Define your legacy in Madden NFL 21

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I got my love of football from my mother.

Our family was never the sort to make big public displays of this affection – bumper stickers, porch banners, or Bowl parties – but the weekend double-header was a ritual in our house.

A lifelong Giants fan, she’d knit while the athletes collided on the field and homemade pizza cooked in the kitchen; young-me was happy stuff my face and watch whoever was playing on any given Sunday.

I carried on this tradition (minus the yarn) after I moved away for university and work, and we continued it when I moved back to start this company and take care of her following her second cancer diagnosis.

Always encouraging, she was just as thrilled as I was when the call came from EA Tiburon to visit Orlando and contribute to this year’s Face of the Franchise career story mode, Rise to Fame.

Following the player’s cinematic journey through high school and college, their custom-made character will be drafted by an NFL team and begin a series of branching, choice- and performance-based narrative scenarios that will take them from rookie year up to potential induction into the Hall of Fame.

I worked alongside a team of unbelievably talented, driven, and funny directors, producers, designers, tech programmers, and writers as we brainstormed, prototyped, and tested what felt more like an adventure game than a football sim.

But that’s the thing: football is ripe for drama. It’s fertile ground for stories about rises, rivalries, and redemptions that can span anywhere from a single game to multiple seasons, a player’s career, or even decades of a team’s history. Before every snap is a reservoir of potential energy – a mix of positions, practice, and personalities, of in-the-moment on-field tactics and carefully-planned off-field strategies – just waiting for its brief, explosive transformation into movement and contact.

There are championships to claim and records to break. There may not be any dragons to slay, but stat-wise football can go head-to-head with any high-fantasy RPG… and in this case the characters are real-life super-humans. Of all ages, ethnicities, backgrounds, and body types.

And alignments. Because, c’mon, when was the last time you saw a knight trash-talk their vanquished opponent at a post-siege press conference?

Madden’s annual release schedule meant a tight production timeline. Creating a quality game in a few years is an amazing feat; doing it in mere months is a miracle. We relied on fast iteration and frequent reviews; flexibility was essential, since we were writing and designing while the systems and assets were still in development.

Then the pandemic hit.

It threw a new challenge into the development as a massive, multi-hundred-person effort pivoted from tight collaboration in an enormous office to working from home in a matter of weeks. The team rose to meet it.

Mom’s health deteriorated.

It was a struggle to deliver while also providing the necessary care. I could not be more grateful to my colleagues for their support and understanding.

I wrapped on the project at the end of March.

She died at the beginning of April.

This has been a hard post to write without crying (and I have… a lot). It’s about the game’s release, sure, but it’s difficult not to also remember the past few months, recount everything that’s happened, and relive the stratospheric joys and abyssal sorrows.

I don’t know what the future holds.

I don’t know what my life will be like now that both of my parents are gone.

I don’t know what shape the upcoming NFL season (if there is one) will take.

I don’t even know how the game ultimately turned out; it’s installing now, but I’ve only previously played it as spreadsheet scripts and UX flowcharts.

But I believe in the power of these stories. I believe in the necessity of storytelling in difficult times.

This may be the only opportunity fans and players get to hear the crash of the pads and the roar of the crowds for the next year or more. I’m incredibly proud of what we made. I hope she would be, too.

This one’s for you, Mom.

Madden NFL 21 is out today for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. It will be available for next-gen consoles when the hardware is launched later this year; those who purchase it on current systems are entitled to a free upgrade. For more info, check out the official site – https://www.ea.com/games/madden-nfl/madden-nfl-21 – and watch the trailer below.

 

Forgotton Anne wins at IMGA Global

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We mentioned a while back that Forgotton Anne was available on mobile platforms like iOS and Android, and now we’re pleased to announce the game won the Best Storytelling category at the Global edition of the 16th International Mobile Gaming Awards.

The original ceremony, to be held in San Francisco, was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the complete winners list is now available on the IMGA YouTube channel.

We’re re-sharing the acceptance video from Alfred Nguyen (creative director) below because we feel it beautifully expresses why we do what we do. Cheers to the entire ThroughLine team!

P.S. Even though this award recognizes the game’s excellence on mobile, if you’re interested in picking up a copy for Windows/Mac the game is 60% off on Steam until 7 August.

Mondo Museum @ DemoNight 2020

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Hey all, quick news flash: Mondo Museum will have its first public showing at Montréal DemoNight 2020 on 28 January at 19:30/7:30 PM Eastern.

This annual event is a high-energy exposition of many of the indie and more mainstream games being developed in the city, as well as a great get-together for friends and industry colleagues.

But for those who can’t attend in-person, the entire evening will be streamed live on Loto-Québec’s Twitch channel (en français).

The team at Viewport Games has been working hard to prep for this, and we’re really excited to give everyone a look at what we’ve been up to.

Complete details are available at demonight.ca — hope to see you then/there!

Burn some rubber in NFS Heat

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The open road is a call to adventure, one I am always happy to answer.

My daily drive, a 2005 Jeep Wrangler Sport, isn’t a highly-tuned street racer, but its six-speed manual transmission and lack of sound insulation turn every journey into a mechanical waltz — a full-body dance of stepping on the clutch and rowing through the gears set to the music of the engine revving and the wind whipping past. Beyond casual errands, I’ve been fortunate to road trip through some phenomenal locations around the U.S., rides that have taken me over rolling mountains, across starkly beautiful deserts, along perilous cliffs, and around tropical islands.

While driving games lack some of the sensory stimulation of a real-world excursion, they offer many benefits: a greatly decreased carbon footprint, garages full of outrageously expensive and highly customizable sports cars, colorfully rendered versions of far-off locations, and the ability to simply reload after a high speed crash into a highway divider. (Note: we encourage you to always drive safely and responsibly.)

I’ve enjoyed Need for Speed since the first, with a lot of time spent on 1998’s NFS III: Hot Pursuit in particular. So when Ghost Games reached out about contributing to NFS Heat, it was an opportunity to give back to the series and hopefully entertain others in the process.

I worked alongside the audio team on the dynamic dialogue system that powers Palm City’s new night cops; we defined their corrupt tone — a sharp contrast to the strictly professional attitude of the daytime troopers — built personalities for each officer and wrote them thousands of lines based on their pursuit of the player.

Getting it right required a lot of research — films, TV, news articles, and hours spent listening to actual police band radio — but I’m very pleased with the results. Once the sun goes down and the streets light up like a neon fever dream, racers will face off against a downright dirty, occasionally comical, police force that will stop at nothing to take their cash and strip them of their rep.

The roads of Palm City are calling.

NFS Heat is out today for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Learn more at the official website — https://www.ea.com/games/need-for-speed/need-for-speed-heat/ — or watch the official launch trailer below.

P.S. While Palm City is a fictional place, it was heavily inspired by the culture and climate of Miami, according to the developers. And in addition to the street art, stylish clothes, and changing weather, the team has also managed to capture the utter insanity of trying to drive in South Florida.

Mondo Museum opening 2020

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When it comes to museums, I’m a hardcore devotee.

It doesn’t matter whether they’re about natural history (my favorite), art, or some other subject, every time I step into one it feels like I’m entering a temple to creativity and understanding, and every time I leave my mind is opened and filled with wonder. For me, museums are more than just giant buildings packed with old paintings and skeletons; they’re places that reveal the true magic of our universe.

That might sound pompous, but I wanted to provide some context for why I’m over the moon to announce our collaboration with independent developer Viewport Games and publisher Kitfox Games on the upcoming management sim, Mondo Museum.

Players will get to construct and decorate their own unique halls, curate exhibits with items from a variety of cool collections — like Ancient Egypt, Space Exploration, and Dinosaurs (just to name a few!) — hire staff to keep things running, and grow their prestige (and profits) to gain access to newer and rarer artifacts. Institutional administration has never been this bright, colorful, or fun before!

We’re going to have a lot more to share in the coming months, but for now you can wishlist the game on Steam, find more info at the official site — www.mondomuseum.com — or check out the reveal teaser below.

SYNCED: Off-Planet revealed at Gamescom 2019

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As Gamescom kicked off last night, NEXT Studios unveiled their next initiative, a player-versus-player-versus-environment (PvPvE for short) sci-fi shooter called SYNCED: Off-Planet.

The game features teams of survivors fighting against each other and thousands (!) of AI-controlled, cybernetically-corrupted humans, known as Nanos, for a seat on the Ark Shuttle and the chance to escape from a post-apocalyptic Earth.

We’re excited to be collaborating with the dev team, as well as with Studio GOBO, to bring this dangerous new world to players. And what’s being shown this week is just a taste of what’s to come.

An open beta is scheduled for early 2020, but if you’re interested in learning more, visit the game’s site — https://www.nextstudios.com/sop — or watch the cinematic trailer below.

And for even more footage, including a six minute gameplay demo, head over to the official YouTube page.

Eavesdrop on rehearsals of “The Lethal Script”

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Sixteen individuals meet in an isolated hotel to revisit a deal gone wrong that ended in murder. Betrayal and revenge ensue, yet nothing is quite as it seems. Do they know they’re being watched? Do they know every word they say can be overheard?

The first DLC for NEXT Studios‘ acclaimed audio-detective adventure Unheard, ominously titled “The Lethal Script”, is out today. And not only is this case a doozy of a head-scratcher, it’s FREE.

I was really lucky to once again collaborate with the team in Shanghai — working closely with writer/designer Xiaoliang Shen and creative director Nick Zhang — and the voice talent in LA to help bring the English language version of this new chapter to players.

If you don’t yet have Unheard, it’s 30% off until 28 August, so head over to its Steam page to grab it at a great price. Then turn down the lights, slip on some headphones, and get ready to listen to a killer mystery.

The Church in the Darkness now available

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Today’s the day the church bells ring and the doors open to welcome the congregation. The Church in the Darkness is out now for PC/Mac, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Switch!

Last week I wrote about the impending release and the reviews have already started to trickle in. Adam Rosenberg at Mashable says…

The Church in the Darkness does a great job of delivering a sticky stealth and exploration experience that also gets your brain moving.

And KC Nwosu of The Escapist echoes my own sentiments on the period and setting…

The Church in the Darkness almost serves as a history lesson, making one of the most shocking headlines of the ‘70s into a noteworthy interactive experience.

When you’re ready to hear the Walkers’ message and decide whether they preach the truth or are leading the flock astray, head over to the game’s official site — http://paranoidproductions.com/church — to learn more or get your copy.

And don’t forget, there’s a 20% discount on all platforms during launch week.

Join The Church in the Darkness on August 2nd

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After several years in development, I’m pleased to announce that The Church in the Darkness will be launching simultaneously on PC/Mac, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 next Friday. What’s more, the news has finally broken that the game will also arrive on Nintendo Switch the same day.

I’ll be honest: I have a strong bias toward this project, and have helped with its development as well as with showing it off at expos (which I’ve written about before). Its creator, Richard Rouse III, is a good friend and former colleague of mine.

But more than that, it’s an experience about a time and place in our history — one of intense civil disruption — that few other games even attempt to seriously explore. Its narrative permutations mean the characters aren’t always a group of fanatics or maniacs, but average people with wants and desires, either optimistic or cynical about the state of the world and their place in it. I believe these attitudes and contrasts are well reflected in the trailer embedded below.

Combined with the action-infiltration gameplay, player choice, and multiple objectives, each session can result in a variety of different outcomes. Unlike the popular conception of separatist socialist utopias in the 1970s, things don’t always have to end in tragedy.

I encourage you to check it out, and there are many ways you can do that:

During launch week all platforms will be 20% off, meaning you can get the game for $15.99 (regular $19.99). Or pick up the True Believer special edition on Steam, which includes the 28-song soundtrack and behind-the-scenes videos.

For more, visit the game’s official website — http://paranoidproductions.com/church/index.html — or watch the launch trailer below.

BIG wins for good friends

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Hey everyone, we hope you’ll join us in congratulating two of our collaborators who took home awards from the Brazil Independent Games (BIG) Festival, held the evening of 28 June in São Paulo.

Though they were up against a bevvy of equally high-quality international competitors Forgotton Anne by ThroughLine Games won for Best Narrative and Unheard by NEXT Studios won for Best Sound. Cheers to both teams!

Also kudos to the other nominees (full list here) and obrigado to the festival jury!

If you haven’t had a chance to check out the winners, they’re available at a discount as part of the Steam Summer Sale, which runs until 9 July. Links below.

Forgotton Anne
50% OFF
(Collector’s Edition also available.)

Unheard
30% OFF

And we want to share two pieces of project news before we say até a próxima (that means “till next time”)…

  • You can now play Forgotton Anne on the go! Working with Hitcents.com Inc., the game is now available on iOS and features a free demo area, with the full version for $9.99. Please note: the app requires iOS 9 and a device with 2 GB of RAM or more to run.

  • There’s a cool new case in the works for Unheard, with more details to be revealed in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.