How much can players influence the direction a game take? We’ll hear from the Developers of RuneScape about how they keep their fantasy massively multiplayer online role-playing game feeling fresh… even though it has been out for years. And the team behind Bastion has released a new game called Hades in early access, which is a new move for the company. As for current releases - we review Metro Exodus and Tom Clancy's The Division 2. And we’re going old school with “Retro Revival”... this time it's Resident Evil 2! This episode Chris Berrow is joined by Alex Rhodes.
In this episode
04:38 - Gaming BAFTA nominations
Gaming BAFTA nominations
The BAFTA Games Awards shortlist for 2019 has been announced - Alex Rhodes takes a look at who has a chance.
Alex - I'm on the Red Dead carpet to look at the nominations for this year's BAFTA awards. Some names that you will recognise have made the list. God of War has been nominated for 10 awards while rootin tootin third person shooting Red Dead Redemption 2 has been nominated for two. Return of the Obra Dinn and Florence have six nominations apiece. These four games alongside Astrobot Rescue Mission and the latest installment in the Assassin's Creed series AC Odyssey are going head to head for the big award of Best Game.
Florence is a puzzle game based on a relationship between a board woman and a musician. It's billed as a violence free alternative to mainstream aggressive gangs.
Now. There's not many games that let you play is an insurance adjuster. Return of the Obra Dinn does exactly that. At its heart it's a mystery solving game set on an abandoned trading ship.
Voiceover - These trade ships in Yemen not much keep my name above water the planks that work in the grace of God. Only surprise about the old branding. He’s come back.
Alex - Another game called Celeste has five nominations. This one is a platformer about mental illness.
One to watch is the evolving game category. A relatively new award where King of the Battle Royales Fortnite will compete against Destiny 2, Elite Dangerous Beyond, Sea of Thieves and Rainbow Six. They'll also be taking on last year's winner Overwatch. The winners will be announced at a glitzy London awards ceremony at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the 4th of April 2019.
07:36 - Keeping MMORPGs fresh
Keeping MMORPGs fresh
Conor Crowly, Director of Game Development at Jagex
How much can players influence the direction that games take? You may have played RuneScape as a teenager, so how do the developers keep their fantasy massively multiplayer online role playing game feeling fresh, even though it's been out for years? Chris Berrow caught up with Conor Crowley, Director of Game Development with Jagex... who make RuneScape.
Voiceover - Adventurers aren't born. They are. All. He was forced to face first. In the fire was a king Black Dragon. Might have been toast if it wasn't for a passing adventurer. She saved my life. She gave me a shield. I had my. I was going to slay dragons.
Chris - So currently there are two RuneScape games that you can get hold of.
Conor - RuneScape. The 18 year veteran of the games industry now is a has been in continuous life service for those 18 years and we've updated it preaching pretty much every week for those 18 years. We do about 40 odd updates making sure that we're giving new quests new creatures new skills to our players. And then you’ve got Old School RuneScape that came about specifically because our players asked for it. It's just over six years ago now. There was a big swell in the player base and they were looking for that nostalgic that nostalgic game play the game that they remembered because as you continue to update a game it becomes a little bit different so you don't have that same same level of recognition when you come back in. Yeah the players were looking for that kind of conservative type approach to the game or making sure it kept to its original values and felt like home. We're looking for something around the 2006 2007 era and that was kind of where we had our biggest swell of players in the early lifecycle and we were we had about a million members around that point in time and all those people were coming back into the game looking for looking for that experience. So it was a vote that we put to the players. We found a backup pretty much down the back of a sofa of everything we needed to get the game up and running well. So we found that put it to the players and said Is this something that you'd like. And they did. I think it was a half a million votes and we were OK. Well you guys want this will we'll put it life. That was six years ago and we've had it continuously updating itself as well so now we have two games and they are diverging in how they're updated there are different player bases in each they have their own wants and needs and we make sure that we tailor the game to the player base that are playing it and we continue to give them what they're looking for.
Chris - So when you're tailoring a game to the audience how much feedback are you really taking on board and how much of the story and the quests and the things that you have decided by the team.
Conor - So there's been… RuneScape has had in several eras different types of approaches to this. If we take old school as an example to give you an idea of how much the players are involved and engaged in what we do nothing goes into old school without a 75 percent majority vote.
Chris - Wow.
Conor - Everything we do we put it to the players. They have to do a 75 percent majority to say it goes into the game and they've said no to some major things. We had a couple of years ago we were looking at putting in a brand new skill so moonscape is entirely like as you remember right. Yeah entirely designed around progressing multiple different skills. It's classless so you can just update any of them anytime you want. And they progressed as you engage with them. So this was an entire new progression channel for them to focus on. It was around sailing. It's actually a bit of a meme inside in the community. But we put it to the players and it didn't hit that 75 percent majority. So this brand new skill this huge a mount of expansion to the game the players kind of went No.
Chris - Amazing. It’s amazing that you gave players that much control but I suppose then because of that you're actually you've got to really engaged community.
Conor - Yeah yeah definitely. The the level of engagement on the old school team between the community and the development group is incredible. So they are our community would know which developer has worked on which update when it goes out there talking to them directly on Twitter. They like talking about feedback. If they're finding issues there is a constant open dialogue between the two groups and it it's vital really for that game to continue to succeed and deliver what players expect is having that deep connection understanding.
Chris - And also it's worth saying that that version is now available to play on your phone so you can actually cross over and plan to compete to then pick up you know if you're on the move for example.
Conor - Oh absolutely. It was a huge change for us last year trying to bring a team that had spent years continue to service a game. We were five years old over five years old when we actually managed to get it live. But getting the players that are the development team to understand that they were shipping to two platforms but then seeing the impact that we had from the player base and how their play patterns shifted slightly or how they stayed engaged with the game. There was an interesting part we had just at the end of last year where we know and we know our activity or concurrent users the number of people who are logged on at any point in time and every Christmas we would see on Christmas Day that that number would dip a bit. People are like playing with their families or having dinner. We didn't see that as much this year. We see people putting up photos of them playing RuneScape pretty much everywhere at this point.
Chris - Tell us about having that divergent game and that kind of offshoot in a way I suppose is is that a fair way to describe it would you say.
Conor - Yeah it's kind of. So that game has continued to evolve over the years and has kind of we listen to the players we make sure we're trying to get updates that are really appealing to them. The 75 percent majority vote doesn't exist in RuneScape but we have much higher production values is much more surprise and it's much more focused on story. So that game has gone through in 2007 it looked exactly like old school RuneScape. We're now another 12 years on from that point and it has had a whole new UI system redone. We changed the entire game client and all of the rendering so it doesn't look like a new game. So they look very very different but at their core a lot of it is exactly the same. You can go to two places in the same games and you'll see that at least it's reminiscent of each other and in some cases they're exactly the same models you've never updated them. And so you you'd literally be looking at exactly the same thing in two different windows.
Chris - How do you try and plan for the future because you know you've got these two kind of versions now. People obviously still really engaged in the game but you must always have to also continually adapt. So what are your plans to try and make sure that going forward you still maintain that player base.
Conor - Oh yeah it's a it's a core challenge of what we do pretty much daily. If we give you for an hour just to kind of give you context when moonscape was live there was no broadband our social media are streaming are pretty much phones were barely a thing. I remember remember remember this time well I wish I didn't do it in that time we have every time that thing that new technology or new item comes out we have to adapt the game to try and embrace it. So like all of our logging systems are all tied into social media moonscape will be coming to mobile in the future. It's a bigger game. So it's a bit of a bigger challenge. It's completely embraced in like we embrace Twitch and streaming now that's much bigger on old school than is on RuneScape but we make sure that we keep that kind of community going and when we're looking to the future a lot of what Jagex does in terms of development what kind of our our core principles is understanding who our players are and kind of obsessing over what they need. It may not have the 75 percent vote but it does have a constant surveys and questions and that player engagement is still there. So at least once a year we're putting concepts and ideas out to the players asking them what do they think what's working. We do constant focus test bringing players into the studio are reaching out and running tests around the world to make sure that we're getting people's feedback and viewpoints on what we're building trying to be adaptive and how we approach stuff and making sure that we have that constant dialogue means that we can kind of. And that's coupled with a weekly update cadence right so we can see changes turned around very very quickly and get it out into the player base very quickly when we see stuff happen. It allows us to kind of keep on the edge and make sure that we're taking advantage of new technologies as they're turning up.
16:37 - Releasing games in early access
Releasing games in early access
Greg Kasavin, Developer at Supergiant Games
The developers behind Bastion have released their new game celled Hades in early access… in a new move for the team. Chris Berrow caught up with one of the developers - Greg Kasavin.
Greg - We look for ways of executing a story that couldn't be done. You know in kind of like a linear medium you know let's say I could come up with the next game of thrones or something like that with a cast of hundreds of characters if that's not a game that we can build. It's not a story that I'm gonna be able to pull off. So bastion it was a game where we knew for example that we would have trouble filling the world with characters. So that led to decisions like well it can be a post apocalyptic world where even the idea that anyone else has survived will not be like a foregone conclusion. And the moments when you do encounter other characters can be quite dramatic since you won't expect to encounter living characters at all. And it sidesteps a lot of expectations like you know you're going to visit towns filled with merchants bustling for your attention and that sort of thing.
Voiceover - The dead. The dead and gotta worry about this miss. She's done. But there's a way to put it back together.
Greg - So again it's all just kind of using the constraints of our development to define some of the shape of the story. And then coming up with what the story itself can be what can be a meaningful story within those constraints.
Chris - I was watching the trailer for Hades which you can get in early access now obviously Hades you know again kind of the underworld theme. It was it looks amazing. You know I love the kind of creative artistic side of things here and it looks kind of similar gameplay wise to Bastion and some of the other ones I've played as well. I guess once you've established something that people really like in a kind of a style and a kind of artistic direction that you can have a bit more creative space and I'm really excited to see this one yeah.
Greg - Hades is in fact as out right now in early access we announced and launched it at the same time. It's been really really fun because the early access thing there means that for the first time we can have a story that's unfolding over over time. So our previous games you know we work on them often for about three years and it's all there. You kind of write in our initial release the beginning middle and end. Whereas with Haiti is it was really exciting to be able to approach a game kind of more more seriously. So so it's almost like a pilot episode with our initial offering and it's a big cast of fully voiced characters in all that kind of stuff that we've always wanted to do with our games that we're able to do for the first time. It was a really fun theme to explore for us because you know the underworld of Greek myth setting it's it's a game structure where you die kind of over and over as part of the gameplay and you kind of you're continuing to try to escape from the underworld but each time you die you wind up back in your father's house because your father's Hades himself who kind of you know berates you and calls you an idiot for ever trying to escape his domain and so on. So it has a comedic quality to it despite being about this relationship that that I think has I think has a lot of truth to it for for players where they can identify having difficult relationships you know whether with their siblings or their parents and struggling through that despite that kind of ridiculousness of how we set it up and some of the fun we have with it and the early access model and releasing games and then continuing to kind of release content for them is something that's certainly reasonably new compared to the classic way that games were released.
Chris - What was it that made you decide to go down this route. Is it just the fact that you can continually live with a game as it develops. Or was it a different process how did it work this time.
Greg - Yeah that was certainly part of it. It was you know we've been really fortunate as a studio to be able to make a completely different game each time and Hades is our fourth game. And the idea of of making a game that we could put out there in as in an initial version and then keep building it in partnership with our player community and kind of keep expanding the story. That was really exciting to us having seen it done successfully by some other games out there. And yet typically the early access successes that are out there they don't make their story a narrative a big part of the experience or they might add the narrative like near the end or something like that. But for us we thought it's a game that can take place almost in real time. And because again you're in this kind of twilight zone type of land where new characters can appear in the world because everybody dies in the world of Greek myth and you know suddenly here's Orpheus or something like that for example come come to join the house just the variety of ways in which we could continue to expand it and continue to surprise people over time that made it really appealing. So making an early access game was like that at the heart of why we wanted to pursue this idea when it comes to player feedback and the kind of you know community feedback that you might get for a game.
Chris - How much can they realistically influence what you'll make him because you know if everyone says you know I love it but I just like the weapons to be a bit stronger. You know that's an easy fix was if someone went well I don't like the way the story ended you're going to go well hang on that's a bit more difficult. So. So how much can you really take on board when it comes to something like that.
Greg - Yeah. That's a really good question and something that we've tried to really frame that relationship clearly with with respect to our audience so that they're aware of what kind of feedback we value the most are players. They've come to really enjoy our ways of telling stories and the kind of the worlds that we create. So we're not really framing it in a way where it's a big open suggestion box you know. Now tell us what the story should be now tell us what we should do. It's more about relating to us their experience with the game as it currently stands so that we can continue to refine and tune what's there. So your your example about you know not not liking a particular weapon or something like that. It's extraordinarily valuable feedback to us because if you don't like a certain weapon in a game for whatever reason you might not keep playing that game if it's a game where you have to use that weapon. So those are that could be really important when it comes to things like the story. You know we still it's still very interesting because we still see feedback now from players like gravitating towards certain characters in the story for example. So even though I have the the story outlined as to where it's going from here we have like a high awareness of where we want the story to go. The particular events that happened along the way and and to what extent certain characters you know become more or less emphasized that really is quite open. And I think again in that regard it's it's a little bit more like a like a television show for instance where you know the writers hopefully have an impression on a high level of where the story is going. I know that isn't necessarily always true but ideally it's true. But but when certain characters emerge as favourites that can absolutely be factored into the storytelling moving forward and it's it's very useful yeah for a writer to know which characters are resonating more than others and things like that.
25:60 - Review - Metro Exodus
Review - Metro Exodus
Chris Berrow and Alex Rhodes review Metro Exodus which is a first person shooter set in Russia. It's based on Dmitry Glukhovsky novels and it follows the events of Metro 2033 and Metro Last Light.
Voiceover - The sun on my face. Fresh air in my lungs. The grass beneath my feet. I'd heard of such things. Yet I lived in a world without. I have no recollection of life before the blast. Only if nothing else.
Chris - So I've been playing this one quite a lot Alex and I know that you played one of the original games in the series I suppose. How would you describe the atmosphere. It's quite dark isn't it. It's quite post apocalyptic.
Alex - Yes that kind of heavy oppressive atmosphere similar to like a fall out. And yeah the best thing about a game series I love a game series it's based on a book because it gives you such a sort of depth of world. So another example is the Witcher series. Of course you know you step it into a universe it's already you know someone's already done the hard work so much there to find and as I say I but I've only I played Metro 2033. The remake version basically and I was thinking now is it going to be bit too similar to Fallout but it's definitely more of a first person shooter than it is an RPG. So you know I think that's how it is sets itself out.
Chris - Well I tell you there's no question for me this is the best in the series so far. I've played a bit of Last Light I played a bit of 2033 but this one I've really played a lot more than I was expecting. Which is good because it was not that cheap. You know games nowadays are costing like 50 60 quid something. Yeah. Yeah. So it's a fair commitment isn't it. Yeah.
Alex - You better get your money's worth.
Chris - Exactly. But they cost more and more to produce don't they I mean cost of you know five years is a long time in game development and the product moves so far so quickly. Yeah.
Alex - Yes. So in terms of the new Metro game a lot more of it seems to be set outside from the gameplay trailers that I've seen. Does that give it sort of a bit you know cause I don't like the corridor shooters to know so I like a bit of open world.
Chris - This is a lot better though. So the best thing about this game is that the atmosphere and the environment and the maps that you end up on are absolutely enormous. So it's borrowing from fallout in that it's quite open plan you can tackle various missions in different orders. The gameplay itself is absolutely incredible it's definitely the best in the series by a long way that they've got rid of some of the problems with you know slow frame rates and stuff like that. There's a few complaints about some of the dialogue and these sort of English voice actors playing the Russian roles which aren't they're not brilliantly executed. If I'm honest with you I haven't put it on their best to their best accent. Yeah yeah it definitely feels like that but the missions are very varied I mean you get sent after companions you get asked to recover a guitar from a tower they say oh you know the guy playing the guitar there sucks and you can even find a teddy bear at one point, so they've tried their best to make it quite varied and as you all know from playing the original what's so great about this series of games is that there's really different kinds of gunplay. So there's one gun we have to pump it up at certain moments and you know you always have to worry about your breathing and your respirator and you've got to you know craft stuff for that that that's you know post apocalyptic stuff that's what you want you don't want that kind of ramshackle feel and you got to be conscious about the environment and stuff like that really just sort of adds to the world. The best thing about it as well as you do feel like you're surviving. You don't ever have a point where you think I've got enough bullets now I don't need to worry about it. You are counting bullets all the time.
Alex - Well that's good to hear because it is you know at its heart it's sometimes some you know you can either go down there first person shooter route or the survival horror route and it's good to you know I think to commit to the source survival side sometimes.
Chris - Yeah they definitely have. Another thing about games that I really hate is that if you get a headshot and then the person keeps running around you always think. But why. There's no way but in this game headshots counts headshots everything's great. You got to worry about the state of your equipment. You got to like say count bullets. It's great if you're a fan of the series. I would definitely recommend picking this one up at the only thing to mention mentioned that was a bit of a con for me is that the walking speed occasionally is just really really slow. So you feel like it takes quite a long time to get from A to B but then on the other hand that does ramp up the atmosphere a bit. So it's not a deal breaker but there are moments especially when you're in the desert and he's just saying come on mate get a move on come on. And the rowing stuff as well. If the rowing wasn't in the game I wouldn't be sad about it because it's the worst bit but when I saw on the gameplay trailers and I thought I'm not sure if that actually really adds much to it.
Alex - That's a you know it's it's interesting that you say that loading time as well very slow on the PlayStation 4 if you load out for the first time having not played for a while.
Chris - It can take a good five minutes to sign in but I guess that's the price you pay nowadays with modern releases. It's the same with everything in fact it's the same with our next one as well. I give it a good old seven out of ten and you can get it now on PC PS4 and Xbox One as well.
31:14 - Review - Tom Clancy's The Division 2
Review - Tom Clancy's The Division 2
Chris Berrow and Alex Rhodes review Tom Clancy's The Division 2.
Voiceover - I never pictured my first trip to DC would be like this. After we survived the initial attack in New York. Our capital needed us. Four. Division agents still struggling to hold this country together. It's time we check our enemies. Out of their castles. We will not compromise. We. Will never surrender.
Chris - So I enjoyed this one. In fact the Division 1 was the reason why I actually bought a PlayStation 4 in the first place because I was so excited by the trailer. They did such a good job by making you feel like you could go through big American cities you can play in Co Op and stuff like that so that's generally why I got the PlayStation 4 alongside wanting Fallout 4 as well. But I mean you played the Division 1 it's a good game isn't it.
Alex - It is a good game and then you know it controls really good in the game plays really good and that sort of thing. And I didn't you know I didn't. Only I saw borrowed it from a pal and yen and played through it a bit and the A.I. I think quite famously was a bit limited. Yeah arms of the enemies just kind of do what they are programmed to do and there's not much you know they run at you and get shot in the head. Basically you like the colors like you know as a similar sort of gears a war style system. One thing I can remember though from the original is that you couldn't crouch when not in cover and that just kind of you know one of those thing hurts your brain doesn't it. Yeah. Yeah.
Chris - Well all I'll say about the division 2 is that it's exactly the same as Division 1. There's like really there's no need to buy the Division 2 if you haven't played the Division 1 because everything is the same. It's a slightly smoother. The enemies are slightly more inventive in that they'll you know try and get behind you now. These are the eyes a bit better but there's no massive bosses that the cover systems pretty much the same. It's I cannot find anything that's new about this game that that's particularly exciting but everyone seems to love it.
Alex - That's quite strange really because the first one I don't think did the numbers that they wanted really so I would've thought they would have gone full outside the box a little changed up a bit. It did seem you know from when I played it I did a bit the story mode which are great the side missions were a bit repetitive but limited it's pushing you down that kind of thing and it's got it's all got that Destiny sort of thing where it's you know you're playing alongside other people who are online as well. That's interesting that they haven't decided to shake up because like you say a lot people seem to be seen to be raving about.
Yeah really. But that may be because if the Division 1 didn't sell that well and maybe they didn't play the original so it could be all new to them.
Chris - This story is non-existent really as well I couldn't tell you what I mean there's some kind of vet called hyenas the bad guys are hyenas and you have to kill them because they're bad. That's about as far as we could get the story. You know it's we're on another post apocalyptic game.
Alex - Yeah you can. You can have a great post apocalyptic game or you can sometimes have you know it's a bit of a copout in terms of setting because it's just like oh we'll set it after some kind of apocalypse. Yeah. Towns are destroyed. Raiders are the bad guys.
Chris - Well the the atmosphere again is really good. The environments that you play in are amazing the cover system it's really good. It's just as good as the first one. Slightly disappointing that the bosses as well are just human characters with loads of shields so there's no kind of just bullet sponges basically. Yeah so that's a bit frustrating but you know it's bigger it's better in a way it's more stable playing co-op online is the best thing about it. So if you can do that then definitely go for it. But yeah I wanted more new features and it's getting a less generous six out of 10 from me and I will just say as well as you mentioned different versions of games slightly more expensive versions. Definitely definitely don't buy the 90 pound edition Super Extended everything. If there's no need at all you get everything you need from the basic cut of the basic the Division 2 is available on PS4 and Xbox One you can get hold of it now.
35:23 - Retro Revival - Resident Evil 2
Retro Revival - Resident Evil 2
Chris Berrow & Alex Rhodes review the remastered version of Resident Evil.
Voiceover - Attention. All. Citizens and don't make my mistake. If you see one of those things uniform or not. You do not hesitate. Whatever it takes to save this city. I'm surprised you made it this far. I. Need it for my extraction. Survival is your responsibility. God dammit.
Chris - It's very very different game this Alex. I'll tell you what it's it's nothing like the original tank controls and the fixed camera. It's nothing like the original have gone. Classic Resident Evil forward their secret over the shoulder third person shooter game play and I tell you what it's really really good. I mean if you played Rezi for this is this is basically the same game the same kind of incredible graphics is awesome.
Alex - Well it couldn't. In a way that it was. I didn't have high hopes for this really because they've kind of the Resident Evil to is so beloved. But at the same time can you go back to the early Resident Evil games once you've had a Resident Evil 4 which really just sort of changed changed the whole series really.
Chris - Yeah it's an interesting concept it's interesting that they've bothered to do it it's very very expensive by the way I will just say that I think it was something like 70 quid when I got hold this. So. Right. So a lot of money like you said big investment. I'm not a massive fund that headshots don't seem to count. I know I've mentioned that already. You know that if zombies the head you want them to go down but not in this game.
Alex - I guess that's that's kind of that kind of classic survival horror saw the apple it kind of counts. You've just got enough resources to scrape through. That's what I remember about the original.
Chris - Yes the second run actually is really worth doing because in the first run if you're playing as on for example you'll go into a garage and you go through a door and you know it's all very atmospheric and you get the hang of the over the shoulder thing in the second run through you kind of go through a different door as if you were coming to the scene after the first play three. So it's quite clever kind of reasons to play through the game again and you get the actual ending if you play through the second time.
Alex - Right yeah. Yeah the proper one. Yeah yeah. Which was a noise because you think why do you give the ending the first time. But I think that's how you got replay ability back in the old days when they didn't get these 10 hour campaigns.
Chris - It's true quite expensive like I say but if you're a fan of survival horror and Resident Evil 4. This is just like another really good Resident Evil 4 is getting an 8 out of 10 from me. You can get everywhere PS4, PC for Xbox One.
37:58 - Retro Revival (Bonus) - Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered
Retro Revival (Bonus) - Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered
If you're a Playstation Plus member this month you can download Call of Duty Modern Warfare 1 remastered and it's completely free. What do Chris Berrow and Alex Rhodes make of it?
Voiceover - Let's do this. Radio.
Alex - I mean we're going to look back in 20 years time and think that is a game changer that one reading is Modern Warfare really did change the change the landscape.
Chris - I went online with it as well and it's so smooth it's so good. You know it's just as good as ever it's probably better than I remember to be honest with you because I've had a bit of a break from it you know. But yeah who doesn't want a free classic game you can get it now an Xbox One, PC as well but it's free on PlayStation 4 this month if you're a playstation plus member.