Editor's Note: The person known as Superanuation is back again with another haul of gaming secrets. All dug up online, all publicly available if you know where to look. What's up with LucasArts? Proper Games? And Whore of the Orient, a successor, of sorts, to L.A. Noire? Read on.
Disney CEO Bob Iger's recent comments that he would like to see his company's new subsidiary LucasArts focus on social and mobile games might not be much of a departure of for the San Francisco game studio.
In June, Lucasfilm was hiring for a producer for the seemingly recently inaugurated "Lucas Casual Games group" that would focus on casual titles across web, mobile and tablet devices. Additionally, LucasArts Singapore had a handful of casual-related openings from earlier in the year. And an art lead at LucasArts Singpaore specifies that he is working on "Casual Games for iOS."
While no such casual titles have been announced, the Lucas conglomerate's first overture to entering the market appears to be a new addition to their StarWars.com Flash games portal called Ewok Village. The game tasks the player with building and maintaining a village of Ewoks, shares common managerial and resource-based mechanics of many freemium games, and suggests a very obvious opening for microtransactions that could speed along the game's developments.
In addition to the casual games initiative, LucasArts has some sort of mysterious XBLA game titled Star Wars: First Assault, an unannounced next-gen FPS, and of course, Star Wars 1313. There was also an open-world RPG led by Clint Hocking, but given Hocking's departure and the lack of recent openings for the project, it might not be a stretch to speculate that title has been axed.
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In September, Dundee developer Proper Games lost: a programmer, a designer, another designer, marketing manager, senior programmer, and server programmer. The company had restructured this past March—including a handful of layoffs—apparently in hopes of creating leaner, more agile organization.
Formed following the closure of Visual Science in 2006, Proper Games appears to have had a peak headcount of around 15 people, and is perhaps best known for the charming 2009 UFO-animal herding puzzler Flock!. The studio also worked on Final Fight: Double Impact and Crackdown 2 downloadable content, and later went out on its own with a few online and mobile titles.
Proper Games only appears to have a couple of employees at the moment: an administrative assistant, design lead, artist, CTO, and concept artist. Some of those LinkedIn profiles may have very well just not been updated by profile holders, which could suggest a studio on the precipice of administration. Worringly, the studio's website and social media feeds do not seem to have been updated at all in the past few months.
Proper Games' troubles are another blow to marquee games development in Dundee, which has already seen the downsizing of Quarrel studio Denki , the closure of Crackdown creators Realtime Worlds, and Ruffian Games moving towards becoming an outsourcing firm. (To be fair, Dundee does have a handful of smaller mobile and social devs going strong, such as Digital Goldfish, Cobra Mobile, Dynamo Games, and Tag Games.)
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An Australian games recruitment firm recently put up a couple of openings at the Sydney-based KMM Interactive (aka Team Bondi), which is currently working on Brendan McNamara's L.A. Noire followup Whore of the Orient. According to one of the listings, the title is in pre-production, with "full production" expected to begin some time early next year and last until middle of 2015—presumably suggesting a planned release sometime in 2015. Another job post describes the game as a "Narrative action adventure title" "similar in style to LA Noire" utilizing the proprietary "facial MotionScan technology" exhibited to great effect in McNamara's last game.
Given that L.A. Noire took seven years to get to market (though McNamara initially intended for a development cycle of about three years), it is not at all unreasonable to look at that proposed timeline for Whore of the Orient with a great deal of skepticism. The game is said to be about as ambitious as L.A. Noire, and with McNamara's track record, the amount of work involved in making a possibly open-world period piece set in a likely historically-accurate recreation 1930s Shanghai doesn't quite seem like it can be wrapped up in three years. But that timeline might be a tad more plausible if the game were perhaps more linear and level-based.
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Last week, 20th Century Fox registered the domain avpevolutiongame.com, seemingly in reference to some sort of new Aliens vs. Predator game. A Twitter account created the same day follows a number of app-related accounts and a few random celebrities, so perhaps this is some sort of iOS/Android title?
superannuation is a self-described "internet extraordinaire" residing somewhere in the Pacific Time Zone. He tweets, and can be reached at heyheymayday AT gmail DOT com.
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