creating as many animations per character as possible in order to give you the most satisfying gameplay experience we could, so cut from any direction you can think of and you will see scores of different reactions from each enemy character.

So start thinking about all the different angles you want to try out while waiting for the release!

Until then!

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Last Time Up

VANQUISH

Filed: Community, Games, PlatinumGames, Vanquish

Well, this is the last entry for “my blog”…

For this entry, I think I’ll let you in on something that went on behind the scenes, and that is what we originally wanted Vanquish to become.

In our original vision for Vanquish, no one was actually inside Sam’s suit. Instead, it was a remotely operated robot with three different pilots who would take turns controlling the unit from afar.

(These are character designer Makoto Tsuchibayashi’s original designs.)

The robot would change forms according to the pilot in charge, as each pilot had been specially trained in areas such as shooting, melee, or hover and snipe. This single robot was capable of being battle effective in a variety of situations. I thought we could make something interesting out of how these three different pilots interacted with each other, much like Kamen Rider Den-O. This idea died a quick death early in the project, but personally, I still think the idea has its merits.

When making a game, there are plenty of ideas like these that get rejected, but they build up and can end up finding their way back, like in a sequel for instance, so you can never say that an idea is completely out of bounds. I don’t know what I will be making next, but considering how fickle I am, it will probably end up being a game completely different from Vanquish.

Well, until we meet again, in the realm of the video game.

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Balancing a game like Vanquish

VANQUISH

Filed: Community, Games, PlatinumGames, Vanquish

Hi, I am Junichi Oka, one of the game designers on Vanquish. I was also in charge of checking the strategy guides that were produced for the game.

Speaking of Strategy guides, I would often look at western guide books while we were producing the game. Since it was my first time working on a shooter, and I didn’t really know where to begin for just about everything, I did a lot of studying.

This is our stocked reference room. Filled with the helpful knowledge of those who have walked this path before!

Once the game started taking shape, I didn’t really look at them anymore; instead, it was time to take our own route through things. One of the reasons was because the game was so fast that there was no way traditional TPS level design would match the tempo we were after. If you haven’t seen what I mean about the game being fast, please download the demo of the game and give it a try!

Vanquish is a game where we couldn’t allow anything that would harm either the speed or the strategy required to play the game. We made the game so you couldn’t just hide under cover, but you also couldn’t recklessly move forward without dying. And we never forgot that it wasn’t an action game, it was a shooting game. For those of you who are playing the game and getting stuck, keep those principles in your mind and I think things will go better for you.

Move too far forward in the fight and you’ll soon be a sandwich topping – Swiss cheese, perhaps. Kinda works like the real world.

Vanquish is a game that rewards you putting time into it. What may seem like an impossible situation can be overcome easily by studying the terrain and cover points, and then picking/changing your strategy. We made the game so there is never an instance where you can say “This is it!” like there was only one right way of doing things. Instead, I think it is a game where you can look at someone else play and want to steal away the controller thinking, “No. This is how I would do it.” So, please, steal the controller from the person next to you!

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The Feel of the Game

VANQUISH

Filed: Community, Games, PlatinumGames, Vanquish

Hello everyone. I’m Takaaki Yamaguchi and I was the animator for the enemies in Vanquish. I’d like to give you an inside look on my work on the game.

Have you all given the demo a try? If you haven’t, definitely give it a shot. It might take you a little bit to get used to the controls in the game, but I think screenshots and video don’t do the sense of speed and exhilaration in the game justice.

Of course, this is because we followed the direction of Mikami-san from the beginning of production…

We started by knowing rejecting what had become the calm, expected elements of shooters:

“Remember the map, find a good spot, hide, then move.”

“If you get discovered, move to another hiding spot”

“Fire before you are fired upon.”

Instead, we went with something only aggressive words could describe:

“No running away! Move forward!”

“I don’t want people crawling along or hiding under cover!”

“You’ll dodge bullets with a ‘woosh’!”

With that direction in mind, I went about creating the enemy animations and it dawned on me that I wasn’t really creating shooter animations as much as I was creating action game animations.

By the way, animating something for a game is not just about simply making something look cool when it moves. When working on a player character, you have to make sure that there is a direct response to user controls so that things feel good, but with enemies, you need to build in instants where the player knows that they are about to be attacked. If you’d like to know more about this, Eijiro, lead animator on Bayonetta, wrote about Enemy Animations on the Bayonetta blog. Check out his post here: http://platinumgames.com/2009/05/17/rooting-for-the-enemy/

These hints are incredibly important to an action game. For instance, in the Vanquish demo, you face off against the giant Argus robot. The Argus has many different kinds of attacks; we made “warning animations” not just for the melee attacks, but for all of the firearm attacks the robot can execute, as well.

At first, you will probably be completely absorbed in the fight, but after fighting the Argus a few times, you should be better able to determine what attack is coming next from these warnings. By the way, there are even attacks that can hit you behind cover. If you think about it, that is pretty much against established shooter convention, but if you pay close attention to your foe and get the timing right, you can dodge these attacks. Once that attack is over, that is your opening to repay the favor. You could say that this is the ebb-and-flow of an action game. Pulling this off with grace becomes very addictive, and you’ll soon be completely absorbed in the action.

So that’s Vanquish. Personally, I love action games, and the animations I created for Vanquish are something that I can truly be proud of. You can pick your difficulty level in the game, so I hope that lots of different people play the game. Furthermore, it would be great if even those of you who think you aren’t good at action games take what I’ve written here into account and give the game a try. You might find that you end up loving what you experience.

Finally, this doesn’t really have anything to do with my blog, but our character modeler, Yoshifumi Hattori, mentioned a robot dog in his post on the blog here: http://platinumgames.com/2010/08/05/the-augmented-reaction-suit-system/

Well, I went digging and found some of the animation we created for the robot terrier.

This reminds me of when we had a robot-dog-missile attack in the game…

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Gorgies: The Reds That Have You Seeing Red

VANQUISH

Filed: Community, Games, PlatinumGames, Vanquish

Hi. I’m Noriyuki Otani, and I programmed the Gorgies, Burns, and friendly forces in Vanquish. I thought I would take the chance and write a blog and shed some light on the Gorgies themselves.

When I was creating the Gorgies, our “grunts”, the thing I paid most attention to was how to make sure that people wouldn’t realize that the Gorgies were actually going easy on them.

Going easy on the player might be the wrong way of putting it…

For example, when Gorgies faced off against the player, even though you would expect otherwise, you couldn’t fire upon them before they spotted and fired upon you. Even people who were used to shooters and great at aiming couldn’t do it. The worst would be trading attacks, and if you weren’t any good you would lose the exchange, which is guaranteed to stress you out. At Mikami-san’s suggestion, I tuned the game so that there is a gap before the Gorgies fire. It seems really simple, and I am sure that teams with tons of shooting game experience have plenty of know-how in this regard, but we started everything from zero, so this was just one of the many examples of us falling back on our tried-and-true method of “crash-and-build” development.

The Vanquish that emerged from all of these trials has tons of little tuning adjustments where the “game goes easy” to make things more fun to play. There aren’t very many places in the game where you will actually notice these things while playing, but every place we’ve put in these tweaks, we consider them as an act of love from us to you.

I hope you give Vanquish a whirl and enjoy the hell out of those bloody robots!

If you don’t want any of our love, you can get a real taste for what the robots can do to you by trying God Hard mode. I took great joy in not only powering them up in lots of different ways, but also making sure to remove their limiter. Even though our friends usually end up scrap metal, it would make me really happy if you give this mode even just a short try to see what the Gorgies are truly capable of.

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The Graphics of Vanquish

VANQUISH

Filed: Community, Games, PlatinumGames, Vanquish

Vanquish was originally an open battlefield type of game, where the goal was to move around crushing enemy positions; however, once we got started with development, we quickly made the decision to change to a more linear structure. We abandoned the open battlefield and focused on making each stage as visually dense as possible. As a result, I think the graphics in Vanquish are really quite wonderful. It is one of the main points of Vanquish I want to recommend to people. (The only regret is that our decision decreased the amount of times the player uses boosting.)

Of course, arriving there was a struggle. Upping the visual density, increasing the contrast, making the special effects especially eye-catching, throwing tons of enemies on the screen… In an environment where we were doing whatever we pleased, it became pretty obvious that there was no good way of keeping your eye on the prize – the enemies you are targeting. I felt like I was being pin-pricked by the staff talking about how hard it was to see the enemies. Moreover, the enemy character that you see most often, a robot we call a Gorgie, was predominantly white. We had primarily gray backgrounds with white enemies. When you think about it from a realism standpoint, camouflage exists to make things difficult to see, so in that way things make sense, but from a game standpoint, it was not the best idea. I really liked the white enemies, so it took me a long time to come around to the idea of making them red. We also had to limit the number that we could put on screen at once due to hardware limitations. (This had the effect of limiting the huge amount of information we were throwing at the player, so I’m sort of on-board with this one.)

I’ve written quite a bit about it, but our art lead, Naoki Katakai and programmer Ryoichi tend to do whatever they please, and what they came up with was great, and I think our visuals are quite spectacular as a result. Thanks to all the staff that worked so hard on them.

This is the initial conceptual design for the enemy known as a Gorgie. At first, they had white bodies…

But they are red in the final design!

Once we made them red, they became much easier to identify in-game.

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The Ever-Changing Game Design of Bayonetta

Bayonetta

Filed: Bayonetta, Community, Games, PlatinumGames

Hi everyone! I’m Yama-chan, a game designer here.

I was told to write about blog about the game design elements of Bayonetta, so here we go…

Even after we finished work, time passed as I got caught up in anticipation of this and that, but somehow, once I finish something, it seems like I have a disposition to forget what I’ve done. This time is no exception, and I feel my recollections may be rather dim…

That’s why I reintroduced myself to some of the old documents and such that I made. While I was looking at them, I would see things that would make me say, “Oh yeah, we had this!!” So I thought that I’d regret… I mean release these things and everyone could experience some of the trial and error that we went through at the beginning of Bayonetta.

The area around Vigrid Station is 50% larger than the original

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The image above is the original size, and below is the same size as the shipping version, or 50% bigger than the upper image. The health bar is also an old version. At the beginning we decided that we wanted to make things real, which guided our decision making on size, but Bayonetta’s actions were much larger than we imagined, and that plan flew right out the window. Thus, we made the change towards bigger areas. Another reason was because we needed extra distance to compensate for Bayonetta’s fast movement and allow us time to load the stages into memory. The image quality differences are due to the implementation of graphical filters.

The Witch Time statues were originally Crystal Skulls

We had planned to let players carry the skull around like a normal weapon, and by pressing Punch and Kick simultaneously, Bayonetta would throw the skull to the ground and activate Witch Time.

We planned to allow Witch Walk in all areas of the game, instead of just limiting it to selected areas

Here is a peek at some of the Japanese design documents from Chapter 2.

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The pages above are just pages 6 to 10 pulled from a 13 page design document. Unfortunately, I’m not able to share the full document for some “grown-up” reasons. The historic ruins of the Witch and Sage that appear in the full game was originally a church, and we had planned a stage around it where the player would use Witch Walk to move around the walls and proceed through the level. It was a stage with quite a few puzzles. Whenever we would try to include Witch Walk as a normal mechanic, things would almost certainly head for puzzle-laden territory, effectively bringing down the tempo of the game, or causing other side-effects like filling areas that have no connection to the action with Witch Walk. We kept getting further and further away from our original concept, so we decided to limit Witch Walk to specific situations. I think that Witch Walk, as a gameplay mechanic, would probably best be tried in a slower-paced 3D puzzle game. Oh, I forgot to mention that Shibata-san was in charge of the final Wind (Ancient Ruins) stage. I was in charge of the tutorial, and the opening of the game up until Fortitudo. I also had a hand in an area towards the end, but I can’t share much about it right now because it would be a spoiler.

The Torture Attacks originally went by names like Boredom Breaker, or the Fallen Angel Buster

What can I say, we were all raised on Kinnikuman.

The Witch Hearts were once Blue Orbs

Item names are, surprisingly, pretty all over the place until the very end of production. In-production enemy names usually end up being based on how they look or how we imagine them to be from their concepts, as during development enemies tend to change appearance and the like. When Don-san was writing his blog, he said something along the lines of “I don’t really know the enemy names.” Well, the truth is, I don’t know them either. (Yikes!)

Other than that, we even had ideas for an overworld map at the beginning of the game… But to share it now would definitely be a spoiler, so I will hold off. If they ever put out a Making-Of book, hopefully I will be able to share it with you all then.

I also wanted to share with you some full email conversations with myself and Kamiya-san that we shared while he was on a business trip overseas, but they all got cut out because they said that I was “going too far!” I guess there is such a thing as too long a blog…

So what do you think?

There are lots of ideas that are born and die over the course of a game development cycle, and some of these dead ideas had more significance than others. Spirits also rise and fall. Game development is filled with drama.

Hardware changes and so do the player bases… I suppose you could call it the passage of time. Game design is not just a simple issue of trial and error until you find something fun, as you get wrapped up in not only things like changes in hardware and players, but the many other tasks forced upon you that don’t have anything to do with finding fun. These are both production challenges as well as mental challenges…

But I think we got to this point by always going back to the starting point of “I want to make a fun game!” whenever we hit a wall and questioned whether we could honestly pull this off.

I don’t think that PlatinumGames will change it’s core principle – that of making fun games.

So did you enjoy Bayonetta? I hope you find it fun.

Until next time!

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