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Found 17 results

  1. This has been quite the year for THQ Nordic's acquisitions. So far, the publisher has bought up Deep Silver's parent company, Koch Media, Bugbear Entertainment, and Coffee Stain. With those companies under its belt, the expansion of THQ Nordic now controls, and seems to have plans for: The Saints Row franchise, the Metro series, Kingdoms of Amalur (a really interesting buy, to be sure), ReCore, Alone in the Dark, Wreckfest, and Goat Simulator just to name a few of their higher profile properties - which doesn't include all of the IP already under the company's belt. And with the acquisition of Carmageddon from Stainless Games THQ's expansion isn't slowing down anytime soon. It's safe to assume that buying up all of these properties means that we can expect to see remasters and entirely new games in these franchises. With Carmageddon, though, this is likely the first move in making a brand new entry in the series. The last title, Carmageddon: Reincarnation, released back in 2015 and had a lackluster reception despite a successful crowdfunding campaign. All things considered, the franchise is primed for a comeback in another three years - conveniently the amount of time it would take to develop a reboot or sequel. For those unfamiliar with Carmageddon, the franchise began in 1997 with a racing game that offered a number of different ways to win its races. Players could play traditionally, destroy all of the other racers on the course, or run over all of the pedestrians in the level. The violence inherent in the last option was used to comedic effect by the game, though it caused a great deal of controversy around the world. Various international versions of Carmageddon changed the pedestrians to zombies or robots while countries such as Brazil banned the game completely. Eventually it was released on PlayStation, Game Boy Advance, and Nintendo 64 - though the latter two featured heavily edited versions of the game to comply with Nintendo's family friendly policies which have since... *eyes Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus on Switch* relaxed. Are you excited to see Carmageddon getting a second (or third) chance at success? It seems like a quirky racing title with an emphasis on destruction could do pretty well alongside the Forzas and Mario Karts rolling around these days. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  2. This has been quite the year for THQ Nordic's acquisitions. So far, the publisher has bought up Deep Silver's parent company, Koch Media, Bugbear Entertainment, and Coffee Stain. With those companies under its belt, the expansion of THQ Nordic now controls, and seems to have plans for: The Saints Row franchise, the Metro series, Kingdoms of Amalur (a really interesting buy, to be sure), ReCore, Alone in the Dark, Wreckfest, and Goat Simulator just to name a few of their higher profile properties - which doesn't include all of the IP already under the company's belt. And with the acquisition of Carmageddon from Stainless Games THQ's expansion isn't slowing down anytime soon. It's safe to assume that buying up all of these properties means that we can expect to see remasters and entirely new games in these franchises. With Carmageddon, though, this is likely the first move in making a brand new entry in the series. The last title, Carmageddon: Reincarnation, released back in 2015 and had a lackluster reception despite a successful crowdfunding campaign. All things considered, the franchise is primed for a comeback in another three years - conveniently the amount of time it would take to develop a reboot or sequel. For those unfamiliar with Carmageddon, the franchise began in 1997 with a racing game that offered a number of different ways to win its races. Players could play traditionally, destroy all of the other racers on the course, or run over all of the pedestrians in the level. The violence inherent in the last option was used to comedic effect by the game, though it caused a great deal of controversy around the world. Various international versions of Carmageddon changed the pedestrians to zombies or robots while countries such as Brazil banned the game completely. Eventually it was released on PlayStation, Game Boy Advance, and Nintendo 64 - though the latter two featured heavily edited versions of the game to comply with Nintendo's family friendly policies which have since... *eyes Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus on Switch* relaxed. Are you excited to see Carmageddon getting a second (or third) chance at success? It seems like a quirky racing title with an emphasis on destruction could do pretty well alongside the Forzas and Mario Karts rolling around these days. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  3. I like big games. The potential for truly deep and moving experiences on unprecedented scales often inspires new levels of excited anticipation within my nerdy heart. They almost always fall short of their promised potential, but when marketing promises the moon, how often does one actually get the moon? The triple-A development world and its focus on ever bigger blockbuster games makes clear a problem that has long lingered underneath the dazzling graphical quality and sweeping vistas of the modern gaming industry: The soul-crushing grind of crunch time, the period during which a staggering number of developers push their workers as hard as possible to hit those all important deadlines. It can be easy to shrug off the vocal complaints of employees, both current and former, who speak up about the working conditions they endured while pursuing the dream of making big and interesting games. They're even easier to ignore if the developer whose workforce complains about its labor practices makes games that people love. Once the game boots up, it can be hard to remember that the spouses of those working on the original Red Dead Redemption had to start a campaign of public shaming because they weren't seeing their partners for prolonged periods of time due to mandatory 60-hour work weeks. An outpouring of criticism occurred recently toward Rockstar Games after one of the studio's co-founders, Dan Houser, proudly declared to New York Magazine that they had been working 100-hour weeks on Red Dead Redemption 2, a claim that was quickly downplayed by a PR clarification that the quote really only referred to the four person writing team that included the Houser. Even if we take the clarification at face value, something I'd argue a reasonable person should view with skepticism given the investment Houser has in the company he helped to create, the conversation about labor and crunch time should still happen. So, let's talk a little bit about labor in the game industry. And to do that, we need to dive into the history of labor practices in the United States. In 1866, workers in the newly formed National Labor Union began lobbying Congress to enact an eight-hour work day as the standard. Of course, the attempt failed to gain political traction, but the eight-hour work day did become the goal most labor movements pushed for from that point on. People began petitioning state and local governments to limit the number of hours employers could legally force them to work. This eventually led to Illinois mandating an eight-hour workday. Employers hated the law so much that they refused to abide by it, resulting in a workers strike, the Haymarket Affair that crippled the city of Chicago. The strike became what we now know as International Workers' Day, an event that commemorated the large-scale strike to assert labor rights. Every year following the Chicago protests, strikes were organized across the country to push for additional protections and an eight-hour workday, making small gains here and there. Some unions won the right to ten-hour workdays while others demonstrated for workplace safety, especially following the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire that left nearly 150 workers dead due to the poor construction of exits in the factory. While federal employees would eventually receive the eight-hour workday, the private sector's support for such a plan often took the form of outright hostility. What really turned the tide and standardized the eight-hour workday across many private companies was the Ford Motor Company's adoption of the five-day, 40-hour work week in 1926. Though not the first company to do so, FMC and its assembly line production helped shape overall factory culture.(Fun fact: It's popularly believed that Henry Ford moved to this schedule and payed workers a high wage as part of a brilliant way of selling more cars to the very workers producing them. This belief built up the mythos of the American Dream. However, Ford was pushed to the schedule and associated pay raise not by a brilliant, forward-looking business plan, but by the fact that he couldn't retain workers for the production lines at the wages and work week he wanted. The work was so dull and paid so little that in 1913, Ford hired 52,000 workers to maintain a workforce of 14,000.) The decision to make eight-hour work days the standard for factory workers became what many to this day see as a full-time occupation. That was solidified into law in 1940 with the Fair Labor Standards Act amendment which stipulates that employers are required to pay overtime for time worked over 40 hours per week. That law and the long fight leading to it was (and still is) largely despised by many companies across the United States. However, in the years since its conception many of the higher-ups in those companies devised ways around the law. The most effective way to circumvent the law is by making a 40+ hour week optional, at least on paper. The common way of doing this is by selling the dream that working more than the designated 40 hours serves as a way for the worker to distinguish themselves on the job. Such an outstanding worker would surely be promoted and advance in the company while those working their mandated time would seem slothful despite working their full-time job. This creates a race where everyone tries to stand out and doesn't want to look bad. It's also a huge win for the company because any time criticism comes its way, the representatives can turn around with a shrug and point out that, at least on paper, working more than full-time is completely optional. For companies that embrace this work ethic, a culture emerges that holds up those hard-working employees as examples to the rest of the workers. This can lead to those deemed "too lazy" for working their full 40 hours to be labelled as the kinds of people who aren't team players. Their coworkers begin ostracizing them for slowing down projects that are already moving faster due to many people putting in overtime. And so, the social pressure to conform to an ever longer work week escalates, sometimes to the point that employees are let go for not being a good fit for the company's culture because they work their required time. At an individual level, the pressure to advance in a career and earn money will always be a strong one under capitalism. Compounding that with the social pressure of wanting to fit in and help the rest of the team achieve a collective goal makes it even harder to realistically stick to what is generally considered to be a full-time job. Many people slowly erode over time and find themselves giving more and more of their lives to the workplace, especially if that workplace benefits from their enthusiasm. In the video game world, many developers go through periods of crunch where an average work week ranges from 60-80 hours. These periods vary from developer to developer, but a staggering number of companies enter into crunch to meet deadlines and release dates. Sometimes crunch can last months or even over a year. It happens so often that it has just become a given in recent years that crunching before the release of a game is just the way things are. Game devs could stick to 40-hour work weeks and still finish large, impressive, triple-A games, but it might take them a bit longer without pressuring employees to work more than full-time. The reason that becomes a problem from a business perspective isn't that it couldn't be done or that fans couldn't wait - I mean, look at games like The Last Guardian taking so long to come out people thought it was dead - it's because the people who have invested in game development want to get the quickest return on their investment. For example, if you invested $100 million into an Assassin's Creed game, you would rather get that back with profit in two years instead of two and a half years, especially if you as an investor exist largely removed from the creation process of the game. And those long hours? Those are destructive to the developers themselves. Research has suggested that working more than 50 hours per week results in a decline in productivity and more than 55 hours per week results in almost no increased productivity. A Stanford study found that, on average, someone who puts in 70 hours accomplishes remarkably little, even with the 15 additional work hours, than the person who works a 55-hour week. And that's just productivity. Workers often find health issues exacerbated by working over 40 hours per week. These include increased likelihood of cardiovascular problems, relationship woes with friends and loved ones, substance abuse, depression, injury, and hormonal imbalance. One could make a compelling argument that pushing workers to put in those longer hours just so that an investment returns a few months faster is killing the people who make some of our most beloved video games. Normally, I'd like to end on a cheerier note about how, if we all work together, we can change the way the video game business works and eliminate crunch time so that our games are made more ethically. Unfortunately in this case, most of the power rests in the hands of publishers and developers. Video game workers could unionize, of course, and exert pressure on their employers to limit hours and impose standard practices across the industry, much like how the voice actors worked together to secure better deals following a strike against various video game companies who initially refused their terms. This idea only just seems to be gaining traction with organizations like Game Workers Unite advocating for unionization in the game industry, though whether or not workers in the game industry will actually unionize remains an open question. It's also possible that those in positions of power in the game industry could look at the studies and conclude that putting employees through crunch ultimately leads to a worse product, though those studies are a couple years old at this point and not much has been done to combat crunch. It's also possible that Congress could step in to pass a law that better regulates the industry, but considering the political situation of the United States at the moment, it's unlikely that regulation of video game developer's working hours will be a high enough priority to gain any traction. A boycott could weigh the scales a bit in worker's favor. However, it seems unlikely that gamers as a whole would effectively boycott all the companies that contribute to making crunch a common occurrence in the game industry. Despite that, the potentially harmful practices companies implement in order to increase profits will always be something worth discussing. Maybe talking about it, making it a point of public discussion, and raising awareness will help, little by little, to make this industry one where the people who make our games aren't crushed just to make the art we love so much. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  4. I like big games. The potential for truly deep and moving experiences on unprecedented scales often inspires new levels of excited anticipation within my nerdy heart. They almost always fall short of their promised potential, but when marketing promises the moon, how often does one actually get the moon? The triple-A development world and its focus on ever bigger blockbuster games makes clear a problem that has long lingered underneath the dazzling graphical quality and sweeping vistas of the modern gaming industry: The soul-crushing grind of crunch time, the period during which a staggering number of developers push their workers as hard as possible to hit those all important deadlines. It can be easy to shrug off the vocal complaints of employees, both current and former, who speak up about the working conditions they endured while pursuing the dream of making big and interesting games. They're even easier to ignore if the developer whose workforce complains about its labor practices makes games that people love. Once the game boots up, it can be hard to remember that the spouses of those working on the original Red Dead Redemption had to start a campaign of public shaming because they weren't seeing their partners for prolonged periods of time due to mandatory 60-hour work weeks. An outpouring of criticism occurred recently toward Rockstar Games after one of the studio's co-founders, Dan Houser, proudly declared to New York Magazine that they had been working 100-hour weeks on Red Dead Redemption 2, a claim that was quickly downplayed by a PR clarification that the quote really only referred to the four person writing team that included the Houser. Even if we take the clarification at face value, something I'd argue a reasonable person should view with skepticism given the investment Houser has in the company he helped to create, the conversation about labor and crunch time should still happen. So, let's talk a little bit about labor in the game industry. And to do that, we need to dive into the history of labor practices in the United States. In 1866, workers in the newly formed National Labor Union began lobbying Congress to enact an eight-hour work day as the standard. Of course, the attempt failed to gain political traction, but the eight-hour work day did become the goal most labor movements pushed for from that point on. People began petitioning state and local governments to limit the number of hours employers could legally force them to work. This eventually led to Illinois mandating an eight-hour workday. Employers hated the law so much that they refused to abide by it, resulting in a workers strike, the Haymarket Affair that crippled the city of Chicago. The strike became what we now know as International Workers' Day, an event that commemorated the large-scale strike to assert labor rights. Every year following the Chicago protests, strikes were organized across the country to push for additional protections and an eight-hour workday, making small gains here and there. Some unions won the right to ten-hour workdays while others demonstrated for workplace safety, especially following the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire that left nearly 150 workers dead due to the poor construction of exits in the factory. While federal employees would eventually receive the eight-hour workday, the private sector's support for such a plan often took the form of outright hostility. What really turned the tide and standardized the eight-hour workday across many private companies was the Ford Motor Company's adoption of the five-day, 40-hour work week in 1926. Though not the first company to do so, FMC and its assembly line production helped shape overall factory culture.(Fun fact: It's popularly believed that Henry Ford moved to this schedule and payed workers a high wage as part of a brilliant way of selling more cars to the very workers producing them. This belief built up the mythos of the American Dream. However, Ford was pushed to the schedule and associated pay raise not by a brilliant, forward-looking business plan, but by the fact that he couldn't retain workers for the production lines at the wages and work week he wanted. The work was so dull and paid so little that in 1913, Ford hired 52,000 workers to maintain a workforce of 14,000.) The decision to make eight-hour work days the standard for factory workers became what many to this day see as a full-time occupation. That was solidified into law in 1940 with the Fair Labor Standards Act amendment which stipulates that employers are required to pay overtime for time worked over 40 hours per week. That law and the long fight leading to it was (and still is) largely despised by many companies across the United States. However, in the years since its conception many of the higher-ups in those companies devised ways around the law. The most effective way to circumvent the law is by making a 40+ hour week optional, at least on paper. The common way of doing this is by selling the dream that working more than the designated 40 hours serves as a way for the worker to distinguish themselves on the job. Such an outstanding worker would surely be promoted and advance in the company while those working their mandated time would seem slothful despite working their full-time job. This creates a race where everyone tries to stand out and doesn't want to look bad. It's also a huge win for the company because any time criticism comes its way, the representatives can turn around with a shrug and point out that, at least on paper, working more than full-time is completely optional. For companies that embrace this work ethic, a culture emerges that holds up those hard-working employees as examples to the rest of the workers. This can lead to those deemed "too lazy" for working their full 40 hours to be labelled as the kinds of people who aren't team players. Their coworkers begin ostracizing them for slowing down projects that are already moving faster due to many people putting in overtime. And so, the social pressure to conform to an ever longer work week escalates, sometimes to the point that employees are let go for not being a good fit for the company's culture because they work their required time. At an individual level, the pressure to advance in a career and earn money will always be a strong one under capitalism. Compounding that with the social pressure of wanting to fit in and help the rest of the team achieve a collective goal makes it even harder to realistically stick to what is generally considered to be a full-time job. Many people slowly erode over time and find themselves giving more and more of their lives to the workplace, especially if that workplace benefits from their enthusiasm. In the video game world, many developers go through periods of crunch where an average work week ranges from 60-80 hours. These periods vary from developer to developer, but a staggering number of companies enter into crunch to meet deadlines and release dates. Sometimes crunch can last months or even over a year. It happens so often that it has just become a given in recent years that crunching before the release of a game is just the way things are. Game devs could stick to 40-hour work weeks and still finish large, impressive, triple-A games, but it might take them a bit longer without pressuring employees to work more than full-time. The reason that becomes a problem from a business perspective isn't that it couldn't be done or that fans couldn't wait - I mean, look at games like The Last Guardian taking so long to come out people thought it was dead - it's because the people who have invested in game development want to get the quickest return on their investment. For example, if you invested $100 million into an Assassin's Creed game, you would rather get that back with profit in two years instead of two and a half years, especially if you as an investor exist largely removed from the creation process of the game. And those long hours? Those are destructive to the developers themselves. Research has suggested that working more than 50 hours per week results in a decline in productivity and more than 55 hours per week results in almost no increased productivity. A Stanford study found that, on average, someone who puts in 70 hours accomplishes remarkably little, even with the 15 additional work hours, than the person who works a 55-hour week. And that's just productivity. Workers often find health issues exacerbated by working over 40 hours per week. These include increased likelihood of cardiovascular problems, relationship woes with friends and loved ones, substance abuse, depression, injury, and hormonal imbalance. One could make a compelling argument that pushing workers to put in those longer hours just so that an investment returns a few months faster is killing the people who make some of our most beloved video games. Normally, I'd like to end on a cheerier note about how, if we all work together, we can change the way the video game business works and eliminate crunch time so that our games are made more ethically. Unfortunately in this case, most of the power rests in the hands of publishers and developers. Video game workers could unionize, of course, and exert pressure on their employers to limit hours and impose standard practices across the industry, much like how the voice actors worked together to secure better deals following a strike against various video game companies who initially refused their terms. This idea only just seems to be gaining traction with organizations like Game Workers Unite advocating for unionization in the game industry, though whether or not workers in the game industry will actually unionize remains an open question. It's also possible that those in positions of power in the game industry could look at the studies and conclude that putting employees through crunch ultimately leads to a worse product, though those studies are a couple years old at this point and not much has been done to combat crunch. It's also possible that Congress could step in to pass a law that better regulates the industry, but considering the political situation of the United States at the moment, it's unlikely that regulation of video game developer's working hours will be a high enough priority to gain any traction. A boycott could weigh the scales a bit in worker's favor. However, it seems unlikely that gamers as a whole would effectively boycott all the companies that contribute to making crunch a common occurrence in the game industry. Despite that, the potentially harmful practices companies implement in order to increase profits will always be something worth discussing. Maybe talking about it, making it a point of public discussion, and raising awareness will help, little by little, to make this industry one where the people who make our games aren't crushed just to make the art we love so much. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  5. E-Line Media's upcoming title, The Endless Mission, can leave a lot of people scratching their heads at first glance. It is a game about making games that includes games within itself while also being a strong single-player experience that prepares players to make games. Make sense? It was a lot for me to digest from just a press release, so I took some time to sit down with Brenden Sewell, the creative director of The Endless Mission, to talk about his conceptually dense project. The Endless Mission's prioritizes giving players the power to create games of their own. It eases players into the process with a story and mechanics that gradually teach players how to use its tools. It begins with a handful of game modes that players can play on their own or mix together to create different game types to play. The game creation process evolves over time as players discover their own unique combinations of settings and find a need for greater complexity. Not only that, but players can then share their creations with other players, leading to what will hopefully be an ever expanding pool of stories and mechanics from which other players can draw inspiration for their own games. The Endless Mission grew out of a desire to connect young people with an accessible, fun game that could double as a tool set serving as a bridge between the introductory world of coding and full-blown game development. Sewell says that he and his team were inspired by seeing kids engaging with Minecraft in ways that became more and more elaborate over time. First, they would figure out how to start up a server, going through painstaking tutorials and executing commands. Some would start crafting mods for the game, again working through ridiculous amounts of tutorials, essentially teaching themselves how to code. However, after that, many never seemed to make the leap to game development, despite having good ideas, because the leap itself seemed so daunting. Once Minecraft was taken out of the picture all of that technical knowledge faded into the background. So, The Endless Mission aimed to give players the means, tools, and drive to help them cross over into game development and fill the perceived voids separating playing, modding, and developing. To help players cross the divide, The Endless Mission goes through an evolution that follows the player's increasing skill level. Players begin the game with access to a handful of pre-made games; initially a kart racer, an RTS, and a platformer, along with whatever games other players have shared online. That might not sound like much, but when you jump into one of those games, The Endless Mission gives players the ability to peek behind the curtain. You can bring up a menu to alter the fundamental rules of the game. Of course, this immediately leads to ridiculousness, like your avatar jumping for colossal heights or dashing impossible distances while 100x its normal size, but that's all part of the learning process. Emergent game design, discovering ideas for games you hadn't even considered before, is part of the fun! However, the game doesn't sit on its laurels and call it a day after giving the player access to the behind-the-scenes sliders. You see, once players have mastered the menus and feel the need for even more refinement, they can access a visual programming language built to represent C#. This allows players to make changes to the game in real-time. While the visual language possesses much more power and versatility than the basic menus, it might be found lacking for players who really want to get into the nitty gritty details, which is why the game allows players to open it up and directly program in C# to create the game in their head. Players will be moved through this journey by the single-player aspect. To call The Endless Mission a set of tools for making a game on your own would be an understatement. Though it certainly gives players the capacity to craft entire games, it's as much a rumination on the act of creation itself, with a script penned by Christian Cantamessa, the lead writer of Red Dead Redemption, and Richard Elliott, known for his work on the animated series Fangbone!. The premise revolves around the modern tension of shaping our environment with technology while in turn finding ourselves shaped by that technology. Though not necessarily the main goal of The Endless Mission, E-Line Media wants to enable players to make a full, functional game in Unity that can stand on its with the tools provided. If you're not a fan of the assets used in The Endless Mission, Sewell says you can import your own. Games can be shared online within the game, though it's not exactly clear how curation will work. Eventually, if someone puts in enough time and effort, their Endless Mission creation could even be exported as an independent game. The Endless Mission undoubtedly takes a big risk. However, the potential ability to inspire and enable a generation of young gamers to make their own art and tell their own stories could be more than worth the difficulty. The project won't be getting a full release for a while yet, but players can get in on the Early Access version for PC on August 31. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  6. E-Line Media's upcoming title, The Endless Mission, can leave a lot of people scratching their heads at first glance. It is a game about making games that includes games within itself while also being a strong single-player experience that prepares players to make games. Make sense? It was a lot for me to digest from just a press release, so I took some time to sit down with Brenden Sewell, the creative director of The Endless Mission, to talk about his conceptually dense project. The Endless Mission's prioritizes giving players the power to create games of their own. It eases players into the process with a story and mechanics that gradually teach players how to use its tools. It begins with a handful of game modes that players can play on their own or mix together to create different game types to play. The game creation process evolves over time as players discover their own unique combinations of settings and find a need for greater complexity. Not only that, but players can then share their creations with other players, leading to what will hopefully be an ever expanding pool of stories and mechanics from which other players can draw inspiration for their own games. The Endless Mission grew out of a desire to connect young people with an accessible, fun game that could double as a tool set serving as a bridge between the introductory world of coding and full-blown game development. Sewell says that he and his team were inspired by seeing kids engaging with Minecraft in ways that became more and more elaborate over time. First, they would figure out how to start up a server, going through painstaking tutorials and executing commands. Some would start crafting mods for the game, again working through ridiculous amounts of tutorials, essentially teaching themselves how to code. However, after that, many never seemed to make the leap to game development, despite having good ideas, because the leap itself seemed so daunting. Once Minecraft was taken out of the picture all of that technical knowledge faded into the background. So, The Endless Mission aimed to give players the means, tools, and drive to help them cross over into game development and fill the perceived voids separating playing, modding, and developing. To help players cross the divide, The Endless Mission goes through an evolution that follows the player's increasing skill level. Players begin the game with access to a handful of pre-made games; initially a kart racer, an RTS, and a platformer, along with whatever games other players have shared online. That might not sound like much, but when you jump into one of those games, The Endless Mission gives players the ability to peek behind the curtain. You can bring up a menu to alter the fundamental rules of the game. Of course, this immediately leads to ridiculousness, like your avatar jumping for colossal heights or dashing impossible distances while 100x its normal size, but that's all part of the learning process. Emergent game design, discovering ideas for games you hadn't even considered before, is part of the fun! However, the game doesn't sit on its laurels and call it a day after giving the player access to the behind-the-scenes sliders. You see, once players have mastered the menus and feel the need for even more refinement, they can access a visual programming language built to represent C#. This allows players to make changes to the game in real-time. While the visual language possesses much more power and versatility than the basic menus, it might be found lacking for players who really want to get into the nitty gritty details, which is why the game allows players to open it up and directly program in C# to create the game in their head. Players will be moved through this journey by the single-player aspect. To call The Endless Mission a set of tools for making a game on your own would be an understatement. Though it certainly gives players the capacity to craft entire games, it's as much a rumination on the act of creation itself, with a script penned by Christian Cantamessa, the lead writer of Red Dead Redemption, and Richard Elliott, known for his work on the animated series Fangbone!. The premise revolves around the modern tension of shaping our environment with technology while in turn finding ourselves shaped by that technology. Though not necessarily the main goal of The Endless Mission, E-Line Media wants to enable players to make a full, functional game in Unity that can stand on its with the tools provided. If you're not a fan of the assets used in The Endless Mission, Sewell says you can import your own. Games can be shared online within the game, though it's not exactly clear how curation will work. Eventually, if someone puts in enough time and effort, their Endless Mission creation could even be exported as an independent game. The Endless Mission undoubtedly takes a big risk. However, the potential ability to inspire and enable a generation of young gamers to make their own art and tell their own stories could be more than worth the difficulty. The project won't be getting a full release for a while yet, but players can get in on the Early Access version for PC on August 31. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  7. Irrational Games, the developer behind the BioShock series, made a colossal change three years ago when it laid off most of its employees and became a small studio. Since then, Ken Levine and his team have been quietly working on... something. No one is quite sure what they've been up to in their Westwood, Massachusetts offices, but they've been hinting at a quieter, more thoughtful story-oriented game. Their mission, that quest for a more personal game, didn't quite seem to fit with a studio name like Irrational Games. To bring their name more in line with their goals, the studio's new name is Ghost Story Games. The studio describes their new studio in a way that acknowledges their past pedigree, but looks forward to something new and exciting: Ghost Story was founded by twelve former Irrational Games developers and our mission is simple: to create immersive, story-driven games for people who love games that ask something of them. While we believe our new games will have strong appeal to fans of BioShock, our new focus allows us to craft experiences where the gameplay is as challenging as the stories. The Irrational Games Twitter has become the Ghost Story Twitter and while the Irrational Games website remains up, the team has moved their focus to a new website under their Ghost Story Games moniker. Best of luck to Levine and his team as they officially bring to a close one of the most successful periods in game development history and move into a clear future yet to be written. View full article
  8. Jack Gardner

    Irrational Games Is Now Ghost Story Games

    Irrational Games, the developer behind the BioShock series, made a colossal change three years ago when it laid off most of its employees and became a small studio. Since then, Ken Levine and his team have been quietly working on... something. No one is quite sure what they've been up to in their Westwood, Massachusetts offices, but they've been hinting at a quieter, more thoughtful story-oriented game. Their mission, that quest for a more personal game, didn't quite seem to fit with a studio name like Irrational Games. To bring their name more in line with their goals, the studio's new name is Ghost Story Games. The studio describes their new studio in a way that acknowledges their past pedigree, but looks forward to something new and exciting: Ghost Story was founded by twelve former Irrational Games developers and our mission is simple: to create immersive, story-driven games for people who love games that ask something of them. While we believe our new games will have strong appeal to fans of BioShock, our new focus allows us to craft experiences where the gameplay is as challenging as the stories. The Irrational Games Twitter has become the Ghost Story Twitter and while the Irrational Games website remains up, the team has moved their focus to a new website under their Ghost Story Games moniker. Best of luck to Levine and his team as they officially bring to a close one of the most successful periods in game development history and move into a clear future yet to be written.
  9. Super Hobbit

    STL PixelPop Festival

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    PixelPop Festival is a two-day festival celebrating games and game development. http://pixelpopfestival.com/
  10. After seven years in and out of development, Blizzard has decided to pull the plug on its MMO project Titan. Polygon broke the story today after publishing quotes from an interview with Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaine and Chris Metzen, the vice president of story and franchise development. The cancellation of Titan doesn't come as a huge shock in the wake of news that surfaced last year that Blizzard was going back to the drawing board yet again to reevaluate its investment into the new MMO. What does this move mean for Blizzard? Well, not a whole lot. Technically, Blizzard never announced Titan. We don't even know if Titan was going to be the name of the finished game. For Blizzard, the cancellation of project Titan means a lot of wasted resources and time, but it also means the company can refocus on their other projects. As for the public, we won't be seeing another MMO from Blizzard anytime soon, though World of Warcraft 2 is rumored to be in development. We might also expect to see games from different genres or entirely new IPs coming out of the studio. Though the death of Titan might be disappointing, it just means that Blizzard has something even more amazing up its sleeve. View full article
  11. After seven years in and out of development, Blizzard has decided to pull the plug on its MMO project Titan. Polygon broke the story today after publishing quotes from an interview with Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaine and Chris Metzen, the vice president of story and franchise development. The cancellation of Titan doesn't come as a huge shock in the wake of news that surfaced last year that Blizzard was going back to the drawing board yet again to reevaluate its investment into the new MMO. What does this move mean for Blizzard? Well, not a whole lot. Technically, Blizzard never announced Titan. We don't even know if Titan was going to be the name of the finished game. For Blizzard, the cancellation of project Titan means a lot of wasted resources and time, but it also means the company can refocus on their other projects. As for the public, we won't be seeing another MMO from Blizzard anytime soon, though World of Warcraft 2 is rumored to be in development. We might also expect to see games from different genres or entirely new IPs coming out of the studio. Though the death of Titan might be disappointing, it just means that Blizzard has something even more amazing up its sleeve.
  12. 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: Over the last several weeks, game developers and affiliates have been the subject of harassment and 'doxxing' attacks, including threats and posting of home addresses. While we support diverse viewpoints and healthy debate on the issues within our industry, we condemn personal attacks such as these which are not only morally reprehensible, but also illegal in many countries. We call on the entire game community to stand together against this abhorrent behavior. 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.
  13. 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: Over the last several weeks, game developers and affiliates have been the subject of harassment and 'doxxing' attacks, including threats and posting of home addresses. While we support diverse viewpoints and healthy debate on the issues within our industry, we condemn personal attacks such as these which are not only morally reprehensible, but also illegal in many countries. We call on the entire game community to stand together against this abhorrent behavior. 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. View full article
  14. One of the first films that many people will think of when presented with the term “video game documentary” will be Indie Game: The Movie. While it touched on several specific aspects of game design and philosophy, the film was more about the personal journey of each developer. Us and the Game Industry isn’t about the journey; it is about what video games are and the different ways that the people who make them think about them. It presents the audience with a variety of ideas from numerous different perspectives within the industry. We are even given a unique look into the design philosophies behind individual team members from thatgamecompany. Nowhere else are you going to see such an in-depth look behind-the-scenes of indie game development. Us and the Game Industry captures the passion of game development during a period between 2009 and 2012. It explores how indie developers approach the messages that they want their games to convey. It is a cry for more humanity in game development; for games that exist for a reason other than making money. At one point, Robin Hunicke describes the feeling of walking through E3 as an experienced veteran and realizing that many of them felt like the same game packaged under different art. The indie developers in the documentary are each attempting to make a game that is different in its core. Chris Crawford, one of the earliest video game designers and the founder of GDC, denounces the focus on graphics for many recent games. The audience hears the idea behind the game Mutazione, an adventure game from the German indie developer Die Gute Fabrik described as a “swamp opera” that was conceived of by illustrator Nils Deneken. We are presented with a number of games from Jason Rohrer, the developer of underground indie titles like Passage and The Castle Doctrine. We glimpse the thoughts of Alexander Bruce as he develops Antichamber, one of the most mind-bending puzzle games of the last decade. Zach Gage shares his thoughts on casual game development and games designed to waste time. However, the audience spends the most time with the developers at thatgamecompany, hearing the different ideas that went into the creation of games like Flower and Journey. In fact, since the documentary was filmed during Journey’s development, we see the iteration of ideas in pre-alpha builds that eventually become the finished game. Austin Wintory appears to describe the challenges of making an adaptive soundtrack that responds to the actions that players perform while in-game. “When you have something to say and you are using a medium and using lots of money and people’s time, their life, to say something… You want to make sure that what you are saying is something relevant and valuable.” – Jenova Chen The resulting film doesn’t have a cohesive story or any single answer to what video games are now or could be in the future. However, it clearly demonstrates how broad the term “video game” has become and the vastness of the unexplored territory yet before those who make games. It also reveals the differing views of the developers as far as why they choose to make games and what value they see in video games. Stephanie Beth and Clay Westervelt have made something special with their documentary. It is a thoughtful, unrushed, and thoroughly interesting look at the current state of game development. I have no doubt that in a decade and beyond it will become a valuable resource for video game archivists and historians to gain insight into how early games were made. If you are interested in game development, this is a great documentary from which to learn how the industry works. Us and the Game Industry is available for download on the film’s official website as well as on Steam. View full article
  15. One of the first films that many people will think of when presented with the term “video game documentary” will be Indie Game: The Movie. While it touched on several specific aspects of game design and philosophy, the film was more about the personal journey of each developer. Us and the Game Industry isn’t about the journey; it is about what video games are and the different ways that the people who make them think about them. It presents the audience with a variety of ideas from numerous different perspectives within the industry. We are even given a unique look into the design philosophies behind individual team members from thatgamecompany. Nowhere else are you going to see such an in-depth look behind-the-scenes of indie game development. Us and the Game Industry captures the passion of game development during a period between 2009 and 2012. It explores how indie developers approach the messages that they want their games to convey. It is a cry for more humanity in game development; for games that exist for a reason other than making money. At one point, Robin Hunicke describes the feeling of walking through E3 as an experienced veteran and realizing that many of them felt like the same game packaged under different art. The indie developers in the documentary are each attempting to make a game that is different in its core. Chris Crawford, one of the earliest video game designers and the founder of GDC, denounces the focus on graphics for many recent games. The audience hears the idea behind the game Mutazione, an adventure game from the German indie developer Die Gute Fabrik described as a “swamp opera” that was conceived of by illustrator Nils Deneken. We are presented with a number of games from Jason Rohrer, the developer of underground indie titles like Passage and The Castle Doctrine. We glimpse the thoughts of Alexander Bruce as he develops Antichamber, one of the most mind-bending puzzle games of the last decade. Zach Gage shares his thoughts on casual game development and games designed to waste time. However, the audience spends the most time with the developers at thatgamecompany, hearing the different ideas that went into the creation of games like Flower and Journey. In fact, since the documentary was filmed during Journey’s development, we see the iteration of ideas in pre-alpha builds that eventually become the finished game. Austin Wintory appears to describe the challenges of making an adaptive soundtrack that responds to the actions that players perform while in-game. “When you have something to say and you are using a medium and using lots of money and people’s time, their life, to say something… You want to make sure that what you are saying is something relevant and valuable.” – Jenova Chen The resulting film doesn’t have a cohesive story or any single answer to what video games are now or could be in the future. However, it clearly demonstrates how broad the term “video game” has become and the vastness of the unexplored territory yet before those who make games. It also reveals the differing views of the developers as far as why they choose to make games and what value they see in video games. Stephanie Beth and Clay Westervelt have made something special with their documentary. It is a thoughtful, unrushed, and thoroughly interesting look at the current state of game development. I have no doubt that in a decade and beyond it will become a valuable resource for video game archivists and historians to gain insight into how early games were made. If you are interested in game development, this is a great documentary from which to learn how the industry works. Us and the Game Industry is available for download on the film’s official website as well as on Steam.
  16. Jack Gardner

    Unreal Engine 4 Available for Everyone

    Today, Epic Games announced that they would be instituting a much more reasonable pricing model for developers to license Unreal Engine 4. Previously developers would have to pay an arm and possibly a leg or two in order to access an Unreal Engine. Luckily, with the rising costs of game development becoming apparent to everyone, Epic Games decided to lower the entry cost for video game creators looking to start out with top notch software. Beginning today, developers may license Unreal Engine 4 for 5% of whatever money they make from their product as well as $19 per month per Unreal Engine 4 user. This is a huge boon for smaller indie devs that couldn't afford the high, flat cost of creating a game using Unreal Engine 3. What does this mean for gamers? We can look forward to more visually impressive from smaller studios who will be free to pursue their creative visions and more features in games from larger studios that don't have to spend quite as much time focusing on the visual aspects of their blockbusters. For any fledgling game developers out there, now seems to be a great time to get into the trenches and start cranking out games.
  17. Today, Epic Games announced that they would be instituting a much more reasonable pricing model for developers to license Unreal Engine 4. Previously developers would have to pay an arm and possibly a leg or two in order to access an Unreal Engine. Luckily, with the rising costs of game development becoming apparent to everyone, Epic Games decided to lower the entry cost for video game creators looking to start out with top notch software. Beginning today, developers may license Unreal Engine 4 for 5% of whatever money they make from their product as well as $19 per month per Unreal Engine 4 user. This is a huge boon for smaller indie devs that couldn't afford the high, flat cost of creating a game using Unreal Engine 3. What does this mean for gamers? We can look forward to more visually impressive from smaller studios who will be free to pursue their creative visions and more features in games from larger studios that don't have to spend quite as much time focusing on the visual aspects of their blockbusters. For any fledgling game developers out there, now seems to be a great time to get into the trenches and start cranking out games. View full article
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