The independent developer who brought XBLA gamers BattleBlock Theater, Alien Hominid and Castle Crashers has announced that, in addition to game development, it has two other ways it hopes will result in the best indie games possible making it “from conception to physical reality in the industry.” The Behemoth is now providing quality assurance and usability testing and what it describes as “no strings attached” funding for external indie developers.
Its testing lab, which the Sand Diego developer previously talked to XBLA Fans about at PAX East 2013, has been dubbed The Research Centaur and is said to staff testers with an average of six and a half years worth of experience in game testing. When he spoke of the testing center last year, The Behemoth President John Baez told us that it started as a purely internal department. Things went so swimmingly when testing BattleBlock Theater, though, that the developer decided to begin offering its testing services to external indie studios.
“I mean, one of the things we’ve done to kind of contribute to that [indie developer survivability] is we built a usability lab for Battleblock Theater, which has gone really, really well,” Baez said last year at PAX East. “It’s about a year old, and it’s only internal, and now we’ve opened it up. Well, there’s that and a QA department — very small, four people — but they’re very, very good at what they do. And now we’re beginning to open that up to other developers. So Bastion for all of iOS, we tested [it] and certified [it] to make sure that [Supergiant’s] game was good.
“So we’re opening that up to independent developers as a resource so they don’t have to go — I mean it’s not any cheaper than going to a big, gigantic test firm — but you’ll get the absolute attention to detail.”
Last week, you may have caught our five-part feature looking ahead at as many XBLA games and their Xbox One brethren as we could possibly cram into one week’s worth of articles. If you missed it, go ahead and check it out right now. Start here.
All done with that? Great. Now you know what’s coming. What you may not know, however, is which of those games you should be looking forward to the most. Don’t worry — XBLA Fans has you covered. Read on to find out what upcoming XBLA and Xbox One games select members of our team are most looking forward to getting their hands on. Once you’re done, let us know which ones you’re most excited for in the comments section. We’re asking you to read through our many thoughts on the big releases ahead, so we figure the least we can do in return is to read yours as well.
Ryan Thompson, Contributor — When Capcom first announced that it was releasing a modern Strider title, my first thought was to listen to a track by game composer Jake Kaufman entitled “Dracula Man X2 Alpha Turbo.” Kaufman was clearly having fun when he created the track, giving one potential answer to what the Castlevania franchise’s music would sound like if Capcom had developed it instead of Konami. With the imminent release of Strider on the 18th of February, Capcom is poised to give something of an official answer to the same question Kaufman must have asked himself — what would Castlevania be like if Capcom released it instead?
First of all, it would have the same level of polish as the best of Capcom’s 2D games, with controls that never fail, leaving players without excuses for failure in the tradition of both the original Strider for NES and the more famous Mega Man games. Second, it appears that, judging by the trailer, there would be more emphasis on combat and slightly less on exploration, though that might be just the frantic flow of activity in a short video speaking. Finally, as Kaufman hints in his tribute, this game would come with a soundtrack worthy of the rest of Capcom’s 2D oeuvre.
We’re late, and it seems that’s become somewhat of a trend for us lately. Our Game of the Year awards weren’t doled out until January, and now our look forward at the XBLA and Xbox One XBLA-type games of 2014 is just making its way to you in February. You were on your own when it came to planning out January’s releases, but now it’s time for our annual look ahead at the top downloadable games likely to arrive on an Xbox platform during the (remainder of) the year ahead. Read on to find out what you can expect out of Xbox over the next (not quite) 365.
Capcom’s Strider, today most commonly known for the main character’s appearances in the Marvel vs. Capcom franchise, will be the star of his own game next week on February 19 for the first time in more than 20 years. This particular entry appears to draw more from his NES game than any of his other appearances, mixing the exploration of Metroid with the visceral combat of Ninja Gaiden. As a result, comparisons to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night are inevitable and likely warranted. If any company can follow in the footsteps of these giants, it’s Capcom — seeing what it does in a two-dimensional environment given the horsepower of the Xbox One will be a treat.
Whoever coined the phrase, “Too much of a good thing,” likely never played a video game. Sure, mostly because the saying dates back to well before Pong ever pinged a virtual paddle, but in some small part because anyone that’s ever really connected to a great game knows the bittersweet sorrow of wrapping it up. Xbox Live Arcade is no stranger to great games — however you choose to define the word: fun, dense, deep, powerful – there’s something for everyone in our little digital corner of video games proper.
With that in mind, we take a look back at the heavy hitters, the ones that make you set down the controller upon completion and want to know more. XBLAFans’ Friday Top Five is back, bringing you the top five Xbox Live Arcade games (in no particular order) that require a sequel.
Tomorrow at 10 am PDT, Microsoft will likely tell us all some things we already know. The Xbox creator will also tell us plenty that we don’t already know. Some rumors will probably be proven true, others false. New games and features will be discussed and, in some cases, shown. Ultimately, the curtain is going to fall on Microsoft’s event before the public hears everything it wants to hear. Microsoft is only going to tease us, with a more complete showing of all its console plans for the years ahead not coming until the console holder’s traditional pre-E3 media briefing on June 10.
But tomorrow we will know something we don’t know today. We’ll know something about what direction Microsoft plans to steer the Xbox brand in over the course of the next generation. Sitting here right now, I can honestly say that I know nothing more than any other gamer who’s followed the supposed leaks over the past few years knows about what we’re going to see tomorrow. Rather than make educated guesses about what might be shown tomorrow and at E3, XBLAFans is following up last week’s look at how developers feel about XBLA as it currently stands by having them speak about where they want to see it go in the next generation.
During PAX East this past March, we cornered six game developers and asked them one question: If you could change any one thing or add any one feature to the next-generation version of Xbox Live Arcade, what would it be?
Dead Space’s Isaac Clarke once had to drill into his own eyeball in order to survive a ship infested with mutated freaks. Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad of Assassin’s Creed fame was made to part with a portion of one of his fingers in order to join the Levantine Brotherhood of Assassins. Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft once had the misfortune of falling onto a piece of sharpened rebar that pierced her midsection — and all she was trying to do was go for a nice little exploratory boat ride. And that’s not even mentioning the myriad scores of locust soldiers that have found themselves on the wrong end of Marcus Fenix’s trusty chainsaw or colossal boots over the years.
You don’t hear any of them complaining about having to endure those, shall we way, slightly disagreeable circumstances, though, do you? That’s because those mere flesh wounds were nothing when compared to the great tragedy of our time: working with a certain platform holder to release your independent studio’s game on Xbox Live Arcade. I shudder at the very thought.
If you’ve followed Xbox Live Arcade over the past several years here and on other sites, then you already know of what I speak. There lives in Redmond, Washington a great beast, massive in size with glowing red-ringed eyes of fury. It is a devious creature hellbent on tricking those smaller than it into believing they’re partners, only to turn on them in their hour of need, stomping down on their hopes and dreams harder than Fenix has brought down his boots on so many locust heads. Such disdain does this gluttonous monstrosity have for the smaller creatures roaming the forest of the game industry, that it is more than happy to sacrifice its own interests if it means snuffing out the light of those cowering under its great shadow.
So evil is this…Wait. Isn’t this getting just a little out of hand? Is Microsoft really that terrible of a company? Does it truly care nothing for the needs of independent game developers? Is its thirst for video game console dominance so insatiable that it doesn’t mind torpedoing its, um, pursuit of video game console dominance so long as it means making life miserable for independent game studios that, by developing games for its platform, are actively working to help it succeed with its, uh, video game console dominance? It is if you’ve listened to the little guys with big megaphones.
It beckons, and you respond. What else would you do? It’s not as if an abundance of other options manifest themselves, really. Your surroundings tell you it will be dangerous to go alone without it, and “it” even goes so far as to articulate its desire to become your traveling companion.
You seem to have just missed some sort of a skirmish, and at least one person ended up dead during the fighting. Someone, presumably the killer, has conveniently left the enormous techno-sword that felled the recently deceased implanted firmly in the poor fellow’s torso. The transistor speaks; it beckons, and you respond. What else would you do?
You relieve its most recent victim of the burden of bearing it any longer, and Supergiant Games’ Transistor begins proper. Red — the beautiful, slender former songstress who was introduced a moment ago in a cut-scene colored as much by her fiery hair as by her heavenly singing — seems a strange choice to wield something so powerful, so…cumbersome. If appearances are to be trusted, Red’s but a delicate thing, not suited to wield such a large weapon. But wield it she does. She hefts the blade with two hands, letting its considerable girth drag behind her as if she were auditioning for the role of leading man in a JRPG from a bygone era.
Swinging the thing reveals that its weight matches its size. Red arcs the chatty transistor over her head and brings it crashing down in front of her with considerable effort. You feel its weight as she does so. It slows Red, restricting her to trotting at only a moderate pace around this futuristic world that is somehow simultaneously flooded with artificial light and dark and foreboding. Her attacks feel deliberate and powerful as they smash the robotic aggressors that spawn before her to bits.
The robots are part of something known as “the Process,” and they want it back. They want the transistor that was so negligently left behind earlier. The transistor has much to say, but its (his?) words are cryptic, leaving you with many questions. What is the Process? What is the transistor? Who is Red, for that matter? Do she and the transistor know each other?
Somewhere in San Diego there exists a couple of buildings. They’re buildings with glass windows and a soft feeling, or so I’ve been told. They’re buildings that are “not too intimidating” when compared to other species in their particular building genus. At least, that’s how The Behemoth President John Baez described them to me at the tail end of a roughly 32-minute interview that took place in Boston last weekend during PAX East. Baez and Level Designer Ryan Horn shared their thoughts on several topics: BattleBlock Theater, what the studio would like to see from the next-gen version of Xbox Live Arcade and the developer’s thoughts on working with Microsoft.
Yes, we managed to cover a lot of ground. This despite the fact that we were sitting comfortably in folding chairs set up in a largely unoccupied space behind the booth over which hung a large arrow bearing a single word: “Behold.” What precisely the attention of PAX attendees was being called to may not have been initially palpable to the first-timers among them, but then again, nor was it to the XBLAFans crew when Horn and Baez — the latter fielding an increasing percentage of the questions we asked the two men — began talking about video game prototypes.
Our attention, as it turned out, was being directed towards those two buildings. Or rather, what goes on inside their walls.
They’re not buildings in which the developer makes games, mind you. They are buildings in which the developer tests games to see if they work. Interestingly, one of the games that has been analyzed there isn’t property of The Behemoth — it’s property of fellow successful indie studio Supergiant Games. And at some point this summer, the iOS version of Bastion will lose the distinction of being the only game from another developer to be put through its paces by The Behemoth. The studio will begin using its pair of non-development buildings to investigate whether or not all manner of foreign games work in the manner that their designers intended them to, and whether or not that’s the way they should work.
The Behemoth will task those working inside the friendlier-than-most-of-their-kind buildings with providing quality assurance (QA) and usability lab services to fellow independent game developers. One indie should help another indie. This type of help, however, will come with a price tag — and not a discounted one.