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Jack Gardner
In what has been confirmed as the largest stellar war in the space-faring MMO’s history, over 4,000 players took to the stars to battle for honor, glory, spoils, and galactic influence.
 
Over the last two months, a war has been raging on the servers of EVE Online between the TEST Alliance and the forces of the CFC. This came to a head unexpectedly when the CFC decided to siege space station 6VDT-H in the Fountain system (leading many to dub this engagement The Battle of Fountain).  The engagement took days of planning and hours of preparation, both sides attempting to out-strategize the other. The actual battle required developer CCP, in god-like fashion, to slow down the passage of time in the EVE universe to maintain server stability. This caused the battle itself to last for over five hours. Over those grueling hours, over 2,900 ships were destroyed.
 
In the end, the CFC had better positioning, more troops, and emerged victorious.
 
Numerous sites have already covered the conflict quite well and in better detail, but this first-hand account of the conflict as told by a member of the CFC is very interesting and provides a great look within the cutthroat universe of EVE Online.

Jack Gardner
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to create brilliant works of art pixel by pixel? No? Well, that is what one man has been doing decades after his retirement.
 
Hal Lasko, or Grandpa as he is better known, reinvented himself several years ago when his family introduced him to, of all things, Microsoft Paint. Now he spends hours every day creating amazing 8-bit artwork. This is made even more incredible when you learn that Grandpa’s vision is almost completely shot. 
 
 
"Do you know I do a lot of my painting with my eyes shut? I've jumped up out of bed and went to the computer to see if I could do what I dreamed I could do." - Hal Lasko
 
I hope that I can be as cool as Grandpa someday.

Jack Gardner
Today marks the beginning of the Red Bull Training Grounds, a three day intensive training period and tournament for professional StarCraft II players from around the world. With $10,000 in prizes on the line, which of the eight world renowned RTS masters will emerge victorious?
 
At this Red Bull Training Grounds, fans will be able to see: NesTea, SeleCT, Succeed, Illusion, State, Snute, and Huk go toe-to-toe in the fast-paced, real-time strategy arena.
 
For the low price of $0, you can watch the livestream over the weekend or view the event at the Full Sail Live venue which is at the address you see below:
 
3300 University Blvd
Winter Park, FL 32792
 
Doors open at 1 PM EST for the live event while the livestream begins at 2 PM EST Friday through Sunday.
 
You can find the stream over on the Red Bull Training Grounds hub as well as some great Q&A interviews with the eSports competitors. 
 
I'll be rooting for SeleCT, who will you be cheering on?

Jack Gardner
Get out your top hats, monocles, and comically oversized bags of money, Activision Blizzard is taking steps to separate itself from parent company Vivendi and it is doing so with a LOT of money.
 
Last night, Activision announced that it will buy around 429 million company shares from Vivendi for the low price of $5.83 billion, while a separate investment group led by Activision’s CEO Bobby Kotick will be buying 172 million shares from Vivendi for a cool $2.34 billion. What does this mean besides that Activision Blizzard can throw around an absurdly large amount of money? Following this transaction, Activision will be its own corporate entity with a majority share held by the public, though Vivendi will retain about 12% of the gaming company.
 
Think that after spending a combined $8.17 billion that Activision might have some financial instability? According to CEO Bobby Kotick, that won’t be a problem, “The transactions announced today will allow us to take advantage of attractive financing markets while still retaining more than $3 billion cash on hand to preserve financial stability.”
 
The transaction with Vivendi is expected to be finalized by the end of September.
 
What do you think? Is this good news? Bad news? News news?  

Jack Gardner
Today, Red Barrels announced a release date and price for Outlast, the scariest game we played during E3. The chilling experience of playing as wayward reporter Miles Upshur as he ventures through a supposedly abandoned asylum for the criminally insane captured the attention of many in the video game press, garnering the title numerous awards and praise for its immersive audio and disempowering design choices. Red Barrels even touts the survival horror title as having the honor of being E3's “Most Likely to Make You Faint.”
 
Outlast will be released via Steam and digital download for PC on September 4, 2013 at the price of $19.99. The PlayStation 4 version seems to have been delayed, but in the meantime best start mentally preparing yourself for one of the freakiest horror titles since Amnesia: The Dark Descent.

Jack Gardner
While not exactly a video game in the most traditional sense, Adventurrito is vaguely game-like and is advertised as a game and could result in twenty years of free burritos. Take this as a kind of service announcement because I am sure we'd all never forgive ourselves if we missed out on the opportunity to have access to years of free burritos.
 
Beginning on July 13th and running through August 1st, a new puzzle will be unlocked every day for a total of twenty quiz questions. The first twenty people who complete all twenty questions correctly will be eligible to win twenty years of free burritos to honor their twentieth anniversary as a company.
 
In addition to the grand prize, each day there will be a new drawing for a secondary prize of a year of free burritos. You can enter the daily drawing by attempting to solve the daily puzzle. The contest rules state that some of the questions will require a fair bit of internet research. However, codes that will unlock hints can be found on receipts from Chipotle.
 
I like Chipotle, I am moderately fond of quiz games, and I have a duty to inform you that this is a thing that exists. Best of luck to all who enter! You can enter the contest-game-thing and get more information here.

Jack Gardner
Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW! is the follow-up to last year’s Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?!! (both of which are serious contenders for the longest, silliest video game name award).
 
In Explore the Dungeon, players are tasked with saving the Candy Kingdom by exploring the 100 floors of the mysterious Secret Royal Dungeon. Players can choose between multiple characters including Finn, Jake, Marceline, Cinnamon Bun, and more. If you think that 100 floors might be a bit much by yourself, fear not! You’ll be able to team up with up to three friends for some co-op multiplayer. As you progress through each level, you’ll acquire Tokens, which you can equip to improve your character’s abilities as well as Sub-Weapons to deal out more damage to your enemies.
 
Series creator Pendleton Ward teamed up with developer WayForward to create a specifically video game-oriented story to preserve a distinctly Adventure Time-y feel. Along with Ward, the original voices from the show are all signed on to bring their dulcet tones to the game.
 
 
Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW! is coming this Fall to Wii U, 3DS, Xbox 360, and PS3. 

Jack Gardner
The Regular Show is on track to get its very first video game treatment, and from what we’ve seen, it doesn’t look half bad.
 
Borrowing from classics like Super Mario Bros. 3, Contra, and R-Type, 8-bit Land features a unique blend of all three of the classic gameplay types. The 8-bit visual style even takes some of its cues from the classic titles and references can be found scattered throughout levels. Enemies will be made up of their adversaries from the show like The Hammer.
 
Fans of the show should can rest easy, Regular Show series creator JG Quintel crafted the story and concept of 8-bit Land and was heavily involved in its development.
 
 
The Regular Show: Mordecai and Rigby In 8-bit Land will release sometime this fall for the 3DS and retail at around $29.95.

Jack Gardner
Over the weekend, over 3,000 prospective champions descended upon Las Vegas, Nevada to battle to the virtual death. Of those 3,000, only eleven would be crowned champions of their respective games.
 
Normally, it can be a bit difficult to find VODs from EVO right after the event. Luckily, this year you can find a number of them over on IGN. For your convenience, we've included replays of the grand final match-ups below. If you don't feel like watching the matches, feel free to scroll lower to view the results!
 
Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition
 
 
King of Fighters XIII
 
 
Super Smash Bros. Melee
 
 
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3
 
 
Injustice: Gods Among Us
 
 
Tekken Tag Tournament 2
 
 
Persona 4 Arena
 
 
Street Fighter x Tekken
 
 
Mortal Kombat
 
 
Skullgirls
 
 
Unfortunately, we weren't able to find any replays from the DiveKick exhibition matches that were on display at EVO.
 
Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition - DM.MCZ|Xian
King of Fighters XIII - AS|Reynald
Super Smash Bros. Melee - Mango
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capom 3 - FS.EMP|Flocker
Injustice: Gods Among Us - VxG.EMP|KDZ
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 - Cafeld|Knee
Persona 4 Arena - Yume
Street Fighter x Tekken - Infiltration
Mortal Kombat -Crazy DJT88
Skullgirls - Duckator
DiveKick - Mean Saltine
 
Congratulations to all of the champions and we look forward to seeing them appear in future competitiions!
 
For the complete results of the numerous tournaments, head over to Shoryuken.

Jack Gardner
Beginning Friday morning and running through Sunday evening, the annual EVO championship series (short for Evolution) will be held in Las Vegas, Nevada. EVO is an umbrella event that covers all of the major and some of the not-so-major fighting games, giving each game its own tournament or exhibition. This year, EVO will consist of nine sub-tournaments, one for each of the following: Injustice: Gods Among Us, Mortal Kombat, Persona 4 Arena, Street Fighter x Tekken ver. 2013, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition ver. 2012, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, The King of Fighters XIII, and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. In addition to all of these games, there will also be exhibitions for indie fighting games Divekick and Skullgirls, as well as a demonstration of the upcoming box One fighting game, Killer Instinct.
 
As someone who has very little experience with fighting games, I still find EVO to be a blast to watch. While I might not know the ins and outs of the gameplay and some of the nuances certainly go over my head, I know can still appreciate moments like my favorite video game comeback of all time from a 2005 Street Fighter EVO tournament between Daigo Umehara, who is widely considered to be the greatest Street Fighter player of all time, and Justin Wong, another contender for the position.
 
 
There will be three streams via Twitch bringing EVO’s content to you live on the srkevo1, srkevo2, and srkevo3 channels. Viewers will be able to switch between the three of them from Twitch’s EVO 2013 hub. Each stream will have two commentators who know the intricacies of the games and will be able to translate for viewers who aren’t as familiar with fighting games. While the main streams are free, it is possible to purchase a $12 HD ticket to view the streams in HD. All proceeds will go toward a scholarship fund at NYU Game Center for aspiring game makers within the fighting game community.
 
There was some contention yesterday, when Nintendo announced that they would not allow Super Smash Bros. Melee to be streamed from the competition, despite a fan movement that raised $94,000 for charity in order to bring Melee to the venerable EVO event. After about five hours of massive outrage, Nintendo reversed its stance, allowing the fighting game to be streamed.
 
The full streaming schedule for EVO 2013 can be found here.   
 
For a more in-depth look at EVO including players to watch and fighting game jargon, be sure to check out this excellent viewing guide over on Shoryuken.
 
Below you can find my favorite match-up from EVO 2012.
 
 
For any of you fighting game fans out there, who are you rooting for this EVO? Personally, I’m hoping to see Daigo sweep Street Fighter IV.

Jack Gardner
In the midst of a hectic, crowded, and noisy E3 2013, there was a quieter (albeit only slightly) corner of the show floor. Out of curiosity and after being dazzled by the lights and bombast of the larger booths, I decided to wend my way through the smaller set-ups in this calmer section of the expo. I was approached by a representative of Blue Marble Games, a relatively new developer that focuses on creating games that are both fun and will hopefully help people with brain injuries, especially returning veterans.

I was introduced to Nina Withrington, a physical therapist who works with the programmers and artists to help create Blue Marble’s games. At E3, Blue Marble was showing off a collection of games called RESeT, which collects information about performance that therapists will be able to use to identify problems with patient cognition like memory or attention span. I was able to chat with Nina about RESeT, Blue Marble, their other upcoming game Treasure of Bell Island, and their crowd-funding attempt, Zoezi Park.
 
Jack Gardner: Why don’t you start at the beginning?
 
Nina Withrington: To start from the beginning, this is a suite of games called RESeT. It basically has two parts: An assessment section and an intervention section. These games were made with funding from the Department of Defense for mild traumatic brain injury for the soldiers and veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan to serve them, because [brain injuries are] a big issue in that population. So, what we’ve done, we have a research team in-house, which I am a part of. I am a physical therapist. Bonnie here is an occupational therapist with a PhD in metrics and math and the owner of the company is a physical therapist and has a PhD in neural science.
 
Garnder: Wow, so you’re a bunch of smart cookies!
 
Withrington: [Laughs] We’re doing all right, we’re doing all right. Yeah, between us we have 75 years of clinical experience. It is really great that we get to work with a team of game designers, programmers, and artists to build these games from the ground up with clinical input in mind. So, going to the literature [and seeing] the current clinical guidelines, the evidence, what clinicians are using, and then inputting that into the game. That’s the whole idea behind this.
 
[Gesturing to the table-sized touchscreen computer on which RESeT is running, Withrington begins flicking through the menus, showing me different features.]
 

 
So, this is the assessive portion. You can see that it challenges different things that can be impaired in brain injuries: visual perception, visual-spatial inattention, memory, attention, executive function, which is organization and planning, coordination, and patient recorded outcomes. So, the game I’m going to show you here is called Asteroid Adventures and this is an assessment of executive function. It is our gamified version of a common test used in the clinic called 'the trail-making test.'
 
[I took a couple seconds to look the game over. It appeared to consist of identifying the patter and order of numbers and letters in the sand and pressing them in the right order. As I am playing, matching the correct pattern, Withrington continues to talk.]
 
The traditional test is done on paper with circles and a pencil. That’s the difference. Running in the background of all these games is a database that tracks every tap that is made on the screen. From that we can figure out what someone’s response time was, where they made an error, and what they did after they made an error. Did they keep tapping that same thing? Did they pause and make the same error? Did they pause and then make the right choice? That can tell us a lot about what is going on while they are doing an assessment. Another thing, on a big table like this we also know where you touched.
 
[Withrington pulls out her laptop and shows me a map of the Asteroid Adventures. The image is identical to the game I just played, but there are red marks across the left side of the screen, while the right side is relatively clear.]
 
This is actually some data from a person with a brain injury who played this in our offices and what you can see is that all of his mistakes were made on the left side of the screen. What that tells us is that he has some inattention to that side, which is common in brain injury, not necessarily in mild traumatic brain injury, but more severe brain injuries. We can collect that data, which is kind of neat. Let me show you one more thing… We’ll do the same test one more time, but a different version of it…. Just so you know, this suite of games is going to be at the clinical trials at Cedars-Saini* this summer. So, it will be a validation study of the assessment portion. Which is very exciting for us. Another thing about our games is that they are levelled, so that someone who is healthy can play these games and have just as much fun as someone with impairments. So, they level up and then they level down to a lower level. So, that way, if someone is going through the rehabilitation process their family can play with them, and they can play with their friends and they have something to talk about besides their injury. Which I think is really awesome, personally. I am going to show you one more evaluation. This is the same thing, but in this one, there is a line being drawn.
 
Gardner: So, same kind of deal as before.
 
Withrington: Yep, it is the same thing. The major difference being that you are getting this additional queue, right, so you know where you’ve been. Then I can show you the data and show you why that is interesting.
 
[In the interest of time, Withrington does the level herself, performing admirably despite the level being upside down from her point of view, and once more pulls out her laptop to show me data.]
 
This is what I wanted to show you. This blue line is the sandbox one, where you get this queue of where you’ve been, the line. This red one here is the one where you don’t get that queue. This was done with the same player with brain injury. You can see when he has the queue, he goes really fast in the sandbox. When he doesn’t have the queue, it takes him 3-4 times as long. That is a memory issue, where was I last? Trials B, where you switch between number and letter, he does about the same on both, which tells us he primary problem is memory, not flexible thinking. That’s the kind of granular data that you can glean from something that is on a platform like this and gives you data in the background. All of our games port to tablets and they play on the PC as well, so there are lots of platforms for them.
 
We also have another game called Treasure of Bell Island, which is a strategic adventure game, and what happens is- I don’t have a tablet right now, but the player has a cast of characters and they have to solve the mystery of an island. They have to explore the island, they have to hunt to feed their crew, they have to keep their crew sheltered, and all of these things as they go along solving this mystery and collecting golden bells. Each of the mini-games challenges a different aspect of cognition, memory, attention, and executive function. So, there is a whole narrative, you have a purpose, and it is real-life, you have to think about others, not just yourself. So, that is a really great, fun game that we are doing as well.
 
 
Gardner: Over time do these kinds of games improve that kind of mental cognition?
 
Withrington: That’s a great question. These were literally just built.
 
Gardner: So, we don’t know yet.
 
Withrington: So, we don’t know yet, that’s the answer. But, we have taken the evidence from the literature and I can say they do challenge all of the impairments, but whether that will translate into real world will take lots of studies to figure out over years. In the meantime, this is what we’ve got and it can be used, in my estimation. Especially when you consider that therapists are taking games off the shelf and trying to make those work. Saying, ‘well, at least I am getting this challenged a little bit.’ You know, they are looking at it from a task analysis perspective and saying, ‘what is being challenged here and can I make that work?’
 
Gardner: Is this available now?
 
Withrington: It will be available soon. Very, very soon.
 
Gardner: And people would just be able to buy this on the Apple App Store, or…?
 
Withrington: They could buy it from our website. That will be the first place you will be able to buy it. We’re not quite on iPad yet. We are working hard to get there, we have a preliminary build, but hopefully we will be. That’s the plan. But it can be played on PC if someone wanted to play on PC.
 
Gardner: What is this going to cost? Will it be free?
 
Withrington: No, that’s a great question. I am not the business person for Blue Marble, but I do know that we are committed to making these affordable. It will never cost more than an off-the-shelf game or what you would spend on a regular app. What would probably cost more would be if you wanted to know the data all the time. That takes a lot more maintenance on our end. But certainly, just to buy the game would be, you know, an average priced game, even though it has so much more going into it, like actual research.
 
Gardner: When someone buys the game, how do they access the data?
 
Withrington: The data is online. They can log in and see it there.
 
Gardner: Would therapists be prescribing these games?
 
Withrington: What’s great about our model here is that it could just be used by someone picking it up and wanting to use it or you can work with a therapist if you have impairments. The way I see these cognitive games is that they could be used as brain games too, because they level so high. But if you do have impairments, you probably should work with a therapist so they can help you through the game and develop strategies for you. In this game we have lots of mini-games as you go up in levels that challenge certain things specifically, so if a therapist has assessed someone, they can say, ‘you know, focus on these challenges, and don’t worry so much about these.’
 
Gardner: Are you working with other physical therapists not associated with the development?
 
Withrington: Yes, all throughout our design process. It is what we call user-centered design. We go out and do focus groups with all of our end-users. That is clinicians, people with disabilities, caregivers, and family members. We get everybody’s input: What would be fun, what doesn’t work here, does this mechanic really disturb your vision, etc. We have to consider things like that. There are certain mechanics that we can’t do in games here. Is the art too complicated? These are things that are all barriers for [people with brain injuries to enjoy] entertainment games.
 

 
Gardner: Can you tell me a little bit about how Blue Marble started?
 
Withrington: Yes, absolutely. Dr. Sheryl Flynn is our CEO. She is a physical therapist and has a PhD in neural Science. She won a grant from the Department of Defense to make the Treasure of Bell Island game, which was our first game.
 
Gardner: Treasure of Bell Island is out right now?
 
Withrington: Almost. We just redid the art. So, probably in a month or two, that game will be out.
 
Gardner: Also on the same platforms as RESeT?
 
Withrington: Yes, on tablet and PC, working on the [iOS] process. So, anyway, she won the grant from the government to make that one and then we got a grant to make RESeT and we had gotten another small grant to create a prototype for a game that helps prevent falls in older adults, and that small grant enabled us to create a very basic prototype with just one or two exercises in it, but we want to put in a whole suite of exercises from the Otago exercise program, which has been shown to prevent falls in older adults by 35%. We would love to get the generations playing together and doing that. We are doing crowd funding to raise money to hopefully be able to build out that game. It is Whenyouwish.com and the game is called Zoezi Park and Zoezi is Swahili for exercise. Because you have to train balance to maintain balance and I know as our population ages it is a very big public health issue and just a caring-about-our-seniors issue. 
 
I think that what Blue Marble Games is trying to do is pretty great, and not something that we see very often in the video game industry. Check out their products and their stuff if you want to see something unique in the industry.
 
For more information on RESeT go here.
 
*Cedars-Saini is a non-profit hospital that also functions as an academic center for health science.

Jack Gardner
Fans of ridiculously silly, over-the-top, crazy flight combat games rejoice! Namco Bandai Games has proclaimed that a new Ace Combat is on the way.
 
Announced last Friday, we know only a few tantalizing tidbits. It will be available via PSN, but no other methods of distribution have been talked about, making it likely that it will be a downloadable only title. The new Ace Combat will take place in the real world and have something to do with meteors, a world war, and impractical super-weapons. You can watch the teaser trailer for yourself below.
 
 
Ace Combat Infinity is projected to release on September 25, 2013.

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