Hellblade: New Year, Preview - Games Weekly

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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Hellblade: New Year, Preview


What’s next?  Well, Hellblade’s development cycle is still embryonic, so where it goes from here is something of an unknown to everybody involved. Making a triple A quality game, even a short one, with a team of 13 sounds like an impossible task and there are bound to be pitfalls along the way. But thanks to regular development diaries on the game’s homepage, all of the success stories and setbacks of the future are going to be shared with the world.

Ninja Theory’s using these videos not only as a way to communicate with the fans (its fifth dev diary requests ideas for Hellblade merchandise to help fund the game, along with an early reach out to potential playtesters) but as a record of its experiments from which other developers can learn. Ninja Theory’s even partnered up with Epic Games to create a series of online masterclasses with tutorials
and feedback for university students and future developers.

“The idea is that any developer can look at that and they can choose to replicate that model or put their own spin on it,” explains Antoniades. “There’s no dark mystery about how we’ve done it or how we’ve made money or not made money, as may be the case, because that can happen as well. If we’re not successful, other people can look at it and say, ‘this is where they went wrong,’ and that gives them a better chance of being successful going forward.”


However Hellblade ultimately turns out, Ninja Theory wants to have a hand in changing new-gen gaming. Throughout the day I hear quotes such as, “I think that creativity has been lost in the triple-A space,” and it’s obvious that this tiny team is dissatisfied with the way the industry seems to have decanted itself into two groups: the ‘indie’ teams and the monster ‘triple-A’ developers.

“What I miss is the variety and the creativity that used to happen on consoles,” says Antoniades. “So in the PlayStation 1 and the PlayStation 2 era you were getting all kinds of games like Metal Gear Solid that focused on stealth, and Silent Hill which focused on horror, Super Monkey Ball... You were getting a wide variety of games that focused on very specific experiences.

“None of those games, if pitched now, would exist. There’s a new Silent Hill, which looks brilliant, but if the Silent Hill concept was pitched [fresh] today, it would not get greenlit.

 “I Miss The variety and the creativity that used to happen on consoles.”
“What I want to happen is for developers like us, that are not big triple-A developers and are not indie, to have a future. To be able to make interesting games that we want to play. And I think that that’s now possible this is the mid ground we want to hit.

“We’re not saying we’re indies. I think indies will continue doing interesting things and taking lots of risks, creative risks, and changing the perception of what a game can be. And on the triple-A side, they’ll make big blockbuster games that are sure fire hits that take low creative risks, but give you exactly what you expect like an Avengers film.

“We want to be somewhere, if we’re talking in film terms, like Drive, maybe. Or Donnie Darko or even Evil Dead, where there’s more scope for creative risk taking, but it doesn't feel low budget. It feels like it can go up against any blockbuster of the time.”

I do not know if Hellblade will be the game to do that it’s far too early to make the call but I love that PlayStation 4 is the proving ground for this battle. we’re big fans of PlayStation’s emerging indie scene, but as the most powerful console in history PS4 is expected push the boundaries on all fronts. A succession of high profile game delays into 2015 (Batman: Arkham Knight, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, The Order: 1886, Battlefield Hardline, Evolve… rather depressingly, the list goes on and on) has meant that 2014 hasn’t ultimately delivered the numbers of blockbuster titles we’d expected.

So when a studio of Ninja theory’s pedigree claims PS4 now gives it a platform to independently create types of games that haven’t been made for years, ones that can blend independent creativity with the wow factor of titles boasting multi million dollar budgets, it’s hard not to be excited by that prospect. After years of developer closures and cut-backs, PS4 could help birth an ecosystem where companies can move beyond diets of future-set and post-apocalyptic shooters.

PlayStation will always be known as the only home of Uncharted and Gran Turismo and The Last Of Us, but there's a chance it could also become the saviour of the medium-sized developer, too. It doesn't really matter what type of games you enjoy or not, or whether you’re excited by digital only titles and indie games (because we know some of you aren't) having more studios creating more titles for PS4 is a great thing for both the gaming community and the industry.

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