Archive for Alex Garland

Ninja Theory is coming to GDC Europe to reveal the games it never released

Posted in Ninja Theory with tags , , , , , , , on May 14, 2014 by HeavenlyNariko

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As part of this year’s GDC Europe Design track, Ninja Theory co-founder Tameem Antoniades is planning to give a talk currently titled “The AAA Design Postmortem.”

The session will detail the 14-year journey of Ninja Theory, creators of standout titles like Heavenly Sword, Enslaved: Journey To The West, and DmC: Devil May Cry, including the sacrifices and concessions made by the studio to stay in the game. Footage of unreleased games, the reason why they didn’t go to market, and the specific sales-related decisions that led to their demise will be discussed in detail.

British developer Antoniades also plans to showcase previously unseen upcoming games, as well as the unrealized sequel to Kung Fu Chaos, and various other pitches that Ninja Theory had to put on ice or walk away from. With the next generation consoles arriving at the top end, just as mobile and indie games have taken hold at the bottom, Antoniades plans to explore whether or not there is room for a third path that turns the “squeezed middle,” where many a good studio has disappeared, into an opportunity to redefine gaming: the AAA indie game.

GDC Europe takes place this year in Cologne, Germany, from Aug. 8-13.

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Enslaved: Odyssey to the West Re-release Hits Steam and PSN

Posted in Enslaved, Ninja Theory with tags , , , , , , , , on October 25, 2013 by HeavenlyNariko

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Ninja Theory’s Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, first released in 2010 on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, is now available for purchase on Steam and the PlayStation Store as part of a “Premium Edition” re-release.

The new release includes the original game — an action adventure game set in a post-apocalyptic retelling of classic Chinese tale Journey to the West — as well as downloadable add-on Pigsy’s Perfect 10 and three character skins: Ninja Monkey, Classic Monkey and Sexy Trip.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West Premium Edition is available for Windows PC and PlayStation 3 for $19.99.

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Ninja Theory Working On Exciting New Things!

Posted in Ninja Theory with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2013 by HeavenlyNariko

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Top 7… Greatest love stories in gaming

Posted in Enslaved, Ninja Theory with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2013 by HeavenlyNariko

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6. Monkey and Trip (Enslaved)

It’s very rare to see fantastic acting in games, let alone any truly skilled performances, but developer Ninja Theory is one of the few companies that pulls this off consistently. With some help from performance capture tech, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West’s two leads, Monkey and Trip, felt particularly real. Players watched both characters grow throughout the game’s many engrossing cutscenes, seeing a bond form between the two that was totally believable.

Monkey starts the game as Trip’s unwilling slave, but only because Trip is in desperate need of someone to guide her through the robot-infested wilderness. The intense circumstances force them to be allies, but things deepen quickly. Whether Monkey is saving her life or Trip is baring her soul to him over a campfire, just looking at the characters’ eyes will tell you their relationship is evolving. Though we see little in the way of physical contact between the two, we can look at their faces–even in the preposterous finale–and know that these two are in love.

Devil, Angel, Pioneer: The Truth Behind Devil May Cry’s Unlikely Saviour.

Posted in DmC, Ninja Theory with tags , , , , , , on April 18, 2012 by HeavenlyNariko

Ninja Theory’s Tameem Antoniades takes on the internet…

Ninja Theory’s Design Boss Tameem Antoniades has learned just what it means to be demonised. In steering the reinvention of Capcom’s Devil May Cry (DMC), now’s his time to prove it’s really a blessing in disguise.

We’re going to read you some pearls of wisdom from the internet, starting with the cryptic: “DMC DOESN’T NEED A F**KING REBOOT.”

Nothing needs a reboot unless that reboot works. Look at Batman. The parallel to the Batman reboot was Catwoman. Nobody needed that, but when it works it can change the course of a franchise in a positive way. It can make it survive.

The decision as to whether DMC needed a reboot or not: it’s irrelevant what my opinion is because that decision was Capcom’s. They felt it needed something, which is why they not only decided to take a bold step and reinvent it, but to give it to a non-Japanese dev. They had their reasons and that was our mandate. They wanted a reinvention – a reinterpretation – and that’s what we went ahead and did.

Much of the argument surely rests on whether DMC4 was considered a dead end for the series. Was it?

There was a feeling from some of the guys at Capcom that it could continue the way it was, but that there were certain tropes that were being – I don’t know how to put this… I think when you compare it to where a lot of games have arrived at – Western games in particular, where levels feel more open and the world feels more grounded – it felt like DMC was a little stuck in its ways. It needed to be let loose. That’s what we were told as part of our mandate to reinvent it.

At the time, Inafune-san was at Capcom and suggested an idea that we should hold on to – that if it was a movie released here in the UK, or in America, what would that movie look like? That defined the approach we took. Because if you took DMC the game and literally translated that into a movie, it wouldn’t really work.

Could some of the animosity come from your strong identity as a studio?

We’ve pushed a strong philosophy in the past, which is that stories matter. That can be irksome to a lot of players. Even recently, David Jaffe was proclaiming that stories have no place in games. I think there is a place for stories in games, and when it works it elevates the experience. But there’s an assumption that if you’re going to put stories in games, other parts of the games have to suffer, which I don’t think is the case at all.

It’s also that we started off as an Xbox developer, moved over to PS3 exclusively, then moved back to multiplatform development. That, to some people’s minds, is a horrendous betrayal. It’s like moving back-and-forth between Arsenal and Tottenham. But, for an independent developer like us, our interest is in making games and trying to reach as many people as possible. We have no loyalty to bits of plastic and circuitry.

More internet: “They won’t have a chance of selling five million units.”

Usually the worst creative crimes are made when you’re trying to make a game for someone else – some perceived demographic that, in all likelihood, doesn’t actually exist. From my point of view there’s only one way to try and make a successful game, and that’s to make the game you want to play. A game that everyone involved is proud of. So from that point of view I don’t care if it sells a thousand units or two million units. I believe the time you spend making something has to be worthwhile. You’ve got 20 productive years of work in your life; if you’re gonna spend ten or 15 percent of it on something, make it worthwhile.

“I’m sceptical of how this game will perform. How much it will tear, how the framerate will hold up.”

I think that comes from the fact that Heavenly Sword didn’t hit 30fps at times. Then, when we moved to Unreal, we pushed Enslaved out in half the time of Heavenly Sword, if not less. And that one had some framerate issues which we regret; we should have held on and refused to release the build to the publisher until we’d hit that framerate. On this game we’ve got a commitment all round that we’ve got to hit it. And we’ve made sure that the game runs at a good solid rate all through development. So I don’t think that’s an issue. The people who’ve been testing the game say it’s really responsive, and these are people who know DMC.

Why did you use Unreal rather than MT Framework?

There was a brief discussion about using MT Framework, but it came down to the amount of time we set ourselves to make this game. We didn’t want to spend a year learning a new engine. We’re already deeply experienced with Unreal. That just meant we could hit the ground running and focus on the gameplay and content without wrestling with technology.

Did you decide at the outset to ignore the vocal minority? People who often sound more informed than they are?

When we announced the game, all we released was the trailer and a 2D portrait art of Dante. That’s when the bulk of the criticism came in. We hadn’t actually demonstrated any in-game video at all. So a lot of that’s just hot air at that point. You can’t steer the game project based on that.

People form a relationship with a series, and if that gets broken or bastardised, people get upset. That’s understandable. So I don’t dismiss it. We’ve all been there: the new Star Wars stuff, it’s changed a lot but not added anything. I think we’ve added stuff. We’ve added interesting things to the series that you wouldn’t have got from Capcom Japan. If we do our jobs right, you’ll get a good, fun game with interesting angles that bring something fresh to DMC.

Do you regret the way Dante was unveiled to people?

I don’t know what would have happened if we’d have revealed him now. Would we have got the same level of vitriol? I don’t know. But it’s good that we’ve got the bulk of it out of the way and can move on. Until you meet that character and see him, and hear him talk, and see the scenes he’s in, you don’t get him. He’s not a comic book pin-up in the traditional sense.

How about this theory that he’s modelled on you?

What can I say? He’s a decade and a half younger than me, way better looking… The only thing he’s got is black hair. And he’s male. I didn’t design the character. I didn’t go to our designers and say, “I think it’s a really good idea if we make the new Dante look like me, because I want to be in the game.” They’d laugh at me. They’d throw me out the window.

“Only DMC fans are going to buy this. It’s not going to win a new audience.”

I don’t know if that’s true. So far it’s the DMC fans who have been vociferous about not wanting to play it. [Laughs] It’s the people who haven’t been interested in DMC since the first ones who are starting to get interested. But I’m not a marketeer. Philosophically, the way to make a successful game is to believe in what you’re doing, then hope that sales follow. I’m not trying to design around what I think people will want. That’s where you get into creative bankruptcy. That, more than anything, will kill a series.

“It’s never going to win over Bayonetta combat-wise, so why even try?”

We never set out to beat Bayonetta in combat. We’re aiming to make the best DMC in the series. We want our combat to be better than the rest, because we take pride in our work. We want it to be accessible; to have all the arcane hardcore depths that you’ve seen in DMC.

When Itsuno-san from Capcom and his crew come out, we spend days going over the combat system, and things they’ve added to previous entries that you won’t find on GameFAQs. But in terms of feel, we’re aiming this as something that’s like a movie. Something with rules that make sense; that has characters that feel real, that you empathise with. For that reason, we’re not looking at Bayonetta.

Are you trying to prove something to yourself as a designer with this game?

DMC is a hardcore game, and that’s where it should stay. Itsuno-san said the general philosophy of DMC is that the more you give it, the more you get out of it. In DMC, the philosophy is to constantly give you harder modes of play, more depth and experience, and more chances to excel. That doesn’t mean you have to exclude everyone else.

And I think it should be a hardcore story. Every game we’ve done so far has been a Teen-rated game, and this one’s not. I get frustrated that, despite there being violence and blood in gaming, the stories are all so very safe. Your average novel or play has the prerogative to push boundaries and break ground in some fashion, but in games that seems to be ignored. So that’s what I’d love to do with DMC.

There was a lot of collaboration involved in Enslaved. Writers, musicians, actors, techniques… Is that the case here?

We have music artists involved from different genre spaces who are working with us. We’ve taken our performance capture techniques further. We’re working with Giant Studios who shot Avatar. We’ve got head-mounted cameras, and we’re capturing the motion of the cameramen as well, so what we shoot on stage we get in the game. Alex Garland is story consultant, so although I’m writing I’m still under his consultation.

Have you binned all the character archetypes from earlier DMCs? Dare we say it, the massive tits?

If it’s true that the average console gamer is over 30 – which I totally believe – then you can’t use those cheap tricks to titillate people into wanting to buy your game. I’ve nothing against big tits – I’d rather have my head resting on a pair right now – but if you’re going to try and stimulate someone on different levels, there’s better ways to do it. If you look at the stars in movies, the women people find really attractive are often not the ones with the biggest tits. You’ve got to be attractive on a different level.

We did that in Enslaved with Trip. People loved her, not because she had big breasts and high heels, but because she felt like someone who could be your girlfriend. That to me is more attractive than a prostitute walking around with a big gun. Not to demean prostitutes – it’s a valid form of commerce.

The game seems full of ideas. How smoothly are you able to iterate them when dealing with Japan and the US?

Something I believe deeply is that the path to success is strewn with failure. The more you can close off dead ends, the more chance you have of making something good. So we’re quite happy to try as much as possible, as quickly as possible, before we get to the truth. And Capcom are very good at allowing us to do that, to make mistakes.

One of the ideas that came out of that was this idea of The Malice, the world being a character. It was this idea of explaining why the demon doors appear every time you have a fight. How do you explain that trope? One of our artists had the idea of the world being alive, trying to block you. Then we extended that into traversal, so you can pull out bits of the environment and move through it. We developed that idea, pushed it out, did some tests, showed it to Capcom and they liked it. In other instances we’ve done the same and it’s fallen flat. But that’s the nature of things. Nobody got fired, it’s part of the process.

Were you keen to keep all those aspects separate? It’s one thing to have a novel traversal mechanic, quite another to mix it with a combat system.

We’ve been trying to integrate combat and traversal and Malice and all those bits into each other. We’re trying to make a world that feels like it’s contiguous and not separated out into mini-games. DMC’s a combat game and that’s what it’s always going to be about. But if we can add some variety around the sides, I’m all for that.

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Enslaved’s Failure Won’t Stop Ninja Theory Creating ‘Affecting Characters’

Posted in Enslaved, Ninja Theory with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2012 by HeavenlyNariko

Worries the game’s commercial flop will prevent others trying the same thing.

Ninja Theory creative director Tameem Antoniades will continue to push the boundaries of character creation despite the commercial failure of Enslaved, but worries other studios will shy away from similar developments.

“We wanted to create affecting characters that felt more like real people than cardboard cutouts,” Antoniades told Edge. “If the game had been more successful, perhaps other games would follow suit and deem it a worthwhile pursuit.

“But perhaps instead it will be held as an example of why it doesn’t matter. Either way, it won’t stop us from trying. I truly believe characters and story can elevate the gameplay and affect people in deep and satisfying ways.”

In the same interview Antoniades also revealed how poor sales for Enslaved prevented a sequel and further DLC which included a multiplayer game featuring Monkey’s hoverboard.

Antoniades and Ninja Theory are currently working on DMC for Capcom.

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DmC Devil May Cry: Ninja Theory & Capcom Interview

Posted in DmC, Ninja Theory with tags , , , , , , , , on December 8, 2011 by HeavenlyNariko

DmC Devil May Cry is looking better every time we see it in action, so we caught up with Ninja Theory and Capcom to discuss Dante’s latest outing.

DmC – Devil May Cry is bold project for both Ninja Theory and Capcom. The demon-slaying escapades of Dante hold a special place in the hearts of many gamers, and the fan base is so devoted, that any game attempting to reboot the franchise needs to be better than acceptable; it needs to exceed expectations.

No pressure then, but after chatting with Ninja Theory’s creative chief Tameem Antoniades and Capcom’s lead producer Alex Jones, it’s clear the studio is treating Capcom’s IP with the utmost care, and then some. Read on to discover why DmC could set a new benchmark for the series.

The specific plot of DmC has been shrouded in mystery so far. Would you consider the game to be a direct reboot, or does it fall in line with the series canon?

Tameem Antoniades: It’s a re-birth of the series that doesn’t adhere to the original canon but draws heavily from it. If you’ve never played a DMC game before, you can get stuck right in from the beginning with our game. If you have, then consider this an alternate take on the story.

Alex Jones: We’re essentially building on the gameplay foundations laid by the previous four games, whilst at the same time taking the series in a fresh direction.

We’ve seen a few instances of DmC’s younger Dante in combat. In an industry where intricate brawlers like Bayonetta exist, do you feel in any way pressured to match the intensity and depth of that game, or indeed the brutality of Devil May Cry 3?

TA: The short answer is “yes”. Intricate combat, depth, variety, and brutal challenges are the minimum we want to achieve. We also want to add new play styles in combat involving aerial combat and instant switching between several weapons.

I believe the combat should be a brutal expression of style so we are trying to give the player the tools and method to express themselves.

On top of those foundations, we are adding gameplay elements that complement combat such as elaborate traversal, a more dynamic world and a videogame story, which hopefully for once, treats us like sophisticated adults.

Can you give us an insight into how Dante handles in the game, and which of his previous Devil May Cry iterations he falls most closely in line with, and why?

AJ: We have of course taken inspiration from all of the previous games, but Dante in DmC has very much his own feel. Dante is young and relativity inexperienced in DmC, with a real anger and sense of rebellion about him. As a result Dante’s fighting style is more that of a street brawler than the choreographed fighter seen in previous games.

In the most recent trailer, we saw Dante reverting back into his ‘old Dante’ guise. In what ways can you give us an insight into this mechanic?

TA: What you’re referring to is Dante’s Devil Trigger. When Devil Trigger is activated in DmC, Dante gains in power and speed, while all of the Demons in the current encounter are lifted from the ground and suspended mid-air ready for some aerial pummeling. The longer you stay off the ground, the more damage and longer your Devil Trigger lasts. It’s a test of skill.

AJ: Visually what you’re seeing when Devil Trigger is activated is Dante tapping into his inner devil. Even though a large part of the DMC fan base are spitting blood and want clarification on the matter of hair colour, I don’t wish to give away any spoilers at this point.

We’ve also heard recently that DmC will take place across parallel worlds. What will this mean for the plot and gameplay? What freedom does this feature give you to explore characters and events from across the series?

TA: There is a parallel world behind the real world, a demon dimension called Limbo superimposed over our human one. From here, the demons are instigating an invasion, controlling all parts of society behind the scenes.

Dante is able to go into Limbo and see the truth behind the illusion. He can see the wretched, malignant version of our own world and take on the demons.

What specific qualities did Capcom see in Ninja Theory that might have landed you the DmC job? Did you have to produce a proof of concept, or prototype to seal the deal?

TA: I think one of the key factors that attracted Capcom to us was our experience in telling stories through games. They told us that they wanted to give Devil May Cry a refresh, a new lease of life and part of that was to give the series a more contemporary feel.

As a studio we have a real focus on narrative and a belief that you can create evermore immersive game experiences by pushing storytelling techniques. I also think our distinct art style was one of our attributes that Capcom could see fitting within the Devil May Cry franchise.

Bosses have always been such a huge part of Devil May Cry’s novelty. Can we get an insight into what you have done to ensure that these encounters will still in the mind?

AJ: We’re taking traditional Devil May Cry boss fights and thinking about them in the context of Dante’s new abilities and our dynamic, surrealistic world.

By doing this we’ve come up with new ways to think about boss battles, particularly in terms of what tactics are needed to succeed in them. This has been a particularly deep area of collaboration with Capcom.

Overall, what or who would you say have been your biggest influences when creating DmC, and why? How did these inspirations help guide the project?

TA: I’d actually say that the most powerful influence has come from the team at Capcom that we’ve been partnering with. Working with people like Hideaki Itsuno, Director of Devil May Cry 2, 3 and 4, has enabled us to tap into a real wealth of Devil May Cry knowledge and development experience, especially in combat.

On the story side, Alex Garland, who I worked with on Enslaved has really inspired me personally and has continued to mentor me through this game. On art, Alex Taini, our visual art director and Stuart Adcock our technical art director always inspire me with their bold vision.

Performance capture has become Ninja Theory’s bread and butter. In what ways has Capcom encouraged you to explore that side of things again in DmC?

TA: Performance capture is a technique that we really believe in and use to push the way we tell stories in our games. It’s the driving force behind the DmC narrative. By using our own techniques and technologies we’ve been able to take things a step further from Heavenly Sword and Enslaved.

We capture voice, face and body simultaneously, a technique we pioneered in gaming. In addition, we are also capturing all on-set camera motion for a more realistic feel.

This is also the first game I’ve written, cast and directed myself. If i do my job right, you should be seeing a story of Dante that breaks the myth that all videogame stories are trite and will never stand up to the best that theatre and film have to offer.

We shot DmC at Giant Studios in LA, where Avatar was shot, using a lot of the Avatar crew and similar technology. As you say, utilising performance capture is something that we’ve become known for, so Capcom were of course keen that we used our expertise in this area for DmC. They pretty much let us get on with it.

We’ve read that Capcom was prepared for a negative reaction to new Dante. Can we expect similar bold decisions to be made with other aspects of the game; narrative, gameplay, motion control and so on?

TA: We were all prepared for a negative reaction to an extent. Capcom moved one of their much-loved franchises to an external studio for it to be taken in a new direction. It would be naive to think that there wouldn’t be a reaction.

But we’re happy and we have the full support of Capcom with our chosen narrative and gameplay direction. This approval alone should assure people that although this is a re-birth, with some bold decisions being made, we are not just a bunch of monkeys.

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