Updates from the Developer_Direct ‘24

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Xbox has started the year off with another batch of updates and announcements during their second Developer Direct. The Direct covers the progress made on some of the games coming to Xbox. Last years Developer Direct featured updates from Arkane Austin, Mojang Studios, Turn 10 Studios, and ZeniMax Online Studios and the surprise drop of the incredibly popular and highly praised Hi-Fi Rush. This years Direct features updates from Oxide Games, Obsidian Entertainment, Ninja Theory, Square Enix, and MachineGames. There may not have been any surprise launches this year, but there was still some great content to go over.

Obsidian Entertainment went first with their Game Director, Carrie Patel introducing a look at their game Avowed. Patel shares that the game will be themed around secrets of the world, one of which is very important to the player’s character. Gameplay Director Gabriel Paramo explains that the game features the ability to quickly change from sharpshooting and spellcasting to melee combat. This sounds like great news for someone who is not keen on selecting one method of fighting and sticking with that for a whole playthrough. However, with more choices comes more decisions you’ll have to make in the heat of combat. There will be multiple regions as well as many decisions you’ll have to make that will have a profound impact on the game. Your choices do matter within the Living Lands. Art Director Matt Hansen says that they knew they wanted the setting for Avowed to “feel rich, weird, and wonderful.” And that it does! The terrain alternates from destitute sands to oasis with bouts of colors, the world already looks fabulous, and we can assume it’s going to look even better when the game releases in Fall of 2024.

Ninja Theory is up next with Studio Head Dom Matthews introducing Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II. Matthews explains that the game is i n it’s final months of development and will feature a shorter, narrative-led experience. Melina Juergens from the Character Performance explains the beginning plot of the game. Senua is going to stop the Vikings by going to them directly in Iceland. Senua has made peace with her voices but the Furies are still there as she encounters new people that both do and do not share her perspective. Laura Derham (Scriptwriter/ Performance Capture) tells us that the studio is trying to be “as faithful to history as they can, up to a point.” Matthews explains that the team has worked closely with Professor Paul Fletcher at the University of Cambridge and people with lived experience of psychosis to make Senua’s story as authentic as possible. Mark Slater-Tunstill (VFX Director) explains that the combat reflects the fact that Senua is struggling, and that she is no a super hero, so the gamer will leave some fights feeling as though they’ve just scraped through. David Garcia Diaz explains that the game should be played with headphones, as the sounds within the game have binaural audio (spatialized audio.) The release date is set for May 21st, 2024. 

As a bit of a surprise, Square Enix joins the party with Mana Series Producer Masaru Oyamada giving everyone a sneak peak at Visions of Mana. Oyamada explains that this is the first console release from the Mana franchise in 15 years. Fan-favorite monsters will be making a return, and Koichi Ishii has been designing the monsters within the franchise for 30 years and explains that the cute and cuddly monsters also have frightening qualities as well. The Pikuls, inspired by a Yorkie, Pangolin, and Anubis,  will help you traverse the map as your new companion. The soundtrack will have the same tone as previous Mana games as there are many returning artists that contributed to the 100 plus track list for the game. This is the first time a Mana game is releasing on Xbox, and is set to come out this Summer of 2024.

Up next is Oxide Games presenting Ara: History Untold. The president, Marc Meyer, describes it as “the game we have dreamt of making.” Design Director Michelle Menard described the game as: “ an homage to historical gamers, strategy gamers, 4X gamers.” Menard explains that they wanted to push the boundaries of the genre. Meyer adds that there are 100 instruments around the office which were all purchased to be used on the soundtrack. In the game, you’ll rule the living world to become the most prestigious nation on the planet. Lead designer Michael Califf explained that they wanted players to make strategic choices while still having agency over their playstyle. Art Director Dorian Newcomb adds that players will see their choices reflected within the living world they have created instead of just numbers on a menu. The Prestige system is how you’ll prove you’re a good leader within the world. There are no set victory conditions and you’ll be able to focus on those goals while still winning the game. The crafting system also differentiates Ara from other 4x games. In a humorous bit, the creators explained the value of players in the Insider Program as the game develops. Apparently, the cougars within the game were much too dangerous, and their threat on players within the Insider Program had to be balanced for better gameplay. The game is set to release in the Fall of 2024.

The next look was at MachineGames’ Indiana Jones and The Great Circle. I already covered this look in a previous article that you can read here.

Replies • 4


I'm really excited for the new Hellblade. The first used the medium of video games in such an amazing way, it's a great example of really expanding what can be done with interactive storytelling.