This is a portion of mock news articles I wrote in my Feature Writing class at HPU. Video games was my beat, of course!


5


Sonic The Hedgehog: New Look, New Game, New TV Show

The Sonic franchise hasn’t had the best of luck ever since the late 1990s. With dozens of attempts to try fresh ideas with each new game, Sega has not been able to strike the formula for success with its iconic, blue hedgehog for years. Now that he’s recently turned 20 years old, the company is giving Sonic and his friends a makeover. With redesigned character models, a completely new direction, a complimentary CGI TV show and a toy line, the “Sonic” franchise is going for an all-or-nothing approach.

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This is the concept art for “Sonic Boom” with the finalized character model revisions. (Photo courtesy of Big Red Button Entertainment)

There are several new design changes to take note of here. From left to right, Tails is now a mechanic with goggles and tools, Knuckles is taller and brawnier, Sonic has a brown scarf and Amy sports a hammer. All of them also have athletic tape on their arms and/or legs. Although reactions to these changes have been mixed, Sega is not kidding around this time. The publisher means business to attract new fans and appease longtime fans.

The game these characters will star in is “Sonic Boom,” which will be released on the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS later this year. It’s being developed by Big Red Button Entertainment, a Western game developer led by Bob Raffei, who previously worked for Naughty Dog. He calls the game a “real solid character-adventure story” with third-person combat in an open world setting that can be traversed at high speed (the last thing being the hallmark of all “Sonic” games). It will also sport a cooperation mode with the option to play with up to four players.

The TV show is directly tied to the game’s story, which is a direct prequel to it. Beautifully animated in CGI and aiming to be a humorous, action-packed show, it takes inspiration from cartoons like “The Regular Show” and “Spongebob Squarepants” according to Sega. The TV show will also emphasize character development with a strong reliance on the unique personalities of the characters. Evan Bailey, the head of production, believes this will appeal to younger audiences while throwing in some things that older audiences can appreciate, too.

Lastly, TOMY will be manufacturing the toy line with a line of plushies, action figures and other toys that compliment the game and TV show. This company is known for its partnership with Nintendo to produce Pokémon toys, so it’s no stranger to the game industry and a natural fit for what Sega is trying to accomplish.

The ambition that Sega has to pull this off is admirable in itself, but will the publisher end up tripping over itself by doing all of these new, bold things, or will this propel Sonic the Hedgehog to new heights of fame and profit? Activision’s similar, risky move with the Skylanders property proved to be a roaring success for them, so Sega might be creating the next sensation as well if everything falls into place.


6


Turtle Rock Studio’s Evolve Intimidates The Competition

Turtle Rock Studios is one of the creators of the four-player zombie survival game “Left 4 Dead,” which a lot of people don’t know since Valve published the game. Now, with 2K Games as its publisher, Turtle Rock Studios has unveiled an entirely new game inspired by their previous work with Valve. The result is “Evolve.”

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The Hunters surround the Goliath monster, but both are prepared to fight to the death. (Photo courtesy of Turtle Rock Studios)

“Evolve” borrows a unique concept from “Left 4 Dead.” It has a game mode where four players play as humans and another four players are zombies. Throughout the first few minutes, the zombie players attempt to kill the human players with their unique abilities, but if the human players are still alive after a while, one zombie player is randomly chosen to play as the Tank: a grotesque, giant zombie with uncanny strength and durability.

When this occurs, this game match essentially becomes four humans versus one ridiculously strong zombie, and there’s no telling what will happen during this frantic, action-packed fight. Overall, this is an exhilarating game mode that “Left 4 Dead” is most well known for, and Turtle Rock Studios is basing the main concept behind “Evolve” on this game mode and fleshing it out beyond belief.

“Evolve” will have a single-player mode for those who prefer to go solo, but the heart and soul of the game lies in its multiplayer component. The basic premise of this mode drops four human players (called Hunters) into a large, open environment, and their objective is to kill a dangerous monster in the area to further their quest in colonizing the alien planet they’re on. With their unique abilities, weapons, equipment and jet packs, they’re fully armed and prepared to take down this gruesome animal. However, it’s no mindless, computer-controlled character. It is player five.

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A powerful weapon meets with brute force. Which one will triumph? (Photo courtesy of Turtle Rock Studios)

The monster is like an unstoppable powerhouse, capable of destroying a Hunter with a swing of its fist. But the tables can be turned quickly if all the Hunter players collaborate and strategically utilize their equipment.

After choosing to play as a particular monster, player five is placed in a random location in the game environment and must choose to either take out the Hunters cleverly or scavenge the environment for wildlife. Most players will go with the latter option because if they find wildlife, they can kill and eat it to evolve into bigger, stronger forms with new abilities. There are a total of three evolutionary stages to go through with any given monster and each stage requires the monster to envelop itself in a cocoon for 15 seconds to evolve. However, if player five manages to reach the monster’s last stage by taking these risks, it will tower over the Hunters with terrifying abilities like fire breathing.

This results in a game of cat and mouse that fluctuates and changes constantly. No match is certain in the beautiful levels that players will explore, hunt and kill in to win. In-game footage compiled by Kotaku and an official CGI trailer only bolster the great potential “Evolve” has to become the next multiplayer hit. The game’s stunning graphics, exhilarating gameplay and unique appeal has mostly been explained through words and pictures for a couple months. Not anymore.

Turtle Rock Studios is sitting on a game that could help bring it to early stardom among the most famous of game developers, and that might just happen once “Evolve” launches later this year for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.


7


Irrational Games Is Closing Its Doors

In 1997, Ken Levine, Jonathan Chey and Robert Fermier formed the studio known as Irrational Games. At the time, little did anyone know that this game developer would bring some of the most talked about and critically acclaimed titles the industry has ever seen, such as “System Shock 2,” “BioShock” and 2013’s “BioShock Infinite.” But this Tuesday, Ken Levine, the current head of Irrational Games, announced he will be closing down the studio.

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Concept art with the two major characters in BioShock Infinite: Booker DeWitt and Elizabeth. (Photo courtesy of Irrational Games)

Perhaps this comes as no surprise to some since “BioShock Infinite” went through some troubling developmental periods, marked by multiple changes in direction, scrapped ideas and other trials. However,  Irrational Games recently made such a huge splash with this game, earning many awards last year in addition to selling over 4 million units 4 months after its release. You would think the developer would be planning to make another blockbuster game in the franchise, but this won’t happen.

“While I’m deeply proud of what we’ve accomplished together, my passion has turned to making a different kind of game than we’ve done before,” Levine said yesterday in a message on Irrational Games’ website. “To meet the challenge ahead, I need to refocus my energy on a smaller team with a flatter structure and a more direct relationship with gamers. In many ways, it will be a return to how we started: a small team making games for the core gaming audience.”

Levine goes on to explain that he will be “parting ways with all but about fifteen members of the Irrational team,” but said he will try to support and assist anyone who’s been laid off. “Other Take-Two studios will be on hand to discuss opportunities within the company,” Levine says, “and we’ll be hosting a recruiting day where we’ll be giving 3rd party studios and publishers a chance to hold interviews with departing Irrational staff.”

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Ken Levine: a respected, talented and unconventional game developer. (Photo courtesy of EPN)

As for what Levine plans to do next, he originally intended to part ways with his publisher, 2K Games, so he could start fresh as an independent developer. After discussing his plans with Take-Two (which owns 2K Games), they convinced him to start his new venture with 2K Games remaining his publisher.

For the long run, Levine and his small team plan to “make narrative-driven games for the core gamer that are highly replayable. To foster the most direct relationship with our fans possible, we will focus exclusively on content delivered digitally.”

“BioShock” fans don’t need to be worried though. Levine says he is “handing the reins of our creation, the ‘BioShock’ universe, to 2K so our new venture can focus entirely on replayable narrative.” In fact, 2K Games released a statement about this that can be seen on Kotaku.

“BioShock is one of our most beloved and critically acclaimed franchises, and we are indebted to Ken and the talented team at Irrational Games for their contributions to the series with ‘BioShock’ and BioShock Infinite; the latter being one of the most decorated games of 2013,” 2K Games said. “The ‘BioShock’ universe remains a rich creative canvas for many untold stories, and we look forward to exploring the next ‘BioShock’ experience.”

What will the future hold for this franchise? Which developers will take it in new directions, and what does Levine have up his sleeve as he embarks on a new quest to develop games? Like the “BioShock”games, everyone is sure to be in for great surprises and shocking details after this major turn of events.


8


Sony Pictures Planning To Showcase Console Rivalry In New Film

The so-called “console wars” are the never-ending battles between competing companies’ game systems. Famous rivalries like Sega Genesis versus SNES, Nintendo 3DS versus PlayStation Vita and PS4 versus Xbox One have had gamers around the world choosing sides and passionately defending their consoles of choice.

This has resulted in thousands of prominent and lively debates, making this a major part of how the game industry and gamer culture are shaped. So, of all the companies to document this history, Sony  – the company behind the PlayStation brand – plans to create a movie about it.

msog-mario-and-sonicMario and Sonic are two characters who have been rivals for over 20 years. (Photo courtesy of Creative Uncut)

The company’s movie division, Sony Pictures, has revealed that this film will be inspired by an upcoming book by Blake J. Harris, which specifically covers the console war between Sega and Nintendo with the Sega Genesis and SNES. It includes over 200 interviews with employees from both companies and explains how this helped take the game industry to where it is today. It will be written and directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg with Harris acting as the film’s executive producer.

It’s somewhat strange that Sony is taking the helm to create this movie, but it’s bound to be an illuminating film that shines a light on one of the most heated and memorable points in game history.