I’m Buddy, the Community Manager for Akupara Games and today, we’re releasing a new case for The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark! And I wanted to take a second to peel back the curtain on The Darkside Detective to give you a sneak peek into the mythological inspiration for the new case, the thunderbird.
“One Flew into the Cuckoo’s Nest” (this is the name of the case, the cuckoo is the thunderbird, do you get it?) takes place at Twin Lakes’ botanical garden. If you watched the trailer above, you’d be able to see that a thunderous egg and bird caw hint pretty strongly that there’s a problem that only McQueen and Dooley can sort out. That problem is a thunderbird, a giant, electrified bird threatening to zap and sizzle anyone getting too close.
In the folklore of indigenous tribes of North America, the thunderbird is a massive avian whose wingbeats create thunder and whose eyes spark with lightning. And in the same way that the mythological traits of dragons or unicorns vary from kingdom to kingdom in Europe, the different legends from different indigenous peoples afforded the thunderbird a wide variety of traits and abilities depending on that legend’s individual source. Whether the thunderbird was a force of nature, bringing storms, wind and rain; a shapeshifter, looking to blend in among the humans; or a spiritual guardian, protecting humanity from the dark creatures of the underworld depends highly on whom you’re hearing the story from. While the thunderbird shows up in folk tales from all across North America, it’s particularly associated with the Algonquian tribe of north-eastern Canada and the United States as well as a number of different cultures in the Pacific Northwest, where the thunderbird is commonly carved into tall totem poles.
Thunderbirds are a little bit off the beaten path for mythological creatures. Ghosts? Vampires? Zombies? These are kinds of creatures that jump to the front of your mind when we start talking about the kind of magical world the Darkside Detective takes place in. And true to form, The Darkside Detective has featured protesting ghosts, emotionally drained vampires and gangster zombies in the cases of the first two games. Creatures so common you’ll immediately recognize them (and the specific riffs on them that we do in our games for comedy.)
The thunderbirds, on the other hand, are a little less common, which makes them a unique subject for a Darkside Detective case. Outside of their presence in the folklore of indigenous tribes of North America, the thunderbird has popped up here and there in different pieces of popular culture. The recent film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, for instance, features a thunderbird being released to its native habitat of Arizona. The legendary bird, Zapdos, in the first generation of Pokemon games was also inspired by the thunderbird. Thunderbird is the codename for the first indigenous X-men character introduced alongside fan favorites (like Storm, Wolverine and Colossus.)
Without going into too many details for the case itself, since I promised myself I wouldn’t spoil this for any of you, the thunderbird’s size and power make it perfect for the Darkside Detective games. If the beating heart of the Darkside Detective is the bromance between Dooley and McQueen, then the arteries and blood vessels of this metaphorical circulatory system are the inherent comedy of fantastical creatures popping up in mundane places. Watching a completely normal security guard report on a massive thunderbird nesting on the roof of a building is precisely the right sort of humor that makes Darkside the kind of game that we all want to spend an hour hanging out with.
If any of the above really tickles your fancy, then feel free to download the new Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark case “One Flew Into the Cuckoo’s Nest” today, available now on Xbox.
The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark
“Twin Lakes is a cursed city. Less cursed than say, “Demons are tearing it apart” but more cursed than “always loses its keys” or “often steps in puddles”. It’s roughly in the middle of the cursed scale, is what we’re trying to say.
Cursed enough that it’s a nuisance. Cursed enough that somebody has to deal with it…
That’s where The Darkside Detective comes in. Whenever you hear a bump in the night, feel a tingle up your spine, or smell something fishy, Detective Francis McQueen isn’t far behind.
No, he doesn’t smell of fish – it’s a phrase, come on…
Picking up after the events of The Darkside Detective https://news.xbox.com/en-us/2022/04/19/what-is-the-thunderbird-and-why-is-the-darkside-detective-centering-a-case-on-it/, McQueen has to save his usually-present (in body, if not mind) sidekick Officer Dooley from the Darkside, so the two can get back to what they do best – investigating the city’s many strange, often paranormal, always paradoxical goings-on.
Join them in this frighteningly funny point-and-click adventure as they investigate six more standalone cases bringing them to a carnival, the local retirement home, an amateur wrestling circuit and even as far away as Ireland as they do what they can to keep the Darkside at bay.”
Transport Fever 2: Console Edition is Bringing the Full Transport Tycoon Experience to Xbox
Today, we proudly share a sneak peek into the development of Transport Fever 2: Console Edition, and how we managed to bring the full transport tycoon experience to Xbox.
Transport Fever is a very popular and highly rated transportation tycoon franchise on PC. Its latest entry, Transport Fever 2, delivers a level of size and detail never before seen in the genre. The goal of the game is to build a successful transportation company by constructing railroads, streets, water and air lines. Starting in the 19th century, the player connects towns and industries to transport both passengers and cargo. In addition to a customizable free game mode, there is also a fully-fledged campaign mode with challenging missions set in real-world transportation history.
After the huge success of Transport Fever 2 on PC, it was only logical to bring the experience to consoles as well. Not only that, but no efforts were spared to give the console community the full experience that made the game great on PC. In order to achieve this, the engineers at Urban Games had to pull some rabbits out of their engineers’ hats.
One of the most cherished features of Transport Fever 2 are its highly detailed vehicles. The game comes with more than 200 lovingly hand-modeled trains, ships, and airplanes, each sporting multiple 4k textures and normal maps.
On PC, it is easily affordable to have all the models and textures in memory whenever needed, as a typical rig has 16 GB of RAM and a GPU with a dedicated extra memory. Consoles, however, are built differently. They have a unified architecture with an overall smaller amount but ultra-fast memory. The key to make it work on consoles is texture streaming, which allows to clear textures of models that are not in view anymore. Moreover, this technology is used in Transport Fever 2 to constantly load textures at the highest affordable resolution to present the stars of the show, like the classic Class A 3/5 steam locomotive, in their best coat of paint at all times.
A trademark of Transport Fever 2 are its huge maps. During development of the game, it was always paramount to provide a real sense of scale. The engine should allow for maps where a high-speed train, such as the famous Japanese Shinkansen, can really make use of its superior speed. So, a lot of effort was put into designing a highly effective terrain rendering pipeline that can handle maps of more than 120 sq miles of size with a detail resolution of almost 1 yard. Central to this is a dynamic terrain tessellation algorithm on the CPU that, while costing a bit of extra memory, makes sure the engine can render these maps on a wide variety of PCs.
Now, enter the world of consoles with their incredibly well-designed GPUs and graphic APIs. Here, the hardware can be leveraged very well for terrain rendering by making use of the GPU tessellation feature. This feature generates the render mesh for the terrain fully on the graphics card, saving valuable processing time for the complex economy and city growth simulations. While generating more triangles, the hardware approach still costs less memory overall due to its efficiency. So vast maps can be viewed from a bird’s view high up in the sky and seamlessly zoomed in down to individual rocks on a riverbank.
Finally, let’s talk about constructions, a central and defining part of the Transport Fever 2 experience. Constructions are large assemblies that consist of dozens of assets, street segments, ground decals and terrain modifications. Think of structures like airports, train stations, docks, highway crossings, and many more. Anything that is needed to build a vast transportation empire.
For a smooth construction experience, it is key that the player really feels that he has precise control over the building placement. On PC, constructions are typically built using the mouse. As the average PC user is very well adjusted to this method of input, it is sufficiently performant to calculate the entire construction each frame and place it under the cursor. However, on consoles, the best way of building constructions is to have them always kept in the center of the screen and move the camera along the map for placement. And moving the camera needs to be as smooth as silk.
So, for the console release of Transport Fever 2, the construction preview pipeline was overhauled. All dynamic calculations are now performed in the background while a static preview of the structure and its underlying ground plan are shown. Not only are constructions now completely stable in terms of FPS, but they also give feedback to the player on what environment features the construction would tear down when built.
Let’s get tycooning on console
We are very excited to bring the Transport Fever franchise to consoles for the first time ever with the release of Transport Fever 2: Console Edition on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One in February 2023, and we hope you will enjoy it as much as we did developing it.
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