n-Space Blog

Tron: Evolution – Battle Grids Wii Comic-Con Report…

Posted in Tim Schwalk, Tron: Evolution - Battle Grids Wii (2010) by Dan O'Leary on July 30, 2010

Contributed by n-Space Game Director, Tim Schwalk.

Comic-Con 2010 has officially come to a close, and it was a HUGE success not only for our Tron: Evolution – Battle Grids Wii game, but for the Tron franchise in general.  One particular highlight for me was the opportunity Jamie Toghill and I had to speak to GameSpot.com about our game as part of their live Day 3 coverage (our coverage starts at 11:00).

Jamie is our external producer from Propaganda Games.  Even though we’re developing the game here at n-Space in sunny Orlando Florida, we’re working very closely with the guys at Disney owned Propaganda Games in Vancouver Canada.  It’s a unique relationship with two developers coming together to create a game, and it’s one that has worked very well.

Here’s a list of the exciting features we discussed in the interview:

Wii Exclusive
•    Tron: Evolution – Battle Grids is exclusive to the Nintendo Wii, offering a completely different gaming experience than the 360 and PS3 games.
•    While our game is based on the Tron film franchise, this is not a movie game.  Our story bridges the gap between the original 1982 film and the next-gen games.  Taking place in 1988, our game presents a Utopian Tron world where grid games are played for sport, rather than for gladiatorial competition.  Even with this original story, we do share some characters and locations with the upcoming Legacy film.
•    Tron: Evolution – Battle Grids is considered a prequel to the PS3 and 360 Tron: Evolution video game and will be released this holiday season.

Grid Games
•    Three grid games were featured at Comic-Con:  Light Cycle Arena Battle, Light Cycle Race and Light Runer Arena Battle.
•    A fourth grid game was confirmed at the show, based on the iconic Light Discs competition.
•    The final product will feature 15 different modes in 7 grid game settings, with more character and vehicle based grids to be announced soon.  Rest assured that Tron: Evolution – Battle Grids will deliver all of your favorite Tron grid game moments.
•    Tron: Evolution – Battle Grids was built with multiplayer gaming in mind.  All grid games are designed to be played with up to 4 players on the same television!  We’ve created the ultimate “in-the-livingroom” competition game to play with your family and friends.
•    Play as teams!  We offer 2 VS 2 Team Play against humans or AI.
•    Simple, Intuitive Controls!  Every grid game exhibits simple “pick up and play” controls while also offering an additional layer of depth for more experienced gamers.  This way fathers can play with sons and older brothers can play with younger siblings.  And while we support use of the Nunchuk peripheral, it isn’t ever required.  You can play any of our games using just a Wii Remote.

Single Player Story
•    The annual Game Grids Championship has become the biggest recreational spectacle in the TRON universe, bringing all programs together to support the strongest of warriors competing for the coveted title.  With Tron unexpectedly stepping down from the competition, you play a talented young program with hopes of becoming the new champion.  Joined on your quest by Quorra (voiced by Olivia Wilde), you’ll meet both familiar and unique characters while visiting Wii exclusive locations in this expanded Tron Universe.
•    Script writers from the Legacy film oversaw the development of our story.  They received drafts as we worked through the script and provided feedback that was critical in shaping our final narrative.
•    The single player story experience will take 5-6 hours to fully explore.

Additional Features
•    Tron: Evolution – Battle Grids offers a full character customization system.  Create a male or female program to be used in every game mode.  Customization options include choosing suits, piping, heads, faces, hair, colors, accessories, and more!  Continue to evolve your character’s appearance as new items become unlocked while playing through the game.
•    Earn bits as you play to purchase new vehicles, parts, and accessories.  Bits are earned regardless of game mode or number of players.  Acquire them by doing well on the grid, or simply pick them up by finding them while exploring the story hubs.
•    Everything you do in the game counts!  Our stat tracking system remembers everything you do, allowing you to compare your progress against family and friends.  By tracking everything, we can use stats to tell the story of a match before it begins, giving it additional meaning.  For example, the loading screen might say “Player 1 beats Player 2 40% of the time when racing light cycles”.  Or you might see “Player 2 is on a 4 game winning streak”.
•    Stats can easily be compared with our comprehensive leader boards.  See how you stack up against everyone who has played, or look at detailed head to head stats against one other competitor.
•    Gain rank by performing well on the Grid!  You may be a Rookie now, but you’ll be a Legend in no time at all!
•    Jump into the Championship mode to play all of your favorite games in any order by yourself or with your friends.  Create custom free-for-all or team based Championships and battle your way to the end.  Gain points by placing well in each event — finish with the most points to become the true Game Grids Champion!
Immerse yourself in the world of Tron like never before with our exclusive Wii game, available this holiday season.  And watch here for more information as we get closer to release!

I’d like to thank Sophia and the folks at Gamespot.com for the opportunity to speak to them about our game.  We could have talked for an hour and barely scratched the surface of what Tron: Evolution – Battle Grids for the Wii has to offer.  Thanks also to all of the gamers and Tron fans that I met at the show!  You guys are the reason we’re making the game, and we appreciate your support!

GoldenEye 007 DS at the Activision Comic-Con Preview

Posted in Brendan McLeod by Dan O'Leary on July 29, 2010

Contributed by n-Space Producer, Brendan McLeod.

A couple of weeks ago, n-Space was invited to participate in Activision’s Comic-Con Preview Event. We were asked to present GoldenEye 007 DS for the first time to the gaming press. We eagerly said yes to the opportunity.

Comic-Con is a huge event. According to the Wikiest of pedias, since 1970, Comic-Con has grown to serve over 100,000 fans each year that journey to San Diego in order to trade merch, meet artists and writers, gawk at collectibles, and – in the latest years – check out video games. Having done a brisk circuit of the floor, I would peg about a third of the booths as video game-focused – most with the quality, if not the scope, of E3 booths.

The Activision event was held off-site at a nightclub in San Diego (the annual location of Comic-Con), which Activision bought out for the night. The venue, called Stingarees (http://www.stingsandiego.com/) is right in the heart of the city, only about six blocks away from the San Diego Convention Center, where Comic-Con is held. The Activision event was not actually an official segment of the Con itself, and in fact was held the night before Comic-Con officially started – last Wednesday evening. Nonetheless, it was a really well-attended shindig, with a lot of the gaming press from Comic-Con showing up to check out what Activision had to offer.

The event was split between two floors. The bottom floor was the show floor, with lots of big monitors and socialization areas, as well as some trade demos – quick levels and lots of trailers. I’m not exactly sure what level of press credentials you needed in order to get in, but it seemed pretty well packed the entire evening. The top floor was the press “lounge,” which had much more in-depth demos with the creators of the games. Most were arranged in the same style – big TVs mounted up so you could walk up and start playing. GoldenEye for the Wii, cleverly, was set up with low-rise couches so that you could really capture the living-room multiplayer feel of the game.

GoldenEye DS was in my hands. I took the two “panda” DS/DSi machines out to San Diego with me and had them charged and ready to go when I got there. Originally, I had been a little dismayed that I wasn’t going to have a big projected presentation available, or even just a small TV, like what we use for demos in the worldbuilding room or the South front conference room. However, I saw immediately once I got there that this would’ve been an unbelieveable mistake – the DS graphics presented side-by-side next to the 360 / PS3 quality material in huge screen format would’ve drawn more derision than interest. Instead, I simply walked up to people and had them watch the game on the Panda’s screens – bigger than a normal DS Lite, although not as big as the Quasimodo that is the DSi XL. This wound up working really well, not only because it let me walk anywhere I needed to be, but it portrayed the game in its best possible light.

Throughout the night, there were lots of hors d’œuvres (yes, I had to look it up) and free drinks flowing all night long. The club itself was very trendy – all of the table top surfaces and counters very crisp and very clean all night long. The staff was pretty impressed with the stuff that we were setting up. It was also really well-lit – it had the right balance of mood and style without making it impossible to move around or find another part of the club. I was also really happy with the noise level all night – at no point did you have to shout to be heard by the person next to you.

In addition to our own GoldenEye 007 DS, the only DS game featured at this event, the heavy hitters for the night were:

●     GoldenEye 007. Most of what was shown for Wii was a reiteration of what was demoed at E3, but obviously in a much more accessible venue. Graham Hagmaier, our associate producer on the title, was in charge of showing off parts of the first single player level of the game – the infiltration of the Dam alongside 006, which is strung out in such a way that really does a nice job of showing off core pillars of the game – multiroute gameplay, big “Wow!” Bond-esque moments, a more physical “Daniel Craig” take on Bond, and some clever nostalgic throwbacks. There was also a multiplayer demo set up where anyone could walk up and play with vintage Bond baddies like Jaws and Scaramanga in the Wii’s Archives level.
●     Blood Stone 007.  Blood Stone’s first level – Athens, ending in the explosions on the road to the Acropolis – was being demo’d (no hands on by the press, I don’t think) in its entirety. This game’s had a rough development history but it looks good and shows off well. Only shown on 360 at this event as Activision wanted to simplify the messaging for this event.  GoldenEye = Nintendo, Blood Stone = other consoles,
●     Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. Quite possibly the other “game of show,” Activision made their announcement of the “Ultimate” symbioted Spidey (as in, the Ultimate Spider-Man universe created and perfected by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Millar – I happen to be a bit of a fanboy) as the final, fourth world in this new game from Beenox. I got my hands on the game late in the evening and had a blast both sneaking around the Noir universe and tearing up enemies in the Ultimate universe. These guys seem to have a good handle on what they’re doing.

I’ve told a few people this already but my surprise has not yet abated: The very first two journalists who walked into the event were two friends that I’ve known for roughly ten years, who I had not told at all that I’d be in town. Tim Sheehy, from Japanator.com, and Dale North, News Editor for Destructoid.com, walked right up and started commiserating. I immediately jumped into a “lite” version of my spiel, showing them some of the game and getting into the high points of my routine, figuring out which parts are good to improv with and which parts are good to keep as-is. It was a really welcome way to ease into the fun of the event. Dale’s already posted his preview, by the way, where he speaks pretty well of the title.

The “default” demo consisted of the following:


●     Tank!  –  This level recreates Bond’s explosive trip through the streets of St Petersburg at the helm of an experimental tank, an iconic moment from the 1995 film. In the game, Bond contends with enemy tanks, big obstacles, and attack helicopters as he persues the enemy. The level is a great hook, capturing gamers’ attention immediately not only with its spectacular visuals, but also its nostalgic value.
●     Archives – Just as the Wii’s Dam level has a great progression of design pillars to show off, I used Archives as the “action” example, Archives shows off some of the game’s best features, like environmental hazards which Bond can use against the enemy, highlighting the brains-over-bullets nature of the thinking man’s shooter. It’s also a great springboard to talk about the full voice cast heard throughout  the entire game.
●     Severnaya – This was my “covert” example,  Surface highlights the reactionary nature of our AI system, as well as the tricks the player can use to subvert it. Distraction events are used well, allowing the player to alter enemy paths. It also has some great opportunities for silent takedowns!
Having done the routine once, it got easier and easier with each presentation. GoldenEye DS, it must be noted, was mentioned by name as an n-Space title in the opening ceremonies for the preview event, so people knew it was on the floor and were looking for it. A lot of people sought me out on their own. Others, I hooked as they were finishing or watching an MP session. A few more were herded my way by the Wii team. Over the course of doors opening at about 6 PM to things winding down around 9:20-9:30, I did about a dozen separate interviews and a handful of scattered other demos for people who were floating around.

So, enough preamble. What were people saying?

●     A console experience on a handheld platform – This was one of the game’s big goals when we started out and I’m happy to say that it really came across in the demo. People were really impressed with how full-bodied the game was.
●     Smooth, crisp performance – The game looked and ran really smoothly and sharply. The worldbuilders have done an incredible job making some great looking levels and the team overall should be commended for working so hard to make sure framerate is consistently superb.
●     It’s authentic GoldenEye – Perhaps the biggest challenge that the team faced was recreating what’s almost universally regarded as one of the best shooters ever made in a way that not only makes sense for 2010 on the DS, but looks, moves, and feels like GoldenEye. The game has seen a massive amount of revision and I’m proud to say that I think it’s paid off.
More than once, an encounter closed with “I didn’t think GoldenEye DS was going to be that big of a deal, but I’m really impressed with what you’ve put together here.”

Overall, the event was a great experience and one that I think reflected really well on GoldenEye for both platforms. I was really happy that Activision took the time to highlight our product and I’m sure that they’ll continue to do so in the future, given the positive feedback that this has generated for our title.

Nintendo 3DS observations…

Posted in Analysis by Dan O'Leary on July 26, 2010

It’s been a little over a month since E3 2010 and Nintendo’s announcement of their successor to the DS we’ve come to know and love.  The 3DS was an “instant” hit, that, like most overnight success stories, was years in the making for Nintendo.

As long time Nintendo developers with over 20 DS, Wii and Gamecube titles under our belt, it occurs to me that we should take a minute to reflect on this new handheld.  This and subsequent reports on the 3DS are based entirely on our hands-on experience with the demos at E3, along with information we’ve gathered from publicly available online reports.

Stereoscopic 3D

Magical is the word that has most often been used in describing the 3DS’ signature glasses-free stereoscopic 3D display.  I agree.  It’s something your brain struggles to reconcile – the sense of visible depth created on a flat screen – but only briefly, before giving in to the pure child-like joy that follows.  For me it hearkens back to the Viewmaster or storybooks with scratchy lenticular cover graphics I had as a child, only animated and interactive.  It is effortless and amazing.

I won’t dwell on this now as it’s been well covered elsewhere.  Suffice it to say that seeing is believing.  If 13 of 15 of IGN’s editorial staff agree on anything, it must be pretty damn cool.  More importantly, even without this impressive, attention grabbing feature, the 3DS is a hot piece of kit.

What’s in a Name?

After a long line of incremental DS-branded handhelds, from the original DS to DS Lite, DSi and on to the biggest and best DSi XL, it would be easy to assume that 3DS is just more of the same with a stereoscopic 3D display.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  In reality, a review of the published specifications forces us to conclude that the 3DS is more like a “mini 3D Wii plus” than any DS.  Allow me to break that down:

  • mini – well, it fits in your pocket
  • 3D – stereoscopic 3D display
  • Wii – graphical performance, motion sensor and gyroscope input devices
  • plus – programmable shaders, rather than a fixed function pipeline, allowing features like per-pixel lighting, procedural textures, refraction mapping, subdivision primitives and gaseous object rendering

But that’s only half the story.  Let’s put a few of these numbers in perspective…

Many Tiny Pixels

In a world of 1080p HD and cell-powered processors, the idea of a Wii-powered handheld with a 400 x 240 resolution (800 x 240 interleaved per eye) may not strike many as next-gen, but resolution alone isn’t sufficient to evaluate the clarity and detail that a given display is capable of producing.  Let’s compare the pixel density of various game systems with the 3DS:

  • State of the art next gen console in a typical living room
    • 1080p signal displayed on a 36″ display
    • 1920 x 1080 pixels = 2202 pixels on the diagonal
    • 2202 pixels / 36″ = 61 pixels per inch
  • Wii on the same display
    • 640 x 480 pixels = 800 pixels on the diagonal
    • 800 pixels / 36″ = 22 pixels per inch
  • 3DS
    • 400 x 240 on a 3.5″ screen
    • 466 pixels / 3.5″ = 133 pixels per inch

When it comes to pixel density, the 3DS is king!  To get similar pixel density from a 1080p source you’d have to play on a 16″ screen.  So there are lots of tiny (7 thousandths of an inch) pixels, which allow for very crisp detail and smooth gradients.  But the DS does well in this analysis too, with about 100 pixels per inch on the diagonal.  Yet nobody considers it a graphical powerhouse… what gives?

Polygon Parity

The Nintendo DS can display only 2048 polygons per frame, with a display resolution of 256 x 192.  Under perfect conditions the average polygon would consist of 24 pixels; far from the ideal of 1 polygon per pixel, even in the best conditions.  In real-world scenes with overdraw, etc. it gets much worse.  Contrast that with the 3DS, whose DMP PICA200 GPU is spec’ed (PDF) at 15.3 million triangles per second (or twice that in some reports).  Even dividing that by a factor of 8 to allow for a combination of real world conditions, dual screens and inflated specifications, it equates to over 60k triangles per frame on the top screen.  That’s roughly 1.5 pixels per triangle, not far from the theoretical 1:1 optimum where texture isn’t even required and simple face color gives you all you need to create a perfect rendition of the scene at the display resolution of the device.

So it seems that the 3DS has a lot of very tiny pixels and can draw more than enough polygons every frame at 30+fps (CPU and pixel fill-rate willing) to use those pixels very, very well.  When you add the PICA200 pixel shaders to the mix, it gets pretty exciting graphically, especially when you consider the battery life and likely pricing of the 3DS, not to mention all the other features this article takes for granted.

What do you think?  Based on your response we’ll share more of our thoughts on this and related topics.

Tron: Evolution – Battle Grids at Comic-Con…

Posted in Tim Schwalk, Tron: Evolution - Battle Grids Wii (2010) by Dan O'Leary on July 24, 2010

Contributed by n-Space Game Director, Tim Schwalk

Tron has officially taken over Comic-Con 2010!  With Tron Legacy banners hanging all over San Diego (seriously, they are EVERYWHERE), and Disney’s Tron booth being the hit of the show (a light cycle AND a recognizer!!), people here are simply referring to the event as Comi-TRON.  That’s certain to become an even more popular term now that Flynn’s Arcade has reopened to the public, complete with a recreation of the End-Of-Line bar from the upcoming film.

It’s been an absolute joy to share Tron: Evolution – Battle Grids for the Wii with gamers and Tron fans at the show this week.  The atmosphere at Comic-Con is so much different than E3.  With so many parents brining children to the event, it’s been especially great to see the kids playing our game.   While reactions have ranged from non-stop giggling to the constant screaming of “Wahoo”, it’s been obvious that kids simply love the game.

One older child (probably 10-11 yrs) marched over to the station at Flynn’s Arcade today, informing me that he’d played it at Comic-Con and wanted to challenge me to a game of Light Runners (an awesome grid game based on a new vehicle in the Legacy film!).  He was upset at the long lines of the show and loved that there were multiple stations here in the arcade.  WELL, he very nearly beat me!  I don’t know how many times he had played the game, but he had every weapon name memorized and had even developed strategies based on these weapons.  I was floored.  I know the game is a lot of fun, but seeing our target audience embrace it so quickly was complete validation that this is going to hit home with these kids.  I loved it.

The game is showing amazingly well to everyone.  The only problem I’ve run into is fans wanting to immediately play again while someone is already waiting their turn to play next.  (A good problem to have!!)  Today was a really great day and I’m excited to get back to the show tomorrow to introduce Battle Grids to hundreds of new fans (and no doubt a bunch of return gamers)!

GoldenEye 007 DS details…

Posted in GoldenEye 007 DS (2010), Our Games by Dan O'Leary on July 22, 2010

The San Diego Comic-Con got started yesterday with Preview Night and Activision celebrated with an event for press and retail at Stingaree.  This offsite event showcased their two new James Bond releases, Blood Stone and GoldenEye, as well as Spiderman Shattered Dimensions.

 

GoldenEye 007 DS

 

n-Space Lead Designer Brendan McLeod was on hand to demonstrate GoldenEye DS and share some details of this exciting 2010 release…

GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo DS is an all new first-person action game developed by n-Space in conjunction with the Wii title. GoldenEye 007 for the DS offers all of the epic action of James Bond’s greatest adventure, built from day one to push the capabilities of the Nintendo DS to its absolute limits. In both single and multiplayer, GoldenEye 007 delivers covert action on a handheld like you’ve never seen it before.

What makes GoldenEye 007 so special?

James Bond in GoldenEye in 2010

  • GoldenEye 007 is a re-envisioning of the film’s original story. Rather than a one for one remake of the original game, GoldenEye 007 takes the undeniable finesse of James Bond and the incredible events of the 1995 film and delivers them in a handheld game that incorporates all of the elements that made the classic game great, all with the quality and style of a modern day shooter.
  • GoldenEye 007 delivers the complete saga of GoldenEye re-envisioned by famed Bond author Bruce Feirstein for 2010 starring Daniel Craig as the world’s greatest secret agent. The game features the same full voice cast as the Wii title – Dame Judi Dench, Rory Kinnear, a cast of new talents as the classic GoldenEye lineup, and of course Daniel Craig as James Bond.
  • Travel the world as James Bond, through locations both vintage and new, taken from both the original film and the zeitgeist of the modern era. Tear through the dam at Arkhangelsk, snake through the snowy surface of Severnaya, and rampage through St Petersburg in a tank – all with the skill and style of 007.

Covert Action on the DS

  • GoldenEye 007 is a covert action game, using a combination of tactical shooting encounters and stealth ops situations to let the player experience what it truly feels like to execute a mission as James Bond 007.
  • GoldenEye 007 is a “thinking man’s shooter,” rewarding brains over bullets. Bond’s greatest weapon is his mind, and the player is rewarded for making tactical decisions rather than charging in and spraying gunfire. Environmental kills, unconventional routes, distractions, and silent takedowns are the norm in GoldenEye 007.
  • GoldenEye 007 is built from the ground up to take full advantage of the Nintendo DS’s special features. The player also uses the Touch Screen for feats of both strength and skill – smashing through barricades, escaping a doomed helicopter, and leaping from the Arkhangelsk dam!

Unparalleled Handheld Multiplayer

  • GoldenEye 007 recreates the classic fun of the original title with a focus on multiplayer first-person gaming never before seen on the DS.
  • GoldenEye 007 supports 6 players in both wireless and Wi-Fi connections across the globe. A full suite of game modes are available, with vintage modes like Golden Gun and Flag Tag making a return alongside some new game types.
  • A full spread of modifiers allows players to change the state of the game to create a whole new experience in an all-new way.
  • An enormous number of multiplayer awards are available for players to unlock; guaranteeing hours of both cooperative and competitive play online.

We look forward to sharing more about this great new DS title in the coming months!