Interview with Saurian Dash (Part 2)

BAYONETTA 2

Filed: Bayonetta 2, Community, Games, PlatinumGames, The Wonderful 101

Hello all, and welcome to Part 2 of our interview with Saur, renowned for his in-depth action game analysis and tutorials.

Read Part 1 of the interview here .

6. From your perspective, how have games changed over the years?
As someone who loves deep game systems and challenging tests for the skills developed within these systems, I am very disappointed with the treatment of skill-focused games recently. I grew up playing arcade games: smaller, skill-focused games which you played over a long period of time to hone your skills. These were games which I always used to play with other people. It was the melting pot effect of many different people all bringing different personalities, techniques, and skills to the table which enriched the games we enjoyed and the community and friendship we developed around those games.

These days, however, especially in the case of single-player games, many titles are treated almost like passive entertainment. The “personal experience” of the game’s narrative is placed above the quality of the core gameplay. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good narrative. I play role playing games quite often and love losing myself in the lore of such games. However, I am seeing that time and time again really brilliant skill-focused games are completely misrepresented and misunderstood because they are being judged on the quality of their narrative experience instead of the quality of their skill-focused mechanics and how much scope these mechanics allow for creative challenges and player self-improvement. These days you will often hear the phrase “This game is xx hours long”. The “value” of a game is quantified based on the total length of its narrative, not on the depth of the game’s mechanics or how long it holds the player’s attention as they strive to perfect their skills. This, I believe, is an attitude which is very damaging to the gaming medium as a whole. Games can be so much more than vehicles to tell stories.

I understand that professional game reviewers today have a very large number of games to review and cannot take the time to completely learn a particular game system, and at the same time it is also not reasonable for a studio to entrust the communication of a brand new set of game mechanics to the gaming press. But I would love to ask both parties to consider the implications of this situation: games which truly raise the bar in terms of play mechanics are suffering in reviews and in sales. What is the point of employing talented game designers to build new, original, and exciting game mechanics if the gaming press, and by extension the gaming public who trust in the press to provide them with information on new games, are not giving mechanically deep games an analysis which respects the purpose of these games?

I believe there are a significant number of players who want to be mentally stimulated by games which treat them with respect, and are brave enough to challenge themselves to the edge of their ability so that their eventual success is more meaningful. The whole point of these games is to learn how to play them well – it is this journey which makes them so satisfying to play and makes sharing ideas with other players so much fun. I would humbly ask that professional reviewers please consider trying to engage in this journey of discovery – if you need any help along the way I would love to provide it!

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7. What do you feel is the most important aspect of an action game?
I believe the most important aspect of an action game is the way it respects and reflects the potential of the player. As such, I value a game system which allows the player to express their individual creativity and ingenuity. I love the idea of a game system which allows the player a great deal of freedom to develop their own unique style of play, then presents that player with a course designed outward from that core system to test the skills they have developed. I also believe the communication of hazards should be treated with the utmost care: the player should be able to develop a precise sense of the exact moment enemy attacks are triggered. To this end, clear audio/visual signposts are an absolute must. I especially love the idea of linking audio cues to the triggering of enemy attack signposts. With an audio cue in place, the player can know the exact moment an enemy attack is triggered, whether the attack is activated on or off-screen. I find I have the most fun when I achieve an acute sense of the precise amount I can push my attack before I need to take evasive action, and audio cues especially enable me to achieve that sense.

Of equal importance is to build an incentive into the game system to encourage the player to play well. Far too many games today have very simple game systems with no incentive whatsoever for the player to improve their competence within that system. The last thing I want to see after blundering through an enemy encounter is the equivalent of a perfect rank and praise for my valiant efforts! No, I want to be rewarded a genuine victory for learning how to overcome a challenge.

8. What do you look for in a sequel?
I find sequels most interesting when the game designers are allowed to iterate and evolve the systems they had previously designed, allowing the player to explore new ways to think about established concepts. With a new set of weapons, abilities, and enemies which have been designed outward from the newly evolved player system, a sequel can feel completely fresh and mentally stimulating.

9. Where will people be able to find your work in the future?
I am very surprised that so many people have found my work helpful! I have very little confidence in my ability, but I try my best because I love these games so much. Lately I have received a lot of support and encouragement from other players I have become acquainted with through mutual enjoyment of action games, and I would like to try and do my part to give something back to the gaming community. I want to really step up my video production, I want to cover more games more often, and finally learn how to work with a microphone for voiceovers. I have bought a camera, a decent microphone, audio interface and video capture equipment and everything I need to get started on this project. Please subscribe to https://www.youtube.com/user/Saur and stay tuned as I will have brand new content to present soon!

10. Your tutorial videos for The Wonderful 101 are a helpful resource for many new people getting into the game. Do you have anything similar planned for Bayonetta 2?
Thank you very much, I’m glad that people found them helpful. Ultimately I would love to fully cover the system mechanics and enemy strategies of Bayonetta 2. Perhaps a Bayonetta retrospective would be interesting in the lead-up to the release of the game’s sequel? It would be very interesting to start playing the game again from scratch to rediscover the brilliance of the game system and help other players to get the most out of it!

Saur, thanks very much for taking the time for this interview. We’re looking forward to your next video!

Check out Saur’s YouTube channel here.

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Interview with Saurian Dash (Part 1)

Platinum Games

Filed: Community, Games, PlatinumGames

Saurian Dash (or “Saur” as he is often known) has been a visible presence in the action game community for years. His work on Bayonetta: The Official Guide (Future Press) set the platinum standard for both quality and skilled play.

Saur’s tutorial videos for The Wonderful 101 helped introduce many fans to the depth of the game’s system, and take their skills to the next level.

Today, we chat with the man himself, to learn what began his love of action games, and the systems that form their core.

1. How did you get into action games?

I got into action games late; but when I did it completely changed how I viewed gaming forever. The game which brought me round was Viewtiful Joe. Here was a game with a deep and open-ended combat system which seemed to be built as a means for the player to express creativity. This system is then pitted against opponents and obstacles which were designed from the ground up to interact meaningfully with the core system. The course was fixed, but the method for dealing with that course was completely down to the ingenuity, skill and inspiration of the player. You play like you have a huge audience watching and the game constantly entices you to improve; the focus is not simply on getting the player from A to B, the focus is on getting the player to play “Viewtifully”.

2. How did you first learn about PlatinumGames?

I was very saddened by the closure of Clover Studio, so you can imagine my delight when I saw the Bayonetta reveal trailer. The spirit of Clover Studio did indeed live on! I couldn’t wait to play this new game and it was like a dream come true when I was asked to write the Combat System, Enemy and Boss strategy chapters for Bayonetta: The Official Guide (Future Press). The work I did on the Bayonetta guide massively expanded my knowledge of this type of game and led to all kinds of other work both inside and outside game development studios. It was the first time I ever had a complete game system inside my head; I finally understood the sheer amount of work that goes into a game system like this and how brilliant the designers at the helm must be.

3. What is your approach to a new action game? Do you aim for high scores from the beginning, or start to build strategies after a leisurely first playthrough?

I tend to take my time and make sure that I have an understanding of the game system before I move through the game’s stages. The first thing I get used to is the player system; which actions can I perform? Which actions can I interrupt? Which actions leave me locked in a recovery animation? Once I get used to moving the character I will often play the opening stage over and over, gradually learning more about the game system as I go. During this initial phase I believe it is very important to look closely at each enemy type the game introduces; I take note of their attack signposts and explore my options for dealing with those attacks. These are the enemies the designers are introducing to the player first, so they must represent the foundation of the relationship between the player and enemy systems. Once I have an idea of how the core game system works and how this applies to the structure of battle, I then begin to progress through the game’s stages in a casual fashion, always with the intent to return to tricky sections to learn them properly later.

I treat my first playthrough on Normal as an introduction. This session is simply a means to get acquainted with the game system and to note how the designers want to test the player. Once I have a good idea of how the game system works and have seen all the enemy types the game contains, I then move on to a “Score Attack” style of play. This is where I try to achieve at least Platinum rankings on Normal mode before moving on to Hard. I tend to throw all narrative progression out the window at this point. I play stages in no particular order; if I discover an interesting enemy encounter I end up playing that encounter over and over for hours.

Recently I spent over a week fighting Khamsin (the final boss of the Blade Wolf DLC) in the “Revengeance” difficult level of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Initially I was drawn to this fight simply because of the hype atmosphere of the encounter, but repeatedly fighting this boss completely changed the way I played the game. I noticed that my Heavy attacks were unsafe; I could not freely cancel Blade Wolf’s (LQ-84i’s) animation into an Evade at the precise moment I needed to. I was over-committing to the animation of certain attacks which quickly led to my demise. I then switched over to using Light attacks primarily; it turned out I could instantly cancel a Light attack animation into an Evade. This made learning to Evade Khamsin’s attacks much easier. I could concentrate purely on correctly reading the boss’s attack signposts and Evading at the correct moment while using Blade Mode to cancel and repeat my combo string.

I then realised that Blade Wolf differs from Raiden in that you can Blade Mode cancel all of his Evade animations as well as his attack animation! This fact led to a technique where I would cancel my current action with Blade Mode, execute an Evade to dodge an attack, but cancel that Evade with Blade Mode once the hit frames of the attack pass by. This enabled me to press my attack sequences far further than I ever could before; I was landing far more hits against the boss because I was trimming out the delay frames of my Evades. This exercise completely changed the way the game felt and how I played it. I have also just recently been having a huge amount of fun repeating a particular Secret Mission in The Wonderful 101; last night I had another mechanical breakthrough after spending a few hours exploring this fight.

This is what I love the most about these games: the more you put in to them, the more you get out. Most of the questions you need to ask the game system will not come to you until after you have reached a certain understanding of the system. You come to a particular situation where you hit a wall; you then ask a question and the game answers you. Platinum’s games are tuned to accommodate a very high skill ceiling and continue to surprise and delight the player after many months, or even many years of play.

4. How would you describe the various skills action games demand?

I believe the type of game design I enjoy the most started with Viewtiful Joe. Here is a game which looks like a traditional side-scrolling fighting game, but instead it turns the entire concept into something wildly different. The “lesson” of Viewtiful Joe I feel was “planning”: you don’t simply react to hazards and you don’t simply run up to enemies and start hitting them. Instead, you visually confirm the enemy set, formulate a plan based on your knowledge of those enemies and then execute that plan in the most stylish (yet efficient) way possible. The “plan” I speak of is the blueprint which dictates the correct way to do battle in the game, derived from the scoring system. The scoring system is the backbone of the game; it leads you into playing in a specific fashion to not only score more points but also deal damage more quickly.

The game system in Viewtiful Joe was like an invisible hand which guided the player towards creating a structure out of what initially seemed like chaos; it wasn’t simply about playing, it was about playing well. The Wonderful 101 takes the concept of planning and structure introduced in Viewtiful Joe and spins it into something far more free and dynamic. It blurs the boundaries between the different aspects of the scoring system which results in a game about “management” and “multi-tasking” as opposed to just “planning”.

In The Wonderful 101 you still have the same three aspects of the scoring system to consider: the combo timer, combo score and the combo multiplier. However, this time around all three aspects blur into each other, causing various aspects of the combat mechanics to merge together as a result. Look at the first aspect of Viewtiful Joe’s system as an example: to dodge an enemy attack to inflict a Stun you had to make a “binary” decision regarding which direction to dodge (up or down). In The Wonderful 101, however, the basic act of inflicting a Stun is done via the Team Attack button and full combo potential is only enabled once an enemy enters this state. Repeatedly hitting an enemy with Team Attack will cause more and more of your Wonderful Ones to cling onto the enemy and begin attacking it. Once a certain threshold is met the enemy will become stunned. This is not a binary decision with an instant result; it is a gradual “analogue” process which is independent of the main character’s animation. You are free to perform other actions during this process to manage other aspects of the scoring system as you prepare your target. In fact you are free to manage any part of the scoring system or any part of the enemy set as the situation dictates!

An excellent example to illustrate the way the three aspects of scoring merge together is the Unite Gun. You will notice that the Unite Gun fires not bullets but Wonderful Ones; as soon as a Wonderful One clings onto a target it signifies that you are now locked-on to that target. Pressing the [A] button at this point will trigger the Leader character to instantly zip over to that target’s location. But what happens when you fire loads of Unite Gun shots, causing many heroes to cling onto a target? You stun the enemy! Each Unite Gunshot increases the combo multiplier by x0.10 (higher than the base weapon multiplier value of x0.04), and if you manage to increase the combo multiplier beyond x2.50 your primary weapons (Unite Hand and Sword) gain a huge power boost. So the “simple” act of shooting an enemy is both your Lock-On and your means of inflicting Stun to enable a high scoring combo. It allows you to quickly increase the combo multiplier beyond x2.50, and encourages you with a boost to attack power so that you can kill the enemy even faster! All of these actions can be (and usually are) performed while you manage threats from other enemies. A great Wonderful 101 player is a person who is skilled at managing many things at once, and the game gives the player all the required tools with which to do so!

Unite Gun is used to lock-on to enemies, inflict stun, and build your combo multiplier.

Unite Gun is used to lock-on to enemies, inflict stun, and build your combo multiplier.

Increase your combo multiplier beyond x2.50 and your weapons get a power boost!

Increase your combo multiplier beyond x2.50 and your weapons get a power boost!

All of this is coupled with a brilliant new way of presenting the “entity” of the player character. Up to this point the player character has usually meant a fixed point of reference, but The Wonderful 101 plays around with this concept. The “character” the player controls is more like a “potential” instead of a fixed point, and as such you need to think about the way you interact with the game world and enemies in a new and different way. I love the way the player entity transitions seamlessly from being a spread out potential and then a single point, all depending on the current action.

Bayonetta is another game which I feel demonstrates the same level of brilliance with regard to finding new ways to present established concepts. If you look at other action games there are distinct boundaries between different types of action. We never once questioned the notion that melee attacks, gun attacks and evasive actions were separate and unique items which could be triggered at will but never mixed. Bayonetta presented a character which blurred the lines between these separate actions and established the genius mechanic of Dodge-Offset, which allowed the player to mix any and all evasive actions into just about any attack animation.

Bayonetta's Wicked Weave changes the way players think about their position relative to the enemy.

Bayonetta’s Wicked Weave changes the way players think about their position relative to the enemy.

These new ideas regarding movement and attacking were more than enough to establish Bayonetta as something unique, but I do not believe this is all there was to it. Bayonetta also asks you to consider a completely new way of thinking about 3D space: the brilliant Wicked Weave system. With Wicked Weaves (the action of projecting physical attacks through dimensional portals) you can inflict melee attack hit reactions at just about any distance. This causes the player to come up with completely different ways to deal with enemy sets compared to other action games; the fact that Bayonetta does not need to be near an enemy in order to physically attack it adds an utterly new dimension to a long established concept.

5. How does the Unite Morph System from The Wonderful 101 differ from traditional weapon switching systems?

Up until this point we have accepted that switching weapons in an action game is a mechanically simple process; you either select the weapon from within a menu or cycle through various weapons via a button press. However, The Wonderful 101 presents a completely new way of thinking about the “entity” of the player character; through the Wonder Liner mechanic, the mass of Wonderful Ones you control actually become the special attack command, they become the weapon! It cleverly establishes a new style of special attack command, specifically designed for an analogue joystick as opposed to a traditional digital input device, and requires that the player use both analogue sticks at once. The Unite Morph command glyphs are like analogue omni-directional representations of traditional digital special attack commands; the Unite Hand is a 360 motion/circle, the Unite Claw is an exaggerated “Dragon Punch” motion and the Unite Bomb is a half-circle then forward.

Using shape and color, weapon selection is communicated through visuals alone.

Using shape and color, weapon selection is communicated through visuals alone.

As players of fighting games know, special attack commands require practice. They are tricky to perform at first, but with time and patience you develop your own unique style of command execution. The Wonderful 101′s Unite Morph system operates in the same principle. The Wonder Liner mechanic is a brilliant way of visually representing special attack commands, and enables the player to not only select many different weapons quickly, but also freely manipulate the power level and scale of the weapon via the exact same command input.

The Wonder Liner mechanic is an analogue system, so by drawing a larger shape and sacrificing the speed in which the Unite Morph command is entered, you increase the attack power of the Unite Morph you want to select, visually communicated by the game as an enlarged version of the Unite Morph. Not only that; the Wonder Liner mechanic allows for the “storing” of a Unite Morph command! Once you visually confirm that you have entered a valid Unite Morph command glyph (signified by a color specific to each weapon), you are free to move the character as you like before you press [A] to activate the weapon.

Make it bigger: a tried-and-true method of showing increased power.

Make it bigger: a tried-and-true method of showing increased power.

On top of all this you then have to consider that you have two attack buttons, Normal attack and Team attack. Unite Morph commands can be activated via either attack button, triggering either the Leader character to equip the weapon or the team-mates to automatically attack with that weapon. As certain Unite Morphs have additional defensive abilities, it enables the player to eliminate a threat with one aspect of the team while dealing damage with the other. An example would be when faced with armoured enemies equipped with lasers: you can equip the leader with the Unite Sword to automatically deflect the laser beam, then command your team-mates to attack the target’s armour with the Unite Hammer. As incoming damage is only counted if it is inflicted upon the Leader of the team, I really enjoy working out ways in which I can keep the Leader out of trouble while using the team-mates to do the dirty work!

What I find most mind-blowing about the best action games is that they present a logical progression through their mechanics. In other words, once you gain a degree of mastery over one mechanic, it enables you to ask a question which leads you to the mastery of another deeper mechanic. In the case of The Wonderful 101, the first time I came across this logical path was after I got used to performing Unite Morph commands consistently. I began exploring simple combos; a few basic standing hits into a Wonderful Rising (launcher) leading to a basic aerial combo. I began wondering how I could string the attacks of different Unite Morphs together.

It was at this point that I realised the implications of the Wonder Liner being independent of the player character’s attack animation. It turns out that you are free to enter Unite Morph commands during any attack animation; if you enter a command during an attack animation and press [A] you will instantly cancel that animation and ready the newly selected weapon.

Naturally, the next logical step was to try this technique with special attacks, which are input via the left analogue stick. I discovered that if you do a special attack – such as the Wonderful Cyclone – you can enter the directional command for another Unite Morph with the right analogue stick and then perform an additional special attack command with the left analogue stick before pressing [A] to activate the new Unite Morph. The result was a means to instantly switch from the special attack of one Unite Morph into the special attack of another Unite Morph (dubbed “Unite Mix” in my tutorial video.) This technique massively expanded my options for building damaging combos; I could now string many special attacks together in order to keep an enemy locked in a high-scoring aerial juggle.

Once I gained a level of mastery over the “Unite Mix” technique, I was then led to ask another question. Certain special attacks (specifically the Wonderful Stinger) can only be performed once in mid air. How then can I use more than one Stinger during jump? Turns out you can do that too! To begin, you enter the command for the Unite Morph you want to use (right stick), input the command for the Stinger (left stick), and launch the attack with [A]. During the animation for the first aerial Stinger, you can input the commands for another, and perform a series of Stingers going back and forth between different morphs! This is what I love most about these games, the more thought you put in, the more cool stuff you get out!

Come back this Friday for Part 2 of our interview with Saur, where we discuss the past and future of action games! While you’re waiting, take a look at Saur’s Youtube channel.

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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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