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Nate Wells departs Naughty Dog, joins The Unfinished Swan dev

Art director Nate Wells switched animalian employers by leaving Naughty Dog this month for independent studio Giant Sparrow. 2012 saw Giant Sparrow come to the fore with PS3 game The Unfnished Swan, and the Californian dev is working on an unannounced project.

Formerly at Irrational Games for 13 years, Wells joined Naughty Dog as Lead Artist back in August 2012. After nearly two years, including ten months of work on The Last of Us, Wells revealed he left the Sony-owned studio to join Giant Sparrow on April 3, where he'll likely work on the developer's next project. Giant Sparrow announced that game last year as Edith Finch, only to quickly retract the news and roll its title back to the much catchier "Unfinished Giant Sparrow Project." The studio promises that whatever that next game may be, "it's not a sequel to The Unfinished Swan but it's not a million miles away either."

Wells' departure from Naughty Dog follows those of game director Justin Richmond, now at League of Legends studio Riot Games, and Uncharted writer Amy Hennig, who joined EA to work on Visceral Games' Star Wars project. The circumstances that surrounded Hennig's departure remain unclear, and the studio has vehemently denied a report that The Last of Us directors Bruce Stanley and Neil Druckman were "involved in what transpired."
[Image: Sony Computer Entertainment]

Stiq Figures, April 7 - 13: Best opening numbers edition

Welcome to Stiq Figures, where the sales data is after the break and the posts don't matter.

If you're going to send me on a 30-plus hour adventure, you've gotta sell me on the time investment first. Creating an opening that compels players to press on is a challenge every development team faces, but it feels like one of those talents that often goes unpraised. Of course we expect to be drawn into our brand new games - after all, we paid the price of admission to be entertained! With the amount of mechanics and characters a game needs to introduce in its early hours though, it must be tough to decide what to start off with.

Commending Mass Effect 2 for its introduction might feel a little odd, given that most of its audience got well-acquainted with Commander Shepard's arsenal in the first leg of his/her trilogy. Still, ME2 wastes no time drawing players back into its universe before shattering the sense of security many associated with the Normandy. The moment the flame-engulfed ship's second-story door opened to the deafening vacuum of space, I was 100 percent ready to hand my life over for the following weeks.

Final Fantasy 8 had dense, on-the-nose tutorials for most of its combat, but its opening scene made up for it in my mind. As the camera zoomed above ocean waves and budding fields, cutting between a dramatic duel with bizarre swords and a girl with feathery wings, I was equal parts confused and enthralled. I had no idea what was happening, but if the answers were hidden somewhere in FF8's discs, I was resolved to find them.

Going from "meh" to "sold" is one of my favorite sort of gaming moments, and I think I get that most frequently from a team that nails their game's introductory moments. Tell me about the intros that instantly won you over in the comments below, right after you check this week's Japanese hardware sales after the break!
[Image: EA]

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Minecraft grows a sweet tooth, turns into Candy Lan-uhh, Candycraft

Image If you don't celebrate Easter, you can still treat today like Candy Overload day! Once you start crashing from your sugar high, you can remain relatively immobile on the couch while crafting sweet desserts out of Minecraft's Candy Texture Pack, now available on XBLA for $1. [Image: Mojang] ... Continue Reading

Treasures of Montezuma: Arena to match up PS Vitas in Europe

Match-three puzzlers are a comfort food of sorts - the rules change a bit with each game, sure, but the core concept is the same: match up colors and shapes for glory. You can use that mindset to approach Montezuma: Arena, a downloadable title announced for the Vita in Europe, but its RPG Story mode involves a more tactical strategy to reclaim your homeland. And really, anything that asks us to battle trident-wielding lizards has our attention.

The story follows Aztec emperor Montezuma's retreat to an otherwordly dimension due to the arrival of Spanish conquistadors. And seriously, when you choose to fight a realm of beasts like "Salamander XVI" in a game of wits instead of facing the conquistadors, you know they're a bunch of jerks. Montezuma's trip is temporary though, and each victory restores power that he'll eventually use to return home.

Aside from the story mode, there are tournament options for competitive multiplayer matches as well as an unlockable Endless mode. Bonuses and items can be purchased with Crystals, a currency that Montezuma: Arena awards for each battle, although there's also a store to buy Crystal with cash. Uh ... the legal kind of crystal, of course.
[Image: Alawar]

MMO Week in Review: The end of the World of Darkness

At the end of every week, we round up the best and most popular news stories, exclusive features, and insightful columns published on Massively and then present them all in one convenient place. If you missed a big MMO or WoW Insider story last week, you've come to the right post.

Early this week, CCP announced it had canceled World of Darkness, a hardcore Vampire: The Masquerade sandbox that had been languishing in development since 2008. A pre-production video was shown at 2013's EVE Fanfest, but layoffs slammed the studio last December.

Read on for a look at the rest of this week's top MMO stories.

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MIT officer slain in Boston Marathon bombing remembered as gamer

MIT Police Officer Sean Collier was killed on April 18, 2013, his life allegedly taken by the suspected Boston Marathon bombers. Collier was memorialized by his classmates and colleagues as an exemplary officer, but longtime friend Brandon Kelly remembers him for his passion for video games and eSports. onGamers' Rod "Slasher" Breslau interviewed Kelly about the two men's experience growing up with video games as a major part of their life, an experience Kelly called "a major influence on who I am and continue to grow to be."

Kelly recalled gaming with Collier throughout their history together, moving from Mortal Kombat to StarCraft to Counter-Strike to World of Warcraft as they grew up together. Collier's dream was to become a city police officer, but Kelly saw another side to him: "Sean had a natural talent for any video games and would instantly develop skills that were superior to above average gamers with absolutely no effort at all. This was how he was with computers, HTML and graphic design. Even though I knew he had wanted to become a police officer all of his life, I really thought he was going to pursue web design or graphic design."

"Sean loved to do many things and went through many phases in life but, no matter where he went or what he did in life, he always kept gaming close to his heart," Kelly said. By keeping gaming a part of his life, he maintained a friendship that Kelly described more like kinship, calling Collier his brother.

Sometimes it's nice to remember that video games can bring us together more than they break us apart.
[Image: Ingfbruno/Wikimedia Commons]

Worms dev invites you to think inside the box with Schrodinger's Cat

In 1935, Erwin Schrodinger designed a thought experiment in which a feline trapped in a box could be said to be simultaneously alive and dead until it was observed as being one or the other (to be clear, the experiment was imaginary, so weep not for its nine lives); this experiment is now known as "Schrodinger's Cat." In 2014, "Schrodinger's Cat" will also be the name of a video game collaboration between Worms series developer Team17 and indie developer Italic Pig.

Schrodinger's Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark invites players into the box in which Schrodinger would have placed one unfortunate kitty for some fun. The game's trailer, however, warns that Schrodinger "doesn't know the half of what goes on in there" before showing a purple cat using anthropomorphic particles to move about in a subatomic zoo. ... Wait, what? Go home, science. You're drunk.

Yes, Schrodinger's Cat is a platformer in which players explore the subatomic level of existence and use quantum physics to solve puzzles. And who said quantum science wasn't fun? Schrodinger's Cat is slated to release in Q3 of this year for PC, Mac and Linux via Steam.
[Image: Italic Pig]

The Flock plays a deadly game of 'Red Light, Green Light'

The childlike belief that prowling monsters can only survive in the dark is actually reality in The Flock's universe, which developer Vogelsap eventually plans to release on Steam. The multiplayer game initially assigns a uniform race to its competitors, converting them into large, swift, bony creatures called The Flock. Players engage in a race to gain control of the Light Artifact, an object that transforms them into a slower, fragile being known as the Carrier. Why would you compete for an object that makes you weaker? Because points are awarded for holding the Light Artifact, and the first player to reach the score threshold earns eternal Carrier status and bragging rights ... until the next match, anyway.

The struggle doesn't end as soon as the first claw hand grazes the Light Artifact, though. The remaining Flock can hunt down and attack the Carrier to claim the artifact for themselves. The Flock are more agile than the Carrier, after all, but with the species' monster status comes an inherit weakness to light, including the beacon that spills out of the Light Artifact when it's in the hands of a Carrier.

The Flock will die if they move within the Light Artifact's sight, but they can turn to stone and survive if they remain motionless while light is cast upon them. Think of it like "Red Light, Green Light" with more dire consequences for losing. As useful as the Carrier's Light Artifact is, it still makes the Carrier's position highly visible throughout a match, ensuring that The Flock generally know the location of their prey.
[Image: Vogelsap]

Doctor Who: Legacy update may be difficult to Master

The first major update to Doctor Who: Legacy, the free-to-play iOS and Android puzzle game based on the BBC's sci-fi universe, will introduce longtime series villain The Master as well as a new Perk system, new Expert mode levels and new versions of The Doctor to play as.

The Master will appear as he did when he was played by Roger Delgado, Peter Pratt and John Simms, while the game will add the First, Second, Ninth and War Doctors - played by William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Christopher Eccleston and John Hurt, respectively. The game's new Perk system will allow players to customize their characters and companions, unlocking abilities as you progress through the new content.

If you're feeling particularly perplexed by some of Legacy's puzzles, just remember: YANA - you are not alone.

No, seriously, you've got companions to help you out. Use 'em and stuff.
[Image: BBC]

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Sales results of App Store's first Indie Game Showcase revealed

Trying to stand out in the App Store is no easy feat, considering the number of games competing for attention and the inevitable flood of clones inspired by any successful venture. Smaller studios that lack the advertising budget of companies like EA or Ubisoft have an especially challenging time getting noticed, but last month Apple introduced the Indie Game Showcase, a promotion meant to lend more visibility to its highlighted titles. Gamasutra spoke with developers featured in the promotion to see how their titles benefited from the promotion.

While Simon Flesser of Simogo, developer of Device 6, didn't share exact data, he noted that being featured has certainly been positive for the puzzling adventure novel. The studio's tweet from March 27, which falls within the running dates of the Indie Game Showcase, stated that Device 6 cleared 200,000 lifetime sales on the App Store.

Other developers saw general boosts in downloads at the beginning of the promotion - Gauge, Game Atelier's free-to-try game of balancing meters as close to their threshold's edge as possible without going over, earned an average of 600 downloads a day. However, only three users in that daily average paid to unlock the rest of Gauge, resulting in an average of 7.3 euros earned per day.

On a more general level, most developers saw an initial boost in downloads, but those sales spikes decayed quickly and rarely rippled to other efforts created by the studios. Chaotic Box's Frank Condello stated that the Showcase had "zero effect" on Chaotic's non-promoted titles and a "negligible" one on the free version of Critter Panic, its title in the Showcase. Critter Panic's promo status was also paired with a price drop in the month of March, but Condello said he hadn't seen any sales in the few days after the game was set back to $1.99.
[Image: Simogo]

Cybernetic sports FPS Epigenesis gets new map, singleplayer mode

We're not sure at what exact point in time humanity will decide that sports could be spiced up with a few laser guns and death traps, but judging from years of pop culture, we know it's bound to happen. And when it does, you're going to want to be prepared. Thankfully, Epigenesis, a futuristic first-person sportsball simulator, has just added a new singleplayer mode so that you can practice your moves before being sent to the game grid.

The game's most recent update also includes a new map, called the Legacy Arena. This level is more vertically-oriented than most of Epigenesis' existing content, featuring a mineshaft that helps divide battling players into upper and lower playing fields. Because everything in the world, no matter how practical or unassuming, is always cooler when people with cybernetic augments fight around it.

Epigenesis won the Make Something Unreal 2013 competition, as well as Game of the Year at the 2013 Swedish Games Awards. It has been on Steam Early Access since November of last year.
[Image: Dead Shark Triplepunch]

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Batman animated film based on Arkham series gets suicidal trailer

The DC Animated film based on the Batman: Arkham series of video games, which we initially reported on back in February, has been given its first trailer. The film will feature appearances from several Arkham series mainstays such as Joker and Harley Quinn, as well as the first Arkham universe appearance of the Suicide Squad, a supergroup of villains who team up for the greater bad.

If you know nothing of the Suicide Squad, here's all you need to know: one of the villains in the film calls himself Captain Boomerang. Say no more, we're onboard.

While the Suicide Squad was teased and hinted at during both Arkham Origins and Arkham Origins Blackgate, it looks like this will be the first time we see the group as a cohesive whole in the Arkham universe. Kevin Conroy will reprise his role as Batman, while Troy Baker will once again voice Joker. The film is not yet rated, nor does it have a release date.
[Image: DC Animated]

Weekly Webcomic Wrapup wants to know your favorite candy

This weekend is Easter, and you know what that means: family dinners, religious iconography, rabbits, rainbow-colored eggs, and more sugar-induced cavities than you can shake a chocolate-covered chunk of peanut butter at. It really is a smorgasbord with a little something for everyone. Me though, I'm all about the candy.

My favorite kinds of candy are those that are either A) fruit flavored, B) gummy, C) sour, or D) all of the above. If I had to pick one kind I'd say ... that I couldn't pick just one. Zours, Kazoozles, Mike & Ike, Starburst, Shockers, Sour Patch Kids, Fruit Roll-Ups, Trolli Sour Apple Rings ... man, I'm gonna have to stop, all this drool on my keyboard can't be good for the laptop.

What about you? What are you hoping to find in your Easter basket? Are you a lover of chocolate or are you like me and prefer snacks of the fruit-flavored variety? Leave your candy-obsessed thoughts below after you check out this week's selection of webcomics.

Critical Miss (Diablo 3 vs Path of Excel)
ReadySoup (Rocket Riches)
Three Panel Soul (Conspiracies Abound)
8BitGamer (Pain-To-Play)
VG Cats (Sadness Confirmed For Smash)
Awkward Zombie (Iced)
Brawl In The Family (Nana Gives It Her All)

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Alien: Isolation dev diary breaks things to make them look better

Image Wondered how Alien: Isolation, a game being made in 2014 on modern computers can emulate its 1979 heritage? According to Creative Assembly's new dev diary, the secret lies in twisting cables and generally ruining perfectly good VHS tapes. Ah, the good ol' days of property destruction. [Image:... Continue Reading

Cave Story coming to European 3DS eShop on May 1, Australia eventually

European 3DS owners are still waiting for 2D action adventurer Cave Story to reach their 3DS eShop? Oh no, oh no, oh no! Nah, just kidding, it'll be okay - Nicalis tweeted a May 1 release date for the European eShop this week, along with the above homage to a conceptually-terrifying drink mascot. A price was not provided, though Nicalis told a fan that exact details should be available sometime next week.

Nicalis also confirmed that Cave Story will eventually make it to the Australian 3DS eShop, though a release window was not shared for that version. Still, eventual Cave Story is better than no Cave Story.

Check out Magic 2015's list of card-contributing game developers

Magic the Gathering is arguably the most iconic trading card game out there, and when a game is played for more than two decades, its legacy is bound to pick up some notable fans. The upcoming Magic 2015's Core Set, due for release in July 18, reflects that truth, incorporating ideas contributed by game developers into 14 cards in the Core Set.

The Genesis Hydra, seen above, was fittingly spawned from a concept submitted by Plants vs Zombies designer George Fan. While the remaining cards in the set have not been shared, other designs include the ideas of Team Meat's Edmund McMillen, Mojang's Markus "Notch" Persson, and Penny Arcade creators Mike "Gabe" Karhulik and Jerry "Tycho" Holkins.

You can check out the full list of contributors after the break, as well as the full scan of The Genesis Hydra in the gallery below.
[Image: Wizards of the Coast]

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Nintendo joins National Park Foundation for the White House Easter Egg Roll

Nintendo will bring along its fitness-oriented games when it joins the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America's national parks, in attending the White House Easter Egg Roll. This year's theme is "Hop into Healthy, Swing into Shape," which means Nintendo bringing Wii Fit U and Wii Sports Club to the event is sensible, especially considering that the Egg Roll supports First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move!" campaign.

Children will race each other at the Egg Roll, using long-handled spoons to roll eggs down rows of the White House's South Lawn. These eggs are actually crafted from hardwood and produced by the National Park Foundation though, presumably because letting a bunch of kids stomp yolks into the White House lawn is an awful idea.

It's clearly a missed opportunity for a sponsored Yoshi egg hunt however, and we've taken the liberty to mock up what could have been in the above image. Dozens of kids ascending the White House, conquering Secret Service agents in CQC before cracking open dinosaur eggs and releasing our Jurassic Park-esque future? Sounds more fitness-oriented (and more fun) than Wii Fit U.
[Image: Wikimedia/Nintendo]

Sniper Elite 3 will give UK satirist chance to snipe himself

When most people really, really like a game, they might display it prominently via posters, collectibles or even a stand for the game itself. When British satirist and former games journalist Charlie Brooker really likes a game - in this case, the Sniper Elite series - he gets invited to appear in Sniper Elite 3 by developer Rebellion. Before you get too jealous, it sounds like Brooker's cameo will be as an NPC, and Brooker will more likely be a snipe-ee than a sniper.

Rebellion founder Jason Kingsley spoke highly of Brooker in an associated press release, and said his inclusion will be a way to thank Brooker for being such a vocal fan. "At one stage it seemed like Charlie mentioned Sniper Elite every few weeks in his Guardian columns and we're incredibly grateful for his support, so this seemed like the perfect way to say 'thanks,'" Kingsley said. "We really appreciate Charlie championing a British-made game series."

Lest that sound like celebrity endorsement money talking, Kingsley was quick to downplay such corporate motivations. "You can buy endorsement all you want, but gamers can tell the difference between a genuine fan and a celeb that is happy to get a payday."
[Image: Rebellion]

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GOG.com adds enhanced Mac, language support to select games

Good Old Games added more titles to its Mac library this week, boosting its RPG selection with a few classic titles. Mac-compatible versions of Baldur's Gate: The Original Saga, Baldur's Gate 2 Complete, Icewind Dale Complete, Icewind Dale 2 Complete and Planescape: Torment are now available for $9.99 apiece. Those looking for something a little cheaper could also consider the newly-added The Temple of Elemental Evil for $5.99.

If you'd like more chances to play games in something other than English, GOG has also added language packs to a range of titles, most commonly offering French, German, Russian and Polish in its additions. The games previously listed in this post now offer at least three languages other than English, but you can check the full list of added languages for the new D&D-themed selection as well as games like Tropico Reloaded and Rollercoaster Tycoon 2: Deluxe.
[Image: GOG]

Skywind dev diary is a call to arms for would-be Morrowind heroes

Skywind, the mod to recreate The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind inside of The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim, is chugging along like a Siltstrider on its way to Seyda Neen - which, to those who may not be aware of what a Siltstrider is, means well. It's coming along well. The team behind the mod, calling itself the TES Renewal Project, has just released a new dev diary showcasing their progress on several fronts, including new voice acting, models, animations, textures and music.

The video also serves as something of a recruitment reel, as the process of bringing Skywind to completion requires many helping hands. It's almost like re-building an island nation of giant mushrooms and flying jellyfish monsters is hard or something. If you want to help out and serve the TES Renewal Project as a modeler, artist, writer or voice actor, be sure to read up on the contributor guidelines via their official site.
[Image: The TES Renewal Project]

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