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Found 123 results

  1. until
    Hey folks, Due to the hurricane, we have moved our meeting from 9/12 to 9/19 at Gods & Monsters at 6pm. Hope to see you all there!
  2. This is Quill. She's the protagonist of an upcoming VR title called Moss and has enraptured thousands of gamers across the United States. How did she achieve that feat? Simple. She introduced herself - in American Sign Language. Last week, Polyarc animator Richard Lico made a routine tweet about his work bringing Quill to life. He'd had a bit of inspiration and decided that the voiceless mouse might be able to use sign language to communicate. "Since she can only squeak, I figured I'd play around with ways she can communicate with the player. Also a great perk for our deaf players," he tweeted. Seeing an endearing mouse using American Sign Language in a video game understandably caught a lot of attention, snagging tens of thousands of likes on social media. "Quill often needs to communicate with her guide, [the player], and I'm exploring ways in which she can do so. I came up with the idea of using ASL in conjunction with her existing pantomime methods, and wanted to test the idea," explained Lico in a short video posted the next day. "I had never animated sign language before, so I did some homework, and created this as a test example of what she could do in game. The response has been positive, and we're super excited about the opportunity to help support those who rely on ASL." In Moss, players take on the role of a spirit guide for Quill as she embarks on a heroic journey. The plan for Quill was always to have her communicate wordlessly with the player. She would use squeaks and broad pantomiming motions to get her points across. However, the strong reaction from the gaming community toward Lico's animation seems to have cemented the use of various ASL signs in Moss. “Sometimes she’ll pantomime if there’s not a good sign for it, and other times she’ll flat-out sign language what she wants you to know. This tweet really confirmed that we should do this,” Lico elaborated to Kotaku. “I’ve been blown away by the responses. Especially the ones where you get actual deaf people saying ‘Thank you.’ I just had no idea, being able to emotionally connect with something like that.” While this might seem like a small thing, sign language has largely been absent from video games. In fact, searching for any other results for sign language in games only turns up results for games that help people learn sign language, a barren Reddit thread from 2016 that mentions how some sign language is used in the background of Fullbright Company's Tacoma, and articles about Quill. There was some buzz way back in 2009 that Half-Life 2: Episode 3 would include a deaf character and sign-language, but... well... it's a Half-Life game and Valve, so we might not be seeing that any time soon. It's pretty incredible that Quill might just be the first video game character to communicate with predominantly via sign language in video game history. Moss is set to release sometime this winter for PlayStation VR.
  3. This is Quill. She's the protagonist of an upcoming VR title called Moss and has enraptured thousands of gamers across the United States. How did she achieve that feat? Simple. She introduced herself - in American Sign Language. Last week, Polyarc animator Richard Lico made a routine tweet about his work bringing Quill to life. He'd had a bit of inspiration and decided that the voiceless mouse might be able to use sign language to communicate. "Since she can only squeak, I figured I'd play around with ways she can communicate with the player. Also a great perk for our deaf players," he tweeted. Seeing an endearing mouse using American Sign Language in a video game understandably caught a lot of attention, snagging tens of thousands of likes on social media. "Quill often needs to communicate with her guide, [the player], and I'm exploring ways in which she can do so. I came up with the idea of using ASL in conjunction with her existing pantomime methods, and wanted to test the idea," explained Lico in a short video posted the next day. "I had never animated sign language before, so I did some homework, and created this as a test example of what she could do in game. The response has been positive, and we're super excited about the opportunity to help support those who rely on ASL." In Moss, players take on the role of a spirit guide for Quill as she embarks on a heroic journey. The plan for Quill was always to have her communicate wordlessly with the player. She would use squeaks and broad pantomiming motions to get her points across. However, the strong reaction from the gaming community toward Lico's animation seems to have cemented the use of various ASL signs in Moss. “Sometimes she’ll pantomime if there’s not a good sign for it, and other times she’ll flat-out sign language what she wants you to know. This tweet really confirmed that we should do this,” Lico elaborated to Kotaku. “I’ve been blown away by the responses. Especially the ones where you get actual deaf people saying ‘Thank you.’ I just had no idea, being able to emotionally connect with something like that.” While this might seem like a small thing, sign language has largely been absent from video games. In fact, searching for any other results for sign language in games only turns up results for games that help people learn sign language, a barren Reddit thread from 2016 that mentions how some sign language is used in the background of Fullbright Company's Tacoma, and articles about Quill. There was some buzz way back in 2009 that Half-Life 2: Episode 3 would include a deaf character and sign-language, but... well... it's a Half-Life game and Valve, so we might not be seeing that any time soon. It's pretty incredible that Quill might just be the first video game character to communicate with predominantly via sign language in video game history. Moss is set to release sometime this winter for PlayStation VR. View full article
  4. Walker Stalker Boston 8/19-20th

    Walker Stalker Con Calendar Event Schedule is up and ready for volunteers for Walker Stalker Aug 19th and 20th. 2 shifts per day 9 AM - 2 PM 1 PM - 6 PM
  5. Gameumentary is a gaming website that has been gaining some traction in recent months, but it really made a splash with the release of its first short documentary on the history of Runic Games. Their first foray into the world of video game documentaries is really impressive - and free! Their documentary keeps things brief, but to the point over the course of its 27-minute runtime. Gameumentary's mission statement tells the world that their goal is "to create a website that tackled modern games journalism from a new perspective, one that was wholly unique from what any other site was doing. We’re making a conscious choice to give our readers something entirely different than what they’re used to seeing." To that end, their Runic Games documentary focuses on the story of how Marsh Lefler managed to keep his team together after the collapse of Flagship Studios and create Torchlight. The aftermath of how Torchlight sold and what the studio did after that are equally fascinating. The documentary also heavily features gameplay and information about the studio's upcoming title Hob. Hob is an homage to The Legend of Zelda, Shadow of the Colossus, Journey, and many others. It focuses on the adventures of a strange protagonist with a mechanical arm as it explores a strange world populated by bizarre and endearing creatures that exist alongside occult machinery. The documentary delves into the nitty gritty of game development like the art direction, sound design, and gameplay creation. This is the stuff that's rarely pushed out into the gaming world, so check it out if you have time. I heartily recommend it if you have a half-hour to spare. You can watch the documentary in its entirety below. While no release date has been given for Hob, the title will be hitting the PlayStation 4 and PC.
  6. Gameumentary is a gaming website that has been gaining some traction in recent months, but it really made a splash with the release of its first short documentary on the history of Runic Games. Their first foray into the world of video game documentaries is really impressive - and free! Their documentary keeps things brief, but to the point over the course of its 27-minute runtime. Gameumentary's mission statement tells the world that their goal is "to create a website that tackled modern games journalism from a new perspective, one that was wholly unique from what any other site was doing. We’re making a conscious choice to give our readers something entirely different than what they’re used to seeing." To that end, their Runic Games documentary focuses on the story of how Marsh Lefler managed to keep his team together after the collapse of Flagship Studios and create Torchlight. The aftermath of how Torchlight sold and what the studio did after that are equally fascinating. The documentary also heavily features gameplay and information about the studio's upcoming title Hob. Hob is an homage to The Legend of Zelda, Shadow of the Colossus, Journey, and many others. It focuses on the adventures of a strange protagonist with a mechanical arm as it explores a strange world populated by bizarre and endearing creatures that exist alongside occult machinery. The documentary delves into the nitty gritty of game development like the art direction, sound design, and gameplay creation. This is the stuff that's rarely pushed out into the gaming world, so check it out if you have time. I heartily recommend it if you have a half-hour to spare. You can watch the documentary in its entirety below. While no release date has been given for Hob, the title will be hitting the PlayStation 4 and PC. View full article
  7. Tony Hawk Returns to Video Games in 2015

    Hawk announced the new PlayStation 4 skateboarding title during Sony's CES keynote speech. As exciting as that announcement might be, there are no additional details about the game, not even a title. We know it will release this year and that it will come to PlayStation 4. There was no word on whether it will be exclusive to PS4, leaving open the possibility that Tony Hawk might make its way to other systems. Heck, we don't even know if it will be a downloadable or physical release. Some speculate that Activision and Sony have cut a marketing deal reminiscent of Destiny's Sony exclusive advertising. Of course, it is a bit too soon to jump to any conclusions with the limited information available. It's enough for now to know that Tony Hawk 2015 exists.
  8. International Tabletop Day

    until
    International Tabletop Day at Midgard Comics
  9. Extra Credits is an excellent YouTube channel run by people who work in the video game industry and like to share their knowledge and opinions with the wider world in concise, well-made videos. One of their series, Extra Frame, delves into the various facets of video game animation. In a recent episode, animator Daniel Floyd explains in great detail what might have gone wrong with Mass Effect: Andromeda's animation that led to such large public outcry against the facial animations, lip sync, and the recently patched eye issues. The veteran animator made it clear that the issue isn't just "bad animation is bad, make it better." Rather, it is a multifacted issue with a number of possible contributing factors - the failure of any one aspect could bring the rest crumbling down and lead to a visual mess. Floyd stresses that players must understand that animation can be done very differently in the video game business. Games like the Uncharted series often custom animate everything from the ground up, but they can do those bespoke animations because they only have to animate about 8 hours of total scenes or interactions. A project like Mass Effect can have upwards of 40 hours of animation to be done, and when you are on a schedule tackling that much work on a custom level becomes impossible. The demands of large-scale RPGs that requires animation that accounts for different player choices results in devs turning toward the use of algorithms. Some people in the gaming community have pointed their fingers as the algorithm approach as the culprit behind Andromeda's visual shortcomings, but that's not quite right, either. Many games use this approach to create baseline interactions that they can then further customize later on in the development cycle. Even The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt made use of an algorithm to generate many of its more mundane interactions. So if it isn't the system, what exactly caused all the problems in Andromeda? Daniel Floyd speculates that any number of issues might have occurred. It could be bugs affecting the algorithm tags that are supposed to be telling the character models how to act. It could be that compressing the files to fit on a disc or online for release resulted in a garbling the animation data. It also might not have anything to do with the algorithm at all. Mass Effect: Andromeda makes use of EA's Frostbite engine while the previous Mass Effect series was done completely in modified versions of Unreal Engine 3. Switching engines is always a pretty tricky task for any developer. All the assets and systems used in the old engine no longer apply. To create a new Mass Effect in a new engine required BioWare to start from scratch when it came to their assets and animation. Floyd points out that BioWare already had some experience with Frostbite from Dragon Age: Inquisition, but the new engine might still have presented a significant stumbling block for the development team for a Mass Effect game. Floyd takes time to mention Johnathan Cooper, an ex-BioWare animator, who gave a brief analysis of Andromeda's animation kerfuffle. Cooper explains that, essentially, the gaming audience has become more discerning. Gamers have access to easy sharing tools and game capture and are able to share goofs and slip-ups more easily than ever before. That combines with what Cooper believes to be an overly ambitious and overly confident development team that thought they could go back and tune all the animations by hand (which definitely proved not to be the case in the finished product). These problems could have been eliminated or alleviated with more development time, more money, or a more reigned-in scope for Andromeda. The tools are likely all there to have shipped Andromeda with some fantastic animation, but the visition and expectations of the development team would have needed to be different. Floyd closes out the video with a quote we should all keep in mind going forward as a way to reign in our expectations and our anger when something we love doesn't quite turn out to be as great as we'd hoped: "Game development is just like this sometimes. You set out to do a new thing that you've never tried before or you try to do an old thing in a more ambitious, new way. You plan it as best you can. Sometimes it works out great, but other times things go wrong - you run into problems you could have never predicted. Before you know it your plan has gone awry and you have no way to fix it before the deadline and it just sucks." I'd be willing to bet there will be some interesting postmortem interviews on Mass Effect: Andromeda's development released in the coming years. For now, let's enjoy what we have and perhaps coming patches and DLC can bring Andromeda more in line with BioWare's grand vision.
  10. Extra Credits is an excellent YouTube channel run by people who work in the video game industry and like to share their knowledge and opinions with the wider world in concise, well-made videos. One of their series, Extra Frame, delves into the various facets of video game animation. In a recent episode, animator Daniel Floyd explains in great detail what might have gone wrong with Mass Effect: Andromeda's animation that led to such large public outcry against the facial animations, lip sync, and the recently patched eye issues. The veteran animator made it clear that the issue isn't just "bad animation is bad, make it better." Rather, it is a multifacted issue with a number of possible contributing factors - the failure of any one aspect could bring the rest crumbling down and lead to a visual mess. Floyd stresses that players must understand that animation can be done very differently in the video game business. Games like the Uncharted series often custom animate everything from the ground up, but they can do those bespoke animations because they only have to animate about 8 hours of total scenes or interactions. A project like Mass Effect can have upwards of 40 hours of animation to be done, and when you are on a schedule tackling that much work on a custom level becomes impossible. The demands of large-scale RPGs that requires animation that accounts for different player choices results in devs turning toward the use of algorithms. Some people in the gaming community have pointed their fingers as the algorithm approach as the culprit behind Andromeda's visual shortcomings, but that's not quite right, either. Many games use this approach to create baseline interactions that they can then further customize later on in the development cycle. Even The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt made use of an algorithm to generate many of its more mundane interactions. So if it isn't the system, what exactly caused all the problems in Andromeda? Daniel Floyd speculates that any number of issues might have occurred. It could be bugs affecting the algorithm tags that are supposed to be telling the character models how to act. It could be that compressing the files to fit on a disc or online for release resulted in a garbling the animation data. It also might not have anything to do with the algorithm at all. Mass Effect: Andromeda makes use of EA's Frostbite engine while the previous Mass Effect series was done completely in modified versions of Unreal Engine 3. Switching engines is always a pretty tricky task for any developer. All the assets and systems used in the old engine no longer apply. To create a new Mass Effect in a new engine required BioWare to start from scratch when it came to their assets and animation. Floyd points out that BioWare already had some experience with Frostbite from Dragon Age: Inquisition, but the new engine might still have presented a significant stumbling block for the development team for a Mass Effect game. Floyd takes time to mention Johnathan Cooper, an ex-BioWare animator, who gave a brief analysis of Andromeda's animation kerfuffle. Cooper explains that, essentially, the gaming audience has become more discerning. Gamers have access to easy sharing tools and game capture and are able to share goofs and slip-ups more easily than ever before. That combines with what Cooper believes to be an overly ambitious and overly confident development team that thought they could go back and tune all the animations by hand (which definitely proved not to be the case in the finished product). These problems could have been eliminated or alleviated with more development time, more money, or a more reigned-in scope for Andromeda. The tools are likely all there to have shipped Andromeda with some fantastic animation, but the visition and expectations of the development team would have needed to be different. Floyd closes out the video with a quote we should all keep in mind going forward as a way to reign in our expectations and our anger when something we love doesn't quite turn out to be as great as we'd hoped: "Game development is just like this sometimes. You set out to do a new thing that you've never tried before or you try to do an old thing in a more ambitious, new way. You plan it as best you can. Sometimes it works out great, but other times things go wrong - you run into problems you could have never predicted. Before you know it your plan has gone awry and you have no way to fix it before the deadline and it just sucks." I'd be willing to bet there will be some interesting postmortem interviews on Mass Effect: Andromeda's development released in the coming years. For now, let's enjoy what we have and perhaps coming patches and DLC can bring Andromeda more in line with BioWare's grand vision. View full article
  11. Hey guys! Our little RVA Guild just keeps growing and growing!!!! I find one of the best ways to get to know someone is by talking about something they like... and since we're all already part of Extra Life... an easy topic is VIDEO GAMES!!! So let's introduce ourselves and give a quick blurb about what our favorite video game is and why!!! To kick things off: My name is Jillian Ryan, I'm the EL RVA Guild President My favorite game of all time (it's hard to pick!) is Chrono Trigger (all variations!). It was the first game to ever make me tear up and the story will stick with me forever! Also amazing music and great graphics!
  12. Spring Supermegafest

    until
    DAY/TIME POSITION NAME FRI 3-9 LEADER Angela DiMare @aradiadarling SAT 9-2 LEADER Angela DiMare @aradiadarling SAT 9-2 SUPPORT David DiMare SAT 1-6 LEADER Greg Harris-Jones@Serolis SAT 1-6 SUPPORT Amelia Ott @Oporotheca SUN 9-2 LEADER Danielle Standring @DMo2TheMax SUN 9-2 SUPPORT Angela DiMare @aradiadarling SUN 2-6 LEADER Greg Harris-Jones @Serolis SUN 2-6 SUPPORT Amelia Ott @Oporotheca
  13. New Godzilla Title Slated for 2015

    Bandai Namco has announced that a new Godzilla game will be rampaging to PS3 and PS4 next year. The new game starring the terror of Tokyo will include appearances by many of Godzilla's familiar enemies, like King Ghidorah, Mothra, and Mechagodzilla. Other than that, this game looks a bit perplexing. Apparently players will control Godzilla with the goal of trampling through cities and foes to destroy Energy Generators and collect G-Energy. All of this will be done with a "Movie-Style Camera Angle System" which sounds like something a vengeful camera god would come up with scourge the lands with confusing camera controls. Whatever the case, I do enjoy the humorous take on the game in the trailer, which might be a good indication that the game won't take itself too seriously. I'm probably in the minority of people who will definitely be looking forward to whatever weird concoction of gameplay Godzilla ends up being.
  14. Anime Boston

    until
    DAY TIME POSITION NAME ROLE FRI 12-6 LEADER Shawn Todd LEAD/PITCH FRI 12-6 VOLUNTEER Angela -DiMare Messier GREET FRI 12-6 VOLUNTEER Gregory Harris- Jones @Serolis PITCH FRI 12-6 VOLUNTEER CONSOLE SUPPORT SAT 9-2 LEADER Danielle Standring @DMo2TheMax LEAD/PITCH SAT 9-2 VOLUNTEER Rebecca Ash GREET SAT 9-2 VOLUNTEER Javier Para @Javier PITCH SAT 9-2 VOLUNTEER Sam @quitecrazy PITCH SAT 9-2 VOLUNTEER CONSOLE SUPPORT SAT 1-6 LEADER Angela DiMare-Messier @aradiadarling LEAD/PITCH SAT 1-6 VOLUNTEER Gregory Harris- Jones @Serolis GREET SAT 1-6 VOLUNTEER Kris Waterman PITCH SAT 1-6 VOLUNTEER David Kinghorn @Robop1g PITCH SAT 1-6 VOLUNTEER David DiMare-Messier CONSOLE SUPPORT SUN 9-2 LEADER Eric Richburg @PotatoTaco LEAD/PITCH SUN 9-2 VOLUNTEER Ana Richburg GREET SUN 9-2 VOLUNTEER John Gillis (Precision Gaming) PITCH SUN 9-2 VOLUNTEER Gregory Harris-Jones @Serolis PITCH SUN 9-2 VOLUNTEER Allen Chamberland @alleenc CONSOLE SUPPORT SUN 1-6 LEADER Angela DiMare @aradiadarling LEAD/PITCH SUN 1-6 VOLUNTEER Rebecca Strauss @BeccaCora GREET SUN 1-6 VOLUNTEER Simon Strauss @kineticmedic PITCH SUN 1-6 VOLUNTEER Christine Reale-Strauss PITCH SUN 1-6 VOLUNTEER David DiMare CONSOLE SUPPORT
  15. Northeast Comic Con

    until
    We are offically in for this show. SAT 9-2 Leader Danielle Standring @DMo2TheMax SAT All Leader Angela DiMare-Messier @aradiadarling SAT All Volunteer David DiMare-Messier SUN 9-2 Leader SUN 9-2 Volunteer David Kinghorn @Robop1g SUN 1-6 Leader SUN 1-6 Volunteer Simon Strauss @kineticmedic
  16. There was a bit of confusion over the weekend when Target was spotted dropping ball on the surprise announcement of the sneaky follow up to Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. The leak contained everything from game bundles to the release date. Warner Bros. officially announced the sequel to Shadow of Mordor today and confirmed basically everything in the Target leak was accurate. The second game, titled Middle-earth: Shadow of War, has been developed by the same team at Monolith Productions that crafted the first entry in the budding series. It continues the adventures of Talion, the lone ranger who swore vengeance for the death of his family in Shadow of Mordor. The trailer for Shadow of War seems to show Talion and his Elven wraith ally forging a new ring of power in the heart of Mount Doom itself as Sauron marshals his forces in earnest against the world of men. New enemies unique to the game are shown joining Sauron's ranks alongside favorites like the Nazgûl. And, yes, at the end of the trailer your eyes did not deceive you: That was indeed a fully armored Balrog of Morgoth ready for war. Not going to lie, I personally had a good nerd out over that moment. Middle-earth: Shadow of War releases on August 22 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. A gameplay demonstration has also been scheduled for March 8, so keep your eyes ready for that reveal. View full article
  17. There was a bit of confusion over the weekend when Target was spotted dropping ball on the surprise announcement of the sneaky follow up to Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. The leak contained everything from game bundles to the release date. Warner Bros. officially announced the sequel to Shadow of Mordor today and confirmed basically everything in the Target leak was accurate. The second game, titled Middle-earth: Shadow of War, has been developed by the same team at Monolith Productions that crafted the first entry in the budding series. It continues the adventures of Talion, the lone ranger who swore vengeance for the death of his family in Shadow of Mordor. The trailer for Shadow of War seems to show Talion and his Elven wraith ally forging a new ring of power in the heart of Mount Doom itself as Sauron marshals his forces in earnest against the world of men. New enemies unique to the game are shown joining Sauron's ranks alongside favorites like the Nazgûl. And, yes, at the end of the trailer your eyes did not deceive you: That was indeed a fully armored Balrog of Morgoth ready for war. Not going to lie, I personally had a good nerd out over that moment. Middle-earth: Shadow of War releases on August 22 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. A gameplay demonstration has also been scheduled for March 8, so keep your eyes ready for that reveal.
  18. Anime Boston 3/31-4/2

    Anime Boston Calendar Event Once again, we have space at Anime Boston. We can have all hands on deck, as many badges as we need. So volunteer away. I set only so many shifts, but on Saturday, we can never have too many people. Comes with a weekend badge to AB.
  19. Supermegafest Calendar Event And just like that we have another confirmed event. Supemegafest 4/7-4/9/2017 Shifts and schedule are up for Sat and Sun. I will go out and set up on Friday and man the table that evening if anyone wants to join me. We will be going with the table top/non powered edition, seeing that the area that the comp tables are in are usually not powered and thankfully due to some other outside forces, we we able to finagle power last time, but don't want to push our luck this time. So this con we will highlight the table top/card/dice game possibilities for Extra Life.
  20. Northeast Comic Con South Shore Edition

    Northeast Comic Con Calendar Event Volunteer Shifts are up and awaiting..
  21. PAX East

    until
    DAY TIME POSITION NAME ROLE FRI 9-2 Leader Eric Richburg @PotatoTaco LEAD FRI 9-2 Volunteer Luis Cardona @The Guat CONSOLE SUPPORT FRI 9-2 Volunteer Merissa Johnson @Merissa PITCH FRI 9-2 Volunteer David Kinghorn @Robop1g PITCH FRI 1-6 Leader Angela DiMare @aradiadarling LEAD FRI 1-6 Volunteer David DiMare CONSOLE SUPPORT FRI 1-6 Volunteer Emma McGowan PITCH FRI 1-6 Volunteer Patrick McGowan PITCH SAT 9-2 Leader Danielle Standring @DMo2TheMax LEAD SAT 9-2 Volunteer Melissa @thats_spinach PITCH SAT 9-2 Volunteer Jessica Selberg @SassyJ PITCH SAT 9-2 Volunteer Kerry Selberg @KriptiKFate CONSOLE SUPPORT SAT 1-6 Leader Angela DiMare @aradiadarling LEAD SAT 1-6 Volunteer David DiMare CONSOLE SUPPORT SAT 1-6 Volunteer Grace Taverna PITCH SAT 1-6 Volunteer Todd Standring PITCH SUN 9-2 Leader Danielle Standring @DMo2TheMax LEAD SUN 9-2 Volunteer Todd Standring PITCH SUN 9-2 Volunteer Sam MacDonald CONSOLE SUPPORT SUN 9-2 Volunteer Merissa Johnson @Merissa PITCH SUN 1-6 Leader Melissa @thats_spinach LEAD SUN 1-6 Volunteer Greg Harris-Jones @Serolis PITCH SUN 1-6 Volunteer Amelia Ott @Oporotheca CONSOLE SUPPORT SUN 1-6 Volunteer Maya Gagne PITCH
  22. We've covered a lot of games after fifty episodes of this podcast (and a number of fun honorable mentions and extra mini-sodes). Since we are hitting a podcasting milestone, we figured it would be a good opportunity to look back and re-evaluate some of the games we once praised and choose one to kick out of our arbitrary, growing video game canon. Kick back, relax, and enjoy the first of our deathmatch episodes! MUAHAHAHA! Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: Donkey Kong Country 'High Tide' by FoxyPanda (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03327) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! You can also follow the show on Twitter: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday View full article
  23. We've covered a lot of games after fifty episodes of this podcast (and a number of fun honorable mentions and extra mini-sodes). Since we are hitting a podcasting milestone, we figured it would be a good opportunity to look back and re-evaluate some of the games we once praised and choose one to kick out of our arbitrary, growing video game canon. Kick back, relax, and enjoy the first of our deathmatch episodes! MUAHAHAHA! Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: Donkey Kong Country 'High Tide' by FoxyPanda (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03327) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! You can also follow the show on Twitter: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
  24. I Promise You, the Dawn Is Coming

    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. It was a bad time for us for computer games. The current consoles are ending (the interview was done before the release dates and prices for the PS4 and Xbox One were announced last year), not enough time for us to make the software development kit and for companies to make games. We had a few joint projects that we just plainly had to turn down saying, “it doesn’t work for us right now to make the SDK for the existing consoles.” They’ve lasted longer than we’d thought, no one was quite sure when the next Xbox and the next PlayStation was about to come out and we’d been dragging on for two years now and we thought we really couldn’t take that risk and it is too early to prepare for the next ones, so it is a bit of a problem right now for people going into the game engine business. We decided that we will come back to games, and we are doing things regarding games here, but that’s a surprise for the future, but we decided that we should go into another industry temporarily. 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.