Friday
Feb212014

Soft-Launching Our New Game!

For just over a year, we've been designing and developing our first mobile game here at LightBox Interactive. We really felt that we could bring a lot to mobile development given our background in console games; shooting, flying, smashing, driving and 'sploding. That kind of stuff. That's our bread and butter!

We also wanted to try making a game that was free-to-play. Our hope was that by using our own special kind of skill-based gameplay as a foundation, we'd be able to develop a new breed of mobile game. A skill-based free-to-play game with high production value and one that is fun, first and foremost. Not just another shellacked random number generator or clone du jour that we've all seen too often fill the App Store.

The team here at LightBox Interactive and we just wanted to develop something new.

So as you can imagine we are thrilled to be soft-launching our newest game, PlunderNauts, on the App Store in Canada. Click on the logo above to head over to the PlunderNauts site and check-out our new launch trailer!

We've really tried to get the core gameplay loop (the combat) to be fun, fast and skill-based. The controls are simple and intuitive. Drag a flight-path for your starship to follow and tap targets for your turrets to attack. It's got a great interaction cadence that's tailored for mobile, and a great reflection of our team's roots in the action-genre.  And of course your pirate starhship is crazy customizable. Armors, engines, shields, fighters, turrets, the whole-nine-yards. A full loot-system with rarity, item attributes, and crafting!

As far as pacing goes, the battles are fast. PlunderNauts is a game for mobile devices so we're completely aware of how play-patterns differ between console and mobile games. But the cool thing is... Plundernauts is a game that you can play for 2 hours or 2 minutes.

There's an over-arching galaxy map that's an arrangement of planets and other locations where you can battle space pirates and Bosses. Think of it as a constellation treasure map. When you win a battle, you earn gold, loot and items that can be used to upgrade your starship and continue your hunt for Iron Beard's treasure! Because, yeah... you're a space-pirate.

Now we'd be totally remiss if we didn't acknowledge some of the discussion lately surrounding free-to-play games. There are some really valid points about how some free-to-play games can be, shall we say, unsavory. We share those same concerns because the team members here at LightBox Interactive are gamers; console games, PC games and mobile games.

One of our guiding principals has always been to honor the "Player's Bill of Rights". It's an informal thing that we always talk about here in the studio. It serves as a test for any of the features or decisions that go into the game. Is it fun? Does it provide the player value? Does it respect the player? 

It's not actually written down. It's a very informal process and discussion which boils down to "don't be a dick".

We've really needed to thoughtfully consider the "Player's Bill of Rights" when developing the game, because hey...PlunderNauts is free after all! So as you can probably imagine, we do need to make some money, keep the lights on, pay our team members, etc.

We're a small team of only 8 people. No parent company owns even a portion of LightBox Interactive. There is no angel investor funneling us capital. We're 100% independent. And one of the ways we maintain that independence is through the great partnerships we've had over the years.

And with PlunderNauts, we've chosen to partner with the great mobile developer, Backflip Studios. They've got a fantastic amount of mobile experience and expertise, and we'll be talking more about that partnership in the days and weeks ahead.

For now, we're just excited to get PlunderNauts into Canada for our soft-launch! For several weeks we'll be testing the game there, working out the kinks, tuning and making updates. When we're really happy with it, we'll be rolling it out globally, hopefully in late spring 2014.

If you're Canadian, download PlunderNauts Now!

Wednesday
Feb122014

Warhawk Day T-Shirt Update!

The response for our limited-edition Warhawk Day t-shirt was simply amazing! It is fantastic to see that Warhawk still holds a special place in so many player's hearts and we're glad we could acknowledge them!

In fact, the response was so large that we felt our limited run of 100 shirts was not big enough to accurately cover the number of passionate fans. So what we've decided to do is DOUBLE the number of shirts we were planning to have made. This allows us to spread our appreciation and player-love even further across the globe and interwebs!

Here's what we're going to do. We're going to honor the first 100 players who signed-up and we're ALSO going to select 100 additional players at random and include them in the distribution of our limited-edition Warhawk t-shirts. We were so happy (and quite-frankly overwhelmed) by the response that we felt we needed to do something and doubling the number of shirts seemed like the right thing to do for our players.

So what's next, you ask? How do you know if you've been chosen to get an awesome Warhawk shirt? Well, we've made the selections and we'll be notifying the lucky ones next week via email! So keep your eye's peeled and hone your Warhawk skills for Warhawk Day on February 22nd!

Thanks again to all our fans!

Monday
Feb102014

Warhawk Day and Our Fans...

The people in our studio have been very fortunate to work on many games over the years starting in our early days at SingleTrac and Incognito, leading up 'till now at LightBox Interactive. And during that time, we've had a hand in working on some games that fans around the world have come to love. Games like Twisted Metal: Black, War of the Monsters, Warhawk and Starhawk. They were great learning experiences for us and have helped shape our team into what it is today.

But it's our fans -- who play and love those games -- that have had an equally big impact on who we are as developers and what we stand for at LightBox Interactive. We care deeply about giving you guys a fun experience and we're truly energized to see communities form around the games that we love just as much as you do!

So when fans of our PlayStation 3 game, Warhawk started organizing a "Warhawk Day" on February 22nd, we were really touched (not in a creepy way, get your minds out of the gutter). It was just another reminder of why we make games here at LightBox Interactive. Making games that can provide you guys a ton of fun and enjoyment! It's just about as good as it gets -- really.

Y'all have continued to hit us up on Twitter and email about making a new Warhawk or Starhawk... even a new War of the Monsters! And that sure would be amaze-balls but as many of you may not know, LightBox Interactive does not own those "properties" (which is just a fancy biz way of saying rights to those games). So as much as we'd like to, we simply can't develop new installments of those games. 

Don't get us wrong, we love that fans continue to ask, but it's just not something we can do. What we CAN do however, is acknowledge how awesome our fans are and their effort to organize Warhawk Day!

To do so, we're producing a limited edition t-shirt commemorating the fans and the game we BOTH love. A simple, clean t-shirt emblazoned with the iconic Warhawk wings and punctuated with the date of Warhawk Day 2.22.2014 !

And the t-shirt is FREE. That's right... FREE!

Just click here to fill-out the shipping form and we'll send it to you -- even international! Now as you can imagine, supplies of the shirt are very, VERY limited so act quickly!

We know a t-shirt can't take the place of the games you've hoped we could make for you, but it's a small token of our appreciation.

We'll see you on February 22nd
Warhawk Day!
 

Monday
Jan282013

2013: A new year, a new game!

Here at LightBox Interactive, the new year brings with it a lot of change -- new office space, new production methods and a new game!

As some of you may already know, we're working on a new mobile game and its been incredibly exciting to see it take shape. We've been focusing on the core gameplay for a couple months now and no, it's not a "tend your garden" game! It's still a bit early to reveal a ton of details, but we can say that a single goal has been driving the design and development of our new game. Simply put, we want to let you experience epic space battles in the palm of your hand!

Picture capital ships ripping each other apart with explosive turret fire in debris filled fleet battles. Formations of attack fighters swarming enemy bombers as they execute torpedo runs -- It's about fast, real-time 3D action with controls and a supporting meta-game that just feels great on mobile devices.

Because we love to show you guys behind the scenes of game development, here are some pics of the team hard at work in our new studio. Its a pretty small space that used to be an old attorney's office. And yeah, there's wood paneling.... but hey, its the game that counts and not the smell of old attorneys, right!?!??

The artists are cranking away on graphics, 3D models and texture maps while the designers are spending a lot of time -- as you might expect -- on controls, combat, and the over-arching system of upgrades and customization. All the while the programmers are engineering the new code that supports and drives our new mobile game. Stuff like capital ship movement, AI, online features, and cameras.

As you can imagine, its one thing to design and engineer groups of attack fighters that stay in formation and strafe enemy capital ships, or to develop a system to customize and configure your own personal capital ship, but its an entirely different thing to do all of that and make the interactions, the "touches", the gameplay all feel perfectly at home on a mobile device. Not like a PC or console or web game jammed onto a tablet or phone -- but an epic space battle game that's been designed from the ground-up to be a mobile game!

Its definitely an exciting challenge for us and there are really no games quite like ours on the AppStore.  So be sure to stay tuned to our Dev-Blog right here as we start showing more about our game and letting y'all see how it's shaping up!

Friday
Dec212012

Starhawk 1.04.003 Update Today!

Today during a global server maintenance window at 3pm Central time, we deployed a small 1.04.003 Update to Starhawk which was almost entirely inspired by your feedback and we really hope you enjoy the update!

As some of you may know, in mid-October, we parted ways with Sony Computer Entertainment and it's Santa Monica Studio. Nevertheless, we have maintained a great relationship and we've worked together to release a small update for our Starhawk community. The release of this 1.04.003 update was something that everyone here at LightBox Interactive felt was the right thing to do for you, our fans. Our former colleagues at Santa Monica Studio agreed completely and graciously offered to have their QA team provide all the testing support needed for the 1.04.003 update even though it really wasn't an "on-the-books" project for them.

Now of course we were limited in what we could develop for this small update since it is not a full patch with a funded development cycle. However, we were still able to make a few really positive changes:

  • Added new Arena load-out for small maps.
  • Reduced Grinder damage in singleplayer.
  • Added Grizzly to Lone Wolf [Blitz] load-out.
  • Replaced Cloak & Shield in Gatekeeper game mode.
  • Removed Outposts from small maps.
  • Cluster Bomb weapon balance.
  • Fixed spawn-in bug for Assault game mode.
  • Changed Skill Score Leaderboard.

New Arena Load-Out:
There had been a request by the fans for awhile now for a simple non-vehicle load-out that could be used in our small maps and for modes other than DeathMatch. To help give players this option, we have added an Arena Load-Out to the small maps Junction, Relay and Glade, and it includes the Shield Generator, Pod Cannon, Supply Bunker, Watchtower, Auto-Turret, and Wall. This new load-out is available for CTF, TDM, Zones, DM and Assault.

Reduce Grinder Damage in Singleplayer:
Sure, most of our updates have to do with Multiplayer but we never lose sight of the solo experience! And for that reason, we felt we needed to make a change to the Grinder only in the campaign. For those of you who played the SP campaign in Starhawk, you may have noticed that when you got the Grinder, it was CRAZY easy to cut through enemy units under a stream of molten sparks. In fact, it was too easy. To help balance this weapon and maintain the right level of difficulty for the later missions in the campaign, we have reduced the Grinder damage by 33%.

Added Grizzly to LoneWolf [Blitz] Load-Out:
This change is very straight-forward and is simply a bug fix so LoneWolf and LoneWolf [Blitz] load-outs use the same Build & Battle units.

Replaced Cloak & Shield in GateKeeper Game Mode:
GateKeeper mode is very fun however some players had found that when using the Cloak and Shield in this flight-focused mode, a player could essentially be unstoppable. And the fans were right it was exploit-tastic. We looked at a variety of solutions and the one we settled on for the 1.04.003 Update was to replace the Cloak and Shield pick-ups with the Homing Missile and Flak Cannon pick-ups respectively. This change is isolated to just this gameplay mode and makes a huge improvement to the balance of GateKeeper!

Removed Outposts from Small Maps:
The small maps we added in the 1.04 Update were a great addition to the over-all set of maps in Starhawk! However, the fact that you could use Outpost Build & Battle structures in these intentionally very small maps was really not yielding the proper game experience. To resolve this, now Outposts are removed from the load-out if you choose one of the small maps like Glade, Junction or Relay. This change helps make these maps feel much better and the removal of the Outposts really helps drive more tactical gameplay rather than just the Outpost spam we were seeing.

A point of clarification: You can still choose the Trooper load-out on a small map like Glade, for example. It will show you that the Outpost is contained in that load-out however when you get into the game, the Outpost will be selectively pruned from the Build & Battle wheel. And again, this change is only for the small maps.

Cluster Bomb Weapon Balance:
Due to the way the Cluster Bomb was being used there were a couple of changes that we felt needed to be made. We still want to preserve the weapon's power on the battlefield but the sheer volume of Cluster Bomb kills relative to the other weapons needed to be adjusted. To resolve this we have made the pick-up take a bit longer to respawn. It was previously 60 seconds and now it is 75 seconds. While this may seem like a subtle change, 15 seconds does make a difference!

The second change we did to the Cluster Bomb was to combat the degenerate behavior of using the weapon at nearly point-blank range. In this situation, a player flying a Hawk could just jam a Cluster Bomb down the throat of a player or more often a group of players at such a close range that there was no real counter defense. To help resolve this, we have fixed the Cluster Bomb so that its explosive area of effect can damage the player who launched the Cluster Bomb. This means that a player STILL can do a point-blank Cluster Bomb attack however there is now some significant risk to do so.

Fixed Spawn-in Bug for Assault Game Mode:
When we released the new gameplay mode Assault in the Starhawk 1.04 Update, players were able to find a bug that allowed a player to spawn into the enemy team's base during certain rounds. This, as you can imagine, resulted in an erosion of the gameplay experience were were looking for! The 1.04.003 Update simply fixes the bug so you can no longer spawn into the enemy base.

Changed Skill Score Leaderboard:
We had received many comments about our Skill Score and Skill Score Leaderboard. Some players were seeing odd behavior like their Skill Score going down after a game they just won or other such seemingly odd changes. This definitely needed to get fixed. So we spent some time investigating and found that while the underlying math for the Skill Score is actually working quite well, the issue seemed to arise from server delays when a player's Skill Score was updated. This would result in you never really seeing the proper Skill Score when you looked at the Leaderboard.

We really wanted the Skill Score Leaderboard to be a very real-time leaderboard with high-frequency updates but the practical fact is that it never worked exactly the way players expected because it simply WASN'T as real-time as we needed. So, to improve this, we have made a change to how Skill Scores are processed.

Now in the 1.04.003 Update, all Skill Scores are collected for 24 hours and then processed all at the same time (at 4am Central time) in a much more complete and global fashion. This results in a Skill Score that reflects your overall game performance for the past 24 hours and greatly reduces the odd behavior of Skill Score changes that just didn't make any sense.

-----------------

We're incredibly fortunate to have such a passionate fanbase and we are truly thankful for all of your ongoing involvement in the Starhawk online community!

 

Hope you enjoy the update & have a very
Happy Holidays!

 

Stay tuned for an update on our new mobile game! 
 


Tuesday
Oct162012

MLG Quick Challenge #2 Winner!

Congratulations to TheGremlinKlown
winner of the MLG Roadkill Challenge!

GTK was a terror behind the wheel this weekend racking up over 2500 verified roadkills on poor unsuspecting foot-soldiers!  Unbelievable!  No one on foot was safe as he crushed them beneath his wheels, then did burnouts on their corpses!  In wreck-ognition for his weekend wheeled warfare MLG is awarding him the $500 prize!

Check out the graphs from the weekend carnage below!  You can see how many roadkills per hour he was racking up in the first image, and the second shows how much time the top 5 finishers spent playing this weekend!  These are just two of the nearly infinite number of graphs we can generate to gain insight into how people are playing the game!

Sign up with MLG before the next Quick Challenge starts by clicking here

Thursday
Oct112012

MLG Quick Challenge #1 Winner!

Congratulations to Lightning__V
winner of the MLG Knife Kills Challenge!

The competition was fierce as he battled it out with several other top players over the weekend clawing his way to victory.  For his amazing knife skills MLG is awarding him the $500 prize!  If you missed out this week, don't worry, MLG has three more challenges coming up, each with their own $500 prize!

As with all of the Starhawk tournaments, we work closely with MLG to validate all of the leaderboard statistics through a very powerful system called Tableau.  In fact, we have a designer who is dedicated to the data collection and interpretation process who helps us understand all of the statistics generated by our game.  You've probably seen his charts and graphs when we post them on the forums.  He spent several days this week going through all of the top players in the quick challenge to ensure that everyone was playing fair and not 'killfarming' to inflate their statistics.  In the process he generated some really interesting charts such as this heat map showing where all of Lightning__V's kills took place over the course of the weekend!

 Sign up with MLG before the next Quick Challenge starts here!


Monday
Oct012012

Grizzly Week

Its Grizzy Week here at LightBox!  The new Grizzly Exo-Suit DLC has been available for a week, and the consensus around the community is that it's a pretty sweet new vehicle!  To celebrate its launch we're spending the entire week focusing on the development of the biggest new addition to the Starhawk arsenal with concept art and behind the scenes footage.

Today on the blog, we're showing off a few pieces from the initial weapon system exploration.  The first two slides were early ideas of what a fully armed Grizzly might look like.  These sketches show the artists playing around with various ideas for the weapons, but you can also see that the general look of the frame itself is starting to solidify (vs the image that we posted yesterday on Facebook).  There's still variation in the structure, especially in the legs, but by this point a direction has been selected, and our artists are starting to dial in the look.

The second two images show off detailed closeups for each of the Grizzly's long range and melee weapons systems.  During the process, our artists will use images of real-world objects to help them hone in on something that is fantastic, but also recognizeable to players as being rooted in heavy industry.  These are just a few of the many such sketches we produced, and are good representations of the weapon concepting process!

We'll have more Grizzly coverage all week so be sure to visit our Facebook page and follow @LBI_Studio on Twitter!