Jack Gardner

PewDiePie Joins MLG.tv

By Jack Gardner, in Gaming News,


 
Starting tonight at 7pm ET, episodes of BroKen, a podcast created by Felix "PewDiePie" Kjellberg and his friend CinnamonToastKen, will begin airing on Major League Gaming's streaming service.
 
The podcast will be available on MLG.tv and going forward it will appear there first before making its way to other services. Viewers will be able to interact with the stream via Twitter by following @MLG and using #BroKen or by using the new chat system that MLG has recently introduced.
 
"We’re excited to introduce PewDiePie to the MLG.tv network as we continue to deliver exclusive content from the best producers in the world,” said Ryan “Fwiz” Wyatt, MLG's VP of programming. “Our vision for MLG.tv is to make it the home for premium content and producers like PewDiePie and his show ‘BroKen.’ This type of programming deal with PewDiePie, one of the biggest stars in digital media, is a great example of the premier talent we have joining the growing MLG.tv line-up."

Jack Gardner

 
While rumors have been spreading through the industry since early last week, today Mojang confirmed that they are indeed in the middle of being bought by Microsoft for a whopping $2.5 billion. That's billion. With a B. 
 
For some perspective on that rather large number, Microsoft values Mojang at 62% of what Disney paid to acquire the entire Star Wars franchise and Lucasfilm. That's more than Oculus VR was worth to Facebook and almost three times what Twitch, the fourth highest ranked website in the US for peak internet traffic, was purchased for by Amazon. 
 
What does this mean for Minecraft? 
 
For starters, it doesn't seem like the versions that are currently available will be going away anytime soon. According to Mojang's Owen Hill: 
Owen can't speak for Sony or Apple, but it seems for now that Microsoft has no intention of locking those versions of Minecraft away. 
 
Minecraft itself is going to remain the same. It will receive periodic updates and slowly continue to develop over time. It is uncertain whether the same people will continue to work on Minecraft going forward, but as of right now it is confirmed that the founders of Mojang, Carl Manneh, Markus "Notch" Persson, and Jakob Porsér, are leaving to pursue their interests elsewhere. 
 
Thus far, Notch has released a statement about leaving Mojang and Minecraft, which you can read here. His goodbye post boils down to a few key details. First, Notch doesn't view himself as a game developer; he develops games because he loves to code and play around with game concepts. Second, he doesn't want to be an abstract concept that people hate and the target of hateful comments. As he says in his message, "I’m not an entrepreneur. I’m not a CEO. I’m a nerdy computer programmer who likes to have opinions on Twitter. [...] I don’t expect to get away from negative comments by doing this, but at least now I won’t feel a responsibility to read them." Finally, he gave a deeply heartfelt thank you to everyone that supports Minecraft. In his post, he also mentions watching the video This Is Phil Fish as something influential in his decision to sell Mojang.
 
 
 
<a href="http://c418.bandcamp.com/album/0x10c" data-mce-href="http://c418.bandcamp.com/album/0x10c">0x10c by C418</a>
 
Musician C418, creator of the Minecraft soundtrack, posted the music he made for Notch's 0x10c
 
For anyone who might still be worried about Minecraft or the future of Mojang or its employees, let me end with a quote from Owen Hill, "It's going to be good, though. Everything is going to be OK. <3"

Jack Gardner

Review: Destiny

By Jack Gardner, in Features,


 
Bungie’s newest game, the most pre-ordered new IP in history, is entertaining. The gameplay is tight, the environments are gorgeous, and the character designs ooze cool. In fact, it seems like many of the design choices in Destiny revolve around a rule of cool, as if Bungie was constantly asking, “Will this be cool? If not, scrap it.” The result is a game that looks superb set in an inviting universe populated by interesting and diverse enemies. If that’s the case, why then does Destiny feel so hollow?
 
Note: As of the writing of this review, end-game content such as raids have not been unlocked. The review will be updated when raids unlock next week.
 
Playing Destiny just feels good. Players are given a kit of abilities and weapons and tasked with eliminating groups of enemies that all behave in different ways. Do you want to save your rocket launcher ammo for the boss or is the large group of clustered enemies rushing toward you worth the shot? Take the time to reload your auto rifle or go in for the melee attack? Use your super move or attempt a headshot with your throwing knife? These are questions you’ll be asking yourself constantly, often with only a split second to come to a decision. All of these choices come together and feel fluid in-game.
 
The same feeling of fluidity carries over into competitive multiplayer. Initially, there will only be one game type to choose from, but others will unlock as players level up. Control is similar to many capture point-style modes found in other games, while Clash is traditional team deathmatch under a different name. Rumble is a standard free-for-all brawl. The Skirmish mode is interesting. It pits two teams of three against each other, emphasizing the importance of team work. Finally, Salvage tasks teams of three to battle over possession of relics. With a decent number of well-balanced maps, multiplayer is sure to be a draw for a number of people. It does have a few problems, though. Notably, despite the tag of “Level Advantages Disabled” it seems like there is still a noticeable power difference between well-geared or leveled people and players who are just starting out. Hopefully a patch can balance the competitive multiplayer a bit better. There are also a great deal of weapons that can insta-kill: shotguns, fusion rifles, headshots with the hand cannon, sniper rifle, and each playable class’ super move which has the capacity to instantly kill multiple enemy players. Not to mention the vehicles which, though nerfed since the beta, still empower people to a frustrating degree. These instant death situations are plentiful and they lead to a lot of deaths that feel cheap.
 

 
Though players can team up on story missions or wander the large maps in Patrol mode, Strikes are the highlight of Destiny’s cooperative multiplayer. They require a degree of teamwork to claim victory and can’t be pulled off alone. They tend to culminate in large boss battles against enemies with ludicrous amounts of health. They are long, feature tons of bad guys, and test the limits of player skill. In other words, they’re one of the best parts about Destiny.
 
Destiny truly shines when it comes to the visuals. I would love to see a feature in an upcoming patch that allows players to completely disable the HUD. The vistas are so gorgeous that it seems a shame to have some of them hidden behind objective markers, a radar, and ammo counter. It is refreshing to see that, even though Destiny has aspirations to be a serious shooter, it isn’t cut from the same washed-out cloth as many other FPS games. Destiny isn’t afraid to access a rich and vibrant color palate. Each area feels different, distinguished in part by variances in architecture, color schemes, and terrain. The pitted grey surface of the moon feels totally distinct from the rainy and tropical climes of Venus. Similarly, the human buildings on Earth feel at odds with the alien fortresses on Mars.
 

 
Every change in scenery is accompanied by a new enemy entering the mix. There are four alien races so far: the Fallen, Hive, Vex, and Cabal. Each race has their own unique enemy types and tactics. The enemies are distinct from each other to a pleasing degree. It is easy to recognize the difference between the lumbering forms of the Cabal from the wiry, mechanical forms of the Vex. I got the sense that each of these races has a history, a reason for why they are in the Sol system and utterly hostile toward the human race. But I only got an impression, never any moving story sequences or moments to illustrate why I should care about them, other than the fact that they look cool. As players progress, they will unlock portions of lore in Destiny’s Grimoire. However, the Grimoire is inaccessible through any in-game means. You are forced to either go to Bungie’s website or download the free Destiny app to a mobile device. To me, locking off the background information to separate devices seems like a bizarre design decision.  
 
There is so much to like about Destiny. When it comes together, it feels sublime and there are glimpses of greatness. However, more often than not, it comes up short on its potential. A major contributor to this is the narrative, which feels like it was treated as a secondary or maybe even tertiary concern when balanced against the gameplay and visual design. Whenever someone might want Destiny to be more than functional, it can’t seem to rise to meet that desire. That’s a shame because there is so much potential in the Destiny universe, so many events alluded to that would be interesting to explore (at one point the Peter Dinklage-voiced robot casually tosses out that at one point the entire planet of Mercury was transformed into an evil machine!).
 

 
**Spoiler Warning**
 
Here is a brief synopsis of approximately half of the story present in Destiny:
 
A sentient mechanical eyeball voiced by Peter Dinklage resurrects the protagonist to help defend the last city on Earth from the coming Darkness. The two then go off on a series of excursions that put them in contact with an old AI named Rasputin that somehow is connected with the Moon. While on the Moon, the duo crosses paths with a mysterious person (with no connection to Rasputin) who indicates they should check out Venus, because there is an even worse evil there than the aliens that live underneath the surface of the Moon and have been invading Earth.
 
This is indicative of where Destiny’s story goes wrong. It doesn’t bother to create coherent events that run together or make sense. Instead, it opts to go for just a series of events that happen. The Rasputin AI is used to get players from Earth to the Moon and is never mentioned again until one of the last missions in the game (which happens to be a side mission, not one of the core story missions). There is this concept known as economical storytelling which just means that every element of your story should be essential. Nothing is gained by including Rasputin into the narrative of Destiny, other than getting the player to the Moon. Furthermore, Bungie associates a lot of important language with the AI. Destiny refers to the AI as a Warmind and tells the player that it has the potential to save mankind from extinction by reactivating old defenses, but we never see any of that happen, aside from a giant communications array rising from the ground.
 
The tell-don’t-show approach spills over into other parts of Destiny as well. The most obvious example of this is the stakes into which players are continually asked to invest themselves. The old “aliens want to destroy the world” cliché just doesn’t hold up as well when you are trying to tell a compelling narrative in video games these days. Why should we care about the last city on Earth? For all the player knows, everyone in the city is already dead since we never see any of them. Guardians all seem to live in Tower, the central hub of Destiny. You can see a few non-guardians wandering around or running shops, but other than that, there are large stretches of buildings far below. Those buildings are as close as players ever get to having a reason to care about the human race (other than the fact that the people holding the controller and playing Destiny are, presumably, human themselves). Then there are the other issues with the narrative like the constant use of ambiguity. At times it feels like players are fighting against concepts instead of factions of aliens with their own goals and agendas. The clearest example of this is the often mentioned “Darkness” that is coming. What is it? I’ve finished the story and I have no idea. The game just tells you it is bad and that it almost destroyed all human life. I guess it is hard to see the threat posed by the Darkness when Earth is already overrun with several different alien races that want to destroy the remaining humans and the nearest planets house aliens that also want to kill everything.
 

 
Why even mention the Darkness at all if it has nothing to do with the central plot? Clearly it is a set up for future expansions, but it serves no purpose in the narrative of Destiny as it stands currently and is bafflingly present in many of the dialogue exchanges throughout the game. This is the opposite of economical storytelling. I understand that video games contain different story structures than more traditional forms of media, but the fact remains that Destiny wastes a lot of its narrative time on inconsequential elements of its universe. I think that is where Destiny’s story went wrong. It took the building of a giant universe as its story’s central mission instead of building the world as a part of the narrative. We are meant to envision a large, rich game universe as Destiny throws around terms like Warmind and concepts like the Darkness. It is an attempt at world building that largely succeeds, at the cost of a coherent narrative that players will be able to enjoy.
 
Now, this could all simply be attributed to lazy writing, but it seems to me that a project as big as Destiny would have to be a bit more self-aware. I have a suspicion that the narrative is intentionally structured this way. Destiny is rated T by the ESRB, which means it can be sold to younger gamers under the age of 17. While Destiny’s plot might not make much sense on paper, in practice it moves at a breakneck pace through vastly different scenery and enemies. Propelling players forward as fast as possible through the story is much easier when you don’t worry about things like character development, stakes, drama, etc. Many younger players, ages 12-16, could very well be utterly beguiled by the stylish combat, gorgeous scenery, and downright cool vibe Destiny throws out. The big sounding words and concepts impart a sense of scale that will leave the upcoming generation of gamers feeling like Destiny is one of the coolest games they’ve ever played, though they will struggle to articulate exactly why that is and what makes it so great.
 
Though Destiny slips up and falls completely flat from a dramatic standpoint, it is still blast to play, which is why I can’t find it within myself to feel angry toward what it does or fails to do, just a bit of realistic disappointment. The opening mission holds such promise. Resurrected from the dead by a Ghost, it is a mad dash away from oncoming Fallen forces through rusting cars and timeworn corridors. Things seem so large and big as Ghost rattles off crucial details of the situation. Then you acquire weapons and armor and learn how to use them in your first real encounter. The fighting is fast, flashy, and leaves you feeling great as you take off in your newly acquired spacecraft. It feels so reminiscent of Star Wars that it kindles a bit of hope that the experience of Destiny might be something utterly unique and magical. What else could the game have in store? As you spend hours and hours making your way through the various missions and game worlds, it becomes clear that there isn’t much more to Destiny’s gameplay than what you experienced in the first mission. In fact, I can only think of one mission where I was required to do something other than shoot bad guys until the game allowed me to continue and that was a mission where I got a sword to slice up bad guys until the game allowed me to continue. The potential of the first mission is never realized. In fact, as Destiny continues there are more and more opportunities for interesting scenarios and interactions, but nothing ever comes of them. By the end of the campaign it felt like all that had been accomplished over the course of several days was the creation of a blank slate universe to which Bungie can add content as they wish.
 
 
Conclusion:
 
It is hard for me to conjure any animosity toward Destiny. It plays well and looks great, but the story is deeply flawed on numerous levels. It has nothing to say about which I feel offended other than way it undermines its own narrative, which just makes me feel kinda sad. The multiplayer is fun, though frustrating at times, and teaming up with friends to blast away at digital aliens in a Strike is good fun. Destiny is a worthy first-person shooter if all you are looking for is a shooter with neat visuals and tight gameplay. If you are looking for a story that will stick with you for years to come, Destiny is not that game. Perhaps the expansions will contain a story worth your time and attention, but until then enjoy the fun. Time will tell for certain, but I think the lesson to be learned from Destiny in five to ten years is that while a fun experience is pleasurable, it is also ephemeral. High quality stories are pleasuarable, too, but they also last. 
 
Destiny is currently available on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. This review will be updated when raids are released next week.
 
Update: Having experienced Destiny's raids, they do not significantly alter my opinions regarding Destiny's end game content. The lack of matchmaking for raids will prove to be a considerable barrier for players with less than the five highly levelled friends required to participate.

Jack Gardner

 
One of the most respected and talented game development teams in the industry is celebrating thirty years of making games with an art show and a full-length video that chronicles their journey.
 
The art show will be held at the Gallery Nucleus in Los Angeles  as well as a celebration at the Lucca Comics and Games Festival this year. 
During the art show, the Gallery Nucleus will also be where special screenings of the full anniversary video will be shown on October 4 and 12. A week after the screenings the video will be released to the wider public. Below you can watch the promo video.
 
 

Jack Gardner

 
According to Warner Bros., the game still needs a bit of polish on older systems.
 
The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor have been pushed back to a November 18 release date.
 
Thankfully the Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 versions will be unaffected by this delay and are still planned for release on September 30. 
 
A bit of good news: The PC version is being bumped ahead to a slightly earlier release date. It will launch alongside the Xbox One and PS4 versions rather than a nebulous date in early October.

Jack Gardner

 
The video game industry has been going through some rough times lately, but one of the most disturbing trends has been the rise of swatting, the act of calling in a fake active shooter to summon a SWAT team to an unsuspecting streamer's location.
 
The term swatting was coined in 2008 by the FBI, which states that these so-called 'pranks' pose a severe risk to the individuals who are being swatted, the responding officers who might encounter residents resisting a sudden home invasion, and the community that might require a SWAT team elsewhere. Besides the physical risks involved, each prank costs roughly $10,000 to mobilize the necessary equipment and officers.
Though swatting first surfaced in 2008, it has only been recently that it has gained prominence. In 2013, many high profile celebrities were targeted ranging from Justin Beieber to Clint Eastwood. However, 2014 seems to have been a year during which more average people have been the victims of such attacks. The people apprehended for these crimes (because that's what swatting is: a crime), have tended to be younger tech-savvy men. One 16-year-old was caught in connection with over thirty swatting incidents and brought up on over sixty charges. There doesn't seem to be much data on how often crimes like this occur, but it does seem to be increasing with several cases making the rounds through media over the last few months.
 
That brings us to Twitch streamer and YouTuber, Maxcuster X. He decided to stream some Call of Duty with his wife a few weeks ago. After their stream had gone on for about two hours, trolls started disrupting the chat and soon there were some posting their home address. Then, as the stream was winding down, one of the couple's children noticed a police car on the street. Maxcuster X and his family had been swatted and there were armed men outside their home. That is not a prank. Luckily, Maxcuster X and his wife were able to deescalate the situation, but the SWAT team still had to go through their house and follow procedure. Later, he gave a full, sobering account of the ordeal in a video posted to his YouTube channel.
 
 
This is a very real possibility for people who stream their games online. Maxcuster X suggests that the best people can do is for individuals to monitor their chats. If people are throwing around suspicious comments, pause and make sure something isn't going down, possibly even call 911 to make sure everything is alright. The FBI suggests filing a police report if someone makes a swatting threat so that the police know if SWAT is called it could be a hoax.  
 
Streaming via Twitch is one of the most popular ways that the Extra Life community has shown support in the past, so this is a troubling state of affairs. If you stream, please be vigilant and safe.  

Jack Gardner

 
Anyone with an early copy of the upcoming sci-fi shooter should be able to play it before the official launch.
 
The servers have been up since 6AM CST this morning to allow members of the press and anyone fortunate enough to get their hands on a full-release copy a head start on Destiny's content. Expect to see social media going bananas over the next twelve hours as we close in on the official launch of Bungie's next first-person shooter. 
 
According to Activision, Destiny's launch has taken on historic proportions by becoming the most pre-ordered new video game IP ever. This isn't terribly surprising since over 4.6 million players participated in the Destiny beta, setting a high bar for future betas this generation. 
 
"Destiny is the game we've always wanted to make," said Bungie's president, Harold Ryan. "We've dreamt of this universe for years, so we couldn't be more thrilled to swing open the doors and let fans shape this experience as they tell their unique stories in the game. For us, the next generation of games is all about allowing players to collide and interact with each other as they take on epic, action-packed adventures all their own."
 
Destiny releases September 9 for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. 

Jack Gardner

 
For those that don’t know, the last few weeks have been rough in the video game industry. Developers and critics have been harassed and threatened to the point that they have had to flee their homes or leave the industry entirely. A bomb threat was called on a flight carrying the president of Sony Online Entertainment. A campaign of harassment has continued at unprecedented levels and has disturbingly seemed to target women. There hasn’t been a day that goes by in the last three weeks that I haven’t looked at my Twitter feed and seen another industry person accused of wrongdoing and sent hundreds of awful messages containing the worst examples of language, intent, and malice.
 
There is no winning scenario against such an onslaught of hatred. Fighting it makes it worse. You can’t reason with it because it is like a hydra; even if you convince one or two people that they’re mistaken several more are ready to go for your jugular. Both the people who write about games and the people who make them, especially the people with smaller outlets or who have gone the independent route, rely heavily on social media, it is a key tool that’s necessary for doing their jobs and paying their bills, something that many in the industry struggle to do.
 
In reaction to this ongoing behavior, a number of game critics and writers declared that the term “gamer” was dead, rotten to the core, or broken beyond repair. This had the effect of further alienating their audience. Those who had been participating in the campaigns of harassment felt justified in striking back at the industry that they felt had tried to disown them, while the majority of people who identify as gamers felt unfairly labeled as people who accept and participate in hateful behavior.
 
There are a number of great articles on the subject that I found to be helpful when trying to make sense of this entire situation and perhaps they can be helpful to you all as well. Devin Faraci over on Badass Digest, Jim Sterling on the Escapist, and Keith Stuart at The Guardian.
 
As for what I think about the whole affair… well, it genuinely makes me feel very sad. It seems to me that the core argument of the harassers is that the majority of games journalism and developers are corrupt and trying to in some way enrich themselves. I am in a position to know that many of the allegations of corruption aren’t correct. Sure, out there in the wide world it must happen, but most game journalists and critics get paid in beans. They do it because they love games and find them to be exceedingly interesting. Most indie devs aren’t in the business for the money, either. As anecdote to illustrate my point, a few months ago a gaming podcast I record on the side had on a member of the startup indie studio Tangentlemen as a guest. Their studio was working out of a garage and their financials were on the line. These were people that had worked at big studios and they gave up that life to work on games about which they thought were important. The people being targeted with harassment and accusations of corruption can’t afford to be corrupt because they are already paying the price of wanting to either write about games or make them without the backing of major publishers. Many of the people in this line of work could be very successful, but they choose to put their talent to work for a fraction of what they could make elsewhere because they love games.
 
I also find it alarming that so many of the people targeted have been female indie developers. Given that the games industry is mostly populated with men, it is disturbing to see that the brunt of the harassment has been experienced by women. Not only do these targets tend to be women, but they also have tended to be indie developers who have turned to services like Patreon or Kickstarter for financial support, making them more vulnerable than people who are a part of established organizations like EA, Activision, etc. I feel like that’s more than a bit telling that our industry still has a long ways to go when it comes to how women are treated both in-game and in the real world.
 
 
The entire situation isn’t right.
 
A small portion of the gaming community has been harassing developers, critics, and journalists for weeks, which has spurred some games journalists into defensively lashing out at the entire community. Naturally, this all begins to look like something that could become an ongoing cycle of ugliness. I believe that the journalists saying that the term “gamer” is dead are wrong. The word is widely used in the community to describe someone who enjoys playing video games. It might not be the most logical word (after all, how often are people who watch movies referred to as moviers or people who enjoy books called bookers?), but it is a useful word. The English language is one that prioritizes usefulness over logic; one of the reasons why our grammar is so strange and there are so many exceptions to rules and strange pronunciations. “Gamer” will be around as long as it continues to be useful as a descriptor and a cultural identifier. However, there is a slight catch. Every word has both a denotation, which is its literal definition, and a connotation, which is the spirit of the word or the ideas and feeling that the word invokes. Denotations tend to remain somewhat static, while connotations can change rapidly over time. The term for this shift in meaning is called semantic change. There are many words that originally had positive and useful applications, but later became unacceptable. If a small segment of the gaming community continues to harass developers there is the possibility that the word “gamer” could come to have negative connotations. I think it is probably very easy to poison a word when a group of individuals associated with it are broadcasting awful things to the world in a very public manner.
 
I am sitting here and I don’t know what to do. I get on Twitter and see people like Jenn Frank leaving the industry because their years of passionate work is being rewarded with torrents of awful comments. I’m seeing some of the most interesting game makers and writers out there leaving an industry because a small group of people has decided that they are corrupt or a jerk or are in some way a threat. It makes me mad. It makes me sad. I want to open my window and shout down the street about how unfair the situation has become. But being mad or sad or shouting or complaining will actually fix the problem. Perhaps this so called “Gamergate” is symptomatic of the growing pains that the games industry needs to go through before coming more fully into its own. I think that’s a possibility. It is also possible that this isn’t an issue that will just go away in time.
I think that what I said two weeks ago still holds true: Be excellent to each other. With all your might, be excellent to each other. When you see people harassing an individual over social media, speak up for what is right. Discussion is great and criticism is encouraged, but hate speech, threats, abuse, and baseless accusations aren’t either of those things. Always remember that it is okay to disagree with someone while still showing them a modicum of respect and human decency. To anyone who might be participating in the harassment, remember that you are heaping an abuse on actual, living people. If you have a shred of empathy or good in you, please stop.
 
 
After all of this, I want to talk about the things that brings game journalists, developers, critics, and gamers together: Games. While the present state of the industry and its community might appear to be foul, the prospects on the horizon fill me with hopeful anticipation. Technology that several years ago could only be dreamed of is slowly becoming a reality. Thinking of the possibilities inherent in video games and how the technology could broaden their scope reminded me this week of why I love writing about video games in the first place. I thought I’d share a few of the technologies that gave me new hope.
 
Project Holodeck is basically a full-body virtual experience, or at least an attempt at one, aiming to have a feeling similar to the holodeck popularized by Star Trek. It consists of an Oculus Rift headset, a PlayStation Move, a Razer Hydra, and a Lenovo laptop attached to players’ backs. While the necessary equipment for Project Holodeck looks goofy on players, it is important to remember that the technology is still in its infancy. While the graphical quality of the demos that have been revealed so far is a bit underwhelming, the proof of concept is amazingly attractive. If a group of student developers could create something like that, what could an entire studio do? As rough as the tech appears and as silly as the VR equipment looks, it does actually work. That fact alone is enough to make me smile at the possibilities. Also it doesn’t hurt that their original concept video showcased Skies of Arcadia, one of my all-time favorite RPGs.
 
 
Another piece of technology that has yet to be fully explored in the realm of gaming is Leap Motion. Created as a gesture-based interface for computers, the $80 sensor tracks hand movements with astounding accuracy. While the initial peripheral released last year to a somewhat lukewarm response, it was recently revealed that there are plans to use Leap Motion tech alongside Oculus Rift. Basically, it would allow the VR headset to read hand gestures and track their movement before they moved into player view, expanding peripheral vision. It could also be used to perform simple tasks like picking up objects, opening doors, etc. in a way that is much more accurate than what the Kinect or Wii were able to accomplish.
 
 
Something else to think about is the Oculus Rift and other VR headsets like Sony’s Project Morpheus. Those are on their way, too! Regardless of whether you think the “gamer” is dead or still alive and kicking or if you are a journalist or just a normal person who plays games, this is exciting. It could be like the invention of talkies in film or the step into the realm of color projection. It is a big deal and it is coming no matter the outcome of our industry’s current dust-up. To me, that is something of a comfort. The idea that we could soon be fully immersed in digital spaces is insanely exciting and just thinking about the opportunities to tell narratives in that form is so dang cool.
 
Then there are the technologies that are a bit further out there. Augmented reality games that place digital creations in the real world might seem like a fantasy, but how many of you got excited at the prospect of a Pokémon game in the real world when Google Maps did their April Fools joke this year? Can we all just take a minute to imagine how unbelievably rad that would be? I just used the word rad to describe something, which speaks to the amazing potential of AR games. Right now, AR seems to be relegated to the realm of side-show oddity or relegated to apps. The 3DS has the ability to produce AR games, but not many people seem to be in the business of making AR games. If anything, the nearly 16,000,000 views and 120,000 likes that Google’s Pokémon AR goof has received is enough to show that there is definitely an untapped interest in similar experiences. All I know is that if something like this was actually made, I would finally go outside and see that “sunlight” thing that everyone keep yammering on about.
 
 
Finally, we get to one of my most anticipated pieces of technology that makes me look forward to the future of gaming. Four years ago, there was an Australian based company called Euclideon appeared. Euclideon claimed that had created a way to abandon polygons and increase visual fidelity to near infinite levels of detail without even taxing a traditional graphics card. After making the claim, the company went silent for more than a year, which caused many to shrug and assume it was some sort of scam. However, when Euclideon reemerged and broke its silence, it released a tech demo for an engine it called the Unlimited Detail engine. UD was supposedly a new way to generate visuals. Euclideon claimed that it used a search algorithm for each pixel on the screen and in this way it was able to create levels of detail so minute that individual grains of dirt could be zoomed into in real time. To give everyone a reference point, they converted the atoms of their tech demo into polygons. They claimed that every cubic meter of dirt was composed of over 15,000,000 converted polygons, which is more than the total number of polygons in any game at that time that didn’t use procedural generation. The bottom line was that Euclideon claimed that their Unlimited Detail engine could improve the graphical quality by a factor of around 100,000. Despite the tech demo, many dismissed Euclideon’s claims as impossible. Once again the company fell silent.
 
 
Last year, they resurfaced again, but not in the world of gaming. It turns out that the geospatial industry makes use of large amounts of data and has trouble rendering it all quickly and efficiently. It normally takes about a half an hour for a computer with sixty gigabytes of RAM to render ten billion points of data. Euclideon’s geospatial program that makes use of their Unlimited Detail engine demonstrates the ability to render twenty billion points in 0.8 seconds. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. It can do this off of a USB 2.0 stick. It can shift into 3D. It is flippin’ incredible! You might be thinking, “that’s great, but a laser scanned map doesn’t seem much like a video game thing. Does working on a program for geospatial companies mean Euclideon has abandoned gaming forever?” That doesn’t seem to be likely. There is a video floating around the internet that was posted last year shortly before Euclideon’s geospatial program was announced when an Australian student visited Euclideon to tour their facility and interview CEO Bruce Dell. The tour shows the company working on creating animation models and game creation tools for developers. Some employees who were let go have also said that the technology does indeed work. In the interview with Dell, the CEO explains why no games have been made with their engine.
I know it is probably wise to take Euclideon’s claims with caution. However, I can’t help but watch the tech demos and interviews with the company that have cropped up over the years and feel myself growing more excited. Many people claim that Euclideon can’t actually make games with their engine, that interacting with the environment would be too much for any computer to process, that animating with such a system would be a nightmare, etc. Despite those logical reasons, I just can’t find it in myself to dismiss Euclideon’s claims. I’ve seen nothing that proves their claims are false, just that what they claim to have done has never been accomplished before. If their incredible assertions are real, something that is given more credence given their application of it in the geospatial industry, this will change the face of gaming technology forever.
 
All of this is to say that, yes, the industry is in a rough patch right now and that makes it is easier to lose sight of some of the more exciting possibilities that the future has in store. We could be seeing games that run on computers with a fraction of the RAM they currently require. Heck, we could see high-end games begin played on our phones. Technology that allows us to grasp virtual objects while fully tracking our movements. Digital creations invading the physical world. These are just a few examples of the technologies on which our future games will rely. What will those games look like? What sorts of narratives will they tell? Where will they take us? How will they change the world? These are things worth anticipating.
Ultimately, we all play video games because we enjoy video games. Many of us feel that they’re important to our lives. That goes for gamers, journalists, and critics. We are all in the same boat. No one in the industry deserves to be harassed out of their homes or jobs and as game critics and journalists my colleagues and I shouldn’t be painting their entire readership with the same brush as those participating in the harassment. When we attack each other, we’re drilling holes in our own boat and that doesn’t help anyone.
 
The only way forward is by being excellent to each other, respecting one another even in disagreement, and bonding together through a mutual passion. Video game industry and community, the present might seem to be mired in muck and vitriol, but the future holds fantastic promises.
 
 

Jack Gardner

 
According to Polygon, the FBI approached the International Game Developer Association back in July in response to what they perceived as an increase in digital abuse directed toward developers in the video game industry.
 
The IGDA is currently underway creating a mental health special interest group that would deal with issues surrounding online harassment. The group is also working with the FBI to set up online resources to help developers on the receiving end of digital threats.
 
The FBI initially met with the IGDA because they wanted to discuss the security of developers, their companies, and intellectual property. 
Last week, the IGDA board of directors issued a statement addressing the recent wave of harassment that has swept the industry:
This statement comes on the heels of serious threats made against several game developers that either motivated them to leave the industry or flee their homes and a bomb threat against the president of Sony Online Entertainment's flight. 
 
The industry and gaming community seem to have gone insane the last couple weeks. Hopefully things will eventually settle down when people learn that they can disagree while remaining civil.

Jack Gardner

 
After nearly eight years of work, AVGN: The Movie is available on-demand through Vimeo.
 
James Rolfe, aka the Angry Video Game Nerd, has finally brought his long-time video game film to the masses. The film has garnered generally positive reviews from both critics and fans. The plot follows the Nerd character from Rolfe's web series as he is forced to come to terms with his fear of encountering the worst game of all time: E.T. the Extra Terrestrial for the Atari 2600. 
 
(Warning: harsh language)
 
 

Jack Gardner

 
In the ramp up to Destiny's release next week, Bungie has partnered with Google to create interactive maps of the planets players can visit in-game. Enterprising players who take the time to explore those planets can unlock a neat reward.
 
 
Players who take the time to find every viewable in Planet View will be receive a unique emblem to show off in-game.
 

 
In addition to the flashy piece of loot, Planet View gives a lot of narrated background on the different environments and enemies that players will encounter. As someone who takes a particular interest in lore and world building in video games, more information about the denizens of Destiny's universe is always welcome. 
 
Destiny releases next week on September 9.

Jack Gardner

 
The premise of Interstellar Marines is fairly simple: The best soldiers from around the world have been recruited for training to be a part of a crack team of commandos that will be ready to respond to an extraterrestrial threat under any conditions. Naturally, this training takes place in a massive underground facility that is able to simulate different weather and lighting environments. To me, the changing map conditions are the main draw of Interstellar Marines.
 
As I explored the Operations map for the first time, the lights began to flicker and then the fire alarms began blaring. Red lights flashed on and off throughout the halls for a couple minutes before everything went pitch black. I flicked on my flashlight and laser sight and proceeded through the level, listening to the ambient noises of the base. I knew there was no one in the level with me at the time, but the environment by itself created tension. In multiplayer, flashlights and laser sights lend an additional layer of strategy during the dark segments. Players need to balance their need for vision with the desire for stealth and catching opponents unaware. Outdoor levels where the weather comes into play are even more interesting when it comes to sight. Players could encounter everything from a light drizzle that speckles their HUD to a full on nighttime thunderstorm complete with flashes of lightning illuminating the map. Sometimes environments are only lit with a few carefully placed lamps or ceiling lights. Players can shoot out many of the lights present in maps to complicate matters for enemies on the opposing team (though I couldn’t seem to shoot out alarm lights). I might seem to be really focusing on in-game vision here, but that is because there is no mini-map or radar. Players can only find enemies by spotting them visually or by listening for their footsteps. It make for some really tense games of cat-and-mouse in the multiplayer.
 


 
(The above images were taken about a minute apart.)
 
Speaking of the multiplayer, there is currently only one game type. It is a unique blend of capture point style gameplay and team deathmatch. Basically, each match has a ten minute time limit and the side with the most points captured at the end wins. Alternatively, if one team captures all of the points or eliminates the entire enemy team, they win. It is particularly hard to win by eliminating all the enemy player because capturing a point or killing an enemy causes one of your downed players to respawn instantly instead of waiting to respawn naturally. It is fun for what it is, but I would be interested to see what other multiplayer modes are in store for the full release. Also worth noting is the pace of gameplay. Interstellar Marines is a very different beast from fast paced shooters that have dominated the market for the last few years. Sprinting generates a lot of noise and aiming afterward bobs and weaves as the soldier breathes heavily. Walking or crouching creates little noise, but is also very slow. This all indicates to me that Interstellar Marines is meant to be played carefully and not fast and loose.
 
As a side note, there is something about Interstellar Marines that just screams Alien to me. It might have something to do with the architecture of the environments, the spartan nature of the HUD, or the ever-changing lighting conditions that give everything a dramatic flair. Whatever the reason, my initial time with the early access build was plagued with the unnerving feeling that a Xenomorph was just around the corner, despite the fact that there aren’t any aliens in Interstellar Marines. The only creatures players can currently encounter in the Early Access version are other marines and possibly a few robots. I consider it only a matter of time until someone mods Interstellar Marines to be the Alien game everyone has dreamed of since the promise shown in that early Aliens: Colonial Marines footage. Get on it modders!   
 

 
Interstellar Marines is an Early Access title, so there are guaranteed to be bugs and unfinished elements. Initially I ran into problems because Interstellar Marines defaults to using integrated graphics cards rather than whatever graphics card might be installed. I also ran into a few where my character wouldn’t fall through large openings on top of buildings. Players only have access to two weapons that include an assault rifle and a scoped rifle with no option for melee attacks if enemies enter close quarters.
 
My overall experience with Interstellar Marines was generally positive, but it left me wanting more. Zero Point Software is onto something great, and if they continue to make additions like the upcoming co-op mode along with more game types and situations, Interstellar Marines has the potential to be a very successful game. For now, I’d recommend keeping this game on your radar. People who would like to get their hands on the Early Access build can do so via Steam, just keep in mind the usual caveats that go along with purchasing a product that has not been finished.