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THQ Auction: Where Should the Games End Up?

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Lets slice up that IP pie.

Lets slice up that IP pie.

The holiday season may be behind us, but there seems to be one more stuffed turkey waiting to be picked apart and feasted upon.  Beleaguered publisher THQ filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy on December 19th and failed in their attempt to push through a quick sale of the company’s assets to Clearlake Capital Group.  After some legal head-butting between Clearlake and THQ’s creditors, the US Trustee overseeing the bankruptcy proceedings has ordered that the publisher’s assets, including studios and game licenses, will be auctioned off one-by-one on January 22nd.

While THQ has been navigating dire financial straights for some time now, they still hold the rights to a number of well-known games that have a good deal of money making potential.  As a result, publishers will be lined up to toss wads of cash at THQ is order to get their hands on some of these games.   The big guns of the gaming industry, including Electronic Arts, Activision, Ubisoft, and Warner Brothers, have already been reported as potential bidders.

So, where should the games end up?  Obviously, we’d love to see each title find a home with a publisher that can nurture its potential and bring it to fruition.  While the aforementioned cash-flinging orgy may not promote that same sense of care and concern for each title, we can still hope.  With that in mind, here’s my list of THQ’s games that are up for grabs and where I would like to see them end up.  Keep in mind, this does not account for all of the various developers that may be attached to these projects.  Rather, i’m just taking into consideration each project’s needs and which publisher could provide the best environment for it to blossom.

 

Delicious pie.

Delicious pie.

Saints Row

Buyer: Activision

The Saints Row franchise will be one of the more tempting dishes on the buffet when the bidding begins.  According to THQ, the last installment, Saints Row: The Third, sold over 5.5 million copies.  Therefore, it will take a publisher with deep pockets to reel in this big fish.  While Activision undoubtedly has the money to acquire Saints Row, is it really the best home for the franchise?  Before you call me a moron and curse my name to the heavens, consider a few factors.  First of all, Activision has tried and failed, on multiple occasions, to break into the open-world sandbox game market with the True Crime series.  Saints Row provides immediate and viable competition to the Grand Theft Auto series and help Activision to get their fanancial cut of that particular gaming genre.  Secondly, by also grabbing up Volition Studios, the developers behind the all three Saints Row games, they have a virtual cash cow.  If they can remain hands-off and allow Volition to continue doing what they’ve done so well since 2006, their only real obligation will be funding more games that are all but guaranteed to make boatloads of cash.

 

Darksiders

Buyer: Capcom/Ubisoft

Darksiders

Darksiders 2 received rather high praise from, well, just about everyone, including our own Nick Calandra. Unfortunately for THQ, that acclaim did not translate into sales figures, with Darksiders 2 performing beneath sales expectations. Regardless, Darksiders is the IP with perhaps the most gameplay promise for whoever manages to snaffle it up. We’re torn here between Capcom and Ubisoft. Capcom have shown their ability to publish a quality action RPG with this year’s release of Dragon’s Dogma, which pretty much came out from Capcom’s nethers and surprised everyone. The quality action RPG proved that Capcom had the mettle to produce strong third person combat and an interesting plot. The issue would be whether Capcom could repeat the successful action RPG formula of Darksiders, given their relative inexperience in the genre. Also, it would guarantee at least twelve million sequels. Ubisoft, on the other hand, have a proven track record with action RPGs, with their Assassin’s Creed series’ combat focus and Prince Of Persia’s exploration. A Darksiders title helmed by Ubisoft would undoubtedly be of the highest quality. The IP would be safe in Ubisoft’s hands. At least, until they decided to do a gritty reboot.

 

Metro

Buyer: Ubisoft/Square Enix

It’s no secret that we here at OnlySP love Metro 2033. The story and the world were both immersive and well-realised. The post-apocalyptic Moscow Metro system was a setting with a clear sense of place and presence, with an oppressive atmosphere that weighed heavily on players. We have two contenders here – Ubisoft and Square Enix. By way of shooters, Ubisoft have more experience with the Far Cry series, which also has a strong sense of place and at least some narrative. Additionally, Ubisoft were behind one of the better game worlds ever created – Beyond Good & Evil. With Ubi’s shooter experience and game world construction, they seem to be a good choice to back up 4A’s creative choices. Alternatively, Square Enix have very recently reinvented themselves, catering to a more story-driven game. Serious narrative-driven games are rapidly appearing from their studios, with titles such as Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and the upcoming Tomb Raider reboot showing their capacity to work with established worlds. Metro‘s twisting, atmospheric tunnels could benefit from the respect Square Enix shows for environment.

 

Homefront

Buyer: EA

Homefront

Homefront is not one of THQ’s bigger performers, instead preferring to plod away at the fringes, quietly experimenting with its rather clever premise. EA have also been relatively quiet on the shooter front – well, not really quiet, but their flagship FPS series Medal Of Honor has been neglected as of late. But that’s okay, since EA’s other shooter franchises have their own unique niches down-pat. Crysis has arguably been the forerunner in blockbuster open-world shooters (at least until Far Cry 3 was released), and Battlefield has been a major force in multiplayer (yuck). An open-world reimagining of Homefront, developed perhaps by Crytek, or Crytek and Dice, in conjunction with the remnants of the defunct Kaos studios, could be just enough of a new direction to reinvigorate the IP, while still allowing for a strong game setting.  EA tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to create a shooter with an emotional backdrop in the most recent Medal of Honor.  Homefront provides an established foundation for such a project and with EA’s resources to back it, the next installment could get the level of polish that it deserves.  The game would look and play fantastically on either CryEngine 3 or EA’s newest fetish Frostbite 2.  As with the aforementioned Activision acquisitions, Homefront represents a sort of white whale that EA has been chasing for some time. With that in mind, we can hope that this series would find the creative and financial resources to reach its potential under EA’s  care.

 

Company of Heroes

Buyer: 2K

The undisputed king of RTS games, Company Of Heroes will be a hot property to acquire. With the stellar critical reception, Company Of Heroes should demand a premium price, however the fact that it is an RTS and that the sequel is in the later stages of production may mean a lower price is demanded. Ideally, a publisher with extensive experience with RTS games should get this property, however I have a different idea – 2K games. 2K seem to have a knack for investing in risky properties that push the creative boundaries. It took a lot of guts to take a financial risk and back XCOM: Enemy Unknown, considering how loved the original is by fans, as well as the challenges of producing a complex and full-featured strategy game in an era of shooters – and for consoles, too. Games like XCOM, The Darkness 2, and Spec Ops: The Line, show a willingness to support creative vision. Any future teams (especially Relic) working on a Company Of Heroes game would benefit from the creative freedom and support of 2K, while perhaps allowing for some development and innovation into the RTS genre.

 

South Park

Buyer: Warner Brothers

South Park

This is an interesting one, given that it’s a highly anticipated unreleased title. It’s an unknown quantity – nobody knows how well it will sell. That uncertainty makes it a financial risk, although everything that has been shown has been very promising. There could be a lot of interest in the South Park property, due to its success as a show, as well as a possible future beyond Stick Of Truth. One publisher has shown an ability to work with well-established IP’s from a different medium – Warner Brothers. They have a background in creating successful licensed properties, adapting Batman into a highly profitable and fun game, as well as The Lord Of The Rings games, and handling many of the later entries in the Lego franchise. Oh, and Warner Brothers also backed the Sesame Street games. Notably, the Batman: Arkham series showed that Warner Brothers can deliver an entertaining gameplay experience while maintaining the integrity of the original property. If WB can maintain their track record of producing quality adaptations of existing properties, then Warner may prove the safest bet for the future of the South Park franchise.

 

Warhammer

Buyer: 2K

Warhammer has a lot of history behind it. Games Workshop’s massive tabletop property is a potential big earner for whoever manages to land it. Warhammer and 40K’s venerable history as turn-based strategy and real-time strategy would suggest a publisher familiar with these genres. Currently, 2K are doing rather well with TBS and RTS games, with both XCOM: Enemy Unknown (loved by Damien) and Civilization in their stables. A solid head for strategy with a respect for creative integrity found at 2K would allow the Warhammer series to flourish – and perhaps even grow in new and innovative directions. Warhammer may just need some newer blood in it to help rejuvenate the series in preparation for the release of the almost six-year-in-the-making Dark Millennium. The weakness for 2K would be in the third person action area, which may spell doom for the Space Marine series. Alternatively, 2K could take a gamble with a third person action Space Marine sequel, and it may just surprise everyone. Maybe.

 

Red Faction

Buyer: Activision

Red Faction

Yes, Activision again. Arguably, Red Faction‘s biggest asset is its environmental destruction premise. Couple that with the solid tech of the Geo-Mod engine and you have a good, blasty experience. Unfortunately, the newest Red Faction games suffered from rather boring gunplay, which severely hurt the end product. One thing Activision does well is tight gunplay. No matter how much you hate (or pretend to hate) Call Of Duty, it’s impossible to deny how streamlined the shooting is. I’m not saying turn Red Faction into Call Of Duty, because nobody wants more modern military shooters, however there are some very real lessons Volition could learn from the Call Of Duty teams. On top of that, Activision’s pockets are effectively bottomless, meaning a great deal of funding could be sunk into a new Red Faction game, if management are willing to take a risk or two. Solely on a technical level, I’d love to see the next iteration of Geo-Mod developed with those financial resources in hand. If supported correctly, Activision and Red Faction could be an ideal match.

 

Pie = complete.

Pie = complete.

These are just my opinion, of course. Unfortunately for me, I am not the CEO of any of those publishers. Yet.

On a serious note, it’s rarely good news when a company goes under. Hopefully, those in a position to do something will be able to save as many properties – and peoples’ jobs – as possible. We love games, and we want them to succeed. So take heed, publishers – do what’s best for the games and the players, and it will also be what’s best for your bottom line.

I'm a new dad, gaming machine, and beard aficionado. With a little one in the house, I've come to embrace the single-player experience, as it is much less likely to send me into a profanity-laced, controller-throwing tantrum. Writing and video games are two of my greatest passions, so this is a natural fit for me. As long as it doesn't require me to perform coordinated dance moves in front of my Kinect, i'm willing to pen my thoughts on it. Aside from gaming, I love music (Smashing Pumpkins), coffee (Red-Eye), and sushi (Yellowtail). All offerings of my aforementioned favorites will be accepted with open arms and, if you're lucky, i'll let you touch my beard. Just don't pull on it. That hurts.

Features

The Maker of 2019’s Must-Have Interstellar RPG Within the Cosmos Talks Gameplay, Lore, and the Future

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Within the Cosmos

Some indie games look impressive enough to match anything coming out of the AAA studios. Within the Cosmos fits that bill to a tee. Every screenshot from the project shines with ethereal beauty, and the description makes it sound like a marvellous mash-up of Deus Ex, Mass Effect, and Halo

This RPG casts players as a would-be colonist intended to seed human life away from what seems to be an apocalyptic interstellar war.

To find out more about the promising project, OnlySP reached out to developer Francis Debois, who went into great depth about the gameplay, structure, and the processes involved in production across the last five years. 

OnlySP: I wanted to start by asking about the gameplay. In the marketing you’ve mentioned that objectives can be completed through stealth, combat, or diplomacy, which is always a plus for an RPG. Is that multi-path approach available for every mission, and how free-form are the player’s options?

Debois: The missions in the game generally give you multiple ways to affect how the mission unfolds, whether it’s through dialogue or how the player approaches the mission. Also, the options available to you are governed by the type of character you create. If you have a character that’s high in Intelligence, you might be able to hack a control panel that opens a door to a room that you’d otherwise have to fight through to get to, or if your Charisma isn’t high enough, and you try to convince them to leave the area, they might not listen to what you have to say, and they’ll become hostile, or you can simply avoid all of that and find a way to sneak inside!

OnlySP: From what I understand, the RPG levelling mechanics are tied to modules on the character’s suit. Can you tell us more about how this system works and maybe provide examples of some of those modules and upgrades?

Debois: Modules are essentially “perk points” that you can use to upgrade your character. Every time you level up your character, you will get a module you can use to enhance/alter your character. The perks available to you are tied to your attribute points. So, if your Agility is high enough, you can “spend” a module and get the “Light Steps” perk, which makes your footsteps much lighter, therefore harder for the enemies to hear.

OnlySP: The game also has a stat system, which sounds a little like S.P.E.C.I.A.L. from Fallout. Is that an apt comparison? Will players be able to improve and modify those stats through gameplay and, if so, how?

Debois: Yeah, it’s a similar idea to how S.P.E.C.I.A.L. works in Fallout or similar games. When the player starts the game, they will be given a fixed amount of points that they can assign to their attributes. So, if you decide to max out your Constitution and Agility, you’ll have a character who’s agile, sneaky, and strong, but that would come at the cost of not having much Intelligence, Charisma, or Perception. So, you’re really gonna have to think about what attributes you favour, or you could put a roughly equal amount into all of them and have a character that can do a little bit of everything but not a master of everything. It’s up to you. I feel like that system will really create the desire for players to have multiple playthroughs of the game, and still have each playthrough feel like a different experience.

As far as improving and modifying those stats… I’m still trying to get the balance right. There might be one or two instances where you can upgrade them, or get temporary boosts to them, but whether you can improve or modify them beyond that is still being determined.

OnlySP: While upgrading, will players be able to respec their character’s abilities at all or are they locked into the upgrades they use?

Debois: No, they won’t be able to respec. Once you select an upgrade/perk, that’s what you’re locked into.

OnlySP: If I recall correctly, I’ve read somewhere that Within the Cosmos has a linear structure. Does that mean players won’t be able to revisit previous locations? 

Debois: You WILL be able to revisit previous locations. It’s linear in the sense that you can’t visit a new region, or planet that you have no narrative reason to visit yet. For example, the first planet you go to in the game is Alios, the second planet you visit is Berith II. If you’re right in the beginning of the game and you just got to Alios, you won’t be able to just go straight to Berith II until you’ve reached the point in the story where it makes sense to go there, but once you go there, you can go back and forth between those planets as often as you’d like. Also, I used the term “linear” as a way to get the point across that it’s not a huge open sandbox or anything. The game is very story-driven.

OnlySP: Speaking of locations, the game has the character visiting a number of planets. How many planets are there, and how have you differentiated each of them?

Debois: There are three planets in the game. Each one is aesthetically different, with different fauna, different factions, and the architecture of each planet reflects the dominant faction or factions on that planet. Aside from those locations, there are other places you’ll visit for a mission or a series of missions.

OnlySP: Looking at the Steam Greenlight page, there’s mention of vehicles and survival mechanics, but those seem not to have made it to the final version. Can you maybe explain how the development process has resulted in changes from the game you initially set out to make?

Debois: The direction the game was headed when I created the Greenlight page was completely different to what it ended up being! Initially, I intended to make an FPS with survival mechanics, but as the game progressed, and I started writing more of the story, I realised that survival mechanics didn’t really make sense, and it negatively impacted the experience. There were many things that were added and cut out in the end, so vehicles, and the survival mechanics were just two of the many things that simply didn’t end up feeling right as the game really began to take shape. As I wrote more and more, I felt like an RPG would be the best way for players to experience the game and the story.

OnlySP: You’ve mentioned that the game should take between eight and ten hours to complete. Does that factor in all the content available in the game or just the main missions?

Debois: 8-10 hours is a rough estimate of what I would say an “average” playthrough would be. Which is someone who has completed the main story, and did a few side missions. If you decide to do everything possible in the game, it will certainly take longer than that, but if you decide to strictly follow the main story, it will be shorter than that.

OnlySP: As I’ve been following Within the Cosmos, I’ve felt that it looks a bit like Halo and sounds a lot like Deus Ex. It’s got me wondering what you feel as though it’s most similar to and what sort of inspirations have shaped the look, feel, and overall tone?

Debois: Oh, there have been so many inspirations! I love the FPS RPG genre, so Deus Ex was a massive inspiration, as was Fallout: New Vegas. Those are two top tier FPS RPG games that I absolutely love. Space-based games have had an influence as well, such as Halo and Mass Effect. They helped shape the game in one way or another. I’d say the biggest inspiration behind it all has been Star Trek, I think the story and lore will reflect that to some degree.

OnlySP: Within the Cosmos is set against the backdrop of an interstellar war. How much of that background lore will players be privy to as the experience goes on?

Debois: The interstellar war is the reason that the player, and the factions are there in the first place. You will be exposed to the history of the war by reading some of the logs in the game, and through some characters you meet, etc. The war is what ties everything together. As you play through the game, you will see that even though you’ve escaped to this region of space, which is far away from the war itself, you still feel the effects of it. What you decide to do can really influence how the war plays out.

OnlySP: Meanwhile, the main story follows an individual sent to safety to preserve the human race. We’ve seen similar ideas of species protection and propagation in the likes of Fallout and Mass Effect: Andromeda. How is Within the Cosmos distinct from those earlier games?

Debois: Well, I really don’t like to compare Within the Cosmos to other games, but Fallout is more of a sandbox, and Mass Effect is more of a story-driven action RPG. Within the Cosmos falls somewhere in the middle of that.

OnlySP: As I understand it, Within the Cosmos, is entirely self-funded, self-developed, and self-published. Did you ever consider crowdfunding or partnering with a publisher to help get the game across the line sooner? Why or why not?

Debois: Not really, no. Some people suggested that I should try crowdfunding but that was something I was never interested in for Within the Cosmos. This was really a game that I wanted to make myself, so funding it and publishing it myself felt the most natural to me.

OnlySP: I know there’s still a little while before Within the Cosmos launches, but what’s next for debdev?

Debois: Once Within the Cosmos is out, I’m going to listen to the feedback from the community, and just work on updating the game with more content as time goes on. I really want to give this game all the support I can give it. Anything after that, we’ll have to see what happens! I would love to work on some of the other ideas I have, some more RPGs. There are other games that I really want to make, but after dedicating nearly five years of my life to this game, I’m not sure I will have the financial means to be able to do this again! 

OnlySP: Finally, do you have any final comments that you’d like to leave with our readers?

Debois: I’d really like to thank those who have been giving the game compliments, and those who have been providing feedback! It all really means a lot to me, and proves that all the years of hard work that I have inputted into the game, has been all worth it!

Thank you all for reading this, and for having an interest in Within the Cosmos! I really hope you check it out on Steam, wishlist it, and play it when it releases on 1 August!


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