About Author: Nick Santangelo

Nick has been a gamer since the 8-bit days and has been reporting on the games industry since 2011. He is not to be interrupted while questing his way through an RPG or desperately clinging to hope against all reason that his Philly sports teams will win any given game he may be watching. Find Nick Santangelo on Google+ and Twitter.

Posts by Nick Santangelo


Explore Below on Xbox One in 2015; here’s a new trailer

Below for Xbox One

Capy Games’ Below will be releasing on Xbox One at some point in 2015, Joystiq reports. ID@Xbox Director Chris Charla made the announcement at Gamescom yesterday during Microsoft’s media presentation.

Coinciding with the news, Capy unveiled a new trailer for the game it has described as a “roguelike-like.” The video, which you can catch after the jump, shows off some exploration of the enormous underground cave in which Below is set. It also shows the massive shadow of what is presumably a boss monster towering over the protagonist before fading out to black.

For more on Capy Games’ Below, check out XBLA Fans’ impressions of the game from PAX East earlier this year.

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Toy Soldiers: War Chest coming from Signal Studios and Ubisoft

The next game in the Toy Soldiers franchise is in development for Xbox One and is being published by Ubisoft instead of Microsoft, which published the previous games in the series, developer Signal Studios announced today. Toy Soldiers: War Chest will arrive in early 2015 and will feature “four diverse armies.”

The Kaiser-led German Empire forces will return to the series complete with new troops, weapons and turrets. Making its first appearance in Toy Soldiers will be Starbright’s army of unicorn steeds, pixies, flying Pegasus and laser-shooting teddy bears. Signal will not reveal what the other two armies are until closer to War Chest‘s launch.

Since Toy Soldiers is moving away from Microsoft and into Ubisoft’s hands, this sequel will be available on the PlayStation 4 in addition to the Xbox One. Signal founder D.R. Albright III called the developer’s partnership with Ubisoft “an opportunity to create the Toy Soldiers game we had always envisioned.”

War Chest is being billed as “the most expansive” game in the franchise. Additional turrets, turret upgrades, barrages, new game modes and an expanded multiplayer and cooperative mode are all planned for the release. Each of the game’s armies will also have unique arsenal and vehicle sets, which Signal promises will keep the gameplay diversified.

“Toy Soldiers is a unique blend of tower defense and strategy,” said Ubisoft Vice President of Digital Publishing Chris Early,” and Toy Soldiers: War Chest makes the toy box eternal, letting gamers face off against rival toys and friends to determine which army will reign victorious.”

Source: Signal Studios


Resident Evil is being remade for Xbox 360 and Xbox One

Resident Evil Xbox One

Resident Evil will shamble its way onto Xbox 360 and Xbox One in North America and Europe in early 2015, Capcom announced yesterday. Though the seminal survival-horror title was first released in 1996 for the original PlayStation, it’s the remade 2002 GameCube version that is itself being remade this time around.

The 2002 version of the game that landed on Nintendo’s indigo-colored gaming console featured updated graphics, gameplay, narrative bits and environments. Now that twice as much time has passed since the amount of time between the original release and its first remake, Capcom has decided to once again overhaul Resident Evil. Next-gen console versions of the 2015 revision will feature 1080p resolution, 5.1 surround sound and the ability to switch between 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios.

Players will also be able to choose between two different control schemes: Resident Evil‘s much-maligned “tank controls” of yesteryear and a modernized setup. Capcom describes the newer option as one in which “the character moves directly in the direction of the analogue stick.” In other words, it will be exactly like almost every other 3D game released today.


Happion Labs: Releasing an ID@Xbox game costs around $5,000

Sixty Second Shooter Prime

It’s possible for a budget-conscious independent game developer to get its game on Xbox One for a bit more than $5,000 if the developer is willing to stick to the budget laid out by Happion Labs, whose founder described himself in a blog post as “one of the cheapest developers I know.”

In the post, Happion founder Jamie Fristrom said that releasing his first ID@Xbox game, Sixty Second Shooter Prime, set the studio back a grand total of $5,143. The most expensive two line items were ratings board certifications and Errors and Omissions (E&O) Insurance.

“Microsoft requires this; it’s in the contract,” Fristrom wrote. “And it’s not just any E&O Insurance – it has to cover IP and copyright violations, so the cheap E&O Insurance you can easily find online doesn’t qualify. I went through an insurance broker (Parker, Smith, and Feek) and found the cheapest insurance that would qualify.”

Ratings boards submissions are also required by all console holders, including Microsoft. In addition to $700 in localization costs, Fristrom dropped almost $2,000 getting his game rated by PEGI and USK. He elected not to release his game in Autralia and New Zealand because each country’s ratings board wanted approximately another $2,000 from him to rate Sixty Second Shooter Prime. In fact, Fristrom suggested that releasing in even fewer territories could potentially cut the full cost of landing on ID@Xbox back to $3,000 or less.

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Former Xbox Live Portfolio Manager says some developers failing on XBLA was ‘unavoidable’

David Edery and Daniel Cook

There was nothing else quite like Xbox Live Arcade when the digital distribution service came into its own in the early days of the Xbox 360. With much of the gaming public then familiarizing itself with the concept of the “indie game developer” for the first time, said developers needed a way to bring the masses their low-cost titles. Microsoft gave them just that in the form of XBLA, but not every indie studio was able to use the service to smoothly propel their game releases towards success. According to the man who at the time oversaw those releases, that’s just the nature of the entertainment business.

Speaking with GamesBeat, Spry Fox cofounder David Edery stated that it was unfortunate to see certain developers fail to get their games released on XBLA and others fail to find success once they did. However, the former worldwide games portfolio manager for Xbox Live posited that that scenario was inevitable.

“I saw people throwing themselves at [Xbox Live Arcade’s] gates and failing to get in, and failing,” Edery recounted. “I saw people who got into the program but then didn’t handle themselves correctly, and fail. I mean, it sucks. It sucks to watch people try so hard and not get anywhere. The thing is, to some extent, in any entertainment business, that’s unavoidable. There will always be more people trying to come in than the industry can support. [Former Microsoft Studios game designer Daniel Cook] and I both feel really strongly about doing whatever we can to help as many people as we can, knowing there’s obviously no way we’re going to help the majority.”

Though he stopped short of naming specific developers, Edery also noted that there exists no shortage of talented independent game designers who are out of their element when it come to business matters. He was saddened to see many of them put everything they had into a game’s development only to “get slaughtered” upon release because of their lack of business acumen.

Regular XBLA Fans readers will recall a multitude of stories centering around disgruntled independent Xbox Live Arcade game developers. Uber Entertainment, Phil Fish and Jonathan Blow are perhaps the most-well-known examples, but they are far from the only ones.

Still, Edery explained that while supply eventually outstripped demand to the point at which business knowledge and development skill were crucial for success, it wasn’t always that way. Things were different in the beginning of his 2006-2009 reign at Xbox Live.

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Xbox One August system update bringing social features, remote downloads

Xbox One’s August system update will bring with it changes inspired by user demand, Microsoft announced today. Several social elements aimed at making it easier for players to share their gaming experiences with their friends headline the list of revealed changes.

Microsoft’s focus for the update is apparently providing users with new ways to interact with friends within each others’ Xbox One activity feeds. Once they receive the update, users will see a single scrolling column that goes on for longer than the current interface. A Facebook-like ability to post comments and “like” items in friends’ feeds will be implemented alongside the ability to share game clips and other content either publicly or with friends only. Much like Mark Zuckerberg’s blue and white brainchild, the system will notify users when others like, share or comment on their content. SmartGlass compatibility is also planned.

The system update will also cater to those gamers looking for more immediate social updates by enlarging the Friends area on the console’s home screen, giving users access to friends’ current activities and most-played games. Users might see their friends engaging in a new activity when they view the larger Friends area: 3D Blu-ray viewing, which will also be included with the update.

Another feature, one that Microsoft says has been frequently requested, won’t require you to directly interact with your Xbox One at all. Users will finally be able to purchase games and add-on content on Xbox.com or via SmartGlass and download them without ever touching their consoles. Xbox One owners will need to have automatic updates set to on in order to take advantage of the feature.

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Fruit Ninja Kinect 2 appears on Australian Classification Board’s website

Fruit Ninja Kinect

Fruit Ninja Kinect 2 is in development at Montreal’s Hibernum Creations, if a new listing on the Australian Classification Board’s website is to be believed. The sequel to XBLA’s Fruit Ninja Kinect, itself a revamp of the 2010 mobile release, received a G rating on July 9, meaning it’s suitable for play by everyone.

Halfbrick Studios developed the first game in the series but is cited as the sequel’s publisher by the Australian government. Alleged new series developer Hibernum has in the past assisted in the development of major game releases such as Splinter Cell: Double Agent and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and been responsible for fully developing mobile titles like Disney Infinity: Action.

Fruit Ninja Kinect 2 is listed as a multiplatform title, which could potentially mean that it’s coming to both the Xbox 360 and the Xbox One.

XBLA Fans has reached out to both Halfbrick Studios and Hibernum Creations for comment and will update this story should one or both companies issue a response.

Source: Australian Classification Board

(Thanks, @lifelower)


Latest Fenix Rage trailer shows off ‘The Moorsky’

Costa Rican developer Green Lava Studios has released a new trailer for its upcoming 2D platformer, Fenix Rage. In the new vid, main character Fenix can be seeing whirring around the screen avoiding enemies and environmental hazards in his quest to get a cookie, which is the prize awaiting him at the end of each stage. The stages in the new trailer are set in the game’s third area, known as “The Moorsky.”

XBLA Fans was able to go hands-on with Fenix Rage at Pax East 2014 prior to it being announced as an ID@Xbox title. The game played not unlike a version of Super Meat Boy starring Sonic the Hedgehog. Green Lava is promising gamers a “frenetically paced 2D action platformer” that forces them to navigate their way through hundreds of levels featuring dangerous mazes.

Fenix Rage is slated to launch on Xbox One this fall.


Valiant Hearts: The Great War review (Xbox One)

Valiant Hearts: The Great War was developed by Ubisoft Montpellier and published by Ubisoft. It was released on June 25, 2014 on Xbox 360 and Xbox One for $14.99. An Xbox One copy was provided for review purposes.

Valiant Hearts Charge

All Quiet on the Western Front aside, popular media has largely ignored World War I over the years. It’s that other world war that happened before World War II and didn’t get a Steven Spielberg movie inspiring the video game industry to make oodles of games about it. With 2014 being the 100-year anniversary of the war’s start, Ubisoft Montpellier thought it was the perfect time to step in and make a game about the brutality of trench warfare. Well, that’s half-true, at least. Valiant Hearts: The Great War is as much about this incredibly violent and semi-forgotten war as it is about those who fought it and what it took from them.

First-hand stories like those taken from Audio Director Yoan Fanise’s great-grandfather’s letters from the front helped the team add an air of authenticity to Valiant Hearts‘ campaign, which follows the war-time experiences of five characters of differing nationalities. The puzzle-adventure game’s comic book art style can feel incongruous during the game’s more somber moments, and some of the sillier game-y elements further highlight the disparity between the austere story and its lighthearted presentation. Somehow, though, Ubisoft fuses it all together into an experience that will make you feel the horrible pains of those consumed by this “great” war, and the friendships that somehow develop through it.

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Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition coming to Xbox July 1

Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition

Next month, Xbox owners looking for a fun side-scrolling action-platformer will finally be able to experience what their PlayStation brethren did — and then some — more than a year ago. Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition will release on Xbox One and Xbox 360 on July 1 for $14.99, developer DrinkBox Studios has announced.

The embiggened title features an expanded story including both brand new content and all of the DLC released for the original 2013 version of Guacamelee. The campaign is longer thanks to the addition of the new Canal of Flowers and Volcano areas as well as a new boss named the Trio of Death, a three-headed skeleton residing in the new Volcano area where he helps main antagonist Carlos Calaca by constructing his skeleton army. That also means that Calaca will have new baddies “that want to chokeslam luchadores to sleep” at his disposal.

Players will have the new “Intenso” ability to help them in overcoming these new adversaries. Additionally, when playing in co-op, you will be able to swap dimensions independently, a much-requested ability by fans of the original release.

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