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Another issue of games has hit shelves (real and digital) and it’s a packed one as ever with some of the biggest games coming in late 2018 and early 2019 gracing our pages. Let’s take a closer look at what you can look forward to reading. And check out MyFavouriteMagazines to grab yourself a copy of games 205 or have a look at our latest subscription offers.

Anthem

We’ve been big backers of BioWare’s latest ever since we got our first look at it during E3 2017. We were coming off the back of the disappointment of Mass Effect and we were ready to put some distance between our fandom and BioWare for a little while if we had to, but Anthem felt so fresh and daring and getting to play it now and discuss how it manages to draw on the full experience of the studio to create a really innovative multiplayer experience has only solidified that feeling. This is simply one of the most exciting games of the generation and if you still need convincing then this issue is the place to start.

Control

We love Remedy to bits. We love our insane it is. We love how creative it is. We love how willing it is to push out into the oddest and most convoluted premises and make them work. Control is a fantastic example of this and it was great to hear from the team how the freedom of making its first multi-format game in years has afforded it a lot more room to experiment and be even more creative than usual. Control’s premise and gameplay are equally bonkers and thrilling. This is definitely a game to watch.

Better On Switch?

We don’t know about you, but we find ourselves hearing about a new game being released and immediately checking whether we’ll get to play it on Switch or not. We know it’s not as powerful as the big home consoles or a PC, but there’s just something about being able to pick it up anytime we want and move from living room to mobile gaming in a snap that feels so convenient. With all of that in mind we’ve taken a closer look at all of the big and small games available on multiple formats to ask, which are really better to play on the Nintendo Switch?

Sable

From a shed in North London, two indie game makers, with support from some other creative souls, have been putting together an otherworldly, sandbox exploration experience that is part role-player, part coming of age tale and every inch of it is stunning to behold. This issue we had the pleasure of chatting with Dan and Greg of Shedworks about Sable, about the game’s art style, about the role of masks in the world, about building your own hoverbike and much more besides. This is a very exciting game and you’ll want to be up to speed with it ASAP.

Access

Lots of hands- and eyes-on experience to draw from in our Access section this issue as we take on the likes of Sekiro, the Resi 2 remake, Devil May Cry 5 and get a brand new look at Night City with CD Projekt Red. It probably goes without saying, Cyberpunk 2077 is very impressive and the new gameplay we had a look at was fantastic. Expect to learn a lot more about that soon.

Also Inside

Reviews: Spider-Man, Two Point Hospital, Planet Alpha, PES 2019, Strange Brigade, Shadow Of The Tomb Raider, Phantom Doctrine, NBA 2K19, Bad North, Not Tonight.

Retro: Complete guide to Elite Systems, behind the scenes of Disney’s Tarzan, interview with Jolyon Myers and why Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night was a game changer.

games 205 is available now from all good newsagents and supermarkets as well as our online store. And check out our latest subs offers for amazing discounts!
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Metro Exodus leads the charge in a packed new issue of games. We catch up with developers far and wide to get you the latest on 4A Games’ latest, Creative Assembly, id Software and much more. Let’s take a closer look at how games 204 came together.

Metro Exodus

The journey of 4A Games is rather similar to that of its latest FPS offering as the studio looks to step out from the dark depths of a more contained game series and spread its wings with something more ambitious. Simultaneously, it has become an international studio, as we found out visiting its new Malta base. While the studio’s heart remains in Ukraine, its new direction lives in Malta and we we delighted to take a look behind the scenes at how it has handled the transition and the impact events in and out of the studio have had on how Metro Exodus has taken shape.

Doom Eternal

It was fantastic to get a closer look at the way id Software is building on the successes of 2016’s Doom and to hear from its development team. What stands out more than anything else for us is that the team has clearly identified the unique qualities of its Doom reboot and looked to double down on them with every new feature being introduced. The standout example is a new meat hook that attaches to the shotgun and not only helps with fast traversal, but also dragging you in closer for the kill.

Total War: Three Kingdoms

Creative Assembly is bringing a lot of interesting ideas and new features to this new Total War offering, not least of which is possibly its most involved and tangled narrative binding the experience together. A mix of real events and fictional embellishments from Romance Of The Three Kingdoms are combining to make a new war sim that has plenty of combat detail, but some fun driving elements behind it. You can hear from the devs themselves how all of that is being balanced.

Are Games Getting Better At Representation?

It feels like we’re seeing more and more LGBT+ characters in videogames, but why is that important and how can game developers do more? We spoke with representatives of the LGBT+ gamer community who are driving the debate forward as well as game developers like former BioWare creative director Mike Laidlaw and Dream Daddy developer Leighton Gray to see how they think things have evolved in the games industry, what mistakes have been made, and how things can be better.

Access

We’ve got some big hitters in Access this issue with some important hands on impressions and latest deep dives into big new titles, not least Red Dead Redemption II, which is fast approaching release. We would like to highlight a couple of exciting indies this issue as well with VR dolphin exploration experience Jupiter & Mars from James Mielke’s (of Lumines, Child Of Eden and Kongetsu games column fame) new studio and Gris, which is a gorgeous new platformer you can expect later this year.

Also Inside

Reviews: We Happy Few, Overcooked 2, Flipping Death, WarioWare Gold, Donut County, Semblance, The Banner Saga 3, Dead Cells, State Of Mind, Guacamelee! 2, The Persistence

Retro: The complete guide to SNK arcade games, behind the scenes of Ex-Mutants, retro interview with The Oliver Twins and why Beyond Good & Evil was a game changer

games 204  is on-sale now – you can buy it in stores or online from   MyFavouriteMagazines.co.uk
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Your friendly neighbourhood games magazine is landing in a store near you and this month’s cover star is the spectacular Spider-Man himself. Get the latest on Insomniac’s massive new adventure and a lot more in games 203. Grab yourself a copy from MyFavouriteMags.com now!

Spider-Man

The web-slinger is back and we spoke at length with creative director Bryan Intihar about Insomiac’s approach to bringing the Spider-Man experience to PS4 in our exclusive cover feature this issue. We get into why fire escapes are a nightmare for traversal designers, why it’s so important that you get to play as Peter Parker as well as his alter ego and how the game handles things like upgrade systems and collectibles, since Spider-Man doesn’t loot people or keep loose change in his suit. It was a fascinating conversation and you can read it all this issue.

FIFA 19

This is going to sound a lot like a backhanded compliment, but we didn’t expect EA to offer quite so robust and far-reaching update to FIFA with this year’s instalment as we’re getting. The headline grabbers are updates to the Kick-Off Mode with new gameplay styles and fun new twists on the kinds of things we would play ourselves, but have now been built into the mechanics of the game, such as headers and volleys being the only way to score. We get into all of that as well as the active touch system, dynamic tactics and timed shooting. Some very exciting new content this year.

Two Point Hospital

With a team made up of former Bullfrog and Lionhead staffers as well as other UK developers, we couldn’t ask for a better group to go about recapturing the magic of Theme Hospital and bring it to the modern era. We had extensive hands-on time with the game and caught up with some of the team to discuss the approach to modernising the format, how joke diseases are conceived and why for a moment during devlopment patients were queuing up to slip on vomit.

The Bard’s Tale IV

How do you build a sequel to a series that hasn’t been touched for three decades? Pretend as if you’re making its 14th iteration and not its fourth. That’s just one of the things we learnt when we caught up with inXile this issue and played the opening hours of its fascinating classic RPG resurrection. Find out just how modern this new take on the style is going to be and how the team is trying to deliver an experience for longtime fans and the newly intrigued.

Access

As we’re still feeling the glow of a solid summer of game announcements and chances to interact with developers we have our latest takes on Anthem, Forza Horizon 4, Control, Dying Light 2, and Ori And The Will Of The Wisps, as well as chats with the team behind stop-motion indie wonder Harold Halibut and the curators of the Victoria & Albert Museum’s very exciting Design/Play/Disrupt videogames exhibition that kicks off in September.

Also inside

Reviews: The Crew 2, Octopath Traveler, Unravel Two, The Awesome Adventures Of Captain Spirit, LEGO The Incredibles, Bloodstained: Curse Of The Moon, Wreckfest, Earthfall, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker

Retro: Complete guide to Game Boy Advance, behind the scenes of The Thing, interview with BioWare legend James Ohlen, and why Shadow Of The Colossus was a game-changer.

games 203  is on-sale now – you can buy it in stores or online from   MyFavouriteMagazines.co.uk
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games 202 is here and once again we’re celebrating the 100 Hottest New Games off the back of E3. Inside you will find 100 of the most exciting, innovative and creative games coming to PS4, Xbox One, Switch and PC in the coming years. Grab yourself a copy from MyFavouriteMags.com now!

100 Hottest New Games Special

A closer look at the biggest and best games on your horizon:

The Last Of Us: Part II
Naughty Dog is delivering the goods once again with brand new motion capture technology, a grown-up Ellie who is going through some tough teenage romance drama and some kind of death cult that’s cutting people open on the streets. Yep, this is The Last Of Us alright. We got the chance to look closer at the game and dissect all of its juicy morsels for you.

Cyberpunk 2077
We were there, we saw the demo and we were blown away by CD Projekt Red’s new game. But of course we were; this is the team that brought us The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, after all. Truly, the scope of the this RPG and the freedom it’s going to give us all as players to dictate our own playstyle and story is going to be immense. You can read our first gameplay impressions this issue.

The Division 2
We get into some of the political talk elsewhere in the issue, but The Division 2 really looks to be answering a good portion of the criticisms of the original game with this update. And it’s adding in some exciting new content, leaning into the RPG mechanics of the game a little and building on that shared world experience.

Death Stranding
We’re still not sure we could describe what Hideo Kojima’s new game is about with any massive amounts of details or accuracy, but we can tell you what we experienced of what’s on offer thus far and it is fascinating. This is easily the strangest game the legendary game-maker has put his name to and it is utterly engrossing.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
Ubisoft has gone back to the Creed well a little sooner than we actually expected (we thought another break might be taken after the success of Origins), but we’re pleased it did, because Odyssey looks superb. Moving the action to Greece with more role-playing features and a choice of character, AC Odyssey looks very promising and we got some up-close time with it too.

Halo Infinite
We’re back on the Halo hype train and it’s a comfy ride, as ever. We pick apart the teaser and delve into some of the small details that have been revealed or teased so far to see just what Infinite is going to deliver.

Resident Evil 2
Capcom’s remake of the 1998 classic wasn’t a game we were expecting to be blown away by, but thanks to its stunning engine and incredible recreation of scenes with amazing new clarity, Resi 2 is looking like an amazing horror game revival. Absolutely a game to keep an eye on in the coming months.

And so many more (93 more to be a little more precise) to read about in our preview special blowout spectacular!

Also Inside

Reviews: Vampyr, Jurassic World Evolution, Cultist Simulator, Smoke And Sacrifice, Shape Of The World, Onrush, Mario Tennis Aces, Milanoir, Laser League, Moonlighter, Homo Machina, Fox N Forests, Quarantine Circular

Retro: The retro guide to Sega Arcade Games, behind the scenes of Tornado, in conversation with Tommy Tallarico, why Metroid Prime was a game changer

games 202  is on-sale now – you can buy it in stores or online from   MyFavouriteMagazines.co.uk
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To mark 10 years since Apple launched its App Store for iOS on 10 July 2008 and brought about a new era of mobile gaming, we’ve reached out to a selection of game developers, old and new, who have experienced the evolution and found their home on iOS devices. Today we speak with Ironhide Game Studio co-founder Alvaro Azofra about the Kingdom Rush series and his thoughts on the platform.

When did you realise that a genre like tower defense would be a good fit for the AppStore?

When developing Kingdom Rush (as a flash game), we made an effort to make it very accessible and easy to use, with hopes that maybe we could take the game to the mobile stores. Kingdom Rush was first published on web portals and had a huge success with stellar ratings (9.7/10), it was at that point that we realised it would be a good game to try and enter the mobile market, something we could only dream of when we started.

Has your approach to launching on tablets and smartphones changed much since the launch of Kingdom Rush?

Yes and no. When we published the first Kingdom Rush (late 2011), we had no knowledge of the market nor much of the game industry, just focused on making a fun game and release as fast as possible.

Now we still focus on making the best we game we can, but it is also very important for us to reach as many players as possible and extend the experience of the game post launch. For that we localize the game in several languages and keep an update content plan for the long run of the game.

How has publishing through iOS changed in the time you’ve been launching games onthe platform?

Of course as a platform matures, more requirements appear (hence more work), but it help devs to make better decisions, gain better visibility and greater distribution. It is a learning process.

How empowering do you feel publishing games on iOS has been to indie game makers?

Very! Working with the Appstore gives us (indie devs) an exposure that you could only hope before by working with a publisher. It empowers indies to stay indie!

Do you consider the App Store to be a relatively meritocratic platform where good workwill rise to the top regardless of origin?

Absolutely. We believe the system allows for players to recognize and support good games, and allows devs to stay in touch with player feedback in order to improve the gaming experience.

What trends have you been interested to see emerge and decline on iOS over theyears?

Synchronous multiplayer is one i hope will keep emerging in the near future as well as great single player content rich experiences.

Are there any particular releases on iOS that you consider to be paradigm-shiftingmoments?

Here a few i like: Canabalt, Angry Birds, Clash of Clans, Kingdom Rush and Clash Royale

Are you concerned about preservation of games on iOS at this point with the operatingsystem changing frequently?

As passionate gamers, it is terrible to see games vanish because of compatibility issues, especially those that are part of gaming history and culture.

Games are in many ways a work of art and should be preserved as such. That said, we understand that it may be hard to keep backward compatibility and yes it is concerning that some games may disappear since the devs can no longer support them.

How would you summarise the impact of the iOS app store on gaming?

In a short sentence: It created a new market from a whole new way of gaming.

Check out our App Store timeline highlighting the biggest releases of the last decade of iOS releases in games 201, on sale now
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To mark 10 years since Apple launched its App Store for iOS on 10 July 2008 and brought about a new era of mobile gaming, we’ve reached out to a selection of game developers, old and new, who have experienced the evolution and found their home on iOS devices. Today we speak with Mountains co-founder Ken Wong about the release of Florence, his experience creating Monument Valley and more.

Starting up a new studio, was there a particular appeal to making your first game a smartphone release?

I wanted to build upon what I had learned at ustwo working on Monument Valley, so making our first game for mobile was an easy decision. I love that mobile games encourage designers towards simplicity, to experiment with the unique features of the platform, and to make games for new audiences.

You made fantastic use of the smartphone format with Florence. How much had you learnt leading up to this game’s development that helped inform its functionality?

I’ve been working on mobile games since 2011, and every project has been a learning experience. I’m particularly interested in how the touch screen allows for new ways to interact with games and stories. What we didn’t expect when we started Florence was the empathy we could create by presenting Florence’s life in the form of the mobile apps she uses – calling her mother, flicking through her social media feed, presenting conversation as chat bubbles. There’s a really interesting connection created as the player plays a mobile game in which the character is also using a mobile device.

How has publishing through iOS changed in the time you’ve been launching games on the platform?

So much has changed, and so much has remained the same. Obviously the market has grown, but it’s also become saturated. It’s very easy to put a game on the App Store, but it’s become very hard to market it. The new App Store that came with iOS11 has shaken things up. Prices plummeted, but there seems to be a resurgence of premium games now. In the end, I don’t think too much about trends. I focus on creating things that will make people sit up and pay attention and happily pay for. There were no games like Monument Valley before we made it. The same is true of Florence.

How empowering do you feel publishing games on iOS has been to indie game makers?

I really appreciate that it’s relatively easy to publish an iOS game. I think this has encouraged more creators to create and market their own games in their own way, rather than go through a publisher.

Do you consider the App Store to be a relatively meritocratic platform where good work will rise to the top regardless of origin?

Generally, yes. I think you see a lot of inventive, highly engaging and highly innovative stuff rise to the top on the App Store, either through word of mouth or Apple’s curation. Like all business, being in the right place at the right time is a factor, but you still need to make high quality work. I strongly disagree with the idea that App Store success is a ‘lottery’.

What trends have you been interested to see emerge and decline on iOS over the years?

Watching big companies falling over each other to follow free to play trends is pretty amusing. Right now they’re all trying to compete with Fortnite. Before that it was MOBAs. Before that it was Candy Crush and Clash of Clans. I don’t pay much attention to trends, and instead focus on making art.

Are there any particular releases on iOS that you consider to be paradigm-shifting moments?

I think mobile games is actually too broad to have an overarching paradigm. Where games like Minecraft, Journey and Pokemon have had a massive impact on traditional platforms, the mobile games is so siloed and fast-changing that no one game has really changed everything. You could maybe make a case that Angry Birds established mobile as a viable business, and Sword & Sworcery established it as a place for art.

Are you concerned about preservation of games on iOS at this point with the operating system changing frequently?

Yes, absolutely. The idea that Monument Valley might one day no longer be playable on a new phone makes me really sad.

How would you summarise the impact of the iOS app store on gaming?

iOS, smartphones and tablets have had a huge impact on the games landscape. The multi-touch screens, technologies like gyro, camera and geolocation have lead to the creation of new forms of interaction and storytelling. Meanwhile, new monetisation approaches and the ease of publishing, buying and sharing App Store games, have helped increase and broaden the audience for games.

Check out our App Store timeline highlighting the biggest releases of the last decade of iOS releases in games 201, on sale now
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To mark 10 years since Apple launched its App Store for iOS on 10 July 2008 and brought about a new era of mobile gaming, we’ve reached out to a selection of game developers, old and new, who have experienced the evolution and found their home on iOS devices. Today we speak with Arnold Rauers who develops games under the name TiNYTOUCHTALES about his adventure game spins on classic solitaire gamplay and more.

You’ve made a wide variety of games with different mechanical styles for smartphones. How would you say your approach has evolved from game to game?

My most recent games (the oldest from 2015) are all very similar, because I found a niche in which i could make the most out of my limited resources. Before that I tried a broad range of mechanics and styles as I was learning the ropes of making mobile games. In the beginning my games where mostly a mix of things I liked and what I thought a fictional target audience would like. But more and more I realized that the only target audience that I 100% can identify is me. So I began making games for the type of gamer I am and became very good in communicating why my specific ideas about games are interesting.

There’s a real tabletop feel to some of your work. Did it strike you early on that classic tabletop approaches to gameplay would suit the App Store rather well?

As said, before making a card game I looked a lot at other mobile games at the time which included, Match-3, Puzzle and Arcade games. I wasn’t aware that tabletop games and their mechanics and gameplay can indeed be a perfect fit for the platform. What my games do different is that they aren’t based on physical version but are native to the digital space from the beginning. This gives my games a big advantage over the classic board games that are very present in the App Store these days.

How has publishing through iOS changed in the time you’ve been launching games on the platform?

More devices and more effort to make your games compatible is one of the biggest changes. I remember a time where only the iPhone 4 and the first iPad where available. Besides the hardware changes obviously the landscape of free vs. premium gaming has change quite dramatically. I’m very proud that even in year 10 of the App Store where the flood F2P games dominate the top seller lists I can survive with selling good ol paid games.

How empowering do you feel publishing games on iOS has been to indie game makers?

I think being able to sell games on my own through the App Store was and still is the biggest improvement over the classic developer publisher model. I can handle everything on my own and get a big share of the money that my game makes while Apple handles all the logistics of getting the game onto the customers device. Im my opinion it’s one of the best things that could happen for small developers.

Do you consider the App Store to be a relatively meritocratic platform where good work will rise to the top regardless of origin?

Well you can always argue that good games will sell. But in the recent years it has become incredibly hard and a lot of good games fell flat. Promotion is key. If you can’t convince Apple to feature your game it is almost impossible to get through the clutter that is 500+ released Apps and Games each day. Through the years I have established a good connection to Apple and they follow my work closely so it’s easier for me, but still making a good game that can compete with the 10 or so good/fantastic games that get featuring each week is incredibly hard.

What trends have you been interested to see emerge and decline on iOS over the years?

Obviously the raise of F2P was the biggest change I experienced first hand. The shift from in App payments to Rewarded Videos ads was another. The incredible increase in the quality of games in general was really interesting to see as well. In the beginning the App Store was full of small and mostly crappy games and fart Apps. But in recent years games with huge budgets and production values where released that pushed the platform as a serious business a lot.

Are there any particular releases on iOS that you consider to be paradigm-shifting moments?

The obvious ones would be Clash of Clans, the juggernaut of base building f2p games. The tragic story of Flappy Bird (which later was taken down by it’s developer), which created a whole new genre of tough as nails 1 button games. Crossy Road, the classic fairy tale of two guys hitting it big after the App Store was already quite saturated. I would say Monument Valley which somehow reintroduced the storytelling puzzle game and got huge love from Apple.

Are you concerned about preservation of games on iOS at this point with the operating system changing frequently? 

I think in a closed system like the App Store being able to save everything from extinction is impossible. Maybe in a few years when the devices have way better cpu’s there will be an emulator that can emulate old iOS releases.

How would you summarise the impact of the iOS app store on gaming?

An incredible invention which shaped the lives of millions of people including mine. If someone would have told me 10 years ago I would be able to make a living by selling my own games that can be played on a telephone I would have though ‘You are crazy’.

Check out our App Store timeline highlighting the biggest releases of the last decade of iOS releases in games 201, on sale now
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To mark 10 years since Apple launched its App Store for iOS on 10 July 2008 and brought about a new era of mobile gaming, we’ve reached out to a selection of game developers, old and new, who have experienced the evolution and found their home on iOS devices. Today we speak with Philippe Dao, Asmodee Digital’s CMO, about the developer’s work in board game adaptations and how the App Store has evolved.

You’ve come to specialise in adapting board games to the App Store. Why do you think they make such a good fit?

At Asmodee Digital, we make great games for all types of players and we are very confident in the growth of digital board games on mobile… and the App Store which reaches various users and is a perfect place to distribute our different games. In fact, the App Store is our #1 platform in terms of revenue and we are ranked #1 in the board games category (by number of paid downloads on iOS) with great games like Ticket to Ride, Pathfinder Adventures, Pandemic, and Splendor.

In other words, Asmodee Digital is already the industry leader for digital board games (as is parent company, Asmodee for boardgames worldwide), and we’re quickly uncovering the secrets to untapping new opportunities for existing board game IP. Understanding the growth of the tabletop market, how that relates to digital, and how to create new experiences based on beloved IPs is something we do best. Pivoting from direct 1-1 translations to complementary experiences based on the original tabletop games, not just on mobile and PC, but new platforms, is the topic at hand.

Part of this means translating physical to digital games, but our bigger objective is making something ‘new’.

How do you go about finding the right board games to adapt? Are there common factors that tie the successful adaptations together?

Actually, there are various factors that lead successful adaptations: storyline, replayability, challenge, awareness of the board game franchise. Moreover, when adapting a board game to digital, there are unique challenges to overcome, aside from the typical ones that come with building any game like game design, user interfaces, multiplayer experience, game economy, and the business model. There are also challenges like creating a solo mode, modifying rules of the physical game, re-balancing the AI, etc.

Let’s take the UI for example: After making a few games we identified a few best practices for how to quickly optimize the most common flows,from the main menu to a multiplayer game for instance, or how to display a lot of elements on a small screen, how to make an efficient chat feature, how to design a lobby, etc… There is a constant need to analyze player behaviors if we want to have a good UI in a digital board game.

Regarding the IP, it is really important for players to rediscover in the digital adaptation what they love in the physical one (the story, the universe, the strategies…) and to benefit from the digital support. For that, we first identify the pillars of the game (or even the brand when the game is part of a bigger brand). These pillars are the ones we will also use in the digital adaptation, ensuring that we will be faithful to what the game is in the physical universe. This identification goes through various tests like reading feedback from the community, analyzing the artistic style, balancing gameplay mechanics, etc.”

In Jaipur, the digital adaptation offers the opportunity to create an ambiance with the soundtrack, and to create the campaign mode that comprises all kinds of variants to the base game’s rules.

To put it another way, not all board games can be adapted to digital. For example, games requiring lots of verbal interactions between players can be hard to translate. Also, board games that use real-time gameplay or interruptions can be tough to adapt for online gaming.

On the other hand, turn-based games often translate well to digital. The beauty of our job is that when we consider a board game for adaptation, we are already in front of an experience with a flawless game design. Designing physical board games is in fact extremely difficult to do, because unlike in the video game space, there is absolutely nothing to help the players: no automatic points counting, no preset set up, no verification of players’ actions, no interactive tutorial, etc. All of these things are performed by technology in a video game. So the original design must be extremely well thought-out, clean, simple, and readable. This makes our job comparatively easier when coding a game. The hard part is more about squeezing the user interface into the small screen of a phone or tablet, and developing an AI that plays the game very well – our AIs are not allowed to cheat!

How has publishing through iOS changed in the time you’ve been launching games on the platform?

With thousands of games launching every week it becomes harder and harder to get premium visibility on the App Store. However, the fact that more than half of the game downloads comes from players who have used the App Store search engine compensates for the lack of premium visibility for small developers.

How empowering do you feel publishing games on iOS has been to indie game makers?

Having direct relationships with the App Store teams definitely helps indie developers to successfully publish. We speak from experience!

Do you consider the App Store to be a relatively meritocratic platform where good work will rise to the top regardless of origin?

Yes definitely. Although it is more and more difficult for indie publishers to emerge on the App store we believe the App Store still offers every single publisher the opportunity to work its way through and become successful.

What trends have you been interested to see emerge and decline on iOS over the years?

The premium business model has declined over the years to the benefit of the freemium model. We are watching these developments very closely along with other models like subscription based games and games with a good track record of advertising monetization.

Are there any particular releases on iOS that you consider to be paradigm-shifting moments?

On the Asmodee Digital side, the launch of Ticket to Ride and Spot It! Dobble Challenges have been 2 key milestones for us on the App Store. We did learn a lot from these two games especially in terms of user acquisition, monetization, retention, and in-app conversion. We were also able to assess the impact of premium placement and the organic download rates resulting from it.

Are you concerned about preservation of games on iOS at this point with the operating system changing frequently?

Maintenance and the continuous change of operating system on iOS has always been a challenge for most developers but this is also true on other operating systems. On iOS users tend to upgrade their OS more often and quicker than on any other platforms which is a good news. Over the years we have learned to anticipate the yearly iOS changes too.

How would you summarise the impact of the iOS app store on gaming?

We believe Apple has revolutionized the gaming industry with the App Store. The adoption of smartphones globally has led to mobile gaming to surpass console gaming. Apple has also democratized the development and the publishing on a global scale through its platform. After 10 years we still see new developers emerging from the AppStore with an innovative game topping the charts.

Check out our App Store timeline highlighting the biggest releases of the last decade of iOS releases in games 201, on sale now
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It’s the season of new game announcements and new game access and games 201 has some of the biggest of them this issue as Battlefield V leads the charge of massive new games on the way in 2018. Grab yourself a copy now from MyFavouriteMagazines or your local store. Let’s take a closer look at what you’ll find inside.

Battlefield V

With DICE revealing a new Battlefield game we didn’t hesitate to reach out and begin picking apart the studio’s approach with design director Daniel Berlin. As you’ll find in the feature, Berlin opened up on the team’s feelings about how people typically play Battlefield, how it has wanted to empower team play more and more and how all of the new systems and rewards will make that happen this year. A new EA shooter always comes with some question marks and concerns, but with no season pass and with so much content confirmed already, we’re very optimistic this is going to be huge.

Metro Exodus

4A Games continues to chip away at its more open take on the Metro franchise and we had the chance to speak with the team again to see how things are developing. What we got was a candid conversation about the challenges the team has been facing, the massive numbers of new developers it’s taken to make this larger game world possible and what it all really means for the gameplay. Metro remains a hugely exciting prospect, as you’ll be reminded reading the latest issue.

Access

There’s plenty packed into Access this issue with Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4 leading the way. We caught up with Treyarch to find out why it’s embracing battle royale with its latest release and what not having a single-player campaign means to the series. Meanwhile we making sure there’s plenty of indie love this issue, not least with a big Kynseed preview as we chat with the PixelCount team to reflect on its journey from Lionhead to this Kickstarted pixel RPG.

Afterparty

We’re particularly pumped for Night Shift’s next game after the excellent Oxenfree, but we weren’t expecting an adventure where we would need to drink the devil under the table. We speak with co-founder and co-creative director Sean Krankel to find out how this all came about and why the team has looked to bring more humour to the table this time around. It’s a fantastic concept and one we’re sure you’ll fall in love with after reading this piece.

10 Years Of The App Store

Can you believe we’re hitting the tenth anniversary of Apple’s App Store for iOS? Incredible to think how far mobile gaming has come in that time really and we chronicle it all this issue picking out the biggest releases of each and every year. From Words With Friends to Fortnite, we look at the big leaps that took place and how different trends have come and gone in the last decade.

Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes

There are few people in gaming who we enjoy chatting with more than Suda51 and it was a pleasure to catch up with him yet again to find out how he’s feeling about being back in the directors chair for Travis Strikes Again. It’s not quite the No More Heroes sequel some may expect, but he seems to be loving working with a much smaller team and building the core creative talent that will power Grasshopper Manufacture forward as it celebrates its 20th anniversary.

Also Inside

Reviews: Detroit: Become Human, Pillars Of Eternity II: Deadfire, State Of Decay 2, FAR: Lone Sails, Total War Saga: Thrones Of Britannia, BattleTech, Conan Exiles, Yoku’s Island Express

Retro: Complete guide to Konami arcade games, behind the scenes of The Lion King, why Resident Evil 4 was a game changer

games 201  is on-sale now – you can buy it in stores or online from   MyFavouriteMagazines.co.uk
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[Originally printed in games 191]

25 years on from its release on our shores, The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past remains as relevant as ever as a touchstone for developers. We caught up with a few indie RPG makers to reflect on the importance of one of Link’s greatest adventures and how they have tried to build on it

“It’s one of those games that I’ll go back to, maybe not on an annual basis, but maybe every two or three years and complete again, just because it’s damn near close to a perfect game.” So says Alex Preston, founder of Heart Machine and creator of Hyper Light Drifter, one of the most striking and engaging tributes to the classic Zelda RPG style in recent memory, about his experience with The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past. And it’s an experience that many of us share. Even after 25 years, the SNES instalment in Link’s ongoing adventures in Hyrule remains an incredibly important touchstone for the industry, a mainline for inspiration and a foundation upon which great innovation can be achieved. We only need to look at the revival of the 2D, pixel art RPG as a genre to see that this is the case.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Nintendo, 1991

“I invested way too many hours into it when I was around 12 years old, in the only console I have ever owned, a Super Nintendo,” remembers Javier Giménez, CEO of Digital Sun, maker of the upcoming Moonlighter. “I loved the game so much that, even if I remember quite a lot about it, I remember the feeling of happiness even more.” There’s certainly a lingering feeling of wellbeing and goodwill towards A Link To The Past, that’s more or less true of most Nintendo hits from the era, perhaps stemming in part from playing it at a younger, more innocent age. All the developers we talked to could recall fond, sometimes life-changing, memories of their first experiences with the game.

“I remember pulling the cellophane wrapper off that golden SNES box and sacredly placing the cartridge into the system,” recalls Nathanael Weiss, creator of the upcoming Songbringer. “My parents made me earn half the money needed for anything I wanted to have, so the games I owned were few and each of them cherished with reverence. Memories come to mind of exploring and enjoying A Link To The Past’s delightful and seemingly gigantic world.”

This is a feeling that has remained fairly consistent through the lifespan of the Zelda series, so we asked our panel of indie developers what they felt it was about this particular entry that has helped it to stand out from the crowd. “The kingdom of Hyrule was a character in and of itself,” offers Mayhem In Single Valley developer Brian Cullen. “It was packed full of secrets and colourful characters that were intricately interwoven with Link’s abilities. I was especially blown away by how something like an innocuous rock on the opposite side of a stream could provide fresh opportunities after Link was rewarded with a new inventory item or power. It was particularly impressive how Link could jump between floors or grapple across previously inaccessible sections of the game. Everything just flowed and evolved seamlessly.”

Hyper Light Drifter, Heart Machine, 2016

“The biggest aspect that makes this game timeless is the simplicity in the design,” adds Preston. “It’s not just the gameplay and how that’s designed, but also the aesthetic of the game, the art direction of all of the sprites and the tile work. There’s a simplicity to it and a striking type of design to it, and it’s not pushing for realism.” It’s for this reason that Preston feels that A Link To The Past has remained somewhat timeless despite its two and a half decades of existence; it knew what it was and that it was the very best version of itself, whatever the restrictions of the hardware.

“When you know your limitations you can do a lot with that. You can strengthen the components of your design that really matter the most,” he adds.

“I also loved how what seemed like an incidental quest could reveal an entirely new mechanic,” Cullen says. “Like when freeing the flute boy’s bird provided Link with the ability to fly to any region. The entire game was a perfect orchestration of special items, magic, mechanics, characters, and story; where your efforts were rewarded with new layers of interaction and exploration, often between worlds or within familiar scenes.”

Meanwhile Giménez still appears to be captivated by the pure adventure of the experience, saying, “I still remember how I felt whenever I found something new, or unlocked a new area, the sense of discovery and freedom was marvellous and I had never experienced that in a game before.”

“There’s really only been a few instances of that throughout my life that I’ve experienced with a game,” Preston continues, spinning out from the idea that A Link To The Past was a rare example of a fully realised and complete world. “Ocarina Of Time was that same kind of experience or in that vein or realm, to a much larger extent where I felt like I was exploring this entire world and I could do anything and there were so many possibilities. I’m just ensconced in this place.”

Moonlighter, Digital Sun, 2018

But what of A Link To The Past being timeless? How does the rest of our indie development panel feel about that aspect of the lasting A Link To The Past legacy? “It’s got to be the level of quality, the time and energy, the attention to detail that went into making it such a solid title,” thinks Weiss. “It shows that if you put all you can into something, it can still shine even decades later.”

“As in any other form of art, what creates a classic is pure quality,” says Giménez. “Time passes slower for a movie like Citizen Kane simply because of how good it is. The same happens with A Link To The Past; it’s great on so many levels that the memory of it remains.”

“Like any piece of classic music or art, each element of A Link To The Past was created with equal care and attention and then reflected upon and re-designed until the entire package was watertight,” Cullen concludes. ”Craftsmanship like that does not age and I believe that is the reason why A Link To The Past is timeless, and it’s also why it was the first game I re-visited (on YouTube) when designing my latest project.”

Which brings us nicely on to why we chose these particular developers to speak to about A Link To The Past in the first place; how they looked to emulate and perhaps even improve on what Nintendo achieved over 25 years ago. The idea of actually improving on perfection seems to amuse Preston. “Gosh, A Link To The Past is a near-perfect game and I don’t claim to have a game that’s anywhere as good as it,” he insists. “As proud as I am of the game that we made, you know Nintendo had an experienced staff there and they made something that is beyond incredible. So, I’m lucky to be even a fraction of that level of design and sense of adventure and all of the things that it infused into it. For me, I really just wanted to put my own spin on certain aspects or take things that I didn’t love about certain games or that I wish were in that game and put it in ours.”

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Nintendo, 1991

A big part of that has been bringing some modern sensibilities and technology to bear that simply wouldn’t have been available at the time, let alone implementable on the SNES hardware. As it was, the SNES cartridge for A Link To The Past has been expanded from the usual four Mbit to eight Mbit (a whole one MB by modern calculations). Compare this to the list of technical elements that Brian Cullen has implemented in Mayhem In Single Valley and it seems almost archaic. “I aimed to push the level of physics-based environmental problem solving contained in A Link To The Past,” he begins. “Aesthetically, Mayhem In Single Valley uses modern mesh warping for swaying trees, stencil shaders for pixel-accurate shadows, physics-driven particles, AA filters that maintain crisp pixel edges, complex layering interactions, and more. I also use the Fmod sound engine to allow sound and music to play a more pivotal role in the game world. Using the functions of a cassette player and collectible mix tapes the soundtrack will be interactive and affect stats and abilities, where techno music will boost Jack’s speed while ambient music might reveal hidden items that sway to its rhythm. Jack will also be able to use a beat box to record and playback sounds to trick enemies and solve puzzles.”

Similarly Songbringer is making big leaps forward in sound design to complement the fact that its worlds are actually procedurally generated, even though the base exploration mechanics are heavily rooted in Zelda fundamentals. “All the music for the dungeons is rendered 12 different times for each of the 12 music notes,” explains Weiss. “That way each dungeon can have a slightly different vibe depending on your world seed. My dungeon one might be playing in the key of C# while your dungeon one plays in F#. This causes the game’s download size to increase, but it adds an appealing layer of quality that I think modern gamers will intuitively resonate with, if not be consciously aware of. Though it would not have fit onto a cartridge.”

“There are a lot of good things that designers have figured out. Like save systems, inventory management, dynamics of AI, aesthetics in some ways,” adds Preston. “Trying to understand and learn from those lessons and instil those into our game design was important.”

Songbringer, Wizard Fu Games, 2017

Weiss offers an example from his game; “In Songbringer, there are multiple ways to get past the gate blocks you will encounter. For example, the heat tiles, which knock you back if you don’t yet have heat armour, can also be crossed by eating a cactus, using the level two blink orb, or by damage boosting yourself across the gap. By creating multiple ways to solve the same problem, I hope to empower players to overcome the challenges they face in various ways. As a game designer, that means players can break Songbringer, but that’s okay because it was always intended to be played in multiple ways.”

And that for Weiss is the key way he wanted to forge a new path based on what Zelda had done before. “This player empowerment is how I want to enhance on what Nintendo achieved,” he explains. “On Songbringer’s first screen, you can head in any direction. You can complete dungeons out of order, you can beat the game without completing all the dungeons, and most importantly, you can beat the game without the sword.”

The other element that’s come with time – beyond the technical aspects of game design and the easier access to resources – is that the games industry has matured in its storytelling scope and the themes developers feels they can now tackle with their work. A Link To The Past tells a classic hero story of good versus evil, which is another important reason why it remains so timeless and approachable after quarter of a century. These modern spins on Zelda often look for some other directions they can take the narrative, not least because using Zelda as their foundation gives them a firm base from which they can leap forward with more confidence.

“The unique visual perspective of the top-down RPG provides a privileged window into the lives of the character’s that inhabit it,” Cullen observes. “While Zelda works perfectly at what it does, I wanted to make an RPG that dealt with contemporary issues and more enduring issues relating to the struggles of everyday life and family. By re-visiting the retro RPG genre I could make use of that privileged perspective.” And this is a really interesting concept, that the top-down view could almost be seen as god-like or at the very least voyeuristic. In Mayhem In Single Valley, it’s the story of a boy dealing with family disharmony, anxiety and a character who is reluctant to accept the call to action that Link was so happy to leap out of bed for.

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