Over the course of a decade, Platinum Games has established itself as a developer capable of bringing style and fast-paced gameplay to most any property. While there have been some stumbles along the way – namely the cancellation of the highly anticipated Scalebound in January – the company continues to steam ahead toward new projects and endeavors. Atsushi Inaba, head of development and a producer at Platinum, sat down with us to talk about some of these future plans, as well as what defines the studio in terms of design and structure.

When I look at all your games, it seems they’re all very stylish. And you said smooth, which I thought was an interesting description. But I’m curious if you think that’s an important thing for video games to be, and why you think that might be.
Atsushi Inaba: I wouldn’t actually say “stylish” is necessarily in our DNA, but it certainly conjures up the idea of smooth controls, pretty art that pops, something that sticks out and has a unique visual footprint, etc. It’s nice to be thought of that way. And ultimately for us as an independent developer, we’ve just naturally grown into being able to focus on that sort of gameplay. Probably it is in how we develop games. Even with our independent game that we’re going to do, the engine has been built out in a way so that programmers can work with animators very smoothly, and a lot of times that’s what helps smooth the nature of the controls, the action being on pace, etc. And so we’ve planned on that in advance to make sure it can be in the final product.

Do you have just a huge development team or are you guys structured in a way that allows you guys to take on more work than a traditional studio?
We’re about 200 people, including some of the external partners we use. But probably, at the end of the day, we do more projects at the same time than a traditional Western studio might. With 200 people at a Western studio, maybe you’re doing two games at once, maybe three, but sometimes only one even with that sort of head count. And that’s because we’re selfish and we want to do a lot of stuff.

Looking at Platinum’s history, all the games you’ve put out, what do you think is the core through line for all those? What do you think defines what you guys do? What makes your games special?
Most of our games have really smooth interfaces. You can control the action without a lot of stress. The combos that you link together, they link together seamlessly in the right way and it just makes sense. But if I was really going to list one thing that ties those games together, that makes Platinum Games unique, it would have to be that every time we come up with a design idea, a game idea, it’s based on something original, new. It’s not copying some trend that we see and then adding a plus one to it, which a lot of developers you sometimes see do. It is us building up something new that people probably haven’t seen before from the ground up.

A couple years ago you guys did a Transformers game, which was kind of surprising. I’m curious as to how that game came about.
That was initially a project brought to us by Activision. And every time we determine whether you’re going to do a work-for-hire project or work on somebody else’s IP, we like to feel that we’re going to be motivated by it.  Either it’s going to be fit our schedule or financially something that makes sense and certainly that we know it, or there are people internally that like it. And honestly in the games industry there’s a lot of people that like Transformers. It’s a cool IP. There’s no doubt about it. But what they really got us with was when they came over and said, “How about we do generation one Transformers, the original.” And there’s lots of older developers here in their late 30s or early 40s that grew up watching the Transformers. And so that was when everybody was like, “Yes! We really want to do it.” So it was a no-brainer from that point.

It seems like microtransactions are a pretty hot topic these days and a lot of people are saying single-player focused adventures are maybe going away because of that. Do you think it’s still a viable game genre to make?
We feel that we can add in the right pieces, whether it’s multiplayer or something else. Honestly, microtransactions are a whole different hornet’s nest to consider, and I’m not saying that that business model doesn’t have its place, but I do feel that it’s a different issue rather than whether games are multiplayer and more expansive versus a single-player story-driven action game. But, honestly, when you design games they need to be designed with those sorts of modes from the beginning. That needs to be a core piece of it. And a lot of these games that have multiplayer in them, obviously it’s just been tacked on because the publisher has felt it was necessary. So we feel that we can definitely design those sorts of games – strong multiplayer experiences and whatnot – but it has to be done from the beginning. It can’t be the core fun of the game is a single-player experience and then I’ve just added this extra mode on because that doesn’t work out really well in any game. 

So what has Platinum been focusing on lately?
One of the things Platinum is focused on is we’re looking into creating our own IP, creating our own game. Up until now, obviously we’ve worked on original IPs for a wide variety of publishers. We’ve also worked on other Hollywood IPs for other publishers as well. But we’re becoming more and more interested in the idea of self-publishing and doing our own title.

So how would that look? What would that process look like for you guys?
Over the last year we’ve pretty much opened the company up to “Anybody can pitch a game,” and so over the last year we’ve gotten about 70 design documents from different people. And if you’re going list out the other random ideas, the scratched stuff on paper, that’s a hell of a lot more. So this year has been about us basically diluting which stuff we wanted to focus on and not focus on, and drilling down to the point where we now have two designs that we’re genuinely focused on.

Are those all ideas for bigger games, or do you guys kind of look at what the indie space is doing? Are you thinking about doing a small, indie-style game?
We can’t put together a AAA, $10 million-plus game, because we just don’t have that sort of cash as an independent developer. However, we don’t plan to go the indies route with just a few people on a team making a game, so it’ll be somewhere in the middle, looking at probably about 20 people on the staff making the game, so that’ll still be a healthy [size].

Are you guys looking at what people are doing elsewhere in Japan, or anywhere in the West, for examples of what those kinds of games could look like?
Rather than looking at other companies and how they’ve done it, for us the reason we want to do it is we want to motivate the people that work here. We want to give them an opportunity to make their own game. That being said, if you’re going to put 20 people on the development, it has to be something that’s on brand and on topic, and obviously when people think of the Platinum Games brand, they expect crazy hardcore action, right? That’s what they’re looking for. And so we have to be reticent of that. We want to surprise them by the fact that we’re doing this independent title and hopefully get support from the fanbase. But we don’t want to surprise them by, say, doing a princess-clothing-making game or something like that. It would totally not be what people want from Platinum Games.

I would be interested to see what you guys did with a princess-clothing game.
You know, as we got down to the selection process, there was actually a game that was kind of in that direction, but when we made the final round picks, it was just like, yeah, this one’s not going do it [laughs].

Does this change your direction for releasing big AAA games? If you’re going to self-publish, does it affect your relationship with other publishers as well?
First off, we will continue to do AAA games for other publishers and that’s because, again, we don’t have the cash flow to take on the risk to only do self-published games. In order to do a AAA title with that amount of risk, you need to be with a big company, a publisher so to speak. We don’t think that us doing self-published titles, just based on the scope and scale of what they are, is going to interfere with relationships with other publishers because, again, the style and the size and scope of games that we do with them is going to be much bigger compared to this to the point where they realize we’re not really competing in the same markets.

Doing something on our own, self-publishing it, releasing it, all of that is a challenge for us, but right now everybody is incredibly motivated and working on that. So all the fans, anybody who looks at the website or reads the magazine, look forward to something cool in the future from Platinum.

The puzzle genre produced a number of interesting games in 2017, including high-profile releases like Snipperclips (which released alongside the Nintendo Switch) and the gorgeous Monument Valley 2. But what about the puzzle games you haven’t heard of? This year had a variety of small-scale gems that may have flown under your radar, so here’s a list of puzzle games that didn’t get as much exposure, but are absolutely worth your time. 

Hidden Folks
Release: February 15
Platform: PC, iOS, Android

This modern take on Where’s Waldo? is a joy to play. It features detailed, hand-drawn worlds that come to life with whimsical sound effects, all of which were made using vocals and mouth sounds. You progress by finding a list of different animals, people, and objects hidden in the interactive pictures. You cut down plants and unfurl tent entryways to find hidden objectives as you make your way through cities, farms, deserts, and more. The difficulty ramps up fast, making this a challenging puzzle game that never ceases to be endearing.

Old Man’s Journey
Release: May 18
Platform: PC, iOS, Android

Playing as an elderly man who sets off on a journey through rural areas and European-looking towns, this adventure game also has some fun puzzles to solve. To make your way across the world, you pinch or drag hills so that they become traversable. These puzzles are simple and never too taxing, but they become more complicated by introducing new mechanics as you progress. For example, you eventually have to create bridges by using turnwheels or manipulating train tracks. Old Man’s Journey is a relaxing game that succeeds not just because of its puzzle design, but also for its compelling and colorful world. Check out our review here.

Thimbleweed Park
Release: March 28
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC, iOS, Android

Created by renowned adventure game designers Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick, Thimbleweed Park introduces you to five playable protagonists with their own intriguing and hilarious backstories. Just like classic adventure games, puzzles revolve around combining objects to overcome obstacles. These puzzles also make for some funny moments, like scaring hotel customers while playing as a ghost, and messing with a radio tower to take over the airwaves. While Thimbleweed Park is an homage to older titles, it also modernizes mechanics and leaves behind obtuse puzzle design. This makes for a fun experience that’s never too frustrating. Read our review here.

Rime
Release: May 26
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC

In Rime, you play as a young boy who washes up on the shore of a mysterious island. With its minimalistic storytelling and gorgeous visuals, Rime presents a beautiful landscape to explore. You uncover the island’s secrets by solving puzzles, such as manipulating shadows and light to open up entryways, or running under different structures to avoid getting captured by a giant bird. These puzzles are fun, but as our reviewer Kyle Hilliard points out, sometimes they’re a bit too simplistic. Rime is still worth a playthrough, especially if you’re looking for a short-but-intriguing game.

Snake Pass
Release: March 28
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC

Snake Pass has a unique control system, where you slither around the world as a snake. This puzzle/platformer features innovative puzzles that involve dangling from poles and climbing structures using only three buttons. Being unable to jump can make for some treacherous platforming, but as you continue to master the controls, it slowly becomes more feasible. 

The Sexy Brutale
Release: April 11
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC

This murder mystery has you playing through an endlessly looping day. Although it can get repetitive, it has some neat tricks up its sleeve. Featuring an eccentric cast of characters, you unravel a grisly murder in a mansion-turned-casino. Each character has a set pattern for the day, meaning you can follow them as they complete their routines. This eventually shows you how they die, and it’s up to you to change their fates. 


Gorogoa
Release: December 14
Platform: Nintendo Switch, PC, iOS, Android

Gorogoa may not have resonated with us on an emotional level, but it does have some neat puzzles. They take form in a four-by-four grid, where you manipulate and rearrange four hand-drawn pictures. You can even have these different images connect, such as moving a ladder so that the main character, a young boy, can reach another panel. Although the story didn’t hit home with us, Gorogoa still offers some beautiful artwork and unique puzzle design that can’t be matched elsewhere.

By its very name, GT Sport, was never meant to be a typical Gran Turismo entry. While creators Polyphony Digital assured fans that GT Sport wasn’t a truncated experience like GT Prologue, GT Sport also wasn’t simply Gran Turismo 7 by another name (click here for my review). GT Sport is online focused right down to using cloud saves over those on your hard drive, but it also includes some single-player content. The problem, though, was it wasn’t enough content. Recently Polyphony has addressed this via the GT League: four tiers of single-player content via a free update (1.10) that bolsters the game for those looking for some good old-fashioned GT single-player racing.

The GT League (Beginner, Amateur, Professional, and Endurance tiers) contains 45 races spread over 15 series/cups. Many of these series or cups, like in traditional Gran Turismo titles of the past, are formatted around certain restrictions. While the Clubman Cup lets you race with any car, the Midship Challenge, for instance, requires you have a mid-engine car.

While these series contain multiple races (except the ones in the Endurance League), they’re not actual championships in which you accumulate points from race to race that tally toward a place in the standings or which pay out in a car reward (at least not the ones I raced in), even if you get the gold trophy in every race. However, all your milage driven, credits, and time accrued counts to your overall profile and thus your level and other progress statuses. So, in this way you will be rewarded for your progress in the GT League at some point, even if it’s not for your placing in a specific race or cup.

The GT League isn’t a true test of your abilities since the A.I. cars aren’t world-beaters, and your own car can be tuned and upgraded to give yourself a leg up. How much you use this to your advantage or challenge yourself is up to you, of course. There is some minor unlocking with the tiers themselves, which open up according to your profile level, and needing certain cars for the series is also a carrot of sorts. Overall, however, The GT League is a nice addition that has its limitations. Track repetition is an issue as it is in the rest of the game (at least the new Kyoto layout is cool), and although the League adds content to the campaign mode, it doesn’t provide a good, satisfying sense of progress.

Polyphony Digital has also added other content via updates, including a dozen cars, the new layout for the Kyoto track, new Scapes photo spots, and more. Click here for more details.

In the past few weeks and months surrounding The Last Jedi, fans critical of the movie’s lateral movement of the series rallied around actor Mark Hamill’s personal criticism of the movie. Now, Hamill is making himself clear on the subject of the eighth Star Wars film.

“I regret voicing my doubts & insecurities in public,” Hamill wrote on Twitter. “Creative differences are a common element of any project but usually remain private. All I wanted was to make good movie. I got more than that- [Director Rian Johnson] made an all-time GREAT one! #HumbledHamilll”

Hamill was referring to a series of interviews in the press junket ahead of The Last Jedi’s release where he criticized Johnson’s vision for the series hero, Luke Skywalker.

“Luke was so optimistic and so hopeful and cheerful. Here he’s is in a very, very dark place,” Hamill told Spanish outlet SensaCine. “I said to Rian, I said, ‘Jedis don’t give up.’ Even if he had a problem, he would maybe take a year and try to regroup. But if he made a mistake, he would try and right that wrong, so right there, we had a fundamental difference.

“It’s not my story anymore,” Hamill continued. “It’s somebody else’s story, and Rian needed me to be a certain way in order to make the ending effective.”

The comments rode a wave on social media as evidence that even Hamill, a symbolic banner of Star Wars before the Disney acquisition, disliked the film. It provided evidence that The Last Jedi veered too far from what made the series great and that Luke Skywalker himself disapproved of the oft-times experimental newest movie in the series.

But Hamill has now clarified that position. He still believes in the movie, but acknowledges the difference he and Johnson had over Luke’s character.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi released in theaters on December 15. You can find our review of the movie within Andrew Reiner’s Science Fiction Weekly.

Over the holiday, Team Meat has given a release date to the Switch port of Super Meat Boy, now releasing in just over two weeks on January 11.

The Switch port, aside from being a portable version of Super Meat Boy which is pioneered ground from the PlayStation Vita version, includes a new exclusive mode for the system. The Race Mode splits the screen in half and lets two players play against each other to tear through Super Meat Boy (or tear their hair out along the way). 

Race Mode is something we’ve wanted to do since Meat Boy came out in 2010,” Team Meat wrote. “We figured the Switch was a good time to test it out.”

The sequel to Super Meat Boy, a runner titled Super Meat Boy Forever, is scheduled to release on Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One in 2018.

 

Our Take
The new race mode seems interesting and I might be eager to go through Super Meat Boy once again in a portable fashion.

A classic game hacker who goes by the name Toruzz released a ROM hack for Super Mario Land 2 that colorizes the second Super Mario Land game and adds some features to it.

Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins was a 1992 Gameboy game that was the first introduction of Mario’s rival, Wario. The yellow-clad plumber kicked Mario out of the castle he apparently owns and took control of it, locking it behind six coins. Mario had to go to different worlds, like a tower-sized Mario statue which he also apparently owns and even outer space.

The ROM hack not only adds color to the game, but rebalances aspects to it and adds Mario’s higher-jumping brother Luigi to the mix. Toruzz calls the project Super Mario Land 2 DX, in the same naming convention of titles like Super Mario Bros. DX and Mario Kart 8 DX.

You can catch Super Mario Land 2 DX’s trailer below. It looks quite cool and seemingly fixes the screen flicker that plagued the original game.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

Microtransactions: Publishers love them, gamers try their best to tolerate them. While many companies have found ways to introduce alternate revenue streams in their games without affecting gameplay, others have been more cavalier in their approach to microtransactions. Here are the 10 most outrageous implementations of microtransactions in video games.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in issue 297 of Game Informer magazine.

10. Everything
Dungeon Keeper
EA took Dungeon Keeper’s premise of demonic minions hoarding gold a little too literally. The publisher filled its mobile remake with so many in-app purchases, time gates, and premium currencies that the British Advertising Standards Authority ruled they legally couldn’t call it “free-to-play.”

09. Diamonds Are Forever… Or Not
Curiosity: What’s Inside the Cube
Remember Peter Molyneux’s cube-tapping mobile game that promised to change one lucky winner’s life forever? It didn’t. But you could’ve changed your bank account forever by purchasing a £50,000 Diamond Chisel. It let you break blocks faster. Video games!

08. Virtual Jukebox
Guitar Hero Live
Guitar Hero was already built on a respected and lucrative DLC format, but that didn’t stop Activision from trying to screw it up one more time. In order to play a specific song in Guitar Hero Live, you had to shell out one-time-use Play tokens. Kind of like a jukebox…that you paid $60 for.

07. Achievement Aggrievement
Nier Automata
Trophies are a virtual symbol of a gamer’s hard-earned accomplishments. They’re also ultimately meaningless, which is why we have mixed feelings about Nier Automata straight-up selling them for in-game gold. The real surprise? Square Enix not including a real-money purchase option.

06. Subscribe To Solitaire?!
Solitaire, Windows 10
Solitaire has been a staple of Windows since…well, the beginning of Windows. It’s a miracle it took Microsoft this long to screw it up, but boy did they ever. The insane excitement of Klondike is now broken up by video ads, and you’ll have to pay $2 a month to remove them.

05. Deer Urine. No Really
TheHunter Classic
Technically deer urine is only one item in TheHunter’s $15 Deer Hunter DLC pack. You also get clothes, calls, and hunting licenses, which are required to actually shoot anything – and the three-month permits run out in real-time. That deer pee is sounding pretty good right now, isn’t it?

04. Geico For Your Gekko
Metal Gear Solid V
Building up your Mother Base in MGS V is satisfying. Having your time-gated resources stolen by other players? Not so much. Luckily, Konami has a deplorable solution: Players can spend real cash to cover their losses for a few days. It’s almost as fun as buying insurance in real life!

03. Paying Out The Caboose
Train Simulator
If you ever wondered what being a train conductor is like, you should just stop and become one in real life. Then when you get your first month’s salary, you might be able to afford Train Simulator’s DLC, which currently totals over $7,000 for all its various wagons and routes. 

02. Holy Ships!
Star Citizen
Star Citizen is the used-car dealership of video games. The perpetually delayed MMO still has no release date in sight, but the online store is doing gangbusters! In it suckers players can purchase dozens of ships, ranging from $20 to $3,000. Maybe they’ll even get to play the game someday!

01. High-Priced Horseplay
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Oblivion’s $2.50 horse armor DLC is nothing compared to the
other entries on this list, but that’s precisely the point. Bethesda didn’t
just pave the way for absurd and overpriced microtransactions; it proved to the
wider industry that there’s a thriving market for it. The rest is history…sad and
depressing history.

Did we forget a particularly heinous microtransaction? Share it in the comments below! Generally griping about microtransactions will also be accepted.

With rising budgets and team sizes, creating video games continues to get more expensive and difficult. Rarely does a game release without a significant day-one patch that features critical, last-second changes. But every once in a while, we encounter a glitch or bug that puts a smile instead of a scowl on our faces. We celebrate these hilarious, immersion-shattering mistakes each year with The Glitchies.

2017 had a abundance of hilarious glitches thanks to bug-heavy games like PUBG, Battlefront II, and Assassin’s Creed Origins. As with every year, it’s tough to beat the animation and physics fails from the EA Sports franchises, and this year Madden brought its A game. We found several other great bugs worth sharing as well. Enjoy!

Warning: Game Informer is not responsible for content on YouTube links. Language may be unsuitable for minors.

Assassin’s Creed Origins – The Great Unraveling
(Please visit the site to view this media)

Mass Effect: Andromeda – Quit Rubbernecking
(Please visit the site to view this media)

Star Wars Battlefront II – Boba Fett Grounded
(Please visit the site to view this media)

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds – Crossfit
(Please visit the site to view this media)

Madden NFL 18 – Flip Trick
(Please visit the site to view this media)
via @NFLRT

MLB: The Show 17 – From Bunt To Punt
(Please visit the site to view this media)

Mafia III – Trunk Birth Pang
(Please visit the site to view this media)

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds – Flying To The Rally Point
(Please visit the site to view this media)

Madden NFL 18 – Wrong Sport!
(Please visit the site to view this media)
via @Vinsanity423

NHL 18 – Celebration Innovation
(Please visit the site to view this media)
via @Goatzilla

Star Wars Battlefront II – Going It Alone
(Please visit the site to view this media)

Assassin’s Creed Origins – The Boat Tussle
(Please visit the site to view this media)

Fortnite – Who Needs Vehicles?
(Please visit the site to view this media)

Glitch of the Year:
Madden NFL 18 – Gronk Spike Fatality

(Please visit the site to view this media)

Whether you love them, hate them, or forget they exist until they pop
on your screen and interrupt your game, achievements and trophies are
(literally) a required feature of all PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Steam

games. I fall into the love camp, and these are some of my favorites
from 2017.

The achievements and trophies I find most interesting aren’t the ones
that mark your progress in a storyline or reward you for attaining a
certain number of headshots. I like the ones that force you to think
outside of the normal functions of the game or reward you for doing
something weird.

Follow the links to see 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 , and 2016‘s best achievements and trophies.

A Hat in Time
I like these two because the first one actively calls out the player for being bad at video games (which is rude, but funny), and the second one because it’s very silly and I am glad developer Gears for Breakfast rewarded the effort it took for me to land on the Roomba.

False Detective – Make it through Murder on the Owl Express without finding any clues (you suck)!
Vacuum Vandal – Ride the vacuum!

Assassin’s Creed Origins
I like how complicated and dangerous this achievement is.

Roooaaarrrrr! – Tame a lion.

Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy
These two trophies were highlights because they call out feelings I thought only belonged to me when I played the game originally. I always kicked myself for ejecting an extra life into the stratosphere, and I always felt bad about jumping on the little polar bear cub.

I Meant To Do That! – Spin away an Extra Life. [Crash Bandicoot]
A Helping Paw – Don’t feel guilty about jumping on him. [Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back]

Dishonored: Death of the Outsider
This is just good game design.

Mightier than the Sword – Shoot a guard in the head with a fountain pen

Full Throttle
This trophy was the perfect way to say, “Oh yeah! That was a thing!” You get it by leaving the game motionless long enough for its screen-saver to kick in.

Burn-In Rubber – Save your screen from burn-in with 3D animated vehicles

For more of our favorite achievements and trophies of 2017, head to page two.

PaginateGrid();

Nintendo’s online service, a fee-based service to let people play online on Switch, is facing another delay according to Nintendo’s Italian website.

The website mentioned that the Switch’s online services have been pushed back to Fall 2018, around nineteen months after the system’s launch and twelve months after the service’s initial planned launch. When it was announced at the Nintendo Switch January presentation, the service was planned to launch in Fall of this year. The fee-based service was supposed to include one Virtual Console game, games from older consoles sold digitally, retrofitted with online play.

In June of this year, Nintendo announced that the service would be delayed until Spring 2018, but it would be accompanied by a service of multiple virtual console games suggested to be a streaming service. Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima has stated that he believes the annual fees should be around 2000 – 3000 yen, roughly in the $17 – $26 a year range.

As of now, playing online in Switch games is free, but most people suspect virtual console support will not come until Nintendo rolls out its paid service. If the service is being delayed to fall of next year, it might be a commensurate delay for the virtual console, as well.

 

Our Take
If the service is going to be delayed as far as late next year, it might be better to just ditch the plans for paid online and charge a fee for a streaming virtual console service alone. It certainly makes more sense than closing the gate on free online nineteen months after release, especially if they don’t intend to improve the online service at all.