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Apex Legends: Season 2 New Features, New Character Wattson, And More

Apex Legends has now launched Season 2. Respawn has been vocal about learning lessons from its first season, and has already outlined a wide array of changes to expect from the second season. Those include a new character, a revised challenge system, ranked leagues, and more.

Apex Legends Season 2 Patch Size

Apex Legends Season 2 has launched as of July 2. The patch for Season 2 is noticeably larger than usual. On PC it is more than 18GB, and on Xbox One and PS4 it is more than 20GB. Respawn says this is to add extra content, but also to add a fresh build of the game that removes outdated parts and replaces it with more efficient code. Respawn says this will not be the norm, but occasionally players may need to download large file sizes.

New Character: Wattson

Just like the last season, Season 2 has introduced an entirely new Legend to play as. This time it’s Natalie Paquette, aka Wattson. The young science genius and daughter of the man who built King’s Canyon grew up around the Arena. She’s important to the lore of the game, and more significantly, she represents a large difference in play style from other characters.

Wattson uses her scientific wizardry to construct defensive electrical barriers and pylons to control the battlefield. You can read more about her playstyle to learn all about the latest addition to the roster.

A recent trailer also appeared to hint at a second playable character coming in Season 2 as well.

How The New Challenges Work

The update has also revised how challenges work, with a new series of daily and weekly objectives aimed at keeping players engaged while reducing the grind for rewards. Completing daily or weekly challenges count toward your Battle Pass, and over half of the challenges will grant a full Battle Pass level. Other challenges grant Stars which will count as progress towards a Battle Pass levels.

Daily challenges are given in groups of three tasks assigned randomly from a pool of 200, such as dealing damage in a particular area or playing as a specific character. Those award 3,000 Stars apiece. Weekly challenges are doled out in sets of seven. These will be much longer and are intended to last multiple play sessions. Four of the seven reward 6,000 Stars while the remaining three grant an entire Battle Pass level. An additional three special challenges are also available and will reset on a weekly basis, giving Battle Pass levels and Stars. Read more details about Apex Legends’ Season 2 Challenges.

Ranked Leagues

Season 2 has introduced another new feature, Ranked Leagues. The revised ranking aims to help with matchmaking with a new score system across six competitive tiers: Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, and Apex Predator. Each tier has four divisions, except for Apex Predator. Each ranked match costs a number of Ranked Points (RP) that increases based on your tier. You earn RP during the match from kills and your overall placement in a match. The maximum you can score in a match is 17 RP.

All players start in Bronze, and you’ll earn rewards at the end of the season. Respawn has said it is still determining what the rewards will be, but for now it knows it will be giving out special badges based on your highest rank achieved.

Other Apex Legends Season 2 Changes

Season 2 introduces a handful of other changes. King’s Canyon itself will have landmarks destroyed by invading Flyers and Leviathans, making for a very different map. The L-Star Legendary Gold energy-based weapon has been added, paying homage to Titanfall 2. Check out a full wrap-up of Apex Legends Season 2 changes.


Shenmue III Developers Offer Refunds To Kickstarter Backers Angry About Epic Store Exclusivity

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Fans are upset that an upcoming new game is an Epic Games Store exclusive, and the developers have to react. This time it’s Shenmue III, whose creators said today that any Kickstarter backers displeased with the state of things will be able to get a refund.

Last month, the makers of Shenmue III announced that the game will be a timed exclusive to the Epic Store on PC, a move that angered quite a few people who had helped crowdfund the game. After all, when Shenmue III first launched on Kickstarter in June 2015, the developers had offered Steam keys as a reward option. When the game comes out in November of this year, however, Steam keys won’t actually be available. It’ll be on Steam in November 2020.

Steam, of course, is the ubiquitous store-slash-platform that hosts the majority of games you can play on your computer. The Epic Store, which launched last year, has been racking up exclusives thanks to lucrative deals for publishers and a developer-friendly revenue split. Epic only takes 12%, while Steam takes 30%. It’s an ecosystem that has led to lots and lots of vitriol, sparked by the Epic Store’s lack of features among other fan concerns (and occasional conspiracy theories). There’s no extra cost associated with switching between the two PC launchers, so for those who are upset, this appears to be about convenience and principles.

Those who backed Shenmue III in 2015 and wanted Steam keys for their efforts have a few options. One is to take an Epic Store key. Another is to switch platforms. A third is to get a Steam key one year after launch, once the exclusivity window is up. And a fourth, the developers said today, is to get a refund.

“In response to backers who have requested Steam keys for their rewards, we discussed offering the keys on the day of release,” the developers said in a Kickstarter update today. “However, coordination with the sales policies of the involved companies was untenable, and as a result we are not able to make a day one distribution option for Steam keys available. That we are not able to offer Steam keys for Kickstarter rewards at the time of the game’s release is a great disappointed and inconvenience for those backers who were expecting to receive them. We deeply apologize for the unrest caused by the announcement… Along with Deep Silver and Epic Games, we have agreed that should the above proposal not be acceptable to backers, refund requests will be honored.”

More details on how to get a refund “will be announced in a following update,” the developers said, although they also warned backers that if they picked one of the tiers including in-game content that’s already been implemented into the game, a full refund won’t be available.

Meanwhile, you can expect these Epic Store controversies to continue at least until Valve relents on that 70-30% split, which might affect their yearly company-wide Hawaii vacations but would probably make game developers’ lives a whole lot better.


Sony changes PlayStation Plus’ July games, swapping Detroit for PES 2019

Sony is switching up this month’s PlayStation Plus freebies, swapping in Quantic Dream’s Detroit: Become Human and removing the previously announced game, Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer 2019.

PlayStation Plus subscribers will still get Horizon Chase Turbo, the retro-inspired arcade-style racer from developer Aquiris Game Studio. And thanks to Sony giving subscribers the digital deluxe edition of Detroit: Become Human, they’ll also get the PlayStation 4 version of Heavy Rain as part of this month’s offering. (Heavy Rain was previously given away through PlayStation Plus in July 2018.)

Sony did not explain the reason for this month’s last-minute change to July’s PlayStation Plus games on its blog, and it’s rare for the company to alter the list of free PS Plus offerings.

July’s PlayStation Plus games go live on Tuesday, July 2. June’s offerings — Sonic Mania and Borderlands: The Handsome Collection — will leave PlayStation Plus the same day.


The time I tried to ruin Halo 2

Following its release in 2004, Halo 2 instantly became the most popular multiplayer game on Xbox Live. It held that position for almost two years, and you can make a decent argument that the primary reason Xbox Live survived its infancy was the massive popularity of this single title. During the game’s six-year lifetime, more than 6.6 million players played over 499 million hours of Halo 2 online multiplayer. The development team at Bungie took a bold risk in building a new type of online experience, and it was a massive success and made millions of people happy.

Which is why I’m glad I didn’t succeed in killing it in the lab.

During development, Halo 2 was codenamed “Prophets” after the new race of aliens being added to the Halo universe. At the time, most researchers at Microsoft supported three to five titles each, but because this was a major tentpole title for the original Xbox, there were two user experience researchers assigned to help with the game full-time, myself and Randy Pagulayan. Both of us were trained scientists with PhDs in experimental psychology and early members of Microsoft’s Games User Research team. Our job was to use qualitative and quantitative techniques like usability studies, playtests, and surveys to give design teams insights into how their games would be received after they were released.

This is a story about a time when I failed to be a good prophet, where my attempts to project research data into the future led to a conflict between the research team at Microsoft and the design team at Bungie. Usually, public discussions about games user research focus on the times we were right, the times when data fixed game design. This story is one of the other times, when two otherwise competent researchers drew the wrong conclusions about an innovative piece of game design and made bad recommendations, and how the game succeeded in spite of that.

Halo 2 artwork

The innovation

Prior to Halo 2, most online games didn’t have matchmaking. Instead, the default solution to finding other people to play with online was to use lobbies. Players would select a lobby from a list, reading short descriptions to decide which one was right for them. If the lobby turned out to be occupied by jerks or more talented players, you could back out and choose a new lobby to suit your tastes.

The great advantage of these lobby systems was control. The lobby creator had the ability to set up a highly curated experience, allowing just the maps and game modes that they liked, kicking out players who didn’t play their way. It was routine to see lobbies that proudly announced “no snipers” or “<specific map name> free-for-all only.”

In contrast, the proposed Halo 2 system took almost all choices away, replacing them with a system where players only got to choose the general type of match (e.g. Free for all, Big Team Battle, etc.) and then Bungie would choose the map, gametype, and opponents. The image below is a near-final pre-release screenshot of the “Optimatch hopper.” (The terminology we used proved not to have the same staying power as the system itself.)

Here’s how GameSpy described the Halo 2 system in an article published before the game was released:

“… In an interesting twist, the gametypes, maps, vehicles, and just about everything else are set by Bungie.

“While this might sound weird at first, it’s a good idea for a number of reasons. By guaranteeing that everyone is optimized for the same type of game, Bungie can ensure that all of the games will run smoothly. They can also be positive that all the rankings will be consistent, since nearly everyone will be playing on the same maps with roughly the same number of players. At any time, they can just push some updates to Xbox Live, and everyone will be playing new games. The ranking system is set up by match type, so you might be #25 in the Assault mode, but only #78 in Slayer …”

This description sounds incredibly mundane and obvious now, but that’s because this system succeeded so well that it became the new standard for multiplayer games going forward. Halo 2 won so completely that it’s hard to imagine how online play worked before.

Again, I’m really glad I wasn’t able to kill it.

The research

Our task as researchers was to make sure players would understand the new paradigm. Since it was so different from what our players were used to and from what had been done in the first Halo, we wanted to put the new design in front of real players as early as possible, starting with paper prototypes and written descriptions. Players were shown descriptions and wireframe interfaces for several different options of how they could play multiplayer games, including the new matchmaking system and private games, but not including traditional user-created lobbies.

The overwhelming reaction we got from our participants was, “We understand but we hate it.” Almost unanimously, the players we talked to told us they wanted the level of personal control a lobby system gave them and didn’t think the benefits of the new matchmaking system were worth what they were giving up. It’s hard to imagine now, but the “push one button and trust us” approach came across as creepy and controlling to players who were used to choosing for themselves.

Seeing ourselves as righteous champions of the users, Randy and I went to Bungie and told them that players hated the new design and that we should consider other ways of doing multiplayer. The designers stuck to their guns, insisting that their vision of the future was better than the status quo, and history has proven them absolutely right. Players loved the new system and it became the gold standard for online gameplay. The Halo 2 matchmaking study has been the single biggest “miss” of my career. (Well, my career so far.)

The mistakes

What happened? How did our study produce results so at odds with what actually happened after release? The answer is two intertwined mistakes, one made by the participants and one made by the researchers.

The participants’ mistake was one of “affective forecasting,” guessing how they’d feel in a hypothetical situation. There’s an amazing amount of literature about how bad humans are at estimating how hypothetical situations will affect them emotionally. Even big life changing events such as becoming paraplegic or winning the lottery are difficult to judge in the abstract.

If you’d asked the research team at the time, we would have said, “Of course humans are bad at affective forecasting, but that’s not what we’re doing.” Our study originally began as “Will players understand this system?,” a legitimate research question that we were able to answer with a solid “yes.” But when participants also expressed opinions about the system, we treated those opinions as truth rather than as guesses.

The crux of the problem was that our participants had never experienced an online shooter with real matchmaking. Again, this seems ridiculous now, because matchmaking is a standard feature in every online multiplayer game. But at the time, most of our participants had only played multiplayer on their local network or at best on a dorm network. Less than 16% of Americans had broadband when we ran this study in 2003. We were effectively asking our participants to make a judgment between a known experience (current lobbies) and an unknown experience (fair and accurate online matchmaking in a large online population). For the current system, they understood both the costs and benefits. For the proposed system of matchmaking, they could only really understand what they were giving up. This made the proposed system seem like a much worse change than it actually was.

So when our participants told us that they would not enjoy the system, we as researchers then made our own mistake and conveyed those comments as accurately representing how most players would feel about the system after they’d actually played it. And after some heated arguments and back and forth, Bungie chose to push on ahead with their novel matchmaking system over our objections, which turned out to be exactly the right call.

Of course, when the Bungie designers overruled the research team, they weren’t pointing out our methodological flaws or making an argument against affective forecasting. They had a uniquely clear design vision which had been built on solid principles and then hotly debated within the studio, producing a battle-hardened belief on the part of key engineering and design leaders that this was the way to produce a great multiplayer experience. One of them privately told me afterwards that no possible set of results from this study would have convinced them to change course. Almost always, when I’ve presented research findings to teams and been overruled like this, I get to say “I told you so” in some highly professional way after the game ships. But on Halo 2, the other side of the argument turned out to be correct and the gaming world is better for it.

What we as researchers should have done is be more discriminating in how we presented the results. Our data was true when looked at from a specific angle: “Here’s what some players will say when they hear about the system for the first time.” From there, we could have worked with the team to test different ways of presenting the system to improve that first impression and increase the speed at which players realized the true value of the system. The data wasn’t fundamentally bad, if only we hadn’t taken it at face value.

Halo 2 screenshot

The lessons

I’ve thought quite a bit about this incident since, and here are a few of the lessons I’ve taken away. Hopefully, sharing this story will allow others to skip past these particular mistakes and make more interesting new mistakes of their own.

Lesson 1: Sometimes researchers should lose the argument

UX researchers tend to get into the habit of thinking that we are discovering capital T Truth. This can lead to a lot of frustration when other parties in the development process don’t accept our findings. Now, we’re usually right, but false positives, false negatives, and outright mistakes are always possible.

Games user research is a vital voice in the development process even though we’re no more perfect than anyone else involved. We’re supposed to advocate passionately for our understanding of the player experience, but we’re not always meant to win. In fact, I’d argue that, just like for the players in our games, there is an ideal level of failure for researchers. If every study is equally successful, it just means that we aren’t innovating enough or taking on challenging research topics. We need to take risks, and that means we have to lose sometimes.

Lesson 2: Being wrong isn’t the end of the research relationship

The Halo 2 user research effort was an intense experience. Microsoft made a heavy bet on this title, dedicating a level of research bandwidth that would have otherwise supported half a dozen games. Bungie, a studio that was notoriously selective about its partners, took a leap of faith in allowing us unpreceded access to its development process during one of the fiercest crunches in its history. There was enormous pressure on Randy and I to deliver value, to turn user feedback into design impact on a game that was important to so very many people. Faced with a clear message from our participants, terrified that the design was going to negatively affect the experiences of millions of players, we made the decision that this was a fight we needed to have. We were wrong and we lost.

This story happened in 2003, in the middle of the Halo 2 development cycle, and we went on to do quite a number of other successful studies on the game. After it shipped, Randy and I dove into supporting the sequel, Halo 3, which became one of the most successful games user research efforts ever. The same two researchers, the same designers, the same franchise, and our work ended up on the cover of Wired magazine and was a major milestone in the adoption of user research in the games industry. In fact, this study and its failure directly contributed to those subsequent successes. One of the conclusions that Bungie leadership drew was that research needed to be more closely integrated with the design team to prevent this kind of thing from happening again, and that integration was key to our Halo 3 effort. I even went on to be hired directly by Bungie to create and lead their own internal research team a few years later.

Researchers aren’t perfect, but our partners don’t actually need us to be perfect. They need us to honestly represent the player voice to the best of our ability, to push ourselves to innovate and take risks, and to admit and adapt when we’re wrong.

Lesson 3: Research and design operate on the same playing field by different rules

Players can only speak from their own experience, either in their past play or what’s immediately in front of them in the lab. Since a researcher’s job boils down to amplifying the player voice, we share the same limitation. Our prophecies are only as true as what the players are reacting to.

Designers don’t share that limitation. They can come up with ideas that bear little or no relation to what’s come before, which can make those ideas difficult to test early enough to do any good. There are ways to evaluate novel ideas, but as researchers we need to recognize that those ways are much riskier than our other tools and temper our conclusions accordingly.

Ironically, a good counterexample of presenting a novel experience in an understandable way was demonstrated by the Bungie team during Halo 2’s development. The matchmaking system discussed here was only one part of a larger set of new multiplayer features introduced in Halo 2, and many of the other features encountered similar resistance. In order to convince skeptical Microsoft execs, the design team created a video simulating what playing with friends would be like in the final product. While this particular solution wouldn’t have worked for matchmaking, it’s an example of the extra level of effort and creativity it takes to convey novel experiences.

Lesson 4: Making methodological mistakes and facing their consequences is the best way to understand research design

I certainly knew about the problems with affective forecasting before this study. But I still let myself be drawn in by the participants’ strong opinions of the new system and presented their forecasts as facts. Having had that happen once and experienced the humiliating consequences, I’ve been a lot less prone to making that particular error ever since.

It’s all well and good to memorize the principles of good research design, but you will never feel them in your bones until you violate those principles and experience the results first hand. It doesn’t matter if you broke the rules intentionally or if there were extenuating circumstances. Having to throw out days or weeks of hard work due to methodological problems leaves useful scars. Coloring outside the lines can be the best way to learn why the lines were needed in the first place.

But the other thing you discover is that sometimes … you get away with it. Some rules of good research turn out to have the force of natural law, while others are merely guidelines. Games user research is an applied field, done at breakneck speed with limited resources under messy conditions. Not every study is going to be a perfect jewel of experimental design. Stakeholders will push for changes to the study plan, participants will fail to show up, equipment will break, and the job of a researcher becomes about choosing the least damaging way to adjust to circumstances. Understanding which principles have flex to them and which are inviolable makes us better researchers, able to adapt and deliver the greatest value to our teams and our games.

The end

Innovative design means taking risks, and in this case the risks taken by the Bungie design team paid off in spectacular fashion. The larger role of user research in the development process is about helping to offset those design risks, enabling our designers to try new things while detecting and fixing potential problems before they frustrate real players. But inside of our profession, we’re also taking our own little risks, making judgment calls about study designs and which issues are worth fighting for. The particular choices we made in this case didn’t pay off, but that doesn’t change the fact that research risks are necessary. A good researcher will always have to use their experience and their gut to take just the right level of risks so as to be the best possible partners to our designers and produce the best game for our players.

Special thanks to Randy Pagulayan for helping with this article and for being brave enough to share the public shame with me. And thanks to Chris Butcher, David Candland, Curtis Creamer, Max Hoberman, and Jason Jones for helping to refresh my memory about this story and for suggestions on the best way to tell it.

John Hopson is a 16-year veteran of the games industry, having been the lead researcher for games and series such as Halo, Age of Empires, Destiny, World of Warcraft, Overwatch, and Hearthstone. He has a Ph.D. in experimental psychology from Duke University and is the author of a number of articles on the intersection of psychology and games, including the infamous “Behavioral Game Design.” John is currently the head of analytics for ArenaNet. All views expressed here do not represent ArenaNet or its employees.


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Sony Swaps Free PS4 PlayStation Plus Game For July

The free PlayStation Plus offerings for July have gotten a last-minute substitution. Sony announced that instead of Pro Evolution Soccer 2019, as previously announced, members will instead get Detroit: Become Human. This is the Digital Deluxe edition, which means it also includes another Quantic Dream game: Heavy Rain. The statement announcing the change didn’t give much insight as to the reason for the swap, but the news comes just hours before the free games are set to arrive on PSN.

“We are making a swap to the PS Plus games lineup for July,” the announcement states. “This month, we are adding Detroit: Become Human Digital Deluxe Edition, which also includes Heavy Rain, to the July games lineup instead of Pro Evolution Soccer 2019. We apologize for any inconvenience.”

The two-for-one Quantic Dream offering will be joined by Horizon Turbo Chase. Quantic Dream’s games have become known for moody, atmospheric cinematic qualities and photorealistic characters, often matching their real-life actors. Detroit: Become Human is the studio’s latest, taking place in a not-too-distant future where androids begin to rise up against their subservient roles.

“I played with my best intentions. Things didn’t always go the way I wanted, but that was a burden I chose to bear, and the story benefitted from my commitment, flowcharts be damned,” Peter Brown wrote in GameSpot’s review. “After completing the game, I tried to go back and fight my instincts to see what would happen if I chose a darker path. It never felt justified nor worthwhile. Detroit is well worth playing, but it struggles to strike the right balance between giving you freedom of choice and reminding you that it’s all a game in the end. Cage and Quantic Dream are getting closer to nailing this style of game, but it’s obvious that there’s still room to grow.”


Shenmue 3 Dev Details PC Rollout, And It’s Messy

Ys Net, developer of Shenmue III, has detailed how the PC version of the game will be delivered and addressed the controversial switch to Epic Games Store exclusivity. In a post on the game’s Kickstarter page the developer said although it had originally planned to distribute Shenmue III for PC through Valve’s Steam service, Ys Net and publisher Deep Silver agreed to a partnership with Epic Games.

Although the statement doesn’t provide clarity on the reasoning behind this decision, it does say that Deep Silver “contributed not only to sales and marketing, but to scaling up the game so there is more Shenmue III to begin with,” while Epic Games has offered its support throughout the development process.

This is unlikely to be much of a comfort to people that supported Ys Net’s crowdfunding campaign with the understanding that they’d eventually be able to play the game on Steam. However, playing on Steam won’t be possible on launch day.

“In response to backers who have requested Steam keys for their rewards, we discussed offering the keys on the day of release,” Ys Net said. “However, coordination with the sales policies of the involved companies was untenable, and as a result, we are not able to make a day one distribution option for Steam keys available.

“That we are not able to offer Steam keys for Kickstarter rewards at the time of the game’s release is a great [disappointment] and inconvenience for those backers who were expecting to receive them. We deeply apologize for the unrest caused by the announcement.”

At launch, the available options for Kickstarter backers include a PC physical package, a digital key, a PS4 disc, or a PSN voucher code. However, the disk in the PC physical version of the game does not contain the game data and instead just includes the Epic Games Store installer. If you previously selected PC as the preferred platform, you have the option to switch to PS4–or vice verse if you so choose. Those that opt for the PC versions have “an option to also receive a Steam key one year later,” though you’ll need to manually select this option in the survey.

Backers can choose to refund their contribution and Ys Net, Deep Silver, and Epic Games have agreed to honor these requests. Details regarding the refund request process will be announced in the future, but one thing Ys Net notes is that rewards attached to certain backer tiers that have resulted in content being produced and added to the game may not be refundable.

The Kickstarter update also states that some stretch goals that were reached during the crowdfunding campaign could not be implemented–despite reaching the funding milestone set out for their inclusion. However, some features attached to stretch goals that were not successfully funded have been added to the game.

“Development began in line with the stretch goal content, but with the addition of sales partners during production, we were able to increase our development budget,” Ys Net explained. “In order to maximize game quality under the adjusted budget, game planning was fundamentally altered and ultimately allowed us to incorporate a number of different elements beyond our original expectations.”

An overview of the key changes to the stretch goals can be seen in the list below, but you can head over to the Kickstarter page for a more detailed breakdown:

  • Character Perspective System: Funded but not implemented as it could not be achieved in this game.
  • Skill Tree System: Funded but changed to a Skill Book System to better fit the battling style
  • Baisha Area changed: Funded but changed to Fortified Castle area. Mini-games, infiltration event, battle event, investigation, and battle event have been implemented in the Fortified Castle area.
  • Choubu Area: Not funded but the area has been expanded with four mini-games, four betting games, kung-fu mastery, part-time job added.
  • Bailu Village: Not funded but the area has been expanded with four mini-games, betting games, and kung-fu mastery.
  • Non-Stretch Goal Additions: Story improvements, scaled up free-roaming environments, powered up battle systems, game cycle improvements.

Shenmue III’s release date is set for November 19. In 2015, over 69,000 people contributed $6.3 million to fund the development of Shenmue III on Kickstarter. Deep Silver later came aboard as a publisher.


The Good Place’s William Jackson Harper would love to get weird with Funkadelic

If you’re a regular reader of The A.V. Club, you probably know William Jackson Harper as cripplingly indecisive philosophy professor Chidi Anagonye on NBC’s The Good Place. And, to be honest, there were moments during our interview that we had to resist the urge to comment on how, for example, preferring villains with a strong moral code is such a Chidi thing to say.

But while Harper’s affection for what’s become his signature role is obvious, we mustn’t forget all his other work as an actor, which includes a growing number of horror movies. Harper co-starred as a scientist searching for a biological breakthrough in an isolated forest landscape in last year’s They Remain, and he plays a similar role as an anthropology grad student who pushes both his professional and personal boundaries in Ari Aster’s new sunlit folk-horror movie Midsommar, which hits theaters on July 3.

Harper was delightfully silly answering our 11 Questions, describing all the ways he likes to “get weird,” whether it’s making himself laugh thinking about Billy Bob Thornton, wearing a diaper on stage with Funkadelic, or spending way too many hours paying NBA 2K19. 

1. What’s your favorite fast food menu item?

William Jackson Harper: Mexican pizza from Taco Bell.

The A.V. Club: That was a quick response. Why do you like them so much?

WJH: I grew up eating them. There’s something about that weird tortilla that they use, and the odd meat, you know? It’s like the perfect mix of things. I’ve loved them ever since I was a little kid.

2. If you could re-live an event or moment in your own life, what would it be?

WJH: Probably the moment when I got the call that I got the job on The Good Place. That was the best day, just the best. I feel like everyone should have that day where the thing that they’ve wanted for a long time actually happens, and it’s the only time in my life that I’ve had that feeling.

AVC: Did you feel pretty good about your audition, or were you unsure?

WJH: Honestly, I had no idea. Being an actor, you go in, you audition, and then you pretty much just try to forget that you were you ever in there. Because you’re not getting the job most of the time. And so I had no idea. I just knew that I wanted it. But I was also trying to not think about it too much. And it was really great to have a big thing that I really, really wanted actually come to fruition.

3. Who’s your favorite fictional villain?

WJH: Javert from Les Misérables, because he’s actually got a very serious [moral] code. He’s not just evil. There’s just an order to things, and we have to adhere to it. It’s not a personal vendetta. It’s not coming from a place of ill will. It’s more of “This is my job, and this is my place in society.” And that puts him at odds with someone that we [as an audience] really care about, and we feel that they’re right.

But I think that also, honestly, Javert is actually closer to who a lot of us would be in that situation, where it’s like, “The rules are the rules, and I have to adhere to the rules. I don’t care if you’ve broken the rules because you’re trying to feed your family. I have to take you to jail,” you know? And so it’s interesting, because he’s not a purely bad person. He just wound up on the wrong side of the issue.

4. What’s a line from film or television that you’ve incorporated into your personal vocabulary?

WJH: [Yells.] Beavers and ducks!

AVC: [Laughing.] What?

WJH: There’s a movie called Bandits, or something like that. [It is called Bandits, and it came out in 2001. —Ed.] It’s this movie with Billy Bob Thornton—they’re bank robbers, and it’s not all that good. But there’s this scene where Billy Bob Thornton wakes up from a dream, and he just screams, “Beavers and ducks!” I thought that was the funniest thing ever, so now it’s one of those things that’s always in a loop in my head. If you see me walking around with a weird, sort of vacant smile, that’s probably what I’m thinking about: Billy Bob Thornton waking up and saying, “Beavers and ducks!”

AVC: When do you bust that out?

WJH: Literally whenever I feel like it, for no reason whatsoever. The thing is, I don’t say it to people. I say it to myself when I’m walking around the house. There’s never been an occasion where I got to use it on people. That one’s just for me.

5. Who would play you in the movie of your life?

WJH: There’s this actor in New York, and he and I get mistaken for each other all the time.

AVC: Really? What’s his name?

WJH: Stephen Tyrone Williams. He could absolutely, absolutely play me in the movie of me. I think we also have a similar vibe. He’s a little bit more Southern than I am, but mostly it’s a similar vibe. For an older version of me, I’d go with Samuel L. Jackson. He sounds a lot like people in my family, with that really broad, strident sort of voice.

6. What’s a movie that you’ll always stop and watch if you’re flipping channels?

WJH: Rosemary’s Baby. If it ever happened to be on TV, I’d definitely stop and watch it.

AVC: Do you consider that one of your favorite films?

WJH: Oh yeah. I like supernatural stuff, and the inevitability of it is really, really frightening to me. It’s really true. There’s a part of me that likes to watch other people go through [horrific things] and be like, “Phew, they didn’t get me.” You know what I mean? There’s a little bit of schadenfreude when I watch that movie. So I like to watch that movie and work out that stuff every time I can.

AVC: You’re like, “Well, at least my worst fear didn’t happen to me!”

WJH: At least I didn’t have sex with the devil!

7. What possession can you not get rid of?

WJH: I actually have a teddy bear from my grandmother that she gave me. I’ve had it my entire life, and I still have it. I never could get rid of that. I also have a Pound Puppy that my dad bought me when I was, like, 6 that I still have to this day. I’ve cycled through pretty much every other possession I’ve had in my life at some point, but those two things stay.

AVC: Do they a special place of honor in your house? Like a certain shelf or something?

WJH: Not really. I’m 39, so I can’t, like, put them on the bed or put them out where people can see them. I’ve got to be a grownup.

AVC: Yeah, I suppose that’s a bit much.

WJH: They’re always tucked away somewhere. I mean, it’s a bit creepy when you walk into a grown man’s apartment and he’s got stuffed animals. It’s not a comforting visual.

AVC: “It’s from my grandma!”

WJH: That’s even worse!

8. What specific skill would you bring to a post-apocalyptic society?

WJH: Honestly, I wouldn’t make it through the apocalypse. I think I’d go first. But if I did make it—not to toot my own horn or anything—oh well, I’m going to do it—I can go long distances walking or running without needing a break. I’m almost like a camel. So I imagine, if they needed someone to just walk in one direction for a while and then come back at the end of the day, I could probably do that a few times in a row before I dropped dead. It’s just a thing. I love really challenging hikes and stuff like that, so in that way I’m somewhat physically adept, somewhat useful. But other than that, I got nothing.

AVC: My answer to this question is just, “I would die.”

WJH: Yeah. Yeah! You know what? Maybe that’s what I would do. I would give in so everyone would have one less mouth to feed. That’s probably better. I think that’s the skill I would bring. I would be like, “Look, guys, we need to be stewards of our resources here. I’ll take myself out. You figure it out. Best of luck.”

9. Who is the most underrated person in your industry right now?

WJH: I’ve got to say, just because I’ve been watching so much [Barry], that Stephen Root is probably the most underrated. I think that dude is one of the most amazing character actors, or actors period, ever. I think he’s incredible. He’s one of those guys that shows up in everything, and he’s always phenomenal. I can’t wait to see what he does next, anytime he’s in anything. I think he has a moderate amount of respect in the industry, but for my tastes, for what I like, he surpasses just about everybody.

10. If you could be in any band, past or present, which one would it be?

WJH: I would be in Funkadelic at the very, very beginning.

AVC: What would you play, or do?

WJH: I probably wouldn’t play anything. I’d just wear a diaper and blow bubbles and scream a little bit. Let’s just get weird, you know? I would get weird with Funkadelic. That would be really fun.

11. What would you do during The Purge?

WJH: Oh, I’m soft. I would get in the bunker and watch. I would like to say I’d get out there and work out some demons or whatever, but no. I would stick my head outside and that would be a wrap. I would be a dead man. So yeah, I’d hole up in a bunker. I don’t need to hurt anybody or steal anything.

AVC: That answer’s in the same spirit as your post-apocalyptic one, actually.

WJH: Yeah, I’m no good to anyone when you need to survive.

Bonus 12th question from Maya Erskine: What vice wouldn’t you want to give up?

AVC: I’m assuming you still have a vice or two.

WJH: Oh yeah. I got a few. Hello, Maya Erskine, by the way! I think she’s so painfully funny. She’s just amazing.

Um, a vice—probably video games. I don’t know if that counts as a vice, but it definitely feels like one when my girlfriend’s in the room. But I don’t think I ever want to give that one up.

AVC: So what are you playing right now?

WJH: I play a lot of sports simulations, so I’m playing NBA 2K19 and FIFA 19. I love all sports games. But yeah, I just get real weird and play way too long with my girlfriend sitting right beside me and [I imagine she’s] thinking, “I cannot believe I’m dating this small child who still likes these games.” I think I’m annoying her. But yeah, I don’t think I’d ever stop doing that.

AVC: What question would you like to ask the next person who does this interview, not knowing who it is?

WJH: Um, okay. All right. Hmm. What… what would you do for a Klondike Bar?

AVC: [Laughs.] We do this with a lot of comedians, so I think that one’s going to get a good response.


Street Fighter Is Promoting The Cops And It Doesn’t Make Sense

Japan’s Osaka Prefectural Police will use Capcom’s Street Fighter franchise to recruit for investigators focused on cyber-crime. According to Capcom, it “aims to contribute to curbing the sharp rise of cyber-crime by utilizing [Street Fighter’s] popularity and image of strength.”

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Capcom, which has its headquarters in Osaka, has previously worked with various police departments in the city to raise awareness about crime, but this represents the most significant partnership between the game maker and the law enforcement, and it comes at a time when cyber-crime is on the rise.

Characters from Street Fighter will be featured on 3,000 flyers and 1,000 posters that will be placed at Osaka Prefectural Police stations and police boxes, as well as at train stations, beginning July 2. “The characters will be featured in investigator recruiting advertisements with the aim of boosting awareness of and the number of investigators specializing in cyber-crime–a field that has seen a conspicuous rise in the number of incidents in recent years,” Capcom explained.

“Capcom hopes its characters will contribute to crime prevention activities in Osaka and throughout Japan by broadening the reach of police investigator recruitment. Capcom is committed to serving as a responsible corporate citizen and will continue to conduct proactive CSR activities that include the use of its games to invigorate communities and contribute to society.”

On paper, this is excellent. Street Fighter is an incredibly popular and recognizable franchise that also has a certain inspirational quality to it. All for it. Good stuff. Down with Shadaloo.

However, it’s also a franchise based on characters physically punching, kicking, and spinning piledriving their opponents into the ground. Cyber-crime, meanwhile, is … cyber. You can’t tatsumaki senpukyaku a hacker or flash kick a phishing scam–it’s all digital. It would have made more sense to use Mega-Man–or Rockman in Japan–who has a history of traveling into networks like the internet to combat evil. Additionally, he’s as iconic a character as much of the Street Fighter cast.

I dunno, whatever. It’s fine. Street Fighter is great. The poster looks cool.


Madden NFL 20 Player Ratings Revealed For Rookies

One of the most exciting parts of each new Madden release is the announcement of player ratings, and that began this week, ahead of the game’s release on August 2. While you’ll have to wait a bit longer to see the ratings for Madden NFL 20‘s best players, EA Sports has now published ratings for rookies.

DT Quinnen Williams of the New York Jets is the highest-rated rookie overall, with a rating of 80 OVR. Rounding out the top five are Buffalo Bills DT Ed Oliver Jr (79 OVR), San Francisco Giants RE Nick Bosa (78 OVR), Jacksonville Jaguars LE Josh Allen (77 OVR) and Baltimore Ravens WR Marquise Brown (77 OVR). You can see the full list of rookie ratings here on EA’s website, while a silly video below shows some of the rookies reacting to their ratings.

As usual, these are the “launch” ratings for Madden NFL 20’s rookies. Ratings change throughout the season depending on how players perform on the field.

In other ratings news, the highest-rated Madden NFL 20 rookie QB is Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals with a 73 OVR. The highest rated WR rookie is Brown of the Ravens (77 OVR), while Josh Jacobs of the Oakland Raiders is the highest-rated HB rookie at 74 OVR.

The rest of Madden 20’s ratings will be revealed throughout July leading up to the game’s release at the end of the month. Keep check in back with GameSpot for more.

Madden 20 Rookie Ratings Top 10

  1. Quinnen Williams — 80 OVR
  2. ED Oliver Jr — 79 OVR
  3. Nick Bosa — 78 OVR
  4. Josh Allen — 77 OVR
  5. Marquise Brown — 77 OVR
  6. T.J. Hockenson — 77 OVR
  7. Dexter Lawrence II — 76 OVR
  8. D.K. Metcalf — 76 OVR
  9. Brian Burns — 75 OVR
  10. Irv Smith Jr. — 75 OVR