Tencent unveils big-budget open-world game led by ‘GTA’ veteran

Last Sentinel is an open-world adventure game set in a dystopian future Tokyo, developed by Tencent’s California-based Lightspeed LA studio. — AFP

Tencent Holdings Ltd revealed one of its most ambitious attempts at a big-budget console game on Dec 8, betting on a new franchise to fire up fans and help the global expansion of China’s most valuable company.

Last Sentinel is an open-world adventure game set in a dystopian future Tokyo, developed by Tencent’s California-based Lightspeed LA studio. The 200-member creative team is headed up by Steve Martin, a quarter-century veteran of the games industry who has worked on marquee games in the genre like Grand Theft Auto and Read Dead Redemption.

The new title, four years in development, is testament to Tencent’s long-term pursuit of foreign gaming assets and talent. The WeChat operator still relies heavily on domestic game sales in China, but in recent years it’s amped up efforts to acquire slices of up-and-coming studios from Europe to Japan to complement its ownership of League Of Legends creator Riot Games Inc and large stake in Epic Games Inc. Last Sentinel is part of its push to create new intellectual property from scratch.

“We have a global gaming community that’s screaming out that it wants something new. It wants new IPs, it wants new characters. We get to provide that,” Martin, who left Rockstar Games to join Tencent in 2019, said in a video interview before unwrapping his work at The Game Awards in Los Angeles.

He doesn’t have a launch date for his team’s creation yet, but the debut trailer offers some hints of gameplay and introduces female protagonist Hiromi Shoda. Martin’s former employer this week released the first trailer for its Grand Theft Auto VI, one of the industry’s most hotly-anticipated titles and a successor to a game he was intimately involved in creating.

A large portion of the years-long development for Last Sentinel so far has been dedicated to documenting production plans and concept art to ensure a consistent direction – the team will move to gathering motion capture animations in Lightspeed’s newly created dedicated facility early next year.

Tencent, through its diverse international investments, is already a big winner at this year’s Game Awards. It has a 30% stake in Baldur’s Gate 3 maker Larian Studios as well as a 5% share of Remedy Entertainment, the Finnish studio behind Alan Wake 2. The two blockbusters scooped up eight nominations apiece at the award ceremony, including Game of the Year.

Now the Shenzhen-based company’s own developers are looking to catch up and craft hits in-house. Tencent’s Lightspeed Studios is best known for making PUBG Mobile and its Chinese equivalent Peacekeeper Elite, which have helped the parent company maintain growth during difficult times.

The Los Angeles division – situated in a two-floor building in Orange County – was established to take a crack at open-world games, while Playa Vista, California-based Uncapped Games focuses on the real-time strategy genre. – Bloomberg

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