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


Chariot coming to Xbox One October 1; will be free for XBLG members

Chariot co-op play on Xbox One

Canadian studio Frima’s couch co-op platformer Chariot will release on Xbox One October 1, and it won’t cost Xbox Live Gold members anything to download it, Frima and Microsoft have announced. While the ID@Xbox game won’t cost XBLG members anything, it will set non-Gold subscribers back $14.99.

Chariot is October’s Xbox One Games with Gold title and will replace Capy Games’ Super Time Force, which remains free for the next two days as September’s title. Meanwhile, Xbox 360 owners with Gold subscriptions will be able to get Battlefield: Bad Company 2 for free from October 1 through the 15th and Darksiders II from the 16th through the 31st.

A launch trailer for Chariot depicts the game’s hook: a princess and her fiancè guide the titular chariot through the game’s environments, all of which are set in “the royal catacombs.” Players will need to push, pull, ride and swing with the carriage, which is actually more of a coffin on wheels. Inside the chariot resides the ghost of the deceased king, and the goal is to locate a suitable burial location for the deceased. Click inside to catch the launch trailer.

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Passing it on: The Behemoth’s Gold Egg Project

The Behemoth's Gold Egg Project

John Baez doesn’t want Asteroid Base’s money. It’s as if the three men who make up the studio are old friends of Baez’s, and on this day they just happen to be patrons of his business. Their money is no good here.

They are not old friends, though. Baez, president and co-founder of indie game studio The Behemoth, only first met the members of Asteroid Base during PAX Prime of 2013. He noticed their still-in-production game Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime had picked up a few awards and had a certain individuality to it. Lovers has a way of causing onlookers to gravitate towards it that’s not entirely unlike the way the game’s pink Death Star has a penchant for attracting the attention of enemy spaceships.

In the game, a pair of benevolent astronauts pilot a neon spacecraft around the universe, wishing only to survive. But then something catches their eyes, something they can’t ignore. A group of evil robots known as “The Haters” have ensnared innocent bunnies and locked them away in jail. The astronauts refuse to stand idly by while innocent creatures suffer, so they show some initiative, scrambling around the bowels of their craft and tinkering away at control stations that unleash firepower of a magnitude that they can only hope The Haters are unable to repel. Despite the protagonists’ violent response, Asteroid Base sees the titular lovers as good Samaritans. The pair have somehow survived this long on their own out in the frightening yet awe-inspiring unsurety that is space, even managing to thrive in it without any support from large, external entities. Now they want to help others like them do the same.

The Behemoth knows the feeling. Founded in 2003, the San Diego studio responsible for hits such as Alien Hominid and Castle Crashers chose to go it alone in another dangerous environment. The developer released its games sans publisher in the competitive console gaming space. The Behemoth found success, but it wasn’t easy doing it through self-funding — Baez mortgaged his house, and co-founder Tom Fulp kicked in some of his personal savings to help finance development in the early days. But they did it, and they were successful enough that they’re now in a position of strength.

A few years ago, Baez and Company used that strength to quietly start something called The Gold Egg Project. Gold Egg is a funding initiative meant to help other indies bring their games to market, but unlike a traditional publisher, The Behemoth doesn’t take any of its beneficiaries’ profits — it only wants to help them. Now The Behemoth is helping Asteroid Base, and Baez hopes the studio will one day pass it on.

Being indie

The Behemoth Castle Crashers Knights

For almost as long as there has been game design there have been independent game designers. The term “indie,” while well-established today, is newer. It means something; it’s just that no one seems to be able to agree upon exactly what that something is. So it was for The Behemoth back in 2005 when the tenderfoot studio’s Alien Hominid was winning Independent Game Festival Awards for Innovation in Art, Technical Excellence and Audience Choice.

Baez recalls of that time that “there was a lot of controversy [as to] whether we were indie or not, solely because we were on a console. Other developers said, ‘You can’t be indie because you’re on a console.’ And it’s like, ‘Well, we’re indie because we funded it.’ Now that’s our definition of indie.”

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Resident Evil Revelations 2 will release episodically on Xbox in 2015

Capcom's Resident Evil Revelations 2 for Xbox One

Capcom has announced that it will release Resident Evil Revelations 2 on Xbox One and Xbox 360 in early 2015.

At least, that’s when it will begin releasing the game. Breaking from franchise tradition, the sequel will adopt an episodic release format and will be split up into four digital episodes available for $5.99 each. It’s a release format perhaps best known to gamers thanks to another game franchise that pits humans against zombies: The Walking Dead. For its part, Capcom claims that this format is an evolution of the original Revelations‘ chapters format, though those chapters were sold together as a single release.

The publisher will release Resident Evil Revelations 2‘s episodes one week at a time before making the entire game available as a single digital release that will include some sort of additional content for $24.99. A retail version is also planned for a later date, and it will feature even more exclusive content at an MSRP of $39.99. Capcom promises that each episode “will feature hours of terrifying gameplay ending with dramatic cliff-hangers.”

Revelations 2 will put players in control of series mainstay Claire Redfield and task them with confronting the horrors of Redfield’s past. Joining her in the sequel is Moira Burton, who, along with Redfield, has been captured and must find out who took them and why.


NeocoreGames bringing tower defense to Xbox One with Deathtrap

Deathtrap for Xbox One

The next project from NeocoreGames, the studio responsible for The Amazing Adventures of Van Helsing, is a tower-defense game called Deathtrap. The developer announced that Deathtrap will offer gamers a mix of action-RPGs and tower-defense game elements when it releases this fall for Xbox One for $19.99.

A trailer released alongside the announcement showcases what Neocore has described as a hodgepodge of blood, guts and cuteness. Deathtrap is set in a chain of islands filled with strongholds that were constructed to protect members of the “everyday world” from the otherworldly beasts of “the void.” Players must take control of a hero of their choosing and have him defend the forts from the encroaching monsters by rebuilding and upgrading archaic, deteriorating traps and machines like those seen in the video above.


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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