Category: Industry

BioWare learned lessons from Mass Effect 3

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Mass Effect 3, despite being critically acclaimed and liked by gamers, faced a severe backlash due to its ending. There was a lot of debate regarding the ending, but BioWare had eventually kneeled to the fans by releasing extended versions of the game’s three endings. This was an industry first, and it’s still seen as an intrusion into artistic license by many.

Keeping all this in mind, BioWare learned a lot of lessons, and they’re going to heed them for their future titles. Casey Hudson, the game’s executive producer, noted how they had “underestimated how attached people [had] become to the characters.” He adds that the excellent Citadel DLC was born out of the desire to respect this love.

“We’d never imagined that as we ended the trilogy, all people would want to do was spend more time with the characters, sort of bathing in the afterglow—getting closure and just having some time to live in the universe that they fought to save,” he said. “This, and many other learnings, will be built into our future games.”

This sentiment is echoed by producer Mike Gamble, who commented that fans’ feelings about the characters were “just as strong as [BioWare’s]”.

As it stands right now, BioWare has only hinted that the next installment in the series is in the works. The company has recently been gauging interest in various aspects like timeline and multiplayer, so it remains to be seen what the future holds for us.

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Awesome: Valve experimenting with sweat and eye tracking

Motion control or virtual reality—where does the future lie? As it stands, Valve is experimenting with other technologies, including biometrics. Speaking at the NeuroGaming Conference and Expo last week, experimental psychology Mark Ambinder revealed that the studio is testing sweat and eye tracking in their games.

Sweat tracking is being used to figure out how excited players are in a game. Ambinder noted that they’re plugging the data in to Left 4 Dead 2 to provide more information to its AI director. He also added that the studio ran an experiment where players had to shoot 100 enemies. If they grew nervous or excited, the game’s speed would be adjusted, making it harder or easier.

As for eye-tracking, Ambinder noted that they’ve made a version of Portal 2 that could make use of eyes for movement since we can move them much faster than we move hands. Apparently, it worked well, though they still have to work on separating aiming from movement.

He further added that biofeedback can also take in other factors such as heart rate, facial expression, brain waves, body temperature, pupil dilation, and other such features to help improve matchmaking and spectacting. More importantly, Valve may potentially use all this during playtesting to further improve their future games.

The last bit sounds great to me. When you think about it, if Valve can get consistent results on whether a section of a game is boring or exciting, they can tailor it further to exploit its potential. This can be a breakthrough in game design or even gameplay if the technology becomes cheap and user friendly enough. It’s a very exciting time for gamers.

Ecco the Dolphin creator talks about Kickstarter failure

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Ecco the Dolphin was an interesting game, but it doesn’t have a large fanbase as one would expect it to have. That may explain why its spiritual successor, The Big Blue, bombed on Kickstarter. Ed Annunziata, the game’s creator, recently sat down with Eurogamer to discuss his crowd funding failure and the project in greater detail.

Annunziata noted that despite the game selling millions of copies, he couldn’t get anyone in Sega to take him seriously, which was one of the reasons why making a sequel was so difficult. Despite his failure on Kickstarter, Annunziata suggested that he might have done things differently now if he could. “The right way to do it is to… just shut up and don’t explain anything—just show it,” he said.

“If I was a time traveler, what I would do is take The Big Blue from the future, bring it back and have a 15-second video where I introduce myself and say ‘hey take a look at this’ and then just show it,” he added. “And then it would get funded.”

Those are brave words, but I don’t think that’s how business truly works. He acknowledges that, too, saying that he could have made a better pitch.

“I did a lousy job, my message was lousy, my rewards were lousy,” he said. Despite all this, he’s not discouraged at all. He hopes to make the game one day, “baby steps” and all.

EA and Disney sign exclusive deal for Star Wars games

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With the upcoming release of Star Wars Episode VII, EA and Disney have signed a multi-year deal to publish Star Wars games made by DICE, BioWare, and Visceral Games. The agreement covers all “major platforms”. However, Disney still retains the rights to make social and casual games for mobile devices, tablets, and the web.

This is both exciting and horrifying at the same time. Imagine the possibilities of a Frostbite 3-powered game set in the famous universe. Imagine BioWare’s narrative and technical skills in a Star Wars game again. Imagine Visceral making a hack-and-slash or Dead Space-esque game set in this universe. The possibilities are, quite interestingly, endless. What’s horrifying is the fact that EA might put draconian DRM—Simcity, anyone?—in these games. How about endless waves of DLC?

Honestly, I’m excited at the prospect of more Star Wars games. The great thing is that all these studios are great at what they do—making good games. Excellent graphics, engaging gameplay, and good narratives are all that I can hope for at this point. I just hope EA doesn’t screw it up with their underhanded tactics.

LucasFilm president Kathleen Kennedy is similarly excited, noting that the company chose the publisher which could “consistently deliver great Star Wars games for years to come.” That’s for console platforms though; casual and social titles will be made by Disney Interactive itself.

No specific games were announced, though we can expect some announcements soon.

Tomb Raider writer discusses tackling sexism in the games industry

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Rhianna Pratchett has made quite a name for herself writing scripts for top-tier games such as Mirror’s Edge and the recent Tomb Raider reboot. She’s currently supporting the #1ReasontobeMovement, which is a call to support women in the games industry and end the sexism that plagues the industry. She hopes to inspire young women who want to make games but are hesitant in making the jump.

Pratchett told all this in an enlightening interview with Rock Paper Shotgun, adding that although she hasn’t had the “more extreme” experiences her peers have had, the movement has “lit a fire” in her. She added that she has spent the last few months visiting schools and talking to young women about making games and working in the industry.

“I’ve really realized in the last year how much being a visible industry female matters to people,” she said. “Not necessarily as much to myself, or to other female developers already in the industry, but those who are um-ing and err-ing at the sidelines. Hesitant to make the jump, or even try to.”

She noted that raising awareness about how great the industry can be is something that must be tackled. There are lots of opportunities for both men and women, and tackling gender problems is fundamental to grasping these opportunities.

Leaked memo: next Xbox not to require always-on connection and will play Bluray

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A leaked internal Microsoft memo is making the rounds claiming that the next Xbox will not require an always-on internet connection and will support Blu-ray discs. The memo, which refers to the console as “Durango”, has been sent to employees who are working on the project.

It was previously reported that the console would be “always on” in that it would be an anti-piracy measure, among other things. The console is also said to feature an HDMI input port so that it can overlay a TV interface on feeds from cable boxes, making it a set-top box.

Microsoft has faced quite a lot of backlash regarding this rumor. It has been especially harsh since the debacle with the new SimCity game, which didn’t properly login players at launch and also had lots of problems in the weeks following its launch.

The next Xbox is going to be officially unveiled on May 21. Call of Duty Ghosts is also due to be revealed during the event.

Facebook reports increased gaming revenues despite Zynga’s going down

url4Facebook has had a good first quarter when it comes to revenue, especially when it came to games. The company reported a total revenue of $1.458 billion, which indicated a 12% rise over the past year. It attributed the rise to the growth of games released in the past year and also to their increased efforts in game distribution, payments conversion, and usage.

Sadly, the same cannot be said for Zynga, which has reportedly suffered a 37% decline in terms of revenue.

Mark Zuckerberg, the social network’s CEO, addressed the issue, noting that Zynga’s growth “hasn’t been as awesome as everyone had hoped” but that the rest of the developers and studios have been growing quite healthily. He also pointed out that the company is connected to 81 and 70 of the top-grossing iOS and Android apps, respectively.