Tarver Games’ Chris Cross Talks Going from Consoles to iPhone, Ghosts Attack, Little Helmet Heads, and More!

Chris CrossChris Cross achieved a great deal of notoriety in the gaming business from his work on the Medal of Honor series. You’d expect a game designer that had success on big-budget console-games would continue to work on big-budget console-games, but Cross has gone in a different direction — iPhone gaming. He recently started up a new development house — Tarver Games — and has a few iPhone/iPod Touch products in the works. Tarver’s first game, Ghosts Attack, has been submitted to Apple for approval and should be out shortly. I recently interviewed Cross to learn more about Tarver Games, get the skinny on Ghosts Attack, ask him why he went from consoles to iPhone, and to ask him some of your questions.

Cross is an excellent and entertaining person. Check out everything he has to say and be sure to hit the break for an exclusive Ghosts Attack video.

Raymond Padilla: Chris, you’ve had tremendous success on home consoles. Why head to the iPhone? Is it the excitement of undiscovered territory? A new challenge?

Chris Cross: Thanks Ray — Yes, I have had success on home consoles and who is to say I won’t again? But for the moment, we (Tarver) have decided to bring our first IP — Ghosts Attack — to the iPhone. Just take a look at what’s going on today with games, budgets, platforms, and accessibility. The iPhone offers both developers and consumers an incredible chance at amazing products and apps for a fraction of the cost of console products.

RP: Some of my readers might need a primer on your upcoming game, Ghosts Attack. Would kindly give a brief primer on the game?

CC: Ghosts Attack is an alternate reality/FPS with a twisting — and a bit twisted :) — storyline. Ghosts Attacks integrates Google Maps technology with a dynamic alternate reality gaming experience. You explore a parallel world that was accidentally discovered by a group of scientists 40 years ago. Using the Map Kit in the iPhone SDK we let you use our own world map as your guide. There are mysteries to uncover, hostile enemies to fight, fast shooting action, a remote rover to pilot and a whole lot more.

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How Warren Spector Ended up with Disney’s Epic Mickey

Warren Spector is one of the most creative game developers in America, but it seems odd that the man who worked on Thief and Deus Ex would be crafting a Mickey Mouse game for Disney. Yet here he is, working on Epic Mickey for Wii. Spector told Develop how his agent, CAA’s Seamus Blackley (who really ought to sign me), set him up with a meeting with Disney. He was reluctant to take it, but it worked out well.

So I’m stood there in a room full of Disney Interactive execs, and midway through my pitch I see they are all looking down at their BlackBerrys checking their email. I thought: ‘I was right! I am going kill Seamus’.

What was actually going on was that they were interested, but they were texting each other, asking ‘Shall we ask him if he’s interested in this Mickey game?’ It gets to the end of my pitch and they ask me how I felt about licensed games I said, ‘Actually, I am really interested in them’.

Epic Mickey

While I would never have predicted a Warren Spector/Mickey Mouse pairing, I have to admit that the possibilities are tremendous. Spector makes fantastic games and I can’t wait to see what he can do with an iconic character like Mickey Mouse. Who would have guessed that “the Deus Ex guy” + Mickey Mouse = the most anticipated Wii game of 2010.

[And Seamus, if your assistant happens to send this your way, you should really round out your stable of world class game developers with some guy writing a game blog. If anyone could get this site funding, it’s you. Ha!]


Shigeru Miyamoto Discusses His Design Goals for Zelda Wii

During a recent investor Q&A session, Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto shared some of his design goals for the next Legend of Zelda game for Wii. As you know, the game will likely be significantly different from its predecessors due to its use of Wii MotionPlus. While some of you are down on the game and down on Miyamoto, I’m pretty sure the next Zelda for Wii will be great. Anyway, here’s what the game-design legend had to say:

Of course we are preparing gorgeous graphics for the sake of users’ anticipation for a grand role-playing adventure. But what I believe is very important is the realistic, actual feeling players have experienced themselves; the feeling to have really been on an adventure, to have explored the unknown terrains, to have solved the puzzle through trial and errors, to have themselves grown through various experiences! In that sense, a personal sense of creativity is becoming important among us. We have assembled one of the most creative team for the recent Zelda for DS, and we want to be as creative as possible for upcoming Wii Zelda.

Zelda Twilight Princess 2

A lot of Miyamoto’s design philosophies reminded me of my exchange with Rpadholic “LarcenousLaugh” in yesterday’s Coffee Talk. Miyamoto’s games aren’t about heavy-handed storytelling; they’re about the experience. While many modern games have been successful with strong storytelling, Miyamoto’s games succeed with their transparency, allowing gamers to feel like they’re the star of their videogame adventure. Some players might think this style is old fashioned, but I think it still works today.

As always, I want to know your opinion on Miyamoto’s style and what you expect from the next Zelda Wii. Do you prefer heavy-handed storytelling (Kojima games) or do you like transparency (Miyamoto games)?


Warren Spector Still Has Deus Ex Stories to Tell

Deus Ex

Although Junction Point president & creative director Warren Spector has his hands full with Epic Mickey, he’s still thinking about a franchise that’s near and dear to his heart: Deus Ex. Longtime Spector fans will be pleased to learn that he’s not done with the series. He told Gamasutra:

There were and still are Deus Ex stories I would like to tell. That story is not done for me.

This is completely awesome news. Deus Ex is a top franchise and Warren Spector is a top creator. While I’m really looking forward to Epic Mickey, I’d love to dive back into the Deus Ex universe. How about you guys and dolls?


David Cage Explains Why He Chose the PS3 for Heavy Rain

Heavy Rain

If you’re not looking forward to Heavy Rain for PlayStation 3 then I probably won’t like you. Okay, I’m half-kidding about that, but it is the game I’m looking forward to the most in 2010. A lot of gamers are wondering why Quantic Dream chose to make this a PlayStation 3 exclusive. Company founder and co-CEO David Cage explained it all to Push Square

Whatever I answer, my answer will be suspicious… I think it had to be on PlayStation 3 for two main reasons: the hardware, the architecture of the PS3 is extremely powerful in the way it is structured. If you make a real PS3 engine, then you can have really fantastic performances. If you try to port from another platform, then it becomes difficult.

That’s a pretty reasonable answer. I’m also happy Cage pointed out the issue of getting better results when using “a real PS3 engine”. Too many developers get middling resorts because they have to go multiplatform, which causes some gamers to write off the PS3. But wait! There’s more!

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Epic Games Cliff Bleszinski Talks Digital Distribution, Used Games, Motion Controls, Hideo Kojima, and Getting Punched by RPad

Cliff BleszinskiEpic Games design director Cliff Bleszinski is one of the most prominent game developers in the business. He’s just a smart, talented, and quotable guy (though he whines like a little girl when you hit him…more on that later). Whether he’s talking about digital distribution, what games he’s been digging lately, used-game sales, or bars in San Francisco Chinatown, the man always has something interesting to say. Here’s my interview with one the main minds behind Unreal and Gears of War, the infamous Cliffy B.

Raymond Padilla: With games like Shadow Complex and systems like the Sony PSPgo, digital distribution is becoming a bigger part of the gaming business. How does digital distribution impact you as a game designer?

Cliff Bleszinski: A couple weekends ago, I was up in East Village at “Videogames New York”, a combination new/retro game store. On the front counter, they had Borderlands and in the back aisles, they had the Vectrex and Game & Watch. My feelings went from initially geeking out to immense nostalgia to overwhelming pride for how far this business has come in my lifetime alone. We go digital and that physical history starts drying up and eventually vanishes. Older games become the same as a 45 record.

Digital distribution has the potential to end the used game debate that’s currently raging across the business. I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. On one hand, I love having that pipeline into my house: Look, a new game is up on Live; download the title right to your hard drive and fire it up. At the same time, I love having games, movies, and books on my shelves at my home. It feels like an IRL representation of the facets of your personality and tastes whenever people come over to visit. The Kindle and other devices are equally fascinating. I fear not leafing through a book ever again but at the same time I cringe at the thought of having to deal with a CD and a jewel case in a world of digital music.

Finally, as far as the kinds of games I’d like to design and contribute to? Digital frees up some risk. You can make that little dream game you’ve always wanted to make and take more chances, which is incredibly appealing as a creative.

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Epic Games’ Cliff Bleszinski Thinks Project Natal is Amazingly Fun

Project Natal

Yesterday, you read Epic Games’ Cliff Bleszinski’s thoughts on OnLive. Today you get the renowned game designer’s opinion on Project Natal. In my recent interview with Cliff, I asked him what he saw in Microsoft’s motion-sensing wonder. He said:

I see an amazingly fun system that will expand the Xbox user base in a direction previously untapped by Microsoft and currently owned by Nintendo. When all is said and done, there are probably going to be “Wii Fit”-like games, more “hardcore experience”-based games as well as some that lie somewhere between the two.

I don’t believe that motion or gesture-based controls of any sort will replace the controller any time soon. They will merely enable yet another way to interact with your console, and Natal could potentially enhance classic controller-based games in many, many different and exciting ways. (None of which I’m ready to talk about at this time, so Internet, don’t go reading into this too much and start drawing random conclusions.)

What do you think of Cliffy B’s opinions on Project Natal? Agree? Disagree? What do you make of him addressing the Internet as if it were a person or a group of people? Is it a mental disorder that he developed while working so hard on Gears of War?

Epic Games Cliff Bleszinski Thinks OnLive is the “Real Deal”


OnLive’s streaming games service has been getting a lot of buzz since it debuted at Game Developers Conference 2009. While millions of gamers love the idea of games-on-demand, many are skeptical about cloud-based gaming. This is new, uncharted territory for gaming. With that in mind, I decided to ask the most dashing game designer east of the Mississippi a prominent game developer what he thought of OnLive. Here’s what Epic Games’ Cliff Bleszinski (Unreal, Gears of War) had to say:

I was skeptical about OnLive until I had a chance to be hands on with it at GDC, and it does appear to be the “real deal.” I think the PC space will benefit the most initially from this technology, however, I doubt Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo are ready to yield to an on-demand cloud console quite yet.

What do you make of his comments? Does getting praise from a respected game designer like Cliffy B change your opinion of OnLive? I want to know what you’re thinking (pure energy)!

Shigeru Miyamoto Talks Xbox 360 Achievements

Shigeru Miyamoto

At a recent roundtable discussion, legendary Nintendo game designer Shigeru Miyamoto discussed a wide variety of topics. One interesting tidbit was his view on Xbox 360 game achievements. Miyamoto said:

I’m not particularly well versed in the Xbox 360 achievement system. I spend most of my time working on my own games, and don’t have a lot of time to look at what other people are doing.

The idea of playing the game in a particular way and having it unlock a special prize that rewards you… it feels like something we’ve been doing for the last 15-20 years.

Miyamoto has a point, but he’s also missing one. It’s true that many of his Nintendo games were designed to reward gamers for playing in a particular way, but people like points, trophies, etc. It reminds me of when my friends at 1Up started the site; I had no idea what my “score” was for, but I wanted more points, which made me keep visiting.

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Hideo Kojima Promises Zoe of the Enders Sequel, Explains ZoE2 Flop

Zone of the Enders 1

Hideo Kojima has promised a Zone of the Enders sequel, but due to everyone at Kojima Productions being busy on various Metal Gear Solid titles, it might be a while until the next Anubis: Zoe of the Enders (the game’s Japanese name) is created. Andriasang translated Kojima’s blog entry on the matter:

We’d like to make an Anubis sequel at some point. Also, we feel that if we do it, we’d like to make Anubis succeed this time. I already have a game plan and method for sales in my head. However, we don’t know if it will be green lighted. The production lines within Kojima Productions are currently full.

I cannot make a promise about time. However, I can promise a sequel.

Kojima also explained why Zoe of the Enders 2 wasn’t the success it should have been. He chalks it all up to timing and blames himself.

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