MercurySteam, the Spanish developer behind Castlevania: Lords of Shadow and the upcoming Metroid: Samus Returns, are venturing into uncharted territory with Raiders of the Broken Planet. A self-published, multiplayer-focused third-person shooter set to release incrementally beginning later this year, Sam and James recently spent some time with the closed beta - here are their thoughts.
James: Whenever you pick up a game you go in with certain expectations, but not knowing a lot this time kept those preconceptions to a minimum. Cover shooters were huge when I first got into gaming and, having largely been away from them for some time, I was excited to try a new twist on the formula. First impressions? I’d say it has my attention.
Sam: After actually going hands-on, I was initially torn over whether or not the game was a little too different. Raiders just about necessitates rock, paper, scissors-style brawling and engaging with a difficult stealth system in the midst of its relentless firefights, so it was a little jarring to find usual shooter tactics didn’t work very well in themselves. It definitely took some adjusting to on my part, but it was good to be forced out of my usual comfort zone.
James: There’s certainly a learning curve, in fact we were both reminding ourselves that our characters actually had individual powers and skills to use in battle, since it’s so easy to slip into old habits and play it like any other third-person action game. It remind me of when I first played the underrated Wanted: Weapons of Fate and kept dying over and over because, due to it’s in-your-face style, I failed to remember that I could use cover. Similarly, here I was a little too bold with my playstyle and it was often my undoing.
Sam: I found that the bizarre cast of ugly, foul-mouthed antiheroes were totally out there; they all play in very different ways, some of which weren’t to my liking, but once I found a character that I clicked with - and, just as importantly, we found a four-player team composition that we clicked with - I thought the game became really rewarding, especially when tackling boss encounters.
James: They certainly didn’t have much charisma between them, but I suppose if Raiders has a penchant for challenging expectations, perhaps something a bit different is refreshing? I’m waiting to be convinced on that front. Nice to have cutscenes to bring them to life a bit, just a shame they don’t grab you like their contemporaries might. Gameplay is king though and in action the moments where the characters’ skills started working together was promising.
Sam: One of the game’s big draws is the promise of 1 vs. 4 asymmetric multiplayer, but we’ve seen this can be a dubious prospect with flops like Evolve and Fable Legends. While I enjoyed both of those games for the most part (I got some time in with Fable before Microsoft pulled the plug), Raiders doesn’t seem nearly as committed to the idea. Levels play out in much the same way for the group of antiheroes whether the enemy is bolstered by a human player or not, while the antagonist doesn’t see any significant gameplay overhaul. What did you think of it?
James: I’d agree. Nothing much stood out that made the encounter decidedly dicier with a human opponent involved compared to just AI - perhaps because the AI hit the spot? Hopefully with a bit more time the nuances will start to show through and there’ll be some more variety to the PvP elements.
Sam: Raiders seems to me like a game that will grow more and more engaging as you engage with it more and more, learning new characters, strategies and compositions all the while. This is a perfect fit considering, if all goes well, players will dip in and out of the game over a period of time with the release of each new campaign. I’m quite optimistic on the whole - are you?
James: It’s definitely got a lot of ingredients, perhaps a few of them aren’t quite cooked yet, but I think the recipe is right. The way the developers are approaching it seems sensible, and actually quite exciting coming in on the ground floor. Hopefully as the community grows and develops a voice it will help to smooth some of the rough edges.
Have you played the Raiders of the Broken Planet beta? Whether you have or haven’t, feel free to join in on our game chat by leaving a comment with your thoughts on MercurySteam’s upcoming shooter.
This week we talk to The Dangerous Kitchen, creators of the recently released one-button smash-a-thon, De Mambo, about all things Nintendo, VR and the rigours of being an independent developer. Enjoy!
Four player local multiplayer is the main mode of play in De Mambo, but we’ve really worked on our Solo mode, refusing to just make a single-player mode for the sake of it; it could almost be its own game with the amount of stuff we’ve packed in.
What inspired you and your team during the development stage?
This is always a tough question for us, as we are highly inspired by the day to day random moments that just so happen to occur near us, like a teabag in a toilet, or an old man vehemently obsessed with stealing our seats for who knows what reason, but I digress.
Smash is the obvious inspiration for De Mambo, but there are so many more such as; Mario, Wonderful 101, Earthbound, Suda51, Orson Welles, Jodorowsky, Frank Zappa, Mortal Kombat, Space Dandy — and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Can you tell us about your team at The Dangerous Kitchen?
The Dangerous Kitchen is comprised of three people, who met at university, casually decided to make games and then tripped up so much that they eventually landed in the peculiar position of having actually made a game. That’s our origin story movie pitch, but to answer your question in a more typical fashion, we’re based in West London and sometimes work from a hotel lobby. Previous experience includes, advertising, concept art, web design and most importantly, lots of game playing.
How difficult is it for indie developers in this current market? Can you take artistic risks and still make a profit? Are shows like Rezzed beneficial in helping you find an audience?
Well personally I don’t think artistic risks and profit are mutually exclusive or necessarily in correlation. If you want to make a true artistic risk it can’t be because of how much you’ll profit, otherwise it becomes a business decision. A true artistic risk has to be done with no desire to succeed and no fear of failure in an ego-less vacuum where imagination is unbound. Money has no place there.
"A true artistic risk has to be done with no desire to succeed and no fear of failure in an ego-less vacuum where imagination is unbound..."
I personally hold the idea that being indie doesn’t mean you are lesser than say EA or whatever. We’re both making games. In fact we’ve got it better than them when you think about it. Being in a team of three means that business, games development, art, sound, social media, all of these are shared responsibilities that we all have a say in. I’ve learned about all of these in my team of three which is more than a guy in a team of 700 would have working exclusively on ceiling textures, right? So what I’m trying to say is that it’s going to be difficult for anyone in a crowded market, so you have to just focus on making the best game you can make, regardless if it’s indie or not.
And yeah events are great as you can forge some great bonds with all the people you meet. Some of the fans we’ve amassed during events really helped us out when we did our Kickstarter as an example.
What advice would you give to someone looking to work in the video gaming industry?
Use what you have and just do it. Have fun and try not to focus entirely on things that other people do and have done, focus on you and only on what you or your team can possibly create. There’s no point in doing what others will do, well unless you want money in which case ignore what I say, but I’m not saying this to sound pretentious. I just want to see new and interesting things done in gaming, so I’m counting on you hypothetical reader!
Where do you think the industry is heading - is VR the future in your opinion?
The potential for VR is crazy, but I’ve abstained from actually trying it out yet as there is no software I feel I absolutely need to experience. I was actually really interested beforehand to see what kind of impact it would have on the industry, but after PSVR it seems like nothing much has happened.
I think at present we are in uncharted territory, as this is the first time we’ve had mid-generation console updates and a true handheld/console hybrid, so it’s difficult to say. If the Switch is super popular, will Sony and Microsoft attempt a similar concept? Or will the industry shift to become more phone-like with consoles having incremental updates every so often? I think there’s no clear picture of where the industry is heading at this current time, but later in the year it should become clearer. Lets just hope someone invents Smellovision™ soon so we can really move the industry forward into the future it so desperately needs.
What game(s) have had the biggest effect on your life, and why?
Earthbound changed me. It’s hard to explain why but there’s something truly special about it. I have more nostalgia for that game than things from my own childhood, which is crazy considering I played it in 2013.
Then there’s No More Heroes. I love Suda51. Love. NMH was fantastic because it introduced me to a lot of interesting media and my personal spiritual father, Alejandro Jodorowsky, but also taught me a lot about the power of imagination.
There’s countless other games such as pretty much every Mario and a lot of Zelda and Metroid and Nintendo stuff, and more obscure stuff but if I keep going, I’ll never stop!
What does the future hold for De Mambo & The Dangerous Kitchen?
After we finish De Mambo Switch, we’re going to create some more content for updates and work on the PlayStation and Steam versions. Once that’s over, hopefully lots of pizza! That’s why we’re doing this. De Mambo was made to fund our insane pizza lust. All joking aside, The Dangerous Kitchen’s future is to continue making gameplay focused games that delight and stupefy in equal measures.
If you were on a desert island (it has power) and could only take one console, what would you take, and why?
Very tough question, but it boils down to two options. The Wii U has Smash Bros 4, its own library, the virtual console and the Wii backwards compatibility, so I’ll be sufficiently stuffed with great games. The other option is purely based on how I feel right now at this very moment… the Switch with Breath of the Wild.
Thanks to Lucy and Shaun from The Dangerous Kitchen for taking the time out of their hectic schedules to talk to us. The Nintendo Switch version of De Mambo is available now.
Nintendo have a habit of tinkering with their handhelds, rehashing and improving designs over a console’s lifespan until we usually end up with a product that, arguably, should have been the one released to the public in the first place.
An improved stand
The current stand that pops out of the back of the Switch is, to be honest, a bit rubbish. The flimsy plastic feels like it’s going to snap every time you try to open it, and it’s so small and unstable it struggles to hold the console upright on anything except a completely flat surface.
Even if you do find one of these there’s no guarantee it will remain upright, as I recently found out when attempting some Mario Kart 8 Deluxe in (coincidentally enough) a moving car. The Switch just refused stay upright on a fold-down table, flopping onto it’s back every time the car came across a bump in the road or a gentle corner, rendering the impromptu multiplayer session over before it could even begin.
What’s more, the angle of the stand is far too steep and can’t be adjusted, so in order to get a comfortable viewpoint while playing, the Switch must be either on a surface that’s almost at eye level, or placed further away from you, meaning you’ll most likely struggle to see what’s happening on the six-inch screen.
Both these problems could be solved by sticking a proper stand on the back of the Switch, preferably one that runs the entire length of the console and with decent grip for added stability, and can also be fixed at multiple degrees for better viewing angles.
More comfortable Joy-Cons
I have no problem with the concept of the Joy-Con, in fact, as I mentioned in our recent look at ARMS, I’ve been nothing but impressed by their versatility for things like split-screen multiplayer and their accuracy when used as motion controllers. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be improved upon, most notably in the comfort department.
Using the Switch as a handheld for any significant amount of time is very reminiscent of the original 3DS, who’s angled edges were not very welcoming to the palms. While the Joy-Cons aren’t as uncomfortable as that, a slightly thicker and more rounded design, one a little bit closer to those found on regular controllers, would help alleviate hand cramps and any discomfort that comes with longer gaming sessions, and wouldn’t necessarily damage the console’s portability either.
The same could be said of the Joy-Con’s face buttons, which are a little small and can start to dig into your fingers, especially when playing games like Mario Kart where you’re constantly holding down the A button to accelerate. The control sticks could also do with some tweaking, just to make them a bit more accurate. They’re fine for games where they are mostly used for movement and camera control, like Breath of the Wild, but FPS fans may find the rigidity of the current design off-putting.
The Pro Controller does, admittedly, deal with the latter two issues, but it would be nice if the original design of the Joy-Con was good enough that the Pro could be thought of as a luxury, and not a necessity.
A dock that won’t damage your console
This isn’t technically a handheld issue like the other two, but it’s such a big problem that it needed to be included. How Nintendo looked at the dock before release and decided it was fit for launch boggles the mind.
For such an integral part of the Switch’s ethos, the part that actually helps give the console its name, it’s incredibly poorly built. The plastic feels cheap when compared to rest of the Switch (minus the aforementioned stand), it bends easily, and, worst of all, it has a texture that I can only think was chosen by someone who hates screens and wants to see them die.
The fact that people are selling tiny pieces of sticky-back felt on eBay, perfectly measured for the runners that guide your Switch into the dock, so you don’t scratch the screen is almost ridiculous. As Sam pointed out in his first look at the Switch, docking and undocking with the current design requires almost surgeon levels of steadiness, which can hardly be what Nintendo had in mind when they came up with the concept.
If Nintendo do break from tradition and stand by the design of the Switch, then they at least need to address the dock issue as its damaging such an integral part of the experience.
So, those were a few improvements I’d like to see on any Switch redesign. Do you agree? What would you like to see changed, or is the Switch good as it is? Sound off below.