All posts by gamesavepoint

In Valorant, making a gun into a dragon proved to be a real pain in the ass

On Wednesday morning, Riot Games announced Valorant’s most elaborate set of skins so far, themed with dragon designs. They also look great. Each different gun-dragon has its own roars, firing sounds, and animations for things like reloading or equipping. The dragons spread their wings, grab magazines with their claws, and fly toward players’ hands. They’re complicated and detailed, but Riot had another challenge with this skin line beyond just making it look good: The skins had to be fair and they had to feel fair. And those aren’t always the same thing.

Fairness in Valorant is tied to an idea that Riot refers to as “competitive integrity.” The main idea is that anytime you die, all the information and technology needed to avoid dying should have been at your disposal — rather than you dying because of lag, for example.

Competitive integrity can be a little harder to see when it comes to cosmetics, but everything still has to feel fair both to other players and to the player using the skins, which wasn’t easy to do with the skins as complicated as the Elderflame line.

In a recent interview with Polygon, Valorant producer Preeti Khanolkar explained, “Ultimately, you just want to win your game, so [finding] what’s going to look cool but not be ‘pay-to-lose’ has been a challenge.”

One of Riot’s early struggles with the Elderflame line, according to Valorant art lead Sean Marino, was trying to make sure both that the guns looked like living dragons and that players could still identify them as the same base weapons they’re familiar with.

“Silhouettes are really important,” Marino said. “This one definitely pushes the boundaries of it. But we tried creative things like with the Frenzy and we’re like, ‘How can we fit a dragon into this situation?’ And we found a cool opportunity to take its tail and wrap it around the bottom of the magazine to put it into the correct shape. That way, if someone sees it on the ground, they immediately know what it is, and if you see it in first person you know what it is.”

Elderflame Frenzy skin from Valorant
Concept art for the Elderflame Frenzy skin.
Image: Riot Games

The more complicated task was making the Elderflame set feel fair to use. One challenge is that the skins need to feel complex and unique, with all the details specific to each dragon, without actually taking up more screen real estate than any other skins. After all, covering more of the screen would make the skin objectively worse to use.

According to Marino, the Operator sniper rifle proved to be particularly challenging, “We were on the verge of cutting it, because it’s the only dragon that has wings,” Marino said. “It was like, if you open up these wings, now it takes up all of your screen space, and that compromises competitive integrity.”

“Yeah, there were at least a couple of moments where Marino would turn to me and be like, ‘Can we ship this skin line without an Operator?’” Khanolkar chimed in, laughing. “And I was like, ‘OK, well we have a couple of months; let’s just see […] and it did somehow make it. It was just intense collaboration between the group and refusing to let it fall through.”

Valorant’s Elderflame Operator skin concept art
Concept art for the Elderflame Operator.
Image: Riot Games

Perhaps the most specific struggle of the skins, though, was making them feel balanced, even if there wasn’t actually anything unbalanced about them. According to Khanolkar, this was one of the problems the team ran into early on with the Elderflame skins.

“[They] had a long summon animation,” Khanolkar said. “It [was] this kind of swoopy ‘gun materializes’ thing. And it was cool. But everyone was like, ‘I hate this. I know it’s the same speed, but it feels slower and that messes with me.’”

Since the actual time it took to equip the weapons with Elderflame skins was the same as any other gun skins, it was all about feel. And the only way to find the perfect feel was through lots and lots of testing.

Valorant’s Vandal weapon with the Elderflame skin animation
The Vandal’s Elderflame animation.
Image: Riot Games

“We did extensive testing with our design play-test crew, which is, like, our highest ELO players who play twice a day and test maps, characters, everything, and of course, skins,” she said. This team went back and forth with the art team and the animators constantly on each of the skins to make sure that they all felt just right.

During our interview on Monday, before Riot’s well-received skin teaser on Wednesday morning, both Marino and Khanolkar were excited but nervous about how players would react when the skins drop on July 10.

“It would be the most heartbreaking thing if [players] look at this and [are] like, ‘Yeah it’s a dragon gun, I guess,’” Khanolkar said. But, she said, if players like the Elderflame skins, then the team can see just how much further and weirder it can get with Valorant skins in the future.


The Sims is getting a competition-based TV show

The Sims is getting a competition series that will air Friday nights on TBS.

The Sims Spark’d is a reality competition in partnership with Eleague and YouTube channel Buzzfeed Multiplayer, where players will have to take on challenges to make unique characters, stories, and worlds in The Sims 4. The show will be four episodes long and will air starting July 17 at 11 p.m. ET. The winning competitors will receive $100,000.

The show features Maxis game developer Dave Miotke and Buzzfeed Multiplayer YouTube personality Kelsey Impicciche as judges.

To coincide with the show, there’ll be in-game events for viewers, and the top contestants in that program will be considered to go on a future season of The Sims Spark’d.

It’s a little hard to tell what the challenges may entail for both the show and the online program, but there’s no doubt that The Sims fans will have to design some great things in order to win.


The Boys season 2 trailer promises a bloody, superpowered manhunt

The Boys are back in town — though the season 2 trailer is a little more turbulent than a Thin Lizzy song.

After years in development as both a movie franchise and TV series, the adaptation of Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson’s comic The Boys finally settled down and found a huge audience on Amazon Prime Video. Striking the right balance between political satire, pulpy plots, and comedic levels of gore, the first season of showrunner Eric Kripke’s series accurately translated Ennis and Robertson’s story into a kind of antidote for grimdark, cynical superhero stories.

A first look at season 2 promises more of what made those first eight episodes work. After major revelations in the season 1 finale, the show picks up with Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) and the rest of the Boys on the run, and Homelander (Antony Starr) and the remaining members of the Seven hot on their tails. In the trailer, the super powers zigzag in every direction, mortal beings meet their ugly demise, and images of heroes in front of hero propaganda and the U.S. flag are even more gruesome. The Boys isn’t for the faint of heart, but it has something to say, and with force.

Besides giving viewers a taste of what to expect, the first season 2 trailer also serves up a release date: Sept. 4, 2020.


Blizzard’s Shadowlands summit reveals new information on World of Warcraft’s covenants

We’ve known about Covenants, the new system in World of Warcraft’s next expansion, Shadowlands, since BlizzCon 2019. Players will choose from one of four themed factions in the mystical lands of death, and that choice will grant their character powerful abilities. During Blizzard’s Shadowlands summit on Wednesday, World of Warcraft game director Ion Hazzikostas provided tons of information on what the player will have to do with their new friends after choosing a Covenant.

New companions (with old school talent trees)

Each Covenant will have a series of companions. This, by itself, is not remarkable; zones like Nazjatar in Battle for Azeroth allowed players to equip bodyguards. However, these new companions in Shadowlands have old-school talent trees that harken back to the days of classic World of Warcraft. Players will level these champions up and bring them into the field. Some are utility focused, others are tanks, and some focus entirely on damage.

World of Warcraft - a soul-bind companion’s talent tree Image: Blizzard Entertainment

Level up your Covenant’s crib

Players will earn Renown through endgame activities, and this will allow them to level up their chosen Covenant’s Sanctum. This draws inspiration from Warlords of Draneor’s Garrison system, and Legion’s Order Hall. Players can add utility, like a transportation network, to their Covenant’s Sanctum, as they level up and gain Renown. They will also be able to restore part of their Covenant’s zone. For instance, players can restore Ardenweald’s forests, permanently changing them from dried husks to wonderful, bustling zones full of quests.

World of Warcraft - a Covenant upgrade screen Image: Blizzard Entertainment

Four unique endgame activities

Each Covenant has its own unique and substantially different endgame activity. None of these are incredibly lore important or high stakes, but they will offer a regular activity for players to enjoy. Here are the four Sanctums that Blizzard revealed during today’s summit.

Venthyr Covenant

Unique endgame activity: Ember Court

Players will get access to a giant vampire gala. This is the party of the season, and players will be on guard duty. Kick out party crashers, make small talk, and be a fantastic host. Hazzikostas explained that part of being a Venthyr is “throwing the most badass party in the Shadowlands.” Of course, the better the party, the better the loot you can earn.

Kyrian Covenant

Unique endgame activity: Path of Ascension

This allows you to take control of one of your soul-binded companions, and run through the Kyrian tests of combat and glory. “This is a self-contained, combat-heavy system with a bit of a boss rush feel to it,” said Hazzikostas.

Necrolords Covenant

Unique endgame activity: Abomination Factory

Necrolords players have joined up with the military might of the Shadowlands. They will gain access to an Abomination Factory. Necrolords players will be able to craft their own abominations for use in the world, crafted from the finest military materials in all of the realms of death.

Night Fae Covenant

Unique endgame activity: Queen’s Conservatory

Players will get to tend to plots, expanding and upgrading the conservatory in order to nurture souls back to life. It’s a much more magical and high-concept take on the farm system in Mists of Pandaria, and players will want to make sure that each soul that enters the realm of the Night Fae have the best places to rest and be reborn.

Shadowlands is entering beta soon; the expansion is expected to release in fall 2020.


Ninja is streaming on YouTube after Mixer’s closure

Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, the hugely popular Fortnite streamer, began streaming on YouTube on Wednesday. Blevins teased an announcement earlier in the day — tweeting “one hour” — before posting a YouTube link to a scheduled Fortnite stream with Timothy “TimTheTatman” Betar, Jack “CouRage” Dunlop, and Benjamin “DrLupo” Lupo.

Blevins left Twitch in 2019 and signed an exclusive deal with Microsoft’s livestreaming platform, Mixer. However, his contract ended in June when Microsoft shut down Mixer and began transitioning its streamers to Facebook Gaming.

Several big name streamers with lucrative contracts made the transition from Twitch to Mixer — but many expected some of those streamers to immediately return to Twitch following Mixer’s closure. Despite a big payout from Microsoft, popular streamers were often unable to pull in as large of an audience on Mixer as they did on Twitch.

At the start of Blevins’ YouTube stream, he amassed an audience of more than 150,000 viewers. He said during the stream that it’s his first livestream on YouTube. However, he has tons of videos on the service, with more than 2.2 billion views, according to YouTube head of gaming Ryan Wyatt. It’s unclear at this time whether Blevins will sign an exclusivity deal with a streaming service, but his stream on YouTube is not necessarily indicative of a deal with the Google-owned video site. According to esports insider Rod Breslau, Blevins is “currently in negotiations with streaming platforms and no exclusive deal has yet been signed, including YouTube.”


This headshot landed a cow the title role in an A24 film

The new film First Cow is a sublime experience. Director Kelly Reichardt approaches the story of two men trying to survive in 1820s Oregon with extreme tenderness — and, on top of that, has the most beautiful cow as the creature who brings them together.

In the film, the cow is the very first cow in the territory, and the sole source of milk for Cookie (John Magaro) and King-Lu’s (Orion Lee) cake-baking enterprise. Every night, they sneak onto the grounds of her owner, Chief Factor (Toby Jones), and milk her to prepare for the next day’s cakes.

To cast the role of the cow, Reichardt looked through dozens of cow photos. “It was head shots of cows, and body shots, and then narrowing down the type of cow,” she said in an interview. “I wanted [the cow] to be someone that you can be friends with, and wasn’t intimidating […] and then I saw Evie, and then I got videos of Evie. She was easy to settle on, because she was so beautiful.”

What does a cow’s headshot look like? Luckily, Polygon has the answer. Take an exclusive look at Evie’s headshot below:

a close-up of a lovely brown Jersey cow Photo: Allyson Riggs/A24

Evie, a gorgeous Jersey cow, certainly stands out: She has caramel-brown fur that looks so soft you can almost feel it through the screen, and big eyes framed by long lashes. She’s made such an impression that she now has her own Cameo profile. In the year since the film’s world premiere at Telluride, she’s also had a baby, Cookie, named after one of the movie’s main characters.

Take a look at Evie and Cookie below:

First Cow will be available on VOD on July 10.

First Cow

Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow finally arrives on VOD. The film stars John Magaro and Orion Lee as two men struggling to make their way through the American West, and Evie as the cow who provides them with the milk to begin a small baking business.

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Amazon / $14.99 Buy

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Act-Age turns making movies into edge-of-your-seat blowout battles

Act-Age, a manga about a girl trying to become an actor, is not your typical premise for a Weekly Shonen Jump series. But the series’ outstanding popularity is proof that there can be way more to the shonen genre than good guys punching bad guys (Though there’s nothing wrong with that, either. One Piece fans rise up).

With the first volume of the manga finally hitting shelves in English this week, we thought it would be a good time to take a deeper dive into what makes Act-Age so appealing.

Who makes Act-Age?

Act-Age is written by Tatsuya Matsuki and illustrated by Shiro Usazaki. It’s the duo’s first serialized manga, making the quality of the series all the more impressive.

What is Act-Age about?

Kei Yonagi is a rookie actor who has mastered method acting, to the point that she sometimes loses her ability to see the difference between the real world and a movie production. So she goes a little bit feral, overly emotional, or angry — that’s what makes her such a good actor!

The story begins when a peculiar director discovers Yonagi and thrusts her into the world of acting. She has to figure out how to control her method acting, while learning other acting strategies from her rivals. Each arc focuses on Yonagi in a new job in a new situation, where she has to adapt and learn in order to outshine her costars.

Is this really that big of a departure from classic shounen?

Shonen manga isn’t always manga about young boys fighting superpowered villains. Sports manga like Haikyuu!! and The Prince of Tennis have always put an action-packed lens over activities that might not seem as exciting as a battle between ninjas. Even series like Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma and Bakuman showed readers that there are exciting battles in cooking and writing manga, respectively. Act-Age does that exact thing, but with the entertainment industry.

Is Act-Age good?

Yes. Act-Age might not be about a person trying to become the strongest fighter around, but it applies that story hook — of characters who grow incrementally more powerful with each plot line and can reveal shocking new abilities at any moment — to turn something as quiet as “acting” into an all-out action.

Act-Age is not a realistic depiction of the entertainment industry, but it never claims to be. Mundane ideas like “a girl filming a commercial where she cooks” are turned into explosive battle scenes. The exaggeration reminds me of the weirdly fake action basketball you’d see in Kuroko’s Basketball, but it’s never too over the top. Usazaki’s art complements Matsuki’s story so well that it takes a while before you realize how wild the scene you just read was.

And Matsuki’s characters are all likeable and earnest, without a real villain. The stars of the comic are really just trying to be the best actor around. Even if Yonagi doesn’t have any costars to actually “fight” against, she’s battling against herself, learning how to turn her past into a weapon for acting.

One panel that popped

Kei Yonagi taste tests a sauce with a dreamy expression on her face in chapter 2 of Act-Age Image: Viz Media

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Book sequel to Ready Player One coming in November

Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One is getting a sequel called — you guessed it — Ready Player Two. The novel is set to debut on Nov. 24 in North America, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Cline had previously confirmed in 2017 that he was working on the novel.

Ballantine Books, a subsidiary of Penguin Random House, will publish the book, which is available for pre-order now. There are no further details are available on the book’s plot, which will likely take place after the events of Ready Player One. Ready Player One was published in 2011 in 58 countries — according to The Hollywood Reporter, Ready Player Two “is expected to exceed that number.”

The first book takes place in 2045 in a dystopian world where people largely live within a massively multiplayer virtual reality space called The Oasis. It follows protagonist Wade Watts as he seeks out clues to find an Easter egg in The Oasis; whoever finds it will get vast wealth and control of the virtual world.

Ready Player One was adapted to film in 2018 by director Steven Spielberg.


Uniqlo celebrates Doraemon’s 50th anniversary with a line of adorable T-shirts

Japanese fashion retailer Uniqlo is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the adorable anime and manga character Doraemon with a new batch of T-shirts for kids and adults. The Doraemon collection, part of Uniqlo’s UT line of graphic tees, will be available for purchase in stores and online starting on July 13.

Doraemon is a robot cat from the 22nd century who travels back in time to help a little boy named Nobita Nobi improve his future circumstances and those of his descendants. Like a cross between Meowth and Inspector Gadget, Doraemon has a pouch from which he produces futuristic gadgets that he uses to help Nobita. Promotional images from the Uniqlo collection are staged around a pink door, a reference to Doraemon’s Anywhere Door that can teleport Nobita and Doraemon anywhere they want to go.

Originally a manga created by Hiroshi Fujimoto and Motoo Abiko (under the pen name Fujiko Fujio) Doraemon has gone on to be adapted into several anime series, films, and video games. The Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space even staged a Doraemon musical in 2008 called Doraemon the Musical: Nobita and the Animal Planet.

Uniqlo’s collection of T-shirts features images of Doraemon himself, as well as of some of his gadgets. Several of the shirts are related to Stand By Me Doraemon 2, a sequel to the 2014 film Stand By Me Doraemon. Stand By Me Doraemon 2 was originally slated to be released on August 7, but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, the film Doraemon: Nobita’s New Dinosaur, which was due out in March, will be released on that date.

Adult shirts in Uniqlo’s UT line cost $14.90, while kids styles cost $9.90. You can check out the upcoming Doraemon styles in the gallery below.


Valorant’s upcoming ‘Ultra Edition’ skins turn weapons into living dragons

Riot announced a new line of Valorant skins on Thursday that are more complicated and elaborate than any other skins in the game so far. The new skin line is called Elderflame and they’re the game’s first “Ultra Edition” skins. The bundle appears to feature four gun skins and a knife, all themed after fire-breathing dragons.

The bundle includes skins for the Operator, Vandal, Frenzy, and what might be the Judge. While all of the skins have the same general theme, black-scaled dragons that breathe fire, each one appears to be its own unique “living” dragon.

The Elderflame line, like many of Valorant’s other skins, will likely be bought with Valorant Points. In most of the previous bundles, players have been able to only buy the specific skins they wanted, rather than purchasing the whole bundle, and that’s likely to be the case here as well.

Valorant’s Edlerflame skins will be released onto the in-game store on July 12.