Is Amazon Game Studios finally about to take the lid off of New World? Maybe, maybe not, but this might be a clue: AGS’ Greg Henninger’s tweet a few days ago sure seems to suggest something’s going on with the company.
“About to go off the air for the next 7 days,” he says. “I am bursting at the seams to tell you all everything I’m currently working on. That day will come soon.”
We noted that Henninger, who was at one point the Daybreak Community Manager for H1Z1, had left Daybreak and moved to AGS back in April. At the time, we assumed he’d gone to John Smedley’s team there, given that it was Smed who’d retweeted it, though Smed is reportedly working on a very different game from New World. So then why do we think it might be New World? Because AGS was reportedly having influencers to the studio to playtest the game earlier this month, possibly signaling that it’s about to break its silence. Order some extra popcorn!
Daybreak’s loss is Amazon’s gain — again.
Former H1Z1 Community Manager Greg Henninger revealed that he has jumped ship from Daybreak over to Amazon Games Studio. “I am moving on to another adventure. I’m sticking with the games industry, I’m still going to be around,” Henninger said to H1Z1 fans last month.
Yesterday, he tweeted that he was starting his first day at Amazon Game Studios this week. It looks probable that Henninger has joined John Smedley’s studio team, as he is staying in San Diego and Smedley retweeted Henninger’s job announcement. Strange things are afoot at the Circle K, Bill!
Last fall, we heard word that one of Amazon Game Studios’ three announced online titles, Breakaway, was going into development hiatus. That didn’t bode well, and sure enough, the studio finally announced this week that the 4v4 brawler was officially cancelled.
“In spite of our efforts, we didn’t achieve the breakthrough that made the game what we all hoped it could be,” Amazon said. “After a lot of soul searching, the team decided to focus on new ideas. As a result, Breakaway is no longer in active development.”
Interestingly enough, the game studio said left the door open just a crack for a “thunderbolt of inspiration” that might “lead us back to Breakaway.” In the meanwhile, Amazon Game Studios said that it will be focusing on its other titles, such as New World, Crucible, and various unannounced projects.
Despite coming onto the scene with a flurry of prospective titles, Amazon Game Studios has yet to really make a great impression on the game genre. The studio is down to only two known prospective titles on the horizon: Crucible and New World.
It’s this second game that’s of particular interest to MMORPG players, as a lot of hopes hang on Amazon to wield a robust, big-budget title in this day and age. Recent alleged trailer leaks have kept the buzz going, and while we wait for more solid official information, we can at least take solace that the studio continues to hire for the project.
Amazon’s career page has a listing for a software development manager for New World, a position that will “work within the game team and collaborate with external technical teams to affect the future of online gaming.” It’s not an overtly thrilling listing, to be sure, but it is kind of neat to see the studio state the elevator pitch for the game and to see hints that development continues.
The ArenaNet devs descended on the Guild Wars 2
over the weekend for what looks like one of the game’s biggest AMAs
to date (but one with surprisingly thin info, at least if you were hoping for a huge revelation). Here are the highlights:
- No details on raid wing 5 yet. The team reiterates it’s not working on difficulty tiers for raids. “We’re hard at work on the next raid and development is going well.”
- There’s apparently nobody working on guilds (so no current plans to develop further) and no dungeon team attached to the expansion.
- The studio said among its chief story goals were tighter integration and not all cinematic moments happen in cutscenes. The choice to go darker and use fewer characters was also intentional.
- Map-wide metas weren’t an intended part of the expansion, but maybe in the future. They’re watching to see what we do and will go from there.
- Anet says it did indeed modify all the old maps in Tyria and Maguuma in order to add mounts.
One of the MMORPG industry’s more prominent designers is leaving one of the MMORPG industry’s more prominent games. On Friday, World of Warcraft Senior Design Producer Stephan Frost announced that he is departing from the title and the studio for an unnamed opportunity.
“Bittersweet day ahead of me today, it’s my last day at Blizzard,” Frost tweeted. “There’s a big opportunity I felt I had to take, but I’ll miss the people.”
Frost worked his way up to prominence at Carbine Studios, where he eventually became WildStar’s game design producer. He left in 2014, spent less than a year at Amazon Game Studios, and then joined up with Blizzard in 2015 where he became a senior producer on World of Warcraft.
In addition to game design, Frost is a voice actor (he did the WildStar “dev speak” videos) and the creator of a comic book called Mortifera.
As it will be powering MMOs like New World and Star Citizen, Amazon’s Lumberyard game engine deserves attention as it continues to be built and improved. Amazon released a development update to shed light on just how far Lumberyard has come and what is being worked on for the future.
“Simply put, our focus for the next few releases is to make Lumberyard easier, more powerful, and more modular,” the company said. “A lot has changed since we first launched the beta: We’ve replaced over 60% of the original codebase, switching out older, redundant systems (e.g. CryEntity) for more modern, performant ones (e.g. Component entity systems).”
Improvements on the way for Lumberyard include a new visual scripting language, a revised animation system, more integration with Amazon’s other tech (like Lex and Polly), the ability to store games in any location, better optimization, a new shader system, and Mac support.
When I first went for my hands-on appointment to try out Amazon Game Studios‘ upcoming mythological sports brawler Breakaway at PAX West, I didn’t realize I would break Amazon! All I did was touch the B key as instructed, and everything went dark: The circuits blew. But once all the computers were back online, I was able to jump in and give the game a test run, and I am glad I did.
Unlike brawlers or arena shooters that are just, you know, shooting other people, this game focuses on the aspect of a sports game. While you can win the round by wiping all of your opponents at the same time, the two other win conditions involve the ball; either you score a goal or you keep the ball on the opponent’s side of the field when the four-minute timer runs out. Perhaps because of this sport team aspect, I got more interested in Breakaway and look forward to playing it more.
Update: Amazon has apparently removed the trailer following intense criticism.
Breakaway has a fresh new trailer out for Gamescom today, along with a run-down of all its toons. You’ll recall the game from its slow-cook reveal last fall as one of the new titles Amazon Game Studios is currently building out — this one’s the stream-centric 4v4 online brawler.
“Breakaway is a team battle sport that blends the speed, strategy, and teamwork of sports in a competitive multiplayer action game, and is being developed with constant feedback and input from the community. Amazon Game Studios has partnered closely with Twitch to design the game to be as fun to watch as it is to play, and has added special features to help broadcaster engage their audiences.”
Check out all the new assets from the con, and make sure you’re signed up for the alpha!
It has now been seven months since John Smedley shut down Pixelmage Games and took his team over to Amazon Game Studios to set up shop in San Diego. We’ve been greatly curious about what game he’s been heading — and if it is an MMO — but until recently Smed has stayed out of the spotlight to get work done.
This is why we’ve perked up to see him sit down with VentureBeat for an extended interview about his new employer and his take on the direction that the industry is heading. He has a lot of opinions on just about everything, ranging from virtual reality to Twitch integration to the rise of e-sports.
If you’re hoping that the notoriously chatty Smedley was going to reveal what game his studio is making, you’re in for disappointment. He indicates that he’s very excited about the project but is tight-lipped about specifics.
As the field of MOBAs and competitive e-sports titles becomes increasingly crowded, studios are turning to more… unorthodox methods to attract viewers and attention. Broadcast your tournament on cable TV? Recruit Steven Seagal for some reason? It’s been done, so very done, which is why Amazon Game Studios called up its friends in the Dutch navy and asked politely if they could borrow a battleship to host a Breakaway game match.
OK, so it was an “offshore patrol vessel,” but the stunt actually happened. Two e-sports teams came aboard the HNLMS Holland for a head-to-head match in the online sports game. The devs said that to their knowledge, this was the first e-sports match to take place on a battleship at sea.
While you ponder what lunacy marketers will come up with next — e-sports in a volcano! E-sports on death row! E-sports between presidential candidates! — you can check out the highlight reel after the break and marvel that you have lived to see such wonders.
Gamasutra is reporting this afternoon that Guild Wars 2 studio ArenaNet has picked up former Ubisoft Montreal Creative Director Jason VandenBerghe. His new title on the MMO? Director of Design. He explains the move in a Facebook post:
“The tl;dr version is that I went out [to Seattle] on a lark –and then fell head-over-heels in love. [ANet Lead Designer] Isaiah [Cartwright] did an amazing job of setting the table… but it was all the people that I met there there that sealed the deal. It’s a big step. I won’t be making games directly any more – I’ll be studio level, shepherding teams and growing people. I’m… sort of thrilled about how difficult that sounds. It’s exactly what I want to be doing right now.”
ArenaNet is currently working on the finale for Guild Wars 2’s current living season storyline as well as a heavily leaked expansion. It’s suffered a number of high-profile staff departures in the past couple of years, most of them moving to Amazon Game Studios.
Next month, big things are happening over at Daybreak: Daybreak is holding a job fair in which the studio will seek potential candidates for hire.
While the games and projects related to these positions haven’t been made public, we do know that Daybreak was looking for software engineers, software architects, programmers, game designers, UI designers and programmers, artists, a marketing analytics manager, project managers, project producers, and QA engineers. Also, and we cannot stress this enough, there will be delicious appetizers.
Speculation time! Is Daybreak gearing up for a new big project or is the studio attempting to fill in the gaps of its staff after losing team members to the likes of Intrepid Studios and Amazon Game Studios?