TIME e3 2014

The Witness at E3: A Tranquil Island in a Sea of Chaos

The Witness

Jonathan Blow won’t admit to this, but the experience of meeting him to see The Witness at E3 was kind of like playing the game itself.

Per Sony’s instructions, I arrive at a private meeting room away from the show floor. Only there’s no sign outside the door, and no customary PR people or security guards to keep out uninvited guests. The door is propped open with a narrow trash bin–the only indication that there’s anything happening inside.

I poke my head in and discover a spacious room with an unmanned reception table by the door. At the far end of the room, someone’s sitting on an L-shaped couch, her back turned as she plays a game. It’s quiet from where I’m standing, so I walk in a little further.

Around the corner, dressed casually and sitting at a long table, is the only other person in the room. I hear him mumble my name and publication as he stands up, coming closer and extending a hand in my direction. That’s when I realize it’s Blow, and — contrary to the excessive staffing and hand-holding at every other appointment I’ve had this week — he’s running this entire preview by himself. He hands me a PlayStation 4 controller, asks how much time I have, and says he’ll be back later to talk.

Like Braid, Blow’s runaway indie hit from 2008, The Witness doesn’t spoon-feed its players. You’ll never see any signposts, explicit tutorials or hints to ensure your smooth progress. In fact, both Braid and The Witness skip the formalities of a “Press Start” screen or opening cutscene, and begin with you staring at something motionless — in The Witness’ case, the light at the end of a tunnel. As you stare at the screen, there’s this magic moment in which you nudge the thumbstick forward out of confusion, and realize the game actually began several seconds ago.

I’m feeling a little anxious as I move along the game’s path, out of the tunnel and into a walled garden. In the past, Blow has discouraged players from seeking answers to his games’ puzzles, and bristled at explaining the meanings behind his work. Braid was no cakewalk, and I only have about half hour to spend with The Witness. What’s going to happen if I get stuck or can’t figure out what’s going on?

Fortunately, the walls of this garden are easy enough to escape. Scattered throughout are some small panels with a maze-like pattern etched onto them. You can engage with these panels and trace a line on them with the thumbstick, the goal being to find an unobstructed path from start to finish. They’re no more difficult than the mazes you’d find on the back of a cereal box, so I complete a few of them, which in turn reveal a final panel to open the exit door.

From here, the game opens up into a colorful, tree-lined world, spreading far beyond what I can see. There’s an obvious path to walk down, but I cut left through some shrubbery, and discover a narrow trail that leads back along the outside of the starting outpost, next to a vast body of water. It’s blocked by a door with yet another panel, connected to a ribbon that leads back over the wall and into the garden. I spend some time exploring the grounds, figuring out how to open the door and moving along the hidden path, which only leads to another door I can’t manage to open.

That last sentence might as well describe the rest of my time with The Witness. Outside the garden, the maze-like puzzles become much more complex, with new rules to decipher. I solve a few of them, but otherwise spend the demo getting lost in the architecture, in which my character is completely alone. I’m poking around in a hedge maze when Blow returns from another interview, eager to see how I did. Maybe I’m projecting, but I sensed some disappointment. He spends a couple of minutes explaining some of the other things I could have done.

I intend to ask Blow how he’d feel about someone looking up the solutions to The Witness’ puzzles online, but he seems to anticipate the question, explaining that it’s okay to get stuck.

“We’re always trying to give people a lot of choice about where they want to go, and if they get stuck on something that they don’t understand, they can go somewhere else,” Blow says. “And if they don’t understand that, they can just keep bouncing around, and eventually something will stick, and from there that might give people ideas about earlier areas where they were that they didn’t understand at the time.”

It’s for this reason that Blow also doesn’t mind people having different interpretations of the game’s story, told through recordings scattered around the island. These weren’t present in the E3 demo, but the idea is that players can find them in any order, because the entire island is open for exploration from the beginning.

“The story has to be designed to encounter it in different orders and still be interesting, so that by itself is an interesting challenge,” Blow says. “But then we get to play interesting games, like might you have a different interpretation of what’s going on if you heard some part first and then a different part, versus if you heard those in the opposite order … or not at all?”

So how would Blow feel about cheating, even for just a few puzzles? “In this game,” he says, “that would be so unrewarding that I don’t think people will do it very much.”

The Witness is coming to PlayStation 4 later this year, and is also due to launch at some point on PC and iOS.

TIME e3 2014

This Is What Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto Thinks of Virtual Reality

Shigeru Miyamoto plays Project Giant Robot, using the GamePad's motion control sensors to move the robot's torso. Nintendo

The creator of Donkey Kong and Mario says he has "a little bit of uneasiness" at the prospect of gamers putting on goggles and playing by themselves.

Last week, the first half of my interview with Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto touched on a pair of experimental new Wii U GamePad-centered games, as well as the company’s new Star Fox shooter for Wii U with its unique combinative control scheme.

After we spoke of those projects, I had a chance to ask Miyamoto several more broadly ranging questions, including one about virtual reality, the current industry interface-paramour. As always, his responses were playful, self-effacing, articulate and revelatory.

What are your thoughts on virtual reality today, and is Nintendo doing or thinking about anything in this space? Are we at the right point, technology-wise, to see this become more than a novelty peripheral?

We’ve been doing our own experiments with virtual reality dating back to the Virtual Boy. And even to some degree, the 3DS was designed with a little bit of this in mind with its stereoscopic 3D. So we’re always looking at hardware and assessing what’s possible.

And of course we understand that the hardware and technology have begun to drop in price. It’s still not at a cost basis that makes it easy for everyone to purchase as a mass-market product. But certainly it’s dropped somewhat.

As game designers, we at Nintendo are interested in VR technology and what it can do, but at the same time what we’re trying to do with Wii U is to create games for everyone in the living room. We want the Wii U to be a game system that brings video gamers into the living room. As as I explained last night [Sunday, June 8], it’s intended to be fun not only for the person who’s playing, but also for the people who are watching.

When you think about what virtual reality is, which is one person putting on some goggles and playing by themselves kind of over in a corner, or maybe they go into a separate room and they spend all their time alone playing in that virtual reality, that’s in direct contrast with what it is we’re trying to achieve with Wii U. And so I have a little bit of uneasiness with whether or not that’s the best way for people to play.

So from Nintendo’s perspective, there’s interest in the technology, but we think it might be better suited to some sort of attraction style of entertainment, say something at a video game arcade or things like that, rather than something that one person plays alone.

When we spoke a year ago, you said the Wii U’s development environment was a lot more complex than the Wii’s, which was impacting the rate of game completion and resulting in a lot of games being delayed. What are developers saying about the Wii U at this point?

It’s improved quite a bit from about a year ago, because we introduced Unity [a cross-platform game development engine] for Wii U. That’s actually enabled teams, even small teams, to be able to leverage that Unity development library to build games on Wii U. And so that’s changed the situation.

We’ve also finished really training our in-house designers and developers. Now we’re able with our internal teams to develop at a fairly quick pace as well.

How do you feel in 2014 — with such a flourishing games market, revenue-wise, and so many people in the business and so many copycat games — about game design? Is it harder for you now in that crowded market-space, or is it easier because of all the new design toolset possibilities to come up with novel gameplay ideas?

If you look at something like Project Guard, that was something that because the hardware itself is more capable now, and the processing power is better, we’ve been able to go back to an old idea and bring it to life on a new system. So there’s those types of examples.

And then you have other examples, such as the Louvre audio guide that we did on 3DS for the Louvre museum. That’s an example of taking something that existed in another medium previously, but because of the processing power and capabilities of gaming hardware, we were able to bring that to life in a new way that was interactive and created a new experience for users.

I think that where the games industry has come now, there’s more and more potential for us to look at those types of other mediums, where there may be something that exists in an original state, and by bringing that into an interactive state, we can do a lot of new and different things with it.

So I think there’s quite a bit of potential within the industry right now. But where I think there isn’t potential is in looking at what other people have done and simply copying games that already exist and trying to create your own version of that.

You’ve indicated that the conversation in game design should be about design, not power. And yet there’s the counterargument that greater processing power is like giving a painter more colors to paint with (even if painters only choose to employ a handful of them). Does Nintendo need to be more concerned with thinking not just about innovating on the interface side, but in terms of processing versatility as well?

I think that there’s a lot of different ways you can surprise an audience. Certainly some of those can be just with the graphics, or the characters and things like that. But I also think that there’s the ability to surprise people without those high specs using things like innovation and uniqueness and surprise within the gameplay.

For me, where I often struggle is when you present an idea and then it takes you a very long time to bring that idea to fruition because of the amount of work that goes into creating all the details necessary. So I tend to look for something that allows me to create my ideas in a way that doesn’t require as much work. I think that that’s able to bring us closer to what makes the game fun and interesting.

I also think that what’s important is timing within the entertainment industry; the timing with which you’re releasing these games. And so being able to create the games and bring them out in a way that you’re timing it right and surprising people with what’s in the game is also very important.

You told me last year that the Wii U was the most suitable device for the living room, given the uniqueness of the Wii U GamePad as a TV. Do you believe that’s true today, at least in the U.S., given the proliferation of less expensive devices like Roku and Amazon Fire TV? Why would people want the Wii U as a TV interface device given the rising popularity of those others?

When we first started designing Wii U, we had two ideas in mind.

One was that we wanted to design Wii U so you could start it up and play it even if you didn’t have access to the TV screen. That’s why we gave the Wii U its own independent screen with the GamePad.

The second thing we wanted to do was we wanted everyone to feel that Wii U was a devic — or set-top box or whatever you want to call it — that would be most convenient for everyone to have connected to their TV because of the way you’re able to interact with the screen and control the TV.

When we designed the Wii U, we designed it in a way that would allow you to do a lot of different things with your TV. For example, when you’re watching YouTube, people tend to watch YouTube alone, but we thought it’d be more fun for everyone to watch YouTube together. But when you do that, you then have to wait for someone to find the next thing to watch. We designed it so that while everyone’s watching YouTube on the TV, someone can be choosing what they want to watch next.

The same thing goes for streaming services. And then we also have in Japan a karaoke service where the whole family can be in front of the TV and singing karaoke, and while you’re waiting for your turn, you can be choosing what you’re going to sing next. We designed Wii U from the beginning to take advantage of that ability and give you new ways to use the TV, to be a device that gives the TV a lot of different uses in a convenient way.

What’s different between Wii U and other set-top streaming boxes is those boxes cost just $100 and all they do is send content to the TV. But with Wii U, it not only sends content to the TV, it also takes the content that can be on your TV and gives you instant access to that content by sending it all to the Wii U GamePad as well. You’re able to interact with it very easily and simply, and you get all of this in a box that only costs $300. We feel that for what Wii U is capable of doing, it’s a very versatile system and good value. But I think a lot of people look at it as just a gaming machine, they look at that $300 as the price for a game machine and they don’t get a sense for how good that value is.

That strikes me as one of your biggest challenges. I don’t know anyone, really, who uses their Wii U as a TV device.

It’s an important message, but the challenge for me is that if I start talking about those uses of Wii U, everybody starts asking me, “Well, what about the games?” But yes, what I hope is that everyone will start to understand and start telling each other that Wii U is a great thing to have connected to your TV because of everything it can do.

You mentioned at the pre-brief that you yourself had been working on the Wii U system update that dropped recently and added a quick start menu. Can you tell us anything about other future updates you’re planning for the system?

Yes, we’re definitely working on additional system updates. But the challenge is that any time you do an update that big, it requires quite a bit of testing. We can’t do those very frequently, but I can say that we’re already working on the next system update.

Some years ago, you said you were handing the reins to Zelda, Mario, Donkey Kong and such off to your teams because you felt the teams were ready and you wanted to work on smaller projects. Do you miss working on those games at all today? Or do you like finally being able to experience them as a player, having had someone else design them?

[Laughs] It’s not that I’m completely uninvolved in those games. I do spend a lot of time giving my teams feedback on overall direction, but then the other thing I do is, as they’re developing the game, they’ll bring it to me and I’ll play it and I’ll be the representative of the first-time user. I’ll say things like, “Man, this isn’t the way I want this thing to play.” So I’ll give them a lot of direction on where to go from there.

TIME e3 2014

WATCH: The New Game That Lets You Ride Elephants – FarCry 4 Insider Interview

Far Cry 4 will have rideable elephants!

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Since their first game’s release in 2004, the Far Cry series has steadily improved with each new iteration. The next installment of the franchise focuses on the fictional region Kyrat, set in the Himalayas, and a protagonist named “Ajay Ghale,” who gets caught up in a war between a self-appointed king named “Pagan Min” and the country’s rebels.

Unlike some games that might start with a plot idea and build from there, Far Cry 4 began with a very specific gameplay element.

“So our game director was like, okay look — here’s what I want: I want to be able to get on-top of an elephant, and I want to be able to smash through the walls of an outpost that’s actually an fortress that could also fight back and I want to do that in co-op so if there’s two elephants you can do that too,” Executive Producer Dan Hays told Gamespot. “And we were like okay, lets do that.”

For more of the inside scoop, check out the video above. Far Cry 4 releases on November 18th, 2014.

TIME e3 2014

E3 Hidden Gems: Our Sleeper Picks for 2014

Sometimes, E3’s biggest delights are unexpected. They’re not the subject of endless looping video trailers, or massive billboards on the convention center’s outer walls. Some of them aren’t even on the show floor. Here are eight of our favorite hidden gems from 2014’s show:

CounterSpy

Jared: Do I detect a hint of Rolling Thunder in this spy noir, platform shooter? Like that old arcade gem, CounterSpy combines lanky, comic-style characters, cover-based shooting and plenty of vertical movement between platforms. But it also throws in a dash of stealth combat, a soundtrack full of twangy guitars and a tone that vaguely mocks the Cold War–enough to look like the game Rolling Thunder might have become if it hadn’t been forgotten.

You play a secret agent trying to maintain the balance between two rival superpowers–not exactly the United States and Soviet Union, but close enough–by playing both sides against the middle. This involves all the usual secret agent stuff: infiltrating compounds, stealing documents and securing launch codes. Is CounterSpy breaking barriers in gaming? Probably not, but it looks like a blast anyway.

PS3, PS4, PS Vita / 2014

Dying Light

Jared: Though I’m pretty sure the world would be okay without any new zombie games, Dying Light makes the case for having just one more. By giving players parkour-like climbing abilities, the emphasis here is on sticking to the rooftops and avoiding the hordes below. At least that’s the case until you’ve managed to craft some more powerful weapons, or a grappling hook to help you scurry along. There’s an air of The Walking Dead here as well, as players will deal with both friendly and hostile humans along the way.

PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC / February 2015

Entwined

Matt: After the spectacle of Sony’s press event, my first chance to sample Pixelopus’ Entwined — a game about separated lovers you’re tasked with bring together — was at Sony’s press booth. At first blush, it reminded me a little of Tempest (the look I mean, not the gameplay).

In Tempest, you roll a claw-like ship around a 360-degree field made up of vector graphic segments. In Entwined, you roll paper mache-like representations of a bird and fish, each guided with one of the gamepad’s thumbsticks simultaneously, around a 360-degree moving tunnel (each creature gets half, or 180 degrees) as you attempt to align them with vector graphic patterns or glowing orbs. Pull off enough of these in a level and the creatures will merge, transforming into a dragon (and the game into a meditative free-roaming exercise, until you’re ready to split them apart and take on the next lifetime).

I’m probably selling the visual design short: The playing field resembles more the shimmering, kaleidoscopic time-tunnel Doctor Who’s TARDIS hurtles through, only here that tunnel’s filled with obstacles that grow in complexity and race by at increasing speeds. It’s the sort of experience you might reflect on using words like hypnotic, contemplative, uplifting and so forth. And yet there was nothing pretentious about it: artfulness without a trace of ostentation.

PS3, PS4, PS Vita / Available Now

Get Even

Jared: Tucked into a private presentation on indie games for Xbox, Get Even is so ambitious that it could either be an unexpected triumph or a total disaster. You play a detective who must explore his memories–many of them based on gritty locales in real-life Poland–to alter the future.

In one sequence, the player identifies a shooting victim with the help of facial recognition smartphone software, then returns to an earlier point in the memory with a rifle to attack the assailants. Moving in slow motion, he finally finds the victim staring at the end of a gun, and takes the victim’s place in front of the fatal bullet. Players will also get to choose between alternate story lines and, in a nod to Dark Souls, encounter other players in parallel dimensions. There’s a lot going on here, but at the very least it’s not the risk-averse fare that dominates the show floor.

PC and Xbox One / 2015

Murasaki Baby

Matt: Finally, a developer that knows what the PS Vita’s rear touchpad is for. In Murasaki Baby, a game about guiding a frightened child through a nightmare-scape by way of Tim Burton and H.P. Lovecraft, you cycle through eerie backgrounds on-the-fly using the Vita’s rear touchpad. Only here those backgrounds harbor gameplay devices, each designed to help provide — or hinder — solutions to environment-related puzzles.

Cycle in a purplish, storm-filled background, for instance, and the resultant rain can fill a reservoir to lift a low-lying object. Cycle in an orangish background sporting a windmill and you’ll unleash a gale force that blows enemies (like flying safety pins) away. The demo suggested an only mildly difficult game, action-wise, but then the emphasis seemed to be on synchronizing background and foreground, wielding gameplay elements that set (and reset) the narrative tone on the fly.

PS Vita / 2014

Ori and the Blind Forest

Matt: If Level 5 and Studio Ghibli’s Ni No Kuni was a paean to filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki’s whimsical moods, Ori and the Blind Forest — a puzzle-platformer from Moon Studios — looks more like a hat tip to the kodama forest sequences in Princess Mononoke.

At this point we know relatively little about the game itself. You’re a tiny, nimble, glowing creature — your own source of light. You collect energy cells to boost some kind of internal power source that lets you spawn save points. You’ll accrue points that let you unlock new abilities. And there’s a lot of Metroidvania back-and-forth leaping, plummeting and spelunking as you plumb the game’s dark fantasy depths.

For the record, Ori seems nothing like Ubisoft’s Child of Light, which wed a narrative told in poetic verse to a platformer in which hostile encounters triggered turn-based battles. Battles in Ori are in real time, and the coming-of-age exposition looks to be relayed through straightforward encounters, not rhymed narration.

Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC / 2014

The Talos Principle

Jared: Yes, it’s another entrant in the “puzzle game with a deeply philosophical storyline” genre, but I’m intrigued by how The Talos Principle introduces a tug-of-war between a godlike entity and a computer program. In between rounds of brain-teasers, the player must decide how to interact with these two forces, in turn shaping the game’s outcome. This is a pretty big departure for Croteam, best known for its frantic first-person shooter Serious Sam, and it’s brought in writer Tom Jubert (The Swapper) to help the company indulge its artistic side. Here’s hoping it turns out well.

PC / Q3 2014

The Witness

Jared: Jon Blow’s next indie masterwork has been five years in the making, and it’s now at a point where the entire world is open to explore. Sadly, a 30-minute demo wasn’t nearly enough to cover it all, as The Witness’ obtuse puzzles were mostly impenetrable to my E3-addled brain.

And yet, the grounds offered enough interesting architecture–a hedge maze here, an abandoned foundry there–that I was happy to just poke around for a while. The fact that all of this happened in a quiet room, away from the show floor and devoid of over-attentive PR representatives, couldn’t have hurt. I’m still thinking about how I’ll nail those puzzles eventually.

PS4, PC and iOS / 2014

TIME e3 2014

Here’s the Inside Scoop on the Halo Master Chief Collection

Curious about all the new Halo happenings? Then we have the insider scoop from 343 Industries to satisfy your curiosity.

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Halo 5 Beta, Halo Master Chief Collection and a digital short produced by Ridley Scott, entitled Nightfall, were all announced this past week at the E3 Expo in Los Angeles. During the expo, TIME got the insider scoop from 343 Industries’ Frank O’Connor, who is the Franchise Development Director for Halo.

“2014 is the anniversary of the original launch of Halo 2…We had this discussion. We said, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if we had all the games in the Master Chief story on one console,'” O’Connor told TIME.

The Halo Master Chief Collection will be released on November 11, while Halo 5 will be released in late 2015. Watch the video above the insider scoop.

TIME e3 2014

The Sims 4 Digs Emotionally Deeper

It's time to escape into the newest iteration of the Sims

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For years, the Sims franchise has not only served as a form of entertainment for millions, but as a means of escape from an unmanageable world and into a simulator world that lets you, as the tag line says, “Build. Buy. & Live.”

Since September 2013, the franchise has sold more than 175 million copies worldwide.

The game, which allows a player to customize his or her character’s destiny, has evolved into a cultural phenomenon extending beyond merely ‘play'; Sociologists have written papers on the Sims and it has become fodder for writers, journalists and bloggers to explore cultural trends.

In this newest iteration of the franchise, Sims 4 packs in new features, including the ability to allow characters to embody a wider range of emotional states beyond just sad or happy. The emotion component now affects not only how your Sim character executes tasks, but also how you as a player manage him or her.

The Sims 4 releases on Sept. 2.

TIME e3 2014

This Is the Most Beautiful Game You’ll See All Year

Hello Games

The most promising title we saw at E3

This year’s E3 generated a huge number of exciting announcements and jaw-dropping reveals. For the first time in the new console cycle, there appears to be a critical mass of exciting new titles on the horizon. (For our favorites, check out this mega-list.) But developer Hello Games’ upcoming No Man’s Sky may be the most promising—and gorgeous to watch in action. The procedurally generated space exploration game is coming to PlayStation 4, the small studio announced during Sony’s E3 2014 press conference. In No Man’s Sky, players will be able to explore planets and solar systems that are randomly generated. Check out some of the most beauteous scenes from its latest trailer below.

Hello Games
Hello Games
Hello Games
Hello Games
Hello Games
TIME e3 2014

WATCH: Battlefield: Hardline Takes ‘Cops and Robbers’ to a New Level

Good guys vs. bad guys just got an update.

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The Battlefield series stepped away from its military sweet spot to get back to the childhood classic “Cops and Robbers.” But this isn’t the game you played as a little kid — unless you imagined destroying construction cranes to stage elaborate bank heists.

The epic scale means more weapons and vehicles as well, adding tasers, baseball bats and armored vehicles into the mix.

Want to get in on the action? Visceral Games just launched a beta trial with two different game play options. The blood money option puts a pile of money in the center of the level and lets cops and robbers duke it out, while the heist mode the criminals try to beat the police and pull off the big score.

TIME e3 2014

The Evil Within Refuels Survival-Horror Games, Fuels Nightmares

Please turn on the lights to watch this video.

+ READ ARTICLE

King of creepy Shinji Mikami’s newest game looks to scare you. That’s the only goal.

Unlike some of Mikami’s recent work like latest Resident Evil titles, The Evil Within does not require you to kill everything that moves in an environment. Instead, it takes the survival-horror genre back to its roots of scarce resources, chilling isolation and seemingly un-killable enemies.

Stealth and ingenuity are the best weapons against the game’s monsters, but even the character’s own mind will not be safe, as hallucinations and visions blur the line between reality and nightmare.

When the The Evil Within hits shelves, make sure to leave the light on while playing.

TIME e3 2014

What It’s Like to Be the Kraken in Evolve

In which one monster vs. four hunters makes for a surprisingly even multiplayer match.

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Halfway through my hands-on time with Evolve, I could feel the disappointment of the 2K representative next to me. I was still getting the hang of the game, and my gigantic, flying Kraken had taken lots of damage from the four players trying to bring it down. Reading the rep’s face, a comeback seemed like a long shot.

But then, something clicked. I started using the Kraken’s powers more effectively, pinpointing my lightning blasts at exposed monster hunters, while keeping them on the defensive with a barrage of energy blasts from high in the air. I got better at dividing and conquering the hunters, and when one went down, he became bait as the other players tried to revive their fallen comrade. When the last monster hunter fell, I had only a sliver of health left, and my hands were shaking.

Evolve is strictly a multiplayer game, coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC this fall. Four players team up and control the hunters, each with their own special abilities, while a fifth player controls an oversized monster with a handful of super powers. Over the course of a match, the monster can feed on creatures and “evolve” into a more powerful form, so there’s an element of hide-and-seek as the monster tries to become better equipped for fighting the hunters.

It was hard to believe my outcome wasn’t scripted, or at least pushed toward a thrilling conclusion through unseen handicaps. But speaking to Chris Ashton, the game’s design director, he assured me that Evolve’s mechanics are pure, with no extra assistance for ailing players.

“In a racing game, sometimes they’ll make the guy in the back go faster,” Ashton said. “But when you’re a seriously competitive game, you don’t want to artificially give the losing team an advantage or Nerf the winning team at all.”

There are, however, some subtle forces at work. The trapper, for instance, needs lots of time to recharge its containment field, so every few minutes, the monster has a chance to get away and get back to feeding. Meanwhile, the Kraken’s flying ability takes longer to recharge when it’s not in combat, so it’s much easier for the hunters to eventually catch up. Ashton said this creates a roller coaster effect, similar to the Turtle Rock’s use of safe rooms in its previous series, Left 4 Dead.

“We ratchet everything up, and then we ratchet everything back down so you have time to recover,” he said.

Evolve’s sense of balance comes from more than three years of prototyping and testing. The game was bare bones at first, with just a melee attack for the monster and assault rifles for the hunters. As the developers layered on new abilities–such as healing powers for the medic, a containment field for the trapper class, and a slew of special powers for the monsters–they constantly had to rebalance.

The entire studio would play the game for an hour every day, and their matches fed into a telemetry system to help the developers figure out which characters were too weak, or too strong. So by the time 2K started showing Evolve at public and industry events, Ashton expected plenty of close matches.

“We’ve played the game so much that there aren’t really any surprises,” he said.

Still, he thinks this will change when Evolve launches on October 21, and players start learning all the game’s tricks. One of the advantages of the latest game consoles is that it’s much easier to push out updates, so Turtle Rock plans to keep tuning the mechanics long after the game comes out.

“We know that once we release, if we sell millions of copies in the first day, there’s going to be millions of man-hours played,” Ashton said, “And that’s more than we’ve put into the game.”

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